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Vince Staples - Summertime '06Vince Staples – Summertime ’06

Summertime ’06 starts with intro track “Ramona Park Legend Pt. 1″, 35 seconds of idyllic southern California beach sounds mixed with a light beat.  There are waves crashing, a baby cooing, and a lone seagull.  The 36th second is the sound of a gunshot.  From there Summertime ’06, Staples’ debut full length (double album actually), opens up into a 13-year old Staples’ world trying to navigate growing up on the streets in the title season.  Staples has an easy flow, has no trouble sitting in the pocket of a beat, and even when a guest appears he never really turns the album over to anyone else.  This is without a doubt Staples’ memory of coming of age in a gangsta world.  Unlike YG’s My Krazy Life, which thrived in the gangsta life, or Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city that chaffed against it, though, Summertime ’06 simply tries to survive within its world.  Like those albums, however, Summertime ’06 seems destined for the West Coast rap pantheon.

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Desaparacidos - PayolaDesaparecidos – Payola

Conor Oberst is a busy man.  He has his solo work, he’s the frontman of Bright Eyes, a member of Monsters of Folk, a founder of Saddle Creek Records, etc. etc. etc.  His hardest hitting job, though, is as the front man of punk band Desaparecidos.  The band was originally formed in 2001 and released Read Music/Speak Spanish the following year before disbanding.  In 2010, the band reformed and started releasing occasional singles, which have been compiled (and added to) on Payola, an album of 14 2-3 minute bursts of pure punk rock.  A listener who goes into Payola expecting the gentle sounds and confessional lyrics of most Oberst projects will be taken aback by the distorted guitars and political ideas, but Oberst isn’t posing here.  He commits fully to the punk ethos and creates a record with depth, breadth, and a whole lot of fun.

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Fucked Up - Year of the Hare

Fucked Up – Year of the Hare

Toronto hardcore punks Fucked Up have a tradition of an annual EP release based on the Chinese Zodiac.  Interestingly, despite being a hardcore band, each of the Zodiac EPs sees the band try out long, sprawling tracks and Year of the Hare is no exception.  Stretching to a mammoth 21 and a half minutes, the title track opens with nearly 7 minutes of guitar picking/strums and gentle piano before the band and Pink Eyes’ vocals enter in.  Even when they do, it is not a hardcore thrash (although Pink Eyes still sounds as guttural as ever until he drops out in favor of guest vocalist Isla Craig), but a fairly traditional rock song until about the 17 minute mark when the guitars ramp up, cut out completely at about 18:30, roar back with a vengeance, and then end the track the way it began.  It’s a fascinating listen, as is b-side “California Cold”, which features…flutes?  And drones?  This band is the best.

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Jenny Hval - Apocalypse, girlJenny Hval – Apocalypse, girl

Norwegian Jenny Hval makes experimental music made up of gentle, often ethereal, synths and uncompromising lyrics focusing on sex, gender, aging, religion, and other deep personal subjects (the word “cunt” is startlingly used on multiple tracks).  This combination of the otherworldly and fully human creates an unsettling, fascinating whole.  Apocalypse, girl, Hval’s third release under her own name, she previously recorded as Rockettothesky and along with Håvard Volden as Nude on Sand, is her best work to date.  In fact, much of Apocalypse, girl merges all the above topics into one massive exploration of the female condition.  This is not music for idle listening, but requires time and focus.  That time and focus are rewarded, however, with one of the most lyrically interesting albums of the year thus far.

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Manny Phesto

Manny Phesto

In the middle of the organized chaos that is the Soundset festival we had the opportunity to sit down with Twin Cities rapper Manny Phesto.  Born and raised in South Minneapolis, Manny made headlines last fall when “Manny Phesto for Minnesota” campaign signs started popping up in yards.  He wasn’t actually running for any office, but instead used a write-in campaign for all of them as a DIY get-out-the-vote push (according to his website he received votes for Sheriff, Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and several judge positions).  Manny brings the same combination of irreverence in support of serious issues to his music, especially on debut album Southside Looking In released in April of last year.  Our conversation touched on everything from political hip hop and soul samples to what South Minneapolis represents.

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Jamie xx - In CoulourJamie xx – In Colour

Electronic artist Jamie xx is best known as a member of The xx, but started gaining solo fame in 2010 with the release of his Gil Scott-Heron remix album We’re New HereIn Colour is Jamie’s solo debut and while there are moments reminiscent of The xx, especially when bandmates Romy Croft or Oliver Sim handle vocals, this is most assuredly not an xx album.  Jamie brings together all the various UK electronic styles (UK garage, wonky, dubstep, house, etc.), but adds different sounds to them (most interestingly a steel drum on “Just Saying” and guests Young Thug and Popcaan on lead single “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”) to add a rare freshness that elevates the album to a new level.  Listening to In Colour is reminiscent of the first 2013 listens to Disclosure’s Settle (in excitement much more than sound), and it seems likely In Colour will have as large an impact on popular music as Settle did.

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Multi-LoveUnknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love

In May 2014, as he was preparing to write and record Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s third album, Ruban Nielson and his wife welcomed a third person into their home and marriage.  Due to United States immigration laws, Nielson and his wife have since returned to being a traditional couple, but as the title makes clear, the experience of 2014 had a massive influence on Multi-Love.  The album’s music is the familiar psych pop of UMO’s first two releases, but the lyrics focus largely on Nielson’s emotions as he attempted to navigate a summer of polyamory.  Taken together, the music and lyrics form an incredibly raw whole that is both beautiful and terrifying.

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25

May

2015

Photo Review: Soundset 2015

By Craig McManus. Posted in Concert Review, Hip Hop, Rap | No Comments »
Ice Cube

Ice Cube

On May 24, 2015, Soundset again brought together a fantastic combo of up and coming artists and hip hop’s OGs (as well as the genre’s biggest seller at the moment) for one day in Minnesota.  It’s remarkable how huge Soundset has become over the last several years (Sway Calloway, on hand once again to host the main stage, even noted without pandering it’s become the biggest hip hop festival in the world), and this year once again saw a 30,000+ sell out.  Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate as much as last year with a light rain falling almost all day, but it never fell hard enough to be more than an irritant and the crowd didn’t really seem to mind too much.  Check below the fold photo highlights, and our Facebook page for more shots.

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Shamir - RatchetShamir – Ratchet

Shamir has been the next big thing in dance pop for a minute now, going from unknown to releasing a single on small NYC label Godmode to signing with indie titan XL Recordings in the blink of an eye.  Happily, Ratchet is a worthy capstone to such a meteoric rise.  Largely made up of very of the moment synth and drum machine sounds, but highlighted by Shamir’s contralto vocals, Ratchet is sexy, smooth, laid back fun.  In other words, it’s summer party music at its finest.

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The Tallest Man on Earth - Dark Bird is HomeThe Tallest Man on Earth – Dark Bird is Home

Swede Kristian Matsson has been making singer/songwriter folk as The Tallest Man on Earth since 2006, but Dark Bird is Home is easily his grandest.  Featuring a full band for the first time, including horns and even some electronics, Matsson has added a richness and depth to his music that often puts the album more in the vein of The Decemberists than his usual comparison of Bon Iver.  His true strength, however, remains as a poet, and the album is chock full of wordplay like “And I’ve already grown up here, here I might as well grow down” (from “Little Nowhere Towns”).  This combination of orchestration and lyrics makes Dark Bird is Home an absolute gem.

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