My fascination with Diet Cig started when I saw them open for The Front Bottoms and Brick + Mortar last year. At that time, they had one 5-song EP and two singles. Almost exactly one year later, they dropped their first full length album, I Swear I’m Good at This. Frontwoman Alex Luciano keeps it real with her audience and her unbridled honesty makes her lyrics so much more relatable. The opener of the album, “Sixteen”, details cringey moments of dating someone with the same name. Luciano addresses many relationship struggles and problems commonly encountered as one enters adulthood, or at least tries to.
Among the sweet melodies and talk of relationships are discussions of heavier topics such as gender roles and consent. On “Maid Of The Mist”, Luciano spits out “I am bigger than the outside shell of my body and if you touch it without asking then you’ll be sorry”. Luciano may refer to relationships and seemingly mundane topics, but she remains feminist pop-punk and empowered. “Tummy Ache” and “Link in Bio” is where some of this feminist frustration boils over.
Overall, Diet Cig nails combining a young innocence with ferocity and empowerment. They blend elements and themes together in a bubbly, dancy pop. I Swear I’m Good at This is an amazing debut album and I’m excited to see where they go from here.
Diet Cig will be stopping by Seattle on April 28th at Barboza. If you’re able to attend, I highly recommend. The energy present in their music is multiplied by 10 at their live shows. Luciano jumps, kicks, and is an amazing ball of energy. She’ll make you dance even if you’re unfamiliar with their music. You can grab tickets for that show here.
Back in 2001, Damon Albarn was a pretty big deal. The songwriter and singer of Britpop sensation Blur, Albarn was the Gallagher brothers’ more pretentious cousin, even if his most famous bit of writing, “Song 2”, was originally intended to be a joke, poking fun at American grunge music. He was revered in Britain, but little more than an afterthought in the States. Britpop hadn’t fully crossed over to America, and so it seemed Albarn would be forever left in British consciousness.
Then, on March 5, “Clint Eastwood” was released. With its jerky beat and faux-evil feel, “Clint Eastwood” was the world’s flashy introduction to Gorillaz, the Albarn side project which has long since eclipsed his own fame. And with Gorillaz, Albarn entered a new tier of respect in the music world: he went from solid pop singer to artistic master. As the popularity of Gorillaz continued to soar, Albarn seemed to get increasingly experimental, daring: he heavily used electronics, featured old-school rappers like De La Soul, and took the cartoon band to new heights that Blur, for all its British popularity, could never achieve.
Just a few days ago, on March 23rd, this trend continued even further. In anticipation of the first Gorillaz album since 2011’s The Fall, titled Humanz, Gorillaz released four new tracks, all original and all very odd. “Saturnz Barz”, the flashiest of the new singles, was accompanied by a 360 degree music video and features Jamaican singer Popcaan heavily, recalls “Clint Eastwood” with its slow, drum-heavy groove. “Ascension”, featuring Vince Staples, is an incredibly fun and short romp, with Vince absolutely killing it throughout the track. “We Got the Power”, featuring Savages singer Jehnny Beth and, amusingly, Noel Gallagher, is a little cheesy in its universal “All you need is love” message, but Beth’s quavering vocals rescue the track from itself. Finally, “Andromeda” features American rapper D.R.A.M. and goes for a more relaxed, bass-heavy feel that contrasts nicely from the other tracks. They may not all be Albarn & Co.’s finest work, but they are all certainly worth a listen.
Raleigh (like ballet) Ritchie (like Lionel) took fans by surprise when he announced the release of his new EP last November. The EP, Mind the Gap, was released on December 16th, 2016 and it’s devastatingly good. Raleigh Ritchie (real name Jacob Anderson) is newer to the music scene, having only just released his debut album You’re a Man Now, Boy earlier last year. Yet, he’s not an entirely unfamiliar face, fans of Game of Thrones might recognize him as Grey Worm, the leader of the unsullied. This is where I discovered him, looked him up one day because I thought he was cute and google let me know he had a few songs floating around at the time (thanks google). Gave one of his singles, “Bloodsport ’15”, a listen and I was instantly in love. It was fate. I’ve been a fan ever since and I am personally so stoked about the recent release of Mind the Gap which is what we are here to talk about.
Start listening while you read: click HERE to go to Mind the Gap on soundcloud!
This EP is an organized clusterfuck of self-deprecation and heartbreak mixed with upbeat instrumental and fast paced lyrics, producing a fantastically odd dichotomy of feelings. The album has a sound that feels derived from R&B but somewhere along the lines it picked up heavy pop influences, with a light peppering of the occasional rap or spoken word. It’s not too much of a departure from his debut album (which I HIGHLY recommend you listen to), there’s a lot of similarities between the two pieces. Raleigh even said himself that he felt the EP was more of a bridge between his debut album and the next, rather than a totally independent piece. I won’t quote him on that because it was in a tweet from a few months back that I won’t even bother to search for. He tweets a lot. (One time, he favorited my tweet – but that’s a story for another time).
Something I love about the sound of this album is the deeper electronic feel with the background vocals. You’re a Man Now, Boy was very flowly and floaty in the background vocals – almost choir-like. Almost fantastical. Whereas Mind the Gap is mostly background vocals that are tuned bytes of Ritchie singing drawn out “ahs” or “ohs” (excuse my inability to quantify music). The subtle electronic qualities are pretty much thrown in your face in the first track off the album Motions, which begins with a brief audio of a Robot fight/break-up. We hear two Siri-esque voices argue about how they feel about each other, resulting in the end of their robot relationship. This persists through the song with brief one liners from either robot voice. It’s pretty rad, if I do say so myself.
Mind the Gap totals 5 songs: “Motions”, “Sicko”, “Liability”, “StraitJacket”, and “Unicron Love” (don’t ask me why its spelled like that – I have no idea). Each song is unique, but they all flow very well together. My favorite example of this is the transition between “Motions” and “Sicko”; “Motions” ends with the Male robot saying “I love you”, only to have the female reply “I know, but you are sick” – and then sicko immediately begins with “Maybe I’m just sick”. Hell yeah. Well, I mean, that’s pretty sad and heartbreaking lyrically, but 10/10 transition. Speaking of lyrics, Ritchie gives the listener a lot to think about as far as sanity and heartbreak go. “Motions” and “Unicron Love” both focus on two different sides of a relationship. Since we know that Motions isn’t the brightest view on love, we can probably guess how “Unicron Love” portrays it.
“Sicko”, “Liability”, and “StraitJacket” all focus more on an introspective view. “Sicko” plays off “Motions” and outlines the chaos of a mind trying to diagnose an internal sickness. There’s a lot of self-doubt and confusion present in the lyrics of this song, ending in the simple conclusion of “Maybe I’m just sick”. Liability is all about feeling bad for yourself. The musical composition of this song is diverse and beautiful, it ranges from flowy and floaty (both technical terms) to harsh and brittle (if that’s a word people use for describing music). The song feels like it’s been written out of a place of anger and defeat, it screams “why me?!”. I’m a sucker for this song, self-pity, now that’s something I can rock to. The song ends with a beautiful, whispered, “oh, fuck off” directly at his own thoughts.
Now, we arrive at “StraitJacket”, my favorite track off the album – this one is just an Ode to Mania, a sweet sweet embrace of the craziness that is our mind. It’s a fast paced, rollercoaster of a song, and there are no seatbelts. Every time you think you’ve reached the climax (not sexual) of the song, you find yourself surprised by even more faced paced energy. At the real, destructive, climax (might be a little sexual) of this song you can practically feel Ritchie screaming in your face. It also showcases one of the best things about Ritchie’s music; his sexy voice and crazy good spoken word influenced rap style. The song ends with a jarringly slow verse of spoken word that asks the listener if any of us (especially Ritchie) are sane; “Fight amongst the foot soldiers, but the war is in my mind”. Not only is the song super fucking cool, there’s a super fucking cool music video that accompanies it. Check it below, it really adds to the song and shows what Ritchie is trying to say with it (basically, that he’s just crazy).
This EP is phenomenal, and you bet I’ll be listening to it pretty much once a day. The title of the EP (Mind the Gap, if you somehow forgot) is really validated by the content of the songs. It’s about watching out for the mental leap in logic from sanity to insanity, it’s fitting for how much attention the tracks give to being not-so-sane. Raleigh Ritchie is an amazing and talented new artist that deserves a lot more attention than he gets. On the plus side, he’s so unknown that he’ll favorite/retweet your tweets if you tweet at him. But seriously, check him out, between the amazing album art, magically sexy vocals, and make-you-think lyrics there’s nothing not to love. Make sure to check out not only the Mind the Gap EP, but also his debut album You’re a Man Now, Boy! Thanks for reading, I’ll see you back here next week for the rediscovery of Sir Sly.
New music output is a fickle thing. There’s new music being released all over the world all the time, even now; however, sometimes there seems to a be a huge burst or lull in output. One of the most reliable of these boom/bust cycles is the early fall rise, and the subsequent December-January comedown. Artists release music in the early fall, anticipating an end-of-year list bump in sales or a possible Grammy nod, and then the music world generally calms down for a while, recharging itself.
The first month of 2016 saw a decent crop, however: Rihanna’s ANTI, Anderson .Paak’s Malibu, and of courseBlackstar all came out in the year’s first month. This year is yet very young, and yet we’ve already had some very high-profile releases in the indie world. The returns of The xx, The Flaming Lips, Run the Jewels, and even Dropkick Murphys have set 2017 off with a plethora of new tunes to try and wrap our brains around. And in the upcoming weeks, we’ll see a flood of new albums to sink our teeth into, seemingly from every genre under the sun. It’s a good time to be a music fan.
Some of the biggest names in music appear poised to release new projects this year, many of them under the ever-widening umbrella of the “indie” scene: Arcade Fire, Spoon, and The Shins have announced albums, and released accompanying singles as well. Tool have been hinting at something for a while (a long, long while) while. The Orwells have a new single. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard is putting out another goddamn album. Gorillaz are coming back! And in the near future, some very exciting releases should be expected. Here’s a few of my most anticipated:
Cherry Glazerr, Apocalipstick: Los Angeles-based weirdo rockers Cherry Glazerr haven’t released a full album in just over three years, and they seem hellbent on following up their debut record, 2014′s Haxel Princess, with something huge. Collaborating with some big-name producers (Joe Chiccarelli of The Strokes’ Angles and Carlos de la Garza of M83’s Junk), the band is looking to expand their sound and audience on Apocalipstick. Preceding singles include the riffy, groovy “Told You I’d Be With the Guys”, which promises a rock record that could be among the year’s best. Apocalipstick is out January 20 on Secretly Canadian.
Cloud Nothings, Life Without Sound: Cloud Nothings have a lot to live up to with this project. The band rode the swell of support for 2012’s Attack on Memory and 2014’s Here and Nowhere Else through the departure of lead guitarist Joe Boyer, a collaborative album with Wavves, and a grueling tour schedule. But now they have to follow up two of the best lo-fi punk records of the decade, and we hope they can follow through on the promise of their two preceding records. Though lead single “Modern Act” disappointed me a little bit, follow-up “Internal World” brought much more to the table. This album, according to frontman Dylan Baldi, is supposed to be a bit more vocally interesting and less dark than Here and Nowhere Else, and I’m optimistic about where this focus will take the band. Life Without Sound is out on January 27 on Carpark Records.
Japandroids, Near to the Wild Heart of Life: Japandroids have been putting out some of the most life-affirming, shout-along music in recent memory, which really makes you wonder: can there really only be two of them? The guitar-and-drums duo get such huge sound out of their instruments that it seems hard to believe. Their most recent release was 2013’s Celebration Rock, a critically acclaimed release that included standout track “The House that Heaven Built”, and since then the black-clad rockers have undoubtedly been looking for a way to adequately follow up a triumph like that. Near to the Wild Heart of Life has to be damn good. The album’s first single is the title track, which comes out of nowhere, hitting you with a thick wall of drums and pure energy. It bodes well for a band whose MO has always been: “Hit ‘em fast, hit ‘em hard.” Near to the Wild Heart of Life is out on January 27 on ANTI-.
The Menzingers, After the Party: The Menzingers are a band that remind me of the do-or-die emotion of high school, and that’s not just because I got a little too into them in my sophomore year. The Philadelphia-based quartet can be counted on for some killer hooks and some incredibly interesting lyrics to boot. 2012’s On the Impossible Past is, in my very humble opinion, completely flawless; it’s a masterwork the whole way through, an emotional call to a time that we’ve either forgotten or never had in the first place. 2014’s Rented World was a bit more flawed, but it had some notable standouts: opener “I Don’t Want to be an Asshole Anymore”, for all its long-windedness, is one of the best things they’ve ever done, and follow-up “Bad Things” is hardly a slouch. Their latest record is preceded by singles that range from decent (“Bad Catholics”) to exceptional (“Lookers”), and I look forward to hearing singers Greg Barnett and Tom May bleeding their hearts out all over the damn thing. After the Party is out February 3 on Epitaph.
Dirty Projectors, Dirty Projectors: Ah, Dirty Projectors. The perfect bridge between Arcade Fire’s accessible anthems to Animal Collective’s unrelenting madness, this band has always occupied a weird place in the indie world: they’re not the weirdos AnCo are, but they’re not exactly a band to show your friend whose closest brush with the indie scene was when he accidentally walked by Sufjan Stevens’ set at Coachella this year. They’ve always been really good, but never have they fully scraped their way into mainstream consciousness. The closest they’ve come was 2012’s Swing Lo Magellan, an album that shivers and shakes but never falls down, and their new self-titled release hopes to deliver further on the promise of that record. If this record has anything near half as good as “About to Die” on it, you can catch me listening to it day and night. Dirty Projectors is out February 24 on Domino Records.