Wednesday, 13 December 2017
If you’re looking for ambient drone music, Iglooghost is not the musician for you. The Irish producer throws more sounds into ten seconds of a track than most beatsmiths manage to put into a full record. It’s EDM with ADHD that refuses to sit still and focus, throwing the listener around like a rag doll from one idea to the next.
The digital mazes making up his debut Neo Wax Bloom borrow elements of breakcore, garage, trap and footwork – pretty much any EDM genre he can get his hands on and shoehorn into the mix. These instrumentals are sometimes topped with sped up grime verses to add to the already dizzying pace. It’s like a movie chase scene played on fast-forward.
Iglooghost could easily be accused of going too far when it comes to his complex arrangements. Without repeated beats or even repeated melodies to give a sense of direction, his tracks can sometimes leave you feeling lost. Take ‘Super Ink Burst’ as an example, which is a barrage of saxophone noodling, bowel-stirring bass blasts and distorted vocal samples, with nothing but recurring textures to keep it coherent.
That said, these tracks aren’t just cluttered noise. Moments such as the synth twinkles of ‘Bug Thief’ sound absolutely gorgeous even if there isn’t much repetition to cling onto. ‘Infinite Mint’ meanwhile features breathy vocals from a guest vocalist named Cuushe adding a human element (even if the lyrics are largely incomprehensible due to being in another language and digitally altered).
A large part of what makes Neo Wax Bloom so rewarding is its use of textures. As with the likes of Sam Gellaitry and SOPHIE, this producer knows how to make each sound sparkle, clang or boom with the most resonance. His music is much more intricate and fast-paced than those aforementioned two artists, which helps to give him his own USP. I feel sometimes he could add more direction to these tracks, but otherwise they are still wildly exciting and unlike anything else out there.
Saturday, 9 December 2017
BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 09/12/2017: SOPHIE, Tune-Yards, The Tambourine Girls and more...
‘Ponyboy’ – SOPHIE
After disappointingly soppy single ‘It’s Okay To Cry’, I’m glad to see SOPHIE coming back to form with this abrasive banger. The track’s mix of chopped vocals and over-compressed bass is sure to make most people throw their headphones across the room, whilst the BDSM-themed music video is likely to put just as many people off. For me, this unruly experimentalism is everything that made me fall in love with SOPHIE’s music in the first place.
‘You Don’t See Me’ – The Tambourine Girls
I almost didn’t give this track a chance. It starts off fairly simplistically with a pounding drum, pulsing bassline and hazy vocals, but it turns out to be a rewarding slowbuilder as more instrumentation gradually joins in leading up to a grand climax. The frontman of this Sydney four-piece also delivers some terrific lovelorn lyrics that seem to get more pained as the song progresses before finally finding bittersweet resolution: ‘I think you loved me completely in darkness, so that’s where I’ll be’.
‘ABC 123’ – Tune-Yards
‘ABC123LMNO’. That’s not how the alphabet goes! Still, even if I haven’t got a clue what Merrill is getting at, her frenetic art-pop sound is still as catchy and bubbly as ever. She has a new album scheduled for release in January titled I can feel you creep into my private life.
‘Surrender’ – Kode Maya
Finnish duo Kode Maya continue to piece together complex genre-bending music. It contains everything from twinkling synths to world percussion to even a section at 2:35 that sounds like the showdown in a Hollywood Western. It’s very different to their other single ‘Mosquito’, but just as exciting.
‘Perfect Duet’ – Ed Sheeran ft. Beyoncé
Beyoncé has jumped on a pre-existing Ed Sheeran track and made it all the more schmaltzy. They harmonise well, but what difference does that make when the melodies are dull as dishwater?
Thursday, 7 December 2017
It’s that time for that annual post when I round up the year’s most abominable tracks. Which songs will feature this year? Despacito? Shape of You? Havana? Let’s be honest, those tracks have been overplayed – but they weren’t bad. Like, not really bad. Here are a few songs from 2017 that really take the crown.
10. ‘Paris’ – The Chainsmokers
My review of the latest Chainsmokers record wasn’t very positive. This single epitomises why. With its moody teenage lyrics, glossy pianos and general lack of energy, the result is undanceable dance music with about as much depth as a paddling pool.
9. ‘Swalla’ – Jason Derulo ft. Nicki Minaj & Ty Dolla $ign
‘shimmy shimmy yay, shimmy yay, shimmy ya (drank)/ swall-la-la-la’. My one-month-year old daughter could come up with more intelligible lyrics than that. The beat does get your hips moving, but then you realise it’s just a rip-off of the Macarena.
8. ‘Da Race’ – Lanze
I’ve got to give it to this Ohio rapper – he’s got his own unique style. But he can barely keep his asthma attack flow in time with the beat, nor come up with any smart bars. It sounds like the kind of freestyle I’d pull off after climbing three flights of stairs.
7. ‘Peek a Boo’ – Lil Yachty ft. Migos
To be honest, any Lil Yachty single from this year could fit snugly on this list, but the line ‘she blow that dick like a cello’ makes this particular track unforgivable.
6. ‘Footprints in the Sand’ – Ian Errix
It’s like the worst of emo just collided with the worst of EDM. I also can’t stand faux-deep sentiments like ‘we’re all just footprints in the sand’. Put down your bong mate, you’re no philosopher.
5. ‘Mo Bounce’ – Iggy Azalea
The year of the butts was 2014. That year gave us a plentiful supply of butt anthems. Iggy’s latest addition shows she’s already lost her relevancy. Also, that ‘bounce’ hook makes me want to garrotte myself with my headphones.
4. ‘Devil on Hwy 9’ - Danzig
I’m convinced the gnarled rocker ran out of money in the recording studio and so told the producers ‘don’t worry about the vocals guys, I’ll record them on my phone’. The result sounds like bad karaoke.
3. ‘Masturbate’ – Princess Vitarah
I get that she’s a meme rapper, but this is too much for my innocent ears.
2. ‘Cumshot’ – Cupcakke
Pretty much identical in tone to the last track, only Cupcakke managed to step it up an extra notch. It makes me want to wear a chastity belt for the rest of my life. I didn’t know it was possible to be put off sex.
Now for the grand finale…
1. ‘It’s Everyday Bro’ – Jake Paul ft. Team 10
2017 proved that anyone can become a rapper nowadays. Even the ‘Cash Me Ousside’ brat scored a record deal this year (I’ve avoided listening to any of her material, in case people were wondering why Bhad Bhabie isn’t on this list). All it takes to become a rapper nowadays is money and the audacity to think you can rap.
That isn’t to say anyone can become a ‘good’ rapper. Take vlogger Jake Paul and his fearsome posse of fellow Youtubers, whose hit ‘It’s Everyday Bro’ has amassed over 150 million views. The Vine star gets off to an ok start referring self-deprecatingly too his ‘Disney channel flow’, but before long his bars drift off-beat and next minute he’s uttering lines like ‘and I just dropped some new merch/ and its selling like a God church’.
A ‘God church’? What other churches are there? But wait, it gets worse. Because then Nick Crompton takes to the mic and utters the infamous line that has made this song the internet sensation that it is: ‘England is my city’.
Friday, 1 December 2017
New tracks to welcome us into December. I’m sad because I didn’t buy an advent calendar.
‘Every Man Is A Pyramid Scheme’ – Faux Bandit
Packed with vivid lines such as ‘my God is a stoner kid/ I am a working class drug’, this new single from Brisbane rock group Faux Bandit takes a unique look at how we all build our own personalities out of hobbies and interests. It makes you wonder how much of our personalities are real and how much is what we want people to think. If that sounds too deep, don’t worry, the angry rugged riff has enough appeal for all you meat-headed rockers.
‘Runnin’ – Wajatta
Surrealist comedian Reggie Watts is trying his hand at EDM under the stage name Wajatta (accompanied by producer John Tejada). It’s a vogue-worthy house number with chords stabs reminiscent of Inner City’s ‘Big Fun’ topped with some Reggie’s signature vocal loops. I was expecting something weirder from the frizzy-haired nutter, but I’m satisfied with this.
‘Pressure’ – SlickDotR
London rapper/singer SlickDotR delivers this new anthemic single ‘Pressure’. Everything about it feels vast from the city backdrop in the music video, to the epic instrumental made of pianos and 808s, to the walls of vocal harmonies in the chorus. The single comes off SlickDotR’s EP SR1 released earlier this year.
‘In Your Beat’ – Django Django
Django Django continue to sound utterly unique with their mix of Beach Boys vocal harmonies and retro synths. The music video meanwhile is its own nutty concoction of pop art, Monty Python and vaporwave. Marble Skies, the group’s new album, is scheduled to be released in January.
‘Killer’ – That Gum U Like
Influenced by TV series Twin Peaks, Brazilian duo That Gum U Like have dropped this new hypnotic electropop single ‘Killer’. It slinks along seductively to a backdrop of old-skool synths, lo-fi drums and oozing bass whilst the frontwoman dreamily sighs out ‘I’m a killer’ in a manner that’s both gorgeous and creepy.
‘1000’ – N.E.R.D ft. Future
In contrast to minimal banger ‘Lemon’, the experimental rap group’s latest single ‘1000’ is overstuffed with too many things going on. I like the heavy percussion breakdown and rave synthesisers, but the rest of the music is complete chaos. Pharrell’s delivery has gone all cartoonish, and Future’s verse comes of nowhere.
Taylor Swift probably isn’t as much of a bitch as people make her out to be. She’s had a long succession of failed relationships – at this point finding guys to break up with may be a routine part of her songwriting process. If she was in a stable relationship, what the hell would she sing about? The way I see it, each breakup is a career move and not the result of her being a terrible person.
After all, as Reputation shows, coming mean doesn’t come naturally to Swift. The singer has decided to try the whole good-girl-turned-bad reinvention straight out the ending of Grease. Gone are the breezy country-pop singles with innocent sex-free lyrics. She’s now singing racy hooks like ‘only bought this dress so you could take it off’ over urban beats weaved out of synths and trap rap 808s as if she were Rihanna.
But unlike Rihanna, who probably is a mean bitch in real life, Swift doesn’t quite have the conviction to always pull it off. Clickbaity-titled opener ‘…Ready For It’ has a beat that wouldn’t sound out of place on Yeezus and semi-rapped lyrics about dating a psycho, but then it segues into some mushy chorus about yearning for the guy in her dreams. Similarly, ‘Getaway Car’ tries to opt for a Bonnie and Clyde theme but ends up sounding like a cheap teen romance novel.
Soppy breakup ballads and teen crush tunes are still Taylor’s comfort zone. She does do a good job of sometimes relating these songs to her fame as on ‘Gorgeous’ – on the surface it’s a song about Swift getting jealous over another girl’s good looks, but in reality it’s a dig at Swift’s haters who despise her purely for her prettiness. But then there are tracks like ‘King Of My Heart’ that are as close to the template as a generic pop song can get in 2017.
I didn’t want to dislike this album – I half-enjoyed Taylor's previous dance-y record 1989 and felt there were a few infectious guilty pleasures on it (AKA ‘Shake It Off’). But on Reputation, the fun cheekiness seems to have been replaced by a try-hard bad girl image that’s just awkward. Sometimes she succeeds in sounding like a sexy femme fatale as on ‘Dress’, but then there are moments in which she still sounds like an edgy teen spilling out her life on Tumblr, such as the already infamous line: ‘I’m sorry, the old Taylor Swift can’t some to the phone right now. Why? Cause she’s dead’. Add on top the fact that many of the instrumentals are just watered-down Weeknd beats and you’re left with an album that really isn’t very interesting beneath its veil of hype.
Saturday, 25 November 2017
BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 25/11/2017: Tom Misch, Billie Eilish, Eastern Barbers and more...
Lots of jazzy soppy heartbreak tunes this week. Get your handkerchief and a tub of Ben and Jerry’s at the ready.
‘Movie’ – Tom Misch
‘The little curls on the back of his head bouncing/ as he steps out of my life, forever’. Crikey, that’s some heavy imagery. Soul producer/singer Tom Misch has never sounded so cinematic – this song could easily accompany the breakup scene from a Hollywood tearjerker. The mushy black and white footage of his grandparents and dramatic monologue as courtesy of his sister Polly Misch also make it his most personal work to date.
‘Bitches broken hearts’ – Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish is only 15, and yet she’s able to sing about heartbreak with more maturity than most singers twice her age (even if the track title doesn’t suggest so). The way her voice breaks on the last note around the 2:20 mark gave me goosebumps.
‘Blue Flakes’ – Eastern Barbers
Set to a backdrop of drowsy wah-soaked guitars and downbeat bass, this new track sees South London brothers Eastern Barbers trying to reconnect with the innocence of youth. The chorus is absolutely gorgeous with its descending melancholy chords and reverb-soaked la-la-las.
‘I Always Wanted You’ – Miles Dismond
San Francisco bedroom artist Miles Dismond offers this lo-fi hybrid of indie and bossa nova, which could be a song about genuine unrequited love or a song about creepy infatuation depending on how you interpret it (the way in which the track eerily crackles in the middle makes me personally think it’s the latter). Fans of Ariel Pink are sure to dig it.
‘Pretty Girls’ – Michael Seyer
In case you hadn’t already had your fix of jazzy lounge bar melancholia this week, Michael Seyer’s new track ‘Pretty Girls’ ought to hit the spot. The artist describes his music in his Facebook bio as ‘marijuana hip hop/Indian Guy Cops-step’, which isn’t a genre I can see catching on any time soon.
‘Santa’s Coming For Us’ – Sia
Even the upbeat tone can't save the fact that the song title 'Santa's coming for us' sounds menacing.
Sunday, 19 November 2017
When does a rock act stop being reliable and start becoming predictable?
Dave Grohl and Liam Gallagher don’t have much in common on the surface. Personality-wise they’re on polar opposite ends of the spectrum – one is a relentlessly humble crowd-pleasing ambassador of US rock, whilst the other is a straight-talking Twitter-rowing cocky jack-the-lad of Britpop fame. So why have I decided to lump them both under one review, other than being the lazy sod I am?
Hear me out. Both artists rose to fame in the 90s making catchy, stylistically-unique rock anthems and have since continued to remain omnipresent personalities in the rock scene. Even after the inevitable Oasis breakup, Liam continued to make music via his Beady Eye project, whilst Grohl has continued to front the Foo Fighters despite every other member seemingly being replaced. Each rock star has brought an influential and distinctive sound that they’ve stayed loyal to and right now they’re both at a very similar stage in their careers.
Gallagher and Grohl have both made half-hearted attempts to deviate their style in recent years. The Foos formula of epic guitars, singalong chorus and occasional screeches was traded in on their 2014 album Sonic Highways for some classic rock homages, but you could hardly call it a fresh new direction. Similarly, Liam Gallagher’s attempt to do something new with Beady Eye ended up more like a cheap imitation of The Rolling Stones, of whom Oasis were already influenced by.
Given these small deviations didn’t work, the two artists have now gone back to their original sounds. Reliability can be comforting – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But after twenty five years of the same shtick, you have to wonder whether the magic is starting to wear off.
I say this as a diehard Foos fan and a long-time Oasis lover. Both Concrete and Gold and As You Were turned out to be everything I anticipated. There’s even signs that they’re now ripping off their old songs. The Foos 9th album begins with an acoustic intro titled ‘T-shirt’ that sounds identical to the opener of 1997’s The Colour And The Shape. ‘For What Is It Worth’ meanwhile feels distinctly like a watered-down ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’. These may well be deliberate self-references, but it doesn’t make them feel any less derivative.
Of course, both artists can still craft tunes that feel original and infectious enough to make you forgive the blander moments. The Foos lay down a three-hit-combo at the beginning of the record including screech-along lead single ‘Run’, groovy Aerosmith-esque ‘Make it Right’ and belting stomper ‘The Sky Is A Neighbourhood’ that almost has an Imagine Dragons tinge to it (in the best possible way). Liam’s ‘Wall of Glass’ meanwhile opens As I Were in spectacular style with squealing harmonica and bluesy guitar, whilst true anthems such as tumbling ‘I Get By’ and hazy ‘When I’m In Need’ spring up later in the tracklist.
Both artists have never tried too hard when it comes to lyrics. At this point it’s a mixture of clichés and nonsense, although Liam’s horror-themed balderdash ‘She gotta 666/ I got my crucifix/ She got a spinning head/ Likes The Ungrateful Dead’ is a lot more witty and entertaining than the Foos’ ode to aliens ‘The Sky is A Neighbourhood’. That said the Foos have the advantage that their LP is half the length of As You Were, which begins to overstay it’s welcome beyond ‘Come Back To Me’.
Gallagher and Grohl certainly have put some graft into these albums and both have a superb ear for melody and a good chorus, but both could benefit from coming up with an album concept rather than creating another medley of songs. Consider Queens of the Stone Age’s latest release – whilst I did find the production off-putting, you can’t argue that it has its own flavour. A reliable recipe works only for so long – sooner or later people want to taste something new.
Concrete and Gold by The Foo Fighters: ★★★☆☆
As You Were by Liam Gallagher: ★★★☆☆