Summer is quickly coming to a close and with that, I don’t think I’ve done much this year. The last few years I’ve found myself on a beach somewhere but not this time, although I’ve tried at least be poolside. This dad bod will not be contained! But seriously, we all need that R&R to reboot ourselves, well, at least I do. I try to find a balance between work, life, and doing the things that I love, but we all need to do that. It adds to a healthy lifestyle.
Columbus, Ohio band Brat Curse comes from a line of punk-inspired bands (DANA, WV White, Van Dale, and more). The quartet, made out of Brian Baker, Chris Mengerink, Justin Baker, and Joe Carmelengo, released their new album digitally (Anyway Records/Just Because) a couple of weeks ago. While there was some confusion on the release date, from my own understanding, physicals are out today. But I could be wrong. In any case, it doesn’t matter, this release is the band’s second or third album, that is if you consider the group’s 2015 7-song release Echo Complex an album and not an E.P. But I digress, don’t I?
This new album is a garage-rock lover’s wet dream as the band goes full-throttle with distorted guitars, pummeling rhythms, and barely audible vocals on “Sweat Pants Lawyer.” The melody abounds here as the quartet changes dynamics midway through the track, hitting notes with simplicity and perfection. But Brat Curse isn’t just about creating garagey punk tunes here, they’re more about tossing around great melodies and melding them with the perfect notes. That’s what “Under The Gun” is like, and I have to constantly hit that repeat button and raise my speakers to deafening levels. It’ll make you dance around in your underwear, jumping on and off your bed, and force you to air guitar. Not that it did that to me, we’re talking about you. The band filters in dramatic harmonies on “It’s On (Until It’s Not)” for the chorus while “Go Down” eschews any percussion as the band keeps this one remarkably intact, leaving it airy and a breath of fresh air. This is when you know a band is just that fucking good! The track is filled with distorted guitars and a gorgeous melody and could probably work acoustically.
There’s an oddness to the band, and we can all totally embrace it.“Spring Break Reagan” again goes full-throttle with more than punk leanings after opening up with spooky keyboards in the first 6 seconds of the song. This instrumental simply works! That same bizarreness continues on the somewhat acoustic “Sobriety Butcher” before the band reverts back to its punk roots.
The band is onto something here, I mean really onto something. Give it a listen and just trust in the vibe Brat Curse spews. It’s well worth it.
There are times I do step out of my own comfort zone, and for the most part, I’m the better for it. Chris Rivers, known to his family as Christopher Lee Rios Jr., has made a name for himself based on his own merits, although he could have probably taken a much smoother route attaching himself to the legacy of his father, Big Pun. Instead, though, the 24-year-old has toured heavily, rhymed in ciphers that could be found all over the internet, and has released independent albums. His 2017 release, Delorean (This Is Hip Hop) expounded on his love of space and films, but also allowed reflection on his past and showcased lyrical tongue twisters. His new album, G.I.T.U. (Mello Music Group), an acronym for “Greatest In The Universe” has Rivers establishing his own legacy.
G.I.T.U. opens with “Mother Of God,” a voicemail from his mother with inspirational words for her son before kicking off “Perfect” with frequent collaborator Oswin Benjamin. Benjamin is an explosive force on his own but also comfortable playing the sideman to Rivers as they both spit poetic, rallying around stormy relational lyricism. Confusion haunts and emotions aren’t taken for granted as they succumb to their basic needs. Guitars and keyboards open this track before dropping in its thick beat, confounding listeners but it’s completely on point. It seems there are a few varying sides to Rivers here as he bounces from a grimy dubstep-like “Trick (feat. Anthony King)” with an angry Puerto Rican vehement delivery to a soulful “Damaged Goods” filled with self-deprecating lyricism that’s as smooth as a baby’s bottom. “Don’t Change (feat. Anthiny King)” is more of that same smoothness. With Rivers asking his love to remain the same, never changing in a constantly moving world.
It’s obvious Rivers is fully aware that having bars is a necessity but in today’s Hip Hop climate, one should expect styles to filter in and around his own music. His single, “N.A.S.A. (feat. Oswin Benjamin)” opens with familiar staccato drawls his contemporaries use through entire tracks that offer up boredom and nonsensical lyrics but here, it’s used as a hook to reel listeners in before popping off lyrical genius. But in honesty, this track is complete genius itself. A simple horn seeps in and out but the flow of the track itself is easy flowing and anthemic. There’s no braggadocio on G.I.T.U. because Rivers has no need of it; the tracks speak for themselves. One thing he shares is his love letter to his father on “Sincerely Me” where he sheds away his own armor to voice his feelings. Closing out the album with “Birds (feat. Avery)” again revolves around a soulful R&B tip; a jam that could close out a party with easy-flowing lyricism and a dope beat. In this case though, it’s the party that is G.I.T.U. How could anyone ever hate on Chris Rivers? G.I.T.U. has him well on his way to becoming a G.O.A.T.