How do you listen to music with no words? With your soul or something else flowery if you haven’t sold it way yet. A lot of us know that the world can be a cold place so we make music, art, and such to give hope to each other and ourselves. Something to help you escape at least long enough so that you can imagine that it will be okay. The canadian experimental rock music group Godspeed You! Black Emperor knows all about escape artistry as their music has always been aggressively zen-ful. Their post-rock sounds have always been expansive in textures and emotion as their songs are usually longer than 10 minutes long, even as long as 25 minutes on some of their earlier albums. The group has been taking us on audio storytelling ventures since their first album F#a#infinity in 1996 and here in 2017 the musical collective has graced us with another trip into sound with Luciferian Towers. Strap in your ear buds and get ready for the climb!… or fall? Indeed.
One of the first things that I noticed while approaching this album is that usually their albums would be less than 5 tracks long with extensive running time on each track, but this time around the band brought us a total of 8 tracks but it is still essentially 4 songs broken up into their different parts and musical segments. For such expansive compositions song titles would be a crucial aspect for encapsulating each musical experience. Godspeed has always had interesting and engaging titles for their works and this album is no different. One is solely left to wonder what the title Luciferian Towers could be in reference to specifically, but a tower in relation to Lucifer wouldn’t be a place you would want to find yourself in. The irony is that these towers are suggested to be the systems of oppression, entrapment, etc. wrought by humanity itself. The Montreal group released some written album information on their thoughts and processes while creating this project including a list of grand demands including:
- an end to foreign invasion
- an end to borders
- the total dismantling of the prison–industrial complex
- healthcare, housing, food and water acknowledged as an inalienable human right
- the expert fuckers who broke this world never get to speak again
These are musicians using their music as a voice to speak against the ills of the world and these monuments of maliciousness that we as human beings are taught to have to work around and ignore. Luciferian Towers is great for listening with a sober mind but definitely has vibes perfect for partaking in your vice of choice. Trust me. It is not as dark as it sounds. Godspeed has given us music for battling against the machines in the skies and the machines in our minds. Though there is a great deal of brooding tension, sonically speaking Luciferian Towers focuses a lot more on positive ascent, upheaval, and uprising than the negative darkness the album’s title would suggest. We implore you take the ride with the Black Emperor gang. Feel the comfort of the community and wonder why anyone would ever want to tear us apart. Play it loud and let the music flow through you. The Godspeed You! Black Emperor band is no stranger to touring so be on the lookout for them coming near you. You won’t want to miss this experience.
Originality – 4
Lyrics – 5
Public Service Announcement: It is the year 2017 more than three decades into the heritage that is Hip-Hop. “Good for a female rapper” is not fair play. Nowadays rappers are just wack regardless of gender. But Hip-Hop is still a statistically male dominated field and lyrical artistry is still under-marketed and undervalued in today’s mainstream outlets. So when legendary producer 9th Wonder discovered the lyrical phenomenon that is Rapsody he knew that he had found a gem among hard rocks and signed her to his Its A Wonderful World Music Group back in 2008. Rapsody kept up her work at rhyming words and was signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label in 2016 but still continues to work closely with 9th Wonder under his Jamla Records, LLC. The rappin’ ass Rapsody has been a very busy woman lately with Laila’s Wisdom being her seventh release in 5 years. Rapsody’s rhythm is only on the incline with no signs of slowing so what’s really good with the bars yung?!
Rapsody has got bars dun-son! They are definitely here and in attendance. The woman has got witticisms, wordplay, raps, and rhythms galore. If you haven’t caught an earful of Rapsody’s molasses-smooth delivery then you’re late. She’s been doing features with everyone in Hip-Hop from Raekwon, Mac Miller, Ab-Soul, Freeway, Black Thought, and Kendrick Lamar. Her music wears the soulful Hip-Hop vibes one would expect from her 9th Wonder and North Carolina heritage and Laila’s Wisdom even features two features appearances by both R&B/Soul artists Anderson Paak and BJ The Chicago Kid. Rapsody provides knowledge like that of a female Talib Kweli but keeps it spicy with more swag and bravado likely learned from Jay-Z who she mentions as an influence. She is definitely rapping about the gully street life, but it is refreshing that her tone of voice is more than the at times bass imitating stylings of that of Nicki Minaj. Rapsody isn’t one for singing and leaves the serenades to her artistic counterparts and stays dropping lyrical knowledge on us ill raps and storytelling.
Laila’s Wisdom does give more a teacherly perspective than some of Rapsody’s previous releases such as Crown or Beauty and The Beast. The newest release feels more like Rapsody is imparting lessons learned from the intense life of these previous incarnations. This is Rapsody’s latest in a series of releases, but these are not a teachings of a battle-tired comrade reminiscing on the good old days. Laila is a lyrical queen and definitely has to bear bars bravely when sharing tracks with rap heavyweight artists like Kendrick Lamar, Black Thought, and Busta Rhymes. Rapsody clearly has got raps for days. With more female rappers on the rise as of late we hope that we can hear Rapsody claiming her space on the radio waves in the near future.
Open Mike Eagle’s Brick Body Kids Still Daydream – Songs For the Hardened
What is “Alternative” anyways? Creating a paper trail is a necessity for the life of a creative. Trust me. We know. American alternative Hip-Hop artist Open Mike Eagle is one who is no stranger to adventures into lyricism and the written word. His 2017 LP Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is his fourth solo album release in the past 5 years and his third on current label Mello Music Group. Long time surfer of radar waves beneath the mainstream, Michael w. Eagle has recently translated his successes with Hip-Hop, podcast, and television to his long running a stand-up and musical show with Baron Vaughn,The New Negroes, being signed for production with Comedy Central earlier this year. Long time rhymesayer does Brick Body Kids Still Daydream show youthful spirit or a tired soul? Let us dive into the world of art rap!
The one of the key benefits of being an independent artist is the freedom to make music that sounds like whatever you want. Brick Body Kids does not aim for the same musical textures nor textures as that of those of your typical champagne-pouring-party-dancefloor-ing radio hip-hop hits. Open Mike is a different kind of artist and creates unique cadences of hip-hop that keep you following him closely for his different experimentations. His artistic eye is often times crafting focused imagery of both inner city urban life and fantastical ideas of time travel and the surreal. Though not as outwardly aggressive and animated as that of a Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole Open Mike still crafts rhythmically engaging flows that exude the roots of the truest elements of Hip-Hop. The sentimental “(How Could Anybody) Feel at Home” is commentary of life and a calmer moment of aggressive introspect as Open Mike raps ”I done told / Some goofy shit that sounded like a poem/ I spun around in circles on the globe / So who the fuck could ever feel at home?”. Brick Body Kids also has theatrical moments on tracks like “No Selling (Uncle Butch Pretending It Don’t Hurt)” as Open Mike chants “I’m No Sell-in! No Sell-in!” like a mantra to keep away the evil voices that urge the independent artist to give in to the evils of consumerism and the ilk. Open Mike creates each track to be an expansive discourse on life’s ups and downs and his own attempts at managing self and uses well placed lyricism to color each tapestry with strong emotion.
Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is full of lyrics that could be written on subways and street boards as an FYI board for survival and staying strong in life. Which feels fitting with Michael Eagle’s background as a resident advisor. The album is slim on features though Sammus’ delivery on her feature verse on “Hymnal” is definitely worth your ears. Open Mike Eagle is a trained and experienced craftsman in hip-hop and comedy we’re looking forward to more of his work behind any mic he can find himself behind.
Vocals/Flow – 5
Lyrics – 5
Production – 5
Jhene Aiko has been a heavy hitter on the R&B and Hip-Hop charts for something over a half a decade now. Though she has many successful single and feature credits as well as memorable mixtape moments under her belt, her latest release, Trip is only her 2nd major record label release on producer No I.D.’s record label ARTium. Released with little prior promotion on Septempter 22, 2017,Trip boasts an extensive length of 22 tracks and was released with a 23-minute autobiographical film of the same title released on Sept 21st which was co-directed by Aiko herself. Jhene has been busy with her grinding, but is still keeping it smooth as electric velvet with her vocals. Don’t buckle your seatbelt this is the kind of trip you want to be relaxed for.
An R&B romantic at heart Jhene Aiko was sure to pack some feel good love songs for us with the Big Sean assisted “Moments” and “OLLA (Only Lovers Left Alive)” and Trip’s lead single “While We’re Young”. Aiko, who could sound pleasant speaking, let alone singing, a phonebook also takes care to take us to the darker side of emotion with the loneliness on “Nobody” and quandaries of emptiness and the necessity of sadness on “Oblivion”. “Oblivion” also features spiritual wisdom brought to us by Dr. Chill a mellow speaking soothsayer, but is just one of the theatrical transitions of the album as the LP is structured to tell an experience of doing LSD or some other drug and the highs and lows of such an experience. “Psilocybin (Love In Full Effect)” closes with more of Dr. Chill speaking with smooth jazz saxophone accompaniment over a gentle tribal groove and is even something of Jhene’s moment of calming you down as if you were the one experiencing the panic moment from the “Bad Trip (interlude)”. The freestyle tracks on the album have their own vibes, but are somewhat ambience to lull us between the solid songwriting on later songs like the mother daughter duet “Sing To Me”, which features Jhene’s daughter Namiko Love, the peace binding chantra-mantra “Frequency”, and the tender “Ascension” which features the 90s R&B legend Brandy. “Ascension” falls in line as a hymn to the universe that you could imagine being chanted by your local hippy chick, but Jhene and Brandy’s vocals compliment each other well to create harmonic synergy reminiscent to 90s R&B girl groups. A passing of the R&B torch moment? Someone make a toast.
Jhene Aiko is a lit little maniac woman. She goes wild for a while, but she’s always been her to give a good time. Issa-vibe with Jhene and we are always a little happier hearing her voice on hip-hop club bangers and the like, but she always brings her own brand of sonic relaxation. She’s known that we’ve need a vacation since her collaboration on Big Sean’s previous album and forTrip she digs deep to take us far. If you aint got your ticket then you really are tripping. Get with the program and evolve.
When you’ve been a successful rock/pop group for 13 years what is left for you? How do you continue to reinvent art and self to continue to stay refreshing to not only your audience, but yourself? It seems that The Killers answer these questions by continuing to go bigger. Their latest album Wonderful Wonderful is a sonic adventure into spacey grooves and feel good drive. With pronounced gentle euphoric spiritual vibes this album is aimed at taking you to the heavens and higher so in the words of Kanye West “Can we get much higher?”
Growth comes with time. The Killers know this to be true as they elevated their lyrical repertoire to focus on complex ideas and questions on Wonderful Wonderful. On songs like “Have All The Songs Been Written?” lead vocalist Brandon Flowers asks existential questions about life such as:
Have every ship gone sailing?
Have all the hearts gone blue?
Have all the songs been written?
I just need one to get through to you..
I can’t take back the things that I’ve done wrong, but I just need one more.
The Killers deliver this song over a dreamy tapestry of keyboards and drums with expressive melodic guitar lines. Wonderful Wonderful takes us to expansive thoughts over echoey instrumentation asking “Don’t give up on me / Cause I’m just in a rut” on friendship motivational songs like “Rut”, but don’t miss out on the celebratory fashion catwalk strut songs like “The Man” and “Money On Straight”. This album touches highs and lows for a varied experience of music and themes.
Lyrically the album is youthful in sound and thought. There are repeated references in the album, iconically the title track, to being in one’s childhood and with or without a mother. The album seems to draw a comparison between the life of a child with a mother and that of a child without and say “may they both be wonderful either way”. “The Man” comes in at the second track following “motherless” chants so it could be interpreted that you have to be “USDA Certified Lean!” fresh from birth. And I say, “As it should be dammit!” What one is to do after being The Man is for the journey to teach us. The album does have some feeder for your inner revolutionary with songs like “Run For Cover” as the band sings in dance tempo “I saw Sonny Liston on the street last night, black fisted and strong singing ‘redemption song’. He motioned me to the sky, I heard heaven and the thunder cry. Run for cover!” “Run For Cover” exudes the sentiment of community and universal struggle that is an apparent theme throughout the majority of the album.
There is good there and good here. There is good about regardless. Wonderful Wonderful wants us to know and feel. The Killers want us to know it is okay to want to fight back. They here still fighting with you. If they’ll keep fighting then we’ll keep on listening.
Bruno Major’s A Song For Every Moon – Moonlit Sentimentality
Good things take time and Rome wasn’t built in a day. Of course everyone knows these things, but us zealous artists could definitely use this knowledge to make better patience conscious decisions. London singer/ songwriter Bruno Major definitely took to note lessons of patience when it came to writing and recording his latest project A Song For Every Moon. Instead of the usual pressured pace of rigorous grinding at the goal of writing a hit success song, this crooner from Northampton set a deadline for himself of writing one song for every full moon in a calendar year. He speaks of the journey as a learning experience leading him to want to think and hesitate less in creating. Some songs took weeks to construct whereas others took minutes to go from creative spark to recorded song ready for audio mastering. Be it a writing session or preparing a meal for yourself or loved ones, A Song For Every Moon definitely has the tunes for your next moonlit occasion,
A multi-instrumentalist, Bruno Major played all of the instruments on the project aside from the drum samples added by producer Phairo. The artist blends pop songwriting with jazz sensibilities to create songs with production that delves deeply into different aural texture palettes. Vocally, Bruno Major sings in the same vein as that of John Mayer or Robin Thicke, but with more close spoken whispery rasp reminiscent of Iron & Wine. Major alternates between the prominent instruments and elements on the different songs, but the instrumentation is always well composed and constructed with effective melodic embellishments and even guitar solos on the more jazz influenced songs. The sounds echoing here would go great with your favorite bottle of wine and/or the kiss of a lover.
“There’s little left to sing that’s not been sung / No new words to rest on this tongue / There’s little left to do that’s not been done / There’s little left to love, only one / But when it seems the world has lost it’s spin / There’s always your heart left to win” is just a sample of the kind of heartfelt sentimental lyrics from “There’s Little Left” that Bruno Major waxes poetically with frequently and easily. A Song For Every Moon is a contemplative foray into thoughts about life, love, and longing. If you’re feeling heartache at a lost love, or lack thereof, or pain at losing a job, Bruno has some musical medicine to help you not feel so alone in this world.
A Song For Every Moon is an example and testament of the power of quality over quantity. This album is expansive in emotion, but focused in presentation and capsulation of thought and emotion. Bruno Major is a refreshing voice and perspective to the modern music scene and will definitely give you the sultry mellow vibes that you need, but with an more organic tones brought on by authentic live instrumentations. Lush vibes are alive and well here. But A Song For Every Moon will give you more to think about in between the replays.
We’ve all got voices and we’ve all got to use them. It is a known fact that the voices of the oppressed and marginalized peoples and cultures have been historically underrepresented. Toronto artist Princess Nokia is one to know about the being culturally marginalized and underrepresented as she speaks from the background of many different heritages and uses her cultural diversity to empower her artistry. Destiny Frasqueri, a.k.a. Princess Nokia, openly identifies as a feminist, a bruja, a boricua, and a tomboy and uses her music and her podcast Smart Girl Club Radio to give discourse and dialog on the struggles of her day to day life. Her third release in the past three years, 1992, is a bevy of brown girl life inspired cuts over New York Hip-Hop and Trap rap beats. Princess Nokia is definitely coming with enough noise to be heard, but what’s the fuss about?
If there was anyone who is practiced at the art of flag waving it would definitely be Princess Nokia. This is not to mean just gang repping, but Princess Nokia reps the different parts of her identity to the fullest and waves her freak flag high. One of her most successful singles, “Tomboy”, is an anthem for the ladies of the itty-bitty-titty committee as she raps “with my little titties” in rhymes in both verses before and during the chorus chant of “who that is hoe? That girl is a tomboy”. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been wanting to hear a song championing for women with little breasts for sometime now so I’m definitely here to support hyping the happy bee stings whole-heartedly. It is refreshing to hear a woman exuding sexual bravado in such an aggressive way and Frasqueri solidly delivers intricate and gangsta lyrics without missing a beat. Songs like “Kitana” and “Brujas” are other singles from the project that have engagingly directed videos that are definitely worth checking out. “Brujas” is something of an anthem for every Lisa-Bonet-looking-light-skinned-girl and a bit past due. Princess Nokia very outrightly takes stances for race, femininity, and queer communities in both her visuals and aggressive lyrics. She presents an expansive view of urban life as she drops lines about fast food on party cut homages to hood footwear “Chinese Slippers”. Some of her references to Bart Simpson and video games actually do come off as a bit immature and short-sighted at times, but Princess Nokia’s passion is more than visible.
Celebrating your little titties should definitely go as far as to flashing on your video for your little titty anthem. Why not? Go for it, surely. Princess Nokia has been building momentum from Toronto delivering positive motivational vibes as that of a true New York boricua. 1992 is an authentic experience showing promise with coming growth. 2017 has been a good year for female hip-hop/rap artists so who knows what other hardbody anthems Destiny Frasqueri will bring to us in the coming years. I could definitely hear a collaboration with the likes of Cardi B within the realm of aural possibilities, but Princess Nokia has been doing her own thing so well she will likely gain more popularity by continuing to hold down her own lane.