Sunday, January 2, 2011

Thievery Corporation - It Takes a Thief

I've been listening to Thievery Corporation for about a decade now, and I have become more and more impressed with the intelligence and quality of music they bring to the table. I have also been thrilled with them of an example of how quality can rise to the top outside the straight jacket of unimaginative major labels and radio, the latter being little more than a promotion arm for the major labels. Also, Thievery Corporation's interest in global politics and speaking about what is going on in the world is arresting without crossing over into fierce polemic or pompous holier-than-thou attitude.

Aside from enjoying their work a great deal, Thievery has brought me into contact with many other artists that I also follow closely: Bebel Gilberto, Federico Aubele, etc. The ESL label that releases Thievery Corporation's work is in my list of links on this blog, and it's one of the places I check in for new music on a regular basis. Finally, during the last year, I realized Thievery Corporation is my 'favorite artist'. This was an odd realization as I hadn't had a 'favorite' musical artist for years nor cared much to discover one. I listen to so many different artists in different genres and from different countries and have done so for so long that it just didn't make sense to me to have a single 'favorite'. (Hopefully this realization is entirely about the music and only marginally informed by my tendency to pause when I see Eric Hilton posing impassively in a suit...niiiiice!).

Anyway....since I have all their albums (barring a few of the remix albums since I've always been most excited about their original full-lengths), I didn't need to do anything with It Takes a Thief - their 'very best of' retrospective - except download 'The Passing Stars'. But I'm glad Thievery Corporation released something like this. They deserve a retrospective because they've come a long way and their music has certainly changed over the years. At the same time, It Takes a Thief will come off very much as an 'album' rather than a disjointed set of tracks because Thievery Corporation is one of the few artists whose musical vision (and their actual chops in delivering on that vision) has been consistent and consistently solid even while exploring their vision and evolving it over time.

With all that said, It Takes a Thief is still a collection and is therefore bound to succeed for some and doomed to fail for others. As a sampler' of Thievery Corporation's sound, it does a great job and it's a definite good buy for someone who wants to get a feel for what these guys sound like. The album covers a lot of different moods and styles, and I like how they mixed up the tracks rather than presenting them in chronological order as this emphasizes the strong composing and musical performances that are par for the course with Thievery Corporation.

On the other hand, the set is probably doomed to fail for others because it is dubbed 'the very best of...'.  Excuse me, says who? This may be 'the very best' according to Garza and Hilton, but any collection of tracks pulled from their albums isn't going to live up to that moniker for most people. "Why didn't they include this song or that song?" is probably the quibble most listeners would have. However, this is really more of a compliment to Thievery Corporation than anything. When an artist has been putting out great music as long as these guys have, the term 'very best of...' becomes meaningless.

If you've ever had any interest in giving Thievery Corporation a listen, this is a great opportunity and a fantastic collection of tracks. I think I read on their facebook page that they're working on their next studio album. I can't wait to see what these guys do next!

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