Check out this week’s New Music Round-Up Playlist.
Anderson .Paak Oxnard
It’s been two years since .Paak broke through with his 2016 album, the Grammy-nominated Malibu. Since then .Paak has appeared on The Black Panther soundtrack, dropped a collaboration with Knowledge under the moniker NxWorries, and released a handful of singles. But now, now we finally get the highly anticipated follow-up to Malibu, Oxnard, .Paak’s first release since being signed to Dr. Dre’s record label Aftermath. Dr. Dre is an executive producer on the album and is one of a handful of noteworthy guests featured. That handful also includes Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T, Snoop Dogg, Q-Tip and J. Cole among others.
.Paak’s music is hip hop sauteed in futuristic R&B and the benefactor of a delectable Parliament-era funk reduction. His vocals vacillates between rapid fire rapping, smooth crooning and something that sounds like a logical halfway point between the two. To get a real feel for everything that .Paak brings to the table, I’d strongly suggest checking out his NPR Tiny Desk Concert from 2016, where .Paak handles vocals while manning the drum kit and being backed by his band The Free Nationals.
And in case you were wondering, and maybe you were, maybe you weren’t, Oxnard is the town in Southern California where .Paak grew up. Going back home was crucial for .Paak after a whirlwind past few years, as he found himself in need of some of that special kind of grounding that only going home can provide.
“When you go everywhere, you just hold on to the things that made you,” he told Rolling Stone in a recent interview. I’d like to say that I understand this and could relate to it, but doing so would make the “everywhere” I’ve been pale in comparison, so I’ll just keep this to myself.
Mumford & Sons Delta
Don’t kid yourselves. It’s hard out there in the streets when you’re a band trying to do something different. There’s a fine line that exists between being a true original act and being a novelty. Mumford & Sons are a perfect example of this sticky situation. When they emerged in 2009 with their hootin’ and their hollerin’ and their bass drum thumpin’, old-time feeling take on doom folk, the band were hailed as a breath of fresh air. The didn’t have drums, but their music packed more than enough of a punch (see: “Man, Little Lion.”)
The good will for Mumford & Sons continued with their next album, Babel, which was released in 2012 and went on to win the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2013. However, whispers and scuttlebutt started pocking their heads out of the shadows and with it, pinches of mockery and criticism. The band was good, but were they just a one trick pony? Mumford & Sons even seemed to acknowledge these whispers with their video for “Hopeless Wanderer,” having some familiar faces poke fun at the band’s image and reputation.
After Babel, a left turn was all but inevitable and the result was 2015’s Wilder Mind, an album that sounded like an action item from a recent band meeting: let’s make an album that kind of sounds like us, but also sounds a lot like Coldplay. The album wasn’t a stinker, but it wasn’t something to write home about either.
Now the band is back with their fourth album, Delta, and the experimenting continues. Well, kind of. At their core, Mumford & Sons are a throwback act and Delta has them trying to thread the needle between adhering to that aesthetic and trying to subtly update it. I’m no expert, but I’d call such a move dicey. Apparently there is a song called “Darkness Visible” that includes a spoken word section. There aren’t enough shrug emojis in the world to properly respond to something like that.
It’s tough to break through doing something different. But it’s even tougher to stay broken through. Godspeed Gents. I wish you the best of luck.
Smashing Pumpkins Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1/LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.
There was a stretch there where “Smashing Pumpkins” were less of an actual band and more of an idea or more specifically, a label affixed to whatever random musicians Billy Corgan had assembled on a given night to play “Bullet With Butterfly Wings.” But if Guns ‘n Roses can get back together, anything is possible.
In 2015, Corgan made amends with the band’s original guitarist James Iha and a little while later, Iha joined Corgan onstage at a show. The two eventually put their differences aside and what followed was a tour featuring actual Smashing Pumpkins playing alongside Corgan. When it comes to reunions, there are generally two tracks a band can take. There’s the track where you start playing shows and then release an album and there’s the track where you release some new material, then tour. The Smashing Pumpkins went with track one, with Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1/LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun. coming on the heels of the “Shiny and Oh So Bright” tour, which ran this past summer and featured not only Iha back on guitar, but the return of drummer Jimmy Chamberlain. The band’s original bassist D’arcy Wretzky has elected to stay home, although the specifics of that decision are disputed.
The new eight-song album was produced by Rick Rubin and recorded at his studio in California (which may or may not have been destroyed in the recent wildfires according to the first episode of Broken Record, a new music podcast by Rubin and Malcolm Gladwell.) Rolling Stone describes one of the album’s songs, the single “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts,)” as having “guitar-driven, bright melodies and Corgan’s inflection recall early era Pumpkins with a “1979” vibe that should please longtime fans.”
In related news, did you know that Corgan bought the National Wrestling Alliance last spring? I didn’t, but to be honest, I’m not that surprised.
Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness Upside Down Flowers
Three things you should know about Andrew McMahon:
- Andrew McMahon plays beautiful, piano-driven pop rock.
- The band name Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness is so much cooler than Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness and while I don’t know if going with and the Wilderness was ever considered, I do know that in the Wilderness is significantly better.
- In 2006, McMahon founded The Dear Jack Foundation, a non-profit that raised money to go towards cancer research. The year before, McMahon was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, which he has battled ever since.
One last thing worth noting is that his music is really good.
The Good, The Bad & The Queen Merrie Land
Damon Albarn keeps busy. I keep busy by doing yard work, ordering books I may or may not ever read on Amazon and hanging out with my dog. Albarn on the other hand; he keeps busy by putting together bands. He wins this one.
Albarn’s main gig, or at least his initial gig, was as the frontman for Blur. But he has since gone on to form Gorillaz, which surprisingly have been around since 1998, as well as two other main projects: Rocket Juice & the Moon and The Good, The Bad & The Queen. With Gorillaz wrapping up a tour, the dudes in The Good, The Bad & The Queen got the call. Those dudes include Paul Simonon of The Clash, Simon Tong of The Verve and Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen. The band’s last release came back in 2007.
Merrie Land was produced by Tony Visconti, who was a longtime collaborator of David Bowie’s. And you should consider yourself warned, The Good, The Bad & The Queen don’t really sound anything like Blur or Gorillaz. The one constant is Albarn and his vocals. But beyond that, like your bonds, Albarn likes to diversify.
Spose We All Got Lost
Spose is a rapper from the great state of Maine who gained national attention back in 2010 with his song “I’m Awesome” off of his 2009 mixtape We Smoked It All. Spose had a brief run with Universal Records before striking out on his own. In the years since, he has released over a half dozen albums, with his most recent full length, Humans, being a project that he wrote and recorded in 24 hours.
We All Got Lost is his latest release and comes out on the same day the release of his first children’s book, Pinecone Pete is Not Impressed. Spose drops insightful and introspective verses, with songs that run the gamut from satirical jabs at fame and the world around him to odes to his favorite Boston Celtics. He’s all in on Marcus Smart, something I fully support.
Chris Cornell Chris Cornell
Cornell’s death in 2017 was the latest in a string of deaths that shocked the rock community and now, as with other recently departed rock legends, his career and legacy are getting the box set treatment. Coming in two forms, a self-titled album and a 62-track box set, the tribute pulls from all the stages of Cornell’s storied career. There are tracks from Soundgarden in there, in addition to songs from Audioslave, his project with 3/4’s of Rage Against the Machine, and Temple of the Dog, which was a tribute to Cornell’s friend, the late Andy Wood of Mother Love Bone, themselves instrumental in the creation of the Seattle grunge scene. The set also includes a slew of material from Cornell’s solo career and liner notes written by his former bandmates.
Earlier this week it was announced that some of those former bandmates are all coming together to honor Cornell at a show early next year in Los Angeles. The show will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and will feature performances by Metallica, Foo Fighters, Ryan Adams as well as members of Cornell’s former bands. It is at this time that I would casually mention that if anyone wants to fly me out to this event, possibly as Christmas present, I am grateful in advance and will definitely be your best friend.
The Police Every Move You Make: The Studio Recordings
In other box set news, The Police have released one that includes all five of the band’s studio albums remastered. A sixth album, Flexible Strategies, comprised of other recordings and B-sides, is also included. Ah, but there is one catch to this though. This box set is (as of now) only available on 180-gram heavyweight vinyl. Man! If only there was somewhere else you could find this stuff!
Ryley Walker The Lillywhite Sessions
Ryley Walker is a experimental singer/songwriter from Chicago who like a lot of us out there, has a soft spot in his heart for the Dave Matthews Band. As a result, Walker, much like Ryan Adams did a few years ago when he recorded his own version of Taylor Swift’s 1989, has recorded his own version of the legendary lost album that the Dave Matthews Band made with producer Steve Lillywhite in 2001.
For those not up to speed when it comes to DMB History, while attempting to record a follow up to their album Before These Crowded Streets, the band recorded an entire album with Lillywhite. Yet the album ended up being scrapped and the band started over with another producer, Glen Ballard. The end result was the lackluster album Everyday. A year or so later, the band released Busted Stuff, which was the lost album re-recorded by the band.
So if you’re keeping track, Walker has covered an album that was lost, then found, then re-recorded, then placed firmly in the DMB cannon. But whatever, Walker has a track record of creating unique and inspired music, so it’s worth seeing what he can do with an album comprised of some really great DMB tunes.
The Christmas Music Check-In
Texas alt-country rockers Old 97’s have released LOVE THE HOLIDAYS, an album that is 90% Christmas originals and 10% old standards. According to a press release, the album contains “a sack full of rockin’ new Yuletide favorites.” Given the band’s track record, I have no doubt that this album is full of tunes that would be great to listen to while recklessly doing donuts in a mall parking lot instead of going inside and doing your Christmas shopping.
This Week’s Trip Down Memory Lane
Alan Siegel has put together a fantastic oral history of Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance, which happened twenty-five years ago on November 18, 1993. I read it and halfway through found myself listening to MTV Unplugged in New York, which I hadn’t done in a while. I’d hard time thinking of a better way to spend twenty minutes sometime this weekend than reading this piece.
This Week’s in Thanks, I Needed That
As someone who is mildly concerned about the future of Migos in light of both Quavo and Offset releasing solo albums, it was reassuring seeing them all together. This bit was also super enjoyable and probably one of the better ones Corden has done among the past few.
This One Got Past Me Last Week and For That, I Apologize
Two iconic Hip Hop albums turned twenty-five on November 9: A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders and Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers.) To celebrate, Canadian DJ, DJ Filthy Rich, created A Clan Called Wu – Enter the Marauders, a dope mash-up of the two albums.
“The intent was not to improve on the originals in any way…that would be impossible, as I consider them both to be perfect bodies of work. Rather, it was about putting a totally new spin on these well-worn classics,” Filthy Rich said in a statement. “The contrast of Wu’s gritty street raps over Ali Shaheed’s jazzy production works in a pleasantly unexpected way.”
Well sir, my intent is to share that mixtape as much as possible. Here’s to both of us succeeding.
File Under ‘Extremely Important’
PBR is in danger. This is serious news.
I will fully acknowledge that it’s been a few years since I was in a band, playing in shitty bars and clubs, and that when doing so, PBR was my band’s drink of choice. Why? Because it was cheap and we were the kind of band that didn’t get paid all that much for gigs. Fast forward and I am 100% confident bands that bands like my old band are out there today and those bands are drinking PBR because they don’t have any money, aren’t good enough to warrant free drinks and $2 PBR pounders are their best option. You take that away and your creating a dire situation for struggling, up and coming bands. I’m not saying this is a national emergency, but I am saying it could possibly be.
Next week: It’s Record Store Day!