first class


curren$y is the epitome of a backpack rapper. not backpack in the sense of hipster, dark-rimmed glasses, born in queens but now calls brooklyn home, type-backpacker. instead, he’s the type of backpacker that’s carried on from spot to spot, looking for a place to settle in. a short stint on no limit’s couch and another on the doorstep at cash money/young money records helped create a buzz for the quick-witted albeit regularly stoned new orleans spitter. but his recent venture with warner bros to distribute records under his own jet life recordings is the move that should take curren$y from virtual unknown, to billboard status.

curren$y’s laid-back southern drawl shouldn’t be confused with laziness. he’s anything but. his rhymes are laced with references to weed, fine clothes, expensive women and fancy cars, but again, there’s more here than meets the eye. his “jet life” persona makes the music seem larger than life…like every day there’s another runway where the plane is going somewhere with tall drinks and white sands. of course, there’s never any shortage of high-end green.

covert coup and weekend at burnies are curren$y’s latest releases and both are fantastic voyages into the mind of hiphops most seasoned “rookie”. watch out, curren$y waited a long while for this break and for the foreseeable future it doesn’t seem as if they’ll be any letting up. check out “#jetsgo” the first single from weekend at burnies.

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baxter, bark twice if you’re in ohio

if i could figure out the flux-compacitor, i’d go back in time and pick up my guitar more. don’t get me wrong, i can play some rhythm…i can make noise…i can stomp pedals, but i can’t play what i always heard between my ears. but if i could go back with the 1.21 gigawatts, i’d make time to practice in order to bring my life to life…through sound.

it seems that cleveland heights, ohio’s signals midwest, at a very early stage, have it figured out. they’ve managed to paint punk rock with the messy strokes of realism. they’ve created music that’s so personal, yet so powerful that just one listen makes you feel like you own it. one listen and their musical world is yours, they just provided the soundscape. they take me back to a time when all i wanted to do was play a song so that everyone would listen. thankfully, they’ve saved you all from my experimental punk rock opus by writing my front-runner for record of the year, latitudes and longitudes.

signals midwest is a band rooted in the hard-working, blue-collar ethics of punk rock and roll. they rise and fall in the vein of small brown bike and hot water music. they weave tales of life, love and loss with little care for the traditional methods of punk by numbers story-telling. they are cryptic without being pretentious, yet wide-open enough for us to catch a glimpse of what it feels like to be in a van, trucking across the country, house show to vfw, trying to make ends meet. not to mention these fellows can flat-out play. the songs on latitudes, (record due next month) are shape-shifting blasts of energy, some building to a peak and others simply rocking straight from the gate for three-plus minutes. either way, it’s hard not to buy in.

signals midwest, you are officially on the radar. you have successfully caused a fanatical music lover with 600 albums in his itunes library to press replay five times this evening to enjoy “the weight & the waiting” over and over again. keep the van moving. keep the music loud, and when all else fails, you’ve always got a basement show in albany, ny waiting for you…any time.

talent for days…

head here for tour dates, a song or two and other general tidbits of awesomeness.

http://signalsmidwest.tumblr.com/

like them in real life, but if you’re into electronically liking people/bands, then check here too.

http://www.facebook.com/signalsmidwest

a different kind of anthem


brian fallon and ian perkins are the horrible crowes. brian fallon is the singer/guitarist/songwriter of the gaslight anthem, one of my favorite bands of the last few years. ian perkins, fallon’s guitar tech, is the man in the passenger seat of this new side project. i’m not sure if fallon is writing all the music and lyrics and perkins is playing on the record or vice-versa…but what i can tell you is this ain’t gaslight 2.0.

i think this project is fallon’s way of moving away from the frat boy following that’s plagued gaslight shows in the last year or two. the band’s popularity took off and since then their shows have been rather odd…i’ve heard these “new” gaslight crowds boo opening artists nearly off the stage. jesse malin got this treatment at terminal five during gaslight’s 59′ sound tour in nyc about two years ago. i never thought gaslight was about “the hits” so much as they were about playing what they love while we love it…

yet side projects can be iffy. they’re either taken too seriously as a departure from the original sound of the band/members, or they’re a joke..a way to kill time between records. i can’t call it with this horrible crowes stuff. fallon was quoted as saying “the record carries like a novel, there’s a beginning, an end, a fall from grace and a little salvation”. as it should be. i’m in.

check out the teaser for “black betty & the moon”…it’s pretty.

duckdown at it again


sixteen years ago brooklyn mc buckshot and businessman dru-ha had a vision. they wanted to bring real hiphop to the world, via the groups and solo artists they believed in. duckdown records is the epitome of DIY, independent hustle. that hard work has moved three million units world-wide and kept duckdown’s reputation true as one of the most authentic labels in the world. smif-n-wessun, black moon, krs-one, b-real, pharoahe monch, talib kweli…they’ve all released records on duckdown.

guilty simpson, sean price and black milk are random axe. they’re the newest addition to the duckdown roster, and they’re a perfect fit. random axe, a “supergroup” in every sense of the word, shine on the strength of their parts. sean price, from heltah skeltah is a hard-spitting brooklyn mc, an east coast rhymer, through and through. guity simpson, from detroit, is a story-telling street rapper with a tough-as-nails delivery. detroit’s beat-genius, black milk handles the production on this trio’s tremendous self-titled debut.

milk’s production is drenched in the influence of the late j. dilla. imagine dj premier locked in a room with a zip of kush, an mpc drum machine and an 8th of mushrooms. he creates the perfect blend of traditional nyc-sounding snare and bass with a spacey twist of keys, blips and echo. this is hiphop for fans of beats and rhymes. no dances. no shiny necklaces. no top 40′s hits.

take it, or leave it alone


today is my birthday, and i’m feeling nostalgic. something’s got me thinking back to my days in college, a time when music was actually the driving force behind everything i did. pretty silly but those random soundtracks were what got me through the days. now that i’m busier, balancing more of life’s nonsense and trying to chip away at debt and my career, it’s easy to lose sight of how important good music can be.

that being said, i woke up with an old taking back sunday tune in my head. it was something off of tell all your friends, tbs’ “classic” (if they have such a thing) debut record. it’s a very time specific piece of music because the “emo” scene was really taking off. the music had all the aggression of punk, with the pop/soft rock sensibilities…the broken hearts, the headaches, the broken bottles etc.

that got me thinking about taking back sunday’s new self-titled album, set for a june 28th release, which features the original lineup with john nolan on guitar and vocals and shaun cooper on bass. in all honesty, i am not expecting much. they won’t reivent their sound, but i can’t help but wonder if they’ll push past it a bit. many people feel think the ship has sailed on these guys. but i’m not counting them out just yet. a few of the singles i’ve heard lead me to believe these guys have something new to say, even if it’s done in a way that sounds awfully familiar…

come as you are


virginia wordsmith, black cobain, has a few things going for him. for starters, he chose his name because of his love for hiphop and rock and roll. he claims to draw equal inspiration from both genres. he can also count his blessings that pal and fellow dc/virginia native wale recently caught a ride on a rocket to stardom by signing to rick ross’s maybach music label. it seems wale doesn’t forget his people, and has helped cobain get his foot in the door.

the result is a fantastic mixtape, young, gifted and black. i caught wind of black cobain on a posse cut called “the cookup”. the song features stalley, cobain. tone p and wale trading verses over a triumphant beat, declaring the arrival of the board administration…cobain’s crew? perhaps.

cobain’s flow is a mixture of common’s cool and black thought’s intelligence and hunger. he’s smart, but street…which is the perfect weapon in today’s rap world. with ricky ross at the helm, guiding wale and stalley to stardom, it’s only a matter of time for black cobain. check your flag. the self made men are on the rise…

sing a song for me


while having a conversation about justin vernon recently, the mastermind behind the band bon iver, a friend said to me, “i want him to sing me to sleep. i’m in love with voices.” there was a silly truth in that statement that shook me. singing is a gorgeous thing…it’s a brilliant talent. think about how your favorite singer makes you feel…now think about what they sound like. nevermind the words. just the feeling you get from the tone of voice. if you know what i mean, you can understand why bon iver’s music is so god damned good.

bon iver, french for good winter, is a folk band lead by songwriter justin vernon. the band plays sparse arrangements flushed with vocal harmonies that can’t be characterized by common comparisons. i’ll say bon iver sounds like d’angelo and elliott smith doing prince songs at a karaoke dive bar, but that doesn’t do it justice. it’s music meant to lull you into a world of dreams, or thoughts too gentle and delicate to share.

bon iver is set for a late june release. it’s going to top the year-end lists based on hype alone, but trust me, it’s much more than that. it’s a daring record because words are the weapon. coldplay beware. bon iver does it prettier and shinier than you ever did.