A little early Christmas treat for y’all – the finale of this year’s Missed Connections! You’ve seen part one and two, right? Of course you have. This is our final part of the year and I just wanna say to those that have read it all, thanks a lot. I love doing this feature. I’m so happy and proud to host this for my fellow writers and pals who want to showcase some awesome, lesser-known, and bypassed music from the year even if I don’t directly contribute to it as is the case this year.

I will take this time to very briefly shoutout McKinley Dixon‘s album from May, For My Mama And Anyone Who Look Like Her, the album I’d cover here if I had the time. It’s a wonderfully stellar, warm, and emotional hip-hop record employing live instrumentation throughout. “make a poet Black” and “brown shoulders” are two of my favorite songs of the year. Don’t sleep.

Anyway, let’s get into some other stuff, like French chamber screamo (whaaaat?), bold and philosophical post-rock/prog metal (huuuuh?), and some G funk revival from South Central LA (yeeeee?). Enjoy, and have a happy holiday!

JP Pallais

Lorem IpsumVivre encore

Released: January 28, 2021

VOTU/UVF Records/Sleepydogs Records/HVIV/Seaside Suicide Records

I honestly couldn’t tell you why I never took the opportunity to write about the latest Lorem Ipsum album when it dropped back in January. With how much I found myself circling back to this undeniably unique record throughout the year, I told myself that I would come back around to it with our annual Missed Connections feature; well, here we are. Lorem Ipsum’s Vivre encore is an album that without a doubt needs to be in the back of your mind when putting these year-end album lists together. Put shortly, their music is bizarre but in the best of ways.

Vivre encore released in January early this year, although it was originally due to come out late last year. I remember stumbling across the first single, “Sergeï”, and was completely blown away by their style. The mere fact that this group is from France tells you everything that you need to know regarding the inherent quality of the music. The release of Vivre encore ended up being pushed back several times and while slightly frustrating from a fan’s perspective, the longer wait caused me to appreciate the music much more than I would’ve had it released as initially planned. Listening to this album is so much rewarding knowing the struggle to get it released and I am excited to be reflecting on the album nearly a year after its release. It truly was worth the longer wait.

I can already guarantee you that Lorem Ipsum are unlike anything you’ve heard all year or even thus far. The closest comparison that I can muster to this group is Respire, just without all the ‘traditional’ instruments (electric guitar/bass, drums). In other words, Lorem Ipsum is the musical marriage between hardcore/screamo and neo-classical music. Instrumentally, this trio consists of acoustic guitar, violin, and piano and as a result they’ve put together a special piece of work that has similar foundation to traditional hardcore records out there, just reimagined in a totally different way.

With the acoustic instruments effectively replacing those that we’ve grown to love when it comes to hardcore music, that doesn’t mean that Lorem Ipsum’s compositions are any less energetic nor captivating; quite the opposite truth be told. The fact that the instrumentals are acoustic here on Vivre encore makes the music feel rawer and more natural in a sense. Although this is an acoustic record as a whole, it doesn’t feel out of place whatsoever from other screamo records with the undeniable intensity and energy that is brought to the table here. With electric instruments, it is easy to compensate for a lack of energy with increased gain/distortion but acoustically, you do not have such a luxury and Lorem Ipsum are fully aware of that.

The utterly fascinating thing to me about Vivre encore is that each instrument is fundamental in providing the guiding melody and rhythm across these songs. You’ll go through these tracks with these instruments rotating being the driving melodic force while the others retreat to the background to provide subtle, complex rhythms; you can’t forget the extra special sections in which all three instrumentalists overlay their rhythms atop one another, creating these magical, dizzying soundscapes as heard on “Anne” and “Véro” for example.

One of my favorite tracks is the brief “Bienaimè”, with the sharp staccato sections leaving plenty of negative space for the weeping violin legatos and the background stomping to worm their way into your ears. I love these staccatos as with the full band all in perfect unison during those moments, it really gives it more musical power and a sense of urgency. “Anne” and “Sergeï” are two tracks that feature electronic elements. In the context of “Anne”, the electronics replace the lower register end of the piano, thus providing rhythm; whereas on “Sergeï”, the electronics don’t necessarily contribute to the rhythm nor melody per se, but rather add a delicate texture as a way to add a little more charm to this track.

Lorem Ipsum are one of those groups where I honestly don’t know how I stumbled upon them, but I am beyond grateful that I did. I am doing my due diligence to spread the good word as it is obvious this special group is not getting the attention that they so deserve. Vivre encore is one of 2021’s best kept secrets.

Rodrigo Torres Pinelli

Tacoma Narrows Bridge DisasterThe World Inside

Released: August 19, 2021

Post. Recordings

Purpose. We live by it or figure it out. We shape it as it shapes us back. We gravitate towards the meaning of things, of life. We want to grasp it. If not, what’s the freaking point? And that’s… an interrogation that allows for endless philosophical ramifications.

The point of this metaphysical introduction is to reflect on what drives artists to create art. Specifically, in such arts where audience interpretation plays the larger deal in the construction of vision and purpose.

The artist, then, incurs in successive decisions that forge the content’s identity. In music, the number of tracks, their length, the artwork, song titles, band name, and so forth. Everything that’s for you to perceive is an eligible subject for an artist to affect, serving the intended purpose. It can be straightforward, complex, abstract, tangible – almost every adjective can fit. However, there is no such thing as a guarantee or certainty that an artist’s conception will be ever matched with that of the interpreter. That’s the nature of communication, isn’t it? Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster‘s latest release is the perfect fit for exploring these matters.

By now, The World Inside is a couple of months old, so you can probably find a considerable amount of reviews where you will find a lot of descriptions on strictly musical stuff. I am looking to compliment those with a different perspective. Yet, I’ll still be delving into the sonic marvels this album irradiates.

I’ll go ahead and blockquote the whole written introduction, extracted from TNBD‘s Bandcamp page:

‘Whether biologically or socially, we seem to be trapped, each of us, in our own little subjective fantasy that leads to post-truth phenomenon, that leads to tribe-against-tribe political systems, and that facilitates chaos and its journey throughout our lives.

‘Socially we seem to project our interpretation of the world around us onto everyone else, and we expect them to think and feel the same things. And if they don’t, we judge them as defective or deficient in some way. There’s a lot of talk in the air about tribalism and the post-truth era and all that kind of thing. But essentially whatever it is… we’re doing it to ourselves.’

The band drops these lines in hopes of awakening their audience. Very much like the piece of wisdom you’d get from a monk at the brink of a mountain as she contemplates the future. Independently of whether the audience cares or not, there is a message that needs to be sent, an inner drive to be fulfilled. There is enough clarity to state that it is this art’s purpose, although it might not reveal itself at first sight. Now that the tone is set, and the concept outlined, we must find musical qualities that complete this cosmovision.

Progressive metal and post-rock reside closer to the compositional realm than the improvisational. The intellectuality of music is inherent to its being and thus, allows for great questions to be posed over a set of stunning songs that underlie it. Take the album opener, “Machinations”, as an illustration. There is absolutely no rush in developing the composition horizontally. Instead, it crafts a mood. One that is meditative, insightful, and heightening. It is the perfect scene for an incoming emotional dagger to pierce your inner threads with existential thoughtfulness, as the lead melody arrives somewhere in the second half of the song, which takes me to the following point: song length.

Why is it that you carve through time in hopes of creating much-needed space to engage in a proper album listen, or chapter read, or a serious conversation? Essentially, you want to commit to the task. The World Inside has got five out of six tracks surpassing the eight-minute mark. Hence, committing is paramount to let the music dialog with your mental ropes.

In hopes of achieving the above successfully, the band does not let radical changes in sections slip through. Instead, the songs rest upon repetition of moments and melodies with slight changes in character, to keep the flow steady at all times. Of course, there are many riffs and ambiances across the entire record, and yes, some of them are unexpected. Yet, once you let yourself groove physically and mentally, nothing strikes you to the point of throwing you out of the mood.

A remarkable proof is the Tool-esque single “Truth Escapes”. This one is the only track that includes lyrics, kept to the bare minimum for greater impact. It deals with existential concerns, the absence of purpose in our lives, and, evidently, with the escape of truth. Such a spirited statement requires severity in whatever element contributes to the concept. Perceivable on the artwork and foremost in the music.

In hindsight, all I’m trying to say is that The World Inside is an album with a mission, and it can really resonate with you if you share the same concerns. It ignites and fuels the drive for self-assessment, for questioning our surroundings, and for thoroughly analyzing how we construct and share our beliefs, as opposed to objectivity. It’s a hell of a mission for a practically instrumental album. However, Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster achieves it, and that’s why it’s worth bringing up before the year comes to an end.

Daniel

G PericoPlay 2 Win

Released: August 27, 2021

Perico’s Innerprize/Empire Records

One look at the Play 2 Win album cover, and you’ll know what G Perico is all about. Black and white, old school tough guy position with jheri curls, a clean white tee, and an inconspicuous chain. You should never judge a book by its cover, and for that matter, album covers, but Perico has found a way to solidify his sound in one single image. Everything about it drips with OG gangsta rap nostalgia, and what follows lives up to that image with his OG gangsta rap nostalgia approach. It’s all fascinating, and just absolute fun.

G Perico shot into my consciousness a little late this year. He has a pretty extensive catalog, with Play 2 Win being his 10th album since 2016, but I had never heard of him. That is, until I randomly heard his single with Rucci,Keep Killin”.  It starts out on a good note with that “The Genius of Love” sample that never does any harm ever (shout out to Latto, Mariah Carey, and ODB). Then the bass drops, and Perico’s nasally matter-of-fact flow starts out on some inspirational shit; ‘you can’t help me, if you can’t help yourself/ I’m at the penthouse plottin’ out my next ten steps’. It was anarchistic, fun as fuck, and I was immediately hooked. Further evidence of the debauchery can be seen in the equally awesome video linked above.

I have a soft spot for this type of music (if my review on Vince Staples’ amazing self-titled album wasn’t any evidence of this, I can point you to a million other examples) – inspirational gangsta rap AND futurist nostalgia, and Perico balances both extremely well. Clocking at just 26 minutes, Perico doesn’t waste any time with filler, or bleeding out your attention to exhaustion. His introduction is simple, and foreshadows his rapping only what’s real approach. ‘I can’t wait till they free my homie’, he proclaims before he goes into a wishlist of other goals he has, and ends with a phone call from the one and only 03 Greedo.

From there, we’re launched into that production that has so much indebted to the old school, but adjusts it into a modern presentation on “5 Freeway”. There’s something about that descending whistle sample that just sounds whimsical and dangerous at the same time, that it just does a fantastic job of maintaining the fine line Perico walks.

His storytelling capabilities harken back to the golden age of rap, when folks were jumping on the beats and giving reports from the streets like news anchors with the inside scoop. In fact, there’s a line in “The Interview” that summarizes it perfectly. In a part-skit/part-song formula that was wildly popular in the early ’90s, a radio host interviews G Perico, asks him questions, and he raps the answer. After his first bars the radio host proclaims: ‘You know what? I really fuck with you G Perico, because people really don’t understand what be really going on, and you just be talking that shit, you know what I’m sayin?…’  After that, she asks what G Perico stands for, and he breaks down the acronym. It’s all just fucking rad, and fun as fuck. His honest and real matter-of-fact storytelling is reminiscent of what the great Maxo Kream is doing for Houston rap, and what Mr. Staples has been doing,  just with a West Coast Eazy-E approach. It all comes across genuine and honest, so much to the point that he doesn’t even sound like he’s bragging, just talking.

Although not too many features are present on Play 2 Win (3 total), there’s one that stands out the most on “Spazz”.  Again, the production is worth pointing out first: that e-harp sample sets the tone, before morphing and expanding when the beat drops. Perico doesn’t waste any time before springing in with the first lines: ‘Spazzed out! The homie pulled his gat, then he blacked out’. He sounds frantic and full of adrenaline, which is juxtaposed by Remble’s verse. The best way to describe  Remble is the antithesis of the mumble rapper. I haven’t dug too much into his catalog, but this dude raps like he’s a bard in a Shakespearean play, or reading his dissertation. In the simplest of forms, Remble barely rides the beat with lines like this:

‘That man told and they didn’t even offer time yet
I know he snitched and he didn’t even drop the dime yet
These people changed, you can watch it on your Timex
A cold snake, I wonder how you haven’t died yet

It’s overenunciated, as clear as a conversation, and I’ve really never heard anything like it, but loved every second of it. Remble was unknown to me before this (too much good rap out there to find all the gems), but this was a hell of an introduction, and his catalog will be in my rotation all through next year.

We need more fun gangster rap out there. So much trap shit has such a dissonant, nihilistic edge to it that even the happy moments sounds bleak as fuck. Gone are the days of gangsters rapping over G Funk beats with street reports laced with inspirational quotes. Rap has grown so much since its inception, there’s very little resemblance to old school fans of where it is now, to where it came from. That’s not saying the new kids aren’t making good music because gatekeeping is shit, but it’s just fucking rad to hear a bona fide skillmaster appreciate the sound, and develop it for a modern audience. I hope the respect for the retro sound grows, but while I’m waiting, I’ll just keep digging into Perico’s catalog as one of my new favorite rappers.

David Rodriguez

David Rodriguez

I use caps lock way more than my writing lets on.

Leave a Reply