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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Prince Rama delivers new conceptual album

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    You have to love a good concept album. Musical ability aside, crafting pop music with staying power is almost entirely about trying to do something new. Sure not everyone does it, and more often than not the bands that have hit songs aren’t event trying to push the envelope anymore. Yet there will always be a special place reserved in indie music heaven for those bands not just with good records, but with good ideas. The actual songs may be hit or miss, but boy oh boy does Prince Rama deserve credit for the ideas on this one.

    As hilariously slacker-ish as the album title sounds, it turns out that the Paw Tracks-signed Prince Rama was about as straightforward in their intent as they could be. This album is comprised of ten tracks, each “performed” by a different artist with a different name in ostensibly differing styles to create an alternate universe Billboard Top Ten where songs like the lo-fi Bollywood of “Radhamadhava” have mass appeal to a population about to face the End Times. Certainly give sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson credit for the apocalyptic subtext of it all, but truthfully where this album succeeds is in the idea of one band of two people becoming ten totally unrelated bands just for the hell of it. Every song has an Ariel Pink-like sheen of dust and old analog recording equipment, but aside from that and the omnipresent synthesizers this group of songs really does sound showcase the group’s musical diversity. Boasting some of the best band names in years (to name a few: Taohaus, Black Elk Speaks, Hyparxia), Prince Rama successfully transitions from the horrifying swoon of “Welcome To the Now Age” to rapidfire Krautrock in “Exercise Ecstasy” with almost no problem at all. A big part of the fun with this album is listening through to all of the different styles and then trying to pair up the crazy artist/track names with the styles in your mind to the point where Prince Rama’s vision of the end of music becomes curiously clear. It’s a great idea for presenting one’s music, particularly if you’re as scatterbrained and/or capable as the Larson sisters are. In a final detail that can go unnoticed until repeated listens, the songs are structured with almost no dead space or breaks between them to simulate the nonstop flow of radio playback. It holds the songs together in a smart way that plays further into the concept, but at times it runs the risk of revealing just how similar some of these supposedly different song experiments really are.

    The sequencing points to what is perhaps the greatest weakness on Top Ten Hits, which is the songwriting itself. The concept is great, the sound is fantastic, the presentation well-planned. Yet songs like “Blade of Austerity” or “Receive” simply fail to connect, lacking the melodies or definition to stand out against the austere production quality. Luckily there are tracks like “No Way Back” and “So Destroyed” to really balance out the lack of memorability, but at times the songs themselves prove to be the weak link of a fantastic idea.

    Rating: 3.5/5

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