To be considered a legend in hip hop, an artist must earn their name next to the greats such as 2Pac, Nas, Jay-Z and The Notorious B.I.G. With the release of DAMN. (2017), Kendrick Lamar may have snagged an ever-lasting spot amongst royalty.

Knowing Kendrick was now part of the upper-echelon of hip hop, I knew that his DAMN. Tour was not going to be one to miss. On July 12, 2017, in Glendale AZ, Kendrick Lamar kicked off his arena tour with the help of fellow rappers DRAM and Travis Scott. I was lucky enough to be there, and it was jaw-dropping.

Although the show was a complete success, it’s worth noting that the night started on a sour note. DRAM took to the stage first with songs off his record, Big Baby DRAM. But DRAM was uninteresting; no one past the first two rows felt the music.

Following what many longtime festival-goers considered to be a lackluster showing in 2016, veteran fans were cautiously optimistic about Sasquatch's 2017’s iteration. Towards the end of last year, the music festival announced that Frank Ocean, the recluse R&B star, would be one of the upcoming year’s headliners; a promising booking that appeared to signal an impending rebound. But the momentum stagnated in January, as all mentions of Ocean disappeared across Sasquatch’s social media pages and the lineup was nowhere to be seen.

In due time, Sasquatch sent an email announcing that the festival lineup would be released the upcoming Monday at midnight. A curious decision, as it would seemingly make more sense to release it when fans and publications were actually awake. The email came as a two-and-a-half-minute video:

And fourteen seconds in, it was apparent that this wasn’t going to be the return to form that fans were hoping for.

For six years, I have eagerly anticipated the release of a new 'Foxes record. As the years waned on, I worried that that record would never come, and I would be stuck with just one perfect album. Prior to listening to Crack-Up, a nervous apprehension washed over me. With two amazing albums already under their belt, the band faced enormous pressure going into this latest release. Would this album live up to six years worth of expectations or fall flat on its face?

Fleet Foxes have managed to exceed all expectations while doing so in completely unexpected ways. Helplessness Blues, as cohesive as it was, contained songs so strong, each could stand on their own apart from the others. Crack-Up, on the other hand, has a much more synthesized structure, essentially making the album seem like one big song. The tone and inspirations of the album are also much more dark and damaged.

The Mountain Goats, the primary musical project of singer-songwriter John Darnielle, have been plenty of things throughout the years. Working with a cast of collaborators, the most consistent for a time being a Panasonic boombox, they started out in the early 90s as an acoustic lo-fi project, releasing albums and cassettes on various small labels. 

The songs were as terse as they were tense, compressing moments into little sonic shells, carrying the threat of exploding at any second. At the turn of the century their sound collapsed and expanded, and when the Mountain Goats signed to 4AD they added more elements to solidify themselves as a cohesive project, working through variations on themes new and old. It’s always been Darnielle, and, as any fan will tell you, it’s always been much more.

Guide to The Mountain Goats - Part 2

The two TMG albums released in the middle of the decade, The Sunset Tree and Get Lonely, are as notable, but in a different way. 

There might be a greater stylistic difference between each of the three previous records—first recording in a studio, then embracing a full band—but the transition between WSABH and The Sunset Tree is perhaps just as jarring. Both center around autobiography, but the first is a character sketchbook cloaked in the language of verisimilitude. The two albums that follow are clear as day, and dark as what comes after clarity.

Talking to Marc Maron on the WTF podcast, Darnielle observed that “in many ways [The Sunset Tree is] the first Mountain Goats album ... it’s like, all this stuff before that, sort of feels like a study for when I was able to tap something.” 

Review: "Is This The Life We Really Want?" by Roger Waters

As the enigmatic former lead singer and bassist of Pink Floyd, Roger Waters’ solo career has been defined by a struggle to distance himself from his legendary band, with varying degrees of success. 

On his latest release, Is This The Life We Really Want?, Waters manages to create a prog-rock labyrinth for the modern day, complete with the conscience protest anthems that made Pink Floyd famous. 

Q&A: Naked Giants

Naked Giants are perhaps the most professionally unprofessional band on this side of the Mason-Dixon line. They dress like thieves reclaiming a burned down Burlington’s and play their instruments like habit-formed aesthetes. They “feel” instead of “think.” I’ve concluded that’s their dirty secret.

A Naked Giants song is a portrayal of instinct: there’s no room to think, overthink, or, like, stress-out, man. They provide the groove and direction to take the audience on a trip, a safari tour of just how many noises three instruments are able to make.

Review: "Stage Four" by Touché Amoré

What is the music of mourning? What is the passing of a loved one, put to record? There are scores of albums on death as a general idea, but how often does one attempt to explain death with a time, a place, and a person? How often does rock music dare to fumble with the idiosyncrasies and messiness of one specific loss? 

When we think of albums that seek to honor someone’s memory, we don’t usually think of rollicking, power-chord driven hardcore. Touché Amoré set out to change that with their 2016 album Stage Four.

Review: "Visuals" by Mew

Once the first domino falls in a budding Mew phase, lead singer Jonas Bjerre will quickly become the narrator of your dreams. His falsetto embeds itself beneath the skin and, viciously, the surrealist lyrics will seed your mind to bloom shortly thereafter.

And that’s just the vocals folks: this full-fledged, four-piece used to be filled out with Bo Madsen on lead, Johan Wohlert on bass and Silas Utke Graae Jørgensen on drums. They’re an experimental force of nature whom, after twenty years, have perfected the act of bludgeoning pop music over the head.

Mew’s eighth album, “Visuals,” is the best pop album of the year so far – bar none.

Balance and Composure: Live at Launchpad

Nearing the tail-end of their most recent tour, the Pennsylvania-based Balance and Composure visited Launchpad to promote Light We Made, the follow up to the 2013 breakout The Things We Think We’re Missing. The latter brought with it near universal acclaim. Having never seen the band live or even heard their music before, I decided to immerse myself in the groovy alt-rock sound that has won the band so much acclaim.

Honestly, I was not too impressed.

They find themselves among a myriad of other rock bands today who fail to shatter any barriers or create something truly innovative. They are more than musically capable, but, much like the group’s name, there is little that makes them stand out from the rest.

Also on The Lobo