Primrose Green is one hell of an insular folk album. It’s a disc less focused on satisfying the writer’s ego or existing purely on the basis of heartfelt confessionals as so many modern “folk” albums are; instead, it focuses on establishing its own universe, one where psychedelic textures mix in with delicately finger-picked guitars, creating something sonically unique but also entirely self-contained. Primrose Green is a universe unto itself, and it’s for that reason that so many people are talking about its creator, Ryley Walker.
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The impossible has happened: Cannibal Ox have released a second album.
Some are not too surprised by this development, given that the duo consisting of Vast Aire and Vordul Mega dropped a short EP in 2013 after over a decade of inactivity. At the start of that decade, 2001 specifically, a little album called The Cold Vein was released, produced by Company Flow’s El-P and the flagship full-length for his new record label Definitive Jux. With Vordul and Vast’s poetic, dense lyrics given a dark, brooding atmosphere in the form of El-P’s beats, the album quickly became a stone-cold classic, immediately putting the label on the map, setting the guys up for success, and redefining the very possibilities of what indie rap could do at a time when more indie-centric press was finally coming into prominence.
So what the hell happened?
By the end of this introduction, you will own two Richard Jankovich albums.
Jankovich has been one of the most fascinating under-the-radar artists to emerge in the last 15 years. Back in 2003, he worked with a variety of collaborators under the name the Burnside Project. Their most notable album, 2003’s The Networks, the Circuits, the Streams, the Harmonies, was a small bit of electro-pop wonder, mixing pop culture-heavy lyrics with dynamic digital arrangements with an astute sense of melody. Who loved the Burnside Project? The UK charts did. Queer as Folk did, using single “Que the Pulse to Begin” as its theme song in later years. Hell, even Cameron Crowe did, nominating it for that year’s Shortlist Music Prize. There was a profound warmth to Jankovich’s music, which helped separate it from a lot of the other electronic acts at the time.
As someone who has been willing to stir up a lot of shit, British rapper Dizraeli has been setting teeth on edge since his politicized hip-hop masterstroke Engurland (City Shanties) back in 2009. That album gave listeners a taste of the rapper’s ramshackled hip-hop, which fused elements as disparate as folk, Africana, spoken word, turntablism, and boho jazz.
A known wild card onstage (the artist once set a number of cars on fire for public amusement), Dizraeli is also in a minor movement of rappers who make strong appeals for social awareness, bridging the wide gap between the hedonistic throw-downs of club bangers and the invectives of social protest. His previous effort (with his band the Small Gods), explored the world outside his UK homeland after a trip to the Middle East region. An attempt to traverse cultural boundaries and dismantle stereotypes about “othered” cultures, Moving in the Dark (2013) no less captured the imagination with its message of social compassion and homebrewed grooves that were cooked and baked like homeopathic remedies.
One would be hard-pressed to find much correlation between the Toronto power-pop institution that is Sloan and famed makeup-metalers KISS, but as of late, that task has become increasingly easy.
Back in 1978, riding a crest of popularity following the fact that KISS’ live albums were making them bigger stars than their studio albums ever were, the band’s manager thought it would be great idea to have each band member release their very own solo album on the same day, each disc counting as half-an-album in their five-album contract with their label. Although such a unique marketing idea had never been tried prior, the stunt itself turned out to have more of a lasting legacy than any of the material that appeared on those discs, but, if KISS gained a reputation for anything, it was being great at marketing.
For Sloan, however, the band has quietly been turning out brilliant pop albums every few years like clockwork, which makes them sound like they exist purely as craftsmen, but their consistently-stunning, quietly-developing style has been the very thing that has endeared them to their fans, which explains why, how after two decades in the business, they are still going strong, with each member (Chris Murphy, Patrick Pentland, Jay Ferguson, and Andrew Scott) proving to be a dynamic, distinct songwriter in their own right.