I think it’s been what, seven or eight albums now under Chris Orrick’s belt, under his own name and FKA Red Pill. With his new Out To Sea (Mello Music Group), the Detroit rapper tackles a number of subjects to wrap his words around. I’m not sure where the album may leave him because while there are moments his cleverness makes me smile; it leaves me wondering.
The beats Orrick has surrounded himself with on this release are all head nodding joints that make your head nod and your foot tap but it could be the cynic in me that has me questioning the cynic in him. I keep going back to “Funny Things” where he repeats “funny” and utilizes it in a way we’ve never heard, touching on self-deprecation and social issues. Ok, ok, after about 20 listens, it’s dope, and that’s only halfway through. “Liquor Store Hustle” revolves around a repetitive funky rhythm and a whistle (my own kid annoys me with sometimes when he wants to get my attention) as Orrick rhymes about getting his drink on but it isn’t about poppin’ bottles, instead, lingering in alcoholism.
Orrick tries to figure out his own life on soft jazziness of “Spent A Lot Of Time,” where he questions everything he does while “A Dying Man” is reflective, but not really. Orrick’s Hip Hop sojourn here is a bitter pill to swallow here left wallowing in sadness.
Out To Sea, is the album you might play to chill and Orrick, he’s not a bad emcee but I’m not sure what’s really in store for him. He’s better than most with some really good tracks but the album doesn’t seem to break through to the next echelon of artistry.
Now LVL UP’s Mike Caridi steps out on his own with his own solo project The Glow with his full-length debut AM I (Double Double Whammy). While his music is obviously similar to his other project, with dusted and fuzzy-out distorted guitars, it’s the the keyboards, cellos and additional instrumentation that makes the difference here.
Caridi is a serious pop enthusiast as his songs are bulging with pop sweetness from start to finish. His opening “Am I Good” sounds like a Beatles track run through a punk blender of cacophony, which may sound insulting, but it isn’t. The Glow sets volume levels at an even 11, feeding us all more of what we need: his pop enthusiasm filtered through…well, nothing. He’s just doing what he does. There’s a little experimentation here with keyboards noodled in the background which adds to the charm before it closes out.
The music he creates with The Glow is easily enjoyable but the paranoia in me wonders if his sincerity is fabricated here but it’s obvious my own cynicism is getting the best of me. Caridi is playing at just giving us an extreme amount of sweetness that’s liable to give everyone a toothache. The strings on “Beamer” are beautifully placed and distorted guitars leave as quickly as they enter. There’s a lot going on here and you’d be hard pressed in any attempt to dissect it but why bother? Enjoy the ride. AM I is filled with 10 songs of The Glow’s sheer pop sensibilities that everyone should listen to, not because I say so but because the songs are cleverly composed and catch AF!
Well, it shouldn’t come to anyone as a surprise that as a longtime fan of the Sebadoh, I’ll probably never have anything negative to say about the band. The pioneering band that formed back in ’86 has gone through a number of changes but has stayed consistent with Bob D’Amico on drums, Lou Barlow and Jason Lowenstein since 2011. The band last release, Defend Yourself (Joyful Noise), was released back in 2013 and brought everyone back memories and new material of Sebadoh’s proficiency. On the cusp of heading out of one decade and entering another, the band returns six years later with Act Surprised (Dangerbird Records). Should we be?
The band has always been a collaborative effort, even on stage in the early days, band members would swap instruments on songs. Not that it really matters because the group is a cohesive unit and it shows on the new album. They open with “Phantom,” which contains an unrelenting rhythm with mind-numbing frenetic guitar work and lyrics that get trapped in my head. The “chorus” repeats, “’Cause now I never been so scared/I know there’s nobody there/I swear I’m all alone/Where can it be coming from!” and I’m completely enthralled in just the one track. It’s easy to immerse yourself here as “Celebrate The Void” slowly creeps in and when the band readies itself, explode, with punk enthusiasm, shifting the time signature altogether. Yes, we’ve all been waiting to celebrate this void.
There’s more though, much, much more. “Follow The Breath” is unadulterated fun and what you’d expect the band to be musically; brash, pop-inflected, friendly, and filled with loads of melody. There are moments the band makes listeners believe they’re moving into composing straightforward tracks of cute verse-chorus-verse but instead include raging dynamics on the chorus of “Vacation,” which suits me fine. “Stunned” moves along the same lines as “Phantom” in its relentlessness but it’s still stunning (no pun intended.)
The songs here really do creep up on you and eventually get stuck, much like the title track here where Lowenstein takes the lead and when he sings “Life is gonna suck until you get your way now,” he allows you to believe it. But it’s the closing “Rykjavic” that I’m favoring here as lyrically Barlow sounds like he’s taking from his own life over a backdrop of sweet melody and sonic sculpturing. This is pretty badass.
Yeah, again I say that it’s no surprise that Act Surprised is an astounding recording.
This is a surprise. I caught a 15 minute live set by RoQy TyRaiD sometime last summer out in the PHX desert. His live performance is to Hip Hop what breathing is to life. The intensity he showed bordered on majestic. What’s the surprise here is the collaboration here in the form of Outbreak with beats controlled by the famed DJ Green Lantern. So many artists owe Lantern an enormous debt but will TyRaiD’s?
Well, that’s an easy question to answer. After a decade of putting in hard work with a multitude of releases, TyRaiD scores huge points here with Lantern’s nimble fingers behind the board. The music is a mostly laid back endeavor that suits TyRaiD just fine. They’re not over the top but rather subtle, allowing TyRaiD to rest his words in just about every open space available when he feels the need. The spacey-edged “MC4Real” has his venomous and abstract constructions working well against Green Lantern. Literally, the track is beyond hypnotic. Even if Lantern slows the beat down, TyRaiD still moves quickly within “IWMAO.”
The music follows the same pattern throughout album but on “Rectified” TyRaiD takes a stab at dropping a trap-like delivery…partially anyway because he can’t help himself from being who he is as Lantern’s music surfs under TyRaiD’s words. The irony there. But this isn’t just about wrapping nonsensical words around dope beats, not by a longshot. The heady “Uno” is filled with social issues over Lantern’s infectious beat wizardry where he spits, “I dedicate this art to every martyr that has fallen for us…” which gives a clear example there.
To say Outbreak is the latest discovery of fire would probably be an understatement, but it’s justified within the ten tracks on the release.
Experimentalism comes in many forms and enter Flying Lotus, the pseudonym for one Steven Ellison; record producer, musician, DJ, filmmaker, and rapper from Los Angeles. Ellison is especially known for his constructs of sound and fury with songs that affect more than just one sense. You’re occasionally able to taste the music he creates, whetting one’s appetite with a plethora of imagery.
It’s difficult to believe Flamagra (Ninja Tune) is only his 7th album, “only” being the operative word because it seems he’s been around longer than he actually has been. With almost 30 tracks, Flamagra’s blistering production covers a lot of ground. “Post Requisite,” pieces together instruments for a chilled-out vibe. A bassline manifesting itself into the white rabbit we all chase in search of some higher meaning. The track is simply beautiful. We’re then hit with “More” which sounds like it could be an outtake to a Kendrick Lamar album before Anderson .Paak’s voice comes in shattering those misconceptions. There are a load of instrumental tracks here, and that’s where Flying Lotus shines, creating his pastiche of sound, allowing the songs to flow like blood through “Capillaries,” but he’s not just about vocal-less recordings.
Flying Lotus will fit his songs around an artist, very much like he does with “Burning Down The House” to suit George Clinton. But Clinton merges his intergalactic Parliment-isms within the Lotus sound. The finalized oddness couldn’t sound better. He does the same on “Spontaneous,” allowing Little Dragon to be all they are working that sweet and sultry magic. There’s so much to take in on the album, as well as other collaborations with Shabazzz Palaces, Thundercat, and even David Lynch but what’s special about Flamagra is Flying Lotus’ ability to sound so different at so many points but remain cohesive throughout. Flamagra is easily one of his best recordings.