New Music | Friday Roll Out: Cosmic Kitten, Atmosphere, Elusive, Five Fingers Of Funk, Durand Jones

Producer/beatmaker Elusive returns with his latest offering, the charming Stimuli (Alpha Pup), a storied instrumental release that seems to take on a life all its own. The beats, the melodies, its rhythm itself at times seems like it’s going to fall apart through its juxtaposed scratchiness but never does. The rhythms are hypnotic and sometimes convey childlike innocence and never relay a message of over-indulgence. The right amount of delicate simplicity fills the air around it. Stimuli is quite the winner in every sense of the word. The album bookend’s Elusive’s release last month, This Version Of Life perfectly.

I guess it was only a matter of time before we saw a solo release for the incomparable Durand Jones of Durand Jones & the Indications, that soulful R&B pop group out of Bloomington, Indiana although Jones himself hails from his hometown of Hillaryville, Louisiana. But it’s Wait Till I Get Over (Dead Oceans) that we’re here to focus on. This is more of that good-good soul Jones brings with his raspy vocal delivery. While there’s obviously similarities with that of his group, and his voice is unmistakable, there’s a tailored and subdued grandiose feel within the deliver of the songs that comprise the album. This is wickedly amazing and Durand Jones is an artist reborn.


Alternative. Post Grunge. These are some words that no one wants to see anymore because they’re outdated and cast a shadow of misnomers. Yes, there are others that seem to have stood the test of time but these? Well, with the rise and fall of “grunge,” and how it was depicted throughout the media and film, you’d think no one would want to remain closely associated with it. But it appears from time to time, as does the watered-down “alternative.”

Enter: Cosmic Kitten, the little band out of Long Beach, California that’s intent on being heard. Now while the band plays with loudly distorted guitar, the band’s fervor and penchant for the abrasive is commendable. Laugh Of A Lifetime is the trio’s what, fourth full-length offering(?) and the band – guitarist Karen Marie, drummer Zack Huckabee, and bassist Jay Vesper – do their best to convey the emotion and energy for what they do. Hell, even the band’s own list of influences, which I’ll refrain from mentioning here, is broad and no one could disagree with their fine taste in music. But the music, let’s get back to the music.

No one can front on the fact that Cosmic Kitten does things in ways it’s most comfortable, conveying track after track of sharp-edged guitars and pummeling rhythms, and with the opening “Live By The Sea,” we get an immediate idea of what Cosmic Kitten is about. Marie’s lazy drawl and melodies are as sharp as the harmonies the band delivers. But it’s on “All The World” where we get more from the band. One thing I’ll give the band is the 90s nod here, although Marie’s screaming antics fit within the song’s aesthetic, nudging its punk fury further out. Cosmic Kitten showers us with more wall of guitars than anyone knows what to do with them on “Laugh Of A Lifetime” as sputtering guitars/rhythms offer brief but quick stop/starts.  It’s pretty exquisitely done here and it’s those little nuances that allow one to appreciate an artist. We get a bit more from the band as it plays with dynamics a bit on “Songbird” where Marie’s voice is most fitting as guitars wail melodically and Huckabee’s crashing cymbals fit wherever they fall.

There’s no such thing as perfection but if I were a gambling man I’d say “Count Me In” is pretty damn fucking close. The band goes haywire here with a wall of sound that’s relentless. It grabs onto a rhythm and milks it for all its worth as Marie howls into the microphone with venomous bite. The rhythm is earth-shattering, and while the track may be an exercise in the group’s own thunderous ability, they include interesting melodies in between.

Are there any complaints about Cosmic Kitten? Well, Karen Marie should explore her vocal deliveries more but Laugh Of A Lifetime is a worthy release that should find the band a slew of new fans, me included.


Grown-assed Hip-Hop? Economical vehicle rappers? There are a number of variables at play here and I don’t diss for the diss’ sake but if there hasn’t been an inkling of material to surface over the last 20+ years, is there a reason to record and release new music? Ok well, maybe sometimes. There are those artists that withstand the test of time and after 18 years, ATCQ released new material which forced Jarobi White out of a self-imposed retirement and ATCQ was obviously the better for it. But not everyone can be an ATCQ.

And that leads us to Five Fingers Of Funk and its first release in over two decades, Portland Say It Again (Kill Rock Stars). The Hip-Hop band was mostly relegated to regional familiarity, with a limited reach back in the day because there was nary a word mentioned of the group back east. For many, this will be the first time ever hearing about the group but that comes as no surprise, the one thing that can be said of the 10-man piece which includes its own horn section is how dated it sounds. On “Til The Night Is Through (featuring Dres of Black Sheep and Bosco)” hollow words, “Back on the mic I feel the long hiatus, self-conscious about the song maybe my flow is outdated” nails it perfectly. They do seem outdated, stuck in the repetitive 90s, circling around with nowhere to go. It’s a tough call because the music itself, isn’t so bad as soulful jams, funk tracks wrapped in keys, bass, horns, etc. are never constricted by the words flowing around it.

Where does this leave Five Fingers Of Funk? I’m not so sure. The good news? It’s a big playing field and I can say with all certainty there is a niche for this style but Portland Say It Again is rife with rhyme schemes that are nestled right in the past that haven’t moved forward, probably since the year 2000.


Do you ever imagine what’s left once goals are conquered? Well, you obviously set upon conquering a new set, never choosing to color between the lines or allowing naysayers to dictate your own worth. This is the plan that is set in motion, directly maneuvering through the mire of countless releases by the many. Goals. Slug of Atmosphere has brought it up in the past and apparently, he’s about that life.

After a number of releases, Atmosphere – the aforementioned Slug as well as producer Ant – deliver its proper 13th full-length release, So Many Other Realities Exist Simultaneously (Rhymesayers). While Atmosphere has been known for its heady and sometimes oddly infectious Hip-Hop, the duo seems to continuously challenge itself and on the new release, it isn’t much different. Ant & Slug opens with “Okay,” musically a light-hearted jaunt where Ant pulls in a late 60s Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell vibe through keystrokes and other instruments while Slug waxes poetically. Slug takes a world view of his own surroundings, sharing outlooks, taking the negative and flipping it positively searching for better days. This is a Slug we can all sit down with for a cup of coffee or tea. This isn’t to say the album is full of just shiny-happy-people rhetoric floating around, there’s a slew of emotions conveyed. “It Happened Last Morning,” sends you reeling, confused, no idea where things are going but then Slug moves through an array of anxieties over staticky beats and spacey electronics. All this and we’re not even halfway through the album.

With 20 songs, there’s a lot to listen to and dissect. “Positive Space” is left somewhere between emotions, flowing with a clear head-nodding melody as Slug’s juxtaposed words leave you wondering if the guidance he’s offering is riddled with sadness. It works regardless. “Bigger Pictures” runs through life like a Lewis Capaldi number as Slug sketches out a view of his life throughout decades. The musical composition that accompanies it, while fitted with melancholia, isn’t too lugubrious. It’s Slug’s delivery at the end that changes that though. There are a number of moments throughout the album that showcase interlude-like, and that’s a problem. Not because they’re redundant or useless, but because they should have been expanded on. The brief “Sterling” hits hard and Slug’s rhyming over the one-minute and twelve-second song seems to stop short. The same with “Crop Circles” because we know there’s much more to be offered. But it’s “Truth & Nail” where there’s a disservice to the melody here. The brevity of the instrumental track should have been expanded on. Possibly one of my favorite tracks that’s cut short way too soon. But Atmosphere makes up for it on the angry “Sculpting With Fire,” a dirge with a deep bottom end that moves in darkness as Slug finds reason for existence, as he questions everything with statements and finding answers within his own words.

Through So Many Other Realities Exist Simultaneously we get the evolution of Atmosphere, continuously pursuing new boundaries to break through, leaving no stone unturned. Atmosphere isn’t trying to fit in, it’s creating its own space where it can welcome others to do the same. That alone is dope AF.