Another Friday has rolled around and this week I wasn’t going to bother with this week’s Roll Out because you know, life takes over. I sometimes like to be vague about the things that I do, like social media. Posted a picture of myself in a hospital gown and I didn’t respond to anyone questioning, “What the hell?” and “Are you ok?” You know, keep them guessing. On the flipside of it, that’s the problem I have with social media as well. How many people feel like broadcasting every situation in their lives, detailing and highlighting every single aspect? Many do. It’s not what it’s for. Problems shouldn’t be broadcasted, that’s my own opinion anyway.
Everyone should keep a little bit of mystery in their lives. Or maybe just use social media for the jokes, funny memes, and you know, posting political articles that’ll have everyone incensed. Why? Because it’s funny. Don’t take everything so seriously because life is just much too short to be angry all the time. Just sayin’.
First thing’s first here, Kil Ripkin just dropped a new album today entitled M.O.R. (Medulla Oblongota Rap) (Internal Affairs Records / Soul Spazm) and the thought of passing on it circled around my head a couple of times. The problem there though is this 17-track concept speaks in many ways. Ripkin is an old school emcee that’s willing to use words. Given though, M.O.R. doesn’t really grab your attention from the get with “Fallin,” which is a descriptive explanation on the fall of man, but more specifically, the fall of the black man. And to be clearer, Ripkin’s self-reflection. But then “Chaos Effect” sort of builds on the momentum of the opening track, looking at the bigger picture of the world around, over a repetitive beat, of urban culture, political offices in disarray with a Nazi as president, and the legal system causing confusion. The song gives the sense of direction as you hear the KRS-One “Sound Of Da Police” sample in the background. Then Ripkin gets to “Black Out,” and lyrically, all hell breaks loose over a beat that’ll have your head needing crutches from the head nodding. Ripkin literally spits knowledge, as he defines what “black” truly is with lines like, “Black Power made us all raise a black fist / but whoever did was soon put on the black list” as well as “The Fear Of A Black Planet made us all public enemies / it’s like we in a black hole absorbing all the energy.” He goes on using a number of metaphors and similes throughout the track but at no point is there any redundancy, as the track is for the thinking man. It’s as real as it gets.
There’s a lot offered up here as “I’m Fly” attests. It’s part braggadocio but Ripkin does it on a thick guttural beat that’s bound to have you hit that repeat. More metaphors and cleverly throws in a jab at the political machine with, “ Waves that resonate with the slaves and bring the hood out / the muddy water / streets is like bloody waters for sons and daughters / they pulled the trump card, niggas run for the borders…” and its like poetry in motion. There are tracks here the kids I’m sure will be sure to ignore because in 2018, there aren’t many that want to learn. M.O.R. deals with a lot of real life issues like “Room For 2,” his story telling view of one man holding down two families or “Closure” & “It’s Over” where Ripkin talks finance, struggle, and more struggling. In all, M.O.R. is a good listen one can only hope the rest of the world catches up with.
I’m trying to make sense of Palm here. The band’s official sophomore release – although the group has other releases under its belt – Rock Island (Carpark Records) confounds me. The NY-by-way-of-Philly band explores so many different sounds on its new album, which isn’t to say the band strays from elaborate pop making. No one is fooling me here because this quartet is masquerading as an experimental outfit but deep inside, they’re a pop band. I friggin’ get it. The band’s sweet sounds are difficult to miss although they’ll go ahead and wrap their songs around off-kilter beats and rhythms, which is prominent on “Composite” where the band throws in time signature shifts wrapped around vocals that are so sugary it’s giving me a toothache. No, it’s not such a bad thing there. Why? Because the band sounds like it’s doing something unique and fresh. The 4+ minute song rallies around repetition but always reverts to something you can sink your teeth in. It’s a lot to take in just in one song alone. But I need to circle back to the opening “Pearly,” where you’re not sure if steel drums are fluttering around a captivating rhythm, if guitars are swallowed in effects, or if samples & keyboards are thrown into the mix. The high energy track lets you know there’s going to be a reckoning with what’s to follow.
If that doesn’t beat all, “Dog Milk” is as confusing as it is challenging. Digital beats occasionally break away from the rest of the group, as those time signatures fall apart, but actually hold things together. The group seems to fit together found sounds, juxtapose them against one another to see what happens. Generally, that shit doesn’t work but in Palm of its hand, it does. At every turn. “Bread” for example, opens with looped guitars, layered on top of a clever rhythm as the band shifts dynamics, but Eve Alpert’s airy background vocals won’t be something you can ignore. Vocal duties are shared throughout the album by both guitarists Kasra Kurt and Alpert, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s the songs compiled here as a whole that takes center stage. And then there’s “Heavy Lifting” which thrusts and urges your complete attention as guitars chime with sharpened tones and Gerasimos Livitsanos’ bass follows Hugo Stanley’s drum pattern with ease. I’m not sure when the members of Palm thought it was a good idea to combine musicianship with such flavorful timbres & time signatures but I’m simply glad they combined it all on Rock Island.
Now, do we ask the questions, “Who is Kid Dakota? Is he from the Dakotas? Is he of the Dakotas?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Well, Kid Dakota is one Darren Jackson and it’s a name I haven’t heard in quite some time. I’m sure many are now familiar with the story of Darren Jackson, the brain trust behind Kid Dakota. I do remember early on in his career, the recordings released on Chairkickers, the label run by Low’s Alan Sparhawk. As the years rolled on, he’s released 4 albums and was set on recording a new one when he found himself laid up in a hospital bed after he fractured his pelvis riding bike while vacationing at his parents which he’s detailed. Now after a lengthy stretch of years, Denervation (Graveface Records) has surfaced. What does Jackson do here? Well, express all his pain and frustration from his accident and put it into song(s).
But it’s how he does it here on this 8-song LP that I’m interested in. Not that I’m comparing Jackson to him but like Morrissey, he wraps his words of despair and pain atop some shiny & brightly timbred backdrops. The opening title track Jackson sings scary thoughts of being an invalid, and maybe never walking again to the anthemic big rock sound behind him, never relinquishing his despairing thoughts that keep circling around his head. Given, it’s understandable considering he began writing while laid up and immobile. He continues with movements in the same direction on “The Convalescent” which the bass end sounds like it takes its own lead from Steve Miller’s “Abracadabra,” but on speed. An ode to the 80’s musician? Quite possibly but not likely. It’s beautifully pieced together though, with his vocals sometimes lingering over notes, and you won’t be able to not like it. But Kid Dakota isn’t averse to darkening timbres like on “Self-Destruction” or “Keep Coming Back” where you feel despair and sadness respectively. It may not have been Jackson’s intent but Denervation spirals down a wave of emotions that are sure to leave you wallowing on a bathroom floor searching for help. He’s found the light at the end of the tunnel, after listening to this album it’ll be your turn.