Archive for May 2012
Like the culture it represents, hip hop music has gone through many changes in the last two decades. Producers continue to push their craft to new heights, while emcees are as nuanced as they are divisive. The free online mixtape formula has done just as many wonders for the proliferation of swag, as it has made it harder for progressive collectives to sustain as businesses. Simultaneously nostalgic and futuristic, R.A.P. Music—Killer Mike and El-P’s first collaboration album—is a product of two thoughtful artists working to question, define and give love to the world of underground hip hop.
Part love letter, part sound progression, R.A.P. Music finds both veterans on top of their game, working off each other as much as the concept itself. Throughout the record, El-P’s production feels like a retrospective of the many eras of hip hop–from the boom bap of the Bronx to the spacey synths of Graduation–with Killer Mike’s thoughtful, and sometimes radical flow. R.A.P. Music is a peak in both artists careers, who are scene and sound leaders in their own right. Which is refreshing, since both artists struggled through the late Aughts and early 10s to keep their relevance.
Dead men tell no tales, unless they happen to be named Roberto Bolaño. Since the relentlessly prolific Chilean writer died in 2003, eighteen books of his fiction and nonfiction have been published in English translation; these include his autobiographical masterpiece The Savage Detectives, the epic unsolved mystery 2666, and three books in the last twelve months alone. The latest, The Secret of Evil, published last month, collects the writing Bolaño had saved on his hard drive, some of which has appeared in Granta, Harpers, and The New Yorker. Unless someone finds some napkins or matchbooks on which Bolaño jotted down ideas, the posthumous party seems to be nearing the end.
The Secret of Evil seems less likely to win Bolaño new fans and more likely to satisfy addicts who need another fix or scholars who want to analyze every word he wrote. For the enthusiast, reading this slim collection feels like flipping through a scrapbook or photo album of a deceased relative or absent friend. As always, the protagonists are mostly male literary types who narrate in the first person. As always, Bolaño moves deftly between pulp and literary forms, mixing low and high culture, such as the auto mechanic who quotes pre-Socratic philosophers. There are the familiar settings from the writer’s life: his native Chile, the Mexico of his youth, the Spain of his adulthood. There are the recurrent motifs: literature, death, exile, crime, and fear. There are the withering critiques of Latin American writers whom Bolaño skeweres without mercy. Several stories feature Arturo Belano, the author’s alter ego from The Savage Detectives. Now middle-aged, Belano reflects on his past, still haunted by the ghost of Ulises Lima, his poetic partner in crime, the Neal Cassady to his Jack Keroauc. Even the translators, Natasha Wimmer and Chris Andrews, are the same pair responsible for rendering Bolaño’s massive oevre into English.
No one would doubt that Royal Headache is a punk album, but it’s really only punk in production only (PIPO). Lo-fi recording techniques (apparently, it took a day and a half to record), distorted chords and the ability to jam 12 tracks in 26 minutes are certainly trademarks of a punk release. However, closer listens betray the hard punk exterior, showing a bunch of sensitive dudes who would make fine prom dates. Honestly, the only thing this record is missing is a Del Shannon organ break.
I imagine a broken turntable and some worn-out 50s teen idol compilations inspired the debut album from Royal Headache, the quickly rising punk rock foursome out of Sydney. The sped-up, crashed-out record—released last year, but just now making it’s way to the states thanks to a reissue from What’s Your Rupture?—sounds like a Dion 33 1/3 spun at 45 speed with a busted needle, which manages to transform the backing singers into Telecasters. The lead track “Never Again” is the first evidence of such. “We make a fine pair, you and me/Don’t you agree?”
Why do good girls fall for bad boys? This is the central question of the debut album by power pop band The Royalty. Contrary to its innocuous title, Lovers is filled with liars, cheaters, drunks, emotional abusers, and commitment phobes, all memorialized in song by Nicole Boudreau, one of the year’s most dynamic and mesmerizing singers.
For all her songs of love gone wrong, Boudreau is neither a whiner nor a victim. On Lovers, the volume, force, intensity, and urgency of her voice projects confidence, strength, sass, and resilience. At various turns, she wails like Janis Joplin, croons like Amy Winehouse, rocks like Hayley Williams of Paramore, and occasionally slips into Broadway musical mode. Unlike, say, the languid style of Chromatics singer Ruth Radelet, there’s nothing restrained about Boudreau’s performance; she pours her heart and soul into every note. At the end of a studio session or show, her microphone might need a few Advil.
The Royalty, Say The Word
Two weeks ago I headed to Whole Foods in search of smoked paprika, an ingredient that should certainly be available at a foodie shopping mecca such as Whole Foods. But—sigh—it wasn’t there. I then began to scour the city for this stuff and after several tries eventually found some at Food Emporium. Food Emporium! You hear that, Whole Foods? You’ve been outdone by Food Emporium! Anyway, I began to wonder: if pimentón is a rare commodity around here, where can a girl get some serious spices in this city?
If you doubt that DJs are real musicians, you have not listened to DJ Shadow, one of today’s most innovative and exciting composers and practitioners, despite the fact that the elements of his music all come from other musicians’ recordings. In my book, Shadow is the electronic equivalent of a jazz player who puts his own spin on an existing repertoire. So when I had the opportunity to join a leg of his U.S. tour—working on the crew for opening band Nerve–I jumped at the chance. Over two weeks, I saw Shadow perform ten times, from Silver Spring, MD to Canada and to San Franciso, for the final Shadowsphere show ever.
It’s easy to assume that a DJ is somewhat isolated in his practice, metaphorically and physically juggling such a vast array of musical elements that he can only devote so much direct attention to the audience, but Shadow demonstrated that the best DJs incorporate the crowd among the elements of their live composition. Plenty of DJ’s play to crowds, but none so masterfully while operating such a complicated rig (Shadow spends the show surrounded by CDJ’s, laptops, mixers, and other assorted controllers). He also does all this while exercising a zen-like patience: no beat comes in too early nor lasts too long, every moment builds to its perfect apex before delivering its resolution. Few musicians have more control of an audience than Shadow. At a recent Pulp show at Radio City Music Hall, Jarvis Cocker had the crowd eating from the palm of his hand, but by the end, he was clearly exhausted from the massive effort he made to achieve such adoration. Shadow had people going nuts without even breaking a sweat.
It’s finally here! Just below you have the opportunity to download one of The Weeknd’s first ever live shows in the states. Recorded at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall on a night of a deluge, The Weeknd rocked the sold-out intimate space, that was packed with more bros than anyone else.
The recording below is not fantastic quality, but it serves as an accurate representation as the show. As you’ll hear on the tape, there was about as much crowd participation as a Dashboard Confessional concert. And moments of deep bass were as disorienting live as they are distorted here. Live, Abel knows how to work a crowd, and despite incessant chatter, you can hear how pumped up everyone is to be there. It was excellent to see this young performer at the beginning of his game, next time he comes through Chicago will certainly be at a larger venue.
Without further adieu, below is the download link. This serves as the second ever FP Bootleg Series, the first being James Blake’s 2010 show in DC. If you’re interested in that recording, or if this link goes inactive, let us know.
1. High For This
2. D.D./The Birds (Pt. 1)
3. Rolling Stone/Gone/Crew Love/The Zone
4. The Party & The After Party
6. The Knowing
8. Loft Music
9. (I can’t for the life of me figure out which song this is)
10. The Morning
11. House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls
12. Wicked Games (Acoustic)
Peter Lillis is Assistant Editor of Frontier Psychiatrist. He’s learning that there isn’t a huge difference between Abel Tesfaye and Chris Carrabba, but that must be left for another day.