Drake – “Too Much (feat. Sampha)”

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What sets Drake apart from other mainstream rappers is that the man attempts poetry on topics other than the tired. This does not mean he doesn’t slip into the occasional safe rap topics, like money, cars, and butts, but on every album there is a serious amount of lyrical skill between the fluffier parts. The first time hearing Nothing Was The Same’s “Started from the Bottom” is misleading to what’s going on in Drake’s newest studio album but it’s simultaneously a summery of the entire album. Fame and money were part of the equation as far back as 2007’s album-strength mixtape Comeback Season, catching him on topics of coming up as a backpack rapper, giving everything he’s got to get rich and famous. But now that he’s got what he asked for the strongest songs are those that catch him alone, stepping back away from his buddies, and talking Real Talk about what all three of those things–money, cars, ass–mean to his life now, if anything.

“Too Much (feat. Sampha)” has Drake contemplating if his life is any better now with all his old dreams realized. The real terror seems to come when he can’t find what direction to move in anymore, and the possibility that getting rich will make him lazy (“Stuck in the house, need to get out more/ I’ve been stacking up like I’m fundraising/ Most people in my position get complacent”).

Sampha’s vocals are a nice change from Rhianna–who makes a small nation’s wage only singing rap choruses–and sets tone, alongside solo clapping and his looping trills, echoing a loneliness that’s not seen with rappers known by their cliques. Drake sounds rushed in in delivery, angst ridden almost, like he’s held in his mother’s isolation too long (“Hate the fact my mom cooped up in her apartment,telling herself/ That she’s too sick to get dressed up and go do shit, like that’s true shit”), sharing it finally in the only way he knows how: by rapping. It’s a rap game mobius strip he’s walking, one that might not have a solution; being rich doesn’t mean being happy.

Klassik – In The Making

3491731617-1“Wisconsin sucks.”

“There is nothing in Milwaukee.”

“This state is so boring”

Whether you agree with these statements or not, when someone brings it up you should roll your eyes. Beyond Da’ Packers or cheese or that big body of water on our east coast, the number of exciting things that have come from this state would surprise most. Frank Lloyd Wright spent much time in his early years in Madison; Chris Farley was born in Madtown, too; the Violent Femmes grew up in Milwaukee; and the newest reason Wisconsin has got something to be interested in is MKE’s own Klassik.

In the Making, Klassik’s first full length album, is a sonic boom of turtle waxed production value (done by Klassik himself), and hip-hop with lyrical complexity. The album starts off with “Grand Scheme of Things”, an intro bursting with plucked strings, pianos, and theremin syth-pitch bending, setting a spacy mood while sending across the message that Klassik is going to blend his own melange of old organic sounds and the new some cosmonaut-altitude hip hop. It’s so hard not to perk up at lyrics like “Getting rid of all negative dispositions/ that’s the attitude that got me here in this position” as it seemingly floats in front of all those past and present instrumentals. And the music runs from jazz lounge keys (“All day”), to cymbals that crash like lit TNT in front of a pixelated harp (“Enemy/Inner Me”), to the Morse code bumping trunk-thumper “MoonRock.”

Lyrics too, beside his skill of word play like “No time for all that jazz/ have you ever seen a girl with all that aspirin?”  on “Ur Next Move”, is quick and infectious while having a deeper level of consciousness and skill. Listeners will find themselves humming the chorus from “Escape”, or finding themselves walking to class singing  “Whatcha doing Klassik?/ Coolin’ out now” from “Oh Yeah…Ntro” ad nauseum.

So, looking for Wisconsin pride? No worries, it’s all here, and with talent and flow that will only grow better with time, In the Making is bound to be a Klassik.

Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

Music is given so much criticism that even when something as vibrant and off kilter comes along, the seething voices will not be far behind to tear it down like a sandcastle on the beach or a long game of Jenga. Swing Lo Magellan is just this oddity; a pop album crafted with subtle complexities. An, at first, difficult listen, rewarded with patience.

Lead Projector, Dave Longstreth’s voice wobbles and stretches in earnest fascination, grabbing your attention on the chorus to “About to Die”, singing “You’re already dead/ but you’re about to die”, addressing the futileness of questioning our existence and worrying about our deaths–because we’re all destined for a too-soon end. But the track is immediate in it’s demand for attention, fronting the listener with a percolating drum loop, possibly giving spoilers for what’s to come.

This is what’s really delicious on a Dirty Projectors album, all the strange sounds and risks that come with each track. On earlier albums we were given contemporary Gregorian chants, and while it may have been toned down from the days of The Getty Address, we still hear awesome vocal-driven melodies on “Offspring are Blank” and”Gun has no Trigger”, while  “See What She Seeing” and “The Socialites” play with honey pitch bends–both sweet and unique in their differences (“The Socialites” brings to mind a cat meow put through a wah wah pedal). But what really hits this album out into the parking lot, is the simple title track, “Swing Lo Magellan.” it is undoubtable that this ended up on a thousand summer playlists, for it’s guitar, snare, throat combo. Just try not to melt a little at lyrics like, ” Swing lo oh Magellan/nine by six or eight by seven.”

“You’d see a million colors if you really looked,” Longstreth sings in front of the doo-wop, swooning, choir of Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle. This line, so perfect, paints a self-written review of Swing Lo Magellan in more strokes than any review could give it.

Be Sure to check out Dirty Projectors live this Sunday, September 30th at The Pabst Theater.

Tanlines – Mixed Emotions

World music has floated into a lot of great indie bands–Yeasayer, Animal Collective, Gang Gang Dance–but it’s far from being the dominating sound on airwaves and blogs alike. The Brooklyn based electro duo, Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm, bring the drums and keys to Tanlines’ first full release Mixed Emotions and an itch to dance unlike anything–except maybe cat hair (which doesn’t really invoke dancing so much, just itching).

Tanlines harken back to what Prince was doing, blending topics that may be sad, dyer, innately un-“body moving” and making them ache with toe taps and bouts of lip synching in the mirror.

“Not the Same” swells a piano, then at the 1:00 mark, the keys turn to warm synths and strings, continuing with the distended beat, returning to “Not the same/ I’m not the same” for most of its 4:34 length. Only to to find resolve in the track’s last exiting exhale, and Emm singing “Tell everyone we ever change/Tell everyone we are not the same.”

There is no doubt that “Real Life” takes the cake for catchiest, most turtle-to-rabbit track, hitting the drum pads and tropical steel samples to syrupy results. Mixed Emotions is at once immediate and slow burning; cohesive but morphing, and the whole time daring you not to dance.

Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

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Frank Ocean, probably the least odd of the Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA) clan, crashes R&B through a Goodwill on the weird part of town where clowns and yacht owners all dispose of their old fashion in one place, thus creating Channel Orange, the sprawling 17-track buffet. The subjects and sounds on this album pair like socks with the styles of space-jazz, soul, pop, and a few high quality guests–Earl Sweatshirt, John Mayer, Andre 3000.

Not only is Ocean’s Voice an amazing wave of ivory, but it’s perfect for the medium of story telling he’s doing on most every track. “Super Rich Kids”, is a Less Than Zero-esque song about the boredom of having everything, self prescriptions, and self defenestration (throwing one’s self off a building)–“My silver spoon has fed me good/A million one, a million cash/Close my eyes and feel the crash.” And maybe even best of all is how the song is all but stolen by Earl Sweatshirt, as he kills his verse with his intense poly-syllabic prodigy style (“Close your eyes to what you can’t imagine/We are the xany-gnashing/Caddy-smashing, bratty ass/He mad, he snatched his daddy’s Jag.”)

“Pyramids” is heavily cited as the center piece of Orange Channel, a two part, ~10 minute tempo changer, about sex with the Excalibur casino’s waitress in Vegas (Big sun coming strong through the motel blinds/Wake up to your girl for now, let’s call her Cleopatra), that holds all the glam and glistening lights of the city itself.

While the album may look packed at a bit over an hour long, the short vignettes like “Fertilizer”, and the John Mayer crashing track “White”, are pallet cleansers that are so strong they could be stretched out by two minutes and be right at home with the rest of the songs. So go ahead, please, I implore you, [bad pun ahead] drown yourself in this ocean [ouch, that was almost dad humour].

Bear Hands – Songs from Utopia Volume I EP

Bear Hands newest materiel, the EP Songs from Utopia Volume I, is superb, and full of the same great lyrics and tongue-in-cheek attitude that made their 2010 debut Burning Bush Supper Club so virally infectious that the blog-o-sphere was left with a low white blood cell count.

On “What I’ve Learned” lead singer Dylan Rau questions the warrior and the wars he fights, and hits us with scathing commentary “Made the finest army I’m a working man/
Dropping bombs all over northern Vietnam/Cambodia I got a backup plan/This is what I’ve learn in war from Vietnam”  while “Disaster Shy” ends the short 12-minute EP on a slow note, a beautiful ballad-y song fit to show off Bear Hands’ can make you dance even when they’re being all sweet and sentimental.

If not already introduced to Bear Hands, now is your chance. Not only is their new three-song EP free, but they’re in town this Saturday at the Cactus Club. And while you’re waiting for the show, check out the minimalist/atmospherical video to go along with the EP.

Get the EP here: http://greedhead.net

Dirty Projectors – Dance for You

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From their freak folk roots, Dirty Projectors have been making slightly strange songs composed of askew horns and the wably vocals of Dave Longstreth. With 2009’s Bitte Orca bringing them into more excessable territory–less muddy instrumentals, and higher production value, et cetera–I was of a dubious stance of what to think about the change. But if anything is to be learned, it’s that Longstreth and company have been evolving from the beginning, experimenting with new and old sounds, blending influences, comfort zones , and new horizons(that’s cliche).

“Dance for You” is the second track released from the forthcoming Swing Lo Magellan (July 10th). It’s a heavy stereophonic mix; steady clap in the left ear, guitar in the right, bass in the back, and vocals up front. You may feel surrounded, but not in a biker gang doing circles around you in a dimly lit parking lot out behind a dive bar and wedged between two dilapidated buildings nearing their implosion date–in order to make room for new high rises, no doubt (pffftt gentrification my ass)–but rather like you’re at Thanksgiving dinner with your family.Good stuff, yo.

Dirty Projectors will be playing September 30th at the Pabst Theater

Dirty Projectors – Dance for You

Lana Del Ray – Off to the Races

Lana del Ray has been under the music microscope recently. A lot of people doubt her authenticity as an artist, thinking that she might be nothing more than a record company ploy. I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt, because honestly I’m not that interested. She says she writes her own songs so that’s good enough for me. What I do know, is that her song Off to the Races is one the sexiest songs I’ve ever heard. The sultry voice shifts, and casual use of swear words make this song gorgeous. I’m not too big fan of her well known singles “Born to Die” and “Video Games.” I have no idea why this gem wasn’t her single, but I guess stranger things have happened.

Kenna – Chains (Machines Don’t Care Remix) [Video]

I got this little tid-bit in the ‘ol inbox today. The US artist Kenna has teamed up with N.E.R.D.’s Chad Hugo once again to create his first album to be released on the Cheap Thrills Label. It sounds like some catchy funky electronic music that only someone who is freinds with Lupe fiasco and Chad Hugo could muster. He’s no stranger to the music community and has worked with numerous other Big names. Kenna’s new single Chains is slated to be released this December 18th, but to whet your appetite till then Cheap Thrills label boss, Herve, is releasing a remixed version created under his cooperative project with Detboi, Machines Don’t Care.