Album Reviews: Run The Jewels, Priests + more
At Day for Night festival, it rained and dropped 20 degrees in like 10 minutes, and coincidentally (or not) Run the Jewels was on stage, and white people did that hands outstretched dance in the rain thing, and the last song they did was “Legend Has It,” as they reinforced the legend that is Run the Jewels. For whatever 2016 was and whatever 2017 will be, this is the riot starter. “Call Ticketron” is pure magic; “Life’s a shit-nado, smoke’s my umbrella.” Killer Mike and El-P spend the 51 minutes outdoing themselves. “Don’t Get Captured” is song you want to hear in that moment. In fact, the whole album is that kind of statement, a soundtrack for the back against the wall, the fight or flight; “We are not calm and impartial.” “Thieves! (Screamed The Ghost)” is literally about riots. It would be easy to equate this to the tone of the country or whatever, but RTJ has always made these anthems, it is almost as if the horror caught up to the massacre they were preparing you for “I don’t know much about science but I seen an army of armed men stop and get quiet.” RTJ3 is an anomaly, everything about Run the Jewels couldn’t be scripted, it is all amazing, the run of the excellence, the consistency; “bullying bastards and beating on beats,” indeed.
Guitars are a relic of a long forgotten time. Rock music? I have not forgotten thee. Stef Chura has made a great guitar rock record beckoning Crooked Rain-era Pavement, Versus, things associated with single coil Stratocasters and times when Starbucks was corporate and there was a thing such as corporate. Messes is its title, 11 magical pieces of song forms. “You” is soft breeze through an open window following the snarl of “Slow Motion.” This album is full of bangers, back to back. “Thin” (“Right when I get it pick it clean”) is simple and grooving. Indie rock, not the definition, but the idea. The record takes me to a time, but I won’t begrudge it, because this isn’t a throwback. “On and Off For You” offers more beauty, rawness in the voice of Stef Chura, and “Spotted Gold” is glorious. This album is the fall and the fight, the year begins, BANG!
Various Artists — Adult Swim Compilation: NOISE
Adult Swim compiled a group of songs from artists of the genre of noise, maybe it’s a genre? “Bodies For The Pile,” by clipping. featuring SICKNESS, begins this epic. It makes “Fuck The Police” sound like a ballad, a wonderful mix of a minimal noise piece and a fantastic flow, sinister and scary. Melt Banana is here with a punk rock song “Case D in the Test Tube,” I mean, it’s still MELT BANANA, but hey, you know. Pharmakon shows up with “Squall,” something your nightmares may have conjured up. Imagine, if you will, if it landed and came for you, this is that whole thing, and pretty in parts. For the unindoctrinated, let us not expect song forms, but these are songs with parts and repetitions, you could maybe even dance to pieces of it. BEAST, for instance has a tribal jam called “You’ve Got Rabies On Your Breath!” A drum circle or a séance, you decide, it’s 12 minutes, you have time, and oh yeah, there’s something trapped in the speakers, don’t worry, you’re safe. “Processional” from Noveller is a song, very beautiful. This is the one I would play for my friends. Have you ever been so stoned that you drooled on yourself looking at a flickering television screen and left the refrigerator open? Merzbow “For Adult” came to bring the pain hardcore to your brain, let’s go inside this astroplane. Arca’s “Bussy” is Arca doing what Arca does best; evoking ghosts and weird sexual energy. Wolf Eyes closes with the 18 minute “Subterranean Life,” a meditation on the bottom of the ocean complete with whale frequencies. And the entire album is free.
“I’ve tasted maggots, I ate bugs,” should always get the party started. Or “It feels good to buy something you can’t afford.” (Appropriate). Priests take you to church, revival style, shaking in the aisle, speaking in tongues, the whole shit; I am converted. “Nothing Feels Natural” is the latest from this powerhouse, more musical in places, with melodies and shit. “JJ” goes from kind of beach rock to something else, beautiful and stalking. “Leila 20” is one of those D.C. rockers like Slant 6, but all rhythm and blues and twisted; it has colors and movements, “You are a common thief in my worst dreams” sings Katie Alice Greer, the hairs on your arm will stand at attention. The whole band is firing on all cylinders. G.I. Jaguar’s guitar the assassin, Daniele Daniele’s percussion marching towards you, ladies let’s get in formation, Taylor Mulitz came to funk you up, it’s so much, it’s so much. “Nothing Feels Natural” shows up like a great Kim Gordon Sonic Youth rocker, “Suck” is Talking Heads, ’77 funk. Visit and revisit it, it is the show and the after party. I love this album. I love this album! Fuck it all.
The-Dream is an institution, responsible for some of the greatest songs of this period, from Rihanna’s “Umbrella” to Beyoncé’s “1+1” to sleeper bangers like Tinashe’s “Company.” He was on Life of Pablo and Seat at The Table. It seems like he’s your favorite’s favorite and I haven’t even mentioned Terius Nash : 1977, the beginning of his three album run. I’m always ready for whatever eccentricity he releases; as Kanye said, “Name one genius that ain’t crazy.” Case in point, “College Daze” it is hilarious, possibly offensive, and I’m sure it is neither to him. “I’ll forget about the things you did in college, if you forget about the things I did last night,” goes the actual lyrics of the song. That is weirdly brilliant. Or take something like “Rih-Flex,” a song about female empowerment, or maybe not, but “now you that bitch and she that nigga… you can’t stand what they say about ya, but one thing it made a man out ya.” “Ferris Wheel” is like a weird downbeat house song. Why does it work? Because Terius Nash is a motherfucker and yeah, you should hear this.
Cate Le Bon made one of the best albums of the year. I have two words for you, Stella Mozgawa, best drummimg on a record all year, just saying. Anyway, Rock Pool is composed of songs that didn’t make the excellent Crab Day. Crab Day had an essence that was individual, it was it’s own language. “Rock Pool” (the song) is a weird boogie; it’s funky, the gong and the tambourine, Tim Pressley is that you fucking up the spot? Nah nah nah nah nah nah. “Aside From Growing Old” is what is there, the world is what it is, uneventful, eventful. “Perfume Days” is karaoke taking over my life, talk to me baby about your hands on the furniture, this is poetry people, fucking musical poetry. Seriously? The band to which Le Bon is assigning these songs is killing it on all levels. “I Just Want To Be Good To You” is a marriage song, I cry when I hear it. I want to be, maybe I’m not, but I want to be. I don’t want to be an afterthought, I want to be good, “I don’t want sympathy for thinking I’m the worst, or thinking I don’t do.” It’s awesome because it’s true and real love. Damn you, Cate Le Bon. Stop breaking my heart.
Top 10 Albums of the Year – 2016
- Angel Olsen — My Woman
- Cate Le Bon — Crab Day
- Solange — Seat At The Table
- Claire Cronin — Came Down A Storm
- Jess Williamson — Heart Song
- Big Thief — Masterpiece
- Schoolboy Q — Blank Face
- Rihanna — Anti
- Frank Ocean — Blonde
- Neil Michael Hagerty — Denver