The gap between the artist’s intention and the consumer’s reception can sometimes be wide. To craft art in such a way as to communicate ideas, values, beliefs or just to ask questions is a painstaking process. Filled with doubt, mistakes, wrong turns and hopefully validation. This week we think most of our artists did a pretty decent job. What say you?
Album Title: Nothing Gives
Label: Leisure & District
Moments Of: Fucked Up / Bikini Kill
Stand Out: Levity
Bitterness and uncertainty coat the current global climate and we’ve seen musicians react en masse with charged political fervour. Capturing the zeitgeist amicably are the upcoming London based Slowcoaches with their freshly released debut Nothing Gives.
You’ll be immediately taken by the energy of the experience. It’s hard bordering on impossible to not get caught in their powerful noise-pop rush and we find it an experience that’s ultimately rewarding.
Borrowing heavily from punk, ‘Living Out’ kicks off half an hour of liquid urgency and even slower tracks carry that anxious tension. Take ‘We’re So Heavy’, it sits constantly behind the beat and always wants to spill over. It physically feels weighted down and constricted. Distortion reigns supreme, though it never gets frustrating or obfuscating. It’s used to great effect in tracks like ‘Levity’, though it’s lighter footprint in the album closer ‘Total Block’ does give the guitars a little more room to sing which we enjoyed immensely.
It’s by no means a complicated experience, but it’s exhilarating. Slowcoaches have debuted with an unexpected bang and we’ll be sure to keep an eye for them in the days to come.
Artist: Team Ghost
Album Title: Team Ghost
Genre: Rock / Electronic
Moments Of: Godspeed! You Black Emperor / Suicide
Stand Out: We Are War
It’s been a long and uphill run for Team Ghost since their inception in 2007. Nicolas Fromageau acquired an almost pariah like status when he left M83 in 2004, right before that three album streak that catapulted them to immense mainstream success. Their latest release, the self-titled Team Ghost, shows it was not for naught though. While it’s unlikely to hit any mainstream success, it’s clear Fromageau is creating on his own terms, and that satisfaction carries across the release.
This album reads as the soundtrack to a non-existent but majestic golden age sci-fi. It starts off on shaky ground, but by ‘Tales Of Tomorrow’ you’re in. There’s a strong Godspeed! You Black Emperor vibe in tracks such as ‘This Elegy’, and the energy spills into the beautifully cacophonous rush of ‘We Are War’ which is easily the highlight moment of the release.
There are issues with the release most notably in the inconsistencies in theming. Tracks will switch feel at a hair leaving you with something akin to whiplash (‘We Are War’ is guilty of this). There’s surprise pop moments where they don’t seem to fit (we’re looking at ‘Birds’ here) and the album does tend to drag on something fierce. It’s an experience, but perhaps not a repeatable one. We’re confused but not necessarily disappointed with this one, though it’s not likely to feature heavily in our lives.
Artist: Childish Gambino
Album Title: Awaken, My Love!
Label: Liberator Music
Genre: R&B, funk, soul
Moments Of: Prince / Sly & The Family Stone
Stand Out: Redbone
Awaken, My Love! is a reincarnation of 70’s and 80’s funk sounds, a new direction arriving without warning to grace Childish Gambino’s repertoire with soulful self-awareness. Gambino has dabbled in hard rap and pure pop, but his latest foray into old school funk feels like the best fit.
Childish Gambino, or Donald Glover IRL, has made a name for himself as an actor, comedian, and musician. The California based triple-threat is known now for eloquent rap, having soundtracked the summer of 2013 with mainstream hit ‘3005’. But Awaken, My Love! is vastly different from the Gambino discography that precedes it. The record dips into production that feels vastly progressive yet deeply nostalgic, leaving trademark Gambino raps and hip hop beats behind.
‘Have Some Love’ and ‘Boogieman’ are infused with old school funk vibes from The O’Jays, Commodores, and Kool & the Gang. ‘Redbone’ is a stand out, as a Prince influence shines through in the sultry falsetto and production. ‘Baby Boy’ seems to have been inspired by the recent birth of Glover’s son; Glover makes fatherly promises in raspy verses running over smooth harmonies and it’s really lovely. Album closer ‘Stand Tall’ is sparse and strong, with Glover delivering pure, uplifting verses.
What makes Awaken, My Love! particularly enjoyable is the ‘all or nothing’ feel to the record. Like Donald Glover steps into different roles as an actor, the new Childish Gambino is fully committed to exploring a particular sound. Will Awaken, My Love! be the stand-alone funk record in Glover’s discography? Or does it mark the start of a new Childish Gambino sound? Either way, the record is an undeniably impressive offering from a creatively versatile artist.
Artist: You Blew It!
Album Title: Abendrot
Label: Triple Crown Records
Genre: Indie Rock / Emo Punk
Moments Of: Modern Baseball
Stand Out: Greenwood
The newest offering from American emo/alternatives You Blew It! is thoughtful and complete, delving deeper into layered guitars and the afterglow of emotions like self-doubt and purpose. Abendrot explores internal thought processes, images of people and places, and is driven by perfectly balanced production from track to track.
Since their formation in 2009, You Blew It! has had a penchant for plucking lonely heart strings. Heavy with electric guitars and whining American vocals, the Florida based five piece deliver emo flavoured alt rock. But where just two years ago they were cultivating an edgier punk sound on Keep Doing What You’re Doing, the newest record is much more subtle, leaning into a softness that flickers with prettiness.
This maturity is felt in the ambience of ‘Greenwood’ and indie feeling ‘Like Myself’. ‘Epaulette’ is a strikingly intimate start to the album, billowing with the crackle of a mic, the scratch of fingers sliding over guitar strings, the close vocals from frontman Tanner Jones. The guys throw some weight behind the overdriven guitars and big drums on lead single ‘Autotheology’, but remain morose in the chorus hook of “When God dies I’ll skip the funeral”. From there the album picks up pace, but remains nuanced enough to allow the superb guitar sounds on ‘Minorwye’ and ‘Forecasting’ to shine through without being buried in overplaying.
Abendrot has the song-writing finesse and clean production of contemporaries like Modern Baseball (even echoing the light and shade trajectory of their recent record Holy Ghost), while the vocals lean a little more towards the classic emo sound of My Chemical Romance. The album sees You Blew It! draw from a palette spanning alt rock, emo, punk and indie vibes to deliver a wholesome and tasteful record.