KnowMads Show Review: Vera Project 5/9/15

As a longtime fan of Seattle rappers, the KnowMads have held
a steady place on my iPod for years. They are one of the main groups that got
me into rap and keyed me into what the scene is like in Seattle. So to say I
was excited when they announced a show at The Vera Project last Saturday, May 9th
would be a bit of an understatement.

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The two members of the KnowMads, Tom Pepe and Tom Wilson, have
been working on solo projects and living in different states, so hearing that
they would be doing a show for their new mixtape KnowMadic was a good sign. Their last project together was their
2012 album The Knewbook, and they
have since announced a Kickstarter for the next album, Knew School.

The Knowmads both attended Roosevelt High School together,
and have been making music together since their debut self-titled album in
2006. Their long career growing and producing music together was evident in
their hour-long set. The duo finished each other’s lines throughout the
concert, beatboxed, and even bounced freestyles off each other in between
songs, with the crowd giving them words to rhyme.

Their track list covered many of the songs off Knowmadic, but also songs from their
individual projects and previous work together, such as Seattle and The KnewBook. All of these songs were delivered with a
pulsing, raw emotion as they paced back and forth on the stage dripping sweat.
Pepe changed shirts a number of times throughout the show, but that didn’t help
much.

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The intensity was palpable throughout. The duo built on the
crowd’s energy when performing tracks like “The River Runs Deep” and “Sidewalkers”,
screaming their verses into the mic as their jugulars bulged. Put simply, there
was a vibrant charisma and history between the two MCs up on stage, and it was
something special to watch.

Those on the other side of the stage got plenty of love as well. We were thanked
multiple times for showing up and creating their steadily growing publicity.
The dedicated stans in the front row had many opportunities to recite lyrics
into the mic when Tom thrust it into the crowd, and there were high 5s all around
the crowded Vera Project. They evidently took advantage of the intimate venue.
As my first concert seeing them, it was special to realize firsthand how
dedicated their local fans are.  

The show felt alive, and that says something for these two
rappers who have been grinding since high schools and are still only in their
early 20s. They still have it, just like they always have.

Definitely checkout the Kickstarter for their new album and
donate if you can. Head over to their website to stream their entire
discography, or their Facebook to stay up-to-date. And if my writing hasn’t
convinced you already, I highly recommend seeing them live next time they do a
show!

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DJ Holmes

New Album: Holly Miranda

I’m picky when it comes to female vocalists. It takes a certain combination of honed skill, raw talent, and lack of nasally pompous tone to really capture my attention.

Holly Miranda has seemed to captured my attention.

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A laid back alternative singer-songwriter who’s been kicking it with the music industry since 2004, she’s come into her own as an artist, and knows her sound. And I’m not surprised, with her skills as a trained pianist and self taught guitarist and trumpet player. An 11-track album, Holly Miranda’s 2015 self titled album is one for the books. A strong start to the record, “Mark My Words,” is a track that begins with hints of a Explosions of Sky-esque guitar instrumental leading into some dreamy vocals and calming bells in background. The way Miranda rifts off into “You were just what I needed” in the first minute of the song is a beautiful demonstration of the very clean tone to her voice. The song is quiet and calming, and is a great hint to listeners of the overall vibe of the album.

And for the most part, her sound throughout the entire album is pretty consistent in terms of vocal and instrumental arrangements. She’s simple. She likes to coo and draw out her soft lilting voice with the help of a piano, and hey it works in a song like her last track of “Hymnal.” Fully demonstrating her vocal range on this track, you see this girl can almost take it to the opera level and you’re impressed.

Leading into the next track, “All I Want Is To Be Your Girl,” I get a more upbeat folk pop vibe, almost reminiscent of The Mowgli’s, but I think what I dig most are the chilled out tracks that have an Ingrid Michaelson feel, especially with the drawn out lovelorn vocals in songs like “Everlasting,” and “The Only One.”

“It’s not until we’re faced with death that we truly understand,” sings Miranda in Heavy Heart, overlain by a beautifully simple piano melody, a track which brought tears to my eyes. These tracks are too real for words, and it isn’t because of some phenomenal innate musical composition (although that is present). Miranda discusses themes of love, heartbreak, and that sense of not being to get someone off your mind, and these concepts if not relatable, are at least ones that evoke emotion.  

Best track of the album by far  “Desert Call.” Starting it off clean with Miranda’s vocals and some clean, clear cut guitar, “Desert Call” also takes you back to childhood in the summer. The saxophone near the latter half of the track makes you swoon with the sheer amount of jazzy sophistication coupled with Miranda’s suave vocals.

Think Ingrid Michaelson. Think stripped down Florence & the Machine. Think girl next door singing to you about love.

But in actuality, stop thinking and just listen because the album just dropped TODAY on iTunes and is most-definitely dope.

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Ariana Rivera

New Release Watch: Made in Heights

The West Coast duo consisting of former wedding singer, Kelsey Bulkin, and local Seattle-based producer of Blue Scholars, Sabzi, released the single “Slow Burn” on Tuesday.  It’s the second single off their upcoming album (out May 26th) Without My Enemy What Would I Do. And I’m a little disappointed.  

I want to start off by saying Made in Heights is an amazing group. Attempting to label their sound as a whole proves difficult, seeing as they have yet to accept any one genre themselves.  Continuously welcoming suggestions from fans, the current official description includes: mythical filth, pop fiction, beauty slap, goon lit, artisanal (c/t)rap, and west coast gothic. To put it as simply as I can, they are known for pairing soulful vocals with crisp electronic beats and atmospheric soundscapes.  At times even incorporating elements of rap into their bright and ethereal sound, Made in Heights weaves an intricate and special sound under the ever-growing umbrella of synth-pop. The only way to truly experience the sound is to hear it for your self, something I highly recommend.

Slow Burn turns its back on this complexity of genres and heads straight for the dance floor.  Let me get one thing straight – this track is completely infectious and a solid dancy-synth-poppy song.  The track begins with a catchy synthesized staccato baseline with Kelsey’s simmering vocals drifting atop. By the end, snapping and groovy instrumentals layer in, creating an intoxicating, sparkly-smooth pop track. I would be lying if I said I didn’t bob my head to “you give me that burn, burn, burn, burn, burn”.  It’s received good reviews from several sources and is now one of their most-listened to songs on Spotify, it just isn’t what I was hoping for.

Listen for yourself in the stream below:

It might be a personal taste issue that turned me off the new single, seeing as the airy female vocals and snappy dance beat of Slow Burn kicked in some post-traumatic stress from my days working in retail.  Once you imagine a song bursting from the cheap speakers of a former employer at the mall, it’s hard to listen to it without feeling a little bit guilty.

It also could be the high expectations I hold for the duo, set by their stunning previous work. Ever since first hearing "All the Places” and “Wildflowers” off of their 2012 self-titled album, I’ve been craving more.  Even their opening act for TOKiMONSTA I attended in LA last October reflected their original aesthetic I adore, the pair performing synchronized 60’s backup singer dance moves throughout the set. I just hold them up to a higher creative standard than what this newest track has produced. With sporadic releases and no single website to find their collective work (scattered throughout Soundcloud, Spotify, Bandcamp and their website), I was overjoyed to hear about the new album coming out in late May.

Now I’m just hoping that this single follows the rule of singles, and is the lone shamelessly-dancey track of the album; the rest hopefully following more in suit with the innovative sounds I’ve come to expect from Made in Heights.

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Cassie Lynch

New Song: Alina Baraz & Galimatias – Can I

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The chill duo have released another track, and “Can I” is in
keeping with the glue-covered sound they have created. This track sounds as if
it was composed in the warm depths of a tropical ocean, swaying softly to the current,
only to surface when ethereal singer Alina Baraz needs a breath of air.

Much
like the rest of their work, the new track sounds as if it is meant to be heard
when under the water of the swimming pool, floating lazily as the warm lights dance
beneath the calm surface.

Alina has a beautiful voice, and the airy way in
which she sings really compliments the tracks Danish producer Galimatias creates. The mixing of
sultry voice and sultry instrumentals laden with piano riffs and smooth bass could make any cloudy day feel warm.

I
can’t stress enough the amount of warmth that comes from their tracks. They bring to mind the soft flames that would sway back and forth in slow motion on the candle
wick at night. They’re like the sunlit patch of kitchen or living room floor
that you would take a nap on when you were a kid. They’re the warm steam coming
out of the showerhead, the warm touch of a loved one. 

The pair have been working together
for around a year now and have gathered quite a following after their debut, “Drift”. Below is their most popular tracks, “Fantasy.” I
highly suggest taking a listen, they’ve created something absolutely beautiful.

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Alexander Bonilla

Album Review: Esoteric Allusions

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Seattle and hip hop. The two are becoming more and more
connected, thanks in large part to the mainstream success of Macklemore &
Ryan Lewis
, but also due to the strong underground careers of the Blue
Scholars
, Common Market, up and comer Raz Simone, and of course our nostalgic
hero the great Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

Enter NOM Pérignon,
1/5 of the hip-hop collective .nuLOVE.

Recently relocated from Iowa to Seattle, .nuLOVE consists of Boycott, producer Jharee,
NOM Pérignon, Booka, and Freakmite. Jharee handles much of the
production on NOM’s solo album Esoteric Allusions, and the other
group members feature on a few of the tracks as well.

NOM Pérignon, aka Michael Westerfield, calls himself an
artist, lyricist, songwriter, actor, and visionary on their website, and listening to the album from cover to cover provides evidence of how these many titles can be rolled together into one person.

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Esoteric Allusions is
a dark album, as the artwork suggests, and it’s expansive lyrics contain many
references to the artists’ grimy upbringing. Yet NOM’s goal here is to educate.
The project opens with “Allusion”, with a woman’s emotional voice proclaiming
“Let me lay down my words in you so you know how I feel/All I have for you are
layers to peel”. Haunting strings grow to a crescendo, and as the drums blow in
and a melancholy sample is added to the beat, NOM beings his first verse.
Buckle down!

Listening to the album it immediately becomes apparent that
NOM is a gifted lyricist, with frequent wordplay and a skilled use of
alliteration harnessed to a confident flow. On the opener he raps “Soul
searching is the sole source of my sorcery”, and tracks such as “Happy
Feelings_Hopeless Protests”, “Ghetto Boy”, and “Crossroads” provide more than
enough evidence for why such musings create a shady art.

Standout “Bucktown
Blues” is an impressive stream of consciousness where NOM relates multiple
perspectives, of both a frustrated girlfriend and a dealer out of options
making one last phone call, and ends with him explaining that he will rise
above and travel “wherever the wind take me”. The beat is indeed reminiscent of
a chilling, whistling wind, overlaid with a clattering snare.

Jharee’s production throughout the album is superb,
complementing the messages the lyrics deliver and fleshing out the murky nature
of the mixtape. Yet all is not depressing on the album. The mercurial nature of
relations with the opposite sex is addressed on “Good Evening” and Find Your
Loving”, with the latter featuring a stellar verse from Chicago native Freddie Old Soul.

At the beginning of the mixtape, NOM raps “I ease on down
the road less travelled/where it’s way less paved and way more gravel”,
illustrating his struggle to find success coming from a position where success
is not the norm. Esoteric Allusions
may be his first project, but NOM Pérignon has made serious progress in blazing
his own path to find ever-elusive success.

There is much to be taken from this album. I am only
scratching the surface as far as the depth of material covered on the 15
tracks, so I highly recommend downloading the album for free here and seeing for yourself what Seattle has to offer up next in the world of rap.

Also check out .nuLOVE’s website for more of their solo projects, along with their Facebook.
And in the words of this promising new collective’s slogan: Stay Gold.

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DJ Holmes

New Track: Earl Sweatshirt – Solace

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Earl
Sweatshirt
is one of the most talented rappers out right now. He
produces a lot of his own beats and flows over them like none other.

Earl is plagued by
depression. He talks about a lot of his issues in his music. His latest album was aptly
titled I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go
Outside.

With Solace, he bares himself like never
before. Earl dropped Solace on
YouTube earlier this week, without warning. He raps about
his sadness and pain with brutal honesty. Solace is a ten
minute voyage into Earl’s stormy mind. I’ve never heard anything quite like it,
simultaneously stark and beautiful.

The YouTube
description for Solace is succinct: “music from when i hit the bottom and found something.”
There isn’t a video to accompany the song. There’s just a plain, pink square
for us to stare at.

Solace doesn’t have a hook. It doesn’t
need one. Haunting instrumentals ebb and flow and transform. Earls three verses
are mostly mumbled and slurry, to good effect. His voice conveys his
hopelessness better than any words could.

Which
isn’t to say that the lyrics here aren’t powerful. Bars like “I spent days
faded and anemic/You
could see it in my face, I ain’t been eating, I’m just wasting away” and “My
brain split in two,
it’s raining a bit/I hope
it’s a monsoon, my face in the sink” are visual and cutting.

The
piano-heavy instrumentals create a dark, claustrophobic vibe. Disembodied moans
mingle with eerie chords. Shrill screeches pierce through, at points. Despite
all the melancholy elements, the beats are as smooth as melted butter. Earl’s production never ceases to impress.

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Earl
is mired in regret and it keeps him up at night: “I done stayed up the whole
night…It’s me and my nibbling conscience.” He misses his dead grandma: “I got
my grandmama’s hands, I start to cry
when I see ‘em/Cause they remind me
of seeing her”

Earl’s
honesty pays off, because Solace is real
and relatable. The YouTube comments section is full of praise for Earl. Some
commenters even thank Earl for Solace. It
“strikes a chord” and “speaks volumes.”

Do
yourself a favor and give Solace a
listen. It’s amazing.

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Pranav Shivanna

Quick talk: Glass Animals’ brilliance

AGH. I can’t.
Let’s talk about Glass Animals.

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First of all, Glass Animals are English (and gorgeous). They’re an indie rock band. And they’re from Oxford.

Are we up my alley, or are we? But regardless, these guys are still solid musicians. For once, I don’t want to rush through an entire album for you to get a taste of these guys’ sound.

I want to talk about “Gooey,” on the June 2014 LP ZABA, because this one track captures the real essence of what Glass Animals’ sound is and what they’re about.

First of all, this song is full of sexual innuendos, so if you’re awkward about it, kindly step off. We’ve got lyrics like “Ride my little pooh bear and “You just wanna know those peanut butter vibes,” but you know what? The lyrics are smooth, and supple and lead vocalist Dave Bayley’s slippery falsetto snakes around seeping basslines and psychedelic beats.

This song feels like you’re in a dream, with these sleek, texturized lyrics and lullaby sounding instrumentals. It’s strange listening to this song, because you feel like you are personally being crooned to, with Bayley’ vocals whispering in your ear, “While my naked naked fool/Fresh out of an icky gooey womb.”

There is a level of sophistication with these guys, and I’m not surprised, when you have Dave Bayley as frontman, with a degree in neuroscience from London’s King’s College. What intelligent man wouldn’t know how to perfectly craft together such a beautiful combination of intricate beats, trippy vocals, and mellow interludes of R&B? Listen, and tell me you won’t fall in love.

Because what’s not to love when there are other tracks like “Toes” that are equally as brilliant with smooth harmonies and complex lyricicsm. You’ve got this lingering swagger that is the essence of the song, with sparse percussion and underlying bass. It’s slow-tempo and it’s stripped down, lacking lots of synth and lots of energy, but it’s what makes the song great. It’s these little nuances that make Glass Animals distinctive.

Any band that’s touring right now with St. Vincent, and was signed by brilliant producer Paul Epworth (think Florence & the Machine, Bloc Party, and Adele) is a band worth listening to. And you’ve got that opportunity to, with an upcoming show at Neptune Theatre on May 24th.

Get tickets here, and just thank me later.

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Ariana Rivera

Naked Giants Take the Spot: Rainy Dawg’s 1st Annual Birthday Battle

Following the Daily’s coverage on Tuesday, the directors of ASUW’s Arts & Entertainment and Rainy Dawg Radio chose the Naked Giants as the winners of our first ever Birthday Battle!

As the champions, the band will be one of our openers at the 12th annual Birthday Fest, May 15th at Sylvan Grove!

The band put on a phenomenal show, presenting music from their dynamic repertoire. In case you missed it, check out a preview of what’s to come from the Naked Giants upcoming performance:

Easy Eating by Naked Giants

You can check out all of their music on the band’s bandcamp which includes their debut EP, Sit Down.

The UW-based band consists of Grant Mullen on guitar and vocals, Gianni Aiello on bass and vocals, and Henry La Vallee on drums and vocals.

“Grant and Henry having been playing together for many years, when Gianni joined the band in the summer of 2014, Naked Giants became what it is today. They recorded their first EP in 2014 and you can listen to it here! Have a great day and enjoy who you are!” – from their bandcamp.

Congrats to these up-and-coming rock stars! We can’t wait to see what you’ll surprise us with next. To stay in the loop, be sure to follow them on facebook!

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DJ Desman

Back from the Dead: New Crystal Castles

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October 8, 2014 was a dark day for Crystal Castles fans. Stories with titles such as “Crystal Castles call it quits” saturated our newsfeeds as we sat in a corner wailing along with Not In Love and Vanished while eating copious amounts of ice cream.

No? Just Me? Okay.

Anyway, the pure despair beset upon me by the reports of Crystal Castles’ demise served only to enhance the state of pure bliss I was in the morning of April 16 when I awoke to a passive aggressive message from Ethan Kath accompanied by a Soundcloud link.

The message yielded a response from Alice Glass the next day and Kath later redacted most of the passive aggression, but that drama isn’t what’s important. There’s new Crystal Castles!

The track is called Frail and it’s signature Crystal Castles. It’s heavily distorted and is one of those tracks that melds into the background perfectly when doing anything to a beat, with just enough vocals to give you something to key into without drawing too much away from the instrumentals.

Speaking of the vocals, those on Frail are provided by someone referred to only as “Edith”. Though, they’re virtually indistinguishable from Alice Glass’ due in large part to abundant distortion.

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Overall, it’s a solid track, but it doesn’t stand out too much when compared to the rest of their discography. You can listen to it on Crystal Castles’ Soundcloud, linked above.

With Ethan Kath releasing new music under the Crystal Castles moniker and Alice Glass set to release new music in the coming months, it’s an exciting time for Crystal Castles fans. Only time will tell if their split was better for listeners or not.

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Garrett M

I’m talkin bout French house

Annnddddddd we’re back. I’m sorry for such a long sabbatical but I was just researching music.
And being lazy.
So who wants to talk about French deep house?

Gonna be honest, I’m SO NOT an expert on house music, but because deep house has elements of soul and 1980s jazz-funk and this specific musician uses a lot of piano and saxophone, I’m going to say that I somewhat know what I’m talking about.

Should we meet Klingande

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A French duo composed of musicians Cédric Steinmyller and Edgar Catry, these guys don’t give the vibe of what you think of when you think of house music: electronic, boring, repetitive. They dig honest sound, and true jazz, funk, and soul. With three solid singles out, deubting in in 2013, these guys are beautiful in their sound.

There are house beats, but there are also funky basslines, eclectic vocal samples, excellent percussion and hypnotic, just straight-jamming grooves of saxophone solos that distinguish Klingande’s sound.

The two boys themselves label their music as “melodic sound,” and for sure they have this vibe of sunny beaches and the strange juxtaposition of classy, classy saxophone jazz and more modern dance pop.

I mean, take a listen to “Jubel.” You’ve got these straight up dope saxophone melodies (thank you fantastic Mr. Snake Davis) running throughout the entire track of lovely Lucie Decarne’s vocals. Reaching number one on the charts in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Switzerland, this track also hit #3 on the UK Singles chart.

We start out slow with bongo-drums and light layering of keys, yeah? Then a bassline melody, still good, right? Then a build up to the vocals, and you’re like, “Hmm, pretty good.” But then we hit the sax, and you’ve got to just stop and smile.

And then look at his first single ever released, “Punga.” The vocals are phenomenal combined with the saxophone layered on piano. And to be honest, the sax on this track is better than the sax on Jubel, but the standard of excellence here is just so high that either way, any of Klingande’s tracks are going to exceed any of our expectation for musical innovation.

If you like Avicii, if you like Bakermat, if you like saxophone, if you like grooves, please. Do yourself a favor. Check out his Soundcloud here, trust me, he’s worth your time.

And sweet deal because if you fall in love enough, go and check out his show at The Crocodile on May 20th.
You can bet I’m gonna be there.

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Ariana Rivera