• Best Album of 2014: Vince Staples - Hell Can Wait

    20. Dez. 2014, 9:52

    Back in August, a 21 year old L.A. rapper who had yet to even release an album partook in what I can only describe as a cataclysmic interview with Pitchfork.


    If you even have a moderate interest in rap/hip hop, you need to read this. Because Vince eviscerates the current state of the rap industry, of American culture really, with a level of efficiency, analytical precision and totality I will personally guarantee you have never before seen. No one escapes unscathed.

    Prior to Vince, my go-to rap artists for most of this year trended towards Chicago's infamous Drill Rap scene and the unhinged stuff coming from ATL's Young Thug and Future. And of course there's Drake and Kanye West, the twin heralded, misanthropic industry phenoms.

    This EP blows all of them out of the water.

    Vince Staples has spent the past few years orbiting like a Satellite around the Odd Future crew while quietly, steadily building his own local following in L.A.

    The funny thing is -- for all the hype Odd Future got -- this 7 track EP accomplishes everything they were supposed to, but never did. And prior to the August, the month that the piercing, ghetto Twilight Zone synths of "Blue Suede" hit, no one had a clue what was coming.

    I advise reading the Vince Staples interview during your first listen to Hell Can Wait, his debut EP that dropped late last month. Because it is one hell of a juxtaposition.


    At first listen, the songs themselves certainly don't seem too earth-shattering. The bleakness of the production is right up there with anything coming out of Chicago right now. The lyrics, while evocative, aren't revolutionary either.

    The only indication that something big is occurring here is Vince's delivery. The lyrical hook on opener "Fire" is a disturbingly emotionless repetition: "Probably finna go to hell anyway." Track two is "65 Hunnid," and it has all the classic ingredients of the rap party starters we've become so accustomed to: Big hook, lyrics that traverse the usual array of topics: gunplay, gangbanging, callous misogny and bulletproof braggadacio, and a title that wears its ignorance like a badge of honor.

    And yet, beneath the surface there's an undercurrent of malcontent. Vince isn't reveling in any of this, he's just documenting it. A dispassionate observer.

    "Screen Door" offers a low-key segue (simultaneously upping the ante by documenting Vince' father's ignominious realities as a drug dealer) before "Hands Up" hits.

    "North Division trying to stop my blackness," Staples fumes, before launching into the most explicitly political track on an album that's otherwise leaves editorializing to insinuations and intonations. "I refuse my right to be silent!" is anything but.

    Which brings us to "Blue Suede," the best rap song of 2014.


    First, the production. Infamous unleashes the sparest, rawest soundscape heard this side of the Neptunes. The background sonics in their own right would sound revolutionary enough.

    But then there's Vince. "New shoes with the blue suede," he keeps repeating, inverting one of the original classics of rock 'n' roll, reclaiming the topic from the man who became the "King of Rock and Roll" by co-opting black culture.

    Once commodified by Elvis, the shoes in question take on a much more macabre role in the world of Vince Staples, as their wearer pays the ultimate price for "wanting the Jordans with the blue suede on em."

    Fact is, of course, you could appreciate and love the song without knowing any of this. Vince, unlike Chuck D (who is referenced on Hell Can Wait, and like Vince, didn't drink, smoke, or do drugs) is low-key with his political statements.

    Sloganeering is kept to a minimum (the final seconds of "Hands Up," really), there's no associated movement, hell, there's really no one even taking the same perspective as Vince Staples in rap music. Period. Stellar album closers "Limos" and "Feelin' the Love" affirm as such.

    But there's a difference in the voice of Vince Staples and the voice of every other rapper on the scene right now. The best analogy I can think of is here is Illmatic-era Nas, who proved you can be in the game, of the game, but not necessarily for the game.

    Refused famously once asked, "How can we expect anyone to listen/if we keep using the same old voice?/We need new noise!" Ladies and gentlemen, we've found that new noise, and his name is Vince Staples. Behold the forthcoming greatness.

  • My Picks: The 50 Tracks of the Aughts, Part I

    25. Aug. 2014, 4:52

    A while ago, I did a Five-Part journal entry on my 50 picks for the greatest tracks of the 00's. You can find them in the five-part series, noted below. *Ignore the warnings, apparently Last.FM is scared of bit.ly*

    Part II: http://bit.ly/VKdjGP
    Part III: http://bit.ly/VKdlOZ
    Part IV: http://bit.ly/1AM5Fv1
    Part V: http://bit.ly/1AM5IHf
    Part VI: http://bit.ly/YT5m3U

    Since posting the list, I have revised it numerous times, and am now cultivating a list of 5 Honorable Mentions (which receive writeups) and 10 Other Classics that just missed making the cut but also warrant a referral. Please find them, and my original Introduction to the list, below.


    I was 13 when the clock hit midnight on 01/01/2000. I was 23 when the last day of 2009 commenced. The 2000s was the decade that I came of age, so what follows is my selection of the 50 seminal cuts from 00-09. Delivering this in 6 parts, counting down from 50 to 1.

    But first, my 10 Other Classics and 5 Honorable Mentions.

    Other Classics

    i. Cause=Time-Broken Social Scene, You Forgot it in People, 2003.

    ii. Danger! High Voltage-The Electric Six, Gay Bar, 2003.

    iii. Hate It or Love It-The Game, The Documentary, 2004.

    v. To Hell With Good Intentions-McLusky, McLusky Do Dallas, 2002.

    vi. No One Knows-Queens of the Stone Age, Songs for the Deaf, 2003.

    vii. The National Anthem-Radiohead, Kid A, 2000.

    viii. Entertain-Sleater-Kinney, The Woods, 2005.

    viii. The Way We Get By-Spoon, Kill the Moonlight, 2003.

    ix. Untouched-The Veronicas, 2008.

    x. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart-Wilco, Yankee Foxtrot Hotel, 2002.

    Honorable Mentions

    50a. Can’t Get You Out of My Head-Kylie Minogue, Can’t Get You Out of My Head, 2001.

    Australian diva Kylie Minogue’s sultry swoon is devastating on this track—but still fails to take precedence over that deviously catchy synthesized backbeat. The casual dominance the track holds over the listener is best expressed in that infuriatingly accurate song title, which guarantees the listener the same essential quandry Ms. Minogue finds herself attempting to overcome in the song’s lyrics: erasing the unforgettable from one’s memory.


    50b. Ante Up (Remix)-M.O.P., Warriorz, 2000.

    Outsized and over-the-top, M.O.P. celebrates the joys of armed robbery, assault and battery, and other Class 3 Felonies with the revelry of kids on Christmas morning. The lyrical composition stands alone amongst its gangster rap peers, if only because 90 percent of the content displaces the usual mix of boasts and threats with in medias res commands to fellow law violators. There’s Remi Martin creatively describing his preferred wardrobe accessories: “Rock the ski mask/whether it’s June or February!” Busta Rhymes actually sounding like a legitimate thug. And of course, that all-time classic interjection amidst those chaotic, choral refrains: “KIDNAP THAT FOOL!”


    50c. Over and Over-Hot Chip, The Warning, 2006.

    The lead singer looks like Kip from Napoleon Dynamite. There are multiple sexually-charged shout outs to…Casio. It’s the fucking dancefloor Revenge of the Nerds. The A.V. Club has taken over the club. Hell has frozen over.


    50d. We Fly High-Jim Jones, Hustler's P.O.M.E., 2006.

    Ian Cohen said it best: For a second there, Jim Jones was "hip-hop's Borat—extracting hilarity and a bit of mad genius from a bottomless pit of ignorance."

    Crashing the countdown is this, the king of unintentional 00's pop hilarity. (FLOSSIN) Hook: unstoppable. (WE IN DA BUILDING) Associated Dance: Ridiculous. (TWINKLE TWINKLE) Lyrics: Abominable. (BALLLINNNNN)

    Laugh all you want, but almost a decade later, you can't miss the magic that Jones and the Dipset crew were onto around the middle part of the decade. (DO IT!) Though not exactly surprising, it is unfortunate that Jones and co. would make like a Houdini vanishing act and disappear as promptly as they had emerged within a few years of this song's release.


    50e. Heavy Days-JEFF the Brotherhood, 20079

    I almost put Vampire Weekend in this spot, but then I bumped "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" (still a great track) up against "Heavy Days" by JtB and thought to myself, "there's no fucking way."

    Unheralded because it came out of Nashville, un-hyped because the band self-released it, unrivaled amongst all other Dirty South rock tracks (save for Deerhunter, who we'll get to later), "Heavy Days" is what Weezer wished they could've been post-Pinkerton.

    The White Stripes and Japandroids may have done the Guitarist+Drummer lineup better, but consider JEFF the Brotherhood on "Heavy Days" to be this countdown's answer to the vastly overrated Black Keys. Two stoned white boys who knew the classics and wrote tighter melodies, rawer riffs, and so-dumb-they're-smart lyrics better than almost anyone from the Aughts.


    M.O.P. Kylie Minogue Hot Chip Jim Jones JEFF the Brotherhood

    Broken Social Scene The Electric 6 The Game mclusky Queens of the Stone Age RadioheadSleater-Kinney Spoon The Veronicas Wilco
  • The Importance of Timing: Merchandise's "Become What You Are"

    8. Aug. 2014, 7:54

    Your taste in music is a slave to time.

    Example A: Merchandise -- Become What You Are

    I fucking loved this song when I first bumped it in February 2013. Then I let it go, thought it was too self-absorbed, too immature, lacking depth. I sensed there was more to it, but because of certain personal circumstances, I wasn't ready to confront those facets of the song.

    Returned to the track in August 2014. Did so because this is a song (audaciously) entitled, "Become What You Are," and improbably, I'm starting to feel like I've done that.

    I get it now. And the lyrics resonate so much more. It's still self-absorbed as fuck, but like all great songs focused on the self, in doing so, its conveying a much greater, universal message to the rest of humanity.

    This song, for a brief period, absolutely blew me away last February. I left it for reasons that had nothing to do with the song and everything to do with me. Now that I'm ready to return to it, on a personal level, it's like reconnecting with an old friend who you've come to realize is much wiser than you initially thought.

    Props to Merchandise. This is an epic, genre-bending jam, and it deserves more recognition than it's initially gotten. Hate being this oblique, but then again, that's kind of what Merchandise is doing on this track, and it worked out pretty fucking well for them.

  • Even Parquet Courts' Early Deep Cuts Are Excellent

    2. Jul. 2014, 5:38

    Have spent the past week checking out selected songs from the band's predecessor to Light Up Gold, American Specialties.

    "Free Ice," "Square States," "Other Desert Cities," and the title track portend the forthcoming lyrical virtuosity and inventive energy of Light Up Gold and Sunbathing Animal.


    Beyond that, there's frontman Andrew Savage's prior band, Fergus and Geronimo. "Wanna Know What I Would Do" is nothing short of a personal attack on music critics, albeit one that is clearly informed by firsthand experience. "No Parties" and the title track (which sadly, can't be heard on youtube) off the band's awesomely named concluding LP, Funky Was the State of Affairs, are also harbingers of what Savage, Austin Brown & co. would bring to the fore with their next group.

  • Some Brief Words in Appreciation of The Men

    26. Apr. 2014, 3:02

    The Men have been one of my favorite bands over the past few years, and though I've written at length about some of their releases, Open Your Heart and "Bataille," I want to lay out a brief overview of what makes this band a unique and fascinating entity in the world of Indie Rock.

    I have not listened to Immaculada, the first album the band released in 2010 (though it is not considered by many to be the band's first "proper" album). I have listened to the albums they have released, like clockwork, every year since. And boy, what a discography. Four albums in four years. Leave Home in 2011. Open Your Heart in 2012. New Moon in 2013. Tomorrow's Hits in 2014. Each dramatically different from the others and yet stlll compelling and meritorious.

    The impact of this four-year run is an exemplar of the old adage that "the sum is greater than the individual parts." Individually, these albums range from "great" to "superb." None of them are groundbreaking--the Men simply don't traffic in releasing lightning-in-a-bottle classics ala the Strokes, Titus Andronicus, or LCD Soundsystem. Really, none of these albums really even warrant the type of canonical status that albums released by the Hold Steady, TV on the Radio, and Animal Collective have achieved.

    Nonetheless, this four-year spree of dominance by this band is something special. The Men are not following in the footsteps of Television and "Marquee Moon," but rather, Tom Petty (whom the band has professed to revere) and his entire output between Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Full Moon Fever.

    In this day and age of impatience, instant gratification, and the constant search for the next big thing, consistency is devalued more than ever. And no one is more consistent (nor, for that matter, prolific) as The Men. And unlike Petty, they shapeshift transformatively from album to album. I'll go ahead and list the three standout tracks from each album:

    Leave Home: "L.A.D.O.C.H.:, "()", and "Bataille."
    Open Your Heart: "Open Your Heart," "Candy," and "Ex-Dreams."
    New Moon: "Half Angel Half Light," "The Brass," and "New Moon."
    Tomorrow's Hits: "Another Night," Different Days," and "Pearly Gates."

    This would be the most all-over-the-board Greatest Hits collection in recent rock history. Phenomenal stuff. We can go ahead add another passage to that timeless phrase: "In life, there is nothing certain but death, taxes, and the Men releasing a stellar new album each calendar year."

    The Men
  • R.I.P. Swoo

    2. Mär. 2014, 0:31

    I heard the news via text message from my little brother, roughly around 9:45 a.m. last Tuesday morning. My fraternity brother, musical soulmate, and good friend, Josh Sanders-Wooley, had died. He was 26.

    I'm 27 years old, and this is the first close friend of mine to pass away. It's gut-wrenching. Swoo and I's friendship existed on a unique level, in that we always seemed to be on the same wavelength. We saw eye-to-eye on almost everything, and we shared similar experiences. When I was holing up in Knoxville last April, back when I thought I would be residing in Knoxville permanently, I spent a week on Swoo's couch in his tiny apartment on the UT campus. I had several other good friends, pledge brothers, who I'd lived with before and who would have just as easily put me up. But I asked Swoo because I thought he would've been the most understanding and the person who would have most enjoyed my company for that brief period. I'm glad that I made that decision.

    Let's backtrack. Swoo pledged my fraternity during the Fall of 2006, when he was a freshman and I was a sophomore. Swoo was a shaggy-haired, tomato-complexioned redhead from Brentwood who stood out like a sore thumb in a crowd. As a fraternity pledge, he definitely didn't look the part. But he had the attitude. He was his own person, and carried himself with a self-confidence and swagger that was all his own. I was a brother living in the house at that point, which meant that I regularly abused him, that is, until I learned what a huge music fan he was.

    I met Swoo when I was 19. Eight years later, I can say definitively that he's the only person I've ever met that had better taste in music than me. I introduced him to Talking Heads when he was pledging (all the pledges had these little black books that brothers had to sign, and the pledges would have to memorize each and every page of the book. I wrote down a lyric from "Girlfriend is Better" in Swoo's book). Swoo was an encyclopedia, a low-key, ever-churning machine of music knowledge that had heard every band, pop musician, hip-hop artist, you name it, and was able to distill the values and virtues of the artist perfectly and on command. Over the last 8 years, there were countless times that I came to Swoo with an obscure artist that I was prepared to introduce to him, certain that this was something he had not yet discovered, ready to blow his mind, only to find out that he had not only heard the artist before, but knew their entire discography, biography, and true merit as an artist. This literally happened over a dozen times, without exaggeration. When I finally broke through in October 2012, introducing him to Japandroids, I was so floored I felt like I deserved a medal or something. Swoo just knew music.

    As a writer right now, I feel lost. How do I explain the depths of Swoo’s intellect, his charisma, his caring for his fellow man? He had soul. He used to crush me in rap battles. He was one of the half dozen guys in my 130 man frat I could intelligently talk politics with. When he was on his own, isolated from the rest of his crew, in Little Rock, and I was in the same position in Pittsburgh, we would spend hours on the phone conversating. Keeping each other company. Again, on the same level.

    Swoo and I were a little different in that he tended to be less inclined to “toe the frat line” as far as keeping up with Joneses. Swoo didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. Or maybe he did know, he just didn’t know how to execute it. He was still in the process of figuring it out when he died. I was rooting for him, because I felt that I had, in some way, sold out, committing myself to a life of repaying student loan debts and working for the man. It’s where I am now. Swoo was more creative than me, maybe he could have figured it out had he not passed.

    I can't overstate how charismatic Swoo was, by the way. He was a guy everybody loved. Girls, guys, little children, dogs and fucking cats. Selfless, sensational. Swoo’s persona was part of his appeal. He had an energy all his own. At times less a human being than a sheer force of nature, Swoo seemed preternaturally able to channel his own psychic turbulence and unleash it onto whoever he was around. Whether we were pulling an all-nighter studying together or rocking out late night, he could be counted on to be on the next level, and bring you there with him. It made him special, it made him not just unique, but one of a kind.

    I will never meet another individual like Swoo in my lifetime, and that is unfortunate. However, I am so thankful for the time we did share on this Earth together. Last week, right after he passed, I spent a lot of time on the phone with people who also knew him closely , my brother, several of my college friends and fraternity brothers, and we had a blast sharing Swoo stories, remembering what an amazing person he was. I know now what people mean about running the gamut of emotions following the loss of someone close to you. I try my best not to be sad about Swoo's passing, though there are times when I can't help it. He wouldn't want that. I'm not sure what happens to you after you pass on, but I hope he knows how much he meant to me, and so many others. These are the 10 songs that will always make me think of my boy.

    Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down. Interpol.

    Incredibly, Swoo and I both shared the same, all-time favorite album: Turn on the Bright Lights. Recognizing this, my Junior Year of college, I felt like we had both joined some kind of special club within our circle of friends on campus. We were probably the only two guys in the frat who knew who Interpol were, let alone both held the band’s incredible debut as our all-time favorite album. My junior year, Swoo and I became notorious for, during house parties, taking over a room in the Pike House (whichever one had the loudest speakers, typically) and blaring selected tracks from this album. My brother shared with me a great story last week about one time, after I had moved on to law school, that Swoo did the same thing during a packed dance party and, knowing my brother's affinity for the album as well, pointed to him going, "Boods loves it!" On a sadder note, Swoo's lovely dog, who I spent some good quality time with the last time I saw him, is named after this song. I can never listen to this album the same way again.

    Grindin’. Clipse.

    One of my favorite memories of Swoo was my sophomore year Spring Break, when I ventured down to Panama City with some of the freshman guys in his pledge class. I can vividly recall the Diesel holding down the court in his villa. Once I entered, he wouldn’t let me leave until he had blared at least 15 new rap songs for me and spent a solid half hour explaining the brilliance of Malice and Pusha T to me as the part raged on around us.

    This also seems like a good time to note that Swoo, no joke, was a phenomenal freestyle rapper. Dating back to my freshman year of college, I had occasionally taken on others in freestyle rap battles, just for fun of course, and usually decimated everyone I came across. Not so with the Diesel, who, towards the end of my senior year, absolutely humiliated me in a rap battle at a bar in front of tons of our friends. When my buddy Cody called me about Swoo's passing, this is one of the first things he brought up. Swoo's superior musical abilities weren't always a good thing for me.

    Transmission. Joy Division.

    Swoo singlehandedly validated the existence of ringback tones to me by introducing me to this track, inadvertently, during Winter Break my Senior year. One minute I’m making an innocuous phone call to my boy to figure out some plans for the night and the next thing I know I’m fist pumping to a track I’ve never even heard in my parents’ living room. “Transmission” is a lifetime Top 5 track for me, and I have Swoo to thank for that.

    Warm Ridin’. Diarrhea Planet.

    Truly difficult to put into words the vastness, the ENORMITY, of the experience of this listening to this song for the first time in Swoo’s apartment at about 3 am one Friday night in September of 2012. I was back in town for the weekend, having to do a Character and Fitness Interview for my Bar Exam admission, and I had opted to stay with who else but our boy. After a night out drinking, we returned to his apartment for some late night jamming. “Warm Ridin’” was one of the first songs he put on and holy mother of god. We were jumping around his apartment, belligerent, something primal unleashed within us. I became a Planeteer, a follower of the band featuring some of Swoo’s best friends from childhood, in an instant, and the band kept us close ever since, as we shared breathless anticipation of the group’s next album. Swoo was a constant attendee of their shows, which are legendary, and it will always be one of my great regrets I never got to see them with him.

    93 til Infinity. Souls of Mischief.

    Swoo wasn’t always trying to impress me with his music selections. One of the last nights I spent with him, when I was shacking up at his apartment in Knoxville for a couple days last April, we were preparing for a night out and he was blaring this classic as he hopped in the shower. I had heard of the track, but was not privy to its excellence until Swoo’s introduction. When I proceeded to make the move to Florida immediately thereafter, I rode around enjoying the palm trees, warm ocean breeze, and new world I had entered bumping some Souls of Mischief and appreciating the Diesel for his perfect taste.

    As Your Ghost Takes Flight. Saves the Day.

    Swoo was a master of many genres, but his knowledge of Emo was just untouchable. Now, I had loved Saves the Day since Sophomore year of college, but missing in my catalog was this track, one of the band’s finest. Upon finding this out, a confounded Swoo immediately demanded that I bump that shit immediately. I had just moved down to Florida, and after being berated via text for a few minutes, I obliged. One of the big tracks that helped my transition to Fort Lauderdale and the Emo song that will always make me think of Swoo.

    Fuckin Problems. A$AP Rocky.

    One of Swoo’s best traits was that he was an equal opportunity music lover. Fucking loved everything and was on top of all the good new shit light years before everything else. See: Fuckin’ Problems, which Swoo was drunkenly raving about to me one night in the fall of 2012 as he bitched about this traitorous chick he had just started dating and informed me that he had busted out the perfect new rap jam at her party to call her out for being a shitty human being. Yes, weeks before anyone else would be blasting this soon-inescapable song, there was Swoo educating minds and getting back at his girl by blaring this track at a party full of blown-away undergrads who were lucky enough to be in the presence of the Diesel unleashed.

    Heavy Days. JEFF The Brotherhood.

    Swoo had introduced me to Nashville punk legends JEFF the Brotherhood a few years before the Spring of 2013, and I spent the latter half of my law school career being a fan of the group. But the game changed when he first bumped “Heavy Days” for me, during one of my last days staying with him before my move to Florida. “Heavy Days” is one of the quintessential punk songs, off one of the quintessential punk albums, of the rejuvenated Nashville rock scene, and it applied perfectly to my move down to Florida. “We’re catching some rays, we’re gonna go down to the Beach. Sometimes it’s nice to get away, it’s gonna be a heavy day.” Hell right. JtB was total Swoo music, and I band I completely adopted because of his introduction. Listening to "Heavy Days" is like hearing the musical embodiment of Swoo. The song's slow-burn buildup, perfect sense of timing and execution, primal rawness, and lyrical homages to friendship and partying with friends are all total Swoo. Throw in the fact that Swoo is friends with the guys from JtB, who hail from his hometown, and this is Swoo as a four-minute Dirty South punk anthem. I still listen to this album every day here in Fort Lauderdale, and the memory of my boy is always there.

    The Nights of Wine and Roses. Japandroids.

    A special song in my relationship with Swoo for a number of reasons. First, because Japandroids and Celebration Rock were the first and only great rock band and album (aside from Talking Heads when he was pledging Freshman year) that I introduced Swoo to that he absolutely fell in love with. This was like finding the Holy Grail for me, that night of the jam session in September 2012, when I stood dumbfounded as he told me, no, he had never listened to Japandroids. I proceeded to bump this, the opening track off Celebration Rock. "The Nights of Wine and Roses" is a tune that perfectly encapsulated our friendship, which had been predicated on hard partying with friends in our college days, but had also developed into a deep mutual trust and bond between one another. Swoo was blown away, enamored with the track. That was worth a lot to me, being able to get him into some great new music. Repaying the favor, finally. Only like a thousand more of these scenarios and we could have been even.

    A Pillar of Salt. The Thermals.

    The number one track that Swoo and I would jam together. Along with our buddy Paul “The People’s Champ” Mercer, we would bust out this 2-minute cry of freedom, love, and rebellion in my room at the Pike House sophomore year with total abandon. Over the intervening years, whenever a late night jam session with Swoo and I would ensue, we would return to this track. "A Pillar of Salt" is a song about the relentless desire for a better world, a better of life. An acknowledgement of one's failings and the system around you, but more importantly, the unwavering will and drive to make life better for oneself and the ones you love. To "wipe a pillar of salt." This will always be the anthem for my boy. Swoo, you didn't think you were special, sir. You knew everybody was. This one's for you.

    R.I.P. Josh Sanders-Wooley 1987-2014.

    Interpol Clipse Joy Division Diarrhea Planet Souls of Mischief Saves the Day A$AP Rocky JEFF the Brotherhood Japandroids The Thermals
  • R.I.P. Lord Infamous

    22. Dez. 2013, 22:50

    Lord Infamous, Three 6 Mafia's founding member and most gifted rapper, passed away yesterday. I would be remiss if I did not do a journal entry in memoriam.

    Three 6 Mafia is my favorite musical group of all time. Period. Ever since I spent one Friday night riding in my buddy Brent Hogue's car bumping "Weak Azz Bitch" back in 2002, the Mafia has lived with me as an eternal trademark of how I define myself as a human being. I ride with Three 6 Mafia like I ride with the University of Tennessee Volunteers sports teams: they are the representatives of the parts of my life where I spent my formative years, Memphis and UT. My love for Triple Six is unconditional. They are the musical embodiment of Memphis, Tennessee. When I was up in Pittsburgh missing my hometown, I bumped some Three 6 and was instantly transported back to the 901. When my friends dared criticize the group, I stormed to their defense like they were my very blood. And when I heard that Lord Infamous passed away yesterday, I felt a loss like I have never felt before as a music lover.

    Infamous is my all-time favorite rapper. If the essence of Three 6 Mafia could be exemplified by a core member, it was Ricky Dunnigan. He was the most unhinged member of the posse, the group's most vital member.

    The Scarecrow was so Memphis, in that he seemed touched by doom. He was the group's most talented member, and yet he was last member of the Posse to get kicked out before the group hit it big in 2005 with Most Known Unknowns. As great an album as that was, it will never be what it could have been because the Scarecrow wasn't on it. In a sense, it's appropriate that Three 6 finally crossed over after Infamous left--he was what gave the group its anti-commercial edge. Put Infamous on "Stay Fly" and that shit never makes the Billboard Top 10.

    As I alluded to in my writeup of Mystic Stylez, there are really three critical members in Three 6 Mafia. Obviously, DJ Paul remains the foundation of the group, as both its founder and purveyor of the sound and style that the group would perfect over the course of its career. Juicy J brings the Star Power, the irrepressible charismatic force that would lend the group to commercial success. Finally there's Lord Infamous, the member who propelled the group’s lyrical sophistication and overall malevolence to a level that separated it from the rest of the pack and made the group what it was. Infamous made you buy what Three 6 was selling.

    Infamous originally wasn’t my favorite member of Triple Six. That would be Juicy J. Back in high school, in my early years of listening to the group, I couldn’t get enough of the Juiceman’s swaggering, electric flow. But in college, as I delved deeper into the group’s catalogue, I began to sense that the true backbone of the group was the Scarecrow. Infamous never phones in a verse. The guy only operated in one gear. Even his more laid back verses, such as his scene-stealing spot on “Oxycotin,” are untouchable. Scarecrow was the lyrical enforcer. I’ve yet to hear anyone who was better at swooping in on a track and taking it to the next level. (SEE: “Mystic Stylez”…dear god).

    Lord Infamous was the group’s legitimate threat. To this day, the Cult of Personality Ricky Dunnigan cultivated over the course of his career with Three 6 remains untouched. Of course he was the first member of the group to pass on. The Scarecrow was the only member of the Six who seemed completely unchecked, reveling in his own psychosis, perpetually on the verge of a murder spree. Lyrically, Infamous gave Three 6 Mafia its artistic merit. If I can trace my love of Three 6 back to its origin, it would be when I first heard the Scarecrow’s jaw-dropping verse on “Who Run It” over the beat-drop. Just a paragon of rap excellence.

    I could go on forever about the Scarecrow, but I’ll end this journal entry with my 6 favorite performances from the greatest Memphis rapper who ever lived. I’ll repeat that: Lord Infamous is the greatest Memphis rapper of all-time. End of story. Rest in Peace Scarecrow—keep kicking in doors on the other side.

    6. Mystic Stylez

    5. Gotta Touch Em Part 2

    4. Where Da Bud At

    3. “In Da Game.”

    2. “Anyone Out There?”

    1. Who Run It

    Edit: I somehow forgot to include perhaps the greatest Infamous track of all-time on my list: "Triple Six Clubhouse." Make no mistake, this is the defining Lord Infamous track, if not the defining Three 6 Mafia track. Anyone who knows Memphis Rap loves this song. "Triple Six Clubhouse" and Lord Infamous are Memphis, forever and always.


    Three 6 Mafia
  • The Dirtiest of the Dirty South: Boosie, Webbie & the Black Lips

    7. Dez. 2013, 17:57

    What’s the difference between true danger and manufactured danger in pop music? Calculation.

    In the latter half of the Aughts, if you were asked who were the Dirty South ambassadors to pop music in the genres of rap and indie rock, the standard answer would be Lil Wayne and Kings of Leon. (I’m somewhat of a hater with regard to the former, somewhat of an apologist for the latter, at least with regard to their first two albums). Wayne was the prolific and gifted lovable sleazeball thug, all off-the-wall cadence, drug infused slurring, and cutesy wordplay. Kings were the backwoods heartthrobs with the barnstorming back story and the big, dumb hooks. Both were legitimate phenomena at one point in time, neither had any right to lay claim to the Dirty South Rap and Indie Rock thrones. Those belonged to the tandem of Lil Boosie & Webbie and the Black Lips, respectively.

    Young Savages

    2005 saw Boosie & Webbie and the Lips release the albums that would become their statements: Gangsta Musik and Let It Bloom.

    Gangsta Musik arrived at the zenith of Dirty South Rap’s dominance of popular music chock full of swaggering menace, uninhibited misogyny, chest-thumping ignorance, and a smorgasbord of radio-ready trunk damagers. In one of the savviest moves in rap that took place this millennia, Boosie and Webbie opted to join forces as a tag-team, sharing the spotlight on tracks that were tailor-made for 107 and Park’s Top 10. Like all great tandems, Boos and Webbie both counterbalance one another while amplifying each other’s strengths. Boosie’s high-pitched drawl is a more malevolent and less-affected cousin to Lil Wayne’s flow, sounding like the illegitimate, country offspring of Eazy E. Webbie brings a barely-composed deliberation to the proceedings, barking about pussy, choppers, and Baton Woods with forceful enunciation.

    What separates this particular duo from the myriad other rap acts copping the same tropes is an underlying sociopathic streak that courses throughout the album. And I’m not talking Marshall Mathers LP, over-the-top, manufacted-to-shock-and-awe sociopathy either. Boosie and Webbie are truly bad dudes. Check Boosie on “Goin’ Through Some Things”—“Not wearing a rubber got me stuck now with three kids.” Then there’s Webbie’s “celebration” of women: “Bad Bitch”---where he champions women who “be cookin’ and cleanin’” (and not just the dishes) and essentially put up with male misogyny while being 100 percent complicit in their own objectification and degradation. (This is a recurring theme for Webbie: his 2008 hit “Independent” might be the most subversively anti-feminine song of all-time, as its underlying, borderline subliminal message is that women should be completely independent from their men, i.e., shouldn’t ask for child support, attempt meaningful relationships, etc. Webbie is Tipper Gore’s worst nightmare).

    Boosie and Webbie operate with the delicacy of a compound fracture.”Swerve” and album closer “Hold Up” are Dirty South gangsta rap paragons. Blazing the trail for Waka Flocka Flame, both tracks are all business, ignorant sloganeering engineered for maximum impact.

    2005-2007 saw the Black Lips put out three of the most underrated Indie Rock albums of the decade. Let It Bloom, Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo, and Good Bad Not Evil are a trio of LP’s that represented the finest run of an Southern rock group in the new millennium.

    Let It Bloom is a jarring collection of 60’s garage rock tunes characterized by purposefully disorienting, lo-fi production and dysfunctional subject matter. The result is punk rock chopped and screwed. Opener “Sea of Blasphemy” seems to begin in medias res, “Can’t Dance” sounds like a more hysterical Misfits, “Fairy Stories” careens gleefully while delivering deliriously deviant revelations like “My daddy has a gun./It’s not a toy but it’s loads of fun.”

    Tracklist MVP’s “Hippie, Hippie, Hoorah” and “Not a Problem” appear to be from another world altogether, the former sees the Lips sounding like a posse of opium-infused madmen on an unstoppable march toward insanity, while the latter is an outlaw cry for vengeance that would make Johnny Cash proud, its most unsettling features being an eerie, inconsistent mixing of the bass guitar and droning backing vocals.

    Veni Vidi Vici

    By the latter half of the decade, Webbie, Boosie and the Black Lips had attained a firm group on the popular music consciousness, releasing a string of classic albums and singles between ’06 and ’08 that would cement each artist’s greatness.

    Los Valientes, the Lips’ live album, remains the most unsung landmark achievement in 00’s indie rock. Not only is this the best live album released in the decade, it’s a perfect distillation of the Lips incontrovertible rebel persona. Recorded during a band’s live performance in Tijuana, where they appear to be the only English speakers in attendance, the album takes the best tracks from the band’s catalog and sends them on a boozy, amphetamine-amped bender.

    Leadoff track “M.I.A.” is an absolute barnburner, beginning with an introduction by a Spanish-speaking, blitzed emcee that gradually builds in hysterics. The first vocals of the band are a sustained, unified howl, followed by a fall off a cliff into the madness of the song’s rambling, off-kilter guitars, absolutely unhinged vocal performance, and a general sense of total mayhem rarely achieved in popular music.

    The live version of “Not a Problem” improbably improves on the original, as the guitars are sped up and the backing vocals come in the form of pitched howls rather than low drones, with mesmerizing effect. “Boone” and “Everybody’s Doing It” are perfectly controlled chaos. The Lips combo of unpredictable personalities, sheer volume, precision melody, and sonic barrage makes this a flawless exposition of the band’s merits.

    Good Bad Not Evil is the mellower, if no less maladjusted finale in the trifecta. “I Saw A Ghost” opens with the group’s unmistakable guitar twang, shout outs to Purple Drank (lean), and snarled commands “C’mon trip!” Again utilizing the forces of unorthodox guitar production, the Lips emit swirling guitar lines that enter and leave the song like comets shooting across the night sky.

    “O Katrina” ups the ante by being the finest breakup song/mourning of a natural disaster hybrid we will ever see. The rest of the tracklist is characterized by its consistence in quality—even the joke song “How Do You Tell a Child That Someone Has Died” is excellent as a Southern fried Ween B-side. “Bad Kids” is the catchiest, most upbeat track in the band’s catalog, and of course is a celebration of total dysfunction. (The line: “Don’t try to give us pills (oh wait) give us all the pills” remains one of the best cheap laughs in recent pop music history). Penultimate track “Slime and Oxygen” lampoons evangelicals by opening with a the rambling hysterics of a middle-aged prostelytizer proclaiming that, “Four years ago I was lost I went to parties and saw kids sit around black lights!” like that was the most godless, heathen activity imaginable. Album closer “Transcendental Light” is an old-fashioned folk tune except that the lyrics are matter-of-factly telling someone that he is on the verge of death.

    All told, the three albums create a perfectly constructed, irreparably warped world. There’s almost a dogma to the whole thing. Like Southern literary giant Flannery O’Connor, the Lips attack false idols and institutions in the modern world with striking, violent imagery, a relentless imperiousness toward the characters in their works, and a rugged, charismatic sensibility that is distinctly Southern. Carrying on the tradition of O’Connor, the Lips update their subject for the twenty-first century, delivering their messages through mangled and bloodied 60’s garage tunes.

    Boosie and Webbie were reaching similar heights in their output around the same time, like the Lips, being overshadowed by a lesser, but more popular contemporary. The Black Lips had Kings of Leon, Boose and Webbie had Lil Wayne. Whereas Lil Wayne spends entire verses committed to nothing more than trying to show the listener how clever he is, Boosie and Webbie dropped matter-of-fact brilliant rhymes the cleverness of which is often difficult to appreciate due to the appalling subject matter of the lyrics themselves. On career highlight “Back Up,” Webbie raps “While I fuck yo baby mama she say ‘fuck my baby daddy’” and its weaved so seamlessly into the verse that the deviousness of the statement is doubly powerful. “Smokin’ on Purple” features Boosie declaring with equally perfect execution, “All my hos got Jordan skills…they fade away.” The entire first verse of “I Got That,” in which Webbie embarks on an extended spree of misogyny, crystallizes the profound ugliness of the subject matter if only because the lyrics are delivered so mesmerizingly.

    The music of Lil Boosie and Webbie rests on the razor’s edge between pop commercialism and underground gangsta rap. This isn’t a commercial act wrapping itself in gangsta stylings to generate street credibility, it’s the other way around. Boosie showcase “They Dykin’” is a graphic exploitation of girl-on-girl sex set to the club-ready synths found on T.I.’s KING. Somehow, Boosie and Webbie have sold hundreds of thousands of records despite never outwardly appealing to the average white suburbanite the way Wayne did.

    Boosie and Webbie record tracks that shouldn’t be hits but are. The duo may have also perfected the method of interweaving ignorant, elementary-school level lyrics with high-wire, mad scientist-brilliant verses. See: Webbie’s deceptively clever verse on “Independent”—“The stilettos the J's depend on how the weather look. Flip flop slippers just to show off the pedicure. Flip flop niggas jus depend on how the cheddar look.” Webbie and Boosie excel in being clever lyricists while avoiding being flashy. Their hooks are irrepressibly club-worthy without sacrificing grit. The music exists on its own terms.


    Lil Boosie is currently in jail for a probation violation. Amazingly, he’s fortunate to be in such a position, since just over a year ago he was facing first degree murder charges from the State Attorney’s office. You read that right.

    For his part, Webbie has managed to be permanently barred from appearing on 106 and Park, after a guest appearance gone awry (allegedly, he sexually harassed the female host). The last few years have also seen Webbie be accused of “pushing a woman down some stairs and stealing $400 out of her purse” and appear in a mind-boggling Wal-Mart interview that is at once horrifying, fascinating, confusing-as-hell, and possibly the work of a true diabolical mastermind.

    Both of these events are somehow less disturbing than the Youtube video of Webbie getting jumped at one of his own concerts by none other than Lil Boosie’s posse, apparently due to Webbie’s alleged embezzlement of funds from a Lil Boosie benefit concert that were supposed to go to his incarcerated counterpart’s legal fees. Like I said, these are bad dudes.

    Bad dudes can be artists too, of course. (SEE: Lou Reed). Critics hung up on the anti-social reveling that pervades the entire Lil Boosie & Webbie catalog should take a step back and discern that Boos and Webbie are coming from essentially the same place as the Godfather of Punk. Their music walks in the dark side of popular music. Insidious, clever, joyfully deviant. Behold the ghetto southern gothic of Lil Boosie and Webbie, delivered in the Trojan horse of radio-friendly beats and calculated demographic targeting.

    Black Lips continue to tour the country and have dropped several solid LP’s over the last few years. Yet it was their recent Twitter battle with Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus a few months ago that proved telling in its reinforcement of the group’s greatest strengths as well as its pre-eminent limitations. The beef unfolded in the aftermath of a controversial show that Titus played in the Lips’ home turf of Athens, GA, where a group of kids showed up with a Confederate flag that Stickles proceeded to bring up on stage, wipe his ass with, and set on fire, all while unleashing an infuriated diatribe on the crowd. Post-show, Stickles took to Twitter to continue his rant—which notably attacked the entire South as a hotbed of racism---and swore he would never play another show in Athens.

    Black Lips responded in kind with a few snide remarks about how the South neither needed nor wanted Titus (shades of Skynyrd and Neil Young, with the Lips launching an opening volley of “that guy fucking sucks,” no less) before engaging in a numbskull verbal pillow fight that reflected poorly on both parties. Stickles: “well, Black Lips think it is okay to throw the F word around and engage bands they don’t like in violence—that sucks.” (WTF is he even talking about). Lips: “violence? Is saying you think somebody sucks violent?” (valid). “You’re weird, but not in the cool way.” (WTF are they even talking about?) Stickles then goes on an incoherent spree of emoting, followed by Lips matching him with an equally incoherent diatribe about Stickles being a rich, Harvard grad (he neither grew up rich nor went to Harvard). Bush league shit from two of the premiere Indie rock bands of the last five years.

    The Lips had the right attitude about the whole thing though. Stickles, after all, spent days on twitter committed to painting the entire south as a racist cesspool (strange, considering the guy is BFF’s with the boys of Diarrhea Planet, who hail from Nashville), which is both an unfair generalization of the region and a perpetuation of the bullshit myth that there is no racism above the Mason-Dixon line (ironically, the most racist guys I ever met were from Pittsburgh—one even had the gall to point and make racist remarks at clusters of black dudes walking around the Knoxville strip when I took him on a trip back to my alma mater---I tried to calmly explain to him that this wasn’t lily white Pittsburgh, these black dudes would beat the shit out of him if they heard him saying that kind of shit. Embarrassing).

    Then, of course there was the fact that these guys were obviously trolling Stickles. This wasn't Gang of Four fighting off legitimate Neo-Nazis at their shows in Manchester circa 1979, this was Stickles attempting to front and turn a bunch of dumbass goofballs acting up into a modern-day version of that. (if you think these guys were serious, pro-Confederate rednecks, you both overestimate the pop culture impact of indie rock in 2013 and have never been down South. True pro-Confederate rednecks don't even know who Titus Andronicus is, let alone would be the types to pay money to attend one of their shows).

    Unfortunately, the Lips chose to engage Stickles with their usual wholesale commitment to immaturity, It’s no secret that the band is four smart guys playing dumb, but they missed their chance to evolve stylistically over the past few albums and, in the aforementioned twitter confrontation, really put Stickles in his place. Even then, these imperfections, like those of Webbie and Boosie, make the group classic Southerners. Leave it to those uncultured Yankees to mistakenly put the Dirty South crowns on Kings of Leon and Lil Wayne, they belonged on the heads of Boosie, Webbie, and the Lips the whole time.

    Lil Boosie Webbie Black Lips
  • Diarrhea Planet: A Six-Pack of Excellence

    9. Sep. 2013, 19:33

    Who here remembers the band that became the true impetus for the outbreak of the punk rock scene in NYC in the mid-70s? (Waiting. Twiddling my thumbs).

    It’s the New York Dolls. A band that became legendary via its full-scale attack on the self-seriousness that had come to pervade and bog down rock at the beginning of the 70s. Dressed in drag, reveling in over-the-top guitar theatrics and lyrical cheekiness, the Dolls were an adrenaline shot in the arm to the smug, self-satisfied early 70’s scene. Taking a number of rock and roll conventions (sexism, “luv,” etc.) and subverting them brilliantly, the Dolls delivered blasts of hyper-sonic, raunchy, speed rock in now-legendary live performances like the following:


    Without the Dolls, you don’t have the Ramones. No Talking Heads. No Sex Pistols. The Dolls put the sense of danger and fuck-all attitude back into rock in the early 1970s. And all it took was a group of guys with great guitar licks, a true fuck-you attitude, and an unmatched performance sensibility.

    Fast forward 40 years and you can see a similar situation in the current state of Indie Rock. Ever since I hit puberty, it seems like Indie Rock has developed an almost pathological fear of the idea of “fun” in Indie Rock. (Ironically, one of the biggest (and lamest) bands around is called, “fun.” Ugh). When we saw the return of an 80s New Wave revival last decade with the Killers, Franz Ferdinand, etc., conspicuously absent among the revivalists (The Darkness excepted) was a band dedicated to carrying the legacy of kickass, over-the-top brashness of Van Halen, Guns and Roses and co. Which is where Diarrhea Planet come in.

    The Planet are a band with six members. Four of them play guitar. They hail from Nashville, TN AND are about as “bro” as they come. And they are touring the country right now on a campaign of ass-kicking the likes of which this country hasn’t seen in God knows how long. This is a band that does not so much perform live shows as it does hold rock-as-religon revival meetings . They are six no-name, unsung young guys who had the gall to (accurately) describe their music as “Van Halen holding the Ramones hostage,” which is so dead-on it almost renders any other comparisons heaped upon the band irrelevant. When I first heard these guys, I was back on the University of Tennessee campus last September, blacking out at 3 am with my old buddy Swoo (incidentally, a friend and former bandmate with several of the Planet members who attended Brentwood High in Nashville). Boozed up, thrashing about his apartment, I felt myself struck by “Warm Ridin,’” Diarrhea Planet’s finest two-minute punk electroshock to the senses, and a track that I ultimately named the best rock song of 2011 several months ago.


    Truth be told, I’ve been more hyped for Diarrhea Planet’s sophomore LP, I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams, than any album in recent memory. The band has spent the last 9 months bubbling up under the Indie Rock radar (Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus naming them his favorite band and referencing them in a song on Local Business, an already legendary performance at SXSW, and, perhaps most inconceivable/hilariously, none other than Fred Durst and Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit taking a photo holding the band’s album in fucking Russia).


    I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams comes crashing into the world of indie rock like a comet from a far-off galaxy. It is a lumbering, chugging F-5 tornado wrecking everything in its path. It’s an unchecked torrent of mind-fucked shredding. I’m pretty sure someone is soloing on a solid 40 percent of this album. (And why not? These guys have four fucking guitarists.) On the concluding track off the band’s excellent debut LP, Loose Jewels, lead singer Jordan Smith bemoaned, “THERE’S SO MUCH FUCKING SHIT/TO DEAL WITH/AND I QUIT.” On I’m Rich, the band unleashes a twelve-step plan to dealing with all the bullshit that people of our place and time are forced to face these days. It looks like this:

    9.*Fist pump”
    11.Drink until the sun comes up or at least til there’s no beer.


    It’s very clear why I’m Rich is a landmark album. Perhaps better than any album since Weezer’s debut, it reckons with disaffection and alienation by simultaneously celebrating the vitality of companionship, friendship, and belief in one another. These songs should be bummers, if one goes solely by lyrical content. But DP aren’t about being a bummer. They are about confronting one’s problems head-on and attacking them with all the delicacy of a rabid dog leaping at a mailman’s leg. SEE: “Hammer of the Gods”---“We keep sticking our nails in cobwebs! Good times seem far away but/one step outside and we’re all okay!”; or, “Separations”—“So dig your heels in/and grit your teeth man!/And quit your bitchin!” Then there's the opening 80 seconds of "The Sound of My Ceiling Fan," which is just a total, go-for-broke tour-de-force.

    Another crucial, redeemable aspect of DP is that this isn’t a “Frat band” or whatever you want to call it of misogynistic, testosterone-fueled dudes trying to have a guy’s club. These guys are equal opportunity studs, more Ramones than Van Halen, you might say. See the following, awesome story:


    Most of the great modern rock bands out right now seem more committed to being exclusive or self-focused rather than inclusive. Even the best bands out right now doing stadium-sized punk rock--Fucked Up, Titus Andronicus--carry heavy anti-social tendencies in their music. Which is fine. But modern rock needs a band that's as welcoming, as inviting, as Diarrhea Planet. Everybody hates Mumford and Sons and fun. and the like (myself included) but it's easy to see the core reason behind their appeal. They play to the audience. They care more about ensuring that their music is uplifting and makes people feel good rather than making an artistic statement. Diarrhea Planet are doing the exact same thing, except they don't suck.

    The Planet are destined to become huge, in one way or another. I’m hoping for a New York Dolls circa 1974 situation with these guys. So much of modern-rock seems all-too self-aware, cutesy (see: Mumford and Sons), and concerned with seeming cool, rather than committed.

    If you hate pretense, you love Diarrhea Planet. If you hate apathy, you love Diarrhea Planet. If you hate self-loathing, you love Diarrhea Planet. Life’s too short for pretense, apathy, and self-loathing, and it’s too short not to check out Diarrhea Planet. If this band doesn’t inspire a new vanguard of guitar-wielding, pissed-off adolescents to form bands that are interested in making HUGE-sounding music, crafting songs that are designed to be social rather than anti-social, and becoming the next big thing, things are indeed grim for the state of punk and indie rock. I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams, along with Light Up Gold by Parquet Courts, represent the best of what 2013 rock has going for its heart and head.

    Diarrhea Planet
  • A Lot of Words About Parquet Courts and How Light Up Gold is the Game-Changing Album…

    3. Sep. 2013, 11:51

    Parquet Courts: Light Up Gold

    Poor Swoo. My erstwhile, music-loving college buddy couldn’t have seen it coming when he picked up his phone and answered my call one hot May afternoon.

    “Swoo—“ I shouted breathlessly into the speaker, on my lunch break from my document review job in North Miami. “I’ve got to talk to you about Parquet Courts.”

    Swoo: “I’ve heard good things man, they really worth all the hype?”

    I proceeded to break it down for him. “I don’t know if it’s just that they resonate with the point that I’m at in my life, but this is some great shit. Their album---Light Up Gold---I haven’t stopped listening to it for six straight weeks. It’s like all I’ve been listening to…with the occasional Chief Keef thrown in.” (This wasn’t a lie).

    Swoo: “Yeah man, well I’ve been bumping a lot of pop-punk lately, there’s some really good stuff-“

    I cut off him. “Swoo, listen to me bud, these guys are the real deal. You need to listen to them now. This album is a game changer. I think the operative word with these guys is lyrical. Like, this is the first band I’ve bumped in forever where the lyrics are actually at the forefront of their appeal.”

    Swoo: “Sounds badass.”

    “Honestly, they are on their own level. I love Titus Andronicus and Patrick Stickles as a writer and all but I think we can both agree Stickles’ lyrics are occasionally too self-absorbed and, hate to say it, but juvenile for his own good.”

    Swoo: “Agreed. Hate to say it but I’ve finally accepted the fact that Local Business is just a mediocre record.”

    “Yeah. Parquet Courts are having none of that on Light Up Gold. They attack the lyrics and music like professionals. They are versatile as shit. This is an album without any obvious weaknesses.”

    Swoo: “I’m checking it out as soon as I get off the phone.”

    “Start with ‘Stoned and Starving.’ It’s about to be my turn to order at Subway.”



    The band members of Parquet Courts refuse to pose for promotional photographs. There is no Parquet Courts Twitter account. The band has recently become accustomed to getting in verbal altercations with audience members who get mad when they switch gears in the middle of one of their typically uptempo sets in favor for a slower song. Their lyrics are rife with smartass observations and sardonic discourse about contemporary society, yet in interviews they are earnest as they come. We haven’t heard a band this fearless, authentic, and on point since Titus’ “The Monitor.” Make no mistake, though, Light Up Gold definitely edges The Monitor as the best album of this decade, if for no other reason than The Monitor is album that resonates best with those between the ages of 14 and 23, whereas Light Up Gold resonates with anyone between the ages of 14 and 33. “The Monitor” is world-shattering Id-based theatrical outburst, advocating anarchy on a personal, rather than societal, level. Light Up Gold is crusading deconstruction of society at-large, substituting the removed, clinical perspective of Gang of Four with the street-level view of a participant in the 21st century shitshow rat race with bracing clarity and the best eye for lyrical detail we’ve seen in rock since Pavement, the band’s spiritual forefather. The key to Light Up Gold’s success as a transcending work is in Parquet Courts’ execution on the album, which is utterly flawless.

    Ladies and gentlemen, there's a new sheriff in town in the indie rock game, and they've arrived not a moment too soon. This is the age of oversharing, overthinking. With apologies to Archers of Loaf, who called this two decades ago, everything's overdone, everyone's in overdrive, the kids are overliving, and humanity at large needs to override. Parquet Courts are here to assist us with that. Let's go to the video, and by video I mean the badass tracks that Light Up Gold has to offer.


    “Light Up Gold I & II” perhaps best personifies everything that makes this album great. The sense of urgency on this thing is unbelievable. The dissonant feedback and furious percussion that provide what passes for a bridge remain the most punk sounds to come out of 2013. Wire and Guided By Voices wish they had written something this good. The oblique shouted chorus, “LIGHT UP GOLD/WAS THE COLOR OF SOMETHING/I WAS LOOKING FOR” is awesome in its substitution of the phrase “Light Up Gold” for any literal object that could stand in its place. Parquet Courts are smart enough to know that the things in life truly worth looking for are not objects and are harder to define than rock and roll safe words like “Love” and “Peace.”

    In one of my earlier journal entries, I alluded to the excellence of Kanye West’s “Gorgeous” as being principally due to the emergence of lyrics that, upon first listen, induced me to do the listening equivalent of a double-take. Such phenomena is common on great hip-hop albums and equivalent to finding a needle in a haystack on great rock albums. Maybe the best thing I can say about Light Up Gold is that moments like these are fucking everywhere on this LP. “Storm chasing hippies at a discount mall.” “Serf population: too high to tally.” “I fell in debt to those country crooners.” “I was up to my neck in motivation neglect.” There are so many clever lines on this album (Parquet Courts thankfully manage to avoid becoming too cute/clever for their own good, a problem which plagued Patrick Stickles on Local Business—see: “In a Big City”).


    Not to pick on Stickles too much (I’m making Titus a point of comparison because a) The Monitor is Light Up Gold’s predecessor as a touchstone rock album, and b) like all game-changers, Parquet Courts are doing something new, unique and exciting that has been missing from the relevant major rock acts of the past few years, Titus foremost among them), but tracks like “Yonder is Closer to the Heart” exemplify where Parquet Courts diverge so excellently from many of their contemporaries. Rather than beat you over the head with their own antipathy toward society and themselves, the band, in particular lyricist Andrew Savage, opt for a more poetic, literary approach. (Look no further than the inventive, phenomenal cover art for Light Up Gold for confirmation of the band’s creative war chest). A song about, of all things, writer’s block and self-doubt, “Yonder’s” second verse is just a clinic on lyric writing:

    Coffee breaks and lamb's tail shakes aren't arbitrary marks.
    Paycheck stubs, good sex and drugs can fade away distractions of the
    Mantras of "keep going" that are lodged into my thoughts.
    They replay on days when yonder is closer to the heart.

    The surging, singular chorus--“THIS THICKNESS IS JUST/ENOUGH TO WADE THROUGH!”—is a badass proclamation of self-belief and brutal honesty. A microcosm for the band’s prevailing attitude throughout Light Up Gold, it is unhinged yet still under control. Which brings us to the next aspects of Parquet Courts that make them special: a fiercely checked sense of abandonment and perhaps most importantly, a sense of internal balance within the band’s music and lyrics.

    Look at some of the biggest rock artists from 2012. Japandroids. Cloud Nothings. The Men. Each of these acts was all or nothing. They all made great records, but lacking from all of them was a sense of self-composure. These guys were all emotional wrecks, living on the brink, and as much as I loved each of their albums, listening to Light Up Gold was like flashing a 1000 watt light on their limitations.


    “Stoned and Starving” was the song that introduced me to Parquet Courts. The tour de force of Light Up Gold, “Stoned and Starving” has a title that sounds like it should be a Wavves single. But it’s fucking not. Parquet Courts have somehow created a track that rocks a “Roadrunner”-esque driving rhythm that emphasizes that inherent sense of purpose that comes with being stoned and starving: namely, finding something good to eat. Anyone who has been in this position (full disclosure: I have. Duh.) can relate. In this sense, “Stoned and Starving” is representative of the artistic drive that carries throughout Light Up Gold. This is just a brilliant album. Underrated. Under the radar. Not a weak track in sight. Heralding Parquet Courts as a force to be reckoned with in modern indie rock.

    When I think of Parquet Courts, I think of two bands: The Strokes and Pavement. Or as they're otherwise known, the "coolest" bands of the 90's and 00's, respectively. Light Up Gold is the Slanted & Enchanted/Is This It? of the 2010's. We won't see another rock record this good the rest of the decade. Light Up Gold is an album that's destined to be underrated, if only because Parquet Courts are doing nothing new here. Like that matters.

    Parquet Courts will be releasing a new EP, entitled Tally All the Things That You’ve Broke, coming shortly. Looking at the tracklist, it’s notable that the EP doesn’t contain one of the band’s best songs, which has only been performed live, “She’s Rollin.’” That’s because they’re fucking Parquet Courts, and they badass enough to pull this off. Here’s a link to the track and the band’s first single off the EP, “You’ve Got Me Wondering Now.” The sky is the limit for this group.



    Parquet Courts