Hendo’s Headspace: January 2017
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2017 has been beyond a whirlwind. The year has only been around for 27 days, and I can easily name that many important things that have happened. I’m sure a bunch of you are feeling the same. Our situation here in the US is… apocalypse lite? The UK doesn’t seem to be doing much better.
In this incredibly fast moving world, it can be easy to miss some of the music going by, sometimes it’s hard to even care. I get that. But art is important, as an escape, a protest, and an emotional release. That is what gave me the idea to come up with a monthly column that would post all of my favorite new music in one place.
In this column, I’ll be writing a bit about some of my favorite music that has come out recently, and linking you to as much of it as possible. I’ll also be reviewing a few albums that I especially enjoyed, starting below with 2 incredible new records that hit me with a 1-2 punch of surprise releases and will certainly be contenders for my AOTY. Take a read and more importantly listen to these tracks. Hope you enjoy.
Reviews of 2 Early AOTY Contenders
Run The Jewels – RTJ3
Run The Jewels, a hip hop group featuring El P (an underground NY rap legendary lyricist and producer) and Killer Mike (Atlanta powerhouse rapper and political activist), have now released their 3rd album. From my first listen of their first release (RTJ), I was stunned. El P’s ADHD beats and flows weave perfectly with Killer Mike’s thoughtful verses. I honestly believe that Run The Jewels are one of the greatest groups in hip hop history. The chemistry is unbelievable.
After 2 awesome LPs with jamming beats and quotable lyrics, not only did the pair keep it up, they set the new highscore with RTJ3. They did everything on prior albums but better. Insane beats, political lyrics delivered at a frantic pace. There is real variety in these tracks, leftist political anthems (‘Kill Your Masters‘), emotional tracks about love (‘Stay Gold’) and loss (‘Thursday in the Danger Room‘), and yes traditional battle raps about how fucking good they are at this music thing (‘Everybody Stay Calm‘). Versatility to the max. I couldn’t ask for more.
Features from Danny Brown, Zack de la Rocha and others knock it out of the park. The production on this record, holy shit. The political stances are on point, which makes this a battle anthem for the resistance in Trumpland (quotes from MLK as samples, YES PLEASE). You just need to hear it for yourself.
When you are done dancing, read along with the lyrics and re-listen. Some of the lines on this thing are beyond next level. I need to do a post of my Top 10 lyrics from this album in the near future, but for now I’ll leave you with this Killer Mike gem, “The devil don’t sleep, us either / El spits fire, I spit ether. / We the gladiators that oppose all Caesars // Coming soon on a new world tour / Probably play the score for the World War. / At the apocalypse, play the encore.”
I’ve said this before and I’m not playing around. This album might be in my top 5 rap albums EVER. This thing could trade blows with Wu-Tang’s 36 Chambers and that’s my gospel. If this release isn’t in the AOTY conversation (for all genres let alone hip hop) then 2017 was the best year for music in a long time.
Oso Oso – the yunahon mixtape
Run The Jewels surprise dropped their album 3 weeks before the release date. Oso Oso surprise dropped their album without announcing a release date. I was stunned.
For those of you that have followed my writing for a while (hey thanks!), you know that I am a big fan of Jade’s work. From his early work in State Lines through his 2 prior records as Oso Oso (aka osoosooso) Jade has become somewhat of an underground legend himself in the NY indie punk scene that brought us The Movielife, Taking Back Sunday, and Brand New. Lyrically he can compete with any of those big acts, and you can hear some of those influences in his tracks, but Jade has always done his own thing.
That said, the yunahon mixtape is different and perhaps better than anything he has written to date. While all of his releases vary a bit, this LP takes a lighter and more delicate approach. The yells and smooth vocals are still here, but for the first time Jade deploys a falsetto to great effect on a bunch of these tracks. When that is mixed in with his usually smooth deeper vocals, and occasional yells from the backup vocals, it creates a full texture in these tracks that keeps them flowing. ‘The Slope’ is a great example of this.
However it is ‘Reindeer Games’ that is my early standout track, and I think it is probably going to be one of my favorite songs of the album. Before the album’s release Jade wrote on his tumblr, “what i will tell you, in hopes of helping you shape your interpretation of the record is that in the beginning of the 2nd song “reindeer games” if you close your eyes and try to picture a place, whatever you envision, thats Yunahon, thats the setting of your story and take it from there”. How cool is that, and then the track totally backs it up. It’s an incredible track about a place you just don’t want to leave, with just the right mix of riff and harmonies. A perfect example of the best this album has to offer.
More Music I’ve Been Listening To….
And that is not to say that these 2 albums have even been the only sweet things coming out. There have also been a bunch of other great releases and singles to start the year. Here are a few of my favorites.
There has been a great new track from Julien Baker along with news that she signed to Matador and was headed to the studio. She is really so talented. Hoping this new album gets to us by the end of the year.
A really cool new jam from Diet Cig (this album is going to blow minds). Their last 2 EPs really are some of my favorite tracks, and you need to see them live. Very excited for their debut LP.
The new Sinai Vessel album is streaming and I think any of you Hotelier fans will really enjoy it. This record is a grower. Great lyrics on this thing too, encasing themes of the questioning of religion and the rejection of the reality that have you been handed. I interviewed Caleb, the songwriter of Sinai, recently. We had a great chat about the album, songwriting and music in general, take a peek.
The new Jay Som track actually reminded me a lot of the new Oso Oso, incredibly catchy well done songwriting. “Well I like the bus / I can be whoever I want to be.”
This Vagabon album coming out on Father/Daughter is another record that’s cooking up to be a good one. 2 tracks are streaming. ‘Minneapolis’ gives me major Diet Cig vibes. Father/Daughter is on fire these days.
It would be foolish to forget to mention the Prince Daddy, Dikembe, Henrietta, and Expert Timing 4 way split. One song from each of the bands is already out and all 4 tracks deliver. Especially the P Daddy jam which is likely in my top 10 punk love ballads ever. The lyrics are hilarious yet touching and relateable. Just listen.
Sorority Noise hit us with a track that has all the indie people in the know gloating about how cool this album is going to be, that’s usually a good sign. (yes I’m just bitter I don’t have it yet).
There also have been a bunch of cool covers. A Dollys covers EP (‘Ghostbusters’ cover alert!), a Dido cover on the Cool American B-Sides release, a Dashboard Confessional covers EP (in which he covers Julien Baker and Sorority Noise). Seems like more covers than usually recently, and I’m down with it.
There was also a new EP from Alaska’s Granddad. Sort of a jangly early Modern Baseball esque punk band. I especially like the track “It’s Art, Mom”.
The newest Los Campesinos! single has me excited for their 6th LP which is coming out soon. How have they been consistently good for so long? A veryyy British band, but if you’re into that sort of thing, their discography is so almost untouchable. They are about to come to the US and tour with Crying and we’re joking about playing 90 minute sets on Twitter, so yeah I need to go to that.
Then there was the new track from the upcoming The Spirit of the Beehive. album which had a pretty trippy video. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this album, but the initial signs have been good.
That and a ton more stuff that I am forgetting or haven’t listened to yet! It is literally impossible to listen to everything (I’m constantly trying to remind myself of this). Remember, these are just my favorites. If this isn’t enough music for you, check out the rest of the great stuff on our site from our other contributors.
I don’t see how anyone could not be excited for all this new music in 2017.
If you want to hear more of my most anticipated albums be sure to give The Alternative Podcast a listen and a follow. On our next episode Ali and I discuss the releases we are most excited about for the rest of the year. It’s good stuff.
Also be sure to keep a look out for our big site wide Most Anticipated List which should be coming out in the next few days. Last year’s one was pretty cool, and it’s a great way to find new bands.
– Henderson Cole