A Toronto-based music junkie storehouse

January Summer: Urthboy’s “Smokey’s Haunt”

Smokey's Haunt

You gotta go about it
You gotta write it out.
You gotta know about it,
You gotta let it out. 

Trumpet and bass. Yes, you think, lead me in that way. Build slowly with some rhymes, whisper them to me.  You can feel yourself relaxing into it.  You close your eyes and let your body sway. Now you’re just listening to what he’s saying, and it’s all the right things…He says he has stories that he could tell you. You want to hear Every. Single. One.  You tell yourself that no matter what the genre, musical victory is when a song makes you stop thinking, when it separates you from the paradigm, rescues you from the mental web that you’re caught in. It clears your mind, so to speak, and suddenly, the only thing you’re connected to is the beat.

Urthboy2For those of you who are new to Australian hip-hop,  you‘re in for a trip: a trip downunda.  I would wager that most people who read music blogs have some experience with the dub that comes out of that bit of ocean.  Chilling with The Black Seeds, or any of their peers, feels very much like hanging with that dreadlocked, easy-going-vegemite-loving-smiler you snowboarded with that time. Australian hip-hop is his faster, more confident cousin.  I’m not meaning to pigeon hole Urthboy when I say that; I know that every human being is an individual. I only mean to say that if you’re expecting thudding anger with gun shots in the background and lyrics that only talk about expensive liquor and some coastal riff that no one understands, then you’ll be sorely disappointed.  Smokey’s Haunt delivers deep vibes and Urthboy’s beats are busty but principled.

The Big Sleep delivered the all-important mind explosion that I covet. It is a song that you can listen to one million times in a row (I know this from personal experience.) The spoken word intro grips, the backbeat engages, and Alex Burnett’s vocals demand the arms-above-head-dual-fist-pump that’s necessary when a simple head bounce doesn’t suffice.  Oh my god, the spoken word element.  It is a beautifully woven song and a humble one at that.  I love that Urthboy outsourced Alex Burnett to add some swag. I dare say a battle between him and Michael Bublé would be historical. The two of them… all jazzy and ‘50s cool in their tailored suits.

UrthboyUrthboy is a former member of The Herd, a hip-hop group that used to roll at least eight deep.  Now, as the creative director of his own label Elefant Traks, he is carving a name for himself as a solo artist. However, many of his former band mates are showcased in this album. Over half of it is collaborative, an illustration of Urthboy’s keen ear, sharp artistry, and general admiration for talent in others. The featured guests display tone and colour that push the tracks beyond what would be possible without their juxtaposition to Urthboy’s quick lines. Voices on this album are instruments, and each is used it wisely and with intention. Songs feature Jimblah, Texture Like Sun, Sulo, and Ev Jones, to name a few, and they just keep getting better and better.

You wish you had a refurbished powder blue’68 mustang to cruise along a cliff-hugging road. Desert cacti grows in the mountain’s fissures and against the guard rail, visible in the moving yellow headlights as you turn. Black sky over navy water, you can feel the heat rolling in the open window, head rocking in tandem with the kokpelli hanging from your rear view mirror.

Final Thought: Urthboy’s real name is Tim Levinson.

Tracks to Check Out:
The Big Sleep (feat. Alex Burnett)
Knee Length Socks
Calling Cards (feat. Texture Like Sun & Ev Jones.)



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Categorised in: Album Reviews, Reviews

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