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’).
Monday, 21 August 2017
I take the time to talk to Mancunian experimental rock band Pool Art about fidget spinners, nuclear war and their new ethereal EP.
Titled Chamber Piece, Pool Art’s new EP certainly seems fit for a torture chamber. Its 5 songs are drowned in reverb and distorted in all kinds of ghastly effects. The result is music so dark you can barely make out the hand in front of you. The mixture of melodic vocals and dissonant guitars show clear elements of doom metal and shoegaze, but whilst such genres tend to be long and meandering when it comes to song-writing, Pool Art’s songs feel very succinct and even punky as is certainly the case with ‘It’s A Hatewatch’.
The result is a rock sound that’s fresh. And yet the duo still manage to find an equilibrium between having a distinct sound but still making each song diverse enough from the next. Opener ‘Misery Porn’ is comparatively upbeat and groovy, whilst ‘It’s a Hatewatch’ and ‘Died Off Screen’ are more frantic pieces made up of harsh squeals and clangs (with the exception of the latter track’s rhythmic outro). Closing dirges ‘Gender Balance’ and ‘Don’t Feed Me To Them’ meanwhile explore the band’s slower and more ambient side, both landing up in the chasms of Hell as they devolve into noisiness. The swamp of reverb makes it hard to distinguish most of the lyrics, but from the track titles alone you can sense that it’s gloomy and agitated stuff.
Frontman Scott Fair was able to take time out from crucifying his guitar to answer a few questions about the band’s music and the process behind these creative sounds…
If Pool Art was a pizza what toppings would it have?
It'd probably have like a Marmite base with some other polarising food as a topping, maybe something unusual like 90% cocoa dark chocolate.
You guys have a sound that’s hard to pin down. I hear glimmers of everything from shoegaze to doom metal to grunge to ambient in your sound. Is it safe to say you have a lot of influences?
Yeh, I think most interesting artists do. We like listening to lots of new things and discovering old things and I think we do make a conscious effort to combine music that excites us in an obvious way, we wear our influences on our sleeves. I think our stuff is interesting because it's varied and these elements we bring together, although on paper they may clash, actually can work interestingly together on some level.
What’s the creative process behind these nightmarish guitar sounds? Do you spend lots of time playing around with effects and pedals until something sticks? Are there tapes of other experimental recordings?
I do tinker with pedals a lot, but I don't have a big selection of them and I like creating within that limitation. It's really great when you start to re-use an unusual sound or combination of effects across your writing, as it ends up being a thread that ties things together. I do make slightly less accessible stuff with my other project Of The Antarktik, which is a solo venture. I'm not sure how "experimental" anything that we're doing is as I think the term has adopted quite a different meaning for music in recent history, I feel the people who make the pedals that I use are the experimental ones.
You guys have recorded music in art galleries and warehouses. What’s an unusual location that you’d love to record music in?
Buildings that have a story are cool because it feels like you absorb some of the history of that space in the recording. There's a video of a girl singing down a well that's been doing the rounds online and I was really impressed by the reverb that this well produces, I think it was recorded on a phone too, so unexpected places would be most exciting. I remember hearing this weird almost robotic slap delay in my stairwell and trying for a while to capture that without much success.
Can we expect any music videos one day? I’d love to see these sounds visually complemented.
We have a video for 'It's A Hatewatch' coming very soon, it was made by the exceptionally talented Will Shields, who has also snapped some amazing photos for us. He has a great eye and wanted to do a one take video in a dark and creepy location, it turned out great. He loves black and white too. It's quite a subtle video, which is an interesting marriage with what is a very unsubtle song. Hatewatch is the song that has had the worst response from people so it made sense for us to focus on that and really force it down people's throats.
What music are you listening to right now? Anything fans wouldn’t expect
So much, it's too easy to find amazing music these days, which arguably sours the reward a touch. In terms of unexpected stuff though maybe 'clipping.' is the one that stands out. I remember a friend of Lee mentioning them some time ago and months later I stumbled on this KEXP session they did and they are all so talented. I really love Wriggle and their latest Splendor & Misery is something very special. Definitely watch that KEXP performance.
If Pool Art owned a swimming pool what would it be like?
Probably filled with blood that moved gently and in slow motion. A pool designed by David Lynch!
When are Pool Art fidget spinners hitting the shelves?
Still trying to shift T-Shirts so they're probably a way off. I did see a Simon The Magpie, who makes pedals, using one in a pretty interesting way recently though.
Who will win in the imminent nuclear war – Kim Jon Un, Trump or Pool Art?
If it happens, no-one. I hope it never happens.
What else does the future hold for Pool Art?
I'm genuinely excited about what comes next, I've truly enjoyed everything that's happened so far and can't wait to share more music and get in front of more audiences. We're going to take a little break after Chamber Piece though, but we'll be back soon.
Follow Pool Art at https://www.facebook.com/poolartmusic/
Follow Pool Art at https://www.facebook.com/poolartmusic/
Friday, 18 August 2017
Don't get depressed over dumb terrorists and stupid Nazi rallies. Cheer yourself up with these tunes.
‘Feels like Heaven’ – Ariel Pink
Eccentric experimentalist Ariel Pink is sounding less noisy than he was on ‘Time To Live’, instead giving us some reverb-soaked lovesick New Wave. The haze of rose-tinted guitars and sunny synths are so beautiful that I’m willing to bask in the schmaltziness of the lyrics.
‘Fathers Day’ – NONA
BUT FATHER’S DAY WAS TWO MONTHS AGO??? Alright, keep your hair on, this isn’t a Father’s Day anthem per se, but more a reflection on fatherhood as the LA band’s frontman looks back at his own relationship with his dad. The pensive tone is backed by rose-tinted guitars, just in case you needed an extra fix of rose-tinted guitars this week. It's encouraging stuff from this new wistful indie act.
‘Junky’ – Brockhampton
This Texas collective of oddball rappers, self-described as the ‘internet’s first boy band’, has been releasing a steady stream of ultra-cool visuals. The music itself has been fairly decent too, but I’ve been waiting for them to wow me enough to jump aboard the hype train. Well, on this single they’ve converted me – set to a tense beat, the members spend each verse of this song digging up their insecurities. They’re all kooky characters and here their kookiness is allowed to shine through.
‘There You Go’ – Saba
Introduced to us via Chance the rapper, fellow Chicago hip hop artist Saba has been working on his own brand of feelgood rap. His beats keep getting jazzier whilst his flow is smooth like butter - or to quote the opening line’s South Park reference: ‘I’m butter like Leopold’.
‘Scars’ - T H i S
I DiD THiNK ABOUT WRiTiNG A WHOLE REViEW LiKE THiS, but thought better of it. Thankfully, the weirdly-stylised band name isn’t the only thing unique about these Welsh rockers. The riffage in this menacing single is pretty creative, particularly the schizopherenic section at the end.
‘Empty Barn 3’ – Roro Perrot
This guy has three ‘empty barn’ songs on his channel of him howling horribly whilst savagely strumming an out-of-tune acoustic guitar. It’s not exactly a single, but I thought I ought to share my bafflement with the world.
Friday, 11 August 2017
Tyler quits trolling and shows us his serious side.
For years, the class clown of the rap game has been showing us glimpses of his serious side as on gems such as ‘Bastard’ and ‘Answer’. It’s hard to invest yourself in these touching moments when the rest of the songs are loaded with masturbation references and ‘golfwang’ chants and rape jokes.
On Cherry Bomb it seemed we were getting a more mature Tyler once and for all. The flows were tighter too and the production was some of his most soulful yet. However, despite the graceful female vocal harmonies and motivational lyrics of a track like ‘Find Your Wings’, there was still a track like ‘Blow My Load’ crass enough to reset the tone back to rock bottom. The mixing was also off in places and Tyler’s attempts to sing were plain awful.
By contrast, Scum Fuck Flower Boy – in spite of its title – may just be the rapper’s most sincere work. He’s taken off the clown costume and decided to open up about all his insecurities without the slightest smear of irony. The headlines have all been obsessed with Tyler’s coming out, and whilst he does reference his sexuality with several lines throughout the LP (‘I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004’), it’s the way Tyler tackles the theme of loneliness and heartbreak that really leaves a mark.
Flower Boy shows the introspective side to being an extrovert with Tyler’s most personal verse coming towards the end of ‘911/Mr. Lonely’ with confessional lines like ‘the loudest in the room is probably the loneliest in the room’.
Most the instrumentation is heavily jazzy. Tyler’s beats have always relied heavily on jazz-flavoured chords, but here he seems to be weaving intricate compositions out of jazz ideas, peppered with other stylings from electronica, trap and neo-soul. One of his most detailed beats is the labyrinthine backdrop of ‘Garden Shed’. It meanders off in all directions, but rather than feeling messy like many of the beats on Cherry Bomb, there’s a sense of clear direction from start to finish.
And of course there are still some fun bangers in the mix such as ‘Who Dat Boy’ and ‘I Ain’t Got Time’ where Tyler gets confrontational over distorted tuned kick drums. These are less obnoxious than previous Tyler bangers (no ‘golfwang’ chants in sight) but still just as cartoonishly playful as is traditional Tyler style.
The rapper could still improve by taking a few singing lessons, as this part of his musicianship still leaves a lot to be desired. The shaky crooning on the likes of ‘911’ and ‘Glitter’ give Flower Boy an amateurish feel that isn’t charming – it’s just painful on the ears.
Shaky singing aside however, the remainder of the music is proficiently handled. For once Tyler is sounding like a professional, dropping speedy flows and making lyrical quips that aren't just there to shock. His beats meanwhile are masterfully crafted – quite possibly some of the best beats we’ll hear this year. If you’ve previously dismissed Tyler as a troll, now may be the time to start paying attention.
I really tried to hate on some songs this week, but nothing stood out to me as particularly hateable. Consequently it’s all tracks I loved in this week’s selection.
‘Can You Talk To People Around The World On The Internet?’ - Hot Dad
This is such a stupidly ingenious song concept, made better by the beautifully retro synths and vocoders. I do hope Hot Dad’s dreams of communicating to people around the world on the internet come true.
‘Hey Ho’ – oscar oscar
Is ‘ground-breaking’ too hyperbolic a word to use? That's certainly the way I feel towards the alien clicks and chimes kicking off this track. And if the production didn't bring enough of a unique flavour, the Brisbane artist then decides to top it off with a matchless vocal style made up otherworldly quivering falsettos. It’s wonderfully weird – the stuff us bloggers get off to.
‘LMK’ - Kelela
I couldn’t be asked to set up an Apple Music account, but nevermind, I can finally join in the hype now that there’s a music video on Youtube - and what a cool music video it is! The alt-r&b songstress parades through a futuristic nightclub whilst donning a myriad of different coloured wigs. Her sound meanwhile continues to be a more danceable version of FKA Twigs, whilst also serving as a more eccentric version of Tinashe. It's the best of both r&b worlds.
‘Without Love’ – Alice Glass
Alice Glass was formerly frontwoman of an electropunk group called Crystal Castles. Now the singer is going at it solo to a backdrop of equally glitched out and warped electronica beats. She’s planning on touring with Marilyn Manson, who may well have been an influence on the creepy video, which sees her writhing around like she needs an exorcist surrounded by vines.
‘Desire’ – Everything Everything
There are some parts of this song that are startlingly Muse-like. But these UK indie rockers have always been more silly than melodramatic, allowing them to pull off the theatrics more tastefully. I also don’t know about you, but that fat guitar tone is delicious.
‘Lonely Together’ – Avicii ft. Rita Ora
Avicii claimed he was retiring from the music industry last year and yet has decided to release a new song. I’m not mad at him, largely because as EDM bangers go, this new single ‘Lonely Together’ is pretty damn good. Rita’s voice is nothing special, but the reverb-soaked synths vibe with me.