Everybody is Trying to #SaveNelly

nelly

By John

It’s been a few years since we have heard a hit from turn-of-the-century hip hop sensation Nelly. His latest hit, however, isn’t a collaboration with a younger, fresher artist in an attempt to gain ground in the game. No, Nelly’s latest hit comes to his bank account by way of the IRS and a $2.4 million tax lien from 2013.

His last hit albums may have been in 2004 with the dual releases of Suit and Sweat, (Seriously. Those were his last platinum albums. M.O. which was released in 2013 only sold 23,000 copies to date.) but Nelly still has a fan base, apparently, as his fans are banding together to stream his music in order to help him defray the cost of his tax lien. Specifically, fans are turning to what may be his greatest hit, 2001’s Hot in Herre in a campaign to #SaveNelly.

According to an article in the Washington Post by Elahe Izadi, fans will need to stream Hot in Herre (or their favorite Nelly track) on Spotify 287,176,547 times in order to pay off the 2.4 million dollar levy. Essentially what this tells us is that Nelly makes $0.008 for every play of one of his songs on Spotify. That’s not even a penny, folks.

As of today, Hot in Herre has been played a total of 60,108,586 times which of course includes every play since it became available to stream on the music service. That isn’t even close as it stands right now, although we do not know how many plays Nelly has got since the #SaveNelly campaign went live this week. However, it does mean Nelly has earned $502,301 from this one track alone from Spotify.

Fans are making their best attempt to help the rapper defray the cost, but the effect is merely a Band-Aid on the left cheek of his overall tax problems.

So that is the story that is going around the Internets this week, clogging up my Facebook news aggregator. But to me, that is not the interesting part of the story. The fan response is where it’s at, so to speak. I have so many questions:

1.)  Does Nelly really have that many fans to rally together to put their efforts into saving him from his IRS issues?

2.) How many people are just doing this because its a fun thing to do on the Internet? Has the hashtag campaign really brought such public awareness that people are jumping on the bandwagon to stream his music?

3.) Why are people so worried about a guy who basically screwed up and didn’t pay his taxes? (Yes, I know, blame the accountant.)

The thing is, streaming a song, however noble, does not require anything of the person doing it. It costs the listener nothing. There is little investment on the listener’s part. I’ve written before about cost to a consumer vs. their investment in an artist/event/movement. This isn’t a Kickstarter or GoFundMe campaign where someone is trying to fund an album by giving things away to a person who will put up cash to see a project completed. That is a way to gain invested fans. But is this #SaveNelly campaign indicative of how to leverage existing fans? Or,is this just people on the Internet getting a little chuckle about referencing a hit they remember from college and throwing up a hashtag on Twitter?

Apparently, Nelly is beloved by enough music fans in 2016 to start a movement, but I question whether this is a noble gesture. I suspect the #SaveNelly campaign will be hot (in herre) on Internet news feeds for a few days, then people will go back to forgetting about Nelly. Meanwhile, he will have to pay future tax on his $0.08 earning on each new play his fans are doing to help him.

Ok, so my natural instinct is to go skeptical. But, when I think back to what I was listening to from 2000-2006, there was a lot of Nelly on my iPod. I really was a fan of his first album, before the Hot in Herre era, and I loved a lot of the music off Nellyville and Sweat/Suit. Maybe it takes no investment to play a few tracks on Spotify, but maybe that’s the key thing about this movement. It cost nothing, it helps out an artist who’s music played a pivotal role many people’s hip hop education, including my own. Nelly might not be tearing up the charts these days, but he was at least relevant enough in the lives of his fans that they want to give the guy a hand when he is down.

I highly doubt that the #SaveNelly campaign will make a dent in his tax problems. But maybe the gesture is one of the most beautiful things to take place in a world full of skepticism and negativity.

All that being said, I personally contributed $0.024 cents towards the goal to #SaveNelly. You know, because sometimes you just have to give back.

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Time After Time, I Fall for Nostalgia

By John

During the 2016 Rio Olympics, McDonald’s released a commercial that made me swell with manly tears the first time I saw it.

The commercial features a split screen, on the left, a little boy clearly growing up in the 80’s playing and doing activities in which he passes the game or item across the split screen to a little redheaded girl.

The little girl is clearly living in 2016. He hands her an Atari controller, it becomes a contemporary game system controller. He passes her his stuffed puppy, and it becomes a real puppy. Everything he passes to her is slightly better than what he had in the 80’s.

In the final scene, you see the little girl excitedly waiting for the little boy to join her in the left screen. The boy sits down, pulls out a chicken nugget, then passes it across the screen to the little girl.

The little boy from the 80’s then slides himself across the split screen into 2016 to reveal, he is her father.

Here is the commercial:

The music playing in the background is none other than Sam Beam, who records as Iron and Wine performing a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s standard “Time After Time.”

On the face, this is a really clever and effective commercial appealing to people my age (I turn 35 on September 12) who have kids who are 7 or 8 like the adorable little redheaded girl in the commercial.

Our generation is a fickle one. We are the generation of natural cleaning products, GMO free foods, minimally processed snacks, and such. We are the generation that is likely the cause of McDonald’s recent struggles in the marketplace. We have drifted from McDonalds to Chipotle because of the promises of the burrito makers of providing hormone free, responsibly raised, local foods for their offerings. McDonald’s has been hurting lately, most likely because our generation and the Millenials coming behind us have better options than the fast food stalwarts like McDonald’s and Wendy’s and Burger King.

Burger King has gone the route of offering hot dogs and (god awful) Whopperito burritos to attract new customers. The purpose of this McDonald’s commercial is to feature their chicken McNuggets, now with 100% all natural white meat, no artificial colors or flavors. The commercial does a great job of reminding us 30-something dads of the childhood we experienced frame-by-frame, showing how a dad can relate his childhood to his daughter (or son) According to this commercial, fundamentally, nothing has really changed. I remember so many birthday parties at McDonald’s and eating so many chicken nuggets over the years as a kid in the 80’s. Its the same experience when my kids beg for Happy Meals that my parents experienced – however, McDonald’s also appeals to the old adage that “we all want better for our kids.” Now we can share the experience we had growing up with our kids, and our kids have it better than we did.

(One of my favorite things about this commercial is in the first scene playing basketball. Both the father and the daughter are wearing high top Chucks. Nice touch, Mickey D’s.)

This commercial brought me to tears the first time I saw it. It touched that part of me that always aches for nostalgia. It appealed to my childhood. It appealed to my fatherhood. But this time, the sheer timing of this commercial hit me the hardest.

After 10 years living in the Chicago area, I just relocated my family back to my old hometown in the middle of rural “look out for Amish buggies” Ohio.

My kids were born and raised as Chicago suburban kids. This is a big change for them. For me, its a homecoming of sorts. I grew up in Ashland, Ohio, moved away, then moved back for college, where I met my wife – their mom, who also grew up here. Then we got married and moved to the big city. For us, its a bizarre juxtaposition of lives. This is where we were kids and where we grew up. We went to those birthday parties at McDonald’s when we were in third grade. Now my third grader lives here. He begs for Happy Meals at least a few times a month.

The night I first saw this commercial, I had just gone with my wife to the ice cream shop in the park by the house. I grew up in a 60’s ranch house up the hill from the ice cream shop and got ice cream there regularly as a kid. It was across from the softball diamond where my dad played church league softball several nights a week. It is down the hill from the municipal swimming pool where I spent literally every day of the summer. It is across the street from the mini-golf course where my wife worked in college when we were dating. I spent hours sitting in the little red shed with her as she waited for patrons to come pay their dollar to rent a putter and a ball.

I got the same ice cream flavor I lived on as a kid. I sat there, eating ice cream with my wife, sitting on the familiar picnic tables, taking in the scene. Nothing had really changed in 25 years. It was fundamentally the same. All of my memories of growing up in this neighborhood next to the park were completely in tact. I had just taken my kids to this park earlier in the day and let them wade into the creek where my brother and I used to overturn rocks and catch crayfish and minnows. My son spotted a few that day.

Then, I came home that night, ate dinner, cleaned up, got the kids in bed and flipped on the TV and saw this commercial. Tears. I usually kind of tune out commercials, but being an Iron and Wine fan, I recognized Sam Beam’s whisper immediately. It caught my attention. He is singing one of my all time favorite songs – Time After Time. I love Cyndi Lauper’s original, I love covers of the song. It holds up no matter who is singing it. Its a powerful song.

Then, the commercial features a little redheaded girl about 7 or 8. I have a little redheaded girl the same age. I’ve been walking her through the memories of the hometown that is new to her and so familiar to me. “This is the house I grew up in, Honey. This is the merry-go-round I played on too when I was a kid. See that house? One of my friends lived there and I used to go over and play all the time when I was your age.”

My wife just had this same odd experience when we took my daughter to sign up for dance classes at the dance studio where my wife danced when she was a little girl. We searched the hundreds of photos on the wall of the reception area looking for all the pictures that mom was in when she was a kid. My wife said the place was exactly the same as it was 20 years ago when she danced there.

I can’t fully explain what this feels like.

Between one of my favorite artists singing one of my favorite songs and the little redhead girl who melted my heart because she reminded me of my own little redheaded girl who melts my heart, this commercial got me right in the feels. All of the feels, really.

Its comforting and disorienting to have my children actually experience my childhood themselves. I didn’t have that in Chicago. That was a whole different ball game. I had no touchstones to a childhood there. My kids were having a childhood that was completely their own. Now they are having mine. And hopefully, it’s fundamentally the same, but incrementally better than my own childhood.

Of course, times have changed. But my kids and I still wear matching Chuck Taylor’s from time to time.

 

Dueling Reviews: David Bazan & TW Walsh

By John

Back in 2006, Pedro the Lion was effectively kaput. David Bazan and the only other official member TW Walsh returned with the electronic sounds of their one-off album as Headphones.

Headphones utilized the song structures of typical Bazan-penned Pedro tunes but combined that with Walsh’s drumming and both artists’ respective synthesizer skills to create a new sound.

Over the decade since the duo released their album as Headphones, they continued to collaborate (Walsh remastered all the old Pedro the Lion albums for rerelease a few years ago) but mostly worked on their respective solo careers. Bazan released two solo albums, 2009’s Curse Your Branches and 2011’s Strange Negotiations on Barsuk records, but both albums were mixed and mastered by Walsh. Walsh kept busy with production work and released albums with the Soft Drugs, and his own 2011 album Songs of Pain and Leisure.

Both artists solo work after Pedro the Lion and Headphones was not electronically based, but focused more on the classic guitar/bass/drum sound.

Interestingly enough, a decade after their combined electronic release with Headphones, both artists have returned with new solo albums that shift completely their solo sound. Both new albums from Bazan and Walsh are heavily synth and drum machine based, but each album has its own flavor.

On to the reviews. We’ll go in order:

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TW Walsh – Fruitless Research (Released 2/12/2016, Graveface Records):

Walsh has an amazing ability to find execute melody. Each song on this album flows around the melody and Walsh’s vocals.

The structure of most of the songs is basic. Walsh does a great job layering simple repeating melodies to create a masterful, nuanced pieces.

Walsh was quoted in Paste on lead single, Fundamental Ground:

“Musically speaking, this song is dead simple,” said Walsh. “Three chords on repeat, and I think there may be a grand total four notes in the vocal melody. Lyrically, it’s about the quest to recognize the fundamental ground of reality as described by the great ancient Mahasiddhas (meditation masters) of India and Tibet. So, basically, it’s a song that the kids are really gonna identify with…also, Ben Gibbard texted me to let me know he really likes this song, which was pretty awesome.”

Fundamental Ground is a great example of the clean, uncluttered simplicity that permeates throughout Fruitless Research.

This is an album that connects with this reviewer from a music and melody standpoint. Lyrically, this album touches a lot on vague spiritual awareness in places, but I focus less on the lyrics and more on the tone and shape of the melody.

Key Tracks: Fundamental Ground, Counting Cards, The Glow

Static and Distortion Rating: 8.2 Dinosaur Jrs.

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David Bazan – Blanco (Released May 13, 2016, Barsuk Records):

Many of the songs from Blanco started as 2014 releases on SoundCloud as part of Bazan Monthly. Bazan fans could pay for a subscription to get a new track each month.

The track names on Blanco may be familiar to fans, but compared to the Bazan Monthly releases, the album tracks have been tweaked, remastered and largely rerecorded. Vocals are crisper, the production is brighter, and more cohesive.

This reviewer has been following the songs since they were trickling out month-to-month. I may be partial to some of the original versions. Some of the vocals on the original tracks felt more raw and honest, while the rerecorded vocals feel more “technically” better.

Sonically, the classic Bazan song structure is still there, although this electronic palette truly feels like something new after nearly 20 years making records. While Headphones sounded like electronic Pedro the Lion songs, Blanco feels like a new era of Bazan song writing.

The album flows well, but while Walsh’s Fruitless Research is simple and clean, some Blanco tracks start to feel cluttered with too much electronic ambiance and not enough melodic structure to underpin it.

Lyrically, its classic but nuanced Bazan. With You is a classic Bazan take on a love song. It handles the nervousness of a relationship, fears, doubts, and insecurities while ultimately realizing, time has passed and “we’re still together.” The Trouble With Boys feels like an electronic take on a classic slow-core style track. I’m almost reminded of older Low tracks. The final lyric “you are worthy of love” is devastating and beautiful.

Key Tracks: With You, The Trouble With Boys, Little Landslides

Static and Distortion Rating: 7.6 Dinosaur Jrs.

Final Take: Each of these albums have their own take on an electronic shift for each artists solo style, and each are good complimentary pieces for fans of the Headphones album.

Want to do something fun? Create a playlist with both albums to create a Headphones double album. If each album was released as a double Headphones album, you can basically create a Headphones version of Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.

You Don’t Have to Teach Kids About Music – They Already Know

By John

I’ve been a dad professionally since 2008. If there’s one thing I’ve learned along the way, its that you don’t have to teach your children anything about music for your son or daughter to have a connection.

I will always remember the first time my son danced at about 9 month old. He was just pulling up on things and standing and I was cleaning one Saturday morning, playing Wilco. Nobody had to teach my kid to dance to the music. It just had to be on. He figured it out.

Even earlier than that, when he was just a newborn, he was inconsolable one night very late until Gnarls Barkley came on the TV playing “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul.” He faced the television and was silent while the song played.

Nobody had to teach my 5 year old anything about melody before she wrote her first song called “Smoothie Day.” She wrote it when she was 4, and it has a fairly simple yet sophisticated melody and refrain.

It’s been a while with spotty attendance, but we finally went to church for the first time in a few months this morning. My 11 month old is always in the nursery but we’ve noticed that when music comes on in the car or on television, she “sings” along. My wife wanted her to be in the beginning of the service with us so she could “sing” with the choir of other church attendees. And she did.

I’m not saying you don’t have to teach children about music as in that all they need to know, they can passively absorb. When it is age appropriate, they need to learn about structure and rhythm and timing and melody, harmony, etc. They need to be taught how to sing properly or play an instrument and master it. Music for children is important. But there is something in our very nature that needs not be taught that we respond to before we even have language skills. We as human beings have a natural response to it.

Music moves us. You see it in babies who are soothed by the Rock-A-Bye Baby lullaby albums. You see it in the hipster who can only process his feelings through the music of Decemberists. You see it in the elderly in nursing homes who respond to nothing but music that triggers memory.

Expose your children to music. All the time. Teach them an instrument. Support your local school music program.

Music is important.

Breakin’ it Down: Death Cab for Cutie’s “No Room in Frame”

By: John

As resident Death Cab enthusiast, I feel compelled to review and dissect the new track released from Death Cab for Cutie’s upcoming album, Kintsugi. “No Room in Frame” hits me a lot better than did their first single from the album, “Black Sun.” Black Sun got stuck in my head, but something about it feels off to me, and if you listen to the Static Podcast, I tend to complain about the production value of “Black Sun.”

“No Room in Frame” seems to be about Ben Gibbard’s breakup and divorce from Zooey Deschanel. I don’t know this to be true, but the evidence is compelling. Here’s the chorus:

Was I in your way
When the cameras turned to face you
No room in frame for two
How can I stay
In the sun when the rain flows
All through my veins, it’s true

And I guess it’s not a failure we could help
And we’ll both go on to get lonely with someone else

untitledBen and Zooey broke up right about the time she started her new hit show New Girl on Fox. I remember following Ben on Twitter at the time when he tweeted out a congratulations to his wife for landing a new TV show and then shortly thereafter, I saw the announcement of their separation. Was Ben in her way when the cameras turned to face the New Girl? Maybe.

Those first two lines of the chorus are pretty biting when read and not heard. However, they are not sung with an over abundance of angst or accusation, even though they are quite accusatory. Ben just sounds like a guy who is processing what he is going through. He doesn’t sound mad at her, he just feels kind of sad about it and is figuring it all out in his mind.

While the first two lines of the chorus are accusatory, the second set of lines take some steam out of that accusation. He says “how can I stay in the sun when the rain flows all through my veins…” To me, this speaks volumes. It sounds like a weather comparison – sun vs. rain – and the associated emotions tied to it. However, his weather reference is actually describing a geographical representation of his relationship, with “the sun” representing Los Angeles and “the rain” representing Seattle area where Ben is from. But we are still not done peeling the layers: this geographical description illustrates the sunny, Los Angeles dispositioned Zooey and the rainy, Seattle Ben.

Ben accuses her of leaving him for the camera, which represents her career, but then he reflexively turns it back on himself and questions if he could have stayed with her in the long term anyways. Could the Seattle boy have stayed with the Los Angeles woman long term? Ben seems to think no – it was “not a failure they could help.”

Regardless of whether I’m dead on and this is a Zooey breakup song, or if I am totally off base, the fact remains that the lyrics are more complex than what you get at face value, and they are compelling enough for this fan to genuinely feel bad for what the guy is going through.

John’s Dinosaur Jr Rating:
eight and a half out of ten
8.5/10

Death Cab for Cutie’s newest album, Kintsugi, is available on March 31, 2015, on Atlantic Records.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

By: John

I often daydream about leaving the rough and tumble world of my job as a payroll administrator and starting my own business.

I wanted to start a coffee shop so aging hipsters who are now minivan driving boring dads can have a place to gather and complain about hipsters.

I also developed a dating service with our friend Lisa geared for call center employees to find love, called “Outsourced Love.” Call 1-800-Cubicle today – and you guessed it, your calls will be monitored or recorded for quality assurance! There are two levels of membership with Outsourced Love – Employees or Temps. (Temps have the same shot at love as Employees, but without all the benefits.)

Tonight, as I was spending time in my own kitchen, I summoned Chris and Robert, my podcast pals:

“Guys, let’s all quit our day jobs and start a dive bar!”

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I could run the kitchen, Robert could tend the bar, Chris could be the brewmaster, or whatever it is Chris does. We could have a small stage for shows, an extensive whiskey menu and podcast live from our bar every Friday night.

After an immediate “No. That sounds like a terrible idea” from Robert, the idea really started to take shape.

Our most popular item would be the Static Burger with roasted chipotle Distortion sauce.

Second up is “The Miami.” It’s a Cuban style sandwich with the roasted chipotle  Distortion sauce (I put that stuff on everything!) except there’s a secret ingredient.*

Our third favorite item on the menu is “The Shen Burger.” Yes. We practically were forced into making this burger and calling it the “Shen Burger.” It’s just too easy. It’s basically an average burger served on a white bread bun, except it is served with a beer cheese made from Yuengling lager smuggled from Ohio in a minivan by John’s mother-in-law.

Have you tried our olive tapenade appetizer? Chris hates it.

Jenn recommends “The Tweedy Burger,” which is a smoked brisket sandwich, served with house made BBQ sauce, side of slaw on a brioche roll and served in a tiny jean jacket.

And who could forget “The Jenn?” “The Jenn” is often referred to around the bar as a great burger, but its rarely on the menu. Sometimes we run “the Jenn” as a special, but usually only when John, Chris, or Robert is on vacation. Sometimes John sees the Jenn Burger sitting in the fridge and thinks “We Can Charbroil That,” and voila. Back on the specials.

It’s slightly less rare to see on the menu than “the Hutch.”

Our “Death Grips Burger” is a rare burger with jalapenos, ghost pepper mayo, onions, chili powder French fries, and a side of “fuck you,” according to Robert. No one ever orders it, but Robert makes it the special every third Friday just out of spite.

This burger contrasts greatly with our “Death Cab Burger,” a meatless veggie burger with roasted bell peppers and hummus on a gluten free quinoa bun and a free “cheer up” hug from one of our wait staff.

One of my kitchen specialties is a meatloaf sandwich called “The Ohio” made with only fresh Ohio Amish eggs and seasoned bread crumbs, served exclusively by an aging former member of the Cleveland Browns.

“The Prince” burger was once the most creative and groundbreaking burger on our menu, but it really hasn’t been any good for the past 20 years, yet people still revere it as one of the best burgers in the industry.

“The Zuppe Zappa” is a kind of a strange take on Italian wedding soup, except if you changed all the ingredients to different ingredients and made it into a different kind of soup entirely.

And finally “The Yeezus.” It’s an ambitious sandwich with complex flavors with layers of beef upon beef. I heard it goes straight to your butt though. It’s also served with a side of fish sticks.

Brewmaster Chris would work in the corner – alone – perfecting his Olde Decemberists Ale or Old Townes Sour Mash Whiskey.

Each week, we could run a “Pick 5 for Friday” promotion.

You really shouldn’t bring kids to a bar, but if you do, we offer a Dinosaur Jr. Kids Menu.

Stop on in to The Static Alehouse and Kitchen today and have a shot of whiskey on us!**


*Blow. Not blow. Maybe.

**Well, actually on Robert. If he’s the bar manager, he’s going to have to account for that in his part of the budget somewhere.

 

Robert’s Top Ten albums (plus 15 more) of 2014

So John and I sat down sans Chris to discuss our favorite albums of this past year. We invited Chris but he claimed that he “didn’t listen to music” in 2014.  Then he went ahead and posted his favorite songs anyway.  Not like I’m bitter or anything.

The jerk.

Anyway, this isn’t about him.  Contrary to my friend Chenel’s belief, 2014 was actually a great year for music.  Fantastic albums varied in musical style and execution (from massively produced pop introductions like Taylor Swift’s 1989 to small affairs such as favorite Meta-modern sounds in country music by Sturgill Simpson), and highlighted the changing landscape of how music reaches it’s fans, but a bit more on that later.  Below I’ve provided my top 10 favorite albums, in no particular order, of the year.  I’ve also thrown in 15 more honorable mentions that hopefully you’ll go check out still.  All of these are on Spotify as well.  I’m throwing it at you, if you want to listen do a little leg work.


Flying Lotus-You’re Dead!

flyloI’ve maintained that this album would be what Miles Davis would be doing now if he was still with us.  Flying Lotus (real name Steven Ellison) provides a soul, funk, drum and bass, acid jazz fusion trip through time and space.  It makes you question not only the sanity of your navigator but your own once it’s abstractly presented themes and ideas begin to make sense.  It can be a rather difficult album to take in and enjoy, but given the chance and and an honest listen I’m sure everyone will find something they can take away from this album.


St. Paul & The Broken Bones- Half the City

stpaulSo yes, this album didn’t make any (maybe no publications) year end best of list.  And yes, the neo-soul revival movement hit a year or so back and may already be dying out.  But these guys aren’t new-soul…..they’re soul, gospel, rock and roll, R&B, every-performance-is-going-to-church music.  Lead singer Paul Janeway delivers a performance that feels like it’s coursing through him from a higher power.  The band is tight, clean, crisp, yet maintains a fluidity and looseness that recalls a band that has been playing together 20 years, not two.  So yeah, they’re not on anyone’s list, but they should be and eventually will.


Stugill Simpson-Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

sturgill-simpson-metamodernOn a previous Static podcast episode (I don’t remember which one.  Go listen to them all and you’ll find out) I mentioned that I’m not huge on country music.  That being said this album pulled me on first listening to it.  Simpson comes from a coal mining town and embodies everything about the outlaw country style, but inspiration from books on physics and spirituality (and some drugs) lead to a introspective look at human interaction and our experiences.  Recorded for only $4000 over roughly 6 days this album provides a fantastic experience.


The War on Drugs- Lost in the Dream

The-War-On-Drugs-Lost-In-The-Dream-608x608Influenced by Americana, Bruce Springsteen, and 1980’s rock, and lyrics inspired by lead singer Adam Granduciel’s bout with depression and loneliness, Lost in the Dream provides an in depth look in to emotions everyone feels at some point or another in their life.  Takes on a mundane life, feelings of loneliness, and insecurities are punctuated with dynamic song writing and lyrics that pull you in, washing over you to complete the experience.


Run the Jewels- Run the Jewels 2

RTJ2I know I said this list was in no particular order, but if I had to rank them this would be number 1.  The second offering from Killer Mike and El-P (who also produced the album) is a vicious, violent, passionate, take no prisoners affair, declaring early on that no one is safe from them.  The heavy, brutish production from El-P matched with Mike’s swift, southern flow make for a fantastic juxtaposition that should have everyone nodding along to it.


Cloud Nothings- Here and Nowhere else

here and nowhere elseShort, upbeat, infectious, Here and Nowhere else is a blistering punk-ish record that doesn’t shove it’s message in your face: Pain, anger, and shit happens.  Easily approachable by many communities (it’s not too punk, it’s not too rock, it’s not mainstream but it’s catchy, it’s generic yet unique) the three piece from Ohio offers sing along songs that you can bounce to at home, in your car, or live.


Benjamin Booker- Benjamin Booker (self titled)

benbookerHave you ever picked at a scab or sore before, knowing it hurts but it feels good, cathartic even, somewhere inside you? That feeling is Benjamin Booker.  His voice sounds like an open sore that needs to heal and his guitar playing/album production can be rough, but inside you it feels good to hear it.  It feels right.  His freshman album is made for air guitar and steering wheel drum sets.  His lyrics are written to be sung with, even imitated.  It’s just rock and roll.


D’Angelo and the Vanguard- Black Messiah

4425c01814 years.  That’s how long it’s been since D’Angelo released VooDoo.  And the release of Black Messiah feels like he never went anywhere.  If anything it feels as if he’s on the forefront of a musical push, a paradigm pioneer making way for acts to follow in his wake. One of the best parts is the album just released. No huge fanfare, no big lead up.  Just 12 tracks of soul, R&B, and Funk that proves he’s aged wonderfully and has so much more to say with his music than people could have expected.


tUnE-yArDs- Nikki Nack

tuneyards

tUnE-yArDs is a band that when I play them for most people, especially work from Nikki Nack, people assume I’m crazy and that I don’t have taste in music.  That’s fine, I get it’s not for everyone.  But Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner crafted an album that mashed together social commentary and dance breaks, Afro-pop with an electronic sensibility.  Cramming in seemingly as much as possible in to this record, on paper and in description it’s a train wreck.  In execution it is superb.


Big K.R.I.T.- Cadillactica

cadillactica-cover

From Mississippi, or outer space possibly, Big K.R.I.T. is making the type of music now that OutKast would be making (if they were just touring for the money and one last shot of being known).  Both grounded and philosophical lyrics combine with soulful/funky beats and a flow smoother than the surface of a freshly opened jar of peanut butter (you know what I’m talking about) make Cadillactica a must listen to fans of hip hop.


Honorable Mentions:

Isaiah Rashad-Cilvia Demo: Debut EP from another member of TDE (Kendrick Lamar, SchoolBoy Q, Ab-Soul).  This dude is doing big things.

Swans-To Be Kind: Rough, unrelenting, brutal.  Not for the squeamish but bringing something different to the table.

Ty Segall-Manipulator: Noise rock from a guy who does it VERY well.

Sam SmithIn the Lonely Hour: Amazing voice, amazing writing. Seems very humble and happy for his success, which he very much deserves.

Todd Terje-It’s Album Time: Chicago House/Disco music from a Norwegian.  Funky album, good times ensue.

The Juan MacLean-In a Dream: Electro music dripping with 80’s influence and a punk attitude.  First listen hit all the right places.

“Weird” Al Yankovic-Mandatory Fun: Groundbreaking? No. Fun to listen to? Bet your ass it is.

FKA Twigs-LP1: Hypnotic and sounding other worldly at times, delivers a charged debut album that’s both subtle and massive.

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib-Pinata: Rough and up front, Freddie Gibbs provides a uncompromising lyrical view while Madlib provides purposefully unrefined production that sounds classic.

The Orwells-Disgraceland: My friend told me he saw them live and knew instantly that rock was in the right hands of these kids.  Listening to the album I can’t help but agree.

SIdewalk Chalk-Leaves: Jazz/Hip Hop/blues outfit from Chicago making accessible music for those who want it..  Yes John, we will go see them one day.

Parquet Courts-Sunbathing Animal: Garage rock from New York with catchy hooks that should get you moving your feet.

Taylor Swift-1989: Yeah, I know.  It’s Taylor.  But her transformation from “country” to pop is infectious and amazingly produced.  There’s no denying she knows how to write a catchy tune.

Damon Albarn-Everyday Robots: A bit of a melancholy affair, Albarn paints a textured picture, layering personal lyrics with at times lush, other times minimalist, instrumentation.

Aphex Twin-Syro: Crashing back in to the electronic scene he helped pioneer, Richard James provides manic drum and bass music in a scene dominated by bass drops (WUBWUBWUBWUBWUBWUB).


Yes, there were a ton more I’m missing, and I could provide another 10 albums to this list.  But it’s 2015 and I’m already behind on my music listening.  Did you know Death Grips released an instrumental album?  Or that Panda Bears new album is already streaming?  No?  Get to it then already!!!