on December 24, 2002
Cody ChesnuTT plays a little bit of everything. He does a little rock, a little soul, some funk some folk some hip hop. ?uestlove of The Roots described him as Tracy Chapman meets Beck on acid. The album was produced entirely in his bedroom, which he dubbed The Sonic Promiseland. This is one of the best albums of the year and Cody should be well on his way to superstardom, but what do I know about the fickle world of pop music? What I do know is that this is raw, catchy, homemade music. My favorites are The Seed (the true highlight of the album, sort of a Ric James style '80s funk song) Look Good In Leather (a '60s soul pop song) Boylife In America (Prince and Bob Dylan) and so many other on this 36 song introduction to Cody. Some songs run only 30 seconds and you think, well he should have worked more on this song it's unfinished, but I believe the charm is in the brevity. This album inspires me to no end mostly because Cody did it all himself in his bedroom on his own terms and he's selling it through his own label. He truly is punk rock, and I think maybe this sort of music coming from kid's attics and bedrooms and basements and garages is definitly the next wave in music because nothing can hinder the music, it's all DIY.
on October 5, 2005
Coupled with understanding, this is some of the best music ever. The lyrics, the subjects, the attitudes, the philosophy, the psyche - it's all over the place! But the soul...the soul is right out there in the open. There's a few things you need to understand about this album. First - the fuzzy sound. Look at it from a musician's standpoint, especially a musician who produced his entire album with the exception of one instrument in one song. Fuzzy sound means originality. It's the hard copy. Not tinkered with, not refined. It's not the sound quality that counts - it's content. On even the fuzziest and most poorly produced of songs - what are we left with to enjoy. The soul of the musician. His words and his music. Fuzziness is not a bad thing here; not a production failure. It's a creative technique, a personal mark. This man gives us 36 songs. What recent pop music album can you recall that comes close to that song count? Most deliver one third the quantity and one eighth the quality. So - fuzzy is good. Next subject - the album is called The Headphone Masterpiece. It was literally created to sound best over a specific pair of headphones - a model of Sony's I believe. Anyhow, think about your truly favorite songs and when you really discovered what your favorite songs were; the songs you thought were most deeply musical, most meaningful. I'd be willing to bet it was when you had it in your CD player or your iPod. Usually playing music over speakers is for background music and not concentration. Thus, an album optimized for headphones and thus called The Headphone Masterpiece calls for reflection and concentration on the music. That's not all - as a musician I can identify, and hope to communicate to you, the spontaneity involved in the creation of a song. Many artists fit their ideas, beliefs and feelings into their musical style. Some artists, like Cody, let the soul choose its medium - be it gangsta' lyrics in ***** I'm Broke, tender sacrifice in No One Will, a childish reverence of fellowship in Up in the Treehouse, or absolute poetic anarchy in Daddy's Baby. This is a brilliant technique used by some of the best musicians [i.e. The Beatles] and remarkable and original individuals as well. Speaking personally - the first time I listened to this album, I felt like I was reading my favorite book. I literally was on a journey. I couldn't bare each song ending, but I couldn't wait to hear the next song. I couldn't believe what I just heard when it ended and I couldn't wait to hear it again. I made best friends with some songs and I was filled with hope that one day I could achieve everything that Cody Chesnutt achieved in making this album. This album is his soul turned inside out, recorded intimately in his most private place - the bedroom of his home - and then turned loose to us. Show me any other musician in the history of music that recorded an entire album themselves in their own bedroom. Don't be mislead by what magazines and MTV tell you what music is. Let yourself decide, but let yourself be led a little - give this album a try with some fresh understanding. Since everything about the album is so tru - a universal truth also holds true - if you get to know a person intimately, inside and out, good and bad - no matter who they are - you will never be let down. This album doesn't let down - it lifts up. I can honestly say that when I listen to the music of Cody Chesnutt - my serenity, outlook and hope skyrocket. I can't say enough good about this guy and this album. Give it a try - you won't be let down.
This album deserves to be noticed if only for its sheer chutzpah. You gotta give a guy props when he records a two-disc album with 36 tracks in his bedroom and plays all the instruments himself. Now that's ambition. Some aspects of this album prove that Chesnutt did it for himself without worrying about what an audience would think, given some very self-indulgent and non-entertaining moments. The homemade nature is evident in poor sound quality, several recording errors, and a lot of cheap drum machines and sequencers. Regardless, Chesnutt proves to be an emerging songwriting genius and is a very impressive multi-instrumentalist with a great voice. Lyrically Chesnutt is all over the music map from loveman romance to gangsta boasting to soulful philosophizing, and even blissfully uncool childhood odes in "Up in the Treehouse."
Musically, Chesnutt starts from a classic soul foundation but he is clearly interested in all types of music. The album contains distinct examples of many genres: classic rock in "Upstairs in a Blowout," funk in "Setting the System," new wave in "The World is Coming to My Party," jazz rock in "When I Find Time," near-techno in "Juicin' the Dark," and 60's boogie in "Look Good in Leather." Other than that though, most of the rest of the album features interchangeable ballads with Chesnutt accompanying himself on guitar or keyboards, or undeveloped snippets of less than a minute, which could have been expanded into another album of cool songs with some outside encouragement. A good example is "The Seed" which was remade in far stronger form, with Chesnutt as special guest, by The Roots on their album Phrenology. After this homemade magnum opus, let's get Chesnutt a real record deal and producer, and with more focus his next work might be a real headphone masterpiece.
on January 9, 2005
Well, dude certainly gets a lot of things right here, but "HeadPhone Masterpiece" may be the "ego" part of Mr. Chesnutt that's been referred to in other reviews. Also, I could be wrong but I can't see too many heads rockin' this in their headphones on the #8 Train in NYC.
But if you can say anything, it's that this is a man who totally embodies an artist's refusal to be boxed in with labels. He's all over the map in a sort of schizophrenic, scattered, ingenious way. And that's the thing, there's definitely genius here but the album as a whole is far too fragmented and unfinished in ways that make it a far cry from "masterpiece" material. That said, any music fan worth their salt would be hard pressed to think of a more wildly creative album release in the last ten years.
I got turned onto this album the way a lot of other people did - the Roots/Chesnutt collab, "The Seed." And if you know the song from Phrenology and think it grooves like hell (which it does) but is pretty messed up (listen a little more closely to those lyrics - It IS) well, you haven't heard the half. Cody's just getting started. Thing was, when the album sounded nothing like I expected it to, I shelved it for a good year.
Picked it back up this weekend, and was treated to a remarkably present surprise. The man owes almost nothing to hip-hop and while it's a little unfair to bring up these names, Sly Stone, Shuggie Otis, Lenny Kravitz, The Beatles and even Nick Drake are brought to mind when listening. Song writing is incredible, instrumentation is spare and either acoustic or very electric/programmed and sometimes just distorted, audio-wise. True, the album wasn't recorded in a bathroom, but many times you're wondering if it was.
Get this guy a studio, a sound engineer, some inspiration and some decent musicians and an undeserving record label out there will have one of the freshest, most amazing sophmore efforts ever recorded.
I hope this guy has a future in the industry because if he doesn't we're all missing out on some of the real good stuff for years to come...
on March 25, 2003
Yeah, this album was made in the guy's bedroom and has plenty of hiss, he seems to have a pretty generic drum machine, he sings out of his range on a handful of tracks, and you even get the impression that he just woke up one morning and made some of these songs over a bowl of Lucky Charms. That said, this album is pretty fun. There are over 30 tracks and not all of them are stellar, but because it's a double disc for $..., all is forgiven. My favorites are "The Seed," "Can't Get No Betta," and "The Make Up." "Somebody's Parent" (a great track but only a minute and a half long) has Cody playing an apologetic father who blames his shortcomings on coffee and cigarettes. I don't know if this is fictional or if Cody is really singing to a wife and children, but it's a very sweet song. I get the feeling that this album is only a preview of what this man will do in the future. I wouldn't call this album a masterpiece, but Cody Chesnutt is a very talented and passionate songwriter who should be around for years to come.
on January 13, 2003
and I fear Cody probably won't... was truly gifted and inspired, can't help but feel he'll never reach this high again. He refused to perform any songs that might contradict his new spirituality ...even censored himself on "Look Good in Leather" and "The Seed" and pretty much preached about his faith in God the whole night.
That being said, this album is truly inspired and while a bit raunchy at times, feels very personal and comes from some place most folks can't tap into, mixing a lot of soul and angst. The angst might be gone going forward, though, as it doesn't seem to agree with Cody's God. Loved the show, but it sure wasn't what I was expecting.
on January 22, 2003
This album is not for everybody, if you love eclectic sounds and true R&B, you should love it. If you've ever made your own music or dabbled with a guitar and drum machine, this album will blow your mind. Yes, some of the tracks are filler and yes some are just plain ramblings, but there also some jewels. I like this album more everytime I listen to it. It's too bad more artists today aren't like Cody, who is not afraid to cook up his own product in his bedroom and give the major labels the finger by pushing it himself. The results are innovative and fresh. Buy this album, it's a classic.
on April 5, 2003
This is definately one of the most ambitious albums of the new decade,... even the past few. Forget everything about song structure you thought you knew and listen to this Cd with an open mind. Stretching across 2 CD's and 39 Tracks, this CD has everything with songs of all kinds of lenghts, crossing more genres than any artist in a long time has. Some songs are a mere minute in length, but even still pack a punch with a great hook and melody, and thats hard to do. Funny improv and even sound checks are on this CD... mainly to give you that raw, lo-fi feel. It doesnt sound polished, and what i dont get is why all of these reviewers think its a bad thing. Its mainly what seperates him from his peers such as Lenny Kravitz, Ben Harper, hell, even such rappers as Talib Kweli and Blackalicious. The CD has an unorganized feel to it, an amateur feel. Its so very refreshing once it grows on you. You must have an open mind to appreciate this genre-bending album. It crosses reggae, rap/hiphop, blues, classic rock, alternative, folk, EVERYTHING, and im not kidding. Do yourself a favor and support this artist with a very promising future. People are going to be talking about this headphone masterpiece 10 years from now.
on February 4, 2004
Masterpiece?.....I don't think so. Derivative as hell?...Definately!! If Lenny Kravitz ever gets around to releasing an album of outtakes it'll probably sound a lot like this. Thats not to say there aren't some decent songs on here, it's just that they are all done in the style of another artist.
His influences are clearly Stevie Wonder,Curtis Mayfield, Prince,Beatles and some rap thrown in too. Some of these songs aren't even completed, just half baked ideas.Cody should take a tip from The Roots who greatly improved on "The Seed" with their more fleshed out cover version. His overweening arrogance seems insecure and is greatly off putting. Cody does posess real talent as a songwriter but is a rather flat singer prone to going off-key here and there. Next time hopefully he will get a good producer and band and take his time finishing his songs and not release demo quality crap.
on March 19, 2003
Cody Chesnut's debut, as a growing majority of people seem to agree, holds a great deal of promise. The chords, rifs, and lyrics on many of the tunes are original, funny, and nice to listen to. What Mr. Chesnutt needs more than anything right now is a producer and a drummer. Many of the songs have a beat that was clearly generated from a $500 keyboard. Some people may find this to be kitchy or indie, I find it to be amateur. He would also benefit from recording in a professional studio. Many of the tracks feature a hiss or that whole "I want the song to sound like an old record crackling effect" that is tired, played out, and again amateur. After putting out his song "The Seed", The Roots rerecorded it with him, and the difference is amazing. I anxiously await his next album.