Monthly Archives: October 2012

Black Boy Fly by Kendrick Lamar

There’s a scene in the 90’s film, Boyz n the Hood, in which Ricky, a high school football star, is discussing a possible football scholarship with the coach of USC. Ricky’s mom, incredibly poor and riddled by the constraints of 1990’s Southern California poverty, is ecstatic about the offer; she reprimands Ricky about his low grades and subpar test scores and reminds him that without this scholarship, he will not go to college. To his surprise, he aces the SAT, allowing him admission into USC on a scholarship. One day later, Ricky is shot and killed while walking to the grocery store due to gang-related retaliation. At this point, one can’t help but ask oneself if they are watching a movie or living real life; it’s an all too familiar scene. We’ve all seen the newspaper article with the picture of a smiling, young teenage boy in football gear below the caption, “Teenage Boy Shot and Killed in Gang Skirmish,” or the Fox News coverage of a family torn apart by a son’s introduction to the criminal world. We usually react to these stories with, “How sad. He had so much potential,” and flip the page to the Target sale catalog, forcing our brains to suppress the world’s cruel, depressing reality. What happens when these Detroit, Compton, Harlem, and other countrywide ghetto-bred kids defeat their stereotype of tragic failure? Art. Pure, cold art– no matter what medium these kids succeed through. Whether it be music, painting, athletics, academics, business, anything– these kids are the true pioneers of our country.

Kendrick Lamar hit the rap game with a hard fist in 2010, releasing his critically acclaimed mixtape, Overly Dedicated. Lamar’s flow was unique and crisp, a refreshing adjustment to the somewhat decaying hip-hop scene of 2010. His pensive and urgent persona was entirely its own, no other rapper of the year could compare to Lamar’s polished literary prowess. In 2011, he released Section .80, another critically acclaimed mixtape that expanded Lamar’s production and focused on the themes of racism, addiction, and gang violence. Overly Dedicated and Section .80 were something of Lamar’s thesis statements, while his new LP, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, is his autobiography. The album is overly personal in a good way, featuring voicemails from Lamar’s parents, lyrics regarding Lamar’s volatile youth, and multiple references to his hometown, Compton, California. “Black Boy Fly,” a bonus track on Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, is a shimmering track that analyzes the brutal and driven mentality of the ghetto. The song revolves around Lamar’s envious feelings toward the ones that got away. Lamar’s desirous anger is set up from the song’s opening lines, “I used to be jealous of Arron Afflalo, he was the one to follow.” Lamar parallels Afflalo’s ability to “fight his way out of Compton with further more to accomplish,” with his redundant failure, rapping, “Cause every basket was a reaction or a reminder, that we was just moving backwards,” revealing Lamar’s desire to escape and succeed. “Black Boy Fly’s” production is sleek and driven, relying on smooth piano samples and urban drum beats to push the song forward into the center of Lamar’s hard-won memory. The rapper’s flow is as intriguing as it always is, never failing to dullness or triviality and always burning with fiery importance. Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City is solely proof that there is always a future. Kendrick Lamar grew up with nothing. He lived in Compton, California– the poster boy of all ghettos. He flirted with slinging drugs and gang violence. Where is he now? Rapping on stages in front of thousands of people. “Black Boy Fly” is a triumph over life’s unfairness, it’s a reminder that sometimes, chasing your dreams is the only thing you can do.

-Ryan

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Ode to Viceroy by Mac Demarco

Wind is underrated. People complain about it messing up their hair, lowering their gas mileage, and forcing footballs off course of intended receivers; the element never seems to get the applause it deserves. It can provide energy, cool down a hot muggy day, and most importantly, wind can add a certain mysterious, relaxed detail to a person’s environment. Vancouver oddball, Mac Demarco, has brewed up a breezy concoction of leisure and turbulence on his new single, “Ode to Viceroy.” Drawing comparisons to Real Estate and Kurt Vile, Demarco fits snugly alongside the two indie-slacker champions; “Ode to Viceroy” is about as laid back as the morning after New Year’s Eve. The guitars bumble along in distinct reverberated melody, the drums sound lazy and haphazard, and Demarco’s vocal delivery follows the same eyes-half-shut personality as the musicianship– and that’s a good thing. Demarco croons with misty ease illustrating the casual morning wakeup of a nihilist, singing, “Viceroy. Early in the morning, just trying to let the sun in, and open up my eyes.” The song’s colorful touch of psychedelia makes Demarco distinct from the other hipster-slackers that dominate the world of indie-rock today. If the rest of his new album, 2, is as laid-back and smoggy as “Ode to Viceroy,” then 2 will be no doubt on rampant repeat throughout the windy days of Autumn and Winter on my iPod.

-Ryan

The Endless Bummer Mixtape Vol. 2: Autumn

  • 1. Druglife by East River Pipe
  • 2. Strawberries by Why?
  • 3. Place to Be by Nick Drake
  • 4. The Gold Lining by Broke For Free
  • 5. Open by Rhye
  • 6. Work It Out by Twerps
  • 7. I’m Gone by Tamaryn
  • 8. I’m Lost Without You Here by Rocketship
  • 9. You Don’t Love Me Yet by Roky Erickson
  • 10. I Walked Home Beholding by Mount Eerie
  • 11. Everything is Embarrassing by Sky Ferreira
  • 12. Wake ft. Evan Roman by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  • 13. Today by Ride
  • 14. Peek-A-Boo by Daniel Johnston

Tried to Quit Smoking by Titus Andronicus

I am quite nervous for the 20-30 year interval of my life. I’ve always been a sucker for aimless twenty-something influenced media (which is what probably constructs my anxiety). Noah Baumbach’s cult-classic about wandering Liberal Arts grads, Kicking and Screaming is one of my favorite movies of all time, The Dismemberment Plan’s post-collegiate dissertation, Emergency & I, has an irregularly high play rate on my iTunes library, and Dave Egger’s enduring and youthful memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius has a cemented spot on my bookshelf. That interval is a suspenseful time in one’s life; a person’s mentality can waiver from intense happiness to tinkering with a mental, physical, or economic meltdown in a finger snap. Despite this instability, the era’s volatility is dangerously fun to examine for others. Take a look at a politically liberal twenty year old barista. He probably has a Liberal Arts degree, not sure what he wants to do with his life, and is stuck brewing cups of coffee for now. He is walking on a mental tightrope and on one side of his landing zone is success: happiness, monetary stability, and eagerness, while the other side is failure: living a life meaningless toil, financial insecurity, and degeneration. And when you’re stuck in your twenties, unsure of the world, falling off that rope can seem pretty damn easy and staying put in the dead center can be even easier. Patrick Stickles of the New Jersey punk-rock outfit, Titus Andronicus has always seemed to have that social anxiety. The band’s terrific debut, The Airing of Grievances was riddled with stories of running away from life and living in nihilism. The band’s second and even more impressive effort, The Monitor, still carried this angst, but felt slightly more confident, as if Titus wanted to punch life’s delicacy in the face and smash it to bits. On their brilliant new third LP, Local Business, the band find themselves yet again stuck in a social-philosophical dilemma. However, Stickles doesn’t seem so set on winning his battle against conformity and life’s absurdity, he’s quite content living a semi-nihilistic, semi-hedonistic, DIY lifestyle. On the album’s somber closer, “Tried to Quit Smoking,” Stickles reveals his newly found peace with himself, boasting the tattoo-worthy line, “What I did, I did. Who I am, I am. Then a stupid kid, now a stupid man.” The song’s barstool chord progression rambles on and on, like a four-whiskey-and-coke-in cowboy with a babbling mouth. The instrumentation wallows in drippy resentment allowing Stickles to clarify his position in life. The first half of the song is filled with lines of humanistic disapproval such as, “It is not that I do not love you, it’s just that I hate everyone,” and youthful radical ranting like, “Why was I screamin’ kill, kill, kill, Ronald Reagan?,” which allow Stickles to get his last, angry yet content word in. The song eventually descends into a musical jam session; there is musical smorgasbord of bluesy harmonica, surging, hopeful guitar leads, tumbling piano rolls, and a six-shooter blazing outro. “Tried to Quit Smoking” is an unforgettable song that dives into themes of self-acceptance, redemption, and even insanity. Local Business’ intellectuality, uniqueness, and the mindset you are left in after a listen,feel similar to a Dostoevsky novel; the protagonists face these immense philosophical and social struggles but never throw in the towel, they never give up even in the enormous face of life’s absurdity– and that, to me, is beautifully inspiring. Local Business is yet another masterpiece from these New Jersey punk-rockers and I can’t wait for future releases.

-Ryan

Here is a link for a listen:  Tried to Quit Smoking

Atonal Eclipse of the Heart by The Ambulars

The DIY scene is something of a lie. Yes, anybody can pick up a guitar, press its strings, and strum, but not everyone can make music. No matter how “punk” it may seem to say that music can be created by just about anyone, it is simply a false statement. DIY comes alive through work ethic, not attempt. So what constitutes a great DIY band? Two things: passion and talent. Anybody can strum a G-C chord progression, sing mediocre lyrics through a tape recorder and release bedroom copies of the “single,” while simultaneously hailing to be the newest “lo-fi” sensation. It takes true talent to be a good  lo-fi artist. The Ambulars, a pop-punk trio from Philadelphia cooked up DIY’s sweaty blue collar grit while adding a little ingredient of their own: infectious pop on their excellent new album, Dreamers Asleep at the Wheel. “Atonal Eclipse of the Heart” is what would happen if Superchunk and MXPX had a baby. The guitars are grungy and fuzzy yet never stop being melodic, the vocals are pleading and hurt, and the melody is one-hundred percent pop. The lyrics are an interesting take on the archaic theme of the break-up, with lines like, “It’s so intangible for some I used to hold,” and “when I’m lying like a child in your arms, every now and then I fall apart.” The most gripping aspect about “Atonal Eclipse of the Heart” is its familiarity; each listen contains a nice feeling of deja vu. The Ambulars feel very 1999-2001 era with their rowdy pop-punk melodies and catchy pop choruses. “Atonal Eclipse of the Heart” is a refreshing take on an aging genre.

-Ryan

Hey, Hey Girl by Rocketship

Have you ever been so entranced by a song’s joyfulness that instead of bobbing your head back and forth, you bob it from side to side? That’s when you really know that a song is making you happy. There’s something so goofy looking about the sideways head bob that it can’t be done in normal circumstances. The rare yet glorious motion is produced from songs that make you feel like a character in a ’60’s-sunshine music video or like a back-up dancer to Cyndi Lauper– when she was in her prime. “Hey, Hey Girl” by Rocketship is one of those tunes. Rocketship was a ‘90’s indie pop outfit off of the prestigious hipster label, Slumberland. The group’s lo-fi guitar progressions, droning organs, and shaggy haired vocals draw comparisons to The Clean and Yo La Tengo, but Rocketship has a much more distinct personality than the two. While Yo La Tengo’s discography is massively broad and The Clean’s work is experimental and garage-based, Rocketship is one hundred percent indie twee. Today’s blogs would probably label them cute-wave and the Sacramento group’s female keyboardist would be plastered to the walls of young hipsters worldwide. Their debut single, “Hey, Hey Girl,” is easily a trademark to their sound. It contains everything that Rocketship is: melody, sloppy production, airy vocals, and charming lyrics. The melody is incredibly infectious (like I said, it will induce sideways head-bobs) and the instrumentation is unique enough to keep listeners engaged. Shakers and organ pulses come in at just the right time, producing that oh-so warm sense of pop genius. Tons of modern bands owe credit to these guys: Wild Nothing, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and Beach Fossils to name a few. Rocketship is one of those pivotal bands that never really got discovered but did so much for the music industry. If you can’t hear the similarity between “Young Adult Friction” and “Hey, Hey Girl” then you’re not into independent music. Easy as that.

-Ryan

Mad by G-Eazy feat. Devon Baldwin

Is anybody else getting a little worn out on “Clique” or listening to Tyga blabber incoherently when they’re at a party? I mean there’s only so many times I can hear “ain’t  nobody fuckin’ with my clique” before I start actually fucking with it. Party rap can sometimes get incredibly redundant; there just doesn’t seem to be any innovation. Well thankfully, there is. G-Eazy, a white-boy rapper/producer is really onto something with his new mixtape, Must Be Nice. It’s a pleasant listen whether you’re looking to relax or get crazy and that’s something rare in the clubbing world of house-party rap. “Mad” is a perfect example of what G-Eazy is about. The guy has an obvious fascination with the late 50’s-early 60’s culture, sporting the greaser jacket, slicked pompadour, and what not. “Mad” has that diner progression sample that you’d hear from artists like Dion and Frankie Lymon. The production is as slick as Ponyboy’s hair, the 808 bounces and pops in an infectious way, leaving listeners thoroughly satisfied. G-Eazy’s lyrics are hilariously fun; rapping about the straightforward tendencies of the drunken, he says, “if I’m too blunt, it’s probably because I’m feeling these drinks I’ve already chugged,” carelessly apologizing for his crude inebriated flirtations. “Mad” is a unique take on a genre that can stereotypically become typecast. I’m hoping this guy will catch on and  eventually surpass the nonsensical rhymes of Tyga and Lil Wayne.

-Ryan