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[AltWire Interview] After “Music Industry Nonsense,” The Ivins Prepare To Release New Album

After relocating several times and dealing with managers and record deals falling through, The Ivins prepare to release their first album.

“The Ivins” is the musical brainchild of brothers Jim and Jack Ivins. The brothers, along with guitarist Hatton Taylor and Regan Akers, are less than two weeks away from releasing The Code Duello, their full-length debut album.

The road getting here has not been easy for the brothers. They began production on their album in 2013, after moving from Richmond, Virg. to New York City.

The History

“Over the course of the last three and a half years, we’ve had a couple of record deals come and go, managers, lawyers, everything,” said vocalist/guitarist Jim Ivins. “It’s basically just kind of put the album in limbo for a long time.”

In 2014, the Ivins brothers relocated from New York City back to Virginia. This past fall, they moved to Nashville, TN at the suggestion of their manager.

“We signed with a manager and he told us to leave New York,” said Ivins. “He thought it would look better if we broke out of our home state of Virginia. The amount of bands that you hear about breaking out of Virginia is extremely small, so we thought it would give us kind of a unique edge if we moved out of Virginia.”

Ivins also added that New York was “insanely expensive.” He also added that the move to Nashville has been beneficial due to a growing rock scene.

In addition to relocating several times, the brothers have also dealt with industry-related problems. Over the course of the past three and a half years, they’ve had several record deals, managers and representation fall through.

“The industry is in this weird place where a lot of industry insiders just don’t believe that people still like rock music,” said Ivins. “A lot of people have decided that pop music is the only thing left and if you sign a rock band, you’re basically signing your death certificate.”

As a result of this, the album sat in limbo. Ivins says that whatever momentum they had built up in New York was lost due to operating in a minimal capacity.

“We would play shows and what would always happen to us was people would come up to us at the merch tables and be like ‘I really love your band, where can I get your music?’ and we’d be like ‘You can’t.’”

After the last manager and record deal fell through, the brothers decided it was time to move to Nashville.

“Once we got to Nashville and we were around all the music going on here, we were just totally invigorated by the energy and wanted to be able to make our mark,” said Ivins.  “As such, having no more commitments to anyone other than ourselves at this point, this fall/winter we set about officially wrapping the album with new mixes and a few re-recording touch ups.”

Vins says he and the rest of the group are excited to make their own lane in the Nashville music scene.

The Album

Once they began working on the album, “immediate” was a term that was commonly thrown around.

“People in 2017, the attention span is so low, listening to new bands and listening to music in general, so it’s like, you’ve gotta get people’s attention right away. Because if you don’t, there’s a million other bands they could listen to.”

According to Ivins, only two or three of the songs on the 13-track album even break four minutes long.

The album, named The Code Duello, is named after an ethics code for duelists.

“We had the title before we made the album,” said Ivins. “Jack has a Master’s Degree in Southern History. When he was doing some of his studies, he stumbled upon this term … As the record kept being made and we kept having these music industry one step forward, two steps back experiences, the title kept becoming more appropriate for what the album was about and what we were going through at the time.”

Jim Ivins describes the album, which will be released April 28, is “a 3 a.m. album”, describing the vibe of the music “as the sound of walking through the Lower East Side of Manhattan, inebriated and wearing sunglasses.”

“A lot of the album has to deal with the struggle to get it made,” said Ivins. “There’s songs about overcoming what society thinks we should be doing as career musicians … there’s a song about a plane crash that I was almost in, there’s a song about Jack and I’s mom dying … It’s a pretty dark album.”

The album will be released on April 28. Check out The Ivins’ single “Stockholm Syndrome” here:

Altwire Review: DJ Shadow – The Mountain Will Fall

DJ Shadow made history 20 years ago with Endtroducing… a one of a kind instrumental hip-hop album composed entirely of samples.  And while his later works never quite hit the same heights as that debut, the west coast producer has continued to deliver some of the most unique instrumental albums in the genre.  Shadow doesn’t just make beats, he constructs impressive soundscapes that weave in and out of each other.  He ties them up into a narrative arc without really needing words, and The Mountain Will  Fall follows the same tack.  The tracklist features more guest spots than one might expect, but none of them steal the spotlight away from where it should be: the beats, the music, the tone.  It’s not an attempt to recreate Endtroducing… but Shadow’s motivations seem to come from the same place and its success stems from that more than anything else.

Experimentation and novelty made DJ Shadow a legend and the same things take The Mountain Will Fall out of the realm of beat-tapes and into its own space.  The album begins with a spoken “Hi!” and swelling, ambient synth pads before the beat drops in with a sampled holler and thunderous, wonky drum sounds.  The serenity and calmness of the synths and the beat sheer volume and force smash against each other in confusion and harmony, never sure if it’s a competition and if it is, who is winning.  The whole project tilts that way.  Elements find themselves in strange contrast with other elements, drops land in unexpected places like they showed up early or late.  Most of the time, confusion serves to benefit the overall concept, but not always.

The second track, “Nobody Speak,” which features Run The Jewels, is on of the more out of place pieces.  Not to say it’s bad, it just feels more like an El-P beat than a DJ Shadow beat and it’s the only fully and clearly lyrical song on the project.  The tone and the lyrics don’t line up with the rest of the album, and the following track, “Three Ralphs” is hardly a full composition and serves mostly as a bridge between “Nobody Speak” and the nine following songs.  By track five, “The Sideshow” however, Shadow finds a solid pocket and The Mountain Will Fall, doesn’t lose much steam from there on out.  The track features abundant record scratches, deep brass bass, and a killer break-beat that nods to the sound of the mid 90’s when Shadow was coming up.

The back half of The Mountain Will Fall continues the atmospheric trend with the dark and intense “Depth Charge” and the waves and soft electronic accents of “Ashes to Oceans.”  Each track contains elements that seem outside of DJ Shadow’s normal comfort zone but to his credit, he works them into his more comfortable style effortlessly.  “California” picks up about three minutes in and shows a noisy, aggressive side to the artist that sounds Death Grips inspired.  Tracks like “Mambo” and “Ghost Town” involve that newly popular style of hesitated drum hits and high, fast tempo, clicks.  It’s a new sound for Shadow, but he makes these things sound right at home amid his piano loops and deep house bass.

Enough time and perseverance might surely make a mountain fall to the ground, just like time and perseverance can keep a legendary producer from ever sounding stale.  The Mountain Will Fall is a picture of an artist who keeps moving motivated by curiosity and experimentation.  Consistent evolution is the name of the game for DJ Shadow.  He’s not the same DJ he was in ’96 but he’s still one of the most creative and original music-makers in the business.

“The Heart Speaks In Whispers” – Corinne Bailey Rae album review

Corinne Bailey Rae is back on the music scene after a five year hiatus with her new album The Heart Speaks In Whispers. I have personally been waiting to hear new music from her and I am genuinely pleased with this album. This album displays an exceptional amount of growth for Corinne. The production value on this album is amazing, it caters to the simple, but sweet vocals of the songs, and enhances the lyrics .

One of my favorite tracks on this is “Walk On”, with its soothing, calm Neo-Soul influence. It’s a song that marches to the beat of its own drum. Corinne sounds completely at peace with past turmoil. The drums really drive this song!

“Caramel” is another favorite. The song is a bittersweet song about coming out on the other side of strife. It’s a powerful ballad, and I managed to completely lose myself in it.

“Hey I won’t break your heart” is another ballad that I fell in love with. It’s a song about forgiveness. Introduced with a guitar and small choir-like backgrounds, the song grows as the seconds pass; soon you find yourself listening to a full sounding mid-tempo tune .

“High” is probably the best song on the album. This piano-driven song ties the whole album together in my opinion. “High” lifts the tone of the whole album and starts to lead you out, leaving you uplifted and satisfied .
There are a couple of other songs on the album that are album-fillers, in my opinion but I can still listen to them without skipping. “Do you ever think of me” is one of these songs, but only because it’s yet another ballad in an album overflowing with them.

The last song on this album is “Push On for The Dawn”. It’s a much needed mid-tempo song for an album ruled by ballads. The song is fabulous! The pure vocal talent on this song is mesmerizing; couple that with the well-balanced production of it, and you have a radio single.

I am very pleased with this album. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a very easy album to make compromises for. I would have loved for the album to have a few uptempo songs, but I went expecting Corinne Bailey Rae, and that’s exactly what I got. I have to give this album a B. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I have!

You can find the album on Tidal, Spotify, and iTunes.

Review: Gwen Stefani – “This is What the Truth Feels Like”

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Make me like you? I could get used to this. I used to love you, and frankly, I never stopped.
    OK, enough already. EVERYONE has heard the new Gwen Stefani album, correct? If not, stop right now, get on your Apple Play and listen to that mo-fo!! Our girl is back! It’s been a while since we’ve seen anything from her except tabloid rumors and Voice promotions. This is What the Truth Feels Like brings back Gwen in her first solo album since 2006’s The Sweet Escape.
So… kind of a big deal.
    Even as I write this, I just got little chill pimples from the memories of singing those catchy tunes in my mini van with the kid-lets, who are now man-children about to move away to college (insert tears, sniffles… and moving on).
    I can’t get enough of Gwen. In my other life, I am a photographer and pseudo make-up artist/stylist. Gwen encompasses the very essence of what I live and die for in every day life. Those eyes, that confidence, the style, all that is Stefani! I just want to get her in front of my lens and play for at least a whole day. She is “photo-gasmic”! So much that you almost, almost, forget that she can sing.
    I want to just take a few moments to examine this album from the inside out. Come on, let’s  take a look, shall we?
    First of all, Gwen’s story seems to begin with a  glamorous pseudo-Playboy photo session. The album itself is completely gorgeous. I don’t know if I’ve seen her this beautiful since the Hewlett-Packard campaign of 2006. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that at 46, she has never looked better.
    When we unfold the booklet within, we journey into Gwen’s bedroom and into the studio, for some more playful shots in a Monroe throwback type bundle of loveliness.
She can’t be a day over 20.
    Seriously Gwen, what’s in the serum or what did you promise to the devil? She looks amazing.
Stunning.
Staggering.
    While I’m starting to question my sexuality, let’s keep moving.
Can we please talk about the bubble writing? Let’s not kid ourselves, pun intended, every girl had a journal just like the one Gwen has laid out before us here.
Since when has album art been this fun?
    I feel like I should post spoiler alerts here for all of this loveliness. In typical Gwen fashion, this whole musical bundle is just cute. It’s sassy, spicy, and you can just feel the girlishness gushing out of the package (oooohhhh… teenage audience draw! Good one Gwen…nicely done).
    Now I know no one really buys CD’s anymore, but vinyl is back in. Of course, there’s always the digital download. Invest in the whole thing. Why? Well, because…all the feels. Also, can someone please turn all this art into a font? I’d really appreciate that. Thanks.
    Now onto the hard stuff. Let’s dig deeper. We’ve fallen in love with the fact that Gwen is back, and that she’s so damn gorgeous. So, let’s take a listen.
Everyone, take a break for listening time. No, seriously, go do it.
Really. No, seriously…STOP READING AND LISTEN TO THE WHOLE ALBUM!
    Did you listen? Don’t you feel better? Did you dance in your seat a little bit? Don’t lie, we all did the butt-cheek rumba to “Misery”. It’s ok to admit it. It wasn’t what I was expecting either.
    Wait, before you storm off, hear me out. Let’s chat a little bit. Over the last 48 hours I have listened to this album no less than 20 times. Each time I listen to it, I feel Gwen’s pain a little bit more. Clearly, she spent a deep amount of time on each lyric.
    The first half of the album from “Misery” to “Used to Love You” is radio-worthy. She’s obviously grown up more than just a little bit, and her voice is nothing less than spectacular. “Used to Love You” reaches through, wraps it’s acrylic-nailed fingers around your pulsating heart, rips it from your chest, throws it on the floor, and stomps all over it. If that wasn’t enough, pull up the video.
Yeah, you’re welcome.
    “Make me Like You” may be my favorite track on the album. This is definitely worthy of what we’ve been waiting for. So glad you’re back Gwen. We’ve missed you, even though you never really went away.
OK, let’s skip over “Send me a Picture”, because…blah. Let’s talk about “Red Flag”. Gwen, seriously, WHAT THE [email protected]%???? “Red Flag” is reminiscent of “Ex-Girlfriend” and not in a good way. Gwen takes on rapping in that weird, funky method that only Lady Gaga can get away with.
    The next 4 songs are definitely B-Sides. While I don’t want to ruin the album for you, it’s like she just gave up after track 6. I will say “Me Without You” should be shuffled up in the list to number 7, and we could’ve just stopped there and trashed the rest.
    So then we have to consider it as a whole. Are 7 decent songs on an album really OK? I’m gonna go with…yes! All in all, I loved this album. Isn’t the point of iTunes to be able to select and make playlists of the songs we love and trash the others? I know, I know. Some of you have your mouths gaping,  open with a claw-filtered over going “Na-uh, she did NOT just say that”.
Yep.
    Yep, I did. All artists have not-so-great songs on albums, but not all artists have the ability to take the awful songs into a deeper level of embarrassing. So please, just stick with tracks 1-6, shuffle in 11, enjoy the album art and call it a day. We all want to keep on loving you Gwen.
    Gwen, I do love you. I love that funky style you have and your flawless skin. When I heard Tragic Kingdom straight out of the package before anyone else back in 1995, I played it over and over and over until my husband wanted to throw it out the car window. So much of what you’re doing here on side B is like a mistakenly bad throwback to that time. I’m not going to love you any less. However, I’m going to have to give this album a solid B+. I know there will be haters. You probably deserve better, but I can’t with good conscience give it to you.
    The B+ rating will NOT stop me from seeing the show this summer, or emulating a photo session of my own with these image influences. I’m going to love this album for what it is, and girl I will see you on the road.
I promise to bring Chamomile.
Album Rating: B+

AltWire Review: Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid

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Aesop Rock has built his career on his massive vocabulary, abstract wordplay, and a talent for taking the mundane and making it sound deep and complex. Over the years, he’s experimented with his style and became more hands-on with his production. He jumped into projects with unlikely collaborators like Kimya Dawson and John Darnielle (of The Mountain Goats). He gets more and more personal with his writing as he goes. His newest album, The Impossible Kid, finds one of the most unique independent rappers for the past two decades coming to terms in a new way with the fact that he’s been one of the most unique independent rappers for the past two decades. 

Aesop takes on an entirely new perspective with this album, delivering his most grounded and personal album to date.  On “Lotta Years” he speaks about observing young people with bad neck tattoos and removable dreadlocks. He questions his place in the future, in relation to a generation whose ideas of art and rap music are entirely different from his when he started out.  A few songs later on “Blood Sandwich” he addresses two stories, one about each of his two brothers.  In the first, he recounts a little league game that gets derailed by a burrowing rodent. The second is about his religious mother refusing to let his older brother attend a Ministry concert because she detects satanic influences. In classic Aesop style, the connection between these stories, and the insinuation that Aesop hasn’t spoken to his older brother for a while, isn’t initially clear. However, by painting these little vignettes, he’s really trying to put forward a clearer idea of where he came from and how that affected who he is now. 

“Shrunk” details a psychiatric visit. “Dorks” is a shrugging acceptance of Aesop’s outsider status.  “Kirby” tells the story of his recent decision to get a kitten at the suggestion of his psychiatrist.  “Rings” laments the fact that he doesn’t do much drawing anymore.  He raps that it’s “hard to admit that I used to draw.” These moments describe an Aesop Rock who, at some level, is actively trying to pull down the walls that previously existed between his life and what he puts on his records. As a whole, it makes the album easier to relate to. At least, it gives it an approachable human quality.

The human aspect actually saves the album from feeling a little bit one-note.  Aesop produced the entirety of The Impossible Kid, and while his ear has improved over his career, the album does fall prey to a lot of the same pitfalls as his production with Hail Mary Mallon on Bestiary. It feels a little rigid and harsh at times, focused more on strong and punchy quarter note rhythms than on building an atmosphere and giving the tracks interesting textures. Granted, there’s a noticeable effort made to smooth the production over, but it’s often hit-or-miss.  Alternately, Aesop’s rapping technique has been consistent for the past few years, but it hasn’t shown too much evolution and can feel stale at times.  The engaging and honest nature of the writing certainly helps to gloss over the album’s faults even if it doesn’t totally fix them. 

Impossible Kid does have production gems here and there. “Defender” is a surprisingly ethereal track with some more nuanced drums and a smooth bass/synth combination. It has a cheesy DJ sting or two, but it’s forgivable in the greater mix. “Get Out Of The Car” cuts out the beat altogether and lets Aesop’s percussive vocals work to give the track a strong rhythm.  It’s a smart choice that highlights the weight of his message on the track. You can hear that he wrote the verse to include plenty of piercing consonants to give it a rhythm.  Above all, there’s poetry on the track. Word choice and delivery just proves how much he deserves the respect he’s gained. 

If nothing else, Aesop Rock has always delivered tight verses that keep you hovering over the rewind button the whole time. His delivery on this album follows suit with toothy diction, quick-fire imagery, and chuckle-inducing punchlines (“Cherry? No.  Whip? Yes.”). For those who go in for Aesop’s unique flow and intellectual “wordsmith-ery”, The Impossible Kid is a satisfying addition to his body of work.  The album does have something going on at a deeper level. It’s less about the state of the rap game or the state of the world, and more about the state of Aesop Rock himself than anything else in his catalog.  For all of the record’s faults, Aesop’s attempt to write in a less guarded way is ultimately a success. The Impossible Kid carves out a truly unique spot for itself within his discography.

Rating: B

Photo Credit:fifth element online.com & mtv.com

James Blake : “The Colour Of Anything ” album review

James Blake is force to be reckoned with.

His music is layered with complex electronic melodies and haunting vocals. I have been listening to him for a while now, and I was very surprised to see him as a featured artist on Beyonce’s new Lemonade  album. After listening to him on “Forward” with Beyonce, I decided to check in and see if he had any new music. Lo and behold he does.
The Colour in Anything is James Blake’s fourth studio album. It is a bit of a continuation of his other albums, more reminiscent of a long saga than anything. You can hear the wheels of creativity turning on each track. While it may not have the sound of most mainstream music, it has a strange and hypnotic appeal to it. Blake has such a vast musical sound, you can hear elements of hip hop and experimental pop all throughout the album.
One of my favorite tracks on the album is “My Willing Heart”. The song is held together with a nice in-the-pocket drumbeat and strategically placed piano chords. The lyrics are an ode to the age-old question of knowing, “When is love here?”
“Points” is a track that can’t go un-mentioned. The song is a bit of a goodbye letter. It’s sung like a selection for a funeral, being held for a relationship that could have been more. It’s one of the more memorable songs on the album.

 

“The Colour in Anything” is the title track of this album. It’s a ballad with gospel influenced chords. The song allows you to take a moment to sit back and take a break from the other more produced tracks on the album.

 

While this album is interesting, it is not one I can see my self consistently listening to. At least not in the same way that I listened to Blake’s Overgrown album . That album has a special place in my heart. I will have to give this album a C-, but I will still keep my ear open for new James Blake music. I hope to see more artistic growth In the future .

Beyonce “Lemonade” Visual Album Review

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*Please note that this review is based on both the visual and musical version.

 

Beyonce released an album called Lemonade on April 26th. She released an unannounced visual album on HBO that has been the talk of the world this past week. The album alone didn’t quite grasp my attention, but the combination of the visuals and the music did.

 

 

The album is a documentary that focuses on all of the relationships in Beyonce’s life. She talks about marriage: the good, the bad, and the ugly. She starts of with a playful, yet gripping song called “Hold Up “. She walks through town wearing a golden gown, hell bent on destroying everything in her path. The next song, “Don’t Hurt Yourself” is a song that demands respect. Although the song is not my cup of tea, I can appreciate the variety it adds to the album. Jack White is a featured artist on this track, which adds a rock song to the album.
In my opinion, this is when the album becomes a little stagnant. Beyonce goes on to talk about the destruction of her relationship. The next two songs, “Sorry” and “6 inch” dragged the album down. I only stuck around for the visuals and cameos at this point. Serena Williams and a few dancers in African garb  danced provocatively across the screen.

Just when I was  about to call it quits, the album takes another turn. “Daddy’s Lesson” is probably my favorite song on this album. It’s like the Beyonce before “I am Sasha”  was allowed to come out and play for a while.  The visuals even begin to look brighter.  There’s an uplifting tone to the monologue. The song leads off with a New Orleans-sounding brass band. This is an inspirational country tune that talks of a troubled father/daughter relationship. I fell in love with the song the moment I heard it.

    “Love Drought” isn’t a remarkable song, but it’s followed by a beautiful piano-driven ballad called “Sand Castles”. The production on this song is amazing. The vocals are raw and intense. The visuals give you an intimate look inside of Beyonce’s relationship with Jay-Z.

By the time we reach the next song , you can tell we’ve reached a different chapter of this story. We are shown a group of women when “Forward” featuring James Blake is played in the background. This song is directly followed by a snippet, “Freedom” ft  Kendrick Lamar. As Beyonce sings to a crowd of women, the mothers of slain African-American teenagers are featured standing strong: the definition of strength.

    “All Night” is the closing track. It’s an uplifting reggae-inspired song. The visuals feature different couples of all races and sexual orientations.

Overall, I give this album a C-rating for music. There were some gems among the rubble that made it worth listening to. Tracks like: “Daddy Lessons”, “Sand Castles”, “Freedom”, and “All Night” were great! The beginning of the album dragged a bit in my opinion. Visually, I’m giving the album a “B”. The director took some very interesting ideas and made them work. The cameos alone made profound statements.

So, if you combine the visual with the music, Lemonade gets a “B- “.

Images appears courtesy of Cosmopolitan.com and HBO.com

ODESZA Teases New Album

ODESZA

If you are fan of dance music, then ODESZA is definitely somewhere in your playlist.

Ever since they released their last album,“In Return” last September, fans of the duo have been craving for more. The unique style of ODESZA has created a huge demand for the group at music festivals. Their fans can’t seem to get enough.

Well, here’s some good news for all of you die-hard ODESZA fans: the wait just got shorter! On Monday, the group uploaded an image to their Instagram profile that was a huge teaser for their fans. The caption on the image said, “working on new album”.

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What a tease! Fans are going to be scouring the internet for more details after that post. Regrettably, the EDM powerhouse group didn’t offer any additional details outside of that caption. At least their fans know that ODESZA is working on bringing them a third LP.

That will bring a smile to the faces of the duo’s fans across the world. While ODESZA admirers wait in anticpation, eager for another serving, they still have “In Return” to keep them company.

That is, until ODESZA actually returns. Listen to “In Return” below!

Images: http://odesza.com