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Girl Friday: Androgynous Mary (album review by Christa V.)

Girl Friday is (unsurprisingly) a band made up of four women who take a turn at lead vocals for the band. Somehow, their voices all blend together incredibly well, they make frequent use of very tight harmonies. The group has described themselves as a “goth Wiggles” and somehow it is just so accurate. They don’tshy away from very dark themes in their lyrics, and their music is also incredibly atmospheric. This is best highlighted a few of their songs, including the opener.In “This Is Not the Indie Rock I Signed Up For” the vocals all blend together so well it’s eerie, almost creepy. Also the breakdown at the end of the song is verycool to listen to. “Favorite Friend” is another great mood song, it conjures up a certain sadness with the melodic vocals. A very cool listen for sure, even if itmight bring the party down.  Favorite tracks: 1, 7, 9

Funky Chemist: Groove Generator (album review by Christa V.)

Funky Chemist is a trio of primarily organ players who fuse their beats to groovy guitar melodies, as well as a smattering of other instruments. Theirsound is a cool blend of psychedelic rock with jazz, making their music funky while not overwhelming. Some tracks would probably be cool for speakingover! The best example of their sound is probably “Mai Tai” which features the guitar part and a whole lot of funk. Best song on the album is definitely “TrainWreck” though, it starts off laid back and progressively gets more and more hype until dropping back down at the end. Because of that it is definitely thetrack with the most variety. Favorite tracks: 4, 5, 7

Benjamin Boone: The Poets Are Gathering (album review by Christa V.)

This is an innovative album combining poetry and jazz together, the third of its kind that Boone has created. The two art forms have always been linked, andthis is a great way to bring them back together. Essentially each song consists of a poet reading their work while jazz music plays as a backing track, turningthe poetry into lyrics. All of the works chosen are powerful poems responding to current issues, particularly racism. The music suits each poem thematically,some end up sounding like pop or rap songs they merge so well. Standout tracks include “Deconstruction of Idols” which sounds almost improvised until1:50 when what sounds like a big band comes in. “Truths” is a gorgeous, melodical piece that’s wonderful to listen to. And the title track “The Poets AreGathering” builds tension so effectively and features really neat vocal edits throughout. Finally the album ends with “These Current Events,” a poem thatdiscusses the current times and the place of poetry in them. A perfect way to end a powerful album. Favorite tracks: 3, 5, 6, 7

The Buttertones: Jazzhound (album review by Christa V.)

The Buttertones are a band from LA whose music straddles many different genres. All of their songs feature the deep voice of their vocalist, and manyfeature a saxophone among the guitar and synth. This allows them to make music that sometimes feels like punk, and sometimes feels closer to jazz. For agood range of their talent, there’s “Denial You Win Again” which is a very atmospheric song that closes with a great sax feature. Then there’s “Bebop,”which sounds completely different from the rest of the album, and somehow manages to include a horn section while also being incredibly dark. The closingtrack, “Jazzhound,” has an amazing beat to get you grooving. Favorite tracks: 2, 6, 10

Johanna Warren: Chaotic Good (album review by Christa V.)

Warren’s songs clearly contain folk and pop influences, with lots of poetic lyrics, haunting vocals, and explicit emotions. This is best heard in “Twisted,” as her pain is practically palpable in her singing. Often tracks consist of her voice with either guitar or piano accompanying. It is rather sparse, but it works so well for her sound. Track 4, “Bed of Nails,” has a really interesting backing track that creates a unique sound and mood. It ends with a repetitive section that consists of an incredibly haunting build; I think that’s the best part of the album. Track 10, “Bones of Abandoned Futures,” is also incredible. It features swirling piano and vocals, and a lot of aspects Warren can pull off really well are highlighted and combined here. Favorite tracks: 1, 4, 10

Kid Cudi: "Man On The Moon III" Review - Michael Barnes

As promised earlier this year on “The Adventures of Moon Man & Slim”, the trilogy has continued. Kid Cudi has returned with the third installment in the “Man on the Moon” trilogy, titled “The Chosen”. To many people of my age, this is a big deal. Cudi rose to stardom with “Man on the Moon” as I entered middle school, “Pursuit of Happiness”, “Cudi Zone”, and “Up up & Away” were all go-tos during those formative years, I am certainly not alone in this experience, he is one of those generation-defining artists and, needless to say, means alot to myself and many others. He followed that debut album with an equally impactful sequel. Following those two releases, Cudi’s music took a pretty objective turn for the worse. “Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven”, and “Passion Pain and Demon Slayin’” left me completely scratching my head, not because they were sonically different, but because there was such a clear dip in quality. Additionally, and likely not unrelated, Cudi went through some pretty significant and public battles with his mental health. After leaving the spotlight for a few years, he returned with Kanye West to deliver an absolute magnum opus for both of their careers, Kids See Ghosts. Kids See Ghosts was a huge moment for both Kanye and Cudi, but for Cudi it was a clear revitalization, a cathartic release that asserted he was back. More importantly, he has seemed much happier and calmer over the past few years and continues to promote dialogue on his struggles and the broader stigmas surrounding mental health. This coupled with the fact that the few singles he has released this year have been awesome made me very optimistic that “Man on the Moon 3” would be a return to form for Cudi from a solo project perspective. 

 

I can say with certainty that this is a good album. There is a balanced mix between classic sounds that we have come to expect from Cudi and him applying his psychedelic touch to the modernized and popular sounds in hip hop. The album opens on a high note with “Tequila shots”, a banger in which Cudi dips his toes into a trap sound that is present on tracks throughout the runtime. Shortly after comes another highlight: “She Knows This”, which samples “Scott Pilgrim vs The World”, I love pretty much anything with production as creative as this, but this song also is one of the strongest lyrically and features a ridiculous beat switch about 2 minutes in, definitely one of my favorites. Up to track 5, I have few gripes with this thing, but starting with “Damaged” the album hits a lull of 5 or 6 really boring tracks in a row. The middle of the album in bland and Cudi refrains from flexing his vocal prowess at all throughout this section. It should also be added that track 8, “Show Out” should not be on this album, with features from Pop Smoke (posthumous) and British rapper Skepta, this is a complete interruption from any continuity sonically and thematically that the album had up to this point, it seems completely rushed and thrown together and I fail to see how it fits on this album at all. 

 

Luckily, the tail end of this album makes the whole listen worth it. “The Void”, “Lovin’ Me”, and “4 Da Kidz” are some of Cudi’s best songs to date, and are the most notable examples of his vulnerability and emotion that have become a trademark of his music over the past decade. I would be remiss if I did not mention the amazing Phoebe Bridgers feature on “Lovin’ Me”, which came about through an impromptu Twitter interaction. These two complement each other perfectly, it’s a match I didn’t know I needed but now I’m in desperate need of more from them. 

 

Thematically, this album covers quite a bit of ground. It ranges from braggadocious bangers, to reflections of his lowest times, to fearful songs about entering those states again, to hopeful melodies of better days ahead. The wide variety of what we get on this album mirrors the intense shifts in mental health that Cudi has suffered from over the decade, but reflecting on himself in this manner is undoubtedly a sign that he is becoming more and more comfortable and in control of his mental health. This album certainly is a long overdue return to form; Cudi was able to put together something here that connected with me unlike anything from him since 2010. 

 

- Michael Barnes 

Rating: 6.5/10 

Fav Songs: Tequila Shots, She Knows This, The Void, Lovin’ Me, 4 Da Kidz

 

Once and Future Band: Deleted Scenes (album review by Christa V.)

Once and Future Band is a prog rock quartet with clear 70s influences. There are killer guitar solos (“Problem Addict”), and plenty of synth melodies(“Several Bullets” and “Deleted Scenes”). Multiple tracks also feature a horn section, giving it a jazzy feel (“Freaks” and “The End and the Beginning”). Abouthalf of the album consists of instrumental tracks (songs 2, 4, 6, and 9) while the rest range from total bops like “Andromeda” to a more relaxed feel in“Airplane.” The instrumental tracks (other than 9) would be great for talking over. The last track, “The End and the Beginning,” is an incredible song. It isentirely instrumental, starting with a chill piano solo and steadily building in intensity until about the 6 minute mark. There it shudders to a halt and recapitulates the beginning. Very cool album, definitely some gems in here. Favorite tracks: 1, 5, 9

Nyege Nyege 2020 (online festival review by Paul S.)

Kampala, Uganda's Nyege Nyege collective hosts an annual festival showcasing experimental and electronic music from throughout Africa and the diaspora, as well as other innovative sounds and artists from around the world. This year, the entire festival was streamed online for free, including tons of live performances, club DJ sets, and exclusive audio-visual presentations. I spent basically the whole weekend watching as much as I could, and I didn't see nearly everything. Most of it can be found archived on the Nyege Nyege website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel. Also, the collective runs the labels Nyege Nyege Tapes and Hakuna Kulala, and everything they release is a must-listen. 

Anyway, about this year's festival. The opening ceremony featured DJ Kampire and friends rowing out to a small island in the middle of the Nile and throwing an Afro-house party. Another early highlight was a fantastic set by Turkana inside the Nyege Nyege studios which had been turned into a club for the festival. On the more experimental tip, Dis Fig's hair-raising set was closer to death industrial than her bootleg club edits or her recent ambient dub album with The Bug. Duma's brief video is somewhere between metal, industrial, and gabber, and it ends up turning into a sort of mini zombie rave. A few videos showcased traditional Ugandan musicians and dancers, including Kadodi Group and Basokakwavula Group, and these are enlightening documents. I'm surprised there wasn't more singeli this year, other than this one show with Makaveli and MC Anti Virus, which really takes off near the end. There was a huge spotlight on the gqom scene originating from Durban, South Africa, with videos of genre pioneers DJ Lag, Rudeboyz, Phelimuncasi, and others. Lisbon's trailblazing Príncipe Discos label was represented by RS Produções, who shot their set in an abandoned pool, and Blacksea Não Maya. There was also an excellent Egyptian showcase with artists such as ZULI, Gahallah, and 3PHAZ.

One of my favorite showcases was the Never Normal Dance Show hosted by the label's owner, the wonderful Suzi Analogue. Starting with a brief set from Detroit's own Waajeed, the showcase's subsequent performers touch on hip-hop, jungle, footwork, R&B, and much more. X.nte and Elevation both absolutely crush, but for me the highlight has to be the lengthy set from No Eyes, which rivals any basement noise/breakcore set I saw when I was in college. Just unbelievable. And of course Suzi does an amazing set as well, including a ferocious version of her recent tune "PPL PWR".

A few other must-mentions include the absolutely mindblowing animated epic from Indonesia's Gabber Modus Operandi. And Slikback... how do I even describe what he does? He's just astounding and this is just an hour of fire. And the always charming DJ Marcelle/Another Nice Mess recorded a set in her apartment, demonstrating her innovative mixing techniques using multiple turntables and reel-to-reels, but also incorporating video footage of her past visits to the festival, serving as a sort of travelogue. 

I know I linked to a lot of content here and you're not going to have time to watch and listen to everything, but there's a lot worth exploring if you're interested. I'm missing festivals and traveling in general, but attending Nyege Nyege in the future would be a dream come true.

[theanswerisintheBEAT]

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