Joey Bada$$- “B4.DA.$$”

B4DA$$

 

B4.DA.$$ is a record made for rap purists, which is a welcome change of pace in the era of personalities and quotability (see Shmurda, Bobby) taking the genre’s center stage. However, as a result, the record can get uncomfortable when it leaves Joey’s comfort zone of self-exploration and braggadocious wordplay over boom-bap beats. Joey’s natural flow and mastery of the craft of hip-hop over meticulously-crafted laid-back beats makes for an album with a definite confidence and direction, even if the 90’s rap sound feels disingenuous at times.

I first discovered Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$ with “95 Til Infinity” off of his 2012 mixtape “Summer Knights.” The most jarring aspect of the song was the reference to his birth year, 1995: the same year I was born.

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Tame Impala’s Weird Cousin: WRVU Reviews Pond’s “Man It Feels Like Space Again”

Many fans of old 60’s music and psychedelia will know names like Tame Impala and Foxygen due to their neo-psychedelic sound and influences, but also because of the critical acclaim and publicity that they’ve received in recent years.  Even more music-oriented people will know The Flaming Lips as they’ve been around for 30+ years and have managed to keep themselves in the public eye with tricks, gimmicks, and, most importantly, a steady stream of music (while it sometimes seems hit or miss).  But many people aren’t aware of Pond, or at least haven’t heard any of their material.  Some are far too quick to judge and claim Pond as simply a “Tame Impala offshoot” when the truth is that they have been around since the time of Tame Impala’s inception.  With a similar style to those aforementioned psychedelia-influenced groups, Pond have managed to come a long way since their debut, Psychedelic Mango.

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The Decemberists – “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World”

We know, we know, we belong to ya.
We know you built your life around us.
And would we change? We had to change some.

And with that, the Decemberists begin their 7th album with a knowing wink, a sad and insightful look at the relationship between a band and its audience. And sure enough, the Decemberists have changed: What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World” is their poppiest, most buoyant album yet. Unfortunately, it’s also their least ambitious and exciting.

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Nine Years Later, System of a Down Still “Mezmerizes” Me

System of a Down managed to capture the zeitgeist of American anti-war sentiment in 2005 with their shocking hit album Mezmerize.
System of a Down managed to capture the zeitgeist of American anti-war sentiment in 2005 with their shocking hit album Mezmerize.

It may be surprising to see a retrospective of a nine-year-old nu metal album on this blog, particularly from a writer who has vented at length about the overall lack of quality of mid-2000s popular music.  Then again, everything about System of a Down’s music, from the band’s ability to mash together disparate and seemingly irreconcilable influences to their shocking success on the mainstream airwaves, is a bit surprising.  System’s landmark 2005 album Mezmerize happened to be on my mind as I put together a discussion for my psychology class, and revisiting it as I worked resulted in three dominant trains of thought, none of which dealt with my homework: 1) nostalgia for the days when my biggest concern was whose backyard trampoline the neighborhood kids would be hitting up after school, 2) amazement at how irresistibly fun the eleven songs are, and 3) wonder at System’s ability to somehow maintain this fun amidst livid, highly caustic lyrics and guitar riffs.  In conjunction, these concurrent streams of consciousness brought me to the crucial question: how the hell did a band like System of a Down hijack the popular music consciousness?

I think the answer boils down to two factors: perfect timing and the group’s ability to infuse its thrashing songs with elements that made them palatable to mainstream listeners.

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