Year-End For The End Of The World

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Every year I do this, and every year I re-read this post a few weeks later and get pissed off because I inevitably leave records out that are certainly worthy of a mention.  So I’m not numbering shit…it’s my party and I’ll throw any kind of list together that I want.  This, in no particular order, is my best of 2012 albums list.  These are full-length recordings meant for public purchase and consumption.  You can download them all for free for all I care, except I’m not posting the links.  I’ve said this before, and I fucking mean it…I’m too pretty for jail.  So here they are.  I hope you agree or disagree.  Please feel free to post comments.  I even read them sometimes.

Handwritten- The Gaslight AnthemThis record screams of a blue collar band doing things the way they see fit.  They’re unafraid to rock their influence on their sleeve, be it Petty, Morrissey or Bruce, and why not?  It’s hard not to appreciate a record that has as many poignant yet straightforward gems as this one.

Local Business- Titus Andronicus.  I’m late to the Replacements party.  Thankfully, I’ve found a band that captures the same sloppy, manic intensity within their epic jams, made for the here and now.  This album is dangerous, hip and potentially infectious.  The limited red vinyl made me happy as well.

Blak and Blu– Gary Clark Jr. We may have a new king of the blues.  John Mayer never could pry himself away from the cheesy love-pop long enough to take the title, while Clark Jr. is gritty enough to wow the elders as well as win over the teeny boppers who actually buy cd’s.  This record is proof positive of his ability to dig deep into his bag of tricks and do the blues as well as he does r&b, pop and even an odd touch of hiphop.  It’s a crafty debut.

Infinity Overhead-Minus The Bear. I love this band.  That being said, it’s taken a handful of records for them to reach their stride.  It’s technically sound for all you time signature nerds, but sleazy enough for your favorite dive bar.  I was stuck on this one for months.  Do yourself a favor and plug in your headphones for an experience.

good kid, m.A.A.d city-Kendrick Lamar- The hype is real.  He’s a story teller like Big, with a heart like Pac wrapped up in shiny, g-funked Dr. Dre bow.  Don’t believe me?  Give it a spin. It’s the most interesting concept record I’ve heard in quite some time.

Mirage Rock– Band Of Horses.  Plain and simple, this is a pretty record.  Gorgeous melody, fantastic songwriting…it’s classy from start to finish.  Sometimes it rocks like the 90’s, other times it channels the inner Crosby Stills and Nash in all of us.  Pleasantly perfect at all angles.

Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors- Big Boi.  This is genius work from the rapper who used to be in Outkast that still raps.  It’s weird, creative and funky as hell.  If you don’t shake your ass to “Apple Of My Eye”, you’re simply too white.  Or in traction.

I’d Rather Die Than Live Forever- Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds. Wild, unpredictable and unlike anything we’re used to hearing from this Lawrence Arms oddball.  This record changes gears more times than you can keep count, with more strange sexual references than your drunk uncle makes at the annual Christmas party!

Channel Orange- Frank Ocean. The dude is amazing, simply put.  It’s a little Stevie mixed with a little Prince and toss in some Ginuwine for pervy good measure.  Is he singing about chicks?  Is he singing about dudes?  It’s doesn’t matter people.  The record is fantastic and hypnotizing from end to end.  And he still gets more ass than you do.

First of a Living Breed- Homeboy Sandman.  More bars than Rikers Island.  I dare you to argue.

Blunderbuss- Jack White. I want to hate this guy so bad, I really do.  I hated that whole white and red nonsense, back when he was making tunes with the sister he used to bang.  But his music has got soul.  And that’s odd coming from a dude who looks like a character from an Anne Rice novel.  It’s one-trick pony shit…or is it?  He’s a helluva guitar player, and the record is stellar.

Volume One- Brothers. This record came out of nowhere.  I saw an ad in a music mag with a three-eyed badass tiger and sent the band an email.  I ended up meeting and talking with a band of true brothers, with honest grit and the chops to play rock and roll meant for the back room bars and the concert halls that stink like cheap smokes and loose women.  “Real Long Way To Go” is, hands down, my favorite track of the entire year.

Rebirth- Jimmy Cliff.  It’s business as usual for the raspy-voiced legend, but this time around he’s got Tim shit-kicking Armstrong at the boards.  The result is a record tailor made for the warm weather and sticky green.  The kicker?  Jimmy’s got an agenda, if you care to listen.

Bossalini’s & Fooliyones- Main Attrakionz.  These cloudy-eyed Bay Area botanists make space jams perfect for a new era of kids who aren’t happy to rest on the strength of 90’s hiphop heroes…they want their own.  And it’s not all weed raps.  The record dense and layered…makes you wonder if they waited until after it was mastered to light up.

On The Impossible Past- The Menzingers. These dudes are just breaking ground and are scary good.  Looks like they’ve hit their stride on their second release.  It’s hard charging post-punk (?) with a pulse.  Just a bunch of guys making beautiful racket.  Not to be played at low levels…please and thank you.

No Gods-Sharks. I love the Clash.  I love this band because they have that same sort of spark and snarl about them.  They’re a bunch of young lads with the world by the balls.  If this full-length is any indication of their talent, we’re in for some fire works over the next few years.  Amen and praise St. Joe.

Life Is Good-Nas.  The Don doing what he does best, destroying mics and damaging the psyche of rappers half his age.  Best record since Stillmatic.  It made me smile hearing how hungry Nas was after all this time.  Banger after banger after banger on this one.

Family Man– Shooter Jennings. I hate that chart-topping, faded jeans, highlighted hair bullshit country music on the radio.  Waylon’s rolling over in his grave.  His son refuses to let outlaw country die…and thank God for that.  It’s American, it’s sad and it’s completely authentic.  Praise the lord and pass the Shooter.

A Dream Deferred- Skyzoo.  Even though I was bummed when our interview fell through, I couldn’t let that get in the way of how dope this record truly is.  Sky is Brooklyn’s shining star, except he doesn’t care that you might not know who he is.  He’s carrying the Bed Stuy torch, and this album proves it.  Throw down some ice for the nicest MC.

And there you have it…I missed a million great records, but it’s been a long day and honestly, I could do this list for hours.  Music is exciting again and I know if you’re reading this, you feel the same way.  Be sure to comment and tell me how foolish I am, or let me know me what I’m missing, or what I can’t live without.  I got a fifty dollar iTunes gift card that I’m waiting to blow.  That’s right, I’m balling outta control. 

Stay tuned for my mixtapes of the year list…as long as it gets done before Tuesday. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Holidays

Lights in the park, Albany NY, courtesy of timesunion.com

I hope you all have peaceful, rest-filled few days with the family and friends you love.  Let it be filled with good eats, a few gifts and laughter.  We are tested every day by stress and tension.  Try and let these few days pass without that pressure on your shoulders.

A massive thank you for reading and rocking with me this past year. Music is truly exciting again, and I hope I’m giving you all what you search for. I plan to post a few year-end lists in the next few days so you can wow your friends with your eclectic tastes during your New Year’s party mixtape planning…

Today, I leave you with a holiday jam from Lili K, a soulful Chicago singer doing her thing.  This video and track helped me realize this week isn’t about chasing down the perfect presents or the right color bow.  It’s about being near the people who mean the most to you.  Follow her at @lilikjazz and check her out at www.likikmusic.com.

Part Of A Part

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Big Boi announces his presence as “one half of the mighty Outkast” a mere forty seconds into this second full-length, Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors.  Anyone with an ear towards the speaker for the past decade would recognize Big Boi from his time with the iconic Georgia duo.  What’s more impressive is the one man journey Big Boi has been on since Outkast has been on hiatus, resting in the dark and funkiest recesses of our minds.

Antwan Patton unbuckles his seat belt on Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors and freewheels through seventeen wacky gems that range from gritty bangers to space jams featuring indie upstarts and hiphop heavyweights, often in the same four minute romp.  Sure the sounds vary but the results sure as hell do not.  This is a triumphant record from one of the South’s most powerful MC’s.  It’s clear he’s been writing, unafraid to push the boundaries as far as his imagination will allow.  It wouldn’t be a major release without big time verses from big name guests like Ludacris, T.I, Kid Cudi and A$AP Rocky, but it’s the adventurous feel of the entire album that plays like a modern masterpiece the first time through.

“Objectum Sexuality”, “Lines”, and “CPU” match Big Boi with Phantogram, a pop-duo from Saratoga, New York.  It’s a strange marriage of sounds, but as it’s always been with Andre and Big Boi, if it’s way out there, it works.  Don’t bother trying to catch your breath.  There isn’t a minute to rest from start to finish.  The BPM flutters and fluctuates like the heartbeat of a four hundred pound hurdler.  Put on your shoes for running, and check the resume…it’s risky business in the A.

Scumbags & Superstars

Scumbags & Superstars is a brash and brilliant streetwear creation from the mind of Brooklyn denizen, George Rosa.

From the simplicity of his black and white designs-a love of Rosa’s from his days printing zine’s- to the bold skulls and gorillas that adorn his tees and hoodies, S&S is the sum of many oddball parts.  It’s that eclectic vibe which sets this brand apart from the masses.

Admittedly, Rosa prefers black and white to color not because he’s goth, but because, “I’ve always been attracted to the simplicity of it”.  His influences range from the old school skateboarding zines from his youth to the traditional punk rock posters and fliers posted all over the city for decades.

The wild imagery synonymous with S&S is straight from the world of old comic book art and horror films, two things Rosa enjoys as both a fan and collector.  “I collect all sorts of weird shit, and wanted the company to be graphics based. A lot of companies tend to use logos and text.  I think that’s boring and want to be known for our visuals.”

And that bad ass Skull Indian logo?  Rosa explained, “when I was looking for a logo for S&S I wanted something easily recognizable and very American.  So I took a traditional collegiate Indian logo, something that has been replicated many times with many schools, and blended it with a German WWII skull.  People can read into the meaning and concept of the image, but to me it was more about the overall look”.  It’s a gripping image, one that’s unique and gives S&S its standout edge.  “Since I started the company I’ve seen a lot of other companies putting out their own versions of the Skull Indian. To me, most are failed attempts and and look like cheap knock-offs of our classic gem.”

There are a ton of brands out there, and while Rosa admires and respects plenty of them, besides S&S he wears Mishka, another visually based, NYC brand with the knack for absurd graphics.  “I have been friends with Greg (Mishka co-founder) for years and he is my biggest motivation and inspiration in the streetwear game.  All of the Mishka guys have been super supportive and helpful.”  Although they are entirely different brands, it’s easy to see the connection.  Both are way left of the dial and cater to speakeasy crowds and hardcore fans of unique wears.

While Rosa plans to branch out, right now he’s content with his limited exposure.  “There’s a few shops out here that carry the brand, like Toy Tokyo in the East Village, Desert Island Comics in Williamsburg, Zakka in Dumbo, Silky’s in Bushwick and the Mishka store at 350 Broadway, but I haven’t reached out to many vendors to carry it because I want to keep it somewhat underground for now.”

Like myself, Rosa grew up in the 90’s, where the internet wasn’t the instant lifeline it’s become today.  He feels there’s still something cool about discovering and researching the brands that define you.  “Back then you had to find out about a brand, if someone was rocking something you liked.  Then you had to find out if your city sold it, and where.  I prefer that old-school seeking it out method, opposed to having my stuff on every website and store possible.”

Growing the brand is the idea, but there doesn’t seem to be any real hurry.  “I want to build a core audience and grow the brand organically.  I want people who are down with our brand and style to rock our shit.  I’m confident once we get the word out and more people see our products, we will grow and grow.”  When asked if social media can be the vehicle for that growth, Rosa admitted, “I’m really bad at social networking stuff. But I really do enjoy Instagram.  I’m a very visual person and like how Instagram is personal and you can share images instantly.”

Rosa has no intentions of slowing down.  After all, there’s no room for a Lifetime Piling Up.  There’s a new website in the works for 2013 that will feature new gear and products and he’ll continue pushing his wears in shops and boutiques around NYC.  One thing you can count on is pure hustle.  “Growing up an only child, doing graffiti, it instilled a DIY work ethic in me.  Painting graffiti requires a determination and drive and your goal is to shove your work in peoples faces, whether they like it or not.  I take that same approach with my company. I put 110% into S&S everyday.  It’s not a 9-5, I’m working from the time I get up until I get to sleep.”  Scumbags of the world unite.

Head to http://shop.scumbagsandsuperstars.com/ to grab some gear and follow the brand on Twitter @ScumandSoup and on Instagram at scumbagsandsuperstars.  A big thanks to George for letting us pick his brain, we definitely owe him a shot of his favorite tequila.

Cool Like Dat

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Sene is a Brooklyn MC who couldn’t care less about signaling his intent.  He doesn’t bash you over the head with corny metaphors and Louis bags full of money.  Instead, this crafty poet opts for clever, dense wordplay over jazzy, eclectic beats.  Beats for brunch.  Beats with such a chill vibe, they almost retreat backwards towards the corners of your mind.  He teams those beats with lyrics that reflect life, and that life consists of Brooklyn spots that only a local might recognize.  This is electric relaxation for right this second.

Brooklyknight is a record packed with spacy, haunting jaunts into the mind of a young man swimming upstream in a giant city full of echoing sirens and the blurred yellow smear of cabs blasting past you at 90 miles an hour.  From the opening note of “The Feel Reel”, you get the sense this is something different.  It’s another perfect example of what’s beautiful about hip hop right now.  Sene is making records that reflect what he feels, which used to scare people.  But now it’s simply part of the fabric of a once dying now vibrantly alive independent landscape of hip hop artists truly comfortable in their own skin.

I hear the buzz buzzing, but something tells me Sene isn’t really concerned with the blastoff.  Get your hands on Brooklyknight and a good set of headphones.  As soon as that lighter flicks, you’ll be off looking for your wallet in El Segundo.

Circle The Wagon

Cincinatti’s Buffalo Killers formed from the ashes of Thee Shams, a “revival” outfit known for their Stooges-take on garage rock.  Unlike the Black Keys, Buffalo Killers don’t want to simply grind on, selling thirty second spots to laundry soap companies and major car manufacturers.   They want to to grow.  While they have been making records since 06, Buffalo Killers never sound content.  Their tunes have moved from a fuzzy nod to the 60’s and progressed into something more melodic and trippy that may harness the power of yesterday, but soldiers forward with a unique heartbeat.

Their last two records, 2011’s 3 and last August’s Dig. Sow. Love. Grow, find the band making the decade leap towards the sound of the seventies, rooted in the shimmer and shine of a pool deck at the Hotel California.  Sure it’s noisy, and every bit as weird as it can be, but there is beauty on this magic carpet ride.  Buffalo Killers have deep, deep crates, and the chops to prove they’re far from one trick ponies.  If there’s one flaw, it’s that the band sounds so authentically classic you’ll find yourself yearning for the crackle and pop of the record and the moldy smell of the gatefold jacket.

This is a band that has gained steam and polished their song-writing skills with each trip to the studio.  Start at the beginning and work towards Dig. Sow.Love.Grow.  Enjoy.

Wiz Is Sitting First Class

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vibe.com

Wiz Khalifa has spent the better part of two years cementing his spot as the game’s resident outcast.  After dropping a dud of a major debut that felt confused and determined to please a room full of suits, he never stumbled.  Instead, Wiz kept his mixtape game polished releasing two proper projects, Taylor Allderdice and last month’s Cabin Fever 2.

It’s not rocket science with this dude, you either love or hate him.  Thankfully, Wiz stopped listening to the crowd on O.N.I.F.C, and did what what he does best.  With O.N.I.F.C we have the proper follow up to Kush and Orange Juice.  The record feels like a subtle shot fired at those who weren’t sure if Wiz was capable of harnessing the spark which catapulted him in the first place.  This time around, the kid is in love and doesn’t care who knows it.

Wiz sounds completely comfortable in his own skin throughout O.N.I.F.C, and smoking is not optional.  He features weed in his music like most producers use the high hat.  It’s in each and every track, but it’s not at all overkill because we’ve come to know and love it.  He’s going to work hard, play hard, flash his watch and count the dollars pile up.  It’s a loose and playful outing, complete with the traditional smokers anthems, odes to going hard and the glossy gems meant for top twenty video countdowns.  Maybe Amber Rose ushered in a new wave of creativity, or maybe Wiz has nothing left to prove?

Either way, this is a mature and headstrong record that finds Wiz experimenting with new, ambitious sounds like the dreamy “Fall Asleep”.   “The Bluff” finds the Pittsburgh native trading punchlines with Harlem’s Cam’Ron, a voice that’s gone too long away from wax.  “It’s Nothing” puts Young Khalifa next to 2Chainz, who’s stock continues to climb on the strength of clever collabo’s like this one.  “Rise Above” seems like an open letter to his haters where Wiz proclaims, “jealousy and envy, that’s a trait for mostly bitches, not a man, so you not one if you letting it show”.  So go ahead and criticize the kid.  Don’t buy his records.  Call him a sell-out.  It’s all a part of the puzzle that is Wiz Khalifa’s excellent career.   One thing you can’t knock is his hustle, which can’t be denied up in first class.