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Underground Mondays: Different Days EP

Nothing makes me more upset than when someone claims to enjoy “everything”, but can’t enjoy the simple things in music. I mean, pop and radio rock is the least challenging form of music to listen to. I understand there are many acts that are pretty bad (Nickelback, Finger Eleven), but claim bands that garner a large amount of success or airplay as not worth listening to is the prime example of pretentiousness. 2013 is nearing the end of it’s spectacular run, and it’s coming down to crunch time when picks are made, and time and time again my most listened too seem to be everyone else’s as well. It goes to show the popularity of an artist.

Now as I type this, I have a certain sound in my head when I think of constant radio airplay. It’s one of three categories. First is the club bangers, think big name rap artist featured on some pop stars track. Second category is the new, popular indie artist that everyone pretends they only like, (Mumford and Sons, The 1975, Capital Cities), and my final category is the tried and true rock. Since the 70′s, rock has been the only form of popular music that still receives radio airplay, even if it has fluctuated throughout the years. Different Days is a Montreal based band that grows from that popularized rock sound we all know. Strong, steady drumming, prideful vocals, and the one of a kind guitar tone. Oddly enough, throwing on the EP I received from them the first thing I thought was, “Is this PJ Harvey in 2000?”. It’s a spot-on comparison I’ve been told, and I guarantee if you listen to “A Place Called Home” and  compare it to the band’s “Inconspicuous”, you’ll agree.

The group takes pride in their self-sufficient way of doing things. Having multi-talented members who can design artwork, master albums, and brag about a degree in classical production(?), they seem to have everything set. “Different Days” is not only the closer to the same-titled EP, it IS the epitome of their whole band. Feedback that salutes Sonic Youth, incredibly strong fills, and even the opening  finger picking foreshadows the ultimate climax. There are so many different sounds on one EP. There’s a heavy metal sound, followed by a top 40 rock vibe, but it doesn’t feel forced with the exception of the opener, “Breathless”. It came across as tinny and lifeless. The upside is that the vocals are incredibly catchy, so it would be a different experience live.

Different Days is a band with a bright future. From PJ Harvey to Bikini Kill, the band knows their roots. They pick and choose only the most engaging parts from each artist to combine it into one unique, colorful blend of music. Different Days EP is a solid showcase into what the group has to offer. When experience and experimenting comes, they should be a band that brings a lot to the table for record labels. I guarantee them as the next indie sweethearts. Listen to “Static” and attempt to put a frown on, which is only acceptable when headbanging.

 

Listen to the entire EP below, and download! 

Be to check out their facebook page here

 

 

Death Grips – Government Plates

Let’s take a moment and review some of the antics this group has caused in the past year and a half. They single handily won over an entire audience with The Money Store, which received worldly acclaim, and then gave the middle finger to the same record company by releasing No Love Deep Web without their permission. Remember the Sharpie covered penis? Yes, that was Death Grips. Following this, they began a massive tour, which they cancelled before to release No Love Deep Web, and then ultimately cancelled the SAME tour again. They didn’t even bother to show up to the Lollapalooza after show either, which received a lot of coverage as well. Now the hardcore hip-hop group released a new album, titled Government Plates, to the surprise of everyone in the music community. Coming across as a logical progression to No Love Deep Web, it combines the sound of the prior with the structure of the universally acclaimed The Money Store.

Now I’m a Death Grips fan. There’s no denying that I enjoy their music, but I went off for a few months without hearing a single song. It may have been the overkill with The Money Store, or the fact that I wish No Love Deep Web sounded like the previous album. It felt like getting back with an ex when I started the stream of the new album. From the beginning of Government Plates, I realized the group was back in business. The album opens with the horribly titled, “you might think he loves you for your money but i know what he really loves you for its your brand new leopard skin pillbox hat”. Yes, that is the title, and it’s all lowercase. The first noise on the entire album is a crash of something glass, and then follows the high pitched ringing that echoes the massive bass hits that seem to be a reoccurring theme on the album. It’s arguably the best song on Government Plates, and the worst title in music history.

Follows this is “Anne Bonny”, which is a great throwback to The Money Store. What this album does so well is it sets itself apart from any Death Grips album by being plain odd. There’s a lot more of MC Rides screaming, and the electronics on every song come across as extremely eerie, but dance-able. “Two Heavens” opens with a rotating synth chord, but then a double bass break comes in with a distorted voice. It’s something I can headbang too, but also sit in the dark and squirm until it’s over. Flatlander, the noise specialist in Death Grips, really steps it up for this album. He doesn’t try anything particularly new, but every track contains an immense amount of bass this time around so I can’t complain.

Zach Hill as well lets loose for this album. He’s pretty much given the OK to try anything, and that can be seen on “This Is Violence Now (Dont get me wrong)”. Over top the preset drum machine, Hill’s chaotic drum fills are fixated to the song like a metal-heads dream. Listening to Government Plates gave me a whole new perspective of the man’s talent, and reading that he was self-taught woes me every-time. It does make sense though, because he plays like he’s feeling the beat with his body, hitting everything in sight, but it does work well. He overplays, but in only the best way possible.

Now the overplaying can be tied into the reason for the free release. It proves that Death Grips aren’t in it for the business, but for the sake of a creative outlet. I don’t know any other ventures Flatlander and MC Ride are in, but Zach has had a resume full of past bands ranging from Boredoms to Hella to Wavves. The group seems to be a release from the world around them, and them allowing us to experience it seems to be a hard thing for them to do. MC Ride does hold back on this album, but he allows the other two members to stand out. His highlight does come in with “Birds”, which has some of the groups most cryptic and eerie lyrics possible. “I’ve got a black hat/ It might live,” is bad enough to pass up, but with the minimalist mess that surrounds it adds enough of an effect to show that lines like these have an effect.

Government Plates is the oddest release yet by Death Grips. The whole idea of them releasing a brand new album for free makes me wonder what their intentions are. Just to note how far they’ve came, when they released this album on their own website, it crashed within 30 seconds. I wouldn’t be surprised if they meant for that to happen, or they meant for the insane buzz that surrounded their no-show at Lollapalooza. What Government Plates shows us is an honest look at what Death Grips wants to do. They want to let loose, they want to have fun, and they don’t give a fuck. If people call Miley Cyrus “punk”, just wait until they know about Death Grips.

 

 

 

8.5/10

 

 

Danny Brown – Old

From the beginning of “Side A”, it’s obvious that Danny Brown has changed. Since his 2011 release, XXX, Danny has reached some major ups and downs. His unique character of being Detroit’s King Pin in rap has been hidden by the fact that he isn’t a usual player in the modern rap game. Compared to fellow Detroit-ee, Big Sean, Danny resembles someone who has just escaped a psych ward. His gap-toothed, psychotic smile was a clear influence for the infamous Miley Cyrus tongue flair that she seems to flaunt at every opportunity. From an outsiders view, Danny Brown is the devil of hip-hop today.

Old doesn’t play out like XXX. From the beginning, Danny raps about how people keep asking to change back to his older style, but in reality, Danny isn’t interested in it. He wants to keep the ball rolling and stay on top of his game. The idea does make sense; why play safe in a genre where playing safe creates losers. Danny isn’t about staying within the realms of his peers. He’s outlandish, crude, original, and honest, but his approach to compacting all these different ideas strays from traditional values in rap. While XXX presented a wild and dirty side to Danny, he’s taken more of an aggressive and louder approach on Old.

He’s lucky enough to have the likes of Freddie Gibbs, Schoolboy Q, Charli XCX, A$AP Rocky, and surprisingly Purity Ring make appearances on this album. The Purity Ring feature was the most shocking, considering that they pretty much take over the track and make it a Danny Brown feature (“25 Bucks”). Old does impress with production. He still wants the raw sound to be forefront, but his music does have a trap influence this time around. Lyrically, Danny is all about reacting to the fame. He’s struggled with handling money, attention, and the whole celebrity life, and it’s clearer than ever on Old. “Clean Up” talks about how he feels guilty for spending money on clothes, because he’s fall victim to consumerism. It’s a great perspective from someone who generally give a detailed description of his drug and sex life.

Danny doesn’t waste anytime here. All 19 songs are concise, and to the point. The features feel useful, with the exception of Charli XCX, who’s contribution could have been done by any female vocalist. I won’t lie, her name does give the song that extra push for the ‘wow’ factor. These tracks flow generally well, minus “25 Bucks”, which includes the unique Purity Ring sound. You can imagine how the sleek production contrasts a lot of the typical Danny Brown production. Old does show the influence of Danny Brown in the industry. Being able to have that all-star lineup of features goes to show how far he’s come since XXX.

The second half (“Side B [Dope Song]” onward) is all party based, trap songs that actually stand out very well. They’re very enjoyable, but I can only take so much of Danny’s crude yelps. Old closes very well with “Float On”, which like most of the album, discusses the hardships of growing up in Detroit’s Linwood area. From food-stamps to crack cocaine, he’s seen it all. The disturbing imagery feels very real on his lyrics. He’s an underrated lyricist who knows how to really engage the listener on an album. Old provides better diversity than XXX, and feels like it’s the next logical step in his hopeful and fast-growing career. He’s on top of his game so far, but I wonder how much potential he has before he hits a wall. Right now, it’s better to dwell on a very solid album that deserves the respect of many.

 

 

8.2

Touché Amoré – Is Survived By

There’s a psychological effect associated with heavier genres of music. Hearing aggressive, violent, and even disturbing noises isn’t as appealing as associating other senses with the same handful of adjectives. While listening to Touché Amoré’s new album, Is Survived By, my computer crashed on three separate occasions as soon as I began the album. Now many would tell me just to buy a new computer, and I do agree, mine is shit, but a lot of listeners do this with hardcore or post-hardcore music. We don’t give it a chance, resulting in missing out in many great albums.

Touché Amoré is an LA post-hardcore band that is part of the self-proclaimed “The Wave”, which is a grouping  of 21st century bands in the genre. Along with La Dispute and Defeater, to name the popular few, they’ve been noted as a band that has brought back screamo and hardcore to large audience. Is Survived By is their third album, and it’s also their longest, which is something to note because their past releases don’t even hit 20 minutes. Is Surived By reaches an astonishing 29 minutes *GASP*, and the ride of melodic, post-hardcore doesn’t stop through the entire listen.

What caught my attention with the band early on is how on every release, they seem to experiment with many ideas throughout an album. Short blips of songs will smash through seconds of sound, and then that’s that. On this release, the band has taken a different approach. Although songs never exactly reach La Dispute lengths, they make an effort to add traditional song structure to a few tracks. “Social Caterpillar”, “Non Fiction”, and “Is Survived By” are the only three tracks to reach three minutes (how fitting). These serve as climaxes to the albums closer, but many of these blasts of tracks are actually many ideas separated into different tracks for the sake of packaging.

What makes Is Survived By so different compared to past releases is how the band jolts from song to song, but the flow of the album never strays. These tracks will pass, but only until the album hits stop do I realize that it’s finished. Jeremy Bolm’s screams are stronger than ever. The tension between every chord progression and drum hit is thick and heavy. The band creates such a claustrophobic atmosphere that it’s difficult to not try and break your way out. These songs aren’t just melodic, they stick with you. I found myself hitting repeat almost immediately as the album ended. After my many listens in one sitting, I would sit and digest what I just experienced. It’s the sound of a band at the top of their game.

Few bands can create exciting albums that slip under the radar to the public. Touché Amoré release solid albums time and time again, but they’ve yet to reach the pinnacle of potential. Is Survived By is another prime example of an amazing hardcore release that should be honored by every music buff on their blogs and websites. That’s exactly why I love writing these reviews.

 

8.8/10

Jon Hopkins – Immunity Review

There’s always been a twist with progressive music. Whether metal, jazz, rock, or electronic, the term applies to any one of these genres. The word ‘progressive’ is defined by, “Happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step.” I literally Googled the word and found the definition, and that’s what came up. It fits like a puzzle piece perfectly into the concept of music, describing the electronic musician, Jon Hopkins goal with his newest album Immunity.

The English producer has already created a name for himself with a Mercury Prize nomination with singer-songwriter King Creosote in 2011 for Diamond Mine. What’s so interesting about Jon Hopkins is his connections to extremely renown artists, but he’s been able to fly under the radar for the past few years. Already working with Brian Eno, Coldplay, and Imogen Heap, Hopkins has been hiding up until the release of Immunity. His mixture of progressive-electronic and dance music is an art form that blends pretentious listeners with douche-bags. With the opening of “We Disappear”, the semi-soft drum loop resembles a take on a Burial beat, but with more of a traditional dance melody. The synthetic atmosphere glides and takes afloat while the loops jolts along with a steady piano riff. In Jon Hopkins fashion, the track only begins to grow before it reaches a tipping point and spills the structure into a mixing pot of noise.

His handle of sound is like a professional athlete scoring a simple goal. It’s only until we try out shooting or catching for the first time do we give credit to those who make a living off of it. These eight tracks aren’t overly complicated, but creating and meshing the ideas together is the talent. Most all of them carry bass-heavy undertones with a diversity of changes that happen so subtly, it’s hard to pick up on one listen. Think post-rock, but add in electronic affects and a dance atmosphere. That’s not even close to what Immunity is, but it gets the idea across that this is a completely different electronic album compared to others released this year. It resembles The Haxan Cloak’s Excavation in terms of song to song growth. The only track that takes away from this comparison is the beautifully destructive, “Abandoned Window”.

If Hopkins’ time with Imogen Heap taught him anything, it’s that simple means subtle. This track contains strictly piano chords and a slight ambient atmosphere in the background. That’s all it takes to create water works, and it’s nailed here on “Abandoned Window”. The lead into “Form By Firelight” carries the same simplicity, but transforms into a chaotic mess of crashing sounds. Distortion, thumbing bass clicks, clean and crisp keys, all these intense and emotional sounds from different genres blend to create a monstrosity of emotion. It’s overwhelming, and a lot to take in. Hopkins’ pulls on your heart a little and it’s just enough to open up the gate to confronting your emotions. Sad, happy, angry, he will humble you and take you for a journey of outlook.

Maybe I’m looking too deeply past the sounds? Immunity could possibly just be a great progressive-dance album, but it’s the situation you’re in while listening. I also know that Hopkins’ has had a habit of creating lasting impressions. Diamond Mine slipped past a lot of listeners back in 2011, but made it’s way to the Mercury Prize the same year. Immunity proved yet again how the English producer can manipulate emotions with music, letting us use it as a separation from our mediocre and eventful lives, because at the end of the day we all deal with the same problems. Possibly different magnitudes of the problem, but the root behind the feelings is the emotion. Hopkins knows that better than anyone.

 

Stream the full album here: 

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