Friday, 22 June 2018
THE BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 22/06/2018: Ariana Grande, The Carters, Firstworld and more…
This week I look at The Carters' new banger, the strange new single from Ariana Grande and the 'Flossing' dance craze that's blowing up on the internet...
‘APESH*T’ – The Carters
Music mogul power couple Jay-Z and Beyonce are now writing music under the alias ‘The Carters’. Lyrically, it’s nothing but braggadocio, but the crazy trap beat and energetic delivery make up for it (besides, if anyone has a right to brag, it’s them). I can’t bring myself to create a Tidal account just to listen to their new Tidal-exclusive album, but I do feel like I’m missing out now that I’ve heard this banger.
‘Not Obvious’ – Firstworld
I do love myself a bit of Chillwave. Firstworld’s new track is beautifully lo-fi complete with a music video simulated to look like warped VHS footage. There are elements of Washed Out and Neon Indian in his sound, but there’s also a uniquely dark feel to it all, especially present during the chord change that accompanies ‘and as my wallet begs for mercy, I can’t hear it’.
‘Alike’ – Auramancer
Belgian rockers Auramancer deliver this new song about a man who has reluctantly resigned to his boring everyday life (‘I paid my bills/ and it was fun’). It comes accompanied with a video that sees the protagonist trying to break out of the vicious circle by gambling and joining a Fight Club only for it to end in failure. It’s accompanied by some satisfying guitar riffage that feels very QOTSA-inspired, shifting to a meaner tone towards the end.
‘Graceville’ – Strangely Enough
‘Graceville’ pushes the bands’ already epic sound to cosmic proportions – with it’s sparkling synths, celestial strings and euphoric vocals the whole track feels absolutely huge as it glides along like planet on orbit. According to project founder Greg Olley, the song is about a ‘vain search for Utopia’.
‘The Light Is Coming’ – Ariana Grande ft. Nicki Minaj
I actually think this is a really fun song – Nicki’s verse is fantastic, Ariana’s voice is gorgeously sultry as always and the bubbly synths are cool (Pharrell Williams produced the beat) – but that bloody sample in the background ruins it: ‘YOU WOULDN’T LET ANYBODY SPEAK AND INSTEAD…’. It’s completely out of place and is looped continuously throughout the song.
‘Flossin’ – The Backpack Kid ft. DJ Suede
‘Flossin’ seems set to become the new dance craze. It’s a pity the song itself is utter shite – how do these kids sounds out-of-tune even with autotune?
Friday, 15 June 2018
Big Shaq removes his coat and Slaves are soundly oddly upbeat.
‘Man Don’t Dance’ - Big Shaq
Big Shaq has taken off his jacket, but now he’s refusing to dance. Next year, I’m pretty sure he’ll be dancing and refusing to do something else. Man don’t stick to his principles. Sequels to meme songs are generally never as good, but this beat bangs hard and ‘I like my eggs with yolk, scrambled ting/ but please don’t burn my toast’ is the best opening line to a song I’ve heard all year.
‘Cut and Run’ – Slaves
Even if this is a lot less aggressive than their past work and a lot more like FIFA-game radio rock, I’m feeling the catchy lyrics and simple riffing. Also thanks for the workout video, Slaves - maybe there’s still time to work on my beach body.
‘Ha ha ha’ – Death Grips
The first minute of dissonant chaos was a bit much for me and even then I was too distracted by the disgusting artwork to enjoy the rest of the song, but the track has grown on me since – there’s so much crazy shit going on in it that I can’t help but feel a little awed by it. The track is set to feature on Death Grips’ upcoming album The Year of The Snitch – I’m hoping there are more innovative tracks like this one on it.
‘Heterosapien’ – Shatner
Described in the band’s own words, ‘Heterosapien’ is about how the 'human race is crashing the car whilst texting’. Musically, it’s an incredible mix of rock flavours – Shatner have been described as a mix of The Clash and the B-52s which is about as close as I can come to describing their sonic cocktail.
‘Blurs’ – Echo Vista
Echo Vista’s sound is equally hard to pin down. The layers of fluttering woodwind and gloopy synths feel like they ought to belong to two different worlds, but here they co-exist together. The vocals meanwhile weave in and out of the track. It’s a fun and unpredictable ride.
‘Midsummer Madness’ – 88 Rising
When I saw the signees of 88 Rising had come together for a collaboration I got excited, but this is really quite underwhelming. It feels like a commercial cash grab that doesn’t let any of the artists’ personalities shine. Joji sounds like Charlie Puth.
Wednesday, 13 June 2018
Rapper, producer, fashion designer and nutter, Kanye West, drops his eighth record. Is it his Kanye best, or is it a Kanye mess?
Kanye’s last album The Life of Pablo took forever to be released. After a year of hype, we finally got the album and it still felt unfinished – so much so that the rapper went back and edited the album after its release because some tracks weren’t up to spec.
Contrastingly, Ye seems to have had a rather speedy promo campaign. Much of the media attention beforehand was less to do with the album and more to do with Kanye’s typically controversial antics, confessing his love for Trump on Twitter and blurting out that ‘slavery was a choice’ in an interview. The fact that he mentions the latter in the lyrics of the album shows that this record must have been put together fairly quickly.
It certainly doesn’t feel as elaborate as his past works. At 23 minutes, it’s barely an album and more like an EP. The beats meanwhile are very minimal. ‘I Thought About Killing You’ is practically a cappella for the first 2 minutes, whilst the instrumental of ‘All Mine’ is just a vocal sample and a couple 808s.
But despite its brevity and relative sonic simplicity, this is probably the best Kanye West album I’ve heard thus far. It makes up for its short runtime and sparse instrumentation with some of the rapper’s most intimate and intricate lyrics. There are no cornballs this time around. The lyrics that try to be funny are genuinely funny such as when he rhymes ‘outcome’ and ‘without cum’. Meanwhile, the more introspective bars are packed with hidden meanings as he covers personal topics such as his negative media attention and its impact on his relationship with Kim on ‘Wouldn’t Leave’, his newfound respect for women now that he has a daughter on ‘Violent Crimes’ and his battle with mental illness on ‘I Thought About Killing You’ (which I interpret as a battle with his public and private self – hopefully he’s not referring to Kim!).
Kanye is still a raging narcissist and he clearly feels he’s misunderstood. But there are glimpses of insecurities that show that perhaps there’s another sensitive side to the confident persona that he won't let us see. It’s a voyeuristic look into the rap superstar’s psyche, which we've all been trying to pick apart for years. I’m reminded a lot of Jay-Z’s recent album – an equally personal record from a once arrogant rap veteran that’s as stripped back as it is full of meaning.
The choice of guest vocalists is probably my only gripe with this album. ‘Ghost Town’ could have been the best track on the album, featuring some incredible bars about Kanye’s struggles with being understood and some triumphant gospel-flavoured chords – but the singing from PARTYNEXTDOOR and Kid Cudi is almost unlistenable. PARTYNEXTDOOR’s mumbled crooning sounds like a dying sheep and Kid Cudi’s moaning sounds like a kid on the edge of tears. It makes Kanye’s sung verses sound good, and even they’re a little shaky.
The vocals could have done with some tweaking in the studio (or perhaps he should have hired singers rather than rappers to do the singing). Otherwise, I’m glad much of this album has been left rough and ready. It’s an outburst of Kanye’s feelings and had he spent too long in the studio tweaking the lyrics and the beats, he could have ended up taking away some of the exciting rawness. It frustrates me that so many other reviews on the web are letting Kanye’s political views distort their views on him as a musician – particularly considering the lack of politics on this album. Kanye’s cryptic personality has always been the most interesting thing about him, and its fascinating to see him looking inwards rather than outwards.★★★★☆
Friday, 1 June 2018
How the hell is it June already?
‘Don’t Miss It’ – James Blake
James Blake’s upcoming album could well be his best yet. First, he delivered the ethereal and jittery ‘If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead’ and now he’s returned to haunt us with this new track ‘Don’t Miss It’ featuring ghostly vocals and chillingly heartfelt lyrics on recovering from loss. It comes with a creative lyric video recorded on iCloud notes (it’s certainly one way to shoot a music video on a budget).
‘Come Over’ – The Internet
I first discovered The Internet on the internet about a year and a half ago only to discover that the soul group had pretty much broken up – all its members were releasing solo projects and whilst there was no official breakup it felt like an Odd Future situation. However, it seems The Internet are now back online with a new laid back single ‘Come Over’. Stomping drums and slow funky guitars accompany Syd’s breathy vocals in a signature display of smoothness.
‘Honey’ – Mike Green
For those craving some more smooth funk this week, Mike Green’s moody electropop single ‘Honey’ is certain to satisfy your ears. It’s got a sweet and sticky groove with some interesting synth textures going on. Mike’s vocals also have a Pharrell flavour to them that’s very cool.
‘Colossus’ – Idles
UK punks Idles release their first new single since 2017’s aptly-named album Brutalism. It’s a slow-builder that gets menacingly louder and angrier before exploding into a speedy thrasher. There are also plenty of standout lines: ‘I’m like Stone Cold Steve Austin/ I put homophobes in coffins’.
‘Red Flowers’ - Pink Fireball
Pink Fireball transform themselves into comic book characters in the new video for their latest single ‘Red Flowers’. Musically, it’s an all-out bluesy jam-fest that packs as much energy into its three minutes as it can. I’m particularly loving the groovy riff that comes in around the two minute after the solos – it made me break out into involuntary air guitar to the point that I broke a sweat.
‘Scio Rap’ – Luke Ayers
An Australian scientologist ruins an absolutely amazing beat with some clunky rapped bars about the brilliance of scientology. This is what happens when you have lots of money but no talent.