Staff Picks is an exploration of the albums the Chart Attack office can't stop streaming.
Jazz Cartier, Hotel Paranoia
"2015 was practice," Jazz Cartier raps like a refrain throughout his new album Hotel Paranoia. That's a big claim considering just how big his 2015 was, raising him from a buzz kid into a legit threat on the back of a huge statement mixtape Marauding in Paradise. But this album delivers, taking his dark swagger and eclectic-yet-unified Lantz production and elevating it even further. From the opening moments, he exudes confidence, like on "Talk Of The Town" when he repeats, "I'm the prince of the city / I'm the talk of the town / No one is fucking with me / cause I am not fuckin' around." He's well aware that Toronto is buzzing for him, a city that's proud to stand behind a new talent reaching for the crown.
It's instantly clear that Lantz and Jacuzzi have stomped on 2015 to prop themselves up to higher levels. Hotel Paranoia builds a new cinematic world from the one he built in Marauding In Paradise, an all-encompassing mood that could easily live in the Overlook Hotel. Sprinkling hi-hats and snares, pitched-up samples, synth flourishes, dark church hall ambience, operatic backing vocals and pounding horns make up the deeply layered, passionate and career pushing album.
"Red Alert" is the first time we've heard Jazz on a radio-ready single. Remarkably catchy, checking off all the boxes for a hip-pop song. On "Illuminati Love Song," there's 808s & Heartbreak-inspired beats, "Black And Misguided" is a personal trek into his family's issues and society's perception of the black community. "Tell Me," the album's only collaboration, is a foggy R&B groove featuring the smooth vocals of River Tiber.
"Save Me From Myself," the album's final track, is the boiling point, the definitive statement of his future and an aggressive assertion of his dominance over others in the city trying to climb the ranks. He blows the roof off, revealing a view of a brisk walk to the key that opens up the doors to his new stage. It's boastful, dramatic, sweating with hype, but it's Jazz. And it's the truth. - Ryan Parker/Richard Trapunski
Jazz Cartier's Hotel Paranoia is out now.
Smileswithteeth, Walk Forever
Smileswithteeth is the recording project of Montreal-based musician Gabriel Gutierrez. His tender, curious folktronica recalls a wave of electroacoustic experimenters like The Books and Bibio and Baths (and probably more B names, if we try hard enough), artists who can turn perfectly terrestrial noises into glowing, magical grounds. It's a sensibility that takes an ear for the very small, a vision for the way tiny melodies can interlock like bricks and build grand structures.
The French intellectual organization The Situationists practiced what they called the "dérive," where you'd take an unplanned tour through the city, walking wherever the streets compelled you, and the landscape would reveal a new experience, a fresh perspective. A similar sensitivity impels Walk Forever.
"I spent a semester in Paris," Gutierrez tells me. "It was alright, I was lonely. My laptop was stolen. I spent a lot of time walking. I got back to Montreal, started two bands and lived in shitty apartments. It was better, I felt good. I was out the other day and felt energized and optimistic, like I could roam for ages and never get tired. I thought about that feeling of wandering endlessly alone, and of having endless energy, and they felt kindred. This EP is dedicated to that feeling." - Chris Hampton
Smilewithteeth's Walk Forever is available now on the artist's Bandcamp.
Fake Drugs, 2016 Tour Cassette
It’s been nearly six years since we last heard from Portland/LA’s Fake Drugs. Their latest offering, in the form of a tour cassette, is a dark '80s electronic disco punk album. It sounds like strobe lights in a Berlin nightclub, and the burned-in image that you can't shake after staring into the light for too long. These ten songs could be the soundtrack to any future dystopia built around technological singularity, set at the moment robots begin taking over when the church bell strikes midnight.
One of the album’s best moments comes at the end of “Celebrity Magazines,” when the keyboards sound like they takeover a stadium’s sound system. The synths are foreboding, the drums are metallic and the vocals hide behind dozens of layers. It’s the perfect lights out dance party where you can’t see anyone. - Ryan Parker