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Amir Obè Back With “None of the Clocks Work”

There’s a consensus in hip-hop that you only get one chance before that ephemeral thing called buzz dissipates. But then there’s Amir Obè, who proves there are, in fact, second chances.

It’s a rainy Tuesday at the World of McIntosh on Lafayette Street. The invite-only townhouse — funded by the luxury audio brand — features five sprawling floors that include an indoor pool, gourmet kitchen, and outdoor terrace. Tonight, Def Jam Records executives and staff have gathered media and scenesters to celebrate None of the Clocks Work, Obè’s first EP since signing to the label in December 2016. “I really want to thank Def Jam for supporting the vision and really seeing things that might have seemed far-fetched,” Obè says, introducing his new work.

For the 27-year-old rapper-singer (born Amir Obeid), the pomp and circumstance of the evening must feel like a déjà vu of sorts. Back in 2009, Obè was in New York City, deciding between the Fashion Institute of Technology or Parsons School of Design for college, when Atlantic Records signed him based on the MySpace presence he’d created under the moniker Phreshy Duzit. “I got a deal pretty quickly, so that switched my route [away from college],” he explains on the phone a few days after the Def Jam event. But things never really panned out with the label, and Obè retreated to the indie scene for years.

It wasn’t until 2014 that he got his next break, when he dropped his stage name and released the mixtape Detrooklyn. Named for both his native Detroit and his new home of Brooklyn, the tape featured several nods to the five boroughs, such as “Jay Z, Kanye, Esco” and “Drugs & Cam’ron.” It also nabbed the attention of Drake’s manager, Oliver El-Khatib, who linked Obè with the superstar.

Drake’s co-sign came at an opportune time, just when Obè was considering ending what was, at that point, a fledgling career. “We were trying to get over a hump,” he says of himself and Detrooklyn producer NYLZ. “We were a little frustrated, just how we weren’t being received. It could’ve been my last project. . . . It was big for my confidence that Drake reached out at that time, like, ‘I love your project.’ ” Eventually, connecting with Drake brought Obè a higher profile: He coproduced the track “Star67” from Drake’s 2015 release, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, and opened for the rapper’s protégé PartyNextDoor on the road.

Two years later, Obè’s finally emerging as his own artist. “It’s all been a growth process,” he says, “as far as, like, learning new things melodically and sonically [and] being in a way more mature state.” Despite his now-sizable Rolodex, Obè decided to rely solely upon original collaborator NYLZ to write, record, and produce his new EP. “We knew exactly what we wanted to create when we went to the studio,” he says.

The seven-song project oozes with dark synths and drowned-out vibes. “Wonder why you ain’t called yet/Borderline alcoholic/I’m trippin’ but I ain’t fall yet,” he moans on the opener “Free”; later on the track, he puffs out his chest: “Privacy, I just need privacy/None of you bitches acknowledge me/I’m still waitin’ on apologies.” “Naturally” is an airy passive-aggressive breakup song: “Tryna find some songs to relate to/Tryna find excuses to hate you/Ain’t no makeup out here gonna make you/And ain’t no breakup with me gonna break you.”

A palpable melancholy courses throughout the EP, but Obè won’t cop to any one thing—or person—having inspired it. Instead, he wants listeners to go on their own emo trips. “I don’t like telling [people] what the songs are about,” he says. “People have their own relationships and the songs can hit so close to home for them. I want them to apply to [them] their own lifestyles and create their own narrative based on what they feel.”

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The 50 Best Magnetic Fields Songs: A Playlist

The Magnetic Fields’ highly literal 69 Love Songs is the band’s definitive work; over three discs and yes, 69 songs, Stephin Merritt dabbles in every convention and cliché in the love-song-writing book, often deconstructing, rebuilding, and turning each on its head. So it was only mildly surprising when he announced that in celebration of his 50th birthday, he would be releasing 50 Song Memoir, an album featuring a song for each of his 50 years on earth.

The recordings won’t see the light of day until 2017, but this weekend he’s gifting them, in two parts, to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He’s bringing along an expanded band and 50 instruments from his personal collection, and the two-night residency breaks up the 50 songs into two parts, with the first 25 performed tonight (12/2), and the back 25 on Saturday (12/3).

Over the Magnetic Fields’ 25-year lifespan, Merrit has dabbled in concepts large (69 Love Songs) and small (House of Tomorrow), gone all-acoustic (Realism) or specifically electric (Distortion), and handled folk (Distant Plastic Trees) as elegantly as electronic pop (The Charm of the Highway Strip). To celebrate his bonanza of all things 50, we’ve collected our own 50 favorite Magnetic Fields moments ranked starting with the best, 1994’s “Strange Powers,” from Holiday. Stream below or on Spotify and keep an ear peeled for 50 Song Memoir next year.

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Free Download: “My Little Match” by Dreamers

Grunge-y Brooklynites Dreamers have an album titled This Album Does Not Exist due later this fall and a hefty history of being an opening act for some killer bands. This upcoming Monday, September 8, Dreamers will be playing the latest free w/ RSVP ‘School Night’ show at Brooklyn Bowl alongside Mainland, Hi Ho Silver Ho, and Jake B (DJ Set). RSVP here.

Prior to this show, we are happy to give away free downloads of their catchy single “My Little Match,” available after the jump.

The Oral History of NYC’s Metal/Hardcore Crossover
The 50 Most NYC Albums Ever
NYC’s Top 10 Rising Female-Fronted Bands

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Mac Miller Rallies Hip-Hop Cognoscenti for Blue Slide Park

Mac Miller
Quad Recording Studios
Wednesday, October 27

Better than: Waiting until 11/8/2011

“Turn it up loud because I like to listen to it loud,” Mac Miller gleefully prefaced as his debut album blared over the speakers. Joint in hand–sometimes alternated with a bottle of champagne–and cloaked in a hooded sweatshirt with a pair of slide sandals with socks, the wunderkind known for goofy lyrics about mogul Donald Trump and turkey sandwiches previewed Blue Slide Park (slated for 11/8/2011 release) to a small group of hip-hop journalists and influencers last night at Quad Recording Studios.

Symbolically speaking (not so much acoustically), the plush lounge space served as an ideal venue for the burgeoning Pittsburgh rapper’s fare; Quad Recording Studios has long been a fertile breeding ground imbued with musical history from 2Pac’s infamous 1994 shooting to the countless notables who have recorded there like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. The multitude of accolades and plaques adorning the studio’s walls seem more decoration now than anything and hearken back to better, seemingly obsolete times. Nine platinum plaques (signifying nine million sales) from Ace of Base’s debut The Sign for instance, glistened visibly on the wall. Tet we can only imagine how our favorite Swedish foursome would fare in the present-day musical mélange.

A rare collegial geniality pervaded the room and à la the opening theme to Cheers–it really felt that everyone knew each other. Fraternal love however proved both enjoyable and very maddening and greatly impeded the critical listening experience. Above the din of beer bottle caps being dislodged, crunchy pretzels being munched, marijuana not-so-surreptitiously being passed, and journalists wheeling and dealing future pitch ideas, I strained to actually listen to music.

Distractions aside, Blue Slide Park sounded pretty good; it’s fun, upbeat and teeming with youthful vigor. The jumpy single “Frick Park Market” and the teen anthem-ready “Loitering” were standout cuts and featured the suburban playfulness Mac has artfully honed completely with shout-outs to “chillin’ in the playground” and Adderall name checks. The album is devoid of guest appearances, refreshing for a neophyte, aside from instrumentation from Mansions on the Moon and a small handful of others (Mac also mans the guitar on some tracks). The rapper explained to me afterward that he forewent collaborations to keep the album self-focused and thereby avoid relying on anyone but himself for the album’s success or lack thereof.

It’s easy to downplay Mac Miller as the proverbial pesky little brother or to glob him into the ever-growing ‘another white rapper’ menagerie, but there’s budding talent here that hints at a career well past quippy one-liners. Blue Slide Park is a debut worth a listen (preferably in quieter settings) and heck, he already has The Donald’s stamp of approval.

Critical bias: Wearing slide sandals with socks ranks up there as one of the most heinous fashion violations in my book. Mac Miller, consider this your first citation.

Overheard I: “This is excellent Bar Mitzvah music”–attendee musing over the sonic possibilities of Blue Slide Park.

Overheard II: “Don’t fucking record anything or [manager] Benjy will kill you… He’s willing to commit his first murder for this shit”–Mac Miller admonishing attendees from recording music from the listening.

Random notebook dump: Quad Recording Studios peculiarly still touts 2Pac as a client. All publicity is good publicity, right?

Track list:
 
(per iTunes)
1. “English Lane”
2. “Blue Slide Park”
3. “Party On Fifth Ave.”
4. “PA Nights”
5. “Frick Park Market”
6. “Smile Back”
7. “Under The Weather”
8. “Of The Soul”
9. “My Team”
10. “Up All Night”
11. “Loitering”
12. “Hole In My Pocket”
13. “Diamonds & Gold”
14. “Missed Calls”
15. “Man In The Hat”
16. “One Last Thing”

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Hear Björk’s Gorgeous, Hypnotic “Crystalline”

Over the weekend Björk released “Crystalline,” the first peek at her forthcoming iPad-app-slash-album Biophilia, which is slated to land on tablets and in stores and in various other places around the world in September. It opens with delicate chimes and the Icelandic singer’s unmistakeable voice before spiraling out into something harder—yet the glimmer of the music-box-light opening remains apparent throughout.

Biophilia-the-app-album-experience is intended to “[celebrate] how sound works in nature, exploring the infinite expanse of the universe, from planetary systems to atomic structure,” according to the press release that accompanied its announcement last month. In Jon Pareles’ lengthy thinkpiece about cloud-based music that ran in this weekend’s Times Arts section, Björk noted that said celebration of the universe will involve humans, as well, and because of that the way “Crystalline” sounds above isn’t necessarily going to be the way it always sounds to Biophilia listeners: “I definitely wanted the songs to be a spatial experience, where you can play with lightning or a crystal or the full moon and the song changes,” she told Pareles via email. “I would like to feel the apps are equal to the song in the same way I have always aimed for the music video to be equal to the song: the 1+1 is 3 thing. Not that it works every time, but you have to aim for it.”

Björk will premiere Biophilia tonight in Manchester, and one would think that a major advantage of the app-experience offered by the album is that it can’t be replicated by low-quality YouTube clips trickling out three months before its release. (Yes, she’s requesting that people keep their cameras in their pockets, but there’s always that one person who is such a fan that she doesn’t care about the artist’s wishes.)

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Radiohead’s New Song “Staircase” Has Its Ups And Downs

This morning Radiohead premiered “Staircase,” a moody, somewhat noodly track with a bouncing bassline and drones buzzing past each other. The performance of “Staircase” was recorded during the filming of Radiohead’s forthcoming From The Basement episode, which premieres July 1 on the BBC; Radiohead will reportedly play The King of Limbs in full on the broadcast as well. Clip below.

Clive Deamer is assisting the band on drums, in case you were confused.

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Nirvana’s “Sliver” And “Dive” Get A Reggae Makeover

The reggae singer Little Roy takes on the A and B sides of Nirvana’s “Sliver”/”Dive” single, which is almost 21 years old as of this writing. Both covers are surprisingly enjoyable to listen to—raise your hand if your first reaction when hearing the phrase “reggae Nirvana cover” is the mental image of being trapped in a lousy college-town bar on open-mic night—but “Dive” is particularly revelatory, with Roy’s wail matching Kurt Cobain’s strangled wail quite effectively. The songs are available digitally now, and Ark Recordings is putting them out on a 7-inch later this month. [Hat tip to Jimmy A and Line Out.]

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The Rapture Serve Up A Peek At Their New Album And A Summer Friday Distraction

The first taste of the Rapture’s forthcoming album The Grace Of Your Love (DFA), the lengthy dance jam “How Deep Is Your Love?,” is not only pretty good—if you turn the lights in whatever room you’re in low enough and up the brightness on your monitor all the way, the video that doubles as the track’s official premiere vehicle can sorta make you feel like you’re in a club, and not sitting in front of a computer. Well-timed for a glacially moving summer Friday afternoon, no?

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Twin Sister’s Woozy “Bad Street” Is A Cool Song For A Hot Day

The Brooklyn quintet Twin Sister will release their first full-length In Heaven on September 27, but the first taste, the burbling, sugary “Bad Street,” is tailor-made for a steamy day like today. Lead singer Andrea Estella sweetly asks for her paramour to feed her stories and promises over a synth line that’s part Human League, part pitter-patter—when she says “I want it bad” over and over while the music simmers underneath, her infatuation is so audible it’s almost dizziness-inducing. (Also, maybe it’s just me, but I hear a bit of a callback to the intro for Neneh Cherry’s “Kisses On The Wind” in the vocal looped underneath said declaration?) Clip after the jump.

Twin Sister headlines Music Hall of Williamsburg on June 18 as part of the Northside Festival; Allo Darlin’, Ava Luna and Gabriel and the Hounds open.

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Listen To Two New Songs From Jamie xx

Jamie Smith—a.k.a. Jamie xx, of The xx and of collaborations with the late Gil Scott-Heron—has released his first single, “Far Nearer,” in both limited-edition vinyl and download form. The B-side, “Beat For,” is a chilly, downtempo track that could very easily soundtrack a spell of the spins, while the sun-dappled A-side sounds a bit like a scattered-on-the-ground remake of “My Girls” (some readers will probably nominate the song for Summer Jam status immediately after reading the description; I’m a bit more on the fence but will try to give the song a few more spins). Both tracks are streaming after the jump.

“Far Nearer”

“Beat For”