There are innumerable WTF moments in life and with Jeff Rosenstock & Laura Stevenson’s collaborative Younger Still, a brief collection of Neil Young covers, yeah, this is one of them. Of course, you’re scratching your head but trust in the fact that neither one of these two ever disappoints on their individual recordings. Sure, there’s that bit of hesitancy tugging on your shirt sleeve but pay it no mind because this is pretty great. Great songs, interpreted by great musicians. Both Jeff and Laura split/share vocal duties and while the opening “Razor Love” may leave you questioning things as it begins, stick around and enjoy the ride because that smolder burns into a cascading flame. The 4-song release follows 2019’s Still Young as they continue to do these Neil Young songs justice.
Do I get excited easily? Not really, I’m not of the canine familiarity but I’m still reeling over a couple of releases from 2021 (“But that is a story for another time” – Mako). While I don’t listen much to Death From Above, my curiosity was piqued by its new side-project American Lips, and the new double A-Side maxi-single, Waste Of Crime. In a world where you can refer to anything as just about anything you want it to be, I guess that’s fine (but you can’t have an A-side without a B-side although it doesn’t matter here because this is a digital release anyway.) American Lips (Jessica Bruzzese, Sebastien Grainger, and Adrian Popovich) are big on rhythm and the title track is fiercely propelled by electronic bass tones, scratchy guitars, and pretty much, a strict tempo. The vocal melodies are fantastic though and the song seems much too brief at just 2:34 minutes. “Labor Of Hate” is a bit different though as the band plays with an 80s-esque style as the electronic percussion moves like Trent Reznor on Pop Rocks. It’s bouncy, flavorful, and catchy AF and will get any party started. “Labor Of Dub” is exactly what you think it might be, a revamped version of “Hate.” It’s different, offering up a post-punk vibe. Let’s not make any more cheap comparisons, one is enough.
The Ohio emcee is a bit of an anomaly, creating songs that probably shouldn’t work but actually do. TINO returns with his new Midwest Sorrow, which takes much from R&B, indie rock, and oddness to create something unique and diverse. “Your Way” builds off of a staccato loop of some sort of strings, building around it with a deep bass and TINO wondering why she needs to have it her way all the time. It’s the conundrum that women are in his lyrics, exposing himself for more understanding. But it’s “Let You Go” that hits hard with that X-large Boom-Bap feel with notes that don’t always seem as if they should go with one another. But they do. Of course though, TINO doesn’t move the way of the common rapper, blending in thick beats that try to overtake TINO’s voice but never does. The timber never remains the same, “LTNS” taking in a darker mood with TINO never pausing as sleep is the cousin of death. TINO does something different, opting to choose the road less traveled.
DJ SUN – LOVELETTER
The new Loveletter album by Houston-based DJ Sun is mostly an instrumental affair and from my understanding, his influences fit within a wide range of artistry, with much filtering in through his latest offering. But if push comes to shove, the delicate sounds weaved throughout Loveletter could flourish within urban and Hip-Hop culture. There are soulful sunrises that twist and repeat, filled with lush keys and percussion (“Avec Plaisir”). It’s a repetitive motion that never relinquishes its hold, and you won’t want it to end as you’re hitting the repeat, again and again, and again. But it’s the opener, “Sirens” an epic affair filled with subtle nuances like gently stroked keys, and deep bass, juxtaposing the airy with danger. By this point, we should all be wrapped in mystery and intrigue because DJ Sun has piqued curiosities.
There’s a heady amount of work that’s gone into Loveletter and Sun is an effective composer & beat manipulator. The one track that will in fact force all of your attention – both direct and indirect – is the stunning “Daunting.” It’s magnificent in its depth with the capability to transcend any and all boundaries. The Boom-Bap hits with the force of colliding asteroids and as the song progresses, it becomes a dreamy escapade. It’s perfect now and one can only imagine what it would sound like with the right emcee over it. Now while the track allows listeners to marvel, DJ Sun isn’t a one-trick-pony. Some of the compositions here linger in the recesses of one’s mind after just one listen. “Pan Am flight 1701” moves that way, in jazzy-smooth effortlessness, but it also appears a second time closing the album out though this time with Fat Tony as he tantalizes with his words. There’s so much to take in throughout this album, like the watery “Saint Laurent (Du Maroni).” Here DJ Sun moves with ease, allowing the track to find a life of its own.
Loveletter speaks volumes as DJ Sun can move from one direction to another without skipping a beat and without losing his identity. It’s a heavenly beat fest but with much more invested within.
DANA BUOY – EXPERIMENTS IN PLANT BASED MUSIC VOL 1
What’s the hidden secret to music? Sometimes, it just doesn’t exist and the curtain of mystery goes up in flames, allowing the musician to easily connect with fans. While this isn’t necessarily a band, Dana Buoy is the brainchild of Dana Jannsen, who was the longstanding drummer for Akron/Family, an underrated act that shouldn’t ever be forgotten. But I digress. Dana Buoy has just released its third album Experiments In Plant Based Music Vol. 1 (Everloving Records) and musically, Jannsen is pretty transparent with his songs.
By Dana Buoy’s own accounts, its sound is vibrant, running through a kaleidoscope of luxurious pop. But at times, the band seems to ruffle its own feathers shading tracks with hints of chamber pop as horns caterwaul beautifully in the foreground, much like on “Fear From Mind.” Just like the words here, there’s a mixture of styles at play but it all works well around this distorted utopia of sound. Dana Buoy goes through a range of emotions here as “Baby Tears” moves with an upbeat melancholy and keeps those same emotive sights through “Eventually, Good Comes to Pass.” It may be sad but not in a Joy Division-sadness way. It’s inviting & sweet and will leave listeners intrigued. Jannsen sings effortlessly as he coos throughout most songs but on “Eyes Of The World,” his voice against the strumming acoustic guitar is just brilliant as wind instruments and percussion swim all around it.
While Dana Buoy may be comfortable with the Steely Dan comparisons, I’m not particularly sure I’m fine with it. Of course, they both deliver music with ease and unforcefully, but Dana Buoy is much different. Experiments In Plant Based Music Vol. 1 should clear it all up. Jannsen has created a subtle beast of an album.
SWEET COBRA – THREES
When one is taken aback by a couple of tracks, it doesn’t necessarily mean an album is going to be just as good…or does it? It’s something that may put one on the fence, hedging one way or the other but one thing is for certain though, Threes (Hawthorne Street Records) is full of power. It’s the fifth release from the Chicago-based Sweet Cobra, made up of drummer Jason Gagovski, Timothy Remis on vocals & bass, and Robert Arthur Lanham Jr. on guitar & piano. The outfit churns out a release that isn’t confined to solely one genre, as it bends an assortment of styles within its own style.
Sweet Cobra is unique and “Coats,” its opening track, dictates that from the start. The heaviness in its bottom end is engulfed with a hypnotic melody requiring nothing more aside from Timothy Remis’ voice and cooing harmonies. It’s wild. The repetitive nature of the song only adds to its draw, pulling its energy from the very being of the earth the band members stand on. Just when you think it can’t get any better, we’re hit with “Wet Brain,” one song that fuses the nature of desert rock with the unabashed glory of thick & boisterous hard rock sensibilities. And just as you begin to sway through it, it seems to abruptly end! Ok, that’s how the band is rolling. They’re not caught up in what you need but in what feels right for them. There are moments that seem so clean and crisp, it seems to detract from the band’s penchant for the psychedelia in “Bring Them The Water.” The song’s effected-guitars swirl around the repetition of its rhythm section. There’s an attempt at escape but Sweet Cobra keeps it tightly wound.
The burning embers around the songs that make up Threes show this is genuine, as the band makes way for Timothy Remis’ prose, with each song never succumbing to the pressure or weight of instruments. They allow the songs to move in a direction of their own choosing. Sweet Cobra has stumbled onto a unique style all its own.