Our Henry Whittier-Ferguson reviews the two new sibling albums from Shabazz Palaces, taking them into the furthest orbits of hip-hop.
In his bio, former The We Shared Milk frontman Boone Howard offers a darkly humorous abridged version of his journey from beloved Portland underground act to solo artist: “… stifled by creeping domesticity and a musical format where meaning was lost in endless riffs, Howard subconsciously sabotaged his relationship, broke up his band, and drifted into a despondent haze.” It’s probably fair to say that most of us have stared into a similar abyss. Most of us, however, do not bounce back with an excellent solo LP debut. Howard does.
The Other Side of Town, out from Good Behavior Records in Philadelphia, is Howard’s re-emergence from the self-described “freezing, dirty basement underneath the nicely decorated apartment he shared with his former love.”
The album is packed with acerbic lyrics, stellar instrumentation and an energy that never flags, propelled by equal parts self-awareness, self-pity, humor and naked observation. “The Other Side of Town” finds Howard using the geographic metaphor as a stand in for his musical rebirth – sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery. The guitar line lazes its way along under Howard’s typically excellent vocals. It’s a love song masquerading as a summer kick-back.
Howard uses “Break Up The Band” to exorcise a few demons related to his former musical project. It’s a Pink Floyd-esque interlude that bounces along until the jarring conclusion that indicates, perhaps, some unfinished business…
The Other Side of Town is an artist’s redemption project – whether personal or public, and whether or not he cares what anyone else thinks. The musicality is consistently notable, and the song writing is indicative of the explorative nature of the project in general. One of Portland’s prodigal sons has, perhaps, returned. »
– Charles Trowbridge
Boone Howard celebrates the release of “The Other Side of Town” May 16 at Mississippi Studios