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.
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
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.
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.
CLPPNG is an experimental project from the power electronic producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes. Their production along with the self aware raps of MC Daveed Diggs creates this aggressive and unconventional album that I absolutely love. The album starts off with an uncomfortably high note followed by a roar of static foreshadowing the albums approach to the balance between music and barely listenable sounds. Going in with an open mind is a must and even with that some tracks are hard to listen to all the way through. The track Dream has Daveed rapping over what sounds like water flowing obscured by white noise and drones on a little too long and the final track Williams Mix doesn’t attempt to be enjoyable. Despite this the highlights of the album, namely the ironic gangsta anthem Work Work, the provocative Tonight, and the stress inducing Story 2 make the album deserve a listen if you value experimentation. The high points nail a mood that you can’t find anywhere else.
The album is the group’s second project following their first mixtape “midcity.” which I would only recommend if you absolutely need more noises in your life. The closest comparison to CLPPNG I can make in the realm of hip-hop would be Death Grips for also sharing a lack of attention to soothing noises.
Prescribed for: Boredom, DJ Mustard overdoses, and meth fueled listening sessions.
Side effects may include: General confusion, feelings of superiority, and an overwhelming desire to acquire recordings of power tools.
To celebrate the beginnings of Haywyre’s Two Fold Pt. 2 Tour, the EDM Underground has mixed together the best tracks by the musical genius. The Minnesota based Martin Vogt’s style is based primarily upon piano improvisation. Much like Zedd, Haywyre is classically trained, and it shows in everything he does.
The mix starts with the first two tracks off his latest album, Two Fold Pt. 2, entitled “I Am Me” and “I Am You.” These two tracks were literally made for each-other. Haywyre opens his concerts with these two songs played one after the other; therefore, my mix does too.
Immediately following is my favorite track Vogt has ever made: Dichotomy (Soft Mix) from his Two Fold Pt. 1 album. Surprisingly hard for something labeled a soft mix, this track blew my socks off the first time I’d heard it and I HAD to share it.
Near the end of the mix come a few more of my favorite tracks: Endlessly and Insight. Showcasing the best of his piano improvisation skills in a wobbly synth melody, Haywyre’s talent is most apparent in these songs. With several classical jazz elements on top of a gritty bass line, these tracks earned a permanent part of my personal library after just the first few seconds of their drops.
Listen to it 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.)
The Life of Pablo
Originally titled So Help Me God, then switched to SWISH, then changed to Waves, and then finally confirmed as The Life of Pablo, Kanye West’s seventh studio album serves as a hallmark for all his emotions and experiences throughout his career. Listening closely, one could recognize elements adopted from each one of his previous albums- the gospel sounds and rebellious nature from Late Registration and College Dropout, the prosperity from Graduation, the romantic and sexual sentiments from 808s & Heartbreak and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and the arrogance and aggression from Cruel Summer and Yeezus. What was extremely amusing was the hype and controversy surrounding the release of the album, as people did not know what the hell to expect but much was anticipated.
Maintaining the sonic genius inside him, Mr. West takes us to the extremes with his provocative yet pious messages. In the song “Ultralight Beam,” Kanye emphasizes, “I’m tryna keep my faith, we on an ultralight beam, we on an ultralight beam, this is a God dream, this is a God dream, this is everything, this is everything.” Reminiscent to his track “Jesus Walks” from The College Dropout in 2004, Yeezy asks God for guidance through the temptations that bound him. We all know Ye loves God, almost as much as he loves himself. Moreover, in “Father Stretch My Hands, Parts 1 and 2,” Kanye simply wants to “feel liberated” from the media and obsessions of the world. In addition, he reflects on his accomplishments and fame in the most egotistical way possible. He even has a song titled “I Love Kanye,” which highlights his personality over the years and how fans love Kanye “like Kanye loves Kanye.” On the song FACTS, he critically disses Nike and boasts about Yeezy, his clothing line of shoes under Adidas. Let’s not forget about Kanye’s undisrupted lust for the ladies, for he spills a little bit of his fantasy love life from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy on The Life of Pablo. In My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye basically foreshadows his marriage with Kim Kardashian on the song “Hell of a Night,” where he falls in love with and marries a pornstar. In The Life of Pablo, he tries to suppress his concupiscent enticements and remain loyal while being in such a relationship on the song “FML”. Kanye goes in hard with straight bars alongside Kendrick Lamar on the song “No More Parties in L.A.” There are several other awesome featured artists on this project such as Andre 3000, Frank Ocean, Chance The Rapper, Young Thug, Chris Brown, and Rihanna. The production is incredible as always, and he drowns listeners with deep emotional melodies on songs like “Wolves” and “Waves.” Depression, infatuations, narcissism, and strife are all real concerns articulated throughout this work of art.
Kanye compares himself to Pablo Escobar, the notorious Colombian drug lord, and Pablo Picasso, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Additionally, he is able to buy his way through the fashion industry and assert himself as an interesting, controversial figure in social media and the news. As I like to say, “Yeezy gon’ do what Yeezy wanna do.” A handful of people dislike Kanye for some of his behaviors, but one could appreciate Mr. West for staying true to who he is and straight up speaking his mind.
Mr. West says The Life of Pablo will never be on sale but can be streamed on the music service TIDAL.
Here are a few of the songs from Kanye West’s soundcloud:
Enveloping their selves in L.A.’s neo/pop-psychedelic scene, Golden Daze’s debut is an aroma of waves hitting the beach and a nostalgia of old back beats. The strengths of this album are its oceanic themes and its call back to old bands like the Byrds of the 60s. This early rock and roll influence is most prevalent in their track, “Sleepin’ in the Sun.” Acoustic guitar and synthesizers glaze over a great drumbeat that refuses you to let you get down on yourself – especially while lying in the sun. Songs like this on the record keep a smile on your face with their upbeat rhythms and southern California dreams. Not only are they nostalgic, but pretty damn catchy too. Another appeal this record has is that it can make a sour situation feel comfortable. “Never Comin’ Back” deals with change and moving on in your life with such great vibes and an attitude that accepts the world’s malleability. “My mind is open wide/taking back her time” speaks to a transition we’ve all been through, regardless of what pronoun we need to use. We can forget what is in the past because ahead of us is miles and miles of a beautiful sandy beach.
The first single from the release, “Salt” is a steady jam with intricate bass lines and an atmosphere filled with lots of reverb. And “Low” has a synthed out drive that blends together rippling guitar effects and bouncy acoustic strums. Though this album has a lot of similarities with other pop-psych acts, it also has traits that a lot of more recent acts don’t. “Lean In” slips us a sex appeal that we can only ever find in places like the Little River Band and Mac DeMarco. It’s catchy synth-wah is as calm as it is cool. It really makes you want to go back to that sandy beach we were on earlier, light a cigarette and decadently lie in the sun for years to come. It’s the kind of music that says don’t worry, “lay down with me my brother.” Following on the record, “Foreigner” upholds the sexy grooves and adds to them bits of an arena rock focus. The song’s bouncy wahs center on its strong choruses of loud cymbal crashes and harmonized “Aaahhhh’s.” You might be crazy enough to say that it sounds a little like Arcade Fire. But thankfully, the track mostly resides with its own erotic affair. The record concludes with “Still Life” which, unlike most other tracks, evokes a kind of deranged and distant atmosphere. Its tempo is a lot slower and provides more time to notice the individual and unique tones coming through the track. The record in general does so well in recreating old vibrations of the 60s but at the same time provoking feelings not found in other modern pop-psych albums. Its sex appeal and mystery leaves you wanting more while its nostalgia and catchy beats keep you turned on.