Friday, 26 May 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 26/05/2017: Pool Art, Swet Shop Boys, Katy Perry and more...




No music videos this week. Just a tsunami of Soundcloud waveforms.

THE BEST:

‘Died Off Screen’ – Pool Art



Regular readers of my blog ought to be familiar with this Manchester noise rock duo by now. Their experimental axework is arguably some of the most creative in modern rock. Don’t believe me? Check out this track for yourself. Its clangs and squeals have opened up a whole new sonic palette to explore. But rather than simply noodling away with these clangs and squeals, the duo are able to turn this dissonance into actual structured songs. Providing respite from the abstruse first half, the band even break into a stomping melodic riff for the second half to show they’ve got a sense of groove.

‘Wake of the Dawn’ – The Gravity Drive



The Gravity Drive are only a duo, although you’d think from the grandiosity of this song that there were fifty members. The pair both sing and play a plethora of different musical instruments. To add to their novelty, they’re also a married couple. Their latest pop-rock epic starts off pretty fervently, but it’s during the soaring chorus that the magic really happens. The harmonised vocals and layers of guitar and piano all come together triumphantly. It's music for climbing a mountain to, or swimming an ocean to, or even swimming a mountain to.

‘Plants’ – Crumb



Crumb come from Boston, which is no surprise given that it's a breeding ground nowadays for weird bands. There’s nothing too eccentric about the frontwoman’s dainty vocals - they could belong to any indie band - however the drunken jazz instrumentation is all very off the wall, stumbling and swaying and soaked in gloopy effects.  

 ‘Flowers’ - Milk Buttons



Deliciously depressive vocals and inventively fucked-up guitars make up this Aussie psych rock duo’s sound. The lyrics meanwhile describe a bittersweet relationship, with a gloomily incanted chorus: ‘I wish this was not a dream’. It’s not what I was expecting given the cutesy band name and track title, and I love it all the more for it.  

 ‘Zombie’ – Swet Shop Boys



Trans-Atlantic rappers Heems and Riz Ahmed are back to talk racial identity over a Bollywood-sampling banger. Their witty bars on what it means to be a migrant will satisfy those that like their hip hop with brains, whilst the bassy bhangra beat is certain to satisfy those that prefer their hip hop with brawn.

THE WORST:

‘Swish Swish’ – Katy Perry ft. Nicki Minaj


The only good thing about this track is the beat, and that’s ripped straight off a Maya Jane Coles track - which has already been ripped off in the past by Nicki Minaj in 'Truffle Butter'

Friday, 19 May 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 19/05/2017: Dollie Demi, Guerilla Toss, Miley Cyrus and more...



Bringing you tracks more infectious than WannaCry ransomware.

THE BEST:

‘Ruby Lips’ – Dollie Demi



With hooks this good, Dollie Demi ought to be the name on everyone’s lips. Her latest raunchy rock anthem has a Joan Jett vibe to it and sports a dirty guitar riff that’s borderline sexual. The British inflection meanwhile adds to the raw sass – too many UK female singers nowadays let their accent skip across the pond.

‘The String Game’ – Guerilla Toss



This is probably the most cohesive song that these Boston art-rockers have written and yet it’s still avant-garde enough to be left off most independent coffee bar playlists. A psychedelic swirl of synths, guitars and squelching bass makes up the nutty instrumentation. Kassie Carlson meanwhile remains a lunatic when it comes to lyricism, blathering about driving a car with an engine ‘like science fiction’. I hoped it might be a Back to the Future reference, but the rest of the song entirely flummoxed me.

‘Avalanche’ – The Screens


If the track and video feel cinematic, it’s because Neil and Colin of The Screens have a history of working in TV and film, helping to produce music for Kill Bill 2, The Sopranos, The Simpsons, The West Wing, Lost, 24, Superman Returns and Mr and Mrs Smith. The story themed lyrics depict a Scorsese-esque romance backed by lavish strings and 60s-flavoured guitars. Apparently, the pair barely met up during the recording process, creating most of the song by collaborating online.

‘Midnight Blue’ - Little Death Machine


Gloomy London electronic art rockers Little Death Machine have released this minimalist number centred around an ominous lurching bassline. I kind of hoped it would explode more towards the end, but perhaps the endless feeling of suspense was intentional, visually captured in the video which sees some dude being relentlessly stalked. Fans of this single should check out last year’s EP Dreaming In Monochrome.

‘She Is Lost’ – The Foreign Resort



I have a soft spot for all this New-wave revival stuff. The guitars and vocals have a neon glow to them and the slatherings of detune effects only add to the nostalgia. The Denmark band are offering fans the chance to make a music video for the single because they self-admittedly can’t afford to make one themselves.

THE WORST:

‘Malibu’ - Miley Cyrus


She’s taking positive steps away from her obnoxious phase with this new single. Sure, it’s the same cardboard pop-country Taylor Swift was offering in 2010 – so it still sucks. But I’ll take it over ‘why they put the dick in the pussy?’.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Review of 'Pure Comedy' by Father John Misty



Father John Misty hates the world and humanity. And he’s written some pretty piano ballads about it.

A bit of bitter misanthropy now and again can be entertaining – especially in these troubled times of Trump and terrorism and technology addiction. Pure Comedy is certainly an album designed for the here and now, whilst also looking pessimistically into the future. Preview singles suggested Pure Comedy would be anything but comical, and whilst there is a lot of sombre doomsaying to be found here, there are some relieving moments of humour such as opening lines about bedding Taylor Swift every night on an Oculus Rift (‘Total Entertainment Forever’) or, on a more dark note, stealing bedsheets from an amputee to pass of as art (‘The Memo’). But are these moments of amusement enough to offset the depressive philosophising being forced on the listener throughout. 

I enjoyed the cynicism of Josh's last album I Love you, Honeybear even if I couldn’t relate to it, which seemed to explore love and being in a relationship in the most negative light possible. Pure Comedy is even harder to relate to as it’s about viewing humanity is the most negative light possible and you can’t help but feel Josh is a bit of narcissist for the way in which he places himself above it all (and I’m aware that he directly references ‘Narcissus’ on ‘The Memo’ – an inspiration perhaps?).

The entertainment value is further damaged by the fact that not all of these Elton-John-esque epics are particularly engaging musically. There are some moments of magic such as floating beauty ‘Birdie’ and woozy waltz ‘A Bigger Paper Bag’, but other songs like ‘Leaving LA’ are a ten minute slog of wishy-washy guitar strums and airy strings.  

Indeed, that Mount Eerie project that I recently reviewed and loved was arguably ten times more depressing lyrically and even less exciting instrumentally, but it came from a deep personal place. Here, the artist has detached himself from the gloom around him, but without using the guise of a character, which made his last record gratifying. It’s the unfiltered musings of a misery guts, which I myself find difficult to digest – although others may lap it up.

That said, even if I can’t get behind his bleak world view, there’s no denying how impressive the poetry of some of the lyrics is. The opening track alone offers such witty lines as ‘The comedy of man starts like this/ our brains are way too big for our mothers hips’ and ‘their idea of being free is a prison of beliefs/ that they never have to leave’. Objectively speaking, he’s a hot-headed genius. Subjectively speaking, he’s a cold-blooded sourpuss. Together with tepid instrumentation, it’s a lukewarm listen.  


TRACK TASTER:

Friday, 12 May 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 11/05/2017: LCD Soundsystem, Ho99o9, Lil Yachty and more...



More music from the undisputed best blog in the universe. Better than Martian blogs. Even xenomorph blogs can’t compete.

THE BEST:

‘American Dream’ – LCD Soundsystem


It’s been a while since these moody electro-rockers graced us with their music. Despite the euphoric tenor of the opening synths (they’re almost Christmassy) the timbres are very much cold and steely and the lyrics aren’t exactly cheery, describing casual sex as if it were Victorian coal mine work. If the track is truly a picture of the American Dream, then it’s Lady Liberty in all her glory, with bags under her eyes and cellulite and clinical depression.

‘Tongue’ – Pero Pero


The tight rock riffs drew me in but watching the duo transform into lizards certainly added to the thrills. My old piano teacher always told me a good musician needs scales behind them, but I never thought to take it literally. An album titled Lizards is in the pipeline which means we hopefully won’t have to wait long to hear more from this Berlin-based demented duo.

‘War is Hell’ – Ho99o9


Ho99o9 (pronounced 'Horror') are pretty much a more accessible Death Grips, although not so accessible that your grandmother would comfortably listen to them. The distorted bass, shrieked vocals and fucked-up guitar sampling are still a massive gut-punch to even a hardened noise-hop listener like myself. Their message against police brutality also comes three days after the shooting of a 15-year-old boy in San Diego giving the track extra impact.

‘Soap’ – Deem Spencer


Bringing down the pace somewhat, this single from Queens rapper Deem Spencer is ancient in blogging terms (it was released in January) but I couldn’t just let it slide. Sporting a pensive sleepy flow and some effortlessly poetic lyricism, Deem’s style is one of a hypnotist that lured you in and keeps you entranced. Combine the cadence of Isaiah Rashad and the riddle-spinning capability of Earl Sweatshirt and you have an idea of what to expect.

‘Fireworks’ – Miles From Kinshasa


This London-based r&b artist was born in Kinshasa in the Republic of Congo, hence the name Miles From Kinshasa. ‘Fireworks’ sees him delivering a smooth Sampha-like croon over warm synth swells and steady electronic percussion. It’s urban r&b of the highest order.

THE WORST:

‘Bring It Back’ – Lil Yachty


With its 80s power ballad percussion, I guess this is Lil Yachty’s attempt to go old skool and ‘bring it back’. The off-key off-beat auto-tune still makes it utterly unlistenable, but props to him for trying something new.  

Friday, 5 May 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 04/05/2017: Paramore, Wavves, The I.L.Ys and more...



Paramore swap out pop-punk for funk. Also, Christian trap rap is a thing.

THE BEST:


‘I Told You So’ – Paramore


 

Good news to all those teens of the noughties that once hung Hayley Williams posters above their beds. Paramore are back with two new singles (the other titled ‘Hard Times’) and an imminent new album. They’ve exchanged their pop punk roots for a funkier sound reminiscent of Angles-era Strokes.  But don’t worry - the hookiness and angst is still there.  I’m also loving the retro-flavoured video – it’s very noir (or should I say rouge?).

‘What You Did To Me’ – Oceans


 

These Brighton lads have polished up their sound since I last featured them. I’m sad to see the groove has gone, but the frontman’s newfound angelic delivery makes up for it. It’s proggy post-hardcore with a touch of Erasure.

‘No Shade’ – Wavves


 

Despite not even being two minutes in length, this new white-knuckled thrasher packs more thrills than Wavves’ previous four singles combined. Even if the lyrics are about drinking lemonade, the buzzsaw guitars will shake you up like a shot of tequila.

‘I Love You Man’ – The I.L.Ys


 

Death Grips side project The I.L.Ys deliver this new satisfying slice of psych rock. With its grungy guitars and stoned ‘I love you maaan’ chorus, you might think this were some undiscovered band from the early nineties if it weren’t for digital age phasered whooshes and CGI video.

‘Fading’ – Precept


 

It’s been mostly rock this week. But for those wanting their electronica fix, this new Leeds producer/singer Precept has a new single ought to satisfy your appetite. Ghostly vocals and moody synths come together for a truly brooding sound.   


THE WORST:


‘Sell Out’ – ASAP Preach


 

This is actually a mean trap banger, but the God-fearing isn’t my thing. Plus the anti-materialist lyrics are kinda contradicted by the designer clothes and cars and mansion in the video.


Friday, 28 April 2017

Review of 'DAMN.' by Kendrick Lamar


Loyalty. Pride. Love. Fear. God.

You don’t have to dig far to work out the themes on this new album by Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar - the track titles are a bit of a giveaway. But that isn’t to say this is a surface-level listen. Kendrick? Surface-level? Don’t be silly.

To Pimp A Butterfly – the rapper’s last record if you ignore the untitled unmastered b-sides release – was a jazzy epic that tackled external issues of race, sex and class. DAMN in contrast focuses on internal issues of pressure to succeed and fear of losing creativity. And it’s definitely not for jazzheads. ‘DNA’ swiftly establishes that with its 808s and seismic beat shift, certain to even have gold-grilled ganglords in their traphouses wincing.

We’ll return to the sonic side of DAMN in a moment. Lyrically, let’s discuss these internalised lyrics first. Whilst previous albums have been told through characters and allegories, this record is all delivered from the perspective of Kendrick himself (with the exception of ‘DUCKWORTH’ – the surprise story of how his dad was almost killed before his birth). And yet whilst the themes are signposted in big bold capitalised lettering, the message behind these songs isn’t so clear this time around. It’s as if he simply wants to vent his feelings and let us make sense of them this time: ‘And I can’t take these feelings with me so I hope they disperse/ within fourteen tracks, carried out over wax/ wondering if I’m living through fear or living through rap’.

Hearing Kendrick sounding so lost and vulnerable was unexpected – you’d think a dude with Kendrick’s level of success would have no concerns. But clearly fame isn’t everything. If anything, this vulnerability and self-consciousness only adds to Kendrick’s relatability and likability.

Back to the sonic side of DAMN. It’s not all trap bangers like ‘DNA’. In fact, it’s a mixed bag – the likes of ‘LOYALTY’ featuring vocals from Rihanna and showing a more poppy side, whilst the likes of ‘XXX’ meander experimentally all over the place boasting police sirens, detuned pianos and guest vocals from Bono. Kendrick’s delivery meanwhile constantly and creatively shifts to match each song, singing soulfully on ‘YAH’ and then dropping mean bars on ‘XXX’.

There are points where, unusually, Kendrick does seem to be picking up styles that don’t quite suit him. ‘LOVE’ ventures a little too far into generic love balladry – not helped by the Bieber-like sung hook from Zacari.  ‘GOD’ meanwhile sees Kendrick using a horrible vocal tone that sounds like a bad Fetty Wap impression.

These dud tracks don’t ruin DAMN, but they do prevent it being the masterpiece that its predecessor was. For its lyrical content, there’s no faulting it. Kendrick’s more personal and introspective approach makes it standout from other records in his discography, and proves his further knack for conceptual albums.

TRACK TASTER:

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 28/04/2017: Gorillaz, Sufjan Stevens, Danzig and more...


More music for hardcore audiophiles, casual listeners and mugwumps alike.

THE BEST:

‘The Apprentice’ - Gorillaz ft. Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Zebra Katz & Ray Blk


After a slew of massively mediocre singles from their new album Humanz (which is out today), the cartoon collective have finally come through with a gem titled ‘The Apprentice’. The track contains three guest vocalists (including UK soul hitmaker Rag ‘n’ Bone Man) and a smooth electrofunk beat that’s as feelgood as a warm bath whilst eating Haagen Dazs. But wait – there’s a catch. It turns out this is only a bonus track on Humanz. Why you gotta leave the best single off the album?

 ‘Mercury’ – Sufjan Stevens ft. Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly & James McAlister


Singer-songwriter sensei Sufjan Stevens and his newly acquired gang of musical ninjas are releasing an album themed around the solar system. After experimenting with T-Pain vocals and synthesizers on ‘Saturn’ much to my displeasure, Sufjan seems to now be cutting out the electronics and embracing the emotive frailty of his voice on this new single ‘Mercury’. He then hands the track over to the instrumentation at the end, consisting of some dazzling strings and pianos. And to all you devout Sufjan followers, yes I agree the live version from five years ago has more grandeur, but oh well this version is still pretty.

‘GOD’ – Amique


This maximalist mindfuck doesn’t give you much of a chance to warm up. As soon as you hit play, you’re assaulted with layers of loopy vocals, frenetic funk and stuttering noise grooves. The song deserves a straightjacket, but then so do I. All in all, I’m curious to hear more from this mysterious Amique character.

 ‘Silent Witness’ – S.O.S


EPILEPSY WARNING! To be honest, I doubt most you guys even read these descriptions before hitting the play button. Anyhow, now you’ve recovered from your seizure, let me introduce you to Bedford-based electropop artist S.O.S. Her new single ‘Silent Witness’ sees her singing bouncily over a glitzy shuffling dance beat, even throwing down a surprise rap verse at the end. Creepy strobed art-dance music video aside, it’s very fun and bubbly stuff.

THE WORST:

 ‘Devil on Hwy 9’ – Danzig


Things have clearly gone so downhill for the heavy metal veterans that they couldn’t even afford a producer to do the mixing. Why do the instruments sound like they were recorded in a studio, whilst the vocals sound like they were recorded on a plastic cup and string?

‘All the time’ - Young Thug


At this point I don’t expect Young Thug to ever learn how to ride a beat, but come on, this is sloppy even by his standards.