Today’s song of the day comes from the audio magician Supa Bwe. Supa, yet another rapper coming from the cultural renaissance currently happening Chicago, has been producing and rapping for a few years now. “Stay Awake”, from Supa’s Hurt Everybody mixtape, produced by Zen Zan, was released seven months ago on Soundcloud. The slowed down beat, extended bass, and wavey melody sets makes a perfect canvas for rappers Twista, Mick Jenkins and Supa Bwe to work with. Supa’s talent for making a hook sets a stage for Mick Jenkins and Twista to go in. Mick Jenkins lyrics, “let me see that dropped pin”, takes a unexpected satirical twist to this song. The juxtaposition between the slow verses of Mick Jenkins and the rapid lyrics of Twista makes this a complex and unique banger. Enjoy this song to wherever you’re heading this block break.
At first listen, Is The Is Are is but a slight departure from DIIV’s 2012 debut, featuring breathy vocals barely float above the guitar melodies that have defined the band for years. With a runtime of 63 minutes, the signature sound makes Is The Is Are a comfortable commitment. Longtime DIIV fans will find little to complain about with this album, though a few may stop to ask: what the hell took so long?
Those who regularly reads music news will remember when frontman Zachary Cole Smith and his girlfriend Sky Ferreira were arrested in upstate New York on misdemeanor charges of heroin possession in 2013. The couple was riding dirty in a stolen van en route to a music festival, and though Cole Smith took responsibility for both the drugs and the vehicle, Ferreira’s reputation took a hard hit as well. The singer and model, who was only 21 at the time, lost contracts with several major labels once they got wind of her involvement in the arrest. Media coverage of the arrest consistently depicted both Smith and Ferreira as drugged-out losers, ugly products of substance glorification in the music industry.
As a standalone event, Smith’s brush with the law would have been bad enough for the band. Unfortunately, the ordeal was hardly the first of DIIV’s roadblocks. Not only did the arrest mark a particularly harsh rock bottom in Smith’s struggle with opioid addiction, but it also came on the heels of a failed attempt to use drug-fueled creativity to record a new album in San Francisco. Defeated, humiliated, and existentially wracked with guilt, Cole Smith found himself ordered to twelve days in chemical dependency treatment in January 2014, effectively setting DIIV on a road to uncertainty.
Whether Is The Is Are came to fruition in spite of Smith’s stint in rehab or because of it is unclear. In the two years since the incident, he has written hundreds of songs for this album, driven by the need to release a perfect product to atone for his very public mistakes. Whittled down to 17 tracks, the resulting record is a reflection on Smith’s attempts at recovery, thinly disguised as a DIIV album.
In an interview with VICE’s i-D this past October, Cole Smith stated that he intended the album to be a cautionary tale, a chance for him to “explain to people where [he’s] coming from – what happened.” The lyrics of Is The Is Are darkly convey a story of Smith’s relationship with heroin, an unglamorous depiction of the road to recovery. Lines like “Got so high I finally felt like myself” and “I know I gotta kick but I can’t get sick” paint a bleak portrait of drug use not often seen in rock music. Any glimpses of hope are tongue-in-cheek at best, always twinged with an air of nihilism. The album’s final track, “Waste of Breath,” is nearly a light at the end of the tunnel, but instead claims “It would be a waste of breath to tell a man who / believes in me that he’s got something better to do,” perfectly encapsulating an addict’s tendency to reject the support of others. In sharp contrast to DIIV’s first album, Is The Is Are trades in seductive metaphors for heroin for raw descriptions of overdoses: the sweating, shaking, and ringing ears. DIIV hardly aims to be the new face of Narcotics Anonymous, and Is The Is Are is by no means a sermon for sobriety. Yet its raw expression of Cole Smith’s experience falls right in line with recovery culture, the success of which relies on brutal honesty in the confessional exchange of stories.
Intriguingly, the musical style of the album remains diametrically opposed to the lyrical content. Quite frankly, Is The Is Are is exactly the sort music you’d want to get high to – reverberating dream-pop that melts right into your ears. Smith’s boyish voice often fades to incoherency behind interweaving guitar lines, making it easy to tune out his heartbreaking words. Listening to the album in its entirety is kind of like watching a Stanley Kubrick film, as its richness can backfire and cause you to get lost in your own thoughts. A few key tracks help to cut through the haze, however. The punchy guitar riffs on “Valentine” wakes listeners from the spoken-word dream that is “Blue Boredom,” a song that features Sky Ferreira. The dissonant instrumental “(Fuck)” serves a similar purpose. Softer songs such as “Take Your Time” are the album’s hidden gems, and the final track is downright velvety, albeit anti-climactic.
Is The Is Are does not immediately come off as a concept album, but by the third or fourth listen – and a quick trip to a lyric website – it becomes obvious that this is the musical equivalent of a heroin fix. It’s exactly what DIIV fans have been craving since Oshin’s release in 2012; it warms from the inside out; it leaves you wanting more. Listeners can only hope for a steady supply going forward, as the band’s future remains murky as ever as they embark on their international tour. Despite the constant uncertainty of the rock outfit’s trajectory, Is The Is Are is reason enough to believe in DIIV, no matter what form they may take in the years to come.
After seeing The Neighbourhood live for the second time this past September, I could scarcely contain my excitement for the release of their second album, Wiped Out!. Released on October 30th, the album follows up The NBHD’s first full-length, I Love You., released back in 2013. Equally strong in content and variety, Wiped Out! has been my go-to album recommendation for anyone looking for an alternative album that satisfies from start to finish.
Beginning with “A Moment of Silence,” the album starts with a literal 30-second track of silence before launching into “Prey,” one of the several songs I was exposed to at their concert. In classic NBHD fashion, the track starts with faint background sounds, perhaps of a chorus, along with the dim intimations of a guitar. Then the tambourine and bass come in, producing an irresistible beat to complement frontman Jesse Rutherford’s smooth tenor voice and honest confession “Something is off, / I feel like prey, / I feel like praying.”
The album continues its momentum with “Cry Baby,” relying on another catchy chorus and beat that has even been placed recently at the end of Alt Nation’s Top 18. The song is framed around a common theme of the Neighbourhood—loving a girl that you shouldn’t love, or at least has quite a bit of baggage. This theme is woven throughout the album, particularly in “Daddy Issues,” “Baby Came Home 2 / Valentines,” and “Single.” Also prevalent is the band’s connection to the West Coast in songs such as “The Beach” and “Greetings from Califournia.” Often, one can hear waves crashing distantly towards the end of the songs, combined with electrical feedback. Listening to these songs and their lyrics, it comes as no surprise that the band used birds, palm trees, and highway roads as imagery at their concert to bring the music and its message to life. Moreover, along with this imagery, the juxtaposition of easy-going, relaxed beats and deep emotional expression seems to foster a profound connection with listeners while also making them feel small and distant, a strange yet somehow comforting sensation.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of Wiped Out!, however, is the final song, “R.I.P. 2 My Youth.” The tambourine and drum once again lead the song, until Rutherford comes in with the title from the get-go: “R.I.P. to my youth, / And you could call this the funeral. / I’m just telling the truth, / And you can play this at my funeral.” Combining Rutherford’s R&B-style voice, a hip-hop beat, and electronic waves, “R.I.P. 2 My Youth” encapsulates the album’s feeling of hopefulness despite internal struggle and compositional vibe. It’s relatable enough without becoming discouraging, and it will occupy your mind for days after listening to it. If you have to listen to one song from Wiped Out!, it’s this one. But I don’t know why you would only listen to one
—after all, everybody deserves a moment of silence and a trip to the beach before laying their youth to rest.
I chose “That Green Gentleman” as my first song of the day for a number of reasons. Not only is it a fantastic Panic! throwback–backwhen Panic! wasn’t just Brendan Urie–it also reminds me of simpler times. When I was in grade school, my good friend Alexa would let me listen to her iPod with her on our busrides to and from school. These rides were 45 minutes long and covered winding roads over two different mountains. It was wearying at times, so to lighten things up in the afternoons, we’d have “karoake day,” where we’d essentially sing at the top of our lungs to whatever Fall Out Boy or Panic! song we were currently obsessed with. Alexa just recently texted me a link to the music video for this song and after re-watching it, I couldn’t help feel nostalgic for those busrides, and the lyrics had never rung more true: “Things have changed for me, / And that’s OK, / I’m on my way.” If you get the chance, give the music video a watch–it’s a good one.
In his 1975 single “Golden Years”, David Bowie sings “Never look back, walk tall, act fine.” Thirty-five years later, it is apparent that Bowie took his own advice. David Bowie died on January 10, 2016, 18 months after being diagnosed with cancer, and only two days after his 25th and final studio album, Blackstar, was released. News of his illness and battle with cancer were kept secret; not even Bowie’s closest friends knew. Even though Bowie was planning a follow-up to Blackstar, he new his days were numbered, and had for a while. The result is an eerie, cryptic, and stunning record that is arguably the farthest Bowie has ever forayed from straight up pop. Blackstar is, in short, Bowie’s brilliant response to his impending death.
Musically, this album is meticulously arranged, lush, and constantly shifting. The title track “Blackstar” kicks off the record with tight, irregular drums, a wailing saxophone and etherial synth swells. This is certainly the jazziest Bowie has ever been on record. Bowie’s vocals are haunting and unclear. About 4 minutes in, the track shifts time signatures, and gives way to a creeping groove. Bowie’s vocals are poignant and well performed, and he repeatedly sings “I’m a black star”: a star that has let out it’s last light for all to see, a star that is dying.
Bowie’s most telling moment comes in the first lines of “Lazarus”, where he sings in a slightly weak sounding voice, “Look up here, I’m in heaven / I’ve got scars that can’t be seen” after an intro bass riff that would not be out of place in a Joy Division song. “Lazarus” maintains a post-punk aesthetic throughout; moody vocals, distorted guitars slapped in reverb, and driving drums that, coupled with the sombre saxophones, give the song a certain melancholy to it. The music video for “Lazarus” is equally poignant. It features a sickly looking Bowie on a hospital bed, blindfolded, arms stretched skyward. The video goes back and forth between the hospital bed and Bowie frantically writing, as if trying to beat a rapidly approaching dead line.
“Dollar Days” seems to be a highly self-reflective song, and arguable the prettiest arrangement on the entire record. Bowie makes reference to the music industry (by comparing it to an oligarchy), his longing for his English boyhood home, and his life decisions. “Dollar Days” is Bowie openly reflecting on his life for all to see. Over and over, Bowie sings “I’m trying to” and “I’m dying to”, the latter of which operates as a wonderful ambiguity; Bowie could be saying how he is trying and wants more than anything to write music in his final days, or he could literally be saying “I’m dying, too.” Musically, this song beautifully spans Bowie’s career as well. The gently strummed acoustic guitar of “Space Oddity”, synths reminiscent of the Berlin-era, and the same wailing saxophones that characterize Blackstar.
“I Can’t Give Everything Away” opens with the same harmonica melody that Bowie uses in “New Career in a New Town”, off of 1977’s Low. That theme repeated here, taken from a song about change, makes perfect sense. Bowie knows he is staring the largest change fathomable straight in the face.
In truth, all seven tracks on here are excellent. In “Girl Loves Me”, Bowie sings about the rapid passage of time, over an immaculate, irregular, and yet driving drum beat. “‘Tis A Pity She Was a Whore”, which according to a note posted by Bowie back in November is thematically connected with World War I, features some free flowing saxophones over a skeletal march-like drum beat. Even if the deeply meaning lyrics all over this album are ignored (which they obviously should never be), ever track on Blackstar is excellent. The music is off-kilter, experimental, even occult or unsettling in places. But despite this the songs have strong hooks, catchy melodies, and are beautifully arranged. Blackstar is probably the liveliest album about death around. But through the allusions to death and Bowie’s pained voice, there is an underlying optimism. “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” both touch on the prospect of life after death. It’s impossible to say if Bowie is looking down at us from heaven, but David Bowie’s music and legacy will long outlive him or any of us. Bowie had one of the greatest careers of any musician, and fittingly Blackstar is a monumental end to a monumental career.
Milo has got to be one of the most emotional and interesting figures in the world of hip-hop today. “Folk-Metaphysics” is a track from his album Things That Happen at Day. It is one of Milo’s most engaging songs and showcases his ability to let his mind take him where it will. His vocals dance over a minimal beat while he covers the world of relationships and gives us a look inside of his mind. The lyrics do not rhyme in many places, but his cadence lets the words flow in a completely natural manner. While sometimes Milo loses me in his world, this song is easy enough to digest, while still moving away from the world of materiality that many hip-hop artists fall victim too. Milo is vulnerable in the song and not in an overly emotional way. He raps, “I’m going to write rap songs to find objective truths.” He’s searching for something and I think he touches on a poignant moment with this line: “I don’t make promises I can’t keep – So I’m not going to make promises ever – And when I write letters to my ex-girlfriends that’ll be the header.” He is navigating a difficult world it seems, and we’re lucky enough to get a look inside.
This hidden gem of a song is good for the following:
– Mad indie street cred
– Studying, especially if it’s something kind of metaphysical
– Probably smoking weed, but I’ll get back to you once I’ve actually tried it
– Dancing alone in your room at 3:30 am as a fourth week study break
– Having profound revelations, if showering just ain’t doing it for ya
– Browsing avant-garde photography albums
– Listening to on top of a fourteener you just summited
What this song is not good for:
– Fight scene background music
– Rough sex (dispute me on that one if you want)
– The opening show for Kanye
– Donald Trump rallies (but then again, what song is)
– Ignoring and never listening to, ever. A song this revelatory and dreamy is worth your damn time.
Welcome to Deep Cuts! My name is cole, and for the remainder of this article I want you to think of me as your tour guide… or Sherpa into the amazing, mystical, and often dangerous world of music! I guess we should get right to it then. Hope you’re ready 😀
You may not know this about me, but… well… I’m not very good with women. It feels like I just don’t understand them! What do they like? Why do they smell so good? AHHH I don’t get it! This confusion, coupled with debilitating social anxiety, doesn’t leave many ways to gain… experience… so I’m left with two things: porn (I’ve learned everything I know about women from porn) and music.
Music! It’s like a window into someone’s soul, which is why I like to listen to the music of the female sex.
So why don’t we check out one of my fav’s, Lene Alexandra! Also known as Miss Boobs, Lene was a serious chart topper in Norway. Now she’s a mega hot body builder! Anyways, here’s Lene Alexandra’s My Boob’s Are OK.
As you hit play, I’m sure you were amazed by that killer beat. Whoa! Those rhythms sure got my head bumpin. Damn! But it doesn’t stop there. You see, once you get over those sick beats, you gotta really take a second and check the lyrics. Like I was saying earlier, if you’re like me, and don’t know women very well, just read this shit! I mean WOW! That’s what I like to call flowetry (flow + poetry). If you really pay attention, you’ll see that these lyrics just highlight the unbelievable pressure that growing women face everyday. These are lyrics that every girl around the world should shake it to!
My boobs, my boobs
My boobs are ok
Talk about self-acceptance! Now pay attention to the second verse…
I keep my religion in a Gucci purse
Oh my god, I just forgot the rest of this verse
Who cares? I never passed junior high
It was so hard!
My boobs, my boobs
My boobs are ok
I mean like, COME ON! She’s such a dynamic character. At first she struggles with religion and her intelligence, and then she realizes that the most important thing is really just the way she looks! If she’s got big bazongas, then what else matters? I mean… everything I’ve learned from porn seems to back this up. Everything is about sex!
Which brings us to her next song.
I’m very lonely
So sometimes I like to wallow in it, you know? I’ll get into a mood where all I want to listen to is Elliot Smith or the Cure… Well now I’ve got another chick to add to that list! Check these lines…
do you know the feeling when you
just really need a bang ?
do you know the feeling when you
need much more than your hand ?
do you know the feeling when you
want it so much ?
do you know the feeling when you
need to be touched ?
This shit is like straight outta my diary! What the heck Lene! How do you know my pain? When I heard these lyrics:
do you know the feeling when you
need much more than your hand ?
I was like, “YES! EVERY FUCKING DAY SINCE I WAS 11!!!”
God, I want you Lene.
Please, Please, Please…
let me get what I want!
I want to lick your sticky muscles
^ that’s her 😉
Sometimes you have to look back to move forward. With the resurgence of R&B from D’angelo to Chris McClenney, I figured I would share this original R&B jam from 2005. In his track “Sacrifice”, Darien Brockington brings the beautiful production and tempting voices come together beautifully in this one and creates truly timeless music.
Pick a song you’ve been listening to a lot lately and listen to it again (for me, that song is Happiness by Elliott Smith).
Write/paint/sculpt/make art while it plays, using the song as a prompt.
Flash fictiony thing I wrote in response:
I see him walking up the callous mountain, and I feel a little small. He is wearing Keds, with holes where the sole should join the fabric. His toes poke out. The wind ruffles his hair; I think I see him smiling at the sun rising above the Rockies. Behind me, the house is quiet and drained – Andy and Shane sleep on couch, top-to-tail, in matching t-shirts that say ‘I Heart Xanax’, in the ‘I Heart NY’ style. Shane’s arm is sprawled across the makeshift table (wooden log underneath, piece of cardboard as the top), with a burnt out Parliament between his fingers, leaning towards the ashtray, like a sunflower towards the sun. I sit in a swinging chair on the porch, cradling a cup of Earl Grey like a premature child. The world in front of me is unfolding slowly, calmly – sun peaks out over the mountains; its streaks get in my eyes like loose strands of hair. Behind me, the people sleep through the aftermath of unhealthy decisions, sleep away the glaze, just sleep.