Hall of Justus, otherwise known as the Justus League, is a team of up-and-coming rappers and producers from North Carolina who have been lingering on the popularity medium for what seems like quite some time. But if Soldiers Of Fortune is any indication, the stifling is self-inflicted, as consistency is at a disappointing minimum. As with any posse cut, Fortune is over-packed with emcees, and since Phonte and Big Pooh -- the rappers with the most exposure from their Atlantic-signed Little Brother -- have the most recognizable voices and styles, the tracks without them seem like a mishmash of voices set to flickering soul beats. "Tour of Duty", the lengthiest (and most tedious) cut on the record, in addition to synth-stringed "Jus Chillin'", feature the Hall of Justus crew, and while the beats roll along, the rappers seem faceless as the focus swings from voice to voice. The album is unquestionably packed with great one-liners, but without the album credits readily available, the record might as well be a one-man show. But like all Justus League releases, the beats are essentially the shining stars, with 9th Wonder's chop-and-flipped "Tired", and Khrysis's "Do It Again", as some of the gutsiest soul beats of their repertoire. So for beat junkies, Soldiers of Fortune is a sure bet, but for an album without such a schizophrenic personality, stay tuned for the next solo venture from the League.
From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.
60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)
White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans
The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.
70. The Horrors - "Machine"
On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke
"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.
Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.
Forty years after its initial release, one of the defining albums of US punk rock finally gets the legacy treatment it deserves.
If you ever want to start a fistfight in a group of rock history know-it-alls, just pop this little question: "Was it the US or the UK who created punk rock?" Within five minutes, I guarantee there'll be chairs flying and dozens of bloodstained Guided By Voices T-shirts. One thing they'll all agree on is who gave punk rock its look. That person, ladies, and gentlemen is Richard Hell.
Tokyo Nights shines a light on the roots of vaporwave with a neon-lit collection of peak '80s dance music.
If Tokyo Nights sounds like a cheesy name for an album, it's only fitting. A collection of Japanese city pop from the daring vintage record collectors over at Cultures of Soul, this is an album coated in Pepto-Bismol pink, the peak of saccharine '80s dance music, a whole world of garish neon from which there is no respite.