New Music | Friday Roll Out: L.I.F.E. Long x FATCATHAYZE 156, Helvetia, Mudhoney, White People Killed Them, Alexandra Riorden

Alexandra Riorden just released her debut full-length album Angel City Radio and I’m pressed with hesitancy to allow it to play straight through. Through the album, from beginning to end, we get a wide array of the California native’s sound. And it’s not as if the songs are bad, on the contrary, they’re quite good BUT, most of the time they don’t seem to gel with one another. There’s an orchestral pop sound vying for dominance, but it seems to be challenged by the aestheticism of the songs. The opening “Animals” is filled with harmonies, twanging guitars smothered in reverb and is a fascinating song, which is followed by “Mojo Mountain,” which is a bit odd. The melody, propelled by keyboards is there but it seems forced. Guitars leave me with an uncomfortable uncertainty, but I find solace in Riorden’s echoing voice. The aged “Day By Day” takes a journey through Brill Building days warping through time and decades while “Tenderness” I’d rather soon forget. Riorden falls back onto that same old-timey vibe on “The Barrier” with its melody and direction but that wobbly precarious feeling returns with “Living a World Away.” I don’t know. Riorden has promise but seems to need clarity in song development when focusing on an album concept.

Do we actually need to figure out what’s behind the name of this self-titled release White People Killed Them (SIGE Records). It’s an American recording by members John Dieterich (Deerhoof), composer Raven Chacon, and percussionist, conductor, and composer Marshall Trammell. This is experimentalism at its most freeing moment. Call it what you will: noise, free jazz, experimental, free noise, it doesn’t matter. I’ve never claimed to be the highest grade of weed in the dispensary but this is one of those moments when the music moves over and around my senses. When Trammell lays things down, it’s an explosive menagerie as Dieterich and Chacon wrap their instruments over it all. This isn’t like a William Hooker/Thurston Moore exploration, the instruments never bludgeon but do intensify around senses. White People Killed Them defies expectations.  

Essential Aliens (Joyful Noise Recordings) marks the return of the experimental pop of Helvetia, the project helmed by Jason Albertini (Duster). The album follows up 2020’s Devastating Map, required listening for all fans of the group. The band has remained Albertini’s project, with a rotating cast of musicians. Fortunately, the music never suffers for the shift, it’s actually welcomed. Still present are disjointed numbers that shift from one moment to the next. But it’s the odd pop sensibilities that are attractive, infectious even. For the first half of the mostly instrumental “Star Hinged Trap,” the band moves from high energy that slows down as Albertini’s almost inaudible voice peeks through, while on “Caroline Stays_The Al Snatch” the music buzzes through honeycombs, and the underlying percussion is ever constant. Albertini and his band never walk the same steps twice, alluring listeners from one angle to the next. “Does It Go Backwards” is a cute little pop number that’s distanced between listeners and the music itself. Or it could just be from his vocals and the music. Either way, the song pulls you in. we should all be diving in headfirst with Helvetia’s cleverness and sheer abandon. It’s a necessity.

Occasionally, Hip Hop exists in a vacuum, and in the deep vacuum of space, no one can hear you scream. Or speak. Or rhyme. Or even know that you’re there. L.I.F.E. Long has been a staple in NY Hip-Hop for some time, releasing albums that have received a modicum of publicity, yet always with positivity, garnering the emcee notoriety. Many aren’t familiar with the name but they should be.

On the new Urban Sportsman EP (Culture Power45), The Stronghold member L.I.F.E. Long x FATCATHAYZE 156 delivers a hefty release with just a few songs. It begins with the sturdy, minute-long “Kids On Asphalt” instrumental where FATCATHAYZE sets a tone of urban fun, with imagery of dirt-encrusted projects & tenements, littered with empty bottles & trash doesn’t distract the young boys & girls from playing on the concrete with chalked outlines for hopscotch & skelsies, and everyone listens for the distinct rhythms of girls playing double dutch. But for “48 Winds” L.I.F.E. Long & FATCATHAYZE moves everyone out of the way to plug in turntables & speakers into street lamp posts for power in order to illuminate their sound. Fatcat’s heavy Boom-Bap obviously leads the way for L.I.F.E. Long to kill the beat with his razor-sharp tongue, winding his metaphors, touching on the disenfranchised, seamlessly around the beat. The track is tighter than a muskrat’s ass and heavier than my 600+ lb. neighbor. The duo slides through “Facts Spit” where Long’s rhymes like DeNiro’s words in A Bronx Tale: It don’t take much strength to pull a trigger…the working man is a tough guy. His rhymes over the softer and melancholic beat echo harder than most. Inserted right after is the interlude “Nature Walk” which dives quickly into “Squad Goals” featuring WhiteOwl, Bobby Craves, Stress, & Rhinoceros Funk. No prisoners are taken as each member backs the other in a team effort. The beat has a nostalgically set tempo with a thickness that would make the founders jealous.

Within just the seven tracks of Urban Sportsman, L.I.F.E. Long x FATCATHAYZE 156 take listeners on a journey all throughout the five boroughs (of NY), only stopping off at four of them briefly just to make their way to the Bronx. There’s still time for a game of skelsies or Dominos, just make sure to throw this on while you play.

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Does anyone ever feel like God is looking down and smiling upon them? Or maybe you feel like Ice Cube on his “It Was A Good Day” single. Whichever way one may find themselves maneuvering in, everything seems to fall right into place. Right now, that’s how I feel, and it’s for numerous reasons but we’ll focus on one reason, right now

It’s Mudhoney. It’s always Mudhoney. It’s Every Good boy Deserves Fudge: 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Sub Pop). So yes, rarely am I excited about a deluxe rendition of an old album, but what I’m always happy about are the remastered original tracks of the album. Sure, it’s probably difficult to get more quality out of an album that was recorded to 8-track because that was how many groups did things on limited budgets but they attempt their best and the sound is stronger and brighter than when it was first released. Now many may not think it makes a difference considering Mudhoney was a punk band with levels normally set to 11 but the album isn’t credited as guitarist Steve Turner’s favorite album as a whole for no reason.

Songs here are still as fierce as they’ve ever been, from the freneticism of “Let It Slide” and “Thorn” to the challenge of “Move Out,” Man, it’s all here and nothing is missing. But the original 14 tracks have been expanded beyond that to 24 and it’s fabulous! With songs that include like the edgy “Ounce of Deception” or the alternate version of ‘Paperback Life,” and so much more, they literally kill this double album. There’s a version of “Overblown,” the band’s answer to the misinterpreted explosion of “grunge,” but that’s a story for a different time.

The second addition are the 24-track demos included at the end. Of course, songs do sound much cleaner but the band preferred something different back then. While the 5 tracks here do sound amazing, the band went with their gut and shelved them, which was the right move. “Pokin’ Around” wouldn’t be the same if Mudhoney went with the clearer poppier version.

For the band’s 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition, Mudhoney can’t miss. They didn’t. This was – this IS rather – a band that has withstood the test of time. A group that has worked through the trenches, made some missteps but landed directly on its feet. We’re all the better for it.

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