I happened to catch these guys a little while back when they opened for DECIBELity fave King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard and they definitely made an impression. Their musicianship was on point, and I was particularly taken by their well-polished songs —little glittering morsels of indie pop.
And after I checked out their debut LP released a few weeks later, I like them even more. As it turns out, they‘re signed to Stones Throw Records, which is one of my favorite labels of all time and, their founding member Alexander Brettin was also the guy behind Salvia Plath fka Run DMT (man this guy has some issues with intoxicants).
Anyway, the recordings of these aforementioned pop morsels are fantastic—charming, lo-fi in all the right ways, more than a little blues-y with just the perfect amount of hiss and warble. And hooks get stuck up in your head. This is perfect Indian summer music, for those of you in applicable locations.
Check out a few of the tracks below and grab the album at the Stones Throw shop.
Awful Records is, without a doubt, one of my favorite finds this year. The prolific Atlanta-based collective, which counts somewhere near a dozen heads among its ranks, has been steadily gaining momentum since sometime in 2014. And with good reason: they manage to somehow produce consistently quality rap music while maintaining their independence both creatively and financially within the Mecca of over-produced carbon-copy radio rap.
This can be at least partially chalked up to their idiosyncratic DIY approach to production, which finds obvious influence from broad palette of sounds spanning well beyond the reaches of pop music. But their real quirk comes from their cadre of oddball MCs—Father, iLoveMakonnen, Ethereal, OG Maco and Key! and the rest — who spit off-the-wall raps and hooks that are refreshingly absent of drugs and violence.
As an R&B singer and the cohort’s only female, Abra is something of an outlier within a crew of outliers—an exception to an exception. And her debut, Roses, released this summer, is accordingly unique, and likely one of 2015’s best releases.
As with the rest of the Awful clique, production is sparse and understated. The sound of modern Atlanta-style rap clearly informs the it but so do more exotic sounds like British drum & bass and Darkwave synthpop (in fact she has styled herself as “Dutchess of Darkwave”). There’s a density, an emotional weight perhaps, to this record that belies the simplicity of its structure.
The emotional heft is not from the lyrics, which trod well-worn themes in R&B—love and heart break etc.—but from the sonic character of her voice, and how well the plaintive piano melodies, scattershot 808 snares, gurgling synthesizers and cavernous basslines accompany it. It’s a cohesive artistic statement from someone whom we should be hearing much more from in the future.
Check out the rest of album here:
Here’s a non-album track featuring Awful Records boss Father
That old adage about it being better to do one thing well, holds true with music in that its pretty much always preferable to pick a simple idea and nail the fucking shit out of it than to try to “push the envelope” with a bunch of half-cooked ideas.
Tuxedo, a collaborative project from vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Mayer Hawthorne and hip-hop producer Jake One (who has produced for everyone from G Unit to MF Doom to Brother Ali) is definitely not breaking any new ground, but with songs that are this fun, who cares.
The duo’s eponymous debut, released last month via Stones Throw Records, is a homage to the late-‘70s/early-‘80s heyday of the West Coast funk—that same influential sound that informed a generation of G-funk ‘90s gangsta rap.
Basically it’s a smoothed out collection of electrified disco boogie, full of synthetic melodies, squiggly Funkadelic sounds and ridiculously, get-stuck-all-in-your-head hooks, that fans of Chromeo and Dam-Funk will be all over, and a soundtrack that will surely heat up some parties/dance floors as the weather gets nice.
And here we have some Christmas boogie for that ass
Also, there are a bunch of killer DJ mixes over at the Souncloud page if that is your kind of thing.
22-year-old Anthony Naples first landed on the scene a few years back igniting New York’s nigh life with the track-y euphoric bump of his sublimely simple “Mad-Disrespect” 12”—a nod to the classic American garage/house sounds of the late ’80s and early ’90s. His production had a raw, impromptu kind of feel that was a perfect antidote to a glut of clinical and over-produced dance music. And on the strength of that, his first ever track, he was picked up by the esteemed club night/ record label Mister Saturday Night.
For his debut, he’s taken somewhat of an abrupt left turn. Body Pill, released last month via Four Tet’s Text Records imprint is an understated almost meditative offering—more after hours than peak time—that barely clears the 30 minute mark. It’s obvious pretty much right away, in fact, that things are going to be different as the first song “Ris” begins with a bleary elongated wash of synthesizer and slowly builds to something resembling melancholic indie synth-pop. When the thump does drop in “Abrazo” it’s backing a much more intricately melodic framework, something that is right in line with Four Tet or Caribou-style of dance music. Naples’ melodies always tended to veer toward the etherial, but they were very much relegated to minor supporting roles, here they splay out in all directions weaving in and out of his syncopated rhythmic concoctions.
Album closer “Miles” , with its cowbell, handclaps and subdued keys, is probably the closest thing to the classic Naples sound, but the rhythm is short lived as the track fades into contemplative ambiance that drifts across the final few minutes into a bleepy disembodied synthesizer line. It’s actually kind of a strange way to end a record, but who really cares, this guy can clearly do what the fuck he wants.
Ibeyi—pronounced “ee-bey-ee”—is a Yoruban, Nigerian word that translates roughly to the concept of “sacred divinity of twins.” It is also the name that Lisa-Kaindé Diáz and Naomi Díaz have adopted for their self-titled debut album, released earlier this month on British record label XL Recordings. And what a debut it is.
These twin sisters—barely 20 years old—have managed to record an album that effortlessly weaves together the disparate strands of West African folk, Cuban jazz, soul, blues and contemporary R&B, into something greater than the sum of its parts.
One of the most striking features characterizing Ibeyi is its many apparent contradictions. Steeped in tradition and yet thoroughly modern, it is in many ways a reflection of the myriad influences that came to bear on the sister’s trans-Atlantic upbringing.
Ibeyi is out now on XL Recordings
Born in Cuba, the girls grew up mostly in Paris, though they made frequent visits to the Caribbean. Their father was the acclaimed Latin jazz percussionist Miguel “Angá” Díaz, who played with the famous Buena Vista Social Club, in Havana. His spirit is alive and embodied in their music, which relies heavily on traditional Cuban percussive instruments such as the cajón and the batá. Naomi has said in interviews that she learned many lessons from her dad, but one of the most important was a love of rhythm.
But “Ibeyi” gets the heft of its emotional impact by drawing back to a much older Cuban musical tradition—one that stretches all the way back to West Africa. The Yoruba language, in which much of the lyrics are sung, is from a culture and religion brought to the Caribbean through the slave trade in the 1700s.
Many of these songs such as “River” and “Yanira” are essentially 21st Century versions of ancient Yoruban folk songs, while songs like “Ghost” are odes to the spirits of ancestors. Both sisters sing, and both have a bluesy earthiness to their voices that suggests wisdom beyond their mere 20 years on earth. Their frequent use of call-and-response-style vocals recall the “spirituals” sung by slaves as they worked in the fields.
The sound of modern club music—both of European techno and of American hip-hop and R&B—is “Ibeyi’s” other guiding light. The songs are crafted using cutting-edge style production (complete with synthesizers and a heavy emphasis on sub bass) that would hold its weight in a club against any contemporary pop music.
Ibeyi is about opposing forces, and it is this interplay between yin and yang, mind and spirit, old world and new that makes it so remarkable.
First, I’d like to say that I love Ariel Pink‘s music… even when it’s horrible which some of it undoubtedly is (and has to be with a songwriter as prolific as he). I mean, sure, as a human being he may be a notorious dickhead, but whether he’s an overgrown petulant child or just some celebrated neek with a personality disorder, his skewed take on pop music makes me feel weird and fizzy and (at its best) slightly inebriated.
His latest bomb, lobbed from 4AD, exploded on the internet just a few weeks ago — perfectly timed for my end of year list. It harkens back to the stunningly weird, but atrociously recorded 4-track experiments Pink used to concoct in his bedroom before he decided to get a band together (Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti) and record his eponymous “breakthrough” in a real studio. The players he assembled were really good, and the increase in fidelity from going to a professional studio was of an order of magnitude, and so the results were positive, but a lot more conventional at least by Pink’s whigged-out standards. This record revives that classic “what-the-fuck” feeling I used to get from his recordings but with much better sound quality, which is basically all I ever wanted.
Here’s the first single “Put Your Number in My Phone”
Here are a couple of low-quality previews with which to whet yourself:
The sequel to last summer’s collaboration between underground hip-hop pioneer and Definitive Jux impresario El-P and Organized Noise/Dungeon Family-affiliated Atlanta rapper Killer Mike is essentially more of the same—and those familiar with the first installment will recognize this as absolutely a good thing.
A more fully formed incarnation of the concept, RTJ2 is a proper album to RTJ’s mixtape.
The beats bang at least as hard as the first time around, and there are some pretty interesting guest spots including (from seemingly out of nowhere) former Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha and Three 6 Mafia’s Gangsta Boo, who turns in probably most over-the-top verse on an album characterized by its over-the-top-ness.
Of course it’s Mike and El who are the main attraction; the two MCs—each at the top of his game—trade dexterous, multi-syllabic verses, feeding off each others considerable intensity in a synergistic game of one-up-man-ship, and demonstrating, in the process, that they’re two of the best doing it right now.
You can download the whole thing in exchange for an email address over at the Run the Jewels website, or if you’re the kind of person who pays for your music grab the physical release (a la carte or as part of plethora of bonus package options) here.
The extremely prolific, Melbourne based, 7 piece psych outfit King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are set to release their 5th record (in 2 years), I’m In Your Mind Fuzz, on 11/11 via Castle Face Records stateside (Heavenly in Europe and Flightless in Australia).
Self-described as “completely fried theremin wielding psychopaths,” I could attempt to describe their fuzz filled fantasy myself although Jon Dwyer (Thee Oh Sees frontman and Castle Face founder) has done it best…
“this Australian beast of a band with a bear of a name and a thick herd of band members delivers many things to us on this warped song cycle – a skeleton of propulsive kraut-beat fleshed out with a liberal dose of citric sweetness, flutes and harmonicas bleeding through the mix often and welcomingly, tons of wah and a hero’s journey/Heavy Metal early 80’s fantasy sort of vibe, and many lovely left turns into psychedelic mellowing, both groovily and sometimes with just a dash of DMT dread. The whole thing is just gooey with tape manipulations, phase shifts, and saturations, but there are clearly many tasty tidbits that bubble to the top, and they’re sticky.”
yep…that about covers it.
PREORDER I’m In Your Mind Fuzzhere and check out their US tour below
10/13 Brooklyn, NY- Baby’s All Right ^
10/14 Boston, MA – Great Scott ^
10/15 Montreal, QC- Il Motore $
10/16 Toronto, ON- The Garrison $
10/17 Cleveland, OH- Happy Dog $
10/18 Chicago, IL- Subterranean $
10/19 Buffalo, NY- Tralf Music Hall $
10/20 Baltimore, MD- Golden West $
10/21 Philadelphia, PA- North Star Bar $
10/23 Kingston, NY – BSP Lounge ^
11/04 New York, NY – Terminal 5 *
* w/ Mac DeMarco, Connan Mockasin
$ w/ White Fence
^ w/ White Fence, Juan Wauters
At this point there probably isn’t a lot left to be added regarding this—it’s even been reviewed by Gawker for fuck’s sake. It is, however, a masterpiece and will most certainly make it to our end-of-list, so it feels kind of necessary to acknowlege.
The backstory behind Tahliah Debrett Barnett, the artist Formerly Known As Twigs or FKA Twigs is that she is a gymnast who apparently used to work as a backup dancer in music videos. Then in 2012 she self-released an EP, EP1, via Bandcamp. The release caught the ear of the A&R guys at Young Turks (home to Jamie xx, SBTRK and many more), who promptly signed her and released a second EP in 2013, the excellent EP2 (featured on DecibelCast Vol. 18), which was a collaborative effort with formidable Venezuelan bass experimentalist Arca. The EP and its leading single “Water Me” generated a ton of internet hype, which set the stage for a year of hype. When it did finally drop earlier this month, LP1 lived up to the hype and then some.
Stretching and contorting the pop music ethos to the edge of what seems possible, LP1 is as daring a pop record as you’re likely to find anywhere. Twigs’ ferbile vocal delivery comes wrapped in an icy veneer, which eventually melts giving way to a vulnerability as fragile as the newly fallen snow. And while her voice is definitely the distinguishing feature which binds the record together, it’s the music crafted around her, and how she interfaces with it that makes for such a rich and singular sonic experience.
Absorbing bits and pieces of various mainstream pop and much of cutting edge, underground electronic music, the studio wizards behind LP1 run these disparate elements through a complicated chain of effects processing and spit out some post-modern cubist approximation of R&B/club music—a synth-heavy juggernaut, densely atmospheric, with huge oscillating low end and multifaceted rhythms that splay outward with skittering trap-like percussion that seems to materialize and fall to pieces. The processing extends to her vocals as well, which are doubled, and pitched and twisted and warped until they become just another strange feature of the alien landscape.
Essential listening for 2014.
“Two Weeks” from LP1
“Pendulum” from LP1
“Water Me” from EP2
Twigs is also, apparently, an accomplished video director and producer. Here are some videos she’s been involved in:
Sophomore albums can be tricky business, particularly when the record to be followed up on is as brazenly and uncompromisingly brilliant as Black Out (SubPop), which dropped on an unsuspecting world with the force and precision of a laser guided-missile. It was, simply put, a revelation. There was nothing at the time even remotely like it.
So the challenge in these types of situations is always: “How to meet expectations without just rotely rehashing what worked in the past?”, but pulling this off requires a deft balancing act, which all-too-frequently can’t be maintained by the heretofore celebrated act. (It doesn’t help that we, as a culture, so enjoy holding our idols aloft only to tear them down as soon as they misstep.) Fortunately for us (and also for them I guess), Shabazz Palaces avoided all that shit, by doubling down on what made them so great in the first place: their eclectic and unabashed weirdness—a wellspring that has proven remarkably deep. The Seattle-based duo went even further out on their trip and in the process created a record that while demanding becomes, upon repeated listens, a thoroughly satisfying sonic experience.
Shabazz Palaces tearing up the New Parish (Oakland CA) on July 29, 2014
Expansive and (let’s be honest) obtuse at times, Les Magestey contains most of what was great about BlackOut—the mystic imagery, the Afro-futurist motifs, the startling attention to texture and detail—but as an album, is paced much differently. The “songs” are shorter and more numerous, blending together with dream-like interludes, creating larger “movements.” The atmosphere is denser and weirder. And the beats slink along rather than smacking the listener upside the head.
I caught these guys in Oakland a couple of weeks ago, and fuck it might have been the best show I’ve seen all year. (Here’s some video courtesy of YouTube user Johnohnoh)
You can purchase Les Majesty here, and check out some of the songs below.