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Songbook: A Guide To Every Album By Guided By Voices' Current Lineup — So Far

Photos (L-R): Sarah Zade-Pollard, Tony Nelson

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Songbook: A Guide To Every Album By Guided By Voices' Current Lineup — So Far

The cult rock band Guided by Voices gets the most ink for their 1990s and early 2000s accomplishments. But as their current lineup's latest run of albums shows, they're a band for right now.

GRAMMYs/Jul 1, 2022 - 02:37 pm

Presented by GRAMMY.com, Songbook is an editorial series and hub for music discovery that dives into a legendary artist's discography and art in whole — from songs to albums to music films and videos and beyond.

When an artist has been doing their thing for four decades, how is their "classic era" to be determined? For Robert Pollard, the calculus is simple.

His long-running rock band, Guided by Voices, experienced their indie breakthrough in the early- to-mid-'90s with a smattering of indelible, rough-hewn, heart-on-sleeve albums: Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes and Under the Bushes Under the Stars. So, take those classics, throw in a few before and after, and, boom — you've got a neat entryway for GBV beginners.

But there are a couple of complicating factors at play. First, Pollard seems totally disinterested in the notion of a "classic era." When he reignited the project in 2010 with the members from those three albums, he made derisive references to the "so-called classic lineup" and feared a relegation to the indie-throwback festival circuit.

"People at festivals don't want to hear a new album — they want to hear the greatest hits," Pollard told Magnet in 2014. "And I'm not that interested in that. I'm more interested in what comes next."

Despite making six reunion albums together, the "so-called classic lineup" didn't last; at press time, the contemporary iteration of the band performs zero songs from this period. When Pollard rips into new songs like "Excited Ones," his boyish enthusiasm is palpable; when it's time for a 30-year-old song like "Tractor Rape Chain," he can look like he's in line at the DMV.

A Guided by Voices song from 2022 does not sound like one from 1992. Thanks in part to Pollard's deepening writing — but also the musicians in his band — there are very few of the band's earlier one-minute, tape-recorded quasi-throwaways, which toggle between inchoate and inspired.

Today, Pollard always completes his songs. And more often than not, they're majestic. Case in point: their potent new album, Tremblers and Goggles by Rank, out July 1.

A meditation on memory and loss in several movements, "Alex Bell" practically contains an album's worth of ideas on its own. "Cartoon Fashion (Bongo Lake)" is listed as an A-B-C-D suite on the album sleeve, like on the '70s prog albums that got Pollard going. And in all of three minutes, "Focus on the Flock" switches tempos, grooves, and even genres, all in the service of engaging dynamics and ascendant hooks.

Perhaps a YouTube commenter on the "Lizard on the Red Brick Wall" video said it best: "Peak GBV is now." And that arguably applies to their entire current era, featuring the lineup of guitarists Doug Gillard and Bobby Bare, Jr., bassist Mark Shue and drummer Kevin March.

While the world wouldn't know GBV at all without Bee Thousand and its ilk — and songs like "Blimps Go 90," "The Official Ironman Rally Song" and "The Best of Jill Hives" remain something of a zenith — perhaps it's time to put this current creative roll on equal footing. Because songs like "Amusement Park is Over," "My Future in Barcelona," and "Black and White Eyes in a Prism" are, at the very least, just as good.

In a unique edition of Songbook focusing on just one era of Pollard's voluminous discography, here's a guide to a reconstituted Guided by Voices' astonishing creative roll in the 2010s and 2020s.

Please Be Honest (2016)

While technically not the product of Guided by Voices' current lineup — Pollard sang every vocal and played every instrument — Please Be Honest remains a crucial introduction to this modern phase of the band.

Announced concurrently with Guided by Voices' relaunch, Please Be Honest felt at the time like a recentering, a palate-cleansing, a recommitment to authenticity and sincerity. (Hell, it's there in the title.)

While reams of thrilling music would follow it, Please Be Honest remains addictive and compelling — not only for that aforementioned quality, but because of the strength of the songwriting. Plus, an eerie and loamy atmosphere, coupled with insectoid themes (see "The Grasshopper Eaters" and "The Caterpillar Workforce") helps it stick in your craw.

Opener "My Zodiac Companion" detonates into one of Pollard's most affecting choruses; "Kid on a Ladder" sets Buddy Holly-esque pop jubilation to a hammering drum machine; the murky-sounding yet clear-eyed title track embodies ragged determination.

It all ends with "Eye Shop Heaven," where Pollard reaches into commanding, Eddie Vedder-esque depths of his register, before an unexpected flip into a sugary, Monkees-like coda. 

"You are simply lying!" Pollard sings. But on Please Be Honest, he never is.

August by Cake (2017)

Every GBV fan remembers where they were when they heard Pollard's ringmasterly intro — "Ladies and gentlemen! I present to you: August by Cake!" — followed by an exultant horn fanfare.

Because at that moment, Guided by Voices were not only back after years away: they gave us a double-album feast, like GBV lodestar the Who's Tommy or Quadrophenia.

And on its own, the honest-to-god anthemic opener "5º On the Inside" offers enough momentum to keep the listener engaged for 31 more tunes. But what tunes they are.

The brief "When We All Hold Hands at the End of the World" bends a simple melody into earworm after earworm. The Gillard-written and -sung "Goodbye Note" pumps and slams with brute impact.

"Packing the Dead Zone" is an excoriation of social media-age sloth with an unforgettable spoken-word intro by GBV associate (and NYPD veteran) Steven Stefanakos: "We're creating a society of cell-phone-crazed, marijuana-smoking zombies!"

And by then, you’re only eight songs in. Take some time to kick around inside August by Cake, and you'll likely come up with your own highlights. 

Deep within the album, the downstroked acoustic ballad "Amusement Park is Over" is a stirring bit of miniature theater, suggesting childhood bygones, internal turbulence and lashings of violence.

Clearly, "Amusement Park is Over" means something to Pollard: it's the only August by Cake song remaining on their current setlists.

How Do You Spell Heaven (2017)

After the initiatory sprawl of August by Cake — a swirl of hi- and mid- and lo-fi — a renewed Guided by Voices honed their aesthetic with How Do You Spell Heaven.

True to its cover art — featuring Pollard beholding an unearthly orb of light — this follow-up feels pure, focused and executed with aplomb. Mysterious sound effects, intentional recording mistakes and head-scratching interludes need not apply here.

"King 007" climbs staircases only to lapse into languid acoustic strums; the power-popping "Diver Dan" burns mellowly and consistently like a candlewick; "Nothing Gets You Real" is mellow, strummy and downcast.

And even as closer "Just To Show You" ups the ante section-by-section, Pollard never gets swept into the drama — he sounds stony and undeterred.

GBV would go on to make albums with more distinct peaks and valleys, but there's something to be said about this kind of entry — one that makes the band's detractors, who might view the ultra-productive band as unedited or unserious, eat crow.

Space Gun (2018)

Where August by Cake waded through volatile psychological waters and How Do You Spell Heaven felt philosophical and stoic, Space Gun is almost unerringly flashy, colorful and loud.

"Here it comes!" Pollard announces again and again in the opening title track, kicking up the interstellar drama to almost a comical degree, crashing riff into crashing riff into crashing riff.

This leads to the goofy, almost AC/DC-like swagger of "Colonel Paper," inspired by a real-life account of a drunken night eating chicken — and Pollard's hometown buddy rooting through cigarette-filled garbage for a hangover snack.

Space Gun keeps the energy percolating for 13 more songs, but it's hardly one-note. "Blink Blank" is hypnotic, psychedelic and mantra-like; "I Love Kangaroos" is peppy and irresistible; "Grey Spat Matters" burns for a minute and a half with a vocal melody to die for.

Near the end, we get "That's Good" —  a dead-earnest ballad culled from the archives and newly recorded with a string arrangement by Gillard (a talent that would reach full flower in ensuing years). 

All in all, Space Gun is a good one to reach for if you want utter immediacy from GBV — a quick hit, a sugar rush, a 38-minute whirl around the cosmos.

Zeppelin Over China (2019)

Craving the slicker side of GBV, stretched across four sides? Enter Zeppelin Over China, a weirdly under-discussed yet major work from this epoch of the band.

As always, the pacing is ironclad: "Good Morning Sir" instantly wakes you up in a rush of anticipation, then "Step of the Wave" withholds, withholds, withholds until an exhilarating crescendo.

As with  any classic double album, the tunes keep flying by, with more gems lurking around every corner. Some are deliciously lumpy and impenetrable, like "Blurring the Contacts" and "Holy Rhythm"; others are immediately radiant, like "Your Lights are Out" and "You Own the Night."

While the whole hangs together gloriously, it's up to a fan's discretion as to whether any individual Zeppelin Over China tracks belong in the time capsule. That said, the album features two crown jewels that represent the apogee of Pollard's powers.

One is "The Rally Boys," an update on the chest-beating camaraderie of yesteryear's classics, like "The Official Ironman Rally Song" and "Don't Stop Now." The ascendant chorus, a statement of purpose on Planet GBV, is meant to be beerily belted into your concert neighbor's ear. It just feels good.

The other is "My Future in Barcelona," practically a doctoral thesis on the limitless power of human imagination.

From a half-heard soccer-game announcement — something about "the future of Barcelona" — Pollard crafted an absolutely magical rock song, bursting with possibilities and expectation and longing and anything else you might want to map onto it. If you only check out one song from this article, make it this one.

Who else can be so receptive to the din of daily life, enough to pull a song like this from the air? John Lennon could do it. Pollard can do it. And the message of "My Future in Barcelona" is seemingly that we can all do it. From all but thin air, we can make music.

Warp and Woof (2019)

On the most informal end of the later-GBV spectrum is Warp and Woof, initially released in the form of two EPs: Wine Cork Stonehenge and 100 Dougs.

Recorded on the fly during soundchecks, in hotel rooms and even while teetering on the bench of the van, Warp and Woof has an unadulterated quality that might appeal to fans of Guided by Voices' most unpolished work from the early '90s (think Vampire on Titus).

Emerging from the GarageBand-y hiss and noise are a handful of tunes that stick in the imagination, like the happy-go-lucky baroque-pop pastiche "Photo Range Within" and hammering pop song "Blue Jay House."

But from the hip-swinging "My Angel" to the melodically serpentine "Cool Jewels and Aprons" to the lovably lunkheaded "My Dog Surprise," the highlights are yours to discern amid this curiosity-shop of an album.

And as usual, the band would take a very different tack with the follow-up.

Sweating the Plague (2019)

Think of the consistent aesthetic of How Do You Spell Heaven and Zeppelin Over China. Then, apply it to a stripped-down, 12-song sequence and beef it up with a stadium-rock heft. You'll land within spitting distance of Sweating the Plague.

Warp and Woof's far more traditional follow-up dispenses of almost everything one might find extraneous about Guided by Voices — left-field genre experiments, Pollard singing in funny voices, too many songs. No track could be reasonably cut; every decision lands.

As on those two aforementioned spiritual cousins of GBV albums, that consistency can sometimes translate to a lack of clear highlights. But in this case, one song stands tall.

"Heavy Like the World" is part of a proud GBV lineage of songs about nerve, pluck and courage — the band's true wellspring of emotional resonance, which transcends tired references to Miller Lite and high-kicks and album after album per year.

The next time you feel like you've waded out so far that your feet aren't touching the bottom, heed Pollard's counsel in the outro: "Get some danger in your life/ And more ink in your tattoo."

Surrender Your Poppy Field (2020)

Another swing in the opposite direction, Surrender Your Poppy Field is an album of rough terrain, jagged edges and odd marriages of tones.

Opener "Year of the Hard Hitter" sets the tone immediately — even after multiple listens, it's hard to predict which direction the song will zip into. "Volcano" has a meaty, alt-rock chorus that's more Nirvana or Smashing Pumpkins than GBV.

Moving forward, the seemingly tossed-off "Queen Parking Lot" belies a melody of Beatles-level sweetness; "Woah Nelly" is a drunken boat of ghostly Pollards; the woozy "Andre the Hawk" has an almost plasticine sparkle.

The quiet triumph of Surrender Your Poppy Field, however, is "Cul-de-Sac Kids," where a stately Jethro Tull-style introduction bursts unexpectedly into wondrous, double-time ebullience.

By the time the Book of Revelation-like closer "Next Sea Level" subsumes the album, one walks away having experienced a one-of-a-kind — and wondrously scatterbrained — GBV experience.

Mirrored Aztec (2020)

If the psychedelic artwork by Courtney Latta makes you think you're getting GBV in their Incredible String Band phase, think again. Mirrored Aztec — a "summer album" by design — is a tight and dry listen that nonetheless allows ample whimsy through.

First, the wonderfully offbeat moments: "Math Rock" ridicules the titular subgenre with help from a children's chorus; "Haircut Sphinx" is a brief, punch-drunk bar rocker; and "Lip Curlers" is a head-scratcher, even for these guys.

Aside from the outliers, several of its tunes, like "Citizen's Blitz," wriggle about for a minute or two before peacing out. 

But a handful of them shine brightly, from the shone-up oldie "Bunco Men" to the radiant, 12-string-strummed "To Keep an Area" to the rowdy closing sequence, closing the curtain with "Party Rages On."

Styles We Paid For (2020)

A high watermark of GBV's current run of albums, Styles We Paid For drives straight down the middle of the road, keeping the focus squarely on the songcraft.

More than almost any album around it, this one lives right in the Goldilocks zone: just weird enough, just traditional enough, just enough tape hiss, just enough fidelity. The vibe is moody, philosophical, a tad paranoid. In other words, it hits a sweet spot for Guided By Voices.

Styles We Paid For is also the GBV album that, intentionally or not, most reflects its times — specifically, the early pandemic. The band had recorded remotely for many albums at this point, but the jagged edges of that process show — gloriously.

But the real reason Styles was such a pandemic savior wasn't its cabin-feverish, vaguely menacing vibe — but its sense of unbroken group solidarity.

Like "14 Cheerleader Coldfront" 30 years earlier, the acoustic "In Calculus Strategem" feels momentous, like a national anthem. "Never Abandon Ship" is permeated with steely-eyed resolve. And the beatific ballad "Stops" feels lost in reverie, awestruck at the power of song.

But all that aside, the simple fact remains that the hitters really hit.

The dirgelike anti-hit "Slaughterhouse" is deliciously sulky and morbid; the kinetic "Mr. Child" is seemingly about some Peter Pan-syndromed dervish; and "Electronic Windows to Nowhere" is one of the most gloriously melodic anti-tech bitch-fests in recent memory.

Earth Man Blues (2021)

Pollard arguably sold Earth Man Blues short when he called it a "collage of rejected songs." Because what could have simply been their first album of 2021 turns out to be something like their Sgt. Pepper’s.

This isn't just in the diversity of material, or the occasional psychedelic twist, or that it's even presented as some tongue-in-cheek performance. Rather, its Pepper-ness comes from its profound longing for and curiosity about the past — and how that can chart a path into the future.

During the demoing process, Pollard opted not to write new songs, but dig through old cassettes for material. "They were all rejects from other projects," he told Louder Than War. I was somewhat astonished by a few of those finds. Like, 'Why did I not think this song was good enough?'"

Read More: The Connected Citizens: How Guided By Voices Recorded Earth Man Blues Remotely During A Pandemic

Indeed, they weren't just "good enough." Realized by his muscular current band, the Earth Man Blues tunes all but sum up what makes GBV great.

The majestic "The Disconnected Citizen" evocatively references "radiated halls" and "psychogenic fugues" as the melody aims heavenward; "The Batman Sees the Ball" marries Television-like guitar interplay with a patient and bouncy groove; and the band throws the kitchen sink at "Dirty Kid School," exploding a simple composition to cinematic effect.

And so many other surprises lurk, including the warped, variety-show-style '60s-isms of "Sunshine Girl Hello" and the crepuscular "How Can a Plumb Be Perfected?" If this is what Pollard simply had lying around, how many other masterpieces could he make?

It's Not Them. It Couldn't Be Them. It Is Them! (2021)

Released about a week before Halloween, It's Not Them. It Couldn't Be Them. It Is Them! could represent the shadow of Earth Man Blues, featuring some of Pollard's most immersive, arcane writing to date.

"Climb another wall over the mountain," he sings in opener "Spanish Coin" with a Fantean energy. "Breathe in the force of experience." Then, something we've never heard at all on a Guided by Voices record: Spanish-influenced horns.

Side one consists of kick-the-tires rockers ("High in the Rain") and beatless, phantasmagorical experiments ("Maintenance Man of the Haunted House").

On top of that, the indisputable highlight "Dance of Gurus" is wound tight around a looping vocal line ("What'll I do with you? You do with me?") that'll lodge itself into your head for days.

But from then on, it's rock and roll time, with every string- and/or horn-laced track hitting harder than the last: From "I Wanna Monkey" into "Cherub and the Great Child Actor" into "Black and White Eyes in a Prism." 

And the curtain-call, "My (Limited) Engagement," is one of the all time great GBV closers — capped off by a spectacular guitar solo from Gillard.

Crystal Nuns Cathedral (2022)

Vaguely in the same galaxy as the streamlined How Do You Spell Heaven and Sweating the Plague, Crystal Nuns Cathedral shows how the band could reel back their experimentation yet, somehow, land in a deeper place.

"We approached this one with more of an eye to get slightly bigger sounds — slightly more homogenous throughout the album," Gillard told The Ash Grey Proclamation in 2022. "And deliberately less idiosyncratic mixes than usual, perhaps."

If this sounds like standard GBV, give it a chance — you'll be surprised on multiple levels. For instance, the band had never recorded a song like "Climbing a Ramp," building and building on a sawing cello line. Nor had they done anything like "Forced to Sea," which materializes in a twilit, ambient soundfield.

Plus, Pollard's lyrics on Crystal Nuns Cathedral hit harder than usual. "Nothing moves me like this," he admits in the gorgeous, mid-tempo rocker "Never Mind the List."

And in "Excited Ones," a galloping rocker about those who wrap their arms around life: "They crush it every day!" he proclaims. Pollard can certainly relate.

Tremblers and Goggles By Rank (2022)

This is no exaggeration: all the various GBVs represented in the above albums — the goofy, the intrepid, the moody, the plucky, the experimental, the pensive — are reflected in Tremblers and Goggles By Rank.

Want to be pummeled with galactic kabooms, like on Space Gun? Dig the flangered vortex of "Lizard on the Red Brick Wall." Want bittersweetness that hits from multiple angles, like on Earth Man Blues? "Alex Bell" and "Unproductive Funk" will send you. Interior explorations a la Styles We Paid For? "Boomerang" and "Who Wants to Go Hunting?"

Guided by Voices are often defined by their "prolificity," but let's face it: fans are getting both quality and quantity. And live performances get a dozen times the reaction for oldies like "Game of Pricks" than something like "Stops," but it's time to knock that down too.

The fact that even some professed fans sleep on the new stuff doesn't dim the reality one iota: Guided by Voices are a band for right now. And their still-ravenous cult fanbase won't fault you for getting on the train late. 

Indeed, for fans of any forward-thinking rock music with a beating heart, eye for invention and sense of wonder, nothing will move you like this.

Every Moment Flame On: A Guide To The Expanded Universe Of Robert Pollard & Guided By Voices

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Bonus Track: 2011 Pitchfork Music Festival

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Sarah Mudler
Chicago

Chicago's Union Park was once again filled with a who's who of the music industry from July 15–17 for the 2011 Pitchfork Music Festival. Drawing more than 18,000 industry insiders and music fans alike each day, the festival is known for bringing together an eclectic lineup of more than 40 artists, many of whom are on the brink of breaking into the mainstream.

Headliners this year included the psychedelic sounds of Animal Collective on Friday, Seattle-based mellow rockers Fleet Foxes on Saturday and festival-favorites TV On The Radio on Sunday. With many of the more talked about bands playing earlier in the day throughout the weekend, it was no surprise that three-day passes sold out in a single day.

In addition to the headliners, the festival's Green stage played host to recently reunited rockers Guided By Voices and the Dismemberment Plan, and ambient punk rockers Deerhunter, while its sister stage (the Red stage) boasted such heavy hitters as hometown darling Neko Case, Australian synth-pop collective Cut Copy and, one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend, the untamable frontman Tyler, The Creator and his hip-hop outfit Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. But when festivalgoers trekked over to the slightly hidden Blue stage, they were lucky enough to catch some truly buzzworthy acts. Electronic newcomer James Blake played the nicely shaded stage to a tightly packed and dancing crowd on Friday, while concertgoers the following day were wooed by the larger-than-life personality and stage attire of Zola Jesus.

Rounding out the festival grounds, attendees had the opportunity to seek shelter from the sun while perusing the handmade crafts and hard-to-find vinyl at the annual CHIRP Record Fair, as well as browse the one-of-a-kind concert posters from local and national artists at the Flatstock poster show.

In spite of the almost unbearable heat that plagued the Windy City all weekend, this year's installment of the Pitchfork Music Festival was a resounding success for artists and concertgoers alike. And this blogger would recommend that you get your tickets early next year as it's sure to sell out even faster!

Pitchfork Music Festival Sample Playlist
"Summertime Clothes" — Animal Collective (iTunes>)
"The Wilhelm Scream" — James Blake (iTunes>)
"Need You Now" — Cut Copy (iTunes>)
"Def Surrounds Us" — DJ Shadow (iTunes>)
"Hopelessness Blues" — Fleet Foxes (iTunes>)
"Bizness" — Tune-Yards (iTunes>)
"Wolf Like Me" — TV On The Radio (iTunes>)
"Sea Talk" — Zola Jesus (iTunes>)

 

5 Takeaways From RM's New Solo Album 'Indigo'
RM performing at the 2022 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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5 Takeaways From RM's New Solo Album 'Indigo'

BTS leader RM makes his official solo debut with his first studio album, 'Indigo,' which showcases a new level of artistry from the rapper.

GRAMMYs/Dec 5, 2022 - 08:03 pm

Like many of his BTS cohorts, RM has shown off his solo musical talents long before this year. His first mixtape RM came out in 2015, capturing the rapper's raw hip-hop roots. His second mixtape Mono was released to critical acclaim in 2018, when BTS were just scratching the surface of their worldwide domination. But this year took RM's solo efforts to the next level with his first-ever studio album, Indigo. 

Across 10 tracks, RM's official solo debut documents the multilingual rapper, producer and singer/songwriter's journey through his twenties. Meshing Korean and English, his reflections about life under the public eye weave through genres and moods organically. And with diverse collaborations — from R&B legend Erykah Badu to fellow South Korean star parkjiyoon — to boot, RM uses Indigo to bring fans deeper into his expansive musical universe.

Now that the highly anticipated project has finally arrived, take a look at five key takeaways from RM's debut studio album, Indigo.

It's Connected To The Art He Loves

RM is known for being a lover of nature and fine art, and that is reflected within Indigo. Promotional photos for the album featured Yun Hyong-Keun's painting "Blue"; RM is known to be a supporter of the late South Korean artist, so the rapper's inclusion of the work shows the intentionality behind his debut — musically and beyond. 

He isn't afraid to mesh artistic mediums, and the sonic and stylistic choices made reflect this. From then sampling Korean Hyong-Keun's reflection on Plato's humanity in the opening track "Yun" to even titling a song "Still Life," the inspiration is present. RM may have refined taste, but he makes it easily digestible through his music.

It's A Reflection Of His Life Up To Now

According to RM himself, Indigo serves as a diary of the last three years of his life. Even so, the album's messages can be a blueprint for anyone going through a transitional period in life, thanks to RM's honest, open-minded and unfiltered lyrics. 

On "Lonely," he candidly exudes his frustrations over a tropical beat. "I'm f—king lonely/ I'm alone on this island," he raps. He later sings, "So many memories are on the floor/ And now I hate the cities I don't belong/ Just wanna go back home." 

The contrast between the song's upbeat melody and longing lyrics provide a dichotomy that perfectly captures the highs and lows of fame. That's a theme that carries throughout the album, further showcasing why RM has become so admired by his fans and peers alike.

The Features Tell A Lot About His Artistry

Eight of the 10 tracks on Indigo are collaborations, all of which display RM's love of diverse genres and musical eras. They also reflect the caliber of artistry RM has reached — he got Erykah Badu! — as well as his ability to bridge the gap across borders. Along with Badu, he teamed up with two other R&B stars, Anderson .Paak and Mahalia, along with several Korean artists: Paul Blanco, Tablo, Kim Sawol, Colde, youjeen, and parkjiyoon. 

There's A Song For Everyone

Many praise RM for his ability to touch people with his leadership qualities and words, and this album may just be the strongest example of that. The project is noticeably more upbeat than Mono, but RM still takes time to break his emotions down lyrically. 

His first verse on the opening track "Yun" declares "F-k the trendsetter, I'ma turn back the time," setting the tone for how RM feels artistically. Then, the high-energy track "Still Life" with Anderson .Paak expresses joy and resilience, proving that one can still stand tall despite difficulty. As he says to .Paak on the track, "S— happens in life, but what happens is what happens."  

Overall, Indigo shows off RM's versatility in a much more impactful way than his previous mixtapes. This album is about the art of music, not breaking records or following trends. It feels like an exploratory culmination of various emotions, moods, and experiences, which helps each track feel relatable in a different way. 

There's A Lot To Look Forward To

RM displayed an immense maturity in his artistic expression through Indigo. He explores emotions both good and bad, but what remains throughout the entire project is a lingering feeling of hope for a better future. 

RM has always been a symbol of hope and grace as he has served as the spokesperson for his fellow members, both musically and in the public eye. But now, RM is getting to express himself for himself — and if Indigo is any indication, this is just the beginning of his journey inspiring the masses as a soloist.

K-Pop Icon B.I Isn't Afraid To Explore Growth And Freedom On 'Love Or Loved Pt. 1'

Herbal Tea & White Sofas: Juls' Must-Have Tour Item Is An African Instrument That Doubles As A Stress Reliever
Juls

Photo: Mahaneela Choudhury-Reid

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Herbal Tea & White Sofas: Juls' Must-Have Tour Item Is An African Instrument That Doubles As A Stress Reliever

The producer and DJ introduces fans to his kosh kash — a pocket-sized, egg-shaped instrument that is so versatile, he carries it with him everywhere when he's on the road.

GRAMMYs/Dec 5, 2022 - 06:59 pm

Juls — also known as Juls Baby, and born Julian Nicco-Annan — is perhaps known best for his work as a producer, helping create hits for acts like Burna Boy, Mr. Eazi and GoldLink. But the Ghanian-British producer and DJ is also a touring act who plays sets around the world — and he makes sure he has his trusty kosh kash with him.

In this episode of Herbal Tea & White Sofas, Juls introduces viewers to the egg-shaped African percussion instrument, which is also known as a Kashaka. The pocket-sized instrument is made up of two small gourds bound together by a string, and makes a rhythmic, rattling noise when shaken. It serves a lot of purposes, Juls explains.

"It's kind of like a shaker. It's kind of like a stress reliever when I'm preparing tours. It also helps me to make music," he says. "So any time I have an idea, I just record it on my phone in Voice Memos. I carry this everywhere I go when I travel."

Another mainstay of Juls' tour rider is "one of the best drinks in the world: Supermalt," the artist continues. "It's like a malt drink, made of wheat, with other things like added sugar and starch."

The non-alcoholic and caffeine-free malt beverage first originated in the early 1970s and served as a cheap energy source for the Nigerian Army. To this day, it's still an Afro-Caribbean staple — and now, a road necessity for Juls. "Definitely need to have that on the rider," he adds.

Press play on the video above to learn more about Juls' road essentials — plus how he prepares for his shows every night — and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Herbal Tea & White Sofas. 

Press Play: AkayCentric Delivers A Tender, Stripped-Down Performance Of "Body And Soul"

Positive Vibes Only: NewSpring Worship Share A Sweeping Message Of Faith With "Desde El Principio"
Charlee Buitrago of NewSpring Worship

Photo: Josh Chapmon

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Positive Vibes Only: NewSpring Worship Share A Sweeping Message Of Faith With "Desde El Principio"

Led by Venezuela-born vocalist Charlee Buitrago, NewSpring Worship shares their message of hope, faith and community in this sparkling live performance of "Desde El Principio."

GRAMMYs/Dec 4, 2022 - 06:10 pm

Since its inception more than two decades ago, NewSpring Worship has grown into a multicultural, multigenerational, musical expression of faith. Their name is a tribute to their beloved home base, the NewSpring Church, which has 14 different locations across South Carolina.

In this episode of Positive Vibes Only, NewSpring Worship deliver a soaring performance of their song, "Desde El Principio." Helmed by vocalist Charlee Buitrago — who also co-wrote the track — the bandmates take viewers through a simple, but powerful, rendition of the song. 

The clip begins with Buitrago singing in front of a simple white backdrop, and as the first verse progresses, the camera pans back to reveal two more musicians — one strumming an acoustic guitar, the other on the bench of a Rhodes electric piano.

With just those three artists in the frame, NewSpring Worship deliver a moving rendition of their song, which represents the faith collective's passion for putting out worship music that represents their own cultural diversity.

According to his website, Buitrago originally hails from Venezuela, but emigrated to the U.S. at age 17 after meeting an American missionary who helped him find his faith. Since then, Buitrago has continued to pursue both music and worship, with both himself and his native Spanish language becoming mainstays in the NewSpring Worship collective. 

Press play on the video above to watch this performance of "Desde El Principio," and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Positive Vibes Only.

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