Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool // Community Review

Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool //

There are very few bands out there right now who can create as much of a buzz as Radiohead. Over the last 30 years, Thom Yorke and his cohorts have managed to defy any box that music critics have tried to put them in, creating a sound that’s uniquely their own. And although the five-piece’s prior studio effort The King of Limbs didn’t quite stand up to 2007’s crown jewel In Rainbows, Radiohead still remain one of the world’s most important bands today. If anything, their ninth and newest record should only further cement that sentiment as the band explores new territory sonically while still crafting an album that could only sound like them. A Moon Shaped Pool may just be Radiohead’s prettiest effort to date, but is it hands down their best?

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When rumors of Radiohead’s ninth LP started to swirl in the middle of 2014, the three-time Grammy winners had taken a year off as frontman Thom Yorke focused on his side project Atoms for Peace, drummer Philip Selway released his second solo album and bassist Colin Greenwood endeavored in philanthropic work. But most notable of them all was what lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood turned his attention to, collaborating with orchestral groups like the Australian Chamber Orchestra and London Contemporary Orchestra, experiences for which he later said had a profound impact on his approach to live performance. So, it’s no surprise then to see Radiohead go headlong in that direction on A Moon Shaped Pool, their highly anticipated masterpiece that in less than an hour, gently and unassumingly floats by on a bevy of beautiful string arrangements, minimalist electronic flourishes and of course, Yorke’s somber, yet heartfelt lyrics. From the opening notes of “Burn the Witch” to closing number “True Love Waits”, which the band has performed live for over 20 years but had not dropped a studio recording of until now, the younger Greenwood’s cinematic practices from his days composing the soundtracks for Paul Thomas Anderson’s last three films — “There Will Be Blood”, “The Master” and “Inherent Vice” — shine bright throughout. Yet, arguably more than any other Radiohead album that has come before it, AMSP, like a fine wine, only gets better with age, maturing more and more after each listen until it finally hooks you for good. -Josh Herwitt
4.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Identikit”

A Moon Shaped Pool is seemingly the most nostalgic addition to Radiohead’s catalog. Trading synthesizers and drum kits for guitars and orchestras, Radiohead’s new LP brings their best elements to the forefront: haunting lyrics, acoustically driven melodies and highly textured, detailed production. AMSP is a return to the band’s signature guitar arrangements, including a labyrinthine solo at the end of “Identikit” that is both unexpected and beautifully executed. “Burn the Witch” and “Glass Eyes” exquisitely showcases the skills that multi-instrumentalist Johnny Greenwood (guitar, keyboards, percussion) has developed over the past 10 years while composing the music for Paul Thomas Anderson’s most recent films, guiding the rhythms and adding a grandiose touch to all 11 tracks. These string arrangements reach their absolute peak during “The Numbers”, beautifully adding to the cascading arrangement of acoustic guitars and pianos. Closing track “True Love Waits” is the culmination of 20 years of songwriting as a band — a song beautifully translated from a raw solo recording from 2001’s I Might Be Wrong live album into a delicate, perfectly-arranged melody; the right home for such a deeply-loved fan favorite. AMSP is a reminder of what is essential in life and one of the best additions to Radiohead’s repertoire. -Brett Ruffenach
4 BAMS // Top Song: “True Love Waits”

Don’t call A Moon Shaped Pool a “break-up album” or go as far to say it’s Radiohead’s final release because if there’s one thing Thom Yorke and company have taught us over the past couple of decades, it’s to avoid all labels and categorization when referring to them. But I’ll play my own devil’s advocate and describe this record in one word: cinematic. Paul Thomas Anderson’s mesmerizing video for “Daydreaming” was not our first glimpse into the album but was quite possibly the most revealing piece of the pre-release puzzle; the pictorial short, which accompanies the track’s swirling string sections and haunting vocal embellishments, should raise the hairs on your arm as the music builds, morphs and even growls (literally) at the listener. But as Radiohead draw closer to gaining their AARP cards, we see them return to music that may be interpreted in a slightly more inward manner, even if the majority of these tracks have been heard before in some way or another. AMSP is a deep listen, best suited for solitary listens as there are weighty issues for both the delivery agents and the recipients to work out on their own terms. -Kevin Quandt
4.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Daydreaming”


What do you think of Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool? Keep the conversation going below with your quick review or comment! If we like your reply, we’ll hook you up with a free pair of tickets to your choice of show in San Francisco.

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Beach House – Depression Cherry // Community Review

Beach House - Depression Cherry

Beach HouseDepression Cherry //

After more than three years between album releases, Baltimore’s Beach House are back with their fifth studio effort and third offering on Sub Pop Records. Venturing into the Deep South to record their latest material, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally make a concerted effort on Depression Cherry to breathe new life into their dreamy, sleep-inducing songs. But how does the LP stack up against the group’s other work?

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Beach House have elevated their game over the last five years to become one of indie rock’s biggest darlings. After receiving heaps of praise from fans and critics alike for its previous two albums — 2010’s Teen Dream and 2012’s Bloom — the Baltimore duo comprised of Victoria Legrand (lead vocals, keyboards) and Alex Scally (guitar, bass pedals, keyboards, backing vocals) return to a more minimalistic approach on its fifth full length. Consequently, the band’s revamped songwriting process for Depression Cherry does yield some solid results, whether it’s Scally’s gritty guitar riff that opens “Sparks” or Legrand’s keyboard melody that fuels “Beyond Love”, but it also evokes many of the same dream-pop vibes that have become heavily associated with its sound over the last decade. That’s not to say the nine-track LP, at over 44 minutes in length, represents a major step back for Legrand and Scally. Depression Cherry, rather, is just not as sonically transformative as I would have hoped. -Josh Herwitt
3 BAMS // Top Song: “Sparks”

For over 10 years, Beach House have remained true to their sound with Alex Scally’s distorted guitar riffs and the French-born Victoria Legrand’s wistful vocals. Now, the dream-pop duo from Maryland has released its fifth studio album since forming back in 2004. Even though Depression Cherry does not drift far from the beach, it does introduce some instrumental chaos over Legrand’s calming voice. In explaining the meaning behind the album’s first single “Sparks”, Legrand told NPR in an interview early last month that the song refers to “that moment when music and words become feeling.” Similar to a warm embrace, Beach House’s Depression Cherry transcends listeners to a more serene environment, inviting you to “live again.” -Nik Crossman
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Sparks”

Beach House perfectly encapsulate the sentiment “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” In the Baltimore two-piece’s sound, lyrics and evolution, a sense of nostalgia and melancholy is deeply entrenched as Depression Cherry follows the same pattern of its two previous (and fantastic) albums Teen Dream and Bloom — an organ, drum machine, bass and guitar washing over the hypnotic voice of Victoria Legrand. The lyrical content of this album seems much more upfront compared to Beach House’s previous efforts, especially in the opening track “Levitation”, while Alex Scally’s multi-instrumental talents are undeniably present in songs like “Sparks” and the six-minute-blossoming-wall-of-melodies that is “PPP”. Beach House is a feeling, and “Days of Candy”, to me, is the perfect song that captures that feeling — of longing for the past, filled with hope and fear for the future — that is Beach House. As everything changes, Beach House stays the same, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. -Brett Ruffenach
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Days of Candy”


What do you think of Beach House’s Depression Cherry? Keep the conversation going below with your quick review or comment! If we like your reply, we’ll hook you up with a free pair of tickets to your choice of show in San Francisco.

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Tame Impala – Currents // Community Review

Tame Impala - Currents

Tame ImpalaCurrents //

One of the most anticipated albums of the year is officially out, but does Kevin Parker’s latest long player live up to the hype? After reaching the psych-rock summit with Tame Impala’s first two albums Innerspeaker and Lonerism, Parker has changed course on the group’s third LP, trading guitars for synthesizers while continuing to refine his production chops. What results is more pop than rock, more disco than neo-psychedelia, as Parker copes with heartbreak, loneliness (again) and plenty of other emotions.

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We have been hearing about a third Tame Impala album since the fall, when Kevin Parker and company embarked on a mini-tour across the U.S. before turning their attention to new material. With that kind of buildup over the past eight months, it’s hard to expect anything less than greatness from Parker. But the Australian multi-instrumentalist has done it again, and most importantly, he’s done it his way. The 13-track Currents is a step in a completely different direction from the hypnotizing psych-rock that dominated the band’s 2010 debut Innerspeaker and 2012 follow-up Lonerism, and it’s refreshing to see someone as young as Parker (he’s only 29 years old) taking this big of a risk after receiving as much commercial success as he has at this point. Yes, he could have played it safe, boring us to death with the same sonic formula he employed in the past, but instead, he opened himself — and his bandmates — up to a new world, one filled with new sounds and textures and one that fans should ultimately come to appreciate, if not now, then with some more time. -Josh Herwitt
4 BAMS // Top Song: “The Less I Know the Better”

People change, and when they do, there are a couple ways it can happen. Either change happens to you, arriving at your doorstep as a surprise, or you change proactively, grasping onto control before it’s gone. Tame Impala’s creative captain Kevin Parker has chosen the latter, evolving his form and lyrical content to marinate around this idea of personal change. Currents finds Parker dabbling in new song structures (most strikingly with singles “Let It Happen” and “Disciples”), now-famously abandoning his guitar for synthesizers, introducing the finger snap as a motif and opening up to elements of R&B, disco, trance and funk — all genres he admitted he wouldn’t allow to seep into his creative consciousness, until now. Parker’s words directly address his transition toward a new man throughout his LP3, ultra-poignantly in “Yes I’m Changing,” and most effectively in album closer “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”. The chorus is Parker’s internal dialogue battling, one side pushing forward into new life territory as self-doubt creeps in at every corner. But in verse, the call for change wins out, and at the same time, he addresses Tame Impala fans who will be disappointed by his new sound — “Finally taking flight / I know you don’t think it’s right / I know that you think it’s fake / Maybe fake’s what I like / Point is I have the right / I’m thinking in black and white / I’m thinking it’s worth the fight”. Parker is no phony, and his proactive evolution, skating down the road to pop stardom, makes Tame Impala the most essential rock outfit in contemporary music. -Mike Frash
4.5 Bams // Top Song: “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”

If Currents was a family member, it would be your favorite aunt you don’t see often enough, yet during each visit, it feels like no time has passed at all. Tame Impala’s third album delivers the delicious, driving psych-rock riffs they’re so well-known for, along with a few crucial pieces of advice (particularly in “Yes I’m Changing” and “Eventually”). The only thing missing from Currents is a sense of urgency, but its absence isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead, Kevin Parker keeps the vibe, well, tame, allowing you to ride the waves of the album without worrying about or even wondering where you are within it — as with any true current. -Rochelle Shipman
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Yes I’m Changing”

Kevin Parker is one hell of a producer. Currents, from its first listen, has a level of detail in its mixing that cannot be ignored. There are some fantastic moments throughout, kicking off with “Let It Happen”, which is about as explosive of an opening track as you can get. The groovy bass lines, especially in songs like “The Less I Know The Better”, really drive this entire album. “Past Life” has a great, trippy filter that washes over it in the chorus and perfectly accompanies the low voice narrating a story of a fated run-in. Some parts don’t seem as fully developed as they could have been, for example the intermission-like track “Disciples” or the songwriting in “‘Cause I’m a Man”, while the final track misses a big opportunity to bookend its massive opening introduction with a comparable conclusion. Currents is a ton of fun to listen to, and in preparation for what I expect to be an amazing set at Outside Lands next month, I’ll have this album on repeat for a while. -Brett Ruffenach
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Eventually”


What do you think of Tame Impala’s Currents? Keep the conversation going below with your quick review or comment! If we like your reply, we’ll hook you up with a free pair of tickets to your choice of show in San Francisco.

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Toro y Moi – What For? // Community Review


Toro y MoiWhat For? //

After Toro y Moi performed in SF a couple a weekends ago, the question was asked, “Is Toro y Moi now a man or a band?” Surely this is Chaz Bundick’s vehicle, but a greater emphasis has now been put on a collective rock sound. What’s been most interesting so far about Toro y Moi is the outfit’s rapid evolution. Bundick morphs his sonic center-point about every two years; first he was the Godfather of the chillwave movement, then he moved onto a dance aesthetic — now he’s pivoted once again…

Comment with your thoughts on What For? to win free tickets to shows in SF this week.


Coming off a recent project near the end of 2014 under the electronic pseudonym Les Sins, Chaz Bundick has shown that his style as an artist cannot be contained to a single genre. What For? is a throwback — a poppy, fun, yet short break from his four-on-the-floor production style of last year. Coming in at 36 minutes, the album leaves much to be desired but nonetheless shows a wide array of skills in creating a sound that stays in tune with, yet expands upon, previous work under the Toro y Moi brand. As summer in San Francisco approaches, you can bet you’ll hear this album booming from Bluetooth speakers by Dolores Park frequenters as they enjoy the sunshine. -Brett Ruffenach
3 BAMS // Top Song: “The Flight”

When you listen to Toro y Moi’s latest creation — in this case, their fourth full-length album What For? — it’s hard not think about how much Tame Impala Chaz Bundick has been listening to in his spare time. From the opening track “What You Want” through the record’s first single “Empty Nesters” and beyond, it’s almost undeniable how close some of Bundick’s music now sounds to Kevin Parker’s. Had Parker and Tame Impala not been occupying a similar space in contemporary rock ‘n’ roll already, it might be easier to see Bundick’s new work in a different light. That’s not to say all of What For? is simply a replica, of course. There are still some moments where Bundick’s songwriting shines, whether it’s the disco-funk party that comes to life on “Spell It Out” or the slick 70’s guitar riffs that surface midway through the ensuing “Half Dome,” but they aren’t quite as frequent when comparing this effort to the group’s 2013 success Anything in Return. -Josh Herwitt
3 BAMS // Top Song: “Spell It Out”

Chaz Bundick launches his fourth album in a summery flash back to the 70’s psychedelic mood and careless 90’s rock disposition. The album opens with the sound of racecars flying down a steamy track and brings to mind a life of leisure as he sings, “I can get you what you want.” The next track, “Buffalo”, recalls “Charlie’s Angels”-like smoothness and David Bowie narration with “Cause you love it all / And you’ll find a way / To keep on.” Suburban detachment can be found in the song “Ratcliff”, which is about a doctor, canceled meetings, cookie cutter housing, and a life that is too simple. The song “Lilly” really gets down with some psychedelic guitar, reverb and that woman who just has it. In all, it’s the perfect summer album with all the psychedelic guitar riffs and lazy lyrical innuendos. -Bridget Stagnitto
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “The Flight”

In 2013, I named Anything in Return as my album of the year. Now, two years later, Toro y Moi has released the next in a line of funky-fresh, neo-disco records, this time with What For?. Does it live up to the previous effort? Not quite, but it isn’t too far off either. This album is terrific, though a little on the short side, clocking in at a mere 36 minutes over 10 songs. Paying homage to 70’s funk and 80’s disco while layering synthesizers has always been a trademark sound of Toro y Moi, and not much has changed with What For? Dig deep into this album, and you will hear pearls of auditory pleasure sprinkled throughout through the use of vintage gear, analog synths and a dozen different guitars. I’d love to see a gear list for instruments used on this record — my feeling is that it’s fairly extensive. This album satisfies the craving I’ve been having for more Toro y Moi music, and there’s no doubt this will get a lot spins this year. -Kevin Raos
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Empty Nesters”


What do you think of Toro y Moi’s What For?? Keep the conversation going below with your quick review or comment! If we like your reply, we’ll hook you up with a free pair of tickets to your choice of show this week in San Francisco.

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Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell // Community Review


Sufjan StevensCarrie & Lowell //

Is there a bigger indie darling than Sufjan Stevens? If there was any doubt, the 12th addition to his cannon, Carrie & Lowell, should cement this legacy.

What do you think of this record? Comment below for the chance to win free tickets to shows in SF this week, and keep the tissues nearby if you haven’t listened to this one yet.


Sufjan Stevens has a uniquely complex body of musical compositions, from the historical and geographical Come on! Feel the Illinois! to his exploration of the zodiac personalities through sound and the musical dedication to the BQE. Stevens has created his anomalous oeuvre that reflects his intelligent, playful, philosophical and melancholy sound. The album that he has just launched, named after his mother and stepfather, has more emphasis on the melancholy, shedding his exploration of epic arrangements like on his 2010 solo album Age of Adz and turning toward feathery method of songs like Seven Swans. A more thoughtful and delicate nature to the music is required to reflect the unfortunate reality of the death of Stevens estranged mother, Carrie, as Stevens uses his ability to weave fiction and reality to journey into the human elements of loss, love, want, and faith. Each song is a carefully created letter to the lost soul of his mother and at the same time, a general consensus of the human condition, so take the time to give this one a good listen, mediate on life’s purpose and fragility. -Bridget Stagnitto
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “John My Beloved”

Sufjan Steven’s masterful new album isn’t just about grappling with the death of someone close, but it’s about the slow motion details of grief. There are fragmented memories (“…she left us at that video store”) and elements of creative nonfiction to fill those holes, regret (“I should have wrote a letter…”), the search for ways to cope (the creation of this album itself), and self harm (“There’s blood on that blade/ Fuck me, I’m falling apart”). The aural approach thrives in its simplicity and stark beauty, but lyrically it contrasts the acoustic aesthetics and cuts deep like a knife — in devastating fashion, the way only a musical master can pull off. The feeling of looming demise is like the last week spent with a loved one, beside their bed at the hospital, waiting. But Stevens pulls out a mirror for the listener with “Fourth of July”, the centerpiece of Carrie & Lowell, reminding us “we’re all going to die.” Stevens is attempting to find meaning in his absent mother’s passing, but certainly it’s an effort that we can all apply to ourselves, that it’s ok to acknowledge your own mortality and find truth in illumination. -Mike Frash
4.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Fourth of July”

Of the very little Sufjan Stevens material I’ve heard in the past, I never connected with it, but I was instantly hooked on my first full listen of Carrie & Lowell. He wastes no time laying his emotions flat out, effectively making me feel like I’m witnessing an old friend face the death of his mother and his own immortality with little more than a few strings and some keys. Stevens confronts grief with an enormous amount of grace, layering light, breezy melodies with dark emotional content (illustrated profoundly on “The Only Thing”). Despite the often haunting lyrical undertones, Carrie & Lowell brings an aural calm similar to that of Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues. -Rochelle Shipman
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Eugene”
Sufjan Stevens leaves the listener buried in emotion, toppled like the weight of sand and yet feeling light as a feather. There’s something poetic about his song structures, like they could be decoded into an equation on how to feel. Carrie & Lowell, a title attributed to his Mother and Stepfather, resembles the sentiment and elegance of 2004’s Seven Swans, and features an eerie swell on such tracks like “The Fourth Of July” and “Blue Bucket of Gold” that makes it feel as if Stevens has been hanging out with Thom Yorke. Stevens continuously proves that he can do anything he wants without being bratty, experimenting with hip-hop and electronica on his last couple albums, and flawlessly circling back to impassioned form. -Anthony Presti
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Should Have Known Better”


What are your thoughts on Carrie & Lowell? Keep the conversation going below with your own quick review or comment below. If we like your reply, we’ll hook you up with a free pair of tickets to your choice of show this week in San Francisco.

Help us decide which album Showbams will co-review next week.
Watch videos from our options this week, then vote.

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Toro y Moi – “Empty Nesters” from What For?
Listen to this album now at NPR Music.

Mew – “Water Slides” from + –

Waxahatchee – “Air” from Ivy Tripp
Listen to this album now at NPR Music.

The Mountain Goats – “The Legend of Chavo Guerrero” from Beat The Champ
Listen to this album now at NPR Music.

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit // Community Review


Courtney BarnettSometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit //

Has the time come for Courtney Barnett to break out big? Perhaps, she was on “Ellen” last week. Find out what the BAM Team has to say, and leave your own comment/quick review below for the chance to win tickets to shows this week in SF.


It’s always satisfying when a young artist with a quality first album (or a couple EPs in this case) follows it up strongly. Courtney Barnett is now further reassured in her long drawling style of narration. The feel and tone is more widely ranged with Barnett rocking more on the heavy side as compared to A Sea of Split Peas. The album flows nicely from track to track and often sits in a juxtaposition of nonchalant vocals and heavy, poppy guitar riffs (“Aqua Profunda!”). This balance is delightfully unassuming and charming, lending the album to lots of repeat plays. Barnett is sure to start ripping up festival sets and rising up lineups. -Steven Wandrey
4 BAMS // Top Track: “An Illustration of Loneliness”

Courtney Barnett often finds poignancy amongst the mundane, connecting lines of poetic prose that sometimes boarder on non-sequitur logic, and there are also moments of brutal honesty that expose a history of personal crisis as she nakedly exclaims, “I used to hate myself but now I feel alright” on “Small Poppies”. Barnett has created a dynamic work that sequences wisely, bunching together similarly paced songs. “Elevator Operator” and “Pedestrian at Best” knock down the front door with a sledgehammer, then the next set of tracks slow things down and end with the beautiful “Depreston”, which possesses the tone of a would-be Real Estate song. Back come the galloping rock tracks for four songs before “Kim’s Caravan” aids in a post-rock slow burn right into a lullaby that puts the record to bed. The title is appropriate, matching the roller-coaster pacing of this introspection-meets-exhibition work of art. -Mike Frash
4 BAMS // Top Track: “Depreston”

From time to time, the discussion of whether rock ‘n’ roll is dead rises to the surface as there are great shifts in what the music-consuming public will support. For those who buy into that argument, take heart as there are many new artists breaking on the scene to breathe new life into the genre and most prominently Courtney Barnett. The first thing you notice is her vocal style, which is sometimes called “deadpan,” and that would cover part of her charm, but there’s much more to tickle the ears — there is also her songwriting. These tracks are infused with smart and often funny lyrics that flow from her like an endless stream of consciousness. This is a very full and satisfying album stylistically that takes us into many corners of rock ‘n’ roll, from the hard driving of the aforementioned tracks to the sweet pop sounds of “Debbie Downer” and many points between. -Tom Dellinger
4.5 BAMS / Top song: “Kim’s Caravan”

What a fun album! Courtney Barnett’s blend of stream-of-consciousness lyricism over crafty pop hooks makes for a good listen. I haven’t had the first two tracks of an album hit me like that in a while — very infectious. There is certainly a heavy 90’s alt-rock influence, in all of the best ways (think Matthew Sweet, Elastica and some Mazzy Star on the less pop-driven tracks). Perfect for your drive to the beach. -Andrew Pohl
3.5 BAMS // Top Track: “Pedestrian at Best”


What do you think of Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit? Keep the conversation going below with your quick review or comment! If we like your reply, we’ll hook you up with a free pair of tickets to your choice of show this week in San Francisco.

Write to if you’d like to write or contribute at Showbams.

Next Week: Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly // Community Review


Kendrick LamarTo Pimp a Butterfly //

We can trace the focus of this remarkable album to Kendrick Lamar’s response to the Ferguson grand jury in early 2015. In an interview with Billboard, Lamar said, “What happened to [Michael Brown] should’ve never happened. Never. But when we don’t have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us? It starts from within. Don’t start with just a rally, don’t start from looting – it starts from within.”

Lamar received much criticism for this comment. And it seems pretty clear that To Pimp a Butterfly doubles down on how he feels, explaining his intentions in stark, enveloping detail backed up with historical context and passion. Just look at how he reworked “i” from a sunny, summer single that masked the deep lyricism into a passionate plea for reason, dropping the line “the sun gon shine” after “one day at a time …”

With over nine million full plays in the first 24 hours of release on Spotify (a new record by over three million listens), Kendrick Lamar has a chance to influence and be an agent of change like no other musician in decades.


Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly is an essential, landmark work with the potential to bridge racial and cultural divides in an unprecedented way. The sonic direction is often unbalanced and off kilter with the effect of giving a layered listening experience, reflecting the current climate of being a black man in America circa 2015. Lamar owns a rhyming cadence and tells stories with a revolving cast of characters/voices that supports the overall message of self confidence among unease and uncertainty — while at the same time mirroring the jazz-funk hybrid that drives the record (and KDot, FlyLo and Thundercat are the new holy trifecta of contemporary American music.) It’s a narrative that doesn’t represent everyone, which is why Butterfly is so important — the mastery storytelling opens the door for true acknowledgment and empathy at a time when it’s needed for the sake of societal progression. “Although the butterfly and the caterpillar are completely different, they are one and the same.” -Mike Frash
5 BAMS // Top Song: “The Blacker the Berry”

Kendrick Lamar has completely flipped the script with To Pimp a Butterfly, abandoning the West Coast G-funk of Good Kid, M.A.A.D City for a hyper jazz and funk fusion that challenges the listener every step of the way, but rewards multiple listens as you go deeper down the rabbit hole. Lamar is no longer rapping, he’s preaching and we are all witnesses. All hail King Kendrick. -Dale Johnson

5 BAMS // Top Song: “Hood Politics”

Everybody welcome the new king of rap: Kendrick Lamar. West Coast rap at its finest: laid back, funky, jazzy, charged, personal. Many of the songs take unexpected turns on a dime that breathe unexpected life into already intriguing songs. Lamar’s flow ranges from chill to enraged, witty as ever. This record is a captivating juxtaposition of head-nodding beats and palpably powerful preaching, often at the same time. A top-five rap album of the last five years. -Steve Wandrey
4.5 BAMS: Top Song: “Alright”

Kendrick’s new album is intense, real and in your face. It’s a brutal, honest truth that takes no prisoners. Kendrick is perfecting his fire-spitting craft over some of the most progressive beats to slap our speakers. This album could very well be one of the most important albums of the year when it’s all said and done. All marvel at Kendrick sitting atop Rap Mountain. -Kevin Raos
4 BAMS // “Momma”

Releasing a follow-up to the 2012 masterpiece Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City is no easy task. So what Kendrick Lamar has done is pure genius by dropping an album with no “club bangers,” but instead lacing us up with some serious hip-hop literature to read up on. This album is full of thought-provoking songs that touch on subject matters so fresh in society’s mind that it’s almost too much to wrap your head around. Lamar educates us on black-on-black crime, a history of oppression on African Americans, political schemes, fame and fortune — and he does so in a serious tone. I wouldn’t say this album is dark, but it definitely isn’t happy, so if you’re looking to go out on the town and have fun, I wouldn’t throw this album on. If you’re looking to listen to some conscience hip-hop that is trying push boundaries with both lyricism and jazzy/funky production, then this is for you. To Pimp a Butterfly is for the people, not the clubs. -Pete Mauch
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Mortal Man”

Like chapters in a novel or scenes in a movie, the songs on To Pimp a Butterfly are part of a larger puzzle. Across 16 tracks, Kendrick bottles all the uncomfortable experiences of being young, black and alive in America today and spits them out over a witch’s brew of Southern neo-soul, West Coast funk and experimental jazz. No, To Pimp a Butterfly is not the party rocker many wanted, but it’s the closest that has come to channeling the inner turmoil that swept this country last year as those fires burned in Ferguson and protesters marched for justice from Berkeley to New York. An album this meticulously crafted, starkly introspective and thought-provoking might not start a party, but it could help spark a revolution. -Kevin Smith
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Alright”

This album comes off like a funk-infused audio diary. Throughout the album, you’re brought into Kendrick’s life, illuminating the listener of his journey from Compton to stardom. Very raw and full of emotion, it strikes quick comparisons to Tupac and A Tribe Called Quest. The production quality is fantastic, each track offering choice beats and unique sample use, adding to Kendrick’s dynamic vocal approach and personal lyrics. -Andrew Pohl
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Alright”

An homage to the forefathers of funk, jazz and hip-hop, this hard-hitting manifesto boasts a cast of contributing artists that feature some of Lamar’s direct influences, both alive and making cameos from the afterlife. Beyond exploring new avenues in songwriting and composition, Lamar pushes boundaries lyrically through vocal contortions, various theatrical interludes and several sections of venom-spitting prose and freestyles. “i” and “King Kunta” take a page right out of P-Funk’s hit-making catalog, while the jazz improv and string sections on “For Free” and “Mortal Man” echo the celebrated works of John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Pharoah Sanders. But the most stunning effort amongst the layers of innovation present on TPAB is Lamar’s decision to cap off the album with a stunning, time-bending interview remix with the late rap icon Tupac Shakur on the second half of “Mortal Man.” Although at times the album is overwhelming due to the amount of ground it tries to cover, it very well might be the torch-bearing hip-hop record of 2015. Paving ground for a new direction within the genre, Lamar’s contemporaries will be following in his footsteps from here on out. -Molly Kish
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “King Kunta”

Having been underwhelmed by lead single “i,” I wasn’t sure what to expect from Kendrick Lamar’s newest album. How do you follow up what is easily the best, most cohesive hip-hop album in recent memory? I’m not sure To Pimp a Butterfly has the right answer, but nevertheless Kendrick has crafted an ambitious, if at times frustrating, set of tracks. Sonically, the album kicks aside the atmospheric beats of Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City for an odd mixture of soul, jazz and funk. It’s a bit jarring at first, the beats at times feeling like Outkast, D’Angelo or even Flying Lotus (who produced the track “Wesley’s Theory,” which kicks off the album) tracks rather than Lamar’s own. While clearly trying to expand the scope of his sound, I find Kendrick overreaching and some of the songs falling a bit flat; I’m not entirely convinced the jazzy formula works, and the album can be a bit dense at 79 minutes. What ultimately saves the album though, is Kendrick Lamar’s ability as a rapper and the poetry of his socially-conscious, politically-charged lyrics, especially as race relations continue to deteriorate in the U.S. Never has his words been so pointed, and while it can be a little heavy-handed sometimes (that Tupac cameo feels unnecessary), it’s refreshing to see an artist push himself creatively to ask big questions. -Alfonso Solis
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Institutionalized”


Keep the conversation going below with your quick review or comment!

If we like your reply, we’ll hook you up with a free pair of tickets to your choice of show this week in San Francisco.

Help us decide which album Showbams will community review next week.
Watch videos from our options this week, then vote.

Write to if you’d like to write for Showbams and contribute quick reviews.

Courtney Barnett – “Depreston” from Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit.

Earl Sweatshirt – “Grief” from I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

Vetiver – “Current Carry” from Complete Strangers

Modest Mouse – Strangers to Ourselves // Community Review


Modest MouseStrangers to Ourselves //

We loved the batch of singles released in the marketing efforts to promote Modest Mouse’s first album since Bush was Pres. But does the long player hold up to the hype?


Eight years between albums can feel like an eternity for any band, but it’s particularly long when you consider that Modest Mouse haven’t taken more than four years to release any of their previous LPs. Frontman Isaac Brock has been through a lot in that time, from a frightening moment in 2007 that left him bleeding profusely from his face to a number of run-ins with the law over the years. Strangers to Ourselves, the band’s sixth studio LP, reminds us why Modest Mouse remain one of the most essential indie-rock outfits over the last two decades. With a run time of nearly an hour, the substantial 15-track Strangers has all the makings of a classic Modest Mouse record with experimental touches sprinkled throughout and a major guest spot from one of Brocks’ longtime friends, James Mercer, who lends a hand in the singing department. As most Modest Mouse fans should be used to by now, it’s an album that requires patience and a willingness to dig deeper than just its singles (see “Lampshades on Fire”), yet one that also proves to be quite rewarding in doing so. -Josh Herwitt
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box”

Eight long years! Modest Mouse sure took their time with this one. And the marketing campaign has been in full swing for weeks, slowly releasing singles. I’m really enjoying this album and it’s classic Modest Mouse to my ears (that wailing guitar sound — you know the one I’m talking about), but it would have been incredibly hard to live up to the hype that I had built up for it. Although the album drags at times, it’s a joy to hear and there will be many people lining up and salivating at the chance to hear these new tunes live. -Steven Wandrey
4 BAMS // Top Song: “The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box”

There are musical and thematic aspects of all of their discography in this one album. You have the fucked up party anthem “Lampshades on Fire.” You have the unfortunate fact of human impact on the planet with “Coyotes.” You have references to the Wild West and misanthrope “God Is an Indian and You’re an Asshole.” In all, this album feels familiar yet fresh, which is good because I tend to wear out my Modest Mouse albums. -Bridget Stagnitto
4 BAMS // Top Song: “The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box”

This 15-track return to form has a handful of grand slam singles (“The Best Room,” The Ground Walks, With Time In A Box”) along with just as many stinkers that linger beyond the moment they inhabit (“Be Brave,” “Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996” in particular). The sequencing makes for a jarring first listen that smooths out as more time is given for the work to acclimate. Strangers to Ourselves fits snugly into the Modest Mouse canon, especially with so much time since the last set of new tunes — and even more music is on the way with a second album allegedly coming soon (which might include a Big Boi collab). The biggest accomplishment here is Modest Mouse pushing their aesthetic boundaries (for better and worse), firing up a passion that continues to drive the group forward. -Mike Frash
3 BAMS // Top Song: “The Best Room”


What do you think of Modest Mouse’s Strangers to Ourselves? Keep the conversation going below with your quick review or comment. We’ll hook you up with a free pair of tickets to your choice of show this week in San Francisco if we like your reply.

Write to if you’d like to write for Showbams and contribute quick reviews.

Next Co-Review: To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar

Will Butler – Policy // Community Review


Will ButlerPolicy //

You may already know him as a founding member of Arcade Fire, the multi-instrumentalist that runs around the stage with the energy and passion of a hype man — oh and he’s Win Butler’s little brother.

Will Butler has now stepped into world of solo artistry with his debut, Policy.


This is not an Arcade Fire album, though we hear Will’s characteristic sound infused throughout. One aspect that sets this album apart from his “bread and butter” act is the overwhelming eclecticism that is pervasive throughout Policy. What’s so refreshing is the deep passion that the younger Butler brother pours into this rock record that is equal parts shiny-pop and equal parts scrappy-indie all in the same breath. Sure, sometimes I feel like there’s a little less focus (see: thematic nature of Arcade Fire) being honed in here, but this allows each track to be its own island. -Kevin Quandt
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Take My Side”

There are some bright spots, but this album would’ve gotten far less attention were it not for a certain dose of nepotism. It’s an enjoyable listen, but the album feels light and doesn’t venture far under the surface of what you hear upon its first listen. Butler should stick with his brother where the end product reaches much more deeply into our emotions. -Steven Wandrey
2 BAMS // Top Song: “Anna”

Each track off of Will Butler’s eight-track album carries a different sound all on its own, which is difficult to pull off while still being coherent. From pseudo-punk on “Take My Side” to an 80’s vibe on “Ana” and doo-whoop hooks on “Witness,” Policy flows articulately from beginning to end. The album is laced with witty lyrics, including “Please don’t cry / Your crying it ain’t gonna help” (“Take My Side”), “Hey little Ana you’re the one / Rising before the lazy sun” (“Ana”) and “I will buy you a pony / We can cook it for supper / I know a great recipe for pony macaroni” (“What I Want”). The overall tempo ebbs and flows serenely also, starting off with a upbeat tempos, dipping a little bit into a melancholy state on “Finish What I Started,” as it cruises back up to its upbeat nature before getting lifted up after the super-slow-tempo “Sing to Me” to end with a feel good vibe on “Witness.” -Nikki DeMartini
4 BAMS // Top Song: “What I Want”

If his album Policy is any indication, Will Butler is a tightly-wound guy, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. This tone serves as both a strength and his biggest weakness — there is a clear apathy around creating a through line, which overall gives Policy a disjointed feel. This collection offers a rockabilly, wonky romp that exudes shades of Arcade Fire elements, including Butler’s vocal style and what sounds like Régine Chassagne supporting with her angelic layers of singing. About half the tracks are rather transcendent, including “Anna,” “Son of God” and “Witness,” but much of the brief long player is incohesive and messy, including the aimless “Finish What I Started.” Still, the gems are worth savoring. -Mike Frash
3 BAMS // Top Song: “Anna”


What do you think of Will Butler’s Policy? Keep the conversation going below with your quick review or comment! If we like your reply, we’ll hook you up with a free pair of tickets to your choice of show this week in San Francisco.

Help us decide which album Showbams will community review next week.
Watch videos from our two options this week, then vote.

Write to if you’d like to write for Showbams and contribute quick reviews.

Tobias Jesso Jr. – “How Could You Babe” from Goon

Modest Mouse – “The Best Room” from Stranger to Ourselves

Houndmouth – “Sedona” from Little Neon Limelight

Purity Ring – another eternity // Community Review


Purity Ringanother eternity //

The duo behind Purity Ring, Megan James and Corin Roddick, conducted an AMA on reddit today where we learned their collaboration with Danny Brown (“25 Bucks”) was a Twitter connection that transpired via “long distance.” We learned “Fireshrine” took five months to create. James also responded to a question about music streaming and Spotify:

music streaming services seem to be a sort of question mark right now, a number of artists are deciding not to put their music on them which is a decision i fully respect and sometimes contemplate. however, we are at a point right now where it seems more beneficial for us to have our songs up on them and we are generally more interested in having as many people enjoy our music however they can.

And in response to the criticism online regarding the new record being too “poppy,” Roddick responded, “from the beginning we’ve always been trying to write pop music.”


When Purity Ring dropped singles “Obedear” and “Fineshrine” in 2012, the Canadian duo comprised of vocalist Megan James and multi-instrumentalist Corin Roddick was quickly on its way toward being the next big thing in synthpop. Their debut full length Shrines climbed high up the charts, clocking in at No. 32 on the Billboard 200 with a No. 2 ranking on the “Dance/Electronic Albums” list and earning critical acclaim across the board. Following up such immediate success with even more remains a tall task for James and Roddick, who play with a variety of futuristic sounds and bouncy hip-hop beats throughout their second studio album another eternity. And while many of the LP’s hooks (see “begin again” and “flood on the floor”) are strong enough to find their way into Top 40 playlists, James’ childlike vocals can only grab your attention for so long. That isn’t to say that this is sub-par work from the Edmonton outfit, but the novelty that came prepackaged with Shrines has clearly worn off. -Josh Herwitt
3 BAMS // Top Song: “stranger than earth”

We’re in a time and place where glitch and dance minimalism have taken over the aesthetics of pop music, and Purity Ring’s self-described futurepop crested that wave just as this trend began to form in 2012. But what do we have here? another eternity is shinier, more accessible and injected with familiar EDM qualities that help beef up the pop-intensity for the summer festival masses. Grander, glossier, hypercharged with less subtleties than Shrines, it’s so damn easy to digest — in fact, it’s too easy to swallow. A majority of the tracks, including “bodyache,” “push pull” and “begin again” will likely be picked up for film, television and corporate advertising over the next few years, and it will work for them. Purity Ring’s second record is just a tad too sugary-sweet and overproduced for my taste, but their live show might benefit from it. -Mike Frash
3 BAMS // Top Song: “bodyache”

The new Purity Ring album is strong. Megan James’ vocals glide effortlessly over the lush, synth-heavy instrumentation provided by partner in crime Corin Roddick. I appreciate the lack of abrasive beats and spastic sounds that can sometimes be so prevalent on electro-dance albums. Purity Ring is offering a more steadfast approach, keeping a pace that is just right for a coding session (which is what I was doing while listening to the album). I almost get the sense that this is a sort of concept album but not based on the lyrics — it’s more about the pulse/rhythm. -Andrew Pohl
3.5 Bams // Top Song: “begin again”


What do you think of another eternity? Keep the conversation going below with your quick review, take or comment on Purity Ring’s latest record. If we like your reply, we’ll hook you up with a free pair of tickets to your choice of show this week in San Francisco.

Help us decide which album Showbams will community review next week.
Watch videos from our two options this week, then vote.

Write to if you’d like to write for Showbams and contribute quick reviews.

Matthew E. White – “Rock & Roll is Cold” from Fresh Blood

Will Butler – “Anna” from Policy

Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear // Community Review


Father John MistyI Love You, Honeybear //

The enigmatic Father John Misty has returned with his second album (well, 12th album technically). Share your own quick review in the comments below to win free tickets to shows in the Bay Area this weekend (leave your email when you comment!).


Father John Misty’s 2015 AOTY contender explores a man who has found true love and a mind mid-metamorphosis, and it succeeds based on J. Tillman’s ability to teeter-totter his known sardonic wit with his emerging, earnest genuineness. Subversive storytelling is the glue in Tillman’s music (‘Save me white Jesus’), but the lyrics bite within a hodgepodge of Americana song structures, from orchestral (“Bored in the USA”) to western saloon (“I Love You, Honeybear”) to digitized R&B (“True Affection”) and scorching rock akin to Arcade Fire (“The Ideal Husband”). Elements of duality are ever present — there’s the traditional singer-songwriter format versus FJM’s lyrical shenanigans, the all important and impossible mix of parody and sincerity, and of course there’s the Josh Tillman versus Father John Misty mythological persona exercise. Not knowing if he’s projecting a complete picture of himself, or if he’s simply reflecting a mirror on contemporary society (while not letting his listeners in on the joke) might be what is most appealing about FJM — that he never fully reveals his true self. The strength of a classic record can be seen in how it closes, and the back third of I Love You, Honeybear is a sublime thing of beauty, with “Holy Shit” resonating strongest — “and no one ever really knows the real you, and life is brief / but what’s that gotta do with this black hole in me.” -Mike Frash
4.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Holy Shit”

In the last three years, Father John Misty has become one of the most intriguing characters amongst indie circles. And that’s what Joshua Tillman continues to play rather convincingly on his second FJM album I Love You, Honeybear. On the folk-driven, 11-track record, Tillman proves to be quite a self-loathing satirist, as evidenced by song titles like “The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment” and “Bored in the USA,” not to mention the tongue-in-cheek, yet cynical nature of his lyrics. But if 2012’s Fear Fun was Tillman’s chance to rediscover himself after releasing more than a handful of solo albums to little fanfare prior to conceiving the enigmatic FJM character he assumes these days, then Honeybear sees him sharpening his chops as a folksinger and naturally, a vivid storyteller. This isn’t an album that you can just put on once and call it a day; it’s one that takes time to become acquainted with but only gets better with each and every spin through. -Josh Herwitt
4.5 BAMS // Top Song: “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me”

Welcome to the big time Father John Misty, or should we call you Josh Tillman? Father John Misty’s new record I Love You, Honeybear drips with whit and sarcasm, a kind of self-loathing that could only come from a red wine-soaked narcissist from Los Angeles. As much as you might not like that description, his formula is genius, and it only builds upon what he did with Fear Fun, his previous record and debut of the Father John Misty persona. You’ll laugh and scoff at times, but you’ll be keenly curious and want more, like I did. Don’t miss this one. -Kevin Raos
4.5 BAMS // Top Song: “The Ideal Husband”


TV On The Radio – Seeds // Community Review


TV On The RadioSeeds

TV On The Radio is responsible for one of the best indie records of all time with Dear Science, and their follow-up Nine Types of Light was largely underrated. So, how does the groups’ fifth LP Seeds — their first as a foursome — hold up?

Leave your own quick review as a comment below to win a pair of free tickets to our SF Shows of the Week. Under your review, write which show you are interested in attending.

• Cold War Kids with Avid Dancer: November 21st (FRI) @ Fox Theater Oakland
• Fred Falke with Midnight Magic: November 22nd (SAT) @ Mezzanine
• Chris Robinson Brotherhood: November 23rd (SUN) Great American Music Hall


This is a solid addition to TVOTR’s incredible body of work, with running themes of lost love, second chances and the transitory nature of modern relationships. Focusing heavily on “the feels,” lyrically the album plays out as a series of questions experienced through trials and error, in the context of an internal dialogue happening between a lover and the objects of his affection. A much more pop-driven album than TVOTR’s previous electronic and punk rock full lengths, Seeds is a polished product drawing formulaic inspiration from contemporary R&B and dance records. Top tracks include, “Careful You,” “Happy Idiot” and “Right Now,” which sonically alludes to the emotionally stunning “Family Tree” off of 2008’s Dear Science. It’s my favorite track hands down and personal pick for track “most likely to be remixed into a club banger” by the first DJ smart enough to pick up on the gem. -Molly Kish
3 BAMS // Top Track: “Right Now”

With expectations at an all-time high after the release of Nine Types of Light, TV On The Radio had to know that following up one of 2011’s best albums would be no easy task. But the Brooklyn-based art rockers can certainly be proud of what they have devised on their fifth studio effort Seeds. Serving as the group’s first record since the death of bassist and keyboardist Gerard Smith, the 14-track LP remains its most diverse yet as TVOTR flirts with funk (see “Quartz” and “Right Now”), synthpop (see “Careful You” and “Seeds”), indie rock (see “Happy Idiot,” “Winter” and “Lazzeray”) and something in between them all (see “Test Pilot,” “Love Stained” and “Trouble”). While lead vocalist Tunde Adebimpe continues to captivate listeners with one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most unique voices, Dave Sitek shows once again that he’s the brains behind the band, not only recording Seeds at his Federal Prism studio in LA, but also serving as its producer. Even though TVOTR has always proved to be more than a respectable act in the studio, it’s no secret to their fans that they still excel most in a live setting. -Josh Herwitt
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Careful You”

WOW! TV On The Radio have released the album that the world needs right now. Right out of the gate, Seeds delivers the tasty and eclectic sounds that the band has been known for throughout their previous albums. Within the first three tracks, you’re seeing just how dynamic and cool this band can be. Through the album you are presented with a soulful, delightfully progressive set of songs that also fall on traditional arrangement in a way that totally works. Perhaps not the best album you’ll hear all year, but VERY GOOD!! -Andrew Pohl
4.5 BAMS // Top Songs: “Could You”, “Careful You”

On their fifth full album release, TV On The Radio failed to hit the high water mark they’ve set for themselves. This isn’t to say the album is terrible by any means, but the songs run together blandly and only three or four of them really stick out to me. I can see myself being a little bored at the live show if they strung a few of these together, patiently waiting for a blissful earlier cut. -Steve Wandrey
3 BAMS // Top Song: “Winter”


Run The Jewels – Run the Jewels 2 // Community Review


Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2 //

It’s thrilling to see Run The Jewels become more than a one-off project. El-P & Killer Mike clearly recognize they are stronger together, as they’ve now released their second record in two years — and once again, Run the Jewels 2 has been given away for free. Between this and inspiring a crowd-funded all-cat remix record of Run the Jewels 2 (we can’t wait), it’s safe to say El Producto & Michael Render get the internet and the king-making power they will continue to have by embracing and entertaining fans online.

What do you think of RTJ2? Leave a comment or quick review below to win free tickets to shows in SF.


So often sequels don’t deliver, but ascending hip hop stars Killer Mike & El-P have simply progressed their brilliance as Run The Jewels one year removed from their first collaboration. So what’s the difference this time? From the top, Michael Render manages to set a higher bar for pumped up aggression, there’s more social activism laced throughout, more special guests (that don’t ever distract) and a handful stand-alone gems. Like a championship baseball team, the songs in the two hole through cleanup hitter serve the biggest impact, wreaking instant classics with masterful experimental production from El-P that emits new surprises with subsequent listens. RTJ have peaked awareness with the best PR campaign of 2014, using crowdsourcing and social media as a weapon while capturing our love of cats to a point of absurdity — something that ideally signifies these future headliners’ brand of fun, weird rap. -Mike Frash
4.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”
Hip-Hop duo EL-P and Killer Mike drop an aggressive release with their sophomore effort, Run the Jewels 2. It’s unapologetically in your face with dark, grimy beats and fervent lyrics that will raise the hairs on your middle fingers. They immediately set the tone on the second track, “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” as EL-P boasts “Fuck the law, they can eat my dick” and don’t look back, following with collaborations from Zach De La Rocha, Travis Barker, Isaiah “Ikey” Owens (RIP) and Gangsta Boo. While there’s an angst on this record that will inspire the meanest of mean mugs and an underlining “fuck you” anthem that gives it elements of rock n’ roll and punk rock, it’s smoothed out by genuinely thoughtful compositions. These dudes aren’t just careless pissed off amateurs; they’re pissed off veterans that demand respect. If they don’t get some recognition after this record, then real hip-hop, as we know it, is doomed. -Anthony Presti
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Lie, Cheat, Steal”

One of the best hip hop albums of the last few years sees its follow up with Run The Jewels 2, starring nearly 40-year-old men Killer Mike and El-P. As unlikely as it sounds, these two are making some of the most progressive rap around. While not quite hitting the mark of their debut release, RTJ2 is a solid effort and the bass heavy production is sure to get heads nodding and trunks rattling unnecessarily loudly. -Steven Wandrey
3.5 BAMS // “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”

Show me two rappers having a better time than El-P and Killer Mike. I dare you. They return along with producer Little Shalimar in tow for their second full length as Run The Jewels and up the ante on all that was awesome from their free-to-download debut. RTJ2 drips with brash aggression and trunk banging beats but equalizes with tones of seriousness that keeps the record diverse. El-P and Killer Mike are beyond skilled on the mic and when they get in a flow like this, just sit back and enjoy the show. Definition of a damn fun record. -Dale Johnson
4 BAMS // Top Song: “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”

What do you think of RTJ2? Leave a comment or quick review below to win free tickets to shows in SF.


Caribou – Our Love // Community Review


CaribouOur Love //

The newest album from Dan Snaith as Caribou, Our Love (Merge), debuted on October 7th, and three members of the BAM team weigh in below with quick reviews.

What’s your take on Caribou’s latest? Leave your own Quick Review or comment below — if we like it, we’ll give you your choice of show ticket giveaways this week in SF.


Ah, welcome back to the fold Mr. Snaith, we have missed you. Caribou has returned after about a half-decade absence with the stellar release entitled Our Love. Dan Snaith has traded in some of psych-rock chops (as heard on Andorra) for a more electric-leaning album that is sure to please most palettes. We hear some influence from forward-thinking beat producers smattered in for good taste and are taken to lush landscapes that swell with beauty. The manner in which Snaith traverses styles is simply refreshing and leaves you wanting more née you finish the 10 tracks. -Kevin Quandt
4 BAMS // Top Track: “Silver”

Though this kind of music is not really my cup of tea, I really enjoyed listening to the latest offering by Caribou (aka Dan Snaith). It comes on strong and carries you along for a smooth ride. There were a few lulls in the momentum, and like a lot of electronic/house albums it can be a bit repetitive, but overall I think it album makes for great driving music. -Andrew Pohl
3 BAMS // Top Track: “Can’t Do Without You”

What we have here is one of the most addictive albums of 2014. Our Love keeps deep house in its front pocket with steady beats per minute and an introspective mantra-centric lyrical conceit, but it’s also exploratory in nature, finding success in consistantly building toward intense, euphoric plateaus. A steady flow of pleasant sounds ascend into impacting transcendence with “Can’t Do Without You”, “Silver”, and “Your Love Will Set You Free”, and you must give Snaith extra credit for the masterful pacing and song sequencing — there is never a ‘skip ahead’ moment. Like most classic albums, it opens up and becomes more pleasurable with subsequent listens, even though this collection of songs is mostly presented in poetic simplicity. -Mike Frash
4.5 BAMS // Top Song: “Our Love”


Foxygen – …And Star Power // Community Review


Foxygen…And Star Power //

Foxygen released their third long player in three years on October 14th. But is their newest record, …And Star Power (Jagjaguwar), any good?

Leave your own quick review in the comments below for a chance to win two tickets to one of our SF Shows of the Week (options below)…

Read the BAM Team’s reviews of Foxygen’s latest, and contact us if you’re interested in writing for Showbams.


Foxygen’s sophomore release …And Star Power finds the band transporting their weirdo AM radio sound into new cosmic territory, but ultimately getting stuck between stations in the process. Starting off with the appropriately named A-side “The Hits”, Foxygen crafts some of the best warped, soft gaze pop this side of Ariel Pink with songs like “How Can You Really”. However for the majority of the record, Foxygen forgoes the weirdo lyricism and just-weird-enough-to-work pop sensibilities that made their prior two releases so memorable. Foxygen shows off their adept ability to recreate the sounds of iconic, off kilter pop of yesteryear on songs like “Hot Summer”, but rarely pull out any engaging song structure to give skeletons to their limp amoebas of psych sound. Unfortunately, Foxygen’s …And Star Power ends up getting lost on a less interesting pirate station than finding home between forgotten hits of the past and a late night broadcast of Coast-to-Coast. -John Venanzi
3 BAMS // Best Track: “How Can You Really”

If you would have told me that Foxygen would never put out another album and slip into obscurity, I would have completely believed you. Edgier and more punk rock than We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, Foxygen follows their excellent 2013 album admirably here with a washed out, seemingly Velvet Underground-inspired album. This leads to a gripe with the album: sometimes it just feels like you’re listening to a sum of influences and it loses freshness after repeat plays. The album surely drags at times (24 track albums usually do), though there’s nothing glaringly bad about it. Hopefully these guys stick around, tone down the on-stage theatrics and keep making albums. -Steven Wandrey
3 BAMS // Top Track: “Flowers”

Striving to strike a balance between polished pop and eclectic experimentalism, Foxygen’s latest album …And Star Power falls short of hitting the mark. Though I don’t know if the intent is there, the album plays off much like a rock-opera, but still lacks a level of flow that should go along with it. Nothing on the album really grabs me, and I’m not all that sure I would want to listen to this passively or actively.  A few stand out tracks unfortunately cannot save this album. -Andrew Pohl
2 BAMS // Top Track:  “How Can You Really”

Leave your own quick review below as a comment. Write no more than five sentences, give your own BAM Ranking and pick your top song. If you’d like to win two tickets to one of these shows, simply write the name of the show you’d like to win under your review. View our SF Shows of the Week.

• Rubblebucket: October 15th (WED) @ The Independent
• J. Roddy Walston and The Business: October 17th (FRI) @ The Independent
• Sinkane: October 19th (SUN) @ The Independent


Flying Lotus – You’re Dead! // Community Review


Flying LotusYou’re Dead! //

The Bam Team quick reviews Flying Lotus‘ fifth full-length record, You’re Dead!, released by Warp.

Leave your own quick review in the comments below for a chance to win two tickets to one of our SF Shows of the Week

The author of our favorite quick review will win a pair of tickets to their choice of show (options below). Read the BAM Team’s reviews of Flying Lotus’ latest, and contact us if you’re interested in writing for Showbams.


The rapidly-reaching-prolific producer, Stephen Ellison, popularly known to us as Flying Lotus, dropped one jazzed-out slice of off-kilter beat science in our laps the past week in the form of You’re Dead! First off, this release, even style of music, is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but once you embrace the janky beauty infused into the release, there is a trove of rewards as you get sucked a little further down the rabbit hole. We see Thundercat, Niki Randa and Kendrick Lamar aid FlyLo; the latter lending his supreme talent to standout track “Never Catch Me”. There’s a slight disjunct feel to the whole album as it stylistically bounces around both time and space. -Kevin Quandt
3.5 BAMS // Top Track: “Never Catch Me” (Featuring Kendrick Lamar)

The guitars are grimy, the beats spastic, the samples supremely random and Snoop Dogg shows up to drop a semi-vintage verse. To say You’re Dead! by Flying Lotus is all over the place is the understatement of the year, but it would be a mistake to label Lotus’ dazzlingly-layered, jazz-groove opus as a mess. It’s actually kind of a banger, in a perfectly Flying Lotus way.

Pulling infinitely different tempos, genres and instrumentation together in truly unique ways to create music that challenges the listener in ways that few producers do. On You’re Dead! he ups the jazz influence (especially drums and bass) to create an album that has vintage flair but New Age touches.

The obvious highlight of the album is “Never Catch Me” featuring Kendrick Lamar, who destroys the track as has become the norm for the Compton native, stepping to the mic with his usual ferocity and bravado. Lamar can do no wrong right now, and he soars perfectly with this Flying Lotus track.

The album flows from short interludes to full-fledged songs and at 19 tracks, feels a bit bloated towards its end. But there is enough variation and interesting twists and turns throughout the way to make it worth repeated listens. -Dale Johnson
4 BAMS // Top Track: “Never Catch Me” (Featuring Kendrick Lamar)

Flying Lotus captures all of his alter egos on You’re Dead!, locks them in a cage (his brain) and feeds them healthy doses of Adderall and jazz. His influences are all over the musical spectrum, paying homage to his Coltrane roots and animated hip-hop misfits like Quasimodo (aka Madlib) and MF Doom. The album exists in a cartoon dimension with short, mostly instrumental songs that are intangible, yet keep the listener clinching on to the subtle beauties that fade away within seconds. It’s strange, uncomfortable, edgy and breaks the mold of everything that is safe in hip-hop, or music in general. Thank goodness for artists like Flying Lotus that keep it weird. -Anthony Presti
3.5 BAMS // Top Track: “Never Catch Me” (Featuring Kendrick Lamar)

Leave your own quick review below as a comment. Write no more than five sentences, give your own BAM Ranking and pick your top song. If you’d like to win two tickets to one of these shows, simply write the name of the show you’d like to win under your review.

• The King Khan & BBQ Show: October 8 (WED) @ Great American Music Hall
• Sondre Lerche: October 9 (THUR) @ The Independent
• Bahamas: October 10 (FRI) @ Slim’s
• Christopher Owens: October 11 (SAT) @ Great American Music Hall


Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes // Community Review


alt-jTomorrow’s Modern Boxes //

Radiohead frontman and iconic dancer Thom Yorke turned an otherwise normal Friday into a worldwide listening party last week with the surprise release of his second solo record, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes.

Distributing the eight-track collection through a BitTorrent paygate for six bucks, Yorke has gone beyond his criticism of modern music streaming by attempting to change the game. The album was downloaded 116 thousand times in the first 24 hours, with over 500,000 total downloads so far. So, is it any good?

Click here to get Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes.


Thom Yorke is marveled as a musical superhero, and although his solo works are somewhat predictable, his reverence for sustaining and creating a practical business model for artists on the Internet is greatly respectable. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, inspired by this very concept, is like an anesthetic. It’s hypnotic and easy to get lost in, and at times has the listener popping in and out of consciousness with its moody, lo-fi beats and enchanting vocals. It lacks some of the catchier tracks (“The Eraser” and “Black Swan”) from his last effort, The Eraser, but overall it’s a pleasant surprise and should hold over most Radiohead fans until their next album. -Anthony Presti
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: A Brain In A Bottle

Thom jumps straight out the gates on this stealthy release. His ever-evolving love for bass-laden electronic music is clearly evident within the first minute of Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, and doesn’t let up in this sublimely paced mini-LP that is sure to wet the whistle of Radiohead and Yorke fans, alike. Shifty samples are layered over warm keys and haunting piano segments – a pairing that Thom and co-producer, Nigel Godrich, have become extremely fond of in the past decade or so. Yorke’s past adoration for Aphex Twin combined with his current love for artists such as Mark Pritchard, Actress and Pearson Sound are clearly defined in this futuristic amalgam. Can we expect these elements present in the impending Radiohead release? One can only hope…. -Kevin Quandt
4 BAMS // Top Song: Guess Again!
It’s no secret that Thom Yorke has a thing for electronic music. The Radiohead frontman, after all, has been known to stage a surprise DJ set from time to time, including one in LA as recently as last month. Quite fittingly, the unanticipated release of his second solo record late last week via BitTorrent Bundle comes as quite a surprise after news surfaced just a few weeks ago that Radiohead had begun work on their ninth studio album. But if Radiohead’s new material ends up sounding like what Yorke delivers on Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, then we may not have as much to look forward to as we think. Minimal in nature, the eight-track album sees Yorke and producer Nigel Godrich playing with both sound and song structure as glitchy dance beats pave the way for strange and amorphous melodies, but it’s under these circumstances that Yorke’s experimental propensities can sometimes get the best of him. -Josh Herwitt
3 BAMS // Top Song: Nose Grows Some

The percussion-driven polyrhythm & syncopation from The King of Limbs and Amok continues to evolve here, but Yorke’s voice is treated more as an accompanying instrument in his second solo effort. Yorke is experimenting with technology and modulation techniques about as much as his marketing and distribution, and it plays mostly as a dreamy soundscape mirrored against spicy, digitized freak-out exhileration. Full of rewarding moments, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes induces spaced-out bliss along with a deflated back third of the record — except for finale “Nose Grows Some,” which is one of the best songs in the litter. -Mike Frash
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: The Mother Lode

Following the pattern begun with The Eraser, Thom Yorke continues with laptop whirls, blips, and even less melody. Relying more heavily on groove, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes carries the same general attitude as both its predecessor and Radiohead’s recent direction. The album feels redundant and its flow monotonous, satisfying but not thrilling or electrifying. -Steven Wandrey
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: A Brain In A Bottle

Thom Yorke’s latest solo album comes at you like a commuter train, at a moderate but reliable pace… and this is not a bad thing by any means. Though it doesn’t re-invent the wheel, the steady, hypnotic rhythms and characteristically tasty vocals make this a very pleasant album to listen to. I can easily see many of the cuts standing on their own in a club setting, just as much as I can see the rush to remix them with more break beats. Well done. -Andrew Pohl
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: Guess Again!

Leave your own quick review or comment below.


alt-J – This Is All Yours // Community Review


alt-jThis Is All Yours //

Breakout English indie rockers alt-J’s heavily anticipated sophomore release is now out, and you can listen to it below. This Is All Yours is as divisive with the BAM Team as it is across the board.

What are your thoughts on alt-J’s second album? Leave your own quick review in the comments below for a chance to win two tickets to one of the following shows in SF this weekend:

The author of our favorite quick review will win a pair of tickets to their choice of show, and will be notified on Thursday, September 25th. Read the BAM Team’s reviews of Aphex Twin’s latest below, and contact us if you’re interested in writing for Showbams.


With their second album, alt-J continue to explore familiar, lush and ambient textures. Less poppy and overstuffed with ballads, the album feels less powerful than An Awesome Wave and drags during some stretches. While the soundscapes are beautiful and the arrangements still interesting, the album leaves you a little unsatisfied. It’s worth a listen, but not many. -Steven Wandrey
2.5 BAMS // Top Song: Left Hand Free

This Is All Yours burns slow in the first 15 minutes or so before breaking down the door with “Every Other Freckle” – a song that beckons to the brilliance of An Awesome Wave. The genre-bending trio slowed things down a bit, going a bit more inward, crafting something more haunting than we’ve heard from them prior. The pace and overt studio trickery (see: “Hunger of the Pines”) tends to distract, even detract, from this becoming the critical success that their debut was, but fans of the freaky Englishmen are sure to revel in this fresh batch of tunes. -Kevin Quandt
3 BAMS // Top Song: Every Other Freckle

alt-J certainly bring it on This Is All Yours – it being a swirling mix of electro dub pop, folk and alt-rock — creating an album that serves as a worthy sophomore effort to the out-of-left-field-breakthrough An Awesome Wave. The newest effort is at its best when the British indie rockers lead with their guitars and deftly layer the electronic elements on top (“Left Hand Free”), but they aren’t afraid to flip the script leading to some skippable tracks (“Arrival in Nara”) but also the truly epic, Miley Cyrus sampling dub-groove standout that is “Hunger of the Pine.” alt-J still need to figure out exactly who they are, but it’s a pretty entertaining ride listening to them try. -Dale Johnson
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: Left Hand Free

This Is All Yours is a tough nut to crack. The sophomore release from alt-J is a smooth and casual jaunt through a complicated soundscape, inducing images of a jungle adventure to a downed alien spacecraft. Shifting tempos and scattered instrumentation prove to be a difficult distraction. It listens like a cryptic riddle that entangles your brain in auditory confusion and denies you access to the answer. -Scotland Miller
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: Hunger of the Pine

Given that alt-J are a band that is hard to pin down stylistically, on their sophomore release This Is All Yours, they opted to go with consistency rather than pivoting.  Much like their debut album, each song has unique qualities that force the listener to engage with each track individually.  I like a good challenge. -Andrew Pohl
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: Left Hand Free

It was only a little more than two years ago when alt-J first opened our ears to the folktronica grooves that surfaced on their debut full-length record An Awesome Wave. Yet, even with a prestigious Mercury Prize firmly stamped on its résumé, the Leeds-based band doesn’t let itself get too comfortable on This Is All Yours. While alt-J has quickly gone from quartet to trio after the departure of founding member Gwil Sainsbury earlier this year, they haven’t toned down their experimental tendencies all that much. “Left Hand Free” could pass as their most pop-centric hit to date — unless you count the homage they pay to Miley Cyrus a few songs later on “Hunger of the Pine” — but the 13-track album offers plenty of uniquely eccentric moments that we’ve grown accustomed to from alt-J. Whether it’s lead vocalist Joe Newman pronouncing that “Love is a pharaoh and he’s boning me” on the hypnotically beautiful “Nara” or reciting more sexually-charged lines like “I’m gonna bed into you like a cat beds into a beanbag / Turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet” on the ensuing cut “Every Other Freckle,” This Is All Yours continues where An Awesome Wave left off, further cementing alt-J’s place among the other great indie contemporaries across the pond. -Josh Herwitt
4 BAMS // Top Song: Nara

alt-J looks to lead the pack of brilliant music coming from the UK, separating themselves from their peers with this unique and thoughtful concept album. This Is All Yours is ambitious and arousing, a carousel of instrumentation that sends the listener into whatever utopia their mind lusts after. alt-J doesn’t abandon their typical platform of worldly and primitive sounds featuring tribal rhythms and chants juxtaposed with obscure guitar riffs, medieval woodwinds and balanced electronic accompaniments. It’s pretty safe to say there is no other current band that sounds like alt-J. -Anthony Presti
4 BAMS // Top Song: Every Other Freckle

Leave your own quick review below as a comment. Write no more than five sentences, give your own BAM Ranking and pick your top song. If you’d like to win two tickets to one of these shows, simply write the name of the show you’d like to win under your review.

Hercules and Love Affair (Live) + Tensnake this Friday 9/26 at Mezzanine
The Orwells this Saturday 9/27 at Slim’s
Simian Mobile Disco this Saturday 9/27 at Mezzanine


Aphex Twin – Syro // Community Review


Aphex TwinSyro //

Aphex Twin makes his return on Warp with his new album Syro. This is Richard D. James’ first Aphex Twin album since 2001’s Drukqs.

Have an opinion on the new Aphex Twin album? Leave your own quick review in the comments below for a chance to win two tickets to one of the following shows in SF this weekend:

The author of our favorite quick review will win a pair of tickets to their choice of show, and will be notified on Thursday, September 25th. Read the BAM Team’s reviews of Aphex Twin’s latest below, and contact us if you’re interested in writing for Showbams.

Stream or Buy Aphex Twin’s Syro.

Richard D. James has been practically an enigma for the last decade, hiding out in a small Scottish village of 300 and releasing no new music as Aphex Twin since 2006. But the long layoff hasn’t changed the fact that he remains one of the most unique and influential electronic producers in the game today. Serving as his first Aphex Twin record in nearly 13 years, the 12-track, 64-minute Syro shows the 43-year-old UK native reintroducing his signature, ambient-leaning sound that many IDM fans gravitated to in the early 90’s. Some of James’ best material on Syro comes early on, from his club-oriented mixes like “minipops 67 [120.2]” to the techno funk ­he crafts on the ensuing “XMAS_EVET10 [120]” and “produk 29 [101].” Still, these aren’t beats designed to make you sweat your ass off — if anything, the cerebral nature of James’ work makes him the ultimate antithesis of the current EDM scene. -Josh Herwitt
4.5 BAMS // Top Song: produk 29 [101]

After so long away, it’s a joy to have another Aphex Twin album that exceeds my high expectations. Using many of the same tricks that he’s always had in his bag, James still manages to make the album sound fresh. The bleeps, bloops, tweaks, and pops make an hour go by quickly. Hopefully he puts together a tour focusing on this new material. -Steven Wandrey
4.5 BAMS // Top Song: XMAS_EVET10 [120] (thanaton3 mix)

Upon first hitting play, hearing Syro almost felt like a highly evolved alien language — you could tell the orchestration was sophisticated and purposeful as intricate melodies bounced around a cacophony of techno, break beats and drum & bass. But with subsequent listens, the patterns and emotive complexity begins to reveal itself. Similarly, song titles look as though Richard D. James’ cat walked across his keyboard, but the non-linear coded names suitably reflect the amalgamation of wide-ranging electronic elements. Propulsive and unpredictable yet somehow familiar, this album is an insane, rewarding journey that succeeds based on the master craftsmanship of taking all the the individual parts to make a Frankenstein that you want to dance, party and reflect with. Let’s hope this is the future of electronic music. -Mike Frash
4 BAMS // Top Song: CIRCLONT6A [141.98] (syrobonkus mix)

It’s a challenging album to listen to, which is both good and bad. If you’re not already a fan of electronic music, this may not be a great primer, but it does have some tasty tracks. Equally ambient and infectious. -Andrew Pohl
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: 4 bit 9d api+e+6 [126.26]

For his first album in 13 years, Richard D. James didn’t try to outdo himself. He simply played to his strengths and created a comfortable record that picks right back up where he left off. Syro sucks you in with his typical awestruck compositions and reveals the fact that James is now a veteran of his craft, like a grandfather of drum n’ bass telling timeless stories through his music. -Anthony Presti
3.5 BAMS // Top Song: 180db_ [130]

Leave your own quick review below as a comment. Write no more than five sentences, give your own BAM Ranking and pick your top song. If you’d like to win two tickets to one of these shows, simply write the name of the show you’d like to win under your review.

Hercules and Love Affair (Live) + Tensnake this Friday 9/26 at Mezzanine
The Orwells this Saturday 9/27 at Slim’s
Simian Mobile Disco this Saturday 9/27 at Mezzanine