Week 22 Review (End of Summer Blow Up 1)

Rhymesayers hip hop artist, Grieves, is the reason End of Summer Blow Up was started. To start it off, I’m reviewing his latest album, Winter & the Wolves. Grieves has been releasing albums since 2007.

Artist: Grieves { Benjamin Laub aka Grieves, Brad Lewis aka B. Lewis}
Album: Winter & the Wolves [Deluxe Version]
Year: 2014
Genre: Hip-hop
Rating: 4.5/5

Worth Your Time? Absolutely. Don’t you want to say you listened to him before he got big? Feed your little inner-hipster and listen to this indie rapper.

Twitter Review: Grieves’ razor sharp wordplay will slice you wide open as B. Lewis backs him up with intricate but highly accessible beats.

Note: I am using Grooveshark for everything except where Grieves has an official video on YouTube.

Top 3 Tracks:

  1. How’s It Gonna Go
  2. Recluse
  3. Woah is Me

Things to Look For:

  • Fantastic Opening Line. After the chorus opens Woah is Me, Grieves starts out with “My dog died.” and a voice answers back “When you were six!” Grieves replies “Really? I guess I never gotten over it.” After listening to a couple songs, in recent memory, where the musician composes beautiful songs about their pet, Grieves approach comes off as the antistasis of that. It made me smile every time I heard it.
  • Poet First, Emcee Second. Okay, so he probably didn’t start out writing poetry. Or maybe he did. I don’t know. But I do know from listening to this album that Grieves is working on a higher level than your typical rapper. His word choices are potent. He can take the word ‘shit’ and make it sound so harsh and crass because of the words he surrounds around it. In How’s It Gonna Go, after opening with a beautiful and heartfelt chorus, Grieves lays “Until the woman of my dreams took a shit inside my soul” on us and it comes across as shocking because of the vulgarity. I was actually taken back the first time I heard it. In the same song, he delivers another one of my favorite lines “This ain’t love, this is two people fucking…each other over.” Here he creates a multi-layered lyric that captures both the concept of making love vs. having sex and the notion of negative relationship doomed for failure. And it’s all done with a simple pause. In Kidding Me, he says “Cinderella got drunk started spreading her thighs” which takes this pure and innocent idea in your head and absolutely obliterates it. It’s beautiful. His poetic skillset combined with his compelling storytelling, make for an awesome combination that rarely fails to deliver.
  • Repetition. Grieves skillfully makes use of repetition throughout the album. He does this both in the words he chooses and the cadence of his delivery. In Serpents, the first and second verse are identical in structure and delivery despite being a completely different set of words. Supposedly, this song is about Grieves dealing with his sister’s drug addiction. The topic of drug addiction has been covered countless times in music but I don’t know if anybody has done it so masterfully as Grieves has done here. I had my own little Keanu moment when I realized what was going on.
  • Pop Friendly. Grieves’ previous albums were done with long time friend, Budo. Budo’s beats were definitely unique and created this wonderful smoke-filled blues bar atmosphere that I loved, but I think they were too laid back for your average listener. By teaming up with B. Lewis, the album becomes infinitely more accessible due to Lewis’ new, more poppier style. In fact, all three of the top songs made the list because the beat put them ahead of the other tracks. I usually get annoyed when an artist goes pop, but I’m incredibly excited about whatever Grieves and Lewis end up doing next.
  • Anti-Bruno Mars. Recluse is quite similar to the popular The Lazy Song in terms of high level concept but Grieves’ takes it to a far darker and grittier place. He is letting you inside of his head as he tries desperately to shut out his world regardless of the path of destruction it ends up leaving. After listening to Recluse, The Lazy Song seems incredibly shallow in comparison. It’s still a fun song though. You know you secretly sing it in the shower. Or was that me?

Low Points: I’ve probably already hammered the point home that I love that this album because it is more accessible than his past ones. But think it would gain an even wider audience if it was a bit shorter. While listening to it, I noticed some common themes between songs and I think I would rather have had him cut out the the similar songs and went with a less is more kind of approach. Perhaps this feeling could have been avoided, if I didn’t listen to the deluxe version which had two bonus songs on it. It remains a fantastic album regardless. I left out a ton of songs I wanted to talk about.

Anything Else: Grieve’s previous album, Together/Apart, is actually the great grand-daddy of all Project Lt. Morning albums. I spent the majority of my weekends one summer pulling out weeds from the yard by hand. While pulling weeds, I listened to that album on repeat for 3-4 hours at a stretch. The music combined with the repetitious work created an almost meditative state for me. It was probably the only time in my life I looked forward to yard work.

Additional Links:

Next Review Update and Anime Expo!

First, I spent last week at Anime Expo 2014 with my editor. We had so much fun but it also cut into my listening time dramatically. Most of my quality listening time was on the plane although I was heavily reading mangas at the time so maybe it wasn’t as quality as I think.

AX was amazing! Over 60,000 80,000 people attended. I got to sit in on a panel featuring none other than Keiji Inafune! He received a standing ovation when he entered the room and rightfully so. He helped define my childhood and probably the childhood of many of my readers. It was so awesome to be in the same room as him. On the music side of things, I attended a concert by Eir Aoi. The energy she brought to the stage and kept throughout the whole concert was unbelievable. So many times I thought she was going to quit but she would take a quick drink of water and just keep going. It was unreal. I figured since this was my third time going that it would start to get old but this year has left me with more positive energy than ever. The people there truly are amazing in so many ways.

Here are some of the pictures I took of the cosplayers:

AX 2014

(Top Left to Right: Squid Girl, Mr. and Mrs. Mario with Little Toad, Chrono and Megaman, Dr. Headcrab Zombie, Hoka Inumuta, Sinon, Uzu Sanageyama and Nonon Jakuzure
Bottom Left to Right: My Neighbor New California Republic (my editor!), Black and White Mage, Mami Tomoe with Kyubey, Madoka Kaname)

My original plan was to write the review on Monday but we had airplane issues on the way home which set us back an entire day. Rather than trying to rush through a review so I can start on another album, I decided to wait until this weekend so I can write a proper one. And this album definitely deserves 100% of my attention.

The album I’m working on is a two disc set. It’s two hours long so even a work day is just 4 listens. It’s a really complicated album too so I’m hoping the extra time of another week will be worth it. I chose this album specifically in honor of our trip to Anime Expo. For those of you wishing I would review classical music on here, this is probably is as classical as it’s going to get.

Thanks for reading!