Album-art-for-Natureboy-by-Flako Flako – Natureboy


Dario Rojo Guerra, also known as Flako, has professed his love for nature and says he only worships the sun, but until now he had not expressed that in music. Now, with the release of Natureboy, Flako uses a lack of vocals, samples, and instruments, taking listeners into nature to show all it has to offer.

He uses songs like “Gelis” to lull listeners into a sense of well-being and relaxation with soft strings and meditating synths, but later on tracks like “Kuku,” with more upbeat tempos, samples, and intricate synths, rip listeners out of that comfortable state. Flako’s new found appreciation for the outdoors shows his attempts to draw images of being with nature.

Listening to Natureboy is a visceral experience, that should happen whilst walking outside on a spring day and taking in not only the new visual experience, but also the audio. Songs like “Twelve O’Clock Shadow” are pleasant to listen to, but also vary in melody and tempo with layers added on that evoke the image of walking along a peaceful walkway. “Lyrebird” takes a turn for the unknown, leaving listeners feeling as though they’ve taken a wrong turn. These mental images and journeys are not just what’s encouraged of the listener—they are what’s expected.

This juxtaposition of tempos and instrumentation is exactly what Flako intended. The album is more of a voyage into our own psyche than just 16 songs clumped together. Flako is trying to stimulate an internal and neural response from the listener—the album is very personal in that sense—without the use of vocals to understand the songs through lyrical context, listeners are left to make of it what they want.

Flako – Natureboy tracklist:

  1. “The Opening / Purple Trees”
  2. “Shipibo Icaro”
  3. “Gelis”
  4. “Spice Melange”
  5. “Kuku”
  6. “Solo For Chloë”
  7. “Shape Of Things To Come”
  8. “Som Da Aura”
  9. “Twelve O’Clock Shadow (feat. Miguel Atwood-Ferguson)”
  10. “Lyrebird”
  11. “Golden High”
  12. “Payaso”
  13. “Who Do You Think You Are”
  14. “For You (Reprise)”
  15. “With Me Now (feat. Dirg Gerner)”
  16. “The Odd & Beautiful”
Album-Art-for-Reminisce-by-Etiquette Etiquette – Reminisce


Indie-pop duo Etiquette’s debut album, Reminisce, begins with a synthesized crunch­-pop. These simple sounds set the stage for a collection of songs filled with inventive electronics, bewitching vocals, and lush composition. The album combines the talents of Graham Walsh (of Holy Fuck fame) and Julie Fader, who has sung alongside artists of the likes of Sarah Harmer and Great Lake Swimmers, as well as released a solo album.

For Etiquette’s first album, Fader’s dreamy vocals and emotional lyrics marry Walsh’s electronic beats and driven guitar, coming together to create a captivating new album that successfully moves listeners to relive their own experiences—all the while tapping a foot to Walsh’s addictive rhythms.

Reminisce begins with “Pleasantries,” home of the aforementioned crunch-pop background beat. The song starts off simply, with Fader singing about a frustrating relationship, a subject that’s at the core of the album. Here, Fader gives honesty to a topic felt by all. “My imagination runs wild/My imagination has grown tired of wondering/What did I do wrong this time/In your mind?” she croons as a guitar strums in, intensifying the beats. The duo knows how to build complexity to create intensity and feeling, much like fellow indie-poppers The xx or Beach House.

Though “Pleasantries” begins quietly, listeners start to better experience Fader’s feelings as they are accompanied by Walsh’s instrumentals.

Etiquette’s music is decidedly quieter than Holy Fuck, but Walsh’s rhythms keep the pace with Fader’s lyrics, providing a backdrop for her singing that’s intricate enough to enchant listeners without growing overwhelming. The band took care to consider where it wanted the lyrics to stand out, and where it could produce louder sonics, though continuously presenting inventive melodies.

Reminisce picks up the pace with “Twinkling Stars,” which is distinctly harder-hitting compared to the rest of the album. Walsh’s beats take the forefront of the song, in which Fader sings of a world that’s far away, but not far enough to be completely out of reach. Meanwhile, Walsh creates a lush landscape of electronics that will get heads bobbing. Although it’s a bit of a departure for the album, the duo’s sound comes through, and it’s a nice break from the slower songs on the album.

In “Promises,” Walsh’s electronics could stand on their own if Etiquette wanted them to; although, the intimate lyrics about someone who can’t keep their word are too genuine to do without. But his instrumentals prove he can create a story solely with sound.

Fader’s conflict in relationships, and her spare, often ambiguous lyrics, point to the uncertainty she feels.

She writes again about heartbreak in the song “Outside In,” except this time, the song is enveloping in a more ambient way, focusing on Fader’s hazy voice and lyrics. She addresses a “bruised feeling” that’s “enveloping/outside and inside,” as lackadaisical keys play in the background, accentuating her feelings toward whoever caused her state of mind. “In this relative crisis/It seems that all you could promise/Ensuring me/In certainty/Is the partial truth.” With slow pacing and sparse composition, the song is sad in a near-lethargic way, which is probably the point. It’s the kind of song that’s perhaps best listened to during a moody night in.

Etiquette combines Fader and Walsh’s unique talents in a culmination of mesmerizing vocals and an imaginative sound that will attract and excite fans old and new. Reminisce takes a look back on the past in a way that’s filled with heartfelt lyrics and just enough synthesized beats to keep listeners hopeful for the future.

Etiquette – Reminisce tracklist:

  1. “Pleasantries”
  2. “Brown and Blue”
  3. “Attention Seeker”
  4. “Sleep to Wake”
  5. “Twinkling Stars”
  6. “Promises”
  7. “On and On”
  8. “Outside In”
  9. “Island”
Album-art-for-2.0-by-Big-Data Big Data – 2.0


Big Data is an electronic explosion of strange Internet references from producer Alan Wilkis and his impressive roster of featured artists. The first album is appropriately titled 1.0, and 2.0 is precisely that—an upgrade from the first edition.

All but one of the tracks on 2.0 features another artist, and these different guests drive the album in interesting directions while Wilkis maintains his own style. “Perfect Holiday” features Twin Shadow, making for an intriguing collaboration. Dragonette accompanies “Get Some Freedom,” and while the track clearly holds the band’s influence, the Big Data style of pop and electronica is most prominent.

“Snowed In” features Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, and is not at all recognizably Weezer-esque, but his vocals do make it a standout track. The track is loud and full electro-pop at its finest; it’s loaded with epic percussion, a fun, poppy rhythm, and funky quirks that accentuate the beat. The staccato glitches in the song are combined with a Top 40 sensibility, making it ridiculously catchy. “Snowed In” captures how upbeat and peppy the album is; it’s like Chromeo or deadmau5, combined with hints of Animal Collective circa Merriweather Post Pavillion.

The instrumentation on each track is extravagant and, generally, overwhelming.

At times, it works beautifully, but other times it’s too wild. The songs on 2.0 are perfectly overproduced; they are over-the-top, and yet the excessiveness works well because of the craftsmanship. The album is reminiscent of the hyper-perfect production of Katy Perry or Ariana Grande. Sometimes the project feels like ’80s pop (“The Business of Emotion”), or sometimes, contemporary dubstep/EDM (“The Glow”).

There are a fair number of computer/Internet puns and themes throughout Big Data’s discography; the album titles are just the tip of the iceberg. “Big Dater,” the only track without any featured artists, has a dial-up sound included in the beat. A lot of the computer-oriented themes are cued sonically. From the get-go, listeners can easily categorize Big Data as electronic music, but a deeper listen reveals heavily-manipulated glitchy, contorted, more digitized sounds.

What is most captivating about the album are the beats and instrumentation—the lyrics are a generic, poppy afterthought. On “The Business of Emotion” the main lyrics are, “Feel good/Make you feel good/I’m looking for emotion/So I know just what to show you /I can see you/See your answers/This business of emotion/Yeah I know just what to show you, baby.” These lyrics are exemplary of the simple, superficial pop lyricism throughout the album, but it also seems a conscious choice to include such basic lyrics since the album sounds so processed and intentional.

Big Data’s 2.0 is  a catchy, fulfilling indie-electronica album. It’s a unique project of commentary on contemporary music, making interesting developments of its own.

Big Data – 2.0 tracklist:

  1. The Business Of Emotion (feat. White Sea)
  2. Dangerous (feat. Joywave)
  3. Clean (feat. Jamie Lidell)
  4. The Glow (feat. Kimbra)
  5. Snowed In (feat Rivers Cuomo)
  6. Big Dater
  7. Automatic (Jenn Wasner)
  8. Get Some Freedom (feat. Dragonette)
  9. Sick For Me (feat. Bear Hands)
  10. Perfect Holiday (feat. Twin Shadow)
Album-art-for-Eclipse-by-Twin-Shadow Twin Shadow – Eclipse


Twin Shadow’s latest album, Eclipse, sees a reinvention of George Lewis Jr.’s former ’80s indie-pop glory, with the eccentric trills and scratchy tonality of his previous albums replaced with more modern, moody pop elements. Lewis, who uses Twin Shadow as his stage name and rock-star persona, has drawn inspiration from personal development of the past two years. Eclipse reflects a sophisticated Lewis, relying less on intricate guitar plucking than in the past, and more on powerful lyrics, transfixing listeners with intimate, yet relatable topics.

Fans of Twin Shadow are well acquainted with Lewis’ experimentation with sound on his previous two albums, Forget and Confess. Especially in comparison to the heavy ’80s vibes of Confess, Eclipse is less sporadic and blipping, with more deliberate beats. The streamlined feel of the album, which uses varying tones of bass (at times fluttering, other times trembling), might be off-putting for fans who discovered and grew to appreciate Twin Shadow’s music for its indie-pop spunk. Some fans might even credit Lewis’ recent record deal with Warner Bros. for the switch to synth-pop, but Lewis says the album and its more icy-pop sound were created prior to his major label deal. Regardless of what inspired the shift, Eclipse is refined, and shows promise to propel Lewis’ career.

Eclipse gives off a bit of a Weeknd, “Wicked Games” vibe—throbbing bass and silky vocals included. It’s a style of music that appeals to listeners, but is likely to be compared to the Canadian chart topper. In “Alone,” which features an unidentified female vocalist, a low, slow pulse pumps out as Lewis’ clear voice seeps in. As the beat continues, piano playing is introduced, enhancing the yearning in Lewis’ vocals.

Though the sound of the album is pretty similar to the bass and synth-heavy pop music circulating today, it’s Lewis’ lyrics that make Eclipse surprisingly real and void of theatrics.

While some parts of the album deal with past romantic relationships, Eclipse is a more complete emotional journey. He writes from the years in which he dealt with his father’s mental health, distancing himself from the “rockstar lifestyle,” and rekindling his relationship with his mother.

Admitting his imperfections and past mistakes through unapologetic lyrics separates Lewis from other pop musicians. It’s a personal album, riddled with memories and experiences that most people couldn’t bare to verbalize to their closest confidantes, but Lewis shares them with anyone willing to listen. Despite the personal influences of Eclipse, Lewis phrases his lyrics to be somewhat ambiguous. Close friends and families would likely to be able to pin-point what inspired a specific song, but listeners are just as easily able to take any song on the album and draw parallels with their own lives.

Lewis’ journey to living a more fulfilled life is reflected in “Half Life,” where he sings about, well, living a bare-minimum life. Tsking drums, steady but not overwhelming, fill the track as Lewis sings, “I know I’m cold/And can’t recall/It’s the lie I can’t control/So dark and low/I know you hate how I react.” The track takes on a more upbeat tone, mixing fuzzy key strokes as Lewis’ vocals become passionate during the chorus crooning, “Do you know why I stumble/Down on my knees/I’ve been racing through a half life/And its taken its toll on me.”

Lewis might not have the most outstanding vocals and his instrumentation might not be something fresh, but his lyrics are penetrating. Channeling moments of love, finding oneself, and reconnecting with family aren’t unusual avenues used for inspiration in the past. It’s what Lewis does with those moments and the lyrics he creates, very nearly poetic, that separates him from other artists in the pop world. Continuing to give his lyrics their due credit and attention with future productions will only help Lewis progress further as a musician.

Twin Shadow – Eclipse tracklist:

  1. “Flatliners”
  2. “When the Lights Turn Out”
  3. “To the Top”
  4. “Alone”
  5. “Eclipse”
  6. “Turn Me Up”
  7. “I’m Ready”
  8. “Old Love/New Love”
  9. “Half Life”
  10. “Watch Me Go”
  11. “Locked & Loaded”
Album-art-for-Ripe-4-Luv-by-Young-Guv Young Guv – Ripe 4 Luv


Once upon a time Ben Cook was a child actor, and once upon a time he was a member of the band Fucked Up. Now, he’s going by the name Young Guv for his new solo album Ripe 4 Luv. The album is a weird combination of power pop, garage rock, and retro guitar riffs. Ripe 4 Luv is the meeting point for the various styles that Cook/Guv has been a part of (Fucked Up, Yacht Club, No Warning, Marvelous Darlings). The album is a fresh rendition of Cook’s previous work and influences from a few decades back, resulting in music that is purely his own.

With a retro foundation, Ripe 4 Luv is a nuanced with more complexity and an updated sound. Each song is vaguely reminiscent of a vintage artist; “Kelly, I’m Not A Creep” sounds like The Replacements, “Crawling Back To You” sounds like Cheap Trick, and “Crushing Sensation” sounds like Wham!. Cook managed to melt and revamp these sounds as his own style.

Simplicity carries the album’s lyrics. The concepts for each track are obvious; many of them are about love, but Cook’s annunciation is poor, leading to a lost effectiveness. The vocals are difficult to understand because of an effect put on Cook’s voice, so at times it grows difficult to appreciate the album with entire stanzas of muddled lyrics.

Despite Cook’s obvious influences, plenty of the album’s tracks are not as clearly inspired by older music. “Aquarian” is an example of a more chill, nearly ambient track (reminiscent of Toro y Moi) that has a slow, borderline hip-hop groove. It also has out-there, psychedelic lyrics. The final track, “Wrong Crowd,” is also slower, but much jazzier as Cook’s vocals meander through the more than seven minute long track.

The (almost) title track “Ripe For Love” is a favorite because it is very catchy and poppy, but also satisfies ’80s nostalgia. The way that the song flows is less formulaic than an ’80s pop hit, including quirky synth sounds periodically at the end that disrupt the structure of the chords that run throughout the track.

Ripe 4 Luv isn’t dated by its content, but is rather timeless because of its styling.

It’s an interesting change of pace, too, from Cook’s many other projects, especially considering he is known for being a member of the hard-edged Fucked Up. All in all, Ripe 4 Luv is a skillful project, and Young Guv had potential to become a classic band of its own.

 Young Guv – Ripe 4 Luv tracklist:

  1. Crushing Sensation
  2. Ripe For Love
  3. Crawling Back To You
  4. Aquarian
  5. Kelly, I’m Not A Creep
  6. Dear Drew
  7. Living The Dream
  8. Wrong Crowd
Album-art-for-Eat-Pray-Thug-by-Heems Heems – Eat, Pray, Thug


Eat, Pray, Thug is the stellar solo project of former Das Racist member Heems. Most striking in Eat, Pray, Thug is the honesty and insight Heems expresses through witty and complex rhymes. It is also a musically on-point hip-hop record with unique and beats, thanks to producers Dev Hynes, Boody B, Harry Fraud, and Voidwell. With raps about “9/11 and Heartbreak,” Heems’ immersive way of addressing sensitive topics such as racism, identity, and loss develops the album as thought-provoking beyond its good technical production.

This is Heems’ first album since Das Racist broke up in 2012; however, he has released two mixtapes in the interim. Since splitting off, his music has become more political and profound. It’s one thing to rap lyrics with a political undertone, but it’s another to detail a personal history and struggle to make a point. Eat, Pray, Thug is effective in many capacities, but most importantly, it accessibly articulates Heems’ post-9/11 narrative. Props to him for opening up and expressing very real feelings in this Islamophobic day and age.

Heems is a brilliant lyricist. His barplay is as choice as ever, and some of his most clever lyrics are also the most poignant ones. These lyrics show up in the chorus or bridge, staying stuck in one’s head long after the album is over. On “Flag Shopping,” the chorus ends with, “They wanna Toby us like we Kunta Kinte,” and the track “So NY” ends with the repeated, “I’m so New York yo, I live with my momma/Had to leave Williamsburg and all the white drama/Had to leave my home, they kept calling me Osama/Had to leave my home ‘cause of drones and Obama.”

While Heems sorts through racism and Islamophobia throughout the album, there are tracks in which he handles heartbreak. It is easy to focus on the more political tracks because of their natural force; however, the other topics of the album are equally strong. “Home,” which features Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange), is beautifully composed; the beat is a little awkward, but in a satisfying way. As Hynes plays sorrow-ridden guitar strings in the background, Heems gives a very intimate look into his mind and emotions post-breakup. While the beginning verses are relatively simple, they’re honest and powerful—it’s ballsy to be so candid about a former relationship. Still, the track is clever and a bit humorous, with lines like, “Shorty listen, quit your bitchin’, be my remix to ‘Ignition’.”

Throughout Eat, Pray, Thug Heems perfects his style of snarky, intricate barplay. This album is indeed less humorous than his previous work, but nonetheless clever and engaging. Heems moves into different territory with “Pop Song (Games),” which is Drake-like with a Pop/R&B feel—an effective change of pace on the album.

The beats produced for Eat, Pray, Thug are very distantly related to Das Racist; what’s borrowed is revamped and molded to Heems’ individual style.

Each project has quirks not typical to hip-hop, yet the beats still bump as they should. Most of the time there are contrasting elements that mesh well. The track “Jawn Cage” begins with a dream-like guitar riff before switching to a synth beat and then back to guitar only to include weird glitchy sounds and the synth again.

Heems has come into his own since Das Racist’s “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” so much so that perhaps it isn’t really relevant to reference that track anymore. Heems has always been a good rapper, but not until his more recent work has he transcended into his own space in our hip-hop universe. He is one of a few South Asian rappers getting mainstream press. The experiences he’s recounting while in the spotlight are important to hear, and he knows how to package it in a great hip-hop album.

 Heems – Eat, Pray, Thug tracklist:

  1. Sometimes
  2. So NY
  3. Damn, Girl
  4. Jawn Cage
  5. Flag Shopping
  6. Pop Song (Games)
  7. Home (feat. Dev Hynes)
  8. Hubba Hubba
  9. AL Q8A
  10. Suicide By Cop
  11. Patriot Act


Album-art-for-Aureate-Gloom-by-of-Montreal of Montreal – Aureate Gloom


From shaving cream suits to riding in on white horses, of Montreal is known for its goofy eccentricity. But its latest studio album, Aureate Gloom, pays a more serious homage to New York City’s music history. Gathering inspiration from old NYC haunts of ’70s rockers, the band reaches a vulnerability similar to musicians of that time. Raw and impassioned lyrics mix with electric-rock elements and classic instrumentation on Aureate Gloom, showing that of Montreal’s power hasn’t plateaued decades into its career.

Hailing from Athens, Georgia, of Montreal has served as a revolving door for musicians during it’s near 20-year existence. Having started its career in the late ’90s, of Montreal is identified as one of the Elephant 6 Recording Company artists that acquired a dedicated fan base and commercial success. Elephant 6, originally created by musicians inspired by music of the late ’60s, acted as a starting point for of Montreal until signing its first major record deal with Kindercore Records. Following that, of Montreal’s sound began to adopt the electric pop tone long-time fans have come to expect from the band. But old-school elements inspired by the likes of the Beatles are an ever-present force throughout the band’s discography.

The album’s particular inclusion of classic rock elements with the band’s signature electric rock sound is guided by Kevin Barnes’ two-week writing retreat in New York City. Used as an escape from the people he was writing about, Barnes immersed himself in the city as he believed notable ’70s rock stars (Patti Smith, Tom Verlaine or James Chance to name a few) had in their heydays.

The result? A merging of ringing guitar, rapid, yet rhythmic drumming, and blipping electric keynotes peppered between more anticipated sounds. That mashup of sound is best represented in “Last Rites at the Jane Hotel,” which opens with basic guitar and drums under Barnes’ singing. The vocals shift to harmonious, ethereal crooning as the instrumentation muddles, enhancing the vocal break. Guitar and drums resume, slamming out aggressively as lyrics are spat out word by word. The jarring sound stalls before shifting to high-pitched ringing, like strings thrown into the mix, fading in and out of focus. “Last Rites at the Jane Hotel” shifts one last time, back to the aggressive rocking, which is taken to the song’s end.

At times Aureate Gloom seems like a messy, disarrangement of sounds, layered to create a complex auditory experience. In moments when the sound is more cluttered than cohesive, Aureate Gloom is held together by Barnes’ deeply emotional lyrics. The sensitivity of lyrics and Barnes’ noticeable vulnerability was spurred by a difficult time in his life.

Making use of his lyrics and vocal ability, Barnes varies between spitting out anger-fueled lyrics to wailing about his more painful memories.

This combination of clenching howls and raspy murmuring can be heard on “Empyrean Abattoir.” Barnes starts off muttering, “I’ve been trying to quell my anger/And not feel bitter about all of the darkness you gave me/But it’s the hardest.” As the song builds, he shifts to an accusatory tone, singing, “Whatever happened to your smile/Now no one cares who you are/…Now it’s bad luck to even say your name.”

Barnes’ willingness to expose himself lyrically elevates Aureate Gloom from an okay 13th album with the band’s assumed well-played instruments to one brimming with attention grabbing emotion—a sign that of Montreal is still impressively evolving.

of Montreal – Aureate Gloom tracklist:

  1. “Bassem Sabry”
  2. “Last Rites at the Jane Hotel”
  3. “Empyrean Abattoir”
  4. “Aluminum Crown”
  5. “Virgilian Lots”
  6. “Monolithic Egress”
  7. “Apollyon of Blue Room”
  8. “Estocadas”
  9. “Chthonian Dirge For Uruk the Other”
  10. “Like Ashoka’s Inferno of Memory”
Album-art-for-Sunday-Dinner-by-Keath-Mead Sunday Dinner – Keath Mead


Keath Mead wrote his debut album, Sunday Dinner, after years of development. Though album was produced by Toro y Moi, listeners might not hear any trace of it. Mead’s work is separate from his producer’s—distinct in sound and lyrical content. Mead’s patience allowed him to skip all of the awkward and public experimental phases, growing into his music, and now puts forth happy, upbeat music that captures youth.

The striking fact about Sunday Dinner is that it’s Mead’s debut. The album is so polished—perfectly twee—similar to Belle & Sebastian or Sondre Lerche. It’s nearly unbearable at certain points, leaving listeners questioning the music as disingenuous; it’s saccharine and too cutesy to listen to with its constant, irritating super-sweet appeal.

Mead drew influence from the music of the ’80s and ’90s—the soundtrack to his listeners’ childhoods. The album sounds like a dazed teenager’s summer. Like producer Toro y Moi, Mead has a preference for the past. His nostalgic tone is in the same vein of Mac DeMarco. But this sound is a part of Mead’s persona—his voice always sounds cautious or nervous, like an angst-filled Salinger character. Mead stated that he draws inspiration from aging literary authors—Gabriel Garcia Marquez and William Golding among them.

Mead doesn’t belong in this day and age, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make music for it.

Though Mead’s album is feel good music, it’s not easy listening. The album grows repetitive halfway through, and the same artificial melodies push on. Sunday Dinner is the boy next door: predictable and safe. Mead’s work is so sweet, one feels guilty for listening to it, like it’s an extra chocolate or an unnecessary purchase. But Mead is a sweetheart. He forgives you.

Sunday Dinner is full of sunny, warm tunes about adolescence and romance. Despite the album’s indulgent nostalgia, the project remains distinct with Mead’s world-weary lyrics and nostalgic tunes. The album feels like a secret that Mead confides in the listener: “I was never good at hiding,” he confesses in “Polite Refusal.”

Despite its cutesy-ness, Sunday Dinner occasionally surprises listeners with grave self-reflection and Mead’s critical eye. “Grow up and act your age,” Mead sings, but listening to his music, we all feel a little younger.

Keath Mead – Sunday Dinner tracklist:

  1. “Waiting”
  2. “Grow Up”
  3. “She Had”
  4. “Change”
  5. “Settle For Less”
  6. “Holiday”
  7. “Where I Wanna Be”
  8. “Quiet Room”
  9. “Navy”
  10. “Polite Refusal”
  11. “So Close”
Album-art-for-Tuxedo-by-Tuxedo Tuxedo – Tuxedo


Tuxedo is a new-ish collaborative project from Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One. Though its first album has just been released, the duo began quite some time ago, with a three track teaser release a few years back, attracting massive hype—even Pitbull sampled “Do It.”

Tangling old-school influences with the two artists’ individual sounds, the duo makes a funky neo-soul debut. Tuxedo’s beats are catchy and peppy, and the whip-smart lyrics are an earworm. But even though those first three songs went viral, the full release reveals an inconsistent project with a few standout disco tracks, but others that are frustratingly thin.

“Lost lover, won’t ‘chu come back to me,” serenades listeners on opening track, “Lost Lover,” setting a sultry vibe for the rest of the album. While there is no denying Tuxedo’s grooviness, the tracks often enter clichéd territory, as the duo hasn’t solidified its creative stamp yet. “R U Ready” features a kitschy, fake laser sound, adding an element of tackiness. However, despite these eye-roll inducing bits, the album is so much fun that listeners might keep dancing anyway.

“Do It,” the album’s overly premature single, best captures the sensual groove Tuxedo is going for. The track is a modernized nod to ’70s funk and disco. The song’s originality shines through the structure of the track and the use of organic sounds. Listeners are used to hearing EDM beats and the like amidst the current electronic landscape. So, with Tuxedo, the progressive sound stands out in combination with its old-school influences. “Number One” also works as an update to a classic soul/funk sound that the duo made its own with a more contemporary use of synth.

Frustration with Tuxedo is found in how synthetically perfect the beats sound. On tracks such as “Two Wrongs,” the instrumentals sound as though they were constructed on a laptop as opposed to actual drums, bass and guitar, as they would have been 40 years ago. The manufactured sound is disappointing; the duo could have followed through with live instruments. Records that mom and dad had back in the day still had a little roughness around the edges, even on studio tracks.

Tuxedo‘s sounds are so polished they may as well squeak.

While Tuxedo isn’t a full-blown #tbt, it’s on its way there, and the neo-soul grooves can carry listeners dancing in the night. With the popularity of D’Angelo, Robin Thicke, Jungle, and Pharrell lately, this album has a place in the current music scene. This project is somewhat timely as disco and soul are making a comeback. Some of the tracks are perfectly crafted, but others are shallow and safe; the album wasn’t as stylistically nuanced as hoped.

Hawthorne and One are risk-free, with tracks such as “So Good” sounding like Soul Train ripoffs.

Tuxedo isn’t all flawed, though—it has a sense of humor and a personality of its own. Hawthorne’s independent work has a vibe similar to this album’s, but his solo efforts are more substantive than the sound of Tuxedo. One is a beat maker whose tracks have a hip-hop throb with R&B’s sensuality. Occasionally, it seems clear who is responsible for certain parts of a given track on Tuxedo; however, the distinct styles of each are lost when they try to make music of a very certain era. Tuxedo sounds more like a ’70s replica than an original work. Still, the album is wicked fun, but it doesn’t feel right listening to new works of an old era with timeless classics.

Tuxedo – Tuxedo tracklist:

  1. “Lost Lover”
  2. “R U Ready”
  3. “Watch the Dance”
  4. “So Good”
  5. “Two Wrongs”
  6. “Tuxedo Groove”
  7. “I Got U”
  8. “The Right Time”
  9. “Roll Along”
  10. “Get U Home”
  11. “Do It”
  12. “Number One”
Album-art-for-Bad-News-Boys-by-The-King-Khan-&-BBQ-Show The King Khan & BBQ Show – Bad News Boys


Returning from its nearly six year hiatus, Montreal duo, The King Khan & BBQ Show, has put forth its first release since breaking up. The new album, Bad News Boys, incorporates the best of the band’s past records—garage punk elements and soothing harmonies—serving as reminders of its solid production capabilities. The duo splits duties evenly, both members playing an array of instruments and switching on and off vocally. Despite spending the past decade mastering its signature sound, with a purpose of framing the unrestrained lyrics, this mastery has consequently led every album of the band’s to sound the same. While Bad New Boys features the usual cohesive instrumentation and intriguing lyricism with brave consistency, there’s no trace of experimentation; the band has produced yet another carbon copy of its debut album.

Canada native The King Khan & BBQ Show are products of two former bands—Spaceshits and Les Sexareenos. Mark Sultan, performing as BBQ Show, started Les Sexareenos following his and King Khan’s departure from Spaceshits in 1999. BBQ then left Les Sexareenos, too, pursuing a new project with King Khan in the early 2000s, spurring the birth of The King Khan & BBQ Show, though the first release wasn’t until 2004.

No elaborate techniques or instruments are used on Bad News Boys, but the basics serve these guys well.

The album gives off a chill, retro-surf vibe, which sounds a bit reserved for a duo as eccentric as The King Khan & BBQ Show. The record slides from upbeat, meticulous strumming and drumming on “Illumination” and “D.F.O.,” to slower paced songs paired with ballad-style lyrics. Khan’s soothing vocals enhance the different messages behind each song, tackling topics of love, pressure to be an idol, and societal frustrations, Bad News Boys is lyrically sound.

“Kiss My Sister’s Fist” serves as a warning to a sister’s love interest. Chanting over fast-paced guitar and drumming, creating an anxious, crazed tone, Khan sings, “Watch and wait/She’s launching/Her bait/I hope for your sake she ain’t hungry/…Well I hope you’re an organ donor/Cause she won’t take no prisoner.”

The aggressiveness heard on “Kiss My Sister’s Fist,” trickles into “D.F.O.,” the most abrasive and shortest track on the album. A “Fuck you!” from Khan opens the track before thunderous drumming roars out over slamming guitar riffs. What follows sounds more like Khan stringing angry, partial sentences together, rather than cohesive thoughts. The song is unexpectedly abrasive and doesn’t fit with the rest of Bad News Boys lyrically or musically.

A better reflection of the duo’s lyrical skills is found in ballad-style, “BuyByeBhai.”  Lighter in tonality, Khan howls out lyrics concerning a lover he no longer wishes to dedicate his time or attention to. With a certain rawness to his voice he wails, “Little girl/Soon to be haunting my dreams/So baby/Oh baby/Hear you cry cry cry/Soon we’ll be drifting apart/… Ain’t not use in calling my name/Cause I won’t be there this time/No I won’t.”

The instruments on Bad News Boys are cohesively layered with neither the lyrics nor the music overwhelming the other. Unfortunately, the repetitious nature that blankets the album can’t be overlooked. As a band so overtly confident in its musical ability, why wouldn’t some experimentation be attempted—especially after a return from a lengthy break? Sure, old fans will enjoy Bad News Boys, but how is The King Khan & BBQ Show expected to grow as musicians if the same album is produced every time it makes new music? It’s not fair to the duo or its fans to settle on the same sound formula it has already experienced success from.

The King Khan & BBQ Show – Bad News Boys tracklist:

  1. “AloneAgain”
  2. “Illumination”
  3. “KissMySister’sFist”
  4. “BuyByeBhai”
  5. “D.F.O.”
  6. “WeAreTheChampion”
  7. “When Will I Be Tamed?”
  8. “Ocean of Love”
  9. “Snackin’ After Midnight”
  10. “Killing the Wolfman”
  11. “Never Felt Like This”
  12. “Zen Machines”
Album-art-for-Gliss-Riffer-by-Dan-Deacon Dan Deacon – Gliss Riffer


One doesn’t just forget a man as wild as Dan Deacon. Known for performing in crowds rather than onstage, and managing to get a tour bus running off of garbage rather than gasoline, his quirky, experimental lifestyle align’s with the music he makes. So, it should be no surprise to long time Deacon fans that after dipping his toes in the realm of composing classical music, his return to electric pop is just as weird and uniquely Deacon as previous albums. Deacon has delved back into his electronic roots for his 16th studio album, Gliss Riffer. Though noticeably more vocally present, he retains his fuzzy, cluttered beats, and pairs them with personal lyrics of reflection and revelation.

Deacon has melded an unusual mix of musical genres throughout the course of his 12-year career. In the span of 2014, he had his Carnegie Hall debut, toured with Arcade Fire, and found the time to write and record Gliss Riffer. Spending the last 4 years dedicated to classical music (both composing and performing) has shaped and inspired his latest creation. And creation it is, for the vocals heard on the album—even the hyper-feminine bits—are solely Deacon’s.

Deacon records music at a slower tempo, yet sings normally, when he is unable to hit a certain harmony—the same technique used by the Beatles. Once both parts are recorded, he speeds the music up to create the girly vocals heard on Gliss Riffer. Those familiar with Deacon’s previous work are well-acquainted with his usual vocal absence, but an oral injury suffered during the end of his America tour inspired the vocal-heavy album. His sudden willingness to include more vocals—one he credits to a recent revelation that he won’t be able to sing forever—and unique manner in creating them, is a reflection of his dedication to his craft.

Though as glitch-y and distorted as Deacon ever is, Gliss Riffer is more subdued in tone.

Elements of electric pop are present, but even with multi-instrument layering the tracks never overwhelm. The final song of the album, “Steely Blues,” opens with a low, reverberating sound, like radio frequency that gradually transitions to a higher pitch creating an ominous, space-like tone. The higher frequency then transitions back to the lower pitch, flipping throughout the track’s entirety. When a dual-tone blipping is introduced, “Steely Blues” sounds like something from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The blipping intensifies, and the humming fades in and out before the song dissolves and leaves listeners in total silence for the track’s final minute.

Gliss Riffer’s first single, “Feel the Lightning,” uses high-pitched pings and bings layered over trilling notes and a variety of vocal effects to create a lively, upbeat song with a twinge of space tonality. The hazy quality of the track is married well to Deacon’s vocal style. Despite an occasional lack of lyrical clarity, “Feel the Lightning” is a vibrant and uplifting start to an album teeming with personal influences.

This is why the lyrics resonate so deeply. “When I Was Done Dying,” the track Deacon says best represents him lyrically, reflects a never ending inner-turmoil. Deacon sings/chants over the only acoustic guitar heard on Gliss Riffer, “And I said all my prayers/Because surely I died/As I crashed down and smashed into earth into dirt/How my skin didn’t explode/Leaving only my shirt.” When a distorted ringing begins to move in and out of focus, Deacon passionately continues, “And I wandered around/With my roots and my leaves/And I tore up the shirt/And I ate up the sleeves.” The strife is almost tangible in the minimally edited vocals.

Though Deacon is capable of producing music with more complex layering, his willingness to get vulnerable lyrically is what truly elevates Gliss Riffer above his previous releases.

Gliss Riffer has the flair and creativity Deacon fans will immediately recognize as his. Though his lyrics are overwhelmed at times, his willingness to pare back and bare all with vocals serves the album well. It feels and sounds personal, and the experiences Deacon has encountered as a musician help generate a well-produced album that will resonate with fans.

Dan Deacon – Gliss Riffer tracklist:

  1. “Feel the Lightning”
  2. “Sheathed Wings”
  3. “When I Was Done Dying”
  4. “Meme Generator”
  5. “Mind On Fire”
  6. “Learning to Relax”
  7. “Take It to the Max”
  8. “Steely Blues”
Album-art-for-Vestiges-&-Claws-by-Jose-Gonzalez José González – Vestiges & Claws


One wonders where the elusive José González has been these past five years. Each of this Swedish musician’s carefully crafted albums of the past have been a story. His earlier work Veneer sounded like the first act of a romantic play, but was barely enough to sate the listener. There was something lacking, an element of depth absent from the story. After Veneer’s release González vanished, and it seemed he would never release anything else—until now. And now, his newfound intimacy feels like an honest musical love letter.

On Vestiges & Claws, González returns to his guitar with a more mature perspective. The formula is no different: man and his guitar. But Vestiges & Claws is the kind of grown-up, fully-realized album that González has never reached before.

On opening track, “With the ink of a ghost,” González’s guitar strumming accompanies existential and anxious lyrics, stirring an emotional, stark feeling in the listener. The sound is best described as refined lo-fi recording—still intimately recorded, but in a more sophisticated way than on albums past. Still, Vestiges & Claws’ differences are in subject matter and presentation rather than actual sound.

González also experiments with simple ways to embrace his guitar’s sound: clapping, stomping his foot, bells, all tools of the folk trade. Experimentation with different finger-picking techniques and beats distinguish each song. He grooves along with his guitar, crooning and getting to know the listener—sounding eerily similar to Nick Drake. The album’s presentation feels older, more shapely, more like something crafted by an auteur than the average musician.

On “Open book,” González confesses, “I feel just like an open book.” He continues, “I found myself in hell,” pulling at the heartstrings of his listeners. He then whistles, lonely and wise, to end the song. Gonzalez’s work isn’t optimistic, but it isn’t exactly depressing, either; it’s realistic, a stark portrait of what goes on, really, in life. His contemplative themes address the anxieties that plague all of us. Essentially, González makes effective music for the human condition.

“What’s the point of it all without you?” González asks earnestly. Vestiges & Claws demonstrates emotional growth as he doesn’t ask why someone doesn’t love him, but instead begs to know how they came to feel that way.

Those long years without a new González album were worth it, because something intimate and emotionally resonant was bubbling.

González’s lyrical shift from Veneer is increasingly abstract. He moves away from simple love songs, now composing heart-wrenching pieces about isolation and loss, the defining characteristic of his newly matured sound. Though content changes, the form remains just as entrancing. He ushers in a new age of embracing more substantive themes. González puts it most succinctly himself, “Every age has its turn.”

One wonders what moved González in this new serious, emotive direction. He reveals his secret to the listener in Vestiges & Claws: “A couple of words is all it took.”

José González – Vestiges & Claws tracklist:

  1. “With the ink of a ghost”
  2. “Let it carry you”
  3. “Stories we build, stories we tell”
  4. “The forest”
  5. “Leaf off/The cave”
  6. “Every age”
  7. “What will”
  8. “Vissel”
  9. “After glow”
  10. “Open book”