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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
The Roots
Rising Down
Def Jam

Rating: 9/10 ?


May 14, 2008
When a band - especially an established one - releases a new album, one of the most common concerns is as to how well the new material stacks up against previous works: is the new album as good as the old ones? If the answer is in the affirmative, then the artist stands as a progressive one raising the bar for each release and always aiming to outdo themselves, a mentality that goes a long way to repeatedly pulling off the difficult task of positive reinvention. Bands like Radiohead are known as much for their uncanny ability to progress without resorting to blatant left turns for the sake of blatant left turns. The Roots are a similar lot, one of the very rare bands that just keep doing their own thing without standing stylistically still, and always managing to sound better and better for each release.

Rising Down is the now-legendary Philadelphia crew's 10th album, and it stands as proof positive that they are one of the most creative acts in hip-hop today. Being perhaps their most overtly political release to date, Rising Down tackles social topics like addiction and the American prison system, incorporating beats that are a little harder and rougher than on earlier releases to help drive their socio-political points home. It's no coincidence that Rising Down was released on the 16th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots that erupted in the wake of the Rodney King trial, and infused as it is with references to an unjust system the album might very well go down in history as a political hip-hop rival to Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet.

Rising Down's title track, featuring vocal contributions by Mos Def and Styles P, is one of the strongest on the album, setting the stage for the slightly paranoid tracks to come. "Rising Down" is immediately followed by "Get Busy," which features DJ Jazzy Jeff on scratches and, along with "75 Bars (Black's Reconstruction)," stands as one of the catchiest numbers of the collection. These songs flow as classic cuts from The Roots, mixing Black Thought's incredibly powerful rap with the band's trademark live instrumentation, and taken as they are the songs are strong enough to satisfy anyone's hankering for The Roots.

Although there are highlights, Rising Down is solid throughout and ranks as one of those releases worthy of returning to over and over again; after the first listen the record begs for another spin. Days later Rising Down exhibits its remarkable infectiousness - cravings for a certain song or beat materialize out of nowhere - as well as the magnetic pull of the band itself. While Rising Down is a clear progression, it is also a self-referential ace in The Roots' deck; a few plays unavoidably leads to a rediscovery of the band's back catalogue, where hearing their earlier songs highlights the compositional progress The Roots have made as a band while retaining their distinct identity. Encapsulating everything that has come to pass since their debut with Organix in 1993, Rising Down is the best The Roots release to date, bar none.

Reviewed by Daniel Svanberg
A contributing writer for LAS, Daniel Svanberg now lives in Boston, far far away from Sweden, where he once lived, although the weather is the same.

See other reviews by Daniel Svanberg

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