Is Eminem “Framed?”

On Monday, April 3, hip-hop and rap artist Eminem released a music video for his song “Framed,” which is the 12th track featured on his most recent album “Revival.”  “Revival,” Eminem’s ninth-studio album, was released in November and has sold over a million copies worldwide, and some of its tracks placed on the Top 20 Hits playlist in the United States.  His collaborations with Beyonce in “Walk on Water” and Ed Sheeran in “River” have brought Eminem’s album large success. This year Eminem is also confirmed to headline at several music festivals, including Coachella, Governors Ball and Bonnaroo, where he is expected to showcase his new album.

His new music video, directed by James Larese, carries a unique horror movie-esque theme, as the rapper plays an escaped asylum patient in his hometown of city of Detroit, Michigan.  The video starts with a news report that Eminem has barricaded himself in a house filled with his bloody murder victims, and has little communication with the police that are outside. The news is reported by Stan Dresden, played by WJBK-TV FOX 2 reporter Josh Landon, who appears worried and frantic. There are several scenes of the rapper with blood and knives, to add a creepy and more realistic feel to the video. Eventually, he is drawn into a confession by a police officer who uses hypnosis and throws Eminem’s character back into the psychiatric hospital. At the end of the video, the character is hypnotized once more and is given an injection in his chest.

“Framed” is similar to Eminem’s song “97 Bonnie & Clyde” on the “Slim Shady LP,” giving off strange and bizarre vibes. Both songs also are indirectly addressing someone in the media (Christie Brinkley and Ivanka Trump). One of the more unsettling lyrics is, “When murdering females, better pay attention to these details or you could be derailed.” Even though his character is giving a step-by-step guide on murder, he also declares himself innocent until the end of the video, by saying “I’m almost certain I was framed.”

HalfNoise at the Echo

Alternative rock project HalfNoise is an ambient effort fronted by current Paramore drummer, Zac Farro. After quitting the band in 2010, Farro took a different musical route than his former bandmates. Instead of the guitar driven melodies and head banging tunes, the HalfNoise sound is mellow, vibrant and synth filled. I had the pleasure of attending their LA show on March 12 at the historic concert venue, The Echo. The show was groovy, high energy and, to be completely honest, unexpected.

Albacore Club opened up the show with their gimmicky, sea-oriented music. Adorned in sailing hats and boat captain attire, the band played a variety of songs pertaining to shrimps and swabbing the poop deck. I am still not sure whether or not it was meant to be ironic. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the music. Afterwards, The Gloomies took the stage with tracks like “Fire Escape” and “If We Were Older.” This San Diego-based group heavily submerges itself into the atmospheric beach-y rock outfit: washed out guitars, tri-chord synth effects and reverb drenched vocals. These acts successfully warmed up the crowd for the band we were all waiting for.

HalfNoise put on an awesome show. They opened up strong with “Sudden Feeling,” a track that takes influence from Tame Impala and the likes. The distinct bass lines coupled with Joe Mullen’s drumming made the performance vibrant and undeniably groovy. Standout performances include “Leaving,” “Scooby’s in the Back” and “French Class” because of the band’s high energy that kept the crowd movin’ and groovin’. Throughout the rest of the night, the group never missed a beat and continued to spread good vibes all around. It was definitely one of the most carefree and happy shows I’ve ever been to.

Not only was the crowd feeling the music, the band was too. It’s amazing to see bands love the sounds and experiences they create live. During the concert, Farro admitted, “sometimes I don’t like to play shows because we do it all the time, but when I see smiles on people’s faces, it reminds me why I love to play music.” And one could really see that. Armed with his trusty tambourine, Farro danced and grooved onstage alongside smiling bandmates and even invited family friends onstage for their encore. The show was genuine and is a reminder that artists are people too. To create unforgettable content, they must also love what they do and follow their own ambitions. Zac Farro and his project HalfNoise exemplifies this authenticity in a compromising music industry.

Check out their new single Flowerss and keep and eye out for their new EP, which will be released on May 4.

Japanese Breakfast at the Glass House Pomona

The last time I saw Japanese Breakfast was at the extremely small Che Cafe in La Jolla in 2016. Michelle Zauner and her then-recently formed outfit did soundcheck in front of the 30 person crowd before performing their three song set on a stage that was six inches off the ground. On Saturday, Feb. 24 I saw Japanese Breakfast at the final show of their West Coast tour with Jay Som and Hand Habits at the sold out Glass House in Pomona. Their newest album, “Soft Sounds From Another Planet,” just recently reached 10 million streams on Spotify. The night was full of fun with an all female-fronted line up.

Hand Habits, the pseudonym of singer songwriter Meg Duffy, opened the show with a short and intimate solo set. Decked out in a sweatshirt over a long floral skirt, she silenced the crowd with her soft lyrics and mellow guitar. She also repeatedly expressed how grateful she was to be on tour with not only Jay Som and Japanese Breakfast but also her friend Sasami Ashworth, who managed merch on the tour and previously played keys for the band Cherry Glazerr. Up next was the band Jay Som, the touring outlet for multi-instrumentalist Melina Duterte. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the live versions of most of Jay Som’s songs were much more upbeat and groovy than the recorded ones. The crowd was really vibing along to the whole setlist, which was a mix of both new and old releases. A surprised Duterte even uttered, “Holy shit guys!”, when they enthusiastically yelled “The Bus Song’s” climatic lyrics “But I like the bus!” Duterte also expressed many times how fun the whole tour had been and how lucky she was to have been on it.

Finally Japanese Breakfast, a touring act for the solo work of Michelle Zauner, took to the stage. Although she only stands a few inches about five feet, she looked imposing in a set of white linen and light up sneakers. The band played many fan favorites from both their newest album and their first album, “Psychopomp,” with Zauner going from simply singing to playing guitar and working a midi launcher. Zauner jumped around stage when not playing guitar and when she did she was playing off her husband, Peter Bradley, who plays lead guitar in the outfit. At the start of the second half of the set, all members but the drummer, Craig Hendrix, left the stage. Hendrix took to the piano and the two sang a softer three song run before the other members returned. Zauner thanked everyone for coming to the show and also said how much she had loved being on tour. She also remarked how easy it was to get a response from the audience, saying “all you had to do was yell the name of the city you were in” before shouting out “POMONA!!” and getting a wonderful response. The band then launched into a perfect cover of The Cranberries’ “Dreams” before ending with their popular songs “Everybody Wants to Love You” and “Machinist.” Zauner stated the band wouldn’t do “that fake encore shit” and thanked everyone before walking off stage.

Japanese Breakfast will be playing at the Irenic in San Diego on April 20th.

Underrated: Roy Blair’s Cat Heaven

Art is a form of self-expression that requires consistency and patience to perfect. LA based singer/songwriter Roy Blair took his time in creating and releasing his debut project, “Cat Heaven.” Set to release in the summer of 2017, Blair admits the final product’s quality was not up to par with his expectations, ultimately postponing its release. The artistic decision to push back the date was met with recognition and praise, as this project feels personal and nearly perfect.

Roy first hit the scene in 2016 alongside alternative rap boyband BROCKHAMPTON and even provided backup vocals for Kevin Abstract’s solo project “American Boyfriend.” That same year he released his first single “Thunder.” Opening up with mellow vocals and guitar strums, the track crescendos into an emotive and vibrant final production. Produced by BROCKHAMPTON’s Joba and Bearface, “Thunder” depicts the struggles of a teen transitioning into adulthood which sets the tone for the rest of the album.

“Cat Heaven,” released in December 2017, takes an indie-pop approach with a tinge of RnB. He bounces back and forth from his angelic vocal abilities to his upbeat rap delivery. Standout tracks like “Alex,” “Grow Up,” “Switchblade” and “Kansas” show off Roy’s honest lyricism and top-notch production quality through creative vocal effects and samples.

Roy proves he has artistic potential but there is always room for improvement. From the lyrics to the sampled beats, songs such as “Jane,” “Grand Theft Auto” and “California” feel awkwardly delivered. They lack the catchiness and ear-wormy sounds heard in “Thunder” and “Kansas.” They are decent songs but not my cup of tea – a cup I cannot even finish.

New to the scene, Roy Blair has the bold creativity and talent to make it in the industry. With his strong ties to BROCKHAMPTON and other producers, Blair is an underrated artist who deserves more recognition for his work. “Cat Heaven” is a stunning effort from 2017 and I regret not listening to him sooner. His lo-fi style with RnB influences bears a similar sound to those of Rex Orange County and Yeek, yet maintains its originality. I am a big fan and am excited to see his future projects.

Favorites: Grow Up, Alex, Happy, Thunder, Kansas

Least Favorite: Jane, Grand Theft Auto, California

Featured Image from Pinterest.