You may or may not be familiar with my love for old-school rap and hip-hop…and my complete and utter hatred for what constitutes rap or hip-hop on today’s top 40 radio stations and MTV. I can’t say for certain just where things started to go terribly wrong but I’m in the camp that believes there were a few critical moments where strong, thought-provoking lyrics were substituted for beat-centric shout-outs and uh-uhyeah-yeah’s. I started to fear that Atmosphere would soon find himself enamored with this new methodology but with every new release my dread is eased and replaced with pure satisfaction. When Life Gives You Lemons (his 2008 release) should have appealed to anyone with a penchant for storytelling…and a heartbeat. What’s even better is there’s always something ‘left over’ for him to give back to his fans. This time it’s the excellent Leak At Will EP . Old fans know what its all about – new fans should find reason to dig back through his catalog.
The following featured artists appeared on the Musical Alliance Pact’s May 2009 edition. A little bit of investigation yielded a few free EP downloads and a promising netlabel. Argentina’s Les Mentettes combine pop sensibilities with global awareness and activism and would definitely appeal to fans of the nerdier side of indie-pop like Tullycraft or Bunnygrunt. They have 2 EP’s available – one recorded for each of the last two years – entitled, simply, ‘L’ and ‘S’. Stream/download the song they provided for MAP’s May mixtape below to get yourself a quick fix.
Mexico’s Mr. Racoon provided a pretty sleek, groovy tune sung completely in Spanish (see below). In fact, their entire album Katy was recorded in their native tongue. You can grab the album from the DelhotelRecords netlabel website here (double-click on the picture to start the download). There appears to be at least 50 or so releases on the Delhotel site available for free – most from their homeland Mexico. If you are curious to hear more of what they offer there are links on the bottom left-hand side for assembled compilations featuring songs from various releases. Way cool!
There’s definitely a treat in today’s batch for fans of classic Jesus and Mary Chain or that newish brand of new-wavey alt-pop making its way onto the radio these days (see: The Killers). The Watermarks are trying to stake their claim in that pond and they just might succeed. They’ve made their latest release, Thoughts Like Bombs, available for free download. In the right hands, tracks like ‘‘I Used To Be Your Rock N’ Roll’ and ‘Only Rains On You’ could easily find their way onto the airwaves and I actually wouldn’t mind hearing them amongst whatever currently constitutes ‘the alternative’. If you like what you hear – they have a few more EP’s and a few videos shared here. The band asks that you donate if you like what you hear but if you can’t and live anywhere near Houston you can catch them playing at the Free Press Summerfest in early August.
A few years ago, on a previous incarnation of this website, I reviewed the Hyde Park 5 compilation which chronicled the Chicago music scene of the same name. It had been a while since I checked on new happenings in the scene and I unfortunately discovered that it is now long defunct. The good news? All 6 volumes of the compilation series are now available to download from the Mr. Hyde Records website. There’s an insane amount of excellent (and diverse) music to be found here (and I’m not just saying that!). You might recognize contributions from First Coat, The Passerines and Deirdre Kelly – all previously occupied by the members of Deirdre and Conor. (Shame on you if you haven’t downloaded their EP yet!) I will link to a few choice cuts from the 4 compilations I have heard thus far below. Enjoy!