Friday, November 29, 2013

Videos of the Week


Here are the videos that stuffed me like a Thanksgiving turkey:



Reality bending clip from Broken Bells that continues the story line from their other video "Holding On For Life."



Black and white clip from Icona Pop details a love triangle.



Glee star Dianna Agron stars in this clip for The Killers new track.



Abstract clip from Factory Floor.



Haunting clip for the title track from Sky Ferreira's new record.



Visually striking clip from Major Lazer.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Jam of the Day: Joel Compass - "Run"


This guy needs to be huge. Love this new single.

Concert Watch: Chvrches - "Lies"


I haven't been this excited for a concert in ages. Their debut record The Bones Of What You Believe is an instant synthpop classic with "Lies" being one (of many) ridiculously catchy tracks.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Video: ††† (Crosses) - "Bi†ches Brew"


Horror movie influenced video from ††† (Crosses), the side project of Deftones singer Chino Moreno.

Jam of the Day: Haunted House - "Guts"


Don't let the creepy name, title, and cover art scare you away from listening to Haunted House. The Detroit duo of Joe Walmsley and Jeff Supina are a more 80s synthpop act than fright fest. While there are goth overtones to their songs, this one has a nice warmth in the keyboards and their vocals.



Their self-titled EP is out via their website.

Album Review: Son Lux - Lanterns


Son Lux
Lanterns
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

Ryan Lott, who performs under the name Son Lux, is obviously fascinated with the tension created between use of electronic and more organic instruments. His first couple of releases straddled the line between the worlds of artists like Owen Pallett, Radiohead, James Blake, and Wild Beasts; never quite finding the right mix of the two. Lanterns, his third record, is perhaps the best culmination of his talents so far, showing that collaborations with Sufjan Stevens have given him new focus and purpose in his recordings. Alternating between interior leaning tracks and more maximalist cuts, Lanterns is a fascinating listen that, while not always reaching the heights it aspires to, shows that is heading in the right direction. Lanterns, while not exactly a concept record of sorts, definitely has a series of themes running through it, ostensibly a collection of tracks about not feeling quite one with the world and wishing for something different. But in this world, getting what you want doesn't necessarily mean being happy with the ultimate decision.

Launching the record with a chorus of voices, samples, and ukulele, "Alternate World," is a somber meditation on how hard this world is to live in, and wanting to move on. Lott plaintively sings "tear me away from this fight/tear me away/take me to an/alternate world/alternate age/alternate life." There is a beautiful interplay between the subtle electronics and beats with strings and ukulele.



Album highlight "Lost It To Trying" erupts out of the gate next, stealing a bit from Sujan's The Age of Adz, with its haunting mix of horns, woodwinds, blistering percussion, and electronic elements. While all the elements feel like they are spinning out of control, Lott is somehow able to keep it all in check, trying to figure out his place in the world, wondering if they "Give in and get out/We rise in the dying."



The record moves along its path of knowledge and discovery up through the final tracks, with our protagonist reaching the point where he, and his lover/partner wants to "Leave the wasting world behind us/We will make it out alive/Leave the waiting world behind us/We will not look back this time" on the penultimate track "Plan Our Escape," before subtly moving into the final track "Lanterns Lit," where he is now alone, haven't not made the leap realizing there is more to this world, but seeing that his lover/partner has left this life he sets out to truly live, singing, "And with all your grief in my arms/I will labor by singing light/I'll keep my lanterns lit."



This push and pull between succumbing to the stresses and harshness of this world and seeking solace in something else is mirrored throughout the record by Lott's choices of more minimalist electronic flavored tracks and the maximalist tracks that almost overflow with outsized arrangements. Some of the best tracks, for me, are the electronic leaning ones, such as the menacing "Ransom," with its steady bassline throb, that is kept in check by a steady rise of strings;



and the dark, alt-R&B influence of "Easy," which strains above a whisper and keeps you in its masterful thrall.



The album is a bit front loaded with its best tracks, with the back half straining a little under the weight it of all. I felt that the track "Enough of Our Machines" should have been the one track that tied everything together, but its meandering mix of organic instrumentation never really rose to anything memorable, its latter attempt to intertwine electronics in the mix was maddeningly incohesive, and the lyrics faded into the background rather than creating the emotive context necessary for the leap at the end.



While these small missteps took a little bit away from the overall feel of the record, they were not enough to truly derail the effort. There is enough on Lanterns to show that Lott is almost where he is ready to give us a classic work. It is heartening to see him at least shooting for the stars, when so many others are all too willing to play it safe.

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: Icona Pop - "Just Another Night"


Love triangle between the Icona Pop girls and a man in this black and white clip.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Jam of the Day: Grizzly Bear - "Will Calls (Diplo Remix)"


From their B-sides compilation to Shields, Grizzly Bear gets Diplo to spice up their track "Will Calls." Awesome.



Here is the original for comparison:

Videos of the Week


Here are the videos this week that felt like a pile of baby kittens:



Standout track from Arcade Fire's record Reflektor gets a pretty powerful video interpretation.



Seizure-inducing video from M.I.A.



Gloriously 80's retro video for this slinky track.



Cinematic video from Austra. May be slightly NSFW.



Arty clip from Demdike Stare.



Beautifully shot and creepy video from Queens of the Stone Age.


New: U2 - "Ordinary Love"


While prepping their upcoming 2014 record, U2 provides this track from the Nelson Mandela biopic, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Fitting the film's subject matter, the song is a restrained piano-led track.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Jam of the Day: Erol Alkan - "Bang"


Slippery track from UK producer Erol Alkan, off his debut EP Illumination.

Album Review: Poliça - Shulamith


Poliça
Shulamith
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

Poliça's 2012 debut Give You The Ghost failed to resonate much with me. While the music, a combination of Portishead's millennial dread and lush synth pop, consistently drew me in, vocalist Channy Leaneagh's voice, which was auto-tuned and manipulated within an inch of her life, kept me at a distance. I was intrigued yet also irritated, to the point I couldn't be bothered much to give them a bigger chance. Sophomore release Shulamith doesn't change up their approach too much, however, possibly because of relentless touring, this record has a more direct sense of purpose and direction, reeling in their more proggy aspects and flights of fancy for pointed excursions. While Shulamith might lack Give You The Ghost's go-for-broke attitude, its more measure approach suits the band better.

And Shulamith truly soars when they stick to this approach. From the upbeat synthpop workout on opener "Chain My Name," which unfortunately leans a little too heavy on the annoying vocal manipulations of their debut,



to more solemn numbers like the noir drone of "Smug,"



and the Portishead indebted menace of the creeping "Very Cruel,"



Poliça sounds completely in control of their sound, forging a path that at times seems unwavering. This more hemmed in sound benefits them as it keeps them from wandering off into more esoteric territory. This is most apparent on two tracks, the lovely collaboration with Justin Vernon, "Tiff," which lopes and unfurls with calm, dreamy wonder, never trying to be more than it is,



and in the sensual pulse and pull of "I Need $," whose delicate play of synths wash over you like a warm air.



I still sense throughout Shulamith that Poliça is still tinkering with where they want to go, unsure at times, and falling back into old patterns that somewhat disrupt the record, especially on the back half. From the ethereal meanderings and overly processed vocals of "Warrior Lord," muddled dance punk of "Spilling Lines," to the sputtering and stuttering "Matty," that never quite pulls itself together into something cohesive, these tracks while not forcing the record to a full stop, definitely provide a few road blocks along the way.

For Poliça, Shulamith is a definite step forward for them in developing a signature sound that delineates themselves in the crowded indie-electronic field. Their struggle to reign in their more florid impulses creates some interesting tension throughout the record, though sometimes leading them to go a little too over the top. With a little more fine-tuning, I can easily see a masterful record coming from them.

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: Young Galaxy - "Crying My Heart Out"


The Donna Summer/Georgio Moroder disco throb of Young Galaxy's single "Crying My Heart Out" gets a very surreal video.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

Jam of the Day: Jade De LaFleur - "Jaded"


Stunning, minimal alt-R&B from Jade De LaFleur. It's amazing sometimes how so much can be done with so little. Lightly clicking percussion over a cloud of pillowy synths is all that is needed for this evocative track.

Album Review: Gesaffelstein - Aleph


Gesaffelstein
Aleph
Rating: Grrrr

Probably best known at the moment for producing "Black Skinhead" and "Send It Up" on Kanye West's industrial leaning record Yeezus, French techno producer Mike Levy, who produces under the name Gesaffelstein, releases his debut record Aleph, a dense, foreboding set of dark techno. On listening to these tracks, one immediately sees what drew West to use the producer, as every square inch of each track is polished to a superhuman sheen, dripping with menace and darkness, even on the handful of more atmospheric numbers.

Drawing from traditional techno to more intense genres like industrial and EBM, with even a slight touchdown in hip-hop, Levy has constructed an immaculately produced set of tracks. At over an hour, it is not an easy listen, with several of the tracks pummeling you with over-the-top aggression. The pacing, however, breaks up these intense assaults with carefully placed moments that pull you back into this sleek world. The majority of listeners will be drawn to the more dance-floor ready techno tracks. Best of the lot include the funky techno of banger "Trans;"



first single and massively overwhelming EBM leaning track "Pursuit;"



slippery techno of "Duel;"



and the throbbingly dense "Hate Or Glory."



There are also moments where Levy changes things up to marvelous effect, like on the hip-hop twisted track "Hellifornia," whose bone rattling bass will either set you off running or banging your head furiously;



or the sublime "Values," with its lonely core of synths, and dramatic arc and sweep.



And Levy keeps it all in balance with a variety of quieter, though no less sinister, instrumentals that keeps everything in line. From the longing, wandering mists of "Nameless," the Aphex Twin playfulness of "Wall of Memories," to the almost pastoral elegance of title track "Aleph,"



Levy keeps a firm hand and direction on where Aleph is heading at all times.

Even when you think you know where Aleph is heading, Levy is always one or two steps ahead of you at all times, subverting all your expectations. It is a masterful stroke of production and pacing that is frequently stunning. One of the best techno records of the year, Aleph is both heaven for those wanting dancefloor bangers and for those wanting more serious, headphone leaning sounds.

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: Neneh Cherry - "Blank Project"


Our first teaser from Neneh Cherry's new record Blank Project, produced by Four Tet. If this is any indication, we are looking at a phenomenal record.

New: Britney Spears - "Alien"


From her upcoming record Britney Jean, here is the leaked version of her track "Alien," produced by William Orbit. Rumor has it Lady Gaga was originally supposed to record the track. The track is fairly bland in my opinion, with Britney relying far too much on auto-tune and other production tricks. The track can be listened to here.

New: Solange - "Cash In"


To commemorate the launch of her own record label Saint Heron, Solange Knowles is set to release this compilation record featuring this gorgeous ballad.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Jam of the Day: Gesaffelstein - "Hellifornia"


Kanye West producer Gesaffelstein (aka Mike Levy) throws down this trunk rattler from his record Adelph.

Videos of the Week


Here are the videos that made me want to suppress my boiling rage this week:



Tongue in cheek look at sexism in the music industry from Lily Allen.



Low budget, and low key video for the gorgeous closing track from Blood Orange's masterful album Cupid Deluxe.



Simple video of Charli XCX dancing in a wide open studio. It fits the mood of the trippy remix of the track from Yeasayer.



Gorgeous version of his collaboration with Drake, Sampha pairs it with this stripped down video.



More over the top video shenanigans from Drake.



Gorgeous video directed by Sofia Coppola.



Spacey and trippy clip from the duo Teengirl Fantasy.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jam of the Day: Baauer & RL Grime - "Infinite Daps"


Slick collaboration between trap titans and tour mates Baauer and RL Grime.

Classic: Cabaret Voltaire - "Sensoria"


In honor of the reissue of their classic records from the 80s, here is one of my favorite tracks from the electronic/industrial music pioneers.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Jam of the Day: New Jackson - "Of A Thousand Leaves"


Warm and inviting techno/disco track from New Jackson. Even at 10 minutes plus, it never outstays its welcome.

Album Review: Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe


Blood Orange
Cupid Deluxe
Rating: Woof Daddy

I have been told on numerous occasions that I don't like pop music because I mainly review indie/alternative/electronic acts, and by others that I am not really an indie/alternative/electronic fan because I like pop music; Catch-22 if you will. Honestly, I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. I appreciate any music if it is done right; whether it be a sugary power pop single, an intense ambient drone, slow-burning R&B jam, icy post punk guitar workout, or a slinky techno cut. When I was growing up, I was weaned on Top 40 radio in the 70s, which gave way to alternative radio in the 80s. I never truly was able to completely let go of one over the other, and in the 90s there was a glorious time where there was a nice overlap between the two. Of course with the Internet, you can basically listen to a different genre every other song, and even search out what you want to hear without having a playlist dictated to you. So today's musicians' view of music is skewed only by how many keystrokes or link clinks they make and not by formerly rigid genre structures. Today, no one would say you can't mix world music, rap, and country music into one song. As long as the song is good, have at it. Dev Hynes, who was born roughly around the same time I was, has a musical interest that seems as restless as mine. Starting off with the bratty dance punk band Test Icicles, Dev quickly saw the limitations that were apparent, moving on to the countrified rock of Lightspeed Champion, then writing songs for Florence and the Machine, Solange, and Sky Ferreira, before settling into his current incarnation, Blood Orange, which straddles the line between 80s synth pop and pop music, Prince-esque R&B, hip-hop, and electronica. His first album Coastal Grooves leaned a little more towards 80s pop and New Wave, and while a really good listen, was overly stiff at times for my taste, coming across as more of a genre exercise than truly a melding of all of Hynes' interests.

With his sophomore record Cupid Deluxe, Hynes has really come into his own, crafting a gorgeous record that sounds light on its feet but serious at the same time, and meshes all of his musical interests into one satisfying whole. In an interview with NME, Hynes said that Cupid Deluxe was inspired by "New York City, the Big Apple. I lived in Brooklyn for some time and finally made the leap into Manhattan. So a lot of the record is about that, transitions, life transitions. Moving from a stable position to an unstable position. Something we have all been through." The album is full of songs that ache and strain, whether they are about relationships or career, and you feel Hynes stretching his musical voice to fit his aspirations. Where Coastal Grooves was essentially Hynes and his studio, Cupid Deluxe opens things up with a variety of collaborators that never outshine him or simply fade into the background. Working with Chairlift's Caroline Polachek, Kindness' Adam Bainbridge, Friends' Samantha Urbani, cloud rap producer Clams Casino, as well as rap cameos from Queens' Despot and London's Skepta, Hynes utilizes each perfectly to create his lush vision.

Starting out with the light Caribbean rhythms of the haunting track "Chamakay," Hynes pulls you in immediately with its gorgeous atmosphere and delicately hushed interplay between him and Chairlift vocalist Caroline Polachek. A song about a one sided relationship that is not going anywhere, Hynes' aching voice is the perfect foil for the lyrics, which have him stating "But now you're feeling empty/I tried my best last time/I'll leave you with your feelings/I'll leave you in your lies."



These relationship issues keep popping up throughout the record, as anyone in their 20s and 30s in a large city may attest to. From the looking-over-my-shoulder-for-someone-better track "You're Not Good Enough," which sounds like an outtake from Prince's heyday;



to the playful "Always Let U Down" a crafty reworking of Mansun's single "I Can Only Disappoint U" which feeds off its laid-back charm; and the haunting closing track "Time Will Tell," with its deep piano chords and echoing drums, which tells you to rely on yourself as "no one's waiting on you/don't be stressed now."



Cupid Deluxe unfolds like a really good mixtape, taking you on an aural journey through ups and downs, highs and lows, seemingly hesitant and naive at times, then strong and forceful the next. Hynes knows the values of pacing, never letting the record drop too far or get too inescapably lofty. There is a wide breadth of musical choices at play as well, from the funk and disco leanings of "Uncle ACE," the sparkly 80s pop of "It Is What It Is," hip-hop inspired "Clipped On," to the gorgeous and sweeping downtempo electronica of "High Street." The record feels complete and fully realized, a set of tracks meant to be heard together, working off one another, unfolding its vast tapestry, but strong enough where each song stands on its own.

Cupid Deluxe feels like an old friend that you might have long periods of time where you might not speak, but when you pick back up, no matter at what point, it is like only seconds have gone by. It resonates and lingers deeply within you, sparking memories and creating new ones. It becomes a part of you, for better or worse, but is undeniably something that shapes you.

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, November 12, 2013

Jam of the Day: Joker - "Deserted Island"


Prince meets UK bass in this slinky track from Joker.

New: Lily Allen - "Hard Out Here"


The long awaited return of Lily Allen is here. Here is the video for "Hard Out Here," a scathing look at music industry sexism.

Album Review: M.I.A. - Matangi


M.I.A.
Matangi
Rating: Meh

M.I.A. is in a bit of a limbo state with me at the moment. On the one hand, her first two records Arular and Kala are two of the most forward thinking pop albums of this century, the perfect meld of our Internet culture, seamlessly mixing pop, rap, alternative, electronic, and world music influences into one hearty pop culture stew. With the release of her third album Maya, things started to get a little more rocky for M.I.A. Where the first two records received almost universal critical acclaim, Maya, for most, was an unruly, abrasive, hook-free record that really made you work for the few pleasures that were there. While, for me, it was a a natural progression for her, but one that showed the growing pains. For every track that just plain didn't work, there was another one that was plain brilliant. In the period after this record, M.I.A. seemingly has spent more time trying to piss people off than making music, alienating her record company in the process, and putting the follow up to Maya on hold for a long time. Finally seeing release, Matangi again is a holding pattern like Maya but not really expanding what she was doing during that period. The album feels like M.I.A. is conflicted between wanting to be more experimental and groundbreaking and wanting to be more pop. But instead of feeding off of and being enriched by that push and pull, too often Matangi comes across as scattered, aimless, and, in some situations, practically unlistenable.

Primarily the first half of the record is where M.I.A and her producers lean more towards experimenting with dense layers of beats and samples, which can sometimes be intoxicating and at other times infuriating. Title track "Matangi" lurches into a chunky groove with clomping drums and a collage of nature sounds, vocal samples, and found sounds; "Only 1 U" takes pounding drum machines, bells, and chopped up samples into a hypnotic swirl; and "aTENTion" brings things closest to a club banger with deep bass and DnB inspired percussion. But while the backing tracks are frequently interesting, they tend to add one too many elements to the mix which distracts from the point being made in M.I.A.'s lyrics. Which might be the point, as this is likely the most unfocused set of lyrics I have heard from her. In the past she has focused on political subjects, but was able to intertwine the personal and universal. Here, it seems like she is grabbing at whatever hot political, international, and cultural buzz words she can find, with no real frame of reference. And even throws in bizarre outdated references to Lara Croft ("Only 1 U") and the phrase YOLO ("YALA").

It is telling that the best track on Matangi is the almost two year single "Bad Girls," which still maintains all its glorious swagger and sweep.



I also liked her collaboration with The Weeknd on "Exodus," which is the most straightforward track, settling into a lush groove riding on a sample of The Weeknd's track "Lonely Star." There is a nice sense of drama and mood here that builds over the track, not trying to grab your attention with overly produced beats that feature too strongly in the first half of the record.



"Double Bubble Trouble" is an interesting mix of reggae and trap that is light and fun.



"Bring The Noize" takes the schizophrenic over-stimulation of the front half but somehow holds things together with more finesse, letting the beats and backing tracks work with the raps instead of against them.



While another trap inspired, down-tempo track "Know It Ain't Right" is a subtle palate cleaner from the sometimes oppressive clatter and clanking going on throughout Matangi.



Overall Matangi is just too much of a mess to really recommend. While there are some killer tracks here ("Bad Girls," "Exodus," "Bring The Noize"), the album is often bogged down with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to production. Sometimes all those bells and whistles show that you are out of ideas rather than coming up with new ones.

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.

Monday, November 11, 2013

New: Metronomy - "I'm Aquarius"


First single from Metronomy's upcoming follow up to The English Riviera, Love Letters. You can listen to it here at Pitchfork.com.

Jam of the Day: Pearson Sound - "Starburst"


Gorgeous yet grimy track from Pearson Sound. Love the mix of harsh percussion and low end with the stunning washes of synths.

New: Kele - "Heartbreaker"


Bloc Party leasder Kele has a new solo EP coming out. Here is the first taste from it, the single "Heartbreaker," which shows Kele going further into his dance music fixation. You can listen to the track over at Pitchfork.com.

Concert Watch: Two Door Cinema Club - "Sleep Alone"


Looking forward to seeing Two Door Cinema Club tonight. They always put on an excellent live show, full of energy.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Jam of the Day: Garden City Movement - "Move On"


Austere pop from the Israeli trio. "Move On" unfolds with delicate guitar work, muted percussion, and warped/processed vocals. This single is impossible to resist.

Videos of the Week


Here are the videos that slapped me around like a bitch this week:



This animated clip from These New Puritans is simultaneously gorgeous, haunting, disturbing, and surreal.



Film noir meets virtual reality in this video for this slamming track from Chvrches.



Creepy visuals highlight this pummeling track from Australian metal act Portal.



Gorgeous bedroom pop/R&B track from Atu gets a lovely courtship video told in terms of dance.



A$AP Rocky and his A$AP mob become a gang of hockey mask wearing, BMX bike riding thugs through the sreets of Manhattan.



Intense, performance clip from Norwegian metal act Kvelertak.



A businesswoman loses her shit and stalks off into the Scottish countryside with her carry-on in tow.



Trippy video for the slick title track to the last Metric record.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Jam of the Day: Rosie Lowe - "Right Thing"


This is one of those songs that starts out deceptively simple then suddenly becomes something intricate and captivating.

Album Review: Lady Gaga - ARTPOP


Lady Gaga
ARTPOP
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

After her relentless descent into performance art overkill after the release of her last record Born This Way, Lady Gaga (nee Stefani Germanotta) seemingly forgot what she did best, which was create decent and catchy pop tracks. Instead of nurturing that talent, she did everything possible to show that she was an "ARTIST," directing over the top, nonsensical art-house-esque videos, showing up everywhere in increasingly bizarre outfits, taking on new personas seemingly every hour, doing everything but making truly memorable music. Born This Way was an overblown, turgid mess of insipid platitudes masking as life lessons, while the music itself was merely rehashed idea from The Fame only covered up with as many bells and whistles as possible. Of course, Born This Way was a huge success, but painted Gaga into a corner, making her feel like she had go even bigger each time, but there was no real purpose behind any of it rather than just show, being all surface and no meaning. Of course, being Lady Gaga, she announced the follow up to Born This Way as her grand artistic statement ARTPOP, stating in the press release that it "musically mirrors Gaga's creative process" and that the result is a "'rage" of electronic passion and fury, defining each artistic process from beginning to end, ARTPOP could mean anything." Which in Gaga-speak means nothing, but purportedly everything.

Based on the release of a teaser single, and lead track "Aura," I was hoping this was actually going to be a more revealing Gaga as one of the main lyrics is "Do you wanna see the girl who lives behind the aura?/Behind the aura, behind the curtain, behind the burqa?," which portends that she is going to possibly lay herself bare.



Unfortunately, this rather decent lead track is not indicative of what the rest of ARTPOP provides. When first single "Applause" was released, it again was Gaga commenting on her fame, and more to the point the perceived adoration of her core fans, her "little monsters." But instead of it being a self-aware commentary, it came across as a ridiculously self-centered and clueless. The rest of ARTPOP is still Gaga at her most elusive, maddeningly all over the place thematically, and still reusing former melodies and ideas, attempting to camouflage it all in today's EDM/Dupstep/Trap stylings. Like pop masters before here like George Michael, Gaga has this desperate need to be taken as a serious artist, when in fact, if they concentrated more on just making great pop tune rather than trying to make some obtuse artistic manifesto, they would likely be taken more serious.

With all that said, ARTPOP, for all its eyerolling bloated excess, is a far more engaging record than Born This Way, and in fact contains some of her catchiest tracks since The Fame. For me, when she lets down all the pretense and just focuses on killer hooks and choruses, and not so much on all the musical bells and whistles, she shines and still can create some wonderful pop music. The best tracks on ARTPOP are the ones where she almost doesn't seem to be trying. "G.U.Y.," despite some silly lyrics, is a pretty killer pop/EDM track, with a very catchy chorus;



"Sexxx Dreams" pulses and throbs with energy, and for a song that is about sex is actually fairly low-key and contained;



her collaboration with R. Kelly, "Do What U Want," which on paper sounds like a disaster, is actually a fairly decent slow grind electro track;



and even more surprising is title track "ARTPOP" which is just a very good synthpop track, with one of Gaga's best vocal performances.

Of course, Gaga can't just work on tracks like this, she has to try and throw everything but the kitchen sink into the mix, and sometimes it works, like on the furious electro-squeal of "Swine,"



or the silly but fun "Venus."



But often you are left with monstrous head scratchers, like her misguided attempt to merge rap, trap, and pop on "Jewels & Drugs;" the over the top vocal histrionics of "Manicure;" and the double dumbness of tracks "Donatella" and "Fashion!" that seek to be wry commentary on the world of fashion but merely come across as misguided and bland; and even worse is piano ballad "Dope," which focuses on Gaga's most strained and mannered vocal yet.



ARTPOP is surely not the disaster that Born This Way was, and is certainly a more focused and fun record. Hopefully, Gaga will calm down a little after all this ridiculous pretense and will merely sit down and write a hook filled album full of songs that play to her strengths. ARTPOP is a strange little record, but one that gives a little hope that she might come to her senses.

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: These New Puritans - "V (Island Song)"


Pretty amazing animated clip from These New Puritans.

New: Snowbird - "Porcelain"


Snowbird is the new band featuring singer/songwriter Stephanie Dosen and Cocteau Twins' Simon Raymonde. "Porcelain" is the first single off the duo's debut record moon.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Jam of the Day: M.I.A. - "Exodus"


Although her new album Matangi is an unholy mess, there are enough excellent tracks on the record to keep it right side up. "Exodus" is perhaps the most straightforward song she has ever done, and for that reason it anchors the record.

Album Review: Ryan Hemsworth - Guilt Trips


Ryan Hemsworth
Guilt Trips
Rating: Grrrr

Mostly known for his forays into downtempo R&B and cloud-rap territory, Canadian DJ and producer Ryan Hemsworth releases his album Guilt Trips, which surprisingly hits on multiple styles and genres, yet feels cohesive and retains Hemsworth's personality and charm. In this age of being exposed to and able to listen to so many different types of music it is remarkable to me that anyone's records these days don't have a schizophrenic quality to them. But this plethora of music makes it so that many producers are always challenged and inspired by what they hear, and in more gifted hands are able to pull from and edit things down to their own ends. Guilt Trips borrows the best parts of chillwave, trap, Dirty South beats, future R&B, cloud rap, and many other styles and makes for a fascinating listen.

Guilt Trips is very much built and structured for headphones and late night listens and not the dance floor, aligning itself more with indie electronica, feeling like a drive through dark and cold streets, the neon and glitter of the city washing over you as you head to your final destination. Beginning with the soft thump of "Small + Lost," featuring the gorgeous vocals of Sinead Harnett over snippets of vocal samples, Guilt Trips eases itself gracefully onto its sumptuous path.



Throughout the record, Hemsworth expertly switches back and forth between vocal led tracks and instrumentals. From the Frou Frou sampling "One For Me," which pairs R&B singer Tinashe's breathy vocals over fresh R&B beats, sounding like one of Brandy's trademarked ballads;



indietronic collaboration with Baths "Still Cold" which pairs Will Wiesenfeld's left-field croon with sparkly Postal Service-esque keyboards, intoning strange lyrics like "it’s almost funny that you’re still so cold / what are you, Taylor Swift?;” while on closing track "Day/Night/Sleep System," Hemsworth pairs the guttural raps of Haleek Maul with the mumble raps of Kitty, looking back towards his cloud rap roots.



But the main focus on this record are Hemsworth's pristine and multi-layered productions. "Weird Life" starts out as cotton candy 80s pop music before erupting into a glossy trap inspired mix of bright synth washes and belltone melodies;



"Ryan Must Be Destroyed" builds from a lonely, inward looking track into a maximalist tour de force of skittering rhythms and meaty synths;



while "Happiness & Deams Forever" showcases Hemsworth's furious drum programming and sense of scale and drama, drawn into balance with the almost creepy vocal sample saying "please don't trust me."

Guilt Trips is a very brisk listen but one that rewards multiple listens. At first, it breezed by pleasantly without really making a lasting impression with me. Over the course of several different listens it began to take shape, making its presence known. While Ryan is still trying to find his ultimate voice, Guilt Trips makes the case that he might be doing fine with what he is doing right now.

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: Broken Bells - "Holding On For Life"


Here is the first taste from Broken Bells' upcoming record After The Disco. Broken Bells is the collaboration between Danger Mouse and The Shins' James Mercer.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Jam of the Day: Gem Club - "Polly"


Woozy, gorgeous, and haunting, this 7:30 track from Gem Club is positively mesmerizing.

Album Review: Sky Ferreira - Night Time, My Time


Sky Ferreira
Night Time, My Time
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

21-year old Sky Ferreira is one of those up and coming pop stars that has so much bad luck following her that it is almost expected that her career will flame out in blaze of tabloid headlines. Following several singles and a left field electro pop hit with "Everything Is Embarrassing," Ferreira was seemingly in limbo, with many very public disputes with her record label, who wanted to mold her into the next Britney Spears, delays with the release of her album, and recently being arrested on drug charges with boyfriend Zachary Cole Smith of DIIV. With all this going on, I was completely expecting her debut Night Time, My Time to be an unholy mess of too many cooks in the kitchen. Was is most surprising well, aside from the fact it was released at all, is the fact that it is very cohesive and strong record, albeit one with some growing pains showing, but nothing that can't be remedied. What Night Time, My Time shows is that Ferreira is good at sculpting out her own personality and sound, leaning away from the overprocessed pop of singers like Katy Perry, Britney, Christina, et al, and heading more in the direction of alt-pop artists like Lorde. Charli XCX, and Lily Allen, more willing to take the piss out of the whole Top 40 game.

Working primarily with producer Ariel Rechtshaid (Solange, Haim, Charli XCX, Vampire Weekend, Usher), who knows how to brush up lesser known artists and stream-lining the successful ones, Ferreira finds her in good hands, giving the album focus and direction. What could have come across as a genre hopping mess, is a lazer sharp synthpop/fuzz guitar pop record that goes down relatively easy on the ears, with enough edge to keep it from seeming too polished. While there is nothing that matches the total charm and pop perfection that was "Everything Is Embarrassing," when Ferreira sticks to a lighter touch, the album is full of winners. "24 Hours" is a sparkly electro-pop track, that would easily have fit in the midst of the 80's alt-rock heyday with its fuzzy guitars, glittery keyboards, and Ferreira's skycraping vocals;



"Boys" is a delightful kiss-off to all the men who have disappointed her, taking cues from 50s girl groups, and pushing it through and more modern sensibility;



on "Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Ok)" the guitars and attitude get ramped up to 11;



while "Love In Stereo" is pure pop gorgeousness.



Along with these poppier numbers, Ferreira does indulge some more experimental leanings. With "Heavy Metal Heart" the pounding drums and squalling guitars are the perfect meat for Ferreira to sing her vocal teeth into;



the Clash leaning alt-reggae of "You're Not The One;"



and the title track, which is a somber, texturally rich ballad, the calls to mind late period Fiona Apple, and artists like PJ Harvey and Chelsea Wolfe.



For the most part Night Time, My Time is tonally consistent and never less than interesting, but certain tracks seem more like less fleshed out demos that end up fading into the background rather than asserting their own personality, whether it is the monotone guitar fuzz and vocals on "Kristine," lackluster 80s pop punk of "I Will," or the truly odd and droning "Omanko" which is 4:30 minutes of head-scratching weirdness.

But overall, it is a very good debut that thankfully does not sound even remotely overly thought out, or compiled by committee. While it has some missteps, they are more out of taking too much of a risk rather than being meek and timid. Night Time, My Time is a solid debut from Ferreira, and hopefully she can get her issues and troubles ironed out so that we hear a lot more from her in the future.

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.