If 8 were a magic number, this week would be a magic week for the delivery of our New Borns as we give each of our reviews and 8 out of 10. That means, well, you just have to give each of these albums a listen, it would be wrong not to. Will Butler (Arcade Fire) releases his anticipated debut solo work, while The Cribs get to their 6th studio album despite parting ways with Jonny Marr some time back (was that a bit odd!?!) and turn a bit more pop on us. San Cisco, who spawn from Fremantle are here with their 2nd album and with huge support from Australian radio station, Triple J have the pressure on them to deliver to the levels of debut hype. Pet Politics is a ground breaking album for TWL, okay, not in terms of album but in terms of inspiring us to start a brand new post segment on our music blog, Weaning Lambs, a way to help promote new artists around the world. Finally, it is Kendrik Lamar, reviewed by Jakob on request, was the last minute request to review this album worth it? Read on friends of the Lamb.
Album Title_ Policy
Genre_ Pop (…ish)
Moments Of_ Talking Heads, John Lennon, The CURE
Stand Out_ Anna, Finish What I Started, What I Want
Looking like a dead ringer for Little Britain star David Walliams, Texan Will Butler poses almost as anti-hero to the lounge soul crowd on his first solo release “Policy”. The keyboard and guitar player’s main claim to musical fame thus far has been as a decade-long mainstay in Canadian art rockers Arcade Fire. Does obscurity beckon here, or is Will wilfully throwing away the rule-book really a great game-changing ploy?
Barely EP length with eight tracks across 27 minutes, “Policy” was recorded in the old living room of legendary American guitarist Jimi Hendrix. In the space of a week. Yet bears virtually zero resemblance to any sound conjured by the great string-bender himself. Instead, Will Butler swings between chiming 1960s-ish pop and dense electronic beats. Butler claimed that it’s all “American music”, if you take that term to mean the Violent Femmes, Bob Dylan…and John Lennon. Or, as he also put it: “music where the holy fool runs afoul of the casual world”. Sounds suitably intriguing. And, for the most part, it is.
Opener and first single “Take My Side” has a strong scent of classic WHO (circa “My Generation”, maybe?), or even perhaps further back in the direction of Buddy Holly form the 1950s. Challenging the listener from the outset, Butler dares you to take a journey with him, running to the setting of the sun. There’s just something delightful in its simplicity. “I’d die if you were not on my side”, he sings.
Before the electro-pop of second single “Anna” catches you completely off-guard. Boppy, hammering piano combined with brisk beats recalling Kraftwerk’s later work get stuck in your head very easily indeed. Written as a way of explaining life’s contradictions to his son, you can’t tell if Butler’s being deliciously satirical or totally raw and honest. But either way, it’s fun.
“Anna” official music video
Anna” official soundcloud
“Take My Side” official soundcloud
Presumably in an effort to make something as eclectic as possible, there are two pieces in the Lennon piano mould, “Finish What I Started” and “Sing To Me”, with gentle but sturdy melodic lines. Turning and twisting around a looping, loping acoustic chicane is “Son Of God”, but the wind-down of “Witness” is a return to a near-doo-wop style, complete with backing choir.
Apparently Butler majored in poetry studies at university. It shows. The lyrics overall seem a spattering of cleverly-placed lines that make you wonder about Butler’s life experiences. His best moments are the daily confessionals rather than the profundity. Butler seems to forget a lot of stuff here – like his face, his words, and whether he put a letter in the post. By the time we get to the bizarre album highlight “What I Want” he’s even spilling out romantic guff (of a kind). “If you come and take my hand I’ll buy you a pony and cook it for tea. I know a great recipe for pony macaroni!” There’s one for the vegetarians in the audience. And the follow-up? “If you told me there was a war on I’d fight for you until we were all free. What about Tuesday night? I’m free!” It gets better. “We could buy a dog, fish, chickens, alligators. I’ll go along with what you say. I’m not a details man.” Probably unintentionally hilarious. Probably. Clearly, while “Policy” isn’t quite poetry in motion, it is motion. Already heading in the direction of sheer poetry. And one more “P” word. Playful.
Album Title_ For All My Sisters
Label_ Sonic Blew / Sony RED UK
Genre_ Indie Rock, Punk
Moments Of_The Libertines
Stand Out_ Simple Story, Pink Snow
The Jarman brothers are back! English Indie Rock trio from Yorkshire unveil this month, their 6th album For All My Sisters, which features their single Burning for No Love, that was out this February to some good review. The Cribs, who previously enjoyed us with their punk style now turns to a more pop music, but not forgotting their origins and style that gave them their success.
I still remember all that indie rock stuff that the English continent brought us what seems all those years back. Among them is The Cribs, a small group with a big sound from North England, Leeds, the “emmergeante” scene that has seen successful bands such as Kaiser Chiefs and The Sunshine Underground. For a while they were joined by Johnny Marr (ex guitarist of The Smith), to become a quartet to its original trio that had already proved their value in the last twelve years by doing multiple tour and their support of the likes of The Libertines as well as the release of deveral reccords under a very “British” influence.
A little less punk than their previous albums, For All My Sisters comes across more pop, indi erock while remaining true to their rhythmic hand and what I call their “bad boy” side. Songs that seem to “breathe” more, just with a drum, a guitar and bass. Certainly there is no revolution here on this album for any new supporters, the three brothers still exploits their knowledge and musical direction, but they well and still manage to not loose too much sight of their identity. It seems they have found their recipe in this album and for me, it works!
Their status of cult UK band perhaps is now confirmed. From the Indie Pop ballads like Simple Story, to the fiery riffs of Summer of Chances, not to forget Pink Snow, a sort of 7 min dark hybrid ballad punk more than pleasing, For All My Sisters goes thought all influences from all the best of English Rock. It goes into playing out these songs with great energy that makes me want more! This album is renewed with a quieter style, more intimate than the previous one, all staying at the limit of punk! A sensitivity rock test, but still we feel that the group needs more! More sound, more noise, more punk … the kind of album to see live performance, or limit of kindness can be very easily forget!
It appears to me that the three brothers have learnt a bit of wisdom along the way with an album that to me, sounds like a band who have found their stride. This is a great pop album played by three punksters at heart. It is now suprise to hear however that they are not to settle on this genre with news of a new punk sounding album to be delivered in the future.
Album Title Gracetown
Label Island City Records
Genre Pop, Indie
Moments Of Vampire Weekend, The Jungle Giants
Stand Out Just for a Minute, Snow, Super Slow
Fremantle indie pop youngsters San Cisco are back with their highly anticipated second LP, ‘Gracetown’. Forming during high school under a few different names, they settled on their current moniker in 2009, releasing their debut album in 2010. The group have received a huge amount of interest through Triple J and show no signs of slowing down. Releasing two fantastic offerings at such a young age is enough to make any musician green with envy.
Anyone who knows me will know that San Cisco do not make the kind of music that I go out of my way to listen to. It’s just not something that catches my interest, whatever, fight me. Having only ever heard a couple of tracks on the radio, I initially wrote them off as another obnoxious indie-pop act. I approached Gracetown with the same cautious ears, but after the first couple of tracks, I realised that there was more to this band than just mindless pop melodies.
Opening with the well-known singles ‘RUN’ and ‘Too Much Time Together’, the album starts with some heavy merriment. Whilst I wasn’t drawn in initially, these songs will stay in your head for days. Luckily, it gets more interesting as the tracks continue. ‘Magic’ is a fun, poppy track that isn’t all up in your grill like the first two, but achieves the same result. Throughout the listening, I got a sense of musical maturity that was not present in their first album. It makes ‘Gracetown’ all the more impressive when you can hear the improvements and the all-important sense of variety that comes with the sophomore release.
What impressed me the most with this LP was San Cisco’s ability to step back from the typical pop tunes and really explore other musical elements. ‘Jealousy’ is a track that merges elements of hip-hop and slower beats to give a sexy, laid back vibe. It works so damn well and offers reprieve for when the joyous pop starts to get a bit too much. It blends seamlessly into ‘Super Slow’, a track that, like its name, is slow, thick and textural with some brilliant vocal work.
Closing track ‘Just for a Minute’ is just, YES! As in, I audibly yelled “YES” when I heard it. The funky synths and guitars, the softly sung vocals, the waves of absolute liquid chill-vibes that spill over your body. Yes, excellent. Most of the points I’m deducting from my rating are due to there not being more of this on the album.
I’m going to hazard a guess that the majority of people that have heard San Cisco have only heard their popular singles that Triple J will undoubtedly play till they bleed. That’s all well and good, they deserve the attention, but the appreciation should be guided toward the album as a whole, rather than what the radio will spoon feed you (granted, they did feature the entire album for a whole week, but my point still stands). What is hidden beneath the water is a band that showcase a tremendous amount of talent, variety and song writing ability. Set aside the token pop singles of ‘Gracetown’ and embrace the hidden gems.
Album Title 2005-2008
Genre Indie Pop, Lo-Fi
Moments Of The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, Beach Boys, Real Estate, Interpol, Belle and Sebastian
Stand Out The Ghost Mary and her Friends, Provence
Pet Politics is Magus Larsson, a talented singer/songwriter from Gothenburg, Sweden. This brand new compilation release comes from Swedish record label Novoton, a bringing together of Larsson’s material recorded in his bedroom between, you guessed it, the years 2005-2008. Instead of the usual natural selection process of searching out our weekly New Borns through promoted new releases, Magnus came to us with request to review this album and boy, I am glad he did. An undeniably talented man with obvious but worthy influences, played in the most upmost respect.
With our music blog starting to gain some serious momentum in terms of followers and readership, one thing we never expected was the interest we are getting from both local and international artists who were keen to share with us, their music. We are starting to get a lot of emails with requests to review and commentary but there is only so much or little ears although we try and give it all a listen! Now and again though, a few artists and tracks get landed in our musical field that make us really bloody excited. Pet Politics, yes you are one of them.
Struggling to find much about Pet Politics on “the google” what I did learn was that during his years of writing as Pet Politics, Larsson also released two limited EPs on the American label Catbird records and one limited vinyl Ep on the English label The Great Pop Supplement but at the moment of writing this, I havent had a moment to give these a listen. Trust me, after enjoying a splendid weekend of sun here in Melbourne with Pet Politics in the background, Ill be on to these swiftly. Yep, I liked this album of perflectly crafted pop tunes that will crack through any greyed out day.
Ok, the “moments of” are somewhat obvious but when you get it so right, as Larsson does, it plays out refreshing, honest and, in its own way original. Opening track, The Ghost Mary and her Friends smashes together the slacker sound of Lou Reed, the swagger of the Beach Boys that smashes nicely an effortless level of coolness that is instantly catchy and memorable.
Track 2, Provence, is a wonderful tale of a trip to the South of France set against some lightly mixed in trumpets, a constant bashed out tambourine to hold some simple, poetic lyrics that confirm the important elements needed for a great pop tune. Larsson has worked out what it takes to write a good pop tune. A talent confirmed with the next track The Spring that plays out like early Belle and Sebastian, with deliciously sweet lyrics singing about love in the spring time “ I feeling free when we are laying in the grass staring at the sun, and all the clouds are gone when Im with you.”
As I meander through the entire album (many times now) with the same warm feeling as I get with a blissed out walk through a park on a Sunday afternoon, Larsson captures the heart with song writing that epitmoises Swedish pop music. What is it about the water in Sweden?
In My Head, Falling In Love, Dark Blue Sea and The Cold Wind Blows, drop the usual upbeat boastfulness found on thiscompilation to a more experimental, lo-fi vibe that is tripped out in its sound and grubby in its delivery. Still effortlessly cool in every moment, we still get the observational lyrics that easily paint some great pictures in my head.
Ironically, final track Sunday Morning as Lou Reed also sang about, confirms Magnus Larsson’s influence, a perfect track to finish a compilation of a very talented singer’songwriter. Perhaps not to everyones taste in terms of breaking ground in musical paths, if the decision of great music came down to song writing built on the foundations of influence and honesty, Larsson, aka Pet Politics, needs to get back in the studio immediately. Thanks for getting in touch and reminding us why we love our blog.
Album Title To Pimp A Butterfly
Label Top Dawg
Genre Hip Hop
Moments of standout: Mortal Man
Kendrick Lamar has delivered the follow-up to 2012 LP Good Kid Maad City with the release of To Pimp A Butterfly. I was originally assigned another album to review this week, but requested to instead write about this in order to see what all the hype is about, and boy am I happy for doing so. Unfortunately, this review will not come close to being able to explore all themes and messages which are so powerfully delivered in this album in depth due to its word limit. However, to be concise, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly is literally one of the most clever, powerful and overall brilliant pieces of music this generation will come across.
Now that Lamar has established a respected name for himself in the mainstream media, we see him returning to his roots as both an artist and a human. He re-evaluates what his goals were to succeed in this business in the first place. He admits that after the commercial success of Good Kid Maad City that his initial reaction was to act out, and live the typical famous black rapper’s lifestyle with the attitude of “makin’ it rain” and showing off the money and women they now have.
To Pimp A Butterfly is undoubtedly a (re)turning point in the way Lamar views the world around him, in that he returns to the mindset he had before becoming so successful with Good Kid Maad City. Where there were once big hooks, energetic rhyming in perfect lockstep with the beat, and a clear narrative thrust, there’s now an expansive morass of live music grooves, heady and sometimes contradictory stream-of-consciousness lyrics, and not so much as an overarching narrative as lots of fractured ones ducking in and out of obscurity.
As a whole, the album takes us the listener through a seamless transition of themes and lessons Kendrick has learnt throughout life. Track by track, To Pimp A Butterfly explores;
|Song Title||Theme / Lesson Explored|
|1. Wesley’s Theory||Materialism|
|2. For Free?||Gender Equality|
|3. King Kunta||Racism|
|4. Institutionalised||Remembering where you come from|
|5. These Walls||Sex, emotions, abuse, his own career, that of his enemies and the human psyche/conscience.|
|8. For Sale?||Self-worth|
|10. Hood Politics||The U.S. Government|
|11. How Much Does A Dollar Cost?||Selfishness|
|12. Complexion||Educating white America|
|13. The Blacker The Berry||Shame|
|14. You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said)||Staying true to yourself|
|15. i||Loving yourself|
|16 Mortal Man||Everything.|
What it is that really sets this album apart from other hip-hop pieces is the intelligence it possesses, educating and engaging listeners in various ways to keep interest throughout, whilst maintaining such a consistently impressive flow.
It’s obvious that Kendrick is highly educated, the second released single, King Kunta is a history lesson in itself. Kunta Kinte, was a slave of the 18th century known for having his foot cut off in order to avoid being able to escape. King Kunta is an oxymoron, meaning he is simultaneously oppressed like a slave, and dominant like a king. In other words: a wealthy black man in America.
Another clever tactic used is by having songs that intentionally build upon another, such as For Free? And For Sale?, Complexion and The Blacker The Berry and lastly, u and i. The last, and most engaging tactic at keeping our attention, is the spoken word poem which is read throughout the album at the start or end of every second or third song, bit by bit. The first we hear this is at the end of King Kunta, which we only hear about three lines. Eventually, we hear the four paragraph entirety at the start of the last song, Mortal Man.
Mortal Man is the one which absolutely hammers the nail into the coffin and sets To Pimp A Butterfly’s place in history. In this, Kendrick accepts that his influence and power are as significant as those such of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and Moses. However, there has only been one other rapper whom has had the amount of influence and desire to use it in making the world a better place as Kendrick so far.
The song and the album ends in spoken word, it is the same spoken word poem which is revealed throughout the album bit by bit, this time read in its entirety. It’s revealed to be a message being read by Kendrick to Tupac Shakur (Shakur’s audio is extracted from various interviews he did in the late 90’s, constructing a breathtakingly realistic conversation). Kendrick and Tupac converse about their role in society – influencing ethics, motivating people to never give up their internal battles and lastly, striving towards the end goal of happiness and equality.
Kendrick then reads another poem to Tupac, said to have been written by “a friend”, it describes the life cycle of a worm hating its life and wanting to be a butterfly, consuming itself in its own thought and hate (a cocoon) and then coming out being the product of what other people think are beautiful, becoming a completely different creature, but the same living entity. Similar to a person changing the way they look, act or appear just in order to receive approval from others, when at the end of the day they are the same person they always have been. Hence the album title To Pimp A Butterfly.
Overall, brilliant. One of the best albums of 2015 and dare I say, the last decade or so. At the Wandering Lamb we only give 10 albums the prestigious “Golden Lamb” review each year. Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly 100% is a Golden Lamb.