At 24 years old, Conor Oberst and I share a birth year (1980), an appreciation for morbid self-deprecation, and a similar emotional immaturity. I blame these factors for my acceptance of Oberst's excesses to this point--my patience dwindling slightly with each of his releases. It's taken way too long, admittedly, but with the simultaneous releases of I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning and Digital Ash In a Digital Urn, I've officially lost my patience. Sure, there's the gluttony of it all--an acoustic, "country-tinged" record (featuring Emmylou Harris, for chrissakes) released simultaneously with a rocking, pap-top rich counterpart (featuring Jimmy Tamborello, for chrissakes)--but even that could have been (conceivably) forgivable. Fact is, even with a good editor, both records put together hardly carry enough quality material to piece together even a worthy EP. After the baby-stepped maturity of his last few records, Oberst dances merrily back into adolescence--except this time around, it feels even less sincere, inspired, and thoughtful. Conor Oberst, I have finally outgrown you--and it's about fucking time. ZAC PENNINGTON
Gassed up as the Left Coast savior, The Game's hubris seems boundless. For an uninspired gangsta rapper, he's got an irritating habit of comparing himself to rap's elite; allegedly, after waking from a gunshot-induced coma, he absorbed the skills of Pac, Big, Jay, Nas, and NWA a la Rogue from X-Men… I just can't buy the premise that a hybrid of hiphop's icons from the last 10 years would end up sounding this fucking contrived. There is a certain genius in his moniker, however--dude embodies the industry's standard of mediocrity--hence, "The Game"! No matter how big his buzz/head gets, he's simply not the caliber of MC to carry his unwieldy shtick off; when 50 sounds more earnest than you on your own shit, it's time to call it a night. LARRY MIZELL JR.
If You Only Knew DVD
(Rhino Home Video)
If, on record, the voice of Little Jimmy Scott--an echoing, impossibly sopranoed birdcall--is a heartbreaking river of sorrow, then on stage (or for that matter, on film) it's completely devastating. His singular voice--a voice forever castrated by a rare hereditary condition that kept him from passing through puberty--led him through exploitation after exploitation as he skirted the heels of fame and fortune (alongside friends and fans like Ray Charles, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus) for nearly 40 years. In If You Only Knew, director Matthew Buzzell paints an intimate portrait of Jimmy Scott's tragic, and ultimately redemptive, life story--a fitting, tear-jerking testament to the greatest unsung jazz vocalist of all time. ZAC PENNINGTON
** Christian Science
* Fuzzy Math