La Isla Bonita
By: William Georges
Imagine winning the lottery every year since you were born. Now imagine you won this lottery from the purchase of one ticket, which was flown across seas by a bunch of foreigners to be hand delivered to your front door. This is the perfect storm of one musical group from SoCal, Deerhoof. Pessimism sucks, but it is to be asked, when speaking of Deerhoof: How much growth and innovation can come out of a 20 year old band headed by a Japanese girl limited to broken English? Sky’s the limit.
This album marks the 20th year anniversary of 3 man + 1 woman rock outfit Deerhoof. The members cited the albums direction towards Radiohead, Talking Heads, The Roots, and The Flaming Lips etc. And they do just that, Bonita at its peaks is a dark stormy calamity, transitioned to a sunny sky, tucked behind big bouncy green Nintendo 64 mountains. With its most accessible, fun sounds yet, Bonita manages to come off artsy edgy and funky.
There are times on this album where Deerhoof mix hooks and inaudible slurred vocals to create feeling, evident on the track “Doom”. “Exit Only”, a track smothered in lo-fi crunchy guitar where Satomi grins “Welcome to speech yo’ freedom!”, resulted as a twist on Deerhoof’s own inventive cover of The Ramones song “Pinhead”. Reinventing its own cover, a prime example of Deerhoof literally reinventing itself successfully over and over and over and over (times 20). The song “Oh Bummer”, 4 minutes in length, throws a variety of fun, scary and gloomy at you with its progressions from lighter instrumental to thicker, and heavier sounds backed by a shrilling Matsuzaki.
On an album like Bonita, where every moment feels necessary and innovative, the more songs, the merrier. Unfortunately with only 10 tracks, Deerhoof leaves you wanting more. However, the brief in-and-out fashion of this album is refreshing and intimate while you are in its company.
In 2014, Deerhoof continues to deliver, going as far as stepping down from its wacky stoop to please crowds.
Run The Jewels
Run The Jewels 2 (Fool’s Gold Records)
By: William Georges
DAMN SON! Back together for the second year are MCs El-P and Killer Mike under the critically acclaimed hip/hop duo, Run The Jewels. El-P is a New York boom bap underground rapper, known especially during the early 2000 underground hip/hop scene for his legendary records like Funcrusher Plus and Fantastic Damage. His partner, Killer Mike, introduced to many on Outkast’s seminal 2000 album Stankonia on the track “Snappin and Trappin’”, brings his southern-fried flow and political consciousness to this new album, Run The Jewels 2.
What isn’t there to say about Run The Jewels 2? As soon as you hit the play button you are bombarded with Killer Mike’s dialogue “IM FINNA BANG THIS BITCH THE FUCK OUT!” And the opening beat — so evil, looming as Killer Mike’s lyrics ride the shadows casted by the rhythm. Mike’s confidently slow flow takes the track to utmost levels of confidence. El-P finishes the track in brutal defiance of morality. “Oh My Darling” bangs your ear drums with sludgy bass and its chilling looping chorus, “OH My! DARLING DA-DA-DARLING, DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-D-DARLING”. “Blockbuster Part 1” keeps the intensity running at full speed with its fast paced doom metal backed bass patterns, with lyrics referring to the corruption of the American elite, reflecting continuity in Run The Jewel’s ‘anti-corruption’ idiosyncrasy.
The middle parts of the album keep you trapped in this hellish nightmare, continuing the pattern of gritty, mind-blowing production and lyrical content. “Early ft. Boots” and “All My Life” are songs whose choruses are chilling samples. The vocal tone of the looped chorus sounds admittedly guilty to the atrocities Killer Mike and El-P rap about.
And here you are, almost through this album—tortured, sexually abused, you’re a joke, the Government wants your neck, and Satan is getting really annoyed that you haven’t arrived yet. Then comes “All Due Respect” with its guerilla army, coup-de-tat sounding snare, echoing like it was recorded in an old dirty warehouse filled with an illegal weapons cache. It is El-P’s way or the highway; your mom loathes you and your dad left you. If you thought that was bad, Killer Mike is selling drugs to your sex addict family too!
Run the Jewels continues to raise the bar of disturbing, horror type hip hop with Run The Jewels 2. With some of the most well produced tracks of the year, RTJ 2 is a good’n.
Rating: 4.6/5, y’all.
The Best Day (Matador Records)
By: Andrew Grieve
Since Sonic Youth went on hiatus in 2011, Thurston Moore has kept himself busy collaborating with Yoko Ono and John Zorn, as well as moonlighting in black metal supergroup Twilight and his own side-band, Chelsea Light Moving, which released their self-titled debut last year.
Despite Sonic Youth’s rather heady discography, Moore has remarkably only released four solo albums in nearly four decades of musical activity. His first two; Psychic Hearts and Trees Outside the Academy were more along the lines of Sonic Youth, noisy, yet catchy and melodic, not too outside-the-box as his collaborations typically go. His last, 2011’s Beck-produced Demolished Thoughts, was much more subdued and melancholy, with Moore trading in the atypical noise for a more organic, acoustic folk sound.
Moore’s latest solo release for Matador Records, however, The Best Day, is not far from the last Sonic Youth albums that were released in the 2000s or his earlier solo work. Backed by familiar faces such as SY drummer Steve Shelley on Drums and My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe, Moore manages to return to a solo album that mirrors much of his previous work.
If you’re already acquainted with Sonic Youth, The Best Day will seem like familiar territory, for first-time listeners, the beginning may be a bit of a slog to get through, with the first two tracks clocking in at 20 minutes alone, with the rest of the album being far shorter than the beginning.
The album begins with “Speak to the Wild”, an eight-minute melodic jam that sets the tone and mood for the album itself, beginning with a verse/chorus structure, fraying into a psychedelic jam and then closing with a final verse, similar in nature to tracks off of Trees Outside the Academy.
The lead single “Detonation” is a great, speedy attack from Moore and his solo band; close to the music he made while heading Chelsea Light Moving over the last two years. Follow-up “Vocabularies” takes a darker turn, taking a mostly acoustic approach.
Closing tracks “Grace Lake” and “Germs Burn” would fit in great next to Thurston’s originals on the last Sonic Youth full-length, sprawling, psychedelic tracks that manage to get out of control and fall apart right to the point where he and his band manage to spin right back into control.
While one could say Moore very rarely thinks outside of his comfort zone when it comes to original solo work or his time in Sonic Youth, it’s clear that he has refined a sound that only he can make. There will be numerous Sonic Youth copycats, as there has always been in alternative rock; but only one Sonic Youth. Only one person can make that dissonant yet melodic guitar tone, and it’s Thurston Moore. Like other alt-rock luminaries, such as J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. fame, he has found his ground and continues to move forward in a controlled fashion, not too crazy, but just enough to where it sounds like Thurston.
That being said, The Best Day is a great follow-up for fans of Sonic Youth and Moore in general – but as for first-time listeners, this writer would most likely point to a SY album such as Dirty or Rather Ripped if you have an aversion to wordless psychedelic jams.
If you don’t, however, you’re in for a noisy treat.
Key tracks: “Detonation”, “Speak to the Wild”, “Germs Burn”
Listen if you like: Sonic Youth and associated projects, Slint, Television, J Mascis
By: Erin Ben-Moche (@ebenmoche)
Nikki Yanofsky’s album, Little Secret should not be a secret to the public. This twelve track album includes fantastic vocals and big band jazzy tones. Yanofky is only 20 years old and she resembles Christina Aguilera and Amy Winehouse perfectly. Yanofsky has killer soul and a mature sound for her age. If you love vocal jazz you will want to see what she has to offer.
Nikki Yanofsky’s recent album shows off how far she has come singing for the music industry. Born in Montreal, Quebec, Yanofsky has been singing since she could talk. She performed for the Winter Olympics in 2010 and has made many appearances for TV Jazz specials. By the age of 18, she won the award for “Favorite Jazz Vocalist” at the Canadian Independent Music Awards, the “Allen Slaight Award” for the Canadian Walk of Fame, and “Best Female Vocalist” at the WAVE Smooth Jazz Awards. She has covered The Beatles and Ella Fitzgerald as well as written and recorded her own jazz pieces. She is well acquainted with jazz music from working with composer and violinist Phil Ramone, and legends Quincy Jones Etta James, and Stevie Wonder.
Little Secret was released October 7, 2014, containing jazzy, soulful, and bluesy songs. She scats throughout the album and is so articulate; anyone can tell that she is a pro. The best part about her music is that you can feel her passion in every song. She adds dynamics and stress in a way that is different than other current young female singers.
Little Secret album opens with “Something New” which has a groovy sound. It is no coincidence that the hidden melody is the Austin Powers theme song. This song is upbeat and shows off her vocal range. Another great piece is “Jeepers Creepers 2.0” which has a 1940’s flair to it. It opens with a muted trumpet then follows with a head-nodding tempo. Yanofsky shows of her flirty side talking about the eyes of her admirer. She slows it down later in “You Mean the World to Me” which is a sweet ballad that can only be described as a song someone dances to in a big ballroom movie sequence. Other songs include “Out of Nowhere,” “Knock Knock,” and “Little Secret.”
This album is smooth sounding and easy to listen to. Yanofsky shakes things up by mixing fast and slow paces as well as showing off her belting and scatting. She is so talented and will only become more popular once she performs in America. “Little Secret” is a great album and listeners should check her out!
4.5/5 little secrets