New Music | Friday Roll Out: Oddisee, The Hope Conspiracy, +/- (Plus/Minus)

Producer/lyricist Oddisee returns with And Yet Still (Outer Note), his latest 6-song EP. One can’t help but think that the D.C. artist is always about ushering in a vibe. That vibe? Well, it’s feel-good summertime music, even when it’s not in season. Through the tracks listed here, we have to note that while Oddisee’s base is within Hip-Hop, this isn’t necessarily a Hip-Hop album, that pulls from a wide array of styles. The funky “World On Fire” Oddisee knows there are problems but takes a different approach, not avoiding issues but seeing things from a different perspective altogether. The music and cooing backing vocals are so hypnotic you might forget your sleeve has caught fire. With the beautiful “Thankful For” Oddisee combines “a 4/6 Moroccan inspired rhythm with Jazz.” His lyricism here is inspiring. Oddisee has a history of quietly creating music that’s expansive and very much so creative. I’m not sure but he may just be one of the greatest musicians of our time.


As the world burns, feelings of discontent seem to swallow us all up whole. There’s no way to avoid it unless you’re actually cut off from the rest of the world but thanks to social media, societies are on the decline. Where does that leave us? Wallowing in our own anxiety, with feelings of manic depression controlling our every move as faithful relatives tell us to place our faith in Jesus, as they’re blinded political trolls. But I digress.

The Hope Conspiracy returns with a new album filled with fire & brimstone, vocalizing what we’re feeling, triggered by our own emotions. But fuck that, through Tools Of Oppression/Rule By Deception (Deathwish Inc.), the band’s venomous bite won’t let us be victimized. “Those Who Gave Us Yesterday” addresses the war machines and lies we’re told as the band channels all its rage through the music storms across this landscape of shifting dynamics as power chords blare over chilling air raid sirens. “Those who gave us yesterday created the horror of today” rings true every time I hear those words spewed from Kevin Baker’s lips. The band moves quickly though as it speeds through “The Prophets And Doom,” edging the track around Jonas Feinberg’s throbbing bassline while Baker howls through the doom and gloom, with his menacing delivery around biblical curvatures. There’s “hatred” and “despair” fitted around it and you can’t help but think if he’s being prophetic of what’s to come. You can’t help but be all in.

Throughout the album, the band doesn’t cease its relentless attack, and “Confusion, Chaos, Misery” continues to cite its points about how we’ve arrived at this moment in 2024, and while we’re not there yet, fascist systems are being tossed around. The wall of controlled cacophony makes way to a glorious rhythm of sound and there’s no escape from it or the institutionalized system forced on us all. I’ve already bought into what they’re selling here since it comes at a low price for my soul. It doesn’t get better than “The West Is Dead” though because the band is so controlled here with an infectious stuttering rhythm. The sonic beauty is unmistakable here as guitars squeal, crash, and bend notes with yet more shifting dynamics and crescendos.

Where does the band go from this point on after Tools Of Oppression/Rule By Deception? Well, I’m hopeful that no one ever puts their foot on The Hope Conspiracy’s neck because we need groups like this. Not just because the band is fond of massive sound exploration but because it continues to be a voice letting everyone know what’s wrong with our society.


Just when you thought things were all said and done, along comes a new album by +/- (Plus/Minus), the band created by James Baluyut over a couple of decades ago. But we should have a little backstory before getting into this. Baluyut once played in Versus, just another indie pop darling of a band along with his brother Edward Baluyut. The group dissolved back in 2001 and that’s when James began piecing solo work with +/- which would eventually become a full-fledged band. Versus did subsequently reform and now runs concurrently to +/-.

+/- has just released its first album in a decade, Further Afield (Ernest Jenning Recording Co.) and the band has stayed true to its ‘indietronic’ roots. Still present is the wide array of jangly guitars accented by electronics but if it needs to be said, +/- is a pop band, and an astute one at that. I’m not sure if it needs to be said but it’s a clear-cut case from beginning to end. Take “Borrowed Time” for example; there’s an endearing melody surrounded by beautiful backing harmonies with percussion that seems out of place but completely at home. The sputtering electronics added in adds in its own quirkiness to it. Now I remember first hearing the “Gondolier” single which almost hits the 7-minute mark thinking it’s spacious although it might seem too long for its own good, it seems to work. At times it’s rich & full while at other, it seems minimalistic with instrumental sparseness. Whichever direction it moves makes no difference as it coos to its eventual end.

You might wonder why such a lengthy amount of time was wasted but the patience between releases has worked out for +/- and listening to “Where I Hope We Get Lost,” you’ll realize the horns & keys moving their way across the track has been time well spent. While the songs throughout the album all play to the group’s same formula, no two songs sound the same as they’re drawn and “Redrawn” into pop masterpieces. Here the track seems to take a more straightforward approach but it remains inviting with the band’s creative fingers surrounding it.

I was going to relegate Further Afield to just a quick blurb but that wouldn’t have done +/- a disservice. The band has returned without any missteps or hiccups, instead delivering an album so majestic it could block out the sun.