PORTALS: ALBUMS 2012
In so many ways, humans are animalistic. Our basest of natures are evident at every turn. The unbridled rage that boils in you when something happens to someone you love, the loss of reason when you’re too tired, too hungry, too horny. And yet we, these primal beings, have for thousands of years been making music. Something so unequivocally unnatural, not animal. And even as the landscape of music, and its “industry”, changes with every passing moment, never once has the end of music been a real fear. It is something intrinsic to who we are, if not a total and complete mystery. And in our modern lives, music seems to lend itself to moments, creating soundtracks to our memories; nuancing and enhancing our experiences.
The albums written about below were the soundtracks to our lives this year. Here are the experiences we remember them by.
You may or may not know this, but I am a father. And as my small family grows, the music we listen to together seems to lock itself into my memory, always reminding me of those important moments of elation and joy. In the past, albums from artists like Future Islands, Youth Lagoon, Animal Collective, and Kurt Vile cemented their sounds into our history. Future Islands and Animal Collective were easy to pinpoint—they were the first sounds we listened to after Elias (older brother, 3 years old) and Liam (younger brother, 19 months old) were born. Youth Lagoon became a family favorite (and it scored a short family film I put together). When Liam was just a few months old I sang Kurt Vile’s Smoke Ring For My Halo to him often while rocking him in my arms as the day turned to night. Moments…and music I will cherish forever.
This year Yung Life’s debut S/T album has achieved this honor. This album was so easy to love. The pop sound perfected on it reflects so much of my 1980′s childhood favorites. The lyrics and well-spun hooks are superb and show a notable growth in sound for the band. When I first heard the single, “Isn’t This”, I was surprised how successful the band was in transitioning from their lo-fi diamond Youth’s Hours. Sometimes when a lo-fi natured artist makes that jump a lot of their personal audio fingerprints get wiped out, but in this case their identity is heightened.
All these things aside, this album really took its hold on me in a whole other way. There’s about an hour of time after dinner where the music gets turned up…and we, as a family, just dance. This period is the pinnacle of my day—I work from 9-5 and savor the seemingly small amount of time I get to just let loose with my boys before they head to bed. Yung Life’s S/T album was a featured album on many of these nights this year. It brought out Liam’s gangsta lean and Elias’ modern leaps. Many bizarre and laughter inducing dance moves were invented and practiced to this LP (most notable being “The Fly Swatter” or Elias’ patented “Booty Dance”—I will teach them to you if you dare ask!).
Thank you, Yung Life.
It is rain in my face.’s S/T LP knows itself. It knows who it is, how it is who it is, and perhaps even why who it is matters. It’s itself, individual in the way most individuals can only attempt to be. It’s fidgety, squirming between imposing decisions, stuttering through indecision, with a discord that isn’t polarizing, or even confusing, but familiar. Its sense of intimacy comes from its unrest, restlessly contrasting its temperament with that of the opposite; rustic, sympathetic vocals, and hurried, manipulated beats. It argues with itself and second-guesses itself. It tip toes around conflict while it creates it. Each song contemplates some decision we as the listener can only decide we know.
This year, I’ll submit four applications to four colleges. In four months I will have decided where I’ll likely be for the following four years. I will have answered the same four tiresome questions some four billion times, so it seems. I will have argued with myself and second guessed myself and made truce with myself more times than I would wish upon anyone—and this will feel, and does already feel, strange. For someone who’s nearly always certain, being certain of certain uncertainties is unfamiliar. It’s fretful and fearful, conducive to waterworks and paper cuts and the staples of teenage-hood which need not to be named. But, there are certain certainties which I am certain of, which I haven’t been certain of before… myself. I know who I am, in the way all my age feel the need to proclaim, and know that I’ll change. Of those four colleges, I know where I want to be, but I don’t know that I will be there, and somehow, that feels ok.
It is rain in my face.’s S/T LP knows who it is, but as it ping-pongs between opposing musical landscapes, it seems it doesn’t quite know where to be… until it’s over. As the album concludes, a truce is made between the many arguments and sub-arguments, self-consciousness, and confidence of the bits that compose it. It finds its place. This year, this album has reminded me that uncertainty is ok—sometimes we need reminders. Uncertainty can be disappointing, it’s usually frightening, at times it’s isolating, but more often than not, it ends. What is uncertain becomes certain, and new uncertainties arise. This album trusts itself. I trust myself in a way I could before only claim. It wades through indecision, as I do. It finds its place, as I will. Until then, I’ll keep listening.
Mister Lies: Hidden Neighbors (Self-Released)
2012 began with me tiding over the post-Christmas lull with SoundCloud refreshes and some half-conceived New Year’s Resolution about finding music that’s outside of my usual parameters. A renewed love for gadgetry and modern day composition contributed to this. Holly Herndon’s assertion that the laptop is the most powerful, significant instrument of them all sang true. It was a similar notion that led me to shun guitars for a good few months and to revel in the artistry of all things electronic. Fruitless hours were spent trawling through Bandcamp pages and tags and recommendations in an attempt to redefine my taste. I was convinced that this effort of challenging my boundaries and giving myself a new perspective on music would pay off. It eventually did. Nick Zanca’s first work is significant because it kickstarted a process that eventually snowballed, altered my taste entirely and the content on my own site and, if I’m to be completely truthful, might have had some impact on me eventually being asked to write for PORTALS.
The Hidden Neighbors EP itself: “Morgan” encompasses all the crossover artists that I already adored; Burial’s seismic underground pulse standing tall. “False Astronomy” goes further, its sample angelic and true. At the time it sounded like nothing I’d heard before and must have introduced me to half a dozen of Mister Lies’ contemporaries. “Cleam” delights as a simmering, understated swansong, matching the opener in an ability to haunt and calm in equal measure.
The whole ‘expanding tastes’ aspect is only one tiny facet of the EP’s significance. It’ll stick with me, way beyond the moment December departs. Like Luke Abbott’s “Holkham Drones”, Walls’ “Coracle”, it’s a work that accompanies almost every aspect of my daily working life. It calms me on trips onto campus as I walk past strangers and contemplate whether to make eye contact with passers by. It reassures me when I ask myself if I’m going to be able to afford, not least have the courage required for, a move to London next year. It’s immersive when you want it to be, and nothing but an ether effect when I have to concentrate and balance work work and music work. It is all things at once: A stranger in the distance and a close friend.
There is something that is so particularly alluring and immensely special about Native Eloquence’s debut self-titled EP. Five intimately woven songs about time and love that hit me harder than anything else that I heard in 2012. These five songs were the songs that I would crawl inside of when I was feeling especially lonely, depressed, unambitious, or unimaginative. They would seep into my skin and wrap themselves around me like a thick coiled blanket, slowly elevating me to a much higher level of consciousness. These five songs kept me feeling alive, focused, strong, and inspired throughout a very emotionally challenging year.
On this short, but completely mesmerizing wonder of an EP, electronic and organic sounds peacefully rest on the same plane. The first track, “Loomings”, gently eases you into an abstracted dream world with crashing waves of droning ambience. You then fall in deeply with “Easy Winter” and “Whalebone”, two bubbling beat experiments that break away from traditional instrumentation and set out to explore the unknown digital realm. “Everythingisforaday” brings you back to reality—a somber, jazz-influenced piece that cries wistfully in the wind. Then, everything subtly comes to an end with the soft mellowing tune, “The Old Man and the Alcotts”, and Native Eloquence delivers some of the most strikingly poignant lyrics of the year…
I feel the years on top of my shoulders, time is on my hands…
I had seen Daughn Gibson‘s name thrown around long before I actually committed to sitting down and listening to him. What resulted from that session was a deep regret that I had not checked his music out earlier. It’s not often that I feel an instant attachment to music like I experienced the first time I listened to All Hell. I felt as if I already knew these songs or as if the journey they were taking me on was one I had traveled before. You see there is not a lot to compare Daughn to in the current independent music landscape (although his deep 1950′s croon and dusty Americana vibe shares strands of DNA with acts like Dirty Beaches or Die Jungen). No, you’d have to look back decades earlier to find kindred spirits for his undoubtedly old soul.
Music was a constant fixture in my childhood home and as I grew up I did so listening to my father’s music collection (whether I enjoyed it at the time or not is another thing). Patsy Cline, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Beach Boys; we listened to them all and I know a lot of their music by heart. And so when I listened to All Hell I was surprised that images of greats like Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and Jim Reeves came flooding back. You see with time I’ve come to respect and even greatly enjoy artists like those mentioned as well as associate them with memories of my childhood. So it requires no stretch of the imagination that I would project that same emotion onto Daughn Gibson as well. What he does, he does so effortlessly and that’s what resulted in an instant connection
So then what propelled All Hell from being an album that I really enjoy to being my pick for this year-end list? I think it’s the fact that Daughn has managed to merge the traditional appeal of those older artists with the creative and experimental world of artists who are creating music on the cusp of the independent scene. His ear for sample selection paired with skillful looping and careful use of reverb mesh perfectly with his already strong songwriting to elevate the entire project into the realm of the utterly sublime. He’s a man stuck between two worlds and yet retains the best of both.
sloslylove: Secret Dreams (Self-Released)
When it comes to new music, I’m not picky. Like most people, I have a set of subconscious criteria that I consider. Do I enjoy jamming to this in my car with the windows down? Do I feel invincible when I listen to this while running? Do I get the instantaneous urge to dance whenever this comes on? If any one of those questions is answered in the affirmative, then I am eager to hear more…if all three are “yes,” immediate favorite album material.
Ten months ago on Valentine’s Day, an unassuming Bandcamp page floated across my Facebook feed: sloslylove’s Secret Dreams. I listened to the first track “Thinkin’ About Our Love” and quickly did what I usually do with all promising new music that I find: burned it to a CD and downloaded it to my iPod. I quickly found Secret Dreams to be a peculiar release, the sounds felt familiar yet thrilling, as if harvested from a distant time and place and supplanted upon a recent memory. The most striking quality of Secret Dreams was how little time passed before I needed another fix, not a single week would pass without a full listen. There’s no questioning that Secret Dreams is about love, but this mundane classification is a rather superficial label. The emotional depth found in these 8 songs is astounding. Armed with remarkable pop production skills and impeccable movie clip narratives, Secret Dreams manages to explore the vast spectrum of love’s mysteries. Feng Meng Vue, the mastermind behind sloslylove, exacted confidence with care on his fastidious tribute to love. At mid-production, Feng’s recordings were imprinted to cassette tape in order to capture that often forgotten haze of youth.
I recently got to talk with Feng about Secret Dreams and his thoughts on love. It is clear that he holds his childhood close when he sits down to create music. We rambled on and on about cinema and I discussed my secret obsession with Before Sunrise. I shared my vague theories on the romantic meaning of Secret Dreams and anticipated his responses. Feng replied simply, “it’s not all romance… [Secret Dreams is] the possibility of love.” There’s a significant distinction here. This “possibility” is what gives Secret Dreams its sustainability. Sure, the central theme is young love: the butterflies, the euphoria, the struggle, the reflection, the moving-on. However, the “possibility” is applicable to all of life’s journeys and emotions.
Over the past year, I’ve experienced some profound events in my life’s trajectory. I celebrated 3 spectacular years of marriage, struggled with personal choices for my future, watched my favorite tape label grow and flourish, lost a friendship to alcohol, parted ways with a wonderful job and said farewell to good friends, was accepted into medical school and moved to the coast, traveled around the world, experienced a 5-year cancer-free milestone, initiated a seemingly endless spiral of educational debt, and managed to pass my first two exams. Another chapter of challenges met with struggle, perseverance, elation, and memories. I can only hope that sloslylove will be there again for the next one.
Cadence Collective: Cadence Sampler (Self-Released)
It’s always interesting coming back to an album a few months—or longer—after discovering it. When surrounded by so much fantastic new music day in and day out, favourite albums often become boxed in a specific moment, a specific time. Don’t they always though? They end up encapsulating the time in which they were first indulged, and remain, perhaps forever, as pseudo-anthems to certain temporal feelings.
The time capsule of my life that Cadence’s first sampler encompasses is a feeling of being stranded at a fork in the road. For many reasons, this year for the first time ever has felt like a pivotal turning point. I can feel tangible change and unknown decisions needing to be made. Unlike past years that have indeed been just as pivotal, I have seen changes happening over the past twelve months right as they are underway. The sand dunes of time shift and rebuild right in front of me, the grains unable to be molded into any legible shape. I have felt like a tourist rather than a guide traversing the slopes of my own life. Each step is a little unstable as I sink a tad into the ground.
It is this undiluted uncertainty that the kids at Cadence remind me of. Not that there is an uncertainty in their music, that’s not it at all. Rather I have used this album as a safe haven from the tumultuous nature of hedonistic youth and indecision. Their collection is a calming space and, as it did then, it fills me with a warming sense of hope. The lo-fi crackle and shadowed vocals of many of the artists fill the quiet on empty nights. The musical bond between each producer surrounding me like family and friends would, given the chance.
Tell me what is true.
I’ve thought of many ways to break down each artist, label his symbolism, and present it to you. However that process just wouldn’t do this release justice. Its residency in my life as a spiritual beacon, radiating in great, big pulsations, is enough for now. Its rain samples cleanse me. Its stuttered vox-bites reflect our own humanity. Its written symbology (∞) reminds me of the forever fluctuating notion that is living.
Cadence, thank you.
Even though it’s December, I’ve yet to decide which fork in the road to take. We’re getting there though—with every little bit of knowledge gained and every shining beacon I’m one step closer to deciding. The sand is wet and hard underfoot and I’m slowly, ever so slowly, becoming my own guide.
Tip Toes: Nephews (Self-Released)
As a non-instrument-playing music evangelist, I like to share music from a more emotional point of view. I’m not versed in technical terms, harmonic progression scares me, and Ableton might as well be a foreign language. What I do know is that music moves me, plain and simple. At it’s best, music twists me, it turns me, and most importantly, it inspires and encourages me to start crazy projects like PORTALS. I’m not here to tell you what you should and should not listen to; I’m merely a purveyor of sound, here to share the music that shapes my life in the hopes that it might have a place in yours too.
Enter Nephews, the euphoric debut EP from Mean Lady front man and international playboy, Sam Nobles aka Tip Toes. An EP for the everyday romantic and the traveler within all of us, Nephews hits on a variety of human emotions: love, heartbreak, nostalgia, intimacy, loneliness, and pretty much everything in-between. When introducing Nephews to friends and first time listeners, I usually encourage them to sit back, relax, and enjoy a weirdly familiar ride through memories past and present. This EP isn’t about fitting into the latest Brooklyn-mandated micro-trend, no, it’s about the warm embrace of natures quiet pulse. Real beauty shines through the album’s dense, thick layers. Nephews is an aural escape, a place I like to visit when I need a break from the ups and downs of the day-to-day grind. Haven’t heard it yet? I suggest you buy a one-way ticket immediately.
I originally wrote about Tip Toes’ Nephews EP way back in April. I stand by my description:
“Whether it’s a relaxing stroll through your local greenbelt, or a journey through distant realms, Nephews is there, ready—and willing—to soundtrack your every move.”
With that said, keep dreaming, keep creating, and keep believing in yourself—we’re all in this together. Here’s to 2013.
In little more than a year Hundred Waters have gone from virtual anonymity to being catapulted into the public consciousness with near universal acclaim and most recently—and, to some, surprisingly—signing to Skrillex’s OWLSA label.
The band hails from Gainesville, Florida, which, until recently, has been known predominantly as a hotbed for punk music and football. However, the college town has not so quietly become a wellspring of frenzied creativity—brimming with vibrant characters, fabled jams, and a thriving electronic scene making it a keystone for the entirety of the Florida music community. Hundred Waters have seized the momentum and zeal of this music community that stressed musicianship and integrity and raised the bar higher than even their closest friends thought possible.
Their self-titled release features a deft mixture of acoustic instrumentation, angelic harmonies, and cerebral electronics woven together to form a sonic palate of grand proportions. Effervescent chords dance around complex rhythms revealing assured “pop” numbers like “Me & Anodyne”. Songs unfold with compelling arcs full of evocative hooks and progressions that build with almost theatrical moments of drama. A listener can hardly keep from being swept away in the dense choral conclusion of “… – — …” or the majesty of “Caverns” as the bass rumbles through the speakers. Hundred Waters’ debut closes with the achingly beautiful “Gather” gently leaving the listener as the plaintive piano riff’s reverberations fade away.
In a time that where most music is being usurped by instant gratification and increasingly cut-and-paste culture, Hundred Waters prove most radical by thoroughly exploring the possibilities of melody. Listeners are rewarded with rich harmonic vistas that beg for repeated listens. To those that have known the Hundred Waters crew, their ascent may not be much of a surprise, but it’s wonderful to see that their music is no longer Florida’s best-kept secret.
The one record I have returned to all year long has been Shigeto’s Lineage. I love it in part because of an overlooked paradox. When I step back and listen to this record as a whole, two things jump out at me. The first is how his music is strikingly repetitive. By that, I mean I’m never finding myself surprised by a foreign sound or progression. Shigeto sticks himself with a select set of sounds, and as a result he is forced to go beyond conventional writing where every sound is at his fingertips. Essentially, he adapts to the situation and works with what was presented. The second is how his music, although based mostly on repetitive parts and phrases, manages to retain complexity and distinctiveness. How can that be?
Diving deeper into Shigeto’s music, a myriad of parts jostle for attention. It’s no secret that he loves complicated patterns and moving parts, but what makes his composition special is not only how each part works independently of each other, but also how each one carries the others. Shigeto has the uncommon ability of jam packing a song, full of beautifully toned, jazzy snyths and cyclic percussions, while still allowing each part to shine in its respective cavern. In that way, each part would be lost without the other. Together, they make for something sonically captivating.
These paradoxes combined invite the listener to make connections to both the monotonous and intricate qualities; it’s almost a guarantee that the listener will get lost in Shigeto’s trance. The record focuses so much on parts fighting for attention and working together and supporting each other to create something beautiful. It’s basically a crude description of animal nature. How can one resist a basic instinct?
– Jonathan (Live For The Funk)
Solar Year: Waverly (Self-Released)
The enigmatic presence of Montreal production duo Solar Year (consisting of David Ertel and Ben Borden) was first felt back in early March. At that time, they’d revealed two mystical offerings from the upcoming debut album, Waverly. Upon first listen, it became perfectly clear that regardless of what new elements come into play; emphasis is put heavily on the unique ambience created by their hypnotic vocals and beautifully distorted samples.
As you listen to the LP in full, your mind begins to drift into the cerulean mist. Mental shivers become uncontrollable, as you become transfixed on every aspect of these meticulous, icy, electronic landscapes forged with each new progression in sound .
The first few tracks start off with a hazy build-up, patiently waiting to ignite the tribal beats into the air. On most songs, Ertel’s unique vocal ability grants him the power to sooth even the most tempest spirits. But as displayed on “Brotherhood”, his sweet, tranquil harmonies can also lead you into a cold, dark despair; with Grimes-creepy murmurs causing the chill factor to intensify as the song looms in a thick haze of desolate percussion.
The latter parts of the album experiment more heavily with vocal collaging and slightly dense, more otherworldly New Age soundscapes, to create a more anthemic pop sound. This takes the album into more ritualistic territory, sometimes building into an oddly cinematic and mildly creepy experience.
While Knife comparisons are greatly warranted, given that both these entities have similar elements of cold, mutated electronics in their production, Solar Year shines in their innate ability to hone in on very distinct details, allowing them to further define their unique atmosphere and making shifts in visual terrain all the more visceral.
Waverly is a gripping first chapter into what looks to be a greater story. New listeners should go into this with a sense of what makes them tick sonically and allow those elements to carry them through this incredible LP.
Solar Year will give Waverly a proper label release in 2013 via Splendour (EU) and Ceremony (US/CA).
The fire burnt out, and so did I. I drank too much and passed out in Young Pharaohs‘ mixed-use school bus. Yup, I missed Hundred Waters‘ supposed “magical” late-night set, which only about 20 people caught in the living room of what is no longer some random DIY farmhouse five miles off of 6th St. in Austin, TX. Upon waking at the sun’s first light (keyboards and samplers don’t make for good blankets and pillows), I felt dirty, sweaty and slightly altered. I quickly rose, and decided before leaving the farm and heading to greener pastures (thanks Jacob McNaughton, RIP Galapagos) that I would do a full trash and recycling sweep of the few acres that supported our miniature festival that was: PORTALSXSW.
“Hey man, will I see you at the bus show? Word on the street is they scored an amazing parking spot on the south-end.”
I’ll be honest, at that point all I wanted was food (a big F you to the The Seedling Truck) and a bit of normality in my second day of SXSW. I really didn’t know, or for that matter care if I’d make it to our second showcase in two days, but isn’t it amazing what a few hours spent properly sourcing food and beer can do for your general outlook and eventual plans for the evening. Before I knew it, I was tracking down Jake and a girl with cray cray hair and sunglasses, buying 30 packs of Lone Star cans at some random liquor store, and getting very stoked for the grand finale: The Basic’s Fund sponsored BUSXSW. As I walked down the street towards the bus location, I could feel this contagious energy flow over my entire being. I could also see the grins of a few usual suspects from at least 100 yards away.
“Hey, welcome. Check out our fine furnishings bro!”
While PORTALS presented the BUSXSW show, the events true curators had taken the couches that served as seating on the bus and put them out on the sidewalk. From what I remember, I think we even had some lamps and x-mas lights strung about. I thought if anything, the BUSXSW was going to be a fine seminar on how to squat, look like complete weirdos, and maybe attract some drunk teenagers. When it was all said and done, it did achieve those merits, but to my surprise, it also reinforced what seems to be the unsaid mantra of our generation. When you’re real and put it all out there, not giving a shit what anyone else thinks, this is where true happiness exists.
“Hey, I’m d’Eon.”
d’Eon played a handful of songs for the first (and maybe only) time that night. He sat cross-legged on the floor of the school bus, dressed like a swami from the future (a white sheet and purple Jumpman hat), serenading what looked like a tiny child’s keyboard that he might have found in the back alley. The music he made that night was intimate, amazing, and a wonderful introduction to my album pick, Song’s For Keyboards Vol I. This album is the first of three highly recommended volumes of strictly keyboard compositions by d’Eon, all devoted to something a bit more unexpected, unexplainable and down-right other worldly. Cheers to artists like d’Eon who are blazing trails for the future! Thanks 2012, you were fun and kind of uncomfortable.
It’s no wonder that I look back on TOPS debut, Tender Opposites, with great fondness. It’s not a secret that I absolutely love Montreal’s harbingers of weirdo-pop, experimental music, and everything in between, Arbutus Records. So when they released this album, I was already halfway to loving it even before I had listened. Tender Opposites, to me, is so deeply interwoven into my experience with PORTALS that it’s hard to think of one without the other. It released just weeks after we launched in February of this year, and ended up being the album in which I first attempted a proper “review”. A few short weeks after my band crush had fully formed, they played at our strange, first ever SXSW showcase. There I got to meet them (Jane actually complimented my review!), watch them perform live, all while hanging with most of the PORTALS crew for the first time. They, very literally, provided the soundtrack to my experience with PORTALS.
TOPS has kept my love affair going through the year by releasing videos, a letting loose a few new tracks, and continuing to be something instantly classic. As I said in my initial review of the album:
“It’s as infectious as you could hope for a pop album to be, as weird and unique as you need it to be, sexy enough to get you going, playful enough to have you laughing, bittersweet enough to compel your dormant emotions, and good enough to be something you’ll be listening to a long time from now.”
Come to think about it, that’s a pretty good description of how I feel about being a part of PORTALS. The community is infectious, our personalities and interactions as weird and unique as I’ve ever encountered, our obsession with music so romantic it borders on the psychotic, and our family atmosphere constantly has me laughing and feeling loved. There is no doubt that my relationship with the people and music I’m falling in love with now through PORTALS will last a very long time.
This album will be a significant document of myself and the experiences I’ve had in the past year. Made by close friends and people I admire, it carries an obvious element of sentimentality. Even when attempting to remain objective about it, Die Young is a stellar piece of work. Slowly seeing these individual tracks from the album appear in their live performances makes me feel like I’ve seen this album fully develop. That is only the half truth, as now that I am getting to know them more and more on a personal level, and without trying, I can see the emotions conveyed in their tracks being put into context.
Marcus Whale’s vocals are instantly recognisable. His emotional, R&B leaning hooks are becoming ever more effective. Their production on this album has held their signature granulised sound, which can be heard on their previous album, but perhaps this time they’ve directed themselves into the dance music territory.
Die Young is not just a collection of tracks made by Collarbones over the past two years. It is a carefully assembled body of work, a personal musical journey.
Teen Suicide: i will be my own hell because there is a devil inside my body (Self-released)
Much of 2012, for me, felt like a transitional year. It was tough to hold on to constants and most of the music I played seemed like music that wasn’t from 2012. Still, adjusting to personal context and looking back specifically at the releases made things a bit more revealing on the year.
Following some of the best live performances I’ve ever had the chance to be around, it’s kinda funny how the one band I had set out to eventually see within the year annouces it’s final show on their Facebook page a few weeks ago. But it’s not all bad, I was lucky enough to be able to follow the progression of this once solo project over the past seventeen months. From the early Turntable demos to its full 4 piece band including viola, toy pianos, bass, drums and much more layers than you’d ever imagine after only listening to bad vibes forever.
In some way, everything leading up to their most recent album feels fitting for i will be my own hell to stand out as much as it does. The release makes the most out of its 24 minute and 36 second timeframe. Expanded roles over the band’s run churned out a lo-fi pop sound mixed in with shouts and a punk element. In a Teen Suicide radio interview heard a month ago, Sam Ray talks about the band’s new songwriting direction. As a forefront emphasis through pop compositions over the words, “it has hooks, but it’s still kinda weird.” I don’t know if we’ll ever see that entirely and I don’t know if we’re meant to, but there’s still a lot to be said about i will be my own hell because there is a devil inside my body.
In the past couple years, Lil Ugly Mane has peeked out from the obscurity that he himself refers to as “the otherside” with a jarringly creative take on 90’s southern rap.
Boastful, yet isolated by the confines of societal convention, the content of his debut full-length, Mista Thug Isolation, spans the whole gambit of the prototypical outsider. Ugly Mane is proud of his radical individuality, yet is haunted by the manic and melancholy that his position demands. His lyrics are comically boisterous and playful, and the (typically pitched-down) voice that delivers them is not only emotive and dynamic, but also vehemently raw.
bitch, I’m morose and lugubrious. Ima let the uzi spit—turn his face up into gooey shit
Ugly Mane paints himself as more than just a mere hero—he is a desperate caricature of human desire, bred in an unknown, desolate terrain that’s whimsically filled with guns, weed, and casual homicide. And through the medium of charmingly lo-fi hip hop tracks, Mista Thug Isolation is an extremely addictive excursion in prideful sin. And since the majority of Ugly Mane’s identity remains a mystery, a lot of questions go unanswered. Does he do any of the wild things that he describes in his songs or are they only hyperbole? Are the disparate voices of Lil Ugly Mane even contained within the shell of one man? Where will Lil Ugly Mane take us next?
For now, I don’t know. And personally, I think it’s perfect. Without a true identity, Lil Ugly Mane can’t be held accountable for anything. He’s free to run wild with his brutal and extravagant fantasies, which makes Mista Thug Isolation such a fantastic album.