Sunday, 13 December 2015

Hey, Colossus: The Riviera's Top 15 LP's of 2015

Image credit: Johdrew Flickr 

It's that time of year again! Instead of pre-empting the list with a rambling post about my year in music, or what music has meant in 2015 etc, I've decided to just make a couple of short and sweet points about this list.

1) These albums are ranked purely based on how many times I've revisited/ wanted to go back to these albums, for whatever reason. They're the ones I've gotten the most enjoyment and emotion from and have had on repeat throughout the year, even 10 or 11 months down the line.

2) There's no Young Thug, Julia Holter or Deafheaven in this list.

3) The albums listed below in the "Honourable mentions" section are all records which I've really enjoyed and think are good to great, but for whatever reason I haven't given them the time they deserve. Given more time with some of these records, I'm sure I could have made a top 20 or top 25 album list.

Honourable Mentions:
A$AP Rocky- At.Long.Last.A$AP.
Carly Rae Jepson- Emotion
Coheed and Cambria- The Colour Before The Sun
Father John Misty- I Love You, Honeybear
Foals- What Went Down
Iron Maiden- The Book of Souls
Jay Rock- 90059
Jlin- Dark Energy
Palm Reader- Beside The Ones We Love
Roots Manuva- Bleeds
Spectres- Dying
TesseracT- Polaris

So, without further ado, read my guide to the top 15 albums that have thrilled me most this year. As ever, a huge thank you to those who continue to support this blog! All kind words are received very warmly indeed and I'll buy you all a beer at some point.

15. Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp A Butterfly

How Kendrick Lamar would follow 2012's 'Good Kid M.A.A.D. City', considered by many to be a modern classic, was a burning question right from the very second that album finished. It should never have been doubted though; sprawling, forward thinking and culturally vital is what Lamar does best, and although 'To Pimp A Butterfly' didn't possess as much replay value for this listener as his previous full-lengths, it was certainly all of those things. It speaks volumes, in a number of different ways, that Barack Obama chose 'How Much a Dollar Cost' as his favourite song of the year. 

14. Chelsea Wolfe- Abyss
Los Angeles singer- songwriter Chelsea Wolfe has always enjoyed a sort of cult crossover appeal, championed by both blogosphere hipsters and the Heavy metal press simultaneously. Her darkest, heaviest but also most diverse work to date, 'Abyss' is a sometimes nightmarish, often beautiful and always atmospheric ode to loss, heartbreak and depression, her vision as a writer and composer marks her out as an entity that thinly traverses the line between Earthy and other-worldly. 

13. High On Fire- Luminiferous

In perhaps the way that everybody hoped it would, 'Luminiferous' made good on the notion of perfecting the art they were going for 'De Vermis Mysteriis'. Although Matt Pike's post-Sleep trio have always been consistent in the realms of crushing heaviness, bleak historical story-telling and churning out hulking grooves and riffs, 'Luminiferous' contains some of the most melodic, memorable and fist-clenching songs they've written to date. From the glorious anthemic quality of the likes of 'The Sunless Years' (a contender for Metal track of the year for my money) to the unbridled thrash fury of 'Slave The Hive' to the shimmering, thick balladry of 'The Cave', this is High On Fire's most wholesome album thus far. 

12. Everything Everything- Get To Heaven

For a band who have always seemed to be almost TOO intelligent (or too pretentious, depending on who you ask) for their own good, it's an absolute joy to be able to include Manchester art-poppers Everything Everything's third full-length in this list. A bleak, often disturbing and strange narrative based on the idea that the world is truly going to shit, 'Get To Heaven' is a sigh of disgruntlement, a morose observational on-looker as world politics enters a prominently strange, disorientating time. But compositionally it sees the band take a huge step forward as well. This is undeniably their most accessible work to date (both 'Distant Past' and 'Regret' made it on to the Radio 1 A playlist), but their unashamed forays into indulgent weirdness are present and correct without detracting anything from most of these songs. The staggeringly beautiful 'No Reptiles' is probably their finest moment to date. 

11. RP Boo- Fingers, Bank Pads and Shoe Prints
Footwork can claim to be one of the only genres in recent times that has become a VICTIM of hyperbolic media coverage, and so much of that is down to juke pioneer RP Boo, a notion carried out whole-heartedly and beautifully across the 13 tracks of his 'Fingers...'. Aggressive, disjointed and eerie yet consistently danceable and banging, it's almost the perfect amalgamation of the odd exterior but soulful core of this Chicago music movement. Though it's a multi-faceted genre for sure, 'Fingers...''s confrontational, cocksure joy is certainly a cornerstone in the genres evolution. 

10. FKA Twigs- M3LL155A

Many times has Twigs' visionary and near re-invention of modern r'n'b been praised glowingly by this writer, and although it only stands as a five track EP, 'M3LL155A' is another cog in the masterfully oiled machine. As socially conscious, courageous and self-indulgent as ever, Twigs' ruminations on femininity, sex and culture over a distinctly odd set of productions felt almost dystopian, like a siren looking down upon the Earth post-apocalypse and pin-pointing the reasons for the fall and rising above it while being personal and distant enough to the wider picture to really be remorseful. The 16-minute video that accompanied it's official release is as appropriate a visual brother as any. 
9. Cult Leader- Lightless Walk

Though Deathwish Inc.'s roster is by no means lacking in savage Hardcore/sludge crossover bleakness, Cult Leader's debut full-length 'Lightless Walk' is the most terrifying, destructive and remorseless "no light at the end of the tunnel" record to emerge from that label this year. An unrelenting, disgustingly precise exercise in sheer brutality, it's nails on the blackboard like appetite for un-appeasable darkness is commendable alone for that. To show that they are far from one-trick ponies though they've included the doom-laden, Neurosis-esque closing partnership of 'How Deep it Runs' and the 7-minute title track which, if they don't add any hope to the equation, they certainly add another dimension to the record's soul. 

8. Faith No More- Sol Invictus

Perhaps one of the most triumphant occurances and realisations in 2015 was that comebacks and re-unions don't always half to be half-arsed or anything to do with a pay check. In the case of Mike Patton's iconic alt-metal originators Faith No More it felt like they'd never been away. There are so many facets, layers and glorious things about 'Sol Invictus', but perhaps the real thing to be celebrated is just how vital, fresh and un-rivaled in the realm of weird, untouchably unique social, political and ambiguous story telling they are. The word genius is used far too often these days, but it's impossible to listen to the likes of 'Separation Anxiety', 'Cone of Shame' or 'Matador' and no be prompted in the direction of that word. 

7. Algiers- Algiers

Speaking further of innovation with addictive tunes, very few albums this year melded together two genres as seamlessly and naturally as post-punk/soul trio Algiers. Tinged with industrial brutality, almost endlessly dark story telling and eerie poeticisms, the band's self-titled full-length was as refreshing a statement of intent as they come. It quite often seems like we don't have a band in 2015 who are totally unafraid of stepping into their wider societal debate, and in a mirror image of true post-punk embodiment, Algiers took it upon themselves as a duty to be an artful, disturbing representative of metaphorical disillusionment, particularly on the rattling 'When You Fall'. 

6. Kuedo- Assertion of a Surrounding Presence

Beamed from UK electronic music hero Jamie Teasdale under his Kuedo guise like a hologram depiction from a distant planet, the 7-track 'Assertion of a Surrounding Presence' was the most life-affirming, daunting and near-spiritual electronica release of the year. It felt like the encompassing of an entire alien world, where political borders don't exist and dystopian, futuristic life-forms live in a dog-eat-dog world immersed in surveillance, inequality and a "survival of the fittest" style society. It's a testament to Teasdale's ability that across a span of 7-tracks he manages to make a crisp and thought-provoking *ahem* assertion. 

5. Black Breath- Slaves Beyond Death

A bit like Kendrick Lamar, Black Breath were a band who had the weight of expectation thrust upon them after 2012's 'Sentenced To Life', one of the best Metal records of the last few years. The rather more muted response to 'Slaves Beyond Death', which takes the band's hard-as-nails, blisteringly heavy thrash-meets-hardcore-meets-sludge aesthetic and extends it to a slightly longer, more mid-paced but altogether darker and more horrible place, was somewhat to be expected then. But despite all of that, this was certainly Black Breath's most consistent, coherent and macabre work to date, and although it did very little re-inventing of the wheel, it's an album that proves that if you're great at something, the smallest amount of innovation can go a thrillingly long way. 

4. My Disco- Severe

Australian experimental rock trio My Disco's latest full-length was perhaps the most aptly titled album of the year. 'Severe', 9 tracks of arty, gruelling, spacious noise rock distinctly more subterranean in terms of down-tuned sound and style than their previous full-length (2011's 'Little Joy') 'Severe' was an absolute masterclass in the kind of repetition as resonant with a band like Swans as it is with much modern techno and dance music. The space between the brutal sequences on the likes of 'King Sound' are Grade A examples of how less is so often more, and there's a sort of spiritual entity lurking behind the eyes of this record that propels it forward with more momentum and understanding than probably any other record on this list. 

3. Uncommon Nasa- Halfway
New York MC Uncommon Nasa has been slowly building his reputation as one of the most esoteric and diverse rappers in the game over the past few years, and 'Halfway' is his strongest, most personal and arguably most well-thought out work to date. Centralising around Nasa's awareness of his own mortality and various notions of life and death and the meaning of both, it's a deep, textured and conscious record in terms of both Nasa's rhymes and Black Tokyo's stellar production. It's the kind of hip-hop record that is very hard to do justice to with just mere words, so have a read of my interview with Nasa for Bearded Gent Music here to get a far better insight from the man himself. Essentially though, it has proven to be the most entertaining, energetic and thought-provoking hip-hop album of the year for me. 

2. Leviathan- Scar Sighted

So much of music fandom and writing is based around an evaluation of the musicians personal attributes and values. In the case of Leviathan, sole member Wrest's tortured and violent past is likely to be enough to prevent some from ever listening to his music. If any fans of Black Metal are that way inclined though it's a mighty shame, because removed from everything else, 'Scar Sighted' is THE extreme music masterpiece of the year. As fans will have come to expect, it's an unbelievably depressive, grim, horrible, nightmarish and torturous piece of work, but there's so much a sense of musical talent and conviction as well as *whisper it* melody here that it transcends words just how unbelievably well crafted this record is. It's not like it's entirely innovative or a particularly new sound, certainly not for Leviathan at least, but it's destructive, soulless macabre music and it's very most wholesome, exhilarating and beautiful. 

1. Sufjan Stevens- Carrie & Lowell

Having never really known much about Sufjan Stevens music before the hype surrounding this album struck enough of a chord for me to actually go and listen to it, I was almost convinced I wouldn't like it. None of Stevens' tracks which I'd heard previously had stuck with me particularly, and, to my shame, I'd kind of written him off as one of those Elliot Smith types. Though that comparison isn't totally unfair, 'Carrie & Lowell' is the most blisteringly heartfelt, crushed, sad record of the year, and in turn also the most beautiful, resonant and brilliant. Informed by the recent death of his mother, who he reportedly didn't enjoy a particularly fruitful relationship with, Sufjan's 7th full-length is powerful enough to make one feel it's sensitivity and vulnerability seep through every pour in a way that's direct but employs a carefully offered amount of pathos which feels the album with space, emotion and suspense. Though for the most part it is just Sufjan with a guitar and some electronics, the elegance with which he plays and informs the dynamics is mesmerising. And the fact that he performs the whole thing with a shudder emanating from his chest and sometimes sounds like he's holding back tears is a demarkation of making an album this personal. 

Top 15 Albums Of The Year

1. Sufjan Stevens- Carrie & Lowell
2. Leviathan- Scar Sighted
3. Uncommon Nasa- Halfway
4. My Disco- Severe
5. Black Breath- Slaves Beyond Death
6. Kuedo- Assertion of a Surrounding Presence
7. Algiers- Algiers
8. Faith No More- Sol Invictus
9. Cult Leader- Lightless Walk
10. FKA Twigs- M3LL155A
11. RP Boo- Fingers, Bank Pads & Shoe Prints
12. Everything Everything- Get To Heaven
13. High On Fire- Luminiferous
14. Chelsea Wolfe- Abyss
15. Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp A Butterfly

You can listen to all of my top 15 albums of the year (save for Kuedo) via the Spotify playlist here.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

HEAR NOW: Pusha T- M.F.T.R. (More Famous Than Rich) (ft. The-Dream)

G.O.O.D. Music MC Pusha T has dropped the second single to be released from his forthcoming album 'Darkest Before Dawn' (out December 18th). entitled 'M.F.T.R. (More Famous Than Rich)'. He had previously unveiled 'Untouchable' as the lead single from the record.

Co-produced by Hudson Mohawke and Boi-1da, the beat is a fusion of hypnotic, airy synths with a minimal but grimy bass undertow. The-Dream offers a fiery countenance on the hook, closing his gambit with "N*ggas ain't been to church in a minute but it's funny how a Tech make these n*ggas get religious".

It's Pusha himself though that steals the show. Like all his finest work, it will take four or five listens before one picks up on all the references he drops here. His esoteric wordplay flits between the poetic, braggadocious and intelligent at all times, and flow wise his laid-back but cocksure demeanor is as addictive as you like. In the second verse he raps of "remote control blinds that turn on a time lapse controlled by an ipad", before in the third verse he asserts "they say it's sick but it's these well dressed snakes that learnt to walk on concrete... you ain't know you been coached through it".

'Darkest Before Dawn' is the first of two upcoming full-lengths from Pusha T. The second is titled 'King Push' and is slated for release in April 2016. Listen to the absolutely ace 'M.F.T.R.' via Consequence of Sound HERE.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Black Breath- Slaves Beyond Death

Artist: Black Breath
Album: Slaves Beyond Death
Record Label: Southern Lord
Release Date: 24/9/2015

Masterful Seattle crossover quintet strike a deathly blow once again with their longest, darkest album to date

When Black Breath released their second album 'Sentenced To Life' in 2012, the metal community seemed to find it's new favourite to perpetuate the crusty, filthy thrash/hardcore hybrid that Southern Lord have been particularly prolific in pushing in recent times. One of the gnarliest, grooviest heavy records of the last few years, 'Sentenced...' was a no holds barred 35-minute spasm that put even the likes of later-era Slayer to shame. 

Which may be why 'Slaves Beyond Death' has received a somewhat reserved reception by comparison. Their longest and grimmest album to date, the Seattle quintet replace 3-minute ragers with 5 or 6 minute bull-dozers, atmospherics and more sludgy, mid-paced heavyweights. Having said that, this album contains the most cohesive song-writing of any Black Breath album to date and is actually a rather masterful piece of art for it. 

The extended, hulking riff-o-rama that kicks off 'Pleasure, Pain, Disease' finds them in characteristically filthy form, and the infectious BM tremolo picking-meets D-Beat crust crossover immediately adds another string to their bow. The blood-pumpingly triumphant 'Reaping Flesh' near perfectly marries death 'n'roll with darkly anthemic sludge. Rarely do the longer form tracks out-stay their welcome, particularly via the bleak savagery of 'Arc of Violence' and the epic story-telling on 'A Place of Insane Cruelty'. 

With only penultimate track 'Burning Hate' failing to add much diversity in to the equation, Black Breath have produced a macabre sentinel that strays just far enough from their favoured blue-print to expand their song-writing and stay refreshing, but remains close enough to home to include all the electrifying, primal ingredients. That's a hat-trick for them and a hat-trick for heavy metal consistency. 


Key Tracks: Reaping Flesh, Arc of Violence, A Place of Insane Cruelty
For Fans of: Dismember, Trap Them, High On Fire

Sunday, 6 December 2015

HEAR NOW: Kendrick Lamar/ J.Cole- Black Friday

In accordance with this year's Black Friday event, MC's Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole decided to do a switch up and write a rap/free-style for a beat selected from each other's back catalogue. Lamar chose J.Cole's eerie 'A Tale of 2 Cities' beat, produced by Vinyls on his 2014 album '2014 Forest Hills Drive'. Cole chose Kendrick's trap/jazz fusion track 'Alright' for his version, produced by Williams & Sounwave for Lamar's celebrated 'To Pimp A Butterfly', which dropped earlier this year. 

In the vain of previous singles like 'King Kunte' and 'Backseat Freestyle', 'Black Friday' finds Lamar in less introspective and slightly more braggadocious, shallow guise as he raps lyrics like "I'm yelling vote Kanye West for president, he'll probably let me get some head in the residence". Just like those previous singles however, there are hints splattered here and there with the literary genius that his full-lengths expose in abundance. It's almost exactly what one would expect from Lamar, complete with super-fast flows and ability. 

Image Credit: DeShaun Craddock flickr 

J.Cole's variation of 'Black Friday' sees him rapping with slightly more energy and fire than has previously been expected. He sounds disenfranchised as he spits "Fuck you know about my pain?" and more direct jibes like "no snakes in the grass 'cause I mowed it N*gga". He ends the track tentatively indeed, as he rasps "This February shit gon' get scary when I drop-" before he's cut out by a long, high pitched bleep. If there is a new J.Cole project arriving shortly then here's to hoping we see more of this vitriol within the tracklisting.

You can hear both Kendrick and J. Cole's versions of 'Black Friday' below.

HEAR NOW: Foals- Give It All (Clint Mansell Remix)

'Give It All' is the latest song from Foals' excellent album 'What Went Down' (released earlier this year) to be released as a single, and this week a stunning treat emerged from the Foals camp after legendary composer Clint Mansell gave it the re-work treatment. Extending the track into an 8 minute ambient soundscape, Mansell's renowned understanding of dynamics and scope is at full strength here even without the backing of an orchestra. Stripping away almost all of the vocals, Mansell leaves in their wake washes of synth, distant bleeps and mournful, glacial one-fingered piano melodies. This is the sound of the world being washed away, unstoppable in its motion and all the more beautiful for it. 

You can listen to the gorgeous adaptation via The Fader here.

Image Credit: Alyse & Remi Flickr

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Idles- Meat EP

Artist: Idles
Album: Meat EP
Record Label: Self- released
Release Date: 30/10/2015

Bristol post-punkers Idles marry occasionally brilliant song-writing with pure and honest authenticity on their debut EP

As with most genre revivals, authenticity is usually one of the highest-scoring cards played by naysayers. In the case of the resurfacing of post-punk in recent years, it's been almost too easy to join that chorus, but bands like Crystal Stilts and more recently Spectres certainly seem to have an elemental understanding of what they're creating in relation to their predecessors. Bristol-based band Idles safely fall in to that category as well; 'Meat', their debut four track EP, both sounds like it was recorded by disenfranchised youth in a garage on a slow summer's day and wears a deep love of its music on its sleeve. 

Diversity isn't always imperative if an artist is good at what they do, and sometimes Idles' song-writing is so well crafted here that it matters next to nothing that you can easily pin-point their influences. Opener 'Queens' straddles the line between blood-pumping '70s UK punk and grinding shoegaze, complete with Rage Against the Machine references and dark, Nick Cave-esque thoughts like "I dream of burying you in a forest". 'Romantic Gestures' brings in dense guitar harmonics that recall a more clean-cut My Bloody Valentine at their most stratospheric. Closer 'Nice Man' is perhaps the most bitter moment here, propelled by dark, grimy countenance and bleak wit; "Is that what you'll tell your kids? That he's only violent when he's wasted?"

The real winning thing about 'Meat' is that not only does it sound pure and honest but it feels like there's a deeply set vision within the band. There's a sense that although their aesthetic is nothing new, there's plenty more scope and ideas for a full-length simmering. These days, that's just about all you can ask for from a young guitar band. 


Key Tracks: Queens, Nice Man
For Fans Of: Wire, The Buzzcocks


NEVERMEN, the super-group comprised of TV on the Radio's Tunde Adepimbe, Faith No More's Mike Patton and rapper Doseone, have dropped a new track entitled 'Mr. Mistake'. It's a rather absurd, acid-drenched skronk a la Animal Collective that also manages to be pleasantly tuneful, gibing an insight into the slightly visionary grasp all of these musicians have on song-writing. There's also perhaps a political undercurrent beneath the outlandish-ness between lyrics like "if it's between give and take, you take take take..." and ruminations of a "nuclear winter". You can stream the track via Youtube here.

The band have also announced their self-titled debut full-length LP, which is due to hit shelves on January 29th via Ipecac Recordings. This track follows on from the lead-off single released earlier this year, 'Tough Towns'.

Image Credit: Peter Hinson via Stereogum.

Friday, 4 December 2015

HEAR NOW: Glassjaw- New White Extremity

Post-Hardcore heroes Glassjaw have returned with what looks to be the first airing of material from their first studio album since 2002's celebrated 'Worship & Tribute'. Since that album, Glassjaw have released a random splattering of EPs every now and again, but in 2012 front man Daryl Palumbo told Kerrang! that full-length records and the album/tour cycle were "becoming irrelevant". However, when NPR premiered the new track, 'New White Extremity', on December 1st it was accompanied by a statement that promised "a new, as-yet-untitled record, with no release date, no label information and no band line-up other than founding guitarist Justin Beck". While the band are (perhaps intentionally) keeping a barrier of ambiguity between fans and any actual information about new material, Palumbo did say of the new track that it was "The sound of walking out your front door". 

And what a sound that is. 'New White Extremity' is powerful not just because it's a furious, noisy, groove-ridden and bitter sounding sucker punch to the gut, but it SOUNDS like old-school Glassjaw. What is perhaps even more promising is that it sounds like Glassjaw not in a nostalgic sense, but as a refreshing, revitalised and polished unit in 2015. In a world where comebacks are more opinion splitting than perhaps they ever have been, to hear Glassjaw return without even a whiff of insecurity is a beautiful thing. It contains all the melody, cohesion and yet spazzy abandon that their two full-lengths had in spades. 

You can stream the track via Soundcloud by clicking on the link below.

HEAR NOW: Turbonegro- Hot For Nietzsche

Oslo party-starting rockers Turbonegro have always been the purist of rock stars. Never ones to be thrust into the mainstream rock limelight (probably due to, you know, THAT name choice), their cult following has been built on a basis of fist-pumping anthems and an excess-centric aesthetic that almost anybody with a passion for rock music and drinking can relate to. 

It will come as no surprise to the aforementioned senechaux that 'Hot For Nietzsche', their new single, panders to that aesthetic in beautiful fashion. It's full to the brim with shit-grinning cheesily catchy AC/DC-esque riffing and lyrics like "if this weekend doesn't kill me it'll only make me stronger" and a chorus that sounds sort of like Elvis Costello covering 'Bohemian Like You' by The Dandy Warhols. 

Watch the video for 'Hot For Nietzsche' via the link below:

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Remembrance Day: Have We Forgotten?

Just this morning, Luke Turner, co-founder and editor of cutting edge music and culture online publication The Quietus, published an article on his own site about the over-politicisation, corporatism and "jingoism" that has somewhat hijacked the poppy wearing culture and Remembrance Day, in Britain at least. It's a great read, and he makes plenty of valid and fair points. However, it provokes a pertinent question; how did we get to the point that the discussion about Remembrance centres more around political posturing/ unscrupulous media tactics and not to mention the focal point of Turner's article, the commercialisation and governmental gain of war from a financial point of view, and less about the lives lost?

Social and cultural history dictates that everything has a consequence or inference, and of course it's necessary to address these implications in all examples of War (more on that later). But that the dedication of one day a year to the memory of the hundreds of thousands who have lost their lives in these circumstances has been commandeered by smear tactics and the remorseless embodiment of war at a corporate level (for example Lockheed Martin UK's sponsorship of The Poppy Rocks Ball) is at best ironic, at worst contemptuous.

It's disdainful that more coverage was given to the fact that the Conservative party photo-shopped a poppy on to a Facebook picture of David Cameron  in the lead up to the ceremony than the actual proceedings. That the poppy-wearing culture has become just another hand with which the crack the political point-scoring whip defies and ignores the idea of Remembrance at the most fundamental level. Unlike Mr. Turner, I did buy and wear a poppy this year despite all of this. Pretty much any happening has its pros and cons, but I bought and wore a poppy in the name of honouring what the occasion actually marked rather than thinking about what colour Jeremy Corbyn's poppy is going to be.

The aforementioned sense of historical context is exactly why I have rather bittersweet feelings about Rupert Brooke's poem 'The Soldier'. An incredibly moving, heartfelt paean to friends he lost during the First World War, the piece switches between a sense of patriotism and fluid, gorgeous imagery and prose, creating huge amounts of space for memories/ remembrance and vivid imaginings of the horrors of the occasion as well as holding it's head high. Following the war, this sense of pride should not necessarily be discarded for those involved at the ground level, but in 2015 it's a slightly dangerous realisation. Detractors would point towards the fact that, were this poem written this year, it would be called nationalistic. There may be the case for a discussion to be had there, but in an age where the Far Right reverse the slightest elements thrown their way it's important to keep a tab on the way in which language is used. In this way it's impossible to escape the literary analysis of the wider insinuation attached to Remembrance Day, but the change in social climate is always at the heart of what drives a collective occurrence.

From 'The Soldier' by Rubert Brooke: 

"And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;"

I've never quite gotten round to reading Sebastian Faulks' book Birdsong but became very attached to Phillip Martin's two-part adaptation for the BBC in 2012.  In the final moments of the second part, Eddie Redmayne's character emerges from the depths of a tunnel on to a stricken, barren battlefield. He's greeted by two German soldiers, who tell him that the war is over, and he embraces one of them. Not only is this resonant of much of the history behind the Great War (and several wars afterwards), but it's a deep sigh of both relief and sorrow. It's the realisation of the terror he has just experienced, and an allusion to the following years of potential ill- mental health that stalks the souls of the men who gave their lives so *ahem* memorably. 

Without dwelling too much on the subject of ethnicity, which ideally wouldn't be a paramount part of the discussion at all, it must be stressed just how important the actions of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association have been and what a positive they are in light of everything else discussed in this piece. There's still a more widespread issue with regards the memory/representation of soldiers from foreign communities who fought and died in these circumstances. On the 2nd November this year freelance journalist, news presenter, editor and author Keiran Yates tweeted that she would "Happily wear a poppy once mainstream media make an effort to properly recognise India's contributions to BOTH world wars". Fair enough, but considering that four years ago members of the country's more ignorant sectors whipped up a reaction to the Poppy burnings then the sense of community is, at least in some parts of the country, more recognisable.  

Ultimately it seems as though the reasons these men and later women died have been completely forgotten, as though they were never as important as the freedoms we now enjoy. It's easy to sit in a medieval-styled office building, point fingers and use important cultural and historical dates for the sake of gain; maybe it's TOO easy and that's why it happens so much. All casualties of war should be remembered and either commemorated or learnt from, or both. While it looks like there are lessons that some people might never learn anyway, if the situation is consistently marred by mud slinging then it might not be long before the lessons aren't taught anymore. 

Saturday, 25 July 2015

High On Fire- Luminiferous

Artist: High On Fire
Album: Luminiferous
Record Label: E1 Music
Release Date: 23rd June 2015

Matt Pike & Co.'s 7th full-length is as wickedly catchy as it is pumellingly heavy and crustily epic

High On Fire's ascent into being lauded more consistently by a wider audience really began with the release of and response to their 2012 opus De Vermis Mysteriis. Though Matt Pike's CV already read like an academic game changer within the metal community, De Vermis Mysteriis seemed to be the point when the scope of his song-writing was realised by those unfamiliar to the charms of Sleep. Luminiferous, the band's 7th full-length, continues on the monolithic path set by its predecessor and, although slightly more lo-fi in terms of size, it contains some of the band's catchiest and most epic moments to date. 

Not only are the songs on Luminiferous played with supreme precision, but Kurt Ballou's production is instantly as thick, pure and crushing as expected. Though the sense of melody is more profound on this record than anything Pike has written previously, the riffs are still full of fried filth and swampy menace. 

Opener 'The Black Plot' is a ferocious, no holds barred punk-indebted rumble, one of the three blood-pumpingly heavy thrash numbers on the record (see also the skyscraper-flattening 'Slave The Hive' and the title track). 'The Sunless Years' is a wonderful, slightly tribal off-kilter banger. Perhaps most memorable of all though is 'The Cave', a 7-and-a-half minute epic that flits between meditative, dusty bass and guitar noodling and soaring chord sequences. 

In effect, just like De Vermis..., Luminiferous is a righteous entwining of rootsy, hardcore essence and huge vision. It's very distinctly a High on Fire record as well as a showcase of the ability to be consistently creative. It's preaching to the choir while proving that they are absolutely still worth listening to. 

Key Tracks: 'The Cave', 'The Sunless Years', 'Slave The Hive'
For Fans Of: Sleep, Mastodon, Exodus

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

DJ Rashad- 6613 EP

Artist: DJ Rashad
Album: 6613 EP
Record Label: Hyperdub
Release Date: 28th June 2015

This posthumously released 4 track EP is not only a selection on delectable bangers but also works positively towards Rashad's memory

Since footwork pioneer DJ Rashad's tragically untimely passing last summer it seems almost strange that the international interest in footwork hasn't been mobilized tenfold, such is the influence of the internet and a slightly more cynical approach to twitter appropriation. This is, one suspects, largely a healthy thing. It means that we live a world where 6613 can be released posthumously and not only feels comfortable in the context of stable awareness, but still it works to divine Rashad's output as utterly singular. 

Rashad has help from some considerably reverential friends all over the 4 tracks of this release, and the aesthetic is largely far removed from that of Double Cup, his 2013 full-length. However, there's no real danger of the music being second guessed. This is an EP of two halves, in terms of dynamic at least. Opener 'CCP2 (ft. DJ Spinn)' brings a smooth, soulful garage influence in behind the typically hypnotic vocal cut 'n' paste slams. 'Cause I Know You Feel (ft. Gant-Man)' is slightly more variant with its orchestral-style synths, brief forays into sex panther funk and rigorously tight off-beat power. 

The following two tracks are hard-as-nails, fist-in-the-concrete bangers that have just as much club-orientated soul but in a dizzyingly modern and abrasive context. The pummeling trap dalliances on 'Ya Hot (ft. Taso)' add serious heft, and the combination of the odd-ball bass lineage and increasingly skitterish synth mind-bend of 'Do Not Fuck' make it feel like a acid-plied trip across the River Stixx. 

At its core, 6613 is a short but characteristically visionary release. Pleasingly, the lack of hyperbole around its release means that, as rightly idolised as Rashad has been, it has a fully-formed and welcomed place in the world. Rashad's legacy then will continue to be about the importance of the music, and all 4 tunes on 6613 confirm that with giddy joy. 


Key Tracks: 'Cause I Know U Feel (ft. Gant-Man)', 'Ya Hot (ft. Taso)' 
For Fans Of: TNGHT, Traxman

Monday, 20 July 2015

Sharon Van Etten- I Don't Want To let You Down EP

Artist: Sharon Van Etten
Album: I Don't Want To Let You Down EP
Record Label: Jagjaguwar
Release Date: 8th June 2015

Lauded New York singer/songwriter's latest offering is fairly simplistic but briefly charming

Over the five track course of this EP Sharon Van Etten's songwriting may be distinctly simple but, like her full-lengths, it's not without sufficient charm. The basic soft-rock of the title track is a soulful highlight. 'Just like Blood' contains some cryptic and perhaps even sensual poeticisms, and the sleepy, eerie Warpaint-esque atmospherics of 'Pay My Debts' aid in it becoming the EP's stand-out track. It mostly feels like a release set in motion for die-hard Van Etten fans, and in that context it hardly puts a foot wrong. 


Key Tracks: 'Pay My Debts', 'I Don't Want To Let You Down'
For Fans Of: Radiohead, Warpaint

Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Week's Playlist, Vol. 1- 19/7/2015

Featured Image Credit: Johanna Bocher flickr

A three and a half week trip to Thailand has found me completely out of the new music loop since late June (everybody will most likely have heard Foals' 'What Went Down' by now), but I decided to rejuvenate this old feature of the site to share some of the music I was obsessing over during the course of the trip and some great new stuff I've found in the couple of days I've been back on home soil. Next week's segment will most likely feature more new music, especially that which has been featured on the site previously in a review, or in a review I plan to do over the next coming days (see here Rolo Tomassi, for example). As always, my greatest hope is that you'll check some of these gems out and hear something you like. 

Many cheers, and enjoy. 

LCD Soundsystem- All My Friends

James Murphy & Co.'s 7-minute looped piano epic has become resoundingly poignant in my life of late as I've just graduated university and am now about to be pummelled into submission by real life. His funny, sad and deliriously hopeful ruminations on the relationship between partying and ageing are likely to strike a chord with probably most people feeling the post-being-able-to-do-largely-what-ever-the-fuck-you-want blues.

A$AP Rocky ft. Schoolboy Q- Electric Body

High brow sociological rhetoric a la EL-P this ain't, but this robust, smooth and dark banger from two of mainstream Hip-Hop's most sought-after MCs is one of the many highlights on A$AP Rocky's latest full-length At. Long. Last. A$AP. You can read my review of the whole album here:

Rolo Tomassi- Stage Knives

British screamo/noise/art-rock etc etc quintet Rolo Tomassi are back with their new full-length Grievances. This typically chameleon-esque track runs its course in a whirlwind of glistening, spiky melody, calm, glacial meditation as well as intense stabs of violence and poetry. Read my review of Grievances here:

Killing Joke- Eighties

This classic from the post-punk legends finds Jaz Coleman struggling his way through the Thatcher dominated '80s, and its hard not to find prevalence in those assertions in context of today's government. As tight, aggressive and righteous as ever.

British Sea Power- A Lovely Day Tomorrow

One of the B-sides included with the recent reissue of Brit rockers British Sea Power stellar debut album The Decline of British Sea Power, this lovely, lo-fi and catchy understated anthem encaptures almost everything that the band have always done so well. You can read my retrospective/ review of the re-issued masterpiece here:

Foals- What Went Down

First previewed on Annie Mac's BBC Radio 1 show in early June, 'What Went Down' immediately struck as probably the most menacing, predatory and most rip-roaring rock 'n'roll track Oxford indie darlings Foals have ever written. Crisply produced and unrelenting in its energy and sinister glow, front man Yannis Philippakis sounds positively possessed as he yelps his way through a series of Nick Cave-esque narrative plot lines. The album of the same name is expected to be released on the 28th August.

Touche Amore & Self Defense Family- Low Beams

One of the tracks featured on this split EP entitled Self Love issued by Deathwish records back in March, 'Low Beams' is as eerie as it is characteristically fierce and grandiose. Both bands combine their rigid Hardcore credentials to create an ambidextrous 3 minutes of bleak commentary and oozing heft.

Leon Bridges- Smooth Sailin' 

Texas based singer-songwriter Leon Bridges' debut full-length LP Coming Home has quite rightly been lauded as a jubilant and irresistibly smooth exercise in retro, organic soul. 'Smooth Sailin'' is impossibly simple and illustrious at the same time, Bridges' vocals riding the dusty but crystal clear and catchy music beautifully. Expect a review of Coming Home on the site soon.

Stellar Om Source- Polarity

Christelle Gualdi's sonic explorations are among some of the most hypnotic being created today, and her hallowed track 'Polarity' is perhaps a pinnacle of this. It starts off like the soundtrack to a scuba diving session whilst stoned and stumbling across a patch of coral that looks like Atlantis, before becoming a glorious myriad of fizzing, twinkling synths that wouldn't be out of place on the soundtrack to travelling through the Dubai skyline at night.

Listen to all the tracks in this week's playlist via the spotify playlist below.

Rolo Tomassi- Grievances

Artist: Rolo Tomassi
Album: Grievances
Record label: Holy Roar
Release Date: 31st May 2015

The Sheffield quintet's 4th full-length is occasionally their most beautiful and always their most bleak album to date

Always a band who lurched free of almost anything that was expected of them, Rolo Tomassi were due a trip to ground level after the dizzying conceptual realms of Cosmology and Astraea. Though the Spence twins' vocal incantations on Grievances are often as poetic as always, there are very few cracks of light in their rhetoric. On Grievances the band balance their feral nihilism and spectral fragility more emphatically than ever before, but whatever the sonic mood it's an album with a constant darkness at its core. 

In terms of performance there are some of the most electrifying tracks the band have ever recorded here. Whether rasping viciously or soaring angelically, Eva Spence's vocals are stronger than ever. The interplay between styles and soundscapes is sometimes intimidating, especially new boy Tom Pitts' drumming. 

Opener 'Estranged' is impossibly brutal Dillinger-esque madness complete with an eerie Faith No More-inspired piano interlude. 'Raumdeuter' takes on a crushing Deafheaven-esque post-rock dynamic with star-gazing synth bursts halfway through, complete with such quips from Spence as "teach me a lesson, built upon my disgrace". 'Opalescent' is beautifully considered and measured, and 'Stage Knives' is a myriad of short, sharp diversity. On the closing 7 minutes of 'All That Has Gone Before' ambidextrous piano leads are entwined with doom-laden guitar chords as Eva Spence repeats in both growls and siren-like coos that "we can't be loved as we are". 

There are a few missteps;   'The Embers' strays slightly too close to Periphery- esque irritation melodically. Despite being inflected with mournful violin harmonies 'Crystal Cascades' is nowhere near as epic as it wants to be and 'Chandelier Shiver' offers little as its partner in orchestral slow-burning. All the same, there are enough moments here to prove that mostly Rolo Tomassi are wonderfully adept at what they do. 


Key Tracks: 'Raumdeuter', 'Opalescent', 'Stage Knives' 
For Fans Of: Isis, Dillinger Escape Plan, Deafheaven 

Saturday, 18 July 2015

The Triumph of British Sea Power: Their Debut Album Revisited

Artist: British Sea Power
Album: The Decline of British Sea Power & the Decline Era B-Sides
Record Label: Golden Chariot
Release Date: 19th June 2015 (originally 8th September 2003)

Following the re-release of their favoured debut album, I wax lyrical about my personal and musical experience of British Sea Power and what the album that began their resolutely underground favouritism means to me

Yorkshire-via-Brighton sextet British Sea Power released their debut album The Decline Of British Sea Power in 2003, but that certainly wasn't my first experience of them. That came on the day of my 16th birthday in 2010, on the fateful night before a GCSE Religious Education exam I'd barely scratched my arse towards. The band were playing at the Komedia in Bath. I'd only been to two gigs before that in my life; toss-worthily boring indie rockers Embrace at Westonbirt Arbouretum as part of a primary school trip, and the Taste of Chaos tour in 2009, fueled by teen angst and a deep passion for guitar solos. The ticket was given to me by a friend, who on the same night introduced me to a future (now ex) girlfriend. The band's last studio release had been 2008's Do You Like Rock Music?, and come the end of the penetratingly loud yet measured gig, my friend turned to me and said "that was certainly rock music". 

I start this re-visitation and review of sorts of the band's recently reissued debut record (accompanied by a set of B-sides) because this is a band that mean a great deal to me. As is often cited, The Decline Of... has always largely been accepted as the band's best record, and as is perhaps more frequently asserted it's nigh-on unfathomable as to why they never got the break they deserved. The closest they came was in 2008, but their appeal has never seemed to garner the household name status many believe they deserve. There are, I think, a few reasons for this. 

As odd and characterisitic as they were always prone to being, there can be no denying of the anthemic quality of almost of the tracks on the original release of The Decline Of... . Later singles like 'Waving Flags' and 'No Lucifer' would go on to be the songs that were instantly recognisable as BSP tracks, but the likes of the bonafide raucous fist-pumper 'Remember Me' and the equally as life-affirming 'Carrion' set the precedent much earlier on. The thing to consider in this context is that in 2003, the undivided attention of the music press was focused on The Libertines and The Strokes (surely both the aforementioned tracks are more rabble rousing than the likes of 'Time For Heroes'?). Whereas those bands positively pandered to the press and their excess was glorified, BSP's resolutely un-pretentious attitude towards the music and partying (even if it was slightly inward facing) meant that their lack of interest in getting on the front cover of NME saw much of their music fly over people heads. It's a point that has been made before, but the frustratingly conservative nature of the mainstream press is largely to blame for the loss of a hundred great rock records from that era, and by default this finds the root cause of the tiresome "is rock 'n' roll dead?" conversation. 

In the context of this re-release, the initial tracks on the original album sound (just as before) like a transmission from a secret and specific time and place, though not in an out-dated way. The singular, literary and odd-ball lyricism works almost like a narrative, the conclusion to which may never be immediately obvious but is electrifying all the same. The opening salvo of 'Apologies To Insect Life' and 'Favours in the Beetroot Fields' are short, violent but delectable Pixies-esque sucker punches to the gut, proper art-rock vitriol steamed into a few moments of youthful abandon. In its more measured climbs, like the aforementioned 'Remember Me' and the less bombastic 'Something Wicked' there is plenty of the kind of aesthetic Radio 2 could and should have lapped up. And then there's the magnificent 'Lately', a 14-and-a-half minute romp through sensitive melody and eventually psychedelic, ear-drum shattering volume and feedback, in this writer's eyes their most prolific moment to date. 

Just like the original release, the collection of extra tracks accompanying the reissue almost deserves to be approached as a separate album in its own right. All the tracks slot together effortlessly and certainly bare the band's signature quirkiness, but only really the mid-paced, beautiful 'A Lovely Day Tomorrow' and the acoustic waltz of 'Good Good Boys' sound like they'd resound in the original track-listing. 

Again, the diversity of the song-writing shows the full breadth of BSP's scope. 'Albert's Eyes' and 'Moley & Me' are both shrouded in the band's classic idiosyncracies and production mysticism, the latter especially an odd-ball story that feels almost like a faux children's night time tale made up in a flat kitchen after several bottles of wine (sample lyric: "Moley & Me, we would spend our time killing everybody"). The Morrissey-esque pitch black humour lives most fervently in 'Salty Water', an ode to drowning. 

The instrumental couplet of 'Birdy' and 'Heavenly Waters' increases the scope further. The former is a spectral, looping ditty that sounds like the lunch-time overture in a Sussex beach cafe where Aidan Moffat sits scribbling down ideas for the next L.Pierre album. The latter is a sprawling 7 minutes of post-rock that sets the precedent for their vision on their soundtrack for Penny Woolcock's 2012 documentary From The Sea to the Land Beyond. 'Apologies to Insect Life (Russian Rock Demo)' is a slightly stripped down but no less physical, instrumental version of the track of the same name and offers a delightful glimpse into the raucous evolution process of the band's music. 

Just like when it was originally released in 2003, this reissue won't reach the ears or minds of the majority of the record buying public, at least not in the way it deserves. In a way then, it offers much more to people like me, already totally absorbed in the band's character and narrative and forever wanting more of the same. To neither the band nor the people already aware, album sales don't really matter anymore in regards to this release. It's there for the purest reason possible; so that the previously unheard recorded versions of some of these tracks can be lapped up and so that revisiting the original songs continues to be a pleasure. For an album and aesthetic as beautiful and selfless as that of The Decline of British Sea Power, the peaceful notion that their offering their fans more is enough. That idea has always been at the centre of most great rock music; it's just a shame it's not realised more. 

A$AP Rocky- At. Long. Last. A$AP.

Artist: A$AP Rocky
Album: At. Long. Last. A$AP. 
Record Label: RCA
Release Date: 25th May 2015

A$AP Rocky's sophomore full-length is his most wholesome, epic and tragedy-flecked work yet

A$AP Rocky's detractors would be right in saying that 15 or 20 years ago his braggadocia would have struggled to find its feet in hip-hop. They'll also refer to the "shameful" changes in the industry and the influence of fame and commercial power, but at this point to talk about those things without being active is superfluous. A$AP Rocky's entire oeuvre revolves around the modern mainstream hip- hop agenda, and whereas some of his contemporaries fall in and become another mediocre piece of the puzzle, with At. Long. Last. A$AP Rocky has produced a suitably epic piece of work. 

Although arrogant and offering little in the way of originality, At. Long. Last. A$AP is his most wholesome work to date. Production wise it's positively cinematic, only once delving into his cloud-rap favouratism of yesteryear ('Fine Whine'). Flow wise he sounds more energetic than ever. On the opener 'Holy Ghost' he barely stops for breath over the dusty, soulful rock-orientated beat. Expecting lyrical versatility and modesty from Rocky is unwise, but on the smooth and dark trap crawl of 'Canal St.' his assertion that "I'm just a kettle from the ghetto with no pot to piss in, so who am I to call it black?" is startlingly poetic. 

The prospect of A$AP Rocky singing may still be a strange one, but 'L$D' continues to be one of the most interesting singles in his arsenal. The trippy and reflective yet low-brow ode to drugs and sex points somewhat to the influence of Love's classic opus Forever Changes, a favourite of Rocky's. His collaboration with Schoolboy Q on 'Electric Body' feels absolutely natural, Schoolboy's slightly deranged delivery aiding the track's gutter-level feel. And despite being a largely shallow ode to dogging, 'West Side Highway' is even romantic at times. 

There's an undercurrent of tragedy at points on the record too, informed by the recent death of fellow A$AP crew member and de facto leader A$AP Yams. Over the mournful, Eastern-tinged synths of 'Max B' Rocky spits "this the kind of story that should make doves cry, fuck that, this the kind of story that should make thugs cry". 'Pharsyde' is his most sensitive moment to date and finds him almost vulnerable as he asserts "my ears are ringing, my palms are shaking, somebody's momma's heart is aching", and on the A Tribe Called Quest-esque throwback boom-bap of 'Back Home' a sample of A$AP Yams himself rounds the album off in touching style. 

Whereas Kendrick Lamar consistently reverts his mainstream success to a more left-field persuasion, A$AP Rocky is almost everything mainstream hip-hop has come to stand for. The thing is that on At. Long. Last. A$AP he's simultaneously created a flashy piece of art as well as proved that in terms of energy and presence he's more favourable than some of the games older stars who still shift millions of units. Though he'll probably never be the most lyrically lauded MC in the industry this wholesome, colourful and entertaining opus is certainly an exciting album for its time. 


Key Tracks: 'Pharsyde (ft. Joe Fox)', 'L$D', 'Electric Body (ft. Schoolboy Q)'
For Fans of: Kanye West, Lil Wayne 

Monday, 25 May 2015

Metz- II

Artist: Metz
Album: II
Record Label: Sub Pop
Release Date: 3rd May 2015

Toronto noise-rock trio run the mill with both exhilarating volume and slightly old, one-dimensional resources

Though Canadian trio Metz attack noise-rock with impressive vigour and volume, there's no denying that the formula on 'II' is a well-worn one. Highlights include the opener 'Acetate', a robust, wailing joint completed by nails-on-the-blackboard chilly lyrics like "She's barely breathing/ I'm wading through puddles on the floor". The ravenous punk spirit of 'Nervous System' is exhilarating too, but despite the electricity there's nothing particularly fresh here. 


Key Tracks: 'Acetate', 'Nervous System'
For Fans of: Women, Royal Blood

Raekwon- F.I.L.A. (Fly International Luxurious Art)

Artist: Raekwon
Album: F.I.L.A. (Fly International Luxurious Art)
Record Label: ICEH20
Release Date: 26th April 2015

The latest solo full-length from one of Wu-Tang's finest only serves to show how far removed from the legendary crew's dynamic he has become

In a way, the difference in career dynamic and perspective that legendary Wu-Tang member Raekwon is experiencing now compared to when '36 Chambers' was released can be summarised by his recent and on-going feud with fellow Wu-Tang icon RZA. Raekwon called out the group's de facto decision maker and production mastermind about the "mediocre shit" he was supposedly producing for Wu-Tang's last effort (2014's 'A Better Tomorrow') and subsequently went "on strike" from the group, saying he was "unwilling" to appear on the album. 

Supposedly then, 'Fly International Luxurious Art' is where Raekwon wants and thinks he needs to be, both aesthetically and in terms of career tangent. An album that ultimately concerns itself with success and commercial gain, whilst there's no doubting Raekwon's talent, 'F.I.L.A.' mostly shines a negative light on just how far removed Raekwon has become from the original Wu-Tang sphere. 

To say the album is all-out bad would be a disservice; Raekwon's flow has suffered little, and there are a handful of tracks here, both braggadocious and in the old-school Wu-Tang spirit, that work. 'Live To Die' is a violence stricken tale about bringing down corrupt and "fake" gangstas that sees Rae at his most righteous (sample lyric: "What dinosaur game you playing? You playing death"). '4 in the Morning' is a crisp but dark effort to return to the mafioso-flavoured feel of his classic 'Only Built 4 Cuban Linx', and again sees him come through with creative and vitriol fueled bars, fellow Wu-Tang cohort Ghostface Killah sounding more energised than he often did on his project with BadBadNotGood earlier this year. 

Despite potentially being one of the more irksome songs on the record, 'I Got Money' is a sweet slice of retro, slightly stripped back funk-rap which features an ace gambit from A$AP Rocky, and 'Worst Enemy', even with its lazy hook from Liz Rodriguez is a surprisingly layered account of a past life of violence and a desperate want to escape it, which perhaps explains his vindication via his current riches. 

However, when there are pitfalls on 'F.I.L.A.' they unfortunately pull very few punches. Raekwon's delivery is almost always slick, but lyrically he often fails to offer anything particularly creative or ear-catching. A lot of the features don't bring much respite either. For example, on 'Soundbwoy Kill It' both Melanie Fiona and Assassin fall short of bringing anything that really fits. There's a typically dull and jarring Rick Ross verse on 'Revory (Wraith)' and no matter how hard they try, neither Ghostface or Raekwon deliver any bars that can save it. 

The elegant but crunchy glitzy boom-bap of 'Wall To Wall' is weakened by a poor French Montana feature. Estelle brings a surprisingly obnoxious hook to 'All About You', which production wise is a half-decent synth-funk pop-rap tune straight from the Drake cannon. Most offensive of all though is "Fila World". Not only is the production unbearably bad, but 2 Chainz' "I'm rubbish but I'm not taking myself seriously so it's fine" shtick is running so thin that it's not even laughable. 

There's no real telling what a Raekwon contribution to a Wu-Tang album would be at this point. It's probable that its subject matter wouldn't be as saccharine as this, but as a stand-alone project 'F.I.L.A.' should be judged on its own merits. As gifted and able as Raekwon can be, if it looks like there's no respite to his "strike" then one can only hope his writing becomes as powerful and poetic as it once was. 


Key Tracks: 'Live To Die', 'I Got Money (ft. A$AP Rocky)' 
For fans of: Ghostface Killah, Jay-Z