Welp, all good things must come to an end. This is the third and final Missed Connections for 2020. I want to thank y’all for joining us this year – this is one of the most fun features we do in my opinion, even if it is just us reviewing an older than usual album. Today’s feature is a special one. Collectors, get your auctioning signs out as we have a rare article with writing from our PR pal Valentin, in addition to our writer pal Rodney, and me… self-pal! We cover some ethereal screamo, the best named progressive rock album of the year, and a tight-as-hell rap mixtape respectively.
Your life is valid!
While being a relatively shit year overall (no need to discuss this any further I guess), 2020 at least provided a whole lot of cool music that made everything a bit more bearable. Over the past few years, I more and more fell in love with all things screamo, so 2020 was a special treat for me with absolutely stunning records coming from Crowning, Infant Island, Bagdadski Vor, Hidden Mothers, or coma regalia (yep, I did just sneak my honourable mentions in here).
But it was already back in March when I knew one record in particular would surpass them all: Boneflower’s sophomore record Armour. The Spanish trio cooked up an incredibly interesting potpourri of different influences that make the listening experience quite the journey!
Sometimes, you’re facing energetic, dissonant heaviness just to find yourself drifting away in one of the many, perfectly placed mellow interludes. Then, you are hit with a blistering wall of blackgaze energy until you find yourself humming along to one of the insanely catchy choruses. At other times (or basically most of the time), you’ll find yourself just sitting there, listening in awe of the soaring melodies that are always present on Armour. Even after countless spins, I still find excitement in the many unexpected twists and turns throughout the whole thing.
Boneflower proved their ability to write cool songs without ever overdoing it – everything just feels so natural and thoughtfully written. Each instrument serves its purpose and while they may appear rather simple on their own, they work incredibly well in creating a mesmerizing, total work of art. There’s no showing off, no crazy guitar riffs, or overly complex rhythms – just simply good music. The vocals follow the same nuanced scheme. There are not too many vocal passages, but when they appear, they really shine. On top of that, they’re quite diverse as well; from desperate screaming to spoken word passages and pretty clean singing, you’ll find everything on this record.
The very organic, at times almost fuzzy production just rounds everything up quite nicely. I could continue to praise this band for a little longer, but I guess by now you may have noticed how much I enjoyed this record, so I’ll just leave it there. Armour really took me by storm and has not left my memory ever since. It might as well go down as one of my favourite records of all time. What a great piece of music!
Being a music journalist isn’t always easy. Sometimes you just don’t have enough time to listen to all the good music you’re getting from PR managers and labels. With Pattern-Seeking Animals and their latest album Prehensile Tales, it’s exactly like this. I got the album just before it got released and initially thought that this band is nothing I’d really enjoy. Given the fact that it’s basically normal prog, which isn’t something that catches me often. I consider myself a big fan of Steven Wilson’s The Raven That Refused To Sing, but that’s where my fascination for old-fashioned prog ends as well. Anyway, I had the feeling that Pattern-Seeking Animals won’t be able to change this, which was a mistake.
It took me some time until I finally got my hands on it, because I was curious and really wanted to check it out. I found myself listening to the album over and over again, having earworms and really enjoying how well written this album is. It’s not that Pattern-Seeking Animals are overdoing anything, but they surely are able to show their craftsmanship and their virtuoso expertise on instrumental parts (such as the instrumental midsection in “Raining Hard In Heaven”). It’s great fun to listen to the progressions on these songs without them losing anything of their catchy flow.
I could literally highlight every song on this album, due to their catchiness. “Why Don’t We Run” is such an earworm, but so is “Raining Hard In Heaven”. Sometimes the music, and especially the refrains, seem a little bit cheesy, but it’s this cheese that makes these songs so great! On top, the album’s production is absolutely top notch, having a modern sound and not touching the retro spheres too much. Just listen to the absolute groove monsters that both “Here In My Autumn” and “Elegant Vampires” are, on top of their incredible catch. Even the 17-minute opus “Lifeboat” doesn’t get boring. The song shows Pattern-Seeking Animals from their experimental side, incorporating all of the band’s elements with some great sounding trumpet sections. Even reggae is to be found on the 12-minute closing track “Soon But Not Today” and shows that the musical language of these musicians is far beyond standard prog. There are many danceable moments in this song too, which makes it incredibly dynamic.
Prehensile Tales is incredibly charming prog rock with many little details. There’s lots of groove, sweet tweaks, and overall great singing. Pattern-Seeking Animals’ vision of prog is nothing that feels the urge to be incredibly complicated. It’s an easy-listening experience that shows a lot of musical quality, very good songwriting, and is just so pleasant. It’s okay to ‘ignore’ a band’s album, as long as you give it a chance once you have the time for it. I’m happy that I found my way to Prehensile Tales and I’m sure that these tales will be played in future. Sorry for missing the connection, guys, but thanks for this great album!
David Rodriguez (that's me!)
By the time “While God Was Sleepin’…” ended on my first run through Kari Faux‘s newest mixtape/EP, I knew I was in for some shit.
The LA rapper/singer has been skating around on her own terms, hanging out with Childish Gambino, doing work with Pivot Gang, landing a song on the Insecure soundtrack, and featuring on one of my favorite EPs this year. More importantly, and the reason we’re here to begin with, she’s putting out her own music. Lowkey Superstar is short – efficiently in and out like a robbery depicted in the song “StickUp!” – but fiery, telling of where she’s been, where she’s at, and where’s she’s heading.
I took my sweet-ass time checking this project out, waiting until around November to finally hit play on it. I regretted all the months I went without it the minute I started it. Right off the bat, Lowkey Superstar doesn’t fuck around with “While God Was Sleepin’…”. You’re hit right in the mouth with a thumping beat consisting of great bass, infectious rhythm, and Kari practically dancing on top of the production with a type of confident flow that surges through you with a heavy case of the body wiggles.
‘While God was sleepin’
We was creepin’, we was slidin’, we was seekin’
Somethin’ deeper in shallows, find a reason
To face the world and love what you believe in
I guess he didn’t get my calls’
If you’re like me and hadn’t heard a whole Kari Faux project before, this song alone is a good (though not inclusive) intro to her as a performer. Quick and deadly bars that tell of her approach to life (‘Tried to Facetime God/He declined, I said ‘oh well‘/He hit me back with a text/And said ‘save yourself‘‘) or tell perhaps a bit too much for some (‘Had that ni**a think he in love/He ate my period blood‘). Kari’s one of those artists that’s emotionally or mentally guarded at times, but also willing to spill some intimate details that tell of a raw, fast lifestyle where there’s no time to get attached to anyone or anything, and living is just a matter of survival and trying to do better with yourself. Success in such endeavors isn’t guaranteed.
If “While God Was Sleepin’…” is the first punch, then surely the next song “StickUp!” is the second coming in for a dizzying combo. Backed by some eerily wavy guitar samples and trappy drums, Kari’s making people run their jewels and collecting what she’s owed with some downright funny lines (‘See, I’m on your ass like the back of your jeans/And I’m down to choke slam you like it’s WWE‘). Still, her business is anything but funny – while this and other songs have hints of a lighter heart and casual candor, Kari’s a serious-ass artist.
The mixtape is wildly versatile, nailing pretty much everything it attempts. When it’s not going hard as fuck, it’s a bit smoother without Kari losing her fierce attitude. The whole midsection of this tape is smoother than creamy peanut butter (coincidental seeing as her adoptive father worked for a Skippy factory). From the oddly-titled “Skit” (it’s more like an interlude with sung vocals) to “Actors, Rappers & Wrestlers”, she flexes her melodic side with singing on verses on top of dreamy, whipped cream soundscapes that remind me of some Frank Ocean songs. Some vocal layering and reverb on the latter track really completes the softer approach as she recalls an acquaintanceship with a rapper whose artistic persona seems to be bleeding into his real life, much like a method actor or a wrestler who refuses to break kayfabe. Get it?
Kari Faux likely isn’t going to change your life, but she may enrich it. Here’s an artist that’s forging a strong identity, doing it all herself (I mean, she has producers helping her out, but no features otherwise), unapologetically. It’s an attractive way to handle your art, and while similar artists like Megan Thee Stallion and Flo Milli are doing their damn thing – and don’t get me wrong, I like them too – I do tend to latch onto ones like Junglepussy, Tkay Maidza, Missed Connections alum Rico Nasty, and Kari due to a rawer, more nuanced approach. The stardom may be lowkey, but the talent and execution is all highkey. Great shit.