Showing posts with label doomtree. Show all posts
Showing posts with label doomtree. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

video review: 'dangerous jumps' by SHREDDERS

Well... it's still good, I just wish I liked it a fair bit more than I do. Meh, it happens.

Next up, though... well, this should be interesting. Stay tuned!

album review: 'dangerous jumps' by SHREDDERS

Oh, you thought I was going to miss this, or that because this is very much a between-albums-side-project that it would be a lower priority?

Well, to be completely truthful, up until very recently SHREDDERS wasn't really on my radar. I knew that P.O.S and Sims were working with Lazerbeak and Paper Tiger on something, but I assumed it would be an EP or something, or maybe a few scattered singles until Dessa put out her next full-length project or they started work on another Doomtree record. And if anything it felt a little too soon - while I hadn't loved P.O.S's chill, dummy it wasn't even a year old yet, and given how Sims' More Than Ever remains one of the best hip-hop records of 2016, I would have thought it would have a little more solo shelf life.

But then again, I'm not complaining about a new project from this crew, because hip-hop has had a weird 2017. There's been too many great records to call it a bad year, but it seems like the gulf in quality between said records and much of the rest that got hype and popularity is vast. That feeling of strangeness, coupled with only two hip-hop records I'd say are outright incredible in 2017 - those being Brick Body Kids Still Daydream by Open Mike Eagle and Run The Jewels 3, and the latter barely even qualifies - means that I was eager for something out of the Doomtree collective, if only to bring in a sound with consistent, hard-hitting quality and real lyrical punch. And while Dessa wasn't on it and P.O.S can frustrate me as an MC, Sims is currently surging on a creative roll and I really wanted to see where he'd take his bars. So, what did I find on Dangerous Jumps?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

video review: 'chill, dummy' by p.o.s

Well, this was a fascinating and difficult record to crack, but I'm finally glad to talk about it. Next up, though... this is a different, even more indie record hip-hop record coming up, so stay tuned!

album review: 'chill, dummy' by p.o.s.

There's been a part of me that's been a lot more reticent to talk about this record than I probably should be. 

Part of it is that I've gone on record a number of times saying that of all the members of Doomtree, P.O.S. was probably my least favourite. That's not saying he's a bad MC - every member of that group can spit incredibly well, and they all have a knack for fantastic, hard-hitting hooks - but from my experience with both his solo projects and his Doomtree verses, P.O.S. is trying to walk a high-wire act that's high reward, but high risk. Of the group, he's always been the most outwardly political and borderline punk, not just in his content but in his production, which often feel assembled from the rough-edged shambles of his Doomtree work balanced with more ramshackle punk sounds. Coupled with a penchant for bombast, there's a fine line between righteous anthems anchored in real firepower and slipping towards the sort of self-indulgent corniness that can either be grudgingly tolerated or facepalm-worthy, it's no surprise that he was signed to Slug's label Rhymesayers, the two share a lot in common. And just like with Slug and Atmosphere, I can find P.O.S. a frustrating MC, especially with some of his cringier punchlines, flows and delivery that could be uncannily similar to Eminem, especially early on.

So what about his albums? Well again, given that I'm not a huge fan of his, I have a hard time calling out one as an absolute favourite before going into chill, dummy. I will say that Audition was probably the one that annoyed me the most in terms of frustrating lines and tones, but Never Better was a more refined pivot that featured more of the Doomtree crew and was better for it, albeit going on longer than it should. That problem was corrected by his 2012 project We Don't Even Live Here, but that record was frustrating because for all of the stronger grooves and some of his best ever hooks, between awkward synth tone choices and some extremely questionable lyrics it fell towards very uneven territory. So did similar issues show up on chill, dummy?

Monday, November 7, 2016

video review: 'more than ever' by sims

Well, this fucking ruled. You think Danny Brown went hard... Sims can give him some serious competition, with arguably even stronger lyrics!

Beyond that, I think I'm going to go for something lighter with this Tinashe release... then Common and Czarface and of course, Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

album review: 'more than ever' by sims

So, here's a story for you: I saw Doomtree in Toronto twice last year. Once was at Riot Fest - it was awesome, they put on a terrific show, and I was able to leave to see Frank Turner before Tyler The Creator showed up - and the second time was in a small venue downtown. I actually ran into an old university friend there completely by accident, and afterwards we hit up a bar and talked about the show. And I remember a big part of the conversation being which Doomtree MC was our favourite... because let's face it, there's five of them, they're all ridiculously good, but there's always a hierarchy to these things. Obviously Dessa topped both of our lists, but that should be no surprise to anyone - Dessa would make my top five of all time, and the fact that she's now featured on the Hamilton mixtape is all the more deserved.

But after that, the ranking was a little more mixed. For me, I tended to gravitate to Cecil Otter, more because of his production work and because I had heard a lot of his solo material and work with Strange Famous. My friend consistently brought up Sims as her second favourite, and while she was making her entirely justified case, I realized I had never listened to Sims' solo work. I had heard P.O.S.'s albums - I can't say I'm the biggest fan, but I appreciate his distinct lane - but Sims... I had a hard time evaluating his material outside of Doomtree, especially going back to his breakthrough record in 2011 Bad Time Zoo. On the one hand, his unconventional rhyming patterns could definitely get frustrating, but he was also probably the most eccentric and borderline odd rapper of the Doomtree collective. Unlike Dessa, whose material tended to be more conventionally tasteful - as well as intricate, gorgeously performed, ridiculously intelligent, I could go on - Sims was the guy who would take more risks, in his content, wordplay, and especially his instrumentation. He had a flair for theatrical bombast and some really great hooks, but there was an off-kilter edge to Bad Time Zoo that in retrospect really feels ahead of its time. It was experimental and weird courtesy of Lazerbeak's eclectic production, almost certainly underappreciated in 2011 - and I include myself in that category. Even as a fan of Doomtree, the collective that along with of Run The Jewels is everything I want to hear in modern hip-hop, I probably didn't give Sims enough credit.

So I wasn't going to be making that mistake again, and even if nobody else cares to cover this record - which is likely, as I'm not sure he's got the immediate name recognition as Dessa or P.O.S. or even Cecil Otter - I wanted to get to this first, before Common or Czarface or anything else this week. So what did I get?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

the top 25 best albums of 2015 (VIDEO)

And now we've got the last of the lists - damn, this video took WAY too much work to get online...

Okay, next up... well, it's Rachel Platten, so nobody cares, but after that is Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

the top 25 best albums of 2015

We're now onto my final list, the one that always produces a certain amount of frustration as I struggle to recognize the best of the best. And as I said in my last list, it's always difficult to narrow it down to the best of the best. And this year was probably the hardest yet, mostly because it started so damn strong and was able to sustain that momentum into late this year. And while I was able to trim this list down to 25. And thus for the sake of my own conscience, I need to mention a few Honourable Mentions in no particular order that just missed this list. 

Because believe me, when you have comeback records like No Cities To Love by Sleater-Kinney and Tetsuo & Youth by Lupe Fiasco that show huge returns to form, they deserve at least a shoutout. Hell, an album that features a creative rebirth like Baroness' Purple which dropped very late in the year deserves it too. And then you have underappreciated gems like Escape From Evil by Lower Dens, one of the great unsung synthpop records of this year. And on that note, as much it might be a bit of a contentious statement to say that hip-hop had a great year, I stand by it - when you have Earl Sweatshirt, Jay Rock, The Underachievers, Yelawolf, Pusha T and Czarface dropping stellar sophomore records, coupled with comebacks of unexpected quality from Ludacris and killer debuts from Joey Bada$$, all of which might have had a shot for this list in a weaker year, that's saying something. And that's not counting the list itself that's at least twenty percent hip-hop, but we'll get to that - hell, might as well start with...

Friday, January 1, 2016

the top 50 best songs of 2015

And now we're onto the list that's always the hardest for me to make, mostly because it requires by far the most work: the best songs of the year, overall. Not just hits, but singles and deep cuts from album ranging from widely successful to barely out of the underground.

And this year was harder than most, mostly because it was a damn great year for music. The charts may have been strong, but that was nothing compared to the cavalcade of great music we got, which meant that cutting this list down from thousands to around 630 to 165 to the fifty we have meant that there were a lot of painful cuts, so much so that I seriously considered instituting a one-song-per-album rule. In the end... I couldn't do it, because there were some records that were so unbelievably good that I had to include multiple entries. Now we'll be covering those albums in greater detail a bit later this week, but in the end I held to the rule that at most I could put three songs from any one album on this list - and that we easily had more of those makes my argument that was a damn solid year of music, probably better than last year's, all the more powerful. 

One more thing before we start: while I can describe music well and why it works for me on a technical level, most of the songs on this list cut a fair bit deeper than that, and thus I'll endeavor to provide some emotional context as to why they worked so well beyond a purely intellectual exercise. And of course it's my picks - there might some common overlap between my choices and other critics, but it would be disingenuous to choose tracks for 'cultural importance' rather than what really got to me more deeply.

So let's start with a track that completely threw me off-guard.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

the top albums/songs of the midyear - 2015 (VIDEO)

Almost forgot to put this video up. This was a ton of fun, really did love making this - always nice to talk about music that's actually all sorts of awesome.

So next up is Billboard BREAKDOWN, and then finally I might have time for this new Vince Staples... stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

the top album/songs of the midyear - 2015

Last year when I put together this list, I was debating its very relevance. I mean, would it give away what would turn out to be my top albums of the year overall, or would it find an audience at all?

This year, the debate was different: I knew I had to do a midyear review for 2015 because there was so much quality that came out in the front half of the year that I'm honestly a little concerned I'm not going to get a chance to highlight it all. Between comebacks that delivered in spades, debuts that blew my mind, and records that seemed to have an abundance of creativity more than I would have ever expected, the first six months of 2015 have been overwhelming strong, to the point where keeping my list of albums to twelve was insanely difficult. It'll be incredible if the rest of the year keeps up this momentum, but for now, here is my top albums of 2015, thus far:

Monday, February 2, 2015

video review: 'all hands' by doomtree

Damn, that took a lot of work, but oh wow it was worth it. The streak of great albums continues!

And next up, it should be an easy slam dunk, the newest record from Blind Guardian, so stay tuned!

album review: 'all hands' by doomtree

So let me pose to you all a question: how easy should art be to consume?

Because as a critic who covers so many genres of music - especially pop music - it gets to be an interesting conversation when you ask this question. On the one hand, you'll find plenty of critics, scholars, or people looking to challenge themselves who seek out all sorts of challenging or draining art that can push the mind or body. On the other hand, you'll find all sorts of art that's not designed to challenge at all - whether by catering or pandering to its audience or by tapping into specific pleasure centers, it goes down easy. 

Now let's pose the hard question: what is better? Well, it's a loaded question, especially when you bring artistic intent into the mix. On the one hand, art that is experimental or thought-provoking is often hailed for pushing those boundaries, disparaging more commercial products. And yet as I've said in the past, there's craftsmanship in populism - sure, there might be a formula to commercially accessible art, but creating something truly special in that vein, or wrapping challenging subject matter in an easy-to-swallow package, that's much more difficult. 

But let's ask a different question: what makes art - in this case music - difficult to consume? Well, you get your power electronics or certain subgenres of metal that are actively abrasive, but then you get bands like Swans, who put together two-and-a-half hour albums with thirty four minute songs - sure, it's a tough sound to get used to, but what's really daunting about such an album is the length.

And then you get an act like the Minnesota hip-hop collective Doomtree, a group that's not daunting because of length, but because of sheer density. Five rappers known for aggressively cerebral lyrics that recall beat poetry interwoven with hard-edged social commentary, set against production that's explosive and rough, Doomtree records can be exhausting to take in and fully comprehend - and unsurprisingly, this album has been one of my most anticipated of 2015. I originally got into Doomtree through one of their members - Dessa, who I'd easily put down as one of my favourite female MCs ever - and the group won me over fast. I wouldn't say they've made a perfect record yet - some of the more experimental production choices haven't always worked and the politically-minded lyrics can occasionally venture into conspiracy theory nonsense - but both their self-titled debut and No Kings had some fantastic cuts on them that are rewarding both on an intellectual and visceral level. So you can bet I was absolutely psyched for their newest album All Hands - did we finally get that classic?