December 31, 2016

The Year's 5 Greatest Albums

   2016 was a huge year for new music. Mainstream headliners like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Wilco, Blink 182, Green Day and Metallica returned for another gasp. Years-in-hype releases from Radiohead, Kanye West, Solange, Frank Ocean and Drake finally came forward. Neil Young put out two albums while Iggy Pop, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen added to their mountainous discographies. Here are the year's best releases:

5. Post Pop Depression by Iggy Pop
Released: March 18
   Iggy Pop ages like the big oak tree that everyone pissed on in college. He soaks it up and moves forward. For Post Pop Depression, his seventeenth album, he teamed up with Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal, Them Crooked Vultures), Dan Fertita (QOFSTA, The Dead Weather) and Matt Helders (The Arctic Monkeys). The collaboration makes perfect sense. Homme preserves the scuzz of Pop’s early days with the Stooges, but adds to it a tight-lipped air of cool. The guitars are thick like hamburger meat running alongside Pop’s chiseled scowl and the rhythm section provides a steady anchor.
   While listening to "Gardenia" the screws in your neck loosen. The whole song rides on a rollicking bass line that gets the body moving like an inflatable air dancer. The chorus is an act of hypnosis. “All I wanna do is tell Gardenia what to do tonight,” Pop sings in an up and down cascade with Homme’s high-pitched vocals shadowing in the background. "American Valhalla," sounds like background music from a lost episode of The Addams Family. “I shot my gun / I used my knife / This hasn’t been an easy life,” Pop sings.
   When the cavernous maw of Iggy Pop unhinges the grumble of decades past unfurls out. With every word uttered one can visualize the deep creases of his face moving in rhythm. His Adam’s apple vibrates back and forth with each syllable. "Vulture" starts with a wooden guitar lick that sounds like a throwaway demo. But, then Pop's voice drops into the song like sewer sludge and you're suddenly put on alert. “Fat black vulture white head hung low / Chewing dead meat by the side of the road / His evil breath smells just like death,” he warns dryly. Post Pop Depression ends with “Paraguay” a lacerating beat down with Pop calling bullshit on our world of constant unending information and the phonies that willingly prop it up. The snarling hero of our destructive tendencies still has enough saliva to spit back into the world.

4. Anti by Rihanna
Released: January 28
   Ri Ri, you make my heart ache. Anti was the most unhealthy addiction of the year. I got fat off of this. The downward cadence on "Needed Me" alone -- "but baby you-ou-ou-ou-ou needed me" -- makes Anti hard to put away. She gets cold with an ex-lover over a simple beat and an expanding wah-wah. When Rihanna sing, it's in a downward spiral. "Didn't they tell you that I was a savage? / fuck your white horse and your carriage." Somewhere an ex is crying in his beer in a dark bar. Every other song could've been radio signals from the ocean and this would still be on the list somewhere. BUT, add in "Work," "Consideration," "Kiss It Better," "Desperado," "Woo," "Yeah, I Said It"--come on, Lord please.
   On "Consideration," Rihanna gives the assist to SZA. Their voices move around each other in an uneven orbit. SZA bellowing beautifully bent notes; Rihanna soaring in an upward swing. The big single, "Work," though, I barely know what she's singing, gets catchier as time goes on. It's one of her best singles. She sings against a coarse electronic tremble that never lets on "Woo." Then, when you think it can't any more vicious, Rihanna screams, "I don't mean to really luh you / I don't mean to really care about you no more." Anti is a near classic from Rihanna. From song-to-song it dips and crashes through different styles, some all her own, some borrowed. Her powerful voice continues to lurk its way towards the outer extensions of R&B.

3. Gore by Deftones
Released: April 8
   Deftones continue to deliver, expanding their sound in subtle and intricate ways. They remain rooted in the punk metal headrush of their debut Adrenaline, but with each album since the sound has grown heavier and more melodic in equal parts. Gore, their eighth, furthers the formula into peak Deftones territory.
   Song structure is rarely straightforward with many little fine twists and turns. If you headbang to this without knowing the song, you’ll fast get off beat. “Prayers/Triangles,” opens the album with a slow, meandering guitar the drums break and the chorus slashes through. Throw the bottle at the wall when “Doomed User” comes on. Deftones to the core. "Geometric Headdress" erupts like a tank through a wall. Chino Moreno's scream scorches like a propane tank left to explode. Then ten seconds in it flips to an offbeat rumble with a wily guitar pushing the listener out of rhythm. Midway through "Hearts/Wires" settles over the album like the final rays of sunlight. A few simple guitar pluckings crawl over each other while Moreno sings of a memory lost. “The slit in the sky where you left / is all I see,” he aches. The slow build is hypnotizing.
   Deftones just continue to breathe new life into an old sound. Gore, the third album since Vega took over for the late Chi Ching on bass, follows Koi No Yokan and Diamond Eyes on a continuing upscale of creativity that doesn’t seem to be slipping any time soon.

2. Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Released: September 9
   You're sitting at the desk drinking vodka from a mug in an empty room. With his voice, he's calling you. With his voice, Nick Cave is calling you. “Jesus Alone” opens the sixteenth album from Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds with a rhino-breathing vibration that pulsates from end to end. Skeleton Tree is a cloudy-eyed meandering through the forests of Cave’s mind. It captures him in a whirlpool of emotion as he attempts to create art in the aftermath of the tragic death of his 15-year old son, Arthur.
   In July of 2015 Arthur fell 60 feet off the Ovingdean Gap cliffs overlooking the English Channel in Brighton. Reportedly, he had taken LSD with friends and separated after experiencing a bad trip. The event is deeply imprinted in Cave’s trembling baritone, but hidden in the code of his indirect lyrics. You feel it rather than simply hearing about it. The songs move with the rhythm of the chilling wind. Sparse piano notes wash away in the reverb of dark wandering tones. It sounds like unimaginable hurt. “Rings of Saturn” reads as a powerful ode to his wife’s motherly strength in the face of family tragedy. "Anthrocene" sounds like it could be a remix from Liars or Thom Yorke.
   “I used to think that when you died you kind of wandered the world,” Cave sings on “Girl In Amber.” “Well, I don't think that any more the phone it rings no more.” We are particle size when seen from a distance. Insignificant, scant, a blip. We live and we die and on the world turns. Cave knows this. It’s the very principle lurking behind each lyric and on Skeleton Tree he deals with the haunt like a master poet.

1. Blackstar by David Bowie
Released: January 8
   David Bowie was in the top tier of rock and roll superstars, a god on earth, living breathing cultural history. The fact that his surprising death on January 8th surreptitiously worked as promotion for his 25th album, Blackstar, makes it all the more surreal. Was he really beamed to earth at a young age with his rocketing rise to super-stardom already planned out? The album is extravagant, ghostly, teetering on the outskirts of what is considered to be a traditional rock and roll album. It swivels and sinks into the poorly lit backroom of the musical mansion Bowie built over his fifty-plus-year-career.
   Blackstar is a seven-song voyage, a trek through the panicked headspace of someone too aware of their mortality. It shifts in moods and tempos, wandering, but never too far. The title track is a ten-minute ride alongside Bowie as he passes through the layers of Heaven. The song wears many faces, turning inside out and evolving with the minutes. Blackstar picks up with “‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore.” A heavyset drum and bass union churns through the song as it progresses into a perpetual Coleman swirl, horns gone akimbo. Bowie hits the high notes with a twisted sadness, a hidden anarchy while singing the title line. You can see his chiseled grin slowly rise with each word.
   “Lazarus” is when the listener begins to really ache. The song saunters in with a clean, melancholic guitar scale and steady drums. But, then these soft devious horns slither in slightly offbeat. When Bowie enters he sings, “Look up here / I’m in heaven,” and your heart skips a beat. In his slow drift outward he’s catching the wind currents like the bluebird without misgiving. Blackstar is a lasting statement to not only David Bowie’s artistry, but to how he lived his life through that artistry. He worked hard through the end of his days to give us a product he’d be remembered by, a final soundtrack to the epilogue of a life lived in constant creation.

Best of the Rest:
[L-R] Ape in Pink Marble by Devendra Banhart / A Seat at the Table by Solange / Sonoran Depravation by GATECREEPER / Strangers by Marissa Nadler



The Year's 5 Disappointing Albums

     There was a lot to be disappointed in from 2016. They took Bowie, Prince, Merle, Leon and Leonard away from us. Kanye created one of the coolest stage sets -- the mid-crowd hovering platform -- only to implode a few weeks in as the stage was mechanically reeled in. Macklemore headlined Bonnaroo. Coldplay played the Superbowl. There was a mountain of notable releases this year (next week see our Best Of list) and in that pile were a number of albums that just didn't live up to their heightened hype. Here are the year's 5 most disappointing, though not totally bad, releases.

5. A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead
     Okay, I feel shitty putting this here. Radiohead is the greatest running band in the world. Five musical geniuses working in unison to deliver album after album of genre defying and re-conceptualizing--each one rewriting the code of the last. It's always a big question mark as to what the next Radiohead album will sound like. A Moon Shaped Pool, still a beautiful collection of songs from the band in their purest form, just never feels cohesive. Fine as it is, the album is in a way the first to not fully pull the carpet from under their sound. Most of the 11 songs were already available in some form for years and they're not so radical from their initial blueprint. Not that there's anything wrong with reaching back, but it feels a bit like the tying up of lose ends. But, rest assured, it's always a good year when Radiohead is releasing music.
Apologies to: "Burn the Witch," "Daydreaming"

4. LEMONADE by Beyonce
  Sorry but, LEMONADE doesn't come close to the last visual album from Beyonce -- self-titled -- released in the final hours of 2013. Beyonce's fifth album, a supposed airing out of dirty laundry from Bey and Jay’s relationship, was released by surprise with a suite of videos that ended up being more iconic than any of the actual songs. It’s Beyonce in a frilly yellow dress with a baseball bat in hand that instantly sticks out.
     Beyonce took ideas and input from all across the music spectrum and threw them in the air like confetti to see where they’d land. I respect her for casting a large net for collaborators, but, really, how many people does it take to make an album theses days? It’s getting to be like factory work. In the end what you get is a hodgepodge collection of songs bouncing from style to style without ever feeling like a whole piece. She takes a classic John Bonham beat and buries it in the mix. She does less singing and more yelling and censored swearing. Dips into country with the Dixie Chicks. And I really didn’t think artists were still sticking that obnoxious dancehall horn in their songs. It just can’t be snuffed out. Despite Beyonce's best efforts LEMONADE fails to evolve her sound in any way--her message, maybe, but not her sound.
Apologies to: “Pray You Catch Me”

3. VIEWS by Drake
     Drake. Oh my Drakey Poo. Buddy. You've gotta cut out the fat. VIEWS is an unfortunate bloated circumstance. I know 20 tracks is a great way to capitalize on streaming sales, but that's what the mixtapes are for. Don't give us an album where we're skipping every third track. At the very least, they used to be called bonus tracks. Now we're just removing the asterisks. Drake went from someone I abhorred and passed off as something Lil' Wayne pulled out of his jacket pocket to someone who I spent late nights drinking wine with and falling asleep with. Take Care and Nothing Was the Same are back-to-back classics. VIEWS is an oily mirrored version of the two, trying to set the same mood and hit the same spots. It doesn't. It feels empty. While I still reach for NWTS at least once a week, I think I'll leave VIEWS in the hard-drive.
Apologies to: "Hype," "Redemption," "Feel No Ways," Child's Play"



2. Endless / Blond by Frank Ocean
   Big sigh. We wait and we wait. We wade through rumors and false starts. Years since Channel Orange. Years since we've heard Ocean's syrupy sweet croons and high pitched tear-yanking melodies dominate an album. Then, surprised, he comes out unannounced with two bulbous, overstuffed albums as some sort of consolation prize for our time in wait. Despite a handful of songs that could stand on their own, the two albums are juiced and greased with intro and outro tracks that weigh them down. Wise man once sang despondently, "Every single record auto-tuning, zero emotion, muted emotion / pitched corrected computed emotion, uh-huh."

1. The Life of Pablo by Kanye West
     Kanye's always been a maniac. I've always loved his every move. But this shit is tragic. Other outlets are out of their collective mind putting this album in their top ten lists. Sonically, okay, he always puts something together that makes you want to listen and figure out. Sometimes, though, his splicing gets to be too jumbled. TLOP is made up of all these really incredible pieces, but when they're thrown into Kanye's blender it don't always mix and match.
     Mostly, though, what stinks this album up to hog heaven are Kanye's lyrics. Lord God they're hideous. A lot of Kanye's best lyrics have sounded corny and nonsensical the first time you hear them, but later they reveal a six-sided meaning connecting pop culture to his inner sadness and the guilt it he feels for it. Well, it's been months since this album was released and the lyrics still sound corny and nonsensical because mostly they are. A lot of the time he doesn't even finish bars and just gasps and blows into the microphone. 
     Here I will give Kanye the award for worst lyric of the year, from "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1": "If I fuck this model / and she just bleached her asshole / and I get bleach on my t-shirt / I'mma feel like an asshole." This is where the Kanye force field finally disintegrated around me. To make all this worse, the album's greatest line was replaced in later versions. "She be Puerto Rican Day parade waving," from "Famous" was changed to, "She in school to be a real estate agent." Just not the same flair. And why wasn't "All Day" on this?
Apologies to: "Feedback" (been waiting for someone to rap over feedback), "Famous," (if only for the awesome Taylor Swift hubbub), "Real Friends," "No More Parties In LA," "Fade"

source: http://imp

September 18, 2016

FILM REVIEW: "One More Time With Feeling"

Nick Cave Tries to Deflect
His Most Upfront Hurt in Doc
     As Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds rehearse Else Torp sings her part on the new song, “Distant Sky.” The camera zooms out the pace of rising mist through the ceiling to show the recording studio, its neighborhood, its little corner in southern England and the whole of Earth as it turns into another Sunday.
     “We are a tiny blue dot in a moonbeam,” Cave narrates over himself riding in a car through London’s night streets in a scene from One More Time with Feeling, the group’s new in-studio documentary. We are particle size when seen from a distance. Insignificant, scant, a blip. We live and we die and on the world turns. Cave knows this. It’s the very principle lurking behind each lyric.
     One More Time with Feeling, directed by Andrew Dominik, follows Cave, along with dark-eyed, black-whiskered instrumentalist Warren Ellis and the other Bad Seeds during the recording for their new album, Skeleton Tree. More specifically, though, it’s about Cave caught in a whirlpool of emotion as he attempts to create art in the aftermath of the tragic death of his 15-year old son, Arthur.
     In July of 2015 Arthur fell 60 feet off the Ovingdean Gap cliffs overlooking the English Channel in Brighton. Reportedly, he had taken LSD with friends and separated after experiencing a bad trip. In the film the horrific event is spoken about only in background statements without context and never with detail. There is talk of something unfortunate happening, a far-off hurt, but what or to whom is unclear. Arthur’s name isn’t even mentioned until near the end when it becomes very clear what this is all about.
     Arthur, the beautiful blue-eyed boy, left behind his twin brother, Earl Cave, to mourn with his parents. In One More Time we get a peek into Nick Cave, the Well Adjusted Family Man, a fairly rare sight. We see the family joking around, finding strength together. Cave speaks lovingly of his wife Susie Bick and how they worked through the tragedy together. “Happiness is our revenge,” he says about getting over the cruelty of what happened.
     The result of all this becomes the nine songs on Skeleton Tree, their sixteenth album. Deliberate cameras capture the process. Some of the footage was filmed using “this ridiculous black and white 3D camera,” Cave says. It soars around the recording studio, embedded in corners of walls and falling through circular stairwells. It captures the quiet moments between creativity, focusing on plugs in walls, sounding boards, cracks in door frames and conversations in the next room.
Still from One More Time With Feeling
     Throughout One More Time the film crew is often visible, becoming almost another character. Everyone is very self-aware that filming is in progress and how foolish it seems. In a sense this is a movie about making a movie about making an album. A circular track is laid out around Cave’s piano in the middle of the studio. As he plays gloomily a team of six men huddled on what looks like a toy train circles slowly around him.
     To allow a camera crew to capture you unguarded is some kind of artistic bravery. Cave keeps it together, even shares a few laughs, but there’s an intense sadness hiding behind the hard outer Cave exterior. He is very open and honest detailing the difficulty of trying to make a record, trying to structure songs, while surrounded by trauma. Arthur’s death, he explains, disrupted the creative process.
     Cave paces the room, dejected about his work, unsure of certain piano notes, overdubbing in doubt. So much vulnerability underneath those dark black bushy brows. He recoils, unable to make sense of the tragedy, unwilling to find within it poetic justice.
     When asked about his recent lyrical distancing from the personal narrative, he struggles to explain how incredulous it is to try and define an event in measured verse. Writing from the depth of his personal experience in this tragedy, he says, would be a disservice to Arthur.
     “Time is elastic,” he says. We get further and further from a particular moment in time, but like a stretched out rubber band, we eventually snap right back.

source: http://imp

September 15, 2016

REVIEW: "Lovers" by Nels Cline

Nels Cline scores
your life on 2-disc Lovers
     If you’ve ever seen Wilco live you’ve noticed the tall guy in nice button-down dress shirts playing the guitar stage left. That’s Nels Cline and he shreds in equal parts beauty and chaos. He’s able to make his guitar sound like the morning dew under a sky blue sky or the train skidding off its tracks below.
     Cline officially joined Wilco in 2007 on Sky Blue Sky. In every album since, he’s changed the dynamic of the band. Cline adds the perfect accent to Jeff Tweedy's songs and gives Wilco that spontaneous edge (along with percussionist Glenn Kotche) that keeps them from being Mumford and Sons or some other folky yawnsman.
     In addition to Wilco, who's newest record, Schmilco, came out this month, Clines has played on billions of records and also records under Nels Cline Trio and The Nels Cline Singers. His last solo record was Dirty Baby in 2010, but in the time since he’s appeared on seventeen albums.
     Nels is a busy man and he’s got ideas that can’t be contained in one group. On Lovers, his new double-disc solo album on the Blue Note label, he pulls back the curtain on his musical mind. He leads a flock of musicians to conjure the songs in his head with help from arranger Michael Leonhart. There is no limit to the tools needed to accomplish this. On Lovers you’ll hear electric and acoustic guitars, trumpet, flugelhorn, cymbalon, contrabass, percussion, trombone, bassoon, vibraphone, marimba, harp, violin, viola, cello and others that would make this sentence too long.
     The result is cinematic with many arcs. It could be the soundtrack to the silent film adaptation of your life. Some of the song titles even read like scenes headers for a film: "Hairpin & Hatbox," “The Bed We Made,” “The Night Porter/Max, Mon Amou,” “The Search For Cat.”
     Lovers stretches into two records like a long day stretches into the night. The first disc opens with "Introduction/Diaphanous" a sedated jazz number with hi-hats lazily spinning against each other and Cline strumming like the morning wind. Ideal for deep morning coffee reflections.
"Glad to be Unhappy" comes next and sounds like the entrance music for a sneaky villain. Cline employs a full orchestra with French horns rising and falling. Disc One is the more calming of the two, but they pretty much go hand-in-hand. Cline's muted guitar creates an opium buzz on "Cry, Want" while the cymbals move like sand in a breeze.
     "Lady Gabor" drops into deep space, an orchestral spiral, with only the faintest glimmer of a bassline to keep you steady. If you listen hard enough you can see Sun Ra's ghost levitate out of the frame.
     Disc Two stretches out even more. With the snare-head tilted off, “Snare, Girl” begins a six-plus-minute, slow-rocking lull. A steady droning drum beat caked in fuzz keeps pace with Cline’s guitar and eventually turns into alarm. When the induced grip lets up, you fall into "So Hard It Hurts/Touching." A room full of instruments warms up tapping without direction then dissolves into unraveling notes of feedback. Right as you're about to crack you're let out into an open field of oboes and clarinets. This would be the scene when you fall down the stairs drunk, bang your head and wake up four hours later drenched in confusion.
     "The Search for Cat" holds all the despair and helplessness of its title's scene. Disc Two closes out with "The Bond," a beautiful piece of classical guitar noodling and symphonic interlacings.
     Cline's work on the guitar is some of the greatest put to record. He manages to find that sweet sixteen spot of being technically advanced with his playing, but also utterly incoherent and jarringly experimental. He could play with any group past, present, future, and fit right in. Lovers is Cline let loose on his musical playground.
source: http://imp

September 09, 2016

*gulp*

pages of S u m m e r S h a r e

S u m m e r  S h a r e -- Mouthful poetry written in the summer of 2008 between shifts in the Sonoran Desert where the sun shines harshly 16 hours a day. The swimming pool feels like falling through Space. Stream of consciousness gone loopy in the heatwaves rising from the pavement. Available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon and from 

July 17, 2016

REVIEW: "In the Village" by Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling

Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling
Escape the Village on New EP
     Michael J. Epstein, the husband, leads on guitar. Sophia Cacciola, the wife, pounds the drums and leaves her vocal chords unhinged. The duo are Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, the downcast numbing punk group from Boston, but their music is anything but marriage counseling.
     DNFMOMD's newest release, In The Village, was self-released online last June. It is the fourth EP in a series that started in 2010. Each release has been made up of “episodes” each inspired by the Sixties UK spy sci-fi drama, The Prisoner.
     The EP opens with "Episode 13 - A Change of Mind.” It moves like a slow drive through a dark street. The lights of the tunnel flashing as you make it outside the city. The bass nudges along, vibrating deeply. Cacciola's voice is despondent, emanating gloom, when she sings, “And I know you're waiting for a change of mind / but, you'll be waiting for a long, long time."
     The song burns like a fat stick of incense and its smoke is the ghost tickling the hair on the back of your neck. The power is in the slow build and Cacciola’s bated breathy vocals repeating the line, "What it felt to be free."
     The next track, "Episode 14 - Hammer into Anvil," is a doomed mood hip swiveller lathered in keyboard sustain. The beat drops into the scene and pulls you by the arm onto the dancefloor. The half-step disco waltz feels like something zombies would groove to in a black lit room. Cacciola's vocals leave behind hypnotic trails.
     The last track is a cover of Loverboy's "Working for the Weekend." They turn the jacked up Eighties racecar commercial hit into a low slung getaway track. That immediately recognizable keyboard splash, representing the entire decade, gets split by static with a fuzzed out bass. It's like Paul Dean and Mike Reno took off their bandanas, disappeared into a back room and escaped in a dark unmarked car onto their next classified mission.
     Epstein sings the verses with a bedraggled grumble, sounding half-asleep and three days into a binge. The chorus, once the phrase of teenage insolvency, is turned by Cacciola into a panicked war cry.
     Over the course of DNFMOMD’s releases Epstein and Cacciola have gotten craftier with their production. Both multi-instrumentalists, they have a lot of reach with their sound. After establishing themselves as one of Boston's finest live acts, and most productive, they head out west to Los Angeles to further their career. Hear In the Village here.

source: http://imp

May 01, 2016

Deep Peek at the Artwork for "VIEWS" by Drake

   There he is. Tiny Drake sitting atop the CN Tower of the Toronto skyline taking in the views, reflecting on the city below. His legs dangle down like a kid sitting on a giant puffy chair. Though, proportionally, he would be a giant if he came down and walked the streets.   
   Drake’s fourth album, VIEWS (now shortened from Views From the Six)is out tomorrow. At the start of the week he posted the cover on Twitter. It’s the final chunk of information to spill out before the 20-track album plays from car stereos all summer long.
  The cover immediately establishes a connection to Toronto with two Canadian icons sharing the same space. Drake, arguably the most well known Canadian today, is dwarfed by the tower. Once considered the tallest skyscraper in the world, the CN Tower stands today as the third largest. It’s positioned to the left of the cover going out of frame in each direction. It’s a great use of the square canvas, the tower zoomed in and cropped out.
   Drake is surrounded by the single most image to remind him instantly of the Toronto skyline, a welcoming sight whenever he finally gets off the road. It’s the city he loves and the city that loves him back. It suggests the album may look more outwardly in Drake’s confessional laments. He’s at the top, but looking down at the place he understands best.
   The cover of his last album, Nothing Was the Same, showed an illustration of Drake with his head in the clouds for a set of songs that looked back heavily on his days before fame. VIEWS, then, might be more focused on the world around the artist today, the changes his hometown has undergone in recent years and his role in that transformation.
   After all, he has put Toronto on the cultural map. No one can say for sure, but would this year’s NBA All-Star game have taken place there if not for his position as “global ambassador” to the Toronto Raptors? The team, currently leading the Indiana Pacers 3-2 in the first round of the playoffs, holds Drake Nights during the season. His lyrics are littered with sixes, a number that has come to represent the city because of its placement in two area codes. His OVO Fest, now in its seventh year, has become one of the premier East Coast festivals. Drake and Toronto lift each other up. When listening to Drake it’s easy to get sentimental for the city even if you’ve never been there and know nothing about it.   
The colors on VIEWS are all grey shades, concrete, rain clouds. The tower is catching what looks like the last bits of sunlight, leaving its eastward side shrouded in shadows. Something this way looms. The clouds are dark and gathering in the background. The scene looks to be happening in the final hours of daylight, a transition period between AM and PM, where our desires, and our mistakes in relation to those desires, become cloaked in the darkness.   Judging only by the cover it seems VIEWS could end up being considered the quintessential Drake album up to this point. The only thing that could make it more Drakian is if he were wearing a Kyle Lowry jersey.

source: http://imp

April 23, 2016

REVIEW: "Gore" by Deftones

Deftones Turn In New Metal
Classic With Heady Gore
   The theme of this review is consistency. For twenty years Deftones have put out consistently adept albums steeped in their own style of what could be whittled down to, in layman’s terms, as “metal.” But, it’s so much more than that. 
   Gore is the band’s eighth and was released on April 8th. The number eight, the vertical symbol of an infinite loop, is a most accurate figure to associate with this album. Deftones continue to deliver, expanding their sound in subtle and intricate ways. They remain rooted in the punk metal headrush of their debut Adrenaline, but with each album since the sound has grown heavier and more melodic in equal parts. Gore furthers the formula into peak Deftones territory. 
   Gore is undeniably a Deftones record, but there are a lot of new elements that on past albums were never fully explored: the use of feedback, Frank Delgado’s effects being the focal point during a song, elongated intros and outros and thick layering. Song structure is rarely straightforward. Each song has about five or six different parts that clamp down on each other, bleed into, collide and break through each other jerking the listener into awareness. It’ll catch you off guard. 
   There are so many little fine twists and turns at first it can be unsettling. When I first listened, it felt overloaded, like there was too much going on, like they were trying to cram too much into each song. But, that becomes the winning mark after stepping back and letting the songs soak in. Like most Deftones albums, it gets better with age. Gore may be the heaviest record to leave shadows of songs in your head afterwards. 
   Guitarist Stephen Carpenter, drummer Abe Cunningham and bassist Sergio Vega are stitching together some wildly inaccurate metal grooves. If you headbang to this without knowing the song, you’ll fast get off beat. They’re starting to develop their own sense of timing and it really turns things inside out. 
   The first proper single, “Prayers/Triangles,” opens the album. It is a fine representative of their sound currently. A slow, meandering guitar lulls the listener before the drums break and the chorus slashes through. Throw the bottle at the wall when “Doomed User” comes on. Deftones to the core. Carpenter plays with shades of Slayer then hits the time change with an evil guitar groan. Cunningham hits every accented cymbal with pinwheels rolling in his eye sockets. 
   “Geometric Headdress” erupts like a tank through a wall. Chino Moreno’s scream scorches like a propane tank left to explode. Then ten seconds in it flips to an offbeat rumble with a wily guitar pushing the listener out of rhythm. Midway through “Hearts/Wires” settles over the album like the final rays of sunlight. A few simple guitar pluckings crawl over each other while Moreno sings of a memory lost. “The slit in the sky where you left / is all I see,” he aches. The slow build is hypnotizing. 
   The heaviest song on the album is the title track. The pitter patter of Cunningham’s hi-hat leads into a devastating guitar butcher stab from Carpenter. Oh yeah, this one is a classic. Careful with this one here. Moreno howls likes he’s burning alive. The pit will blow like a hazardous chemical reaction whenever they play it live. Get the gore on the final minute. Thunderous feedback beating your head in. 
   “Phantom Bride” enlists the help of Jerry Cantrell, from Alice In Chains, on guitar. Midway through Cantrell releases a reflective guitar solo that weaves into the song. Jerry wails. Lord, Jerry wails. The guitars spill out reminding me of mid-90s Smashing Pumpkins before getting obliterated by Carpenter’s heavy strings. Beautiful. Sets the heart racing. It’s a new turn and it works. 
   Deftones just continue to breathe new life into an old sound. They keep the rigid metalhead fans happy, but still find room to expand sonically, creating new categories of genre. Gore, the third album since Vega took over for the late Chi Ching on bass, follows Koi No Yokan and Diamond Eyes on a continuing upscale of creativity that doesn’t seem to be slipping any time soon.

Key Tracks: "Doomed User," "Geometric Headdress," "Gore," "Hearts/Wires," "Phantom Bride"

source: http://imp

February 27, 2016

REVIEW: "ANTI" by Rihanna

Rihanna Turns in a
Near Classic With ANTI

Meanwhile, in another part of the pop stratosphere, RiRi season has begun. The eighth album from Rihanna, ANTI, arrived quietly in late January. There was more written about the nauseating album cover with a Chloe Mitchell poem printed in braille. The music’s pretty good, too.
   ANTI opens with "Consideration," a loose neck-swiveler that sets the tone for the album's first half. It's nice to hear Rihanna give the assist to SZA, a sister-in-arms and a singer equally deserving to reach the same heights. Their voices move around each other in an uneven orbit. SZA bellowing beautifully bent notes. Rihanna soaring in an upward swing.
   A soft muted organ clambers on "James Joint," a loosie before things get serious. "Kiss It Better" chisels through the speakers. I can picture Rihanna walking down a black staircase in black heels and black skirt to the opening. Fireworks sparkle in the background as stunted Eighties rock ballad lead guitar burrows into your head. Rihanna sings about a relationship where the bad gets swept under the bed. Emotion pumps from her voice no how many times it's processed and layered. 
   The first single, "Work," has made its way across the oceans with two different videos and a saucy performance on the BRIT Awards. Love the song. Though, I barely know what Rihanna's singing, or if she's singing anything in any language. Not sure, but it gets catchier as time goes on. It's one of her best singles. Drake is usually good for a guest verse and here he gives the necessary phrases. "Work" is their third single together following "Take Care" and "What’s My Name?"
   "Woo" reminds me of the Bjork song "Pluto" off Homogenic. Rihanna sings against a coarse electronic tremble that does not let up the entire song. I'd love to hear her move more in this direction. Maybe let Trent Reznor put her voice through the greater. Then, just when you think it can't any more vicious, Rihanna screams, "I don't mean to really luh you / I don't mean to really care about you no more." 
   Next, on "Needed Me," she gets cold with an ex-lover over a simple beat and an expanding wah-wah. When Rihanna sing, it's in a downward spiral. "Didn't they tell you that I was a savage? / fuck your white horse and your carriage." Somewhere an ex is crying in his beer in a dark bar. "Yeah, I Said It" resets the tone. The breath of Rihanna's vocals cloud both speakers in daydream tripping fantasy. 
   Then comes the curveball: a painfully straight-forward version of Tame Impala's "New Person, Same Old Mistakes," off 2015's Currents. Retitled here as, "Same Ol' Mistakes," this version is so similar I wonder if Rihanna didn't just kareoke over the instrumental version of the original. The band gets production credits, so who knows. The song's decent enough so, fine, but somehow, it’s even longer than the original. 
   Coupled with the next song, "Never Ending," the album begins to drag a little. The final few songs are big syrupy ballads. Her vocals soar to such great, soul-baring heights and while, there's nothing wrong with that, it's just not my mug of wine. 
   ANTI is an almost-classic from Rihanna. From song-to-song it dips and crashes through many different styles, some all her own, some borrowed. It's been billed as a break from form for the Barbadian singer and it mostly is, but the second half of the album plays it safe. I long for her powerful voice to find its way into the very outer extensions of where R&B can go.


Key Tracks: "Work," "Woo," "Needed Me," "Consideration," "Kiss It Better"

source: http://imp

February 24, 2016

Kanye Gives Tutorial on How NOT to Release an Album

   Over the years, since appearing in a pink Polo and a backpack with sunglasses like shutter blinds, Kanye West has taught us all a lot about where hip-hop can go and what fame can do to a man. With the release of his seventh album, The Life of Pablo, Mr. West has offered another lesson. This time it’s on how not to release your new batch of material. It's a lesson that musicians should take note of.
   From the moment the cow jumped over the Jumpman, The Life of Pablo has been a botched delivery. Since the very tip of 2015, when West dropped the singles "Only One," “FourFiveSeconds," and "All Day," it was clear that Yeezy season was upon us. The leaves were starting to turn black gold. He performed on award shows, runways, festivals,  gave a few rants, shadowboxed with Paul McCartney. He had a title for number seven: So Help Me God. Then that became SWISH, or, SWiSH, or, maybe just Swish, we won’t ever know.
   This past New Year's Eve West let slip out into the world the spasmodic, fucking-goofy track, "FACTS." Something was near. Then came the tweet revealing a release date of February 11, a Thursday. Not the usual day for new releases, but that hardly matters online. The title changed again to Waves. He shared a picture of a handwritten tracklist of 10 songs. Kylie was there. Then that blew up to 18 songs a few nights before. Who knows how many times he ended up polishing "Wolves." Oh, and the title changed again to its current state (or is it?).
   February 11 came. West held back-to-back listening parties at Madison Square Garden while debuting his new fashion line with animatronic models. The Kardashians and the Jenners were there in white feathered robes. Shit, Lamar Odom even came out to play. But, there was nothing online, no stream, no payment plan offered. There was a broken link on KanyeWest.com and tweets about still being in the studio. Chance the Rapper apparently held up the final mastering or maybe he was thrown under the bus. You set this date, Kanye! What are you doing? This was your schedule. We would’ve waited until it was right.
   Nights later West performed on Saturday Night Live spewing some inaudibles about the album being available online right now. “Right now! Aaaagggggrggrrggghhgrh!” It wasn't. The next day he offered it on his website, but only in thirty-second previews. The full stream was available only to Tidal subscribers. Personally, I’m against streaming music. That just wasn’t gonna happen.
   Week and a half later and it's still unclear how this album can be widely purchased and which version it will be. Kanye’s saying it’ll only be available on Tidal. The whole thing has been one Kanye Thunderclap of Confusion for such a long build-up to what was an inevitable album. The 18-track version that has been circulated feels overstuffed and maybe the original 10-track version might’ve been a more succinct listening experience. I’m reserving my review here, but that thing is bloated.
   So, bands, musicians, artists take note. If you and your band go through the long haul gruel of creating a cohesive unit of songs to be played as an Album, it should be delivered with authority. Don't be like this season's Yeezus. Be committed to the final product. Let some mystery build behind it. Know for certain when a song is complete. When music makes it to the Internet today, it travels fast. If you're not putting the most complete version out there it’ll get thrown in the whirlpool and now people are hearing something incomplete.
   The Life of Pablo had huge hype. A handy tool for sales. But given that there was no clear path for purchase and that streaming services through Tidal aren’t counted by Billboard, the album has no official standing of its total output effectively ruining all that built-in hype. That can't be good for your $53 million debt, fam.

source: http://imp

January 21, 2016

REVIEW: "Blackstar" by David Bowie

Blackstar is Bowie's everlasting
wink from heaven
As I listened to David Bowie's new album Blackstar for the first time, the artist himself, unbeknownst to me at the time, was ascending into eternity. Bowie’s 25th album, and now his last, arrived January 8th on the icon's 69th birthday. Two days later it would be announced in the night that Bowie was dead. He juked us all again. A surprise album. A surprise death. A true artist through his life’s final breath.
   Instantly the dynamic of the music on the album changed. Blackstar couldn't be more fitting in tone and timing. It's extravagant, ghostly, teetering on the outskirts of what is considered to be a traditional rock and roll album. It swivels and sinks into the poorly lit backroom of the musical mansion Bowie built over his fifty-plus-year-career.
   Blackstar is a seven-song voyage, a trek through the panicked headspace of someone too aware of their mortality. It shifts in moods and tempos, wandering, but never too far.
   The title track is a near ten-minute ride alongside the Thin White Duke as he passes through the layers of Heaven. The song wears many faces, turning inside out and evolving with the minutes. At the midpoint of the song the instruments start to lose their beat, pacing around one another in odd rhythms slowing down. It's the sound of our artist exiting earth life and throttling into the next. “I’m a black star,” he sings, catatonically.
   After slowly being peeled during the first track, Blackstar picks up with “‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore.” A heavyset drum and bass union churns through the song as it progresses into a perpetual Coleman swirl, horns gone akimbo. Bowie hits the high notes with a twisted sadness, a hidden anarchy while singing the title line. You can see his chiseled grin slowly rise with each word.
   “Lazarus” is when the listener begins to really ache. The song, backed up with an authentically creepy video, saunters in with a clean, melancholic guitar scale and steady drums. But, then these soft devious horns slither in just slightly offbeat. When Bowie enters he sings, “Look up here / I’m in heaven,” and your heart skips a beat. In his slow drift outward he’s catching the wind currents like the bluebird without misgiving.
   The album continues its seesaw with “Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime).” Opening with a scattershot drumbeat, the song flails wildly. Genres are taken apart, thrown onto the floor and resculpted. Everything falls on the offbeat with Bowie weaving vocals in a posthumus quiver. “Sue, the clinic called / The x-ray’s fine,” he sings. The listener’s head ping pongs into full force headbanging by the finish.
   Bowie gives some of his strongest, most outlandish, hair-raising vocals on Blackstar and “Girl Loves Me” represents that best. Lost on the calendar, Bowie sings, "Where the fuck did Monday go?" The song works on hypnosis, pulling the listener into a trance. The final song, “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” finishes the album on an upbeat, celebratory note.
   Blackstar is a lasting statement to not only David Bowie’s artistry, but to how he lived his life through that artistry. He worked hard through the end of his days to give us a product he’d be remembered by, a final soundtrack to the epilogue of a life lived in constant creation. Your man did us proud, Iman.

Key Tracks: all

source: http://imp