Here they are, the latest crate of Cheese Coney album reviews from John C!
Earl Sweatshirt has the most interesting back story of all the OFWGTHA dudes: after running around with Tyler the Creator and other Odd Future accomplices, his law professor mother got fed up with the antics of her still very underage son and sent him to a reform boarding school in Samoa. While Tyler was back in the states sporadically shouting “Free Earl!” online and between verses, Earl himself was earning bathroom break privileges with good behavior and reading Malcolm X autobiographies.
Everyone’s been waiting for Doris for over a year, an eternity in blog buzz time. The album marks Earl Sweatshirt’s triumphant return from exile. We were all eager to hear how this extreme educational process affected a rapper with such striking innate rhyming and rhythmic talents.
Well, he’s not rapping so much about raping women and chopping them up into little pieces anymore, so that’s a good thing. But for someone who just got back from a year of institutional confinement in another country, the lyrical content seems pretty focused on standard hip-hop fare: having (consensual) sex with various women, getting paid, other rappers not quite understanding how “real” and good at rapping he is, etc. As with many records from the Odd Future collective, some of the best rhyming is done by guest artists: performances by Vince Staples and Cassie Veggies stand out here. The beats and hooks sound slightly vanilla-gray and muddled throughout, though hooks on “Chum” and “Whoa” are more than competent.
Doris is a perfectly acceptable record, but with Earl’s return-to-the-game narrative, I was expecting a lot more. I think he has the talent to eventually develop into a significant rapper, but for now, he’s 19 folks! Just add him to the growing list of Odd Future collaborators who are too young to know they don’t yet deserve all the attention they’re getting.
4.5 out of 5
It’s always nice to hear some experimental and/or adventurous music created by someone who clearly actually knows the rules of music. Don’t get me wrong: there’s charm in basement-dwelling noise freaks twisting oscillator knobs until their ears bleed. Lately, though, I’ve had the urge to seek out musicians who, you know, understand why that oscillator knob needs twisting.
a delicate motor, sometimes stylized “ADM,” is a solo project by Cincinnati musician Adam Petersen. He creates intricate pieces and soundscapes using electric piano, a drum kit, and his own voice. Much of the music is loop-based: he’ll create a vocal loop, beatbox over it, then use his keyboard to create evolving melodic progressions. But dryly describing the process this way masks some of its magic. Petersen clearly has a knowledge of musical theory and composition. This mastery allows him to break the “rules” of the discipline to create even more effective work.
As great as his self-titled debut album is, ADM really needs to be experienced live. Armed with a Boss RC-50 looper alongside his keyboard and drums, Petersen is able to create densely layered compositions in real time. You’ll be astounded that a single performer could produce it all alone and quickly realize how much planning went into ordering and compiling the looped sequences. The way Petersen progresses from naked vocal inflection to driving drum break-down is surprisingly emotionally driving.
The next time someone claims Cincinnati doesn’t have any culture, I will play them a delicate motor. You haven’t heard anything like this before. It’s a beautiful new music journey and it comes right from our own fair city.
King Khan & the Shrines
Idle No More
3.5 out of 5
King Khan has always had a reputation for being wild and uncontrollable. He routinely dresses in drag or barely anything at all during live shows. He’s tested the limits of local law enforcement with his on-the-road antics (especially with fellow garage-rockers Black Lips on their infamous trek through India). According to rumors, his other successful music group, King Khan & BBQ Show, basically broke up for good after a knock-down, drag-out backstage argument.
Idle No More is aptly titled, as it’s his first big release after a few years out of the spotlight. I’ve read all kinds of things: he suffered a severe mental breakdown . . . he spent time in seclusion at a Buddhist temple . . . he’s been in intensive psychiatric treatment. Whatever the scope of Khan’s personal exorcism, he’s responded with a very effective and reasonable 70’s funk-nostalgia record. It will make the nice folks at NPR very happy to opine on and feel they’re uncovering the rich underbelly of “indie rock.”
Normally, I’d complain that an artist losing their eccentric edge constituted them becoming “boring,” but since Khan’s eccentric edge involved drunkenly fighting in the street and mixing his recordings at such an abrasive volume the sound often sounded like it was clipping (seriously, go back and listen to The King Khan & BBQ Show LP – it’s loud as shit), I guess mellowing out is a bit of an improvement both personally and professionally.
“Luckiest Man” is the best song and will probably end up in commercials and movie trailers. “Bad Boy,” for some reason, reminded me of a Sesame Street segment where little kids would run around a Harlem playground and happily shout examples of uses for the letter Q.
Loud City Song
1.5 out of 5
Does anyone really listen to this? Again, speaking of NPR, this seems like something a bunch of latte-sippers are going to insist is “enchanting” and “profound.” Probably because it has so many items on the Educated People Indie Music Checklist: tonally flat and hyper-verbose vocals, classical stringed instruments played slightly shitty, jazz bass, drum parts that are supposed to sound complex and polyrhythmic but are really just in 4/4 time with offbeat high-hats. But c’mon. You don’t really like this. Even if you think you do, you don’t.
I read an interview with Julia Holter where she talked about attending CalArts for music education and being allowed to pursue her own musical vision in relative isolation with plenty of equipment and resources but without deadlines or expectations. When I have kids, I’m sending them to a industrial welding intensive curriculum boarding school, just so they won’t make anything as self-indulgent and shitty as Loud City Song. They’ll thank me later.
The Frankl Project
4 out of 5
I love hearing music from Cincinnati that I like. But it’s even better when I can immediately tell a lot of other people will love it too. Like, a lot of other people.
The Frankl Project are a guitar-drums-bass trio from the Queen City who make sometimes roaring, sometimes hushed, always severely earnest guitar rock. I can hear the mature punk leanings of Ted Leo, the star-eyed poetic spirit of the Avett Brothers, the bleary barroom romanticism of the Hold Steady, the intricate reverbed swell and release of post-rock, and the unabashed catchiness of your favorite 90’s radio wonder hit. Seriously, I’m still finding myself humming “My Hands” throughout the day, and it’s been weeks since I first heard Standards.
If there’s a single criticism to be leveled at this record, it’s that the high emotional note the songs hit is difficult to maintain: quick change-ups like “The Ottoman” are welcome reprieves from the heart-poured-out longing dominating many tracks. But if the worst thing you can say about a record is that there are too many well-crafted, sincere grasps at poignancy, you’re talking about a pretty fucking good record.
Take a listen to Standards and, while you’re out it, keep an eye out for The Frankl Project in the future. Whatever comes down the pike from them will be well worth hearing.
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