Where do we go from here? I’m not really certain because we haven’t received a straight answer from anyone yet. Do we go about our daily lives as if nothing is happening? Or do we confine ourselves to our homes for the rest of our lives? Well, we have music so either way we go, it’s still going to be full of either controlled chaos or subtle sweetness…and everything in between.
Still without any ideas about how to handle it? Just lose yourself in art, whether its music, film or visual art. We have to move with common sense but let’s not lose sight of what’s important in life. Makes sense?
I was listening to something today, by someone I wasn’t very familiar with. I’ve heard the name in the past but now Jerry Paper just released his new album, Abracadabra (Stones Throw) and the music, well, it’s totally likeable. It’s sometimes fitted with dancy vibes but deeply rooted in pop culture. It’s kind of like that smooth dude with the gangster groove (look it up), but much, much less gangster and heavier on the pop. It’s jazzy, it’s smooth 101.9 and certain to get your girl’s attention when you take her to that lounge on a date. Tracks like “Quicksand” and “Trashcan” are sure to get your goat while others are easier listening while getting your work done. Paper has been at it for a while and there’s no shame to his game. He’s certainly at the top of his own game.
If anything could be said regarding The Dears, is its resilience to stand the test of time. While the band has been around since the mid-90s led by Murray Lightburn, the group didn’t release its first album until 2000’s End Of A Hollywood Bedtime Story. I believe it was the same year I found the band in Texas at the same time I was. Its explosive deliver left my head spinning, ears ringing and completely fascinated. 20 years later The Dears return with its new Lovers Rock (Dangerbird Records). While the band has been classified in the past as shoegaze, that identity has been buried for some time. Lovers Rock is the perfect rock record, surrounded by over-saturated and distorted guitars with vocal harmonies and melodies that would make Doug Martsch blush. It’s perfect in every way.
When listening to music, most people know and understand I have no problem with pop music, punk, and pop/punk, even more so. Now, when an artist cites a fascination with a particular subgenre, I’m inclined to believe the next step they take would be flaccid mock cover-ups and mimicry to the style of play they grew up listening to.
I’m not certain if that’s the case here with the Bloods, who offer up a new 6-song release in Seattle (Share It Music). The band is fronted by Sydney, Australia resident Marihuzka Cornelius whose teenage years were wrapped around Grunge and the Pacific Northwest. For this release, and by title alone, yeah, the love runs deep. But fortunately, the E.P. doesn’t suffer from a copycat factor so many others fly-by-night musicians have attempted at, but that was when the brass ring was hanging low and everyone not from Seattle tried capitalizing on its popularity. It’s safe to say in 2020, there aren’t many half-baked bands grasping at straws. But I digress.
Now taking front stage as principle songwriter, M.C.’s dreams are realized here with Seattle which was embraced by the city apparently (i.e. Jack Endino, Steve Fisk, KEXP, etc.) but don’t hold that against the Bloods because M.C. has written a bunch of songs here that deserve everyone’s respect. Songs here are direct and to the point, without need of obtuse posturing. The opening “Girls Are Just Fucking Cool Like That” explodes with a punk ethos, expunging negative energy in lieu of positive feminine power. Single with kids but still have dreams? Yeah, you’re still able to. “I Hate It” shares the disdain for cheating and lying exes, wrapping harmonies around full-frontal guitar distortion with infectious melodies while the band’s cover of “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others,” takes back the power of femininity, out of the hands of male patriarchy. Given, 95% of the time cover songs rally around memorable melodies and are bland with an obligatory lack of originality, but the Smiths (who I always believed to be overhyped and overrated) song is something we can look at differently now. It only took almost 35 years(!) M.C. focuses much on relationships with bouncy melodies and thoroughly distorted guitars but it’s a bit differen on “U & ME,” where the rhythm section has a more dominant role here while drifting guitar notes play in the back alongside keys pumping. The song takes a different approach here which allows it to stand out from the rest but still finds conformity within the collection.
Bloods is making strides and with Seattle, its honesty rides shotgun alongside M.C. Sometimes it’s a tricky road to navigate through but these Bloods should have everyone’s seal of approval.
By no means am I saying that sometimes a band is forgettable, but when the beat drops and a question mark appears over your head as if you’re part of your own sitcom, it leaves me in wonderment. It’s also possible, after consistent listenings, for that moment of clarity to hit.
If you’re unaware at this point, I’m referring to the new album by Mourning [A] BLKstar, The Cycle (Don Giovanni). But what is it about the new release this week that stops listeners in their tracks? Ok, I’ll get to that. While the group’s last release Reckoning showcased a cohesive collection of songs while also diverse, the new one rallies around the thickness of its basslines for the most part. The singular explosiveness can be heard from track to track giving the album such a distinctiveness, it will remain a topic of conversation for years to come. “If I Can If I May” opens with a thick bottom end, accentuated by horns before deep soulful vocals creep around the track. The Afro-futurism the group has rallied around is evolving into a monster the members have fully in check.
This go around, Mourning [A] BLKstar seems to have incorporated a bit more electronic vibe into the mix. It’s subtle and never overpowers the Cleveland group’s fine R&B influences. “Sense Of An Ending” is a great example, as the band’s instruments created a looped sensation, but remain organically grounded. There are the obvious nods to neo-soul with “Deluze (Solange Say Remix)” which is completely captivating. The beat, the horns, the sweet vocal harmonies; it’s a mélange of everything we want and need. The song may differ but still fits well within the context of the album. Yes, listen, repeat, listen, repeat again.
It isn’t difficult to find something interesting, beautiful, or hypnotic here. Sometimes separately, and occasionally all at once. While some groups are restricted by a specific sound, the 7-member unit allows the music to take control, letting the amalgamation a cohesiveness all its own. There are moments the band sets out to confound, much like on “Be,” based in repetition but is completely mind-numbing with explosive vocal deliveries that are blessed by the almighty Himself. It’s simply magical. But there’s so much more to the group, even in its brevity “Interlude (Where They At?)” sounds like a jam session the members could have explored more on. There’s a build up but then ends at 1:18 minutes.
There are only a handful of groups that explore a variance of sound to elevate it to another level, and Mourning [A] BLKstar is one of them. They’re in good company too, but no mention of anyone else will find space here because this is about The Cycle, and right now, this is the band’s moment. They should be allowed to bask in the glory of everyone’s praise because this album, is the future and the future is right now!