Giving someone advice really isn’t my strong suit so I generally tend to keep my mouth shut when approached about anything of real importance. So, what’s my point here? Well, my thoughts on writing seem to take a turn now and again, eschewing any negative comments from those that may not agree with my opinions. Usually, it comes directly from an artist whose vehemence is palpable. Should I change my thoughtful review because they believe I should have given a better insight to their art? Eh, FOH…I do what I do here. I was going to refrain from writing this but it’s an opinion and like assholes, everyone has one. It’s not the end of the world and my own thoughts aren’t going to subjugate one to a life of misery. Just up your game.
Beginning things here is my drive from a California wasteland to Arizona deserts. On my trek, I spot an upcoming exit sign for Twentynine Palms, which is where I assumed Honest Iago got the name of their album 29 Palms from. It couldn’t just be coincidence but at least I can attach the title to a geographical location here which seems to make sense. Almost anyway. The irony of the band’s name shouldn’t be missed by anyone but it probably will. Honest Iago is ironic in name alone and the anthemic punk the band plays seems to revel in revealing it as a possible throwback. The hard-edged guitars swallow the opening “That’s Some Well-Prepared Spontaneity” whole, leaving little room for their rhythm section to breathe, allowing scratchy vocals to permeate with a harsh delivery but you know what? It works. The hallowed background vocals bring the song together well here. No one ever wants to be pigeonholed and that’s not what I’m attempting to do here but you’ll find that undeniable punk and seems to owe much to the groups that came before them. Am I referring to someone specific? Absolutely. Will I point them out? Indirectly. Coming from L.A., the band may take from other California based groups the sound they create, bands that may or may not have had homes on Epitaph or Hopeless Records, but the group holds onto an identity all its own. “Less Martial Law, More Martial Arts” is a track I can get behind with its fervent delivery, clever wording, and unrelenting innocence. The band showcases its ability to cast away the standard instrument and create a punk aesthetic unto itself with “Blue Fairy.” Varying their instrumentation, straying from what they would normally do, that’s punk AF. Please understand, I dig this record and I can listen to it over and over. In fact, I have. “Good night, honest Iago.”
Out today is Granny Said (The Order Label), the new album by Inland Empire native Noa James. He’s no stranger to the underground, an emcee cut from a different cloth altogether. Granny Said is rife with multiple styles backing his gritty words, without the need of expletives throughout it. Just kidding, you’ll find those seeping through but they don’t take center stage. But what’s interesting here is Noa’s edgy experimentation over varied beats. Musically the album opens with “Chapter 11th & 28th” after Granny’s introduction. The repetitive nature of the song has a beat that has no need of changes Noa drags it out for all its worth, but the funny thing is, you just don’t want it to end. A singular piano note over it, as well as odd sounds filtering throughout it…just keep it going! Then you’re hit with “LOVEMONSTER (feat. JT)” which starts off sweetly but morphs into an angry trap attack rolling his words around a stormy beat. Even his words, “…Like I’m never. half. stepping/I’m the sandman nigga/Use that cane as a weapon” and “Hit a nigga with a chair so many times that his brain’s gone/brain’s gone!” he’s tossing an imagery around that’s completely maddening. “Slytherin” continues the game he’s playing here with a beat that’s off, a vibraphone/marimba sound, and a serpentine-like flow with abstract lyricism. But it’s “Magic & Pain” and its left-of-center delivery, both musically and lyrically that one can appreciate. The electronic beat lays underneath this lightly driven bass and keyboard number and Noa’s “Never ever played the victim/Every day I cracked the code/Every day I cracked the system” draws attention to himself as an artist. He seems to outdo himself from track to track though because “No, thank you, Lucy” has a hypnotic beat and he sets the tone yelling “The devil be hatin’.” I can’t get enough of this, and when he says, “Compared to none/Not Big not Pun/I am the orca/king of the ocean/I get it done,” he uses his own girth to un-compare himself to others yet setting the tone for his own greatness. Granny Said is 12 tracks of skewed art that warps its way through a cultural underground that’s missing something. Noa James could be that missing piece of the puzzle.