Tag Archive: “Red Pill”

Hey folks, it’s Luke LaBenne here, writer and host of Ghettoblaster’s Best Song Ever podcast. 2016 was a crazy year, full of surprises, so many musical icons released albums and some of them served as farewells. We saw so many amazing albums from veteran artists and some newcomers who grabbed our attention and quickly became beloved favorites. There were so many great albums that I had the honor of listening to and writing about this year thanks to Ghettoblaster. Some of them really stood out so here they are, my Top 20 Albums of 2016.


 

124fe55e

20. Okkervil River – Away

The ghost album from the band that no longer exists. After the breakup of Okkervil River, frontman Will Sheff went through a period of uncertainty in which his Grandfather and personal hero passed away. Sheff teamed up with jazz musicians, including yMusic’s C.J. Camarieri who used his grandfather’s old trumpet, fusing jazz with their existing folk rock sound. This album that almost didn’t happen turned out to be a warm and beautiful expression with the emotional weight we’ve come to expect from the rock veteran.

Watch: Okkervil River –  Okkervil River R.I.P

 

 

 


 

a1697042746_10

19. Kyle Craft – Dolls of Highland

Former GASHCAT frontman Kyle Craft made his SubPop debut with the right amount of retro and modern influences, from Velvet Underground to Neutral Milk Hotel. Kyle tells vivid, sprawling tales of love and loss akin to Bob Dylan, with his powerful, one of a kind voice and big, Springsteen-esque instrumentals. Whether he’s serenading a lady or lamenting his friend who committed suicide, these songs feel very personal and lived-in, with Kyle’s 27 years of life informing each tune.

Listen: Kyle Craft – Pentecost

 

 

 

 


 

display

18. Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate

I remember a week where I felt like no albums had come out that grabbed my attention and then later in the week I heard this album and was blown away. British singer/songwriter Michael Kiwanuka combines the building jams of Pink Floyd, with the vocal force and social relevance of Marvin Gaye. Joining soul, folk, and rock to explore the meaning of love & hate, and express the triumphs and trials of a “black man in a white world.” Much of this album is featured in the Netflix’s The Get Down giving a fitting canvas for Michael’s epic, emotional, and uplifting music.

Watch: Michael Kiwanuka – Black Man In A White World

 

 

 


 

2016conoroberstruminationsalbum-1

17. Conor Oberst – Ruminations

Last year, Conor Oberst released an album and did a tour with his punk band Desaparecidos. Afterwards, he was exhausted and ill, so he returned to his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska to recover. While there, inspiration struck and he wrote a recorded an album in 48 hours. We see a different Conor then we’re used to, stripped down to just guitar or piano with an occasional harmonica solo. Lyrically, these songs are thick with cultural and literary references that drive home the Americana vibe of this album as Conor looks back over his life and career and considers what lies ahead. What began as a sort of pit stop to regroup turned into some of his most personal and powerful work yet.

Watch: Conor Oberst – A Little Uncanny

 

 


 

frightened-rabbit-painting-of-a-panic-attack

16. Frightened Rabbit – Painting Of A Panic Attack

Scotish indie-rock veterans Frightened Rabbit really came into their own with their 2012 album Pedestrian Verse, completing the gradual transition from rougher folkier sound to a more polished indie-rock sound. The National’s Aaron Dessner helped them perfect that sound on this album. Resembling The National and the sound Dessner helped Mumford and Sons achieve last year, these songs are much brighter and catchier than you would assume based on the cover art and title. Lyrically, this album deals with death, addiction, and depression though it has it’s fair share of self-deprecation hope permeates each track. Under the tutelage of Dessner, these guys join the ranks of indie-rock greats and continue to grow with each new album.

Watch: Frightened Rabbit – I Wish I Was Sober

 

 


 

a3501043119_1015. Mutual Benefit – Skip A Sinking Stone

Jordan Lee has made music under the name Mutual Benefit since 2009, but this year he reached new heights with Skip A Sinking Stone. While touring, Lee contemplated life and love during long car trips, putting his questions and realizations into words gives this album it’s lyrical power. Backing up his insightful lyrics are grand compositions akin to Sufjan Stevens, that can shift quickly into bare, intimate folk. This album is grand yet isolated, using nostalgia as a means to move forward.

Watch: Mutual Benefit – Not For Nothing

 

 

 


 

c3ad8a769406b97880d7c3368aadda5d-1000x1000x1

14. Vince Staples – Prima Donna

Last year, Vince Staples established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the world of Hip Hop with his album Summertime ’06. This year, Vince let us know just how fame was treating him with a mini-album full of 7 heavy-hitting songs about his disillusionment with fame, but his strength and relevance despite it, effortlessly weaving social topics into his personal narrative. Not only is Vince at the top of his game lyrically (with more lyrics that can make Christian moms cry), but he has some production help from the great James Blake, appearances by A$AP Rock and Kilo Kish, and heavy nods to OutKast, even with a sample of Andre’s verse from ATLiens. Every song on this album is fantastic and it comes with a short film to compliment each track.

Watch: Vince Staples – Prima Donna

 

 


 

lambchop-flotus

13. Lambchop – FLOTUS

For Love Often Turns Us Still. The veteran folk-rock band turned a page with their latest album, ditching their folk sound for electronic elements and airy, funky grooves. Kurt Wagner has experimented with electronics in the past, but on FLOTUS he seamlessly rolls them in with traditional instruments, primarily bass and piano, to make a smooth, hazy, and beautiful album. Ending, with an 18-minute “love” song. This album can pull at your heart strings just by the mood and feeling the music creates.

Watch: Lambchop – NIV

 

 

 


 

el-perro-del-mar-announces-kokoro-lp-premieres-new-video

12. El Perro Del Mar – KoKoro

After 8 months of “maternity leave” indie-pop artist Sarah Assbring returned with her 5th album as El Perro Del Mar. After visiting a museum with eastern instruments and listening to japanese, chinese, thai, and indian pop Assbring added this eastern influence into her existing style of melancholy pop. This new style emerges on each song always in a new and interesting way. Something about motherhood enabled Assbring to tap into primal truths of humanity make this album very deep and insightful.

Watch: El Perro Del Mar – Breadandbutter

 

 

 


 

33238a0dbe6470fde82c5fea51ff69e2-1000x1000x1

11. Beyonce – Lemonade 

Lemonade was more than an album. It was a film, it was couples therapy, and it was a cultural phenomenon. Never before had a superstar given such an intimate look at their lives on such a large scale. Not only did Jay-Z’s infidelity bring out some of Beyonce’s most powerful work exploring the nature of love, blackness, and womanhood, but she is also joined by an all-star cast of collaborators like Jack White, Kendrick Lamar, and the aforementioned James Blake. Queen B is at the height of her power and vulnerability making this album dynamic and addictive.

Watch: Beyonce – Sorry

 

 

 


 

a0889678912_10

10. Red Pill – Instinctive Drowning

If you’ve read my posts or listened to my podcast then it’s no surprise that Detroit rapper Red Pill ended up this high on my list. Red Pill was one of my greatest discoveries this year and  just in time for him to drop his innovative second album for Mello Music Group. With the help of producer Ill-Poetic, he creates an eclectic journey through the life and mind of Chris Orrick a.k.a. Red Pill. Shedding the old school style of dusty samples and venturing into more expansive and experimental instrumentals, so much ground is covered on this album. Whether it’s grand speculation about the universe or small insights into his personal life, we hear a deep thinker whose thoughts and intentions go deeper than his actions. This record is a weighty and philosophical listen with stunning instrumentals and dynamic production, reflecting the complex contradictions in all of us.

Watch: Red Pill – Instinctive Drowning

 


 

cw30bbjuaaabeny

9. Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”

I was anxiously awaiting a rap album from Childish Gambino but he delivered was even better. Venturing into funk and not spitting a single rhyme on the album, Donald Glover has defied our expectations of what he’s capable of. With the success of his FX series Atlanta we can see Glover really coming into his own as an artist. This album feels completely genuine and as a result is his best record to date. With sprawling guitar solos, extensive jams, and call and response vocals reminiscent of old school funk. Glover tackles social issues in a way we haven’t seen him do before, he calls it, “a shared vibration for human progress.”  No album released this year sounds remotely like this one.

Listen: Childish Gambino – Me and Your Mama

 

 


 

jnr197_kishi-bashi_sonderlust_1024x1024

8. Kishi Bashi – Sonderlust

Sonderlust is the idea that each random passerby has a life as rich and complex as your own. That elusive concept it what K. Ishibashi attempted to capture on his third album. This album had a rocky start, with K. being underwhelmed by the songs he was writing. Meanwhile, family problems occurred and he threw himself into the music. The result is an examination of love, an album that plays like a movie. Produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor and featuring a full backing band, string quartet, and some contributions from of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes. This album is the grandest instrumentation and most experimentation that we’ve seen from Ishibashi yet. I recently got the vinyl and put it on and it’s impossible to turn off, each song is so engaging and plays into the next song perfectly.

Watch: Kishi Bashi – Hey, Big Star

 

 


 

weezer_white_album7. Weezer – Weezer (White Album)

2014 saw the comeback of Weezer, one of the greatest rock bands who seemed to have lost their way a bit. Fans of Weezer’s early work had shut out their pop punk sound when it went in strange directions while still permeating the mainstream. Everything Will Be Alright in the end won back many Weezer fans (including myself) and they quickly followed it up with the fourth installment of their self-titled color albums with what will forever be called The White Album. This is the greatest summer album you could ask for, channeling The Beach Boys with nautical themed rock songs as warm as the California sun. Every song is beautiful while being relentlessly catchy and fun. They may have won back their fans in 2014 but in 2016 they’ve assured us that they won’t be straying from our favor any time soon.

Watch: Weezer – LA Girlz

 

 


 

life-of-pablo6. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

Where does the art end and the artist begin? Can you separate the two? Kanye makes us ask this question all the time. How can I adore someone’s music but disagree with most of their actions in their life? Everybody has to draw their own line, all I know is that ever since 2004 when I listen to Kanye’s music I’m blown away. Though his styles have changed and there’s so much controversy surrounding him constantly, he has a true talent for music. There are moments of shocking vulnerability on this album as well as your typical Kanye ego and braggadocios attitude. The collaborators here are insane from Chance to Frank Ocean, Rihanna to Kid Cudi; so many amazing artist line up to work with Kanye despite all his issues and there is a reason for that. I don’t let the news or blogs or reality shows or even the artist’s actions shape my opinion, I let the music speak for itself.

Listen: Kanye West – Ultralight Beam

 


 

09e256ce885fe6b3cf181239c3b3231c-1000x1000x15. A Tribe Called Quest – We got if from here… Thank you 4 your service

The legendary hip-hop group’s first album in 18 years was everything you would hope. Including the late Phife Dawg’s final verses, and an all-star list of contributors including Kendrick Lamar, Jack White, Andre 3000, Anderson Paak, and Elton John. Q-Tip masterfully comments on all the major political and social topics over beats that feel completely current while evoking the groups earlier work. From start to finish this album has you hooked, the music is so engaging while leaving room for some experimentation and the lyrics just speak so perfectly to the emotions many people are feeling. Dave Chappelle hosted SNL with ATCQ as the musical guest and he said it’s always scary to make a comeback so it’s nice to know you’re not doing it alone. This is one of the greatest comeback records you could ask for, while adding to the legacy of one of hip-hop’s greatest contributors.

Watch: A Tribe Called Quest – We The People…

 


 

a2344894986_104. AJJ – The Bible 2

Formerly Andrew Jackson Jihad the Arizona folk-punk band has been making music since the mid 2000s. Their sound was mostly acoustic with folk instruments like guitar, banjo, and standup bass and Sean Bonnet’s wild, cracking voice and unpredictable lyrics. On 2014’s Christmas Island they unveiled a new sound, with the help of one of my favorite rock producers John Congleton. On The Bible 2 we see Bonnet’s lyrics more refined, and the folk punk style perfected. This is the most dynamic album the band has delivered. Congleton likes music that makes him feel a range of emotions, and helps bring out the individual personalities of each song. Weather it’s crunchy punk tracks like “Cody’s Theme” and “My Brain Is a Human Body,” resembling Neutral Milk Hotel, or intimate ballads like “Junkie Church” and the song that brings the album’s core mantra, “No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread.” For those of us who feel uncertain in our skin sometimes, these weirdo anthems have relatable lyrics that hit hard. Though they’ve been around for years this album quickly made them one of my new indie favorites.

Watch: AJJ – Goodbye, Oh Goodbye

 


 

c5e308973. Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book

Forget Blonde. Forget Pablo. Forget Lemonade. Coloring Book was my most anticipated album of the year (and then it was exclusively on Apple Music FML). With 2014’s Acidrap I fell in love with the music of Chance Bennett. I began to respect him a lot after I watched him get a beer bottle thrown at him and tell the person who threw it that he loved them (he did walk off stage after someone threw a second bottle but can you blame him?). After the release of Angels, the birth of his daughter, and his phenomenal appearance on Kanye’s Ultralight Beam it was clear that Chance is growing and maturing. On this album we see Chance on top on the world, yet he remains grounded. In a world where mainstream hip-hop keeps getting darker with melodies drained, Chance injects warmth and brightness into the genre. Tapping into nostalgia in a more productive way than Donald Trump. This album has everything, ballsy hip-hop swagger, brooding trap, and glorious gospel. Not to mention this album redefined what independent mixtapes are capable of accomplishing. Chance has ascended to super stardom with Nike and Kit-Kat commercials, and features on numerous albums including The Hamilton Mixtape. It’s hard not to be a stereotypical hipster and say I’ve loved Chance for years and condemn the bandwagon jumpers, but instead i’ll just say it’s about damn time.

Watch: Chance The Rapper – No Problem

 


 

a1767464498_102. John K. Samson – Winter Wheat

The former frontman of The Weakerthans trades out his rocking for restraint and the result is one of the most beautiful, powerful folk albums of the 21st century. Whether he’s speaking about internet trolls, a departed loved one, or a rehab center he so perfectly captures the humanity in any situation. John is a master of melody so you have some incredible lyrics paired with the most infectious melodies. The lyrics walk the line of being cryptic enough that you don’t understand his specific references, but specific enough that you grasp the mood and the story being told. The albums title refers to a crop that endures the winter and rises in the spring and this metaphor extends to many of the stories on this album. He is great at capturing low points and the clarity that follows. This album just hits you in the heart with every new song, they’re masterfully performed and produced emotional wrecking balls, delivered with a warm and comforting voice.

Watch: John K. Samson – Postdoc Blues

 


 

heavn_front-1000x10001. Jamila Woods – HEAVN

This album was off of my radar because it wasn’t on Spotify, and it is responsible for 90% of my Soundcloud visits this year. This album did for me what Solange’s Seat At The Table did for many others, perfectly put into words and music the life and struggles of black females. It shows how music can be the most powerful tool to connect with someone who’s life is different than yours, while highlighting the shared aspects of humanity that connect us all. Whether she’s singing a love song, lamenting her departed grandfather, or sounding a battle hymn, she does it with such a warm and steady voice. The music is just so beautiful with production by the likes of Saba and Kweku Collins, combining jazz, folk, and r&b. Much like her Chicago buddies Noname and Chance (who both appear on the album) she taps into the nostalgia of 90’s kids, altering playground rhymes and the Mr. Rogers theme. This album is a smooth and tender tale of love, family, pain, power and resilience.

Watch: Jamila Woods – Blk Girl Soldier

 


 

The One With Luke’s New Catchphrase

Welcome back to Ghettoblaster Magazine’s Best Song Ever podcast!  Every week Ghettoblaster feature writers (and dear cousins!) Brian LaBenne and Luke LaBenne will be bringing you fresh new songs with the hopes of introducing you to some that you may consider to be the best song ever.  Both Brian and Luke have no idea what songs the other has picked, so what you are hearing is their genuine reaction to listening to the songs together.  Also, if you enjoy this episode, head to ITunes to subscribe and rate our podcast with the highest rating available to you.  Thanks for checking this out, we hope you enjoy the show!


Songs Played on “The One With Luke’s New Catchphrase”

Red Pill- “90s Money” from Day Drunk EP out now on Mello Music Group

Mannequin Pussy – “Denial” from Romantic out now on Tiny Engines

Tallisker – “Salanfe” from the upcoming Heliotrop EP out on November 11

Kadhja Boney- “Honeycomb” from The Visitor out now on Fat Possum Records

Pale Honey – “Real Thing” single from Bolero Recordings

Cakes Da Killa – “Gon Blow (feat. Rye Rye)” from Hedonism out now on Ruffians

John K. Samson – “Fellow Traveller” from Winter Wheat out now on Anti-

The Men – “Crime” from the upcoming album Devil Music out on November 11th on We Are the Men

Special thanks to the band Congress for allowing us to use their song “Pond Fight” from their debut album Ugly Eye for our opening song!

Every Monday, Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below you’ll find several albums released on Friday, August 26th that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

Vince Staples – Prima Donna EP (Def Jam Recordings)


Vince Staples and Kendrick Lamar are quite different talents, but in the same orbit and are probably the best two rappers currently making music. Last year Staples released Summertime ’06, his debut full length, which was only out shadowed by Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. This year, both Staples and Lamar have released EPs that seem to take the greatness of their previous releases and progresses their sound in fascinating ways.  Staples has always made music that is aggressively grimy and murky, yet never in an alienating way. He has somehow been able to keep his music incredibly accessible and challenging at the same time, which is quite a feat to accomplish, especially with hip hop music. Prima Donna somehow finds Staples pushing these conflicting aspects of his music to their limits, making this at times the most challenging and most accessible music he’s made to date. Although there are only six songs on the EP and it’s a short listen, Staples covers more sonic territory than most hip hop albums do in eighteen tracks. These beats are simply mind blowing from start to finish with some real artistic bangers going on. It’s an incredible EP from a real rising star in the hip hop world that simply can’t be missed.  words by Brian LaBenne


Red Pill – Instinctive Drowning (Mello Music Group)


Detroit rapper Red Pill’s sophomore MMG album is unlike anything we’ve heard from him in the past. While his first album Look What This World Did To Us was composed mostly of vintage samples referencing hip hop’s golden age, this record is more creative and daring. Producer Ill-poetic implemented a live band to give the record more physicality, jumping from rock to jazz to psychedelia, sometimes in the same song. In a way this is Pill’s magnum opus, his artistic breakthrough, and his most personal work to date. While his lyrics have always been comically dark, deprecating, and brutally honest dealing with issues of depression, alcoholism, and low self-esteem this record looks at them through a different lens. Reflecting on major life events such as the death of his mother due to substance abuse and wonders what that means for his future. He relates these issues to existentialism, and social and political topics, this record establishes Red Pill as a seriously deep thinker with big ideas. This is one of the most ambitious and interesting rap albums you’ll hear this year and maybe this century.


De La Soul – and the Anonymous Nobody (A.O.I. LLC)


The cover of De La Soul’s new album is awesome. There are two people on a stage in front of a mob of angry people. One of them says “What are you doing?  Nobody can stop them!” and the other person at the microphone responds with “I am nobody!” This cover is a great representation of what De La Soul’s music has always been: wittily empowering. and the Anonymous Nobody is a great hip hop album, even if it’s not totally a De La Soul album. Really it should be billed as “De La Soul and Friends” due to the sheer volume of guest features they have. The guests range from Jill Scott and Snoop Dogg to David Byrne and Damon Albarn, resulting in an album that makes you bob and scratch your head in equal measure. It’s an album that looks inward and outward, forward and backward all at the same time. It’s both inward and outward as De La Soul handled production on every track, yet recruited a diverse collection of artists to collaborate with. It looks both forward and backward as there are some really unique sounds to hip hop happening, yet it still has the old school heart of De La Soul. Overall, it’s just a joy to listen to, especially for old school hip hop fans yearning for new De La Soul material.  words by Brian LaBenne


Glass Animals – How To Be A Human Being (Caroline Records)


UK-based Indie-pop band Glass Animals first album, Zaba, is best described by it’s lead single “Gooey,” with dark, sexy grooves and Dave Bayley’s breathy vocals they seemed to be an Alt-J imitation. However, with their sophomore release they’ve breathed new life into the sound they toyed with on Zaba, and brought it to a whole new level.  Produced by the band under the guidance of veteran Paul Epworth (Grammy winning producer for Adele’ s “Rolling in the Deep) every song has exciting new sounds and elements backed by their signature primitive percussion. They reference many genres “The Other Side of Paradise” is reminiscent of Genuwine’s “Pony,” and “Poplar St.” has Red Hot Chili Peppers-esque guitar, songs are ornamented with samples and synthetic sounds adding subtle yet noticeable production value. Bayley tells vivid stories inspired by the myriad of people they encountered during their two years of touring, injecting his own experience and emotion into them. These songs examine relationships, whether it’s the absentee mother speaking to her abandoned son on “Youth,” the young man being seduced and torn apart by an older woman on “Poplar St.,” the dissapointed lover on “Pork Soda,” or the disgusted lover on, “Season 2 Episode 3,” this album really does ponder How To Be A Human Being. These stories play out like Tarantino Movies (probably intentionally as one of their past songs is called “Black Mambo”), they may not have happy endings (or beginnings or middles) yet the songs are surprisingly bright and insanely catchy. This album got me hooked on a band I didn’t really care about before, Zaba showed glimpses of what this band could be and How To Be A Human Being stares it in the face.


 

Motion Graphics – Motion Graphics (Domino Records) 


This year we’ve seen a lot of artists mixing digital and analog sounds to make their music dynamic. However, Joe Williams’ debut album as Motion Graphics sounds like a mixtape from a robotic dimension, the album art confirms this, bearing the image of a mechanical creature examining it’s own hand. The only sound on this album that isn’t made up of 1s and 0s is Williams’ voice, and even thought is often heavily effects laden. This album captures what the future might sound like and is intended to mimic the chaos of our tech-obsessed society. Often the compositions sound like a strange sort of machinery rising and falling, sometimes overpowering Williams’ vocals. Even the song titles sound like terms from a foreign, such as “Houzzfunction,” “Vistabrick,” and “Mezzotint Gliss.”  Not only is this album unlike any electronic music you’ve heard before, but is an almost prophetic caricature of the digital age.


Space Mountain – Big Sky (Dust Etc.)


Cole Kinsler is the deep, drawling voice behind the act Space Mountain.  For the past three or so years he’s been putting out solid folk-ish music and his most recent album, Big Sky, is probably his best.  Musically this is classic indie folk meets rock, which feels like it could have been recorded in the 90s.  It has a definite Pavement vibe going for it, but also has its own voice as well.  As good as the music is, Kinsler’s vocal performance is the main draw here.  It is deep and rich and at times registers so low its astounding that the human ear can hear it.  There are similarities between Kinsler’s voice and Stuart Berman from Silver Jews, or to a lesser degree Stephin Meritt from The Magnetic Fields.  Vocals and music combine in a glorious whole, resulting in a really solid indie-folk-rock album from a very good and criminally under-known artist you should really listen to.  words by Brian LaBenne


Banks & Steelz – Anything But Words (Warner Bros. Records)


Some of my favorite rap albums from the past few decades have some songs where the MC is killing it, the beat is fantastic, and then when we reach the chorus that standard song structure requires, and some singer (or sometimes the rapper themselves) spits out a mediocre chorus with sloppy rhymes. That is sometimes the case on this record, unfortunately that singer is indie-rock legend and Interpol frontman Paul Banks. However, this is not the case with every song, on tracks like “Gonna Make It” Banks’ vocals and songwriting shine. And just like the choruses on the albums from back in the day, they do grow on you and with each successive listen you come to love them for what they are. Now the other member of this group, Wu Tang’s RZA is at the top of his game. This album shows us a new side of both members, and it is especially apparent with RZA. While there is still some classic Wu-Tang fury, we see a more pensive and mature side to ol’ Bobby Steelz, with many songs about love and his family. On “Wild Season” he talks about how the birth of his daughter brought him back from a dark bout of substance abuse. Though the instrumentation is somewhat all over the place it works well with the new quirky style of these two, RZA himself said this is the strangest project he’s worked on (strange in a cool way). The guest list on this album includes Wu-Tang Clanmates Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, and Method Man; Florence + The Machine’s Florence Welch; and rap legend Kool Keith. Despite it’s flaws this album is fierce, funny, and sometimes extremely insightful and powerful, from one of the most unique and entertaining rap-rock supergroups we’ve ever seen.


 

This is Past Sounds. Every Friday Ghettoblaster Magazine is looking back and finding great music from various eras. We dug up some gems that sound great no matter what decade they’re played in. So strap in as we take a musical journey, back in time.

Daniel Johnston – Psycho Nightmare (Fun, Atlantic Records) 1994


Daniel Johnston is a complex guy, but I would sum him up as a schizophrenic, prolific folk-rock savant and master songwriter. The majority of his catalog consists of tapes that he recorded and passed out himself, gaining a following in the Austin Music scene in the 80’s, and the attention of Kurt Cobain in the 90s. Fun was Daniel’s major label debut, and his first (and last) album for Atlantic, who signed him while he was committed to a mental health facility following a schizophrenic episode. This song talks about one of these episodes, his “psycho nightmare,” showing how it is both wondrous and terrifying at the same time.  Though he suffers from a specific affliction, Daniel is a master of making his music honest and relatable as he talks about, “The lonely looney one inside of us all.” This song is the most punk Daniel gets, yet it is very upbeat and hopeful, “Every single thing you dream up could happen to you.” Daniel had one of the roughest roads to walk, but his passion for art and life carried him through and he is still making music to this day. I encourage everyone to explore his entire catalog, he is one of the greatest songwriters of our time, and I highly recommend the documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston, his story is truly remarkable and inspiring.


 

Holy Fuck – Lovely Allen (LP, Young Turks) 2007


Recently, I was Stalkifying one of my friends (that’s a term I coined for when you stalk people on Spotify) and he recommended this song to me. I only knew Holy Fuck from their newest album which is very distorted and fracture electronic music, so I was surprised to hear this bright, orchestral piece from them. This song starts with the strings repeating a phrase, they add layers until it builds to a glorious crescendo. This is a beautiful instrumental, which made me discover a whole new side to this band.


Mother Mother – Polynesia (Touch Up, Last Gang Records) 2007


When I was in High School one of the nearby high school radio stations introduced me to some amazing music, like MGMT and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. On that station I heard this song and fell in love with the Canadian indie-rock oddballs, Mother Mother. This song is essentially, “I’m on a boat,”  but it is really about taking action rather than wishing for things to happen. They rejoice about the fact that they’re on the sea and taunt a landlocked sucker saying, “We’ll think of you and your stock white hands, building you model ships, wishing you were sailing around.” Touch Up is the band’s first and finest album, and it is anchored (get it?) by this fun little folk tune.


Cornelius – Chapter 8 “Seashore and Horizon” (Fantasma, POLYSTAR) 1997


Another catchy, nautical-themed folk tune, this one is from Multi-instrumentalist genre-hopper Keigo Oyamada a.k.a. Cornelius. His  third album, Fantasma, was an amalgam of musical styles, jumping from electronic to rock to folk. This song is done in the “cut and paste” style, basically playing DJ with his own song, adding samples and cuts in interesting ways. Before the chorus, we hear a button being pressed and it sounds like the start of another song. Then, once the chorus finishes we hear the tape rewind and return to the bouncy folk sound that we started with. Cornelius’ unique style is shown on this song, created 20 years ago, that is still considered innovative by today’s standards.


Graham Nash – Simple Man (Songs For Beginners, Atlantic Records) 1971


This heartbreaking piano ballad is, as the title implies, simple yet powerful. This comes from the Crosby, Stills, and Nash member’s  debut solo album. On it, he longs for the early days of a romance and serenades his former lover, “I just want to hold you I don’t want to hold you down.” Nash carried over the flawless harmonies of his previous band in this song, topped off with a gorgeous frontier-style fiddle that harmonizes perfectly with the piano. This song was in the film Reign Over Me in 2006 and it stuck with me all these years. It reinforces my belief that any band could have an incredible solo artist in their ranks.


 

Red Pill – Look What This World Did To Us (Look What This World Did To Us,  Mello Music Group) 2015


We featured Detroit rapper Red Pill’s group, Ugly Heroes, on The Monday Rewind this week and I stumbled upon this song in the process. On this track, he makes the shift from political to personal. It is essentially a break up song, “let me drink this beer alone, because you left me here alone.” However, the message of this song is not to look externally and blame “the world” for your problems,  but to look at what you could do differently to make things better. Red Pill produced this song himself and it samples Daniel Johnston’s Some Things Last a Long Time, using Johnston’s most beautiful ballad to create a catchy hip hop groove with a melancholy undertone.


 

Every Monday, Ghettoblaster is looking back to new albums released the previous week.  Below are the albums released June 24th that we believe are definitely worth a listen.

Ugly Heroes – Everything In Between (Mello Music Group)


In 2013, Detroit hip hop producer Apollo Brown joined forces with Detroit rapper Red Pill and Chicago rapper Verbal Kent, to make Ugly Heroes. Their second album was released this week via Apollo’s own Mello Music Group, which has put out some amazing hip hop albums this year, such as Mr. Lif’s Don’t Look Down and Open Mike Eagle’s Hella Personal Film Festival. He channels producing greats like J. Dilla and Kanye West, with every beat expertly crafted from antique soul samples, the perfect backdrop for Red Pill and Verbal Kent’s fierce rhymes. This album is filled with brilliant, powerful wordplay on a broad range of topics. On the track, A Place Called Home they address the bittersweet “rebirth” of Detroit, and the toll taken on the city’s long-time residents. On the song This World they give their no holds barred take on the big issues facing our country. Everything In Between is a powerful, personal, globally and locally political record that offers important insights into the time we are living in, and the challenges that lie ahead.


The Avett Brothers – True Sadness (American)


You would expect an album call True Sadness to be full of slow, depressing songs. However, on The Avett Brother’s ninth album they approach saddening issues with positivity and hope. Whether the subject is death, alcoholism, or divorce, the songs are upbeat and catchy. With foot-stomping, hand-clapping rhythms and infectious riffs, played on fiddle, mandolin, or banjo, the band has taken their folk/country sound and made it more accessible. The language of these lyrics is straightforward and simple, yet pensive and powerful. The overall theme of the record is sang on the titular track True Sadness, “no one is fine, take the time to peel a few layers and you’ll find true sadness.” It seems like sadness or pain is somewhat taboo in our culture. Even though it is something we are all constantly experiencing, people are embarrassed by their sadness and like to shield themselves from any unpleasantness and project the image that everything is fine when it isn’t. This album shows us that we don’t need to be ashamed of our pain, that happiness and sadness must coexist for the human experience to be complete and fulfilling.


 

DJ Shadow – The Mountain Will Fall (Mass Appeal)


20 years ago DJ Shadow’s debut album Endtroducing… pioneered the instrumental hip hop and pluderphonics genres, having been the first record made up entirely of existing recorded material. Now he continues to make strides in these genres, with his fifth studio album The Mountain Will Fall. This album feels fresher and more modern, with updated electronic sounds, but on the tracks Nobody Speak and The Slideshow, featuring collaborations with Run The Jewels and Ernie Fresh, he channels his early hip hop influences. The rest of the album is largely ambient and experimental, with DJ Shadow integrating modern technology into his vintage style. You can hear his direct effect on the music, manipulating the speed or pitch of sounds and adding in the occasional scratch to the densely layered blanket of noise. In an age where being a DJ usually means pressing play on a laptop and fiddling with some knobs, it’s good to see a true OG turntablist make listeners rethink what this genre is capable of accomplishing.


Deerhoof – The Magic (Polyvinyl)


On The Magic, Deerhoof keep the spirit of old school rock and punk alive, augmenting it with their own quirky arrangements. No two tracks sound alike on this album, sometimes synth-laden and surreal, and other times raw and rocking, juxtaposed with Satomi Matsuzaki’s airy and gentle voice, making these songs true originals. Some of these tracks were written for HBO’s Vinyl, which accounts for the early rock influence. Overall, this album visits so many different genres and styles, while still feeling cohesive and connected. This band has been playing music for over 20 years and they remain one of the most interesting bands to watch.