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by PopMatters Staff

21 Apr 2016


Nathaniel Schwass: “Ghetto Walkin’” is a raw, soulful single from the up and coming Miles Davis and Robert Glasper project entitled Everything Is Beautiful. On this jazzy track, master takes from Davis’ work with Columbia Records have been compiled and reworked by Glasper to create a remote, somber affect that is well represented by the creative artwork of its complementary video. The harsh stoicism of the urban-sprawl is emoted in the sketchwork of the animation, seemingly influenced by the artwork of Jean-Michel Basquiat. The complementary video highlights the existential crisis of black, urban subjecthood as vocalist Bilal sings “So low I’m thinking one way out / In a box, In a church, and the people shout / Grandma’s hands prayed for me / But these streets still preyed on me.” The remorseful interiority of urban life expressed is similarly expressed in Mac Miller’s song “Friends” from his Faces mixtape, which also samples Davis’ “The Ghetto Walk”. The tempo of “Ghetto Walkin” is noticeably faster than the Davis original, yet it creates a rich texture of sound that is well paced by the dry percussion. The layering of sound on this single is incredibly rich, from the powerful emotive qualities of the vocals to the sweet nuances of it’s forlorn strings. This modern re-working of Davis’ sound is well arranged by Glasper, but it lacks the thought-provoking surprise of Davis’ improvisation. Given the nature of the project, this lack is lessened by the aesthetic cohesion of Glasper’s work, and the euphony of the track breathes life into the work of Davis and his musical legacy. [8/10]

by PopMatters Staff

21 Apr 2016


Emmanuel Elone: “Flu” is simply the greatest piece of contemporary jazz in 2016 thus far. There’s a lot going on instrumentally, from some plucked acoustic guitar to sharp violins to even colorful synth leads (that I suspect Flying Lotus might have had a hand in), but Jameszoo blends all of the elements brilliantly to form a textured and layered jazz melody. However, what brings all of these instrumental components together are the clear, crisp drums that punch out a complex, pulsing rhythm underneath it all. These elements alone would make “Flu” a beautiful piece of art, but Jameszoo structures the song to have small builds as well as instrumental and rhythmic shifts that add even more texture and harmony. If this is what Jameszoo’s new album, Fool, is going to sound like, it could easily be the best record this year, bar none. [9/10]

by Sarah Zupko

21 Apr 2016


Globally inspired Canadian roots ensemble the Bills has been thrilling fans for 20 years with their blend of dancey styles and now the group is set to release their latest album, Trail of Tales, on April 22nd via Borealis Records. This is the first time that all five members of the band have composed songs for an album and the music’s variety ranges from folky to poppy, from funky to jazzy. “There’s never been a Bills album with five songwriters, that’s a first in the history of the band,” says singer/guitarist Chris Frye. “Hopefully it’s bringing out the best we have to offer because we’re truly together as a unit.”

by Sarah Zupko

21 Apr 2016


The Reverend Shawn Amos is on a mission to bring blues to wider attention within pop culture spaces. After all, it’s a living, breathing, vibrant genre that continues to grow, not some old retro form of music. Just look at the careers of Gark Clark Jr., Robert Randolph and Keb’ Mo’ for the most recent examples. Amos comes at the blues from a lifetime of appreciation as he formerly worked as a music industry executive where he recorded and produced a number of Grammy-nominated albums. Now, he’s stepping out with the microphone as a blues preacher and the result is fabulous, as his singing seduces the blues-starved masses and his harmonica playing makes them believers.

by PopMatters Staff

21 Apr 2016


Photo: Richard Peterson

Morgan Y. Evans: Neil Hagerty is one of the original ‘90s vibe deconstructionists, a master guitarist who is way underrated by the mainstream. Royal Trux are one of the most important bands ever, but some people will always have to have their hand held in a conversation about the ripples the band started by throwing their weird hybrid of noise collage, ‘70s rock influences and gutter glam in the alt rock pond. Neil preceded the likewise talented Kurt Viles and Kevin Devines by a long shot. This new Howling Hex song (they’ve got a lot of records now) is pretty darn linear, with a video that could be a stoner version of HBO’s cancelled show The Newsroom and an arrangement that is practically power pop with the sneared kind of thin and weasely sounding vocals fans love. A far cry from Pussy Galore’s chaos but certainly worth some spins. If the absence of Hagerty’s at times epic and juicy solos bugs you can always revisit “Shadow of the Wasp” on your own time. [6/10]

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Difficulty As Tone in 'Hyper Light Drifter'

// Moving Pixels

"Hyper Light Drifter's creates a certain tone -- melancholy resignation mixed with a feeling of just barely scraping by -- that wouldn’t be possible in an easier game.

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