KWLC

Non-Commercial College Radio Since 1926.

Busdriver - Perfect Hair Review

By Nick Shaw

Busdriver’s back with his 8th solo full-length, Perfect Hair. Chock full of dope features (Aesop Rock, Danny Brown, Open Mike Eagle, VerBS, and Pegasus Warning all make appearances), the avant-garde icon’s latest release is also his most accessible, pushing rap’s boundaries while at the same time staying rooted in sensibilities familiar to most audiences. His voice and delivery alone turn what would normally be a standard flow into something uniquely his. Top that with his witty, tongue-in-cheek lyrics and you’ve got a rap meal fit for a disgraced prince.

Perfect Hair opens with Retirement Ode, talking about the costs of the album in an almost ironic way (“The seven days in which Perfect Hair was recorded cost, roughly, everything,” later spitting out figures such as $0.146 million, 6000 Euros per accompaniment track, $3500 per take of the backing vocals, half a million Brazilian reals for studio time), touching on the artistic and personal investment put into the album. Later on, we hear the first features of the album in Ego Death (feat. Aesop Rock & Danny Brown prod. by Jeremiah Jae), where Driver asks if what you’re talking about is sexier than torture and argues with himself about whether or not “we can make this better,” concluding that “we just looking for something inside us to kill.” Later we get the second single, Colonize The Moon (prod. by Riley Lake & Driver feat. Pegasus Warning), wherein Driver talks about colonizing the moon (obviously) and published “redactions” from earlier songs. Rounding out the trio of singles is king cookie faced (for her), talking about who’s got that perfect hair, when “she” will think he’s at his very best (and “rub up on [his] hairy chest”), and does the Hellfyre Club shoutout that no Hellfyre release would be complete without.

Sprinkled in between the singles are a variety of other fantastic songs, including When the Tooth-lined Horizon Blinks (prod. by Great Dane feat. Open Mike Eagle), Eat Rich (prod. by by Kenny Segal), and Can’t You tell I’m a Sociopath (prod. by Mike Gao feat. VerBS).

Perfect Hair comes out September 8th on Big Dada records. You can preorder online via iTunes, Bandcamp, or Big Dada’s website.

Top 5 Releases of Summer 2014

By Peter Jarzyna

The Antlers, Familiars

You might know the Antlers for their infamously depressing debut album Hospice, which chronicles the slipping away of a terminally ill child. You might be afraid to listen to anything else they’ve composed out of the pure misery (and beauty, mind you) that first album unleashed. Friends, let your inhibitions go. Now several releases into their career, Peter Silberman and crew having developed a sound that is uniquely their own, lush with atmospheric horns and guitar-work, feathered with Silberman’s tenor cry, delivered as though he were deciphering an ancient spiritual tome composed within the deepest realm of his soul.

 On Familiars, themes of mortality still abide, but are explored through new narratives, filtered through a film of somnambulant zen psychedelia: one major influence which Silberman has cited is Gaspar Nóe’s film Enter the Void, which examines death as “an orgasmic act of self-exploration” (Pitchfork). The other is the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and on closing song “Refuge,” when Silberman asks, “When you lift me out of me / Will I know when I’ve changed?” it seems that he has at least reached some level of closure with the void, even in the midst of lingering questions.

How to Dress Well, “What Is This Heart?”

If there is one thing you need to know about the latest album from How to Dress Well, it is that it only gets better when used to soundtrack a bike ride. If there is a second thing you need to know, it’s that if it didn’t get better with a bike ride, you were probably bound to never like it in the first place. In his own raving review, Pitchfork-er Ian Cohen warned fans that they would be mocked for their love of this album and there’s certainly a truth to this: the roller-rink AM radio influences find a polarizing home within the modern R&B production typical of the artist’s work.

 Furthermore, between the album’s cover and the quotes that surround its title, it’s not unforgivable to assume pretentious folly of Tom Krell even prior to listening. The outré (“pop, not populist”) R&B crooner with a PhD in Philosophy bears a mixed look of shameful melancholy, and existential exhaustion, and yes, it’s slightly pretentious, but it gets the message across: what follows is one man’s quest and questioning, expressed in a voice that is his own: “What is this heart” that wants the love it sees in honeymooning others, knowing full well that it will change soon after it’s found? “What is this heart” that cannot help but find love in loss, no matter the consequence? “What is this heart” doomed to swim through an abyss of questions, seemingly only sinking deeper into the answerless? It took total loss to get there, but inevitably Krell found a new way to defend his first album’s mantra that love remains: If this heart is something whose new days carry the weight of the last, then the future must be older than the past.

 Spoon, They Want My Soul

Being known as the ‘most consistent band in indie rock’ is one hell of a burden, but Spoon bear it well. Over their 20 year history, the Austin, TX outfit has released a string of great and more great records. With 2010’s Transference, many acknowledged a bump in this road. Sure, the druggy krautrock paranoia felt like a disjointed and muddled departure from “classic” Spoon, but can we really blame them for a bit of indulgence?

Chalk it up as you want: They Want My Soul is a return to form, 10 succinct songs packaged with the punch of Britt Daniel’s signature rasp, growling out lines like “I don’t got time for holy rollers” (“Inside Out”). For further evidence of the snarl’s potency, look no further than Daniel’s response when asked about the album’s standout title track, indicating that he is calling out a range of soul-suckers, from “religious pretenders” to “educated folk singers”. On the other side of this indictment, a sense of desperation emerges: the near-perfect apocalyptic summer pop of early release “Do You” finds Daniel pleading that “someone get popsicles, someone do somethin’ ‘bout this heat.” Here’s to Spoon for reliably bringing us our popsicles when we need them most.

Cymbals Eat Guitars, LOSE

Nostalgia is a jangly guitar riff and an angst-scratched voice, and the New Jersey-based band Cymbals Eat Guitars know this. In their third album LOSE, the quartet waxes nostalgic nine songs in a row, even going so far as yearning for the good old days of blithely crate-digging for records on “XR”. At the album’s heart, however, is the loss of frontman Joseph D’Agostino’s best friend, who tragically died at the age of 19 just 7 years ago, when the band was taking off. This trauma hangs heavy throughout the record, and is communicated with a fresh take on punk that combines the anthemic rouse of Japandroids, the emo neurosis of Cloud Nothings, and the American-sprawling indie rock of fellow Jersey-ites Titus Andronicus. It all fuses into an enthralling experience of a truth we all encounter at one point or another: when it comes to nostalgizing, innocence is at once both the sweetest and most heart-wrenching subject.

Sharon Van Etten, Are We There

Arrival—it’s a fickle concept. Some might call it a myth, while others search for a definitive manifestation for their whole lives long. Somewhere in the middle, a spectrum of folk know that arrival comes in waves and with relativity, illuminating the most profound changes of our lives with a glow that is often only recognizable in hindsight. The title of Brooklyn singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten’s fourth LP asks of arrival, but without a question mark, as though any definitive punctuation would distance the idea from the moment it is presented.

 Instead of providing a binary answer, Van Etten meditates, waxes and wanes, singing of her love and her fear with startling degrees of clarity, gusto, and beauty. Opener “Afraid of Nothing” sparkles like chimes hung from the rear-view mirror of a cross-country bound car. Just try not to be floored by the thunder of “Your Love Is Killing Me,” as Van Etten repeatedly howls “You tell me that you like it” without annunciating any consonants, as though her mouth is held trembling and open in tearful agony. This is an album that took blood to make and takes blood to listen to, and asks its listeners to take an honest gauge on their love and fear, no matter how painful.

clipping. - CLPPNG Review

By Nick Shaw

“clipping. makes party music for the club you wish you hadn’t gone to, the car you don’t remember getting in, and the streets you don’t feel safe on.” -  press release for 2013’s Midcity

clipping. is an experimental hip-hop trio composed of MC Daveed Diggs and producers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson which began in earnest in 2010, growing out of a remix project between Snipes and Hutson. Their first full-length came in February of 2013 with Midcity, produced entirely DIY and released with no hype or budget as a name-your-price download on Bandcamp. Over the next five months, the album created its own hype and led to the trio signing a record deal with Sub Pop. Their sophomore release, CLPPNG, which came out in June of this year, is the result of a broke trio consisting of a stage actor, film composer, and noise artist receiving the funding they probably didn’t need.

Experimental hip-hop lost an icon with the abrupt departure of Death Grips earlier this year. Though they still half the second half of a double album yet to be released, they left a void that needed to be filled, and CLPPNG does just that. The beats explore abrasive, minimalistic sounds that push the boundaries of listenability - for instance, in Get Up (feat. Mariel Jaconda), Diggs raps over nothing but an incredibly obnoxious alarm clock beep. Lyrically, Diggs touches on themes familiar to most anyone who listens to rap - sex, drugs, opulence, whatever - but subverts the listener’s expectations and takes those themes to their darkest extent while rarely glorifying them or declaring himself above it all. Rather, he plays the role of a storyteller, passing on the stories he knows to anyone who will listen.

 The first single, Body & Blood, is a perfect example of clipping.’s blend of accessibility and abrasiveness. The beat is repetitive but driving, and makes you groove to the story of a woman who kills and eats people by luring them in with sex, and rather than tell it as some twisted urban legend, Diggs almost cheers on the woman (for example, take a listen to the lyrics in the chorus and hook). The second single, Work Work (feat. Cocc Pistol Cree), probably the most straightforward song on the album, explores dealing drugs and making ends meet through any means necessary. Story 2, the third single, features a progressively increasing time signature (3/4 into 4/4 into 5/4 into 6/4 and so on) and tells the story of Mike Winfield and his inner monologue during a walk home from work to find his house burning.

 clipping. lures you in by subverting expectations and luring in the listener with beats and lyrics matched to a flow you only think is accessible. They’re posed to take the lead in a scene that doesn’t want a leader, they have something to say even if they’re the only ones listening, and they won’t let you forget them.

Majid Jordan - A Place Like This EP Review

By Carl Bates

Majid Jordan, a duo comprised of Toronto University graduates Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman, return with their sophomore project, A Place Like This EP.  This release marks the duo’s first offering since signing to Drake’s OVO Sound label and assisting on his double platinum hit, Hold on We’re Going Home. This EP sonically picks up right where Hold on We’re Going Home left off, with a nostalgic 80’s house vibe featuring middling tempos, low end synths and R&B vocals. This project serves as further evidence, reinforcing the sentiment that Toronto is the current hub for experimental R&B.

2014 has been dominated by DJ Mustards “ratchet” west coast sound. While his production can be characterized by minimalistic g funk synths, hand claps and the incessant chanting of “hey”, lyrically, these songs also contain hyper sexual themes, especially those songs that fall into the R&B genre. Choruses, like this one from Teeflii’s 24 hours, “Girl, don’t hide that pussy, You should be the type to provide that pussy And let a thug hit it” or this one from Ty Dolla Sign’s Or Nah, “Don’t play with a boss, Girl take it off, Take it for a real one, You gonna get it all, Is you really ‘bout the money or nah? Can you really take dick or nah?” are indicative of the current mainstream lyrical content in the R&B genre. Majid Jordan’s Toronto contemporary, The Weeknd, mirrored this trend this summer with his NSFW branded single Often who’s hook is full of “pussy poppin”. A Place Like This EP, in many ways, serves as the antithesis to this trend. The opening scene of the music video for the lead single, the title track from this project, features a women covering up her body. This action is symbolic of the lyrical themes of this EP. This is not a record full of booty and twerking ,rather it is a record comprised of tasteful love songs, promoting monogamy and lost love rather than sexual deviancy, much more in line with Rhye or their label big brother, Drake.

The EP opens with soft, reverb laden Ooh’s and Aah’s before a driving house styled rhythm section kicks in accompanied by a melodic synth line that hits you like a meandering laser beam under 20ft of water. Majid Al Maskati then opens with “Can’t stop the way that you make me feel”, a fitting opening not just for a track entitled “Forever” but also for the EP as a whole as it does impress upon the listener a certain feeling. A Place Like This EP has a confident, cohesive sound, one where fingerprints are evident from their predecessors in the trance genre. The EP, anchored by a house inspired rhythm section who when accompanied by melodic elements inspires a feeling of weightlessness in the listener. I love the ascending synth line in “Forever”, the jumpy, accented bass at the end of “All I do”, and the rhythmic synths that hook you immediately on the track “Her”. The EP has a very strong second half. “U” features the most minimalist production on the project. The downtempo record’s understated synths, swirling trap high hat and a distorted clap that sounds like someone hitting a baking sheet create the perfect atmosphere for Majid’s sentimental, post- breakup themed lyrics. The EP’s closer, the title track, sonically continues the theme of the project with pulsating synths and a plodding rhythm section. It also provides lyrical closure to the album with Majid imploring his  newly lost love who he has been fixated on throughout the EP to take his hand as “they are better off as two”, ending the album on an optimistic note.

Lyrically and sonically, this release thrives at its 22 minute run time and provides a very cohesive, fulfilling listening experience. However, there is very little diversity in the production or in the lyrical themes. Resultingly, Majid Jordan will have to work at adding diversity to their sound if they plan to release a successful full length effort in the future. In sum, this is one of the strongest releases of the summer and a must listen if you are a fan of the R&B genre.

Booty: A History

By Luke Stennes

Butt. This word conjures up different images, different feelings, for every individual. One thing that most can agree upon however is that we are currently in the middle of a Booty Renaissance. The twerk is currently thriving, and given the current state of pop and hip-hop, I decided it would be a good idea to give a brief musical history of the booty leading up to our current Renaissance.

I’m going to start with Juvenile’s 1999 hit, Back That Azz Up. Certainly one could make an argument that twerking was expressed through hip-hop before this, but Back That Azz Up is really what brought it to the fore. This song is incredibly ahead of its time, sounding just as relevant 15 years later as it did upon release. It redefined the booty-shaker genre, and ushered this style of music into the modern era.

Moving into the early 2000s, a troubling trend appears. Songs involving the twerk do pop up; thank the Ying Yang Twins for that. But I would consider the next real landmark in booty music Lil’ Jon and the Eastside Boyz’ 2003 smash, Get Low. Featuring the Ying Yang Twins screaming alongside Lil’ Jon, this legendary club banger brought twerking to the attention of anybody with ears in the year 2003. An undeniably fiery beat coupled with simple instructions (“Bend over to the front / Touch your toes / Back that ass up and down  / And get low”) make this a genre-defining track.

“Booty booty booty booty rockin’ everywhere!” This joyous declaration, one of the finest literary achievements in hip-hop, marks the beginning of a magnificent three-year stretch in booty. 2005, we see Ms. New Booty breaking on to the scene. This song retains an unbelievable power over the body; just watch what happens to a group of people if this song comes on; truly a landmark twerk anthem. It was soon followed in 2006 by Huey with Pop, Lock, and Drop It. The beat is monstrous, managing to be sparse, minimal, and yet enormously powerful. Huey supplies a blank canvas, and bootys (booties?) are the brushes with which aspiring twerkers craft their masterpieces. Completing this trilogy is Donk, the 2007 Soulja Boy smash. All it takes is the telltale “CLAPCLAP, CLAP” for everyone to know that there is a donk in the house. Not only Soulja incorporate a new word into my generation’s vocabulary, he created a beautiful homage to the booty.

And not just any booty, it is worth noting that emphasis is on the big booty; the donk, as it were. It is here I must pay respects to Sir Mix-A-Lot, whose 1992 magnum opus Baby Got Back revolutionized the booty in hip-hop forever. Prior to 1992, the skinny, toned, buns-of-steel look was in. Baby Got Back was a turning point; as far as I am concerned Sir Mix-A-Lot is the Beatles of Booty. He moved the booty from an afterthought to the primary focus, with one of the greatest opening lines in hip-hop history.

20 years later, the year 2012, marks the beginning of the Booty Renaissance. It is in this year that we see the popularization of the DJ Mustard sound, which you may know from Tyga’s Rack City and 2 Chainz’ I’m Different. Also gaining popularity in 2012 was Juicy J, who released a series of twerk jams the best of which being Bandz A Make Her Dance. Finally, we saw the release of Diplo’s Express Yourself. While you may not know that song just by looking at the title, you would certainly know it from the dance move it popularized, the wall twerk. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, we’ve all done it; Diplo took the nation by storm with this one.

The second year of the Booty Renaissance, 2013, saw the emergence of Miley Cyrus as a booty advocate. Though she drew much criticism for her music and her actions, she was undeniably instrumental in bringing the booty even more to the forefront in the musical world.

Speaking of bringing booty to the forefront of the musical world, it would be impossible to speak on this topic without speaking about Nicki Minaj. For most of her career, she has incorporated her significant physical gifts as part of her image and her music. Beginning with 2011’s Dance (A$$), which features a chorus of the word ‘ass’ repeated over and over until it becomes hypnotic, Nicki has become a pioneer in the world of booty. So much so that we are beginning to see artists try and copy her style in order to achieve success; Iggy Azalea is the most obvious example of this.

What is so revolutionary about Nicki can be described perfectly by her recent anthem Anaconda. Sadly, pretty much all of the songs I have touched on thus far are misogynistic to say the least. It is a trend that has been going on for years and years. Nicki, in Anaconda, takes one of the most prototypical misogynist booty lyrics of all time, from founding father Sir Mix-A-Lot himself, and transforms it into the chorus of her song. She owns it, she displays her body and she is proud of it. Her lyrics do not devolve into what typically happens with popular female rappers, submission to the man. She demonstrates her power and she makes sure we know it.

Over the last few years, booty in general, and twerking in particular, has been in the spotlight in the pop and hip-hop world. I named just a few songs and there have been countless. The booty has a long history of prevalence in popular music, but these last few years of smash hits have marked an unusually high density of songs focused around the behind. This is not a Booty Renaissance simply because of the increasing number of songs about it; credit for the Renaissance goes to artists like Nicki who are revolutionizing the genre, exploring new possibilities and forging progressive paths through the world of booty.

Mixtape Magic 2013 

By Luke Stennes

2013 was an absolutely fantastic year for hip-hop. There is a staggering amount of variety out there in the hip-hop world right now, and I have put together a list of mixtapes that capture this variety. These are not in any order, and this not necessarily a definitive list of the best tapes of 2013. There’s great music coming out of every nook and cranny, and I want to give y’all a look at some of my personal favorites.

Acid Rap – Chance the Rapper

image

I’m not going to waste my time saying much of anything about this tape. It’s awesome, fresh, exciting, and proves that you don’t need to hyper-advertise and commercialize (cough, cough, Jay) in order to make a statement. Universally acclaimed and for good reason, download this right now.

1017 Thug – Young Thug

image

Young Thug is crazy and demands that you acknowledge it. His debut mixtape as a member of reigning trap overlord Gucci Mane’s 1017 Brick Squad is an effort that sounds both like the end of one era and the beginning of another. He heavily utilizes the Future/Rich Homie Quan Autotune chirp; he is a great example of what happens when a person grows up bumping post-ATLiens Outkast and ’05-’08 Lil Wayne on a daily basis; and obviously influenced by trap elder statesmen like his mentor Gucci Mane and others like Waka Flocka Flame. At the same time, he channels hood insanity with his voice and delivery, which sound at their lowest point like an excited, tense growl and at their peak like he’s just gotten done with a sprint and he’s yelping while about to sneeze. 1017 Thug is one of the most frenetic and exciting tapes I’ve heard in a while and I think it will prove to be influential in the coming years.

Unknown Death 2002 – Yung Lean

image

When I first heard this tape I wrote it off as immature and watered-down Lil B. After a few listens though, this debut from 16-year-old Swedish rapper Yung Lean became strangely compelling for me. Sure, he wears his influences on his sleeve and his music is basically a checklist of ‘90s Kidz Will Know What I’m Talking About’ Twitter account topics, but he doesn’t hide it at all. He intentionally and unabashedly makes the music that he wants to make, and it sounds fantastic. Effortless Autotune vocals that don’t make me want to hit my head against a table, Yung Gud and Yung Sherman’s brilliant production, and the uncompromising 16-year-oldness of the lyrics result in an overall product that sounds like it would be best played in a hazy room with a bunch of buddies playing Mario Kart.

Nostalgic 64 – Denzel Curry

image

Florida’s Raider Klan collective, known for their throwback 90s horrorcore sound, suffered three huge losses in 2013 when rappers Ethelwulf, Chris Travis, and Denzel Curry all left the group. They’ve all gone on to release a ton of great material: Ethelwulf is now Xavier Wulf and he is working with L.A. rapper Bones to produce prolific amounts of lo-fi goodness. Chris Travis has released some great tapes in a similar vein to his work with the Klan, and last is Denzel Curry with his magnificent 2013 effort Nostalgic 64. He combines the sounds he mastered previously on Strictly 4 My R.v.i.d.x.r.s. (1993) with newer sounds and styles all his own. Every track bangs, the featured artists are well chosen and like-minded, and when the last track ends you realize you’ve just listened to a comprehensive mixtape masterwork. Two tracks on this tape, Parents and Threatz, would be included on my top-10 tracks of the year list if I made one. The production is unconventional, the lyrical content is out of left-field yet still relevant, and Nostalgic 64 is better than anything the Raider Klan has ever done.

05 F**k Em – Lil B

image

If you are a moderately knowledgeable hip-hop fan these days, chances are you have an opinion on Lil B. I am not here to convince anyone of anything, but Lil B is on his newest mixtape 05 F**k Em. For a ridiculously prolific rapper (try 17 mixtapes and 2 albums in 2012 alone) the Based God was relatively quiet in 2013. Then right at the end of the year, Lil B fans were granted their Christmas wish and #blessed with a 101-track tome of a mixtape. Yes. 101 tracks. Clocking in at just under six hours, this tape has something for everyone. Lil B shows us all his personalities with this compendium of trap anthems, goofy stream of consciousness freestyles, positive treatises, and yes, legitimately good rapping. He will surprise you, he sprinkles profoundly thought-provoking lyrics in songs that might sound completely unintelligible, and he’s effortlessly funny without cracking a smile elsewhere. All in all a great collection of tracks and one of my favorite Lil B works to date.

Top 5 Hip-Hop Projects 2013

By Carl Bates

Audio Push- Come As You Are

image

On first glance, highlighting the duo from Inland Empire, California who are best known for their dance hit “Teach Me How to Jerk” might seem out of place for a “best of” list. The release of Come As You Are almost five years removed from the nation’s jerk craze, demonstrate that while the duo composed of Octane and Pricetag have matured lyrically and in technical ability, they have not lost their ability to make catchy, infectious music. The mixtape succeeds in large due to standout production throughout. Last year the duo signed to HS87, the producer Hit- Boy’s label. Hit-Boy has been one of the hottest producers in Hip- Hop since producing the grammy winning track “Niggas in Paris” off of Kanye West’s and Jay Z’s, 2011 album, Watch the Throne. Since then he has continued to produce some a music’s biggest tracks as he has had his hand in the production of Kendrick Lamar’s “Backseat Freestyle”, A$AP Rocky’s “Goldie” and “1 Train”, and Beyonce’s “XO” and “Flawless”. Hit- Boy, in Come As You Are, continues his standout work by serving as executive producer while exclusively producing about half of the mixtape. The recruitment of Joey Bada$$, T.I., Vic Mensa, Wale, IAMSU, and Lil Wayne for guest verses complete what was my favorite toe tapping, feel good release of the year.

Lucki Eck$- Alternative Trap

image

The Chicago area, more than any other area in the country, is the leader in innovation in contemporary hip hop. Youth is currently ruling this innovation ranging from the distinctiveness of Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa who still are unable to buy a legal drink, to Chief Keef, just 18 and a leading member in the Drill movement, to the up and coming Chicago bop scene dominated by teenagers. Another innovator out of Chicago is Lucki Eck$, just 17, and who is pioneering a potential new genre, a sound he calls Alternative Trap. Trap music and it’s cousin in Chicago, drill music, can be characterized by heavy base and pulsing hi hats while featuring catchy, often violent and drug centered vocals epitomizing the lifestyle of disenfranchised black youth. Eck$ shares much of the same lyrical content as those in the trap genre  while being accompanied by production and lyrical delivery that shares more similarities with cloud rap. With a lazy flow, complex rhyme schemes and a voice that can best be described as an accessible relative to Kid Cudi and Chance the Rapper, who all the while is being accompanied by spacy production, an oft absent rhythm section (some tracks without any drums at all), and even some pizzicato violin, create a fully distinctive, unique, and engaging sound.

Flatbush Zombies- Better Off Dead

image

The Flatbush Zombies are a trio comprised of Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice, and Erik “The Architect” Elliott from Flatbush, Brooklyn and part of the greater New York Beast Coast movement along with fellow Brooklyn groups Pro Era and The Underachievers. This mixtape, their sophomore effort, takes elements of traditional New York boom bap while adding a diverse collection influences ranging from trap, to psychedelic, to cloud rap which creates a very dark, goofy, psychedelic, cinematic, a drug fueled adventure. The three MC’s each have a very diverse, unique styles of delivery. Most notable is the contrast between Meechy Darko’s deep, voice cracking baritone and Zombie Juice’s high, almost pitched tenor which creates an almost cartoonish atmosphere in which you could envision the two starring in an Adult Swim animated T.V. show. Add in Erik “The Architect” Elliott, perhaps the best lyricist in the group who also handles the production on all but two of the mixtapes tracks, as well as guest verses from Action Bronson and Danny Brown, and the product is the most fully realized and entertaining release out of a saturated New York rap scene.

Kanye West- Yeezus

image

The moment I heard that Yeezus had leaked I immediately hopped on my laptop and downloaded it. Before half an hour had passed, I had left work, furiously biked to my friend’s house, and pressed play on the stereo system as we sank into the couch for our first listen.Yeezus, my most highly anticipated album of this past year, did not disappoint. From the opening beeps to the closing uh huh honey, the industrial, angry, and confident sounds of Yeezus proved to be one of my most listened to projects of the year. Its extremely polarizing nature, lead to a memorable window in time where it dominated music news and conversation. I will never forget my brother going through his box of cards he received at his grad party which occurred later in that same week as the release of Yeezus. Innocently situated between two envelopes was a normal looking memorex CD with one word written on it in black sharpie. In non descript lowercase lettering was written, “yeezus”.

Chance the Rapper- Acid Rap

image

Acid Rap is part of a unique group of projects that is void of any skippable songs. The magic of Acid Rap is that it sounds great as a cohesive whole while also being able to function of a collection of singles. Often I have clear cut favorite songs off of projects. Acid Rap serves as an exception as I find myself returning to different songs of the dependent on mood. Chance’s ear for catchy, accessible instrumentals and hooks coupled with his unique sing-songy delivery create an atmosphere which both seems new, familiar and exciting all at the same time.

2013 Album of the Year

By Peter Jarzyna

 In a year ripe with new records that warranted repeated listens, the music that I found to be most endlessly explorable came from Vampire Weekend. I’ll be honest: a lot of these songs are simply too much for me. An entire book could be written to exegetically trace the slyly wordsmithed, hyper-referential octuple entendres that comprise the album’s impeccably crafted bed of lyrics (don’t believe me? Check out the Rap Genius annotations). Modern Vampires of the City hit me the hardest, however, by virtue of the emotional strength of its sparkling sonics and subtly expansive storytelling.

Modern Vampires plays out like a musical theater production, giving the listener a view into the lives of an ensemble cast of millenials in the grips of existential crisis. Rather than mock or indict them, these narratives address “millenial unease” with utter sincerity, developing vivid characters just skeletal enough to be intimately relatable. It comes from an awakened perspective, the most self-aware work in their trio of albums—Ezra Koenig has referred to it as the culmination of a trilogy.

The curtain opens with a proper invocation. Koenig’s narrator in “Obvious Bicycle” watches as a down-on-his luck friend struggles to find purpose within the fatalism of the  American job market: “Oh, you ought to spare your face the razor, cause no one’s gonna spare their time for you.” That he’s unshaven is the most dubious of inhibitions he faces: “You ought to spare the world your labor—it’s been 20 years and no one’s told the truth.” It always bewilders me how much humility enters this band’s songwriting. Here they are establishing that on this album they’ll be asking some hard-hitting questions—Where do we find hope? What motivation do we have to push forward in this world?—and yet its disguised as a buoyant pop ballad. Brilliant. “So listen,” he implores in the chorus. He certainly has my attention.

“Step” is the sound of growing up—those constantly evolving moments when you look back at your life and say, “Shit, this is going fast.” The excitement, the regret! It’s essentially Vampire Weekend’s take on Oakland hip hop outfit Souls of Mischief’s “Step to My Girl,” but it’s so much more than that. Koenig delivers the borrowed lines of the chorus (“Everytime I see you in the world…”) like a flashback to singing along with some song he’s embarrassed to adore, yet it all feels entirely sincere. The cultural references in this one are pretty overwhelming. In a tweet, Koenig encouraged any willing spirits to map out the “Step family tree”. The heart of the song comes from the “girl” he’s so concerned about—it seems to be a placeholder for whatever darling you’ve grown with. For Koenig, it’s music, and so the song works as a family tree of musical influence and taste, and yet the lyrics are composed in such a way that they might be relatable, sounding natural enough rolling off the tongue of the narrator, who shouldn’t necessarily be confused with Koenig himself. Amidst the more esoteric lyrics are lines that hit you hard, and without warning: “Wisdom’s a gift, but you’d trade it for youth.” “We know the true death, the true way of all flesh. Everyone’s dying, but girl you’re not old yet.” It’s time, it’s change, it’s nostalgia, denial, acceptance. This song, man.

“Diane Young” is a party song about dying young, which is basically what most party songs boil down to, right? As the story goes, the its original title was “Dying Young,” but Koenig and company felt that was too heavy, instead slightly mutating it to “what sounds like a nice person’s name.” This is how a great deal of their songwriting works best: finding a middle ground between the uncompromisingly self-serious, and the devil-may-care, playfully blithe.

Then there’s “Hannah Hunt.” This is the centerpiece. Romance, youthful defiance and adventure! Two lovers roadtrip through an apocalyptic country, in search of some sort of transcendence that doesn’t come in the shape of a salary or a bible. The storytelling is simply delightful: “A man of faith said hidden eyes could see what I was thinking; I just smiled and told him that was only true of Hannah, and we glided on through Waverly and Lincoln.” When the atmospheric first half explodes into an exuberant piano melody, Koenig delivers a chorus that merits no explanation: “If I can’t trust you then damn it, Hannah; there’s no future, there’s no answer. Though we live on the US dollar, you and me, we got our own sense of time.”

“Everlasting Arms” ponders romance as religion and vice versa. The Paul Simon delivery is cued on point, and the contrast of “everlasting” and the persistent theme of mortality does well to address the consolation of believing in something with religious conviction, even if it means you’re “goin’ down” with it. Important to note: the organ synths toward the end are vaguely reminiscent of a funeral service.

Momentum picks up with “Worship You,” in which we find a group of people on their hands and knees—beautiful, earnest, endearing. But so full of doubt! The character delivering the verses is the spokesperson, the harmony-laden chorus is, well, the chorus. Simple, classic, wonderfully orchestrated. They all march into questioning and woe, searching incessantly for a prophet. This doubt reaches climax in “Ya Hey.” Our narrator speaks directly to a God who won’t reveal himself, wondering, “Who could ever live that way?” It’s a break-up song about severing ties with dogma. Oh, and don’t forget the fact that the song’s title intones both the Jewish name for God and OutKast’s most abundantly danced to pop song (Wow!).

A bleak, post-apocalyptic Manhattan is depicted in the penultimate “Hudson.” It’s like looking at a dead body, a vision of how it feels to confront the grimmest facts of mortality, the physical incarnation of death itself. The ticking clock toward the end is especially spine chilling.

Then, curtains. “Young Lion”. This is the tear-jerker. A reel of the beautiful moments of your life rolling before your eyes, the innocence and grace of being able to experience those moments at all. It’s the deep breath and return to a mindful present after a heady trip of heavy contemplation and anxiety, a reminder that when the world feels oh so inconceivable, perhaps the best we can do is to take our time.