The Perfect Music for Finals Week

Every college student has something they can’t live without during finals week. For some, it’s coffee; for others, it’s comfortable sweatpants.

But there’s one thing everyone needs for effective studying – a long, dope playlist that’s focus-friendly. Luckily, the KCR Blog has your back – whether you prefer your study music to be acoustic or electronic, grandiosely cinematic or relaxed, folksy or funky. Down below is an eclectic, 105-minute long playlist specially crafted for late nights and early mornings in the 24/7.

Yours truly will be back posting on the blog next semester, so stay tuned for more great stuff (most likely reviews on the highly-anticipated albums scheduled for release next year).

Happy studying – and don’t forget your Scantrons.

 

A Review of RAY BLK’s “Durt” Mini-Album

There’s thousands of lyrically straightforward pop and R&B songs saturating the roster of today’s new music, but it’s not exactly easy finding candid pop and R&B with good lyrics. Abstractions are frequently the direction that skilled songwriters prefer to lean into – they’re more interpretive, and therefore less susceptible to criticism – but at times, metaphors and symbolic imagery aren’t of any immediate use. At times, what we’re looking for are answers or content that resonates with us, plain and simple. But as history’s most horribly-written music has demonstrated, not all songwriters can balance poetry with straightforwardness, and it’s that lyrical disparity that makes us cringe and say “even I can do better,” as we’re driving alone in our cars, for once concentrating on a song’s words.

Thankfully, we have artists like RAY BLK, whose mini-album (aka a longish EP) Durt is a 25-minute representation of creative candor. Hailing from south London, RAY BLK got an early start on songwriting – she began at 14 – and today, the 23-year-old R&B singer is offering us what could be labeled as raw, artful ‘big sister’ storytelling, comparable to other young Londoners on the rise, like the soulful Jorija Smith. Those familiar with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill will notice the thematic similarities between Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and Ray’s short, yet clever “Hunny,” while the album’s title track, “Durt” is a lyrically grimmer, sexier version of Kandi’s “Don’t Think I’m Not.” In collaborations with UK-based producer SG Lewis and English rapper Wretch 32, Ray explores ended relationships from positions of both melancholy and shamelessness, making for a diverse listening experience.

Durt was released on October 28, also available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music. RAY BLK can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


The featured image is promotional and belongs to its respective party.

Albums to look out for in 2017 (PART 2)

Last week on the KCR Blog, I posted a shortlist of albums scheduled for release in 2017. If you’re reading this on Thanksgiving Day, then your jeans are probably half-unbuttoned (or missing completely) as you moan about having eaten too much pumpkin pie. And if you’re tired of hearing your middle-aged cousins argue about the outcome of this year’s presidential election, then relieve yourself of some auditory pain and check out the older post, which you can find here.

As a note, these albums are listed at random.

TBA – Arcade Fire

Back in fall 2015, Arcade Fire’s Will Butler revealed the band was about “30 percent into a new record.” The album’s name (along with any other juicy details) remains a mystery, but after their last LP – a praised project that received too many accolades to count – Arcade Fire has set some pretty high expectations for itself. Reflektor (2013) was recognized to be ambitious, but not too ambitious – risky, but impressively so. It’s not common for a band to ceaselessly improve without faltering a few times, to share new music that always seems to outshines its previous offerings. But Arcade Fire are committed to go-getting, and whatever happens in 2017 (probably spring, they say) will probably continue the cycle of excellence. International, festival-loving fans will get the chance to see the Canadian indie rockers as they travel throughout Europe and the UK in June 2017.

 

TBA – Gorillaz

There’s two virtual bands that everyone knows about: Alvin and the Chipmunks and Gorillaz. However, the latter group is obviously more important, especially because its non-virtual members, British producers Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albram have reportedly completed another Gorillaz album, which, like Fleet Foxes, will be the band’s first in five years. The untitled 2017 release will follow The Fall, which was entirely recorded on an iPad during the group’s North American leg of the Escape to Plastic Beach World Tour. Receiving mixed reviews and no significant acclaim, the app-created record was still regarded to be Gorillaz-esque – unique and experimental. This time around, Hewlett and Albram are back to being in real studios, while iconic trip hop group Massive Attack and Chicago-based rapper Vic Mensa are rumored to feature on the forthcoming record.

 

TBA – Fleet Foxes

It’s been a half-decade since Seattle outfit Fleet Foxes released Helplessness Blues, a warm, feel-good folk record that defied the concept of sophomore slump. The album largely represented a new horizon for the band, whose eponymous first full-length lacked the talents of multi-instrumentalist Morgan Henderson, bassist Christian Wargo, and drummer and vocalist Joshua Tillman, all of whom were involved in the recording of Helplessness Blues. Aside from a line-up change, the group embraced a rougher sound, one that contrasted the pop of their debut, best demonstrated through tracks like “Winter White Hymnal.” One year after the acclaim of the sophomore release, things had changed yet again. Tillman decided to fully commit himself to soloing as Father John Misty (most recently putting out his I Love You, Honeybear LP last year), and in 2013, Fleet Foxes went on hiatus – until now, that is. Frontman Robin Pecknold has hinted that a new record is definitely in the making, and that it’s called Crack-Up, after an F. Scott Fitzgerald essay of the same name. Perhaps Crack-Up and all its supposedly craziness will be just as memorable as the writings of the Lost Generation member. Pecknold has also Instagrammed a previous of the new album’s artwork, but a release date hasn’t been announced.

 

Oczy Mlody – The Flaming Lips

In case you all didn’t know, The Flaming Lips have been really busy in the studio. Yes, they co-produced Miley Cyrus’ latest experiment, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, but they’ve also been working for themselves. January 13 will grace Flaming Lips fans with the band’s billionth – or fifteenth – album, Oczy Mlody (via Warner Bros.), which, judging by its title, will be 12 tracks of anticipated quirk. Already available for listening are “How??” and the record’s lead single, “The Castle.”

 

Albums to look out for in 2017 (PART 1)

2016 has been one of the worst years ever.

So many awful things have happened that the mere thought of putting every one of those disasters on a single list is overwhelming. This world has lost too many innocent souls through violence — police brutality, shootings, terror attacks — while the lives of legendary tastemakers like Prince, David Bowie, and Leonard Cohen ended, prompting the heartache of millions. To make matters worse, most Americans now suffer from great disillusionment with the values of which their nation was supposedly built on. It’s safe to say that everyone would like a second chance at 2016, a chance to make things right. But as reality fails to provide us with a time machine, we have no choice but to continue with optimism. This shortlist of anticipated 2017 albums will remind you of a few musical gems to look forward to in the coming year, but don’t fret if you don’t see the record you’re most excited about. Part two of this list is coming out next week (detailing the forecasted projects of Gorillaz, Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire, and The Flaming Lips), so don’t forget to check in to the KCR Blog after you awaken from your Thanksgiving food coma.

Blue — Communions

communions-blueIt’s been a bit over a year since Communions dazzled listeners with their self-titled EP, a collection of guitar-driven pop songs that sonically distanced the young Copenhagen band from the Danish punk scene that gave us the noise of Iceage or Lust For Youth’s earliest recordings. There was a time, circa-2014, that Communions embraced a lo-fi sound comparable to that of their peers — a tuning into the outfit’s first EP, Cobblestones, is evidence. Although the debut certainly wasn’t deserving of universal acclaim, it was good enough to make everyone wonder what Communions was capable of. Such a question has been answered with every bit of the band’s material since then. No longer does it sound like the act is trying to imitate its rambunctious, yet successful associates with grated vocals or crashing cymbals. Martin Rehof’s singing has taken a turn for the androgynous, while guitar riffs and percussion are distinguishably cleaner in the band’s twinkling July release, “Don’t Hold Anything Back,” along with the newest single from Blue, titled “Come On, I’m Waiting.” It’s anticipated that the entirety of Communions’ first full-length (via Fat Possum in 2/17) will carry an equally gorgeous tone, obviously influenced by the pop of the ‘80s.

 

To Fall Out of Love To — Mura Masa

Alex Crossan, the 20-year-old producer behind bedroom electronica act Mura Masa, is the kind of guy whose accomplishments make you feel like you should be pursuing your dream with an increased amount of fervor (instead of binge-watching whatever trending Netflix series). At the tender age of 17, the musician has his breakthrough track, “Lotus Eater,” on BBC 1’s rotation, soon after signing a deal with Polydor to distribute his 2015 EP, Someday Somewhere. The release included collaborations with East London’s finest talents, most notably Nao, whose vocals — fairy-like and almost too fantastic for reality — were included on the EP’s biggest hit, “Firefly.”

In an interview with Urban Outfitters’ UO Blog, Crossan said that To Fall Out of Love To (via Anchor Records) is a chronology of a love story, “expressed through the medium of difficult, challenging music.” An official release date has yet to be announced, so there’s probably plenty of time to mentally prepare ourselves for the emotive story arc that Crossan promises.

 

 

I See You — the xx

the-xx-i-see-youThe xx say they’re ecstatic to release their third record, I See You, at the beginning of next year, as they should be. After all, until last Thursday, the trio hadn’t released a single song crafted by all three musicians in a lengthy four years. Jamie Smith (aka Jamie xx) teased fans by featuring his longtime bandmates — the xx’s characteristically gentle vocalists — Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft on his 2015 debut LP, In Colour, but those pairings failed to satisfy listeners who craved the triangular musicality that only the xx could achieve as a whole. So of course, when the xx released the lead single from the upcoming album “On Hold,” it was no shock that some diehards fell in love with the dance track immediately. Unlike the act’s latest album, Coexist, production for I See You will be credited to not only Jamie Smith, but Rodaidh McDonald, who co-produced the band’s first record, xx, released back in ’09. However, McDonald’s inclusion doesn’t mean the band’s reverting back to their sound from seven years ago. When talking with Digital Spy back in 2015, Smith hinted that this third record will have a “completely different concept” than the other two. The validity of that statement will be determined when I See You comes out January 13 via Young Turks.

 

TBA — Pond

pond-sweepIn a perfect version of 2017, Kevin Parker would release a collection of Currents B-sides. But sadly, the world is inestimably far from perfect — the election of Donald Trump has proven that the planet we live on isn’t even much of a decent place. Hence, there will be no Tame Impala record next year, and judging by the timespan between the band’s sophomore album, Lonerism, and 2015’s Currents, there won’t be a new Tame Impala record in 2018, either. Eventually it’ll happen (pun intended), and Parker will once again emerge from his home studio in Perth with some sort of mind-blowing, objectively wonderful, psychedelic creation for fans to either adore or despise. Until then, we’ll have to work with the upcoming album that Pond, a quartet mostly sharing its members with Tame Impala, plans to hand over early next year.

Pond’s discography is very much like Tame’s — emphasis on either guitars or synthesizers vary from album to album, single to single — so the band is most likely to attract ears that obsessed over the sounds of all three of Parker’s solo records: the fuzzy guitars of InnerSpeaker, the ambience of Lonerism, the full-bodied bass of Currents. In fact, Pond’s “Sweep Me Off My Feet,” released in October and produced by Parker, sparkles quite similarly “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.” The act hasn’t publicized their forthcoming album’s title, but it’ll be released via Spinning Top Records.

 

Process — Sampha

sampha-processNestled in 2016’s plethora of praiseworthy new hip hop and R&B was a distinct croon, belonging to UK-based artist Sampha. If you came across Frank Ocean’s visual album, “Endless,” the ending of Kanye West’s Life of Pablo, or “Don’t Touch My Hair” — Solange’s pledge to identity off her latest album — and fail to recognize the Londoner’s unique moniker, you’re surely familiar with his voice. Sampha has become a man whose numerous collaborations with luminaries like Drake or Kanye West can deceive the myopic into believing that his talents are second-rate, confined to the vision of a seemingly more important artist. But on his own, Sampha is a dynamic musician whose ability to capture the forlorn through both organic and electronic sounds puts him at the top of today’s most underrated soloists. His debut full-length, Process (via Young Turks), will be an album of existential lyricism and haunting resonances, as previewed on its August-released single, “Blood on Me.” The debut will drop on February 3, and it will only intensify the outstanding artistic permanence that Sampha’s already crafted over the last five years.


All images are promotional and belong to the respective parties.