SXSW 2015 & Opinions on Kendrick Lamar

SXSW

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:

Jim

  • Girlpool
  • Bully
  • Soak
  • Ryley Walker

Greg

  • Wolf Alice
  • Torres
  • Shamir
  • Springtime Carnivore

To Pimp a Butterfly 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.

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