Lana Del Rey - Florida Kilos

I needed a couple weeks to chew on Lana Del Rey’s latest album, Ultraviolence. Back in April, I posted about how I was a little underwhelmed by “West Coast”, and expressed my concerns and optimism for the new direction she seemed to be headed. After hearing the album, I guess I can say it was both exactly what I hoped for and exactly what I was afraid of.

The album ran amok in all the ways I expected. The chorus on “Sad Girl” features Lana literally repeating “I’m a sad girl” over and over again. “Pretty When You Cry” is exactly what that title sounds like. There’s an incredible amount of melodramatic sappiness on the album.

Additionally, the intro track is over six and half minutes of stuck-in-the-mud wailing. In fact, overkill is a downfall of this album. I feel like most of my least favorite songs suffered from being entirely too long. The lows on Ultraviolence are drenched in overindulgence.

All is not lost. The album hit a few high points, and I felt they were fantastic. “Money Power Glory” felt very familiar to fans of 2012’s Born To Die. The radio mix of “West Coast” is fantastic, and fixes a lot of issues I had with the original. Bonus track “Black Beauty” seemed to succeed in much of what the album was aiming for, finding a perfect balance of melancholy while maintaining engaging production and lyrics.

My favorite is another bonus track, “Florida Kilos”. When I wrote about my expectations for this album in April, I said that I felt the surf rock aesthetic could work. This song is what I was hoping for.

Featuring perfect guitars and a flawlessly nostalgic beach vibe, “Florida Kilos” is everything this album could’ve been. It’s perfectly summer, and perfectly Florida. If Miami Vice were set in the 60’s, this would be the theme song. Given the content, it doesn’t come as a total shock that Spring Breakers director Harmony Korine is a co-writer. This one falls in his wheelhouse.

And give Dan Auerbach his props for the production side. I questioned his ability to produce for Lana, but he hit this one out of the park.

Kwamie Liv - 5 AM

"Everybody’s hiding in the neon lights.
This city is a jungle, better learn to fight.”

Last night I fell down the Pigeons & Planes wormhole, as I sometimes do, and before I hit the bottom, I hit this song.

Kwamie Liv is a singer/songwriter from Copenhagen. The internet seems to have very few details on who this girl is. “5 AM” is the only original piece of music she has online. There’s also a Weeknd cover on her Soundcloud.

Past that, you’re outta luck. She’s a phantom.

Apparently she’s getting some traction internationally, but she definitely hasn’t hit the States yet. America seems to be slacking. She’s even cracked her way into the rotation on Sudan’s only all-English radio station, Capital Radio. I heard the radio when I was in Sudan. It’s chaotic and sloppy at best. The fact that America lost the race to Kwamie Liv should be a source of embarrassment.

Simply put, “5 AM” is beautiful. The whole track rides on top of a cushion of soft vinyl static. Liv’s whispery, echoing singing voice perfectly complements the downtempo production. The title works because the whole song seems to be swimming through an early-morning fog. By the time the auto-tune on the chorus hits, it’s full bliss.

Production credits on this one go to Liv herself, as well as Baby Duka. Unsurprisingly, this Baby Duka character is equally mysterious. I can tell you he’s also an artist from Copenhagen. That’s about all I know. His Facebook page lists Liv as his “Editor & Creative Accomplice”, so it would appear that the two are pretty close collaborators.

The only obstacle I see in the way of Kwamie Liv’s future success in America are the obvious and unavoidable comparisons to Lana Del Rey. Liv’s production, lyrics, voice, and aesthetic are all very reminiscent of Lana’s music that much of America is so familiar with.

On the other hand, Liv still only has one song, and it arguably shows more of a willingness to experiment than Lana’s music ever has. I think there’s certainly room for the two to co-exist.

"5 AM" was released 3 months ago, and we haven’t gotten so much as another lyric from Liv since. The overall lack of output would seem to indicate that she’s taking her time with her debut project in order to capitalize on the bit of momentum this single has provided her. It’s definitely a smart move, but I’m also suddenly clamoring for more music. Hopefully it’s coming soon. I look forward to hearing more from Kwamie Liv in the coming months.

John Mayer - XO (Beyoncé Cover)

It’s been too long since I’ve written anything. Finals week and the beginning of summer got in the way. Fortunately, this song gave me all the motivation I needed.

John Mayer has been killing it recently. Although his most recent album wasn’t my favorite, 2012’s Born and Raised was incredible, and showcased a more lyrical, folksy side to his music. Lots of people write him off for his less-than-cuddly personality and his propensity to date pop stars, but he’s one of the most talented people in the music industry.

And then there’s Beyoncé.

The best, and most underrated, song on Beyoncé’s last album was XO. Period. To this point, it hasn’t gotten the recognition it deserves, which is really a shame. Not that the other singles were bad, but I personally thought XO was fantastic. Everything from the production, to the songwriting, to the Terry Richardson-directed guerrilla music video at Coney Island. In my opinion, this is Beyoncé as she isn’t always portrayed, and it’s Beyoncé at her best. Evidently John Mayer agreed, because he came through with this acoustic cover early this morning.

I love it. It’s perfect. You won’t convince me otherwise.

This is without a doubt one of my favorite things to happen in music this year. That may seem hyperbolic, but I can’t otherwise explain how well I think this track works.

If you want to hear a catchy Beyoncé single turned into an intimate acoustic ballad with some harmonica, you are not only a good person, but you are also in luck. Simple and wonderfully relaxing, this is perfect summer music. Thank you, John Mayer.

The 2005 Cleveland Indians: The Most Lovable Team of All Time

Those who know me are aware of my sports obsession. It probably borders on unhealthy at times, especially considering my loyalty to Cleveland. I love football and basketball, but for better or worse, baseball will always be my favorite. It has a special place in my heart. I started playing little league when I was four years old, and it sparked a life-long love affair.

Without giving you my life story, I was born in Cincinnati, but spent the first half of my childhood living in cities without a professional baseball team. I moved to Cleveland when I was 12, and the Tribe swept me off my feet. This was in 2004, but it was the 2005 Indians that stole my heart.

Against all odds, they won 93 games that year. Looking at that roster from a 2005 perspective, that’s absurd. This was in the post-Thome era. This was after Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizquel, and Kenny Lofton had skipped town in one way or another. This team wasn’t supposed to be special.

The 2007 Indians that fell heartbreakingly short of reaching the World Series were incredible. They were good enough to win the whole thing. The 2013 Indians were a thrill ride, crawling back from the brink on multiple occasions to squeak their way into a playoff appearance. However, the 2005 team was something different. This was just a group of unproven prospects mixed with mediocre players and a handful of budget veterans. This team winning 93 games was borderline accidental. They hadn’t had a winning record since 2001, when Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, and Kenny Lofton were tentpoles of the organization.

Nobody told these guys they weren’t supposed to win.

A 31st round draft pick out of Texas named Travis Hafner would unload 33 HR and 108 RBI in his second full season. A magician of a 2nd baseman named Ronnie Belliard would compile a seemingly endless highlight reel of defensive plays, while unexpectedly becoming an All-Star. A baby-faced 22-year-old named Grady Sizemore would take the MLB by storm while anchoring the leadoff spot in the lineup. Homegrown prospect Jhonny Peralta would manage 24 homers in his first full season. A speedy, gritty center fielder named Coco Crisp would hit .300 while becoming a household name in Cleveland. Everybody loved Coco.

The pitching was just as scrappy. A budding superstar named CC Sabathia peeled off 15 wins. An unassuming 26-year-old named Cliff Lee would nail down 18 of his own. A chubby, 36-year-old closer named Bob Wickman would turn in the best season of his 15-year career, notching an incredible 45 saves.

Aside from pure numbers, the team was just plain fun to watch. They could do it all. They had six players with 19 or more home runs. Grady and Coco were stealing bases. It was one of the most impressive defensive teams I’ve ever seen. The fact that nobody won a Gold Glove Award that year is a sham. The Chicago White Sox had been dominating the division, but they weren’t quite sure how to handle the group of kids that the Indians had put together. Nobody in the majors was.

I attended a handful of games that year, but the one that sticks out was on the Fourth of July. The Indians played a double-header against the Detroit Tigers. I went to the second game, in which Jason Davis faced off against a young pitcher in his major league debut. Some kid named Justin Verlander. Coco hit an inside-the-park home run in the 8th inning. Hafner was the next batter up, and hit what had to be a 470ft blast. It cleared the trees in center field. To this day, it’s probably the most impressive home run I’ve seen in person. The Tribe rolled to a 6-0 win, but they were still in third place in the division, nearly ten games back on the White Sox.

On September 5th, the Tribe were coming off a loss and were looking at a 9.5 game deficit in the AL Central. They needed wins, and they needed lots of them. They responded by winning 17 out of their next 19, going 15-1 against Central Division opponents in that stretch. After a win on September 24th, they were just a game and a half back in the division with a game and a half lead over the defending champion Red Sox in the wild-card race.

With just seven games left in the season, they controlled their own destiny. The Tribe was scorching hot, and a final week of baseball stood between them and an unlikely playoff berth.

On Sunday, September 25th, Grady Sizemore lost a 9th inning fly ball in the Kansas City sun, allowing the game winning run to score. It was a tiny mistake, but it sent the team into a tailspin.

In true Cleveland fashion, they lost six of those final seven games. Five of those losses came by a single run. They finished two games behind the Red Sox in the wild-card race, missing the playoffs. It was a heartbreaking collapse, ending in a sweep at the hands of the hated White Sox, who would go on to sweep the World Series 24 days later. It was trademark Cleveland, and it hurt. The following year they finished 18 games out of first place, winning just 78 and finishing fourth in the division.

In the midst of my research/trip down memory lane, I stumbled across this New York Times article by Joe Lapointe that was published after that final game. It reads like a eulogy:

In the clubhouse, the Indians walked among their lockers, slapping each other on the back while hugging. Outside, for more than an hour afterward, the fans - mostly children - lined up to run the bases in the late-afternoon shadows while music played.

But there were so many of them that their pace was slow, walking like mourners filing by the casket of the departed at a celebrity funeral. One of the songs playing on the speaker was an old one called “Kind of a Drag.”

That team dissolved in incredible fashion. #1 minor league prospect Brandon Phillips would be traded down I-71 to the Cincinnati Reds after failing to get along with the Indians management. Belliard was traded to the Cardinals. Victor Martinez and Peralta would eventually land in Detroit together. Sizemore would string together a few more impressive seasons before falling victim to a slew of injuries, ending his tenure in Cleveland. Hafner had a career season in 2006, leading to a hefty contract, but would never crack 17 homers in his final five seasons in Cleveland. Sabathia would go on to win a Cy Young in 2007, only to be traded in 2008. Lee got his Cy Young in 2008, but was traded in 2009. Coco was traded to the Red Sox in 2006, and would record the final out against the Indians in the 2007 ALCS, ending their run at the World Series.

The pains of a small-market team are never more apparent than when looking at these Indians. If the Tribe could have afforded to keep most of these guys, I’m willing to bet we would’ve seen a World Series Trophy at some point.

The 2005 Cleveland Indians were iconic. They were the scrappy underdog that didn’t quite make it. Cleveland has seen a few incredible baseball teams in the past decade, but this version of the Tribe is still the best. Baseball seems to have a certain magic and mystique that other sports lack, and the ‘05 Indians are a shining example. I’ll never forget that summer.

Snacs - Weird Ontology

[LISTEN TO THE PROJECT HERE]

The timing on this thing was actually impeccable. I had planned to write my next post on Snacs, and then he randomly dropped this album/EP today. This post has been ordained by the gods of internet music.

Snacs is Josh Abramovici, a producer from New York City. He currently has a handful of brief (but captivating) projects up on his Bandcamp page, although I came to find out about him through his incredible single, “Art Shadow”. If you’re a fan of instrumental tracks, Snacs is your guy. As I mentioned in my Astronomyy post, the internet and Soundcloud has made these types of artists commonplace, yet the best stuff still sticks out. Snacs is another example of a diamond in the rough artist, and his latest effort proves that.

Weird Ontology opens with “Retreat”, a track that sounds exactly like the title. Without being too cliche, it quickly sets the stage for the rest of the project. This one gives me vibes of Toro Y Moi or even early Washed Out.

As of this writing, “Art Shadow” is still my favorite song on the project, and also easily one of my favorite instrumentals so far in 2014. It’s immersive and cozy, but the percussion and sampling still gives it an expansive and sprawling feel. There’s something in there that sounds like somebody is playing racquetball, and it’s fantastic.

In case you’re too comfortable at this point, “Better Cobra” features a Jadakiss sample. Because, of course, right? If you put the Jadakiss track in a blender with a wind chime and a handful of nickels, this is the song that comes out the other end. It’s short, but wonderfully jarring.

The project heads towards the home stretch with “Love Me Now”, which is basically 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea meets jazz sax. If I ever become a billionaire and buy a submarine-yacht, this is the song that’s gonna play in the elevator.

It all culminates with “Luxury Ride”, which almost sounds like it fell off the Sim City 3000 soundtrack (which is incredible, by the way). The track hits a wonderfully electronic, trance-y stride before going fully industrial and then abruptly ending.

Weird Ontology is the perfect name for this thing, as it manages to be relaxing, yet disorienting. Familiar, yet unpredictable. There have been a handful of albums that have instantly struck a chord with me this year, and this is certainly one I can add to that list. I can’t wait to dig deeper into this.

Weird Ontology is currently available for streaming or $4 download on the Bandcamp page. You can also follow Snacs on Twitter.

Lana Del Rey - West Coast

I was a huge fan of Lana Del Rey’s last album. 2012’s Born To Die represented a fresh and unbridled take on female pop music that really caught a lot of people off guard. The lyrics felt timeless, the production was massive, and the videos were a perfect accompaniment to it all. Seriously, the "Born To Die" video, the "Video Games" video, and the "National Anthem" video were all incredible. Music videos are starting to seem like a lost art, but Lana Del Rey is always on point. As a videographer and music nerd, I have infinite appreciation for that.

The album featured heavy production from a couple of my favorite producers, longtime Cudi collaborators Jeff Bhasker and Emile Haynie. In an era where popular music, especially from female artists, has featured bubblegum production, those guys brought in gigantic baroque pop instrumentals that felt like they belonged in a cathedral or something. As good as Lana was on that album, I could’ve genuinely enjoyed an instrumental version of the whole thing.

That was in January 2012. Since then, we’ve gotten a couple underwhelming EP’s from Lana, and the massive internet buzz surrounding her has seemingly cooled off.

Yesterday Lana came back with the first single from her next album, Ultraviolence. The song is called “West Coast”, which falls in line with its surf rock theme. Sounds great, right? Everything we’ve come to expect from her, but now transplanted to a beach in Malibu. Fantastic!

Not quite. Don’t get me wrong, the song isn’t bad at all. I enjoy it. It’s just that something’s… missing. It didn’t quite hit me like Video Games or Born To Die did. It’s produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. The production is really cool, especially for a Lana Del Rey track, but something just isn’t working.

I’m still hopeful, because I think the whole surf rock aesthetic could work. I’d love to listen to this all summer. But I’d be lying if I said the first single didn’t have me a bit worried. Auerbach is apparently executive producer this time around. I hope we get some kind of contribution from Bhasker or Haynie, because otherwise this next album might not make it.

Astronomyy

Music in 2014 is awesome. With the advent of affordable audio equipment and websites like Soundcloud, the barrier to entry into the music world has never been lower. Anyone with access to a computer and the internet can create and distribute music to the entire world. It’s crazy. Of course, one could argue that this also fills the web with subpar music, which is probably true, but I still think there’s never been a better time to be a talented musician than there is right now. Despite all the garbage out there, the good stuff still finds a way to float to the top. Astronomyy is a perfect example of that.

I was first introduced to this guy’s music a little less than a year ago. I believe the genre that was used was “surf/urban”, which is both completely ridiculous and completely apt. That’s another thing that the internet music scene in 2014 has brought us. Meaningless genres. The lines are beautifully blurred, and we have wonderful artists making weird, sun-bleached hip-hop surf rock.

Location isn’t important, but Astronomyy is English. I don’t picture England as being a big hub for either hip-hop or surfing, yet here we are.

He hasn’t released much music, yet there’s definitely a palpable buzz. He’s got over 500k Soundcloud plays on his three singles, yet he hasn’t forced anything else out. The public is clearly interested, and Astronomyy is letting things come to him. In the internet era where everyone, especially hungry musicians, are forcing themselves upon everyone, Astronomyy has yet to play his first live show.

He was just in NYC finishing his debut EP. There’s no release date yet, but you better believe people will be clamoring. Load those three singles into your summer playlists, and hopefully the EP will be here sooner than later.

Check Astronomyy out on Soundcloud.

BADBADNOTGOOD: Jazz Is For The Kids

In the 21st Century, jazz is typically seen as music for old people. Let’s be honest. Look at the big names in jazz history. The most recently-prominent jazz icon is probably Herbie Hancock. He owns 2 of the top 5 best-selling jazz albums of all time, but those were released in 1973 and 1983, respectively. Artists like Dave Brubeck, Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis made timeless music that still connects with people today, but it’s not quite the same as new artists releasing new music to a new generation. The classic jazz artists will always be there, but I don’t think they’re picking up hordes of new fans in the 18-25 demographic.

As jazz in popular music began to fade, the up-and-coming genre of hip-hop derived influence from these musicians. Kids weren’t listening to much jazz anymore, but they were getting their fill through jazz loops and samples on songs by A Tribe Called Quest. Since hip-hop’s beginning, it’s always had this relationship with jazz; paying homage to the genre that helped to inspire it. Until now, jazz has never returned the favor.

Insert BADBADNOTGOOD. In a fitting 21st century twist, the genre created by African-Americans is being brought back to the current generation by three white kids from Canada. Instead of the usual jazz influence in hip-hop, they’re giving us hip-hop influence in jazz. Welcome to the future.

While they’ve largely shifted to original material in their most recent projects, BBNG first rose to internet prominence in 2011 for their hip-hop cover songs. Where else are you going to hear ajazz rendition of Nas’ “The World Is Yours? Given the relationship between the two genres, the convergence seems so natural, and it’s probably the reason BBNG is not only the “next big thing” in jazz, but also one of the biggest young bands in music. They’ve made the genre cool again. They’re selling out shows, and they have kids literally moshing. To jazz music. In 2014.

Their 3rd studio album, aptly titled “III”, hits the internet on May 6th. Until then watch their latest music video, “Can’t Leave The Night”. 

Welcome To ‘From Loveland’

I decided I needed more practice writing, so I’ll probably be occupying this space for the time being. It’ll give me a chance to write more frequently, and it will also satiate my desire to cram my opinions down your throat. Kidding. Sort of.

I’ve actually been planning this for about a year and a half. I had the whole site set up (with a different name) and everything. I liked the thought of it, but wasn’t very motivated. I finally got around to following through.

I don’t think there’s going to be an overall theme here, but I feel like it will probably end up being mostly music and movies. Probably some random sports stuff. Think of it as my newspaper column, where I write about whatever I want.

I went back and forth on platform, and ended up decided to roll with Tumblr. If I get restless, you might see a switch to Wordpress. For now, the blog should be easy to latch on to. If you’re a Tumblr user, just hit the follow button. I think there’s one in the top right corner of this page…

I designed everything on here, so hopefully it looks good, and hopefully it works.

Anyway, thanks for coming. Stay tuned.

- Spencer Tuckerman