The most consistent band working wants to move forward, even at the risk of a misstep or two. That’s not to say they haven’t changed; their past five albums, recorded with their current lineup, have each sustained a coherent, self-contained aesthetic. The incendiary explosiveness of "Jane Doe," the rotted gouging of "You Fail Me," the straight assault of "No Heroes," the knotted melodicism of "Axe to Fall," the chiseled cuts of "All We Love We Leave Behind." There’s not much of a “progression," per se, but that last album was notably the saddest-sounding in the catalog. The lean directness, a sort of plea to get across not only fury but the voice containing it. The rhythm barreled forward as guitars shot downward like an arrow volley, or torrents of stinging rain.
Chicago rapper Fatimah Nyeema Warner AKA Noname stopped by the 505's very own Launchpad last Wednesday to give what potentially could have been a truly stunning performance. Unfortunately, it was not all that I had personally hoped for. A Noname song requires presence and space, a physical room for the songs to breathe perhaps, and Launchpad has a very small cube of a room where her music felt muddy and like white noise at times. I don’t blame the sound on Noname or her band as, watching her NPR Tiny Desk performance and a few festival performances, she sounds as good as studio recordings - if not better.
The main issue with modern gaming culture resides within its connotation as a juvenile pastime for preteens who enjoy shooting each other online, ad infinitum, whipping vulgar language and racist slurs like a United States president-elect. To see past this rather horrible first impression of gaming is to see the most immersive artform in existence. That’s not an overstatement. The audience is being given the controls to fire-start monumental moments of visual art, music, writing, and filmmaking. A multimodal experience. If done correctly, gaming brings out the best in many forms of art and, in turn, is extraordinarily immersive. Good game design implies good music. It’s what accounts for those footsteps in the grass or the soft-humming of a spaceship’s engine in neutral. A dynamic world demands the appropriate amount of aural animation to define it, and some musicians have formed some unparalleled works of sound in the past few years.
Talk to any music fan about Radiohead, and chances are they will be familiar with OK Computer and Kid A, and possibly even Pablo Honey (strictly for its inclusion of “Creep”). They might even be a Radiohead obsessive, and will want to debate how the subtle nuances of “The National Anthem” make Thom Yorke the greatest musical genius to ever live; they probably even dream of drinking Thom’s tears as he performs in hopes that they may attain some of that genius. Personally, while I consider myself a music fanatic, something about Radiohead has always felt impenetrable. After hearing the near-universal acclaim this band receives, I am left befuddled as to why I am unable to feel the same way. I can barely tolerate beloved records such as Kid A and Hail to the Thief. These albums, known for their experimentation, seem to be totally lacking in any quality that could make a song enjoyable. It is for this reason that I am stunned by how much I love In Rainbows, which turns ten years old this year.
As any respectable rom-com will tell you, relationships and music were made for each other. With every moment of your emotional adventure there is a song crafted to fit your exact mood, whether you find yourself in the loving embrace of your partner or neck deep in a tub of depression ice cream. Here’s a list of songs for all the highs and lows that come with love — hopefully you can use these for any emotional situation you find yourself in.
Kelela is, above all, concerned with maintaining dignity within movement. In interviews, and an editorial piece published by Resident Advisor, she has been outspoken about the constraints and compromises of working as a black woman within a music industry controlled in large part by white men under late capitalism. Part of that process has been walking the line between using different influences — “I don't see my sound inherent in one type of beat,” she explained to the Fader — without compromising her blackness, and in turn without being tokenized, marginalized, extracted from.
Since 2002, Austin City Limits has been providing the southwest with top-tier live music between rock, hip-hop, and electronic music. Fifteen years later, the sentiment in which ACL was founded upon remains the same: congregate music lovers and turn the volume up to eleven. Weekend 2 at Austin City Limits featured 114 bands and 36 hours of incredible music. Here’s a ranking of the best shows at this years' music festival.
It’s hard to read music news publications without running into articles discussing “the death of rock and roll.” This endless stream of pieces come again as genres like pop and hip-hop dominate the current musical landscape. As much as I detest hearing purely speculative news like this, I cannot help but agree with this sentiment. There are numerous reasons why rock’s popularity has dipped, but one primary reason is the lack of relatability the genre has with younger music fans. Rock is a genre obsessed with its past, and many of the most popular rock bands have been around for at least a decade (The Killers, Fall Out Boy, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc.). Today’s rock musicians rarely seem to focus on the problems facing young people: the demographic that ultimately determines what is popular.
David Sugalski donned the pseudonym of “The Polish Ambassador” by mixing and scratching records together in his free time, one of which included a skit of two show hosts making fun of a fictional representation of the European diplomat. Since his start in Boulder back around 2007, Sugalski has gone on to release a wide array of funk, hip-hop, breakbeat, EDM and glitch, as well as form his own label, Jumpsuit Records — a reference to his snazzy work attire when dropping beats on stage. You may be familiar with his songs “Superpowers” and “Let the Rhythm Just”, both of which utilize powerful melodic hooks to decorate the sonic environment. The label is a force of nature in advocating the use of green energy, using their platform to form non-profits and raise awareness for all things sustainable.
Last week, the world lost an American rock icon, someone who helped shape rock music for 40 years. Singer, songwriter and guitarist Tom Petty died in the early morning of Oct. 2 of cardiac arrest in Santa Monica, California. His death was sudden and came as a heartbreaking shock to his millions of fans around the world. He was only 66. Petty’s career was prolific, impressive and far-reaching, and as an icon he was larger than life. His unusual, nasally singing voice made him instantly recognizable, and his ability to write enduring and beloved songs made him one of the biggest rock stars of the last 50 years. In 2002 his accomplishments were officially recognized when he was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
If there exists one universal complaint among music fans in New Mexico, it’s that your favorite band will likely never play in your home state. Instead, you will be forced to make the six-hour trek to either Denver or Phoenix to see them. Therefore, when that beloved band somehow finds their way to the Land of Enchantment, whether it be in Albuquerque or Santa Fe, it’s a big deal. One example of this was when Fleet Foxes and Beach House, two titans of the indie-rock world, graced the stage of the beautiful Santa Fe Opera House. I found it very fitting that these two acts would be performing at an opera house. Their music is not made for simply dancing and having fun, but to be felt as a complete emotional experience. It did not feel weird sitting for most of the show, eyes firmly fixed upon the act before me. In a strange way, I did not feel far removed from the epic stage performances that the venue usually hosts.
There comes a time in many artists’ careers where they decide to go electronic. Without fail, that album’s pre-release hype discussion centers around the question of whether or not it’ll be this band’s Kid A, Age of Adz, or Yeezus, drastic reinventions from some of this era’s most critically acclaimed artists. Most often it’s not. It generally signals an artist desperately trying to kindle the dying embers of their creative flame. For some, it opens a whole new world of possibilities like it did last year for Bon Iver, who went full bleep-bloop with heavy use of synths, auto-tune, and a track list that looked closer to Wingdings than it did English. On their seventh record, The National are the latest to dip into the electronic well.
There are a few things you need to know about hip-hop in 2017. Firstly, Texas-based self-proclaimed American boy band Brockhampton, led by openly gay rapper Kevin Abstract, have elegantly vanquished all rival artists from the scene. Brockhampton released their first full-fledged album Saturation earlier in June, and followed the record up with a sequel in August to critical and commercial acclaim. The collective has plans, allegedly, to release Saturation III in October: making it one of the most hyped records of the year; projecting to hoist up the Brockhampton flag over all of 2017. Secondly, Brockhampton announced Jennifer’s Tour: 23 stops across the mainland United States, with every single show selling out in a matter of days. This is the most important part. Brockhampton completely underestimated how popular they became after Saturation. Almost every venue was a bar, or small theater, or glorified living room, all of which were the catalyst for the most intimate, aggressive, passionate, overwhelming series of shows in the past decade.
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.
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.
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.
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.