Sunday, 15 July 2018
BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 15/07/2018: Milk White Throat, Hollowlove, The Molochs and more…
This week I decided to take a break from the popular hits circulating the web and focus solely on the ton of submissions in my inbox (I’ve meaning to catch up for a while!). Here are some of the best (and worst) underground tunes that I came across.
‘Nearly Alive’ – Milk White Throat
The drummer of this Brighton prog metal outfit must be an octopus or a robot (or maybe a robot octopus). The percussion work is absolutely mental - particularly that tumultuous breakdown at the five minute mark! Evoking a sound similar to The Mars Volta but with a more thrashy edge, Milk White Throat deliver an eight minute rock masterpiece that keeps you hooked from start to finish with its multiple transitions. It must take some stamina to play this live! The band’s upcoming EP House of Fire is out August 3rd.
‘Hazard Lights’ – Hollowlove
Spiky synths make way for some breathy crooning followed by some surprise touches of jazzy piano in this seductive and pulsing new synthpop track by Canadian duo Hollowlove. They sound a bit like an updated version of the Pet Shop Boys. There’s a longer mix of the track for those that want more, but this concise radio cut makes for more easy listening.
‘I Wanna Say To You’ – The Molochs
This hazy new track by LA band The Molochs looks and sounds like a 90s Britpop single (with maybe a few Velvet Underground undertones thrown in). But despite the retro feel, there’s also something fresh about the snarky lyrics and vaguely psychedelic guitar.
‘Soylent Green’ – Niki Moss
Portuguese multi-instrumentalist and singer Niki Moss drops this electropop/rock hybrid ‘Soylent Green’. It’s a mixture of bright synths, chirpy vocals and groovy guitars. If you’re looking for something feelgood to bob your head to, this is your jam. I'm also loving the cute animated video.
‘In The Fields’ – Simon D James
The violins in the opening of this song made me think this was going to be your average village fete folk tune, but it turns out to be a lot more creative than that. There's some creative piano and guitar during the verse that give the track a unique character – it’s folk as you’ve never heard it before.
‘Bring It On’ - ???
It’s time for more terrible scientology rap. This one seems like it was conceived in a boardroom as an attempt to market scientology to young people and the result is a horrifically corny attempt to be hip: ‘How about we make a rap video? Young people love their rap! Can we get a token black guy to do some breakdancing?’.
Friday, 22 June 2018
THE BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 22/06/2018: Ariana Grande, The Carters, Firstworld and more…
This week I look at The Carters' new banger, the strange new single from Ariana Grande and the 'Flossing' dance craze that's blowing up on the internet...
‘APESH*T’ – The Carters
Music mogul power couple Jay-Z and Beyonce are now writing music under the alias ‘The Carters’. Lyrically, it’s nothing but braggadocio, but the crazy trap beat and energetic delivery make up for it (besides, if anyone has a right to brag, it’s them). I can’t bring myself to create a Tidal account just to listen to their new Tidal-exclusive album, but I do feel like I’m missing out now that I’ve heard this banger.
‘Not Obvious’ – Firstworld
I do love myself a bit of Chillwave. Firstworld’s new track is beautifully lo-fi complete with a music video simulated to look like warped VHS footage. There are elements of Washed Out and Neon Indian in his sound, but there’s also a uniquely dark feel to it all, especially present during the chord change that accompanies ‘and as my wallet begs for mercy, I can’t hear it’.
‘Alike’ – Auramancer
Belgian rockers Auramancer deliver this new song about a man who has reluctantly resigned to his boring everyday life (‘I paid my bills/ and it was fun’). It comes accompanied with a video that sees the protagonist trying to break out of the vicious circle by gambling and joining a Fight Club only for it to end in failure. It’s accompanied by some satisfying guitar riffage that feels very QOTSA-inspired, shifting to a meaner tone towards the end.
‘Graceville’ – Strangely Enough
‘Graceville’ pushes the bands’ already epic sound to cosmic proportions – with it’s sparkling synths, celestial strings and euphoric vocals the whole track feels absolutely huge as it glides along like planet on orbit. According to project founder Greg Olley, the song is about a ‘vain search for Utopia’.
‘The Light Is Coming’ – Ariana Grande ft. Nicki Minaj
I actually think this is a really fun song – Nicki’s verse is fantastic, Ariana’s voice is gorgeously sultry as always and the bubbly synths are cool (Pharrell Williams produced the beat) – but that bloody sample in the background ruins it: ‘YOU WOULDN’T LET ANYBODY SPEAK AND INSTEAD…’. It’s completely out of place and is looped continuously throughout the song.
‘Flossin’ – The Backpack Kid ft. DJ Suede
‘Flossin’ seems set to become the new dance craze. It’s a pity the song itself is utter shite – how do these kids sounds out-of-tune even with autotune?
Friday, 15 June 2018
Big Shaq removes his coat and Slaves are soundly oddly upbeat.
‘Man Don’t Dance’ - Big Shaq
Big Shaq has taken off his jacket, but now he’s refusing to dance. Next year, I’m pretty sure he’ll be dancing and refusing to do something else. Man don’t stick to his principles. Sequels to meme songs are generally never as good, but this beat bangs hard and ‘I like my eggs with yolk, scrambled ting/ but please don’t burn my toast’ is the best opening line to a song I’ve heard all year.
‘Cut and Run’ – Slaves
Even if this is a lot less aggressive than their past work and a lot more like FIFA-game radio rock, I’m feeling the catchy lyrics and simple riffing. Also thanks for the workout video, Slaves - maybe there’s still time to work on my beach body.
‘Ha ha ha’ – Death Grips
The first minute of dissonant chaos was a bit much for me and even then I was too distracted by the disgusting artwork to enjoy the rest of the song, but the track has grown on me since – there’s so much crazy shit going on in it that I can’t help but feel a little awed by it. The track is set to feature on Death Grips’ upcoming album The Year of The Snitch – I’m hoping there are more innovative tracks like this one on it.
‘Heterosapien’ – Shatner
Described in the band’s own words, ‘Heterosapien’ is about how the 'human race is crashing the car whilst texting’. Musically, it’s an incredible mix of rock flavours – Shatner have been described as a mix of The Clash and the B-52s which is about as close as I can come to describing their sonic cocktail.
‘Blurs’ – Echo Vista
Echo Vista’s sound is equally hard to pin down. The layers of fluttering woodwind and gloopy synths feel like they ought to belong to two different worlds, but here they co-exist together. The vocals meanwhile weave in and out of the track. It’s a fun and unpredictable ride.
‘Midsummer Madness’ – 88 Rising
When I saw the signees of 88 Rising had come together for a collaboration I got excited, but this is really quite underwhelming. It feels like a commercial cash grab that doesn’t let any of the artists’ personalities shine. Joji sounds like Charlie Puth.
Wednesday, 13 June 2018
Rapper, producer, fashion designer and nutter, Kanye West, drops his eighth record. Is it his Kanye best, or is it a Kanye mess?
Kanye’s last album The Life of Pablo took forever to be released. After a year of hype, we finally got the album and it still felt unfinished – so much so that the rapper went back and edited the album after its release because some tracks weren’t up to spec.
Contrastingly, Ye seems to have had a rather speedy promo campaign. Much of the media attention beforehand was less to do with the album and more to do with Kanye’s typically controversial antics, confessing his love for Trump on Twitter and blurting out that ‘slavery was a choice’ in an interview. The fact that he mentions the latter in the lyrics of the album shows that this record must have been put together fairly quickly.
It certainly doesn’t feel as elaborate as his past works. At 23 minutes, it’s barely an album and more like an EP. The beats meanwhile are very minimal. ‘I Thought About Killing You’ is practically a cappella for the first 2 minutes, whilst the instrumental of ‘All Mine’ is just a vocal sample and a couple 808s.
But despite its brevity and relative sonic simplicity, this is probably the best Kanye West album I’ve heard thus far. It makes up for its short runtime and sparse instrumentation with some of the rapper’s most intimate and intricate lyrics. There are no cornballs this time around. The lyrics that try to be funny are genuinely funny such as when he rhymes ‘outcome’ and ‘without cum’. Meanwhile, the more introspective bars are packed with hidden meanings as he covers personal topics such as his negative media attention and its impact on his relationship with Kim on ‘Wouldn’t Leave’, his newfound respect for women now that he has a daughter on ‘Violent Crimes’ and his battle with mental illness on ‘I Thought About Killing You’ (which I interpret as a battle with his public and private self – hopefully he’s not referring to Kim!).
Kanye is still a raging narcissist and he clearly feels he’s misunderstood. But there are glimpses of insecurities that show that perhaps there’s another sensitive side to the confident persona that he won't let us see. It’s a voyeuristic look into the rap superstar’s psyche, which we've all been trying to pick apart for years. I’m reminded a lot of Jay-Z’s recent album – an equally personal record from a once arrogant rap veteran that’s as stripped back as it is full of meaning.
The choice of guest vocalists is probably my only gripe with this album. ‘Ghost Town’ could have been the best track on the album, featuring some incredible bars about Kanye’s struggles with being understood and some triumphant gospel-flavoured chords – but the singing from PARTYNEXTDOOR and Kid Cudi is almost unlistenable. PARTYNEXTDOOR’s mumbled crooning sounds like a dying sheep and Kid Cudi’s moaning sounds like a kid on the edge of tears. It makes Kanye’s sung verses sound good, and even they’re a little shaky.
The vocals could have done with some tweaking in the studio (or perhaps he should have hired singers rather than rappers to do the singing). Otherwise, I’m glad much of this album has been left rough and ready. It’s an outburst of Kanye’s feelings and had he spent too long in the studio tweaking the lyrics and the beats, he could have ended up taking away some of the exciting rawness. It frustrates me that so many other reviews on the web are letting Kanye’s political views distort their views on him as a musician – particularly considering the lack of politics on this album. Kanye’s cryptic personality has always been the most interesting thing about him, and its fascinating to see him looking inwards rather than outwards.★★★★☆
Friday, 1 June 2018
How the hell is it June already?
‘Don’t Miss It’ – James Blake
James Blake’s upcoming album could well be his best yet. First, he delivered the ethereal and jittery ‘If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead’ and now he’s returned to haunt us with this new track ‘Don’t Miss It’ featuring ghostly vocals and chillingly heartfelt lyrics on recovering from loss. It comes with a creative lyric video recorded on iCloud notes (it’s certainly one way to shoot a music video on a budget).
‘Come Over’ – The Internet
I first discovered The Internet on the internet about a year and a half ago only to discover that the soul group had pretty much broken up – all its members were releasing solo projects and whilst there was no official breakup it felt like an Odd Future situation. However, it seems The Internet are now back online with a new laid back single ‘Come Over’. Stomping drums and slow funky guitars accompany Syd’s breathy vocals in a signature display of smoothness.
‘Honey’ – Mike Green
For those craving some more smooth funk this week, Mike Green’s moody electropop single ‘Honey’ is certain to satisfy your ears. It’s got a sweet and sticky groove with some interesting synth textures going on. Mike’s vocals also have a Pharrell flavour to them that’s very cool.
‘Colossus’ – Idles
UK punks Idles release their first new single since 2017’s aptly-named album Brutalism. It’s a slow-builder that gets menacingly louder and angrier before exploding into a speedy thrasher. There are also plenty of standout lines: ‘I’m like Stone Cold Steve Austin/ I put homophobes in coffins’.
‘Red Flowers’ - Pink Fireball
Pink Fireball transform themselves into comic book characters in the new video for their latest single ‘Red Flowers’. Musically, it’s an all-out bluesy jam-fest that packs as much energy into its three minutes as it can. I’m particularly loving the groovy riff that comes in around the two minute after the solos – it made me break out into involuntary air guitar to the point that I broke a sweat.
‘Scio Rap’ – Luke Ayers
An Australian scientologist ruins an absolutely amazing beat with some clunky rapped bars about the brilliance of scientology. This is what happens when you have lots of money but no talent.
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 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.
‘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…
‘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.
‘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.