Categories
Classic Album Review

Album of the Week: Death – Spiritual Healing (1990)

30 years ago the best Death album (in my opinion) and one of the greatest Death Metal albums of all time (again, IMO) was unleashed onto the world! Spiritual Healing was originally released on Combat Records in February of 1990, and was reissued (with bonus material) on Relapse Records in November 2012. 

It was Death’s third studio album, following Scream Bloody Gore (1987) and Leprosy (1988). The lyrical content was a huge leap forward for Chuck Schuldiner (vocals; guitars); leaving behind the typical Death Metal topics for the more political themes of abortion, the ramifications of drug use, eugenics, and televangelism, etc. Schuldiner had an all-star line up on this record with Terry Butler on bass (Obituary; Massacre; Six Feet Under), James Murphy on lead and rhythm guitar (Obituary; Testament; Disincarnate), and Bill Andrews on drums (Massacre). 

Spiritual Healing is a truly amazing record; with heavy riffs, winding progressions of melody, classic Death Metal double bass, incredible solos, and Chuck’s undeniable tortured rasp of a voice! There is not a single wasted song, space, or bar on this one, folks! Its simply a must have in your collection, classic! I have a favorite song, here, but every one is a masterpiece! What else can I say?! You’ve got to give it a listen to believe it. And if you’ve heard it, then you already know. 

The original Combat Records release in ’90 contained: 

  1. Living Monstrosity 
  2. Altering the Future
  3. Defensive Personalities 
  4. Within the Mind
  5. Spiritual Healing 
  6. Low Life
  7. Genetic Reconstruction 
  8. Killing Spree 

Favorite Song: (as the Butcher Crew already know) Low Life

Rating: 10/10! Simply the perfect album! 

What are some of your favorite songs?

Stay Metal,

THE SAW

Categories
Classic Album Review

Album Review: Heaven on the Rocks by Ladada

Recently a promoter sent WKNC (and I don’t use this term lightly) a boatload of vinyl records. However, our initial excitement quickly turned into confusion. Not one of these albums had been released within the past year. Furthermore, they were all from incredibly small bands. Almost nobody we asked was familiar with them, and if they were, it was a hazy memory hidden somewhere behind newer, more contemporary music. This is pretty unusual because nobody ever sends in vinyl records. They’re just too expensive to produce. But if they were going to do so, you would think it would be from a bigger band. We don’t even have a record player. And so, the vinyls sat on our shelf, resting, building up potential energy like a bowling ball preparing to roll down an alley. But little did I know that my ears would be bowling pins, hit by a strike of indie rock. Finally, one day when I was walking out of the studio, I decided to grab one of the vinyls, just to see if it was any good. I didn’t get a chance to listen to it until later that night. As I sat on my balcony, by chance I decided to play Float Away from the album. The song’s introductory harmonies first graced my ears as a cool fall breeze swept over my body. I sat down and in disbelief listened to the song get better and better as it went on. The harmonies eventually built up to a frenzy of drums and guitar riffs with echoed vocals that could not have fit the song more perfectly. I quickly listened to the rest of the album and found that “Heaven on the Rocks” is a great mix of garage punk and spacey, indie rock. With only 4,000 “Spotify Monthly Listeners,” it’s surprising that Ladada is still this small. However, you can hear the hard work put into “Heaven on the Rocks” and hopefully this band will start to get some of the recognition that they deserve. 

Hope you guys enjoy the music,
-DJ Chippypants <3

Categories
Classic Album Review

Classic Review: Cilvia Demo by Isaiah Rashad

ALBUM: “Cilvia Demo” by Isaiah Rashad

RELEASE YEAR: 2014

LABEL: Top Dawg Entertainment

BEST TRACKS: “Ronnie Drake”, “West Savannah”, “Soliloquy”, “Heavenly Father”

FCC: Every song

When Isaiah Rashad signed a deal with Top Dawg Entertainment in 2013, he had big shoes to fill. After all, this is the same record label that’s home to hip-hop heavyweights like ScHoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar. Would he live up to the hype?

His 2014 debut proved that he could, in fact, hold his own. Cilvia Demo established Isaiah Rashad as an artist capable of coming as hard as Q while being as introspective as Kendrick. As a Chattanooga native, Zaywop brought a Southern flair to the TDE lineup – something that the West Coast-based label was previously lacking.

Cilvia Demo that explores the ups and downs of Rashad’s adolescence. Some common themes include a desire for guidance and lack thereof: On “Soliloquy”, he boldly claims “I left my daddy ‘round ‘97, he was lazy.” Considering he was 6 at the time, it’s more likely that his father left him. As a result of this estrangement, he turns to religion on the track “Heavenly Father”, but finds few answers there. On “Ronnie Drake”, Isaiah meditates on the Black experience in America: “Came a long way from a boat and an auction/Now we got names and a vote, then a coffin/Ain’t s— change but the coast we adopted.” Of course, he wouldn’t be a rapper if he didn’t indulge himself now and then, and tracks like “Webbie Flow (U Like)” and “Modest” prove he can brag with the best of them.

Isaiah Rashad is a breath of fresh air in TDE’s ever-expanding lineup of artists. His debut, Cilvia Demo, is a woozy blend of depressive introspection and aggressive slick talk perfect for a night drive or blowing up the aux. I recommend this project to fans of Mick Jenkins, EARTHGANG, and Smino.

– DJ Mango

Categories
Classic Album Review

Classic Review: Acid Rap by Chance the Rapper

It’s May of 2013. “Time for school, honey!” Your mother calls from downstairs. You get dressed, pairing one of your five T-shirts with one of your three pairs of basketball shorts. Your Nintendo DS is fully charged and you’re off for another day of eighth grade. Unbeknownst to you, Chance the Rapper has just dropped his sophomore mixtape, Acid Rap, which would later be certified Diamond on DatPiff.com.

For me, middle school was a time before I had any aesthetic taste of my own. My musical palette consisted of alternative and other dad-rock my father listened to when I was growing up – that was, until I heard Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap on accident. I remember hearing “Cocoa Butter Kisses” for the first time and being put off by Chance’s raspy voice and trademark “IGH!” ad-lib. But I would not be writing this today if Acid Rap had not grown to become one of my most cherished hip-hop projects to date.

From the very first track, “Good Ass Intro”, Chance the Rapper exudes charisma. Over an equally upbeat instrumental, he establishes himself as the lovable class-clown type that you can’t help but root for. He brings the same energy on tracks like “Pusha Man”, “Juice”, and “Favorite Song”.

However, it’s not all fun and games in Chance’s world. Coming from Chicago’s south side, it is clear that he’s seen his share of terrible things: according to the hidden track “Paranoia”, “Down here, it’s easier to find a gun/Than it is to find a f—— parking spot”. Chance further reflects on the violence he grew up around on the track “Acid Rain”, where he recalls witnessing the murder of his best friend.

While Acid Rap does have its depressive lows, it is clear that Chance chooses joy in spite of them. The confluence of hip-hop, jazz, soul, and Chicago juke music convey a sense of unstoppable excitement that is reflected in Chance’s off-the-wall approach to rapping. Though some tracks pale in comparison to others, this mixtape has a charm that few other records possess. If I were to pinpoint a single project that got me into hip-hop music, it would be Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap.

 Favorite Tracks: Cocoa Butter Kisses, Juice, Interlude (That’s Love), Acid Rain

– DJ Mango

Categories
Classic Album Review

Album of the Week: Tash Sultana – Flow State (2018)

Since the release of Tash Sultana’s first debut album, Flow State, that was released in 2018, it has been on heavy rotation for me. This is by far one of my favorite albums because it is some soothing, relaxing, and enchanting music. When listening to this album, I get very tropical, hippie girl vibes (I know… The Saw actually likes the hippie aesthetic. Who knew?). I remember when I first heard this album. I was at my friend’s apartment and he was telling me about this new album that was released, and he started playing Flow State. I instantly fell in love with Sultana’s voice, lyrical content, and the way in which they structure their songs. When listening to the songs in the order that they are on the album, it has a great transition from starting off mellow (like the song Big Smoke), and then kicking things up a notch (like the song Murder To The Mind), and then bringing things back down to a more mellow vibe (like Free Mind). Sultana did this on purpose because it gives the listener the impression of what a live show would be like. Brilliant!!! The cool thing about Tash Sultana is that they play all of the instruments themselves on the record and live!

Sultana released Flow State on August 31, 2018 on their own label, Lonely Land Records. They spent parts of 2017 and 2018 writing and recording the album, and was working with Matt Corby and Anderson Paak. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2018, Flow State won the ARIA Award for Best Blues and Roots Album. At the J Awards of 2018, the album was nominated for Australian Album of the Year.

So, why did Sultana name their album Flow State? In an interview with Indierocks, Sultana said that the term, flow state, is a term to refer to when you access a part of your mind known as your being, and when you find something you are passionate about. I think the title Flow State fits perfectly for Sultana’s line in music. When watching them play live, they completely loose themselves in the music. They embody the music and make it a part of them. It is absolutely beautiful.

Favorite Songs:

Big Smoke, Murder To The Mind, Seven, Pink Moon, and Blackbird.

Rating:

10/10!!!!

What are some of your favorite songs off of Flow State?

Stay Metal,

THE SAW

Categories
Classic Album Review

Classic Album Review: A Sailor’s Guide to Earth by Sturgill Simpson

Sturgill Simpson is something of an oddity in the country music soundscape. His 2014 Release Metamodern Sounds in Country Music explored his fascination with philosophy, and 2019’s Sound and Fury was accompanied by a feature-length anime film. But I believe his best work arrived in 2016 with A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.

It would be a gross mischaracterization to call A Sailor’s Guide a country album: sure, there is an undeniable twang to Sturgill Simpson’s voice, but to assign a single identifier to this multifaceted project would be a disservice. Ethereal string arrangements found in “Welcome to Earth” and “Oh Sarah” suggest chamber pop influence, intricate horn sections in “Keep it Between the Lines” and “All Around You” are indicative of funk and soul, and lap steel guitars in “Breaker’s Roar” and “Sea stories” keep the album steeped in Southern sensibilities. Simpson and his band even manage to sneak a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” into the tracklist and it sounds completely at home.

In terms of lyrical content, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is essentially a love letter to Sturgill Simpson’s firstborn child. In classic dad fashion, he shares stories of his younger days in order to give his son guidance. From his teenage years spent selling drugs and smashing mailboxes to his young adult years traveling the world in the Navy, it seems Simpson has led an eventful life. As he says on “Keep it Between the Lines”: “Do as I say, don’t do as I’ve done/It don’t have to be like father like son.”

A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is many things, but boring is not one of them. Its kaleidoscopic sound makes it appealing to fans of any genre – I am by no means a country music fan, but I am certainly a fan of this album. If you’ve never heard it, I encourage you to give it a try!

Favorite tracks: Keep It Between the Lines, All Around You, Call to Arms

– DJ Mango

Categories
Classic Album Review

The Autonomy of an Idea: Bam Bam by Sister Nancy

It has been said many times in many ways that good artists copy and great artists steal. What does this say about the person from which the artist steals?

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Sister Nancy is perhaps the greatest artist of all time. The Jamaican DJ and singer’s track “Bam Bam” has been sampled nearly a hundred times. If you’ve listened to Kanye West’s “Famous”, Lauryn Hill’s “Lost Ones” or Beyoncé’s live version of “Hold Up” you’ve heard the song, which was released in 1982. “Bam Bam” was by no means an instant hit: it wasn’t until 2014, when the song appeared in movies and commercials, that Sister Nancy realized others were using her work without compensation. With the help of a lawyer she was able to win 10 years worth of royalties, but who is to say how much she missed out on?

To complicate the story further, “Bam Bam” isn’t an original work in itself – it’s a cover of a song of the same name by The Maytals and Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, and its instrumental samples a well-known backing track called “Stalag 17” by Ansel Collins. This raises a few interesting questions: What is their role in the creation of one of the most frequently sampled songs in popular music? Are they entitled to credit and compensation? Where is the line between recontextualizing someone’s idea and ripping it off? Is it ethical to impose a system of laws upon something as subjective as the artistic process?

While the ethics of fair use and copyright law make for a contentious debate, it is clear that no ideas are conceived in a vacuum – artists draw inspiration from every corner of the world. If good artists copy and great artists steal, then a few of us are thieves, the rest of us are copycats and none of us are absolved.

– DJ Mango

Categories
Classic Album Review

Angel’s Pulse Review

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My favorites: I Wanna C U, Birmingham, Benzo, Berlin

Listen if you like: Toro y Moi, UMI, Kendrick Lamar 

Angel’s Pulse (2019) is an album produced and performed by Devonté Hynes as Blood Orange. It’s the fifth Blood Orange album and a great addition to his overall discography. The fourteen-track album, delicately titled Angel’s Pulse, features numerous well-known artists including Toro y Moi and Justine Skye. Hynes performs vocals, guitar, bass, and keyboard; he also utilizes synthesizers and samplers to achieve a unique sound in his production. 

The album flirts with multiple genres but can’t be tied down by a single one. “I Wanna C U” and “Something To Do” give us ethereal neo-pop vibes, then Hynes switches it up with the gritty, slow melody of “Dark & Handsome.” Yet tracks like “Gold Teeth” are clearly heavily rap influenced, and “Tuesday Feeling (Choose To Stay)” gives an R&B vibe. The utilization of the talents of multiple artists with distinct styles allows the album to feature a unique mix of sound without deviating too far. The album follows no clear narrative and instead captures different emotions between notes of nostalgia. Despite the lack of a story and a variety of sonic influences, the album presents as a cohesive collection.

The album gives us a look into Hynes’ creative, artistic approach to composing his music – and what we get out of that is beautiful. Upon its first release it was given acclaim for the fresh and new sound it brought, but the album has withstood the test of time and continues to be beacon of experimentation and out-of-the-box musicality. Give this album a shot and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. 

– Miranda

Categories
Classic Album Review

Classic Review: Section.80 by Kendrick Lamar

In general, discussion of the Kendrick Lamar canon is limited to the holy trinity of good kid, m.A.Ad city, To Pimp a Butterfly, and DAMN., with the occasional nod to untitled unmastered. Rarely is there mention of Section.80, Kendrick’s 2011 debut. It’s true that some of the tracks haven’t aged well (“No Makeup”, “Tammy’s Song”), but in my opinion there are many more hits than misses on K. Dot’s first studio album. It isn’t as focused as GKMC, as ambitious as TPAB, or as eclectic as DAMN., but Section.80 has a story to tell all its own.

That story centers around Tammy and Keisha, two characters who struggle to make sense of the world around them. Kendrick paints a picture of this world in great detail throughout the album’s runtime. On “A.D.H.D”, he reflects on the drug abuse that is so prevalent in his generation by saying “You know why we crack babies?/Because we born in the 80s, that A.D.H.D crazy.” “Ronald Reagan Era” describes Kendrick’s hometown of Compton, California in a way that only a true emcee could. In one bar, he says “1987, the children of Ronald Reagan/Rake the leaves of your front porch with a machine blowtorch”, which speaks to the generation of children who have been negatively affected by president Reagan’s policies. The narrative continues on “Keisha’s Song”, in which the titular character becomes a sex worker in order support herself. Like Tupac’s classic “Brenda’s Got a Baby”, Kendrick shows how this vicious cycle of neglect ends in tragedy. On “Ab-Soul’s Outro,”, the penultimate track on Section.80, Kendrick meditates on the themes presented throughout the album. In a particularly candid moment, he says “I’m not on the outside looking in/I’m not on the inside looking out/I’m in the dead f—— center, looking around.”

Even in 2011, Kendrick – who had not yet reached his prime – was no stranger to the Odyssean task of creating a concept album. He would continue to develop this skill with each project following Section.80, cementing him as one of the most gifted storytellers in hip-hop. While the narrative on this project isn’t as compelling as those found on his later albums, it is definitely worth a listen. To see the world through Kendrick Lamar’s eyes is a one-of-a-kind experience.

Favorite tracks: A.D.H.D., Ronald Reagan Era, Rigamortus, Kush & Corinthians, HiiiPoWeR

– DJ Mango

Categories
Classic Album Review

Top Choice: Best Albums of All Time

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Being an avid listener of music, I still have a relatively short list of albums that I can truly listen to straight through, again and again, and continue enjoying them the same amount as my first listen. I’ve compiled a list of albums from multiple genres and multiple themes. While they are perhaps not universally loved or recognized, these are the albums I consider to be the best of all time. 

La Maison de Mon Rêve – Cocorosie 

The Casady sisters have created an entire discography of  incredible experimental albums and this one is no exception. This is the single most unique album on this list, with soft vocals and harmonies, narratives that draw you in, and samples of really interesting sounds such as a creaking door or the sound of a shower flowing. 

Blonde – Frank Ocean 

An avant-garde album that is still widely loved by fans of rap, R&B, pop, and so on; this album had to make the list. I listen to this one at least every month and I continue to enjoy each song. The lyrics are beautifully constructed, the album is well produced, and the musical arrangements are languid but memorable. There’s a reason for the acclaim this album received, and if you haven’t listened to it in entirety, you need to ASAP. 

Bitchcraft – Spooky 

I won’t get into too much detail for this one since you can check out my full review of the album, but this is definitely one of my top albums of all time. Each song flows together perfectly, and it’s short enough to listen to and enjoy in a short listening session. 

The College Dropout – Kanye West 

This album is filled with songs that are forgotten or underrated in the first place. The album chronicles West’s early life in his first foray into music produced by a label. The narrative is compelling: it follows his choice to drop out of college to pursue a career in music, his life-altering car crash, and his experience navigating the music industry. 

I’ll likely have a part two for this topic since I’m pretty passionate about certain albums. Hopefully, you’ve been able to learn about a new album or are compelled to check out a classic album. Thanks for reading. 

– Miranda