Music for 5/11/23!!! Billy Woods

@@@ Billy Woods: Maps (Backwoodz, 2023) This record came out last week and I’ve been a huge Billy Woods booster since Aethiopes, which isn’t very long. Dog me out, I could give a shit. I like the guitar in the second tune, it fits into a hip hop framework and somehow adds a sad indie flow to the track. Woods’ lyrics are pretty real and abstract simultaneously, that is one of the things I like best about his music. These tracks are pretty hot with a variety of sounds, I’m just cruising around the web as he rhymes and he did this record with Kenny Segal who I know nothing about. When he starts serving up the broken jazz samples I’m good to go — small melodies, horn blasts, climbing upright bass lines over ride cymbal grooves. He’s got a bunch of guest MCs but it ends up making the tracks more coherent and not all stretched out by each MC. Right around track 5 the tunes start getting weirder and hotter, more urgent and darker, that’s the shit right there. I will be listening to this again especially the first third of the record — sometimes it takes your ears to take a few track to get accustomed to a record, especially fresh biscuits like these from Mr. Woods. It’s Thursday and I’m giving a quick peep to the front of this record and from the thwacking snare sound on the opener ‘Kenwood Speakers’ it’s clear this is a pretty relevant set of sounds and vibes and lyrics that are causing his music to be catching a lot of ears, mine included. He’s a creative person who’s doing some high quality music making at the moment.

Music for 4/3/23!!! ICECOLDBISHOP, Yaya Bey

@@@ ICECOLDBISHOP: Generational Curse (Sony Music, 2023) This is some major label rough side of town hip hop. The MC who I might refer to as Mr. Bishop or Mr. IceCold is energetic and entertaining on the microphone as he pursues his various deals and scenarios. First off, there’s some really nice arranging here as well as some standard trap stuff. If I can disqualify the lyrics on the new boygenius record I can get past the lyrics here that focus a lot on black on black violence which is regrettable because some folks think this shit is real and not a bunch of songs. Mr. Bishop and his energy is what makes this album stand out. It’s not the best hip hop I’ve heard but it does show what an impassioned MC can do.

@@@ Yaya Bey: Remember Your North Star (Big Dada, 2023) Off this week’s 10 most reviewed albums from PItchfork. I like a lot of what’s going on here but I’m especially feeling the guitar player and certain stretches where Yaya Bey really hits the microphone rhythmically. It does have a super familiar vibe which I don’t love but that’s me, I’m always looking to hear new sounds. Stylistically the tunes jump around with some lounge-y stuff, a reggae-ish track, a wee bit of hip hop flavor, and then your standard r&b/dance feels. Big respect to the engineer who tracked and mixed this record, the sonics are ridiculously high quality.

Music for 3/29/23!!! Jenny Lewis, Hus Kingpin

@@@ Jenny Lewis: Psychos (Blue Note, 2023) Oy, this is on Blue Note, somewhat shocking! Hipster goes legit on a legendary imprint. I’ve clicked on her last two releases and they were both on Warner so she’s not an indie hipster, my mistake! This is a pretty straightforward California chill rock typa thing. It’s a mashup of light Joni Mitchell feels as well as the ‘Stuck in the Middle With You’ Gerry Rafferty but not as inspired as Senor Rafferty. It’s perfectly fine, to my ears it doesn’t really stand out but some folks aren’t looking for that.

@@@ Hus Kingpin: The Tricky Tape (Wave Runners Club, 2023) I got to this independent hip hop track via a music publicist email. This is some retro NYC hip hop and the MC has a scratchity-ass tone to his voice that produces a rough flavor. The third track Blueprint picks up the tempo a bunch with a bouncing horn line for the MC to work a bit quicker. The third tune, Maxinquaye, is a real tear jerker with strings the boom bap. I don’t love strings in hip hop but if it comes with the boom bap I can deal with it.

Music for 1/23/23!!! Oddisee, Brainiac

@@@ Oddisee: Hard To Tell (Other Note, 2023) We’re starting to see new releases for 2023 and I’ve checked Mr. Oddisee a few years ago and his skills are as fearsome and complex as ever. He mugs the microphone over intensely composed arrangements — the bassline and keyboard guitar figure in this first track are not typical. The second track How Far, is funkier with the same intense rhyming style. He’s both hardcore in his approach as well as high end in his aspirations. I’m really feeling this third tune, Many Hats as he backs off verbally a tad and brings some slink to it. Oh shit, the fourth tune, To What End, is even better so the album is gathering steam in my eyes. I’m guessing this gent has extensive musical training, his shit is just ferociously skilled, intellectually, technically, his arrangements are thick and super focused and then he piles on with his words, it’s almost overwhelming. There’s a nerdy aspect to his intellectualism for sure and I wish there was more grit, but as far as I can tell he’s closer to being a jazz musician than a hip hop guy. Impressive.

@@@ Brainiac: Predator Nominate (Touch and Go, 2022) I saw the Touch and Go imprint and thought this was gonna be some old school roughness and you do get half a slice with the grizzy bass but there’s plenty of cloudy retro synths and drum machine beats from another era on tap here. I don’t know if your world needs more Nine Inch Nails inspired inspired aggro dance music but my world is agnostic on it. It’s getting crunchier as I get to the third tune.

Music for 12/14/22!!! Little Simz, Danakil Meets Ondubground

@@@ Little Simz: Who Even Cares (AWAL, 2022) Off an email from Australian music mag Happy. Fresh out of the oven meaning just released, I think I heard a pre-release track from this record. This is track 9 on the record and it sports a slightly retro, soft and medium funky attitude. She’s more than solid on the microphone here. Slotted as hip hop she’s more straddling r&b and hip hop. I’m checking out the second track Gorilla and it’s more raucous and more hip hop with an upright bass, splashy hi hats and sassy rhymes. I’m on the third track and she’s got spot on production and she’s skilled microphonically but I don’t find myself pulled in by the tunes.

@@@ Danakil Meets Ondubground Part 2 (Baco Records, 2022) I got to this big fat modern sounding dub record with trap hats, dub and blunted feels via the WRIR playlist email. There are a ton of guest singers on this record from loverboy to dancehall toast to rough boys. The sounds are very new with drum machines and synth basses. I’m on the fourth tune and it’s an interesting blend of sounds, a lot of which I like and some I don’t like as much. It’s cool to take sounds that are central to other genres and then put them into a genre I super dig but I wish it hit harder and had more classic reggae funk. Not funk from classic reggae but the overall funkiness of reggae is a main draw for me.

Music for 11/29/22!!! Earl Sweatshirt

@@@ Earl Sweatshirt: Titanic (Warner, 2022) I’ve heard Earl Sweatshirt’s flow before and I love his name but I’ve seen this record on two different lists for best of 2022. In my mind he’s not a mainstream MC but nor is he a left field cat, he’s in the middle of those two neighborhoods. He’s more than solid on the mic, rhythmically sophisticated in his lyrics, this second track 2010 features an arpeggiated synth that he bounces off of. Outside of his delivery and the sounds I’m not getting a real strong idea of what he’s about. If I got insane feels about the content of his lyrics bit I’m listening and I’m not getting that sense. Compare his lyrics to Billy Woods record Aethiopes and maybe you’ll see my point. The sounds are crazy creative and ear catching, I would just a little more from the lyrics.

Music for 11/11/22!!! Skanks the Rap Martyr, Persher

@@@ Skanks the Rap Martyr: Take it to the Streets (Anarchy Records, 2022) I got to this independent hip hop via a music publicist email. Skanks the Rap Martyr has plenty of jams up on Apple Music but not this track and it’s Friday and I’m lazy so wé’re just gonna rock the GooglePimpTube video below. A brisk retro-ish beat heavy on snare with lyrics lamenting violence in the hip hop community. There’s a really nice flute sample and energetic but not full on rhyming. It’s a straight forward track, I like the lyrics and the bounce.

@@@ Persher: Man With the Magic Soap (Thrill Jockey, 2022) I got to this metal outfit via a weekly email from Crack Magazine out of the UK. I have a conflicted relationship with Thrill Jockey metal releases — sometimes it’s noisy metal and I dig that and sometimes it’s more art school metal and I like that less. C’mon you gotta give props to any record title Man with the Magic Soap. This is not your typical metal, it’s more of an art school noise rock project. Plenty of fuzz, punk drumming, blasted distorted vocals. I like the first track but I didn’t finish it so I skipped to the second while mentioning that’s not a great sign. This second track Calf is pretty good with a spooky bassline and a shuffly beat. It’s cool. I think this is solid B stuff, I like a bunch of what’s going on here but I’m not jumping up and down. To my ears it’s an extension of Rob Zombie’s horror movie music without a lot of metal, more punk and no glam.

Music for 11/5/22!!! Bill Callahan, Billy Woods

@@@ Bill Callahan: YTILAER (Drag City, 2022) A coupla listens off this week’s Pitchfork’s 10 most reviewed albums of the week. The record opens with a track called First Bird and it’s very reminiscent of Leonard Cohen but with a little ambient garnish in the back of the mix. Then the whole band comes in and it’s plain but completely without pretension which is a plus for me. I like the bass player here, he/she/they catching my ear a whole bunch. Both of the songs I’ve listened to thus far have opened with extensive acoustic guitar stretches which makes the record a blend of singer/songwriter and band rock. The record is meticulously produced and I liked the first track the best, that’s where I’m at.

@@@ Billy Woods: Paraquat ( , 2022) Already having put out one of my favorite albums of the year what could I possibly expect from a second Billy Woods record in 2022? Who wants to be the nasty slut wanting too much? I was listening to the back end of this record last night while I rode the exercise bike and while I wasn’t particularly carried away by the rhyming I realized how much I love the murky and gooey sound of Mr. Woods’ records. The video clipped below is the opening track of the record and it has both grit and Halloween feels. There’s a backwards sample here and a female choir sample that work well together, back and forth like the bellows of an accordion. His music is sonically dense and I appreciate that and his rhyming is intense. I’m liking the front end of this record a whole bunch. It’s hard to tell if I like more than his record from earlier this year as it’s a hefty nugget with plenty going on. His music is most definitely hip hop and gritty but with so much more on top of that so it can be consumed in a buncha ways. Whoever does his sounds rocks it.

Music for 10/23/22!!! Mavi

@@@ MAVI: High John (United Masters, 2022) I got a bit thrown off by the dreadlocks thinking this was going to be in the reggae neighborhood but it’s a chill sitch hip hop record. He does work the mic in the opener which is clipped below, the sounds are laidback but he puts out a lot of energy. The second tune, Spoiled Brat, works the same formula. I like his rhymes and I find the contrast that I’ve discussed here interesting and a big break from the onslaught of trippy trap darkness. I’m in the B+ area on this but I can see a lot of folks digging the sounds/flow combination. Lots of clean guitar strums, dreamy synth patches and funky non-denominational beats.

Music for 11/10/22!!! Surachai, Hilltop Hoods

@@@ Surachai: Veil (BL_K Noise, 2022) A pre release track I got to via a twat from the Gilead Media Twatter people saying this was a record of the year by a mile or some such. It opens with solo piano and then an increasing amount of electro sauce — ringing, resonating, glitching, and then a pretty bitcrushed beat and bass combo platter. On top of all that a dreamy female voice is layered, oh mad drama, mad dramas up in here. I like that crunchy low end bit, that’s pretty epic, the rest is a bit meh. It is a very interesting example of ultra clean and ultra dirty inhabiting the same space.

@@@ Hilltop Hoods: A Whole Day’s Night (Island Australia, 2022) I’m on the mailing list for Australian music magazine Happy Magazine so Imma peep some Australian hip hop so you don’t have to. Oy, it’s worse than British hip hop. It’s rhymed but sing song-y, it’s nostalgic with a cheesebomb chorus, oh no, a young female diva throwing a big vocal hook. Big flat beats, some percussive string samples and low energy rhymes equals sad face. I’m gonna finish this off though I don’t know why. Okay I lived through that and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I don’t know if that’s cultural appropriation or an extreme lack of funk or just too many shrimps on the barby but it was rough.