Sunday, 19 November 2017
When does a rock act stop being reliable and start becoming predictable?
Dave Grohl and Liam Gallagher don’t have much in common on the surface. Personality-wise they’re on polar opposite ends of the spectrum – one is a relentlessly humble crowd-pleasing ambassador of US rock, whilst the other is a straight-talking Twitter-rowing cocky jack-the-lad of Britpop fame. So why have I decided to lump them both under one review, other than being the lazy sod I am?
Hear me out. Both artists rose to fame in the 90s making catchy, stylistically-unique rock anthems and have since continued to remain omnipresent personalities in the rock scene. Even after the inevitable Oasis breakup, Liam continued to make music via his Beady Eye project, whilst Grohl has continued to front the Foo Fighters despite every other member seemingly being replaced. Each rock star has brought an influential and distinctive sound that they’ve stayed loyal to and right now they’re both at a very similar stage in their careers.
Gallagher and Grohl have both made half-hearted attempts to deviate their style in recent years. The Foos formula of epic guitars, singalong chorus and occasional screeches was traded in on their 2014 album Sonic Highways for some classic rock homages, but you could hardly call it a fresh new direction. Similarly, Liam Gallagher’s attempt to do something new with Beady Eye ended up more like a cheap imitation of The Rolling Stones, of whom Oasis were already influenced by.
Given these small deviations didn’t work, the two artists have now gone back to their original sounds. Reliability can be comforting – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But after twenty five years of the same shtick, you have to wonder whether the magic is starting to wear off.
I say this as a diehard Foos fan and a long-time Oasis lover. Both Concrete and Gold and As You Were turned out to be everything I anticipated. There’s even signs that they’re now ripping off their old songs. The Foos 9th album begins with an acoustic intro titled ‘T-shirt’ that sounds identical to the opener of 1997’s The Colour And The Shape. ‘For What Is It Worth’ meanwhile feels distinctly like a watered-down ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’. These may well be deliberate self-references, but it doesn’t make them feel any less derivative.
Of course, both artists can still craft tunes that feel original and infectious enough to make you forgive the blander moments. The Foos lay down a three-hit-combo at the beginning of the record including screech-along lead single ‘Run’, groovy Aerosmith-esque ‘Make it Right’ and belting stomper ‘The Sky Is A Neighbourhood’ that almost has an Imagine Dragons tinge to it (in the best possible way). Liam’s ‘Wall of Glass’ meanwhile opens As I Were in spectacular style with squealing harmonica and bluesy guitar, whilst true anthems such as tumbling ‘I Get By’ and hazy ‘When I’m In Need’ spring up later in the tracklist.
Both artists have never tried too hard when it comes to lyrics. At this point it’s a mixture of clichés and nonsense, although Liam’s horror-themed balderdash ‘She gotta 666/ I got my crucifix/ She got a spinning head/ Likes The Ungrateful Dead’ is a lot more witty and entertaining than the Foos’ ode to aliens ‘The Sky is A Neighbourhood’. That said the Foos have the advantage that their LP is half the length of As You Were, which begins to overstay it’s welcome beyond ‘Come Back To Me’.
Gallagher and Grohl certainly have put some graft into these albums and both have a superb ear for melody and a good chorus, but both could benefit from coming up with an album concept rather than creating another medley of songs. Consider Queens of the Stone Age’s latest release – whilst I did find the production off-putting, you can’t argue that it has its own flavour. A reliable recipe works only for so long – sooner or later people want to taste something new.
Concrete and Gold by The Foo Fighters: ★★★☆☆
As You Were by Liam Gallagher: ★★★☆☆
Friday, 17 November 2017
I’ve had to take a couple weeks out of blogging to focus on other commitments (I had some brain surgery patients to attend to, plus I had to do a couple shifts on the moon for NASA), but now I’m back and ready to type away like a Hollywood computer hacker, keeping you updated on the best and worst songs on the web so that you can sleep peacefully at night.
‘Lemon’ - N.E.R.D ft. Rihanna
Pharrell Williams and his alt rap project N.E.R.D are back with their first material since 2010. The bubbly beat makes me want to get up and pop dance moves like the bald chick in the music video, not that I’d want to show her up with my dancefloor talent. Rihanna also appears on the track - not singing but rapping. Who knew she could spit bars? She’s not as good a rapper as myself, but hey, we can’t all be as amazing as me.
‘Tears’ – Kaizen
Opening with twinkly synths that could score the sad scene from a Studio Ghibli movie, the last thing I expected was to be assaulted by an ear-piercing cacophony of extreme dubstep wubs. It’s completely inappropriate. I feel like I’ve just watched the tragic stampede scene from the Lion King only for Mufasa to suddenly reanimate as a zombie and gnaw Simba’s head off. I feel violated. At the same time, I can’t help but find it impressive and amusing.
‘Someone Who Loves You’ – Loveless Death Scene
Talking of death scenes, LA psych rock act Loveless Death Scene caught my ear this week with this new melancholy track. There’s a hazy shoegaze quality to it – only the guitars have been warped with phasers rather than being swamped with reverb. Loveless Death Machine have a new EP out called Hopeless Dream Machine – my fellow music junkies can stream it here.
‘Change’ – Strangely Enough
After a build-up of Muse-like riffs and an explosive chorus, I thought I had this Brisbane rock act figured, but instead the song diverts into a guitar solo followed by a beautifully ambient interlude. 'Change' lives up to it's name by constantly changing direction (and the band live up to their name by being strange enough).
‘Walk On Water’ – Eminem ft. Beyoncé
Eminem needs to stop writing songs about writing songs. It’s getting tedious now, and it doesn’t help that he’s starting to sound like a cornier version of Macklemore. Even Beyoncé is unable to salvage it with her sappy chorus. The whole thing just ends up being a duller version of Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s ‘See You Again’.
‘X-Rated’ - MK Ultra
I've seen spheres more edgy than this cheap knock-off of Marilyn Manson.
Friday, 10 November 2017
Is ‘Soundcloud rap’ hip hop’s glorious punk phase - or a new musical low?
Are multi-coloured dreadlocks and facial tattoos the new mohawks? Or are these Soundcloud rappers just a bunch of flamboyantly-dressed amateurs spitting clichés over badly-produced trap beats? Whatever the case ‘soundcloud rap’ is now a distinctive movement. Every week a new kid with ‘Lil’ at the beginning of his name emerges from the woodwork, his hair more colourful than the last and his facial tattoo more outrageous (one rapper has even got Anne Frank’s face inked on his cheek).
Lil Pump and XXXTentacion are arguably two of the biggest names in Soundcloud rap. 2017 has seen both Florida rappers releasing their debut album. I decided to give these records a listen to see what all the fuss was about. Was I about to be converted? Would I be urged to fanatically grow dreads and tattoo my own face? Or was I about to lose faith in hip hop altogether?
Let’s start with Lil Pump’s album, which was pretty much everything I expected. The beats are stupidly loud, the delivery is stupidly catchy and the lyrics… well, they’re just stupid. I’ll admit, it was a lot more entertaining than Lil Yachty’s recent album. Pump for one has better beats, wisely avoids auto-tune and has a sense of humour (as evident through hooks like ‘selling cocaine to your grandma!’). There’s also a respect in the fact that it’s all DIYed and tracks like ‘D Rose’ are deliberately mixed to shit - it hasn’t got that sterile sheen that record label rap music has.
Nonetheless, the album’s still dumb enough to make you lose brain cells. I wasn’t expecting Shakespeare sonnets, but the recycled garbage this kid comes out with isn’t far off Groot’s level of vocabulary.
XXXTentacion’s album 17 was everything I didn’t expect. Those already familiar with this controversial figure may know him for his previous Soundcloud hits ‘Look at Me’ and ‘Sipping Tea In Yo Hood’, both of which are comically beserk bangers consisting of confrontational yelling over hyper-compressed noise. When it comes to Soundcloud rap, he’s probably the least subtle of the bunch.
So where the hell did this soft emotional album come from? Offering whimpered singing over bare pianos and folksy guitars, this record has about as much banger material as a Radiohead LP. Braggadocio is replaced by introspection as X delves into his depression. The likes of ‘Jocelyn Flores’ and ‘Revenge’ are gorgeously rustic songs for a night in alone crying into a tub of Ben & Jerry's. Opening soliloquy ‘The Explanation’ had me dreading a try-hard deep album, but fortunately the album avoids being preachy, instead serving as a counselling session for X to spill out his darkest thoughts.
It’s as unexpected as were Conor McGregor to take up ballet. It’s in a different universe to Lil Pump’s album. The only thing it has in common with the other Soundcloud rap albums is its raw production – most of this LP sounds like it was recorded in X’s bedroom with the singing teetering between beautifully pained and off-key. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to compare it to anything else out there. Is this the beginning of hip hop’s emo phase? ‘Save Me’ could even be considered ‘grunge-hop’.
Whatever the case, 17 shows that Soundcloud rap has more to offer than simply lo-fi trap bangers and lyrical hedonistic gibberish. I may still listen to the odd track from Lil Pump’s debut, but X’s 17 is a fresh and new direction for hip hop that’s far more exciting.
Lil Pump by Lil Pump: ★★☆☆☆
17 by XXXTentacion: ★★★★☆
Saturday, 28 October 2017
Lo-fi music videos and creepy crawlies feature in this week’s belated track rundown.
Everytime’ – Boy Pablo
This frontman has SWAG! Short shorts and a pink hoodie are my outfit of choice when seducing the ladies. In fact, this whole music video is a sight to behold – especially the close zooms of the band members’ faces as they squint into the sun. The Norwegian kids could have won me over with the satirical goofiness of their video alone, but to top it all off the song itself is bloody phenomenal. Their dreamy sound is like shoegaze without the sopping wet reverb. It sounds oddly nostalgic, even if I haven’t heard anything like it before.
‘Time’s Been Reckless’ - Marika Hackman
Marika Hackman’s new upbeat rock single is accompanied by a music video full of creepy crawlies. Is she getting us in the mood for Halloween? Are they a visual representation of the decaying love depicted in the lyrics? Whatever the reason may be, there are bugs in the music video, so get ready to squirm in your seat.
‘Always a Secret’ – Charlotte & Magon
Ever wondered what a combination of Talking Heads and Kate Bush would sound like? Probably not. Well, this French-Israeli duo have gone ahead and created that very concoction. They call it ‘cosmic pop’, which they describe in their own brilliant terminology as ‘psychedelicious’.
‘Gud Tymes’ – DoM
The pounding drums, spooky church chimes and creepy visuals all make this an excellent tune for this time of year. The bright synths during the chorus caught me off guard, but thankfully the track doesn’t go too cheery, returning back to its menacing verse. I want to call it punk-pop – not to be confused with pop-punk which is a genre miles apart from this song.
‘One Chance To Dance’ – Joe Jonas & Naughty Boy
‘I’m no Michael Jackson’. I can’t argue with that.
Tuesday, 24 October 2017
WARNING: this is not one of those lists of campy Halloween classics like Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Bobby Pickett’s The Monster Mash. This list is for pure fear-chasing sadists who are ready to surrender their bowels and suffer endless nightmares for years to come. You’ll want to exorcize your speakers after listening to these records – not that Satan had any part in the creation of these albums; in fact, he’s still rocking back and forth in the corner of his bedroom after listening to these monstrosities, muttering to himself ‘Why? Why did I scar myself by reading that terrifying list on Music Related Junk?’. Basically, get off this list now if you’ve got a weak heart. You have been warned.
5) Nature Unveiled - Current 93
This 1984 cauldron of Gregorian chanting, pitched-down pianos and trippy effects-slathered chants still sounds absolutely terrifying to this day. It’s like playing with a Ouija board on shrooms. The substance of David Tibet’s incantations is difficult to make out. He could be reading off a shopping list for most the album for all I know. Not that it matters as the warped delivery would still be disturbing enough.
Amount of bricks shat: 13
4) Suicide – Suicide
There’s one track on this 1977 album titled ‘Frankie Teardrop’ which earns Suicide a place on this list. You can listen to it above if you dare. Vocalist Alan Vega narrates the twisted story of an overworked man driven to murdering his family, which would have been creepy enough itself – but then he goes and throws in some blood-curdling jump-scare shrieks. The whole album’s a little dark, but this track takes the cake.
Amount of bricks shat: 666
3) Outre - Portal
Portal make every other extreme metal band sound like Disney music. Outre is their magnum opus horribilis (basically, it’s truly harrowing shit). You know it’s going to be a bad trip as soon as those atonal murky guitars come in like some giant Frankenstein slug made of sewn-together corpses rising out of a swamp. What follows is a lightless, unforgiving descent through the audial abyss. As you claw onto any sense of hope, the album responds by dragging you deeper into its horrifying depths. Portal claim to be from Australia, but I think they may have mistaken 'down under' for the ninth circle of Hell.
Amount of bricks shat: ENOUGH TO REBUILD THE PYRAMIDS OF GIZA
2) Bestial Burden - Pharmakon
After an emergency operation led her to have an unspecified organ removed, noise artist Margaret Chardiet (AKA Pharmakon) decided to release this visceral and utterly fucked-up ode to bodily mutilation. Synth drones as cold as the chopped up limbs in a psychopath’s freezer and industrial clangs darker and more distorted than a dusty VHS snuff film make up the backdrop to Margaret’s vocals, which are a mixture of tortured screams, breathless gasps and even the sound of her vomiting on one track. You’ll be listening through one headphone.
Amount of bricks shat: ENOUGH TO BUILD THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA AND THE TRUMP WALL COMBINED
1) Projekt Misanthropia - Stalaggh
Stalaggh shouldn’t exist, but it does. These bastards took it too far. ‘Stalaggh’ is a combination of the word ‘stalag’ (a Nazi concentration camp) and GH (which apparently stands for Global Holocaust). The vocals are actual screams from mental asylum patients (supposedly). It’s a cesspool of harsh noise, extreme metal and pained screeches. The same group of musicians have actually created another project titled Vorkuta under the artist name ‘Gulaggh’, which is arguably worse as it incorporates children’s screams. I’ve only listened to a couple minutes of each record and that was enough of an endurance test (you can listen to one of the tracks above as a sweet taster). This is, after all, music to be endured, not enjoyed - if you can even call it 'music'.
Amount of bricks shat: *currently still shitting*
Friday, 20 October 2017
Get your jazz hands at the ready. Lots of jazz-inspired fun this week.
‘Keep the Devil Off’ – Big K.R.I.T
Hallelujah! Praise the lord! The speedy-spitting Mississippi rapper is back with a track that can only be described as ‘gospel rap’. Over wild organs, choir harmonies and 808s, K.R.I.T bellows bars with a passion of a Pentecostal preacher. A new album is set to drop soon, the first since 2014’s Cadillactica.
‘Mosquito’ – Kode Maya
This genre-defying Finnish duo make music that’s both somehow experimental and poppy, cheery and dark. It’s not often you get a hook like ‘there’s a killer on the loose’ over washed-out synths that could appear on a Disclosure record. Then, just as you’ve got the song figured out, it completely changes direction, making way for some jazzy guitar chords, wacky pitch-shifted vocals and a beat that’s practically hip hop. It’s a true adventure into the unknown.
‘Butterfly Effect’ – Abbi Press
This New York singer’s wistful vocals are like spa treatment to my ears. But it’s the instrumental that sets this apart from everyday lounge music, starting as chilled electronica and then morphing into some glitched-out house beat.
‘Candygram’ – Valipala
Valipala dub themselves a ‘progressive r&b’ act, which is exciting as it sounds. Frontwoman Lauren Scales delivers belting Whitney-like inflections over an everchanging jazzy instrumental sporting everything from trumpets to electric guitars. The big apple band have an EP titled Mango City out today which is full of equally bananas jazz-pop hybrids ( I got carried away with the fruit references there) available to listen on their Bandcamp page here.
‘It’s Okay To Cry’ – SOPHIE
SOPHIE’s strength is claustrophobic bangers, not soppy Europop-style ballads devoid of percussion. Also where are the digital vocals? Is SOPHIE a real person now? It’s all too human.
‘I Love You Jesus’ – Trisha Paytas
Youtube’s most annoying vlogger has made a corny Christian song. Jesus wept.
Friday, 13 October 2017
BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 13/10/2017: All Hail Hyena, St. Vincent, Django Django and more...
Dogs in spacesuits, trippy ghost train rides and nursery-rhyme-style choruses about popping pills. This week has it all…
‘Sabbathian’ - All Hail Hyena
All Hail Hyena have been snorting all kinds of substances as their new video for ‘Sabbathian’ demonstrates, featuring dogs in space-suits and grinning Buddha statue representations of the band members and all other manner of off-the-wall shit. It fits the frantic guitarwork and chanted vocals perfectly. ‘Sabbathian’ is straight off the nutters’ brilliant EP S T I C K € R S released earlier this year and has been entered into a competition held by Salute Music Makers – which you can check out here.
‘Pills’ – St. Vincent
St. Vincent continues to go full-on pop. The nursery rhyme style chorus and Taylor Swift vibes at the beginning had me pulling out the hair in my hipster beard yelling ‘SHE’S GONE MAINSTREAM! NOOOO!’. But wait, it’s okay – as the track progresses, St. Vincent makes it clear that this is no ordinary pop song. The instrumental morphs more times than Flubber and the final two minutes may as well be an entirely different song, evolving into some epic chamber-pop outro complete with a sax solo.
‘Tic Tac Toe’ – Django Django
Life can end up being repetitive and dull if you’re not careful. The latest upbeat twangy anthem from electro-indie cowboys Django Django centres around this theme, complete with a music video that sees the band taking a trip to the seaside and experiencing all the attractions with a routine sense of boredom. Are we all just telling ourselves that we’re having fun, but actually just living life day by day? Is it time to break the cycle? Should I quit these bloody weekly track roundups and this blog, sell all my possessions and hitchhike the world? Is that what you’re telling me to do Django Django? *MUSIC RELATED JUNK IS NOW ON HIATUS*
Shoffy – Fake Friends
With its creative blend of rapping and singing and its woozy sugary chords, this new chirpy single from LA artist Shoffy will make you truly believe life can be better without those fake friends in your life. I’m going to cut ties with all my fake friends today. But wait - what if I don’t have any friends? WAAAAAAAAAAAAH
‘And Saints’ – Sleigh Bells
This song gives me a serious case of blue balls. Those synths sounded like they were building up to something, but the whole track just kind of goes nowhere.
‘Straight Boy’ - Shamir
Before the SJWs come at me, I’m not angry at the subject matter. Straight men can be douchebags. The issue with this track is that it’s a wishy-washy two-chord snoozefest that sounds like it was recorded on a phone. Where are all the groovy dance tracks like ‘On The Regular’? A social message can still carry a groove.
Tuesday, 10 October 2017
The lo-fi loving lunatic’s new LP is a celebration of the obscure.
Back in the 60s, a folk artist named Bobby Jameson rose to fame. He seemed set on being the next big pop sensation. However, instead of continuing his course for stardom, he instead chose to disappear into obscurity. He died in 2015, at which point indie cult weirdo Ariel Pink decided to create this tribute album.
To be honest, this isn’t really a tribute album at all, at least certainly not to Jameson's music. Dipping into genres as diverse as 80s synthpop and 70s prog, most of these sounds are nothing like the folksy tracks that Jameson wrote. Perhaps what Ariel Pink is really celebrating is Jameson’s defiance to go mainsteam - the fact that he deliberately chose the shadows over the limelight. Pink is a pure-bred outsider – not your average cool-dressing hipster-type like all the other acts paraded on Pitchfork. He’s genuinely weird, and this album is all about embracing his obscurity, just like Jameson, and refusing to fit in.
Pom Pom was arguably Pink’s catchiest record, with singalong anthems like ‘Put Your Number In My Phone’. He must have felt it was too poppy, because now he’s reined in the catchy hooks. The production meanwhile is much grainier like some damaged cassette tape you might find in your parent’s attic. It’s like he’s tried to drill his sound back into the underground.
That said, for the most part, it also feels less daring than Pom Pom did. The parping electronica and radio jingle choruses and risqué lyrics of tracks like ‘Black Ballerina’ and ‘Dinosaur Carebears’ made Pom Pom feel bravely goofy and uncool. On Dedicated To Bobby Jameson, the sounds are all much cooler – whether he be borrowing from The Cure or Steely Dan. It’s the stuff we’re used to hearing indie bands pay tribute to.
Take ‘Feels Like Heaven’ for example. It’s a dazzling reverb-slathered song with Smiths undertones, but when you listen to your lyrics you realise it’s your average nostalgic love song. There’s nothing smarmy or pitiful or creepy about, which has always been Ariel Pink’s shtick.
That isn’t to say he hasn’t lost his maverick charm altogether. ‘Time To Live’ is a noisy, utterly bonkers potpourri of metal riffs and trumpets before settling into a more easy-on-the-ears Adam-and-the-Ants style anthem. ‘Dreamdate Narcissist’ is utter lyrical gibberish with lines like ‘netflix and chill and we pick some dogs’ and ‘protein shake oooh’. And then there’s acting which see’s Ariel Pink offering digital warbling over smooth-ass funk. All of these are enough to satiate one’s fix of bizarre. Although not as unapologetically freakish as he was on Pom Pom, Pink’s still got a long way to go before he could ever be considered boringly normal.
Saturday, 7 October 2017
It’s all pop this week. Don’t worry, it’s mostly weird-ass pop. Music Related Junk isn’t selling out quite yet.
‘Drink I’m Sippin On’ – Yaeji
I don’t understand a word this South Korean chick is singing, but I’m hooked. Over glossy synth swells and steady punches of distorted bass, Yaeji’s whispered rap-singing hypnotically pulls you in. The cool aesthetics in the video help. Not many people can pull off circular-rim glasses like that.
‘100◦’ – Zoology
Glitchy acoustic pop shouldn’t work. Glitch music is cold and digital, whilst acoustic music is warm and rustic. Nonetheless this enigmatic duo make it work – the cracks and fizzles seem to add to the fragility of the guitars, whilst also adding a dreamlike quality to the singer’s already gorgeous voice.
‘Rabbit Hole’ – CHMBRS
Halloween is round the corner. Where are all the creepy songs at? Enter CHMBRS. Set to a dark backdrop of pulsing synths and accompanied by freaky visuals set in a cage, this Aussie electropop artist’s new anxiety-fuelled song ‘Rabbit Hole’ is satisfyingly unsettling. It also succeeds at being pretty damn catchy.
‘Waitin’ – Kelela
Kelela has just dropped her debut album Take Me Apart - a gauntlet of futuristic r&b anthems. ‘Waitin’ is the third single from it and sounds like some sci-fi take on UK garage. I’m even getting Craig David vibes from her breathy inflections.
‘Pray’ – Sam Smith
Sam Smith squanders his incredible voice yet again with another soulless soul track that could have been released fifteen years ago.
Friday, 29 September 2017
‘Bubblebutt’ – Pink Kink
No, this isn’t a Major Lazer cover. It’s something very different. Set to scuzzy guitars and spooky fairgrounds organs, the Liverpool rockers retaliate against all the lecherous fans that have been ogling their butts at their shows. Even if you find the screechy overt feminism off-putting, there’s something charming in how wacky this song is. Pink Kink have long been touring but have only just started recording material. Let’s hope they record more.
‘Cold war’ – Cautious Clay
Over a skeletal beat, this Brookyln-via-Washington-DC r&b singer lays down some beautifully cryptic lyrics referencing everything from video games to Tinder. Verses meanwhile are punctuated by reverb-drenched choral harmonies. He even teases us with some sax at the end. It’s the most seductive song about the Cold War that I’ve ever heard.
‘Novacane’ – ABRA
Dreamy r&b songstress ABRA is showing off her production talents on this new song made up of cloudy synths and retro 808s. Whilst there are vocals, they’re all digitally tampered with. ABRA's music already sounded futuristic - now it's entered excitingly alien territory.
‘See You In Hell’ – Electric Wizard
Doom metal group Electric Wizard throw down some good-old-fashioned sludgy riffs certain to have you scrunching up your face in pleasure (or displeasure if sludgy riffs aren’t your thing). It’s like Black Sabbath turned up a notch – retro video included.
‘You make it feel like Christmas’ – Gwen Stefani
We’ve barely exited summer, the shops have only just started stocking up Halloween costumes, and Gwen Stefani has decided to drop a Christmas single. Honestly, fuck off. To make matters worse, the song is tripe.
Monday, 25 September 2017
Do I move my feet or slit my wrists?
Having broken up and then un-broken up, US indie electrorockers LCD Soundsystem are back to piss on your generation by reminding you of your hapless existence whilst simultaneously encouraging you to dance to your downfall.
By ‘your generation’, I mean both the young and the old. All you millennial clubbers who live life aimlessly from weekend to weekend – ‘Tonite’ is your anthem. Meanwhile, all you middle-aged singletons still getting by on one night stands – ‘American Dream’ is your anthem.
The bleak social commentary is delivered by James Murphy in second person as if he is the ugly voice of truth in your head. Some of it hits home hard: ‘you hate the idea that you’re wasting your youth, but you stood in the background until you got older’. Yeah, I know I’m the best blogger in the world and an astronaut and a brain surgeon, but do you really have to remind me that I could have become a Hollywood actor too if I really had tried when I was young.
Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy was supposed to be a similarly cynical summary of the times we live in, but as witty as it was it didn’t come across nearly as poignantly due to its third person narcissist position as if he weren’t a part of the world he were describing.
Not only that, but Father John Misty chose dreary pianos and dull folksy guitars to grumble over. Not like LCD Soundsystem, whose soundtrack to the fall of man is set to relentlessly groovy New Wave. From the funky bass and cowbell of ‘Other Voices’ to the pulsing synth and vocoders of ‘tonite’, American Dream revolves around hypnotic New-Order-like instrumentals that seem to suggest the only way to get through the murk is to keep on dancing. Occasionally, the dark lyrics are matched with a gloomier palette of sounds such as the menacing tribal drums of ‘How Do You Sleep?’ or the throbbing funereal chords of Bowie tribute ‘Black Screen’, but these dirges are still set to uptempo rhythms nonetheless. Depression’s never been so danceable.
LCD Soundsystem have long been able to turn minimalism into something epic and here they seem to have fine-tuned it to perfection. Fuelled by doom, this is usually the kind of music I hate. But Murphy and co make it so relatable and so infectious that you can’t help but get hooked.
Friday, 22 September 2017
New tracks from Bjork, Rapsody, Iglooghost and more...
‘Power’ – Rapsody ft. Kendrick Lamar & Lance SkIIwalker
Is there a week that goes by in which Kendrick isn’t dropping a guest verse? This time he’s spitting Patois-infused bars alongside North Carolina emcee Rapsody – some of you may know her from her incredible feature on Kendrick’s 2015 TPAB track ‘Complexion’. Rapsody herself is phenomenal rapper with an old-skool flow that’s nice a break from all the female trap rappers. The funky beat is also extremely satisfying.
‘Teen Dream Woman’ – Bad French
This strange duo claim to be from Paris, Australia. Geography was never my strong point at school, but I’m pretty sure that’s not where Paris is. ‘Teen Dream Woman’ sees singer Daniel Forsyth singing seductively over spacey lounge bar electropop. Some chick starts speaking French towards the end of the track and there’s some freaky interpretative dancing in the video to top it off. What more could you possibly ask for?
‘English Weather’ - Fick as Fieves
‘English Weather’ is the perfect song to celebrate the spectacularly shite September we’ve been having. But honestly, I’m not interested in the lyrics - have you heard the riffs? It’s like Ram Jam’s ‘Black Betty’ just collided with an Arctic Monkeys track. Plus, there’s a cool part where the guitar sounds like a harmonica. It’s bluesy indie at its best.
‘Whatever Forever’ – Sego
Bored of doing the same things over and over again? LA rock group Sego’s ‘Whatever Forever’ perfectly captures this sense of cyclic ennui accompanied by a restlessly looping riff. It’s both frustrated and apathetic, which is basically my permanent emotional state.
‘White Gum’ – Iglooghost
This hectic EDM mindfuck from Iglooghost is likely to be too much for some people. It’s a trap-garage-glitch hybrid that refuses to sit still for a split-second, throwing pitch-shifted sped-up rapping, digital percussion blasts, melodised clangs and all manner of other noises at the listener. You’ll either be mesmerised by it, or it will give you an anxiety attack.
‘The Gate’ - Bjork
Hookless warbling over unmelodic directionless electronica is a step too far even for a pretentious blogger like myself. The video is pretty captivating though – it’s a healthy alternative to LSD.
Saturday, 16 September 2017
New music from Giraffage, Silver Liz, Cosmo Calling and more…
'Him' - Silver Liz
This new single from shoegazey Chicago duo Silver Liz is barely two minutes. Some shoegaze songs have intros that are longer than that. But two minutes is all Silver Liz need to piece together an epic build-up. Tremulous chords follow an unpredictable chord pattern whilst Carrie’s ghostly voice hangs in the background. These then break away for a huge climax of howling guitars.
'Like Lightning' – Cosmo Calling
This is some highly danceable indie rock. Danceable, but without a synthesizer in sight. The bouncy vocal harmonisation and slick guitars that this Manchester-based band play with are enough to make you want to get up on your feet and spill your beer everywhere. Using synths to build grooves is for amateurs. Fuck synths (he says before featuring two EDM singles).
'One Life' – SHVRDZ (ft. Aerborn)
This Brisbane producer/singer pairing recorded and mixed this hypnotic EDM banger in the space of two days with nothing but a laptop and a mic. The shrill wubs caught me off guard – the beginning is so melodic that I wasn’t expecting such a stupendously filthy drop.
‘Maybes’ – Giraffage ft. Japanese Breakfast
The bizarrely-named Californian producer Giraffage has teamed up with equally-bizarrely-named indie songstress Japanese Breakfast. The dreamy opening chords drew me in and are probably the best bit, although the distant vocals and twinkling synths that follow are definitely pretty too.
‘Wit it’ – Lanze
SOMEBODY GIVE THIS DUDE AN INHALER. This Cincinnati rapper sounds exhausted and after a minute of listening to him I feel exhausted too. That said, his asthma attack flow is creative and I can see all the mumble rap fans bumpin’ this in the whip in months to come.
‘90s Kids’ – Shamir
Shamir’s written some groovy tunes in the past and upon hearing the Windows 95 startup sound I was pretty psyched for something cute and nostalgic, but sadly this song ends up just being a corny millennial whinge-fest that irritates even a 90s kid like myself.
Tuesday, 12 September 2017
QOTSA’s new album is badly-produced Bowie-worship.
Okay, that description’s a tad harsh. ‘Bowie-worship’ makes it sound like I don’t enjoy the fact that Josh Homme now sounds like Bowie, when in fact that’s one of the highlights of this record. As for ‘badly-produced’, well, I have a feeling Mark Ronson didn’t just so happen to fuck up the mastering by spilling coffee on the mixing board. The production is intentionally supposed to sound this tinny and some listeners don’t seem to mind it. But for me, it’s a real barrier.
Villains follows much in the same vein as the rockers’ last album Like Clockwork…, which saw the band trading in catchy crowd-pleasing guitar anthems for meditative gloomy dirges. The lyrics continue to be as dark, lingering on topics of death but with a touch of humour behind them. They’re some of Homme’s most inventive to date – the singer even going so far as to invent his own words on numerous occasions to get his point across such as ‘macaberet’ and ‘screwicide’.
Homme’s lyrics aren’t the only aspect that’s more creative. Instrumentally, these songs are also kookier, as exemplified from the start with opener ‘Feet Don’t Fail Me’, which begins with sci-fi synths and a hammering drum like some mutated version of the Flash Gordon soundtrack, before erupting into a stomping guitar groove. ‘Head Like A Haunted House’ meanwhile is a Dead-Kennedys-like punk jam, whilst ‘Hideaway’ rides a Bowie-esque synth sporting a spacey ‘Ashes to Ashes’ feel (there’s Bowie vibes all over this album).
Of course, the band have also decided to get creative with the production, which is where my praises for this record end. The second track ‘The Way You Used To’ feels like it could have been an upbeat dance-worthy rock gem if it wasn’t over-compressed to sound as flat as a toad on a motorway. And then there’s the end of ‘Un-Reborn Again’, which sees all the instruments coming into the mix for what could have been an epic crescendo if Mark Ronson hadn’t dampened it by turning down the volume knob.
This is the producer who gave us ‘Uptown Funk’, so there’s no reason the production should sound this flaccid other than Mark wanting it to sound like that. Josh Homme and crew must have decided they liked it too. And some fans and critics don’t seem to be phased. To me, it may as well be a tasty spicy dish with a jar of cream dumped in – it’s got no kick. It’s a hypercar with a speed limiter on it. It’s Floyd Mayweather with no arms. It’s a decaffeinated espresso shot. It’s sex in the dark.
Friday, 8 September 2017
BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 08/09/2017: Death From Above, Kaytranada, St. Vincent and more...
'What You Gonna Do' - Nemi
What you gonna do? Preferably hit that play button - because this song's quite something. Its a moody electro-pop song of sorts with an almost avant-garde beat and wispy vocals that will make you think you're being possessed. It's fucking weird and totally my thing.
'What You Gonna Do' - Nemi
What you gonna do? Preferably hit that play button - because this song's quite something. Its a moody electro-pop song of sorts with an almost avant-garde beat and wispy vocals that will make you think you're being possessed. It's fucking weird and totally my thing.
‘My Body’ – Saunas
My Hawaiian t-shirt is on. As is my hula dress. I don’t care if summer’s over. From the opening tropical percussion, I knew this single from Nashville indie pop act Saunas was going to be fun. CORRECTION: it’s ‘beach-wave’ not indie pop. Get it right, Alasdair.
‘Holy Books’ – Death From Above
‘I don’t go for no holy books/ Those ancient rhymes, they ain’t got no hooks’. Fuzzy-guitar loving duo Death From Above certainly aren’t the first rock band to bash religion, but they’re still able to give it their own spin with a marvellously witty chorus. The riffs meanwhile make me want chop logs with my bare hands.
‘2017 07 04’ – Kaytranada
The Canadian-Haitian producer just released three untitled beats on Soundcloud and they’re all pretty damn sexy. This one is my personal fave. Aside from the slinky bassline and glistening chords, it’s got a nice rough edge to it. The king of smooth production has sandblasted his sound and it still bangs.
‘Los Ageless’ – St. Vincent
St. Vincent has gone full-on pop. This latest groovy number didn’t really hook me for the first minute (staring at a butt can be distracting), but then that lavish chorus came in and reeled me in. It’s a vast improvement from her previous single ‘New York’. Annie has also released the tracklist for her new album and not all the song titles are inspired by US cities. I have a feeling it will all be devoid of distorted guitars, but if it’s more pop jams of this calibre I don’t mind.
‘Goofy’ – Lil Durk ft. Future & Jeezy
I’m gonna pretend Future’s warbling about the Disney character, because no way is ‘goofy’ the new street slang term.
Monday, 4 September 2017
Arcade Fire get groovier and goofier on their new record.
The long-time fans don’t like it. But I’m not a long-time fan. The band’s early indie stuff – the anthemic guitars and woo chants – always struck me as a little toothless and dreary (sorry). It was only on their last LP Reflektor that the group converted me by slipping on their dancing shoes and embracing disco. Almost half the songs were two minutes too long, but they made up for it with satisfyingly sexy grooves.
On Everything Now, they’ve trimmed down the songs. They’ve also gotten groovier and goofier. The Pitchfork-loving purist indie kids have been turning their nose up at it - what’s Win Butler doing singing ‘I’ll be your Peter Pan’ over half-distorted reggae? I can understand why they don't dig it, but for me it's a huge improvement. From the Bowie-esque inflections and shining piano riff of ‘Everything Now’ to the hypnotic synthline and Abba-like chorus of ‘Put Your Money On Me’, these are some of Arcade Fire’s most infectious and colourful tunes to date.
I’ll agree, some of the political messages are a little ham-fisted. ‘Creature Comfort’ begins bleakly and bluntly with the lines ‘Some boys hate themselves spending their lives resenting their fathers/ some girls hate their bodies, stand in the mirror and wait for the feedback’ – something you’d expect from an emo band, certainly not accompanied by danceable electronica. The lyrical content of ‘Infinite Content’ meanwhile is ironically very limited.
Fortunately, these lyrics don’t distract from the album’s sense of fun. Even if Win is singing about suicidal teens over upbeat synthesizers, it doesn’t feel like he’s preaching at us or making light of the subject – it just feels slightly jarring at worst. Judging from the way people are talking about this album's lyrics, you'd think they'd just listened to the new Lil Yachty album. Trust me, that isn't the case - it's probably just too poppy for the indie kids. There aren't enough dreary guitars and woo chants for them.
Friday, 1 September 2017
‘Eyes on the Ground’ – Caro
This groovy off-kilter rock song comes courtesy of Leeds trio Caro. I was already satisfied with the skittish guitars and vocal earworms and then that section at 1:06 came along and gave me an out of body experience. I have a feeling this band have an album on the way, so I’m keeping my ear (and my eyes) to the ground.
‘Exclusivity’ – Leonie Sherif
Over a frenetic instrumental layered in synths and 808s, UK alt R&B singer Leonie Sherif lays some infectious and breathy vocal harmonies. The result is like listening to Destiny’s Child over futuristic production.
‘Houses’ – The Duke Spirit
Longing vocals and psychedelic guitar twangs make up this beautifully haunting song from London rockers The Duke Spirit. There’s a sense of nostalgia to it, but it’s a nostalgia for an experience I never had. The random retro footage of people dancing helps.
‘Provider’ – Frank Ocean
‘Look What You Made Me Do’ – Taylor Swift
The chorus is catchy but only because the melody's stolen from ‘I’m Too Sexy For My Shirt’ (which is all I think about when listening to this now). And this whole new bad bitch act from Taylor is about as easy to swallow as Katy Perry’s recent wake-up-sheeple phase.
‘Masturbation’ - Princess Vitarah
This monstrosity of a song is enough to put anyone off masturbating for life.
Friday, 25 August 2017
BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 25/08/2017: Clipping., LCD Soundsystem, Robert Plant and more...
New music from Clipping., LCD Soundsystem, Robert Plant and other human beings.
‘Looking Glass’ – Lone
Lone’s discography is so vast and yet so consistent in quality. This latest house single pounds along before slowly revealing some magic sparkly chords along with some surprise ray gun synths breaking out over the top.
‘The Deep.’ – Clipping.
The Californian experimental hip hop project are showing off again with a track that continuously speeds up. Produced to sound like its underwater, the beat builds pressure with each verse, whilst Daveed Diggs accelerates the tempo of his flow. Could there be another Clipping album on the horizon?
‘tonite’ – LCD Soundsystem
This year, we’ve already been blessed with two singles ‘American Dream’ and ‘Call the Police’ from the synth-rockers. Their latest track centres around a pulsing electro beat and is accompanied by a video which sees the band playing live whilst James Murphy swaggers around them singing into the camera.
‘The May Queen’ – Robert Plant
By this point I thought the Led Zep frontman would be past it. But he’s still managing to release interesting solo stuff, this time mixing folk with flecks of electronica. His voice meanwhile has aged like fine wine.
‘Like I Always’ – Kev Minney
From his upcoming astronomically-themed album, Kev releases this new single ‘Like I Always’. The track blends acoustic guitar and digital percussion topped with some hypnotically emotive vocals.
‘Footprints in the Sand’ – Ian Erix
Corny emo vocals and overblown EDM are a match made in Hell.
Wednesday, 23 August 2017
Lana Del Rey’s latest album isn’t a total downer.
Just as the rest of the world has grown pessimistic, pop's most forlorn femme fatale has rather ironically decided to cheer up. She's even managed to break a smile on the album cover (I didn't think she was capable of that facial expression), not to mention the album title itself.
But fans of her sad side needn't worry – she hasn't embraced ukuleles just yet. Most of these tracks revolve around familiar melancholy tales of unrequited love. However, there are rose-tinted glimmers of joy this time around. ‘When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing’ is a rally to keep on being happy despite current events, whilst closing track ‘Get Free’ sees Lana singing ‘I want to move out of the black into the blue’ with a sense of joyous liberation.
Sure, there could be a sly cynicism behind it all – it’s hard to tell with Lana – but even so it’s given Lana’s lyricism a new dimension, which makes this album more enjoyable that its predecessors. It’s also a lot more instrumentally interesting.
2014’s Ultraviolence wasn’t just depressing but impressively dull largely down to its drab production. Honeymoon contrastingly saw Lana embracing a Bond Theme-esque backdrop of exciting orchestration topped with smoky crooning in the style of Dusty Springfield. Now on Lust For Life, the instrumentals are even more diverse, dabbling in hip hop on ‘Summer Bummer’ and ‘Groupie Love’ whilst taking on pianos and guitars and string sections.
The vocal guests are a disappointment for the most part. Whilst A$AP Rocky's performance is average, Playboi Carti’s auto-tuned whelps on ‘Summer Bummer’ are plain irritating. Stevie Nicks meanwhile oversings her duet with Lana as if trying to outdo her younger version, whilst Sean Ono Lennon just sounds like he’s trying to be his dad (can’t kids of famous musicians carve out their own sound?).
Fortunately, Lana’s newfound vocal agility makes up for this. 'White Mustang’ and ‘In My Feelings’ are some of her most beautifully sung ballads to date, whilst ‘Get Free’'s chorus is her most sunshiny (even if the opening chord progression is ripped straight from Radiohead’s ‘Creep’).