Once upon a time, about 10 years ago, it seemed plausible that Kanye West could appear on a song with the Minneapolis underground rap institution Atmosphere. Kanye was bringing backpack-rap aesthetics to the mainstream, and Atmosphere were, for a while there, the greatest and most popular backpacker group in the world. It didn’t happen. And now, 10 years later, Atmosphere have a new song called “Kanye West” on their forthcoming album Southsiders (which also features the single “Bitter“). The song isn’t about Kanye West at all; instead, as rapper Slug says, it’s about “loving something so much that you submit to the moment.” In classic Atmosphere, it’s a weirdly cathartic piece of emotionally incisive boom-bap, and you can hear it below.
Southsiders is out 5/6 on Rhymesayers.
Today I’m wrapping up my review of the debut LP from Sisyphus, the indie dream team comprised of Serengeti, Sufjan Stevens and Son Lux. In the meantime, check out Sufjan’s impeccable backup dancing game in their new video for “Booty Call”.
The disparate sounds of Sole, DJ Pain 1 and Andrew Jackson Jihad collide on “Old Gods Ain’t Dead”, the first video from Sole and Pain 1’s forthcoming Death Drive. Behind metal riffs and Pain 1’s underground-meets-mainstream palette, Sole and Sean Bonnette find common ground in poetry and politics.
Sole describes the new record as “a political rap album executed in a way that eschews the rapper persona of savior/prophet and speaks from the riot line.” He and Pain 1 recently launched an indiegogo campaign to support the project, which is currently in its final week. Perks include an anti-capitalist version of Apples to Apples, lyric tapestries and an exclusive EP of bonus material.
Death Drive drops in May.
On Thursday, Queens-bred and Brooklyn-based comedian Hari Kondabolu performed his first of two sold nights at Union Hall in celebration of his debut album, Waiting For 2042, released last week on Kill Rock Stars. The album’s title references the year in which white people are expected to represent less than 50% of the United States’ population, a concept Kondabolu mines for pure gold.
A former immigrants rights organizer and Human Rights graduate of the London School of Economics, Kondabolu brings forth material that is every bit as informed and forward thinking as it is hilarious. People first started taking note of his talent in 2007 after appearances on Jimmy Kimmel and the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival and he has since performed on Conan and various Comedy Central standup shows, including a half-hour special of his own. Kondabolu also wrote for FX’s Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, co-hosts the Untitled Kondabolu Brothers Podcast alongside his brother Ashok (aka Dapwell of the now defunct Das Racist), and occasionally guest hosts Wyatt Cenac’s weekly Night Train at Littlefield (he hosts tonight with Ashok).
Kevin Avery acted as host at Union Hall and kicked things off with a 20 minute set emblematic of the evening’s intelligent racial humor. Surprise guests Janeane Garofalo and Ted Leo also performed brief sets at the intimate Park Slope venue, with standing room only audience members jostling for views at the rear bar. Avery and Kondabolu - outliers in a scene where comedians of color all too often whore out their cultures for cheap laughs - respect the audience’s intelligence by not dumbing down their sociological material. A Kondabolu line from Waiting For 2042 sums it up succinctly: “People always say I’m obsessed with race… You can’t be obsessed with race in America. There’s racist stuff that happens all the time. Saying that I’m obsessed with race and racism in America is like saying I’m obsessed with swimming when I’m drowning.”
Though he’s been on the indie comedy radar for nearly a decade and developed an impressive resume, 2014 could be the year Kondabolu blows up. His wit is razor sharp, his command of the audience is remarkable, and there are few comics in America with material half as funny or intelligent.
My first memory of Jackson, aka Mrs. Paintbrush, dates back 10 years to the Fuck Clear Channel tour stop at Cane’s (RIP) in San Diego. Opening for Sage Francis, Grand Buffet stole the show with their batshit banter, satirical sweatshop raps and synchronized headbanging. At one point frontman Jackson squeezed a lemon into his eye while delivering a between-song monologue that had something to do with the Chicago Bulls holding their offseason training camp inside of the Egyptian pyramids.
For the better part of two decades, absurdist banter, subversive bars and fourth dimensional dance moves have separated Grand Buffet from the rap pack. The Pittsburgh duo of Jackson and Lord Grunge have outlasted the vast majority of their underground contemporaries whilst churning out lo-fi records with titles like Escape From Anthony Baboon’s Nautical Playhouse and The Haunted fucking Gazebo and touring with the likes of Dan Deacon, MGMT, Magnolia Electric Co., Wesley Willis, of Montreal and Girl Talk.
After years of discretely posting his tracks to tumblr with little fanfare, Jackson finally released his first solo record in late 2013 under the name Mrs. Paintbrush. Duke 2 collects years of Mrs. Paintbrush tracks into a concise 11-track album with tales of talking dogs at jazz clubs, politicians eating children and burnt out Catholic hitchhikers. Jackson and I sat down at different computers in different states to discuss said solo project, the future of Grand Buffet and post-show Waffle House rituals.
Read full interview at SYFFAL
Today, Berlin math rock outfit mOck, who recently released their Components EP stateside through Nefarious Industries, share their new video for “Leiden, NL”. Fronted by vocalist/bassist Freddy Knop, the Tortoise and Karate-influenced trio operates in a free structure alternating between minimalist restraint and bursts of complexity.
In the cleverly edited clip for “Leiden, NL”, mOck is shown performing through reflections and projections bouncing off various instruments and an old Nintendo. Watch the video above and stream “Components” via bandcamp.
The Los Angeles-based Hellfyre Club invaded the Lower East Side on Thursday night and rocked a packed Mercury Lounge with 3+ hours of eclectic indie rap. Touring in support of Dorner vs. Tookie, the diverse 4-man crew of Open Mike Eagle, Busdriver, Milo and Nocando delivered wit, innovation, crowd interaction and humor all blanketed by the bright visuals of director/rapper WC Tank.
Two years after I caught a mediocre performance from Nocando at the Soda Bar in San Diego, the man showed genuine signs of transformation. If his heart wasn’t in it before, it’s unmistakably there now. He started his set with an acapella verse, wove in substantial new material and finished with a track set to Atmosphere’s “Denvemolorado“, all to hearty applause.
Open Mike Eagle followed and delivered a set worthy of the snowballing hype. His name was chanted during and post-set, his delivery was as effortless as it was flawless, and his shout-rap second verse on “Password” remains one of the most fun things one can witness at a hip hop show in America. Though I partially wanted to murder the drunkards behind me rapping along to half of Mike’s songs, I was with them in spirit.
Continue reading at URB.com
Portland-based song and dance man Cars & Trains (née Tom Filepp) is gearing up to reissue his first album, Rusty String, on colored vinyl this June via Circle Into Square along with a digital EP of all new material. To celebrate, Tom put on a party hat, trimmed his elegant beard and dropped off a new instrumental track entitled “History of the Night”, which we share with you below.
Also included in the 3-song mix is “Grass Grows Through Sidewalk Cracks” (which you may recognize as “My Veganism" from Sole’s No Wising Up No Settling Down) and “Irony & Consequence”, which was built from William Ryan Fritch piano parts initially intended for “I Know Someone Who Can’t Recognize”.
Stream and download Cars & Trains’ mix below and be on the lookout for a new largely instrumental full-length in the fall.
Filmed at Strongroom Recording Studio in London, this live video for “Magic Number" features the minimal setup that’s become a focal point of Damien’s live show. This is the second live video released by Damien off of Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son following “Jericho Road.”
via secretly canadian
"Breathe" is taken from anticon veteran Jel’s third solo LP, Late Pass. Jel will be touring Europe over the next couple months along with the Notwist, whose excellent new album Close to the Glass is currently streaming over at NPR.
When writing “Apogee”, emcee Joe Horton imagined two eternal beings who are locked in orbit around one another, taking turns sleeping and being awake. During the transition, the two pass each other like ships in the night, sharing a brief moment of collective consciousness before one falls asleep and the other awakens. “Apogee” takes place during one such transition, as the soon-to-be sleeping declares his love and surrender to the soon-to-be awake. In this fleeting moment of lucidity, he tries to tell her about all the beauty and pain she will experience while awake, ultimately finding comfort in the futility of the task.
The video adapts the concept of the song to a couple in a modern apartment experiencing the endless awake/sleep cycle. The awake writes their thoughts onto the sleeping, treating them more like diary than partner. Just before the transition, the awake realizes the danger in what they’ve done and attempts to clean the sleeping. They fail to do so, and the sleeping wakes, covered in writing, not quite sure what to make of the place they find themselves.
Indie rap kingpins Atmosphere released the one-off track “Bob Seger” back in July and now have visuals to accompany the moody, evocative piece, one of their strongest individual songs since 2008’s When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold. Slug had the following to say about the Andrew Melby-directed clip:
"(The video is) about how the legend of Paul Bunyan began. Babe wasn’t really a blue ox, it was a blue axe. But the northern accent made it sound like ‘ox’. Blue from the blood of the evil Canadian soldiers. It was filmed on the northern Minnesota iron range."
Atmosphere is currently in the middle of their annual Welcome to MN Tour alongside Toki Wright, Big Cats, No Bird Sing, deM atlaS and Jimmy2Times. Catch the remaining dates below.
2.13 - Duluth, MN @ Clyde Iron Works (sold out)
2.14 - Rochester, MN @ Mayo Civic Center Auditorium
2.15 - Fargo, MN @ The Venue at the Hub
2.17 - Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue (sold out)
"It is known that whole trains of thought sometimes pass instantly through our heads, in the form of certain feelings, without translation into human language, still less literary language. But we shall attempt to translate all these feelings of our hero’s and present the reader if only with the essence of these feelings, with what, so to speak, was most necessary and plausible in them. Because many of our feelings, when translated into ordinary language, will seem perfectly implausible. That is why they never come into the world, and yet everybody has them."
Reality is nine-tenths perception, even in our most intimate relationships. Is it love? Infatuation? Is it real and lasting? All we have are the choices we make. In the latest video from electro-beat guru Son Lux, a torrid relationship plays out between two lovers, as frontman Ryan Lott reflects on the possibilities of an “Alternate World.”
"Make what we believe / Don’t we make what we can?" Lott asks, as we follow a couple’s steamy, often volatile affair, from their only-maybe-safe-for-work make-out sessions to winter walks on the beach and late-night romps at an amusement park. In the end, they arrive at the inevitable dissolution of a relationship that burns too bright and moves too fast. "The past is a type of reality that haunts the present," Lott tells us via email. "And the film’s story and imagery evokes this feeling beautifully."
Directors Truman and Cooper say they were inspired by the emotional pull of “Alternate World.” “We immediately had images of foggy worlds, dreamed and abstract. They led us to the themes of memories and nostalgia. We wanted to play with the ambiguity between a parallel world based on different choices in your life, and a memory of a past long gone.”