Friday, 12 January 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 12/01/2018: Halo Maud, Tune-Yards, Gibberish and more...


Celebrate the new year by bumping these fresh new tunes in your car whilst a newly recruited Logan Paul serves you at the drive-thru.

THE BEST:

‘Baptism’ – Halo Maud


This French indie singer-songwriter could be mistaken for a child with her eerily high-pitched vocal tone. The spellbinding harmonies from the backup singers and strange Wicca dancing in the video make it all the more hypnotic (the French seem to love zonked-out dancing in music videos).

‘Heart Attack’ – Tune-Yards


Speaking of wacky dancing, art-popper Merrill Garbus (AKA Tune-Yards) has a new upbeat single out titled ‘Heart Attack’ accompanied by a video containing all kinds of freaky moves. With it’s rhythmic claps and identifiable chorus it’s one of Merrill’s more straightforward songs to date.

‘Yellow’ – Tiedye Ky


The sexy synth chords opening the track immediately lulled me in, but it’s at 1:17 that the song enters a whole new dimension with those detuned stabs. ‘Yellow’ is one of multiple tracks named after colours on the Philly singer-producer’s new EP Color Palettes.

‘Feet Wet’ – Gibberish


‘Feet Wet’ takes you through a hazy mist of ghostly guitars, vaporous vocals and spacey synthesizers. A pounding drum pushes the song along further into the psychedelic fog. The LA band have a new record out titled Kneehigh.

‘Weather’ – Adrian Underhill


Canadian singer-songwriter Adrian Underhill displays an eccentric mixture of sounds on his new single ‘Weather’. I particularly like raw drum loop in the background. It shouldn’t fit with the warm piano and digital synth bass, but surprisingly it all blends together beautifully like Turkey and cranberry sauce (as opposed to pineapple on pizza - the food of the devil).  

THE WORST:

‘This is Me’ - Kesha


I was never a Kesha fan, but I’ll take her squawky dance tunes any day over these try-hard epic pop ballads.  

Friday, 5 January 2018

Review of 'No-one Ever Really Dies' by N.E.R.D



N.E.R.D are back sporting a less poppy, more political Pharrell Williams.

Alternative hip hop/funk/rock/whatever-genre-they-can-throw-at-the-canvas group N.E.R.D formed in 1999. Their last album was released in 2010, after which frontman Pharrell moved on to get involved in a number of pop hits including Daft Punk collaboration ‘Get Lucky’, solo single ‘Happy’ and more recently a Calvin Harris hit ‘Feels’ featuring Katy Perry and Big Sean.

Have made his millions as a mainstream artist, Pharrell has now decided to reform with his ex-N.E.R.D members to get back in touch with his alternative side. Chad Hugo is back providing extra production and instrumentation, whilst Shay Haley is also doing his thing (what exactly does Shay Haley do again?). It’s the comeback album N.E.R.D fans has been waiting for, only it doesn’t feel much like a traditional N.E.R.D album at all.

For one, the rock flavourings have gone. It’s all highly-polished digital sounds on No-One Ever Dies with a heavier hip hop influence more similar to Pharrell’s early Neptunes work. There are rumblings of digital sub-bass and spiky synth chords on almost every track giving it a definite style. Almost every song also contains a beat change to makes things grippingly unpredictable from the groovy breakdown of ‘Lemon’ to the full-on trippy metamorphosis of ‘ESP’. Occasionally songs get a little too cluttered such as on ‘1000’. And whilst many of the abrupt beat changes come as a fun surprise, a few slow transitions here and there might have helped to make the production a little less start/stop.

As for the vocal performances, Pharrell gives his shaky falsettos a break for a more varied delivery. At times it veers off into cartoonish territory (I can picture him voicing a talking animal in a Disney movie at points), but it aids the animated beats in most cases. Some of the tracks are party anthems, but there are also some great political rallies on this record such as ‘Don’t don’t do it’, which explores the lose-lose situation of racial profiling and anti-Trump tune ‘Deep Down Body Thurst’.

The guest stars are well placed for the most part too. I rolled my eyes at the boastful parade of big names such as Rihanna and Ed Sheeran, but both artists actually meld well into their respective songs. Who knew Rihanna could rap? Or that Ed Sheeran could sound tasteful on a trap-reggae beat? Kendrick Lamar and Andre 3000 are reliable as always, even if Kendrick’s encore on ‘Kites’ feels a little excessive. The only disappointing guest is Future, whose auto-tuned warbling isn’t welcome on any album I listen to, but sounds especially hideous on the already ugly ‘1000’.

With all comeback albums, the biggest question is always ‘do they still sound relevant?’. In the case of N.E.R.D, they certainly succeed on this album and not just because we’re so used to hearing Pharrell on the airwaves. The guests are all current and expertly placed and the beats are thrillingly innovative despite being occasionally messy. It might not sound much like the group’s traditional sound, but it’s all the better for it.

TRACK TASTER: