What can be said about Sublime that has not been said already? Sublime is the premiere Long Beach Californian band that stretched the limits of music, extending their tendrils into so many different genres while still being able to find success every single time. Whether it be ska, punk, reggae, rock, or the latter, Sublime would find a genre and make it their own.
40 Oz. To Freedom was the debut album for Sublime and it was Earth-shattering at the time of release but ultimately did not sell too well. The group of all white members that played reggae and punk music, that had a rapper for a front man and a care-free attitude about life. Bradley Nowell, Eric Wilson, and Bud Gaugh had some outstanding chemistry together and Sublime would eventually become a household name.
Sublime did a fantastic job of switching up their style on 40 Oz. To Freedom, from the rushed and frantic songs like “New Thrash” and “Hope,” and while Sublime had mostly original songs, they were known to cover some punk like “We’re Only Gonna Die” by Bad Religion, but also takes other influences like the cover of “Scarlet Begonias” and “54-46 That’s My Number.” Hearing a debut album that has six different covers sounds outlandish, but the massive 23-song track list bears so many rememberable and greatly written songs. While it did not originally sell very well, it eventually became the one of the highest independently selling albums of all time.
One of the main selling points of Sublime is just how interesting their sound is, I really have not heard many bands from this era that changed their instrumentation around so much from the organs and acoustic guitars, to the the deep drum kits and steel drums that became iconic with Sublime’s sound. That and of course all the songs about smoking weed or drug references like “Smoke Two Joints,” “Lets Go Get Stoned,” and the infamous “Badfish.”
40 Oz. To Freedom is one of the classic 90’s albums that have such an iconic sound and feel to them. Even when Sublime samples another track, they do so in a way that actually contributes to the feel of the new track. The quick-witted and sarcastic Bradley uses some amusing lines that bring a smile to my face every time I hear it. While the album is now well over 20-years old, 40 Oz. To Freedom continues to impress me with each listen. I love the instrumentation, the production, and of course I love the overall feel of the whole album.
The way 40 Oz. To Freedom flows from the pressed, running tracks, to the slowed down and more mellow tracks, Sublime went above and beyond on 40 Oz. To Freedom and really became the staple in Long Beach Californian music, but also as musicians around the world.
Run The Jewels is the hip-hop collective equivalent to peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, or bacon and eggs. The perfect combination between two MC’s, both Killer Mike and El-P, that lay down some dynamite tracks, bringing both electronic and classic hip-hop elements in a blend that just sounds perfect. The chemistry between Mike and El-P is like Batman and Robin, a truly dynamic duo, only this duo spits out bars about punching in faces, and taking over other MC’s spaces.
Run The Jewels II is obviously the second installment in the growing saga that is Run The Jewels. The destructive pair that is Killer Mike and El-P, both have had hip-hop careers in the past as solo artists, but after working together on Adult Swim’s Singles for The Summer, they soon found each other to work better as a team, rather than individually. Killer Mike with his thousand pound lyrics and with El-P’s outstanding production, the team together became some serious cats in the hip-hop game.
Following the release of Run The Jewels I, Run The Jewels II is a testament to the overpowering levels that two MC’s could achieve together. Run The Jewels II is eleven tracks long, each more booming in sound than the last. El-P’s production on this record is just some of the best I had heard and it was honestly a breath of fresh air to hear some electronic influence, along with the pounding and deep drums. Run The Jewels II just sounds like a warzone, the instant the album begins, Killer Mike is shouting “I’m Finna bang this bitch the Fuck Out!” its just the perfect send off into an album that is filled with violence, drugs, sex, and of course the raw authenticity of both Mike’s and El-P’s experiences with touring, the police, and the ups and inevitable downs as well.
The album also features a verse from the one and only Zack de la Rocha who is the poet/activist/singer from Rage Against the Machine. For anyone who has never heard RATM, imagine a much angrier John Lennon with a twist of Malcolm X in music form. Zack de la Rocha’s actual verse is like a full-fledged fist to the face, it is full of burned mansions, toe-tagging, and closed caskets. Rocha’s verse is actually one of the highlights of “Close Your Eyes and Count to Fuck,” it fits the breakneck speed of the beat, and it is just as frenzied and hazardous as Mike and El-P’s verses.
There is also a track, “All Due Respect” that features Travis Barker, which was another surprising addition as while he does not rap, he does have a hand in the production for this track. Barker did an amazing job as the beat switches up from a synth focused slowdown, to another fast paced almost march with the cymbals blasting along with the deep bass drum that creates such a great combination.
Run The Jewels II seems to be all about the synergy and what can be created from branching out to different artists and genres. Mike and El-P realized this with Run The Jewels I, and realized that the experimentation should not stop there.
I ended up loving Run The Jewels from the moment I heard Killer Mike spitting verses about Martin Luther King Jr., The gracefulness he portrays, and the line “Top of the morning, my fist to your face is fucking Foldgers. Mike and El-P’s chemistry makes for one of the most destructive duos in music history, and Run The Jewels II is a diamond in the mine of hip-hop.
Clams Casino, the kid with humble beginnings and who worked with big named artists like A$AP M.O.B., Mac Miller and of course The Legend Lil B, fires onto the debut music scene with 32 Levels. His name has been heard around the world, and Casino finally breaks the surface of a more mainstream audience as 32 Levels shows what Clams Casino does best, make some innovative, creative, and progressive beats that invite the audience into the genre of Hip-Hop.
32 Levels begins with a nice introduction from Based God himself as he “Leave(s) it up to Clams, He (Clams Casino) got us. Changing the game as always.” Based God being the lighthouse and beacon of knowledge in all things, including Hip-Hop means that his approval is worth more than just an average opinion. Based God and myself had a lot of hope in 32 Levels and I was looking to see just how Casino was going to come back and change his sound once more. I would have never guessed that the first half of the album, tracks 1 – 5 are more fast paced and seem like Casino’s classic song “I’m God,” the album then switches to a slower combination of songs like “Ghost In A Kiss,” and “Into The Fire.”
The switch up seems like a totally different project from Casino and I had to make sure I was actually listening to the same album. I will say the tracks I enjoyed more were “All Nite feat. Vince Staples,” “Witness feat. Lil B,” and “A Breath Away feat. Kelela.” These were just songs were I loved the features and the beats were involved and easy to nod your head to. Vince Staples’ song “All Nite” was released as a single and this track actually sounded like it could have fit perfectly on Vince’s Summertime ’06. From the seagulls or birds in the tracks background, to the low-tuned bass that rattles behind Vince’s energized voice.
“Witness” is just overall such a powerful track as well, Lil B’s verse on the track is, well it is Based God and everyone knows just what type of verse he brings to every song. “Shouts Out to Africa, Shouts Out to Japan” is spit over what I believe is one of Clams Casino’s greatest beats he has produced so far. It is fast, aggressive, and has a ton of background vocals from Lil B that include some “Swag Swag” and “Whoop!” Overall I think that the production on “Witness” is the real star of the track as it boosts Lil B’s verse to such a higher platform than it already was.
Now “A Breath Away” is a track that I was not totally a fan of at first listen, but it finally grew on me and I enjoy the tired tone of the whole song. Kelela delivers some charming vocalization and the instrumental is a mismatch of what I believe sounds like drums that are being played under water. It sounds like an overall enticing, but strange track but I learned to love it.
Every track on 32 Levels is at least interesting and even if you do not personally enjoy the vocals, then the production will keep your attention as it changes drastically through each track. Clams Casino as an artist is just so steady and consistent with each release, and as he continues to grow, so does his overall sound. 32 Levels is definitely a must have for anyone that wants to experiment more with their music library and expand a little bit into the stranger side of hip-hop music. The Keyboard Kid strikes again and this time, he knocks down the house.
Enter The 36 Chambers is one of, if not the most well known hip-hop album to date. It is still recognized for the hard spitting members dropping bar after bar, the instrumentals bringing what spawned the classic East-Coast Sound, and an interesting speedway to getting hip-hop into what it is today. The sound, attitude, and overall vibe of Enter The 36 Chambers is one that is not only stimulating to the ears, but paints a fantastic image of the early Hip-Hop music.
The Wu-Tang Sword left its mark on everyone with 36 Chambers, as it was able to flip the game on its head and create some of the best offspring albums as well. The Artists like GhostFace Killah, RZA, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and Raekwon were able to use sampling and some bumping beats to create a whole different sound that influenced people even twenty years later. It is incredible to think that songs like “Bring Da Ruckus,” “Method Man,” and of course the legendary “C.R.E.A.M.,” that rocked stereos everywhere from New York to Los Angeles, to all over the world.
“C.R.E.A.M.” is one of those songs that will go down in history of hip-hop art, and music in a general sense. The beginning of the instrumental with the smooth and laid back jazz influence to then jumping right into a crash of cymbals and one of the most remarkable piano pieces to ever be played. It reigns in ears even still to this day and it has been a personal favorite of new coming piano players to learn, and I know it was one of the first things I ever wanted to learn on piano. The bars on “C.R.E.A.M.” just have this struggling overtone and lines like “It’s been twenty-two hard years of still struggling,” and even the hook “Cash rules everything around me,” brings a mind-state of what it was like to be surrounded by barriers and oppression.
The tone of the album then switches from being a serious and authentic true story on “C.R.E.A.M.” to the then joke style of “Method Man” and the opening lines exchanged between Method Man and Raekwon bring a smile to my face every single time I hear it. The “Stabbing your tongue with a rusty screwdriver,” and the banging of “just your nuts on the dresser” is a conversation that is just too entertaining not to laugh at.
This isn’t all what Wu-Tang Clan is about though, other tracks like “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’,” and “Can It Be All So Simple,” are the more serious tracks, bringing some great instrumental and hooks as well. The 36 Chambers just brings hit after hit, just an insanely impressive track record to start a music career with. There is not a single song that can be argued as not intelligently produced or as a subpar song. Each track brings a bumping instrumental and just some of the most rememberable verses to date.
Enter The 36 Chambers is just overall such an influential album that has the classic sound that everyone in the 90’s came to love. Even Generations later, Wu-Tang Clan is still a household name. If you mention Hip-
Hop, you must mention Wu-Tang Clan.
The Flex is a hardcore punk band from Leeds, they draw inspiration from the heavy hitters of punk like Minor Threat, Black Flag, and even a little of Bad Religion, to bring a new era of aggression into the foreground. Their message, that they don’t need you but you sure as hell need them.
Wild Stabs In The Dark was released on Milk Run Records (U.K.) and Video Disease Records (U.S.), it brought a new wave of punk music onto a new generation of people. The Flex is just one of those bands that have such a tight sound and so much energy to each song that it is hard not to break everything in sight within the first listen.
Spanning only about twenty minutes, Wild Stabs In The Dark is the perfect length for this style of music, its fast, destructive, and most of all fun. I just had so much of a great time listening to this and it is surprising to see that The Flex is not shown more love online or around the United States. This is most definitely an underground punk record and The Flex is still on their way up from the flats and apartments in England to the festivals and stadiums they deserve. This could also relate to how The Flex is still a newer band, as their first release The Demo sprouted online in 2012, so they still have plenty of time to start playing more and more shows as time goes on.
Wild Stabs in The Dark has that classic punk sound, and after seeing some of The Flex’s live concerts they look like the energy levels are at an all time high, as crowd surfing, mosh pits, and stage diving all takes place in these small basement like shows that look barely able to support the raging crowd.
The Flex consists of five separate members and their names might be the most interesting part, The Boots is the vocalist and can be heard screaming over Foxy Bingo and The Egg Man on guitar. Bones is the bass player and can be found creating a banging rhythm section with Pimdog who is the drum player. Together they make up the personality of The Flex and create some of the more laughable persona names. The names do not coincide with their sound at all as The Egg Man and Foxy Bingo are two things that I would never expect to hear as they rip apart their instruments and slam down some pounding chords over the rest of The Flex.
The Flex while destructive and overly aggressive, still show structure and a spine to their music. Their attitude is certainly the best part of their presence and songs like “Left To Die” and “Waste My Time” have these quick, breakneck speed riffs along with pounding drums, but they also have these really sweet breakdowns that give the mosh pit a rest and allow for some much needed downtime. They break up the action as in the near twenty minutes that Wild Stabs In The Dark lasts, each song flows into the next and does not really allow for much relaxation in between tracks. This adds to the rapid fire attack that is The Flex and it allows them to go into the situation with a get in and get out style that is still so prevalent in punk music today as it was so long ago.
Wild Stabs In The Dark is available for free on The Flex’s Bandcamp so there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to check out this band. A really great band from the U.K. and a really great hardcore band overall.
Radiohead, the ever-changing, ever-adapting United Kingdom Rock band strikes back after a five-year hiatus from King of Limbs. A Moon Shaped Pool shows a more mellow but still impactful sounding Radiohead and as time progressed, their shifting sound only continues to astound and amazing with each release.
A Moon Shaped Pool has a startling beginning with the first track “Burn The Witch,” this track was also released as a single and it sets a fast paced environment of violins, quick guitar strums, and an electronic hi-hat tap that coincides so well with Yorke’s voice. The track also has these synthesizer chords that have this feeling of being watched, or being superstitious. I loved “Burn The Witch” simply because of how different it feels from the rest of the album, A Moon Shaped Pool is primarily a slowed down, graceful waltz that relies primarily on acoustic instrumentation and piano work.
The second track “Daydreaming” has such a crawling, but beautiful beginning as it starts with piano work then eventually moving into some synth leads and Yorke delivering some sleepy sounding vocals. This was released with “Burn The Witch” in a music video series and while the video is interesting to watch as it compliments the song, the actual track itself feels so daunting at the end as the growls take over the soft piano which then leads into the next track, “Decks Dark.”
“Decks Dark” feels spacious with the keys of a piano echoing over a soft-noise synth, which then leads to some great background vocalization from The London Contemporary Orchestra. There is also a pretty low tuned bass part that hums behind the voices and guitar that creates a great rhythm section along with the drums.
A Moon Shaped Pool feels like such a step in the right direction as every element of the album feels like it has weight and is a drastic puzzle piece to A Moon Shaped Pool. The instrumentation feels so tight, not stiff, but tight in every instrument is mixed and produced so well and the overall tone of the album while dreary and spacious, still has moments that shine.
This is the perfect album to relax to, and it demands to be heard with headphones from all the subtle but important elements. A Moon Shaped Pool also while being primarily acoustic, still has songs like “Ful Stop” that sounds like it belongs in a John Carpenter movie. The bass line along with the drawn out horns create this creeping feeling that could most definitely fit any horror movie. The suspenseful and slowly rising instrumental that A Moon Shaped Pool creates keeps every album feeling like a totally different experience and I feel that the spacious theme of this goes along with the Moon or body of water that the
Space is A Moon Shaped Pool’s biggest ally as it relies on the reverb and space to illustrate a slow moving journey through the world’s biggest area. I just fell in love with the way Radiohead changed up their sound to go for a more halting approach and the experimentation adds something new to A Moon Shaped Pool, it makes listening to it an experience and a journey, something more than just music.
Police sirens, gunshots, and the sounds of violence echoed through the streets of Los Angeles. There were no voices heard, no uprisings, and this was how things were run, until Niggaz With Attitudes, better known as N.W.A come along to stand up to the injustice of police and to bring a window into what the everyday life of a Compton resident is like. N.W.A exposed the injustices of the criminal and court system, the dangers of living in Compton, and the power that the citizens actually possess, they were testaments not just on a social level, but also musically talented artists that used music as a statement.
N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton first hit shelves all the way back in 1988, a totally different age of music was about to be unleashed onto the public. Bringing a storm of terror-like lyrics, some funky rhythms, and great upstanding messages against society and the oppression of the law. Straight Outta Compton is an album that is a testament to a social issue still continuing today and that is why N.W.A is such an important piece in music history. The speech used in the different tracks illustrate a different side of America. A dark and desolate area where nothing but pain and misery grows, a side where oppression and having freewill is not a thing.
N.W.A was able to spread their message in a way that not only entertaining, but was able to capture audiences with its true to life experiences of what was going on around America in the late 1980’s. Police brutality and down right civil control was at an all-time high, of course this was before the L.A. riots of ’92, but still tensions were coming to a boiling point and the younger generation was just simply fed up of the mistreatment from officers and the government. This would lead to the five main artists rising up to overthrow the degradation of freedom of speech, influencing more voices to be heard and more awareness to a still present situation even near thirty years later.
Straight Outta Compton is just such an iconic album, from the album cover itself to the outstanding production and intense wordplay, this is hip-hop at its finest. Proving to the public that hip-hop and music could still be used as a weapon to combat the daily struggles of society. I just personally fell in love with Straight Outta Compton on my first listen and have been an N.W.A fan ever since sixth grade. When I was younger I loved the rawness and aggression that they portrayed at a glance, but I realize now that the music runs deeper and its actual roots are embedded in American history.
It was interesting to note that N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton had gone triple platinum, being able to produce more than three million in sales. For a debut rap album coming from a group of teenagers to young adults, this is no small feat. Eventually and unfortunately N.W.A would begin to drift apart, but this also brought many classic rap or hip-hop albums that are still regarded today as the Golden Age of hip-hop. Dr. Dre’s The Cronic, Ice Cube’s Amerikkka’s Most Wanted and even Eazy-E’s Eazy-Duz-It were able to further progress Gangster Rap, bringing creativity and self-expression to the foreground of public agendas. N.W.A may have broken up, but Straight Outta Compton will live on in the pages of history forever.
What could be said that hasn’t already been said about David Bowie; the man was a singer, songwriter, actor, dancer, producer, poet, and a larger than life musician. His newest album Black Star just recently hit the shelves last week, and actually released on his sixty-ninth birthday. Unfortunately, it will be his last release to ever be produced and recorded by Bowie due to his passing on January 10th.
Black Star is the twenty-sixth studio album by David Bowie and he surely does not disappoint with it. Long times fans will find some elements of his glam rock days and at parts it uses similar aspects of Young Americans and Diamond Dogs for the really strong and powerful saxophone fills, the catchy and heart thumping guitar and bass work, and Bowie’s trade mark voice that fits seamlessly over the music. Newer fans can find themselves enjoying the Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and Outside style that was experienced later in Bowie’s studio career with the synth work and atmospheric vibe at work. Both styles blend together to create this firework display of a final goodbye that makes listeners repeat the album just to experience the whole trip again.
Keep in mind, this is a funeral album. This is not saying the album is not upbeat, that isn’t the case at all. Some of the quicker tracks like “Dollar Days” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away” while being at the end of Black Star, finishes strong and both start off very quick with faster, but also mellow riffs and beats. I say this is a funeral album because it is just such a sad concept to grasp; that David Bowie knew his life was coming to the end and it was somehow turning over into a black star. A star that has depleted all energy, every last morsel in his body to produce this record and to give us this final swan song that is honestly one of his best works to date. The impact and understanding that goes into this record and the message that is brought to the table and what the listener is left with after the dust has settled is unforgettable. Bowie has laid down his final thoughts and ideas on Black Star and tracks like “Lazarus” could be an instrumental and still have a painful impact on the listener. This album will hurt you, and it will pull your emotions through the mud, it will show you what loss is like and anyone who has lost someone close to them can say this album will bring back those feelings.
Black Star is easily one of the best albums of the year (and I know it is still early, but it really is an outstanding production by Bowie) and understanding the message behind the music is something that adds an extra ounce of emotion and lets you see what Bowie sees. Longtime fans of his work could have a difficulty dealing with the message, or accepting the fact that he really is gone, but his legacy will live on past our time and the next. David Bowie was one of the biggest names in the history of Rock n’ Roll and was a lead pioneer in music production and innovator in the genres. The experimentation is really quite the show and while the whole album may not be a perfect as no album is; this album is pretty damn close and it’s one of the few albums I have heard in the last two years that I immediately put on repeat and listened to all over again.
Black Star is David Bowie’s swan song to his fans and to the world around him. Through his years of expressing himself and keeping with the times, Bowie has never been scared to
take a risk and this is one where it pays off in the end and it sets a bar for all albums this year and the coming years. Though it only has seven songs, the songs are stretched out but not to the point where the album or songs drag on for the forty-two minutes. While it is a real shame that David’s passing happened, without those experiences and understandings that come with being so close to death, we would not be left with Black Star. This album is truly the best way to go out and will have people saying not just what a great artist he was, but also what a great visionary he was for the past, present, and future of all music.
Blank Face LP is the newest sophomore album coming from the “Gangsta Crip” Schoolboy Q, who was able to give Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) their first number one debut album with his past release Oxymoron. Blank Face seems to pick up where Oxymoron left off, only that Oxymoron seemed to step on and off with the right foot while Blank Face LP feels like it took several graceful, wonderful, and actually progressive steps before falling down and was unable to get back up again.
The older brother of Blank Face LP, Oxymoron captured so much about what made Schoolboy Q such a loveable artist. His dark, aggressive rhymes rapped over some intricate and creative beats. Oxymoron did have a few songs that weren’t as good as the others, but overall the album was outstanding and that is what surprised me most about Blank Face LP. The fact that Schoolboy Q has proved that he deserves to have listeners and that he can create some down to the core great songs. I just feel that Blank Face LP was a step forward in the production aspect, but the overall lyrics were pretty lackluster and just did not deliver on most ends.
Schoolboy Q is a great lyricist and not only can he have some really powerful sounding hooks/verses, but also his rhyme scheme and how he goes about actually making a song is incredible. The strength and message he conveys seems so personal and such a great way to tap into what it is like being a gangster and doing what you need to survive on the hard streets of Los Angeles or in America even. These personal accounts are where Schoolboy Q thrives, this is also where Blank Face LP falls way below what Q could actually do. Out of my six or seven listens I could only find about five or six actual punchlines or verses that stuck out in the entire album. The song “Ride Out” has a great bar from Q describing “My knuckles filled with teeth.”
This was the aggressive nature that I thought Q would deliver more, do not think that Blank Face LP is all bad because it really is not. The song “Kno Ya Wrong” is a great addition to Blank Face LP and it sounds like it taps into some of the Golden Age of Hip-Hop music. The second part of “Kno Ya Wrong” is also interesting as it describes how much Schoolboy Q had to work to achieve what he has done in his life so far. Even including lyrics like “I’m sold out on everything, Last night, it was a dream.” This is a great bar and it is personal and endearing, this is the Schoolboy Q that I fell in love with as an artist and who could really hold his own on an album. More of this type of lyrics and less of this “Style on top of style, nigga, Five years I’ve been rich, nigga, Drove Beamers down Fig, nigga.”
Speaking of “THat Part,” this is easily the worst song on the entire project. The instrumental is interesting as it shifts from faster to slowed down and the use of the hi-hats to illustrate this created a promising foundation, all it needed was a killer verse from Q and Kanye and the song was golden. “THat Part” is one of those songs that falls not only flat on its face, but it falls through the earth all the way to the core. It really is a terrible song and I am sorry but I will most likely never think so otherwise. The Hook is not great, and Kanye’s “verse” has now become a joke to anyone I meet that has heard this song. It is good to hear it once just to experience it, then never listen to it again.
The other song that I have to talk about is “Big Body,” now this song is actually a pretty good and has some interesting use of jazz style. It uses some saxophone and the disco-centric claps and cymbals are great behind Q’s verse, but the chorus actually made me laugh when I first heard it. “Big Body, Big Benz” is shouted over and over and it sounds like the song could have been better without the hook entirely. If the hook was ditched, I think this would have been my favorite song. The song “Groovy Tony” is another great song and was also released as a single along with “THat Part.” Now this song compared to the other single is actually incredible and it captures the spirit of the old hardcore Schoolboy Q that I remember. The “Most die before they hear it, turn a nigga to a spirit,” lyric is so tight and just captures that “Wow” factor that Schoolboy Q had. It is still there, just not nearly as a present as it was in Oxymoron.
Blank Face LP seems like a step forward production wise, but as I said it steps back from the darkness that Q presided with in Oxymoron, and while the album feels more jazz influenced, at the same time it also feels more mainstream and not as “Gangster Rap” orientated as the first album. Blank Face LP has some great elements and outlines of an outstanding album, but in the end it just wasn’t all there and maybe next time Schoolboy Q can capture what made his music so lovable and interesting.
BADBADNOTGOOD defines what it means to be the revolving door in music, they can transfer over from so many different genres while keeping fresh and consistent in sound quality. Number IV is not distant from this formula as it keeps a fresh take on the dependable sound of BADBADNOTGOOD, while using some new ideas to branch out the tracks that only become better and better though each listen.
The layered quality of each song really adds to the depth of IV. Each track has so many variables that spread out each sound and make every song feel like an experience. Coming from III and Sour Soul, it is incredible just to hear how BBNG has progressed even within the last year and as the band continues to grow, so does their sound. III materialized as more than just as an album as the actual sound of the record seemed to be its own entity. I really loved the production work on III, and BBNG only seems to become better and better with each release.
IV combines all the elements of their previously released content, as each song has a bit of each album release under it wing to support the base. A song like “Lavender” which has a feature from Kaytranada who helps out on the percussion and the CS-60, have more of a hip-hop or rap vibe. The CS-60 gives the track those low, crunchy sounding synths and Kaytranada seems to be everywhere with influences and appearances through BBNG’s career.
Other songs like “IV” and “Chompy’s Paradise” have a Jazzier influence as “IV” is a sprint of a song, creating a blast of saxophone wails and quick drums beats. On the other hand, “Chompy’s Paradise” is a smoother, Jazz club sounding track with melodic synths adding to the area of the song, the saxophone solo and the soft piano keys steal the song away as they sound so perfect together and the whole track is excellent from start to finish.
While BBNG is a primarily instrumental band, they do bring in some friends to complete some vocalization on some of their songs and it was a nice addition to the traditional instrumental work. I still love the instrumental works on IV, but the song “Time Moves Slow” is one of the best songs of BADBADNOTGOOD’s discography to date. It just has such exceptional instrumentation and the lyrics from Sam Herring seem to be so personal that they almost hurt to say out loud. “Loving you was easy, it was you leaving that scarred,” I just loved this song from start to finish and it might be my personal favorite on all of IV.
IV sounds more experimental than its predecessors, but that adds charm and the fun of listening to this record. It provides a new experience and BBNG did a great job on the collaborations to bring vocalization and some different talent onto IV. I would just love to witness the studio sessions where they recorded some of these parts and made the songs into what they are now.
IV is the perfect album for going on a midnight drive as the songs vary from blazing fast jazz, slowed down soft-spoken songs, to the then thumping 808 and synth using beat style. BBNG keeps some tricks up their sleeves and while I will not spoil the album. IV is a welcome addition to the BBNG name and as their releases continue to get better and better, I can only imagine what will happen when we see the release of V. As their Bandcamp page states “IV continues their forward thinking progression, sounding something like a jam session in space between Can, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, Weather Report, Arthur Russell & MF DOOM.” I couldn’t agree any more with this statement and IV not only brings genres together, but it breaks barriers down.
The Smiths, the legendary British Indie Pop Rock group that inspired a wave of evolution to music as an industry. They became staples in the community as The Smiths were a band that really began that indie sound. Innovative, Intuitive, and of great ingenuity, Meat Is Murder combines so many different elements of great songwriting and great personality and that it is no wonder why The Smiths and Meat Is Murder are still being talked about today.
Originally published in 1985 under Rough Trade Records, Meat Is Murder became an instant hit with the public reaching number one on the charts for thirteen weeks in the U.K. This was in relation to how The Smiths branched out their sound, refined their element, and were producing some more drastic style changes throughout Meat Is Murder. Songs like “Nowhere Fast,” and “Rusholme Ruffians” have more of a folk vibe to them while “How Soon Is Now?” and “The Headmaster Ritual” involves a more punk, or indie rock vibe. Now while indie rock is actually described simply as a band that is independent or not signed to a label, there is a sound associated with that specific genre and it has changed over the years. Now Indie signifies as mostly a lo-fi or low-fidelity sound or way of recording.
The Smiths were one of those innovators of this style of music and “How Soon Is Now?” just sounds so spacious as the drums have a ton of reverb on them which really makes the song so much better. The song’s theme needs a spacious setting and it just has so many little things on the track that just made it such a hit. “How Soon Is Now?” was originally released as a B-Side to a totally different record but had gained so much popularity on alternative radio stations and in dance clubs that it was a great way to spark further interest in Meat Is Murder by including it in future versions of the album.
Meat Is Murder is just one of those great records to throw on while going on a long drive as night as it has some great fast paced songs but can also slow things down to a crawl with the soft-spoken Morrissey singing over The Smiths backing instrumental work. “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” is just one of those songs, it isn’t quite as slow as Morrissey’s solo work but The Smiths still have some great slowed down ballads. Meat is Murder is actually for the most part a quicker style album with blazing acoustic guitar and pounding drums like my favorite track on Meat Is Murder, “What She Said.” It brings some outstanding percussion work and perfect breakneck guitar riffs to accompany the thumping bass in the background.
Meat is Murder also has a laughable track at the end simply called “Meat is Murder” that uses cow and slaughterhouse noises to illustrate how terrible eating meat really is. I don’t think it makes or breaks the album, it just is a song you hear once and while it actually has a great instrumental, the lyrics are just so funny that I can not take it seriously. I understand what The Smiths were going for, but the cow noises are just a bit over the top for me and hearing Morrissey almost break down and cry while singing “Heifer whines could be human cries” isn’t something I really could relate to.
All in All, Meat is Murder is just a lively record that has some great fast paced dance songs and some slowed down crawl songs. The Smiths came with some outstanding sounds that were intuitive and showed some serious experimentation. It helped push forward an entire genre of music and I’m sure influenced several meat eaters to see how meat really is murder.
In the book of Genesis, two cities are mentioned in its pages. Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities that are one in the same with sin and the destructive nature of the human personality. Earth Crisis captures the spirit of the destruction and the surrounding sin that we as a society face everyday. The music, while hardcore sounding and mosh pit inducing, spread a message of awareness and warning to the modern society.
The lyrics alone, while obliterating and harsh, bring clear mindedness and a clear conscious to the foreground. Earth Crisis is by no means a soft-spoken band, the blasting guitar, bass, drums, and vocals annihilate the ears and bring some daunting themes along with them. The song “Cease to Exist” has some great lines about how “humankind dies in agony,” as “Ash blocks the sun from penetrating the choked atmosphere.” The picture the lyrics paint is a war-torn and destroyed Earth, “ICBM’s (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) scream from their silos.” There is however, no better lyrics or imagery that could fit over the instrumentals and Earth Crisis acts as a beacon of hardcore music.
Gomorrah’s Season Ends is a testament to the destruction of not just human modern society, but to the entire race. The hand at blame is of course our own race, as we struggle for not just power, or greed, but to rule the entire planet by having our hands in everything. Gomorrah’s Season Ends was released in 1996 but still shows signs of our culture even 20 years later. After sitting down and listening deep to the lyrics, I can still hear how they influenced musical artists and had some predictions about the future that came true. The lyrics and stories that are told on Gomorrah’s Season Ends reminds me of Lamb of God’s record Ashes of the Wake as it describes the Iraq war, the thoughts of civilians at home, and what could have been avoided overall.
I really like the production of this record and it has that grainy, metal sounding pound to it. Gomorrah’s Season Ends just feels like it has a thousand-pound weight attached. Earth Crisis just has this presence about them and I could only imagine how insane it would have been to see Earth Crisis performing live all those years ago. For an album that is older than I am, it still today has a serious tone, a bad attitude, but still however manages to hold up and show the cracks in the world.
This is most definitely an album for fans of metal or hardcore music only, the violence and straight up destruction is something that I know many people are not huge fans of. If you can look past all the power and destruction, you will find an album that is just as incredible today, as it was 20 years ago.
The White Album, quite possibly the most influential work of music to ever be produced from a band. The Beatles, while well known at this point were finally at their end, the band began to disperse through the air and it seemed the group would eventually become no more. However, there was a shining glimmer of hope, The Beatles, or more commonly known as the White Album would begin to influence millions of people around the world, and become a piece of history.
The Beatles, or The White Album had gotten the nickname from its very simple cover art, yet it is still today a world renowned cover and surprisingly despite the simple white background with grey lettering, The Beatles did incredibly well launching to the tops of both the the U.K. and U.S. charts for eight weeks in the U.K. and nine for the U.S. The album while a work of refined musical skill and outstanding production which was also a technological advance for The Beatles as this would be their first album to ever use an eight-track system for recording. This was cutting edge at the time, and now it seems silly as producers can have up to 128 tracks and higher, but at the time in 1960’s, this was groundbreaking.
With the new technology brought in to record, this also brought in new music styles to try and experiment with. The Beatles were one of the first bands to really break barriers of music and to experiment with different instruments and musicians as well. Many fans of the album are unaware that Eric Clapton, longtime friend of George Harrison played guitar on one of the track on The Beatles. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” actually was the first time The Beatles used a new musician to play an already existing part for a song. The White Album was just a great platform for The Beatles to use to experiment, mostly with different themes and ways of writing.
From the outstanding orchestra work, the timpani, the violins, the roaring trumpets, the whole album is a journey from start to finish and while I even personally enjoy the stranger tracks like “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill,” and even the downright otherworldly track “Revolution 9,” The White album also has tracks that are more radio friendly or that have more of The Beatles personality that longtime fans will remember.
The White Album just has so many unforgettable songs, that vary in the speed, instruments and the overall tone. Not a single song on the entire White Album sounds similar to any degree, and the darker songs like “I’m So Tired,” and even one of my personal favorite songs “Cry Baby Cry,” are amazing additions to the complexity and ever-changing style of The Beatles. From Magical Mystery Tour to Rubber Soul, The Beatles has always evolved their sound and image along as well. It was always interesting to see exactly what they had in mind and what The Beatles would release next.
I remember being so young and finally hearing The White Album, I was blown away even as a child and The Beatles were my first real heroes of music. The Beatles White Album just stands as a testament to how creative genius, experimentation, and hard work really pays off in the end, and how The Beatles became one of the monumental records of history.
Por Vida is the breakout debut album from Colombia’s own, Kali Uchis. Por Vida while under the Uchis name, has some collaborations from several different artists including Tyler, The Creator, BADBADNOTGOOD, Alex Epton, and even Kaytranada. Quite the impressive amount of musicians to help Kali Uchis make Por Vida one of my personal favorite albums since only the first listen.
Uchis sprang into my music library when I began watching “Illegal Civilization” which is kind of a documentary, kind of a skate video, kind of a do whatever we want to do video, where one of Uchis’s concerts were shown in one of the clips. The song “Ridin’ Round” was featured and I really like the energy she had on stage and the song itself was pretty catchy. After some research I eventually found her to be doing work in the future with Tyler, The Creator on one of his music videos “Perfect.” I finally decided I needed to listen to Kali Uchis on her own and Por Vida was the best place to start.
The beginning track “Sycamore Tree” features no instrumental at all, the actual beat is just a sample of Uchis’s voice played in different keys of notes to simulate a beat behind her singing voice. It was pretty creative and I had never seen this type of sample work used to create an entire beat with no instrumental whatsoever. It benchmarks the album and her beautiful singing voice is also present throughout the album, thankfully the instrumentals are too.
Por Vida features catchy lyrics and some really dreamy instrumentation, and the two together create a killer combination. Por Vida had me listening to it constantly and only looking forward to when I could hear it again. I just loved Kali Uchis’s voice as it fit perfectly behind these almost Sixties sounding beats. “Melting” for example has this guitar strum that creates a really dreamy atmosphere, but is also a wonderful addition to the piece, the song then switches into an overdrive by not speeding up, but having a chorus where all the instruments become louder and Uchis projects her voice to sing “Melting like an ice cream when you smile, Melting, you’re a day dream, stay a while.” I found myself just falling in love with each track and after the twentieth listen I had so much faith for anything Kali Uchis had in the future and would support her all the way.
Por Vida continues with another great, more poppy sounding track called “Lottery” where it almost talks about missing an ex, or trying to put the past behind. Explaining “Love was never my profession,” it sounds like it resonates through an ex or past lover. Then from the pop sounds, Uchis jumps right into “Rush” which might be my personal favorite on Por Vida. The instrumentation from BADBADNOTGOOD is just, so perfect that it just needs to be heard to be believed, and the way Uchis switches from English to Spanish and then back again was a really great addition to the song. “Rush” has almost a Caribbean Coast feel to it with the crisp ride cymbals, and the bass in the background giving this more dance vibe. “Rush” almost sounds like Uchis getting more involved with her roots and the instrumentation is definitely a result of this.
Then “Ridin Round” which was one of the singles comes around to bring a banger style of beat behind Uchis, it has some 808 drums and a catchy chorus and verse from Uchis. I think Uchis really took some leaps with Por Vida and the final two tracks are also pretty outstanding as well. “Speed” and “Loner” both feature more somber verses from Uchis and “Loner” is a great way to bring Por Vida to an end. The overall instrumentation and the perfect vocalization from Uchis just makes Por Vida a standout project. Uchis is an artist that has a bright future and hopefully she will continue to make music for the rest of her life, or I should say Por Vida.
Hak, the newest soloist after leaving the tri-headed rap conglomerate Ratking, tries his hardest to almost abandon and adopt a new persona that leaves the scum and dirty raps of New York behind. Hak begins a new chapter of his life with a totally different producing style and rap style as a whole, though he doesn’t necessarily leave all of New York behind.
June is the newest drop from once Ratking rapper Hak, he now leaves the street sounding style to connect through a more almost sleepy club record. The change is welcome however and while it sounds strange at first to anyone expecting another Ratking offshoot. Well the first thing I can say is lose the expectations and see this as a totally new artist as Hak really brings his new ideals to the foreground. I welcome this musical change and it was actually interesting to see how Hak has progressed from one of the creative powers of a rap-group, to now the spotlight of a solo/song-writer/singer career.
While I don’t want to only talk about Ratking, it is important to see Hak’s come up in music and to see where his influences are. Being the New York “Guiana Nigga” that he is, New York is still one of the biggest influences in his music and it is still easy to grasp and see why. The only differences is, Hak changed from the alleys to the main streets and this is a tape that sounds a little easier to jump into especially if you never heard his previous work. This isn’t a necessarily bad thing, and it will definitely be able to get a bigger audience for his new tape.
Publication is a good thing, but I just don’t see Hak blowing up or becoming huge with June. I like this work and I totally will say that it is a different publication from what were are used to with Hak, I just want to see him treat June as a trial run and I am eager to see what he does with this new style in the future.
Hak is for sure a talented musician and has so many connections and powers in his hand to make an outstanding record, and there are many songs on June that I really thought stood out. Songs like “Aura”, “Hues”, “Concrete Waves”, and “432 Hz” are all really great, flushed out songs. The rest of June just unfortunately wasn’t something that I thought was monumental, or that really stood out. They could be played as more calm songs, which I don’t mind, however they just seemed to miss the mark and it was unfortunate because I really wanted to love June.
I, personally just seem to associate more with the dirty street sounds of Ratking, and that just goes for music in general. I like the dirty, hardcore, dramatic songs that have a heavy emotion tied to them. With June however, the auto tune, the simple beats, and the lackluster verses did not move mountains for me.
I still recommend checking out June as it comes with some really interesting and creative songs, the lyrics from the single “Aura” still resonate in my head and it really gave me high hopes for the rest of the record. I still want to hear more from Hak, it is just June was not really my favorite tape, I did not hate it but I also didn’t fall in love. I recommend it, and hope it does more for someone else, but also want Hak to willingly come full force and will be able to make us see the sun again.
The 1970’s, a time where disco and flashing lights ran rampant, a time where the Vietnam War still raged on, a time where Rock and Roll officially became what it is today. Iggy Pop and The Stooges while still an underground band at this time, would release one of the most influential records of this modern age. Raw Power is the pre-cursor to what is now known as the Raw Rock Sound. The Stooges broke ground and still managed to keep a low profile even after this cult classic hilt shelves all the way back in ’73.
Gone were the peace-loving 1960’s, where the hippie culture rose, in came the dirty, edgy, and raw Rock rebels that wanted to get a rise out of the public. To oppose the government and to form their own rules, to become their own unique society with their own style and set of ideals. Raw Power while not an entire commercially successful album, still shocked the airwaves, thrilled the youth, and was able to show the underbelly of the Rock scene.
Produced by none other than Iggy Pop and David Bowie, it became the loudest record to ever be produced at the time, and Iggy Pop himself even laughed at the re-mastered vinyl and CD editions, “Even after the remixing, everything was still in the red.” This would spark new life into what would become one of the best and biggest Rock and Roll records of all time. Kurt Cobain would even claim it as his favorite album and I would say it is a record that stands as a monument for the culture of the 1970’s, but also in music as well.
Raw Power has so many amazing, hard-hitting tracks that just blow the production of most records today out of the water. The album just acted as its own entity, it was ferocious, volatile, and most importantly, just straight up raw. The album is still considered the birthplace of punk rock, and was a way that a band could experiment and turn every amp up to eleven. I fell in love with the album from the first listen simply of how it captures the raw essence of Rock and Roll and the power that came along with it.
The animalistic nature of Iggy Pop on Stage with the Stooges backing up his insane movements was such a sight to see, going to see them perform live was like seeing a different breed of human. They were truly a preforming band and their music still shows that today. Each track is just an Assault on the ears in such a great way, and it leaves so much to the imagination about the writing process for the lyrics and the music as well. Raw Power is just an album that is so much fun to listen to, and I’m still catching new things about the record even after 100 different listens.
Each track as they progress get more and more hyped up, blaring insane guitar solos, pounding drums, and catchy lyrics that makes people wonder why it wasn’t such a success at initial release. Raw Power gained a cult-following rather than springing to the top of the charts, but this could have been how different the album was and how utterly strange and insane the band was as well. Raw Power is just an album that every Rock and Roll or Punk lover should hear if they have not already. It creates images of the dirty streets in the 1970’s, the power-hungry people, the fans of music, and the thrill-seekers.
Raw Power formed the Rock and Roll genre into what it is today, it was an influential, destructive animal that shocked audiences and made people release their inner power. The
Stooges created one of the biggest albums of all music history, and Iggy Pop was right as he stated in the song “Raw Power”, “Raw Power It’s a More Than Soul, Got a Son Called Rock and Roll.”
BADBADNOTGOOD’s III is a testament to how jazz is still alive and well. The genre is still shown the respect it deserves, while integrating a fresh take, allowing BADBADNOTGOOD to create one of the most interesting and exciting jazz records to date.
III is obviously their third album release following BBNG2 which had some cover songs featured like “Earl” and “Flashing Lights” which are both songs on two different ends of the spectrum. One by the at the time grimy rapper Earl Sweatshirt from his debut mixtape Earl, and the other by Kanye West from his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I first found out about BADBADNOTGOOD from their work with Tyler, The Creator on some covers of his songs and ever since then I have been a fan. I loved their covers and eventually began to love their original work.
III has now become the perfect album for driving in the car with absolutely no direction, the perfect album that requires headphone to hear every single note that is played. BADBADNOTGOOD did an incredible job preforming this album and I could only imagine how much of a great time it was recording and mastering the album as well. The different saxophone work, the piano keys that switch between hardcore wailing and slow melodies, and the drums. I can not go on enough about how outstanding the entire band is and it really is just something you have to hear to believe. The progression of BADBADNOTGOOD even just over three different albums has come so far from their first recording and they only become better with each release.
Following this record, they also did some work with GHOSTFACE KILLAH called Sour Soul, which is another album that is just so musically sound and has some really challenging beats from not just BADBADNOTGOOD but GHOST as well. The album primarily focuses on GHOSTFACE but is a welcome addition to their discography.
The production of a record or album can make or break the piece. If the production is terrible then almost no one will listen to the album if everything is mixed wrong or not properly mastered, João Carvalho did an incredible job with the mastering and really while the musicians made the groundwork, Carvalho made it sound outstanding.
The work from Alexander Sowinski, Chester Hansen, and Matthew Tavares who are the three main members on III, create one of the most just genuinely fun albums to hear to and to be a part of through the listening process. Even if you aren’t a musician or into jazz there are still songs that don’t primarily focus on jazz music. The whole album is more of a compilation of lounge songs, and everyone should hear the song “Kaleidoscope” at least once in their lifetime. I thoroughly enjoyed III and I can not wait to hear IV, which just came out earlier this week. BADBADNOTGOOD is a band that had a bright upcoming, but they have an even bigger and brighter future ahead of them.
Skepta has had quite the impressive year following the release of several editorials on him from companies like The Fader, Masked Gorilla, and Vice, where they featured an actual documentary on his rise from the underground streets of London to the top of the music world touring sold out shows all around different countries. With the release of his newest work Konnichiwa, it appears that Skepta is not just here to stay, but here to rule the game as well.
Konnichiwa is a 12-track album that is packed with some really interesting uses of frequency instruments like 808 drums and synthesizers. The combination creates some dark and grimy beats which is what Skepta is primarily known for as the “King of Grime.”
Skepta is a breath of fresh air to the hip-hop genre, he brings some hard hitting banging beats that rattle subsystems that still reside in my head even now. The production on Konnichiwa is just so well flowing with the skits weaved into the songs to bring some downright laughable moments with Drake’s “Trust me Daddy” and even an interview focusing on the 2015 BRIT Awards where a reporter explained how it became “A bunch of young men all dressed in black dancing extremely aggressively on stage…”
Konnichiwa is more about his personal life and how he much he has gained and unfortunately lost in the come up of his career. He reflects on how he “Came a long way from sittin’ in the flats,” and is doing a substantial amount of times better than he could have been without music. Even the album cover art represents Skepta on a stamp with the words “First Class London” to represent he is now a part of London Royalty. I have always been a fan of grimy or dark music, but I would have never expected to see exactly where someone could go with that genre. Skepta has reached new heights with his music and seems to not show any signs of slowing down.
I really only have one problem with Konnichiwa, and that is just that one song in particular is just something I couldn’t get into. The track “Ladies Hit Squad” is just not a song that I could honestly feel and the first time I heard it I actually laughed because it feels so out of place. It is a club sounding song while the rest of the songs on this album is a barrage of loud bass and aggressive lyrics. The final song, “Text Me Back” is also a slowed down love-style, but I actually liked this and I thought it was a welcome closer to the album. For some strange reason I just was not a huge fan of “Ladies Hit Squad,” but honestly I am not a huge fan of the radio-friendly love songs.
Konnichiwa as a whole is just such a substantial album with only one track that I wasn’t a huge fan of. It turned me onto the London Rap Scene and allowed me to experiment more with my music taste. I seriously recommend this to anyone who is a fan of rap music as it has some great production, great lyrics, and some of the coolest uses of sampling for just skit purposes that I have heard in a long time. Skepta is an artist that people should really look forward to, and see what the King of London has in the future.
Crystal balls, ponchos, and yellow snow are all subjects of interest when listening to Frank Zappa’s Apostrophe. Zappa who was well known for his strange subject matter unveiled Apostrophe which was his 18th studio album released on DiscReet Records. The album was not discrete however as it is constantly played on the radio for its funny satire and outstanding musical composition which makes Apostrophe an album that everyone should hear.
Apostrophe begins with one of the strangest openings to an album I have heard to this date. The lyrics “Dreamed I was an Eskimo,” still reign in my head and are the use of overflowing inside jokes for anyone else who has been able to give Apostrophe a listen. The album features of course jokes and comedic lyrics, but also has some of the most intense drum, guitar, and mallet work possible. The percussion on Apostrophe is incredible and even today, it is still regarded as a musically progressive piece.
The drums and the perfect guitar work by Zappa himself allows for some progressively interesting instrumental parts like “Apostrophe” and “Father O’Blivion” where they steal the show. Then the mallet percussion work on “St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast” create an assault of bells that strangely I enjoy. I could only imagine the laughs that the band shared as they played funky rhythms and sang about “handsome parish ladies.”
My favorite song on this album has to be hands down “Apostrophe” then followed by “Uncle Remus.” The two back to back pieces are two contrasting forms, one a hard-rock power jam that features one of the best drums and guitar solos to date. Then following “Uncle Remus” with the slowed down piano and soft background vocals that create more of an operatic themed song. Both songs work so well together because they are total opposites of each other. The whole album feels fresh and never feels like one song is ever repeated, from the quotable lines to the just sheer incredible instrumental work from the band creates one of the best classic rock albums to date. If there is ever a contender for the best classic rock album, or the album that has the best instrument use then Apostrophe could be compared to the big heavy hitters of classic rock.
Apostrophe may not have been a huge commercial album, and most people in current times are unsure of who Frank Zappa might even be, I still see him as one of the funniest story tellers of any generation.
The themes and satire he portrays and speaks of in his stories illustrate some situation that will most likely never happen, but shows the more comedic side of music. While this is most definitely not a comedy album, it can be portrayed as that and the first listen will be hard to sit through as Zappa’s style is most certainly not easy to get into. However, if you can sit through Apostrophe or any of his other releases, you’ll find one of the most talented guitar players and writers of our generation