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.
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.
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.
As the first few seconds of Weyes Blood’s new album ring out, the ethereal piano perfectly sets up the rest of the album: while beautiful, the arpeggio puts us on edge, and as singer and writer Natalie Mering’s vocals come in, it is clear what kind of ride we’re in for. The album is a trip into the stratosphere, and its songs, the lengthy piano ballads, will make space seem like the perfect place to fall in love.
Front Row Seat to Earth is Mering’s first full-length album since 2014’s The Innocents, another solid effort from the Brooklyn singer, and Front Row picks up right where its predecessor left off. Piano, along with Mering’s quivering alto, take center stage for just about the entire album, pairing off nicely with some truly lovesick lyrics.
Take the album’s second song, the lurching “Used to Be”, which includes the chorus’ aching line, “Used to be the one/that knew me/saw through me”. Mering doesn’t hold back the sadness on this album; she lets it lead the way, wearing it like a badge of honor. On cuts like these, you really start to see shades of Sharon van Etten, another female singer-songwriter preoccupied with pain. And, like van Etten, Mering does a fantastic job of tastefully riding waves of sadness in these songs.
Acoustic ballad “Be Free” includes some truly enchanting harmonies, lifting the song into the same territory as Radiohead’s “How to Disappear Completely” as a song that doesn’t need to be any more than it is, and it works its melancholy magic to perfection. “Be Free” is a truly beautiful song, one of the most major-key songs on the album, and yet it never feels truly happy. It’s a nostalgic song, to be sure.
However, it’s on “Be Free” that I started to notice how long the songs are. This is a 45-minute album, but it only has nine songs on it, eight if you don’t count the two-minute instrumental outro. An album like this needs to give the listener a bit more room to breathe; it’s very easy to get lost in a song, like the six-and-a-half minute “Do You Need My Love”, making it hard to pay attention to the entire thing. The second half of the album tends to get weighed down by this problem. By the time we get there, we’re already worn out from listening.
That’s not to say these songs are bad, by the way. “Generation Why” starts very slowly, but its barren sound is a nice change from the overblown noise of “Do You Need My Love”. It’s vocals, also, echo some of Imogen Heap’s work in the best way possible. This trend continues on the almost entirely vocal “Can’t Go Home”, which is a nice track but really shows the signs of listener fatigue that gets this part of the album. Single “Seven Words” is a nice foray back into percussion; though Weyes Blood is almost always at her best when drums aren’t in the mix, we need them here, to keep the songs moving forward a little quicker. I love the soulful, beachy guitar solo in the middle of this track, bringing a nice swell of melody and color into the song. “Away Above”, the last track with vocals, is one of the best cuts on the album, with warm acoustic guitar and subtle percussion giving Mering a perfect backdrop to sing in front of.
This is a great album for those who are fans of music made out of great sadness. The album is haunting in every way, with special considerations going to Mering’s incredible vocal performance throughout the album, which perfectly showcases both her range and her greatest strengths. The album tends to drag a bit, so don’t expect to be particularly familiar with the last few songs until a few listens in. Any fans of Sharon van Etten and Sufjan Stevens will certainly enjoy this album, but it’s worth a listen for anybody.
Front Row Seat to Earth is available on Mexican Summer Records.
The Austin, Illinois native brings hope and energy to his neglected neighborhood with poetic lyrics and organic production dripping with neo-soul.
2016 has been a year filled with soulful projects stemming from young Chicago artists, including; Noname’s ‘Telefone’, Mick Jenkins’ ‘The Healing Component’, and of course Chance the Rapper’s explosive ‘Coloring Book’. Saba, an independent poet-turned-rapper, has consistently collaborated with each of these artists, and on his new ‘Bucket List Project’ (Released October 27) he establishes his role in Chicago’s progressive music scene. This project is the follow-up to the 22-year-old’s 2014 mixtape, ‘Comfort Zone,’ which highlighted his creative storytelling and impassioned beat selection.
A bucket list typically consists of goals and aspirations one dreams of achieving in their lifetime. On his new project, Saba pushes the importance of utilizing ambition through lyrical anecdotes and scattered voicemails regarding the bucket lists of various friends and fellow musicians. Luscious production provided by frequent collaborators Phoelix, Cam O’bi and MonteBooker serves as a perfect backdrop for the album’s poetic reflection on West-Chicago’s repressed neighborhoods. Tracks range from warm and intimate to blunt and intense, but remain focused on inspiring optimism in “the part of the city that they don’t be talking about” to quote the fiery track, ‘Westside Bound 3.” Saba addresses the influences of childhood experiences and relationships in songs like ‘Church / Liquor Store’ and ‘Stoney’ while demonstrating his determination to chase his dream. By speaking on the obstacles obstructing his hometown’s community, Saba finds beauty within the struggle and poetically reinforces the prospect of a brighter future on tracks like ‘Most’ and ‘California.’ All in all, the vibrantly vivid ‘Bucket List Project’ encapsulates the importance of fulfilling goals and living life to the fullest while reflecting on the difficulties of developing in a harsh environment. I highly encourage curious readers to give this innovative project a listen, you won’t be disappointed!