Here I am thinking, thinking about what I should think about what others might think about Mightmare, the new group featuring Sarah Shook (Sarah Shook & the Disarmers). Will al due honesty and respect, I’m not so sure what I should think. The new record, Cruel Liars (Kill Rock Stars) reads musically of indie rock attempts at, well, some indie rock filtered with Americana movements, and big rock fanaticisms. It’s appealing, to the naked eye with grandiose vocal deliveries (“Cruel Liars”), and catchy melodies (“Saturn Turns”), but for the discerning musicphile, I don’t think it’s going to do it.
MYKKI BLANCO – STAY CLOSE TO MUSIC (TRANSGRESSIVE)
Without hesitation, Mykki Blanco is quick to grab everyone’s attention so we can all just get right to it. With Stay Close To Music (Transgressive), Blanco is adept at doing just that; allowing everyone to find solace through the opening “Pink Diamond Bezel,” which might be as flamboyantly expansive as Blanco’s own personality. Blanco bounces with a swaying thump, occasionally channeling an ‘inner’ Marvin Gaye. From the start, Blanco offers sharp blade-like lyricism over an adjacent beat that’s quick to get one’s attention. Some of the odd backing harmonies won’t go ignored here either as it runs concurrently with Blanco’s vocals. Everything we’d want from an artist in just one track! While it’s difficult to continue through the rest of the album because that repeat button is so difficult to ignore, there’s a cavalcade of color and texture throughout Stay Close To Music.
Throughout the album it seems there’s a who’s who of guest appearances, and their inclusion isn’t squandered. On the soft but heady “Steps,” Blanco shares verses with MNEK & Saul Williams, with string and percussion samples providing the atmospheric backdrop. While the song is an attractive and sensual piece, I find myself drawn to “French Lessons,” the album version featuring ANOHNI and Kelsey Lu. Its single version appears here as well but with ANOHNI voice included, adds so much more texture alongside Lu’s. It’s a love song and you can actually feel the emotion; the sensual and bouncy happiness comes to life within the music. It’s easy to get lost amongst the starry-eyed lyricism spewed by Blanco an emcee, a rapper, whose words can be held against anyone no matter how odd the subject matter may be. “Ketamine” may take drug use to another level but Blanco spitting verses alongside Slug Christ’s harmonizing vocals isn’t as odd a pairing as one might think. It simply works without issue. Genres blur on “Your Love Was A Gift (feat. Dianna Gordon” as Mykki Blanco crosses lines between dance culture and Hip-Hop, allowing both to seamlessly blend into one another. Cooing backing vocals, soft & hypnotic bassline, and percussion that slowly builds around it. This(!) is what it’s all about; and when Gordon layers her vocals around those words “your love was a gift,” oh, you know it was.
Fortunately, Blanco is no one-trick-pony, and songs have the ability to rally emotions at just about every turn. On the closing “Carry On (Feat. Jónsi),” words are worn on sleeves like open wounds as Blanco offers up an intimate look and deep vulnerability within. There’s no longing for posthumous accolades, living the blessings that this life is. Everything is professed as an example for others, and Mykki Blanco knows who Mykki Blanco is. This isn’t the only moment Blanco is able to create vivid imagery through music, because “Family Ties,” does it as well. Here he lobs the assist to Michael Stipe as they both share verses. The melancholic lyrics are juxtaposed against upbeat rhythms and instrumentation. This makes it all clear; the music created by Mykki Blanco is utterly masterful.
Stay Close To Music allows Blanco to do just that while offering emotional tales, political & cultural takes, and allowing listeners a much more personal look into the life Blanco lives. It’s one of wonder and fascination, steeped in reality.
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MEAT WAVE – MALIGN HEX (SWAMI)
Do we start at the very beginning or jump right into the deep waters? The beginning it is. I came in a bit late to the party that is Meat Wave, this loud and abrasive trip out of Chicago. It began with Delusion Moon, the title track to the band’s second album. That’s all it took and I was hooked. The repetitive rhythm and the band’s hypnotic delivery, no one needs to ask for anything more really.
The group just released its new album Malign Hex (Swami Records) and saying it’s a beast of an album wouldn’t justify how intense it truly is. The evolution of the band is heard from the very start with the slow bass drawl of “Disney” with its eventual crescendo that’s deafening, obliterating everything in its path! The band is relentless, but it isn’t the only direction it can flow as “What You Would Like Me To Do” can attest. Dissonant guitars echo in the backdrop against a repetitive bass groove, and an infectious melody. Meat Wave plays with dynamics here as well as walls of guitar are ready to swallow us all whole. But of course, I’m game; I’m willing to see where it takes me, swirling alongside candy-coated razorblades. Need proof? The rolling cacophonic percussive blast of “Complaint” should be enough to render you immobile. The force of the track is astounding and never lets up! For the most part, just about everything on the album does the same. The frenetic pace of “Ridiculous Car” and the thunderous delivery of “Merchandise Mart” is reminiscent of the ghost of the Jesus Lizard. Yes, I know they’re still active but it’s the same aesthetic that draws one in. It isn’t a cheap comparison but I’m sure it may be one the group wouldn’t mind.
The growth I mentioned earlier, you can hear it surrounding the mid-tempo of “Jim’s Teeth.” The band works around a melody, a rhythm, and Chris Sutter’s vocals to create something much different than what we may have heard in the past. The band’s instruments give the impression that the members were always supposed to be together because only the three of them can sound like this. It’s a beautiful song that dives in much deeper than the group seems to have gone before. There’s swirling psychedelia that flows through it but we never forget that yes, this is Meat Wave. This leads directly into the closing title track(?) “Malign,” which captures a softer side of Meat Wave but also finds itself swimming in psychedelic nuances.
If you haven’t guessed it, yes, Malign Hex is that album Meat Wave has created to challenge itself. It delivers sonically, and thunderously, creating a racket with thoughtful lyrics that far exceed expectations. And then some. Who can stand in their path? Well, no one should because the band is ready to steamroll over everyone.
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SHORT FUZE – THE PAINKILLER BOUTIQUE (UNCOMMON)
Within genres, they always seem to constantly evolve and morph into numerous factions; a variety of heads on a proverbial hydra. Hip-Hop. It’s moved in circles, circumventing death itself. The media has tried cutting off one head to only see 5 more replacing it. Some artists play off the fringes of the genre, sliding off the mainstream, still brimming with creativity with little to no accolade. It happens more than the general public will ever know.
Throughout the years, emcee Short Fuze has increased the size of his catalog, either through solo releases or group projects, most notably with Guillotine Crowns earlier this year. On his new release, The Painkiller Boutique (Uncommon Records), he does things a bit differently. Make no mistake, Short Fuze isn’t a quick-tongued vocalist but what normally follows is a vibe. One that will drag you down to the nether regions of purgatory, a pit stop before heading all the way down. Through his slow drawl, Short Fuze offers discontent through dirty beats and grimy rhythms. With “Drowning In My Own Skin” he’s able to pull clear imagery through his words, making anyone who’s ever doubted him, eat their own words by proving his worth. Anyone who’s ever been consistently doubted can relate. It isn’t self-deprecating but rather, pages from his diary. “Hell’s Moshpit” could probably read like a living hell, his own life, his youth, for all to see. This over a peculiar but infectious beat that gels with his phrasing.
It isn’t as if we won’t find a banger here because “Me And My Demons,” where Fuze fully realizes what can hold him back, slaps hard with that dirty-dirty. We can feel the rage, disappointment, and uncompromising efforts that fill his soul. His heart isn’t blackened though, “This Is For My Brother,” an ode to his brother where Short Fuze leaves it all out for everyone to see. But it’s “Detention” that makes you stand up and really pay attention. With its deep bass melody and thick beats, it suits Short Fuze well, as he wraps prison-cultured wording around it.
The Painkiller Boutique isn’t for everyone but that’s just like books aren’t for Kanye. Short Fuze Keeps it real with himself and offers everyone a look into his own life. It’s the one thing that we can all do for ourselves and Fuze, he’s finding his own way, ready to emerge a better man than he was before. Through his Boutique, we can all really see that.
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