Friday, 26 October 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 26/10/2018: Travis Scott, Sunshine Brothers Inc., iLOVEFRiDAY and more…



Diss tracks aimed at porn stars, 'candy floss laced in acid' and soul music seductive enough to make you pregnant. 

THE BEST:

‘Discover Each Other’ – Zac Apollo


This soul single is so seductive, I’m worried that just listening to it may have made me pregnant. Set to a slowdance-worthy tempo, Zac self-harmonises his vocals over some gorgeous guitar chords. The California musician is enviably talented, playing all the instruments and producing the track himself. The single comes off of his latest album ‘Loveset’, which I may just have to listen to - although if there are any more sensual slowjams on it like this I may just have to wear condoms on my ears.

 ‘So Bad To Me’ – Sunshine Brothers Inc.


Massachusetts bands Sunshine Brother Inc are proof that there are still unique rock acts out there (although I’m not sure if you could strictly call this rock). Their new single ‘So Bad To Me’ is a mix of carnivalesque crooning, surf-rock guitars and ice-cream-van-like synth twinkles. The layers of reverb make it sound like its coming from a distant fairground, whilst the upbeat chords occasionally take a sour turn giving it a warped feel. It’s like eating candy floss laced in acid.

‘Porch Song’ – Orchid Mantis


Effects-slathered guitar, faraway vocals and dreamy synths make up this exciting ambient/pop hybrid from Atlanta experimental artist Orchid Mantis. It’s got a chillwave/vaporwave vibe to it, except it's clearly a lot more detailed. The track makes me want to jump out my bedroom window and fly away into the clouds, so now I have to listen to this song with the windows locked because humans can't fly and I don't want to die just yet. ‘Porch Song’ is the first single from the musician’s upcoming album ‘Yellow House’.

‘Have I Ever’ – Lili Caseley


This new quirky pop single examines how love can feel different when you finally meet that one true partner, at which point all the rest of those past relationships feel phoney. The instrumental is a creative mixture of hypnotic harp and groovy synth bass that’s simple but effective. Meanwhile, Lili’s vocals carry an upbeat but pensive tone that elevates this beyond your usual pop junk.

‘SICKO MODE’ – Travis Scott ft. Drake


I’m slowly warming to Travis Scott. His lyrics are complete nonsense and his druggy flow is the reason half these Soundcloud rappers exist, however I can’t deny that this song is fucking ace. Technically, this was released back in August, but it’s now got a new big budget video so I figured I’d discuss it (it's my blog, I MAKE THE RULES). There are three different beats in this song – it’s as if Travis was asked by his producer which beat he preferred and he simply replied ‘yes’.  Drake could certainly learn a thing or two given the lack of beat transitions on Scorpion. As for the pair’s vocal performances, they both add well to the atmosphere, even I still think the lyrics are a load of baloney.

THE WORST:

‘Mia Khalifa’ – iLOVEFRiDAY


Two awful rappers diss a porn star for a tweet that turned out to be from a fake account. It’s a shame, because if the lyrics weren't so cringe-worthy and the singing wasn't so torturous, it could actually be a pretty catchy banger. 

Friday, 19 October 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 19/10/2018: Anderson .Paak, Riz MC, Charli XCX and more…




It's time to round up the week's best and worst new tracks.

THE BEST:

‘Tints’ – Anderson .Paak ft. Kendrick Lamar


Soulful singer/rapper Anderson .Paak and rap icon Kendrick Lamar team up for this new deliciously funky track set to appear on Paak’s upcoming album Oxnard. The lyrics seem to be about wanting privacy from the paparazzi (hence the window tints), but if I’m honest the song could be about anything and I’d still dig it – give me a funky instrumental, Paak’s soulful singing and Kendrick’s smooth flow and I’m sold.

‘Sunkissed’ – Shai Nowell ft. Nai Br.XX.



For those craving some more soul, this new entrancing track from Atlanta artist Shair Nowell ought to satiate your appetite. Lush keys, clanking percussion and a smooth bassline provide a breezy backdrop for Shai’s layered vocals, whilst guest vocalist Nai Br.XX also contributes some silky singing. It feels a bit late in the year for all these summery tunes, but I guess they do help to cheer up these dreary October days.

 ‘Mogambo’ – Riz MC


You may know Riz Ahmed from his acting work (apparently, he’s in the new Venom film), but on top of being an actor he’s also a rapper. This new song ‘Mogambo’ begins with a raw recording of Riz spitting angry bars over hand percussion before launching into a mean banger in which Riz proceeds to deliver several provocative and witty bars surrounding the prejudices of Asian culture. It’s similar to his work in the Swet Shop Boys, only without Heems at his side.

 ‘There Must Be Something In The Water’ – Niki Moss


Niki Moss is back with another kooky single that opens with a fast groovy guitar riff before taking the listener on a number of unpredictable twists and turns. The whole song is bursting with feelgood energy. I’m as eager as Niki to know what’s in the water. Is it a whole load of sugar? Is it cocaine? Whatever it is, I need it in my life.

 ‘Sister Jill’ – Jordan Vincent



This is truly unique stuff. The LA singer’s voice has a real theatrical vibe to it as it changes sharply in pitch and intonation, whilst the instrumental feels like some mix between rock and doo-wop.

THE WORST:

‘1999’ – Charli XCX & Troye Sivan


Look how far we’ve come. In 1982, Prince was singing about 1999 as if it were a magical time in the distant future – now singers are looking back on it as a magical time in the distant past.

As fun as this track is, I feel like there’s enough 90s nostalgia out there already. Besides Troye Sivan was 4 years old in 1999 – I doubt he was ‘driving around listening to Shady’ at that age.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Double Review: 'Acts of Fear And Love' by Slaves and 'Joy As An Act Of Resistance' by Idles




UK rock acts Slaves and Idles compete for the punk record of the year.

Together, Slaves and Idles have revived old-skool UK punk. They’ve taken the brains of The Clash, the teeth of the Sex Pistols and the funny bone of Ian Dury and they’ve Frankensteined them all together into a monstrous new creation. Meanwhile, their political lyrics take aim at the 21st Century world attacking everyone from London commuters to Mary Berry.

On their latest albums, both bands have decided to get less angry and more upbeat. Positive punk usually isn’t my thing – I prefer a bit of anger and confrontation - but this is Slaves and Idles, so I knew that despite the cheery album titles they couldn’t have turned into complete hippies. As it turns out, both records are fantastic. But which band really does it the best? I decided to pit both punk albums against one another.

Let’s start with the new Slaves album Acts of Fear And Acts Of Love. Still packing the same primal drums and raw riffs, the Tunbridge Wells duo have swapped out the screech-along hooks of their last album Take Control for more Britpop-inspired vocal harmonies. The result is a more melodic album, although still very rough and ready – even on the most poppy track ‘Cut and Run’ there’s still a healthy dose of feedback squealing to keep things from sounding too polished. Meanwhile, the lyrics do seem to be a little less angry – whilst the band still take the time to lambast social media braggers on ‘The Lives They Wish They Had’ and politicians on ‘Bugs’, they end the album by dismissing hatred and promoting love: ‘there’s no such thing as hate, just acts of fear and love’.


As for Bristol band Idles, their new album Joy As An Act of Resistance sees them rocking the same scuzzy bass-guitar-heavy sound as on their debut. It’s a lot less clean than Slaves’ latest album, but not entirely sloppy either as the driving Swans-like build-up of opener ‘Colossus’ shows. The lyrics are where Idles show their newfound positivity – in his slovenly snarled delivery, Joe Talbot celebrates the joys of immigration on ‘Danny Nedelko’ and tells body-conscious listeners to ‘love yourself’ on ‘Television’. It’s jarring at first to hear him offering sincere positivity, considering how cynical the band’s debut album Brutalism was and considering how harsh his vocals are, but it doesn’t feel entirely wrong either. Besides, not all the hostility is gone and tracks like ‘Samaritans’ - a dissection of toxic masculinity - are still delivered with anger.


When it comes to writing catchy songs, both bands still know how to pull out an anthemic hook. Both bands seem to like spelling things out – in the case of Slaves it’s ‘M-A-G-N-O-L-I-A’ on their tongue-and-cheek ode to magnolia paint, whilst Idles chant ‘G-R-E-A-T’ which explores the mindset of Brexiteers. Both bands also know how to balance earnestness and humour.

Overall, Slaves offer more straightforward fun. With the exception of grungy interlude ‘Daddy’, there aren’t many left-field detours on Acts of Fear And Love, which is probably the album’s only downside – as fun as the songs are to rock out to, it feels like it’s missing a sense of surprise.

Idles by contrast are entirely unpredictable. There are moments when they go entirely loopy, such as nonsensical ‘Gram Rock’ which sees Joe yelling ‘ten points to Gryffindor!’ repeatedly for no reason. Meanwhile, on the flipside, Idles are also able to get incredibly personal and serious – ‘June’ took me entirely by surprise, serving as a tortured tribute to his still born daughter that sees him wailing ‘baby shoes for sale: never worn’ agonisingly over and over again. It’s this versatility that is the reason Idles take the crown.

Acts of Fear And Love by Slaves 
Joy As An Act Of Resistance by Idles 

Friday, 5 October 2018

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 05/10/2018: John Grant, Pleasure Barge, Thom Yorke and more...



More tracks to feast your ears on.

THE BEST:

‘He’s Got His Mother’s Hips’ – John Grant


This has to be one of the loopiest musical discoveries I’ve made all year. According to the Icelandic singer himself, this new single is ‘about a cheeseball doing all he can to get into a woman’s pants’. It’s set to a funky synthpop beat and is accompanied by the trippiest music video conceivable. I feel like a changed man after experiencing this song. Nothing will ever be the same again.  Make sure to also check out the live performance on the Jools Holland show, which sees John Grant backed by a band inexplicably dressed up in pig masks.

‘Electric Ride’ – Pleasure Barge


Once you’ve recovered from that John Grant song, you may as well take an electric ride with Pleasure Barge and continue your dose of eccentric funk. The Manchester-based disco-house band’s five minute funk odyssey cruises along happily before taking a dark turn, at which point it begins to feel like a ride on the Willy Wonka barge. I think the song’s probably an allegory for drug abuse (hence the floating pills making up the visuals), but even if you’re not interested in the lyrics it’s still a wacky and fun tune with lots of unpredictable progressions.

 ‘Has Ended’ – Thom Yorke


Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke is scoring a horror movie and this eerie dirge is one of the songs making up the soundtrack. It could have been easy for the experimental singer to come up with something abstract – whilst this is largely Thom moaning over ambient synth swirls, it feels more like an actual song than I anticipated. In fact, I really love the plodding bass and drums which help to give it an ominous groove.

 ‘Rafters’ – Clarence Clarity and A.J. Crew


Eccentric pop singer/producer Clarence Clarity and alternative hip hop artist A.J. Crew team up for this avant-garde concoction. The beat really does feel as if it’s bouncing off the ceiling and getting caught in the rafters, whilst A.J. Crew’s bars take a more cool and grounded approach.

‘Bear the Waves’ – Stray Fossa

‘Bear the Waves’ really does create the sensation of standing on a beach and letting the waves crash against you. I feel like a lot of indie bands aim for this dreamy beach vibe, but none nail it quite as perfectly as Stray Fossa have here. The guitars are so shimmery that you can practically swim in them.

THE WORST:

 ‘Deadcrush’ – Alt J ft. Danny Brown


I really tried to like this - the experimental beat and Danny Brown’s verse are menacingly brilliant – but Alt-J’s vocals seem to be completely out of key with the rest of the song. Intentional or not, out of key Alt-J falsettos sadly lie beyond my threshold.