Fall Review Roundup & Buckwheat Zydeco

Fall Review Roundup

September is bursting with major new album releases. Jim and Greg give their take on several of the biggest new records, from Bon Iver to M.I.A. to Against Me!, in this Review Roundup. Plus, they report on Chance the Rapper’s music festival and pay tribute to Buckwheat Zydeco.

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These days national headlines coming out of Chicago are generally about one thing: gun violence on the south and west sides of the city. So far this year there have been more than 3,200 shootings, more than 530 of them fatal. At the same time the city is home to a vibrant and creative hip-hop movement that continues to grow. Greg recently attended two festivals that highlighted the creativity in Chicago while addressing the city’s violence. Chance the Rapper hosted the Magnificent Coloring Day at US Cellular Field on the southside. The next day, Common hosted a festival on the westside. Greg says the two events were Chicago rappers addressing the city’s violence while trying to do something positive about it.

22, A Million Bon Iver

22, A Million

Bon Iver, the heart-on-sleeve, confessional music project of Justin Vernon, has received critical praise and a Grammy since its debut in 2007. 22, A Million is Bon Iver’s first new album in five years and it is a marked departure with an emphasis on electronics over more traditional folk instrumentation. None of that ‘critical praise’ has come from Jim or Greg, and this album doesn’t change that. Jim says Bon Iver’s music annoys him more than fingernails on a blackboard. He calls this album a disaster, with music that is long, slow and without melody. Greg, is only slightly more forgiving. He says Vernon sounds lost and this album is a manifestation of a crisis of conscience. However, that is not something he wants to listen to. If not obvious, this is a double- Trash It.

AIM M.I.A.

AIM (Deluxe)

AIM is the fifth record from Sri Lankan-British rapper M.I.A. She’s known for being political with her music and this album is no different taking on weighty issues like immigration and the refugee crisis with songs like Borders and Visa. Greg says that while the album shines at times, it is frustratingly inconsistent. Sometimes falling into a pop sound that undercuts the songs. Jim agrees and thinks the album is half-baked. He thinks M.I.A. could have used a producer or collaborators to focus the album. AIM is a double- Try It.

Heads Up Warpaint

Heads Up

Former Sound Opinions guestsWarpaint have returned with their third studio album Heads Up. As Jim explains, with the new album comes a new sound for the band. While previous records were heavy on atmospheric moodiness, Heads Up is more of a party record with a euphoric dance vibe. Jim loves this celebratory new direction and awards it a Buy It. Greg agrees that rhythm is at the center of the album, led by the spectacular drumming of Stella Mozgawa and the melodic bass playing of Jenny Lee Lindberg. Greg says this new turn toward a club sound isn’t selling out – Warpaint retains their identity with a very personal, experimental take on R&B. Heads Up is a double-Buy It.

The Healing Component Mick Jenkins

The Healing Component

Mick Jenkins is a key player in the Chicago hip-hop scene Jim and Greg discussed earlier. After receiving national acclaim on his first mixtapes, the rapper has now released his first official album: The Healing Component. Jim picks up on a message of love flowing through the album. Jenkins calls for love as a solution to the problems of the black community, yet he’s not simply being naive and sunny. He references Eric Garner’s death and Black Lives Matter throughout, but ultimately is optimistic for the community. Jim says the album is brilliant and that Jenkins is an important new voice. Greg admires that Jenkins is not doing what everybody else is doing in hip-hop. Rather than work with big name producers, he’s opted to create his own stoned, abstract jazzy sound. For Greg, this is what art is all about – the album is both community minded and pushing forward culturally. The Healing Component gets a double- Buy It.

Shape Shift with Me Against Me!

Shape Shift with Me

Against Me! has been active since forming in Gainesville, Florida in 1997, but 2014 proved to be the pivotal year in the band’s history. Its leader Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender and the band released its most successful record to date, Transgender Dysphoria Blues. While that record was explicitly about her transition, Greg says the followup Shape Shift with Me examines her post-transition relationships, trading in some of the anthems for a film noir feel. Greg wishes the production sounded less meticulously layered, but the songwriting is very strong, filled with both sincerity and humor. Jim likes the darker, slower moments on this album, but points out that there is still plenty of rabble rousing anthemic rock. When all is said and done, Jim believes we’ll see Against Me! as the true inheritors of the political legacy of The Clash. Although Laura Jane Grace writes personal songs, Jim says you don’t have to be living her same journey to be able to find inspiration. It’s another double- Buy It for Shape Shift with Me.

Buckwheat Zydeco

Buckwheat Zydeco

Legendary accordionist and zydeco musician Buckwheat Zydeco has died. Born Stanley Dural Jr., he was responsible for spreading the southern Louisiana regional sound across the world. Zydeco became famous for his unique accordion playing after forming a band in 1979. He went on to win a Grammy and an Emmy, and collaborated with acclaimed artists across genres like Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Willie Nelson, U2 and Robert Plant. At his concerts, people were constantly on their feet dancing, dancing to that blended creole sound of accordion, rub board, R&B and rock and roll. Greg plays the song Hot Tamale Baby, which showcases all of these elements to perfection. Zydeco succumbed to cancer at age 68.

Jim

Like many Americans, Jim and his wife Carmél watched the first presidential debate this week. Regardless of politics, Jim was greatly offended by candidate Donald Trump’s hateful remarks about overweight people. Both of them felt that he was particularly cruel to former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, whom he publicly fat shamed in 1997 for gaining weight after winning her title. Jim wanted to counteract the negativity and insensitivity by bringing one of his favorite tracks ever, The Model by Kraftwerk, to the desert island. He wanted to play this song for Machado because she was and is a beautiful woman and she should may no mind to Trump’s ignorant attitude.

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