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.
remember the song “Gold”? You know, released in 2013 – popular over the summer
that next year? No, well, unfortunately not many people I’ve talked to seem to
remember it. Clicking this might jog your memory, if
you’ve heard it before at least. The song was off the album You Haunt Me by Sir Sly, and it was a magnificent album. Sir Sly focuses on an
ambient, electronic “chill” pop sound mixed with some interesting vocals. The
band is a three-piece formed in California just back in 2012, so relatively new
to the music scene. You Haunt Me is
their debut, with 12 tracks, was released in 2014. I’ve been patiently awaiting
the release of a second album; but, it’s been three years and all I’ve gotten
is one single, “Expectations”, in 2016 and nothing since. I figure maybe if
they get more support they’ll be more apt to release some new music, so here’s
an artist rediscovery of Sir Sly.
heard Sir Sly, it because you found them through their most popular song,
“Gold”, which admittedly is a pretty sick track. A lot of the tracks on You Haunt Me feel very much like “Gold”,
with a sort of accusatory lyrical composition and an ambient electronic feel.
It’s the sort of music you listen to on a cloudy day (so pretty much everyday
here..). Like any angsty new band, the songs focus mainly on the destructive
end of a relationship, and the hindsight that comes with it. From tracks that
focus on self-doubt like ”Leave You, to tracks that blame the other person,
like “Found You Out”, we journey through every part of a relationship as it
ends. This album has it all; from fast paced and anger filled, to melancholy
takes advantage of metaphor, and employs the technique liberally throughout all
their songs. It kicks ass when coupled with the atmospheric feel of the whole
album. Not only that, but the unique twinge of the vocals completes the
electronic undertones that accent most of the tracks. Beyond the base
metaphors, the lyrics feel destructive and precise, they hit right where they’re
meant to – this band certainly is country but they know how to pull your
heartstrings. I’ve found that they express a lot of things about love that you
won’t find very often in music; the subtle doubts. Sir Sly doesn’t necessarily
focus on huge, glaring, problems that are visible on the surface of a relationship.
Rather, their music emphasizes things like pride or disloyalty (or other
personality traits) that leak into a relationship and poison it. Here are some
of my favorite lyrics:
“A taker and a giver / Oh I made you shiver
/ Couldn’t I deliver?” (Found You Out)
“I believed in you and then you feel apart/ You broke my trust, broke
my heart” (Nowhere/Bloodlines, Pt. I)
“I’ll be the bigger man while you act like you’re innocent / No matter
where you go, your lies will follow you” (Found You Out)
“I don’t owe you a single thing, not a God damn thing” (Gold)
If you don’t listen to Sir Sly then you really should. If you’re
ever feeling angry, sad, or just sorta existing, Sir Sly is the band for you.
They are fairly difficult to characterize, but they are similar to The Neighbourhood,
a slowed down David Guetta, or maybe more of a Bad Suns type vibe. As far as
where to start listening, I recommend “Found You Out”, “Inferno”, and “You Haunt Me”.
Thanks for the read! See you next week.
This Thursday, the 19th, The Bad Plus is performing at The Neptune Theater. I first heard about The Bad Plus from their collaboration with saxophonist Joshua Redman, which was equally exciting and experimental. Similarly, on their own, The Bad Plus refuses to be confined into any one genre or sound. Drawing most of their influence from jazz, The Bad Plus often venture off into genres of rock and pop, but do it in a way that feels comfortable and not gimmicky. Known for off-the-wall covers of various rock and pop tunes, seeing The Bad Plus perform live will be an adventure through the realms of free jazz and pop music alike. The trio consisting of bassist Reid Anderson, drummer David King, and pianist Ethan Iverson all met back in high school and have been making music together since 1990. Regardless of what set the band decides to bring to the audience on Thursday night, it will undoubtedly be one that reflects their forward-thinking mindset and 27 years of musical experience together.
I am not much of a Bruno Mars fan. He is an undeniably talented, versatile artist, and I won’t deny that his pop career has seen huge success. I have just never felt compelled by his music. But in 2014, he surprised me. “Uptown Funk” was unexpectedly groovy, and I couldn’t help getting hooked on its vocal bass line and slick horns. Now, two years later, it’s safe to say that “Uptown Funk” established the retro groundwork for Mars’ newest release, 24k Magic. This album is basically Bruno Mars as a walking throwback, blending pop, funk, and R&B with surprising taste.
Early on, 24k Magic introduces “Chunky”, a synth serenade to “the girls that pay their rent on time”, before changing the pace with “Versace on the Floor”. The latter is a sultry R&B slow-jam that belongs next to a crackling bedroom fireplace sometime in the ‘90s. Mars reincarnates James Brown in “Perm, while “Finesse” oozes with the cocky swagger that brought us “Uptown Funk”.
I would argue that this is his most redeeming album yet, although I likely only hold that opinion because of my soft spot for funk. 24k Magic is a trim, tight project, clocking in at just 33 minutes for 9 tracks. Mars more or less spends the whole time fixated on sex. The result is a mix of fun-sounding songs, but this leaves quite a bit of potential for some more inspired lyrics. I also have yet to be completely won over by his contemporary take on old-school funk, though his attempt is valiant nonetheless. That being said, I expect a handful of these songs to be in my rotation for a little longer. I have high hopes for this new-old direction for Bruno Mars, and I look forward to hearing some more throwbacks from him in the near future.
Somewhere in Baltimore, at the intersection of soul, funk, and pop, you’ll find a man fronting a 9-piece band. The band is called Bosley, and the man is Bosley Brown. Having just stumbled upon them, I only wish that I had discovered them sooner. It’s pretty much impossible to listen without some serious foot tapping, and hearing their music puts me in a good mood every time.
Bosley released their debut, Honey Pig, in 2011. But this was not Bosley as they are today. Bosley Brown wrote and recorded this album with some members of another Baltimore soul group, The Bellevederes. It wasn’t until after its release that he realized he needed his own band. He posted flyers around local college campuses, and the next thing he knew, he had pulled together a full-fledged group of talented young musicians to form Bosley.
Now with a few years together as a band, Bosley makes appearances in the Baltimore music scene with their fiery, high-energy shows. Below is a video of them performing “Sharpshooter” in 2014. The whole room is ready to dance, and the man himself, Bosley, radiates with infectious spirit.
That same year, Bosley released their second album, The Dirty Dogs Radio Show. This fantastic follow-up to Honey Pig is full of more music that you just can’t help but move to. It’s a great expansion on Bosley’s rock-soul sounds, which will soon include Jamaican and electronic influences, according to an interview last month. They are expecting a new release next year, and I will definitely be counting down until then. If you love new bands with old style, give this one a listen.
Jarryd James couldn’t possess a cocky ego if it slapped him right in the face.
Holding a strong, humble, presence in the room, the tall Australian
artist sits will a still calmness about his body. He holds our hands tightly,
asking with an earnestness, “What’s your name, I missed that?”
Eagerly setting in, James is honest and random, as any other
person, laughing and talking about swimming lessons as kids, the summer heat,
and working with troubled kids. This is what pulls him in.
“I was making music for a long time and working with these
kids,” he says. “But then it all went to shit and I just worked for a while. I
had a temper tantrum and just said everything sucks and I don’t want this but
really, it affected me. I was so sad I couldn’t make music anymore, because it was
so impossible to keep making it. And for 2 years, I didn’t make music at all. I
didn’t even listen to the radio.”
James pauses and takes a breath.
“And coming back, I’ve realized how incredibly lucky I am. I
have a lot of friends who are so talented, to be honest, and better than I am.
I’m so fortunate I decided to do this again and that I get to be here and get
to do this.”
Reminiscent of fellow contemporaries, Jack Garratt and James
Vincent McMorrow, James’ new album, High, swims with melodic vocals and textured
“There’s an actual bit of me rustling pages of book on one
of tracks and me using an actual nutcracker on another!” James pipes in with a
smile. With all the texture however,
tracks like “Claim My Love” and “How Do We Make It” echo with emotion, longing,
and nostalgia. The album shines as it varies in tempo and feel, ranging from
more upbeat R&B in tracks like “Sure Love,” to more pop love ballad sounding
tracks like “1000x,” featuring Georgia Nott of BROODS.
As James explains his music career to us, we soon understand
that it’s his underlying emotions that create the works of art he sings. Was
the work with kids influential to his album, we wondered?
“I dealt with a lot of kids who were high school age, and
were very hurt and had dealt with a lot of trauma. So I would say, yeah, it
affected my emotions and my mood. Because, when I’m writing, I go for a mood
rather than a theme. It just what feels like to me. Some people sit down and
say “I want this,” and try to write, and I can’t do this, it would feel forced.
I think in real vague terms, general things. I like to let my subconscious
through. I’m not trying to be innovative. I want my music to be as honest and
pure as possible.”
And we saw Jarryd James own the stage at Neptune Theater in
Seattle, singing soulfully with his eyes closed, we saw his was connected and
disconnected in his own way. He was with the audience yes, but also he was
somewhere else, wherever those underlying feelings lay.
“I needed that two year break not doing music,” he says
softly. “It was a reset, for me to come back to be where I am now.”
Be sure to follow Jarryd James’ tour with BROODS, and
check out his new album, High.
Any major music publication will hastily remind its readers how many great records have come out so far in 2016, many of which are high both in quality and levels of pre-release anticipation. Just to name a few, the year has seen rapturous applause and attention applied to long-awaited releases from
Beyoncé, Rihanna, Radiohead, James Blake, Chance the Rapper, Kanye West, and YG, with more on the way from The Avalanches, LCD Soundsystem, Sigur Ros, and Run the Jewels.
While we wait for the second half of 2016 to continue blowing our minds, the fine folks here at Rainy Dawg Radio would love to wish everyone a happy summer, and we can’t express enough how excited we are for things to kick back into gear this September. Until then, your summer listening material is below, in alphabetical order so as not to spoil my highly anticipated annual Best Albums of the Year list. I’ve also decided to include 5 of my favorite shortform releases of the year so far, just because EPs deserve love, too, and the year has seen many fantastic ones.
Writer’s note: This list is solely the opinion of myself, RDR’s music director, and only includes albums and mixtapes released through the end of June 2016.
50 Best Albums of 2016
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid
Genre: Hip-hop (alternative/underground)
In brief: This is the alt-rap legend’s seventh album, and also his most lonesome one. The Impossible Kid was entirely self-produced and features no other rappers, making it Aes’ most personal record to date, and quite possibly his best (hot take, I know).
RIYL: Danny Brown, MF DOOM, Run the Jewels
Anohni – Hopelessness
Genre: Pop (experimental/electronic)
In brief: A shockingly catchy political pop album that pulls none of its punches. Anohni is something of a musical trio, composed of the titular Artist, former vocalist for Antony and the Johnsons, as well as A++ production team Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke. The result is an in-your-face, punk-as-hell noise pop record that’s glossy, heavy-handed (for better and worse), and totally necessary and relevant.
RIYL: Bjork, The Knife, The Haxan Cloak
Autechre – elseq 1-5
Genre: Electronic (ambient/noise)
In brief: English experimental duo Autechre may have surpassed expectations with 2013’s Exai, the longest the band had released at that point in their twenty-year career, but nothing prepared anyone for this. Elseq 1-5 presents an astounding four hours of top-notch robotic noise, ambient, and so-called “intelligent dance music.” This record is bigger and denser than any black hole, reaching a seemingly post-human form of musical expression. Is this improvised? Pre-written? Listen to it in one session or ten, just consume all it has to offer.
RIYL: Aphex Twin, Oneohtrix Point Never, Four Tet
Beyoncé – Lemonade
Genre: R&B (pop/hip-hop)
In brief: Now, just what in the hell could I say about this album/its release/the visual accompaniment that has not already been picked to bits ad nauseam by everyone else two months ago? Not much; instead I’ll just say how fantastic the music of Lemonade is, especially considering the amount of sonic variation at play. Each song feels right, necessary, and like it fits, even if Bey jumps from garage rock to bouncy reggae-pop to country without a second’s consideration (and thank goodness for it).
RIYL: FKA twigs, Destiny’s Child, Adele
Big Ups – Before a Million Universes
Genre: Punk (post-hardcore/experimental)
In brief: Although largely unknown, this NY rock group dropped one of my favorite albums of 2014 with their debut, Eighteen Hours of Static. Now, the group is back with a less immediately catchy but much better, more cerebral experience of an album. Inspired by the atmospheric post-rock of the genre’s early contributors, like Slint and Bark Psychosis, Before a Million Universes owes a lot to its influences. Yet, it’s still undeniably a current work, filled to the brim with 21st century anxiety and tension. If you messed up by skipping over this band two years ago, then bring balance to your life by not messing up this time.
RIYL: Fugazi, Slint, Shellac
The Body/Full of Hell – One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache
Genre: Metal (noise/grindcore)
In brief: The Body and Full of Hell make music at different speeds, but for some reason putting their collective minds together makes for a cohesive, fast-paced experience. This record is more than bone-chilling, it’s bone-freezing. Absolute terror lurks here, and it’s more thrilling than the five scariest horror movies you’ve seen combined.
RIYL: Nails, Converge, Cult Leader
Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
Genre: Rock (Indie/garage)
In brief: Will Toledo has been in business for quite a while, but finally decided to schedule his breakout project for release through Matador Records. Following last year’s salient Teens of Style, this record (Toledo’s first album of all new material for a label) is 70 minutes of some of the finest indie rock you’ll hear all year. Diverse, funny, sad, and totally worth your while.
RIYL: Guided by Voices, The Strokes, Pavement
Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Genre: Hip-hop (alternative/gospel)
In brief: In which popular, beloved independent rapper Chancelor Bennett follows up a massively acclaimed mixtape with an even more acclaimed mixtape. Unfortunately for me, Coloring Book is not nearly as good as Acid Rap. Still, though, even Chance’s duds are more of a blast than many rappers’ bangers. If you haven’t already listened to this, what the hell is wrong with you, dude?
RIYL: Mick Jenkins, Vic Mensa, Kanye West
Colin Stetson – Sorrow
Genre: Neo-Classical (experimental/opera)
In brief: Colin Stetson has long been impressing folks with his sheer ability as a saxophonist, namely on key releases by everyone from Arcade Fire to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. This time, he put his strengths toward the reinterpretation of a classic symphony by Gorecki, using black metal, post-rock, and jazz as his inspiration through which to create. The result is Sorrow, a frighteningly beautiful album that demands to be heard over and over again.
RIYL: Sigur Ros, Frederic Chopin, Arvo Part
David Bowie – Blackstar
Genre: Rock (experimental/avant-garde)
In brief: Bowie’s swan song; what more is there to it? A vast, gorgeous, totally whacked out record from one of history’s great musical masterminds. As awe-inspiring a late-period album as any of the best from Kate Bush, Tom Waits, Scott Walker, all late-bloomers in their own respects.
RIYL: Scott Walker, Chelsea Wolfe, Iggy Pop
Deakin – Sleep Cycle
Genre: Folk (psychedelic/avant-garde)
In brief: Deakin, a.k.a. Animal Collective’s lost member. My boy here has been working on this record for several years, and the only thing wrong with it is that it’s criminally short. Otherwise, it’s one of the best solo Animal Collective albums ever, rivaling Panda Bear’s beloved Person Pitch. This record is freaky, beautiful, and everything I wanted from Deakin’s solo debut.
RIYL: Vashti Bunyan, The Microphones, Animal Collective circa 2005
Death Grips – Bottomless Pit
Genre: Punk (noise/rap)
In brief: Death Grips are secretly the greatest band of our generation. They fight all boundaries, resulting in otherworldly music that no other set of musicians is capable of even touching. Bottomless Pit, the band’s fifth studio album, serves as further proof that the band can do no wrong. This record is full of noisy, filthy, catchy songs about debaucherous acts, death, and occultish mystery, all of which are subjects from which Death Grips scarcely shies away. Basically, Death Grips do what they do and they do it with equal excellence as they always do.
RIYL: Lightning Bolt, Clipping., The Locust
Deerhoof – The Magic
Genre: Rock (pop/noise)
In brief: Longstanding noise pop group Deerhoof are back with one of their best records in quite a while. Delightfully catchy and outlandishly weird, it won’t be too long before The Magic goes down as Deerhoof’s best late-period album, with its myriad of great songs backed by unrivaled musicianship. One of the most underrated bands ever is back, and probably won’t be converting any non-believers.
RIYL: Kero Kero Bonito, Melt-Banana, Flaming Lips
Denzel Curry – Imperial
Genre: Hip-hop (underground/turnt)
In brief: The latest project from Florida rapper Denzel Curry totally caught me off guard. Imperial is a short, unfiltered psychological journey through the gritty streets of Miami. It’s not the most original record on the block, but it’s angry, consistent, and real damn exciting to listen to.
RIYL: Joey Bada$$, Mick Jenkins, Three 6 Mafia
Diarrhea Planet – Turn to Gold
Genre: Rock (garage/punk)
In brief: Turn to Gold is the third album from the horridly named six-piece Diarrhea Planet. Get past the name, however, and you’re in for one of the most fun, unashamedly upbeat rock records of the summer. Combine the shredding guitar leads of classic Van Halen (praise due to the band’s four guitar players) with the unhinged garage rock Jay Reatard and you have Diarrhea Planet, the one band missing from your life.
RIYL: The White Stripes, Japandroids, Jay Reatard
The Drones – Feelin Kinda Free
Genre: Rock (Garage/experimental)
In brief: Australian rock group The Drones have been kicking rock-n-roll in the head for nearly two decades now, and their music has not reached the wide audience it deserves. The group’s latest record is another in a series of atmospheric, noisy garage freakouts, with deftly political lyrics from the band’s cynical vocalist, Gareth Liddard. You won’t hear anything quite like this in 2016 or any other year.
RIYL: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Mogwai, Sleaford Mods
Future of the Left – The Peace & Truce of Future of the Left
Genre: Punk (post-hardcore/noise)
In brief: Future of the Left is a Welsh group led by Andrew Falkous, the notorious former lead vocalist of cult noise rock band Mclusky. The past few years have seen him apply his ferocious snarl to Future of the Left, a similarly funny, snide group that paints vivid, disturbing images with its music. A totally bonkers experience, much like all of the band’s albums, and yet another in a series of fantastic Future of the Left albums.
RIYL: Mclusky, Shellac, The Austerity Program
.gif from god – …defragmented…reformatted
Genre: Metal (screamo/powerviolence)
In brief: I don’t know much about this band, but I do know that they have a fantastically ridiculous name to go along with their fantastically ridiculous music. This record is a short, no-bullshit explosion of classic screamo, powerviolence, and mathcore. It scratches the itch that can generally be quelled with classic Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge albums, but is chock-full of ugly vocal performances and fierce riffs that feel undeniably fresh.
RIYL: Converge, The Blood Brothers, The Dillinger Escape Plan
The Hotelier – Goodness
Genre: Rock (indie/emo)
In brief: I was blown totally out of the water by New England emo group The Hotelier’s last album, 2014’s Home, Like Noplace Is There. This time around, the band goes for a more straightforward, but still lyrically dense and highly passionate style of music. While not as immediately effective as Home, it reveals its magic and goodness – if you will – with each subsequent listen.
RIYL: The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die, The Promise Ring, Foxing
James Ferraro – Human Story 3
Genre: Ambient (experimental/v a p o r w a v e)
In brief: James Ferraro is one of contemporary music’s most versatile underground sensations. He’s released foundational masterworks in ambient, electronic, and beat-based music, from his beloved NYC, Hell 3:00 AM to the underrated Far Side Virtual. I didn’t love his last album, which came out at the end of last year, but I am floored with this one. An experimental piece about our relationship with technology and capitalism, Human Story 3 is an abstract, astonishing experience that will shock you, make you laugh, and maybe make you cry.
RIYL: Dean Blunt, death’s dynamic shroud.wmv, Arca
Joey Purp – iiiDrops
Genre: Hip-hop (alternative/pop)
In brief: Joey Purp’s sophomore tape is one of the most fun hip-hop records I’ve heard this year. Believe it or not, this Chicago rapper’s new project, iiiDrops, did more for me than the latest releases from his counterparts, Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa. This record is full of great hooks, amazing production, and some notable bars from Joey Purp. This tape is just waiting to be your summer jams mix.
RIYL: Chance the Rapper, Mick Jenkins, Le1f
John Congleton & the Nighty Nite – Until the Horror Goes
Genre: Rock (experimental/noise)
In brief: John Congleton deserves praise for many reasons. He’s the Grammy-winning producer behind albums from groups like Swans, St. Vincent, and Explosions in the Sky. He’s also the former vocalist for avant-rock group The Paper Chase, one of the most original groups to ever exist. For his debut solo album, Congleton takes all the frightening, morbid imagery he’s known for writing about and filters them through bizarrely catchy and legitimately great tunes. This one is super under-the-radar, and I don’t know why I haven’t heard much buzz over it, but it’s totally worth checking out.
RIYL: The Paper Chase, AJJ, The Mountain Goats
Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
Genre: Hip-hop (R&B/gospel)
In brief: It’s fuckin’ Kanye, man. It’s TLOP, dude. Just get over it.
RIYL: Kid Cudi, Chance the Rapper, Travi$ Scott
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
Genre: Rock (garage/experimental)
In brief: This is King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s ninth album in half as many years, and through their intense recording/touring schedule they still somehow produce phenomenal music. Case in point, Nonagon Infinity, perhaps the band’s finest, sharpest work yet. The album works as an endless loop, with refrains and hooks popping up repeatedly throughout the album’s runtime. Nonagon Infinity feels like one really long, amazing song, and features some of the most passionate, tight musicianship I’ve heard this year.
RIYL: The Wytches, Tame Impala, Ty Segall
Lemon Demon – Spirit Phone
Genre: Pop (alternative/experimental)
In brief: It’s time we give Neil Cicierega the crown he deserves, because the man is a musical genius. Recorded entirely by himself, Spirit Phone is the latest record under Neil’s Lemon Demon alias. Being the man responsible for “The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny,” the Potter Puppet Pals, and 2014’s two fantastically blasphemous mashup records Mouth Sounds and Mouth Silence, I should have expected that he would outdo himself once again. This album is a weird, hilarious new wave album that piggybacks off the music of Devo, Talking Heads, and They Might Be Giants. Few albums are as fun to listen to as this one, and the fact that more people aren’t talking about it is a travesty.
RIYL: They Might Be Giants, Devo, Talking Heads
Lil Yachty – Lil Boat
Genre: Hip-hop (New ATL/#Based)
In brief: Lil Yachty is one of the more polarizing musical figures to drop out of an already polarizing musical scene. In a sea of rappers trying to cash in on the popularity of Young Thug, Future, and Migos, Lil Yachty stands alone as a creative talent with a vision and a whacked-out concept. I fully recognize that Lil Boat is not the most highbrow record to come out of hip-hop this year, but it’s one of the catchiest, simplest, and most memorable. It achieves what it was trying to, and then some, and it’s all the more fun for it.
RIYL: Young Thug, Lil B, Migos
LUH – Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing
Genre: Rock (indie/pop)
In brief: Once, Ellery James Roberts was the sore-throated vocalist for beloved indie rock group WU LYF (pronounced, “Woo! Life!”). After releasing one great album, he broke the band up to pursue a new project, a musical/visual duo with his girlfriend called LUH, which is short for Lost Under Heaven. Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing is the duo’s debut, and it’s a pretty ambitious undertaking. Roberts’ vocals sound as gnashed as ever, and his placement atop squelching synths and thunderous drums makes for a truly epic musical experience.
RIYL: King Krule, The National, WU LYF
Matmos – Ultimate Care II
Genre: Ambient (musique-concrete/electronic)
In brief: Matmos has built its career off of making music out of non-music. No one takes sampling quite as seriously as this electronic duo, and it has resulted in one of the finest discographies in sample-based music. Ultimate Care II manages to be unlike anything Matmos has ever done, seeming almost like a joke or a dare gone horribly right. The record is based entirely off samples of a washing machine, the model of which the album is named after. Sounds pretentious and stupid, but it’s a thoroughly beautiful and engaging record that if played for someone not privy to the concept they would have no idea any clothes-cleaning devices were involved.
RIYL: Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Tycho
Mitski – Puberty 2
Genre: Rock (indie/emo)
In brief: Mitski’s newest record is a slow burner as well as a barn burner. She crafts amazing tales and disguises them as catchy, depression-rock ‘90s jams. Seriously, “Your Best American Girl” might be the best song Hole never wrote. It takes a few spins to really unravel the emotions and stories at play here, but the music is simple, haunting, and another example of an independent bedroom pop artist releasing a capital-R “Rock” opus.
RIYL: St. Vincent, Frankie Cosmos, PJ Harvey
Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
Genre: Punk (pop/emo)
In brief: Fans of Philly kids Modern Baseball already know what the band is capable of in under 30 minutes. The group’s previous two albums, You’re Gonna Miss It All and Sports, are some of the finest pieces of modern indie rock music this side of the emo spectrum, and Holy Ghost manages to surpass both of them in equal stride. This brief, dual-sided journey into the minds of the band’s two vocalists/songwriters is perhaps not as immediately catchy as the band’s previous work, but still mature, funny, and dreadfully sad.
RIYL: Joyce Manor, Spraynard, The Front Bottoms
Moonsorrow – Jumalten Aika
Genre: Metal (folk/black)
In brief: This is the latest record from long-running Norwegian black metal band Moonsorrow, a band with whom my familiarity begins and ends with Jumalten Aika. This record caught me off guard, as it nicely combines the epic, atmospheric nature of black metal with folk music without losing a bit of raw sonic energy. This record is long-winded in the best possible way, and features some unforgettable metal music.
RIYL: Korpiklaani, Agalloch, Panopticon
Nails – You Will Never Be One of Us
Genre: Metal (hardcore/powerviolence)
In brief: At 21 minutes in length, this is the longest album yet from California grind trio Nails, a group notorious for their blistering, uncompromising sound. For their third record, Nails deliver more of the same short whirlwinds of distortion and screams while also demonstrating their ability to experiment and try something new. This is for all fans of loud rock, hardcore, and getting their teeth kicked the fuck in.
RIYL: Dead in the Dirt, Pissgrave, Slayer
Open Mike Eagle & Paul White – Hella Personal Film Festival
Genre: Hip-hop (underground/alternative)
In brief: Open Mike Eagle has a consistently great discography that grows greater and more expansive with each release. Hella Personal Film Festival, a collaboration with esteemed UK producer Paul White, is probably the finest, most introspective work Mike has dealt so far, and his ironic sense of humor blends right in with his depictions of anxiety, racism, and living with one’s significant other.
RIYL: Milo, Das Racist, Danny Brown
Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä
Genre: Metal (psychedelic/black)
In brief: Oranssi Pazuzu is a Finnish metal band that has been expanding and warping the boundaries of black metal for several years, to mixed results. Värähtelijä is the finest record the band has ever crafted, distilling black metal through psychedelic rock, krautrock, and noise, resulting in a hell of a cerebral experience. This record is highly inaccessible, but far-and-away one of the best metal records of the year so far.
RIYL: Darkspace, Krieg, Ulver
Parquet Courts – Human Performance
Genre: Rock (indie/garage)
In brief: Indie rock transplants Parquet Courts never fail to impress, whether it’s their one-off experimental EPs or their wonderfully written rock LPs. Human Performance is the latest and most immediately pleasant record from the acclaimed band, and it is unbelievably good. There are actually moments where it sounds like Parquet Courts are writing their version of a pop song, and it totally works. If the band hasn’t done it for you in the past, get a load of this and try again.
RIYL: The Velvet Underground, Pavement, Wire
Pop. 1280 – Paradise
Genre: Rock (industrial/noise)
In brief: Another terrifying listening experience! Paradise is the latest record from fearless noisemakers Pop. 1280, and it sounds especially apocalyptic. Even when it sounds like a Marilyn Manson album, it sounds legitimately creepy and weird. If that description sounds like this album will do something for you, it probably will.
RIYL: Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Youth Code
PUP – The Dream is Over
Genre: Punk (rock/emo)
In brief: Canadian band PUP comes through with a bigger, better sophomore album. The Dream is Over is a fierce bummer of an album, and it’s one of the best damn rock albums of 2016. I can’t stop listening to it. Someone help me, please.
RIYL: Rozwell Kid, Joyce Manor, Jeff Rosenstock
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Genre: Sad (ambient/damn)
In brief: Radiohead. There is literally nothing I could say beyond that, because it’s been said before. Just listen to the damn thing. If you don’t like it, no one’s going to sue you or call you a bad Radiohead fan. I happen to find this record mystifyingly beautiful and very sad.
RIYL: Feeling Thom Yorke’s tears pour from your ducts for some reason
Skepta – Konnichiwa
Genre: Grime (hip-hop/real shit)
In brief: I often find grime albums to be disappointing. They’re generally stuffed with filler, bad hooks, and tend to run long. International superstar (and friend of Drake) Skepta, however, defies all those complaints with a tight, cohesive bruiser of a grime LP. Even the bad songs are really good. If you’ve been unconvinced with grime, like many Americans tend to be when first exposed to the strictly British genre, check out Konnichiwa, a.k.a. the best grime album in years.
RIYL: Dizzee Rascal, Jme, Kano
The Sooper Swag Project – Badd Timing
Genre: Hip-hop (alternative/experimental)
In brief: This one caught me off guard, to say the least. Badd Timing is the latest album from Chicago heads and yunk-destroyers The Sooper Swag Project. The premise for this record is deceptively simple: math-rap. Yet, somehow the group manages to put together a pretty great LP of catchy, goofy hip-hop songs that have no interest in your damned 4/4 time signature. At one point, there’s a song whose beat spells out a hidden message in Morse Code, over which one of the trio’s rappers spits effortlessly. It’s fucking weird and I love it.
RIYL: Clipping., Open Mike Eagle, Milo
Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Genre: Country (folk/soul)
In brief: Like many, I was first turned on to the music of Mr. Sturgill Simpson two years ago when he released the acclaimed album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. I didn’t love that record, but it made me look forward to what would come next, and Simpson did not disappoint. Written as a horn-heavy self-produced country concept album dedicated to his young son, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is a breathtaking album that packs a lot into a little. Come for the gorgeous opener, stay for the shockingly lovely Nirvana cover.
RIYL: Bill Callahan, Uncle Tupelo, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
Swans – The Glowing Man
Genre: Post-rock (Experimental/ambient)
In brief: The Glowing Man is the fourth and final album of Swans’ second official incarnation, closing out one of the finest album runs in modern rock history, especially considering Swans enjoyed a diverse, ambitious career during their initial run from the early 1980s to 1997. This record isn’t as urgent as its predecessor, To Be Kind, but it’s still a fantastic, dreary, meditative album that sticks to Swans’ current formula without a dull moment ever touching its two-hour length. This album is a monolith, but one worth diving into with every bit of your attention.
RIYL: Current 93, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Chelsea Wolfe
Told Slant – Going By
Genre: Rock (indie/emo)
In brief: I was properly introduced to Told Slant when they opened up for The Hotelier a few weeks before the release of this album. I was especially taken with the group’s principal songwriter/vocalist/member, Felix Walworth, whose stage presence, lyrics, and vocals captivated me. Most of the songs from which Told Slant played were from the as-yet-unreleased album, Going By, which would strike me just as much upon release as it did when they were playing the songs live. This album is a sad, sleepy slap in the face that finds uplifting messages of advice and love in between bits of unrelenting self-loathing.
RIYL: Low, Xiu Xiu, Frankie Cosmos
Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger
Genre: Rock (Garage/psychedelic)
In brief: Quick question – Why the hell aren’t more people talking about this album? Emotional Mugger is far-and-away the greatest thing Ty Segall has ever come up with, serving as a parody of the very fuzzy garage-rock from which Segall pulls so many of his ideas. Centering around a character who’s essentially a giant, whining baby (literally), Emotional Mugger replaces the desire for sex and drugs with candy and a mother’s attention, resulting in an unsettling, heavy, glitchy, catchy rock record that also happened to make for one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen.
RIYL: Thee Oh Sees, Fuzz, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
Various Artists – Southern Family
Genre: Country (folk/bluegrass)
In brief: TWO COUNTRY ALBUMS?? That’s right, y’all, your boy’s branching out. Southern Family was probably the sleeper hit of 2016 for me, mostly because I did not at all expect to love this as much as I do. I didn’t even know about its existence until Mr. Anthony Fantano (shout out The Needle Drop) gave it a good review on his channel. This thing is a compilation LP assembled by country-producing mastermind Dave Cobb, and each song features a different artist. It feels like a warm, safe quilt of wholesome, gorgeous country music that feels unified yet diverse.
RIYL: Chris Stapleton, The Civil Wars, Zac Brown Band
Vektor – Terminal Redux
Genre: Metal (thrash/space)
In brief: Beloved technical thrash metal band Vektor is back with their long-awaited third album, a sci-fi concept album about madness, revenge, and mind-control. It’s an experience worth having along with the album’s lyrics, which nicely explain the events that take place. The solos are like lasers blasting an enemy’s fleet, while the vocals are wretched and captivating. Terminal Redux is a long LP, but it’s so interesting and fun to play all the way through that the 70 minutes will fly by.
RIYL: Voivod, Havok, Gorguts
Weezer – Weezer (White Album)
Genre: Rock (pop/garage)
In brief: Weezer is on their second official hot-streak. Upon returning from a short recording break in 2014, the famous rock group released their greatest album since Pinkerton, which was titled Everything Will Be Alright in the End. If this is the end, then that prediction was 100% true. White Album is the fourth self-titled album from the band, and would be a fitting bookend to a career that has taken many dives. By shortening and simplifying things, Weezer managed to come through with an even more fantastic album than its predecessor, which is full of great hooks, interesting lyrics, and sticky melodies.
RIYL: Best Coast, Joyce Manor, old school Weezer
Xenia Rubinos – Black Terry Cat
Genre: Rock (Experimental/pop)
In brief: This is my first musical experience with NY singer/songwriter Xenia Rubinos, and boy is this a good one. Black Terry Cat is a catchy, infectious experience that blends an innumerable amount of genres into a seamlessly weird, unique record. The drumming on here is some of my favorite of the year, and some of my favorite songs of 2016 land on this album. Don’t sleep on Xenia and her ultra-tight grooves.
In brief: Noise pop stalwart Xiu Xiu covering the soundtrack to beloved television drama “Twin Peaks;” what’s the worst that could happen? Whatever it is, it didn’t happen here. Xiu Xiu’s rendition of Angelo Badalamenti’s original score is gorgeous, faithful, and damn frightening. The group, led by Jamie Stewart’s dramatic vocal, took just the right amount of creative liberty with this record, and it’s worth listening whether you watch the show or not.
In brief: YG got a lot of attention for his last album, My Krazy Life, and rightfully so. Still Brazy, the album’s follow-up, happens to be a much better, more well-held-together album. The songs on here are so good it’s kind of unfair to other rappers with lesser beats and weaker hooks. Also, “FDT” is this year’s defining millennial anti-GOP jam, and every other song on here is just as good.
RIYL: Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ty Dolla $ign
5.0 Best EPs of 2016
Charli XCX – Vroom Vroom
Genre: Pop (dance/experimental)
In brief: In which famous UK dance-pop vocalist Charli XCX teams up with EDM provocateur SOPHIE for one of the strangest, catchiest short-players of the year. I love everything about this EP, and I can’t wait to have more music from these two.
RIYL: QT, Hannah Diamond, Danny L Harle
Clipping. – Wriggle
Genre: Hip-hop (noise/experimental)
In brief: In case you didn’t know, Daveed Diggs, the Tony-winning co-star of hit musical “Hamilton,” is the frontman of a group that has virtually no crossover appeal with “Hamilton,” a noise-rap collective called Clipping. These guys combine grating harsh noise, found sounds, and fairly traditional but expertly delivered gangsta rap. Following their studio debut two years ago, it’s nice to hear these guys doing exactly what they do best, which Wriggle is full of.
RIYL: Death Grips, Shabazz Palaces, Dalek
G.L.O.S.S. – Trans Day of Revenge
Genre: Punk (hardcore/lo-fi)
In brief: G.L.O.S.S. is necessary, especially in a time of increased visibility and discrimination of trans people. Following last year’s acclaimed demo, the group is back to kick Pride Month in the ass with Trans Day of Revenge, which presents all of seven minutes of gender-neutral-genitalia-to-the-wall hardcore punk. Ferocious lyrics and killer performances abound.
RIYL: Against Me!, Downtown Boys, All Dogs
Gorguts – Pleiades’ Dust
Genre: Metal (death/experimental)
In brief: Rather than follow their most recent masterpiece with another full-length album, recently re-booted Canadian group Gorguts returns with an EP, which is actually one 33-minute song. Months following its release, I still haven’t fully dissected this brain-buster of a song. I just know that it is absolutely fantastic, and I notice something new every time I listen.
RIYL: Death, At the Gates, Revenge
Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered
Genre: Hip-hop (R&B/jazz)
In brief: A year after the release of the modern classic To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick is back with a new EP that proves his demos to be better than most rappers’ full-length projects. King Kendrick can do no wrong. Long live King Kendrick.
The other night I saw three electro-pop bands that, if you so choose to listen to, might make you break out in a happy dance. Yes, the good vibes were all around the other night at the Neumos when I was able to see Panama Wedding, The Griswolds and Magic Man. The stop in Cap Hill was part of their “Hotline Spring Tour” and I was little disappointed that it included no Drake covers. Truth be told, I hadn’t done much listening to these acts but what I got was pretty much what I expected. Throughout the show, the bands delivered high-tempo tunes that made everyone hop around.
First we had the synth-heavy, melodic guys from Brooklyn, NY and honestly I thought they out-performed everyone else that would later come on that stage. Panama Wedding hasn’t really released that much music, but they’ve done pretty well with their two EPs. What makes this band really fun to see is their frontman, Peter Kirk, who’s voice is just really purely beautiful. Their music isn’t too complicated but it doesn’t feel like it has to be. The highlight of the show for me was “Uma”, a song that is just way too fun to sing along to and one that’s been stuck in my head since the other night.
Next we had a couple of Aussies who did their best to follow P-Wed. The Griswolds have done pretty well with their debut album Be Impressive that was released last year. Frontman Christopher Whitehall has got electric pink hair that tells you right away that this guy gets freaky with it. This band seems like they’re going to become bigger and bigger because their songs are just like really fun, guilt-free, cruelty-free pop music.
Headlining this mutha was Magic Man, a band out of BOSTON (MY HOMETOWN!) that has a way bigger following than I was aware of. Their frontman, Alex Caplow, was not about to be out-hyped by the Griswolds. He came out fiery and made this band go. Sonically, they don’t differ too much from the other bands, which I guess makes sense because they were touring with them… Huh. Anyways, fun show that you didn’t really need to think about. Just dance!
At the end we got a surprise crossover of all three bands who did a joyous rendition of R. Kelly’s “Ignition (remix)”. This was a lot of fun that featured one mysterious band member spitting absolute fire emojis. After the bands had left the stage, my face was covered in smiles so I’d say the whole thing was a good experience. Overall, this show was great fun but like not really life changing, you know? I’d check these bands out if you aren’t afraid to admit that you like pop.
When we were offered the opportunity to cover a Ben Rector
show, we couldn’t pass up the chance. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the 29 year-old
musician began playing piano at a young age, picking up guitar additionally
later in high school. After becoming the youngest person to win a pop award
Grand Prize of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest due to a self-titled EP in
2006, Rector knew he had a shot. After playing 200 shows and releasing two
full-length albums during his college career, Rector made the transition to Nashville
to give his career the full effort.
And it’s worked: releasing three more albums after that,
Rector has recently topped Billboard 200 charts and has sold out shows across
But what makes Ben Rector so likeable and so popular? His
music stylistically is simplistic and predictable with expected catchy tunes
and lyrics we can all relate to. And within the last 10 years Rector has been
in the industry, he hasn’t made waves of unique change among the pop
singer-songwriter genre. With a pretty standard voice that can sometimes reach
heights in his range (in tracks like “Paris” on the most recent Brand Newalbum), Rector is a
boy-next-door sort of artist.
What makes him memorable, however, seems to be just that. His
ability to combine American folk rock, jazzy soul, and piano pop into one
feel-good pie of feelings for the heart is exactly
what makes Rector top the charts. Versatile in terms of range and skills, the
Tennessee-based musician is able to switch easily from catchy pop tunes with
echo-ey vocals, like popular song “Let the Good Times Roll,” to more heart felt
ballads, like new track “The Men Who Drive Me Places.”
And his versatility and heart shows. When Ben Rector steps onto
the stage at a sold out Neptune Theatre,
the crowd roars. When we looked around the famous Seattle venue, we couldn’t
believe our eyes to see a completely jam packed theatre, with each crowd member
joyously grinning from ear to ear at the sight of the Nashville artist.
Beginning the show on the piano, the indie pop singer-songwriter
plays renown track, ”Brand New,” a piano pump-up song that hypes up the entire audience.
Throughout the entire show, Rector switches back and forth between guitar and
piano, moving around the stage, and engaging the crowd the entire time,
grateful and in awe of so many people in front of him singing his songs.
“It’s awesome that you’re singing my songs,” he says
grinning. “These aren’t on the radio, which means you had to go out yourself and
find my music. Thank you for that.”
And it’s true, track after track, both slow and fast,
everyone joins in on lyrics. He plays a repertoire of songs on his setlist,
including popular songs, “The Beat,” “Make Something Beautiful,” “Fear,” and of
course “Let the Good Times Roll.”
It isn’t just originals however, Rector, with his boyish
preference for jazz sneaks cover songs into his performance, stating, “I get
bored doing my own stuff after a while, sometimes I like to mix it up.” Yet, regardless
of whether he plays own music or not, he is still loved among the crowd of
listeners before him, and he reciprocates that love fully. As he plays, both
guitar and piano, we see the passion and joy he derives, not just from the
music, but from performing. And as he engages his audience members, teasing,
laughing, and exchanging jokes, we see an artist who is driven by the love of
performance. At the end of the show, as Rector discusses how impatient he gets
at encores because he just wants to be back out with the audience, we almost
feel enveloped by his presence, as if in this hour of time with him and in an
theater full of other people, we’ve become close friends with the artist
Rector dances his way out of the crowd, leaving everyone on
a high, joyful in anticipation of his next album to come.
And although this artist isn’t experimental in his
composition or melodies or lyrics, we have come to the conclusion he does
create feeling for the listener, and since that’s good for everyone
else who’s helped him top charts, that’s good enough for us to give him a
After years of anticipation, Rihanna has finally released
her 8th album, “Anti”. The first single off the album: “Work”
featuring Drake. The song is available to stream here on Tidal, and below is the official “Anti” promo clip:
To be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed in the beginning. I
mean, this is Rihanna we are talking
about. She sells out arenas, she has been on the cover of every magazine. She’s anicon. So to hear her first single sound so minimal was almost a
But then I listened a second time.
I don’t know what it was about the second listen, but I
started to come around to “Work”. I began to really listen to the sounds
in the track
– the little ambient notes in the back playing over Rihanna’s raspy
voice. And I got really into it. Let me tell you, the island vibe is omnipresent in “Work”. From the
get-go, the “Sail Away Riddim” influence is as clear as Caribbean water, and
the track sounds like the rhythm of Barbados in a glass bottle. I absolutely love how Rihanna adopts
a kind of emotionless rasp for this single; I can only describe it as a half-baked, drawn out patwa. It’s lazy
but it’s fitting, and in my mind I can see a boozy beach party on the Virgin
Islands (picture the speakers playing the tune in sync with the gentle waves and swaying palm trees).
Rihanna doesn’t sound like she’s trying too hard, and that idea in itself is enough to sell the single; it’s like she’s making a statement: “I’m Rihanna. I don’t
have to try hard.” And she doesn’t. After just three hours of its release, “Work” hit #1 on iTunes in over 40 countries, and by now it has reached #1 in over 80
countries. Also, I would like to point out that this “hardly trying” effort at a song has
made a track that is undeniably seductive, smooth, and addictive.
Check out the track on Tidal, and make sure to give it
that second listen.