viva la bronx!

punk rock is a genre of music that you love or hate. there’s no walking the line, no “on the fence”. you either love the noise, the energy, the general fuck-offishness of it, or you don’t. i’m not mad at you. i’ve listened to tons of punk music in my day and there’s one band that nearly rises to the top of my “punk” list each and every time i discuss the subject. LA’s the bronx are one of the most aggressive, powerful and genuine punk bands i’ve ever heard. pair their attitude with their mean live show, and you’ve got a tough act to beat. i watched them in nyc once while lead singer matt caughthran was in a leg cast. somehow he conjured the energy and spirit enough to spend the majority of the set in the crowd, with us.

so what does a great punk band do when they get bored? they create a killer mariachi band without making fun of the genre or being pretentious one bit. instead, they make authentic mariachi music that is pleasant, playful and at times more complex than anything they’ve written as the bronx. ladies and gents, this is mariachi el bronx and they’re dead serious.

they released a self-titled record in 2009 and their follow-up appropriately titled mariachi el bronx II will drop on august 2nd (the band has three records as the bronx and two as mariachi el bronx and all are self titled). you might think it’s not your thing, but there’s something so soothing about mariachi music, it’s hard not to smile.

sidenote: they opened for themselves the last time i saw them in brooklyn. mariachi el bronx was actually billed as the opening act for the bronx. classic.

you can stream the entire new record here:


the eagle(s) landed

los angeles breeds all sorts of interesting artists. love it or hate it LA is the epicenter of all things hip, some awesome and much awful. like any thriving music scene, LA has its share of garbage floating in their musical sea. but if you’re willing to be patient and take a shot, you’ll find a gem or two in that murky water.

dawes is a four-piece from the city of angels known for their laurel canyon sound characterized by the seventies hippy rock influence of bands like crosby stills and nash and jackson browne. if you’re not a fan of lots of harmony and very little feedback, dawes probably isn’t for you. if you get off on that throwback vibe and appreciate a band that really digs in the crates for their influences, i urge you to check out their newest record nothing is wrong.

dawes can put you to sleep with their laid-back, sunset on the rocks type sound, but in the most appreciative sort of way. nothing is wrong is the type of record made for nodding off on a blanket under an umbrella on the beach, empty beers scattered and caked in sand, with chunks of lime at the bottom. the music is crisp and well-crafted, each note and harmony tight and well-rehearsed. throughout the records 11 tracks you get the sense that dawes loves sounding as classic as they can. brothers taylor and griffin goldsmith have created something special by sounding like the bands they loved as kids, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

jeff lebowski got thrown out of a cab for saying “i’ve had a rough night, and i hate the fucking eagles, man”…ten bucks says dawes don’t feel the same.

brand new, every time: a retrospective

it started with the tongue-in-cheek line “i hope the next boy that you kiss has something terribly contagious on his lips”, and i was sold. since penning those angry yet hilarious words in “jude law and a semester abroad” it’s been a long and winding road for the long island four piece known as brand new.

brand new is as perplexing as they are talented and ambitious. when they broke onto the scene in 2000, just one of many pop-punkers in a sea of average bands, i was intrigued. lead man jesse lacey had a knack for putting words and phrases together that seemed too big for the sound that the music created. there was more here than meets the eye. their debut your favourite weapon was a young mans letter to the world, full of break ups, empty bottles and broken promises, but the record for all its fun, was lacking depth. it seemed just average enough to get lumped into the dollar bin.

the band followed with deja entendu, a record that felt much more sophisticated. lyrically and musically challenging, deja entendu established brand new as a rock band, not another pop-punk crew looking for their annual spot on the warped tour. brand new was off and running, but their direction was yet to be seen. their live show was a mess, with lacey often changing the tempo of the songs and singing them with an obvious disinterest. troubled rock star or bored brat? i couldn’t tell.

the first record on interscope was the devil and god are raging inside me. you can feel the major label tension here. lacey was under the gun to create something that people would buy, and that’s not his strong suit. rather than concede and re-make the first record, the band pushed into more challenging territory and wrote a strong, dense and heady record…again forcing fans to commit or jump ship. it’s a great record from start to finish and its on this album where you start to catch lacey’s indie-rock influences such as modest mouse, quicksand and built to spill.

the bands last offering, and potentially last recording as a band, was october 2008’s daisy. it’s an oddball recording. the record feels like a rollercoaster ride, with way too many twists and dips to every give you any semblance of peace. and that’s ok, it’s a heavier record that showcases the rest of the band taking over some of the song writing duties. once again, it’s the sound of a band entering new sonic ground, and the results are impressive. the heaviest and strangest brand new record by far, may be their best work to date.

it remains to be seen if brand new are finished, or in what way they’ll choose to release any new material if at all. but one thing remains constant. they’ve created music on their terms throughout their career, unafraid to write what they love to perform rather than what we “want” to hear. in a pure sense, brand new’s path has taken the same kind of turns as radiohead. each band refused to be cornered in by a “sound” or a box that the music media creates, and for that, i commend them. here’s to hoping the next record is as weird and beautiful as the bunch they’ve already shared.

the rulers are back

call it the most anticipated hip hop collaboration of the last few years. call it a vanity project for two monsters of the game. call it a waste of your time. call it whatever you want, the truth is, there aren’t two in the hip hop universe more important, polished or better at what they do…and in few weeks the world will hear what it sounds on 16 collaborative tracks called watch the throne.

jayz is arguably the best rapper breathing. i say arguably because there are lots of great rappers doing it today, but in terms of longevity, credibility, hits, sales, swagger etc…shawn carter’s reign at the top has been lengthy because he’s earned it. count the number one records. count the sold out shows. check the lady on his arm…call it like you see it.

and while you may hate kanye west for running his mouth countless times and running his ass up on stage during taylor swift’s acceptance speech (i still think that’s the best thing that’s ever happened for her career), there are few producer/rappers better than yeezy. his ear for creating audio gold is second to none. look no further than his breakthrough work on jay’s blueprint. it was his coming out party, and his work has only gotten stronger since. he pushes the boundaries of his craft and his public perception. he’s an arrogant, swollen-headed, mega-star. hate that all you want, but stack up your favorite producers and they hardly scratch the surface of what mr. west has done.

together, jay and ye will release watch the throne on august 8th. i believe we’ll have a problem on our hands. the haters will hate, they’ll claim that jay is past his prime and that kanye’s production doesn’t touch what he’s done on records back in the day…but all that won’t matter. they’re joining forces no longer as the champion mc and the upstart boy wonder producer. they’re on a level field now, sharing the spotlight and the bars. who would have thought kanye would ever trade raps with jayz and more than hold his own? mc’s, settle for watching the throne, because until you can rightfully take it, it’s not yours to keep. good luck with that.

the album is coming august 8th. here’s a taste.

bridge the gap

how often do you hear rap tracks that cater towards one thing? you know what i mean. the club banger saluting a bottle of alcohol. or an anthem about a pair of jordans. maybe a conscious jam about the inequalities in the fucked up world in which we live? in hip hop, that’s where we stand. we’re either in the fast lane draped with fine fashions and fancy things or we are tagged with the backpack-rap title because the lyrics happen to strike an everyday chord. now think about how often an artist has been able to successful make tracks that touch on any and all subjects, bar to bar, verse to verse, line for line.

every long while an artist comes around with a knack for speaking his or her mind, consciously with the type of skill and flair that attracts an entire genre of fans. compton, californias kendrick lamar is that type of artist. his music is smart, thought-provoking and stacked with creativity. hip hop heads wont sleep on lamar, yet the iTunes, “singles” generation will find a track to click and spend a dollar. that unique mass-appeal is what sets kendrick apart from his contemporaries.

ive been spinning his newest record section.80 constantly for the last week. i also grabbed an older mixtape called overly dedicated and have to say, this body of work is enough to catapult lamar into my top ten mc category. bold, i know. but there’s something about his wordplay, delivery and challenging subject matter that forces me to think about 2pac. they are very different artists, but if you listen carefully, you’ll find some eerie similarities.

if ive offended your musical sensibilities, good. leave a comment and curse at me. if ive made you think, go and listen to “how do u want it” by pac, from all eyez on me. if you catch pac’s ability to be wildly political, yet ultra-sleazy all at once, you’ll make the connection. few rappers have the ability to make a statement and make a record for the street. kendrick lamar does it over the top of jazzy, airy production that at times reminds me of tracks from common or andre 3000. his skills are razor-sharp and down right dangerous. any doubts will subside after one listen to “rigamortus”. there’s something wrong with our musical axis if this man doesn’t become a household name. he goes hard, every time.

check out how he weaves this “his & her” tale. go buy his music on iTunes right now.

messy perfection

the black lips new record, arabia mountain is one ive intentionally avoided for a few months. i got bored with the band after playing their last two releases to death. not only was i bored with them, i was convinced there was no where left for these guys to explore. the black lips brand of garage(y)-punky-surfy-campy-rock is a blast, but like any other band or sound, it stretches pretty thin after 5 records.

so what did these atlanta rock and rollers do to spice things up? they hired mark ronson, musician/producer extraordinaire and made one of the best records of the year. ronson adds just what you’d expect from a top-notch producer. he dabs his slick brush here and there, polishing up the sound of a band known for its grit and grime, amongst other things like onstage urination, make out sessions and the occasional vomiting fit (thanks GG allin, your contribution to the art of live performance is everlasting).

ronson does not rock the boat, he makes it a smoother ride. arabia mountain sounds like the type of record made for summertime sunshine, the beach and cold beers.  it sounds like a punk record from the early 60’s.  give it a listen and you’ll see exactly what i mean.  and do not pass up a chance to see the black lips live, just avoid the first few rows…

sincerely yours

atlanta’s ernest greene, aka washed out, is an unconventional singer/songwriter who finds inspiration in the 80’s and 90’s synth-pop that surely framed his young world. rather than re-hash what he grew up loving, he’s found a way to blissfully create his own brand of pop music that reminds me of what moby would sound like if he was way cooler or fatboy slim if he’d just calm the fuck down.

npr streamed his debut record, within and without, and i was instantly entranced. i listened to each song with a careful ear, trying to nail down where this sound was coming from.  sad, honest and energetic all at once, washed out seizes control almost as if bon iver was rocking a party with a mpc and a moog.  sounds terrible, i know, but somehow it all works and works beautifully.

the songs on within and without play out as a sound scape for something new age and fun, clean and fresh even though they’re draped in the influences of yesterday.  greene originally recorded songs alone in his bedroom for his 2009 life of leisure ep, but took a more natural approach to within and without employing a full band.  a good move for a man who will find himself on the road for much of this year.

here’s a little taste of what goes on in ernest greene’s head