Saturday, 19 May 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 19/05/2018: Disclosure, The Chromatics, Death Grips and more...



Whilst you've been obsessing over the royal wedding and debating whether its Yanny or Laurel, I've been hunting down the latest and greatest tunes (P.S. it's definitely Laurel).

THE BEST:

‘The List’ – Moonchild


Where has this band been my whole life? The singer’s silky vocals and the jazzy instrumentation are heavenly. I’m also loving the music video featuring a chick dancing in a supermarket, although I do think it was little unnecessary of her to walk out the store at the end without paying! Shoplifting ain’t cool.

‘Ultimatum’ – Disclosure ft. Fatoumata Diawara


Disclosure will never be the deep house dons that they once were, but this new tune is still an enjoyable listen. Added to their usual mix of thudding percussion and synth swells is some African singing and jazzy piano chords. Is there a new album brewing?

‘Black Walls’ – The Chromatics


This Portland synthpop band have been making cinematic scores for movies and TV shows for a decade now – some of their most famous examples being Twin Peaks and Drive. Their latest single ‘Black Walls’ continues to play with same seductive serial killer vibes, featuring sighed out vocals and melancholy synthesizers and some kid talking at the beginning.

 ‘Black Paint’ – Death Grips


Yes, there’s a ‘Black Walls’ and a ‘Black Paint’ this week. In the build-up to their new album The Year Of The Snitch, experimental hip hop act Death Grips have released two singles so far – ‘Streaky’ and this new single ‘Black Paint’. Whilst ‘Streaky’ was mostly synths, this new track is mostly guitars. In fact, it’s pretty much a hardcore punk song with a few digital sound effects thrown in here and there. It’s abrasive and catchy and has me completely stumped as to what to expect on their next record.

THE WORST:

 ‘Girls’ – Rita Ora ft. Cardi B, Bebe Rexha & Charli XCX


This anthem for bicurious girls doesn’t seem to have gone down well in the gay community. Personally, I don’t see what’s so offensive about it other than sounding like a cheap knock-off of Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed A Girl’.

Friday, 11 May 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 11/05/2018: Childish Gambino, LSD, Florence + The Machine and more...



My thoughts on the new tracks from Childish Gambino, LSD, Florence + The Machine and more…

THE BEST:

‘This is America’ – Childish Gambino



It’s an early call to make, but this has got to be music video of the year surely? Rapper/actor Donald Glover AKA Childish Gambino is making a clear statement on how we’re so focused on being entertained that we turn a blind eye to the chaos around us – his wacky dancing distracts us from the rioting going on in the background. The shocking scenes of gun violence also show how we’ve become numbed to it thanks to the other Donald’s refusal to bring in gun laws. It’s as if Gambino is trying rip away the veil disguising America’s ugly self, symbolised musically by the abrupt transition from happy-clappy gospel-infused pop to sinister bass-heavy trap. I’m personally not too keen on Gambino settling for mumble rap, but I guess the biggest statements sometimes require the fewest words.

‘Stammering Bill’ – LICE



Bristol rock band LICE have a sound that is deliciously dishevelled. The detuned bluesy guitars and erratic yelped vocals threaten to fall apart at any moment like some crudely assembled vehicle out of Mad Max, and yet the song continues to power along riding head-bobbing grooves. LICE happen to be signed to Balley Records – the label owned by IDLES frontman Joe Talbot. Could this label be the UK’s answer to Exploding In Sound?

 ‘Boyfriend’ – Ex Void


‘Boyfriend’ is the perfect anthem for anyone sick of their partner’s lack of attention. The instrumentation is a perfect mix of happy apathy and anger, switching between bouncy pop-rock and angry punk. It’s the sound of wanting to not give a damn, when really you can’t help but feel a little pissed off beneath it all.

‘Genius’ – LSD



LSD is a pop supergroup containing Labrinth, Sia and Diplo – three artists that I’ve never really cared for. Together however they seem to have unlocked something quite cool. ‘Genius’ sound like a mix of urban pop and Broadway theatre. Both Labrinth and Sia let loose their theatrical side, whilst Diplo refrains from dropping his usual annoying loopy synths for more epic sounding instrumentation. I can tell lots of people are going to be hooked on LSD.

THE WORST:

‘Priice Tag’ – Desiigner



Desiigner is only popular because he had Kanye as his PR man. There are already enough rappers making this kind of music. Desiigner hasn’t even got multi-coloured dreads. There’s literally nothing interesting about him.

‘Hunger’ – Florence + The Machine



Sorry, but I couldn’t listen to the end. Florence’s wa-a-a-arbling only seems to have got more warbly.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Double Review: 'Virtue' by The Voidz and 'Boarding House Reach' by Jack White




Julian Casablancas adopts auto-tune and Jack White raps. Somehow it all works.

Noughties indie posterboys Julian Casabalancas (formerly of the Strokes) and Jack White (formerly of the White Stripes) may have just saved rock music. I was starting to give up on the genre, thinking it had run its course. Rock music has after all been around after 50 years. In the last decade, hip hop seems to be the genre where all the groundbreaking creativity is going on, whilst new rock acts continue to rely on revival movements. All along I should have known what was needed to give rock it's much needed sense of freshness – rock needed to start blending with hip hop.

Yes, rock and hip hop are no strangers to one another, they've been crossing paths since the days of the Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine. However, there have also been a number of ugly mutations. Just take a look at Limp Bizkit or Kid Cudi’s Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven – two instances that make you pray wilfully for rock and hip hop to never cross paths again. However, these were just poorly-bred hybrids. Rock and rap can work together with enough fine-tuning of ingredients as these two records show.


Casablancas’s new project The Voidz is primarily a rock band – their 2014 debut album Tyranny was a scuzzy rock record through and through. Virtue on the other hand is a lot more than a rock album. It’s second track ‘QYURRYUS’ is evidence of this – a pulsing electrorock anthem that sees Julian chanting like a Native American shaman before throwing out some auto-tune soaked vocal runs at the end. It's completely nuts and unlike any rock tune you've ever experienced. Following it are a number of other experimental tunes each with their own urban influences. ‘AlieNNatioN’ borders on being a Gorillaz song with its moody groove, whilst ‘My Friends The Walls’ contains digital vocal harmonies, playing out like a T-Pain version of 'Bohemian Rapsody'. It’s a rock album that's not just borrowing ideas from hip hop - it's taking hip hop sounds and pushing them forward.

Jack White’s Boarding House Reach meanwhile is an equally experimental rock album. At it’s core, it’s riding the traditional bluesy sound that every other Jack White album has rode. However, there are now synthesizers and drum patterns thrown in to disrupt the status quo - and not just your average synths and beats. ‘Hypermisophoniac’ buries a funky blues-rock tune beneath a distractingly dissonant sequence of bleeps, managing to be both frustrating and fascinating. ‘Respect Commander’ meanwhile rides a sped up drum loop complete with orchestra hits. Of course, the urban flavours don’t end there – take ‘Ice Station Zebra’ in which Jack White can discernibly be heard rapping.


Both rockers go where most rockers dare not go. And yet, miraculously, none of it feels awkward. Julian Casablancas’s auto-tune wailing suits the demented vibe of the music, whilst Jack White’s rapped verse feels tastefully done. It’s not like they've donned gold chains and grills and starting producing videos surrounded by twerking women – the hip hop influence is subtle, with loopy guitar solos and meaty riffs still taking prominence. They know the limits of their whiteness.

There were moments on both albums where I wasn’t so keen, largely for other aspects of the music. Casablancas's lyrics sometimes border on pretentiousness on Virtue – particularly the garbled nonsense of ‘Wink’. Jack White meanwhile can’t help but delve into some country on ‘What’s Done is Done’ and even some classical on ‘Humoresque’ – two genres I have no interest in (although the jazzy outro of the latter track is nice). 

This doesn’t take away from the fact that both albums are still enjoyably innovative - sometimes the best albums have to play with ideas that don't appeal to everyone. Overall, I'm more taken aback by Boarding House Reach in which there's absolutely no filler - even the interludes, topped with spoken word passages about the dangers of technology, feel like they need to be there. Virtue sometimes relies too hard on being experimental purely for the sake of being experimental as on 'Black Hole', which could have been an awesome noise rock thrasher if it wasn't deliberately soaked in toilet bowl lo-fi production. 'Just because something's popular doesn't make it good' is one of the lyrics on this album - true, but just because something experimental doesn't make it good either. I'm still loving Virtue, but Jack White still takes the prize on Boarding House Reach for managing to compose experimental tracks that are still good songs when you strip back the kookiness.

Virtue by The Voidz 
Boarding House Reach by Jakc White 

Saturday, 28 April 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 28/04/2018: Machinedrum, Kanye West, A$AP Rocky and more...



Truth be told, it’s all been a bit crap this week…

THE BEST:

‘Hype Up’ – Machinedrum


After much searching, this was the only track I could find that I genuinely enjoyed this week. Alternating between slow swells and energetic spikes, these synths certainly do get you hyped. I’m been loving the upbeat tone of Machinedrum’s recent singles – they’re more immediate and infectious.

THE WORST:

‘Let’s Party All Night’ – Three Beat Slide


Corny family projects like Three Beat Slide make me want to vomit. Why can’t they just stick to karaoke? To be honest, ‘Let’s Party All Night’ could have had the potential to be a fun Junior-Senior-like party track – but there’s no forgiving those vocals.

‘German’ – EO


Do you remember ‘German Whip’? Well, this track by EO is pretty much a watered-down version with some auto-tune slathered on top. To make matters worse, EO doesn’t even drive a German car – he’s only 16 and doesn’t even have a provisional license.

‘Lift Yourself’ – Kanye West


Kanye has been spending the week on Twitter posting some pretty controversial things, declaring his love for Donald Trump and even posting a picture of his MAGA cap. When I heard he’d released a new single last night, I thought perhaps this would be his redeeming moment, but no it seems like he’s still intent on trolling us. After a long build up of soul sampling and digital drums, ‘Lift Yourself’ sees Kanye dropping his first verse of the year, which turns out to be a load of gobbledegook: ‘poopy-di scoop/ scoop-diddy-whoop/ whoop-di-scoop-di-poop’. Whaaat?

Listen here.

 ‘Herojuana Blunts’ – A$AP Rocky


Part of me wants to enjoy this new trippy single from A$AP Rocky – the detuned lo-fi production is certainly interesting. However, the garbled druggy nonsense that makes up the lyrics just doesn’t do it for me (at least it's more comprehensible than that Kanye track).

Sunday, 22 April 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 22/04/2018: Ariana Grande, Empress Of, Janelle Monae and more...




Ariana Grande pulls her own face off in her new music video and Janelle Monae sings about vaginas. This week has it all…

THE BEST:

‘Sooner’ – Soft Science


Shoegazey guitars, dreamy vocals and groovy bass come together in this new shiny single from Californian indie act Soft Science. Most of these dreampop/shoegaze/dreamgaze/postgaze bands (I’m not sure what the correct genre label is here) rely on atmosphere over catchiness, but this single feels both atmospheric and immediately catchy.

 ‘Bad Faith’ – Dove House


These Brighton lads have one of the more exciting sounds I’ve heard in indie rock recently. ‘Bad Faith’ comes off their new EP Teeth and is a stripped back mix of groovy bass, punchy drums and a explosion of guitar during the chorus, topped with slick and infectious vocals.  

 ‘Trust Me Baby/In Dreams’ – Empress Of


LA artist Lorely Rodriguez (AKA Empress Of) is back with some more sophisticated electropop, this time featuring bilingual lyrics that switch between English and Spanish. Unlike her previous material which has all been self-produced, this tracks sees her teaming up with beatsmith Cole MGN – although it still feels distinctly like her type of production.

‘No Tears Left To Cry’ - Ariana Grande


‘No Tears Left To Cry’ is a response to the tragic bombing that took place at Ariana’s Manchester concert last year. I was expecting a mournful slow ballad – but this single is anything but. Spiky synth chords and uptempo drums kick in and make way for a defiantly feelgood dance-pop anthem about recovering and staying positive, topped off with an infectious hook ‘so I’m picking it up, I’m picking it up/I’m loving, I’m living, I’m picking it up’. It comes accompanied by a trippy music video, which sees Ariana dancing atop skyscrapers in a Blade-Runner-esque metropolis and pulling off her face.

THE WORST:

‘PYNK’ – Janelle Monae


I don’t really have an issue with the subject matter and imagery, but for someone’s whose music is usually so eclectic in sound this feels very generic. If it wasn’t about vaginas, it could be a Fifth Harmony song.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Review of 'Cocoa Sugar' by Young Fathers




Eclectic Edinburgh experimentalists Young Fathers attempt to make music that’s more ‘normal’.

I still haven’t listened to Young Fathers’ 2014 Mercury-prize winning album Dead. You’d think someone who claims to be a music connoisseur would get their act together and listen to such a noteworthy album, but I’ve been too busy juggling the responsibilities of being a brain surgeon and astronaut on top of running this humble blog.

Anyhow, I wasn’t going to let this new album slip by me. The singles leading up to this release all sounded very different, so I had no clue what to expect – whilst ‘Lord’ seemed to be piano gospel interspersed with ominous bass blasts, ‘Toy’ was a mix of jittery synths and cartoonish hybrid rap-singing that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Gorillaz album. And this album, according to a Skinny interview, was supposed to be their attempt at ‘normal’ music?

The songs are normal only in the sense that they follow familiar verse-chorus-verse-chorus structures (for the most part) and rarely break the four minute mark. Other than that, they’re still making nutty genre-bending music. Whilst often described as a hip hop group, there’s little rapping or conventional beatsmithing to be found on Cocoa Sugar. Their sound is a cocktail of styles containing hints of indie, r&b and electronica. It’s streamlined in it’s poppy structuring, but similarly more diverse than ever in its palette of sounds.

Ally’s vocal delivery meanwhile is excitingly creative. He deliberately stammers the word ‘stammer’ on the purposely playful and fidgety track ‘Toy’, whilst letting tremolo effects distort the chorus of ‘Tremolo’. At times, the delivery brings a whole new meaning to lyrics, as on ‘Wow’ in which the uttering of ‘it’s so amazing’ is distinctly monotone as if mocking people’s growing boredom with the amazing world around them. Young Fathers tend to not shove their beliefs and opinions in your face – they prefer to leave things up to personal interpretation. It’s quite refreshing to hear a band that can be deep without feeling that they need to preach something.

All in all, there isn’t much to fault on Cocoa Sugar. Young Fathers have shown that they’re definitely one of the most orginal acts out there nowadays, and that original can still sound accessible. 

TRACK TASTER:

Saturday, 7 April 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 07/04/2018: Denzel Curry, SOPHIE, Drake and more…



Get ready for your ears to be ringing with the sound of distorted bass and rattling hi-hats - it’s mostly trap bangers this week.

THE BEST:

‘Sumo’ – Denzel Curry


Did someone steal all of Denzel’s Easter eggs? Did he step on a Lego brick? The Floridian father of Soundcloud rap is sounding mighty angry on this new heavy banger ‘Sumo’. As with many of Denzel’s songs, it’s packed with obscure cultural references from Prince Zuko to Chad Hugo.

‘Watch Out!’ – Rich Brian


The shrill synth in the beat is absolutely menacing – this might be Rich Brian’s hardest track to date. The funeral scene in the music video accompanied by the line ‘I just killed that pussy, send your thoughts and prayers’ also did make me chuckle. The Indonesian rapper may be trying to move away from his meme-y origins, but I’m glad he’s still keeping some humour in there.

‘Faceshopping’ – SOPHIE


If you were to film my expressions whilst listening to this new SOPHIE single, it probably wouldn’t be too dissimilar to the warping face in the music video. The gender-blurring banger-producing experimental EDM artist seems to be commenting on the way we all distort out physical appearance to please others. As per usual, the instrumental is a clanking mechanical monster of a beat that itself is continuously mutating.

 ‘Nice For What’ – Drake


Drake’s still harking on about how he hasn’t found a woman who’ll treat him right, but at least his production is fresh. It’s less moody than his previous couple releases and more triumphant, backed by Kanye-esque sampling and punchy 808s.

‘Moon Undah Water’ – Puma Blue


And now for something completely different. This Parisian band’s lo-fi jazz sound has me hooked – those raw detuned guitars and smoky vocals make me feel like I ought to be in a French café sipping coffee and eating croissants.

THE WORST:

‘Push Back’ – Ne-Yo ft. Bebe Rexha & Stefflon Don


Ne-Yo is back and he’s jumping on the Afropop bandwagon. It’s basically what Drake was doing two years ago.