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With the recent popularity of Ishmael Butler’s group Shabazz Palaces, album club thought it would be a good idea to go back in time about 21 years to see where the legendary jazz rapper’s career began. Released in 1994, Blowout Comb is the second and final studio album of the jazz rap trio Digable Planets. The three members of the trio are Mecca (aka Ladybug), C-Know (aka Doodlebug), and Ish (aka Butterfly/Ishmael Butler/Palaceer Lazaro of Shabazz Palaces).
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Blowout Comb, which followed Reachin‘ (A New Refutation of Time and Space), opens with a blast from some dissonant horns the immediately inform the audience that they are listening a jazz-rap album. “Black Ego” then moves into anti-establishment brag raps, but it’s important to note how loud the beat is in comparison to vocals. The beat doesn’t act as just a backdrop to flow against; it acts as its own entity, as it seems that there was a 4th member of Digable Planets. The 4th member is Dave Darlington, who was the engineer of the album and was largely responsible for unifying the various live instruments and samples into a singular sound.

“Dog It” serves as an example as to how to perfectly execute a horn sample while bringing in 5 percenter imagery and more abstract lyrics. “Jettin'” is a major highlight of the album, with the music rhythmically panning to bounce off the left and right channels. This effect makes an already great track a surreal and memorable listen. Identity continues to play a big role in the lyrics of this track, with a memorable lines from Ish and Mecca: “Before I pop I’d rather die in baggy Guess and Timbs” and “No blue eyes to emulate”.

The album continues to impress as “Borough Check” references live freestyle competitions and “Agent 7 Creamy Spy Theme” sounds like a Brooklyn spy film. “For Corners” brings Blowout Comb to a natural close, giving the listener a wonderfully smooth 7-minute cooldown. An interesting aspect of this album is how cool the trio sounds throughout the whole thing without sacrificing the message they were putting out. The album art itself seems innocuous, but a closer look reveals that it is stylized after the official Black Panther newspaper. I feel that the artwork for Blowout Comb perfectly encapsulates the legacy of Digable Planets: stylish and uncompromising.
- Trevor Adams

Proving WUOG can be your home whether you are really cool or still think 1977 was the best year for music (it was, ok, it was) we have both Dan Deacon AND the Pop Group playing on the radio these days.

Dan Deacon – Gliss Riffer

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Baltimore is really churning out some great music these days and Dan Deacon is one of the city’s very best artists. Since his stunning breakthrough, 2007’s Spiderman of the Rings, Deacon has put out the gorgeous, live-instrument focused Bromst (one of my favorites of that year) and the ambitious America, and now Gliss Riffer, which  feels like vintage Dan Deacon, while still experimenting with the ideas and forms that his fans are familiar with. The opener “Feel the Lightning” feels like the closest thing we’ve ever gotten to a Dan Deacon pop song. There’s a really discernible structure and catchy synth parts that augment Deacon‘s traditional joyful, electronic chaos. Gliss Riffer takes a really dramatic left turn is the last 2 tracks of the record. “Take It to the Max” and “Steely Blues” are two of the most experimental tracks Deacon‘s done since signing with Domino and display his masterful composition skills as well as his ability to create huge environments with his array of musical ideas.

-Andy Tabeling

The Pop Group – Citizen Zombie

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The seminal post-punk band, The Pop Group has released Citizen Zombie, their first LP in 35 years, and they’ve picked up right where they left off.  When beloved bands reunite and  release new material, the new records often derided and met with skepticism, as it can never match the expectations presented by a legendary back catalog.  With their three short years as a band from 1977-1980,  The pop group seamlessly blended the noise of the Birthday Party, the political outrage of the Clash and the Sex Pistols, and the nerdy white punk funk of American New Wave, all the while lending more influences to these contemporaries.  On Citizen Zombie the Pop Group still have the raw political energy and the rage of a young band while still offering a mature, postmodern sound that seems wiser than their previous work.  The opener and title track, “Citizen Zombie” is funky and savage which somehow manages to include jazz inspired sounds, feedback and futuristic noise.  In contrast to their usual punk-funk, tracks like “Mad Truth” and “s.o.p.h.i.a.” are dancefloor ready snythpop tracks.  The Standout track is “Nowhere Girl” and its most reminiscent to their older material and verges on the anthemic, combining love song and atypical optimism with huge, blaring guitar riffs and U2ish backup vocals. Closer “Echelon” sounds like a synthed up Nick Cave song as its very pretty and eerie. Although the political lyrics can be bulky at times (see; “Nations”/ “Immaculate Deception”) they are still intriguing and give the album a dystopian vibe.  The Pop Group’s Citizen Zombie is a strong effort that holds up to the band’s impressive discography without sounding trite and overdone.

- Tom Jurgens

Björk has been through a lot in the past 22 years. With the release of her new album, Vulnicura, we here at WUOG thought it would be a good idea to go back to the beginning of Björk’s solo career: Debut.

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Debut opens with “Human Behavior”, which would become the biggest single from the album with its unconventional percussion and David Attenborough-inspired lyrics. Some songs feel that they were designed for a London club, such as “Crying” and “Violently Happy”. However, when one looks at the production credits, there’s no surprise that Nellee Hooper holds the vast majority of credits. Nellee Hooper was part of the “Wild Things” collective which was vital in establishing modern London club culture, and also worked on Massive Attack’s sophomore album Protection. “Big Time Sensuality” is another infectious fan favorite, with its grooving synths and provocative lyrics pushing the listener to give up their insecurities and celebrate life and love (for around 4 minutes, at least).

While many see Debut as Björk’s clubbiest album, it may also be her jazziest. An endearing and original performance of the jazz standard “Like Someone In Love”, which has been performed by many greats such as Frank Sinatra, John Coltrane, and Eric Dolphy, is an essential crush song (for Trevor, at least). Small additions such as sounds of buses and cars driving by show that Björk’s attention to detail go far beyond her vocal performance. “The Anchor Song” closes the album, and poses a stark contrast to the previous, manic track “Violently Happy”. This is the only song on Debut which Björk holds sole production credits for, and it shows. There are no drums, no synths, no driving beats; there is simply a dissonant performance by saxophonist Oliver Lake (also appearing on “Aeroplane”) and Björk. The lyrics are cryptic and personal, and perhaps act as a somber refrain to the themes of nature that opened the album.

While Björk herself may distance herself from the critical praise of Debut, fans still hold it in high regard. For those new to her work, it acts as a perfect starting point for working through her lengthy and dynamic career.

-Album Fam

Title Fight – Hyperview

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Title Fight’s third full length album, Hyperview, is an extreme departure from the aggressive punk of their previous releases, even the most recent  Spring Songs EP (which featured heavily in WUOG’s rotation last year).  They’ve replaced the loud, post-hardcore sound, with a lusher shoegazey guitar sound that still packs the punch of their previous albums.  Hyperview is still a killer punk album and it shows that Title Fight’s steady growth has paid off with such a rewarding album.  It may prove divisive to fans of their older material, but it’s as good a place to start as any for the uninitiated.  “Chlorine” still has guitars that swell and explode into softer, melodic vocals.  “Hypernight” is still firmly entrenched in post-hardcore despite the shoegaze inspired riffs.  “Your Pain is Mine Now” is beautiful and heart-wrenching with the refrain “Don’t cry your eyes out.” This song feels like the centerpiece of the album as it  strips away the noise and shows the strong influence of mumbling post-punk and nineties indie rock dressed up as punk.  The band stated that Dinosaur Jr. and the Beach boys were big influences on the record, and the transition from “Your Pain is Mine Now” into “Rose of Sharon” encapsulates those influences perfectly.  This record is glorious, go listen to it.

-Tom Jurgens

The Church – Further/Deeper

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Further/Deeper is the newest release from the Australian outfit The Church, building on more than three decades of experience and 25 albums. As would be expected with any band that created 25 albums and gained and lost a few members along the way, there is a disparity between original Church from 1981 and Church in 2015. The loss of an essential member (Marty Willson Piper) and gain of another (Powderfinger’s Ian Haug), is one of the reasons for the shift into the Church of today. Despite this, their distinct sound carries through: emotionally searching, full of shimmering guitars and distant drums, but still wholly relatable. In Pride Before A Fall, Steve Kilbey’s pleading voice drones “And now you know that actual love / It goes further, deeper,” revealing the album’s namesake and staying true to the yearning songs of the band’s past.  This album brings forth new ground that is apparent from the lead track “Vanishing Man” through to the psychedelic “Globe Spinning.” Further/Deeper maintains the dreamy atmosphere reminiscent of past years while traversing new ground that is applicable to the 2015 music scene.

-Cassidy Reeser

Benjamin Booker – Live at Third Man Records

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Benjamin Booker, relatively new to the music scene, has already made a name for himself with his interesting take on post-war blues.  His self-titled debut album, released last year, combined elements of blues with a DIY, garage-punk sound.  His raspy voice sung, or sometimes screamed, over that lo-fi guitar sound and punchy percussion create a truly unique musical experience.  While recording in a live setting sacrifices some production and overall sound quality, Booker more than makes up for it with his raw, energetic performance.  The live album also features arrangements with fiddle and mandolin, including his cover of Furry Lewis’ “Falling Down Blues”, which he takes in a much folkier yet equally (if not more) powerful direction.  Overall, the album is definitely worth a listen, and I am excited to see what the future holds for Benjamin Booker.

-Justin Johnson

Beginning this week, the Music Staff here at WUOG 90.5FM Athens will be doing write-ups of albums, both old and new,as part of the new Album Club here at the station. The first album to be featured in this weekly piece is Julia Holter’s Loud City Song.

Loud City Song turned my view of Julia Holter on its head. I had always seen her as a brilliant ambient artist, with works like Tragedy and Ekstasis cementing her reputation in that genre. However, Loud City Song turns its focus to more traditional songwriting that thrusts her sound into the vague ethereal label of “art pop” (whatever the hell that means). “World”, the first track, acts as an exposition for the following songs. With deliberate pauses that make the music seem conducted, “World” evokes memories of performances of orchestras (or in my case, playing saxophone in my high school band). Songs such as “In the Green Wild” give the music an organically dark tone. While there are countless works that can be described as “ambient with pop sensibilities”, the amount of atmospheric awareness required to have a pop album with ambient sensibilities is what makes Loud City Song a memorable listen.
- Trevor Adams
 Loud City Song