It’s Friday The 13th and we all know what that means. Everyone that holds some sort of stupid-stition in their hearts will be avoiding black cats crossing paths as well as a refusal to walk under a ladder. Not here though, musicians rarely take a day off and when they do, it’s a slip-up. Another week goes by and we’re forced to ignore so many different things in order to reevaluate and focus. Take heed, this may annoy people.
Music, in general, is derivative and artists occasionally become caricatures of their former selves. Maybe I’m like Eric Clapton finding myself in a crossroads but in the general scheme of things, there isn’t much that makes me perk up and take note with a, “What’s this? Well, this is kinda hot right here.” And that leads me right into Von Pea.
For those in the know, Von Pea, better known to his friends and family as Devon Callender, is one-half of Tanya Morgan, the project he’s repped along with William Donald “Donwill” Freeman, releasing 4 albums (or 6, according to Spotify). From Donwill’s Midwest Cincy stomping grounds to Von’s Brooklynite urban settings, the duo has built itself a cult following of sorts, dropping gems for over a decade. Now Von Pea’s solo material doesn’t stray very far from his other, although here he’s refined things by approaching music this time around with City For Sale (HiPNOTT Records) with a sound that’s rougher and more unrefined than previously released material. Makes sense? It will.
With his new album, Von Pea is filling a space somewhere between cool indie rap and a commerciality that shouldn’t pass him by, but just might. But to make sense of City For Sale, you have to take a look at is as a whole, as Von has conceptualized something that makes so much sense. The album, or rather, the songs, are sometimes lead by street names to literally force a connection between the album and New York City, specifically Brooklyn. He’s spinning yarns in his storytelling that’s searching for his dear Brooklyn within the growing gentrification. He cuts it deep on the opening “Here Comes The Neighborhood” over a soulful sample. Throughout the track, imagery is clear, and visualizing dirty streets and buildings galvanize into something more appealing is easy to see.
But Von Pea pieces together clean beats with that dirty underground sound that makes things completely hypnotic. “Doorbell” is raw but concise, referencing the Huxtables and Do Or Die Bed Stuy and the odd juxtaposition they share. The album isn’t short of features, as lyrical tongue-twister Homeboy Sandman volleys his words alongside Von Pea on the jazzy funk of “Well As I Should,” but it’s “Round The Way Girl” – which doesn’t’ have anything to do with Uncle L – that catches Brooklyn in all its heyday glory as Von spits ghetto stories revolving around step daddies, dudes catching bullets, and struggling. All this over something catchy that probably hasn’t been heard since Jay’s “Hard Knock Life.” Although it’s hard to imagine, things seem to get better from this point though.
“Frenzy” is always going to be the difficult track to beat off this release. A heavy beat that’s driven by piano notes as Von Pea rhymes and even pilfers lyrics from Biggie but, it’s a Brooklyn thing and it works to his benefit. It’s a difficult track to beat but “Steve Holt (feat. Moses Rockwell)” comes close, with a vibe that’s laidback and holds a variety of imagery lyrically.
If you couldn’t tell, City For Sale is one of the dopest albums I’ve heard this year. Everyone may want to dig deep in the crates to listen to his previous solo albums, as well as those Tanya Morgan tracks. It’s all hot.
What’s really coming out of Portland, OR these days? It’s been some time since I’ve actually followed any “scenes” per se but I’m willing to say they don’t exist the way they once did. The internet has pretty much laid waste to that sort of demographic dissection, and it’s allowed the expansion of groups no one may take note of. Take Internet Beef for example; they’ve self-released a 4-song debut in Free Trial. One look at the members of the band and you know you’re in for something that might be stunningly invigorating or possibly, a flaming piece of shit. It’s the roll of the dice here.
With band names like Doc Beefun (guitar), Chopped Libber (guitar), Bobo LeBeef (vocals & sax), and Jamburger Helper (drums), it’s quite obvious that with Internet Beef, no fucks are given. Sometimes that’s just fine with me. I’m not a critic, after all, I’m a cynic. But Free Trial opens with “Anosmia,” whose guitar notes have you believing this is going to be a surf-influenced ride but fortunately it isn’t. The band accentuates those guitar notes with a loud pogoing rhythm before shifting its dynamics for something a bit softer as members harmonize before pummeling it all to hell again. Yes! We’re off to a good start here because they’re catchy, musically engaging and powerful in its riffage. Internet Beef is definitely challenging and diverse in its musical attack, all the while remaining completely cohesive. Singer Bobo LeBeef is the glue that holds it all together but the band as a whole, they kick out the jams without holding anything back. This is a punk band with lots of melodicism influenced by pop culture. The four-chord progression that opens “Thumbs Up” doesn’t prepare anyone for the melody here reminiscent of 70s/80s pop-punk soulfulness. “Gush” has all those sexual connotations you might think it’s about but it ain’t dirty, we just know the hard-edged, bedroom fight night is going to happen here and the band provides the loud soundtrack for it.
Impressive. I’m hopeful the band isn’t just a one-off and continues to make music because this right here, is the beginning of something that could be fantastic.
Whenever I’m hit with a recommendation or tossed something from a friend of a friend, my hesitation gets the best of me. So of course, I sometimes take things with a grain of salt (but what the fuck does that really mean?) Regardless, I’m sitting here with a last minute entry listening to a new album by an artist that I’m not afraid to say my ignorance has REALLY gotten to best of me.
This music thing isn’t new to Swordplay, known to his friends and family as Isaac Ramsey, with his earliest full-length release dating back to 2007. But this isn’t a history lesson, it’s about a new discovery, and my uncompromising fascination with his new release Paperwork (Audio Recon). As insane as it may come seem, Swordplay has hit upon something that intriguing, both musically and with his lyricism.
Paperwork goes through a variety of emotions, and what may come across as anger, is rooted in confusion as he moves around frenetic beats metaphorically twisting his words around from beginning to end. And that’s just on the opening “Time For Law” which for some reason I’m on, hitting that repeat button over and over again.
“Soviet Television” opens with a sample I’m familiar with of a man walking down an uptown street in Manhattan when a cop asks what he’s carrying in his bag. That sets the tone for the track as the U.S. morphs into a communist state where everything is questioned and controlled. Where are we living? The abrasive beat tells me we’re in the land of the free where no fucks are still given and Swordplay capitalizes on it with his words, filling every open space where it seems fitting. And then there’s “Ambulance” which features Squalloscope. This right here? It was made for the underground with mainstream appeal but obviously won’t find it. The horns and bassline accentuate that frolicking beat that does more than frolics, it captivates. Swordplay and Squalloscope volley their words back and forth as well as harmonize with one another, and the union between these two is obviously magical!
The track is followed by the “Brzowski’s Interlude” here where we actually have Brzowski spitting poetic, juxtaposed over an atmospheric backdrop and the beauty is intense. This leads into “Oh, Sila” which I was completely unprepared for, because if this rap thing doesn’t work for Swordplay, there’s a place for him in indie rock circles as he sings alongside acoustic guitar plucking and oceanic backdrops himself. He’s not just a rapper, he’s a musician. That melodicism continues on “Creature Of The 80’s,” driven by a piano with imagery of a lost decade.
Rarely am I impressed on first listen, so of course, being blown away completely is unexpected. This is where I’m left with Swordplay because Paperwork is that shit I’m willing to hype to anyone and everyone that will listen.
New to the Stones Throw roster is the singularly named Peyton with her new Reach Out EP. While there had been praise for the Soul singer, I’m hard-pressed to understand why here. Peyton’s work with Milky Wayv early on just a couple of years back was far more interesting. Here on her Reach Out, she pales in comparison to her former self. I’m left lingering for more of the odd pensive voice like on “Pey-2-O” but instead, her deliveries are pretty bland and stark. I may have to take that back because “Clown Song,” is the one standout cut. Aside from that, her voice hits melodies that just don’t seem as if they’re there, it’s just not a good fit on this EP. I wanted to like this, I really did but I couldn’t.
Ever wonder what would happen if your kids rifled through your record collection and then decided to start a band of their own? It could be cool, or it could turn out into something else. In the case of Warish and it’s Down In Flames (RidingEasy Records) debut, I’m not sure where I’m sitting with this release.
Made up of drummer Bruce McDonnell and Riley Hawk (as in Tony Hawk), Warish has a sound that’s derivative of punk circa 1989, before the world discovered fire in the form of Nevermind; a time when everything remained smothered in sludge and dissonance. This is where I need to make the formidable comparison to albums like Bleach, which eschewed much of its melodicism for a sewery gooeyness. But the band, now a 3-piece, while still indebted to its grunge influences also owes much to the stoner rock of Southern California. Both have meshed together within the band’s DNA. Take the band’s “Bleed Me Free” for instance. You’ll hear the pummeling drug-induced rhythmic thrust, as well as the stop/starts and shouts of punk’s essence. But if I backtrack a moment and refer back to the band’s opening “Healter Skelter,” there are things that are, um, reminiscent of other, um, things. While obviously not an exact replica because of Warish’s much more menacing approach here on the song, its structure shows some similarity to Nirvana’s “Stay Away” on its dissonance. Similar, not the same, but enough for me to make note of it.
But Warish isn’t a replica of anything or anyone else. The band’s tactile approach on “Fight” begins in one direction with guitars that may take a middle-eastern approach before shifting gears into a howled punk endeavor. The vocals are unintelligible aside from the occasional “fight” but it makes no difference because it’s the rhythm and the thrust of the song that attracts us all to it. The band’s “Voices” is bass-heavy, and it could have been recorded by Lemmy and the boys although the warped and fully effected vocals here give it an added charm.
Warish is still in discovery mode with Down In Flames and no one could, or should hold it against them. I’m intrigued as to what’s to come next for the band because I think they just touched the surface of what they’re able to accomplish here.