CONCERT PREVIEW: Smino at Summit 4/1

Born and raised in St. Louis but heavily influenced by (and eventually instrumental in) the Chicago rap scene, rapper Smino has been writing music since high school, finding his greatest successes in 2017’s blkswn and most recently 2018’s NOIR. Coming from a childhood full of gospel and jazz, Smino’s catchy neo-soul choruses combined with gripping rhymes and lyrical skill make him an artist to continue to watch; in an interview with Rolling Stone, he says he already hates NOIR and is ready for his next release. Coming to Denver as a part of his HOOPTI tour, he will be performing at Summit on Monday, April 1st after a string of sold out shows. 

 

Photo: @smino on Instagram

CONCERT REVIEW: Noname at the Ogden Theatre 3/6

In his long printed cardigan and sweats, Noname’s opener Elton Aura emanated a calm confidence that set the tone for a night of powerful lyricism. He knew exactly how to excite the young audience as he lit a joint on stage and passed it down (to be immediately intercepted by the stage security) after taking a few puffs himself. Elton concluded his set how he began it, having us repeat after him “Elton! How it do!” and then exited the stage to loud cheers. The audience hummed with energy as we began the wait for the person who had brought us all to the Ogden Theatre this Wednesday night.

As Noname’s band slowly set up their instruments I was struck with how vulnerable they were in that moment. Only feet of distance between us at the front of the crowd and the band members shuffling equipment around the stage, the lights were too bright and the room too quiet to create the invisible barrier of power that usually separates an audience and the performers.

The crowd screamed as the band finally began to play, slipping easily behind their instruments. The lights lowered and the neon sign that emblazoned the back wall lit up pink to read “ROOM 25” (the name of Noname’s new album.) Noname then entered rapping,

Maybe this the album you listen to in your car when you driving home late at night / Really questioning every god, religion, Kanye, bitches

The crowd jumped around singing along. Waiting for the line we all knew was coming and then screaming it in unison with her as she reached it:

“YOU REALLY THOUGHT A BITCH COULDN’T RAP, HUH?”

Noname calmly danced across the stage as she rapped in a loose white dress with a black flower print, black leggings, and red converse. Her long curls were stretched and tucked behind her ears, showing off her round youthful face. She seemed much younger than her 27 years. When she finished “Self” she greeted the cheering audience with smiles and warmth. She made her way through a set of hit after hit from both Room 25 and her 2016 mixtape Telefone. Everyone in the house danced and struggled to keep up with her quick voice. The night was punctuated by a few moments of quickly-relieved tension. Frustrated with a perceived lack of enthusiasm, Noname halted the show early on to teach the audience how to show that we appreciated her performance.

“If I spit a bar that you think is especially hot, give me an “ooooh.”

 

She started to rap again, her first line was met by a loud “ooooh” from the audience.

She stopped again.

“No, that was nothing,” she said, “that line was nothing. Let’s try again.”

She went back into the song, now seemingly satisfied with the crowd’s responses and continued with the concert with a smile on her face.

There was no lack of enthusiasm when we heard the opening bars of “Diddy Bop.” This song was my favorite part of the concert. That’s not a very revolutionary thing to say—it is her most popular song by far. But for good reason! Besides the catchy beat, the lyrics are beautifully sweet and nostalgic—a love letter to the Chicago of her youth. The crowd of majority high school and college students couldn’t relate to growing up listening to B2K, wearing FUBU, and hitting the diddy bop but it didn’t matter. The song creates a warm feeling of happy wistfulness and reminds me of my childhood despite my memories being so far away from that of Noname’s. I love that Noname doesn’t shy away from the specifics of her experience in an attempt to make her song more relatable. The essence of her song, of being young and being intent on taking advantage of the fleeting chance to be irresponsible, resonated with all of us.

Noname kept her performance short and sweet, exiting the stage after less than an hour. The band packed up their instruments and walked off stage, but the lights stayed down and the audience stayed in place, eyes glued to the stage expectantly. Then, Noname returned to the stage and gave us one last song, sans music. Her roots in slam poetry were especially evident with just her words filling the room. That final encore left the audience reminded of the poetry that exists in hip-hop, especially in Noname’s music.

On April 5th Noname is releasing “Song 32”, a follow up to her track “Song 31” and she is currently finishing her international Room 25 tour.

Photos by Kenneth Hamblin III

SONG OF THE WEEK: Jessica Pratt– Moon Dude

LA-based musician Jessica Pratt’s music is often characterized as freak folk and beckons associations with folksy psychedelia of the 60s, namely The Byrd’s Fifth Dimension and the work of Vashti Bunyan. It is miraculous to me that “Moon Dude” achieves such an expansive, out-of-this-world sound given Pratt limiting herself to mostly just acoustic guitar and vocals. Her alien-like, gorgeous voice, her psychedelic inflection, carries this song so far beyond the sounds someone expects from a singer-songwriter playing an acoustic guitar. Take a listen: 

 

CONCERT REVIEW: Still Woozy 1/31

Still Woozy started as a solo project by Sven Gamsky, who is based out of Oakland, California. Since then, he’s produced songs with a few other artists and has begun to play with other musicians during his sets.

Outside of Larimer Lounge, people stood in line, cold and excited. A woman held a sign, begging everyone for an extra ticket. A man came out of his car, chatted with her for a while, and then headed inside.

“I think that was Sven,” a man behind us said. “That was totally Sven.”

We all realized he was right. For the rest of the night, Sven and the other artists he was playing with maintained the personal, friendly demeanor that was evident from the moment Sven stopped to talk to people waiting in line.

Larimer Lounge is cozy and personable. We were close to the stage and pushed up against strangers. Sweaty and excited, a friend of mine came running down from the bathroom.

“I met Sven in the bathroom! We hugged!” he said. I found myself smiling. I’d never been to a concert with that many run-ins with the main act.

Dreamer Boy, based out of Nashville, Tennessee, opened for Still Woozy. Zach Taylor and his guitarist Bobby Knepper make up the duo. They introduced themselves–being from Tennessee made integral to their identities early on.

They played some of their biggest hits first: “Orange Girl,” “Lavender,” and “Falling for the Wrong One.” During those first few songs, everyone in the audience seemed to be enjoying their set and the chill, vibey tone of the songs they were playing. At the point when the songs shifted and became more autotune heavy, the audience seemed to become less enthused by Dreamer Boy and their set, which started to feel dragged on. The audience also seemed to be tired of Zach’s frequent breaks between songs to yell a call and response, Tennessee-influenced “Yee-Haw!” at the audience.

When Dreamer Boy’s set ended, there was a pause for a few minutes as the stage was prepared for Still Woozy. When the lights dimmed and the band came on, the audience cheered and pushed up against the stage. They played “Lucy” first and then went through their entire repertoire of songs. They also played two new songs and did a few covers. Throughout their set, they seemed to be in constant communication with the audience. They paid attention to the different chants the audience started and walked down into the crowd to dance with and hug their fans multiple times. At the end of their set, their attempt to thank everyone who had attended was interrupted by the loud chanting of “encore!” that came from the audience. Considering that Still Woozy is still a relatively new band, they only have about 6 released songs. They acknowledged this, laughing and telling the audience, “We don’t have any songs left!”, but they offered to replay some if the audience was interested and then asked which songs we’d like to hear again. They ended up replaying “Goodie Bag,” their biggest hit.

When the show was over and the lights came up, Sven and his bassist spent up to an hour walking around the venue and speaking to the fans that were still there. They thanked every person for coming and supporting their work by signing T-shirts, giving out hugs and taking pictures. When I headed out, they acknowledged that I was leaving and gave me a hug goodbye too. I really enjoyed this personal relationship they cultivate with every person that comes to their shows. I found the way they carry themselves to be very evocative of the vibe of their music. Just like his songs, Sven and the people he plays with are fun, laidback and incredibly welcoming to listeners.

BLOCK 6 PLAYLIST

Kick off your spring break with an… eclectic! playlist from the SoCC writing staff! Featuring Leikeli47, John Maus, Patti Smith, Cardi & more !!!!!

Every block we shall be compiling a blockly playlist, so stay tuned for more!

 

(photo credits: https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/the-juice/6575635/leikeli47-diplo-skrillex-cosign-interview-edc)

CONCERT PREVIEW: Noname At The Ogden Theatre 3/6

Nonames powerful first music video: “Blaxploitation – A Film by Noname.”

Lauded for her lyricism and unique voice, Noname is one of the most promising new artists in hip hop. The Chicago rapper released her debut album Room 25 this past September. This release was highly anticipated due to the wide commercial and critical success of her 2016 debut mixtape Telefone which featured hits such as “Diddy Bop” and “Shadow Man.” On Wednesday, March 6th she will be playing at the Ogden Theatre in Denver.

Photo by Mark Horton/Getty Images.

 

SONG OF THE WEEK: Ty Segall – “My Lady’s On Fire”

Ty Segall’s music is typically pretty grunge-rock-y, but this song leans much more to pop and jazz than most of his other tunes. “My Lady’s on Fire” has been one of my favorite songs for the past few months, and despite the obscene amount of times I’ve listened to it, I still get excited every time it comes on. I first heard this song when I saw Ty play a live acoustic set which was really fitting because this song showcases how much more confident he’s become with his voice over his career. This song is a must-listen for anyone and everyone!

Sing along to the song here or on Spotify!

Ty Segall – credit Getty Images

SONG OF THE WEEK: The Hollies- “We’re Through”

The Hollies, Image Courtesy of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archive

In need of 2 minutes and 16 seconds of cathartic dancing-around-the-room-by-yourself bliss? Maybe you’ve been fiending for this feeling since the weekend ended. Maybe you’ve got some pent-up frustration because, hey, the block can suck. Maybe you just want to listen to a nostalgic bop. Fear not, The Hollies’ “We’re Through” will provide what you’re looking for. Though not one of The Hollies’ most popular hits, the number of listens to this song on Spotify has been climbing and climbing since its feature in an episode of Netflix’s most recent series, The Umbrella Academy (based on comics written by Gerard Way, lead singer and co-founder of My Chemical Romance). Its exposure in The Umbrella Academy was what brought me back to The Hollies and here I am now, listening to “We’re Through” on repeat this week.

The song, thanks to its deliberate bass, fingerpicking, and haunting, echo-y, but upbeat three-part harmonies, is perfect for momentarily letting go (of anything and anyone). Acknowledgement that “I should be better off without you…” is liberating! Get rid of toxic people and toxic relationships! Dance it out! (After a couple listens I begin to think this song is more likely to get me to make more changes to what ‘sparks joy’ in my life than Marie Kondo ever could.) The repetition of the mantra “We’re through, we’re through, we’re through” near the end of the song becomes therapeutic. The swell of the music and the shake of the cymbals at the end brings the sentiments of the song to a nice, final conclusion. Ultimately, we, as beings who want to be wanted and loved, sometimes have a hard time recognizing when others “never treat us tenderly.” Hopefully this song helps with a part of that realization process. If not, it’s still one hell of a bop—I hope you all enjoy. Cheers to t-minus 3 days until the weekend!


You can listen and groove to the song here:

 

Concert Review: Mick Jenkins At The Bluebird Theater 1/15

If you are a music fan from the suburbs, the way you initially encountered music is ugly and quotidian. Instead of encountering a music scene in proximity to where you live or some wise man running a cool record shop, your taste is formed by Guitar Hero, the radio, and copying your siblings. My brother’s taste in music was centered around rap. He became obsessive about it, delving into more obscure rappers through the internet, embarrassingly blaring his mix CDs in the car as we rolled into our high school parking lot. At first I elicited the classic younger sibling response by pretending to hate his music, but this is where the art of copying your older sibling formed an important part of my music taste and maybe even my personal growth. I seemed to gain something from his music that the long haired indie-rock bros of my own music library couldn’t provide me. There was a sense of authority specifically pertaining to a marginalized voice that invigorated me. Both of us needed this confidence to survive being awkward brown kids at an athletic, white public high school.

To this day, I continue to copy my brother’s music taste. One of my favorite rappers I listen to because of him is Mick Jenkins, and I decided to make up for being an annoying copier by giving him a free ticket to the show as I reviewed it. So during a listless winter break day, my brother and I ventured north of our suburb to see Mick Jenkins perform. Mick Jenkin’s newest album Pieces of Man is too introspective of a work to not reflect on yourself when you experience him performing it. We both felt old and nostalgic, which was due to a combination of listening to Mick Jenkins’ own self-reflection and our crusty 20-something-year-old selves back at The Bluebird Theater, a vital setting of our adolescent weekends. To amplify this feeling was Mick Jenkin’s intensity, wisdom, and piecing together of himself on stage. In introducing the song “Ghost,” he told the crowd that these days he is focused on his work and relationship, emphasizing his need for personal space:

“You never really see me out, I be on the road
Or I be in the crib, when I’m not on the road
I’m working on my penmanship, and my relationship
I put in hard work, you cannot fake this shit”

While his lyrics were introspective and seemed to reflect a wish for a quieter life, his set still had the high energy of a good rap concert. He was backed by an amazing live band, and his audience reflected the high energy back. The juxtaposition of his reflective lyrics and the band’s energy made his set complex and enjoyable. A highlight to the concert was his talented opener Kari Faux. I had first encountered her via Insecure’s soundtrack and instantly became a fan of her relatable lyrics and catchy beats. Her set was more carefree than Mick Jenkins’, yet I still resonated with the themes of her songs on a serious level. A favorite of mine was her performance of “Fantasy,” an anti-muse bop. Overall the concert was as fun as a good concert should be, but also made me think. Mick Jenkins piecing together of himself was a reminder of how integral memory is to music and the ritual of performing it. I can’t write about music without exorcising some reflection of my mundane past and putting moments like these in a sort of lineage and continuation of it.

(Picture credits to Trey Karson http://bolderbeat.com/photo-galleries/2019/1/16/mick-jenkins-at-bluebird-theatre-021519)

Best Albums of 2018

Here are some of the SoCC writers’ favorite albums this year in no particular order:

Be The Cowboy – Mitski

If you can believe it, I didn’t like Mitski (of Bury Me at Makeout Creek era) at first. I thought her sound was too rough, too grating, somehow a little too angsty. Fast-forward two or three years, and songs from Be The Cowboy occupy at least a quarter of my weekly music rotation. I can’t give Mitski all the credit for that transformation; I’ve grown enough to learn to love Bury Me at Makeout Creek and Puberty 2. Still, Mitski’s own artistic development is crystal clear to everyone engaged with her art–– for proof, google Be The Cowboy and count the number of “Best of 2018” lists the album’s included in.

This album shines so brightly because it feels so honest. We know most of the songs are persona songs; few contain any autobiographical information about Mitski at all, and yet almost every lyric feels intensely personal & soaringly sincere (i.e. “and I am the idiot with the painted face/ in the corner taking up space”). Musically, Mitski experiments more on Be The Cowboy than ever before, which is explicitly evident on “Nobody” –– a disco-Daft-Punk-circa-R.A.M. track that is both extremely energetic and emotional, a panic attack coated in glitter.

I could write about this album forever, except I can’t. I’m about to get on an 8 hour plane ride, during which I will listen to Be The Cowboy in its entirety at least three times. I don’t necessarily suggest you do the same (your Mitski tolerance might be a little lower than mine), but you cannot sleep on this album. If you do, you’re depriving yourself of the joy of feeling validated in your own experiences through a voice, and an artist, from the realm of the divine.

– Paulina Ukrainets

abysskiss – Adrianne Lenker

 

You might recognize Adrianne Lenker’s stunning voice from the songs she’s sung with her band Big Thief. Her solo album abysskiss, released this October, is a hushed, focused, and beautiful account revolving around intimacy, death, and nature. Because her airy voice and finger-picked guitar are the album’s only audible sounds, her emotions are palpable and the listeners feels as if they’re sitting in the recording studio by her side. The album’s highlight is the song “symbol,” an ambiguous love story in which Lenker explores phrases and imagery as she echoes sounds with the words: “fly make flea, make haste, make waste, eight makes infinity / times I’ve tried to make breaks, embrace for the enemy”. During a year marked by seemingly incessant chaos and negativity, Lenker created a space for introspection, appreciation, and imagination with her stripped down musings about life.

– Mimi Norton

Isolation – Kali Uchis

While there were great albums that came out this year, the album that completely commanded my attention was Kali Uchi’s pop masterpiece Isolation. Uchis’ debut album Isolation has a nostalgic tinge that made it warmly familiar. While nostalgic, it strays from solely being campy throwbacks through its hybridity of genres. The sound is an entirely new animal in its eclectic fusion of soul, funk, and reggaetón. Isolation’s lyrical content is apt for the times, speaking to a year of political distress, escapism, and loneliness. While the instrumentals are upbeat, her melancholic voice and lyrics throw each song askew. This album has been the soundtrack of my year as a relatable emotional landscape and a source of empowerment. A song that particularly jumps out for me in the album is “Dead To Me” with biting lyrics that make Uchis diva of the year. She is taking pop in an entirely different direction, opting out of the sonic trends of 2018 and delving into the past to make an entirely unique sound.

– Maya Day

I’ll Be Your Girl – The Decemberists

If the lyrics “…Everything, everything, everything, everything, everything is awful” aren’t relatable to a college student experiencing a minor inconvenience, I don’t know what is. This song, aptly titled “Everything is Awful,” is the seventh track on The Decemberists’ newest album, I’ll Be Your Girl. The nihilism continues with lead singer Colin Meloy’s plea, “Oh, for once in my life…could just something go right?” on the first track, “Once In My Life” (also aptly titled), overtop synth beats and chords reminiscent of the music of New Order and Berlin. Questions of doubt, life’s meaninglessness, and embracing despair pop up in tracks throughout the album while also, inexplicably, appearing alongside “Rusalka, Rusalka / Wild Rushes,” an eight-minute ballad about a mermaid (I think). “Rusalka, Rusalka / Wild Rushes” returns me, a seasoned The Decemberists listener, to the lengthy epics “The Mariner’s Revenge Song,” “The Crane Wife” parts 1 through 3, and their insane rock opera The Hazards of Love.

My favorite track, “Sucker’s Prayer,” showcases that good-old-Decemberists commentary on unrequited love, present on their older albums, with cheery chords opposing this chorus: “I want to love somebody, but I don’t know how.” That lyric, followed by “I want to throw my body in the river and drown,” presents an image so painfully full of aching, desire, and self-hatred. I may be very dramatic, but I almost fell out of my chair when I first heard it. “Sucker’s Prayer” thankfully brought me back to some earlier Decemberists tracks that have now been occupying my mind and Spotify queue for weeks. Overall, I’ll Be Your Girl, despite being an eclectic mix of songs experimenting with new styles and sounds, nonetheless draws from the best of their old music and projects their ideas towards the future and cements itself as one of my favorite albums of 2018.

-Jane Harris

NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES – Metro Boomin, Travis Scott, 21 Savage

Metro Boomin’s sixth studio album, NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES, redefined rap in 2018. The album’s sharp beats over ambient instrumentals forms a futuristic, yet familiar Atlanta sound.

 

[TOP SONG: Don’t Come Out the House (with 21 Savage)]

– Emily Faulks

Aviary  – Julia Holter

With the resurgence of vinyl and physical forms of music, the album as an art form has come back into style. Julia Holter’s latest album Aviary is not only a work of art; it stretches our ears into unknown shapes and sizes. Each of Holter’s songs feels like an album in itself. One moment we are wrapped in electronic, orchestral swirls, and then we land in a glitchy, spooky folk fairytale. Although it is hard to isolate individual tracks, “Voce Simul” exhibits this transformation of time through delicate sonic manipulation. Her songs are in constant conversation with one another. This is an album that I could write or think about for hours on end, discovering endless secrets embedded within pockets of sound. Holter guides us through the terrifying beauty of “Everyday is an Emergency”, which reflects on various sounds that occupy daily life, and how something as simple as a siren can affect us in multiple ways. These soundscapes are only strengthened by Holter’s usual thought provoking lyrics: “Firm in your mystery/ Will you remember the body?/ And what does it do to you?” Melding genres together with lucid craftwork, Aviary is so progressive that will certainly not be left behind in 2018.

Listen to when: you are ready to experience feelings that you’ve never had before.

– Lena Farr-Morrissey