Saturday, April 8, 2017

Music Worth Checking Out: 1st Quarter 2017

Thanks for stopping by again, everybody. I'm highly inclined to get right to the recommendations. There are some very strong contenders for this year's top 5 in the mix. I'm also excited to check out some of the stuff I have in the on-deck folder, like the new Joey Badass and a band I've never heard but has been around a few years called Two Inch Astronaut (check this baby out). Feel free to get ahead of me on those and let me know how it goes.

Before we embark, standard disclaimer time. 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 compare the music, is composed of the friends I’ve accumulated in my life 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. Also, it doesn't matter whether it came out in 1997 or 2016. If I found out about it recently and I like it, I'll include it here. Also, don't mind the paste-associated font/size changes. This editor blows, and it's not even worth the effort to fix. Again, thanks for reading.

Vasudeva - No Clearance




Oh how glorious the return of this instrumental trio is. When a record is truly everything I hoped for, it really keep my blood pumping. They still employ dance-ish beats but with really interesting/dynamic drumming a la early Minus The Bear (way better, actually), and the guitar parts are more varied than before (less reliant on finger-tapping). It's quite an engaging and transcendent listen. It's medicine for a brutal week at work and long nights alone. And I can't stress enough how their live sets are truly elating experiences. Absolutely do not miss them if you like this even a little bit. I'd have to say "Chase" and "6&5" are my go-to jams so far.

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Goddamnit - I'll Never Be Okay, I'll Never Be The Same




Who else wants some gruff-voiced post-hardcore/mope-punk? Well, here ye be. This is the second full-length from these Philly codgers (they may be close to my age, which is awesome), and the first one is almost as strong. They remind me a lot of old Deep Elm HWM-influenced band Lock and Key as well as Carpenter. Check "Letterbox" (first video), "Steady Diet of Sugar" (second video), and "Can't Stand the View" (the most Carpenter-esque track). Oh, and stay away from the last track (seriously, what happened?) as well as the girl droning on in the intros/outros to tracks.

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The Fullblast - Attack.Sustain.Decay


Let's kick the speed up about 10 notches as we travel up to Ontario to catch the return of this skate-punk unit from the ashes of 2006. I didn't get into them during their original incarnation but recently checked out both albums. finding Short Controlled Bursts to be quite good. This blows that out of the water though. If I were you, I'd just start out at the beginning and let this EP ride. It's very even and consistently solid. For fans of This Is A Standoff, Strung Out, and A Wilhelm Scream.

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Tiny Moving Parts - Celebrate


Here's a very well-constructed slab of earnest punk-influenced emo that I slept on last year. I had checked out their previous (debut) LP This Couch... some time ago and liked the music but couldn't get with the overly talk-y vocals. Either my memory sucks or dude has mostly modified that to more of a shout/sing that runs the gamut of suitability from slightly cringey to perfect for the moment. This is another one to start at the top with. Wait, I take that back after watching the video for "Headache". Do that up first. It just instantly pushed them up a peg for me. It's a great, entertaining video, the drums are way more fucking awesome than I realized, and the drummer's look is something else. Do it. Not now but right now.

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General Steele and ES-K - Building Bridges




One half of the veteran Boot Camp Clik duo Smif-N-Wessun, General Steele, comes correct here with the most consistent and enjoyable record he has done since their debut underground classic Dah Shinin' way in 1995. Jazzy boom-bap is at the forefront and the rhymes are mostly on point. The late Sean Price steals the show as usual on "Unforgettable", and "Empire State" featuring where-have-you-been guy Smoothe Da Hustler is a gem too. Overall this might slightly edge out Droog below as my favorite hip-hop release of 2017 so far. It's really that thorough, and I never would've seen it coming. Check out the beautiful upstate NY fall imagery in the videos.

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Your Old Droog - Packs




This Ukrainian immigrant was once mistaken for Nas when he stayed out of the public eye after releasing his quality debut EP. "Who is this guy?", everybody wondered. Since then he has revealed himself but not exactly embraced the limelight. He has continued to excel lyrically with a style all his own (lyrical Easter eggs abound) and when he links up with someone with the mic command of Edan on "Help" (along with a pretty decent take on the "I'm just a harmless shithead" persona/verse from Wiki - see the video), wonderful things happen. Don't watch that video with some crappy little speaker either. The bass in that song is crucial and most triumphant. Pretty much every other song is at least decent, and I look forward to many more spins to find more favorite tracks. Oh, and I can't forget to mention the genius of Anthony Jeselnik (never been a fan before, but huge props for this) who does a few very short skits, including one where he rightfully rags on "The Mall" as the gross sore thumb on Moment of Truth that it is. It's an 11 second must-hear if you're a Gang Starr fan. Seriously. And if you're a fan of talent, get on the Droog train already.

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Code Nine & Purpose - Below Sumerian Skies





Beatsmith Purpose from the Tragic Allies is also capable of rhyming, but the vast majority of the rhymes here come courtesy of relative newcomer (to my knowledge) Code Nine. Purpose provides more of his well-established and grossly underrated Golden Era-styled production, and while I haven't listened a ton, I can say the MCing is at least solid. Code Nine kind of strikes me a cross between Red Pill and Ill Bill. I like that. All but 2 songs made the cut for me. Video joint "When The Saints Out" is a good place to start. It's absolutely criminal that this is only available physically in Europe, and only on CD. Fuck is that shit? 

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OK, that's all I have this time around. Get to work. I'm going to bed, and tonight I'll be loading the iPod up with loads of new stuff. May the Schwartz be with you all.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

My Favorite Music of 2016

It's that time again, old people. We're a little closer to being dead, and my external hard drive has been further filled with more music as I start on my filling second record storage unit. I didn't find anything new in the last couple months of 2016, so this will simply be a list, and if you need any verbage or links for any release noted here, you can find it in the 3 blogs from earlier in 2016 (ctrl+F is your friend). So after the standard disclaimer, let's get to the countdown.

This 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 the friends I’ve accumulated in my 36 years with whom I’ve shared mutual enjoyment of music in the past, and it’s my desire to foster or rekindle that facet of those relationships.

And finally, let me state for the record up front that I don’t care when it came out. This is my list, and it’s called “My Favorite”, not the more pompous “Best of”, so your end-of-year list rules do not apply. If it did not enter my awareness until 2015, it’s eligible. Also, I don’t care if it’s a mixtape or an official album. Both make the cut.

EP’s/7”s/Singles

5. Oslow - No Longer Concerns Me 7"



4. Ringfinger/Fairlane - split 12"



3. Belmont – Between You & Me



2. Hiding Place – Hiding Place



1. Peregrine – Sorry About the Mess



LP’s/Full-lengths

15. Carpenter – Lifelines



14. Mindsone & DJ Iron – Phaseology



13. Havoc x The Alchemist – The Silent Partner



12. This Town Needs Guns (TTNG) – Disappointment Island



11. Reks – The Greatest X



10. Arrows In Her – It Tired Me All the Same



9. Dillon & Paten Locke – Food Chain

8. Somos – First Day Back


7. Deer Leap – Impermanence



6. A Sight For Sewn Eyes – A Sight For Sewn Eyes



5. Beneficence – Basement Chemistry



4. Balance and Composure – The Light We Made



3. face to face – Protection



2. Luca Brasi – If This Is All We're Going To Be




1. Elzhi – Lead Poison



Thanks for checking out the list. Hopefully I'll be back in early April with lots more new music.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Music Worth Checking Out: 3rd Quarter(-ish) 2016

Hi all. I'm grossly overdue for an update, but dropping my 4th iPod Classic on the basement floor in late July put a monkey wrench in my ability to chew through new music. I'm still in the process of adding and (re-)rating 75% of my pre-2012 music to my 5th one, which had to be purchased off eBay as a refurb since Apple doesn't make them anymore. So far, so good, but between New Japan Pro Wrestling, another trying Buffalo Bills season, Stern show, Artie Lange's podcast, the flood of new decent music, and making sure I actually listen to the records I buy, I haven't made any progress on the old stuff in months. Oh well. At least I will continue to have plenty of time to myself to eventually work on it (read: occasionally too much).

Well OK then, let's get on to the standard disclaimer and the music! 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 life 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. Also, it doesn't matter whether it came out in 1997 or 2016. If I found out about it recently and I like it, I'll include it here. Also, don't mind the paste-asociated font/size changes. This editor blows, and it's not even worth the effort to fix. Let's do this, mang!

A Sight For Sewn Eyes - A Sight For Sewn Eyes




I don't even remember how long it has been since I discovered a new band as harsh as this that I loved. I might even have to go all the way back to when I first got into Botch, Coalesce, and The Bled. I don't even remember for sure, but I believe I heard of these guys via their vocalist doing guest screams on somebody else's album (Rarity or Riot Acts, maybe?). If you like mathy, crunchy, classic metalcore that keeps you guessing and occasionally travels into more ambient/post-rock realms, I can't stress enough that you should check for this Canadian outifit. This album used to be on Spotify but got taken down (their first album is still there, which I unfortunately haven't heard yet), presumably because they're working on re-releasing it on a formidable label. I don't have enough familiarity yet to suggest any tracks, so just crank it and promptly destroy whatever room you're currently in. I'm talking turnt tables, smashed lamps, and terrified pets/toddlers, fuckers. Put your goggles on.

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Deer Leap - Impermanence




Broken World Media seems to have become the new Topshelf Records in terms of putting out quality 90's emo releases, and this is a perfect example. This is emo of the slower and prettier type, maybe something like Elliott's Song In The Air. You really can't go wrong just starting out at the top here.

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Scout (Boys) - What If, Like, When We Die...



These dudes have gone on to change their name to Scout and then Shelly (with a total change in sound to boot) since this came out, but the important thing is that this is a nice chunk of indie/pop-punk-rock/emo that's of the more mid-tempo/upbeat variety. Some of it really reminds me of the few Joyce Manor songs I like, and there's definitely some face to face and early Alkaline Trio influence there. All song am good.

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Hiding Place - Hiding Place



Man, life sure is even more of an indecipherable blur when it's always night and no "day" really feels much different from the one before it. I say that because I have absolutely zero recollection about how I found this. I do know I loved it upon first listen though. Like Deer Leap, this is also firmly footed in the more contemplative, dreamier side of emo. The vocals and guitars frame the mood in the beautifully sad department with the occasional anguished yell, while the drums are a bit more restrained than I'd prefer. Still, I really really dig the total package and can't wait for my 7" to show up. Start at the top.

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Forest Green - Forest Green




Nick Diener of The Swellers assisted with the production/recording of this new entry in the rich history of earnest Michigan bummer skate/pop-punk. While it's too rough around the edges for me to recommend it to all Swellers fans, I'll certainly recommend it to you, fine reader. The vocals and music are probably more analogous to Title Fight's first couple albums. I think the raw emotion of the main theme of dude trying to sincerely cope (and fail) with his grandfather's death might be kind of painful to listen to for some, but I can totally extrapolate and relate in terms of how I'm going to feel when my paternal grandfather passes. Again, you might as well start at the top here too.

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This Town Needs Guns - Disappointment Island



This is kind of a fucked up deal right here, kids. This is a really good album. It's probably better than most other stuff on this blog. And yet, true to its name, it still feels like a bit of a letdown simply because TTNG have become victims of their own greatness, Their knack for creating catchy pop vocal tunes over gorgeously angular finger-picking math-rock is by now the stuff of legend amongst those who know. Their impeccable live show can take much of the "blame" for that, as can the fact that their earlier material seems to inexplicably get better the more I listen (for real, if you didn't push through any initial meh with 13.0.0.0 and let it into your life fully, you've played yourself). So although I can't tell you any of this bowls me over, I can tell you that it might if you've never heard them before. There is also nothing skip-worthy here, so it's definitely sill a win. I think my favorite track is "Destroy The Tabernacle", with its deceivingly simple drum part. It's sort of like if The Police would've invented math rock and finger-tapping early in their career.

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wolves&wolves&wolves&wolves - Scorched Earth




I know jack shit about these guys but kept seeing their name come up on various sites and decided to give 'er a go after the fifth or sixth sighting. I was rewarded with gruff (largely) mid-tempo punk rock that shouldn't be foreign to fans of Hot Water Music, Banner Pilot or face to face. This is quite an old EP, and there are a couple newer releases you can beat me to the punch on if you'd like. Let me know how it goes. 

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Carpenter - Lifelines



I swear it felt like 17 years between releases for this band. The last one, Sea To Sky, had some real trouble living up to the absolute greatness of their debut full-length, my locked-in soundtrack to my first views of Lake Superior every time I head north, Law of the Land. Accordingly, it's really god damn great to have this 8-songer be more solid. I do wish the themes were a bit less personal and more in line with the "farmcore" anti-government environmentalist bent of much of the first two releases, but it helps when the burner "One Way Ticket To Hell" is one of their best ever. To the best of my knowledge, dude walks the walk too, as he owns and operates a farm somewhere in (central?) Canada after leaving cubicle life behind. And if you still don't get why they're one of the most unique punk(-related) acts to come out in the last 10 years, let's take a second to remember their myspace url, ".../joncougarisgod".

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My Iron Lung - Learn To Leave


Former Such Gold drummer, the venerable Devan Bentley, played drums for the recording (only) of this band's debut, and while the drumming was definitely my favorite part, it was still a pretty good stab at moody hardcore/post-hardcore. On this, their second album, a permanent (well, as much as such a thing can be in a punk band) drummer is on the stool who is not a predetermined favorite ever, bu the overall product is miles ahead. There's more variation in overall sound/mood, more texture, and less reliance on shouted monotone vocals that are the norm for the style. Some of it even reminds me of middle-era Balance & Composure. Check it out if you dug Gatherers at all.

Listen

Russian Circles - Guidance



The best instru-metal band in the business returns with what has ended up being my favorite of theirs. You probably already know whether you like them or not, so just be advised the new shit rules if you're already a fan. Get your fucking life together and ask yourself why you haven't listened yet.

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Arrows In Her - It Tired Me All The Same



Now THIS is some genuine sad bastard music, brought to you by Broken World Media once again. Bleed your heart out to this finger-tapping moody mathy emo-rock that puts a new sound to the spirit of mopes like Mineral and Cross My Heart. Closer "I Watched A Show About Space" is my favorite bummer jam here. And if you like this, make sure to go back and check out their debut EP leaving.


Balance and Composure - Light We Made



Assy cover art aside, I was ready for an enormous letdown with this one. I was warm but not hot on lead single "Postcard", somewhat thanks to a pleasingly disturbing video (see link below), despite it tipping the hat to a distinct change in overall sound for the band. I really loved their last album and wasn't interested in another god damn band making a major shift. Still, there was sort of a Talking Heads influence to it that was crazily appealing. And then I finally listened to the whole thing. The truth is that I really dig most of it ("For A Walk" won't get many more spins), and "Postcard" is probably my favorite. If you dig it too, give the rest of the album a couple of shots. I'm sure glad I got a curveball...for once.

Jimmy Eat World - Integrity Blues




It's weird to see bigger cynics than me praise the shit out of this. While I will agree with the consensus that it's their best since 2004's Futures, it's not really hooking me much outside of preview tracks "Sure & Certain" (my favorite by far) and "Get Right". Furthermore, the curveball rocking ending to "Pass The Baby" is cool but would be so much better without the dead weight of the rest of the song. Admittedly I haven't given it more than two full spins yet, and I'm hoping it grows some. I'd like to be able to justify buying the vinyl so the two aforementioned tracks can be blasted properly. Including 7" b-side "My Enemy" would've helped the overall case for me.

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Taking Meds - My Life As A Bro



Broken World Media comes through yet again, but this time the primary. Instead we get ambitious, angular, mathy punk-influenced rock and post-hardcore. This is a side project of the singer/guitarist and bassist of Such Gold (Ben and Jon) as well as Skylar, who played guitar and did the scream vocals on Misadventures but does the primary singing here. Add some dude named Matt Battle (not many more badass names to be had in the world) on the drums, and the band is rounded out. As I started this paragraph, I started my second listen of this (and the first while not distracted by strangers' shit, piss, and blood), so I'm even less familiar than usual, but I know for sure it deserves your attention. A lot of it reminds me of what would've happened if No Knife were more punk. Some of it reminds me of Shiner too. That should really interest a few of you. 


Listen


Belmont - Between You & Me


Our final entry in the rock portion of this update lists such genres as punk, pop-punk, hardcore, and melodic hardcore on their Badcamp page. And then comes the gross part..."easycore". That includes comedy bands like Four Year Strong and A Day To Remember, and if you don't know those names, be glad. I'm very glad I didn't notice that before I chose to listen, because in my opinion these kids manage to take some of the cooler parts that get lost in the sea of hot dumpster grease that is the those bands' music and intersperse them with really well-executed and catchy melodic hardcore and the kind of pop-punk that doesn't need defending because people don't like to shit on it like they do Man Overboard. (They make it so easy.) So far I consider all songs equal here, with only a couple "ehhh" parts over five songs.

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Denmark Vessey & Gensu Dean - Whole Food


Mr. Vessey, you had me at "I need them Rowdy Rod Ray-Bans". I've been thinking that myself lately. Shit's gotten weird...like, almost Killer Klowns From Outer Space weird.....and shitty. Anyway, to be truthful, with your cleverly subversive wordplay and ample flow, you had me when I first heard your first album Cult Classic last year. You're like an appropriately more raw version of Del the Funky Homosapien if he were from Detroit. Gensu Dean provides what's probably his most consistent body of production yet, rounding out another project I'm immensely proud to rep for my state. My personal favorite lyrically is "Biscuits & Gravy", which starts out with shouts of  "Jesus got me arrested!" and tells tales of partying buddy White Jesus, who turns boxed water into spiked punch and cavorts with bad hoes. "If you're nervous, go to Sunday service." Mello Music Group wins again.

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Skyzoo & Apollo Brown - The Easy Truth


Let's go for a double dose from Mello. This has to be in the top 2 or 3 pieces of work by both the MC and producer. Check opener "One in the Same" for a good example of what happens when both are at their best. Apollo often gets painfully mathematical and predictable, but there's mercifully little of that here. I think it's his best and most varied work since the Ghostface remix album he did. 

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MindsOne & DJ Iron - Phaseology


Now let's jump over to the other hip-hop label smashing it regularly these days, Ill Adrenaline. MindsOne did a great EP with Kev Brown last year, and this is at least as good. Check "Horizons" ft. John Robinson (OG version, although the remix is decent too. 

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Reks - The Greatest X


Weighing in at a beefy 35 tracks, this is essentially a double album from one of my top MC's of this millennium. Like most projects of such length, it would've made one hell of a single album. I'm thinking he made it so long so that the boom-bap would outweigh the 4 or 5 trap/bounce beats he sadly and inexplicably employs. Now that I look, I kept 22 songs on the iPod with only 6 in the "never ever listen again" category. No favorite jumped out immediately, but a re-listen during the writing of this paragraph would suggest "Gone Baby Gone", "Pray for Me: The Genocide Note", and how the hell did I not notice "Benjamin Button" more the first time? 

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Lessondary - Ahead of Schedule


This is a Wu-Tang-sized collective of dudes who have a pretty extensive discography I haven't paid much attention to, mostly because the bits I'd heard didn't move me much. This is pretty solid throughout though.

Listen

Awon - Matte Black Soul


Are you looking for something smoother than a baby's ass? Like, maybe even as smooth as "Acid Raindrops" or "Rather Unique"? Then check out "Exquisite" off this LP. It's gorgeous. Surprisingly it's one of the few tracks not produced by Portland, Maine's own Phoniks. He has come on very strong in the last couple years and does produce my next favorite track, "Natural High". Also, it's pronounced "A-1", not like a kid with a speech impediment trying to pronounce "Aaron".

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A-F-R-O & Marco Polo - A-F-R-O Polo


I don't want to hear anybody talk about flow ever again without mentioning this kid. As a matter of fact, he defined it. Clever lyrics abound as well, though they're occasionally frustratingly not so in rare instances. More importantly, he's obviously incredibly talented (check him freestyling on Fallon) and loves to spit fire over classic boom-bap beats, as evidenced by multiple mixtapes prior to this EP. It's all fairly even, so take it from the top. 

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Kool Keith - Feature Magnetic


This relatively new marriage between Mello Music Group and Keith has been pretty fruitful. On the whole, I think I like this better than the L'Orange album (and probably a little better than the one with Ray West too). I meant to quote a few lyrical gems but failed to document them, and I need to just get this damn thing done already. Plus they're better heard than read anyway. Keith does all his own production, which has been a dumpster fire for the past few years, but here he proves he knows how to make something decent still. Don't get me wrong, there are clunkers, and a couple of the guest appearances are awful (I sincerely how anyone can consider Necro and Slug from Atmosphere as anything other than jokes). Check out "Tired" featuring Boston's own EdO. G. to counteract that.

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Skizz - Cruise Control


The artist formerly known as DJ Skizz has returned with another compilation album full of his solid boom-bap production with rhymes by worthy MCs like O.C., Your Old Droog, and Roc Marciano. Interestingly enough, my favorite track, closer "Peace God" features Da Villins, whom I've never heard of before. The production is smooth like those Awon tracks. Don't miss it.

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Your Old Droog - The Nicest


How about some of that "what the hell did he just say?" shit? There are truly not many more clever MCs holding a mic these days. In case you're unaware, this is the kid who took the hip-hop world by storm by revealing his music well before he revealed himself, leaving million to speculate it was Nas with voice alteration based on his lyrical abilities and cadence. Talk about a compliment...

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Dillon & Paten Locke - Food Chain


You guys remember the group Asamov from the early-mid 00's? They had a couple bangers on my hip-hop mixes. Paten (pronounced "Payton") Locke was in that group under the pseudoname Therapy. He does all the production. I don't know where the hell Dillon came from, but when these dudes get together, they make lovely hip-hop. Check "Humdinger" for evidence.

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Whew! That's finally it for this update. I could possibly do another one before the end of the year but don't hold your breath. Thanks for reading and enjoy!