The Magic of Music: Honors

Watch out for this name in the works!

Honors is a rising alternative/rock band from Toronto, ON in Canada that is making its way through its musical path. With only two songs out on display, they are still bound to find success. They have approximately 428,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, originally listeners from Manhattan, NY, so that definitely sounds like the right path!

I remember hearing their top hit, “Over”, in San Francisco back in February at a friend’s apartment and I instantly fell in love. I thought, “this is no ordinary rock band”. I felt the synths and the vibrations running through my body throughout the song and I knew that they were going to be big one day (hell, I thought they were already well-known).

I saw their set at this year’s Bonanza Campout out in Rivers Edge this past weekend and it was the best band that could start off this weekend of incredible memories. The crowd wasn’t the largest, but I loved the intimate setting that I was in when I was seeing this amazing band. That being said, I had an incredible opportunity to conduct an interview with the loving members of Honors.

K-Ute: Back in Toronto, how did all of you get together and become the band you are today? 

Honors: We all grew up in the same neighborhood and met each other in high school. That’s when we started making music together!

K-Ute: When listening to your songs, I can hear some electronic beats and synths, even through an alternative feel. What made you guys decide to use these types of genres within your tunes?

Honors: We all share so much music with each other that we all make. If all four of us like it, that’s how we decide. We got together and wrote the songs that we wrote and we were like, “We really like this and it sounds cool!”. That’s how we keep doing it!

K-Ute: With all the songs you all have written, how did you find the meanings within them? 

Honors: Through life! Different songs get written on different days and these happen to be the ones that we liked the most.

K-Ute: Where and when was your first big gig together as a band? 

Honors: Funny you should ask, we’re not that known! This is all still very new to us. For example, we released our first song six months ago! Bonanza Campout is only our fourth show, including our first time playing at a festival together. Everything is a first right now.

K-Ute: How do you see yourself as a band in the future? Any goals, inspirations, etc.?

Honors: We just want to keep making songs that we all love and records that we stand behind and ideally play at many places as humanly possible. Anyone who is in music wants to play at all of the festivals and all we can do is write and make the best music that we can!

K-Ute: Since all of you from Canada, what is your favorite thing about Canada?

Honors: Healthcare! Let’s say I break my leg, I can go to the hospital and not have to pay anything! No one asks for any money, it’s amazing! Another thing about Canada is the Canadian government subsidizes artists with funding for their career, which is pretty cool for any artist that is starting out and ends up making a demo or an album without having to empty out their savings. Also, if you ever go to Toronto, you have to try the Burger’s Priest!

Check out Honors‘ top hit, “Over”, and their newest hit, “Say Yes” on their Spotify and check them out on Facebook!

 

Album Review – “Bleak Plaza”, A Noisy Burst of a Joy Ride

Bleak Plaza by Bleak Plaza

Hitting play on Bleak Plaza was a good idea. The Denver based group’s debut album kicks off with an immediate hit of energy on the title track “Fire in The Olfactory”, and it doesn’t soon let back on the acceleration. Track 3 “Say It and It Dies” brings a satisfying change of pace via catchy driving beats that transition from garage-y slacker rock to swirling kraut rock. These moods are complimented by clever motifs in the lyrics such as “when we’re dancing in the dark do you really care what the lyrics are…”.

Furthermore, this album will never bore you with stale grooves and patterns. Track 4 “Some Things Happen” starts off with a funky no-wave-esque groove that drops into a agony-tinted heart pounding finish to the song.

The second half of Bleak Plaza continues with the same pattern of passionate noisy pop songs with dynamic genres layered on top. The tight driving feeling of “Night of Vampires” is reminiscent of “Hard to Explain” by The Strokes. It brings a similar lovely feeling of driving in a car in a city filled with neon lights.

The final song “Until I Untie” quickly became my favorite track off the record (because I’m an absolute sucker for any simple powerful pop song such as this). In addition, the guitar tones are on point with perfect EQ, drive, and modulations. This song will make you feel as scared as you did the first time you felt that classic teenage reflex of pure romance squeeze your chest.

Bleak Plaza wastes no time in fulfilling its purpose of delivering an eclectic stream of toe tapping lo-fi power pop that will make you feel like you’re falling backwards into a swimming pool filled with nostalgic goop. I sincerely hope that this Denver based group will come play in SLC soon. This one will definitely be in heavy rotation in the rock/indie and Midday Mix shows right here on K-UTE Radio.

Like them on Facebook here: Bleak Plaza

 

Album Review – “Revenge” by XXXtentacion

Travis Scott, Lil Pump, Smokepurrp, Robb Banks, Ugly God. Among others, they are driving a new wave of hip-hop which is characterized by lo-fi bass with aggressive lyrics and vocals. One of the leading names in this sub-genre of lo-fi is rapper XXXTENTACION.

Hailing from Broward County, Florida, he shook the game with his hit single “Look at Me.” For that song, many tried to pigeonhole XXX into being nothing but a lo-fi bass artist. His new release, Revenge, demonstrates otherwise. Revenge features many tracks that were previously released through his SoundCloud, but are now compiled into a commercial release. Songs such as “King” and “Looking for a Star” show quite a contrast to the style we’ve come to expect. Yet, “YuNg BrAtZ” and “RIP Roach” still show that xxx isn’t afraid to go hard.

XXXTENTACION opens Revenge with “Look at Me”, which, to fans, is to be expected. It’s his leading single and works well as an attention-grabber, but also serves as a way to show contrast to the following tracks. The first of which, entitled “I Don’t Wanna Do This Anymore,” immediately shows this opposing sound. It’s still lo-fi, but the autotune shows XXX’s softer side presented in the form of a hybrid garage-style produced 808’s & Heartbreak and cloud rap.

Continuing to throw the listener through hoops, “Looking for a Star” features a distinctly dark yet tropical back beat produced by none other than EDM megastar, Diplo. Auto-tuned as well, but not over the top and cheesy, his vocals fit well with the song and its Jamaican-ish vibes. 

Moving on, we continue with this leaned out, almost lethargic feeling with “Valentine.” XXX almost seems to be taking notes from early Travis Scott or Yung Lean as he channels his inner sadboy and questions whether or not to continue down his current path, or stop everything and become a better person. The answer presents itself quite clearly on “King,” which starts out very similar to the previous track, dark and airy. This, however, does not last. In almost a hat tip towards his punk rock and heavy metal roots, distorted guitars and thundering drums accompany his screams of “HEY! YOU!” coming seemingly out of nowhere and marks a change in tone for the rest of the album.

However, the next track “Slipknot” continues the running theme of XXX wanting to show his audience that he isn’t a one-trick pony when it comes to rapping. Undoubtedly the most lyrical track on the album, it’s definitely his best attempt towards creating an old school hip-hop sound with piano runs and hooks similar to that of UGK and Outkast. XXX is out to prove that he can not only sing and scream, but also spit bars. It’s also the first track on the album to feature other artists, Kin$oul (who’s featured on the track) and Killstation (who sings the end hook).

Revenge returns to the sound of “Look at Me” with “YuNg BrAtZ,” and marks the return of the XXX we’ve come to know and love; Loud, aggressive, and ignorant toward the feelings of others to ultimately bring the album full circle. Not much can be said other than it’s definitely a crowd pleaser meant to whip the audience into a blood-thirsty frenzy.

The last track, “R.I.P Roach,” features fellow Members Only founder $ki Mask, The Slump God who more or less raps over the beat, as opposed to XXXTENTACION‘s hype shouts. Like “Look at Me” and the previous track, it carries XXX’s signature sound of distorted bass and screamed vocals. It also holds our objectively favorite line on the album with XXX essentially calling his haters “rice krispies.”

From top to bottom, Revenge proves that XXXTENTACION is not a one trick pony. As his first major commercial project, the album sets out to demonstrate his versatility and diversity. Only time will tell which direction he will continue, but as far as our opinion goes, we see X continuing his reign of bending genres, generating insane amounts of hype, and blowing out subwoofers worldwide.

The Grateful Dead’s “Holy Grail”: Does It Hold Up?

 

What elements are required to make a show the “greatest of all time”?  Is it the location, the quality of music, the performance, or a combination of all of these elements?  With the Grateful Dead’s official release of their long held “Holy Grail” show, which took place in Barton Hall, at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York on May 8, 1977, listeners get the chance to find out.

As any more-than-casual fan of the Grateful Dead knows, it’s not long after one’s introduction to the band’s huge catalog of live recordings that whispers (or in some cases, shouts) of a singular date, May 8, 1977, begin to appear.  I can personally remember sitting on the lawn at SPAC, my local summer amphitheater in New York, waiting for a Phish show to begin, and hearing a remark made behind me by a former Deadhead, arguing with his companion, “No, man, no way you can beat May 8th, man.”

So it was with some excitement that I sat down to hear the Grateful Dead’s first official release of this famous show, promising crystal-clear audio for a show that has only ever been heard through audience recordings and soundboard patches.  Regarding audio quality, like so many shows from 1977, the sound is very strong and well mixed, with all band members being able to be discerned.  Phil’s bass is very strong (always a concern), just check out “Dancin’ in the Streets” with your subwoofer to see what I mean.

However, it’s not the audio quality alone that makes the great show. For those who have never listened to the Grateful Dead, this is perhaps the perfect show to start with.  Set One comes out the door with the classic late-1970s Dead sound, leading off with some Bob Weir-sung swagger on “New Minglewood Blues”. By “Lazy Lightning>Supplication” though, the Dead are beginning to reveal their true form, as the song begins to shed its verse-chorus structure and depart into musical freedom, lead by Jerry Garcia’s somewhat restrained lead guitar. Later in the set, the band moves through a solid version of its folk-y classic “Brown-Eyed Women” and sees Jerry Garcia lay down a strong “Row Jimmy”.  It is the closing song of Set One that stands out, though. The aforementioned “Dancin’ in the Streets” certainly dates this concert, but it is still a nearly 20 minute trip through a psychedelic disco, with the band tight as ever, each floating around the central groove before rejoining to end the song. 

It is in Set Two, however, where the magic of the Grateful Dead really shines.  If Set One represents some level of musical restraint, then it can be said that the opening notes of “Scarlet Begonias” represent a point of no return into total musical freedom.

Paired with its longtime song partner, “Fire on the Mountain”, this monster 25 minute “Scarlet Fire” cements its place as one of its most popular examples, with a focused mid-point transition, and Jerry Garcia’s guitar soaring above the huge wave of sound provided by his bandmates during the last half of “Fire on the Mountain”.  The following “Estimated Prophet”, a personal favorite, is the darkness to the light that precedes it, with Bob Weir describing a seemingly apocalyptic vision of delusion with a backdrop of a romanticized version of America before allowing the music to leave into a snaking cosmic exploration.  The band comes back to Earth with a strong version of the classic favorite, “St. Stephen” sandwiching a sprawling “Not Fade Away”.

What comes next, though, is for me, the high water mark of perhaps all of the Grateful Dead that I have heard, truly.  Attendees of the concert have since described feeling a wave of energy radiate from the crowd as they heard the opening notes of this “Morning Dew”, a relative rarity.  Beginning as a low-energy, somber tune, “Morning Dew” rises in energy as it progresses to its emotional peak, where instrumental music says all and more than lyrics possibly could have.  Closing with the utterance, “I guess it doesn’t matter anyway…”, Jerry Garcia speaks to the existentialist that lives within all, urging listeners to live in the present, as the past is gone and the future is coming.

So is this truly the “greatest Dead show of all time”?  For me, this question can not be answered, as the musical power that the Grateful Dead convey can not be simplified to any moment, song, or concert.  What this concert is, though, is a measuring stick.  This concert brings unparalleled consistency, power, tightness, exploration, and emotion together to deliver the trademark Dead experience.  So, if you can only listen to one Dead show, make it this one.

This concert can be heard on the Grateful Dead’s newly released “Cornell 5/8/77” set, either as a 3-CD or 5-LP set, or, of course, on digital streaming and download services.

http://www.syracuse.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2017/05/legend_of_1977_grateful_dead_show_at_cornell_lives_on_at_40th_anniversary.html

http://www.spin.com/2017/05/grateful-dead-day-cornell-show-40th-anniversary/

http://www.stereogum.com/1939833/why-even-non-heads-should-listen-to-grateful-deads-famous-cornell-show-from-40-years-ago-today/franchises/sounding-board/

 

 

SLUG Localized featuring: DJ SkratchMo, Show Me Island, and Rhyme Time

High energy, colorful decorations, and humor follow Rhyme Time wherever he goes. After knowing Rhyme Time personally, and witnessing performances dating back to 2013, I truly see him as a Salt Lake City hip-hop OG. With that said, he is also a very unusual rapper. He’s a middle-aged man with a large afro, extra pounds around the waist, and a most notable appreciation of the unorthodox. This is evident from his 80’s jumpsuit that he wears from time to time, his songs dedicated to a space penguin, and his everlasting love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

If you aren’t familiar with Rhyme Time, you may remember him from his previous moniker, “Atheist.” Which, if you know anything about Utah, is clearly a bold move. Before you judge his views on religion, I want it known that he has collaborated with fellow rapper, JamesTheMormon, so there is proof that he’s not exclusionary in his music, regardless of his difference in religious opinion. I attended this show to witness Rhyme Time’s latest music, but I enjoyed the two other acts, DJ SkratchMo and Show Me Island, as complementary acts.

Show Me Island is a groovy reggae/ska band with trumpets, drums, guitars, and a powerful female vocalist. I was pleasantly surprised by the funkiness of their sound, as I went into this show with no prior knowledge of their music. Watching them perform alongside Rhyme Time and his House of Lewis crew was a much appreciated 180 from the predictable and expected boombap beats and electronic synthesizers that dominate hip hop. They were an enjoyable band that I would listen to again, but my music tastes don’t align with adding them to my playlists. However, if you are really into ska, I would highly suggest checking them out!

DJ SkratchMo started the show with cutting and spinning records of various genres. In hindsight, I don’t remember any noteworthy jams making me excited for him to be on the decks, but he didn’t make me want to leave, so there’s that. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay as much attention to his time on stage, but I have seen him multiple times and his broad taste in music is extremely valuable for a DJ.

Overall, these SLUG Localized shows are excellent events for music discovery and provide a great way to network within the Salt Lake City music scene. I came for Rhyme Time, and was very happy with the additional performances, even if I wasn’t able to pay the most attention to them. I would highly recommend anyone over 21 to check these shows out for a good time, while still supporting your local music scene!

 

If you’d like to check out Show Me Island you can find them at: showmeisland.com
Both DJ SkratchMo & Rhyme TIme can be found at their collective’s website: http://www.thehouseoflewis.com/the-music/

“Baywatch” washes up like so much beach trash

Blame it on 21 Jump Street (the movie)’s success. After the failed revivals of ‘classic’ television shows like Ben Stiller’s Starsky & Hutch and Nicole Kidman’s Bewitched, these commercial and critical failures seemed to ruin the niche of popular television comedy to movie formula. But 21 Jump Street (and it’s subsequent sequel) proved to be cheeky and self-referential enough to garner the success the other adaptations couldn’t find. So now Baywatch has washed up on the cinematic beach starring Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, and Alexandra Daddario and a cast of unfortunately forgettable others.

To say that Baywatch has a plot would be only a disservice to the actual concept of narrative. Dwayne Johnson as Mitch and Zach Efron as Brody et al. operate as team of lifeguards. The first half of the film is team building and the constant ‘unwanted mentor’ role of Mitch to Brody. Soon, a generic drug dealing plot is revealed as being a reason to sustain a film for an unneeded two hours. Action ensues, jokes are told, and the plot meanders through Mitch’s platitudes of teamwork and responsibility as he constantly justifies he and his team’s vigilante actions.

Baywatch’s first and most glaring problem is on display from the get go. While at one point trying to be meta in the same vein as 21 Jump Street, it opts instead for complacent juvenile humor. During the first half hour, the punchline of every joke is accentuated by a seeming high school writer’s gleeful exuberance of the ‘f-word’ as a comedic tool. The jokes seem too stale to be formed by someone with Johnson’s charisma and natural comedic ability. The same can be said for Efron’s lines as most of the script seems to rely too heavily on their presence and not so much comedic chops (which Efron has showcased in other, better comedies). The other characters have little else to do than to be there for comedic effect without much discernible personality between them. For a film trying so desperately to make itself relevant, the actual humor in this comedy steadily keeps dragging through its self made drudgery of so-called comedic situations.

Although Baywatch tries so hard to not be, the often homophobic and misogynistic script (four screenwriters and a director thought a man touching another man’s genitals is cause for laughs?) offers little recourse. The inherent idea of bodies being the main focus of the television show and the now film is caustic to any idea of progressiveness. Even star Priyanka Chopra has said the film is a “feminist movie”, and yes, both male and female bodies are objectified but that should not be an excuse to still be objectifying, especially in this way and in this format. Other films can tackle these ideas in this platform of sardonic comedy, but Baywatch is neither competent nor interesting enough to offer any subtle meanings. It is unfortunate that the film so often misses the mark when it could have used these dated tropes of body-types-as-entertainment to show how ridiculous these constructions are. Yes, there is a male character with a so- called ‘dad-bod’, but that isn’t to offer any new commentary, only flat jokes. Baywatch seems terribly dated in its social commentary (or lack thereof).

Baywatch being an action-comedy could have at least offered some inspired action scenes, but director Seth Gordon keeps the same easy, generic scenes that hindered his other films. As a director, he has been given casts with enormous potential (like Jason Bateman and Mellissa McCarthy in Identity Thief) but he squanders their talent on the most juvenile of humor and uninteresting plots. Throughout Baywatch, there is a severe lack of fun from the cast and script and it hinders what could have been a basically fun summer film. Go talk with a lifeguard for two hours at a pool; it’ll be far more fun and relevant.

Grade – D

PWR BTTM What Happened?

So, let’s talk about PWR BTTM and why what’s happened the last few weeks sucks. I realize that as cisgender male with no real connection to the LGBTQ community I’m apart from a lot of this business, but as a fan I can’t help but feel disappointed.The duo has come under serious allegation, with Ben Hopkins accused of “sexual assault and predatory advances on multiple occasions.”.With one witness claiming “I have personally seen Ben initiate inappropriate sexual contact with people despite several ‘no’s’ and without warning or consent,” Adding that they had also been told that Hopkins made “unwanted advances on minors despite knowing their age.

First off, no one should ever treat anyone that way, end of discussion. But to be a punk band whose work is heavily inspired by queer culture and openly advocates for queer rights and act like this within the LGBTQ community is not only immoral it’s also hypocritical. It’s the equivalent of Joe Strummer moonlighting as a union buster or if Rise Against owned a factory farm. Punk is the genre of saying what you mean and meaning what you say, to go back on your word is punk rock heresy, no one comes back from it and for PWR BTTM that’s a shame.

They’re an amazing band. From the first time I heard the punchy Low Fi hook of Ugly Cherries, a light snapped on in my brain. They somehow infused punk with a sense of musicality, opting to experiment on basic rhythms and chords instead of the over-saturated four chord Pop Punk that has ruled the stage for so long. Adding to that are their lyrics, which express wells of emotion through surprisingly casual language, take this excerpt from West Texas for example “You left New York for West Texas/To avoid all of your exes/How ironic but that is your thing.” Add to that their glam rock aesthetic which proudly defies gender norms that gives them the perfect edge and the wheels begin to turn about just how big this band could have been. Their songs are intoxicating, equal parts hypnotic melody, and escalating vocals creating exquisitely aggressive overtones. I was genuinely excited to hear what the duo would do with their new album Pageant.

So as a fan, what do you do now? Their music remains the same as it was before the allegations and there has yet to be any real proof behind the allegations leveled at Ben Hopkins. But something has been lost; the band was dropped by their label, management, and even opening acts. They’ve canceled their international tour and a lot of other tour dates, all of which were in support of Pageant which is now unavailable on services such as ITunes and Spotify. For better or worse, it seems like PWR BTTM is on their way out, at least for now. It’s sad to see a band that was heralded as the next big rock group, the light at the end of the ever-elongating tunnel that is this drought of rock music, leaving only a bad taste in everyone’s mouths. There are many dialogues to be had about PWR BTTM  going forward. Is it still morally acceptable to listen to their music? Was this the best way to handle allegations with little proof behind them? How do you separate the artist and their work? But for now, I think it’s OK to do a little grieving.

Blackbear – digital druglord

Let me start by saying that I have never listened to Blackbear before his new album digital druglord released on April 21st. The only reason I even bothered downloading it while I was scrolling through my Spotify’s New Releases section was because I’ve seen him pop up on my Twitter feed a few times because one of our old hosts (shoutout the Based Captin) is pretty into him and retweets him every so often. I can usually trust my fellow Drip hosts tastes in music so I gave him a shot, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Before we dive into the actual tunes, I need to mention a few things. I love Blackbear’s aesthetic. I don’t usually like it when artists try to be different with their grammar, but the lack of capitalization and the replacing you with the Myspace style ‘u’ works for this. It makes it feel like there’s something missing, like he rushed through it, but his music is also frantic and desperate, so it fits. I’m also a big fan of artists that can tie everything together. One look at his album art and you know what you’re getting yourself into: drugs and sex. He knows who he is and he doesn’t try to hide it, in fact, he almost makes it beautiful. Plus, if you look at the middle pill bottle on the album art, you can see the Utah Healthcare logo, so shoutout Blackbear for representing the best school this side of the Mississippi.

This is an album about addiction and emotion. It’s a roller coaster ride where you experience his ups and downs. He goes from hating his girl and thinking she’s ungrateful to hating himself and believing she’s too good for him. He brags about the drugs he does, then croons about the dangers of his habits. I love that he’s not afraid to show his emotions, his fear, and his straight savagery. He is all over the place. One hook goes, “I would wish you the best, but you already had it,” while on another he sings, “I know you don’t wanna be that girl that’s f*****g what’s his face.” Blackbear also pulls in some key features. Juicy J’s predictable flow completes the song ‘juicy sweatsuits,’ and the songs with 24hrs and Stalking Gia are two of the best on the album. If you’re looking for an R&B style voice similar to Ty Dolla $ign or PARTYNEXTDOOR but with a better flow and darker and deeper content, Blackbear is your guy.

The production on this record also takes some interesting turns. The album begins with a mellow piano beat that quickly transitions to your classic bass and snare heavy hip hop beat on the second track. There are some songs with a more EDM focused beats and others tapping into Drake’s pop style. The majority of the beats are slow and mellow, as his delivery, perfect for cruisin’ in the car or vibing by yourself.

This is a good album, but it’s not without its’ negatives: namely its’ length. At barely 30 minutes long, I don’t really feel like it’s completed. My other major gripe is that at times it starts to sound like a dirtier version of some of The Chainsmokers anthems. Those things aside, it’s definitely worth a listen, especially if you’re trying to get in your feelings.

Blackbear will be in Salt Lake City on June 3rd at The Complex.