Although Anderson Paak has been on the scene for a while, the spotlight has only recently graced his presence. After his early neo soul projects as Breezy Lovejoy, Paak released his first full length album Venice in 2014. Despite the album’s success, Paak flew under mainstream hip-hop’s radar while picking up features with scene specific artists like Jonwayne, and Busdriver. It wasn’t until Paak was featured alongside Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Dre on Dre’s newest album Compton that Paak began to achieve Mainstream attention.
With the attention of the music industry, Paak used the success he achieved from his features on Compton to slingshot his release of Malibu, a 16 track project that clocks in at just over an hour. While Paak has consistently released crowd pleasing high energy tracks, he has always trended towards neo soul, a stylistic trait he chose to highlight on Malibu. Paak’s Soul-centric sound gives Malibu a polished groove that carries the album through the heavy,sentimental, and often autobiographical lyrics, without letting the songs drag.
Malibu is everything it needed to be, however I found myself let down. Although the album is packed with funk and groove, the grit that attracted me to Paak’s voice initially has been cleaned up in Malibu. The rough edges Paak displayed on Venice and Greenlight(Jonwayne) have been sanded into a smooth album that functions more as a commercial breakthrough than a musical manifesto. Despite the lack of tongue and cheek trap bangers, Malibu remains a breakthrough for Paak and the hip-hop scene. I’d recommend Malibu to anyone who enjoys the funkier side of Kendrick, the harder side of Jamiroquai, or the rougher side of any 50s west coast soul.
Favorite Tracks: The Bird, Come Down, Without You, and Heart Don’t Stand a Chance.
Release Date: January 15, 2016
Reviewer: Pete Sheehy
Review Date: 2/14/16
Late Knight Special is the first solo album of Pro-Era Producer Kirk Knight. After years of producing for fellow Pro-Era MC Joey Bada$$, Knight’s debut album is a welcome insight into one of hip-hop’s the up and coming producers. Late Knight Special showcased Knight’s talent as both a producer and an MC. The album spans every style of rap and hip hop, from the 90s boom bap flow and 36 chambers style beat of ‘Brokeland’,to the tight hi-hats, crisp snares, and thundering synth bassline of ‘Knight Time’. The variety of sound on the album illuminates the artistic path Knight has taken, and his musical influences become clearer throughout the album. Late Knight Special boasts an impressive lineup of features. Among the talent gracing Knight’s album is: friend Joey Bada$$, Mick Jenkins, Noname Gypsy, and LA’s own Thundercat.
I thoroughly enjoyed this album, the first song on the album ‘Start Running’ opens with a sample from iconic afro-futurist jazz composer Sun Ra, a classic hip-hop sample that instantly legitimized the album for me. The instrumentals were clean, diverse, and framed Knights vocals well. While Knights verses don’t quite match the quality of the beats on the album, they are by no means bad, and hold incredible merit as the producer’s first foray into serious rapping. I’d recommend Late Knight Special to almost any fan of hip-hop. Knight has something for everybody on this album, and while the tracks may not be perfect, Late Knight Special does not disappoint
Stand out Tracks: Brokeland, I know Ft. Mick Jenkins, Five Minutes Ft. Joey Bada$$
Pete Sheehy is the Hip-Hop/RPM genre director at KSTO.
With multiple arrest warrants under his belt and a petition boasting over 270,000 signatures calling for his deportation, it’s no wonder that Justin Bieber’s most recent studio album, Purpose, revolves around forgiveness and apologies. In just a few short years, Bieber has transformed from a pint-sized adolescent with shockingly good pipes into a moody, angst-ridden teenager with an affinity for dangerous driving and egging his neighbor’s house. However, while Bieber’s behavior has become annoyingly predictable, Purpose debuts some genuinely likeable tunes with a more mature flavor. With tropical house and hip hop influences scattered throughout, the Biebs’ fourth album is by far his most sincere effort to distance himself from his tween pop years and rebrand himself as a serious contender in the music business.
The album opens with “Mark My Words”, a blatant tribute to Selena Gomez and their weird on-again, off-again relationship. More importantly, it sets the tone for the rest of the album, which is centered on the themes of regret and redemption. After getting through the first two songs, Bieber lightens up a bit with “What Do You Mean?” and “Sorry”, two of the singles that were released prior to the album. These are by far the highlight of Purpose, showcasing Bieber’s growth since his last album with some cool house vibes. Also worth noting are “Love Yourself” for its subtle use of trumpet, “Been You” and “The Feeling” featuring Halsey. As for those of you that are nostalgic for the old Justin with his swooping hair and squeaky voice, don’t worry- there are plenty of classic Bieber ballads to bring you to tears, if only for his shameless use of awful cliches.
Whether you love or hate the Biebs, you’ve got to hand it to him- he has turned some questionable life choices into a solid collection of music that you will most likely catch yourself humming on your way to class or throwing down to over the weekend. Is Purpose just what the world needs to reignite the ever-dwindling Bieber Fever? I guess only time will tell.
Lindsey Tucker is one of the Alt/Top 200 genre directors at KSTO.
Following Nile Rodgers’ guitar work on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories in 2013, elements of disco have crept back into the dance scene. Funky rhythms and jazzy minor 7 chords have been dragged from the depths of the discotheques they died in. Escort’s Animal Nature is a project that seeks to prove that elements of disco can be fused with modern drum beats and smooth up-to-date lyrics to form tracks that wouldn’t be out of place at a modern club. Escort themselves have said that they want their vibe to be relevant to today’s music scene while still sounding like that one gem of an album that you found the other day in an old crate of vinyl. Top tacks for me were Body Talk, Animal Nature, and Cabaret. I would also include If You Say So on the list simply for its driving guitar part reminiscent of Nile Rodgers on RAM.
Reviewed by Sam Brand, one of KSTO’s Alt/Top 200 genre directors.
In an era where hiphop is dominated by snappy trap hihats, and boosted 808 kick bass, is there any room for the old school? Krondon and Shafiq Husayn seem to think so. Together, the two industry denizens make up White Boiz, a musical collaboration formed out of mutual respect, and a desire to produce meaningful message filled music. The pair’s Debut album Neighborhood Wonderful did just that. Neighborhood Wonderful is a hard hitting Boom Bap album filled with the poignant lyrical insights of Krondon, and garnished with the crisp production of Shafiq Husayn in beats reminiscent of Madlib and Dilla. the album also boasts some significant features from Bass virtuoso Thundercat, and hiphop genius Kendrick Lamar. While I enjoyed this album, it didn’t particularly stand out to me. save for a few songs. I would definitely recommend this album to old school hiphop fans, and for those of you who only ride with the the ASAP mob and Drake singles, this album could be a nice introduction to the roots of HipHop culture.
Standout Tracks: G.U.N., Learn tho, Bloomingdales(Ft. Anderson Paak, and Thundercat)
Pete Sheehy is the KSTO Hip-Hop/Electronic music director.
At one point in history, all eyes were turned towards the stars. Space captivated man like no other, as humanity pushed its limits through countless trials and tribulations to lay claim to the final frontier. The Race for Space, the latest release from the British duo Public Service Broadcasting rekindles humanity’s passion to go beyond their known limits in an album that is both breathtaking conceptually, and as a storytelling device speaking to an era filled with pride and fear, hope and anxiety, and, above all, determination and perseverance.
J. Willgoose esq. and Wrigglesworth, the Londoners who make up Public Service Broadcasting, have already made a name for themselves across the pond with their unique take on sampling. The duo utilizes speech fragments and soundbites from numerous public domain sources and BBC documentaries to retell history with the aid of new age music. Their first album, Inform – Educate – Entertain took on a variety of themes ranging from the British postal service to the first expeditions to the peak of Mount Everest, using the soundbites as chilling lyrics to back their unique mix of electronic beats, electric guitars, and banjoes. What makes The Race for Space remarkable in its own right, however, is the framing of the album. Each track builds off of the last, aiding in the telling of a grander story: The Space Race between the United States and Soviet Union. A time of “great knowledge and ignorance” in the words of JFK.
Opening with a wispy, dissonant choir to back President John F. Kennedy’s famous “Address on the National Space Effort at Rice University”, the album starts with the chilling aura of JFK’s hopeful speech, asking “God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked”. Any childhood dreams you had about space came rushing back in a flurry of emotion as the audience applauds setting the stage for what is to come. Following the opening track, The Race for Space moves chronologically from the launch of Sputnik 1 through the flight of Apollo 17 cluing a new generation into the gripping emotional journey that led humankind to the stars. The true genius of Willgoose and Wrigglesworth lies in their effective sampling of public domain sources and the NASA archives there were able to acquire for the album. The driving sound in “Sputnik”, for example, is not a driving guitar riff, but the faint constant beeping of the artificial satellite circling earth.
Despite, the flashier tracks like the upbeat groove single, “Gagarin” the real magic of The Race for Space lies in the duo’s effective use of dynamics, using the music they create to emotionally back the content taken from NASA and documentaries. Continuing down the path of history, Public Service Broadcasting provides a faithful tribute to the lives lost in the conquest of the stars. “Fire in the Cockpit” does this exceptionally well, utilizing the NASA communications during the Apollo 1 disaster and providing somber, reflective chord progressions that drift into a silent mourning for the astronauts lost in the accident. “The Other Side”, does this brilliantly as well, documenting the fear and trepidation of failure that encapsulates the entirety of the album’s concept. The track follows the Apollo 8 mission from the viewpoint of Mission Control in Houston; the duo’s music eliciting the hope and excitement for what is to come as the space craft attempts to orbit the moon. Yet, when contact between Apollo 8 and Houston is lost, the remaining beat of pulsing anxiety dips down into long breaks of silence broken only by the monologue of a controller attempting to hold it together. The silence is painful, powerful, and captures the spirit of the moment. It’s as if you’re right there in the Control Room biting your nails in fearful anticipation. The feeling Public Service Broadcasting emits in moments like those make their triumphant fanfares all the more powerful. Once Apollo 8’s radio communication is restored, a horn line flares up inducing moments of relief and pure elation celebrating the return of once lost heroes. This is what Public Service Broadcasting does best; re-tell and re-imagine our own history, not so much commenting on history as much as telling its story.
The Race for Space has done a remarkable job in providing a snapshot of an era and really deserves to be listened to in its entirety. Thus far, I have been continually amazed by the music Public Service Broadcasting has put out, and the duo have held true to their mantra of “Inform, Educate, Entertain”; bringing the emotional and historical perspectives of an era to a new generation through tantalizing musical storytelling.
Public Service Broadcasting may never top a billboard chart, but nonetheless, they deserve acclaim for producing emotionally captivating music that resonates with a global community celebrating our shared history as human beings.
Mitch Kampf serves as Station Manager for KSTO. He is a senior Philosophy and Political Science major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s a good time in history to be a lover of electronic music. In lieu of guitars, keyboards and drum sets, many of our generation’s favorite performers deliver their craft from behind MacBooks and sampling pads. And as the tech and the style continue to evolve, electronic music is only becoming cooler and cooler. This weird world is the one I live in–and it’s the one I love. I’m an avid musician, but all I do is play keyboards and make beats (to call it “producing” would be generous). FL Studio–“Fruity Loops”–is my audio platform of choice. Hardly designed to mix or post-produce “real instruments,” it’s used mostly by electronic music amateurs and prospective hip-hop producers seeking to play with synths and drum kits. Basically, people like me.
It seems fitting, then, that when KSTO published each of its staff members’ top ten albums of 2014, my list of personal favorites was dominated by electronic producers and a handful of rappers. Even the bands I included–Alt-J, Broken Bells, Chet Faker–rely heavily on samples, synths and other electronic production to make their sound what it is. So at first glance, it doesn’t make much sense that St. Paul and the Broken Bones’ Half the City was one of my very favorite records of the year.
But it’s clear to me now that it’s because of its sharp divergence from the traditional listening tastes of my peers and me that I’ve fallen so in love with this record. In an era of banging 808’s and synthesized (literally, manufactured) backing tracks, Half the City offers its listeners resounding drums, raucous rhythms, stirring guitar, and brass that’s nothing less than audacious. And the way they fit together on the album is so undeniably human. Put simply, it’s a breath of fresh air. And on top of Half the City’s sonic genius and genuineness, frontman “Saint” Paul Janeway’s vocals are the reason why. To call his singing style “emotive” would barely begin to cover the uniqueness and raw talent driving his voice, not to mention the candor and ingenuity behind his performative approach. In delivering every word, every phrase, on the album, Janeway draws from a deep well of passion that’s easily and immediately recognizable, yet incredibly rare: soul.
“All I need is a tender little touch,” Janeway announces in the opening line to “Like a Mighty River.” Later he observes, then resolves: “you are just a tired girl, and I am just a tired boy, but we ain’t gonna let it fall.” This song, the fourth on the album, is about persistence, about holding onto real love even–especially–in periods of loneliness and struggle. As its title suggests, the piece draws heavily on soul tradition in both music and lyrics. This is absolutely the case for the rest of the album, too: throughout Half the City, Janeway brings a new name and perspective to themes of friendship, loss, relationships, and aging.
Of the latter three, Janeway sings wistfully of memory and how it’s inextricably tied to both happiness and melancholy. Track nine, “Grass is Greener,” provides one particularly salient example. “How do we always do this–turn ourselves around?” he catechizes the song’s subject, a lost lover. “Remember when those sweet memories used to soothe us, make us smile?” The song continues to evoke a powerful sense of yearning, both for times past and for the person Janeway used to know. Ultimately the track closes with a powerful refrain: “Please don’t leave me.” This sentiment has been stated and echoed by a wealth of songwriters in history–we could all name dozens of tracks, probably–but here Janeway’s delivery is truly unparalleled. His performance is distinctly sensitive, sensible, sincere; and across the album, Janeway’s lyrics and voice alike are honest and vulnerable, yet resolute. At this point, it’s clear: Half the City is about endurance and hope. It’s about finding light in a dark place.
Yet while the themes addressed on Half the City are strikingly contemplative, even occasionally solemn, the listener never fails to get the impression the band is having a really, really good time. Their grooves are so tight-fitting, the rhythmic hits so huge, that it’s hard not to picture them playing through each song together smiling ear to ear. The “Broken Bones sound” is at once heartfelt and highly intelligent, methodical yet playful. Each song is crafted and performed in a way that allows each player to shine without overstepping one another or Janeway’s stunning vocals.
Put concisely, they rock.
Five days ago, when St. Paul and the Broken Bones played “Call Me” on The Late Show with David Letterman, the iconic talk show host introduced the band by proclaiming, “The first time I heard this song, I was screaming til I cried.” The audience responded with an emphatic chorus of understanding laughter. Letterman’s adulation, par for the talk-show-host course, sounds half-joking; he nearly shouts it, partly for emphasis and partly to overcome the roar of the audience. Yet it’s clear from his expression that the message is genuine. He continues, enjoining the band, “Seriously, I want this to be like the first time.” And he does mean it seriously.
Grinning, seemingly unfazed by Letterman’s flattery, Paul Janeway chuckles in response, hands relaxed in the pockets of his tuxedo pants. Letterman continues, “If I don’t get that [first-time feeling], I’m gonna stop the show”–a threat delivered with a straight face and met with a peal of laughter from the audience. But Janeway seems utterly impervious. He smiles: “Absolutely.” Apparently he’s comfortable enough to toss his own good-natured jokes of agreement right back at Letterman. Then the pressure comes on: “You know I’m retiring soon, so do it for me,” Letterman urges. “Maybe if I told you I was dying.” The crowd explodes, but Janeway simply beams again. “Alright. Let’s do it.”
On stage, Janeway is a natural: he was born to sing (not to dance), yet his movements are effortless. The performance includes a host of emotive arm and hand gestures, big steps on the big hits, some sliding from left to right. He switches the mic easily from hand to hand. It’s clear this environment is where Janeway is most comfortable. It’s where he belongs. His passion, personality and sense of humor blend easily on stage to create an engaging performance that adds a new depth to the stories he weaves so expertly throughout the record. It’s a theme that defines St. Paul and the Broken Bones for all forty minutes of Half the City, start to finish: we can address, even attack, our woes with vivaciousness. We can use music as a conduit for the notion of hope. And we can perform our songs with an unshakeable sense of faith and–perhaps most importantly–fun.
KSTO can’t wait to hear what they do next.
Zaq Baker serves KSTO as Program Director. He is a senior English and Environmental Studies major. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Today’s top 10 of 2014 comes to you from Andrew Hoisington, Co-Alternative/Top 200 Genre Director !
Check out Cynthia’s favorite albums of 2014 and check back each day for more staff picks as the semester ends.
1. Half the City – St. Paul & The Broken Bones
2. Salad Days – Mat Demarco
3. This Is All Yours – Alt-J
4. Bahamas is Life – Bahamas
5. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
6. Zaba – Glass Animals
7. Atlas – Real Estate
8. Classics – She & Him
9. Infinity – Yann Tiersen
10. 1989 – Taylor Swift