It’s just another manic Mon….no, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. On this 3-day weekend most people will be satisfied to not have to go to their mundane 9-5 while others, like myself, will be steadfast working. Seems my work never ends but I take a moment to sit back and reflect on the ones we’ve lost. That’s why it’s called “Memorial” Day. I have a profound respect for all those who’ve served, even if they’re the most obnoxious c*nt on the planet. With a little downtime this week I’ve taken a listen to a couple of artists that I’m sure not many would give a second look to, those that still have that DIY attitude and push forward. I have no clever quips to add to this so I’ll just get to it.
Who are the Medical Maps? Well, they’re a band from Boston made up of various local players, cutting their teeth in short-lived groups and just released its debut player Soft On Crime. Critiques on self-sustained groups are a bit more subjective for me but that’s because they need to work harder than others so it’s not any different for this band. It’s not difficult to decipher the music. From the band itself, claims of diversity ranging from prog, indie, post and folk rock manifest itself into the group’s finalized sound which may hold some truth to it but one thing is pretty clear here: Medical Maps writes some clever songs. The group shifts gears from song to song but they unmistakably keep the identity of the band intact hold together a singular sound. The opening “Contract Rider” begins sweetly enough, slide guitars leading the way, jangling with unabashed conviction just short of the 3-minute mark. It doesn’t set the tone for the album but will undoubtedly keep your interest to hear what’s to follow. And that’s a collective of tracks that have a pop sensibility. The quiet storm of “Music Rings On” creeps in and never lets go but it’s “All God’s Children Got Guns” that volleys from having you think it tongue-in-cheek to just a clever juxtaposition of lyrics. The band plays with dynamics, jangling and then turning the volume up but then they’ll switch modes. This is where the band’s own self-description comes to play as they float through their indie sensibilities on “50 Years” and “Tape Loop.” They play a bit with dissonance and we’re all the better for it. But closing out with “Studio 54” is their coup de grace, closing things out with a perfect song that encapsulates everything they say they are. There should be more bands like Medical Maps that aren’t afraid to show the varied influences and multiple personalities so long as it’s made cohesive like their Soft On Crime.
Across the other side of the States we find Spider, the Long Beach, CA band that’s pummeling you into submission. The 4-man act released its Best OfEP today (Cpyrt Cntrl Records) and it’s unrelenting SoCal hardcore that has more to offer than what most would probably assume. Sure the band has that full-frontal assault tactic made popular by countless others who have been influential on the band but when you play that “PCE,” all those elements come into play with shouted lyrics and that repetitive rhythm that never sounds repetitious. But it’s “New Junk II,” clocking in at just 1:38 that’s just so abrasive and welcoming. The rest of the songs pretty much follow the same patterns, sculpting those loud sonics but “Shooting Stars/Get Caught” that varies from the rest of the songs. It’s a lengthy number, clocking in at just under 5-minutes and slowing things down somewhat before rampaging through amplifiers. It’s difficult to get a complete idea of what a band truly has to offer with just an EP’s worth of work but with Spider, I’m ok with it. Just get in the pit and get loose. They’ll show you a good time.
Grammy and Latin Grammy award winning band OZOMATLI today premiered the video for “Como La Flor”, their version of one of Selena’s biggest and most adored tracks. For the fun and political video, the band hosted a Selena look-alike casting call in the kitchy environs of the legendary La Cita bar in DTLA club. The band received the Quintanilla family’s (they worked with AB in the past) blessing to record the song for their just released album OZOMATLI NON-STOP: JAMAICA >MEXICO, which was produced by drum & bass reggae legends SLY & ROBBIE (Grace Jones, Serge Gainsbourg, Herbie Hancock and Bob Dylan)
For OZOMATLI NON STOP: JAMAICA >MEXICO, the band invited friends Gaby Moreno, Juanes, Regulo Caro, Chali 2na, G.Love, Slightly Stoopied and Herb Alpert to perform songs written by Selena, Café Tacuba, Juan Gabriel, Julieta Venegas, Los Tigres del Norte and classic tracks from their youth. This is Ozomatli’s first album of mostly Spanish language music in their 21-year history. The band will perform on KCRW’s acclaimed “Morning Becomes Eclectic” on May 31.
Sharing the new video “Get Out Of The Car” off The Impossible Kid, Aesop Rock issued a statement regarding the song and video. It revolves around another seminal Hip Hop/Electro artist Camu Tao, whose album King Of Hearts (Definitive Jux/Fat Possum) was released posthumously in 2010.
“This May 25th marks 9 years since the death of my friend Camu Tao, an event that serves as an emotional and narrative anchor in both this song and my life. I wanted to reflect on things that had changed since, and try to connect some events I hadn’t realized were potentially related.
“I asked my long-time friend and collaborator Coro to create some drawings that would accent parts of the lyrics, and director Rob Shaw was able to guide and weave the video into what it is here.
“Camu was entirely singular as an artist and human. You may notice those who knew him speak of him often still – his presence and humor and imagination and energy and impact. It’s all still right there. I hope some of you that may not be familiar go check out his music. This man was something special.
“Unrelated factoid: This song was originally called “The Impossible Kid,” titled after the line in the song that employs the phrase. I ended up liking the name and moving it up the ladder. I then settled on “Get Out of the Car” borrowed from the last line – which, while a somewhat clunky title, felt like it got to the point nicely.”
Camorra is the new project by J Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines, Channels, Office Of Future Plans), Jonah Matranga (Far, New End Original, Onelinedrawing) and Zach Barocas (Jawbox, Bells). With the help of Janet Morgan (Channels) and members of War On Women and The Pauses, the band has recorded an EP’s worth of work entitled Mourning, Resistance, Celebration, that will be out this summer on Artic Rodeo. Here they share the new lyric video for the first single “Roosevelt Champion III.”
1. Between the World and Me
2. Roosevelt Champion III
3. Parting Friends
4. Black White Girl Boy
5. Love and Economics
While the world and their fans await a new album, the Death Grips share new 22-minute track mix “Steroids (Crouching Tiger Hidden Gabber Megamix).” Just how long it’ll hold everyone over remains to be seen.
Another week rolls by and life’s got me feeling overworked, underpaid and less than appreciated. It doesn’t really vary from any other week I guess. Walking and driving in zombie-like states would probably have people glaring at me if they knew I was always tired. I haven’t been able to upload new music on my iPod so I’m stuck listening to the same regurgitated music I’ve been listening to. That’s usually until I get my ass to a computer. But there lies the rub. As soon as I get to a computer I gravitate towards varying podcasts even my friends don’t listen to. Damn the internet for making everything available to me worldwide! Regardless, I’m feeling… eclecticism coming on. Losing myself in multiple genres of music is what I’ve been doing this week. Sometimes I’ll get too comfortable with just one genre of music. And so this Friday’s Roll Out begins…
I’m pretty sure that Thirstin Howl The 3rd’s name is recognizable here. Now if you don’t know and are one of the uninitiated, sit down and we’ll break it all down for you. Victor DeJesus, better known by his stage name Thirstin Howl The 3rd, has cut his teeth in underground Hip Hop circles closing in on two decades now. He’s toured the world, shared stages with those well and lesser known, and has released 11 albums, not including his new Skillmatic (Skillionaire Enterprises). The cover art seemingly parodies Nas’ groundbreaking Illmatic, but there’s a method to Howl’s madness. It’s not a true parody in art but possibly a nod to the greatness one album was, and how another may be viewed as well. Now it all depends on perspective though. In 2017 one might have a number of adjectives that an artist wouldn’t want to be associated with like misogynistic, self-gratuitous, etc. But I’m pretty sure Thirstin Howl The 3rd gives no fucks about it. Truth be told, Skillmatic is a throwback to a time when artists wrote lyrics right off the top of the head and performed on tracks that brought the true boom-bap. No shortcuts taken, just um, skill!
But Nas isn’t the only artist Howl gives a nod to because with the opener “Public Enemy” he and Master Fuol create their own rhythm and rebel against a system that’s unjust and corrosive. The feel of the track booms with relentless beat while Howl spits and shouts, showcasing his lyrical dexterity in both English and Spanish. He’s rallying against the system as P.E. did but with a finality. Fuol plays the Flava to his Chuck D. and the tag team is as effortless as it is looks and sounds. Skillmatic is rife with guest appearances though; Master Fuol continues with the assist but you also have Onyx’ Sticky Fingaz on “Crime Lord” where Howl, Fuol and Sticky bludgeon things with deliveries as strong as baseball bats and Timbs cracking down on heads. But it’s “Olde Gold Cypher” where you get an idea of what Thirstin Howl can accomplish with just a hypnotic beat and his voice alone. You can imagine blunts passed back and forth during studio sessions, blessing the track with a weed-induced clarity. If listeners are looking for something politically correct, they may want to skip “Wake Up In The Morning” which once again features Master Fuol but also includes Dre Brown. It’s that true old school having these three spitting lyrics about beautiful women and what they can do. To them. The flow is just bananas and while their lyrics are rated X or NC-17, it just works. It unexpectedly creeps into the title track where you find Mobb Deep’s Prodigy alongside Howl, both rapping about guns, and keeping things real. Over a mid-tempo’d beat wallowing in urban blight, we all know where this one goes. Both Howl and Prodigy are “Skillmatic” as they “turn this flow into dough.” Thirstin’ Howl The 3rd is no doubt internationally known, even featuring Japan’s Dak Lo on “Japan Style” where Howl shows love to Dak Lo, part of the extended Lo Life crew. The two volley back and forth and while Dak Lo raps in Japanese and my translation skills are nil, it still works. I can’t help but think how grimy this album sounds after listening to “Barberic Merits” because as I mentioned before, no fucks are given. Even with the sweet supporting vocals on the closing “I Will Always Be Right Here” there’s no removing that imagery of gritty urban life. The Brownsville, Brooklyn rapper’s Skillmatic is something you won’t be able to help listening to over and over again. That is, if you’re strong enough and willing.
Now I’m sure you’re probably wondering, ‘What the hell is a Lizard McGee?’ Well, Lizard is the lead singer of the Columbus, Ohio band Earwig. It’s hard to believe that the band has been going strong for 25 years in one form or another but here, Lizard McGee strips things down for a half hour of acoustic tracks in the form of Spooky Jets At A Distance (LFM/Anyway Records). One cannot simply mention Lizard without bringing up his band with this release. The majority of songs comprised here are reworked versions of Earwig’s 2016 release Pause For The Jets, which I didn’t realize until recently (It made sense why the songs sounded so familiar.) The fortitude of a song is measured in its acoustic counterpart, which for the most part, works here, and at moments sound better than versions with the full band. “Lover Chords” does that. It’s the nuance in every note and chord played that plays to Lizard’s vocal strengths. If you listen to it, that’s the point there. The counter parts are driving rock songs while here you get the laid back quieter versions. But the haunting “Bring Yrself 2 Me” works in either format but here, it’s just…spooky. I’m not certain if it’s the empty space that has me thinking that or just the way Lizard draws out the song. Repetitive but far from being repetitious. While “Wasted On You” doesn’t have Lydia Loveless’ additional vocals here doesn’t matter because the song can stand alone without her or a band. “Silverheels” though, the song stands apart from the original, without any added tricks, is a strong number. You can’t help but enjoy it. Spooky Jets At A Distance is clever counterpart to Pause For The Jets and bookshelf’s it perfectly.
Now s this a Friday Roll Out…or is it just someone’s best kept secret? Aye Nako‘s new album Silver Haze quietly dropped in April. While there were sources that reviewed and/or premiered tracks, there hasn’t been very many mentions of the album or videos debuting. The nagging question I have is “Why?” Because I haven’t heard such sheer abandon to rock out and write great punk/pop songs in such a long time. I obviously should have ended this with that last sentence but continue reading if you’d like. A self-proclaimed queer punk band, Aye Nako spends its time writing melodic punk music in Brooklyn, NY. and while Silver Haze isn’t the group’s first album, it sure sounds like it has that unrelenting fervor of a band just starting to hit their groove. Aye Nako classifies itself as a “queer punk band comprised of 4 weirdos writing dissonant and melodic punk music” but I only hear one amazing band that’s created its own niche on the punk continuum. The band does volley back and forth from male and female vocals and I’m usually quick to point out influences but with Aye Nako, it’s not that I can’t but rather, I just don’t want to. There’s a child-like innocence to the band when listening to “Half Dome.” You can’t help but feel a quick connection to their music. The sultry sounds of “Nightcrawler” has the band punctuating its music with elements that makes it sound more mature, way beyond their years. Not making sense? Imagine the band taking pop music lessons from other bands but then deciding they’re doing things their own way. That’s the attitude the band captures. They’re both sweet and sour, usually at the same time and songs like “Muck,” “Particle Mace” and “Spare Me” capture that feeling. Do I like this band? Nope, not at all. I love Aye Nako’s music. Silver Haze is one amazing piece of work these 4 weirdos have created.
When Astronautalis shares a new track it’s news. He just dropped “Sick” but that’s not all. The song features two other heavyweights, Ceschi and P.O.S., and the song is also produced by Factor Chandelier. Well, that’s actually three heavyweights then.
The L.A. based band DWNTWN announces their forthcoming debut album Racing Time by sharing the new single “Bloodshot Eyes.” Don’t let the cooing vocals that opens up the track fool you, this is a beast of a song that’s as relentless as a cheetah pouncing on its prey. The album will be released July 21st on Jullian Records.
Racing Time features 10 tracks and concludes with a stunning rendition of Anita Carter’ s 1960s chestnut “As The Sparrow Goes,” featuring a guest appearance by the band’s Jamie Leffler’ s stepmother, Carlene Carter. Here, Carlene’ s richly expressive vocals beautifully complement Jamie’ s dreamy singing. On the heels of the release of DWNTWN’ s masterful debut, Jamie is reflective. A moment that stands out to her in making the album is sharing her music with her stepmother. Jamie says: “It felt really good to reconnect. She told me: ‘ I want you to know your dad would have been so proud of you.'”
If you take a look at Atlanta’s Art School Jocks, they don’t look like jocks at all. In fact, they’re quite the opposite; four lovely ladies. The band has shared their new track “Nina,” off the forthcoming self-titled EP, out June 2nd on Father/Daughter Records.
Art School Jocks is a self-described “existential basement pop” band from Atlanta, Georgia. Ali Bragg (drums, vox), Camille Lindsley (bass, vox), Deborah Hudson (guitar, vox) and Dianna Settles (guitar, vox) began playing together in late summer/early fall 2015. Song themes vary spanning from romantic love to sociopolitical concerns, to mental wellness.
Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Andy Gabbard also plays in the Dayton, Ohio band Buffalo Killers, founded alongside his brother Zachary. Today he’s shared his new video “Juice,” the first single from his forthcoming sophomore solo album Plenum Castle. It drops July 14 (digital & stream only) on Naturesound Records.
“Andy’s solo work has been compared to the usual suspects: Brian Wilson (who praised his recent EP of Beach Boys covers), Neil Young, Syd Barrett, The Beatles, and even Dinosaur Jr. and Nirvana. But his sophomore album Plenum Castle is a departure from the straight-forward fuzz pop of his debut effort Fluff (he actually performed all the instruments on that one). This new album goes deeper in the pop, playing with new sounds and styles, and showcasing a skillfulness in songwriting.”