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.

Friday, 30 March 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 30/03/2018: Tyler the Creator, Royce da 5'9, Wax Idols and more...



It’s a nice mix of rock and rap this week.

THE BEST:

‘OKRA’ – Tyler, the Creator



After the relatively smooth and introspective tracks that appeared on last year’s Flower Boy, Tyler is back with a mean banger made up of arrogant verses soaked in distorted bass. It’s obnoxious, but not old-skool-Tyler-level obnoxious (in other words, it’s just the right level of obnoxious).

‘Boblo Boat’ – Royce da 5’9 ft. J Cole



Detroit rap veteran Royce da 5’9 has dropped his ode to nostalgia, in which he recounts youthful days spent on a Boblo boat drinking liquor and even losing his virginity (I’m not sure the ‘no condom’ line was a necessary visual, but oh well). This is then followed by an incredibly agile verse from J Cole. It’s a great collaboration between old and new that feel retro and fresh. Let’s hope Royce’s long-time buddy Eminem is taking note.

‘Mausoleum’ – Wax Idols



This Oakland band’s new tune is also themed around nostalgia. It’s retro post-punk with just enough original flair to make it distinct from the masses of other Cure-influenced bands. The video is worth watching simply to see a group of goths rocking out in a graveyard.

‘Younger’ – The Hails



This sun-kissed soft rock tune comes courtesy of Florida band The Hails. Jangly guitars bounce along to the accompaniment of breezy vocals, culminating into an epic crescendo of spiky synths and heavenly sounds.

‘Orange Sky’ – Clay Priskorn



Carrying similar breezy vibes, this new track from Clay Priskorn is an indie rock gem perfect for a long winding road trip. Clay wrote, produced, mixed and mastered the entire song himself. Don’t get too sucked into the hot lesbionic action – the video takes quite a dramatic turn at the end.

THE WORST:

Pray – Sam Smith ft. Logic



Sam Smith’s new sentimental gospel ballad is made all the worse with this remix featuring Logic harking on about his struggles (at least he doesn't mention being biracial).

Saturday, 24 March 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 24/03/2018: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Let's Eat Grandma, Scarlxrd and more...



Whilst Facebook have been mining everyone’s personal data, I’ve been busy digging these new tunes.

THE BEST:

‘Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays’ – Unknown Mortal Orchestra


New Zealand psych rockers Unknown Mortal Orchestra are getting their disco flares and platforms on for this new funky tune. Their latest flurry of singles seem to all be themed around the struggles of modern life and how our basic instincts always prevail, epitomised by the wonderful title of their upcoming EP Sex & Food.

Listen over at Stereogum here.

‘Falling Into Me’ – Let’s Eat Grandma



This isn’t quite as in-your-face as the duo’s last SOPHIE-produced banger ‘Hot Pink’, but it still signals signs of a more dancey direction for the creepily-named British pairing. It’s electronic instrumental constantly shifts featuring swirling synths and organ spikes before culminating with an epic sax outro. It feels like the last four decades of dance-pop have been shoved in a blender.

 ‘FADED.’ – Scarlxrd


Hip hop is fully entering its metal phase. With it’s hyperdistorted bass and vocal-cord-tearing screeches, it’s enough to rival XXXTentacion. Yes, it’s obnoxious, but it’s got my blood pumping. I could wrestle a bear right now. COME AT ME.

‘Repeating’ – Talk Less Say More



London-based artist Talk Less Say More reduces human existence down to a list of repetitive actions in this new Krautrock-flavoured single. You’ll either find it inane of profound. Personally I’m swaying towards the latter – it’s comforting to know that life isn’t really as complex as we make it out to be, but similarly unsettling to think that there might not be any point to all the things we do. The artist certainly lives up to his name Talk Less, Say More.

‘All That I Need’ – The Assist



Set to appear on their upcoming EP LOST, UK indie rockers deliver this feelgood and epic new single ‘All That I Need’. The groovy verse segues into a soaring chorus that feels like it’s being performed from a clifftop.

THE WORST:

‘Everybody Hates Me’ – The Chainsmokers



If The Chainsmokers weren’t intolerable enough already, they’ve now gone all emo. I've never heard a song so unconvincingly depressing. 

Friday, 23 March 2018

Review of 'Veteran' by JPEGMAFIA



Experimental hip hop finds its sense of humour thanks to Baltimore rapper/producer JPEGMAFIA.

The beats on this album are truly off-the-wall. Moody opener ‘1539 N. Calvert’ and following noisy banger ‘Real Nega’ show signs of experimentalism from the off, but these tracks are tame compared to the wild and mutated beats that follow. Some were a challenge even to my hardened eardrums, including the abstract glitched-out percussion of ‘Rock n Roll Is Dead’ and the slowed-down moaning on ‘Rainbow Six’ which sounds like Tina from Bob’s Burgers on backing vocals. In fact, I haven’t heard beats this excitingly challenging since I first discovered Death Grips and Clipping.

That isn’t to say JPEGMAFIA sounds anything like Death Grips or Clipping. His beats for one are more rugged and loose. Not only that, but his lyrics have an incredible sense of humour. Whilst MC Ride’s lyrics can border on comically outrageous, the focus is more on creating a sensation of madness and paranoia. Meanwhile Daveed Diggs of Clipping specialises in gritty suspenseful storytelling.

Both artists take themselves seriously, whilst JPEGMAFIA doesn’t. Veteran is a South-Park-style attack on everyone including himself. ‘I need all my bitches the same colour as Drake’ is the opening line of this album which is an insult to himself, women, dark-skinned people and Drake. There’s a track with the fantastic title ‘I Cannot Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies’, which turns out to be a attack on right-wingers, but JPEGMAFIA equally takes a chance to bash liberals with ‘Libtard Anthem’. Its anarchistic and punkish – except not punkish in the traditional sense given that even Johnny Rotten gets dissed.

There’s a lack of focus to the album that’s frustrating at points. Certain songs feel undeveloped, although you have to wonder how the album would feel were these songs fleshed out. Would it lose it’s exciting rawness? At other points it’s simply too abstract for my tastes. Nonetheless it’s a captivating listen that’s taking hip hop in a new direction.

TRACK TASTER:

Saturday, 10 March 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 10/03/2018: Sal Dulu, serpentwithfeet, Oliver Tree and more...




NME may have ended its printed edition this week, but Music Related Junk is just getting started! Get your 500-page papyrus-paper hand-written-in-human-blood monthly magazine at your nearest newsagents.

THE BEST:

‘Tyko’ – Sal Dulu


Dublin producer Sal Dulu delivers this dreamy synthscape laced with oriental vocal samples and other hallucinatory sounds. It’s the kind of futuristic ambient music that I could imagine hearing in an aquarium on Mars in two centuries time.  

 ‘bless ur heart’ – serpentwithfeet


Eccentric soul artist serpentwithfeet is back with an epic beard and a new beautiful single titled ‘bless ur heart’. It starts intimately with pianos and a lone kick drum, but ends with a triumphant finish as big as the musician’s beard. However, the most captivating feature has to be serpentwithfeet’s vibrato vocals – I’m not usually a fan of this style of singing, but serpentwithfeet makes it sound so controlled.  

 ‘All That’ x ‘Alien Boy’ – Oliver Tree


California weirdo Oliver Tree is in a lane of his own - and not just because of his wacky appearance and wacky music video (yes, he’s holding a bazooka on a horse). ‘Alien Boy’, the second track in this video, is like nothing I’ve heard before. It’s like hearing a male Katy Perry over synthfunk.

‘It Runs Through Me’ – Tom Misch ft. De La Soul


Hip hop veterans De La Soul have long rapped over jazzy beats, so they’re the perfect choice of guest for Tom Misch’s latest groovy jazztronica song. As always, Tom’s voice and silky guitar playing are delicious. The artist has a new album coming out titled Geography scheduled to be released on April 6th.

THE WORST:

 ‘Morning is Coming’ – Sting & Shaggy


Whilst the idea of a Sting and Shaggy collaboration is entertaining, the result is disappointingly bland. Apparently, they’ve got a whole reggae album planned together. Coming to a bargain bin near you.

‘Been Ballin’ – Lil Uzi Vert & Steve Aoki



Generic trap rapper and generic EDM producer collide to create a generic party anthem.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 03/03/2018: Young Fathers, Jack White, Voids and more…



Lots of bubbly and bizarre tunes this week as we say bye bye to winter.

THE BEST:

‘Toy’ – Young Fathers



Young Fathers aren’t really a rap group anymore. They’ve morphed into their very own species of musician. With its skittering bouncy beat and cartoonish vocals, ‘Toy’ is a playful new song with all the energy of a kid on a sugar rush. Their new album Cocoa Sugar is going to be exhilarating stuff.

‘Over and Over and Over’ – Jack White



Whilst the kooky operatic vocals do start to get a little grating towards the end, I’m happy that this is a yet another excitingly weird track from the Tim-Burton-esque rocker. It’s got a driving riff propelling it along, which is certain to appeal more to Jack White’s old skool fanbase than, say, his recent electronica meanderings (which I personally liked, but others weren’t so keen on).

 ‘All Wordz Are Made Up’ – Voidz


Julian Casablancas of ex-Strokes fame is also continuing to deliver a steady stream of weird shit with the help of his new band the Voidz. Whilst not as demented as previous single ‘QYURRYUS’, the digitally warped vocals and proggy synth meandering still make this a thrillingly original and eccentric track. It’s hard to believe this is the same dude who brought us ‘Last Nite’.

‘Love Is Good, It’s #1’ – Grey Watson



The lyrical sentiment of this song may be soppy and straightforward, but I can’t help but feel the love. The Seoul-based artist seems to be drawing heavily from Revolver-era Beatles, with some sunny glimmers of surf pop and soul thrown in too. It’s so ridiculously happy it makes me want to dress up in harem pants and a bandana and offer free hugs to strangers.

‘Gummi’ – Gibberish



The LA duo take us on a new psychedelic adventure that sounds like Washed-Up-meets-Animal-Collective. Angelic vocal harmonies glide through a cloud of gloopy synths. It lives up to its name by being as sugary as a mouthful of gummi bears.

THE WORST:

‘Cookie Dough’ – BRAIN$



Because kids with guns are sooo trendy right now…