Baker's Dozen: Ecco2k, Bullion, Kash Doll, and a New and Exciting Update

Baker's Dozen: Ecco2k, Bullion, Kash Doll, and a New and Exciting Update

Baker's Dozen is usually a weekly thing for paid subscribers, but today it's free! This is something I do on weeks where I don't have other free content planned, and I like to occasionally give people a taste of what you get when you move past the free tier.

I'm still running the sale on monthly subscriptions for a bit—$1.50/month for the first six months, a 50% discount, grab it here—and I think I'll be running it through the end of the week. But! I will be doing another sale in February, and here's why: I had previously mentioned doing a version of this post for my favorite first watches of 2023, but I honestly do not have the time this year to put together such a massive post. (I am still slowly chipping away on all the blurbs for the Best Songs of 2020 list, too.)

Most people know me for writing about music at this point, but movies are as much if not even more of an interest for me and have become an increasing focus for me in the last few years specifically; of course, I've also written about film in the past in general (I ran VICE's TV and film coverage for several years, which is a whole different story), and in general I've been looking to write about it here in some fashion too.

So! Starting in February, I'll be doing a once-monthly summary of some of the most notable first watches—good, bad, and in between—that I saw in the previous month. The first three will be free, and then some time in the spring I'll be moving it to the paid subscription tier. I'll be doing sales to promote it as well before it goes paid-only, so keep an eye out and, as always, I hope you enjoy what's to come.

Negative Blast, "The King in Vancouver"

Very Trail of Dead-y melodic hardcore from San Diego, I do wish the entire album (Echo Planet from last year, their debut) brought this specific energy all the way through but if you're drawn to this sound in any way, it's worth a listen regardless.

Kash Doll, "MAKE LUV" [ft. Bryan Hamilton and TLG Deuce]

Kash Doll is not what I would call a great rapper by any means, sometimes she seemingly has trouble staying on beat and it's not in the fun "I'm not doing this on purpose" way...but last year's Back on Dexter: a Gangsta Grillz Mixtape provided some low-stakes thrills when it comes to the punchline-loaded sending-a-piano-down-a-stairwell Detroit sound, weirdly this gewgaw of a R&B-leaning cut stuck in my head...solid mid-2000s hook right there.

Ecco2k, "Peroxide"

I dipped out of paying attention more closely to the underground when Drain Gang was really starting to emerge as some sort of cultural force, at points I was listening to people in their 20s talk about Bladee more than I was actually listening to Bladee myself, which is kind of how this business works for some as you get older anyway. Of course I've since chronicled my love for their stuff as well as the Year0001 stable in general, obviously they're Swedish which is always a draw for me, and my elder millennial mind threads the needle regarding Sincerely Yours comparisons easily now. Ecco2k's E from 2019 is probably my favorite project across the Drain Gang catalog at this point but, even this far in, I don't think they're a "actual records" collective by any means.

Strategy, "Freezin Cold"

Speaking of spending too much mental time in the underground...[Jeff Foxworthy voice] you know you're really into electronic music when you throw on a single from the British grime MC Strategy and are surprised that it's not actually a song from the Portland noise-dub techno producer Strategy. Whoops! Great single though, obviously a huge early-2010s dubstep vibe here courtesy of Chimpo.

Drakeo the Ruler, "DRAKEO Not Drake-O"

The first (and as of now only) posthumous release from Drakeo the Ruler, last year's Keep the Faith Alive, was not bad as posthumous releases go; the fact remains that being able to say "as posthumous releases go" as if they are something we are dealing with on a quasi-regular basis, specifically in the rap world, is very depressing. Not much else to say there!

Craig David, "What More Could I Ask For?" [ft. Wretch 32]

Another one from 22, I'll share one more cut in the next I gestured previously, what makes the album an above-average Craig David affair is the surprisingly heavy tilt towards straightforward, throwback-y R&B, he's not doing too much embarrassing stuff (the EDM quotient, which has been strongly present in the past, is toned the way down if not totally absent) and leaning into the fact that he is simply a great vocalist who can lace a very smooth track with finesse. The gentle, sparkling boom-bap of this is nice, as you'll see with the final track I share there is a specificity to the types of R&B he's sonically working in, and he nails it easily.

A Winged Victory for the Sullen, "The Rhythm of a Dividing Pair"

Spent the last several months finishing out my 2019 catchup queue so you're gonna see some very old (in internet years) tracks on here the next few installments...of course here's some blindingly gorgeous stuff from A Winged Victory For The Sullen, no one does this kind of thing better at this point. I can't believe I didn't get around to listening to Invisible Cities from 2021 yet...I will, I assume we're due for something new from them soon as well.

Aleksi Perälä, "UKMH51900048"

Aleksi Perälä is more prolific than any normal person can probably keep up with, he put out like 14 albums last year alone and 2022 was no different...when it comes to pure bruising techno I did enjoy his Resonance from 2019 though, plenty of no-nonsense eyes-rolling-in-back-of-skull club fare.

Avalon Emerson, "Karaoke Song"

My favorite song from & the Charm and an easy and major entry in the pantheon of Important Pandemic Art, I think of this as a cousin of Weyes Blood's "It's Not Just Me (It's Everybody)"...Avalon's lyrics capture the very real feeling I've had frequently over the last several years of making small talk and catching up with people who the pandemic disrupted my relationships with, sometimes feeling like you're stabbing in the dark to find disparate points of mutual relatability in an attempt to feel normal, or make yourself seem as normal. I don't think this is presented in a sad way though, but it is wistful—"Where did the time go?"—and it makes the feeling of time and life slipping away or being stolen sound a little more serene and naturally occurring, and most importantly like it's happening to all of us and you don't have to be alone with these feelings either.

Lady Lazarus, "And It Is All Right"

I feel like Lady Lazarus is almost solely a 2010s Pitchfork staff concern but that's only because she hasn't put anything out this decade so far...her sound has rarely strayed from the alone-in-a-room-with-a-piano sound that's all across Impossible Journey of My Soul Tonight from 2019, at times she recalls Beach House or dream-pop in general but with no haze or fuzz, almost impossibly sparse and bare instead. It's a simple sound, very straightforward, and a bit disarming as a result.

Bullion, "Where Are We Now"

The David Bowie covers compilation Modern Love from 2021 was like most covers compilations (bad) but here's Bullion very expectedly spinning something otherworldly, tender, and dare I say Bowie-esque out of Bowie's incredible comeback single "Where Are We Now?" from 2013. Bullion, of course, also worked on the Avalon Emerson record, and has been something of a serious force in the last five years of indie when it comes to the Arthur Russell-ification of things...he is a dream newsletter interview guest and I'll bet I can get him on it this year.

Sunday Service Choir, "Count Your Blessings"

I can just hear someone behind their screen now saying, "Why is he bringing this up right now?" I did run through this record recently and I thought, on a purely musical level, there were some really interesting things going on that just sound pretty and blinding the same way gospel music heavily benefits from Kanye's total non-presence in it with regards to ego, obviously, it's such a weird record considering its place in pop music, Kanye's career, and the brief last gasp of pre-pandemic popular culture, the total opposite of a rich text and more a "Remember this?" thing. (I'd bet most people forgot this existed completely!) Anyway, again, very surface-level beauty going on here, I find some of the pop arrangements on this record to be extremely appealing as well, I will unfortunately be sharing one more track from it in the future.

Jack Harlow, "Gang Gang Gang"

Jack Harlow's been trying on a few different personas over the last couple of years, way more so than white rappers are typically attempting; he did a Drake thing for a while, he made a brief attempted actor swing that was immediately buried in the streaming graveyard, lately he seems to be going for "white boy Coi Leray" status (just kidding but not really?). In the midst of all this cosplay is last year's Jackman, his very obvious attempt to channel Untitled Unmastered-era Kendrick that actually ends up more like Mr. Morale-era Kendrick, with a dash or two of Atmosphere? It's fucking weird, not bad, but weird, certainly his best release to date, and in the middle of that you get this, a very uncomfortable white boy patriarchy apologia examining (or, at least, attempting to examine) the ways in which men protect men who commit acts of sexual violence. There's points for the attempt here, it's more than most at his tier of popular music would give, fine, but there is also an air of projected cluelessness that is noxious and quite possibly offensive, I'm not necessarily saying "men always know about other men" (there are plenty of instances where they do not!) but I think making a song where the narrator is like, "Well, I didn't know!" is a clear attempt to create a sort of preemptive absolution around yourself as a public figure. I also think his response to his Tory Lanez affiliations speak louder than any sentiments supposedly uttered here. Maybe I'm just cynical though! (If anyone's looking for an added dose of irony, including this song on today's edition was a last-minute choice after bouncing a Shy Glizzy song since he has been allegedly drugging women for 15 years. So maybe I'm not!)

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Jamie Larson