Sage Francis – LI(F)E – CD Review

Hip-hop artist Sage Francis recently returned with LI(F)E, an all new album on ANTI- Records.  This time around the lyrical genius has tried a different approach to his music by asking for assistance from various musicians who provided personal selections for him to work with.  Skip the bass heavy beats and typical hip-hop soundtracks that have gone with many of his previous works, this time around LI(F)E proves to be Sage Francis’ most sundry work to date.

Having been a fan of Sage Francis since about the time Y2K seemed a threat, I have only gotten more thrilled in anticipation with each of his releases.  I never listened to his albums as much as I studied them.  The man always impressed me with his ability of taking words and formulating them into something intriguing all while accompanied with sometimes self-made hip-hop and even jazzy beats.  This comes from the guy who bought a Sage Francis hoodie from Sage himself a couple years back at one of his shows and did not even realize it was him until mid-way though our conversation.  Oops.

I had to admit I was stoked to see the album cover for LI(F)E was drawn up by contemporary street artist Shepard Fairey.  A young Sage Francis graces the cover and I later found out that it was a dated photo of Sage Francis reminding him of the harder times in life when he slept on the floors at his friend’s houses and just lived day by day.  Not getting down by this things have obviously changed for the better over the years.

“Little Houdini” opened up the album featuring music written by ex-Grandaddy turned solo artist Jason Lytle.  The music, previously written as an instrumental by Lytle, originally had no lyrics to go along with.  Once obtained Francis worked his magic and created a song focused around a fugitive who escaped custody to see his dying mother based from actual events.  Francis had no problem putting his flair on top of the music and one would think both were written at the same time.  The song was one of the better cuts on the entire album.

“Three Sheets To The Wind”, featuring music by Chris Walla of Death Cab For Cutie continued with a appealing track but it just did not match up to the opening track  The questionable “I Was Zero” started out great until Sage just inserted a weak refrain repeating  “when I came out my momma, I was zero”. For a seasoned hip hop artist that holds many wins on freestyle challenges in the past I felt more effort could have been put forth in this track lyrically.  Perhaps my expectations were set high for Sage and I should include that some of the lines he flows out during the song contained amazing selections of words but the music provided perfect for a rap of sorts with a generic chorus killed it for me.

I enjoyed “Slow Man”, a slow folky track summing up the thoughts in many aging individuals, if not Sage himself.  If Sage’s voice had more baritone in it on “Diamond’s & Pearls” I swear I would have been listening to Everlast.  The impressive “The Baby Stays” was a profound story based around the results of a redundant establishment called life only to succumb to the new outlook at the result between an unlikely pair.  The folk soundtrack, courtesy of Tim Rutili, aided Sage to the very ideal story about an unwanted life turning into the greatest thing ever.

Screaming children assist Sage in “London Bridge” a fun track full of random wonders and events in the world.  The song was fun and I think that is all it was meant to be featuring Sage, a bunch of kids, and once again Chris Walla.  Without looking too deep into it I left it at that and enjoyed it.

The late Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse) collaborated with Sage on “Love The Lie”, perhaps my favorite cut on the entire CD.  It was chilling to hear this song knowing that Linkous ended his life for reasons that will never be known.  The track was upbeat from start to finish and almost inspiring yet clearly full of sarcasm.  This is the kind of song you had to actually listen to in order to understand how Sage works.

“The Best Of Times” was another track on LI(F)E that I admired over the others.  The more spoken word track recalled personal stories of Sage making for a powerful close to an impressive release.  As if sitting there listening to Sage was not great enough the musicthat accompanied Sage’s verbal memory was created by Yann Tiersen.

I loved how the album ended as strong as it began.  Sure there were a couple head scratching tracks in there but overall LI(F)E was a pleasure to listen to.  It’s not a hip-hop album by any means but more of a carefully premeditated project from a guy who happens to be good at rapping.  It’s easy for anyone who is familiar with his older material to just not get it – it’s different.  Taking written music in favor of generated beats this round, Sage has created a branch off of what he loves to do and I honestly admire his doing.  Without sounding too cliché, give LI(F)E a chance.

Dirty Thirty Punk Rock Band

Cheers to Bad Religion who are celebrating their thirty year mark as a punk rock band.  To celebrate, the band offered a free download of live material this past week.  If you did not get it I was able to find this link that may help.  The live CD is incredible and is just a simple testament to all that even after three decades of being a band, they have no plans of slowing down anytime soon.  To prove that point Bad Religion are currently in the middle of recording an all new album.  Can you say The Awesome?

If for whatever reason you can not download it, head over to Spinner where they are streaming the album in it’s entirety.

You know what else is awesome and turned thirty?

The little yellow chomping head that eats ghosts after popping pills turns the big 3-0 on Saturday.  This will always be one of the greatest games ever created.  It was simple and to the point.  I remember when my father decided to take me to Randal Park Mall one crappy Cleveland winter when I was just a toddler and picked up the game.  If I am not mistaken he dropped about $70 on the 2-bit cartridge.

The version we got was for the Atari 2600 and it was nothing like the arcade version but we all played the hell out of it regardless.  I blame that game for starting my addiction to video games and still play it every once in a while.  The nostalgia that game brings is like no other.

Here, play it for yourself and bring back some memories…

Contest: Win A Pair Of Tickets To See Jimmy Gnecco on May 20th at Cambridge Room at the House of Blues

This may be the shortest contest I will ever host on BHP but I have a pair of tickets to see Ours frontman Jimmy Gnecco on May 20th at the Cambridge Room at the House of Blues in Cleveland.

Jimmy Gnecco will be releasing his all new solo album titled The Heart on July 20th.

This contest is open to anyone 18+ and ends in 2 days.  Contest ends on May 19th at 10pm EDT.

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a valid email and I will pick someone randomly.

Good luck!

Why so Frightened Rabbit?

Scottish indie rock five-some Frightened Rabbit is a band I should have heard about long ago.  I should have all their albums in hand and I really should have checked out their show a couple weeks back when they graced Cleveland.

I should but I don’t and I did not.

The fact is until last week I had no interest in them.  Why?  I really do not know.  Sometimes I just pass up bands even when friends and reviews try to point me towards something good.  I can not say I have been in the indie rock mood recently either so I am sure that added to my neglect.

I admit, I missed out…  Thankfully a friend played them for me last week rather than telling me how good he thought they were.  I was intrigued and thanks to Kyle wanted some more.

I just finished checking out their latest release The Winter Of Mixed Drinks and I pretty much want to kick myself for turning my ear away from this amazing act.  It was good and when I say good, I mean collected and start to finish good.  Good as in the entire album could be on repeat for hours and during that recycled time not one song would become tiresome to listen to.  That is how I felt after I finished listening to Frightened Rabbit’s latest release.

Where I am not familiar with their older material I have made plans to  make sure that I change that in the near future.  They may still be borderline underground at the moment but with a full US tour presently going on that will end at this year’s Lollapalooza it is probably safe to say that will not be lasting long.

I am sure most of you have already heard about them already but if you have not and you are looking for something new you should get your hands on a copy of The Winter Of Mixed Drinks.  Why?  Because it’s good.

Here is an older track…I dig this too!