Robert’s Folking Reviews – Matthew and the Atlas “Other Rivers”

Written by The Point 91fm. Posted in Music, Reviews

Matthew and the AtlasMatthew and the Atlas stole my ear a while back when I first heard their song “I Will Remain”. A couple weeks ago I saw they had a debut album coming out, and was super pumped. Sadly that enthusiasm did not end up being exactly what I had hoped for, as the album differs from what I am used to hearing. Matthew took the group in a direction that differentiates from the folk path by a longshot. His incorporation of electronic synthesizers and beats kills the folk vibe much more than I wish to admit. I appreciate him trying new things, but the new album is so-so in its attempts to swoon a different genre than just folk.

Matthew and the Atlas opens up their debut album, four years after their initial signing with Communion Records might I add, with a traditional sounding folk melody with soft-spoken lyrics, and a seemingly over-generic background beat that portrays a reminiscent rock style. As the audio waves go back and forth nothing too catchy pops out, just some lyrics that try and fill a gap during the song and a chorus line of “Ooh”. “Into Gold” left a rather bitter taste and thankfully didn’t set a precedent for the whole album. But alas the inevitable banjo comes in out of nowhere and tries to tie the whole song together into a folkier mix of genres.

Joywave – “How Do You Feel?”

Written by Adam Schenkel. Posted in Music, Reviews

The EP How Do You Feel? from the band “Joywave” employs appealing rhythms, some rather strange sounds, joywaveand an engaging lead singer to create a different, sometimes over the top, but still intriguing album.

The first song “Tongues” begins with, what I find, an extremely irritating sound. A girl making strange “bleep” noises in the background periodically interrupts the otherwise enjoyable song. Other than the strange noise that seems to just be tossed into the record, the male singer has a pleasant and interesting voice that helps to bring out the more attractive instruments and sounds in the background. After hearing the first song I was left slightly annoyed, but still wanting to hear more.

The next song, “In Clover” begins with another strange stream of synthesized sounds, not quite as irritating as the first, but I still found it weird and unnecessary. As the song continues and the singer begins, I was dismayed to find that his voice is recorded in a bizarre echoic fashion that makes him sound distant and alien. In the middle of the song the out-of-this-universe mood continues with an extremely creepy voice repeating “I’ll be your clover.” After that song had finished I was beginning to think that maybe the first song had made me a little too hopeful, but then as the third song came on, I regained an optimistic outlook.

While the beat in “Somebody New” is still more different and edgier than what I usually hear in songs, it works well to create a sense of excitement and the singer’s voice returns to normal to sound exhilarated by what he is singing. The third song still applies synthesized sounds, but this time they work to the song’s advantage. The beats from the drum in the background help keep all the different elements in balance.

The fourth and final song of the EP, “Now,” continued to keep my interest, sounding somewhat like the alternative band “Phoenix”. The song is fast-pace and it seems like a good song to play late at night if you want to listen to something to keep you moving and uplifted.  Towards the very end of “Now,” the fast drum begins to slow down and it appears that many of the instruments have now finished their part and taken a break as the song gradually fades out, announcing the end.

Overall I think this new EP from “Joywave” is a pretty good record to move around to and keep you awake on weekends, although you may want to skip the second song.

-Rhianna Slager

Shaman’s Selections: Issue – Liquid Wisdom

Written by Adam Schenkel. Posted in Music, Reviews

It’s no secret that The Point tends to stick to music in the realm of indie and alternative rock. Sure, some songs with a little bit more of an electronic influence or maybe even some folk songs may find their way into the station’s playlist, but for the most part we keep it pretty indie. And that’s completely OK, its how radio stations work and there’s nothing wrong with it. But any fool knows that there are abundant multitudes of different types of music. Rock, jazz, classical, electronic, pop, punk, metal, and many other genres and sub-genres populate the overarching idea known as music. I like darn near every genre out there, but one of my definite favorites is the umbrella of hip-hop and rap. That’s where this review comes in. We’re putting a hip-hop review on the website, and it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because this album is really good, and deserves to have words written about it. By me. So lets get to it.

Issue – Liquid Wisdom

liquid wisdom

Hip-hop and rap have many cultural hubs, and of course the paramount examples of these include the East Coast scene which is essentially New York City, and the West Coast scene, of which Los Angeles is typically considered the capital. These scenes have been competing, feuding, and doing their own thing since the genre’s birth back in the 1980’s, with a peak in the prominence of the two scenes in the ’90s. Music is still pouring out of these scenes, though in my opinion the West Coast certainly currently has the qualitative edge over the East. Big names have been coming out of the L.A. rap scene and captivating hordes of listeners, notably Kendrick Lamar and his Black Hippy crew and Tyler, the Creator and his Odd Future crew to name a few. That music is really good, which is great, but that’s not what this review is about. This review is about revealing an album from a scene almost just as vibrant, and some 400 miles north of L.A. The San Francisco Bay Area is home to one of the most exciting and active scenes in rap right now, though it hasn’t garnered nearly the attention, which is a shame, as some quality releases simply get overlooked. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not like this album would be bumping in every youth-owned stereo in the country had Issue come from the more acclaimed L.A. area instead of the Bay Area scene (he’s specifically from Vallejo, on the north end of the bay), the album is still pretty out-there, and maybe a bit inaccessible for some listeners. But that doesn’t mean you can’t emit it from your (potentially youth-owned) stereo.

One of the more prominent figures in the Bay Area rap scene is E-40, and he’s been so since the early 90’s. His stuff is pretty good. He has a son, Droop-E, who also raps, and his stuff is pretty swell as well. The music of this father/son pair is pretty straightforward, nothing out-of-the-ordinary hip-hop, and of course there’s nothing wrong with being ordinary, especially when your work is good. However, E-40 has another son, and Droop-E has a teenage brother. This guy also raps, and his name is Issue.

To be honest, Issue is a bit of a weird bird, and his music reflects that quality; it’s pretty experimental and kinda out-there. I’ve never had a problem with oddity, however. One of the great things about hip-hop is how varied it can be, with styles ranging from fast, raucous, and loud (a fairly solid example of something like this would be the music found on a label like Tech N9ne’s Strange Music) to styles that favor slower beats, hazy atmosphere, and overall a more chilled-out vibe (the relatively new phenomena called “Cloud Rap” partially pioneered by A$AP Rocky’s first mix-tape comes to mind), and of course there’s material styled everywhere in between. “Liquid Wisdom” occupies the realm closer to the second example. For the most part, the tempo is slow, the album carries a distinctly relaxing vibe, and a fairly hazy atmosphere is present as well.  Most songs carry a traditional hip-hop beat format and structure, and those songs definitely don’t suffer because of it, however, one of the songs that steps out of this zone (Livin’ on a Dream) ends up as one of the stop tracks. It’s a little poppier, with fewer legitimate rap verses and more of a style more akin to singing, and the beat almost calls to mind some sort of atmosphere from the 80’s or early 90’s. “Liquid Wisdom” also succeeds through the power of variety; no two songs sound too similar. This diversity makes the listen all that much more engaging, locking in the listener’s interest through the remarkably odd yet undeniably catchy and addictive tracks that populate the album.

One of the more peculiar yet more pleasant aspects of the album is its primary lyrical focus: drinking tea. This is pretty unusual, but certainly original and makes for a welcome shift from many of the regular archetypes of rap lyrics, though it’s not to say that every line focuses on the consumption of Issue’s favorite beverage, there are references to plenty of other things (I think he may have a slight fascination with Europe). Now, I don’t have any problems in the slightest with profanity and vulgarity (to be fair, I’m pretty guilty myself), but I’ll also never have a problem with listening to hip-hop that doesn’t feature some sort of curse once per line. Honestly, its pretty refreshing to experience lyrics without excessive profanity for a multitude of reasons; the ability to use everyday words while crafting lyrics shows a sort of skill, and the experience of listening to rap that doesn’t focus solely on bedding an exorbitant number of women or imbibing as many psychoactive substances as possible also shows Issue’s raw talent; the talent to craft good music that focuses solely on itself and places no importance on that of other artists. This album doesn’t fall into the fair number of stereotypes common in hip-hop (though these stereotypes definitely don’t inherently detract from the music), but “Liquid Wisdom” is all the better for it.

If I say anymore about the music itself I feel that I’ll begin to drift into arbitrary discussion that ultimately accomplishes nothing; I keep the belief that words are inadequate substitutes for experience. So instead I’ll just have to tell you that if you like chill music, especially chill hip-hop, check this album out. Its a breath of fresh air, and pretty addictive too. Final summation: The album cover sums up the music pretty well. Listen to it. I always question the true value of rating systems with regards to music, but as I’m obligated to pick one, I’d go with something like 4.3 out of 5. Like I said earlier, it may be a little harder to get into for some people than many other releases, but if you do get it, “Liquid Wisdom” is quite the treat.

If you’re interested in hearing the album, Issue has a SoundCloud where it is currently streaming, and many magazine and blog pages also have the stream embedded. Also available from the SoundCloud page is a free download.

Shaman’s Selections: Painted Palms – Forever

Written by Adam Schenkel. Posted in Reviews

forever

I am a man who loves music. This love fuels a deep and vast knowledge of all sorts of music, ranging from the popular to the esoteric, the accessible to the absurd, and the heavy to the light. One of the curses of this encyclopedic knowledge and unyielding capacity to obtain new music is that new music, whether new to exist or simply new to me, seems to yield many more unmemorable, uninteresting, or even mediocre products than it used to. True gems seem to be getting harder to come by. I amicably accept my dilemma, wading through the sea of content like an old man at a beach with a metal detector, searching for that shiny metallic treasure hidden within. In addition, while I enjoy writing about music, my output is typically determined by a motivation stemming from the release subject to my scrutiny. Due to this, if a musical piece pushes me to articulate my thoughts about it in writing, I probably consider it either laudable or terrible. (Spoiler: This review is praiseworthy)

After a time of recycling through old favorites and sifting through the sands of new prospects, I struck gold with the debut LP of Louisiana native yet San-Fran based psych-poppers Painted Palms. Their second overall release “Forever” calls to mind echoes of many of my favorite albums, most notably the Beach Boys’ seminal “Pet Sounds,” Animal Collective’s “Merriweather Post Pavilion,” and last year’s “Wondrous Bughouse,” a personal favorite of mine birthed by the artist Youth Lagoon.

I must’ve heard about this album about a month ago, and promptly recognized my desire to have it. After snagging a copy right away, I quickly discovered its dysfunctional nature which rendered it unplayable, and I made no further effort to rectify the situation. Time passed, and after hearing a couple tracks in a couple instances, the light bulb in my head finally turned on. “Man, I’ve really gotta get this album soon.” Doing so was a good choice.

One thing must be explicitly established: this release is downright catchy. The repetitive yet morphing rhythms facilitate a group of songs that a listener will be glad is stuck in their head. Layered with the MIDI patterns of Animal Collective, calling to mind Panda Bear’s poppier, more choral touch to the group, and loaded with the atmosphere of Youth Lagoon, Painted Palm’s Forever succeeds in paying homage to its influences while not falling into the pit of unoriginality and plastic tendencies that many of its contemporaries blandly occupy. It would have been easy for Painted Palms to craft a release that gets swallowed by its influences, but rather, they managed to craft one that stands on its own and sounds good doing it. The material on the album varies, containing a bulk of straightforward psyched-out pop numbers (see: “Forever”) as well as atmospheric crescendo type numbers such as “Soft Hammer.”

The albums that principally come to mind whilst listening to this release are “Pet Sounds” and Panda Bear of Animal Collective’s opus “Person Pitch.” The latter is an exceptional album, but sometimes falls astray while meandering through unfocused, calm almost-ambient atmospheric sections. “Forever” could possibly be described as a sort of cross between the two, taking some of the best aspects of both and mashing them together to create something special. Although the chances of this AnCo-esque psychedelic-electronic tinged pop type of music resulting in a piece of tepid mediocrity are high, when done right, the product can be exceptional. “Forever” embodies the latter. An attempt could be made to give an in-depth account of the various nuances, sounds, and songs of this album, but it would be futile. It’s no secret that words are simply inferior substitutes to the experience of the concepts that they define, and this review is no anomaly. Listen to the album, there’s not a single bum track on it. The year is still young, but I have a nagging suspicion that “Forever” will remain in contention for a spot near the top. On a 5-point rating scale, “Forever” clocks in at a solid 4.

 

Shaman’s Selections: Sleepy Sun 7″

Written by Adam Schenkel. Posted in Music, Reviews

SLEEPYSUN    Californian psychedelic rockers Sleepy Sun recently released a 7” single featuring two tracks: “11:32” and “The Lane.” Signed to ATP recordings, Sleepy Sun first made waves in underground music networks with the release of their 2008 album “Embrace,” and have garnered a sizable following through their subsequent albums, the acclaimed “Fever” and last years “Spine Hits.”

The 7” opens up with “11:32,” a hazy, meandering wonderland of reverb drenched riffs and distorted vocals painting a kaleidoscopic mural of aural pleasure. Complete with a standard psychedelic calm to round out the song, “11:32” fails to disappoint. B-side “The Lane” opens up with a catchy little drum beat and the guitars leap up to form the makings of what could easily be mistaken for a Black Angels song. Fortunately, the Black Angels are a good band, and soon into the track it becomes apparent that you are indeed listening to the psychedelically wondrous sounds of Sleepy Sun. I can’t nor do I desire to elaborate on every nuance of these tracks, as the words would be futile in capturing the majesty that is music, an experience only experienced in and of its self. I can, however, strongly recommend that you give these tracks a listen and experience from yourself the enjoyment wrapped up in this 10 minute release.

Overall, the band managed to craft a pair of solid, enjoyable tunes that sees the group moving away from the more meticulous sounds of their early work and drifting into a hazy, more garage-y and almost desert rock sounding form. Of course there’s nothing wrong with this, and Sleepy Sun have made a positive evolution and managed to set high expectations for their next album.

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