Album Review: Propaganda ‘Crimson Cord’

Propaganda ‘Crimson Cord’

Hip-Hop is changing.
When once it was found in two camps – you were either a gangsta, a hustler where you were all about the bling, the colours on your bandana, and the hood you ‘rolled’ in. Your women were there for one thing, and if anyone stepped on your turf you would “cap their a##”
OR…
You were a fun loving creative type. You were about drinking, about smoking things that made you creative. You spoke of love as if it was something that you understood when the actions showed it was only skin deep.

But now Hip-hop is becoming a game changer. It’s the soap box of choice. It’s found everywhere… but is it any good and does it have a social conscience that is livable?

Coming out of the Humble Beast label is hip-hop artist Propaganda.
Propaganda has paved a way for himself with really organic sounding beats, creative hooks and a good ‘turn of phrase’.

The thing that stands out on a Propaganda album is that it’s all not strictly hip-hop. Some of the hardest hitting tracks are more technically ‘spoken word’ poems and it gives Propaganda the ability to really stretch his creative and clever lyrics… and it’s always challenging.

The album starts off with ‘You Mock Me’ – it’s typical Propaganda and a spoken word piece with layers of sounds and beats to give you a setting to place the words on. Propaganda is clever as he constructs the belief that he’s talking about someone, a father?… a girlfriend? … a child? … but this is a poem about ‘The Past’. Welcome to the 2nd album, this is going to be a musical mind trip.

The album really starts to take off when hip-hop artist Lecrae comes to the party on ‘Daywalker’.
‘Daywalker’ is a real foot tapper with Propaganda declaring that “this is what you get when you mix Tony Hawk and Ice Cube NWA and the Bones Brigade” – it’s a fun track that talks about the culture you are living in.

‘Bored of Education’ is a spoken word based piece that cleverly starts of with “Dear bored of education… so are we… so  are we” as he explains why the brightest stars in the education system start to fall and fail because the system isn’t made to look after the kids that are considered ‘not normal’. He points out: “Nick Luvanno runs his own design firm. And he failed the exit exams twice. FAILED”

The most hard hitting track on the album has to be the track ‘I don’t see it’ which is a real mixture of the clever and intellectual spoken word and more traditional hip-hop.
It’s a track that starts to make you uncomfortable. Propaganda asks the questions such as “one day you will make it… but what is it?”
and “You’re looking for new mountains to climb when you haven’t even conquered the first one, you ain’t done, you’re just comfy”

You see that’s where hip-hop cuts deep… it goes straight to the heart… it catches you off guard… and Propaganda is the maestro. He draws you in with clever lyrics and gravitational spins of word play and rhythm before slapping you in the face with your own realization of who you are by forcing you to look in the mirror… but also motions to what you could be and, more importantly, who you were designed to be.

I love an album that challenges you and that’s what drew me to this album. It ticks all the boxes and with a mixture of spoken word and hip-hop it keeps you engaged, alert and vulnerable.
There are tracks like ‘Daywalker’ and ‘How Did We Get Here’ that distract and you forget that you don’t want to be challenged, you want to be entertained… and that’s the whole point isn’t it? We want to be inspired. We want to be challenged. We want to know who we are… and so for that we are thankful that Propaganda asks the hard questions and gets us to look at ourselves.

Sometimes being caught off guard is the best way to discover who you are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Album Review: NEEDTOBREATHE ‘Rivers in the Wasteland’

NEEDTOBREATHE ‘Waters in the Wasteland’

Sometimes for something to to come to life you have to let it die… and dying isn’t always easy.

For NEEDTOBREATHE (NTB) everything seemed to be going right… they were getting what everyone in the music world would gauge as success.
They were being asked to perform high profile gigs with the likes of Taylor Swift, they were on TV, they were on radio…
But what they also discovered is that with that comes the pressures of it all… and the band almost collapsed because of it… success almost killed NTB (as shown in the documentary style film ‘Prove the Poets Wrong’).
The result was the band redefining ‘success’… they realized they were already successful – as individuals, they didn’t need to prove that to anyone else… so they gave that dream of success driven glory away.
They already had a purpose they just needed to re-find it!

The problem with giving away a dream… is that often it comes true at that point…

Everyone wants a miracle, but no one wants to be in a situation where they would need one.

Rivers in the Wasteland is the result of that miracle.

You can tell from the first strum that a burden has been lifted…
The album starts of with the track ‘Wasteland’ and NTB are almost defiant in the fact that “If God is on my side, who can be against me”… a slow song to build into a big chorus making way for the second track.
‘State I’m in’  starts off with slightly distorted southern tinged Beach Boy like vocals before rocking into the song in what can only be described as the best Chris Isaak impersonation, a kind of southern rock meets Elvis sound.
Beating drums and hand claps keep your foot tapping… in the blues infused southern rocker ‘Feet, don’t fail me now’… it’s infectious, it’s like a southern virus has entered your body and the side effects are a constant foot tapping. It’s a southern blues church experience. NTB have built you up to this point… they aren’t about to take the foot of the throat just yet and ‘Oh Carolina’ is the perfect remedy to keep the declaration of intention going, there is a stomp revival happening here.

This is becoming something of a southern release of tension… the best way to come out of tough times… is to let it go and celebrate.

NTB  at this point ironically ‘need to breathe’ and the album pulls back with great tracks like ‘The Difference Maker’ and ‘Rise again’. The highlight of this reprieve from the stomp revival is that it shines a beam of light on the fact that these are great songs, well crafted, great lyrics. These are great songs without big production and studio tricks… these are songs that stand on merit alone.

There is a reason ‘The Heart’ was a lead single… it shines in the middle of this album like a beckon, it is in fact the literal heart of this album.  It’s fun, it’s big, it’s personal and it’s a solid track. You really can’t argue with lyrics that say “Don’t waste time when it comes time to dance”

It was a nice touch adding the track ‘Brother’ as Bear and Bo Rinehart are the brothers responsible for the existence of NTB. It’s a touching tribute and although it may be referring to the obvious connection of these sibling lyrically it extends further than that.

Brother let me be your shelter
I’ll never leave you all alone
I can be the one you call
When you’re low

The great thing about this track is the bigness of it and it’s soul.
Half way through the song, a piano glides over the top of the track paving a way for a new focus of the groove, that makes it more soulful and heralding a soul choir to take the song to a whole other level and give it wings.

NEEDTOBREATHE have found their feet.
This is an album with soul… this is an album with heart… this is an album with history without burdening you with all the dirty details… this is an album of songs that have been crafted by experience, by pain, by laughter and by faith.

This is the most complete album that NTB have brought to the table.
There was a Reckoning (their last album) and from the ashes of that a phoenix has risen, that not only has lit a new fire and a renewed purpose for NTB but brought water into a wasteland.
NTB have had a weight lifted from their shoulders and it shows.

If you are looking for an album that encourages you to be lifted during the driest of places, then stop here for a drink.

Do super mums really exists? (words from a Mother)

SuperMom

Someone once told me of a mother who dropped their kid off to school and was then off to the gym…
The reaction of the other mothers was “Wow… you must be a SUPER MUM”...
However the teachers at the school also have kids, and not only do they have to look after their own kids but everyone else’s kids also, plus still find time to do the cleaning, washing ironing, folding, and vacuum the house.

So it begs the question… which mum is super?
The one who doesn’t have the child for half the day while they are at school, and finds time to do their home duties as well as find time to go to the gym and catch up for coffee?
Or… the mother who juggles the home life and work life?

Sometimes I think we really believe this super-mum concept and it’s just not real!

Mothers are all super-mums and none of them are.
It’s the hardest job in the world but often mothers can invest so much energy into trying to do everything and comparing themselves.
None of us can do it, and we all can do it.

There is no more value in being busy than there is in life in the slow lane.

We are all so quick to judge each other’s housework, baking, the way we dress our children, the way we free up our husbands to enjoy their hobbies…
I could probably do it all – I could work, have an immaculate house, keep my hair done nicely, have a perfectly toned body, dress myself and the children in gorgeous clothes, cook amazing meals etc.
But it wouldn’t be worth it because I would be exhausted and stressed, and all for what?!
Just so I look good in the eyes of people who would be valuing me and my achievements for all the wrong reasons.

Instead I choose what matters to my family.

The kitchen is clean enough so I’m going to play with the train set with my youngest son Benaiah.
Sure, the rubbish bin is full so I could take it out, but Benaiah starts school in a few months so my days of train track building are numbered…
There is a basket of washing to be folded, but I’m going to spend the evening knitting on the couch and chatting with my husband because being creative makes me happy and I love to connect with my favourite person in the whole world…

So if a spotless house is your thing that’s great!

But I’m happy with a not-a-bio-hazard house and time for other things that I value.

 

From Mother Goose

Album Review: Sam Watson ‘Home’

I’ve had the privilege to have been able to review some great international bands from all over the world… and have had contact with some award winning bands, bands with large budgets, bands that are at the top of the charts, and at the top of their game. However there is something special about hearing what is coming out of the Indie music scene and even better than that is hearing what is coming out of the local scene…

sam watson

Sam Watson ‘HOME’ EP

You see, it’s often that the bands who are doing the hard yards in the Indie scene are the bands that are inspiring the top bands with new sounds. The indie scene is full of people trying new things because they have nothing to lose. The indie scene is filled with people trying to find new a new way to say the same old things… love, loss and life.
You can almost map that when a new sound hits the Indie scene it’s  only a year or two before that sound is main stream… and so the circle continues.

And that’s how I’ve stumbled across Christchurch songwriter Sam Watson.
It’s so great to hear great music coming out of someone who is trying to do the hard yards… there’s no trying to tailor to the masses… there is no swooning pop songs on YouTube… this is acoustic… this is real music.

So what does it sound like?

This is the kind of music that you would expect to hear live, as you have a couple of quiet drinks in a bar that is filled with the new moderns, the sophisticated but still gounded type that wear suits to the office but after hours it’s jeans and a t-shirt…
OR
If you are having dinner in a really cool cafe- you know the ones with candles and atmosphere, not the pretentious ones that are all about the food and nothing else.
This music is atmosphere.

The Home EP starts off with the title track, a tasty song that reminds me of something that would sit nicely between Jason Mraz  and Bruno Mars in style. It’s a great song to set up the rest of the album… it relaxes… it calms you… it fools you into thinking that the rest of the album is going to be pushed into the ‘Easy Listening’ genre… It’s not!

‘Trying to Find’ is the next track and it sounds like we’re about to go into more of the same laid back feel as ‘Home’, however 52 seconds into the song and the mood changes. This is a real LA style California cafe type song, like an acoustic Orson set. The song’s modern acoustic style, which tips its hat to past influences, is refreshing to hear among a barrage of folk and bluegrass influenced pop songs.

As the album progresses you slowly get pulled into songs that seem to be drawing from influences such as Ryan Adams, Radiohead and Jeff Buckley.
‘Let it burn’ starts in such an unassuming way with a quiet acoustic guitar and by the end of the song Sam is wailing in a Buckley-esque  style falsetto “She’s on fire….” . This is a great song to have in the middle of the EP a great balance between safety and pushing boundaries.

The last couple of songs follow the change of mood and style, a bit gentler than ‘Let it Burn’ but still filled with the same emotion…

This is a great first little EP…
It’s hard not to hear albums by untalented people, who only sound good in a studio with songs that 12 of the top songwriters in the world got to write for a top record label.
This is not a perfect EP by any stretch of the imagination… and that’s GREAT.
There is a more of a live vibe to this EP than lots of LIVE albums by big name artists… you can almost feel the emotion here… you can hear the voice crack every now and then as you hear the pain of a story being told.
If this is the start I’m glad to say I was a part of a select few who heard it before the crowds and the accolades.

To hear the EP click HERE
You can buy the album from here too!