Tokimonsta’s Half Shadows (April 15, 2013)
Last week, wide-brim hat donning Los Angeles icon Jennifer Lee aka Tokimonsta released her sophomore LP Half Shadows on pop-oriented label Ultra Music. Since debuting her debut albumMidnight Menu in 2010, Lee has been a touchstone for beat music and when you press play on Half Shadows (streaming courtesy of Noisey), you’ll know you’re listening to Tokimonsta. The mix of fluid movement, dreamlike atmosphere and swaggedelic beat are unmistakable. Basically, the entire album is Tokimonsta reminding us why she rocks. While the opening track “The Center” is a bit safe, and there are a couple other instances of that restraint from really blowing minds throughout the album, there is a larger success here that renders the little disappointments irrelevant: Tokimonsta has succeeded in making songs.
James Blake’s “Retrograde” (February 12, 2013)
Nobody else is making music like this. James Blake is carrying the torch of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Bob Dylan, but rather than cast a light upon nostalgic structures and ideas, he is illuminating a path for the musicians of the future that pushes the frontiers of sound without losing the order and refinement of the past. It is time that more people start paying more attention.
Mike Gao’s Beta World Peace (January 30, 2013)
“Precipice (Precipitate)” stands out as the most successful extreme of this idiosyncratic meandering quality as Gao succeeds in being minimal, intricate, and specific while juggling disparate sonic elements and transitions the song to a confident new place with the almost breakbeat sounding drum roll sample sounding oh so perfectly woven into place. The difference here is that subtle sounds like those sunny synth chords are maintained throughout the transition to gradually pull us into a new place.
Shlohmo’s “Later” (January 15, 2013)
So as to not leave my earlier run on sentences about drug use hanging, let me get into the arrangement of the elements in this tune. The most salient impression I got from my first listen to “Later” was how much of a jump in song structure and development this represents for him. It’s subtle, there are few clues to guide you out of a 6 minute trance, but for me, this song is centered around three big moments, which have this awesome chorus/drop hybrid feel to them. Between the drops, the arrangement swirls around to give this awesome pushing/pulling sensation that sets up the big moments with a sense of eventuality. There is a moment of silence, and then, boom, you feel it. To me, these moments represent my hazy flashes of realization in the midst of some drug induced stupor, and hearing a sonic representation of these ephemeral occurrences puts me in a thoughtful, open-minded place. I’m sure different people will have different reactions to this music, but I think this is art that forces a personal reaction in the listener if he or she listens closely. That’s why you should listen, and listen carefully to this song.
Milo & Riley Lake’s Things That Happen At Day (January 3, 2012)
Milo is both an astute media critic and a philosophy student and Things That Happen At Day is as dense a work as you’ll come across in contemporary music. It’s easy to get lost in the Hegel talk or whatnot, but like most self-aware lyricists, Milo is mostly just attempting to find a justifiable truth in his personal relationships. He admits that much on EP standout “folk-metaphysics”, a track rife with an immensely relatable insecurity. What’s more relatable after all? The illusions of exorbitant wealth and grandeur in more radio ready rap or the existential worry that you might not matter after all? Milo’s rap might not be for everybody, but it should be.
It is hard to find a standard by which Chief Keef is a good role model. He is making no effort to educate himself, he is dodging the consequences of committing serious crimes, and he doesn’t care. Maybe America needs to hear this music to know that our society incubates people like Chief Keef, but the city of Chicago (dubbed “Chiraq” by some) does not. To date, there have been 488 homicides in Chicago, and people much like Chief Keef have perpetrated the vast majority of them. The ad-lib has become a defining signature of a rapper, and before the beat drops, he can be heard intoning his characteristic “bang-bang”, and these words are echoed all over the South Side of Chicago in both the words and actions of his peers.
Duality cannot be viewed as solely an album or mixtape. It is an aesthetic, built out of Adult Swim cartoons, video games, long nights at Low End Theory and bong hits. The 17 track project, or continuous video if you prefer,is brilliantly produced, yet disjointed. As a collective audio/visual project, it is one of the most enveloping releases you’ll encounter all year. Captain Murphy is introduced as rapper, lover, cult leader and supervillain. On the production side of things, FlyLo brought in heavy-hitters Just Blaze, Madlib and TNGHT, as well as Brainfeeder compatriots Jeremiah Jae, Teebs and Samiyam. Earl Sweatshirt, Azizi Gibson and Jae again assist Murphy with delectable bars. It’s a star-studded affair that FlyLo conducts blissfully, verses and beats flowing together into one psychedilia-tinged river.
If names like Clicks & Whistles, Braille, Anenon and Obey City get you wet (not to mention the aforementioned Low Limit and Machinedrum) then this compilation is for you. If you have no idea who any of the involved artists are or what they sound like, but want delve deeper into North American electronic music, this compilation is for you. If you’re at a party and don’t know what to play, but want people to think that you’re hip to the newest trends (because, you know, that’s all that matters), this compilation is for you. So yeah, give it a spin below and grab that hard wax from the Innovative Leisure website.
Neither emotionally endearing nor dissociative, Skylight’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Like the blurred urban landscape it is built out of, Skylight is a visceral juxtaposition between human closeness and emotional distance. Butler has crafted an album that is not only perfect to listen to on late night bus rides, but encapsulates the very essence of the nocturnal urban landscape.
Please Lockah, Don’t Hurt ‘Em is aimed squarely at peak-time, ecstasy inducing pandemonium and attains that goal at every level. Unlike past explorations into rave on the part of hip hop producers, Lockah dispels the paranoiac nature of the come down, focusing his efforts on the youthful, drug-induced side of the come up. The EP is one-dimensional, but that one dimension is multi-textured, subtle and exciting. Furthermore, it seems pretty clear that Lockah is self-conscious of the one-dimensional nature of the EP and has embraced it. Rave is a beautiful thing when done right.
Can we take a moment to appreciate how impressive it is that Kendrick Lamar managed to release a critically and commercially successful album on a major label? Actually, it’s more impressive than that. Kendrick Lamar released a critically and commercially successful album on Aftermath, a label that has failed to release an album from someone other than 50 Cent or Eminem since 2006. That fact cannot be understated. Over 240,000 people bought good kid m.A.A.d. city last week, a minor miracle in the contemporary hip hop landscape. Of course, first week sales numbers will be irrelevant with regards to how the album is viewed down the road, but Kendrick certainly won’t have any trouble eatin’.
Taking a step back for a moment, Memphis Confidential Vol. 1 is a fun, replay-worthy tape that approximates the DJ Paul/Juicy J sound to a T. Kruise obviously reveres the triple six and “Got Me Fucked Up” and “War Hammers” would fit perfectly in the Three 6 Mafia canon. The EP will be in my proverbial Coupe de Ville for quite some time and will probably make me revisit some Gangsta Boo and Playa Fly classics. All good things, and again, there’s something to be said for approximating a sound really, really well.
I’ve been patiently awaiting this album since I first saw Bhatia tweet that he’d covered Flying Lotus’s “Pickled” on his last release, the gorgeous EP Strata. What kind of future-jazz craziness might await on Yes It Will? On Tuesday, My questions were answered. I must admit upon a third listen this is very challenging music. It is certainly not background music as the opening track ironically suggests. This isn’t foreground music either. Like the best free jazz and bebop, This is music that forces you to reinterpret the dimensions in which you thought music existed. More than that though, this album is bursting with life.
From the opening proclamation of “oh check this out”, S-Type makes his intentions clear for the Billboard EP. He will take no prisoners. He will push the volume into the red. He will not short you on bombast. His drums will crack. His synths will be crisp. And most importantly, he is the heir apparent to the LuckyMe throne. 25-year-old Bobby Perman has been releasing music since 2005, but it wasn’t until Rustie premiered “Billboard” back in April that people really started paying attention. And I mean really as in turn your head, let your jaw drop and stare.
For fans of experimental beat music, Stuart Howard AKA Lapalux represents a constantly rising bar. Since his production techniques are so huge and his style and artistic choices so personal and unpredictable, he’s the kind of producer people just have to watch to see what he does next, rather than judge in reference to a fleeting trend. An early and enduring fascination with analog tape manipulation is a large factor in the fresh but rooted sound he has harnessed. In his new EP, Some Other Time, Lapalux further expands and saturates (literally and figuratively) his world of sound and takes it in a refreshing direction. A lot of this new work feels even more inspired by the intersection of R&B with both the past and future of electronic music.
From the onset, Jiaolong is distinctly analogue, but manages to retain a protean attitude, allowing for a malleable sound that should bring a smile to even the most jaded dance fans and maybe even draw in some of those corporate ravesters. Snaith is no revenant from an era of dance music purity, he just wants to find/provide a few ”transcendent moments” and Jiaolong certainly succeeds at that.
Zodiac’s Self-Titled (October 1, 2012)
If nothing else, Zodiac is an introduction to the many faces of Jeremy Rose beyond the cloak of The Weeknd, proving his dexterity across multiple styles and genres. If you haven’t heard, Rose recently signed a contract to work with Paul Epworth (yeah that Paul Epworth) at Epworth’s Wolf Tone imprint, a move that should open up many new and exciting opportunities. For now, the EP is an impressive primer to Zodiac, the solo artist, a name we will be hearing a lot in the coming years.
The songwriting is simple enough to be accessible, but doesn’t become trite after a few times over. Webb manages to compile found influences from across the experimental pop landscape and throw them onto his canvass with a seemingly careless precision. A solid remix package tops off the album, a little bit of found art in itself. This is rare album that is simultaneously a simple, enjoyable listen and a demanding sonic voyage.
All too often, and for far too long, musicians’ work has been associated with and affected by the artists’ personal lives; it has become a fact of the industry that fans not only absorb an artist’s music, but that they become acquainted with the artist as a human being as well, for better or for worse. Frank Ocean has been the subject a lot of Internet buzz over the past few weeks, and sadly, until Tuesday, very little of it had anything to do with the music he makes. Sexual orientation has no effect whatsoever on musical ability or songwriting talent; that being said, countless reviews of Frank Ocean’s superb new album, Channel Orange, seem focused solely upon attempting to tie various lyrics to alleged homosexual feelings or actions. That type of review is both useless and ridiculous, in light of the quality and effort so clearly apparent within this project.
Fresh Espresso’s Bossalona (June 5, 2012)
Fresh Espresso have long been the unsung heroes of Seattle hip-hop. In a predominantly Caucasian city where much of the hip-hop scene focuses upon social consciousness and minority awareness, Fresh Espresso provides a welcome respite from the drudgery and pessimism of much of Seattle’s rap. They don’t put out the kind of socially conscious hip-hop we’ve come to expect from the Blue Scholars or RA Scion, and they don’t coast around on the Town’s local pride like many of the rappers from the area. Originally hailing from Michigan, Fresh Espresso’s P Smoov and Rik Rude seem like an unlikely duo, and in previous releases, their differing flows have slightly lowered the overall listenability of their material. Their lyrics are usually somewhat humorous, and their live shows are stuffed full of energetic antics, pelvic thrusts and the hipster aggressive-head-bob. Two years ago, the duo released their first album, Glamour, which went relatively unnoticed outside of their dedicated fan base within the weirder Seattle hip-hop circles, despite its sophisticated production and extremely catchy tracklist.
Seryn’s This Is Where We Are (April 4, 2012)
I thought it was about time to post on this album. You know when you find that one great song that fits perfectly into your day or week and makes you go around showing it to everyone? Or maybe you keep it a secret because it’s just too good? The former is how I have felt about this entire Seryn album. Seryn was formed in 2009 and is composed of 5 band members who can all play a wide variety of instruments. For any fans of Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes..etc you need to give this album a listen.
Odd Future’s OF Tape Vol. 2 (March 27, 2012)
That being said, OF Tape Vol. 2 is different. You don’t hear it right away, because the lo-fi, noisy recording quality and the largely simple, repetitive beats are not much different from anything we’ve heard before. For all we know, this album could have been recorded in Syd’s bedroom studio like so much of their previous material. But although “maturity” is a term I hope never to have to use to describe Odd Future, there’s a sense within this album that at least a few members of the collective have a seasoned quality about them now, something that was simply absent in previous releases. For example, though Tyler has certainly carried the group on previous recordings, his presence on this tape is not overwhelming, and surprisingly, it does not detract from the quality of the album.
Miguel’s Art Dealer Chic, Vol. 1 (March 6, 2012)
My opinion quickly changed this morning after listening to his latest effort, Art Dealer Chic Vol. 1. The EP is a loud announcement that Miguel is back and ready to take over the scene. Move over Frank Ocean. Move over The Weeknd. D’Angelo, stop the comeback train. This man is doing his thang. “Gravity” is in the future-R&B style recently popularized by The Weeknd, but originated by D’Angelo. With a beat that would sound excellent on its own, Miguel spins a “shooting star” metaphor with only “gravity” keeping him down. A little bit silly? Probably. Corny? Definitely. Whatever, he sounds great over it and beat is undeniably infectious.
Union’s Analogtronics (March 6, 2012)
The beats throughout this album reminds me of some of Dam Funk’s work with
his stress on the keyboard and heavy synths. The laid back productio pairs perfectly with the dope list of featured MC’s and vocalists. Union enlisted the help of Talib Kweli, Sly Johnson, MF Doom, Moka Only, Rachel Claudio, Elzhi, Big Pooh, Janic, Roc Marciano, Guilty Simpson, and Mani Hoffman. It’s a stellar lineup to say the least. The single off the album is “Time Leak” with Talib Kweli and Sly Johnson. Kweli’s raw talent is showcased and Sly Johnson provides soulful background vocals.
Robert Glasper Experiment’s Black Radio (February 29, 2012)
The great thing about this album is how accessible it is to all types of listeners. For the devoted jazz fans you will find the find the bands combination of different styles enthralling, for hip-hop heads you get to experience a new side of Lupe and Mos that you may not be used too, the quiet jazz rendition of Nirvana’s Smells Like teen Spirit showcases the bands talent to defy genre boundaries and create an album that every listener will enjoy. To check out some more tracks from the album, click here. All in all, I can already say that this is going to be one of my favorites of 2012. Whats more, if you buy the album on Itunes you get a bonus track covering the A Love Supreme by John Coltrane.
Ski Beatz Presents Blu Tops EP (February 28, 2012)
I never thought I would utter these words, but the man behind the “Luchini” and “Dead Presidents II” has gone dubstep. The Ski Beatz helmed Blu Tops EP, released unexpectedly last night, features Dipset-ers Cam’ron and Vado, as well as vocalist Mckenzie Eddy… and the opening track, also titled “Blu Tops” prominently features a half-step beat and a dubstep bassline. Since Ski’s return to prominence around 2010, he has produced for the likes of Curren$y and Murs, as well as releasing three solo efforts, the 24 Hour Karate School series. Not unsurprisingly, Ski has changed up his style a bit since his heyday in the mid-to late-90′s, but who would have thought that the guy who produced Talib’s “Cold Rain,” or Curren$y’s “Chilled Coughphee” would jump on the half-step bandwagon.
I joined the Black Hippy party in December of 2010 the day I heard Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q’s freestyle over Weezy’s “6’7’” beat. Kendrick and Schoolboy’s version came out only one day after Wayne and Cory Gunz released theirs, and when placed back to back, the two don’t even compare. Kendrick and Schoolboy bodied what would become the best track on Carter IV (admittedly not saying much). At that point I had heard of Jay Rock, the third Black Hippy member, mostly because of his brief stint at Young Money, but Ab-Soul, the fourth member was still an unknown to me.