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.
Miguel’s excellent Kaleidoscope Dream had the unfortunate timing of coming out just a couple months after Frank Ocean’s world conquering Channel Orange, but the album was so good it still managed to elbow its way into the R&B conversation. As of this moment, Wildheart is the entirety of that conversation. Full of guitars (Lenny Kravitz even makes an appearance, and it works), explicit lyrics, and highlighted by the insanely good “NWA”, Wildheart isn’t about sex. It simply is sex. Best of all, though, the album branches beyond the recent wave of PBR&B and is actually more similar in feel (not lyrical content of course) to D’Angelo & the Vanguard’s Black Messiah. This similarity stems from both albums largely shunning obvious hooks and instead relying on an album wide atmosphere to draw in the listener. In both cases it works to perfection.
Swedish hardcore band Refused broke up after their instant classic 1998 album The Shape of Punk to Come, but as is the case with all beloved bands other than Led Zeppelin and The Smiths, breakups aren’t forever. After playing the festival circuit for a couple years, Refused is fully back with Freedom and they haven’t missed a beat. Still influenced in nearly equal measure by punk and metal (although the balance of those influences ebbs and flows from track to track), Freedom is made up of roaring guitars, heavy beats, and political lyrics, and is designed to get listeners hyped. The only surprise on Freedom is that it fits so well amongst the rest of the band’s discography after such a long layoff.
An author and editor at MiG, Craig lives in Minnesota with his wife and son and is an attorney in his real life. Once upon a time Craig played the trumpet and spent four years in the Hawkeye Marching Band and pep band. These days Craig finds himself most often listening to experimental rock, hip hop, and post punk, but you can see everything he's listening to at: www.last.fm/user/cafreema Craig is not ashamed to admit the first concert he ever attended was New Kids on the Block.
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