Isaiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo (Top Dawg Entertainment; 2014)
After blowing up at the 2013 BET Hip-Hop Awards with Kendrick Lamar and other artists from his label, Top Dawg Entertainment, Isaiah Rashad is one of the many artists to watch out for in 2014 with his debut EP, Cilvia Demo. The tracks flow perfectly into each other from one to the next, and Rashad himself rarely missteps on any of his beats or hooks. His introspective story-telling fits perfectly with the beat selection, meshing together tales of drinking, smoking, and of course, women. While Rashad isn’t afraid to go in and glorify these influences, he can acknowledge these as faults as well. The EP’s beats bleed the jazzy and soulful influence of Outkast making for a smooth and cool listen. (Fun fact: Rashad aspired to be a preacher before listening to Outkast’s album ATLiens, which inspired him to be a rapper). While the EP doesn’t feature Lamar, Top Dawg Entertainment’s Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock are among those featured on Cilvia Demo.
Trial track: “Shot You Down” (ft. Jay Rock & ScHoolboy Q)
The Gaslight Anthem- The B-Sides (SideOneDummy; 2014)
The Gaslight Anthem’s newest album, The B-Sides, is, as the title suggests, a compilation of covers, a live recording, outtakes and acoustic versions of previously released material. The acoustic renditions are the meat of the album but are hit or miss. Certain songs, like “The ’59 Sound,” translate beautifully from electric to acoustic, at times sounding better than the original releases. Others however, such as “American Slang” and “Boxer,” do not hold up as well when stripped of their punk influence. The covers on the album are good, but few will consider The Gaslight Anthem’s version of “Tumbling Dice” better than the original released over 40 years ago by The Rolling Stones. Overall, a handful of the songs on the album really shine; for instance some of the acoustic renditions convey the emotional weight of the lyrics better than their amped brethren. Sadly, subpar songs clog up the track list, holding these few gems back.
Trial Track: “The ’59 Sound”
Supreme Cuts- Divine Ecstasy (Dovecote; 2014)
If you love the music of Disclosure and Flume, then you will absolutely fall for Supreme Cuts. Their newest album Divine Ecstasy, is a breath of fresh air in the music world. The Chicago-based duo consists of Mike Perry and Austin Kjeultes who began their music careers together in 2010,according to the website Pretty Much Amazing. Apparently, Supreme Cuts began originally as hip-hop producers and have now emerged on the front stage as electronic artists.
Their new sounds are hard to file in respect to any specific genre. The best way to describe their sound is a psychedelic, tech-house with undertones of an earthy-ambient hip-hop. The album also has a variety of female and male vocalists featured with soundscapes of the synthetic world. The vibe is very laid back but the clarity and the sound designing is impeccable. Overall, the album was also very well mastered.
Favorite Song: “Divine Ecstasy”
Sleepy Sun – Maui Tears (Dine Alone Records; 2014)
Maui Tears is the fourth studio album from the California-based collective, Sleepy Sun. Often labeled as psychedelic surfer rock, the entire album is drenched with sunny guitar riffs and trippy instrumental distortions. Tracks like “Words” and “The Lane” are heavily laced with the signature ‘60s California surfer spirit, while others like “Everywhere Waltz” play up the trippy echoes and heavy synth sounds to create six minutes of pure neo-psychedelia. While most of the album features fast-paced instrumentals and chaotically hazy guitar playing, “Slowdown” stays true to its name. On this track, the band turns down the tempo, allowing for frontman Bret Constantino’s distorted vocals to stand out next to the deep feedback loops from the guitar amplification. On the title track, Sleepy Sun dish out smooth jazzy bass lines that continue subtly throughout the rest of the 10 and a half minute instrumental epic, leaving listeners on a next level trip.
Trial Track: “Maui Tears”