Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Album of the Week:
Small-Time Machine / Cassettes Won't Listen

I know that it's Wednesday, but I was too busy working on the MySpace yesterday to write a review. I decided to re-post this review, seeing as how it got a not-so-nice score of 4.0 on Pitchfork today.

There are few things as un-compelling as some guy on stage plugging away at his laptop barely glancing up to look at the crowd and hardly looking like he's working hard. That doesn't really pass for a concert in my book. Sure, ambient laptop beats can sound interesting in recorded form, but they tend to work better as a movie score. Every so often, however, there comes a laptop savior - in 2008, that savior is Cassettes Won't Listen - a New York resident/Def Jux employee armed with compelling lyrics and vocals to accompany his solid computer beats. Instead of wasting time geeking out on blips, Cassettes wizkid Jason Drake crafts actual pop songs. "I try so hard/ but nobody knows my name," he fusses on "Metronomes," the opener to his phenomenal Small-Time Machine. It seems as though his name will soon be known judging by the quanity of parties he played at South by Southwest, not to mention blog fans ranging from Perez Hilton to Stereogum.

The heart of the eight track album lies in the middle ballads - "Freeze and Explode" jumped out at me when I heard it on WOXY earlier this year, its chorus of "Wish we all could/ freeze and explode" hard to deny. The verse and slow beats were reminiscent of Her Space Holiday's The Young Machines, one of my favorite records from college. At first I thought this track was about a breakup, but it's probably about suicide. Either way, a story has started to unfold on my head that continues with the longing of "The Broadcast," in which Drake is "Trying to find a feeling/ One that keeps me stuck to the ground."

What keeps the laptop artist from being compelling is the detachment between him in the actual music. Yet, Cassettes play with these themes of detachment. Thus, by engaging with the medium rather than viewing it as a shortcut, Small-Time Machine is a collection of works that are, after all, quite compelling.

You can stream the entire album at Cassettes' MySpace, and also download a free (not nearly as good) covers EP from their website.

Video - "Paper Float"

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