The bio you are reading right now, like all bios, is by its very nature inaccurate. Okay, “inaccurate” may be too strong a word. Let’s go with “imprecise.” In a perfect world, this bio would express the thoughts, feelings and motivations of its subject as close as you can get with the written word. But what if the subject is perpetually changing? Not on a yearly or monthly basis, but weekly? Daily? Hourly? By the minute?
For an artist like Meechy Darko, who has achieved both critical acclaim and commercial success as one-third of Brooklyn hip-hop group Flatbush Zombies, getting more personal was a fait accompli decided for him by external forces.
“I had no choice but to make this the most personal thing I’ve ever done because fortunately or unfortunately, I’m in an extremely soul-stirring part of my life right now,” he says. “Who I was yesterday may not be who I am tomorrow. I’m not who I was last week. There’s no telling who I’ll be next year or the year after, so it’s very important to capture this while I can still feel.”
He’s talking about Gothic Luxury, the rapper’s debut album after numerous LPs, EPs and mixtapes with his group. Meechy Darko is well aware that the “crazy shit, crazy-colored hair and psychedelics” of his group “are imprinted in the brains of many fans.” But on Gothic Luxury, drawn-out piano intros and laid-back funk meld with dark mini-symphonies that complement the album’s intensely candid themes; as a result, the album comes off as far more a solo album than an offshoot of the group.
“Gothic Luxury is a terminology and a mood I created in my head so I knew where to stay when I’m writing,” the rapper says, noting that it’s a quasi-continuation to the group’s acclaimed 2018 album Vacation in Hell. “Even with success, you can have the biggest king-sized bed, but you still can be lonely as hell at night. Even with all this great stuff going on around you, I don’t ever forget the darkness. I can’t escape it. It’s about finding comfort in the darkness, accepting it and becoming part of it, but in the boss way possible.”
While the genesis of some songs go back to 2018, the album was started in earnest in early 2020. For the record, the Zombies are still very much together. However, Meechy eschews the production of Zombies producer Erick the Architect to avoid falling back into “a comfort zone I’ve been in for years.” Inspired by Rick Ross — “His voice has so much bravado and bass over angelic, symphonic beats” — it’s an album informed by many things, not the least of which is the killing of the rapper’s father in 2020.
Grief is an amorphous, mutable emotion, with the rapper admitting to still processing the death. “I didn’t want to exploit it,” he says. “I really want to understand how I feel before I tell people how I feel. Once you tell your story, people are not always gonna know the backstory or give you the benefit of the doubt. It’s very conflicting.”
The autobiographical “On God” invokes his father’s funeral; the man who molded the rapper’s personality and psyche. “He may be dead in the flesh, but what it really did is resurrect me,” Meechy says. “His spirit is in me now.” Elsewhere, “Every Time,” written before his father’s death, recalls the rapper talking to his dad in stark detail.
“Kill Us All,” which finds Meechy bringing his “Tupac back-against-the-wall energy,” touches on everything from conspiracy theories to government and corporate overreach to the role of media in shaping public perception, while “What If” finds the rapper challenging both himself and the audience with a concept song around the titular phrase. ”I felt naked dropping an album that didn’t have a concept song,” he says. “I know that when a concept is put in front of me I rap in my highest form.”
Despite the myriad musical undercurrents that flow throughout the album, there’s a through line of brutal honesty and catharsis that continues to find Meechy Darko among the rawest and most candid rappers in the game. “I use the studio as my journal,” he says. “I kinda wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m like a trigger-sensitive gun with a big extended clip. When I shoot, I SHOOT. I don’t want to bottle any of this stuff up. I know what separates me from them: It’s my lack of fear when it comes to saying what I think of something or how I feel about it.”
Following her inaugural Coachella performances, Zambian-born Botswana-raised poet and rapper, Sampa The Great today ushers in a new era with the release of “Lane”, featuring Florida rapper and labelmate, Denzel Curry. “Lane” is the first single Sampa the Great is releasing with Loma Vista, and the first taste of her own new music since 2019’s ARIA Award and Australian Music Prize-winning debut album, The Return.
After relocating home to Zambia during the pandemic, Sampa reconnected with a different side of herself, one closer to the younger artistry that was nourished growing up in Africa. Now, in an age of authenticity, meet a 360 Sampa, a higher version of herself. No mask on, or role to play, “Lane” is Sampa The Great’s call out to create and explore her own lanes, and go beyond what’s prescribed without judgment. A vocoded voice leads the track, to the tune of jilted organs and choral harmonies. A trap beat with a rolling bass melody sets the pace for Sampa the rap in defiance of being shoved in a box, calling out for courage to try willingly and freely. Denzel Curry’s verse is a powerful statement of similar essence, further adding to the gravity of “Lane’s” message.
Accompanying the song is a video directed by Rochelle Rhembard and Imraan Christian. A long-form piece, book-ended and balanced with the spoken-word piece “Origin” is a fitting reintroduction. From the depths of an underground cave, we are first introduced to Eve: the persona and blueprint of Sampa’s highest version of self. From a juxtaposition of four-walled concrete rooms to Sampa’s younger self, to children in black suits running through nature with automatic weapons in hand, we follow the story of Sampa’s newest journey. Denzel Curry completes the narrative in a virtual reality headset, rapping in time to spell out a dynamic ending.
Sampa The Great says of “Lane”: “We’re not going to stay in one lane, we’re going to create multiple ones… My truest self encourages me to explore different lanes, and go beyond what I think I know of myself.”
Sampa The Great has spent much of the past two years writing and recording while home in Zambia during the pandemic. In 2020, Sampa The Great took home three ARIA Awards for her debut album The Return, including Best Independent Release, Best Female Artist and Best Hip Hop Release before executing a thrilling live performance filmed from a rooftop in Botswana. Later that same month, the Music Victoria Awards saw Sampa take home four wins, including Best Album, Best Solo Artist, Best Soul, Funk, Gospel or R&B Album and Best Song, to cap off a year that included becoming the first solo artist and female musician to win Best Live Act at the National Live Music Awards and BET Amplified’s first-ever global artist. As a highly applauded live performer, Sampa has entertained audiences across the globe with appearances at festivals like Glastonbury, Splendour in the Grass and Laneway, alongside virtual sets for AFROPUNK, Black August and the Roots Picnic, as well as support slots for artists including Kendrick Lamar and Ms Lauryn Hill. Last weekend, Sampa The Great performed for the first time at Coachella 2022 and gave fans a taste of what to expect during her US festival run this summer at Lollapalooza, Pickathon and Outside Lands this July and August.
In 2019, Sampa took home Best Hip Hop Release for “Final Form” at the 2019 ARIA Awards, alongside multiple other wins at the annual J Awards, including Video of the Year and Double J’s Artist of the Year, Best Hip Hop Act at the Music Victoria Music Awards and broke industry records by winning the prestigious Australian Music Prize twice in her career. The Return LP received praise from the likes of The Guardian, NPR, Pitchfork, The FADER, Billboard, OkayAfrica and countless others. Sampa then re-released The Return track, “Time’s Up” with new verses from New York rapper Junglepussy, collaborated with the likes of The Avalanches, Denzel Curry & Tricky, as well as featured on Michelle Obama’s esteemed playlist.
Today marks the arrival of Sampa The Great’s newest form and music ahead of a thrilling run of live performances in Australia for An Afro Future 2022 with a full band. Don’t miss absorbing the message of “Lane” to stick yourself in the present, and find your own highest version of self, before securing your ticket to witness the track live below.
(January 24, 2022) – Today, Denzel Curry shares “Walkin,” the first single from his forthcoming album Melt My Eyez See Your Future, which he announced is coming soon with an official album trailer earlier this month. Additionally, in support of the forthcoming project, he also reveals the dates for his world tour kicking off this spring in North America and running through performances in Europe and the United Kingdom this summer. “Walkin” arrives with an epic Sci-Fi Western visual directed by Adrian Villagomez which sees Denzel trekking across a desert planet before a cinematic face-off with his antagonist, John Wayne. The Kal Banx-produced song steadily builds into one of the most dynamic rap performances from Curry to-date, foreshadowing what is to come from Melt My Eyez See Your Future.
The end of 2021 marked the end of an era – the ending of Denzel’s characters and alter egos. Describing his upcoming album Melt My Eyez See Your Future, he says: “I like traditional hip hop, I like drum and bass, I like trap, I like poetry, so a lot of that is going to be interwoven in this album including jazz and a lot of genres that I came up on as a kid and just being in my parents’ house. This album is made up of everything that I couldn’t give you on TA13OO or Imperial because I was going through depression anger issues.”
New music from Denzel arrives following his first new standalone single in a year with last summer’s “The Game,” which appeared on the Madden NFL 2022 soundtrack. Last year Denzel additionally connected with Robert Glasper for an exclusive Record Store Day release of their joint album Live From Leimert Park as well as appearing on the new season of TV series’ The Choe Show and an episode of Dave (FX).
This week Denzel caught up with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe to discuss the new single, which was also the cover of Apple’s New Music Daily playlist today. Additionally, in support of the release a limited edition “Walkin” 7″ disc is now available for pre-order. Listen to “Walkin” above, check out his interview with Zane Lowe and cover of Apple Music’s New Music Daily, purchase limited edition “Walkin” discs, see upcoming tour dates below and stay tuned for more from Denzel Curry soon.
“We’re building our empire from the ashes of an old” as GRAMMY-winning Swedish theatrical rock outfit GHOST announces the impending arrival of IMPERA the band’s fifth full length studio album out March 11 via Loma Vista Recordings.
IMPERA is heralded by today’s release of its first official single, the sublime and haunting “Call Me Little Sunshine,” available now across digital platforms—and as a phantasmagoric visual interpretation lensed by iconic director Matt Mahurin and starring Ruby Modine. The album will also feature “Hunter’s Moon,” Ghost’s fourth consecutive Active Rock #1 radio single, as heard over the end credits of the horror smash Halloween Kills—and manifesting physically in the form of a 7” vinyl single release this Friday, January 21.
IMPERA finds Ghost transported literally hundreds of years forward from the 14th century Europe Black Plague era of its previous album, 2018’s Best Rock Album GRAMMY nominee Prequelle. The result is the most ambitious and lyrically incisive entry in the Ghost canon: Over the course of IMPERA’s 12-song cycle, empires rise and fall, would-be messiahs ply their hype (financial and spiritual alike), prophecies are foretold as the skies fill with celestial bodies divine and man made… All in all, the most current and topical Ghost subject matter to date is set against a hypnotic and darkly colorful melodic backdrop making IMPERA a listen like no other — yet unmistakably, quintessentially Ghost.
Produced by Klas Åhlund and mixed by Andy Wallace, IMPERA consists of the following 12 songs:
Call Me Little Sunshine
Watcher In The Sky
Darkness At The Heart Of My Love
Bite Of Passage
Respite On The Spital Fields
Robert Glasper’s contribution to music and culture spans over two decades, forming an exceptional legacy that permeates throughout contemporary art and advocacy. 2022 not only marks the 10 year anniversary of the era-defining, Grammy-winning album Black Radio but also Glasper’s solo return with the upcoming release of Black Radio III.
Arriving alongside the announcement is new single, “Black Superhero” featuring Killer Mike + BJ The Chicago Kid + Big K.R.I.T. The official music video first premiered yesterday via broadcast channels BET Soul, BET Jams, MTVu, MTV Live, and Yo! MTV including social support across MTV, BET Soul, and BET Jams platforms. Shot in Los Angeles and directed by award-winning Director/Filmmaker, Charlie Buhler, the video takes viewers through a series of vignettes that highlight real-life Black heroes who live in and work for their communities.
On creating the music video, Buhler says “Black Superhero” is a visual love letter to the Black community. It’s an ode to our strength, vibrancy, and joy. We have struggled, and yet we are still here, and not only are we here, but we are so much more than the adversity heaped upon us. I am grateful to Robert and the team at Loma Vista for trusting me with such a powerful and important song, and everyone who came together to help bring the concept to life. It was a true labor of love.”
Like its predecessors, the new studio album celebrates Black joy, love and resilience and features Grammy-winning single “Better Than I Imagined” featuring H.E.R + Meshell Ndgeocello and “Shine” featuring D Smoke and Tiffany Gouché. Black Radio III’s guests also include Q-Tip, Jennifer Hudson, H.E.R. Yebba, Common, Ty Dolla $Ign, Esperanza Spalding, Ant Clemons, India.Arie and more.
Glasper reflects, sharing “I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Black Radio than by releasing Black Radio 3. To debut a live performance of “Black Superhero” on The Tonight Show with some of my own heroes is really special to me. Hopefully, it inspires more to come.”
The 4x Grammy and Emmy winning artist, composer and producer made history with Black Radio as the first album to debut in the top 10 of 4 different genre charts simultaneously: Hip Hop, R&B, Urban Contemporary, Jazz and Contemporary Jazz, as did the follow-up album Black Radio 2. The ongoing Black Radio brand has become synonymous with Black music culture and has placed Glasper alongside some of music’s most legendary- from early days with J Dilla, Bilal and Yasiin Bey to playing alongside Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Herbie Hancock, Erykah Badu, Snoop Dogg, Jill Scott, Brandy and more.
Glasper is nominated for two 2022 Grammys, including Best Progressive R&B Album for Dinner Party (Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin, Kamasi Washington and 9th Wonder) and Best Traditional R&B Performance for “Born Again” with Leon Bridges.
Tune in live to The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on January 17th for a special MLK Day performance from Robert Glasper, performing “Black Superhero” with Rapsody, BJ The Chicago Kid, Amir Sulaiman and DJ Jazzy Jeff, backed by The Roots.
Black Radio lll will be available on all formats (digital, CD, and 2xLP) worldwide on February 25th via Loma Vista Recordings – more to be announced soon.
Today, Korn announces their new studio album Requiem. In tandem with the album announcement, the band shares the lead single and video “Start The Healing.” The first offering from Requiem arrives with a video directed by Tim Saccenti (Flying Lotus, Run The Jewels, Depeche Mode) that is a live action and animated visual feast about death and re-birth amidst an array of preternatural creatures, humanoids and Korn’s electrifying live performance symbolizing the dawn of a new era for the band.
Director Saccenti’s words on the genesis of “Start The Healing” visuals:
“Our idea for this video was to mutate that aspect of the DNA of Korn, of what makes them so inspiring, their mix of raw power and transportive aesthetics and human emotion.
I wanted to take the viewer on an emotional journey, as the song does, a visceral, cathartic death and rebirth that will hopefully help transport the listener through whatever their personal struggles are.
Collaborating with 3-D artist Anthony Ciannamea we tapped into Korn’s mythology and explored their vast well of light and darkness to create a surreal, liminal-pace body-horror nightmare.”
Due to the effects of Covid and the inability to play live shows for the first time in the band’s illustrious career, Requiem was conceived out of very different circumstances than the majority of the band’s catalogue. It is an album born of time and the ability to create without pressure. Energized by a new creative process free of time constraints, the band was able to do things with Requiem that the past two decades haven’t always afforded them, such as taking additional time to experiment together or diligently recording to analog tape – processes which unearthed newfound sonic dimension and texture in their music. Requiem was produced by Chris Collier and Korn.
Fans have been anticipating new music after Korn previewed a snippet of “Start The Healing” within an augmented reality filter and billboards bearing the band’s iconic logo began appearing worldwide last week.
Watch “Start The Healing” and pre-order/save Requiem above, get more album details and information on the band below and stay tuned for more Korn coming soon.
Korn changed the world with the release of their self-titled debut album. It was a record that would pioneer a genre, while the band’s enduring success points to a larger cultural moment. The FADER notes, “There was an unexpected opening in the pop landscape and Korn articulated a generational coming-of-angst for a claustrophobic, self-surveilled consciousness. Korn became the soundtrack for a generation’s arrival as a snarling, thrashing, systemically-restrained freak show.”
Since forming, Korn has sold 40 million albums worldwide, collected two Grammys, toured the world countless times, and set many records in the process that will likely never be surpassed. Vocalist Jonathan Davis, guitarists James “Munky” Shaffer and Brian “Head” Welch, bassist Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu, and drummer Ray Luzier, have continued to push the limits of the rock, alternative and metal genres, while remaining a pillar of influence for legions of fans and generations of artists around the globe.
The level of Korn’s reach transcends accolades and platinum certifications. They are “a genuine movement in a way bands cannot be now,” attests The Ringer. They represent a new archetype and radical innovation, their ability to transcend genre makes barriers seem irrelevant.
“The darkness of Minnesota winters contrasts with his youth, and his new EP Greenhouse aims to bring some sunshine to his current home.” – NPR Music, All Songs Considered
“blissed out” “shoegaze-pop rumination.” – The FADER
“bright, shoegaze delight.” – NYLON
“Miloe’s reach exceeds the suburban backyard, elsewhere capturing the travelogue of his youth in finger plucks and gently swaying piano.” – MTV
“With only five tracks, [Greenhouse] showcases Miloe’s seemingly almost effortless knack for melodies and simple, yet captivating instrumentals that make the project as a whole undeniable. Not much is known about what’s on Miloe’s docket for 2021, but consider us excited for whatever that may be” – UPROXX
“lovely…smooth pop number” – DORK
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bob Kabeya moved to the U.S. with his family at the age of 8 to reunite with his father, a journalist who was granted asylum three years prior. Greenhouse is an exhilaratingly energetic and youthful homage to Summer and the weather patterns of his childhood, paired with lyrics of teenage melodrama and idealism. “The Minnesotan climate can feel so limiting compared to where I grew up, almost like we’re waiting half the year to actually live our lives,” he explains. Living in a region that faces harsh winter for much of the year, and in 2020 served as ground zero for uprisings against police violence, Kabeya created Greenhouse as an offering of sunshine to his community as winter returned.
“Daddy’s Home collects stories of being down and out in downtown NYC. Last night’s heels on the morning train. Glamour that’s been up for three days straight.”—St. Vincent
Daddy’s Home, the sixth album from Annie Clark a/k/a St. Vincent, is the latest facet of an ever-evolving artist regarded by many as the most consistently innovative and intriguing presence in modern music.
Annie Clark made her recorded debut as St. Vincent in 2007 with Marry Me. Her subsequent albums would grow in stature and complexity, including Actor (2009), Strange Mercy (2011), and the self-titled fourth album that won the 2014 GRAMMY for Best Alternative Album, making her only the second female artist ever to win in that category. In addition to these solo works, St. Vincent plays nice with others: Her collaborations have included an album with David Byrne (2012’s Love This Giant), a performance as singer and lead guitarist of Nirvana at the band’s 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, and a 2019 GRAMMY Awards duet with Dua Lipa.
In 2017, working with co-producer Jack Antonoff, St. Vincent created a defining statement with MASSEDUCTION. As ambitious as it was accessible, the album broke St. Vincent into the U.S. and UK top 10s while landing at #1 on the Best of 2017 lists of The New York Times and The Guardian—and placing high in the year-end rankings of The AV Club, Billboard, Entertainment Weekly, Mashable, The New York Daily News, the NME, Paste, Pitchfork, Q, Stereogum, USA Today, and more.
St. Vincent’s 2018 album, MassEducation, revealed another dimension of MASSEDUCTION. Recorded live in the studio by Annie on vocals and Thomas Bartlett on piano over two nights in August 2017, the album lays bare the exquisite songcraft of its other half, rendering songs like “Slow Disco” and “Savior” and their subjects in vivid, vulnerable new light.
In the winter of 2019, as MASSEDUCTION’s title track won the GRAMMY for Best Rock Song and the album won Best Recording Package, St. Vincent’s father was released from prison. She began writing the songs that would become Daddy’s Home, closing the loop on a journey that began with his incarceration in 2010, and ultimately led her back to the vinyl her dad had introduced her to during her childhood. The records she has probably listened to more than any other music in her entire life. Music made in sepia-toned downtown New York from 1971-1975.
Preceded by a foreboding teaser, the first full broadcast from St. Vincent’s synthesis of this era reaches us in the form of “Pay Your Way In Pain,” a slinky slab of sweaty funk—punctuated by a few examples of Clark’s ability to shred vocal cords rivaling her shredding on her signature Ernie Ball Music Man guitar. The song plays like the result of time travelers from the future having booked a session Electric Lady in the early 70s. The video for “Pay Your Way In Pain,” directed by Bill Benz (director of the forthcoming The Nowhere Inn, co-written by and starring St. Vincent), opens up Daddy’s Home’s visual world—a world in which the most forward-looking artist of an era throws herself willingly into a network TV variety hour rabbit hole.
Daddy’s Home is out May 14, 2021 on Loma Vista Recordings. Pre-Save the album now, or pre-order your choice of 8-track (if you know, you know…), CD, Vinyl, Deluxe Vinyl, and Cassette. Or visit https://lnk.ilovestvincent.com/DHStore to pre-order exclusive picture disc, merchandise and more.
The album was produced by Annie Clark and Jack Antonoff, recorded by Laura Sisk, mixed by Cian Riordan, and mastered by Chris Gehringer. The music was performed by Annie, Jack, Cian, Thomas, Evan Smith, Sam KS, Greg Leisz, Daniel Hart, Michael Leonhard, Lynne Fiddmont and Kenya Hathaway.
And Candy Darling lived within and presided over it all.
“And your wig, blonde, rolls home waving from the latest uptown train I never wanna leave your perfect candy dream. So candy darling I brought bodega roses for your feet and candy my sweet I hope you will be coming home to me.”
… Daddy’s Home.
01. Pay Your Way In Pain
02. Down And Out Downtown
03. Daddy’s Home
04. Live In the Dream
05. The Melting Of The Sun
06. The Laughing Man
08. Somebody Like Me
09. My Baby Wants A Baby
10. …At The Holiday Party
11. Candy Darling
Multi-Gold and Platinum punk rock band RISE AGAINST is back with a provocative and dynamic new album, Nowhere Generation, the group’s first new studio effort in four years. On the upcoming release, the outspoken band points a finger at big business and politics for stacking the social and economical deck against Millennials’, Gen Y’s, and Gen Z’s pursuit of The American Dream. Musically, the album is blazing, aggressive punk rock; lyrically, the eleven songs were inspired in part by input from band members’ young children and Rise Against’s community of fans. Nowhere Generation is set for a June 4 release and is Rise Against’s first with new label Loma Vista Recordings.
Said McIlrath, “Today there is the promise of the American Dream, and then there is the reality of the American Dream. America’s ‘historical norm’ that the next generation will be better off than the one that came before has been diminished by an era of mass social, economic, and political instability and a sell-out of the Middle Class. The brass ring that was promised by hard work and dedication no longer exists for everyone. When the privileged climb the ladder of success and then burn it from the top, disruption becomes the only answer.”
“There’s a decision we’re faced with when experiencing loss and the inevitable grief that follows. Do we let it sink us? Try to ignore it and pretend it’s not there? Or do we search and dig until we find signs of beauty in life and all of its experiences? In a way, the grief will always define you but being together and creating something meaningful from all of the hardships has been the most helpful tool I’ve found…”
– Andy Hull (January 2021)
Manchester Orchestra’s new album The Million Masks of God presents an even grander scale of the epic and re-focused approach to record-making that the band has forged in recent years. The band—lead songwriting duo Andy Hull and Robert McDowell, alongside Tim Very (drums) and Andy Prince
(bass)—relentlessly pushed themselves to create music that would break beyond the scope and limits of every previous album, all while sorting through the aftermath of a devastating loss.
While making 2017’s instant-classic A Black Mile To The Surface (featuring the band’s first #1 AAA and Top 15 Alternative radio hit “The Gold”), Hull and McDowell had an epiphany about how they wanted to approach their band’s music from that point forward, a way inspired heavily by the multi-tiered challenges and rewards they encountered while working on their first film score (2016’s Swiss Army Man). The new method was to make tightly-woven “movie albums” intended to be listened to in sequence and in a single sitting, with the songs working together to tell a bold, long-form narrative. The Million Masks of God can be seen, in a way, as the band’s sophomore album following a rebirth with Black Mile, and Hull’s early concept for it was a natural extension of the main theme of its predecessor. “If Black Mile was this idea of ‘from birth to death,’ this album would really be more about ‘from birth to beyond, focusing on the highs
and lows of life and exploring what could possibly come next,’” he explains.
Masks explores the loose story of a man’s encounter with the angel of death as he's shown various scenes from his life in a snapshot-style assemblage. Some moments he witnesses are good, some are bad, some difficult, some commendable—in other words, they depict an entirely normal life. Initially based on a fictitious character, Masks began to process real-time emotions as McDowell’s father entered the toughest part of his fight with cancer, eventually losing the battle in 2019. “It started off really abstract, but as Robert’s dad’s fight with cancer got harder and harder those last couple years, I started making parallels in my mind to what I was actually writing about,” Hull explains. “It became an examination of my own faith. While Robert’s dad’s story certainly influenced this album, it’s equally about me coming to grips
with the realness of adulthood and that there’s an expiration date to all of this—and how you’re going to live your life knowing that.”
“My dad was a musician and our band’s biggest fan, and I can’t think of a more flattering way to honor him than to let him exist in a form of art he loved so much,” McDowell says. “It wasn’t shocking to hear what Andy had been writing; the way he writes, the real life around him will always trickle in. For me, the album’s story isn’t just about the figure’s death but the life. It’s unfortunate but unavoidable: in life, death happens, and it’s been happening forever. We’re figuring out how to exist with grief, but grief hasn’t killed humanity. We have to zoom out and see it as part of life.”
At three different points throughout 2019, the duo convened with the remaining half of the band in a Georgia cabin to hash out the sonic skeletons of the songs. Armed with patience and prowess, Manchester spent countless hours and untold energy on this constructing process. Despite this dedicated effort, they also resolved to stay fresh, a decision that led them to take months off at various points—to return to their families, and once to tour for the tenth anniversary of the band’s second album. In the time since, Hull and McDowell also scored their second film (2019’s The Death of Dick Long), and released Bad Books’ (their band with Kevin Devine) 2019 album III. More recently, Hull found time to collaborate with diverse artists like Logic and Paris Jackson (whose debut album he and McDowell produced). The process was ultimately the most time the band had spent working on songs prior to recording.
When it came time to record, Manchester turned again to producer Catherine Marks, with whom they
collaborated on Black Mile, and artist/producer Ethan Gruska (Phoebe Bridgers, Fiona Apple). Masks was finalized between sessions at Echo Mountain Studio in North Carolina and at Gruska’s studio in Los Angeles. The four-headed production monster of Hull, McDowell, Marks, and Gruska (who also contributed keyboard, guitar, and percussion) proved to be an invigorating combination. As epic and ripping sonically as it is conceptually heady, the album unfurls into an ever-expanding and lush world of instrumentation. The driving “Keel Timing” simmers to a howl before seamlessly shifting into the urgent and cathartic “Bed Head,” and are two of the band’s most fiery singles to date. With a share of quieter moments, like the tender “Telepath”; and the wistful “Way Back,” Manchester Orchestra maintain a transcendent dynamic throughout.
“We were taking what we learned on Black Mile even further,” Hull explains. “If something felt most comfortable as a traditional rock song, we’d try to figure out how to turn it into something that’s less comfortable for us to dig into but that could actually sound better. I do think working on it so much for so long helped the songs all start to organically connect. Several songs share choruses, lyrics fold over themselves and keep coming back, and there’s a cyclical intertwining within it all. It’s a carefully constructed collection. A dream-like montage of life experience.”
In fact, the sequencing of the songs was perhaps the most deliberate choice made. Hull intentionally disregarded a more traditional sonic chronology in order to stay in step with the subject matter, instead balancing the record more in the way a life might play out. He explains: “There’s the idea of a birth; the beginning of the end, maybe, and the louder, more intense arrangements are placed up front in order to parallel the hectic nature of your early life and the anxiety and stresses of that stage. And as it continues on there’s more resolve and quiet and focus, almost like you’re laying the listener down—at the very end, everything’s slowing. So once we committed to that idea, it was fascinating for us to figure out how it all fit together. It opened up a lot of possibilities. We weren’t afraid of straying away from a typical structure
The Million Masks of God is undoubtedly Manchester Orchestra’s most towering achievement, and
showcases the strength and boundary-pushing invention of their renowned catalog. It’s also a testament to the kinship of its songwriting duo—the bond that enables them to take something so tragically personal and turn it into limitless, compassionate, communal, revelatory art. “Making this record reiterated to us that there are no rules and there is no ceiling,” Hull says. “It convinced us of what we were stumbling upon with Black Mile, which was to be ambitious and take our time in order to create something really special; to be courageous and think differently. There’s a huge amount of trust within the band now, and when that happens you start to trust everything more. The whole thing feels like a real unit of discovery and accomplishment.”
Skegss are an Australian power trio that combine surf, slacker, and garage elements to create their own dynamic sound
“Skegss deal in short garage-punk blasts of the kind that usually come replete with a skateboard, a spliff and a weary sigh from your Mum. But though Skegss tick many of the classic shambolic boxes, there’s something a little more self-aware going on in ‘My Own Mess’ than just a fug of drugs, booze and good times” – DIY
The Third Gleam was finished before a virus and its carnage swept through humankind in the spring of 2020. It was finished before the most recent injustices against black lives inspired outrage and a much-needed call for social reform and revolution. Through the fever pitch of fear over the pandemic, outcry in the wake of widely observable bigotry, and mourning over the death caused by both, we are united in conflict…put to task in the arenas of our fortitude, our morality, indeed the strength of our own souls, individually and collectively. It is a time of heightened experience; heightened response; heightened resolve. If you are reading or hearing this statement now, you are a part of it.
And yet, neither of these massive fundamental concerns are entirely new to us. Sickness…in body and in mind are old news for our species, and in truth have found us susceptible throughout our complex history. And so our plagues, biological, behavioral and systemic, are intrinsically a part of us. We navigate them poorly at times and heroically at others.
To the point of this writing, as it pertains to the announcement of a record release, it barely warrants mentioning that an 8-song collection is a whisper of an offering in a time of blaring considerations. As I mentioned before, Scott and I finished this album just before these two fundamental concerns overtook nearly the entire planet. Consequently, as the timeline goes, the songs were not informed specifically by the urgent and pivotal concepts which are now center stage. However, as these factors have been and will remain a part of us as a whole, independent of a specific moment in history, the songs of this particular piece do connect somehow to this particular time. Our personal perspectives and experiences are inherently the common thread, which is an element we have found to be imperative in our process of making art. Even so, there are themes which have made their way into this chapter of songs that are undeniably universal, and anchored in our current world…
Isolation, resilience, frustration, confusion, contemplation and hope are here, both in regards to our own lives and as a consideration of the human experience in general. There is humor and love, both for life itself and as it binds a pairing of people. We touch on historical prejudice, faith, economic disparity, gun violence, incarceration, redemption, and as is increasingly standard with our records, stark mortality. This is by no means a record defined by any specific social or cultural goal, nor is it informed by a singular challenge posed to humanity. It is merely the sound of my brother and I in a room, singing about what is on our minds and in our hearts at the time…sharing it now is about what sharing art is always about: another chance that we may partake in connecting with our brothers and sisters of this world, and hopefully joining you in noticing a speck of light gleaming in what appears to be a relatively long and dark night.
2. I Should’ve Spent The Day With My Family
3. Prison To Heaven
4. Back Into The Light
5. Women Like You
6. Untitled #4
7. I Go To My Heart
8. The Fire
HEALTH ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM DISCO4 :: PART II OUT APRIL 8TH, 2022 VIA LOMA VISTA RECORDINGS
COLLABORATIONS LP SEQUEL FEATURES NINE INCH NAILS, LAMB OF GOD, POPPY, THE BODY, BACKXWASH, & MORE
HEALTH x Lamb of God’s “COLD BLOOD” Single/Video Out Now
2022 Tour Includes Album Release Show At LA’s 1720 On April 6TH
“Collaboration in music has become increasingly common across all genres, but HEALTH have gone above and beyond what this typically looks and sounds like. Their series of DISCO albums were previously companion remixes to their full-lengths, but now, they’ve reimagined them as massive collaborative efforts, with each song melding a different artist’s style with HEALTH’s visceral electronic sound… with HEALTH choosing to only work with artists they personally enjoy listening to, the results are exceeding expectations. ” – Alternative Press
HEALTH today announced DISCO4 :: PART II, the follow-up to 2020’s DISCO4 :: PART I, will be released on April 8TH, 2022, via Loma Vista Recordings. The 12-song LP includes their recent collaborations with Nine Inch Nails and Poppy alongside new tracks with Lamb of God, The Body, Backxwash, Perturbator, and others, and closes with a new original HEALTH single, “THESE DAYS 18.104.22.168.”.
“COLD BLOOD,” HEALTH’s thunderous first collaboration with metal titans Lamb of God, proves the band can devote themselves to a genre and detonate it all in the same track. Watch its accompanying animated video by Łukasz Rusinek HERE and pre-order DISCO4 :: PART II HERE. The band of Jacob Duzsik, John Famiglietti, and Benjamin Miller also announced a headlining album release show at L.A.’s 1720 on April 6TH and are back on the road for European dates this spring with Peturbator, Youth Code, and Maenad Veyl on select dates; a full itinerary is listed below and tickets are on-sale now.
The last two years changed music for everyone. They might have changed HEALTH for the better.
Three years after VOL.4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR, the L.A. trio’s ferocious entry into the world of heavy music, HEALTH return with the second half of their DISCO4 series. A whole lot went to hell in the world in the meantime, forcing the band to re-invent how they wrote music together. For DISCO4 :: PART II they cut it fast and mean, recruiting both legends and nascent contenders of heavy music and its many peripheral genres.
“COLD BLOOD”’s blistering heaviness juxtaposed against album cuts like the raucous “PAGAN-ICONZ” (with noise-rap banshee Backxwash and the virtuosically scabrous trio Ho99o9) or the contemplative “STILL BREATHING” (co-piloted with teenage post-punk experimentalist Ekkstacy), demonstrates the breadth of HEALTH’s sonic palette and ability to incorporate what heavy music looks like today and going forward.
HEALTH are not only making the heaviest, most genre-obliterating music of their career. They’re documenting just how insane it feels to be alive right now.
DISCO4 :: PART II Tracklist:
01. HEALTH x Poppy – “DEAD FLOWERS”
02. HEALTH x Nine Inch Nails – “ISN’T EVERYONE”
03. HEALTH x Ada Rook x PlayThatBoiZay – “MURDER DEATH KILL”
04. HEALTH x Maenad Veyl – “IDENTITY”
05. HEALTH x Lamb of God – “COLD BLOOD”
06. HEALTH x The Body – “AD 1000”
07. HEALTH x Backxwash x HO99O9 – “PAGAN-ICONZ”
08. HEALTH x Street Sects – “THE JOY OF SECT”
09. HEALTH x EKKSTACY – “STILL BREATHING”
10. HEALTH x The Neighbourhood – “NO ESCAPE”
11. HEALTH x Perturbator – “EXCESS”
12. HEALTH – “THESE DAYS 22.214.171.124.”
Sitting in a Wisconsin deli in 2012, Amelia Meath told her new friend Nick Sanborn she wanted to start a pop band. She proposed a simple division of labor: She’d write and sing their emotionally multivalent songs, wrapped around seemingly effortless hooks. And he’d make the beats that drove them, slightly slippery instrumentals that winked at his abstract electronic inclinations. For a time, that was the premise of Sylvan Esso.
But during the last seven years, those responsibilities have morphed. Meath and Sanborn’s roles have become so intertwined that every moment of any new Sylvan Esso song feels rigorously conceptual but completely rapturous, their compelling central paradox. “Making music now looks like both of us sitting in a room together and having small arguments,” Meath quips. That dynamic thumps at the heart of Free Love, Sylvan Esso’s instantly endearing third album and a charming but provocative testament to the duo’s long-term tension.
“At the heart of Sylvan Esso is this really fun argument—Nick wants things to sound unsettling, but I want you to take your shirt off and dance. We’re trying to make pop songs that aren’t on the radio, because they’re too weird,” says Meath. “It’s a pop band, but we’re talking about complicated emotions.”
You could frame Free Love in a dozen different ways. You could, for instance, declare it their undeniable pop triumph, thanks to the summertime incandescence of “Ferris Wheel” or the handclap kinetics of “Train.” You might, on the other hand, call it their most delicate work yet, owing to Meath’s triptych of gently subversive anthems—“What If,” “Free,” and “Make It Easy”—that begin, end, and split the record into sides. You could label Free Love their modular synthesis album, since Sanborn’s explorations of those infinite systems shape so many of these daring songs. And you might even call it their marriage record, as it’s the first LP Meath and Sanborn have made since trading vows. But we’re not here to talk about that.
Instead, the thread that binds together every scintillating moment of Free Love may seem surprising for a duo that has already netted a Grammy nomination, made some of their generation’s sharpest pop daggers, and generally approached their work with an anything-goes esprit: Finding confidence. An album that implores us to consider that our assumptions about our world might be wrong, Free Love asks major questions about self-image, self-righteousness, friendship, romance, and environmental calamity with enough warmth, playfulness, and magnetism to make you consider an alternate reality. These are Sylvan Esso’s most nuanced and undeniable songs—bold enough to say how they feel, big enough to make you join in that feeling.
Sylvan Esso’s newfound self-assurance stems less from past successes than what they’ve done since their last record, 2017’s What Now. In the woods outside Durham, North Carolina, they built their own studio, a microcosm of and for their creations. That’s where they holed up for two weeks during the Fall of 2019 to rehearse for “WITH,” a brilliant year-end run as a 10-piece band that sold out the Walt Disney Concert Hall twice, the Beacon Theatre twice, and their hometown Durham Performing Arts Center twice. Free Love was half-finished then; those shows suggested new ways Sylvan Esso could and would evolve.
“Before we did WITH, I was concerned it would feel gimmicky. But once we did that, it still felt exactly like our band,” remembers Sanborn. “That changed the way we thought about making Free Love. If we make it, it will still feel like Sylvan Esso.”
You can sense this conviction in every word Meath sings here. Like the album title itself, these songs overflow with double entendre and striated meanings, each phrase daring you to listen a little closer. She begins by cooing a plea for us to reimagine our relationship to potential and power, then dives headlong into the propulsive “Ring”—a pointed treatise on the seesaw of risk and reward that defines any relationship and how it can become the game that redefines your life.
She renders “Frequency” as a melodic whisper but leads “Numb,” a daring call to push past apathy, with the cool conviction of some impassioned professor. The dizzying “Train” poses thorny questions about cultural disposability through an undeniable, indelible refrain—Meath seems to smile as she sings it, letting you in on a joke that doubles as a deep critique.
Confidence animates Sanborn’s slyly sophisticated production, too. For years, he hesitated to commit to the universe of modular synthesis—it required such an extreme commitment, a headlong dive into an unknown system. But he finally allowed himself to indulge, spending countless hours searching for new sounds in an endless array of knobs and wires. The ingenious results from Sanborn’s months of free play frame Free Love. The glitchy chime that serves as the wooing core of “What If” emerged from those experiments, as did the warped piano line that unfurls beneath the sweeping chorus of “Numb.” These sounds are subtle but intriguing—when you notice, you listen again, trying to tease out their alien origins.
And for “Free,” he broadcast the almost-finished song through an ad hoc FM signal he set up in their studio, a nod to a lifetime pondering the ways that radio stations interfere with one another in open spaces. The choice makes Meath’s reflection on stardom and artificial intimacy feel timeless, a spectral transmission spirited in from another era. Sanborn’s work here proclaims there’s no right way to build a song—these are just the ways he’s found right now.
Free Love thrives on collaborative frisson—two people pushing one another into new territories with the shared assurance of knowing they’re in good company, a sort of trust fall in reverse. Yes, these 10 songs are some of Sylvan Esso’s most direct. And most delicate. And most intricate. And most urgent. Free Love carries the confidence of two people delighted to be all those things, together, at once.
For Sophie Allison, aka Soccer Mommy, color theory is a distillation of hard-won catharsis. The album confronts the ongoing mental health and familial trials that have plagued the 22-year-old artist since pre-pubescence, presenting listeners with an uncompromisingly honest self-portrait, and reminding us exactly why her critically-acclaimed debut, 2018’s Clean, made her a hero to many. Wise beyond her years, Allison is a songwriter capable of capturing the fleeting moments of bliss that make an embattled existence temporarily beautiful. With color theory, Allison’s fraught past becomes a lens through which we might begin to understand what it means to be resilient.
Clean demonstrated Allison’s nuanced approach to lyricism and her disinterest in reducing complex emotional worlds into easily-digestible sound bites. On it, she projected the image of a confused but exceedingly mature teenager — the type to offer up life-saving advice while cutting class under the bleachers. Clean led Soccer Mommy to sell out tour dates and play major music festivals around the world on top of opening for the likes of Kacey Musgraves, Vampire Weekend, and Paramore. A grueling touring schedule made it so that Allison had to get used to writing on the road, a challenge that exhilarated her. She wrote dozens of songs in hotels, green rooms, and in the backseat of the van. The ones that make up color theory were recorded in her hometown of Nashville at Alex The Great, a modest studio where the likes of Yo La Tengo have recorded, just two miles from her childhood home. Produced by Gabe Wax and engineered by Lars Stalfors (Mars Volta, HEALTH, St. Vincent), color theory’s sonic landscape is vast and dextrous, illustrating how much Allison has evolved as a musician and matured as a person over the past year. The melodies on color theory shimmer on the surface, but they reveal an unsettling darkness with each progressive listen.
“I wanted the experience of listening to color theory to feel like finding a dusty old cassette tape that has become messed up over time, because that’s what this album is: an expression of all the things that have slowly degraded me personally,” Allison says. “The production warps, the guitar solos occasionally glitch, the melodies can be poppy and deceptively cheerful. To me, it sounds like the music of my childhood distressed and, in some instances, decaying.” Allison used a sampling keyboard and string arrangements drawn from old floppy discs to lend color theory a timeworn aesthetic. She also opted to enlist her band in the recording process, which hadn’t been the case on any of her earlier releases. “At the base of every song on color theory is a live take done to tape. This album reflects our live performance, which I’ve grown really happy with,” she says.
color theory is thematically subdivided into three sections, each of which is named for a color that distills the mood Allison wanted to freeze in time. We begin with blue, a color that evokes a certain melancholy, and for Allison, illuminates depressive episodes and memories of inflicting self-harm. On “circle the drain,” she admits that “the days thin me out or just burn me straight through” over a swirling, guitar-driven arrangement that inspires a sense of ease in spite of the distressing lyrical content. The next section is represented by yellow, a color that points to illness, both mental and physical. “My mom has been terminally ill since I was a pre-teen, and I never really found a way to deal with it,” Allison says. “On ‘yellow is the color of her eyes,’ I sing about a period when I was on an international tour and kept feeling like my time with her was ticking away.” Lackadaisical from the outset, the song marries its relaxed arrangement with gutting lyrics that will ring true to anyone who has ever witnessed a loved one’s health decline.
The final section, represented by gray, addresses that fear of loss directly. “Watching my parents age and witnessing sickness take its toll made me think a lot about the cycle of life, and forced me to confront the paranoid sense that death is coming for me,” Allison says. On the color theory’s closer, “gray light,” she doesn’t shrink from the terrifying promise of death’s inevitability and instead gives herself over to it completely. Atop a faded, oceanic bed of instrumentation, she unflinchingly admits, “I see the noose/ It follows me closely whatever I do.” But it’s not all tragic, and moments of lightness appear on this album, too. Take lead single “lucy,” which navigates an all-consuming dread with cunning wit and showcases Allison’s deft songwriting prowess. Here, she pleads with a devilish character and succumbs to his cruelty just as easily as she delights in his attention. “That irks me — that I’m falling down/ From heaven through the Earth/ To hellfire to wear his crown,” she sings, the twinkling instrumentation taking on an eerie, unsettling bent as the song progresses.
color theory investigates a traumatic past in exacting detail; in doing so, Allison finds inroads for healing through self-acceptance, and occasionally, humor. (“I’m the princess of screwing up!” she declares at one point.) This isn’t a quest to uncover some long-since forgotten happiness so much as it is an effort to stare-down the turmoil of adolescence that can haunt a person well into adulthood. Allison is a gifted storyteller, one who is able to take personal experience and project it to universal scale. On color theory, she beckons in outsiders, rejects, and anyone who has ever felt desperately alone in this world, lending them a place to unburden themselves and be momentarily free.
“Twinkle Twinkle” is an anti-nostalgia anthem of sorts, about the polarization of becoming a more well-known artist, and the wild ride that was Margo Price’s last few years. It traces her trajectory: she gets by, gets high, racks up debt, can’t pay the rent, plays dives to stay alive. “If it don’t break you, it might just make you rich,” she sings, with heroic sass.
In fact, the song was inspired by a back-stage encounter with Marty Stuart and the Superlatives at a music festival that was otherwise pretty bleak. (Price has played with Superlatives guitarist Kenny Vaughan over the years.) After the show, in Stuart’s trailer, while he tuned his guitars, he said to Price, “So, you and the band have been on the road a lot lately, do you all hate each other yet?” As Price recalls it: “I said, ‘No, well, I mean, our marriages are falling apart and our health’s deteriorating. But other than that we’re great.’ And he looks at me, and he gets this gleam in his eye, and he says, ‘You wanted to be a star… Twinkle twinkle.’”
On White Bronco, Action Bronson’s 2018 release, he rapped “my next album’s only for dolphins,” and the principled MC is nothing if not true to his word. Today he announces his long-awaited new album and debut for Loma Vista Recordings, Only For Dolphins, to be released on September 25. Additionally, he has shared a new single, “Golden Eye.”
Only For Dolphins hums with Bronson’s voracious appetite for sounds encountered during his escapades circling the globe. Turkish psych, reggae, French film music, lovers rock, Russian funk. Joining Bronson is his long-running crew of producers including The Alchemist, Harry Fraud, Daringer, Budgie, DJ Muggs, Tommy Mas and Samiyam.
Listen to “Golden Eye” below, a slow-burn reggae send-up produced by Budgie with a title that, in typical fashion, name checks both the classic video game and the resort. He raps: “Twenty Kawasaki’s looking like wild horses on stampede / I look like a character that was drawn by Stan Lee / All around the world I’m known by different names / But never the real one, because motherf*in sh*t done changed.”
A Queens legend, celebrated for his idiosyncratic pen and vivid raps, Bronson is a decade into his career and still deepening his skillset. “The dolphin is one of the most intelligent creatures ever created on whatever planet we’re on,” he explains. “They have their own way of communicating. They have nuance and intangibles like we do.” In a perfectly unusual analogy, he likens the aquatic mammal to the storied “five-tool” baseball player—that is, the extraordinary class of player who combines all elements of the game. “The only people who understand me are those five-tool players, those higher beings who are on the same telepathic wave as me.”
Action Bronson painted the Only For Dolphins album artwork himself, like he did for both his 2018 White Bronco LP and 2019 Lamb Over Rice EP.
Out now on Loma Vista Recordings.
While the album follows the highest charting album of Iggy’s career, Free has virtually nothing in common sonically with its predecessor—or with any other Iggy Pop album.
On the process that led Iggy and principal players Leron Thomas and Noveller to create this uniquely somber and contemplative entry in the Iggy Pop canon, Iggy says:
“This is an album in which other artists speak for me, but I lend my voice…
By the end of the tours following Post Pop Depression, I felt sure that I had rid myself of the problem of chronic insecurity that had dogged my life and career for too long.
But I also felt drained. And I felt like I wanted to put on shades, turn my back, and walk away. I wanted to be free. I know that’s an illusion, and that freedom is only something you feel, but I have lived my life thus far in the belief that that feeling is all that is worth pursuing; all that you need – not happiness or love necessarily, but the feeling of being free.
So this album just kind of happened to me, and I let it happen.”
Full tracklisting for Free:
2. Loves Missing
4. James Bond
5. Dirty Sanchez
6. Glow In The Dark
8. We Are The People
9. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
10. The Dawn
For further information, stay tuned to Iggy’s site and socials.
Chester Bennington possessed one of the most inimitable, infectious, and instantly identifiable voices in the history of rock music.
The moment he screamed, it felt like the heavens themselves burst apart into a torrent of often violent, undeniably vibrant, and always vital emotions. It’s why fans worldwide hung on to every single word he uttered—and ultimately sang along with him forever.
His voice lives on in Grey Daze.
What started as a pledge to Chester by friends and family has crystallized into an essential extension of his storied legacy. Grey Daze introduced him to the world during a crucial run from 1993 to 1998. It’s where he honed the vocals that ultimately defined Linkin Park. Prior to his passing, he personally broke the news of the band’s return and intention to re-record, re-invent, and re-ignite music they’d started twenty years prior. Working closely with his family and widow Talinda, the bandmates—longtime members Sean Dowdell [drums, backing vocals] and Mace Beyers [bass] joined by Cristin Davis [guitar] who entered the fold in 2017]—breathed new life into 10 tracks with his original vocals on Amends in 2020. It generated tens of millions of streams and incited widespread critical applause. Beyond praise from Rolling Stone, Revolver, and Alternative Press, Brooklyn Vegan hailed it as “pretty fascinating stuff,” and Billboard attested it “provides some grunge-laced light in an otherwise dark hour.” NME summed it up best as “a great modern rock record fronted by one of the best vocalists in the game.” It was only the first part of this promise though. There were another ten tracks to bookend the original.
Fulfilling the second part of this pledge by finishing the other ten songs, Grey Daze continue Chester’s story on 2022’s The Phoenix [Loma Vista Records], amplifying his voice like never before once more.
“Amends was more emotional and reflective,” exclaims Dowdell. “We felt sad when we were writing it. Now that we’re a couple of years removed, it’s very clear what we were going through. We were at a different stage of grief. We went through the shock and the sadness. Now, we’re back to gratitude. So, The Phoenix is more of a celebration of our friend, his talent, and the music. It captures Chester’s angst and energy that people fell in love with. It’s much more aggressive. If you love Chester’s scream, you’ll love this record.”
In late 2020, Dowdell and Co. turned their attention to the remaining tracks and what would become The Phoenix. They handpicked tracks from 1994 and 1997 and entered the studio with Amends producer Esjay Jones. This time around, she exclusively produced the entire project. They immediately locked into a groove and rallied around Chester’s spirit.
“The Phoenix embodies what Chester was,” he continues. “His soul is rising through our world past his death. It’s his rebirth.”
It’s a rebirth in flames as evidenced by the first single and opener “Saturation (Strange Love).” Chester’s scream rings out with passion and power over hard-hitting distortion before dipping back into a vulnerable verse only to snap back into vocal pummeling.
“It goes right back to his roots and core,” smiles Dowdell. “You get the feeling of angst from early Chester. It’s powerful and punches you right in the gut. Lyrically, it’s metaphorical. We told the story of a narcissistic leader who values fame and money over other’s lives.”
A searing riff kickstarts “Starting To Fly” as Dowdell’s voice resounds in a chant, “How high can we go?”
“Chester and I wrote the lyrics together,” he recalls. “It’s a philosophical song about coming into your own adulthood and independence. I got to sing with Chester, which was always really fun to do.”
Leaning into a gothic industrial soundscape, droning guitars buzz through “Drag.” It culminates with a well-placed “Shut up” before he warns, “Life is much too short to be a drag.”
“I’ve always loved that lyric,” he goes on. “It’s very meaningful and profound. Don’t let the little shit bother you.”
Various special guests contributed to The Phoenix. Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction delivered an evocative, ethereal, and entrancing guitar solo on “Holding You,” ripping with raw passion beneath Chester’s words. Filter main man Richard Patrick—who happened to be another one of Chester’s influences—duets with him on “Believe Me.”
“This album really pulls in all of our influences—Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and grunge,” he observes. “It’s all mixed in with Chester’s energy.”
The most important collaboration happened during “Hole” though. Immortalizing a family bond on tape, Chester’s daughters, Lily and Lila Bennington, sing a chorus and a nursery rhyme at the beginning of the track.
“That was the coolest thing,” smiles Dowdell. “He never had the chance to sing on a song with them, so it was a gift to our friend.”
As a whole, The Phoenix is the ultimate gift to their friend.
“When you listen to this, I hope you appreciate Chester even more,” he leaves off. “This is a different perspective on who he was. I want his music to live in your heart and mind. At the end of the day, we did this for him. I know his parents, wife, and kids are super proud. To me, that’s still the only thing that matters.”
Recorded live by Andrew Bird and his three-piece band of bassist Alan Hampton, drummer Abe Rounds and guitarist-producer Mike Viola, the loose and tantalizing groove of “Atomized” is overlaid not only with hypnotically-plucked violin, seamless and sudden interludes, and trance-inducing vocal chants, but sharp affirmations delivered with an effortless cool. Andrew Bird offers, “It’s not just society that is getting atomized but the self that is being broken apart and scattered”.
Stay tuned for more in 2022 for Bird.