[Album Review] Johnny Astro – Zeus: Chapter 1 Astrology

zeus

As a music lover, I took a long departure from the world of hip hop. In high school, you’d often find me cruising around, bumping Wu Tang’s Enter the 36 Chambers of Death or Picture This from Chi-town’s Do or Die. Something about the the combination between lyrical creativity and unique variations in flow seemed to capture my attention at the age of 16, and there wasn’t really much that could take me away from that.

As I grew older, my love for booming bass and intricate word play faded. While my affinity for hip hop was never gone, it was never quite what it had once been. Finding solace in complicated timing signatures found in math rock, or the simplistic nature of a folk singer possessing nothing more than an acoustic guitar, my tastes evolved over the years, slowly straying away from what I had once loved.

At the age of 30, I’m as well rounded as I’ve ever been. Delving back into hip hop, I have the pleasure of exploring some of the lesser known artists, steering clear of the garbage spewed on the radio on a day to day basis. One up and coming artist that I’ve come to truly appreciate is Arlington based Johnny Astro.

Bravely infusing blogosphere smash hits into his beats, this young Texan does what so many young EDM producers do, by grabbing indie tunes and flipping the script. In his most recent release, Zeus: Chapter 1 Astrology, Astro has some flawless sampling for those well-rounded music lovers to grasp onto.

In the lead track, we’re left in awe listening to Ry X’s “Berlin,” which devastated the internet with it’s stunning vocals and intense simplicity. Racking up over 1.1 million plays, this tune boasts a difficult task when looking at re-working. Astro does so with undeniable ease, pairing up his flow with each percussion hit, proving he’s not intimidated to take on challenging feats.

One of our other favorite tracks in this newly released project is “Wonderful Life”, which features a other-worldly sound, rife with delicate yet clashing harp work, leaving the listener charmed with the elevated lyrical journey that Astro brings to the table. What comes to fruition is a perfect jam for a nice set of subs and some open road.

The independent hip hop scene is alive and well in the blogosphere, and one thing is for certain: Mr. Astro is here to represent Texas in this online realm of music.

Astrology
Wonderful Life
Athena
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[NEW] PARTYNEXTDOOR – Recognize (Feat. Drake)

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PARTYNEXTDOOR
Recognize Feat. Drake

With Majid Jordan set to drop their debut EP (A Place Like This) next week, and PARTYNEXTDOOR announcing the release of PARTYNEXTDOOR TWO on July 29th (the follow-up to last year’s self-titled PARTYNEXTDOOR), Drake‘s OVO Sound imprint is finally starting to take shape. Teaming up with his label head for the only feature on the project, the Toronto crooner crafts yet another slow-burning, 808-fueled R&B gem that fits right in with the brand’s aesthetic. Drizzy performs clean up duties on the track, swooping in with a smooth verse at the end that details his plans for impressing his female partner. The single serves as a perfect teaser for the upcoming project, and we’re definitely excited to hear what PARTY has in store for us at the end of this month.

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[Beach Music] Vybz Kartel x Daytrip – Up To The Crime

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Vybz Kartel x Daytrip
Up To The Crime

It seems as if Daytrip has still been stuck in Jamaica… I sincerely hope they’re okay, because last time I checked they were only there temporarily. Maybe Vybz Kartel convinced them that Jamaican gardens are better, or they just were blown away from the beaches. Whatever it may be, this new song between Vybz Kartel x Daytrip is banging. This may go up in the afternoon, but I am writing this at 7:45 am. If you’re looking for a track to take you to the beach, then this is the perfect track. I have had my eyes on Daytrip for a hot minute, and they are by far the most underrated duo at the moment. If you don’t believe me about the beach part, you can email me and I will send you a receipt of my taxi. Talk to you Ninjas later, until then I’ll be soaking up the sun in beautiful Florida!

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Aer – Whatever We Want (Video)

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Aer
Whatever We Want

Since releasing their self-titled second album in January, Aer have been busy selling out shows and earning themselves spots at major music festivals, Outside Lands being the most recent announcement. Earlier this week, the Boston-bred, genre-fusing duo released some visuals for one of our favorite songs from the album, “Watever We Want,” and they come right in time for summer. The video takes David and Carter back in time with Adidas jumpsuits among other hilarious outfits as they trash a house with some ferocious looking dogs. The fun and goofy feel match the song’s positive energy making it perfect for a sunny Saturday afternoon, as always with Aer. Enjoy the video below and make sure to check our exclusive interview with Aer from a few months back to learn some more about these up ‘n comers.

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Get to know Denver’s UMS – 7/24-7/27 [Interview and Showcase Playlist]

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We’ve been proponents of underground artists for as long as we’ve been in existence. In all honesty, we get more of a thrill from reading a submission with a subject line like, “Debut song from indie/folk artist from the UK,” than we do from something like, “Mega superstar announces 1,000,000 city tour.” There’s a certain excitement in showcasing an up-and-coming artist that simply can’t be obtained from any other type of music review.

The Underground Music Showcase (better known as The UMS) shares this affinity for what most call “Hipster One-Upping” by continually bringing in top-notch, lesser-known, independent acts for nearly a decade and a half. Starting out in a single venue, this showcase has grown tremendously, to the point where it now aggressively takes over a stretch of Denver’s most coveted neighborhoods, turning it  into a four-day music festival.

We had a chance to catch up with one of the organizers, Kendall Smith of The Denver Post, who dropped some knowledge on how this thing started, whom he’s excited to see personally, and what this musical frenzy goes to benefit.

TMN: Thank you for taking some time to speak with us today. We’re less than two weeks out from The UMS, how are things coming along so far?
You bet. The clock seems to have sped up, but things are shaping up nicely. We keep improving every year. This year looks to be no exception.

TMN: Talk to us about the origins of this festival. It’s going into it’s 14th year, correct?

That is correct. The UMS was started by John Moore, formerly of The Denver Post. He wanted to showcase a few local bands he thought weren’t getting the attention they deserved. It started as a one night, one venue event. Eventually, the pop music critic for The Denver Post, Ricardo Baca, took it over, moved it to South Broadway and created the multi day, multi venue model it currently operates under. John and Ricardo are brilliant, passionate and talented men. I am a fortunate person to have worked with them both.

TMN: You’re bringing in artists from all over the world, including one of our current favorites, The Griswolds. How do you go about selecting your worldwide and national underground talent?

We have an awesome talent acquisition team led by James Irvine. James is the founder of Holy Underground and also books Larimer Lounge. We met The Griswolds through our efforts down in Austin during SXSW. The UMS produces a day party for our pals at Reverb every year. The Griswolds played this past year and turned in a burner of a set.

TMN: Some people may not know this, but this festival benefits the Denver Post Community Foundation. How did this partnership come to be and what types of causes does it support in the metro area?

When the festival was brought in house at The Denver Post, the decision was made to add it to the portfolio of Signature Events offered by The Denver Post Community Foundation. Net proceeds of the event are distributed to local non-profits to support of programs that benefit children, the arts, literacy and education and the provision of basic human services.

This year, we have two charitable partners. The first, a youth facing organization, Youth on Record, is a long time partner of The UMS. Our second, and a new partner this year, is an artist facing organization, MusiCares, a nonprofit arm of The Recording Academy.

TMN: Most festivals/showcases try to bring in those marquis artists that will sell tickets. You guys do exactly the opposite of that, providing music lovers with a glimpse into some lesser known bands. What are some of the struggles with putting on a show like this?

How much time do you have? Kidding aside, the core mission of The UMS is to showcase the vast talent we have in this region while also growing the audience for the local scene. We hope through our efforts, we continue to build trust. Trust with fans that the quality of the bands is going to be great. Trust with national booking managers that The UMS will a great look for them in Denver.

TMN: Denver seems to be a hotbed for all different types of music, filling up a sizable number of venues week to week. Aside from the obvious notable venues (Red Rocks, Fillmore, Beta Nightclub) what are some of your favorite spots to catch a show?

We are so lucky in this town. There are so many great rooms. I love the Gothic, hi-dive and Larimer Lounge. I recently saw a pretty rad Devo show at Summitt Music Hall and Colorado Springs has a pretty terrific new room at Ivywild.

TMN: What’s the one venue at UMS that everyone should check out, if they haven’t already?

All of them! Four days is plenty of time. I encourage everyone to check out the Main Stage this year. We have moved next door to Security Service Federal Credit Union and have made some upgrades to the stage and infrastructure. It’s going to be great!

TMN: What artist are you most looking forward to checking out this year?

I love and hate this question. I love the lineup this year, but we get so busy running things I just don’t ever plan on being able to see anybody in particular. My best bets are usually to see some of the main stage acts. Should a happy accident occur whereby I am in the right place at the right time and get to see any one of Ark Life, A Tom Collins, Eros and the Eschaton, Dragondeer or Roadkill Ghost Choir, I will be way pleased.

TMN: If you had to describe this event in three words, what would they be?

Music. Community. Goodness.

TMN: Thanks for your time! We can’t wait for the showcase July 24-27.

Thank you! See you on South Broadway!

HEADLINERS

Real Estate
Crime
Blonde Redhead
People Under The Stairs
Acid Raindrops

TMN’S PICKS

The Griswolds
The Beware the Dog
GEMS ≠ Scars
Brother Tiger
This Must Be the Place (Talking Heads Cover)
Miniature Tigers
Used To Be The Shit
Native Daughters
GDS
Speedwolf
Up All Night
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Ffunny Ffrends
Baths
Miasma Sky
Hillary Hand
Tameless Tongues
American Tomahawk
Do Not
Kyle James Hauser
Maria
Goodnight, Texas
Santa Cruz
Fort Frances
Chicago
Heart Attack
Lions & Lambs EP
Rose Quartz
Scarves
RUMTUM
Alona
Mosis
Where It Was
Keepers
Hello (Original Mix)
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[Hip-Hop] Lucki Eck$ – Finesse (Prod. Skywlkr)

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Lucki Eck$
Finesse (prod. SKYWLKR)

Last summer, Chi-town emcee Lucki Eck$ dropped his debut mixtape, Alternative Trap, a hazy, collection of songs that caught the attention of the hip-hop blogosphere and earned him a dedicated following. Although his brand of rhymes is not particularly original in subject matter, generally covering drug consumption/distribution and women, Lucki’s approach provides new layers of depth far more focused on his psyche than the boastful repetition that has become the rap industry standard.

Gearing up for his sophomore project, Body High, the young artist took to Twitter to release an early glimpse into the project. The appropriately titled “Finesse” features ethereal production from regular Danny Brown collaborator, Skywlkr, over which Eck$ spits his signature subtle, druggy delivery. Zone out to this one above and keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming mixtape due out on July 18th–you won’t want to sleep on Lucki.

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The Evolution of Asher Roth [TMN Exclusive Interview]

RetroHash
Asher Paul Roth
Tangerine Girl (prod. Blended Babies)

For about as long as the arts have existed, creative individuals have been forced to toe the line between commercial success and unrestricted artistic freedom. In contemporary music, going too far in one direction leads to the label of “sell out,” while the other end of the spectrum is categorized as “too experimental”–it is a nearly impossible balance to achieve.

In 2009, a 24-year old Asher Roth released a song titled “I Love College” that catapulted him into the mainstream placing him squarely at this intersection. With a record deal in place, everything was set for Roth to reach material success as long as he was willing to concede that releases like his first big hit were definitive of him as a musician. Five years later, Asher independently released his first studio album since 2009, RetroHash, and it is truly a reflection of the creative, liberating journey he has taken since his initial success. The genre-encompassing project, filled with positive summer vibes, captures the incredible energy of a spirit freed. We were lucky enough to chat with Asher Roth, someone who has decided to pave his own path, about his truly fascinating evolution, both as a person and an artist. Grab a copy of RetroHash on iTunes and check out Asher’s upcoming tour dates on his website.

TMN: First of all, thanks so much for taking the time to chat today. I’m really looking forward to this conversation because, to be honest, I listened to RetroHash when it first dropped and it kind of blew me away in terms what you did with it and how you’ve grown as an artist.

Asher Roth: Very cool, man. Thank you.

TMN: So, let’s rewind a few years back because you’ve had such a unique career trajectory—I hear you describe it as a ’Benjamin Button experience.’ Take us back to when you first linked up with Scooter [Braun] and just how fast everything happened leading up to the release of Asleep in the Bread Aisle?

Asher: I just remember when Scooter called [Tom] Boyd, who’s a close friend, and we had a Facebook fan page with like 40 people on there and Boyd had his number on there. [Scooter] called him saying, “This is the most important phone call your boy’s every going to get.” You know Boyd runs over and we started talking. Anybody that knows Scooter knows he’s a talker—he’s a charming young man. So, next thing you know, we had moved ourselves down to Atlanta. And that’s literally what it felt like, you know. After that conversation, Boyder, myself and Brain [Bangley] moved ourselves down to Atlanta to be in it and amongst it. Because as fun and loving as Westchester is, and Pennsylvania in general, to really kind of do it you have to immerse yourself in it. So we moved ourselves down to Atlanta, put together The GreenHouse Effect mixtape, and kind of on the tail of that mixtape, ‘I Love College’ was written and put out on MySpace.

No album was in the works—it wasn’t like we had a whole album together and ‘I Love College’ was going to be the first single. With that record we were like, “yeah, it’s cute. This is fun and all, but this song sucks. you know what I mean?” [Laughs] It just blew up and that’s when I ended up linking with my buddy Orin (of Blended Babies]. And just trying to make sense of ‘I Love College’ and build an album around it which ultimately became Asleep in the Bread Aisle. And, you know, as that happened, I dealt with some politics through the Universal system with that album. I felt like I made a “responsible record.” We did the best we could do with the hand we were dealt. Just a lot of the promises and expectations, from a structure standpoint, didn’t get met. And that was my first red flag of, “this is an interesting business.”

So, my next step after that was Seared Foie Gras with Quince & Cranberry because I was starting to see the perspective that people didn’t really know me.

I was polarized because of one record and people were like, “that’s who Asher is.” And I hadn’t actually had a proper introduction. First impressions are everything, and for me, it has been quite the journey of properly introducing myself rather than, you know, one side of me. I don’t know many people that don’t like to have a drink, and dance, and be around females, and have a good time. But to say that’s all somebody is—for someone who wants to be here, and isn’t necessarily trying to cash out on the music business, but more so be appreciative of the opportunity to make music—it stung a little bit. So, ever since then, I’ve wanted to step back from the business side of things and make music that felt right.

TMN: Back to the present, RetroHash is your first studio album since Asleep in the Bread Aisle, and the career moves in that time have been insane. You signed with David Sitek’s Federal Prism

Asher: You know, that actually didn’t it happen—it got falsely reported. Dave Sitek is the homie, I love that dude. We did ‘Apples and Bananas’ together, and we released that as a single. For some reason, it got reported that we were putting out a whole album together. Dave Sitek is a close homie, we definitely make music together, but RetroHash was self-released.

TMN: Ah, I did not know that. I’m glad you clarified, because the internet is completely misinformed on that one (Roth was listed on Federal Prism’s roster on their website). Everywhere I looked, it said that was the label.

Asher: Yeah, it’s a trip that you can go on someone’s Wikipedia and it can be actually wrong! [Laughs]

TMN: As far as releasing an album independently, what was it like in terms of the creative control you got as compared with when you working on Asleep in the Bread Aisle? Like you said, it was kind of a safer record. How did that impact the sound of your music and the comfortability in the studio?

 Asher: Ah dude, it was awesome. And its not like we ever felt like we were making an album, you know what I mean? It’s not like we were like, “what’s the single going to be,” or “let’s write a song for the girls.” That never happened. We were just making music, we had pillars and were like, “this is cool, that’s cool. Let’s keep going.” Next thing we knew, we had a batch of songs and we just wanted to put them out. People have kind of been like, “where’ve you been for the last five years?” And, truth be told, I’ve been untangling myself from this web. Instead of digging ourselves in deeper and trying to fulfill contracts, I’ve kind of been patient, asked nicely, been very respectful. I didn’t shit on anybody on the way up and I didn’t shit on anybody on the way down. When it got down to the point when it was like, “Asher do you know what you want to do,” I said, “Yes, I’d just like to leave my contract and wipe the slate clean.” And I feel like musically as well, RetroHash has let me do that.
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