Archived Review: Cassino – Kingprince

This is an old review I wrote in 2010 for Cassino’s album “Kingprince” for AbsolutePunk.net. With AP shutting down, I’m saving a couple of reviews.

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In early 2005, Nick Torres and Tyler Odom emerged from the ashes of Northstar as the creatively reenergized indie folk band, Cassino. Their 2007 debut, Sounds of Salvation, developed the lighter, acoustic singer-songwriting of Pollyanna’s “Two Zero Two” and added earthy accompaniments like mandolins, saxophones and lap guitars to eleven tight, concise tracks filled with insightful, abstract lyrics.

The avenue is at it again, with a mouth that swallows men, and it fills my words with smoke and broke amen’s.

Two years later, Nick Torres has returned alone with Kingprince, broadening the sound of Salvation to birth a new morning for Cassino. Continue reading

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Year In Review: 2015 Overlooked Albums

2015 EOTY List

2015 has been an incredible year of music, with a number of high profile records that I’ve spent a lot of time connecting with. They are not on this list.

Though I’ve been thinking about To Pimp A Butterfly since the night it fell from the sky, no one should need a recommendation from me to check it out. So instead of another End of the Year list with paragraphs about why Sufjan Stevens released a quietly perfect heartbreaker, I wanted to jump in with some of my favorite 2015 albums that might have flown under your radar. The first two write-ups are lengthy, but everything else is more to the point. I also include a few tracks under each section, in case you’re interested in hearing something immediately.

Continue reading

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Year in Review: 2015 Musical Superlatives

2015 EOTY List

Excited to spend the next couple weeks writing about my favorite underrated albums and songs. Here’s a few thoughts to kick it off before I go more in-depth with future posts.

Favorite Album
Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle

julien baker sprained ankle

If you haven’t listened to it yet, please do. My thoughts on the album are documented here.

Favorite Song
Jamie xx feat. Popcaan & Young Thug – “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”

Top 10 reasons I love this song: Continue reading

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Recommend Tracks: Jeremih

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Why are we even pretending that we should listen to things besides the new Jeremih album? Late Nights: The Album dropped out of nowhere after more than three years of teasing fans, and it’s filled with so many incredible tracks that you should stop reading this and just throw it on.

Still here? Alright, here’s five of my favorites:

“Pass Dat”

I knew this album was going to be special as soon as I heard the doubled falsetto hook that kicks this off, which is designed to catch ears when you randomly throw it on at a Christmas party (like I’m about to do in an hour). The song’s blooping production feels like a low grade fever. After listening to it a few times, I’m struck by how minimal everything is kept. He finds this groove and just grinds it out. Jeremih’s singing delivery throughout the album feels like the natural complement to all of these rappers that are singing, carving out a singing lane that places so much emphasis on hitting those rhythmic swings.

“Oui”

Simplest hook ever, but clever enough that no one’s done it yet: “There’s no Oui without U and I.” This is possibly my favorite love jam of the year, and so many of its best moments are wordless (which feels appropriate). Those “Aww-yeah, aww-yeah, aww-YEAHs” that build out the background make for perfect singsongs, and the vocal breakdown in the song’s bridge is another gem of songwriting talent.

“Giv No Fuks [Feat. Migos]”

Are Migos secretly the most versatile rappers in the game? I’m still not convinced they have a distinct sound, but recent collaborations with Chance the Rapper, R Kelly, and now Jeremih have all created songs that feel like they’re pushing those artists’ boundaries while still seeming authentic. “Giv No Fuks” is an absolute banger, one of those songs you can put on from pregame to sun-up and somehow get more energy out of it each time.

“Woosah [Feat. Juicy J & Twista]”

One thing I’ve yet to mention about this album: like its mixtape predecessor, it is dirty as fuck. Jeremih loves to have sex, and reminds listeners of this fact on every song. Sometimes it comes off charming, sometimes it’s a bit cartoonish, and sometimes it’s just annoyingly insistent, a throbbing reminder of what Jeremih & co. think you should be doing. (J Cole and Big Sean both overstep with verses that get a little too graphic from rappers who aren’t good at that sort of thing, like those dudes at the party who are trying to kick game when they’ve had a few too many drinks.)

The culmination of this on Late Nights is “Woosah”, which is everything a sex jam should be: graphic, longing, assured, and seductive. From the first screwed-up vocal, it sounds like he’s already set the mood. (It’s completely intentional; there’s samples of a crackling fireplace in the background.) For five and a half minutes, Jeremih proceeds to sweet talk exactly what he wants and how, with double-take lyrics that have me simultaneously rewinding and blushing. And just when it feels like the—errr, session—is over, Twista comes through with a tacked-on verse that speeds everything right back up. It’s like a sex rhythm literalized in song.

Paradise

After a late night of debauchery, Jeremih sends the album off with the perfect hangover song. No drums or intricate production, just simple guitar arpeggios and Jeremih stacking some beautiful vocals to create an ode to that morning haze. “That was one hell of a party” he sings, and I’m right there with him.

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First Impressions: Pusha T – Darkest Before Dawn

Pusha T brings heat to late December with the best hip hop album of the year.

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Pusha T is the perfect artist to release an incredible album in December.

December is traditionally a weird time of year for the music industry. Most major publications have already released their end-of-the-year lists, and super fans are busy catching up on the obscure albums that NPR is telling them they missed. The Adeles of the world have put out their big Q4 releases in time for Black Friday, and there’s a general sense of being worn out on new music discovery. The month is a blur of taking stock in what we have or should have been listening to, with less noteworthy stuff coming out in the few weeks before the holidays.

Except, of course, for the one or two incredible albums each that come out of nowhere and completely rip the “traditional” paradigm up. Continue reading

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First Impressions: Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle

Julien Baker’s startling debut is raw emotion, one of the best albums of the year.

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Music like Julien Baker’s could save us all.

I wanted to let that breathe for a second, because I can’t think of the last time I’ve felt someone’s music speak to me on such a visceral level.

In my mind, the closest analog for Sprained Ankle‘s emotional nakedness is the Hotelier’s last record, though they couldn’t be further apart sonically. The Hotelier is clearly a full band effort, with music swelling and crashing around Christian Holden’s broken shout like wind around a tornado’s eye. There’s barely a drumbeat on Sprained Ankle. Julien mostly lingers over looping Elliott Smith-like guitar figures, perhaps a spare piano or string instrument. Every moment feels purposefully restrained, like she’s wrapping a string tight around her wrist over and over until it draws blood. It’s catharsis by contraction instead of cacophony.

Continue reading

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Poem: “flight”

the-dance-of-leaves-when-the-autumn-leaves-blow-joseph-brauer

flight

I don’t think when we die

that we go anywhere at all;

breaking down to sparest wisps

of dirt and seed.

It’s no different from the Leaf

who never chooses when to fall;

but only hopes his end is prolonged by

some revelatory Breeze.

So he can travel, ever-hoping,

to some field of no tomorrows;

breaking down the certain hand

of gravity.

And the same way that the Leaf

cannot curse the Hand that plucked him;

so as it goes for me.

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