Tag Archives: #BandcampGold

#BandcampGold-New American Frontier by The Trusty Snakes

#BandcampGold-New American Frontier by The Trusty Snakes

by Dan-O

Alright, I don’t like the new Bruce Springsteen album Western Stars. We’re all supposed to. Bruce stepped back into his Country/Folk style this year in a very post-Sturgill Simpson way. The album is better than some of his recent work but the basic problem I have is that it works from the understandng that the old country music was precious and heartfelt. Sometimes it was, but it had more dimension than that. If you want stripped down Folk/Country Bruce find Nebraska because it gives a range of emotions. It’s not afraid to rage and churn and break down. In 2019, I’d rather listen to The Trusty Snakes than The Boss.

They are an Oregon Punk band called The Taxpayers who while on the road listened to a lot of old Country and found lots of common ground between the genres and became The Trusty Snakes. The same forceful propulsion that thrust their heavily political punk forward keeps the characters and scenes depicted in New American Frontier vivid. The lyrics equal the force of the music in boldness. The first song is only one minute and twenty four seconds but in that time we go from first meeting to marriage without wasting any time for a hook or chorus. It’s a sweet song that you’ll need to come back to once you jump into the harsh world of Ain’t Gonna Change. That song starts slow and sorrowful with a first few lines that will grab your attention, “Monday’s it’s beer. Tuesday’s it’s Whiskey. Wednesday’s it’s wine and cocaine, Thursday he wakes up and beats both his kids up. Every damn week it’s the same. Friday’s it’s jail and Diffy posts bail…”

I love that the album carries more than a bit of Randy Newman’s Good Old Boys in the way it seeks to understand the hearts of characters the authors don’t always respect. When Rob Taxpayer belts that some people ain’t gonna change you feel the tragedy in his voice. Next song a dude kills the dude his wife cheats with and beats her up in a diner all while the drums are jumping and popping. The only cover is Can I Sleep In Your Arms? from Willie Nelson’s legendary Red Headed Stranger. While Rob doesn’t have the soulful dimension in his voice that Willie had in 1975 (no shots!) none of us do. The vocal harmonies on this version give the chorus a cool campfire vibe, as if this is a song we all know and can sing together. They integrate trumpet along with guitar and drums to give this a feel all their own.

First time I put New American Frontier on in the car I didn’t know how my wife would take to it. It is folkpunk disjointed, fast then slow then fast, angry then sad then scary but her face lit up. She said “I love Cake and The Mountain Goats so this is my thing.” The tangled lyricism mixed with the high octane fun and sneaky orchestration had finally pushed me into her comfort zone. When I tried to put on Western Stars her face drooped. It was as if one of the greatest to ever make music was desperately searching for something but not finding it. While The Trusty Snakes got together and made up something great organically, accidentally, and thought it was so cool they just kept pushing into one of the years best albums.

Stream or download New American Frontier below: https://trustysnakes.bandcamp.com/album/new-american-frontier

 

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#BandcampGold-Never Hated I Just Waited by Chris Crack

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#BandcampGold-Never Hated I Just Waited by Chris Crack

by Dan-O

Best way to think of Chicago Rap is like one of those old Shaw Brothers martial arts films. Surreal things happen, good and evil magic. Different clans represent divergent schools of thought with powers and weaknesses as specific as they are out of this world. On one side you have Lil Reese, Lil Durk and the pure drill cats. On the other Taylor Bennett, Chance and the sunshine. My clan is the Vic Spencer, Tree, and Chris Crack whome I refer to as the Soultrap team.  The new Chris Crack project (Never Hated I Just Waited) is amongst the purest examples of what makes that school so engaging.

First thing to know is that Chris Crack is nuts. He releases a lot of projects. You know the journey you’re going on by the album titles alone. His discography includes albums called: Being Woke Ain’t FunCrackheads Live Longer Than Vegans, and of course….Titty Milk & Cookies. If you are a very serious person who is offended easily this might not be your guy. He’s my favorite kind of insane person because he isn’t reckless with his music at all. You can press play on anything he’s done and it is solid. Never Hated I Just Waited is way above solid because it has a seamless flow from song to song, wild stand out verses/lines, killer guest performances from people I do not know(except Droog we all know Droog), and doooopppee hooks.

It isn’t a long album (out of 15 songs only 2 of them are over 3 minutes) but the short songs really accomplish a lot. The two wildest things said on the project Chris reserves for short songs (under 2 minutes). On the entrancing twisted soul sample driven Just Tell Me I’m Cute his first line is “Ask me if she gettin’ fat I told her trust her gut.” Which is so wrong I kind of love it.  The booty music tribute No Parking In LA starts with “We drink champagne and I put molly in my chili,” Crack knows how to shock you even when you feel accustomed to his style. On Smoke Causes Cancer he makes fun of vegans wearing leather boots and calls out a particular F_boy to the point where the last name has to be censored. I just imagine Chris Crack half lifted yelling “You a F_ Boy like Eric Stephenson!” and the producer/engineer being like “You can’t say his name!” and he’s like “Awright, beep the last name but… F_ that dude!”

I need to thank Chong Wizard, SC, August Fanon,  Fortes, Wazasnics, and all the other producers that fed Crack these beautiful beats brimming with brilliant samples from  the sample on Women Cum First that makes the Gzus Piece hook even better to the fanstastic Stone Cold Steve Austin clip at the end of the Your Old Droog collab Todo Rosado. Never Hated I Just Waited represents the Soultrap clan with its balance: funny, disgusting, thoughtful, sad, and hardcore. You might find yourself having a chorus stuck in your head and not even remark how weird it is that the hook is about bringing your gun to work like Gilbert Arenas and tucking it by your penis. If you listen to Crack and like him you just found someone you can listen to for a long time.

Stream or download Never Hated I Just Waited below:

https://chriscrack.bandcamp.com/album/never-hated-i-just-waited

#Bandcampgold-Black Beans by Exile x Choosey

Black Beans#Bandcampgold-Black Beans by Exile x Choosey

by Dan-O

The world makes us feel terrible. Mac Miller and Nipsey Hussle are dead. Ogres are in power and they don’t even lie to us about how old evil and full of greed/hate they are. Music is necessary, all kinds of music. Black Beans is a beam of light on the dark days and because of that it holds an important place on my favorite albums of 2019 list.

I have to start by talking about Exile. I haven’t done it enough on this blog. I’ve been debating how I feel about his strengths since Blu linked up with him for Below The Heavens. While other boom bap producers (Daringer, Roc Marciano) are superb at twisting the instrumentation and sample into an evil snarl that suits the goon rappers spitting over them; Exile is the best at optimizing his soundscape for warmth. You can listen to the Intro or the first song (I Did) and none of the production is overly dense or crowded. Exile chooses the right elements and places them properly making great use of background vocals, samples, and background vocals. His production perfectly captures that Rawkus records feeling of hearing Mos Def spit on Respiration from the Black Star album(a Hi-Tek comparison is not a bad one). Black Beans is Exile’s best work in YEARS and his work over the years was impressive before it.

If you think this album is corny I guess you’re right. If you think the loving poetic tribute to heritage at the end of the title track is corny, I’m fine with that. If you don’t understand why Choosey is rapping about the candy lady on his block on Satisfied when he could have fake murdered someone in that verse… it is a natural hip hop reaction. It’s a perfectly adequate short term coping mechanism for living on this scary cock-eyed planet. Shut all those instincts off and listen to tracks 4,5, and 6 in a row. Four is single ready it is called Low Low and the horns are PERFECT, Aloe Blacc nails the hook with pinpoint accuracy and emotion while Choosey paints the scenery of a nice day with a pretty lady. Track five is Show You and Choosey is at his most melodic. The West Coast MC doesn’t need any help on the chorus sing-rapping a hook that burrows deep in my brain to this second. It’s a relationship song without the nasty baggage. He wants to show her what the future can be and never turns into the darker or condescending tones a lot of rappers do when trying for these songs. Track six is so great. You Got It is all hand claps and mixing while Choosey spits fast but seemingly effortlessly. Jimetta Rose is another fantastic guest singer woven into the fiber of the song. You Got It has a noble mission: to get you up and dancing. These three songs get to the heart of celebration that Black Beans is crafted around.

The candy lady verse that starts Satisfied is my favorite of the album because I am corny. It is so unexpected. The first line of the song is “Every hood had a candy lady,” said with a smiling nostalgia. He’s talking lollipops and getting candy out of her hand. Choosey’s mission is to celebrate his shared black and Hispanic heritage. Through the thirteen songs he applies his determination to painting the picture to it’s smallest detail. It’s not just about lowriders, Cadillac’s, and jewelry it is about the people. In that verse he also says “Them cop’s was all in our face saying ‘don’t hang with them bangers’ N_ the gang was the neighbors…” he doesn’t shy away from the violence and terror present in his environment. America knows gangs as large scary groups but Choosey knows them as people and sums it up our national tension quite nicely with, “They hate the fact but can’t deny that we some damn creators.” Choosey knows you think you know his hood. He also knows you haven’t felt the sunshine on your face there. You haven’t kissed for the first time as Salsa spilled out of an apartment window there. Listen to the song Sangria, pour sangria over some apples and cantaloupe (don’t forget diced pineapple) and let Exile teach you how to relax as Choosey brings you where he’s always been.

Stream or Download Black Beans below:

https://choosey.bandcamp.com/album/black-beans

 

#Bandcampgold-Hiding Places by Billy Woods x Kenny Segal

#Bandcampgold-Hiding Places by Billy Woods x Kenny Segal

by Dan-O

Biographers live in the world of their subject for years. Can you imagine? In depth talks with family, old letters, review of their work, nailing down different periods of life and what they meant. The subject has to be important enough to fuel the biographer. If that spark flames out it’s a world of bad for everyone. I could be the biographer for Billy Woods & Kenny Segal’s new album Hiding Places. Over the past week I’ve been deep in lyric reading and song re-listens pulling at different sections of what it all means. I could do two years research on the end of A Day In A Week In A Year when Woods says:

“I read the play, hatchet job, but you work with what you got/  Life is just two quarters in the machine

But, either you got it or don’t that’s the thing
I was still hittin’ the buttons, “Game Over” on the screen
Dollar movie theater, dingy foyer, little kid, not a penny to my name
Fuckin’ with the joystick, pretendin’ I was really playin’
Pretendin’ I was really playin’
Pretendin’ I was really playin’ “

Pretending to play when you don’t have the money is a central memory for kids of a certain generation. Being able to go full thrust with your imagination and the screen regardless of what was working against you forms the basis of an artist’s mind.  The joy of playing v. the ability to get in the game this is why it connects back to the hack play, dedicating yourself to your art when your art sucks is still pretending to play.

And that is just one fragment of one song. All the songs are built from these incredible impactful fragments that come together to form a singular emotional realization part poetic beauty part violence drizzled in lots of frustration. My favorite song is a minute and twenty eight seconds long. It is called Steak Knives and it is not simply about how horrifying a life of crime is but about how painfully destructive living in poverty can be without the endless fight for money we hear rappers talk about. As Woods says in the song “it’s sick but banalities might as well be death threats/Let it sit/ there’s the threat of sepsis” He opens the song by a roaring fire about to make love to a woman who specifies she does not want a relationship and ends it flippantly acknowledging ,in a passive aggressive way, that he doesn’t have the breathing room to help those not as driven. Second place is steak knives.

All the songs are lyrically rich threatening and evocative. I need to spend some time complimenting Kenny Segal who walked a tight line. Producing for a dense lyricist is a heck of a trap: keep it simple and your doing what most producers could do and it sounds boring, make it weird you might throw the MC off their flow. Songs like Houthi are masterfully open; ready for a lyricist to shine BUT it shifts drops out cuts in and alternates in a hypnotic way that keeps it from being stale. Production is consistent but fragmented. When you think you know a song it undulates in a different direction. Listen to all the subtle changes going on in Spider Hole before the guitar slams in at two minutes and twenty one seconds. Menacing does this sound design disservice. It’s not just menacing its thick and deceptively expansive. Central sounds build neighborhoods to live in.

I was looking for the one line Billy Woods said that scorched my heart and left my eyes Simpson size. These bars define the entire Billy Woods experience and I’ve had them bouncing around my head since the first listen. That moment happens in the first verse of Speak Gently “I’m a bad penny/I’m the feelin’ after you killed ’em and seen the safe empty.” That image is something no MC has ever left for me. Standing in front of a body, mind racing, only to look up at an empty safe all of it for nothing…left with the shame of my actions and the taste of monetary failure. Sick with everything wrong about this world at once. That’s Billy Woods superpower. He’s in total control of that feeling. No hero stuff he’s the viciousness of reality cutting through all the layers of defense you keep in front of it. Every verse makes your eye water like Listerine just before you spit.

Stream or purchase Hiding Places below:

https://billywoods.bandcamp.com/album/hiding-places

#Bandcampgold-Cover Art by Anderson Paak

#Bandcampgold-Cover Art by Anderson Paak

by Dan-O

If you didn’t know who Anderson Paak was after summer 2015 I don’t think you’re a hip hop head. When Dr. Dre came out of his cave August 7th 2015 to release Compton everyone in hip hop noted it. Thumbing through the sixteen tracks listed Paak was on six of them. I know that I let out an audible “Who the F#$% is Anderson Paak?!” That is when I found his bandcamp. Once I heard Venice I knew to pay attention to Malibu.

Now he is climbing to the top of the world. He was on Saturday Night Live playing his own drums, he was on Marc Maron talking about this covers album from 2013. I remembered having dug into that project post-Compton and threw it back into the mix. If you haven’t heard his explanation on Maron: Cover Art aims to reverse the polarity of musical manipulation. While historically black artists like Jackie Wilson get their music made into Elvis hits he wanted to take very white very good music and put the funk back in.

His cover of Seven Nation Army sold my wife on the project. The original reclaimed a good deal of swagger that post-Radiohead rock had lost and Paak by keeping the guitar parts splashy and the vocals as smooth as Brenton Wood singing Oogum Boogum (if you don’t know this song you need to) it actually raises the overall stakes on how pimpish this song is. The other high point is his cover of my favorite Beatles song (Blackbird). While Paak can get super funky and joyously silly he knows a precious moment and how to care for it. Blackbird finds the groove with fingersnaps and he gives it his absolute most concentrated effort vocally.

We love that Paak is talented can play instruments sing and rap but its way more fun that he is nuts on top of that. This dude took Neil Young’s Heart of Gold and threw rap verses on his cover of it (Nocando, himself & milo). The final product is mad weird but valuable and interesting. Cover Art is a short form introduction to the capabilities of Paak with nasty bass lines (MAPS!) and signature flair ever-present even while doing other people’s music; people who couldn’t be more different from what Paak’s music turned into. If you listen to the Maron WTF interview that’s his real secret, he’s so nuts he can sit across from an old crunchy dude like Maron and talk classic guitar rock until he’s comfortable. Year before that he was on Snoops podcast passing a blunt comparing the discographies of overlooked soul legends. If you like music Paak will get you somehow. He’s everywhere.

Stream or download Cover Art below:

https://hellfyreclub.bandcamp.com/album/cover-art

 

#Bandcampgold-Texas Piano Man by Robert Ellis

#Bandcampgold-Texas Piano Man by Robert Ellis

by Dan-O

Texas Piano Man is a country album in 2019. It wouldn’t be in 1973. If this album was released in 1973 it would be a part of that oddball singer-songwriter genre Randy Newman, Michael Franks, and Nilsson championed. Conceptually Ellis messes with the audience and knows he has to earn it by refining the process until what he has is something so beautiful you won’t realize he was flicking your nose in the first place.

The first song (Fucking Crazy) is a great example. My favorite college creative writing class had a teacher who was doing it wrong. He was teaching the utter basics and nothing more. I hated it so much that every time he gave an assignment premise I would bust the guts out of it. He hated reading swear words so I made a generational story about strangers on a plane that entirely oriented around the F word. I knew in order to pull off the deed the characters had to be gripping, the story had to be high level, to erase any gimmick stigma. Robert Ellis reminded me of this with Fucking Crazy. It is so beautiful and has so many F words running through it. Some people might think of the song as a tale of a relationship about to go off the rails….for me it’s just how love feels. Getting in deep with someone else you realize they are really off their nut and you always realize it too late. Your already head over heels for their adorable upside. When he croons (at two minutes and thirty one seconds) “I’ve lost touch with reality there’s nothing I can do.” I absolutely get it.

The piano compositions are so impressive; Lullaby is a great example. The chorus is creepy and he says stuff like “You held me like a sea shell in your hand.” Everything is rich lush and a little off a little odd and southern but not leaning into the commercial aspects of Country. In 2019, Country has a heavy drawl and a familiar production style. The only reason Texas Piano Man sits in the genre is because the oddball songwriter genre is bone dry. Robert Ellis is sharp, clear, and crisp but don’t get it mistaken he shares some of the same sensibilities as 2019 Country. Nobody Smokes Anymore throws a middle finger up at the stiffness of a modern age consumed with making the right decisions all the time. It has some extra cleverness to it, I love when he quietly says “I guess I’ll be the only one who looks good in pictures…”

Best thing is the last song is super weird. Topo Chico is a weird Jimmy Buffett curve ball. The vocals on the chorus are fabulous and the track seethes with screwball sounds behind the guitars gentle strum. Do not get it twisted and think since this is a hip hop site I just found this dude. This guy has been on my radar for years now getting better and better. Texas Piano Man is finally the album where he gave us both barrels. I hope he settles into this lane and builds on the laughter this album ends on. Make that the building blocks of his next five years.

Stream or download Texas Piano Man below:

https://robertellismusic.bandcamp.com/

 

#BandcampGold- Malibu Ken by Malibu Ken (Aesop Rock & Tobacco)

#BandcampGold- Malibu Ken by Malibu Ken (Aesop Rock & Tobacco)

by Dan-O

It is pretty unreal how the narrative around Aesop Rock has changed. When Bazooka Tooth was taking the underground by storm in 2003 the debate was heated. On one side the die-hards were unrelenting in their belief that NO ONE equals his mastery of the microphone and thesaurus. On the other side(where I was) how could this guy be the GOD MC if you can’t explain what these songs are about?! This Eraserhead music is full of energy and effort but I don’t know what it means at all.  Even the hardest die-hards had to admit it was a problem that they got lost and it was an uphill battle to find your way to the point of it all.

The change has been monumental. Something happened in the five years between None Shall Pass and Skelethon. The latter was the first of his albums I listened to multiple times with no stress. Between Skelethon and the Lice trilogy he did with Homeboy Sandman he developed incredible old man game. He was funnier, more human, the metaphors were three dimensional instead of six dimensional. The Impossible Kid in 2016 was by far his most personal and my favorite album he’s ever made. At that point, I was on the phone with friends who had disliked AR for years talking about how good he is now; chatting it up with die-hard Bazooka Tooth kids and just nodding as they take a verbal victory lap.

Malibu Ken is exactly what January of 2019 needed.  All the production is handled by Black Moth Super Rainbow also known as Tobacco. A lot of MC’s couldn’t hang over these very strange synth patterns, overwhelming sounds jump in and out all while AR finds his flow in it. You can call this Boom Bap because it has both of those but it is way weirder. The beginning and end of Sword Box is an avalanche of Synth conducted by the master. Acid King sounds like the soundtrack to a video game where everyone dies (which fits the subject matter).

My favorite lyrical achievement is Tuesday where the first line is “There’s something you should probably know before we go too far. My neighbor found a mushroom growing inside of my car.” Underground legends have to tour a disgusting percentage of their days which doesn’t leave them time for a real life. At one point he says “I would offer you a drink but I literally can’t.” At two minutes and twenty three seconds he goes H.A.M. on himself “I can’t even keep a cactus alive when I’m present. When I’m gone it’s a groundbreaking botanical epic. From desolate to Little Shop of Horrors in a second. It’s weird knowing life thrives more when you exit.” What fans don’t realize is that the boring life ish we balance takes skill and if you did achieve your dream, perform in other countries, do your art…you’d become terrible at that boring life ish you took for granted. Very few rappers are honest enough to approach this as a topic.

On top of this self-analysis on Suicide Big Gulp he still manages to brag about slapping planes out of the sky paying the rent in pennies. Other rappers in his age group have fallen so deeply into their patterns they’ve bored themselves into a slumber. What’s kept AR so vital is his need to do something different. Whether it’s collaborate with a new producer or fellow MC or get personal about mental health or be funny. It’s not that deep anymore. Dude hates being bored and fights it tooth and nail. Over time I think we all learned how to respect that.

Stream or purchase Malibu Ken below:

https://aesoprock.bandcamp.com/album/malibu-ken