Posted By Justin Hoyt
The new single from the controversial, yet electrifying NY rapper features what's becoming a signature production style from Hit-Boy ("Niggas in Paris"). This song will be featured on his up-coming debut LP LongLiveA$AP. Check it out below:
Posted by Todd Hamm
Battles' sophomore Warp Records release, Gloss Drop leans less on the tweaked experimental angle than did it's predecessor Mirrored, but as always, the band's ability to graft largely unapproachable sounds into a coherent groove remains simply transcendent.
The first few minutes of the record set things up with an outstanding melody drop, where robot noises give way to a helicopter guitar effect (which could just as easily be steel drums being played through an office fan) before the rhythm section sweeps in. The drums, or rather the spacious recording on the drum tracks (it still sounds like they're recording in that glass case) on the album are a welcome human element to the production, which adds a comfortable familiarity to the mix of largely unidentifiable instrumentation on the tracks. This kind of juxtaposition plays into the overall complexity of the album, and is a good indication that the deviated course this album has taken from the other half of their discography was a purposeful departure, rather than one of necessity. Though the band is notably without their first album's vocalist Tyondai Braxton on Gloss Drop, the focus here lies more on the instrumentation and bounce than anything else, and one realizes--though Braxton's contribution filled the role nearly perfectly--that it always did.
After the silly, pop-friendly "Ice Cream", for which the band brought in guest vocalist Matias Aguayo, the album hits its stride with "Futura", a monstrous near-Ratatat guitar beat (check the video below) that is possibly the most radio-accessible track of the bunch, and there is not a low moment until the album's lukewarm finale "Sundome" (featuring journeyman vocalist Yamantaka Eye), which unfortunately brings the LP to a comparatively uninspired close. The meat of the album though, is packed with amazing tracks like "Inchworm", which evokes a baby elephant lope through soca country; the Caribbean dance-infused "Dominican Fade"; and the hard-hitting buildup "White Electric", that serves as reminder that Battles is still a highly capable rock band.
The "jam" is certainly strong on Gloss Drop, which could be expected by any conglomerate of seasoned New York area musicians, but the jam never takes over; the band never gets lost in itself. Here, Battles has created a focused, admirable follow up to the groundbreaking, nearly-impossible-to-follow-up Mirrored, that may not be exactly what a certain sector of Battles fans expected, but for what it's worth, they've done it in style.
Posted by Todd Hamm
The drum pulse and the winding static at the onset of "Hearts" feels like the prelude to something intense; some drum and bass at a warehouse rave, although the vintage-looking footage (which recalls Fleet Foxes' recent "Grown Ocean" video) in the corresponding video says something gentler is happening. As the farm and stream visuals float by, the electric keys drift in, the kick eases to make room for the ambient melody, and it's all gravy. The sound is very dream-pop, like a rural Beach House, yet not nearly as sedated. This is the first single from Stockholm duo I Break Horses' (Smog reference) debut album (also called Hearts), which is set to be released August 16th on I KILL LOVE Records in the U.S., and it's quite beautifully put together. Though Maria Lindén's voice sneaks in all echo-ey with the effects early on, she doesn't take a leading role until the midpoint in the track. She garnishes the tune for few measures, holding the spotlight, then fades to the background as the beat rides its course. At the song's conclusion, Lindén and her musical partner Fredrik Balck tune down the last, lingering note to ensure a slightly anti-pretty ending to a very pretty song as the black clouds creep by in time-lapse. IBH is officially on our radar.
Posted by Justin Hoyt
"Bombay" kicks off the latest album Pop Negro from beat-maker/singer El Guincho. This video debuted about a month ago but just caught my eye (and trust me you'll see what I mean when you watch it). It's more of a collage than linear video but the visuals are captivating and somehow the thrusting of random images does it's job in accenting the dub influenced anthem. And there's girls, seriously pretty ones. Enjoy if you haven't already, and if you have enjoy again.
Posted by Todd Hamm
While the better part of my daylight hours on Friday were spent gawking over the gorgeous pastoral backdrop at a sunny farmland wedding, my night began with a shove through a chain-linked entrance in a gas station parking lot, into a knob-twisting funk display from a band named Holy Fuck. And like that, my 2010 Capitol Hill Block Party experience had begun.
As the Canadian groovesters fired rubber band bass licks out over the mainstage audience, I slid into Neumo's to catch J Pinder rock his set as part three of the "Fantastic Four Hip Hop Show" (the first to sets by Candidt and The Physics were sadly missed). As a performer, the young Seattle emcee brought bounce to the stage to match his positive-message lyricism, playing a collection of singles he's released on various mixtapes, EPs and features for other artists as he's yet to release a full length album of his own. Despite this lack of traditional notoriety, Pinder grabbed the audience with ease. Maybe it was simply that there was a new face on stage at a local hip hop showcase, or maybe it was an actual flash of brilliance that the crowd saw in the man, but the crowd seemed to hang from his every word, and they sung word for word during the chorus of his last song: "go faaaaaaar...."
Next, The Stahi Bros popped on stage just moments after J Pinder finished up. Local legends Vitamin D and Maineack delivered their loose-groove hip hop in flip flops and casual wear. Their stoned approach to songwriting and between-song banter was enough to make me smile, however a large slice of the audience had wandered outside to see MGMT take the mainstage. I stayed inside long enough to hear Stahi perform an Ish-less rendition of Jake One's "Home", and pushed my way out into the Pike Street corridor in front of the mainstage.
This was clearly what the people had come to see. The crowd was in hysterics for a majority of the set, as the duo (which expands to a quintet live) pounded out hits like "Kids" and "Electric Feel", then largely took a break during their newer material. After a near skirmish with an unruly pair of high school aged girls who were unaccustomed to the shove-shove back dynamic of a sold out crowd, I was ready to dance my ass off and have a great time, and before I new it, I was slugging airplane bottles of rum from someone's pocket and getting high-fives from chicks in bikinis from their boyfriend's shoulders.
I'm sure there are better ways to wake up on a festival weekend than an 8 o'clock phone call from animal control saying they're holding your cat on $45 kitty-bail because one of your soft-minded neighbors turned him in last night for not wearing a collar, but the important thing was that I was awake, and my Saturday had begun. I had made it through another day in festival land, and was ready to embark on yet another...after I got my damn cat.
After dropping off my convict feline at home, I hopped a bus to Capitol Hill where I wandered into the new Big Mario's Pizza to fuel up for the day. Block Party promoter and Mad Rad manager Kerri Harrop was sitting at the bar with a slice of pepperoni in one hand, and a vodka-cranberry in the other. It was just after two in the afternoon. I asked her if she had just gotten there. "I might as well have slept here," she scoffed wearily. With my Saturday morning headache subsiding, I finished my crust and wandered over to Neumo's to catch the first show of the day.
At 2:30, Eastern Grip's set was in full swing at Neumo's. The Seattle band named after the third most popular tennis grip on the Grand Slam circuit were playing their hearts out to a half empty club, which is really quite respectable for a gig with a 2 p.m. start time. Their straight forward garage rock threatened often to erupt into something quite heavy, but usually broke stride and took on a more upbeat tone, and it seemed to be this kind of unpredictability that begat their draw. Their lively stage presence carried over to their post-show banter as guitarist Rory McAuley told me after their set: "It was one of the most fun gigs I've ever played. Setting up I was worried nobody would show up, but people came." He went on to say that the power cut out to most of his effects pedals mid-way through the show, but overall "it went smoothly."
The Redwood Plan was lighting up the Mainstage when I ambled out of Neumos at roughly 3:02, and into the blaring sunlight. The group sounds like a slightly less 80s-tastic version of Gossip, the Portland-based pop powerhouse that graced the very same mid-Pike Street platform exactly one year ago. On stage there is constant jumping, clapping, and a guy waving a tambourine that may very well be the happiest man on Earth (who I would later see pull off a wicked back-spin on stage at the Dickies booth). Their hit "Je Suis Romantique" ("I Am Romantic") stands out as a definite highlight, but their whole set is extremely well done, and easy to get into.
It was somewhere in the ballpark of 3:17 when I made my first trip over to the Vera Stage; the smallish outdoor venue set up along the eastern edge of the festival grounds on 11th Avenue that draws it's name from the youth music and arts outreach program based in the Seattle Center that happens to be one of the Block Party's primary beneficiaries. Seattle thrash-metal band Cold Lake was tearing through the speakers at perhaps the hottest moments of the day (my phone told me it was 81°); their simple teeth-grinding riffs building tangible layers until they finally dropped into massive stuttering breakdowns toward the end of each song. The frontman's rough snarls and roars also left the crowd fuzzy-eared and wide-eyed if nothing else.
Feeling a little cooked, I ducked into Neumo's at close to 3:29 to escape the heat, where I caught the last song from local country-rock band Hallways. The song was more hard driving than others I've heard from the band, with wailing vocals from co-singer Stephanie Parrish and southern rock slides coming off Grant Burton's guitar that resembled something The Lonely H might have designed; I was diggin' it.
I happened to run into Festival organizer Dave Meinert as I left the beer garden surrounding Neumo's with his six month old daughter Olympia Baby Bjorn-ed to his chest. Appearing quite mellow, he confessed that his work was mainly done for the weekend, and that this day was his day to rest and hopefully expand upon the two hours of sleep he managed the night before. I wished him good luck and was on my way.
Moments later I was in the Cafe Vita Bean Room where KEXP had set up a remote broadcast for the weekend, and was only moments away from witnessing an intimate on-air set from the eight-member electro-funk band !!! (pronounced chk-chk-chk) before their Mainstage performance. As the clock struck 4:02, the switch was flipped and KEXP host DJ Michele Meyers kicked it over to the New York via Sacramento groove outfit, and as I started to roll tape, they ran away with the show. Sadly, my "tape" (handheld camera with a shitty batter life) ran out before singer/lead dancer Nic Offer climbed the coffee sack pile, hopping--or gyrating rather--from bag to bag ten feet above his band on the floor, but it happened, I promise! The crowd's cheers drew attention from the street, as passers-by flooded into the little room until my sunglasses were fogged by my neighbor's breaths. Offer ran through moves that looked like the rope-climb, the hula hoop and the water-tread before he delivered a healthy dose of the air-hump. Met with a swirl of shouts and whistles, the frontman returned to the ground and the band closed out with their single "AM/FM", which was sung as "K-E-X-P, ninety point three, Sea-ttle" for the occasion.
I made it back to the Mainstage at around 4:23 to catch Obits. The Sub Pop-signed, Brooklyn-based indie-punk quartet had come recommended as a band not to miss at several points earlier in the day, but the guys looked a little bored as they played outside of guitarist Sohrab Habibion along the right side of the stage, who's big time twisting and headbanging showed that he, at least, had come to rock. While the tightly woven, methodically written songs sounded crisp and Spoon-like over the sound system as it does on record, the band lacked any real kind of crowd interaction, engagement...movement really of any kind, and it irked me a bit. Rick Froberg's raspy yell brought a little life to the show, but it wasn't quite enough to get me rocking like I wanted to.
After Obits' set, I walked past a room that appeared to be sponsored by Vitamin Water in which the unmistakably tattooed Christopher Mansfield of Fences was strumming his way through some sombre ballad or another, and I would have stopped to listen, but I was all set to see Gabriel Teodros's project Air 2 A Bird on the Vera Stage, and kept moving. A collaborative effort of MC Teodros and MC/producer Amos Miller, the group played some seriously beautiful music with angelic backup vocals from Canary Sing's/Seattle Weekly's Hollis Wong-Wear. The production was bass-heavy yet easy on the ears--and soul, with uplifting verses and chanted choruses over a backdrop of sampled bird noises to make it go down smooth.
I again walked past the Dickies booth after the concert in time (5:36) to see Ballard MC Grynch leaning off the edge of the small stage-lounge after some kind of interview to autograph a female fan's exposed breasts. A quick interrogation after the fact concluded that it was in fact his first boob-autograph, and that he was excited to have been given the opportunity.
Next I heard a song from The Drowning Men inside Neumo's while I was waiting for Avi Buffalo to take the Mainstage. TDM were crafting some intense mood music, something sad and powerful with keys and guitar when they were overtaken by Avi Buffalo at approximately 6:14. AB's three members stood huddled close together--facing each other even, coaxing laid back sunny day music from their instruments and each other, playing as if they were simply rehearsing in someone's basement or backyard. They laughed and re-tuned guitar and bass between several songs, then broke into song like it had just happened incidentally. Twenty minutes later, I wandered into Neumo's feeling good about life.
Local funk-rap girlfriend duo Thee Satisfaction had just started in on their set, and the crowd was already in bounce mode, seeming compelled to leave the ground with every soul-sampled snare smack. The ultra-jazzy production sounded even cleaner and more textured than it had the last time I had caught one of their shows, maybe it was the quality of sound system, or maybe they're simply getting better. They looked and sounded more confident in their moves and raps than I think they have ever before, as Stas delivered concise, matter-of -fact spoken word between Cat's nurturing croons. It's the best Thee Sat. show I've seen to date, and possibly the best show I saw all day.
From Neumo's, I traveled down the block to the only one of the festival's four official stages I hadn't been to yet to catch Born Anchors at the Cha Cha. The carefully monitored attendance at the door was both reassuring and disheartening at first entrance. The venue's unofficial, overheated, overstuffed, wild ass show's during past block parties will continue to define the bar in my memory, although I'm sure this newer approach is much preferred by the fire marshal. After a short wait in line, I was allowed downstairs with space to move around, where I heard BA's splashy indie pop although I couldn't really see it happen. The "stage" area was set up un-elevated in the corner under the stairs where it was nearly impossible to view, which was a little annoying, but the band had recently added a rhythm guitarist and backup female vocalist that added some nice dimension to their streamlined sound, and it sounded great. The guitars were still nice and edgy live despite initial reviews of their new album reporting the contrary. With a lack of focal point from where I was standing, I grabbed a tall can of Tecate and got my mingle on while the hometown boy's (and girl) played the soundtrack. Just minutes after BA's set was wrapped up, a band called Virgin started up that sounded a lot like Cheap Trick, which is when I shook some hands and headed for the HG Lodge.
The HG Lodge was an unofficial, outside-the-gates venue this year as the Cha Cha had been in years past. Standing on the grounds of the old War Room with an awesome roof-top deck and roof-top-deck bar, the place was hosting a one year anniversary party for local record label/late night party pushers Members Only. They had invited about a dozen performers to play twenty minute micro-sets on the roof, and things were going swimmingly when I arrived at 8:05. There was a sheet cake at one end of the bar, which I forwent in favor of a $1 Pabst while my favorite local hip hop group of the moment Dark Time Sunshine (Onry Ozzborn of Grayskul) sent intermittently sublime and ear shattering noise into the cloudless sky. Finishing with "View Items 2" and "Run" from DTS's incredible debut Vessel, Ozzborn said his thanks and handed the mic to the next performer. Artist both local and national were lounging everywhere, taking a break from the busy festival environment a block away to relax and drink some cheap booze. I brushed shoulders with Ant, the production half of the night's Mainstage headliners Atmosphere and got a solid high five in before heading back through the gates of Block Party proper.
Grynch was rocking the Vera Stage when I wandered in at 8:41. The street was fairly packed and there were kids everywhere reciting the lyrics to tracks like "Chemistry" and "If Only" right along with the MC. I'm constantly surprised by the support local acts like Grynch have earned, and shows like this give me a kind of perspective that I occasionally lose while covering the local music scene. I watched from the back and took down a snow cone as the sun went down. After the show, the twenty-four year old rapper told me he was driving to Tacoma to hang out with Warren G (yeah that Warren G) who was playing a show in town that night, and I headed to Neumo's to see the next band.
At nine minutes after nine, Seattle's Past Lives was absolutely tearing it up. Between repeated gushes of "thanks you for having us" and "thank you so much for coming," lead screamer Jordan Blilie contorted his gangly frame and wrung unheard of decibels from his vocal chords on a number of occasions. Conversely, drummer Mark Gajadhar (also of Champagne Champagne fame) was making his ridiculous drum fills look easy behind the set, while the remaining two musicians were difficult to distinguish at first as they were both playing six string instruments, but were both rocking aptly regardless. The post-hardcore thrash gave me a much needed jolt of energy I needed to power through the rest of the night, and I speed-walked back to the Vera Stage.
Tomo Nakayama was spinning a beautiful thread of song with the rest of Grand Hallway just after ten. While I only counted six members on stage at the time, the band sounded rich and full under the wavering stars. There was a lone woman dancing wildly at the top fire escape five stories up the side of a neighboring building that pretty much captured the moment brilliantly. Nakayama's surprisingly powerful voice rang heartfelt through the 11th Avenue corridor, painting painful pictures of relationships near their end, only to clean things up with a care-free love song here and there, and closing out with "Raindrops" from their latest Promenade for an overall beautiful set.
After grabbing a burger outside the Wild Rose ("extra bloody" I said. "I don't have time!"), I headed to the Mainstage to catch what would be my final show of the evening. Atmosphere was spreading their emo-rap on thick at 10:45 to an audience packed nearly as tight as the MGMT set the night before. Standing on the sidewalk outside the Comet Tavern, I couldn't help but feel as though I had outgrown the Minneapolis duo a bit. While they have definitely done a lot for the do-it-yourself music scene, their music has crossed over into the mainstream pop jungle, void almost entirely of the angst-ridden journal entry rap that MC Slug grew to fame for. Ant's production has taken some interesting turns, but the added instrumentation has only seemed to detract from the original feel of the group. Regardless of my "professional" opinions however, I sang openly along with "Modern Man's Hustle" and "Godlovesugly" before grabbing a ride home to recharge for a busy Block Party Sunday.
Sunday was a day marked by bizarre music, play dates, and having to miss The Dead Weather because of work. Sure, I had seen the supergroup less than a year ago at the Paramount, but the new album is fantastic--probably the best thing in rock music right now actually--and as most anyone who's seen any Jack White band play before will tell you, you simply don't pass up an opportunity to see the man perform. As much luck as I had had skirting my restaurant job obligations all weekend however, I simply had to work.
I did get to see the first couple of shows though, and after dropping my step son off at his friend's house for a pre-arranged play date, I made the journey up The Hill for the final time of the weekend. I had a serious case of festival back, but I had little in the way of a hangover as I had smartly decided to take it easy the night before; the mark of a true three day festival veteran. I slunk into Neumo's and witnessed a group of four middle aged men wearing nothing but glittery gold spankies beneath their guitars and bunny rabbit cloth helmets above their shirtless upper halves. I soon discovered they were called the Steel Tigers of Death, and they sounded to have a pretty good thing going. Their So-Cal style punk was just simple enough for my mostly fried brain to understand this early (2 p.m.) in the day, yet just rowdy enough to get me excited about seeing some live music. They were actually quite good at what they did, and constantly pretended to be lost in their intros, looking at each other puzzled, and wandering around stage before making a coordinated drop into a heavily distorted rocker.
The Horde and The Harem were up next on the Vera Stage. Their soft psychedelia brushed past me but didn't necessarily grab me, probably because it was an extremely strange follow up to mostly naked punk rock show I had just come from, and I ended up not staying long.
The Maldives took the Mainstage at ten minutes to three, and proved once again that they're one of the cities best bands. Singer Jason Dodson's earnest words were sung in beautiful harmonies and rounds by the rest of the band, who's members pitched in when they were called upon to contribute, unselfish in their understanding of song, and obvious love for the music they were making. Panning the faces of the musicians, not one appeared out of place or uneasy; they looked as though they were right where they were supposed to be, and like they'd been there forever.
The surf-electronica off the bat of Flexions caught my ear next inside Neumo's, as the three piece played with such a finished drone that I initially thought all the sounds were pre-programmed. A few sirens and ambient wails were tossed in from the synth-tray, but the majority of the sounds were created live, with metronome-consistant bass surges and sharp keyboard whines that would probably make some bad ass soundtrack music.
With my in time at the restaurant creeping steadily nearer, I decided to take in Capitol Hill's own party boys Mad Rad as my final hurrah. Dressed in business slacks, pastel button-up shirts and ties, hair parts and all, the trio was joined as always by their loyal touring turn table-ist DJ Darwin (who was surprisingly clean cut) along with Head Like A Kite live drummer Trent Moorman and two members of Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band wielding guitars who were standing next to a woman seated in a chair with a cello. Suffice to say it was a big operation. Producer P Smoov's jarring electro-stabs pierced the air to the delight of their Capitol Hill brethren in the crowd, setting off on the anthemic "Party Mountain", an ode to their elevated debaucherous playground, which was followed by more new material from their upcoming, yet untitled sophomore release. They were flamboyant as always: MC Buffalo Madonna climbed speakers while band mate Terry Radjaw sprayed bottles of water over as much of the crowd as he could reach. There were tortillas being flung like frisbies across the crowd, but it was difficult to tell whether they were coming from the stage or the crowd. A new song called "Epiphany" was a definite highlight, with a refrain of "you only live once" to really drive the point home. Massive synthesizers crashed through the speakers until they closed out their set with the crowd in hysterics. The wild crowd reaction proved that they are truly Capitol Hill's favored sons: the new Lashes or what have you; they owned the Mainstage.
At about four o'clock I finally headed for Pine Street, past the young girls skipping double dutch and the people trying to sneak in for free, as a cajun style wind ensemble played me out graciously, and I once again entered the real world beyond the Block Party.
Posted by Todd Hamm
The first leak from Oceansize's fourth album Self Preserved While The Bodies Float Up is a return to the structured chaos of early efforts like Everyone Into Position and the Music For Nurses EP. Released yesterday on the band's new Superball Music imprint, "SuperImposer" is bookended on either side with an edgy guitar flurry between which singer Mike Vennart runs taught strands through the upper register over a hectic time signature a la "One Out Of nONE".
It's good, and it's refreshing to hear the group gravitate toward to the kind of schizophrenic songwriting that piqued my interest in the first place, a good seven years ago. That being said, where past Oceansize tracks of this nature turn corner after corner, taking you down the proverbial rabbit hole as a listener, this song never seems to entirely unfold. There are flashes of promise everywhere--from the frantic intro/outro combination to the tightly wound guitar work behind Vennart's soft croons--but the bridge is soft and the melody is rather simplistic by comparison. The good news is that there's even more new Oceansize music on the way (SPWTBFU is due out September 6th in Europe, September 14th in the U.S.), and also that the release of the first single came with this delightful handwritten note from guitarist/keyboardist Gambler that you can check after the jump...
Posted by Justin Hoyt
As the lights dimmed over the anxious crowd at The Mayan theater in downtown Los Angeles on Monday night, many who knew what I was about to find out roared their welcome for what would turn out to be one of the most engaging live bands I have ever witnessed. Fronted by the enigmatic, Ukrainian-born Eugene Hütz, Gogol Bordello seized the all-ages crowd's attention and energy from the opening bell. Following a brief intro with "Ultimate" the audience was coaxed into mayhem and seemed to be thrilled and captivated by the gypsy punk outfit which has proved as somewhat of a renaissance for Roma music. The group formed around 2000 in New York but is comprised of a global conglomerate of artists. With a total of eight people on stage constantly altering their locations in an almost choreographed fashion, Gogol Bordello's on stage energy was transfered and received by the dedicated and tireless audience. Percussionist and mc Pedro Erazo was anywhere from all the way in back on the congas to seemingly in the crowd igniting one of the signature chants of the night (Hey! Hey! Hey!). With Hütz's thick accent and the amount of languages seemingly being sung throughout Gogol Bordello's music, the chants of "Hey!" became universal to the audience allowing those who either didn't know or understand most of the lyrics to still pound their fist and be a part of the madness.
Violinist Sergey Ryabtsev carved through melodies, at times emulating the place and sounds traditionally held by guitar solos in most punk. Yuri Lemeshev's accordion extended the group's sound into a certain sense of melancholy profoundness occasionally, such as the soul-striking "When Universes Collide", but just as quickly was the catalyst for the madness which swept over the crowd like the waves of shores mere miles from The Mayan. Backup vocalist Elizabeth Sun paraded across the stage interacting at some point or another with every band member as well as perching herself upon the stacks of speakers in order to engage the crowd in yet another anthem inducing chant.
Ending with the hit "Start Wearing Purple" (an ode to spilling red wine) which lead into the reprise of "Break the Spell", before returning with a 20-25 minute encore including "Sun is on my Side" and "Baro Foro", the entire band performed like a well oiled rig and proved to the Los Angeles crowd why they are considered among the elite live performers in the industry. Unfortunately for those in the Northwest looking to partake in the Gogol Bordello experience patience or travel might be required, the group rarely gets any closer than San Francisco. The ever-touring group have not been to ether Seattle or Portland since 2008.
Below is a clip of "Ultimate". The camera is a bit shaky but gives a good feel of the Gogol Bordello experience.
Posted by Todd Hamm
It's not often I'll stumble upon a honky tonk jam that's rompin' stompin' enough to hold my attention for three and a half minutes, wake me up like a slap in the face or cup of coffee, and--although it would undoubtedly be of the awkward mock square variety--make me feel like dancing. "Voice of Reason" is written and performed by Seattle folk rocker and former Darlings of the Lo-fi bassist Guthrie Scarr (pictured left) along with an extremely talented backing band of young playmakers like Nate Stone (keys), Paul Ohnemus (drums), Brett Massa (bass); and journeyman grunge-era sound tech Ed Brooks (check your old Pearl Jam liner notes).
The song itself is not overbearing in it's complexity, nor does it rely solely on the singer/songwriter format that many name-bearing bands seem to. The track is rich and textured, uptempo and ironic in it's rowdiness. Scarr's chops on the guitar are evident in the ferociously picked riff that sets the tone from the jump, and holds steady through the duration of the track, interrupted by delightful minor breakdowns and his Axl Rose meets Ryan Adams vocals that lay over the top nicely, nearly daring the listener to have a good time.
I pulled "Voice of Reason" from Scarr's debut solo EP Wasted Grace which you can track down on CD Baby's site HERE. While the remaining four songs on the release are of a more reserved nature, and often beg for a gentler melding of the soft instrumentation with the sharpness of his voice, the songwriting is promising, and the quality instrumentation matched with Brooks's crisp studio work serve well to carry the weight.
Posted by Todd Hamm
Expansive, yet often airy and lithe, Oceansize's complex sense of melody has drawn comparison to everyone from Radiohead to Tool. It's been their ability to evolve and create within new parameters, to bound through seldom used sectors of their "genre" while maintaining a strangely cohesive aesthetic, that has set them apart from most progressive acts of the day. With their most recent Home & Minor EP, the Manchester quintet has taken the opportunity to explore their gentler sensibilities for half an hour; something like the "Music For A Nurse" or "The Frame" arrangements, but more focused and refined. They haven't tried to pack the entire range of their catalogue into a single song (although that approach often makes for their best material) this time around, and it has worked surprisingly well.
"Legal Teens" begins blurry-eyed and curious, the reversed effects splashing between left and right channels the way water refracts light. As captured in the video, lead singer Mike Vennart drifts in falsetto with the guitar sway, Steve Hodson's bass slowly instills gravity, as Gambler's keys flutter between rhythm guitarist Steve Durose's soft, deliberate riffs and Mark Heron's warmly batted tom drums. As the track fades on the EP, "Getting Where Water Cannot" clicks on crisp in the middle of a subdued action sequence, where the tricky drum click soon picks up bits of guitar, bass, keys and trumpet as it tumbles through scenery that is as much David Gray as it is Radiohead. The melodic feedback of "Monodrones" serves preface to the title track's wobbling reverb and gregorian vocality, and while it may be the weakest--and longest--song of the collection, the lack of repetition and anticlimactic fray at the end of the song make it bearable background music. "Didnealand" has the spacious qualities of an old house, complete with creaky furniture, hardwood echoes, the family's grand piano. Not a word is spoken, nor does it need to be. "The Strand" closes out the disk in haunting fashion, with Vennart's dark lyrics whispered over the whine of industrial fans, or perhaps the quiet hum of machinery. The track nearly foreshadows a return to the deep brooding tension of "Voorhees", especially given the eery cat-wondering-in-a-warehouse sounds to wrap things up--and yet, it is the end.
Home & Minor is an exercise in patience, a six track build-up, that, while hinting at some kind of climactic resolution, is able to stand on it's own as a delightfully moody assortment of sounds. It plays perfectly into the bigger picture; it's simply the next chapter in the discography they seem to have already planned out, with vastly different spikes in plot and character development, but that follow the same extremely well thought out arc. It's hard to tell how those used to the edgy prog-metal, spastic time signatures and tangential song structures typical of previous Oceansize material will react, but by the sound of it, the band doesn't care much, or are at least confident. They are however, due for an explosion.
Here's the afore-mentioned video for the opening track "Legal Teens" from the Home & Minor EP:
Posted by Todd Hamm
The infamous young rap pusher/gutter life documentarian Avatar Young Blaze released Baptized In Vodka today, the follow up to his sinister debut LP Warm Blooded Cold Heart; a disk he says got love everywhere from his current home city of Seattle to his native Russia, and even featured a verse from star of rap stars Lil' Wayne.
Though heavily steeped in expectation, BIV actually turns out more streamline than the gaudy follow-ups so typical of the genre. With more focused production and cohesive songwriting, the tracks are musically and thematically relative, as Avatar's ice cold tenor crackles through the bulky instrumentals and carries the tracks with ease. There are features on the album, but none close to as noteworthy as Weezy, and of little consequence regardless. It's when Av is given space to breath on his own, as on the latin guitar laced "I Am King", the future-gloss opener "Put Me Under", or the mafioso tinged "Shootouts", that he sounds most in his element, and when the mood is pulled back a bit, as on the finale "Goin' Insane", his delivery works most to his advantage as the smoothed out instrumental plays sharp contrast to his gruff style, more so than ultra-hyped tracks like "Turbo Mode" and "I'm A Gangsta", although they do have definite club appeal.
Aside from the tiring shout-overs from the project's mixmaster DJ Folk, BIV is a solid hardcore record through and through, and a full step forward for the MC. To accent our take, we caught up with Sir Blaze to gain a little insight into the creative process, and find out why he wants you to know that death only scares you. Listen in...
NWmainstage: How would you describe the overall sound of Baptized In Vodka?
International. Unorthodox. Gutter. Emotional. Classy. Fly. Social. Honest.
NWM: Where did the concept for the album come from? Are there any religious undertones (since baptism is mentioned in the title)?
It evolved naturally from my previous projects, with the whole Russian theme. The baptism is the cleansing, the immersing. Vodka represents fire, passion, my Russian/ Ukrainian heritage. Baptized in Vodka is basically a metaphor for a couple different things. First, being people are baptized in holy water, not vodka. With me, and everything I been through, I feel like I've been baptized in vodka. I'm more extreme then the rest. As far as religious undertones, I believe in God. Im Russian Orthodox. This is the oldest version of Christianity, where the most important thing is humility.
NWM: Who did you work with on the album? How do you feel they affected the music?
As far as production, The Alchemist, Araab Muzik, Ty Fyffe, The Olympicks... My up & coming producer homie from New York V-Don got a couple joints on there aswell, look out for him he's a problem. Shout out to Apoulo as well, he's from Seattle he definitely got it in. As far as features, Ackrite Da Butcha from Compton, Matt Blaque from the Bay, Carey Stacks, SkiMask Spec, Eighty4Fly all from Seattle.
NWM: How would you respond to people saying your rhymes are too violent?
Everyone perceives life differently, this is an aspect of life I've been exposed to, seeing as to when I rap, I rap about my life, not somebody else's.
I guess I've seen too much death up close. Death scars you.
NWM: Do you have any plans for a tour or any upcoming projects?
I got a mixtape Im doing with Ackrite Da Butcha "From Geattle to Bompton". Im also working' with Dj Nik-One from Moscow and some artists from Russia. Also look out for BIV II which I already started working on. As far as tours, I definitely got some things under wraps, especially overseas.
NWM: What do you want your fans to know about you?
I want my fans to know that I'm for real. I also want them to know that I love them and am extremely grateful for their attention. I get amazing feedback from all over the world: Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Columbia, Australia, Seattle, NYC, LA, ext. I don't take it all for granted. I want to continue to put myself and my emotions out for my fans. Theres alot of shenanigans going on in the game right now where rappers are just not credible on what they speak on. This is really my life, Im not trying to glorify negativity, Im a positive person. Im just speaking on what I been through, and where Im going.<NWM>
Baptized In Vodka is available for zero $s for a LIMITED TIME HERE, so get it before it hits iTunes.
Here's the new two part video from Avatar for the tracks "Cry" and "Everybody Get Low"--both off of Baptized In Vodka: