On my first listen of Earl Sweatshirt’s third album, Some Rap Songs, I thought a lot about that title. Some Rap Songs. It struck me as sort of commentary on how so many people consume music in 2018. Here’s this rapper that has been buzzed about for years. Here’s his album. Listen to it, get it or don’t, and move on to the next thing. What was it? Some rap songs. It’s a notion portrayed in the cover art too; a blurry, borderline frightening image of Earl is front and center — an image that renders the creator of this album nearly faceless. In my mind, it all fits, being brilliantly calculated and serving a specific purpose; an analogy for this record as a whole.
This was not a record meant to be released in this time, but couldn’t have come out at a better one. If you think the intention was to just deliverer “some rap songs,” you’d be mistaken. No. instead what’s been presented here is a masterclass in album making, Earl Sweatshirt’s finest work to date. and one of the most forward-thinking and boundary-pushing rap records of this decade.
You probably know the story already: Earl, a near mythological figure in rap already at only 24 years of age, has been in the spotlight since his early teens. Born Thebe Kgositsile, Earl made his start in the Tyler, The Creator-founded hip-hop coalition, Odd Future. He was sent away to a boarding school in Samoa for at-risk teens right after the release of his first mixtape, only then to make a triumphant return with his first proper record, Doris, in 2013, and following that up with the brilliant, now cult classic I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside in 2015. I Don’t Like Shit marked the signs of a significant stylistic shift and the start of a new era for Earl.
The cover for Anderson Paak’s latest album, Oxnard, immediately gives the impression of a film. “Starring Anderson Paak,” it reads, much like the marquee on a movie poster. And like a movie poster, we see an array of images all pertaining to Paak’s life. These include images of his son, two of the members of his band The Free Nationals, as well as Paak himself, standing before a large crowd next to the most glaring inclusion, which is hip-hop legend Dr. Dre. All of these images are portrayed in a cloud of smoke, as Paak stands firmly there, arms open, assuredly singing something uplifting and life-affirming.
This is the poster to the film that is Anderson Paak, Oxnard being the third film of the trilogy — and the biggest one to date due to his meteoric rise in the public consciousness in the last two years. Keeping this in mind, despite my hype for this record and my love of Paak’s previous works, I still had my apprehensions about this project. I wondered if this newfounded backing and production by Dre and his label Aftermath would result in a production too large with stakes so high that it might suck the soul out of what makes Paak so great — the soul that was allowed to freely reign on a record like Malibu. Would Oxnard be marred by tracks lacking the songwriting ability that made his previous works so instantly lovable and memorable?
10 years ago, a multi-colored, noisy yet pop-inclined punk record and band made a significant splash in the underground music scene. I’m talking about Nouns, by the L.A.-based duo No Age. This wasn’t my first exposure to the band — that came in the form of the almost equally brilliant follow-up: 2010’s Everything In Between, which is a much more polished, fleshed-out take on the band’s sound.
After falling in love with In Between, I undertook the journey every music nerd gets to embark on once they discover a new band they enjoy — I checked out their old shit. Upon coming across a copy of the aforementioned 2008 debut release at a local book/record store that I now work for — your probable response to this sentence: “Of course this dude works for a book/record store” *rolls eyes* — and it became “one of those albums” to me. What do I mean by that? Well, not only is it a record which I feel a certain attachment and undying love for the songs on it, but it helped steep and cement my interest and need to explore more and more avenues of indie and underground music leading to why I’m here, doing what I do today.
Now here we are, 10 years and three records later, and No Age are back at it with a new release entitled Snares Like A Haircut. The hype was real for this one, my friends. Does it disappoint?
I’m writing this entry in the dead of November, and the bitter cold is really starting to set in. I find myself reminiscing over an album that came out last summer from hands down one of my all-time favorite indie rock bands. Quiet Ferocity by The Jungle Giants is 41 minutes straight of upbeat techno music that will make me want to get up and dance on even the dreariest of autumn days. I have much love and respect for this four-piece band from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
They proclaim in their Spotify bio that Quiet Ferocity “combines the signature melodic arrangements of their first album with the percussion-laden production of their second and catapults them into a sonic stratosphere that is entirely their own sound.” After spending a solid amount of time over the past week with this album, I honestly couldn’t agree more with this statement. With this latest release, I believe that The Jungle Giants have really hit their stride as a band and have found themselves in their music.
“I want Brockhampton to be something that lasts beyond me. Yeah, that’s the goal.” – Kevin Abstract, founding member of BROCKHAMPTON.
The story of L.A.-based hip-hop outfit BROCKHAMPTON is a bit of an unconventional one, especially in the world of hip hop. The group formed after Kevin Abstract (real name Ian Simpson) made a post on a Kanye West fan forum looking for artists to collaborate and make music, following him being disowned by his family after coming out as gay (a main topic of his last project under the Kevin Abstract moniker, called American Boyfriend). He and the others that responded then relocated to a house in L.A., where each member resides and creates music together. Kevin just turned 20 a couple weeks ago, and the other members of the group are around the same age. Yes, that really is the story behind this group; material that I don’t think even some of the most skilled storyteller could come up with easily.
BROCKHAMPTON has been gaining traction steadily ever since their formation, with a healthy dose of singles and a scatterbrained, albeit super enjoyable mixtape with 2015’s All American Trash, which showed a great deal of promise and great tracks to match. Don’t begin to think that this level of heart and ambition doesn’t shine through on their new album, SATURATION (BROCKHAMPTON’s first proper LP), because that feeling permeates and consumes this project wholly.
It’s bothersome to hear people talk about Gorillaz. Sure, Gorillaz are a widely loved and celebrated act, and they have been for nearly 20 years now. But one of their greatest strengths is also one of their biggest setbacks.
It’s idiotic to me that the animated world of Gorillaz, co-created by legendary underground comic artist Jamie Hewlett, and which serves as the stylistic umbrella for a global and multigenerational collaborative music project, proves to be such a turnoff for people.
I often hear, “I’m not in the mood to listen to a new Gorillaz record.” Or, “I haven’t listened to Gorillaz in years,” said with an uppity, I-have-no-time-for-this-kids-crap kind of pretension. I hear it all the time. But the worst is when I simply hear someone say, “I hate them.”
These all translate to, “I don’t want to listen to something that my anime-watching, comic-reading coworker listens to.” It’s bullshit and it totally exists — don’t deny it. It’s a very lazy argument, and I’d say that even without my personal bias. Gorillaz is a project that represents artistic unity and bridging gaps to deliver a message that we as a people desperately need, especially in our current turbulent dystopia. This is the point of Humanz’ entire existence.
Welcome to Basement Dwelling, where I review new records that should be on your musical radar. What sets Basement Dwelling apart from other music review columns is that these are all albums that are currently residing in my record collection. No promo copy was given, no stream was listened to. Instead, a physical copy of an album was purchased before I listened to it. Don’t think of me as a critic, but as a music obsessive looking to open a dialogue about some of the best tunes that are currently being released.
Let’s head down to the basement and listen to 22, A Millionby Bon Iver…
There are some opinions I carry that have always made me feel like an outsider when talking to my fellow music nerds: I hate Nirvana, I don’t really care much about The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, and I don’t like Bon Iver…like at all. I think his stuff is super overrated. Seriously, how the hell could his previous record top so many year-end lists? Did all those critics not listen to any other music in all of 2011?
This was a mindset that I’d held for years; it genuinely bothered me that I didn’t like Bon Iver. Over the past few months, after talking with friends about Bon Iver and my distaste for Justin Vernon’s work, I found myself wanting to revisit his older albums to see if I’d maybe been too harsh on the Iver. And you know what? I actually started to warm up to him. But in my newfound appreciation came a genuine hype for the record I’ll be talking about in this post: Bon Iver’s third LP, 22, A Million.