Sonic Reducer: Tancred • Snarky Puppy • Aesop Rock

Robin Babb
3 min read
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On Out of the Garden, Tancred’s power pop energy leaps out of the speakers like a force of nature. The project of singer/guitarist Jess Abbott, Tancred’s third album (and first with a full band) sounds like ‘90s revivalism gone right, with all the teenage enthusiasm of Blink-182 and the piercingly compressed vocals of Pavement. This album is a far cry, stylistically, from 2011’s bedroom-recorded album Capes—a bigger band and a bigger budget have produced a much bigger sound here. Abbott has a knack for punchy power chord jamming and catchy choruses—but underneath the sunny exterior of her songs there’s a worldly cynicism too, as on the sickly sweet track “Pens” where she sings “I’m insanely healthy in my head/ It’s crazy how stable I am” with an audible sneer in her voice. Out of the Garden’s upbeat sound and rock-and-roll heart have earned it a spot on my “instant classics” shelf.

Snarky Puppy Culcha Vulcha (GroundUP Music)

Snarky Puppy is a seemingly unstoppable band. The giant collective of jazz fusion masters released their 11th album, Culcha Vulcha, on April 29, just two months after their last album, Family Dinner, Vol. 2, came out, and it is a beautiful work. Michael League, the band leader and core member, said in an interview that the in-studio recording of CV is a “turning point” for SP, as they’ve recorded all their albums live since 2008. The spontaneity is still there, though, and the whole album stays upbeat and groovy, buoyed by an improvisational spirit and the confidence that comes with being a master at one’s instrument. “Grown Folks” has sawtoothy synths cutting into wandering saxophone solos and sexy guitar wah-wahs—the whole eight-minute track sounds like a giant raised eyebrow. On “Beep Box,” Snarky Puppy puts their synth skills to the front, traveling from spacey 80’s wash textures to crunchy hip hop beats.

Aesop Rock The Impossible Kid (Rhymesayers Entertainment)

The Impossible Kid is Aesop Rock’s 7th album, and his most confessional to date. The notoriously verbose rapper (Matt Daniels of Polygraph did a study showing that AR has the largest vocabulary in current rap) has begun digging into his own life experiences for subject matter. “Blood Sandwich” is a sentimental two-part vignette of his two brothers, while in “Get Out Of the Car,” AR confesses that he hasn’t really been right in the head since his friend (and fellow rapper) Camu Tao died. Hell, there’s even a track (“Kirby”) about his cat, where he’s frank about his devotion to the critter: “Here to bat around keys and the means to euphoria/ Soon to be hailed, the greatest of all warriors.” Besides the wordiness, TIK is full of AR’s impossibly good flow. Worth many spins.

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