Listens for the Week #12: Vic Spencer, King Crimson, Hot Chip
Updated: May 14
Every week, I offer three recommendations: something new, something classic, and something I love. This week, I've been enjoying a range of underground hip hop from Vic Spencer to Blank Thought, as well as the usual dose of jazz and and pop.
Vic Spencer - IMPACT (I Must Punch A Car Today) (2022)
Since this week has been a little slow for new releases, I want to reflect on a fantastic hip hop album which released earlier this month. IMPACT is the fourth project from Vic this year, but it's clear he isn't running out of ideas yet. It starts off with "Spitbook", an excellent opener with colourful, looping horns which offer a nice contrast to Vic's signature cold and collected delivery. After this, however, the album dives into a much darker tone, whether it be the ominous and spacious beat on "Contractor", the throbbing bass on "RPG", or the foreboding piano loops on "Rusty Silverware". Fully produced by Stu Bangas, IMPACT covers an impressive range of dark and moody sounds in only twenty-five minutes. Vic adapts to each beat perfectly, driving the album forward with his dense rhyme schemes and witty sense of wordplay. The manic adlibs which accompany Vic's verses juxtapose his more level-headed style of rapping, making for a unique blend of sounds that few rappers could make work. Deeper into the record, Vic is joined by underground talents from Fly Anakin to Crimeapple, keeping the record fresh from track to track. Overall, IMPACT is concise and consistent, proving further that Vic Spencer has struck the perfect balance between quality and quantity.
King Crimson - Larks' Tongues In Aspic (1973)
This is my favourite album from King Crimson, and one of my favourite rock albums in general. It combines the more chaotic elements of In the Court of the Crimson King with the atmospheric emphasis of Islands, and the fusion of the opposing sounds makes for an unpredictable and eclectic record. The song "Larks Tongues In Aspic, Part One" is a great example of this. It starts off with a serene passage of bubbling percussion, followed by an explosion of guitars, the clatter of drums, and a stretch of chaotic improvisation. This then dies down, transitioning into a passage of rising strings which build into another abrasive crescendo. Songs like "Exiles" and "Book of Saturday" offer a moment to breathe, with beautiful strings and impassioned singing from John Wetton which calm the listener before the next abrasive track. The ebb and flow of chaos and serenity is what makes this album so captivating.
Something I Love
Hot Chip - In Our Heads (2012)
Hot Chip were a band I loved growing up, but as time has gone on, I've revisited their music less and less. Their blend of electronica, pop, and indie sounds can be brilliant at times, and dull at others. After looking back on their discography, I've realised that Hot Chip have many strong songs, but few strong albums. In Our Heads, however, is an exception. Their fusion of dance and pop elements is at its best here, especially on "Flutes", a seven-minute epic with a hypnotic chorus and a powerful vocal performance from Alexis Taylor as the instrumentation rises and falls. "Ends of the Earth" is another incredible highlight, with two contrasting instrumentals - one bright and one dark - going back and forth as Alexis sings his heart out. The lyrics, at times, aren't perfect, but Hot Chip more than make up for it with their colourful dance production and elegant vocals. While nostalgia may influence my love for In Our Heads, it's still a quality album regardless of my history with it, and I would implore anyone to give it a try.