It’s the return of Homeboy Sandman, known to friends and fam as Angel, who hasn’t gone very far and is consistently releasing material to chew on. While his 2019 album Dusty found him alongside Mono en Stereo, he followed it up with 2020 full-length Don’t Feed The Monster (w/ Quelle Chris). This time around with the Anjelitu EP (Mello Music Group), he’s traveling along with his Lice cohort Aesop Rock on the beat(s). The production frolicking throughout the 6 track release is what we’d expect from Aes; dense, gooey, and deeply riveting with heavy bass sounds. It’s fitting considering the verbose Sandman is able to wrap his words around just about anyone’s beats (see: his last two releases), but whether it’s the sputtering beat of the opening “Go Hard” or the driving rhythm of “Lice Team Baby,” where we find Aesop Rock trading barbs with the Sandman. If there’s one track that stands out from the rest it’s “Cow’s Milk” where Aes brings in shifting dynamics, pausing when necessary. There are only a handful of emcees that are able to pull off subject matter like this with speedy linguistic moves and Homeboy Sandman is one. With just a few songs, Sandman gives us all just a taste of what’s to come. It’ll probably be something we don’t expect but with Homeboy Sandman we should expect the unexpected.
Turning points come often, and I often come to those points myself. Some question and tell me how I need to relinquish some of the music I loved in my youth. “You’re not 21 anymore,” they say, and while that may be true, fuck that. I just discovered JOHN and I’m left questioning, “Why haven’t you sought me out like Daniel Day-Lewis did Madeleine Stowe in Last Of The Mohicans???” We could have been such great friends you two and I, but I guess it’s better late than never. The London duo of John Newton (drums, lead vocals) and Johnny Healey (guitar, backing vocals make quite the racket on its new Nocturnal Manoeuvres (Brace Yourself) the band’s third album, rife with 10 powerful tracks. The band delivers scorching tracks like “A Song For Those Who Speed In Built-up Areas,” loud and frenetic with shifting dynamics, and we find both instruments upfront and center, dismembering everything in its path! JOHN’s latest single “Sibensko Powerhouse” rumbles loudly, laying waste to everything in its path, which many of the songs here do. But it’s “Jargoncutter” that slices through everything here, leaving open wounds in its wake. This is cataclysmic with no rivals in sight. We should all be about Nocturnal Manoeuvres. This is easily one of the best things I’ve heard this week which I’ll be revisiting again and again.
Information Society has come a long way since its underground classic “Running” hit the club scene back in the mid-80s. But the electro/pop/punk band was far ahead of its time and had success with its self-titled debut album back in 88. After a 10-year hiatus, the group returned with three albums from 2007 to 2016, and now once again, they’re back! While some may have cast away Information Society’s new release, ODDfellows as trivial or searching for past glory, you may want to steer clear of those individuals, they live in misery. With its new album, the band may sound as retro as the 80s but it doesn’t matter, the group has gotten back to basics. The album holds a hefty amount of energy, eschewing the dance/club grooves for more of its electro-pop sounds. The group may dive deep into groove-heavy rhythms with the sample-based “Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds” or the frantic “Would You like Me If I Played A Guitar” but that’s offset by the group’s penchant for electric drum patterned rhythms of the sweet “World Enough,” or the electro sputter vibe of “Bennington.” I’m all aboard the ODDfellows train, and the sultry “the Mymble’s Daughter” seals the deal. I may have jumped the gun on the band’s dance movements because there are some here but in the end, the Minneapolis outfit has come a long way from making tour stops in the South Bronx.
With a career that spans almost 30 years, Damon & Naomi return with A Sky Record – their latest offering, in collaboration with Kurihara. The album mines the same territory the band has carefully worked throughout the years but with every subsequent release, it’s unswerving ability to pull sweet melodies into all their songs has never waned. The recordings never waver in musicianship for one thing but the beauty within, is remarkably entrancing. “Invincible” for example, moves effortlessly with Naomi Yang’s cooing vocals leading the way as in wind instruments & keys airily wind away. Drums barely resound, knowing its place around the composition. “Between The Wars” finds Michio Kurihara’s guitar almost taking on a the persona of a string instrument, alongside Damon Krukowski’s acoustic guitar. But it’s also Yang’s piano that removes masks so we’re able to witness all the beauty underneath. There’s an absurd amount of melody, harmonies, and gorgeous vocal work throughout the release as both members alternate on lead vox but it’s “Sailing By,” where Krukowski whispers are haunting, and Kurihara’s guitar notes soar. A Sky Record is just that, rolling through the clouds as we all stretch necks to catch a glimpse of it but blinded by the light above.
Through the ashes, a phoenix usually rises. Through chaos, a calming wave normally follows. As things are built, they’re destroyed, only to be restored once again. Where am I going with this? I’m not really sure but I thought that might be a precocious way to be a little more descriptive about what’s to follow here.
After three albums, Philadelphia’s Creepoid announced its dissolution back in 2017. And while the hearty rock outfit is probably missed by its numerous fans, it’s made way for the burgeoning sound of Lovelorn, which is a different side of former members, Anna and Patrick Troxell. Since 2018, the duo has worked to create something distinctly…different from its previous group, slowly piecing together a sound that’s both rooted in nostalgia and fitted well amongst their contemporaries. The band had its wheels in motion and began hitting its stride in 2020, first with a single and later with the Deep Breaths EP. It touched on what was to come but it nowhere nearly prepared anyone with what was in store.
The band just released its debut album What’s Yr Damage (6131 Records), self-described as psych-gaze but is it psychedelia or psychotic star gazing? No one is truly prepared for the sometimes dissonant, electronic psych war running through this album. There’s a level of purity in the group’s sound, embellished by higher levels, seemingly recorded in red but completely making sense in the final outcome. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, I need to rewind for a moment. Lovelorn’s music is, tricky, as they maneuver through softly energized pop songs, covered in swaths of noise, much like on “Fight Of Flight.” It soothes, like razor blades covered in chocolate as Anna & Patrick’s vocals are overpowered by the clamoring sounds all around but that’s alright, it just adds to the song’s appeal. But the track is quickly followed by “Sickness Reward,” a stab at industrial rock operating through sugary 80s electro-pop and it works from beginning to end. Anna’s voice reins in the noisy surroundings to suit her needs.
The group’s creative flow is just hitting its stride when the beat drops on “Reason,” with its Man Parish-like rhythms channeled through Arthur Baker’s kaleidoscope of electronic sound. That’s the only cheap comparison we’ll find here because Lovelorn defies comparison in every sense of the word. It never remains stagnant in one place, constantly shifting in directions wherever they may see fit. “Leaps & Bounds” journeys through thick rhythms with juicy basslines, fitted with Patrick’s echoing vocals throughout. The sound is vibrant and slinks on through with the utmost urgency. The duo isn’t all about quick movements as “Hole In Yr Soul” drips slower moving at a mid-tempo as both Anna and Patrick trade lyrics with one another. It’s clear that this album is much more than what it is: it exudes sex through its sensuality and yes, it’s a sexy beast of a release.
They say the devil’s greatest trick is making the world believe he doesn’t exist which makes me believe Lovelorn attempts to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes as well. They cover certain songs in abrasiveness and candy-coated pop melodies but also deliver bestial compositions. You think it’s one thing when it’s actually another. I’m not sure but I’m willing to step out on a limb and offer up that What’s Yr Damage is possibly the sleeper of the year, filled with styles not easily recognizable but efficiently enticing and inviting, to the point where you can no longer fight its calling and just succumb to the siren’s call. We can go on all day about Lovelorn’s new release but we already know this isn’t what we all want, it’s what we all need!
To say some groups are beyond criticism may be an understatement, or over, depending on one’s point of view but when you’ve established yourself early on and continuously release albums that have critics fawning over, yeah, maybe. But we all may as well get things over with, even if it’s for shits & giggles.
Liars have proven time and time again how growth stems from change, sometimes reinvention, but always by having a sound that continues to develop year after year. Now with the band’s 10th album, The Apple Drop (Mute) in its 20-year existence, the band still seems to breathe life into this thing called “music.” The band, led by Angus Andrew, a founding and only constant member, along with drummer Lawrence Pike and multi-instrumentalist Cameron Dyell, has steered thousands of miles away from the early noise of They Threw Us All In A Trench And Stuck A Monument On Top, opting for something a bit more surreal yet direct.
For The Apple Drop, the music has matured with an appeal that’s liable to expand the group’s fanbase, although it’s probably not the intention. While the band still utilized some of its noisy qualities (“The Start”) it’s within controlled settings, set on stun. Crescendos abound, harmonies circulate, and drums are powerfully driven without going over the top. While Andrews’ voice is distinctive, some of his quieter moments (“Slow and Turn Inward”) are reminiscent of Scott McCloud as the bed of music laying alongside it creates a smokey atmosphere all its own with lingering guitar notes swathed in vibrato & reverb as Pike’s drumming and odd repetitive backing vocals balance it all out. This isn’t to say the band has relinquished its punk ethos and ability to lay everything in front of it to waste (“My Pulse To Ponder”). Liars are fully equipped with distorted guitars, a thick bassline, and drums to create an ominous & cavernous sound, as Andrew, allows the rhythm and melody to move his vocal direction. Everything blends well together, and that’s just the way it should be.
The album is rife with influences, but nothing is made obvious (“Leisure War”) allowing the Liars to be Liars. In other words, there is nothing that sounds remotely like the band which permits the band to be ubiquitous unto itself. Creating a sound all its own doesn’t mean the band doesn’t have the capacity to create clever pop songs (“King Of The Crooks”) creating more of an atmosphere around its melodies as harmonies fade in and out. The band seems to be more than able to milk pop hooks for all they’re worth but that would probably remove all the mystique surrounding the group. Well done.
With every subsequent listen, The Apple Drop gains more and more intrigue, which is what music should set out to accomplish. But Liars is more than just a band, with its latest offering, the group provides sounds and imagery that has a wide palette of colors to be interpreted in a variety of ways. It’s not always so easily accomplished but Liars move effortlessly through The Apple Drop…as the mic also hits the ground.
Some things aren’t for everyone. Tastes vary so drastically in music as it does for cuisine and lifestyles. What’s someone’s trash, for others, it’s gold. It’s like that for just about everything we encounter day-to-day, but respecting art, and knowing what it is from the get-go, should be understood from the very beginning.
NYC rapper and life enthusiast Uncommon Nasa – or just Nasa – is a man of discerning tastes and his music demands just as much attention. Given, there are many that just won’t understand the complexities of the music he creates, which I’ve noted in the past as dirty, laced with a griminess of chaotic urban jungles, but that in itself is possibly its appeal. While Nasa’s mark was made at the turn of the century, through yet another surge of underground, independent Hip-Hop (Cannibal Ox, Def Jux, etc.), he’s paved a dirt road all his own through album after album. Nasa now releases his fifth(?) solo full-length, Only Child (Uncommon Records), which is recognizable for his cadence & delivery, as well as grittiness. Make no mistake, everything mentioned is the appeal of Nasa, who isn’t in search of fame & fortune, as much as he is searching for a higher level of art.
The opening “Quark Strangeness In The Hour of Chaos” rides beats through dark alleyways, lingering in obscure shadows. The gloom surrounding it rummages through rat-infested bins as Uncommon Nasa marks his words with venom, delivering his words with harshness. This is that shit we’ve all been waiting for, the harsh sound that could be the soundtrack to the past couple of years, filled with pessimism, fear, and hate. His production moves unlike others, which “U68” is testament to. He moves with conspiracy theorist caution here, with angst-filled lyricism. But it’s not all gloom & doom throughout, balancing friendlier rhythms & head-nodding beats, the latter showing up on “Brooklyn Soup,” with a harder musical delivery as instruments bleed in and out occasionally. Horn samples: those are what I’m referring to, which gives the track a classic edge. But Nasa quickly shifts gears with “Vincent Crane,” as the keys throughout set the tone for this musical theory that would fit well to Nasa’s sitcom. He plays the narrator for the story about keyboardist Vincent Crane, embedding his own story throughout.
It’s when I get to “The Ballad of Metal Mike” that I wonder which Mike he’s referring to on the morose-sounding track. Halford guitarist Metal Mike? I’m more inclined to think it’s Angry Samoans Mike, but Nasa’s storytelling could be one of fiction. Either way though, the encounters are intriguing and there’s just so much depth to the track musically. We do know there’s definitely nothing common about Nasa as he pieces together dissonance with a scattershot beat on “Discipline” as he waxes poetic, piecing together memories of youth. The same thing could be said of the album’s title track, as disjointed rhythms are held together by Nasa’s words. It’s a heady mixture of audible art, abstract with those same rhythms repeating themselves.
Uncommon Nasa, his style(s) are all his own. There’s something much more poignant beneath the surface of Only Child, you have to have the patience to really listen, fall with arms open arms, and embrace the music.
Occasionally, you might find yourself wrapped in a conundrum; stuck between journalistic integrity and completely fangirling out on something you’re almost fanatical about. It’s constructive criticism vs. head nodding, exuberant emotion! It doesn’t happen often but when you constantly bring things up to friends, it’s that fine line between fan & writer. But I don’t think it makes a difference to anyone reading this.
With that said, Jerry Beeks & Ollie Miggs, collectively known as Bronx Slang, just released its sophomore full-length, Substance (Fabyl). The album follows up the fantastic journey of 2019’s self-titled release, as well as 2020’s The Bronx Kill Mixtape, and the duo’s album isn’t just cleverly titled, the 14-track release gives listeners a healthy dose of heady lyricism throughout. The album takes a cross-Atlantic journey considering it was produced by UK wizards Fake Blood and Jadell, and this gives a clear indication of how the culture of Hip-Hop knows no boundaries. Their gritty beats with urban-laced rhymes make for more than an interesting union. They kick the doors in with the dual meaning of “Living With A Mask On,” as horns blare alongside a funky rhythm, Beeks & Miggs trade politically charged lyrics, all the while as drums get wicked. It shouldn’t take much but “You Already Know” is where listeners should be all in if they aren’t already. A lone distorted guitar rings out as the emcees chime in, with a bassline riding in alongside, as drums give a dynamic shift to it. With its repetitive nature, we can all ride it out if it was an instrumental joint. I wrote, “if.” Beeks & Miggs pull from headlines, mixing their words with real-life situations but it isn’t political, it’s the reflection of hate around this great land. The music and the message just tell us all what we already know.
One thing about Bronx Slang though is there’s never a requirement for quick and frantic beats & rhythms. There’s a healthy dose of lyrical dexterity, best exemplified by “Happens A Lot,” led by a mixture of guitar & brass notes. Here things are slightly different as well with an abundance of melody wrapped around the chorus, both musically and vocally. How both Beeks & Miggs gel so well together is absurd! This is probably the duo’s appeal, bonded by more than just emceeing together. It’s never forced and flows easily, just like some of my favorite groups.
To say the lyricism is just politically charged would be a misnomer because, like many, they live through it all. “Another Night In New York,” with its deep grungy bass end, along with lyrics that set the scene of urban tales filled with crime, uncaring law enforcement, making for a shit show that we can all witness. But it’s “Excuse Me Again,” with its gritty mid-tempo boom-bap with rhymes revolving again around headlines but make no mistake, there’s no redundancy considering there’s an abundance of stories we may have never heard of. Stories are blended into their choruses, all with the same finite result; it’s usually the way every story begins. Clever. It doesn’t end there, there’s an abundance of shrewd wordplay throughout, and we hear it all on the bouncy “Copy That,” where the duo takes a different approach, seemingly from an enforcement view but the script is flipped with the catchy hook here.
We can go through dissecting these tracks that are bountiful with storied approaches that take real-life situations, catchy beats & hooks, only to blend them into something that unique and simply dope AF. Substance is that joint that gives you more than you bargained for, educating you in the process. The versatility of Bronx Slang has no equal.