Fornt To Back 15

For the 15th edition of Front To Back (yes, we’ve only done 15 reviews in 2 years… sorry) we do a little script flipping and focus on some new released we’ve been digging that would not show up in the “Hip Hop Section” of your local record store. All the albums and artists featured below do carry the Hip Hop aesthetic if you will, that is the common thread in what we post and enjoy at RubyHornet. Read on to get the scoop on new releases from Toro Y Moi, Broken Bells, Nneka, Spoon, and One EskimO.

Causers of This

Artist: Toro Y Moi
Album: Causers of This
Synopsis: Toro Y Moi has been one of the more interesting artists I’ve discovered in recent times. The stage name, his retro-chic-“Revenge of The Nerds” kind of style, and the LP title were all pretty intriguing. I heard his first single, “Blessa” one day randomly, and have been checking for him since and watched the developments leading to the Car Park Records release of his formal LP, The Causers of This. I made a half-hearted attempt to get in touch with someone from the label about review copies this and that, got caught up with other stuff, and just decided to pick up the LP at my local independent record store. Plans came to fruition a couple weeks ago, and so here we go with the unraveling of The Causers of This. The “This” that Toro is referring to, in my humble opinion, is his heartbreak and current situation. The album reads like a series of love letters, or why-letters to an ex-girlfriend. Rather than come off as revenge notes, and “High Fidelity” type of inquiries, Toro Y Moi is moreso politely asking this girl what happened to their relationship. The songs are no more than a paragraph long, reprinted in the album’s artwork to read like a string of emails. The music is very breezy, with hints of MGMT, and Sebastian Tellier and “Talamak” even reaches a little into the Hip Hop aesthetic thanks to a chopped up vocal sample. My only fault with the LP is that is a little too nice, and seems to build up without ever really hitting that breakthrough moment. While it’s presented awesomely, and is an easy listen, it’s missing some bite. I definitely expect Toro to get a little meaner on his next LP after the theft of his computer, passport, and wallet. It maybe for the best, as chicks love the bad boys.
Key Joints: “Blessa”, “Talamak”, “Fax Shadow”


Broken Bells

Artist: Broken Bells
Album: Broken Bells
Synopsis: The singer/producer tandem has been done before, and who is really better at it than Danger Mouse? His Danger Mouse and…. releases have all been critically successful, and there are a few that also dominated the charts (ahem Gnarls Barkley). The Shins are a fairly well known, and very much respected band and there’s no doubt that this Danger Mouse collaboration will increase James Mercer’s street and e-street presence. I purchased a copy of this album the day it came out, and have been listening to it since. While I had somewhat of an idea of what I was getting into, there’s undoubtedly those who will see Danger Mouse’s name and assume this is Gnarls Barkley part II. You’d be right and wrong to assume such. Yes, the synergy and chemistry are there. Mercer and Mouse (that sounds cool) work very well together, allowing each to shine and meeting each other halfway, rather than Mercer completely giving into Danger Mouse and vice versa. The album makes itself at home with Hip Hop and folk aesthetics, combining Danger Mouse’s sense of rhythm and drums with Mercer’s songwriting and vocals. I really wish I could explain this better, but I really can’t. This is certainly one of the best releases of the year, and at a sleek ten tracks, is certainly all killer no filler. Do yourself a favor and buy this now.
Key Joints: “The High Road”, “The Ghost Inside”, “October”



Artist: Nneka
Album: Concrete Jungle
Synopsis: I pronounced Nneka’s name wrong for months before seeing her live at Chicago’s Double Door theatre on Valentine’s Day. I don’t think she would hold it against me, as her album, Concrete Jungle preaches a message of universal love and understanding throughout. It is the guiding force behind the music, and in Nneka’s eyes, the key to bettering her life and the lives of others. Nneka also champions Africa and her native Nigeria, both the positives and negatives, the war and the strife, the creative and cultural contributions and musical influences are present in every song and sometimes every bar. The music includes rich textures composed of elements of rock, Hip Hop, Afrobeat, and Reggae as Nneka appears wise beyond her years and comes off as an old musical soul set in foot in 2010 to remind us that innovative new artists are still right in front of our very eyes. Nneka’s music is appealing across genres, and cultures, making her one of the most buzzing artists of the year and this LP doesn’t disappoint. Some of the songs featured on the LP also appeared on her 2005 release, The Uncomfortable Truth, which was reissued as an EP to gain awareness of the debut. The songs are still relevant thematically and musically, giving the album a timeless feel. Nneka is refreshing, and has the it factor. This is a near perfect debut, and something for everyone. Buy it now.
Key Joints: “Walking”, “Focus”, “Heartbeat”



Artist: Spoon
Album: Transference
Synopsis: Spoon’s “Mystery Zone” is fun and awesome, and awesomely fun. The Austin band is finally breaking more than 15 years after the release of their first EP. The indie band scored magazine covers, commercial placements, and radio play making Transference easily their highest profile release. I think many Spoon fans will say though that it’s not their best album. I’m not a longtime Spoon fan, in complete honesty, this is the first record of theirs that I bought, own, and have listened to. As someone walking into the movie a little late, the songs are accessible and poppy without being stupid, and they made the absolute right decision is leading off with “Mystery Zone”. “Who Makes Your Money” is another stand out track from the record, and another great example of the bands formula, which appears to be simple yet intelligent songwriting. If you’re like me and picked this up after hearing “Mystery Zone” you shouldn’t be disappointed by the other 10 tracks, as Transference is a great intro to the Spoon party and the band’s history provides for a lot more.
Key Joints: “Mystery Zone”, “Who Makes Your Money”, “Written In Reverse”


One Eskimo

Artist: One Eskimo
Album: One Eskimo
Synopsis: Keeping in line with Broken Bells, One Eskimo went the self-titled route in their debut of the same name. The album is multi-layered, built heavily from the life experiences and music industry journey of its lead singer and founder, Kristian Leontiou. Having achieved pop success as a solo artist in the UK, Leontiou was living the highlife, yet missing fulfillment being just a cog in the music industry machine. It was during a flight home from the U.S. that he thought of changing his direction and his life, and One Eskimo was born. The album and the concept come to life with a full animated movie involving the Eskimo and his band, comprised of a giraffe and a penguin and a monkey. The Eskimo is fitting Mr. Top Hat, who separated One Eskimo from his love. It’s all metaphors for doing what you want, versus what others tell you, and in the case of Leontiou it centers on making music that one can be proud of and that comes from the heart. The songs included on the LP contain an element of “everydayness” and a working man mentality that forms the foundation for the music and the message. “Simple Day” is a perfect example in which Leontiou sings of getting a parking ticket, and the life of a single man and the closet-shame of watching porn. It is just as good as it sounds. “Kandi” is the album’s shining star in which the band uses a sample to turn in a retro sounding jam concerning Joe and some “other guy rumors”. Sonically, One Eskimo varies the tempo throughout the LP, utilizing a wide array of instrumentation, and going from the driving sounds of “Givin’ Up” to the melodic and acoustic tones of “Astronauts” and the aforementioned “Giving Up”. The concepts, the visuals, and the music makes One Eskimo’s debut album a labor of love that has birthed a gem of an album.
Key Joints: “Kandi”, “Givin’ Up”, “Simple Day”