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Mike Arson “Playing With Matches”: Review

Starting off a track with a line like “Yeah that beat sound good, don’t it?” is saying what I assume most hyped rappers and producers think when a certain beat catches their ear when starting a project. In Mike Arson’s case, the man has practically been drowning in beats for other people’s albums for years now and it was no surprise to me that he saved some of his own fire to play with for his debut album, Playing With Matches.

Mike Arson, of Against The Grain, has executive produced for a handful of local artists over the years, including for his own group, and a handful of guest features, such as the track “Rappers Do It Better,” off of JB!!’s latest album DEADication, released earlier this year. Arson’s portfolio includes executive producing Almost Gone by Masai (2008), Against The Grain by ATG (2011), Almost Home by Masai (2013) and Growing Pains (2013). Spanning over 7 years of producing for other people’s projects, saying its exciting for Arson to have his own album finally released is an understatement.

Building a name as both a rapper and a producer, Arson’s arsenal is filled with all sorts of tricks and talent. My favorite part about Playing With Matches is that while this was an opportunity for Arson to do his thing fully as a solo artist for the first time, he still decided to bring in a handful of features from other artists to build with, while leading the reins of the direction he wanted to go in. This album is a family affair, and I will always love that element about our local rap scene. (Thanks everyone.)

Playing With Matches is solid from the quick 16 bar intro to the final track.

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TEDxAlbany 2014

TEDxAlbany recently announced the speakers for this year’s event, which will be held December 4. If you’re not familliar with TEDx events, you can watch videos from last years TEDxAlbany to see what it’s about.

The description of TEDx:

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.

Tickets are still available. If you can’t attend, the event will be streamed on December 4, and videos will also be posted after the fact as well. Go get inspired!

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Tasting with Tandem Coffee Roasters at Brew

On Black Friday, Tandem Coffee Roasters will be holding a tasting of their coffees at Brew from Noon to 2pm. About two weeks ago I went to visit them in Portland, Maine, so this is a no brainer if you’re in the area. If you like coffee, stop by. Tandem recently won a prestigious Good Food Award for one of their coffees.

Brew will also have #hotdeals on growler fills, tea makers and more.


The Albany Patch

A lot of times when friends come to visit, they pine for some sort of Albany souvenir. There are some, but none are really that great and it’s the same with Albany postcards. When I saw the first photo of The Albany Patch, I was stoked.

The story behind the patch:

For quite some time now, I’ve been on the hunt for an Albany souvenir patch. After some extensive searching, I determined that for some reason, they don’t exist. That didn’t stop me from wanting one, so I decided to design one myself and have them produced. Probably not quite what Gandhi meant by “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” but fuggit.

Knowing that these might not be around forever I got my hands on some. You can do the same over at These make great gifts so consider grabbing more than just one for yourself. And big thanks to Mitch for going through and making something he wanted, but didn’t exist.

Seez Mics Cruel Fuel cover

Seez Mics “Cruel Fuel”: Review

Learning that Seez Mics has a background in spoken word poetry made perfect sense to me after listening to his latest release, “Cruel Fuel.”

Seez Mics, known for being one-half of his former group Educated Consumers and for his time as an American Battle MC, has been in the game for a long time, and I’m intrigued that this particular album was our first introduction, as I discovered it’s quite a different direction from some of his past work.

The album was released last month on the label Crushkill Recordings, which was started by Eyedea shortly before his passing. Seez Mics speaks sincerely and humbly of their longtime friendship on the record, as well as touches on other friends he’s lost, perhaps even touching upon these subjects of death (and life after grieving) in this personal capacity for the first time in his work.

“Cruel Fuel” is appropriately titled as such, with many of his lyrics and patterns being spit like fast and furious mantras. That being said, this album isn’t for everyone – it’s definitely different. And that’s what it makes it awesome.

It’s the type of album I want to listen to when I’m pissed off, working out or walking somewhere maybe a little too far in the cold ass upstate NY weather, but then certain tracks are pensive and poetic and therefore the album rounds itself out well. It’s a very clear point of view with honest innovation, and its clear he took some serious risks with this project. It’s progressive and polished, while still featuring a nice variety of moods, tempos and dark truths. Each time I’ve listened, I’ve discovered a new favorite line I didn’t catch the first time.

Several of the tracks read like whimsical and modern folklore, while others are as real as real can be. The album is reflective and touches on topics of religion, cynicism, optimism, music, questioning society and relationships, as well as an internal battle of figuring out what one believes in and stands for, especially how to bounce back when shit happens.

Stand-out tracks for me included “Serotonin Sweepstakes,” “That’s Not How It Works,” “Human Farm” (this track was a surprise, and pushes the album into other genres besides hip hop), “What Your Head Will Hold,” and “Torn.” The instrumental “Angel In The Engine” is also quite pleasant and breaks up the gritty experimental hip hop feel of the album. Overall, I was quite impressed by the artistry of this album, although I admittedly didn’t love, love it at first. The tracks just seem to build and build and have since found a secure slot on my regular listening rotation.

Seez Mics said it best himself, describing his music as “a mirror looking back at you.” I love that. Get to know Seez Mics through “Cruel Fuel” available on Bandcamp and iTunes.


Quality events for this weekend

Friday November 14

Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company at Sage: Modern dance performance.

Homeless and Hunger Outreach Show at Pauly’s and The Low Beat: Benefit show for a great cause with great music.

The Weight (playing the music of The Band) at the Massry Center: With local favorite Sean Rowe.

Jacqueline Kiyomi Gordon at EMPAC: The exploration of how sound changes as one moves through space.

Mivos Quartet at EMPAC: String quartet performing new works.

Saturday November 15

Albany VegFest at the PCC: Learn about all things veg.

Sol LeWitt: A Film by Chris Teerink: A look into Sol LeWitt.

Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company at Sage: Modern dance performance.

St. Lucia at the Hollow: Indie pop.

Hack RPI: Hackathon at RPI.

Yarn/Wire at EMPAC: Music ensemble with pianists and percussionists.

Make Me Laugh Finals at The Linda: Final round of the MML series.

Comedy’s Best Kept Secret Tour at Proctors: Dan Frigolette, Matt Richards, Simeon Godson, and Pete Bladel and the winner of MML Albany.

Nine Pin Pressing Party: Pressing 80 types of Apples for a cider blend. Cider, food, music and more.

Upstate’s Alright at The Low Beat: Punk flea market with vegan food specials from Joey B.

Albany Center Gallery 2014 Winter Gallery at Hilton Albany: Celebrate the arts.

All weekend

Art Omi: The sculpture fields are awesome.

Day trip to MASS MoCA: Pretty drive and a great museum.

The NYS Museum: Bunch of great exhibits and it’s right in your backyard.

Pulp Fiction and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day at the Madison Theater: Only five bucks!

Farmer’s Markets: Troy, Delmar, and Saratoga on Saturday, and Schenectady and Saratoga on Sunday.

Hardcore Against Hunger at Bogie’s


On November 21 Bogie’s is hosting their annual Hardcore Against Hunger Thanksgiving food drive show. On the bill for the night is Turnstile, Homewrecker, Pharoah, Trife Life, From Within, and Doublecross.

Read more on the facebook event page and be sure to bring a canned item with you to the show.