Friday, 29 June 2012

New Sounds: Big Boi

Legendary Outkast rapper Big Boi is set to release his second solo effort "Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors" later this year, and "Gossip" is the first track to be released from the record. On "Gossip", Big Boi moves away from the glossy, pop- inflected hooks of his 2010 effort "Sir Lucious Left foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty" and heads into much darker and more minimalistic territory. A pensive low- end buzz rumbles throughout the tune, and there's not much in the way of a melody either. Dark, electronic pulses spring forth every now and again, and a eerily twinkling synth bleep- a- thon rises to the fore in places too. This is a much darker and colder sound from Big Boi, although still irresistibly smooth in its swagger, as the man himself and Southern brother Big K.R.I.T. lay down some impressive  lines. 

Thursday, 28 June 2012

New Sounds: Jessie Ware

Thanks to figures like Florence Welch, Lana Del Rey and Emelie Sande, the definition of the "conventional" pop star has been twisted and obscured, and much room has been created for more individual and ecelectic artists to exist within the world of radio- friendly pop. Jessie Ware is one such figure for which there is space, and her new single "Wildest Moments", although unashamedly chart- friendly, is by no means peddling the Cole and Minaj- esque plasticism and posturing. The drums resound and echo as though they were recorded in a  church, and to add to such a sense of depth and majesty, a subtle but profound cosmic synth wash dominates the background, almost like a slightly fuzzy organ. The most mainstream thing about it is the chief hook, which does peddle daytime pop pastiche as Ware sings in her sultry but strong vocals "Baby in our wildest moments/ we could be the greatest", but the piece as a whole is so pretty it hardly matters. 

New Sounds: Chapel Club

London moody Interpol- baiting types Chapel Club have returned this week with a new single by the name of "Sleep Alone", and anybody who was at all in love with the sound of their debut album "Palace" which came out in January of last year had better prepare for a rather large surprise. "Sleep Alone" sees the dreary, grey soundscapes of their debut, and in fact ditch the guitars completely in favour of layer upon layer of synth colour for a mesmerising and beautiful mesh of synths and enormous sounding drums. The song itself pursues a hazy, chilled out and gorgeously smooth vibe, which are certainly helped by Lewis Bowman's coos of "I don't want to sleep alone." A complete sonic shift from the sound of their debut, there's no release date for their new record "Good Together" as of yet, but I'll definitely be interested to see what that record's like after hearing this.

Grab a free download of "Sleep Alone" via the band's soundcloud below. Also, via the link below you can listen to three new tracks from "Good Together."

R.A.P. Music

Artist: Killer Mike
Album: R.A.P. Music
Release Date: 14/5/2012

Fiery political rhyming and continuously destructive beats make Killer Mike's 6th an intense listening experience

It's inevitable that different people will have different ideas about what "real" America is. A White middle- class person will probably perceive their own brand of "real" America as leafy, sleepy suburbia, all David Lynch- ian white picket fences and smart terraced houses. Atlanta rapper Killer Mike, however, has a very different perception of what "real" America is, and right from the off on his 6th album "R.A.P. Music," he's intent on leading us all down its many dark, cold and deprived alley ways.

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." "Just like the Bushes, Clinton and Obama, just another talking head telling lies" he asserts before closing his lyrical battering of the former President's regime on the heart- stopping prose of "I'll leave you with these words, I'm glad Reagan's dead."

It's this kind of wake up call that, although almost never- endingly intense, is what Hip- Hop needs right now.  Not only does it shove the limelight deservedly back on one of the most under- appreciated underground characters, but for Mike to write a song like "Reagan" is not only prolific for himself, but for hip- hop in general. It's easily the most "real" Hip- Hop record of the year so far.

Download: 1) Reagan, 2) Butane (Champion's Anthem), 3) "Go!"
For Fans Of: Death Grips, Ab- Soul, Danny Brown


The Riviera Summer Mix 2012

It's June, and summer has finally dawned. Or not as the case may be here in the UK (as always). Yes, as per usual the English summer is smothered and is having the life squeezed out of it but showers of rain, grey skies and sometimes unbearable humidity, with only the brief glimpse of sunshine coming through occasionally. But here's to hoping, eh? 

As it is summer, I thought I'd compile a playlist of shining, upbeat, gloriously melodic and summery tunes for your enjoyment if the weather does ever pick up the pace a bit. It's not an entirely 2012 exclusive list, however there are some fine tracks from some of the albums that I'll be enjoying continuously this summer, including those from Hot Chip, Liars and Simian Mobile Disco, but it also contains some older favourites which are best enjoyed with a pint of cold beer, a barbecue and sunshine in your garden such as Foals, Caribou and The Beach Boys.

Even if the British summer never truly arrives, hopefully these tracks will make pleasant listening whatever the weather.

Listen to the playlist via Spotify by following the link below:

Foals To Release "Tapes"

Oxford Indie- poppers Foals have made a compilation album entitled "Tapes", which is due to be released on the 2nd of July. The tape was compiled by keyboardist Edwin Congreave, who has said that it was "supposed to reflect the tastes of all members of the band." "Tapes" comprises of the band's favourite slices of House, Funk and Disco, which some excellent choice cuts from the likes of Nicolas Jaar, The Invisible, Oni Ayhun and Arnold Jarvis amongst many others. Expect a review of it shortly.

Read more about "Tapes" and see the track listing by following the link below: 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Point Of No Return

Artist: Havok
Album: Point Of No Return EP
Release Date: 14/5/2012

Devoid of originality, but not of blistering thrash metal purity

Perhaps one of the most irritating occurances in music is when bands cover songs and neglect any of their own flavour and character from the proceedings. Thus, even though Havok do a wonderful rendition of Sepultura's "Arise" on "Point Of No Return", there's no reason why you should listen to that, or their Slayer medley comprising of covers of "Postmortem" and "Reign In Blood" over the originals. However, the two new original tracks here are both apocalyptic, barn stormingly abrasive exercises in old- school thrashing, clearly defined but all the more memorable for it. Originality has never enjoyed much prominence in Thrash Metal, and since Havok pummel through this EP with the precision of seemingly decades of musicianship behind them, we may forgive them their misteps somewhat.

Download: Point Of No Return
For Fans Of: Exodus, Kreator, Sepultura


Monday, 4 June 2012


Artist: The Walkmen
Album: Heaven
Release Date: 29/5/2012

The Walkmen marry their genuine emotion with some of the most beautiful soundscapes they've ever produced

In music, it can sometimes be hard to interpret whether those artists writing about "real loss and pain" are being absolutely genuine. That may seem like a cyncial and unfair assertion to some, but there's always been a subtley obvious dividing line between the genuine and painfully modest and authentic (Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen) and the scene- endorsing posturing (My Chemical Romance). Thankfully since their emergence in 2000, amongst the dry and plastic hipster appeal of the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Walkmen have always been the latter. Their disregard for any particular image or rock music's marketing trap- holes presents them as probably the most authentic rock group America has roduced in recent years. It has always been a case of knowing that they mean what they say rather than hoping they do.

"Heaven", their 6th full- length, is not vastly different. There was a slight hint before its release that The Walkmen were minutely inspired by the goading history of American rock arrogance, assuming a sort of stately gentlemen position with pictures of them all in suits and frontman Hamilton Leithauser saying things like it is a "collection of classic American rock songs." But there's little pretension to be wary of here. The subject matter veers towards talking about collective unity occasionally, which means "Heaven" is sometimes devoid of the very human characteristic that, whether they wanted it to or not, has often defined them. But hey, change isn't always a bad thing, is it?

"Love Is Luck" is instantly cynical, swept with the heartbreak of 2010's "Lisbon", but it manages to be consistently upbeat with its persistent, driving drums and afro- beaty lead guitar line, suggesting a certain amount of rejuvination, although it's not lacking in experience. Importantly, like many of the songs here, it carries a great sense of purpose. "Heartbreaker" follows and plunges into a beautifully simple ramble with a chiming and instantly memorable lead guitar part. The human realism is brought to play here as Leithauser sings  "I'm not your heartbreaker... These are the good years" with that distinctive conviction.

"Southern Heart" is a mellow acoustic ode to national unity somewhat, but is more inspired by a loss of sense of self than any rigid conservatism. It undergoes a White Stripes- esque shift in its continously calm trajectory towards the end and turns sinisterly personal, as Leihauser sings "Tell me again how you love all the men you were after."

Some of the most affecting moments here are when the instrumentation is pushed to the fore, as on "Line By Line." A resounding, expansive lone electric guitar runs a gorgeous melody (even if it is rather similar to R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts"), whilst "Nightingales" is a starkly beautiful exercise in euphoric tremolo picking and a majestic melody that nearly reaches post- rocky heights.

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.

Download: 1) Line By Line, 2) Nightingales, 3) Southern Heart
For Fans Of: The War On Drugs, Spoon, Bruce Springsteen