The Team Love label is co-owned by Conor Oberst, but there's not much of Bright Eyes to be found on Mars Black's debut album. Musically, that is: leader Mars Blackman (a knowing cop to Spike Lee's onscreen alter ego) has lyrical obsessions, revolving around family, intimacy, and the failures of both, that aren't far removed from Oberst's early days of setting diary entries to tunes. And while Blackman and Oberst probably grew up in different neighborhoods (casual references to gunplay and robbery don't show up on many Saddle Creek releases), the city of Omaha is never far from the lyrics of Folks Music in much the same way that Oberst drops bits of local color into his verses. Musically, on the other hand, Folks Music is straight-up hip-hop in a style not far removed from either the Roots or Jurassic 5's embrace of live instruments or Beck's occasional feints to the samplers-and-turntables world. Highlights include "Hey Ma!," a vignette of largely unconscious cross-generational antagonism set to the album's catchiest chorus, and the A Tribe Called Quest-style loopiness of the woozy "Buck & Nuts," but the standout song is "Scotch on the Rocks," a song about inebriation that's like J-Kwon's "Tipsy" ten or 15 years down the line, with an unsettling sense of desperation skirting around the ostensibly cheerful tune.
Folks Music Review
by Stewart Mason