If there was ever a genre called “blue devils hip-hop”, Andy Kayes may just be its choice practitioner. His blustering, electronica-squelched hip-hop is heavily saturated with moods so blue, his music grows heavier with every play. The France-based Englishman has been working the underground scenes of Lyon for some years now, splitting his time between open mics and recording studios whilst hooking up with some of the genre’s most respected names.
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Lifestyle‘s opening trio of tracks ensures its classic status even at this early point in the album. It’s not just the quality of the songs, but their sequencing and the way in which they complement one another, easing the listener into the journey and then quickening the pace with each step. “Slave Wages” of course is the centrepiece of the triptych.
As the dreamy chords of “Contempt” die away and the feminine wiles of Andy Cohen recede in a Tyrrhenian heat haze, the listener’s attention is jolted by a chiming, circling guitar pattern. It is irresistible. It also represents that prenominate quickening of pace, the acceleration from “Contempt” that will continue through “Slave Wages” on to the next track and propel the listener through the first quarter of the album.
I’ve never been the biggest Yes fan. But strangely, it was at last week’s Rush concert in Calgary, Alberta where early Yes, which has always been a weird sticking point for yours truly, started to click. I was sitting in my aisle seat on stage right, 13 rows up from the floor, watching the crew make the final preparations to the stage and back line behind the big curtain when “Roundabout”, one of only a small handful of early Yes songs I could identify, came on through the PA. I don’t know if it was the excitement of anticipation or the several pints of cheap beer I’d had with friends in a pub before, but the delightfully convoluted 4/4-14/4-7/4 track from 1971’s Fragile album made a whole ton of sense: Jon Anderson’s quixotic musings about taking the train to Montreux, Steve Howe’s snappy little riff, RickWakeman’s wicked organ solos, Bill Bruford’s masterful beats, and especially Chris Squire’s nimble, roaring bassline.
Justin Townes Earle ended up moving to Vagrant Records and surprised his fans with not one, but two, new albums within a year. The companion pieces, Single Mothers and Absent Fathers, are not concept records, but complimentary, as he describes, “like the two parts of Springsteen’s The River.” Earle reflects on how his songs change over time, and how his touring band pulls from his all-time favorite band, and friends of Country Fried Rock, Centro-Matic.
There were a lot of strong k-pop releases throughout the month of June, but two separate competitions dominated the conversation. A battle of the top boy bands played out through the beginning of the month, only to be followed by three highly-anticipated girl group comebacks in the second half.