Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Childish Gambino "3.15.20"


Going for an ambiguous, minimal presentation of this latest collection of songs, the multi talented Danny Glover AKA Childish Gambino follows up Awaken, My Love with 3.15.10. Its title simply signifies its release date. The plain white album cover furthers the lack of definition, its songs labeled simply with numbers signifying their arrival time on the overall listen. Only two tracks receive a name, Algorythm and Time, the first signifying that Danny is in touch with the times and pondering the human changes of this technological, data driven world is currently finding its way through.

Continuing with his inspired revival of the 70s shades of R&B, Soul and Funk, this newest iteration looks for a little obnoxiousness in its compositions, a handful of opening tracks experimenting with bold, over pronounced instrumentation and sample manipulation that penetrate the musical forefront. Many of these songs leave little in subtlety, bringing bright viscous sounds forward with jolted percussive rhythms, sometimes hinging on a groove but often feeling a little of kilter and niche.

After a slow unrolling of lengthy tracks, 19.10 punches in with a snappy beat and retro synth baseline that feels a little too overstated and off key to croon. As its layers builds the chemistry feels crowded and its proceeding 32.22 perhaps highlights where the experimentation doesn't yield. Its desolate fusion of dirty base rumblings and auto tuned voices crescendo without charm as its purpose seems to converge on volume. Its a gaudy, novelty track thats quite frankly grinding as its discernible voicing relents.

A couple songs later and the closing phase of the record finds some cohesion, experimentation calms and the chemistry heard on his previous effect can be heard again. The singing especially hits a smooth note as Danny's voice is presented without these manipulations heard earlier. It saves the record somewhat but overall I get a sense that the avenues to be different in production and composition just don't come together. Parts of it are very forgettable but a few songs hold up well too.

Favorite Tracks: 42.26, 47.48
Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Grimes "Miss Anthropocene" (2020)


With a substantial five year gap, Canadian singer & songwriter Grimes follows up her alarmingly bright and uplifting Art Angels with a project similar in tone yet gleamed by compositions that adventure deeper into darker imaginations. With many breaks for her defined artsy Pop pleasers, the gaps between delve into avant-garde themes with esoteric dexterity. They arrive with an enjoyable regularity. Last time around just a fraction of the music explored these stretches of creativity. With much of the songs residing comparatively in the sweet spot of appealing fuzzy feelings of goodness.

The slow and sleepy awakening of its opening track lingers in Ethereal shadows, setting a sombre tone for darkness to come. Darkseld slides into the dystopian as Grimes rapidly spurts her alien words over the droning thud of a descending and rigidly monotonous baseline. Its hypnotic, the chemistry is ripe. Violence lingers in an ambiguity between moods as its Downtempo drum groove marches the dreamy track onward. 4AM takes the biscuit as its unassuming intro of meandering high pitched singing paves a diversion for a party synth and Drumstep beat to propel the music to another planet. Brilliant! as is much of the layering vocals and reverb abuse to come.

The tracks around these significant moments don't come with as much flair and cavalier but have held up well over my many listens through this record. Its doesn't pack the same punch and might disappoint some but I thing the less obvious tracks have depth. Grime's lyrics and compositional experimenting stand strong and paint slow begrudging atmospheres with a lot of beauty emanating. The slower tempos tend not to grab attention in the same way, yet as an album of subtleties, its full of them. A really great record with plenty to come back too. Its got me looking forward to more!

Favorite Tracks: Darkseld, Violence, 4AM, My Name Is Dark
Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Ocean Grove "Flip Phone Fantasy" (2020)


My attention has been captivated, the astonishment elevated as once again musics deeply fulfilling emotions strike hard! Unearthing this band around the release of this sophomore record has been a miraculous blessing. Along with the likes of recent discoveries, Puppy, Turnstile and Ho99o9, that exuberant youthful energy has been invigorated again but this time Ocean Grove completely blow the lid of my noggin. I have to control myself, the binging is excessive yet the music keeps delivering.

The Australian group left The Rhapsody Tapes with strong metallic roots. A glow of modern metal, the nostalgic bounce of Nu Metal and a Metalcore aggressiveness are left in the shadows as the band loosen up and evolve with a significant line up change. New vocalist Dale Tanner brings about a similar presence, elevating musical energy but his leanings into the style of classic Rap Metal and summery singing in the spirit Noel Gallagher gives them a diverse new approach to the nostalgia.

The track Sunny being a particular gem, summer of 96 vibes with Oasis on the airwaves and football glory on the mind... A peach of a song with a brilliant Nirvana alike guitar solo to bring about the goosebumps. A lineup change on guitars with Twiggy Hunter now on bass guitar has those bright gleaming distortion guitars really nailing their purpose as every intention feels fulfilled. The interlude tracks too feel a class above previous efforts, Baby Cobra's acoustic guitar and Dream Pop, Ethereal aesthetic being particularly charming and soothing in its dreamy nature.

The band have reinvented their imagination of 90s sounds, particularly Alternative Rock, Metal and Grunge getting a keen nod but once again, this is no nostalgia trip. Fusing modern wall of sound production and lively synths the group pull out a diverse set of songs exploring a range of vibes and temperaments with absolute clarity of vision. Every song on this record is self realized and wonderful. Its drawback may be a couple of less distinct tracks and passable rap verses which get by on spirit more so than the value of lyrics or delivery. Its a weak point that will be easily overlooked.

The best of the record comes through diversity. Experiments with Drum N Bass groves and dirty baseline noise on Guys From The Gord are fiery juxtaposed to its dreamy vocals. Shimmer goes for the uplifting, inspiring sailing into the sun, akin to the likes of Young Guns. Ask For The Anthem takes the biscuit with a fun jiving track full of Funk Metal groove you can't help but move too. Junkie$, the song that caught my ear and introduced me to the band is a true hail to Limp Bizkit with ridiculous raps and those phat and loose bouncy guitar grooves in the Wes Borland spirit.

It should be obvious I am enamored by this record. Rumblings of twenty to thirty year nostalgia cycle commonly observed in many artistic mediums have been brewing with the sounds of my youth and trend would indicate its simply getting better routinely. What will this band do next? Who will they inspire now? Its all to exciting for my musical mind to handle. Another amazing discovery along the journey!

Favorite Tracks: Superstar, Neo, Sunny, Thousand Golden People, Baby Cobra, Ask For The Anthem, Junkie$
Rating: 9/10

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Ocean Grove "The Rhapsody Tapes" (2017)


This five piece Australian Alternative Metal outfit known as Ocean Grove have been my absolute binge of late. I discovered them through the Punk Rock MBA's video essay on the revival of Nu Metal. A blessing but also a blur. Letting Youtube play endless songs and discovering them right as a new album drops has made the whole experience overwhelming, now having a plethora of songs I adore to engage with. Narrowing my focus a little, I've been getting my head around this one, their debut full length released seven years on from their inception as a Post-Hardcore band.

The Rhapsody Tapes is stunning, perhaps the reasons a little less obvious as to why in the shadow of whats to come. Youthful, spirited and brimming with emotive energy, somehow they avoid the follies of sounding like a nostalgia trip. The 90s sounds run strong with this band. Nirvana, Oasis and Nu Metal can be heard melding in the melting pot with a vibrancy of modern Metal and ideas brought about in the decades since. Originality isn't in question here, these short and punch Pop Metal songs are so vibrant and well written, they simply work, to be enjoyed without need for reflection.

Without a defined formula nailed down, the twelve songs play with a dynamic range of temperaments exploring groove, emotion and fun within the bright template of crisp distortion guitars resonating massive quantities of energy. A couple of interlude tracks play as expanded elements of style, odd ball collaborations that for the most part work. The occasional inclusion of synth or drum machine adds a little flair. The rest of the music however often has a distinction from the realms of Grunge, Metalcore, Djent, Nu Metal and so on. I could write a list of bands, its as if each song plays tribute to particular artist and genre, sometimes mixing, all of which I happen to be a fan of.

Their singer Luke Holmes may be just getting by on the occasional Rap Metal moments of the record but when letting loose he soars and croons with a stunning sensibility for elevating tone. The duo of Jimmy Hall and Mathew Henley on guitars write sensational vibrant, bouncy riffs brimming with energy. Everything they try is a treat and the chemistry between these three sails the record to a height where I simply can't put it down. Its everything I love, done again and with a renewed youth!

Favorite Tracks: Beers, The Wrong Way, These Boys Light Fires, When You're This High You Can Say What You Like, Stratosphere Love
Rating: 8/10

Friday, 20 March 2020

Lil Uzi Vert "Eternal Atake" (2020)


One to keep an eye on, mumble rapper Lil Uzi Vert has followed up his debut with a stylistic record of interest. Eternal Atake first caught my attention when brought into legal issues with the Heavens Gate cult the original artwork was stylized around. The new cover carries over a sense of something alien and different to throw into the Hip Hop scene but reality is, bar a handful of productions, this a pretty atypical Trap record. Its been fun, enjoyable but it doesn't feel like much here will last.

Uzi's style on the mic is a curious focal point. Deliveries and rhymes are almost tragic, seeming lazy, thoughtless and of the moment when agitated. He is however undeniably catchy and attention grabbing in a entertaining way. Its a strange tightrope he walks and I can't settle my mind, so ill default to the positive and say it works! POP is a great example where his spurious momentum of rhymes capture this driven energy that is lively and fresh yet the word of rhyme is simply one on loop in many occasion. Its got a cadence and charm yet is lyrically hollow and lacking.

This is the case for much of the record, slurred words and ridiculous rhymes come about often. Its ironic but the more focused on style over the substance Uzi is, the better his flow and energy feels, arising often in tandem with the abandoned of lyrics. When story and narrative can be comprehended its mostly a slew of braggadocios and lewd show boating. Nothing much of substance was extracted, Uzi mostly works as an expressive voice grooving and playing of the instrumentals.

Production is split into thirds, the opening of which is the most intriguing, dark and alien the samples experiment with tonality and unusual sounds that are a delight, especially when the groove clicks. The middle of the record gets fluffy and lighter with the pop appeal. Its final chapter steers closer to his previous sound and P2 rehashes his Tour Life hit. It ends on a re-imagination of a Backstreet Boys song, not particularly appealing. For me the first third of the record has merit and intrigue but it quickly fades into its own bloated runtime as the tone shifts to less curious sounds.

Favorite Tracks: Lo Mein, Silly Watch, POP, You Better Move
Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Tame Impala "The Slow Rush" (2020)


With a simmering anticipation brewing, The Slow Rush has been warmly welcomed with open arms, taking its place as a glorious successor to 2015's Currents. This lengthy five year break has filtered out any mediocrity and filtered too us a fine selection of music to revel in. Although it may lack in any clear progression or shift forward in style, these twelve tracks sound like the sweetest fruits plucked from the crop of this particular chapter in Tame Impala's style. It's more of the best.

Given all I wanted was more of the same, I have absolutely adored this record! Its gorgeous, organic, oozy fusion of Psychedelic Rock and Electronic music is a textural lavishing of sound. Its mood particularly sunny and uplifting this time out, a spirit positive and reflective on the river of time. Kevin Parker clearly spends a portion of the record musing over changes in his life, growing up, moving on, embracing it all with a kind warm soul as he matures as a person and musician.

The way the album opens up is grabbing and immediate. A warped vocal manipulation get twisted into a melody and spliced with rhythmic timing, entrancing as the beat steadily fades in. It sets the tone of whats to come. Kevin deploys his uniquely soft and easy voice to effect with an expressive energy that boils every time it realigns with the vocal manipulation. In between 90s Dance pianos jives, a reoccurring instrument and synth solos embrace us for whats to come on the adventure.

 Moving throw its various shades and temperaments, bright punchy instruments stomp out grooves and melodies with a fun sense of freedom cruising alongside Kevin's charming reflections. Tone, texture and taste feel so effortless and freeing. The organic, oozy feel his music has is embellished through these sweet and succulent instruments. While it often feel thick and engulfing, a closer inspection of the layers at work are not all to complex. Its the way they come together that is wonderful.

I've enjoyed The Slow Rush immensely and will continue too but just like Currents I feel there is certainly some slower and calmer songs that may dull a little with time and repetitious listens. That is one strength the upbeat and catchy songs have that doesn't quite translate to its less energized songs. Either way its a stunning record delivering more of this stunning fusion, fueled by real inspiration and expression that is endearing and lasting. This could just be one of the best I'll hear this year!

Favorite Tracks:One More Year, Tommorrow's Dust, Lost In Yesterday, It Might Be Time
Rating: 9/10

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Yagya "Old Dreams And Memories" (2020)


Given my utter disappointment with last years Stormur, I almost let this one pass me by but alas I had to find out if the Icelandic musician Yagya would kindle his particular breed of calming magic again. I'm please to report the answer is yes. It is a return to form but also no measure of anything unheard before. After much consumption, it essentially confines Old Dreams And Memories to the playlist along with his other works when seeking the relaxing mood of his soft and dreamy atmospheres.

Toying a little with tense strings on occasional tracks, the usual remedy of dub baselines resonating slow club grooves below cloudy synths gets a little flavor to define it. Many of the usual tones, synths and drum sounds in his pallet resurface alongside these Classical elements, bringing about a sorrowful and saddening tone to otherwise carefree and indulgent sound. Its rainy, glum, yet entrancing and beautiful as  sombre violins usher in a seriousness on its select tracks.

The voice of what I presume to be a Japanese woman crops up throughout the record. Her soft spoken word creates an intimate feeling of something serious. Given the nature of the music it has less of a manifestation into theme but adds a little mystery to the records vibe. All in all the new songs have provided the Yagya experience again but with nothing remarkable going on. As always this music is fresh on first listen but quickly its ambience and atmosphere confines it to the background.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 13 March 2020

Queen "A Kind Of Magic" (1986)


Kicking off with two utterly phenomenal tracks, Queen's twelfth outing proceeds to play like a series of bad choices where the groups eclecticism and willingness to follow the sounds of the time leads them astray. Its actually Freddie himself who gets the better of me, a rarity for his glorious voice. The played out slow ballad sound of One Year Of Love and the utterly cheesy Pain Is So Close To Pleasure have him steering his voice into a high pitch ranges that I just found discomforting. A couple of proceeding tracks play up an expectant Queen approach to songwriting before the album switches its last three songs into a soundtrack for the movie Highlander.

Gimme The Prize amps up the Arena Rock vibes with some Heavy Metal guitar leanings. Its big Industrial thumping drums bring things together. A little cliche but it has an attitude. Samples from the movie tend to break up the flow and cause fillers that sound trashy as evil laughs, explosions and sword slashing sounds do little for the music. Continuing on themes from the movie, Don't Loose Your Head has an typically 80s synth tone but the lyrics and sample inclusion makes it feel forced. With Princes Of The Universe they pull together many classic characteristics but to no avail.

Its opening two songs are all too well known due to use in pop culture, however giving them some up close attention I appreciated them a lot more. One Vision's use of synth and electronic manipulation in its opening sets the stage and gives a brilliant tone for Heavy Metal funk to jive in a futuristic feeling. The aesthetics are brilliantly constructed and the following Its A Kind Of Magic reinvents another Queen formula with those pumping baselines, rigid drums and atmospheric synths. This albums problem is that of many Queen records for some time now, the eclecticism that once made a brilliant album experience now seems rather tacky and without substance. They still make fantastic music but as the track record proves it comes in spurts that make for a good song or two each album. With some particular lows, its peaks can't save this from being their worst output to date.

Favorite Tracks: One Vision, Gimme The Prize
Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Clipping "CLPPNG" (2014)


Now here is a remarkable group that may draw unfair comparisons to Death Grips. Also an Experimental, Industrial Hip Hop trio the link might seem strong at first glance but the reality is Clipping are a rather different beast. Breaking the music down to its two core components, a chemistry exists unlike anything Ive heard before but I can't say it does it for me around the clock. I can however appreciate the artistry and skill on display. The music however, tends to shy from cheap tricks, groove and flash but keeps itself closely guarded by an unforgiving, cold presence.

The instrumentals are something to be adjusted too. Often minimalist and sparse, its atmospheres are birthed through textural snippets and samples that stray away from melody and rhythm. Cold mechanical sounds, sirens, noise and distortion loosely cling percussion that is barely present. Many of the songs reside in a dystopian, life drained state, barely growing or evolving from its initial inception while Daveed Diggs wilds off on the microphone. Get Up is literally two minutes of rapping to alarm clock before anything musically happens. Its conceptual, clever and jarring. I can't help but feel the goal is to paint an un-glorified picture of the subject matter.

Diggs is a phenomenal talent. Precisely enunciated, daringly swift and churning out the words at a dizzying pace his crisp and clear voicing is entrancing. With a lenience towards rhyming, his cadence cruises over multiple bars before looping back round to a rhyme of groove in the delivery of his words. Quite often he musters a dizzying momentum, blasting through very competently articulated story telling. Following his words can be intense to keep up and immerse in the vivid nature of his words. It borders with something akin to spoken word at times but the pacing and glue to the instrumental is firmly Rap, along with the themes of course.

Together they form a bold statement. This album plays through its themes of street and club life with an unforgiving coldness brought to life through its instrumentals. Its remarkable but the lack of relief and fun makes it quite a heavy and burdensome listen. Its more of a remarkable spectacle than something to throw on and jive too. Its only on Body & Blood that a semblance of bounce and groove is exploited. Its also one of the darkest atmospheres the album offers. I've found it hard to enjoy this on an emotional level but I can't flaw its artistry, very unique and focused, especially the story raps!

Favorite Tracks: Body & Blood, Story 2
Rating: 5/10

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Ihsahn "Telemark" (2020)


Norwegian musician Ihsahn is the genius behind one of my all time favorite bands, Emperor. Ive been meaning to follow his solo work more closely and so I lapped up this new release, which turned out to be just three original songs alongside two covers. Not bad considering it was dirt cheap even for digital music standards! It clings closer to a traditional Black Metal atmosphere with thrusts of aggression, blasting drums and snarling screams to forge its darkly mood. Although a return to roots and departure from his more progressive approach, the music finds itself intermingled among subtle saxophones, trumpets and synths that give the Nordic flair a little textural flavor.

Its a chemistry not to remarkable but competent. The opening track brings forth marching chug riffs aligned with the strikes of horns elevating the tensions on a metallic crusade. Nord pivots to a slower pace. Shimmering hazy guitars birth a scenic vision of a cold Ethereal move nature elevated to a beautiful peak when its clean backing vocals bring in the soothing harmony. The title track hinges on a rather folk vibe. Its tricky, swiftly meandering melody has the groove and jive of something native and cultural. The tune drifts into a darkness that gets chopped and churned as the music searches for a crescendo it doesn't quite reach.

Its covers split the mood. Rock And Roll Is Dead jives out its funk with a Jazz band, the screams and distortion guitars playing second fiddle to the dominant instruments. Its almost gaudy but somehow seems to work. Wrathchild does something a little similar in moments, taking the classic Iron Maiden song and throwing in some saxophone led spice into the mix. Its good but its metallic aspect doesn't give much the original can't. Its been a fun listen, a well executed set of songs with an interesting inclusion of instruments not traditional to metal but not something to rave about.

Favorite Track: Nord
Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Algiers "There Is No Year" (2020)


The southern American outfit Algiers have been on my radar since their remarkable The Underside Of Power. This retro intensive sound has the hauntings of Soul and Gospel playing out in a Post-Punk aesthetic that has been remarkable in the past. This third chapter is inherently bleak and downtrodden, a clear stylistic aim into an oppressive darkness. Its rather burdensome with little relief in its run time. Gloomy depressive atmospheres play out with a sense of unyielding dread looming.

In its intelligent self realization, this record fails to give a little leeway on groove and melody for any uplift or reprise in pursuit of its vision. Instead it plays like a grey rainy day without an end in sight. Its damp and miserable, the fog never clears and the injustice mounts. Its mechanical pattering percussion, atmospheric upheavals of guitar noise and the pained soulful singing of Franklin Fisher keep the harrowing mood sharply focused on its descent, the feeling they forge forever grieving.

The tracks roll out with various themes and temperaments. The degrees of desperation tweaked and any composition or aesthetic of interest feels chained too its sunken, defeated feeling. Its a beautiful vision into a shade of darkness but without that uplift my appreciation could only go so far. It took a while for me to make sense of my lack of enjoyment. A lot of the dark music I like channels these things with energy and a counteracting force but There Is No Year is too consistently bleak for me.

Rating: 5/10