Frankie: Big Grams - Big Grams (2015)
Did everyone else have that one twenty-something summer that kind of changed their early adult years? Well, maybe I just read too much but it seems like a pretty standard thing, and the summer/fall of 2015 was one for the books, for me at least. It was a hot summer and early fall spent couch surfing and working two jobs in two different towns just so I could spend weekends traveling to shows and hiking. My car didn’t have AC or an AUX port but it did have a working CD player and a pretty impressive subwoofer, and I picked up a short but sweet little album that would be on repeat for a lot of those long lonely drives. There’s nothing sweeter than an off-the-wall collaboration that ends in a dazzling success and that’s exactly what electronic duo Phantogram and one half of hip-hop duo Outkast, Big Boi, pulled off.
Dubbed “Big Grams” the EP is a pleasant mix of Big Boi’s humorously raunchy hip-hop and Phantogram’s bass-y electronic melodies. I wouldn’t say every song on the seven song EP really breaks the mold, but a few songs really stand out as an incredible meshing of not just two genres but two eras. It’s really a great balance of songs like the opening number “Run For Your Life” that is heavily occupied by Big Boi and others like the following track “Light’s On” which is almost entirely driven by Sarah Barthel’s vocals, and Josh Carter does a stellar job of transforming the dreamy pop tones of typical Phantogram songs into an edgier hip-hop style. I will be the first to admit, however, that track five “Goldmine Junkie” is… honestly a disaster. I think it was a step too far in trying to emanate the opposite artists styles when Barthel attempts to “rap” and it falls flat. They redeem themselves with the closing tracks; “Born to Shine” features Run The Jewels, a rap duo comprised of rapper/producer El-P and former Outkast collaborator Killer Mike, and the final track “Drum Machine” features and was produced by EDM superstar Skrillex. I think “Drum Machine” is a perfect collaboration because it showcases the best aspects of these three similar but different genres.
I didn’t get “Big Grams” on vinyl until near the end of 2018 but boy was I excited to pull it from the crate at Magnolia Thunderpussy. Seeing the gold painted ladies on the cover immediately took me back to that summer of my windows down and the bass cranked on my car stereo. Funny enough, I haven’t actually gotten to listen to my Big Gram’s album on vinyl yet, as I still haven’t replaced my deceased record player, but hopefully I’ll get to drop the needle on this bad boy soon!
Michael: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble - The Essential Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (2002)
For my record tonight I have included my Essential Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble LP. Look it, for my money, I consider Stevie Ray Vaughan (SRV) the pound for pound best guitarist of all time. You read that right, like ever. SRV was a flamethrower of a guitarist from Austin, TX who tragically passed away before his time in a helicopter crash at the age of 35.
This collection features "Lenny", "Pride and Joy", "Texas Flood", "Life by the Drop" and many more. This also includes SRV's cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child" which is absolutely fantastic. Anyway, enough about his guitar playing, he was a god. I also want to point out that he was an underrated singer. This is apparent on both "Pride and Joy" and "Life by the Drop", I'll take Vaughan as a vocalist any day.
This collection really is the essential SRV it features some of his best work from a life cut short. SRV brought the spotlight back to blues music like few have done since. Blues music enjoyed a resurgence because of SRV's greatness, that's another mark of his greatness. Not many people can put a genre on their back as he did in the 70's, 80's, and 90's. If you haven't had the opportunity to listen to SRV yet, do yourself a favor and listen now.