Friday, 23 February 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 24/02/2018: Higher Brothers, Father John Misty, All Hail Hyena! and more…


This week I explore popular genres such as Chinese hip hop and queer hardcore punk.

THE BEST:

‘Trickery’ – Higher Brothers



If you’ve ever wondered what Jamiroquai would sound like with Chinese rapping over the top, well, it’s your lucky day. Backed by a deliciously funky bassline, these fun-loving Far East rappers deliver some smooth bars and a catchy hook (I say ‘catchy’, although I’d probably struggle to sing along to it).  If you like this song, you should definitely check out some of the other Asian acts currently being pushed by music marketing group 88rising. I predict an Asian invasion of western hip hop in the imminent future.

 ‘Black Professional’ – N.ave



Philly artist N.ave works in a professional office environment by day, whilst crafting hip hop music by night. There aren’t many rappers who’ll admit that. In fact, I’m sure few upcoming rappers can make such a claim. With his new track ‘Black Professional’, the title track from his new EP, N.ave confronts the obsession with wanting more from life. It’s a track that many of us can relate to, accompanied by a gorgeous beat.

‘Mr Tillman’ – Father John Misty


Josh Tillman (AKA Father John Misty) has written a new song about himself seemingly going through a mental breakdown, delivered from the perspective of begrudging hotel staff: ‘oh, and a reminder of our policy/ don’t leave your mattress in the rain if you sleep on the balcony’. The lyrics contain Tillman’s signature mix of humour and depression. It’s definitely got Elton John vibes too.

‘Capitulate’ – Hit Bargain


Self-proclaimed queencore act Hit Bargain hail from LA and write songs that confront queerness and sex. This new dark and urgent song tackles consent, sung from the desperate voice of someone reluctantly giving in to sex whist frantic dissonant guitars play out sinisterly in the background.

‘Stranger’s Song’ – All Hail Hyena


The pyjama-wearing indie punks are back with a new drummer and a new video for their single ‘Stranger’s Song’. Short bursts of guitar make up the catchy verses, accompanied by typically barmy lyrics.

THE WORST:

‘Bastards’ – Machine Head


Political folk metal is a bold new direction for Machine Head and one that I never hope to hear again.

Friday, 16 February 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 16/02/2018: Topaz Jones, Mabuta, Natalie Portman and more…


Some fresh new music to consume with your pancakes and Valentines chocolates.

THE BEST:


 ‘Zoom’ -  Topaz Jones



I’m loving the soulful way in which this New Jersey rapper rhymes ‘voodoo’ and ‘tutu’ and then ‘couscous’. He may well be the only hip hop artist I know spitting bars about couscous. It beats rapping about codeine. The groovy beat’s pretty cool too.

‘In My Dreams’ – Show Clothes & Gavriella



This tune with its symphonic strings is so sauve that I feel like I ought to be listening to it dressed in a tuxedo whilst playing blackjack. It’s made all the more gorgeous by Gavriella’s jazz-pop cadences. Some nonsensical perfume ad needs to use this song in the background and give it the recognition it deserves.

 ‘Tree of Love’ – Auramancer



The moody QOTSA-like vocals and carnivalesque guitars kick this track off to a great start. But the song really hits its stride with that soaring chorus. The Belgian rockers have an EP out titled ‘The Only Way To Fail’ for those that love this song and want more.

‘Welcome To This World’ – Mabuta



Mabuta is Japanese for ‘eyelid’. This is the length that people go to nowadays to find original band names. Sadly I couldn’t find any more ‘eye-opening’ facts about this jazz quintet. I don’t usually dig jazz instrumentals, but this gliding track is absolutely hypnotic. I can almost imagine myself flying when I close my eyelids.

 ‘Natalie’s Rap 2’ – Natalie Portman

 

I would pay good money for a whole rap album from Natalie Portman. Following her 2009 Lonely Island collaboration, Natalie has decided to return with another hilarious single this time making Black Swan references and defending Jar Jar Binks. Also, Andy Samberg is back dressed as a Viking.


THE WORST:


‘Whiteboy’ - Tom Macdonald


This dude is brave, I’ll give him that. But a rap song about ending white guilt seems a bit insensitive given that hip hop was born out of black struggles.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

INTRODUCING: Dopest Gringo Alive



Meet DGA (Dopest Gringo Alive).

He’s a Latino DIY noise-rapper from California who self-describes himself on his Bandcamp page as ‘the last son of Krypton and the patron saint of blast-out rap’.

Whilst there are lots of rappers out there currently barking over noisy beats, DGA’s idiosyncratic style is totally his own. His self-produced beats comprise of murky samples and distorted drums, but carry a mood more similar to extreme metal than trap rap. His bars meanwhile are a mixture of punky sociopolitical commentary and grungy personal anguish, whilst others are comically berserk. Take 'Fuego Sus', which sees the rapper uttering lines like ‘Hold my Prozac, let me go bust a nut on my soul’, before breaking into a dark interpolation of the Cha Cha slide. You can stream his latest album Fuego Sus below.


Eager to get to know this eccentric rapper, I decided to arrange this interview and ask lots of ridiculous questions about pizza and what it would be like to wake up as Ariana Grande.

If DGA was a pizza, what toppings would it have?

Figs and bacon maybe.

Alright, so we know you’re the first dopest gringo alive – who is the second dopest gringo?

My concept of gringo is pretty specific but maybe Johnny Cash? But he’s quite dead. Tom Hardy is DGA’s dream boy so maybe him. BUT - the main point is that I don’t have much competition because - you heard it here first - white people suck! :)

I’m loving your noisy and raw production style. Who are your influences production-wise?

Summing this kind of thing up accurately is a terrifying task because what if I say the wrong thing? No no no, better to say nothing.  (Guerilla Toss, Death Grips, and everything El-P produces are some noisy shit)


There’s some incredible sampling on your album Fuego Sus. Where do you find your samples?

My samples come from a lot of everchanging sources but the mainstay are my friends’ music and demos, with permission of course.  All my best stuff comes from them.

Some of your lyrics are very dark. How personal are your lyrics? Or is more of a case of trying to create a mood?

My lyrics are 100 percent hella personal but I’m mentally unhealthy so their delusionally dramatic darkness is more from that than reality.  Also I just say sicke shit so people can get boo-boos on the edge.  

‘Ariana Grande SEO’ is a bizarre little track about wanting to be Ariana Grande. What would you genuinely do if you woke up and you were Ariana Grande?

I would be perfect.  I wouldn’t have to do anything except be Ariana Grande.  Everything would be A okay.  I would continue to layer sarcasm with continually less meaning!

You’re trapped on a desert island and can only bring three personal items (let’s say, you’ve already got food and the bare essentials to survive). What three items do you bring?

2 15s and something to play out them.  I’ve never had 2 15s but Big KRIT does so I think that’s cool.

You have to share your desert island experience with one of the following people – Donald Trump, Logan Paul or MC Ride? They each have rabies for some reason. Who do you choose?

For the sake of brevity - Stefan can get it.

What music are you listening to right now? What were your favourite songs and least favourite songs of 2017?

I’ve been listening to King Krule’s 2017 album The OOZ a shitton.  Bay area slaps.  Indigenous Mexican music.  Folksy cowboy music.  Grindcore/Breakcore.  Those are just some interesting maybe unique things.  I don’t keep up to date with music very well.  A strange album I recommend is Touchy by Luie Luie.  Its very uncomfortable but I love it - “I made these recordings all by myself!”


What does the future hold for DGA?

A lot a lot a lot of hard work to improve and make something I can call dope without hesitation.  I’m hoping to make a lot more music videos since I loved making the video for “Stitched Up” and for better or worse I made exactly what I pictured.  I’ll say there are a lot of singles coming up because if I tell people there are then there will be.  When I drop another album I promise it will be good or your free download back.  Much love, kiss kiss.

Follow DGA at https://www.facebook.com/Dopestgringo/ 

Friday, 2 February 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 02/02/2018: James Blake, Let’s Eat Grandma, Von Sell and more…


Eccentric envelope-pushing tunes from James Blake, Let's Eat Grandma, Von Sell and more...

THE BEST:

‘If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead’ – James Blake


James Blake’s atmospheric electropop has always been fairly left-field, but the choppy and distorted vocal editing that he brings to this song is truly ground-breaking. It stutters along in a panicky manner (the lyrics the lyrics repeat repeat like this like this), perfectly fitting the song’s theme of life speeding ahead. Will James Blake be releasing an album soon of similar-flavoured stutter-pop tunes? I hope so (although I can imagine a whole album of this might give me an anxiety attack).

‘Hot Pink’ – Let’s Eat Grandma ft. SOPHIE


Creepily-named alt-pop duo Let’s Eat Grandma take things in a more dancey direction on their latest single ‘Hot Pink’, teaming up with banger-crafting producer SOPHIE. In fact, the combo of Brit-inflected vocals and EDM instrumentation remind me a lot of AlunaGeorge.

‘Hell No’ – Von Sell


This Brooklyn-via-Germany musician almost had to give up his career as a vocalist after suffering vocal chord pain and discomfort which left him unable to sing. Fortunately, after over a year’s break from music, Von Sell has managed to make a recovery and bring his dream career back to life. His new single ‘Hell No’ is quite the comeback – it’s a melancholy electropop single with a soaring groovy chorus and unusual progression that keeps you hooked. It gets a big 'hell yeah' from me.

‘Comet Tails’ – Filthy Kitsch


Joe Shackleton is another artist who has had to battle through injuries to keep his music career alive. Once a drummer for several indie bands, the Stockholm musician had to give up after suffering several joint problems. Whilst his days playing percussion in live shows may now be over, this hasn’t stopped him recording new material under a new alias Filthy Kitsch. ‘Comet Tails’ is a stomping triumphant song made up of driving guitars, bright synths and cheery ooh-la-las. It’s an excitingly fresh indietronica sound that proves a debilitating injury needn’t be the end, but instead the beginning of something new.

‘Baby I’m Bleeding’ – JPEGMAFIA


This beat is absolutely bonkers. At first you wonder where its heading with its looped juddering vocal sample. Then JPEGMAFIA starts angrily spitting over it, some bass and a snare come in, after which it turns into a mean head-bobbing banger. The experimental hip hop artist has a new album out titled Veteran full of similarly crazy sampling for those hungry for more.  

THE WORST:

 ‘Supastars’ – Migos


Migos are masters at creating middle-of-the-road trap rap. I can't bring myself to listen to their new two hour album. I'd rather wipe my butt with sandpaper.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Is Asian Hip Hop About To Become Huge In The West?


The west has never really embraced Asian music. Sure, there are a few diehard weeaboos out there that could probably tell you every song right now in the Japanese charts. But the majority of us know only novelty hits like PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’ and perhaps an anime soundtrack or two.

It seems however that things are about to change. Asian music if finally starting to break into the west – and it’s mostly hip hop. Asian rappers are appropriating the sounds of the west, but they’re also throwing in their own local influence.

One such rapper is Indonesian emcee Rich Brian (formerly known as ‘Rich Chigga’). He first attracted widespread attention in 2016 with his video for ‘Dat $tick,’ which sees him boldly choosing to wear a pink polo shirt and fanny bag whilst spitting mean bars over a hard-hitting trap beat.


The video has amassed over 80 million views and prompted the likes of Ghostface Killah to get in touch for a collaborative remix. Rich Brian’s humorous personality has only led him to become more successful, taking to Twitter to write hilarious posts and creating a number of wacky Youtube videos, including one in which he microwaves bread and proceeds to stare awkwardly into the camera.

Rich Brian isn’t the only Asian hip hop artist making waves right now. Another artist is Japanese-Australian rapper Joji – formerly known as the youtuber Filthy Frank who has birthed a number of memes including creating the crazy dance to the Harlem Shake back in 2013. Only recently has he got more serious as a musician under the pen-name Joji.


It’s easy to see why both artists have blown up, given that they both rap largely in English and are as much comedians as they are musicians. However, other artists are now starting to blow up that rely less on being memes, whilst rapping largely in their native tongue such as Chinese rap group Higher Brothers. Their biggest hit is ‘Made In China’ - which jokes about the fact Western audiences refuse to listen to Chinese rap due to the language barrier. 


Meanwhile in New York, female artists such as Yaeji are spitting in English and Korean. Her glossy bangers blend rapping and singing, whilst her geeky-girl image is entirely unique. Like Rich Chigga, she’s reinventing swag and showing that ‘realness’ can mean ‘being yourself’ – you don’t have to be gangster from the projects to be considered real.


The influence is starting to have a reverse effect already and rappers from the West are teaming up with Asian rappers and borrowing beats and lingo. Just listen to this loud posse cut featuring the likes of A$AP Ferg...


Is this the beginning of an Asian revolution in western rap? Will we be hearing these kind of songs on the radio soon? It would certainly seem the language is no longer a barrier. We've already got half-Spanish singles like 'Despacito' dominating the airwaves, plus it's not as if most Western rappers are particularly lyrical is it?  It could be an exciting new direction for popular music as a whole. 

Saturday, 27 January 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 27/01/2018: Jack White, A$AP Rocky, Justin Timberlake and more...


Jack White embraces electronica and Justin Timberlake goes country.

THE BEST:

‘Respect Commander’ & ‘Corporation’ – Jack White



Bluesy singer/guitarist Jack White has been doing some pretty audacious stuff recently, including banning phones from his live shows. He’s also released two experimental, largely instrumental new singles that seem to be pushing rock in new directions. ‘Respect Commander’ opens with sped up drums, orchestra hits and electronica before transforming into a muddy blues rock anthem. ‘Corporation’ meanwhile centres around a groovy riff that sounds like something between Deep Purple and Steely Dan, closing with some eerie shrieking and rambling about corporations. It’s not stuff for your average rock fan - it's weird and straight up my alley.

‘Window’ – Christian Besa Wright


With it’s lazy guitars and layers of sunny vocal harmonies, this track from LA singer-songwriter Christian Besa Wright is as soothing as a summer’s day. It’s what’s needed to cheer up these miserable winter months.

 ‘QYURRYUS' - The Voidz


The Voidz, fronted by Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, have been releasing increasingly more bizarre songs. Their latest song sounds like a synthwave war chant topped with squealing guitars and even some autotuned warbling towards the end. When it comes to weird moments of the week, it's up there with Oprah Winfrey's third hand and that Sting/Shaggy collaboration (which wasn't good or bad enough to feature in this week's selection). 

THE WORST:

☆☆☆☆☆ 5IVE $TAR$’ – A$AP Rocky


This is distinctly average music from the flamboyant rapper. Three stars would have been generous. Where is Rocky’s energy? He sounds like he’s just had a rough night’s sleep in a one star hotel.

‘Say Something’ – Justin Timberlake ft. Chris Stapleton


Timberlake seems to be going for a more mature country/gospel sound here and, well, it’s bland. Chris Stapleton’s vocals are the most interesting thing about this song and that’s saying something. 

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Review of 'Revival' by Eminem



The new Eminem album is a disaster.

It’s usually a bad sign whenever Eminem titles an album Re-something. Both Relapse and Recovery were big duds in the rap icons’s career. Then the Marshall Mathers LP 2 came along in 2013 and seemed to restore Eminem’s legacy – whilst I may have been a little forgiving of the corny choruses and bland beats in my review, the album had enough head-spinning flows and choppy rhyming to make up for it.

Sadly, Revival is a big backward step – Regression would have been a better name for it. It’s not that Eminem isn’t trying new things. He boldly addresses race politics, spends a whole track attacking Trump and even incorporates some trap-flavoured beats into the mix. He even takes the brave step to confess about the way he used to treat his ex Kim, having spent numerous tracks in the past throwing death threats at her. All of this, I respect – but why is it all so badly executed?

Honestly, I like a good bit of Trump-bashing, but ‘Like Home’ is just Em spewing out insults we already thought up ourselves, peppered by corny puns such as ‘Like a dictionary, things are looking up’. This isn’t even the corniest line on the album – this award has to go to ‘I’m looking at your tight rear like a sightseer/ your booty is heavy doody like diarrhoea’, which had me sighing out loud.

The lyrics aren’t the only source of corniness. Hearing Eminem pull out a trap rap flow on ‘Chloraseptic’ makes him sound like Migos crossed with a muppet, backed by the blandest trap beat available so that the whole thing sounds like a parody. Then there are the multiple rock instrumentals as on ‘Remind Me’ and ‘Heat’, which only serve to make each track sound like some terribly dated Beastie Boys song. Then of course there are the countless mushy choruses from guest pop stars such as Ed Sheeran and Beyonce, taking away any intimacy from Em’s bars (there’s even a track almost entirely dedicated to Pink - is this really what Eminem thinks his fans want?).

The rapper might have created a less messy album is he hadn’t tried to appeal to so many audiences at once. He seems to be out to impress everyone from mainstream pop fans to rock fans, whilst covering subject matter as expansive as sociopolitics to poop jokes. There are so many incarnations of Eminem on this album that it’s like listening to a compilation album, when all you want is the real slim shady.

It’s irritating, because there are glimpses of brilliance on Revival that could have been the entire premises of the album. If all the tracks were like ‘Bad Husband’ and ‘Like Home’ without the corny choruses and corny lines, this could have been Eminem’s long-awaited grown-up-rapper album – similar to the recent confessional Jay-Z album. Alternatively, I would have loved to have seen an experimental album from Em, as the track ‘Offended’ gives us a taster of. The crazy rhyme schemes, avant-garde beat and playful nursery rhyme chorus show that Eminem still has the talent and innovation in him. Even the celebrity disses in this track are funny (I chuckled at ‘like R Kelly with a full bladder’). A whole album of similar songs probably wouldn’t have got much radio airplay, but it would have impressed people enough to restore his legacy. Instead we’re left with a tin of corn with bad beats and no focus. 

TRACK TASTER: