Tupac

Catching Up On The Week (Oct. 23 Edition)

Some #longreads for your weekend…

This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the release of the landmark album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness from the Smashing Pumpkins, and it is no surprise that several outlets are publishing tributes for the occasion.  Stereogum looks at the album through a modern context, arguing that it is unlikely that we will see such an epic release like Mellon Collie ever again, regardless of genre, and the AV Club covers the making of the album as well as examining some of the musical highlights from the record.  The most comprehensive piece comes from Alternative Nation, who in a gesture that befits such a sprawling and mammoth album, have published an extensive essay that covers just about anything you would ever want to know about the record.

Gizmodo has a lengthy guide to the science behind the synthesizer, covering the process of creating the sounds and the development of the instrument over the years.

Consequence of Sound published an essay that ponders what is the appropriate amount of a time that an artist should wait between album releases, though it covers many of the exact arguments that one should expect.  The conclusion tilts a bit toward longer gaps, though I have two words that can be offered as a counter: “Chinese Democracy.”

Loudwire takes a look at the behind-the-scenes drama of the making of One By One, which in my eyes is a criminally underrated Foo Fighters album.

Finally, Pitchfork has an excerpt from Shea Serrano’s new book, The Rap Year Book, which provides an entertaining look at the significance of Tupac’s classic hit “California Love”.

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Over the Weekend (Apr. 6 Edition)

New videos and other fun stuff as you fill in the hours around the NCAA championship game…

Lots of new songs and videos to get through this week, so let’s get straight to the action.  After announcing a North American tour and releasing a new track (the groovy epic “Let It Happen”), Tame Impala has finally revealed some details about their followup to the fantastic Lonerism.  The album Currents will be available later this year, and to help celebrate the news the band released another track, the slow-burning “‘Cause I’m A Man”.

My Morning Jacket continues to leak out new songs from their upcoming album The Waterfall, sharing the ballad “Spring (Among the Living)” last week.  My immediate reaction was to say that it is a more dramatic version of “Victory Dance” from Circuital, but with a seriously ripping guitar solo.

Kendrick Lamar is doing the rounds in promoting his album, which involves things like talking to MTV about the origins of the album title to doing radio interviews discussing how he did the Tupac interview that closes To Pimp a Butterfly, as well as announcing his engagement (congrats, btw).  Kendrick also released the music video for the new album’s latest single, “King Kunta”, which features a performance in his hometown of Compton.

The National have shared a previously unreleased track from the Trouble Will Find Me sessions, a song called “Sunshine On My Back” that features Sharon Van Etten on vocals.  The band explained in a Facebook post various options for people to purchase the track.

Most of us were not able to make it down to Austin for SXSW this year, but NPR is doing us a real solid favor by hosting video of TV on the Radio’s performance at the festival.

Legendary punk rockers Refused announced a new tour last week, this time emphasizing smaller venues.  If you are unaware how much we love the band, you should take note that the header photo that graces this site comes from their reunion show at the Roseland from a few years ago.  Unfortunately, though it would have been amazing to see them perform at the Doug Fir, tickets sold out in about two seconds, so it is unlikely RIJR will be able to review the show.

Maybe our inability to purchase tickets was due to the fact that we forgot to post the latest Run The Jewels video.  Killer Mike and El-P released the video to the fantastic “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” which features a memorable appearance from Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha.  Enjoy the symbolism.

And finally, watch another one of those “let’s see what today’s teenagers know about the 90’s” videos.  This one has kids listen to various 90’s songs, and for the most part they didn’t do too badly.  I can forgive these guys for not knowing Ace of Base or how the non-rockers were unfamiliar with Tool’s “Sober”, but it pains me that so few knew who Coolio was or could identify Green Day’s first big hit.

Review: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar instantly launched himself into the ranks of the elite MCs with the release of his stellar album good kid, m.A.A.d. city, where he weaved with exceptional skill a complex narrative of a young man’s struggle to escape from all the various negative influences trying to entrap him.  good kid managed to avoid the primary problem that plagues most concept albums, as it never felt weighed down by the potential constraints of its central narrative; it was an album filled with hit singles (“Backseat Freestyle”, “Swimming Pools (Drank)”, and “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” are just three of the record’s modern classics) that could be enjoyed on their own, but gained an additional weight when placed in context with the underlying story.   Kendrick’s technical skills as both a rapper and a writer ensured that there would be heavy anticipation for its follow-up, and for months fans and critics were on the edge of their seats with each revelation.

To be sure, To Pimp A Butterfly meets and possibly exceeds all these expectations.  It is more ambitious than its predecessor, moving from documenting a personal struggle to a more universal one, as Kendrick analyzes the trials and tribulations that face black people in America today.  The result is a denser, less accessible album than good kid, but represents a true artistic statement.  It might best be explained by using the old music critic cliche of the analogous connection to a completely unrelated artist: if good kid, m.A.A.d. city is Kendrick’s The Bends, then To Pimp a Butterfly represents his OK Computer.

The music on Butterfly is a heady and thrilling mix of numerous jazz, funk, and R&B influences, veering from one style to the next and capturing a gamut of emotions and moods.  Though Flying Lotus is only credited as a producer for one song, it seems as if the experience of their previous collaboration rubbed off on Kendrick, with the free mix of jazz and electronic elements dominating a significant portion of the record.  As the album progresses, the music shifts from a smoother, freer feel to a more deliberate beat, and provides an excellent counter to Kendrick’s growing anger. Spoken word passages also play a significant role, with Kendrick periodically adding lines to a poem that begins each time with “I remember you was conflicted”, and it creates an interesting effect of breaking the album into sections while also providing a connective tissue with narrative thrust.

Butterfly is an album that takes a lot of effort to unpack, but the effort is worth it; though it runs close to eighty minutes, it never feels like a chore to listen.  There are not a wealth of singles like good kid, with most of the tracks sounding better in context; “i” works as a single, but it sounds even better as a culmination of the album’s themes and as a response to “u”.  As a result, in the future I can see most people (including myself) throwing on the other album more often, but the times we do listen to Butterfly will still be appreciated.  After all, this is an album that ends with Kendrick “interviewing” Tupac, and it makes perfect sense that the legend finally has a true successor.

Catching Up On The Week (May 23 Edition)

We hope everyone has an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend, and if you find yourself with some time on your hands, here are a few handy #longreads.

We’ve had previous coverage on the Will Ferrell/Chad Smith drum-off before, and last night the two finally battled it out to see who is the superior look-alike.  Rolling Stone has a write-up and video of their joint appearance on The Tonight Show, and yes cowbell is involved.  For those who want to minimize their exposure to Jimmy Fallon, here’s the footage of the face-off.

Jack White is doing the rounds in preparation for the release of his newest solo effort, and a wide-ranging interview with Rolling Stone is getting some attention.  Since I got the news secondhand, I’m linking to the SPIN article discussing some of the highlights, such as his relationship these days with Meg White and the fact that he doesn’t use a cell phone.

SPIN got their own scoop when they interviewed The Antlers for their upcoming album, and the band discusses their different approach for Familiars.

The Quietus talked to Joey Santiago of the Pixies and he discussed his 13 favorite albums with the magazine.

And so that you’re all caught up when you’re back at work next week, here’s the article discussing Tupac’s last words before he died.