Kings and queens of summer

 Free, to do what you want, any old time
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  June 7, 2013


SHARP TONGUE Spose knows just the place to make his mark, at the confluence of smart and cool.
His latest, Kickstarter-backed, album is out June 10, and it’s free.

What’s more “summer” than hip hop and pop radio? There’s a reason the introspective, touchy-feely is called Bon Iver: it plays better by the fire when it’s dark by 4:15. Hot sun by the pool? It better be something with a big chorus.
Ready to fill the void are Spose, Trails, and Amy Allen, who’ll all drop records in the next week, unwilling to wait for the Solstice before heating Portland up. As the sun beats down, though, there will be plenty of diverse offerings from the local ’burg. Here’s the rundown:

June 10: The leitmotif of Summer 2013? Kickstarter-funded records coming to light. First up is the first of two promised releases as a result of Spose’s successful campaign. The Peter Sparker Mixtape (released today, fo’ free) sounds as much like a proper album as anything else I’ve heard recently, a continuing collection of Spose’s musical proof that “I’d rather be smart than cool,” as he outlines in “Fresh Raps,” with throwback, horn-fueled product by Mike Be of Educated Advocates and long runs of precise Spose delivery.
Truly, there are times on the record where it seems he’d like to aggressively pound you into submission with monotone on-beat rhymes. “I’m Starving” is unrelenting. There’s no melody. It’s stark, and not all that different from the shit Kanye unveiled on SNL a couple weeks back. What was that? It was a man with something to say. It’s not always pretty.
Or, as Spose puts it, “this isn’t commercial, but it would be if I hadn’t been dropped by Universal.” I was lucky enough to catch the debut of this at his unplugged show at One Longfellow. He played it twice he was so pleased with it. You laugh, but it’s that cliché scene where everyone stops laughing and looks nonplussed.
“The King of Maine,” too, is harsh and needling, a flow you can get lost in trying to catch everything he’s saying. But listen close. The “LL Bain” Batman reference is classic, and you’ll likely find yourself asking, “Susan Collins is doing what?” There’s some Kendrick Lamar here.
There isn’t anything quite as poppy as “Can’t Get There from Here” or “Pop Song,” but there’s plenty of the latter’s genre-play, like the album-closing “Bob Johnson,” where Spose teams with Kristina Kentigian on a track that goes from digital stark rap in the verse to Weezer-style pop rock in the chorus, with a Spose-and-an-acoustic-guitar interlude. Just like “Hipsterlude,” like a song from the Juno soundtrack that manages to find still-funny ways to rip on a nearly-dead horse: “And the name of the band will be some symbols/And our music will never sound simple.”
Spose is still his own favorite punching bag, though, and “Altima” is the Spizzy-Spose aesthetic to a T: “You can drink more liquor, you can smoke more weed/But you’ll never feel as good as me.” On one hand, it’s uplifting, a reframing of priorities that’s very centered; on the other hand, it’s a commentary that the ceiling is lower, the expectations are less. It’s the sound of settling.

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  Topics: Music Features , Spose, Amy Allen, Trails
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