Thursday, October 31, 2013

Video: MGMT - "Alien Days"


Weird song, weirder video.

Jam of the Day: Cut Copy - "In Memory Capsule"


Off their stunning new record Free Your Mind, Cut Copy's "In Memory Capsule" is pure pop perfection. Once it gets its killer hooks in you, you will not be able to resist.

Concert Watch: Phantogram - "Don't Move"


We are skipping out on the traditional Halloween celebrations in order to catch Phantogram at the Masquerade tonight. They put on a phenomenal live show.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jam of the Day: Earth House Hold - "A Little Late For That Now"


Slow building ambient techno track with some gorgeous vocals. Over its 11 minute run time it adds and subtracts parts beautifully.

Album Review: Danny Brown - Old


Danny Brown
Old
Rating: Woof Daddy

Danny Brown's mixtape XXX was a messy record about drug-fueled desperation, and he warned that its follow up Old would only get deeper and more introspective. Split into two parts, Old is basically Brown's mind laid open bare, focusing on his past, present, and future selves, warts and all. Ruminations on his past drug use, dealing, and time in jail share space with more party-fueled, festival ready tracks. Brown shows that he is trying to distance himself from his past yet finds it clouds and colors everything he does. Sometimes he's able to get beyond it and sometimes not, all the while showing he is simply human and doing his best to not make the same mistakes. While this sounds dry on paper, Brown matches his lyrical ruminations with some of the most modern and edgy beats and backing you will hear today. Self-confessed to being influenced by records as diverse as Radiohead's Kid A, Joy Division's Closer, and Love's Forever Changes, Old is a rich, sonic tapestry that unfolds like a kaleidoscope, fractured against itself.

Side A is the more past leaning side of the album, and is the more darker and bleaker side of the record. On the harrowing track "Torture," Brown watches his uncle smoke crack and almost burn his face off,



on the brilliant track "Lonely" he gets more resigned to what seems to be the predestined life of an addict, rapping "So I'm smoking by my lonely/By my goddamn self/I don't need your help homie/Cause don't nobody really know me,"



while Brown hits the bottom on "Clean Up" where he misses texts from his daughter while getting high.



On this half of the record, Brown is his lyrical best, "Wonderbread" turns a trip to the grocery store into a harrowing look at poverty and drug use,



"Gremlins" has Brown being the street savvy wise talker,



and on the Purity Ring assisted track "25 Bucks" Brown's raps about growing up in his drug infested neighborhood merge well with Megan James' more surreal and earthy ruminations.



These tracks lead into the more party-oriented tracks on Side B, showcasing Brown's more extroverted side, with the more haunting tracks from Side A coloring each and every corner. While these tracks seemingly glorify drug use and partying, the fact that you have seen the darkside of what can happen with them tends to shade things a little darker. Of course, these tracks also feature some of the most club and party ready beats on the record, drawing from UK bass, grime, trap, and EDM, utilizing producers as diverse as SKYWLKR, Rustie, and A-Trak. Some of the most frenetic tracks are the skittering and bass heavy "Dip,"



the blistering "Smokin & Drinkin."



and the druggy collaboration with A$AP Rocky, "Kush Coma."



It all comes to a meditative close with the haunting collaboration with Charli XCX, "Float On," with Brown languidly rapping over trill beats.



Old almost feels like Danny Brown doing a career retrospective, as it touches on his many different personalities and styles. In lesser hands, this could be an unholy, unstructured mess, however, Brown is in complete control and expertly guides you through this journey through his mind. It is a relevatory release that demands your attention. It is the best hip-hop record of the year so far.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jam of the Day: Katy B - "I Like You"


Another great track from Katy B. I am eagerly awaiting her new record in 2014.

Album Review: Cut Copy - Free Your Mind


Cut Copy
Free your Mind
Rating: Woof Daddy

Over the course of three albums, Aussie act Cut Copy have subtly been moving from more guitar-centric dance rock to full on electronic dance music, and never more so on their fourth record Free Your Mind, a trippy, sun-kissed love letter to the late 80s and early 90s summer of love in the UK. Drawing inspiration from Primal Scream's Screamadelica, acid house, and the whole Madchester scene (Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Charlatans), Cut Copy have come up with their most consistent and their most fun record. While many people will decry that Cut Copy have abandoned their New Order-hook galore sound for something more ephemeral, these tracks insinuate themselves within in you to where you can't get rid of them, and honestly, the whole record is a grower, with each listen revealing more and more going on behind the scenes.

Free Your Mind is structured like a warehouse party with highs and lows, taking you on a journey through an evening of partying, with whatever you are taking making the journey freer and more intense. Starting with the aptly titled "Intro," the record kicks off with trippy electronics and voices telling you to "free your mind," which leads into the title track and first single, which throbs and pulsates with a thick house groove, vocal stabs, and deep bass line before erupting into a frenzy of piano rolls and wailing diva vocals. It is the perfect opening to this record as it announces itself with purpose and direction.



"We Are Explorers" continues the trip with squiggly synth lines, bright emotive keyboards, and insistent beats, with singer Dan Whitford taking you on a "journey into the morning sun."



"Let Me Show You Love," takes things into hazier territory which much denser use of layers of keyboards and electronics, Whitford's voice taking on an even more Bobbie Gillespie-ian tone, masked and manipulated, as the druggy pulse of the track takes over with intense rave synth stabs.



While this build throughout the record could get monotonous, Cut Copy is seemingly aware of this fact, and place short, trippy segues throughout the record with odd film samples and swirly instrumentation, which serves to add some texture and variety to the constant forward motion. From the almost Pink Floyd-esque meanderings of "Into the Desert," it flows into the brilliant track "Footsteps," which starts out almost nonchalantly with a deep house vibe, rising washes of keyboards, twisted vocal samples, and throbbing bass line and somehow before you know it becomes a furious rave banger.

You are almost halfway through the record before any notion of a guitar comes into play. "In Memory Capsule" opens with some delicate acoustic strumming before becoming a lush, synth led earworm, which is perhaps one of the only traditionally structured pop songs on the record. It would be a crime if this was not a single.



But all notions of traditional songcraft go out the window on this record which consistently reminds you it is first and foremost a dance record. Even on more early-referencing Cut Copy tracks like "Dark Corners & Mountain Tops," what seems like a more guitar led mid-tempo ballad suddenly takes a turn at the end into ambient techno territory. The record rightens itself again with big club and festival track "Meet Me In The House Of Love," which is the centerpiece and boldest track on Free Your Mind, with its amazing build, taking you where your mind and feet want to go.

Free Your Mind ends the journey with "Take Me Higher," which spot on references Primal Scream's Screamadelica with its housy piano stabs and diva vocals,



and the swirly, Spiritualized-esque barn burner "Walking In The Sky," with its psychedelic guitars, gospel-like backing vocals, and tidal waves of analog synths. It si the perfect track to end the album, as it closes finally with the brief instrumental, "Mantra" which closes the record as it begins with swirly keyboards and sampled dialogue.

Free Your Mind is by far Cut Copy's most focused and well realized work. Here they stick to their plan with confidence rather than timidly testing the waters. It's as if someone told them they had to make a record with no guitars and they stuck to it. Free Your Mind is one of the best records of the year, and certainly one of the best dance/rock hybrids to come along in awhile.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Video: Justin Timberlake - "TKO"


Justin Timberlake gets driven off a cliff in the slick clip for his single "TKO."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Jam of the Day: Warpaint - "Love Is To Die"


Moody first single from Warpaint's upcoming self-titled second record.

New: Disclosure - "Apollo"


Seeing that I just caught their live show this weekend, Disclosure unveil a new track "Apollo."

Album Review: Arcade Fire - Reflektor


Arcade Fire
Reflektor
Rating: Woof Daddy

Say what you will about Arcade Fire, but no one can slag them off as being reticent. If any band these days follows the maxim "go big or go home" they would be the poster child. Following their surprise Grammy award for best album for The Suburbs, Arcade Fire returns with Reflektor, an expansive double album that draws inspiration from the film Black Orpheus, the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, writings of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, Haitian rara music, as well as practically any art-pop record of the past 50 years, from The White Album, Low, and Achtung Baby. It is a go-for-broke record that is in turns brilliant, bloated, icy, hot, awe-inspiring, and head scratching but never less than intoxicating. Using the Orpheus myth as a jumping off part, Reflektor loosely trails through that epic of undying/unwavering love and its sad resolution, but fractures it through our age's over-saturation of media and information overload. It's a paranoid and shaky journey with lots of false steps, restarts, meanderings, but somehow all comes together to be a rewarding listen.

Working with retired LCD Soundsystem mastermind James Murphy as producer, Arcade Fire channel into their most fervent influences, primarily Berlin-era Bowie, Talking Heads, the Rolling Stones and Beatles at their more experimental, into something bordering on excessive but reigned in just at the right time. Each song almost goes through moments of frustration where you have no idea what they are doing, but then out of the chaos, that bright light of invention comes through and you see where they are going. Based on the odd guerrilla marketing campaign for the record back in September, it was apparent the follow up to their already epic Suburbs record was going to take things in a different direction. The title track, a swirly mesh of disco, dance-punk, horns, and David Bowie is indicative of the journey you are about to embark on. At once it is recognizably Arcade Fire but looser and freer, with a light touch of bouncy synth-bass and Undercover-era disco Stones drums, the track rises from an almost minimal beginning into a mass of scraping guitars, analog effects, rising strings and horns, taking off into a high-soaring flight.



From here the album basically jumps all over the place, with most tracks hovering around the six minute mark, never really following any sort of direct path or trajectory. Not that every track is experimental or impenetrable. The more traditional tracks act as places to catch your breath before going down the twisted winding path that Orpheus had to endure. "We Exist" throws together swooning choruses with Motown-esque basslines along with a more standard rock basis, and will be a crime should they not release it as a single.



"Joan of Arc" is a more blistering single, bursting out of the gate in a fury of punk guitars, but winding down into a more rock based slew of guitars and analog synths, while "Afterlife" is a gorgeous, synth-led track that is perhaps their finest single to date.



But these moments of traditional song structures takes a back seat to the remainder of the record which can be a bit of an overwhelming mess at times. From the odd "Hidden Track" that opens the record with 9 minutes of backward masking, found sounds, strings, horn wonk-outs, and general sonic wankery, you wonder at first whether you have stumbled into Arcade Fire's own Metal Machine Music. Luckily, this is merely an overture to the creativity that lies within. There is the dub-inflected "Flashbulb Eyes," the messy barroom club crawl of "You Already Know," and the pairing of "Here Comes The Night Time" with its analog synth washes and more Caribbean feel, and its sister track "Here Comes The Night Time II" with its ghostly pallor of haunted strings.



Even when the record sort of goes off the rails in its back half, Reflektor is still mesmerizing. It is showing a band at the height of their career and popularity not afraid to take risks. There is a trio of tracks that kind of stop the momentum that was running pell-mell from the outset, but they still have their own ramshackle charm. "Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)" is a swoony and mooney mess of strings and synths and acoustic guitars that feels like a clash between every late Beatles record playing at once. "It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)" settles into a locked groove and feels more natural than its predecessor. While "Porno" really feels like this record's albatross, a icy and cool electro track that is misplaced in the grand scheme of things. It is an interesting detour, and by itself a good track, but just feels out of the loop and would have made for a more interesting B-side.

But these slight meandering missteps don't overall retract from the glorious mess of a record that it is. I thoroughly loved how Arcade Fire truly go for broke here and how somehow, in the end, it all ends up working. While Reflektor is not their masterpiece, to me that designation goes to the epic The Suburbs and not the overrated Funeral, it is still well on par with those striking works. Arcade Fire have definitely set the bar high for their contemporaries with this record, and have even set the bar high for themselves in the bargain.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

New: Lady Gaga - "Venus"


Here is another look into Lady Gaga's upcoming ARTPOP record. Based on what we have heard so far, the record feels like a stronger effort than Born This Way, but still sounds a little strained. "Venus" is by far her most direct track so far. Not bad, but not great.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Jam of the Day: Mannequins On 7th Street - "Wailing of Hesione"


London based via Belguim duo Mannequins On 7th Street fall somewhere between the R&B stylings of How To Dress Well and the spectral post-punk of The xx. Whatever you would like to use to classify them, it is still brilliant.

Videos of the Week


Here are the videos that are blowing up my screen:



Trippy video for the haunting closing track to Yeasayer's last record Fragrant World.



The Besnard Lakes new video features a man indulging in destructive behaviors as he has a mental breakdown.



My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James' new video shows the wanderings of a man with a TV head.



Globetrotting video from Omar Souleyman.



Psychedelic song and video from Midlake.



More of an art school version of a lyric video, here is the latest from college/alt rock stalwarts Throwing Muses.



Haunting track from Tim Hecker gets an even more haunting video. Be sure to watch this full screen and with headphones. It will pull you in.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Jam of the Day: Tim Hecker - "Black Refraction"


Gorgeous, standout piece from Tim Hecker's stunning new album Virgins. This delicate decayed piano piece seems to disintegrate as it goes forward. The video is a stunner too. Be sure to watch it full screen and get wrapped up in its haunting beauty.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Jam of the Day: Tove Lo - "Out of Mind"


More pop gorgeousness from Tove Lo. Seriously people, get on board with her. She is amazing.

Album Review: Tim Hecker - Virgins


Tim Hecker
Virgins
Rating: Woof Daddy

Canadian ambient/drone artist Tim Hecker's 2011 release Ravedeath, 1972 was a game changer for me. I had listened to a lot of minimalist ambient and drone work before but never felt any sort of connection with the music. It was pretty at times, annoying at others, but always kept me at arms length. Tim Hecker, on the other hand, provided such a visceral impact with his compositions, breathing life and fire into each piece. The intensity of some of his work on Ravedeath, 1972 was so palpable it was almost emotionally overwhelming. To me, that seminal record was his masterpiece, and I hesitated to even begin listening to his latest work Virgins, as I feared any loss in quality might somehow lessen the impact of Ravedeath, 1972. It appears I needn't have worried as, if anything, that work spawned a more focused and energized artist, with Virgins offering up some of his most beautiful and haunting work. While it lacks the utter shock of the new that Ravedeath, 1972 provided, Virgins is a more streamlined affair, with many of the tracks hovering around the 3-4 minute mark, and only a few tracks going over 5 minutes. It is a dense and heady work though, yet never feels oppressive or too overly challenging. How Hecker is able to keep all these multiple layers of sound in the air without seeming jumbled is nothing short of amazing.

While the main focus on Ravedeath was piano and organ drones, Virgins opens Hecker's palate up somewhat, incorporating more acoustic instruments and woodwinds, which add a more human element to what once could be considered frosty and abstract. Hecker also involved a more live setup this go around rather than creating and manipulating his drones on computers after the fact. This process makes the pieces feel more structural and whole; there is meat on the bones now. Opener "Prism" immediately makes this known, with its cascade of synthesizers and what sounds like a church bell imploding and exploding at the same time. It has been noted in many reviews where pieces like his almost have a horror movie soundtrack style quality to them, and in case of tracks like "Prism" I would say they are not too far off the mark.



There is bold strength at play throughout the bulk of the record, with Hecker showing a firm hand in the direction and purpose of these pieces. "Virginal" is a masterstroke of build and release, with the forceful and almost harsh piano work leavened with a rush of woodwinds and horns.



"Live Room" adds background noise and found percussion to haunting effect in this Exorcist-style exploration, with dense drones of keyboards emerging from the waters.



"Stigmata I" trades blasts of competing drones back and forth in an almost endless fight to the death, and retreats back into almost nothingness on its companion piece "Stigmata II," only to lead to the intense closing salvo of "Stab Variation" where these drones take on the approximation of a sonic tidal wave.



Which is not to say that all of Virgins is some cacophonous dirge of synthetic drones, while there are some harsher, more brutal moments on this record, there are infinitely more moments of pure beauty here. "Black Refraction" is so gorgeous it almost makes me believe in the divine.



"Live Room Out" takes the basis of its predecessor and turns it on its head, removing the spectral haunting, replacing it with wandering drones of woodwinds that ache with deep meaning and beauty.



It is almost impossible to truly explain how moving and emotional this record is without someone actually listening to it and experiencing it for themselves firsthand. Virgins shows Tim Hecker at the height of his powers, being able to evoke so many moods and feelings with mere details. His work here is so concrete and textural you cam almost feel it with your bare hands. While it will likely not topple my admiration for Ravedeath, 1972, Virgins definitely holds its own against that masterpiece, and will likely figure very high in my best of list for 2013. My mandate to all my readers is to get this record as quickly as you can. It is that important.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Concert Watch: Jessie Ware - "110%"


I am going to see the lovely and wonderful Jessie Ware tonight at The Loft. I have been waiting for over a year for her to get her. Very excited to see her.

Jam of the Day: RL Grime - "Because of U"


Hot new track from RL Grime.

Album Review: Katy Perry - Prism


Katy Perry
Prism
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

You can't argue with success. With six tracks from her last record Teenage Dream hitting the Top Ten, with five of said tracks hitting number one (“Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”, “Teenage Dream”, “California Gurls”, “Firework”, and “E.T.”), you can slag her off as pop trash, but you have to admit that there has to be something there of some substance. While that is not necessarily her lyrics, which can be ridiculously bad, or her ability to seek out new musical styles, if anything she tends to ride the wake of modern pop trends, it generally comes down to the fact her songs are just damn catchy. A good pop hook is all you need 9 times out of 10, and she usually knows her way around them. Her latest record, Prism is another solid record for Perry, and while it lacks the overall pure sugar rush of Teenage Dream, it is still loaded with a ton of great pop tracks that are sure to be hitting the top of the charts again. Once again, Perry aligns herself with her stock producers, Max Martin, Dr. Luke, Bloodshy, Stargate, and Cirkut, never really straying too far from her tried and true formulas, however, there is a bit of a darker tone to the record, with several songs touching on her failed marriage to Russell Brand and other personal trials, however, never being too specific.

The record is pretty front-loaded with the best tracks, bogging down a little at the end with too many ballads and mid-tempo tracks. But when the record is firing on all cylinders it is formidable pop juggernaut. Lead track and first single "Roar" felt wan and skimpy when it first came out, however, it is a slow-growing song that just gets into your head and never lets go.



"Legendary Lovers" adds some Indian accents to her palate,



while "Birthday" is a frothy pop-funk jam that Prince could toss off in his sleep.



But it is with two tracks where, for Perry, she throws a bit of a curveball. "Walking On Air" draws inspiration from 90's house, with blistering beats, sharp piano chords, and vocal stabs,



and "Dark Horse" finds Perry working her magic over a scintillating trap beat, never feeling like she is a johnny come lately to the genre.



Other killer pop tracks on Prism include the skyscraping "Unconditionally," tender mid-tempo track "Ghost," throbbing electropop of "This Moment," and the gorgeous ballad "Double Rainbow."



But when the album goes off the rails, it really goes off the rails. "This Is How We Do," shows how too many people take what Ke$ha does so easily for granted,



"International Smile" is one of the rare instances where Perry essentially recycles the melody from "Teenage Dream" but somehow makes it devoid of any charm, while treacly ballad "By The Grace of God" would even make Diane Warren want to throw up.



These missteps are not enough to push Perry off her pop royalty throne. There is still enough her to keep even the most jaded pop enthusiast satisfied. From here though, I am wondering where Perry will go. She has a lock on the type of pop music that sells, but there is a nagging sense here that she wants to do something more. The hints from "Walking On Air" and "Dark Horse" are that her sights are set a little bit higher. Whether she does this remains to be seen.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.\

New: Cut Copy - "We Are Explorers"


Another hint of what to expect from Cut Copy's new record Free Your Mind. I like that they are heading in a more dance oriented direction.

New: Arcade Fire - "Afterlife"


Arcade Fire release another single from their upcoming record Reflektor. I am digging their new direction.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Jam of the Day: GEMS - "Medusa"


Dark pop act GEMS offer up this interesting track that showcases the duo's mix of low end electronics, shimmering guitar work, and contrasting vocal styles.

Album Review: Moby - Innocents


Moby
Innocents
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

Based on his output since his breakthrough record Play, Moby, for me, does his best work when he is making music for himself and not for his perceived audience. Too many times he has tried to replicate the success of Play only to miss the mark, like on its follow up, the practically carbon copy 18, or the hodgepodge of different dance music styles on Last Night. Where he just stops trying to be the worldwide success story is where he truly shines, like on his minimalist masterpiece Wait For Me, or the more forward thinking collection of tracks on Destroyed. On his eleventh studio album, Innocents, we get sort of a middle ground Moby. There are hints of his more experimental wanderings, but it mainly plays as a retrospective of all his musical personas. You get lots of dreamy ambient numbers, his now trademarked dance tracks with field recording samples, wonky pop songs, and several introspective ballads. Aside from the relatively somber tone of the record, there is not a lot of thematic cohesiveness here like on Wait For Me that tied everything together, however, there is still a lot to recommend on Innocents that keep it from edging toward his less successful offerings.

I had high hopes that this record would be as sublime as Wait For Me based on the first few set of tracks. Opening with the stunning instrumental "Everything That Rises," which perfectly meshes sweeping synth strings with faded, grainy samples, Moby provides a masterclass in how to create a gorgeous build in a track. While on second and track and first single "A Case For Shame," Moby collaborates with Cold Specks to create a haunting, spectral ballad with minimal backing of muted percussion, piano, and strings, and evocative, bluesy vocals.



Instead of leaping off from this point, Innocents sort of meanders a bit. His collaboration with Damien Jurado ("Almost Home") aims for transcendence but just hits a flat line early, then maintains that mood for almost 6 minutes, never really doing much. In fact, a couple of times during the track I wondered if I had accidentally pressed skip back to the beginning. Moby follows this with a pretty, yet involving instrumental ("Going Wrong"), his collaboration with Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips, "The Perfect Life," which, while more involving than "Almost Home," suffers from its basic one note feeling.



From here, things pick up slightly, with the sample leaning "The Last Day" with breathy vocals from Skylar Grey, which is another typical Play-esque track, that despite its familiarity still retains a sly charm,



synth charged "Saints" is another booming Moby dance track,



while "A Long Time" is slow-burning blues fueled track.



Two more collaborations hit the mark at the back end of the record. His second collaboration with Cold Specks, "Tell Me" has a haunted, stately vibe, its beautiful combination of vocals and vocal samples creating a interesting juxtaposition;



and his work with former Screaming Trees front man Mark Lanegan perfectly utilizes his world-weary vocals with the drone of electronics.



And of course, Moby finishes the record off with the amazing closing track "The Dogs," with his wan voice adding just the right amount of pathos to the gorgeous swirl of electronics and strings.



Ultimately, Innocents is a charming record that has more hits than misses on it, however, it feels like there is a lot of push and pull from Moby as to which type of record he wants to make. He could easily remake Play over and over again, and would likely find success more often than not. You sense that Moby really doesn't want to do that, and this dichotomy between sticking to the tried and true while itching to be more experimental results, at times, into something sublime. This was most apparent on Wait For Me, and while Innocents falls short of that high mark, it's good to see that he still has it in him to make some amazing music.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

New: Lady Gaga ft. R. Kelly - "Do What U Want"


Another teaser from Gaga's upcoming record ARTPOP, "Do What U Want," a collaboration with R. Kelly.

Friday, October 18, 2013

25th Anniversary: Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation


Probably one of the, if not the, seminal albums of my high school into college years. Hard to believe this record is 25 years old, and even harder to believe it still sounds this great. If you haven't heard this record before, you are doing yourself a huge disservice.

Jam of the Day: Kelela - "Enemy"


Dense and intense, this single from Future R&B/Bass music diva Kelela is a great introduction to her sound.

Videos of the Week


Here are the most captivating videos of the week:



Stunning, sand shifting video from Atoms For Peace.



Multiple faces are editing in rapid succession creating a interesting animated effect.



Fun takeoff of bad late night TV shows from Roomrunner.



Hypnotic visuals accompany this instrumental track from CFCF.



Sign language interpreters really get into this track from Dismemberment Plan.



News anchors work through some issues in this funny clip from Summer Camp.

Video: Atoms For Peace - "Before Your Very Eyes"


Here is the amazing, sand-shifting video from Atoms For Peace for their single "Before Your Very Eyes."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Jam of the Day: Tycho - "Awake"


Gorgeous instrumental from Tycho's upcoming second record.

New: Battle Box - "3D on Jupiter"


Massive Attack's 3D (Robert Del Naja) releases his second single as Battle Box, a project intended to “fuse music, art and discourse across one-off live events, exhibitions and exclusive vinyl releases.” "3D on Jupiter" finds him remixing Congolese musician Jupiter Bokonjdi.



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Jam of the Day: Misun - "Goodbye Sasha"


Goofy, moombahton-inflected track from the D.C trio.

Album Review: Lorde - Pure Heroine


Lorde
Pure Heroine
Rating: Grrrr

Although she is only 16, New Zealand singer Lorde (nee Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O'Connor) projects an image of a world-weary soul bored with all the trappings of our Internet age. While this could snarkily come across as the usual "teenagers think they know everything" cliche, Lorde is smart enough not to head down this path, choosing, for the most part, to use her critiques more towards expressing dissatisfaction, seeking more from life. Teaming up with writer/producer Joel Little for her debut Pure Heroine, Lorde works within a tightly controlled palate, however, these tracks, while thematically and musically linked, work together without sounding too monochromatic.

Of course, most people will flock to Pure Heroine solely for her smash single "Royals," which is a shame, considering it is not even the best song on the record. But for a first peek into the record, it is a pretty good introduction. Over minimal backing, merely finger snaps and muted percussion, a subtle bass line, and a low-end synth throb, "Royals" initially seems to be a harsh critique of hip-hop and pop culture's fixation on high-end excess, but soon reveals itself to be more of a personal realization that there is too wide a divide between what you are being told you should want and what you actually have.



Belying her young years, Lorde shows remarkable depth and insight in her lyrics, never coming across as mere teen diary ruminations or feeling too outside her range of experience. Her best songs seek a universal level while still retaining personal elements. "Ribs" is her best song so far, a dreamy, quietly insistent track that moves from ambient washes of synths to a slowly rising beat and more urgency. The track is one of her most revealing, chronicling that time in life where youthful aspirations are tempered by age and experience, with the gradual realization that "This dream isn't feeling sweet/We're reeling through the midnight streets/And I've never felt more alone/It feels so scary, getting old."



Most of her lyrics focus on subtle critiques of youth culture, understanding their nature but always seeking something better. On tracks like "Tennis Court," Lorde sees that she is "only as young as the minute is full of it" and that "It's a new art form showing people how little we care," knowing how to navigate the tricky hallways of being in the crowd, but not allowing it to define her.



Under pounding drums and air-raid siren synths, "400 Lux" is a bleak view of suburbia full of "roads where the houses don't change" and where the kids are all "hollow like the bottles that we drain."



While on "Team," Lorde sings about the disconnect she feels from all the images she is bombarded with on TV and the Internet telling her what she is supposed to want, reflecting "I'm kind of over gettin' told to throw my hands up in the air."



There have been critiques of Pure Heroine saying that it is a little one note and same sounding, however, while there is a similar tone throughout the record, it suits these tracks well, and there are enough stylistic differences that keep the record from getting monotonous. Pure Heroine is a fully realized debut that is even more remarkable considering Lorde's age. I will be curious to see how her career pans out, whether this record is merely the perfect amalgamation of her talents that can't be improved upon, or whether this is merely the stepping off point for something magical. Certainly, I am betting on the latter.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Guilty Pleasure: Axwell - "Center Of The Universe (Remode)"


There is just something about this song that gets to me.

Jam of the Day: Samuel - "Death Star Wonder"


Irish born singer Samuel brings some emotion to this skittering track produced by Okzharp, member of the Hyperdub based trio LV.

Album Review: Drake - Nothing Was The Same


Drake
Nothing Was The Same
Rating: Grrrr

For arguably the most popular rapper at the moment, Drake sure puts out some strange albums, full of inward looking lyrics and some of the most atmospheric and texturally interesting backing tracks. Most of his records ping pong back and forth between straight up rap tracks and R&B crooners, sometimes blurring the lines between both. I find him more interesting when he sticks to one over the other, his raps being more of his hyper-id personality, full of broad boasts and some of his most chillingly harsh attacks on women, friends, and family, while his more vocal focused tracks find him in a more contemplative mood, looking deep inside himself, being his most harsh critic. His last record, Take Care, is, for me, the most representative and best of his records, finding the right balance between his two personas. That is not to say that his latest record, Nothing Was The Same, is a less impressive release. It is still one of, if not the best hip-hop records of the year, but for me it is Drake really trying to find himself, and with that stretch, the record is a bold experiment that works almost all the time. But when you stretch this hard, it is bound to be a mess at points, and there is a lot to criticize here, but overall, these mistakes somehow make him more human.

Nothing Was The Same is a dark, behemoth of a record that practically drowns you in its sonic bleakness. It is a record of immense highs and devastating lows, where you practically get overwhelmed by being in Drake's mind for so long. It is not a fun record at all, and at times, the oppressiveness can take its toll, however, you keep finding yourself coming back to this album as it takes its hold on you. Starting off with the 6 minute opener "Tuscan Leather," the track finds Drake bragging and then lamenting failed relationships almost back and forth, as he and collaborator Noah "40" Shebib never let you get a hold on the beat, as it frequently changes throughout the run time, feeling like almost four different tracks put together. "Worst Behavior" is perhaps Drake's most blisteringly mean track, him spitting his lines out like a machine gun over dense synths and splattering beats.



He lightens up a little bit on hit single "Started From The Bottom," with its slippery bassline, slapping percussion, and dreamy, ambient piano samples.



But the majority of the record is a bleak affair, especially the deeper you get into the record. From the ominous and dark track "The Language," the frantic "305 To My City," to the dark tale of a toxic relationship in "Connect,"



there is a underlying sense of darkness and treachery throughout Nothing Was The Same.

I respond more to Drake when he is in his singing mode, as I feel he takes more risks and connects more to me as an artist. It is in this mode where Nothing Was The Same truly shines and takes his music to a whole other level. From the amazing single "Hold On, We're Going Home," where Drake channels his inner Marvin Gaye and puts out his most achingly human vocal,



"Wu-Tang Forever," with its subtle use of ambient textures and a lonely Wu-Tang Clan sample,



to the absolutely stunning vocal turn on "Own It," where Drake really lets down his guard.



On this record Drake is definitely trying to find the right mix of rap and singing that works best for him. While not always successful, there are several moments where there is an interesting contrast that suits him well. On the gorgeous "From Time," stark piano chords along with the haunting vocals of singer Jhené Aiko bump up against Drake's interior feelings about his family.



While on "Too Much," UK singer Sampha's earthy croon is the perfect counter to Drake's feelings of loss and estrangement.



Nothing Was The Same is a complex, intriguing, frustrating, exasperating, yet ultimately successful record that is Drake being Drake, for better or worse. While he is always going to have his detractors and naysayers going after him, he is truly, aside from Kanye West, the biggest innovator and envelope pushers in the hip-hop field today. What I like about Drake is that you never get something half-assed from him, he does what he likes. And people respond to that; and that is true art.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Video: James Blake ft. Chance the Rapper - "Life Round Here"


This interesting collaboration gets an equally interesting video.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Jam of the Day: Miley Cyrus - "Adore You"


I admit it, I like the Miley Cyrus album. It is a complete mess of course, but when she is on, she is on. The lead track off the record is where she shines, a low-key midtempo ballad, where her voice is allowed to shine. It's a gorgeous track.



Videos of the Week


It's been one of those strange, weird weeks that I couldn't wait to end. Here are the videos that propped me up:



True Blood star Alexander Skarsgard plays a cult leader in this clip from Cut Copy.



Gorgeous video from Ulfur, who is normally a touring musician with Jonsi.



Hyperkinetic video from Danny Brown.



Dream-like clip from Le1f.



Although Janelle Monae's new record hasn't really spoken to me like her last one, this song is definitely the best track on it. It gets the stylized, high-concept treatment in its video.



Post-party wandering highlights this clip from alt-R&B singer SZA.

Video: Disclosure ft. London Grammar - "Help Me Lose My Mind"


Gorgeous track from Disclosure's Mercury Prize nominated debut Settle gets a video chronicling a night out for some London clubbers.



*Note: The video has already been pulled, with PMR (Disclosure's record label) issuing the following statement:

“The video for Disclosure’s new single was revealed this morning and as with previous Disclosure videos, it was about the connection of people having a good time, something that Disclosure want associated with their music and what we hope people have done when they’ve seen the band live or while listening to their music. Unfortunately the video has received a few comments referencing the use of drugs within the video.

“PMR feel very strongly against the glamorisation of drugs in any capacity and as such we have made the decision to remove the video.”

Video: Cut Copy - "Free Your Mind"


Actor Alexander Skarsgård ("True Blood") stars as a cult leader in this clip for the title track to the upcoming Cut Copy record.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Jam of the Day: The Neighbourhood - "$ting"


Atmospheric, gloomy alt-rock track from California 5 piece band The Neighborhood.

New: Lady Gaga - "Aura"


Here is the second peek into Lady Gaga's upcoming ARTPOP record. You might recall it was earlier leaked as "Burqa." Here, it gets the lyric video treatment and acts as a trailer for the movie Machete. The track was produced by EDM darling Zedd.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Jam of the Day: Sia ft. The Weeknd & Diplo - "Elastic Heart"


From the upcoming Hunger Games' sequel Catching Fire, Sia teams up with The Weeknd and Diplo for this slow-burning charmer.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Jam of the Day: Purple - "The Club"


Debut single from producer Purple, part of the LA collective known as Wedidit, is sort of the crossroads where The Weeknd, Burial, and trap music collides. It's a infectious combo.

New: Four Tet/Burial - "Nova"


Previously unreleased collaboration between Four Tet and Burial that Four Tet premiered on his eight hour takeover of Rinse FM last night. He didn't provide any details of when this track was recorded.

Video: AlunaGeorge - "Best Be Believing"


AlunaGeorge draw inspiration from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest for this clip from their debut album Body Music.