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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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Metz - IIMetz – II

The sophomore release from Toronto noise rock/hardcore punk band Metz, II picks up right where their self titled album left off.  It’s an Amphetamine Reptile-like mix of punk, grunge, and shoegaze with loud, fuzzed out guitars, crushing drums and bass, and emotive vocals.  Basically II is the epitome of what Robert Christgau derisively calls pigfuck.  As with most bands tarred (gifted?) with that label, however, there’s a melodicism to Metz that produces a true depth to their sound.  It’s not music to be played around the campfire, but II is perfect for anyone who likes their rock music with a whole lot of bite.

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1

May

2015

Review: Still by M. Ostermeier

By David Smith. Posted in Ambient, Reviews | 2 Comments »
Still

M. Ostermeier – Still

 

The Tench label is definitely about quality more than quantity, with a mere seven releases over the last five years. All are worth attention. The last before the current release was Porya Hatami’s Shallow, over a year ago. The latest is from label head M. Ostermeier, and its title, Still, succinctly yet accurately captures its mood.

Listening to this album the first half dozen times I found myself having to repeatedly reorient my horizon of expectation despite the apparent consistency of its palette. The album opens with an oscillating hum, over which a slow piano meditation begins, soon accompanied by a background of small creaks and rustles. The sound put me in mind of the intimacy of Nils Frahm’s Felt, in which the creakings of the piano itself are an important presence that adds to the emotional intimacy.

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Towkio - .WAV TheoryTowkio – .WAV Theory

Earlier this month, Towkio released the Chance the Rapper featuring “Heaven Only Knows” as a lead single to .WAV Theory.  The fantastic track was chock full of jazzy sounds, finger snaps/claps, and a gospel choir, but it was a statement from Chance at the end of the track that got people’s attention.  Just before the track ends, Chance says .WAV Theory would be the hottest mixtape of 2015, and anticipation for the tape skyrocketed.  Thankfully, we now know he wasn’t wrong.  With help from The Social Experiment, Vic Mensa, Kaytranda, and others, Towkio has created a tape that beautifully merges the disparate threads of Chicago rap into a cohesive (if experimental and maybe a little overstuffed) whole, that is most certainly the tape of the year so far.  Download it for free here.

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Speedy Ortiz - Foil DeerSpeedy Ortiz – Foil Deer

Coming out of Massachusetts’ prolific fuzzy, noise pop scene, Speedy Ortiz’s previous releases were enjoyable, especially the cryptic lyrics of frontwoman Sadie Dupuis, but lacked the hooks to take the band to the next level.  Foil Deer does not have that deficiency.  Instead, there are hooks as far as the eye can see in addition to the great lyrics (“I was the best at being second place/But now I’m just the runner up” is a contender for best line of the year).  Dupuis’ voice and the album’s guitar tones bring to mind 90s artists like Liz Phair and Veruca Salt, so the album is particularly recommended for fans of those artists, but really if you like guitar pop at all, Foil Deer (especially “Puffer” and lead single “Raising the Skate”) is for you.

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