Aluminium: 10 Years of Ashtray Rock

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Joel Plaskett Emergency – Ashtray Rock

Released April 17th, 2007 on MapleMusic Recordings

A triumph of album-making, the third Emergency album tells the story of the Ashtray Rock, a place in the woods near the Halifax suburb of Clayton Park where the local teenagers gather to get drunk and crank the volume on already-loud rock ‘n’ roll music.  Two guys have a great time hanging out at the late-night parties but they have a falling out over a girl.  One of them gets the girl for a little while, and the other one forms a rock ‘n’ roll band.

As far as ideas for concept albums go, it’s squarely in the Who camp, but Plaskett and Co. pull it off at the height of their powers and it ends up being exhilarating rather than ridiculous.  Part of the success in this is that the concept and lyrics are near and dear to Plaskett’s heart and he has said at times that some of the characters are his old bandmates in Thrush Hermit, and that the music-in-common part of “Penny For Your Thoughts” is tuned to his wife’s tastes.

Regardless of the concept, of course, it’s an amazing lineup of songs that strike a clear tone and build hooks like skyscrapers.  It was shortlisted for the 2007 Polaris Music prize (along with Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible) but eventually lost out to Patrick Watson’s Close To Paradise.  This is too bad, really, since Ashtray Rock is the absolute peak of the Emergency, a rock ‘n’ roll triumph whose nostalgic paeans to youth and young love will ring on long after the last notes.

Joey Bada$$ – B4.DA.$$

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Joey Bada$$ – B4.DA.$$

B4.DA.$$ is sixty-four minutes long.  Now, there are albums that can pull off the hour-plus run time; double and triple albums are a consistent theme in my overall list of favourite albums.  Very few of them, however, have the, uh, single-minded sense of purpose that Joey Bada$$ brings to his debut.  The Brooklyn rapper eschews the modern rap trend completely, giving the finger to short sing-song verses and meme rap hooks in favour of flow and wordplay that seems to come straight out of the Golden Age of the 1990s.  More than seems to, actually; at times he lifts lines straight out of classic joints and you’ll find yourself saying “wait, cash rules every- dude.” This is East Coast hip hop like you remember it:  grimey, dense, and cerebral, hip hop you listen to in dank back rooms with dim lighting.  This is something that always piques my interest, but the big problem here is that over the course of an hour there’s not much to differentiate one track from the next.  If the album were half the size it is it would be stellar, and I wouldn’t feel like I was getting mired in a swamp. “Every track is essential” he says on “O.C.B.”.  Well, no, it’s not. I want this guy to succeed because I do like his flow and I do like his aesthetic, but damn does he need to learn the gentle art of editing himself.