SXSW 2015 & Opinions on Kendrick Lamar

Back from their trip to Austin, TX for SXSW, Jim and Greg share their favorite bands from the annual music conference. Later, they review the surprise new album from hip-hop titan Kendrick Lamar.

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This week, Left Banke keyboardist and songwriter Michael Brown died at the age of 65. While the Left Banke didn‘t have a long or illustrious career, it’s one of the great, underrated bands of the 1960's that explored baroque pop. Brown was the key musician in the group, penning its hit songs "Walk Away Renee" and "Pretty Ballerina." He later went on to do work with Montage, The Cherry People, Stories and the Beckies.


SXSW 2015

SXSW2015 For years now Jim and Greg have been making an annual exodus to the SXSW Music Conference in Austin, TX. And while they often have to battle crowds and overblown corporate promotions in order to see new, up-and-coming bands, this year was, thankfully, a little more subdued. But star power was still the draw at the 2015 keynote featuring rapper Snoop Dogg being interviewed by…his manager. Greg preferred the candor of industry veteran and panelist Henry Rollins, while Jim was fascinated to hear a conversation on the new music economy with Win and Will Butler of Arcade Fire and New York Times columnist, Nobel laureate and former Sound Opinions Rock Doctors patient Paul Krugman.

Each year Jim and Greg slowly limp back from SXSW with a list of new artists to watch. Here is the 2015 crop:

reviewTo Pimp a ButterflyTo Pimp a Butterfly available on iTunes

Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly

In terms of combined critical and commercial success, Kendrick Lamar may be the most important rapper to emerge this millenium since Kanye West. On To Pimp a Butterfly, the followup to his 2012 breakthrough Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, he's teamed up with high-profile producers like Pharrell Williams and Flying Lotus. Greg is floored by the album's macro-level themes, depicting the world as a kind of prison and engaging with racism, injustice, and black history in general. Equally stunning is the album's diverse musical range. Greg thinks Lamar is driving the sound of hip-hop forward while also looking back to the deepest roots of African-American music. Despite a few missteps, like a pretend interview with Tupac, Greg finds the ambition and execution flawless. Jim concurs. While he felt that Lamar didn't bring enough to the characters he played on his previous album, he now believes that Lamar is providing them with proper depth and context. He calls the record a musical smörgåsbord with its jazz underpinnings and its bevy of unexpected samples. To Pimp a Butterfly is a double-Buy It.


Featured Songs

  1. The Left Banke, Desirée, Desirée (Single), Smash Records, 1967
  2. The Left Banke, Walk Away Renée, Walk Away Renée (Single), Smash Records, 1966
  3. Courtney Barnett, Pedestrian at Best, Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit, Milk! Records, 2015
  4. Wolf Alice, Fluffy, Fluffy (Single), Dirty Hit Records, 2014
  5. Girlpool, Chinatown, Chinatown (Single), Wichita Recordings, 2015
  6. Torres, Strange Hellos, Strange Hellos (Single), Partisan, 2015
  7. Bully, Brainfreeze, Brainfreeze (Single), Columbia, 2014
  8. Shamir, Call It Off, Call It Off (Single), Godmode, 2014
  9. Soak, Sea Creatures, Sea Creatures (Single), Rough Trade, 2015
  10. Boxed In, Run Quicker, Run Quicker (Single), Nettwerk, 2014
  11. Springtime Carnivore, Name on a Matchbook, Name on a Matchbook (Single), Autumn Tone Records, 2014
  12. Ryley Walker, Primrose Green, Primrose Green, Dead Oceans, 2015
  13. Kendrick Lamar, The Blacker the Berry, To Pimp a Butterfly, Interscope, 2015
  14. Kendrick Lamar, King Kunta, To Pimp a Butterfly, Interscope, 2015
  15. The Left Banke, I've Got Something on My Mind, I've Got Something on My Mind (Single), Smash Records, 1967
  16. Bob Dylan & the Band, Long Distance Operator, The Basement Tapes, Columbia, 1975
  17. Kendrick Lamar, u, To Pimp a Butterfly, Interscope, 2015
  18. The Beatles, Paperback Writer, Paperback Writer (Single), Capitol, 1966
  19. Jack White, I'm Shakin, Blunderbuss, Third Man, 2012
  20. Bruce Springsteen, Cover Me, Born in the U.S.A., Columbia, 1984
  21. Talking Heads, Girlfriend is Better, Speaking in Tongues, Sire, 1983

Footnotes Michael Brown obit The Left Banke's song Desiree Greg on SXSW 2015 Jim on SXSW 2015 Snoop Dogg at SXSW Listen to Snoop's keynote Henry Rollins at SXSW Paul Krugman at SXSW Paul Krugman on Sound Opinions Girlpool Bully Soak Riley Walker Wolf Alice Torres Shamir Springtime Carnivore Greg's Kendrick Lamar review Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City review