Artist_ Perfume Genius
Album Title_ Too Bright
Genre_ Avante Garde, Pop, Ballad, Electronic
Moments Of_ Arcade Fire, Youth Lagoon, PJ Harvey, Anthony and the Jonhsons
Stand Out_ It would be wrong to choose…..!
Every generation needs its ground-breakers and mould breakers, those who make every effort not to confirm and instead, pave the way to provoke, question and deliver music that is both compelling and advanced. Welcome to the world of Mike Handreas, better known to us as Perfume Genius. Too Bright is his third full-length album and his most accomplished, working alongside Portishead’s Adrian Utley and John Parish, he works closely with the PJ Harvey, a big influence on this album.
Sometimes an artists come along and have you wonder the true importance and power of music and time impact it can truly have if you listen past the music and its lyrical content. Mike Handreas is a complicated but truthful fellow and this album is a testament to his honesty, open-heart and sheer talent as a progressive talent.
After witnessing the music clip for Hood, that featured Aprad Miklos, a famous gay porn star who sadly committed suicide soon after, I revisited the music of Perfume Genius intrigued to learn about the man behind the music. The clip for Hood was compelling to watch and musically, equally compelling to listen to, the tenderness of his voice and the intensity of the video, the message it subtly delivered.
So it was with excitement that I adorned the headphones to listen to Too Bright and like all of his albums that urge more than a single listen to be understood, respected and appreciated. The album is one that needs to be listed to in its entirety, each track stands on its own two feet but listened to as a complete experience, shows just how talented and completely confronting music can be.
I Decline opens with a delicate piano and the unmistakable voice of Handreas, to describe it is like describing a fine wine, it bears its own interpretation but there is no mistaken its goodness, its feeling of pain and uncertainty that sounds soulful and at times angered. First single to be taken from the album, Queen comes across all glam with a dirty swagger, asking us “don’t you know your Queen”, its full of confidence and urgency, with a chorus of “ummphs” and floating choral backdrops, there is something sinister yet gentle about this outstanding first single.
What Handreas does best is bear his soul in balladry, his soft saddened vocals on No Good is both touching and gripping. As the tinkering of piano keys grows to a soft crescendo, his voice glides and calls out for help in the most hauntingly beautiful way. This is strikingly beautiful and confirms why we need such artists in the alternative musical world.
The biggest track on the album comes with Grid, it’s full bass reverberating through the speakers before the uncomfortable banshee screams pierce the song in half. This is progressive pop at its best and like nothing you will hear on the radio right now, often unsettling, the layering of synths, bass, vocals and samples create a confusing wall of sound that on repeat listens shows the intricate thought of musical talent.
The stark and airiness of I’m a Mother is the only missing link on the album and prevents me giving it a Golden Ram, its vagueness, awkwardness has me skipping the track on numerous occasions. Perhaps its the fact that as of yet, I still have not understood it’s message. Lets call it an interlude.
The soulful beauty of Handreas voice is confirmed on final track All Along and leaves me feeling sad, reflective and in deep thought, there are few albums that can pull at the heart strings as this album has done. I go back to track 1 and experience the whole emotional rollercoaster again. Sometimes sad, pain and contemplation wrapped up in one package is so great you have to just do it all over again, so back I go to track one and experience it all again. What an album!
Oh bugger it!!!….a Golden Ram for old times sake.
Artist_ Leonard Cohen
Album Title_ Popular Problems
Genre_ Folk, Blues
Moments Of _ Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, George Benson
Stand Out_ You Got Me Singing
His career spans over several decades and his contributions to the arts in poetry, music and literature are nothing short of inspiring. His social commentaries on politics, religion and the human condition mark him as the consummate trailblazer and at the ripe age of 80, he’s still making records. Popular Problems marks Leonard Cohen’s 13th album in a canon that just gets increasingly more impressive.
I just cannot believe this man is 80. I mean, there are points on this album that betray an inevitable slow burning, seemingly indicative of his 80 years young, but frankly any kind of mobility at this age is impressive let alone making your 13th album. Its an enduring kind of quality that his creativity possesses, even for those less familiar with his music and more acquainted with his writing (like myself) Popular Problems serves as yet another testament to the sheer creative brilliance that is this man (ok, less fan girl more review now).
Its interesting to think that Cohen was in his 30’s when he made his first album, which is perhaps more of an anomaly now than it was back then. But Popular Problems reveals no slack in his repertoire, it’s a soulful endeavor if anything, and that signature vocal is often merely liquid poetry atop of some creeping baselines and inflective contemplation. Cool cat swag? Check.
There are only nine tracks on this album but if anything, I think that can enhance a listener’s experience. So the opening track on here is Slow, an appropriate prelude and aptly titled simmering blues lilt replete with that husky timbre. There is an element on here that I felt was reminiscent of beat poetry, it could just be the pace but slow is exactly what this is, in execution and intent. A Street is borderline gospel with a touch of early George Benson, a lament of changing times and reflection good times past. Did I Ever Love You is far folksier with intermittent piano and the occasional horn and guest violins. It questions the nature of relationships and the basis of necessity. At times there is a Springsteen feel on here, that vocal feels interchangeable although there is an absence of angst that The Boss often brings on his tracks and You Got Me Singing features a fiddle that would just make the Dixie Chicks beam with pride. It’s a gentle reverie that evokes all the wonder in love and how it can change us in the most unsuspected ways.
In short? A beautifully crafted piece to add to an already stellar repertoire on the part of Cohen. There’s no reinventing of the wheel here, no move toward fanciful production however he does what he has always done best, and strangely it is neither repetitive nor tired. This is a fairly well rounded, occasionally whimsical and utterly inspired collection of new materials. Cohen moves with deliberate grace and delivers a thoughtful and confident gem.
Artist_ King Tuff
Album Title_ Black Moon Spell
Label_ Sub Pop
Genre_ Pop, Punk, Lo-Fi
Moments Of_ Black Keys, Alice Cooper, The Babies, Harlem
Stand Out_ Black Moon Spell, I Love You Ugly
King – Kyle Thomas – Tuff’s third album is a new direction. Grittier, riffier and more in your face than his previous two, Black Moon Spell seems to be the result of an immersion into 70s rock greats, and maybe a binge of Freaks and Geeks. Down with high school, long live girls and guitars.
I’m a big King Tuff fan; Keep On Moovin’ is the anthem for any indie drop-kick fighting Abbott and Hockey for the uni fees and the right to kick back in the sun whenever we goddam please (seriously though, Abbott = Devil). Which is why I was just a smidge disappointed by this new album. It’s King Tuff alright, but there isn’t that happy-go-lucky vibe underscoring the spiky pop-punk.
That said, when the opening riff of the title track ripped open my headphones, I wasn’t complaining. Black Moon Spell gets me jiving like a turkey on speed. But there is a grittier, edgier quality to this album that I’m conflicted over. What King Tuff had was fun and a little bit goofy and that’s what I loved, but that’s just me. Tracks like Sick Mind and Eddie’s Song still showcase King Tuff’s Alice Cooper-esque vibes of dangerous girls and teen angst, now with the guitars to match– it’s like he’s sound tracking Dazed and Confused.
The album is consistent at least, Demon from Hell plays in the same trope; is this album a glimpse into the fantasies and dreams of a teenage boy? Girls, guitars, 70s mysticism, sex – it’s a fun ride. I Love You Ugly harks back to original Tuff, sweet and odd.
The whole album is well produced, better quality than his last two – but then, that’s what made them so endearing. But in all, this album still makes me want to jump around, drive a station-wagon around the bay and give Tony Abbott the finger. So it’s alright with me.
Album Title_ This Is All Yours
Genre_ Indie Pop, Electronica
Moments Of_ Django Django
Stand Out_ Left Hand Free, Bloodflood, Pt. II and Hunger of the Pine
Forming in 2007, This Is All Yours is the second album from English indie rock/electronica band Alt-J. After their 2012 debut album An Awesome Wave featuring Breezeblocks and Tessellate, Alt-J became a well known group. This album was hugely successful for them, with three tracks making it into the 2012 Triple J Hottest 100, as well as taking number one for the British Mercury Prize.
I guess you could say that Alt-J have always been slightly offbeat and unique with their music style. An Awesome Wave definitely excited listeners and stole the attention of the music industry. With Breezeblocks, Tessellate and Something Good being hugely successful for the group, the whole album featured offbeat rhythms, cloudy synths, weird reverbed guitar twangs and catchy electronic beats.
Have a squizz at their first album here (in particular their track Fitzpleasure, just because I love it and think it really shows their quirkiness) before I get into their latest This Is All Yours.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the point of albums that have an intro, however, I just generally don’t like them. I prefer for a record to get straight into the good stuff without having to warm up with an entire track. It almost seems like a wasteful song on the album to me because more often than not, people will skip the intro. Anyways, that is how I feel about Alt-J’s intro. Though I can appreciate it and see it for what it is (an introduction and opening to their album), it felt like it had no ending and just dragged on for that bit too long. If they cut the first minute off the intro, I think it would have captured listeners attentions a lot quicker than having the track go for 4.38. I get that it is all about the build and the intensity lalala, but for the first impression and first listen, an artist should want to make a quick impact so that fans fall in love with their record.
Following the intro comes a soft track Arrival In Nara, which suggests that the album may have a slower soothing vibe to it. Nara comes next which finishes with a more upbeat rhythm, which then transitions nicely into their fourth song on the album Every Other Freckle. It wasn’t until this song that I felt like I was listening to the real (or at least the old) Alt-J. Every Other Freckle features Joe Newman’s strangely high pitched and sometimes whiney vocals, a deep appealing base and almost comical lyrics, “I’m gonna bed into you like a cat beds into a beanbag. Turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet”.
Left Hand Free is next, with Newman’s swift vocals kicking in instantly. This song is definitely a winner for me, even though it may be the least Alt-J song yet (no insult to them). This could be weird, but if you take away the vocals and are left with the guitar riffs and the deep drumming it sounds almost like The Black Keys or a generic American rock/blues band. The band actually put this song together in 20 minutes with the intention to make it as cliché and unlike them as possible, after getting not so good reviews for their single Hunger of the Pines.
I actually really really like this tune. It is sexy, infectious and has the perfect amount of quirk. But wait wait wait, what? 1.37 into the track is that Miley Cyrus? It sure is! Sampling her song 4×4, Alt-J have surprised everyone by using this pop track. The production and the flow of the whole song has had mixed reviews, from it being “too pop” and “not the biggest single”, to people loving it. I have to say I can only say good things about it. Alt-J have always pushed the boundaries of musical styles and been innovative with themselves, so I have to say that I was not surprised I first heard Cyrus’ voice singing “I’m a female rebel” on this track.
I saw Alt-J play Festival Hall after their release of An Awesome Wave and they were so darn good. That being said though, I can’t really see myself needing to see them for the release of This Is All Yours, as I don’t think it would hold as strong of an impact or be as much fun live. I wouldn’t say this release is a let down, but I would say that it is maybe flying under the radar just a tad.