New Music: Friday Roll Out! TH1RT3EN, Kiwi Jr., Camp Trash

There’s nothing like getting an early start on things, and so far, this week things have been pretty productive. Given, this has been a 4-day work week, and some don’t seem to understand that I have a lot going on. Sorry if I have the inability to answer all questions that come my way but I myself can only do so much. Balancing projects that don’t revolve around writing and such occasionally takes time away from this thing called writing. I’m only in control with what’s in front of me at the moment but when I get an early start I still tend to procrastinate. It’s fine though, considering the week’s energy from people near and far. Many don’t express how or why, but we all know.

But this week I’ve come across a few things, and one thing is the Downtiming E.P. (Count Your Lucky Stars), the debut by Camp Trash, a group of what I can only assume is a quartet of 20-somethings. There’s little information provided along with the release, aside from the fact that the group, plays a 90’s-inspired indie-pop which errs on the side of emo. We should also note that the band hails from somewhere out of Florida, and you know what Uncle Charla says about Florida: “The craziest people come from the Bronx and all of Florida.” I think I can probably agree with that since my family has always lived in, the Bronx and then Florida. Except me, I’m not that crazy.

Camp Trash wraps their songs around the dated scene and style of music. I’m not one to judge – ok, that’s not necessarily true since what I do here fully encapsulates judgment – but the band has pigeonholed itself here. While it isn’t always a bad thing, changing up a sound may not be the worst thing. The songs aren’t bad, it’s just we’ve heard them before and comparisons are warranted. I knew Superdrag before and after major label flirtations, and the opening “Bobby” reminds me of pre-major Superdrag. While it isn’t a slight on either band (I still love some of those albums), it doesn’t allow Camp Trash to have its own identity aside from 90s emo. Camp Trash embraces its influences and I applaud that, but I can only hope they attempt to do much more. Superdrag, Get Up Kids, and the like, expanded far beyond where they started. It’s only four songs here so things may change for the band.

It seems like there’s a great deal of music coming from our neighbors up north; an array of delicacies that we should all welcome. Fortunately, there isn’t a wall built to keep them all away. But music is universal and yes, we’re all truly blessed for that. That just means we can all pick and choose what we want to listen to. Me, I listen to an array of works and as I mentioned, Canada has become a source of precious gems in music.

Kiwi Jr. will have you thinking they’re originally from down under but that’s not the case. The band released its debut full-length, Football Money, just around this time last year and was a cheery explosion of pop sensibilities in which there was no way in heaven they’d be able to top. That’s it, put the nail in the coffin and walk away because they were done. That’s what I initially thought; there was no way they’d be able to continue on a tear. Of course, sometimes I’m wrong.

The band just dropped it’s sophomore effort, Cooler Returns (Sub Pop), and I’m sure members Jeremy Gaudet (vocals, guitar), Brohan Moore (drums), Mike Walker (bass), and Brian Murphy (guitar) may be exhausted with comparisons to some of those English and American indie stalwarts that have redefined indie culture. Or maybe they’re not and welcome it, stamping it with their own identifying marks because, hey, the band’s songs are fucking brilliant! Kiwi Jr. opens “Tyler” with Gaudet singing, along strummed & plucked guitars before making a dynamic change with explosive melodies & harmonies. It’s charming in its delivery. It’s difficult getting past this track, probably because I keep hitting that repeat button, but every time I listen I find something new. The underlying feedback/distortion is definitely something that stands out once discovered.

Listening to the album, there’s a sense of sheer abandon put into many tracks. The freneticism of “Highlights Of 100” doesn’t ignore melody because here, there’s loads of it. The rhythm of frantic drums & guitar will have you bobbing quickly along with the band as they hurry effortlessly through the song leaving no stone left unturned but damnit if Brohan Moore doesn’t keep me fascinated with his rumbling percussion!

Things aren’t always so quickly paced; the band slows things down a bit on “Only Here For A Haircut,” where they also includes harmonica alongside jangly and clever lead guitar lines. While a bit of a change, it remains identifiable as Kiwi Jr. But the band kicks it up a notch on the album’s title track, which smacks of authenticity! Opening the track with a rhythm that pulls out a few chords on repeat gives the band quick reprieve to turn things out. They surprise with the change in the song, bludgeoning us all with loud melodies encapsulated by infectious guitars. But Gaudet twists his words all around it and when he sings, “I am not American/but I feel the beat sometimes/when I run into the screen door/at the retreat trying to learn the new lines…” it simply sounds relatable. Then there’s “Norma Jean’s Jacket,” which is infectious like no other song here and it’s probably the plink of those piano notes, attached to guitars, that leave me smitten. The melody and vocal harmonies wind up and down and leave me in admiration with how Kiwi Jr. culls this all into an amazing pop song.

Definitively, there’s so much more we haven’t even touched on with Cooler Returns and I could spend all day discussing the benefits of plugging this in and tuning the world out. The album is filled with 13 tracks and I really can’t see myself feeling exhausted listening to it. The band may fill as much as they can within each song but it’s well worth it. With just two albums in, Kiwi Jr. is set to fill the ranks of one of my favorite bands. Ever!

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That moment you believe you’re almost waxing poetic to someone in regard to rappers that continually mumble their words while there are those that have continued to wrap prose around confections of style and skill, and you’re put in your place when told there’s a lane for everyone. Ok sure, but people get wise to imitative talent and there’s usually a crashing pile up ending in a bloody mess.

Now while years ago Mos Def took a stab at leading his rock band Black Jack Johnson, today marks the release of A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism (Fat Beats), by Th1rt3en, that band led by Pharoahe Monch, along with drummer Daru Jones (Jack White), and guitarist extraordinaire, Marcus Machado. In 2020 the group released two singles that gave a startling idea of what was to come, and just yesterday Th1rt3en shared another fiery & venomous “Cult 45,” which wasn’t so much a stab at our 45th President as it was towards his fanatical followers. All three tracks left me enthralled, leaving my mouth watering for much, much more. With the group’s first single off the album “Fight (feat. Cypress Hill),” they pulled no punches volleying words around racial clashes with “Fight, fight, the n*ggas and the cops, the n*ggas don’t win, the n*ggas get shot…” observe the obvious as both Pharoahe and B-Real, actually wax poetic, circling words around steroid-filled law enforcement, as “bodies are left on streets to die.” But it’s B-Real’s simple words that strike chords with “This little piggy killed a minor/same piggy got paid to stay home/this next pork chop removed his bodycam/and he just blocking my dome/this fat fuck prefers chokeholds/steroids changes his mode/he shoots his blood with testosterone just to follow that American code.” It’s easily deciphered and deals with reality. Monch’s analogies through clever wordplay is much deeper and forces the average listener to think. We sholdn’t forget Jones and Machado though as they both rock with a force that would make Bonham & Jimmy Page proud. Jones, consistently keeps that heavy beat bumping while Machado’s layered guitar is easily enticing.

“666 (Three Six Word Stories)” slows the pace down allowing the funky rhythm to dominate alongside Monch’s lyrical delivery. His comparative skills far exceed most, as his expressiveness of firearms/words are clear when he compares “the thing on him” with “29 books of rhyme, words are bullets/pages are the clips that hold unlimited ammunition/I just committed a crime…” Wooo! My ears are on fire from that one. Th1rt3en’s mélange of funk & soul with aggressive guitars on “Goat’s Head” as Pharoahe Monch emcees and sings, it’s the stuff of legend. Guitars and drums are repetitive without being repetitious and it suits Monch perfectly as the wordsmith that he is. “I’ve got the ice on my watch like an undocumented immigrant”? Monch has always been nice with his metaphorical & similes twist.

All three members make things seem much too easy. While they recently performed on NPR’s Tiny Desk Series, “The Magician” is one track they included in their set. Given, tracked on the album the joint’s guitars are overdubbed, adding much more texture to the song. Performing it live, they share another aspect of Th1rt3en. What’s missing in texture is just added in flavor & seasoning.

A Magnificent Day For An Exorcism is an exercise, or rather a call to arms and a response to the last 4 to 400 years, an unequivocal answer to knees on necks, bullets in backs, and death cries from chokeholds. It’s angry, sometimes abrasive, and fully worth every minute! Th1rt3en is the new normal.

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