Tag Archives: rock music

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



Song of The Year-Sinner’s Prayer by Lady Gaga

Song of The Year-Sinner’s Prayer by Lady Gaga

by Dan-O

I have a lot of important mixtapes to listen to from very important up and coming artists but I would be lying if I pretended to knowing anything musically but Joanne right now.  I’ve had the new Lady Gaga album on repeat for days just soaking it in.

I am in the exact opposite position of your average critic. At peak Gaga meat dress time-frame I couldn’t care less. Pop music generates big voiced divas who boom over the same electro-pop , for me at that time, she was just one of that group.

Joanne is the first time I’ve felt close to her music. You can attribute the adventurousness of it to Ronson or Bloodpop or any number of the important collaborators who do great work. Joanne says a lot about Gaga and how intelligent she is.

That classic country sound has incredible malleable warmth to it and smart people get it. Springsteen talks about its influence on The River, Bob Dylan fell in love with it and produced my favorite albums (Nashville Skyline, The Basement Tapes). Joanne is part experimentation part the Gaga you expect. Some critics mourn the loss of their ‘classic’ Gaga while I am listening on a loop enthused by the new path. The big voice, the gorgeous melodies, the well written songs(Sinner’s Prayer is my absolute favorite) and many influences (some great classic soul on Joanne) are evidence of an artist with interesting wings to expand.

This song just hits everything right. It has no fat on it while never coming off as anything but honest and organic.

In a year of dense albums that ache to say everything Joanne feels very self-assured and sleek.  Maybe she was always this good and I just sucked at figuring it out? Oh well, anyone who goes around saying she doesn’t pull off what she tries to accomplish on Joanne is wrong and the fact that I’m so protective says a lot about the vivid personality of the album. I’m glad she wore the pink hate on Saturday Night Live. It’s the album; a simple but enduring image that will stick in your mind while not obscuring your path to her.

#Bandcampgold review-Solid Chunks of Energy by Jake McKelvie & The Countertops

#Bandcampgold review-Solid Chunks of Energy by Jake McKelvie & The Countertops

by Dan-O

Lyricism is so incredible because it can’t successfully be hidden. If you are really intent to find it you’ll be able to identify it. It’s not necessarily about the depth of the idea, but its vivid illustration. Jake McKelvie has that in spades. The word choice is as unique as his teen-tv-character-puberty-voice and Dylan comparisons are natural when you hear an odd voice on the first song of Solid Chunks of Energy (Mini-Monster) say “The juggler does need another amputation, it looks like we’ve got a crier in the plans.” The joyful bounce of Mini-Monster is what reminds me of Dylan; the guitar keeps a jogging pace and the song ends in fun “bah da bah” scat chanting; that sense of moving creative, poetic content while maintaining a jubilant pace is really engaging.

I could give you lots of ‘hot lines’ as examples of what I’m talking about. On Propellor he says “It gets so cold, next time I break the mold I’m going to wrap myself up in all of the pieces.” All of the songs on Solid Chunks of Energy address losing love, sometimes he narrates the breakup victim other times the perpetrator but that loss allows him to dig into his mind bag of image tricks and hurl them over simple digestible folk rock.  On Wristwatch you might start to question if he is even on beat with the song, sometimes someone can be so off that they get back on and that’s how it works. Sounds like crazy talk but I’m not crazy, music is crazy. Wristwatch is a super fun song that you and your grandparents can tap toes to, and everyone loves Time is A Chew Toy.

As someone trained to respect MC’s moving crowds I had OHHH SH*T SON moments throughout Solid Chunks of Energy. Aside From Your Hair BEGINS with “I could watch the days disintegrate or I could start rebuilding them with double clicks, triple titles, fire me just like a rifle buy your kindness at the store, lay me out across the floor. I do not need your money just like I don’t need you anymore.” Just because these songs sound friendly and warm and appetizing doesn’t mean this is bland pleasant minimalist heartbreak music, the bopping warmth of the tempo is supposed to make this heavy dinner of words digestible.

The title of the album is hidden in Aside From Your Hair, “Solid chunks of energy or liquid if you have to fake it.” What I love about this album is that it’s not really about relationships at all. The same way Reservoir Dogs is not about the robbery. It’s about what you do after a catastrophe. After his heart is broken he relearns to eat and live and answer the phone all through the poetic language of a tangled intelligent mind. It’s the most fun depression music I’ve heard in a while.

These songs will not get boring over repeated listens; the first time will just be the song washing over you. After that, you’ll catch more and more each time until the ten songs seem massive. After that, we all need to find more Jake McKelvie & The Countertops albums.

Stream or Download Solid Chunks of Energy below:



#BandcampGoldFOLLOWUP-EP TWO by Cool Tara

#BandcampGoldFOLLOWUP-EP TWO by Cool Tara

by Dan-O

Tell you what sucks, if you google search Cool Tara Review my October review of their Bad Moves EP is the sixth entry and the first actual review. This is depressing because who the F__ am I? The answer is a dinky blog off in the deep niche net of wordpress. The truth is audiences train themselves to the music they like and locally a lot of folks aren’t trained for Cool Tara. The band just released a project EP TWO which is fascinating because it’s clear that they don’t really care.

As deeply captivating as the pop sensibilities of Cool Tara are you can never forget that they are punk. The antagonistic thread runs lyrically, structurally, and sonically through the bands identity. You wanted these songs to be longer? You’re wondering why you can’t place a 2015 musical comparison point for this? Imagine a middle finger responding to all those concerns. This is what is punk about Cool Tara they own the destroy-to-rebuild spirit of the fed up and the pure joy of creation. All of the tag descriptions on their bandcamp page hint at this: garage rock, indie, punk rock. As a project this new one is only seven songs over an eighteen minute span but it builds on their identity in every feasible way.

Lyrically EP TWO weighs a lot more than anything I heard from them before. The lyrics are questions from an argument, The first song (Museum Exhibit) starts with lead singer, and drum set Mozart, Chris Gervais admitting that he’s finally ready to start and his next lines are “How do I know you?! Why did we do this?! I should have never been with you from the beginning?!”

Chris has a sense of rhythm that is dynamic and thrusts each song forward but Gabe Noblesmith and Kara Rowley are terrifying monsters on guitar and bass respectively. This is not a band for self-indulgent noodling; the Tony Iommi-ish joy of riff creation runs through muscular songs like Show Me Your Teeth. The only song on EP TWO that is over the three minute mark is the last one, Speaks Like Children, which stands in marked contrast from the rest of the project. It’s hauntingly muted instrumentally and thickly lyrical including the lines “I call my mother on the phone, ask her if I’m gonna die alone. Loss and regret are my only two friends and all I hear is the silence on the end.” The angry argument Chris has been having ends somberly with a tall glass of his own despair. He shouts about numbness spreading and wishes that he was dead, roll credits.

I was playing my favorite song from EP TWO (8 Out of 10) for my wife the other night, holding the laptop up while she cooked dinner and staring at her while she listened (I know this paints a really weird picture of living with me…it’s as weird as it sounds). When I finally rolled the question to her “What do you think? ” she shrugged and said “it’s good…” and I nodded assured that she just hadn’t heard it a thousand times yet. By the thousandth time she’ll excitedly wait for the end of song hand claps. She’ll realize that the stability of Cool Tara, the 70’s harmony’s, the complete disregard for what other music is like now…is so god damn special.

You can stream 3 songs from the album on their bandcamp page:

Boring White Girl


Museum Exhibit


and a live version of 8 out of 10


once you are satisfied that this thing is as dope as I say it is stream then buy it here


Mixtape Review-Produce vol. 1 by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

Mixtape Review-Produce vol. 1 by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

by Dan-O

One of the uncomfortable conversations I will be forced to have with my son is how our generation turned Pop Music into a negative term for simple elitist gains. We snickered at chart topping hits and re-classified the ones we liked into other genres. Whoomp There It Is was pop music but surely Smells Like Teen Spirit wasn’t even though both were overexposed. As we got older the questions became too much. Was Buddy Holly Pop Music? If I hate Pop so much how come I know the lyrics to every Queen song? Any re-examination turned our group pretension into a fun-house mirror of distinction leaving one real apparent truth. Bottom line-we need our pop music.

Life is full of terrible things: uncomfortable talks on public transportation, dental appointments, embarrassing public school moments, interaction with comically ineffective authority figures that change the course of your life and you need happy music for some of that. When Dale Jr. Jr. decided to put out a mixtape following what I thought of as the best album of 2013(The Speed of Things) it threw some for a loop but made perfect sense to me. Listening to Jr. Jr. is like Tommy James and the Shondells laid lush pop classics over Gangstarr era Primo beats. As smooth and buoyant as their music is it always bangs with a hip hop car stereo flavor. The sixteen tracks that Produce Vol. 1 consists of are full of surprises however.

What sinks a lot of rockers hip hop mixtapes is trying to utilize it as an opportunity to assert some sort of toughness they don’t normally get to highlight. It ends up coming off like a mockery of the medium. Dale Jr. Jr. see it purely as a way to have fun in different ways like putting Biggie lyrics over the Beach Boys song I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times and getting sublime results(Beach Boy Biggie). The rappers pulled in for guest verses are expertly selected including names like King Chip, Chuck Inglish, Murs, and Asher Roth. Murs does an amazing job with his tale of love turned racial violence in Lover Lover Lover but the songs I love the most are the outlandishly danceable ones like the War Zone Goldenboyz remix or Jean Jacket Girl. It can be dismissed as cute but cute is valuable and if done properly can be brilliant.

Right from the first song (Old Friend From The Radio) Produce Vol. 1 aims for one goal-to be as fun as possible and it hits that target. With a beat that Pun would have loved Asher Roth spits crazy references(on Curtain Call) and you forget all the pre-text about his career and whether he sucks or not. The vocals are brilliantly sung over a background of clatter that shakes with countless elements jingling together in a kind of Muppet-like happy madness. It’s not supposed to be a cohesive artistic statement just a fun way to explore their style fully while showing datpiff kids who hadn’t heard of them what they bring to the table. It’s also great for waiting at the Dentists office.

Stream of Download Produce Vol. 1 below: