Westward: The Deadly Rapture of Space

The Deadly Rapture of Space is the first album released by a band that goes by the name of Westward. Studied and experienced musicians in their own right, the band was created by some of our own Salt Lake City locals: Andrew Marshall as lead vocals and guitar, Karl Grimm on bass and Matt Morrison on drums.

The intro to the title track is the static sound of astronauts talking to each other over a radio intercom and an announcer saying, “Most of the world waited 100 miles below, the crew had completed final preparations, the cabin was depressurized and the hatch open.” It immediately sets up the space odyssey that you are about to take part in. I imagined the guitar and drums breaking in as soon as they leave the atmosphere and enter the dark depths of space.

I can tell by the vibrato of the song “Drive’m” that their live shows are not something to miss. The chanting of the chorus, the electric guitar and the way Marshall delivers the lyrics sounds like a very theatrical and lively performance.

To give you an idea of the inspiration behind Westward’s sound, their musical influences are rock artists like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Jack White. Their fans have coined the term “cowboy space rock” to fondly describe their music and I can hear why. I felt like I was being transported to a distant rock n’ roll western with awesome instrumentals and sexy vocals. Case in point, listen to my favorite song on the album called “When I Give You Control”.

The guys have been working over the last three years to make a name for themselves, opening for various bands in different states and even went on their own 2015 Deadly Tour. Westward has played gigs at venues like the Utah Arts Festival, the Sundance Film Festival’s Indie Lounge and The House of Blues in Las Vegas.

They are now working on new material as they go on the 2016 West Coast Tour. If you want to check them out live they will be making a stop in Salt Lake City on Saturday August 6, 2016 at The Urban Lounge 241 S. 500 E. 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm.

Earth Tiger

“I had a vision I could fly around the world with a girl with blonde curls who swapped energy for pearls.” To anyone who visits Earth Tiger’s Soundcloud page, this will be the first thing you hear if you play their first track “Holiday.” Earth Tiger is a duo from New Zealand that doesn’t’ sound like your typical hip hop output—combining the flows of traditional rap with beats intertwining pop, rock, and electronic dance music. Their song’s infectious—the melodies will get stuck in your head until you have no choice but to play the songs again. While they only have two tunes available on their Soundcloud it’s more than enough to satisfy for the time being.

Earth Tiger was conceived on Christmas Eve around a campfire by friends Cruz Mathews and Tom Taylor who had a mutual love of old school hip hop. After collaborating with producer Alex Wildwood in a series of week-long recording sessions, the duo set up a home studio in a swamp house in the rainforest of Byron Bay. The natural surroundings of the rainforest invoked songs inspired by the energy it gave off. In their makeshift studio, they funneled their collection of earthly hip hop into an EP entitled Holiday set for release hopefully later this year. It is now in the mixing and mastering process via Nathan Sowter of La Petite Maison Studios.

The title track of the EP alone is an accurate representation of their music with its soothing beats with Mathews’ and Taylor’s smooth flows emulate the feeling of trekking through wilderness of the Down Under. The second track on their soundcloud that was released some months prior to recording the music of Holiday is the song “King Like Jordan.” While it doesn’t contain the same style of earthly ambience that “Holiday” does, it’s still just as catchy and laidback with a hook that goes “This my jam. This my jam. This, right here, my favorite jam.” The rest of the song consists of lyrics that express its listeners to stay motivated in exercising the mind, body, and soul.

To put it blatantly, Earth Tiger is straight up feel good music and as the first hip hop group I’ve heard out of New Zealand I pretty much got what I expected and then some. They may find themselves on the playlist of any outdoorsy types who go on nature hikes and attend the gym regularly.

Digisaurus: No More Room for Love

In 2015 artist and producer James Allison collaborated with local Ohio musicians and visual artists to start a project called Digisaurus, a futuristic synthpop and rock band with funk and R&B influences. Allison dove in head first when he decided to sell his house, shut down his recording studio and quit his job to go on the Solo Spring Tour of 2016. With great risk comes great reward and now after the tour’s successful completion, he is doing a summer tour across various cities in the U.S. with shows booked through the fall.

The opening title track on the debut EP, No More Room for Love, begins with a robotic voice that asks, “how am I going to get over this?”. The song suggests the attitude of someone who has been so heartbroken they can’t bring themselves to love again so instead they are out to “get some” in an attempt to get over their heartache. From there it jumps right into a self-described “60’s pop to modern day funk, while dealing with the dismissal of love and conflict within the human psyche.” If the record title and bleeding heart cover art weren’t enough to clue you in, the theme deals with the turmoils of love.

Their first single, “Make a Move”, describes the dynamics of the relationship. It’s a funky tune with the singers falsetto woven in, “Finally I’ve found some room to breathe / Wrapped around your finger.” Although the lyrics aren’t necessarily the clearest indication of what’s at play it denotes that he is infatuated with this person. A super cool baritone voice comes in at the bridge saying, “he is feeling smooth”, emphasizing just how suave this person makes him feel.

Their latest single, “Without Me”, starts off with a contagious guitar riff and draws you in with a beat that makes you want to dance. The song’s lyrics are telling of a tug of war taking place in the singer’s head as he tries to make sense of his relationship.

“I’ve been told common tales about me / I’m not sure where they’re coming from / I’ve been told stranger things corrupt me / I don’t know what they’re coming for.” I get the sense in this verse that he is feeling bitter over the gossip he hears about himself because he knows he tried to make the relationship work.

“Without me / the future pounds / and you can’t bring yourself to take it back.” This verse sounds like he was taken for granted and the person now misses him but can’t admit it. Then again, I may be reading into it just a little bit. The lyrics are definitely up for interpretation but the instrumentals and vocals are a solid combination.

The end of the record winds down to a slower pace and dreamy groove. “Them fools ain’t got nothin’ on me / I’m the baddest human being.” He is really feeling himself in this song even if I’m not totally sure what he is getting at. Whatever the case, Digisaurus is paving their way across the country to get their futuristic vibes heard from coffee shops to rock venues. You can see them live in Salt Lake City on August 15-16 at the Dawg Pound.

King Push’s Royal Entrance

One of the highlights from the Twilight Concert Series this summer is Pusha T, otherwise known as King Push. Born in The Bronx, New York City, NY and raised in the state of Virginia, the rapper initiated the label known as “Re-Up Records,” and later on in life, he signed to GOOD Music and Def Jam. He will be performing on Thursday August 18th, 2016 alongside the alternative hip-hop group Digable Planets.

This rap druglord released his studio album King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude on December 18th, 2015. The album features tracks like “Untouchable,” “M.F.T.R,” and “Crutches, Crosses, and Caskets”. He samples the legendary Notorious B.I.G. from his verse on the 1995 single “Think Big” on the song “Untouchable,” and in the music video, Push strolls through the dark night in a Rolls Royce Phantom, his dream car. While growing up, he and his homies used to recite Biggie songs in the car, and him rapping this track in that Phantom with his homies, in the back, is reminiscent of those times.

A couple of his more politically and socially conscience songs on the album are “M.P.A.,” where he analyzes the main themes of a typical rapper’s life in a sarcastic yet so honest manner, and “Sunshine,” where he highlights the unjust treatment of blacks in the United States by utilizing repetitive clever word play. Similar to Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T sheds light on the institutionalization of blacks and how the rest of American society perceives and treats blacks. He uses clear references and intricate word play to get his point across. For example, in the song “Sunshine,” he delivers the message, “In Fox eyes, we the dark eyes, so they tell you lies, through a TV, C-N-B-C.” This is a concise and intelligent way to put into perspective the false information given to us through the media. To a rap genius contributor like myself, this line could be interpreted as dark-skinned people being the evil-like enemies of Fox News, so when it comes to news about brown or black people, Fox News and other media outlets mislead the public with false information and lies. Furthermore, “C-N-B-C,” could be a creative acronym meaning “Could Never Be Correct,” which additionally emphasizes the continuous errors and faults of news and media here in America.

Pusha T’s conscience and truthful lyricism speaks to many across the country. His entrance to Salt Lake City is much anticipated by the hip hop community, and hopefully he performs all ten songs off of his Darkest Before Dawn album.

 

Link to Pusha T’s show at Twilight:

http://twilightconcerts.com/shows/august-18-2016/

Review: Hamilton, An American Musical

How is there not a review for this on here yet? You should know what Hamilton is by now, and if not you’re in for a treat. The show is the the best musical to grace broadway since Wicked.

The show follows the historical figure Alexander Hamilton. A man I’ve admired since I took APUSH back in highschool. The man is the reason why we say “United States is” instead of “United States are”. The actual musical is very different for broadway, seeing as it’s hip-hop, or at least as hip-hop as broadway will ever get. Personally I had never listened to any actual hip-hop before this, but it acts as a sort of ‘gateway drug’ to harder songs.

The show was written by the genius Lin-Manuel Miranda, and he takes you on the emotional rollercoaster that is the life of Alexander Hamilton. The show’s first act has a feeling reminiscent of the last act of Les Miserables, with a ragtag group of young men starting a revolution but spoilers, this time the rebels win. There’s also a romance story mixed into the battles, filled with it’s own complications of love triangles, cheating, and having a family. The second act begins with the end of the revolutionary war and the creation of the United States constitution, and the show ends with the tragic death of Hamilton at the hands of his friend and rival Aaron Burr (which is stated in the first 5 minutes, so I’m not spoiling anything).

The only drawback about the show is that tickets are sold out until late next year, and it will be a good long time before the University will be able to do it.

It’s so good, I’m listening to it as I’m writing this and the only left to say is that it’s the best thing I’ve heard in a long time, and you NEED to hear it.

Twelve Reasons To Die

Dr. Cassells – Audio Rx

Twelve Reasons to Die, A fusion of opera and hip hop by Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah and the composer of Black Dynamite,  Adrian Younge. The duo work to tell the story of Ghostface’s alter ego, Tony Stark, operating as a hit man for the De Lucas crime family and ultimately his transformation into the infamous Ghostface Killer. Ghost’s gritty rhymes are complimented by Adrian’s composition making the bloody drama that is Twelve Reasons to Die.

Ghosts heavy handed exposition works in his favor. It allows the listener to follow the story without having Rap Genius up through the album. Ghost wastes no time in introducing what Stark is capable of on the first tracks Beware of the Stare and Rise of the Black Suits.

I want bodies, DeLucas, spread into the waters
I want mothers and sons, I wanna murder they daughters
Revenge, all I see is blood in my eyes
Like the rise of your worst nightmare come alive
Ghostface Killah, let’s see who’s gonna survive

A lack of specifics allows your imagination to envision the atrocities Stark commits, the paranoia he feels as war erupts between the families, and the pressure that takes hold as he separates from the DeLucas family to lead his own operation. That paranoia is not unfounded as refuses to acknowledge threats he hears from his closest lieutenants.

How you prepare for war? Grab your guns and your hardware
Never close your eyes in the barber chair
The heart of a lion, that’s what got him here
Bulletproof the car, yo, we outta here

The tension escalates into the second act whereupon the seemingly invincible Stark falls from a betrayal close to home leading to his death. Lesser men remain dead, but the rage that lies in the villainous Stark resurrects him as the Ghostface Killer in search of redemption.

Colombian neckties I’m a black Gambino
Bodies get dumped in the black El Camino
It’s Reno, gangster wars, money, power, respect
Revenge is felt like the heat from a Tec
Tommy guns are irrelevant, I’m bulletproof now
I could fly through the air and duck your chick-a-pow
Black superhero, crime boss arch nemesis
Good vs. Evil since the first book of Genesis
Battle to the end that’s the way of the thriller
And Starks is reborn as the Ghostface Killah… no one could get iller

Ghostface’s internal monologue changes with his new persona. The macabre descriptions of his revenge are one of the highlights of the album. Drawing from his past works, he doesn’t fail to deliver a diverse catalog of violent obscenities.

First things first, I chop your head to your fingertips
Butcher knife your torso, chop up your ligaments
Make sure it’s legitimate, conceal all my fingerprints
Chop, chop your body up quick then get rid of it
A hole in the desert, body bag, just polluted it
Your miss was a snitch too? Shotgun killed the bitch
Leave her in the wilderness, suffocated and scarred up
Your brother want more too, blow his fucking car up

Stark fully becomes Ghostface Killer after murdering crime families responsible for his death. Pacing in his room he momentarily contemplates the punishment for his past love, and source of his downfall, before relishing his current state as the unstoppable force he has become.  

Unable to become immortalized in life
Ghostface became immortalized in death
Creating a mayhem so vast
That the tale of his rampage would be passed down for generations
Gangsters told their children to never double-cross a man
Who’s will is so strong that he can cross the planes of existence
To get his revenge
And there you have it
The story of the Ghostface Killah

The story is simple, but succeeds in delivering a narrative with just enough pulp fiction cheese to balance out the outlandish claims Ghost makes. Adrian’s production was essential in supporting the story’s gravitas. Young’s touch stands out on Rise of the Black Suits and Center of Attraction. The backing track on Rise of the Black Suits creates an air that I can only describe as sounding like a mature Scooby-Doo. The track’s use of piano and strings creates a sound that is both eerie and incredibly catchy. It is one of the biggest reasons I continue to return to the album. Center of Attraction’s mournful sound acts as a counterbalance to the relatively light hearted descriptions of Ghost’s love. The dissonance between the lyrics and the production act as an additional sign of the coming troubles to be found for Ghost at the hands of his love.

 

This album is special for it’s unique premise and execution. Listening to the album on a rainy day is like escaping into your favorite book. While not suited for casual listening, it comes with the tradeoff that given the time, immersion comes naturally. A venn diagram of  projects appealing to fans of hip hop, horror films, and classical music would proudly display this project at the dead center.

 

Label 12 reasons die

Author’s Notes: The album was later re envisioned by Apollo Brown on the “Brown Tape” and while not bad, I found that the change in production only deepened my appreciation for Adrian’s composition while also creating a need to listen to the original.

 

Youtube Stream

Operator – Telegram

 

After a few catchy singles and a long delay of gratification, Telegram has finally debuted their record. Operator is charged with phasers in a Brian Eno inspired fashion. With such a long delay on this release, anticipation has built up and there has been a lot to be expected. The two singles, “Rule Number One” and “Follow”, also the two opening tracks, were released in 2013 and immediately got blogs talking about them. However, upon the album’s release, it now is a bit underwhelming. Telegram was praised for taking their time with the record – not quickly releasing material, but rather, taking their time to work it out – but now it might be the case that they waited too long. Going through the tracks they appear to be a little too thought out and maybe the sound engineers put too big of a spin on them. This is most recognized when you compare the single to the studio release of “Aeons.” As a single in 2015, it was a blare of sound that had a captivating, fast and exciting energy, but on the album it takes a step back and becomes more stylistic. Pauses on the track become more methodical and the added reverb on the vocals is considerably noticeable.

However, that stands as a single aspect on the record. “Rule Number One” flares with distortion and moves with the threatening notion of a mosh pit. It’s a great opening track that invites you into the record to sit down and experience punk music like never before. “Follow” follows with just as much excitement pushing the record with a chorus that is as catchy as it is powerful; “Today, today. There’s no time to delay.” From there the record unfortunately doesn’t get much more inviting. Again, it’s unique and interesting, but the following tracks have a hard time keeping up with the two openers. “Aeons” as we know has been slowed and dumbed down, and tracks like “Under The Night Time” can’t overcome the singles’ high peak. It isn’t until “Taffy Come Home” that your ears start to perk up again. It blasts high-energy choruses but with a more melodramatic mood. It’s fun and exciting but there is something in this song that is a little less ferocious than the others. Maybe it has something to do with the embodiment of the avant-garde style of rock brought to us by Roxy Music. It doesn’t attack as much as other tracks on the record and mainly relies on its uniquely spread song structure to do its work.

The last particularly noticeable track is “Regatta.” Having also been an early single, it’s a quick energy song that helped to build the records hype. It’s in this song where Telegram blends their early avant-garde influences and punk swagger so well. It’s quirky yet memorable and revives your faith in the record where other less inviting tracks had let it down. The record comes to an end with “Folly,” which encompasses the Eno/punk fusion, however, feels a bit empty. It’s not an abrupt end – the record is 50 minutes long – but rather, again, a bit underwhelming. It has a lot of vigor but you can’t help the feeling that there was another edge the band could have jumped over. There is a lot of genre fusion on the record and it seems like the band could have discovered something more; they could have dived deeper into their exploration and come back up with something more fulfilling. With that, Operator is everything you could have expected, but possibly, not everything you could have hoped for.

Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings The Blues

If Sam Cooke’s voice wrote the founding document that joined gospel to popular music then Otis Redding’s voice was that of a foot soldier defending his legacy at the crossroads of soul and blues music. Cooke’s voice testified from the pulpit while Redding’s was a supplication, brother-to-brother, at times full of pain and raw power, at other times love and tenderness. Often his songs covered this range in a matter of a few minutes with relative ease. Listen to Otis’ cover of his idol Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” and you can hear him pleading for understanding, his voice imbued with the tragedy that accompanied the everyday lives of baby boomer African-Americans. His pleading in the “I go to my brother” bridge is an exquisite rendering of a soul lost in translation among his fellow men.

Redding’s remarkable talent was his inspiring ability to interpret the texts given him; he covers two more Cooke songs on Otis Blue, “Shake” and “Wonderful World,” both of which he turns on their respective heads. “Shake” is sped up to a mid-60s discotheque-bouncing groove while “Wonderful World” is inspired by the very Cha-Cha rhythms that Cooke made popular.

Redding covers Solomon Burke (“Down In The Valley”), The Temptations (“My Girl”), B.B. King (“Rock Me Baby”), and the Rolling Stones (“Satisfaction”), proving the breadth of the influences that he stamped with his own powerful style. “My Girl” sashays with the ease of a man who sings happily early in the morning as his love lies asleep while “Rock Me Baby” swings with a bluesy swagger worthy of King’s original licks. He sang “Satisfaction” so well that the Rolling Stones were accused of having stolen the song from Redding, ironic, considering that his own original song, “Respect,” was transformed into the immortal crossover hit by Aretha Franklin. Redding would later joke at the Monterey Pop Festival that it was a song “that a girl took away from me, a friend of mine, a girl she just took this song.”

The other Redding compositions, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and “Ole Man Trouble,” are wonderful, highlighting Redding’s own compositional talent. “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” is a painful love song, where man and woman would be better off without each other but can’t seem to figure out how to break away. It has been used in countless movies and T.V. shows, as though each producer knows that with just Redding’s one note at the beginning, he/she can get a viewer hooked not only on the scene but also on a feeling. “Ole Man Trouble” is a meditation on the relationship between the singer and blues he/she sings, dark and mysterious.

Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul is Redding’s first masterwork, a painterly description of soul music that vacillates between plaintive ballads and up-tempo stomps that illustrate what soul is, from A to Z. What remains after listening to Otis Blue is the immortal power of Otis’ voice, how it invites and informs you with pain and tenderness, wit and bravura, to stand witness to his testimony of soul music.