Iggy Azalea Delivers Danceable Inspiration on ‘The New Classic’

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By  Chelsea Whitaker

Iggy Azalea‘s days of “no money, no family, 16 in the middle of Miami” may be gone – replaced with runway shows and magazine spreads – but her past is far from forgotten. On her first full-length album, The New Classic, allusions to the struggle are sandwiched between cocky punchlines and personal anecdotes, leaving the listener inspired and empowered – something rare for any rapper, let alone a blonde girl from Australia.

Iggy has always struggled to find her niche, between rap, pop, EDM and reggae. She was, and still is, an outsider; She makes music for artsy kids and the club girls. Her spitfire persona flips between blonde bombshell and music nerd (with a big dollop of hustler swag thrown in), making her the perfect icon for wanna-be queens, drama kids, dreamers, and everyone in between. Her struggle was to find that core sound. Her rapping skills have always been on point (Iggy was the first female XXL freshman) but her production was missing that magical mass appeal her superstar lyrics deserved. The New Classic changes all that.

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Kelis Bares Her Soul on ‘Food’

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By Chelsea Whitaker

I’ve been impressed by Kelis since I heard her sing the hook to Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Got Your Money”. She was dripping in attitude, giving the track the vocal equivalent of a side-eye. Kelis moved on to find a distinct niche as top songstress of The Neptunes, who brought a unique playfulness to her hit songs “Milkshake” and “Caught Out There”.

It’s been 11 years since “Milkshake” permeated clubs and block parties. Kelis has released two albums since then, but neither of them truly recapture the magic of her debut album Kaleidoscope. By staying in the public eye throughout her divorce from Nas she was present but not musically relevant – and his song about her did not help. With the release of a new album, Kelis offers a departure from her past by embracing a vintage sound.

Kelis delivers a soul-drenched take on all types of nourishment on her sixth studio album, Food.  Kelis appears as a soulful kitchen goddess, and does so while keeping her sound toe-tappingly upbeat. This sound is a departure from her previous albums, and is deeply influenced by producer Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio. The result is a blend of deep yet mellow tracks perfect for any cookout or dinner party. [Read more...]

Thievery Corporation ‘Saudade’ Transcends and Transports

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Words by Amelia Viner

It’s dusk. The sun sits on the skyline and its glow radiates on the water. You watch the sun sink into the horizon from your chair as you tap your strappy tan heels on the restaurant’s cobble stone. The bartender hands you a Caipirinha and you sip it slowly, drumming your fingertips on the glass, still looking at the sunset.

You stand up and close your eyes, start to sway–maybe because you’re tipsy, but mostly because “Décollage” by Thievery Corporation has just come on. It streams into the outdoor space like a soft rain and you can’t help but drift with it. You let the gentle French phrases by Lou Lou Ghelichkani, the humidity, and the sweet drink carry you into a calming trance as you glide past the gleaming bodies to the dance floor.

Saudade, Thievery Corporation’s seventh studio album, has the power to transport you here– to a Brazilian city you may have never been to, yet may feel more comforting than anywhere you’ve ever been or dreamt of. Saudade’s strings and Latin claves blend with the gentle hum of the restaurant; the clinking of wine glasses and plates combine to create a spontaneous live accompaniment. And that drink in your hand, the Caipirinha, is one of Brazil’s cultural symbols. It is constantly being reinvented with varying ingredients. Just as the sum of its parts can morph into something new yet preserve its authenticity, so too can Thievery Corporation’s blended sound revisit its first love in Saudade: bossa nova.

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SZA Weaves Dreams on ‘Z’

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Words by Chelsea Whitaker

I have been following SZA since she first appeared on my Soundcloud feed, and I have been hopefully watching her career from the first TDE cosign to her performance with Kendrick Lamar at the Grammys. She is the type of artist who is unique enough to root for, and down to earth enough to relate to. Her debut album, Z, has been anticipated as both a continuation and expansion of her trademark sound. And without fail, SZA’s done just that with the mixture of her soulful vocals and eclectic selection of guest emcees; Z is a genre bending journey that excels at transporting my mind to a dreamy and emotional space at any given moment.

The project is filled with buoyant and lilting soundscapes, with much praise due to the creative, diverse, and layered production. Features from her TDE family abound, with Isaiah Rashad and Kendrick Lamar making appearances. One of the best pairings is with Chance the Rapper for “Childs Play”, where SZA sings “Ripping the heads off of my barbie dolls, toss em to the side” over an XXYYXX sample. We all know that feeling, and Chance punctuates her poetic lyrics with allusions to Pusha T: “Keys open doors when the keys are albino”. Their combined effect is a song that feels like a faded Polaroid of a relationship.

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Album Review: Lake Street Dive – ‘Bad Self Portraits’

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Words by Amelia Viner

In this dangerously charming medley of pop rock, soul, and folk jazz, Lake Street Dive concocts a spirited brew of love’s fruits and afflictions. Bad Self Portraits is the band’s second full-length album after their 2011 self-titled debut and their 2012 EP, Fun Machine, a collection of cover songs.

Rachael Price’s distinct jazz vocal stands out immediately. Timeless and almost overpowering at first, her vocal performance is rich with conviction and a fiery pizazz which makes it impossible to pull away.

Bad Self Portraits appeals to our untamed, feisty sides with uptempo pulses and pop-heavy shimmy shakes. In their first ever TV performance on The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert describes Lake Street Dive as a mix of “pop, jazz, and swing with a little bit of bluegrass.” While spritely, Bad Self Portraits also caters to our weary, love-ridden souls with its ooohs and ahhhs, occasionally exhaling into bluesy, contemplative sighs.

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