New Music: Friday Roll Out! With QWAM, Dave East, And Tune-Yards

It’s Friday and this new year has no shortage of complaints, problems, more problems, and a shrinking dollar. When I think of problems I always regress back to the Notorious B.I.G. I mean come on, when he said “More money, more problems,” who wouldn’t rather deal with an abundance than a lack of. It all depends on one’s state of mind. But why deal with those or negative people. One of my friends recently told me to stay away from negative people because they have a problem for every solution. Makes sense, although I’d be quick to tell anyone to sit down and let the adults handle things. I don’t avoid problems, I just don’t dwell on them more than I have to, instead focusing on things that are important. Another thing this new year has no shortage of are new books, music and films. I’m immersing myself in so much, it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of what I’m doing.
I thought I liked QWAM, but I’m not sure now. The Brooklyn band just released its self-titled debut Feed Me E.P. but it’s sometimes hard to gauge a band based off just a few songs. As quickly as the recording begins, it’s over for QWAM. The band starts things off with the frantically paced Title Track, which is a hard-rocking free-spirited track, with Felicia Lobo’s lead vocals reminding me of Runaways Lita Ford for some reason, with that hard-rocking swagger behind her. The punked-up “Glitter Paint” changes things up here, mostly with the 4-chord frontal assault, and harmonizing background male vocals. Then on “Crazier Than Me” the band completely changes things up. Less on the guitars’ wall of sound here, sparser, and focused more on musicianship and vocal cadence & inflection. Part of the way through on “Doggie Door, they switch the vibe from pop to punk fitted with guitar solos and more male harmonies in the backdrop. The band closes shop here with “Dirty Feet,” which is possibly my favorite track off this release. The band keeps to a tempo and runs it into the ground with great melodies, perfectly fitted guitars and Lobo’s varied vocal work here. It’s that one rock song for the ages you can play over and over again. I’m on the fence here on whether to give the quartet my undying love or to pass them by like strangers on New York City streets. I think I’ll wait for the group’s next adventure to see if they can “wow” me from beginning to end.

Now, in all honesty, I’ve been listening to Dave East all week. The delivery of the Harlem rapper is something I’ve just gravitated to, with his older material and now the newer. His Paranoia 2 (Def Jam) mixtape is exactly what everyone, or at least I thought it was going to be. You won’t find any useless mumble rap tracks (see: Lil Yachty, Young Thug, etc.) or nonsensical rap songs that are filled with words with conclusive blandness (see: Earthgang, Iggy Azalea, etc.) The 30-year-old rapper uses his words like a masterful storyteller. From the opening “Talk To Big” over the melancholic timbre of a beat behind it, East raps about family, friends, death, fandom and much more. He utilizes it for his own form of braggadocio but it’s as matter-of-fact, nothing forcefully thrown at listeners like many Top 40 rappers may attempt. And while Paranoia 2 has a wide assortment of production credits, it doesn’t take away from the singular vision East has here. There’s a sense East has no interest in mega-stardom, instead focusing on rapping, which he loves as much as his daughter, and getting “what you gotta get while you’re here” as he says on “Prosper.” He’s not averse to rapping about drug culture “Powder” or even his musical influences on “What Made Me.” From the obvious nod to Nas, Mase, 2Short, Nore, Jay-Z, 50, and more, East shouts out those that motivated and helped shape him creatively. Hip-Hop is no longer about just where you’re from, T.I. has no problem sharing his southern drawl on “Annoying” with East driving the beat straight into the gutter. “Violent” finds him sharing vocal duties with G-Unit’s Lloyd Banks on this Asian influenced backdrop. Make no mistake even with the guest appearances on this album it’s obviously East that shines through the release. But it’s “I Found Keisha” that I keep going back to, a clever ‘hood narrative that cements East as a master storyteller. There’s a wide array of subjects and ideas that make up Paranoia 2, which doesn’t let up from beginning to end. This release has been labeled as an E.P. but at 15 tracks, it seems so much more than that. It leaves you wondering what’s next for the prolific emcee who’s just beginning to chip away at his greatness.

So the strangely spelled Tune-Yards no longer having the misplaced upper and lowercase letters returns with a new album, it’s fourth in all but first credited as a duo. For I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life (4AD), Merrill Garbus has added her life partner, Nate Brenner into the fold as a permanent member. Lyrically, the album leaves me confused as the political undertones and obvious wording Garbus uses may strike a chord with some but I’m hard-pressed to pay attention to the lyricism and rather follow the inflections & cadences of her voice on top of the music. It’s the beat, rhythm, and musicality that’s always been the focus for Tune-Yards songs. From beginning to end, the songs move from one extreme to the other, utilizing synth sounds and the obvious instrumentation. The album makes you dance, move your body, nod your head but there are moments when you can’t ignore Garbus’ vocals. On “Now As Then,” when she sings “Don’t Trust Me,” the beautiful feeling she comes across with is as if an ode to an Annie Lennox delivery. It simply works though. Musically I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life is an escape from the real world, but if you need to look deeper into the reality of it, you can pay attention to the lyricism which deals with many a current issue. Me? I just want to dance.

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