Okay, so is it just me or is R&B getting, like, too good lately? 2011 saw The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Drake and others, but those were the “cool” artists who were primed, in a way, to release some deliciously trendy beats and hooks with the latest producer close behind them. But look at 2012: Miguel, always a fantastic singer but never a captivating artist, had both the catchiest single and corresponding album in “Adorn” and Kaleidoscope Dream, respectively. Then there’s Jeremih, the dude who wrote, uh, “Birthday Sex”–he showed up with his Late Nights mixtape, a mainstay in the car-playlist rotation for those lucky enough to have sought it out on Datpiff.
Now we have Ciara, of all people, releasing the jam of at least the first quarter of the year. I don’t even really know who Ciara is–I had to YouTube “1, 2 Step” to remember its melody–but this has to be the last straw. Produced by Mike Will Made It (who also took the reins on Jeremih’s similarly awesome “773 Love”), “Body Party” is so convincingly sexy and catchy and lush that I’m pretty sure all R&B artists are forming a cabal and want to demobilize me with an onslaught of jams or something like that (also: that new Justin Timberlake album). It’s a conspiracy, guys. But what a sexy conspiracy it is.
The other day someone asked me if I’m familiar with Clutch, and I was like: HAHAHA. Here’s their new song from their upcoming album Earth Rocker which is set to be released on March 19th. “Crucial Velocity” juxtaposes darkly tinged riffs with sing-along chorus and, most of all, it grooves like hell. The futuristic themes known from the outfit’s previous albums come back in full force. Neil Fallon is all about his “rocket 88″ that’s “fastest in the land” making a nice allegory to the great power of imagination. “Unpredictable times call for the reliable friend” after all.
Despite being formed in 2009, Sans Parade – an indie-rock trio two thirds Finnish and one third Swedish (amongst a studio support cast of several others) – had released only a handful of songs prior to last month, when they released their self-titled debut album. For that, they had good reason. They were working on it.
The band described their journey to the album’s release as ‘long and arduous’, and it’s easy to hear why when listening to the album opener ‘The Last Song is a Love Song’. Not that the song is strained, difficult, or heavy with conflict. It isn’t. Rather, it appears to have been meticulously crafted from the bottom up, thoughtfully structured and arranged, and fastidiously tinkered with to achieve the most accomplished opening statement the band could ask of themselves.
It’s obvious in the choice of instruments, the way they’re played, what they’re accompanied with and when: they’ve all been given a consideration rarely seen amongst fresh upstarts, let alone more experienced outfits. The familiar quiet-loud post-rock dynamic is employed with no eye-roll backlash; instead, the guitar-embellished string section behind singer Markus Pertulla is dynamic and expressive, offering a contained, delicate intensity in the verses, swelling at the bridge, and then throwing it all to the sky for the eruptive chorus. It’s a chorus that begs to be played loud, and you’d do well to oblige.
It’s clear that Sans Parade have not just aimed for, but doggedly pursued, a first impression…
London-by-way-of-New-Zealand rockers the Veils recently debuted the new single from their upcoming fourth album Time Stays, We Go, the first bit of proper new material since 2009’s Sun Gangs (the less said about 2011’s EP Troubles of the Brain, the better). Frontman Finn Andrews (son of XTC founder Barry Andrews) has always been a combustible sort – his vocal performance tends to range anywhere from stately and forlorn to bloodied and raw, sometimes all on the same song (see opener “Not Yet” off their classic 2006 album Nux Vomica) – and nothing seems to have cooled the fire in his voice in the intervening years since they last appeared on the scene. Yet that album begged the question of just what all this emotional turmoil was really accomplishing; an accumulation of dramatic hard times that seemed more exhausting than cathartic, the end result of a band never quite seeming to capitalize on that consistent “underrated” label to achieve greater indie success? “Through The Deep, Dark Wood” sweeps away all the hesitant trifles of Troubles of the Brain and embraces Andrews’ inherent talent for stirring anthems, the thud of the drums and the whipcrack of the guitars marrying Andrews’ stark, powerful vocals to a thrilling hook. “No, I can’t go back,” Andrews wails on that cleansing chorus, and while that may not be true, strictly speaking (this song would have fit right at home on either Nux Vomica or their 2004 debut The Runaway Found), “Through The…
Georgia sludge metal outfit Kylesa are set to release their new album Ultraviolet on May 28th. The follow-up to 2010’s well-received Spiral Shadow is going to be way more ominous. The first song that has just dropped is an ideal indicator of that. “Unspoken” incorprates a notable post-punk influence into the band’s signature sludge metal. As a result, the track is atmospheric and crushing in turns, taking full advantage of its groovy bass lines and understated guitar solos. Add contrasting vocals of singer/guitarists Philip Cope and Laura Pleasants to that and you’re left with one of the most intriguing tracks of the young year. One can only wonder if Kylesa are capable of retaining such a high level of song craft throughout the entire album.
Here’s how Pleasants describes the new direction of the band:
“Whereas Spiral Shadow was a warm album suggesting concepts of hope, Ultraviolet is a bit colder and darker. All of our studio albums have their own unique identity and we’ve always been a band who strives for something different than what current fads suggest. With Ultraviolet, we took a step inward and wrote music that we felt we had to write; this album centers around the multiple themes of loss and you can feel it in the music. Everyone goes through it during their lifetime and this record reflects that experience.”
I’ve always found it difficult to express to other musicians why I find indie music* so intriguing. Instrumentally, there usually isn’t much there — indie tends to be vocally driven, minimal, and frankly a bit repetitive. (* what is indie music? whatever I want it to be for this post)
The new single ‘White Leather’ by Wolf Alice doesn’t break this mold. It consists of a simple four measure riff that repeats throughout the entire song. In the chorus they add a second riff. That’s it.
Liverpool-based Ninetails have spent the past twelve months picking up plaudits and fans like there’s no tomorrow, all of it well deserved. A clinical sound and unwavering attention to detail led to the creation and release of last year’s Slept And Did Not Sleep EP; a fine record that shows a group very much in control of their talent and potential. Not much else to say here except “enjoy”!
Download the EP for a price of your choosing HERE.
The evergreen jazz merchant-cum-voodoo warrior Dr. John is probably the type of person who you could file neatly under ‘Seen It All’. It was perhaps a surprise, even with his long track record, that 2012’s Locked Down LP was as free, easy and palatable as it came to be. Written, recorded and produced heavily in conjunction with Black Keys’ mainman Dan Auerbach, the album is one that sees the 72 year old doctor grab a new lease of life with both hands.
Tracks such as “Revolution” and the record’s eponymous effort show a certain fire; understandable for a New Orleans native who will have looked on in horror as his hometown was almost swept away. However, it’s “Ice Age” that stands out the most. A subtle sense of anger and exasperation pour out of the Dr’s mouth, taking aim at those who like “smoking crack and final blunts” and who “ain’t got a cent”; those who fiddle as Rome burns. Maybe it’s a missive against the parts of New Orleans that have been slow to recover. Perhaps it’s a rant against the wider world. It doesn’t matter, as such themes are very pertinent wherever you are. That’s the saddest thing of all, but if anyone can ease you into the gloom with a message and rhythm, then it’s this guy.
Having previously reviewed all three of the band’s albums, I guess it is fair to state that I am Sputnik Music’s undisputed expert in all things British India. From their exciting – if derivative – debut LP ‘Guillotine’, through to disappointing follow-up ‘Thieves’ and solid – if unspectacular – latest release ‘Avalanche’, there has always been some kind of appeal to yours truly… And it has nothing to do with the fact that they’re Melbourne boys like my good self.
Despite the occasional glimpse of promise, however, their two most recent LPs have felt as if the quartet were chasing their tail… Making do, without really progressing to a significant extent. Could that be about to change with the release of new single ‘I Can make You Love Me’? While still definitively British India – especially the yelping vocals of Declan Melia – it definitely took me a little by surprise with its build-up and dynamics. Sure, it still may not be breaking any new ground per se, but it feels like a genuine step forward for a band who I’ve always deemed to have potential.
As for the video; well, who wouldn’t love a drunk, pissed-off, lovelorn and karaoke-singing minotaur wandering the streets in the dark of the night? Hell, I think I’ve felt similarly myself on occasions. Hang on a tick, I think I also saw those identical views… I’ve definitely cursed Festival (aka Festering) Hall once or twice!
At the end of July, Animal Collective released “Today’s Supernatural,” the single from their upcoming release Centipede Hz due out in early September. Before listening to the track, the reemergence of Deakin has been tremendous as seen on the Honeycomb / Gotham split. One might think after the critically acclaimed, and Deakin-less, Merriweather Post Pavilion that Animal Collective would be better without Deakin’s trippy riffs. Yet, after listening to “Gotham,” where the guitar riffs drip like a hot rain, it is clear that the depth and layering of their sound is much more developed than before.
That brings us back to “Today’s Supernatural,” a frantically uptempo track that defines the growth since Strawberry Jam. The track is unusually heavy (reminiscent of “For Reverend Green”), with Panda Bear’s masterful percussion skills throbbing throughout, while Avey Tare shows a multitude of vocal dynamics and moods. Lyrically, Tare paints a picture of the willingness to adventure beyond some mundane life and quite literally ‘letting go’ and enjoying the ride. How the bookend of this ride will sound remains to be seen, but we damn well know Centipede Hz will be an interesting trip, as always.
What is there to say about this song? I’ve never heard of the band before, but I’m digging what they’re doing here. It’s like a cross between trip hop, chill jazz and gothic rock. The song comes from the band’s three-song EP of the same name and was released through Pale Noir Records. The other two songs even seem to add just the slightest bit of shoe gaze to the mix — good stuff.
There are only two rules of pirate metal: 1) pirate metal exists, and 2) shitty costumes.
The third rule (of two) is that you must always – ALWAYS – cover a seafaring shanty from a popular children’s TV show. US pirate thrash band Swashbuckle pioneered the art way back in 2008 with their cover of the SpongeBob Squarepants theme tune, but ballsed it up by making it really, really, really, really, really, really shit. I mean fuck. Pirates aren’t even cool. These people didn’t shower for fuck’s sake, and pissing yourself after 11 bottles of rum is not as attractive as Disney make it out to be.* Just ask your girlfriend.
Scottish outfit Alestorm made a better fist of things, pulling the pseudo-genre from the brink of Mariana’s Trench with their own spin on ‘You Are a Pirate’ (from the BBC show Lazy Town) on last year’s Back Through Time. ‘You Are a Pirate’ is by no means the authoritative sea-plunderer’s manifesto – the only criterion it lays down is that “if you like to sail the sea, you are a pirate,” leading to the rather dubious conclusion that Simon LeBon is a pirate – but as far as pirate metal goes this is about as innovative and forward-thinking as it’s ever going to get.
I recognise this isn’t exactly going to bolster my hipster cred.
“WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SONG, DUDE?” – for years, my go-to response when faced with this ludicrous question was Feeder’s ‘Just A Day’. On the not infrequent occasion that my tormentor didn’t know the song, or thought it was called ‘All By Myself’ (because all pop songs’ titles are their hook lines, duh), I would gleefully drag it up from the depths of my collection and admire the hold it still had over me. It astounded me that the sheer adrenaline and energy of that guitar riff (do do-do do, and so on) never wore off or ran aground; it still does the same things to me today, though now I have to measure my enthusiasm through an artistic spectrum because somewhere along the line it became not okay any more to just love awesome rock songs.
Except, you know, it is. I don’t drive, but if I decided to learn, it would be purely due to an imaginary scenario in which I just drive down the M1 and (probably) back all night listening to songs like ‘Just A Day’. But inside our adventurous natures (we’re all here because we explore music, right, instead of just absorbing it?) we sometimes manage to convince ourselves that the only things worth listening to are the abstract, the weird and the ironic. As a result of that conceit, we fail to care about those direct, simple songs, and as a result of…