New songs by Say Lou Lou, Sky Ferreira, Tennis, VV Brown and Trouble Maker
Sky Ferreira – “I Blame Myself”
American electropop singer Sky Ferreira has had quite a journey getting to her debut album. Still, Night Time, My Time has finally arrived after teaser singles for an interminable three years. It is, sorry to say, a bit of a mixed bag, but “I Blame Myself” is pure pop perfection, featuring a crisp breakbeat and lyrics critiquing the audience for equating art with the person itself. A bold move for a debut album, but perhaps unsurprising given its long gestation. “I blame myself for my reputation” finds Ferreira hoisted by her own petard, and beautifully so.
Never fear, your intrepid reporter has gathered up a few recently-released gems for the discerning ear.
Once upon a time, it was relatively easy to find new music. You simply turned on the radio and listened until you found something you liked. Everyone was fixed onto the same monoculture. Nowadays, One Direction kiddiepop aside, the culture has fragmented into a million tiny microreleases – and who has the time to trawl through the archives to find something good? Well, never fear, for your intrepid reporter has gathered up a few recently-released gems for the discerning ear.
At their best, AlunaGeorge are practicing a kind of wonky r&b.
AlunaGeorge are a UK based duo who’ve created a lot of buzz the past two years with their mining of the sweet spot between r&b and bass genres like UK garage. After such an extended build-up, finally their debut album Body Music has dropped, and it is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a mixed bag.
In the week following the George Zimmerman verdict, a stream of articles were published comparing the targeting of young, Black men and the policing of Black communities to the targeting of young, Arab men in combat zones and Barack Obama’s [...]
In the week following the George Zimmerman verdict, a stream of articles were published comparing the targeting of young, Black men and the policing of Black communities to the targeting of young, Arab men in combat zones and Barack Obama’s drone war. In particular, these columnists compared Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Black boy who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman almost two years ago to Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, the 16-year-old Yemeni-American teenager who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen around the same time.
Ambition permeates almost every bit of this album – something to be lauded in a time where music has become culturally devalued as important in itself.
Daft Punk’s latest album Random Access Memories resists easy categorisation. Undoubtedly an Event album, accompanied by an all-star guest list and Vice-sponsored short making-of documentary series, it is at times also a startlingly collection of disparate elements. The guest list includes 70s crooner Paul Williams, Pharell Williams, house/UK garage pioneer Todd “the God” Edwards, disco producer Georgio Moroder, indie artists Panda Bear and Julian Casablanca, and a host of veteran session musicians.
Though clearly an album deeply embedded in electronic dance music, this is Daft Punk’s most organic album yet. In lead-up interviews, the duo have spoken of “[recreating] what we used to do with machines and samplers, but with people.” It many ways, the album recalls the disco albums of the late 70s, with pulsing live drums and session musicians aiming for machinic precision. First single “Get Lucky” works well as a mission statement, with Pharell’s falsetto cooing over a lean repetitive groove looped to disco sublimity.
It’s definitely an audacious move in this age of computer generated EDM, and a risky one with few peers. One point of comparison is house gods Masters At Work’s 1997 Nuyorican Soul, which featured a similarly stellar guestlist and nostalgic viewpoint. But where Nuyorican Soul painstakingly recreated the disco past, Random Access Memories insistently foregrounds its contemporary status with vocoded vocals on almost every track. “Instant Crush” features Julian Casablancas from The Strokes crooning through a vocoder over a chunky New Wave groove. It’s instantly memorable and expertly balances the retro and futurist elements. “Fragments of Memories” features a nicely lazy vocal from Todd Edwards, looking back on a soon-ending holiday.
This is not to say that everything works quite so well, though. The eight-minute long “Touch” features the hammy Broadway vocals of Paul Williams alongside a children’s choir and an extremely cheesy disco section, and other discordant synth sections. It’s packed with ideas, and some of the string orchestration is lovely, but it’s a strange journey that doesn’t quite gel. In interviews, the duo have suggested this song to be the centrepiece of the album. Williams finishes the “you’ve given me too much to feel/you’ve almost convinced I’m real/I need something more, I need something… more.”
Given Daft Punk’s penchant for robotic masks, it’s an interesting twist on posthumanity to be sure, but one that makes sense in the light of Bangalter’s statement to the Guardian that “[We tried] to make robotic voices sound the most human they’ve ever sounded, in terms of expressivity and emotion.” A debateable claim. With a few exceptions – the monotonic “Doin It Right” – the vocoders work, but they don’t really connote very much at all.
But what does it mean, if anything? What is the point of making robots sound human? With few lyrics, it’s hard to really see the record as staking out much of a claim linguistically. Similarly, the cobbled-together signifiers of the 70s and 80s are pleasurable, but not really saying very much at all.
Random Access Memories is undoubtedly a unique sounding album, well-crafted in every sense. It sounds like a million dollars in an electronic moment where almost everything is made on laptops and the same few Digital Audio Workstations. Ambition permeates almost every bit of the album – something to be lauded in a time where music has become culturally devalued as important in itself.
It is a very good album. But a masterwork it is not, not really pulling all of these elements together into a completely convincing, whole artistic statement. It doesn’t really feel like it means anything at all. Random access memories indeed.
With her distinctive calling-card single “Video Games” and album Born To Die, Lana Del Rey has been one of the most hotly debated artists of the past year. Initially feted for her “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” sound and DIY Youtube aesthetic, [...]
With her distinctive calling-card single “Video Games” and album Born To Die, Lana Del Rey has been one of the most hotly debated artists of the past year. Initially feted for her “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” sound and DIY Youtube aesthetic, the blog love quickly faded with some flat live performance and the news that, far from a trailer park ingenue, Ms Del Rey is the daughter of a rich investor. Lana haters became as ubiquitous–and as vocal–as her defenders. It’s surprising, then, that neither have really been out in force with the release of her new “Paradise Edition” of Born to Die. Is the hype over?
Leeds Festival often gets over-shadowed by its counterpart Reading, and has a reputation for a weakened line up. But this year, Festival Republic put on a fantastic weekend, and here is why…
24th-26th August, Bramham Park.
The waiting was over, and things couldn’t have been better. The sun was making a rare appearance, bags are packed, tickets in hand and excitement growing as thousands of fans from all over the country headed to what would be their new home for the next 5 days.
On arrival, the atmosphere was electric, what a fantastic Bank Holiday weekend there was to look forward too. Friendly smiles, laughter and banter were everywhere. It was a long journey from the car park to the camp site, but with the adrenaline and anticipation building for the weekend of great music, the heavy load of belongings on backs (many thanks to the ‘tinnies’) seemed a small price to pay.
Leeds Festival often gets over-shadowed by its counterpart Reading, and has a reputation for a weakened line up. But in my eyes, Festival Republic put on a fantastic weekend, and here is why…
Long before anyone else, had heard of Gaga, Mark Bowden predicted which songs would be dancefloor hits. Here he selects some of his favorite DJ podcasts for us.
Looking for great dance music for the gym and never know what to put on your I-pod in the gym or while cooking, well, now you don’t need to worry because you can download free dance music podcasts. I sat down with the very goodlooking and charming Mark Bowden who runs Hyperactive, the famous music promotions company in Europe. Bowden spots hits before anyone else – every day thousands of songs cross his desk from cheesy pop tracks to the hardest drum n bass. Hyperactive has a record for consistent success rate and quality releases, with UK number ones from the likes of Lady Gaga to Madonna and a following that includes many of the world’s greatest DJs. Long before anyone else, had heard of Gaga, Mark predicted which songs would be dancefloor hits. It was an extra treat, then, to have Mark select some of his favorite DJ podcasts for us.
Canadian electropop group the Junior Boys have released a string of consistently great albums, and new record It’s All True is not exception.
Junior Boys, It’s All True (Domino Records 2011)
In a field where careers can last as long as a remix and whole genres are ephemeral, Canadian electropop group Junior Boys have had a surprisingly long career. Starting off with their 2004 masterpiece Last Exit album, Junior Boys have released a string of consistently great albums, and new record It’s All True is not exception.
When I spoke to Junior Boys’ frontman Jeremy Greenspan earlier this year for Billboard magazine, he sounded like a conflicted man–caught between burnout with the industry and revitalisation from recording part of this album in China. While the lyrics of the album certainly reflect this struggle, Greenspan and bandmate Matt Didemus have crafted another set of immaculately written and produced songs.
The Book of Mormon soundtrack tries, with varying degrees of success, to satirize three different subjects: Mormons, Broadway and Western ignorance about Africa, respectively.
When The Book of Mormon opened on Broadway in March, it became an immediate commercial and critical success. Since the show is sold out for some time and scalpers are commanding upwards of nine hundred dollars per seat, most of us won’t be seeing it any time soon. Instead, we’re making do with the musical score, composed by Bobby Lopez (Avenue Q) and released in May to predictably impressive sales as Broadway albums go.
If the music is any indication, The Book of Mormon tries, with varying degrees of success, to satirize three different subjects: Mormons, Broadway and Western ignorance about Africa, respectively. And the Mormon satire, though no one knew what to predict, comes with intelligence, care and respect. One of the most touching—yes, touching—numbers of all is in some ways the most profane. Nineteen year old Mormon missionary to Uganda, Elder Price (Andy Rannells), sings the rousing verses of “I Believe” with such conviction that it’s impossible to interpret the song as mere satire. This is no mean feat given that the song summarizes aspects of Mormon belief with lyrics like, “I believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob,” that “the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri” and that, “in 1978, God changed his mind about black people!*”
It’s just that the song also reveals the character’s basic decency. He wants to be ethical and good and, yes, help people. When the orchestra swells and the gospel choir arrives and Price sings, “I believe that Satan has a hold of you,” the lyric is strangely moving. You see, this is the moment at which Price overcomes his fear in the face of Uganda’s political violence. The particulars of the faith seem unimportant given the courage it gives him. By the time Price comes out with,“I know that I must go and do the things my God commands,” you’ll want to pump your fist in the air in celebration. “I Believe” makes everything clear: The music is not a parody of Mormonism but a parody of faith. But it’s also a love letter to faith.
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