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Head over to gzusc tonight at 7:30pm to see The Downtown Collective at the KXSC Sample Showcase! More info here

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Damaged Bug - Hubba BubbaRetro synth psych experiments from Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer, who I guess counts as an LA artist now that he’s very publicly cut off all ties with San Francisco, citing its gentrification-induced soullessness. SF is too soulless so you move to…Los Angeles? Sure ok whatever. Anyway, he made this record that kinda sounds like a stoned, burnt out, disheveled Gary Numan. It drags sometimes and seems hesitant to go fully cosmic on a lot of its songs but there’s definitely some worthwhile stuff in there, particularly towards the end of the record when the tempos slow down and it feels like melting under the twin suns of Tatooine.
RIYL: Garage rock, Gary Numan, Dune

Perfect Pussy - Say Yes to LoveI guess I should preface this review by admitting that, as an angsty girl myself, I am biased towards bands with angry female vocalists, and to put it simply, Bikini Kill/L7/Bratmobile/(fill in your favorite riot grrrl band here) have nothing on Perfect Pussy. A combination of hardcore influences with a noise rock-driven sound reminiscent of early Dinosaur Jr. (i.e. “You’re Living All Over Me”), “Say Yes to Love” ranges from blaringly aggressive to surprisingly melodic. Opening with the hard-hitting tracks “Driver” and the somewhat discordant “Bells,” Perfect Pussy quickly asserts its raw power and dynamism, but in “Big Stars” and “Interference Fits,” the more distinct guitar melody demonstrate the band’s artistry and ability to be more than just another loud punk band. However, as a first studio album, “Say Yes to Love” has some anticipated shortcomings, namely that half of “Advance Upon the Real” is little more than static noise. Oh,  and “VII” does not jibe with the rest of the record at all – it is not even in the same genre, leaning more on the side of earsplittingly distorted, electronic-dominated post-rock than punk. But hey, if that’s your thing, play that track. Anyway, this solid debut definitely deserves some airtime despite its few faults. ASHLEY H.

Recommended Tracks: “Driver”, “Big Stars”, “Interference Fits”

Mystic Braves - Mystic Braves: Hazy psych garage w/ some cool country-ish influenced as well (rolling drums and basslines!). Sounds a lot like some lost 60s band. All the tracks kind of sound the same but good now that the weather is getting hot.

RIYL: 13th Floor Elevators, The Doors

Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else: Ohio’s Cloud Nothings returns to form on “Here and Nowhere Else.” With time the group has become more concise and powerful, cropping their typical output down to a solid eight song collection. CN also whittled down their lineup in the past year, becoming a formidable (though notably more basic) trio. They retain their signature machinegun momentum, with a Ramones-worthy flurry of down-strumming and bass drum kicks. While 2012 standout “Attack on Memory” was a large departure from their earlier releases, the band has backtracked a bit to approximate a sound encompassing their entire catalog. Songs like “I’m Not Part of Me” retain their intensity but blend in catchy, snarled hooks.

Recommended Tracks: “I’m Not Part of Me”, “Just See Fear”, “Psychic Trauma”

St. Vincent - St. Vincent: I think I use the word groovy in just about every review I write, but this one has the official NWA groove approval. Little Annie is all grown up and she’s laying down some thick glittery jam. This is ART rock, sometimes more about the art than the rock, with Annie jerking wildly onstage as if possessed by some glam demon. Her live show is no doubt a performance, and not just of the music. But, the music on this album manages to shine through the chichi. One might say that these songs are more electronic based with the keyboard often taking up the main decipherable element of the song, but when she does decide to crank up the geetar it’s hard-hitting, catchy riffs as usual. “Bring Me Your Loves” is a good example. The other big difference for me is in content - “Oh, what an ordinary day. Take out the trash, masturbate”. There’s a lot of sexuality in these songs, and it’s sort of surprising considering Annie’s cutesy, child-like nature (Disney movies were once one of her major lyrical influences). This may be a stretch, but I would say she’s becoming the Lana Del Rey of alternative music. And don’t hate on Lana. Oh, and I’m pretty sure Rattlesnake and Digital Witness are the same song; I feel so bad for that keyboardist. SHILL

Recommended Tracks: “Rattlesnake”, “Birth in Reverse”, “Bring Me Your Loves”

The Men - Tomorrow’s HitsThe Men have come a long way stylistically since Open Your Heart, let alone since the abrasive, disorienting punk/noise rock of Immaculada. While Open Your Heart saw a new incorporation of classic rock and country influence, Tomorrow’s Hits is much more straightforward. In fact, it explores even more uncharted territory, delving deep into roots and heartland rock. The influence of Rock and Roll pioneers is everywhere; there’s the blue collar essence of Bruce Springsteen, the Americana swagger of Tom Petty, the folk swing of electric Bob Dylan, and an occasional horn section reminiscent of the Rolling Stones. Not to mention that Mark Perro’s unrequited wail possesses the same sort of impassioned and deliberate carelessness of Paul Westerberg’s. And though the album has just less than ten tracks, the diversity of songs makes up for it—Another Night has a danceable, Stones-esque groove, Going Down and Different Days sound like a garag-y, early Replacements, the piano ballad Sleepless, and my personal favorite, the ballsy, drunken mess of Pearly Gates. It has a purity of Rock and Roll that is still refreshing somehow, which is hard to come by these days. Another aspect unique to it is that sort of wears its heart on its sleeve; its fun, cathartic, proud, confident, but not too glamorous, and even a little sad in a sweet way, tapping into the very human elements of rock and roll that keeps the genre from ever truly dying. J CLIFFY

Recommended Tracks: "Pearly Gates", “Different Days”, “Another Night”

Real Estate - Atlas: I played this album for a friend as we plopped down on my couch late at night, drifting in and out of conversation with this soothing backdrop. After a minute or so of silently listening to “Primitive,” he said, “I would try to put into words how relaxed I am but that seems like too much work.” The effortlessness that characterizes Atlas is spectacularly infectious. I’m hard pressed to think of other albums that have provided such an easy first listen. Part of that is because Real Estate aren’t exploring a lot of territory here. Atlas is a guitar album that coasts with blissful arpeggios and subdued melodies. This is indie rock that’s comfortable in its own skin, but don’t dismiss it based on that notion just yet. For one, the guitar interplay is consistent strong point, at times reminiscent of Television if they had just come back from a summer getaway at the beach. Atlas bolsters this element with some loose songwriting that provides space for graceful instrumental sections. “April’s Song” is a prime example of this delightful restraint. Without uttering a word, it’s simple enough to relax our overstimulated minds into serenity. That’s the beautiful, simple pleasure of this album. In theory, it might not sound too lucrative, but it has the ability to fade away the stress of the day. Real Estate make it awfully inviting to just waste time with Atlas. On “Navigator, Martin Courtney sings, “I stare at the hands on the clock / I’m still waiting for them to stop,” but it sounds like they already have.

Recommended Tracks: “April’s Song”, “Navigator”, “Primitive”

Mac DeMarco - Salad Days: Mac has somehow become the darling of indie rock. Dudes try to dress like him, fan girls swoon over him (only in rock n roll would anyone swoon over this guy), and Pitchfork writes long form cover stories on him, complete with high res gifs of Mac farting and smoking. He’s an unlikely hero, but in a sea of indistinguishable guitar based alternative acts, it’s really no surprise that we covet the one who stands out. Not to mention he makes great music. Catchy lyrics, jangly riffs, and a swinging back beat all make for a lofty level of endearment and a healthy dose of danceability in Mac’s tunes. Salad Days takes everything we have come to love about Mac and brings it to the forefront while trading in the empty silliness of his lyrics for depth and emotion. At times Mac even seems serious, like when he’s singing about the very real possibility that his beloved Kiki might get deported to Canada. The solemn sincerity of “Let My Baby Stay” is refreshing and makes Mac all the more charming despite how jealous of Kiki we might be. “Chamber of Reflection” is another stand out for me, dripping with stinky synth; I feel like I’ve slipped into some seedy night club circa 1979. Salad Days is Mac’s brainchild. He wrote everything and recorded all the instruments himself while holed up his little Brooklyn apartment. It’s his most complete offering so far, and while I hate to say it, it’s a sign of his definite maturing. I hope it reaches many fans and brings Mac-y D some more well deserved success.

Recommended Tracks: “Salad Days”, “Brother”, “Passing Out Pieces”

The War on Drugs - Lost in the DreamCountry rock is not a style that is known for pushing its boundaries. Yet The War on Drugs have pulled some creative strings to create an album that re-invents the sound in a peculiarly modern fashion. It weaves fluidly between realms of country, rock, folk, indie, and even psychedelic, with just the right amount of embellishment and exploration to keep things interesting but tame enough to be listened to again and again. Bandleader and singer Adam Granduciel croons effortlessly in the likes of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, or Bruce Springsteen, bringing us reverb-smothered Americana and futuristic folk grooves. The odd presence of synth might sound initially awkward, but it quickly becomes acclimated to the songs and contributes to the album’s airy atmosphere. Even more intrinsic to ‘Lost in the Dream’ though is the consistent presence of the telecaster guitar tone, run through lots of reverb and tremolo. The telecaster accompanied by a glowing Wurlitzer on “suffering” might just be the musical equivalent to watching warm syrup being poured over a tall stack of steaming pancakes. Yes, I said it, Sonic Soul Food. And the butter on the pancakes is Granduciel’s Don Henley-esque vocal line, sitting sweetly on top of it. Analogous to the presence of the occasional synth is the fact that there are plenty of pre-programmed drum tracks, one of which is most prevalent on the dreamy, ‘An Ocean In Between the Waves.’ Probably the most admirable thing about The War on Drugs is their unafraid tendency to incorporate plenty of nostalgia in their sound (check out ‘Disappearing’). Their songs are introspective and don’t fail to capture the imagination or invoke emotion. They create wide sonic landscapes and profess calming lyricism that together composes the essence of their genuine songwriting; on ‘Eye’s to the Wind,’ Granduciel sings: “There’s a cold wind blowing down my old road, down the backstreets where the pines grow, as the river splits the undertow.” It’s dense, refreshing, and stimulating, blending sentimentality with the vitality of heartland rock. J CLIFFY

Recommended Tracks: "Under the Pressure", “Red Eyes”, “Lost in the Dream”

KXSC Fest with DJ Rashad + DJ Spinn with special guest JESSY LANZA is TODAY!

Head on over to Founders Park for great music, food trucks, art instillation, and awesome vendors!

Check out the facebook event here and is you are not a USC student, make sure to register on our eventbrite!

KXSC Fest Art: Animated Balloon Installations by Radha Vishnubhotla and USC animation Students

Radha Vishnubhotla, KXSC’s graphic designer and a USC animation student, is creating a live installation of two 8-foot balloons. A variety of original student animation work, some of her own work + misc. artwork + movie footage provided from other students will be projected onto both balloons. This is a fun and interactive piece to look forward to, and this is the first time we’ve had a live animation installation at KXSC fest! Get excited!

-Rahda Vishnubhotla, Graphic Designer

KXSC Fest Art: Projection Mapping by VT Productions, Lindsey Townley + Yoyo Lin

VT Productions will be projection mapping around the stage area. VT Production Design works in turn key, full fledge production: audio and lighting, projection mapping, and interactive video for live shows and events. They did the projection mapping downtown for New Years as well as many other large live show events. Lindsey Townley and Yoyo Lin, interns at VT and animation students at USC, are creating the material and will head the installation and building process as well as VJing (video-jockeying) some of their own animation material. 

-Radha Vishnubhotla, Graphic Designer

Chicago producers DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn (real names Rashad Harden and Morris Harper) have found themselves in an enviable position as international ambassadors of Chicago footwork. Over the past few years, the frequent collaborators have been bringing their idiosyncratic brand of dance music to locales as exotic as Tokyo, Switzerland, and Romania. This is remarkable considering footwork’s deep-rooted history in the South and West Sides of Chicago, where dance crews gather in rec centers and warehouses to let their feet fly in a battle for supremacy. Rashad and Spinn both cut their teeth at these venues, cranking out five or six tunes per day to use at the next clash.

That astounding prolificacy seems slightly less imposing when you consider the relatively minimal number of musical elements that constitute a basic footwork track. Archetypal footworking music commands a raw urgency that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else, but many tracks adhere to a fairly rigorous set of conventions. The seminal work of RP Boo, often cited as the first footwork producer, established a template that followers would soon build from. His track “11-47-99” (aka “the Godzilla track” aka “Heavy Heat” aka “Another RP Track”) contains all the requisite ingredients: the stuttering, criss-crossed samples sliced and diced beyond recognition, the 808 pattern limping along on its syncopated death march, the throbbing bass pulse lurking like a monster beneath the floorboards. Apart from the 400 or so footwork dancers currently living in Chicago, most listeners would characterize these sounds as bizarre, undanceable, or downright terrifying.

Although Rashad and Spinn made names for themselves by meeting the genre on its own terms (“Reverb” is a particularly nasty Rashad cut that basically eschews any and all reference points to the canon of Western music), their true genius lies in their ongoing effort to push the sound in fresh, innovative directions. For these guys, footwork is a guiding principle rather than a strict formula. With releases like TEKLIFE Vol. 2 and the Rollin’ EP, Rashad and Spinn are searching beyond Chicago for inspiration – their recent output may not be particularly well-suited for battle circles, but it does represent entirely new modes of expression and a transcendence of “real” footwork’s austerity in favor of greater accessibility. To date, the culmination of this approach is Rashad’s full-length album Double Cup, released last fall on Hyperdub to rave reviews. Working with Spinn on several tracks, Rashad integrates stylistic reference points from soul, acid house, and G-funk with footwork’s trademark restlessness to craft a collection of party starters, stomach churners, and heart breakers. Plenty of these tracks contain earworm vocal hooks, which become even more hypnotic as Rashad playfully unspools them bit by bit. “Only One”, a virtuosic display featuring Spinn and fellow Teklifer DJ Taso, finds Rashad operating at the peak of his technical abilities.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Rashad and Spinn’s trajectory has been the degree of emotional nuance they’ve managed to coax from the building blocks of footwork. The collaboration “Let Me Baby” is likely as close as we’ll get to a footwork slow jam, featuring an alluring male voice (currently unidentified despite my frantic Googling) floating over a typically smoky chord progression from Spinn. Their Double Cup track “Let U No” is equally sensual, as a well-worn sample of Floetry’s “Say Yes” glides effortlessly through a gauntlet of percussion - like a ballerina weaving through a swarm of Hitchcock’s birds.

However, nothing compares to “Let It Go”, Rashad’s masterpiece-to-date from last year’s Rollin’ EP. A rhythmic confluence of footwork and jungle (the genre’s distant cousin from the UK), the track is moving in hyperspeed from the get-go, but the fluidity and grace of the drum pattern inspires hypnosis rather than agitation. The effect is similar to the ruminative state one enters when looking out a bus window, particularly as a pulsating string sample enters the mix and quivers with yearning. The song’s title is howled in desperation throughout, an ambiguous plea that allows the listener to conjure his or her own “it” to let go: sadness, anger, love, guilt, obsession. It is a humanist hymn, one that celebrates our agency to control our outlook on life yet recognizes the difficulty in overcoming our emotional burdens. That it manages to convey this sentiment in so few words is a testament to Rashad’s intuition as a composer. There are no wasted elements here, and each sample radiates with an unimaginable potency as it gets whipped up into Rashad’s tornado of drums and distress. Let’s hear the wickedly talented Adele Dazeem top that.

After years of touring the globe, DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn will bring their singular style of dance music to the USC campus. I’m pretty sure this is the first time footwork has ever been featured here at the university, unless Springfest booked RP Boo to open for Blink-182 in the late 90’s or something.  Expect to hear favorites from Double Cup as well as some killer reworks of popular hip-hop tracks, like the duo’s version of G.O.O.D. Music’s “Mercy”. Be warned that footworking in the Annenberg Bowl may be more difficult than footworking on level ground, so use caution when stepping into the circle. See you on March 29th.

-Zach, Music Director, Negative Fun

Together PANGEA at BURGERAMA III, featuring endless crowd surfers.

burgerrecords togetherpangea