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Vince Staples

Saw a lot of live music this year, with well over 100 different bands represented.  These were the best of the bunch:

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25. Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp

Waxahatchee - Ivy TrippIvy Tripp is DIY singer/songwriter that draws on Katie Crutchfield’s punk past.  Lyrically, the album continues her exploration of feminist ideas, and uses her experiences, or more specifically her mistakes, to demonstrate how a strong, independent woman is formed in today’s society.

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Titus Andronicus - The Most Lamentable TragedyTitus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy

The Most Lamentable Tragedy is a double, concept album focusing on a protagonist dealing (like Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles) with mental illness.  Stickles has been actively working on TMLT for about the last 4 years, but in many ways the album has been foreshadowed (both thematically and musically) for the band’s entire existence.

Lyrically, TMLT is dark and beautiful, despairing and hopeful, and will move many to tears.  Divided into 5 parts, the lyrics follow the unnamed person through all the ups and downs of manic depression: Breakdown, treatment, prescriptions, the highs and lows that still affect everything you do, and how to connect with your loved ones who, despite their best efforts, can’t begin to understand what you’re going through.  Mostly, though, the album is about the internal war between a person and himself, and this war does not have a happy ending.

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Tame Impala - CurrentsTame Impala – Currents

Prior to his third album as frontman of Tame Impala, Kevin Parker collaborated with Mark Ronson on his mega hit Uptown Special (including singing lead on that album’s actual best song “Daffodils”), and it appears he learned a few things from Ronson.  Currents is still very much a Tame Impala record, but where InnerSpeaker and Lonerism were insular psychedelic rock made for putting on headphones and shutting out the world, Currents takes the band’s sound in a dancey new direction that begs to be played at high volume at BBQs and on beaches.  Whether it’s the sprawling jam of “Let it Happen”, the earworm hook of “‘Cause I’m a Man”, or the pure beauty of “Eventually”, Currents is, quite simply, the perfect summer album.

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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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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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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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