Friday, 28 September 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 28/09/2018: Young Thug (ft. Elton John), Will McBride Group, Cheap Teeth and more...




It’s time for you weekly dose of Music Related Junk.

THE BEST:

‘Touch and Go’ – Tomas Tomas


This slick nu disco tune comes courtesy of New York musician Tomas Tomas. The funky synths are delicious, and the dude’s voice has a silky almost-Frank-Ocean quality. There’s no shortage of this kind of music out there, but this is the premium quality stuff.

‘Karma’ – Will McBride Group


The last single from this group that I featured on this blog was reggae-flavoured rock. By contrast, this sees the North Carolina band going all-out funk. The slinky bass and bluesy guitar soloing show off the bands instrumental prowess, whilst Will McBride’s vocals glide effortlessly over the top.

 ‘Swingtheory’ – Quickly, Quickly


This Portland-based jazztronica producer sounds like a glitchier version of Flying Lotus. The textures are so crisply produced that it’s hard to believe this producer is only 17 years old. I also love the way it progresses – especially the key change towards the end.

‘Fly on the Wall’ – Cheap Teeth


Cheap Teeth have a sound that’s as grim as their band name. The guitar melodies sound like something from a horror fairground whilst the band’s vocalist delivers a visceral half-warble, half-shrieked style of singing over the top. If you like your rock raw, this is definitely worth sinking your (cheap) teeth into.

THE WORST:

‘High’ – Young Thug ft. Elton John


I got pretty excited at the prospect of this weird collaboration, but it turns out that it’s not a collaboration at all. No, this is simply nothing more than a remix of ‘Rocket Man’ with some Young Thug bars over the top. Basically, Young Thug butchers a classic.

‘I Swallow His Kids’ – Princess Vitarah


The obscene track title pretty much tells you exactly what to expect – Princess Vitarah definitely doesn’t make music for kids (swallowing kids is more her thing). Even the beat is awful, featuring some flute that sounds like it was ripped from 2005-era Runescape.

Friday, 21 September 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 21/09/2018: Eminem, Lana Del Rey, Gorillaz and more…



This week, I take a look at the new savage diss track from Eminem amongst other new songs…

THE BEST:

‘Killshot’ – Eminem


There’s been enough beef in hip hop this year to put McDonald’s out of business. I can hardly keep up with it all.

The latest and most unprecedented is the Machine Gun Kelly/Eminem feud - a couple weeks ago Machine Gun Kelly thought it wise to release a diss track titled ‘Rap Devil’ aimed at Eminem. It was a valiant attempt with some good jabs, but now Eminem has responded with a track titled ‘Killshot’ and the result is a slaughter: ‘This is it, as big as you’re going to get, so enjoy it/ Had to give you a career to destroy it’. It’s absolutely brutal. Just goes to show, ‘you don’t wanna fuck with shady’.

‘Venice Bitch’ – Lana Del Rey


Several years ago, the prospect of a nearly ten minute Lan Del Rey track would have made me gag, but she’s matured so much since then and so has her style. ‘Venice Bitch’ starts as a nostalgic end-of-summer ballad and then goes off on a hypnotic War-on-Drugs-esque seven-minute outro featuring loopy organs and psychedelic guitars. The song refuses to end and yet it remains captivating.

‘Full Moon’ – Gator


Gator describe themselves as a ‘swamp metal’ band. Their latest single has a carnivalesque Scooby-Doo vibe, featuring trippy largely spoken vocals over distorted guitars. It’s the kind of music I didn’t realise I needed in my life.

 ‘Heaven’ – Charly Bliss


Before this song was even over, I wanted to sing along to the chorus: ‘Now that I’m in heaveeen’. The mean and grungy guitars give it a badass feel that prevents it being a soppy love song (which is what it is). It definitely makes me eager to hear more from this New York band.

‘Swimming Underwater’ – Django Django


This is yet another track with a deliciously catchy chorus (Django Django seem incapable of writing a chorus that isn’t catchy). A punchy snare helps to give it a mean groove, whilst the synths have a nice retro feel. In fact, I struggle to find anything I dislike about this song.

THE WORST:

‘Tranz’ - Gorillaz


Meanwhile, this has to be the most uncatchy chorus I’ve heard in a while – what’s up with Damon’s vocals. The song seems to be about drugs (or so I assume from the music video’s creepy ending), so I guess he’s trying to make the vocals sound druggy, but it just sounds like a garbled mess.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Review of 'Kamikaze' by Eminem




Hide your kids. Hide your wife. Eminem is out to attack everyone on this new surprise album.

I feel like I wanna punch the world in the fucking face right now!’ is how Eminem chooses to open up his latest record Kamikaze. It’s immediately clear that slim shady is not a happy bunny.

For those that didn’t know, the iconic rapper’s last album Revival (released only a couple months ago) was not well-received. Many people, myself included, thought it was his worst record to date. The critics were particularly harsh – Consequence of Sound gave it an F, which Metacritic translates as a score of 0.

The disgraced hip hop legend clearly felt he had to respond to the hate. As a result, it’s been barely a few months since Revival dropped and we now have this new album.

Let’s return to that opening line: ‘I feel like I wanna punch the world in the fucking face right now!’. Eminem pretty much succeeds at punching the world in the face on first track ‘The Ringer’. He begins by lashing out at critics before then turning his sights on other modern rappers, and then finally turning on his fans. Whilst it’s more passionate than anything we heard on Revival – it isn’t pretty hearing a forty-something-year-old rapper throwing a tantrum, especially when he goes so far as to blame his fans for not getting his last album. Featuring a basic beat and no hook, it also more of a rant than a song.

Fortunately, second track ‘Greatest’ is a lot more enjoyable. Em disses other rappers in the game for bragging about their success when it’s nothing compared to his own. Rather than sounding butthurt, he delivers his hyperspeed bars with a mean swagger. Most importantly of all however, it feels like an actual song rather than a rant – it has a decent Mike-Will-Made-It beat and a tolerably singalong chorus (Em’s nasal singing voice hasn’t aged well, but at least he’s not singing corny nonsense any more).

From here on in, things get exciting. Eminem is still angry, but he sounds more composed and he proceeds in dropping some of the best verses he’s dropped in years. He collaborates with Joyner Lucas on ‘Lucky You’ (the perfect choice of guest) and delivers a flurry of bars that even sees him admitting he ‘took an L’ on Revival. He then teams up with long time ally Royce Da 5’9” on ‘Not Alike’ in which he plays the kids at their own game by jumping on a trap beat, whilst also proving he and Royce are in a different league in terms of rapping ability.

Certainly, there is a lot of arrogance to be found here, which is nothing new for Em. But unlike what was found on Revival, the arrogance feels justified. This is because Eminem spends time writing good songs and not just showing off his ability to rap at speed. The bars aren’t half as corny as on his last project and the beats and hooks are actually enjoyable – there’s not a rap-rock instrumental or Skylar Grey chorus in sight. Even a song like ‘Normal’, which delves into relationship territory (an area where Em has been known to let his corniness seep out) ends up being a fairly humorous attack on his exes (yes, even his exes are under attack).

Only towards the end of the album does the quality start to slip. ‘Kamikaze’ has some mean bars and a zany old-skool Em feel, but the constantly shouted ‘fack’ is kind of obnoxious (plus, I really don’t want to be reminded of the worst song of Em’s discography). ‘Nice Guy’ and ‘Good Guy’ meanwhile romp up the obnoxiousness with sweary choruses from Jessie Reyez whilst Em’s bars start to grow a little cheesier. Movie soundtrack ‘Venom’ then closes the album off – the album’s one and only cash grab, seemingly shoved on the end in case his new material doesn’t sell well.  

Despite its weaknesses, Kamikaze is far from career suicide. It’s definitely an improvement from Revival and gives me hope that Eminem may be able to restore his legacy. Since the album’s release, he’s already been getting in feuds with the likes of Machine Gun Kelly, proving that he has more in the tank. In fact, with Kamikaze we could be witnessing the true revival of Eminem – the rapper could still do with toning down the penis references and devoting more time to songwriting rather than going off on wordy soliloquys, but at least he’s got some good production behind him now and some knockout bars that are enough to remind people not to mess with shady.   

TRACK TASTER:

Friday, 14 September 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 14/09/2018: Kanye West, Buke and Gase, 21 Pilots and more…




Let's talk about that new Kanye and Lil Pump track...

THE BEST:

‘Mythos Pathos’ – The Birthday Letters


This quirky track from London act The Birthday Letters deromanticises the legends of various tragic heroes such as Hemingway and Hamlet. The mix of synth vocals and acoustic guitars making up the upbeat instrumental is what initially grabbed me though – I don’t think I’ve heard a sound quite like it before.

‘Pink Boots’ – Buke & Gase


The music video is certainly odd. As for the lyrics, I think I made out something about ‘kitchen utensils’? All that aside, this new track from Brooklyn experimental duo Buke and Gase is enjoyably creative stuff– dirty guitars follow a jilted rhythm like noisy factory machines whilst Arone Dyer’s vocals glide over the top. Apparently, these musicians often perform on instruments that they’ve crafted themselves, showing just how far they’re willing to take their inventiveness.

‘All The Way Over The Edge (Bros Don’t Talk About Anything)’ – Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam


With a band name like Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam, there’s no way I could have ignored this track submission. Fortunately, their sound is as wild as their name, consisting of fuzzy guitars and unpredictable shifts whilst the lyrics delve into the fact that ‘bros don’t talk about anything’ (us guys never share our emotions with each other until we get drunk and it all explodes out!).

‘Remarkable’ – cityGirl



New Jersey native cityGirl delivers some dreamy chillwave vibes with this new remarkable track ‘Remarkable’. Hazy vocals float over fluttering synths, carried along by a smooth bassline and steady drum beat. If I could fly (which I can’t, but sprouting wings is something I’m working on) this would be the perfect song for flying too.

‘My Blood’ – Twenty One Pilots

I’m loving everything that these guys are releasing recently. What I assumed was going to be a slow pensive ballad turns into a groovy hit with falsettos and a funky feelgood riff. These dudes have so much diversity. What next – a metal tune?

THE WORST:

‘I Love It’ – Kanye West & Lil Pump ft. Adele Givens


This latest lyrical masterclass sees future president Kanye West teaming up with poet and philosopher Lil Pump. It also features Adele Givens – not to be confused with Adele (although that would have been interesting to hear). Eminem may as well give up now, because he’s never going to compete with bars like these.

I’M KIDDING. Of course, this song is absolute trash. The only two things Lil Pump had going for him – good beats and no autotune – have both been sacrificed in this song. As for Kanye, these are the worst bars of his career (I preferred his ‘poopity scoop’ verse earlier this year). Is he trolling us? In 2018, it's hard to tell. The music video is entertaining, I'll praise it for that – I’m loving the costumes and Kanye’s cheeky smiles. 

Review of 'Queen' by Nicki Minaj



Does Nicki Minaj deserve the title of 'queen', or is her plastic butt not worthy of the throne?

Let’s not pretend Nicki Minaj is the queen of hip hop. Although she can most definitely rap, she’s always swayed towards the more poppy side of the genre. You could certainly call her the queen of commercial rap (which incidentally can be abbreviated to c-rap), but even this title is under threat. There’s a new contender for most popular female rapper named Cardi B and she’s got just as much skill, sass and sex appeal. Does Nicki prove on Queen that Cardi is no match for her? Or is there no chance of beating Nandos-flavoured hit ‘I Like It Like That’ (because let’s face it, it's a pretty awesome tune)?

I will admit this – Nicki has some hot bars on this new album. She’s sounding meaner than ever and there are points where she definitely out-raps the likes of Cardi B. Take Biggie-inspired ‘Barbie Dreams’ as an example, which may well be the best track of her career. It’s a hilarious diss-fest that name drops every male rapper in the game before tearing them apart (including Eminem and 6ix9ine who appear as guests on the very same album!). Not only are her attacks incredibly witty (I didn’t even clock the deeper meaning behind the DJ Khaled diss first time around!), she also dedicates the trapped-up back-end of the track to showing off her ability to flow at speed.

Meanwhile, on other tracks such as ‘LLC’, she directly confronts upcoming female rappers. Her energy is fierier than ever before, even if her bars don’t carry the same weight (the line ‘tryna make a new Nicki, where the factory? They’ll never toe-to-toe on a track with me’ might have been fire had Cardi B not already proved she can ‘toe-to-toe on track’ with Nicki on the track ‘Motorsports’).

Maybe if we’d got a whole album of this gritty and witty Nicki, I’d be willing to bow down to her as queen. But alas, these moments of majestic greatness are just glimpses.

Nicki spends a good chunk of this album chasing pop appeal. Too much pure rap could stop her scoring those Spotify streams – your average music fan doesn’t want mean bars, they want softly-crooned pop ballads such as ‘Run and Hide’. It’s these tracks where she loses me by pulling out the autotune and rapping about mistrust in a relationship in a bland Drake-esque tone. Other tracks meanwhile see her resorting to collaborations with Soundcloud rappers over bland Migos-style beats – 6ixnine delivers the most meaningless bars of 2018 on ‘FEFE’, whilst ‘Chun Swae’ offers a horribly sung hook from Swae Lee in his typically prepubescent style. Here, Nicki does little to distance herself from their level of quality, staying deliberately dumbed-down because she thinks this is what sells.

Admittedly, none of these songs reach Stupid-Hoe-levels of trash (although I doubt even Lil Yachty in a submarine could reach those lows). She’s largely abandoned her annoying Roman Zolanski voice and there are less deliberately obnoxious lyrics. For the most part, the songs are just dull attempts to appeal to the masses. The irony is that despite all her efforts, Travis Scott’s ASTROWORLD still beat her to the top of the charts – a still accessible yet much more alternative hip hop album. I guess sometimes it pays to experiment.

TRACK TASTER:



Friday, 7 September 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 07/09/2018: Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, George Clanton, Soulfly and more…




New tunes to get you busting moves like Theresa May.

THE BEST:

‘Body Move’ – Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs


I first discovered Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs a month ago and assumed it was a band. It’s actually the solo project of Orlando Higginbottom (I’m no sure which I love more – his stage name or his real name). Whilst previous single ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ was a Tame Impala-esque slowburner, this new single ‘Body Move’ is a garish house banger. Long-time TEED fans claim it’s more similar to his original work – I wouldn’t know considering I haven’t heard any of it. Personally, I think it’s just as exciting as his slower material, offering a creative mix of stomping percussion and hazy vocals.

‘Slide’ – George Clanton


 Vaporwave producer George Clanton is back with another album (which he’s described as a ‘vaporwave opera’). This lead single ‘Slide’ is pure 90s nostalgia, but through a distorted filter – the same warped filter that helped make his album 100% Electronica feel so unique. I particularly like the dreamy synth passage towards the back end and the rave beat that follows.

‘FUTD’ – Dabbla


The quality of music videos in UK hip hop is now enough to rival the quality found across the pond. Just check out these new cinematic visuals from enigmatic rapper Dabbla as an example, which sees the musician befriending a robot that has crash-landed in the Nevada desert. The song itself it also well-produced, featuring a crazy trap beat and some crisp kooky bars from Dabbla.

‘Clear Skies’ – Dream Phases


LA bedroom artist Dream Phases delivers this psychedelic Beatles-esque track ‘Clear Skies’. I’m not sure whether its calming or unsettling – whilst the reverb-soaked vocals have a happy trippy vibe, the shrill and otherworldly guitars provide an almost unsettling vibe.

‘Evil Empowered’ - Soulfly


Soulfly’s breed of metal has always relied on being simple but effective. This latest single is a speaker-busting assault of chugging riffs and fist-pumping chants. Max’s vocals seem to be a little strained (it’s no surprise considering he’s spent the last three decades screaming his lungs out) but I can still feel the ferocity and conviction behind them. All in all, this track makes me want to punch someone – which always a sign of a good metal song.

THE WORST:

‘When The Curtain Falls’ - Greta Van Fleet


Fans are heralding these guys as the new Led Zeppelin. The problem is that they sound EXACTLY like Led Zeppelin. It’s okay to be influenced by a band, but when you model your sound entirely off of theirs, you may as well be a cover band.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

INTRODUCING: Star The Moonlight



Meet Star The Moonlight.

They’re a self-described ‘neo soul band straight from the outer rim’.   

Their sound is an exciting nebula of various intergalactic instrumental layers from spacey synths to cosmic clarinets – in fact, they’re one of the few modern bands to use bass clarinet so prominently. Songs take a jazzy and proggy approach to structure, occasionally orbiting back around to a familiar melody but often drifting off to explore new chord arrangements and grooves. Vocalist Hattie Simon meanwhile delivers silky singing over the top, bringing the extra-terrestrial sound back to earth with a human touch (that’s probably enough space references for now).

The band’s new album Haven’t You Heard showcases their diversity. From groove-laden punchy opener ‘Don’t You Think You Wanna’ to slow cinematic closer ‘Reprise’, the record explores various moods and paces. The talent on display is top notch, but rather simply using their prowess to show off, they use it to craft rich melodies and sparkling atmosphere.



Max from Star The Moonlight was kind enough to invite me across the galaxy for an interview. Read below as I discuss the gritty stuff including pizza, sci-fi movies and favourite planets.

If Star The Moonlight was a pizza what toppings would it have?
You know, I hate to say it but I think we might be pineapple.  It really makes a strong gustatory statement and because of that, some people love it and some people hate it, but no one is neutral.  Art, I mean a pizza topping like that is more fun to me than one on which everyone is neutral.
Generic interview question - what are all your musical backgrounds and how did you all meet?
Andrew and I went to the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and ended up moving to New York City together.  We’ve been roommates for a while.  He introduced me to Phil and James.  Believe it or not, Andrew actually met James because they both responded to a Craigslist add put out by our now dear friend Matt Anderson who was putting together his band at the time.  (His music is amazing btw, go check it out). Hattie and I were introduced by another (well really he’s THE other) NYC bass clarinetist and dear friend Jasper Dutz.  He actually gave me my first bass clarinet back in 2009.
Your new album Haven’t You Heard is incredible. I feel like I’ve just gone on an adventure across the cosmos. What was it like to compose and produce?
Wow, man, first of all, thank you so much.  That’s a HUGE compliment.  I feel like I was so innocent when I wrote all of this music.  These songs (aside from the reprise which is the most recently written composition by far) came from such a singular point of view and were all vehicles for processing and understanding pretty specific issues that I was dealing with when I wrote them.  Because of this, hearing them back now sometimes feels like they were written by someone else.  
Anyhow, producing them was amazing, such a fun experience.  I learned so much, the band absolutely nailed the songs in recording, and our mix engineer Fernando Lodeiro made everything we played sound absolutely massive.
Clarinets don’t get the love they deserve. Who are some of your favourite clarinetists? What are some good clarinet bangers that people ought to give a listen to.
Well that’s definitely true in the case of bass clarinet. It’s such a got such a unique and beautiful sound that I think is edgy and nostalgic at the same time.  
For good recordings of bass clarinet check out some classical and jazz music.  Tchaikovsky (The Nutcracker), Stravinsky (the Rite of Spring) and Shostakovich (Symphony #8 and many others) wrote some beautiful shit for bass clarinet and would occasionally write lead-ish melodies for it.  And for stuff in the Jazz lexicon I would recommend Herbie Hancock’s thrust.  Bennie Maupin played some beautiful bass clarinet all over that album.  That said, the absolute greatest bass clarinetist of all time IMO and my absolute favorite is Eric Dolphy, but his music is a little more difficult to digest.  Listening to recordings of him is THE reason I play that instrument.  


I loved your epic music video for ‘Good Fight’. What was it like filming it? Did you enjoy falling into the water from space?
Thank you, huge shout out to the director Julia Barrett-Mitchell who came up with the amazing story and to the director of photography and editor James Rosser Berry who made each shot look so beautiful!  Filming it was a lot of work but also a lot of fun.  Woodworking is a hobby of mine and I actually built the spaceship set myself on the sidewalk outside my queens apt.  It took about two solid weeks.  Falling into the water was fun! I’m really just jumping off the edge of the rock island visible in the final shot.  Also that island was absolutely caked in bird shit.  We all had to shower immediately after getting those shots.
What are your favourite and least favourite sci-fi movies?
Oh man, great question.  Without a doubt, my favorite film of all time is Stanley Kubrick’s, “2001, a Space Odyssey.”  I love the music and the absolute gorgeousness of it all.  I’m also a huge fan of the original Star Wars trilogy, mostly for the art direction.  The world those ILM prop makers created was so convincing and they physically made pretty much everything that appears on screen.  That takes some real skill.  
Least favorite would have to be Star Wars episode 7 and 8.  They reeked of a big money grab, and they felt derivative and did little to expand the Star Wars world for me.
What’s your favourite and least favourite planet in the solar system?
My favorite planet is Jupiter.  It is gorgeous and has some really interesting moons.  Saturn is a close second for the same reasons.  Least favorite is Mars, not much happens there….  
I still hope that we send a crewed mission to Mars soon though but for goodness sake, let’s bring them back.  Those who wish to colonize Mars in the near future would likely, I fear, experience a profoundly exotic form of isolation. 
What musical artists are you all listening to right now? Any underrated artists that you think people ought to know about?
I think in general our tastes are pretty eclectic.  We’re all big fans of Moonchild, Vulfpeck, Tierra Whack, Smino, Dirty Projectors, Madvillain, Margeret Glaspy, Young Fathers, and the list could go on and on.  As far as underrated artists go, Michael Mayo, Matthew Anderson, Harry Terrell, No Swoon, Sirintip, and saxophonist and composer Matt Chalk are all amazing.
Imagine you’re stranded on a desert planet and you have one album that you can bring with you and listen to – which album is it?
That’s a classic question that we’ve all thought about before. Phil’s would be D’angelo’s “Voodoo,” Andrew’s would be the Beau Arts trio playing Ravel’s piano trio in A minor, James’ would be Joao Gilberto’s “Live in Tokyo,” Hattie’s would be Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life,” and mine would be “Madvillainy.”  Would you have guessed they’d all be so different?
What does the future hold for Star The Moonlight?
We’ll have to see, maybe a UK tour ;).  I’m currently working on the music for our next album so hopefully that will be out in the next couple of years.  Also we’d love to open for Hiatus Kaiyote.   Who really knows, so much is possible.  I could get hit by a meteorite as you read this sentence. 
Follow Star The Moonlight at https://www.facebook.com/starthemoonlight/