Album reviews: Girl Talk, the Centennial, Daft Punk, Soulja Boy, plus holiday tunes - Reverb

Album reviews: The Centennial, Girl Talk, Daft Punk, Soulja Boy, plus holiday tunes

The Centennial at the Hi-Dive on the night of their EP release. Photo by Geoff Cerilli, heyreverb.com.

The Centennial at the Hi-Dive on the night of their EP release. Photo by Geoff Cerilli, heyreverb.com.

The Centennial, “Second Spring” (Self-released)

Promising Denver pop-rock group Meese went the way of so many major-label victims when it was dropped from Atlantic Records earlier this year, but that hasn’t stopped the family band. Brothers Patrick and Nathan Meese have re-formed as the Centennial, along with Patrick’s wife, Tiffany.

The group’s newfound fondness for slow, patient songwriting and ethereal male-female harmonies evokes Minnesota slowcore legends Low but retains the sparkling-sweet melodies that made Meese’s upbeat songs so addictive. Witness the spidery guitars winding through opener “1988,” or the new-wave synths swirling around finger-picked electric notes in the title track.

The syrupy “Kidnap” begs to be played over the end of a “One Tree Hill” episode, and “Free Man” comes off like the headphone epic Patrick has been threatening to write for years. It’s a tonal shift from the brothers’ previous band, sure, but this aptly titled EP proves that the sophisticated songwriting that nearly propelled Meese into the big time is a gloriously adaptable and resilient thing. You can download the EP for free at thecentennial.net. –John Wenzel

Girl Talk, “All Day” (Illegal Art)

Greg Gillis, the affable mashup DJ known as Girl Talk, has never wanted for ingenuity. His music liberally swipes hip-hop verses from the past couple of decades and pastes them over some of the most recognizable pop and rock riffs in the English language, creating a playful, irresistible dance party soundtrack.

On “All Day,” his fifth album since 2002, the Pittsburgh artist has perfected the formula. Songs like “That’s Right” don’t just draw from a bewildering variety of sources (Peter Gabriel, Fat Joe, Spacehog, Foxy Brown, Beyonce, Miley Cyrus), they also feel oddly inevitable in their recasting of familiar sounds in a thrilling, frequently hilarious way.

It’s about more than just spotting the reference — though there’s a lot of that, too, given that the album stitches together samples from nearly 400 songs. It’s a deft acknowledgment of music’s fluid ownership in the digital age and the increasing ease with which technology allows us to reshape it for our own purposes. Download the album for free at illegal-art.net/allday. –John Wenzel

Daft Punk, “Tron Legacy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” (Walt Disney Records)

When was the last time Hipster Nation was this excited about a Walt Disney Records release? It’s tough to say. But it’s likely that the indie-rock and electro fans who have made Daft Punk an amphitheater-and arena-filling band won’t love this surprisingly straightforward motion picture soundtrack as much as the hype would have dictated.

Instead of changing the soundtracks game, Daft Punk played by the rules to create a solid collection of orchestral, occasionally electronic compositions that will sound fine backing up the film and its players.
Fans expecting a rager of a soundtrack, a jampacked CD of hits along the lines of Daft Punk’s previous work — including “Around the World,” “One More Time” or “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” the latter of which fueled one of Kanye West’s biggest hits — will be disappointed. This is a soundtrack, not a dance record. The closest it gets to dance territory is the brief but punchy “Derezzed” and the blooming and melodic “Tron Legacy (End Titles).”–Ricardo Baca

Soulja Boy, “DeAndre Way” (Interscope)

With the commercial success of his debut, “Souljaboytellem.com” and follow up “iSouljaboytellem,” Soulja Boy, a.k.a. DeAndre Cortez Way, is sticking with what he does best and offers club-friendly jams on his latest release, “DeAndre Way.” The beats and samples may inspire packed dance floors, but his clumsy rhymes make this album a lyrical nightmare.

When listening to “DeAndre Way,” the key is to completely mentally check out. Sure, these songs are fun to sing along to with their infectiously catchy hooks and chorus lines which beg to be shouted, but you may find yourself confused when attempting to decode the nonsensical lyrics. Way’s ridiculous amount of verbal repetition and forced rhyming schemes where words rhyme with themselves make for laugh out loud moments. Not even a guest appearance from 50 Cent on the track “Mean Mug” can save “DeAndre Way” from itself.

The repetition may not work in a lyrical sense, but the short loop beat patterns make for up-tempo backgrounds which focus on keeping the listener’s head bobbing. The deluxe edition of the record also offers 14 somewhat diverse tracks and over 51 minutes of music with zero filler skits. Way seemingly also understands his fan base appreciates consistency, which he delivers all the way through the record. Still, a few of the tracks like “30 Thousand 100 Million” were a difficult listen all the way through. Way may not have the same lyrical prowess of his gangster rap predecessors, but produces a record that continues to promote a watered down version of the “thug life” mentality. –Greg Stieber

Bonus: click here for Ricardo Baca’s comprehensive guide to the year’s best holiday albums.

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John Wenzel is an executive editor of Reverb and an award-winning A&E reporter for The Denver Post. He is the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum) and maintains a Twitter feed of completely random song titles and band names.

Ricardo Baca is the founder and co-editor of Reverb and an award-winning critic and journalist at The Denver Post.

Greg Stieber is a Denver freelance writer and regular contributor to Reverb.

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