“A collection of profound and epic album reviews and musical articles by former astronaut and brain surgeon, Alasdair Kennedy. Reaching levels of poetry that rival Keats and Blake, the following reviews affirm Alasdair to be a prodigy, a genius and a god whose opinion is always objectively right. He is also without a doubt the most modest man in the universe.” - Alasdair Kennedy
Radio DJs have been beating baby rabbits to death with
bicycle pumps. The UK got beaten by Australia in Eurovision. It’s been a
cruel and confusing week, but no need to fear, I am here to bring hope and joy
to the world in the form of music, words and pretty pictures.
‘Holding On’ - Disclosure
After hearing the Lawrence brothers’ last single ‘Bang That’,
I grew fearful that Disclosure were about to lose their charm and start writing
twerk anthems. However, this latest single ‘Holding on’ has rekindled my faith
in them, sporting the EDM duo’s signature sparkly synth swells and a killer
guest vocal performance from jazz singer, Gregory Porter. Disclosure have
announced this track as the first single from their upcoming album (which means
‘Bang That’ won’t make the cut – hell yeah!).
‘Cities of Gold’ – Lone
Made in 2004, this previously unreleased track from the
Nottingham electronic producer has only just seen the light of day. It isn’t
the nostalgic sugar rush we’ve come to expect from Lone. The opening hard and
schizophrenic percussion is anything but sweet. However, the last half does
show hints of what was to come, the industrial drumming gradually petering out
into a passage of dreamy ambient synths.
Lone has recently been dropping a lot of previously
unreleased old material, which fans can stream on his Soundcloud. ‘On a Wave’ – Drake ft. Tinashe
I’m sorry Drake and Tinashe. I know you didn’t want us to
hear this track and that some gluttonous hacker decided to leak it prematurely
on the internet. I could have chosen to not listen to it out of protest, but
alas I have no willpower and I gave in (and now I’m streaming it on repeat). Unlike
most leaks, this is actually a damn good track that I’m glad wasn’t shelved. The
instrumental is atmospherically moody and the two artist’s breathy vocal
performances complement it so well.
‘Hiatus’ – Chance the Rapper & the Social
Will Chance ever release his new album? ‘Hiatus’ is the
latest track to surface from the Chicago emcee and his backing band, set to
appear on Surf. It’s a groovy little
number with some great internal rhyming. I was just getting into it around the
one minute mark – and then it abruptly ended without any warning whatsoever. I’m
guessing there’ll be a full version on the album, but honestly, Chance, I know
you’re just trying to tease us, BUT STOP FUCKING AROUND AND GIVE US YOUR ALBUM
‘Jacaranda’ – Trails
I just can’t get enough of these Oakland indie rockers.
Their music is just so feelgood and summery – particularly this brand new
glittery track. It makes me want to run naked through fields of dandelions. I
don’t care if I get done for indecent exposure. I don’t care if it doesn’t
agree with my hayfever. I’m doing it and you can’t stop me.
‘Mercy’ – Muse
‘Dead Inside’ and ‘Psycho’
seemed ambitious, even if they weren’t perfect. By comparison, ‘Mercy’ just
feels like unaspiring radio rock. I’m hoping Drones doesn’t contain any more bores like this track
On the odd occasion when I’m feeling classy, I’ll kick back
with some brie, crackers and red wine and listen to some soul music. Hiatus Kiayote are my
latest and greatest find – a Melbourne neo-soul group with a frontwoman
villainously named Nai Palm (pronounced ‘napalm’). From a glance you’d think they
were some crazy white brutal hardcore band, but their sound couldn’t be more opposite.
I first stumbled upon them a couple weeks ago after hearing an old hit of theirs titled ‘Nakamarra’. The husky vocals and
pillowy chord progressions transported me to a happy, summery place of peace and love and daisy chains.
I expected the same husky vocals and pillowy chord
progressions from this album and without a shadow of a doubt I got this. Hiatus
Kaiyote know all the sweet notes to hit to make you feel warm inside. However,
it became immediately clear that the vibe wasn’t the same. The reason behind
this became clear after repeat listens – Hiatus Kaiyote have lost their
They’ve developed ants in their pants, losing their ability
to sit still, crafting songs that refuse to settle into a groove. There are no
straightforward, easy-flowing numbers like ‘Nakamarra’ on Choose Your Weapon. The record opens with ten minutes of jazzy
noodling, disguised as three songs. After this, the music becomes a little more
structured and digestable, but there’s still a lot of melodic fidgeting and no
real hooks or solid riffs or rhythms to serve as a payoff.
Too much noodles
That said, buried beneath the progginess are some beautiful moments that are worthy of praise.
‘Swamp Thing’ has a muddy, driving bassline that aptly suits it’s title. ‘Prince
Minikid’ has a dreamy instrumental that Flying Lotus would be jealous of. Then
there’s my favourite track, ‘Atari’, one of the most energetic tracks here –
sporting an upbeat chorus of sorts and some fun 8-bit synths.
All these moments feel like creative strokes of genius that
could have paid off if Hiatus Kaiyote didn’t have such a short attention span.
Meandering off every time a good idea pops up, the album feels like a constant
tease. Those with more tolerance for a good noodle will enjoy it.
Next time you’re
stranded in Hong Kong for five days, record an album.
That’s what Britpop veterans Blur allegedly did. With the
exception of the lyrics, most of this material was thought up in five days.
To some degree it shows. The
Magic Whip isn’t a bad album - it doesn’t feel rushed or unfinished - but
it does feel awfully meagre for a comeback album (it’s been over a decade since
these guys gave us a full length LP). The standout tracks are easy to pinpoint – namely
the glittery opener ‘Lonesome Street’ with its punchy guitar riff and cool
drowsy interlude, the funk-tinged ‘Ghost Ship’ and the broodingly epic ode to
overpopulation ‘There Are Too Many of Us’. The remainder meanwhile is very subdued, not very catchy and all very down-tempo.
Damon Albarn’s vocal performances are partly to blame. There
are no big, anthemic choruses on this record. Most of the vocal hooks are groaned out
lazily, most notably the la-la-las at the beginning of ‘Ong Ong’ in which Damon
sounds like he can't be bothered. Indeed, the man has never been the liveliest singer
in the world, but when you compare these performances to that of hits such as ‘Parklife’,
‘Girls & Boys’ and ‘Country House’ (not to mention his work with Gorillaz)
it’s clear there’s a spark missing.
That said, Damon Albarn does still seem to have the edge
when it comes to writing colourful lyricism. Alongside the already mentioned topic
of ‘Overpopulation’, The Magic Whip
sees songs dedicated to subject matter as diverse as North Korea and the ice
cream man. Linking it all is the theme of loneliness. As the strangely-titled song
‘Thought I Was A Spaceman’ suggests, Damon Albarn sees himself as an astronaut
surrounded by emptiness. Perhaps this
explains the withdrawn nature of his vocal performances. In any case, I still
want some hooks!
You know the drill. I listen to a load of songs from the last seven days and pick out my favourites and least favourites. This week Lunchmoney Lewis, Yung Lean and Iggy Azalea make the cut.
‘Bills’ - Lunchmoney Lewis
This might just be the most upbeat pop song about being
broke that I’ve ever heard. Not that there are many pop songs about being broke
– part of what makes this track so fresh for a radio single. My only qualm is the
music video – he sings ‘stubbed my toe on
the edge of the bed’ whilst tripping over a toolbox.
‘Obstinate’ - Packwood
A dude named Vivaldi once wrote a classical four-piece suite called the 'The Four Seasons'. Melbourne folk artist, Packwood, seems to be competing with his own take, complete with orchestral instrumentation. His upcoming album Vertumnus is currently being released in four parts, each part released on the first day of a new season. 'Obstinate' is the lead single from Hibernal, the winter section of his album, which at first confused me considering we're in the midst of Spring. But of course, Aussie seasons are different to that of the northern hemisphere.
‘Testyear’ - Five Star Hotel
Tagged ‘JpegGraveyard’, this obscure Soundcloud find merges
spooky synths and over-compressed trap drums to create an eerie cacophany. It’s
like staring into digital hell. The drop at 1:23 is earth-shattering.
‘Stranger’- Active Child
Indie electronic producer and singer, Pat Grossi (AKA Active Child), delivers his signature choir-like falsettos over angelic arpeggiated synth harps. Quite the contrast to the last track, this is digital heaven.
'Fd Up' - Yung Lean ft. Thaiboy Digital
The Swedish rapper's overuse of autotune and complete lack of energy is made even less charming by the line: 'my future's looking brighter than my urine test.'
'Pretty Girls' - Iggy Azalea ft. Britney Spears
Australian-American hip hop artist, Iggy Azalea, switches from singing about how fancy she is to singing about how pretty she is. The result is a failed attempt at Fancy 2.0 that's far too similar to its predecessor (even the synth riff feels like an imitation). Pop icon, Britney Spears, meanwhile tries to fill the gap of Charli XCX, but fails to prove her relevance.
Having thankfully abandoned his shortlived career as a reggae artist, Snoop Lion returns as Snoop Dogg with this brand new record Bush, the title of which could refer to
many things. Personally, I think it’s a tribute to the ex-president.
Clearly the inspiration behind this album
In recent years lots of artists have been jumping on the
70s-revival bandwagon. Snoop is the latest to hop on board (although given his
90s g-funk roots it’s hardly new territory), half-rapping/half-singing over slinky
instrumentals loaded with bow-chikka-wow-wow guitars, groovy basslines designed
for making babies to and gratuitious use of the 808 cowbell. It’s unashamedly cheesy,
particularly the melodramatic male backing vocals layered over each hook (they
did make me chuckle), but Snoop – being as smooth as he is – is able to get
away with it, resulting in an album that’s charmingly feelgood.
Handling the production is Pharrell Williams. Some of you
may have heard of him. He turns out to be one of many guest artists on the
record, others being Stevie Wonder, Gwen Stefani, Kendrick Lamar, T.I. and Rick
Ross. Together, this horde of guest artists help to conceal the fact that Snoop
can’t sing or rap any more (or most likely isn’t trying). Snoop’s vocals are
largely flat and auto-tuned and his lyrics consist of largely weed-related throwaway
scrap, but underneath the carnival of backing vocals and Pharrell-produced funk
this seems irrelevant, that is until you remember that this is a Snoop Dogg
Choosing to take a backseat throughout the whole album, the
record never feels quite as vibrant as it could be. I can just picture Snoop
lying back with a joint in his hand whilst the rest of his entourage do the
work around him. That said, this is an enjoyable listen and there are standout
moments. ‘Run Away’ and ‘This City’ contain some of Pharrell’s most velvety
beats yet and ‘Peaches N Cream’ is clearly the new ‘Gin and Juice’.
Another week has passed, the Tories are still running the country and I'm still struggling to write introductions to these weekly segments. Let's just get on with it shall we?
'Paper' - Sam Gellaitry
18-year-old Scottish electronic producer, Sam Gellaitry, seems
to consistently be pushing the envelope, composing jittery instrumentals that
play with every sound conceivable. This latest offering starts with some
gorgeous piano chords before divebombing into a surprise spiky synth riff. When
the key change hit at the end my mind blew and now I can’t get the brain matter
off the walls.
'I Don’t Think She Cares' - White Reaper
Kentucky punk rockers, White Reaper, deliver this angry ode
to an ex, to the accompaniment of galloping guitars and a loopy
Bloc-Party-esque synth riff. I’m particularly liking the singer’s vocal tone
here and look forward to hearing a full length album of similarly snappy crazed
rock jams (an LP entitled White Reaper
Does It Again is in the works!).
'Everyday' - A$AP Rocky (ft. Rod Stewart, Miguel & Mark Ronson)
This isn’t the usual trap rap banger I’ve come to expect
from the Asap mobster, which is refreshing. There is a twerkworthy beat change
in the middle but the remainder feels charmingly old-skool featuring an
organ-heavy beat courtesy of Mark Ronson and a soulful hook shared between
Miguel and - of all people - Rod Stewart.
'Hunter' - Farao
At first I thought this was going to be eerie Marika-Hackman-style
folk. Then the electronica kicked in, followed by horns, by which point I’d
gave up trying to lump the track under a genre. Nowegian singer-songwriter,
Farao, is clearly in lane all of her own. Her haunting vocal delivery is
'Double Cup' - Major Lazer & Riff Raff
Major Lazer isn't sounding obnoxious enough and Riff Raff isn't sounding goofy enough. Otherwise it's the best codeine anthem I've heard this month.
'Albatraoz' - AronChupa
Swedish or not – they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with
mispronouncing and misspelling random words like this. Urban Dictionary claims
that an Albatraoz is ‘a strong woman’, but I don’t believe them. Clearly, this
track was a deliberate attempt to create the most annoying club song
conceivable. I mean, surely no-one genuinely enjoys this trash? RIGHT?
Three years have passed since the UK indie rocker’s
self-titled debut and they’re still playing with the same sound – a unique and
fun blend of Beach-Boys style vocal harmonies, tropical percussion, twangy
guitars and Kraftwerk-esque electro.
Not much has changed and not much needs to. Arguably the songs feel a little denser this time around. Django
Django squeeze in as much instrumental layers into each track as possible, piling synths
upon synths. Pianos seem to be more prominent, playing out bouncy rave grooves
as found on ‘Reflections’. Everything is overall a bit more epic – less the work of a band
and more the work of an orchestra. However, the dancabililty is still there ( is that a
word?), which is after all what separates Django Django from the
slightly-head-bob-inducing rhythm of most other indie bands.
Lyrically things are still a bit goofy, the subject matter
remaining slightly childlike, but I’ll take goofiness over preachiness any day.
Django Django are all about playful fun and thankfully the group haven’t tried to
mature their sound into something stoic and boring. As for their band name, I’m
still none the wiser as to what it means.
UK producer Lapalux isn't the kind of EDM artist you put on to get the party started. His style of electronica is
engineered more specifically for the 4am comedown. Warm and weightless jazzy synths tinkle
to the accompaniment of subtle shuffling electronic percussion. The feeling is
one of drunken mellowness, the post-night-out feeling of euphoria that we all
think is worth the hangover the next morning. It’s a great choice of mood. However,
when sustained for an album, this mood does start to lose its momentum slightly.
There are no fast-paced tracks or grooves to get the heart pumping and the contributions
from guest vocalists are all sweet but utterly forgettable, lacking entirely in hooks. That said, this record does have its standout moments. The smoky
sax in ‘Puzzle’ transports me to a veranda overlooking evening Manhattan and
the opening chord progression of ‘Midnight Peelers’ is what I imagine plays
when entering the pearly white gates.
It's mostly guitars this week and no hip hop. I've realised I'm not black. This week Tinashe titillates, Disclosure disappoint and Goblin return as Goblin Rebirth.
on Deck' - Tinashe
I’m surprised this club-friendly pop tune isn’t on the
radio. Maybe the flutes are holding it back (are flutes too alternative?). Maybe
‘all in the front, all in the back’
is simply too suggestive. Personally I’m addicted to it, although not as
addicted as I am to the raunchy music video. Tinashe sure knows how to strut
'Vultures' - God Damn
‘God Damn!’ was indeed my reaction after hearing this
monster of a track. The Wolverhampton rockers are like a much louder version of
Nirvana. Quiet grungy riffs are contrasted with gargantuan walls of distortion that
rival Electric Wizard.
'Say You Will' – Trails
Angelic vocals and groovy guitars come together on this
sweet indie rock jam from Oakland group, Trails and Ways. This track and the
band’s upcoming album Pathology were
allegedly produced entirely in the drummer’s bedroom. For a DIY band, this is
'Sleepwalker' - Rioux
New York psychedelic solo artist, Erin Rioux, sings dreamily
over a simple bass guitar riff to the accompaniment of complex electronic
percussion. The strange computerised mass of clicks and thuds shouldn’t compliment
the earthy use of guitar, but somehow the two form a happy cyborg relationship.
'Requiem for X' - Goblin Rebirth
If you’re a horror movie buff, it may interest you to know
that this Italian prog rock band (formerly known as Goblin) composed the scores
to cult classics Suspiria and Tenebre. I won’t pretend to have seen
either movie. I don’t have the time to laze around watching films (I’m far too
busy lazing around listening to music). Anyhow, this track is pretty epic and according
to guitarist Giacomo Anselmi, ‘tells the story of a death of a goblin’,
although this story is a little hard to follow given there are no lyrics.
That' - Disclosure
The house music duo have gone a tad too minimal on this
track in my opinion. Gone are the sparkly deep house chords that made their
music so magical. In fact, Disclosure’s entire personality seems to have been
stripped away in the pursuit of minimalism. I hope this isn’t the group’s
future direction. I’d rather listen to a metronome for five minutes.