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Greta Van Fleet Stun A Sold Out Crowd

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There’s a tried and true expression that has found it’s way around many aspects of our lives. It comes from the great 1989 film Field of Dreams. It goes: “if you build it, they will come.” This sentiment can extend to music venues, restaurants and rock bands. If you rock hard enough, and well enough, a crowd of 2000 rowdy fans, hungry for that insatiable rhythm, will stand for hours and watch you wail.

Greta Van Fleet, the youthful and vibrant American rock band touched down in Lawrence, KS last Thursday to play a sold-out show at The Granada Theatre. The show was put on by the Kansas City alternative rock station X 101.5 FM.

As a collection of three brothers, Greta Van Fleet has a cohesiveness, a rhythm, a vibe that is truly unparalleled. These guys are seriously on the same wave length onstage, playing off each others’ energies, performing with a vigor that almost definitely took years of garage band practicing to perfect.

While performing, Greta Van Fleet is a wrecking ball of pure rocking power. The band opened with the sensational “Talk on the Street,” which shook the walls of the venue like an earthquake. In fact, the whole show could have charted on the Richter Scale.

“Edge of Darkness” is a booming and crushing track, with one of the band’s most catastrophic guitar riffs. The song builds and builds until the chorus stands 25 feet tall and could tackle a mountain. The power behind Josh Kiszka’s vocals is so strong as he belts out the lyrics “All my brothers we stand / For the peace of the land / Is there meaning / I’ve got love in my heart / For an army apart / I am bleeding.”

Then Jake Kiszka takes that six-stringed ax of his, and absolutely melts faces for about 6 minutes of pure, unadulterated guitar shredding. I’ve seen great guitar solos, and this was ranking in the top 5 of them.

The band belted out eight more high-octane rock tunes before sauntering off the stage. They eventually emerged for a fiendishly-craved encore. They performed two of their heaviest, more riff driven anthemic songs, “Highway Tune” and “Safari Song” to the ravenous crowd. That night, everyone in the venue was electrified by this pact of incredible brother musicians.

Even as I’m writing this, I’m reminded of the power I felt that night. The soul emitting from Josh’s voice, the insanity pouring out of Jake’s guitar, Sam’s booming bass. Everything about this band is impressive, and elevated to the highest power in a live setting. Greta Van Fleet’s sound is unlike anything else right now, and when they’re headlining major festivals, it will be because of the way they wow a crowd in towns like Lawrence, KS.

 

 

 

Top 50 Songs of 2017

List season, baby! This is what I’ve all been waiting for all year. I’ve listened to so much music this year, it’s actually kind of fucked up. But I did it all for this. This list. This brief summary of the 50 best songs of 2017. Let’s burn this mother down and start fresh in 2018.

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  1. BROCKHAMPTON – GUMMY
  2. Calvin Harris (ft. Frank Ocean, Migos) – Slide
  3. Miguel (ft. Travis Scott) – Sky Walker
  4. Spoon – I Ain’t the One
  5. Kendrick Lamar – HUMBLE
  6. SZA – Garden (say it like dat)
  7. The War On Drugs – Holding On
  8. Vince Staples (ft. Kendrick Lamar) – Yeah Right
  9. Goldlink (ft. Gucci Mane, Shy Glizzy, Brent Faiyaz) – Crew (Remix)
  10. Cardi B- Bodak Yellow
  11. Future – Mask Off
  12. Jean Claude & The Eclairs – Enzymes
  13. DJ Khaled (ft. Chance the Rapper, Quavo, Justin Bieber) – I’m the one
  14. Migos (ft. Lil Uzi Vert) – Bad and Boujee
  15. LCD Soundsystem – Call the Police
  16. Lorde- Green light
  17. The xx – On Hold
  18. Drake (ft. Travis Scott, Quavo) – Portland
  19. Young Thug – For Y’all
  20. Sampha – Blood On Me
  21. BROCKHAMPTON – STAR
  22. The National- The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness
  23. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Continental Breakfast
  24. DJ Khaled (ft. Rihanna, Bryson Tiller) – Wild Thoughts
  25. Kendrick Lamar- DNA
  26. 2 Chainz- Good Drank
  27. Mac Demarco- This Old Dog
  28. Sorority Noise- No Halo
  29. Thundercat- Friend Zone
  30. SZA ft. Travis Scott- Love Galore
  31. Lil Uzi Vert- Sauce it Up
  32. Mount Kimbie (ft. King Krule) – Blue Train Lines
  33. Rae Morris – Do It
  34. Future Islands – Ran
  35. Tyler the Creator – See You Again
  36. Amine (ft. Offset) – Wedding Crashers
  37. Khalid – Location
  38. French Montana (ft. Swae Lee) – Unforgettable
  39. Rural Alberta Advantage – Toughen Up
  40. Real Estate – Darling
  41. Frank Ocean – Chanel
  42. Japandroids – Arc of Bar
  43. Run the Jewels (ft. Danny Brown) – Hey Kids
  44. Tove Lo – Disco Tits
  45. Father John Misty – Total Entertainment Forever
  46. Rostam – Bike Dream
  47. The Killers – The Man
  48. Hamilton Leithauser (ft. Angel Olson) – Heartstruck
  49. Daniel Caesar – Get You
  50. Slowdive – Star Roving

 

The 25 Best Albums of 2017

So, 2016 was a burning shit and hair-filled diaper on a runaway trainwreck exploding on an Indian burial ground. So let’s look back at what didn’t suck, the music. Here’s the 50 best albums of the year. Let’s hope 2017 will have way less dead rockstars and Nazis.

That was my introduction paragraph to last year’s list… Well, shit. Maybe we’ll try for better in 2018.

Let’s get to the music.

#25: Father John Misty- True Comedy 

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This year was, as I’ve stated before, a complete and utter shit show. A Taco Bell induced, diarrhea explosion at the Louvre during a Bill Cosby stand-up comedy set. So to hear everyone’s favorite musical cynic, Father John Misty, describe the dreary world around him in such musical eloquence, it kind of felt like watching your house burn down and throwing your hands in the air as if to say, “fuck it, burn baby burn.”

#24: Thundercat- “Drunk”

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How do you describe Thundercat to someone who’s unfamiliar? Well, he plays cosmic rhythm/ funk/ jazz on a six-string bass, and he’s friends with Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus, and he’s kind of a stoner hero and oh yeah, he occasionally meows. Like, there’s truly nothing to prepare someone for what to experience with Thundercat. However, the result is always jaw dropping. This is no exception with “Drunk,” which features some of my favorite lyrics of the year.

#23: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit- The Nashville Sound

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Country music hates Jason Isbell, and I’m pretty sure Jason Isbell hates country music. There is no doubt that a guy as cool, laid-back, and musically talented would despise being dubbed a “country artist,” being lumped in with the red, white, and blue toting, dip-spitting, 10-gallon hat wearing, imbeciles the genre usually plays to. But this album is a country album. It’s smart, sophisticated, understated, and cool. It gives the genre a good name, and even country music can’t be mad at that.

#22: Sorority Noise: You’re Not As _____ As You Think

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Emo music is notoriously stark. It’s supposed to be bleak and sad, obviously, it’s called emotional music. But this album bites like a deranged T Rex with trust issues. “A Portrait Of” will cut you deep from second 1, and “No Halo” is a ram-shackling good time through the pain. So put on all black, get in the moshpit, push around, find yourself in the sound of someone else’s pain. It just might help you get through your own.

#21: Alvvays- Antisocialites

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Alvvays put together a stunning dream pop album during some of the least dreamy circumstances. The music sounds airy, wistful, and like it belongs up in heaven. The lyrics, aren’t as peaches and cream though. Every line is painted with a brush of the anti-social. Those moments, like walking past someone on the street, knowing you’ll dream of them later that night. Like staying awake staring at the phone, hoping for a miracle. Like wishing you could be someone else. All of these emotions are so vivid on this incredibly catchy and beautiful album.

#20: Mac Demarco- This Old Dog

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Mac Demarco is my hero. This might seem like an exageration, and even as I’m writing this, I’m thinking, “is he really?” But the more I think about it, there’s truth in the statement. Mac Demarco is a genuinely sweet guy, he’s creative and uninhibited to making one kind of music. He’s got heart, a whole lot of it. He makes great music for those of us who might not know what to do with this weird life of ours. And you know what, I genuinely love the guy. So yeah, he might be my hero, and “This Old Dog” was the soundtrack of my year.

#19: Charly Bliss- Guppy

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Sometimes, in a year like this, you have to put down Twitter that’s only reporting bad news, look yourself in the mirror and say: “Let’s have FUN!” That’s when I put on Guppy by Charly Bliss. This album is an absolute thrill ride of fun and pure energy. It’s absolute bliss packed into 30 minutes of music. Lead singer Eva Hendricks is my indie-rock crush of the year, and her voice just makes me happy. This album is definitely going under the radar, which I find rude.

#18: Moses Sumney: Aromanticism

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Wow, wow, wow, what a beautiful album. No man should be album to make music this gorgeous, or sing with such grace. Moses Sumney sounds like the first ray of bright sunlight after a torrential downpour. This album listens like a sonnet penned by William Shakespeare after one too many glasses of wine. It’s perfect romantic music, and it’s just exceptionally beautiful. “My wings are made of plastic” is a lyric that has floated around my head all year, like a lost balloon. There’s a mood behind this music, you have to find it, and experience this thing.

#17: Joey Bada$$- All-Amerikkkan Bada$$

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This was the album Joey Bada$$ was supposed to make. I remember listening to his first mixtape, 1999, and thinking “this kid is the next coming of New York hip-hop.” He just has everything necessary. The soul, the rhyme-style, the mass appeal. He made the albums needed to get to this point, and now he’s making statements on a larger scale. “Temptation” is perhaps one of the most important songs of the year, and the message he’s sending on this thing can speak to all of us- white, brown, black, yellow, whatever. He’s remarking on the entire country, not just his community in Brooklyn. He’s an important and intelligent artist that we must protect.

#16: (Sandy) Alex G- Rocket

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To me, this album is perfect road trip music. It sounds like pushing down the I-70 headed towards a bigger city, surrounded by miles and miles of nothing. There’s a lackadaisical sound in here, a hands-in-pockets modesty to the music. “Proud” moves along so gently it feels effortless. Alex G sings with such an earnest inflection, and the music matches this perfectly. It feels like a stroll downtown in your hometown, kicking stones.

#15: Gang of Youths- Go Further in Lightness

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Are you ever so frustrated with life that you just want to run for miles and miles? You desire to feel that fire in your chest? You just want to disappear in a crowd. That’s what Gang Of Youths’ music can do. It’s potent and powerful, like a hit of emotional methamphetamine. The music is high octane lighter fluid, just needing one strike of a match to go up like the Fourth of July. These songs sound like a train heaving down the highway, nearly falling off the tracks, but keeping it together just enough. And there’s tremendous beauty in that. As the lyrics in “Let Me Down Easy” go “You give me a good reason to be heartsick again / To be here, to be strong, to be oddly and boldly estranged / From the loss and bitter years.”

#14: The National- Sleep Well Beast

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The National have specialized in a style of sadness unmatched for the entirety of their career. Matt Berninger’s dark and dreary vocals layer so coolly on top of the Desner brother’s fiery guitars. However, they turned this equation on it’s head for this new album. All the components are there, but added are synthesizers, electronic drums, and an extreme sense of paranoia. The songs don’t sound like songs, instead, letters to self, written hurriedly and in what feels like a panic. But everything about it works. It’s truly unbelievable. These guys, The National, are masters of music.

#13: Young Thug- Easy, Breezy, Beautiful Thugger Girls

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Young Thug is a national treasure. He needs to be protected. What he is able to do with music parallels what some of the world’s greatest musical anomalies (the Princes, the Bowies, the Thom Yorkes) have done- shatter barriers set for them. On EBBTG, Thugger completely exceeds any expectations placed on him, just as he did with his previous albums Jeffery and Slime Season 3. He can rap hard-as-hell (“Take Care”) and sing ballads with Future (“Relationship”) and croon over a bachata-inspired beat on the impeccably catchy “For Y’all.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Thank God for Young Thug.

#12: Tyler, the Creator- Scum Fuck Flower Boy

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He did it! He finally made the album he was destined to make. Since the origin of Tyler the Creator, he has been painted as something he’s not. He’s been called crass, racist, rapist, obnoxious, and everything else unflattering. But then he goes and creates the most flattering album of the year. Tyler’s albums have all been building to this point. The musicality (Tyler produced every track on this thing) the lyrics, stunning and refreshing, the vibe of the album. It’s sunnier than anything he’s done before, and the colors he radiates sounds like a man who is finally in charge of who he really is, which is a super creative, lovely guy, who has been vastly misunderstood.

#11: Sampha- Process

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I first heard Sampha on Drake’s “Too Much.” Here was this soulful British voice, weighing nearly 100 tons with emotion. As he sang, I could feel the heartbreak in his voice, and I was hooked. He reminds me of how I felt when I first heard Adelle sing. Now, on his debut album, he makes a statement. He is on of the brightest young faces in music today. His voice is so utterly unique, and the way he is able to craft a song is special. “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” is one of the year’s most heartbreaking tracks, and “Blood On Me” might be the most important. Sampha’s debut album is a triumph, and I couldn’t be more excited to see where he goes from here.

#10: Lorde- Melodrama

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Lorde is one of those artists that just radiates an energy so pure that it cannot be tainted by pop stardom. After her debut release “Pure Heroine” created a symphony of superstardom for this young New Zealand introvert, I wondered how she could follow this. Surely not with more catchy tunes, more revealing lyrics, and an even better album? But here I am, listening to Melodrama, dancing ferociously to “Green Light,” weeping my eyes out to “Liability,” and stunned by the majesty of this artist’s sophomore effort. Lorde and producer Jack Antonoff have created an album for everyone- the prettiest girl at he party, the loner, the emo kid, and the Prom Queen.

#9: The War on Drugs- A Deeper Understanding

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A Deeper Understanding. What does that really mean? A deeper understanding of music? A deeper understanding of society? Or a deeper understanding of self. For Adam Granduciel, I believe this album represents all of these. The Philly dad-rock band, complete with layers of guitars, Bruce Springsteen-esque rhythms, and powerful lyrics, War on Drugs has made their most expressive and finely tuned album of their career. The song “Holdin’ On” is a clear-cut personal favorite, and could easily soundtrack many of life’s most beautiful and epic moments. “Thinking of a Place” borders on tear-jerking with how beautifully the guitars portray the emotion of a song. It’s a near perfect album.

#8: Jay Z- 4:44

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Did someone spill the tea? Or should I say, Lemonade.
After word got around that music’s most important and iconic couple, Jay Z and Beyonce, were amidst extramarital drama, everyone tuned in like it was the O.J. Simpson trial. Except if TMZ (The Messy Zone) reported every little dirty detail. So Beyonce had her say, and she said it all. With 4:44, Jay gets his chance to tell his side of the story, which ultimately reads, “I did it. I shouldn’t have done it. I’m a product of black culture in America, which is and always has been, fucked up beyond belief.” On this album, Jay sounds grown. He sounds like a man who has had to come to terms with the man he spent his whole life becoming. It’s a gorgeously produced album with Kanye-esque soul samples, slow and meditative lyricism, and Jay Z rapping like a man with something to prove again. This isn’t the gaudy Hov, like that Magna Carta bullshit he used to sell Samsung phones. This is a man, coming to terms with himself, his environment, his fidelity, and his society.

#7: LCD Soundsystem- American Dream

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When LCD Soundsystem broke up in 2011, I was so sad. Here was this band that I had grown to love so dearly. I’d loved everything about them, their uncoolness, their style and sound, their unbelievably catchy songs. And now they were breaking up, at the height of their careers?! Thankfully that didn’t last long. 5 years later, we get the return of New York’s most cynical band, and with them, a new album, just as drenched in cynicism. Only this time, there’s a sense of responsibility where there used to not be one. James Murphy used to be utterly scathing with his pen, now he shows more restraint, like an older gentleman would. He pens his songs now skillfully, like a crossword puzzle. However, there is nothing changed when it comes to the dirty synths, the building crescendos of songs, and the sense of weirdness in this bizarre American world. If this is the American dream, it’s going to take a lot more LCD albums to get us through.

#6: Migos- C U L T U R E

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In 2017, Migos invented the culture. There’s just no other way around it. I guess you could say Atlanta created the culture. The culmination of years and years of work, Southern strip-club bangers, Gucci Mane’s rise-and-fall and rise again, and the ascension of Three Brothers- the Migos- to rap’s highest peaks. Migos cut their teeth in the scene long before making it this big. They put out hit after hit, and fueled countless parties with their bangers. Then, finally, with a little help from Metro Boomin, the biggest producer in the country, they unleashed “Bad and Boujee,” and they were there. Between the meme-ification of the music, the adlibs, the unfamiliarity of 95% of the phrases, Migos caught everyone’s attention. There are just too many hits on this album to be excused. “T-Shirt,” “Slippery,” “What the Price,” “Kelly Price,” “All Ass,” I could list the entire track list. THEY’RE ALL BANGERS. No other rapper did that this year. All killer, no filler.

#5: Spoon- Hot Thoughts

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As I’ve written before Spoon is the most consist band in rock and roll. Their sound is consistently changing, yet remaining in its wheelhouse. They’re never rewriting the textbook, but adding chapters that make you keep reading and flipping pages with intrigue. Britt Daniel is the fearless band leader and the glue of the band. His soulful croon, soaring and raspy at the same time guides the bands’ tight sound through song after song with ease. “Hot Thoughts” is a definitive statement, that the band is still able to churn out fun, adventurous, and complex songs at this point in their 9 album deep career. “WhisperI’llListentohearit” begins one way, and takes an insanely catchy turn halfway through. “I Ain’t the One” is the most cinematic song of the year. If I ever write a movie featuring a cool, building, eerie walk-up from a hero with a troubled past, this is the song I’ll use for it.  This album is further proof, if  you needed any, that Spoon is a masterclass in amazing American rock music.

#4: Vince Staples- Big Fish Theory

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Vince Staples is one of the rare talents of our generation. Sophisticated and brilliant, yet hard-as-hell gang-affiliated Crip. Big Fish Theory is his departure from the traditional way of telling his story. As he did with breakout album Summertime ’06, he still raps with the aggression of a pit bull on bath salts with daddy problems. However, this album focuses intriguingly on the beats Vince has collected. Avant-dance producers SOPHIE and ARCA play a tremendous role in this album sounding the way it does. Skittering and jolting, clicking and clanking unpredictably while Vince lays down the coolest, slickest bars of his career. “Yeah Right” is a song that doesn’t sound like anything else produced this year, and features a ludicrously unhinged Kendrick Lamar verse. “Big Fish” is a classic Vince song that has a ridiculously catchy verse that will stick in your head. And “Rain Come Down” is one of the most ominous album closers of the year. Vince is just playing on a different level than everyone.

#3: BROCKHAMPTON- Saturation II

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I could write a 20,000 word essay on the prolific boy band, BROCKHAMPTON. Lead by the esoteric and highly intelligent, openly gay Kevin Abstract, the group already has their own sound and marketing angle. Add on top of that 7 or 8 other rappers that have their own unique styles, including the stunning Ameer Vann, who raps with the aggression of DMX with the laid back coolness of Vince Staples. Saturation II is the second installment in a year-long ambush of ridiculously great music. Before the year is over, there will be a third. This staggering pace of the quantity music doesn’t take away from any of the quality. The album begins with “GUMMY” which might be the hardest hitting song I’ve ever heard. This song makes me want to flip a cop car. The album refuses to relent even an inch, getting more and more catchy with each song. “QUEER,” “JELLO,” “SWAMP,” and “SWEET” are all iconic BROCKHAMPTON songs. And there’s 12 more where they came from. So, needless to say, BROCKHAMPTON is my rookie-of-the-year winner. They’re also my most fascinating band story of the year. If you want to be on the right side of history, get on board with this new boy band that will take over the world like One Direction.

#2: SZA- CTRL

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A year ago, nobody was giving SZA the respect she deserved. Whether they were ignoring her or just not paying attention, seemingly everyone glossed over this unmistakably unique songstress with some of the most fire lyrics in R&B. I guarantee you, nobody’s glossing her over now. SZA released her long-awaited debut, CTRL, to critical acclaim, from critics, sure, but mainly from fans. The reception for this album was nothing short of glorious. Fans were singing every lyric of the album like it was gospel, and truthfully, it almost is. SZA bares every bit of herself on this album, her insecurities, her fears, her lust, and her strength. She said before the album was released she wrote that she self-conscious of the album and didn’t think it would go over well. Judging by the multiple Grammy nominations, it went over better than she ever could’ve imagined. “The Weekend” is an anthem for side-chicks everywhere. “Love Galore” is a definitive classic, and “Garden (Say it Like Dat)” is one of the best songs of the year by miles and miles. SZA is a force to be reckoned with. Just like everything on TDE, this is a world-conquering album. I cannot wait to see where SZA goes from here, because it will surely be incredible.

#1: Kendrick Lamar- DAMN.

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Kendrick Lamar is the greatest rapper alive. There is simply no other way to put it. There is competition, then there is murdering your competition, which is exactly what Kendrick did with DAMN. Now, it’s not like this is anything new. Kendrick has been rapping circles around the game since Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, but he’s taken a rare approach. He’s written a film, essentially, then he wrote a theological critique of society and the black man’s place in it (institutionalism, survival’s guilt, etc.) and now he’s on his fuck-the-world, I’m the best in the game, flow. Kendrick goes harder on this album than he ever has before. “DNA” is a banger unlike anything he’s ever done before. “HUMBLE” created one of the most identifiable hooks in music. “ELEMENT” is Kendrick at his very finest. Even the title, “DAMN” is the only way to look at this piece of work. Like, DAMN. He really is this good. Nobody can compete. Then there’s the idea that the album is supposed to be listened back-to-front, and not front-to-back. I’ve tried both, and I can tell you this much, the journey is different, but the destination is the same- Kendrick is untouchable by any other rapper in the game. In fact, one of the only features on this album is U2. Fucking Bono BARELY made it on this album. This might not even be Kendrick’s best album, but it is definitely the best of this year.

 

Phoenix Bring Nostalgia, Unstoppable Hits to the Midland

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Remember 2009? Damn, what a good year! “I Gotta Feeling” was on the radio, Silly Bandz were stacked on our wrists, and this was the Internet craze your family sent you over and over

Those were simpler times, and the brighter days of ’09 feel so far away. But sometimes, a band, a song, an album is so powerful, it pulls you back to that year, and that feeling. That feeling only comes around rarely. That feeling happens during “Listzomania” and “1901” by the formidable French indie-rock troupe Phoenix.

During an incredible opening night of 96.5 FM’s “The Nights Buzz Stole Christmas” concert series, Phoenix brought their decadent lights, silky smooth music, and over-the-top cool persona to the Midland Theatre in Kansas City.

The band wasted no time kicking off the show. They opened with their latest hit, “J Boy” from new album Ti Amo, and then instantly gave the fans what they wanted to hear. They tore into a raucous rendition of “Lasso,” from 2009’s breakout album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. It won over the hearts of the large crowd within seconds of the song starting.

Over the course of the night, they continued to play gem after gem, hit after hit, until the dancefloor was theirs. “Rome,” “Girlfriend,” “Entertainment,” “Trying to be Cool,” and more. Relentless they were with the amount of hits they played. The band sounded insanely tight knit, and every guitar stroke or drum beat was impeccably perfected.

They closed with the stellar track “1901,” but that didn’t mean the show was over. Not by a long shot. Lead singer Thomas Mars strolled out into the crowd casually, carrying a microphone with a extended, light up red chord. He strutted through the entire crowd, before finally standing up above the fans. With balloons bouncing around him, he chugged a fan’s drink given to him, and surveyed the audience. He led the crowd in singing the final notes of “1901” and wished everyone goodnight. It was an extraordinary end to an extraordinary show.

 

Phoenix were supported by Hembree, a local Kansas City indie-rock band with a sound that is supremely ready for the biggest of stages. They truly have everything necessary for a successful band that will go the distance: incredibly catchy guitar riffs, pounding drum rhythms, fantastic lyrics, likable band members, and a readiness to have a fun time on stage that is infectious for the crowd, (i.e. their tremendously fun cover of the Gorillaz’ “DARE, that got the party going.)

While watching them onstage, I couldn’t help but imagine them on the festival circuit- starting low in the bill, playing the 3pm time slot, building an audience in the sunny afternoons. However, their audiences continue to build until they find themselves playing to the sunset, and maybe, just maybe, closing out the day. This may be idealistic, but I absolutely think that this is a capable goal for Hembree. Their love for music is palpable, and that kind of appreciation for the music, and the enjoyment of playing it for people, will get you far in this business.

 

The first opener of the evening was another local outfit, Y God Y. Led by Garrett Marsh, their sound is unique and inviting. Driven by warm synths, and spacey drum beats, Marsh’s voice carries the sound into another dimension. Their style is equally indie-rock and electronic-synth pop. The combination of styles works well for them, and they created a big hit with fans. With their Afentra-approved cosign, I can see this band growing into a prominent touring band, taking their weird and fantastic sounds on the road to audiences all over the world.

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When Concerts Blow Your Mind: Flying Lotus live at the Midland Theatre

When was the last time a concert blew your mind? Did you lose track of time while your jaw dropped to your feet? This kind of response is rare, and it takes a special show to cause this.

Flying Lotus took over the Midland Theatre on 11/16 with his incredible 3D show. In the space of the venue, he ascended to supersonic levels.

A Flying Lotus show is something to marvel at. There are few artists who create sounds so complex and challenging as FlyLo. His beats, which can span from hip-hop to freeform jazz to G-funk, incorporate some of the most eclectic sounds imaginable. They take so many turns, they could be mistaken for a race down the Autobahn.

FlyLo opened with some of his more ethereal, jazz-based jams, “Getting There” and “Computer Face/ Pure Being.” These songs were a good introduction to the weirdness that was going to become the night. Behind a large, asteroid-looking DJ table, a wildly braid-haired Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, fiddled with controls and laid down the intense tracks. Behind him, a screen projected one of the wildest light shows I’ve ever seen.

The entire show was in 3D. What does that mean, exactly? After all, everything in life is 3D.

Well, every attendee at the show was given 3D glasses to effectively perceive the vision FlyLo was trying to portray. On the screen, colors and shapes flashed vividly, puzzles and landscapes became marbled and warped as they cascaded into each other. All of these visions erupted out of the screen and crawled toward the audience.

As the show progressed, FlyLo was handed a red solo cup, and the show took another, darker turn. It was time for Flying Lotus’ alter-ego, Captain Murphy, to arise. As the beat for “The Killing Joke” eerily crept in, like a demented lullaby, FlyLo grabbed the microphone and rapped every bar of the menacing verse.

The moment of the night occurred when Flying Lotus played his dark, spacious Earl Sweatshirt featuring “Between Friends” from the Adult Swim singles series. The beat is deadly and the crowd vibes to it in a major way. As FlyLo played Kendrick Lamar “Wesley’s Theory” followed by fellow BrainFeeder label artist, Thundercat’s “Friend Zone,” the show reached it’s climax.

Finally, FlyLo unleashed his ace in the hole, “Never Catch Me” featuring an unstoppable Kendrick verse and a blitzing bass solo.

During the show, cosmic beats collided with bombastic weirdness in a perfect space. The 3D imagery was perfectly conceptualized and completed. The beats thrown down were filthy and unexpected. The show was magnificent and bizarre.

There is no other way to watch a Flying Lotus show than with your mouth slack jawed and your mind blown.

 

 

 

Outrage! Is Now: Death From Above Bring the Noise to Kansas City

On Wednesday, Toronto indie-rockers Death From Above played a rambunctious and hard-hitting set at the Record Bar in Kansas City, MO. The two-piece tore the roof off the venue with their heavily distorted bass and bruising drums.

The world was a much different place when Death From Above 1979 released their acclaimed 2004 album “You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine.” The album was beloved by rock fans who were captivated by the amount of sound these two guys could create. The group then took a 10 year hiatus before returning with “The Physical World.” Now, back and better than ever, Death From Above performed in support of their new album “Outrage! Is Now.”

The band opened with the first song off the new album “Nomad,” which blared out of the speakers so loud that my earplugs almost seemed useless, as hearing damage was inevitable, and accepted. It just seemed like part of the deal of going to a Death From Above show.

The song “Virgins” pounded out of the enormous speaker stack the band had onstage as guitarist Jesse Keeler strummed his distortion-heavy bass guitar and vocalist Sebastian Grainger crashed into his drum kit while singing with amazing range. He shouted every word while hammering his drums, which is honestly one of the most impressive things ever.

Fans in the audience said that they have waited 10 years to see the band live and in person, and the energy in the room mirrored this feeling. Fans shouted every word along to “Turn It Out” the album’s opener, which screeches with aggression and absolutely blistering drums. Fists pumped emphatically in the air.

The unstoppably catchy song “Freeze Me” got every foot in the venue moving. The band experienced difficulties with the sampler while performing the track, but didn’t let it stop them.

The band concluded their regular set with a blistering trifecta of “Trainwreck 1979,” The Physical World” and crowd favorite “Romantic Rights.” During “Romantic Rights,” the band built the anticipation and power of the song until the exact right moment before unleashing the final chorus. The amount of energy the band produced during this song could crumble buildings and collapse regimes.

They closed their set with “Pull Out” which was a highlight of the night as it was a crowd request, and the fastest song played. During this track, the crowd pushed and shoved each other joyously, celebrating the rarity of seeing this band play live after so many years.

Death From Above sound exactly like their name. The sound produced by these two guys is staggering, and the catchiness of the songs makes listening incredibly easy. There is no doubt that the world is a better place with them in it, even if they’re best suited for soundtracking a riot, as the new album states, “Outrage! Is NOW.”

We Found Our November: Tyler the Creator Soars in Kansas City

Tyler The Creator performed in front of a sold-out audience at the Truman in Kansas City last night as a part of his Flower Boy tour. He played a majority of new songs, with some old gems thrown in the mix, and the fervent crowd loved every minute of it.

The charismatic rapper swooned to his die-hard fans with opener “Where This Flower Blooms” and the screaming audience made the first lines of the song inaudible. Tyler performed on an elevated platform on the stage where he danced like Kanye West, grooving wildly to the music.

Tyler then kicked the show into second gear with the blistering and guitar-heavy track “DEATHCAMP.” While Tyler shows his emphatic and loving side on Flower Boy, the Cherry Bomb opener is filled to the brim with crushing aggression. The barricade, separating the audience from the stage, rattled and shook like a thunderous earthquake was hitting the venue.

Tyler played around with these two vibes perfectly throughout the show, embarking on a sweet ballads like “Foreward,” or throwing down bombardments of sound like “IFHY.” On songs like “Tamale” the crowd jumped emphatically in the air and shook the ground.

The clear-cut sing-a-long favorite was Goblin standout “She” which the crowd recited perfectly and sung beautifully along to the Frank Ocean crooned chorus.

During the intro of “Who Dat Boy” Tyler asked every member of the audience “put your phones away. I want you to remember this.” The crowd did just that, and came the closest all night to bringing down the venue with their incredible energy.

It wasn’t all turning up though. Tyler lead the crowd in a beautiful recital of “November” leading into “Glitter.” These songs clearly resonated with the audience. When the show concluded with “See You Again,” fans hugged and smiled with warmness, because they had just seen their favorite artist live. It’s moments like that, proving that concerts are clearly more than just the music.

Tyler the Creator has seen a huge evolution in his career, and on “Flower Boy,” he is at his most musically focused and lyrically gifted. His honesty has never been so relatable and with the rate that he is elevating as a musician, the sky is absolutely the limit for the Odd Future commander-in-chief.

 

 

21 Savage and Offset are the new Freddie and Jason

Album of the Week

21 Savage, Offset, Metro Boomin- Without Warning Whenever two of the most popping artists join up for a project, it’s bound to attract an unbelievable amount of attention. For example: Kanye and Jay Z, Young Thug and Future, Lil Wayne and T-Pain. In this vein, artists will consistently continue to push the envelope of the album release by dropping these massive projects.

This week’s hottest album is a collaboration of 21 Savage and Offset (1/3 of the Migos.) It’s called Without Warning. This alone could be a project worth listening to. Two of the hottest rappers in the game trading bars. However, the album gets taken up a notch severely by the inclusion of powerhouse producer Metro Boomin, who crafted all of the beats on this thing.

This album was dropped on Halloween, as a surprise release. It couldn’t have been planned any better because these songs are scary. Scary good, scary aggressive, scary focused.

“Ghostface Killers” starts off the album with an icy and eerie beat. It sounds like church bells of a deserted town that was just ransacked by two gun-slinging outlaws. The chorus is impeccably catchy and is filled with Migos-famous adlibs. It’s a total boomer. 21 shows up sounding as calculating as a serial killer. Travis Scott also spontaneously shows up to take this thing over to edge.

“Nightmare” has an equally terrifying beat, sounding straight out of a horror movie. Makes sense that the chorus goes “Freddie Kruger, give ’em a nightmare / Soon as you close your eyes, nigga we right there.” Can you imagine a scarier scenario? You’re happily sleeping and then when you wake up, Offset and 21 Savage are in your room, undoubtedly holding heavy artillery.

The team of almost-certified-killers sounds most treacherous on “My Choppa Hates Niggas” which has an ominous flute on the beat and a little girl’s laughter randomly appearing. If there is anything scarier than a little girl laughing during a horror movie, than I don’t know what it is. I mean, those two little girls from The Shining still terrify me to this day.

As we’ve seen before, this formula works. Surprise release an album, have two or three enormous stars, and watch the internet implode. This will almost definitely continue happening, and I’m perfectly okay with that. These super albums are just part of the culture now.

 

Single of the Week

N.E.R.D. & Rihanna- “Lemon”

I’ve been waiting for new N.E.R.D. music for over three years now. The unstoppable production duo of Pharrell and Chad Hugo make the most accessible yet off-the-wall music of our generation. They also compile some of the biggest artists in the game to put on features, in unique ways. For their return single, “Lemon,” they come back in a major way.

On “Lemon” Pharrell bodies the first half of the track, which bounces around and bumps with unbelievable booming bass. Then, without any warning, RIHANNA COMES THROUGH SPITTING BARS! Rihanna raps better than 95% of the rappers doing it today, and she sounds so fucking cool. “It’s Rihanna nigga, my constellation is Space” she says, and honestly, she’s completely telling the truth. It’s Queen RiRi’s world, and we don’t deserve to occupy space, but I’m so glad we do.

Music Videos of the Week

Rich Tha Kid & Kendrick Lamar – “New Freezer”


This song is a feel good banger. This is just a really fun time to watch. The beat is a boomer with some insane bass line ripping through this thing. It clicks and clanks around while Rich Tha Kid flexes throughout the his verse. The reason this is a music video of the week is because we get to see Kendrick Lamar rap his verse, looking unbelievably cool in a Lakers sweatsuit, eating Chinese take-out. If that’s not the best thing you’ve seen all week, you must be having a pretty good week.

 

The War on Drugs – “Nothing to Find”

So this music video is incredible, and it’s incredibly simple. A young girl is on the road with a plant man. He’s a man made out of plants. They dance, the shoplift, they are best friends. Until life, as it tends to do, gets the best of us. The emotional ending of this thing is a lot to handle. You don’t think it’ll hit you as hard as it does, but next thing you know, you’re at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf spilling tears into your Green tea and the saltiness is kind of nice, but you wish it wasn’t there.

 

Craig Finn Amazes in Kansas City with Literary Solo Set

The Pen is mightier than the sword. That’s what they say. Now I’ve never seen a sword, and I don’t know much about armory, but who in the indie-rock world is mightier with the pen than Craig Finn?

Craig Finn and his backing band, the Uptown Controllers played an intimate and powerful show at the Record Bar in Kansas City, MO on October 17. The Hold-Steady leader, and prolific lyricist rattled off nearly an hour and a half of his solo-work to a room of dedicated and literary-inclined fans.

A story, a tidbit about the past, a joke, often punctuated each song or lead seamlessly into the next track. Finn reflected on such heady topics as: fear, faith, love, pain, loss, and finally honesty. “We have to be honest with one another,” was his response to the insanity that seems to found itself into society today.

As if he was an author, reading off pages of his latest work, Finn and his band strummed coolly through several tracks off his latest album, “We All Want the Same Things.” Some crowd favorites were “Jester and June,” “Preludes,” and a solo-acoustic performance of “Tangletown” that was especially emotionally hard-hitting.

Finn made eye contact with every member of the crowd, and would interact in banter with folks about baseball, books, and politics. It was the most transparent show I’ve seen all year.

With an artist as skilled with the pen as Craig Finn, each word hangs on the one before it. Each line anticipates the next.  I found myself listening to the songs like reading a book I didn’t want to put down.

Craig Finn can be explosive with his singing and performing, or he can be subtle and thoughtful. During his performance at the Record Bar, he was both, in equal parts, for maximum effect. The show didn’t feel overly folksy, but definitely didn’t feel like a regular rock show. Imagine Bob Dylan in Greenwich, Neil Young in Tennessee. Craig Finn in Kansas City.

 

The Pixies Captivate Kansas City, Perform Epic 34 Song Set

 

Some rock bands weren’t meant to last. The Smiths, Girls, Oasis. The hours spent arguing over E-chords over G-chords and crammed in a van can rip apart bands more quickly than an STD. Then there are bands that, defiant in the face of unrelenting conflict, persist.

Last night, one of these persistent groups, The Pixies, put on an absolute ripper of a show at the Midland Theatre in Kansas City. They performed an absurd number of tracks, played back-catalog tracks with impeccable skill, and kept the crowd captivated for nearly 2 hours.

The Pixies are indie-rock royalty as far as I’m concerned. And to a nearly sell-out audience, their no-bull shit rock shows are a must-go event. The amount of hits they’ve racked up, including the easy 10 on 1989’s Doolittle alone, make for an unbelievably interesting concert experience. They have at least another 20 hits on other albums, and just relased a new record. All and all, they played 34 songs. Unheard of.

Black Francis, the mastermind of the group, held up like a fucking champion the entire show. He was funny, yet brief with his comments- he and the rest of the band, chugging right along with song after song.

Of course, there were the heavy-hitters. The tracks that got everyone in the venue excited. “Where Is My Mind?,” “Wave of Mutilation,” and “Hey” all were stunningly performed with skill and uniqueness. As I would expect from a band who has played these tracks upwards of 10 million times.

My favorite of the hits was the stellar rendition of “Here Comes Your Man.” It was thrilling to see the song performed live finally, as I’ve loved it for years, and consistently sing it in karaoke, hoping to sound half as good as Joseph Fucking Gordon Levitt and win over a Zooey Deschanel 

Opening artist, Mitsky, stunned the rest of the audience with her subtle yet heart-demolishing indie rock. I say the rest of the audience because I have loved everything about Mitsky since I heard the fuzzy, distorted guitars and superb lyricism of “Townie”

Since then, everything she has done has been stellar, and absolutely nothing less. Her bold and excellent sophomore album Puberty 2, was atop my best albums list of 2016.

During her stop in Kansas City, she certainly proved her awesomeness with each and every song played. Each track garnered more applause and cheering than the one preceding it.

The entire show was a display that indie rock is still alive and well. Further, there are thousands of people who love The Pixies. The Pixies too proved that they love their fans and are capable of playing and sounding like they’re 30 still.