Mad Caddies at the Victoria Ska and Reggae Festival


The Victoria, B.C Ska and Reggae Festival is a wonderfully rare music event that is well suited in the enigmatic marvel that is Victoria. The festival takes place smack dab in the core of the tiny yet wildly fun oasis that manages to keep a gyrating pulse on music and art. This year the legendary Booker T. Jones, Mad Caddies, Los Furios, Illvis Freshly,The Black Seeds and Tarrus Riley headlined the four day festival.

The Mad Caddies were a particularly noteworthy event in this buffet of ska and reggae. The Mad Caddies helped revolutionize the return of Ska movement in the 90’s along with Reel Big Fish, The Mighty Migthy Bosstones and Less Than Jake. Bands like the Specials and Madness pioneered it in North America in the 70’s but it’s roots are from Jamaica in the 50’s. When people ask what Ska is, the easy answer is that it is super fun and accessible reggae meets punk with horns. This could also have a variety of other answers, but that’s for another time and place.

The Mad Caddies are from Solvang, California-they ooze the essence of California in the 90’s including the charming low maintenance style and the rolling with my homies scene from Clueless. It is simplistic yet bizarre, political but not alienating and now nostalgic in a way that reminds us of who we really are (if you grew up then). They are a seven piece musical carnival of freedom and anarchy. Their current trombone player is Chris Butcher from Winnipeg whom I happen to kind of know from my childhood. The juxtaposition of seeing a Winnipeger (who currently resides in New Orleans and has played with Jane Bunnet and Hilario Duran) in the most Californian band ever (maybe besides the Red Hot Chilli Peppers) made this show even more enjoyable. Every individual in the band was extremely passionate towards their musical delivery which is refined yet sloppy in all of the right variables. They have six full length albums under their belt and have sold over 400,000 copies of them. They have a loyal following, many of whom attended this lovely outdoor evening concert and were completely entranced by this stellar performance. There was also a mosh pit, crowd surfing and most notably  skanking (the dance you do to ska, it’s really easy) and crowd surfing. It’s hard to compare other kinds of concerts in terms of a good time to an outdoor ska show in front of the ocean while crowd surfing sandwiched between beer gardens. Ska may not be the most sophisticated genre but it’s probably the most fun. However, the Mad Caddies do encompass depth in their music in both their impressive music ability and lyrical content. They tell sad stories and share liberal political anecdotes in music you can move your entire body to. You can even push people around you as it’s consensual and mutual in the well mannered mosh pit. They are everything good and pure about this dissolving genre that Victoria manages to keep alive.




Lynx and the Servants of Song-Northlands


LYNX & the Servants of Song are a multifaceted wall of talent based out of Portland, Oregon, led by the immensely talented Caitlin ‘LYNX’ DeMuth. They have just released their debut album Northlands. Northlands is a collection of exquisitely arranged stories, well earned lessons and refined anecdotes. The lyrics are charmingly insightful, tastefully sentimental and truly moving. LYNX’s wanderlust and relentlessly generous spirit is palpable throughout the entire record. This is one of those rare emotionally transparent albums like Lucinda’s William’s Car Wheels and A Gravel Road and Joni Mitchell’s Blue. There is an influence of Fleetwood Mac, Alabama Shakes and First Aid Kit in their music that is notable but not overpowering.  The instrumentation gracefully wavers between Americana and the Blues, it’s both soft yet tough.Her voice is an experience, an avalanche of emotion and a wall of talent. There is heartache, depth, wisdom and playfulness in every note she delivers. There are no shortcuts in her rendering, she fully commits to singing her homemade songs straight from the basement of her heart.

She has been writing, producing and performing professionally for over a decade. The Servants of Song features Cheya Mackay on guitar, Nickles D’onofrio on bass, Julian Fritz on drums and Asher Fulero on keys.

LYNX always thrives in collaborative endeavours and in addition to the band she is also producing and co-writing two records for two up and coming artists. Her intentional analogue approach to Northlands showcases her instrumental talent as a guitarist and composer that pairs perfectly with her singing and songwriting ability. This is one of those albums that breaks you apart, feeds your soul then gracefully sews you back together. You can check out their single Coming on Strong from Northlands HERE

The Timeless Misunderstanding of Country and Metal


We have all likely heard somebody say the token term that they like all music, except for country and metal (and sometimes rap, rap is like the y vowel in this equation). The people that say this are generally not huge music people and that’s completely acceptable. I realize not everybody feels the need to sub categorized genres with slightly different nuances and discuss it with their like minded peers almost always. That stated, the statement is a giant brushstroke towards two extremely multifaceted genres.

Let’s begin with Country, shall we? Country music is a unique and ageless genre. The term was popularized in the 1920’s, however ancient Appalachian folk music had country elements that shaped music as we know it. As time went on country music evolved and often collaborated with other misunderstood genres such as bluegrass, roots and americana. Country features all kinds of exciting stringed instruments such as the banjo, dobro and slide guitar. It also involves heart-wrenching songwriting, elevating harmonies and unparalleled instrumental bridges. Some of the world’s most treasured musicians play country such as: Jonny Cash, John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams, Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Kris Kristofferson. When people say they don’t like country I don’t believe this is who they are referring to. Who they very well could be referring to is the pop infused top 40 bubble gum country void of those heart breaking lyrics and moving harmonies such as Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain, and Blake Shelton. These musicians play pop music with a country garnish and it seems to excite a great deal of people. They are country musicians in the way that U2 is a rock band or Kenny G is a jazz musician.

Now let’s move on to Metal, shall we? Metal is easily the most musically impressive genre there is. Few people understand it but those who do treat it like a religion and there is something to that. It’s instrumentally complex, packed with emotion and doesn’t follow the rules. It’s origins are diverse, international and experimental. Metal has a multitude of subgenres such as-death metal,math metal, black metal, Christian metal, Avant-garde, heavy metal and hair metal. Some of the most exciting bands from the 70’s features metal elements such as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden. Other extraordinary metal bands include: Slayer, Pantera, Mastodon, Motorhead, Opeth, Tool and Lamb of God. Each of who play beautifully complex music not catered to the untrained ear. I believe that those who don’t enjoy metal hear incessant screaming and lyrics that refer mostly to goat sacrifice and satan. This is clearly an untrue and unnecessary generalization but it speaks volumes towards the problematic nature of oversimplification.

I would even argue that country and metal are quite similar; they both cater to the outlaws of society and relish in the art of not conforming. The are both timeless, distinctive and powerful genres. They both involve music festivals that accommodate to a very specific kind of person. When people say they don’t like country or metal, they are demonstrating the tedious consequence of generalization. Art is about the details, the interpretation and the freedom to rebel.

Leif Vollebekk at the Biltmore


Leif Vollebekk is a remarkable Montreal based singer-songwriter and multi- instrumentalist. He is in the midst of an extensive tour in celebration of his third album Twin Solitude. Vollebekk has been touring with the brilliant Gregory Alan Isakov and has previously toured with Canadian gems Daniel Lanois and Patrick Watson.

Vollebekk’s concert at the Biltmore was notably packed especially in comparison to the last concert of his I attended in 2015 at the intimate and tiny Media Club. It is clear Twin Solitude has put him on the music map he deserves to be on. It’s a beautiful album, as are Inland (2010) and North Americana (2013). His music is highly emotive and rarely visceral. His compassionate lyrical delivery is mesmerizing, it’s as if his lyrics hurt to sing yet he must release the words. He appears almost possessed by his own complexity. It’s clear Vollebekk can’t not make music, his entire body is ubiquitously immersed in the art of doing so. Although his music is emotional it never feels sorry for itself. He writes whimsical songs about falling in and out of love and the vast beauty of Canadian cities. He sings about friends, wine, perfume, book stores, evolving, devolving and the road to Venus. His unusual and striking voice that generously belt his expressive lyrics are reminiscent of Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake.

This performance was cripplingly captivating, everyone was frozen by the wrath of his lullabies. He sang a diverse set of well selected songs from his bank of material. His knack for covers is impressive which is apparent in his rendition of The Killer’s Ready my Mind. He finalized this concert with Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You which not only shattered me into a fervent mosaic but also proves the profound talent of this young man. His music is a wonderfully unusual landmark in Canadian folk that grips to your ribs.



Kendrick Lamar-Damn


Kendrick Lamar is easily one of the most important rappers of our generation. His music is a unique dichotomy of highly emotive reflections of our broken society and bona fide club bangers. His lyrical composition and verbal agility is unparalleled. You can just as easily weep to the intense yet wildly real subject matter in his material as you could dance to the fervent musical landscape that surrounds. His 2015 release To Pimp a Butterfly not only revolutionized hip hop but music itself. It featured a wall of heavy musicians such as Kamasi Washington alongside ground breaking lyrics. The album became an anthem for the Black Lives Matters movement and is timelessly important. His fourth album Damn is the first follow to the iconic record so it naturally held some great anticipation and pressure. Damn is nothing short of brilliant, his music doesn’t plateau it perpetuates. He has found his distinct voice and he is unapologetically himself. Damn is fun, sensual but serious which is an unusual balance that Lamar has perfected.There is something so rare and enjoyable about music that moves your heart and your hips simultaneously.

Fame hasn’t removed any of the authenticity that pumps ferociously through his music. Damn even features samples of criticism that he has received towards some of his lyrics on To Pimp a Butterfly said by Fox News Commentator Kimberly Guilfoyle. Lamar seems to welcome controversy and criticism, perhaps he even uses it as inspiration. He directly criticizes Geraldo Rivera, a hip hop critic who stated “This is why I say that hip-hop has done more damage to African Americans than racism in recent years”. Lamar also slams President Trump and doesn’t bother with making it subtle. Some of the lyrics featured on Damn are easily Lamar’s best yet.The song Humble  features the lyrics “I am so sick of the photoshop, show me something natural like afro on Richard Pryor, show me something natural like ass with some stretch marks”.The track XXX. which interestingly features Bono, Lamar states some willdy astute lyrics such as “It’s nasty when you set us up, then roll the dice to bet us up, overnight the rifles, then tell Fox to be scared of us” which is followed  up with “ain’t no black power when your baby killed by a coward” as a reflection of his friend losing his son. The album points out the many flaws of humanity while reeling themes of forgiveness and redemption. He intersperses some biblical verses throughout the record, most notably on the track Fear. Damn concludes with a story about Lamar’s Father and the his producer Top Dawg about an incriminating encounter they had at KFC in the 80’s. There are many facets to this behemoth emotional avalanche of a record but it’s unusual accessibly let’s you choose what you want to take from it.

Why? at Venue in Vancouver March 25

why-moh-leahnPhoto by Eugenie Johnson

Why? is an introspective and distinctive band from Berkley, California. Their music is a rare execution of indie-rock, emotionally driven hip-hop and poly-rhythmic folk. They have released five brilliant albums, including their latest Moh Lhean (Anticton), which came out earlier this month. Their concert at Venue smack dab in the core of downtown Vancouver on Saturday night celebrated this new release and well selected previous work. The intimate show was notably juxtaposed by being at Venue, which typically caters to a top 40-club crowd. The audience was a polite group of sincere fans that were prepared for an emotional avalanche of a performance. The band’s configuration at this rather regal venue was an art piece in and of itself. Each member’s unique set up of electronic and acoustic instruments was draped with vintage light bulbs in a charmingly DIY manor. This impressive stage arrangement created an atmosphere astutely suited to their sound- comforting, powerful and rare. Lead singer Jonathan “Yoni” Wolf is an extraordinary songwriter, poet and singer and he commands a crowd effortlessly. Every person there was completely transfixed by the music as they sang along to their contentious lyrics and wiped tears from their cheeks. Why? concerts are not social dance parties. They are beautifully introspective experiences shared publicly. Their performance was an excellent balance of old and new songs gently shattering hearts, and then gracefully sewing them back together. They dynamic between band members, including brothers Yoni and Josiah is notably compassionate. Yoni’s witty banter on stage was a helpful break from the severely touching music echoing almost every member of the audience. Their lyrics explain abstract and uncomfortable feelings that one seldom can achieve describing, yet somehow, Why? manages to create catchy songs true to their emotional weight. To end the evening, Why?’s encore consisted of the band cuddling around a single microphone, armed with only their voices and a few acoustic instruments. They did quaint renditions of some of their more well know material to which the audience was held completely silent and frozen. What refreshingly frank music for a Granville St. Saturday night.

Why you don’t enjoy questionable music ironically


Enjoying music ironically is certainly a unique cultural product of the 21st century. The phenomena of liking “bad music” in a funny way with a group of people who have also subscribed to this particular notion is so hot right now. This is evident in the countless clubs that host 90’s nights, 80’s nights, karaoke, pop music nights, guilty pleasure music nights etc…. What occurs at said events is covers or recordings of music that wasn’t particularly cutting edge at the time it was released and is now remarkably well received.

Currently, the most popular form of ironic music nights is music from the 90’s. Not the arguably timeless music like The Pixies, Sonic Youth or Nirvana but more like Smash Mouth, Third Eyed Blind and Sugar Ray -all of whom were featured on Big Shiny Tunes. The “irony” here is that most people who visit these events are fonder of the former list of examples than the latter. Other events that celebrate musical irony may feature more bubblegum throwbacks such as The Spice Girls or 80’s hair metal such as Bon Jovi. There seems to be a general yet silent understanding that this music is inherently “uncool” but enjoyable in the proper context. Ironic music is also a significant foundation to the art of karaoke. Songs by Journey or Trooper have presumably been performed thousands of times more than songs by Bob Dylan or The Beatles (which is probably for the better)

Enjoying music ironically brings up some unique questions and difficulties…

The first is that this is not at all the definition of irony. A true example of musical irony would be that you spent your whole life disliking country music but then discovered Johnny Cash is your favourite songwriter of all time. The second is that you may not be enjoying this music in a funny and satirical matter whatsoever. If that is the case, participating in one of these ironic music events gets very emotionally and psychologically confusing for yourself and those around you. What if you sincerely do enjoy the entire discography of the Now compilations? There is nothing inherently wrong with that although it seems to only be accepted if it’s a joke that everyone is in on.  We openly love campy movies like The Room or Reefer Madness, the same rules should apply to The Venga Boys.It is quite possible we are trying to hide behind the veil of satire in order to appreciate music that isn’t necessarily innovative or hip.This paradigm displays a blatant source of pretentiousness and removes a great deal of fun.I was recently at one of these events and everybody was having a genuinely enjoyable time listening to songs from their respected youth. Everyone knew the words, sang them together and sincerely connected. However, they were hard pressed to admit they actually liked the music. That stated, I would argue this phenomenon isn’t musical irony, it’s nostalgia.

Hearing the chart toppers from our youth is incredibly comforting. Even if we listened to obscure music during our adolescents, hearing popular (albeit kind of shitty) music from a peculiar, hormonal and somehow simpler time is quite refreshing. We manage to know all the words and so do our peers. We manage to remember the equally questionable clothing that went alongside dancing to this banger in your room while singing into the TV remote. Embracing your enjoyment instead of judging it is quite empowering, just go with it. 

Skye Wallace-Something Wicked


There is nobody quite like the courageous yet gentle Skye Wallace. She makes soft music loud with her audacious spirit and ferocious grapple on the guitar.Wallace is a well-trained singer, but lets her voice run free. The inspiration of Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith are garnished, not marinated over her authentic pipes.

She grew up in various corners of small town Ontario, lived in Vancouver for ten years and now resides in the ever-musically inspiring Toronto. Something Wicked is Wallace’s second full-length album, it completely differs from her previous record titled Living Parts released in 2014. Something Wicked is a refreshing cleanse of sonic liberation, rock and roll lullabies and lyrical tapestry. It embodies the astute subtly of folk music and the intrepid attitude of punk rock.

Wallace was going through some significant and rather difficult changes after a long tour prior to this recording. She capitalized on the crooked creativity that is typically repressed during a time like this by making a remarkable album. She joined forces with musician/ producer extraordinaire Jim Bryson, (Punchbuggy, The Weakerthans) Oliver Fairfield (Timbre Timbre) and Philippe Charbonneau (Andy Shauf) in studio for no more than a few days. The album is lo-fi yet refined, emotionally generous yet mysterious and confident but not arrogant. The lyrics and instrumentation are relentlessly emotional and frank. Wallace’s instrumental approach is similar to that of St Vincent (Annie Clark); she elegantly wails on her beast of a guitar. This in turn creates an internal visceral storm that is both beautiful and challenging. Something Wicked achieves the rare combination of difficult and exciting, it emanates with the philosophy behind Immanuel Kant’s “the terrifying sublime”. This is not an album that takes shortcuts to preserve your precious heart; it’s magnificently honest. Something Wicked is a rare contemporary Canadian marvel that sticks to every inch of you.

Kieran West and his Buffalo Band

12746552_473166069536998_126276703_n                    Photo by Chris P. Bakon

The extraordinarily idiosyncratic Kieran West certainly has a way with words. He is sincerely kind, refreshingly sardonic and unapologetically himself. West, not unlike many Winnipeg based musicians, is a multi-instrumentalist in various bands while maintaining an impressive band alongside a solo project. West is what I like to call a “music man”, a specimen who lives and breaths music seemingly exclusively. However, West doesn’t exclusively play music he is also a deeply passionate Educational Assistant for student’s that require extra support. He admits the limbo between the two lifestyles is difficult, especially as he is so fervent towards them. He completely immerses himself to both of these stimulating callings though, quite well at that.

Kieran West and his Buffalo Band feature a generous multitude of local talent (including Micah Erenberg, whom West plays for in Erenberg’s band). They released an EP in 2014 titled Riverwood Avenue, which is a series of notably well written complex alternative country blues songs with a punk rock attitude. The material is highly self-reflective, familial, wise, funny and dark. Some songs are palpably despondent but the music never feels sorry itself-a quality that is becoming increasingly rare. West deliver’s these homemade lyrics in a comically deadpan yet gently intuitive manor. This unique style seems to reflect the man himself who loves writing songs. He explains the process of doing so cathartic and ever changing, some songs take years and some take minutes. He often writes about his family that features generations of musicians. His mother plays piano and also works in a school, teaching potentially the best class of all-band. West is recording an EP with the Buffalo band along with a solo one followed by a tour in the near future. He speaks affectionately about the diverse material that comes from various corners of his resounding imagination. West’s music is ethnography of devastating Manitoban talent, contemporary country and fantastically relatable lyrical exploration. His music invites you inside and asks you to stay a while; it’s impossible to refuse this kind offer.

Best Albums 0f 2016

Well,2016 has been quite the year, with the array of genius musicians passing away, Brexit and Trump it seems as though there is little to celebrate. The world has changed, for better or worse if you are like me you probably believe it is leaning towards the latter. However, music always has this charming way of remaining strong (perhaps even more so) during times when the world seems to be crumbling right before our eyes.This is particularly apparent with the generous amount of impressive hip hop albums released this year as marginalized people in America are not being empowered by their government to a point of revolt. That said, I am always impressed by those who continue to fight the good fight and not only make art but great art in the throes of this madness. The following is a list of albums released this year that are especially bold, brilliant and even revolutionary from various genres and geography.

Car Seat Headrest- Teens Of Denial

Car Seat Headrest are based out of Seattle and driven by 24-year-old front man Will Toledo.  Toledo  is originally from Virginia and way too young to be so talented. Toledo started recording at 17 out of his family’s car for a sense of solitude and guaranteed soundproofing. He wrote a generous catalog of contentious, intelligent and genuinely lo-fi songs well paired with the oblivion of youth. In 2014, Toledo assembled a lineup with bassist Ethan Ives and drummer Andrew Katz. Their music is filled with astutely critical observations of our current society, wax-poetic ramblings and complex walls of reverb. Teens of Denial emphasizes second generation theology, depression, lack of direction and the complex relationship with alcohol one has in their early 20’s (or potentially evermore). They are signed with Matador Records, a label that seems to be a barometer of new and vivid talent. Their music is a refreshing ethnography of the new generation, reminding us music still matters, art is still thriving and new ideas are being created. Car Seat Headrest revisit the sound of The Strokes and Pavement which is part of what makes them notable yet they are something completely unprecedented all together.

Frank Ocean-Blonde

Blonde is a 17 song strong grandiose exhibition of musical experimentation, poetic exploration and innovative song writing. Every song on the album could easily be the hit single, it’s consistently powerful and doesn’t take any shortcuts. Additionally, Ocean’s voice is smooth like good scotch yet haunted like the hangover that follows. Unlike, his previous and groundbreaking  album- Channel Orange, Blond is quite tortured. The record is  reflective on heartache, the misery of millennials and the general apathy floating through contemporary America. However, the material also manages to be soulful R&B dance music, it really depends on what angle you wish to perceive it.

Part of what makes Blonde so strong and complex is the rather unbelievable list of collaborators on it. This list includes Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood who provides some heavy and gritty guitar riffs that elevate the music  to a level we seldom hear. James Blake, Beyonce and Pharrell are also present in this eclectic marvel. Additionally, the legendary Bob Ludwig  (Rolling Stones, Nirvana, The Beatles) helped produce the record. Obviously some money was involved in the creation of the Blonde, however it’s really the songwriting that stands out.Ocean recently shared that “If you’re a writer you can write anything..prose, songs, raps, novels, plays, films, laws..take the governor off your gift.”

Ocean is a diverse and unique artist; he is one of the controversial rappers in Odd Future, makes tender R&B lullabies, is the first main stream male rapper to come out as bi-sexual and avoids media attention. Blonde is a sophomore album that contains decades of wisdom, remarkable musical bravado and almost every emotion imaginable. This is one of those get the hard copy, listen to it several times alone as the activity for the weekend kind of album.

Beyonce- Lemonade 

It would be irresponsible and rather absurd not to include this album which is a more like a pop culture phenomenon. Beyonce, who is enigmatically human is truly talented and easily this generation’s Michael Jackson. Her success is beyond comprehension and she is adorned by diverse demographics which is a form of cultural solidarity. All of that stated, I have always respected Beyonce yet have never committed myself to any of her albums until this one. Lemonade is not only her best work yet but an art piece that reflects our time. This was made more powerful with the surprise release of the record and the stunning visual version of the album. It is easily a feminist album, not because of it’s possible media attention demanding stance of infidelity potentially committed by another wildly famous individual. It is a feminist album as it is an empowered soundtrack for an entire society of oppressed people becoming empowered. It is a celebration of not only femininity but black femininity which could not be more needed during these times. Additionally, the music is more complex than she has ever experimented with previously. Diverse elements of jazz, afro-beat, reggae and country surround her voice which has evolved tremendously over time. She even delivers a tribute to the iconic Fela Kuti quite distinctly in the visual album but arguably throughout the entire album itself. Every song is a single but the track and video for “Hold Up” is an anthem for the masses and musically revolutionary. Lemonade affects everyone a little differently but the result is commonly liberated. It is a easily timeless album and very possibly the album of 2016.

Leonard Cohen- You Want It Darker

The tragic loss of one of the greatest musicians of all time made a classy exit, as usual. You Want It Darker was written whilst dying, a rare and poetic combination that seems suitable to the ever creative Cohen. You Want It Darker is easily one of his best albums of all time, like the wine he loved he got better with age. His voice thickened and delivered the exquisite and sombre lyrics more powerfully. Said lyrics are as beautiful as ever and the album is filled with memorable lines such as ” I struggled with some demons, they were middle class and tame”.  Even the title of the album is mysteriously symbolic, Cohen was always his idiosyncratic and expressive self. There is certainly a tone of recognition that this is his last record, making it even more haunting and heartbreaking. The album is a testament to his rare talent and unique ability to generously release unforgettable music.

Micah Erenberg-Poor Mic’s Toe

Micah Erenberg is the brilliantly unconventional singer-songwriter from Winnipeg, MB. Erenberg’s debut album “Poor Mic’s Toe” is a cleverly crafted collection of  honest, hilarious and whimsical songs. Erenberg’s blunt poetry is charmingly juxtaposed with Tex-Mex and lo-fi sloppiness. The album is fun yet wise and ubiquitously  aware of itself. Every song on the album is truly different from the last but they all manage to be excellent.

The opening song “I Just Wanna Go To Sleep Forever” portrays the band’s ability to express the tragic humour of life.  The dichotomy of tragedy and humour is often felt but rarely expressed clearly but when it is, an emotional phenomena occurs. The album makes listeners feel uniquely understood, that this  young gun from Winnipeg somehow just get’s you. His lyrics are wise beyond his years yet the sound is forever young. The album is is a refreshing cleanse of lyrical clarity and genuine catharsis. The sound is completely void of pretending to be interesting, it just is.  This is the kind of music and attitude that can’t be faked which is profoundly important amongst of sea of millennial plastic.

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds-Skeleton Tree

The one and only Nick Cave often dances  with the subject of death in his music, this album addresses it. Cave uses the figurative morality as a muse which is most notable in his legendary “murder ballads”. This past year, Cave’s son Arthur Cave passed away at age 15 by falling off a cliff. It is inexplicably sad to lose a child and this very real subject matter is apparent throughout this entire heart wrenching album. Cave has this omnipresent ability to make listener’s explore the topography of human suffering, but the Skeleton Tree goes beyond the realms of poetically ominous. It is genuinely tragic and doesn’t take any short cuts to avoid being overwhelming visceral.  You need to allow yourself to fall into the complexity of this album, it doesn’t serve as a background soundtrack for anything. On the brilliant song “I Need You” Cave is audibly crying whilst singing and only a frozen heart couldn’t be affected by it. This is Nick Cave and The Bad Seed’s 16th album together, their sound is truly refined and could be identified amongst millions of others.

Anderson. Paak-Malibu

Malibu is Anderson. Paak’s (the period is intentional) fourth album and arguably his magnum opus. This is the hip hop you have been looking for, with evolved jazz infusions and real music provided by his band the Free Nationals that he plays drums in. Paak collaborated amply with Dr. Dre on Compton last year, which got him the recognition  he deserves. His previous work, such as the album Venice released in 2014, is great but Malibu is exceptional; it is profound, personal and unapologetic. Other talented artists such as Schoolboy Q, Talbi Kweli and The Game are featured on the album which adds to it’s complexity. Malibu discusses the difficulty he has endured with lyrics such as “ya moms in prison, ya father need a new kidney, ya family’s splittin’, rivalries between sibling,  if cash ain’t king, it’s damn sure the incentive”  from track:  The Season/Carry Me. His voice is pure molasses, he raps with unparalleled dominion and the beats are a combination of New Orleans and Chicago based blues and jazz. There are moments in Malibu that pay notable homage to James Brown followed by innovative lyrics rapped with precision. Much like Guru’s Jazzmatazz or the Abstract and The Dragon’s Mix-Tape, Paak takes time to thank everyone who assisted him on the creation of the album. This is part of what makes Malibu an inclusive and inviting body of work. On the final track : The Dreamer (which features Talib Kweli and the Timan family choir) Paak shares “ This one’s for all the little dreamers, I’m a product of the tube and free lunch. Who cares if your daddy couldn’t be here”.

Malibu emphasizes the importance that you can do amazing work in this world despite the struggles you have endured. It is an record for everyone and even if the lyrics aren’t your thing the musicality of it will hypnotize you. If you haven’t heard it yet I envy you for what you are about to experience.