Album Review: MGMT – Little Dark Age

26804787_10157140664749768_3154443080012253959_n

Artist: MGMT

Album: Little Dark Age

Genre: Synth Pop/Psychedelic Pop

Rating: 8/10

Most people would kill to have a hit single. To have that instant success which leads to a luxurious lifestyle of wealth and fame. It’s what a lot of people fantasize about, but what happens when the hit singles you’re known for shadows over your aspiration to experiment and to innovate? That’s the part most people fail to consider. “Psychedelic Pop” duo “MGMT” right off the bat spawned the hit singles “Kids,” “Electric Feel,” and “Time To Pretend” when they released their debut album Oracular Spectacular back in 2007. This lead to immense success for the band, but this became more of a curse than a gift. The band were determined to shed that colorful “Indie Pop” image they didn’t want by following up that record with Acid soaked Psychedelia that drew a lot from 60’s “Psych-Rock” and bands such as “The Flaming Lips” or “Animal Collective,” but a lot of people weren’t on board with this progression. The more Experimental they got, the more they alienated themselves from fans and critics alike. It’s simply unfair. A lot of people failed to recognize how incredible the band’s second album Congratulations was, and when the band released their self-titled third album in 2013 they got even weirder making music that was unlistenable. Many began to question the future of the band, and then the band disappeared for five years. Now with a new sense of inspiration the band have returned with their fourth album Little Dark Age. “MGMT” have gone back to making Poppy music again with this album, but they do it without sacrificing their love for Psychedelia. These songs aren’t as lengthy or acid soaked as most of their post-Oracular Spectacular material, but where there’s a catchy tune there’s also moments filled with freak out synths, lush sound textures, and abstract lyricism. On this record “MGMT” embrace the fact that they are great at writing Pop tunes, but they do it in their own terms, and instead of giving in to modern Pop tropes, the band makes Pop music from another decade, and this decade that strongly makes it’s presence heard loud and proud is the 80’s. That’s right, this album sounds like the band went back in time to a place dominated with cheesy synths, big hair, and hot pink leg warmers, and speaking of leg warmers, the album’s opening track  “She Works Out Too Much” was made to sound like an 80’s work out video. It’s filled with double entendres with the voice of a female aerobics instructor played by Allene Norton of “Cellars.” The track is about a relationship that broke apart simply because the man in the relationship didn’t work out as much as the woman, and even though he tried, her obsession with looking good lead to her shallowness. This is a fun track filled with clever workout metaphors and it puts you right into an 80’s workout video. The following track, which is the album’s title track makes a drastic change in mood with it’s dark “Goth” flavor. Andrew VanWyngarden’s vocals are robotic, adding to the ominous nature of the track, and in true “MGMT” fashion the lyrics are abstract and quite cryptic, but one thing is clear, this is cynicism and pessimism at their finest. “Go fuck yourself. You heard me right. Don’t call me nice again” VanWyngarden sings on “When You Die,” and that dark humor is one of the many elements that make this album such a fun listen, even if the subject matter is grim for the most part. However this album isn’t without it’s flaws, the tracks “James” and “Days That Got Away” feel like filler tracks and are awkwardly placed on the album, giving the listener an unnecessary break from the action, but the album picks right back up with the surprisingly optimistic and 80’s soaked “One Thing Left To Try.” The following track “When You’re Small” is a melancholy ballad that musically pays homage to Congratulations era “MGMT,” and the album’s closing track “Hand It Over” is dreamy in tone, but the subject matter deals with the frightening result of this Trump era we’ve been forced to endure. This is a return to form for “MGMT.” It’s a reinvention. The band that refused to acknowledge their hits for years have now figured out a way to utilize their talent at creating catchy music without selling out, and if this is just the beginning then maybe, just maybe the ones still holding on to “Electric Feel” can finally open their eyes to see the genius of “MGMT” that has always been there.

Written By: Steven Sandoval

Date: 02/12/18

Kendrick Lamar and SZA Release New Music Video For “All The Stars”

kendrick-lamar-all-the-stars

The highly anticipated new “Marvel” film Black Panther will hit theaters on February 16th, but the film’s star-studded soundtrack will drop this Friday. Kendrick Lamar curated the soundtrack, and so far we’ve been treated to a few incredible tracks from the soundtrack, one of them being Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All The Stars,” and now the two “Top Dawg Entertainment” labelmates have released a stunning new music video for the song. Check it out below:

Car Seat Headrest Share New Song “My Boy (Twin Fantasy)”

422ca05b

“Car Seat Headrest” will release their re-working of Will Toledo’s 2011 album Twin Fantasy on February 16th, and the tracks the band have shared so far are cleaner and punchier than their raw and lo-fi versions that appear on that 2011 album. The album’s opening track “My Boy (Twin Fantasy)” is no exception. It’s beginning to look like a re-worked version of this album is completely necessary. Check out the new version of “My Boy (Twin Fantasy)” below:

A Perfect Circle Announce New Album “Eat The Elephant”

apc-2

The wait is finally over. After 14 years “A Perfect Circle” will release their new album Eat The Elephant on April 20th. The band have unveiled the tracklist and the cover art, and they have also released another new track from the album titled “TalkTalk.” You can listen to the track and check out the tracklist and cover art below:

 

Eat The Elephant Cover Art:

27655116_1680368188673404_1310115866642937764_n

Eat The Elephant Tracklist:

1. Eat the Elephant
02. Disillusioned
03. Contrarian
04. The Doomed
05. So Long, And Thanks For All the Fish
06. TalkTalk
07. By and Down the River
08. Delicious
09. DLB
10. Hourglass
11. Feathers
12. Get the Lead Out

Album Review: JPEGMAFIA – Veteran

85968487-B15F-41DA-9704-DD0E59AB8D7F

Artist: JPEGMAFIA

Album: Veteran

Genre: Experimental Hip Hop/Industrial Hip Hop

Rating: 8/10

The fate of Hip Hop is kind of up in the air right now. It’s hard not to get the sense that “Trap” is on it’s way out, and Migos’ agonizing new album is just another nail in that coffin. Sure we have the handful of revered rappers who bring lyrical skill combined with modern production to the masses, but this compared to the countless amount of garbage rappers who are in it for a quick cash grab makes it hard to defend the modern state of this beloved genre. There is another world of Hip Hop though that gets it’s recognition from hardcore music fans, but doesn’t and probably never will get it’s recognition from the masses, and that’s the world of “Experimental Hip Hop.” Sure we have the scene of “SoundCloud” rappers offering us a harsher and more abrasive sound, but even that is becoming a gimmick that has desensitized most of us, and one might even say “Experimental Hip Hop” or “Industrial Hip Hop” is becoming a gimmick too. After the breakthrough of “Death Grips” any other artist that dared to take Hip Hop in an abrasive and noisy direction couldn’t escape the “Death Grips” comparisons, and that’s truly unfair because some of these artists really bring a lot of interesting ideas to the table. One artist in particular is Baltimore’s “JPEGMAFIA.” This rapper/producer utilizes the “DIY” aesthetic to create unsettling and unforgiving music that truly has no rules. He’s aware that he’s often thrown into the waning category of abrasive “Experimental Hip Hop,” but he truly does not give a flying fuck. His past material has proven that he’s not afraid to swing at any rapper out there, throwing lyrical jabs at Drake, Kid Cudi, and even “Death Grips.” The rough bass heavy filthy as all Hell production topped with his uncompromising and often disturbing lyrics is enough to scare soccer moms again, and just when they thought music was finally safe. (Open your eyes Reznor, here’s the dangerous music you’re looking for.) On his new album Veteran, “JPEGMAFIA” has created something that transcends just shock value. Don’t get me wrong, the abrasive Peggy we love definitely shows up on this record, I mean there’s a song on this record titled “I Cannot Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies” for crying out loud, but the “Experimental” elements of his past material has much more emphasis this time around. The off-kilter drum patterns, the eerie and flat-out bizarre samples, (The guy even samples Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s odd throat noises from his track “Goin’ Down”) and that dirty bass all make for a challenging but intriguing listen. JPEGMAFIA is no one-trick pony though, this album features his most melodic moments, and he even does a bit of singing that actually goes over quite well, well enough to even be in a Top 40 hit if he were inclined to make Pop music, but Peggy doesn’t care about making hits, and thank God for that. In fact, the guy doesn’t really take himself too seriously. He’s aware of the dominance of the internet culture, the meme culture, the music blogger culture, and he’s aware that independent artists like himself more often than not get ahead by internet word-of-mouth. He trolls the trollers, and he has fun doing it. This album is an example of how the internet can be utilized to create worthy art, despite all of the negative aspects of the web, and artists like “JPEGMAFIA” uses the dominance of the web to his advantage, and the outcome is relentless and unfiltered music that follows no rules, and music should never have rules anyway. What a time we’re living in.

Written By: Steven Sandoval

Date: 01/29/18

Album Review: Ty Segall – Freedom’s Goblin

021F66DE-99B2-4F64-8564-08BA30CBA789

Artist: Ty Segall

Album: Freedom’s Goblin

Genre: Garage Rock/Psychedelic Rock

Rating: 8/10

We all know Ty Segall is a prolific musician. The guy doesn’t skip a year when it comes to releasing new material, and this inevitably raises the question “Does he favor quantity over quality,” but that question is always answered when hearing an album of his. When hearing how much thought and work is put into his shapeshifing material, it’s easy to stand back in awe with how an album of his sounds like it took years to make, but most of the time he’ll release an album less than a year after it’s predecessor. While most artists usually have a two or three year gap in between albums nowadays, Segall doesn’t believe in skipping a beat. I don’t even think he could stop even if he wanted to. He’s a dedicated student of music, and his vast appreciation for the many genres music has to offer is evident. He has gone from raw lo-fi “Garage Rock” to cleaned up “Glam Rock” to oddball Psychedelia reminiscent of Frank Zappa or Syd Barrett, and now his new album Freedom’s Goblin flexes his knowledge in Rock music, jumping from one sound to another. This may lead to incohesion at times, but this album is like a walk in the mind of Rock’s eclectic leader, and despite that incohesion, and even the hour plus length this album has, the music is consistent and never falters. The opening track “Fanny Dog” is a “Classic Rock” ditty about Segall’s dog named Fanny. It’s a sweet tribute to man’s best friend with epic horns and light-hearted guitar riffs that still manage to kick your teeth in, and if you think this track sets the tone for the rest of the album then you’re dead wrong. The track that follows, “Rain” is a dark ballad featuring ominous piano and more horns, but this time around they sound mutilated and on their deathbed while Segall expresses his distaste for sunshine. “I’m sick of the sunshine, I wish I could make it blue for you.” Sings Segall, and the vagueness of the lyrics leaves you asking questions. Is he singing about a certain someone? Why does he want the rain? Is he one of the dark souls who loves gloom, or is he addicted to this person who brings heartache and pain but he just can’t get enough? Whatever the answer is, it’s definitely the most somber but beautiful moment on the album, and the idea to put it as the second track was a bold move, because what follows is a complete departure with the track “Every 1’s a Winner,” a sexy cover of Hot Chocolate’s under appreciated 70’s gem. Oh yeah, Segall isn’t afraid to have fun. “Despoiler Of Cadaver” is another fun upbeat track that draws a lot from “Funk” and “Disco” with it’s syrupy bass grooves and Segall’s confident cadences. This album can be just as heavy as it is sexy, or dark, and Segall is no stranger to heavy. Tracks like “When Mommy Kills You” or “She” are heavyhitters where Segall truly shows his love for all things Rock and a track like “She” can go into full-on jam sessions but never strays away from the track’s central structure, but without a doubt the heaviest track on this album is the ferocious “Meaning” with it’s buzzsaw guitars and and it’s aggressive delivery. Segall’s wife Denée Segall provides lead vocals that evoke the spirit of “Riot Grrrl.” It’s a track that cuts you like a knife. The diversity on this album doesn’t stop at Heavy “Garage Rock,” or sexy Funk grooves, or songs about dogs. There are acoustic ballads like “You Say All The Nice Things,” there is a drunken “Waltz” track appropriately titled “The Last Waltz,” and even a track like “The Main Pretender” which sounds like Segall’s albums Manipulator and Emotional Mugger had a baby. There’s something for everyone on this album, and it ends with a tribute to Segall’s old Lo-fi “Garage Rock” days with a reworking of an older track of his titled “Sleeper.” This version is titled “And, Goodnight” and it is a major improvement. It’s epic, it’s emotional, and it is a perfect end to Segall’s most diverse album yet. This will not be Segall’s last album by any means, and thank God for that, but if it were this would be the perfect album to end with. It’s an expression of the endless possibilities when you’re a shape shifting musician. It’s a work of art created by someone who refuses to be pigeonholed, and we need to thank our lucky stars for someone like Ty Segall.

Written By: Steven Sandoval

Date: 01/23/18

Album Review: Shopping – The Official Body

IMG_1066

Artist: Shopping

Album: The Official Body

Genre: Post-Punk/Indie Rock

Rating: 7/10

After two rocky albums that flexed the band’s knowledge in raw minimal Post-Punk with a strong frustration with identity politics, UK trio Shopping have finally found their niche with their third studio album The Official Body. The band’s previous albums carried heavy weight of mismatched tracks that had some great ideas, but the execution wasn’t living up to their full potential, and with the vast amount of band’s offering numerous essential releases that are helping advance the genre of Post-PunkShopping seemed like underachievers coasting by with the bare minimum in comparison. That is until now. Shopping brought their A game on this new record with cleaned up production that still contains simplistic but captivating instrumentation. The combination of hypnotizing almost surf-like guitar riffs, the funky bass grooves, and the percussion that adopts all of the standard danceable drum patterns that will force you to dance is a successful recipe that pulls the band out of obscurity. That sense of groovin’ fun never strays away from this record, but at the same time that sense of a cynical outlook on identity politics is present, however it’s a vague delivery filled with repeated phrases that can be interpreted in various ways, but you know damn well there is some underlying message beneath it. Whether you want to decipher these messages or not is totally up to you. The band isn’t into beating you over the head with their ideologies, but if you’re inclined to dig deep into what these tracks may or may not symbolize then that is also an open field for you. Shopping still have more evolving to do, and whether or not they will utilize their talents to advance even further remains to be seen, but this is a step in the right direction.

Written By: Steven Sandoval

Date: 01/20/18

Album Review: Porches – The House

PorchesTheHouseCVR_rc-lo-res-1508856370-compressed

Artist: Porches

Album: The House

Genre: Synth-Pop/Indie Pop

Rating: 5/10

Porches will always be one of those projects with a rotating lineup, this is because sole member Aaron Maine is pretty much providing us with solo material under the Porches guise to leave open space for collaborators who will come and go, but we all know this is Aaron Maine’s baby. His previous album Pool did offer that full band sound with synth-driven instrumentation that also combined Dream Pop-esque guitars and Post-Punk, and it was done quite well, but his new album The House is the closest he’s ever come to sounding like a solo artist. The strong hints of Electronica that were just begging to break loose on that previous album are explored full-on with this album. The synth-driven 808 drum machine heavy production is done in a way that sounds outdated (seriously, a lot of this sounds like it came straight out of a 90’s rave) but it’s upbeat and danceable nonetheless. The problem is, Maine’s sad boy vocal delivery offers a drony contrast that doesn’t go over so well. If you’re familiar with Porches then you know by now that Maine’s vocals just naturally have a melancholy sound. I mean the guy can make puppies and rainbows sound depressing, but what worked so well on his previous record doesn’t work very well on this new one, and it is quite a drag. The auto-tune effects that litter most of his vocals aren’t as grating as a lot of other artists whom use auto-tune as a cop-out, but they offer nothing significant. The whole album just sounds insignificant. I’m not saying Maine needs to start making happy-go-lucky music, but if you’re going to project an image of sadness whether it be genuine or not, it must be compelling, and this album is miles and miles away from that.

Written By: Steven Sandoval

Date: 01/19/18