This blog is really not meant for public consumption, although I appreciate every random reader from across the globe. The intended audience for this, which informs the way I write and describe/compare the music, is composed of the friends I’ve accumulated in my 35 years with whom I’ve shared mutual enjoyment of music in the past. My purpose here is to attempt to foster or rekindle that facet of those relationships. Still, thanks for reading, whoever and wherever you are.
Sore Eyelids - For Now
These Swedes blend straightforward midwest emo with shoegaze and a dash of melodic punk, and after following them loosely for a few years, I think they've finally hit stride with this EP. Don't worry, xenophobes, they sing in English and there's not much accent to be detected. I don't really have a favorite off this, but "Waste" is probably a good representation.
tide/edit - Foreign Languages
Shout out to my main man ET for turning me on to this sweet instrumental band that is sure to please fans of Vasudeva. This one is very solid all the way through.
Better Off - I Think I'm Leaving
I can't believe this came out in 2013 and I had no clue as to its existence prior to a couple months ago. It's a really good mix of all my favorite emo, rock, and mid-tempo pop-punk sounds of the past 15 years or so. There are a couple skip-worthy tracks, but there are also highlights like "The Price Is Never Right", "A Fool Walks Into A Bar", and "Next Step Out The Door".
Strung Out - Transmission Alpha Delta
Joyce Manor - Never Hungover Again
This band has been one of punk's buzz darlings of the past few years that has never appealed to me. However, all the fawning praise over this release made me begrudgingly give them another chance, and my reaction was, "Wait, this band sounds like this? Some of this is actually pretty damn good. I had a completely different sound in my mind." I have yet to go back in their catalog to see if my memory was off or what, but I swear this is a departure in the pop/catchy direction for them. You won't find me buying their t-shirts or proclaiming my love for them (since I only like about half of this), but hot damn do songs like "Catalina Fight Song" and "Falling In Love Again" float my boat. The junior high lyrics ("I think you're funny/I like your friends/I like the way they treat you/I've got some money/That we could spend/Not that you're like that") are an unfortunate circumstance that occasionally make me cringe, but then another awesome part comes in to make me forget again.
Rarity - Alive In Your Eyes
The cover art made me weary, but thanks to my homeboy McG, I gave this harder edged pop-punk band a try and enjoyed most of it. The interlude tracks are kind of pointless, making this a 3-song EP that won't bowl you over but shows promise.
Reservoir - Cicurina Vol. 1
I had the pleasure of seeing these guys play their moody midwest emo in a basement in Lansing a couple years ago, and they absolutely slayed and made me a much bigger fan. Sadly, I feel their recorded content has always failed to capture that extra oomph they have live, but this EP is the closest they've come yet. Check the build and payoff on opener "Breathe Disaster" to see what I mean.
Brigades - Crocodile Tears
I had the pleasure of seeing Such Gold rip through a bunch of new material (and I mean fucking rip) last weekend but was too busy to check out the opening acts before deciding I was too busy (sic) to arrive early enough to see them. It turns out that was a mistake, as this band and Tommy Boys (see below) should've been very enjoyable. These guys play a good mix of melodic hardcore and pop-punk, even if they don't really do anything to distinguish themselves. I've only heard this twice so far, but it seems pretty even throughout. Some of it actually reminds me of Story Of The Year when they weren't that embarrassing.
Tommy Boys - Tommy Boys
This trio play a noodly, airy, and jerky (rhythmically) style of upbeat emo that's pleasing to the ear. I especially regret missing their set. I heard it was pretty damn good from all-around solid dude Steve from Bike Tuff (buy their vinyl, and get one for me too), and he knows what's up, so check this out on both of our recommendations.
The Regiment & Sinitus Tempo - S.O.U.L.
This is probably the best release yet from Detroit duo The Regiment. The production is pure Golden Era jazzy boom-bap, just the way I like it. You really can't go wrong with any of the first four tracks here.
Mello Music Group - Persona
Remember how awesome hip-hop compilations used to be back in the day? Stuff like Soundbombing (particularly Vol. II), Eastern Conference All-Stars, and New York Reality Check 101 were peppered with classic material. I read an interview with Mello's owner where he said he was trying to bring that element back to hip-hop culture and make the compilation important again by snatching up some of the artists' best work in the form of exclusive tracks. I have to admit much of their roster is lost on me (I only like about half of this), but they also have some of my favorites of recent years. Mello and Ill Adrenaline Records are definitely the best two labels in hip-hop today. Highlights here include Oddisee and Phonte's (of Little Brother) first ever collaboration (why did it take so long?) "Requiem", the eerie "You First" (ft. Rapper Big Pooh, also formerly of Little Brother), and Oddisee's solo joint "Word to the Wise".
Little Vic - Loosies Collection Pt. 1
This kid frustrates the shit out of me. His first EP, a solid if unspectacular effort, came into my awareness thanks to an assist from DJ Premier way back in 2008, but he hasn't had another proper release since. His mixtapes have been uneven, but then there are songs that are just absolute bangers. And the trend is usually that whatever songs he produces himself are great, and when he uses outside help the results are very mixed and often duds. He's really an incredibly talented boom-bap producer and sounds like he puts time and thought into his lyrics, even when he's going bragadaccio. How about you just listen to "Endings", "Crockpot", and "Let Alone" and see for yourself? Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention the absolutely awful DJ drops at the beginning of most tracks. Try to block it out. It's not DJ Clue bad, but it's bad.
BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah - Sour Soul
Speaking of being frustrated, I definitely expected more from this album. It's nowhere near bad, but some of it's a little boring. Still, "Ray Gun (ft. DOOM)" is a sure winner, and after all, it's Ghost on the mic. It's definitely cool to hear him over live instrumentation.
The Cenobites - The Cenobites LP
Here's a Kool Keith project from 1995 that I somehow ignored until 20 years after its conception. It's definitely not his best work but is leaps and bounds above anything he has done in the last 10 years. Just watch out when Bobbito grabs the mic. He makes Lil' Wayne's lyrics sound like a TED talk.
First Light - Fallacy Fantasy
How this 2013 release from two of my favorite Hieroglyphics crew members escaped my radar is beyond me. Opio and Pep Love put together an album that's solid throughout even if there's nary a "great" track to be found.
Joey Bada$$ - B4 Da $$
Here we have the long awaited and much hyped debut from the prodigal son and leader of the PRO ERA crew, who represent the youthful revival that the boom-bap world has desperately needed. While I think this kid has enough talent and an ear for beats that could've made this even better, it's still a great album. When he makes Gang Starr references like "things get severe for everybody everywhere/this my moment of truth right here" and shouts out my favorite album of all time, I swell with hope for the future. Those lines are indicative of a wisdom in his lyrics that belies his age, and that gives me hope that he can maintain his popularity without "playing (him)self to have mass appeal" as Guru once stated. My favorite tracks here are the DJ Premier-produced "Paper Trail$", "Save The Children" (compliments of another killer Statik Selektah beat), "Piece of Mind", "No. 99" (a fantastic re-appropriation of the vibe of ATCQ's "Scenario"), and "Hazeus View". My only real complaint is that this album is grossly top-heavy, but that's not a big bitch at all. This will definitely be on my 2015 year-end list.
Red Pill - Learning To Punch
Remember how I said Mello Music Group has some artists I really love? Well here's one of them, a Detroit (Redford) native who is one of the best I've heard at conveying the realities and frustrations of modern life from the strikingly honest perspective of a struggling artist. Check the Oddisee-produced "Smile" to see why this kid has me excited for his full-length, which I have yet to hear.
Kenn Starr - Square One
Here's yet another Mello Music Group MC worth your time. He hasn't put out an album in 9 fucking years, so this is a welcome return. His crewmate Kev Brown provides some great instrumentals, and Black Milk comes through a few times as well. "Game To Deliver", "Product of the Basement (Remix)", "Lesson A", and "The Movement II" are all standouts. Don't pass this one up, boom-bap heads.
The Four Owls - Natural Order
And finally we have The Four Owls from England, whom I never would've checked for if not for the DJ Premier cut "Think Twice" (video). That song, plus "Feels Great" and "Control", made me realize these guys are much more than their headscratcher of a gimmick, with the owl masks they apparently always wear. When you're listening, that aspect obviously doesn't matter, and the bottom line is that these guys actually have pretty good lyrics and even better production most of the time. Give 'em a chance.
Before I go, allow me to state that I was pretty disappointed in the new Title Fight, J-Live, Big Shug (yes, even the DJ Premier songs were at least slight bummers), and Diamond District's remix album March on Washington Redux (seriously, the Diamond D remix is fucking terrible). Action Bronson was OK and actually a little better than expected. Apollo Brown & Rapper Big Pooh (another Mello release), the You Blew It 7", and Fashawn were fairly solid. And finally, Somos' new track on their latest split (with Have Mercy, who have fallen off a cliff for me) is a new favorite. And that's pretty much all that's worth mentioning. Thanks for reading, and may the Schwartz be with you until next time.