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.