Thandi Ntuli-The Offering

Alright, so another music post but at least this time I focus on one project…Right!? Guys?? Please don’t leave!


Well, last night I had an epiphany. I’m picky about my jazz. The problem is that I really can’t afford to be. Jazz is a well established genre complete with sub-genres and strange offshoots but it is probably the least popular form of music in the world (idk this is conjecture). These artists need our support though; they deserve all the recognition and attention that pop garners. The problem is that when your favorite pop artist makes a song with a little jazz influence, it is heralded while true jazz musicians starve. For example, look at the acclaim To Pimp A Butterfly received or how popular La La Land was upon release. Jazz can work if properly presented to the public but only in small doses because the attention span just isn’t there. I got way off topic. My point was that I’m picky because like EDM, there is so much jazz and so much of it can be similar. For me it takes something special; some innovation, a new approach to rhythm/melody or extreme skill to keep me engaged and win me over. This isn’t the birth of jazz, you don’t get brownie points for knowing how to play your instrument and presenting a solid solo.

That brings me to Thandi Ntuli and her album The Offering released in 2014. I had never heard of this South African pianist until yesterday when I was told to check her out. She hails from Capetown where she studied jazz in college there as well. My initial reaction to the album was that Ntuli has a strong grasp of the things that make great jazz as well as a formidable command of her instrument. Technically, there is nothing wrong with the project. The players execute things very well and Thandi makes commendable songwriting decisions that hold my interest. There is a wealth of solos by everyone and, I will contradict this later, a lot of them are very non-masturbatory. This sentiment actually bleeds out to the whole album and I appreciate the restraint. There is no “Look at me! I can blaze over these chord changes!” My favorite solos occur in the tracks “201 Aa”(the first piano solo) and “Uz’ubuye(Intro)”, the latter of which is just a five minute piano solo. I was told that which makes Ntuli so great is that she has great command of the the alto region and after listening I can understand that statement. She stays in her bag and does so much in that space.

But…but…I…I just want more. I set super high expectations with this album for two main reasons. I have recently listened to Mark Guiliana’s Jersey and Christian Scott’s Emancipation Procrastination and those projects blew me away. I thought I was hitting a hot streak. The second reason was all I knew about this project was it is South African jazz. I was strapped in and ready for new rhythms, possibly a wealth of auxiliary percussion and other musings that represented the artist’s home. Sure we get track listings and the DOPE cover art but outside of that, it is just a jazz album.

The other issue is that the lack of risk/innovation. Now, I’m very aware that this could be a personal opinion but I stand by it at the risk of sounding stupid. This lack of risk taking is mostly felt through structure and in the solos. I applauded this safeness earlier because its ideas are executed well but I will contradict myself here. At no point did I feel like any of the players were just going for it. I wanted blood. I wanted to imagine that after a solo people were exhausted, someone’s mom was crying, wigs tossed. Obviously that doesn’t belong on every project but The Offering definitely had some room for it. There is a trumpet solo on “H.T.” where I feel like dude was heating up a little bit but then the guitar solo afterwards does in fact cook. Outside of that and half of “Uz’ubuye”…*shrugs* tasteful and controlled solos. There is one exception. On the second track “Contemplation” and the last song, “In Between Spaces” we get pretty lackluster drum solos which is a shame because the space given is so perfect.

Overall, The Offering is really good. I can always appreciate well made music that is recorded well. Highlights for me include the aforementioned “201 Aa” and  both “Uz’ubuye” tracks. Thandi Ntuli is now on my radar and she has an album coming out this year. Hopefully she continues to grow and comes with fresh ideas. I appreciate this recommendation and this album.

Check it out here:

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Fresh Bop Friday 10/6/2017

Kinda light week but here we go. I was greatly distracted by stuff.

I was busy today. 


As I type out this intro I am listening to Kelela’s Take Me Apart It’s good and unlike the Latina wave that’s rising, I’m all for this women led modern R&B movement. SZA, Syd, Solange (AND MORE DON’T @ ME) have lead the way in this vibe but you can add Kelela’s name to that list. Maybe she’s been poppin’ but I haven’t heard of her until this week. Sweet almost delicate voice that dances over well produced tracks. It’s relevant and it sounds good. I’ll have to finish it when I’m done talking about the other stuff.

Sam Smith-“Pray”

The first seven seconds of this song are very confusing for me. “Ooh we’re gonna get a bouncy piano driven diddly…no it’s an islandy bop because that first measure of drums definitely felt spicy. Oh, it’s a slowish Sam Smith song.” I promise I don’t hate Sam Smith but I just want more. This song is Sam looking for answers to his problems and finally turning to prayer. The problem I have with this is that he spends a good chunk of the song letting the listener know that he doesn’t believe in God or religion. “Everyone prays in the end” yeah they suuuure do but that’s not how it should work and WOW I’M ABOUT TO GET ON A SOAPBOX. Growing up in church I’ve become very skeptical of people that randomly turn to prayer. You were an atheist yesterd…HOLY MOLY I’M DOING IT AGAIN. Choir sounds good even though they are being used to reinforce not believing in basic church things and then the tropey double clap at the end. Ugh. Whatever. Whatever. Whatever. Production and vocals sound good. I don’t know why the religious aspect of this rubbed me the wrong way.

Lauv-“Easy Love”

I haven’t heard of this dude before but I liked the album art. This song bumps. I like how it begins with the synths and vocals. The drums come in at the chorus and really turns into something really groovy. Lauv uses cool rhythms to sing over the instrumental and the whole thing is just…cool. There are strings that hang in the back, well crafted harmonies and a random guitar bit during the bridge. “Easy Love” is put together well and I will be checking out some of Lauv’s other stuff.

Charlie Puth-“How Long”

So I’ve been listening to “Attention” and “We Don’t Talk Anymore” A LOT recently. Those songs are good. No qualifiers needed. Good voice, production and interesting. So when I saw this, I figured I’d check it out. This song is fine. Pretty unoffensive and formulaic. Decently upbeat, slow bridge. Meh, it’s there.

Metro Boomin’-“Blue Pill” ft Travis Scott

Just saw this. No way am I not about to talk about this. Beat wunderkind Metro Boomin’ and soon to be father, Travis Scott dropped this hazy, kinda hard track presumably about drugs. I like the beat with its deep bass tones and high pitched synths. Feels like there’s a bunch of auto-tuned singing in the middle but I will listen to Travis rap verses all day. It’s not super hype but I got a lil stank face. I’ve been THIRSTIN’ for new Travis so this was a welcome surprise. Thank you for this.

Other Stuff

Marilyn Manson dropped an album. Out of pure curiosity, I skipped through a few songs and I’m worried I may like it…so I stopped.

Maroon 5 is an embarrassment to who they once were. I do not care at all if it has made them more famous. “Help Me Out” is wack.

P!nk released another single.

The Blade Runner 2049 soundtrack came out and I’m excited to hear it….after I watch the movie. I saw the original Blade Runner earlier this week and thoroughly enjoyed it. The music was also AMAZING. I have full faith in the Hans Zimmer so I’m sure this is fantastic but I’ll wait.

A bunch of hip hop came out by lesser known artist the past two weeks that I have just ignored because I’ve been busy but go listen to it. I’m sure some of it is good.

 

GO LISTEN TO MUSIC

 

 

 

 

Fresh Bop Friday 9/29/2017

OK YEAH I KNOW, I SKIPPED A WEEK


But last week was trash I didn’t/still don’t care about Macklemore. This week was much better and things that I cared about dropped.

So I’m back yo!

J Balvin, Willy Williams-“Mi Gente” Ft Beyonce

Did not get to work and expect to see new Beyonce. Apparently the original song came out awhile ago but this version with Bey is brand new.

IT. KNOCKS.

A majority of it is in Spanish by all three artists but there is a verse in English by the queen. Her Spanish doesn’t sound bad and obviously her English is fine. Overall the vocal performances are great and flow over the instrumental quite nicely. The instrumental is dominated by what sounds like a some sort of vocal sample which repeats throughout the whole song. I love it. I’m still weary if this Latin vibe is the new wave because of how excessively boring “Despacito” is but maybe “Mi Gente” is a step in the right direction. I like this a lot, good job yall.

Kimbra-“Everybody Knows”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

She’s back. ALERT ALERT ALERT! SHE. IS. BACK. Ugh, I love this woman so much. Kimbra cannot make bad music. After her last full length release three years ago (help) us Kimbra stans were starved. Sure we got little nibs here and there but it is confirmed that dinner is almost ready. “Everybody Knows” is exactly what I wanted to hear; from the slowly building, layered instrumental to her always stellar vocals. The ever present groove to her music is there along with her just as prevalent quirk. YES!

Demi Lovato-Tell Me You Love Me

We’ve been waiting for this and now it finally here. First let’s lay down some facts. 1. Demi has always been my favorite girl to come out of the Disney/Nickelodeon wheel 2. She can flat out sing. 3. She’s so hot.

Anyway, Tell Me You Love Me is good! I would say the average tempo of the entire project is lower than usual? I don’t know, it felt like the whole thing slowed down right in the middle and only picked up a smidge as we approached the end. Don’t confuse slow with boring though, the songs are well made and still interesting. “Ruin the Friendship” is an absolute highlight for me with it’s pronounced bass line, tasteful horn lines and is seemingly one of the few tracks that don’t have much studio affects on the vocals. I’m sure they all do but it seems a lot more obvious on many other songs and I’m not sure if that’s on purpose or not. My favorite section of the album is the last four songs from “Games” to the end. Hit after hit after hit ending with the hype and dancey “Instruction.” This is nicely put together so well done Demi.

Tennyson-Uh Oh!

My man is a genius. Tennyson has the best drum programming in the glitchy electronic game. Don’t @ me. This new EP has a lot to live up to considering Like What is a masterpiece. Well, Uh Oh! is darn good. All the random real world sounds, interesting synth lines, intricate beats and pauses are back in classic Tennyson fashion. Throw Aloe Blacc’s dope voice on track and this is a wholly enjoyable sixteen minutes of music

 

Other stuff:

Miley Cyrus dropped “Younger Now” which I have no reason to listen to AND heard was gaaahbij

Pink released a song. It sounded like a Pink song.

Shania Twain released an album. Sorry, didn’t listen to this.

PARTYNEXTDOOR put out an EP. I’ll listen to it but I’m tired of writing and this paperwork is piling up on my desk.

 

Fresh Bop Friday 9/15/2017

Look up the songs yourself


OK well New Music Friday might have blew its load last week because this week was LIGHT when it came to releases I cared about. I decided to start a series and apparently my brain won’t let me stop it after one week…my adoring fans are so lucky. Here is the new stuff I cared about listened to today:

Niall Horan-“Too Much To Ask”

This song is boring. I’m trying to give the 1D boys a chance to be on their own but I think I’ve liked one song from the stuff I’ve heard. This song is clearly about a break up but the lyrics are nothing special. Sure one line in the chorus pulled on a string that I didn’t want it too and I think I got mad at it for eliciting any emotion at all (I have a problem). Niall’s voice is fine but like I said it’s boring.

Bjork-“the gate”

So like, I think I like Bjork. I saw that she put out a new song and figured I’d give it a shot. Oh, it’s six minutes and the title is all lowercase. *groan* The first half is singing and woodwinds ambiently doing stuff. The second half is full of swelling sounds and words that I can now understand. There is still no beat which is fine but it seems like there is no direction either. She cares for you because she says it over and over again. This seems half-hearted from me so I’m not gonna just bash it because I didn’t like it. Song just seemed unnecessary.

Post Malone-“Rockstar”

This is very laid back and trappy. Post’s voice is great and works over this kind of instrumental so well. He speaks about being a rockstar and it’s not game breaking lyricism but I really like this track. There’s a 21 Savage feature that has some fun lines. “Ask me Savage why you got a 12 car garage and you only got 6 cars” and “Your wifey say I’m looking like whole snack” are just hilarious to me. The song is called “Rockstar” and 21’s first line mentions that he’s doing something that makes him feel like popstar. Purposeful or not, I love it. For Post, the chorus is cool with rhymes that I wouldn’t even think of. Rockstar, rasta, shottas and mouthed gun sounds (ala Big T) that he makes rhyme too. I do actually hate gun sounds being spoken but it rhymes so…no wait, I still hate it. Anyway, the vocal performance overall is nice and makes for a really solid song.

Lorde-“Homemade Dynamite(Remix)”

Not gonna lie I didn’t look at the name of track before I played it. Just saw Lorde’s name and played it. It’s a remix featuring Khalid, Post Malone (double tapping this list) and SZA (squeals) of a song from Melodrama. I’m pretty sure they kept the instrumental pretty much the same and just added the features. Khalid and Posty sound good but don’t add too much to the song. The male voices on the chorus honestly do fill it out quite nicely similarly to Tove Lo on Years & Years “Desire” but that’s it. What I like about this track the most is hearing the two distinct styles between the two ladies and how they approach rhythms in their melodies. Lorde and SZA both have rhythms they are clearly comfy with and I love it over the same instrumental.

Angus & Julia Stone-“Sleep Alone”

These two released an album today! It’s called Snow and upon first listen, it is pleasantly pleasant. Well made indie folk music that was great to have on while I did work this morning. One song that really stood out to me was “Sleep Alone.” I love the drums and the trading between Angus and Julia during the verses. There are some production affects to Julia’s voice throughout the chorus and the bridge that add some flair. Angus kind of sounds like Mac Miller here? This is quite nice.

Randomly, I remember listening to “Big Jet Plane” over and over and over again a bunch of years ago. I was entranced by it.

Nick Jonas-Find You

Not really a super fan of Nick Jonas’ stuff.  Joe is doing better with D.N.C.E. That being said, I didn’t absolutely hate this.

 

Ok that’s enough. Other notable releases:

Gucci Mane-“Curve ft The Weeknd” Meh

The Killers-“Some Kind of Love” It’s slow

 

Foo Fighters-Concrete and Gold Will probably listen to this later

Rebecca Black-RE/BL Yes, that Rebecca Black. Will be listening to this EP because the first song was cool. Don’t sleep

Bye. Enjoy your weekend. I love most of you.

Fresh Bop Friday 9/8/17

Every Friday I get to work and check Spotify. There’s usually a ton of new music by artists I don’t know and some that I do. I try to listen to it all just to see what’s happening and maybe discover someone new. In any case, I look forward to Fridays. Today (9/8/2017) there were a bunch of songs that I actually cared about. Let’s talk about them, whether I liked it or not. It’s not all the new music but just the ones I took interest in.

Sam Smith-“Too Good at Goodbyes”

Oh snap, new Sam Smith! His last project was in 2014 and he released a banger with Disclosure soon after. Was everywhere and then kinda faded. He’s back with this track and I was excited….*Sigh* It’s fine. Slow start then beat kicks in. A comment I saw that perfectly described the song was “It’s a Sam Smith song.” “Too Good at Goodbyes” could have been on his last album. It’s good to be reminded that Sam can still sing his butt off but the song itself is just more of the same. Where is the growth? It’s a good song but I’m a little disappointed. It’s probably gonna be everywhere soon though.

SZA-“Quicksand”

My new wife is back with “Quicksand” off the Insecure album. I might end up reviewing that entire project but no promises, it’s like 23 songs. Anywho, “Quicksand” is so good. SZA has such a modern and hip sound that is relatable to my age group. The instrumental is a hi hat heavy, synthy hip hop groove that switches to a straight forward R&B feel with deeper, open snares for the chorus. It works and SZA rides the beat with her vocal melody so well. I love it and I’m here for SZA’s wave.

Demi Lovato-“You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore”

“I see the future without you…” Oh, so that’s what we’re doing? Demi dropped a new single like a week ago but I guess we needed a ballad. This song has to be about Wilmer, right? I would hate to breakup with a girl who will then write a song about me that will be heard by millions. This particular song would make me feel super bad because basically Demi was just over the dude. That first line is rough. In news you already knew, Demi can flat out sing. She is giving it to us here, hitting those notes and pouring the emotion into the words. The instrumental isn’t groundbreaking and kind of reminded me of The Weeknd’s “Earned It” but it serves its purpose. Looking forward to her album.

Tove Lo-“Disco Tits” 

I can’t really discern how the general public or even more critical popheads feel about Tove Lo but I’m a fan. She’s makes really good music, had dope features in the past, has a voice that I love over electronic music…and also flashes her tits at shows. This ridiculously titled song is such a bop though. Driven by a muted bass line, steady kick and claps (+1) this song is a perfect representation of Tove Lo’s clubby, sexy, drugged fueled fun. There’s randomly pitched down vocal parts and the chanty chorus is super catchy and easy to sing along. Yes yes yes.

Syd-Always Never Home 

Syd is dope. The end. Go home.

OK fine, I’ll talk about it. Syd is taking time from her band The Internet (they’re dope) to focus on her own music. She released Fin in February aannd I don’t remember listening to it. How did that even happen? I love Syd! Well, she released a short three song EP today and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love the production and she has a great voice. Also, it’s always interesting hearing songs about women from a woman’s perspective.

Syd is dope. The end.

Yung Thug-“Homie” ft Meek Mill

This is aggressive. I’m not super certain of Jeffery’s mental state…really at any point but “Homie” is hard. I thought the grunting, guttural rap for the chorus was funny but he’s definitely flowing during the verses. I swear I could also understand most of his words. The beat knocks with its organ sample and banger trap drums. I love Meek’s feature as well because it just sounds great. Plain and simple. Same flow and stays on the same rhyme scheme but he’s SPAZZING and it’s awesome. This is great and I will bump it at home with proper speakers. I’m still scared to listen to Beautiful Thugger Girls for whatever reason.

There was also a TOKiMONSTA song released today with Isaiah Rashad but I didn’t feel like writing about it. It’s good, she’s great. So yeah, those are the new tracks I cared about today.   Maybe I’ll do this every Friday but we’ll see, I’m lazy. Check these out and enjoy your weekend.

I Got a Fetish For This Song…

Googling this one could’ve been dangerous…


I don’t know what it is but currently I’m very invested in the music of young white women whose experience vary greatly from mine.

But here were are.

Again.

Not sure when I first heard  “Fetish” by Selena Gomez but I remember finding it catchy and then moving on with my life. A couple weeks later (two days ago) I remember coming across it and falling in love with it. Added to the playlist. Restarted several times before the second chorus. Real addiction hours. It’s sexy, groovy and wavy. In my short but deep dive into Selena’s more recent music I haven’t found anything quite like it from her.

It is not a perfect song but in my opinion, its faults are personal gripes and do not ruin the track. The worst part is the beginning of the song with Gomez’ “Take it or leave it. Baby, take it or leave it etc… The choppy, over-enunciated intro doesn’t last long before an 808 drops. Yeah it’s like two hits but now I’m interested.

Decided again easy Leo gif from Django

Swelling synths and airy vocals before an incredible chorus. The mid tempo beat drops and it’s like driving on a summer night…possibly in a corvette, light traffic in a town, not a city (IdkIDontDrive). It’s everything Katy Perry wanted to do on Witness. There are high pitched words at the end of some lines that work well to break up the mostly darker tones throughout the song. I wouldn’t say Selena’s voice is low but she’s definitely not sitting in a higher register so the “you‘s” and “too’s” are welcome.

Second verse has claps at its beginning (+1 for Justin).

The other issue I have with “Fetish” is the rap verse from Gucci Mane. It’s *sigh* it’s fine. He’s on topic and they don’t change the beat or overload it with hi hats just because a rapper has arrived (see “Bon Appétit” by Katy Perry). I guess I just didn’t need it or maybe would have preferred another rapper over this instrumental. I don’t know, it ain’t bad.

The song just works together so well. The rhythms of the vocals over top the instrumental complement each other and I would be interested in hearing Ms. Gomez over other electronic music. Gimme something like “I Remember” by Deadmau5 & Kaskade or honestly anything Kaskade produces. (HOL’UP: Just went back and listened to a bunch of Kaskade stuff that I used to listen to all the time…the man is a genius.) Anyway, the song is great. I love you all.

 

Quickie: A Couple Standouts from Jay-Z’s 4:44

So I haven’t felt like doing a review of a whole album but Jay-Z’s latest release, 4:44, would have been a great candidate. By the time I listened to it I had already taken in too many outside thoughts to get across an untainted opinion. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed this album. The introspection and owning up to his past faults was incredibly mature and not something many rappers have the experience to write about. Jay-Z has a unique perspective on the industry. He’s pretty much conquered his genre, married one of the most beautiful women ever (don’t @ me) and is rich to a point that it should translate to wealth. Think of rappers you consider the best; how many of them are in the position Jay is in?

In any case, while 4:44 as a whole is excellent, some tracks have stood out to me and lodged themselves into my brain. First off, “Moonlight” is such a well made song. The instrumental isn’t hard hitting but makes me bop regardless. Add in different pitched “La La La” vocal samples and it’s definitely one of my favorite listens on the album. The song is influenced by the snafu at the Oscars last year but outside of that, Jay spends a great deal of time talking about new rappers and how dumb they are (in so many words). He’s from a different era and criticizes the current one from his point of view. The random bass drum drop outs, Jay’s flow and the old head, “What are these youngins doing??” lyrics.  I love everything about this song.

Another is “Marcy Me” with it’s Motown-like drums, heavy reliance on pianos and once again the prevalence of vocal samples throughout the song. Jay-Z reflects on his time growing up in Brooklyn in the Marcy houses. The instrumental matches the mood of the lyrics as reflective and some clever wordplay really accomplish the goal that was set. “Think I just popped up in this bitch like a fetus? Nah Pregnant pause” Hahaha that’s awesome.

Obviously the title track is special. I looked up the sample for this song because I had assumed it was some black women in the 60s ripping it up. I was wrong, it’s Hannah Williams and it was released just last year. The original is amazing and has similar themes of infidelity which is why the sample that was chosen is so perfect (like duh Justin). This album has no traditional bangers and I think that’s why I like it so much. That is not a crutch Jay could have leaned on. Gimme a beat that slaps and I care less about the message. To No I.D.’s credit though…the production is INCREDIBLE. This song is incredibly personal about Jay and Bey’s relationship and how he did her wrong. It’s great, just listen to it.

I’m not about to go through every song but I wanted to mention a couple other parts that I liked:

Giving out “Million dollars worth of advice for $9.99” is great on “The Story of OJ.” Jay-Z is letting his fans in on the secrets to financial success which I think is hilarious.

“Family Feud” features a lot of Beyonce vocals in the background and Jay’s cockiness is back. They’ve built a crazy empire of a life and that could all crumble if they are at odds with each other. It’s dope. Amen.

“Adnis” is cool even though there isn’t much happening. The simpleness and subdued nature of the instrumental feels like at any time it could break into something much more grandiose. Jay’s voice has more dynamics than the beat but not by much. The subject matter is a bit dark but still a really good song.

Maaaaan, I really like 4:44…like the whole thing. Perspective and production are the things that really set this apart for me. Jay-Z is technically great from a rapping stand point and it seems he poured his soul out onto this album. Three songs have made it onto my playlist but I regularly listen to all of it straight through.

Welp. This wasn’t quick at all.