February 26th, 2015 1:58pm
Joey Bada$$ is a proud traditionalist – he clearly worships at the altar of Nas, Biggie, DJ Premier, and Wu-Tang, and is striving to keep that ‘90s NYC aesthetic alive. I love that aesthetic, and so Joey’s music has a comfort food quality to it. There’s no surprises, but when it’s done well it’s rich and satisfying in a way that makes you momentarily forget there’s anything else. To some extent this makes me doubt my critical faculties, but then I remember one of my core beliefs as a critic: You can be wrong about the things you dislike, but you’re never wrong about what you enjoy. And how do I not enjoy production that feels so immediately cozy, and a rapper whose style is proficient yet warm and casual? Joey may be a bit conservative compared to some of his contemporaries, but this is a very “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” sort of thing.
February 25th, 2015 1:34pm
What do you do when you want to experience love and have a serious partner, but are absolutely terrified of anything like actual intimacy? That’s the question of this song, which starts off with doubts about ever being “the marrying kind,” and then goes deeper and deeper until it reaches the root of the problem: an inability to trust other people and immense self-loathing.
This is a painfully honest song, and Colleen Green holds nothing back – it’s stark and cold and brutal, and it’s actually kinda scary to listen to it. She sings “I don’t wanna think about it, it’s too scary” in the first refrain, but that’s before she even gets to the really painful stuff. But she can’t stop thinking about it, and it’s just like those times when you can’t fall asleep and your mind just starts running through disaster scenarios and picking apart everything you hate about yourself. It’s a mental scab you can’t stop picking at.
The final verse is the one that really resonates for me. I hate how much I relate to that last verse. I’m kinda ashamed to admit this in public – I worry about you listening to it and then knowing a bit too much about my personal issues. But then, I think this song applies to sooooooo many people, including many people in long term relationships. It’s hard to connect with people in a deep and meaningful way, and almost impossible if you’re unwilling to let your guard down because you want to protect yourself, or protect other people from what you hate about yourself. I think a lot about letting go and letting other people in, but once that urge to keep people away gets entrenched in your mind, it starts to feel like a survival instinct. The real question of this song is basically – is it worth surviving to live like this?
February 24th, 2015 3:38am
I’ve been getting sent PR emails about bands for a third of my life now, and I’m very used to publicists saying their artists sound something like some pre-existing well-regarded band. In the case of Never Young, I saw that they were compared to Fugazi, and I reflexively scoffed: Haha, no one is gonna sound like Fugazi! But here’s the crazy thing: Never Young actually DOES sound a little like Fugazi. You can hear it in the way the riffs crash violently into the beat, and the drums hit with a physical force that you don’t find in all that much rock music from the past decade or so. (Even the stuff that’s meant to be heavy.) You can hear it in the way this dude sings, which clearly aspires to Guy Picciotto’s nakedly emotional shouts and slurs.
This is definitely music that belongs to the same lineage, but Never Young are true to the spirit of Fugazi and Dischord by being themselves too. There’s a very particular ugly metallic clang to their guitar tone, and they favor a mix that’s more about blasting your ears out than just offering a dry document of a band in a room. They also like shifting into a trebly, angelic tone, and while they’re hardly the first band to have a slashing, screaming sound smash right into something more lovely and ethereal, they’re certainly the best I’ve heard do it in many years.
February 23rd, 2015 2:06am
I love the way this song feels like some kind of ritual to purge someone from your mind. Yannick Ilunga leads a call and response that spirals around a very simple beat, recognizing this person’s power over him and realizing that whatever they had, good or bad, is poisonous now. I’m extrapolating, though – there’s no particular conclusion here, and at least half the point of the song is the way the vocal and music moves in circles. It intensifies and builds, but it never leaves a tight orbit.
February 20th, 2015 1:19pm
A while back, maybe ten years ago, I came to realize that my favorite dance music wasn’t 100% danceable. I mean, yes, you ~can~ dance to it, but it’s not the sort of blunt force beats that will always slay at actual dance clubs. The thing I love is a sort of highly dynamic, super-charged pop music that signals a very sleek and confident sexuality. I’m looking for songs that have all the melody of pop, but pushed to a point where the very sound of the music forces an immediate physical response. This track from Etienne de Crécy’s Super Discount 3 is a fine example of this – it’s an incredibly smooth song, and about as chill as a song can be while also being quite hyperactive. There’s a hint of doubt in the vocal, but the overall sound is so suave and certain. It’s aspirational pop music.
February 19th, 2015 1:54pm
Cat Harris-White and Stas Irons’ best skill as a duo is their ability to convey strength, ideology, and sometimes anger in a way that feels kind, empathetic, and maternal. There’s a powerful message embedded in this – we don’t need to become harsh and brutal to speak out against terrible things, and approaching the world with affection and patience is not automatically a position of weakness. Their music always feels like a warm embrace that engulfs your whole being – maybe it’s the deep bass, or the way their melodies seem to circle and loop, but it feels so gentle and reassuring.
February 18th, 2015 1:17pm
This track by Budgie & Samiyam is a gorgeous frame for Earl Sweatshirt’s older, richer voice – the tone is classy, sophisticated ‘70s soul, but warped just enough to feel surreal and slightly shabby. The shift into the sliced vocal loop midway through is a brilliant touch, and I’m always a sucker for rap songs that switch the beat up in the middle. Earl’s performance is understated, but his lyrics are as strong as ever, but now they hit with the authority of a dude who is finally out of his teens.
February 17th, 2015 1:26pm
This is the kind of extremely romantic song only a teenage songwriter and performer can truly nail. I swear I mean this without condescension! There is nothing immature or cringe-inducing about this song – it’s just got a purity of feeling and concern about the perception of others that peaks in adolescence, even if it often carries through life. This is basically about being in love and feeling misunderstood by everyone around you, and how that alienation makes that love grow stronger. That “you and me against the world thing” is always going to evoke a powerful feeling in me, but the part of this song that really chokes me up is the way she dismisses all these horrible townies who’ve got her down: “I don’t think they know what love is.” She’s frustrated, but also pities them for it.
February 12th, 2015 2:09pm
Knxwledge’s remixes keep large chunks of his source material intact while absorbing it into his drowsy, stoned aesthetic. This track is made out of Joe Budden’s “Get No Younger,” but the energy level is dialed down pretty drastically. It’s not chopped and screwed – if anything, the music feels like it’s gone in a more psychedelic direction. When you hear this in the context of the full mixtape, it just feels like you’re in some weird mental state where everything sounds and feels a little different. But unlike most scenarios where that happens, you can actually replay and rewind this.
February 11th, 2015 1:12pm
First off, I want to mention that I’ve been writing this site since 2002 and this is maybe the third or fourth time ever that I’ve featured an artist based in the Hudson Valley, which is where I’m from. This is a duo from New Paltz, and much respect to them for being from New Paltz instead of moving down to the city. The Hudson Valley is a pretty smart place to start a band these days – you’ll pay a lot less rent, get more space to practice, live near a lot of cool little arts communities along the Hudson, and still be close enough to play in NYC all the time. Look into it.
“Breathless” might be a pretty different song if Diet Cig lived in NYC rather than New Paltz. Alex Luciano is singing about getting her first apartment and enjoying the freedom of it all, but having the “wow, I’m an adult!” feeling severely undermined by, like, not having a lot of the basic stuff you need for an apartment, like kitchen supplies and shower curtains. This is nothing you can’t fix with a relatively inexpensive visit to Target, but wow, I’m sure a lot of you will recognize this feeling. The part that really gets me is when she’s worried about feeling lonely, and hopes that you’ll come hang out with her and watch The Simpsons with her on the floor. That’s just so sweet and real.