Stage names mean a lot in hip-hop. Some are straightforward, like "Kanye West" or "Mike Jones". Others are created from acronyms, like "KRS-One" ("Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over" every "One". Then there are suggestive monikers like "Public Enemy", and abstract names like "A Tribe Called Quest". Superiority Complex is a great name for a hip-hop group, as it taps into rap's affinity for bragging. With a three-man line-up -- Iron Monk, Blackology, and Poisoned Fetus (that last one suggests that the bearer is an "ill emcee") -- the Orlando, Florida-based crew takes its cues from '90s-era Native Tongue flows and cadences. The group would have fit in nicely with A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, Leaders of the New School, and Black Sheep, as demonstrated by this album's two standouts -- "Butter" (a lively tribute/remake of A Tribe Called Quest's song of the same name) and "Club That Much" (for those of us who are too busy to go out all the time -- this song is brilliant). As the name suggests, Superiority Complex has all the bravado the hip-hop template requires ("Stand Up"), but the group can also convey the self-doubt that comes with not hitting the big time while watching other acts get popular ("Bad" and the aptly named "Inferiority Complex"). Aside from "Butter" and "Club That Much", the best flows are in "Rightside", "The Rhyme", and "Deathwish", the last of which brilliantly converts its beat into Phil Collins and Philip Bailey's "Easy Lover". As an album, however, Stand Up, is an uneven listen, particularly when the rhymes and beats don't complement one another ("Seasons", "Relax Yourself"). Nevertheless, Superiority Complex has an expansive vision that promises to produce a more satisfying release.
In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.
If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.
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
This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.
Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.
Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.
Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.
France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.