Vince Staples: Summertime 06


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From NPR:
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Vince Staples is used to playing the bad guy. Since he was first introduced as a fringe Odd Future affiliate the 22-year-old rapper has established himself as a calm, sinister presence—in sharp contrast to the sometimes shocking, but mostly innocuous, hijinks of Tyler and company. In the four-and-a-half years since the release of his first mixtape, Shyne Coldchain Vol. 1, we’ve been able to delve further into Staples’ mind and seen him develop as a lyricist and songwriter, as he’s consistently added depth to what could’ve been a two-dimensional gangsta persona. Every anti-hero needs an origin story, and in light of the circumstances that formed Vince Staples, black-and-white categorizations of good and bad start to turn gray. That gray area is where Staples does his best work. Staples’ debut double album Summertime ’06 is a study in artful juxtaposition—an hour-long examination of the contradictions that make the man. His hood nihilism is tempered by astute observations about society and an underlying longing for a better way of life. Sonically, the album plays with complementary opposites, too. His voice is high-pitched and slightly nasal and his vocal clarity is impeccable. To match those qualities, lead producer No I.D.—and an all-star team of boardsmen including DJ Dahi, Clams Casino and Christian Rich—supply Staples with a dark, atmospheric backdrop full of low end, reverberating percussion and distortion. But, because of Staples’ myriad flows and the intoxicating rhythms of songs like “Loca” and “Get Paid,” groove is never sacrificed for mood. The album begins with “Ramona Park Legend, Pt. 1,” where woozy, tropical wa-wa guitar, sporadic snares and bass kicks blend with the peaceful sounds of seagulls screeching and waves ebbing and flowing—only to be pierced by a single gunshot. Welcome to Long Beach, Calif., Staples’ hometown. But Summertime ’06 is no sunny “Summertime In The LBC.” “We love our neighborhood, so all my brothers bang the hood / I never vote for presidents / the presidents that change the hood / is dead and green,” rhymes Staples on the album’s manifesto, “Lift Me Up.” He’s as motivated by money as anyone who’s grown up without it, but he’s also keenly aware of racism and inequality, making him a conflicted young man whose perception is clear as his morality is murky: “Fight between my conscience and the skin that’s on my body, man / I need to fight the power but I need that new Ferrari, man.” On “Get Paid” he runs down a laundry list of things he’s done to do just that, from armed robbery to home invasion. But he punctuates his dirty deeds with a statement about the futility of the paper chase: “Money puttin’ n***** in the Matrix, face it,” and an echo by guest Desi Mo: “Money is the means of control!” Staples’ relationship with the opposite sex is as complicated as his relationship with money. He flirts on “Loca” but danger looms throughout the courtship. He warns the object of his affection that she needs to be prepared to deal with a gangbanger’s lifestyle. The cracks in his gangsta veneer become apparent, though, on “Summertime” where we get Staples at his most vulnerable, singing to his lover, “This could be forever, baby” and “I hope you understand / they never taught me how to be a man / only how to be a shooter.” Yes, Vince Staples can be that villain you root for, but he’s even better at showing us the complex, varied pieces that make up a real man.”
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Summertime ’06 is out now on ARTium/ Def Jam; check out “Get Paid” below.
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The Cairo Gang: Goes Missing


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From the press release:
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“There is no sweeter cry than a cry of love, and no greater love than a love of music. Like mercury through our clutching fingers, it is here and gone and spikes the blood like poison — and the Cairo knows, he’s flown all ‘round this world, sewin’ seams and sowin’ seeds in the name of that most rare, that sweet, and on the wind, melody. When he Goes Missing, bet on it — that with guitar in hand and cry from deep in his chest, he’s in search of a place to beat his feet, and play the music again. Playing with other artists over the years, Emmett Kelly has exhibited an encompassing approach to music which lends flexibility to The Cairo Gang’s song-style. He’s a harmony singer of supreme skill, bringing not only a sweet and supple voice but also a tremendous sympathy to the singing of it (as anyone who’s caught Cairo onstage with the Bonnie ‘Prince’ will ever know). Now a couple albums and tapes and singles and things into it he’s making streamlined music for the ears, constructing with a heavy hand in order to have a heavy impact with more than just sounds, but songs, and beaming them in on bright bolts of sunshine so as to be valued by our walnut-sized pleasure centers. With Goes Missing, The Cairo Gang have found themselves, their most perfect alignment to date, taking a more intuitive path to the song, playing as in “go play”: letting go of the sense of design, letting it write itself, as it will in the right hands. As Cairo saith (and so hummably too), “Be What You Are.” Goes Missing was written in-between places, on the run, recorded in a variety of rooms. Lines appear to have been straightened — yet still, blood beats sidewise inside Cairo’s temples, their rebel heart is drunk on the outskirts of town. The impulse to dig underneath the bittersweet heart, to invert meaning, shapes the songs of Goes Missing. Nuts and bubblegum — why can’t we have both? With the music in righteous hands, and the distillation of high values to sing-songy ends, paths to the ear are clear even when words go rogue. Goes Missing is about new identity — what’s missing is that thing you heard in the past that is not the same thing anymore. It’s back there somewhere, if you go looking. Bright and colored, like a jukebox shining a light, The Cairo Gang’s Goes Missing is a stack of sides, piled up, one after another, doo-wops of another age, with synthetic beat and pops that rock for the sake of the song, coming down the chute one after another, today. Keep on dancing.”
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Goes Missing is out now via God? Records; check out “Be What You Are” below.
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Leon Bridges: Coming Home


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From Consequence Of Sound:
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Leon Bridges makes no bones about his musical upbringing; he’s not claiming to be some mystic transplant from another age. He grew up on Usher and Ginuwine, but hearing Sam Cooke unlocked the musical potential bubbling under the surface. Coming Home uses the tools and formulas of Cooke and Marvin Gaye without embellishment. It’s also telling that the decision was instinctual. The happiness he got from hearing and then recreating that music is palpable, infused into the bones of these songs. Nothing about Coming Home feels calculated. The key track is “Lisa Sawyer”, a cotton candy puff of storytelling in which Bridges tells his mother’s life story over an easy-strolling gospel pop track. It’s hard to say whether the aww-inducing description (“the complexion of a sweet praline, hair long as the sea, heart warm like Louisiana sun, voice like a symphony”) or musical flourishes (tenor sax solo and wordless girl-group backing harmonies) are sweeter. Bridges’ love for his mother and for the music drips golden like honey: something natural that exists for its own sake. The brassy “Better Man” shows off Bridges’ more upbeat side — one listen, and you’ll be able to envision him and a few backup singers stepping one hip out toward the audience and snapping in unison. The production, aided by vintage gear and the helping hands of White Denim’s Austin Jenkins and Josh Block, hums throughout Coming Home, picking the right spot for every lazy drum fill or punch of horns. Bridges similarly varies his delivery, offering smoky ribbons on the excellent “Smooth Sailin’” and full-throated, elongated vowels on closer “River”. Though the album lodges itself in a single era, it makes the most of the various strains of R&B and soul that the time had to offer. Often, blatantly retro acts can feel like Halloween costumes on a trick-or-treater: an approximation of something familiar worn temporarily to get something in return. The best retro acts, though, feel more like the work of professional costumers, the kind that get Oscars for making you believe they stepped right out of another era. On Coming Home, Bridges solidly aligns with the latter, his soulful R&B studied and nostalgic, but also immediate and emotionally true.”
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Coming Home is out now on Columbia; check out the title track below.
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Desaparecidos: Payola


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From Consequence Of Sound:
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“Since the last Desaparecidos album, Conor Oberst has aged thirteen years. If you’ve kept up with his songwriting with Bright Eyes, Monsters of Folk, or his work as simply Conor Oberst, you’ve noticed maturity has impacted his music on all fronts. There’s been a move away from his boyish, emotional lyrics, and his sonic arrangements shun lo-fi home recordings, growing in scope as cohort Mike Mogis has improved in his own right as a producer. As Oberst has grown up, so has his audience, and a turn from the songs that first got him noticed has always been appropriate, with a return to the music of Oberst’s youth never really considered a possibility either within the confines of Bright Eyes or under his own name. This rule of thumb does not apply to Desaparecidos. The Omaha-based five-piece have picked up right where they left off with the now beloved Read Music/Speak Spanish, turning any notion that sonic growth is required as decades pass into vapor of flawed logic. Instead, the new album, Payola, sounds perfectly at place next to Read Music/Speak Spanish, yet never requires a familiarity with anything Oberst has made before to appreciate the inciting content or punk-indebted, melodically inviting songwriting. This makes Desaparecidos’ move to punk’s preeminent label, Epitaph, make all the more sense, even if it’s surprising to see Oberst working outside his own longtime label, Saddle Creek. In the end, Desaparecidos are making a play to reach beyond Oberst’s built-in niche. Sure, Mogis is still turning the knobs, but the band is presented as a band apart from Oberst’s personality, with longtime members Landon Hedges, Matt Baum, Denver Dalley, and Ian McElroy all integral to the process of making Desaparecidos work as a group effort. Instrumental sections like the big finish of “10 Steps Behind” and the riff around which “MariKKKopa” is built are as memorable as any of Oberst’s fiery words. The overall impression is that Oberst couldn’t do this on his own, and his reliance on others may be the ultimate sign of maturity. At that, Payola is more than its politics, more than Oberst’s star power, and more than a nostalgia trip for people who adored the group’s debut in 2002. Few bands can return after a 13-year absence and sound vital and fresh, transforming an old-school approach into a process that sounds original. That’s precisely what Desaparecidos have done, making Payola a welcome comeback surprise.”
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Payola is out now on Epitaph; check out “City On The Hill” below.
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Kacey Musgraves: Pageant Material


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From The Telegraph:
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“Small-town Texan singer Kacey Musgraves caused a stir at last year’s Grammy awards when she beat Taylor Swift to the podium, winning both Best Country Song and Best Country Album. The album – Same Trailer Different Park – revealed a songwriter of easy-going charm and quick wit, inspired by the vintage country cool of Roger “King of the Road” Miller and John Prine. The song – “Follow Your Arrow” – was a sparky little self-acceptance anthem which ruffled Nashville’s conservative feathers with a chorus that ran: “Make lots of noise/ Kiss lots of boys/ Or kiss lots of girls if that’s something you’re into/ When the straight and narrow gets a little too straight/ Roll up a joint, or don’t (I would!)/ Just follow your arrow wherever it points.” Her new album is a successful repetition of the formula: sweet, crisp country licks with witty twists of live-and-let-live philosophy. First single “Biscuits” bounces with banjo as Musgraves advises listeners to “Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy”. There’s a simple warmth and motivational pluck to Musgraves that recalls Dolly Parton. Her record label fought for her to change the first word of the line “Pissin’ in my yard ain’t gonna make yours any greener” to “Spittin’ ” but she refused. And why should she make concessions to the Stetsoned FM jocks? According to Billboard’s Country Airplay Chart, all 13 of 2014’s most-played country songs were by male artists. It’s a big problem for the genre, but Musgraves cheerfully dismisses the sexists on “Good Ol’ Boys Club”, declaring: “I don’t need a membership to validate/ The hard work I’ve put in and the dues I’ve paid/ Cigars and handshakes?/ ’Preciate ya, but no thanks.” The song also takes a cheeky swipe at her more polished peer Taylor Swift as Musgrave refuses to be “another gear in a big machine”: Big Machine being the label that has overseen Swift’s crossover from country to pop. The good-natured rebellion continues on title song “Pageant Material”, in which Musgraves brushes off the expectations placed on a Southern girl. “I ain’t pageant material/ I’m always higher than my hair/ And it ain’t that I don’t care about world peace/ But I don’t see how I can fix it in a swimsuit.” Slower numbers laze in sun-dazed pedal steel and the dreamy opener, “High Time”, even has a whistling hook. Once she’s finished putting the boot into Nashville, this self-professed “Dimestore Cowgirl” sure knows how to put her boots up.”
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Pageant Material is out now on Mercury Nashville; check out “Biscuits” below.
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High On Fire: Luminiferous


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From Popmatters:
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“Some bands have so perfected their sound that major stylistic shifts aren’t necessary to keep pumping out quality records. Take High on Fire, for instance. The Oakland metal outfit recently released their seventh studio album, Luminiferous, and, honestly, it really isn’t that much of a departure from their debut, 2000’s The Art of Self Defense, and everything in between. But make no mistake, that’s definitely not a knock on the record. In fact, it’s a testament to the greatness of High on Fire. Their ability to consistently write fresh and exciting material while not straying too far from their thrash-y stoner metal comfort zone is impressive. High on Fire does continually tweak, retool and improve upon their sound, however. Their previous release, 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis, found guitarist Matt Pike really tapping into the sludgier side of his former band Sleep. That record’s heaviness resonated among fans as a logical progression from the band’s 2010 breakthrough, the masterpiece Snakes For The Divine. This time around, there’s a vast melodic improvement in the vocals. Pike is definitely more known for his mighty riffage than vocal hooks, but perhaps that changes with Luminiferous. Instrumentally, “The Falconist” isn’t the most exhilarating number in the High on Fire catalogue. It’s a simple metal shuffle in the vein of Ozzy’s “Crazy Train”, but the vocals add a dark abrasiveness to it all that makes it much more effective. Plus, actually hearing Pike enunciate words is an added bonus. “The Cave” is another where the vocals take the reigns. While not a slight, “The Cave” might be the closest High on Fire has ever come to a power ballad. It trudges along and relies on quiet-loud-quiet dynamics to build momentum. Yet, it’s Pike’s guttural howls that really ups the song’s “devil horns” factor. But Luminiferous isn’t all about the vocals. There are a number of tracks that prove High on Fire can still hang with the heaviest, thrashiest bands around. “Slave The Hive” features a real mind-fuck of a riff that goes forwards, then backwards, then forwards again. Drummer Des Kensel and bassist Jeff Matz dominate the moody rhythms of “The Dark Side of the Compass”. But it’s the title track that absolutely takes the award most relentless riff assault. “Luminiferous” features the perfect combination of scatterbrained metal riffs and unhinged screaming and will likely become a setlist staple on the band’s upcoming tour. Overall, Luminiferous is simply the best team in the league doing what they do best. In most cases, that’s winning, but in this case, that’s producing some of the finest metal on the planet. Don’t be surprised if you’ve heard this before, but, with Luminiferous, High on Fire serve up a strong contender for best metal record of year.”
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Luminiferous is out now via eOne Music; listen to “The Black Plot” below.
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Bully: Feels Like


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From NPR:
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“Alicia Bognanno isn’t one for wasted motion: The indefatigable lead singer of Nashville’s Bully crafts her songs for maximum impact in minimal time, taking care never to overstay her welcome or overdress her arrangements. Feels Like, the Nashville band’s effervescent debut, speeds by in about half an hour, having left behind a trail of two- and three-minute songs that stick in the brain for ages. Still, though it’s easy to fixate on the skill and charm with which Bully’s songs channel the harder-edged sounds of early-’90s college radio, this isn’t just a collection of confections or simple throwbacks. Bognanno laces her writing with playful turns of phrase and, at times, self-doubt that stings: “I question everything,” she sings in “Trying,” adding, “My focus, my figure, my sexuality.” It would have been easy to fill these grungy speedball jams with nonsense words or simple sloganeering, but Bognanno knows when to dig under the skin and fish around. Sweet and fizzy, barbed and aggressive, Feels Like benefits from its sublime simplicity — from all the hooks and riffs and snarls at its surface — while smartly undercutting it at the right times. These are speeding-with-the-windows-down songs, but they also feel true to the life of the charismatic ball of nerves at their core.”
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Feels Like is out June 23 via Star Time International/ Columbia; listen to “I Remember” below.
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KEN Mode: Success


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From Stereogum:
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“The title of KEN Mode’s upcoming album, Success, feels at least a little sarcastic. Even to the extent a discordant, abrasive noise/hardcore/metal band can achieve “success,” it’s of a tenuous sort. But in many ways, KEN Mode are the model of that success: The band’s two constant members — brothers Jesse and Shane Matthewson (vocals/guitar and drums, respectively) — were working as accountants till 2011, at which point they decided to quit their day jobs and make music their full-time gig. Success! That means near-endless touring, playing small venues with similarly loud, unwashed bands, broken up only by the occasional chance to record a new album, followed by more touring. Success! But as accountants, KEN Mode know how to work with lean margins, and as Muay Thai practitioners, they’ve developed almost superhuman discipline, and they’ve survived by living frugally and producing maximal yields from scant resources. As such, KEN Mode were ideal candidates to work with Steve Albini — and that doesn’t even take into account their sonic similarities to such Albini-assisted artists as Mclusky and the Jesus Lizard. Success is the Matthewson brothers’ first collaboration with the minimalist engineer. (This time around, the band’s bassist is Skot Hamilton — he’s at least the seventh person to play that role over the last 15 years.) As you might expect, it’s a paint-peeling, concussion-inducing assault, introducing tiny elements of pop into the band’s backdraft-surge sound. The title’s sarcasm matches Albini’s worldview, of course, but so too does the title’s idealism. The defeated-looking dude on the album’s cover looks like he makes pretty good money as, say, an accountant. He also looks like he’d be a whole lot happier in a van, playing in a punk band. Success is what you make it, right?”
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Success is out now on Season Of Mist; stream the whole thing below.
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Jaakko Eino Kalevi


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From DIY Mag:
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Jaakko Eino Kalevi’s 2013 EP, Dreamzone, was a suitably titled introduction to a dub-meditative world, inspired by the monotony and frustration of being a Helsinki tram-driver. In 2014, he released Ying Yang Theatre, an EP that perfectly balanced the mutant dance scenes of Berlin and New York, where Kalevi had spent most the year. Freedom from his former occupation has allowed Jaakko Eino Kalevi to develop his “dreamzone” into something more widescreen, though now Kalevi is viewing in Technicolor. ‘Room’’s glacial synths are Scandinavia personified, while lead single ‘Double Talk’ is ‘No End’s natural successor, with Kalevi’s wide-eyed romance assisted by frequent collaborator Suad Khalifa, who appears recurrently on the album. Kalevi has a liking for playing with space and dimension: on ‘Mind Like Muscle’ and closer ‘Ikuinen Purkautumaton Jannite’, he plays with boundaries that address an automated world through a vision of humanity in isolation. ‘Deeper Shadows’ mixes a medieval melody with moonlight-futurism to create a curious oddity that tests body and mind with the encouragement to “go your own way”, shoud you want to follow his example. With layer upon layer of vocal, groove, and percussion, Jaakko Eino Kalevi is a reminder that pop can be both for your head and your feet. The cocktail strut of ‘Say’ and the infectious bop of ‘Night At The Field’ are just two examples, though ‘Hush Down’ neatly ties the concept together best. Album opener ‘JEK’ is a coronation of his own kingdom, a celebration of the self delivered in his native tongue. “I get my name misspelled so often that I think it’s good to focus on that at this point,” the eponymous Finn says about the album’s title. The reality is that Jaakko Eino Kalevi is never in danger of being lost in translation, because it is only him that occupies this realm.”
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Jaakko Eino Kalevi is out now via Weird World; check out “Deeper Shadows” below.
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Institute: Catharsis

Catharsis
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From the label:
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“Politically speaking, not much has changed about the way Austin’s Institute exists as a band since signing to Sacred Bones. Having members in Glue, Wiccans, and Back To Back, all fellow stalwarts of the Texas punk scene, helps streamline the approach for them, as all of their bands operate from the same basic ethos. In fact, singer Moses Brown has said they’re only comfortable being on Sacred Bones because he considers the label “a punk label on steroids” (a note from the label: “Drugs, yes. Steroids, usually no”), Aligning themselves so closely with punk politics might make some of the music on Catharsis come as a surprise. Yes, they’re still the punks who put out gloriously lean Crass and Crisis worship across a demo, a 7-inch, and last year’s Salt EP. But for their boundary-smashing debut long-player, they’ve incorporated everything from acoustic guitars to proto-punk psych excursions, even stretching their songs out to Krautrock lengths when necessary. Brown’s lyrics on Catharsis reflect its title. He said he used the record “as a vehicle to put things out in the open that I haven’t necessarily told anyone. The songs are about my faults, my insecurities, my existence, my relationships, my childhood. I’m thoroughly disappointed in myself.” After demoing for several weeks at home in Austin, Institute tracked and mixed Catharsis in just four days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve 2014, in New York City with Ben Greenberg at Brooklyn’s Gary’s Electric. “Cheerlessness” carves out the perfect trine foundation to aspect both the anthemic “Cheaptime Morals “ and the much looser jam “Christian Right” (the latter featuring fellow Texan Andrew Savage of Parquet Courts). Issues of morality, sexuality and religion are all interwoven seamlessly throughout the 10 tracks as the band explores new sonic astral space.”
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Catharsis is out now on Sacred Bones; listen to “Perpetual Ebb” below.
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