Tetsuo & Youth – Lupe Fiasco REVIEW

Artist: Lupe Fiasco

Album: Tetsuo & Youth

By Aaron Bechard

On January 20, 2015 Lupe Fiasco released his 5th LP Tetsuo and Youth. This has been a long anticipated release for Lupe Fiasco fans since its teased preview tour back in late 2013 and now infamously, Lupe’s Label, Atlantic Records consistently delaying the release. A division of the hacker group Anonymous took it upon themselves to end the delay by threatening the label to announce a release date of the album dubbed “Operation free Lupe”, where they threatened to target Atlantic Records website and executives. Within 19 Hours Atlantic Records tweeted  “@LupeFiasco‘s #TetsuoAndYouth 1/20/15”, Lupe tweeted “V” paying respects to the group coveted text V for Vendetta.

Lupe has always been very open about his political views often criticizing religion, American policies and gang culture. These views have been in the forefront of his music since the release, and massive success, of  Food and Liquor in 2006 and have become an integral piece of his identity as a rapper. Lupe’s political activism has simultaneously been his nemesis. When it came to his contractual bind to Atlantic Records, the two parties have butted heads on his every release and after the failure and forced release of 2011’s “Lasers”, Lupe’s career was pushed into a state of mediocrity. Since then fans have been starving and fiending for a release at the calibre of Food and Liquor or The Cool. While Food and Liquor II and The Great American Rap Album failed to make the cut, Tetsuo and Youth has proven to be the closest thing F&F fans have seen in years.

Tetsuo and Youth is supposedly Lupe’s final release from Atlantic Records and that could possibly be credited for the sudden stroke of genius that is Tetsuo and Youth. The album delivers clear and concise political messages laced into Lupe’s creative imagery and slick flow. Tetsuo and Youth itself, is meant for a niche listening audience. It contains selections like the hookless, 8 minute power track, “Murals”. Or take a listen to “Choppers”, a critique of everything from Obama to American gun culture. You won’t hear Tetsuo and Youth on your top 40 power mix, although it is an album that inspires listeners to think critically and to question politics, which is everything a Lupe album should be.

My only major criticism of the album is the way in which is was produced. I felt that many of the  backing tracks and pop vocal hooks just didn’t fit the image of the album, and as a result the album was full of train wreaks which were toxic to the listening experience and really muddied Lupe’s powerful verses. If the album featured more Lupe rapped hooks and took more of a minimalist approach with the background mix, I feel this great album would have been legendary. My overall rating of the Tetsuo and Youth is a 7.5/10.

REVIEW – Best Releases – January 2015

By Aidan D’Aoust

 

Ratworld – Menace Beach

The 90’s has seen a bit of a revival this past decade. Grungy, Sub-Pop influences have made themself apparent with acts like Yuck, Metz, and White Lung bursting onto the scene. Menace Beach continues the lo-fi trend with Ratworld, a solid effort from Leeds’ own. Check out the incredibly catchy “Come On Give Up”.

 

Viet Cong – Viet Cong

Following last year’s terrific EP “Cassette”, Calgary’s own Viet Cong brings the fuzz to the next level on this self-titled release. The post-punk quartet have delivered early this year with no signs of slowing down. Give these guys a listen if you enjoy Joy Division, Savages, or Interpol.

 

Black Messiah – D’Angelo and The Vanguard

D’Angelo’s return to music was our Story Of The Year, and to no one’s surprise, he more than justifies the title with his latest LP. We’ll let the music do the rest of the talking.

 

Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper – Panda Bear

Noah Lennox, returns as Panda Bear and graces us with one of 2015’s trippiest and most beautiful efforts so far. The psychedelia is in full effect here with “Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper”. Give it a shot if you’re into staring into the sky without a care in the world.

 

On Your Own Love Again – Jessica Pratt

When an artist is bold enough to prove her artistry solely through guitar and voice, it has to be good. Jessica Pratt is great. It’s easy to compare the Australian-born songwriter to Joni Mithcell or Joan Baez, but it’s the album’s beautiful little tinges that make Pratt unique. Go fall in love and pick up this release.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2nd Annual RTA Band Night

By Staff

 

RUtv and SPIRITlive are proud to present the 2nd Annual RTA Band Night, Friday January 16th at the Central.

Music provided by:

The Turks

The Kents

Talkback Radio

The Lost Angelos

Tinha

Jack Walter & Jimmy Pearson

Running Violet

Walrus Attack

Advance tickets can be purchased for $5 at the Rogers Communications Centre (80 Gould St.) Friday the 9th from 11:00am-2:00pm and Monday the 12th from 12:00pm-3:00pm

 

SPIRITlive Staff List – Top Albums of 2014

By Staff

 

Members of SPIRITlive’s Music Team have spent their year meticulously listening to all sorts of music (some of it they seemed to enjoy more than others). This week, we asked them to share their favorite releases of the year in a countdown, list-based format, because we’re millennials and our attention span is-oooo, look all of that album art!

 

Michael Carlucci’s Top 4

4. Clear – Periphery

This is not a normal album by Periphery. In fact, they stated that they don’t consider Clear as either an album or an EP. Each song provides it’s own unique sound, which is refreshing to a Periphery fan’s ear. The reasoning behind the variety in sound is due to the fact that one member wrote each song. You might think that my math is off, considering that there are seven songs and six members, however, the introduction track titled ‘Overture’ is the only song written by the entire band and incorporates what the bands states as the ‘musical theme’ heard in each track. Clear is number 4 on my list because it surprised me, but in a good way. It was nice to hear what this band that I’ve been listening to for three years can do when they venture away from their roots.

3. Talking Is Hard – Walk The Moon

You may know this band for one reason, or you may not know them at all and only recognize the song that put them on their feet. In the summer of 2014 I had the privilege of watching them open for Panic at the Disco. I listened to their early work including songs like ‘Anna Sun’ and ‘Tightrope’, but during their opening act in August they played songs, which they planned on releasing on their 2014 album. The wait was worth it giving how almost every song stimulated my auditory senses. Talking is Hard is number 3 on my list thanks to Walk the Moon’s ability to provide a fresh sounding album with songs that are not only catchy but dance-worthy.

2. Advanced Basics – USS

USS played the very first set of Edge Fest back in 2010. They not only set the tone for the rest of the day but also provided me with a new band to start listening to. Four years later I was eagerly anticipating their 2014 album release, Advanced Basics, which did not disappoint. USS is not afraid to push boundaries, and that is why they are number 2 on my list. They combine a variety of instruments, crank the overtone on their guitar and add the fuzz on the vocals to match. They are awesome and underrated. 

1. Sonic Highways – Foo Fighters

I have been waiting for another album from Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters since Wasting Light was released, back in 2011. I knew it was going to be tough to compare both albums to each other, but they managed to do so, which isn’t a surprise. Dave Grohl is constantly trying new things. On this album he travelled to eight different cities and interview an artist from each city. Each song was recorded in the city in which the interview took place. Once the song was recorded, Dave would take his transcribed interview, take the words and turn them into lyrics. It is a form of music writing I have never been introduced to before, and after hearing songs such as ‘Something from Nothing’ and ‘Feast and the Famine’, I hope Dave continues to use this method in the future. Sonic Highways is constructed in such an intricate way, which is why it’s placed in the number 1 spot. It may have been released in the last quarter of 2014, but it overtakes every other album I have listened to throughout the past twelve months. 

 

John Sullivan’s Top 5

5. Ciliva Demo – Isaiah Rashad 

Isaiah Rashad is Top Dog Entertainment’s newest signee. With Cilvia Demo, he debuts his first album on a major label. His extensive range of style is perfectly complimented by relaxed yet punchy production, laced with smooth samples and simple drums. His subject matter is kept fresh throw a variety of flows and impressive story-telling ability.

 4. Days Before Rodeo – Travi$ Scott

Travis Scott’s newest release is his most polished to date, with a fresh collection of impressively banging tracks. Co-signed with Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug, Travis Scott delivers an immense concoction of roaring bass lines and intense drum patterns. His impressively produced tracks are complimented with emotionally personal lyrics.

 3. N****s On The Moon (The Powers That B: Disc 1) – Death Grips

Death Grips’ final project, The Powers That B, is going to be released in two parts. The first half, N****s On The Moon, is their most polished and fractured release to date. Sporadically populated with divisive vocal samples of musician Bjork, and thickly jarring and random noises, Death Grips seems intent on finishing their career with a bang.

 2. Tha Tour Pt. 1 – Rich Gang

Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan are the next big things in hip-hop. Mentored by YMCMB’s Birdman, the three come together in a supergroup known as Rich Gang. The first half of their debut mixtape is a collection of some of the most unique and freshest sounding hip-hop released to date. Warbling, “sing-songy” choruses give way to hilariously in-depth couplets, pushing the envelope of creativity within the modern realm of rap.

 1. Piñata – Freddie Gibbs and Madlib

Freddie Gibbs has delivered his magnum opus alongside respected producer Madlib. (Cocaine) Piñata is a collection of masterfully composed tracks, wrought with thrilling lyrics, disses, and stories from ‘Gangsta Gibbs’

 

Jessica Lam’s Top 4

4. Forcefield – Tokyo Police Club

It wasn’t until Riot Fest in September that I fell in love with this band. I had already heard a few songs from them, but during their set, they played a whole bunch of great new songs. These cool dudes are actually from the GTA, which is pretty awesome.

3. Queen Of The Clouds – Tove Lo

After hearing “Habits” on every radio station, I was curious to see what else this talented lady had to offer . I streamed the entire album once, and bought the album as soon as I could. Tove Lo and her music are just perfect.

 2. Turn Blue – The Black Keys

After the hype of their sold-out September show, I had to see for myself what this band was all about. It turned out that I’d actually heard most of the songs off this album, and I loved them all.

 1. The 1975 – The 1975

Their self-titled album actually came out in 2013, but nonetheless, it’s one of my favourites this year. They played an absolutely amazing set in November at the Sound Academy.

 

Shahrzad Ansari’s Top 5

5. This Is All Yours – Alt-J

I don’t buy albums anymore; I’m not sure many people do. But when I heard this album, I knew I had to buy it. This English indie rock band has got it going on! The clash of sounds they’ve put together creates a beautiful masterpiece. Hunger of the Pine, for instance, samples Miley Cyrus’s 4X4 and works extremely well as a contrast on top of the soft, tender music (not to mention the aesthetically appealing music video that will take your breath away). Other favourites off the album include, Left Hand Free and Every Other Freckle.

 4. Turn Blue – The Black Keys

Turn Blue isn’t the best work The Black Keys have done, it’s still a solid album. The songs on the album vary greatly from one another and keep it interesting. Bullet in the Brain, is mellow and dark while their single, Gotta Get Away, is exactly the opposite. Fever was a classic Black Keys song and you just couldn’t escape it this summer. My personal favourites off the album are Bullet in the Brain, Turn Blue, and 10 Lovers.

3. Sonic Highways – Foo Fighters

What? Foo Fighters released a new album? Oh yes they did, and they did not disappoint. The single Something from Nothing became a favourite among rock radio stations immediately. The new album only has eight songs on it, with mixed reviews from critics, but us fans were not disappointed. In fact, the two upcoming Foo Fighters shows in Toronto sold out almost immediately. Something from Nothing was a great choice for a single and The Feast and The Famine sounds like a classic Foo Fighters song.

2. 1989 – Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s 1989 took the industry by storm this year and there isn’t a question as to why. Personally, as a rock fan, I wasn’t dying to hear Swift’s new album. Yet, here it is at number 2. Blank Space has got to be the catchiest song of the year. Shake It Off was a horrible first single but we’ll let it slide because songs like Wonderland and All You Had to Do Was Stay make up for it. This country star should can no longer be labeled country, as this record is pure pop. Yet, it was incredibly well done, greatly marketed, and the sales were off the charts – making her the only artist of 2014 to go platinum within a week.

1. X – Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran’s soulful voice, loop pedal, his rhymes and the variation of slow and fast songs result in an incredible album. Hands down my favourite record of the year. My favourite songs off X were Afire Love – a heartbreaking song about his grandfather, Thinking Out Loud – with its simple yet beautiful music video, and I’m A Mess – raw lyrics sung in a voice that you won’t be able to shake from your mind. His concert this year at the Air Canada Centre featured him on stage with only a guitar and a loop pedal and everybody loved it. He didn’t need expensive sets, costumes or wild dancers to sell out stadiums. X is nominated for a Grammy for Record of The Year and I am rooting for it to win.

 

 

Aidan D’Aoust’s Top 5

5. Days Before Rodeo – Travi$ Scott

Travi$ Scott; the Houston rapper/Grand Hustle signee/Kanye West protegee, is a very busy man. Following last year’s Owl Pharaoh and credits on Yeezus and Magna Carta Holy Grail, Scott released his free Summer mixtape Days Before Rodeo to the praises of hype machines everywhere. Taking a backseat in production, Scott has noticeably improved behind the mic with this effort. Assembling a team of Mike Dean, Metro Boomin, and Brampton native WondaGurl helped to deliver some of 2014’s eeriest, charismatic,and most atmospheric hip-hop. Plus, it’s getting increasingly hard to ignore the best ad libs in the game. “Straight Up!”

4. Salad Days – Mac Demarco

I’m always worried to meet someone I fanboy over. Regardless of the quality of their output, I find it pretty damn hard to enjoy the music of an asshole (Kanye Omari West is excluded because he is the greatest artist of our generation). My fear of disappointment was tested in June of this year, when I ran into Mac Demarco at NXNE in Toronto. I tensed up when I saw him hanging outside The Garrison (where he would guest DJ later in the night). I was worried about meeting the man characterized as the “crazy, wild, stoner” especially after listening to Salad Days on repeat since its April release. Well, I am here to happily report that Mac Demarco is a cool dude. In fact, he’s one of the coolest. So if you didn’t enjoy Salad Days for its thoughtful, melancholic, and beautifully crafted music, take solace in the fact that Mac is the chillest dude. The album’s great though…you should still listen to it.

3. Tha Tour Pt. 1 – Rich Gang

Look, there isn’t anything artistically earth-shattering about this release. You can’t defend Tha Tour Pt. 1 on its poetical merit. What Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan are able to do here, however, is drop incredibly catchy and quotable hooks on top of beats by maestros on the YMCB imprint, like London On Da Track. The year in rap already belonged to Young Thug, but a tag-team here with the game’s Mr. CEO, Rich Homie Quan, proves for an hour of music that leaves us feeling like we’ve substituted everything in our diet for gallons of lean. If that’s something your into, look for Tha Tour‘s next installment when it drops in the new year.

2. Piñata – Freddie Gibbs and Madlib

Freddie Gibbs curates a collection of Madlib’s most triumphant instrumentals in years, with raw energy, gusto and finesse. The Baby Faced Killa ditches the drill influences of previous efforts to spit theatrics on some real sonic soulfood. The flow is emphatic, the beats are heroic. This is the best hip-hop release of 2014 and you’re objectively wrong to disagree with me.

1. Lost In The Dream – The War On Drugs

You make some enemies when you achieve greatness. If the Mark Kozelek sideshow achieved one thing, it brought Lost In The Dream new listeners. So I think we all should thank Mark Kozelek for adding to a growing fanbase and giving an amazing album months of free press. The War On Drugs’ moving, dreamy, Americana-infused opus is my favourite album of the year. Go buy this album with actual money because it deserves every penny of it.

Margarita Brighton’s Top 5

5. Atlas – Real Estate

Atlas is all about introspection. It reminds me of hazy summer days and is definitely one to check out. Their third studio album does not disappoint. With promising of calming guitar riffs on “Had To Hear”, the youthful unapologetic overtones of “Talking Backwards” is also quite the favourite of mine.

4. Salad Days – Mac Demarco

The internet loves Mac Demarco. This Canadian surf-rock heartthrob and weirdo could do no wrong in my eyes. His sophomore record is definitely not a slump. Daydream and feel good synth effects on “Chamber of Reflection” provide great background for my zone-out fazes in a rough work day. Demarco’s beautiful vocals paired with his sweet lyricism is one to definitely have a beer over.

3. Morning Phase – Beck

A freaking masterpiece. The first time I listened to this album was a review for a blog. Beck was a little before my time, so in all honesty my listen was a little apprehensive. But I must say, that recent Grammy nom for album of the year, is nothing short of an understatement. Beautiful orchestral symphonies, vocal melodies and hyptonic lyricism.

2. PUP- PUP

Do you like to mosh? Because I do. PUP is the epitome of teenage angst and that awkward quarter life crisis’ of “not knowing what to do with your 20something life”. The Toronto punk-rockers are like a booze-soaked Weezer except they will totally jump into the pit with their guitars and cover Beastie Boys’ Sabatoge. I remembered them as Topanga, pre-disney cease and desist warning, with the new name and attitude I’ve adored them ever since. Their self-titled debut record is incredible. “Guilt Trip” the opener of the record is hands down my favourite but if you seriously want to be entertained, check out their video for “Mabu”, a farewell to their beloved car in a freaking demolition derby. If that isn’t badass, I don’t know what is.

 1. Alvvays – Alvvays

I remember seeing these east-coast indie darlings open at a Boxer The Horse show a few years back. At the time, the only songs they had online were those featured on their soundcloud: Adult Diversion and Archie, Marry Me, along with the incorrect spelling of their name on the bill of the venue.

Alvvays when they were Always? I’ll never know

I instantly fell in love with their set – Molly’s vocal stylings and dreamy yet self-deprecating lyricism. This is my favourite album of the year, hands down. I’ve listened to the songs a hundred times and have yet to skip them in the shuffle. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them at Long Winter, their sold out shows at the Horseshoe and at a goddamn Library with fellow up-and-comers PUP. From start to finish their debut self-titled album is full of the lo-fi warmth that you’ve been dreaming about. Although “Archie, Marry Me” and “Adult Diversion” are crowd favourites, I would suggest checking out “Atop A Cake” and “Agency Group” better yet, their entire damn album. You’re welcome.

 

 

 

 

2014 Year In Review

By Julia Grace Lennox

 

2014 was a great year for music; whether you’re a pop fan, an indie darling or an R&B junkie, there were fantastic offerings from artists across all genres. Below you’ll find my personal highlights from the year that was.

 

Album of the Year – High Noon, Arkells

 

This record was my soundtrack for 2014. What lies in the proud Hamiltonians’ best offering (in my humble opinion), is a collection of songs that truly speak to their generation. It’s a twenty something’s manifesto, touching on topics ranging from hooking up with a good friend to capitalism and corporate monopoly. There is no shortage of singles, their most recent release ‘Leather Jacket’ being one of the strongest. You can hear a definite 80s influence in the danceable tunes, and it’s clear their songwriting abilities have continued to grow. This LP comes highly recommended; 10/10.

 

Pop Single of the Year – Blank Space, Taylor Swift

Smart, fun, and doesn’t take itself too seriously: ‘Blank Space’ is my pick for Pop Single of the Year. I like a good pop song, but I LOVE pop music that’s written by the artist performing it. My girl Tay slayed it this year with the release of her “first-ever” (note the quotations; anyone who claims 1989 is Swift’s first-ever pop album CLEARLY did not listen to Red) pop offering, and this single is a definite highlight. As usual, her hit is lyrical perfection; everything from the self-deprecating humour [“Got a long list of ex-lovers/They’ll tell you I’m insane”], to the wit [“New money, suit and tie/I can read you like a magazine], and let’s not forget the straight up truths [“Boys only want love if it’s torture”]. And the music is CATCHY af.

 

Best Surprise Collaboration – You+Me

I don’t think anyone could have predicted a collaboration between City and Colour’s Dallas Green and Alecia Moore, aka Pink, but my GOD what a brilliant pairing. I’m still in awe of how well their voices compliment one another. The fruits of their musical union is an indie/folk album worth checking out. Fans of Dallas will love how true the record is to his solo stuff, and fans of Pink will be like “WTF?!”, but in the BEST way.

 

Best Canadian Single – Archie, Marry Me, Alvvays

Alvvays is Canada’s answer to Best Coast; a band with a beachy, California-inspired indie rock sound featuring a kick-ass front woman. Their single ‘Archie, Marry Me’ has been inescapable in recent months, and for good reason: the song is killer.

 

Best Solo Project – Strange Desire, Bleachers

Jack Antonoff’s solo side project took off in a big way with thee 2014 release of Strange Desire. The Bleachers front man, who also moonlights as Fun.’s lead guitarist and Lena Dunham’s man candy, penned ‘Rollercoaster’, one of my favourite songs of the year.

 

#ThrowbackThursday Pick – Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars

If this song doesn’t make you wanna get up out cho seat and bust a move, I’m sorry to inform you that you have no soul. A flawlessly executed nod to a forgotten era.

 

Best “Is That Elton John?” – Take Me To Church, Hozier

Seriously though, for the LONGEST time I was like “wait, is that Elton John? This is a weird turn in musical direction for him.” All (half) joking aside, this is an amazing track, and Hozier is an unbelievable artist.

 

Best Musical Rebirth – Nick Jonas, Nick Jonas

My, my, my. Nick Jonas is ALL grown up, and this girl is SO okay with it. ‘Jealous’ has become a huge hit, and I’ll take it any way he’s dishing it out: the radio-friendly version, the Gospel reinvention, and the dirty remix featuring Tinashe are all perfect in their own right. If you were lucky enough to be in the crowd during his sold-out show at Toronto’s Lee’s Palace this year, then you know he’s not just another “boy-bander-gone-solo”; he’s the real deal. I’m talking JT real.

 

Indie Explosion – TIE! Vance Joy & Tove Lo

These two indie artists had breakout years in 2014. Swedish electro – pop queen Tove Lo’s rise was gradual; her mega hit, ‘Habits (Stay High)’, first premiered on indie radio, then worked its way onto the pop stations where it exploded. Australian singer-songwriter Vance Joy had two big singles hit the airwaves, ‘Riptide’ (which Taylor Swift liked so much she covered it on BBC’s Radio One’s Live Lounge, and then proceeded to invite him to open for her on tour in support of her album 1989 in 2015) and ‘Mess Is Mine’.

 

Best Latecomer – Feelin’ Myself, Nicki Manaj ft. Beyonce

Two words – BANG. ER.

P.S: Three words – BOW. DOWN. BITCHES.

 

 

Story of the Year – D’Angelo

By Aidan D’Aoust

It seemed we were too hasty in declaring 2014 a wash. This Friday, while we compiled our year-end lists and anticipated 2015’s massive releases, D’Angelo had the nerve to announce an album. After a lengthy absence from the spotlight, fans will hear an accumulation of more than a decade’s worth of music from the man so frequently credited as transforming, popularizing and even saving his genre. Black Messiah will be the follow up to 2000’s critically acclaimed and retrospectively heralded Voodoo. Even when a potential release was mentioned this year, we remained doubtful. Our skepticism, forever justified in an utter lack of concrete evidence. Sure, new music was teased during the occasional live performance (including a memorable few with frequent collaborator ?uestlove), but even these appearances were separated by bouts of silence. Every vague tease only added to the fans’ growing uncertainty and utter frustration. Again and again, we reluctantly surrendered to the unlikelihood of new music.

No matter the result of next week’s release (and inevitable letdown for some) D’Angelo’s legacy is already cemented in his influence on modern music. As fate would have it, D’Angelo’s return coincides with the reemergence of the very sonics he so effortlessly pioneered (credit is also due to Erykah Badu, The Roots, and Lauryn Hill). Whether it be Neo-Soul or PBR&B, the sound has once again landed into critical favor and has found its way onto the charts. Fourteen years ago, Voodoo challenged a genre’s contemporary landscape with its organic instrumentation and unapologetic balladry. It was an LP that broke the mold in an era dominated by poppy, single-oriented music. As quick as it was unexpected, an artist shattered the popular representation of R&B with only two albums to his name. There is no question that a world without D’Angelo, means a world without Miguel, Jhene Aiko, or The Weeknd. A world without Voodoo is a world without Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, and some of this decade’s most triumphant work.

What is so undeniably special about D’Angelo (and no doubt why this album was so desired in the first place) is that a microscopic discography resulted in such formative and genre-defining art. An impact such as this may in fact, be the exact cause behind the wait. Perhaps an artistic drought due to lack of inspiration, it may also be a result (conscious or otherwise) of one distancing themselves from their own legacy. For starters, proof of this separation exists in name. The phrasing of “D’Angelo And The Vanguard” adorns the Messiah jewel cases floating around online. Whatever the reason, a rebranding helps to carry the baggage of satisfying an impossible expectation. Factor this in with the sheer number of years that have passed, and Messiah is be hard-pressed to tarnish its bolder and more defining predecessors.

D’Angelo’s track record will, undoubtedly, make it difficult for us to expect anything but greatness. Black Messiah could end up being  incredibly beneficial or completely damaging to his career. Risks like these make the release such an anomaly. If successful, it will reinvigorate a career that promised so much potential. If successful, it will stir more recognition for an artist that is so often forgotten, yet totally seminal. The danger of this release is that it will exist in an era saturated by the music it has greatly inspired. If Messiah is anything less than great, it will fail. When we lower our expectations and view this LP simply as “more D’Angelo music”, it will have a chance to be properly enjoyed. It is much safer to receive Messiah as a gift to the fans who have waited this long. That in mind, Messiah should not be viewed as an extension of the artist we came to know, but a revisiting of the music we have come to love. But no matter the eventual opinion and looming Metacritic score, we will still have new D’Angelo music. And that in of itself, is what makes this Black Messiah our story of the year.

 

 

You can purchase Black Messiah when the album is released worldwide on Decemeber 16th.

Listen to NPR’s terrific sit-down with D’Angelo earlier this year.

Riley Szulc Band – INTERVIEW

By Aidan D’Aoust

Riley Szulc Band consists of Riley Szulc (guitar and lead vocals), Chris Blachford (guitar and backing vocals), Jeff Stirling (bass) and Jacob Cappe (drums). This past year they released their debut EP “When The Morning Comes” and more recently, a music video for the song “In The Summer”.

SPIRITlive sat down with Riley Szulc to talk about the latest EP, having a new bandmate, and adding some “heavy bits” to his music.

Let’s talk about your EP “When the Morning Comes”. Is this your first EP?

Szulc: With this band, ya. I’m a very established Canadian musician (laughs). I had a band in high school. We recorded an EP and an album.

Where did that go?

Szulc: Nowhere. Those were both home-recorded with very little budget. They sounded fine, but this EP (When The Morning Comes) was the first time that I spent actual money, because I wanted it to sound good. Honestly, I wanted it to sound good for personal reasons.

What do you mean by that?

Szulc: I remember having conversations with people, trying to convince them that it’s worthwhile to spend money on five songs and twenty minutes of audio. I was feeling discouraged after my high school band ended. I didn’t play any music live for over a year and didn’t know what to do with myself. I had written a few songs, but I still needed to do something to come back with a bang. So I decided it would be worthwhile for myself to produce something that was the best I had ever done, the best-sounding thing I’d ever released. So in February, I dug into my life-savings and went into the studio.

Were you the primary songwriter in your high school band as well?

Szulc: Ya. In that band I would write, maybe seventy percent of each song. I would take a song to the band and we would jam on it and change things around, add parts and take parts out. I was very open to having my songs altered because I trusted them, they’re my friends. But as a result of that it would prolong the recording process. That was what made me want control over my next project.

You’ve obviously matured as a musician, that can come with age and experience. Do you agree? Do you feel like your writing process has changed now that you have songwriting control?

Szulc: Well, I have a casual rule now. I finish the song completely before I bring it to the band. It sounds a little selfish, but I’m a control freak and I admit to that. (Laughs)

Well, your name is on the band.

Szulc: That’s a consciousness decision. (Laughs)

“When The Morning Comes” is the first project under “Riley Szulc Band”. Was this an accumulation of songs that you were sitting on or did you write for the EP specifically?

Szulc: Some bands decide to release an album at a certain time and that’s when they start writing. I know there are people that can’t write unless they’re actually inside a studio. You know, super focused in a cabin in the woods for three weeks. But I’m just writing all the time. So ya, it was a bit of an accumulation. Four of the songs were written long before the band had even formed. One of them I wrote after, and that was “Frozen Solid”.

So “Frozen Solid” was the newest song? What was the choice to use it as the single?

Szulc: I’m very open to the fact that singles aren’t necessarily someone’s best song. Bands often pick the song that they think is the best, to be their single. The deciding factor for me was “what’s going to grab people’s attention”? Essentially, I tried to choose my most accessible song. I don’t necessarily think “Frozen Solid” is my best song, but I wanted to cast a wide net.

Oh really? I think that’s my favorite song on the EP.

Szulc: Well then, I made the right choice!

What about you? What’s your favorite song on your EP?

Szulc: I have a very different perspective because I’ve been listening and playing them for a while now. “Frozen Solid” is a really fun song to play, but if I was listening to my band as an outsider, I’d say “If You Fall Asleep”. Lyrically, it’s a little more interesting. It’s not overly complex or anything, but I think it’s my favourite one.

When you’re writing, do the lyrics or instrumentation come to you first? Or is it the general concept comes first?

Szulc: I have a weird songwriting process. I guess it’s not unheard of, but it sounds super hippyish when I say it. I never know when a song is going to be written. I never sit down and plan to write a song about a specific experience that I just went through. It’s always just “I feel like playing guitar”. So I’ll pick it up, just start messing around with chords that sound cool. The lyrics are very visceral, which is where this starts to sound hippyish, but they naturally come to me.

Are you writing as yourself or are you trying to craft a story?

Szulc: There’s only one or two songs that I’ve written where it’s not about myself.

Are any of those on the EP?

Szulc: No. Those are all very much things that have happened to me. Definitely based on experiences and emotions that I’ve had.

Do we need to read between the lines or is it pretty evident looking at the lyrics on paper?

Szulc: It’s hard for me to know because I’m aware of everything that inspired the song. In the case of “Frozen Solid”, it’s pretty clear. That’s just about people being cold to each other. Songs like ” In The Summer” are difficult because they’re a little more vague.

This is a cliché question, but I’m always interested to find out who inspires artists. Who are some of your inspirations?

Szulc: My go to is always City and Colour. Some people have told me that they can hear that influence, which is really cool. A lot of my influences are more genre-based. I listened to a lot of post-rock in high school. Songs like that are 10 minutes long and usually just instrumental. But they’re all about crescendos and are very ethereal. That has definitely had an influence on my music.

But your songs aren’t that long?

Szulc: There’s a song that we left off of the EP called “I Used To Be” which we usually end our shows with. It’s six or seven minutes long, has huge peaks and valleys, and just ends on a big epic thing that’s straight out of post-rock.

“When the Morning Comes” has been out for a while. You’ve spent a lot of time performing the tracks off of it. Has the way you play your songs evolved?

Szulc: The live versions of the songs are more raw. We’ve added some things to them as well. That’s more of a way to make it fresh for us, to have fun with them.

To the people who haven’t listened to the EP yet or haven’t seen you live, how would you describe your music?

Szulc: In short, “alternative rock”. But that’s kind of a boring description. It has a mix of pop rock, post-rock, and sprinkles of heavier stuff and R&B. When I say heavier stuff, I don’t mean Sabbath or anything, but ya it has heavy bits.

Heavy Bits is the name of your next project ya? (Laughs)

Szulc: Yes. (Laughs)

Finally, what can expect from you soon? Do you have anything in the works right now?

Szulc: Lots of new stuff! We just added a fourth member Chris Blachford, who is extremely talented. He’s in a band called “Fox and the Moon” who are freaking awesome. He’s probably the best songwriter I know. He definitely adds a lot to our sound. I’ve also written a bunch of new stuff that we will be performing.

Live Dates:

12/28 – Toronto, ON – The Rivoli (with The Turks)

2/15 – Toronto, ON – The Piston

Check out Riley Szulc Band on Facebook and purchase “When The Morning Comes” on Bandcamp

Jessica Speziale – INTERVIEW

By: Aidan D’Aoust

SPIRITlive caught up with Toronto-based artist Jessica Speziale to talk about musical inspirations, her exploration of sound, and the journey towards her latest album “Shine”.

I was listening to both ‘Shine’ and your 2011 EP ‘Dear Reverie’, and I noticed that you’re comfortable with both toned down acoustic songs, as well as the big “wall of sound” ones. Is that a conscious decision or do those styles just come to you naturally?

Speziale: Thanks Aidan! It’s definitely something that has always come naturally to me. When I listen to an album, I really like variety.  I like being taken to different places throughout the journey of a record, and so when I’m writing music, I also tend not to limit myself creatively. Songs call for different textures, and in some cases completely different genres!  It’s really fun to explore that!

I loved the horns throughout the album. And very cool to see them get some love in the music video! Will you be performing with them as well?

Speziale: Thanks! We just performed with the horns at the CD release show on November 22nd! It’s such a thrill to play live with horns. I hope we are able to do so more often.

Speaking of the music video, I can’t help but notice how uplifting the title track is. What was the inspiration behind that?

Speziale: This is a song that my producers, Darneezeee and Matt Mak started creating and I fell in love with it when I heard the demo!  Darneezeee really wanted the song to look at how one word or gesture can change the course of someone’s day. When I started writing the lyrics, I actually wrote prose to start. I came up with a series of little vignettes playing with that original idea, and Shine was born!

And the album, where were you coming from when you composed it? What was the writing process like?

Speziale: The album as a whole was written over the span of about three years.  It was a pretty tumultuous time period!  (laughs) I went through a couple of heartbreaks, a couple of great and exciting loves, and experienced some of the stories through loved ones in different times of their lives as well.  The writing process was fairly organic and sporadic, and finally came together in February when we made the first demo.  I rewrote some of it, and three new songs came out of collaborating with Darneezeee and Matt Mak. A lot of the arrangement came out of jamming with my bandmates, inviting fresh musicians into the recording process, and new ideas from my production team.

I was on your Soundcloud page and was very surprised and excited about your collaboration with electronic musicians. Your voice gives off a great “Chicago House” vibe. How did those songs come about?

Speziale: Oh cool! (laughs) Thanks! All of the dance collaborations came out of Twitter connections!  The first one, You’re Not Mine, is a song that I wrote coming home from a night at the club. Sjors van Dimms found me on Twitter and I mentioned that I had this new dance hook and a couple verses, and by sending files to each other online, we recorded the song. I met David Bean, my collaborator on Come Alive, on Twitter as well.  He had a track and liked my voice, so I wrote something and sent him the recording. Wild Ace is a project I connected with through Sjors van Dimms.

I understand that you come from a family of musicians. Is music something you always wanted to do?

 Speziale: Totally. I’ve been singing and writing music since I could make sound! (laughs)  My father and I have been making demos at the kitchen table with his acoustic guitar since I was six years old, and my “first band” was a duo with my cousin when I was eight.  He played drums on cushions with wooden spoons and I played air guitar on a yellow baseball bat and sang.  Our big family hit was called Owl Goes to the Moon!  It’s always something I wanted to do and something that I only recently really started running towards.

And lastly, what can we expect from you in the future?

Speziale: I am really excited about the release of Shine, and I’m stoked to get out on the road and tour the album this year!  I also look forward to many more collaborations.

You can find Jessica Speziale on Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud. You can also purchase “Shine” on Bandcamp.

CLPPNG – clipping. REVIEW

Artist: clipping.

Album: CLPPNG

By Trey Robinson

If you’re looking for a challenge, try listening to clipping.’s new album, CLPPNG. Their “alarming” track titled “Get Up”, featuring Mariel Jacoda, uses a full 3 minutes of an alarm clock beep intended to represent a rhythmic synth. clipping., the Los Angeles-based trio, consists of rapper Daveed Diggs and producers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson. Snipes is also a sound designer, film composer, and experimental musician. He and William Hutson are in the noise band Unnecessary Surgery and were recently behind the score for the documentary Room 237. The trio released their debut studio album Midcity in 2013, after Snipes and Hutson recruited Diggs to lay some original rap vocals on their power-electronic compositions.

CLPPNG, their sophomore offering, opens up with “Intro”, which includes a full minute of painfully high-pitched, dissonant, screeching guitar feedback – a signature of noise musicians. Diggs raps cypher-style to set the initial mood; in other words, to tell us that it actually is a rap album, despite the experimental sounds.

Upon hearing Diggs’ flow, listeners may feel another Schoolboy Q is in the making, especially on “Work Work,” where Diggs really shows off his skills on the hook. Snipes and Hutson do a great job of featuring unique, creative sounds that challenge listeners. The two producers effortlessly mix a metallic bell sound bite with a big, fat, in-your-face bass synth on the aforementioned track. The bells almost seem as if they were manually recorded and then sampled into music. They give the song a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’.

Despite the tremendous effort, most of the songs on CLPPNG still have very static arrangements and sometimes miss some of the essential elements of a hip-hop beat. Something to dance to would be great, along with more drums, especially when considering the intended genre of this album. The album has  creativity in spades, as it’s clear the trio pushed experimentation to the limit: mixing film-type scoring with hip-hop style vocals. I am curious to see what clipping. has in store for fans next, for better or for worse.

Rating: 6/10