Tag Archives: blues

Hivemind and the open expanse of R&B in 2018

Hivemind and the open expanse of R&B in 2018

by Dan-O

I’m old and from Maine. In my high school I got made fun of for loving R&B music. My discman went everywhere with me so when people discovered I was listening to Smokey and The Miracles they would clown me. It’s interesting to think that the kids in dirty Red Sox hats and highwater jeans were probably listening to rock bands influenced by Motown while mocking me.  When people asked if I liked Rap best (because of how I dressed) I would always rebuke with something to the effect of “I love The Blues and rap is just an extension of it.” Fast forwarding to today it looks like R & B won.

Just look at the grammy nominations for R & B v. Rock. Last two years rock nominees are still Weezer, Queens of The Stone Age, Metallica, Panic! At the Disco old names and the new ones (looking at you War On Drugs) are mad boring. R&B album nominees from that period definitely still include seasoned veterans like Mya, Mint Condition, and Bruno Mars but so many new names over the last three years especially: Daniel Caesar, BJ The Chicago Kid, Jazmine Sullivan, Andra Day, Leon Bridges. I understand we live in a society where you’ll look at that list and say “What do you mean BJ is new?! He had a hot mixtape back in 2009!” What was he doing when Queens of The Stone Age made their first appearance in 1997? Or Metallica first made noise?  War On Drugs, that hot new band I was talking about, have been releasing albums together since 2008(they are the youngest band of that list I gave). In rock years that makes them babies. This is only part of the problem for a genre that has never felt more static.

The Internet (the group) is a wonderful example of the expanded space within the genre. Last year The Internet’s lead singer SYD released two solo projects: her full LP Fin and an EP Always Never Home.  SYD herself said she was just using these projects to flush out fun ideas. Some of the tracks on Fin are self produced others by fellow bandmate Steve Lacy but someone knew it was going to be major because HazeBanga and Hit-Boy don’t gift everyone a beat. Solo Syd is polished urban contemporary, radio ready, sleek lyrical. When she went back to working with The Internet they created Hivemind  which is chunkier, with organic drum and bass, timeless melodies that could have been from any era. The drumming is so exciting on Hivemind I immediately looked up who played it…well its Syd again. The same whispering ghost who haunted tense songs like Bad Dreams/No Looking Back in 2017 decided to smash the drums and form a song around it on Bravo. Some songs on the new album sound like a continuation of the super group Lucy Pearl (La Di Da) others like Aaliyah heading up The Roots (Wanna Be) and as free as it is it holds together. Syd writes songs with heart and vivid detail just outside of the range of people with simpler vision. She can make you live in the moment with her and feel it.

Name a new Rock band who can do that? If I’m wrong that R &B gives you more options while rock locks you into an old template what is the reason for our reality? My bias acknowledged and aside why are people with no understanding or affection for the genre forced to bask in the work of people like SZA and The Internet? Rock needs to find some space to grow and I don’t know where that is.

 

Bad Dream/No Looking Back from Always Never Home:

Bravo from Hivemind

 

 

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Song Review-Criket by Couleen Lagon

Song Review-Criket by Couleen Lagon

by Dan-O

While following all things DJ Burn One I stumbled upon a great song from Scotty’s mixtape (https://freemusicempire.com/2013/05/08/song-of-the-year-ga-dialectfeat-couleen-lagon-produced-by-dj-burn-one-and-cy-fyre/) made impressive partially by a man with a very unique voice that did the chorus. Most times you hear a genuinely bluesy voice on a rap song it’s a sample but this time it was a dude named Couleen Lagon. He found my write up and sent me his album Delivery System from 2012. What I got was very interesting. To quote my wife “It’s weird…but I like it.”

The album turns out to be Lagon flexing his voice Blind Willie Johnson style over the strangest assortment of bass driven club beats you could imagine. A few of the beats sound like they carry elements of old video game theme songs. This dynamic makes it exactly as my wife summed it up. Weird in that you can hear laser sounds behind the foot stomping guitar but great in how catchy and good natured it is. Delivery System isn’t an album that has to be a guilty pleasure. You can put Criket on and jam out with your kids and grandmother.

Lagon achieves a tricky balance with these modern musical elements and the blues/gospel influences. You’ll still hear hand claps over church organs but if you keep listening you can catch the unexpected. It’s not just deeply interesting and inoffensive…Delivery System and this song in particular become hard to get away from. The more you listen, the more you listen.