Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"No Church in the Wild"

Months after Watch the Throne dropped, I admit I'm still hooked. When I put the album on, I listen straight through (only skipping the paltry "Lift Off"). A big part of the album's success is the fatalism Kanye and Jay craft. While much adieu was made about the wealth talk, death is just around the corner on this LP and few tracks are more haunted by the Reaper than opener "No Church in the Wild."

Riding a still hypnotic guitar-figure, the serene voice of Frank Ocean asks increasingly somber questions. “Human being to the mob, what’s a mob to a king? What’s a king to a god? What’s a god to a non-believer who don’t believe in anything?” The answer in all cases a sobering "nothing" establishing a world where those on top have fleeting power, their castles becoming houses of cards that could collapse at any moment. Given the timing of the album's initial release, as the Occupy Wall Street Movement was taking off, the track's sentiment is a perfect distillation of the 99% versus 1% mentality. This rebellious spirit is embodied in the video, which sees a mob take to the streets and confront a vicious police squad. Molotovs are thrown, people beaten, cars overturned, and in an uneasy conclusion fireworks fill the night sky. The video ends with a note of uncertainty as the rebels charge toward the ominous palace. While their fate is unknown, the message is clear, "the throne is for the taking." 

Friday, May 25, 2012

"Ocean Floor For Everything"

For almost three years now, Tom Krell has mined the depths of despondent, stubbornly lo-fi music and found nothing but gold. Under the guise of How to Dress Well, Krell crafts angelic R&B tracks buried under avalanches of reverb. Last year's marvelous Just Once EP, was a revelation for Krell who cleaned up the audio and brought his pain center-stage for all to see.

The recently released "Ocean Floor for Everything" is a continuation of that painful show, and the first track to drop from HTDW's forthcoming album Total Loss. The song is a sonic cousin to Just Once's "Suicide Dream 1" and like the track, is a troubled trip down memory lane. "We never really plan for the worst of things do we?" Krell astutely asks midway through the track. It's one of the final lines Krell gets off in the song before he sinks into the ether, the weight of his past too much to bear.


Friday, May 18, 2012

In Revue- "Acousmatic Sorcery"

"Contradiction is the nature of existence," goes a quote on the inside of Willis Earl Beal's first album Acousmatic Sorcery. For the twenty-something Beal it may as well be mantra. The Chicago-native who spent time busking on the city's busy L is a contradictory character. An artist, who can go from shredding his vocals in fits of ecstasy, to quietly singing of deep despair at the drop of a hat. This give-and-take is played to full tilt on the record, delivering listeners a musical yin-yang that rarely disappoints.

One of the first features of the record sure to strike any listener is the lo-fi feel. These are tracks with more than a little dirt on them, lovingly dug from Beal's brain in the middle of the night. On the ghostly "Cosmic Queries" you can imagine Beal walking down a shadowy street as the tolling of a bell signals the witching hour. While there is a certain romanticism that accompanies this recording method, it is sure to frustrate a few listeners. The primal blues of "Take Me Away" sports a barbaric drum-beat that blasts right into the red; ruining a headphone or two in the process. "My head is heavy, but my body is light" Beal blares, recalling hero Tom Waits at his most unhinged. Beal can't sustain the song for long and it soon collapses to the floor.

Beal starkly contrasts the working blues of "Take Me Away" on the standout "Evening's Kiss." Here he is channeling his inner-folkie, softly strumming an out-of-tune guitar. It's easy to picture Beal laying down this track in his bedroom, staring at the ground as he whispers into the mic. "Ask me who I'm with, and I'll tell you I'm without," he sings as we strain to hear his every word. It's Beal at his most confessional, searching for love and finding none. This quest takes a toll on Beal and he fades away into the overcast night.

"Evening's Kiss"

Just when Beal is on the verge of giving up the ghost, he storms back with the resolute "Ghost Robot." On this track and companion piece "Swing on Low," he assumes his best b-boy stance; delivering a proto-rap pill that cures his every ailment. On the latter which rides a workmanlike groove, he dubs himself "the caffeinated chap," a microphone and a dream his only tools.

All of Beal's troubles and triumphs lead to "Away My Silent Lover," the album's most tender moment and an early nominee for "Song of the Year." "I just wanted to be so much better than me," is the austere affirmation that accompanies the track's dull chords. Here Beal taps into a sentiment we all strive for. Rarely are we comfortable in our skin, longing to be sized-up for a new coat that will never fit. In his pining for perfection, Beal turns to the sweet siren of his dreams. The troublesome temptress is all the hope he needs, as Beal sits freezing in a gutter she is the fire that keeps him warm. "One day we shall be together," he steadfastly sings. This resolve disappears and he chokes back tears as buries his head on his pillow. The track nods off to sleep as Beal bids the "silent lover" adieu, knowing their love is a dream that can never be reality.

"Away My Silent Lover"

On the aforementioned "Take Me Away," Beal assures us he "has nothing more to say." As the nightmarish "Angel Chorus" ends the album with a laugh that would make Screamin' Jay Hawkins proud, we realize this couldn't be further from the truth. Beal has brought order out of chaos. He's been baptized in fire and shed enough tears to fill a river. Bukowski, an admitted hero of Beal's, once asserted that "if you're going to try, go all the way or else don't try at all." Beal fully commits to that exhortation on Acousmatic Sorcery, and in the process has created an album short on certainty and long on contradiction. An album that stands as the strongest to be released so far this year.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

"Fast Cars, Faster Women"

Weed, wheels, and women. If you've followed Curren$y for any amount of time, you know these topics are his bread and butter. From his continually great mixtape run through the warm beats of last year's Weekend at Burnie's, the man has shown what he loves to rap about and over. Though the title of the forthcoming Stoned Immaculate, due out June 5 via Warner Bros., indicates more of the same for Spitta, the production list suggests otherwise. On the boards for the album we have: the opulent J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, the electro-stutter of the Neptunes, and the Southern trap of DJ Toomp. It's a list that seemingly puts Curren$y out of his comfort zone for the first time in years.

"Fast Cars, Faster Women" is the latest offering from the record and former Death Row rapper Daz Dillinger brings the beat. The track is a tweak of the G-Funk format and puts Curren$y in the pocket. "I still mack official minus the stripes and the whistle, that's cold game deliver Direct TV Sunday ticket," he coolly raps in the first-verse. It's a typical Spitta line, the seeming simplicity masking it's blunted brilliance. Dillinger plays clean-up on the second verse, and annihilates the laid-back beat with a cocksure snarl. It's the equivalent of a jarring alarm clock going off at 5 in the morning, a much needed wake-up call from the hazy night before.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


As previously mentioned, Swedish folk-artist Kristian Matsson aka The Tallest Man on Earth will be releasing his third LP, There's No Leaving Now June 12 in the U.S. on the Dead Oceans label. We now have our first taste of the album with the rustic and restrained "1904." Matsson's vocals here are dialed-down, avoiding the Dylanesque croak he is often known for. And while his guitar-playing has always been his greatest strength, he adds a new dimension on this cut with country-flavored fretwork. "Sometimes noise is just your mind," Matsson recalls on the first verse. Here there's no "noise," just a man, his guitar, and the soft whisper of a year long since past.

Friday, May 11, 2012

"Black God"

Few rappers in the underground have proved a more compelling listen in the last year than Florida's own Spaceghostpurrp. The twenty-something rapper/producer shook the rap world up in 2011, releasing the uncompromising Blvcklvnd Rvdix 66.6. The self-release, subtitled 1991 was a blown-out mix of Three 6 Mafia indebted gothic beats chopped with Mortal Kombat samples and Godzilla roars. It was a far cry from the maniacal tracks Tyler, the Creator was cooking up for his own Goblin release. Where that record was unhinged lunacy, Blvcklvnd was a deeply troubled child with a devilish grin; strapped into a straight-jacket.

Now Spaceghost is readying himself for his first official LP, the forthcoming Mysterious Phonk: Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp. Due to drop June 12 on the 4AD label, the record is promised as a mix of new and old tracks. We've gotten tastes of the new with the previously released "No Evidence" and the hypnotic "Bringing Tha Phonk." Like those tracks, "Black God" is set to whisper and deceptively simple. Since the big league jump, Spaceghost's beats have been drastically cleaned up, but the darkness is still there.

The sound of crickets betrays the video's bustling locale as Spaceghost strolls through the night. For most of the video's two minutes, Spaceghost menacingly mugs for the camera, that same smirk scrawled across his face. "I got to have the world in my hands, I'm a God, I'm no longer a black man," he devilishly decrees. Blackness abounds on the track, threatening to consume the sunny Miami seen in the video. In Spaceghostpurrp's world, the only hope is a morning that may never come.

"Tha Black God"