On Monday afternoon, Sampha held an in-studio performance at KEXP prior to his concert with The xx that night. The performance was free, so I felt it was the best possible excuse to avoid studying. About fifty of us were crammed into a dark room, separated from the studio by a wide window. Inside the studio a piano sat in the middle of the room, surrounded by technicians and cameras. We were told there was no talking or use of cell phones, so that Sampha would be the only sound heard on the radio. Minutes later, Sampha graced us with his presence, taking little time to introduce himself. Though he only performed four songs, each one was astounding to watch performed. Sampha brought no band members along with him; it was only him and a piano. Looking back on it that was the best choice he could’ve made, because it directed attention towards his voice alone. His voice sounded identical to the tracks on Process, only with more emotion and intensity in his tone. This made the tracks he performed- “Plastic 100ºC”, “Incomplete Kisses”, and “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano”-sound much more emotional than I had previously heard. His demeanor was surprisingly down to earth as well; in between songs he answered a few questions, and he was quite humble despite the praise he received from KEXP’s host and the audience. Despite a short performance, Sampha was well worth seeing and I look forward to seeing a full performance in the future. Sampha’s performance should be on KEXP’s YouTube channel soon, which you can visit here. Until then please enjoy the above potato quality picture of Sampha I took following his performance.
Last week’s battle of the bands brought four groups head-to-head for a chance to perform at Rainy Dawg Radio’s 14th annual Birthday Fest. Don, a future bounce group, came out on top and opened for Kero Kero Bonito on Tuesday.
The band includes lead vocalist Stefán Kubeja, bass player and vocalist Phinehas Nyang’Oro, drummer Bobby Jimmi, synth player Daniel Salka, and keyboardist Ori Levari. Stefán, Daniel, and Ori are all UW students.
I interviewed Don before the show on Tuesday about how they got started, how their jazz backgrounds influence their current work, and what’s next. Some responses have been shortened for clarity.
How did you get started?
Stefán: Originally it was just Daniel and me. We used to just play music together. Then we went through a big series of lineup changes until we met Phinehas. Phinehas stuck with us, and Phinehas introduced us to Bobby Jimmi, because they knew each other from playing in jams. We played a gig, and we felt like it worked, so we just stuck together. Ori was actually a replacement because Daniel couldn’t make Battle of the Bands, so we called him. And now he’s officially in the band. This is his second gig with us.
How did it feel to play your first show with Don at the Birthday Battle?
Ori: It was great. It was fun. I’ve always wanted to play this kind of music, and it’s cool to have that opportunity. I play a lot of jazz, which is fun in its own right, but hip-hop is pretty cool.
Stefán: Everyone has a jazz background except for me and Bobby Jimmi. So we take a lot of influence from the Seattle jazz scene.
What was it like switching from jazz to this style of music?
Ori: It’s cool to have jazz influences in my playing, at least for this group. I think it lends itself really well to having jazz influences. But I see them as being pretty similar, to be honest. It didn’t seem like a very big jump.
Phinehas: I’m from North Carolina, so I was already doing stuff like this in high school. I moved to France, so they weren’t doing this type of hip hop. I’m just happy to be in Seattle, where they’re giving me a little bit of what I used to do back home.
How did it feel to win Birthday Battle?
Stefán: It was cool. Everyone was sitting there, and we were all watching the numbers go up. Phinehas was like, ‘Yes!’ when we got a vote, and then when we got passed, he was like, ‘No!’ They ended up having people vote on the way out, so by the time we got informed that we won, it was just us and the people running the event. So we got to have our own little celebration. We’re psyched.
What are you looking forward to about tonight?
Stefán: I think there are a lot of people who saw us perform at the battle and are excited to see us tonight. I’m excited to have some fun and perform in front of the people who really like us.
Phinehas: I just want to be thankful for being able to play this music in front of an audience. I hope that I can give them something of satisfaction.
Bobby Jimmi: I get my energy from the crowd. If they’re dead, I’m going to be dead.
Ori: I’m just excited to play for a full house. It should have good energy.
How do you balance being a UW student and being in a band?
Stefán: People say it’s hard, but it’s not really that hard. I can speak for all of us when I say that, beyond school, what we do is music. We just make time for it. Maybe we don’t go to parties or we don’t chill with frats. Instead, we’re doing music. I don’t find it to be that difficult. I find it to be kind of natural. It’s like work and play.
What’s next for you guys?
Stefán: We’re in the studio right now, recording our debut, which is coming out June 1. We hope to do a West Coast tour come August. Beyond that, who knows. After this show, just having more fun, doing everything we can. Being grateful, being thankful. Sharing energy, receiving energy.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 2010, you may have a decent idea of who Kendrick Lamar is. Since his official label debut good kid, m.A.A.d city, Lamar has earned himself worldwide appeal as both a popular and conscious rapper. Now, two years since his genre-shattering To Pimp A Butterfly, Lamar has returned to the spotlight with DAMN., a record dense with personal reflection and exemplary production that once again establishes him as one of the all-time greats.
“So I was taking a walk the other day…” Kendrick starts DAMN. off with a short narrative in which he describes his own death. It seems that the remainder of the album revolves around Lamar contemplating his own life, considering if his life would have been worthy of living had he actually died. The album even reverses on “DUCKWORTH.”, the final track, and returns to where DAMN. started off. The song titles cut no corners; each previews the song’s subject matter. “HUMBLE.”, for example, delicately balances on Lamar’s own bravado and the constant reminder to “sit down” and “be humble.” Other tracks cut deeper. “FEAR.” outlines Lamar’s fears, including death’s unpredictability and of losing the fame and wealth he’s earned. The mood throughout the album sways between vulnerable and confident; it’s a blend of what made both To Pimp A Butterfly and good kid, m.A.A.d city unique. Despite relying on similar tones, Lamar delves into new topics and makes DAMN. feel just as unique as his previous two works.
Unlike To Pimp A Butterfly, DAMN. features a departure from jazz rap, rather fusing pop, electronic, alternative, and trap music into a refreshing sound that caters to Lamar’s versatility. The production credits are indicative of such; to name a few, James Blake, 9th Wonder, James Blake, Steve Lacy, and BADBADNOTGOOD all lend their production talents on DAMN. Each song is an otherworldly experience on its own, yet listened to side by side reveal the narrative of Lamar’s latest work. “XXX.” features perhaps the wildest beat switch (one of many) on the album, exploding from a dark, bass-driven beat into a flurry of sirens. Other highlights include “LUST.”, a song empowered by a delayed entry of the drums, and “PRIDE.”, whose guitar chords slow the pace to a melodic crawl.
To Pimp A Butterfly took some time to grow on me when I first heard it. I was initially disappointed because I was hoping to hear more tracks reminiscent of good kid, m.A.A.d city, but instead what I got was vastly opposite. Once I had come around to it, however, I learned that artists aren’t supposed to rely on formulaic music to become successful. Real artists grow and change; they learn and evolve to create new, exceptional music that keeps them one step ahead of the competition. Lamar’s competition, Drake, has fallen victim to this and chosen to stick to what works rather than take risks and mature as an artist. Lamar, on the other hand, continues to grow and surprise his fans, with each new album being more unprecedented than the last. DAMN. is a shining example of such. An album inspired by Lamar’s own life and attitude, it stands alone as a masterpiece and singular experience. Lamar continues to solidify his placement upon the Mount Rushmore of rap, and he will most certainly surprise us all with whatever he has planned next. Listen to DAMN. here.
So, a few weeks ago a few friends and I went to go see Hayley Kiyoko live. The performance was at the wonderful Crocodile in downtown Seattle (although the roof was leaking??) and we were excited to see the show. We got there praying there wouldn’t be an opener, we just wanted to get straight to the Hayley Kiyoko part of the night. But there was an opener, of course, the upcoming band Flor. To our surprise, Flor blew us away with their music and stage presence – they rocked our socks right off. Surely, we thought, Hayley would top them by leaps and bounds – this wasn’t the case. Hayley Kiyoko was fine, she got the job done but all in all she was a beautiful mess. The show felt unprofessional, and I’d describe her stage presence and remarks thereof as a long Tumblr text post I did not want to read. So, this blog is gonna be about Flor, because I fell in love with them. Sorry Hayley.
Although Flor has just only started touring and doing large live performances, they still managed to impress us. The lead singer, Zach, was adorable and so awesome and kind to the audience. He had sort of a cute and quirky way of getting us pumped up. After their first few songs he thanked the audience, “Thank you guys for applauding, you really didn’t have to. It could’ve been totally silent, and I just wanna thank you guys for the applause”. I hope that in the future, if Flor gets big, that he doesn’t lose this thankfulness to a jaded look at fame and performance.
All four members of the band had a stage presence that played off one another, they worked as a cohesive organism that made awesome rock sounds. Not only was their stage presence just fantastic, so was their music. The indie and high voice of the singer was the perfect complement to the airy indie rock music flow they had going on. They did a really cool rock style performance of Adele’s “Send my Love (to your new lover)” that you can watch here:
All in all the concert rocked, and it was really worth it to see Flor – oh, and Hayley Kiyoko was there too. I ended up buying this sick hat from the Flor merch, I liked them so much.
<3 Zach Krieger
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.
You can listen to I Swear I’m Good at This 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.
In case you couldn’t tell by the album’s title, Joey Bada$$ is not merely dropping a typical rap album. Inspired by the late Capital Steez’s AmeriKKKan Korruption, Bada$$ has decided to follow in the footsteps of Pro Era’s former great. Exactly five years to the date after Steez’s album, Bada$$ has delivered a project strongly rooted in the “korruption” in present day America.
ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ features a departure from Bada$$’ typical boom-bop New York sound, favoring a tracklist highlighted by bright production and jazz rap. Long-time producer Statik Selektah produced only two of the twelve tracks on his new album, compared to four on B4.DA.$$. This time around, Bada$$’ producers implement horn sections and electric guitar on a number of tracks, elevating them from decent to fantastic, as well as displaying Bada$$’ adaptability by stepping in a new direction of melody. The middle of the tracklist includes what might be the grooviest sequence of production on an album this year, with “TEMPTATION”, “LAND OF THE FREE”, “DEVASTATED”, and “Y U DON’T LOVE ME (MISS AMERIKKKA)” following one after another. The transition from these four tracks to the next two, “ROCKABYE BABY” and “RING THE ALARM”, is completely jarring, but a welcome shift back towards Bada$$ embracing his ruthless lyricism.
The subject matter is surprisingly heavy compared to the albums upbeat production. Much like Common’s Black America Again, ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ addresses issues plaguing American’s African Americans, such as police brutality, racism, and inequality. “Y U DON’T LOVE ME (MISS AMERIKKKA)” is reminiscent of an homage to 50 Cent’s “21 Questions”, except Bada$$ questions America’s lack of acceptance towards African Americans. He spits, “Tell me why you don’t love me/Why you always misjudge me?/Why you always put so many things above me?/Why you lead me to believe that I’m ugly?”. Bada$$ doesn’t hold back, and it pays off. The last two minutes of the album are when Bada$$ is at his strongest; he effortlessly dismantles the U.S. government, accusing them of trying to start a civil war between its black and white citizens. He encourages his listeners to unite and fight back, rather than fight each other like he believes the government wants.
Bada$$ hits the mark on every aspect of this album. The production is solid, the guest appearances burst each track into flames, and the themes present relevant issues that need to brought forth time and time again. The focus of ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ is much tighter than B4.DA.$$, and its production more versatile. Bada$$ has shown great signs on improvement on his sophomore effort and has proved himself deserving of the national spotlight alongside industry titans like Kendrick Lamar and Drake. Listen to ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ here.
After Father John Misty performed two new songs on Saturday Night Live last month, the online commentary was split in half. Some said his lyrics and fans were pretentious. Others called him genius.
Pure Comedy, Josh Tillman’s third album as Father John Misty, is a calculated mix of both.
The album marks a dark shift in Tillman’s subject matter. While the lyrics on Fear Fun (2012) and I Love You, Honeybear (2015) discuss love, drugs, masculinity, and sexuality, “Pure Comedy” satirizes religion, technology, climate change, politics, and pop culture.
This album lacks the varied pacing of his previous two; almost all the songs on Pure Comedy are slow and moody. One exception is the third track, “Total Entertainment Forever,” an upbeat song you can tap your feet to. It’s a nice breather, and there could have been more songs in this style on the album.
But what Pure Comedy’s sound lacks in speed, it makes up in depth. The instrumentals are far more experimental than either of Tillman’s past solo albums. A minute and a half into “Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution,” the fairly simple melody transforms into an angry swell of horned instruments, echoing vocals, and strings. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album.
Despite these changes, Tillman’s songs still fit his Father John Misty persona like a glove. As usual, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether he’s being sarcastic or genuine. But Tillman knows exactly what he’s doing – he makes that clear in “Leaving LA.” You’ll spend the entire time wondering, “Is he trying too hard, or is he making fun of people who try too hard?” It’s satire at its finest and most frustrating.
Though slow-moving, the album’s beautiful instrumentals and clever lyrics are worth a listen. Whether you roll your eyes or get teary, Pure Comedy will make you think.
The hip-hop community seems to be releasing an endless array of songs commenting on today’s social and political issues. It has struck me that I have not seen as much politically charged music in the indie/folk scene. What has happened to this genre that used to be at the forefront of hippie culture or maybe a better question is who is making the music?
A New Yorker article describes the history and transition of the indie community becoming so white. Look back to the early days of folk and you’ll see how they took the call and response element straight from songs sung on the plantations by slaves. Then listen to the music of the 60’s and 70’s and you’ll hear the blues influence. There was a lot of borrowing between black and white musicians but it stopped according to the article sometime when hip-hop began to take over the charts. Indie rock became white and hip-hop black.
The reason for bringing this up is that indie/folk is my favorite genre but if you told me list to my top 10 even 20 artists from that genre they would all be white. It’s an important aspect of music to acknowledge even if you don’t want to.
First Aid Kit is comprised of two sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg who hail from Sweden. Why I picked to highlight them was because even though they fall in line with the majority of white artists in the indie/folk scene their latest song has a powerful political and social message. The duo’s song is focused on an issue that affects them and half the world’s population, women.
It’s very easy for anyone to take the safe route and say nothing when an issue arises especially if it’s political. But it is important that those with a voice especially musicians speak out and I think First Aid Kit provides a perfect example of how to do that.
“You Are the Problem Here” by First Aid Kit is a rock song done by folk group that is striking. If you’ve heard the Swedish duo before and listen to this new song, you’ll notice it is quite different. Departing from their normal harmonies that are delicate and beautiful, there is a raw anger that comes through the song. From the very beginning you know that you’re getting something different. Instead of the normal acoustic an electric guitar gives energy to the song.
The lyrics are simple, even repetitive but that’s the point. Sexual harassment and rape shouldn’t be so complicated. Consent is an easy concept, that’s why there is so much anger. The last line of the song captures the intense rage the sisters have for those who sexually harass women; “And I hope you fucking suffer”. There is no hidden message, no metaphor it’s raw which is what makes this song powerful.
While it is not my favorite track from the talented Swedes it’s one that is important. It’s a track from the indie community that says something. There are many more out there and hopefully many more to come.
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.
Hear the new tracks here:
Humanz is out on Parlophone on April 28th.
March 3, 2017 was when Seattle welcomed the up and coming
pop artist Quinn XCII into its classic rainy Friday night music scene for his
third show on his first ever headlining tour- The One Day at a Time Tour. We
sat down in the equipment room before his sold-out show at Barboza in the
Capitol Hill area of Seattle and chatted music, tour life, and his take on
entering the music scene. Out of his 18 stops on the tour, this was his third
show and at the time, all of the three were sold out, not a bad start.
I began the conversation by asking some local Seattle
questions as this was the Michigan native’s first time in the Emerald City and did
not get a chance to see the classic tourist sights, but he seemed to be a good
fit in the city as he said craft beer and coffee were two of his favorite
things in the world. He said he had plans on enjoying the local beer scene post
show. We also shared a few words on coffee, given that Seattle is famous for
its caffeinated drink and he said he has gained a new respect for it as it is
beneficial in order to make the most of his studio time and the “idea-sparking”
powers coffee has on him when writing.
With now over 1,000,000 monthly listeners on Spotify and
64,000 followers on SoundCloud, Quinn gives credit to his music inspiration
coming from his parent’s record collection and influences from artists such as
Michael Jackson and the Motown scene surrounding Detroit, his hometown. In high
school Quinn began experimenting with his vocals and music in general as he
began to write raps and rap over beats him and his current day producer that
goes by the name Ayokay, would find on YouTube. From this sparked a musical
relationship between the two as they began “cultivating” their own sound
through these experiments. Quinn says the biggest challenge in creating music
is being able to stray away from the crowd and craft his own sound.
Quinn spent his college days at Michigan State University
and his sophomore year was when he released his first official project via
SoundCloud, which he gives credit to being a major reason he was able to gain a
following during those first days of creating music. It was soon after that he
began playing live shows and says that after a show on a tour with electronic
artist Louis The Child in Lansing, Michigan, that was the moment he realized he
could do music as a career as he felt a, “powerful reciprocation” from the
crowd he had not felt before.
We spoke on his hit song, “Straightjacket” that has a line
about a, “Psycho from a Mid-West suburb,” and I was curious whether he wrote
the song about anyone is particular which lead to a discussion about his
writing style and how he writes his music to which he responded by saying, “I
like to step out of the box and speak on a topic that I don’t really pertain to
with what I’ve been through, but I know people can relate to because people
have been through it.”
A breakthrough artist who has been on two tours with artists
Louis the Child and SoMo and now getting the opportunity to go on his first headlining
tour has loved traveling and seeing new cities all over the United States. Quinn
also stated that his favorite fast food stop while living life on the road has
to be Burger King but that after a night of drinking with the crew the most
visited spot has to be the classic golden arches of McDonalds. And although
tour life has many promising features along with his new life living in Los
Angeles, Quinn says he misses the laid-back lifestyle the Mid-West has as well
as spending time with his friends and family.
Mike is Quinn XCII’s real name, and the first name he used
when he began releasing music was Mike-T. Eventually he decided to switch it up
and go with an acronym that he heard from a college professor at Michigan State,
Quinn, which stands for: Quit Unless your Instincts are Never Neglected. This
acronym to him means, “If you don’t have an instinct saying to stop what you’re
doing, continue what you are pursuing.” Due to copyright reasons, he ended up
throwing in the XCII for the roman numerals that translate to the number 92,
which was the year he was born. Due to the complexity of the name story, Mike
decides to introduce himself as Quinn and simply go by that name in the music
As an up and coming artist who just recently signed with
Columbia Records, Quinn says that he doesn’t feel famous, or in other words
hasn’t felt that he is “under a microscope” and jokes that he has decided to
just relax and take it “One day at a time,” following that statement by, “No
pun intended with the tour name.” He states that most of all he is very humbled
that people enjoy his music and says it is the, “Best feeling in the world.” Quinn
has a new single that recently dropped called, “Make Time,” and Quinn stated
that a new album is in the works that will be followed by a two month fall tour
Following the interview, I was able to enjoy the concert
with the sold-out crowd and I danced with the melodic sounds of his music that
he claims is, “Great Summertime music,” and I will have to agree. His voice is
electrifying and his positive energy and genuine smile kept the vibes in the
crowd going as a majority of the crowd sang along song after song. Accompanied
by a live band on the keys and drums, his live act is very entertaining and he
brings a real energy to the show with his interaction with the crowd. I will
most definitely be seeing him on his fall tour!
Keep your eyes peeled for this up and coming talent in the pop
and electronic music scenes who is enjoying his new life in the music scene,
one day at a time.
-Gustavo O’Connell, RainyDawg DJ