So So Glos- “Son of an American”

The So So Glos start off their methodically frantic new album “Blowout” with the song “Son of an American.” The song itself begins with a childhood recording of  the band’s bassist, Alex Levine, gleefully discussing Kurt Cobain’s suicide. This aligns So So Glos with Nirvana’s early DIY mentality while also announcing the existence of a new generation of non-mainstream rock acts.

“Son of an American” is an archetypical punk song. It’s all sneering vocals, chugging guitar and wraps up in 3 minutes flat. It bemoans the downside of self-identifying as a young American while also expressing an affinity for ultra-American iconography. The song’s production and straight forward guitar rock composition give it an instant classic feeling.  “Son of an American” is a thoroughly enjoyable track that could have been released in 1979, 1991 or at least during the garage rock revival of the last decade.

Chance the Rapper- “Acid Rap”

Chance the Rapper is an artist barely out of his adolescence from Chicago. He famously started recording music during suspension from high school. He sounds like a combination of Kanye West’s barely-outsider perspective, Kendrick Lamar’s elastic flow and observation and Lil Wayne’s bravado and vocal ticks. Gospel, jazz, soul,reggae, golden age hip-hop, scat and more conventional drum machine beats all appear on this album to create a sound that instantly comes across as familiar and infectious.

Despite all of the audible influential artists and genres Chance the Rapper’s new mix tape “Acid Rap” is some of the most schizophrenically original music released this year. A few things immediately come across when listening to this mixtape. The first is that Chance is an incredibly self-aware rapper. He raps about generational divide and the harsh realities of living in Chicago’s South Side as naturally as he cuts a party track. The second is that Chance the Rapper is totally unafraid to leave the beaten path. He’ll attempt to croon in his warbling, cracking voice before launching into a double timed barrage of word play. The last thing that quickly becomes evident about Chance is that he loves his drugs. Ecstasy, acid, cigarettes, codeine, marijuana and Hennessy all get shout outs on this album, but the album never falls into the trap of being something as simple as a drug album.

Although Chance gives a shout out to another rapping Chicago wunderkind on this mix tape everything is sonically and topically broader than anything the drill scene could possibly produce. Also, although plenty of other Chicago-area artists appear on this album, notably BJ the Chicago Kid and Twista, the guest list also includes Childish Gambino, Ab-Soul and Action Bronson. The end result of the various unorthodox mixtures is an original, ambitious effort that effectively evokes introspection and humor.

Black Kids-“Partie Traumatic”

This album is most likely my guiltiest pleasure. It is the full-length debut of a late ’00s buzz band, Black Kids, that flamed out when “Partie Traumatic” generated responses ranging from indifference to critical failure.The hype surrounding Black Kids was intense enough that I cannot simply claim they were overlooked, but their mindless pop was never popular enough for me to feign semi-ironic enjoyment.  Somehow, I love this album.

“Partie Traumatic” is gloriously cheesy, fun pop music. Silly, snotty female backing vocals that evoke The Waitresses mingle with dizzying synthesizer,bouncing  bass, pounding drums and squealing saxophone. The result is a weird amalgamation of hip-hop, indie rock and dance music all thoroughly polished with a dazzling ’80s sheen.

The album is one ear worm after another; one 3 and a half minute infuriatingly catchy pop track after another. The ability of these songs to lodge themselves in a listener’s brain manages to make “Partie Traumatic” a pleasure to listen to even as cheesy synthesizer lines clash with bizarre or absurd, laughable lyrics.

I strongly recommend this album to anyone that can overlook shortcomings in lyrical content and substance for pure, auditory serotonin.

Kurt Vile- “Wakin on a Pretty Day”

Normally, the songs that I compulsively listen to are short bursts with big hooks. Kurt Vile’s “Wakin on a Pretty Day” could not be much further from that description.

The song ambles on for 9 minutes and 24 seconds. It is the sonic equivalent of s lazy morning stretch in sunlight. Blissful acoustic strumming keeps the song moving forward while Kurt Vile offers a subdued meditation about being immersed in his pleasant surroundings. A spacey electric guitar noodles its way into the mix at both the beginning and end of the song like an abstract auditory doodle.

Lazy, hazy, amorphous and somehow completely captivating.

Bo Diddley-“Elephant Man”

This song was released on the album “Black Gladiator,”  Bo Diddley’s bid for relevance in the 1970s. It’s an extremely interesting album that takes familiar blues guitar licks and structure and filters them through the prominent trends in rock and funk music at the time. This includes the famous Bo Diddley guitar riff being enveloped in rock organ.

The standout track on this incredibly singular album in my opinion is “Elephant Man.”

This song features blues licks played with muscular,loud electric guitar. The powerful guitar attack is backed by flowery rock organ and a loose, smooth bass line.

The songs lyrics explain how Bo Diddley literally is responsible for the creation of the elephant. Not a sculpture of an elephant but the actual animal. Toward the end of the song Bo’s singing devolves into gruff wails, and the song jams on.

It’s definitely worth listening to the song just based on its craziness alone, but musically it’s also a tight blues number dialed up to 11.

Bleached- “Waiting by the Telephone”

Bleached are something that has become a cliche over the last few years. They’re a female rock band that specializes in lo-fi power punk, but they pack more punch than Vivian Girls and lack the polish of Dum Dum Girls. Both full-time members of Bleach were in the punk band Mika Miko, and it comes across in their music, which is actually more similar to Super Wild Horses than  beach-rock girl bands.

The song “Waiting by the Telephone,” is a great example of all the positive aspects of Bleached’s music. It’s short, it’s catchy and it rocks. The opening guitar noises pack the wallop of a long-forgotten Replacements b-side before transforming into the steady guitar licks that keep the song moving forward.

Some definitely disagree with my opinion about this song. Yes, the lyrics are admittedly a bit contrived, but this adds to the song’s charm by providing a ’50s bubblegum contrast to the aggressive noise.

The song packs a punch and stays around just long enough to leave you wanting more of its wailing hook.