Humanz: In-Progress Thoughts

The Gorillaz just released a new song called Let Me Out as I type this. My phone buzzed and everything. But more on that in a bit.

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I know they’ve been aging with us, but it’s still weird to see cartoon characters all grown up. Photo courtesy of RedBull.com.

It took me a few days of listening to collect my thoughts on the four songs off Humanz we’ve witnessed so far. I’ve got mixed feelings about all of them, but they’ve only made me want to hear more. We know how the Gorillaz operate; the album is a message, so getting bits of it at various intervals isn’t satisfying. It’s like eating a steak dinner over the course of a week. But they put enough thought into their art to make it worth a six-year wait. And that’s why I love the Gorillaz.

We know we haven’t got the full story yet. Let’s recap:

Hallelujah Money: 1/19/17

Ascension: 3/23/17

Saturnz Barz: 3/23/17

We got the Power: 3/23/17

Andromeda: 3/23/17

And now…

Let Me Out: 4/6/17

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Photo courtesy of the Gorillaz YouTube.

Hallelujah Money was released at an interesting time, all by itself. It drew tons of criticism for being “un-Gorillaz,” and its critics were further criticized for being critical. I have a few thoughts on this that you’ll likely want to hear, seeing as you’re reading my blog: The Gorillaz work hard to not have a typical style. In fact, their style is that they don’t have a style; they experiment outside of their genre. It adds mystique and rejects structured normativity and it’s what drives fans crazy with delight. All I can think is when fans listened to Hallelujah Money and thought, That doesn’t sound like the Gorillaz, they really meant was, That doesn’t sound like Plastic Beach.

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Photo courtesy of Metro

My other opinion on this matter is that you can be a fan of something without loving everything about it. Example: I think the US is pretty neat, but I also wish we didn’t have a Cheeto as president. If you’re one of the people worried you’re not a Gorillaz fan because you don’t like what you’ve heard of Humanz, or if you’re on the opposite end telling others they’re not Gorillaz fans because they don’t like what they’ve heard of Humanz, cut it out.

But back to its release date: January 19th, 2017. The day before the presidential inauguration. The Gorillaz’ music has always been attune to what’s going on in the world at the time, and though it was written several months before the election, the creators admit that afterwards, the album took on a new meaning. I won’t badger you with my analysis of the significance of its release date and it’s lyrics; I’ll provide a few of my favorite lyrics here and leave that to you (and if you can tell me what the Spongebob wail at the end of the song means, you get bonus points).

Scarecrows from the Far East/ Come to eat/ Its tender fruits/ And I thought the best way to perfect our tree/ Is by building walls/ Walls like unicorns/ In full glory/ And galore/ And even stronger/ Than the walls of Jericho

Until we say so, nothing will move/ Ah, don’t worry/ It’s not against our morals/ It’s legally tender/ Touch my friend/ While the whole world/ And whole beasts of nations desire/ Power

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Photo courtesy of Pitchfork.

Next up is Ascension. I’m not an EDM person, so I’m not a fan of this one, but it sure does have some killer lines. Albarn himself said in an interview that Humanz is a “party, club record,” but it has a “weird darkness about it.” Saturnz Barz is what really got me. The video was crammed with references to horror films, likely the work of Jamie Hewlett, who’s a huge fan of the classic thrillers. The main theme of the Clint Eastwood video and the ends of Rock the House‘s video are inspired by the horror genre. As it’s clear most of the visual budget was diverted to the Saturnz Barz video, I’d recommend watching it multiple times. There are tons of hidden gems in the details, the first being a creepy face in the basement window appearing only four seconds in!

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Photo courtesy of Something About Magazine.

We got the Power and Andromeda came next, judging by the corresponding music videos. Though similarly to Ascension‘s video, it’s clear the creatives didn’t invest as much as they did in Saturnz Barz. This is surprisingly common for the band. Tomorrow Comes Today‘s video was done in two weeks, as Jamie forgot he had a deadline for the project after animating other videos for their Gorillaz album.

I was intending to weigh in on Let me Out, but I’ve only listened to it three times. As any Gorillaz fan knows, that’s not nearly enough if you want to understand the song. Their music is so intricate and thought out, enjoyment comes with familiarization of each album.

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Photo courtesy of HotNewHipHop.

This is why I’m excited for the end of the month. Three weeks doesn’t sound like too short, but stand by! Humanz will be released on April 28th.

Have a Scien-tastic Day!

Connie’s Deep Cuts – Vol. 1

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On Connie and the Deep Time, we strive to introduce our listeners to new songs, artists, and even genres. Unfortunately, two hours isn’t nearly long enough for me to go into detail on all of the music that I play on the show. To make up for this transgression, I would like to officially unveil the first volume of Connie’s Deep Cuts. Now, you might ask, “Connie, what are you talking about?”. Well, I’m talking about three albums that have been stuck in my head for the past few weeks. Let’s get into them.

Thundercat – Drunk
Genre: Jazz Fusion/ R&B
Moods: Funky / Drunk

If you haven’t heard of Thundercat yet, here’s an introduction. He’s a multi-instrumentalist, certified funky dude, and has done collaborations with as far-ranging artists as Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and even Eric Andre (with whom he made a very entertaining music video with). On Drunk, Thundercat lays down tracks with what seems like a lack of inhibition. Within the span of a few minutes, Thundercat goes from contemplating life on the track “Where I’m Going”, to singing chorus for Wiz Khalifa on “Drink Dat”. Earlier in the album, Thundercat boasts about leaving a girl in the “Friend Zone” before pining about his feelings of ineptitude on “Them Changes”. While the topics of his songs may seem all over the place, its the production that really ties the album together. Harkening back to 70’s funk, Thundercat’s basslines and beats could get even the oldies grooving. On top of that, the album features a plethora of outstanding features, such as Kendrick on “Walk On By” and music legends Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins on “Show You The Way”. While I can’t legally recommend the consumption of alcohol, I can definitely recommend listening to Drunk.

Shag – Me Again
Genre: Beat Tape/ Hip-Hop
Moods: Chill

I first found Shag through a youtube video featuring his song “Know the Feelin'” overlayed over scenes from the movie Lupin III: The Fuma Conspiracy – and I was immediately hooked. The song features a sample from A Tribe Called Quest‘s “Stressed Out” and a primo beat. Words can’t really do it justice, so here’s the link. After a few weeks of deliberation, I finally gave his debut album a listen. Undoubtedly, Shag shows real finesse in picking out samples. The titular track, “Me Again”, features a sample from The Pharcyde‘s “Passin’ Me By”, another hip-hop classic. Just from these samples alone, it is obvious that Shag has an appreciation for 90’s rap – which makes sense, as the guy is only 24 years old. The majority of the album is relatively relaxed, except for highlight “Ring Out”, which has a distinct chiptunes-inspired production. If you’re beat-hungry or just need something to study to, give Me Again a listen.

Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band – S/T
Genre: Big Band/ Disco
Moods: Uplifting / Spring

I cannot explain how happy I was to stumble upon this album. I was hooked through an off-chance listening to “Sunshower”, a song that I can easily see myself listening to decades from now. With a chorus that is as much of an ear worm as it is cheerful, its hard not to love. A quick round of research revealed that the song has been sampled by the likes of Ghostface Killah, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest, among others. Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band was a disco band from the late 70’s, who are mostly known for their #1 Dance hit, “Cherchez La Femme/C’est Si Bon”. If you haven’t the faintest idea what I’m talking about, don’t sweat it too much. The point is, this is possibly one of the most feel-good albums of all time. Just listen to “Hard Times” once, with its booming bass drum and soulful hook, and I’m sure you’ll agree. The whole album features a plethora of instruments, utilized in a way that gives each one its own weight. The vocals are so interlaced with the beat that they are basically another instrument in the orchestra that is Dr. Savannah’s Original Savannah Band. If you ever find yourself on a Sunday afternoon with nothing to do, do something productive and give this album a listen – and then a few more.

I hope you liked the first edition of Connie’s Deep Cuts, dear readers. If you haven’t figured out exactly what this is yet, I guess I should explain (but honestly, I think you get the gist). Every few weeks I’ll be putting out these blogs to highlight some albums that I appreciate. Each new edition will feature completely different albums, with fresh moods and quirky tidbits. If you liked what you’ve seen so far, keep in touch and I’ll serve you up some more tasty recommendations. Come meet me in the Deep Time, Connie out.

 

The Best Albums Of 2017 So Far

2016 blessed us with incredible new music. From Kanye’s The Life Of Pablo, to Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book, and to in my opinion, the greatest album to have ever been produced, Frank Ocean’s Blonde, it was just a great year for music.

We’re three months into 2017, and the new music is starting to pour in. The year is still young, but here are some of the best new albums that have been released so far:

American Teen – Khalid 

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Khalid’s debut album, American Teen, is just the very beginning to the successful music career glowing in front of him. At only 18 years old, Khalid has made huge waves with his single, ‘Location,’ which can be found on American Teen. This album is emotionally crafted with soulful 90’s vibes and smooth vocals. American Teen is one of those rare albums that you can listen to from start to finish, without skipping any songs, and you’ll never get tired of hearing it. Highlights include: ‘Saved’, ‘Location’, and ‘Shot Down’

Mansionz – Mansionz

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Mansionz is a new duo featuring singer-songwriter, Mike Posner, and singer-producer, Blackbear. The self-entitled album consists of electronic-based hip-hop and R&B pop. It’s a unique combination that deserves more attention. The transitions from each song are flawless, and blends perfectly. Highlights include: ‘The Life Of A Troubadour’, ‘I’m thinking about horses’, ‘nobody knows’, and ‘My Beloved’

CollXtion II: Unsolved – Allie X

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Canadian singer-songwriter, Allie X, has been working on her second studio album, and it’s for sure a bop. Her sound can be described as edgy electronic pop, and it’s just different than anything else. Highlights include: ‘That’s So Us’ and ‘Too Much To Dream’

I See You – The xx

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I See You is The xx’s junior album, and in my opinion, their best. The xx have always been known for their calming and soothing vocals, and they lived up to expectations yet again. The production of their third album has been a step up from their past work, and it’s honestly beautiful. Highlights include: ‘Lips’, ‘Brave For You’, and ‘Performance’

Process – Sampha

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Heavy emotions can be found in Sampha’s debut LP. Process contains R&B roots, and vocals that sound almost haunting. Sampha rediscovers himself through his work, and you can hear the vulnerability in his LP.  Highlights include: ‘What Shouldn’t I Be?’, ‘Plastic 100ºC’, and ‘Take Me Inside’

I can’t wait to hear what else is yet to come in 2017, and I do have high expectations

Music Ratings are Nothing More than Opinion: Artists Done Dirty by Pitchfork

 

IMG_1433Judging music is merely an illusion. No one can actually quantify what the people like because the people, after all, are all unique. What one person thinks is crap, another will consider a masterpiece, and a small group of people can’t decide for the masses what is good and what is not in such a subjective field. Music is purely preference. My prime example has to be Pitchfork. I appreciate Pitchfork news and updates and being exposed to new music, along with the music festival they host in Chicago, but many of the ratings are far from what the populace would consider correct. Unless you’re Radiohead or someone who follows the “uncommercial” pitchfork aesthetic, don’t expect to find an album someone makes in the pitchfork perfect tens category. In fact, there are more than a handful of albums that I don’t believe deserved a perfect 10 in general or by genre. I implore you, the reader, to take any review with a grain of salt and listen to an album before you write it off. You might end up missing a diamond in the rough and hate yourself when you finally get into an artist and find out their concert was 3 weeks ago in your hometown.

1.  The Airborne Toxic Event  (1.6/10)
An old rating but a good album, the self-titled The Airborne Toxic Event is a popular indie band from the mid-2000s. While this band received praise on this album, pitchfork decided the album was not worth their time. It didn’t phase this band much, they even wrote an open letter sarcastically inviting pitchfork to watch one of their “moody and dramatic” concerts.

2.  Mumford & Sons- 1st and 3rd albums. (2.1/10-2.0/10)
This is an example band that doesn’t fit the mold the raters are looking for. I’ll admit, you either love them or you hate them, but in the end, Mumford and his band didn’t deserve the low ratings. The reasoning for the low rating was due to Pitchfork thinking that they are a Fleet Foxes knock off (Every rated Fleet Foxes album has received an 8.7 or higher), along with alluding to them being phony or fake artists ([They] are in the costume business.They’re playing dress-up in threadbare clothes.). Either way, after 2+ World tours, 3 albums, and 2 EPs, I don’t think M&S cares much for their ratings in the first place.

3. Hamilton The Mixtape (4.8/10)
Hamilton, the Tony Award-winning musical, received less than a 5 on the mixtape version, which consisted of many well-known artists collaborating on the rap tracks that the world has been learning history through all of 2016. The reason for the low rating? Basically, It wasn’t the same as the original and it lacks the narrative of a musical. Crazy. I invite pitchfork to find any musical soundtrack that has the same narrative as the onstage production, excluding operas and operettas, which tend to have no dialogue outside of their songs.

4. Nine Inch Nails- The Fragile (2/10-10)
Nine Inch Nails in 2017 received a 8.7 on their reissued album The Fragile, but in 1999 NIN received a 2/10 on the same album. After some digging, I found the original review. It still exists, but any linking to the page does not. Almost 20 years later after their review was deemed futile, and NIN popular, and the original deleted. The lead singer Trent Reznor had no nice words for pitchfork, which a lot of artists seem to agree with these days.

5. Childish Gambino- Camp (1.6/10)
Pitchfork basically said Gambino was too conceited for rap and should stick to comedy. Camp definitely isn’t Because the Internet or any of his other works, but it is a quality album that Pitchfork didn’t give the time of day. Find Gambino on any “Certified Bangers” playlist at your local college campus. Email me if you genuinely honestly believe this album didn’t deserve better.

6. The Killers- Any of their albums (5.2-6.4)
The Killers are known for their amazing songs. To this day I know every word off of Sam’s Town and any of their singles including Mr. Brightside and Somebody Told Me, which were both on Hot Fuss, The Killers’ first album. Pitchfork has never liked The Killers and basically say their sound is too generic or their albums aren’t cohesive enough, wanting every track to be the screaming your head off in the car with your friends while people stare at you masterpiece that Mr. Brightside ended up being (Hot Fuss deserves at least an 8.5 in my opinion). Even the greatest hits album received a low score, which means that Pitchfork just really does not like this band.

7. Ed Sheeran- Divide (2.8/10)
The initial Artist that inspired this article. Sheeran probably doesn’t care what an American music rating website has to say about his new album when it has no effect on whether or not he’s going to sell out his next stadium (to be clear; the stadium is going to sell out even if he released 50 minutes of straight fart noises). A short summary of this album review is that Ed’s music is that Ed shouldn’t rap and the shallow album has no real worth.

8. Travis Morrison- Travistan (0/10)
Fans of Travis Morrison will proudly say that Travistan is worth a listen. Lead singer of the indie band The Dismemberment Plan decided to come out with an album and got a crushing review from Pitchfork in 2004. If you are able to write, produce, and sell an album, anything written definitely does not deserve a 0/10 even if the content is poor. Not saying this album is poor, many people enjoy this album. The review mildly hurt Morrison’s career but he still made more music after this review came and out and for that, we thank him for proving his naysayers wrong.

 

Say what you must about these albums, but I can assure you that they are all pretty decent listens, even if they aren’t my musical preference. Take a second to listen to an album, even if you’re weary of what everyone says about it. It might end up being your favorite. If you have any artists you think were done dirty, comment below and I’ll add them to the list.

Our Lord And Savior Lorde Has Returned!

Lorde – queen of dark pop – has returned with a new single and suddenly my skin is clear, the sun is out, I have been rebirthed  and I am ready to pop off!

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In 2013, Lorde released her debut album, Pure Heroine, which landed her two Grammy awards, keep in mind she was only 17 when this happened. 17.

Pure Heroine was a genius record. It was dark and dreamy, and different from any other pop music at that time. The writing was so mature and deep, and again I repeat, Lorde was only…17. 17. My biggest accomplishment at 17 was the ability to get out of bed each morning and sit through six hours of public school. Amazing.

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Anticipation has been boiling up since 2013 as we all have been waiting for Lorde to serve us with new music, and today, Thursday March 2nd, 2017, she has finally given us a glimpse into her newest work.

Her new single, “Green Light,” lived up to all of our expectations. It was a long wait, but it was totally worth it. The single and the music video itself single handily saved 2017, being the heartbreak anthem of the year, and I cannot wait to hear the rest of her sophomore album.

Lorde tweeted, “I am so proud of this song. It’s very different, and kinda unexpected. It’s complex and funny and sad and joyous and it’ll make you DANCE.”

And she’s not wrong. “Green Light” does hold an unique sound to it, different from anything off of Pure Heroin, but it’s normal for artists to grow and switch up their sound, and try new things. And most of all, this song is for sure a bop, and it WILL make you want to dance.

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Lorde has received so much support on Twitter from fellow artists such as Troye Sivan, Dua Lipa, and Katy Perry, and she deserves all the love.

Lorde is unbelievably talented. She’s unique, and there’s no other pop artist quite like her. We might as well give her sophomore album all of the Grammys right now.

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DUA LIPA! DUA LIPA! DUA LIPA!

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Words cannot begin to describe my love for the new up and coming dark pop artist, Dua Lipa. This morning Lipa announced the dates for her U.S headlining tour, and you KNOW you’ll catch me at her Chicago show on February 24th at Lincoln Hall.

Dua Lipa is a 22-year-old musician from London, who is musically influenced by artist such as Kendrick Lamar and Nelly Furtado. She began her career by uploading covers to YouTube, and then started to write original music, her first song being, “Hotter Than Hell,” which is a total bop.

Lipa has a nineties vibe to her style, with a unique and poised personality, which makes it impossible not to adore her.

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In the past year, Lipa has released new music, played shows in Europe, and was an opening act for Troye Sivan during his Suburbia Tour. On January 6th, Lipa released a new single, “Thinking ‘Bout You,” which serves as a soulful ballad. Later this year Lipa will also be releasing a new album, that I so look forward to hearing.

Lipa’s most popular song, “Blow Your Mind (Mwah),” has been catching the airwaves, and has been a major jam for the clubs. In case you need any more persuasion to love Dua Lipa as much as I do, here are some of her best live performances:

  1. “Blow Your Mind (Mhaw)” – from BBC

2. Cover of Mark Ronson’s “Somebody To Love Me” with Troye Sivan

3. “Hotter Than Hell” – at Capital’s Jingle Bell Ball

Artist To Listen To: Gordi

I’m all for promoting small artists who I truly and deeply believe deserve more attention. This past week, I’ve had the artist, Gordi, on repeat.

Sophie Payten, also known as, Gordi, with only about 240,000 listeners on Spotify, is a 23-year-old musician from a small farming community in Australia.  Her EP, Clever Disguise, was released earlier this year, and boy is it a piece of art.

The tracks on the EP, are simple acoustic guitar and piano pieces that she had written on her own in her college dorm room; a sound similar to the artist, Bon Iver. With warm indie tones and tender lyrics, Clever Disguise has found a special place in my heart.

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“Can We Work It Out,” has been the most popular track off of the debut EP, which I totally understand. It’s a beautiful song that makes me feel like I’m waking up on a Sunday morning and drinking coffee with the one I love the most.

Out of the five tracks on the EP, I would have to say, “Wanting,” is my favorite. “Wanting,” has been my emotional crutch this week. When I first heard the song, it hit me like a bag of bricks because of how much it relates to my feelings at this particular time in my life. Actually, I am listening to it as I write this, and wow, my poor little heart.

Overall, if you have a tender heart, like bonfire music, or in need of music to play while you drive on to the highway and into the sunset, Gordi’s Clever Disguise is the EP for you. It is crafted together so delicately, and I highly suggest you check it out.  Genuine music that comes from a genuine place is rare these days; don’t pass it up.

You can find Gordi here:

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6UBMFaCTZnL1Hr1nTOEblM

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GordiMusic

Indie Binge: 3 Artists You May Have Missed

As a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer, you could say that I kind of like music. In fact, I really really really do. I can always be found listening closely for my next musical obsession, in nearly any genre out there. I’ve gathered such a mass of artists I listen to, I see no reason in so selfishly keeping them to myself. My friends know that I am notorious for hording the aux cord, and my roommates don’t seem to mind all the music coming out of my room. At least, not yet. There are many more from where this shortlist comes from, and I promise, they’re all just as talented. Continue reading “Indie Binge: 3 Artists You May Have Missed”

Kandace Springs on Noteworthy

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Ivan of Noteworthy here again (Mondays, 6PM-8PM at uicradio.org). I’m back to share an interview with Kandace Springs that I aired on this week’s show. She’s a jazz singer/pianist from Nashville who just released her debut album, Soul Eyes on Blue Note Records and has even shared the stage with Prince. The album features production work from Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers (the guys who discovered Rihanna) and Grammy-winner Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock). We talked about why she decided to go in the direction of jazz for her first album after working mostly in R&B and hip hop before and watching movies with Prince. Listen to the interview below and keep up with Kandace at kandacesprings.com and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.