Review: untitled unmastered by Kendrick Lamar

On March 4th, 2016, Kendrick Lamar astounded the hip hop industry and fans with his EP called untitled unmastered. Winning the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, To Pimp A Butterfly lived up to great standards, and as residuals from that album, the tracks on untitled unmastered are filled with jazz and soulful sounds.

On “untitled 03,” intellectuals from different minority groups counsel Kendrick on the essentials of life, but the person taking advantage of and in many ways monetizing Kendrick is the white man. For example, Kendrick says, “A piece of mine’s, that’s what the white man wanted when I rhyme, telling me that he selling me just for $10.99, if I go platinum from rapping, I do the company fine.” This is also alluding to the period of slavery when the white owner placed a certain value on the black slave based on his skill and/or work ethic. In “untitled 05,” which features singer Anna Wise, Punch, and fellow Black Hippy member Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar explains the detrimental, “screw society” type of behavior induced by blacks and other minorities due to them being trapped in this system of social incongruence and utter oppression. Here are several lines that validate Kendrick’s disappointment in American society: “I’m passin’ lives on a daily, maybe I’m losing faith, genocism and capitalism just made me hate, correctionals and these private prisons gave me a date, professional dream killers reason why I’m awake.” Lamar really shines light on corruption and exploitation in untitled unmastered; these themes constitute his substantive, meaningful lyrics.

Furthermore, “untitled 07” is an eight minute track highlighting high-level feelings, his Compton roots, his place in the game, and funny, sexual rap-talk. In the first part of the song, he chants, “levitate, levitate, levitate, levitate,” and then the song epically transitions to glorifying reverberations and a boy singing, “Compton is where I’m from, is where I’m from, where is I’m from.” You can tell how much the city of Compton means to Kendrick and that his viewpoint and purpose originates from his experiences there. This is evident in many of his songs and songs in which he is a featured artist, notably on the track “The City” by The Game ft. Kendrick Lamar. On the latter part of “untitled 07,” he sings in an R&B-like-fashion to a lascivious female, “Said you just make me wanna Drake you down, to the ground, to the ground, like bam, bam, bam, bam, bam.” He cleverly uses Drake as a verb, and you all know what he’s talking about. The more playful and humorous facet of Kendrick is exemplified on this kinky verse. The untitled unmastered EP is filled with stories of the past, valuable insight on the American political and social system, and soulfulness.

The EP can be streamed on the music service Spotify, and it is also available for purchase on iTunes.

[The Midday Mixes #1] Featured Artist Mix: Karma Fields

Since their debut on Monstercat in mid-2015, Karma Fields has been one of the most hyped artists of the label, boasting several more teaser videos than some of Monstercat’s founders. Why? Well, concepts. Karma Fields is really good at concepts. That and one more thing, Karma Fields has some of the COOLEST videos in the history of EDM. The best one?

The mix starts with the teased song from their newest LP: Edge of the World. With one of the catchiest glitched-out melodies I’ve ever heard, this song made the mix on pure bounciness alone. The track starts with calm choral music, which is definitely odd, to say the least. A good odd of course.

The mix then slowly starts into Stickup. This song is genius! Take somebody’s story of a robbery and put it to music. Again, their concepts are amazing. The original is explicit, but the mix has been censored. That’s what the extra weird voice glitches are.

My favorite of the mix is actually the acoustic mix of Skyline. As a light version of Skyline (the music video posted above), the track has been featured on multiple shows on K-UTE.

Check out the mix here:

Mixes are posted a week after they air live on our SoundCloud, and two weeks after they air live here. Tune in live Friday nights, 7-11pm

[The EDM Underground] Featured GENRE Mix: Video Game Remixes

The following article contains references to Undertale, but no spoilers. Still, you’ve been warned.

Video games, or ‘Nintendo’ as collectively referred to by those over the age of 30, are one of my passions. I’d never list on anything, or answer with it if you were to ask me, but it’s most definitely there. I figured it’d be fine if I mixed that passion with my passion for music. The resulting mix ended up rather long, clocking it at over an hour and 20 minutes, and contains ALOT from my latest game obsession: Undertale.

The mix starts off with one of those remixes: Megalovania from Undertale. The artist, VideoGameRemixes (such creativity, much wow), is one of the artists I kept returning to in the mix (In fact, his music makes up 19% of the mix), and for good reason. For being remixes in only the lightest sense of the word, this artist managed to transform the 8-bit songs from Undertale into something a little more mix friendly. And by a little, I mean…just give it a listen.

Another artist of note: DJ Jo. As an artist I’d found my Junior Year of High School, I’d written him off since he started delving into more Japanese styles (think Hatsune Miku Remixes), and that’s just not my cup of tea. Upon making this mix, I almost completely forgot about him, but he’s now the most prominent artist in the mix. Boasting an incredible 28% of the mix, his music definitely shaped the style of most of the mix.

Here the whole mix here:

Mixes are posted a week after they air live on our SoundCloud, and two weeks after they air live here. Tune in live Friday nights, 7-11pm

[The EDM Underground] Featured Artist Mix: Montee

Montee is a special kind of house artist: niche. If you’re into glorious synth melodies, wonderful harmony, and vibrant, bouncy, festival music, he’s the man for you. I couldn’t find his real name anywhere, but the Ukrainian based artist has been turning heads with his music for years. If you want something you can really jam to, get out those headphones. You’ll want them.

The mix starts with one of his softer songs (don’t want to jump straight into partying) entitled Sirius. The song, true to its name, sounds as if you’re floating around the sky like a cloud. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share this one. The melody is clearly present in the first drop, and though the melody is amazing, that’s not the best part of the song. The melody only slightly lingers in the second drop, enough to remind you of it, but not enough to actually be there.

The middle of the mix contains a song that I was excited to hear in its entirety. Having never been posted to SoundCloud, I’d never heard the full version of Royal Taste until I was doing this mix. The melody! The melody is the best part. Give it a listen. It starts at 8:40-ish. That’s all I can say. Go listen to it.

I cheated. There’s a song in the mix that isn’t by Montee. It’s a remix of Royal Taste. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader/listener to find it.

The mix ends with my all time favorite: Quasar Journey. This drumstep song features EVERYTHING that makes Montee, well, Montee: vibrant, bouncy, fast, and full of more energy than even Rob Gasser has managed to create. That’s saying something.

Check out the mix here:

Mixes are uploaded to SoundCloud one week after they air live. Tune into the EDM Underground Fridays from 7-11pm (MDT) (mixes typically play at 8:30 and 10:30.)

Review: Talia Keys “Fool’s Gold”

Talia Keys’ Fool’s Gold album is soulful collection to be reckoned with. With songs she has developed and created over the past 8 years, each has unique tone, while seamlessly working together. In other words, none of her songs sound the same. Keys’ powerhouse of a voice has the range from grind and grit to the soft and soothing, which can be heard of in each of the songs. The convictions of emotions are heard right off the first track Help Me, and a softer tone is heard in Intergalactic Crime Scene. Politics combines jazz and rock, and to close out Fight With Love uses everything from trumpets and sax, to classic guitars and bass. Her lyrics express her opinions clearly with a variety of topics and issues. She is now pursuing a solo career, and with that she is able to connect more through her music. Openly bisexual, she uses her talent and artistry to make a name for herself and a figure for the LGBT community. In the song Help Me, she describes discrimination in its forms of sexuality, gender, and even race.  No Justice No Peace also equally shows her fighting activist spirit. From the lyrics, to the recordings which are basically live, everything you hear Keys’ soulful magic. Some of her lyrics can be explicit, however they add to the expressive emotion. Keys’ entire album is raw. Fool’s Gold is a progressive, soul-rock album and worth a listen. 

Arms and Sleepers Concert Reflections

Full disclosure, I had never heard any of the bands and as such, this was my first experience listening to all of them. The show started off later than I expected for Kilby Court with the group Soft Blonde. My hopes for an awesome show crumbled as the two men on stage before me began a warbling croon. This went on for several seconds until the real show began and reignited my hopes with an abrupt shift into their synth heavy music that set the crowd into a trance. Soft Blonde’s slower sounds set the stage for AudioTreat’s entrance. The producer of AudioTreats made the show by putting a ton of energy into his dancing and stage presence which enhanced their “Swanky Grooves.” The group fully came together when their singer took the stage, a 19 year old female vocalist who reminded me of Aluna George. Their performance was the highlight of my evening.

After the energy put into the show by AudioTreats I wasn’t as ready for the slower pacing of YEYEY. I appreciated the projections he brought that added to the music and he held his own. Continuing on, the main act of the night, Arms and Sleepers were perfect for the intimate setting that is Kilby Court. The connection between the band and the audience made hearing their tracks a memorable experience. I left with an afterglow and a satisfaction of hearing the new bands. All the bands I saw are worth a listen and seeing live, with a special emphasis on AudioTreats.

Arms and Sleepers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LucQTHULdBs

https://soundcloud.com/arms-and-sleepers/swim-team

 

YEYEY,

https://soundcloud.com/yeyeyband/sets/yeyey-the-vision

 

AudioTreats,

https://soundcloud.com/audiotreatsproduction/scope

https://soundcloud.com/audiotreatsproduction/farewell-part-a

 

Soft Blonde

https://softblondemusic.bandcamp.com/track/i-should-go

Get What You Want – Red Dog Revival

The first thing to notice about this album is that it sounds like it was recorded during a performance rather than a studio. Through the endless progression of different guitar riffs and instrumental breakdowns, there is a consistent energy that keeps your attention. It has a minimalistic vigor that isn’t dumbed down by over equalizing the treble but then has a high enough production quality that makes it as easy to listen to as any record. The two opening tracks, “Call up the Devil” and “Get What you Want” provide an open welcome that immediately introduces intricate jams and a high level of instrument technicality that can only rightly be called progressive rock.

The same two tracks also introduce the records theme of songs blending into each other. It’s a gimmick that I frankly think bands could use a lot more and it’s pleasing to see Red Dog Revival do it so well here. They don’t implement it in every track transition but they do it enough to remain aesthetically fulfilling. “So Hard” and “Crazy” keep up the psychedelic blues with more guitar licks and loud snare pops. They keep the album driving with same upward velocity that made everyone fall in love with those early 70s concept albums. However, “Crazy” has such a drive and backbeat that it starts to prematurely edge into hardcore music before it digresses and returns to blues the pattern it began from. The album knows what its initial progressive goal is but that doesn’t stop it from laying a few surprises in the tracklist.

The most surprising track by far is “Burn On.” Coming out of a Deep Purple blues orientation, the track slips a ska influence that, though is a bit out of place, feels right at home. It doesn’t let down on the same consistent energy the record has been pushing and it gives it a curve that pulls the other tracks from the initial goal and into something that feels fresh as well as nostalgic. “When Love Becomes War” becomes the best song on the release when this final track arrives. You realize that the entire record is vitalized here and that it is where everything comes together. Not only are the melodies executed so well, but also, the four-minute outro for the track allows the band to flex their muscles and really show off. The riffs here are as nasty as they are complicated. Although it is the final track, it doesn’t let up quite yet and wants to finish strong. By the end of this record you realize a solid effort has been made and that progressive rock isn’t dead. Psychedelia and concept albums still have a lot more to say and still have room to say it.

New Misery – Cullen Omori

Coming off a Smith Westerns breakup, Cullen Omori has finally recuperated and has debuted his solo career. New Misery, in Omori’s own perspective, is a derivative of his former band’s track, “Varsity” that came off of their final album, Soft Will. He wanted to take a step back in his song writing processes, further away from a “prog rock” mentality, and into something of more casual chord progressions. Although the record does have a few psychedelic aspects – the opening track “No Big Deal” has similarities to acts like Tame Impala – it does take on a more minimalistic quality than the work he was formerly putting out. With lots of reverb and simple acoustic guitar strums, “Hey Girl” provides a contemporary outfit with easy going melodies and a chorus that isn’t anywhere the risk of going over the top. And that’s one of the great perks of this album: it sounds full with a lot of energy, but the more you listen the more you realize how little is going on in each track and the more you appreciate the efficient use of reverb.

One thing to remember about the Smith Westerns is that they started out as a lo-fi/diy act. However, as their career went on, they were able to eclipse both garage and psychedelic music it such a perfect and modern way. They reached an essence that was of a cheap garage band but at the same time fulfilling the presence of flourishing prog rock group of the early 70s. Omori pretty much does this exact thing in this new record. “And Yet the World Still Turns” sounds like it is composed of a stage full of musicians but really only has like, at most, four instruments on the track. It’s full, minimal and satisfying. And really, surprising. “Cinnamon,” the single of the record, gets a bit more complicated, but really only with its percussion. There are a few digital effects that coincide with the snare drum that give it a nice atmosphere comparable to current bands like Foals and The National. Omori chases the theme of this song with tribal rhythms and pre-choral chants.

Eventually the album arrives at a kind if ballad, “Synthetic Romance” that realizes that relationships are hard. “All of my life/I’m just trying to make it all turn out right” states how difficult to it is to make things last. Romances, love, bands, etc. Life gets complicated and sometimes you need to move on. Omori chooses to move on with this track with confused lyrics and his bold organ. Finishing up the record, as well as sharing its title, “New Misery” is a song about coming to terms with a current situation. It opens with a melancholy guitar and the words, “Is it enough to be happy.” Omori is obviously struggling with a problem that isn’t cut and dry. Is it ok to just be? Before even writing this record he wasn’t sure he wanted to be a musician. There was a lot from the Smith Westerns that put a bad taste in his mouth, like deadlines from labels and a band that was indifferent to their own music. With this concluding track Omori sums up his feelings and his career with his former band. It’s bitter but for the best. It took hard hits and put a lot of negative thoughts in his head but thankfully it didn’t ruin his love for music. With this debut solo release, Cullen Omori proves to that he’s still good at writing music, and to himself, proves that he still loves writing it.

 

Cullen Omori