Tuesday, 27 December 2016

My Top 20 Favourite Albums of 2016


We lost a lot of good musicians this year. But that isn’t to say 2016 has been an awful year for music. In terms of albums, there have been some impressive releases this year that show we can all still look forward to the future with optimism. Here are my personal favourites.

(psst! if you like lists don’t forget to check out my favourite and least favourite tracks of the year. You can also check out my favourite albums of 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.)

20 - 11

20. Here Comes Washer – Washer

Brooklyn rock duo Washer serve up this satisfyingly slovenly dish of angsty lyrics over rugged twangy guitars. There’s even a song about getting drunk and eating the sun.



19. You Will Never Be One Of Us – Nails

Sugary song titles like ‘Life is a Death Sentence’ and ‘Made to Make You Fail’ and some crushingly heavy riffage make up this intensely savage sonic onslaught from US grind warlords Nails.



18. Crux – Jaggery

Self-proclaimed ‘avant-rock’ fellowship Jaggery from Boston meld Bjorkish vocals, dark strings, soft pianos and jazzy percussion for a genre-defying listen.

Favourite tracks: ‘War Cry’, ‘Venus in Transit




17. Painting With – Animal Collective

The Baltimore psych-pop madmen return to form with this cartoonishly brilliant blend of squelchy synths and signature barbershop vocals.

Favourite tracks: ‘FloriDada’, ‘Bagels in Kiev



16. Junk – M83

French-American synthpop cosmonauts M83 go lovably corny on this new record, embracing slap bass, sax solos and pianos rolls for a playful pastiche of everything we love and hate about the 80s.

Favourite tracks: ‘Go!’, ‘Tension

15. Take Control – Slaves

The Tunbridge Wells punks get angrier and more unhinged on this exciting follow-up to last year’s Are You Satisfied?, continuing to boast the same rawness and sense of humour.

Favourite tracks: ‘Consume or Be Consumed’, ‘People That You Meet




14. Cashmere – Swet Shop Boys

Injecting their Asian roots into Western hip hop, Riz and Heems comically and daringly tackle the stereotypes and prejudices facing their ethnicity to a backdrop of Bollywood-sampling beats.  

Favourite tracks: ‘T5’, ‘Zayn Malik



13. Imperial – Denzel Curry

Florida rapper Denzel Curry spits some of his meanest and fastest bars to date, whilst instrumentally fusing his love of trap and psychedelic for some formidable bangers.

Favourite tracks: ‘ULT’, ‘If Tomorrow’s Not Here




12. Levitate – Lone

UK electronic producer Lone brings back the nostalgia-soaked video-game-vibes and rave stabs of Galaxy Garden, whilst incorporating newfound electrifying elements of jungle.

Favourite tracks: ‘Alpha Wheel’, ‘Triple Helix


11. Eraser Stargazer – Guerilla Toss

Boston brain-curdlers Guerilla Toss throw together dissonant guitars, squealing synths and screechy vocals for a challenging but ultimately exciting dose of noise rock.

Favourite tracks: ‘Grass Shack’, ‘Color Picture




10 - 1

10. How to Ruin Other People’s Futures – Losers

Pummelling percussion, seismic synths and acrobatic vocals make up this new hard and heavy selection of inventive anthems from loud London electro-rockers Losers.

Favourite tracks: ‘This is a War’, ‘Chainsaw’, ‘Car Crash


9. Magma – Gojira


Whilst still showing off their ear for a monstrous riff and a beastly drum fill, French metal stalwarts Gojira streamline their sound into a more atmospheric and primal approach to heaviness that is entirely their own.

Favourite tracks: ‘Stranded’, ‘Magma’, ‘Pray



8. Blank Face – Schoolboy Q

Gaudy gangsta rap badass Schoolboy Q throws down some of his most creative and catchy cackling over a diverse palette of beats.  

Favourite tracks: ‘Groovy Tony’, ‘Kno Ya Wrong’, ‘Big Body



7. untitled unmastered – Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick serves up these allegedly ‘unmastered’ leftovers from last year’s To Pimp A Butterfly LP and the result is still better than most the official albums released this year.

Favourite tracks: ‘Untitled 01’, ‘Untitled 02’, ‘Untitled 07


6. Splendor & Misery – Clipping

A space-themed hip hop opera – this wild new album from Californian experimentalists Clipping takes their sound to cinematic territory, Daveed Diggs continuing to swank his impressive knack for storytelling and speed.

Favourite tracks: ‘Wake up’, ‘Air Em Out’, ‘A Better Place


5. Limeade – Ehiorobo

New Jersey soul artist Ehiorobo delivers this ridiculously fun concoction of foody lyrics, bubbly crooning and innovative self-produced electronica.

Favourite tracks: ‘Fondue’, ‘Gilderoy Lockhart’, ‘Heir ToThe Sugar Honey Queen




4. Atrocity Exhibition – Danny Brown

Squawking Detroit rapper Danny Brown dons some of his most avant-garde instrumentals to date, whist delving into the dark thoughts of a decadent drug addict on a downward spiral.

Favourite tracks: ‘Really Doe’, ‘Ain’t It Funny’, ‘WhiteLines

3. 99.9% - Kaytranada


Haitian-Canadian EDM producer Kaytranada effortlessly bounces between house, hip hop and urban soul, whilst never sacrificing the flourishes that make his music unique. There’s something in the sparkly tones he uses and upbeat melodies that feels individual to him no matter which genres he delves into. His ability to pick similarly unique vocalists and guests and draw the best out of them only adds to his talents.

Favourite tracks: ‘Together’, ‘Glowed Up’, ‘Vivid Dreams


2. Bottomless Pit – Death Grips



Whilst the experimental hip hop group continues to grow more extreme, they’ve abandoned some of the progginess and word salad that gave the first half of their previous LP The Powers That B pretentions, delivering an album that’s as catchy and cohesive as it is challenging. Despite MC Ride’s angry yelling and the hellishly distorted beats, the hooks and grooves are more infectious than ever before and the lyrics have much more punkish clarity.

Favourite tracks: ‘Giving Bad People Good Ideas’, ‘Spikes’, ‘Trash


1. We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service – A Tribe Called Quest



20 years have passed since the NY hip hop veterans'  last album, and yet A Tribe Called Quest feel more relevant than ever. They’ve stuck to their original jazz rap sound, but modernised it with effects and creative sonic ideas, whilst tackling current topics such as the rise of Trump and police brutality, criticising the present but simultaneously keeping an optimistic outlook on the future. All the guest features are flawless from Andre 3000 to Kendrick Lamar. It feels like they’ve taken all the best of hip hop and squeezed it into a perfectly crafted album. The fact that Phife died this year and that that it’s the group’s final album only add to the poignancy.

Favourite tracks: ‘The Space Program’, ‘Dis Generation’, ‘LostSomebody

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

Coloring Book – Chance the Rapper
This Unruly Mess I’ve Made – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Blonde – Frank Ocean
Gore – Deftones
Anti – Rihanna
Blackstar – David Bowie

Friday, 23 December 2016

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 23/12/2016: Pool Art, Daniel Caeser, Mick Jenkins and more...


I wasn’t going to do any more 'tracks of the week' segments this year, but I’ve been getting some good stuff sent my way in the last fortnight and just had to share it. This may well be the last post of 2016, so Merry Christmas and a happy a new year! Wait, where’s my card and present?

THE BEST:

‘Gender Balance’ – Pool Art


Following on from their previous doomy single (which made my tracks of the year), Manchester experimental rock duo Pool Art are back with another woozy dirge made up of strident percussion and shoegazey vocals. It’s not as immediately creepy, the chorus almost feel triumphant, but then the whole track dissipates into an effects-soaked howl that sounds like something between cosmic whalesong and those menacing robots from War of The Worlds. Being creative with a guitar in 2016 is difficult, but these guys are pushing things forward.

‘Call Me Danger’- Tayla


This funky pop tune was written for anyone ‘feeling 100% confident and not giving a flying fuck about what anyone else thinks’ according to the Birmingham artist herself. I’m a little late on the bandwagon on this one (the track was released in August, which is prehistory in blogging terms), but perhaps you can still find use for this summer jam, if anything to warm up these winter months.

‘Get You’ – Daniel Caeser ft. Kali Uchis


You really shouldn’t go on appearances. From the haircut, I expected some Lil-Yachty-style party rap, but what ensued instead was a sensually crooned r&b slowjam. If a song could make you pregnant, this would be it. In fact, slip some condoms over your headphones whilst listening. Better safe than sorry.

‘Christmas In The Sausage Skin (I know yule fit in)’ – Limbs


Bolton-based plinky plonky pop band Limbs (check out my interview with them earlier this year) have just released a Christmas EP. This humorous yuletide ditty takes the idea of a bird-in-a-bird-in-a-bird to new levels, with a crazy cook luring various feathered creatures into his kitchen to be part of his Frankenstein’s experiment. And you thought all the original Christmas song ideas had been taken?

‘Aurora Borealis’ – Mick Jenkins ft. Kaytranada


Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins and Canadian producer Kaytranada have both released critically acclaimed debut albums this year, so to see them both tie off 2016 by collaborating on a track is quite the treat. 

THE WORST:

‘Waltz Of The Dead’ – Choking On Air


The composition is creative, but that MIDI violin sounds like it’s off a kid’s keyboard, plus the vocals are plain diabolical (and not in a devilish sense).  

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Review of ‘We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service’ by A Tribe Called Quest


Willy Wonka samples, an Elton John feature and some guitar squealing courtesy of Jack White – this was not what I expected from a new Tribe Called Quest album.

Not that I was expecting a new Tribe Called Quest album at all in 2016. I thought the New York rap veterans had long given up making records. And the tragic death of prominent member Phife Dawg in March only bolstered these beliefs. But I clearly wasn’t paying attention, because now we have this glorious surprise instalment, an album that’s clearly had a lot of meticulous labour poured into it, an album that may well be the group’s magnum opus.

That’s a bold term to use – magnum opus (Latin for ‘dopest shit of their career’). Especially when you consider this is the band that gifted us with The Low End Theory

The Wu Tang Clan’s last album, A Better Tomorrow, already provided a window into what aging hip hop sounds like. Hearing the ex-gangsta rappers offer soppy sentiments about the importance of family alongside corny Disney-style hooks had me hoping that A Tribe Called Quest wouldn’t follow in the same footsteps (not that Tribe have ever been gangsta rappers – they’ve always been a little more smooth and sophisticated, so a dad-rap album might have been a less jarring transition). As it turns out, the Queens rappers don’t seem to have settled down. In fact, if anything, they’ve returned sounding more sprightly and energetic than ever before, ready to shake things up. This isn’t just another routine album by some washed up oldies. It’s the opposite – a fresh-faced game-changer that’s caused many a music blogger to make last minute rejigs to their end year list.

Marvellously they’ve done it all without tampering with the foundations of their sound. The beats are still largely dusty boom-bap drums and jazz piano twinkles, with members still trading bars in quick succession (including some pre-recorded bars from Phife). Honorary members even show their face, including Busta Rhymes with his gruff and wild Pentecostal preacher delivery. However, instead of sounding like a rerun, they’ve cunningly modernised their sound.

The sampling and instrumentation has been veneered with digital effects, with segments bleeding creatively into one another (an example being the groovy walking bass of ‘The Space Program’ that segues almost prematurely into the chorus). At times it gets borderline avant-garde, ‘Lost Somebody’ dramatically cutting out and making me think my download was faulty, before returning for guitar squeals from of all people Jack White. The band embrace youthful guests such as Anderson Paak and Kendrick Lamar, with other older emcees such as Kanye and Andre 3000 bridging the gap between old and new. And the song topics are all very current – political anthem ‘We the People’ satirising the right-wing Trump mindset that has swept America, ‘Killing Season’ meanwhile tackling police brutality.

It would be easy for them to use their age and experience to elevate themselves above the rap game of today, to belittle this generation’s attempts at hip hop. But unlike so many of their grumpy middle-aged contemporaries, they instead choose to offer current hip hop artists respect, shouting out to ‘Joey, Earl, Kendrick and Cole/ Gatekeepers of Flow’ on ‘Dis Generation’. It’s this ability to always be respectful that makes Q-Tip and crew so cool. They can be humorous, political, consoling and even sensual (as on ‘Enough!!!’) and nail each mood with conviction, without ever being tasteless. Even the closing track’s confusing title ‘The Donald’ (it doesn’t refer to Trump but to Phife’s nickname ‘The Don’), doesn’t detract from the brilliant tribute it is to the group’s late affiliate.

One of 2016’s many swan-song-albums, there’s a sense of tragedy to the fact that this is the group’s final album (although I’m sure we’ll hear more from Q-Tip). It feels like the boys hit an artistic peak and may have been able to keep running with it and produce other masterpieces were Phife still alive. At least they’ve ended on a high – so many rappers have kept trudging on after the curtain long fell, but A Tribe Called Quest have proudly bowed out to a sea of applause.  

TRACK TASTER:

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

My Top 20 Favourite Tracks Of 2016

It’s time for my favourite tracks of the year, having already given you my worst (there’s a pun here that will become clear by the end).

20. ‘Lemontrees’ – Eagulls 

Indie rock with a Cure vibe that feels as bouncy as it does forlorn. ‘It tastes bittersweet/ beneath the lemon trees’.



19. ‘The Big Big Beat’ – Azealia Banks

This nostalgic house banger has all the ingredients of a good Azealia anthem – glitzy singing, tongue-twister rapping and a big big beat!






18. ‘War Cry’ – Jaggery

With its menacing strings, tribal drums and banshee-warbling, this single is batshit insane and I love it.


17. ‘BitchSlut’ – Anna Wise

Few pop singers can carry such a bold feminist message with such feelgood energy.



16. ‘Spikes’ – Death Grips

Death Grips push their paranoid experimental hip hop sound to new limits with an intensely claustrophobic beat and bafflingly tripped-out lyrics.




15. ‘Tuberculosis’ – Polonium

A sonically brutal attack on the wasted existence of an office drone. ‘I spent the 12 best years of my life behind a desk





14. ‘Speaking Gently’ - BADBADNOTGOOD

Smooth smoky lounge bar jazz complete with sax solo that makes you feel like the protagonist from a 70s action movie.





13. ‘Triple Helix’ – Lone

90s video game nostalgia bottled up into an intense drum and bass banger from electronica deity, Lone.




12. ‘Herside Story’ – Hare Squead

Irish hip hoppers release this summery half-trap-half-soul jam with a catchy chorus and beat that rivals the infectiousness of ‘Hotline Bling’.





11. ‘Heir To The Sugar Honey Queen’ - Ehiorobo

The beat that this DIY soul oddity puts together just keeps excitedly evolving, and his chirpy singing and foody lyrics add to the charm.




10. ‘Moving On’ - Babeheaven



The wispy vocals and delicate chords that open this song are beautiful enough, but then the whole thing erupts into a wash of synth and longing chorus that takes it to a whole new level of brilliance.

9. ‘T5’ – Swet Shop Boys


This attack on airport racial profiling is exactly the music movement that the Western Asian community needs, plus the song packs a mean beat.

8. ‘Well Done’ – Idles


Not only is the message of this song punk-as-fuck, the choice to reference Mary Berry of all people is hilarious and the squealing guitar-work is actually quite creative.

7. ‘Regis Rd’ - Creature From Dell Pond


With its tempo-changes, unusual melancholy chord choices and strikingly dark lyricism, this is a rock band with a sound that is entirely their own (which is something rarely heard these days). The video, which I’ve only just seen, meanwhile is hilariously disturbing and joyfully weird.

6. ‘Don’t Feed Me To Them’ – Pool Art



In spite of how creepy the lyrics are, I always let myself get lulled into a false sense of security by the noise rock group’s initially placid verse guitars and tranquil vocals. The abruptly nightmarish outro feels just as ingeniously terrifying upon every listen.

5. ‘Maybe Sweet One You Won’t Have Nightmares Tonight’ – Father John Misty



Similar to the last track, this lullaby by singer-songwriter Father John Misty lyrically and sonically gets more twisted the further that it goes on. It’s the perfect balance of humour and horror, made all the more entertaining by the singer’s unwaveringly calm delivery.

4. ‘Untitled 02’ – Kendrick Lamar


This has to be the most satisfying beat drop of the year – what you at first assume to be jazzy experimentalism shifts into a brooding trap creeper. Kendrick’s flows and delivery shift inventively throughout the song and I love the trash-talking bars towards the end ‘I can put a rapper on life support/ guarantee that’s something none of you want’.

3. ‘Glowed Up’ – Kaytranada ft. Anderson Paak.


Kay’s spacey electronica and Paak.’s uniquely zonked-out rapping delivery form a match made in heaven. It’s like they’ve created a party tune that’s as equally lively as it is soothing. The soulful outro meanwhile serves as a comedown, both artists slipping into their comfort zones, comfort zones that most other artists are still working towards.

2. ‘Dang!’ – Mac Miller ft. Anderson Paak.


As you can tell, I’ve gone crazy for Anderson Paak this year (although I still prefer his features to his solo work). Mac Miller meanwhile plays a convincing romantic and gives one of his most passionate performances. Whilst other tracks on Mac’s latest album felt ruined by the rapper’s boyishness, here he feels sophisticated and adult enough to carry the gorgeous and playful soul beat.

1. ‘Give It Your Worst’ – False Advertising


Whether you’re a cynical defeatist or an optimistic fighter, the sentiment of this song can still apply. The guitars and hook feel phenomenally upbeat. And yet there’s a grungy and moody tone to the rough distortion and vocal tone. It’s the kind of rock single you can jam for whatever temperament you’re in. I’m also in love the male/female vocal combo – it just gives these guys so much more dynamics. Ugh, I love this song! 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

The 10 Worst Songs of 2016



Forget my worst songs lists of 2014 and 2015 - this year’s list makes those freak shows look like beauty pageants. Whilst there have been some extreme musical highs this year, there have also been many extreme musical lows – some of which I haven’t been able to free from my mind, so I thought I’d share them with you, being the sick person I am. I warn you now - these songs are an advertisement for deafness. They’re enough to make the sadist behind Crazy Frog wince. It is rumoured ISIS considered using these songs for military purposes, but concluded to do so would be against even their moral code. Proceed at your own risk…

10. ‘Y’all Ain’t Trappin’ – 7K


Go on, click the play button. All will become clear around the 0:38 mark. This guy refers to himself as ‘Tupac reborn’ and states that his email address is ‘FOR SERIOUS ENQUIRIES ONLY’. The only reason he’s not higher up on this list is because I’m certain he’s trolling. PLEASE GOD THIS GUY HAS TO BE A TROLL

9. ‘Facts’ - Kanye West



LISTEN HERE

This diss track aimed at Nike, in which the rapper quips ‘Nike treat employees just like slaves’, is rich coming from the guy who happens to be Adidas’s number-one-sponsor. Not that Kanye bothers to stay on topic, spurting out bars about Bill Cosby and couches: ‘couches, couches, couches, couches, which one should I pick? I need extra deep, I like my bitches extra thick’. How did this track make the final cut of his album, when other far superior singles didn’t?

8. ‘Spoons’ – Macklemore


Nobody wants to hear a rap song about spooning. Macklemore goes out of his way to make the topic all the more awkward. He compares his wife’s belly to Gucci Mane at one point, which may be a joke, may be an insult, I haven’t worked it out yet. It’s neither funny nor romantic, instead crudely sappy, enough to make Michael Cera cringe. Unlike ‘Facts’, Macklemore wisely took note of reactions, and left this off his latest album – so I guess that’s a plus.

7. ‘Heard What I Said’ – Cash Out


I can barely hear what this mumble-rapper is saying, but I guess that’s the irony of the title.

6. ‘Like a Bird’ – Tiffany Trump


You really don’t need experience to chase your dreams. Just like her daddy who has shown the world he can become president-elect, Tiffany Trump has chosen to become a singer, regardless of possessing any talent for the role. Having access to money certainly helps.

5. ‘I Want More’ – IceJJFish


In a strange way, I respect this dude more than Tiffany Trump for not doctoring every single note with auto-tune. That said, if out-of-tune falsettos become the next big fad in music, I’m emigrating Earth.

4. ‘Go 4 It’ – Corey Feldman (ft. Snoop Dogg)


I’ve said everything there is to say about Corey Feldman. Read that review and then consider the fact that this isn’t even the worst song on my list.

3. ‘Flatline’ – B.o.B


The beat is distractingly good. It’s a shame B.o.B has to waste it rapping about how he thinks the world is flat. Amongst dissing astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and urging listeners to read up on the work of noted holocaust denier David Irving, the song also mentions ‘mirror lizards’ and ‘a cult called science’. Errrm… what the fuck is a mirror lizard?

2. ‘I’m Vegan!!! Die, Meat-eaters!!!’ – Misha


This militant vegan kid is going to grow up to be a serial killer. He’ll be shooting up kebab shops and butchers stores across the world. And when finally he has massacred the Earth’s meat-eater population, he will celebrate by breaking into his mad spasm-dance, at which point mirror lizards will crawl out of the walls and tear him apart with their laser-beam eyes.  

1. ‘Problem’ – Unicorns Killed My Girlfriend


Having travelled from 2006 through a portal in their Myspace page, these kids are battling to keep crunkcore alive. ‘SHUT THE FUCK UP! YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW ME!’ screams a dude in a red beanie over an obnoxious trap beat, his voice glitched up to sound more edgy. Who is he so angry at? Did his mum interrupt his game of Call of Duty yet again? ‘You got a problem, bitch? Throw your hands up’ begins the emo chick’s stilted rap verse, summoning her opponent to a fist fight, whilst simultaneously holding a baseball bat. She is followed by white Lil Wayne, who tells us he isn’t into dreadlocks and all that ‘gang shit’, succeeding at making an even worse attempt at lip-syncing. Red beanie dude then closes the song by screaming ‘FUCK YOU’ at emo chick repeatedly. It really is quite something to behold.

Friday, 9 December 2016

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 09/12/2016 (CHRISTMAS EDITION): The Melvins, Kelsea Ballerini, Trey Songz and more...



This week is a Christmas special! I’ve rounded up the best and worst new Yuletide jams of 2016. Keep it current this Christmas – play these songs as you cruise back home Christmas Eve in your driverless car that you bought with your Leicester City bet winnings, or play in the kitchen as you cook this year’s roast in that Smart oven you bought with that grand you earnt from selling that AK47 plastic fiver.  

THE BEST:

'Carol of the Bells' - The Melvins


The creepiest Christmas song, Leontovych’s ‘Carol of the Bells’, has just been made even creepier by sludge metal band The Melvins. Listening to the barked vocals and evil guitar harmonisation, I can just picture Christmas trees with teeth and animatronic elves with 360-degree rotating heads. As frontman Buzz explains in a press release: ‘the song has scared us since we were children, that’s why we wanted to do it’.

'My Favorite Things' - Kelsea Ballerini & Joey Alexander


Joey Alexander is a 13-year-old Indonesian piano prodigy. He’s teamed up with 23-year-old country pop singer Kelsea Ballerini here and the result is a beautiful jazz rendition of Sound of Music song ‘My Favorite Things’ (not sure if it counts as Christmas song, although it is on a Christmas album, and I’m pretty sure it was used in a Christmas ad once).

'Coming Home' – Trey Songz


R&B crooner Trey Songz is coming home for Christmas. I’m already waiting in a hot bubble bath with some champagne, mince pies and a santa beard.

'Angry Christmas' - Doomsday Student


Noise-rockers Doomday Student dropped this single back in August (these Christmas singles are getting released earlier and earlier) and comes with an animated selfie-themed music video that’s definitely NSFW. It perfectly suits the song – a hostile avant-garde audial assault made up of ugly dissonant guitar loops and punky vocals. It’s a moot point which is more disturbing – The Melvins’ ‘Carol of the Bells’ or this?
THE WORST:

'Christmas Makes Me Cry' - Kacey Musgraves


I haven’t got time for Debbie Downers at Christmas. Even Lana Del Rey knows her limits. Write something jolly or fuck off.

'Christmas Every Day' - Simple Plan


Did he just sing ‘school is out’?  Jeez, they’ve gotta be hitting, like, forty…

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Review of 'Hardwired ... To Self-Destruct' by Metallica



Brimming with chugga-chugga riffs and double-bass drumming, the thrash metal vets’ new double album is a firm return to their roots. Why then am I still left underwhelmed?

This album should be everything a hardcore Metallica fan like myself ever wanted. There’s none of the wishy-washy commercial rock of Load and Reload.  There’s none of the trashcan snares and painful repetition of St Anger. There’s none of the ‘I am the table’ lyricism of Lulu. And there’s none of the crappy overcompressed production of Death Magnetic. Shouldn’t this be a masterpiece in the league of Master of Puppets?

Admittedly Disc 1’s opener ‘Hardwired’ is a convincingly solid start - mean machine-gun-like triplets paving the way for some speeding thrash and some sweary passionate yell-singing from Hetfield. ‘Atlas, Rise!’ follows with an epic And-Justice-For-All-esque intro and sexy lead riff.

But then things start to falter. The songs gradually lose their playfulness, settling for a relentless mid-tempo pace. Despite their bold and exciting intros, the likes of ‘Now That We’re Dead’ and ‘Halo on Fire’ slowly dissipate into demo-quality riffs and brief passages of wah-wah abuse courtesy of Kirk.

The album cover's quite something too. LOOKS LIKE YO MAMA!

Of course, there are memorable moments and golden tracks sprinkled throughout. ‘Dream No More’ packs some Black-album-esque groove, even if its Audioslave vibe and vocal delivery is a little jarring. ‘Am I Savage’ features a brilliantly brutal harmonic-laden riff towards the back end that almost has a Machine Head quality. Closing track ‘Spit Out The Bone’ meanwhile is a monstrous mosh anthem, set at breakneck speed and featuring some of the band’s most satisfying guitar duelling for decades.

It certainly all has a sense of Metallica authenticity, and the production is infinitely better than its predecessor. But you can’t help but wish it had the pacing of Death Magnetic, a return-to-form album that evenly distributed speedballs, midtempo headbangers and ballads. I guess it's good we didn't get an 'Unforgiven IV', but where's the album's signature soft-turns-heavy number? Where's the instrumental track? Perhaps its these missing ingredients stopping Hardwired from feeling wholesome, even if individual tracks are worth jamming.  

TRACK TASTER:

Saturday, 3 December 2016

INTRODUCING: Forest of Harambe



Meet Forest of Harambe

They’re a Harambe-themed black metal band claiming to hail from Norway.

Complete with tremolo-picked guitars, blast beats and crappy production, their sound is traditional ‘tru kvlt’ black metal. Shrieked and buried deep in the mix, the band’s lyrics are almost impossible to decipher, but if I had to take I guess, I’d say they were most likely gorilla-based.

The band have only a Bandcamp page to their name containing one three track EP titled Under the Sign of Harambe. ‘I Am The Harambe’ kicks off the EP, a menacing fuzz assault set to apeshit snare banging. Second track ‘Dicks Out’ is a slower dirge that gradually swells, less ballsy but still chillingly penetrative, a grow-er as opposed to a show-er. Spooky synth instrumental ‘Den Gratende Primat’ then closes the record, a reflective piece that gives the listener time to contemplate life, the universe and Harambe.


Eager to understand why this fallen gorilla from Cincinatti zoo had so much importance to a black metal band from Norway I took the decision to interview the group. Lead member Ygg Huur was happy to oblige.

Your black metal band is themed around Harambe the Gorilla. Did you know Harambe personally?

Ygg Huur (YH): We did not, though we did follow him for many years. Forest of Harambe comprises of radical eco-terrorists and we were extremely hurt by his senseless murder. We feel that our album is an appropriate tribute.

Under the sign of Harambe is some menacing shit. Explain the meaning behind the track Den Gratende Primat?

YH: The title means "The Crying Ape." It encapsulates the horrors of animal enslavement in a dungeon synth piece that harkens back to the ambient works of Burzum, Depressive Silence, etc.

Who are your influences?

YH: In terms of black metal, we enjoy artists from the Norwegian (Darkthrone etc.), Russian (Forest etc.), Ukrainian (Drudkh etc.), French (Blut Aus Nord etc.), and American (Yellow Eyes, Rhinocervs, etc.) scenes. There are too many to name.

As far as non-black metal music goes, we have varied tastes in music. Our members enjoy anything from post-punk to hip hop to ambient drone.

Politically, we are all influenced by many figures in the radical left. Marx, etc.

Are you really from Hordaland in Norway?

YH: Yes, we are from Bergen.

If Forest of Harambe was a pizza what toppings would it have?

YH: We would most likely be a spinach and feta cheese pizza. The cheese would have to be responsibly sourced.

How do you feel about all the Americans that voted for Harambe in the last election?

YH: We feel that it was foolish and irresponsible. However, we in Norway have a saying that goes like this: "...And even in the next day, the monkfish swims."

What music have you been listening to recently? Anything fans wouldn’t expect?

YH: In general, we have mostly been listening to field recordings of various mammals (and birds to a much lesser extent). During our last tour of southeastern Europe, we listened to a lot of Kate Bush, Deathspell Omega, and Moses Sumney.

What does the future hold for Forest of Harambe?

YH: Our drummer was jailed for burning down a Church's Chicken when we were on tour in Bulgaria. We are on a temporary hiatus until he is released.

Friday, 2 December 2016

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 02/12/2016: Run the Jewels, Little Death Machine, Mr. Twin Sister and more...


It’s December, which means you can now put up your Christmas decorations and year-end lists, although a lot of you impatient fuckers already did that back in September. For those who aren’t currently buying Easter eggs already and planning their 2017 favourite albums list, here are some songs from the last week to remind you what the here and now looks like!

THE BEST:

‘Legend Has It’ – Run the Jewels



Some of the singles previewed off Run the Jewels’ upcoming third album have personally sounded a bit ‘meh’, but this new banger with its stomping beat and wicked boasts has me wetting myself with excitement again. Killer Mike’s line and about going into jail and murdering all the murderers and El-P’s line about every one of his albums being his ‘dick in a box’ are favourites. This duo are simply too badass.

‘Lay Lady Lay’ -  Little Death Machine



London noise/electronic/punk trio Little Death Machine (who I interviewed earlier this year on the blog) deliver this unlikely cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Lay Lady Lay’. It’s got a sensual Moby-meets-Massive-Attack vibe – a total reinvention of the original that I’d love to see picked up in some slick car ad.

‘Poor Relations’ – Mr. Twin Sister



Mr. Twin Sister were one of the first bands I featured when I started this Tracks of the Week section five centuries ago (it’s actually only been two years – can you believe that?). Clearly the Long Island experimental pop group are still going strong, as evident by this new funky jam - lead singer Andrea laying some smoky Bjork-ish vocals over a hypnotic patchwork of Yes-inspired groovy guitars.

‘Give it Up’ – Parallax


UK rapper/producer Parallax is being slept on – I for one can’t believe I’m new to him. Although only a freestyle, the bars here are extra-ordinarily tight and the boom-bap beat is pure sex. Forget all that trap rap for a minute and soak up that old-skool sound.

 ‘I Got Your Message’ – Hideout



This new feelgood indie tune is the work of Hideout, the project of Cults-guitarist Gabe Rodriguez, which may mean something to someone. It’s a warm and cheery hangover song about getting a text from that chick you’ve been into and not being quite able to quite believe it.

THE WORST:

‘I Want More’ – Ice JJ Fish


If out-of-tune falsettos become the next trend in music, I'm emigrating Earth. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Review of 'Splendor & Misery' by clipping.



Blunt, rapey lyrics aren’t usually my thing. I put up with them on this noise-hop trio's latest EP Wriggle (released earlier this year) because the infectiousness made up for it, although I couldn’t help but feel frontman Daveed Diggs was discouragingly dumbing himself down. Where was the vivid and gritty storytelling of previous albums?

It seems Diggs was saving his urban griot talents for this album – a space-themed noise-hop opera that tells the story of a lonely cosmic slave that falls in love with a robot, what seems to me to be a pretty original concept, although it wouldn’t surprise me if an anime has already used this plot (or at the very least a hentai). After a brief fifty-second intro, Diggs immediately breaks into his signature hyperspeed rapping, introducing our space-slave protagonist and his attempts to escape the cargo hold. The usual ‘it’s clipping, bitch!’ catchphrase that kicks off every album is sacrificed to make sure we're invested in the story. It’s a gripping start that sets the more sophisticated tone of the album, Diggs showing off his speed, his precision and lyrical prowess whilst also bringing a new theatrical flair to the table. These theatrics may have been inspired by Diggs’ recent lead role in the Broadway musical Hamilton, which isn’t a musical about Lewis Hamilton or Richard Hamilton or the dude from Apocalype Now as far as I’m aware. In fact, I don’t know anything about Hamilton. I just know that every review of clipping. now needs to give it an obligatory mention, as if we’re all suddenly theatre know-it-alls.

Anyhow, the point of the matter is, this album’s a lot more highbrow than Wriggle, Diggs abandoning the twisted twerk anthems for a sci-fi tale that serves as an allegory for slavery and our relationship with technology. On top of this the group’s sense of catchiness has been foregone in exchange for a more atmospheric approach. Noise-hop without hooks might not sound like something particularly listenable – and indeed I had my doubts during the bleeping backdrop of ‘All Black’. However, whilst tuneless, these instrumentals manage to carry a suspense that compensates for their lack of catchiness. A lot of it feels very cinematic from the siren blasts of ‘Wake Up’ to the bassy action-movie-trailer horns of ‘Break the Glass’. There are elements of a capella gospel, which seem to contribute a natural and earthy vibe to the tracks. And contrastingly there are moments of good old-fashioned harsh noise, just to show clipping. haven’t completely lost touch with their roots.

Overall, it’s a surprisingly cohesive album, and quite an evolution when compared to their noisy debut. clipping. have matured with every LP – Wriggle seemingly thrown in as a red herring. They’ve gone in the polar opposite direction of their often-compared-to contemporaries Death Grips – showing there is a clean and smooth side to noise-hop still to be explored. Who knew noise-hop could be so diverse? At this rate, it’ll be the only genre making up my year-end list. 

TRACK TASTER:

Friday, 25 November 2016

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 25/11/2016: Hare Squead, Metallica, Father John Misty and more...



This week I bring you Irish hip hop, French experimental pop and 'ambient gender terrorism'.

THE BEST:

'Herside Story' – Hare Squead


Ever wondered what Irish hip hop sounds like? Just like American hip hop judging from those accents. But that doesn’t make these guys any less real. Their music video, clearly shot in a neighbour’s greenhouse, is charmingly lo-fi. And that tropical-flavoured trap beat combined with their smooth bars and r&b croons has all the warm and feelgood vibes of a summer pool party. ‘For all the love doers in this cold cold season’, as the trio put it.

'Spit Out The Bone' - Metallica


After two hard rock albums, a nu metal album, some over-compression and whatever the hell that Lulu record was, Metallica seem to have finally returned to form with this new ridiculously-fast thrash epic ‘Spit Out The Bone’. The group have a new LP, Hardwired … to Self Destruct, out that I shall be reviewing some time in the near future. Fingers crossed for more furious chugging and guitar duelling.

'Holy Hell' – Father John Misty



The beautifully cynical singer-songwriter serves up his reaction to the new president-elect in the form of a gorgeous piano ballad. It’s lyrics are gloomy, as I’ve come to expect from Father John Misty, although uncharacteristically the artist does try to end things on a positive note: ‘There’s no-one in control/ And it’s our life to choose

‘Caving In’ - Come Down To Us




There’s some interesting mixing choices being made by this mysterious group describing themselves as ‘ambient gender terrorism’. Why are the drums so buried? Combined with the shiny guitars and dreamy vocal textures it works though. And I’m loving the mushrooms making up the artwork. Was this music made by gnomes and trolls?

'Haze' - Mai Lan


French singer/producer Mai Lin is sporting some serious FKA Twigs vibes here, her vocals dancing over the abstract instrumental backdrop. She recently appeared on that M83 album that I reviewed and loved earlier this year, which you can check out here.

THE WORST:

'2000 Miles' - Daniel Nuver



It was all going so well… and then he opened his mouth.