Tag Archives: #BandcampGold

#BandcampGold-Scapegoat by KGFREEZE

#BandcampGold-Scapegoat by KGFREEZE

by Dan-O

As someone who is fanatical for music I do not resent the layer on the outside of the onion of interest. The layer on the outside is composed of folks who just like songs going behind them: they don’t know the artists, album, and producer and that’s a valid way to live. The layer underneath them is the problem. The poacher who checks pitchfork and follows up only to find “classics” to brag about. Beyond how annoying the condescending “Have you heard __” conversation is, it puts pressure on artists to always seek perfection which is not how art works.

The poacher robs the process of transitions.

The new KGFREEZE project Scapegoat is a perfect example of this. It is the slimy nerve-racking birth of something new not the last sanding away of rough edges. The Freeze has always been the name Kyle Gervais created for his own solo career; the players rotate underneath him while he pushes furiously in different directions. His will and vision was always centerstage but like any good coach he plays to the strength of the team he has at the time. Now is definitely the time for his new line up.

The components have vastly changed and Scapegoat is a project of adjustments and experiments. It was recorded live in a warehouse with very little tweaking.  Chris Gervais comes on as drummer and brings palpitating new wave urgency to every second of his play. Chris likes it loud and once Nate Carll was brought in they were able to go to new places within the term. Nate worked with Kyle in the band Cosades back when Iphone was how Tarzan asked to make a call. I met Nate Carll once and he was so normal it was shocking but the scary part is how potent his guitar wizardry is.  Of the ten songs on Scapegoat On The Hill is his baby from foot to teeth and it is gorgeous. Very few people are allowed to take up Kyle’s authorship space on a KGFREEZE album and On The Hill shows you why Kyle has the faith he has in Nate. It rolls around in guitar noise until the noise takes on shape, form and a light dance. Kyle comes in with his most delicate vocal delivery of the project and for two minutes and nineteen seconds it is a different world from any KGFREEZE song before it. It is indicative of the sweet to savage and back again Siamese Dream-ness of the new Freeze; the ability to get crazy while promising never to lose melodic focus.

Sanks is the most recognizably Kyle song on here and has an absolutely fantastic chorus. The title track fits well within the heard Freeze-verse but not everything on the project works as well. On the con side of this experiment Seyton is a novelty exploration of Pantera screaming and hard rock that the band is just not going to explore. It is a thing they wanted to do and did but doesn’t have any legs to it. Bark For Me, Tom is an infidelity concept song that doesn’t have enough lyrical bite to make up for how bland it sounds compared to the punchier songs.

The punchier songs are the real building blocks for this group. They could go a bunch of directions. My favorite songs are Connection and Insanity both a little over a minute long and indicative of this groups ability to actually give us a polished Costello style Get Happy; something that showcases short electric elegantly constructed songs in great number. They could push the volume and the guitar hero riffs of songs like Freeway of Drugs and see how large and anthemic they could make a full polished project.  Either way they should not record like this again. It was a great way to showcase the difference in loudness, force his audience to buy better headphones, but in the future vocal overdubs will help Kyle’s voice stay comfortably over the sea of sound.  This is not the album poachers will brag about but it could be signifying one is on the horizon.

Stream or Download Scapegoat below:

https://kgfreeze.bandcamp.com/

 

#BandcampGold-All The Beauty in This Whole Life by Brother Ali

#BandcampGold-All The Beauty in This Whole Life by Brother Ali

by Dan-O

The first Brother Ali album in five years is a lot to digest. It is the reunion of one of hip hop’s greatest partnerships. The underground forced Ali to record with Jake One because Jake brought out a different Ali in collaborations. Fans wanted a change but I didn’t. I love Jake One but the bond that Rhymesayers producer Ant and Ali have goes so much deeper than on-paper skills. They lived near each other and Ali would walk to his house where they collaborated on projects that literally changed and formed post 2k underground hip hop. You could feel the friendship as an intangible in the music. That chemistry is something that needs to be celebrated.

Ali being one of the wisest scholars of hip hop knows the importance of destroying the first track. Pen To Paper is only two minutes and thirty eight seconds but he goes back to battle rap mode and erupts triumphant bars over Ant’s horn and bass backdrop. This album is not for bangers, however. One of the takeaways from All The Beauty in This Whole Life is that hip hop needs more (less insulting) subgenres. No one should listen to the tragic and intelligent dissection of racism and police violence perpetrated on the black community (Dear Black Son) and have to compare it to Bad and Boujee. Nothing against Migos, Culture is a monster album. These are just musicians accomplishing different things. Ali’s pen presses so deeply that a one listen cheat review isn’t going to be enough. We need to think of these different dimensions within the culture as different kinds of clothing. You don’t get dressed in the morning and say “Pants are way better than shirts!” You need it all and appreciate that you have it.

All The Beauty in This Whole Life isn’t built around the anthemic stuff Ali is known for. Around the 2009 album US it seemed like Ali would transition into the pop rap world. That transition never happened and in 2017 his release has a B-side attitude that doesn’t sacrifice any space from its creative vision. It is that mid-tempo cohesion that glues all the songs together, you can go from Special Effects to Can’t Take That Away without ever feeling overwhelmed by the intense lyricism at hand. The beats still bang and Ali has a dynamic flow/consistency in his lyrical design that makes the tougher moments easier to take. As an example, We Got This sounds triumphant with the upbeat piano but Ali is not mincing words “If she asks me about it I got to be honest. Either they forgot about us or they got a target on us. My niece is shooting amateur porno, police shoot my nephews in the street like its normal but they been doing that a century or like four though. It’s horrible. Still pains me to my core though.”

Brother Ali is one of the few rappers I don’t know that my family feels like we do know. He has verses so vividly rendered that they get stamped on you. You feel his triumphs and sorrow. This album focuses on that. I’ll never forget the frustration of Uncle Usi Taught Me and its masterful airport story ending. Out of Here is a song about suicide that explores all the emotional reactions to the event, a thoughtful meditation that will leave you needing to recuperate. Before They Called You White is a fiery and probably controversial take on racial history but unlike political songs he’s done in the past this one is considerate to all parties involved and benefits from a three dimensional heart. You can’t listen to it and think Brother Ali is mad at white people.

I met him a few times. He came to a local record store and I waited in line, I declined the autograph (not my thing) but asked him very specifically about a review in a major publication that completely misread a concept song he did and slammed it. I asked him how he dealt with that so continually. Most rappers would have blustered a “F_ them” response but Ali really paused. He said it’s the hardest part of the whole deal, that you spend so much time pouring your heart into a project and the people criticizing it give it a mere passing glance and disregard it. They twist what they hear into something it isn’t and apply their own bias. That conversation is one of the reasons I wanted this blog. I wanted to write about music in a way that wasn’t intended to humiliate anyone but to stand in awe of work well done. Listen to the title track of All The Beauty in This Whole Life and get seduced by the fabulous hook and sincerity of the message or listen to the first verse or Tremble where Ali starts “I’m a man not a brand. Heart nose no barcode that can be scanned. Revealing what can’t be held up in the hand; bearer of the standard that you cram to understand,” over rippling bass. Even if you don’t get the MC Lyte reference at the end you comprehend how deeply he drops himself into a project and he never holds it against other rappers who don’t. He’s made a choice to exist in a specific place and be heard in a certain way. As one of his fans I just hope he continues to be happy there.

Stream and BUY All The Beauty in This Whole Life below:

https://brotherali.bandcamp.com/

#Bandcampgold-Packs by Your Old Droog

Bandcampgold-Packs by Your Old Droog

by Dan-O

The most important thing to note when you hit play on Your Old Droog’s new album Packs is that this is not a freak occurrence. As special as the album is and as gifted as Droog’s flow is…New York has been bubbling for a while and now it is to be reckoned with.

Droog is clearly a part of the new three dimensional NY goon rap scene; stylistically a mixture of Ruff Ryder Anthem toughness and Purple Haze era Killa Cam. Roc Marciano is an example of this with his winding wordplay and unflappable screw face.  Westside Gunn has a voice and content horrifyingly & intensely engaging (doesn’t release bad songs EVER).

Droog is actually way less crazy than some of the other names mentioned. He’s a Ukranian-American kid from Brooklyn who loves hip hop more than anything. He sounds like early early Nas, in love with storytelling (see My Girl is a Boy) with a flow so smooth that Packs might be the most listenable rap album of 2017.

Most artists want their full length debut to act as a call to arms for their audience but if you press play on the last song, Winston Red, it gives you a road map to the kind of album this is. Droog doesn’t even feel he should have to do that. He imagines his audience as intelligent with pre-existing high standards. On Winston Red Droog casually tosses off “…won’t put it out till it’s some sh_t we really want to hear.” Even when he trips down memories of poverty and declares he “went from welfare to wealth everywhere” he does it in pocket, voice locked in like early Nasir. Not a hint of desperation. He is the kind of MC that doesn’t reach for lines he just goes and feels like he could keep blowing as long as you need him too.

The element of Droog’s music I find most relevant is the complete lack of sarcasm or irony. Packs is one of the few albums you’ll hear a 3rd Bass namecheck next to a Nas namecheck and not as a mean joke. Droog really lives the art.  Hip hop is full of too much wink wink nudge nudge faux gangsta imagery closer to Riff Raff than G Rap. Droog never says anything that isn’t in pursuit of the best verse for his street music. He jokes and namechecks but he’s not playing you.  Listen to Grandma’s Hips and you’ll understand the earnestness, and witness one of the only times Danny Brown didn’t murder someone on their track. Rapman is another highlight with a great beat by 88 Keys. I would love to ask him about referring to Lyor Cohen in the song as Lex Lyor, this no doubt has to do with Lyor’s creation of the 360 deal.  The production throughout is as smooth and jagged as the orator and Droog has his hands in the mix.

Droog seems like one important feature verse on a superstar track away from being everyone’s new favorite rapper.

Bandcamp link below:

https://fatbeatsrecords.bandcamp.com/album/packs

#Bandcampgold= Jidenna-The Chief

Bandcampgold=Jidenna-The Chief

by Dan-O

The Netflix series Luke Cage did a fantastic job maximizing the musical environment it presented. One of the show stopping performances was Jidenna who absolutely tore it down. My wife looked at me and said “That guy is GOOD.” All I could do was shrug. I don’t listen to the radio at all so I had heard Classic Man once and moved on. I had no reference point for dude but I stored that moment in my head and when his new album The Chief dropped it was at the top of my list to check out.

The Chief is not a cohesive album. This is not a walk through a specific story that gets you to know the narrator. This is the flexing your muscles album (less Good Kid Maad City more Section 80). Everything about it feels different. If I say that this is one of those threats that can sing and rap you’ll rightly say…that’s a lot of people. The difference is this dude is the son of a Nigerian scientist, his knowledge of African sonic textures gives him a totally different base he sings from. Adaora moves like Salsa but maintains the precious emotional center a Nat King Cole song has.

The unignorably brilliant stuff begins going through tracks two, three, and four. Two is called Chief Don’t Run and features Roman GianArthur on the hook. It is a straight ahead rap banger with punch lines to spare. The beat absolutely tramples and then it leads into the biggest pop hit on the album. Trampoline you’ll never get out of your head and the rewarding thing about it is that it takes the shape of a traditional slut shaming anthem while being the absolute opposite.  Example, “Anyone who works hard as you got the right to get lit. She might even have a wedding ring or a doctorate in medicine or the daughter of the reverend or the daughter of the president!(Trampoline)” Usually, banging pop anthems about women are condescending at their best but Jidenna doesn’t function like other people and definitely doesn’t care for expectations. Trampoline would easily be the best song on The Chief if Bambi didn’t come next. I can’t stop listening to it. My only reference point was Harry Belafonte calypso but my wife says that’s not right. She says the only thing she’s ever heard that reminds her of Bambi is The Lion Sleeps Tonight. The difference is this song is actually full on engaged in a discussion about relationships and loneliness.

Jidenna is very cool. He dresses cool, makes money and intellectually defends all of it with very cool one liners. The last two songs on the album (White Nigga & Bully of The Earth) are very intelligent without ever dipping into pretention. Underneath the sleekness The Chief definitely talks about how detached he gets from traditional relationships and the defenses he puts up against people who get too close. A lot of people who listen will likely never even engage The Chief on that level because of its snazzy wrapping paper. Jidenna doesn’t mind. This time around he wants you to know he can hit homeruns with or without Janelle Monae. Point made.

Stream or pay for this great album below:

https://jidennanow.bandcamp.com/album/the-chief

#BandcampGold-Blue Moon by Essence

#BandcampGold-Blue Moon by Essence

by Dan-O

I was so excited for my wife to see Essence perform.  The show was set up so acts work on different stages and trade off in a round robin.  Each performer had several sets. After the first Essence set my wife gave me the description of Maine’s most important rapper that I always carry with me.  My wife has one of these best friends: marvelously sweet, smart and great. Much smarter than she knows, much more attractive than she knows but doubts herself and suffers from the anxiety in her head. She said when Essence performed it was like watching Brother Ali come out of that friend.

It’s still a great way to frame her new project Blue Moon.  She is dynamic ,in delivery, with the spirit of a spoken word slam poet; every word takes its place as vital to the core of the whole. The first spoken bars on Blue Moon are “co-dependent on the figurative attachment, the one getting high on the balcony of the equator with feet…dangling off the timeline between you and me.” Her state of being as an artist presumes you know what all that means or have the willingness to unpack it patiently.

Blue Moon doesn’t have stock concept songs you’d expect to hear on a rap album (even a Maine rap album). Four of the seven songs are under three minutes but it’s still a dense listen. As a writer this was always a criticism I faced. People would read my stuff and furrow eyebrows while muttering…”it’s a little dense”. After a while I started taking it for the compliment it is. I give it to Blue Moon in the same way. Unseen is haunting, not just because of the ghost related chorus. In two minutes and seventeen seconds she covers loneliness, heartbreak and the dimensions you discover in people you get close to along with the difficulty in relating and comprehending what you’ve seen in them.

My favorite song is Resistance because, on the sly, Essence is fantastic at hooks (Blue Moon is kind of a great situation for Maine rap chorus’s. Not only is Essence great at hooks but she features Renee Coolbrith and Kristina Kentigian who are incredible singers, but never put out enough solo content. The combination of her talent and theirs in 7 songs means Blue Moon is always catchy enough to offset its depth.).  Resistance merges the deep conversation about our generations approach to relationships with a chorus that sticks in my head.  She’s no longer a poet or a rapper on Resistance she becomes a chant that lives in your experience. It’s the kind of song that makes you forget the process of listening to a song and think about your own life.

ChrisPaul did the production for all the songs other than Needs and the beats are dusty and minimal. Honestly, all the production in the Maine rap scene (for my ears) feels dusty, broken and post-Anticon underground. This is why the song Anniversary Essence did with big muscular production team OHX (collab with KGFREEZE) and Give (another KGFREEZE) push her in a totally different direction where she can showcase the sharpness of her sword with humor and wordplay.  This isn’t a knock on Blue Moon, the paranoia you feel from ChrisPauls In And Out beat totally makes sense for the content being covered. If most Maine hip hop production is aggravatingly self-importantly underground with its tongue stuck out at likeable melodies… Blue Moon smartly uses that to match the warmth of remembering those you love and the utter chill of not having them with you anymore(she also goes out of state for beats a lot).

That night, at that show, I awkwardly introduced myself and told Essence that a year and a half from now she would be light-years from where she is now. If you listen to Blue Moon and compare it to her 2014 project The Root of It…I’m looking ok on that.

Check out Blue Moon yourself:

https://essence1.bandcamp.com/album/blue-moon

#BandcampGold-Ferret by Dominic and The Lucid

#BandcampGold-Ferret by Dominic and The Lucid

The most terrifying thing I’ve ever encountered as an artist is falling out of my groove. Everyone gets to that place in life where they realize that their creative process doesn’t need to be perfect it just has to make sense for what you are doing. Once you do it a few times over a short period of time you’ve found a groove. When you lose the groove, desperation settles in where instinct resided and in the sweaty rush to get it back, that desperation keeps you a long way from the groove (since it was established with a clear head and now you’re a basket case).

Dominic & The Lucid certainly had a groove going. Waging The Wage set the template for rocking right into the hearts of jam band/phish fans. Season of The Sun is so wholly secure in its psychedelic rock identity that it straddles the line between comfort serenity and boredom. The collective established a wrinkle free sound that’s calm became its own worst enemy. Do you ever want to clothesline a stranger just because you’ve had an awful week? Nope, not in Lucid-verse. The closest I came to being a Lucid fan was on 2011’s The Lucid. That album was such a fractured, miserable and broken emotional journey that I finally felt the third dimension of emotions being exposed; something undesirable (example: excommunation).

Their new album Ferret is not the old groove, but the continuation of a separate one. It brandishes all the warmth and awe for the world, the tools you know them for. Listening is easy to do but it’s different this time. Once the drums crash on Apex Predator you know things have changed. Dom’s voice is still a stunning weapon he uses to make low stakes jaunty songs much more important than they should be (example: Catnip Curious). Stoned In The Suburbs is tremendous and displays a melodic intelligence that allows Dom and company to actually sound like later stage Beatles; not because they are trying but because the skill sets align.

Hell no, I don’t understand Ferret. The title track is a minute and twenty eight seconds and sounds like the score for an Italian 70’s horror film. A great score but….why is this the centerpiece? 11 Week Heartbeat is an incredible feat in every way you can gauge: machete sharp songwriting matched by pitch perfect vocal delivery, and like the rest of the songs on Ferret it really moves. New sounds shift in and old ones shift out, the song doesn’t just sit there from the first thirty seconds on. Contrast that with the scaled down, simple folk jam Madawaska (which is exactly what you think it will be from the title), contrast that with the radically loaded musical experience of Commodore Snakevision; smashing drums, super catchy chorus and it only lasts one minute and eighteen seconds…WHAT?! The Boy From Avignon has a Spanish almost Fanta label vibe and is assuredly over my head, I think he starts singing in French.

These guys ( Dominic Lavoie, Nathan Cyr, Charles Gagne, Scott Mohler) achieve a really interesting album through the confusion I’m describing. Even when I fall out of knowing why things are happening I trust them to do it and that trust pays off. Weird is exciting and weird is definitely Ferret. When the didgeridoo jumps into You Can Sing just like it did in 1993 when Calogero locked eyes with his first love on the bus in A Bronx Tale it put a smile on my face. Royale Milky is so perfectly reminiscent of the world Dom created on the first ShaShaSha album, the one that got me really interested in him and them and figuring out the difference, figuring out the strength in both.

I’ve listened to Ferret with at least three generations of people who all enjoyed it. Dominic does roar on this, he does give you real emotions; he turns the music in directions you don’t expect and traverses the distance from band to audience that psychedelic music leaves. Even in a sweet tone You Can Sing is really sad and unsuccessfully hiding its anger as he asks over and over “why are we rivals?” with a tone that mixes pleading and distaste. Very few artists in my local environment are as fearlessly capable of creating embarrassingly beautiful vocal performances. Dom cares and owns that.

All of this is just me biding my time before I declare that Solid Gold Julian is my favorite thing right now. His voice really sounds like Prince going full on glamorous bar band. The guitar work is fantastic. Ferret makes such absolutely brilliant use of John Maclaine on trombone and Chris Chasse on Trumpet. Since everybody loves the nice guy he has his pick of who to work with and he’s made a full return in wanting to surprise. He went back to ShaShaSha to find his groove. When I interviewed him he told me he just started doing the ideas that sounded good and that might sound easy but for an artist working on new music for the first time in five years, it’s a mighty accomplishment. This is really really exciting because I’ve been wanting him to surprise me for a while.

The videos for Apex Predator & Catnip Curious are below

Purchase Ferret below:
https://thelucid.bandcamp.com/

#Bandcampgold review-Hella Personal Film Festival by Open Mike Eagle & Paul White

#Bandcampgold review-Hella Personal Film Festival  by Open Mike Eagle & Paul White

by Dan-O

Dark Comedy put Open Mike Eagle on the map for a lot of listeners. While I still listen and enjoy that album it feels like a battle of Dark v. Comedy and in that sense Dark wins. By the time you hit track 8 Idaho anything you could possibly laugh at is crushingly sad; the kind of album that leaves you wanting to send the artist a get well card.

My constructed narrative is that Eagle sinks into the beats if they are muted. His agile humor and exuberance get swallowed by depression and anxiety; he feels the mood of the beat more than most. Enter Paul White; the UK producer who did valuable work on the near-classic Danny Brown album Old. From the first song of their collaborative album Hella Personal Film Festival you feel the difference in energy. Admitting The Endorphin Addiction really moves and feels important, Eagle is engaging and funny, lacing buttery sung vocals. His collaboration with Aesop Rock is real rap (I Went Outside Today) where he spits with impressive skills as well as hilarious moments “Rick Martel’s perfume can blind you HOGAN!”  I love love love that Eagle was that focused because he knew Aesop was going to slay his verse. He brought his best pure rapping out of straight up hip hop instincts and respect.

Eagle is sneaky good at rapping and funny in ways you might not catch until a few seconds after the line but man he has a talent with hooks. Dang Is Invincible has a hook that won’t leave my head.  His music is carefully linked to the anxiety of civilized living, even on Dang Is Invincible while enjoying the chorus you’ll hear verses with statements like “…feel good without being a narcissist did the whole tour didn’t get a parking ticket, looked in my heart and there wasn’t no darkness in it.”

White is fantastic dishing straight up old school hip hop jams like Check To Check and the jazzier whistle based The Curse of Hypervigilance. When the intelligence of the two comes together you get a straight up masterpiece in Smiling (Quirky Race Doc). The song is a real discussion about how people are afraid to smile at black men. It’s sharp and funny “I don’t want you, your purse or your pocket book; them dumb yoga pants boots of fur with the octopus. I’m not tryin’ to polish your toes, take your wallet or phone or follow you home.” The song also is done with a lot of genuine emotion, even his joking is poignant. The problem he’s addressing is real as thunderstorms. My two year old waves at strangers, all strangers (I know, what are you gonna do?) and my favorite is when he waves at a black man because they always light up like no one else. The promise of a little white kid possibly being raised not to fear them is in the sweet smile and wave they return to him.  The song is a perfect commentary on that small but important interaction, Smiling is bold and funny but it also has a great hook that incorporates ghost farts.

Every song means something and ends up somewhere real. I love when Eagle is energetically wiping out the line between comedy and seriousness, between novelty rap and musicianship. Paul White found the right elements to get the right reaction (example: the piano in Insecurity P.II) and got the best out of him. Long live the Hella Personal Film Festival.

Stream or purchase(I did!) Hella Personal Film Festival below:

https://openmikeeagle360.bandcamp.com/album/hella-personal-film-festival