Monthly Archives: May 2013

Phone Sex (feat. Grimes) by Blood Diamonds

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When Jamie xx released “Far Nearer” back in 2011, I spent all summer waiting for ‘steel-drum wave’ to take off. Unfortunately the steel drums never seemed to fully replace synthesizers and “Far Nearer” became the only (for the most part) electronic track to feature steel drums as a musical leading man. “Phone Sex (ft. Grimes)” by Blood Diamonds is singlehandedly bringing the steel drum back—and the other boys don’t know how to act. The track’s beachy, metallic pitter-patters and layers of lush synth textures are unique and fun; the sound is easily distinguishable from the loads of other synonymous artists putting out ‘electronic beach pop.’ Grimes makes a spot-on guest appearance, leading the song with abstract waves of ethereal falsettos. And just when the song starts becoming familiar-sounding, Blood Diamonds throw a curveball in the mix and move into one of the catchiest choruses of 2013, with Grimes leading the charge: “hey daddy, hey daddy, I’m okay, livin’ my love in a serious way.” Its sugary sweet instrumentation is wonderfully at odds with the philosophical musings of Grimes’s ‘talks with god’ and moon-bound sequestration, evoking a very British approach toward music (think “Girlfriend in a Coma” or “Spanish Bombs” in terms of emotion and sound). “Phone Sex” may or may not have to do with some sort of bizarre female Oedipus Complex, but the song is too catchy and its melody too overwhelming to even bother interpreting the lyrics. “Phone Sex” is already a modern pop classic.

-Ryan Ricks

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Seven of the Most Cathartic Songs Ever Written

7. Guilty of Being White by Minor Threat: Racism is a pretty typical subject in the hip-hop and punk world. It’s so relevant that the genres’ lyrical thesis statement can begin to feel redundant: racism is typically a Caucasian thing. “Guilty of Being White” reminds us that racism is not limited to a single race of mankind. It’s a bravely written and enduring song—especially when a sweaty bald punk is on a stage screaming it into a microphone like a war rally—and it’s been interpreted in many different (and terrible) ways. It doesn’t boast any racial superiority, it doesn’t put one race on a pedestal above another, it just says, “hey, we are a collective society and we’re all guilty of racism.” Minor Threat took a huge risk on this song and oh my, did it pay off.

6. 1979 by The Smashing Pumpkins: As soon as that swooshing guitar sound starts chugging, your head starts bobbing. “1979” is adolescent in feeling—Corgan’s lyrics refer to teenage ostracism—and mature in sound. The syncopated kick drums work wonders with the dreamy, nostalgic guitar work of “1979,” forming a starry-eyed sound that no other band will ever be able to replicate. Its ability to work as a zeitgeist is also quite extraordinary; the title of the song itself is a hint at its retrospective effectiveness. Teenage angst has never (and probably will never) be this real.

5. 3 Stacks by Lil B: Only the based god could pull off a Titanic sample. “3 Stacks” is sort of like a bible for nonbelievers. The internet deity that Lil B has created for himself is beyond present in this song; it is the song. You can’t listen to this song and not get goosebumps. Lil B may have the worst rapping/singing voice in musical history but his positivity is so earnest and encompassing that it’s impossible not to feel loved after playing this track. Lil B’s best and most inspiring line: “and when you bounce back, make sure you dunk. Don’t miss the layup, make sure you dunk,” is complete ingenuity. If you’re feeling alone, distraught, depressed, Lil B loves you. 😉

4. Life’s a Bitch by Nas: A human’s vulnerability is never as high as it is when they’re reminded of their mortality. Will Ferrell cashes in on this idea in Wedding Crashers when he goes to pick up chicks at a funeral. It’s sad and scary acknowledging one’s inevitable death. We spend so much time working, relaxing, laughing, etc. that we forget about our last chapter. “Life’s a Bitch” is a casual reminder of the grim reaper’s unavoidable visit. What’s so great about “Life’s a Bitch” is that Nas doesn’t give in to fear or trepidation; he stands above death and raps like there’s no tomorrow. “Life’s a bitch and then you die, that’s why we get high, cause you never know, when you’re gonna go,” Nas rhymes over a chilled beat, providing the song’s most powerful existential punch. “Life’s a Bitch” is ironic in the fact that it scares and comforts at the same time. Each listen is like a bittersweet stomach lurch. Genius.

3. Bastards of Young by The Replacements: Like “1979,” the opening riff of “Bastards of Young” is unforgettable. Its youthful, energetic guitar shreds are like tightly clenched fists of blue-collar grit. It’s a tune that most will find fitting for their ‘service industry days.’ Paul Westerberg growls about “graduating unskilled,” “picking cotton,” and being the “sons of no one,” illuminating that grueling decadence that goes along with being a twenty-something. Waking up early, going to a shitty job, then staying out drinking ‘til the wee hours of the morning—that is what this song is. And no other band has been able to capture that feeling so perfectly as The Replacements.

2. No Future by Titus Andronicus: During the wonderful era of life known as youth, life changing decisions will be made. Education, careers, marriage—, these daunting aspects of life have been instilling existential dread in the minds of young people for years. “No Future” is a perfect account of a man stuck at the fork in the road, unsure of which direction to take, trapped in a game of unrelenting pickle. If Titus frontman, Patrick Stickles chooses to take the path toward medical school, he’ll go as a ‘cadaver’, but inarguably end up wealthy. If he chooses to take the different path, he’ll live a fun yet unfulfilling life downing brews in Jersey basements with his friends. Sometimes the choices of youth can be so intimidating that apathy feels comforting. Instead of facing the future, we stagnate in the present and party our troubles into the ground. Yet, twenty years from now, will the bottle still be as friendly as it is today?

1. All My Friends by LCD Soundsystem: If you have seen The Comedy, then you know James Murphy has trouble wrapping his head around aging. And we shouldn’t judge him. After all, time is our world’s most heinous serial killer. “All My Friends” begins (and ends) with a staccato, repetitive piano riff that builds and builds like a person’s age. It starts out sequestered, just the ivory keys pumping over and over again, like a person just coming into the world. It gradually meets new acquaintances like a pounding sixteenth note beat, anthemic guitar riff, and James Murphy’s soaring, puppy dog-eyed voice until cascading into THE greatest musical climax in the history of modern music. In a way, “All My Friends” embodies a person’s lifespan; it begins alone and weary but gradually builds into a massive investment. Murphy’s nostalgia is heavy; Pink Floyd is referenced, friends’ parties and drug trips are thought about, but the frontman never throws in the towel. Murphy is well aware that his hip life of urban bohemia is coming to a close, but he doesn’t fling a white flag into the air, he reminiscences. He’s lived a great life. He’s made great friends. Yea, he’s getting older and things are changing, but dammit, he’s lived.

-Ryan Ricks

King Remembered in Time: DJ Screw

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First glances upon a DJ Screw mixtape produce hesitant opinions for Screw newcomers; is this amateur-looking,Texas-oriented photoshop collage going to be so cheesy that it’s good—like it’s cover—or is it just another record doomed to the “Hip-Hop Markdowns” section of the record store? Fortunately, neither of those answers are true. Robert Earl Davis Jr. a.k.a. DJ Screw, is something close to a deity in today’s beat-making world. Credited for the creation of ‘chopped and screwed’ production, DJ Screw put Houston, Texas on the hip-hop map, birthing a sound so badass that only a state as awesomely (and politely) chauvinistic as Texas could boast. His beats are slowed down to the max, the vocal samples are pitch-shifted to a barely comprehensible level of bass, sounding like an anti-gravity version of The Geto Boys. Screw’s legacy is obvious, Big K.R.I.T., UGK, Slim Thug, and just about any southern rap artist posses one aspect of Screw’s sound. Listening to a DJ Screw mixtape is something of a 90‘s time warp. You can just picture a group of good inner-city friends sitting on patio furniture in a dim-lit back yard drinking Bart Simpson-clad Budweisers, Tang and Vodka, smoking grape cigarillos, laughing about Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau’s latest collaboration, and listening to The Chronic. DJ Screw’s untimely death may have cut his legacy short but the guy must have been doing something right if Rick (fucking) Perry declared him a ‘Texas Music Pioneer.’ Rest in peace, Screw.

-Ryan Ricks

That Texas sound:

Fast Life by After Hours

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After Hours is the electronic synth-pop project of Atlanta musician, Bill Jabr. His first single is a sweet, infectious song that will have most listeners “raping the replay button”, as those on Youtube say. A lush synth melody accompanied by Prince-inspired vocals makes for a fun listen every time, and is about as fresh as that first cup of water after waking up a little past noon. In case you didn’t already know, my buddy and I share a youthful obsession for the season of Summer and music that embodies “that summer feeling”. Garage/beach rock will dominate my summer playlists without a doubt, but the slowed-summer atmosphere of Fast Life will serve as a catalyst to my bouncy jangle-pop obsession, providing me with a chance to casually lay back and melt into the couch or aimlessly float in the pool. Hell, just sitting here watching the goons on ESPN recite grievances regarding the New York Jets is somewhat fun while listening to this song.

– Brendon

All The Bros Say by ABADABAD

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Well now that the blogosphere has unofficially declared summer’s arrival, it’s time to contribute to that notion. Yeah, it’s cliche and it’s redundant, but there’s something inherently pleasing about the concept of a “summer song.” The perfect summer song shouldn’t even feel like a song—it’s more of a sensation. It’s like cool tall boy after a hard day of work or a breezy bike ride through the city. The perfect summer song works as a nostalgic zeitgeist; everyone has that one song that transports them back to a particular summer. “All The Bros Say” by the bro-fi Boston outfit, ABADABAD evokes a casual summer spent through Instagrammed filtered shades. It’s an easygoing song that tackles antagonizing issues; communication failure, relationships, and mid-drive confrontation brush shoulders with Harlem migrations and peer pressure as the beach bros blast those anxious connotations with waves of sunny bliss. ABADABAD doesn’t adhere to the same-sounding, Urban Outfitterized rules that many beach-pop predecessors before them established. Instead, the band integrates elements of garage, 60’s psych, and even tinges of 70’s radio rock into their music that makes it subtly unique. So when your needle burns through your Beach Fossils and Real Estate records, pop on some ABADABAD and go for a swim.

-Ryan Ricks

PUNK’S SAVIORS: THE FIGHTING LEAGUE

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Vanity Fair did an interesting article about a month back entitled, “Why Punk Scene Would Have Hated Today’s ‘Punk Nostalgia’”. The article attacked modern punk’s recent consumerist leanings and called upon old school punk troubadours like Patti Smith and The Clash to set the story straight. ’70’s punk musicians played with a passion; they were new and indignant, and they spawned revolution. Today’s punk just doesn’t have that inherent sense of urgency present in “Know Your Rights” or Blank Generation. At times, modern punk comes off as privileged-white-kid-whining. But never mind the  bollocks, here’s The Fighting League! These Australian bros pride themselves on their angsty-teen  “tropical punk.” Their skateboard-punk sound is sloppy yet refined, like a Minutemen-Fugazi birth child. When listening through Tropical Paradise, expect Tony Hawk nostalgia; the album will fit nicely to some vintage Natas Kaupas or Bones Brigade highlights. However, the band’s most refreshing quality is their give-no-shit attitude. They play what they want, how they want, and they don’t give no god damn. It’s an attitude entirely refreshing in a world where wearing a Black Flag t-shirt is now considered conformist.

-Ryan Ricks

NBMH by REED

Electronic-R&B artist REED likes to concentrate on the specifics, according to the small font on his website. It’s easy to see how he can back up this claim with standout track “NBMH”. REED’s electronic-R&B formula has obviously been done before, and very well in recent years thanks to Frank Ocean, Miguel, and Justin Timberlake, all of whom he has produced covers/remixes of. NBMH tilts between a glossy top 40 track and a mellow bedroom pop tune, but by no means is a happy song.”Nobody breaks my heart but me” sings REED, in an attempt to warn his female companion for the night to come. With an intricate composition of clapping 808’s, dark synthesizer sounds, and bone-chilling lyrics, NBMH is one of those songs to put on the end of your  “Date Night” CD, just in case the night doesn’t go the way you planned it. She’ll get the message pretty quick, and you’ll be thanking REED for this gem.