Sunday, 20 December 2015

The Worst Songs of 2015


2015 has had some great musical moments. But every year has its lows. It's time to rummage through the garbage. I wish I could say that there was some positive goal behind this list, but there isn't - we're all sadists who love to indulge in a brutal panning now and again. Praise is boring.

10. 'I'm an Albatraoz' - AronChupa



'A strong woman, or in other words a boss ass bitch'. That's what Urban Dictionary claims an Albatraoz is. To me it's just another annoying made-up word. And that flatulent oom-pa-pa beat makes me want to puke.

9. 'I Don't Wanna Go To Bed' - Simple Plan ft. Nelly



Where do I begin? The schmaltzy lyrics? The fact that, without the Baywatch-inspired visuals, I can't even tell which verse is Nelly? And didn't Simple Plan used to be a pop punk band? Now they sound like Maroon 5. These artists' glory days are clearly long behind them.

8. 'Trap Lust' - Lil Debbie



'My bank account give me orgasms' - that's just weird. In fact, pretty much all the rhymes coming out of this valley girl's mouth seem a bit awkward. 'I'll turn into Dracula/ money flipping with the spatula/ black diamonds from Africa'. What a waste of a good beat.

7. 'Watch Me' - Silento



Instructional dance songs can be fun. This isn't. It has none of the accessibility of the 'Cha Cha Slide'. Stop telling people to break their legs. And the part where he repeats 'bop' twenty times is plain lazy.

6. 'Bitch I'm Madonna' - Madonna ft. Nicki Minaj



Call me ageist, but there are some things fifty-seven-year olds shouldn't do -  like delivering sweary raps about drinking all night long over dirty Diplo-produced instrumentals. Maybe if The Queen of Clubs didn't take herself so seriously, I could get behind this. But alas, Madonna has all the humour of a corpse.

5. 'Time of Our Lives' - Pitbull ft. Ne-Yo



Can't pay your rent? Pitbull and Ne-Yo have the answer - go out clubbing and fritter away more of that money you don't have. Drink yourself into homelessness, you'll have the time of your life! #yolo #carpediem (Honestly, someone get Pitbull put down - and pull the plug of Ne-Yo whilst your at it!)

4. 'Pretty' - Iggy Azalea & Britney Spears



'Fancy' was bratty enough, but now Iggy's taken things one step further, singing about how pretty she is like the bitchy prom queen from a college movie. Britney Spears meanwhile tries to prove her relevance by singing along, ultimately failing.

3. 'Dooo It' - Miley Cyrus



'Yeah I smoke pot/ yeah I love peace/ but I don't give a fuck/ I'm no hippy'. That's the opening line. 'why they put the dick in the pussy?'. That's the closing line. The only way Miley could try to be more obnoxious is if she denied the holocaust.

2. 'Hokay Hokay Hokay' - Slug Christ



I know people complain that rap lyrics are getting dumb, but this takes the piss. This dude isn't even bothering to use real words for half of this track. To make matters worse, he sounds like McLovin from Superbad.

1. 'My Dick' - 3OH!3




At first I thought 3OH!3 were some kind of parody act similar to The Lonely Island. It turns out they're not - this song really is just two EDM bros boasting about the size of their genitalia. Overcompensating much?

So yeah, 2015, what a year!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

My Top 20 Favourite Albums of 2015

Here it is - my favourite albums of 2015 BC! What a great year for music! The Ancient Egyptian lute scene was at it's peak. What do you mean they didn't have albums back then? Not even vinyl? Then what the hell am I supposed to write about? You want my favourite albums of AD 2015? Oh, alright then...

20-11

20. Butter Fly - Lee Scott

Butter-obsessed UK rapper Lee Scott combines entertainingly oddball rhymes and warped jazzy beats on this quirky record.

Favourite Tracks: 'Don't Make Me', 'Eight O'Clock In The Morning'



19. Sour Soul - Ghostface Killah & BADBADNOTGOOD

Playing out like a Bond movie soundtrack, this epic collab between Wu-famous rapper Ghostface Killah and Canadian jazz trio BADBADNOTGOOD has grown on me. Excuse the 3 star review.

Favourite Tracks: 'Gunshowers', 'Ray Gun'


18. I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside - Earl Sweatshirt

Another grower, this moody hip hop record from Earl Sweatshirt is impressively raw -  'rawer than a skinned knee cap' to quote the Odd Future member himself. The album title also speaks to me.

Favourite Tracks: 'Mantra', 'Grown Ups'

17. Undertow - Drenge

UK rock duo, Drenge, polish up their sound but keep the meaty riffs and morose lyrics, resulting in a solid sophomore album from the brotherly act.

Favourite Tracks: 'Never Awake', 'We Can Do What We Want'



16. The Powers That B - Death Grips

Supposedly their final album, experimental hip hoppers Death Grips serve up some of their most creatively abrasive songs yet in this long-awaited one-half-proggy/one-half-punky double LP.

Favourite Tracks: 'Up My Sleeves', 'The Powers That B'


15. The Mainframe - Joker

UK electronic producer, Joker, delivers this explosive and cinematic EDM adventure, sporting everything from soulful pianos to dubstep drops to synth panpipes.

Favourite Tracks: 'Boss Mode', 'Midnight'





14. 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms - Denzel Curry

One-half-trap/one-half-trip, this record sees Florida rapper Denzel Curry returning with some killer beats and impressive flows.

Favourite Tracks: 'Ultimate', 'Captain Sea Fonk'


13. Rose Mountain - Screaming Females

Punchy guitars and banshee-like wails come together in this infectious rock record from New Jersey punk trio, Screaming Females.

Favourite Tracks: 'Empty Head', 'Ripe'




12. Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper - Panda Bear


Baltimore psychedelic musician, Panda Bear, lays down his signature trippy blend of Beach Boy-inspired vocal harmonies and distorted synths whilst lyrically tackling death.

Favourite Tracks: 'Sequential Circuits', 'Tropic of Cancer'

11. If You're Reading This You're Too Late - Drake

Canadian hip hop icon, Drake, excels himself as a rapper with these catchy and intimate trap-flavoured tunes, showcasing a newfound toughness that is as convincing as his soppy side.

Favourite Tracks: 'Know Yourself', 'Madonna'





10-1

10. 
Pathology - Trails and Ways

Flecks of funk and Latin combine with indie rock in this bright and summery jam from Californian group, Trails and Ways.

Favourite Tracks: 'Skeletons', 'Say You Will', 'Jacaranda'

9. Product - SOPHIE

Borrowing from genres as diverse as bubblegum pop and noise, this UK male electronic producer crafts some obnoxious but excitingly intricate experimental EDM. Sex toy optional.

Favourite Tracks: 'Lemonade', 'Hard', 'L.O.V.E'



8. Carrie & Lowell - Sufjan Stevens

Confronting the tragic passing of his mother, US singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens delivers this beautiful folk tearjerker. His most moving and poetic release yet.

Favourite Tracks: 'Drawn to the Blood', 'Fourth of July', 'No Shade In The Shadow of the Cross'

7. M3LL155X - FKA Twigs

The UK avant-garde singer gets darker and more creatively abstract. Technically it's an EP, but its on this list anyway (what you gonna do about it?).

Favourite Tracks: 'Figure 8', 'In Time', 'Glass & Patron'


6. The Beyond/ Where The Giants Roam - Thundercat

Running barely sixteen minutes, this is probably closer to an EP too. But hey, US singer-bassist Thundercat packs those sixteen minutes with some of the most impressive soul you'll hear this year.

Favourite Tracks: 'Song For The Dead', 'Them Changes', 'Lone Wolf and Cub'



5. Currents - Tame Impala

Trading in guitars for synths, Australian psych-rockers deliver this spacey pop masterpiece. The songwriting is superb and the production is dazzling.

Favourite Tracks: 'Let It Happen', 'Past Life', 'Cause I'm A Man'




4. Me - Empress Of

Honduran-American alternative r&b singer-producer blends
tortured heartbreak lyrics and warped dance-pop instrumentals to catchy results on this impressive debut.

Favourite Tracks: 'Water Water', 'How Do You Do It', 'Kitty Kat'




3. 100% Electronica - George Clanton



New-Order-esque croons ride woozy synthpop beats on this retro-but-equally-futuristic album from Brooklyn vaporwave producer and singer, George Clanton. Fuzzy effects and bittersweet lyricism, 'someone else can make you happy/ someone else can show you a good time', make for a true emulation of nostalgia that is happy as it is longing. Other moments meanwhile feel less sentimental and more crudely comical: 'Someone else can bite until you bleed'. It's like listening to a more focused Ariel Pink.

Favourite Tracks: 'Never Late Again', 'Keep A Secret', 'It Makes The Babies Want To Cry'

2. Are You Satisfied? - Slaves



'Cheer up, London! You're already dead and it's not that bad,' chant UK rock band Slaves on the second track, lamenting the nation's laziness. I've been waiting so long for a band like these guys to come along. Their sound is old-skool punk with all it's initial angstiness and cockney-flavoured yelling, whilst also packing some genuinely exciting riffs. Imagine an unmanufactured version of the Sex Pistols that can actually play their instruments. The fact that the band only has two members makes their sound all the more raw (one drums and sings, the other handles guitar and backing vocals). Add an ear for catchiness and a snide sense of humour and you've got a solid rock album.

Favourite Tracks: 'The Hunter', 'Cheer Up London', 'Feed the Mantaray'

1. To Pimp A Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar




Yes, everyone's been dickriding K-dot this year and part of me did want to deliberately not include this album on my list just to go against the grain, but the truth is I just can't stop listening to these bloody songs. Rarely is an album as fun as it is meaningful or as catchy as it is complex. So much is going on here - the slowly-revealed poem, the sociopolitical themes, the multi-layered production, the spooky tupac interview  - but instead of resulting in a pretentious mess, there's something naturally holistic about it all, helped by the fact that beneath the frills Kendrick still understands the importance of a good beat and a killer hook. Clearly, if you don't like hip hop, this won't convert you. However, there's no point denying this man's talent - you're only lying to yourself.

Favourite Tracks: 'These Walls', 'Alright', 'The Blacker The Berry'

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:
Cattle Decapitation - The Anthropocene Extinction
Sun Kil Moon - Universal Themes
Django Django - Born Under Saturn
Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear
Death Grips - Fashion Week
Mark Ronson - Uptown Special
Everything Everything - Get To Heaven

OI, IF YOU LIKE LISTS DON'T FORGET TO CHECK OUT MY END YEAR ALBUM LISTS FROM 2014, 2013 AND 2012 TOO!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Review of 'Garden of Delete' by Oneohtrix Point Never


Experimental US producer Daniel Lopatin (AKA Oneohtrix Point Never) has delivered this new electronic epic inspired by hypergrunge band, Kaoss Edge.


Kaoss Edge

Heard of Kaoss Edge before? Familiar with hypergrunge? Me neither. The general consensus seems to be that despite a Soundcloud account and a scarynineties-graphics website, Kaoss Edge don’t actually exist. Which means this album was influenced by a band that don’t exist.

Why try to fool us like this? Is Lopatin trying to screw with our sense of reality? Most likely, yes.

Nothing is real!

Artificiality seems to be the main goal of Garden of Delete – an attempt to make an album that sounds as unhuman as possible. It’s an album so artificial, even its influences aren’t real. Every track is a mass of cold synths, slathered in digital effects and often chopped and screwed to sound glitchy as if devised by a sentient computer. There are some vocals peppered throughout the album but they’re so distorted they might as well be robotic garbles (I was astonished to discover that this album actually had lyrics).

Fortunately, despite sounding so mechanical, Lopatin does seem to be showing an emotive side on this album that was less prominent in the ponderous ambience and MIDI-trumpet noodling of his last full-length. The sounds are more aggressive and industrial this time around, the sound of a cyber-creature but one with a soul if at all possible. His songs are artificial but alive, textures building and morphing in an exciting and utterly unpredictable fashion, ‘Mutant Standard’ being a prime example beginning with sharp techno pulses contrasted with giant glossy open swells before slowly erupting into a series of loud synthesizer arpeggios like some android Van Halen.

Robot Rock

In fact, talking of Van Halen, there’s a lot of rock music flavours seeping through. Many of the synths on this album have been creatively engineered to resemble guitars in tone, whilst some of the percussion is vaguely metal such as the speedy kick drums on ‘Sticky Drama’.

Sadly, like all Oneohtrix Point Never releases, Garden of Delete can often be frustrating in its chaotic structure. Lopatin has never made electronic music for dancing to – if you tried it would most likely take the form of a seizure. His music is grooveless and devoid of hooks, which means that there isn’t much direction to cling onto. Things might be a little easier on the ear if Lopatin allowed more climaxes to his songs. ‘Mutant Standard’ clearly has this and is one of the better tracks because of it, whilst the other numbers seem to either abruptly cut out such as ‘SDFK’ or disappointingly trail off such as the closer ‘No Good’.


Clearly, Lopatin likes to tease his listeners, but he can get too carried away, sometimes never really offering a pay-off to all his winding suspense. If Garden of Delete is indeed a garden, then it’s a maze with no clear centre or way out. Some patient listeners may be able to enjoy it, but personally I need a climax, otherwise I’m left with blue balls. 

TRACK TASTER:


Tuesday, 15 December 2015

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 15/12/2015: Madeira, Pinkshinyultrablast, Stitches and more...

THE BEST:


‘Let Me Down’ – Madeira


New Zealand singer, Madeira, delivers this pre-breakup song about waiting to get dumped. The glossy synths and longing vocals feel as melancholy as they are accepting. I'm also loving the stylish music video that comes with it. 

‘Guitar’ – HXLT



You know, for a track called 'Guitar', this song has very little guitar in it. Given the thumbnail, I expected a rock band, but it turns out HXLT is a one-man hip hop project of sorts. He sings rather than raps - but the soaring beat in the background is definitely hip hop. Apparently there's a full LP is in the works, which I'm excited to hear. HXLT's manager had described it like so: ‘It’s like Joy Division, The Strokes and Dr Dre made an album’.

 ‘The Cherry Pit’ – Pinkshinyultrablast



Russian five-piece Pinkshinyultrablast have somehow made shoegaze danceable. Walls of guitar still dominate, but there are moments as found at the one-minute mark that sound almost like Holy Fire-era Foals. 

 ‘Endless Sephora’ – Blank Body



Who is Blank Body? Like so many of the most creative electronic producers I stumble across on Soundcloud, this musician’s identity appears to be a mystery. Is Blank Body a man? Does Blank Body even have a body? A robot perhaps? Or a ghost? Whatever the case, I'm intrigued to hear more otherwordly instrumentals from this being.

THE WORST:


‘My Dick’ – 3OH!3



A whole song about how big their dicks are? SERIOUSLY? I think these guys are overcompensating for something.

‘Don’t Fear Death’ – Stitches



I have a problem with white rappers that think it's okay to drop the n-bomb. Even if this dude has been given a hood pass, it still feels mightily disrespectful. Maybe its the angry, shouty delivery that makes it sound like an ethnic slur rather than a term of endearment. Maybe there's no way for a white man to utter the word without sounding like a Klansman. In any case, I'm offended (and not just because of the n-bomb usage - for a diss track this is pretty below the belt: 'and I'm sorry for your kids, they gonna lose their father'.) 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Review of 'Product' by SOPHIE



What's that below, you ask? I'll tell you what it is. It's a 'skin safe odourless and tasteless platinum silicon product' of course.



It's currently up for sale on SOPHIE's website. SOPHIE - who is in fact a dude by the name of Samuel Long - is an electronic producer and member of the London collective PC Music. He also sells sex toys.

But isn't that a novelty lemon squeezer? Let's not kid ourselves - it's a sex toy. Buy it for £50 and you automatically receive a free copy of SOPHIE's latest album, Product. Alternatively, you can download the album on iTunes without the fancy dildo for £6.99 like I did. Or you can torrent the whole album and not have to pay a penny. Your choice.

I suppose it could be a lemon squeezer...

Why sell a sex toy with an album? Personally, I believe it's because musically this album perfectly resembles the 'silicon product'. It's artificial, lurid and somewhat scary - but its also a creative, instantly-gratifying guilty-pleasure tool.

Before listening to this record I heard the track 'Vyzee' and wanted to rip my ears off. It consists largely of fart-like synths and pitch-shifted chipmunk female vocals. 'Squish it in your hand/ make it pop, red and white/ tomato soup can' declare the lyrics. I've been trying not to read into what they mean.



To me, this track seemed to culminate all the most annoying ingredients you could possibly find in a modern pop song. But soon after I found myself returning to this track.

I've come to realise what it is that makes 'Vyzee' so horrible and yet alluring. Like many of the tracks on this album, there's a element of self-parody. Product isn't a pop album, it's an anti-pop album.

Everything is made to sound as impressively artificial as possible. The synths are plastic. The percussion is metallic. As for the chipmunk vocals, the reason they're pitch-shifted is also to sound less human and more synthetic - more like a 'product'.

There's some definite depth going on beneath the noise. Most likely, the album is called 'product' as a reflection of pop music becoming less of an art form and more of a product. And whilst many of the tracks play with ideas commonly found in pop, there's a lot of creative experimentation also going down on this album that seems to be a deliberate middle finger to the Skrillexes and Calvin Harris's of this world.

SOPHIE
Take the closing track for example 'Just Like We Never Said Goodbye'. It's a big, sugary, Euro-dance style ballad that keeps the listener waiting for a drop that never comes. In fact, it does away with percussion entirely, proving that you can make a captivating club tune without 808s.

Then there's the track 'L.O.V.E' which definitely isn't pop, nor a love song. Unlike any other song I've ever heard before, it combines harsh noise, horror synths and cutesy twinkles, resulting in something that's barely listenable but gripping in just how uniquely disturbing it is.

There's even some gender challenging going on if you really dig deep. Just as SOPHIE's real identity is a man, the identity of the female vocalist on the fourth track is also questionable through the lyrics 'I get so hard'? The concept of male and female is seemingly blurred. This even seems to be the case with the so-called 'silicon product'.


Is this product targeted at males? Females? Aliens?

Indeed, some of this 'depth' may seem a little bit of a stretch and there's no doubt there are some moments on this album that are just simply cheap thrills devoid of any irony. 'Bipp' sounds like dance-pop from the nineties - sweet but dated - whilst 'Msmsmsm' is a straightforward trap banger minus the hi-hats.

Fortunately however, even at its gaudiest moments, Product never feels basic nor overblown, which is perhaps the biggest reason as to why it's so compelling. SOPHIE's attention to detail is impressive and he's able to pack tracks full of components whilst giving each sound the space it needs to breathe. Not a single drum or synth is redundant - the mark of a truly talented producer.


TRACK TASTER:


Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The Top 10 Most Bizarre Christmas Albums


Tired of hearing the same Christmas songs year after after? Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas’ no longer invoking those feelings of festive nostalgia but rather encouraging feelings of PTSD? In need of some alternative yuletide anthems? Why not give these records a gander. The perfect accompaniment to your roast goose. Or roast turkey. Or roast ostrich if you're really dead set on taking this alternative Christmas thing to the next level.



10. A Colt .45 Christmas - Afroman


Anyone familiar with Afroman will know his songs tend to stray a little on the naughty side. This 2006 Christmas album is no exception, each track centred entirely around either drugs, sex, crime or alcohol. Track titles include ‘Deck my Balls’ and ‘I Wish You Would Roll a New Blunt’. Buy this album for your eight-year old nephew.


9. Christmas on Mars - The Flaming Lips



Psychedelic rock band The Flaming Lips released a sci-fi movie back in 2008 accompanied by this kaleidoscopic soundtrack album. Why not lace this year’s Christmas pudding with LSD, put this on and let the trippy sounds consume you as you lay paralytic on the floor transfixed by the colour-changing LEDs on your tree. Fun for all the family.

8. Hung for the Holidays - William Hung


Failed American Idol auditionee William Hung sings traditional Christmas songs in a heavy Chinese accent. Is the album title ‘Hung For The Holidays’ supposed to be some kind of pun? I’m not really sure.


7. Christmas Dubstep - Christmas Dubstep



The perfect gift for your grandparents.

6. Christmas on Death Row - Various Artists (Death Row Records)


Who doesn’t like to be reminded of capital punishment around this time of the year? This 1996 compilation album contains g-funk renditions of all your favourite Christmas songs, plus some original numbers such as ‘Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto’. Snoop Dogg is on it. Santa most definitely bumps this in his sleigh.

5. Christmas in the Stars - Meco Monardo


Forget paying to see ‘The Force Awakens’ this winter. Spend your hard-earned cash on this festive album instead. C3PO sings hymns with guest vocals from R2-D2 and Chewbacca in this forgotten 1980 album. Undoubtedly the best thing to come out of the Star Wars universe, with the obvious exception of Jar Jar Binks.


4. A Heavy Metal Christmas - Christopher Lee


Unbeknown to many, the late British actor Christopher Lee had a passion for heavy metal. Such was this passion that at the grand age of 80 he decided to pursue a career as a metal singer. This is one of two Christmas-themed metal EPs from Saruman himself. Take this to church and play it during Mass.

3. The Greatest Christmas Novelty CD Of All Time - Dr Demento


This aged novelty collection of Xmas tunes contains a diverse range of artists from the likes of Spike Jones to Cheech & Chong. There's even a fun rendition of 'Jingle Bells' as sampled above, remixed entirely out of dog woofs. Everyone loves dogs. Beautiful slobbering, noise-making, smelly creatures. They taste great with noodles.

2. Rockabye Christmas – Jingle Babies


'Real babies sing holiday classics' promises the text below the giant disembodied infant head on the album cover. And that's just what this album is - festive numbers remixed entirely out of baby noises. Everyone loves babies. Beautiful slobbering, noise-making, smelly creatures. They taste great with noodles. 

1. A Very Brutal Christmas - Austrian Death Machine



So, your great-great -grandmother is an obsessive Arnold Schwarzenegger fan? But she’s already got a blu-ray copy of Jingle All The Way? It's a problem we're all familiar with. What else do you buy that beloved Terminator-quoting centenarian for Christmas? Here’s a hint – why not buy them this Christmas-themed Arnold-Schwarzenegger-themed thrash metal EP courtesy of San Diego band, Austrian Death Machine. Vocals come courtesy of As I Lay Dying frontman, Tim Lambesis. It’ll have your great-great-gran wind-milling her hair. There’ll be a circle pit in the retirement home lounge. And don’t tell me old people don’t like metal – just look at Christopher Lee.

Monday, 30 November 2015

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 01/12/2015: The Killers, Animal Collective, Native Construct and more...

THE BEST:


‘Dirt Sledding’ – The Killers



US rock band The Killers release this carnivalesque rock-n-roll-flavoured Christmas song accompanied by a curious music video in which a deranged Santa throws a tomahawk at a teddy bear sporting Brandon Flowers’ face on it. I have so many questions. Why is Santa in the desert? Is the giant molar with a tutu supposed to be the tooth fairy? Are we human or are we dancer? Watch here.

‘FloriDaDa’ – Animal Collective




‘FloriDaDa’ sounds like the Beach Boys attempting a children’s party tune on acid. The track comes with the exciting announcement that the Baltimore experimental pop group will be releasing a new album early next year titled ‘Painting With’ on February 9th.

 ‘Mute’ – Native Construct



Barbershop vocal harmonies, prog metal riffs and Broadway production synths all collide in this noodling but utterly brilliant musical mindfuck (my first listen left me positively ‘mute’). Of course, a band this unsubtle could only come from Boston.

‘Someone Like You’ – Winter



What better way to begin the season with a band called ‘Winter’. Fans of shoegaze should check out this ambient track made up of warm guitars and hypnotic female vocals. The synth riff peppered throughout is slightly deranged yet somehow manages to blend in to the surrounding calm.

THE WORST:


‘VYZEE’ – SOPHIE



The little girl vocals are annoying and half the synths sound like farts. I’m also scared to know what she’s singing about: ‘squish it in your hand/ make it pop/ red and white/ tomato soup can’. That said, this track is so curiously weird I can see it growing on me.

Kill J – ‘Barbie Girl’


This dark cover of the Aqua classic has none of the cheese of the original nor any of the fun. It’s like watching a gritty, serious remake of ‘Kindergarten Cop’. Even the ‘I’m a Barbie girl in a Barbie world’ line has been cut out. 

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Review of 'AQUARIA' by Boots


Boots (not to be confused with Little Boots, Moon Boots or Puss in Boots) is an American singer and electronic producer. Some of you may know him as the dude who produced Beyoncé’s ‘Haunted’. Some of you may now him as the dude who produced that recent FKA Twigs EP. Some of you may know him as the guest vocalist on that Run the Jewels track ‘Early’. Some of you may not know him at all, in which case don’t despair, I’m here to fill you in.

Boots
Tired of being a footnote on other people’s albums, Boots has finally got round to releasing a debut record of his own. It’s a self-produced r&b album of sorts. Such albums are popular nowadays, but Boots has his own very unique style – a moody mix of abstract beats, snarky sing-rapping and Radiohead-like croons.

It’s moody as a noir crime novel. It’s moody as a day out in slough. It’s almost as moody that Earl Sweatshirt record released earlIier this year.


Boots looking moody
There’s no faulting the atmosphere and Boot’s beatsmithing skill’s certainly shine. Percussion takes prominence, Boots experimenting with digital clicks and thuds beyond the usual 808 palette. His real talent is his ability to make these computerised drum patterns sound human, suspensefully building and layering them the way a Brazilian samba outfit might.

Ultimately, tunefulness takes a knock. Whilst there are brief moments such as the melancholy piano chords on ‘Only’, most of the instrumentals seem to do away with melody except for the occasional spot of growling bass or distorted synth. This skeletal production gives the vocals less to hide behind, and in Boots case he's hardly an exciting enough singer to compensate. He can adopt a sassy, suspenseful tone at times that is engaging such as the vocal harmonies on the title track ‘Aquaria’, but otherwise his delivery is constantly and monotonously sullen. It adds to the moody vibe, but renders every hook unnoticeable.

I can certainly say I enjoyed the album, but without earworms it feels like the kind of album I'll rarely return to. I need a good riff or chorus to lure me back. A creative percussion pattern is not enough.

TRACK TASTER:


Friday, 27 November 2015

Review of 'Purpose' by Justin Bieber


It's 2015 and Justin Bieber is no longer that mop-haired squeaky-voiced Canadian kid singing schmaltzy love songs for fourteen-year-old girls. No, he's now a fully-grown adult male human being with tats and a six-pack making club anthems for his fellow twenty-something drinkers.

As a twenty-something drinker I am now part of his target audience. I was never a fourteen-year-old girl (not that I recall anyway) and so was never a fan of his early material. Like many people, I convinced myself that I hated Justin Bieber for other reasons - that he was stuck-up and annoying, that he was a musical anti-christ responsible for all of pop music's failings, that he was behind 9/11 and that he was the cause of cancer. Now I realise that some of these beliefs may have been a little absurd (One Direction are the cause of cancer not Justin Bieber), and that the reason I didn't like Justin Bieber was simply because his music was not aimed at me.

Now that I am part of his target audience I feel I can make a fair assessment on his music, so here we have it, a review of Justin Bieber's latest record Purpose.

Justin Bieber's belly button. Also 'Purpose' tattoo


Instrumentally, Purpose is largely electronic danceable stuff. Producers Soundz and Skrillex play a big part, but refrain from being their usual obnoxious selves. There are no dissonant dubstep drops or gaudy trap beats - the soundscape is a tasteful semi-tropical one for the most part. The big singles 'What Do You Mean?', 'Sorry' and 'Where are U Now' showcase some of the best backdrops. There are sadly some dull slowjams in the mix - the Ed-Sheeran-assisted acoustic number 'Love Yourself' and piano ballad 'Life is Worth Living' - but the rest are upbeat pop singles that make me picture myself at an evening beach party.

Bieber maintains a tasteful tone with the lyrics. Many of the songs have a personal message and aren't just cliched love songs. 'I'll Show You' sees him discussing his fame and what it's like to be constantly ogled by everyone, whilst 'Sorry' sees him apologising, perhaps for his brief rebellious stage. It's nice to see that whilst he has does some naughty things in the past - drink-driving and pissing in a restaurant mop bucket - he's not exploiting these antics. Bieber could have chosen to reinvent himself as Miley did by writing a sweary, stoner album. Thankfully this isn't the case and Bieber is able to prove that he is an adult whilst coming across as mature and likable.

Mug shot of Justin Bieber following drink-driving charges


Sadly despite the decent beats and lyrics, Bieber's vocals hold back a lot of the tracks. Like the Weeknd, Bieber relies on a rather one-dimensional whimper that's neither sad enough to connect with my heart nor sexy enough to turn me temporarily gay. Its a tone I've heard used by too many r&b vocalists, and whilst it's enough to propel the first few tracks, by the end it just sounds flat.

Maybe with time Bieber will learn to beef it up. His more personal lyrical approach and fun instrumentals have certainly made the Canadian singer more sympathetic to most folk. If he can keep hold of these elements and inject more emotional conviction into his vocal delivery, maybe then I will become a Belieber.


TRACK TASTER:



Tuesday, 24 November 2015

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 24/11/2015: David Bowie, Savages, Fetty Wap and more...



THE BEST:


'Blackstar' - David Bowie




I fucking love David Bowie. I thought the 68-year-old singer had retired from music, but no, we have a new surprise album on the way called 'Blackstar' and this is the title track - a ten-minute-long winding prog-pop epic with strings and horns accompanied by a zany vaguely post-apocalyptic video in which an epileptic fit seems to serve as a dance.

'T.I.W.Y.G' - Savages



'This is what you get when you mess with love!' wails frontwoman Jenny Beth to the accompaniment of growling bass and intense double bass drumming. There is a slightly ambient passage towards the back end of the track, but for the most part this is all-out angriness from the all-female London rockers. Don't mess with Savages. They'll claw your ears off.

'The War Inside' - Azekel



UK R&b singer Azekel lays quivering falsettos over a pulsing electronic bassline. The mood is suspenseful as it is seductive, both the vocals and the beat threatening to crack at any moment.

'Sleep' - 'fō'



Fans of Sufjan Stevens may dig this Philly-based singer-songwriter sporting an equally unpronounceable name. Soothing vocals, delicate folksy guitars and sombre strings make for an earthy and sorrowful acoustic track.

THE WORST:


'Grandma' - Fetty Wap



Hearing the trap rapper spit about his grandma is entertaining and there must be some comical intentions behind it, but the beat blows and Fetty's flow is flat as ever.

'When We Were Young' - Adele



I was kind of hoping for a Killers cover (just as I was hoping 'Hello' was a Lionel Ritchie tribute) but obviously that would be too exciting for the queen of pop ballads. The studio version may turn out to be better, but right now I'm as enthusiastic to hear Adele's new album as I am for my next trip to the dentists.

Monday, 16 November 2015

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 16/11/2015: Brockley Forest, Missy Elliott, Pusha T and more...


THE BEST:


'Paris' - Thundercat



As a tribute to the devastating terrorist attacks that took place this weekend in Paris, jazz fusion bassist and singer Thundercat has composed this short melancholy instrumental.

'Rubicon' - Brockley Forest




Quite what this bluesy-rock jam has to do with exotic fruit juice, Rubicon, is beyond me. That end riff is certainly sweet, I'll give them that. (There's an Italian river called the Rubicon but I like the idea of the Bristol rock duo singing about juice more.)

'WTF (Where They From)' - Missy Elliott ft. Pharrell Williams




It's time to get your freak on! Female hip hop legend Missy Elliott is back with a new banger that's right in tone with her previous hits - sporting a wild beat, a guest verse from Pharrell Williams (he raps!) and some big-budget visuals. Missy Elliott's dance choreography never disappoints.

'Untouchable' - Pusha T




Even if Pusha T's rhymes rarely make sense as a whole, there's something beautifully vivid about his use of language: 'Let's take the scenic route/ I could show you the strange fruit/ It's looking like Beirut/ They open the washbay, I climb it like K2'. The 'scenic route' really does sum up his rapping style.

THE WORST:


'Merry Christmas Everybody' - Train


Bleeding heck, it's that time of year already. Sorry, I'm not ready for Christmas songs yet - especially a Slade cover. The original is torture enough.

'Sorry' - Rick Ross ft. Chris Brown




It's nice to hear Chris Brown sincerely apologising for all that Rihanna business. I kind of nodded off when Rick Ross turned up though. Is there a more mediocre rapper in the game? He's the hip hop equivalent of beige, the hip hop equivalent of dry toast. Listen to this song if you like beige and dry toast.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Review of 'Me' by Empress Of


This new avant-garde dance-pop album is the masterful work of Honduran-American singer-songwriter Lorely Rodriguez AKA Empress of.

Empress of what? I tried googling an explanation behind the artist's name but came back empty-handed. Unsurprisingly, a lot of fans have been asking the same question, so much so that Lorely almost titled her album 'what? lol' so that the album text would read 'Empress of what? Lol'.

However, for better or worse, she decided against that idea, instead titling the album 'Me' as to read 'Empress of Me', which is fitting considering all the songs on this record are about taking charge of oneself. Following a personal breakup and produced and written in the solitude of her Mexico City lakehouse, 'Me' is an album inspired by being left on one's lonesome. The lyrics see Lorely indecisively coming to terms with her newfound single-ness, mourning the loss of her ex one moment and fiercely embracing her independence the next: 'Can I get up off my knees and find a rhythm of my own?'. It's an album about letting go of that bae that used to whip you, whilst at the same time wanting them back. It's an album about being your own empress but not quite knowing how.

Empress Of  looking troubled


Vocally, Lorely captures this inner turmoil well - sounding both positively bouncy and dejectedly sighful. This inner turmoil is also reflected in the quirky beats (produced by Lorely herself!). The energy is upbeat and danceable but the sounds used are twisted and pained, comprised of over-distorted digital drums and sour synths. The most noticeable example of this is the track 'Water Water', which starts with sad wails over dissonant chord splodges, later evolving into a bright house tune of sorts.

Clearly the aim is to create a confused mixture of emotions. The result is a sound that is entirely unique. To some degree you could call these pop songs - they're catchy and charmingly simple in structure. However, the strange palette of sounds and the tortured lyrics add a complexity that prevents any of these from being radio-worthy, appealing more to underground junkies like myself. I guess there are slightly Bjork-ish tones to her voice, but otherwise she's the empress of her own musical style.


TRACK TASTER:


Monday, 9 November 2015

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 9/11/2015: SOPHIE, Take That, Rustie and more...

THE BEST:


'Just Some Kids' - Piers James



Over some tasty self-produced boom bap drums and smooth synths, London rapper Piers James delivers this laid-back song about enjoying youth. I’m reminded of Tyler the Creator’s ‘Parade’ minus the obnoxiousness.

'L.O.V.E' - SOPHIE



Made up largely of harsh noise, this latest track from UK producer will have a lot of people scrambling for the mute button. For some strange reason, I love it. Am I mentally well? Can pain be pleasant? Is that why people eat vindaloo? Is that why Tough Mudder exists? In any case, your welcome to give this track a listen. It’s humorous if nothing else – especially those tinkly interludes towards the back end of the track juxtaposed against the ominous din like Barney the Dinosaur spliced into The Exorcist. 

'Hey Boy' - Take That



Yuck, Take That?! My mum listens to them. Sadly, I can’t get enough of this new single. The funk is undeniable. Maybe if I close my eyes and imagine its Duran Duran it’ll all be okay.

'Peace Upzzz' - Rustie



Opening with some blindingly bright tremolo synths, this new instrumental from the Scottish producer teases and teases until finally allowing some percussion to break through. Rustie’s biggest mistake recently in his tracks has been hurling too much at the listener too soon, so I am glad to see him restraining himself a little.

'Shakes' - World Champion



Unknown Aussie duo World Champion deliver this upbeat indie dance number. Drowsy vocals and distant synths add a psychedelic edge. It’s like Tame Impala and The Stone Roses have had a baby.

THE WORST:


The Knocks & Matthew Koma – I Wish (My Taylor Swift)


A song about Taylor Swift? Is this what pop stars have resorted to – singing about other pop stars? I can’t wait for Taylor Swift to write a song about The Knocks and Matthew Koma. 

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Review of 'Delirium' by Ellie Goulding


Ellie Goulding has a voice like a cartoon mouse on helium. I’m not sure it’s a cadence I’m entirely keen on, but I respect it’s individuality. Without this vocal tone, the UK singer would arguably have nothing going for her, especially apparent on this album which instrumentally is nothing more than a bunch of watered-down eighties synthpop tracks that wouldn’t sound out of place on Taylor Swift’s last record nor Carly Rae Jepsen’s. The intro is vaguely gothic and avant-garde, I guess. And the twangy guitars on ‘On My Mind’ sound like something The Police might have played with. However, these brief moments do nothing to spice up an otherwise vanilla pop album. 

TRACK TASTER:

Monday, 2 November 2015

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 2/11/2015: Timbaland, A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Pink Lung and more...


THE BEST:


'Nebula' - Sam Gellaitry



Sometimes I think I could be a bedroom producer. Then I hear a track like this and I’m immediately inclined to delete FL studio and take up fishing or some other hobby instead.

'Uncertain' - Kelly Lee Owens



If you’ve ever wanted to feel like the floating hot wax in a lava lamp then this zero-gravity psych-pop song from London singer Kelly Lee Owens ought to fulfil your weird fantasy.

'Them Jeans' - Timbaland ft. Migos



What’s in them jeans?’. Timbaland’s dirty talk lyrics are nothing special, and I’m not even going to pretend to be a Migos fan. If I’m totally honest I’m just in love with the old-skool beat. Did Timbaland produce it? It sounds like DJ Mustard but upped in tempo.

'Hey, You’re Mine' - A Sunny Day in Glasgow



Philly dream pop collective, A Sunny Day in Glasgow, fortunately have a sound that is just as imaginative as their band name. ‘Hey, You’re Mine’ is their latest single – a sparkly marching shoegaze song about being proudly in love with someone. The mood is overwhelmingly triumphant. I feel like climbing a mountain after listening to this song.

'Chinese Watermelon' – Pink Lung


Canadian rock bands White Lung and Pink Mountaintops have merged to create Pink Lung. I’m not familiar with either of the previous bands but after hearing this theatrical jam, I may have to explore both group’s back catalogues. A Halloween-themed music video supplements the song, the majority of which is utterly bonkers and nonsensical. I expected nothing less from a song named ‘Chinese Watermelon’.

THE WORST:


'Walnuts' - Chief Keef



Chicago emcee, Chief Keef, delivers this rambling ode to bitches and marijuana performed with all the energy of a wounded snail.