ISSUE #38 / decEMBER 6, 2018
Words Ampersand / BMG / dBpm
It’s hard to believe that, after thirty one years and seventeen studio albums, this is Jeff Tweedy’s first solo effort of all original material. Meant to be a companion piece to his autobiography Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), this collection of tunes is his most focused since the heydays of Wilco, along with his most personal to date. There were always shades of his life coloring his songs, but they are usually hidden deep in metaphors and vague references. Here, he truthfully tackles his migraines and opioid addiction in “I Know What It’s Like” and “Having Been Is No Way To Be”; his doubts of fame in “How Hard It Is For A Desert To Die”; and the fears and acceptance of death with “Don’t Forget” and “How Will I Find You”. There is still the vague metaphorical style that peppers his Uncle Tupelo tunes and shines brightly in Wilco’s seminal work, but this time the lens is turned inward. Maybe it’s crossing the threshold of fifty last year that sparked this new personal approach. It’s no surprise to hear that he goes to the studio everyday; whether producing for others or working on his own material, it keeps him in touch with music and allows him to grow beyond the confines of a band into a true original artist all on his own.
He just played a free secret show at The Hideout last Friday to celebrate the albums release but doesn’t have any new Chicago dates at this time.
Some Rap Songs
Tan Cressida / Columbia / Sony
The third album from the Odd Future phenom eclipses the flashes of genius he has always shown. The entire record flows from one track to the next, creating a twenty four minute piece that is lyrically astounding and incredibly inventive in production. It follows his upward trajectory that began with the critically acclaimed Doris back in ‘13. He has already been around for so long it’s hard to remember he is only 24. Born as Thebe Neruda Kgositsile in Chicago to a law professor and a South African poet and activist, he soon moved to L.A. where he spent his formative years. He started rapping at a very young age, and showed enough promise that he joined the Odd Future collective in ‘09 at the age of fifteen. He was soon shipped off to a boarding school for at-risk youth in Samoa after his debut mixtape Earl became a hit, prompting a “Free Earl” movement within Odd Future and their fanbase. He returned a few years after to drop his debut full length and garner quite a bit of acclaim and fame. With the death of his father earlier this year, he retreated from public life, canceling a tour (including a set at Pitchfork Music Fest), a move that really comes to the forefront in this record. His most personal to date, tackling issues of depression, parental strife, drug use and much more; the laid back verses over the top of repetitive beat conceits that include all sorts of instrumentation, make for one of the best hip hop albums of the year. In a world of hour plus albums, it’s refreshing for an artist to get in and say what they want to say without even traditional song structure. A phenomenal work from one of hip hop’s most inventive artists.
He has only had a few dates this year and currently is not touring.
Dreamville / Interscope
One of J.Cole’s fast talking Dreamville artists JID releases his 2nd studio album, Dicaprio 2, which is full of juxtaposing flows, melodies, and beats. The East-Atlanta rapper releases single “Off Deez” which features J.Cole who, with a quick lyrical rap flow, succeeds in paying homage to the label’s new artist. Dicaprio 2 shows off the artist’s versatility in his flows. In the track “Slick Talk”, JID starts off with his known quick flow underlined by a fast paced melody; around the middle of the track, the beat breaks ups with what sounds like someone changing TV stations, and a smoother melody transitions underlining a smoother rap flow. The album offers features as well: from Asap Ferg, providing the hook for the track “Westbrook”; to 6LACK and Ella Mai’s R&B feature in “Tiiied”. JID’s track “Strawberries” (featuring BJ the Chicago Kid) gives the album a funk track, mixing JID rapidfire flow with BJ’s soulful singing. The most controversial song in the album, “Off Da Zoinkys”, relates to the current drug issue within the rap community, especially amongst the newer SoundCloud rapper. And even though the rapper admits writing with a drink and blunt in his hand, he states that he gave up the harder drugs. The album is full of complex mixtures of lyrics and play on phrases, and JID does an amazing job letting the audience hear the lyrics while spitting rapidly and creating a flow not many rappers are known to have.
JID will be at the Patio Theater with Ski Mask the Slump God on Dec 22nd. Tix are $32 to $60.
Foxwarren / Anti
Andy Shauf, the Canadian singer/songwriter who garnered acclaim for his last album The Party, is back with a full band album full of lightly strummed indie folk and breathy vocal melodies. Foxwarren was formed years ago, and the project has been slowly creating this piece of work when Shauf was back home in Regina, Saskatchewan. Along with childhood friend Dallas Bryson, and brothers Darryl and Avery Kissick they sequestered themselves in the Kissick household and began writing what would become their debut album. Shauf has had a busy schedule the past few years and the project was put on hold for a bit, but now they’ve shared it with the world. It’s a sprawling trip across a musical landscape, and with plenty of evidence of their indie folk forebears influence, but just enough of their own wit, and psyche rock tendencies, to set them apart. Foxwarren has produced a solid, if not excellent work, that is surprisingly cohesive given our knowledge of the years it took for it to come to fruition.
They have no tour dates planned.
Maybach / Atlantic
Meek Mill presents his anticipated 4th studio album, Championship, months after his jail release and the release of his popular radio love hit “Dangerous”, featuring PnB Rock and Jeremiah from his Legends of the Summer EP. This album is also packed with features like Drake, Cardi B, Jay Z, and Rick Ross. Fans have been patiently waiting for this album that consists of a variety of tracks, from bangers to love songs, that touch on Meek Mill’s childhood and his time in prison. Meek Mill starts the album with an intro track, in which he raps to the beat of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” while talking about losing childhood friends to the destructive Philadelphia neighborhood he grew up in. The Championship album has bangers like, “Uptown Vibes”, “On Me” (with Cardi B continuing her feud with rapper Nicki Minaj), and “Going Bad” (ending his feud with Drake). In the more serious tracks, Meek Mill raps without any features like in “Almost Slipped”, a song about falling in love with a woman who loves multiple men; and “Trauma”, the track about his time in jail and the corruption of the judicial system. The album has great melodies to both the bangers (more hyped and upbeat) and serious tracks portraying Meek’s life. Even the love songs have a smooth beat, like someone whispering sweet things into a woman’s ear. The album gave a great variety of entertaining, serious and heartfelt tracks. This is an album that fan’s of the Philly rapper have been waiting for.
Meek Mill will be in Chicago on March 8th 2019 at the Aragon. Tix are $59.50
The Pains of Growing
Def Jam / UMG
Alessia Cara can capture the imagination with a simple turn of phrase or a burst of vocal prowess. She is the kind of pop star that can transcend genre and just be seen as a musician. She traverses the pop landscape on her new album The Pains of Growing, gifting us with tunes that embrace soul, R&B, hip hop and pop--sometimes all at once. At 22, the once YouTube celeb turned musician is one of those rare pop artists who write their own material, and it is as personal as they come. It’s no wonder she is embraced by young people everywhere. The Italian-Canadian singer/songwriter captures the spirit and heartaches that youth brings in such a truthful way, these tunes really do come straight from the source. Soon to become a cultural icon, this may be Cara’s last under-the-radar effort. She has been steadily climbing the ladder to pop stardom and we will definitely see her at the top soon.
She has no tour dates planned at the moment.
Big Brother & The Holding Company
Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills
Columbia / Sony
Janis Joplin was a force of nature. No one has ever, or will ever, be able to replicate the power and emotion that emanated from that 5’5” frame. This new collection of unreleased material celebrates the fifty year anniversary of Big Brother & The Holding Company’s second album Cheap Thrills. Their last album with Janis, as she soon left to pursue a solo career. The studio outtakes, live performances and unreleased cuts on this two hour collection show her and the band at the peak of their powers. A voice and a sound that would capture generations after, and be many people’s first real exposure to the Blues. This is a must have for any fan of classic rock and a must listen for any music fan. From the several versions of “Piece of My Heart” and “Farewell Song” that show her versatility and vitality, to the amazing live version of “Ball And Chain”, to the rolling swagger of outtakes “Roadblock” and “Oh, Sweet Mary”, this collection deserves to be championed by collectors and casual fans alike.
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
Dirty Hit / Polydor / Interscope
This might be the 743th review in the last week for A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships by the 1975, but who says we can’t have a 744th? For those who weren’t aware, The 1975 are:
Matty Healy (Vocals)
George Daniel (Drums)
Adam Hann (Guitar)
Ross MacDonald (Bass)
This is a band that was dubbed “The Most Hated & Loved Band” after their second album came out. What? How? Oh, maybe it’s their self obsessed lead singer, or their previous album title I like it how you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware. Yes, they really did that.
Annoying, but at the same time, their tunes really stand up. Don't believe me? A Brief Inquiry has received glowing reviews from just about all the major music critics. NME gave it 5 stars, old man Rolling Stone praised it, and even crabby / smug / “all rock music sucks” Pitchfork scored an 8.5.
Many are calling A Brief Inquiry this decade's Ok Computer. Bold, huh? I think the major critics respect the experimentation from a young band like the 1975. They respect the risk taking and the audacity to be different—just like Radiohead in the late 90's / early 2000's. But here's the difference, and here's what pisses people off about the 1975—they aren’t retreating into a hole to be an art project like Radiohead did – The 1975 want to transcend a generation and be massive. And, lead singer, Matty Healy, is not afraid to say it. He sounds more like Bono instead of Thom Yorke. But let's get to the tunes...
A Brief Inquiry is a splattered canvas that tallies up to 15 tracks and maybe 11 genres, give or take. On the first side of the record, Healy and company make you want to dance with the Emo punky “Give Yourself a Try” and the darling pop sing-along “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME”. After things get instrumental, things then get political with “Love it if we made it”—an 80’s synth rocker that combines some of Healy’s most angry and inspirational singing to date.
And then, just when your bones are on fire, Healy strips it completely down and begins singing about his hormones and feelings. And for some, including me, this can be a little frustrating. The album is so unpredictable that it almost becomes a little distracting. This extreme ebb and flow with the tempos is a common theme throughout the album. It’s head scratching, but your curiosity is enhanced for what might come next...
“Sincerity is Scary”. The beginning of the song sounds like an elementary jazz band rehearsal, and then it morphs into this uplifting gospel sing-along. I despised this hot mess of a song at first, and then I came to love it. They make you sing that chorus with them “Why can’t we be friends when we are lovers?” Check out the video as well... Brilliant. Up next, auto-tune Healy is singing about his relationship with America, and then Siri makes a guest appearance. Remember Ok Computer? The moments are wild and audacious…but somehow it still works.
Now, if you don’t have the patience for the first half of the record, or really The 1975 all together, skip to the end of the record. “Inside Your Mind” is a poignant ballad that draws you in with its beautiful piano and Healy's disturbing lyrics. Then you have the 80’s bop about Healy's heroin addiction “It’s Not Living If It’s Not With You”. The 1975 do this sound really well.
But if there’s one track… it’s the last track—“I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)". Call it late 90’s "Iris"; call it their Manchester Brit Pop "Champagne Supernova"—this is the mammoth cinematic moment that closes the album. A grand way to end the album that will make for a cathartic live show experience in their upcoming tour. They try 90's rock for the first time, and they succeed. That's the genius of this record and The 1975. They sound authentic and even original with most anything they try.
So, there you have it... they have made their Ok Computer. What could possibly be next? Perhaps, another left turn that dares to fail but somehow succeeds? Whether you can stand it or not, The 1975 are just getting started.
The 1975 are playing in Chicago on May 18th, 2019 at The United Center