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TEST SPIN: Wu-Tang Clan — The Saga Continues

If you’re not a huge hip hop oldhead, it’s easy to overlook a lot of new releases from 90s rap groups these days. Most think that their music usually sounds pretty dated, and that many once ferocious MC’s have understandably lost a little bit of steam on the mic. However, people skeptical about the reemergence of 90s hip hop have really been proved wrong over the last year or so, after the impressive 2016 releases of A Tribe Called Quest’s Thank u 4 Your Service and De La Soul’s And the Anonymous Nobody. While Tribe and De La Soul (two New York rap groups who are members of the hip hop collective the Native Tongues) have shown that they can still bring it in 2017, many oldheads have been itching for a similar resurgence from another New York hip hop group, the Wu-Tang Clan. Wu-Tang’s most recent album release, The Saga Continues, is once again a reminder that not only does Wu-Tang’s saga continue, but so does the vintage 90s hip hop sound that has been so overshadowed in recent years.

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TEST SPIN: dvsn — Morning After

It seems like it was just yesterday when dvsn, the Toronto-based joint project between vocalist Daniel Daley and producer extraordinaire Nineteen85, debuted in 2015. In the brief time since their inception, dvsn has garnered 150 million streams and, arguably, landed the largest gig that any aspiring artist could land. In 2016 dvsn opened up for the Drake and Future on the notorious Summer Sixteen Tour, and with this brought their smooth, 90s R&B to the masses. While although only debuting their music to the public within the past few years, dvsn has been involved in the music business for much of the last decade. In the early years, dvsn leaned heavily toward rap because, as Daley says in a recent Rolling Stone article, it wasn’t really the “coolest thing to say ‘Yo, I sing – have you heard that Boyz II Men record, that new Usher or Ginuwine?’” However, once 85 heard the remarkable voice of Daley, he knew that the talent couldn’t be ignored.

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TEST SPIN | Rostam — Half-Light

Don’t act like you weren’t even just a little bit sad when Rostam Batmanglij announced over twitter in 2016 that he was leaving Vampire Weekend.  The New York based indie band who had brought hits like “A-Punk” and “Holiday,” as well as released one of the most compelling coming of age albums of the 21st century, Modern Vampires of the City, had lost their production mastermind, and to us fans who knew how critical his talents were on tracks like “Diane Young,” perhaps they had lost their essence, too. I was devastated, to say the least. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLr6glYSzgcG2_GS0spAV9zvJiOSZx9N7F

Lucky for us though, not only has the frontman Ezra Koenig been gracing us with consistent social media updates for a new Vampire Weekend LP — working title Mitsubishi Macchiato — but Rostam Batmanglij is also confirmed to be collaborating with Koenig on parts of the new album. What’s more, Rostam has found enough free time to release an effort of his own: Half-Light, his first solo record.

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TEST SPIN | Lecrae — All Things Work Together

Lecrae has always been an artist who does not like boxes, and those who attempt to categorize him into one would be hard-pressed to try. Bringing the gospel to hip-hop long before Chance came to the scene, Lecrae’s ability to maneuver between disparate, non-interacting circles served as both his greatest strength and weakness. Being a two-time Grammy Award winner and having performed on Jimmy Fallon and Sway in the Morning, he has achieved a level of success unseen by Christian artists. His diverse catalogue defies categorization and yet for all these pioneering advancements, it seemed that what he gained came at the cost of personal piety. Beginning in 2012 with Church Clothes, its subsequent sequels and his chart-topping 2014 LP Anomaly, he introduced listeners to a more socially-minded Lecrae; the bona-fide rapper was still spitting fierce rhymes, but in his razor-sharp criticism of social injustice he seemed to have lost the vibrancy and passion of articulating his faith, which was a staple of his earlier works.

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TEST SPIN | Fleet Foxes — Crack-Up

A lot has happened during Fleet Foxes’ six year hiatus — just ask former drummer Josh Tillman, who split from the band shortly after the band’s second LP, Helplessness Blues, with time to release three records of his signature brand of misanthropic folk rock before the remaining Fleet Foxes produced one. Not to say the other members of the band were lazy on their time off — lead singer Robin Pecknold was pursuing academia at Columbia University and guitarist Skyler Skjelset spent time touring with dream pop duo Beach House. Well finally, the Fleet Foxes long anticipated third album, Crack-Up, has come, and while this new LP certainly reflects a band that has changed since their last record, everything that defined the Fleet Foxes on their previous two albums — nonlinear song structure, reverb-soaked vocal harmonies, layered instrumentation — is all very much there. This album still certainly evokes the rustic respite of a backcountry sojourn, but it is also processed enough to remind you of the smartphone you rely on to take pictures when the landscape most precisely captivates you. Crack-Up serves as loosely defined concept album that explores the theme that “no man is an island” to varying degrees.

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TEST SPIN | Coast Modern — Coast Modern

Fifty years ago, people from across the country gathered in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park to celebrate music. The Summer of Love hosted music from many different genres, both mainstream and underground, but the highlight of the festival was the new genre, born in California’s Bay Area and brought to life by bands such as Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead. 1967 was the year of psychedelic rock. Despite its immense influence on the 1960s and 1970s counter-cultural movement, psychedelic rock has largely disappeared from the limelight. Those, like myself, who still crave the unorthodox guitar riffs and new chord progressions, must plop down an ancient record onto a turntable for a chance to listen to the wild sounds of the genre.

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TEST SPIN | Matt Cameron — Cavedweller

After nearly 30 years of working alongside the likes of Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder, Matt Cameron has decided to venture out as a solo artist. Cameron rose to fame in the early 90s as the lead drummer for both Soundgarden and the grunge supergroup Temple of Dog. He continued on with Soundgarden through their 1996 release of Down on The Upside and the group’s dissolution soon after. He was picked up by Pearl Jam to sign on as their new drummer, a gig he holds to this day. Throughout the years, Cameron always focused heavily on songwriting, despite being overshadowed by two of the greatest singers of all time — Cornell and Vedder.

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TEST SPIN | Miley Cyrus — Younger Now

I’d like to invite you to take a moment and really reflect on what you think of when you first hear the words “Miley Cyrus.”

I’ll tell you what comes to my mind — of course Hannah Montana is up there, along with twerking, smoking pot, Liam Hemsworth and a collection of iconic hits. And really everyone knows what songs I’m talking about. They range as far back to her Disney days, all the way up to the more recent “Wrecking Ball.”

But as I was sitting in the TCAT yesterday getting ready to stream her new album, Younger Now, I realized something about our beloved ex-role model. Miley Cyrus doesn’t have a sound. She’s no riffing goddess like Ariana Grande, and she’s not the queen of candy-pop like Katy Perry; Cyrus just lacks musical identity, which is an amazing feat considering that throughout her career she has never NOT been associated with music.

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The Districts Release New Album, Return to The Haunt

The Districts released their new album Popular Manipulations August 11, featuring their former indie rock sound, but richer and more developed. The band hails from Pennsylvania and earned their modest fame during their high school years. The album opens with the song “If Before I Wake.”  The lyrics open with “thunder woke me up, it was storming in the city, I was suddenly wide awake.”  The song is the perfect introduction for the lyrically exciting album, as it acts as a wake up call for the band’s new success. The lyrics “too blessed to be depressed” and “god, I’m bending over, love me” perfectly exemplify Rob Grote’s raspy and addicting voice that captures and keeps the listener’s attention. “Violet” is the second song on the album that touches on past memories.

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TEST SPIN | Macklemore — GEMINI

To be a Macklemore fan nowadays is to beget ruthless harassment. Ruthless, but honestly much deserved. With his gauche dad-like demeanor, often bluntly unaware lyrics and ostensibly supra-woke politics, Macklemore is undoubtedly the most uncool artist to have ever graced the Billboard Top 100. Maybe it’s because of my proclivity for irony turning into genuine interest, or maybe it’s because of Macklemore’s charming awkwardness, but I’ve stayed a fan since that fateful day that someone sent me the YouTube link to “Thrift Shop.”

Yeah, I said it. I like Macklemore.