Monday, April 30, 2012

Previously Unreleased: My Bloody Valentine - "Good For You"




In the wake of Kevin Shields announcing the reissues of classic My Bloody Valentine albums and the potential for the release of a new LP and EP from the band this year, here is a listen to a previously unreleased MBV track "Good For You," which can be heard in this Pitchfork.com interview with Shields.

Jam of the Day: Squarepusher - "4001"


From his upcoming album Ufabulum, Squarepusher throws out this old school referencing drill n bass track with a surprisingly solid melodic core.

New: Metric - "Youth Without Youth"


First single from the upcoming Metric album Synthetica, Youth Without Youth, can be heard here on Soundcloud.

Album Review - The Lower Dens: Nootropics


Lower Dens
Nootropics
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

Albums are tricky things sometimes. A lot of what I listen to I read about well before I actually listen to a single track. I will admit that if I read that a bad has a shoegaze influence, I am more inclined to give them a spin, but I have found that sometimes one man's shoegaze is another man's drone rock, et al. As a result, I tend to take said words with a grain of salt until I am able to make my own interpretation. Lower Dens' second album Nootropics arrived on my desktop with lots of praise for its murky shoegaze textures and dream pop sensibilities. Enter me with hook firmly in mouth and I dove right into it. As I have previously mentioned, I like to listen to album at least 10 times before writing a review, taking into account factors like place I listened to the album, how I listened to it, and what type of mood I was in. The first few spins of Nootropics were immediately bracing and I loved the shadowy nature and interplay of the guitars and singer Jana Hunter's haunting vocals. There is definitely an underlying shoegazey nature to the album, with nods to bands like Slowdive and Cocteau Twins, but there are also nods to dream pop bands like Beach House and Blonde Redhead, with lurking nods to motorik and Krautrock acts. Nootropics sustains a consistent mood throughout its runtime, and can almost be thought of as a suite of interconnected pieces functioning as a whole. Upon subsequent listens, however, I found that this consistency sometimes turned monotonous, begging for some contrast, especially at the back end of the record. But there are enough killer singles on this record that keeps me coming back for more.

You are immediately pulled into Nootropics through a skittering drum base, looping electronics, and mourning guitars. Hunter's distinctive voice floats over the music, sounding like the perfect of mix of k.d. lang's evocative showmanship and Beach House's Victoria Legrand's deep sensuousness. "Alphabet Song" is the perfect entry point for the record, its low key melody and sauntering pace crack open the door just slightly. But this track is slightly misleading as to the direction of Nootropics, as it leads directly into the chugging Krautrock of "Brains," which trades the murky opening for a sprightly, pulsating drum beat, swooning guitars and organs, and Hunter's deeply muttered vocals.



"Propagation" is a gorgeous, haunting track full of shimmering, echoed guitars over a languid beat, sounding like a lost Slowdive single. Hunter's voice comes out of the shadows for one of her most evocative vocals.



"Candy" borrows a classically new wave/80s stance, with spiky guitars and a dark swagger.



"Nova Anthem" ventures into drone territory, with choruses of organs swoop over tinny drum machines and Hunter's angelic voice. The track makes good use of its 5 minutes, never overstaying its welcome, and would have made a fitting end to the record. Unfortunately, Nootropics goes one step further with the 12 minute closer "In The End Is The Beginning" which, to my head-scratching consternation, never rises above its minimal smattering of drums, whining keyboards, and chords of guitar feedback. I was expecting some gradual build or something to happen, but nothing ever does, with this track completely losing me not even halfway into its length. This track might have been more memorable had it not followed the more succinct and more interesting track "Nova Anthem." And this misstep seems to overtake my initial impressions of the album, and made me listen closer to see if my first impressions were misguided. While I don't think it made me dislike the record at all, it pointed out the flaws a little more clearly. The aimless meandering of "In The End Is The Beginning" are foreshadowed by the pretty, yet inconsequential ballad "Lamb" which is all rise with only minor release.



And the lifeless, droning "Lion In Winter, Pt. 1" hardly seems to pair up with its counterpart "Lion In Winter, Pt. 2," which is almost an electronic, motorik version of "Brains."

And this is why I don't write review off the cuff. My first listen of a record is never going to be the same as subsequent ones, and it is always better for me to get the full lay of the land before committing pen to paper, as it were. Aside from a few songs that seemed to echo other tracks, Nootropics has enough in it for me to have no qualms in recommending it and looking forward to more music from Lower Dens.

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: Rihanna - "Where Have You Been"



The Calvin Harris/Dr. Luke produced track gets a video where Rihanna apparently is leading a Zumba class in the rain forest and desert.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Friday, April 27, 2012

Jam of the Day: Cassie - "King Of Hearts (Richard X Remix)"



The original version of this track (which is down below) didn't do much for me. Cassie is not the most expressive singer, but her robotic delivery on "Me & U" a few years ago suited the robotic nature of the track. This single was a little too wan for that type of delivery, and screamed out for a good remix. Enter Annie and Kelis producer Richard X to save the day. Just by adding a more old school 90s R&B drum track and spicing up the synths he has made the song even better.

Video: Nicki Minaj - "Starships"



Silly, stupid, and fun, here is the video for Nicki Minaj's single "Starships."

Bear In Heaven - "Reflection of You"



Seeing this band tonight at The Earl. Can't wait!

Video: Simian Mobile Disco - "Put Your Hands Together"



Delicious tech house track from Simian Mobile Disco's upcoming album Unpatterns.

Album Review - Actress: R.I.P.


Actress
R.I.P.
Rating: Grrrr

Instrumental electronic records are always difficult to review. Basically, you have to come up with words and phrases to describe something that can, at times, be indescribable. So much of what I hear has an emotional tie to me, that attempting to express those emotions can be an impossible task. There is a :15 section of Black Dog Productions' single "Jauqq" that is the most beautiful piece of electronic music I have ever heard. For me, there is no other combination of sounds that can simultaneously make me weep and smile at the same time. And if it were any longer than 15 seconds I think the spell would be broken. I don't share that song with most people because most that hear it think it's just ok, but not some transcendent experience. That personal connection is what makes it for me, and attempting to describe that feeling to someone is a futile task. There is a moment deep inside Actress' (a.k.a. Darren J. Cunningham) new album R.I.P. that finds me in a similar situation, where a convergence of sounds makes me stop what I am doing and almost slip into a state of semi-consciousness. The track "N.E.W." just has the right layers of sounds that wind around one another and calm my being. It is a stunning moment on a record that simultaneously challenges you and warmly invites you into its home.



Actress has slowly edged away from more traditional dance floor ready tracks into more amorphous territory. There are echoes here of works from Oneohtrix Point Never, Boards of Canada, and some of Pantha Du Prince's pointillistic touches. Frequently, the tracks border on ambient, featuring beatless swathes of undulating atmospherics broken only by underpinnings of white noise and harsh buzzes. There is an underlying menace to these tracks. Even the softer, more fragile tracks have dark corners and edges. The music box twinkle of "Jardin" cajoles and skips along on its charming melody while a skittering, bug-like presence dances and flickers underneath.



Other tracks are outright hostile, like the sinister "Serpent" which combines nervous, repetitive synth bites with a layer of droning strings over a pulsing beat. Somber guitar notes and additional industrial clanging add to the mood.



Which bleeds into "Shadow From Tartarus," which continues the haunted house dance floor vibe, complete with off-kilter keyboard scales and a dense low end of rumbling bass and drums.



R.I.P. is sometimes mind-bogglingly diverse and on the first few listens there doesn't seem to be anything tying the tracks together, or providing some measurable sense of flow. I think this is conscious decision on Actress' part to prevent the listener from becoming complacent and letting the music slip into the background. R.I.P. constantly shifts focus, maintaining your attention. This approach makes you listen more intently to each track individually, but allowing them all to fall back down into a cohesive collection. The almost mini-suite of pseudo-House tracks of "Jardin," "Serpent," and "Shadow From Tartarus," is blunted into "Tree of Knowledge," a difficult, glitchy track where the synths sound like they are fighting against the power going out.



The first three opening tracks bound off one another with sparkling, bright synth washes with "Ascending" barely hinting at a subterranean beat, and "Holy Water" bubbling and gurgling into the harsh thrust of "Marble Plexus" which feels like the soundtrack to some dark subway ride.



Indeed, the tracks here could easily haunt some reworking of Blade Runner. The rough edges to the tracks evoke decaying cities and people in despair. If it wasn't for the beautiful melodies that appear in and out of the gloom, an oppressive air would hang overhead. And when Actress actually delivers a 4 to the floor banger, like the frenetic "The Lord's Graffiti," you are even more grateful for the reminder that you are alive and well.



There are only a few tracks that didn't particularly catch my attention. "Raven" almost buries any semblance of melody in white noise, the pretty, shimmering "Glint" barely lasts half a minute and feels more like a sketch than an actual completed track, and closer "IWAAD" mistakes throb for purpose. But even those slight faults cannot negatively impact the effect some his sounds have on me. There is an innate sense of emotion and connection I have with this record, as if it has taken all these years for these perfect combinations of notes, as in "N.E.W.," to reach me and let me know all is right in the world. R.I.P. is a beautifully constructed record that is easily one of the standout electronic albums of the year.

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.

Videos of the Week

This week seemed both long and short. Oh well, here's to Friday:



I love this song and video.



Song from Perfume Genius written about his mother and starring her in the video.



Wild video from synth-poppers Hooray For Earth.



Trippy visuals from AU.



More trippy visuals for the Of Montreal track.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

New: Squarepusher - "Drax 2"



New, dark, punishing electronica from Squarepusher's upcoming album Ufabulum.

Jam of the Day: Marina and the Diamonds - "Bubblegum Bitch"



Sounds like Britney Spears fronting Missing Persons/Berlin. This, like Kelly Clarkson's hit single "Since U Gone," is just pure, perfect pop.

Video: Perfume Genius - "Dark Parts"



Video for the haunting track "Dark Parts" off his new album Put Your Back N 2 It.

Album Review - Spiritualized: Sweet Heart Sweet Light


Spiritualized
Sweet Heart Sweet Light
Rating: Meh

Jason Pierce's Spiritualized has one classic album under its belt, 1997's Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space, that perfectly encapsulates the Spiritualized sound: droning, trance inducing guitars, lush orchestration, gospel, blues, and an over-the-top grandiosity that all but announced itself spent upon arrival. Since the release of that album, Pierce has essential remade the same record over and over again, almost to the point of self-parody. At this point, I suppose it is not worth the time hoping for a change in direction; this is his bread and butter, and will likely remain so. While plenty of bands have mined the same territory for years, there are usually subtle changes or shifts in focus that maintain some interest, but Pierce appears content to remain in the same place, treading the same waters. His music by template approach grows wearying over each subsequent album, and in effect, lessens the brilliant impact of his best work.

There are some moments on Sweet Heart Sweet Light where I thought he might be on to something. Lead single "Hey Jane" is actually a brilliant song, subtly growing from its chugging beginning into a frenzied guitar rave-up, the perfect way to chronicle the universe of a girl hell bent on burning out brightly.



"Mary" eschews Pierce's usual narcotic delivery for a deeply emotional journey. The track begins languidly over organ and bluesy swathes of guitar, intensifying gradually, keeping a swarm of feedback at bay as the tale unfurls.



When Pierce attempts to streamline his tracks, like on the brief pop excursion "Little Girl," they lose what interest they normally would have, and border on the banal.



And when you have several songs that all start with the same organ/guitar drone leading into dense guitar freakout you begin to wonder if you hit repeat. "Get What You Deserve," "I Am What I Am," and "Life Is A Problem" all suffer from the same sense of deja vu.



Which all leads to the inevitable final track, which always attempts to become some grand, album-defining moment, and "So Long You Pretty Thing" tries admirably, but never really takes off due to a fairly generic melody and simplistic lyrics.



The main problem I have with Sweet Heart Sweet Light is not that it is a horrible album per se, but that, at this point, there is just nothing surprising anymore. As with his last three albums, there appears to be a checklist that he goes down, and when he is finished, the record is done. I can listen to the record easy enough, it is perfectly pleasant and agreeable, but there is nothing that brings me back, begging me to explore further; it is the same on first listen as it is on 20th. When there are so many other bands/artists out there pushing their sound into new directions, it is easy to let this record fall through the cracks, which is about the worst thing you can say about a record.

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.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Video: Foster The People - "Houdini"


Humorous clip that kills off the band in the first few seconds then re-animates them for a concert.

Jam of the Day: AlunaGeorge - "Just A Touch"



More updated 90s R&B goodness from the UK duo.

Album Review - Death Grips: The Money Store


Death Grips
The Money Store
Rating: Woof Daddy

Sacramento, California rap/punk/noise trio Death Grips burst out of thin air last year with the excellent mixtape Exmilitary, which found its way onto many best of lists. I enjoyed it and appreciated it, but the sheer aggression and brutality of it all left me a little cold and unwilling to fully embrace it. Since its release, the trio, made up of Stefan Burnett aka MC Ride (vocals), Zach Hill (production / drums), and Andy Morin aka Flatlander (production), has signed a major label deal with Epic records, gone on tour (with celebrated sets at Coachella), and have now released the first of two planned albums, The Money Store. Moving to a major label has not effected Death Grips' vision and sound much, if at all. There are no high stakes producers, pop sheen, or collaborations with Nicki Minaj or some other singer/rapper. Basically it is a logical progression from Exmilitary, retaining the bleak world view and intense sonic production, but sounding more expansive, and hookier/catchier. Not that these are mainstream/pop tracks; they just have more to them that brings you back again and again.

Single "I've Seen Footage" references Salt N' Pepa's "Push It" via a head-bobbing drum loop, and breathless voice samples. The song is driven by what appears to be a droning guitar line, which turns out to be a keyboard. MC Ride ruthlessly chants the lyrics about the over-saturation of media images and its ultimate desensitization of society.



"Get Got" ping pongs the title words over and over into a mantra, over a classically dense Bomb Squad-esque production of clattering percussion and loops and a dizzying whirl of strobe light synth effects.



"The Fever (Aye Aye)" builds off a brutally aggressive bed of pounding drums and air rain siren synths, leveling off with catchy synth lines.



"Hacker" sounds like Nitzer Ebb overtaken by a band of martial drummers.



"Punk Weight" adds a Bollywood sample to the dense sonic collage, making almost a punk M.I.A. track.



The production of the record is what ultimately sells it for me. The tracks are usually built on a few drum loops and live percussion, adding sometimes minimal keyboard lines or guitar here or there, sometimes layering more and more sounds until it feels like the tracks are going to explode. It is a testament to the production team that, while sometimes things appear ready to spill over, it generally stays on track. Each track feels thick and tangible. The drums especially make each track, dragging the listener kicking and screaming deep inside the maelstrom. From a lyrical/rap standpoint, it is very similar to their work on Exmilitary, the tracks very paranoid and distrustful, violent and brutal, and overall bleak and nihilistic. MC Ride is obviously portraying a character whose world sees no light; there is always something to distrust coming around the corner. This bleakness, which so overwhelmed Exmilitary, is tempered on The Money Store by a much broader sonic palate and diversity of sound.

Truly the only missteps on the record are where the tracks ditch any attempt at a hook and merely become a screed. "Fuck That"'s off-kilter percussive bed, chanted voice samples, and atonal delivery never achieves the lift off a track with that name needs.



Likewise, "System Blower" has all the right elements, harsh drum patterns, abrasive synth tones, and a brutally over the top vocal delivery, but there is just a slight lack of a hook to lock you into the fray.



But out of 13 tracks, it is fairly impressive that only two were merely interesting and not knockouts, and with most of the tracks hovering around the 3 minute mark, you are off to the next track pretty quickly. It is hard to say that The Money Store is an era defining hip-hop record as some are calling it because the record doesn't fit itself neatly into any category. Experimental hip-hop/punk/noise is about as close a definition to get, but it still leaves out so many other influences and references. The Money Store is an aggressive, take-it-or-leave-it record that will either give you an intense high or will bitch slap you to the curb, all the while making no apologies.

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, April 24, 2012

Jam of the Day: Nelly Furtado - "Big Hoops"



Stupid, juvenile, annoying, and I can't stop playing it. Love the dnb breakdown at the end.

Video: Hooray For Earth - "No Love"



New clip for one of the standout tracks on Hooray For Earth's brilliant album True Loves.

Album Review - Santigold: Master Of My Make-Believe


Santigold
Master Of My Make-Believe
Rating: Grrrr

Second albums are a tricky proposition. So many bands/artists coming off a hit debut fall prey to either releasing something half-assed too quick, taking too long and losing any forward momentum and being forgotten, or going so far off the mark from their signature sound that it confounds fans. It's been four years since Santigold's debut, which in this Internet-must-have-immediately climate is practically a lifetime. In that time she has undergone a name change (there was some legal wrangling over her use of Santogold, so to placate the other side she switched to Santigold), has worked with everyone from Nick Zinner, GZA, M.I.A., Beastie Boys, Mark Ronson, and Lily Allen, but has not put out much in the way of her own material. Her debut was an amazingly assured collection of alt-rock, hip-hop, EDM, reggae, and a hundred other genres all mashed up into a smooth confection. As I mentioned, four years is a long time; enough time for Santigold to change up her sound completely and for her signature sound to become dated. I was a bit concerned when I saw that she was working with a huge array of different producers for Master Of My Make-Believe, including her original producers Diplo and Switch, along with Nick Zinner and Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Dave Sitek of TV On The Radio, Boys Noize, and Buraka Som Sistema, thinking that the stylistic diversity might overwhelm the album. As the album title and striking cover photo demonstrate, however, Santigold is in complete control of her vision. Master Of My Make-Believe is a further honing of the sound from her debut, and while it may not reach the giddy heights of that wonderful record, it is a solid step forward for her.

Master Of My Make-Believe isn't an immediately gratifying album; there is nothing as bracing as "L.E.S. Artistes," "You'll Find A Way," or "Lights Out." In fact, it takes quite a few listens for the hooks to appear and grab you. There are actually only a few tracks that could be called singles. "Disparate Youth," which is fast becoming one of my favorite tracks of the year, marries a jaunty reggae beat with new wave blasts of guitars and washes of keyboards, adding an insistent backing to Santigold's tribute to the protests in the Middle East.



Buraka Som Sistema add a blast percussive heft to "Big Mouth" that carries Santigold's lightning fast vocal delivery.



"Freak Like Me" and "Look At These Hoes" both are aided by upbeat percussion and aggressive delivery from Santigold. Producer Switch adds his signature world beat flavor to the former, while partner in crime Diplo works with Boys Noize on the latter, arming the track with a low end throb and a variety of odd sounds from cash registers and toy whistles.





The remainder of the album finds Santigold in a more somber, serious mode. "God From The Machine" has a dark, dub-like feel, with Santigold lamenting about the rise of the Christian right,



deriding the price of fame in "Fame,"



or using the tender ballad "This Isn't Our Parade" to showcase her own unique path in life.



Aside from the twitchy opener "GO!" none of the other tracks really get the BPMs moving, and, as such, there is a hesitation at first with getting behind the record. Indeed, the middle of the record has a long stretch of mid-tempo tracks that adds weight to the album's meager 38 minute run time, and I admit made my initial pleasure with the record hard to come by. These tracks though are excellently produced and sneak up you in time. Just making the time for that to happen might be too much for the casual listener. Master Of My Make-Believe can be considered a "difficult" second album, and you will not get much of an argument from me. I will also admit that sometimes I am not willing to give a record adequate time to grow on me, but in this case, I am glad I didn't give up too easily.

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: The Big Pink - "Lose Your Mind"



Stylishly arty clip from the post-shoeagazers.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Jam of the Day: Cenob1te - "Onslaught"



Some heavy dubstep for your Monday.

Album Review - Niki & The Dove: Instinct


Niki & The Dove
Instinct
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

Niki & The Dove, an electropop trio from Stockholm, Sweden consisting of members Malin Dahlström (vocals), Gustaf Karlöf (keyboards) and Magnus Böqvist (drums), comes from a long line of Swedish pop acts bombarding the airwaves with their unique take on pop/dance music. Sounding like a mix of The Knife, Fever Ray, Robyn, Lykke Li, with some Kate Bush thrown in for good measure, Niki & The Dove attempt to combine equal measures of pop smarts and experimental savvy, and for the most part succeed. Instinct is nothing if not catchy and completely listenable, and there is never a point where the record tips over the scale into too pop or too quirky. The struggle is finding that right mix between the two, and sometimes, especially in the middle point of the record, there is a long section where the songs skew too pop, and risk fading into blandness. Despite this hesitancy, there is genuine magic here when the mix is spot on which, unfortunately, makes me wish they had pushed their sound a little more than they do.

Tracks like "DJ, Ease My Mind" are what brought me to the record and keep me listening to it. Over a wobbly bass and chorus of angelic synths, the song, much like Robyn's best songs, detail the healing and protective nature of music, losing oneself and forgetting one's trouble's if only for a night of dancing. Dahlstrom's voice is in fine form here, perfectly emoting her sadness.



"Tomorrow" is a perfect mix of quirky music and pop beauty. A vaguely Asian-tinged melody and skittering percussion buoy a particularly strong vocal from Dahlstrom, kicking into a killer chorus.



"The Fox" keeps Dahlstrom's vocals in a tightly coiled frame over a chugging beat and menacing electronics before letting them loose in the soaring chorus.



Final track "Under The Bridges" uses its 8+ minutes effectively, building the track slowly, using a clattering percussion scheme and chanted vocals, allowing the back half of the song to go where it likes, turning into a percussion heavy rave-up.



"The Drummer" takes its cues from Kate Bush, almost sounding like a lost B-Side from Hounds of Love. Singing in the clipped/operatic style of Bush, Dahlstrom again begins tightly coiled only to unleash the full force of her voice on the chorus. Musically, the driving beat is accompanied by a bed of gurgling, harsh synths which recalls Bush's experiments with the Fairlight CMI back in the 80s.



That pesky middle section of the album, however, always tempers my excitement for the rest of the record. "In Our Eyes" is pleasant, yet inconsequential Top 40 pop. "The Gentle Roar," while fairly quirky with its mainly electro-percussive base, is mostly one note. "Mother Protect" suffers from the same pleasant, yet unmemorable streak. "Love To The Test" brings a 80s synth pop feel to the table but doesn't dress it up much and it fades almost instantly. Only "Somebody" adds an 80s Sheila E meets early Prince vibe, making it a dense, lush take on new wave/synth pop/funky R&B that is as infectious as the swine flu.



Instinct is ultimately recommendable for the stellar front and back end tracks which have mainstream pop appeal while also pushing that sound into new territory, taking the groundwork lain by Fever Ray and Lykke Li and making it more palatable for mass consumption. Only when they forget to push the boundaries does the record become what any record fears, that is, being unmemorable and even boring. Based on the strong singles "DJ Ease My Mind" and "Tomorrow," Niki & The Dove know how to put together a killer track, so I am not too worried about their trajectory; of course, as long as they keep pushing those boundaries.

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: Fiona Apple - "Every Single Night"


Here is the first new material from Fiona Apple since her 2005 album Extraordinary Machine.



New: Sigur Ros - "Kvistur" (B-Side)



From Sigur Ros' 10" single for "Ekki Mukk" which was released on Record Store Day, listen to "Kvistur" the B-Side and non-album track.

Video: Lana Del Rey - "Carmen"



More vintage looking Lana Del Rey spliced with actual vintage video.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Jam of the Day: Nero - "Crush On You (KillSonik Remix)"



Probably my favorite remix of this song right now.

New: Morten Harket/Pet Shop Boys - "Listening"



Morten Harket, former lead singer for A-ha, is coming out with his fifth solo album Out Of My Hands, featuring this collaboration with Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe of Pet Shop Boys.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Jam of the Day: Phantom - "Scars"



Finnish electronic duo Phantom only have one EP out and apparently only formed this year. This is the title track to the EP, and it is a slow burner. The video is pretty striking as well.

Video: Liars - "No. 1 Against The Rush"



Creepy video for the first single from the new Liars album, WIXIW, out June 5th.

Videos of the Week

Battling Coachella cough and the need to not be at work. Here are some videos to distract you from my hacking:



New video from Squarepusher that apparently is a teaser of his upcoming live dates.



Niki and the Dove come across like a mix between The Knife, Kate Bush, and Robyn. I love this song and most of their upcoming album.



One of my favorite tracks off the new THEESatisfaction album.



New video made up of single frame shots. It is quite hypnotic. The new album from Death Grips is pretty amazing.



Cool looking video from Phantom.



Typically goofy, awesome video from tUnE-yArDs.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Jam of the Day: Kindness - "House"



Just a lovely song.

New: Rush - "Headlong Flight"



Yes, I have a soft spot for Rush, and no, I am not ashamed to admit it. This song is pretty damn heavy for them.

Video: Scissor Sisters - "Only The Horses"


New video for the Calvin Harris produced single "Only The Horses" from Scissor Sisters upcoming album Magic Hour.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Video: Death Grips - "I've Seen Footage"



One of the few acts I wish I had caught at Coachella was aggro-hip hop punks Death Grips. Their new album The Money Store comes out next week. This is a new video which is made up of a stream of single frame shots.

Jam of the Day: FaltyDL & Machinedrum - "Give In 2"



Skittering collaboration between producers FaltyDL and Machinedrum, which perfectly combines Falty DL's post-dubstep sleekness with Machinedrum's clatteringly, percussive style.

Video: The Shins - "The Rifle's Spiral"



Beautifully shot, animated video for one of the standout tracks from their new album. The video looks weird because it is supposed to be in 3D, but it is still an arresting video.

Coachella 2012 Day Three Wrap Up


With Saturday somewhat redeeming a poor Friday, we straggled back onto the polo fields for the final day of the festival. Thankfully, it was to be the warmest day of the festival (high of 83 degrees) and no wind. There was a lot on the agenda for all of us so we fortified ourselves with beer and pizza before heading to the first show. Kurt, Mikey, Don, and I went to the Sahara tent to see Noisia's set of drum n bass/dubstep, and for me, this was the highlight of the festival. It was a shame they were so early on in the day, because the energy level was high, the visuals were striking, and bass so deep it hurt my windpipe. The threw down a monster set filled with their songs as well as their remixes of other acts like Skrillex.






After sort of getting my hearing back, we journeyed across the grounds to the Outdoor Theater to check out Metronomy's early day set. Dan, Jeremy, and I caught them back in Atlanta a few weeks before Coachella, and while expecting their brand of minimal synthpop to be a bit of low key set, we were surprised at how, well, energetic and fun they were live, transforming their elegant recorded songs into mini space funk synth jams. Although their truncated festival set was not as transformative as their usual sets, it was a definite highlight of Sunday, getting the surprisingly crowded audience reason to get their dance on.





I flew over to the Mojave tent afterwards to stake out a good spot for my favorite band Wild Beasts. I had to catch the last few songs from Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit. While this is not my kind of music at all, I was a bit captivated by the girls' energy and outright expressions of joy at playing their music before a huge crowd.


If you ever want to get to the rail for one of your favorite acts, you generally have to arrive at the previous band's set or even before, so you can slowly move up. I guess folk fans are not as aggressive as rock fans, so it was fairly easy for me to wind my way up to the front for Wild Beasts. In tow was a new friend, Alison, who had traveled all the way from Minneapolis to hear them. That is a nice thing about the festival is meeting fans that share the same obsession with you. We had a nice chat about the band and the festival. Of course, once they started playing we were enraptured. Wild Beasts' brand of art-pop is just sublime and beguiling. They played a solid set of tracks from their last two albums, and were as charming as ever. Of course, I have a huge crush on deep voiced singer/multi-instrumentalist Tom Fleming.


Of course, once they started playing "Reach A Bit Further" my heart melted. It's such a gorgeous song, and a thrilling moment for me at Coachella.






The middle of my day was spent with Kurt getting our dubstep fix on in the Sahara tent. We checked out 19 year wunderkind Porter Robinson's high spirited set, but were a bit disappointed he played so few of his own tracks.



The opening to his set was kick ass.



By this point, we were basically exhausted from the crowds and were just not feeling the festival love any longer. For me, the festival is all about the music and the camaraderie with fellow music obsessives, whereas now, the festival seems to have become a place to see and be seen. After hearing the umpteenth person say "Oh, who is this? Oh, aren't we supposed to be interested in them?" I had about had it. I was going to try and do another all day/night at the festival, seeing The Weeknd, Justice, At The Drive In, DJ Shadow, and Dr. Dre/Snoop Dogg, but I couldn't stomach the thought of dealing with anymore LA douche bags. Thankfully, The Weeknd just announced a full tour, with a stop in Atlanta, so I knew I could skip his set without feeling bad. Instead, we caught the live performance from Nero in the Sahara. I fell in love with them a couple of years ago with their track "Innocence," and only loved them more as the album came out. They put on a nice set filled with all the hits and some surprises. The tent was packed to overflowing, and we actually found a nice spot where we were jostled too much by the massive crowd.






With the ending of their set, we decided to head on out. It was a frustrating festival for me because I have so many memories from the past two that are ingrained in my being, but this festival was lacking in those magic moments. I saw some really good sets, but nothing that was awe inspiring. The bad weather and the insultingly obnoxious crowd only added insult to injury. Will I come back to Coachella? I can't for sure say yes or no. If it was based on this year alone, I would say definitely no. But I am sure the call of the desert will beckon me at some point, and I will heed her siren song.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Video: Jesse Ware - "110%"



Lushly filmed video for the new single for UK Pop/Bass Music chanteuse Jesse Ware. I want the car she drives off in.

Coachella 2012 Day Two Wrap Up


My Coachella gang are the early goers, where we show up when the gates open and check out the less known acts and enjoy the festival grounds before the massive crowds later on. It's nice to sit in the beer garden in front of the Sahara tent and enjoy the nice weather, some good pizza, and some beer. Thankfully, the clouds from Friday disappeared and there was abundant sun. The only downside was there was also abundant wind. But I am always a trooper and soldiered on. Kurt and I went over to the Outdoor Theater for one of my favorite bands, We Were Promised Jetpacks. They did a solid and driving set of their brand of angular post-punk. It was good start to the day and had a nice effect of dispelling the bad vibes from the previous day.





I'm the guy in the blue baseball cap at the bottom/middle of the screen at the :10 mark.

Next up was the amazing Azealia Banks who rode into Coachella on a huge wave of hype and buzz for her first US appearance. Despite her set being cut short 20 minutes it was a fun/energetic show that had her crying throughout the entire duration for being so happy. Below is the clip for "212/Firestarter" that made the tent explode.





I shuffled over to the Mojave tent next for The Big Pink. They played in 2010 and I had to miss them due to a conflict so I was glad to catch them again. Their set was solid yet not amazing, playing most off the new album with a couple of tracks from the first one.




I had a lot of time to kill before my next show, so I wandered the fields awhile checking out the art installations and a few songs from Noel Gallager. I then headed over to see St. Vincent. Again, she was in the Gobi and had sound troubles, which seemed to be a theme for that tent this year. Despite not being able to hear her all that well, she put on a fun set, culminating in her crowd surfing while singing a new track.





I stayed through to Flying Lotus' set, which basically was a somewhat freshened up version of his set from 2010. The guy even had the same t-shirts in the merchandise tent. Not to say it wasn't good, there were some interesting moments throughout, but it had the feeling of being same old same old.



I joined my housemates for Miike Snow over at the Outdoor Stage. The wind had picked up and it had gotten much colder, so it wasn't the most ideal of situations. Despite the cold, we saw a really nice set from the band, although it felt a little truncated. But I was able to hear "Cult Logic" at its correct tempo and new faves "The Wave" and "Pretender" so I was very happy.



Which comes to Radiohead, which was one of the bands I wanted to see the most. However, the crowd was so horrifically douchey it turned us off from even staying long. We caught about 3 songs from them, and as they were basically the same tracks from their Atlanta show we decided to make it an early night. So I wandered home and got to bed relatively early. Sunday would be the big day.

Monday, April 16, 2012

New: Linkin Park - "Burn It Down"



New single from Linkin Park showing a definite dubstep influence.

Coachella 2012 Day One Wrap Up


Once again it is a Monday after a long Coachella weekend. This was by far the strangest festival I have attended so far; featuring the oddest weather, lack of amazing sets, and crowds that would test the strength of Job. I think what bothers me most about this past weekend is that there are really three types of people that attend this (and likely most) festivals: (1) those that are there because of the love the music, (2) those that are there to do drugs and trip out all weekend, and (3) those that are there to be "seen" (and sometimes a combo of 2 and 3). When numbers 2 and 3 get in the way of 1, it becomes frustrating, then annoying, then rage inducing. Based on this entire weekend, I will have to say it is unlikely I will be returning. I think it is time to check out other festivals, or just return to seeing solo shows only.


Day one got off to a nice start. The weather was fine that morning, partly cloudy and cool, and we got into the festival grounds with few hiccups. The cool temps were a welcome change from the usual brutal heat. After a quick run at the merchandise tent we headed to the first band of the day, Abe Vigoda. First sets of the day are difficult. Most of the festival goers are not there yet, the set times are short, and there is a definite ADD factor going on. Abe Vigoda is an LA band that have transformed from a noise rock band to a pretty decent synth rock band. They had a very short 30 minute set that, aside from some sound problems (which the small Gobi tent seemed to have all weekend long), was a nice way to start the festival.


You come to savor and enjoy the breaks you get during the day, and I had about an hour to kill so we went to the beer tent and relaxed a bit. I left everyone to go catch Other Lives, which sound like Radiohead meets Fleet Floxes. Again, aside from some horrific sound issues in the Gobi tent, they put on a nice show. It was a little too mellow for me, but their musicianship was wonderful.


Third set was for British 90s alt rock revivalists Yuck over at the Outdoor Theater. I had missed them through Atlanta and was really looking forward to seeing them. The weather took a turn for the worse and got cloudy, windy, and for the first time ever at Coachella it began to rain. Thankfully, the rain throughout the day and evening was merely drizzle and no outright storms. Yuck's set was a bit disappointing, the wind created sound issues, and the band just seemed listless.


At this point the weather became a huge issue as the wind picked up and it got colder and colder. Thankfully I had bought a hoodie and had a wind breaker that kept me relatively warm. If you were in the tents it was fine as the collective body warmth helped matters. But if you were at the Main Stage or the Outdoor Theater the wind and rain made things miserable. Kurt and I went to the Sahara tent and saw a DJ set from Feed Me. It was not as intense as his With Teeth tour, but he put on a great set.




My first must see of the festival was British buzz band WU LYF. They have a unique singer whose voice is a love it/hate it kind of thing. I happen to enjoy its melodramatic nature. The Gobi tent still suffered from sound issues, with the vocals being too low in the mix. The set was intense and striking and definitely makes me want to see what they do next.



I ventured over in the wind and rain to catch the legendary Pulp. Jarvis Cocker is a consummate showman and ripped through a tight hour long set, hitting all the high points, including tracks like "Disco 2000," "Sorted For Es and Whizz," and crowd favorite "Common People."




I checked out M83 in the Mojave tent which was the first Coachella mistake of the night, as M83 have blown up and needed to have a larger stage in order to accommodate their crowd. Luckily, I found a spot next to the sound board and didn't have deal much with the swelling crowd. The M83 set started out a little slow and drowsy, but as the set progressed, it picked up in intensity and ended on a rousing note of "Midnight City" and thrilling instrumental "Couleurs."



Reunited Swedish hardcore band Refused was next on the agenda. They sounded great and tore through a blistering set of hardcore classics.



By this point in the evening it was in the low 50s, windy, and rainy and my misery level was at its highest. Plus it was now midnight and I was exhausted. I was resolved to suffer through it so I could see favorite band The Horrors. Again, the Gobi tent had shitty sound and the band's vocals were too low in the mix. Also, the band uses lots of guitar effects on record and it doesn't translate very well live. It was an ok, yet not amazing set.




That ended Day One and we wearily headed home to get warm and dry.

Coachella 2012 Highlight: Wild Beasts - "Reach A Bit Further"



I was lucky enough to get on the rail for their sublime set. This song is one of my favorites and showcases the lovely vocal interplay between Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Coachella 2012 Day Three: Metronomy - "Heartbreaker"



The final day of Coachella. Sad to say I am actually glad. It's been a weird festival, and while there have been a lot of good sets, it has just been a little off for me. I've got some of must sees today, so I am hoping it will turn things around. I'm really looking forward to seeing Metronomy today. They put on such a fun show.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Coachella 2012: Day Two - We Were Promised Jetpacks - "Quiet Little Voices"



After freezing yesterday, we are going to venture back to the polo fields today. First up on my agenda, the awesome Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks.

Coachella 2012 Day One Highlight: Pulp



It was a weird first day at Coachella with unseasonably cold temperatures and rain. We still soldiered through. The highlight of the day for me was Pulp. Here is the full set streamed live from the festival.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Video: Cloud Nothings - "Stay Useless"

Get More: www.mtvu.com


New video from Cloud Nothings.

Video: The Twilight Sad - "Dead City"



New video from The Twilight Sad's album No One Can Ever Know.

Videos of the Week/Coachella Edition

It is Coachella Friday, so here is some videos from some of the acts I will be seeing today:



Due to transportation delays I missed them opening up for Radiohead; looking forward to seeing them.



Such an amazing blast of 90s alt-rock.



I was able to catch Neon Indian at a small venue a couple of weeks ago and he puts on a amazing set.



Same with Feed Me, and his set once it gets going is stellar. This track brings the house down.



Death Grips are going to be completely intense.



WU LYF is a must see for me. Their live shows are supposed to be full of energy.



Yes, I am a little tired of this song too, but damn it is just so good.



Another band I have yet to catch live and have missed. Supposed to have an amazing live set.



This band has completely snuck on me and I am thrilled to get to see them.



The Horrors will be amazing.

Coachella 2012!!!!!! Abe Vigoda - "Pure Violence"



Coachella 2012 finally starts today. In honor of the first band I will see at the festival, here is Abe Vigoda's "Pure Violence."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Album Review - Killing Joke: MMXII


Killing Joke
MMXII
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

Over the past 35 years, Killing Joke, made up of Jaz Coleman, Kevin 'Geordie' Walker, Martin 'Youth' Glover and Paul Ferguson, have blazed a trail which, while never giving them huge popular success, has influenced hundreds of other bands. Their subtle merging of punk/post punk/industrial/new wave/dance/electronica paving the way for bands as diverse as Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, and Metallica. After 2006's punishingly dour Hosannas from the Basements of Hell, KIlling Joke broke up, only to return after the death of original bassist Paul Raven with 2010's Absolute Dissent, which found none of the band's aggression and fury lessened. Follow up MMXII doesn't bring anything new to the table in terms of sound, the drums are still pounding, guitars roaring, and Coleman's distinctive voice alternately whispers and growls. What is does bring is typically tight songwriting and sense of drive and purpose. It is rare to see bands this late in their career continue on with no real loss in quality. You always know with Killing Joke you are not going to get a half-assed effort.

The album starts off in a roar with the droning grind of opener "Pole Shift" which erupts into a punkish fury with Coleman's voice gradually expanding into a Lemmy-like guttural growl,



while "FEMA Camp" builds off a dark-electro pulse, the guitars winding around pounding drums to back another politically charged track about government political camps.



Both "Rapture" and "Colony Collapse" combine for a one-two industrial attack of throbbing electronics and guitars.



If the rest of MMXII proceeded along like this it would quickly get monotonous and, thankfully, Killing Joke realize this, pausing the harsh onslaught of guitars and drums for a brief respite. First single "In Cythera" plays like a long-lost outtake from Brighter Than A Thousand Suns, featuring atmospheric synth washes punctuated by angular and brittle guitars.



"Primobile" is another synth-heavy track with subtlety driving guitars.



Of course, this being Killing Joke, the raging guitars are not going to remain dormant. Things kick back up in gear with "Glitch" and "Trance," the former with Coleman practically barking the lyrics over swells of guitars and keyboards, and the latter a furious rave up.



The album closes with the actually gorgeous mid-tempo track "On All Hallow's Eve" with Coleman's strong voice never overpowering the throbbing beat and lush keyboards.



MMXII is not going to change anyone's opinion of Killing Joke at this point. It is simply 10 well done Killing Joke songs that each bring something to the whole. There are no fancy breakbeats or nods to dubstep or hip-hop, or any last ditch effort to have a Top 40 hit. MMXII is just Killing Joke doing what Killing Joke have done well for over 35 years.

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.

Coachella 2012 Countdown: 1 Day! Wild Beasts - "End Come Too Soon"



My favorite band of the moment, and a definite must see at the festival. Can't believe it is just one day away!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Album Review - Labrinth: Electronic Earth


Labrinth
Electronic Earth
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

Signed to Simon Cowell's Syco Music label, UK producer Labrinth releases his debut Electronic Earth, which is another attempt at merging pop music with hip-hop/dubstep/EDM. The critical question when it comes to albums like this is whether the album is too pop, alienating the hardcore EDM fans, or is it too EDM heavy, alienating the mainstream audience, or does it hit that sweet spot where it can appeal to both equally? Here, we get a bit off all three. The album is definitely too pop for most hardcore fans of dubstep/EDM and there are a few moments of edginess that might make mainstream listeners shy away. But when that perfect blend of both hits, it is almost perfect.

Lead track "Climb On Board" uses a skittering drum and bass beat under piano trills and laser-effect keyboards, Labrinth showcasing his earthy pipes.



"Sweet Riot" is the perfect marriage of pounding drum programming, wailing guitars, and swirling keyboards.



Single "Last Time" is a brash slab of electro-house, Labrinth's voice raging over a throbbing pulse of synthesizers.



And "Earthquake," a collaboration with Tinie Timpah, is a delicious mess of hip-hop rhythms, dubstep bass, whirring synths, and playful back and forth between vocalists. Labrinth even manages to throw a nod to boss Simon Cowell.



But the ties to Simon Cowell seems to be what prevents the album from really taking off. Too often, the songs seem to be made via committee, made to add pop songs and ballads in order to appeal to a wider demographic. And there is nothing wrong per se with these tracks, they just lose their luster when surrounded by other, more distinctive tracks. "Beneath Your Beautiful," a duet with Emeli Sande, attempts to mask what is quite honestly some American Idol/Christina Aguilera reject with dubstep wubz.



"Let The Sun Shine" is a perfectly pleasant pop single, but it doesn't sound any different from any other track out there on Top 40 radio,



while "Treatment" tries to amp up some guitars to give the track a poppy-punk sheen,



and "Express Yourself" even attempts a James Brown/60s funk vibe, but it comes across more as pastiche than homage.



Electronic Earth is not a bad album; there are no outright horrors here, just a few missteps that make the album a little more generic than it should be. All of the pieces are here for a great album in the future. Labrinth just needs to get out from under the corporate shadow.

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.

Coachella 2012 Countdown: 2 Days! Miike Snow - "Paddling Out"



Over the last few weeks Miike Snow has vaulted its way to a definite must see. I'm just hoping there is no conflict with Radiohead.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Jam of the Day: Labrinth - "Last Time (Knife Party Remix)"



Oh yeah.

Album Review - DVA: Pretty Ugly


DVA
Pretty Ugly
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

Leon 'Scratcha DVA' Smart is well-known as the former host of Rinse FM's Grimey Breakfast Show and also as a producer in the grime and UK funky genres. Pretty Ugly is his debut full length on the Hyperdub label, and despite his past reputation, the album is not solely a collection of grime and UK funky tracks; instead, it is a surprisingly diverse collection of broken beat tracks that never seems comfortable staying in the same pattern for long. Interestingly, the album seems to show a marked influence from the Flying Lotus Beat Music collective, with a focus on hazy vibes and singularly off-kilter programming. Mixing things up further are the use of multiple vocalists that, despite a bevy of different styles, seem to work well and flow in and out of each other with ease. True to its title, Pretty Ugly enjoys the contrast between the beautiful and harsh; either pushing unsteady, brutish beats against gorgeous vocal melodies or adding incongruous noises to infiltrate an otherwise beautiful keyboard line.

I'm not generally a fan of electronic artists that throw vocalists onto tracks on their albums for some semblance of mainstream appeal. Too often, the tracks come across as someone just coming in late and adding lyrics/vocals to an instrumental track, without there being much of a consensus beforehand. Strangely, on Pretty Ugly the vocal tracks come across better than the instrumentals, the earthiness of the vocals adding a through line for the broken beat compositions. "Just Vybe" features a shuffling, clunky rhythm and burbling bed of electronics as a canvas for Fatima's deep throaty growl,



"Why U Do" mutates a 2 step beat under organ drones and AL's tale of a woman wronged and her man's comeuppance, and most beautifully, Natalie Maddix adds her soulful voice to the woozy, dreamy "Eye Know."



Muhsinah hauntingly sighs over the skittering beats of "33rd Degree," becoming more and more despondent as the track speeds towards its conclusion. Victor Duplaix's vocals push against the stumbling beats and fantasy analog synths of "Madness."



I preferred the vocal tracks, not so much because the instrumentals felt lacking, the vocals just gave a sense of balance and control over the electronics, which sometimes could become oppressive. "Reach The Sun" uses almost 1:30 of its run time on a disjointed/atonal electronic intro before bouncing into a rhythmic fantasy world of blooping keyboards and sampled voices. "Polyphonic Dreams" features pounding beats and swirling analog synths which threaten to derail over glitchy feedback.



The throbbing pulse of "Bare Fuzz" is broken up by warm vibes and looped, almost tribal chanting.



And it all ends with the hauntingly grand "Where I Belong" with droning synth stings and horns, that closes out the album on a slightly funeral tone.



Pretty Ugly is a well-produced, intriguing debut from DVA whose parts are better than the sum of the whole. Ultimately, it feels like a interesting collection of tracks that don't really have any connecting thread. For me, this made for a pleasant listen, but didn't add up to anything more. DVA is always going to put out well-crafted tracks, I am just going to have to wait a little longer for a more cohesive statement from him.

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.