Though this is admittedly a gross oversimplification of one of the most complex genres of music ever, jazz can generally be separated into two camps. In one is the sedate, steady groove of early Davis and Coltrane, poised and collected over technically masterful solos and iconic melodies. In the other is the wild, kinetic funk of Mingus and Hancock, the kind that continues to exert massive influence on artists like Flying Lotus and his Brainfeeder cohort. Lucky Chops fits pretty solidly into the second camp. Their pelvis-swinging style of funky horn music is a genuine joy, present and hungry. “Buyo” waltzes forward with a rump-shaker of a sousaphone line, the upper-register instruments chorusing brilliantly on top. Topped off with a ripping baritone sax solo, it’s the kind of fiercely alive jazz which appeals to almost all music fans, regardless of jazz taste.
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Emmanuel Elone: “You’re like drugs / You’re like drugs to me.” It’s 2016; when will the drug/love metaphor finally die? On “Misery”, Gwen Stefani’s latest single, the pop star seems to be trying (and failing) to regain the relevance and popularity that she lost by the late 2000s. Along with the aforementioned love/drug metaphor, Gwen Stefani’s lyrics are a hodgepodge of cliches and hyperboles wrapped up in a bowtie made up of false emotions. “Put me out of my misery”, “I’m in trouble”, and “I’m trying not to care” are just a few of the generic lines that Stefani beats her listeners over the head with as the verses transition into the chorus. It’s pretty sad, actually, since not only does Gwen Stefani have a great voice for pop music, but because the beat was actually spectacular in its own right. As the boomy drums provide the heartbeat of the song, finger snap sounding snares give it an extra kick, making the song even flirt very slightly with a funk-inspired rhythm at points. So while I’m pretty sure that “Misery” isn’t going to bring Gwen Stefani back into pop relevance, it has enough good things going for it to be an average listen at worst, and decent at best. [6/10]
Chris Ingalls: After all this time, John Doe has earned the right to take it easy. Moving away from the punk sounds of X to a solo career more geared toward bluesy roots rock, he seems to enjoy settling into something considerably more laid back. Here, barroom piano and aching steel guitar anchor this lovely track. Doe’s voice is well-worn and relaxed but never complacent. “A Little Help” is a simple, gorgeous country ballad and Chan Marshall’s harmonies provide the perfect boost. [8/10]
For the better part of these past two years, Rochester native Adam Clark has crafted a cracking relationship with renowned producer David Schuler (P!nk, John Legend, Ricki Lee) and has been continuously growing as a varied artist in the lane of overarching pop/rock ever since. Whether one considers the sweeping chorus of “King of the Sky”, with tinges of an exotic epic pervading its backing harmonies and portions of its instrumental, or the tinges of electronic R&B influence in “With You”, one would be hard-pressed to describe Clark’s ongoing collaboration with Schuler as anything less than a continued success. The two offer themselves well to each other’s strengths in producing a catchy song time and time again, and the passion in Clark’s vocal delivery keeps it from sounding karaoke each go that he has at the mic.
“Can’t Help It” is exactly what you’d expect from a scuzzy stoner rock song. Detuned guitars riff low and riff hard (with the exception of a crystalline treble solo midway through), cymbals crash like there’s no tomorrow, and vocalist Wes McDonald doesn’t so much sing into the mic as mumble noncommittally. In other words, it’s everything you could want from the style. Nicely, the video picks up where the audio leaves off, showcasing heavy beards and nonchalant performing over a backdrop and editing job straight out of David Hasselhoff’s playbook. When all is said and done, it’s alternative rock done traditional, which—for many—is alternative rock done right.