New Borns makes a timely return this week after a few weeks where things took another slight scheduled turn. Again, we have changed the rules and put the selection of weekly new albums back in the hands of our young music writers, asking them to choose albums they want to review each week. It was a certain shame that we took the time out during August, a month that really was impeccable in terms of releases. This week we deliver 3 albums, 2 of which we stamped with “Well Done”, both of which derive from complete opposite ends of the musical spectrum. Jerome reviewed Dr. Dre and was completely blown away, while our Melbourne-based Jarryd, introduces Szymon, a 23 year old Newcastle musician who lost his life to depression, but with the will and drive of his family, had his album reviewed. It is an album beyond his years, timeless, emotional and breathtakingly touching. We urge you to listen. Finally, we catch up on an album released a few weeks back, and had Ben take a listen and deliver some kind words on Albert Hammond Jnr, 3rd solo album.
Album Title: Momentary Masters
Label: Vagrant Records USA
Genre: Pop, Neo-Wave
Moments Of: The Killers, Placebo, David Bowie
Stand Outs: Power Hungry, Don’t Think Twice, Touche, Born Slippy
It must be the year of side projects (see also Will Butler, Alessandro Cortini, etc) and now Strokes’ guitarist and keyboard player Albert Hammond Jr offers his third solo release. Claiming the Beach Boys, Buddy Holly and John Lennon among his influences, the Los Angeles native also likes to hold his guitar up high across his chest, a-la the old 1950s and 60s heroes. So he can dance more, apparently. Perhaps Coldplay’s Chris Martin could consider doing likewise.
What is with people releasing shorter albums these days? Like a few other albums this year, this one’s on the slight side at just 10 tracks covering 35 minutes. That used to barely cover two sides of vinyl. Nowadays the unkind might almost call it an EP. Anyway, to the sounds themselves. This is Neo-Wave pop to a pretty good standard, basically.
The touchstones are apparent right from the outset. It’s generally tight, bouncy (and occasionally ballad-y) stuff with a sense of grandiosity to its delivery. Mr Hammond would probably find a solid place in a Killers recording studio session. Or right at home alongside the whining vocals of Placebo’s Brian Molko. Or (at a pinch) even prove a useful candidate for any future live backing band for 1970s legend David Bowie.
The highlights are genuine ones, albeit intermittently spaced across the album.
Born Slippy (no relation to the Underworld electro classic of the 1990s) starts with a woman giving Hammond invective down the phone. For some reason. The jolly tone is undercut by a distinct rumble just out at the edge of the mix. Some lovely sparkling guitar runs beneath the singing, too.
Second track Power Hungry is even better. Percussive, with a lingering melody reminiscent of Talking Heads. An intriguing concoction, it has Hammond commenting “walking upstairs gets me down” and “everyone’s agreed from north to south that everyone has naught to do with greed”. He has a fine line in rhyme. “If you’re pleasantly drunk you can’t read the news / There’s a war of words I’m about to lose”, he continues.
Later on there’s a cohesive cover of Bob Dylan’s classic Don’t Think Twice, making Hammond sound like a master of discrete moments (see the album title).
Elsewhere, there’s a lot of double-guitar phasing pinging around the headphones while the drums and bass play hide-and-seek, switching from complex to rudimentary. It would be fascinating to hear Hammond’s dynamic range extended over five to seven minutes instead of three, though.
Razors Edge and Touche kind of run straight into each other after Don’t Think Twice, making for a three-piece song cycle, with a quickening, almost punk speed and a high-pitched guitar solo squeezed into the former. And a great breakdown at the end of the latter.
Things close on a less convincing note with Drunched In Crumbs and Side Boob, as if Hammond’s suddenly remembered that he wants to play everything even faster. He drives it home with a big-hair rock ending, all flaying guitar and riding, splashing cymbals.
“That’s really something I never wanted to hear,” he says at the end of the record. Well, someone out there will want to hear this, no doubt.
Album Title Compton: A soundtrack
Label Aftermath, Interscope
Moments Of NWA, Ice Cube
Stand Out Medicine Man, Talk Abou it
While the movie Straight Outta Compton (an N.W.A biopic, the undeniable rap-cult band that has counted in its assets Dre, Ice Cube, Dj Yella etc …) explodes to the worldwide box office, Dr Dre took the opportunity to release his third and last album: Compton: A soundtrack. 15 years after his last album (2001 released in 1999). The American rapper proves once again that he is still one of the pillars of U.S rap. a real small bomb!
Do I really need to introduce Dr. Dre? Present on the world music scene for more than 30 years as producer, author, composer and singer (just that!), he returned this month with a somewhat suprised album that was prepared and recorded under some secrecy. Driven by the inspiration of a movie that retraced the beginning of his massive group and joined by an equally amazing group of other rappers like Eminen, Snopp Dogg, Ice Cube and the list goes on, Compton sets itself as a motion soundtrack. It plays through as a recycle of what was the best in the rap from the past 20 years and integrates it all perfectly in this current musical movement of pure brilliance.
Dr.Dre manages to succeed where a lot others continue to struggle, that ambition to make a good old school rap album that is relevant and progress. The songs are still powerful, the lyrics are still entirely engaged, the samples are still as effective! Above all this, Dr.Dre embraces a panel of tools and modern effects available and here they are used to the utmost perfection.
After a masterly intro which presents the album like a film, all the guests join the parade, fit together, harmonize in the most successful way! Each has its place, and each brings to the album a unique voice that is clearly mastered under the watchful eyes of a bandleader who has actually inspired each of them.(Big up for Medicine Man !)
This album has had a huge impact on me, it just instantly hit me like a musical bomb! For me, it was a return to the source of Rap in terms of power that this genre can bring (and for those of you who are long standing Rap fans, it will feel good to hear this old school rap) mixed up with a good touch of modernity. Compton is a phenomenal album affirming that Dr. Dre has not lost his unbelievable talent nor his ear for what makes outstanding rap music. I can only hope this release is just the beginning of Dr Dre’s return.
Album Title Tigersapp
Moments Of Tame Impala, Iron and Wine, Nick Drake, Sigur Ros
Stand Out Golden, Broken World, Polen
Tigersapp is a rare creation that should be nothing short of cherished. Developed in a bedroom with only crude recording equipment and a young, talented artist’s insatiable desire to grow and express their inner world. Szymon Borzestowski, at the age of just 19, was set to sign a deal with record label EMI who had been mentoring him through his work. Due to a rapid deterioration of his mental health, Szymon decided to put the record on hiatus. Sadly, he did not live to see his music become public domain. Together, the Borzestowski family and EMI worked tirelessly to honour this young man’s voice.
Regardless of context, Tigersapp is a gorgeous album that shares the melancholic optimisms of a young man trying to understand their place in the world. However, to truly appreciate the genius at the centre of his artwork, it should be noted that not only was Szymon a self-taught musician who quickly mastered guitar, piano, brass, vocals, percussion, song writing and production within the measly space of two years. Szymon accomplished this feat within the walls of his bedroom with the basic equipment and instruments he had available. This was a home job in every sense of the word.
Tigersapps frequently exhibits misleadingly complex vocal harmonies, instrumental dynamics and melodies. Each song is layered with multiple tracks of multiple instrumentals all the while never allowing a note to feel redundant. Broken World, Golden and Zoo Story are perfect examples of this mastery that allows for an experience that is at its heart, simple but enriched with nuanced and articulate detail.
Szymon builds upon the smooth acoustic and late night jazz themes with atmospheric electronica and vocals of smoke and honey. Intangible but powerful, his music resonates long after the album has finished.
Re-occurring melodic motifs throughout the album do give away Szymon’s inexperience but with a buffet of genres at play within Tigersapp, it’s hardly a negative and one could even go so far as to argue it to be a binding element for the album.
Polen, finishes off Tigersapp as a tribute to his parent’s homeland of Poland. A subdued but elegant acoustic piece. Infused with another re-occurring but gentle jazz saxaphonic motif. Without question, a song beyond Szymon’s years, Polen can proudly stand alongside the likes of Nick Drake and Sigur Ros.
It’s easy to listen to this artists, and with the tragedy in mind, overstate the talent and heart expressed within this album. It’s also easy to lament at a lost prodigy that was only just starting to find his voice. I think, however, it would be remiss to look at the loss and not see the gift.
Instead of looking at what could have been it would seem more suitable to celebrate the music that Szymon Borzestowski has left us with. A fitting tribute and legacy for a musician that will touch the hearts of many.