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Pink Siifu has a great range of talent. There is the mellowness of his previous solo album, Ensley, and then there is Negro. The two projects are extraordinarily different, but an analysis of his discography reveals relevant precedent. The artist embraced abrasive hardcore punk in 2018 on Fuck Demo, a four-track EP that contains tracks featured here. On Negro, Siifu leaves the smooth hip-hop pastures of Ensley for radical noise. The album is a fierce evolution in sound and structure. Siifu s voice is filled with furious energy - and the indignation is justified. Negro is a record that rages against the violence of systemic racism. The album starts - and generally is - absolutely wild. BLACKisGod, A ghetto-sci-fi tribute(_G) assaults the listener with static drenched screeching horns. This is a fitting introduction to Negro, as heavy static and obscurity are the norms throughout the album. While occasionally the album could benefit from the vocals being slightly clearer in the mix, its roughness is clearly intentional and mostly works in its favor. Negro is consistently bursting with intensity. The punk nature and strong guitar riffs of the second track, SMD , is another effective primer for what is to come. SMD is immediately followed by FK , which somehow manages to take the frantic rock energy up a couple of notches. The song unexpectedly switches up completely mid-way, morphing into impressive warped hip-hop as Siifu raps in an altered deep voice. Directly after, the haunting atmosphere of we need mo color is another adventurous left-turn in sound. Siifu s ghastly croon fits the song s dark mood perfectly. At times it may be hard to decipher word by word, but the overall message of Negro is never in doubt. Police brutality plays a significant role here, with tracks like ameriKKKa, try no pork. carrying an obvious message in the title alone. The song is a succinct two-minute collage of news of police violence. There is a particularly unsettling clip in which a woman recounts a loved one s last moments right before death - the police just keep on shooting despite the presence of a pregnant woman in the house. ameriKKa, try no pork. gives real-life examples of the fruits of white supremacy - the all too frequent murders that have driven Siifu to the furor and resentment present in the captivating chaos of songs like DEADMEAT and homicide/genocide/ill die. The former has insanely dense production topped off with police sirens and the latter features Siifu asking the listener if they can see the war on black lives over an aggressive guitar riff ( Genocide, you can t see!? ). When Negro gives the listener respite from its mostly high-octane environment, the results are beautiful. myheadHURT is under a minute of a gorgeously slowed down soul sample. A few tracks later, Nation Tyme has a surprisingly downtrodden jazzy soundscape. The pick of the musical outliers here is the closing track, Black Be Tha God, NEGRO.(wisdom.cipher) , a high-quality soulful song that ends the album on an uncharacteristically traditional note. Negro is harrowing and unapologetically experimental music. It s not for everyone, but it s also something that could only be made by an artist that does not fear risk. A creative mind that is not bound by any particular structure or tradition. Negro is a reaction to the collective Black American trauma that manifests itself as powerful art - a brilliant expression of righteous black anger. written on 4/10-14/2020 Kosa12 (131 reviews) There s no way she could have known this even just a few months ago, but Phoebe Bridgers has made a perfect album for this one specific moment. She is not going to have a hit on the radio this summer or become super famous, but the fact remains that when you listen to Punisher, you think: she must ve seen all this shit coming. While I don t believe that she s a literal seer who predicted the world would fall apart in time for her album drop, I do believe she s an uncommonly gifted songwriter capable of crystallizing emotions into amber unlike anybody else making art today. On her debut, the simplicity of the songs and its vulnerable moments was part of the appeal, but everything is bigger on this second album, and it pays off in the form of a masterpiece. Simply put, there are more sounds going on, and it s immediately striking: notice the bursts of orchestration on the title track, the eerie wind song that occurs throughout Halloween , the digital manipulations on I See You , the cascading different vocal parts on Chinese Satellite , and so on. It demands your attention and it s emblematic of more complex and developed and developed songs overall. Since Phoebe is my favorite singer in music right now, I have no way to discuss how she sings without being overzealous, but seriously, who can listen to the way she twists I wish I wrote it, but I didn t , or pissing contest , or any number of other phrases and not be touched? Personally, I could have taken a hundred more songs that were in the vein of Funeral , but the emphasis on production and the little sonic details all over this release make it more rewarding every time I listen to it. In painting with a new palette, Phoebe provides the album with the dreamy and ethereal atmosphere that defines it. It s not a light or hazy dream pop sound, but an expansiveness and a collage-like approach where things stick out at you and recall the random, sometimes-jarring or even scary nature of our unconscious lives. Dreams appear again and again on this album, from the recurring theater dream on Garden Song to her insistence of All the bad dreams that you hide — show me yours, I ll show you mine (maybe the single most important line here) on Savior Complex and elsewhere. Many of these dreams are also the more figurative kind, those everyday aspirations we carry with us and nurse inside, but the omnipresent melancholy (what else would there be on a Phoebe Bridgers record?) suggests that getting everything you want sometimes isn t what you want at all.Phoebe has said in interviews that a lot of this album is about relationships with people who definitively broken, but also being broken yourself. I m a few years removed from my last break-up, but I can tell that Punisher functions great as one. Of the many other lyrical themes I m going to spend the rest of my life thinking about, a closely related one is what it s like to idolize someone: the title track is her fantasy about meeting her own musical hero Elliott Smith, but there are also refrains of complete devotion on Graceland Too that point back in the direction of (unhealthy, bad-for-you) love. There are great lines that are hyper-specific to Phoebe s own life yet relatable ( I used to light you up, now I can t even get you to play the drums ), images that unfold easily in your mind s eye (the entire outro of I Know the End ), and disclosures that feel like conversations between lovers. But the moment that grabs my attention the most might be the the titular breakdown on Moon Song of If I could give you the moon, I would give you the moon . It s unartful, but that repetition feels so much like the point, as if to say there s no literary twist needed here — the sentiment is enough. It floors me every time.Every track here unfolds in unexpected ways, but a few stand out as the biggest departures. Kyoto is what I predict will end up being the song of my summer, even though I ve been playing it non-stop since spring. The indie rock dynamics make you kind of wish she was fronting a band full-time, the horn swell calling to mind Sufjan Stevens, early Arcade Fire, hell, maybe even a little Neutral Milk Hotel. Meanwhile, Graceland Too is her clearest version of a folk song yet, even going as far as being narrated in the third-person to great storytelling effect, with the inclusion of her boygenius bandmates to elevate it even further.That said, I Know the End is her most adventurous song yet, combining the essence of her solo work up to this point (beautifully sung folk with clever lyrics) with a series of mood shifts and instrumental additions (in the best way possible, I want to die every time those fucking drums come in) that culminates in a wall of noise and screaming unlike anything else in her discography. It s completely unsubtle but also cathartic, earning every great big tidal wave of doom that crashes into you, before leading us out with some ironic whisper-screams and giggling as a final subversion. Even without a global pandemic, I m sure the apocalyptic imagery would feel appropriate in election-year America. No matter where she goes from here, it s a song that s going to be rightfully remembered and talked about for a long time to come.It is so rare in life to have high expectations for something and to have them be totally surpassed, but Phoebe Bridgers has accomplished exactly that with her second album. Without being dramatic, it s the kind of record that makes you glad to be here, right now, listening to it and feeling exactly whatever it wants you to feel. I already considered her one of my favorite artists, but it s hard for even me to listen to this and not consider her in a new light, to not be even more excited about what the future holds. If the trend continues and the world truly ends, then that will be a shame — but at least we got to hear this before it happened. ColinIsCool (42 reviews) Walking in the Snow , Pigfeet , Song 33 , and Chapter 319 are the four horsepeople of the revolution man. These songs are biting condemnations of the system that are perfect for revolutionary times, and this song might be the most affecting. An absolutely venomous beat that is complimented by a super powerful DJ Screw Big Floyd sample. The music lineup this year is astounding, and this is just another one in the chamber for these wild times. TooBrokeToCare (1164 reviews) As a lyricist, Bob Dylan is as upfront as he is ambiguous. His allusions to God and select God-like figures are almost painfully obvious, yet in their contribution to a heartbreaking narrative arc, each song adds a layer of uncertainty to exponentially complicate its feelings, motivations, and deeper implications. Its musical arrangement offers each song its own remarkably unique identity, never compromising in its full-force delivery of each concept -- whether slow, booming ballads, or uppity electric grooves -- all of which successfully capture the spirit of a long-awaited, familiar homage mercilessly mashed with the fresh, passionate energy of an urgent prophecy.“I’m a man of contradictions,” he says in its first song, a promise he has delivered on in his career and relentlessly capitalizes upon throughout the following hour. Like the late Leonard Cohen, Dylan breathes a croaky, tired wisdom in his older age that’s almost too confident. But in the same breaths, he just as quickly humbles himself to the Gods before him, gloomily reflecting upon a futile eternity that has him questioning every turn. This album is a fucking rollercoaster of emotional and spiritual introspection. It’s manic in its highs and crippling in its lows.Every song offers personal, first-person accounts from Dylan where he directly pits himself against the mystical world he has learned to love and fear -- except Black Rider. Black Rider is so fucking good. It never makes itself clear -- there’s no obvious indication of the narrator and the subject, nor any distinction between them; its melody alternates between spacy plucks and rapid strums; and Dylan makes it entirely up to you whether his delivery is that of a depressed, hopeless follower, or a cheeky, charming, almost condescending master. Black Rider stands out as the album’s shortest song, its most atmospherically dark, its most subtle, its most clever, its most experiential moment. And the best part is, it’s immediately followed by a whimsical, instantly catchy, loud and boisterous tune with a riff that resembles Leopard-Skin Pill Box Hat -- a song where the man is filled with misguided anger, delusion, and mad insanity -- and brings back the trademark harmonica in a quiet, preserved, and quick-bite of a mix that’s almost frustratingly brief, but perfectly executed. Polarizing moments like this can be found at every turn, and their strangely beautiful contributions to its whole make this a most worthy, stand-out project.Recency bias is real, but I don’t give a shit. This one tops the charts. This is my favorite thing he’s ever made. jaworm (7 reviews) As mathy and proggy as you d want and expectPalimpsest is the latest effort from Canadian progressive metal band, Protest the Hero. I m a big fan of this groups work, particularly 2013 s Volition. What has always separated Protest the Hero from other progressive metal groups is that there s a ferocity that shines through in every aspect of instrumentation and the vocals without falling into typical low note bassy traps or an over reliance on tryhard edgy vocals or growling. Like an artist using proper restraint they dish those things out appropriately. They also have an ear for production and work with some great engineers. One criticism I have with Volition is that it can occasionally dip into territories where the lead and rhythm guitars are channeled so hard to the left and right that if you re not listening with two earphones you are losing crucial parts of the song. I m sure that s purposeful, but it s also not how I casually listen to music sometimes as I need to have one ear open to listen to other people at work or just be alert. My first couple of listens to Palimpsest have been more than enjoyable. I don t listen to a lot of metal these days, but boy do I enjoy these guys. Well done! Krustoff24 (2 reviews) Bought for a dime on cassette a couple years ago and almost pitched immediately, turned off completely by stale late-80s club pop vibes when I was expecting something heavier/more abrasive based on band name and artwork. Listened to earlier stuff and realized that these guys, well, Tom Ellard, started from abrasive industrial collage/loop shit and gradually worked his way up toward this ‘pop’ record. City Slab Horror marks a big transition and by the time he gets to Bigot, he’s mostly going song-forward on everything, no instrumental tracks in sight. Rotund is a commercial stab and response to efforts to get the band more international exposure and based on Ellard’s commentary, the results were middling. That all being said, I still think this one is pretty great.Ellard is a super interesting guy who’s been totally open about his thoughts on his old albums, including missteps and missed opportunities. He’s also a restless perfectionist who like Zappa or Kanye or others, goes back and re-edits/re-records his work again and again until he gets it to his liking. There’s an obsessive/insatiable pull to get the perfect loops and textures for these records and I wouldn’t be surprised if that took up way more time than the actual songwriting/melodies.Onto the album itself. It sounds like dark club pop I guess but has some beautiful loops backing everything and strange little flourishes. Not overly self-important/serious like other gothy dance stuff imo. Production is solid even when things get a little stagnant. Greater Reward and All Saint’s Day, the only songs not written by Ellard, were the big singles from this one and the former is maybe my least favorite track from this record. Reward is pretty bland and (mostly) indistinguishable from a lot of other club tracks from same era, but I’m still sorta into it. Big Car, Bad Times Too, Rotund for Success, and Chasing Skirt are probably my favorite songs. Ellard’s vocals aren’t all that strong, a little reedy, but he never buries them in the mix and I think they still work pretty well. Borderline sneery but not too much. Oh, Chasing Skirt is all instrumental and reminds me of Guests off of City Slab, one of my favorite Heads cuts.I really like albums like this where an obsessive artist is trying to make something that’s accessible while also appealing to their creative sensibilities, trying to maintain their integrity and self-respect but broaden their audience (and maaaaybe make money). There’s a weird tension and discipline to it that even when not successful, is sort of admirable or at the very least illustrative of some kind of creative growth process. It’s too easy to write someone off as selling out when they make something poppier or broader, but the tension behind it and the effort taken to grow musically in service of a song instead of just collage/straight loops is interesting. Collage is great too, but I like the effort here. And the old albums are still there to listen to and enjoy so why not just take it all in on its own merits.I sound defensive or like an apologist for this and maybe there is still some needless shame for liking a record so much when I first hated it. Trying to always stay open and appreciate what I can appreciate, learning from the new directions that others have taken in efforts to keep themselves engaged either artistically and/or with some sort of public. Rotund for Success is good. linoleumbandito (143 reviews) Colosseum were formed in 2006 by Juhani Palomäki and Janne Rämö, both members of Finnish doom outfit Yearning, in order to explore doom s slowest and most monolithic sub-genre, Funeral Doom. Unfortunately they split in 2010 after three brilliant albums when Juhani Palomäki committed suicide at just age 32.This album is a gorgeous testament to the man s art, an amazing album that is as close to funeral doom perfection as it is reasonable to expect, in my opinion. The atmosphere created is one of immense majesty, overlaid by a mournful sombreness made more poignant by the fate of the band s driving force. Feels like walking through a long-abandoned and ancient, yet still impressive, city such as the one featured in Lovecraft s At the Mountains of Madness or the ruins on the sacred island of Delos in Greece. A huge weight of history and accomplishment forgotten and dimmed by the passage of time, it s previous might and majesty now only remembered deep within the stone wrought by masons and sculptors long-gone.The riffs are heaving and slow as you would expect, albeit certainly not the slowest tempo in funeral doom and the keys add a substantial layer to the atmosphere without swamping the sound at all. A number of guest musicians contribute classical instruments such as violin, cello, flute and trumpet for an even richer and more deeply mournful atmosphere. For me though, it is Juhani Palomäki s voice that really sets Colosseum apart, I absolutely love the timbre of his vocals, that deep, rasping growl that shakes you to your core is one of the most doom metal voices ever caught on record.This album does seem to be the least well-liked of Colosseum s three full-lengths and I m sorry for being so out of step, but this is one of my all-time favourites being both immaculately heavy and yet still remaining accessible due to it s generally shorter and relatively melodic songs. Sonny92 (813 reviews)

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