Wednesday, April 30, 2014

New: Hooray For Earth - "Keys"

From their upcoming record Racy, Hooray For Earth release the first single, the epic and churning number "Keys."

Jam of the Day: Röyksopp & Robyn - "Do It Again"

Sleek electro-pop collaboration between Röyksopp and Robyn.

Video: Hercules & Love Affair ft. John Grant - "I Try To Talk To You"

Gorgeous, black and white clip capturing the intensity of an argument through dance.

New: Coldplay ft. Avicii - "A Sky Full Of Stars"

Coldplay have unveiled two songs from their upcoming record Ghost Stories. Yesterday we got a peek at "Always In My Head," and now we hear their collaboration with EDM star Avicii.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Jam of the Day: BANKS - "Goddess"

Taking a grimier approach, LA Singer BANKS practically spits out the lyrics to this track. I am liking her edginess.

Album Review: Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots

Damon Albarn
Everyday Robots
Rating: Woof Daddy

It's hard to believe that in his storied career, Blur frontman Damon Albarn has yet to put out an official solo release. Everyday Robots finds Albarn in a very melancholy mood, ruminating on his past as well as our society's current fixation with technology and the loneliness that it can perpetuate. Working with Richard Russell, the boss of XL Recordings who worked with Damon on Bobby Womack's album, The Bravest Man In The Universe, Albarn keeps a limited palate on these twelve tracks, mostly using glitchy drum machines, piano, strings, and subtle electronics. Every so often, there are glimpses of light and joy, but in his later years, Albarn is more in a reflective mood, casting greys and blacks through a foggy haze. Everyday Robots is that perfect rainy day record that you can sink into the couch and let its quiet power take over.

The title track starts off with a sample from British comedian Lord Buckley "They didn’t know where they was going but they knew where they was wasn’t it," which sort of encapsulates the mood and tenor of the record, that throughout his career Albarn has always been restless, never really sitting on his laurels for too long, willing to experiment and test his boundaries. It also sets the theme for Albarn's view of society in general, people never quite knowing what they want from life, but knowing they are doing it right. The beauty of this track is intoxicating. Moving simply over a stuttering drum beat, the somber piano chords, samples, and strings take the track to levels of the sublime. Albarn noting that for many the day to day grind leaves people wanting, "We are everyday robots on our phones/In the process of getting home/Looking like standing stones/Out there on our own."

These themes of alienation and loneliness appear throughout the record. On the delicate "Lonely Press Play," the characters retreat within themselves, comforted by technology. Albarn's haunting voice reaches out "You're waiting for me/To improve/Right here/When I'm lonely I press play;"

on "Photographs (You're Taking Now)," Albarn seems to be saying to set aside those technological crutches that they are taking you away from actually experiencing and being a part of the world. His warning that "This is a precious opportunity beware of the photographs you are taking now;"

while on the minimalist "The Selfish Giant," stark piano and strings echo over Albarn's sad refrain "I had a dream you were leaving/It's hard to be a lover when the T.V.'s on/and nothing's in your eye."

And yes, while this does make it seem like this is a hard slog of a record to get through, there are moments of joy and beauty as well that leak through the cracks. The jaunty "Mr. Tembo," a song about a baby elephant, is a sunny, warm number that will get you smiling.

And the closing track "Heavy Seas of Love," a collaboration with Brian Eno, is a gospel-influenced number that takes the album out on a high note, with Eno intoning "It’s in your hands/When the traces of dark come/To fade in the light/You’re in safe hands."

Everyday Robots, however, works best when it is in melancholy mood, and especially when Albarn gets in his confessional mode. The epic 7 minute track "You & Me" is an impressionistic look back at Albarn's heroin use, and how it has colored and affected his present and future.

While on perhaps the best track on the album "Hollow Ponds," Albarn looks back on definitive moments in his life, a heat wave in the summer of 1976, his first day of school in 1979, and seeing the graffiti in 1993 that would become the inspiration for Modern Life Is Rubbish. It's a meditative moment that gets to the heart of Albarn, and is why he will always be one of the UK's best songwriters.

For those expecting a more Britpop-ish record, Everyday Robots will likely be a disappointment. There are not a lot of hooks or even guitars on the record, and it consistently sits in a contemplative mood. Once you let the record take over for you, and you get caught up in its intoxicating spell, the sly charms and gorgeous instrumentation come out of the background. Everyday Robots is a phenomenal record that will sit high on my year end list.

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: Coldplay - "Always In My Head"

Radio rip of the first song off Coldplay's upcoming record Ghost Stories. You can listen to it here.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Jam of the Day: Blacksmif - "My Own Blood"

Haunting track from North London producer Blacksmif, the moniker of Yemi Olagbaiye. Launching from a Burial-step base, the track slowly develops into a jazzy take on future garage.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Jam of the Day: Until The Ribbon Breaks - "Until The Ribbon Breaks"

From his EP The Other Ones, UK producer Until The Ribbon Breaks releases this gorgeous and atmospheric track that subtly unfolds. You can listen to it on his SoundCloud page here.

New: Baths - "Ocean Death"

Dark and ominous title track to Baths upcoming EP release.

Happy Anniversary! Blur's Parklife turns 20

The seminal Britpop album turns 20 years old today, and still retains its cheeky charm.

Videos of the Week

Here are the videos that are jump-starting my weekend:

Cute, quirky, and strange Pee-Wee's Playhouse-inspired clip from tUnE-yArDs.

Colorful clip from Lily Allen.

This gorgeous track from Damon Albarn's solo record gets an iPad filmed travelogue video.

Almost one take clip for this simple, yet beautiful track from London Grammar.

Owen Pallett releases another track from his upcoming record In Conflict and gets Robert Binet, Choreographic Assistant of the National Ballet Of Canada, to choreograph this beautiful ballet.

Slightly surreal clip from Toronto synthpop group DIANA.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New: Veruca Salt - "The Museum of Broken Relationships"

Reuniting after 20 years, Nina Gordon and Louise Post have officially reunited as Veruca Salt, re-teaming with drummer Jim Shapiro and bassist Steve Lack. Here is their first new material that appeared on a 10" for Record Day. Currently, the band is in the studio working on a new album before hitting the road this summer on a tour.

Jam of the Day: Erik Hassle - "Ready For You"

From his EP Somebody's Party, Swedish pop star Erik Hassle gives us this haunting R&B ballad.

New: Hercules and Love Affair ft. John Grant - "I Try To Talk To You"

"I Try To Talk To You" is the second single off Hercules and Love Affair's upcoming third album The Feast of the Broken Heart. Featuring vocals from John Grant, it is an intense dance track about coming to terms with being HIV positive and moving from hardship to strength. It's an amazing song that is only one of many brilliant tracks on the record.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

New: Lily Allen - "Sheezus"

Lily Allen drops the title track from her upcoming record Sheezus, which automatically wins Album Title of the Year.

New: Courtney Love - "You Know My Name"

To say Courtney Love's career has been erratic is a complete understatement. Coinciding with her upcoming UK tour, Love releases a double A-side single. Our first taste of it is this scorching rocker, that is supremely catchy. Here's hoping for more of this.

Video: Damon Albarn ft. Brian Eno - "Heavy Seas of Love"

The third track off of Damon Albarn's first solo record Everyday Robots, the gorgeous Brian Eno collaboration "Heavy Seas of Love" gets a travelogue video that Albarn shot himself on his iPad.

Jam of the Day: DIANA - "Strange Attraction"

Quirky synthpop from Toronto outfit DIANA.

Video: London Grammar - "Sights"

Elegant, (almost) one-take video for London Grammar's seductive track "Sights."

Mixtape: Delphic - Get Familiar

Returning to their dance floor roots that was so intoxicating on their debut Acolyte, UK act Delphic release this mixtape that can be downloaded for free. After the disappointing sophomore album Collections, which found the band exploring R&B influences, this is a welcome return to form.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Jam of the Day: Hercules and Love Affair ft. John Grant - "Liberty"

From their brilliant new record The Feast of the Broken Heart, Hercules and Love Affair throw down this slinky, thumping house track with the assistance of John Grant on vocals. As my friend Jon would say, the record is the tits, as is this amazing song.

Videos of the Week

Easter weekend y'all! Here are some videos that Jesus approves:

Michael Jackson referencing video from Sky Ferreira.

Tattoo legend Mike Giant marks up a white room with Pharrell lyrics in this clip for Major Lazer.

The Horrors frontman wanders through a desert town in this slick clip.

Shimmering track from Yuck gets a gorgeously minimal clip.

Glitchy video fits this woozy track from SZA like a glove.

Amusing clip from Norwegian producer Todd Terje.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Jam of the Day: Zeds Dead - "Hadoukan"

Harder hitting sound for the duo Zeds Dead. The second drop at the 2:34 mark is sick.

Video: The Horrors - "So Now You Know"

The Horrors' frontman Faris Badwan wanders a desert town while various people perform interpretive dance in this clip from their upcoming record Luminous.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jam of the Day: The Neighbourhood - "Honest"

From The Amazing Spider-Man 2 soundtrack comes this atmospheric piece of alt-rock from California band The Neighbourhood.

Video: Sky Ferreira - "I Blame Myself"

The brilliant synthpop anthem from Sky Ferreira gets a very strange drug-thug video treatment, with echoes of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" video. It can be seen here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New: A Sunny Day In Glasgow - "Crushin"

Philadelphia dream-pop experimentalists return soon with a new album, Sea When Absent, their first in four years. "Crushin," the first single, is probably their most accessible track to date, flwoing along on a meandering vibe of muted drums, cooing vocals, loops, and a slight psychedelic guitar freak out at the end.

Jam of the Day: Young Magic - "Holographic"

From their upcoming sophomore record Breathing Statues, Young Magic release this dreamy, synth-driven track.

Friday, April 11, 2014

New: Disclosure & Friend Within - "The Mechanism"

Wonky, bass heavy collaborative from Disclosure and Friend Within.

Jam of the Day: Kid Smpl - "Silo Tear"

Title track from Seattle producer Kid Smpl's upcoming EP is a contrast in textures. Atmospheric and layered synths come up against harsh, almost industrial percussion, creating a brilliant sense of tension and release.

Videos of the Week

The weekend is almost upon us; here are the videos that kept me sane during the long week:

This video moved me to tears, it is so beautiful. Working with the Manchester Deaf Centre, the director shows how deaf people respond to music, and it shows that you don't have to hear it to feel it. A glittery Kevin Drew highlights this clip which features Drew performing in front of a very emotional audience. Hypnotic clip for this booming synthpop single from Trust. Simple yet effective clip for Popstrangers. Silly and sweet clip featuring the hunt for a unicorn.
Evocative clip from Danny Brown featuring Purity Ring's Megan James.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Jam of the Day: Warpaint - "Teese"

Warpaint's second album is still in heavy rotation for me. "Teese" is a languid, atmospheric track that sounds like it was recorded under water. There are so many interesting things going on is this track that it takes multiple listens to get your head around it; and it all builds to an amazing emotional climax.

Video: Jamie xx - "Sleep Sound"

Stunningly emotional video for Jamie xx's single "Sleep Sound," made with the assistance of the Manchester Deaf Centre, showing that you don't have to have hearing to have a connection to music. It's an amazing video that really struck a chord with me.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Jam of the Day: Klaxons - "Atom To Atom"

From their upcoming record Love Frequency comes this slow burning track that ends in an amazing acid house freak out.

Album Review: Future Islands - Singles

Future Islands
Rating: Grrrr

Whether you will like Baltimore synth pop act Future Islands will mainly rest on your opinion of lead singer Samuel T. Herring. He's an extremely intense singer, who on past albums sometimes didn't quite know how to reign in his unique singing style, which can go from a whisper to a guttural howl in the span of a second. Live, he can be a polarizing front man, stalking the stage furiously, t-shirt tucked into what some of my friends have termed "Action Slacks," looking like a demented accountant who has unwittingly walked out on stage. Over three albums, Herring and company have slowly built their sound into some tightly focused synth pop, but have never seemed to be able to really create an album that remained strong over the entire course. Whether it is the move to venerable indie label 4AD, the addition of live drums in the mix, or just a renewed sense of purpose, Future Islands have finally seized their moment with their latest record Singles, which finally feels like all the pieces have fallen in the correct places.

You notice a change from the beginning on opening track and first single "Seasons (Waiting On You)," where the synths seems brighter and sunnier, the lyrics more hopeful, eschewing Herring's usual breakup anthems.

On almost every song on Singles, all the elements come together in perfect union, nothing out of place or striking against the grain. From the driving beat, swirling synths, buzzing bass, and Herring's guttural howls on "Spirit;" the haunting keyboards that create a warm bath around intertwined acoustic and electric guitars and probably the most moving and restrained vocal from Herring on the majestic "Light House;" or the absolutely stunning closing track "A Dream Of You And Me," a sure smash single if more adventurous pop radio programmers got their hands on it.

There is a longing and wistfulness to most of these tracks. The lyrics are full of ruminations and sifting through the past to come up with solutions for the future. On "Back In The Tall Grass," Herring trying to make it work with a former lover but hesitant to get back into what once didn't work, singing "One step takes me home/Two steps back on my own/Three skips to each stone/Four steps back and I'm gone." Or on the delicate and aching "Like The Moon," Herring and a friend try to tip-toe around maybe being more, each hesitant to make the first move, Herring singing "And she looks like the moon/So close and yet, so far/She says everything/She knows me too well." But sometimes, things just aren't meant to be, regardless of how much you want it. On the intense "Fall From Grace," Herring's voice goes from a whisper to an almost guttural death howl, lamenting a relationship that just won't work, "Now I'm older, turning white/Watching days turn into nights/Now I'm older and I'm grave/Tell me, what's been left to save?"

Singles is an amazing step forward for Future Islands as it finally puts together the disparate elements of their past work that never could seem to gel into something sublime. The album is simultaneously introspective and maximalist, subtle and yet over the top. Herring is coming into his own with his voice, emoting rather than wailing, and getting the most out of silences and texture. Singles is one of the best indie synth pop albums of the year, and despite its many quirks, is surprisingly radio friendly. Hopefully, Herring and Co. can gather some steam out of this record and leap into the upper echelons of indie 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.

Video: Wild Beasts - "A Simple Beautiful Truth"

The normally serious Wild Beasts take a goofy, tongue in cheek approach to their latest video, dancing around some hills in colorful, neon lit suits.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Jam of the Day: Young Widows - "King Sol"

A lurching, aching guitar onslaught from Kentucky trio Young Widows, that somehow bridges the gap between no wave, sludge metal, shoegaze, and Nick Cave theatrics.

New: Eno/Hyde: "Daddy's Car"

From the album Someday World, a collaboration between Brian Eno and Underworld's Karl Hyde, comes this slinky, funky track.

Friday, April 4, 2014

New: Drake - "Days In The East"

Just released track from Drake finds him in his more pensive side. Murky, atmospheric production work from PARTYNEXTDOOR is the highlight here.

Jam of the Day: Shlohmo & Jeremih - "No More"

Sleek collaboration between producer Shlohmo and singer Jeremih.

Videos of the Week

Happy Friday! Here are some videos:

Slumber party sing-a-long gets progressively weirder in this clip from Cloud Nothings.

Stark video focusing on the lovely Katy B.

Surreal and gorgeous video from Classixx.

Haunting images highlight this clip from the Antlers.

Fun clip from Wye Oak.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Jam of the Day: Mark E - "Being Hiding"

Taken from his upcoming record Product of Industry, Mark E's "Being Hiding" is a deceptively simple electronic track, with hints of house and disco, that slowly winds its way into your heart. By track's end you are fully caught up in its spell. Pressing repeat multiple times will likely ensue.

New: Cut Copy - "In These Arms Of Love"

For the upcoming Record Day, Cut Copy will release this track, a thumping, building song that could easily have fit on their vastly underrated album Free Your Mind.