Friday, 24 August 2018
Disclosure won’t stop dropping new songs and Paul McCartney wants to ‘fuh’ you.
‘Moonlight’ – Disclosure
Disclosure have been going nuts this week releasing new singles left, right and centre – by the time you’ve read this post they’ll have probably released three more tracks. Despite experimenting with different genres such as funk and even 50s pop, the bulk of this new material has been pretty meh. The exception is 'Moonlight', which is everything I love from Disclosure with it's slick build-up and glossy chords. Of all the tracks released, it's probably the closest to the duo's original deep house sound. Why can't all the other singles be like this? Why do musicians have to change? I HATE CHANGE.
‘Balancing Act’ – I, Aeronaut
This is like some chillwave take on Radiohead – it’s a grainy mix of moody vocals, distorted drums and reverb-soaked guitars. At points it’s so muddy, you can barely distinguish sounds from one another, yet it remains a pretty cloud of sounds rather than an ugly mess.
‘Tick Tock’ – Japanese Television
This intense instrumental is the work of space-surf rockers Japanese Television. It races along to the accompaniment of a driving bass riff and pounding drum beat whilst various psychedelic effects play out over the top. It makes me picture the hero of an action movie racing through traffic to disarm a bomb in the local mall that’s tick-tocking away.
‘SPACEMAN’ – Chloe Black
This is pure unadulterated pop, the likes of which I usually avoid on this blog, but there’s something unique in the melody that elevates this beyond your usual radio fodder. I particularly like the transition from the woozy verse to the grandiose chorus. I don’t even care that the lyrics are about wanting to fuck a spaceman.
‘Fuh You’ – Paul McCartney
I’m not the first to make this joke, but here it is anyway: hasn’t Paul come a long way since ‘I want to hold your hand’? It’s interesting, because if anyone else had sung this hook in 2018, no-one would bat an eyelid – that’s how overtly sexual pop music has become. The fact that it’s coming out of the mouth of a 76-year-old ex-Beatle’s mouth is what makes it so scandalous, and I kind of respect him for having the audacity to do it. The issue is that Paul doesn’t go far enough – if he really wanted to stir things up he should jumped on a Death Grips beat or some grindcore, not this clean commercial crap.
Friday, 17 August 2018
BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 17/08/2018: Twenty One Pilots, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, False Advertising and more…
Twenty One Pilots sound less poppy, whilst The 1975 have gone the opposite way.
‘Levitate’ – Twenty One Pilots
Frontman Tyler Joseph is rapping his butt off on this new single and the beat is insane, melding 808s and raw percussion whilst topped with various moody sounds. It’s very different to the band’s usual poppy material – there’s nothing to sing along to and it probably won’t get any radio airplay, but I’m digging it (and my opinion is all that matters).
‘Don’t Forget About Me’ – Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs is an awesome band name – I’m glad they’re not a totally enormous disappointment and that they’ve got an awesome sound to match. After a slow and ethereal build-up of sparkling synths and ghostly vocals, the song starts to warp in pitch at the three-and-a-half-minute mark before breaking into a defiantly feelgood groove.
‘FOA’ – wwoman
Pittsburgh artist wwoman is actually a mman (I think). A slinky bass riff and glossy chords make up the hypnotic instrumental, which is topped with reverb-soaked wistful vocals. It reminds me of a more intimate Tame Impala.
‘Don’t Think You Wanna’ – Star The Moonlight
New York based group Star The Moonlight deliver this slice of delicious future soul. The instrumental is an amalgamation of squelchy synths, deep bass, funky clarinet and other jazzy sounds, offering a number of exciting twists and turns. Vocalist Hattie Simon meanwhile delivers some classic smoky soul singing over the top. It’s an impressive debut single that has me hungry for more.
‘You Said’ – False Advertising
I’ve featured these Manchester rockers on my blog a good few times – they’ve grown in popularity since I interviewed them, which I’m happy to see. Their latest single ‘You Said’ features their signature mix of scuzzy grungy guitars and belting anthemic vocals. They’re one of the few rock bands that I hope will never change their formula, because it’s so reliably good.
‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’ – The 1975
Well, for starters, whoever came up with that obnoxious track title deserves to be slapped. As for the song itself, The 1975 are no longer ripping off INXS and now sound like Maroon 5 with a vaguely dancehall-flavoured beat and a bit of autotune slathered on top. It’s the sound of a band letting go of all authenticity and selling out to the zeitgeist. They’ll be teaming up with Drake or Cardi B next, mark my words…
Thursday, 16 August 2018
Denzel spits, sings and screeches on his most dynamic record to date.
Hip hop fans have been sleeping on Denzel Curry so long that I’m surprised they haven’t got bedsores at t his point. The fast-flowing Floridian rapper pretty much fathered Soundcloud rap – although to put him in the same category as dumbed-down goons like Lil Pump seems a bit of an insult. Denzel’s music is its own blend of ingredients (his very own musical curry) – a mix of speedy flows, angry delivery and half-trip/half-trap beats.
2016’s Imperial, an album of wall-to-wall bangers, showed how fun Denzel could be. My only gripe with this record was that it lacked dynamics, with the energy seemingly jammed in sixth gear. Denzel Curry clearly must have read my review, because if there’s one big change on this album, it’s the newfound dynamics.
Taboo (stylised TA13OO) is divided into three acts – Light, Grey and Dark. The ‘Light’ section opens the album with Denzel showing off his crooning skills (yes, this man can now sing), carrying a tone similar to Andre 3000 over a selection of lush and soulful beats. This is followed by the ‘Grey’ act, which is largely trap anthems. It then ends with the ‘Dark’ section, which borders on screamo rap with its aggressive closer ‘Black Metal Terrorist’ in which Denzel attempts to finish off the listener in a Mortal Kombat fashion.
The light/grey/dark theme doesn’t completely make sense – lyrically, there’s not much lightness on any of the tracks. Even the first act delves deep into depression (although the lyrics certainly get more unhinged, with Denzel contemplating terrorism by the end). I’m also unsure why aggressive banger ‘Sumo’ ended up on the light section, nor do I understand why ‘Vengeance’ takes a smooth jazzy turn despite being on the dark section.
Thematic discrepancies aside though, the individual tracks themselves on TA13OO are Denzel’s best so far – so much so that I’m willing to overlook the theme entirely. There are more hooks in this tracklist than a fishing store – ‘Black Balloons’ hasn’t even finished and I was already mouthing the words ‘let it flow, let it flow, let it flow by me’. As for Denzel’s delivery, this is where the newfound sense of dynamics really makes an appearance. Whilst he still throws out his hyperspeed flows on occasion, most of tracks see him reigning it in so that he can vary up the pace. ‘Switch It Up’ is the perfect example of this, in which he jumps over the 808s like an acrobat, switching his flow up (hence the title) from bar to bar.
Lyrically, Denzel is also on top form and equally diverse. When he’s not pulling out fun and esoteric pop culture references to anime characters and wrestlers on tracks like ‘Sumo’, the rapper is confronting more serious issues such as suicide on ‘Clout Cobain’. This latter track is a fresh take on the pressures of fame – the shocking music video gives the track most of its power, but the song itself is still innovative. Even token anti-Trump track ‘Sirens’ isn’t all that bad, featuring a guest verse from J.I.D (who I keep meaning to check out more from) and a great line about how one narrow-minded white person can make a black community insular: ‘with a good girl gone bad girl/ who went gay cause of date rape/ that’s a metaphor for the US/ cause they got us in the same state’.
Denzel may not possess the poetry of a rapper like Kendrick, but he’s still got a flow and energy to rival these artists. It’s about time that he started to get recognition - already this album is converting new fans and making him the household name in hip hop that he deserves. I’ll agree that the light/grey/dark theme isn’t entirely watertight, but this doesn’t really matter to me given that the songs themselves are some of the most well-rounded and catchy rap songs to drop this year.
Saturday, 11 August 2018
BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 11/08/2018: Mikaela Davis, Hollowlove, Matthew & The Arrogant Sea and more...
‘Delivery’ – Mikaela Davis
John Lennon is back from the dead and he’s now a woman. That’s the vibe I’m getting from this epic slice of piano rock by New York harp-player-turned-singer-songwriter Mikaela Davis. It starts with just piano and then gradually builds with new instruments entering the mix. All the while, Mikaela’s bittersweet vocals remain gentle but commanding: ‘They say it’s all about delivery’.
‘Earthquake’ – Will McBride Group
North Carolina act The Will McBride Group use earthquake imagery to offer a social commentary on the times (no, it’s not a cover of the Labrinth song if the same name). Their mellow style draws influence from 70s rock acts like the Eagles and Steely Dan with a slight reggae flavouring to the guitars that gives it a unique feel.
‘SL33P’ – Quiet Man
London electro soul artist Quiet Man just wants to sleep, which is a feeling I can relate to. His latest single sees him laying sleepy spoken word verses over spiky synths before delivering an instantly catchy soulful hook. Quiet Man has been quiet for the last couple years, not releasing any material since his last track ‘Amazon’, but now has a few different singles ready for release – I’m eager to hear more.
‘Serpentine’ – Hollowlove
Canadian electropop duo Hollowlove were the last people I expected to drop an anti-Trump anthem, but I’m glad they did – this might well be one of the best anti-trump anthems I’ve heard so far (and trust me, I’ve heard a lot). The glitzy synths add to the sassiness of the lyrics. It’s one of the few protest songs that I could happily dance to.
‘Swedish Death Metal Cassette’ – Matthew & The Arrogant Sea
This couldn’t be further from Swedish death metal, but I’m digging it nonetheless. Both the lyrics and music video are humorously weird in contrast to the sombre folk delivery. It’s both beautiful and bizarre and that’s just how I like my music and the world in general.
‘F.U.B.A.R’ – Suicidal Tendencies
Punk/thrash group Suicidal Tendencies have been slowly going down hill when it comes to musical quality, but you can excuse them for not being the band they once were – there are pretty much no original band members left at this point. This may well be their cleanest and most flaccid production yet. They really have become FUBAR at this point.
Wednesday, 1 August 2018
Drake’s new double album is a drag.
I’m allergic to long albums. Upon seeing that Scorpion was 25 tracks long, I almost broke into anaphylactic shock there and then. Drake’s last album was 20 tracks long and my biggest complaint with that was that it was too long. How would I get through this without falling into a coma?
Two things pulled me through – the fact that I’ve liked a few Drake hits in the past enough to tolerate him for two hours and the fact that Drake is now a daddy and we all needed to hear him confront the topic. Celebrity scandal usually isn’t my thing, but anyone who listened to that scathing diss track from Pusha T knows that Drake needed to respond to the allegations that he was ‘hiding a child’ – if he wanted to preserve the good guy persona he’d so willingly tried to prove in the video for ‘God’s Plan’, he needed to come clean about it.
And Drake does just that on this album, saving it for the final track ‘March 14’, which ends up being a truly deep insight into the life of a single dad following reluctantly in the footsteps of his father: ‘but this champagne toast is short-lived/ I’ve got an empty crib in my empty crib’. It’s the hip hop icon and human meme’s most personal and moving song to date (the first time I almost cried at a Drake song. ALMOST) – but it’s right at the end of the album, no doubt shoehorned in last minute, so that we have to listen to the remaining 24 tracks of Drake drivel.
Admittedly, this wasn’t supposed to be an album about fatherhood, and the rest of the lyrical content is an improvement from Views, which was largely him resenting women with a few corny bars thrown in. In fact, there are some very personal tracks on Scorpion like ‘Jaded’ and ‘Emotionless’ that are practically cornball free. I even enjoyed Drake getting mean on ‘Nonstop’ as he spits ‘yeah I’m lightskinned, but I’m still a dark nigga’.
It's great to see Drake confronting the topic of duality on this album, which seems fitting for a double album. After all, the half-black/half-white, half-Catholic/half-Jewish, Canadian-American dual citizen rapper-singer knows a thing or two about having a mixed identity. It’s also interesting to see Drake divide the album into one half of mainly rapping and one half of mainly singing. The album certainly has a theme.
Sadly, it’s musically dull as dishwater. The 25 tracks may delve into genres as diverse as gospel and trap, but few of the songs actually have much direction. There are few beat changes and very few hooks – as a result each song gets dull after about 30 seconds. Only when Drake pulls out the more ambient and experimental beats as on ‘Emotionless’ does he keep things engaging and that’s largely due to the help of the personal lyrical content. Some of the guest vocalists are also able to spice things up by adding new vocal tones – particularly Michael Jackson on ‘Don’t Matter To Me’, who I wasn’t expecting to be resurrected for a Drake feature – but most of the time its just Drake rapping or singing in the same tone, showing us that it’s probably best that he continues to combine the two rather than trying to focus solely on one.
Scorpion’s marathon length hasn’t stopped it receiving more Spotify streams in a day than any other record (although the excessive promotion on Spotify definitely helped, as he appeared as the thumbnail of every playlist including totally inappropriate playlists such as Great British Breakfast and Indie Argentina). What makes Drake’s new album so streamable is perhaps the fact that it makes great background music. The lack of hooks and beat changes make it the perfect album for zoning out to. Only when the lyrics get ultra-personal does Drake pull the listener in and I have my suspicions that most of these tracks were only thrown in at the last minute anyway (ironic, as they're some of his best). It’s an album with a lot of promise, but ultimately Drake’s biggest dud.