Fall Review Roundup

Fall Review Roundup & Buckwheat Zydeco

September is bursting with major new album releases. Jim and Greg give their take on several of the biggest new records, from Bon Iver to M.I.A. to Against Me!, in this Review Roundup. Plus, they report on Chance the Rapper's music festival and pay tribute to Buckwheat Zydeco.

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These days national headlines coming out of Chicago are generally about one thing: gun violence on the south and west sides of the city. So far this year there have been more than 3,200 shootings, more than 530 of them fatal. At the same time the city is home to a vibrant and creative hip-hop movement that continues to grow. Greg recently attended two festivals that highlighted the creativity in Chicago while addressing the city's violence. Chance the Rapper hosted the Magnificent Coloring Day at US Cellular Field on the southside. The next day, Common hosted a festival on the westside. Greg says the two events were Chicago rappers addressing the city's violence while trying to do something positive about it.

review22, A Million22, A Million available on iTunes

Bon Iver 22, A Million

Bon Iver, the heart-on-sleeve, confessional music project of Justin Vernon, has received critical praise and a Grammy since its debut in 2007. 22, A Million is Bon Iver's first new album in five years and it is a marked departure with an emphasis on electronics over more traditional folk instrumentation. None of that ‘critical praise’ has come from Jim or Greg, and this album doesn‘t change that. Jim says Bon Iver’s music annoys him“more than fingernails on a blackboard.”He calls this album a“disaster,”with music that is long, slow and without melody. Greg, is only slightly more forgiving. He says Vernon sounds lost and this album is a manifestation of a crisis of conscience. However, that is not something he wants to listen to. If not obvious, this is a double- Trash It.

reviewAIM (Deluxe)AIM available on iTunes


AIM is the fifth record from Sri Lankan-British rapper M.I.A. She's known for being political with her music and this album is no different taking on weighty issues like immigration and the refugee crisis with songs like "Borders" and "Visa." Greg says that while the album shines at times, it is frustratingly inconsistent. Sometimes falling into a pop sound that undercuts the songs. Jim agrees and thinks the album is“half-baked.”He thinks M.I.A. could have used a producer or collaborators to focus the album. AIM is a double-Try It.

reviewHeads UpHeads Up available on iTunes

Warpaint Heads Up

Former Sound Opinions guests Warpaint have returned with their third studio album Heads Up. As Jim explains, with the new album comes a new sound for the band. While previous records were heavy on atmospheric moodiness, Heads Up is more of a party record with a euphoric dance vibe. Jim loves this celebratory new direction and awards it a Buy It. Greg agrees that rhythm is at the center of the album, led by the spectacular drumming of Stella Mozgawa and the melodic bass playing of Jenny Lee Lindberg. Greg says this new turn toward a club sound isn't selling out – Warpaint retains their identity with a very personal, experimental take on R&B. Heads Up is a double-Buy It.

reviewThe Healing ComponentThe Healing Component available on iTunes

Mick Jenkins The Healing Component

Mick Jenkins is a key player in the Chicago hip-hop scene Jim and Greg discussed earlier. After receiving national acclaim on his first mixtapes, the rapper has now released his first official album: The Healing Component. Jim picks up on a message of love flowing through the album. Jenkins calls for love as a solution to the problems of the black community, yet he's not simply being naive and sunny. He references Eric Garner's death and Black Lives Matter throughout, but ultimately is optimistic for the community. Jim says the album is brilliant and that Jenkins is an important new voice. Greg admires that Jenkins is not doing what everybody else is doing in hip-hop. Rather than work with big name producers, he's opted to create his own stoned, abstract jazzy sound. For Greg, this is what art is all about – the album is both community minded and pushing forward culturally. The Healing Component gets a double-Buy It.

reviewShape Shift with MeShape Shift with Me available on iTunes

Against Me! Shape Shift with Me

Against Me! has been active since forming in Gainesville, Florida in 1997, but 2014 proved to be the pivotal year in the band's history. Its leader Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender and the band released its most successful record to date, Transgender Dysphoria Blues. While that record was explicitly about her transition, Greg says the followup Shape Shift with Me examines her post-transition relationships, trading in some of the anthems for a film noir feel. Greg wishes the production sounded less meticulously layered, but the songwriting is very strong, filled with both sincerity and humor. Jim likes the darker, slower moments on this album, but points out that there is still plenty of rabble rousing anthemic rock. When all is said and done, Jim believes we'll see Against Me! as the true inheritors of the political legacy of The Clash. Although Laura Jane Grace writes personal songs, Jim says you don‘t have to be living her same journey to be able to find inspiration. It’s another double-Buy It for Shape Shift with Me.


Music News



“The Model”Kraftwerk

Like many Americans, Jim and his wife Carmél watched the first presidential debate this week. Regardless of politics, Jim was greatly offended by candidate Donald Trump's hateful remarks about overweight people. Both of them felt that he was particularly cruel to former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, whom he publicly fat shamed in 1997 for gaining weight after winning her title. Jim wanted to counteract the negativity and insensitivity by bringing one of his favorite tracks ever, "The Model" by Kraftwerk, to the desert island. He wanted to play this song for Machado because she was and is a beautiful woman and she should may no mind to Trump's ignorant attitude.

Featured Songs

  1. Chance the Rapper, All We Got, Coloring Book, Not On Label, 2016
  2. Bon Iver, 8 (circle), 22, A Million, Jagjagwuar, 2016
  3. Bon Iver, 666 ʇ, 22, A Million, Jagjagwuar, 2016
  4. Bon Iver, 29 #Strafford APTS, 22, A Million, Jagjagwuar, 2016
  5. M.I.A., Borders, AIM, Interscope, 2016
  6. M.I.A., Visa, AIM, Interscope, 2016
  7. M.I.A., Freedun, AIM, Interscope, 2016
  8. Warpaint, Heads Up, Heads Up, Rough Trade, 2016
  9. Warpaint, So Good, Heads Up, Rough Trade, 2016
  10. Warpaint, New Song, Heads Up, Rough Trade, 2016
  11. Warpaint, Dre, Heads Up, Rough Trade, 2016
  12. Warpaint, By Your Side, Heads Up, Rough Trade, 2016
  13. Mick Jenkins, Daniel's Bloom, The Healing Component, Cinematic, 2016
  14. Mick Jenkins, Drowning, The Healing Component, Cinematic, 2016
  15. Mick Jenkins, Love, Robert Horry, The Healing Component, Cinematic, 2016
  16. Against Me!, 333, Shape Shift with Me, Total Treble, 2016
  17. Against Me!, Delicate, Petite & Other Things I'll Never Be, Shape Shift with Me, Total Treble, 2016
  18. Against Me!, Norse Truth, Shape Shift with Me, Total Treble, 2016
  19. Against Me!, 12:03, Shape Shift with Me, Total Treble, 2016
  20. Buckwheat Zydeco, What You Gonna Do?, Where There's Smoke There's Fire, Island, 1990
  21. Buckwheat Zydeco, Hot Tamale Baby, On a Night Like This, Island, 1987
  22. Kraftwerk, The Model, The Man-Machine, EMI, 1978
  23. The Replacements, Alex Chilton, Pleased to Meet Me, Sire, 1987
  24. Kraftwerk, The Telephone Call, Electric Cafe, Warner Bros., 1986
  25. Japanese Breakfast, Everybody Wants to Love You, Psychopomp, Yellow K, 2016
  26. Derek Brown, Catch'em Up, BEATBoX SAX, self-released, 2016
  27. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Skeleton Tree, Skeleton Tree, Bad Seed Ltd., 2016
  28. Herb Alpert & the Tiajuana Brass, Whipped Cream, Whipped Cream & Other Delights, A&M, 1965


soundopinions.org Warpaint on Sound Opinions chicagotribune.com Greg's Warpaint review warpaintwarpaint.com Warpaint chicagotribune.com Greg's Mick Jenkins interview mickjenkins.com Mick Jenkins soundopinions.org Against Me! on Sound Opinions againstme.net Against Me! nytimes.com Buckwheat Zydeco Obit nytimes.com Trump & Alicia Machado