New Music Tuesday: Kid Cudi • Phoenix • JUNIP • Har Mar Superstar

Kid Cudi - Indicud

Every Tuesday, we focus on new music releases by naming our top tracks, album highlights, lowlights and important takeaways for select albums.

Kid CudiIndicud

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Just What I Am” feat. King Chip

Album Highlights: Kid Cudi’s impressive, third record Indicud dropped a week early last Tuesday in response to it’s online leak, and the pushed-up release was slightly overshadowed by the Daft Punk mayhem. Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi has crafted a masterful mainstream hip-hop record that is radio friendly and touches on familiar themes. Kid Cudi lyrically deals with addiction by embracing it and partying harder, and he brought along a diverse group for support as usual. Indicud includes the often-featured Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky & RZA, but he also samples Father John Misty in “Young Lady” and utilizes Michael Bolton for the refrain in “Afterwards (Bring Yo Friends)”. “Red Eye” features fast-rising indie outfit Haim, which continues Cudi’s trend of working with booming indie rock bands for increased genre-bending credibility (his first LP featured MGMT on “Pursuit of Happiness (nightmare)” and his second record saw St. Vincent involved in “MANIAC”).

Album Lowlight: It can be hard to edit sometimes, but Cudi should have cut four to six tracks from the middle/back-end of the record, honing in on the best material. Axing “Burn Baby Burn” & “Lord of the Sad And Lonely” would have been a good start to making Indicud tighter and more cohesive. Also, the Kendrick Lamar guested track “Solo Dolo Part II” doesn’t shine as one would hope.

Takeaway: Most of the collaborations work brilliantly, but the best cuts overall feature King Chip and dance driven beats. Cudi must be on a mission to make King Chip a star, as this guest highly enhances “Just What I Am”, “Afterwards (Bring Yo Friends)” & “Brothers”. Also there are a handful of fun dance-driven tracks that work surprisingly well and hopefully hint at Cudi’s future direction. “Cold Blooded”, “New York City Rage Fest” & “Afterwards” are less outer-space-inspired confessionals and more dance-driven beds for rhyming. It would have been great to hear Kid Cudi spit over “New York City Rage Fest”, but instead it’s left as an awesome transitional track. Expect a healthy handful of these tracks to go Top 40 throughout 2013.

~Mike Frash


3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Drakkar Noir” –> “Chloroform”

Album Highlights: Upon first listen, Bankrupt! was a bit hard to swallow. If one judges the new Phoenix album within the context of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, then it is a bit of a let down, but that would be inside-the-box thinking. France’s biggest band (which is in question since The Robots apparently playing instruments now) clearly found a different direction by employing worldly sound motifs and by taking a right turn in the songwriting department. The first single “Entertainment” immediately sets a classic eastern tone with the opening keyboard stabs, a sound aesthetic that is new for Phoenix and present throughout much of the record. Although, “Entertainment” quickly transitions to the familiar Phoenix sound, and it’s the closest the record gets to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. The track climaxes with the line “I’d rather be alone,” which summarizes the overall lyrical content of the LP.

The strongest part of Bankrupt! is the one-two punch of “Drakkar Noir” into “Chloroform”. “Drakkar Noir” serves to build the tension, and once “Chloroform” takes hold it’s all pleasurable release. The synth, strong bass, and simple-yet powerful drum beat creates a perfect bed for Thomas Mars to croon “I don’t always tell the truth…I don’t only think of you…my love, my love, my love is cruel”. “Bankrupt!” is an exploratory mostly-instrumental track much like “Love Like a Sunset”, yet “Bankrupt!” is more hard-hitting and pleasantly jarring with it’s synth-led intensity. Phoenix is wise to meld these two instrumental tracks into “Sankrupt!” for their live shows, placing it in the middle of their set and creating an auditory mind melt for the listener.

Album Lowlight: The hooks on many of the cuts sound like a friend whining about the end of a relationship. This losing-love mantra is like hearing your friend blather on at that realization point where he doesn’t love his mate like he once did, or maybe he never did at all. This is the state of mind in the songwriting, and it is slightly repetitive and a bit of a drag.

Takeaway: Bankrupt! is an anti-love record that bleeds passive aggressive snark, especially in comparison to Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (I know, inside the box thinking). The former LP was framed around magnificent love lyrics like “Sad is for the lonely…true and everlasting that’s what you are” in “Girlfriend”. Obviously, love has been tough recently in the world of the four core Phoenix members, who all contribute to crafting the music and songwriting. In “The Real Thing”, Mars calls it “almost, almost, almost the real thing … am I the only one?” The next track “S.O.S. in Bel Air” peaks with the crescendoing repetition of “Can’t cross the line but you can’t stop trying” while “Alone, alone, alone…” is cried out to keep the verse going. And in the thrilling track “Chloroform”, the crowning statement is “Why would I long for you?” Musically the tracks are as sophisticated as ever while the lyrics are a bit of a downer.

~Mike Frash


3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Line of Fire”
“So Clear”
“Your Life Your Call”

Album Highlights: The awesomeness continues on Junip’s self-titled sophomore release — they just made us wait over two years for its release. A trio from Sweden, Junip’s sound has not dramatically evolved since their 2010 debut Fields; they are the same folk/psychedelic rock band we fell in love with. The stellar vocal delivery by José González, the steadfast drumming from Elias Araya and the astonishing synths from Tobias Winterkorn create an extremely simple yet powerful sound. In fact, the keyboards might be my favorite part of this album. The psychedelic sounds of the synth are laced throughout this record, offering the listener additional layers with subsequent listening.

Album Lowlight: It’s perfect for driving, or just relaxing around the house. It might not be suited to play at a party, and it probably won’t get much radio play either. That does not make it any less wonderful.

Takeaway: Junip’s self-titled album is very mellow, but also ultra-propulsive at the same time. It’s deep rhythm section, use of a variety of percussion, string accompaniment and subtle synth goodness gives this record a very emotional and moving feeling.

~Kevin Raos

Har Mar SuperstarBye Bye 17

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“Prisoner” feat. Fabrizio Moretti
“Restless Leg”
“Please Don’t Make Me Hit You”

Album Highlights: The stellar talent that is Sean Tillman, popularly known as Har Mar Superstar, pumps out an infectious album full of swinging R&B this spring. Stepping away from his ever-loved freak-disco party to get soulful, Har Mar shows off his serious singing chops, not to mention his knack for writing wonderfully fun songs. “Prisoner” lays down the funk early in Bye Bye 17, aided by the Strokes’ Fabrizio Moretti. Further on “We Don’t Sleep” beckons to the freak-funk sound of Midnight Vultures era Beck, chock full of sax flourishes and cosmic Clavinet chops.

Album Lowlight: Tillman may be riding coat-tails as the modernized R&B soul sound is permeating contemporary music, but his play on it still aims at pure fun, as per usual for this act.

Takeaway: Good times are sure to follow this album, whether it be on the stage this summer or out of your iPod. Toe-tapping will certainly be a side-effect, so be warned. Sam Cooke would certainly be smiling down on this slice of American soul. One can expect an enjoyable listen from Har Mar as he traverses new styles, departing from his signature sound on his previous four releases. Furthermore, we can look forward to Har Mar doing his best strip review on stage, a performance that would even make Ron Jeremy smile.

~Kevin Quandt


  1. Great format you’ve used for presenting the songs, reviews, and various opinions. I haven’t had a chance to listen to any of these albums except for a brief, half-awake breeze through Bankrupt!, but from the videos you’ve posted the Har Mar Superstar track had me grooving the most. Really like what you all post, thanks for taking the time to share.

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