Hot off the presses: new music! Better said, new music that is worth your time.
Another VERY strong week in new music. Spoiler alert: this may be the last strong release week of 2018…
Ice Cube – Everythang’s Corrupt – 16 tracks / 56 minutes
One of my all-time favorite MCs continues to bring both the fury and the fun on this largely political album that is a must-listen for anyone open to quality rap music.
No doubt, I am a longtime fan of O’Shea Jackson’s (aka Ice Cube) flow and his genuine, no-fucks-given style. While his solo albums have consistently been solid efforts, my favorite Cube moments are mostly wrapped into his work with Mack 10 and WC (Dub Sizzle) in Westside Connection. The Gangsta, The KIlla, and the Dopedeala were a big part of the sound of my youth and I love them to this day. Do yourself a favor and go listen to “Get Ignit” and tell me that is not fun as Hell. Anyway, back to the here and now, and this excellent release that is at or near the top of this year’s rap heap.
Unlike most MCs well into their third decade of making music, Ice Cube doesn’t rely on a plethora of special guest MCs – no, he spits what is on his mind for all but two of the album’s verses and smoothly transitions from his two personas throughout: that of the pissed off and ready to go mofo and the affable and lovable fan favorite. It’s hard to imagine another rapper so successfully being able to garner as much street cred as this guy while still being an openly loved member of his L.A. community and America as a whole. The dude is just so talented and likable that he can play both sides of the fence in a way that others can only attempt.
While this is not an entirely political record, it sure does start and end that way. The first two songs (“Arrest the President” and “Chase Down the Bully”) tackle Trump and the White Nationalist movement he seems all too cozy with, while the album closers “Non-Believers” and “Good Cop, Bad Cop” touch on all things Black Lives Matter, injustice, and police corruption’s impact not only on its victims but on the honorable policemen just trying to do their jobs.
Over a fantastic beat and some tense, dramatic music, “Arrest the President” finds Cube furiously spitting what sounds like a manifesto to Robert Mueller III, rapping “arrest the President, you got the evidence, that n***a is Russian intelligence; when it rains it pours, did you know that the new white was orange?” and “who you elected, is so septic, so full of shit, I can’t accept it”. This take-down is raw and a true highlight of the album and hip-hop in 2018.
“Chase Down the Bully” begins with an audio clip from the Alt-Right (a cute new way to say White Supremacist) rally in Virginia last year and leads into Ice railing relentlessly against the normalization of the nationalist movement. “If he a fascist, I’m gonna bash his head in; cock it back boy and let the lead in, all you evil forces with your tiki torches, shove em up your ass, freaky intercourses. They try to lie, say I’m hearin’ voices, Apocolypse Now, with the horses. Hit the Alt-Right, with a fog light, see that red sheet? Used to be all white”. Damn! There is a fine line between concerned discourse and condoning (promoting?) violence, but you don’t have to strain too hard to put yourself in a black man’s shoes as the President condones and normalizes these types of rallies and hate speech to begin with. Besides, this is social commentary via the gangster rap medium, after all. What did you expect?
“On Them Pills” laments the recent spike in addiction to and death from pills, opiates and other hard drugs, while the light-hearted “Fire Water” finds Cube contemplating his future cause of death. Will it be a bullet wound? No, he says… he is going to die of the good life: “too much salt, too much sugar, too much smoke, and too much liquor, I’mma die of the good life, I’mma die of the good life”. Amen to that!
“Can You Dig It?” is a true gem and starts with a hilarious clip from the classic Leslie Nielsen film “Airplane”: “Stewardess, it’s okay, I speak jive”. Here Ice Cube takes a moment to remind the youth of today to watch their manners and respect their elders. Each verse lays out the culture and fashion of a decade: 70s, 80s, and 90s. This is priceless, and quite a fun listen. No politics, no violence, just recalling the good old days, one decade at a time. Favorite line (80s verse): “house parties, pop lockin’ and pickin’, Starter jackets, got my Jeri Curl drippin’; gangbangin’, ya Blood and Crippin’, 40 oz sippin’ 6-4 pimpin’; no shoestrings, n***a safe word, I’m Magic Johnson, you Larry Bird. The day they blew up the rocket I was looking at my beeper with a rock in my pocket, slangin’”.
It’s back to social commentary for the last two tracks, with “Non-Believers” referencing George Zimmerman “standing his ground” against a hooded Trayvon Martin and his Skittles, and “Good Cop Bad Cop” raging against police brutality and a system that consistently and endlessly enables it. If you don’t agree with Cube’s politics, you can still find plenty to like here in the album’s middle 11 songs, but I recommend giving this thing a fair shake and listening to what he has to say. Some of it is powerful, some of it is funny, and all of it is entertaining.
Key Tracks: “Can You Dig It?”, “Arrest the President”, “Non-Believers”
Spotify album link:
LP – Heart to Mouth – 12 tracks / 46 minutes
Laura Pergolizzi is back – and she brought some heartbreak-inspired tunes along with her legendary voice.
Although she is happily engaged to fellow singer/songwriter Lauren Ruth Ward, Laura Pergolizzi (aka LP) sure sounds heartbroken on most of this largely amazing effort. Clearly she still feels the sting of her last breakup four years ago, or at least was able to channel it on several of the songs here. Most notably on album closer and standout “Shaken”, which finds LP watching her ex with another, too weak and affected to even move from where she is sitting. There is real beauty in the pain she expresses when she sings “I knew that you’d be here tonight, but suddenly I’m paralyzed, who is she by your side? She looks at you like I used to, and I’m just sitting in the corner sh-sh-shaken”.
This theme is revisited on “Recovery” which is so pained that it is truly tough to listen to. Over a lovely piano melody LP sings “I’m still tryin’ to let you go, oh baby please leave me alone; can’t you see I’m in recovery? Just let it be, I’m in recovery “. If she wasn’t so sincere and her voice so out of this world, this is not music I would spend time on. Fact is, this is powerful stuff, indeed.
Those of you who read my review of her February concert in Boise will recall that I have difficulty describing LP’s voice: it is powerful and beautiful, with so much depth and life that at times it seems unreal. Her mother was a huge opera fan, and she credits that influence as part of her delivery. Folks, it shows. She can also whistle up a storm, as she does on “House on Fire”. If you want to know what this lady’s vocal range is all about, look no further than the epic pop balladry of “Dreamer”.
Not all of the album is doom and gloom, however. Lead single “Girls Go Wild” is a December version of the song of the summer – catchy as all get out with a chorus that is one Hell of a hooky earworm. Give this thing a listen and you’ll be hard-pressed to believe that so much of this album is the beautiful bummer that it is. She played this song in February and it caught the ear of both myself and my lovely accomplice, it’s nice to finally hear it in all of its bombastic studio glory.
Key Tracks: “Girls Go Wild”, “Dreamer”, “Shaken”
Spotify album link:
Coldplay – Live From Buenos Aires (Live 2017) – 24 tracks / 114 minutes
On yet another live recording, these blokes show their love for Argentina and that they are still on top of their game.
After releasing live records in 2003, 2012, and 2014, it did seem a bit overkill to send out another one in 2018. However, given just how monumental their most recent tour they completed in 2017 was, I suppose it is justified. This monster of a tour began and ended in Argentina, and the deluxe edition of this release includes a different Argentinian show on video. For the audio portion, we are treated to the final night of the last leg, recorded in its entirety at La Plata in Buenos Aires. Chris Martin sounds like he is having the time of his life, and the band’s love of the country and its people feels incredibly sincere. We are even treated to some pretty decent Spanish from Mr. Martin throughout.
Even though their music has gone full-scale pop/U2-anthems in recent years and they have only recorded a few songs that I truly enjoy since 2005’s X&Y (“Yes”, “Cemeteries of London”, and “Charlie Brown” come to mind), I must admit that this is a fun and lively record that is definitely worth not only any Coldplay fan’s time but also that of any casual pop/rock listener. While only six tracks from their brilliant first three albums are included here, they all shine: “Yellow”, ““God Put a Smile upon Your Face”, “Clocks”, “The Scientist”, “Fix You”, and “In My Place”. On the latter song, drummer Will Champion gets a turn behind the mic with surprisingly cool results.
I have come to terms with the fact that this excellent band is not going to go back to the plain and beautiful work of their Parachutes or A Rush of Blood to the Head origins; they have found a home in this new realm and I can’t hate on them for it. As long as they can crank out something as great as “Charlie Brown” every once in a while I will still deem them relevant – and that song is another highlight on this set. Having seen these cats perform thrice now, I can attest that they are highly skilled and put on quite an experience of a show. Now, let’s go back to the studio and crank out your best album in a decade before releasing any more live efforts, please.
Key Tracks: “Charlie Brown”, “The Scientist”, “Yellow”
Spotify album link:
Van Morrison – The Prophet Speaks
For some reason this album is not yet on Spotify, and I am too cheap to go buy it (seriously, somebody start paying me to write about music and I’ll go spend money on music). Get it together, Spotify/record label! The lead single “Ain’t Gonna Moan No More” is a terrific mellowed-out blues track and has me anxious to hear the rest of the record. Someday, probably, maybe…
Messimer – I Know I Should (single)
This local band just released their first single under their newly shortened moniker, and it is a treat. Luke tells me that there is another single or two coming this spring (as well as a Treefort appearance) with a plan for a proper album later in 2019. This is a local band to watch, which reminds me: there is a blog post centered on local artists I love coming soon.
This five-minute piece of rock/pop is a fun and catchy tale of unrequited love that features a killer guitar riff, some groovy soloing, and a nice piano flourish about halfway through. Luke starts out this song of looking back by saying “years ago I wrote a song, it wasn’t what I wanted then; but you were”. “I don’t even care anymore, but I know I should; I don’t even know anymore, but I know I could”.
Spotify single link:
Also released (and not strong enough to recommend):
Cold War Kids – This Will All Blow Over In Time
The title of this double album (one side is a best-of while the other is a batch of B-sides) is a line from their classic “We Used to Vacation”, my favorite CWK song and a striking and raw tale of the struggle of alcoholism. The greatest hits portion of this bad boy contains twelve of their finest songs, including the aforementioned song as well as “Hang Me Up To Dry”, “Hospital Beds”, “Something Is Not Right With Me”, “Miracle Mile”, and “First”. For those unfamiliar with CWK, this is a must-listen. It will make you a fan, I promise. After a dozen years that saw them release six studio albums and a couple of EPs they certainly have earned the right to release a best-of, and these songs represent their output pretty well. Strangely, no tunes from their newest LP, L.A. Divine, appear here.
The second part of the record is the “new release” portion: eleven tracks of demos, B-sides, and live recordings – none of which are really worth the casual listener’s time. “Vacation in Chicago” is quite honestly a boring live take on their greatest song, “Coffee Spoon” had previously been released (and is a pretty weak song), and “Goodnight Tennessee” has a nice beat and potential that is just not realized on this recording. The only redeeming material here is “Romance Languages #1”, which is an alternate (and superior) take on “Romance Languages #2” that was previously released on 2013’s Tuxedos EP.