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.
A Month Late And A Dollar Short
Now is 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.