Saturday, 26 May 2012


Artist: Beach House
Album: Bloom
Release Date: 15/5/2012

They may be four albums in and still peddling dream- pop rhetoric, but Beach House prove they're still the best in the game, even if "Bloom" isn't always that interesting

There's always been something in place to rank Beach House high above the rest of the dream- pop/ chillwave contingent and that is largely due to their ambition and, well, ability. By the end of 2009 it was embarassing to be lumped in with the chillwave lot, even for said scene's instigators. Alas, Beach House peddled on, their ability to craft freshly beautiful tunes and ambition keeping them relevant. And so in 2012 we come to "Bloom."

The New York duo's 4th full- length resounds with ambition and occasionally that of epic proportions. It often makes an effort to sound much beefier, much more overtly grandiose than 2010's subtle beauty "Teen Dream", and it often works too. Opener "Myth" begins with a percussive, metal clang before shortly being joined by a gorgeously cloudy piano line and soothingly warm guitar line, and ends on a bout of rising tremolo picking. "Lazuli" is a cold, graceful synth- pop banger of the highest order, resoundingly open for a Beach House track. In stark contrast to the icy and dense glacial music, Victoria LeGrand searches her heart and finds the warmest interpretations of love residing there as she sings "Like no other you can't be replaced."

"Bloom", true to the risk Beach House and dream- pop in general all too often run, is sometimes laborious, like on "Wishes" and "New Year", the latter of which's verses are unfortunately bland and the track's only saving grace is its remotely catchy chorus. Beach House may be struggling to find consistently re- vitalising ideas here, but then they don't necessarily need to. Their prowess as dream- pop half- deities is renowned, and there are at least a handful of songs on "Bloom" that prove that prowess is deserved.

Download: 1) Myth, 2) Lazuli, 3) Troublemaker
For Fans Of: Portishead, Exitmusic, The Cure


Friday, 25 May 2012


Artist: Torche
Album: Harmonicraft
Release Date: 24/4/2012

The stoner- metal stalwarts' third is a thrilling exercise in euphoria

Since the turn of the century, aside from the evolution of Heavy Metal music which extends back decades beforehand, the seemingly casual norm amongst a wealth of metal bands has been to re- write the consitutional laws that can be applied to metal, almost to the point where certain tomes by bands like Ulver and Sunn0))) do not willingly reside within the bracket itself. In the same context of sonic shifts, it's not like melody has never taken precendence in metal music before, but even by today's standards to take glistening melodies and near pop sensibilities after years of bludgeoning heaviosity, as Torche have done on their third full- length "Harminocraft" is a brave move, and to the most hard hearted recesses of the metal community, rigidly taboo.

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.

"Letting Go", the album's opening short but compelling blast, is full of enormous tribal drum patterns which roll around the gargantuan backdrop helpfully set in stone by the production, meaning that even whilst the lead guitar line glitters and soars it still sounds suitably meaty. "Kicking" is the album's infectious power- pop rush, easily applicable to something that the Foo Fighters or a slightly heavier "Only Revelations"- era Biffy Clyro would do. It's hugely anthemic and even has a tinge of summery reverb in the chorus. "Walk It Off" is a ferocious break- neck punk thrash, but even at its relentlessly pulse- quickening pace nothing is detached from its harmonious rush.

"Snakes Are Charmed" begins with a towering arpeggio that sparkles with virtuosity before leading into the album's most affecting guitar lead section in the bridge. "Solitary Traveler" is majestic, like an arms- aloft stoner- metal ballad produced by Simon Neill with a heavy synth fog having over it in none- too- cringeworthy dramatic pose.

There are moments where remnants of Torche's former sound return to the fore, but that is no bad thing. "Reverse Inverted" is a mammoth Sabbathian trundle, whilst closer "Looking On" is the closest they get to replicating their former sonic pastures. It's mournful and ominous, but at the same time the chords have a sense of heartfelt epicness to them.

"Harmonicraft" is incendiary not because of any out and out genius or bright sparks of intensely skilled musicianship, but its marriage of punishing heaviness and escalating hooks is electrifying and memorable without ever being overly complex. Even if it doesn't appeal to that stone cold few, it rings with conviction and ultimately unashamed self- belief. It may not be as "boundary pushing" as much of what we've come to expect from experimentalism in Metal, but it's a monstrously enjoyable ride all the same.

Download: 1) Walk It Off, 2) Kicking, 3) Solitary Traveler, 4) Snakes Are Charmed
For Fans Of: Mastodon, Foo Fighters, Biffy Clyro


Saturday, 19 May 2012

Double Review: Mystery Jets & THEEsatisfaction


I haven't had the time on my hands to write any full- length, in- depth reviews in the last week or so, and I'm afraid to say that I will be very pushed for time in the coming months. To quell the drought this week I've written two very short reviews of two albums that I have been meaning to review for a while now but haven't been able to get round to it. Sorry for the briefness of it all, but expect to see me doing this quite a bit more over the next few months. However, hopefully I'll have time to write some proper ones in the near future.


Mystery Jets- Radlands
Ever since their 2006 debut "Making Dens", the Eel Pie Island quartet have proceeded down a route utterly enthralled by pop music that was largely at its prime just before their time. A risky route to take, the poppier path means that Mystery Jets have, as have any pop band, walked the thin line between anthemic brilliance and just being absolutely cringeworthy. On "Radlands", despite traversing through a distinctly more American trajectory, the old charms remain in abundance. The musicianship is arguably better than ever, especially on album highlight "Greatest Hits" and "The Hale Bop", a full- on '70s afro- funk swing that shows the band are dab- hands at eclecticism. Lyrically it's like a very English take on a modern American love story, all the heartfelt imagery still a staple part of the Mystery Jets diet.


THEEsatisfaction- awE naturalE

Sub Pop's attempts to diversify its output have only succeeded so far, with Shabazz Palaces' brilliant landmark album "Black Up" in 2011 and its 2012 cultural label co- headliner THEEsatisfaction's "awE naturalE." "AwE natural" is nearly always smooth, sexy and tinglingly sensual. It's darkest moment, "Enchantruss" has a paranoid and rather ugly melody but a mesmerising witch- like lure, whilst elsewhere the two generally indulge in gorgeous warmth, as the looped melodies on "Existinct" and "Deeper" prove. The duo's voices work in beautiful conjunction, and although not every moment here is heavily impacting, almost every note seems intriguingly heartfelt.


Saturday, 12 May 2012

The Shallows

Artist: I Like Trains
Album: The Shallows
Release Date: 7/5/2012

The Leeds post - rockers' stunning third full- length is a startleing reality check

In a world where the general consensus of being an adaptable human being is having your pulse on the times and being able to handle any given situation, information and advancement are two absolutely pivotal ingredients to what is percieved to be the mentality of a well- rounded, world- wearing human being. Information, whether it's via the internet, mainstream papers, television or radio, is delivered at a terrifyingly fast pace, and the utopian dream of easy living is fast disappearing out of the window. This isn't a new thing either. Ever since technological advancement was deemed essential (and industrialism before it) in the 1960s, people have had to move with the times desperately for the sake of not becoming reclusive or out of touch. In particular, the internet's abusive nature in terms of human patience and essence is what inspired Nicolas Carr's Pulitzer Prize nominated tome "The Shallows" last year, and thus equally so, what inspired Leeds Post- Rock five piece I Like Trains to strike up in conceptual unison again.

Despite I Like Trains' ever- precent eccentric narrative tendencies, which do come to life frequently here,  "The Shallows" is an album that is very much a modern record. It's a record that deals solidly with the problems caused by the vast outflow of information and increasingly easy access to it, which has lead probably the majority of society to forget everything that they might stand for otherwise and probably did before. In the increasingly modern environment there is much less room and time for heritage and history, as this world's mind is bent on progression. On "The Shallows", I Like Trains don't suggest a complete reformation of society and state. They don't suggest that a Stone Roses reunion is a staple item of nostalgia, nor do they suggest a re- analysis and build of society. They are purely reminiscing with sincerety and, at the deepest sects of the record, remorse.

As we've come to expect from the band lyrically, indirect narration and metaphorical literacy propels "The Shallows" along. "Mnesomyne" for example, named after the ancient Greek goddess of memory, is full of lines which sound absolutely lovelorn, as David Martin dutifully intones in the recognisable deadpan, "I am nothing without you", before tackling the subject matter head on at the end, as he begs society to slow down and encompass those who are supposedly struggling to keep up on the closing line "Just promise you won't leave me here alone with my thoughts." On "Water/Sand" Martin reaches for those long lost and rather extreme recesses of medieval feudalism as he sings "We made hay while the sun shone/ Slept through the night with our clothes on." Dreaming of such things is thought- provoking and actually rather beautiful, a trait which Martin's songwriting has always incorporated.

Sonically, I Like Trains have gone under somewhat of a transformation. They've taken the sprawling, cascading Post- Rock tendencies of old and turned them into something more fervent, more immediate and encouragingly diverse (those seeking more concise referencing, "The Shallows" would fit comfortably between Wild Beasts' "Two Dancers" and Mogwai's "Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will" in a record collection). Opener "Beacons" starts off with a pulsating, dark synth line which is intertwined with increasingly intricate guitar noodling as the song progresses, before a shimmering and anthemic keyboard melody takes precedence in the chorus, Martin's vocals battling for air and space in the intoxicating psycho- technoligical subject matter of which he sings.

"Mnesomyne" is a "Two Dancers"- era esque banger. Resonant but distant chords reverberate around in the background as patient tribal drumming builds up into  percussive motorik. Three layers of guitar carry the main melody, and they work astoundingly well in conjunction with each other, one playing a high- speed palm- muted cascade, the other intricate picking and the other those resounding, echoing chords. "The Turning of the Bones" is almost krautrock in essence, reminiscent of the electronic strand of Wire at their absolute softest.

"We Used To Talk" is the real talking point here though, and not necessarily because it's the most original, but just because of it's momentum and impact. The first few seconds are like the intro of the darkest, deepest floor- fillers, a softly pounding kick- drum and repetatively dark synth beat forming the main part of the melody as a sinister low- end buzz intervenes. As the song marches forward it endorses in the tricks the precede it on the album- the soft tremolo picking, gorgeous melodies and impressively rigid and percussive drumming, and is the most profound musical moment here.

"The Shallows" presents itself like a distant dream that you once had, that was beautiful but is now almost lost from your memory completely, but it's so much more than that. In deliberately ignoring ambition and acknowledging the current happenings and full voltage advancement of these electronically orientated times,
it's not so much idiosyncratic as it is extremely comforting. It's comforting to know that you're not the only one struggling to keep up the expansion and mentality of human existence. At the same time however, it's a stark reality check. It's a recosgnisation of how far and fast things have come and are going, how much the world is dispensing with the old form, and in doing so, it raises the startleing question- How much longer can it go on for until, to make another literary link, "1984" style functioning is upon us? "The Shallows" can proudly count itself as one of the most thought- provoking releases so far this year.

Download: 1) We Used To Talk, 2) Mnesomyne, 3) The Hive, 4) Reykjavik
For Fans Of: Wild Beasts, The Maccabees, Mogwai


Friday, 11 May 2012

The Weekend Mix- 11/5/2012

Greetings folks, and welcome to the latest chapter in the development of the riviera blog- a weekly spotify playlist that features the choicest cuts from my listening hours. The playlist will be posted every friday and will feature a selection of the best songs that I've heard and have been consistently enjoying over the course of that week. This week's mix, as will hopefully every playlist in the rest of the forthcoming series, will have something for everyone. From the glorious euphoria of Bobby Tank's '80s synth- pop and early 00s R'n'B to the crust and doom- laden heaviness of Flats to the mind- boggling sonic buggary of Black Dice, hopefully you'll find something that you'll like. If not though, then, well... I'm sorry.

I've specifically not included a description of each of the tracks below their places in the tracklist below. Saying this might seem like a serious contradiction, as I one day hope to make a living out of writing about music, but I think there's a certain beauty in anonymity to be enjoyed here. Once you start describing what something sounds like to someone, it may very well go great lengths in decreasing the thrill that they would usually feel about a piece of music that they didn't know anything about before listening. Plus, it's not actually like you NEED me to tell you what these songs sound like... I suspect you can work that out for yourself.

01: Bobby Tank- LionStar
02: I Like Trains- We Used To Talk
03: Alt- J- Breezeblocks
04: Mystery Jets- Greatest Hits
05: 2:54- Creeping
06: Flats- Foxtrot
07: Black Dice- Spy Vs. Spy
08: Off!- Wiped Out
09: Blacklisters- Trickfuck
10: Gravenhurst- The Prize

Enjoy this week's playlist, which you can listen to via spotify in a link posted here:

Thursday, 3 May 2012

An Over- Indulgence: Death Grips

Artist: Death Grips
Album: The Money Store
Release Date: 24/4/2012

Why you're unlikely to hear anything better than Death Grips' second album all year

In Quentin Tarantino's 1994 classic "Pulp Fiction", just before the two main protagonists portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta enter a burger cafe to confront to simple street crims who ripped them off, Jackson utters the words "Let's get in role." Not only does this signify the moment in the film where Jackson's character turns into one of the creepiest and intense psycopaths ever witnessed on screen, but it's also a saying that can be applied to pretty much any situation in life when a sense of responsibility or character is recquired. It's an adage that has never consciously been acknowledged in music before, but one that you could easily fit to the mentality of somebody like David Byrne in some of Talking Heads' darker work, or MF Doom throughout his entire career. In recent times though, the most noticeable and obvious exponent of such a mentality is, without a doubt, California experimental hip- hop trio Death Grips.

Comprising of Hella drummer Zach Hill, producer Flatlander and the brutish, intense and enigmatic MC Ride (real name Steffan Burnett), Death Grips announced their arrival as a collective entity last year with their amazing free mixtape "Ex- Military." Such a destructive, forward thinking force that seemingly just loomed large out of the blue some time around mid- April was a polarising piece of intensity on an enormous scale, and it's visionary structure and brutality was wholeheartedly unprecendented. It was a barbarous shock to the nervous system that either had the indie hip- hop masses enthralled or covering their ears with Lil' Wayne's "Tha Carter IV" and running off helplessly into the distance, never to return to such dark recesses. It was, you could say, the most experimental and mind bending (if not entirely consistent) hip hop record in years.

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.

Such a practical and humanistic record must by tackled with sensible strategy, and so the only way to fully grasp the force of "The Money Store" is with a track- by- track analysis. And so here it is, a comprehensive guide to an exercise in ardent brilliance.

01: "Get Got". A skittering, intoxicating opener. The beat is formed from kaleidoscopic, euphoria- drenched synths that are pretty but are turned up to pulverising volume and are epileptically intense. MC Ride's delivery is more controlled and comfortable in his evil persona. He embodies a more clinical and measured type of evil. It's as though having announced his arrival on "Ex- military" he is now relishing in the traits and personality that such an arrival allowed him. It's a surefire announcement of intent, only it's a much more wholesome and solid announcement.

02: "The Fever (Aye Aye)". Zach Hill's drumming sounds absolutely huge on this Gripsian- anthem of the highest order. The hook contained in this song is the first main moment on the money store in which Death Grips experiment with the idea of making what is effectively a Death Grips pop song. The wooping synth melody in the chorus is gorgeous and even the dissonant synth rushes in the verses have a sense of epicness to their cause. Ride is back to his trademark trick of yelling his twat off but he still sounds capably sharp and more comfortable and intelligent than he ever did on "Ex- Military."

03: "Lost Boys". "Lost Boys" has a more mechanical flare to it, encompassing those signature grinding synths as a steady beat push the song along at it's same thrilling pace for its entirety. Ride's vocals battle with the music for space, and for the full affect of this song, the most hard- hitting moment on the record yet, you need to here the patronising violence in his tone as he says "it's such a long way down". It's as though we are falling down to hell and Ride is the devil himself, standing over the gaping hole in the earth's core and laughing.

04. "Blackjack". The first really brutal moment on the album. There's a pulverisingly dark synth riff and pounding beat which evolves as it progrssess, adding in more and more intricacies as it builds. Ride's vocals are shrouded in a mist of reverb and eerily echoing affects that make his vocals ripple and vibrate in alienating fashion. The stop- start motion of the last verse takes the brick- to- skull intensity of the song to its maximum level.

05: "Hustle Bones". A more simple moment, "Hustle Bones" is built around an impeccable hook made up of a looped female vocal segment but within itself contains one of the album's most infectious moments.

06: "I've Seen Footage". If the lead synth line on this stylistic ode to Salt 'n' Peppa's classic "Push It" wasn't so ugly then, "I've Seen footage", a 1991 style banger about police violence, would hardly be saved from being cringeworthy. However, it cements it's place on the album as something Death grips have never really tried before; an old- school party banger, and it does a more than adequate job too.

07. "Double Helix". A fuzzy, minimalistic riff carries this song along with some more life- affirmingly pretty cut 'n' paste female vocal samples and disconcerting chimes. The lyrics and delivery show Ride once again revelling in the violence he raps about, fully taking on the persona he has built for himself over the course of Death Grips' career and endorsing in it fully.

08. "System Blower". Easily the heaviest moment on the album. The riff here is an absolutely unbreakable force and pummels along with the same intensity and similar sound to an overly aggressive dubstep melody. There are scathing interludes of ear- grinding dissonance thrown in for extreme measure, as well as glitchy and fractured but colourful bleeps and patterns. It's a full embodiment of the same kind of burning anger and boundary pushing fire that took up a more than moderate share of "Exmilitary."

09. "The Cage." Intricate percussive techniques and wooping, high- pitched synths are whacked up to brain- numbingly loud volumes on "The Cage", all of which builds into a devastating climax that confirms it's place as the album's most brutal ending.

10. "Punk Weight." This opens up on with a fusion of what sounds like a sample of a funky Asian psych- pop tune and Hill's pummelling drumming before embarking on a typical Death Grips assault on the senses. Flatlander employs the fuzz once again and turns the intensity up, forcing the eardrums into submission just as much as the overstated wailing on "The Cage" did.

11. "Fuck That." This song structures itself more like one of the more minimalistic and experimental moments on "Exmilitary." It's sparse, although the continuously rolling tribal drums, deep and resonating synth squelches and Ride's extreme delivery ensure that the same level of intensity shown throughout the majority of the record is present here.

12. "Bitch Please." Death Grips doing '80s synth worship sounds so ominous that you may very well be tempted to turn away now, but please, stay awhile, for this is another one of those tracks possessing a mighty hook and anthemic quality. It has a slinky and dirty undertow but over the top fly glacial, ice cold but soaring melodies. Ride sounds more ominous and firm about his direction into brutality than at almost any other point on the money store. He reeks of cocksurity and intent as he raps "When the shit goes down I'll be there with my hand on my gun and my eye on the road."

13. "Hacker". This sees the trio trying their hand at full- on, rave distinct mid- '90s sweatbox dance. It's noisy, paranoid and endlessly confrontational, as the booming drums and enormous synths are met by psychotic claims from Ride like "WHEN YOU COME OUT YOUR SHIT IS GONE" and "I'M IN YOUR AREA." A terrifyingly fitting way to end the album, "Hacker" is a full on reminder of just how dangerous Death grips really are and just how much that, in their own idiosyncratic world which, is not unlike ours, you should be wary of people like MC Ride.

Are there any faults? Not really. "The Money Store" doesn't sound or attempt to be an absolute game- changer in the same way that "Exmilitary" certainly sounded like it was an announcement to change and influence the fundamental laws of hip hop, but that is partly it's greatest strength. It's an album that simply tries to be what it is; the sound of a band finding their own space, their own tight, untouchable niche to operate in and maximising their capability to ensure that, within that growing corner of the indie- blogosphere, they excel. And on the strength of "The Money Store", Death grips are entirely untouchable. Is it the best album of all time? Probably not. But you'll have a hard job finding something better than it for the whole of the rest of 2012.

Download: All of it
For Fans Of: Shabazz Palaces, Danny Brown


Tuesday, 1 May 2012


Artist: Jack White
Album: Blunderbuss
Release Date: 24/4/2012

White's debut solo effort sees him at his most visceral and personal yet

It's a reasonable anaylsis that ever since "Seven Nation Army" Jack White has had the relatively mainstream sector of the rock 'n' roll world enthralled. Not only was that the break- out point for his most famous outlet, the brother/ sister (or husband/ wife, depending on who you ask) duo The White Stripes, but for years afterwards it had what seemed like the world hanging on his every pick of a guitar string. And quite rightly too- rock 'n' roll visionaries have always become embedded in the hallows of rock history and culture, and even though White has never ventured far out of the safety net provided by his undoubtably extensive record collection, only a fool would deny the need for "White Blood Cells" to be preserved for eternity.

"Blunderbuss", a feat that was utlimately always inevitable, is both a predictable and unexpected Jack White record. If you hadn't heard bluesy lead- off ditty "Love Interruption" chances are you would approach the record expecting one of two things; 1) It to be another high voltage dosage of crashing cymbals and crunching guitars or 2) a half- hearted, ineffective acoustic album. Arguably nobody would have guessed it would be a deeply personal and painful set of violent lovelorn tunes that reads a bit like a history of the landmark american genres Blues, Country and Funk. But that's exactly what it is. Never has White sounded so vicious in his career.

There's always been an abrupt and brutally honest romance about White's lyricism, but on "Blunderbuss" he employs the rawest imagery that we've heard from him yet. "I was in the shower so I could not tell my nose was bleeding" is the first line of opener "Missing Pieces", and as it progresses it tells an increasingly gnarly account of the pains of love before asserting at the end "They'll walk away and take a part of you with them." He's at it again on "Freedom at 21" as he sings (with slight melodrama) "She don't care what kind of wounds she's inflicting on me" over a sleazy, slinky and memorably catchy riff. The aforementioned "Love Interruption" acts as a slight counterpart to itself. Musically it's a bluesy, peaceful acoustic duet rich in eccentricity and a glorious keyboard riff, but lyrically it's White's most violent yet as he sings "I want love to stick a knife inside me and twist it all around."

There is, remarkably, quite a lot of room for versitality here. The title track is an idealistic, swooning country ballad with tranquil violins lilting in and out gorgeously. "Weep Themselves To Sleep" is more something you might expect from angular '70s pop fanatics Field Music, whilst halfway through it's progression closer "Take Me With You When You Go" transforms into the kind of grimy, fuzzy freak- funk wig out that probably mostly inspired White's output in The Dead Weather.

It's not all consistent and hard- hitting. In fact in its later half "Blunderbuss" wilts into a series of slow- burning, uninteresting songs. But by bearing his soul to its very core on some of these tracks, White has grasped the masterful art of brutality in lyricism that Tom Waits would love to regain. "Blunderbuss" is all at once a dark, pretty and accessible album which fully centres around and exposes White's heart, and there is much to be reaped from that.

Download: 1) Blunderbuss, 2) Hypocritical Kiss, 3) Missing Pieces
For Fans Of: Brendan Benson, Ray Charles, Bo Diddly