“Limits of Desire” - Small Black, The Review
I haven’t been around much lately, I apologize. I’m currently directing a movie, for which our teaser trailer uses the song “Free At Dawn” by Small Black. On that note, I felt in this spare moment of free time, before I have to embark on another long day, (about 24 hours straight of work coming up, from 8am today until hopefully 5am tomorrow, but anyone who knows movies knows that’s bullshit. We’ll be going long.) I’d like to briefly review Small Black’s new album.
Unlike most my reviews, which I try to keep concise and based in elements such as instrumentation, lyrics and overall affect, I find this album requires a different, more personal approach. This by necessity means the review will go a little long but unlike most bands, Small Black seems to take the label “Music Artist”, seriously. Like the theory driven films of Vertov and Fellini, they are more concerned with revealing deep subconscious connection through aesthetic quality. This requires analyzing beyond debating how good the lead guitar riff is on a scale of one to ten, and examining what makes “Limits of Desire” one of the best, most accomplished pieces of art in general to rear it’s head in recent years.
I’ve been a big fan of the band for a while, ever since SPIN Magazine, in their last days of awesomeness (which I say officially ended in December 2011, which unfortunately led to their demise as any sort of respectable publication I care about when they decided to stop being the non-political thinking man’s Rolling Stone and become Pitchfork the Sequel.) turned me on to the song “Photojournalist” off their pretty damn good debut, “New Chain”. That track, along with their songs “Despicable Dogs” and “Search Party” became one of my go-to “Get High and Drive Around” songs a couple summers ago, back when life was fun and weed was still a relevant part of my every day life.
• 11 May 2013 • 1 note
Bonfire - Knife Party
The greatest dubstep song ever came out in 2012. That’s right, “Bonfire” is the best song to come out thus far in the short lifespan of it’s burgeoning genre. Debates aside as to what makes “dubstep” truly “dubstep”, if one considers the music as it’s treated in the post-Skrillex age of brostep domination, “Bonfire” is unparalleled.
One of the central reasons for this grand claim is that “Bonfire” keeps the dub aspect that most modern dubstep seems to forget about. There is a perfect reggae element to the song, from the synth-horn skank to the unintelligible ragga vocals. This lends it a perfect summer feel, as well as lifting it beyond the collection of industrial noise that many of Knife Party’s contemporaries fall into.
But then also there’s the drop itself. The drop is the centerpiece of American electronic music, currently, and there has never been a drop as perfect as this one (rivaled only by Pretty Lights’ “I Know the Truth”). The wobble, the riff itself, every facet of it is perfection. If there’s one song from the past 365 days guaranteed to rock so hard your face melts, it’s this one.
GENRE: Dubstep, Electronic, Dance
• 27 March 2013 • 1 note
YBA - Flatbush ZOMBiES
There is an art to intentionally making rap that is hilariously utterly and completely ignorant. New York outfit Flatbush ZOMBiES have mastered the craft, as proved by “YBA”. Case in point? The titular acronym stands for “Young Black and Arrogant”, as evidenced by the chorus.
What makes this song better than Rick Ross and 2 Chainz bullshit though, aside from the fact they are compulsive liars? Flatbush ZOMBiES have perhaps the best flow of any rappers recently in the game, rivaled only by the now defunct Das Racist. Meech opens up the song with is typically labyrinthine cadence, as he espouses the virtues of being fucking awesome and actually being as badass as he claims. As he says, “My flow bounce off that bass”, and that’s the best way to describe his style: bouncy.
One densely layered refrain later, and Juice counters Meech’s baritone with an almost Bizzy Bone esque soprano. Juice’s verse is easily the weakest of the bunch, which says something considering it’s quality. Like the rest of the Zombies he displays a talent for stretching and distorting syllables to fit his desired affect.
Lastly comes Erick Arc Elliot, the third Zombie, who usually spends his time producing rather than rapping. Which is odd, because he may be the most talented of the three. Finding yet another notch on the tonal scale, best described as a treble. His rhymes and puns are the strongest, and his flow is absolutely ridiculous. Listen to line beginning “First of all/Ain’t gotta lot of change but my wrist aglow” for proof of how masterful he fits the beat. The song finally winds down, collapsing on it’s own awesomeness, and you, the listener, will probably need a moment to catch your breath.
Really, the fact one can write a paragraph about each verse should be enough evidence that “YBA” is one of the best rap songs of the past decade.
GENRE: Hip Hop/Rap
Part of the 50 Best Songs of 2012
• 17 March 2013 • 3 notes
Lay Your Cards Out (feat. Mike Noyce) - Poliça
Hazy synths drone, warm sub bass tones punch in and out, and eventually the best beat of the year begins. Featuring an absolutely stunning rhythm section, the drums and bass guitar flaunt their stuff while remaining perfectly in lock step with each other, “Lay Your Cards Out” is a brilliantly relaxed song, with vocals from Channy Leaneagh and Bon Iver’s Mike Noyce. While the lyrics involve attempts to get your shit together, how can the singer do so when they sound so refreshingly content?
The song builds to a frenzy, with drums pounding relentlessly. The music pulses, ebbing from intense to chill, back and forth. When the song finally climaxes, it suddenly deflates. It fits that a song so good should sonically simulate sex.
GENRE: Electronic, Indie
• 8 March 2013 • 7 notes
Around My Head - Cage The Elephant
Rock ‘N Roll, real Rock at least, is the genre of choice for anyone who wants to get real drunk and break things. Case in point? “Around My Head” by Cage The Elephant, a jaunty Aerosmith aping song informed by a post-The Vines sentiment, with lots of screams and crunchy guitar riffs to keep the audience entertained. The highlight of the song is easily the vocals, with odd enunciation and fantastic delivery.
GENRE: Rock, Alternative, Garage, Hard Rock
• 7 March 2013 • 9 notes
Roman Ruins - Line & Circle
A clean guitar jangle kick starts “Roman Ruins”, the debut single from Line & Circle. And just as the opening strum hooks the listener, if this song is any indication of future endeavors, this band is about to be awesome. Many, in fact most bands, perform for years and never even come close to releasing a song as good as this.
Clearly inspired by R.E.M. and their college rock contemporaries, “Roman Ruins” finds a somber tone that is uplifting at the same time. Lyrically it’s nimble and focused on the big picture, and musically it’s grand and elegant. There’s something dreamy here and something raw. Just as their band name denotes, there’s a feeling of contrasting concepts within this song that keeps the listener engaged time and time again.
GENRE: Alternative, Rock, Indie
• 7 March 2013 • 1 note
Bruises - Band of Skulls
Despite Jack White’s efforts, the best blues inspired garage rock riffage of the year came courtesy of Band of Skulls, and their album “Sweet Sour”. The best song on the album is clearly “Bruises”, which contrasts a sweet harmony on the verse with a thumping guitar crunch on the chorus. The shouted refrain is the definition of a BIG chorus, by the way, something Jack White was sorely lacking on “Blunderbuss”.
I wouldn’t be comparing this song to White as much if the influence wasn’t so blatant, and the product so superior. The songs real moment of head banging triumph comes after the bridge, which serves solely to build tension before the final chorus, which is just a rollicking, stomping good time.
GENRE: Rock, Blues, Hard Rock
• 7 March 2013 • 6 notes
Cut It Out - Kitten
“Cut It Out” is a liquid song. What I mean by this is it sort of defies comparison. There’s definitely an 80’s vibe here, but really all I hear when listening to this song is raw emotion, and the feeling of nighttime. Odd right?
The song has a pounding beat with big echoed tom toms and glittering synths flesh out the pristine production. There’s a sense of bigness to this song, and that brings me back to trying to define what exactly feels so familiar here. The song falls somewhere in the realm of chillwave meets rock and roll, but not really (that’d more aptly describe Starfucker). Really, all “Cut It Out” should be classified as is pop music. This is Pop at it’s finest.
GENRE: Pop, Indie
“Cut It Out” is number 13 on the Tune O’ The Day 50 Best Songs of 2012 Countdown.
• 6 March 2013
Free At Dawn - Small Black
Small Black, the world’s greatest chillwave group, is back! And they, like the other groups they’ve been lumped into the chillwave genre with, like Washed Out and Neon Indian, continue to try and differentiate themselves from the stigma of the tacked on buzzword that critics used to describe them. “Free At Dawn” sounds like it should appear during the ending credits of a tear jerking movie. With shades of “Joshua Tree” era U2 and their signature echoed vocals, Small Black has set a high standard for their new album, dropping later this year.
GENRE: Electronic, Chillwave, Synth Pop
• 5 March 2013 • 2 notes