Jams 2016 Vol. 22

"Doink De Doink"

~ Conner4real

In this edition of jams we're getting silly and we're getting weird. This will serve as both an album and film review because The Lonely Island released the soundtrack for their film Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. The film tells the story of a young singer who gets caught up in fame and fortune, only to have a rude awakening when his second album struggles to sell. As Conner4real, Andy Samburg subtly parodies artists like Justin Beiber and Nick Jonas with his entire popstar persona. He parodies Macklemore's Same Love with Equal Rights, gives DaVinci's masterpiece a tongue lashing on Mona Lisa, and they bring Hunter The Hungry in who's persona parodies Tyler, The Creator. So many amazing comedians and musicians make cameos from Nas to Arcade Fire to Seal to Joanna Newsom (her and Andy are married). This is the funniest film I've seen in years, I was in tears watching it and the soundtrack gives you the full versions of songs that you only get a snippet of in the film. As always the production of the songs flawlessly emulates the music it parodies and the lyrics are brilliantly hilarious. 

John Lennon's son Sean Lennon and Primus' Les Claypool released their first album, Monolith of Phobos, as The Claypool Lennon Delerium. This takes the strange psychedelic imagery of The Beatles with the eerie muscular bass driven style of Primus, the result is a wonderfully weird record full of eerie stories. While these stories may appear strange and silly they use the goofiness to tap into relatable thruths and emotions. Whether it's a captain who doubles as a dentist, a small boy who gets wishes from a genie, or Michael Jackson's monkey Bubbles, these guys can tell a good story no matter the subject. This pairing makes perfect sense and accentuate the elements of their music that we already love.

Beloved rock band The Strokes released a new EP, Future Present Past. These 3 songs see the band exploring synth saturated 80's influences, while injecting some of their signature pop rock style. These songs are more produced and less raw. While these songs may make fans yearn for the early stuff, these guys have never put out a bad record and this EP is no exception.

Canadian, lesbian sister duo Tegan and Sara released their eight album Love You to Death. This is essentially more of the same pop style (no not the Drake song) present on their last album, Heartthrob. While both album's have fun catchy pop songs and poignant ballads, I get bored with records where every song is about a lover or relationship. I make an exception with these girls because you just can't help but love them. However, this keeps good albums from being phenomenal. 

I had just received Paul Simon's first self-titled solo album from 1972 as a birthday present, and the next week he released Stranger to Stranger. Though they are separated by 44 years they share many similarities. Mother and Child Reunion on his first album was recorded in Jamaica and has a great folk/island reggae hybrid, which is present at times on The Werewolf. His first album has a song called Papa Hobo, where he talks about someone signing up for the "automotive dream" in Detroit, only to end up on the streets (still relevant today), and on this album he talks about the homeless on Street Angels and has a song called Cool Papa Bell (whats up with all the "papas" Paul?). While this record is tied to his early work, Stranger to Stranger is his most exploratory and inventive record. This hops genres from folk to jazz even resembling hip hop with the low voice sample on Street Angels. Every song has new interesting elements, whether it's a string being tuned that morphs into a wolf's howl, multicultural percussion, or good ol' folky finger picking. His lyrics are as always quirky, sometimes comical, yet extremely clever, insightful, and relevant. Paul Simon is one of my favorite songwriters of all time and he's such a musical icon, after 44 years he still manages to make each new album better than the last.

Members of the bands Editors, Mogwai, and Slowdive have joined forces to make the indie rock supergroup Minor Victories. Their self-titled debut album begins dark and brooding then shifts to become bright, airy, and epic. The album also features a cameo from Sun Kil Moon's Mark Kozelek and The Twilight Sad's James Graham. I like this group better than the members previous projects, hopefully they we'll see more albums from this indie ensemble.

Chicago native and Chance the Rapper schoolmate Vic Mensa released a new ep There's A Lot Going On. The 23 year old singer/rapper starts the titular song on his album by saying, "this is my life, front to back, top to bottom." The track does contain all the major events of his life and career: his struggles in his relationship with fashion designer Natalie Wright, his issues with mental health prescriptions and illicit drug addiction, and his career's progression, from the breakup of his band Kids These Days to being signed to Roc-a-fella and recording on Kanye West's The Life of Pablo. The ending to his song is masterfully written, "Cleaned out my closet, I got rid of all of my demons //
If you learn one thing from my journey, nigga it's don't stop believing // When this shit got so suffocating I could barely even keep breathing // Wrote my wrongs all in this song now I'd like to welcome y'all to my season. Nigga I'm gone." Vic's lyrics hit you like a punch in the gut, he covers a broad range of topics of this album including the Flint Water Crisis. Artists like Kanye and Beyonce blur the line between the artist's work and their personal life and Vic has done the same thing, turning his life story into an inspiring saga.

Finally, my favorite album of the week is Light Upon The Lake by Whitney, the band formed by Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich after the breakup of their band Smith Westerns. SW was lead by Cullen Omori, they made lush, catchy indie-rock with Max's signature sharp guitar solos. He took that signature sound and put it to even better use, pairing with Julien's distinct, high voice and an incredible backing band. This album is pretty much perfect, it is composed of poignant folk tunes that slide into classic rock grooves. Sounding at times like Grateful Dead and other times like Sufjan Stevens. Every song is catchy yet complex, both the rich instrumentals and the profound lyrics. There is no telling what incredible direction these songs will go in. I recently called Band of Horses' Why Are You Ok one of the best guitar records of the year. Well now let me declare, Whitney's Light Upon The Lake is THE guitar record of the year. This album came out of nowhere and claimed it's spot at the top of my Best Albums of 2016 list.

The Kills also released Ash & Ice and it has a handful of good songs, the rest are mediocre. However, insrumental guitarist William Tyler released Modern Country, his best album yet. I got to interview William for an artist feature in the upcoming issue of Ghettoblaster Magazine, so go over there and subscribe and while you at it check out the latest Future Sounds written be yours truly. That it's for now. Fly on Voltures. Ca-CAWWW.