Friday, January 31, 2014

Jam of the Day: DJ Rashad, MoonDoctoR & FreshtillDef - "Angel Dust"


Off their upcoming collaborative LP WTF!, DJ Rashad, MoonDoctoR & FreshtillDef showcase this track, with its mesmerizing programming and intoxicating synths.

Videos of the Week


Snowmaggedon is slowly fading from Atlanta. Here are the videos that kept me safe and warm:



Stylish, cool video from St. Vincent.



80s movie inspired clip for the funky jam from Chromeo ft. Toro Y Moi.



Adult Jazz put out this cryptic clip for their single "Springful."



Moonlit, desert shot clip from Jagwar Ma.



Hallucinatory video from Trust.



Musical spouses Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips star in this sleepwalking themed clip from Hospitality.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Jam of the Day: The Presets - "Goodbye Future"


Excellent electro track from the Aussie duo.

Album Review: Alcest - Shelter


Alcest
Shelter
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

French metal band Alcest has quietly made the transition from its ambient metal beginnings into pure shoegaze. On 2010’s Écailles de Lune, the tension between explosive metal riffs and more textural, atmospheric washes of guitar led to their most gripping work, and heralded the discovery of other bands influenced by shoegaze such as Deafheaven. Alcest's latest record Shelter continues their path away from aggressive metal, eschewing chugging riffs for ethereal beauty and grace. Taking Slowdive's Just For A Day as a touchpoint, Shelter is a gorgeous, shimmering record full of soaring guitars, swooning vocals, and epic synth washes that is never less than intoxicating, however, losing the push and pull between the harsh and beautiful tends to take away from what made records such as Écailles de Lune so bracing.

Honestly, though, it is hard to find much fault with Shelter as a whole considering the sheer beauty of the tracks collected here. After a brief, ambient opening, the record soars into the clouds with the chiming "Opale," a rousing track where the interplay between the guitars and sweeping synths is almost perfection.



"La Nuit Marce Avec Moi" is perhaps one of the most gorgeous tracks Alcest has ever created, the warm washes of sound enveloping you in a comforting cocoon.



And if anyone calls into question Alcest's shoegaze bona fides, you only have to turn to "Away," which grabs Slowdive's Neil Halstead on vocals.



While the album floats along on its beautiful shoegaze course, it is not until the final 10+ minute track "Delivrance" where things get a little more tension-filled, as the track builds and builds into a Sigur Rós-ian epic swoon-fest.



Shelter is a record that I put on a lot to get caught up in its warm, inviting bath and I am never disappointed when I have it on. It is not a record that I turn to, however, for its forward thinking qualities. There is nothing here that makes it essential listening. Removing any traces of their metal past has made Alcest merely another shoegaze act, though a very good one.

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, January 28, 2014

Jam of the Day: BANKS - "Brain"


Shlomoh produced single from upcoming LA based singer BANKS. While her songs on her last EP London were interior, intimate affairs, this single shows her in a more maximalist bent. Expect big things from her.

Album Review: Actress - Ghettoville


Actress
Ghettoville
Rating: Meh

Producer/musician Darren Cunningham, who performs under the Actress moniker, has slowly moved from the woozy techno of aptly named debut album Hazyville to almost danceable forms on 2012's R.I.P., seemingly setting the stage for perhaps more crossover appeal. Prior to the release of his fourth album, titled Ghettoville, Cunningham announced that this would be the end of his work under Actress, and even implied that this would be his last artistic record for good. Whether this is a true statement or just a marketing ploy, Cunningham's music appears to be a perfect amalgamation of his statements, a scorched earth policy record, taking his touchstones, techno, acid house, fragmented hip-hop, early Warp records IDM, and boiling them down to their bare essence. Ghettoville is an unrelentingly dour, bleak record, one that feels like all happiness and joy in making music has been leeched out. As a totemic statement of purpose and finality, it is a brilliant move, but in terms of it being an enjoyable listen, it is too clinical and exacting to gain much from it other than muted appreciation.

Cunningham starts Ghettoville off with essentially a big fuck you to casual listeners. "Forgiven" is 7+ minutes of almost painfully cold, drone techno. Its ice cold percussion slapping you in the face like a sheet of ice, while the samples are looped into a painfully repetitive black hole.



This approach to structure is mirrored throughout the record, from the burbling, lurching strains of "Towers;" to
what sounds like a sample of the bassline from Daft Punk's "Around The World" heard underwater on the blocky, murky "Skyline;"



while on tracks like "Rap," Cunningham distorts and twists a vocal sample into almost an incomprehensible mantra with a drugged down beat that never quite goes anywhere but further down a rabbit hole.



Tracks start and end with very little interior movement. Ideas are more like unformed sketches, drawn out to interminable lengths. Just when you think he has latched onto an interesting idea and might run with it, either the track abruptly ends or just settles into that one groove without going anywhere.

The only time a little light and levity are allowed in the mix are on tracks like "Birdcage" with it's almost danceable beat, fractured vocal samples, and watercolor keyboards; the delicate and playful keyboards shimmering through "Our;"



a thumping 4 to the floor beat elevates the almost cheerful "Gaze" with its house piano stabs and thick bassline;



while a funky, playful rhythm track takes over the track "Image" bumping up against ping ponging percussion and woozy synth textures.

But Ghettoville never quite breaks through the black grey clouds that permeate the whole record. Songs mostly edge along with bare, basic elements with little to no texture and movement, all bleak, oppressive atmosphere that over a lengthy 70 minute runtime can start to get to you. Ending track "Grey Over Blue" has a haunted grace to it, but like opener "Forgiven" it rarely moves outside its rigid confines, washing over you like a powerful wave of gloom, thrashing you against the shore, dragging you back into its cold depths.



Ghettoville is a polarizing record that basically seals the coffin so to speak on Actress' output. While there are some impressive pieces scattered throughout, and Cunningham's steadfast refusal to work on anything but his own terms is admirable, the record itself is that solemn, unwanted friend of a friend at a dinner party that does everything in his power to bring down a pleasurable evening with talk of homelessness, social inequity, and greed; that wet blanket that clouds everything. Ghettoville is a sobering, cooly distant experience that I can't say you will want to experience many times.

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.

Cover: Bright Light Bright Light & Ana Matronic - "West End Girls (Pet Shop Boys Cover)"


Cover of the Pet Shop Boys' classic first single.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Jam of the Day: Cloud Nothings - "I'm Not Part Of Me"


Brash and bratty indie rock from Cloud Nothings' upcoming record Here And Nowhere Else.

New: Chvrches - "Bela Lugosi's Dead (Bauhaus Cover)"


Interesting, synthpop take on the Bauhaus classic; from the upcoming soundtrack to the movie Vampire Academy.

Album Review: Mogwai - Rave Tapes


Mogwai
Rave Tapes
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

When Mogwai released their debut record Young Team almost 20 years ago it wasn't called a classic because of its complete originality, in fact in was quite easy to name and pinpoint each influence, instead, it was how the band took those influences and made them into something all their own. The album was intense and confrontational, constantly keeping you on edge, never knowing where a gorgeous passage would erupt into noise-fueled chaos or vice versa. This constant tension and release is still consistently stunning after all these years. While the band would still put out some really good records over the years, they never quite reached the heights that Young Team scaled, tending to fall back into familiar patterns, losing that once great edge.

The focus on their 8th proper album (not considered soundtracks and remix albums) Rave Tapes is on more electronics, however, Mogwai over their past few records have been integrating more keyboards and synthesizers into their sound anyway, so it is not like the record takes off into dubstep and drum n bass territory. While overall Rave Tapes is a solid record, there is just a lack of forward movement for the band. Most of the tracks play off the soft/loud dynamic that the band can pull off in its sleep, and at times it feels like Mogwai is checking boxes on a list, you have the track with voice samples, the one track with soft vocals, and the track with vocoder. There is a remarkable lack of surprise here that keeps me from really embracing the record wholeheartedly, but with that said, it is still a gorgeously produced album that is at least entertaining through its run. I was just left wanting more.

The tracks that spoke the most to me on Rave Tapes were the ones where the mix of guitars and keyboards coalesced into something almost sublime. The driving and pulsating "Remurdered" casts swooning synth lines against a current of booming drums and aching guitars,



the delicate bell synth tones that ring throughout the opening guitar laced tone poem "Heard About You Last Night,"



and the slow burning churn of "Deesh" with its rising tides of keyboards.



The remaining tracks on the record, aside from the relatively brief guitar workout "Hexon Bogon,"



and beautiful piano led ballad "Blues Hour,"



make more of an impression than it's a Mogwai song and it's done well but perfunctorily so. There is a distinct lack of adventure with this album, as if they are stuck in a holding pattern.

Rave Tapes was a ridiculously hard record to review for me. Had I not been a follower of the band and this was my first entry for them, my opinion may have been different, however, seeing as I have been an ardent follower over the past 18 years, I can't help but be a little bit disappointed. The odd thing is Rave Tapes is not a bad record at all, I can easily have it on and it is an enjoyable listen, but it becomes background, lacking the in-your-face forcefulness of prior albums. As such, this record, for me, definitely gets graded as a minor work for Mogwai.

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.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Jam of the Day: Young & Sick - "Magnolia"


Shimmering bedroom pop/R&B track from Young & Sick. His voice is like butter.

Videos of the Week


Bitter cold can't keep me from posting this weeks best videos:



From Damon Albarn's first solo comes the melancholy title track and its accompanying animated video. One of his best songs.



Whooshy synthpop single from Dornik gets a video that shows more than it tells, and lets you fill in the backstory.



Dense, hypnotic clip from former Brainiac member John Schmersal's new project Crooks On Tape.



Grainy and dreamy nature footage highlights and compliments this bit of pastoral ambiance from Bibio.



Surreal, animated clip from psych-rockers Temple.



Simple and yet slightly creepy performance clip from post-punk band Girl Band.



Fun track redone by Disclosure with Mary J. Blige gets the usual Disclosure treatment.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Jam of the Day: Lushes - "Harsh"


Jittery cut from Brooklyn post-rock duo Lushes.

Album Review: Warpaint - Warpaint


Warpaint
Warpaint
Rating: Woof Daddy

Warpaint's debut record The Fool was on many best of lists for 2010, and rightfully so, it's driving combination of icy, post-guitars, languid vocals, and the propulsion of a secret weapon, its formidable rhythm section, made for an intoxicating listen. It's been almost 4 years since that release, and after a lengthy tour schedule along with working on these tracks during sound checks, Warpaint have returned with their sophomore record. There is no seismic shift in sound on this record, the rhythm section is still potent and the driving force behind the tracks, vocals are hazy and dream like, and the guitars still drip like icicles, however, this go-around there is far more atmosphere present, lots of foreboding electronics and hints of drum programming.

Produced by Flood (Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins) and mixed by Nigel Godrich (Radiohead), Warpaint is more polished and slick, but the better production helps define their sound better rather than overcompensating. They leave the rhythm section front and center, while the dual guitars flicker in and out of the mix as punctuation. It's funny that a band with two guitarists puts out music with seemingly so little guitar. While there were more standout tracks on The Fool, here, the tracks here flow in an out of one another as a more collective statement.

Not to say there aren't some big tracks on Warpaint. First single "Love Is To Die" is a sexy, bass-driven charger, the bass line shimmering over the insistent beat, as the cool washes of guitar float in and around, with subtle, menacing electronics fighting to come to the forefront.



"Biggy" piles droning, creaky analog synths on top of the watery mix of bass and percussion, the guitars pointillistically echoing within. Each element perfectly placed in the mix, adding just the right amount of drama and heft.



And there are room for interesting surprises, like the clattering dance-punk middle track "Disco/Very" which could easily fit on an album from LCD Soundsystem or The Rapture, or the gorgeous, album closing piano ballad "Son."

But where Warpaint shines for me are on the moodier, more atmospheric tracks, which draw you in like a riptide. Tracks like "Hi" with its childlike vocals, skittering mix of programmed and organic drums, and swirling mix of guitars and synths, all the while that subterranean bass line pushes and pulls. "Teese" begins delicate and fragile with gently plucked guitars and dreamy vocals, rising tides of watery synths burbling below, the drums and bass line taking over the track at the midpoint, as the waves of synths crash into the haunting vocal interplay. And on "Feeling Right" the pulsating beat and bass line are the meat and bones, but the star is the icy shards of guitars that add a sense of drama to the song, and the shift at midpoint, where the vocals and synths fight along side and against each other, is pure aural genius.

Warpaint is a record that takes time to insinuate itself in your head. I will admit that on first listens I was underwhelmed, as the record doesn't have the same intense energy as its predecessor. While The Fool was an African rhino charging its way through the brush, Warpaint is the coiled snake in the grass, full of menace, ready to snap at any moment and strike. Although the approaches are different, they both have a force and will that cannot be denied.

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, January 20, 2014

Jam of the Day: Damon Albarn - "Everyday Robots"


First peek at Damon Albarn's solo record Everyday Robots is the lonely and haunting title track. Albarn's voice is front and center over the lurching rhythm, African samples, strings, and plaintive piano. It is a gorgeous introduction to an album I am highly anticipating.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Jam of the Day: Nils Frahm - "Says"


From his live album Spaces, Berlin producer Nils Frahm gradually develops this track over its 8 minutes runtime, with perfect interplay between arpeggiated synths and icy piano work.

Videos of the Week


It's Friday videos of the week, y'all:



Hysterical video from Disclosure.



Fight Club at the beach for this clip from Savages.



Atmospheric song from the shoegaze/electronic duo I Break Horses gets a moody clip.



I am not a huge Elbow fan, but I really like this ramshackle track.



Suitably low rent clip for this punk rock anthem from Childbirth.



Actor Oscar Isaac from Inside Llewyn Davis stars in Danish producer Trentemøller’s video for “Gravity,” a collaboration with Lower Dens singer Jana Hunter.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

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


L.A. band Warpaint's first single from their self-titled sophomore record is a typically moody track for them, but there is a haunting tension that unnerves you as it floats underneath the driving bassline.

Album Review: Patterns - Waking Lines


Patterns
Waking Lines
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

Manchester quartet Patterns sort of bridge the gap between shoegaze, post-rock, dream pop, and Britpop on their debut album Waking Lines. Full of stadium ready guitars, booming drums, lush samples, and the evocative vocals of lead singer Ciaran McAuley, these tracks flow in and out of one another like a dense sweep of ocean waves. For a debut it is a remarkably assured record that shows their sound fully realized, if not as distinctive as it could be. While in the context of listening to the record as a whole, the band's vision is apparent, however, Waking Lines suffers slightly from not having any standout singles that can get more people to take a chance with the band.

Leading off with "This Haze," the chiming guitars and soaring synths envelope McAuley's voice in a dense storm of sound as it all barrels forth towards the skyscraping chorus,



Animal Collective-style chanted lyrics rise and fall over the scrawling guitars and atmospheric keyboards of "Blood,"



while moodier and edgier keyboards take over "Our Ego," blending seamlessly into the mix of lush guitars and driving rhythms.



Throughout Waking Lines, motifs appear and reappear, patterns (pun not intended, well, perhaps slightly intended) reveal themselves and evolve over the course of the record. These patterns do have the tendency to make each track bleed into the next, as if the flow of the record is a variation on a theme. While listening to the record as a whole it goes by effortlessly, but like a house of cards, should you take one out of sequence and/or context, the beautiful structure falls. But there is a lot here to recommend. From the title track, which climbs from chiming keyboards and soft focus vocals into a stomping, percussion heavy, guitar rave-up;



the lurching and swooning "Wrong Two Worlds;"



and the spiky guitar shards that punctuate the epic closing track "Climbing Out," as McAuley's vocals head upwards into the stratosphere.

Waking Lines is a solid debut from this talented Manchester quintet. The base here is solid, they just need to stretch out a little bit to make their sound a little more distinct. Perhaps a little more edge to the electronics and percussion might help them jump to the next level. Small issues aside, you could do a lot worse than spending your time in this very lush musical world.

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: Elbow - "Fly Boy Blue/Lunette"


Charming, ramshackle new track from Elbow's upcoming sixth record The Take Off And Landing Of Everything.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Monday, January 13, 2014

Jam of the Day: Liars - "Mess On Mission"


Slamming electronic track from Liars' upcoming record Mess.

Album Review: The Notwist - Close To The Glass


The Notwist
Close To The Glass
Rating: Grrrr

German indie alternative/electronic act The Notwist seemed to have an identity crisis in the early going, moving from heavy metal to dark indie rock until settling in with what seemed to be the best fit, quirky electronic leaning alt-rock. Their classic electro-pop record Neon Golden is one of those records that you keep recommending to skeptical friends who all become devout devotees upon listening. What should have been the launching point for a storied career became rather a muddle, as acts like The Postal Service drew a more mainstream crowd, their slick mix devoid of the quirks that made Neon Golden such a find. The following up to Neon Golden, The Devil, You + Me, had its charms, but seemed to try to incorporate more guitar heavy compositions that alienated the fans of Neon Golden. Their latest record Close To The Glass, I am happy to report, is a return to the more electronic focused side of the bad, with a few detours into more guitar-centric areas. While it does not hit the sublime heights of Neon Golden, it is still a sold record that should return the band to brighter lights.

There are some new approaches here which are evident from the play of first single and title track "Close To The Glass," which is very percussion focused, combining harsh electronic beats with delicate woodwinds and samples.



First track "Signals" is a haunting synth-heavy glitch-fest, which again is one of the album's best moments where the electronic and the organic collide in perfect form, the skittering beats and electronics intertwine with strings in delicate precision.



But of course, Close To The Glass works its charms best when it revisits the gorgeous electro-pop the band perfected on Neon Golden. Organic percussion propels "Run Run Run" while blooping keyboards and jazzy woodwinds interplay while frontman Markus Acher's aching voice floats above it all in a netherworld;



swirling keyboards and strings punctuate the melancholy ballad "Into Another Tune," which rises quietly into a more hurried number with the addition of subtle percussion and a more dense mix;



and the charming pop track "Casino" is where Acher's quirky vocals works very well with the pastoral guitar work.

There are only a couple of points where The Notwist add tracks that, while not necessarily bad, just don't fit the mood of the record and stick out like sore thumbs. Power pop track "Kong" is a charming little guitar number but in the midst of all the swirling electronics feels odd. And the less said the better about droning, MBV-esque guitar screed "Seven Hour Drive" which is so jarring as to be antagonistic.

But these are minor quibbles when the rest of the album is so well put together. And The Notwist save the best for last with the final two tracks. Instrumental number "Lineri" is by far the most beautiful piece they have ever recorded. Soft guitar lines intertwine with each other over muted programming and subtle atmospherics. The guitar work here is particularly stunning, sounding like tears falling down a lover's face.



And "They Follow Me," reframes the guitar work from "Lineri" to close out the record, with a track that takes the beauty of Neon Golden's closer "Consequence" as a springboard and fashions another eloquent closer.

Close To The Glass is a brilliant return to form after the lackluster album The Devil, You + Me, and puts the band back on track from the momentum of Neon Golden. By focusing on their electronic strengths, but not forgetting their indie-rock bona fides altogether, they have crafted an excellent set of electro-pop leaning tracks that beguile and entrance you from first play to last.

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: Lily Allen - "Air Balloon"


Cheeky track from Lily Allen's upcoming third record, co-written with Swedish pop producer Shellback.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Jam of the Day: Wild Beasts - "Wanderlust"


Evocative and gorgeous electronic-heavy track from Wild Beast's upcoming fourth album Present Tense. This track focuses on the dramatic vocals of singer Hayden Thorpe, which flows in and out of the swirling waves of synthesizers.

Videos of the Week


Back to the grind again after the holidays. These videos kept me warm during the cold snap this week:



Gorgeous track from Wild Beasts, with an equally stunning video.



GCI dreamscapes punctuate this clip from Glasser.



Hitchcock-inspired clip from King Krule.



Psychedelic condiments provide merriment in this video from Surfer Blood, who were forced to make the video for next to nothing after their record label dropped them.



Wild clip from Disclosure.



Bizarre clip from dream pop duo jj.



Cool lights highlight this clip from Katy B.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Jam of the Day: Gem Club - "Braid"


From their sophomore album In Roses, dream pop trio Gem Club release this stately and haunting piano-led ballad. It is breathtaking.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Jam of the Day: Lockah - "If Loving U Is Wrong, I Don't Want to Be Wrong (12" Edit)"


Ravey track from Scottish producer Lockah.

Album Review: Burial - Rival Dealer


Burial
Rival Dealer
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

Burial, nee Will Bevan, never truly follows any path that is expected of him. Releasing two full lengths, including his masterpiece Untrue, to almost universal acclaim, he has released new music when it suits him, usually in the form of one off singles, collaborations, and lately a yearly EP. Last year's brilliant EP Truant/Rough Sleeper found Burial tweaking his formula ever so slightly, indicating that Burial might be in the midst of changing his iconic sound. With his latest winter release, the three song EP Rival Dealer, it is still distinctly Burial, however, he has definitely moved on to a more expansive sound, one that suits him, but yet still is in its gestation phase. This is the first Burial release that I really want to love it, but something holds me back from it. While the production is still uniformly good and unique, there is a distinct lack of cohesion between the three tracks and, for me, some truly horrific editing problems, where tracks end unformed and abruptly, segues into the tracks are practically non-existent, and even within tracks there are tonal shifts that are jarring. But even with those misgivings, Rival Dealer is still impossible to ignore, finding moments of true beauty. It is truly Burial's most optimistic work, with Bevan stating that it is an anti-bullying record, replete with many samples that refer to loving oneself, being true to who you are, and culminating with a long piece from a speech by Lana Wachowski accepting a visibility award from the Human Rights Campaign and discussing being transgender.

The EP begins with the title track, the epic 10+ minute "Rival Dealer,"



which starts off like a typical Burial track with what sounds like rainy, cold streets and subway sounds, that gets quickly upended by Burial's most furious and dancefloor heavy drum track, which throws out his usual signature 2-step blocking. That track throws in layers of vocal samples and almost air raid siren quality keyboards. After 7 minutes of sonic onslaught, the track takes a turn into gorgeous Tim Hecker drone/ambient territory, and is some of the most beautiful music Burial has ever made. The only drawback to the track is how it ends very abruptly, almost as an afterthought.

Second track "Hiders" is the least Burial sounding track on the record,



full of bright, celestial keyboards and piano chords, the track is elevated by a driving drum track in the middle section, before shifting once again into more ambient territory. At 5 minutes it is one of Burial's shorter tracks, and does feel too short, especially sandwiched between the two other longer tracks. But it is an interesting switch for Burial, focusing on brighter chords and adding warmth, but it feels too much like a sketch of something rather than a fully fledged track.

Which leads into the final 13 minuyes track "Come Down To Us,"



an impressionistic track that morphs and evolves over its lengthy run time, starting off a bed of twinkly synths, skyscraping swaths of synth strings, and a vaguely Middle Eastern melody. It flows into a more languid mid-section full of droning synths and samples imploring you to "don't be afraid of the truth," before changing once again into quite frankly a very odd, almost Celine Dion over the top style section that feels, and is, odd and takes away from what the track was building towards. And the final section, which samples the Lana Wachowski speech also feels tacked on and, while keeping with the thematic premise of the record, is rather jarring in the context of the track.

Rival Dealer is not a complete misstep for Burial. I like the fact that he is constantly moving his sound in different directions and doesn't like to keep doing the same thing over and over again. But over the past couple of years, his changes have been subtle and more thought out. Here, the stylistic leaps feel forced and not a natural progression. With that said, however, there is still a lot to recommend from this record; the title track alone is worth the price of admission. I only wish he had made the three tracks more cohesive and less jarring. But in the end, I will always take a Burial record that takes chances over just the same old same old.

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, January 7, 2014

New: Wild Beasts - "Wanderlust"


Heavily electronic new track from Wild Beasts still holds the sense of drama the band is known for.

Jam of the Day: ceo - "Wonderland"


Insanely catchy and, quite frankly, insane track from ceo, a.k.a. Eric Bergland, former member of Swedish electronic duo The Tough Alliance.

Album Review: Beyoncé - Beyoncé


Beyoncé
Beyoncé
Rating: Woof Daddy

Dropped with no warning last month as an iTunes exclusive "visual" album, Beyoncé's self-titled fifth album turned the music industry on its head, and showed that Queen Bey is still head of the pack when it comes to pop music. Beyoncé leaves in its dust other pop records released at years end, from Lady Gaga's massive flop ARTPOP, Miley Cyrus's Bangerz, Britney Spears' Britney Jean, and Katy Perry's Prism. Beyoncé is a jaw-droppingly diverse record mixing standard Top 40 pop fare along with more edgy material, showing that Beyoncé is not going to be content to just rest on her laurels. After her disappointing, at least to me, last record 4, which appeared to have Beyoncé coasting on the back of bland arrangements and resorting to too many painfully mediocre ballads, I was not really giving Beyoncé much credit early on. But from my first listen, I recognized that this was perhaps her most fully realized album, not just a collection of singles with lots of filler. Working with a variety of collaborators including Timbaland, The Dream, Drake, Noah "40" Shebib, Frank Ocean, and the relatively unknown producer Boots, Beyoncé somehow remains singular and cohesive, and is perhaps the best pop/R&B record of the year so far.

Usually, when it comes to pop/R&B albums I am drawn more to tracks that step outside the lines a bit. While the more adventurous tracks on Beyoncé kept my attention, I was very surprised that the more conventional tracks were also spectacularly catchy and well done. Commanding, stadium ready ballad "XO" is a prime example of Beyoncé giving a slow build up to the phenomenally epic chorus,



Sia-co-written opener "Pretty Hurts" is another classic Beyoncé anthem that she does so well,



while her collaboration with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake "Blow" is a frothy sex jam that can't help but get under your skin.

Of course, the edgier tracks are, for me, what elevates this from a good pop record to a a great one. "Partition" is a trunk rattling sex manifesto from Ms. Bey that, as my friend Jon opined, will be heard in every strip club in the country all year long,



"Haunted" is a sleek collaboration with Boots that ventures over into future R&B territory that Beyoncé has not normally ventured into,



and perhaps my favorite track is her collaboration with Drake, the mesmerizing duet "Mine" which could almost be an outtake from Drake's latest opus Nothing Was The Same,



Beyoncé is a record that constantly evolves and shifts for me. While there are some weaker tracks on the record, like the trap-influenced feminist track "***Flawless," and her rather unmemorable collaboration with her husband Jay-Z on "Drunk In Love," these are not major missteps but just not the high quality of the other songs. Beyoncé is a treasure trove of great pop tracks that can be mined again and again, and with each listen I discover things I haven't heard before. This year has barely turned and the competition is already fierce. All hail Queen Bey! She is rightly pop royalty and every one else at the moment is grasping at the hem of her garments.

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, January 6, 2014

Jam of the Day: Alvvays - "Adult Diversion"


From their Chad VanGaalen produced debut album, Toronto quintet Alvvays give us the single "Adult Diversion" which sound like a meatier, more upbeat Belle and Sebastian.

Album Review: Milosh - Jetlag


Milosh
Jetlash
Rating: Woof Daddy

Last year, Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal released the stunning bedroom R&B album Woman under the name Rhye. Few people at the time knew that the evocative vocalist was male, his voice trailing in the upper registers with such command and force that confusion was likely. Woman was a success because Milosh's voice paired so well with Hannibal's lush, atmospheric backing tracks. A mere 8 months later, Milosh has released his solo record Jetlag, which trades the warm environs of Woman for chillier, electronic climes; it sounds like Kid A as recorded by Sade. What prevents the record from being an icy tableau is Milosh's gorgeous, inviting voice which adds intimacy and warmth to the delicate balance of stark electronics. Ostensibly a portrait of his relationship with his wife, actress Alexa Nikolas, and the highs and lows that accompany any giving up the single life, Jetlag, which was also named for the fact the record was recorded in many locations, is 10 tracks of impeccably produced electropop, and a good start to the new year.

Jetlag works best when it lets Milosh's voice do all the heavy lifting, allowing the music to ebb and flow in its minimalist fashion. Milosh's voice wraps around the stark piano chords of "Stakes Ain't High" like smoke coiling about outstretched fingers, while on "Hold Me" Milosh's voice actually gets heftier, dropping into lower registers as the clipped beats and intertwined analog synths push and pull against it, and on the delicate and fragile opening track "Do You Want What I Need," you can feel the ache and yearning in Milosh's voice as he draws out each syllable in his breathy coo as the whirring electronics sputter in the background.



This is not to say that the music is not the focus of the record or that it is merely background wallpaper. On first listen, of course, the music seems deceptively simple, yet further listens unfold the different layers going on. Milosh layers his vocals beautifully over the tense electronics on "Skipping,"



subtle programming underlies the twisting and twinkling keyboards of "Hear In You,"



but lets his voice stand prominent in the haunting piano ballad "Slow Down."



The only real quibbles I could find with the record are there are a few tracks that could have been shortened a bit, and the back half of the record is not as strong as the first half. But these issues aside, Jetlag is a beautifully produced and arranged set of tracks that perfectly highlights the enigmatic vocals of Milosh. It has been on constant repeat for me the last couple of weeks, and promises to be played even more.

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: St. Vincent - "Digital Witness"


Another teaser track from St. Vincent's upcoming self-titled record.