By Nick Rattigan
Juan Wauters, former front man of the garage rock band The Beets, makes his debut as a solo artist with “N.A.P. North American Poetry.” The album is defined by Wauters broken, yet strangely enjoyable, English and his memorable acoustic Spanish guitar to create simple, yet addictive pop songs.
Think: A Wes Anderson soundtrack set in Barcelona. N.A.P. was released on Captured Tracks, a record label that has dominated the indie music scene for the last five years. Whether it is the 80s dream-pop of Wild Nothings or the post-punk indie divas DIIV, Captured Tracks has always been best at finding the most unique talent defining the indie genre.
The great thing about “N.A.P.” is how Wauters effectively differentiates himself from most of the label’s synth-pop sound. He aligns himself more with music heartthrob and labelmate Mac DeMarco, bringing another soothing and contextual pop singer into the label’s discography.
Only, instead DeMarco sings sweet nothings, while Wauters adds a cultural touch of rich Spanish guitar riffs and endearing lyrics. Lead single “Sanity or Not,” is an incredibly addicting piece of garage rock magic, but the true soul of “N.A.P.” shines on the track “Water,” an acoustic guitar driven ballad accompanied by Wauter’s signature basic lyricism.
Singing, “Do I belong? Who is it that I am? What is it that I am for?” does not necessarily redefine the art of songwriting, but he still picks at the emotions no one wants to think about. Through sentiments like this, N.A.P. encapsulates the beauty of simplicity in pop music, and simplicity is bliss.
Nick Rattigan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Conor Ploeger
St. Vincent’s Annie Clark has spent the last seven years radically evolving and changing her style, both physically and musically. At the same time, she has built upon the unique and exciting brand of indie pop that made her noteworthy in the first place, something her peers in independent music have struggled with for sometime.
For her fourth, self-titled album, the unique singer has made her most upbeat album, and one of her best to date. “St. Vincent’s” opener “Rattlesnake” introduces listeners to the more upbeat nature of the record,while examining the topic of mortality via her encounter with a rattlesnake while alone in the Texas wilderness.
Clark also further proves her ability as a guitarist with lead single “Birth in Reverse,” in which the self-taught musician’s ability dominates the track. Throughout the album, Clark is able to transition from peak Madonna-like 80s ballads such as the record’s “I Prefer Your Love” and the experimental Talking Headsesque dance numbers in “Digital Witness,” with amazing confidence.
St. Vincent’s analysis of humanity in the digital age is a recurring lyrical theme, but despite the lofty topic, it never comes off as overbearing. Clark is able to examine our new-found fixation with our devices, while not being too critical of the topic, like Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor.”
When it’s so easy for someone to blend different genres so seamlessly, it can be hard not to just gape in awe. While her intellectual songwriting and dense song structures can be a bit overwhelming for the casual ear, St. Vincent’s latest proves that she’s one of the strongest artists in today’s pop scene. Conor
Ploeger can be reached at email@example.com.
By Luke Keck
Quincy Hanley, better known by his moniker ScHoolboy Q, made an intense entrance into the hip-hop scene with his major label debut, “Oxymoron.”
The record has enjoyed a great deal of critical acclaim, and after a brief listen, it isn’t hard to see why. “Oxymoron” is packed with a variety of different sounds and influences from various rap subgenres.
Q offers several uplifting tracks, such as “Collard Greens” and “Hell of a Night,” as well as the bass-beating “Fuck LA” and “Los Awesome,” which Q described in an interview as a song that his “gang-banger [fans] could… identify to.”
ScHoolboy Q also channels the dark, berserk sound of Odd Future in the siren-backed track “The Purge,” which is complemented by a gritty hook from Tyler the Creator and a savage verse from Kurupt.
That said, “Oxymoron” provides much more than club bangers and talented features; in the biographical track “Hoover Street,” Hanley provides listeners with an uncensored look into his poverty-ridden background, writing especially poignant lines concerning his devoted grandmother and his abusive, drug addicted uncle.
Similarly, Q softens hearts in his lament-filled drug ballad, “Prescription-Oxymoron,” in which he explores his failures as a father with subtle, but heart-string tugging cries by his daughter, pleading, “Wake up, daddy!”
ScHoolboy Q’s debut in the major rap scene parades his proficiency as an artist, not only from his solo hits on “Oxymoron,” but also through his ability to stand in the face of Kendrick Lamar’s bilingual verse on the marijuana anthem, “Collard Greens,” as well as his seamless companionship with Tyler the Creator, Raekwon and SZA.
Luke Keck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.