You’re here for who? Part seven


Formed in San Diego in 2008, Wavves is the brainchild of musician Nathan Williams. Their sound is decidedly noisy and lo-fi, although their songs can run the gamut from power chord thrash-fests to reverb-soaked surf rock.

The band was originally comprised of Williams on guitar and vocals with Ryan Ulsh on drums. The band gained notoriety based on the release of several EPs and cassettes on small labels before putting out a self-titled debut. This earned the blessing of Pitchfork writers and from then on, they were destined for greatness.

A second LP titled “Wavvves” (see what they did there?) garnered even wider critical acclaim, somewhat to their detriment. Williams made no secret of his substance abuse, both in his songs and lifestyle, which is certainly par for the course in music today and posed a fair share of problems for the band. A breaking point of sorts occurred at the 2009Primavera Sound Music Festival in Barcelona. Williams, who admitted afterwards that he was heavily intoxicated during the performance, was unable to complete the set, instead fighting with Ulsh and insulting the crowd, before being booed off stage and pelted with bottles. Wavves cancelled their European tour after the incident, Ulsh quit and Williams admitted he had an alcohol problem.

None of that managed to completely dissolve the band, as they are back with a new album titled “Afraid of Heights,” and a new tour and drummer. Produced by John Hill, who has credits on records by artists such as Santigold and Shakira, brings a much cleaner sound to the band, in which several tracks deviate from their typical grunge fare. Williams has also been engaged in a side project called Sweet Valley, in which he produces some stellar instrumental hip-hop tracks, and just joined fellow Pitchfork performer Killer Mike on his tour. Add that to the fact that he’s dating Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino, and you might as well call Williams the most prolific indie punk around.

Angel Haze:

A female rapper from Detroit, although now associated with the Brooklyn scene, has been in the spotlight for a remarkably small amount of time to already be making the festival rounds. And yes, it is necessary that I denote her as a “female rapper” first and foremost, since she represents hip-hop’s recent fascination with artists who used to be considered less-than-marketable, such as women and non-heterosexuals. Until maybe 10 years ago at most, women rappers were something of a novelty item – they existed but were never much of a force in terms of record sales.  Being a homosexual rapper was basically unheard of, and likely would’ve constituted career suicide instead of the selling point that it is today. As hip-hop penetrates deeper into mainstream culture, it seems to have begun to rid itself, for the most part, of traditional norms regarding who does the rapping and has become much more inclusive.

Angel Haze has seized on this trend and made the most of it, as well as the ease with which can get noticed in the world of YouTube and Soundcloud. She began releasing material online in 2012, and almost immediately took off, appearing on BET’s Hip-Hop Awards that same year. She was then signed to Universal Republic and began getting her name on several year-end awards lists based solely on the strength of her EP titled “New York” – her only official release to date. Her most powerful single, “Werkin’ Girls,” showcases her effortlessly deft flow over typical trap beat. Another song of hers, a rework of Eminem’s “Cleaning Out My Closet,” features Haze getting incredibly personal about her troubled past, detailing her sexual abuse and how it moulded her.

Aside from how Angel Haze is the latest in the industry’s lineup of non-conventional rappers, if she is anything other than a talented lyricist, she is a refreshingly honest rapper. Rap music could certainly use a few more of those.

Toro y Moi:

Toro y Moi is the stage name of Chazwick Bradley Bundick, who creates a palatable blend of chillwave and electronic dance music that is at once funky, ambient and generally cool. Hailing from South Carolina, he attended university with fellow chillwave auteur Ernest Greene, better known as the mastermind of Washed Out. For those unaware, chillwave is a somewhat distinct take on synthpop, typically consisting of breezy synths and downtempo beats. Toro y Moi took this formula, which came to prominence in the late 2000s thanks to Washed Out, Neon Indian and Panda Bear among others, and made it incredibly groovy. His music is replete with punchy house beats and synth basslines, and Bundick’s voice seductively glides over these elements to create music that is just as useful for relaxing as it may be for working out.

His latest album, “Anything in Return,” was well-received and is effectively an expansion of his previous work, incorporating lush blends of synths and catchy vocal hooks. It also incorporates more house music influences, which adds plenty to the chilled-out vibe of his tunes. Be sure to catch him at Pitchfork for some stellar grooves.