Friday, 14 September 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 14/09/2018: Kanye West, Buke and Gase, 21 Pilots and more…




Let's talk about that new Kanye and Lil Pump track...

THE BEST:

‘Mythos Pathos’ – The Birthday Letters


This quirky track from London act The Birthday Letters deromanticises the legends of various tragic heroes such as Hemingway and Hamlet. The mix of synth vocals and acoustic guitars making up the upbeat instrumental is what initially grabbed me though – I don’t think I’ve heard a sound quite like it before.

‘Pink Boots’ – Buke & Gase


The music video is certainly odd. As for the lyrics, I think I made out something about ‘kitchen utensils’? All that aside, this new track from Brooklyn experimental duo Buke and Gase is enjoyably creative stuff– dirty guitars follow a jilted rhythm like noisy factory machines whilst Arone Dyer’s vocals glide over the top. Apparently, these musicians often perform on instruments that they’ve crafted themselves, showing just how far they’re willing to take their inventiveness.

‘All The Way Over The Edge (Bros Don’t Talk About Anything)’ – Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam


With a band name like Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam, there’s no way I could have ignored this track submission. Fortunately, their sound is as wild as their name, consisting of fuzzy guitars and unpredictable shifts whilst the lyrics delve into the fact that ‘bros don’t talk about anything’ (us guys never share our emotions with each other until we get drunk and it all explodes out!).

‘Remarkable’ – cityGirl



New Jersey native cityGirl delivers some dreamy chillwave vibes with this new remarkable track ‘Remarkable’. Hazy vocals float over fluttering synths, carried along by a smooth bassline and steady drum beat. If I could fly (which I can’t, but sprouting wings is something I’m working on) this would be the perfect song for flying too.

‘My Blood’ – Twenty One Pilots

I’m loving everything that these guys are releasing recently. What I assumed was going to be a slow pensive ballad turns into a groovy hit with falsettos and a funky feelgood riff. These dudes have so much diversity. What next – a metal tune?

THE WORST:

‘I Love It’ – Kanye West & Lil Pump ft. Adele Givens


This latest lyrical masterclass sees future president Kanye West teaming up with poet and philosopher Lil Pump. It also features Adele Givens – not to be confused with Adele (although that would have been interesting to hear). Eminem may as well give up now, because he’s never going to compete with bars like these.

I’M KIDDING. Of course, this song is absolute trash. The only two things Lil Pump had going for him – good beats and no autotune – have both been sacrificed in this song. As for Kanye, these are the worst bars of his career (I preferred his ‘poopity scoop’ verse earlier this year). Is he trolling us? In 2018, it's hard to tell. The music video is entertaining, I'll praise it for that – I’m loving the costumes and Kanye’s cheeky smiles. 

Review of 'Queen' by Nicki Minaj



Does Nicki Minaj deserve the title of 'queen', or is her plastic butt not worthy of the throne?

Let’s not pretend Nicki Minaj is the queen of hip hop. Although she can most definitely rap, she’s always swayed towards the more poppy side of the genre. You could certainly call her the queen of commercial rap (which incidentally can be abbreviated to c-rap), but even this title is under threat. There’s a new contender for most popular female rapper named Cardi B and she’s got just as much skill, sass and sex appeal. Does Nicki prove on Queen that Cardi is no match for her? Or is there no chance of beating Nandos-flavoured hit ‘I Like It Like That’ (because let’s face it, it's a pretty awesome tune)?

I will admit this – Nicki has some hot bars on this new album. She’s sounding meaner than ever and there are points where she definitely out-raps the likes of Cardi B. Take Biggie-inspired ‘Barbie Dreams’ as an example, which may well be the best track of her career. It’s a hilarious diss-fest that name drops every male rapper in the game before tearing them apart (including Eminem and 6ix9ine who appear as guests on the very same album!). Not only are her attacks incredibly witty (I didn’t even clock the deeper meaning behind the DJ Khaled diss first time around!), she also dedicates the trapped-up back-end of the track to showing off her ability to flow at speed.

Meanwhile, on other tracks such as ‘LLC’, she directly confronts upcoming female rappers. Her energy is fierier than ever before, even if her bars don’t carry the same weight (the line ‘tryna make a new Nicki, where the factory? They’ll never toe-to-toe on a track with me’ might have been fire had Cardi B not already proved she can ‘toe-to-toe on track’ with Nicki on the track ‘Motorsports’).

Maybe if we’d got a whole album of this gritty and witty Nicki, I’d be willing to bow down to her as queen. But alas, these moments of majestic greatness are just glimpses.

Nicki spends a good chunk of this album chasing pop appeal. Too much pure rap could stop her scoring those Spotify streams – your average music fan doesn’t want mean bars, they want softly-crooned pop ballads such as ‘Run and Hide’. It’s these tracks where she loses me by pulling out the autotune and rapping about mistrust in a relationship in a bland Drake-esque tone. Other tracks meanwhile see her resorting to collaborations with Soundcloud rappers over bland Migos-style beats – 6ixnine delivers the most meaningless bars of 2018 on ‘FEFE’, whilst ‘Chun Swae’ offers a horribly sung hook from Swae Lee in his typically prepubescent style. Here, Nicki does little to distance herself from their level of quality, staying deliberately dumbed-down because she thinks this is what sells.

Admittedly, none of these songs reach Stupid-Hoe-levels of trash (although I doubt even Lil Yachty in a submarine could reach those lows). She’s largely abandoned her annoying Roman Zolanski voice and there are less deliberately obnoxious lyrics. For the most part, the songs are just dull attempts to appeal to the masses. The irony is that despite all her efforts, Travis Scott’s ASTROWORLD still beat her to the top of the charts – a still accessible yet much more alternative hip hop album. I guess sometimes it pays to experiment.

TRACK TASTER:



Friday, 7 September 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 07/09/2018: Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, George Clanton, Soulfly and more…




New tunes to get you busting moves like Theresa May.

THE BEST:

‘Body Move’ – Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs


I first discovered Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs a month ago and assumed it was a band. It’s actually the solo project of Orlando Higginbottom (I’m no sure which I love more – his stage name or his real name). Whilst previous single ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ was a Tame Impala-esque slowburner, this new single ‘Body Move’ is a garish house banger. Long-time TEED fans claim it’s more similar to his original work – I wouldn’t know considering I haven’t heard any of it. Personally, I think it’s just as exciting as his slower material, offering a creative mix of stomping percussion and hazy vocals.

‘Slide’ – George Clanton


 Vaporwave producer George Clanton is back with another album (which he’s described as a ‘vaporwave opera’). This lead single ‘Slide’ is pure 90s nostalgia, but through a distorted filter – the same warped filter that helped make his album 100% Electronica feel so unique. I particularly like the dreamy synth passage towards the back end and the rave beat that follows.

‘FUTD’ – Dabbla


The quality of music videos in UK hip hop is now enough to rival the quality found across the pond. Just check out these new cinematic visuals from enigmatic rapper Dabbla as an example, which sees the musician befriending a robot that has crash-landed in the Nevada desert. The song itself it also well-produced, featuring a crazy trap beat and some crisp kooky bars from Dabbla.

‘Clear Skies’ – Dream Phases


LA bedroom artist Dream Phases delivers this psychedelic Beatles-esque track ‘Clear Skies’. I’m not sure whether its calming or unsettling – whilst the reverb-soaked vocals have a happy trippy vibe, the shrill and otherworldly guitars provide an almost unsettling vibe.

‘Evil Empowered’ - Soulfly


Soulfly’s breed of metal has always relied on being simple but effective. This latest single is a speaker-busting assault of chugging riffs and fist-pumping chants. Max’s vocals seem to be a little strained (it’s no surprise considering he’s spent the last three decades screaming his lungs out) but I can still feel the ferocity and conviction behind them. All in all, this track makes me want to punch someone – which always a sign of a good metal song.

THE WORST:

‘When The Curtain Falls’ - Greta Van Fleet


Fans are heralding these guys as the new Led Zeppelin. The problem is that they sound EXACTLY like Led Zeppelin. It’s okay to be influenced by a band, but when you model your sound entirely off of theirs, you may as well be a cover band.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

INTRODUCING: Star The Moonlight



Meet Star The Moonlight.

They’re a self-described ‘neo soul band straight from the outer rim’.   

Their sound is an exciting nebula of various intergalactic instrumental layers from spacey synths to cosmic clarinets – in fact, they’re one of the few modern bands to use bass clarinet so prominently. Songs take a jazzy and proggy approach to structure, occasionally orbiting back around to a familiar melody but often drifting off to explore new chord arrangements and grooves. Vocalist Hattie Simon meanwhile delivers silky singing over the top, bringing the extra-terrestrial sound back to earth with a human touch (that’s probably enough space references for now).

The band’s new album Haven’t You Heard showcases their diversity. From groove-laden punchy opener ‘Don’t You Think You Wanna’ to slow cinematic closer ‘Reprise’, the record explores various moods and paces. The talent on display is top notch, but rather simply using their prowess to show off, they use it to craft rich melodies and sparkling atmosphere.



Max from Star The Moonlight was kind enough to invite me across the galaxy for an interview. Read below as I discuss the gritty stuff including pizza, sci-fi movies and favourite planets.

If Star The Moonlight was a pizza what toppings would it have?
You know, I hate to say it but I think we might be pineapple.  It really makes a strong gustatory statement and because of that, some people love it and some people hate it, but no one is neutral.  Art, I mean a pizza topping like that is more fun to me than one on which everyone is neutral.
Generic interview question - what are all your musical backgrounds and how did you all meet?
Andrew and I went to the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and ended up moving to New York City together.  We’ve been roommates for a while.  He introduced me to Phil and James.  Believe it or not, Andrew actually met James because they both responded to a Craigslist add put out by our now dear friend Matt Anderson who was putting together his band at the time.  (His music is amazing btw, go check it out). Hattie and I were introduced by another (well really he’s THE other) NYC bass clarinetist and dear friend Jasper Dutz.  He actually gave me my first bass clarinet back in 2009.
Your new album Haven’t You Heard is incredible. I feel like I’ve just gone on an adventure across the cosmos. What was it like to compose and produce?
Wow, man, first of all, thank you so much.  That’s a HUGE compliment.  I feel like I was so innocent when I wrote all of this music.  These songs (aside from the reprise which is the most recently written composition by far) came from such a singular point of view and were all vehicles for processing and understanding pretty specific issues that I was dealing with when I wrote them.  Because of this, hearing them back now sometimes feels like they were written by someone else.  
Anyhow, producing them was amazing, such a fun experience.  I learned so much, the band absolutely nailed the songs in recording, and our mix engineer Fernando Lodeiro made everything we played sound absolutely massive.
Clarinets don’t get the love they deserve. Who are some of your favourite clarinetists? What are some good clarinet bangers that people ought to give a listen to.
Well that’s definitely true in the case of bass clarinet. It’s such a got such a unique and beautiful sound that I think is edgy and nostalgic at the same time.  
For good recordings of bass clarinet check out some classical and jazz music.  Tchaikovsky (The Nutcracker), Stravinsky (the Rite of Spring) and Shostakovich (Symphony #8 and many others) wrote some beautiful shit for bass clarinet and would occasionally write lead-ish melodies for it.  And for stuff in the Jazz lexicon I would recommend Herbie Hancock’s thrust.  Bennie Maupin played some beautiful bass clarinet all over that album.  That said, the absolute greatest bass clarinetist of all time IMO and my absolute favorite is Eric Dolphy, but his music is a little more difficult to digest.  Listening to recordings of him is THE reason I play that instrument.  


I loved your epic music video for ‘Good Fight’. What was it like filming it? Did you enjoy falling into the water from space?
Thank you, huge shout out to the director Julia Barrett-Mitchell who came up with the amazing story and to the director of photography and editor James Rosser Berry who made each shot look so beautiful!  Filming it was a lot of work but also a lot of fun.  Woodworking is a hobby of mine and I actually built the spaceship set myself on the sidewalk outside my queens apt.  It took about two solid weeks.  Falling into the water was fun! I’m really just jumping off the edge of the rock island visible in the final shot.  Also that island was absolutely caked in bird shit.  We all had to shower immediately after getting those shots.
What are your favourite and least favourite sci-fi movies?
Oh man, great question.  Without a doubt, my favorite film of all time is Stanley Kubrick’s, “2001, a Space Odyssey.”  I love the music and the absolute gorgeousness of it all.  I’m also a huge fan of the original Star Wars trilogy, mostly for the art direction.  The world those ILM prop makers created was so convincing and they physically made pretty much everything that appears on screen.  That takes some real skill.  
Least favorite would have to be Star Wars episode 7 and 8.  They reeked of a big money grab, and they felt derivative and did little to expand the Star Wars world for me.
What’s your favourite and least favourite planet in the solar system?
My favorite planet is Jupiter.  It is gorgeous and has some really interesting moons.  Saturn is a close second for the same reasons.  Least favorite is Mars, not much happens there….  
I still hope that we send a crewed mission to Mars soon though but for goodness sake, let’s bring them back.  Those who wish to colonize Mars in the near future would likely, I fear, experience a profoundly exotic form of isolation. 
What musical artists are you all listening to right now? Any underrated artists that you think people ought to know about?
I think in general our tastes are pretty eclectic.  We’re all big fans of Moonchild, Vulfpeck, Tierra Whack, Smino, Dirty Projectors, Madvillain, Margeret Glaspy, Young Fathers, and the list could go on and on.  As far as underrated artists go, Michael Mayo, Matthew Anderson, Harry Terrell, No Swoon, Sirintip, and saxophonist and composer Matt Chalk are all amazing.
Imagine you’re stranded on a desert planet and you have one album that you can bring with you and listen to – which album is it?
That’s a classic question that we’ve all thought about before. Phil’s would be D’angelo’s “Voodoo,” Andrew’s would be the Beau Arts trio playing Ravel’s piano trio in A minor, James’ would be Joao Gilberto’s “Live in Tokyo,” Hattie’s would be Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life,” and mine would be “Madvillainy.”  Would you have guessed they’d all be so different?
What does the future hold for Star The Moonlight?
We’ll have to see, maybe a UK tour ;).  I’m currently working on the music for our next album so hopefully that will be out in the next couple of years.  Also we’d love to open for Hiatus Kaiyote.   Who really knows, so much is possible.  I could get hit by a meteorite as you read this sentence. 
Follow Star The Moonlight at https://www.facebook.com/starthemoonlight/

Friday, 24 August 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 24/08/2018: Disclosure, I Aeronaut, Paul McCartney and more…




Disclosure won’t stop dropping new songs and Paul McCartney wants to ‘fuh’ you.

THE BEST:

‘Moonlight’ – Disclosure


Disclosure have been going nuts this week releasing new singles left, right and centre – by the time you’ve read this post they’ll have probably released three more tracks. Despite experimenting with different genres such as funk and even 50s pop, the bulk of this new material has been pretty meh. The exception is 'Moonlight', which is everything I love from Disclosure with it's slick build-up and glossy chords. Of all the tracks released, it's probably the closest to the duo's original deep house sound. Why can't all the other singles be like this? Why do musicians have to change? I HATE CHANGE.

‘Balancing Act’ – I, Aeronaut


This is like some chillwave take on Radiohead – it’s a grainy mix of moody vocals, distorted drums and reverb-soaked guitars. At points it’s so muddy, you can barely distinguish sounds from one another, yet it remains a pretty cloud of sounds rather than an ugly mess.

‘Tick Tock’ – Japanese Television



This intense instrumental is the work of space-surf rockers Japanese Television. It races along to the accompaniment of a driving bass riff and pounding drum beat whilst various psychedelic effects play out over the top. It makes me picture the hero of an action movie racing through traffic to disarm a bomb in the local mall that’s tick-tocking away.

‘SPACEMAN’ – Chloe Black



This is pure unadulterated pop, the likes of which I usually avoid on this blog, but there’s something unique in the melody that elevates this beyond your usual radio fodder. I particularly like the transition from the woozy verse to the grandiose chorus. I don’t even care that the lyrics are about wanting to fuck a spaceman.

THE WORST:

‘Fuh You’ – Paul McCartney


I’m not the first to make this joke, but here it is anyway: hasn’t Paul come a long way since ‘I want to hold your hand’? It’s interesting, because if anyone else had sung this hook in 2018, no-one would bat an eyelid – that’s how overtly sexual pop music has become. The fact that it’s coming out of the mouth of a 76-year-old ex-Beatle’s mouth is what makes it so scandalous, and I kind of respect him for having the audacity to do it. The issue is that Paul doesn’t go far enough – if he really wanted to stir things up he should jumped on a Death Grips beat or some grindcore, not this clean commercial crap.

Friday, 17 August 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 17/08/2018: Twenty One Pilots, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, False Advertising and more…



Twenty One Pilots sound less poppy, whilst The 1975 have gone the opposite way.

THE BEST:

‘Levitate’ – Twenty One Pilots


Frontman Tyler Joseph is rapping his butt off on this new single and the beat is insane, melding 808s and raw percussion whilst topped with various moody sounds. It’s very different to the band’s usual poppy material – there’s nothing to sing along to and it probably won’t get any radio airplay, but I’m digging it (and my opinion is all that matters).

 ‘Don’t Forget About Me’ – Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs


Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs is an awesome band name – I’m glad they’re not a totally enormous disappointment and that they’ve got an awesome sound to match. After a slow and ethereal build-up of sparkling synths and ghostly vocals, the song starts to warp in pitch at the three-and-a-half-minute mark before breaking into a defiantly feelgood groove.

‘FOA’ – wwoman



Pittsburgh artist wwoman is actually a mman (I think). A slinky bass riff and glossy chords make up the hypnotic instrumental, which is topped with reverb-soaked wistful vocals. It reminds me of a more intimate Tame Impala.

‘Don’t Think You Wanna’ – Star The Moonlight



New York based group Star The Moonlight deliver this slice of delicious future soul. The instrumental is an amalgamation of squelchy synths, deep bass, funky clarinet and other jazzy sounds, offering a number of exciting twists and turns. Vocalist Hattie Simon meanwhile delivers some classic smoky soul singing over the top. It’s an impressive debut single that has me hungry for more. 

‘You Said’ – False Advertising


I’ve featured these Manchester rockers on my blog a good few times – they’ve grown in popularity since I interviewed them, which I’m happy to see. Their latest single ‘You Said’ features their signature mix of scuzzy grungy guitars and belting anthemic vocals. They’re one of the few rock bands that I hope will never change their formula, because it’s so reliably good.   

THE WORST:

‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’ – The 1975


Well, for starters, whoever came up with that obnoxious track title deserves to be slapped. As for the song itself, The 1975 are no longer ripping off INXS and now sound like Maroon 5 with a vaguely dancehall-flavoured beat and a bit of autotune slathered on top. It’s the sound of a band letting go of all authenticity and selling out to the zeitgeist. They’ll be teaming up with Drake or Cardi B next, mark my words…

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Review of 'TA13OO' by Denzel Curry



Denzel spits, sings and screeches on his most dynamic record to date.

Hip hop fans have been sleeping on Denzel Curry so long that I’m surprised they haven’t got bedsores at t his point. The fast-flowing Floridian rapper pretty much fathered Soundcloud rap – although to put him in the same category as dumbed-down goons like Lil Pump seems a bit of an insult. Denzel’s music is its own blend of ingredient (his very own musical curry) – a mix of speedy flows, angry delivery and half-trip/half-trap beats.

2016’s Imperial, an album of wall-to-wall bangers, showed how fun Denzel could be. My only gripe with this record was that it lacked dynamics, with the energy seemingly jammed in sixth gear. Denzel Curry clearly must have read my review, because if there’s one big change on this album, it’s the newfound dynamics.

Taboo (stylised TA13OO) is divided into three acts – Light, Grey and Dark. The ‘Light’ section opens the album with Denzel showing off his crooning skills (yes, this man can now sing), carrying a tone similar to Andre 3000 over a selection of lush and soulful beats. This is followed by the ‘Grey’ act, which is largely trap anthems. It then ends with the ‘Dark’ section, which borders on screamo rap with its aggressive closer ‘Black Metal Terrorist’ in which Denzel attempts to finish off the listener in a Mortal Kombat fashion.

The light/grey/dark theme doesn’t completely make sense – lyrically, there’s not much lightness on any of the tracks. Even the first act delves deep into depression (although the lyrics certainly get more unhinged, with Denzel contemplating terrorism by the end). I’m also unsure why aggressive banger ‘Sumo’ ended up on the light section, nor do I understand why ‘Vengeance’ takes a smooth jazzy turn despite being on the dark section.

Thematic discrepancies aside though, the individual tracks themselves on TA13OO are Denzel’s best so far – so much so that I’m willing to overlook the theme entirely. There are more hooks in this tracklist than a fishing store – ‘Black Balloons’ hasn’t even finished and I was already mouthing the words ‘let it flow, let it flow, let it flow by me’. As for Denzel’s delivery, this is where the newfound sense of dynamics really makes an appearance. Whilst he still throws out his hyperspeed flows on occasion, most of tracks see him reigning it in so that he can vary up the pace. ‘Switch It Up’ is the perfect example of this, in which he jumps over the 808s like an acrobat, switching his flow up (hence the title) from bar to bar.

Lyrically, Denzel is also on top form and equally diverse. When he’s not pulling out fun and esoteric pop culture references to anime characters and wrestlers on tracks like ‘Sumo’, the rapper confronting more serious issues such as suicide on ‘Clout Cobain’. This latter track is a fresh take on the pressures of fame – the shocking music video gives the track most of its power, but the song itself is still innovative. Even token anti-Trump track ‘Sirens’ isn’t all that bad, featuring a guest verse from J.I.D (who I keep meaning to check out more from) and a great line about how one narrow-minded white person can make a black community insular: ‘with a good girl gone bad girl/ who went gay cause of date rape/ that’s a metaphor for the US/ cause they got us in the same state’.

Denzel may not possess the poetry of a rapper like Kendrick, but he’s still got a flow and energy to rival these artists. It’s about time that he started to get recognition - already this album is converting new fans and making him the household name in hip hop that he deserves. I’ll agree that the light/grey/dark theme isn’t entirely watertight, but this doesn’t really matter to me given that the songs themselves are some of the most well-rounded and catchy rap songs to drop this year.

TRACK TASTER: