Monarch Music Minute: Dropkick Murphys, The XX and Run The Jewels
Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor
Dropkick Murphys – ‘11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory’ 💿💿💿💿
There is no better cathartic release than good, loud rock music. Dropkick Murphys have always been a reassuring voice in times of trouble and this album is no different.
“11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory,” which dropped on Jan. 6, is everything a good rock album should be. It’s brash, but collected. It’s an anthem for all badasses alike.
The hit single, “Blood,” is a unifying track. Bagpipes play alongside an equalizer with the harsh voices of the band. As they chant, “If you want blood / we’ll give you some,” the listener can’t help but feel included in whatever rampage the band is planning.
“11 Short Stories” centers not only around the good side of redemption, but also the bad side. The track “Rebels With a Cause” is a more empathetic track. The song is a sad look at how society treats those dealing with addictions or kids on the street. Lyrics such as, “Don’t be angry at the kids / be angry at the greed,” sum up the track.
“Paying My Way” captures the true essence of the album. The base, rock sound with the harmonica backbone gives way to an easy beat. As the group chants “I’m proud to be a fighter,” there’s just no better way to describe what the album is all about.
Dropkick Murphys aren’t shy when it comes to politics. Solemn song “4-15-13” is a nod at the Boston Marathon bombing. A more aggressive track, “First Class Loser,” features a nameless bully and jerk one can’t help but compare to our new president.
Dropkick Murphys have the ability to take how they are feeling and turn it into a collected, well-layered piece of art. The Celtic-rock group are just people who have something to say and do what they need to make sure their message is heard. “11 Short Stories” reestablishes them as fabulous songwriters and even better story tellers.
The XX – I See You 💿💿💿💿
Strange murmurs and indie-pop seem to easily describe the undefinable genre of The XX. The three members of the small band pack a punch with their emotional lyrics and cynical sound.
“I See You,” released on Jan. 13, gives the band a new, unguarded sound they have not shown before. They have laid themselves out for consumption and it leaves an evocative undertone. The album is a collection of strange, yet inviting, noises. Each song is sleek and has a new-wave millennial sound that enraptures the listener.
The tracks “Brave For You” and “Performance” showcase the heartbreak and honesty of the album. Lead singer Romy Madley Croft croons about putting on a brave face even during the hardest of times. She declares, “If I scream at the top of my lungs / will you hear what I don’t say?” on “Performance.”
Though neither Croft nor fellow lead singer, Oliver Sim, have any remarkable range, their consistent notes and pitches have the album sounding more like a conversation with the listener. Instead of singing to you, they are singing with you.
Hit single “On Hold” is one of the more upbeat songs off the album. It has the pop-synth vibe that is perfect for mainstream radio. The back and forth of Croft and Sim keep the song interesting, relatable and conversational.
The XX are a notoriously quiet band. They’re a bit dramatic and at times downright brooding, but they’ve never been loud in terms of actual music. Lead track “Dangerous” changes all that by starting off with the piercing sound of horns. It quickly dissipates into a classic R&B sound but the horns keep up as a good backbone to the song.
Closing track “Test Me” is the perfect ending to the album. It starts with a simple piano and Croft carrying the vocals as she sings, “Test me / see if I will break.” Slowly, the song transforms into a dramatic mix of synth and bass. It’s one of the more in-depth tracks of the album, perhaps leaving the listener with the need to play the album over again.
Run The Jewels – ‘Run The Jewels 3’ 💿💿💿💿
Run The Jewels is one of those rare duos that seem to get better as they make more music. “Run The Jewels 3,” or “RTJ3,” has only shown strength and growth from the duo.
Killer Mike and EI-P have matured a lot since their last release in 2014. They’re more politically driven and now carry a cynical sound. The 14-track offering, released on Dec. 25, showcases their ability as wordsmiths in troubling times.
“RTJ3” is confident, perhaps even borderline arrogant, in the best way. EI-P boasts, “We talk too loud, won’t remain in our places,” on “Everybody Stay Calm.”
Killer Mike spent a lot of the past couple of years being a political activist. He spent much of 2015 and early 2016 campaigning for Bernie Sanders. The results of the election obviously didn’t sit well with him as he raps, “He wore a bad toupee and a spray tan” on “Talk to Me.”
“A Report to the Shareholders” is what really brings the album together. “Not from the same part of town, but we both hear the same sound coming / and it sounds like war,” they rap. It’s the ultimate warning of what’s to come.
“Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost)” keeps on with the political theme of the album. “Can’t keep killing God’s children,” Killer Mike raps. The track is a Black Lives Matter anthem and even includes a vocal excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“RTJ3” is a callout for everyone not doing anything to help people who need it. The album is almost mocking in an “I told you so!” manner. The duo have a message, and it’s that everything is going to get pretty messy pretty fast if people don’t start paying attention.
💿 — Face palm.
💿💿 — Eh…
💿💿💿 — We’re getting there.
💿💿💿💿 — I’ll listen to it twice, even.
💿💿💿💿💿 — Hell yes!