On November 2nd I was treated to the hardest hitting set of music I’ve ever seen as Run The Jewels delivered a blistering hour of dazzling rhymes and thumping beats. Walking out to the aptly chosen tune of “We Are the Champions”, Run The Jewels opened the set with their self-titled song, “Run the Jewels”. The crowd went berserk as El-P and Killer Mike exchanged lines at Tommy gun speed with surgical precision. Continuing their triumphant start, the duo continued with songs from their fantastic new LP, Run The Jewels 2, such as “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” and “All My Life” that fired up the crowd in astonishing fashion. The album had only been out for a week and a half and yet the crowd had already memorized every word, singing along with absolute tenacity, a feat I’ve seen few artists inspire in their fans.
Other songs like “Sea Legs” and “DDFH” displayed the perfect synchronicity between the two that, in turn, further incited rabid reactions from the audience. That’s the beautiful thing about Run The Jewels at the moment; they’re riding a wave of well-earned fanaticism from the music community without losing who they are. El-P is still the gruff, politically-paranoid New Yorker spitting bars dripping with vitriol and Killer Mike is still the delightful, eloquent southern-fried wonder that we’ve grown to love and watching them perform together was nothing short of hip hop paradise. Rather than dwelling in homogeneity and predictability that’s occurred in other super groups and collaborations the two built upon their strengths and quite simply enjoyed themselves. It may seem like an odd thing to highlight in a performance but it brought that extra touch to an already flawless performance that made it all the more special.
This wasn’t the first time I’d gone to see a concert in Charlottesville. I’d once traveled there to attend a Metallica concert in my early teens, enjoying prime nosebleed seats with my ever-patient father as we witnessed bombastic stage production and classics like “Enter Sandman”. It was an awe-inspiring performance that left me nothing short of entranced for its duration. For a while I’d considered that the best show I’d ever seen as Metallica was my absolute favorite band at that time (and even that’s probably an understatement). Unfortunately, years later, somewhat more musically cynical, and far less of an awkward Metallica geek I often find it harder and harder to experience that same sense of wonder when I see artists play live. However, on a smaller stage with none of the bells and whistles, Run The Jewels managed to do the impossible. They restored my inner 14 year old.
Playland is the second solo album from iconic indie guitarist Johnny Marr. Marr is most famous for his work with the Smiths, Modest Mouse, Electronic, etc and Playland sounds like the culmination of everything has learned playing in these different bands. Marr blends the synths from Electronic with the rock and roll edge from his bands like the Cribs and the melodic sense of the Smiths. These elements come together to make for a collection of very well crafted songs that balance pop accessibility with rock n roll edge.
While the songs here are well written the production detracts from a lot of this album. The production doesn’t let anything stand out which is unfortunate because there is so much instrumentation on this album that it can become hard to pick out individual parts and instruments begin to blend into a shoegazy wall of sound that at times over powers Marr’s voice.The glossy production here works well at times on the more layered tracks but on rockers like “Playland” the glossy production takes much of the energy out of the song. Luckily for “Playland” there’s enough of energy that the album stays interesting despite this.
All in all this is a solid album, even the poor production can’t negate the fact that these are well written, catchy songs with a lot of energy. “Playland” shows that Johnny Marr has still got it.
Favorite tracks: “Back in the Box” “Easy Money” “the Trap”
Least Favorite track: “Playland”
by Charles Pfaff
After disappearing for 5 years Jamie T has finally come back with his new album “Carry On the Grudge” and it was so worth the wait. Jamie Treays, who goes by his stage name Jamie T, is an English Singer Song writer from South London. He rose to popularity after releasing his first single “Shelia” in 2007 and continued to be very successful through 2009 when he released two albums- Sticks ’n’ Stones” and “Kings and Queens” and two EPs- “Chaka Demus”, and “The Man’s Machine”. He is backed by The Pacemakers.
In his earlier work Jamie T created a sound that screamed Anarchy at you while simultaneously setting a building on fire. It was angry and voiced fears about becoming an adult. Now that sound is more likely to get drunk on the couch, though while still railing against capitalism, government, and how shitty life is with a bunch of friends. His new album carries the some of the same sentiments it seems that Jamie T and his music have grown up a bit. He hasn’t changed much, but the album approaches similar problems with different solutions and instrumentals. It feels cleaner. “Zombie” is clearly a hit and was released in August as a single. The lyrics are strong and thought provoking and the song is a great anthem which you find yourself singing along too. “Trouble” sounds similar to a previous song “Sticks and Stones”, which Jamie T released in 2009, is catchy and has a great guitar intro. “Mary Lee” is like any of his previous break up songs, but it is sweeter and tonally pleasing. Jamie T still has a great voice, “Turn On the Light” has lyrics that flow seamlessly from one word to the next. He also brought in more voices and the collaborative spirit added a lot more depth into the album.
Overall this album is pretty good. It is a little similar to his past work but not to the point that it feels like you are listening to the same thing over and over. The songs are strong enough that they are easy to listen too both in the album and individually. He does experiment with alternative rock sounds and there are also some folk sounds mixed in. It has less rap but it keeps the lyric ability that he has always had.
Commune, the second studio album for Swedish group Goat starts off slowly with long, sustained bell ringing, a tip-off to the meditative journey of the upcoming album. The calm of the bells anticipates the sudden onset of one of the best tracks on the album, “Talk to God” where Goat’s upbeat and hypnotic blend of world music styles is showcased excellently. Droning, looping guitars draw the listener in while the driving collection of percussion propel the song forward. Distant vocals enter the mix between the looping guitar, occupying some middle ground between yelling and singing, the exact lyrics of which are hard to make out. The bonfire drum circle spirit ritual continues on for six minutes and 39 seconds, a time which may be discouraging to some listeners, but I found myself not wanting the trance to end.
The album continues with Goat’s upbeat world rhythms, psychedelic fuzzy guitar, and new wave yelling reminiscent of a tribal The B-52s. Songs like “Words” “To Travel the Path Unknown” and “Bondye” make extensive use of hypnotically looping flutter echoed guitar. The repetitive phrasing present throughout the album, when used tastefully can entrance a listener, something this band does well. There are however some times when the album does seem to drag on, and the spiritual spoken word interludes were not appealing to this listener. They fit the general “vibe” of the album, but they seem a little cheesy and don’t really add anything to the album. That said the album does have very strong moments in songs like the previously mentioned “Talk to God” the hard driving “Goat Slaves” and the indian flavored “Hide From the Sun.” With Commune Goat mixes various world traditions into a fuzzy trance-rock soup over crazed drums that may not blow every listener’s mind, but creates a wonderful atmosphere and groove.
In 2013 Killer Mike and El-P smashed open the gate and released their self titled debut in a duo titled Run the Jewels. After the high standard set by their debut they’re solidify their status as one of hip hop’s best artists further with the sequel, “Run the Jewels 2”. Whereas their first album was a over a half hour of lyrical beat downs this effort slows it down a bit, looking inward while expanding on the formula established by their first album. The ferocity is still there, though more tempered and refined. Tracks like “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”, “Lie, Cheat, and Steal”, and “Close Your Eyes (And Count To F*ck*)” put technical ability at the forefront as El and Mike rapidly interchange rhymes abounding with sharp wit and tactical melody. Other tracks, such as “Early ft. Boots” or “Crown ft. Diane Coffee”, contain an abundance of social commentary and political statements. On “Crown” El raps from the perspective of a soldier, spouting bars like “Carried the flag in some other men’s name, loaded my weapon and swore to them vengeance and stepped with aggression right into the fray” that paint a beautifully bleak picture. While their first album had some political lyrics, “A Christmas F*cking Miracle” for example, this album is full of references to police brutality and seething discontent at the system.
In addition to his lyrical wizardry, El-P is again the producer on this album and the production is top notch as usual. Songs like “Angel Dust” provide a simple yet powerful backdrop for their lyrical wizardry throughout the album. The features are fabulous as well. Boots’ hook on “Early” is infectious and haunting, De La Rocha’s rapping on “Close Your Eyes” is potent and angry, as one might expect, and Travis Barker’s percussive contributions to “All Due Respect” hammers home the savagery of Killer Mike’s lightning fast delivery. The album’s weak points are few and far between. “All My Life”‘s hook isn’t quite as catchy as the album’s other choruses and Gangsta Boo’s verse on “Love Again” feels unnecessarily trite and explicit, but these are minor gripes as these songs are still extremely satisfying. Few rappers posses the abilities of Killer Mike and El-P, but together it seems they’re nothing short of unstoppable. Run The Jewels 2 succeeds every way, straddling accessibility, wit, and jaw-dropping lyricism in one masterfully performed record.
The Physical World, the name of Death From Above 1979’s long-awaited follow-up, evokes empiricism–the philosophical belief in all that can be observed with the senses–and with it the hope that the band can champion good ol’ rock and roll–an all-out assault on those aforementioned senses–without the processed excess of modern-day pop. It’s a hopeful prospect. DFA1979’s first couple of releases were unapologetically hardline, a lo-fi one-two combo of bass-driven hooks and punchy drums. Now, after a 10 year hiatus, DFA1979 has reunited. But a lot has changed since 2004…has DFA1979’s identity changed, too?
With band members Sebastien Grainger and Jesse Keeler using their time apart to explore more melodic ventures (Sebastien Grainger exploring solo work, and Keeler lending his gilded bass lines to MSTRKRFT’s dance halls), it’s unsurprising that these influences bleed into DFA1979’s new album. What is surprising, however, is how much more dated The Physical World feels as a result. Earlier releases were defined by their sparsity and repetition –kinetic anthems that were stamped with a “who cares” attitude. Comparatively, The Physical World is a more professional release, with cleaner vocals and greater instrumental variety. Consequently, The Physical World feels closer to the operatic productions of ’90s bands like Queens of the Stone Age and Muse, as opposed to 8-track revivalists that still flourish today. This approach might appeal to some, but it strikes me as a betrayal of their identity –why name a band 1979 if its sound is disconnected from that era?
That said, there is a strong EP to be found in this 35-minute LP. Songs like “Right On, Frankenstein,” “Crystal Ball,” and “Nothing Left” fall right in DFA1979’s wheelhouse, with a 4/4 kick drum providing scaffolding for Keeler’s indelible basslines. This is the music of spilt beer, split ends, chipped teeth and nail polish, ripped jeans and speaker mesh. The Physical World isn’t quite a return to form, nor is it a great leap forward, but Grainger and Keeler’s musicianship is tenacious and vital when they’re fit. Keep an eye out. 6/10