Change. People say change is good. When I was younger I used to doubt it because like most, I was a creature of habit. Now whenever something forces me to do things differently, I roll with the punches. That’s kind of how the music industry has been with the shift in distribution. Some bands and emcees have been able to survive by handling things on their own and controlling what they do themselves rather than having labels dictate what you need to do. That’s life. Take control of your own needs and wants. If you need help, get it. But of course, try it on your own first. In the end, you only have yourself to rely on first.
Blindly listening to new releases coming across my desk isn’t usually a smart move on my part but the name of the Deaf Poets caught my attention. I mean, how bad could it possibly be? And it’s only an E.P.’s worth of material so of course, we take chances. Now, after one spin of the band’s music, I know what they sound like. Digging into the group’s background, I’m not sure they know what they sound like because what they reference is misleading. The Deaf Poets are made up of NYC transplants Sean Wouters and Nico, who’ve made their way out of Miami Beach’s sunny beauty. The duo’s sound though defies logistical category though as the sounds lingering through the 6-song Change & Bloom (WaxRomantix Records) blisters through desert-rock heat, running circles around heavy psychedelic guitar skronks that should be destined to find their way into drug-induced stupors of greatness alongside the kings of rock-n-roll fuckery. This recording follows up last year’s Lost In Magic City and it may lead you for a wondrous discovery of the band’s old music. You’ll fall in love with the grit and grime the band pieces together with the prerequisite fuzzed-out guitars on “Monarchs” as well as the rhythmically thrusting “Die With The Young,” which blatantly corrupts instruments with repetitive lines that never become repetitious. But on “Cigarette,” the band hypnotically challenges listeners with shifting dynamics, spooked-out background vocals, and varied rhythms.
While everyone’s out attempting to make American music great again, it looks like the international indie rock scene is growing, taking what North American bands have done best, and improving on it exponentially. This time around, I’m referring to that band from Barcelona, Mourn. Their new Sopresa Familia (Captured Tracks) album seems to be the culmination of years of hard work that’s led the band members to this point. The band is made up of four friends but began with founding members Jazz Rodríguez and Carla Pérez. Sopresa is the band’s 3rd long-player and it encompasses the band’s admitted influences that stem from incessant listenings of albums by PJ Harvey, Patti Smith, Sebadoh and Sleater-Kinney. But while the band may wear influences hanging right off their sleeves, songs never show a redundancy or even try an attempt of mimicry. But don’t let the band mislead you, while from Spain, they do have a strong grasp of the English language. They play with guitar notes and tones on the opening “Barcelona City Tour,” and you’d be hard-pressed to sit still through its entirety as the band plays with dynamics, melody, and hollered vocals. Mourn’s control over their instruments on “Skeleton” allows them to powerfully subjugate the track and song structure, which is defined heavily by its guitars. Unexpected melodic vocal harmonies make it interesting. At some points one might think Mourn is a bit more intricate than they actually are, and “Fun At The Geysers,” with its punchy songwriting captivates with fervent melodicism that champions quick-paced cleverness overdrawn out mediocrity. On the band’s lengthiest track clocking it at 3:26, “Doing It Right” takes a mid-tempo groove and grinds it down with repetitive guitars that never become repetitious. It’s so difficult not to fall in line and in love with the band and their own stamp on this cacophony of melodies when driving songs like “Thank You For Coming Over,” “Bye Imbecile,” and “Epilogue” are so fucking compelling. At 12 songs, Sopresa Familia ends much too quickly but you’ll be hitting that repeat button on the band time and time again. I think I’ll be literally applying for the presidency of Mourn’s fan club and I say that in all seriousness because this album is just that good.
Apollo Brown has always been a bit of an anomaly, maybe not to most but yes, the quiet beat maestro who’s released a healthy catalog of albums with a variety of wordsmiths, in his own Ugly Heroes with Red Pill & Verbal Kent, as well as dropping beats for collaborative efforts with Ghostface Killah, Ras Kass, Skyzoo, Guilty Simpson, and Planet Asia. This time around he Wonder Twins-powers it with Bay Area rapper Locksmith for an eight track EP entitled No Question (Mello Music Group). The one thing about Apollo Brown is he brings that Boom Bap spirit of Hip-Hop without regressing to keep his sound outdated. And on this release, Locksmith brings the fiery lyricism, dealing with gritty reality with storytelling virtuosity. With horns and a piano behind him he’ll have a conversation with a younger Locksmith (“Advice To My Younger Self”) on emotional growth and trappings of life, while also vehemently addressing false rappers and politicians on the title track. One thing Locksmith does is never letting anyone forget about his middle eastern roots over dark, heavy beats (“Litmus.”) the Berkeley grad holds so many words in his arsenal here it’s difficult to keep up but it’s simply: fire! After listening to No Question, one can only hope to hear more from the duo but this release is clearly an exquisite banger.