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Boom Box: Aesop Rock, PJ Harvey and Rufus Wainwright

Boom Box: Aesop Rock, PJ Harvey and Rufus Wainwright

Reviews of Aesop Rock's latest intimate, cathartic record; P.J. Harvey's engrossing, discordant and powerful record; and Rufus Wainwright's diverse musical interpretations of Shakespeare’s poems.


Aesop Rock:

Courtesy of Rhymesayers

Courtesy of Rhymesayers

“The Impossible Kid” (Rhymesayers)

I wasn’t sure it was possible for a rap lyric about nondairy creamer to sound badass, but damned if Aesop Rock didn’t pull it off on “Supercell,” an unrepentant declaration of an uncertain self from new album “The Impossible Kid.”

It’s an intimate, cathartic record from the Portland, Ore., native known for some of the most eloquent rhymes in contemporary hip-hop; these include “Slurpee” and “Xerxes” and “poultry” and “Hecate.” “Rings” warns that haters will “chop you down just to count your rings,” while the chorus of “Lazy Eye” commands listeners to “act natural, whatever that means for you.” The grossly named “Blood Sandwich” is the heart of the work, a tender shout-out to fraternal love and ’80s industrial music.

I recommend watching the full album video: the record plays over a condensed version of Kubrick’s “The Shining,” staged by wooden peg people taped to sticks. Really.

Check out the video for “The Rings” below:

PJ Harvey:

Courtesy of Vagrant/Island

Courtesy of Vagrant/Island

“The Hope Six Demolition Project” (Vagrant/Island)

Is creative documentation equal to action or is it paltry “awareness”? PJ Harvey’s new album “The Hope Six Demolition Project” raises that question. Following up 2011 Mercury Prize-winning release “Let England Shake,” “Hope Six” turns a scathing eye to geopolitics.

The landscape of “Let England Shake” was overseas, examining the Imperialist legacy of her homeland. As North Americans, we have time, history and geography as emotional buffer from that subject.

“Hope Six” focuses most of its attention on the U.S.A. instead. In fact, “The Community of Hope” has been derided as exploitive by community politicians in Washington, D.C. Lick your wounds if you must, but don’t ignore this engrossing, discordant and powerful record. Unified by industrial beats, eerie harmonies and saxophones, “The Ministry of Defence,” “River Anacostia,” “Near The Memorials To Vietnam And Lincoln” and “Dollar, Dollar” are prime examples.

Watch the video for “The Community of Hope” below:

Rufus Wainwright:

Courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon

Courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon

“Take All My Loves – 9 Shakespeare Sonnets” (Deutsche Grammophon)

Four centuries have elapsed since Shakespeare shuffled off this mortal coil. Now extravagant chanteur Rufus Wainwright honors The Bard’s legacy with his second Deutsche Grammophon release “Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets.”

It’s exactly what it seems: diverse musical interpretations of Billy’s poems. Like “Prima Donna,” it features readings by Carrie Fisher, William Shatner and Helena Bonham Carter and accompaniment by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Occultic chanting fleshes out “Take All My Loves (Sonnet 40),” with a recitation midway through by producer Marius de Vries.

Wainwright’s arrangements for Sonnets 10, 20 and 43 are the same as on 2010’s “Days For Nights: Songs For Lulu,” but vocal duties fall to Austrian soprano Anna Prohaska. Meanwhile, Florence Welch performs a crystalline ’60s pop rendition of “When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men’s Eyes (Sonnet 29).” This is a delightful classical crossover album for lit and music lovers alike.

Watch Wainwright’s collaboration with Florence Welch, “When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men’s Eyes,” below:

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Juani Hopwood is Online Editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach her at juani@freeabq.com.