Music Review: Tab's "Traveling in Stereo"

12/12/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Patricio Maya Solis

Tab’s previous release, “Chasing Rabbits,” seethed with frustration. “This is the soundtrack for those stuck in the slow road to nowhere,” he said. The lyrics were angry and the beats ominous. Talk of addiction, heartbreak, loneliness, and--above all--failure abounded. Taking a quick look at Tab’s evolution as a musician, it becomes clear that his personal struggles are much linked to his music.

“Traveling in Stereo,” released independently through Jamendo, takes a lighter route than “Chasing Rabbits.” You can’t call it a happy album. Inquisitive, both lyrically and musically, is a better description. Instead of dwelling on failure, this time around Tab talks about chasing his dreams. In this new album, rage dims and a search for meaning takes over.

Though not as musically cogent as his previous album, “Traveling in Stereo” gives Tab and producer Anitek more room to experiment with turntables, beats and samples. The result is a less immediate work, which isn’t always a bad thing. “Traveling in Stereo” succeeds the most when Tab slows down his vocal deliveries and allows for melodies and beats to show him the way.

After all, Tab has labeled himself an experimental, trip-hop and hip-hop musician who is not afraid of bringing outside jazz and reggae elements into his music.

In “Inquiring Minds,” for instance, sound experimentation, strong lyrics and overall catchiness interact perfectly together. Short pockets of Trip-Hop beats and light turn-table work precede Tab’s autobiographical rhymes. Not that all is soul-searching yakkety-yak. The chorus is pretty straight forward. “Where do I go from here? What am I supposed to do? When I’m alone sometimes I wish I was next to you?” sings Ellen Rose.

Catchy melodies and Rose’s sweet back-up vocals feature prominently throughout the album, an excellent choice by both Tab and Anitek. That balance makes for listener-friendly songs with depth and humor--not something that abounds nowadays.

Besides “Inquiring Minds,” a couple of other songs also stood out. “Booze Infused Wisdom” takes Tabs signature angry delivery, but infuses it with taunting playfulness and upbeat sax samples. “Ride and Fly” feels like you’re driving by the beach during the sunset after smoking--well, we'll let you guess just what.

"Traveling in Stereo" isn’t perfect. A couple of the songs could slow down and experiment with beats and samples a little more while getting rid of unnecessary vocal elements. That said, this is a successful independent release with many well-crafted songs that are smart, funny and personal. I would definitely recommend it for those who want to give mainstream hip-hop a rest in favor of smaller but more innovative artists.

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