By: Keir Bristol
The party’s over. The police have stopped by the house, now strewn with empty PBR cans, more than once. But the night doesn’t stop there. Everyone knows that Thirsty Thursdays wouldn’t be complete without the drunken 2 A.M. freestyling session, complete with tin garbage cans serving as drums.
Prozilla takes this a couple of steps further - in fact, he takes it from the back of a sketchy alley after a house party to a sober, D-I-Y mixing session. His latest, The Recess Mixtape, seems like a modern twist on 90’s hip hop. Meaning, if his mixtape was produced about 15-20 years ago, his music could be grouped with the likes of A Tribe Called Quest and Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth in terms of style, lyrical content, and flow.
The Recess Mixtape boasts a track listing ranging from slow rap jams (“Closer to My Dreams”) to potential underground party bangers (“No Stoppin’”). It shouldn’t be too taken seriously - not in the sense that it isn’t a good mixtape of course, but in that it was meant to be a fun project, for people to listen to while they are having fun. And I don’t mean fun as Ke$ha waking up as a rich Black man and hitting on Mick Jagger look-a-likes. I mean easily attainable fun, as in lets have a beer, sit down with some friends, listen to some good music and have a conversation sprinkled with inside jokes.
Now, what sets Prozilla apart from the other rappers on the radio these days? He’s talented, he’s fun, and he raps about what he knows. Prozilla doesn’t rap about being rich, because he’s NOT (that’s not to say that he doesn’t rap about eventually becoming rich, but I’m sure that’s to pay for those college bills he’s racking up). He raps about women, but he doesn’t only rap about meaningless sex with them. Instead, he takes a smooth beat (think urban art exhibit opening in New York City meets house band at a classy restaurant), and raps coherently about his daily life and thoughts. It’s relatable, and it’s real.
Take a trip back to your childhood; recess was the fun part of school. And that’s exactly what this mixtape is. FUN.
By: Keir Bristol
Ryan Lee Crosby’s latest, Out to Dry, is the blueprint to an opener to that indie-rock concert that you’ve been looking forward to all week. You know that opening band that no one has heard of or cares about? The performer people listen to silently and applaud mildly after every song and at the end of the set to be polite? That’s what Ryan Lee Crosby’s new album is.
It is an album of mediocre folk rock songs that follows a formula: pretty piano melodies and guitar chords, sprinkles of harmonica, pleasant voice singing in tune, repetitive, cliché lyrics about love, seasons, memories, and old men dying, sprinkled with frequent references to alcoholism. In fact, here’s an outline of the entire album.
1. “The Old Man Dreamed of Dope”: an old man is dying.
2. “Big Takeover”: political commentary.
3. “Winter of ‘05”: memories of past love.
4. “Baby Brother”: fucked up family.
5. “Some Serious Help”: fucked up relationship.
6. “Angela”: fucked up relationship + alcohol.
7. “Summer’s Come”: memories of a fucked up relationship.
8. “Old Lovers”: my ex made a comeback.
9. “Everyday Escape”: get me the hell out of here.
10. “Nicoline”: I’m in love with a really hot chick.
Unfortunately, Crosby’s ingredients for “Out to Dry,” does not a stand out album make. It doesn’t sound like anything that you haven’t heard before in the beginning of that rock concert, or the one guy with the
guitar in a crowd of literary buffs that the supervisor thought would be a nice break between all the slam poetry pieces.
Or perhaps he just hasn’t mastered the formula yet. Maybe if Crosby improved his lyrics and varied the tempo, content, and melodies of his songs, his second album will be more memorable.
By: Melissa Saunders
As a whole, Casey Desmond’s Chilly Allston (2008) EP is an upbeat, pleasant pop album. Her fiery red tresses and soulful vocals might garner some comparisons to Bonnie McKee, or the Postal Service if Jenny Lewis helmed lead vocals. It’s apparent that Desmond has a knack for arrangements and solid vocal delivery - in addition to singing vocals, she plays guitar, piano, accordion, synths, omnichord, and does programming. It’s interesting to hear how sharp her sound is - for female pop artists who choose to delve into an electronic-tinged sound, it usually means that their songs are often glossy and overproduced (Ke$ha, you’re on notice!) but for Desmond this is not the case.
The title track opens with plucky bleeps and Desmond’s ethereal, harmonious vocals. The dance-y, up tempo beat is cleverly juxtaposed with dark lyrics: “you’re moments from the height of it, but only seconds from the fall” and, “Anarchy on the freeway/no one’s gonna tell you how to drive/no one’s gonna stop you from melting tires.” There’s a refreshing absence of studio tricks to obscure her clear, confident and charming voice. The song serves as the perfect soundtrack to a Friday night walking down Harvard Avenue amidst the iridescent pearls of streetlights and neon signs of bars. As the song comes to the bridge, it shifts from a cautionary tale to a universal cry of feeling lost in the misé en scene of the city’s overwhelming external stimuli.
An airy backdrop of the music plays second fiddle to Desmond’s spirited vocals in the angst-y, stirring “Heavy Heavy Heart”, which finds Desmond singing lines such as, “Melancholy feels glorious”. If Paramore’s Hayley Williams grabbed a keyboard, a bottle of Manic Panic Vampire Red hair dye and cured her voice with a little more sweetness, it might result in this soaring ballad.
The jangly piano sounds of “Preacher Man” are vaguely reminiscent of Elliott Smith’s “Son of Sam”, from Figure 8, but as far as composition and lyrics, the comparison ends there. Desmond ungainly tries to mimic gospel-soul and the result are unfortunate. The forced-rhymed lyrics seem lazy and half-hearted. Vocals are sung in a mock bad girl style. When Desmond embraces pop sensibilities in other songs off Chilly Allston, they are given more depth and edge. One cannot deny, however, the saucy self-abasement of Desmond throwing herself at a pious man of God. If Chilly Allston was turned into an LP and released on a major label, “Preacher Man” would, no doubt, be a top contender for second single. Ultimately, it just sounds like awkward filler material; it’s the only bump in an otherwise consistent and smooth-flowing album.
Redemption does come for Desmond, however, in the form of “Any Wonder”, a darkly enchanting, gothic ballad. While her vocals evoke the style and timbre of Nicole Atkins, this song brings back the pensive yet upbeat mood of the album. Equal parts heart-wrenching pop ballad, “Any Wonder” is a wise choice to close the EP, as the hypnotizing and dark magnetism leave the listener wanting more. Casey Desmond’s prowess in songwriting, arrangement and composition paired with her winsome vocals show great promise; maybe either further than her scarlet-haired contemporaries.
Casey Desmond will definitely have the indie pop/electronic crowd dancing when she plays the weekly THROWED (18+) event at the Middle East - this Thursday, April 15th.
By: John Mabery
Colin Cannon’s In Summary (2009) is proof there is fresh talent in the world of jazz music deserving of mainstream exposure. Often times more in the vain of Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way (1968) or Chick Corea’s Light as a Feather (1973) than some of the heavier fusion that exists, Cannon and his band have created a diversely beautiful album that will hopefully warrant them some serious exposure as we move forward into the new decade.
Cannon’s guitar wizardry will appeal even to listeners who fancy themselves more rock aficionados than jazz, particularly those who enjoy the work of David Gilmour. The down-tempo tracks, such as “For The Record” and “A Fading Cause,” give Cannon the opportunity to flex his muscles as he travels up and down the scales. Massive amounts of praise should also be heaped upon the backing band – if one could even call them that since this is a band that truly plays as one. Bassist Zak Croxall and drummer Tom Hartman (giving Ron Carter and Tony Williams a run for their money) hold it down with one of their tightest grooves on “Truffaz,” the rhythm section’s crowning achievement, before a particularly awe-inspiring freak-out from Cannon. Pianist Manami Morita, who is the heart and soul of this band, interplays beautifully with Cannon on album highlight “MCB,” in which Cannon trades in his electric guitar for an acoustic.
But the band tackles the more familiar, heavier aspects of fusion on the earlier moments of the album, and they do it in fine fashion. Listen to the band members count themselves in at the beginning of “Dear Lydian,” a personal favorite, where they sound more like a punk band than a jazz quartet, before firing on all cylinders. Or on the album opener, “The Berklee Cage,” where Cannon proves himself to be the heir to Jon McLaughlin’s throne as the Almight of Fusion Guitar.
In Summary sounds like a classic album by a group of seasoned veterans, but it’s not. And that’s what makes this album, and this group, so great. Instead, it’s an instant classic by a disciplined and energetic crop of young musicians who know their history. Seek out this album and Colin Cannon’s next live show…now.
By: Django Gold
Movers and Shakers are Americana, big time. In the midst of rough vocals, jangly guitars, four-on-the-floor drumming, and a shimmering organ, their music evokes late-night diners, country highways, pick-up basketball games, and fly-fishing. In a diverse selection of songs, the band captures much of the ambience of the Yankee experience, which is to say that they take a down-home musical thread and run with it.
The songs are highly atmospheric, with more emphasis on textures than on hooks. Take “Movin’ On,” a roadtrip rocker whose layered guitars and ballpark organ backing color a warm summer evening—very pleasant. Or “Take Me Home,” which combines a lo-fi punk aesthetic with boogie woogie piano through the verses and choruses, only to climax into a beautifully understated horn theme that floats on prairie winds. And then there’s the delicate mandolin and understated vocals of “A Goddamn Miracle,” an introspective jaunt that takes advantage of the spaces in between the notes.
Movers and Shakers aren’t solely Roots rock, though; they show off a number of odder pieces, such as the Tom Waits-y “Boom Splat,” which transitions through a raucous barroom blues and a Dropkick Murphys chorus, before breaking apart into a nifty musique concréte coda. Not entirely successful is “Lola,” an echo-y psychedelic dirge that overstays its welcome by more than a few minutes. But, such risk-taking aside, Movers and Shakers is a healthy slice of American pie, and well worth a listen.
Movers and Shakers perform Friday, November 6th at The Middle East Downstairs with Cassavettes, You Can Be A Wesley, and Quixote.