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New Album Review

Dochii: Oh The Places You’ll Go Album Review

Alright my recommendations feed has come up with something great. It’s a rare occasion that the algorithm will promote someone without a lot of industry weight behind them, but Dochii is the exception because I had no idea who this woman is, and she’s left a relatively thin paper trail online. So, let’s take a look at this new force in underground rap, and her introductory album “Oh The Places You’ll Go.”

The obvious starting place for Dochii is the song “Yucky Blucky Fruitcake,” (yes I know, just bear with me). The song literally starts with a teacher asking her to introduce herself to the class, straight up “Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” style. This is an extremely well-worn cliché, and you better be at the top of your game if you add something new this way. Fortunately for Dochii, she is. Beyond the persona and content of lyrics, there’s no getting around the fact that Dochii is just a technically masterful rapper. This album is based around Dr. Seuss, and her flows are accordingly very fragmented and sing-songy, but the song never becomes stale. She switches between rhythmic patterns, tempos, and dynamics at such breakneck speed that one medium length song feels like full ep, giving a full impression of her range, personality, and life story through little more than the bread and butter of hip-hop.

The album’s simplicity is a thematic force as well. The ep is centered around school and childhood, hence the Dr. Seuss stuff. Again, comparisons to both Lauryn Hill and about 30 other rapppers are inveitable, but Dochii remains her own person through these well-worn topics. One of the album’s most creative choices is the decision to write and perform from the perspective of an actual tween. Dochii isn’t so much reflecting back on her childhood years so much as performing from an entirely separate character.

If there’s one complaint I have with this album, it’s the interludes. The ep is extremely short, so loading the tracklist down even further with spoken word, found sound, and other skits really makes the pace drag between the actual songs. While I’m the last person to recommending skipping tracks on albums, this is probably a situation where skipping is appropriate.

Dochii is a great addition to underground hip-hop, and while I can’t make any crystal ball predictions about her career, I can only dream of the “Places She’ll Go,” in the future. Take a listen to this new artist, she’s worth your time.

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Blog New Album Review

Album Review: “-io” by Circuit des Yeux

I didn’t have a traditional music upbringing. I barely knew what music was before sophomore year of high school barring some Soundgarden tracks I heard on YouTube. This meant that I skipped the slowly learning about the most famous artists and went from essentially nothing to experimental rap. While I could do a whole blog about what this has done to my music taste, something I notably missed out on was listening to any classical music growing up, and it’s only recently that I’ve been getting into that. And for anyone who wants a new album that brings the spirit of classical music with modern sensibilities for the discerning JPEGMAFIA fan, “-io” is the album for you.

Circuit des Yeux’s prior work exemplifies an appreciation of the old ways. Their only concert of 2021 will be playing at an opera house with a 16-piece orchestra and their last project was an original score for the 1923 silent film “Salomé”.

Structurally this is a departure from a typical verse-chorus set of builds and releases. Songs don’t come together in bursts, rather they start strong and finish even stronger, with a steady buildup of layering melodies. Oh there are both verses and choruses, but the songs don’t unfold around them, rather the lines are used as instruments, to evoke pure emotion with each word being delivered with its own passionate focus. “Zero is a hero” doesn’t sound inspiring, menacing and spiritually rousing when it’s in a lyric sheet, but when roared on album highlight “Vanishing” it’s downright iconic.

Haley Fohr, the mastermind behind Circuit des Yeux, has the perfect voice to anchor what otherwise could be a runaway train of furious strings and horns. Her 4-octave vocal range commands the listener to pay attention through the gale, able to draw you in alongside a single high note or descend into madness alongside forward marching drums and swirling strings. Moments of barely controlled aggression on songs like “Neutron Star” pair with the soft meditation of a “Sculpting the Exodus”, and the end of one song and the beginning of another often feel like arbitrary points; necessary divisions to turn one long saga into album form.

I need to get into more music like this. I’m not going to pretend I understand all of the themes Fohr is working with on this album, or that I’ll understand on the 100th listen. But the fun of experimental music is that you don’t really have to. If there’s one thing this album does it’s to take listeners on a wild ride, and I’m perfectly happy to sit back, prepare for anything and feel like just by listening to “-io” I’m furthering my education.

-Erie

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New Album Review

New Album (EP) Review: “Red Hand Akimbo” by Paris Texas

ALBUM (EP): “Red Hand Akimbo” by Paris Texas

RELEASE YEAR: 2021

LABEL: Paris Texas LLC

RATING: 8.2/10

BEST TRACKS: “girls like drugs” and “BULLSEYE”

FCC: Explicit language

Paris Texas, the musical duo consisting of producer Louis Pastel and rapper Felix, brings a fullness and humor to alternative rap that’s proven exciting and inventive. The two met in community college in South Central, Los Angeles and have worked together officially as Paris Texas for over three years now, but their music tells a different story. “Red Hand Akimbo” is so tightly-crafted that you’d think these two had been working together for most of their lives. While their sound has remained consistently vibrant and interesting, “Red Hand Akimbo” sees Pastel and Felix pulling together a work far more cohesive than their previous project, “BOY ANONYMOUS.” Their new EP flows together seamlessly, even making use of comedic interludes that make me laugh a bit every time. The EP has only five tracks, but I still had trouble choosing my top two.

The second song on “Red Hand Akimbo” is pure fun. “girls like drugs” brings together rap and rock, layered with what reads as grunge inspiration (despite Paris Texas’ denial of any influence from the Seattle sound), which all makes for a unique and high-energy experience. If girls like drugs, then this track is the best medicine on the market.

“I’ve been smokin’ cigarettes until my lungs bleed,” is the moody and heavy opener that sets the tone for the fourth track of the EP just for it to be turned around with an Assassin’s Creed reference in the next line. “BULLSEYE” is angry, loud, funny, and passionate. I can imagine a crowd jumping around at a Paris Texas show, screaming these lyrics, and sweating a little too much. The vocal distortion in the chorus is King Krule-esque with just enough pop in the background to keep the energy up. The last forty seconds drop the vocals completely and showcase that specific brand of lo-fi hip-hop study beats that somehow just works in this song.

Overall, the project is criminally short, coming in at just under thirteen minutes, but I swear it’s worth every second. I can’t wait to see what the duo puts out next, and perhaps they say it best themselves on “Epilogue,” the spoken final track of the EP: “And the only path these two will follow is up, and if it is up, then it shall remain stuck.”

Here’s to getting stuck on good music,

Silya Bennai

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New Album Review

Kacey Musgraves Why?

            The divorce album has been a staple of country music for about the last century. It’s a powerful statement that you’ve moved into the depressed and alcoholic part of middle age, which is the prime productive period for good old fashioned ballads about misery and killing your ex. It’s pretty hard to mess up, and yet, Kacey Musgraves has managed to mess it up.

            This last year has apparently been bad for Musgraves, as it has been for all of us. She divorced her husband, fellow country singer Ruston Kelly. However, determined to make the best of it, Musgraves headed into the studio, taking her usual sound palate and collaborators with her, ready to make her very own divorce album, “Star Crossed.” Now, considering the overwhelming acclaim of Golden Hour, and the general tradition of country divorce albums, I had high hopes for the album. Kacey Musgraves has been a very cheery and bright artist, and while no one would ever wish for something to dampen her spirits, I was interested to see how she would handle darker subject matter.

However, in retrospect, the fact that Musgraves had never really taken on an angry or aggressive tone should have been a red flag. “Star Crossed” is about the nicest and vaguest divorce album on the planet. Kacey is an extremely sharp songwriter, and good at forging incisive lines that never feel brow-beating. And yet, we’re treated to nearly an hour of listless and melancholy reminiscence. While there’s nothing wrong with a sad breakup album, Musgraves seems to have nothing to say about her own personal tragedy, giving the whole affair a vibe of “Quick! Say something!”

Even the angry tracks like “bread-winner” are extremely general talking about “guys like that” who come in to ruin your week. No one individual guy in particular, just like, the vague idea of guys who do nonspecific bad things to the idea of women. This isn’t to say that Musgraves needed to go into any kind of detail, we aren’t owed any kind of insight into her personal life, but in a album framed entirely around her divorce, it seems like a rather critical oversight to not, you know, talk about the divorce.

I don’t want to just drag this album, there’s a more important lesson we might take from this specific type of failure. It might be that not all artists are built for the requisite messy personal album coming from tragedy that famous artists are expected to churn out. I can’t speak to whether Musgraves was personally pressured into making an album about her personal baggage (though it would certainly explain a lot). However, even if no agent, label executive, or fan asked her to make art out of her suffering, Musgraves was doubtlessly influenced by the general cultural expectation that a musician can’t go through personal tragedy without creating an album out of it. Not everyone is cut out for that kind of career move, it’s emotionally taxing and requires a specific type of person (read: a slightly narcissistic person) to be comfortable putting themselves out so completely.

I’m fairly confident Kacey Musgraves will bounce back from this. She’s still obviously very talented, and like I said at the top, country is perhaps the only genre where woman can expect greater success in middle age than they did in their twenties. So here’s hoping she can find a niche that suits a bit better, because Tammy Wynette she is not.

Categories
New Album Review

Jenevieve: Album Review

The debut record from rising R&B artist Jenevieve establishes her as an artist with lots of promise, talent and the potential to create even better works in the future.

Sonically, I was pretty impressed with “Division.” The production and mixing on this album were very solid, and producer Benziboy did a fantastic job curating sounds that fit well with Jenevieve’s voice, allowing both the production and the vocals to shine. Although this album was produced entirely by Benjiboy, he still manages to show range and diversity in his production choices. The album has upbeat, pop-inspired tracks such as “Mellow Eyes” and “No Sympathy,” but also includes a few warmer, down-tempo tracks such as “Baby Powder” and “Nxwhere.” Benziboy and Jenevieve seem to make a great pair, and I respect their ability to create a collection of tracks that fit together in a cohesive group without sounding too repetitive.

Lyrically, this project was solid, but nothing remarkable. Jenevieve delivers with a beautiful vocal performance, and her lyrics are enjoyable to listen to, but very little of the lyrical content is especially captivating. However, I’ll admit that I typically don’t pay the closest attention to lyrics, so I could be biased.

I have few criticisms with “Division,” one being that the album didn’t have a very strong ending. I don’t dislike any of the tracks on the album, but I definitely prefer the first few tracks of the album to the rest of it. All the tracks after “Mellow Eyes” are solid, but they’re the weakest tracks on the record, in my opinion. However, I won’t be surprised if my opinion on this changes as I give this album a few more listens.

My only other criticism is that Jenevieve still needs to work on creating her own distinct sound. While I enjoy this album, there are only a few songs on it that separate Jenevieve from other up-and-coming R&B artists. That’s not to say that Jenevieve has no individuality — tracks like “Baby Powder” and “Résumé” show that she is perfectly capable of sounding unique — I just think she should continue to make more songs like these, and I’m confident that with time, she’ll develop her own unique sound.

All that being said, “Division” proves to be a solid body of work and a very impressive debut project. Overall, I give this album a 7.5/10. Jenevieve has established herself as a driving force in alternative R&B, and I’m excited to see what she releases in the future.

— Marshall Morgan

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Band/Artist Profile New Album Review

“SYS03” by FJAAK (EP Review)

EP: “SYS03” by FJAAK

RELEASE YEAR: 2021

LABEL: SPANDAU20

RATING: 8.5/10

BEST TRACKS: “Fabric” and “Blitz”

Berlin based duo FJAAK is back with their new EP “SYS03”, the third installment in the “SYS” series. It’s no secret that clubs all over the world have struggled to stay financially afloat amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic. Seeing an opportunity to give back, FJAAK created the “SYS” series, a charity project where four club-titled tracks are released with all revenue generated going directly to the four clubs. The clubs featured in “SYS03” are London based Fabric, Munich based Blitz, Brussels based Fuse, and Cologne based Gewölbe. 

The idea behind the whole project makes each individual track and EP installment a unique listening experience. Before playing the opening track “Fabric”, I decided to search for a couple images of the dancefloor. Hearing the heavy and slightly reverberated bassline as the track played, I envisioned the bass vibrating and reverbing off the brick walls, the subtle melody kick-in drawing oohs and ahs from the crowd.  For a club that looks like a residential brick house, it perfectly encapsulates the atmosphere. I followed my same process for the second track “Blitz”. While maintaining the similar heavy bassline form “Fabric”, the melody is much more pronounced with vocal echoes and hi-hats alongside an almost euphoric synth breakdown. Located in a former museum hall with two dancefloors, two bars, and a vegetarian restaurant, Blitz is a world away from the underground basement setting of Fabric and FJAAK’s ability to portray this juxtaposition throughout the EP is why I gave “SYS03” an 8.5 out of 10.

I have proudly done my part in supporting these clubs and many others by purchasing all three installments, and I hope you will all do the same.

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New Album Review

“Solar Power” by Lorde (Album Review)

Lorde is notorious for the story-like nature of her albums, often starting and ending an album with similar or juxtaposed themes. On her debut record, “Pure Heroine,” she begins the first track with “Don’t you think that it’s boring how people talk?” and ends the final track with the line “But people are talking, people are talking / Let ’em talk.” And on her sophomore album “Melodrama,” she tells the tale of a house party. The concept for her brand new album, “Solar Power”? Nature. In 2019, Lorde visited Antarctica and that trip bore her memoir/photo-book “Going South.” The book was released in June 2021 as a “precursor” to “Solar Power.”  

It seems to me that Lorde’s proven superb ability to procure cohesiveness has leaned more into sonic repetitiveness this time around. The production, done by Lorde, Jack Antonoff and in part by James Ryan Ho (better known as Malay) leaves something to be desired. I understand that not every album is going to be as blatantly over-the-top pop as fan favorite “Melodrama,” but the whole album falls one step short of whole, and is almost too understated.

However, songwriting is one area in which I’m convinced Lorde will never fall short. “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen It All),” “The Man with the Axe” and “Big Star” are the three lyrically strongest tracks on the record. The following is a collection of my favorite lyrics from the album:

  • “I should’ve known when your favorite record / Was the same as my father’s you’d take me down” — “The Man with the Axe”
  • “Couldn’t wait to turn fifteen / Then you blink and it’s been ten years / Growing up a little at a time, then all at once / Everybody wants the best for you / But you gotta want it for yourself, my love” — “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen It All)”
  • “I used to love the party, now I’m not alright / Hope the honeybees make it home tonight” — “Big Star”
  • “In the future / If I have a daughter / Will she have my waist / Or my widow’s peak? / My dreamer’s disposition or my wicked streak?” — “Oceanic Feeling”

And it does possess the aforementioned circularity that her previous albums boast. The first track, “The Path” begs the audience to understand that she is not a savior nor a messiah (despite her stage name). “Oceanic Feeling,” the closing song, ends with the lyric “… I’ll know when it’s time / To take off my robes and step into the choir.”

Aside from the previously mentioned production collaboration, the album also contains much collaboration with other artists. Clairo, Phoebe Bridgers, Lawrence Arabia and Marlon Williams provide backing vocals on numerous tracks. Swedish musician Robyn, co-wrote and did the spoken outro on “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen It All).” Jack Antonoff also has songwriting credits on eight of the twelve tracks. 

Fan and critical reception has been decent but far below par for a Lorde album. In my opinion, she had a vision and executed it, which is all you can ask for in art. She wasn’t trying to make another “Melodrama,” she was trying to make “Solar Power,” and she did just that.

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New Album Review

Lingua Ignota: Sinner Get Ready

With 2019’s “Caligula,” Lingua Ignota established herself as one of the leading voices in a number of genres. She’s achieved a level of mainstream indie success that eclipses most her peers in classical, metal, darkwave, or power electronics. “Caligula,” was a dark and trying indictment of extreme music, tying the genres violent and misogynistic imagery with Hayter’s own experiences of abuse within the community. Her live shows were known for having most audience members in tears by the intermission, her music reflected that reputation. This is all to say that Lingua Ignota had a very established brand going into her next album cycle, and she had seemingly already released her masterpiece. Personally, as someone who loved “Caligula,” a little too much, I was skeptical as to whether she could really evolve from this without abandoning her brand entirely because she’d seemingly achieved all she possibly could with her current style. Boy was I wrong about that.

“Sinner Get Ready,” is a stylistic and thematic shift, starting at roughly the same emotional point her last album ended on, with Hayter’s operatic elegy to God of “I don’t give a f—, just kill him, I’m not asking.” But this initial desperation gives way to a more melancholic and instrumental experience centered on sacred music. Hayter has occupied roughly every position on faith you could imagine, from alter girl to new atheist, but she returns to religious imagery from the perspective of a respectful outsider here. Like I said earlier, I love Lingua Ignota’s music enough that I’m probably not able to give an evenhanded or objective review of this album. Instead, I want to take on a tour of the religious aspects of Ingota’s music, because while her faith was always a part of her music, it really takes centerstage on “Sinner Get Ready.”

During the pandemic, Hayter moved to Pensyltucky and immediately needed incredibly painful and debilitating surgery on her spine. This pain, combined with the rural atmosphere, saw Hayter looking to the sacred music of Appalachia for inspiration. This move is not entirely out of character. While we associate folk with lighthearted music and upbeat country songs, traditional Southern folk music, especially music dealing with religion, is pervaded by ambience of death and millenarism that meets Ignota’s dark and theatrical energy. She sings songs of the apocalypse on “REPENT AND CONFESS NOW,” which features such uplifting religious messages as, “I can’t say I don’t deserve it, he took my legs and my will to live.”

Ignota’s vision of God might be unfamiliar to you if you didn’t grow up Catholic or hardline Calvinist. The current tone of megachurch-style evangelical Christianity is positive, uplifting, and focused on the love and mercy of God, and this dominates public perception of Christianity as very chipper and a little detached from reality. Lingua Ignota focuses on the God I remember from the Presbyterian Church: the God of wrath and suffering. This makes her new album about as depressing as music can get, as she combines harsh and dissonant instrumentals with lyrics preoccupied with death, hell, and the day of judgement.

Now, if that sounds like something you would never want to listen to, that’s very understandable. However, there’s something deeply beautiful at the bottom of all this angst and atmosphere. Lingua Ignota has a deep genuine respect for the types of music she’s using, going as far as to learn banjo and cello for this project. Many a classical composer has taken inspiration from this region, but what “Sinner Get Ready,” does that is absent in “Appalachian Spring,” is empathize with the deep sadness and intergenerational pain that the music’s beauty masks. So, when Ignota draws in samples that challenge the culture she’s appropriating, such as televangelist Jimmy Swaggart’s crocodile tears of repentance or a woman proclaiming that she will not get covid because she’s covered in Jesus’ blood, it doesn’t feel like a cheap insult (see The Queitus for that terrible take on this album). Instead, it feels like a shot of realism to balance the unconditional musical admiration in display in the instrumentals.

The least discussed, and in my opinion, most important sample on the album comes very early. It’s an interview with a mountain hermit discussing his solitary lifestyle and his music. He sings a few lines of an old hymn, before recalling to the audience that he can still her his dead mother singing it in a church pew decades ago. It’s a sample that pulls the emotional weight and the perverse addictiveness of this kind of hopeless caterwauling. It’s one of countless touching but sad moments on a touching but sad album.

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New Album Review

Scout [EP] by Samia Review

ALBUM: “Scout” by Samia

RELEASE YEAR: 2021

LABEL: Grand Jury Music

RATING: 7/10

BEST TRACKS: “As You Are,” “Show Up” and “The Promise”

FCC: None

“Scout” by Samia is the new companion to her first album “The Baby”. The EP came out July 23, 2021, around a year after the release of “The Baby”. Although this EP is not ‘quarantine music’, it still feels self-reflective. The title “Scout” is Samia’s nickname. Samia has been called a coming-of-age artist, someone who makes music that can move from earnestness to angst in a split second. This EP is full of true love feelings, Samia sings about her family and friends, promising to love them unconditionally. “Scout” plays with different genres, moving from indie-pop to rock to a touch of electronica. 

As You Are

The first track on the EP begins and ends with fuzzy and comforting voicemails. The piano accompaniment works well with Samia’s strong vocals. This track leans more towards pop, catchy and foot-tapping. 

Show Up

This song begins slow and soft, but the crescendo a minute in dramatically shifts the song. This track reminds me of Mitski, they both have hard-hitting lyrics and show-stopping vocal skills.  

Elephant

This track has a more shoegaze sound. Samia’s vocals rise above the reverb. This is the shortest song on the EP, I wish it was longer. The lyrics are powerful and haunting.  

The Promise ft. Jelani Aryeh 

A cover of When in Rome’s’ “The Promise”, Samia makes this track her own. The 80’s synth transforms the song. Jelani Aryeh’s vocals complement Samia, and they harmonize perfectly. 

So excited to hear what comes next for Samia.

-DJ lil witch

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New Album Review

“Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night” New Album Review

ALBUM: “Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night” by Bleachers

RELEASE YEAR: 2021

LABEL: RCA Records Label

RATING: 7.25/10

BEST TRACKS: “Chinatown” “How Dare You Want More” “Stop Making This Hurt”

FCC: None

“Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night” is finally out after over a year of teasing by Jack Antonoff, who said at the beginning of 2020 that his third album would come at some time that year. 

With a total of 10 songs that clock in at nearly 34 minutes, this album contains collaborations with Annie Clark (better known as St. Vincent), Lana Del Rey and Bruce Springsteen. The three singles “45,” “Chinatown” and “Stop Making This Hurt” are indubitably three of the strongest tracks.

As a fan of Antonoff, I was somewhat surprised by how reminiscent of Bleachers’ previous album, “Gone Now,” this release was. To Antonoff’s credit, he did experiment more than usual on this record, as seen with an instrumental solo in the back half of “How Dare You Want More” and strong vocals in the opening track, “91”. However, he seemed to fall back into his own tropes of big jazzy instrumentation and writing about the same themes he’s been writing about for his entire solo career (shadows, heroes/being saved, and waking up being just a few of the tropes he falls back on). What once felt like a refreshing take on pop music is now starting to feel somewhat trite.

What some may see as repetitive, others may interpret as cohesive and consistent, so it’s a matter of how you frame the context surrounding the album. Criticism aside, the album is good, and definitely worth the listen, but simply not what I was hoping to see from Antonoff. 

Track 9, “Strange Behavior” (previously known as “Behavior”), is a cover of a song he had written in Steel Train, a former band of his. The new rendition is more soulful and intimate than the previous, but I’m partial to the rock instrumentation and the overall execution on the Steel Train version.

As always happens with a Bleachers record, the album’s themes and generally upbeat nature left me feeling hopeful, which is a rare and beautiful gift that Antonoff possesses, and is one that just can’t be taught. Although I definitely prefer Bleachers’ two previous records, “Strange Desire” and “Gone Now,” I appreciate the artistry and love that clearly went into “Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night.”