David Bowie - Blackstar: On 10 January 2016, David Bowie passed away from liver cancer only two days after the release of his twenty-seventh studio album Blackstar. Bowie was a legend in his lifetime and he’ll forever be remembered as an innovative and inspiring giant in the world of contemporary music.
They say that only in death do we finally begin being. Up until that point we are in a constant state of becoming, always changing, always growing. With an artist it’s not quite so simple because throughout their lives they create and leave behind relics of themselves, snapshots of their artistry at various times in their careers. Few artists underwent such drastic changes throughout their careers as Bowie. From folksy singer/songwriter to glam-rock icon to drug-addled megalomaniac, Bowie had some drastic personal shifts throughout his life, which were reflected in his music. Such personas as Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke may have started as characters to match the music, but Bowie embraced his creations to such an extent that he became those characters, or vice-versa. With each new album Bowie immortalized himself; Ziggy reached being, as did the TWD, as will, I hope, the mastermind behind Blackstar. I’ll personally always remember Bowie as a hard rockin’ glam god because of albums like The Rise and Fall… and Aladdin Sane, while many others will remember Bowie as an avant-garde electronic music pioneer for his Berlin trilogy, but let us all also remember Bowie for Blackstar because it’s brilliant. This album is possibly the farthest Bowie has ever veered from the mainstream; it’s edgy, it’s challenging, and it’s innovative. On Blackstar Bowie is backed by an experimental jazz ensemble featuring Grammy-nominated saxophonist Donny McCaslin and even James Murphy on drums. The horn playing is tremendous and all over the place. It reminds me of the psychedelic fusion of late 60s free jazz. It’s a very theatrical album with big dramatic sagas like “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” segmented into multiple acts; then you have these long meandering horn solos and bouts of chaotic noise that drive you deeper into the dark space the album creates. It’s easy to lose yourself in the sporadic yet intricate layering of sounds. Blackstar is a crowning achievement of masterful musicianship and composition from an unparalleled artist. It is already one of my fave Bowie albums and I encourage all fans of Bowie and of music in general to delve into the dark spaces of Blackstar. SHILL
Recommended Tracks: “Blackstar” (1), “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” (4), “Girl Loves Me” (5)
Hinds - Leave Me Alone: All of us in the music department were extremely reluctant to review this album, which is probably a result of the gender imbalance within MoM and, consequently, that the only two girls are so enamored with Drake or Future that all other music just seems inferior when you are #runningthroughthesixwithyourwoes. If I may be frank, I am not interested in pussy music (although I do have one), and this is music for pussies: cutesy indie rock that would make sense with the addition of a ukulele, a female-led Burger Records-ish beachy/Americana sensibility that scream of the valley (though these girls are from Barcelona...), the shit that girls who still own cassettes and are obsessed with mustaches and would describe themselves as "so weird" jam out to when knitting. Aesthetically, this album is equal parts Juno-soundtrack and Lisa Frank -- so middle school that I felt like I needed braces to appreciate the "my crush is giving me mixed signals but did give me one of his Hostess cupcakes at lunch that one time" vibe that runs throughout every song. If you know me at all, you know that I find all of these things absolutely repulsive (except when I am REALLY on my period). You may not; in fact, Sam Hill swears these gals are getting super popular, and this sounds exactly like most of the stuff the LA Music people add. On the bright side, I did get all the way through the album, so it could be worse...ASHLEY
RIYL: Dum Dum Girls, Mac Demarco, quirkiness
Recommended Tracks: the songs pretty much sound the same, so maybe "San Diego" (9), "Walking Home" (12)
Future - Purple Reign: Future has really shown himself to be one of the greatest rappers alive and one of the most prolific artists out there. Purple Reign is another in a string of high profile, (fire emoji) yet #emotional mixtapes he's churned out since his split from Ciara in 2013 (still heartbroken); With each release, he's continue to explore the depth of sadness, sex, and success from a drug-tainted perspective. To be completely honest, Purple Reign is not Future's strongest work, but when you're greatest work consists of beasts of albums like Honest and DS2, it's hard to keep hitting that level, especially when you're turning tapes out as often as Future is. He's keeping us hot, and the fire is absolutely still there on this tape (the turn up is alive and well on track 2), along with the moments of darkness and honesty that set Future apart. The final track should really get the feels going. Overall, Future shows us once again that he really is the best doing it (sorry Drake...and Ashley). CAROLINE
RIYL: Migos, Young Thug, Drake
Recommended Tracks: "Wicked" (2), "Drippin (How U Luv That)" (5), "Inside The Mattress" (4), "Run Up" (10), "Purple Reign" (12)
Archy Marshall - A New Place 2 Drown: Archy Marshall, aka King Krule, has been busy this last year. A few weeks ago, he announced a project A New Place 2 Drown which is actually the name of three things. With the help of his brother Jack, Archy created an art book full of photos, poems, and sketches with a dark moody theme. In the same package, they have also released a short film and a soundtrack to go with it. Archy Marshall has released all sorts of works in the past, under different aliases, spanning from hip hop mixtapes to ambient instrumentals to his more jazz-rocky guitar projects under King Krule. On this record though, there really isn’t much guitar, and most of it is very dreamy trip-hop electronic material you’d find yourself listening to at Low End Theory or in a hot boxed car with your friends in hazy night. Archy does sing on this record a bit, in nonchalance and dismissive towards the struggles of his new life unfolding. It’s not a surprise that the music is so heavy leaning towards hip hop because Archy is self confessed fan of hardcore 90s hiphop like Wu Tang. Archy relishes in making sure every lyric drawled out gives you a piece of his mind and emotion. “I’ll fly solo,” he sings on Buffed Sky, and to him, that’s just fine. DYLAN
RIYL: Flying Lotus, Schlomo, Mount Kimbie, Shabazz Palaces
Recommended Tracks: "Buffed Sky" (5), "Arise Dear Brother" (3), "Thames Water" (12)
Cage the Elephant - Tell Me I'm Pretty: On their fourth studio album, Cage the Elephant show that they can demonstrate a wide variety of good garage rock music. When this band released their first album, they felt like they were going to be something of a one hit wonder, but with every album they come out with they continue to expand their sound and release great music. On Tell Me I’m Pretty, the band’s sound has moved away from some of their weirder tracks and have moved on to a more pop Black Keys or Artic Monkeys sound, this of course because it was produced by Dan Auerbach. The first single "Mess Around" actually sounds like it was supposed to be on a Black Keys album and half way through the album I thought that I had accidentally changed the album I was listening to. A lot of the songs also feature an organ that sounds very similar to the way the Black Keys use theirs, further showing the producers influence on the band. In addition, some of these songs are also their catchiest to date. If you have been a fan of the band you should definitely give this one a listen but expect something a little more mainstream than their previous releases. HARRY
RIYL: The Black Keys, Artic Monkeys
Recommended Tracks: "Mess Around" (2), "Too Late to Say Goodbye" (4), "Trouble" (6)
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