No Joy are streaming a new track “A Thorn In Garland’s Side”, which finds lead singer Jasamine White-Gluz and Laura Lloyd hammering out a blend of noise rock via hard-driven guitar with pretty backing guitar melody. This band has always been severely underrated, especially in how adept the group is in finding their own unique way of being both hard and soft. For most of the song Whiite-Gluz’s vocals play the salve to all the gutter-rough instrumentation, rushing and frenetic movement. But by the end, she’s at a near scream, before the song’s tidal wive of noise gives way to a gorgeous outro of simple guitar strumming and static. The song begins with a ringing phone being answered with “hello” and ends with a cheeky, self-satisfied “Glad I could help with whatever it is you’re doing.” The new single can be found on the band’s upcoming release “Drool Sucker”, out July 15 via Topshelf Records. Pre-order it here. Follow the band on twitter. — David D. Robbins Jr.
Everything is coming up gold in the Chicago rap world. TDE’s Lance Skiiiwalker is streaming a new debut track, “Speed”, produced by Rocket. It starts out with rattling bass, drum kit and static reverberations as he sings some innocuous lyrics about partying. But halfway through the song it shift gears, instrumentally and lyrically. The track becomes smooth and we get these verses: “But when I’m clean and sober all I see is you / And when the party’s over I’ll start it up with you.” Follow Lance Skiiiwalker at twitter. — David D. Robbins Jr.
Amid all the praise there’s also a slight sense of a backlash when it comes to the music of James Blake, who just released his third album, The Colour in Anything (2016), via Republic Records. The sad-sack UK singer-songwriter began his career softly with the odd EP here and there from 2010 through 2011, with idiosyncratic and artistically geeky titles like The Bells Sketch (2010), CMYK (2010) and Klavierwerke (2010), released on smallish labels like Hessle Audio and R&S Records, respectively. His music was multi-layered and full of the glitchy micro-electronics of a producer who may be shy about revealing too much or putting his vocals up front for a prolonged period of time. But something happened on the way to his 2010 debut full-length, appropriately titled James Blake, and his eventually earning a coveted Mercury Prize in 2013.
The difficult and obtuse parts of his early singles morphed into a more confident style that expressed fragility and intimacy through his digitized and soulful high falsetto. It seemed he was reveling in the elegiac waters. Frankly, there’s always a lot of jealousy in the music industry and talk of who is selling out and who is keeping it real. In a sense, Blake was just finding his voice, as all artists must, and his ever-increasing fan base is the better for it. He’s chosen to lead The Colour in Anything with the gut-wrenching single “I Need a Forest Fire” — one of the best songs he’s penned. Bon Iver/aka Justin Vernon adds vocals to the song and the two gentle-voiced men turn it into a real conflagration of soulful modal strutting. There’s a real power in the song’s torchy simplicity and musical repetition. It’s a track about searching for the type of rejuvenation that occurs in the regrowth after you burn the whole house down.
The new record features appearances from Frank Ocean, Connan Mockasin and production by legend Rick Rubin, who has worked with artists as varied as Kanye West and Tom Petty. Plus, Blake has worked with artists like Beyoncé on Lemonade (2016) and Vince Staples this year. But Blake proves once again he can also reach heights without the help. Nearly as good as “I Need a Forest Fire” is “Put That Away and Talk to Me”, the inflection and melody of the second half of the phrase tightropes delicately with the cavernous echoes and music box sounds in the backdrop. There’s a lot of cool experimentation on this LP, the opening track, “Radio Silence” centers around the phrase, “I can’t believe you don’t want to sleep”, and changes from ballad to mid-tempo halfway into the song, mixing sullen piano chords and repeated synth. But perhaps it’s the most simple track, the love song “f.o.r.e.v.e.r”, that best encapsulates the record. There’s a freedom and ease to it, resting in a less synthetic vocal and pure piano chords. Note: The LP is streaming via Spotify. Follow Blake via twitter. — David D. Robbins Jr.
It’s good to hear more and more rap taking race head on, like parts of Childish Major’s latest single, “Window Seat”. His vocals sound a little bit like A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip, as he namechecks the latter’s song “Bonita Applebum” in a verse about being impatient: “A need a check that’s thicker than Bonita …” But it’s what he does after that’s most impressive, rolling into these verses about confrontation: “I’m from the place where the Klan come / We was minding business then they told us to ‘hands up’ / Knowing shit ain’t right, forcing a nigga to stand up / Are we just that bad or is just bad luck? / Oh, you black huh? / Til it’s time to be black then you back up.” Besides his mellow flow and his ability to ease through slick pivoting rhymes (“I can wait up all alone and get my own / Knocking at the shelter doors like it’s home”) there’s something deeper than your standard rap fare here. The Atlanta producer is touching on what it means to be black. Follow Childish Major on twitter. — David D. Robbins Jr.
Graveface Records artist Night School will be releasing a debut 10-song record called Blush on June 17th (my birthday — if anyone wants to buy me a copy), which follows behind a 2014 debut EP “Heart Beat” and a split EP Carousel with label mates Dott. Currently, the trio of ladies (Alexandra Morte, drummer Baylie Arin and bassist Cheyenne Avant) are streaming a deliciously catchy single “Last Disaster” via soundcloud (along with a new video below) — a cool blending of garage-guitar slunk and retro 60s girl-group harmonized vocals that are pretty and bubblegum enough to conjure thoughts of synchronized hand movements and The Marvelettes, but for the scuzzed-up reverb and power chord anthemic build ups. The sound of “Last Disaster” will appeal to fans of Colleen Green, Eleni Mandell’s ‘The Grabs’ work and Waxahatchee — hell, even the Ramones. — David D. Robbins Jr.
Paranoid Radiohead is the Radiohead I love best. Especially when the band interprets societal convergence as mob rule, like they do in their latest song, “Burn the Witch”. Mob rule in the face of complacency. You get these wonderfully dark fairy-tale-turned nightmare sequences of witch-burning and people losing all sense: “Stay in the shadows / Cheer the gallows / This is a round-up / This is a low-flying panic attack / Sing the song of jukebox that goes / Burn the witch / Red crosses on wooden doors / If you float you burn / Loose talk around tables / Abandon all reason.” You can speculate as to what real-life events have summoned these metaphors, but I can think of many that are applicable — including Tea Party politics on this side of the Atlantic. This is Radiohead in warning mode, like the songs they were writing in Hail to the Thief (2003) and as early as Amnesiac (2001) with its threatening tone, grotesque as Grimm folktales, like “Knives Out”: “Look into my eyes / It’s the only way you’ll know I’m telling the truth / So knives out / Cook him up / Squash his head / Put him in the pot.” Even the instrumentation of “Burn the Witch” sounds mistrustful and suspicious, a long drone groans underneath frenetic and nervous strings, oscillating between slicing guitar and a lithe, creepy slithering underneath the driving pace. There’s a kind of warped beauty and disintegration inherent in “Burn the Witch”, not unlike “Like Spinning Plates”. There’s a darkness here that feels akin to the songs being written in 2011 by PJ Harvey (“This Glorious Land”), Bill Callahan’s “America!” and Radiohead’s LP “King of Limbs”, with its obvious war-time imagery. Frankly, “Burn the Witch” is a frightening indictment, full of second-sight and cultural doom. — David D. Robbins Jr.