When you’re having a bad week, you have to try and let it slide right as you move on to the next thing. That’s a suggestion most will give but let’s be honest, it still lingers. No matter how much you try, there are remnants and you can just choose to ignore it. Out of state, out of mind. Yeah, that works best, for me anyway. Unfortunately, if I choose to avoid it, I’m not going to refer to it again, whether it be an issue with a friend, music, an artist in general, and hey, possibly family. But I digress from what’s at hand here.
We move from one problem to another, and the second has been rooted in American culture for centuries. It’s hate; hate for others based on skin color and differences down to the essence of blackness. Some of us can roll with anyone but for many, those differences mean people of culture, or rather, color, are beneath them. Throughout the years we’ve all seen the brutality poured onto the African American community, people who didn’t deserve that brutality or even death. I’ve witnessed situations first hand and can attest to it. We all thought the coronavirus was a lot to deal with yet now, we’re on the brink of imploding.
MC Longshot has been at it for quite some time and these days, like many others, the death of George Floyd was the explosive catalyst for his new #ImSaying E.P. This brief look at situations from the last few months. Who better right now to speak his truth than Longshot? The Chicago rapper relocated to Minneapolis and has seen violence firsthand. With his latest release, he tapped into producer Omen for a dark tour de force in lyrical content underscored by Omen. The opening track Longshot offers up a look at nomadic people of color, traveling through a whitewashed land, far from fitting in, with very few options. His words ring truth, with killings of men and women walking, or just being at home, killed just for being black. When he ends it with, “Please stop killing my brothers, please stop killing my sisters,” the mournful delivery is powerful. “Salutations” Longshot quickly rhymes over a frenetic beat. Here he quietly delivers the opening “They hate you, can’t wait to, assassinate you” before his tales of police ignorance are wrapped around a melody that’s infectious. Within six tracks, Longshot captures the emotions running rampant on streets. His closing “BID” is powerful and his words, “This is not a call for violence, this is a call for revolution/this is a call for change, and if you can’t get with it, you will get left behind.” Yes, Longshot know what to say and when to say it. This release though isn’t about capitalizing on what’s happening, it’s about mourning and change.
This is the second time I come across Hinds, the quartet out of Madrid and I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last. The band is rooted with a deep fascination with pop music and the group’s third full-length release The Prettiest Curse (Mom+Pop Records), offers it up in full detail. There are moments when they come across as sensual (“Good Bad Times”) and at others, quirky (“Just Like Kids Miau”). There’s no cure for the band’s ails, which flutter around seamlessly, stoking the flames with melody, with loads of harmonies in excess. There’s a grandeur to Hinds method or madness – your choice – but whatever you find, there’s no doubt the interest factor will keep you entertained. The band can take a crescendo (“Riding Solo”) and milk it for all it’s worth, while at the same time utilize straight-forward melodies in both English and Spanish (“Boy”). Yes, the band sometimes odd in its delivery and composition but in the end, it’ll turn out oddly addictive.
The record industry is pretty tapped out on the abrasive sounds that have been male-dominated for some time now. It’s been done, it’s overrated and the expansive sea of machismo is tiring. If I were here leading a musical congregation, I’m sure I’d get an echoing “AMEN!” from the rafters.
Momma is a group that’s a quartet but obviously led by guitarists/vocalists Etta Friedman & Allegra Weingarten who have been honing their skills for the better part of four or five years now. The group’s last full-length, 2018’s Interloper, while filled with a wide array of vocal harmonies, was a bit scattershot in focus, while the group’s 2016 Thanks Come Again E.P., was a charming indie dirge that I appreciate. The band just released its sophomore full-length Two of Me (Danger Collective Records) and it looks like the members have found their stride.
While the Friedman & Weingarten wear some of its influences on their sleeves, it isn’t made apparent on songs here. Idealism may have some contributing factors but not in style or craft. Both learned early on how to flesh out keen melodies through their own harmonies, which is clear here. They’ve also learned how to play with dynamics, as we can all here on the opening “Bug House.” The only complaint of the track itself, which has had countless plays on our end here, is defining the dynamic shifts a little clearer. Although when you think of it, that haphazard feel of the song adds to the charm. It ends, filled with distortion and dissonance as the song dissolves quietly. The band does bolster a thicker bottom end with drums, which is obvious on “Biohazard,” as the group once again plays with its dynamics and experiments with more vibrato effects. Ever present is the band’s penchant for coo’d harmonies as well while delivering it all right over the top. There’s never any reason to shout as the band moves from dynamic track to dynamic track, allowing instruments and notes to be heard, played off guitars as they rattle and shake. But Momma isn’t a one trick pony and she’s here to let you know that.
“Double Dare” jangles away while remaining completely cohesive within the mix of songs, as does “Carney” which is a bit more subdued but remains unequivocally Momma. It sets the pace and mood for “Ready Runner,” filled with an absurd amount of sweetness and delicacy which includes some odd noise before closing out sweetly.
With Two Of Me, Momma seems to just be scratching at the surface and could possibly turn into the next big thing because this album is filled with lustrous melodies, roughly-edged bombast, and insanely cleverly written songs. Momma gives hope to 2020 when it seemed all was lost.
I’m at a crossroads here, where I’m not certain if I can adequately define something based on its singularity. An astute fan of diversity, what’s most enjoyable about a release is its ability to coalesce with songs a group delivers in one shot without sounding…redundant.
I put Confetti Teeth (Freakout Records) to the test here and the more I listen to the latest album by The Grizzled Mighty, the more I find discomfort in the band’s music. It’s not because the Confetti Teeth, the group’s fourth full-length, is a bad album, but because the songs all contain a sameness from track to track. Given, the band is good at what they do, really good. The trio opens Confetti Teeth with “Rewind,” filled with distorted guitars and a punked-up attitude and rhythm that’s non-stop. Heads and hands will be thrown up with the next coming of rock n roll to induce listeners and seduce crowds. There’s a bluesy twang to the band, heard on “Sun Valley” that soon shifts raucously with a treated vocal delivery allowing psychedelia to permeate, keeping it as an element but not the basis of the song because the band is here to turn shit up and out and guitars crash into one another while drums slam symbols throughout.
From this point on though, Confetti Teeth lacks a healthy amount of bite that we haven’t already heard before. Then band’s sound, while holding steady, also shares a caterwauling sameness. We all know it’s the same band; yes those are the same guitars, yes on the vocals and drums as well. While the band holds it together with tightness, power, volume levels, the members fail to show more diversity from track to track. We can all see it coming. Even on the slower “Lazy Susan,” I commend the band for its change in tempo, but it sounds like the same band.
The problem here is that Confetti Teeth leaves the group in a space where no one wants to be; on a fence where you know the band is capable of doing so much more but doesn’t deliver here.
Yes, we can sometimes be and feel out of touch. I’m not much different. Although, there are moments my attempts at feigning knowledge regarding an artist just don’t seem to work out well. I stopped faking it some time ago and there’s no need to attempt that here. Yes, I’m new to the fold and I think I may have to apologize to the artist for my ignorance.
Vinyl Williams has just released his fifth album with Azure (Requiem Pour Un Twister) and while it may not surprise many of my own lack of knowledge of the artist, I’m quite sure many of you have never heard of him either. But the music Williams creates, while it’s intuitive and heady, it’s not something that needs much introspection to understand right off the bat. With that said mind you, this isn’t a simple affair pieced together as simple pop music, far from it. Azure is akin to listening to a psychedelic pop fantasy. It’s a fantastical journey that enables listeners to visualize the space-aged concepts we’ll all eventually rummage throughout. I feel a need to address this further, but I also want listeners to form their own opinions about Azure because it’s fascinating in its refined and subtle beauty.
Williams and his band of players don’t allow the songs to drift aimlessly without direction, but instead, control the music with minimal force. It’s almost as if songs are given the autonomy to choose their own directions. Strange I know but bear with me for a moment. From the beginning, “LA Egypt” is seductive and will have you completely enamored with the Williams’ breathy vocals over a subtle delivery of enchanting instruments, gliding in and out while working seamlessly together. The opening strings wrapping around an infectious bassline as guitar strike back and forth with urgency. Don’t misunderstand, this isn’t a 60s indoctrination taking us all back to a time of flower power and drug-induced compositions. This is far more than that and I’d be offended if anyone looked at it that way. This is in fact, the next level in the evolution of songwriting and craft.
Could there be anything more to say about the artist that I haven’t already even alluded to? Well, this isn’t about just one song, there are others that stand out and will undoubtingly stand the test of time. Mithras takes a different approach moving at a quicker pace, staccato rhythms as Williams’ voice adds much more depth while “Soft Soul” is as captivatingly airy as anything ever recorded before. Musically, this subdued track reflects the beauty of life itself and I just don’t think it can get any better than that.
It’s difficult not to find oneself completely enveloped within the confines of Azure but once you’re in, you’ll never want to leave and it will be as if you’ve never experienced much before it. I implore you, find a quiet spot and get lost in the music.
There are some artists that require little to no introduction. When that occurs, there’s obvious cache value behind it, as well as a distinct amount of recordings left in its wake. The latter doesn’t represent it in full but the former, well, influential might be an understatement.
Peter Kember has written and recorded music under the Sonic Boom moniker for decades now, including during his time in the influential Spacemen 3. While both Sonic Boom and Jason Pearce went off to work on new music – Pearce with Spiritualized – Sonic Boom has recorded as Spectrum, E.A.R. (Experimental Audio Research) and has collaborated with a number of like-minded artists like Yo La Tengo and Stereolab. Today Sonic Boom shares his first album in 30 years under the pseudonym which leaves those of us wondering what took so long.
One thing about Sonic Boom and all of his recordings; he’s always made everything look and seem so easy and here on All Things Being Equal (Carpark Records) it doesn’t seem much different. Kember has always had a fascination with experimenting on his music, which suits everyone just fine because here there’s nothing flashy, obtuse, or bland, just quality pop songs delivered the only way Sonic Boom can: through a musical prism only he has available. From beginning to end, pleasantries are made with background noise over clear melodies. That’s not to say anything added to the songs are filler, everything is done with intent. Listening to the opening “Just Imagine,” which clocks in at almost 8-minutes, the song is enveloped in repetition without being repetitious, and every sound, every nuance serves its purpose. On “Spinning Those Coins And Wishing On Clovers,” he takes a more laconic approach vocally as he speaks lines, waxing poetic as the hazy music’s trippy vibe is unrelenting. It’s wickedly odd but just as damn good. But it’s “Tawkin Tekno” that gets my attention as the electronic output is quirkily delivered but leaves me utterly fascinated by its tones and layered sounds.
All Things Being Equal is a return to form for Sonic Boom, creating stunning landscapes through experimentation and pop music. While I wonder if Sonic Boom even left, this new album shows he still has a thing or two to show those kids following in his own footsteps.