Friday, August 30, 2013

Hopscotch Highlight: Jamaican Queens

Jamaican Queens perform on Saturday, Sept. 6
at The Hive at Busy Bee
It's hard to believe that there's under a week left until Hopscotch, but alas we're inching closer and closer. It's been difficult to quell my excitement for the festival, but now that we're six days away I can begin to truly geek out over how fantastic next weekend is going to be. Although the lineup has undergone a slew of changes, it's still as strong as before with some devastatingly awesome lineup additions happening at the last minute. While the past two Hopscotch Highlights have focused on local artists, this last one will shine the light upon an act from Detroit that's been on my radar for quite some time now.

Jamaican Queens are another group (much like Sylvan Esso) that's been crafting fantastic pop tunes with a strong electronic footing. Many critics have penned the trio as a "trap-pop" group due to their southern hip-hop influence in their production styles, but tossing labels aside it's clear that this band is fixated on deviating from the norm and producing an incomparable sound. With influences ranging from pop stars like Drake to dancehall to punk, Jamaican Queens serve as an amalgamation of various styles that comes out as banging pop gems.

Songwriter Ryan Spencer describes the group's sound as "abrasive pop," citing their bleak Detroit surroundings as an influence for their somber and twisted lyrical content. "Living in a really bleak city like Detroit makes it easy to dwell in depression," Spencer claims. "But that’s kind of my best way to write songs, by being like cripplingly depressed." But despite calling a bankrupt city home, Spencer and the rest of Jamaican Queens embrace their surroundings, as it allows them to do what they do best, craft these infectious pop tunes that are tinged with dark undertones.

"I don’t need a job [in Detroit], I can just make music," Spencer says. "But if I lived in New York or something I’d have to get a serious job where I’d have to wait tables or something.  I just can’t do that. I can’t handle working for people man, it makes me feel crazy." So the band has called settled in Detroit, and thus their downtrodden city has an enormous effect on their rich soundscape. Their trap influences draw upon these same gritty surroundings, low-income areas that are brimming with drug deals and violence. So naturally Jamaican Queens' pop leanings will still come across as darkly driven explorations of these musicians' psyches.

While the tracks are peppered with trap influences, there's an equal amount of heady space that's clearly drawn from ambient and psychedelic territories, everything from Brian Eno to David Bowie. These tracks contain a certain bit of glamour and pomp, something that evokes an urge to get up and dance whilst beckoning the listener to close their eyes and succumb to the entrancing production. "It's a good juxtaposition for the bleak subject matter," Spencer claims.

The band's full-length debut Wormfood dabbles into some grimy territory from both inward and outward reflections from Ryan Spencer. They tackle the woes of being a 20-something male living in a tumultuous city whilst delving into the unsettling territory of our eventual demise. Wormfood as a whole is in reference to our shared fate, we're all going to love and lose and we're all going to die. Wormfood is an album filled with urgency and frenetic aspirations, but it's all approached with a brilliant level of humanistic simplicity. Inner-city violence is referenced alongside the angst and frustrations of romantic obsessions and unfulfilled desires.

Jamaican Queens are a band that's sure to provide an incredibly lively show at this year's festival. Their Saturday night lineup is one that's filled with brilliant showmen, local favorites Casual Curious are opening the bill and fellow electronic-dabbling popsters of Majical Cloudz will be closing the bill at The Hive at Busy Bee. However, if you can't check out their set on Saturday night, the band will be performing at the Spazzatorium's day party alongside Bottom String favorites Ghostt Bllonde.

Jamaican Queens perform at 10:00 pm on Saturday Night at The Hive at Busy Bee
Jamaican Queens will also be performing Saturday afternoon at the Spazzscotch Day Party at 3:25 pm at Slim's

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