Music can be a wonderful marker of time and gets us thinking where we were when we first heard a song, discovered an artist or became devoted to a certain genre of music. In turn this also reminds us that time ticks by and we are getting bloody older too! Tricky first made his debut back in 1995 with the ground-breaking album Maxinquaye, and album full of deep dark samples and gravell drawn vocals, some 20 years later and through many varied albums, some good, some not so good, Tricky is back and on form. An album that we urge you to listen to this week. Ryan Adams returns with yet another anticipated album and after his fantastic appearance on David Letterman that resulted in Letterman playing the song again, his self-titled album may sway some new fans but could also shake up some long standing existing ones too. What do we think, well take a read. Banks is getting some high praise around Europe with her translation of trip-hop and RnB and too many is one of the best debuts for 2014, we stand divided but equally, we urge you to listen and make your own mind. Finally, Death from Above 1979, return and suprise many after deciding to call it a day many years back. After a reform to embark on a tour in 2011 they hit us with an album, so lots of happy Lambs out there we are certain.
Album Title_ Adrian Thaws
Label_ False Idols
Genre_ Alt. Hiphop, Downtempo, Electronica, Rap
Moments Of_ DJ Shadow, Massive Attack,
Stand Out_ Silly Games, Gangster Chronicle
Vitriolic, slinky, sinister and honest. Tricky’s newest album Adrain Thaws (his birth name) is a triumph, even to the untrained ears of one as clueless to 90s trip hop as me. Boasting an eclectic array of collaborators and some appealing sampling, the album pulls you into a sea of sharp jabs and soft lulls, sometimes soothing, sometimes jolting, but excellently orchestrated so as to never let your ears’ attention stray.
I first heard Tricky via the Skins TV series. As a sheltered fifteen year-old, it was a revelation. So far rap and any genre close to it had been equated with whatever had been played on mainstream radio; Nelly, Ne-yo – a puffed up masculine genre that I could never connect with. So Tricky was an awakening for this clueless white girl that this type of music could have a depth, honesty and social awareness that extended beyond booties and Bacardi.
Tricky’s new offering is as viciously honest and musically striking as when I first heard Hell is Round the Corner nearly ten years ago (and ten years late even then). His trademark breathy vocals contrast with the spitting venom of Bella Gotti and deep gravelliness of A.J. His choice of collaborators are interesting, the former being obvious choices, but then sweet jazziness of Tirzah and shimmery wistfulness of Oh Land offer something completely different, but no less mesmerizing, providing a sweetness that only emphasizes the sinister silkiness of his own voice.
Tricky has always leaned closer to the electronic side of sounds, and this is no exception. Toned down with the times yet still unmistakable, I love how Tricky puts so much effort into the swoop and dip of an instrument here, an ominous crackle of synth there. Compare 2010’s Really Real to Nicotine Love from this album – definitely a depth to all his music that is carefully orchestrated and beautifully layered into something more than a simple sample and rap. Though sampling is pretty interesting here – have a listen to Gangster Chronicle and you can catch a Massive Attack classic in there.
Speaking as a total clueless gimp on the whole genre of 90s rap/trip hop, there’s not much more I can say other than the obvious aesthetic points after listening to this album. True lovers of this legend, however, will no doubt enjoy Tricky’s latest with much more contextual pleasure that comes with depth of knowledge, and I envy them.
Artist_ Ryan Adams
Album Title_ Ryan Adams
Label_ PAX AM
Genre_ Rock, Alternative
Moments Of_ The Cardinals
Stand Out_ My Wrecking Ball, Gimme Something Good and Kim
Ryan Adams is the fourteenth studio album from none other than; you guessed it, Ryan Adams, (shocker). Released September 9th, this album is a far more atmospheric rock based record in comparison to his back catalogue of works. Self produced by Adams himself, along with recording partner Mike Viola, the album’s leading single Gimme Something Good might just be one of the only stand outs on the album.
Gimme Something Good opens up the album with a slow and almost sleazy (in a good way) kind of bluesy strut. This track gets most of its bluesy power and grunt from the electric instruments. All songs being written and composed by Adams himself, Gimme Something Good is covered in reverb and a sense of contentment from Adams’ vocals. The man himself says “Gimme Something Good” well I say, he did give us something good, but it just wasn’t great.
Ill do the ol’ trick of delivering the bad news before shining some positive light on the album. In any situation, the good news always covers up and softens the blow of the bad news. So here it goes…
I Just Might, Tired of Giving Up, Trouble and Stay With Me are the shockers off this record for me. They definitely shape my overall opinion of the album, which is generally an opinion of, (like the youngins would say) “meh”. Four out of the eleven songs on this album I didn’t like. This is a pretty big deal to me, as it isn’t even that I find these songs to be album fillers, it is more than that, I actually don’t like the tracks!
Out of these four tracks, I Just Might is probably my least least favourite. I found that the continuously repetitive guitar strumming and unchanging rhythm was so damn annoying. Adams’ vocals on this track also seemed a bit “off” and sounded unnaturally husky, totally dull and kind of lifeless. I’m not saying that every song in the world has to be catchy, but I think that this specific track is overly forgettable. The unmemorable lyrics, tones/beats and instrumentation of I Just Might, left me skipping past it after every listen to the album. Directly following I Just Might was another ‘not so good’ song that I am not a fan of, Tired Of Giving Up. Both this and I Just Might have this sluggish uninterrupted beat and a strong sense that the song isn’t going anywhere. Having these two songs one after the other was definitely annoying because I would skip over both of them, to find I was on the last song of the album.
“Cross your fingers behind your back and lie to me” Adams sings on the closing song Let Go, which is actually another one of my least favourite tracks, however, this specifically line makes my heart melt. It is poetic and sad and worded so bloody perfectly. The only problem is, is that I didn’t like Adams’ delivery of it on this track and how it was almost skimmed over. I am probably being too nit picky and rather harsh by writing that, but I just really darn love this line and for it to be in a song that I don’t love, is super frustrating.
My Wrecking Ball is probably my favourite track on the album. It is simple, raw and has an extremely personal storytelling feeling to it. “Driving through the streets tonight. It’s hard I got the windows down”. I feel like I’m actually sitting with him, or at least watching him drive into the middle of nowhere on an empty tank feeling sorry for himself. His acoustic roots on this track feel a lot more like his earlier works such as his 2000 Heartbreaker and 2002 Demolition, even though this self titled album has less of a country inspired sound.
Though there were a couple of gems on this album, I am sorry Adams, I’ll have to give you a sheepish 4 lambies.
Album Title_ Goddess
Genre_ Electronica, Trip – Hop, Down Tempo
Moments Of _ FKA Twigs, Tove Lo, Broods, Lorde
Stand Out_ Drowning, F*ck Em Only We Know
California local and resident trip – hop darling Jillian Banks releases her much-awaited full-length debut album Goddess to bated anticipation of the masses. Lauded as one of the most exciting artists to watch of 2014 and boasting a fan base among the likes of Ellie Goulding and BBC1’s Zane Lowe, Banks’ new album is a slow burning miasma that floats and smothers with gloomy inflection and pockets of inspired genius. I took this one round the block this week and had a glimpse at the inner workings of America’s first lady of trip – hop.
With the burgeoning ascent of PB and neo R & B of late, Banks seemingly poses as America’s more streamlined, accessible and confectionary alternative to FKA Twigs. In part, its a fairly reasonable comparison I suppose given their respective proclivities to trip – hop, sparse, airy sonic scapes and inflective lyrical content. I’m of two minds with this album personally. I am for the most part, a big fan of the movement. Although at times, all that droning amidst a meager sound palette has the potential to feel somewhat, slovenly. That being said, I think down tempo electronica has secured a relatively sturdy position within the given marketplace thanks to the likes Lorde, Broods (both produced by Goodnight Nurse alum Joel Little) Grimes and FKA Twigs. Acts like Banks serve to remind us of the permissive nature of counter culture and that more often than not, alternative usually gives way to mainstream in the end.
There are glimmers on this album that really sparkle above potential monotony. There is a name check of whose who in upcoming down tempo production, such as Justin Parker who has worked with Lana Del Rey and Ellie Goulding as well Schlomo and Lil Silva. The knob philandering on this joint definitely deserves a mention, providing a dreamy and at times gothic backdrop that serve as an ethereal canvas for Banks to go crazy and do her thing. Banks’ at times unnervingly sedate vocal harks back to the hey day of 90’s R & B, providing a weight that Lorde’s voice is often at times, lacking. Although, perhaps therein lies a testament to Lorde’s unrelenting accessibility.
Whilst Banks is evidently candid in her confessional prose, at times the lyric feels labored and potentially amateur, perhaps markers of a songwriter still cautious in light of early days. There is also the question of a timidity within her vocal that is occasionally heartbreaking, her confessionals an homage to relationships awry, Drowning a prime example of love gone wrong. It’s a seductive refrain that enthuses the peril of karma, and how often we drown in our own devotion at the mercy of someone else. Under The Table is a surprisingly bare, production lacking piano soaring moment of honesty that is beautifully raw, it’s belting in the chorus revelatory but still controlled in a way that isn’t entirely revealing enough to make it a sold ten whilst F*ck Em Only We Know produced by Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs reminded me of a modern version of INOJ’s Let Me Love You Down, a diluted synth heavy Bonnie and Clyde allegory that is perhaps frontrunner for my fave on the joint.
Fine moments on this first attempt from Banks, stagnant in parts but a highly stylized debut that features many a production big gun. Its trendy, middle of the road hipster fare but you’ll love it anyway because of the redeeming catchiness of a few tracks on here. Either way, I get the feeling Jillian may very well be riding this one all the way to the …
Artist_ Death From Above 1979
Album Title_ The Physical World
Label_ Last Gang Records
Genre_ Dance-punk, Garage, Indie
Moments Of_ Royal Blood, DZ Deathrays, Japandroids
Stand Out_ Right On, Frankenstein!, Trainwreck 1979, Government Trash
After what seemed like an indefinite hiatus, Toronto duo Death From Above 1979 have literally come back from the dead. After the release of their genre-defying cult hit and debut album You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine in 2004, followed by a pressurised tour schedule and artistic conflicts, lead to their split. However, a turn of events lead to their reunion in 2011 to play a string of dates and record this new album The Physical World, which is sure to reignite the spark in the hearts of fans, influence a new generation, and just plain belt the crap out of your ears.
Since their split in 2006, Death From Above 1979 have made their mark on the worlds’ innocent ears, corrupting them towards the dark, overdriven and distorted sounds of Jesse F. Keeler’s unmistakable bass sound, and the thrashing drums and vocal wails of Sebastien Grainger. This significance has reverberated through the minds and instruments of many an artist post the release of both the EP Heads Up (2002) and their debut You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine. Just have a listen to the bass tone of newcomers Royal Blood, or homegrown favourites DZ Deathrays preaching the dance-punk genre to their new legion of fans. Even DFA1979’s song Dead Womb was sampled by Crystal Castles for their song Untrust Us, while CSS named a track Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above (the duo added 1979 to the end of their name after a dispute with DFA records).
So undoubtedly their new release has been a massive and truly exciting surprise to many. With the release of taster Government Trash and now the single Trainwreck 1979, it surely has provided a lot of talk within the greater blogisphere. Whilst their first album was met with a modest reception, time has proven to be great publicity for the duo. Now The Physical World is a major release, and is to be followed by a major US tour and more media and press than they have ever done before. This is without any hesitation that Keeler and Grainger are in the best mindset that they have even been about the band, and it definitely shows.
With time, comes knowledge, skills and in the case of DFA1979, more production. Both Keeler and Grainger did not waste their time away from the band; Keeler collaborated as part of electronic duo MSTRKFT, whilst Grainger toured with his band Sebastien Grainger and the Mountains. As a reflection upon their skills and techniques on The Physical World as a comparison to previous work, there’s certainly a whole lot more studio polishing and flourishes, Grainger’s lyrics and vocal melodies are a side-step towards mainstream, and there’s really just less noise. Whilst you’ll still hear plenty of double-kick bass drum (Government Trash) and thrashing cymbals (Always On), the songs show a greater variety in sound. There’s still plenty of in your face, raw and powerful punk tracks (Right On, Frankenstein!), as well as really showing how far Keeler can push that bass into giving as much sound as physically possible. But it’s those more radio friendly, pop-flavoured tracks that really cause a stir. A prime example is the almost ’emo’ sounding White Is Red, or the melodic chorus of Nothin’ Left that show a less grimy side to the duo. Whether this is a reach for the radio, or just an evolution or growth in their production values and achievable sound, really, anything that these guys release will always just be a great, exciting experiment.