Jul 13 2012

Currently Digging: Angel Haze

Similar to the way Nicki Minaj received (possibly over-validated) comparisons to Lil Kim, Angel Haze is an up-and-comer that reminds me of Da Brat and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. This is never more apparent than on the newly leaked track from her forthcoming Reservations EP, a song called “Hot Like Fire.” Take one listen and tell me you aren’t taken back to the 90’s, the days when we had unbeatably talented female MCs getting love.

Where Nicki has ultimately failed, Haze is shining. Similar to Dominique Young Unique and Azealia Banks, she has swagger on the mic, even if her skills aren’t completely comparable. The advantage over those two, especially Dominique, is the ear for sharp hooks. It remains to be seen whether she will rise to the level of success Minaj has, then ultimately squander it overall for a more Euro-pop, radio-ready flavor, but as it stands currently, with tracks like “Werkin’ Girls” and the Gil Scott-Heron sendup “New York,” Haze has potential to break through and still remain sharp. So far, this upcoming EP sounds very promising; hopefully when she’s on the BET Awards years from now, her sound will remain this throwback, this substance-over-style, something Minaj buries deep within her albums amongst overplayed club fodder.

Apr 26 2012

Currently Digging: Death Grips

Abrasive, aggressive, confrontational, indecipherable, cacophonous. Death Grips’ debut The Money Store is a lot to take in, especially if you’re not sprinting on a treadmill while listening to it. It channels Public Enemy and 80’s hardcore, but it sounds nothing like either. It’s probably closely associated with “rap-rock,” but there’s not a traditional shred of guitar or swagger. Discordant, reversed noises and samples reverberate around angry, often unintelligible lyrics. The beats, provided by Hella and Marnie Stern rhythm machine Zach Hill, are a barely functional backbone to this chaos.

This is one of the most polarizing listens of 2012, without a doubt. It’s going to hit you with either immediate disgust or intense headbanging. For a quick glimpse into the fray, skip to the double shot of “Hustle Bones” and “I’ve Seen Footage.” These tracks, found in the middle of the album, capture probably the most accessible territory Death Grips bothers to dabble in. The rest is an apocalyptic, angry tirade without reason and only occasional rhyme. And the result is simultaneously shocking and awesome.

Stream The Money Store on Spotify.

Feb 8 2012

Currently Digging: Escort

This New York duo has been making disco-inspired tracks for five or six years now, and they’ve finally compiled enough jams for a full-length. Taking a refined approach to the escapist 70’s genre, Escort brings a non-stop party that’s a joy to put on repeat. Hidden beneath the veneer of abandonment lies some pretty stellar production work, and some undeniable catchiness, as is evidenced on tracks like “Makeover” and the cheesy sendup “A Sailboat In the Moonlight.” These guys cover all the bases of disco, and don’t take the music too seriously. Because as any music historian will tell you, it never was that serious to begin with.

Buy Escort’s self-titled album at Amazon.

Jan 31 2012

Currently Digging: Evan Voytas – Feel Me EP

The California-based falsetto crooner is back with a 5-song collection of synth pop similar to his previous outings. As is the case with all of Voytas’ music, you either love or hate it, and that’s all dependent on your impression of his voice, which is usually peaked to the highest pitch attainable. Highlights here include the EP’s title track and “You Don’t Even Know Where It’s At.” Apparently Voytas is as laid-back and casual as his music suggests; this is the first we’ve heard from him in a long while, and he has yet to release a full-length. Perhaps 2012 is the year.

Listen to the Feel Me EP on Spotify.

Jan 30 2012

Currently Digging: Schoolboy Q – Habits and Contradictions

Kendrick Lamar is the breakout star of the Black Hippy collective, a foursome of rappers changing the LA rap game. Probably the one delivering the darkest themes, however, is Schoolboy Q; his debut Habits and Contradictions is a far cry from the contemplative, more upbeat Section.80. Almost everything in the album is aggressive, pessimistic, and raw. While his colleague prefers to analyze our generation and current situation amongst the aura of weed rap wooziness, Q’s vibes are less pensive and more cynical. The drug haze remains in the production, but Lamar is for those who let their mind wander. Q might be smoking, but he never strays too far from the harsh realities around him.

Listen to Habits and Contradictions on Spotify.

Jan 26 2012

Currently Digging: Crosses – EP 2

Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but Deftones’ Chino Moreno has got a pretty excellent new side project. Last year, Crosses released a dark, electro-heavy debut EP, and now they’ve returned for another one. You’ll find no reverb-heavy guitar work here, no trademark shrieking. Instead Moreno croons through optimistic melodies and synth lines. The upbeat vibe, as is best evidenced on “Purient,” is reminiscent of the feeling from Deftones’ previous, brilliant outing Diamond Eyes. The project thus far is a great distraction for those of us waiting for new material from the primary band, and perhaps a teaser into their gradual progression.

Visit the Crosses website and Listen to the EP on Spotify.

Jan 23 2012

Currently Digging: Daniel Markham – Hexagons

Daniel Markham’s solo ventures have been significantly darker and Deadsy-er than his alt-country leanings in One Wolf material. We first heard this turning point in the band’s second album, and then last March in Markham’s Demonstrations album. And now, in the six-song Hexagons, Markham, now residing in Denton, has turned the knob up on the sustaining, thunderous guitar sound. Still, those trademark Markham traits remain – lyrics signifying love and loss, alienation, and pensive lamentation. And let us not forget about the strong affinity for crafting an infectious melody. All in all, it’s refreshing to hear that familiar voice delivering new creations. Hopefully we won’t have to wait as long for the next batch.

Jan 17 2012

Currently Digging: Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory

Cloud Nothings’ sophomore album Attack On Memory is exactly that, according to leader Dylan Baldi: it’s an attack on the former memory of the band. It’s more raw, angry, and even more unpolished than the self-titled debut. Perhaps that’s the influence of producer Steve Albini, but Baldi’s songwriting is darker, more grand in scope, and more ambitious in delivery. They’ve replaced ooh-wah choruses for increasingly strained vocal work and more minor key arrangements, but try as they might, there’s still plenty of pop material here. This time around, however, the finished product might have more in common with Male Bonding than Wavves. Like Pinkerton did after the more accessible Blue Album, Attack On Memory is slightly flawed, but wholly bold, introspective, and mature. It’s a strong step toward a gradual shift for the long term, warts and all.

Stream the whole thing below. It drops on January 24.

Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory by Carpark Records

Dec 7 2011

Currently Digging: Kendrick Lamar – Section.80

I’m way behind on this one. Released back in July, Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80 is another hip-hop highlight from a year already packed with them. “A.D.H.D.” is an instant sing-along, “Makeup” is a reflective piece on a woman’s inner (and outer) bruises, and “Rigamortis” is a lightning-fast brag-off featuring more self-congratulatory sentences than Kanye could keep up with.

By the time “Chapter Ten” shows up, we’re being asked if we’ve been taking notes. Simultaneously charming, gritty, serious, hilarious, catchy, grimy, and progressive, there’s a lot to take in here. On the outro, Lamar gives us his ultimate declaration, a summarization of himself and the creation he has delivered: “I’m not the next pop star, I’m not the next socially conscious rapper, I’m a human fucking being.” Introspective, decadent, intelligent, challenging, complicated, maybe bipolar – if there’s one thing Section.80 feels like, it’s human.

Listen to Section.80 on Spotify.

Nov 30 2011

Currently Digging: Gorillaz – Singles Collection

Probably the finest musical stocking stuffer this year as far as greatest hits collections go, Gorillaz have delivered a near-perfect package of their best songs. Every single from the group in their ten years of productivity is here, from the breakthrough “Clint Eastwood” to the iPad-created “Doncamatic.” My personal favorite treat is the Soulchild remix of “19-2000,” by far an improvement from the original and one of my favorite remixes from the last decade.

The collection is great at highlighting the mood shifts and subtleties from Damon Albarn and his crew masquerading as outlaw cartoon monkeys. It also serves as a reminder, in case one forgot, that Gorillaz quickly transformed from a gimmicky side project to a badass legendary entity. Add this one to your playlist for road trips and rowdy Friday nights. There’s nothing here that won’t make you grin from ear to ear.

Listen to Singles Collection 2001-2011 on Spotify.