Lucy Dacus - Historian (Review)

Lucy Dacus - Historian (Matador Records) 

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For 47 tumultuous minutes on Historian, Lucy Dacus grapples with loss and change, from failed relationships (“Night Shift”), loss of religion (“Nonbeliever”), to struggling with how to move forward in the face of the inevitability of death (“Timefighter,” “Next of Kin”). Heady stuff, but Dacus' arrangements on these tracks make it all approachable, full of little flourishes, like a sudden horn sting on “Addictions,” or the tuneful guitar work at the beginning of “Timefighter.”

Despite the potentially heavy material, Dacus is always able to wring something approaching hope, even joy out of these subjects. Album opener Night Shift builds from quiet introspection about a final meeting with an ex to a barrage of fuzzy guitars and thudding drums, with Dacus belting out the lyrics, “In five years I hope these songs feel like covers/dedicated to new lovers”, perhaps reflecting a belief that love will return, even though that particular relationship ended badly. On “Next of Kin,” she argues that even the idea that there is much we'll never do in our brief time alive can be a source of solace: “Sweet relief, I will never be complete/I'll never know everything.”

And why shouldn't there be some hope amongst the messy, painful business of life? Or if not hope, then at least a little grace amidst the confusion. “Pillar of Truth,” a song about the death of Dacus' grandmother, allows the perspective to switch back and forth from Dacus to her grandmother, who wishes “Lord, have mercy/On my descendants/For they know not/What they do”. Clocking in at over seven minutes, the song arrives at a triumphant, horn-filled catharsis as Dacus sings, “If my throat can't sing/Then my soul screams out to you”.

Loss and change are inescapable parts of the whole experience of being alive, but as the album closes out with the title track's quiet meditation on relationships and their inevitable ends, it also seems to argue that taking the time to savour the moments in between is important. After all, it'll all be history someday.   

- Ben Rollo
 

SCRAM - Hundreds Of One (Review)

SCRAM - Hundreds of One

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Hundreds of One, the latest EP from Vancouver rapper SCRAM, is a welcome, soulful little shot of west coast hip-hop. With such slick and shiny production, the EP sounds more intimate and warm that it has any right to. From the opening track and first single “Girl All Alone” with it's lilting, jazzy guitar chords, simple snare beat and pensive storyteller lyrics, Hundreds of One sets a high standard for its music. SCRAM's storytelling ability is on full display here, as he's on top form throughout, keeping pace with the first-rate beat creation. “Orchestrated” is a right proper boast track but with a spiralling sexy beat. “Dead Parade” is a showcase for SCRAM's technical talents as a rapper, rapid-fire and controlled as he goes in hard on, I dunno, society at large. The music is appropriately epic, even if it's a couple string samples away from being too heavy-handed. But, given the size and scope of the target, teetering on the brink of such weight serves the song well. “We raise our fists at politicians and their artifice, good luck, how far is it to Christy Clarke's address?” It's a small snippet on a track with a ton of quotable lines, but name-checking a more local politician on the track, rather than a larger profile/easier target, demonstrates a commitment to staying true to the area that informs his life while keeping an ear turned to the sounds outside to inform the beat side of things.

There's a classic boom-bap base to the beats throughout the record, highlighted by flourishes of live instruments, but the music tiptoes around the edges of electronic influences just enough to inject fresh energy into the sound. This juggling act is on full display in “The Weekend” as trance-like saxophones give way to a wonderful little glitch beat. It's one of the warmest sounding songs on the album,even as SCRAM raps about the all-encompassing feeling of the hopelessness of modern life that drives some people to make questionable decisions in the freedom of the weekend. The album closes with “Photobook,” the song on the EP you're most likely to drop the windows in the car for or walk a little quicker down the street to. It's a smooth driving ode to the power of looking back to where you came from, for inspiration and comfort. It's a welcome blast of sunny energy to help cleanse the palette after the contemplation and soul-searching that came before it. Hundreds of One is a helluva debut EP that'll work on your headphones or in your car. Enjoy it wherever you enjoy quality hip-hop.

Moontricks & BOUSADA @ Capital Ballroom (14.04.18)

Sometimes you go to a show expecting to chill hard. You go see an artist because it's going to be a cool night out and an opportunity to go dance and have a good time, but not necessarily rage. And sometimes you get to that show and it's just as chill as you expected but then, you get some a few unexpected tastes of the bass that makes you rage and it's extra-awesome because you didn't expect it. This past Saturday (April 14) at Capital Ballroom in Victoria, Moontricks delivered exactly that – an expectedly sultry, smooth and sexy set of bass and banjo (And guitar and harmonica) punctuated by forays into deep funk and beyond. Moontricks laid down a tremendous set of new and old tracks, to a packed house of seriously delighted people moving together, smiles plastered across every face in the room. This was (and is) serious bass without aggression – perfect for keeping the pulsing sea of humanity moving and in a good, chilled out mood. For such a large crowd in the Ballroom, this was a legit well-behaved crowd and it's a testament to the performers that everyone was bouncing so respectfully.

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The old stuff (Like the sublime “Home,” which garnered the biggest pop of the night) was as warm and comforting as ever but it was the unexpected twists of new tracks that seemed to get the most bounce out of the sea of people. Most surprisingly, we were even treated to a little drum n' bass. Drum n' bass consistently challenges me and a Moontricks show was one of the last places I would expect to hear it, but oh man, that was some good, fun drum n' bass. Maybe it's old-hand to them, but I haven't seen it from these cats in the many, many times I've seen them play. Go see them live and experience this goodness. Please, for your ears' sake.

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Things got going early with some luscious house-y beats from the homie Xavier, one of the pillars of Victoria's electronic community and BOUSADA, who is establishing himself as one of the city's musical pillars, able to move between genres and crowds with ease. Flanked by a guitar player, BOUSADA was as animated as ever, in all his shirtless glory, punctuating his beat-making and singing with loud cries of joy. A musical facilitator of the highest order, the last portion of his set saw BOUSADA giving the spotlight to a stream of some of Victoria's finest vocalists (Including Doc Zoo and Danimal House of Illvis Freshly, Kady and Stevie from Leg-Up Program and the mighty Orilla) taking turns rapping and singing over his tunes. It feels like BOUSADA has been building something special in Victoria and Saturday night was a reminder of why this guy is such a Force of Musical Community. A spectacular night of groove and bass. Well-done everyone.

5 Questions with Rags #67 - Neil James Cooke-Dallin (Astrocolor, Stray Cougar, Righteous Rainbows of Togetherness)

A musical pillar of Victoria unto himself, James Cooke and his many projects – Righteous Rainbows of Togetherness, Stray Cougar and Astrocolor, my obsession of 2017 (into 2018, apparently) – have been helping keep my hometown way groovy and just a little bit more weird for some time now. It's actually kind of staggering the amount of creative energy this one human being seems to not only contain, but is able to harness and use effectively. “It's just what I love to do. They're all quite different, in terms of what I'm getting out of them. It's feeding a different part of my soul with each project.” It must be a pretty ravenous musical soul inside his body, because the homie never stops. A captivating performer, you should always take the chance to see Cooke playing/mixing his music live, in the flesh, because it's always guaranteed to be high-creativity and high-accessibility, the hardest things to balance in music.

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1. Do you remember the first album that you bought with your own money?

<laughs> Yeah, I do. <more laughing> It was Quiet Riot Mental Health. My buddy's brother ended up getting two copies of it for Christmas one year, so he was selling one of them and I was in grade 2 and I bought a copy of Quiet Riot on the school playground from him.

I remember being weirded out as a kid the first time I saw that cover. Made me feel kinda funny.

I think I was pretty normalized to it by then. I'd been around metal and rock a lot just by virtue of having friends with older brothers and some of my parents' friends. I had Ozzy Osbourne Bark at the Moon on 12 inch already and I don't know if there's a weirder album cover than that. Things were getting a lot more gentrified by the time I purchased Quiet Riot.

When's the last time you listened to Quiet Riot?

<laugh> That's a good question. I'm pretty sure I pulled out “Cum on Feel the Noise” or “Mental Health” sometime in the last year and a half.

Come on, it was definitely only “Cum On Feel The Noise.”
Ahh, I was pretty into “Bang Your Head.”

2. What's your favourite household chore?

I would say I enjoy doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen. I really enjoy seeing how nice it looks when everything's cleaned up. Have my girlfriend come home and see it and have her evening be that much better.

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5 Questions with Rags #66 - JPOD the Beat Chef

There are few producers or DJs as consistently accessible as JPOD. His bright, glitchy music seemleslly fuses the classic sounds of musics past with new ideas and energy – often serving as a gateway into electronic music for the uninitiated. And sometimes his music helps people long into electronic music remember what they liked about it in the first place. And sometimes he can save peoples nights from spiralling wildly out of control, as he did for me in 2015. I was chased by hoards of people into the Grove at Shambhala, where Jpod was playing (I believe his debut on that stage) and I was comforted in the warm embrace of his aural pleasantries. Even in front of that terrifying Eye Creature that was dancing in front of the DJ booth – an image that haunts me to this day – dancing to Jpod's music helped calm the overwhelming anxiety that led me there in the first place. “I tend to attract the kind of people that create a welcoming, comforting environment,” Jpod tells me from Australia. With the homie being elf-admittedly difficult to pin down for things like interviews, I couldn't be more tickled to finally catch up with this cat who's been so instrumental in helping myself, and so many others, figure out this whole electronic music thing.

1. What's the first album you bought with your own money?

It was Nada Surf. Whatever their debut album was. My friends all had lots of music and finally I thought “I'm gonna buy something!” I couldn't just buy something everyone has and that was the only thing that I kind of liked that no one else had.

When's the last time you listened to Nada Surf?

I haven't listened to it in 15 or 20 years. Shortly after I bought it. High/Low. That's the one.

2. When's the last time you did something for the first time?

A few months ago I decided to start brushing the right side of my mouth with my left hand. There was a moment when I felt like I could best get into certain corners if I used the other hand. It felt uncomfortable at first but I told myself that I was going to learn something ambidextrous.

And it's paying off?

I guess. <laugh>

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