Friday, 30 January 2015

Review of 'Lucky Leaves' by Krill


All you bands who think it’s cool to release your album on cassette tape in 2015 aren’t thinking outside the box enough. Boston indie rockers, Krill, have made their album available on USB. That’s not all – the USB stick comes embedded in a ball of mozzarella cheese.

This caption was going to contain a joke  - but I couldn’t think of anything that wasn’t cheesy...

As this stunt clearly shows, Krill are an eccentric bunch. Similar in style to the Pixies, their music comprises of nasal vocals, prominent bass and twangy chorus-effect-slathered guitars. Where they differ from The Pixies is the level of unhinged craziness that they seem prepared to put in.

Lucky Leaves kicks off with the band dedicating a theme song to themselves. From here on in, it’s a wild spaghetti of emotions. Lead singer Jonah Furman alternates between a nonchalant I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude and manic depressive self-loathing. At times the two come together, an example being when he disconcertedly sings ‘All I want to do is wallow in my own filth’. A lot of the time his voice isn’t pleasant, delivered with the whininess of cat locked out in a hailstorm. There’s even a point at the end of ‘Infinite Power’ where he devolves into chilling screeching, so shrill that the hairs on the back of my neck started prickling up.

Me whilst listening to the end of 'Infinite Power'

Clearly, it’s this volatility within which Lucky Leaves finds its thrills. The instrumentals themselves seem to follow this philosophy too. The melodies are often bouncy but sour, teetering on the edge of dissonance. One of the best examples of this is the closing bonus track, ‘Peanut Butter’, which I plugged a month ago on this blog. It’s chords and riffs seemingly hit all the wrong notes, but somehow the result remains catchy. I don't know quite how they do it. The accompanying music video, which I've included below, is just as perplexing.

Krill’s mentally unstable attitude makes this a very engaging record and also gives them a humorous and unique personality. I can still see that there’s room to grow but this doesn’t stop Lucky Leaves being a great album worthy of recommendation. Those who don’t want to go down the mozzarella USB route can still purchase this album on CD, Vinyl and as a digital download from iTunes. 

TRACK TASTER:

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 28/01/2015: Charli XCX, Rihanna, Onoe Caponoe and more...


I didn't find anything truly worthy of slating this week, so I've decided to just dedicate it to 'the best' tracks of the week. I'm getting too soft. Enjoy!

THE BEST:


'Lord of the Light (Sum Riddim)' - Onoe Caponoe


Whilst checking out the trippy visuals for this enigmatic London rapper’s new single, I read this in the comment section below:

'I heard that this beat was originally the soundtrack to a Woolworths advert and Onoe found it by chance on a minidisc in a pond in Somerset'.


I really want this to be true.

'Ageless' – Call of the Void



Here’s one for my fellow metal fans. Denver hardcore/grindcore quintet, Call of the Void, have served up this new track from their upcoming LP and it’s deliciously savage. The drummer is a goddamn monster and the vocalist’s sounding absolutely livid.

'Number One' - Tuxedo



Time for my weekly dose of retro. This irresistibly danceable new track from US duo, Tuxedo, employs an instantly infectious eighties groove and a killer chorus. With Uptown Funk currently topping the charts, there’s nothing to stop ‘Number One’ scoring a number one (although it probably won’t because its not getting the promoting it deserves). Disco is back and it’s here to stay.

'Thumb' - Monophona



Luxembourg duo, Monophona, blend dark electro and folk in this new sweetly bleak track. I don’t know what the fuck’s going on in the music video but it’s hella creepy. I’m going to be seeing those black, vacuous eyes in my dreams tonight.

'Doing It' - Charli XCX ft. Rita Ora



I don’t want to like this track because, well, it’s girly. But man, the chorus has burrowed its way into my brain! I doubt there’s a deep Biblical meaning behind the phrase ‘doing it’, but similarly I don’t think the message of the song is wholly sexual. ‘Doing it’ could just be an ode to having fun. The video certainly aims to be about just that.

MEH:


'FourFiveSeconds' - Rihanna, Kanye West & Paul McCartney



Earlier this month Kanye and Macca joined forces for a surprise track, 'Only One', which I discussed a couple weeks back. The two musicians have now teamed up with Rihanna for this new single 'FourFiveSeconds'.

It's not one of the best tracks of the weeks and it's not one of the worst, but I thought it was still worthy of mentioning regardless, hence why I've lumped it into this one-time-only 'MEH' category.

The track features acoustic instrumentation and some brief keys, to which I guess Paul had a helping hand in. Rihanna and Kanye meanwhile handle the vocals (Kanye sings without auto-tune and his voice isn't actually half-bad). Overall, the vibe is almost folksy, albeit a little tame and slightly forgettable. I've heard local bands down the pub play similar styled songs. Still, I respect the three of them for trying something different and unexpected.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Review of 'Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper' by Panda Bear


A popular pastime of mine is thinking about what it feels like to die. I'm great at parties.

Is dying scary? Is it painful? Is it pleasant? Is it trippy?

It’s been speculated by some researchers that when we finally give up the ghost our bodies release DMT, a highly psychedelic chemical, into our bloodstream that causes us to spend our last split-seconds of life in an otherworldly deep hallucinatory state.

Perhaps Panda Bear has been reading up on this concept. Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper centres around the theme of death. However, instead of going down your usual morbid, dark route, the Baltimore experimental artist seems to paint a more kaleidoscopic picture.

The spacey Tron synths and dreamy Beach Boys vocal harmonies that Panda Bear has incorporated in the past make a return here. On top are more effects than ever before – lashings of reverb, phasers and loud distortion. The focus is on creating deep, interesting textures in each song. I love a good bit of texture in my music. Hell, I like texture outside my music too. You should see my extensive collection of carpet samples.

I'm all about honeycomb velvet

Whilst the texture is all very impressive, the substance underneath is slightly lacking in places. Progression seems to take a backseat on this record with a lot of the instrumentals sticking to a rigid pattern from the off and failing to evolve further. Once you’ve heard the first forty seconds of one song you’ve pretty much heard it all.

Still, some tracks despite their repetitiveness, do manage to keep the listener hooked throughout just via their texture alone. The opener, ‘Sequential Circuits’with its sweetly layered vocal harmonies and the beautiful and hazy harp-assisted ‘Tropic of Cancer’ are absolutely hypnotic. That’s a good word for Panda Bear’s style, hypnotic. The distant vocals and dense repetitive instrumentals make this feel like the kind of album made for meditating too. Hang on, let me light some incense sticks and open up my chakras and stroke some carpet tiles whilst thinking about dying.

Me whilst listening to this album


Oh dear, what has this album done to me. 

TRACK TASTER:




Friday, 23 January 2015

Review of 'Vulnicura' by Bjork


Vulnicura marks another weird and wonderful chapter in the eccentric Icelandic singer’s discography. I tried googling a definition of the album title but couldn’t find anything. Where does Bjork come up with these names?

Her last record Biophilia was one of her most avante-garde so far, delving into genres as bizarre as breakcore. At first, I though Vulnicura may be a step into tamer, more straightforward territory. However, whilst the first songs certainly suggest this, the album swiftly goes off on an experimental tangent dropping the verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure entirely for an unpredictable ride through musical hinterland.

This is definitely one of Bjork’s most emotional works. Fueled by her recent breakup she exchanges catchiness and bounciness for a slow pensiveness. Sadness works best with good old-fashioned violins, and so it makes sense that the instrumentals here are all primarily made out of string sections. Accompanying these strings are juddery, electronic drums, similar to the percussion on her previous releases. It’s clear to see where modern artists like FKA Twigs get their ideas.

Often the slowness drags this album down, particularly on the ten minute ballad ‘Black Lake’. There are periods of the song in which a single string note is seemingly stretched out for eternity, during which I could feel myself ageing.

Me during 'Black Lake'

Fortunately, the pace seems to improve after this track. ‘Family’, although sluggish at first, goes through multiple progressions. It starts with eerie cinematic percussion (which I wasn’t surprised to learn was produced by The Haxan Cloak), before breaking into rapid dissonant plucked strings and then finally climaxing with a soothing ambient section. Bjork’s voice sounds bleak and distraught on this track and it’s definitely the most powerful track on the album. The hairs rose on the back of my neck and tears threatened to run down my cheeks at points.

Me during 'Family'

This song and several of the tracks afterwards, particularly ‘Atom Dance’ and ‘Quicksand’, are definite peaks that spice up the landscape of the album. The remainder is a bit glacial. The icy atmosphere is spectacular but the slowness is painful. Bjork’s choice to sacrifice catchiness is also a shame. I’d like to see myself returning to this record simply for its ability to tug on the heartstrings. Were all the tracks as dynamic as ‘Family’, this could have been a masterpiece. 


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 21/01/2015: Giorgio Moroder & Kylie Minogue, Django Django, Lil Wayne and more...


It's that time of the week where I share lots of Soundcloud links. Adjust your speakers. Get that knot out of your headphones. Make sure you're sitting comfortably. Shall we begin?

THE BEST:


'Right Here, Right Now' - Giorgio Moroder & Kylie Minogue



No, this isn’t a Fatboy Slim cover. Godfather of dance music and producer behind Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’, Giorgio Moroder, has teamed up with the magnificent Kylie Minogue for this bouncy electro number.  The synths shimmer and Kylie’s voice soars for some high notes. It’s funky. Its spunky. Here’s a picture of a monkey. I should be a goddamn rapper.

'New Whip' - Amherst


News that this might be a new Avalanches track had people freaking out overexcitedly all over the web. I don’t know who Avalanches are, so I wasn’t doing any freaking out myself. As it turns out, this is actually by an unknown artist from Kansas named Amherst and not Avalanches. The hype seemed to die as soon as this was announced. Personally, I think its worthy of praise regardless of who the hell made it. The way the disco samples weave in and out of each other and evolve is expertly pulled off and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this artist’s Soundcloud in the future.

'Pacify' - Jackson Scott



‘Pacify’ embraces the joy of finding a rose growing in the midst of a nuclear wasteland. This song is a distorted, dissonant mess but beneath its twisted production lies a happy and bubbly core. It’s a unique aesthetic and one that has me looking forward to the Mississippi indie artist’s upcoming album.

'Beauty' - Mischief Productionz



This glossy EDM track combines sugary synth stabs with some creative rising wobbling bass. A browse through this UK producer’s soundcloud reveals he’s being sorely slept on. If you like the feelgood vibe of this track you should definitely give his other stuff a gander.

'First Light' - Django Django



British indie rock/electronic group, Django Django, are back sporting their awesome vocal harmonies and a new Synthpop sound that reminds me of New Order. It’s been three years since their debut album so I’m hoping we get a follow-up soon.

THE WORST


'Fingers Hurting' - Lil Wayne


Who mixed this? Wayne’s autotuned bars and the backing instrumental sound like they’re in totally different keys. The result is jarring and unlistenable. 

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

10 Albums I'm Looking Forward to in 2015


Well done 2014. You brought us twerking. You brought us trap. You brought us Todd Terje. You brought us Taylor Swift. You were an interesting year for music, but now it is time we said goodbye and hello to 2015. Enter Kanye West. Enter Kendrick Lamar. Already, I feel you're going to be an interesting year too. Here are some of the artists' whose albums I'm getting hyped up for. 

Kendrick Lamar Kendrick’s new album will be dropping this year. The first single ‘I’ has already been released, a love song dedicated to himself. 

Frank Ocean The r&b artist released a lo-fi teaser entitled ‘Memrise’ at the beginning of December and evidence in the form of an instagram photo suggests he’s currently working on a new album. There are bold claims that it’s going to be bigger and better than his last release, Channel Orange.

Chance the Rapper/The Social Experiment Chance has been putting out a lot of new material lately, collaborating a lot with a band called The Social Experiment who seem to have a real feel-good vibe. A joint album, Surf, has been confirmed.

Bjork The Icelandic singer consistently pushes boundaries with every release so I’m psyched to hear that she’s working on a new album. Sorry did I write boundaries? I meant bjoundaries.

Faith No More The alt rock group recently released their first track in seventeen years, the sweetly titled ‘Motherfucker’. The band have confirmed a new album will be dropping in 2015, which means we won’t have to wait another 17 years.

Kanye West I wasn't head over heels in love with Yeezus, but it was definitely an interesting listen. That's one thing you can always expect from Yeezy - interesting. Something similar in vein to his recent bizarre collaboration with Macca would be pretty fun.

Death Grips Cali experimental hip hop group, Death Grips, should hopefully be releasing Jenny Death, part 2 of their new album The Powers That B. Already, the artwork has been released as well as the first single, ‘Inanimate Sensation’. A date has been set for March 21st but it could move.

Run the Jewels Can you believe it? These guys just can't stop making albums. Run the Jewels 3 is set to drop this year and judging from the high calibre of the rap duo's previous two LPs, its worth getting excited for.

Metallica I’m a huge fan of these dudes and it’s about time they dropped a new album. Their last lp, Death Magnetic, came out six years ago. The thrash metal icons say ‘they’re working, they’re writing’. Let’s hope that’s true.

Jimi Hendrix Is it me or has this guy not released an album for some time? Will 2015 be his comeback year? I've got my fingers crossed. TROLOLOLOL RIP JIMI

Review of 'Uptown Special' by Mark Ronson


Some people might roll their eyes at the idea of a funk album in 2015. There’s an awful lot of retro music coming out these days. Whilst there are a lot of cheap imitations, Mark Ronson’s latest full-length is a true homage carried out with soul and conviction.

The UK producer and songwriter has got famous for his recent hit ‘Uptown Funk’, which employs a Kool & the Gang vibe, complete with big bold horns and synths. Whilst this track is definitely fun, it’s one of the more dumbed down moments on this record and only one of several impressive funk flavours on display. There are electrofunk tracks here in the style of Chaka Khan, guitar-driven Steely Dan tributes and an f-bomb-laden James Brown homage sung by New Orleans rapper, Mystikal.

Admittedly, there isn’t much to link it all together and the album does feel like a 70s-themed iPod playlist on shuffle at times. However, look beneath the initial messiness, and you soon realise that the songs here are all brilliantly composed, written with an expert attention to sonic detail. Every sound is engineered to sound as authentic as possible from the timbre of the funky basslines to the hazy chorus effect on the vocals. He even hires the help of Stevie Wonder to lay down some harmonica solos to give it that extra touch of genuine seventies soul.

The result is an album that will make you want to rent a muscle car and drive down an empty American road into the sunset. You'll want to grow your hair and cover the walls in flowery paper. Forget the mass unemployment, sexism and general political unrest. I want to live in the seventies. 

TRACK TASTER:

Monday, 19 January 2015

Review of 'SremmLife' by Rae Sremmurd


Help me. I’m trying to understand the appeal of these two goofs and failing.

Unpronounceable Mississippi brotherly hip hop duo, Rae Srummurd, are currently making waves in the US hip hop scene, having already charted in the top 20 with ‘No Type’. Their style of party rap consists of amateurish flows, constipated squeaky-voiced inflections and buzzword-reliant lyrics that  make no sense and rarely rhyme. In essence, the duo have no talent. In fact, they sound just like children.

Now, I could understand the appeal of this if they were children – the cute factor inevitably causes likeability. However, aged nineteen and twenty-one years old, Rae Sremmurd are not children. My cuteness radar doesn’t extend to their ages. Not that I have much regard for cuteness anyway.

Horrible creatures

In a nutshell, Rae Sremmurd sound like kids but aren’t and this makes them appealing. Their complete lack of talent strangely seems to be what's drawing people in. It could be a punk thing, in which case I can begin to relate. There’s something definitely entertaining about a band like The Dead Milkmen, who often embraced their total lack of musicianship. The guitar solo in 'Punk Rock Girl' always serves as a great example of this, being deliberately and hilariously clunky and out of tune.


There is however a major difference between The Dead Milkmen and Rae Sremmurd, and that is that The Dead Milkmen are funny. Rae Sremmurd aren’t particularly serious but they don’t draw enough self-deprecating attention to their lack of talent for me to empathise with them. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rae Sremmurd thought they were hot shit.

Of course even disillusioned vanity would be more entertaining than the two-planks-of-wood-persona that Rae Sremmurd publicly display through their music. Usually party rappers have some kind of unique character to them that makes up for their dumb and ignorant music. Take Danny Brown for example or hell, even Nicki Minaj. They’ve got a certain obnoxiousness that makes them interesting. Rae Sremmurd don’t even have that.

Somebody give these dudes a personality!
I suppose one could argue that their music is catchy, but it’s a hammer-into-your-head-until-it-hurts catchiness that they rely on, the kind of catchiness that any tom, dick or harry could pull off. They use their deliberately annoying childlike inflections and continuous repetition of hooks like ‘Unlock the Swag’ and ‘No Flex Zone’ to get their songs stuck in your head the same way an irritating radio jingle does. It doesn’t take musical talent to do this. We can all shell-shock people into memorising things.

All in all, Sremmlife is the epitome of everything that is wrong with the music industry. Fans seem to use the nonsensical argument ‘but they’re just two guys having fun’. Yes, but so were the Kray twins. So were Bonnie and Clyde. Granted, Rae Sremmurd haven’t killed anyone – although they are slowly killing the music industry. They promote the idea that it doesn’t take an iota of talent to be a star and that anyone can be a successful rapper. If we allow this to be the case, all the people with genuine talent are going to end up disregarded and musicianship will just be a case of whoever has the best PR team. 

TRACK TASTER:

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Review of 'Fashion Week' by Death Grips


Fashion Week is the brand new surprise instrumental album from Death Grips – everyone’s favourite trolling experimental hip hop group who last year announced on the back of a napkin that they were breaking up. Despite disbanding, Death Grips have been continuing to put out new music. They released a single called ‘Inanimate Sensation’ in December. Now they’ve released this record. They have another half-album called Jenny Death scheduled for release soon.

Being a Death Grips fan is difficult because you never have a clue what the fuck’s going on. As part of their breakup announcement, the guys did say they were going to release Jenny Death as their final album, but there was no speak of any additional instrumental album. This record’s come completely out of the blue. It could have been recorded prior to the band’s breakup. It could have been recorded after (have they really broken up?). Hell, it could have been recorded in the future and sent back in time for all I or anyone else knows.

Apparently, Fashion Week is a soundtrack but what it’s a soundtrack to has not been specified. Being wholly instrumental, there’s no shouty-rapping from MC Ride. However, your parents are still unlikely to understand this album. Drummer, Zach Hill, and producer, Flatlander, keeps things avant-garde. There’s lots of disorienting phasering and pitch-shifting thrown into the mix and the final ‘Runway H’ contains some of group’s heaviest, most warped bass – suffocating enough to make you feel like you’re drowning in a bottomless swamp.

I was hoping to avoid having to name tracks in this review because the titles all have annoyingly similar names. The purpose of this, as can be seen below, is so that the final letters of each track when read together spell out ‘JENNY DEATH WHEN’. Speculation has been made that this could be hinting the release date of Jenny Death to be London and Paris fashion week held between the 12th and 20th February.




Even if this album is just supposed to be a teaser in the build-up to Jenny Death, it’s still pretty solid as a record on its own. Some of this is Death Grip’s catchiest material. Whilst it sonically pushes boundaries, there’s also a lot of welcome melody and repetition here. At times I could imagine a lot of these tracks playing in the background of an intense spacey video game. Is that what this is a soundtrack to? Are we going to get a Death Grips video game? You heard it here first! 

TRACK TASTER:

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 14/01/2015: Kanye West, BadBadNotGood, Eddie Murphy and more...


Kanye West has teamed up with ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and Eddie Murphy is now doing reggae (as pictured above). 2015 is already shaping up to be an interesting year musically. Here are my favourite and least favourite tracks from the last week.

THE BEST


'Ray Gun' - BadBadNotGood ft. Ghostface Killah and Doom



Celebrated rappers, Ghostface Killah and Doom, jump on this track by Canadian instrumental jazz trio, BadBadNotGood, and the result is cinematic, badass Bond villain music - particularly the epic beat change towards the end. All I need whilst listening to this is a leather armchair and a Persian cat.

'Oh Jah Jah' – Eddie Murphy



Actor and comedian, Eddie Murphy - who also had a short-lived music career in the eighties releasing the cheesy guilty-pleasure-number 'Party All The Time' -  has now dropped this buoyant reggae song enititled 'Oh Jah Jah'. Unlike Snoop Lion, Eddie has confirmed that this isn't a move to Rastafarianism and that we could even expect experimentation with other genres: 'I can go right now and put out a country album. Or jazz' he told Rolling Stone. 

'Kraken' - M A R I N E


I have music blog, Drunken Werewolf, to thank for this find. All female indie pop group from London, M A R I N E, showcase some gorgeous folksy vocal harmonies on this track set to swaying tidal guitars. The chorus comes crashing in like a wave.

'Animal Fear' - Marika Hackman




Similar in vein to M A R I N E, London-based folk-pop solo artist Marika Hackman drops this new track set to appear on her upcoming LP, We Slep At Last. I've been really digging this girl's subtly twisted vibes. Relative to her previous singles, 'Animal Fear' is fairly bouncy, but the lyrics about smelling 'that animal fear' retain her signature dark side. The track also comes with gunshot sound effects.

'Only One' - Kanye West and Paul McCartney



This wildly unexpected collaboration works for several reasons. Firstly, Kanye casts aside the boastful rapping of his Yeezus album and instead delivers some truly heartfelt lyricism - albeit at the expense of shaky auto-tune but I can let it slide. Secondly, this track works because Macca isn't allowed near the mic (let's be honest, he can't sing any more). Instead, the pop icon provides some deeply soulful keys that give the track its intimacy. Like chili and chocolate, the initial concept of these two coming together at first seems bizarre, but try and you'll understand.

THE WORST


'Squeeze Me' - N.E.R.D



 With all of Pharrell's recent success it was only a matter of time before N.E.R.D reformed. Granted, this track was made to accompany the new Spongebob movie and suits its purpose, however as a song on its own its a flatulent, sterile-produced mess.