In 2017, Seattle-based rapper Grieves finds his career at a crossroads.

Having reached his peak popularity six years ago off of mega-hits like “On the Rocks” and “Light Speed,” the Rhymesayers signee has become more introspective with his lyrics. His new album Running Wild sees him reflecting on his 10-year music career and his personal life — in great contrast to the quirky young man he used to be.

I was interested to see this newfound maturity on full display at his performance at the Launchpad in downtown Albuquerque. Up until this show, I had only ever been to big hip-hop concerts with at least a few hundred people. I was curious to see how the atmosphere would differ with only a few dozen in attendance. As it turns out, this intimate venue would work to Grieves’ advantage.

Queens of the Stone Age were forged out of the eastern California desert sands almost two decades ago, and have been consistent in whipping up dust devils around rock-enthusiasts heads since the group's beginning. 

Guitarist/lead vocalist Josh Homme has spearheaded the band through various ups, downs, and line-up changes and despite the struggles, which includes almost dying in 2013, the man himself has given us the Queen's latest record, Villains, released last month on August 28th. 

"We are the freaks! / We are the weirdos! / We are lonely! / But tonight, this is a gathering of friends! /This is our community!"

Green Day came to Isleta Amphitheater on Monday, Sept. 11, with an electric punk energy that only they can invoke. The concert was a massive celebration of inclusion, as well as audience participation. During the opening song, “Know Your Enemy,” lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong called for a fan to jump on stage and help sing the chorus, driving the entire crowd to cheer relentlessly. The teenage boy, during his tandem rendition of the song, jumped off for a crowd surfing experience he will likely never forget.

Brooklyn dance-punk outfit LCD Soundsystem officially announced their reunion in early 2016, and at the time, I kinda wished they hadn’t. Their dissolution and long goodbye seemed so complete and perfect, with their final show at Madison Square Garden and that amazing farewell documentary. Although it was amazing to witness the return of one of the greatest and most legendary musical acts this side of the millennium, it felt like it cheapened what LCD really was. You had the grand ending with the fireworks and drugs and lights, and the idea of LCD 2.0 just felt really off. The release of two lead singles, “Call the Police” and “American Dream”, didn’t do much for their fans, and the album cover, eyesore blue that it boasts, almost served to lower my expectations.

But maybe a return was inevitable. Maybe LCD was never meant to really end, and maybe there’ll always be a young audience for the pretentious, self-aware ramblings of an aging Brooklynite. Or maybe James Murphy was getting tired of his coffee antics. Either way, it ain’t bad, because it’s gotten us this new record: American Dream.

Review: "Every Country's Sun" by Mogwai

What has consistently defined Mogwai, legendary post-rockers from Glasgow, is their ability to create a totally unique sound with every release. Even if you don’t love all of their albums, it’s hard to deny the sheer versatility the band possesses. Now, almost twenty years since the release of their legendary debut, Mogwai have chosen to grace us with another amazing record in Every Country’s Sun.

As experimental as the album is, Every Country’s Sun actually kicks off with a more traditional Mogwai sound with the wonderfully named “Coolverine”. The song progresses, twists, and reflects on the darkened ambiance it creates. Like with any classic post-rock album, this opener, much like the album cover, gives me the image of a slow, tortured sunrise, moving continuously until a black orb remains perched in the hallowed sky. Mogwai continues its use of synths found throughout their last album, Rave Tapes. Thankfully, their use is much more subtle here.

Post-Rock Aestheticism: a Guide to Mogwai

For music fans, few experiences rival the excitement you feel when a cherished artist releases new music. You've spent countless hours consuming their music that you can now recite any lyrics on command. Finally, when those beloved tracks seem to start losing their edge, the band drops a new song. 

You feel a certain kind of thrill at the possibility of listening to even more amazing and life-changing music. You almost forget that the record might sound completely mediocre, so great is your excitement. I have felt this experience with a number of bands, most recently with post-rock group Mogwai.

In Retrospect: Frank Ocean's Blonde

Blonde was a very long time coming. In July 2012, Frank Ocean released his major label debut, what is considered by many, listeners and professional critics alike, to be his magnum opus – as well as one of the greatest albums of the 21st century thus far – Channel Orange. Receiving a huge amount of critical acclaim, it’s a dense, narrative, expansive lava lamp of an R&B record and, following a tour in support of the aforementioned album, he more or less disappeared off the map completely. 

He had promised that a successor to Channel Orange entitled Boys Don’t Cry (as an homage to the Cure song of the same name) be released in summer 2015; 2015 came and went with no sign of Frank. His unreleased second studio album became something of a meme, and Breaux himself something of a legend.

Young the Giant: Live at Villa Hispana

If you’ve been camping, you probably know that one annoying friend who, at the campfire, armed with an acoustic guitar, tried to belt out the renowned hit “Cough Syrup” by Young the Giant.

Chances are it probably sucked, but chances are you may have sung along with them. “Cough Syrup” is such a catchy song that even to this day, I can’t help but yell along in my car or shower when it's thrown on shuffle.

The issue with a hit like that though, is how a relatively new band can top themselves thereafter. Young the Giant hasn’t. With three albums out they have, debatably, yet to produce a song that’s as catchy and memorable as their 2011 hit. That’s not saying they haven’t made good music; their most recent album, “Home of the Strange” (2016), is full of great jams, most notably “Amerika,” “Something to Believe in,” and “Silvertounge.”

Local artist Vez' fresh take on rap lyricism

Hip-hop music in New Mexico is at odds with itself. On one hand there’s quality, much like Wake Self: a conscious and confidant ABQ rapper who often acclaims feminism, denounces consumerism, and unabashedly reps his home state while doing so. On the other hand, we have’s #2 worst band of 2014, Brokencyde. To say the least, there’s discrepancy.

Matthew “Vez” Chavez is currently beneath a saturated tier of rap musicians budding from the 505 but his musicianship speaks in decibels.

A Tribe Called Quest: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheater

2016 was a year of hit-or-miss experimental albums, be it from Kanye’s “The Life of Pablo” to Bon Iver’s “22, A Million” fans were generally split down the middle in either loving or hating mainstream contemporary releases. From what I could tell, 2016 could have been a period of forgettable music yet, out of nowhere, A Tribe Called Quest woke up from their 20-year hibernation with the release of their new album “We Got It from Here...Thank You 4 Your Service.”

The album was critically acclaimed and full of sociopolitical commentary from the insane election year to the Black Lives Matter movement, garnished lightly with tributes to rapper Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor who passed away on March 22 of 2016 — in the middle of recording the album.

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