Arts & Culture

Music Reviews: April 2015

The latest from Abdu Ali, Raindeer, and The Manly Deeds.

Abdu Ali
Best of Abdu Ali Via Baltimore (Deathbomb Arc)

Meet the young prince of Baltimore Club—the breakbeat genre that blends hip-hop, house music, and choppy samples into a frenetic dance party. Blazed in the late ’80s, ’90s, and early aughts by the likes of Scottie B and 92Q’s K-Swift, it’s raw and energetic, and, today, its legacy continues with Ali at the forefront. The Baltimore native champions his hometown genre with fundamentals like strong spits and breakneck beats but pushes it forward with bold artistic vision, unbridled energy, and a dogged work ethic. Culled from his EPs and mixtapes, the new cassette moves between chaotic raps, dreamy chants, powerful declarations, and euphoric dance beats. None lack in urgency (or expletives—most are NSFW), and throughout, there’s an unrelenting edge and underground vibe, much like his popular Kahlon dance parties at The Crown. His newest tracks come at the end, and, in them, you hear a connection to his past but also a clear path to his future. “I, Exist” is a twinkling, cosmic trip and his most accessible yet, while “Keep Movin” is a minimalist monologue of motivational freestyle and free jazz. Both reveal Ali as more than just a party starter and seem to relay the same message: He isn’t stopping. He’s just getting started.

Read our Q&A with musician Abdu Ali.

You Look Smashing (Friends Records)

This local indie quartet transports listeners to the West Coast and another era with its dreamy surf ballads that sound like a sepia homage to Southern California in the 1960s. At times, it’s a Beach Boys brand of hipster rock-and-roll; at others, it veers off into a synth-driven, psychedelic, Animal Collective-esque blast from outer space. Sometimes, both happen all at once, like in “This is Rock N’ Roll.” The track alternates between two distinct sounds: In one, the title is repeated as a singsong declaration backed by thundering drums, and in the other, the band switches gears to a pitter-patter pop beat with cooing vocals and twanging guitar over an infectious accordion loop. Combined with the lush, mellow melody of “I Dunno,” the shimmering, digital swirl of “Blasting,” and the churning, catchy beat of ” Slayer,” this four-song EP is the sort of sunny alt-pop made for an impromptu trip to the beach. Hear them for yourself at the Ottobar on April 2.

The Manly Deeds
The Manly Deeds (self-released)

Songs about coal miners, travelers, and thieves aren’t exactly what you’d expect from a group of city boys, but give The Manly Deeds a listen and you’ll think they’re a band of backcountry bucks. Their music reflects their Land of Pleasant Living home—from the hills of Appalachia to the tides of the Chesapeake—and pays homage to the region’s roots, with songs inspired by “lives we’ve lived, lives we haven’t, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Band, Bob Dylan, [and] jug bands.” Recorded in a Western Maryland barn, the self-titled album is an Americana mix of country, bluegrass, and folk that mingles a medley of instruments, from guitar, mandolin, upright bass, and banjo to harmonica, kazoo, bowed saw, and even a suitcase. Their songs range from plucky ditties and timeless ballads to thumping mountain hollers. They’re perfect for summertime, when you get out of the city and find yourself barreling down a back road, sitting around a bonfire, or hanging in the backyard with good friends and fireflies on a warm June night. Don’t miss them at the Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival on April 25.