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


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


Friday, 16 November 2012


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


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



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.