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My 2014 In Music: Spencer Vilicic

Top 10 Albums

Joyce-Manor-Never-Hungover-Again-Artwork-1024x102410. Home, Like Noplace Is There – The Hotelier
9. Guilty Of Everything – Nothing
8. Mind Over Matter – Young The Giant
7. Lost in the Dream – The War on Drugs
6. Long Way Down – EP – Robert DeLong
5. Supermodel – Foster The People
4. Run The Jewels 2 – Run The Jewels
3. Broods – EP – Broods
2. You’re Gonna Miss It All – Modern Baseball
1. Never Hungover Again – Joyce Manor

 

Honorable Mentions

Awake – Tycho
Kauai – Childish Gambino
#000000 & #ffffff – The Neighborhood
So Long, See You Tomorrow – Bombay Bicycle Club
Turn Blue – The Black Keys

 

Top 10 Songs

10. “My World” Code Orange
9. “Dig” Nothing
8. “Red Eyes” The War on Drugs
7. “Repine” Pianos Become The Teeth
6. “Feels Like” Robert DeLong
5. “Two Weeks” FKA twigs
4. “Catalina Fight Song” Joyce Manor
3. “The Old Gospel Choir” Modern Baseballtumblr_n7a9ywJsxv1sxxb1ho1_1280
2. “Firelight” Young The Giant
1. “Hunger Of The Pine” Alt-J

 

Honorable Mentions

“Had To Hear” Real Estate
“Sober” Childish Gambino
“Close Your Eyes (And Count To F*ck)” Run The Jewels Feat. Zack De La Rocha
“Magic” Coldplay
“Luna” Bombay Bicycle Club

 

 

Top 5 Concerts

5. Walk The Moon, Youngblood Hawke, and Panic! At The Disco @ South Side Ballroom
4. Death Cab For Cutie (KXT’s Summer Cut) @ Gexa Energy Pavillion
3. STRFKR, Grouplove, and Portugal. The Man @ South Side Ballroom
2. Edgefest 24 @ Toyota Stadium
1. Robert DeLong @ House Of Blues Dallas

 

 

Biggest Letdowns

Ghost Stories – Coldplay
This Is All Yours – Alt-J
“A Sky Full Of Stars” Coldplay
“Blood Flood, pt. II” Alt-J
Monumentour @ Gexa Energy Pavillion
Passenger @ House Of Blues Dallas

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The Best Albums Of 2014

Here are the 30 best albums that sound-tracked our year (does not account for closeted Taylor Swift or Behemoth listeners). Thanks for another great year and here’s to 2015! Keep It Neat!

30. Nobody’s Smiling – Common

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Review by Alex Hernandez

The Chicago native, known for his ability to blend the smooth rhythms of hip-hop with his conscious lyrics, structured his latest album, cleverly titled Nobody’s Smiling, to capture the mood lingering about the windy city and address the worsening conditions of the streets of Chiraq. His last album, The Dreamer, The Believer, released in 2011, left many of his core fans, (including myself and a few other fans of his that I know personally) disappointed and somewhat confused due to the fact that the Common that we all knew and loved seemed to have disappeared and had been replaced with a new artist that, in a strange fashion, attempted to be someone that he was not and alter his musical voice and tone.

People used to listen to his tracks and say, “Hey!  This guy is on to something, he’s rapping about real, tangible things such as the poverty faced by this country and all that goes on behind the scenes in America such as violence and the distribution of drugs like cocaine”.

Many, if not all of the tracks featured on the album possess a somber tone mixed with a bit of a hard-nosed attitude, descriptions one would typically associate with the notoriously rough streets of Chicago. Although this approach was consistent throughout the album, certain songs really highlighted “the struggle” as well as his pride in Chicago. Also, Common thanks NoID and the late J-Dilla (RIP) for their help and support throughout the years and apologizes for his former neglect towards them, a classy move by all means. Needless to say, I really liked this album, and you will too, once you accept it for the bold, raw expression of emotion and gratitude that it is and what kind of musician/lyricist Common is.

29. Lazaretto – Jack White

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Review by Jon Birondo

Just like on his last effort, Blunderbuss, White slowly dips his toe into country music and garage rock on this album. A majority of these songs feature lap steel guitars, busy fiddles, distortion buzzes, old-vintage pianos, and even some folky strumming. White then blends them all together, and the much heightened instrumentation really does add up to the scope of the album, making each song as lush and grand as they can be. His most gaudy, yet bold movement on this album comes on “That Black Bat Licorice”, where he sings “She writes letters like a Jack Chick comic, just a bunch of propaganda/ She makes my fingers histrionic, like this [BADASS RIFF] and this [BADASS RIFF]!” It’s exhilarating and it possesses a true rock n’ roll sensibility, because let’s face it: in rock and roll, there’s no mercy when it comes to solos, especially solos that can melt the walls and burn out amps.

And White does just that: although there’s more room to breathe on this album, White still adds more instruments or amps up the volume, violently clashing these elements together, filling the atmosphere with a lot of noise and sound. Yet that’s how we love Jack White right? Sure The White Stripes’ trademark sound, along with everyone’s realization of “HOW COULD TWO PEOPLE MAKE THAT MUCH NOISE?!?” is vital to the world of alternative rock and White’s image itself, but seeing White with a full band is like watching a painter when given more colors and better brushes: you never know your full power and potential until you’re given the right tools.

28. Are We There – Sharon Van Etten

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Review by Jon Birondo

Sadness can change us in so many ways, ways that are good or bad. It can ultimately define us, or it can ultimately destroy us. Whatever sadness may mean to you, Sharon Van Etten’s latest record Are We There is an interesting portrayal of love, hope, and sadness, offering different perspectives on sadness, but most of all, of life.. And with her voice, her message is assuring and passionate.

Are We There is a gentle record, but it comes with its surprises. Interesting instrumentation, orchestral swells, and incredibly passionate lyrics bring the emotional intensity of this album to the forefront. Contrary to the album cover, there’s a lot of color and textures on this record, and more gets brought out with each listen.

On the opener, Van Etten sings “I can’t wait/ Til we’re afraid/ Of nothing”, showing that although the future is unclear, taking that first step into the unknown can do even benefit your cause. And that’s where Van Etten succeeds and triumphs, she sees the good and bad outcomes of love, and knows that above anything else, the journey is the destination. Because this journey and narrative sounds far from over. As is life. As is love.

27. Sickening Joy – Flares (Now Called Glasir)

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Review by Michael White

Flares is a brand-spanking new post-rock group, fresh out of North Texas. Post-rock can be a derivative genre, but Flares make the extra effort to make something that transcends the usual style.

I felt totally transported to another dimension with this track, as well as other tracks. The space-rock flavors (very reminiscent of Hum) elevate the next track, “Purge.” This is a majestic mammoth of a track, clocking in at over 8 minutes. The riff that intersects this track is undeniably catchy, just like many of the riffs on this project. “Reconcile,” has a well-executed black metal approach reminiscent of many blackened shoegaze bands.

With minimal amount of fluff (superfluous effects, random instrumentation, etc.), Flares have taken us on a beautifully spacious journey.

26. CLPPNG – clipping.

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Review by Jon Birondo

Los Angeles trio clipping. are a collaboration between rapper Daveed Diggs and producers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson. The trio have built a huge name in the underground for themselves, pushing the enigmatic sub genre known as “noise hop” into ambitious directions, with industrial, hard hitting beats and lightning fast flows.

Although aggressive, unique, and alienating in nature, clipping. somehow find ways to craft some of the catchiest rap songs I’ve heard all year (See “Summertime” and “Taking Off”). And yet these songs have some of the weirdest but unique compositions ever. There’s the splashy, blood drench “Body & Blood”, the glitchy snares on “Taking Off” and even the gradual, odd beat of “Story 2″ which starts off with a 3/4 beat but slowly grows to a 7/4 beat.

While industrial hip hop is a hard genre to tread, newcomers should not be wary. This is experimental hip hop that feels chaotic and crazy, but at the same time it feels contained and controlled. clipping. is chock full of ideas and CLPPNG shows it: these songs do more than grab your attention, they invite and for once, it’s incredibly accessible.

25. Trouble  – Hospitality

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Review by Enrique Berrios

When Brooklyn based indie-pop band Hospitality released their self-titled album in 2011, the band enjoyed moderate success. Hospitality’s unique rhythm, warm acoustic guitar, bright electric guitar, and friendly tone made the band’s first LP 2011’s Hidden Gem and cemented the underrated group as one of my favorite indie bands. Now, after having matured and learned from their past, the band offers bold new flavors in their second full length album Trouble, released on January 28 by Merge Records.

Hospitality takes you back in time to the 70’s with a warm piano and lyrics that focus on ending a relationship with an unfaithful boyfriend. I really enjoyed this song. It helps to send the listener through the album’s progression. It changes the ideas and sounds. Next, Hospitality sunrises with another 80’s inspired song with “Last Words”. The synthesizers, piano, darker lyrics, and simple electric guitar make this Hospitality’s best song yet. The group reaches its lyrical peak in this song with biblical allusion and ideas not typically found in indie-pop music. This peak precedes two more songs that, like “Sullivan,” just don’t fit.

Trouble offers a new look into Hospitality, and it largely succeeds. It’s easy to dismiss the band’s new louder sound, but it’s truly something special.Hospitality can never lose its indie-pop roots. Trouble would reach into the realm of incredible albums, but I still love every song on this LP. The problem was in the placement of these songs. Once Hospitality learns to produce an album that smoothly transitions through its different acts, the band will be able to produce a masterpiece. In the mean time, we’re left with a great offering from a great band.

 

24. Everyday Robots – Damon Albarn

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Review by Will Butler

Softly spoken and humble Damon perches on his stool, his face cast downwards with an expression unidentifiable. The front cover of Damon Albarn’s first official solo record is the first exposure to what Everyday Robots alludes to, it features Damon, alone, contemplating, and us, inhabiting the grey pallet sat by his feet awaiting. Intimate and wholly Damon, Everyday Robots sees the Blur/Gorillaz/Dr.Dee visionary draw from the last two decades of experience seeped into his bones to produce a record as honest and cherished as the man himself.

On occasion Everyday Robots finds itself in familiar terrain where the ever-present grey hue overtakes personality and rare as these moments are they can translate lethargy across the medium like on ‘History of a Cheating Heart’ which caresses more than penetrates the feeling membrane.

Final track and Eno collaboration ‘Heavy Seas the Love’ sheathes steadfast and satisfied like closing the final page of a book. Many folks pin this as a sad affair but I find solace in it, to be able to appreciate the work as a whole not just as a formation of it’s aggregates. As this track draws to a stop we’re left with a slow, solitary applause, one earned and revered by a man that is nothing less than a national treasure.

23. The Unnatural World – Have A Nice Life

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Review by Jon Birondo

There comes a point in The Unnatural World where all you feel is sheer terror and paranoia. The chaotic, claustrophobic atmosphere of “Defenestration Song” is sure to frighten any young child, and the cultish chants of the intro song “Guggenheim Wax Museum” is disturbingly haunting. Yet,  that’s what makes The Unnatural World so striking and compelling, it’s able to blur the line between music and animalistic tendencies and abrasively deliver solid tune after solid tune, all while retaining some solid, melodic precision and production.

Yet the most chilling moment on the album comes from the intro of “Cropsey”; as Pitchfork reports, it’s “named after Staten Island’s eerie, mad-slasher urban legend, opens with an even more chilling sample: testimony from a young boy named Johnny, an inmate of the notoriously abusive Pennsylvania mental institution Pennhurst that was featured in the 1968 exposé Suffer the Little Children.” And the song echoes its chilling deposition, before donning gothic and industrial tendencies, before closing out with throbbing synths; an aching heart needs some room to move.

With what may there be most chilling album to date, Have A Nice Life have also delivered their most personal, if not, heartfelt one. Each song has a certain feeling to them, and they move, and tremble in ways that only music can. For all of its vacillation, The Unnatural World remains irreparable, never maintaining a solid shape, or genre, to call it home. It’s as if its ghostly wail isn’t a wail that scares, it’s one that beckons to be loved.

22. Turn Blue – The Black Keys

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Review by Jon Birondo

Alas, with the latest release from The Black Keys, the band puts forth their most compelling, gripping, and moody record to date. If you’re looking for The Black Keys you’ve come to love, you won’t find them here. The band is still able to pull off stadium-ready tunes, with enough catchy choruses and melodies to entice a crowd, but the band is dealing with different shades of their craft.

The opener “Weight of Love”, is a towering epic that starts off soft, with an acoustic guitar and bells, before swelling into atmospheric, blues rock heaven, with long, elongated solos, reminiscent of David Gilmour, which makes sense considering it sounds a lot like “Breathe”. At almost seven minutes, this is one of the band’s longest tracks, and one of their most compelling. And this track pretty much sums up the album as a whole: less immediate then their past albums, but much more sprawling and draped, each aspect slowly coming into the fold. Now these tracks won’t necessarily start a party, but they sure get the job done.

As I said, you won’t find The Black Keys you’ve come to love here. What was once “black” has know grown into a different shade of color, “blue”. By spiraling into other creative mediums, toying with production, and offering more strengths to the table, The Black Keys find themselves in a new light. With less rock-heavy riffs, and more focus on melody, production, and overall precision, the band creates one of their finest records, not to mention one of the finest records of the year. Auerbach’s croons are as sweet as ever, and Carney’s drumming is steady, yet blatantly, but subtly, wild, as he offers an interesting dynamic to the album.  If you’re a fan of The Black Keys at all, you shouldn’t be disappointed; this is a testament to a band at the height of their creative powers.

21. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

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Review by Will Butler

Self titled albums speak volumes in terms of content, resemblance and expectations, many bands opting for their debut with ephemeral hopes of it being their signature stamp on history whilst others sit on it, waiting for their brand to progress and their artistry to cultivate into something more substantial and grounded. Annie Clark has proven herself album after album that she is a pioneer of fluctuation in stylistic terms, technical ability and the progression as an artist she illustrates through her music. As not to say that St.Vincent has no core sound or refined fundamentals to pin down, this record is as close as we’ll get to an accumulative synopsis of her accomplishments so far.

Equal parts chaos and beauty with reference to sexuality, social networking and experiences beyond our reality, St.Vincent really intwines herself, her essence, into every note of this record. Siren comparisons are and have been rife within all manner of literature concerning Ms.Clark and rightly so, she has both the menace and captivation to draw in those who are lost among the mediocre and impersonal.
Riddled with neurosis and quirky introspection, St.Vincent is a true extension of Annie Clark, the person – strikingly beautiful and mysterious.

20. LP1 – FKA Twigs

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Review by Will Butler

So rare is it that a pop-star rattles the music community with such progressive vigour. Normally we push these advancements into the peripheries until we perceive them relevant and label them ‘ahead of their time.’ London based singer FKA Twigs transcends this phenomena, she cultivates a new visual and musical epoch for pop. In some ways I feel that the recent popularity of neo-soul in both the mainstream and alternative spheres have led up to Twigs’ breakthrough. While a lot of the acclaim accredited to Twigs can be accounted to her empowering stances on sexuality, her involvement as a Young Turks prodigy and her complex mystique, LP1 is a documentation of Twigs pushing pop in the right direction.

With a production roster of this magnitude, LP1 was never going to fall short. Armed to the teeth in talent, LP1 features input from Young Turks peer Sampha, Clams Casino and the growing talent of Emile Haynie. All with an obvious reverence for Twigs’ voice, the producers have all put their stamp on their respective tracks, a diversity that can be heard in the way each instrumental develops. It ranges from the purging tones that descend throughout ‘Two Weeks’ to ‘Hours’, co-written by Devonte Hynes, in which haunting rests build a tension of the unknown, like hearing footsteps behind you at night.

And in keeping with this, LP1 is truly an extension of the artist. An appreciation for RNB, modern and classic, soul and Trip-Hop, in fact ‘Numbers’ is comparable to a Portishead cut mixed by the Mad Hatter, the beats are consistently challenging but never incoherent or contrived. The musicianship may take some time to adjust to but becomes increasingly accessible with more listens to the extent that the simpler tracks, like the hymnal ‘Closer’, don’t strike as hot as the more experimental instrumentals.

LP1 is the pop record that’s been brewing beneath the brine for all too long. What Channel Orange or 21 accomplished for their fields, LP1 has trail-blazed for the contemporary pop audience. Never over-encumbered or sacrificial, Twigs has shattered preconceived notions of what a pop record ‘should be’ because a pop record shouldn’t ‘be’ anything and I feel Twigs has opened our eyes to that. A cathartic step into ecstasy, LP1 is the current forerunner for progressive pop.

19. Metropolis Pts I & II – The M Machine

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Review by Martin Flores

Hailing from San Francisco, unique dance trio The M Machine (composed of Ben “Swardy” Swardlick, Eric Luttrell, and Andy Coenen) certainly caught the attention of music fans and artists across a wide scope of genres. In fact, the group recognizes a “difference between The M Machine fan and the average electronic music fan.” The group sets themselves apart from the stereotypical dance scene that has arisen in the past fifteen or so years by blending stunning sound engineering and production with thoughtful lyrics from multiple influences and genres alike.

‘Moon Song’ explodes out of its inception into a heavy synth note leading to distant vocals and concluding with multiple drops sure to satisfy. ‘Schadenfreude’, track number five, really disappointed me because of its willingness to sacrifice some unique elements for the most sound. I found the production slick, but I found the rest of the musical features mediocre. “Luma” rounds out the album by combining multiple genres into one nine minute piece, bringing the music to its conclusion.

The M Machine certainly brings a new approach on typical dance music by encompassing multiple genres. Of course, the group has described their genre that they play in as dabbling in “a few. We see most of our success writing electro-house and vocal-based indie-electro. Still, we’re no stranger to future techno, dubstep, and pop.” I highly encourage anyone who is pretty ambitious about listening to new music and being open to growth to give them a listen.

18. In Return – ODESZA

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Review by Alec Shea

Odesza was formed back in 2012 when the duo, Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight, were seniors in college at Western Washington University. They quickly gained popularity in the electronic scene and have now released 2 albums and 1 E.P. Their newest album, “In Return” was released September 9th, 2014. The group claims that their name came to be from 2 reasons. Mills’ uncle had a ship that sank and Odessa was its name. The other reason is because the band name “Odessa” had already been taken. Thus, Odesza was born.

The overall feel of the album is very chill. Some songs have a faster tempo than others, but overall the tone of the album is chill, calm, and peaceful.  I found myself constantly tapping my feet along with the propulsive beats and catchy synth melodies. The album also features many different artists. This is always a good thing in my opinion because it varies up the sound of the album. The vocals on the album are incredibly fitting to each song they are in and overall just work really well.

So many aspects were made just right. You will become addicted to the album as a whole within the first listen. That statement is coming from someone who doesn’t generally like electronic music. I’m excited to see what this group does in the future and they have gained me as a fan.

17. Glass Boys –F**ked Up

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Review by Will Butler

Being 20 is great. I haven’t amassed a single gram of weight since I moved out, I can drink six litres of gasoline nightly and run a 5K the next morning in addition to having unshaken emotional connections with a plethora of temporary suiters. Though, according to Toronto based hardcore outfit F**ked Up and new their record, Glass Boys, the decade to follow won’t be treasured through vermillion tinted lenses but will rather test the mettle and sanity as age becomes an unavoidable cross to bear.

Stand-out performances track after track, philosophical minotaur Damian Abraham exhibits an almost mythical level of awareness and sullen articulation through ear-spitting growls and yelps. As always, the rhythm sections are tight and guitars incendiary, seeming to get brighter and more melodic with every record – Glass Boys, and F**ked Up as a band, is arguably the world’s gateway into the realm of hardcore combining crucial elements of punk with accessible sentimentality, a rarified balance.

Closing track “Glass Boys” is another highlight of my year in music so far. With transparent optimism it spits at the stereotype of hardcore as a guttural mash of noise, it speaks volumes that I found one of the most uplifting tracks in recent years standing boldly at the back of a crassly named punk record. With a cathartic bridge that speaks of concealed darknesses and finding solace in light, Glass Boys is a record that will reflect and pierce universally. From the thirteen year old unravelling rage and emotion to the frustrated careerist in their thirties, the concept of ‘outgrowing’ seems to weigh heavy at all stages of life. Forged characters of grit and lethargy, F**ked Up plead that we “Never let go of what we outgrow” and I for one am genuinely inspired.

16. Trouble In Paradise – La Roux

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Review by Jon Birondo

You should never, ever EVER disregard an artist just because of their past hit single, especially one that once plagued airwaves. Who knows? Maybe they’ll improve on their next album/single? Or even better: an entirely different yet familiar territory to tread. Artists naturally change things up a bit. Imagine a band doing the same style over and over again. The whole fan-base will get bored and leave; change is necessary and inevitable. The artist I’m talking about is La Roux, and the song: “Bulletproof”. Now that isn’t to say that the change isn’t drastic in her music, it’s still within the realm of electronic pop, but this time she has more impressive instrumentation, lyrics, and production.

Part of Trouble In Paradise’s magic is in its ability to recapture the perky, crisp, and cheerful magic of 80s synth-pop; the firs two tracks groove with ease, offering slick guitar strums and reverb, along with some cheerful synths to top things off. With all these elements brought in, Trouble In Paradise seems instantly familiar, which is fine, if you want like your synth-pop pure and untampered with. But hearing this type of music in 2014 seems anachronistic at times, considering the evolution of electronic music in today’s culture (see EDM/dubstep/trance).

But one of the most important aspects to gather from this album is empowerment; Jackson has become wiser and smarter. Don’t go into this album looking for a “Bulletproof” replacement or for an artist transformation. Instead, expect an artist strongly producing eight tracks that, for the most part, teem with power, brilliance, and wisdom. With that, you’re all set to make it through the thick and thin.

15. 1000 Forms Of Fear – Sia

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Review by Jon Birondo

Sia has been around in the pop music world for about ten years, yet if you ask anyone who she is, you’ll most likely hear “Titanium” or “Wild Ones”, her real presence never fully acknowledged. Sia is much more involved in the pop culture world than most know. On her latest record, Sia drums a set of powerful and emphatic tunes that showcase her songwriting and vocal ability along with a lot more ambitious instrumentals, never sacrificing one for the other.

“Chandelier” overflows with emotion and her vocal range shows her pain, along with her triumph. “Big Girls Cry” finds Sia at her most vulnerable, but her perception, clear as day. While on “Hostage” contrasts uppity beat along with her despondent lyricism.

Other than her two chart topping hits, no one really knows who Sia is. You can’t see her face on the cover, but you can feel her prescence, imminently looming over the horizon. 1000 Forms Of Fear finds Sia coming off a string of some of her most vulnerable moments, but by the time it’s over it’s as if she never fell. 1000 Forms offers us a snapshot into the enigmatic figure known as Sia because one thing is for sure: you will remember her name.

14. Sweet Dissaray – Dan Croll

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Review by Enrique Berrios

Last year, I was watching a video on YouTube when I noticed a suggested video with an interesting thumbnail titled “‪Dan Croll‪ – From Nowhere.” I decided that I was bored and clicked on the video. Little did I know that I was in for delightful surprise. This song, by English singer- songwriter Dan Croll, was fascinating, musically varied, and fresh. It arrived as something completely new at a time when the music industry needed some new music. When I finished listening to the song, I tried to purchase the album online, but I couldn’t, partly because Dan Croll didn’t have a finished album to sell. He was testing the waters as he prepared for his full-length LP’s eventual release in 2014. Now, his first album Sweet Disarray is finally here and ready to please eagerly awaiting fans.

“From Nowhere” opens the album with a journey into a musical style I’ve never heard before. This song blends elements of indie-rock and pop to great effect. “Wanna Know,” continues the trend of good and interesting music. Croll sings in a distinct high-pitched voice for the majority of the third track. Next, he delivers a fast, karaoke inspired tune with “In / Out,” a fast and fun pop tune. Then he returns to his normal pitch to deliver an indie-pop, folk hybrid in “Compliment your Soul.” The fast drum beat and warm vocals make this track stand out.

Every track on this LP grows on the listener with time. Even if I didn’t initially like individual tracks, by the end of the album, I loved each song. The best songs are very different from anything I’ve ever heard before, and “Sweet Disarray” might be one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. I loved this album, but it did have some problems. Besides “Home,” the final tracks lacked the punch they needed, and most of the songs, while lyrically different, focus on the same subject matter. While these problems do affect the quality of the album, and Croll’s music is very different from other artists, you shouldn’t be deterred from listening to Dan Croll’s expertly fashioned first album. I look forward to more from this young and talented English artist.

13. Southsiders – Atmosphere

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Review by Jonathan Beltran

The improbable duo, Slug and Ant, are back at it again. The two Minneapolis natives have had one of the longest runs in underground hip hop music Spanning for over 25+ years in the making. The duo resides with Rhymesayers Entertainment that holds the most prominent underground artists with the likes of MF Doom, Grieves, Aesop Rock, and many others. The duo has received most success and credit with their release of “God Loves Ugly” and “When Life Gives You Lemonade, You Paint that S**t Gold” as they mark the highlights of Atmosphere’s career. With the release of their 8th studio release Southsiders, Slug attempts to reconcile with his old flow while Ant experiments with more equipment and the use of more live instruments, all to live up to their legacy.

Throughout the album Ant and Slug are able to intertwine their diverse and versatile abilities and create an album that is very enjoyable. Though there isn’t a track that is over the top, most, if not all, are very enjoyable to listen to as the lyrics are pleasing and the beats are on par, this album can be considered a very solid one.

In respect to Slug’s and Ant’s future creations, the album marks an important step for Atmosphere. A step where no one knows if they will return to their roots, pursue another direction in their music, or (worst case scenario) leave their legacy as one of the best story-telling rappers of the underground, but we all know they aren’t close to retirement. Ultimately, Southsiders is one of Atmosphere’s best produced albums yet and regardless of the minimalistic rhymes and metaphors, the album succeeds to please most fans.

12. Keep Doing What You’re Doing – You Blew It!

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Review by Michael White

Modest Mouse once said, “And we’ll all float on okay.” You Blew it! attest to this maxim in their new album, Keep Doing What You’re Doing, A whimsical new emo record, that delves into relationships and questions existence. It’s an angst-y piece of music, much like nearly every emo-revivalist group nowadays, but the music is executed at a top notch level.

The first song, “Match and Tinder,” showcases how tight the band’s performance chops are. The course is catchy, and the guitar parts are well-written. The drumming is also solid and pumps out grooves that really propel the “feels” into the listeners’ ears. Also, Evan Weiss’s production on this record is incredible as he records the guitars with a very lush sound. Every instrument is well balanced in terms of volume. The first half of this record up until the song “A different kind of Kindling” is great. It’s a collection of infectious choruses, happily hopeless harmonies, and interesting guitar leads. “Kindling”, sporting a sad cappella intro, is even more emotional than the other songs on this album as it transitions smoothly into a very beautiful and dreamy guitar harmony.

Melancholic and moody, You Blew It! have crafted another great record. Although the second half was somewhat lackluster, Keep Doing What You’re Doing is a fantastic experience. If any of these songs speak to you, which they will if you’re human, this is the best time you’ll have crying all year.

11. Passenger – Black Monolith

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Review by Michael White

The first release off of the George Clarke (of Deafheaven) co-run record label ABRC, Black Monolith’s Passenger, make music that you’d probably expect from a band with the name Black Monolith. However, this record is filled to the brim with great ideas, a compositionally very well-executed release. Each chord progression is masterfully done, each semi-wretched vocal is true to the craft, although not sounding exactly like boiling water. This may not make the record more accessible for a non-kvlt expert, but it doesn’t alienate newcomers to black metal either; instead, it invites them to invest themselves into the record more easily.

The other core attributes of black metal are here; tremolo picking, blast beats, etc. However, there are many crusty breaks interspersed between various parts of the album. For me, this interrupted the flow of the album, detracting from the moodiness established by more black metal-centric parts of the album. Other than that, I have no gripes about this album. Definitely check out every long track on here (most of them are over 6 minutes), especially the opener and closer. The closer is a beautiful and melodic opus, and every melodic music fan should hear it.

If you like black metal, definitely let this one assault your ears.

10. They Want My Soul – Spoon

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Review by Jon Birondo

Teeming with sentimentality, emotion, and chagrin, They Want My Soul shows Spoon at a predictable yet admirable level of musicianship, with more viewpoints on life to keep any fan happy.

The steady opener “Rent I Pay” is, well, the type of song you’d expect from Spoon. Reverberating guitars that strut with Spoon’s familiar prance, Daniel’s forced yet passionate vocals, organs, and a catchy hook open the pod doors for the album. The following track “Inside Out” finds producer Joe Chicarelli masterfully blending ambient keyboards with a dance ready bass, orchestra strings, and a harp, proving that these guys aren’t afraid to experiment, even if it’s something as small as classical instruments. The track also features Daniel singing impressive lyricism connecting love and gravity, and towards the end the song sounds a bit spacey, with wobbly synths and harps echoing off into the atmosphere.

There are other tunes to comb over such as the gimmicky “They Want My Soul”, the piano rock influenced “I Just Don’t Understand”, the spacey “Let Me Be MIne” and the synth-riddled “New York Kiss” (which sounds like a leftover from the Divine Fits LP, but it’s tasteful on a Spoon record). Through these tracks you can hear Spoon’s trademark meticulous and detailed production, down to every instrument and to every beat. The mixture of these track provide an intense environment to fulfill their needs, resulting in a fantastic set of tunes that are hand-crafted beautifully.

And at this point, these songs seem far from easy but also far from difficult. Not to say that these songs are middle-of-road or “meh” but that they’re quintessential Spoon, nothing more or nothing less. These tracks do give the band’s discography a breath of fresh air, but they don’t necessarily push the band into a specific direction. Not that that’s a bad thing but don’t expect Spoon to make any drastic changes to their music (you never know, but from this album, it doesn’t sound imminent).

But that’s where Spoon’s brilliance shines, to be able to brush off any predictions or preconceptions. So what if they were called “Band of the Decade”? They don’t care. Spoon’s mission is to play songs made for and by Spoon. And that to itself is brilliance nonetheless. They Want My Soul sounds like that friend who’s full of optimism:  always putting the team on their back and looking forward, hoping for the best.

9. Damage Control – Mat Zo

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Review by Drew Curran

Damage Control is the first album from British producer Mat Zo. According to him, this album has been seven years in the making. It’s hard to lasso this album into a specific genre, as Mat seems to like jumping around, not allowing himself to settle into the groove of a particular style, but somehow he manages to make each song his own, though bearing no connection to s specific genre, the album still has the feel and signature of Mat.

The planning of this album is also impeccable. Through his inclusion of “Ez”, a garage, early-stage version of the monumental “Easy” acknowledges all of the years of planning and refining in this LP. Somehow, through the dips and turns of the road through this album, Mat manages to keep the energy constant through each song, keeping the listener interested to each detail in the unique songs, but also keeping them unable to tear themselves away from an album that retains every drop of energy from the previous song, only transforming in style barring only a few songs through the midsection.

This seamless transition makes the album that much more impressive, as many albums these days are hard to digest in one sitting. This album changes that musical norm and invites the listener to instead have trouble not consuming the album at one time, the album a balanced meal that leaves the echo of Mat’s style in the ear of the listener even after the music has ended.

8. El Pintor – Interpol

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Review by Jon Birondo

Interpol is undoubtedly in love with with New York City. You can hear it in their music, their lyrics, and in the albums they create. Even when they aren’t explicitly expressing the Big Apple, they evoke what it feels like to be in New York: at times horrifying, but at times tranquil and peaceful. And this vivid picture they paint justifies the album title of El Pintor: translated in Spanish as “the painter”, as well as doubling as an anagram for Interpol.

Interpol has never been about drastic evolution but rather coloring inside the bold lines first drawn on TOTBL. Antics brought the pummeling fury and catchy hooks, while their lackluster self titled effort was as flaccid and malaise as the band could ever get. When I first heard the swinging strings of Daniel Kessler’s guitar, I knew that Interpol were back to the drawing board.

“My Blue Supreme” has the catchiness that Interpol so rarely dips its toe in, “Breaker 1″ sounds as if “Obstacle 1″ was looked through lens of remorse, and the vigorous attitude of “Ancient Ways” furiously pummels through showcasing an entirely new animal behind the wheel. The album closer “Twice As Hard” careens left and right, up and down as Banks’ baritone builds up the potent closer, before silently fading away.

Admirers of Turn On The Bright Lights should have no trouble finding appeal in this album because Interpol’s music wasn’ always about any drastic switch ups or experimentation, it was always about building upon what they first laid down in 2002. It was always about sticking to the same route, and becoming stronger and focused because of it all while steering away from irrelevancy. A lot has changed since 2002, but Interpol hasn’t. They may be down a man, but that isn’t stopping one of indie rock’s best bands out there. When the bright lights first turned on, the crowd surfing and moshing stopped. Time stood still, and so did the listeners, absorbing the beauty that is Interpol. With El Pintor, time has stood still once again.

7. Oxymoron – Schoolboy Q

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Review by Jonathan Beltran

Schoolboy Q has returned with his highly anticipated project that has succeeded to surpass all expectations. Oxymoron may seem like a pun to the word “oxy” as Q is known to rap about narcotics, but in this genius record, Q manages to fulfill the album’s name.Though Oxymoron isn’t Schoolboy’s first album, since he released Setbacks and Habits and Contradictions in 2011 and 2012 respectively, he manages to release something new and fresh and it seems to be a new beginning in his discography.

On “Break the Bank”, Q tells Kendrick to “move from the throne”, throwing a complete curveball at the listeners; you wouldn’t expect an artist to collaborate with an artist from the same label and then later tell him to get out of your way. This just shows Schoolboy’s creativity throughout the album and brings up a reoccurring theme in the album:to remind people that he isn’t just “another” guy from T.D.E. and this is something Q has never done before.

He also does the same, in a way, with 2 Chainz as the two of them make the song “What They Want” but Q calls out 2 Chainz in “Break The Bank” saying “B**** call me 2 Chainz, units be moving”.This isn’t a criticism but rather shows how he makes money like 2 Chainz. In “F*** LA”, Q doesn’t stop with the contradictions as it’s abnormal to call out your hometown when there are rappers that are proud to say where they’re from, evident from similar artists like Dr. Dre and Snoop Lion, but this could also be explained as Q’s place of birth is Germany. Nonetheless, the album in itself justifies for the title very well, quite adequately in fact.

Overall, Schoolboy Q succeeds in accomplishing to justify the name of the album, showcase his talent, and show what he’s really made of, in order to let others know that the new chart topping artist of T.D.E. isn’t just Kendrick. Intrusively and as manic as he appears, Q will stop at nothing to get the props he deserves, with all the grit and glory that he can provide.

6. You’re Dead! – Flying Lotus

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Review by Jon Birondo

You’re Dead! explores a concept that has been around since the beginning of time, and in its essence pops up in every facet of our lives: death. While mysterious and formidable, You’re Dead! successfully views death from a more hopeful angle, shifting this daunting perception into something much more sanguine.

Perhaps the most striking part of this album is the overall approach toward “death.” Take a look at the music video for “Never Catch Me,” attached above. The kids are dead, yet they’re dancing like they just won the lottery and driving off into the sunset as if they just got married. The main point that I feel FlyLo is trying to drive home is that while death can be mysterious, foreboding, and at times, limiting in terms of lifespan, that doesn’t mean we should be afraid.

An aspect of the Jesuit way of life is finding beauty in all things: nature, buildings, sports, movies etc. Flying Lotus’ greatest feat yet is laid out on the table on You’re Dead!: he’s found beauty in death and has fully displayed it throughout these nineteen tracks. Fear is the ultimate limiting factor, and it is a fact that WE ALL will end up fearing death. But when you’ve seen death as the opposite of completely desolate, it makes both sides—life and death—much more worth the ride, and the experience, truly showcasing its immaculate and uncompromisable beauty.

The opener, “Theme,” sounds eerily like a black hole opening, with it’s orchestra-like vibrancy droning off into the atmosphere. Not even a minute in, the track breaks into a spacey jazz cadence. The following three tracks tread improvisational space jazz grounds, all while segueing perfectly into one another, like one really long track. Hyperactive bass grooves, nimble and quick drumming, and power riffs help keep each track different, while also keeping them perfectly, for lack of a better term, “turnt up.” These jazz improvisations feel so vibrant, alive, and pumped with ludicrous amounts of adrenaline, as if Flying Lotus made the gunpowder and lit the fuse by himself.

Infusing jazz, electronica, hip-hop overtones, a slew of talented guest artists and neo-psychedelia, all with an experimental approach. Flying Lotus crafts one of the most profound and noteworthy albums of the year. As he explores death and beyond, FlyLo takes his conceptual approach towards his music and transforms these trademarks into an album that, despite its short running time, makes an everlasting mark, all while remaining just as meaningful.

5. To Be Kind – Swans

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Review by Jon Birondo

Age rarely comes into conflict with the pacing of this album. For a band that is more than 30 years old with a 60 year old frontman, the band is more exciting, intriguing and heavy than most acts out there.Now with a plethora of powerhouse musicians, and the forward thinking of Gira, the band seems to have gotten the hang of improving their music, shooting it up to IMAX screen proportions, with enough vibrant energy and brutality to back it up. In a strange and intriguing way, this formula they’re dealing with feels, new.

Swans have discovered ways to branch out from their simple formula of music, towards songs that are incredibly heavy to songs that are incredibly meditative. In addition, most of the songs here focus a lot on groove. There’s the Primus-like “Oxygen”, a ferocious, teeth gnashing odyssey that trumps most of Swans’ discography; Gira’s maniacal screaming adds a ton of character and manic insanity to the track as well: “I CAN’T BREATHE!!”, “I STEALL ALL THE OXYGEN!!”, “OXYYGEEEENNN!” Complete with horns, the song is a massive kick to the face; and as insidious as it sounds, Swans sound like they’re having fun with it too.

The opening bass riff to “She Loves Us” kicks off the second disc, further reiterating the groove-heavy nature of the tracks on To Be Kind as it builds up to a chaotic, bass heavy wonderland, which then closes off with cultist chants and Gira’s manic barking. Swans always strive to push their music as far as it can, even up to transcendent proportions. And they won’t hesitate, even if it means repeatedly hitting you over and over again with massive amounts of noise, riffs, and grooves to make you see stars and hallucinations. But they do know when to put an ice pack on the listeners, however it may be a  numbing experience.

Granted, all these elements sound alienating and horrible: cult chants, disturbingly loud noise, long repetition, babbling, nonsensical lyrics, and incredibly heavy instrumentation. What makes an album like To Be Kind so intriguing is the power it contains; it’s presence can be felt when it’s played, yet it comes unexpected every time.

Talk to any parent, a crying baby is one of the most volatile stages of childhood out there, and in a way it reflects the album as a whole. Not because they’re annoying, unpredictable, and unbearable, but because they  represents much more than the beginning of new life. They represent  the fears of new life, the fears of new experiences, and the fears of your surroundings. When you first listen to this album, you will be overwhelmed, but I just hope that  you will grow more comfortable with To Be Kind ’till it’s as pleasing as life itself.

4. RTJ2 – Run The Jewels

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Review by Jon Birondo

Anger is a feeling we all experience, whether it be through frustration, a fight, or even when things aren’t going your way, anger is everywhere. Now normally I’m not an angry person, but when I first listened to Run The Jewels, I was furious. Not at it, but with it. Run The Jewels is a rap duo, comprised of underground rappers Killer Mike and El-P. These two rappers, both working at the best of their abilities, on their own accord, have teamed up to create on of the most visceral, ambitious, and hard hitting hip hop albums to come out of 2014. While their debut, a criminally overlooked album, introduced the world to this duo on a very high note, the expectations for this album were very high. Run The Jewels 2 not only breaks those expectations, but also proves that Run The Jewels are a group you do not want to miss out on.

The list of features that this album has to offer just goes on: jaw dropping beats (“Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”), vile lyrics over some of the sickest beats (“Love Again”), Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker (’nuff said) (“All Due Respect”), and much more. I could go on and on about how much RTJ2 has to offer, and how much Killer Mike and El-P are succeeding in the rap game. The truth of the matter is that Mike and El-P are at the height of their creative powers here. With RTJ2, they’ve crafted a record that, in all its grit, humor, and ambitious glory, speaks messages on a multitude of levels ranging from politics to racism. With some of the best flows and production accompanying their fury-filled thoughts, RTJ2 is an album that not only gets fists pumping, but will get you punching through walls, with reason and meaning.

3. Plowing Into The Field Of Love –  Iceage

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Review by Jon Birondo

You’re Nothing not only solidified Iceage’s name in the underground community, but found the band improving their songwriting, flirting with gothic rock by showcasing some influences from bands like Bauhaus and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and intensifying their songs with more noise, energy, and emotion. So when Iceage released “The Lord’s Favorite” as a promotional single for Plowing Into The Field Of Love in late July, the expectations were at an all time high. Highly regarded punk figure, Iggy Pop said in an interview with Australia’s triple j radio that  “[Iceage are] the only current punk band I can think of that sounds really dangerous.”

The instrumentation comes with a more theatrical change of pace. Piano balladering, banjo solos, shrill horns, spine-tingling violins, and Irish pub rock ditties replace the dense, flesh burning chords that engulfed New Brigade and You’re Nothing. But one aspect has remained constant: passion. Rønnenfelt’s groans, although incoherent, are incredibly difficult to imitate, especially if you haven’t got the heart or mindset to fully do so. In a way, I feel Rønnenfelt’s singing style has deterred novice listeners; yet novice listeners rarely dig deep into the psyche of Iceage. A psyche that treasures and celebrates the joys and hazards of youth.

Lead singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt moans and croons, reminiscent of early Nick Cave and your uncle at his most-drunkest state. However, behind the slurring lies some incredibly morose yet enlightening lyrics: “I always had the sense that I was split in two/ It seems so complicated/ To shift between existence,” sung as if Rønnenfelt is balling like a baby. A sense of precision and elegance solidify Iceage’s transition into this new entity that they’ve encompassed. There’s a moment in the song “Forever”, where trumpets come into the fold of this morose, Western ballad; I found this addition to be quite beautiful. As did I with the banjo solos on “Abundant Living”, the waltzy ‘Stay”, and with the brutal closer, that despite its Western twangs, still lives and breathes like a normal Iceage song, nihilistic to its core but expounded in its beauty

With improvement in mind, Iceage craft one of the most creative albums to come out of 2014. Fusing noise rock, gothic rock, country, rockabilly, and punk rock, Iceage show no signs of slowing down, continuously putting down high octane track after track. Surprisingly, the band finds a stable balance between the archaic and the controlled. Iceage may be young, and this new direction may sound as if they’re growing up, but once you hear Rønnenfelt’s drunken slurs, you’ll see that Iceage aren’t ready to grow up just yet. And that’s the way we  like it.

2. Lost In The Dream – The War On Drugs

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Review by Jon Birondo

The War On Drugs are masterminds when it comes to muddying up the atmosphere, and they do it beautifully while they’re at it, carrying each rhythm gracefully, packing it buoyant instrumentation and production. The opening track “Under The Pressure” has tons of room to breath through as Granduciel sings Tom Petty style vocals over lushly composed instrumentation, a steadying beat that never overstays its nine minute length as it showcases dueling guitars, bright synths, and a gentle piano finish.

The band’s magnum opus “Red Eyes” feels much like a long lost demo of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”, if it had actually been ablaze; powering solos, emphatic piano chords, and a steady beat . The song then rips itself open, and at the heartstrings, as Granduciel delivers one of the most, if not THE most, memorable moment of the entire album as it vacillates between a sound that is melancholic, to a sound that is empowering, a moment where the band are conscious of their weaknesses, and their strengths. Here, Granduciel sees himself as falling apart: “I would keep you here, but I can’t,” a disparaging realization that is both haunting and beautiful.

However, it’s in the tiny, minuscule details where the ambitious and artistic scope of the whole album coalesces. Each song has a hidden greatness that only time can fully show; songs where a simple solo or comforting piano chords can upset the balance and feel of a song, boosting it up to proficient expectations. Not only does this drastically improve the album, but it expands the album’s horizons. Each listen rewards itself with new discoveries, new moments previously unheard the first time around.

And with all these moments of self- realization, communal catharsis, and grand swells of emotion, it’s no wonder why this album can bring even the strongest of people to their knees. Breezy, yet heavy. Subtle, yet effective, the album’s power is inescapable, and its message, memorable. In a way, this is the band’s most personal album, yet their most expansive, and emotional, one. As Granduciel rediscovers himself, reinstating new life into his music, all of his work culminates into an album that really feels, alive.

 

Last year, we crowned Is Survived By the best album of 2013. Now the torch must be passed…

 

 

 

Here it is…

 

 

 

 

Pretty Neat Grooves’ 2014 Album Of The Year

 

 

 

 

 

1. Piñata – Freddie Gibbs & Madlib

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Review by Corey Herndon

In hindsight, the idea of a Madlib/Freddie Gibbs collaboration album seems slightly nonsensical. Not necessarily bad or wrong, just… “what?!” The production of Madlib spans across an eclectic array of jazz, latin, and rap to create incredibly diverse and pleasant hip-hop music. On the other hand, Freddie Gibbs is, in essence, a gangsta rapper who spits over beats that frequently make even the most noble of Honda Fit drivers want to ride slow and bend corners.The word hindsight was aforementioned for a reason, since Piñata not only defies the expectation of being an unnatural mixed bag, but casts itself out as one of the most interesting and impressive major hip-hop releases in quite a while.

Gibbs’ lyricism mostly stays in it’s usual pocket of keeping-it-real thug rap throughout the record, however there are many instances of branching out and an undertone of harsh introspection on Freddie’s gangster lifestyle. Tracks like “Knicks” and “Thuggin’” don’t exactly condemn or praise said lifestyle, but raise and answer questions of the necessity and origins of, for lack of a better term, trapping; “F*ck a job, I’m whipping this butter cause crime pays/In these last days, on my last page”.

Freddie Gibbs has explored similar themes in the past, but they are a lot harder to take seriously over 808s and slow, lazy rapping. It’s Madlib’s traditional melancholy and jazz-heavy production that allows Gibbs to branch out creatively, and not only help the lyrics, but change the way Gibbs raps entirely.The beats give a lot more room for Gibbs to spit in new directions, which is probably why there’s so much more diversity and personality in his rhymes on Piñata than on any of his previous outputs.

There’s some crafty tempo changing and even spontaneous double-time as seen in parts of “Real” and most of “Shitsville”. The production is simply phenomenal, as is usual for Madlib. There’s an extensive amount of string and synth sampling that bring a strong 90s west coast vibe to the album, especially tracks like “High”, “Harold’s” and “Bomb”.

It’s inevitable to bring up 2004’s Madvillainy when talking about this record. While yes, they are both incredibly unique collaboration albums featuring Madlib, the comparison brought up in most circles is just unfair. Madlib’s production is brought out completely differently in the two releases, with one being a new creative approach in abstract hip-hop, and the other a new creative approach in gangster rap. Piñata is probably my favorite hip-hop album of the 2010’s so far, and it is not the next Madvillainy; it’s the first Piñata.

 

 

And that’s it! Here’s to 2015! As always, Happy Holidays, have a Happy New Year, keep listening to music, Keep It Neat, and see you in 2015!

Sincerely, The Pretty Neat Grooves Staff 2013-2014

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BUSINESS
President, Finance
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Development
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Jonathan Beltran (@bell_train)
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Nick Eastep (@NickResults)
Madeline Flores (@getthepaddywagon)
Martin Flores (@tacosinthemail)
Noah Frey (@FreyNoah)
Corey Herndon (@herndoncorey)
Alec Shea
Spencer Vilicic (@_quence_)

 

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My 2014 In Music: Michael White

 -Note: I was terrible about listening to music this year, so I have to underachieve on this one. I’m doing a top five everything. I repent.

 

Top 5 Albums

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5. Sacred White Noise – Thantifaxath
4. Keep Doing What You’re Doing- You Blew It!
3. Guilty Of Everything – Nothing
2. Run The Jewels 2 – Run The Jewels
1. Plowing Into The Field of Love – Iceage

 

Honorable Mentions:

Piñata – Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
Neon Icon- Riff Raff

 

Top 5 Songs (sorry)

5. “Close Your Eyes (And Count To F*ck) [feat. Zack De La Rocha]” Run The Jewels
4. “Deeper” Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
3. “Blue Litmus” Full Of Hell/Merzbow
2. “Schley” Joyce Manor
1. “Got That” Icejjfish

Courtesy of World Star Hip Hop

Icejjfish (Courtesy of World Star Hip Hop)

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My 2014 In Music: Jon Birondo

Top 20 Albums

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20. Morning Phase – Beck
19. Benji – Sun Kil Moon
18. LP1 – FKA Twigs
17. The Physical World – Death From Above 1979
16. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
15. They Want My Soul– Spoon
14. Lazaretto – Jack White
13. Salad Days – Mac DeMarco
12. CLPPNG– clipping.
11. Turn Blue – The Black Keys
10. Gone Girl OST – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
9. Run The Jewels 2 – Run The Jewels
8. Guilty Of Everything – Nothing
7. Trouble In Paradise – La Roux
6. 1000 Forms Of Fear – Sia
5. Never Hungover Again – Joyce Manor
4.  Lost In The Dream – The War On Drugs
3. You’re Dead! – Flying Lotus
2. Plowing Into The Field of Love – Iceage
1. To Be Kind – Swans

 

Honorable Mentions:

Awake – Tycho
The Unnatural World – Have A Nice Life
Are We There– Sharon Van Etten
Piñata – Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
Neon Icon- Riff Raff
Too Bright – Perfume Genius
Ruins – Grouper
Refractory Obdurate – Wovenhand

 

Top 20 Songs

20. “Jealous” Nick Jonas
19. “Scylla” RL Grime
18. “Rather Be (feat. Jess Glyne)” Clean Bandit
17. “The Lord’s Favorite” Iceage
16. “Close Your Eyes (And Count To F*ck) [feat. Zack De La Rocha]” Run The Jewels
15. “Cheap Talk” Death From Above 1979
14. “My World” Code Orange
13. “Passing Out Pieces” Mac Demarco
12. “Happy Idiot” TV On The Radio
11. “Repine” Pianos Become The Teeth
10. “Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar)” Flying Lotus
9. “Blank Space” Taylor Swift
8.  “Uptown Funk” Mark Ronson (feat. Bruno Mars)
7. “Red Eyes” The War On Drugs
6. “Go (feat. Blood Diamonds)” Grimes
5. “Weight Of Love” The Black Keys
4. “Chandelier” Sia
3. “Schley” Joyce Manor
2. “Had To Hear” Real Estate
1. “I’m Not Part Of Me” Cloud Nothings

THE BIGGEST LET DOWNS OF 2014:

Ghost Stories – Coldplay
Supermodel – Foster The People
Mind Over Matter – Young The Giant
Songs Of Innocence – U2
x– Ed Sheeran

 

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THE BEST TRACKS OF 2014

-Here are the Best 30 Songs of the year, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

*click the photo for a link to the song*

or listen to our Spotify playlist of the tracks here

“Scylla” RL Grime

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from the album “Void”

“Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” Behemoth

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from the album “The Satanist”

“Chandelier” Sia

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from the album “1000 Forms Of Fear”

“Oxygen” Swans

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from the album “To Be Kind”

“Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar)” Flying Lotus

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from the album “You’re Dead!”

“Uptown Funk (feat. Bruno Mars)” Mark Ronson

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the single produced by Mark Ronson, with vocals from Bruno Mars

“Queen” Perfume Genius

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from the album “Too Bright”

“Hot Dreams” Timber Timbre

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from the album “Hot Dreams”

“I’m Not Part Of Me” Cloud Nothings

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from the album “Here And Nowhere Else”

“Inside Out” Spoon

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from the album “They Want My Soul”

“The Lord’s Favorite” Iceage

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from the album “Plowing Into The Field Of Love”

“Red Eyes” The War On Drugs

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from the album “Lost In The Dream”

“Work Work (feat. Cocc Pistol Cree)” clipping.

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from the album “CLPPNG”

“High Ball Stepper” Jack White

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from the album “Lazaretto”

“Close Your Eyes (And Count To F*ck) [feat. Zach De La Rocha]” Run The Jewels

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from the album “RTJ2”

“No Black Person Is Ugly” Lil B

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from the mixtape “Ultimate B*tch”

“0 to 100/The Catchup” Drake

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from the anticipated 2015 album “Views From The Six”

“Two Weeks” FKA Twigs

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from the album “LP1”

“Security” Ajax

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from the album “Bleach For Breakfast CS”

“Versace Python” Riff Raff

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from the album “Neon Icon”

“On The Floor” Icejjfish

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the single by IceJJfish

“Christ Conscious” Joey Bada$$

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the single by Joey BADA$$

“My World” Code Orange

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from the album “I Am King”

“Blue Litmus” Full Of Hell/Merzbow

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from the self-titled album “Full Of Hell/Merzbow”

“Ketsui” Gridlink

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from the album “Longhena”

“Digital Witness” St. Vincent

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from the album “St. Vincent”

“Mt. Olympus” Big K.R.I.T.

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the single by Big K.R.I.T

“Season (Waiting on You) Remix” Badbadnotgood (The original track by Future Islands too while we’re at it)

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a remix of the single by Future Islands, from the album “Singles”

“About The Money” T.I. ft. Young Thug

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from the album “Paperwork”

“Sugah Daddy” D’Angelo & The Vanguard

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from the album “Black Messiah”

HONORABLE MENTIONS

“Fiona Coyne” Saint Pepsi

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the single by Saint Pepsi

“Drop” Turnstile

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from the anticipated 2015 album “Nonstop Feeling”

“Too Cool To Dance” Eden xo

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the single by Eden xo

“Jealous” Nick Jonas

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from the album “Nick Jonas”

“Uptight Downtown” La Roux

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from the album “Trouble In Paradise”

“Blank Space” Taylor Swift

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from the album “1989”

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My 2014 In Music: Dustin Bagayna

DUSTIN BAGAYNA’S TOP 10 ALBUMS (and EPs) OF THE YEAR 

The following list ranges from least favorite at the top and most favorite at the bottom.

502139295919110. Talking is Hard – Walk the Moon
9. What Is This Heart? – How To Dress Well
8. Built on Glass – Chet Faker
7. Freak – Olivver the Kid
6. X – Chris Brown
5. Still Life – Dawn Golden
4. So Long, See You Tomorrow – Bombay Bicycle Club
3. Worlds – Porter Robinson
2. Kauai – Childish Gambino
1. In Return – Odesza

Honorable Mentions:

Turn Blue – The Black Keys 

1000 Forms of Fear – Sia

DUSTIN BAGAYNA’S TOP 10 SONGS OF 2014

Basically the format is the same with the albums.

10.”Chandelier” Sia
9. “Arsonist’s Lullabye” Hozier
8. “Centuries” Fall Out Boy
7. “Jealous ” Nick Jonas
6. “Attica ’71” Olivver the Kid
5. “Years of War” Porter Robinson
4. “Ghost” Sir Sly
3. “All We Need (feat Shy Girls)” Odesza
2. “Sober” Childish Gambino
1. “All I Want” Dawn Golden

Honorable Mentions:

“Uptown Funk (feat. Bruno Mars)” Mark Ronson

“When We Were Young” Dillon Francis

“i” Kendrick Lamar

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Honorable Mentions 2014

It’s that time of year again: List Season. Starting things off, here’s our Honorable Mentions list – albums that are good, but failed to make the Best Albums of 2014 list. Nonetheless, these albums made the soundtrack to 2014 worthwhile. (Click the photo for a link to the full review)

– This list is loosely based on the original score each album received on its original review. –

In no particular order…

Awake –Tycho

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“I hate to stereotype, but this is the album that the hipster kids will be listening to in the summer. When their minds are set on the glorious and sun soaked days ahead, where the days are filled with hanging out with friends and driving around, and the nights are filled with mischievous antics and three in the morning Whataburger runs. Yet, they can never escape the fact that the end is very near, and the future is as unpredictable and uncertain as ever, a future where nothing is promised or granted. The fact that Hansen can communicate these feelings without words makes the message more powerful and meaningful; this is music that both reassures and moves, a plea to enjoy what you have now before it all fades away.”

 

Communion – Black Walls

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“On top of that ‘Communion’ is a visually stimulating piece of music, the images generated from each track will probably resonate from person to person, for example, on ‘PTSD’ the haunting and reverbed guitars forms a feeling for me, one I haven’t felt in a long time, of a unsettling reminder of visiting a place I haven’t seen in a long time and being acutely aware of what’s changed – these emotions transcend through the audio, meltingly vivid and unbound by judgement. An album not for those with fleeting attention spans however those who give it time and dedication will find themselves lost within it so far as that when it’s finally over you’ll be left with an overcoming sentimentality, like waking up from a really lucid dream.”

 

Here And Nowhere Else – Cloud Nothings

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“It’s in the melodic chord progressions, rebellious and triumphant yet retrospective lyrics, lyrics that can easily be quoted in someone’s valedictory speech…Change comes with time, it isn’t easy, but the only way to accept is to live in the present. With your worries away, the only moment we should be living in is here, and nowhere else. From being a kid from Cleveland with no real prospects to a successful musician in the indie rock world, Baldi’s story is one to celebrate. Much like Japandroids’ track off of their 2012 album ‘Celebration Rock’, “Fire’s Highway”, we only have “one night to have and to hold”. And hopefully one night, we’ll see you in the mosh pit.”

 

No Coast – Braid

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“When a band takes a 16 year break between full-lengths and decides to come back with a new release, too many times do people say “it’s like they never even stopped.” In the case of Braid, this seminal emo rock group decided to call it quits around the turn of the new millennium, a breakup that opened up new doorways for the band members; various projects, including Hey Mercedes and The Firebird Band, became the primary focus of the Illinoize-makers. Overall, Braid return with a solid follow-up to 1998’s ‘Frame and Canvas’. Showcasing progression and diversity, the quartet proves that despite the break, they are a reborn force to be reckoned with in 2014.”

 

 

‘STN/MTN’ and ‘Kauai’ – Childish Gambino

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“Childish Gambino has impressed hip-hop and music fans alike with his creativity both within the album and outside of his releases with his ability to tell a story through sound and connect with any listener. With this dual release, many fans of Childish Gambino as well as rap/hip-hop enthusiasts around the world were surprised of the album due to its ingenuity and characteristic sound. Glover obviously reinvented himself in releasing ‘Kauai’, but stayed true to his original sounds in ‘STN/MTN,’ something very impressive for a multi-talent in the internet age.”

Tyranny – Julian Casablancas & The Voidz

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“While Tyranny will probably cultivate a divisive reception, for me, it’s finally plugged my craving for an artist to blend volatile punk with the Streets of Rage 2 soundtrack. At it’s worst Tyranny is overly indulgent, asphyxiating and hard to digest and at its best, wonderfully unstable.”

Foundations Of Burden – Pallbearer

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“While ‘Foundations Of Burden’ is still working off of the same palette used for 2012’s ‘Sorrow And Extinction,’ Pallbearer still put out a nostalgic yet modern album that pays tribute to the forefathers of 70s doom metal, stoner rock, psychedelic rock, and prog rock. If any of this sounds appealing, check this album out.”

S/T – Five Seconds Of Summmer

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‘For their first album, 5 Seconds of Summer truly have out done themselves. Although 5SOS have crazy fans equivalent to that of One Direction, they are a pretty good and talented band. They are kind of like a modern day All Time Low, although I’m pretty sure All Time Low is still around. As awkward as it seems, 5SOS is some what a guilty pleasure for guys.Think about it: how many guys would you see at a 5SOS concert? In conclusion many of the tracks on 5 Seconds of Summer not only brings forth catchy lyrics, but also the pop-punk feeling that bands like All Time Low, Cute Is What We Aim For, and Cartel brought to the music scene, making this debut a much better album than I expected.”

Worlds – Porter Robinson

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“In conclusion, ‘Worlds’ is definitely one of the most noteworthy albums of 2014 thus far. However, it’s not that it was an album that everyone was talking about that made it noteworthy, it’s that this work of art serves as a stepping stone into what some call “Post-EDM”. It’s great for both Porter himself and EDM as a genre.”

What Is This Heart? – How To Dress Well

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‘With a penchant for dissection that we, as listeners, can never fully grasp, Krell uses music as a metric for feeling. Dealing with anxiety, love, death and the sub-par expectations of humanity, he possess a level of self-examination we could speculate about. Like Charlie Gordon running parallel to Algernon, Krell has an ever-growing potential shown in the cinematic splendour of ‘Pour Cyril’ leaving me begging for a taking on of more ambitious projects. Only Krell himself can know the dimensions of his heart and for us, we have this record, a first-hand translation of human emotion to music and art.”

A U R O R A – Ben Frost

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“Fuzz, atmosphere, clangs, thuds, and pings. That’s all this album is about. Take it for what you think, or for what I think, which is that this is one of the finest drone/noise albums I’ve heard all year. Although the redundancy on the album is tiresome, these tracks are thought provoking, compelling, and imaginative. It isn’t often that you find an album destined to be the soundtrack for Event Horizon playbacks venturing into daydreaming landscapes. It may not be as cinematic as it could have been, but it still stays mystifying: mysterious in its devious, sinister ways.”

S/T – Champion Lover

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“Canadian punks Champion Lover deliver a non-stop onslaught of digging guitar phrases, driving drums and dirty bass tones. Delivered with a strong, spunky attitude, this record encapsulates everything that is desirable about punk, noise and rock. Emotional delivery and tight performances make this album a very solid release. “

Days Of Abandon – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

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“‘Days Of Abandon’ can almost be like a transition album from shoegaze to indie-pop with more to come. Or in another sense, ‘Days of Abandon’ is the beginning of a new, “mature” Pains.”

 

 After The Disco – Broken Bells

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“Broken Bells fear nothing and have no need to. Their music hasn’t digressed much from the foundations they laid earlier in the decade but their blend of engrossing synth-pop like on “Perfect World” or the influence of Mercer’s South-Central infancy on “Leave it Alone” makes for a varying and confident album. Under Producer Danger Mouse’s wing, or the anatomical rodent equivalent, After the Disco paints an altering landscape of energies and influences which often spark beauty and introversion while balancing the less subtle and far rarer nods to rehashed ideas from their debut like on tracks “Medicine” or “Lazy Wonderland” for instance. Satisfying but choppy chord strums at the finale of closing track, “The Remains of Rock’n’Roll”, recapitulate the exact sentiments of Broken Bells, not flawless but truly organic.”

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‘STN/MTN’ and ‘Kauai’ Childish Gambino

Childish Gambino

STN/MTN And Kauai Mixtape Review

Glassnote Records

Released October 2, 2014 (STN/MTN); October 3, 2014 (Kauai)

Genre: Hip Hop, Trap Rap, Pop Rap

The solo project of producer/rapper/actor/writer Donald Glover (AKA Childish Gambino) has flexed his creative muscles after his sophomore album of late last year. Taking time off from writing for NBC shows like Community and 30 Rock, Glover found time to make a brand of alternative hip-hop, a style of rap that has recently emerged and can be seen with artists like A$AP Rocky, Chance The Rapper, etc.. Whether he’s cracking you up with his character Troy Barnes on Community or astounding you with his complex rap lyrics, Glover effortlessly exceeds expectations in so many mediums. Nevertheless, his sound is far from ordinary because of the depth in production, catchy hooks, and fusion of multiple styles that define the “Gambino sound” that this album reinforces and reinvents.

Coming off of the stellar reception of his latest album, because the internet, Childish Gambino announced a two part release, encompassing a mixtape entitled STN/MTN (which is a reference to Stone Mountain, Georgia, and released free via Datpiff) and an EP entitled Kauai. The release bookends his late rise to fame, including a broad show of support of his immensely popular song, “3005″. The colloquial description “turn-up music” comes to mind when thinking of the previous releases from the 31-year-old talent, which is supported in the mixtape portion, but is heavily contrasted in Kauai.

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Gambino continues on with the story that appeared in because the internet within the mixtape, which is simply an explanation on why he’s here. In an interview, the multi-talent explained that “Because [of] the internet I’m here, because of the internet we’re all here. It’s the language of earth…But the thing is, there are no rules, which is also the awesome thing.” [SOURCE] For the most part, he grapples with issues including bigotry, lack of inspiration in youth, and fear of a breakup in the album. STN/MTN does feature trivial themes (including drinking, women, and money), not straying too far from his previous album. I’m not so sure the material and lyrics within this mixtape are necessarily anything noteworthy, but Glover has proven that he always adds an element of charm and surprise to his work. At a glance, the song titles are certainly vulgar and offensive, but this only appeals to the previous style of Gambino.

“Dream/Southern Hospitality/Partna Dem” leads off the tape with a surprising monologue from Glover that outlines a dream and functionally sets up the rest of the first half of the release by describing a dream in which the music takes place. The lofty and almost petty wishes of the Georgia native give a sense of nostalgia and carelessness. The final track off of the mixtape portion, “Go DJ”, concludes with Glover/Gambino actually thanking all of the contributors to the tape and the audience, and then ending with the transitional statement, “And then I woke up.” From this point, the mixtape portion full of heavy rap lyrics, deep production, and minimal singing fully transitions into the EP, “Kauai.”

I chose the first track off the island-themed EP, ‘Sober’, as my most noteworthy track because of its overwhelming beauty and easy-going lyrics. A glossy Chicago-style organ and bright, lively vocals certainly perks the ears of the listener at a glance. The track showcases the raw power of catchy vocals. The simplicity of the song and instrumentation certainly is what’s most impressive since the typical hip hop beats and slick rhymes are completely absent. At first, the album appears as though Childish Gambino has morphed into light alternative R&B. Until, the dazzling hook transforms into a wall of thick sub bass and detuned lyrics that shock the listener’s senses as the vigorous, aggressive style reemerges. The scariest thing about this song is that after the quick bass break, Gambino picks up seamlessly with the chorus and picks up where he left off. I personally think the selection of this track to be at the forefront was incredible because it only teases at the production arsenal that the talented rapper has to offer while revealing a lighter side to his creativity.

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The rest of the album features a classic R&B sound that echoes most of the influential performers in the Atlanta area. Classic R&B vibes pour out of ‘Pop Thieves [Make It Feel Good]‘ and ‘Retro [ROUGH]‘ as ‘The Palisades’ features a soulful, upbeat texture with classical lyrics about a girl who remains unnamed.

The track ‘Poke’ imitates the ballad-like style that artists like Bruno Mars seem to put out every other year. This track actually features Donald’s brother Steve, who raps the verses of the song, contrasting his brother who beautifully sings the chorus.’Late Night In Kauai’ welcomes guest star Jaden Smith (an actor and rapper in his own right) and consists of a laid-back tribal atmosphere with a spoken word monologue by both contributors.

‘V. 3005 – Beach Picnic Version’ rounds out the EP by providing a different take on the hit single, remixed by Gambino himself. I personally like this version due to its finesse and different take on the instrumentation itself. The remade hit features a de-tuned chorus and a simple beat that still remains true to its original. The smooth synth sounds and orchestral stabs give it a very fine texture. In my opinion, it’s the perfect way to round out the EP that strays from his original style.

Childish Gambino has impressed hip-hop and music fans alike with his creativity both within the album and outside of his releases with his ability to tell a story through sound and connect with any listener. With this dual release, many fans of Childish Gambino as well as rap/hip-hop enthusiasts around the world were surprised of the album due to its ingenuity and characteristic sound. Glover obviously reinvented himself in releasing Kauai, but stayed true to his original sounds in STN/MTN, something very impressive for a multi-talent in the internet age.

 PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

Score: (7.9/10)

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"The Endless River" Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd

The Endless River

Released November 10, 2014

Label: Parlophone, Columbia

Genre: Progressive Rock, Ambient, Blues Rock, Psychedelic Rock

As Pink Floyd officially ends its career, fans around the world experience the ambivalence of seeing one of rock’s most important bands leave and celebrate its accomplishments. With The Endless River, Pink Floyd, reduced to David Gilmour and Nick Mason, aims to end its run on a positive note with a tribute to Richard Wright and a celebration of the band’s proud rock history.

Since most of the recordings on The Endless River were made during the recording of The Division Bell, this last album feels too familiar. For example, the first half of “Side 1, Pt. 2: It’s What We Do” sounds like a different take on Wish You Were Here’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Pts. 1-5” and “Welcome to the Machine.” In fact, most of the instruments sound almost identical. For all I know, they actually are the same instruments, tuned to the same settings, signaling a refusal to change. This brings me to the biggest problem with The Endless River. It has nothing new to offer, and because it is made up of old content, it fails to feel like the celebration that a final LP should feel like.

Other tracks also sound like combinations of scraps from old songs. “Side 2, Pt. 1: Sum” sounds like it belongs on “The Wall.” “Side 2, Pt. 4: Anisina” sounds like a warmer version of “Us and Them” from The Darkside of the Moon. The only differences are that “Us and Them” contains vocals and is a good song. I am convinced that certain portions of saxophone in both songs are identical. The end result is an album that feels like a collection of bad special features burned onto a DVD.

The only song that brings anything distinctly new is “Side 4, Pt.4: Louder Than Words.” Unlike the rest of the album, this song features lead vocals. Although this song fails to reach the heights of Pink Floyd’s old tracks, it stands as the best track in The Endless River.

Attempting to construct another tribute to a fallen band member, Pink Floyd ends its legendary career on a disappointing note. If they had only chosen to end with The Division Bell, the band would not have died such a slow death. But still, Pink Floyd’s flame continues to live through the legacy of its previous, amazing albums. Take comfort in that thought and not in The Endless River.

Score: (5/10) Wish You Were Heres