Review: Freddie Gibbs – Shadow of a Doubt

Two years ago, Freddie Gibbs’ career seemed destined to plateau. If nothing else, he was poised to be a very, very, good blog rapper. After falling out with (the artist formerly known as Young) Jeezy and his CTE imprint label, Gibbs made it his mission to call out the rapper on his following mixtapes, radio appearances, and interviews. By his account, Gary’s own was simply too thug to coexist on a roster with an increasingly inefficient and dishonest CEO. It was a nice cosign on paper, but in practice, it proved to be extremely disappointing and problematic. Whatever the reality of the situation was, it truly resulted in the best case scenario for Gibbs, who in the end, emerged hungrier than ever.

Two years after severing ties with Jeezy, Gibbs worked on an impressive run of street-ready bangers like “Eastside Moonwalker” and “D.O.A.”. These releases culminated in an unlikely, yet massively successful collaboration with Stone’s Throw legend, Madlib. The duo linked sporadically for a minute, which ultimately resulted in a full-length LP. On 2014’s Pinata, Madlib provided an avenue for Gibbs to refine his sound, posture himself with more ambitious flows, and weaved his most cohesive narrative to date. The album was a critical hit, appearing on many “Best Of” lists, and it projected Gibbs into the mainstream conscience. Despite Pinata’s success, it was still undoubtedly viewed as a joint effort. It was an immediate reminder of Madlib’s brilliance; becoming an important success for the backpack community, in an era oversaturated by trap-oriented aesthetics. Most noticeably, however, it forced Gibbs onto an eclectic platform, and augmented his already vicious delivery with something entirely new and refreshing.

Freddie Gibbs now follows up his best calendar year ever with, “Shadow Of A Doubt”. The gloomy and brooding collection runs 17 tracks deep, ultimately ending up as a victim of “quantity over quality”. “Shadow Of A Doubt” is a mixed bag. In fact, it’s more of a mixed duffle bag, something you’d be familiar with in listening to the rapper’s mythos. There’s a little too much being offered on this LP, and would do well in leaving a few numbers on the cutting room floor. The strength of the album lay in its first half, however, which makes a strong case for one of 2015’s best run of tracks. From “Narcos” to “Lately”, Gibbs swaggers through fine production, making it look way too easy in the process. Assists from Boi-1da, Tory Lanez, and Gucci Mane, help to paint some hypnotizingly gritty soundscapes. There are some still, however, some real duds. Take for instance, “Cold Ass N***a”, which sounds like a forgotten Pusha T demo. Then there’s the offensively boring, “Basketball Wives”, which brings the amazing and aforementioned run of 9 songs, to a screeching halt. These few stinkers make it challenging to sit through the entirety of this project. However, the handful of excellent songs are enough to salvage “Shadow Of A Doubt”, and make it something to revisit again (even if it’s only for one or two songs a sitting). This album is another notch in the belt for Freddie Gibbs. If nothing else, “Shadow Of A Doubt” is a nice way to maintain relevancy, and a way to satisfy fans new and old.

7/10

By: Aidan D’Aoust

Review: Joanna Gruesome at The Silver Dollar

Some musings on a Monday night spent in a half-empty bar watching Joanna Gruesome, an excellent band from Cardiff, Wales.

  • The band, who are at the start of a month-long North American tour (which includes dates with Brooklyn’s Aye Nako, who opened the show), seemed genuinely excited to be playing Toronto for the first time. While the turn-out wasn’t spectacular, the floor in front of the stage was pretty full and everyone seemed to be feeling the good vibes.
  • The audience member who was feeling the vibes the most was probably the tiny tattooed man with the circa-2006 point-and-shoot digital camera who spent the entire show barely able to keep his balance while he weaved in and out of the crowd to get what are sure to be award-winning photographs. At one point he climbed on stage and nearly stumbled into the guitarist/vocalist Roxy Brennan.
  • While I was trying to pay attention to the show happening on stage, I couldn’t help but become slightly obsessed with the tiny man with the camera. Was he an enormous Joanna Gruesome fan, or had he just stumbled in off the street, three sheets to the wind, and needed to take photos so that he’d know where he’d been the night before? I wanted to take a photo for this blog post (though all I had on my was my iPhone), but I was so turned off by the obnoxious behaviour of this other photographer that I just wanted to not be like him as much as I could. But, for the sake of all you readers, I snapped one crappy photo, without even looking at my screen, so, it’s amazing that I got anything at all.
  • Everyone in the band had fairly interesting haircuts.
  • The guitarist with the pigtails and the bassist with the bowl cut played most of the set standing off-stage. In fact, the guitarist was rocking out right behind me, so there are probably some photos out there taken by that tiny man where I got caught looking like an idiot, probably thinking “Gee, a guitarist playing from the audience, that’s something you don’t see everyday, adoy.”
  • This was my first time seeing Joanna Gruesome play, but I know both their records well. Interestingly, their lead vocalist recently left the group, and she has been replaced by the aforementioned Roxy Brennan, as well as Kate Stonestreet (who also handled keyboards as well). Roxy handled most of the singing parts, while Kate handled more of the yelling. I thought the group dynamic worked really well, as the trading off of the vocal parts made it more fun to watch. Plus, to my ear, they sounded enough alike, as well as enough like the group’s previous vocalist, that it all felt very natural and good.
  • A friend of a friend mentioned to me after the show that he really liked it, and compared the group to Chicago Mix. Now, if you don’t know what Chicago Mix is (I didn’t until fairly recently, when my roommate brought home a bag), it’s cheddar popcorn mixed with caramel popcorn. In fact, I think this guy’s exact words were “It’s salty and sweet. Too much of one thing might be too much, but balanced with the other thing, it’s really delicious.” You hear that? Joanna Gruesome are a delicious band.
  • After the show I bought The Grubs records they were selling at the merch table. The Grubs are Roxy and JG’s Owen Williams’ other band, and they are also very good and their song “Dec. 15” will have you dancing in your underpants.
  • I’m glad I went out on a Monday night! What a great band!

Review: Destroyer – Poison Season

It seems as though Dan Bejar owns a time machine in which he can travel to his desired period in musical history and achieve a perfectly orchestrated degree of nostalgia. In the case of his 2011 release Kaputt, he took on an 80’s vibe that carried through the entire album with it’s soft rock/jazz/pop feel that only an eccentric, boundless musician like Bejar could pull off. On his latest release, Poison Season he has seemed to draw his inspiration from the previous decade, with heavy reliance on punchy brass and ringing string sections to pull the album together.

The album starts out slow with the first half of “Times Square, Poison Season”, the bookends of the album, which includes a successfully orchestrated band of strings and gentle piano silhouettes under Bejar’s melancholy vocals and puzzling lyrics. There is no hesitation on the pace pickup at the start of the track “Dream Lovers” (which coincidentally feels like Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”) with its fast-paced drums and loud horns, this seems to set the tempo for the album better than the title track itself.

“Bring out your dead, Bring out the light, Bring out your dark birds in flight, Bring out your red roses too… Hey what’s got into Sunny?” plastered on the back of the hard copy of the album and repeated constantly throughout the track “Bangkok” along with lyrics like “oh shit, here comes the sun” and “I’m over before I begin to go” are constant reminders throughout the album that unusual, riddled and obscure lyrics are not uncharacteristic of a Destroyer album. On this album however, Bejar uses his voice in a melodic way and unlike his technique on Kaputt, he doesn’t seem to hold back with stringing out his own words and dialogue into longer, breathier runs.

Overall, Poison Season left my longing for a new Destroyer album after 4 years of waiting fulfilled, and I truly believe that when looked at in its entirety, this album displays some of Bejar’s best work. The recurring themes used skillfully in this album tie it together as a whole. Though not following in the exact steps of his previous releases, a change up like this should be expected from an artist like Dan Bejar, desire to grow and experiment is greater than that of staying static. Any fan of past Destroyer works would thoroughly enjoy this album, and for those who are unfamiliar with his music, it’s the perfect place to start. (Merge Records, 2015)

8/10

By Alex Reinprecht

Music News: Dilly Dally Cover Drake, Grimes Returns, and more

Here’s the scoop. Music news, it’s all around us. You may not notice it, but trust me, it’s there. You’re on Twitter, and all your friends are retweeting some meme of Drake dancing in a glowing room. Guess what… that’s music news and you didn’t even know it. You’re walking down the street and you see a poster for your favourite band’s new album. Did you even know they had a new album? BAM, you just got music news’d. So, while you might think no one cares about music news, the truth is, the world without music news is a pretty boring place. So on that note, let’s talk about some music news.

  • Speaking of Drake, one of our favourite Toronto bands, Dilly Dally, were recently in New York for CMJ. What did they do? Oh, they represented The 6ix by covering the man himself. Peep it here.
  • Grimes is finally starting to deliver some cold hard facts about her long-awaited follow up to Visions. It’s coming out soon, and it’s called Art Angels, and she drew the cover herself. Still no music though.
  • It might too early to say, but Apple Music didn’t exactly set the world on fire the way they were hoping it would. Fewer than 1% of iTunes users are paying for the service. Still, it’s now the second most popular streaming app, behind Spotify. I tried it and it was garbage.
  • Joni Mitchell is reportedly doing ‘making good progress’ according to her friend Judy Collins. Mitchell suffered an aneurysm earlier this year. Let’s hope these reports are true!
  • Ryan Adams continues to promote his Taylor Swift covers record. I think this has gone too far. He should stop.

Ok, that’s all the music news I can handle right now.

Music News: Pitchfork Sells Out, Drake Sells Less

Hey, we’re back. How was your weekend, did you do anything to celebrate Thanksgiving? Did you eat turkey (or tofurkey), stuffing, green bean casserole, glazed carrots, squash soup, you know, all the usual suspects? Did you have pumpkin pie for desert? No? Well guess what: just because Thanksgiving is over, that doesn’t mean you can’t eat these foods anymore. They still exist and can be made using ingredients available at your local grocer. Let me tell ya, I stuffed myself silly this weekend, but that doesn’t mean I’d turn down a piece of pumpkin pie or a forkful of stuffing if someone offered it to me right now. But no one will, because everyone is off for reading week. So I guess I’ll just write the music news.

  • The biggest news of the day is that Pitchfork (our main competitor in the ‘music news’ racket) has been purchased for an undisclosed amount by Condé Nast, the same company that owns Vanity Fair and Wired. When will our ship come in? Just putting it out there, if any company wants to sink some money into SpiritLive, we are open to anything. Also, did the sale include Lana Del Rey?
  • Some high school in California has won a contest. That’s good right? Not when the prize is an appearance at said high school by none other than Macklemore. Obviously they politely declined their prize. Oh, what’s that, there was another part to the prize? A big wad of cash to help fund their music program? “Nah, we good.” (via Stereogum)
  • I am only linking to this article because I like the phrase “sometimes when you ball so hard, you fall so hard.” Still, love the Drake.
  • Beach House have brought back their popular ‘Single Finder‘ feature to their website. All you have to do is pick your three favourite Beach House singles and you will get to stream one of three tracks from their soon-to-be-released 6th record, Thank Your Lucky Stars. I tried it out three times and gave different answers, so I was able to listen to each of the new songs – and guess what! They sound great.
  • Do you like reality TV? Well, even if you don’t, I’m sure you’d enjoy whatever Snoop Dogg is cooking up over at BET.

Not the best music news. Not the worst either.

Music News: Beach House Pulls a Fast One, Wiz Khalifa: Over 1 Billion Served, and Billy Corgan Does Something

The past couple days have yielded a good crop of music news, let’s hit the fields and see what we can harvest.

  • Two months after they dropped their last album, Depression Cherry, Beach House is back with album number six, Thank Your Lucky Stars. My guess is that this will mark some sort of sonic shift for the band, which at this point in their career is probably a good move.
  • According to Complex, Wiz Khalifa’s song “See You Again” is the first and only hip-hop song to reach 1 Billion views on YouTube. So, congrats to him. I’m sure Kanye is stoked.
  • The Smashing Pumpkins singer/guitarist Billy Corgan, who was quite the personality on Twitter, has decided to close his profile. Instead, he’s going to focus his attention on his Tumblr, or something? To be honest, I didn’t read past the first paragraph, but if you wanna read more, you can over at Consequence of Sound.
  • Rihanna is back with album number eight. It’s called ANTI, and she unveiled the artwork at some sorta fancy party in LA. See some photos and catch-up on the singles so far at Pitchfork.
  • There are a bunch of great albums dropping tomorrow, so let’s take a look at some. Local grunge rockers Dilly Dally are finally dropping their debut, Sore, via Buzz Records. Nicole Dollanganger’s album Natural Born Losers is coming out via Grimes’ new label Eerie. Ryan Hemsworth has a new collaborative EP with Lucas called Taking Flight, and that’s out via Last Gang. Alex G is stepping up to the big leagues, releasing his album Beach Music on Domino. Finally, look out for a new EP called Hallucinogen from Kelela, which comes to us via Warp.

Ok, that’s about all.

Music News: Who is Jakob Danger? Plus: Lawsuits! Horror Films! Cassettes!

Woah, what happened to music news? Where were all the posts at the end of last week? Here’s the thing: some days, there just isn’t a lot of news. People tend to start to get lazy on Thursday and Friday. We’ve discussed this before. Anyway, now it’s Monday and boy do we ever have music news:

  • Remember last week when we talked about Chilly Gonzales, and his Pop Music Masterclass video series, and how he jokingly said that Feist should sue Hozier for ripping her off? Well guess what KABLAMO Hozier is suing Chilly for defamation. Now who’s laughing?
  • Some I guess some kids tricked Mac DeMarco into reading some lines into a camera and now they’re promoting him as the star of their kinda terrible looking horror movie? That’s a thing that happened, apparently, and you can watch the trailer here but I really wouldn’t recommend it because it looks bad.
  • The singer of Green Day has a couple kids and they’re old enough to be starting bands? I guess that makes sense. Anyway, his one son is going under the name Jakob Danger and he just got signed to Burger Records so I’m sure I’ll listen to him at some point. Ok, maybe I’ll listen now.
  • I love cassettes. They’re a totally different experience than records, and both of them are very different than digital/streaming. I think there is a place in this world for each format, so don’t be all like, “Yuck, why would anyone want to buy a cassette,” because just watch this video (via NBC) and you’ll understand. Also, a manufacturing job in the United States, what an idea!
  • Oh, Run the Jewels just dropped a new jam. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean RTJ3 is just around the corner. This is the latest release from the Adult Swim Singles program. Still, new Run the Jewels!

Thanks for reading. I actually like those Jakob Danger tunes. See you again soon.

Review: Nicole Dollanganger at Sneaky Dee’s

I left the comfort of my apartment on Sunday night in order to head across town to Sneaky Dee’s. The reason for my visit: the Toronto debut (and second show ever) of Nicole Dollanganger, an artist who has quietly been releasing albums on Bandcamp the last few years, but who only entered the greater public conscious last month when it was announced that none other than Grimes would be starting a record label in order to put out her new LP.

With this enormous co-sign in the back of my mind, I had mixed feelings about going to check out this show. Would it be overrun with new fans eager to check out the internet’s latest buzz artist (last night’s show came on the heels a lengthy profile in the hype-inducing publication The Fader). Was I one of these people who had blindly taken the bait? I’ll admit, the fact that Dollanger is from the suburban town of Stouffville, Ontario is what initially peaked my interest, and before last night’s show I had only listened to a small fraction of her lengthy discography. Still, I was relieved to show up at 8pm to not find a long crowd waiting outside, but rather a group of punks and metalheads mingling outside. This is when I remembered that this was a hardcore show, and that Dollanger’s place on the bill (first of four bands) wasn’t likely to attract too much attention.

My suspicions were confirmed at 8:30pm sharp, when Dollanganger took the small stage while a small but attentive crowd gathered up front. Joined by a bassist and guitarist on either side, Dollanganger stood somewhat timidly in front of a table of pedals, singing into her microphone without acknowledging the audience. It didn’t matter though, because as soon as she started singing I understood why so many people have latched on to her. She has a voice that can cut through everything. Compared to her recordings, which are quite minimal and pretty, the show was a cacophony, with the guitarist playing along on a bass drum while hitting a hi-hat with the headstock of his guitar, and the bassist, at one point, letting out a guttural scream. In fact, the two accompanists acted as the perfect complement to Dollanganger, backing off when the songs called for it, but really elevating the songs to a new emotional level in certain parts. Her 40 minute set seemed to go by quickly, but walking back out into the night, I was impressed. She knows exactly how she wants to present herself and her music, and she has, as a fully-formed idea. In this regard, the endorsement from Grimes makes total sense. Not only did they both release a lot of music independently before getting wider recognition, their worlds extends into other forms of art (the only merch Dollanganger was selling were a variety of zines). As much as the internet has destroyed the music business, it has also allowed artists like Dollanganger to find their audience. Think about how someone like her would have been discovered 20 years ago? Canadians have always had a hard enough time breaking through to the rest of the world, so when stuff like this happens, I can’t help but feel good.

Is a long successful career a guarantee for Dollanganger? Of course not, there are no guarantees anymore. But I think she’s making all the right moves, and now that she’s playing shows and moving off the internet and into the real world, more and more people will come into her world.

Listen to Nicole Dollanganger on Bandcamp.

Music News: Jay Z Is Throwing a Party, and Wayne Coyne Probably Doesn’t Have a Podcast

Tuesday music news, let’s do this.

  • Oh Tidal. Does anyone remember Tidal? I barely do. In fact, I had to double check just now to see if it’s spelled Tidal or Tidel. Yes, Jay Z’s little-music-subscription-service-that-could still exists, and just reached it’s 1 Million member. In a tweet sent out earlier today, Mr. Carter boasted that “Tidal is platinum,” and “1,000,000 people  and counting.” Yes, that extra space between people and and was actually in his tweet. See, millionaires, they’re just like us regular folks making basic typing mistakes.
  • Here’s a headline that will make sense to people born in the 1980s: “Rage Against the Machine Bassit: ‘I Apologize for Limp Bizkit.’” Thankfully I never go into rap-rock, though recently I sat behind a grown man on the Megabus who blasted Linkin Park very loudly for most of the trip, and I’ll admit, those songs are catchy as heck.
  • Nicki Minaj is developing a TV show about her younger days, when her family emigrated from Trinidad before settling in Queens, NY. Though she is set to appear in the show, she likely won’t be playing herself, because it would be pretty weird having an adult play a small child. Maybe a teenager, though that’d also be weird. Spin has slightly more info.
  • Kanye and Kim’s new baby is due on Christmas, because that totally wasn’t planned at all. The real news here is that his new record, tentatively called Swish, is probably a year away. Or is he just throwing us off? Maybe he’ll drop his record on Christmas too?
  • In one of the most bizarre stories to emerge this week, someone may or may not have made a fake podcast supposedly hosted by The Flaming Lips’ singer Wayne Coyne, which totally didn’t have the band Beach House on it performing a brand new song. Even though a quick listen to it confirms that this whole thing is one big joke, so many blogs posted about it and quickly deleted it that I’m still laughing one day later. Consequence of Sound left their story up, but added a retraction.

Ok, that’s all for today. Make sure you get those applications in for SpirtLive shows this week!!!

Music News: What’s a Hozier? What’s a Fetty Wap? What’s Meow the Jewels? Am I going crazy?

And we are back! What a beautiful weekend. Yesterday I was sitting on a patio with my friends feeling truly #blessed. I know the Super Blood Moon was a mega bummer but otherwise things were pretty tight this weekend. Right now I’m listening to the new Drake & Future mixtape, finally, after it got released from the clutches of Apple Music. What a time to be alive indeed!

  • I quite enjoyed watching this video by Toronto ex-pat Chilly Gonzales. In it, the piano virtuoso explains how the chords of Hozier’s recent hit “Take Me to Church” have a lot in common with Feist’s “How Come You Never Go There,” while both songs seem to be inspired by the work of classical composer Johannes Brahms. It’s always fascinating to hear someone smart talk about music, and this well-produced video will definitely keep your attention. Watch it here.
  • Apparently Beyonce and Eddie Vedder covered a Bob Marley song together. Sounds like my nightmare.
  • Who is Fetty Wap and why was he riding a motorcycle without a license, insurance, or registration? Read this juicy article if you want to find out! I choose to remain ignorant.
  • Meow the Jewels finally came out. What is Meow the Jewels you ask? Is it a record made out of sampled cat noises? With rappers rapping on top? To be honest, I have no idea, but you can download it here if you’re curious. It’s free!
  • Have you ever read the Wikipedia article for music? It’s worth a gander.

Okay, slow new day, I admit it. Hopefully some stuff happens today or else tomorrow’s article will be even shorter!