Leigh MichaelWednesday,18 September 2013

The Snap:

Elvis Costello and The Roots have teamed up for the first time to create Wise Up Ghost, a “musical adventure” comprised by a variety of styles, techniques, and approaches. Wise Up Ghost has a 17 September release date, and you can order the album on iTunes or Amazon. Get a taste of the collaboration and twelve of the record’s songs via NPR First Listen.

Don’t forget to watch the (captivatingly simple) music video for “Walk Us Uptown,” below.

The Download:

Wise Up Ghost is actually the result of a serendipitously offhand comment, offered up while Costello was a guest on The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon (in case you’ve lived under a rock for the past five years, The Roots is the house band for Jimmy Fallon). The Roots drummer Questlove recounts, “I subliminally put out the idea of a larger collaboration. Or maybe passive-aggressively — I was too afraid to actually suggest that we should make a record together.”

It’s always fun to watch established artists play with new sounds — and it’s even better to listen to them succeed. Wise Up Ghost is totally different from any of Costello’s past work, drawing into the essence of The Roots to create an album that feels like a deliciously comprehensive sampler. Every song is an island… But that’s part of what makes it so cool.

In The Ghost Protocol, the manifesto explains, “Throughout Wise Up Ghost, there’s a dense sound that’s not exactly hip-hop, not exactly rock-and-roll, and not exactly anything else either. That sense of musical adventure was part of the plan.” I like the genre-less nature of Wise Up Ghost. While The Roots are definitively (used ironically) hip-hop/jazz-rap , Costello is post-punk/new-wave. There are a lot of descriptors going on there — but none of them overlap.

So Wise Up Ghost felt like it could be a bit of a crapshoot, winding up either seriously awesome or simply incongruent. And with the exception of a few songs (“Cinco Minutos Con Vos” feels particularly skip-worthy to me), they really nailed it. “Viceroy’s Ghost” has a syrupy, mellow vibe, and “Wise Up Ghost” is like power-rock-meets-understatedness. Trust me, you’ll get it once you listen to it.

If you like either Elvis Costello or The Roots, listen to Wise Up Ghost. Even if you’re not a super-fan… Listen. This album is just what the doctor ordered for lazy autumn nights.

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Hat Tips:

NPRElvis Costello, The Roots, Image Credit: Flickr

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