New Music: Friday Roll Out! Rituals Of Mine, Wives, Crossed Keys, Robert Glasper

Normalcy isn’t always normal. Call it writer’s block, brain farts, or whichever term has been popularly coined, getting that first sentence at times comes with difficulties. There might be no interest in using one’s own words to dissect something good or bad, it’s just the way it goes. That’s where I find myself this go-around but then there are some things that make it all palpable.

Take Robert Glasper for instance, who hasn’t released an album since 2016’s ArtScience (Blue Note) but changed all that yesterday. Well, it’s not a proper album, instead opting for a release of the Fuck Yo Feelings (Loma Vista Recordings) mixtape. It’s an easy go-to when one doesn’t have the constraints of releasing an album when a mixtape allows more freedom. If we know anything about Glasper, it’s his love of Hip-Hop and R&B, which was an easy transition from the earliest part of his life beginning performing in church and holding onto his mother’s jazz & blues background.

With Fuck Yo Feelings, Glasper has an underlying appreciation for those earliest influences, but they seem to morph seamlessly through the culture of Hip-Hop, with an accentuation on soul. The mixtape thematically revolves around the album’s title, but there are many moments within Feelings that make one catch them. The opening “Intro (feat. Affion Crockett)” has the rapper introducing the group, with insults in complete appreciation. Glasper’s band jams on a groove, running it through for the entire 4:46 time span.

There are several guest appearances throughout the Fuck Yo Feelings, like Buddy and Denzel Curry on the easy flow of “This Changes Everything” where Glasper’s piano work is sweet and concise. Up and coming rapper YBN Cordae shares space on the interesting “Gone” with veteran musician Herbie Hancock(!) and Bilal. There’s no misunderstanding why he has these stalwarts together. Combined, this track is flavorful. Infectious jazzy grooves permeate through “Let Me In” which features rapper Mick Jenkins. The title track features vocalist Yebba who pieces together those vocal runs over Glasper’s nimble fingers, and it continues with “Endangered Black Woman” where Glasper and his band are juxtaposed against the dueling vocals of Andra Day & Staceyann Chin.  You’ll realize you’re not even halfway through the album and already it’s as powerful as a wrecking ball.

Glasper holds together his technicality on “Expectations,” allowing Baby Rose & Rapsody to spit without contention, working so well and eloquently together you’ll realize they were all meant to create together. Glasper isn’t one to avoid a free-jazz jam session either, as he’s willing to “Trade In Bars Yo” with Herbie Hancock. But I’m sure what everyone wants to listen to is “Treal” featuring Yasiin Bey. The atmospheric track suits the rapper formerly known as Mos Def, allowing both the music and lyricism to flow freely as if it were off-the-cuff.

Where does Glasper go from here? Well, one could only wonder. At this point in his musical career, everyone probably thinks the Grammy-winning musician couldn’t possibly continue his winning ways. He’s stifling the detractors with Fuck Yo Feelings because he’s still working it. Hard!

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The WIVES are a band from New York City, but they shouldn’t be confused with the WIVES that ran rampant through New York City back in the 90s. This WIVES is a quartet, while the WIVES were a trio that contained twins on bass and guitar. You could sometimes find those ladies drinking a bit too much down on Avenue A. But this isn’t a history lesson of the WIVES, it’s about the WIVES. It’s not that confusing.

The band is made up of  Vocalist/guitarist Jay Beach, guitarist Andrew Bailey, drummer Adam Sachs, and bassist Alex Crawford sand they’ve just released the full-length debut, So Removed (City Slang), and it’s made me pretty nostalgic for, um, the 90s, and possibly the late 80s. Why? Well, I’m getting to that. While the band is pretty adept at what they do, creating crunchy, guitar-drenched tracks filled with distortion and clever songwriting, I can’t help feeling as if it were an amalgam of things I heard as a kid. Beach’s laconic vocal delivery is reminiscent of J. Mascis, and musically I can’t help but feel there are a number of urgings that point back to the Grifters and Red Red Meat. Bear with me, I understand comparisons are cheaper than my best friend’s mom and I usually refrain from bringing them up but yeah, I still listen to those recordings because they were amazing pieces of work.

With that said, listening to So Remove I realize the band is performing and recording songs that tug on a missing piece of rock history most have forgotten. Are they revivalists? I don’t think so, but here, they’re picking up shattered pieces of music and make it their own. In order to form my words to make some kind of sense, I’ve been listening to the album incessantly and it comes at me like a fucking brick to the head on a track like “Hit Me Up” where the band moves at a mid-tempo pace with an explosiveness that’s unrelenting as instruments harmonize with one another and Beach sings with abandon. Yeah, it’s difficult not to fall in love with this song. Taking a different turn altogether is “Workin’,” which sounds like a song created from a jam session that built around guitars, held together as the momentum crescendos through almost 6 minutes before it comes to its eventual end. It’s repetitive but far from being repetitious. The band closes things out with “The Future Is A Drag,” led along by keyboard which has the band time traveling back as it lazily morphs into what you could imagine as your grandma’s homecoming band in HS. The only thing though, they’re letting all those kids know what to expect when they grow up. They change things up here showing us all they’re far from being a one-trick-pony. It’s impressive.

I’m interested to see where the WIVES go from this point on. So Removed is quite challenging and the band is promising.  Only time will tell.

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I’ve looked at some people directly in the face and have been told: “punk is dead, it died when Nirvana was able to cash in.” Really? I preferred to think bands simply went further into the underground, scraping shows together and having a livelihood below the poverty line. I never thought it went away. Fast forward to 2019, at exactly this moment (um, today), when Crossed Keys looks to find new life in a new band.

Culled from the remains of other groups like Kid Dynamite/Good Riddance, Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer, Halo of Snakes, and The Curse, the Philly band just might be the band we all need right now. With the Saviors EP (Hellminded Records), it may seem their intentions are placed in the right position. The band fills its songs with the hardcore frenzy many grew up on but they’re accentuated with loads of melody and cataclysmic instrumentation that’s relentless. The opening fervor of “Times Of Grace” is a clear example of everything that’s right with the band, with dueling guitars, a frenetic rhythm section, and vocalist Joshua Alvarez that can piece together some hearty harmonies. Given, most of the tracks compiled here barely go over the 2 and ½ minute mark, aside from “The Rays Effect,” which is still tightly wound from beginning to end.

There’s absolutely no reason Crossed Keys should be avoided, and as soon as “Everything Break” starts, you’ll probably be up dancing when the melodic dissonance hits. But the harmonies, oh those relentless harmonies, they are EVERYTHING right now. Do I have any complaints about Saviors? Only that I wish it was longer. The 7 songs are looping through my headphones and it couldn’t get any better right now.

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Sitting here ruminating over albums and such, and I come across this one here by Rituals Of Mine, the Sacramento, CA act fronted by one Terra Lopez. I realize the band hasn’t released an album since 2015’s amazing Devoted, promoted heavily with endless touring, remixes and interviews. While the band has shared two singles off the Sleeper Hold EP (Carpark) in anticipation of its release, I must question if this is enough to hold the attention of fans with only three songs.

The simple answer is “yes,” that is if you’re comfortable hitting that rewind button time and time again as I have. The opening “Burst” teems with sensuality, revolving around a repetitive sample/keyboard before the electronic beat drops as Terra’s soothing coos rip around the track. Never being one to fan out on the repetitious nature of a track like this, it’s altered by slight dynamic shifts as well as including a change as it closes out. “Heavyweight” has a number of vocal shifts and Rituals slink through the track with serpentine stealth, and the same process is utilized here as the previous, allowing to mysteriously drift way into a wondrous oblivion we should all welcome.

With “Bad News” though, it’s a different story. The mood shifts remaining somber as the cloud of melancholy stays consistent, always tugging at heartstrings. You’ll want the feeling to cease at some point but returning to the scene will force you back. If I’m completely candid; this song right here life itself. What else is there left to say about Sleeper Hold? ‘As Fuck’ has become my favorite unit of measurement so you know, it’s dope AF!

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