Frankie - Kendrick Lamar: Good Kid, M.A.A.D City
I want to start out this segment of From The Vinyl Vault by giving a huge thank you to my editor-in-chief and long time friend/mentor Michael La Torre. Not only has he kept tabs on me all these years, but he brought me onto Alt Revue and it was the best thing that has happened to me; I was definitely starting to drift from my passion of writing and he reignited it by giving me a direction to pursue in the music I loved. Now, in another grand gesture of his friendship, he has gifted me his old working turntable to replace my broken one. A couple days ago I finally got to unbox my new baby and spin some of the vinyl I’ve picked up since my previous player broke. The first album we dropped the needle on was actually my boyfriend’s decision, as a couple weeks ago I picked up a copy of Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City that he’s been dying to listen to. That right, I’m switching it up to talk to you about another genre I love: hip hop. Clearly not all hip-hop could be filed under “alternative” the way we like to keep things here at Alt Revue, but Kendrick Lamar has established his own style of hip-hop by infusing it with his signature storytelling and conceptual albums, making it soundly “alternative” hip-hop.
Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore album might not be his most critically acclaimed album, nor the one he won a Pulitzer Prize for, but it is my favorite nonetheless. It reminds me of my sophomore year in college, when I finally got my license and my brother sold me his car, including his sick sound system he had installed. The album is a concept piece, a collection of short stories that tell about Lamar’s teen years growing up in Compton, California. I have absolutely no way to relate to Lamar, as our lifestyles are entirely different in quite literally every way, but I can still appreciate good music when I hear it. Listening to some of the songs off this album like “Swimming Pools (Drank)” “m.A.A.d City” or “The Art of Peer Pressure” you can get a taste of the emotion and strife a young black man might experience growing up in a historically impoverished community. “The Art of Peer Pressure” is an especially moving spoken word tale of a near fateful night “with the homies” as they commit petty crimes as a past-time. Beyond the subject matter, the songs on “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” all have incredibly catchy beats and it’s an album I never get tired of listening to.
I absolutely hope to gather the rest of Kendrick Lamar’s albums on vinyl, as they sound incredibly crisp for newer hip-hop on vinyl, unlike some other albums from the same period. I snagged my pressing on my first ever visit to Columbus’ Spoonful Records, where I picked up a few more albums that I’m looking forward to finally listening to and writing about!
Michael - Wilco: A Ghost is Born
It's no secret I love alt-country, a genre at which Wilco was at the center of pioneering in the early to late 90's. However, Wilco were never a band to stay stuck in a sound. That is, they have evolved with each album they have made, yet their inner core still manages to take you back to their original. This is a great thing as not many bands can pull this off, it's a balancing act that we have seen so many artists struggle with (think Mumford and Sons post-Babel). For Wilco this evolution really started to take a hard turn with the release of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. However, I would argue it was perfected with A Ghost is Born.
It kicks off with "At least that's what you said" a five minute track that has one of the all-time alt musical breakdowns that I can recall with fantastic guitar work throughout. It shifts, with "Hell is Chrome" which is more in line of alt-country with it's piano but it is a haunting song that hangs around at the end beautifully, a bit different than their former work that was traditional alt-country. "Wishful Thinking" kicks off as some of the most daring music that Wilco had done to the point, comping to Pink Floyd, before grounding in somber vocals accompanied by fantastic organs. Finally, "Theologians" is an upbeat track that has become a trademark of Wilco that just features the most fantastic progressions as it shifts.
While many people say the turning point for Wilco was Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and that's hard to argue against. I will say, don't discount what A Ghost is Here did for their overall sound as well. To me, it was just as ambitious and perhaps even more ground-breaking than the former.