Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Tame Impala - Currents review

I'm gonna put my hands up straight away and admit that I really wasn't all that into Tame Impala at first. To me, they were just another white, dull and boring indie band that made music for that exact demographic (probably why no one I know has heard of them, then). For quite some time I categorized them with the likes of DIIV, The War On Drugs and Kurt Vile (I could go on and on) and never really felt compelled by the immense hype surrounding these acts by the likes of Pitchfork. Though I still profess that they are a dull indie band who I would most likely dislike on a personal level, I did really like Lonerism (dammit!). This was largely down to the strong psychedelic production drowning out Kevin Parker's dreary vocals and making their whole aesthetic a lot more interesting as a result (see "Elephant", their breakout track). I was pleasantly surprised when the band dropped "Let It Happen", one of my favorite tracks of 2015, a few months ago and thus made me interested to see how the new record would sound. With Currents, they have come through with a more synth-heavy sound which largely serves them well.

The record begins strongly with Let It Happen, an epic labyrinth of psychedelia which is as compliant with old school disco as it is surf rock, making it one of the band's more experimental moments. This sets the tone for Currents rather well (especially as minimal guitar use is a theme throughout the record) and as a result many of the album highlights are synth-heavy and different to the rest of the band's discography. The production is certainly where this album's strengths lie, this is most prominent on tracks like 'Eventually', where an orchestra of synths, sneers and crashing symbols create a cascading dream-like soundscape. Elsewhere the band return to their earlier sound with mostly successful results, a key example being 'The Less I Know The Better', where the groove is structured around an instant guitar hook and Cam Avery's impeccable bass. The band revisit their Lonerism sound once again on the track 'The Moment', which features one of the more distinctive and hook-laden melodies on Currents, despite not actually having a defined chorus as such.

Despite the many highs this record has, there are a fair few duds which hinder my overall enjoyment. It is evident from my earlier praise that I adore the production, this has always been my favourite thing about the band itself. My issue with not only this record but Tame Impala as a whole is Kevin Parker's weak and often grating falsetto. Unfortunately this is a vocal style which dominates the indie rock 'scene', hence why it is often so damn dull. When the production is strong, I can overlook weak vocals, but where the production is lackluster and the vocals are more prevalent, they can cross the line into insufferable. 'Disciples' is the biggest culprit of this, the fast pace of the track perhaps making Parker's voice sound extra whiny. But thankfully this track is only 2 minutes long so the suffering is not prolonged, the same cannot be said for 'Cause I'm a Man' which is easily one of the most indulgent, irritating and unappealing songs of their career thus far.

But believe it or not, I actually do quite like this record; It may not be as good as Lonerism, but it still hits far more than it misses. Let It Happen and The Less I Know The Better, both of which are career highlights, in particular ensure that the bad recover from misjudgments such as 'Cause I'm A Man and the awkward interludes. Overall I commend Kevin Parker and Co. for experimenting with the sound that broke them into the mainstream without alienating their older fans, which is somewhat of a rarity in the industry today.


Best tracks: Let It Happen, The Moment, Eventually, The Less I Know The Better

Monday, 22 June 2015

Jaakko Eino Kalevi - S/T review

Jaakko Eino Kalevi st

As you may have gathered from my Jamie XX review earlier this month, I have a deep appreciation for music which encompasses levity and space whilst retaining its hooks and melodic charm. Unlike In Colour however, the focus of Jaakko Eino Kalevi isn’t in the club, but rather the subtleties in basic day-to-day life, viewed through tinted spectacles. His music first caught my attention when I heard the stunning “No End” from his Dreamzone EP back in late 2013, I was captivated by the hushed vocals (courtesy of frequent collaborator Suad Khalifa) and the woozy yet distinct melody which circulated my brain for the last two years (no exaggeration). Even though none of the 4 tracks from the EP made it onto the track list, Jaakko Eino Kalevi feels very much like an expansion upon the ideas he presented on Dreamzone, cementing his status as the best thing to have come out of Sweden in recent memory.

Before I heard this record I was slightly anxious as to whether or not Jaakko Eino Kalevi could pull off an album’s worth of material, Dreamzone may have worked incredibly well as a 4-track EP but would his act wear thin on an entire LP? The answer is yes, yes he can. The opening track “JEK” and the unpronounceable closing track “Ikuinen Purkautumaton Jännite” act as bookends for the record, both mirroring the same progressive production style with glacial synths driving their melodies which build up to epic climaxes, especially the closer, which erupts into a fantastic horn section. For the most part Jaakko Eino Kalevi is made up of avant garde lounge pop, with many tracks being suitable for some kind of obscure ’70s movie with heaps of smoke and mustaches (which would be aptly strange). The track “Room” encompasses this imagery the most, with Jaakko and Suad’s hushed vocal harmonies creating a sultry bedroom jam.

Away from the more ambient and atmospheric sounds that dominate the album come some more distinctive and memorable tracks, some more ‘poppy’ moments if you will. The obvious standout is “Deeper Shadows”, with it’s hook-laden panpipe-led melody and meandering dual vocals, making this his catchiest and most instant track to date. Elsewhere the disorientating shoegaze of “Double Talk” draws on simplicity with the refrain “You talk, double talk/you think, double thoughts”. The penultimate track “Hush Down” calls upon a funkier aspect of JEK’s sound, particularly the warped synth-heavy pre-chorus leading up to the joyous slurry grooves of the chorus. These tracks in particular standout against the chilled and surreal backdrop of the rest of the LP, creating a sense of diversity.

What is so remarkable about Jaakko Eino Kalevi is that there aren’t actually that many standout tracks in the traditional sense (besides the three singles), yet every track plays a vital roll in pulling the listener into the surreal dream-pop universe created by this synth-pop troubadour. Whether it be the icy synths of the unofficial theme tune JEK or the jazzy outro of the closing track, there are plenty of astonishing artistic achievements scattered across this excellent record. This is undoubtedly one of the best debuts of the year so far and one that simply must grace your summer playlist.


Best tracks: JEK, Double Talk, Deeper Shadows, Hush Down, Ikuinen Purkautumaton Jännite

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Florence + the Machine - How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful review

florence and the machine How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

Over their spectacular albeit short discography, Florence and the Machine have achieved both critical and commercial acclaim ever since they burst onto the scene in 2007 with “Dog Days Are Over” and subsequently their debut album Lungs. What initially drew my attention to FATM was the commanding and passionate vocals of front woman and primary songwriter Florence Welch alongside the organic and ‘quirky’ instrumentation that dominated the band’s early material. On their sophomore album Ceremonials however, the band left the meadows and forest creatures behind in favor of soul choirs, lavish string arrangements and a new, more sleek aesthetic altogether. As much I adore both of the aforementioned records, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful comes as a refreshing new chapter for the band’s discography, delivering a sharp, streamlined yet equally enjoyable record.

As the title hints, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful contains a fair number of epic moments, in fact, I’d go as far as to say that the record is dominated by huge choruses, much like the band’s previous material. ‘Ship to Wreck’, one of the more uptempo and joyous cuts, laced with jingle-jangling guitar chords which recall the solo work of Fleetwood Mac legend Stevie Nicks. One of the bigger moments on the record come on the horn-laced “Queen of Peace”, which is one of the strongest tracks the band have ever produced both sonically and lyrically, the tense horn/drum combo along with the regal imagery capture Florence Welch’s lyrical talent at its very best, a career highlight. Another standout, “Third Eye”, displays Welch’s knack for hook-laden songwriting, complete with soaring chants and the desperate assertion of the lyric “I’m the same, I’m the same, I’m trying to change”, once again reinforcing the idea that this record is a new chapter for the band.

Between these grand moments Florence and Co. also come through with some more reflective cuts, some rather blue moments, if you will. This mood is captured perfectly on the track “Caught”; what feels like a real breakthrough for Welch artistically, “Caught” is a frank and honest confession of her shortcomings, as if she’s coming clean and leaving her mistakes behind in order to free herself at last. This reflective vibe serves her less well on the track “Long & Lost”, one of the weaker tracks on the record. Here the instrumentation remains stagnant and even a little drab despite Welch’s voice being as stunning as ever. Even if the melody isn’t up to much I will always welcome a track where I can hear Florence giving a more restrained vocal performance, so this is still very much an essential part of the album.

When the moments of melancholy subside, the clouds eventually part to reveal a glimmer of sun to penetrate the grey-scale sheen, making for some, dare I say, rather beautiful moments. With harp being such a prominent feature on many of their older tracks, we know that Florence and the Machine never shy away from a more ethereal and otherworldly sound. On the stunning penultimate track “St Jude”, we hear a more skeletal and vulnerable side of the band’s sound, the use of organ reflecting the soulful grandeur of Ceremonials, to some extent. The title track is one of the more dynamic moments on the record, deviating from folk-rock to baroque and chamber pop when the horn and string sections kick in towards the swooning outro.

With such an ambitious title and such a long absence, it is just as well that Florence and the Machine have in fact come through with a record which is big, blue and beautiful (I went there). With only 11 tracks on the standard edition, every track is vital to the flow and momentum of the record; gentle and reflective cuts like “St Jude” and “Caught” ensure that there is emotional diversity whilst the more anthemic tracks like “Third Eye” and “Queen Of Peace” retain the mainstream appeal of the band’s older sound, striking the perfect balance between appeasing loyal fans and including those who didn’t quite get the oddball charm of the band’s earlier material.


Best tracks: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, Queen of Peace, Caught, Third Eye, St Jude

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Best of May

Over the last month we've heard some serious AOTY (album of the year) contenders from Holly Herndon, Novella and The Weather Station, all of which represent completely different sections of the music spectrum, exemplifying why this was such an interesting month for new music. I've also discovered a promising new artist by the name of r.e.l, who features below the albums section.  

But perhaps the highlight of the month was the long-awaited announcement of the new Beach House record titled Depression Cherry. Despite no material being dropped as yet, it is already one of my favourite albums of the year; amazing name - check, solid record label(s) behind release - check, excellent cover - check and, for the shallow collectors like myself, excellent packaging - check (I mean it has a red velvet sleeve for crying out loud!). But the bottom line is that Beach House are one of the most consistently excellent bands of the 21st century and so I have every hope that this will be yet another strong addition to their immaculate discography. 

Albums of the month

Holly Herndon - Platform

The range of sounds and styles Holly experiments with on Platform are what make it such an exciting and engaging listen. Over the course of 10 tracks she explores elements of new-age, break-beat, techno, glitch-hop, choral pop, trip-hop, avante-garde, house and even ASMR (Autonomous sensory meridian response). There are easily accessible and almost anthemic moments to be found on tracks like 'Chorus', 'An Exit' and 'Morning Sun' as well as bizarre left-turns on tracks like 'Lonely At The Top'. Some of her experiments are more successful than others, but overall this is an essential listen for anyone seeking to sonically explore the digital age we currently live in from a perspective which is both critical and celebratory. 

Read my full review here.

Eskimeaux - O.K.

Even if O.K. isn’t the flashiest or even the most hard-hitting of pop records I’ve heard this year, it certainly speaks to me the most. The vocals are often light and vulnerable, at points they’re barely above a whisper, but the occasional harmonization is there to remind us all that we aren’t always alone. The power that these folky-pop ditties possess, whether that be lyrically or sonically, make O.K. one of the more compelling releases of the year, and Eskimeaux one of the most endearing and charming of the many indie-pop acts I’ve discovered as of late. So if you’re ever feeling down or in need of comfort and reassurance when the world is getting a little too much to bear, I would recommend O.K. straight away.

The Weather station - Loyalty

As much as I love techno and audacious pop music, I'm also partial to good folk record and this is likely to be the best you'll hear all year (unless Queen Joanna Newsom finally drops one this year, here's hoping). Even though there are no synths or vocal acrobatics to make her tracks accessible or catchy, Tamara Lindeman's gorgeous vocals assure that I remain engaged and hanging on her every word. The instrumentation is simple yet the melodies, perfectly complementary to Lindeman's vocals, bring the lyrics to life and take you into the whimsical world that Loyalty exists in. This is yet another strong release for Paradise of Bachelors.

Novella - Land

As many of you may be aware, I've been anticipating this record for a while now. Thankfully, Land was well worth the wait and has been on heavy rotation for the last couple of weeks. The impeccable 'Follow' has been re-recorded and opens the record perfectly, the driving guitar melody retains the psychedelic charm of the band's earlier material that I love so dearly. The record shines the most on the more hook-laden tracks like 'Sentences' and 'Land Gone', the harmonization of their vocals in combination with the reverb-soaked production and shedding guitars provide some the most compelling musical moments of the year so far.  

Blanck Mass - Dumb Flesh

Dumb Flesh is a weird ol' record. It isn't designed for the dance-floor, it isn't designed for road trips and it certainly isn't a  record you can listen to casually after work/school. These songs hit grooves and ride them in a way that Benjamin John Power's earlier work didn't. If his self-titled debut was an exploration of the outer reaches of (audible) space, Dumb Flesh torpedoes straight to the core and rips it to shreds. Whether it be the ear-shattering drones on 'Dead Format' or the surprisingly therapeutic second-half of the closer 'Detritus', this project never fails to excite and intrigue me. 

Circuit Des Yeux - In Plain Speech

Ever since I discovered Circuit Des Yeux I knew I was going to have a hard time describing her music, but I'm gonna try my best. Firstly, it's surreal; I have never heard a female baritone before, I never thought it would work to be completely honest. But within the labyrinth that is In Plain Speech, Haley Fohr's rich vocals blend seamlessly with the droning soundscapes to create a record which is unique, fresh and bold. None of the tracks necessarily work alone, but together they each feel substantial and captivating in their own right. 

Discovery: r.e.l

Earlier this month I was greeted with an email about an exciting 19 year old female artist who's showing great promise and has a sound reminiscent of the likes of Lorde, who I happen to love immensely. So I had a listen and was delighted with what I heard, I'd even go as far as to say that this is one of the strongest pop releases of the year so far. For a debut release, I was surprised to hear that she wasn't mimicking other female artists or blatantly recycling melodies, instead r.e.l borrows from an eclectic range of influences, from bubblegum pop to darker electronica and occasionally folk sounds. 

Her self-titled EP consists of 6 light, catchy and occasionally touching pop songs. My favourite of all is the opening track 'All That Bite', the infectious chorus recalls the style of blog favourite Hannah Diamond of PC Music fame with its bubbly synths and sickly-sweet vocal delivery. The EP shows immense range over the course of these 6 tracks, deviating from care-free party songs ('Salt') to skeletal hymns ('Love Your Neighbor'). The album's true moment comes on the track 'Headed To The Sun', an anthemic love song which I would fit quite comfortably on a mainstream radio playlist. But for now, my introductory playlist is below and features tracks from her debut EP as well as some relevant tracks from similar artists.

For fans of: Wet, Sylvan Esso, Lorde, Wild Ones

Songs of the month (playlist at the end)

Puro Instinct (feat. Christian Rich) - Lake Como

God, this is just gorgeous. Now I'm always partial to a bit of dream pop but this really is outstanding. The duo have been quiet for so long that I kinda forgot about them, but with this stunner they are back with a vengeance. As aggressive as that sounds, 'Lake Como' is a slow, sultry and dreamy mid-tempo with rolling 80's style synths and a majestic chorus. 'Over and over I under your spell, don't know you do it you do it so well', my thoughts exactly ladies, my thoughts exactly...

Samantha Crain - Outside The Pale

Moving on to something COMPLETELY different, a spot of Americana, courtesy of Samantha Crain, who released her stunning debut Kid Face early last year. Her debut was a 'hidden gem' in every sense of the word, but I blame this on the weird-ass release date...I mean, who released an album in December/January? When everyone is broke, hungover and depressed and the music media are on holiday? Smart move. Clearly this is nothing to do with the very talented Samantha, and fortunately her new record is receiving a fair amount of press already. This is by far her strongest track so far, the strings and raw production style remind my of exactly why I loved Torres' debut record. She has a very ~authentic~ and ~rootsy~ sound and I'm really looking forward to hearing this new record. 

Jamie XX - I Know There's Gonna Be Good Times (feat Young Thug)

Now that it's very nearly summer, the new Jamie xx LP In Colour (full review here) is already ready and waiting to be your soundtrack. Even if (like me) you won't actually enjoy this summer at all because of school/work/stress/life in general, this record with certainly make it easier. Amongst the many understated, nocturnal club tracks comes this odd-ball, which sticks out like a sore thumb, in the best possible way. Young Thug, one of the most promising rising rappers, really adds to this track, his crazy flow fits the sampling perfectly. I'm just gonna ignore the lyrics, it's a club track after all, so who's judging? 

VÉRITÉ - Colors

While we're on the subject of summer bangers, here's another one for you. It's nice (and rare) to see a pop song that is this well-crafted; the production in the verses is as well thought-out and hook-laden as the spectacular chorus. Unlike many pop songs, the lyrics aren't vapid and the concept of colours and euphoria blend seamlessly into the atmosphere and mood of the track, tying it all together rather nicely. 

DRINKS - Hermits On Holiday

OK, this is a weird one. Yep, that pretty much covers it. 'Hermits on Holiday' is a bonkers piece of indie (I couldn't think a better genre to defy it with). But what you really need to know is that half of this newly-formed duo is the very excellent singer/songwriter Cate Le Bon, whose LP Mug Museum is still every bit as incredible as it was when it came out back in 2013. Anyway, the majority of you probably won't really like this but I do and it's my blog so...

Gwenno - Patriarchaeth

There must be something in the water across the boarder because here is yet another outstanding recent track from a Welsh artist, this time it's Gwenno Saunders, the former frontwoman of The Pipettes who has since gone solo under the moniker Gwenno. If the last track wasn't Welsh enough for you, this one is actually sung in Welsh. Gwenno actually released her album, titled Y Dydd Olaf, in October last year on a small Welsh label called Peski Records. This here is a fun, 70's inspired ditty which has a great sense of authenticity and really stands out from the many songs I've heard in recent months. 

Adult Mom - Survival

Here's yet another hip indie band from New York! (courtesy of Stereogum, naturally). I sound cynical but I keep coming back for more so I can't really complain. 'Survival', at first listen, is a deceptively pleasant, light and catchy indie pop track but the lyrics reveal undercurrent of teen rebellion and self-depreciation which make it feel a lot more memorable than your average indie pop track. Plus it has really nice synths, which I have a real weakness for. 

Briana Marela - Surrender

I thought I'd end the post (and indeed, the playlist) with a euphoric piece of folktronica. Jagjaguar is a label renowned for its constancy in delivering solid and interesting records from artists who have longevity (Sharon Van Etten, Unknown Mortal Orchestra) and I reckon their latest signee Briana Marela will be no exception to this. 'Surrender' doesn't really follow any recent trends, it just exists in its own little world, picking flowers and frolicking through meadows; the layered tones and bleeps under Briana's ethereal vocals make it perfect for some Disney-inspired fun.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Jamie xx - In Colour Review

There is no doubt that the runaway success of The xx's self-titled debut had an auspicious effect on the formerly drab pop landscape. Instead of cramming every inch with beats and effects, artists are now learning the power of space in their music. Now I know that I'm not reviewing an xx album and so won't drift too long but one cannot dismiss them as 'just another group of hipsters'. The fact that 'Intro' is even now the go-to soundtrack for TV suspense/ambiance rather than a classical composition from last century is pretty special, to me at least. This explains why this, the debut record from Jamie Smith (arguably the mastermind behind the band), has so much buzz surrounding it. Even though I recognize that both Romy and Oliver's contributions to The xx's sound were pivotal to the band's success, I believe the production is the best aspect of The xx and this was mainly down to Jamie. So now that he has finally emerged from the blackened indie mist and taken centre-stage, has he lived up to expectations? The answer is yes, yes he has.

'Gosh', an absolute banger, opens the record in a rather epic fashion, with thumbing beats circulating around a frantic vocal sample before soaring into a swirling melodic outro. Despite being one of the denser tracks on the record it still, like the rest of In Colour, toys with sparsity and vast soundscapes within a house context. 'Sleep Sound', despite having heard it over a year ago, has a whole new gravitas within the context of the record itself and I couldn't imagine it not being on here. Whilst we're speaking of pre-released material; 'Under One Roof Raving', perhaps my favourite Jamie xx track, didn't even make it onto the final tracklisting. Fortunately, 'Obvs' emerges as the former's tropical revenge, with steel drums having an even greater presence in its gittering production. The party continues with 'I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)' and though I don't really dig Young Thug ordinarily, his erratic style and flow work perfectly here, making it a fun and dynamic party track for the summer. Jamie also showcases his talent on slow-burners like 'The Rest Is Noise'- it takes a while to get going, but when it does...oh boy.

Even whilst Jamie is lost is the wonders of 'da club', he still hasn't forgotten his roots; In Colour features 3 collaborations with his xx bandmates Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim, whose contributions are among the album's many standout moments. 'Loud Places' caused excitement for this record to reach fever-pitch when it dropped earlier this year, mainly due to Jamie's otherworldly sample-usage in its euphoric chorus. In a sea of instrumentals, these three tracks lyrically delve into themes of anxiety and uncertainty, more so on 'Stranger in a Room', with Oliver asking “want to change your colors/Just for the night?”. On album highlight 'Seesaw' Romy's signature hushed sultry purr oozes over a dreamy nocturnal melody, the vocals and the production work seamlessly together to create one glorious, driving and, dare I say, colourful soundscape.

In Colour, though composed of a mixture of pre-released material (Girl, Sleep Sound), club bangers (Gosh, Good Times) as well as a handful of tracks which could just as easily been featured on a new xx record (Seesaw, Stranger in a Room, Loud Places), works immaculately as one cohesive body of work. Despite its many standouts, one can't help but listen to the LP in its entirety, that's the only way one can appreciate the triumph that this record is.


Best tracks: Gosh, Sleep Sound, Seesaw, Loud Places, The Rest Is Noise

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Holly Herndon - Platform review

It's not often that I get excited about an artist over a record which leaves me completely cold, but this was certainly the case with clinical redhead goddess Holly Herndon, whose 2012 debut Movement was the very definition to cold. Whether it was the sharp and precise beats or the distant vocal samples, everything felt very clinical and detached. The fact that the record clicked with me so much is surprising considering how much I usually like music which is the complete opposite (both warm and organic). My immense excitement over Holly's music was fully justified when her (still completely incredible) single 'Chorus' dropped back in January 2014. A departure from the anatomical focus of Movement; Chorus marked the start of a new artistic chapter for Holly, one based in a not-too-distant digital dystopia in which our lives are dictated by technology. Fortunately for me, Chorus is just one of ten thought-provoking yet digestible pieces of electronica you'll find on this wonderful, wonderful record.

In the music media people seem obsessed with genres and labels. This is understandable bearing in mind that there are millions upon millions of releases all over the internet which are open for consumption. So for the sake of practicality, genres are there to filter out what we wouldn't like and draw attention to what we might like, based on our pre-recorded personal taste. But what happens when you refuse to be labelled? Holly Herndon has made it pretty darn difficult to categorize her music and it makes me adore her (and Platform) even more. 

But even within the broad 'experimental electronica' tag there are preconceptions of what your likely to hear, this again is something that Platform openly challenges. What was even surprising to me was how human some of the tracks on Platform are. Take the single 'Home' for example, like a handful of tracks on the LP vocals take centre-stage, the mix of Holly's lone vocals and the patchwork of cascading samples in the background create a sense of distorted euphoria, especially as the track breaks down and the electronics fade towards the climax. But perhaps the most 'straightforward' track on the record (I use that term loosely) is the stunning 'Morning Sun', a vulnerable ballad  which carries a surprising amount of emotional heft. One of the weirder moments is the ever-so-slightly spiritual 'Unequal', which stylistically can be best described as 'New Age for the digital age', here Holly uses hypnotic vocal manipulation to create an almost ritualistic atmosphere.

Aside from these more accessible tracks, Platform also features punchy beat-led electrobangers that I imagine would sound pretty epic in ~the club~ (clearly I'm an expert in this field). The opening track 'Interference' is an industrial break-beat masterpiece, laced with pulsating beats and throbbing drum machines. 'DAO' ensures the momentum is sustained in the latter half of the record, here we see Holly up her glitchy electronics game to a new level of theatricality. 'An Exit' is another playful yet challenging piece, it deviates between desperate and frantic to a euphoric and lush chorus-like moment. 

The range of sounds and styles Holly experiments with on Platform are what make it such an exciting and engaging listen. Over the course of 10 tracks she explores elements of  new-age, break-beat, techno, glitch-hop, choral pop, trip-hop, avante-garde, house and even ASMR. There are easily accessible and almost anthemic moments to be found on tracks like Chorus, An Exit and Morning Sun as well as bizarre left-turns on tracks like 'Lonely At The Top'. Some of her experiments are more successful than others, but overall this is an essential listen for anyone seeking to sonically explore the digital age we currently live in from a perspective which is both critical and celebratory. 


Best tracks: Interference, Chorus, Morning Sun, An Exit, DAO, New Ways To Love

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Best of April

Even though we're only 5 months into 2015, we've already seen (or rather, heard) some truly excellent music by the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Sufjan Stevens and Lady Lamb. But the best is still yet to come; May and June are already shaping up to be incredible (see the list of future releases at the end of the post). April, if anything, was more of a teaser for what's to come, meaning that the past month has been mostly dominated by buzz tracks. On the albums side it was more quality over quantity with only two legitimately fantastic records, both are incidentally the follow-ups to my favourite two records of 2013 (that's pretty strange, right?). 

If this is a little rushed it's because I'm writing this post to distract myself from the terrifying reality of my AS exams being like a week away, so I apologize in advance for any inconsistencies or errors you may be confronted with. And on a side-note I'm not sure if I'll be doing a 'best of May' at the end of May or at the end of June, i.e when these god-forsaken dream-crushers are done and dusted, so look out for that.  

Moving on, I'd like to thank everyone who's been following this because it's a pretty big deal to me. Over the past month alone I've had over 1,000 views which I never expected, especially as I approach iplugtoyou's 2nd anniversary. So to celebrate this milestone I intend to start varying the content in the coming months, writing more for outside publications and iplugtoyou TV will be returning at some point. Special shout-out to my readers in Ukraine, who've been dominating my viewership lately, stay strong guys!

And last thing, I recently got a shout-out on my favourite podcast, The Only Music podcast by Has It Leaked (episode 4), it's available on iTunes if you're curious. It really is the best music podcast around and the exciting thing is that they're only just starting out (plus I'm obsessed with their Swedish accents), you can find out more about them here.

Albums of the month

Nadine Shah - Fast Food

Now I hate to be that guy but back in 2013 when I was harping on about how amazingly talented Nadine Shah was, hardly anyone listened to me (possibly because my viewership was like 4 people at the time). Not that I'm complaining, Nadine is a pretty big deal nowadays and her stunning voice has captivated the mainstream media, particularly album highlight 'Fool'. There will always be a special place in my heart for Nadine's debut album Love Your Dum and Mad, which not only soundtrack by Christmas 2013 but is the album that essentially got me my Earbuddy job, so thanks for that, Nads!

I also adore dark and brooding music, and her debut was just about as good as it got. A lot of writers compare Nadine's style to PJ Harvey, which I agree with production-wise, but vocally this is a rather lazy comparison. Fast Food, though not exactly breezy, is a lot more accessible and easy to digest than it's predecessor, with a more clean and crisp production quality. The range between gritty noir-rock bangers such as 'Stealing Cars' and 'Fool' and the more sultry moments like 'Washed Up' further exemplifies why she is easily one of the best acts coming out of the UK right now. 

Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp

Even if Ivy Tripp didn't exactly grab me at first listen, once you warm up to its quirks it becomes utterly captivating, almost like an ugly pet that you can't help but love. And having had time to take it all in, I can honestly say that I do love this record. I love that I haven't been able to stop playing La Loose (still listening to it as I type), I love that it feels like I've been loosing my shit to Poison for a year already and I love that Air is already an absolute classic, in my book at least. At its core Ivy Tripp is a beast and it will consume you hole once you let your guard down, which is ironic considering that this is one of Crutchfield's for defiant and stoic records lyrically. Well I assume that is the case, there is a lyric on the track 'Less Than' (<) which has perplexed me since the day I heard it; I'm not sure if "you're less than me, I am nothing' is empowering or self-deprecating, but regardless it's a powerful sentiment and one which I feel sums up Ivy Tripp as a whole.

Full review:

Tracks of the month

NoMBe - California Girls

Before you jump to any conclusions here, this is NOT a Katy Perry cover. What it is however is a hazy, woozy and gripping piece of electronic blues-rock. The way the song unravels and progresses whilst retaining its intoxicating intimacy is really special. Don't even get me started on that breakdown at the end, it's truly masterful, but I wish it lasted a little longer. I can't wait to put this on blast for the next 4 months, I recommend you save this one for your summer playlist.

Lianne La Havas - Unstoppable

And now we get to the triumphant return of British songstress Lianne La Havas, who has been teasing me for way too long with cryptic social media messages about new material and now she's back with her new record Blood (out in July). I always knew she had the potential to be incredible, I mean her debut album was great, but she has taken her artistry to the upper echelon with this gorgeous track. A departure from the guitar/piano-led soul-pop that dominated her debut; 'Unstoppable' is an airy, jazzy and soulful beast of a track, which bodes very well for Blood indeed. 

Jaakko Eino Kalevi - Deep Shadows

Before we get onto the track (and what a track it is), I'd just like to say that this dude has the most luscious locks in the business and I really wish I could pull off that look...

Moving on, I neglected to feature 'Double Talk', the lead single from his forthcoming self-titled debut, which I can confirm is one of my favourite tracks of the year so far. 'Deep Shadows' far exceeds its predecessor, it is everything I love in a pop song; it's weird, it's funky, it's full of hooks and IT FEATURES PANPIPES! Seriously incredible stuff, keep it up sir!

Goldroom - Mykonos (Fleet Foxes cover)

OK so here's the deal, I really don't like cover versions. Like, I understand they're important in helping an artist gain attention and they can work really well (see: Chvrches), but I just feel that the majority of generic 'piano covers' or 'acoustic covers' completely drain the life and soul from great songs. However, like a good little indie kid I adore Fleet Foxes (where u at guys?!) and so I am still open to hearing a good cover of one of their tracks. 

To my surprise, I discovered one of the covers I've heard in a while. What is so great about this cover is how Goldroom completely transform the track, the only thing that remains in are the fantastic lyrics, everything else has been reconstructed (tastefully, I might add) to turn a FF classic into a summer bop, who would've thought it, ey? 

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Can't Keep Checking My Phone

Somehow I managed to allow one of, if not, the best track of the year so far bypass me completely. That track was 'Multi-Love' by Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and it still slays a solid 90% of the stuff I've heard this year. Whilst this new track isn't quite on that level of excellence, it's still great enough to make me want to replay it a ridiculous number of times. It runs firmly in the 'funky af' vein of ML, and is every bit as toe-tapping.

Empress of - Water Water 

After years of teasing, Empress Of looks to finally be releasing her debut album this year (date still unannounced). Bearing in mind her incredible single 'Hat Trick' dropped 3 years ago now(!) we've only got one buzz track since then in the form of 'Realize You', and even that was over a year ago now. Was 'Water Water' worth the wait? I'm not sure. It's a great track but I don't think I can be fully satisfied until I hear more, and specifically, a track better than Hat Trick. But for now, this certainly does the job; watery synths and a pounding house beat, this is worlds away from her previous work, but after nearly 3 years I came to expect this. Expect an eclectic collection of off-kilter pop when her record does drop at some point this year. 

Chromatics - In Films

From watery synths to gittering synths now, courtesy of the ever-excellent Chromatics. This is now the third track to drop from their forthcoming LP Dear Tommy, which still hasn't got a release date (sort it out guys!). But at 17 tracks I'm pretty confident it'll be worth the wait, especially if the production is anywhere as crisp as it is on this track. The driving production and Ruth Radelet's deadpan yet alluring vocal delivery is a match made in gamer-nerd heaven, the relevance of this being that the band's music has the tendency to sound like the soundtrack to an 80's video game, which tends to age better than the graphics to be fair. 

Throwing Shade (feat. Emily Bee) - Honeytrap

Speaking of intoxication and wooziness, I couldn't think of a better description for this new offering from London producer Throwing Shade. I've been keeping a firm eye on her for the past 5 or so months. My obsession essentially began when she dropped her mind-bending 19 Jewels EP late last year, and only grew stronger after seeing clips of her incredible Boiler Room set a couple of months back. She has once again enlisted the vocal talents of Emily Bee to create this surreal jam, which is lifted from a new EP which is dropping this month. Be excited.

Chelsea Wolfe - Iron Moon

Following her breakthrough 2013 LP Pain is Beauty, goth queen Chelsea Wolfe is set to return this August with her 'darkest and most personal' record to date. In that case the title 'Abyss' seems pretty accurate. So far she's done every single pretty darn right for me with this release, excellent title - check, phenomenal artwork - check, epic single - double check. When a new album campaign kicks off with what is perhaps your best track yet, you can't go far wrong in my opinion.

This month, look out for new releases by:
Holly Herndon
The Weather station
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Blanck Mass
Circuit Des Yeux
Barnett + Collocia