Friday, 31 March 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 31/03/2017: Kendrick Lamar, Iggy Azalea, Anna Wise and more...



Kendrick is back. Yay! Iggy is back too. Oh…

THE BEST:

‘The Heart Part IV’ – Kendrick Lamar


Over an action-packed instrumental that shifts from neo-soul to boom bap to trap rap, the Compton rapper returns with some mean flows and bars – bars that have already got the devout K-dot fans making wild interpretations and conspiracy theories. Did he just diss Drake? Did he just diss Big Sean? He certainly disses Trump, calling him a ‘chump’, but otherwise the beef is all very coded and cryptic – the type of smoke-and-mirrors beef every rapper seems to be sadly going for these days. I like my beef raw and bloody, not scrambled and diluted beyond recognition. Despite this, I’m still excited by this single, especially with hints that an album could be arriving in a few weeks: ‘Y’all got til April the 7th to get y’all shit together’.

'Humble' - Kendrick Lamar


Yes, I know, two Kendrick singles in one week shouldn't be allowed, but I set the rules here. This is my swamp. Dropping last night, this single sees K-dot calling out his rivals (and perhaps himself) to 'sit down' and 'be humble' through a series of clever quips. The Mike WiLL Made-It engineered production is a lot cleaner and leaner in comparison to the material of To Pimp A Butterlfly, and he's pulling the reins back on his flow too, but the result is still very fun. As for the big budget music video, it's got some great cinematic shots. Kendrick is on fire (literally)!

‘Balance In All’ – Anna Wise


A protégé of Kendrick himself (okay, okay, enough Kendrick dickriding already), this urban songstress continues to deliver beautiful jazzy electropop, this time featuring some deep lyrics about life and death. ‘At any moment we could die/ but all the same it’s beautiful and bright’ she purrs. Somehow she makes this heavy content feel light and airy. The single comes straight off her new release The Feminine: Act II.

‘Afraid To Love You’ – Native Kings



Sporting stupidly infectious guitars and a catchy chorus complete with belting ‘woooo’ melodies, these Liverpool rockers are the full package. It’s like they’ve taken all the best elements of rock over the ages and squeezed them into a not-even-three-minute anthem. There’s even a tastefully savage breakdown towards the back-end of the track.

‘Kiss?’ – Childcare



This is how you write a satisfying rock build up. Not some dull Shine-On-You-Crazy-Diamonds five-minutes-of-ambience bollocks. Not some predictable EDM-esque drop. Not some brief acoustic guitar foreplay followed by a premature ejaculation of distorted guitars whilst you’re still getting your headphones on. London rockers Childcare instead use their female/male combo and minimal instrumentation to create a song that builds up tactfully and teasingly from start to finish. The band name might not be very rock and roll, but they make up for it sonically.

THE WORST:

‘Mo Bounce’ – Iggy Azalea


I was feeling the beat – but then Iggy repeated ‘bounce’ one too many times (well actually, thirty too many times) and combined with that annoying inflection of hers, the track may as well be Chinese water torture.

Friday, 24 March 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 24/03/2017: Gorillaz, False Advertising, Kasabian and more...




After a post dismissing the future of mainstream rock as gloomy, it appears to have not been a bad week for guitars.

THE BEST:

‘Not My Fault’ – False Advertising


After a solid EP last year, the Manchester trio are continuing to keep the quality high with this new belter of a track which sees singer/instrumentalist Jen delivering another roaring hook complete with more fiercely fuzzy guitars.

‘Black Magic’ – The Amazons


My dad introduced me to this song. That’s right, MY DAD. I clearly need to up my game if my folks are finding the tunes before I do. Sporting some superb vocals and tight riffage, the Reading rockers' latest release is a festival-tent filler - a darn sight better than the Little Mix track of the same name.

‘You’re In Love With A Psycho’ – Kasabian


Macaroni on a seafood stick’ and Charles Burowski make up the lyrical content of this new zany track from Leicester lads Kasabian, sure to have those that lambasted the ‘we’re being watched by Google line’ of ‘Ezz-Ehh’ equally malcontent. Oh well, their loss. ‘You’re In Love With A Psycho’ may indeed be poppier than previous material – perhaps their poppiest yet – but it is excellent in it’s succinctness, boasting a devilishly catchy chorus that’s been trapped in my head all week. 

 ‘Drive Away’ – Shallows


This LA electropop duo mix gorgeously longing vocals and synths so shiny you can see your face in them to create a nostalgia-soaked ballad that could score the euphoric ending to a classic college movie. ‘I hope it becomes the soundtrack to at least one teenager hitting the open road while giving him hometown the middle finger in the rear view’ state the duo themselves.

'Andromeda' - Gorillaz ft. D.R.A.M




The Gorillaz just dropped four new singles... although I can't say I'm blown away by all of them. This groovy number might be the best of the bunch, perhaps because Damon Albarn takes the wheel on the vocals giving it authenticity, and maybe partially because I love cheesy eighties synths. Lovable rapper-singer D.R.A.M only features briefly with some shaky warbling that the single could have quite frankly done without, but otherwise it's a fun listen.

THE WORST:

 ‘Feels Like Summer’ – Weezer


Managing to write a summer pop anthem this generic is a feat. You disappoint me Weezer. This is Maroon-5-calibre crap. 

Monday, 20 March 2017

Is This What Pop Music Will Sound Like In The Future?




Where the hell is pop music going? What will it sound like 50 years from now? Will androids rule the charts? Will we all have reverted back to caveman instruments in an attempt to find our roots? Will Taylor Swift still be singing about her latest breakup? Will Adele still be stealing all the Grammys with her 7th album titled 54. Will Dr Dre ever release Detox?

It’s time to get out the crystal ball. Based off of theories by current music industry specialists, recent tech innovations and trends of the last fifty years, here is what I believe the future of pop music has in store for us.

Say Goodbye to Rock Music...


The noughties saw the last wave of big mainstream rock acts like The Killers, Muse and The White Stripes. Such acts have progressively become more reserved to specific rock radio stations and rock shows. Coldplay have managed to stay chart-friendly only by going full-on EDM.


Rock is fast becoming the new jazz. The young will soon associate it as an old man’s genre and as a result it will become more and more niche. Kids will stop learning electric guitar in favour of FL Studio. The genre will still continue to thrive in underground circuits, but it won’t be in the charts.

Hip Hop Will Follow Suit


Already many of the middle-aged rappers of today are being viewed the same way we view rockers of the 60s and 70s. Their socially conscious lyrics and traditional flows are no longer ‘cool’ by today’s standards. Modern rappers like Lil Yachty and Young Thug are rebelling against these features the same way rock bands of the late 70s started rebelling against guitar solos and spandex.

Rap is currently going through its punk phase, and if you thought it was ugly now, it’s going to get a lot uglier in the near future. Today’s so-called ‘mumble-rappers’ will continue to deliver even more garbled lyrics and even more sloppy flows. Some songs may not even contain words and simply be a series of sounds punctuated by the odd hook. Perhaps the future of mainstream rap will sound a bit like this…


Hip hop will continue to play an integral part in pop vocally and instrumentally for decades to come, but in time it too will become a niche (with traditional boom-bap styles already heading this way). What will take its place?


The Rise of Robots


Vocalists could well be about to turn digital. Using advanced voice-simulation software, producers might be able to programme vocals from scratch. It will be the natural progression from auto-tune except without any human vocal contribution at all.

These robot vocalists will have to perform live - which could mean using fictional holographic representations on stage. Already in Japan they have a holographic pop artist named Hatsune Miku, whose voice is entirely synthesized. 


These holograms will of course be sexed up and will be obsessed over by millions in the same way we obsess over human musicians nowadays. To a generation that have grown up with virtual reality in the household, obsessing over virtual holograms may not seem that odd.


There Will Be a Dubstep Revival


Thought you'd heard the last of wubs? Think again.

Music revivals go in 20 year cycles. The 70s saw a 50s revival of doo wop and rockabilly with acts like The Sha Na Nas and Shawaddywaddy and musicals like Grease. The 90s saw a 70s revival, the likes of Britpop imitating rock bands of yesteryear, whilst house music took on more of a disco flavour. Meanwhile, this decade has seen all kinds of 90s revivals from UK garage courtesy of Disclosure to R-Kelly-esque R&B courtesy of Bruno Mars.

By this token, the children of today will one day look back nostalgically at dubstep. All the pop artists of 2030 will be cashing in on it and a forty year old Skrillex will be forced to come out of early retirement to join in the hype. 

Bass Will Get Louder


The kids of tomorrow will need music to alienate their parents with. Today’s bass levels will not be effective enough. Bass will have to get even more ridiculously distorted. Perhaps the following song by XXXTentacion is a sign of things to come….

Or Perhaps There Will Be a Treble Revolution?


Then again, perhaps tomorrow’s kids will get bored of bass altogether. Bass will become passé. High-pitched treble squeals and sizzles will become all the rage.

Marketing Strategies Will Become More Elaborate


Elaborate marketing campaigns beyond anything we’ve seen today will become more commonly trialled out in an attempt to break through the increasingly more saturated internet market. There will be huge build ups to singles and wild goose chases online to find them. Songs may only be able to be streamed at specific times. Austin band White Denim recently released a single that can only be streamed on Spotify when it is raining! Gimmicks like this could be the new way of creating curiosity and demand.

Shock value meanwhile will continue to play a part. Twitter beefs will become a major publicity stunt (some may be rehearsed by both sides for maximum impact). There will be more sex and more swearing in the mainstream as musicians deliberately challenge censorship to get more coverage. The twerking behaviour of Miley will soon seem as innocent to us as Elvis’s hip shaking.

Albums Will Still Exist – But Not As We Know It


Kanye West broke all the rules with 2016's The Life of Pablo by going back and editing the album’s tracklist after the album had already been released. Artists of the future may follow suit and albums could become living, breathing pieces of work that are constantly being altered to entice new listeners back. There may be hidden easter egg tracks that can only be streamed at certain times or different tracklists on different streaming platforms. Physical albums won’t be able to deal with this fluidity and so some future artists may give up on CDs and vinyl altogether.

Albums may also become as visual as they are sonic, as has already been the case with Beyonce’s Lemonade, Frank Ocean’s Endless and FKA Twigs’ M3LL155X. We may even get live albums performed and streamed on a one-time basis – fail to tune in at the right time and you might miss out. Few people have the patience to listen to albums nowadays, but such gimmicks could turn the album into a whole new exciting experience.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Review of '÷' by Ed Sheeran



Throughout his entire career, all Ed Sheeran has wanted to be is a normal guy.

It doesn’t matter that he’s now a millionaire, with more songs currently in the UK Top 20 charts than most successful artists score in a lifetime. He may be richer and more famous than you’ll ever be, but he still dresses the same way as you – so much so that during an album launch party in an Oxford Street HMV store, he looked almost indistinguishable from the staff. He may be able to afford a yacht and be a household name in every country, but he still wants us all to know that he loves and hurts and dances and drinks wine and eats Doritos just like you do.

Ed Sheeran's chart rankings. He's just a normal guy.


These are the lyrics that fuel Divide. The red-haired raconteur reflects on heartbreak and falling in love through everyday scenarios. Its stuff every human being with a pulse can relate to. Which is where the problem lies.

Ed doesn’t want to leave people divided on Divide. His topics are safe and calculated so that no-one feels alienated. His ex’s new boyfriend on ‘New Man’ is a stereotypical douche that wears sunglasses indoors and gets his eyebrows plucked and his arsehole bleached (although I’m not sure how Ed would possibly know this) – a fictional bad guy of the 21st Century that even the most loutish disciples of bro culture can hate. His love affairs are with nameless, faceless girls, enabling him to create a blank mould for each one of his frothing-at-the-mouth female fanbase to project themselves into. Only on ‘Galway Girl’ - an Irish-flavoured folk-ditty and one of the better songs on the album - does he create a unique character for the woman he’s singing about.


Of course, Ed too chooses to remain a faceless human being in his music, never offering any personal anecdotes or twists that may reveal too much about his own private life. Other than the fact that he never went to uni (which he’s kept us updated on throughout his whole musical career) and the fact that he REALLY loves Van Morrison (he name-checks him twice on the album), we don’t get to know much about Ed’s own penchants and experiences, but rather generic template tales of falling in love or missing a girl he was once in love with. ‘Eraser’ gives us a hint that the singer may have some personal issues he wants to vent on tape, but knowing that such material won’t sell, he’s holding these juicy and interesting lyrics back: ‘Ain’t nobody wanna see you down in the dumps/ because you’re living your dream, man, this shit should be fun.’

For the pop-consuming generation of today that have probably never listened to another singer-songwriter, some of his template subject matter may seem revelatory compared to the ass-anthems and club bangers of other pop stars. But for those of us that are well-versed in singer-songwriter material, Ed is just churning out love song clichés over polished dime-a-dozen pop-folk instrumentals.

There are certainly ways in which Ed is a breath of fresh air for pop. He isn’t some reality TV product crafted by Simon Cowell and co. He’s grafted his way to the top by his own means, having come from playing small dingy pub venues full of drunken darts players to performing to sold-out arenas full of screaming girls and boys (and if we’re going to get politically correct about it, maybe some screaming non-binary folk too). His music may be generic, but he personally chose it to be that way. His image, his lyrics, his music, is all still in his own vision, which is a valuable rarity in today’s pop scene.

All in all, to quote a Batman movie, Ed Sheeran is the hero the pop industry deserves, but not the one it needs right now. 

TRACK TASTER:

Friday, 17 March 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 17/03/2017: Sam Gellaitry, Stitches, Rick Ross and more...


The Top 20 Charts may be 80% Ed Sheeran. But I promise there are other human beings out there making music. A lot of not very good music mind you (it's been a particularly poor week). But a welcome break from Ed Sheeran nonetheless.

THE BEST:

‘Ceremony’ – Sam Gellaitry



My glowsticks are at the ready. According to the young EDM wizard himself, the producer's upcoming project Escapism III is set to contain more 'trance and rave' influences. 'Ceremony' is our first glimpse of things to come - a dizzying arrangement of spiky synths and oddball digital percussion certain to give your headphones a workout.

'Crush Mood' - Lone




Better keep those glowsticks out. The retro-loving rave producer Lone just dropped this new house tune 'Crush Mood' - and it's a certified banger. Fans can expect a series of projects this year. I swear it was only a few months ago that he released his last album Levitate. Does this man ever sleep???

 ‘Speed Racer’ – Her's



This band regularly play live shows with a cardboard cutout of Pierce Brosnan. Just thought I'd throw that out there. Musically, they're an off-kilter mix of 50s doo wop and surf influences. The stuff that your grandparents were probably making babies to. JUST PICTURE THAT FOR A SECOND. 'Speed Racer' perfectly demonstrates the cocktail of 50s flavours in motion, sporting a slinky bassline and some lovably loony vocals. How Pierce Brosnan relates to any of it will remain a mystery.

THE WORST:

 ‘Love As One’ - David Lee Louthan



I’m not sure how this ended up in Soundcloud’s Top 50 tracks. The fact that so many of the comments below are praise is disconcerting. Are those vocals supposed to sound like that? And did someone spill coffee on the mixing board?

‘I Just Wanna Fuck You’ – Stitches


Stitches wants to fuck you. Today! Right in the earhole. There is no escape. He’s coming for you.

 ‘She On My Dick’ – Rick Ross ft. Gucci Mane


The art of subtlety really is in short supply nowadays.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Review of 'World Eater' by Blanck Mass



If you prefer your electronica devoid of sunshine and rainbows, World Eater is certain to have the dark and twisted thrills you desire. However, you’ll also need to be a more patient listener than I am.

One half of synthlord twosome Fuck Buttons, Benjamin John Power (AKA Blanck Mass) is now on his third solo album – and he’s still an artist proudly in his own lane. Gunshot-like snares, lurching sub-bass and music box twinkles make up these heaving digital earthmovers. There are no hooks to speak of – whilst there are vocal samples sprinkled throughout, they’re so chopped and screwed that they may as well be alien sounds.

Opener ‘John Doe’s Carnival Of Error’ is a creepy merry-go-round theme that distorts into noise, segueing into aggressive industrial eardrum assault ‘Rhesus Negative’. It’s a thrilling start to the record that takes no prisoners, likely to terrify and confuse Calvin Harris fans, but certain to challenge and excite disciples of EDM’s more avant-garde side.

Unfortunately, Benjamin swiftly reveals his love of the Aphex Twin doctrine – which is to say he loves elongating tracks beyond the six minute mark. Previous album Dumb Flesh suffered a similar affliction, although the likes of ‘Dead Format’ felt more immediate. Many of the tracks here plod on too long for focused listening, whilst ‘Minnesota/Eas Fors/Naked’ is blatantly ambient.

With some condensing, this could be stronger stuff. I’ll definitely be dipping back into World Eater for individual tracks, but for a full listen it’s better suited as a background piece for playing a scary horror game to or practicing live taxidermy to or whatever freakish hobbies you have.  

TRACK TASTER:

Friday, 10 March 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 10/03/2017: Mastodon, Mick Jenkins, The Bug Vs Earth and more...



Tunes to distract yourself from Trump travel bans and Twitter rows over tits.

THE BEST:

‘Andromeda’ – Mastodon


Genghis Khan. Godzilla. Your mum. Whilst they all come close, none are as mean as this riff. After releasing polarising Foo-Fighters-esque track ‘Show Yourself’, this new thrasher revives the metal elites’ original abrasive sound. Emperor of Sand, the group’s upcoming album, seems like it’s going to be a bit of a mixed bag, but I’m psyched nonetheless.

 ‘Pressed for Time’ – Mick Jenkins


Chicago artist Mick Jenkins is out to serenade the ladies with some smooth sing-rapping and lovelorn lyrics. ‘I know y’all want that hard shit. Ima give it to you’ the rapper has vowed on Twitter – just in case any of you fans thought Mick was turning soft and sappy. Personally, I don’t mind him trying to woo me over. IT’S NICE TO FEEL WANTED SOMETIMES. Make sure you stay for the beat flip at the end.

‘Perfect Symphony’ – Atlanta Snow


EDM anthems aren’t usually my thing, but there’s something about the indie-tinged vocals and Coldplay-esque ohhhs here that makes this unique and utterly infectious. The music was mixed by Dave Darlington (who has also worked with Avicii) and this shows in the song’s sparkly production.

‘Don’t Walk These Streets’ – The Bug Vs Earth


The Bug Vs Earth are a moody marriage of gloomy electronica and drone metal. A steady groove guides the listener uneasily through a murky cloud of ominous whirrs and hums. I’m not sure which noises are synth-based and which are guitar-based, which is quite exciting. There may be didgeridoos in there for all I know.

 ‘Dark stars’ – Kev Minney


A contrast to the other decibel-heavy songs featured this week, ‘Dark Stars’ is intimate and earthy folk (earthy but not earth-ly as the space themes and cosmic animated music video showcase). Delicate vocals and some emotive acoustic guitar plucking make for a song that has some true tenderness behind it, which is increasingly becoming a rarity nowadays amongst singer-songwriters.

THE WORST:

‘Swalla’ - Jason Derulo ft. Nicki Minaj & Ty Dolla $ign


The dancehall Macarena instrumental is cool, but the lyrics are so vapid that I feel like I may have lost a couple brain cells.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Review of 'Drunk' by Thundercat



Thundercat ought to be a pretentious douche. Most people with his level of instrumental prowess have the right to be. Instead, the bassist-extraordinaire refuses to take himself seriously. At all. Which is what makes him so lovable.

I feel weird/ comb your beard, brush your teeth/ still feel weird/ beat your meat, go to sleep’. These are the lyrics that open ‘Captain Stupido’ – not your usual sophisticated jazz content. However, as following bebop speedball track ‘Uh uh’ proves, this is undoubtedly a jazz record – and a very good one. Not only is ‘Uh Uh’s flurry of ever-changing chords and spidery bass twiddling so speedily intricate that it hurts my fingers just listening to it, the track is also proof that Thundercat can remain impressively melodic throughout.

This mix of scary musicianship, delicious melody and eccentric humour carries on for the remainder of Drunk. The funky singer/bassist may already have made his name with heavy features on critically acclaimed albums from Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus, as well as releasing positively received studio albums of his own (I personally adored his previous mini-album), but Drunk feels like the strongest assertion of his personality yet. He’s unafraid to barrage us with sexy chords and grooves until our loins are sore, unafraid to overdo his Earth-Wind-And-Fire-esque falsettos to comical proportions and unafraid to sing about his love of Tokyo and wanting to be a cat (complete with musical meowing noises).

Indeed, not everyone will vibe with the L.A. musician’s decision to loads 23 tracks into fifty minutes. With most songs barely making two minutes, you could argue a lot of them are underdeveloped, but to me it just signals more proof of Thundercat’s refusal to boast. Longer songs of this style could risk being noodling and self-indulgent, and so he chooses to tease – which is fine by me.

And yet as deliberately corny, short and succinct as the music is, it still manages to be impactful in places - even if it feels like Thundercat is deliberately trying not to be deep or profound. ‘Friend Zone’ may be a chance for the artist to flaunt his low key nerd with a Mortal Kombat reference, but simultaneously is a powerfully defiant song about being friend zoned. ‘3AM’ barely stretches over a minute length and has more progression and texture than most neo-soul you’ll hear this year.

Some of the guests are certainly shaky. Pharrell can barely stay in tune on ‘The Turn Down’ and fuck knows what Wiz Khalifa is doing on this album? However, it's easy to look over these minor blemishes and herald this as the solid piece of next-gen punk-jazz that it is.

TRACK TASTER:


Friday, 3 March 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 03/3/2017: Idles, Pile, Thundercat and more...



It’s been a week of pancakes and punk. Dig in and enjoy.

THE BEST:


‘Mother’ – Idles


These angry UK punks consistently manage to say so much out of so little. Having tweeted after the video’s completion ‘mother finished; both in life and film’, the band release this new furious attack on gender inequality, which I can only assume is a tribute to the frontman’s late mum. A table of china ornaments is assaulted in the process. Antique dealers will be squirming in their seats.

 ‘Leaning On A Wheel’ – Pile



The rugged rockers from Boston have brought the pace down. The guitars are still craggy, but with more melody behind them – particularly that triumphant ending. If you like your rock a little on the unkempt side but not completely butt-ugly, give this a whirl.

‘Hazy Sunday’ – toby.



It seems like every UK singer-songwriter with an unamericanised accent ends up as a carbon copy of Ed Sheeran. Not Toby (or toby. as it’s stylised). His sound is refreshingly jazzy and lounge-bar-esque, perfectly suited to a hazy Sunday drinking beers in the sun – although probably not at this time of the year.

‘Walk on By’ – Thundercat ft. Kendrick Lamar


I was expecting a Dionne Warwick cover, but this is just as good. This is the third single to be released from the funky singer/bassist’s new album Drunk. Kendrick Lamar features with a verse perfectly matching the lazy tone of the woozy guitars.

‘King Kong’ – Icarus



That motherfucker’s getting down like King Kong’. Yeah, I’m not sure what to think of that hook either. But the constantly evolving funky house instrumental is irresistible.

THE WORST:


 ‘Thick’ – Trisha Paytas


Props for speaking out for the larger ladies. With that voice though, she’s got a slim chance of making it big. But you know what they say, it’s not over til …. oh wait.