Ritual Howls’ newest album Rendered Amor is a post punk exploration into love, loneliness and longing. Indie Music Director, Johnnie Wade delves into the album with this audio review.
Kevin Abstract takes on his latest album, ARIZONA BABY, with an approach to music that is only considered as daring.
The young rapper has what some would consider a controversial past. Abstract ran away from home when he was just a teenager. When he started making music, and his music video “Empty” came out in 2016, it was only then that his Mormon family found out that he is gay.
His sexuality isn’t controversial. It’s 2019 and people should be accepted for who they are. But it is rare to find a male hip hop artist who is openly gay and not afraid to sing about it.
Abstract doesn’t hold back when it comes time to discuss sex, and at times it can come off as crewd and unnecessary in his music. In the track “Use Me”, he raps about having sex with every Mormon. While maybe he was trying to claim dominance over his strict upbringing in a religion that typically crucifies homosexuality, the line comes off empty. There is no context given, no details in the song, to back the line up. There is no way for an artist to have people relate to the story they are trying to tell if there is no imagery to help play out the message.
One of the best songs on the album is his collab with Ryan Beatty, “Baby Boy”. The song is generational and beautiful. Abstract allows us to see a queer, young man try to navigate the pressures and struggles of young love through his eyes.
Similar to other young rap artists we see emerging, Abstract does not fit strictly within the hip hop category. Most of his songs have elements of pop, such as the track “Peach”. The intro to the song is a slow strumming guitar that transitions into what sounds like something Jason Mraz might have produced in the early 2000s.
The vibe fits perfectly with the lyrics on the song, and is completely justified. An artist’s ability to try and create new music is what keeps the industry busy and thriving. But put all this change on one album with a tracklist that feels it was collaged together by two different people and the album starts to sound messy.
Taking apart track by track, it is hard not to appreciate Kevin Abstract’s talent. His openness, humor, and carefree candour allows him to be an artist without boundaries. He is using his voice to talk about queer issues and hopefully continues to grow and produce an album next time that allows us to take a deeper look into the artist’s mind than ARIZONA BABY allowed us to.
The ideas of body positivity and self love have been slowly pushing their way through mainstream music over the last few years. The concept seems clear across the board: less judgement and more acceptance. That seems easier said than done.
Lizzo is here to prove with her debut album, Cuz I Love You, that she isn’t here to just talk about self love, she’s ready to break the glass ceiling. With the ability to perfectly blend pop, R&B, and rap, Cuz I Love you is full of clever lyrics, anthems about self love, and is playful without being childish.
Juice, Lizzo’s breakout track, reminds you of an 80’s pop jam, full of funny one-liners “I be drippin’ so much sauce/ Gotta been lookin’ like RAGÚ”. It may sound campy, but it is actually a reminder that music can be fun. It doesn’t have to always be serious.
Truth Hurts is another self love anthem where Lizzo declares “Why men great till they gotta be great?” This track also gained popularity after Gina Rodriguez sang along to it in her new Netflix film, “Someone Great”.
Throughout the album, we see her comedically working her way through love issues while coming to the same conclusion on each track. That she is the someone great in her life.
Tracks like Cuz I Love You and Jerome showcase Lizzo’s soulful roots while seamlessly blending in clever rap verses. Her ability to bellow out a verse so deeply is reminiscent of a young 60s soul singer.
In fact, Lizzo referred to herself as “THE ARETHA FRANKLIN FOR THE 2018 GENERATION” when releasing a single for the album, Boys. This track wouldn’t be my first choice to compare her to the Queen of Soul, considering it is mostly a hip-hop song with Lizzo belting out clever rap lyrics throughout.
Lizzo’s career is just starting out. She is delivering clever, fun music for a generation that needs to be taught what a little self love can do. While she may not be the Aretha Franklin of our generation yet, I’m excited to see what is next from the genre bending, rule breaking artist.
It is safe to say that Alaskalaska is a band that is known to have a steady stream of unique pop-jazz singles, their debut album The Dots has become an eagerly awaited release.
This album consists of twelve tracks and is full of the bands unique trademark. Lead vocalist and guitarist, Lucinda John-Duarte’s vocals are a bit different from the beginning to the end of this album. The song “Monster” shows her careful quality of her odd style. In this song, you will hear her say, “you take your jealous observations and throw them in my face.”
Rhythms and bass lines are the funky heart of this record. The track “Moon” that talks primarily about Premenstrual syndrome. This track continues to builds as it goes on containing lyrics like “Awake, awake again/ a tummy ache again.”
Alaskalaska not like any regular band. Their style of music is very refreshing. By just listening to one album, makes you get the feeling that you are listening to ten. The Dots is a fairly and as you listen to it, their odd style will wash over you without noticing.
The band, Big Thief, recently released their album called “U.F.O.F.” This album was recorded at a cabin in Washington state. This was the first time they felt as thought they had a break several years of continuous touring which also helped them create an adoring audience. Big Thief decided to take a slightly different route with this album by not really talking about things such as extraterrestrials, stating that this album is a masterpiece.
The first song “Contact” is slow and a dark, but becomes more vibrant towards the end. The band has no influences on how they make their music. They just write and play what sounds good to them. One thing to take out is that many of their songs address anonymous women like Jodi, Betsy, Caroline, Violet, and Jenni.
Single “Cattails” takes you to a place that you may feel you have been before, reminding you of the person you lost. They make death seem like something that is beautiful. “Orange” is a song of love that describes the death of a partner. In this song, lead singer Lenker says, “Fragile is that I mourn her death/ As our limbs are twisting in her bedroom.” Not every song was sad on U.F.O.F. “Strange” is a type of funhouse song that Lenker sings about explaining seeing a luna moth cry “lime green tears/ Through the fruit bat’s eye.” As you continue through the album, you will notice that the tone of the instruments change.
As a whole it is safe to say that Big Thief get a bit strange on U.F.O.F. On their previous albums, Masterpiece and Capacity, they were making folksy rock songs. You can tell that singer Lenker has been experimenting and messing around with new ideas.
The band, Vampire Weekend have came a very long way from students one year, to festival headliners the next. Imagine that! They are known to mix up a number of different genres such as digital dancehall, string sections, Latin punk and raga. Their motivation came from them growing up listening to punk and hardcore, but they never could really get a feel for it.
Over the years, the band grew much larger. This album has 18 tracks run runs for 58 minutes. While you are listening to the album, time seems to slow down. One thing that was repeated a lot throughout this album were words that had to do much with marriage. These metaphors seem as they could serve as personal, political, ecological, and artistic. This album itself gives fans a reminder on who they really are. Throughout Father of the Bride there are a few features like Steve Lacy, and Danielle Haim which added a unique taste to the album itself.
This album sounds like a product of something new. It takes us back to ‘60s folk, ‘70s country western duets. The album’s cover looks as though it could be an ‘80s peace poster of some sort which also adds a very unique touch.
Getting old in hip hop is rarely considered good. More often than not, new rappers seek to gain attention, fame, and dominate the charts in a way they claim their predecessors couldn’t.
Occasionally though, we get to see an artist truly find their footing with age. ScHoolboy Q shows that being a 32 year old hip hop artist isn’t old or irrelevant. The L.A. rapper shows that his desires with his music is to produce energetic, heavy hitting beats without all the noise of the competitive industry to weigh him down.
A standout track on CrasH Talk is Numb Numb Juice. Starting with no instrumental, only ScHoolboy Q’s voice blazing through the intro, there is suddenly a beat drop so quick and smooth, it is no wonder why the rapper isn’t concerned with competition. His music offers beats that are as quick as his tongue spitting out lyrics. It’s the type of music you can jam out to in your car all alone or enjoy blasting through the speakers at a party.
Embracing new popular artists dominating the charts, ScHoolboy Q collaborates on CrasH Talk with Ty Dolla $ign, Travis Scott, and Kid Cudi.
Some collabs on the album just make sense. The song Drunk (featuring 6LACK) starts out with jazz vibes, smoothly introing the beat with a piano. Unlike other quick driven tracks, Drunk is ScHoolboy Q taking his time. The rapper reflects on feeling slightly intoxicated, but not to the point where he can’t be insightful and reflect on his life.
This range of diversity is what keeps the album interesting. Instead of flowing from one party anthem to the next, the quick beats are mixed in with thoughtful lyrics and slow instrumentals. That doesn’t make the beats that accompany these tracks softer, but rather, it allows room for the music to feel like a conversation that a wise relative is trying to have with a young child.
A collaboration that surprisingly fell flat was CHopstix (featuring Travis Scott). Blending a seasoned artist such as ScHoolboy Q with Scott, who is arguably at the peak of his career right now, sounds like it would be a banger. Disappointingly, whatever creative direction this track was going in, was completely lost upon delivery.
The song intros with Scott just repeating the word “chopsticks”. No, really, that’s it. The Astroworld rapper is known to be much more clever and catchy with his lyrics then what was delivered on this track.
A track that fully demonstrates ScHoolboy Q’s ascending into his 30s with grace is Tales. The rapper paints a picture in every line that is so clear, there is no misunderstanding his melancholy tone and introspective look on the world around him. “Before Instagram, we gram the first month/ Before the gates on our block, we in the front/ Before I called you my friend, we shot the ones”.
CrasH Talk is an album for the summer. It has the right balance of insight and energy that made ScHoolBoy Q’s career. The beats aren’t as hard or over the top as previous works, but the music is still the same quality that keeps us listening to every track.
Psyche rockers Frankie and the Witch Finger’s ZAM is their most exciting release to date. Sit back, buckle up and enjoy as our Indie Music Director, Johnnie Wade, gives his audio review.
Check out some of our top songs for the month of March on our Spotify playlist.
After their debut album “The Balcony” in 2014, and their follow up album, “The Ride” which was released in 2016, the band, Catfish And The Bottlemen return with their third album called, “The Balance.” Each of the band’s album cover artwork is very similar, serving as what many think is a symbol for a particular quality of concept.
The Balance opens with the pleasing enough ‘Longshot’ which delivers a jolt of electricity as the band presents themselves with an aura and excitement.
and the hope is that this jaunty number will pave the way for something fresh. Instead, Catfish quickly revert to type with the single ‘Fluctuate’. It will undoubtedly be the centrepiece of their summer gigs, but it in as strange way, it seems to signal an aversion to progress.None of the lyrics are especially memorable – they are not bad, but it’s all just, well, fine. To their credit, the production and arrangements are slick, with hooks and energy galore. There are even glimpses of what might have been had Catfish And The Bottlemen been just a little bit more daring, particularly on ‘Intermission’. Ultimately, Catfish are crowd-pleasers, with a loyal fanbase eager to see their heroes in live action this summer.