Saturday, 30 April 2016

Review of 'Slay-Z' by Azealia Banks

Azealia Banks has always been remarkably talented at being dislikable.

On the other hand, her music has always been annoyingly good. As a result, one can feel very conflicted. This is a girl who can get into a Twitter feud with Sarah Palin and still come out looking like the deluded one. However, this is also the girl who gave us ‘212’ and ‘Chasing Time’ and all the dazzling beauty of her 1991 EP.

Azealia in one of many twitter beefs

I’ve tried to like her as a person, but there’s only so much homophobia and trash-talking that I can take. Similarly, I’ve tried hard to dislike her music, reminding myself of ‘ATM Jam’ only to get sucked back again by the seapunk spleandour of her Fantasea mixtape.

In each instance I failed. Until now.

Released out of nowhere, the Harlem hip hop artist’s brand new mixtape Slay-Z has evened the scales – although not in the way I would have preferred. Sadly she hasn’t improved her public persona to meet the high quality of her music.

No, instead she’s lowered the quality of her music to match her dislikable personality.

The glitzy singing, the creative beats and the acrobatic flows – all the things that made Azealia stand out – have been largely stripped away. The result is a big gaudy pop opener that sounds like it could feature Ella Henderson, two generic trap rap anthems that any rapper with a mic could jump on, and some forgettable house-rap anthems. There aren’t any catchy hooks. There aren’t any Ariel Pink covers, or standout naughty lines, or tropical Lone beats or other fun eccentricities. Instead, we get bland chart fodder and a Rick Ross collab.

Alright, I lie, there is one diamond in the rough, and that’s ‘The Big Big Beat’. Sporting a shimmering nineties-flavoured house instrumental, some energetic rolling flows and a gorgeous singing performance, this tracks contains everything that makes Azealia so great – a musical sophistication that makes up for her lack of classiness outside the recording studio.

This track does show that she’s still got it in her to make gems. Were I to rate this album on this track alone it would be an easy five stars. But alas I must cater for the remaining disappointing duds, dragging this record down.

Given this is a freebie mixtape, I can only hope that Azealia is saving her talents for a full-length album, and that she doesn’t continue down this road of mediocrity in pursuit of commercial success. Or maybe she’s going to surprise us all and adopt a Mother Teresa personality to make up for her music. Who knows?

Friday, 29 April 2016

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 29/04/2016: DJ Shadow, Jammz, The 1975 and more...

This week I bring you new music without exploiting Prince's death or giving Beyonce any more unneeded publicity...


'Punch drunk sober' – Throws

Formed whilst on an escapade to Iceland (the country, not the supermarket), Throws is the new project from ex-Tuung members Mike Lindsay and Sam Genders. This first taster of their upcoming album is an intoxicating cocktail of indie rock, synthpop and Bowie-esque madness sure to leave you thirsty for more. Punch-drunk sober? More like punch-drunk-superb! (whoah ... was that supposed to be a pun? Because that was punch-drunk-stupid...)

'Eat Shiitake mushrooms' - Let's Eat Grandma

This isn’t an instrumental track. The alt-pop duo just like to tease, the long twinkling build-up eventually bursting into a dance beat that finally makes way for the UK group’s chirpy vocals. It’s hypnotically suspenseful. If it weren’t for the highly unsettling band name, I might even think that Let's Eat Grandma were kinda cute-sounding. As it stands, I can't quite trust the sweetness, break constantly expecting them to break into black metal or something equally terrifying.

'Nobody Speak' - DJ Shadow & Run the Jewels

Picture this, I’m a bag of dicks’ is the beautiful opening line from El-P. Yes, both him and Killer Mike are at it again, now teaming up with the legendary DJ Shadow having finished rapping with cats. Overall, the pulsing beat and Run the Jewel's signature dose of rodomontade make for some serous badassery that I can see boxers entering the ring to.

'Steamer' - Virus

Ominously dissonant riffage and tempestuous percussion make up this menacing metal maelstrom, somehow made more chilling by the clean vocals of the top delivered like carefully calculated psychopath talking to himself in his basement. There's even some spooky theremin to add to the theatrical horror vibe. When asked to explain the track by Decibel magazine, vocalist/guitarist Czral gave this bizarre explanation: 'a tribute to extinct instincts and Chernobyl Wildlife'.

'Serious Issues' – Jammz

Too much of today’s grime isn’t really grimy at all – the production's more polished than a policeman's shoes. It’s therefore good to see Jammz dishevelling things up, jumping on a raw and gritty beat, rapping so passionately and speedily he’s barely able to stay with the rhythm. The track comes straight off his new mixtape Underdog Season which is out now.


'A Change of Heart' - The 1975

Straight off their new album, I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are so Beautiful, and This Album Title is Creepy and Long-winded (may have misquoted that!), this new single hasn't got much going for it. There’s not a hook or interesting feature in sight other than the annoying synth lead. It kind of sounds like Savage Garden with all colour drained out. I hated this song when I first heard it on the record and haven’t had a change of heart since.  

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

INTRODUCING: All Hail Hyena!

Meet All Hail Hyena!

They're a balmy band from Burnley known for regularly playing gigs in their pyjamas, as well as producing their own zine. The group also has a new EP out. It's currently on sale on Music Glue for the minimum sum of £1,000,000.

Crazy stuff, right? I've only just scratched the surface...

Are you familiar with an implement called a damp detector? According to the group, it’s ‘a tool for detecting the dampness of genitalia and walls’. It’s also the title of their new odd and exciting EP, which you can stream below for free. Or you can buy it if you're Bill Gates.

Needless to say, this is a group with an equally deranged sound. Opening with 'Man Up', the first track soon sets the tone with it's twangy guitars and reverb-drenched-Flaming-Lips-esque vocals, the chorus breaking briefly into Obituary-style-death-metal like it's nothing.

Lyrically, things are just as erratic. 'Doing Yr Dole Wrong' is a personal favourite of mine, quite possibly one of the greatest anti-love songs I've ever heard: 'There's something in the way you fuck me (kiss me!)'. Title track 'Damp Detector' meanwhile sees frontman Jay Stansfield emotively singing about an indigent woman giving blowjobs to strangers. It's all very thrilling, curiously arousing and simultaneously slightly disturbing.

The group aptly describe their sound like so: ‘we are the feeling you get when you first dip your knees into a warm bath; the exciting shudder you develop when peeing after a long and arduous bus ride.’

All in all, these guys are a bunch of absolute nutters. In other words, they possess everything I look for in my music (it helps that their music is also impressively creative, fantastically hilarious and alarmingly catchy).

Eager to get a little more intimate with the band, I decided to arrange an interview, the comical results of which can be found below...

So firstly, I’m curious about the band name. Where did it come from?

AHH (All Hail Hyena!): A dear, dear friend lost a baby to a hyena attack on a safari holiday. The name is a tribute to her fallen child.

Any interesting hyena facts?

AHH: Hyenas are scavengers and work in packs much like ourselves.

Photograph of hyenas

I’m loving your demo, Damp detector! You guys have a really unique sound. Who are some of the musicians that influenced you?

AHH: Pavement, Roy Orbison, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Late Genesis, ELO, Little Mix, Taylor Swift, The Beatles, Bette Midler, Axes, Cardiacs, Commiserations and Kanye West.

Who are some of the musicians that didn’t influence you?

AHH: Kanye West, Marlon Brando, Leigon Sanders, Jonny Bratvurst, Graham Storton, The Rolling Stones, Early Rush.

The shades look familiar
Damp Detector is currently on sale for the small sum of £1,000,000! I just checked my pockets and realised I don’t have that kind of money (although I did find a fruit pastille from a couple months ago). Is there any other way for fans to purchase your EP?

AHH: No but come and watch us and we might have some there...they come free with our Hyenazine but we do a limited run of 20 issues so when they're gone...well, we print 20 copies of the next issue.

Having had a brief stalk through your Facebook profile I see that you recently went to Abbey Road studios. What was that like?

AHH: Cool as fuck...we met up with OSSIC who are developing some revolutionary audio headphones. It's an adventure that's just beginning and we are blown away to be a part of it. We also sniffed the seat John Lennon supposedly sat on. In the toilets.

Best gig story?

AHH: The one gig at that one venue with all the nudists and killer bees. A six-foot tall metal fan asked us to take off our pyjamas. We'll leave the rest to your filthy imagination.

You guys have your own zine. What’s in it?

AHH: Porn, lyrics, sex tips, educational material, Victorian medical diagrams, serial killers and wordsearches, quizzes, puzzles, free gifts. Fantangers, feldanes and sondrats. Let's not forget fengensnatches. It's a Hyenazine of tremendous pulp.

Sample of Hyenazine and its fengensnatches

What does the future hold for All Hail Hyena?

AHH: Jetpacks and an adventure into an audio revolution with OSSIC. And world domination of course. 

Follow the band at @AllHailHyena

Sunday, 24 April 2016

BEST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 24/04/2016: Gruff Rhys, Gojira, Ariana Grande and more...

I’ve been having computer problems recently, so I apologise for the two day delay with this weekly segment (yes, I know, you wouldn’t hear Pitchfork coming up with an excuse like that!). I’ve decided to make up for the delay by bringing you lots of good music – no ‘worst tracks’ this week! The theme is Europe

'I Love EU' – Gruff Rhys

Welsh singer-songwriter Gruff Rhys dedicates this big soppy love ballad to Europe and the EU in light of the upcoming referendum in which all us Brits will get to decide whether we stay or leave the European Union. Politics is something I actively avoid covering on this blog and I’m going to be mature and not enter a debate but IF YOU VOTE TO LEAVE YOU A FOOL! Anyway, whatever your opinion is on the matter, this light-hearted ode to baguettes and castanets ought to provide some entertainment value.

'Stranded' – Gojira

And so begins the Eurotrip. First stop France. Nature-loving groove metal titans Gojira have a new ‘emotional’ ‘epic’ album in the works entitled Magma, and this our first glimpse at things to come. It sounds a bit less proggy than previous works – elitists will claim the belting chorus is too ‘poppy’ – but the stomping riff is undeniably infectious and Mario’s drumming is monstrous as usual.

'Faint' – Beffroi

Next, we head to Belgium, the home of this fresh electropop duo Beffroi. There’s all kinds of stuff happening with this beat – the chillingly noisy intro making way for suspenseful minimal 808s followed by some beautifully brooding synths – and as for the chick’s vocals, they’re impressively unique in tone and so seductive I tried hard not to swoon and faint.

'100 Goosebumps' – FEWS

One of the founding members of this band is Swedish. The other is Californian. They both met on Myspace back when it wasn’t a social media wasteland, later meeting in real life, moving to London and eventually setting up FEWS. The pleasant opening had me expecting something slow, but no – the whole track suddenly accelerates into a chugging indie mosh anthem. It's intense!

'Let Me Love' - Ariana Grande

Alright what’s the European connection here? Ariana Grande is half-Italian or something, I guess that’ll have to do. Anyway, here’s my guilty pleasure of the week – the latest release from ex-Disney sweetheart Ariana Grande. The way the rhythm builds up is pretty creative, plus there’s something hypnotically gloomy about Ariana’s vocals and the instrumental, even if Lil Wayne’s blabbering verse temporarily kills the mood.

'Stupidest' – Stove

Finally, I bring you indie rock with blast beats – the kind of noisy off-kilter stuff that could only be the product of Exploding In Sound records. Kaleidoscopic semi-disturbing vegetable-themed visuals accompany it. I’m not going to lie to you; there is no European link here – Stove are from Connecticut formed by ex-Ovlov-frontman Steve Hartlett. Rock out, do drugs and eat your greens!

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Review of 'Gore' by Deftones

Who would have thought an album called Gore would be so pretty?

Eight albums in, the American ex-nu-metallers-turned-heady-headbangers are still going strong, now at their prettiest. I mean just look at how gorgeous they all look...

Their music’s sounding rather pretty these days too – and by that I don’t mean Deftones are turning all cute and cuddly and soft. This record certainly isn’t short of heavy moments – sludgy riff-fest ‘Doomed User’ being a great example, as well as the gradually decelerating breakdown at the end of title track ‘Gore’ which sees Chino screaming his organs out over ten-ton guitars. Yes, Deftones are still very much a metal band. However, they also aren’t afraid to show their sweeter side, Chino offering some of his most impassioned croons to date over guitars that border on ambient.

The mood is a mix of gloom and euphoria, punctuated by brief bouts of anger that serve more to move the listener emotionally than physically. Previous albums such as Diamond Eyes and White Pony have always leant this way, but still contained a couple of dumbed-down mosh anthems in the mix, whereas Gore feels wholly cerebral.

That isn’t to say previous hooks like ‘Guns! Razors! Knives!’ and ‘Shove it! Shove it! Shove it!’ aren’t sorely missed – in their attempt to be more mature the aging axe-wielders do sacrifice catchiness on this record.

However, too often Gore is hypnotic enough that it can pull the listener in without hooks. Like a Greek mythological siren, Chino Moreno’s soft voice seduces you into it’s icy depths, before swiftly assaulting you with its monstrous side – his inhaled screams proving to be just as unique in tone as his delicate singing.

A sense of simplicity also makes up for their lack of singalong moments. Whilst they do dabble in the odd time signatures here and there, Deftones avoid self-indulgent complexity. In fact they rarely use their talents to show off, avoiding flashy guitar solos and hyperspeed drumming. They treat metal like an art rather than a sport.

And there you have it: Gore – a visceral mingling of brain, muscle and heart that’s bloody beautiful. I thought I’d be over Deftones by now but no, like the Simpsons and GTA, they’re a product of the nineties that continues to soldier on and win me over.


Friday, 15 April 2016

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 15/04/2016: BADBADNOTGOOD, Jaggery, Clique and more…

BMWs, biohazard suits and Baywatch-star-boobs – I do talk some shit in these weekly segments. But bare with me, the music makes up for it.


‘Speaking Gently’ -  BADBADNOTGOOD

From dark jazz to post-rock-with-808s to Ghostface-Killah-topped-soul – BADBADNOTGOOD’S musical style in the last half-decade has gone through more changes than Pamela Anderson’s cup size. The Canadian instrumental trio’s latest direction as showcased in this track sees them picking up the groove, beginning with some sparkly keys before bringing in some drums and flutes and sax. Bring on the new album. My body is ready…

‘None of Your Love’ - BOYBOY

Want to hear something else groovy? This glitzy synthpop track from producer BOYBOY ought to do the trick. Find yourself a biohazard suit and proceed with caution. The chorus is extremely infectious.

‘Tekkers’ – Three Trapped Tigers

Still want more groove? Jesus Christ, any more and you’ll do yourself some shoulder damage. Alright, alright, you can quench your thirst with this stimulating electrorock instrumental (if electrorock wasn’t already a genre, it is now). Synths and guitars are no stranger to one another, but here their matching vibrant tones make for a refreshing sonic cocktail.

‘Garden’ - Jaggery

As you can tell from the song choices so far, I’m not one for slowburners. However, I’ll make an exception with fairytale self-proclaimed avant-rockers Jaggery, given they’re the type of crackers band that can’t do boring. Pretty piano, soothing strings and some woozy synths offer a hypnotic backdrop to Mala Singer’s powerful vocals and witty lyrical introspection. The track is off of Jaggery’s upcoming album ‘Crux’, which I already reviewed on this blog here.

‘Boundaries’ - Clique

The bus driver screams at me/ out of his half-cracked window’. The two singers with their dispirited vocal tones sound like they’re tired of life and its dramas. It’s a talent to sound both miserable and charming, but these Philly rockers manage it by also adding a sense of humour and a sense of genuine pain. Screw all these whiny modern emo bands. This is how you do it with conviction.


'BMW' – Yentown

This Jap trap rap does go hard, but the hook is stupidly silly: ‘BMW! It’s my car! It’s my car!’ 

Saturday, 9 April 2016

INTRODUCING: Little Death Machine

It’s time to introduce and interview another idiosyncratic band I found on the internet. Meet Little Death Machine.

Hailing from South London, this trio of sonic cyborgs have forged their own unique sound, one that is refreshingly human and yet also menacingly mechanical. Raw distorted guitars and angsty shouty vocals collide with seismic sub-bass, industrial percussion and other digital bludgeonings. It’s a fusion of electronica, noise and punk that’s cold and steely as it is organic. It’s music that you and your robot friends can listen to (next time you, SIRI and your Furby want to go to a gig together - a situation I've been in many a time - try Little Death Machine).

Influences include experimental acts such as Death Grips, Bjork, Health and Saul Williams. Don’t expect any chart-friendly bangers. But don’t expect avant-garde self-indulgent wankery either. For all their challenging abrasiveness and genre meddling, this is a group with a strong sense of groove and a respect for song-writing.

Dreaming in Monochrome is their latest EP. It’s a gloomy, bustling, noisy musical maelstrom, each track sucking the listener further into its icy depths. ‘Purgatory’ is the closest the group come to a ballad, and even here the percussion is ominously bassy. Listen to the invigoratingly hard-hitting ‘Healthy’ below and you’ll get the idea.

Eager to understand the band’s dark and twisted sound more, I took the opportunity to interview the group’s frontman Daniel Cross. Read on for a dark and twisted discussion involving music preferences and pineapple on pizza...

Your band is named after a sculpture by the Chapman brothers. They have some pretty gristly artwork. Are you fans of their work?

Daniel Cross: I’m a really big fan. I'm really into all of their work but the Little Death Machine sculpture is probably my favourite. I think they use humour in a really interesting way, shock humour. I love the gritty aesthetic, it seems to have add a sense of realness and honesty to their art.

Little Death Machine by the Chapman Brothers

It’s impossible to lump you guys under one genre. Which genres would you say do you borrow from the most?

Firstly thank you for not asking us to describe our genre. We're magpies really, taking parts that get our attention. It could be anywhere really, one of our main rules when producing is not to be precious about our 'sound', we always want to expand. We’ll always take a lot from electronic music, I think there’s always potential for sonic growth using that palette. We also borrow heavily from hip hop in a groove sense & a punk with the mindset that we can do whatever we want. 

Imagine Little Death Machine was a pizza. What kind of topping would it have?

Black Olives, pine nuts & a small amount of pineapple (just on one slice though). 

You name Death Grips as an influence. I’m a big DG fan. Favourite album?

That’s really hard to say, if I had to pick I would probably say No Love Deep Web just because it was the first album of there’s I properly checked out. It’s got such a cold, abrasive sound to it. I go through phases of Fashion Week a lot as well.

Censored artwork for No Love Deep Web

It's out of No Love Deep Web and The Money Store for me! What other music are you guys into right now? Anything listeners wouldn’t expect?

I’m still listening to Kendrick Lamar's ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ a lot, I was a bit late to it but really loving it. Saul Williams’ new album is brilliant, I keep falling back into Ryan Adams as well, I’m really into his stuff which I don’t think is an obvious link. Jason’s  been playing me a lot of older stuff that he’s into at the moment, stuff like Blue Nile & Toto, again probably not an obvious connection. Jamie’s really into Jesus Fucking Christ which is fun, we keep missing him when ever he’s over though. 

Your new EP is electrifyingly brilliant. It’s going to be available as a USB – is that right?

Thank you. Yes, we’ve got a deluxe edition which is only available from our website & gigs which includes a USB of the tracks and videos, a screen print and a tote bag. We print all of our own merchandise so we wanted to make a special bundle which included the videos and going with a USB seemed to fit with the mood of the EP really well. 

Explain the title Dreaming in Monochrome?

It comes from that nostalgic headspace where you can look back and only see chapters of your life in one light, forgetting any complexities and romanticising the past. 

What are Little Death Machine live shows like?

We aim to make it an immersive experience, we project visuals across the whole stage  and trigger them live with the music, we swap our set lists around constantly but tend to have an even mix of the slower trippy songs with the harsher, louder ones. Our launch party for Dreaming in Monochrome was really fun as we paired it with an exhibition featuring ten brilliant artists which gave the night a really great vibe. 

What next for the band? Any exciting future plans?

I’m just trying to finish our first album at the moment, i’ve been working on it since last summer and it’s certainly taken on very different characteristics to what we’ve done before. We’re just getting a tour together for May and hopefully one in August as well which I’m really excited about and hopefully some more bigger support slots later in the year. 

Follow Little Death Machine at @LDMofficial

Friday, 8 April 2016

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 08/04/2016: Schoolboy Q, Tinie Tempah, Kaytranada and more...

I’ve been binging on mostly hip hop this week, so I apologise to all you non-rap fans. All I can say is DAT BEAT THO…


'Groovy Tony' - Schoolboy Q

DAT BEAT THO. I mean, sure, I’ve missed this Top Dawg signee and his mean delivery, but it’s the tussling percussion and those staccato ‘blank face’ chants that have me hooked. As far as I’m aware the 'Tony' in the title refers to Scarface villain Tony Montana, Schoolboy Q likening himself to the evil movie gangster: ‘Robbin your kids too/ my heart an igloo/ the devil all in blue’. Well, it certainly isn't about Tony Blair, is it?

'Flash' - Tinie Tempah

Tinie Tempah’s lyrics here aren’t anything special, I’m not going to lie to you. And the UK rapper actually released this is a fair while back (so I've only just learnt)… BUT DAT BEAT THO!!! Honestly, can grime get any grimier? This beat is practically Death-Grips-level filthy. It’s off the Richter Scale. IT BANGS HARDER THAN YO MAMA

'Glowed Up' - Kaytranada ft. Anderson Paak

Californian rapper/singer Anderson Paak certainly has his own engagingly unique vocal style going on here. BUT DAT BEAT THO (all right, all right, enough of that)!!! Adding in a fantastic beat change-up at the three minute mark, Kaytranada lays down an impressively glitzy soul/trap instrumental certain to uplift you for the day.

'Fever' – Luna Rosa

Reminiscent in suspenseful atmosphere to Oxford group Foals, these Northamptonshire indie rockers lay down some great guitar work, as well as some gorgeously anthemic vocals. The ‘I’ve got a fever’ line has been in my head all day, infectious as the very fever it describes.

'Turn Around' - Pink Fireball

The music video couldn’t be more accurate – groovy guitars, huge horns and flashy vocals make for an absolute roller-coaster of a track. The UK rock quartet even add in an electric bluegrass section mid-way as an extra little twist.


'Heard What I Said' - Cash Out ft. Young Sizzle

Cash Out’s mumble-rapping isn’t doing it for me. Dat beat tho? No, even this aspect remains flaccid.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Review of 'Imperial' by Denzel Curry

Take some meaty trap rap. Sprinkle in some crushed shrooms for that touch of psychedelia. Mix until cloudy. Add some social consciousness to spice things up. Throw a couple of addictively sweet hooks into the mix. Turn the anger and energy up to 100°C and leave to simmer. You have a Denzel Curry.

Bon Appetit

I’ve been keenly following this Floridian rapper’s career since he dropped his debut Nostalgia 64 – keeping a daily check on his Twitter feed, sitting outside his house at night with binoculars – and it’s interesting to see how the artist had refined his style. Whilst his debut was a mix of bangers and psychadelia, his follow-up double-EP-semi-album-thing 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms saw him dividing the tracklist into one-half-trap, one-half-trip. Now on his third album, he’s decided to fuse it all together, every track a blend of hard-hitting 808s and woozy synths topped with Curry’s most energetic spitting to date.

Lyrically, there’s something to appeal to all breeds of hip hop head here. ‘ULT’ is a big boastful anthem with an infectious singalong hook for the party rap fans, whilst ‘Narcotics’ is an attack on racial profiling for the social observation lovers. Thankfully he’s retired the weed worship that was on his previous albums. As someone who doesn’t smoke the herb, stoner anthems do nothing for me. METH IS MORE MY THING.

Arguably, this may be Curry’s most sonically-samey record to date. Almost every track sticks to the 808s-and-woozy-synths formula instrumentally. Curry’s flows meanwhile are jammed in fifth gear, relentlessly angry and stupendously fast. The constantly high energy of the beats and flows is both impressive and utterly exhausting to listen to. Only do the last two tracks allow a breather, the charmingly introspective ‘This Life’ and the vaguely jazzy ‘If Tomorrow’s Not Here’. The rapper redeems himself somewhat, but I can’t help but feel a couple softer tracks earlier on might have eased the pace. I’m not asking for a Celine Dion cover, just a few less blue-in-the-face bangers.

That said, even if the album’s unyielding energy is a little exhausting, it feels rewardingly so like a workout at the gym as opposed to an exhausting day on the sofa. This seems like the psychadelic trap rap album A$AP Rocky wanted to make. I can’t say its better than Curry’s previous two albums, although it is certainly less messy. If anything, Curry’s just keeping to the same consistently high standard as he always has been, which is fine by me.  


Saturday, 2 April 2016

Review of 'This Is What the Truth Feels Like' by Gwen Stefani

Why do you have to go and make me like you?

So goes the hook from the fourth track. It also neatly sums up my thoughts on Gwen Stefani (well, at least for the first few tracks of this record…).

Undoubtedly, the ex- No-Doubt-frontwoman has delivered some pop classics throughout her career, crafting the beautiful ballad ‘Don’t Speak’ and teaching kids how to spell bananas with her hip-hop-infused hit ‘Hollaback Girl’. However, a lot of it’s been gratingly girly and slightly obnoxious too.

Following the single ‘Spark the Fire’, which saw her rapping stupid lines like ‘I am a Libra/let’s balance the scales’, I kind of hoped this album would be an embarrassing flop, one that I could easily sink my teeth into and get to practice my brutal panning skills on.

Me getting ready to pan this album

However, Gwen decided to annoyingly cut this track from the record, instead releasing a breezy breakup album following her divorce with Gavin Rossdale.

The tracks aren’t bad enough to tear apart. In fact, for the first few songs, I actually found myself enjoying the record.

Gwen’s vocals are on top form. They’re bouncy, catchy, sultry yet sweet, melodramatic but never serious enough for it to matter. Despite being 46, she still sounds young (and looks it – is she Dorian Grey?). But this isn’t another case of Madonna’s Rebel Heart – Gwen avoids Diplo-produced beats and tasteless teenage topics, staying fresh and modern but acting her age. ‘Where Would I Be?’ is a wholly lovable pop-reggae song, whilst ‘Make Me Like You’ sees her riding a fun eighties synthpop groove.

Honestly how?

Sadly, Gwen’s newfound sensibility does turn out to be a double-edged sword. Whilst she refrains from being obnoxious, she does settle for drastically dull lyrics that might be emotive if they weren’t so dumbed down. Bringing no new perspectives to the hackneyed subject of heartbreak, she simply belts out cliché after cliché. Lofty synth-driven ballad ‘Used to love you’ is as lyrically generic and purposeless as its title suggests. Really, Gwen, you used to love your husband? But now you’re both divorced and you don’t?  That’s certain to inspire heartbroken listeners everywhere.

These simplistic lyrics might not matter much if the music made up for it throughout, but after the first couple tracks the beats start to progressively get less exciting too, so that in the end Gwen’s vocals really are the only thing driving the album.

In the end, as likeable as she remains, it just feels like she’s playing it safe at this point. But given the lack of radio airplay this doesn’t seem to be working very well. It begs the question – how does a female pop star in her forties compete to stay in the charts? Trying to fit in with the shock-based Mileys and Lady Gagas like Madonna has done certainly isn’t the answer. Neither is staying stuck in the past like Kylie, who’s still churning out eighties electropop tracks. Maybe there is no way to fit in to this youth-dominated world of twerking Tinashes and cutesy Carly Rae Jepsens, most of whom are even younger than me. Maybe she’d be better off going down an experimental path like Bjork or Roisin Murphy at this stage. It’s sad, but this is what the truth feels like (yeah, I had to end it on a pun).


Friday, 1 April 2016

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 01/04/2016: Big K.R.I.T, Celebration Guns, Polonium and more...

Eaten all your Easter eggs? Need another stimulus? No need to fear, Alasdair is here, bringing you these tasty tunes to sink your teeth into. Sugary themes include psychopathy and the nihilistic realities of working life.


‘Remorse’ – Gregor

A lack of remorse is generally a sign of psychopathy. Whilst Gregor’s monotone vocal delivery may seem a bit apathetic and the 80s-esque instrumental a little Patrick Bateman, I’m willing to assume from the cartoonish feel of the track that the Melbourne singer isn’t really the psycho he envisages (trust me, it takes one to know one…).

'Ready to Go' - Celebration Guns

Arizona rock band Celebration Guns release this jangly indie song that seems to sporadically go off in all directions and yet somehow never feel messy. It’s like throwing a palette of paint at a blank canvas and somehow creating a Turner landscape.  

'Tuberculosis' - Polonium

I spent the 12 best years of my life behind a desk’. Whilst pop stars like Lunchmoney Lewis and Rihanna are busy brainwashing us to work harder (see here), these New York noise-punks are fighting back with this smothering ode to wasted youth. The chugging guitars and machine gun percussion perfectly capture the brutality and relentlessness of being trapped in a 9 to 5 office job. Listen here.

'So Bad' - Big K.R.I.T

‘So Bad’ is thankfully anything but. Revered for having some of the fieriest flows in the game, Mississippi rapper Big KRIT decides to tone things down on this new track. To the accompaniment of a gorgeous gospel-flavoured beat, he proves that he can sound just as good laid-back as he can spitting at hyperspeed (relatively speaking, that is. Compared to Earl Sweatshirt, he’s still bouncy as a ping-pong ball).   

‘May Flower’ – Byron Major

If these funky vocals and gleaming chords don’t leave you warm inside, you clearly lack a pulse. Or ears. Most likely both. This South African ‘soultronic’ artist may well be this generation's Stevie Wonder.


'Big Talk' - Azealia Banks

Creative beats, glitzy singing and acrobatic flows – these are the things I listen to Azealia for, none of which she displays here. This is trap rap at it's most generic. Plus, Rick Ross is on it.