Listen to Arcade Fire’s newest single “I Give You Power”

It’s been four long years since we’ve seen new music from the beloved Arcade Fire. This week the band returns with “I Give You Power,” a collaboration with gospel legend Mavis Staples.

The track itself implements a menacing disco beat with a slightly dark edge. They explore cloudy territory as the synths cast a shadow over the ominous undertones the song presents. Mavis Staples empowering vocals add an extra layer that entices the tune.

Released on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, there’s no doubt that the song has political implications. When the band shared the track, they attached a brief statement: “It’s never been more important that we stick together & take care of each other.”

All proceeds will benefit ACLU.org
Listen below!
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Foxygen – Hang

If The Beatles classic concept album Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and Meatloaf’s pinnacle rock opera Bat Out of Hell made a love child, you’d have Foxygen’s fourth studio release Hang.

The groovy L.A. based duo comprising of Jonathan Rado and Sam France have once again reinvented their sound, but their style remains the same. Their 2013 release We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic propelled them into the limelight. It was fresh, spirited, frenetic and unlike anything else. Their follow-up …And Star Power (2014) was less impressive as a forgettable 24-song chronicle of a band at war with itself.

In Hang, Foxygen takes a different direction. Having assembled a 40 piece orchestra, Foxygen considers Hang to be their “first proper studio album.” Album opener “Follow the Leader” thrusts the record into full swing with bombastic horns, groovy keyboards, 1960’s bubblegum female backup vocals, and France’s gyrating shrieks.

France’s vocal diversity in Hang is prevalent as he effortlessly switches his inflections from Mick Jagger (“Rise Up”), David Bowie (“Mrs. Adams”), and Lou Reed (“Upon a Hill”).

Hang reaches it’s peak with album highlight “On Lankershim.” It is reminiscent of the 1970’s folky sounds of a.m. radio. The ballad “Trauma” is as smooth as it is carefully arranged symphonic pop. “Avalon” and “Upon a Hill” evoke imagery of the vaudeville camp you’d see on the Broadway stage.

Hang is grandiose, flamboyant, and ostentatious. But underneath the high concept, little substance is present. It’s all body and no soul. It’s an album I would pay good money to see in all of it’s cosmic glory live, but it’s not an album that I would come back to for regular listens.

Hang: C+

“Run the Jewels 3,” a Hardcore Manifesto from 2016

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I never really got into the prior two Run the Jewels albums. They just weren’t my sort of hip-hop to listen to. I have never been a big fan of hardcore anything; hardcore rock, hardcore hip-hop, none of it ever connected with me much.

In 2015 I went to the FYF Music Festival in Los Angeles. Frank Ocean was scheduled to play, but he ended up canceling and Kanye West took his spot. Billed before Kanye was Run the Jewels. A good friend and I wanted to be at the very front for Kanye, so we had been preparing to move up and camp out for Kanye.

We got to see the Run the Jewels show fairly close, their red, flashing LED screens permanently seared on my mind. The show was energetic. The crowd was buzzing. People vibing to the deep bass sound waves, hands thrown up in the air, knees bending up and down. The show didn’t change my mind on Run the Jewels, but it did open my mind up to give them a spin if the time was pertinent.

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Run the Jewels performing at the FYF Music Festival in Los Angeles in 2015

Run the Jewels 3 is equally frenetic as their live performances. The hardcore sound that is thematic to any Run the Jewels album is still there. Expect big bass, boom-bap drums and chopped up samples on Run the Jewels 3.

Killer Mike remains political, particularly in a year  he was much more visible in the public eye. Backing Killer Mike’s strong political verses is hype man and producer, El-P. The chemistry between the two remains strong. El-P interjects and phrases at the right times, never awkwardly cutting into Killer Mike or forcibly pushing his presence onto a song El-P remains the modern hype man archetype.

The music and the lyrics come together to create a captivating, political album. Run the Jewels is Killer Mike and El-P continuing their yearly streak of dropping one of hip-hop’s most captivating albums.

Grade: B+