An exercise in “Common”ality

By: Luke McCormick

provided photo

provided photo

Common

“Universal Mind Control”

Release Date: 12/9

Record Label: Geffen Records

Rating: 2 out of 5

The hip-hop game is all about image. There is the hard posturing emcee, the conscious emcee, the hood poet emcee and a slew of other manifestations rappers have undertaken since the genre’s inception.

Since the beginning of Common’s career, he has been associated with the conscious rapper crowd. Preaching love of all things. While this was fresh at the beginning of his career, the star’s luster has begun to fade over the past couple of records.

The need to change his image must have been on the emcee’s mind when penning his most recent jams, because the things he used to avoid (misogyny, swearing, hood talk) have taken over.

Also, the rapper’s sonic template has changed as well. For the better part of his career he was content to spit positivity over jazz and soul samples, but this time around Pharrel brought a new bag of tricks.

The Neptunes weaker half (along with a few other producers, including Kanye) has provided the emcee with more than a few club bangers, icy synths and big drums included, just waiting to assault a dance floor.

For some rappers this would be a dream come true. Sadly, Common just does not have the swagger to carry a record full of ego inflating dance floor jams.

The title track is one of the most interesting things Pharrel has produced for a good long while. It is a mess of techno synths and skittering drums. It is just a shame it got wasted on Common. This beat would have been amazing with Clipse or someone like Dizzee Rascal riding it, but Common just sounds out of place as his laid back flow tries to catch up to the high energy beat. He sounds about as out of place as Blagojevich speaking at an ethics conference.

When he gets back to his roots, like on the Cee-Lo assisted cut “Make My Day” things begin to come together. The retro soul sound which the emcee has been on for the better part of a decade is in full effect. It is just too bad the rest of the record did not follow suit.

However, another record full of the same from the emcee would have been just as disheartening and uninspiring. At least he gave expanding his sound a shot, albeit a weak one.

Luke McCormick can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 275 or lmccorm2@siu.edu

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Top 10 records of the year

By: Luke McCormick

As of today, this is my top 10 records of the year. It seems to change quite consistently but after much deliberation these albums are the ones which have really clicked in 2008. All of them are great pieces of work and are worth the time to track down.

1. The Gaslight Anthem- “The ’59 Sound”

The best record of the year is also the simplest, sonically, on the list. The Gaslight Anthem is not out to re-invent the wheel.  They have produced a record steeped in punk and Americana ethos which many artists have visited before.

The result is a wonderfully honest record full of heartache and redemption.

2. The Hold Steady- “Stay Positive”

The best rock band in operation. On its fourth record in five years, the band’s hooks are still as killer as they were from day one and Craig Finn’s lyrics are just as introspective as ever.

The band stepped up its ballad game on this year’s release, crafting gems like “Lord I’m Discouraged” to go along with fist pumping jams like album opener “Constructive Summer.”

3. Kanye West- “808’s & Heartbreak”

A cold, calculating turn of events from one of pop music’s greatest artists. Basically stripping his sound of everything which made him the star he is today, Kanye has turned out an ambitious record full of icy synths and pounding drums.  His decision to abandon rapping for the most part and sing through an autotuner only magnifies the record’s pitiful, inward looking agenda.

4. TV on the Radio- “Dear Science,”

The most accessible record the band has produced is also a layered, sonically thick listening experience.  Grasping the dance, funk aesthetic the band has hinted at over past releases has made their newest one of the most engaging records of the year.  The band might be laying on the Bowie and Talking Heads influences a bit thick, but doing it with enough originality and musicianship to remain fresh as ever.

5. Blitzen Trapper- “Furr”

On the band’s sophomore effort, it has fell face first into the Americana landscape. Borrowing heavily from folk, Southern rock and psychedelia from previous decades, the band has put together the exact opposite of a sophomore slump.

6. David Byrne & Brian Eno- “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today”

Those expecting a record full of Eno ambience and Byrne spitting nonsense over frustrating soundscapes need to check themselves.This is a pop record through and through. The hooks are sticky sweet and choruses sore over the two men’s amazing penchant for crafting near-perfect pop gems. A rare, unexpected treat.

7. Bon Iver- “For Emma, Forever Ago”

Recorded in a secluded cabin in the bare, bleakness of a Wisconsin winter, “For Emma, Forever Ago” is a heartfelt, tear stained masterpiece. Guitars are sparse and when percussion and strings pop up from time to time the instruments are welcome additions to each song’s torment. Justin Vernon’s aching falsetto only adds to the record’s turmoil. A great record for the winter months.

8. The Tallest Man On Earth- “Shallow Graves”

The Tallest Man On Earth is in actuality Scandinavian folk singer Kristian Matsson. His debut record has been tagged “Dylan-esque” by nearly every publication who has taken the time to give the record the publicity it deserves. The tag has been applied rightfully so. Each year an artist or two gets slapped with the tag but for few does it actually resonate. Matsson’s plucking guitar and banjo and seamlessly engaging voice are the makings of a rich, elegant folk record which should not be missed.

9. Young Jeezy- “The Recession”

In the past, tough economic and political times fostered great music. I cannot and will not compare Jeezy’s latest to Dylan or “Born in the U.S.A.” or Public Enemy but it has its moments. The rapper shows his flow is more than just adlibs and and tough talk by discussing the perils of hood life and the importance of our new President elect.

10. Jason Anderson- “The Hopeful and the Unafraid”

Anderson’s 2008 release is a great exercise in fun, anthemic rock ‘n’ roll. Grabbing from The Replacements, Springsteen and contemporaries The Hold Steady, this throaty, barroom stomping rocker is full of jams which are locks to be stuck in heads for days.

Blog Wars: If you could go one place for winter break, where would it be?

Christian Holt:

One place? Sigh.

I think if I could go one place it would be … California. I know, I know — how typical! But, let me explain before you start criticizing me, please. Thank you.

You see, one of my best friends lives there and it has been about a year since I have seen him. And frankly — I miss him. Besides, it would be nice to be at least kind of warm :).

Amanda Renner :

If I could travel anywhere for Christmas break it would be to the Keys … but only under certain conditions.

First, it would be by car and it would be with my boyfriend.  We road tripped to the Keys for Spring Break in 2007 and it was perfect. Therefore, I do not think I would be able to go there any other way, with anyone else.

Second, it would be at the same campground we stayed at on the first trip.  Who doesn’t like mingling with a bunch of retirees who migrate south for the winter? Well, probably not a lot of people, but I can’t wait to be old, so I love it.

Third, Atlanta traffic would be tolerable.  Last time I made the trip it took almost 10 hours to get from one side of the city to the other; enough said.

Now to the most important part: Why?  Well, island time is my favorite time and the relaxed atmosphere is exactly what I am craving after the craziness that was this semester.

Also, because the only pavement my long board has tasted has been that of Carbondale. And since I bought the board I’ve dreamt of cruising Duvall Street, with a beer in my hand and the wind in my hair.

Alexis Boudreau:

Puerto Rico.  Which I am leaving for on Sunday.  Be jealous; be very, very jealous.

A look forward: SIU women’s basketball

by: Stile T. Smith

With the forthcoming Christmas vacation, there will be no editions of the Daily Egyptian to report on the next seven SIU women’s basketball games.

With that, I will give a preview of each of the next seven opponents the Salukis will face.

at Chicago State, Dec. 14, 2:00 p.m.

The Lady Cougars are currently 4-4 on the season with a win over Northwestern of the Big Ten. Senior guard Jasmin Dixon is leading the team with 18.8 points per game and 31 assists. Junior guard Alyssa Waldon, meanwhile, has averaged 10.8 points per game and is shooting 39 percent from 3-point range.

at Central Arkansas, Dec. 16, 7:00 p.m.

The Sugar Bears are currently 2-4 on the season including a 19-point loss to Southeast Missouri State. Junior forward Meaghen Kelleybrew is the only player averaging double figure points with 11.3 points per contest. Sophomore forward/center Jamye Adair is just off the double figure plateau, averaging 9.2 points per game.

vs Tennessee Tech, Dec. 21, 2:05 p.m.

The Golden Eagles are currently 2-6 on the season with a loss to SIU rival Drake by 11 points. Senior guard/forward Blair Bowens is leading the team in scoring, averaging 12.6 points per game while shooting 30 percent from 3-point range. Freshman forward Krystal Stirrup, meanwhile, is averaging 9.4 points per game while leading the team shooting 52 percent from the field.

vs Northern Illinois, Dec. 28, 2:05 p.m.

The Huskies are currently 3-5 on the season with an eight point victory over Northern Iowa and a 15 point loss to Bradley. Sophomore center Ebony Ellis leads the team with 11.8 points per game and 9.9 rebounds per game. Junior guard Marke Freeman is averaging just under double figure points with 9.9 points per game while shooting 35 percent from 3-point range.

at Evansville, Jan. 2, 7:00 p.m.

The Salukis begin their Missouri Valley Conference schedule against the 4-3 Aces of Evansville. The Aces have four players averaging double digit points, led by YEAR Robyn Jennings with 14.6 points per game including 58 percent from 3-point range. 

at Bradley, Jan. 9, 7:00 p.m.

The Braves are currently 6-1 on the season with a win over the University of Illinois of the Big Ten by 18 points. Senior forward Monica Rogers is averaging a double-double with 13.7 points and 10 rebounds per game. Freshman guard Michelle Lund, meanwhile, is averaging 13 points per game while shooting 48 percent from 3-point range.

at Northern Iowa, Jan. 11, 3:00 p.m.

The Panthers are currently 2-5 on the season with a 15-point victory over Western Illinois. YEAR guard Nicole Clausen leads the team with 12.9 points per game while shooting 49 percent from 3-point range. YEAR guard K.K. Armstrong is averaging just under double figure points with 9.9 points per game.

How to keep tabs on Saluki basketball over break

By: Luis Medina

Are you trying to figure out how you’re going to live without the SIU men’s basketball team in your life?

Here is what is on tap for Salukis during the winter break.

The SIU men’s basketball team begins a three-game road trip Sunday as it travels to face Nevada (3-4) in a rematch of last year’s BracketBuster showdown. The Salukis (3-4) beat the Wolfpack at the SIU Arena last season, 74-49, but both teams are missing its top two scorers from last season’s match up.

Looking for a reasonably priced road trip? I’ve got a deal for you Saluki fans.

SIU returns to the Midwest to face in-state rival Northern Illinois (4-5) on Dec. 17. The Salukis defeated the Huskies last season, 88-68. Head coach Chris Lowery said it will be a homecoming game of sorts for several SIU players as guards Bryan Mullins, Kevin Dillard and Ryan Hare, along with forward Christian Cornelius return to play in the northern Illinois area.

Fans in the Chicagoland area should definitely make the trip to DeKalb and turn Northern’s home court into SIU Arena North.

The trip concludes Dec. 20 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis as senior guard Wesley Clemmons returns to his home town as SIU will face Saint Mary’s (6-1) in the Wooden Tradition. The Salukis are winless in their two neutral court games, falling to Duke and UCLA, and the competition does not get easier for SIU. The Gaels feature one of the nation’s best guards, Patrick Mills, who averages 20.1 points per game.

So if you want to see the Salukis play in an NBA arena and watch some exciting basketball (the tourney features nationally ranked Purdue and Davidson) then a trip to Indianapolis seems to be more affordable than one to New York City.

The Missouri Valley Conference portion of SIU’s schedule tips-off Dec. 28 as it travels to Peoria to face Bradley (4-3). The Salukis bounced the Braves in both of their match ups last season.

Staying in Carbondale? I’ve got a solution for you!

SIU wraps up its out-of-conference schedule Dec. 22 as it hosts Western Michigan (2-7). The Broncos beat the Salukis last season, 57-41, as SIU put forth one of its most disappointing offensive efforts. The Salukis only shot 26.9 percent and had no players score in double figures.

SIU hosts Northern Iowa (5-3) in a New Year’s Eve showdown. The Salukis dropped two of three to the Panthers last season, including a 54-49 loss in St. Louis which knocked them out of the MVC Tournament. However, SIU has not lost against UNI at the SIU Arena since 1997.

Defending MVC champion Drake (6-2) comes to the SIU Arena Jan. 4 in both team’s first game of the New Year. The Bulldogs and Salukis split a pair of games last season as each team was victorious on its home court. SIU upset then-No. 14 Drake, 65-62, as the Bulldogs misfired on what would have been a game-tying 3-point shot as time expired.

SIU returns home Jan. 10 to face Evansville (5-1) in its final game before classes resume Jan. 12. The Salukis have won four of their last six games against the Purple Aces, including 10 straight at home.

One more game of note…

The Salukis travel to Wichita, Kansas to face Wichita State (3-4). SIU swept the Shockers last season with a 63-52 win at home and a 74-67 overtime victory on the road. It was the first time the Salukis were able to pick up a road win against Wichita State since 2003.

Career counselor urges graduates to network

Posted by Barton Lorimor

Congratulations to this week’s newest SIUC graduates, and good luck navigating the job market.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Friday the unemployment rate throughout the nation had spiked to 6.7 percent. That is the latest insult added to the injuries the country has sustained during a recession that began in January.

“Unfortunately, it is pretty grim. So for students that are graduating in a few weeks, it’s pretty tough. There have been a huge amount of layoffs…and companies are having hiring freezes until the new year,” said Courtney Pike, director of operations at Job Bound.

But Pike said younger job seekers still have a chance because they are cheaper to hire than those who have previously had careers. She said recent graduates should prepare to put on a suit every day and start networking with potential employers.

“Companies are being flooded with resumes,” Pike said. “If students are submitting their resumes online, it’s going to get lost in the flood.”

Pike said her organization has recently been working with more students and middle-aged workers included in the 6.7 unemployment rate than any other time in its six years of existence.

Yet not all job fields have been affected by this year’s recession. Powered by the aging baby boomer generation, the health care industry has proven to be recession proof as well as education.

Blog Wars: Worst job you have ever had?

Audra Ord:

Two summers ago, I worked maintenance at a factory. My job was to clean out air conditioning units. Seven hours a day. On a metal roof. In the middle of summer. No joke.

Here’s how it worked: pick a unit. Shut off the power. Take off the panels. Spray it with cleaning solution out of a weed sprayer. (But be sure to wear gloves because that stuff will eat your skin.) Let it foam and sit for a few minutes. Spray it down with a high-pressure gardening hose. Watch the gunk and nasties flow out of it. Spray it again with high-pressure gardening hose. Repeat gunk watching. Spray again. Watch nasties again. Repeat until the water runs clear. Depending on the size of the unit, this process could take anywhere from three to six hours. There were nearly 150 of these units. Do the math.

One day, one of my colleagues and I shared an elevator with a woman on our way to the roof. The woman has the audacity to say, “Why in the world is the air conditioning shut off? It is SO hot in here!” I wanted to punch her. She was complaining because it was 80 degrees instead of 75 in her nice little cubicle, while I was on the METAL roof on a 105-degree day. The nerve.

On the rare occasion that we ran out of units to clean or didn’t have time to start a new unit in the afternoon, we were supposed to comb fins. Ever looked at an air conditioner? There are these super-thin metal fins that are usually all flattened against the unit. I had to comb them straight with a tiny comb. Most boring job ever.

On rainy days we stayed in the maintenance shop cleaning up oil spills. I can’t even fathom how many times I mopped that floor. It had probably never been done before. When the supervisor decided the concrete floor was clean enough, he had us spray paint weight load warnings on the catwalks. I also changed air filters, carried hundreds of boxes up and down stairs, cut and threaded metal pipe, and patched the roof (the absolute WORST part of the job. The patch was awful and thick, kind of like taffy, and it smelled horrible.).

Although it was painful, uncomfortable, boring, etc., I’m glad I did it because it gave me a better appreciation for why I was in school studying to become a journalist. I think I’ll write a book about my experience, probably titled “Maintenance and Mascara: Audra’s story.” Look for it in bookstores in December 2010.

Sean McGahan:

In high school I had a short stint as a Chinese food delivery boy. The biggest perk was a free order of pork fried rice at the end of the night. The biggest flaws were the lousy tips and constant trips to the ER.

The nearby hospital was a breeding ground for expecting parents, concerned relatives and angry insurance holders with two things in common — a tremendous hunger for Chinese food and other things to think about than a 16-year-old delivery boy’s income.

Regardless of the amount of times I delivered to the hospital, I never quite figured out the layout. I was constantly lost, and several times found myself in areas I had no business being in. Without getting too specific, there were some nights that the complimentary pork fried rice just didn’t taste as good and really didn’t seem worth the hassle.

And I do realize how fortunate I am that this was my worst job.