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“Asunder, Sweet, and Other Distress” Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Asunder, Sweet, and Other Distress Album Review

Constellation Records

Released March 31, 2015

Genre: Post Rock, Drone

Godspeed You! Black Emperor does not have to prove their relevance. Hell, their 1997 debut album F # A #  earned them a lifetime of being able to do whatever the hell they want. Despite this, Godspeed continues to prove themselves as leaders in the post-rock genre at every possible junction, with many citing their 2012 comeback album ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! as a more than worthy return to glory following their hiatus. Godspeed’s new four-track album Asunder, Sweet, and Other Distress manages another stellar achievement for the band, one that thankfully doesn’t attempt to fix a working machine.

We’re introduced to Asunder with a bang in the form of “Peasantry, or ‘Light! Inside of Light.” “Peasantry” sounds almost apocalyptic, violent. This angry track is certainly a way to start an album. What I dig most about “Peasantry” is its strange Egyptian influence that manifests in the guitars around the song’s midpoint, kind of like “Mladic” off of Allelujah! “Peasantry” is interrogative, but one has to listen to the following three tracks to understand what Godspeed is asking.

“Lambs’ Breath” and “Asunder, Sweet,” Asunder’s centerpieces, are perhaps the album’s most interesting tracks, if not its most enjoyable. “Lambs’ Breath” follows “Peasantry” to serve as a unique counterpoint. “Lambs’ Breath” contrasts “Peasantry” and its angry energy by presenting wrenched strings and a constant drone. It’s strangely subdued. “Asunder, Sweet,” track three, serves as the eeriest of the songs. The combination of solar beeps and the contentious violin create an undeniably obvious nerve-wracking sensation stemming from a sense of paranoia. These middle songs earn my respect for the sheer commitment to experimentation.

The final track, “Piss Crowns Are Trebeled,” is without a doubt Asunder’s crowning glory. It’s a deeply emotional piece featuring militarized drumming that initially seems to be at odds with the longing guitar riffs. As the track builds, however, we learn that the instruments are not actually warring at all. Instead, they’re parts of the same whole that became more familiar with each other as “Piss Crowns” escalates to its magnificent conclusion.

Asunder is not a huge shift in form for Godspeed. It is, for the most part, what we’ve come to expect. This is not to say that the album feels like Godspeed is stagnant, not at all. No, the band is simply evolving naturally. There are several moments where Godspeed allows themselves to meander, which is highly refreshing. Certainly there are dramatic climaxes, but each one feels natural and earned.

So, should you listen to Asunder, Sweet, and Other Distress? If you’re a fan of Godspeed, the chances of you being disappointed are minimal. If you’ve never listened to any post-rock, you probably want to just ease yourself into it.

 

PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

FAV TRACKS: Piss Clowns Are Trebeled

LEAST FAV TRACKS: Asunder, Sweet

Score(8.5/10)

 

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INTERVIEW WITH IF, THE BAND

Up and coming Dallas band If, The Band (yes, that’s their name) recently released their debut EP. I got the chance to email them and ask a few questions regarding their inspirations, how they came to be, and what they have in store for the future.

If, The Band is composed of:
Andrew Easterling- guitar/vocals
Thomas Stephenson- guitar/vocals
Wrigley Burris- bass/vocals
Archer Hasbany- drums/percussion

How did you guys come up with a band name?

Andrew: we were originally called “if” but we decided to change it to “if, the band” after a dream I had in which a bunch of people were asking me “whats your band called?”. And I would respond “if”, then they would get confused and say “if what?”. I responded with “if, the band” and when I woke up, I knew what we were calling our band.

How did you guys form? 

Andrew: Thomas and I were friends in grade school and we grew up playing guitar and listening to music together. Eventually, we decided to form a band. So a while back, while we were still in middle school, we formed a band with Wrigley as our bass player. That band eventually disbanded after a while and we decide to form a new band. Thomas, Wrigley and I recruited Archer to play drums with us, and we’ve been together since.

What bands/artists have influenced you immensely? 

Andrew: it’s hard to list them all out because there’s so many. For me, definitely The Beatles, Radiohead, Brand New and The Smiths. I also love 90s Shoegaze, like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, and lots of hip hop, like Death Grips, Kanye West, and Joey Bada$$ just to name a few.

Wrigley: Wow, I guess I haven’t really thought about it. But right now I’m taking a lot of influence from jazz such as Chet Baker and Paul Chambers. But overall bands like Radiohead and great R&B bands like Earth, Wind, & Fire.
Thomas: A$AP Ferg, Muse, Radiohead, Chance the Rapper, Nicki Minaj, Lil B
Archer:  Rush, Childish Gambino, Foo Fighters, Pink Floyd.

This one is for each of you: favorite band and album?

Andrew: That’s a tough one. I’d have to go with OK Computer by Radiohead. I remember hearing it for the first time and just being like “What did I just listen to? I didn’t know you could do that!”. It really opened my mind to be more experimental with music. Not to mention it’s a damn good record.
Thomas: Hail To The Thief definitely. I can listen to the album over and over again and still hear things that I’ve never heard before.
Wrigley: Its a tie between Kind of Blue by Miles Davis or Kid A by Radiohead.
Archer: Rush, Moving Pictures. Neil Peart is a legend.

Watch a Neil Peart drum solo on David Letterman:

What’s the best part about being a band?

Andrew: Playing good music with friends.
Wrigley: Creating something bigger than yourself with people you enjoy.
Thomas: Being able to explore new sounds and ideas with good friends
Archer: Exploring different ways of making music.

How was the recording process for your debut EP?

Andrew: It was fun but tiring. We recorded it in this house in Oak Cliff that was converted into a studio and recorded it spread out over two weekends. We did like ten hour sessions for four days. It was awesome to get to work in the studio and experiment with new sounds, but it did get tiring at some points. I mean, listening to the same five songs over and over and over again did get a little annoying haha.
Thomas: It was tiring but I definitely learned a lot about recording. We were able to explore new ideas very easily because of all the equipment that was there.
Wrigley: Interesting. [I] learned about myself as a musician and as my role in the band. Lots of fun though. Lots of work.
Archer:  It was such an amazing learning experience, I never realized the extreme attention to detail and the unreal amount of ways to improve your music on the smallest level.

What can fans expect in the future?

Andrew: Hopefully, we can get our first full length out sometime soon. We’re still in the writing process right now but there will hopefully be a release in the future.

What music have you all been listening to lately?

Andrew: Lately, I’ve been listening to the new Joey Bada$$ album and Ghostface Killah’s new record with BADBADNOTGOOD. Also this awesome Danish band, Sleep Party People, has become one of my new favorites. I’m also going back and rediscovering the catalogs of awesome artists like The Doors, Sunny Day Real Estate, Nas, Joe Pass, Guided By Voices and Bob Dylan, just to name a few.
Thomas: I’m sort of on a rock hiatus as of now, so I’ve been mostly listening to Drake‘s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” and a lot of Trap music.
Wrigley: Bebop Jazz artists such as Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown, and John Coltrane.
Archer:  A whole lot of 80’s funk music, and old school hip hop like A Tribe Called Quest.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

Andrew: In five years, I’ll be poppin bandz and hanging out with Riff Raff on a daily basis.
Thomas: Working as an evangelist for the Almighty Church of Zalthor of Latter Day Saintz.
Wrigley: Drowning in an ocean of college debt.
Archer:  Frequently attending Jimmy Buffet concerts and occasionally doing features with Rick Ross

Celebrity crushes? 

Andrew: Lil B
Thomas: Lil B
Wrigley: Lil B
Archer: Lil B. Yes we’re serious.

Listen to the EP 52 Hz below:
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LOLLAPALOOZA LINEUP ANNOUNCED!

Lollapalooza 2015 takes place July 31- August 2 at Chicago’s Grant Park. The festival has now revealed its lineup via The Chicago Tribune. Paul McCartney, Metallica, the Weeknd, Florence + the Machine, TV on the Radio, Death From Above 1979, Tame Impala, A$AP Rocky, Flying Lotus, Hot Chip, and the War on Drugs will all perform.

RL Grime, Radiohead’s Philip Selway, Tyler The Creator, FKA Twigs, Toro Y Moi, Travi$ Scott, Sturgill Simpson, A$AP Rocky, Twin Peaks, Charli XCX, and more will also take the stage. Check out the rest of the lineup above.

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR STREAM NEW ALBUM

Godspeed You! Black Emperor are back with Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, their sixth LP and first since 2012’s Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!. The album isn’t out until March 31 via Constellation, but the Guardian will be streaming it this week in its entirety. Below, listen to the four-track offering, including the massive opener “Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light!” (an excerpt of which was shared by the band last month).

OUTSIDE LANDS FESTIVAL LINEUP ANNOUNCED!

This year’s lineup for San Francisco festival Outside Lands has been revealed. It includes Kendrick Lamar, Tame Impala, D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Elton John, St. Vincent, Wilco, Mac DeMarco, Sky Ferreira, Caribou, the Black Keys, Natalie Prass, Toro Y Moi, First Aid Kit, Speedy Ortiz, SZA, Mumford & Sons, DJ Mustard, Hot Chip, Sam Smith, Laura Marling, Django Django, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Alvvays, METZ, and Dan Deacon.

Hell, even Billy Idol is gonna be there.

Check out the entire lineup at their website.

 

Outside Lands takes place August 7-9 at Golden Gate Park.

Watch the “Too Many Cooks”-esque lineup announcement video, created in collaboration with Funny or Die. It features San Francisco 49ers player Aldon Smith.

DEATH GRIPS ARE BACK! (PLUS TOUR ANNOUNCEMENT)

Looks like the (PREMATURE) breakup is officially off: Death Grips , the elusive and unpredictable experimental hip hop trio, have just announced a world tour that kicks off in June. That’s the poster below; you can check out the North American dates below. “more dates to be announced, including: Sacramento, Los Angeles, and various international locations,” the band wrote on Facebook. The tour is for real; tickets for some shows are listed on Ticketmaster.

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The band recently streamed Jenny Death, half of the double LP the powers that b, released commercially March 31 via Harvest. 

Death Grips:

06-19 Seattle, WA – Showbox
06-20 Vancouver, British Columbia – Commodore Ballroom
06-21 Portland, OR – Roseland Theater
06-23 Salt Lake City, UT – The Complex
06-24 Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre
06-26 Lawrence, KS – Granada Theater
06-27 Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
06-28 Madison, WI – Majestic Theatre
06-30 Chicago, IL – Metro
07-01 Detroit, MI – Saint Andrew’s Hall
07-03 Toronto, Ontario – Danforth Music Hall
07-04 Montreal, Quebec – Virgin Mobile Corona Theatre
07-05 Boston, MA – Paradise Rock Club
07-07 New York, NY – Webster Hall
07-10 Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
07-11 Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
07-12 Asheville, NC – The Orange Peel
07-14 Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade (Heaven Stage)
07-15 New Orleans, LA – One Eyed Jack’s
07-17 Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s
07-18 Austin, TX – Mohawk
07-19 Dallas, TX – Trees
07-21 Albuquerque, NM – Sunshine Theater
07-22 Tucson, AZ – The Rialto Theatre
07-23 Tempe, AZ – Marquee Theatre
07-25 San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore

Listen to Jenny Death below:

from the album "The Powers That B"

“The Powers That B” Death Grips

Death Grips

The Powers That B (N*ggas On The Moon/Jenny Death) Album Reviews

Third World/Harvest

Released March 31, 2015 (The Powers That B);June 8, 2014 (N*iggas On The Moon); March 18, 2015 (Jenny Death)

Genre: Experimental Hip Hop, Noise Hop, Industrial Hip Hop, Glitch Hop, Experimental Rock, Rap Rock

N*ggas On The Moon

PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

FAV TRACKS: Black Quarterback, Have a Sad C*m, 
LEAST FAV TRACKS: F*ck Me Out

6 Second Album Reviews’ SCORE: (4/5)

Jenny Death

PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

FAV TRACKS:  The Powers That B, On GP 

LEAST FAV TRACK: I Break Mirrors With My Face in The United States

6 Second Album Reviews’ SCORE: (4.5/5)

The Powers That B [Aggregate Score]: (8/10)

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"To Pimp A Butterfly" Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar

To Pimp A Butterfly Album Review

Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope Records

Released March 16th, 2015

Genre: Conscious Hip-Hop, Jazz Rap, Funk,

Rap has become a culture that has a very distinct divide between fans. There are fans of the genre that only like boom-bap style beats, thick New York accents and songs about fake MCs. Others want newer-sounding, more electronically affected music. Kendrick Lamar is one of those rappers that appeals to both of these groups of fans without necessarily catering to their aforementioned interests. He has both mainstream appeal and “old-head” appeal, due to his penchant for writing sometimes catchy songs, but almost always delivering a deep message. To Pimp A Butterfly is easily his most dense and complex effort yet.

Kendrick deals with more themes than a Charles Dickens novel and is more honest yet clever in his delivery than ever before. From the odd sample at the intro to “Wesley’s Theory” to the unforgiving attack on gold-digging on “For Free” to the evisceration of ineffective political intervention on behalf of the American black man, he spits more than a resident of Rock Bottom from Spongebob. This isn’t a concept album in the same way his last effort, good kid, m.a.a.d. city, was, but it’s still topically focused throughout. This thematic aspect allows Kendrick free reign to experiment with flows and beats to change it up for the listener, still delivering harsh truths throughout.

To Pimp A Butterfly is a combination of a love story, a racially charged biography and drama. The love story comes through when Lamar describes his love for his craft, as well as his troubled relationship with “Lucy,” a character that appears throughout this album that represents the evil in the world (Lucy = Lucifer.) Kendrick also goes IN on political issues, calling out bigots, especially politicians on the song “Hood Politics.” He compares Democrats and Republicans to Crips and Bloods, which is a line that, I assure you, will be often quoted on Twitter for the next few months. He ties in the issue of race, saying politicians “give us guns and drugs, call us thugs,” reminding everyone of one of the sources of struggle for black people in America. This paragraph isn’t even scratching the surface of all the topics he covers, not to mention the depth to which he explores these topics.

Kendrick isn’t the only one whose contributions make this project incredible: every single instrumental is amazing. It’s always exciting to hear jazz and funk weaved into contemporary music in a way that is sometimes fresh, a la Thundercat’s bass contributions on “Wesley’s Theory,” and sometimes just a great throwback, like “You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said), a blatant throwback to Tupac-style beats. Remember Tupac until the end of this album. He’s more important than one might realize. Rapsody’s guest verse on “Complexion” is a perfect complement to Kendrick’s purposeful lyrical bombs.

Another’s review of this album can’t describe the depth, the complexity, the finesse of this album. It’s true that I’ve merely skimmed the surface of this album in this review, and that is intentional. To Pimp A Butterfly is also meant to generate discussion. So talk amongst your friends about the themes, the social issues, the music, the flow, the concepts, or the story. Or talk about how it is to listen to a modern classic. Because we just may have another classic album right in front of us. Like all good things, time will tell.

PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

FAV TRACKS: ALL OF THEM
LEAST FAV TRACK: NONE OF THEM

SCORE: (9.5/10)

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"Strangers to Ourselves" Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse

Strangers To Ourselves Album Review

Epic Records

Released March 17th, 2015

Genre: Alternative Rock, Indie Pop

After 8 years – 8 long years – Reddit’s favourite Indie-Rock band are back. The Issaquah sextet finally let loose their sixth full-length record this week. After the disappointingly polished and unmemorable performance on 2007’s We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, Modest Mouse fans, myself included, were hoping for something of U-turn back to the golden age of intensity and melody à la Long Drive/Lonesome Crowded West.

But following the announcement of this record I re-assessed. Modest Mouse are a band founded on imbalance. Not in terms of creativity or cohesiveness but rather by the way they compose themselves – the nature of their existence. I’m guilty as anyone for trying to stitch together patterns and identify tenuous links across Modest Mouse’s discography but that comes with the territory of having become a cult band. Strangers to Ourselves, for all it’s obvious shortcomings and familiarity, is a testament to this imbalance. A new chapter for Modest Mouse, for better or worse I suppose.

In keeping with these projected patterns, Modest Mouse openers are forever victim of this. We try and pigeon-hole them into two categories either the low-key, introspective beginnings in the style of “Dramamine”, “World at Large” and “Third Planet” or all-guns blazing hits like “Teeth like God’s Shoeshine” and “Dashboard”. But I don’t think “Strangers To Ourselves”, the opening cut, slots in. It is subdued, granted, but it feels grander and more experienced. The way the strings sweep across the mix and wind-chimes dangle in the distance makes Modest Mouse feel like a totally different band in this instance. And they are, they’ve lost Eric Judy, the original bassist and a quintessential ingredient to the urgency that is cherished on the earlier releases and butchered on the latter. From the off, going into Stranger to Ourselves with the expectation of We Were Dead V2.0 is only going lead you to disappointment.

Having reached something of a commercial breakthrough in 2004 with Good News For People Who Love Bad News, Modest Mouse have been more recently yielding to their pop itch. They’ve always had elements of pop in their music since the beginning; catchy melodies and memorable guitar lines are a fundamental reason why they are so widely beloved. So when “Lampshades on Fire” first dropped there weren’t too many raised eyebrows across the board. The deeply embed funk grooves and sing-along choruses sandwiched between Isaac Brock’s bleak dystopian imagery is a refined cocktail at this point but one that hasn’t sounded as convincing in the last couple of records.

And while “Lampshades” and following single “The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box” were slated for their similarities to tracks like “Paper Thin Walls”, Strangers has so much to offer in terms of diversity. There are some authentically endearing moments like on “Coyotes” which depicts a peaceful national park with paw prints in the snow accompanied by softly plucked guitars. In a similar vein, “Pups to Dust” sees Isaac revert back to a less-knowing persona nesting in this comforting oriental riff and rustic percussion giving a real in-the-shed production feel.

Though I’ve always felt Isaac, as a songwriter, has something of a bipolar M.O. For every sweet and insightful track he musters, he has to match it with something equally fucked up. The deranged circus piano jig of “Sugar Boats” is close enough a tribute to The Killing Joke and the pitched-down vocals, as obnoxious as they are, on “Pistol” act as a narration device. Isaac embodies this hedonistic cretin of a character who indulges in promiscuity, hard drugs and fraud as sharp drums clatter and tense guitars build.

However, maybe it’s because a third of the track-list was released prior to the album drop, lacklustre moments were to be expected. The initial discharge of excitement came alongside the first couple of singles and at this point of listening it sometimes feels like we’re just filling in the gaps. Tracks like “Wicked Campaign” sound like filler in comparison. The effect laden instrumentation is far from grounded and combined with airy backing vocals and synth makes for a wholly ineffective juncture between two of the more lively songs on this record: “Sugar Boats” and “Be Brave”. “Brave” of which is roaring upheaval of candour and moxy – Isaac at his most gutsy. For every trough, there’s a much greater peak – again, my imbalance theory plays out.

Final track, “Of Course We Know” is something I see as a conversion mechanic for this album. If faith has been lost, “Of Course” is there to restore. Possibly interpreted as the new-era counterpart to Modest Mouse’s magnum opus “The Stars are Projectors”. As grand and majestic as the former, it imparts this free-flowing feeling of greater perspective. Strangers is going to be a polarising experience for a lot of Modest Mouse fans but I admire the diversity above all things. Yeah, there are moments that sound tirade and played out but after 19 years I can’t not love a band that puts a track as perceptive “Of Course We Know” alongside “Shit in Your Cut” – now that’s imbalance.

PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

FAV TRACKS: Pups to Dust / Best Room / Ansel / Of Course We Know / Coyotes
LEAST FAV TRACK: Wicked Campaign

SCORE: (8.3/10)