Friday, 24 February 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 24/09/2017: Opal Blue, Steve Lacy, Linkin Park and more...



Do you like instrumental electronica? My inbox has become so flooded with it in recent weeks I’ve been practically drowning in synths and 808s – expect a lot of it from here on in. Plus other musical madness.

THE BEST:


‘Nile’ – Opal Blue



Opening with oriental flutes, warm pianos chords and synths-that-sound-like-oriental-flutes this track floats weightlessly in air for a minute before jumping into a satisfying groove of clickety percussion. It's as ambient as it is effervescent - as suitable for meditating to as it is to running on a treadmill to. Not that I'd do either.

‘Acid tide’ – Spiders Eat Vinyl



Spiders Eat Vinyl is quite a badass band name. I was expecting a metal group. Instead, the Sheffield synth-wizards seem to specialise in zenned-out retro-flavoured soundscapes more suited for an aquarium or a planetarium. That said, this is much more textured and interesting than your usual Barnes & Noble music, plus I'm loving the nostalgic New Wave vibes. 

‘Seen’ - Bruce Cohen


The cacophony of synths in the background never really settles for a melody, and yet I can’t help but find the din all weirdly hypnotic as it hums and whirrs against the looping percussion in the foreground. For all I know it could just be a dude smashing random notes on a keyboard, although I'd like to think it's more calculated than that.

 ‘Dark Red’ – Steve Lacy



All the members of r&b collective The Internet are releasing solo albums this year. Syd and Matt Martians have already dropped LPs – now third member Steve Lacy has decided he doesn't want to be left out. ‘Dark Red’ is our first taster of things to come. It’s a twangy forlorn soul track that opens with the singer contemplating ‘something bad’s about to happen to me’ and ends with him pleading ‘don’t leave darling/ don’t leave’. I can see why this single didn’t drop over Valentine’s week – it’s basically a pre-breakup song. Hits me right in the feels.  

‘Pasta Solo’ – Myles Manley



What starts as a dainty folk ditty swiftly trails off into left-field lunacy involving pitch-shifted doops, descending pianos and a separate vocalist called Nobody who appears from nowhere. It’s absolutely crackers. I’ve still got no idea where the pasta fits in.

THE WORST:


‘Heavy’ – Linkin Park


The problem isn’t that ‘Heavy’ isn’t heavy, or the fact that Linkin Park have ‘sold out’ – I’m pretty sure they did that years ago. The problem is that for pop-EDM this is utterly bland. It’s enough to make even The Chainsmokers yawn.

Friday, 17 February 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 17/02/2017: Thundercat, Estrons, Taupe and more...



In spite of Valentine’s Day, no-one’s been getting particularly lovey-dovey this week. Miserable sods. Still, I guess, the music’s been good enough to make up for it.


THE WORST:


‘Friend Zone’ – Thundercat


I’d rather play Mortal Kombat anyway…’ The funky singer-bassist wasn’t feeling the romantic Valentine’s Day vibes this week, instead using his lovably warped sense of humour to create a fiercely fed-up retaliation anthem to being friendzoned. The whole track frankly ends too quickly, but then again I could listen to those vibrant synth arpeggios all day and still be left wit blue balls. Give me this Thundercat album MY BODY IS READY

‘I’m Not Your Girl’ – Estrons


Is no-one feeling the love this week? This new punkish belter of a track from indie rockers Estrons is all about slamming the door on an unwanted ex-lover. It's mean rock bitch music for slashing your previous partner’s tyres to (not that I condone such behaviour - torching their vehicle's more effective). That section from 2:22 makes me want punch someone.  

 ‘A Clown Drools’ - Taupe


Jazz/punk/noise collective Taupe come through with this cranium-curdler of a track ‘A Clown Drools’ from their new album Fill Up Your Lungs And Bellow. Loopy alto sax skitters over dissonant guitars and frantic percussion, offering enough melody to keep you sane but also intermittently throwing you down the rabbit hole so that you don’t get too comfortable. They’re Behold… The Arctopus turned bebop. Coincidentally, I must add, the sax player was a year above me in primary school!

‘Tired as Fuck’ – The Staves


Smoking in a music video and needlessly sweary lyrics usually give off an obnoxious I’m-trying-to-be-edgy-vibe – which is certainly the case here – but I’m willing to forgive these girls simply for the fact that these are some the most celestial vocal harmonies I’ve heard in a long while.


THE WORST:


‘Beauty and the Beast’ – Ariana Grande & John Legend


Yuk, it sounds like a Disney song. Oh wait…

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Review of 'I Decided' by Big Sean



The vanilla wafer of the rap game is back with some flashy flows and cute bars about his momma. Is this the exciting Big Sean we’ve all been waiting for – or more of the same?

Dark Sky Paradise, the Detroit emcee’s last album, had some badass beats on it and glimpses of endearing introspection, although was largely dragged down by corny bars and an utter lack of originality. On this newest record, the hip hop artist has cut out the corn and upped the soul. There are still some arrogant bangers in the mix such as ‘Bounce Back’ and ‘Moves’, but most of it is personal heart-to-heart stuff. If Dark Sky Paradise offered a window into the life of Big Sean, this new record is practically him opening the door and inviting us in for a drink.

Sharing with us his accomplishments and flaws, he manages to stay likeable. You feel like a close friend of his once the album is done. And you can’t help but feel proud for all he’s achieved as he humbly takes time to thank his mum and fans as if accepting an Oscar.

But then a bitter sense of disappointment takes over when you realise Big Sean has got to where he is by stealing the styles of every other rapper – something he’s STILL doing on this album. He spends a great deal of this album sounding like Drake (there are claims Drizzy bit his flow, but you can’t honestly tell me those moany inflections and failed relationship themes aren’t Drake-inspired?), whilst switching between Kanye, Future and Kendrick impressions for the remainder.

That isn’t to say he’s not talented. His flows are impressively versatile, delicately half-singing on tracks like ‘Same Time’ whilst picking up the tempo towards the end of ‘Voices In My Head/Stick To The Plan’ (although the droned hook ‘stick to the plaaan’ is one of the more embarrassing moments). He adjusts to each beat like a Swiss army knife, unlike his improbable guest Eminem who’s choppy flows ride the instrumental of ‘No Favors’ awkwardly like a greyhound on roller-skates.

Perhaps if Big Sean was to really work on it, he could use his capacity for flows to create some wholly distinctive flows of his own and make this his USP. He still feels like he’s jumping on trends at the moment, and whilst this album gives us all a better idea of who he is, I still can’t see where he fits into the grand scheme of things. 

TRACK TASTER:

Friday, 10 February 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 10/02/2017: Mount Eerie, Anna Wise, Katy Perry and more...



Some of it’s heart-wrenching. Some of it’s erotic. Some of it’s plain weird. Plus Katy Perry’s getting vaguely political??? An interesting week all round.

THE BEST:


‘Real Death’ – Mount Eerie



Death has been a big topic in music since forever. But I can’t honestly think of a time a song themed around the topic has hit me like this. Having lost his wife last year to cancer, Phil Elverum of indie folk project Mount Eerie lays his feelings bare on the subject. Whilst previous musicians have tried to make sense of death through metaphors, allegories and morals – Phil does not know how to come to terms with his horrific reality. ‘Death is real. It’s not for singing about. It’s not for making into art’, he begins. His feelings are pure and raw, almost painfully and unbearably so. It’s some of the most heart-wrenching material ever recorded, but invigoratingly bold. Be wary when hitting play – this is heavy stuff.

 ‘Stendhal Syndrome’ - Idles


One man’s art is another man’s trash. This seems to be the message of the rowdy UK punks’ latest single ‘Stendhal Syndrome’, which sees the band’s big bearded bassist dancing around London galleries in front of art exhibits. The song is less about mocking people’s tastes, and more about mocking those that do the mocking – or at least that’s how I interpret it. You may just think it’s a load of ‘hot air’.

‘Coconuts’ – Anna Wise


Is it hot in here? I’m just going to open a window – the steamy combination of Anna Wise’s newfound sultry jazz croons and those smoky 808-led synths and sax is giving me palpitations. That’s not even including the video, containing all kinds of semi-arty/semi-naughty goings on. This R&b songstress keeps going from strength to strength.

‘Cool Your Heart’ - Dirty Projectors ft. D∆WN



This instrumental is utterly genre-bending. It even manages to turn slightly samba at one point. The pair’s vocals perfectly play off one another, even if the beat feels like it shouldn’t be sung over.

‘Grizzle’ – Strange U


High Focus Records are known for embracing the weird side of UK rap, but Strange U really takes the prize. Over an avant-garde beat of gristly synths and clunking percussion, he raps about having the elephant man’s skeleton in his backpack (whaat?) and preferring lasers to trainers. It’s brilliantly bonkers.

THE WORST:


‘Chained To The Rhythm’ – Katy Perry


Come on, turn it up, keep it on repeat/ Stumbling around like a wasted zombie’. Sonically, it’s nice, but that chorus is horrible. It’s clunkily phrased, doesn’t rhyme and tries to make some audacious wake-up-sheeple statement that just doesn’t seem convincing coming out of Katy Perry’s cherry chapstick lips.

Friday, 3 February 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 03/02/2017: Father John Misty, Thundercat, Mastodon and more...



It’s one of those weeks where I have absolutely nothing witty to say in the intro that hasn’t already been said, so let’s just dive straight in shall we…

THE BEST:


‘The Missing Sucker’ - Horse Massage


Musical discoveries like this remind me why I run a music blog. Parping clarinets and demented guitar noodling provide a backdrop for babbling music industry spiel in this new single from Chicago weirdos Horse Massage. As if the whole thing wasn’t mad enough, the track then trails off ungracefully into a gradually slowing detuned mess. I also, love their take on playing the keyboard.

‘Silent Treatment’ – Blanck Mass



Blanck Mass is one half of elegantly-named electronic duo Fuck Buttons. According to the press release, his latest release is about the ‘problems that arise when we don’t communicate’, although there are no lyrics to support this theme (I guess that’s the point). Opening with some choral vocals the whole thing suddenly thrusts into a noisy wall of electronica before stripping itself all the way back. It’s quite the roller-coaster, so buckle up.

‘Two Wildly Different Perspectives’ – Father John Misty


Father John Misty’s upcoming album Pure Comedy is going to be a largely humourless affair judging from the cuts we’ve heard so far. As sad as I am to say goodbye to the singer’s comedic side, he does still seem to showing some sharp wit in this new track: ‘one man says ‘man, take what’s yours’/ the other says ‘live on no more than you can afford’/but either way we just possess/and everyone ends up with less’. Witty or preachy, depending on the wildly differing perspective you choose (SEE WHAT I DID THERE).

‘Show You The Way’ – Thundercat ft. Michael McDonald & Kenny Loggins


Funky singer and bassist Thundercat is back for some slinky basslines, jazzy chord sequences and dreamy falsettos. It’s as gorgeously satisfying as getting that piece of sweetcorn out from between your teeth, as gorgeously satisfying as finding a fiver in an old jacket pocket, as gorgeously satisfying as relieving your bladder after a long car journey. You get the picture.

‘Show Yourself’ – Mastodon


The general consensus from metalheads seems to be that this sucks – but personally I’m digging the Foo-Fighters-esque vocal melodies and lack of bells and whistles. It may not be the Georgia group’s traditional death/sludge/prog brew, but it’s hardly pop balladry either. That strumming and drumming still has attitude.

THE WORST:


‘I’m Better’ - Missy Elliot ft. Lamb


You’re right – you are better than this. 

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Review of 'Oczy Mlody' by The Flaming Lips



Whilst not quite the psychedelic mindfuck that 2013’s The Terror was, The Lips’ latest record is still enjoyably and reliably bonkers.

The trippy synths and faraway vocals are back and the atmosphere may be just as clawing, but lyrics about frogs and shitting unicorns show that the mood has lightened. Instrumental quirks pepper the album including a synth bass solo towards the backend of ‘Nidgie Nie’ and ELO-esque orchestral strings in ‘Galaxy I Sink’ – something you wouldn’t have heard on The Terror. Plus there are a number of new hip hop flavourings stippled throughout.

Hip hop? On a Flaming Lips record? You’ll be glad to know it’s largely an instrumental influence - the fat slimy bass of ‘How???’and Yeezus-like distortion of mouthful-of-a-title ‘One Night While Hunting For Faeries and Witches and Wizards to Kill’ both creatively showing off the experimental rockers’ urban side. Coyne fortunately refrains from rapping, although he does dabble in auto-tune – an unpleasant surprise, although in some ways an improvement on the shaky unaltered falsettos adorning the rest of the album.

It sucks that Wayne still can’t sing, but as always this flaw is made up for instrumentally. Only the Lips could blend eighties sci-fi keys and futuristic hip hop percussion and make it feel so natural. It’s as if the band have been producing with 808s for years.

Perhaps Miley is responsible for the group’s newfound urban side? The pop diva has a guest appearance on the final track – not the first time she’s collaborated with The Lips if my scarred memory serves me correctly. It’s an unlikely partnership, but one that I now realise has mutual benefits – Miley using it to destroy her past, The Lips using it to relive theirs.

Oczy Mlody is Polish for ‘Eyes of the young’ and whilst Wayne claims he did not choose the title for its meaning, it does feel like the middle-aged psych-rockers are eager to be young again. Even some of Wayne’s unnecessary sweary lyrics feel frighteningly Miley-esque. That said, I don’t think the band are about to pull a Madonna any time soon – their attempts to play with urban flavourings are done tastefully for the most part. In fact, they result in something quite innovative. Well done Miley for your influence (although I can’t say you’ve quite redeemed yourself yet).

TRACK TASTER:


Saturday, 28 January 2017

INTRODUCING: Vulture St. Tape Gang



Meet the Vulture St. Tape Gang.

They’re a barmy band from Brisbane that blends jazz improvisation and hip hop flavourings.

They self-describe their sound as ‘Beats made on the fly. Totally improvised. Recorded straight to cassette 4-track. Beats take as long to make as they do to listen to. Their latest album Mick’s Nuts is a 57 track long tape containing these very beats, comprising of songs titles such as ‘Harold Holt and The Killer Babes From Atlantis’ and ‘Menu Screen For Some Really Dark Game’. You can feast your ears on the album below.




More recently they released ‘1st World Problems Solved’, an actual full-length song of sorts that I praised on this blog for its sexy groove and relatable lyrics: ‘If I see another pussy I’m gonna be sick’. Made on the fly or not - the band's beats are undeniably inventive, made all the more entertaining by their uniquely hilarious personality.

Eager to get to know the band more, I decided to take an hour out of my day and swim over to Brisbane from the UK to interview the trio. Read on for some serious chat involving rival tape gangs of Brisbane, pizzas with faces and liaising with BADBADNOTGOOD and Hiatus Kaiyote...


If Vulture St. Tape Gang was a pizza what toppings would it have?

Lots of meat. Anything with a face. Actually all the faces. Made into cubes so that there's extra faces. 

I recently listened to Mick’s Nuts and it was so good I had a seizure. What made you choose to record beats on cassette tapes?

Thank you and apologies for the seizure. To be completely honest with you, we didn't use tape for that mix tape. But we did release it on tapes coz we are hipsters and tapes are cool. We used to record on a tascam 4 track but not anymore. We're making high quality pop hits now. 

Your latest sexy single ‘1st World Problems Solved’ seems a little different from previous material. I mean, like, it’s an actual song. Do you have more singles like this planned? Or strictly beats?

The next release will be a bunch of almost songs. It'll be the stepping stone between our 30 second song mixtapes to our 3min radio bangers and number 1's. The next release is inbetweensies. 1 min almost songs. 



Tell me about your individual origins. One of you was a local baroque/classical pianist, right?

The voodoo shaman, our synth lord, was forced to play baroque music for dinner guests by his angry master when he was a small child. His master had many guest that would stay for weeks at a time and he'd be forced to play Bach til his tiny finger tips swelled up to the size of larger finger tips. 

Best Foot Forward has played for many bands, some of which you may have heard of, some of which you haven't and maybe a few that sound vaguely familiar. 

I am a dumb ass that gets drunk and rambles about unrequited love and pineal glands and the anunnaki and whatever. 

Who are your musical influences?

Well me personally, hi, mchypeman here, I don't really like music. I'm more of a sports kind of guy. I guess my main musical inspirations are the music on beer ads and sports shows but definitely subconsciously. 

You’ve previously supported Hiatus Kaiyote and BADBADNOTGOOD. Did you get to talk to the members backstage?

I wasn't at the bad bad not good show coz I'm expendable and I live in Melbourne but I got to meet them in Melbourne, lovely fellows. 

As for hiatus, they were way too snobby to talk to us and I think they were all high on meth. JOKES. We are all very tight, in fact the bass player bender is co-producing our next release. 

Are there any other rival tape gangs in Brisbane? 

There's the Wickham tce mp3 boys and the Stafford Rd minidisc mob but not other tape gangs. But we have been rolled by both of the aforementioned gangs. 

I found this video and it confused me slightly. Care to explain? 



That's a little teaser for our mix tape "hung phat jewellery" made by our mate Kirkis who is a deadset legend. 

What does the future hold for Vulture St. Tape Gang?

The next EP and then after that probably full blown radio length hits. Then all the gobbies. 

Follow Vulture St. Tape Gang at: https://www.facebook.com/VultureStTapeGang/