Song of the Week – Week 1

Brock and Alex share some of their favorite songs

Song of the Week - Week 1

Alex Ralston and Brock Burnett

Alex’s Pick

Shabazz Palaces – “Are you… Can you… Were You? (Felt)”


Shabazz Palaces is an experimental hip-hop duo from Seattle that has been making music since 2009. They released a few EPs that helped them be one of the few hip-hop acts signed by the Sub Pop label, and from their released their debut, “Black Up,” in 2011 to critical acclaim. The group is made up of Ishmael Butler, aka Palaceer Lazaro, and Tendai “Baba” Maraire, with Palaceer handling the actual rapping and Tendai covering more of the production and instrumentation. If you think the name Ishmael Butler sounds familiar, it may be because he rapped under the name of Butterfly in the 90s hip-hop group Digable Planets.

One of the most noticeable traits in Shabazz Palace’s music is the unconventional flows and warped instrumentals. Palaceer raps in a higher register than most, and uses some alternative rhythms every once in a while, which pair nicely with the music he’s rapping over. The instrumentals on “Black Up” experiment with stretching vocal samples to the point of distortion (most notable on the song “An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum”) which come together with the drums and synths to create a strange atmosphere.

Shabazz Palaces are incredibly talented with creating alternative atmospheres that can take the listener to a different world. The song I’ve chosen this week is “Are you… Can you… Were you? (Felt),” which opens up with a strings sample that crawls along and is introduced to a deep bass and some stuttering piano chords; from here to the halfway point of the song, the instrumental remains serenely monotonous. Ishmael throws out a lot of lines about a heightened spirituality and having a true understanding of himself and the music he’s making. About halfway through the beat switches, with a watery, ethereal synth flowing underneath some bouncy piano samples. Palaceer ends the song by talking about some sort of afterlife or realm beyond human understanding, and street knowledge. Overall, it’s a very good song that takes me away with its lyrics and its instrumental, which is something that’s hard to find in modern hip-hop.

Link to “Are You… Can You… Were You? (Felt)” :

Brock’s Pick

Catfish and the Bottlemen – “Homesick”


Catfish and the Bottlemen are a Welsh rock band that formed in 2007. They provide a breath of fresh air in the alternative/rock scene by bringing back earlier sounds of a grungy kind of rock. Though grunge can often be associated with an unfinished sound, Catfish and the Bottlemen make sure to leave that association behind by providing a dirty grungy sound that sounds entirely finished.

Catfish and the Bottlemen recently released their debut album “The Balcony.” This album has some great sounds on it. It’s high energy. The gritty sounding guitars and pounding drums compliment each other to create this sound that makes you want to thrash around like you were at a Creed concert in the middle of a moshpit. One of the biggest downsides of this album are the lyrics. The lead singer’s voice has a nice strained and gravelly sound, but the lyrics are really weak in terms of content. With lyrics like, “See I’m not the type to call you up drunk, but I got some lies to tell. She hates her work but loves to flirt. It’s a shame she don’t work with me,” there is clearly something lacking in the lyric department.

“Homesick” is a song on “The Balcony”. Following suit with the rest of the album, “Homesick” has mediocre lyrics, but it is saved by its sound which is similar to The Strokes. The sound of this song is incredibly refreshing in an alternative genre that is inundated with an all too similar sound. A “unique” (read high pitched/nasally) voice sings some unimportant lyrics over some poppy/electro sounding beats. Catfish’s lyrics may not have much substance, but they sing about relatable issues like relationships, which makes the lyrics bearable. For a refreshing alt-rock sound, give “Homesick” by Catfish and the Bottlemen a listen.

Link to “Homesick” :