Saturday, 25 November 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 25/11/2017: Tom Misch, Billie Eilish, Eastern Barbers and more...



Lots of jazzy soppy heartbreak tunes this week. Get your handkerchief and a tub of Ben and Jerry’s at the ready.

THE BEST:

‘Movie’ – Tom Misch


The little curls on the back of his head bouncing/ as he steps out of my life, forever’. Crikey, that’s some heavy imagery. Soul producer/singer Tom Misch has never sounded so cinematic – this song could easily accompany the breakup scene from a Hollywood tearjerker. The mushy black and white footage of his grandparents and dramatic monologue as courtesy of his sister Polly Misch also make it his most personal work to date.

‘Bitches broken hearts’ – Billie Eilish


Billie Eilish is only 15, and yet she’s able to sing about heartbreak with more maturity than most singers twice her age (even if the track title doesn’t suggest so). The way her voice breaks on the last note around the 2:20 mark gave me goosebumps.

 ‘Blue Flakes’ – Eastern Barbers



Set to a backdrop of drowsy wah-soaked guitars and downbeat bass, this new track sees South London brothers Eastern Barbers trying to reconnect with the innocence of youth. The chorus is absolutely gorgeous with its descending melancholy chords and reverb-soaked la-la-las.

 ‘I Always Wanted You’ – Miles Dismond



San Francisco bedroom artist Miles Dismond offers this lo-fi hybrid of indie and bossa nova, which could be a song about genuine unrequited love or a song about creepy infatuation depending on how you interpret it (the way in which the track eerily crackles in the middle makes me personally think it’s the latter). Fans of Ariel Pink are sure to dig it.

 ‘Pretty Girls’ – Michael Seyer



In case you hadn’t already had your fix of jazzy lounge bar melancholia this week, Michael Seyer’s new track ‘Pretty Girls’ ought to hit the spot. The artist describes his music in his Facebook bio as ‘marijuana hip hop/Indian Guy Cops-step’, which isn’t a genre I can see catching on any time soon.

THE WORST:

‘Santa’s Coming For Us’ – Sia


Even the upbeat tone can't save the fact that the song title 'Santa's coming for us' sounds menacing.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Double Review: ‘Concrete and Gold’ by The Foo Fighters and ‘As You Were’ by Liam Gallagher



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

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 17/11/2017: N.E.R.D, Kaizen, Eminem and more...



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.

THE BEST:

‘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).

THE WORST:

‘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

Double Review: 'Lil Pump' by Lil Pump and '17' by XXXTentacion



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: