Thursday, 20 December 2012

New Sounds: Pet Moon- Hold the Divide


For those aware of Oxford- based collective Blessing Force, release of music proper from head honcho Andrew Mears, the mastermind behind Pet Moon, has been long and eagerly anticipated. After two years of silence from Mears (save for the appearance of a couple of demos on soundcloud), the announcement that the project's debut EP "Runner Heart" early next year is exciting news indeed.

Recently, Mears posted a complete version of his track "Hold the Divide" on Soundcloud and Facebook. The track carries both self- applied tags of "Progressive R'n'B" and "Multicore." Not sure what they are? Take it to mean a culmination of mildly cinematic synths, furiously hard- hitting drums, the kind of angular, 10- fingered guitar playing that characterized Mears' previous project Youthmovies and some gorgeous vocal harmonies and structures. Fans of Dirty Projectors and Yeasayer are likely to be won over, but that's not to say this rather lovely piece isn't more universal.



Download the track for free from SoundCloud, here: https://soundcloud.com/petmoon/hold-the-divide

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Anthemic Doctrine: The Top 30 songs of 2012

Hi folks,

Here is the final installment of list week, my top 30 songs and singles of 2012. It should be made clear right from the start that these are not necessarily songs that featured on any of the albums in the albums list that I posted over the past couple of days. Naturally some of them are, but those that are not are either singles from albums that are due out next year, or are just songs that I've heard individually and enjoyed very much over the past 12 months.

The rest is fairly self- explanatory, so without further ado, here are the top 30 songs that I have enjoyed listening to and sharing with you in 2012.

30. Everything Everything- Cough Cough (Available on: "Arc", due out January 14th 2013)

The first single to drop from the band's upcoming follow up to their enigmatically hyperactive debut "Man Alive", "Cough Cough" is much more immediate than anything on that record, and not so awkward to dance to. The pounding marching band- esque drums were met by glacial, quietly soaring guitar picking and a smooth keyboard backdrop, with vocal gang chanting providing a rugged sense of grandiosity.




29. Tame Impala- Mind Mischief (Available on "Lonerism", out now)

A choice cut of fuzzy, euphoric miserabilia from the Austrailian crew's stellar second full- length. It was perhaps one of the most simplistic moments on the record, but within those boundaries lay all of it's blissful charm.


28. The Walkmen- Line By Line (Available on "Heaven", out now)

For the most part on "Heaven" The Walkmen delivered on their promise of "classic American- style rock songs", and although this stunningly beautiful acoustic number didn't showcase the fist- pumping triumph of the other songs, it was an essential inclusion.


27. Actress- Shock therapy 101 (Available from twitter @ctress_)

As Darren Cunningham headed back towards his clubby roots on "R.I.P.", "Shock Therapy 101", this exclusive twitter release joined the throng and stood out as a moment of funky, glitchy repetitive bliss.


26. John Cale- I Wanna Talk 2 U (Available from "Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood", out now)

Cale's return to music world in 2012 was kicked in fantastic fashion in the form of this serene, funky and shuffling Bowie- esque bop.


25. The Gaslamp Killer- Nissim (with Amir Yangmai) (Available from "Breakthrough", out now)

A beautifully tuneful slice of smooth Middle Eastern funk, it sounds like Gaslamp Killer provided an oozingly gentle and stoned backdrop of bass, guitar and percussion and let Amir Yangmai improvise over the top on a sitar. If that was the case, it was the right decision.


24. Grizzly Bear- Sleeping Ute (Available on "Shields", out now)

To hear Grizzly Bear kick start things on their new album with something as electrifying and bombastic as "Sleeping Ute" after the orchestral sweeping of 2009's "Veckatimest" was certainly a surprise, but not at all an unwelcome one. This may be the most exciting thing they've ever written.


23. Ty Segall- Thank God For Sinners (Available on "Twins", out now)

Even though "Twins" was his third release of the year, Ty Segall continued to prove that he new how to bring an album kicking and screaming into this world, furiously and righteously.


22. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds- We No Who U R (Available on "Push Against The Sky", out February 2013)

Don't be fooled by Cave & Co.'s irksome endorsement of generic grammatical ignorance, this is a gorgeous and enchantingly sensitive precursor to what promises to be a mighty fine return next year.


21. Loma Prieta- Biography (Available on "I.V.", out now)

Although the exceedingly harsh vocals prevalent throughout "I.V." are present here, "Biography" is Loma Prieta's dabble in absolute musical beauty, with a chord progression which is absolutely to die for.


20. Hirsute Pursuit- Boys Keep Swinging (Available on "Tighten That Muscle Ring", out now)

Sexy, seductive, ridiculously funky, dark, unnerving and eerie... The Thin White Duke himself would be proud of the masterful transformation of David Bowie's "Boys Keep Swinging" here.


19. Perfume Genius- Hood (Available on "Put Your Back N2 It", out now)

"Under this hood that you kiss/ I tick like a bomb..." The most tragic and intoxicating but endlessly moving moment on Mike Hadreas' stellar second album.


18. The Walkmen- Nightingales (Available on "Heaven", out now)

This song had easily the most uplifting and gravity defying ending on "Heaven", and quite possibly the best ending to a song this year.


17. Coloureds- Ted Nelson (Available on "Good Music for a Home, Vol. 2", out not)

The Oxford noise terrorists conjure up another dance floor banger, this time it seems with more emphasis on grooves and foot stomping rather than grinding synths, although all the ingredients that make up that Coloureds sound still present and correct.


16. Hot Chip- How Do You Do? (Available on "In Our Heads", out now)

Intricate, progressive and downright irresistible once it got going, Hot Chip don't need to take heed of the diversity argument presented by some when they're pushing out pieces of summery perfection like this.


15. Frank Ocean- Bad Religion (Available on "Channel Orange", out now)

"Bad Religion" was one of the shortest songs on "Channel Orange" but it was undeniably the sweetest. It finds Ocean at his most self- deprecating and lovelorn whilst slightly poking a satirical finger at religion to a stunning soundtrack. Genius.


14. Foals- Inhaler (Available on "Holy Fire", released on February 11th 2013)

Foals' sonic return took many by surprise, but for many others (myself included) "Inhaler" was an astounding statement of intent, a new embodiment of identity whilst still remaining distinctly Foals. I think it was NME who said it sounded like "Pulled Apart By Horses dosed up on Prince", which is very accurate indeed.


13. Kendrick Lamar- Swimming Pools (Drank) (Available on "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City", out now)

Every song on Lamar's impeccable second full- length tugged at the heartstrings, but it was almost impossible not to feel a lump in the back of your throat as he rapped "All I have left is my new appetite for failure" over this beautifully twinkling and deep cut beat.


12. Black Breath- Home of the Grave (Available on "Sentenced to Life", out now)

The most filthily sludgy and groove laden song on Black Breath's highly commended "Sentenced To Life" album, and it also manages to be the catchiest Metal song I've heard all year.


11. Liars- No.1 Against the Rush (Available on "WIXIW", out now)

The first thing that I latched on to when Liars released "No.1 against the rush" a couple of months prior to "WIXIW" was how electronic it was. The second was just how amazingly beautiful and tuneful it was.


10. Portico Quartet- Spinner (Available on "Portico Quartet", out now)

This London Electronica/ Jazz four piece created one of the most innovative and moving albums of the year musically this year with their self- titled, and "Spinner" in it's layered, shimmering sadness was the pinnacle of all the emotional heights reached by the band.


9. THEEsatisfaction- QueenS (Available on "awE naturalE", out now)

You know those albums that just have one incredibly good song and you for ages you don't listen to the rest of the record because you've just got that song on repeat? Step forward "QueenS", the incredibly seductive song of such manner from THEEsatisfaction.


8. Tame Impala- Feels Like We Only Go Backwards (Available on "Lonerism", out now)

With just a baked drum beat, a slightly funky and forward bass line and a mesmeric, whispy synth melody to power it, "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" was turned into something that was very almost the perfect three minute pop tune.


7. John Talabot- Depak Ine (Available on "Fin", out now)

Creepy, dark, paranoid, sexy, ampidextrous and unfathomably detailed, the opener to Spanish producer John Talabot's full length debut set not only the tone for the rest of "Fin", but also the standard for House music in 2012.


6. Death Grips- The Fever (Aye Aye) (Available on "The Money Store", out now)

Bombastic and brutal, refined and euphoric, this was the song where Death Grips true talent became apparent. Tied in together are the group's unrivaled appetite and talent in chaos, but also a previously unprecedented skill in song craft and structure. A masterpiece I tell thee.


5. Dope Body- Lazy Slave (Available on "Natural History", out now)

Perhaps the most absolutely incendiary ROCK track of the year. Ugly, pummeling and almost Neanderthal- esque in terms of the vocals, but one of the most brilliant understandings of intensity and ragged structure in rock song writing all year. Dope Body are masters of weaving in hundreds of elements and making them actually work together, and "Lazy Slave" is a fine, fine example of this.


4. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis- Same Love (Featuring Mary Herbert) (Available on "The Heist", out now)

The best song ever written about same sex marriage and acceptance, and an enormous occasion in Hip Hop. Let's hope people start to take heed.



3. Foals- My Number (Available from "Holy Fire", out February 11th 2013)

Why is the latest single from Foals' upcoming third album so good? After all, it's a lot simpler and immediate than anything they've ever done before, isn't it? It's just straight up '80s inflected funk- pop? Done with an incredible amount of talent and an absolutely enormous hook? Oh, that'll be it then...


2. Carly Rae Jepson- Call me Maybe (Available from "Kiss", out now)

I've listened to this song well over 100 times. It's still absolutely irresistible to me. I'm sorry. 





1. Swans- The Seer

Where do you even start with this? The fact that it's 32 minutes long is alone enough to spark a conversation that could last for hours. It's just the kind of thing that needs to be heard to be believed. I recently saw a video on youtube of a guy talking about an album that is a "musical landscape" to him. Pretty much all of "The Seer" (the album) is a musical landscape as far as I'm concerned, but the title track is the absolute epitome of both setting a scene and telling a story through a piece of instrumental music. Enjoy. 
















Going out with a bang, part 2: Albums of 2012, 10-1


10. Tame Impala- Lonerism


""Apocalypse Dreams" starts off as a soulful ELO- esque '70s stomp before everything grows, twists and envelopes every aspect of the song and a gloriously layered synth wall reigns mightily halfway through. "Music To Walk Home By" is a sky- kissing mesh of bubbling electronics, a driving bass line and understated but reverb drenched guitar chords. Bearing all this in mind, it feels strange that the album's highlight, the astoundingly beautiful "Feels Like We're Only Going Backwards," propelled by a subtly funky bass rhythm and an almost moving chill- wavey keyboard melody is probably the most simplistic moment here."

9. Soap&Skin- Narrow

"At almost every turn, whether it's through the music or vocals, Plashg employs some kind of dramatic effect to make these dark, smothering piano- lead ballads much more than they be would usually. From the deranged to the grandiose to the hopeful, Plashg has her finger on a wealth of ways to showcase emotion through music, and often enough she taps into them in beautiful style."



8. Murder Construct- Results

I never got round to actually reviewing the new Murder Construct album, which is something I'm still kicking myself for. In summary then, this is an absolutely brutal exercise in destructively heavy but also groove and melody laden Grindcore. On "Results" the group found a place where they got the balance of Cattle Decapitation, Napalm Death and Cannibal Corpse just right, thus resulting (no pun intended) in the most full on blast of inconceivable Metal noise this year. Furious from start to finish, packed with blistering beats and crushing hooks, it's the Heavy Metal world's definition of onslaught in 2012.

7. Torche- Harmonicraft

"Members of such recesses may well turn their noses up at even the mention of "Harmonicraft", which is rich in sugary euphoria and consequetively grandiose hooks, something that will come as a mighty surprise to fans of their previous output. Nevertheless, it's brimming with full- throttle intensity, an undeniable pace and the same layers of dense production and thick distortion that metal, and notably Torche's music, usually relies on for sheer power. Whereas usually that same power is balanced out by interspersed moments of weirdness, on "Harmonicraft" it's balanced out by pop tendencies. And what a thrilling ride it is too."

6. Swans- The Seer

Never before have I encountered a record which is quite literalltoo large for words. No doubt you've heard about the absolutely monolithic "The Seer" from pretty much every respectable music publication, online or otherwise. At two hours in length it towers of the rest of 2012 like a huge demonic shadow, an imposing and terrifying sign of an apparent impending doom. Abrasive, destructive, insane, beautiful... "The Seer" encompasses all of these words and turns them into an almighty, torturous racket, and there will be no better soundtrack to the apocalypse in 3 days time.

5. Kendrick Lamar- Good Kid, M.A.A.D city

"...few can claim to be as bright or lyrically valuable as Kendrick Lamar. Lamar is a realist- he tells everything exactly like it is. He’s incredibly sharp musically too, always finding new ways to do things, new ways to make things sound. His seemingly effortless ability to match emotion with the most wonderfully paired production is what gives him so much space to pull off an absolute odyssey like “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.”"


4. Agalloch- Faustian Echoes

"Agalloch are certainly not ignorant to the power and space which modern Black Metal has been free to roam, and that's something that if it wasn't recognizable before is certainly recognizable on their new EP, "Faustian Echoes." Based on Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe's epic occult masterpiece "Faust", the record is a single, 21- minute long odyssey that explores all the recesses that Agalloch have always found time for in their Black Metal/ Neo- folk hybrid. Those things being melody, harshness, bleakness, acoustic interludes, blast beats, tremolo picking and wretched vocals, all of which find themselves in abundance here."

3. Perfume Genius- Put Your Back N2 It

""Put Your Back N2 It" is relentlessly intoxicating but almost always musically stunning. Aside from the heart- wrenching lyrics, the music here is just as profound and atmospheric, all adding to the intensity of the thing. Hadreas may need some serious love and support, and hopefully he'll get it. But at the same time, fingers crossed that it doesn't prevent him from churning out affecting works of wonder such as this."


2. Dragged Into Sunlight- Widowmaker

"Mysticism and darkness have always been cornerstone foundations of Heavy Metal, but it doesn’t often feel as real and as indicative and sobering as that of Liverpudlian quartet Dragged Into Sunlight. The fact that these guys are a four piece Doom/ Death metal band from Merseyside is just about all anybody really knows about them. They refuse to tell their names to interviewers, play live very rarely and only appear in the public eye dressed in balaclavas. It’s the kind of thing which certainly seems gimmicky, but at its base idea is actually quite reasonable. “We don’t feel like this band needs another identity. We’re just Dragged into Sunlight,” they recently told The Quietus. Furthermore, the band work up such a memorable collective identity with their music that it seems wrong to think of them in any other way."

Album of the year, No. 1: Death Grips- The Money Store

"Whereas "Ex-military" was an uncontrollable outburst of rage, Death Grips' debut signed effort sees them slip much more comfortably into their bloodthirsty world of brutality and darkness. It's still over- poweringly intense. It still finds ways to confound the senses and all ideas of what a hip- hop album should be like. But it's a much more measured effort, much for confident and comfortable within it's self- crafted world of modern day urban evil, and as a result, is much more consistent and wholesome. Anybody doubting Death Grips' credibility, talent, or that the world they so envisioned on "Exmilitary" even existed will soon be silenced; for this is a wholly convincing doctrine, made even more so by the more composed but cocksure air it carries about itself."

Top 20 albums of 2012:

1. Death Grips- The Money Store
2. Dragged Into Sunlight- Widowmaker
3. Perfume Genius- Put Your Back N2 It
4. Agalloch- Faustian Echoes
5. Kendrick Lamar- Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
6. Swans- The Seer
7. Torche- Harmonicraft
8. Murder Construct- Results
9. Soap&Skin- Narrow
10. Tame Impala- Lonerism
11. The Walkmen- Heaven
12. Action Bronson- Blue Chips
13. Dirty Three- Toward The Low Sun
14. John Talabot- Fin
15. Portico Quartet- Portico Quartet
16. Cloud Nothings- Attack on Memory
17. Killer Mike- R.A.P. Music
18. Liars- WIXIW
19. Black Breath- Sentenced To Life
20. Pulled Apart By Horses- Tough Love

Some other honourable mentions you should check out: Loma Prieta- I.V., Tribes- Baby, Ratking- Wiki93, Milo- Milo Takes Baths, Kindness- World, You Need a Change of Mind, Andrew Bird- Break it Yourself, Earth- Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II

Until next year,

Love and peace, thanks and praise

Jack x











Sunday, 16 December 2012

Going out with a Bang: Albums of the year 2012, 20-11


So, he we are then. The tail end of 2012. In 5 days time, the world will be encompassed in mass hysteria  of poor, naive souls fretting over the supposed coming doom of our time, the annihilation of the world, just as the Mayans predicted. It's likely that panic will be prevalent in more households than seems conceivable; for the last two weeks rumours have hardly been surreptitious. Even so, there's something that has been morally torturing and panicking far more than any impending apocalypse, and that is the mind- frying trials and tribulations of making my End of Year 2012 Albums list. Seriously, most of you would be happy for the world to end if you had to work on what I have been for past month or so.

It's safe to say that 2012 has been a rather impeccable year for music. It's been a year of pleasant surprises more than anything else, and for me, perhaps the most exploratory and expansive year in terms of taste for a long time. Not only have my listening patterns and tastes branched out more than ever before, but there's been a wealth of brilliant records to help me do so. There's been so much great music to consider whilst making this list that narrowing down to 20 (the most user- friendly and easily operative number, in my opinion) has arguably been harder than any A level exam I sat in the summer. And trust me... they were testing.

I guess I should explain how this list will work. One thing that has made making the list a whole bunch easier is that (at the risk of sounding like a keyboard Dictator), there's been no democracy. Running a blog like this solely has proved to have problems and complications (time being the main obstacle) over the course of this year, but it does mean that I can write about the music that I'm most passionate about without any consideration of what others might think or want. There's no collectivism here.

Also, there's no science going on here. Any score that I gave the individual albums when I reviewed them was purely how I felt about them at the time, and of course that is subject to change. Thus, you'll see that when I reviewed Burial's "Kindred" earlier in the year, I gave it a 9, however, it does not feature in the list. Similarly, you'll notice the omission of records by Napalm Death, I Like Trains and The Men, all of which I gave high- flying reviews, all of which have fallen out of favour with me since then. At the other end of the spectrum, two inclusions which have in fact grown on me as the year has progressed and lead to their high rankings are John Talabot's "Fin" and Action Bronson's "Blue Chips."

That's not to say that my opinion of all of these albums has changed. The albums in this list are the records that have continuously thrilled me throughout the year, from the very first second I heard them until now, and they're probably the records that will continue to thrill me for a good time to come.

So here is the first installment of the list, numbers 20- 11. I'll leave you with the thought that, if the world really does end on Friday, at least the year has provided us with one of the most memorable soundtracks in recent times. Truly, we'll be going out with a bang.

Until tomorrow, Jack

20. Pulled Apart By Horses- Tough Love

"As the sentiments on "Give Me A Reason" suggest, Pulled Apart By Horses are not a band to be tested on the strengths of "Tough Love." From start to finish it's an absolute powerhouse, one that may be more refined and melodic than it's debut, but one that finds the almost- perfect medium between heaviness and writing brilliant songs."




19. Black Breath- Sentenced To Life

"All that aside, the point here is to focus on what "Sentenced To Life" really is; a rather brilliant ride into sonic obliteration, unrelenting in its intensity, brutality and full- throttle abrasiveness. Unlikely to ever be considered a genre- fusing classic, but wonderfully thrilling all the same."





18. Liars- WIXIW

"Visionary LA noise- punks Liars seem to have jumped on the "screen and button" mad bandwagon on their sixth full length "WIXIW" ( pronounced "Wish You"), and it's an interesting contradiction. Before, Liars' bleak and outlandish vocal tales of post- apocalyptic Earth and murderous scarecrows was accompanied startlingly fittingly by their appetite for sheer noise terror. On "WIXIW" it seems strange that the band's most emotionally direct (when considering the human condition) should garner a backing track that is the band's most electronic effort yet."



17. Killer Mike- R.A.P. Music

"Mike's decision to join forces with experimental rap godfather EL- P for "R.A.P. Music" was most definitely the right one- the chemistry between them has the flavour of a unison that has been in place for years. El's relentlessly ear- drum pounding trumpet- blast assault on "Go!" or the grimey, crawling and grindingly slinky synths on "Butane (Champion's Anthem)" are the perfect backing for Mike's ever rapturous, fast- paced and unfaltering flow. It's Mike's political and social rhetoric that is most prolific here though, and most memorably so on the explosively venomous "Reagan.""



16. Cloud Nothings- Attack On Memory

"As sonic shifts go they can be pretty surprising, but very few would have expected this from Dylan Baldi & Co. "Attack On Memory" is Cloud Nothing's third full- length, and it's their most abrasive, confrontational and emotionally accessible album to date."





15. Portico Quartet- Portico Quartet

"Almost every single song, nay, every single sound, move, key change or note on this record is emotive and seems to conjure up some sort of atmosphere deep within the soul. "Spinner" is particularly beautiful. It's lead by a piercing and sorrowful saxophone over the background of a rhythmic and paranoid sounding bassline and electronic bleeps that filter in and out minimalistically."



14. John Talabot- Fin

"Opener "Depak Ine" builds and becomes more and more epically groovy and intricate as it progresses. Elsewhere "Fin" traverses from the dark, sparse but nearly always sexy ("So Will be Now") to early '90s- era tropical euphoria ("When The Past Was Present"). Sensual and diverse, in "Fin" dance music in 2012 has found itself an early gem."




13. Dirty Three- Toward The Low Sun

"You could say that Warren Ellis is the world's most understated purveyor of apocolyptica in music...It should come as no surprise then, given the man's past, that "Furnace Skies", the opener to Dirty Three's 8th release "Toward The Low Sun" has an apocolyptic heave about it. An intense and bubbling undercurrent is accompanied by clanging, dislocated guitar chords and chaotic drums and crashing cymbals, all of which chime with the fuzzy, doom- laden keyboard that enters the forray half way through."



 12. Action Bronson- Blue Chips

"...the thing you're most likely to remember straight off is Bronson's consistently explicit ways to rap about sex and pussies. But with repeated listens, "Blue Chips" unveils itself as an emotive story- tellers' gold mine. There's cold, atmospheric loneliness on "9-24-11", a terrifically raw glimpse of the dark side of American suburbia on "Hookers At The Point" and remarkable sonic shapeshifts, like on "Double Breasted." "



11. The Walkmen- Heaven

"The title "Heaven" then, on the surface,  is not a bang on representation. It's certainly more grandiose than much of the band's work in recent years, and it certainly endorses the idea of the great, rousing American rock album at many a moment. Despite having an aesthetic tied to it however, it doesn't see a loss of any of the realism or humanism, nor does it see them making any grand gestures or presumptions. It's The Walkmen doing what they want to do, as always. And here, the results are, on a musical level at least, heavenly."

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Widowmaker

Artist: Dragged Into Sunlight
Album: Widowmaker
Release Date: 6/11/2012

The year's best metal showcases the genre at it's most absolutely spine chilling


Mysticism and darkness have always been cornerstone foundations of Heavy Metal, but it doesn’t often feel as real and as indicative and sobering as that of Liverpudlian quartet Dragged Into Sunlight. The fact that these guys are a four piece Doom/ Death metal band from Merseyside is just about all anybody really knows about them. They refuse to tell their names to interviewers, play live very rarely and only appear in the public eye dressed in balaclavas. It’s the kind of thing which certainly seems gimmicky, but at its base idea is actually quite reasonable. “We don’t feel like this band needs another identity. We’re just Dragged into Sunlight,” they recently told The Quietus. Furthermore, the band work up such a memorable collective identity with their music that it seems wrong to think of them in any other way.

Like a lot of Metal bands, Dragged into Sunlight look to negativity as the main emotive inspiration behind the bulk of their work. They certainly aren’t the first band to write songs based on serial killers either, the main thematic narrative (if you will) behind their second recorded album “Widowmaker.” 

However it’s not all that often anymore that a band manages to conjure up feelings and emotions simply through the art of writing the most incredibly spine chilling of music. Whether Dragged into Sunlight had this in mind when writing this album (a single 45 minute song broken down into 3 parts) or not, that’s exactly what they’ve done.

“Widowmaker” is thematically primarily concerned with some of the most despicable acts and notions of human morality, but it doesn’t necessarily act as a moral compass. Interspersed with nerve wracking clips from documentaries about serial killers throughout, you sense it’s the atmosphere created that the band put most emphasis on here, rather than a critical stand point.

On paper, “Part I”, a 15 minute instrumental without drums, sets itself out as the calm before the storm, but there’s nothing calm about it. It’s intensely bleak. It feels like someone has a video recorder and is walking around now empty cells on Death Row, those which once belonged to murderers long taken to the execution chamber. The eerie intertwining guitar melody gets more and more prominent as it goes on and a melancholy Violin joins the foray 5 minutes before the end, adding both an increased sense of morbidity and grandiosity to the proceedings. The low- level hum and crackle in the backdrop is thick and daunting. It’s a piece of music solely designed to send shivers down your spine.

“Part II” is the storm, and my god, what a storm it is. Unfathomably heavy chords, inconceivable layers of distortion and distant, violent howls start this track off explosively, before it transforms into an old- school Death metal chug fest. Throughout the track the band also weave in that destructively epic sense of melody that they are obviously adept in, and they end on a similar crunching high point too, a strangely catchy chord progression shining through the apparently impenetrable wall of fuzz.

“Part III” begins via continuance of the 10- tonne oil tanker approach, only this feels less like the 100mph collision and more like the aftermath. At the 6 minute mark the song turns its trajectory into a shimmering bout of tranquillity, with ghostly and reflective synths murmuring behind the almost optimistic guitar notes. 

They save the most sinister moment on the album for last though. 2 minutes before the end a clip rings out thus: “I’m gonna do everything I can to try and escape, I’ll kill police officers if necessary, and then I’ll go right back to doing what I did before… Killing kids.” Enter another soaring melodic strong arm and you’ve got the most impacting ending to an album you could have hoped for.

Everything on “Widowmaker” protrudes effectively, but this isn’t the finest metal album of the year because of its musicianship. There hasn’t been another Metal album this year that has had the ability to both make us think and feel so fundamentally through the combination of atmosphere and few intelligible words. Whether it means to or not, “Widowmaker” provokes emotions and thoughts, but leaves everything up to the listener’s own mind at the same time. How many other albums this year have been such riveting talking points? Truly, this is the power of music righteously explored. 


9/10

Monday, 19 November 2012

Lyme Tymes

Artist: Ivy Dye
Album: Lyme Tymes EP
Release Date: 17/7/2012

A resoundingly grandiose and pretty debut EP from Chicago one man project


The ability to single- handedly conjure up the sound of a full band is a remarkable and not often acknowledged feat. Self- recording artists generally prefer to sink into their own shells and create their own idiosyncratic dimensions in which only they really function and only they will ever really understand (Ariel Pink, R. Stevie Moore and such ilk). That obviously isn’t the intention of Chicago based musician Chris Adams however. From the sounds of his debut EP “Lyme Times”, he’s shooting for a resounding, universal sound. Pleasingly, he gets most of the way there.

All the songs on “Lyme Times” are half way to being fully- fledged bangers. Coming across like a more refined Titus Andronicus with inflections of My Bloody Valentine and Grandaddy, many moments here swoop and soar with diligent grandiosity. This is exemplified most brilliantly by the opener “Yankee”, which has a gorgeous guitar line and a huge whooshing synth hook, as well as the beef of a full band behind it. “Heart” widens the influential spectrum with its glacial ‘80s synths, whilst “Statue” has what sounds like horns resounding in the background during the chorus over bubbling Nintendo- esque electronics. 


With every track sounding proportionally large, one wonders what Adams might achieve if he did ever endorse in a full live band. Musically there’s no correlation between “Lyme Times” and the dusty, lo- fi crackle of the works of the aforementioned self- recording luminaries. But he’s worked some wonders here on his own, and thus either way an intriguing and most likely tuneful future awaits. 

Download: 1) Yankee, 2) Snow Creek

8/10


Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City

Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Album: Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City
Release Date: 23/10/2012

2012's most conscious rap album explores human emotions and violence to a backdrop of heart stopping beauty


As the “gangsta” tag lugged so audaciously on Hip Hop since it started begins to disappear and replaced by a swathe of brilliantly creative, honest and forward thinking minds (Death Grips, Shabazz Palaces, Danny Brown etc.), few can claim to be as bright or lyrically valuable as Kendrick Lamar. Lamar is a realist- he tells everything exactly like it is. He’s incredibly sharp musically too, always finding new ways to do things, new ways to make things sound. His seemingly effortless ability to match emotion with the most wonderfully paired production is what gives him so much space to pull off an absolute odyssey like “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.”

Throughout its entirety, Kendrick tells a thrilling, depressing, raw and most importantly honest about life growing in that most infamous of American suburbs, Compton. Anyone familiar with Lamar will already know this before hearing the record, but “Good Kid…” is not even a close relative to the sentiments of NWA (although Dr. Dre does appear on the closer “Compton”). 

Simultaneously through these 12 tracks Lamar speaks of love, self- loathing, alcoholism, death, violence and religion and shows considerably extensive understanding of all. His well- weathered experiences and outlook on life have allowed him to write some gritty, some heart breaking and some uplifting tales here. This is an album that spans almost all the spheres of human emotion. 


The production is absolutely gorgeous throughout, and acts as mood- perfect catalyst for whatever Kendrick is rapping about. On “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” the beat is suitably reflective as lush, replicated guitar chords swirl around and wispy thin layer of synth mist and Kendrick starting from an emotional standpoint as he raps “you don’t know what pain is.” On “Poetic Justice,” the album’s “love” song, a beautiful, sensual and smooth female vocal harmony is bought in and to tug at the heart strings.

 At the other end of the spectrum sits the albums’ party track, the hugely audacious “Backseat Freestyle”, with a rumbling low and clashing, crisp cymbal sounds as Lamar steps into a braggadocious, laddish teen as he raps “I pray my dick get big as the Eiffel tower/ so I can fuck the world for 72 hours.”


Lamar’s word play is the crucial element however, not only because he’s a fairly incredible rapper, but because his raw, honest and literal imagery gives you an otherwise inaccessible insight into his mind like not many other rappers can do. Whether he’s addressing weakness on “Good Kid” (“I recognize I’m easy pray, I got eaten alive yesterday”), his alcohol problems on “Swimming Pools” (“All I have left is my new appetite for failure”) or joyous realization as on “I’m Real”, he hits a tantalizing nerve that will more often than not leave a lump in your throat.

There’s not much chance that “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” will be considered a classic in the future. What it definitely is though is the work of a man who, even at a very young age, has had enough experiences to create a rollercoaster ride drenched in storytelling and a very real sense of life in Compton. Lamar’s lyrical and musical sensitivity makes him one of the sharpest, most talented young men in Hip Hop, and it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll run out of ideas anytime soon.


Download: 1) Swimming Pools (Drank), 2) The Art of Peer Pressure, 3) Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe, 4) Backseat Freestyle

9/10 




Friday, 16 November 2012

Wiki93

Artist: Ratking
Album: Wiki93
Release Date: 2/11/2012

New York crew launch their rather incendiary assault on modern Hip Hop in a slightly brilliant   debut


Having a persona and character is an absolutely crucial ingredient in Hip Hop, and for the 19 year old Wiki Morales to realize this as diligently as he does is quite remarkable. On paper Ratking are a New York 4-piece Hip Hop outfit, comprising of MCs Wiki and Hak and producers Sporting Life and Ramon, but it’s Wiki’s frantic energy that sits at the core of “Wiki93.”

Almost straight away on the opener “Retired Sports” he sounds venomous and unhinged, churning out lines like “I’ve been through all my shit” and “I’ll suffocate ya ‘til you very pale” to a backdrop of cacophonous bleeps and noisy whooshes. “Comic” is furiously intense, a rumbling jungle- esque bass line rolls throughout, accompanied by disorientating screams and ear- piercing synth swells. “Piece of shit” is brutally self- deprecating, as Wiki yelps “I’m a sucker for love/ made me a sucker for drugs,” getting more and more irate as the song continues.


Even though “Wiki93” is only 7 tracks long, keeping this level of intensity throughout its entirety proves to be a little too much for the quartet. It would also be nice to hear more from Wiki’s co- frontman Hak, who sounds pivotal when he does appear, however those occurrences are rare. Nevertheless, Ratking’s fusion of concrete modernity and old school New York Hip hop will most likely have both new and old fans of the genre enthused, and Wiki is certainly a kid to pay attention to. A damn good start.

Download: 1) Piece of Shit, 2) Retired Sports, 3) Pretty Picture

7/10




You Know You Like It


Artist: AlunaGeorge
Album: You Like You Like It EP
Release Date: 20/4/2012

2012's most Anti- R'n'B R'n'B release

If you’d asked anybody in 2005 whether they thought that in a few years’ time there would a healthy bunch of artists churning an innovative, sometimes challenging take on R’n’b, the chances are that 98% of music critics would have scoffed and quashed your suggestion and told you that you ever did have the intention of something like that happening, you’d have to do it yourself. 

Such knee- jerk cynicism is customary in the world of music fandom, but it’s the type of reaction that’s almost always proved wrong. Ruling things out is a dangerous thing to do, and the emergence, talent and success of artists like Frank Ocean, The Weeknd and even Drake is testament to the idea that even in the most seemingly mundane of scenes, innovators can not only exist, but accomplish as well. 


Although AlunaGeorge certainly aren’t offering a style of r’n’b that incorporates 20 minute drones or chainsaw guitars (that needs to happen one day!), there’s plenty of room for their dynamic and aesthetic, brought to the fore in a rather missionary statement on the short but effervescently sweet “You Know You Like It” EP. George’s production is not overblown or aggressive, but it certainly contains a wealth of ideas. “You Know You Like It” is unashamedly soft, sensual and reflective but also outwardly groovy. “Just a Touch” is slightly more conventional given the R’n’B context, but the layers of tropical lushness brought in on the chorus add large bites of flavour. “Put Up Your Hands” sees the pace quicken again in an almost robotic but memorably melodic style, like a more understated Grimes.

More emotive though is the performance of Aluna. Vocally she subscribes to the Grimes school of thought in that interesting is better. Her vocals are rather childlike, but not in an obnoxious way. They’re as smooth as they are robust. Her lack of breathy sensation often indulged in by r’n’b singers is given even more prevalence when you take the lyrics into consideration.

 In many ways, “You Know You Like It” is a very anti- r’n’b piece of work. It’s cold hearted. It pushes away any notion of love, sex or excess, an entire dimension away from the ramblings of The Weeknd or Usher. “I’m not hard as a rock, I’m just not easy to break/ But don’t take that as an invitation to try” she coos in the opening line of “Just a Touch.” On “Put Up Your Hands” it gets even less enticing as she sings “You won’t get nothing from me/ Baby don’t look back to me.” 


At only three songs long, “You know You Like It” makes any judgement or prediction of success seem completely pre-emptive. However, a penchant for explosive hooks and lyricism that is consciously valuable (certainly a rare thing in mainstream r’n’b) both show a large portion of potency within Alunageorge that is bursting to be realized. Here’s to hoping that said potency is fully utilized on their debut full- length next year.

Download: 1) Just a Touch 2) Put Your Hands Up

7/10


 


Friday, 2 November 2012

Nothing Given Back: Taken 2 Reviewed

Nothing Given Back

The first ever film review on The Riviera, and an important question asked: is this the end of creativity in modern cinema?

Film: Taken 2
Directed by: Olivier Megaton
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen
Released date: 3/10/2012

A fascinating point often made, and one that is especially true of the Movie and film industry that we have today, is that creativity and popularity do not necessarily have any correlation between them. That used to be the case of course. Celebrated works like The Shining, Apocalypse Now or Alien are thus revered because there had never been anything before like them. Throughout the cultural revolutions of the '60s and '70s, the cinema attending masses were much more willing to have their own personal boundaries of what was acceptable pushed and twisted into disorientation. Nowadays people are much more accepting of "meat and potatoes" adaptations and works of media art, meaning that essentially, they just want to be pleased. It means that usually the more creative films begin to garner more a cult following and fan base, quite undeservedly a lot of the time. It also means that there is plenty of the mentality who love to lap up things like Taken 2.

Taken 2 is the sequel to, err, Taken, the 2008 film by Olivier Megaton, in which a man's daughter goes on holiday to Europe and gets kidnapped and turned into a forcefully Heroin- addled prostitute. Thus, our action man Liam Neeson embarks on an epic adventure across Europe in search of his daughter, killing, torturing and making ominous phone calls as he does so. Taken was exactly that kind of "meat and potatoes" action film, although it was expanded and made more colourful by some incredible inclusions of tension. In Taken 2, we're back in Eastern Europe (Istanbul), and the relatives of those who Neeson (character name Bryan Mills, an ode to creativity indeed) killed in the search for his daughter are hunting him and his family down in search of revenge.


A bit like the Hostel franchise, Taken 2 essentially relies on the basics of the story line of the first, only this time it's the mother and Mills' wife Lenore (Janssen) who gets kidnapped. So, the first problem with Taken 2 is the aforementioned lack of creativity. Secondly, just as he so often does, Liam Neeson looks as emotive as a wooden plank most of the time, ironically especially so at a particular scene in which the situation would probably send any man into a murderous rage. Thirdly, Kim's (Maggie Grace) turn as a Lara Croft- esque action girl simply doesn't suit, not to mention the ridiculous rescue "tactics" she employs towards the end of the film. Finally, and perhaps most disappointingly, for the most part Taken 2 is completely passionless. There's none of the tension or suspense that the first film managed to weave in its favour.

Most worryingly of all however is the fact that this will almost definitely be one of the most popular films of the year. That's not necessarily a worrying fact because audience's tastes have been dumbed down. People will watch what they like. But it confirms that the cash cow now dominates modern mainstream cinema, and thus suggests the conclusion that perhaps very soon there won't be any room for creativity in mainstream cinema at all. Go and see Taken 2, you may very well enjoy it.

3/10