TOEHEADS – ANIMAL HOUSE (PAINTED TAPES)
This album has been passed around from person to person and still, no one can tell me what in the world is a “toehead.” Is it the actual head of a toe? I imagine one toe giving another toe fellatio, but that can’t be right either. In any event, I’m willing to take a stab at this one.
Toeheads is a band out of Detroit, and yeah, that’s unmistakable there. The group is a three-piece made up of Jack on guitar, Joey on bass, and Derek on drums. If you know anything about Detroit and garage rock, just know that Toeheads is all about that dirty, noisy skronk that sits somewhere between loud & obnoxious and punch drunk & dreamy. The band’s Animal House E.P. (Painted Tapes) is direct and to the point. An unnecessary amount of attention isn’t required but the band, well, they are somewhat captivating within the song structured brevity. Everything moves pretty quickly, and that makes sense since half of the 6 songs here are under the 2-minute mark. They shout, they scream, they allow their toes, I mean instruments, to take them where they want to go. The opening “Sea of Tears” moves through the sludgy waters of Detroit just within a few chords, while “Human Song” gives everyone a one-two punch!
While the songs may lean towards quick explosiveness, the band isn’t screwing around. We definitely hear that on the closing “Graveyard Walk” which is over 4-minutes long and takes a different approach altogether as the band gets a bit melancholic and the background harmonies work well. Musically, they turn down the distortion levels but remain pretty volatile, in the best sense of the word. They eventually turn things up but not enough to distract from the song itself. The song sounds like it was birthed by the Doors’ deviled offspring.
Toeheads have caught my attention, not just with its name but also with Animal House, which is both annoying and provocative at the same time. Will I listen to this again? Of course I will, the band really isn’t that annoying. They’re onto something here and I’m willing to hop on board and find out what else they have to offer up.
VANGARDE [MR. LIF & STU BANGAS] (Fatbeats)
People have a tendency to underestimate an artist’s worth and value. It may happen often and the buzz hasn’t circulated around a few rappers in some time, and while Mr. Lif has had his fair share of press, some may think he’s all but vanished. That’s not the case though because throughout the past few years he’s continually released material, and his lyrical skill is completely intact.
Lif’s first album, I Phantom, was re-released by Mello Music Group in 2015 which was followed by his label debut Don’t Look Down in 2016, which was bookended by his collab with . In 2017 Mr. Lif joined forces with Brass Menazeri for a unique musical collaboration.
Coming together as Vangarde, this is the new self-titled release from Mr. Lif who is joined by fellow Bostonian and beatmaker, Stu Bangas. The album follows up Lif’s 2018 Perceptions’ (w/ Akrobatik) Low Resolution remix, which was culled from 2017’s Resolution (Mello Music Group). But the new Vangarde release and this new one hits hard, both lyrically and musically. The two seem to traverse time and space through turn of the century beats and rhymes that creep through the year when time stopped. Lif’s lyrics expound around today’s social climate and subjects that are topical, i.e. racism, quarantine, coronavirus, financial inequity, and more. Listening to “Wave The Flag feat. Insight and Eternia” speaks volumes. It’s ominous, with lyrics that are all too familiar of Reaganomics’ trickle-down theory, as small businesses have folded, Karenisms, and police states. It’s eerie but mirrors modern-day culture.
I don’t think there’s one song that both smacks listeners in the face with such force like the catchy, yet forces a conversation than “8 Minutes 46 Seconds.” The track features Puma Ptah, as he sings on the hook, while Lif shares bars with Blueprint, Reef The Lost Cauze, and MURS. Named after the amount of time it took to kill George Floyd, the emcees take “I can’t breathe” to another level, with lyricism revolving around hate, consumerism, protests, police brutality, death, and authoritarian agendas. There’s anger all around the track, and rightly so. Lyrics are matched throughout as each artist takes a turn with descriptive wording but all sharing a singular vision.
The next couple of years might be just as difficult as everyone attempts to navigate through both working remotely, social distancing, and such. Mr. Lif unleashes his words on “The New Normal,” where his words obviously speak volumes. There’s no sitting back but moving forward. On “Now Is Only Now” Lif gives hope for the future instead of focusing on what’s in front of us. Sometimes it’s easier said than done.
There are a number of guest appearances here which also include Blacastan and Akrobatik that shouldn’t be ignored on this release. But Stu Bangas beats fit seamlessly around Mr. Lif’s words and the array of artists that are included here. It’s a catchy album with lyrics that prove he’s still a vital part of Hip-Hop. Don’t let it go ignored.