ft. Kendrick Lamar, Ben Abraham, M.Ward, Cub Sport, Lapsley

It’s been a week of unexpected and divisive music with Kendrick Lamar’s latest release Untitled Unmastered. As our writers point out, it doesn’t matter where you sit on the situation only that you have taken a side. We also investigate artists that are taking on the acoustic, emotive music and see if they hold up to the contemporaries that have made these genres their own, especially with Brisbane band Cub Sports. The debut from 19 year old Lapsley  strikes a chord with our new writer Jack, while Melbourne singer/songwriter Ben Abraham, delivers a gem in lead up to an Australian tour.

 

Artist: Kendrick LamarKendrick 1

Album Title: untitled unmastered

Label: Aftermath/Interscope

Genre: Hip Hop

Moments of: Chief Keef, J. Cole, Slaughter House

Standout: untitled 06 06.30.2014, Untitled 08 09.06.2014

faceless - male 1 - danielBilled as the left over demo recordings from Lamar’s third record, To Pimp A Butterfly, a record that won critical acclaim the world over and subsequently won ‘Best Rap Album’ at last years Grammy’s. Untitled unmastered is a glimpse into this prolific artist’s creative process. 34 minutes of untitled tracks, verses and ideas, some more finished than others. The only  labeling being the track number and date in which they we’re conceived.

The first of many guests, Bilal opens the album on ‘untitled 01 08.19.2014’. Speaking seductively over a bed of sparse instrumentation before fading out into an intense, New York style, distorted beat. Kendrick recounts a dream where ‘A moniker of war from heaven’ comes down bringing forth an apocalypse, certainly one of the standout verses on the record.

Many of the players who helped make TPAB are littered throughout proceedings and you really get a taste of just how close some of these tracks could have been to making the cut, if developed further. None more so than the funk laden, ‘Untitled 03 05.28.2013’.

Someone that didn’t quite make TPAB, the iconic Cee-Lo Green, is a welcome addition on the ear catching, ‘untitled 06 06.30.2014’. In one of the more beautiful moments, Kendrick speaks to someone equally as ‘alien’ as he is. ‘I know for sure who you are, you are a goddess of the odd, I am yours’.

Followed by the 8 minute long, 3 part, ‘Untitled 07 2014-2016’. Kendrick intentionally slurs his lyrics on the drugged out trap beat of Part I before 5 year old Egypt, son of producer Swizz Beats and Alicia Keys, adds his own vocals and production on part II. Kendrick then jams on a new idea, while Thundercat lays down some basic guitar on ‘Fly on the wall’ recording that is Part III. It’s all fun in the studio as the listener gets an incredible insight into how his ideas can develop, no matter how silly they might seem. ‘Untitled 04 08.14.2014’ perfectly encapsulates this.

The album high point, ‘Untitled 08 09.06.2014’. A track previously performed feverishly as ‘Untitled 02’ on late night with Jimmy Fallon. A grooving, funk beat and a perfect way to close the collection.

To release such a compilation of unfinished works will certainly divide people and their views of the real motive behind such a move. One thing that can’t be denied is that when Kendrick Lamar speaks, you listen, no matter how ‘complete’ the context is. He just has an important raw quality that is evident in his art. You can hear it in each verse and see it in his countless primetime T.V. performances. There is real fire in him, a deep intensity. While still keeping it fun and entertaining on the forefront, everything beneath the surface is calculated and delivered with a kind of emotion not seen by many artists these days.

This record itself may not be as memorable as his previous albums and won’t top any polls come year-end, due to its unfinished nature. What it will do is serve as an ominous warning to other rappers and music fans around the globe. If Kendrick’s ‘demos’ are this good, you better hold on tight for the real stuff.

 

Artist M. WardM Ward

Album Title More Rain

Label Merge Records and Bella Union

Genre Alternative Folk

Moments Of T. Rex, Wilco, The Smiths

Stand Out I’m Listening (Child’s Theme), Temptation, Little Baby

Georgia NameAfter taking a break from recording his solo music, playing with a varied selection of artist the likes of My Morning Jacket, Jenny Lewis and She & Him, his partnership with Zooey Deschanel. Mr. Matt Ward is back in action with this eighth solo album, More Rain which sits somewhere between obvious and obscure.

A twelve track record – technically eleven for the first ‘song’ is a sound scape of rain and distant bells – More Rain encapsulates sitting in an armchair, book in hand, glancing out the window trying to identify something but instead all you can see is raindrops dissolving on the glass. With strong Americana influences and twangy riffs, the first few songs are limp. Certainly not a bad start to the album but it feels bland, worthy but not breathtaking.

‘I’m Listening’ is the first tune to stand out. Ward says this album was different from his others because “it was more experimental with the voice” and he proves himself right. He has a signature style, that rolling guitar sound, gravelly and rounded, but More Rain was inspired by doo-wap that turned into this simplistic album. Being that all of his work is recorded on analog, there is a difference between this and the other alternative folk being released these days, but I can’t put my finger on what it is.

Two numbers which don’t quite hit the spot are ‘Girl from Conejo Valley’ and ‘Slow Driving Man’. Both are more eccentric than previous work, unusual synth, too much dialogue and not enough lyricism. With a  coherent quote, everything starts to make sense, “it’s a true gotta-stay-indoors, rainy-season record that looks upward through the weather while reflecting on the past”. It’s a slow burner, haphazardly graceful but https://thewanderinglamb.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=6158&action=editpotentially to the point where it becomes ‘easy listening’.

With the last few tunes, you start to see where this album could have gone. ‘Temptation’ is an upbeat rock song, ‘I’m Going Higher’ has a fabulous guitar solo, really stepping it up a notch. Another glorious song is ‘Little Baby’, the doo-wap elevator music that makes you feel delicious inside, somewhat misplaced on the album but still has a place in our hearts.

It seems as though More Rain has missed the mark in dreary fashion. Many of the lyrics are matter of fact, completely skipping the passion. Breezy, yes. Countrified Indie Rock, yes. Possibly disinterested, yes. This album is looking for the sunshine through the gloomy rain clouds. Hopefully when M. Ward releases his next record, we will have reached that warm glowing sun.

 

Artist Ben Abrahamben abraham 1

Album Title Sirens

Label Independent/Secretly Canadian

Genre Indie Folk

Moments Of Josh Pyke, Gotye

Stand Out You and Me

Ben Abraham was once a screenwriter by trade, whose fate took him from scripts to songs. He tells us tales that are as personal as they are universal. It’s with this gift for story telling that he brings forth his first album Sirens. The Melbourne musician makes his way with perfect lyrics, breath-taking simplicity and a comforting Australian accent to his warm voice.

They say there’s nothing new under the sun. This is true for Sirens; it’s not adventurous or particularly different and that is perhaps worthy of holding reservations. Love songs of the ‘him-and-her’ variety, self-reflection and acoustic production. It’s all been done before but Ben does it so well, and he does it in his own way: one that is honest and commands adoration.

The son of two successful Indonesian pop stars. Perhaps that razzle-dazzle in his blood is the reason he resists over production, making Sirens refreshing without trying too hard. The arrangements are flavoured with glockenspiel, strings, ukulele, and features impressive collaboration with Gotye – keep an ear out for the tell-tale percussive layers in ‘You and Me’ and ‘Speak’. The production is tasteful but really acts as the canvas upon which the lyrics paint their pictures, and here lies the true beauty of Sirens.

The album features a two-minute self-titled prologue lush with ethereal harmonies. Second track ‘Time’ begins with a beautiful narrative; “breathing on the glass of your old front door” From there on the album goes from strength to strength, breathing new life into age-old sentiments of love and loss. “You and Me” is definitely a favourite, with a soaring melody and Abraham’s trademark song writing.

His voice is flawless, Godly. Warm like honey that draws us in as if we were all greedy bees. For this reason you may find myself wishing he would let loose a little. We don’t really get to hear him go a little higher, a little louder, a little raw. It may seem risky to release something relatively tame for a debut, especially when so many Aussies have done the indie/acoustic genre so well; Josh Pyke, Missy Higgins, Lior.  Abraham, however, joins their ranks and holds his own effortlessly. I think there is a fine line between elegant and boring but with a sentiment that doesn’t stray too far from Abraham’s sincere talent for singing and song writing, Sirens skips straight to timeless.

 

Artist: Cub Sportcub sport1

Album: This Is Our Vice

Label: Nettwerk Records

Genre: Indie/Pop

Moments Of: Clubfeet, I Know Leopard, Little Red

Stand Outs: I Don’t Love My Baby, I’m On Fire, Runner

faceless - fem 1 - alexaThe Brisbane born band Cub Sport, formally known as Cub Scout, have been a relevant name popping up within the Australian music industry since their first 2012 EP release Told You So and going on to release a follow-up EP the year later that gained a lot of attention on national radio, so naturally there was much anticipation for this, the band’s debut album.

Cub Sport have a recurring pattern of familiar sound through out, what comes across as a delicately thought through and considered album. Each song evokes a stand alone feeling and this really resonated for me on first listen. In its entirety This Is Our Vice provides a lot of warm electronic beats weaved within classic indie rock guitar riffs and the fit works well and beyond creating a fitting sound, the bands lyrical talents are honest, story-telling each authentic song. Opening song ‘Sun’ is silky and captivating and creates a euphoric and spellbinding vibe over the entire album. The harmonising qualities, that compliment most of the album’s tracks, like ‘I Don’t Love My Baby’ and ‘Runner’, delivers warmth and substance.

This Is Our Vice affirms that Cub Sport have really taken the time and effort to make a something great and is a reflection of the music they believe in, and it shows. On full listen and the time to absorb in the bands lyrical expertise, here we have an album that is an emotional roller-coaster with lyrics inspired by life and those moments of love, hate, happiness and confusion, strung together into a rather beautiful debut.

 

Artist: LåpsleyLapsley 1

Album Title: Long Way Home

Label: XL

Genre: Electronic, Indie Pop.

Moments Of: James Blake, Adele

Stand Out: Cliff, Operator, Station

JackLåpsley (Holly Lapsley Fletcher) is a 19-year-old singer-songwriter and electronic producer from England whose debut album shows far more maturity than you might expect from such a young artist. The project grapples with the typically angsty teenage fodder of love and heartbreak but it does so with touching poetics wrapped in lush production. The album may have a few moments of blandness but the majority is a beautiful spectacle from the mind and heart of a talented young artist.

Imagine Adele’s voice on a James Blake production and you’re getting close to what Long Way Home sounds like. Låpsley’s vocals don’t quite reach the booming heights of Adele’s but her accent and soulfullness inevitably draw the comparison. This is particularly noticeable on ‘Operator‘ (He Doesn’t Call Me). Here Låpsley sings of the strains of a long-distance relationship. In contrast to the heavy subject matter, she sings with an upbeat voice over a cheerful, string-heavy, tambourine-laden beat. While sonically very different to the surrounding tracks, this song is the album’s best bet at finding a radio hit.

The production on Long Way Home is at times fairly sparse, this works beautifully on the song ‘Station’. A stunning track where Låpsley’s vocals, harmonising with herself, dance around each other on a simple beat of kick drums, claps and peculiar samples. Often, the production seems to boil down to a mixture of chilled drum machines and piano but straying slightly on ‘Cliff’ by forgoing her usual piano element. You could describe the deep, almost tribal percussion on this track existing within the realm of tropical house. However you want to label it, ‘Cliff’ is fantastic.

Pitch-shifted vocals are also employed frequently throughout the album. On Hurt Me’ little pitch-shifted vocal snippets are integral to the song’s chorus. At this point it might have become a bit of a trope in electronic music but these edited vocals are executed well through out the album. The exceptions may be ‘Tell Me The Truth’ containing a rather obnoxious pitch-shifted chorus, where the line ‘just tell me the truth, it’ll hurt less I guess’ repeats over and over. The song’s production is also fairly unremarkable.

There are a few dull moments on the album but this is never the fault of Låpsley’s writing or vocals. She tackles the complexities of love with the maturity and poetics of a hardened songwriter with her ever alluring vocals. When her production is good, it’s really good. Even when it’s at it’s worst, it’s merely forgettable, not awful.

Long Way Home is an impressive debut from the 19-year-old Låpsley. With a number of superb tracks containing lot of potential for repeat listens. If this album is a sign of things to come, the world is Låpsley’s oyster.

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