Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Review of 'Neon Icon' by Riff Raff


Forget Eminem. Forget Nas. If you want expert lyricism, look no further than Riff Raff’s Neon Icon. Here are just a few examples of the impressive poetry on display on this album:

Ice in my ear looks like a baby penguin

I’m dyslexic in a four door mango Lexus’

Rap game Uncle Ben pulling rice out of the oven.’

 ‘Now I’m in Chinatown. Bok Choi.’ – this line comes out of absolutely nowhere and has nothing to do with the rest of the song. Beautiful.

This is the moon talking to you. The actual moon.’ – one of the skits is told from the perspective of the moon.

The actual moon.


Okay, so I was lying. The lyrics on this album are not poetic in the slightest. They’re hilariously awful. In fact, Riff Raff might just have succeeded in producing the most stupid hip hop album of all time.

But before we get ahead of ourselves and start getting overcritical, let’s discuss some background info surrounding this guy. Horst Christian Simco (AKA Riff Raff) is a Houston rapper and self-confessed codeine addict, who’s made a name for himself as one of the most goofy, polarising musicians out there. He’s been active a few years, but only now has he released his debut album, Neon Icon. According to an interview, when asked whether his music was a joke or not, he replied that it was in fact serious.

However, I refuse to believe it. Riff Raff is not a serious rapper, but a professional troll not too dissimilar from Lil B. You only have to look at the cover of this album to work that out. He’s got pink dreads and he’s holding a puppy and a baby. Come on. This dude is about as serious as a whoopy cushion.

Once you realise this, Neon Icon turns out to be a pretty damn entertaining listen. I have never chuckled so much at an album before. In fact, at points I was in tears. How can I hate an album that made me laugh so hard?

I suppose the problem is this: how much talent does it really take to write goofy lyrics? Yes, this is an entertaining record, but can I really call this a good album? Can I really merit a grown man for writing lyrics like a toddler?

'Ice in my ear looks like a baby penguin'


Let’s take a look at the rest of this album and work that out. The beats here are pretty good for the most part. There's some trap stuff, some Beastie Boys-style stuff. Riff Raff’s flow is alright. He’s also got a unique tone of voice, which gives him his own sonic style.

There’s clearly diversity on this album too. There are a few skits, a few tracks with guest vocals from famous rappers such as ‘Childish Gambino’ and ‘Mac Miller’, a bizarre country track entitled ‘Time’ and the weird autotuned dance track called ‘VIP Pass to my heart’. Admittedly, the country track and the dance track are pretty awful musically and have no relation to the rest of the album, but I can’t help thinking that was Riff Raff’s intention.

I suppose the only way to really judge whether this album is good or not is to measure how funny it is overall. Is the stupidity consistent? Certainly on the first half of the album it is. However, the backend seems to suffer a bit, even ending up a little serious at points. ‘Cool it Down’ is about Riff Raff’s rise to fame and isn’t humorous at all (and if it was supposed to be humourous, the joke was clearly lost on me). It’s this scary inconsistancy towards the end of the record that almost has me doubting whether Riff Raff is a joke or not, and that’s not good, because to think that this album could be accidentally bad as opposed to intentionally bad is enough to make someone give up faith in humanity. 

Overall, I think this is an entertainingly stupid album but it’s not quite entertainingly stupid enough for me to fall in love with it. And that's probably the most solid verdict I can come to.


TRACK TASTER:

OMG!!! ROLF HARRIS IS A PAEDIATRICIAN!!! #SHOCK #HORROR


#SHOCK #HORROR I JUST READ IN MY FAVOURITE NEWSPAPER THAT MY FAVOURITE SINGER MR. ROLF HARRIS IS A PAEDO!!! #NEWSFLASH #BREAKINGNEWS #THESUN #PAGE3

FIRST IT WAS GARY GLITTER! THEN IT WAS THAT DUDE FROM LOSTPROPHETS! WHO’S NEXT??? JUSTIN BIEBER???

PLZ BIEBS DON'T BECOME A PAEDO!!!

WHY ARE ALL MY FAVOURITE SINGERS BECOMING PAEDOS??? WHY DO THEY THINK THAT’S A COOL THING TO DO??? STOP TOUCHING KIDS!!!! STAAAAHHP!!!!!!111!!!11

ROLF HARRIS IS THE HARDEST ONE TO BELIEVE! HE SEEMED LIKE SUCH A NICE GUY! I USED TO WATCH ANIMAL HOSPITAL ALL THE TIME! HE USED TO HELP ALL THE BABY ANIMALS AND I USED TO THINK HE WAS NICE! BUT HE’S NOT NICE! HE’S A DIRTY ROTTEN PEADIOTRICIAN!

GUESS WHAT ROLF!!! I’M GOING TO RIP DOWN ALL MY POSTERS OF YOU AND I’M GOING TO THROW AWAY ALL MY ROLF HARRIS DINNER PLATES AND I’M NEVER GOING TO LISTEN TO YOUR MUSIC AGAIN AND I’M NEVER GOING TO WATCH ANIMAL HOSPITAL EITHER!!! OH AND I’M NEVER GOING TO EAT AT KFC AGAIN!!!

YOUR RESTAURANT SUCKS!

I HOPE YOU ROT IN A CELL AND RATS EAT YOUR CORPSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! #BRINGBACKCAPITALPUNISHMENT #BRINGBACKTORTURE #BRINGBACKSMOKINGINPUBS

Okay so maybe that’s a little harsh … maybe I don’t hate you. not in the same way i hate Ian Watkins. not in the same way i hate jimmy Saville. No I’m just very very very very disappointed in you rolf harris.

Maybe I won’t throw out all my posters and dinner plates. Maybe I will visit kfc again. You see rolfy I like your music a lot and I don’t want to have to stop listening to it just because you are a paedo. Just because I like your music doesn’t mean that I like paedophilia. Okay so maybe I won’t listen to that song ‘2 little boys’ very often because it’s a bit awkward but I will keep listening to the rest of your stuff because I think you are a good musician.

It’s a shame that the radio will never play your stuff again. It’s a shame that the man down the karaoke club will never sing ‘quarter king caractacus’ ever again. It’s a shame that people can’t still respect you for your music. oh rolf why did you have to become a paedo. Couldn’t you have taken up a nicer hobby?

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Review of '48:13' by Kasabian


I understand that there are a lot of people out there who dislike Kasabian's style of 'lad rock', because I guess that's the cool thing to do. Well, screw all you haters - I point-blank refuse to ride the hate train. When it comes to musicianship and melody, Kasabian are the best commercial rock band out there. Their blend of electronica and brit-pop guitars is indisputably unique. Sergio's distinctive Leicester-accented vocals are ridiculously catchy. The band have grit, creativity, a fun sense of simplicity and a modern edge. What is there to really dislike? This album sees the band's whole sound being upped in intensity. There's more groove and texture due to more synths and electronic drums and less guitars. The catchiness is also at an all-time high, engineered for drunken crowds to sing along to, making this their most fun album yet.

For sure, Kasabian have never been the best wordsmiths in the world. The lines 'horsemeat in the burgers/ people commit murders/ everyone's on bugle/ now we're being watched by Google' seem to have caught the attention of every critic out there. Whilst I'll agree its not exactly poetry, there's clearly some social observation going on here, and even if Kasabian aren't quite sure how to channel this social observation into something that has any actual relevance to the music, its still more intellectual and engaging than the pop cliches about sex and clubbing that hog the radio airwaves. The preachy soliloquy on the track 'Glass' is perhaps the only moment on this album that truly bugged me, largely because it gets in the way of the album's fun side. Other than this brief moment of needless pretention, 48:13 is a audial roller coaster from start to finish. And in case you were wondering, yes, the album's 48:13 minutes long. Alright, so the album title sucks too, but I can let that slide.

TRACK TASTER:

Monday, 28 July 2014

Review of 'I Love You But I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now' by Got a Girl


I Love You But I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now is a sixties-style French-pop-flavoured album featuring that girl from 'Scott Pilgrim vs The World' (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) on vocals and that guy who produced the first Gorillaz album (Dan the Automator) on instrumentation. With its noir-romantic lyrics and epic string sections, its clear these two were aiming for that classy Bond movie feel. The first track, 'Did We Live Too Fast', certainly succeeds at imitating this sound and had me genuinely excited for the rest of the album. Sadly, this opener remains the climax of the album, the other tracks coming across more like scant accompaniments to a perfume ad. They're charming but not very eventful or creative and by the middle of this album I was starting to nod off. By the eleventh track, 'Da Da Da', it seems even the duo themselves begin to lose interest in the album, Winstead boldly declaring that "this song is shit!" It helps when a musician likes their own music...


TRACK TASTER:

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Review of 'Trouble in Paradise' by La Roux

Is there somebody stuck under the car?

La Roux. La who? Remember 'Bulletproof'? Remember 'In For the Kill'? Remember that crazy hairstyle? Of course you do.



Apparently, La Roux used to be a duo consisting of singer, Elly Jackson, and producer, Ben Langmaid. Now, its just Elly Jackson. She fell off the Earth for five years but now she's back with a surprise second album entitled 'Trouble in Paradise'. 'La Roux' is French for 'the redhead' by the way.

Just look at that hair!

So, what's changed musically this time around? Is she still writing the same catchy synthpop tunes? Well, yes and no. Trouble in Paradise is still catchy synthpop but this time its doused in 80s nostalgia. Think Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Erasure and Eurythmics. The instrumentals consist of lush layered synthesizers and scratchy guitars that could have been recorded thirty years ago were it not for the squeaky clean production on top. Its unashamedly retro and, yes, it doesn't bring anything musically new to the table, but who cares - it sounds good! Listening to this album I feel like I've been transported to a tropical cocktail bar overlooking the sea. Most modern pop is so sterile it doesn't transport me anywhere and this record is quite refreshing as a result.

LOOK AT THAT FUCKING HAIR!

Vocally, Elly doesn't attempt many acrobatics or non-verbal noises on this record. She sticks to one singing tone and its a pretty singing tone but over the nine tracks it does start to feel a little samey. Admittedly, she does try some falsettos on the last track, but they're a little shaky (especially when the harmonies enter the mix) and it kind of makes me wish she hadn't bothered.

But anyway that's just a minor complaint and doesn't take away from the brilliant catchiness and fun songwriting that's on display. This is damn good pop record, devoid of gimmicks. Anyone looking for dose of feelgood should check it out.


TRACK TASTER:

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Review of 'While (1 is less than 2)' by Deadmau5


No-one was expecting the Canadian house producer and Disney-icon-lookalike to drop an album like this. I was expecting lots of sexy female vocals and groovy basslines and whilst the funky Justice-esque closer, ‘Seeya’, fulfils these expectations, the rest of the tracks take a different turn. Instead, Deadmau5 seems to be focusing on atmosphere this time around. ‘While (1<2)’ plays out like an epic sci-fi movie, with lots of sprawling tracks that make use of sonic emptiness. In terms of texture, the album is extremely diverse. There are piano concertos, industrial glitch-fests, post-rock guitars, Mike-Oldfield influenced synthesizer odysseys and, most bizarre of all, a Nine Inch Nails remix. On the surface, this might sound like a bit of a musical mess, but somehow the crafty producer pulls it all together, creating what might just be his most cohesive album to date.

Quite possibly the biggest of all the achievements on this record however is the stellar production. Listening to ‘While (1<2)’ is a cinematic experience. Some of the sounds that are thrown down feel so clean and well-polished you can practically see your face in them. A good example is the sound of passing cars on ‘Infra Turbo Pigcart Racer’. The noise pans from speaker to speaker, sounding so scarily realistic I had to take a peek out the window just to check there wasn’t a drag race taking place outside.

Unfortunately, in the usual Deadmau5 fashion, a few songs on this album are dragged on longer than is necessary. The lengthiness and repetitive nature of some of the tracks on this record does help contribute to the intended spacey atmosphere, but there are times when Deadmau5 takes it to the excess, such as on the track ‘Phantoms Can’t Hang’. The cold synthesizer riff on this tune is pretty cool at first, but after nine minutes of being looped with little progression, it starts to grow irritatingly monotonous.

Unintentional lullabies such as these can make While (1<2) feel like a marathon in parts. It also doesn't help that this album is two hours long, consisting of two discs. Indeed, the title of this album is true, one is less than two, but sometimes less is more - a lesson that Deadmau5 could do with learning.

Saying this, as morbidly obese as this album is, this doesn’t take away from the unforgettable moments of prettiness and creativity that are sprinkled throughout this LP. As already covered, the production is phenomenal, and this gives the album so much texture – a unique selling point on its own. Deadmau5 has shown the haters that club bangers aren't all he's capable of and I hope he gains more fans than he loses with this record. This is impressive, well-crafted stuff. Not bad at all for a rodent without a pulse!
Wait, Deadmau5 isn't actually a dead mouse? It's just a costume? LIES!!!


TRACK TASTER:


Review of Gangsta Stripper Music 2 by BeatKing

Loving the rainbow! Gay pride all the way!

Sexually explicit inane lyrics. Check. Obnoxious 808 bass drums. Check. Autotuned and pitched down vocals. Check. Staccato flows that sound like someone's having an asthma attack. Check.

The problem with trap rap these days is its so damn predictable. However, you could also argue that an album that entitles itself 'Gangsta Stripper Music 2' doesn't exactly set out to surprise the listener. This album is what it says on the tin. If I wanted lyrics with Atlantean depth and jazzy boom bap instrumentals then I would have been an idiot for giving this record a listen and expecting those things.

What provoked me into listening to this record was the track 'ClubGodzilla'. The beat with its godzilla screams, sinister cinematic stabs and synth splashes and ridiculously OTT lyrics suggested BeatKing was more than your average trap producer and rapper - and indeed he is. His beats are gaudily infectious and lyrically he's more tongue and cheek and more self-aware of how obnoxious he is than say that moron, Future, or any of the A$AP mob, and that makes this album quite fun. Fun but stupid.

Overall, a great mixtape to buy for your grandparents.


TRACK TASTER:



Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Review of 'Once More 'Round the Sun' by Mastodon

Album artwork of the year!!!

'Hey ho, hey ho, let's get up and rock n' roll!' sing a load of children on the eighth track, 'Aunt Lisa'. Seriously, is my hearing playing up? Did that just happen? That's the corniest thing I've heard since Beyonce and Jay-Z's duet 'Drunk in Love'. Pass me a sickbag!

Sludge metal outfit, Mastodon, have been getting less proggy since they dropped their last album, The Hunter. The crazy wtf-is-happening song structures have been slowly exchanged for accessible headbanger tracks with catchy singalong choruses. Now at their catchiest and most accessible, Once More 'Round the Sun is almost radio-friendly.  Basically this band HAVE SOLD OUT!

Nah, i'm kidding. Let's not get childish. Mastodon aren't sellouts. They aren't going all St. Anger on us. Once More 'Round the Sun still has ample soul behind it and the flashy, epic solos are still there. The songs still sound mighty and primal, if not somewhat ill-produced, and the melodies still showcase experimentation with some odd time signatures still subtly creeping in now and then. Indeed, the choruses (chorii?) are catchier than anything Mastodon has put out before but this is by no means a bad thing. In fact, its one of this album's greatest strengths.

'The Motherload', 'High Road' and 'Ember City' have some phenomenal vocal hooks. No-one makes metal this catchy anymore (except maybe Kvelertak). Why not? Catchiness is awesome! The only exception is of course that aforementioned cornball hook at the end of 'Aunt Lisa' but we'll forget that that ever happened. The other catchy moments here don't have that corniness and are just straight up epic. Festival crowds are going to be chanting out these choruses all summer.

I was hoping for another Crack the Skye and, whilst this album takes things in the opposite direction to - dare I say it - more poppy territory, it does it in the best possible way. I'm not too keen on the production, which seems to meld all the instruments and vocals together, not giving each component space to breathe. Aunt Lisa and the overly drawn-out closer Diamond in the Witch House are also noticeable weakspots, not quite carrying the same flair as other tracks. However, these flaws are dwarfed by the album's more prominent greater moments.


TRACK TASTER:

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Review of 'Ultraviolence' by Lana Del Ray


Excuse me whilst I slit my wrists...

Boy, is this girl depressing! I'm sure that's no insult to fans of her music - its her selling point. This time round there's no 'Summertime Sadness'. Instead we get tracks with cheery titles such as 'Sad Girl' and 'Pretty When You Cry'. The special edition also comes with a track called 'Is This Happiness', the answer to which is a definite no - this album is the polar opposite of happiness.

Sometimes listening to sad music can be a cathartic experience. When we're sad and lonely and looking for someone who shares our pain, music can always be a great solace.

This album succeeds at being holocaustically depressing. There are no upbeat numbers here - only downers - and yes, I just compared this album to the holocaust. Granted, nobody died on this album, but at times it feels that way. I was feeling positive when I entered this album. By the end, I was on the brink of hanging myself with my headphones.

It is the fact that this album also manages to be holocaustically dull which is the most tragic and dispiriting part.

Admittedly, Ultraviolence isn't as dull as her previous record, largely because of the production quality (which is actually quite impressive) and Lana's voice (its not half as monotonous). Reverb has also been doused over pretty much every sound on this record, and as overused as this technique is, it does give the album a truly haunting and genuinely atmospheric James Blake-esque feel.

However, unlike James Blake, Lana's own ethereal musical formula doesn't showcase much variety. The songs here are all slow, epic ballads with predictable chord arrangements. The choruses aren't infectious or performed with any real energy. They're kind of just bleated out and whilst this does add a tortured feel to the album, it soon grows repetitive.

In a nutshell, sad albums only work when they're also not boring. Its hard, if not impossible, to pull off a good album that's consistently sad and consistently slow. You've got to have some flecks of colour to keep up the listener's interest and this stretches beyond the black-and-white album cover. Musical colour is achieved through change in pace and change in emotion - none of which 'Ultraviolence' has.

Lana may not have been aiming to create a happy selection of babymaking club bangers but I doubt she was aiming to create the sterile soundtrack to an abortion either.  This album is sad without any of the catharsis that usually comes with sad music. Its just one extra thing in your life to be depressed about.


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