Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Black Keys 'El Camino'

El Camino is the band's sixth studio album. I'm ashamed of myself for only picking up the duo on my radar this far into their career and not a moment before. ASHAMED!

The album kicks off with the very, very feisty and southern state sounding 'Lonely Boy'. Effects on the guitar, alongside a simplistic and stripped down production does the album wonders. 'Lonely Boy' is a fantastic representation of the band's genre and general feel of the duo. Third on the album is the single 'Gold On the Ceiling' which grabs the listener. What with its massive riffs, off-beat clapping, White Stripe-esque harmonies and chant-able lyrics, the single is sure to do well and guaranteed to be a festival anthem.

Other tracks worth noting include the bass driven 'Run Right Back', the utterly predictable and yet brilliant 'Sister' alongside reminiscently U2 sounding 'Money Maker'. 'Stop stop' offers Arctic Monkey fills and rhythmic guitar parts to break in the track. Again, the ease to sing along to the vocals make this band a strong contender to pull in a big crowd at all big festivals, come summer.

So whoever is claiming guitar music to be dead is a FOOL. Hats off to all Indie rockers, we salute you in these dark and Dubstep days.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Lianne La Havas 'Forget' EP

The EP features 5 songs, with the titling 'Forget' single as the outstanding and shining track. As La Havas' second EP, the record contains a good mix of soulful acoustic music from the dramatic and ear grabbing single 'Forget' to the piano accompanied, vocally shining ballard 'Gone'.

Close and personal production here is what really highlights Lianne's soulful, soothing and distinctive sound. Everything from the closeness of the microphone, to the intensity of the backing vocals which is usually shoved up somewhere against the wall of drums. Here, every instrument and musical element is made poignant. In 'Forget' the use of layering, contrasting vocals from the whispers to the sustained notes on the word 'Forget' are brilliant. Meanwhile the heavy use of reverb and closeness of the vocals in 'Same As Me' really blends together smoothly with the guitar.

La Havas' voice is one which I think shall really stand out this year. It contains a depth and warbling sound which really sets her apart from her musical peers. Providing she continues firing out singles as catchy as 'Forget' and the previous single 'No Room For Doubt' featuring Willy Mason she'll be a huge success in 2012.

The inclusion of the 'Au Cinema' live performance proves La Havas' potential as a live musician with more use of chromaticism and off beat vocals. I'm gutted I cant get any gig tickets for her. No doubt she'll be rocking the festivals this summer, and what a sound to be heard outdoors, with cider in hand!!!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Caitlin Moran's 'How To Be A Woman'

Ok, so acknowledged. I'm a few months out to review this book and certainly in no position to point out whether it'll be a guestimated hit or received well. Because it has been. I just wanted to verify how good it is and point out how well worth a read is for anyone who wants a fresh insight into the world of modern day feminism and fancies a bit of a giggle.

Moran's writing is humorous, yes "Strident feminism NEEDS big pants. Really big. I'm currently wearing a pair that could have been used as a fire blanket to put out the great fire of London at any point during the first 48 hours or so." It contains banter, it contains a certain degree of moaning, nagging and bitching about things that personally and generally grind against her "...I've seen feminism-to remind ourselves: the liberation of women-blamed for the following: eating disorders, female depression, rising divorce rates........ But these are all things which have simply INVOLVED WOMEN, and have nothing to do with the political involvement 'feminism'." The majority of these delightful observations however are often worthy of the criticism they get from the witty writer.

I believe this book should not only be brought to the attention of younger women, older women but also men alike. I believe it is read bestest when in private. Just because the urge to laugh out loud is over compelling. If that though makes your commute to work all the more entertaining, devious and tempting by suppressing an out loud giggle in public, then knock yourself out.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

SBTRKT's Eponymous Album

An electronica, bass heavy and vocally soothing album with thanks to the extraordinary singers Sampha, Little Dragon, Jessie Ware and Roses Gabor. The London musician and producer responsible for this masterpiece works under the sudoname SBTRKT pronounced 'subtract'.

With catchy melodies and a minimalist like approach to textures and development, the album contains a variety in genre, production and influences. Everything which is guaranteed to be a massive hit this year in the music industry from Electronica, Dubstep, drum and bass and hip hop combined with the 'unlikelys' such as funk, pop and ambient music is what draws this album to its unique whole.

The single 'Hold On' breaks my heart. The relaxed attitude to vocals (by Sampha, who is an amazing contribution to this album) and wonderfully chilled high notes are so easy to listen to and are simultaneously reminiscent. Plus, what song cant make it when it has a xylophone?!?! The Caesers did it, and now SBTRKT are bringing it home, to Dub and Electronica. The next single to be released must surely be 'Something Goes Right' (feat Sampha) because it's so distinctly SBTRKT, but contains an uplifting and percussion like Casio chords, up-beat tempos and fun filled vocals which really does contain many elements that allows this track to go further than an underground single on an underground album. I think it also faces a lot of potential for remixes.

Tracks like 'Wildfire (feat. Little Dragon)', are going to be a sure hit on the mainstream now that Dubstep, with thanks to the giants such as Skrillex, Knife Party and Chase and Status are entering our eardrums at 10am on a Wednesday via Radio1. 'Right Thing to do' (feat. Jessie Ware) has a Two Step, softer approach to the reverb filled land of electronica and house music. Funk based 'Pharaohs' (Feat Roses Gabor) with its bouncy bass, off-beat high hats and catchy chorus allows for a breather from the intensity of the otherwise complicated glitches and electronica quick-fired-beats that fills the rest of the album. It is the inclusion of tracks such as this that makes SBTRKT a contender for the mainstream charts.

The more perhaps, outstanding tracks such as 'Sanctuary' develops in its own time, pace and layering of electronica. It belongs to those who want to invest in the album and pay it undying attention. 'Go Bang' (despite sounding like it's just fallen out of an episode from the TV series 'Skins') is a stunning track. It takes its time, fills an atmospheric and ambient space with simplistic but effective harmonies and shape. A producer who uses pizzicato strings in an ambient piece is well worth giving a high five to. I hope it stays untampered and well received.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Jay-Z and Kanye West's 'Watch the Throne'

How did these two master minds ever come up with the idea of collaborating. Genius. Absolutely Genius. I am genuinely surprised that the egos of these two artists managed to withstand each other. I thought it could have been a recipe for disaster, but it turn out I am A FOOL who knows nothing.

The overall content of the album is loyal to both artists, full of catchy anthems, well penned lyrics and fantastic musicianship. The fusion of samples from artists such as Otis Redding, Mr Hudson, Will Ferrell (believe it!), James Brown, Quincey Jones, Cassius (an electronic Indie band), Flux Pavillion alongside a complete break down of Nina Simone's 'Feeling Good' in addition to the mashing of Jay-Z and Kanye's music together is on a very advanced level of music. Not only does the duo remain true to the roots of black music in musicianship and lyrical content but its also made appealing on a worldwide level for music lovers of Motown, Hip Hop, Rap, Pop and Dubstep.

Track by track in a 'quickie';

No Church in the Wild: Leans towards more Kanye's Instrumentation and 808 feel. Philosophical. Observational and with a brilliantly, bouncy bass line and intense strings.

Lift Off (feat. Beyonce): WELL OF COURSE BEYONCE FEATURES! WHY EVER NOT?! It's catchy, up beat and has a catchy vocal line that I eagerly anticipate from the very beginning of the intro. Perhaps Kanye should have stayed off the longer phrased vocals and stuck to rapping.

Ni**as in Paris: No idea what this track is about, but it's fun, brilliant pieced together with samples and easy to listen to (despite some of it's offensive lyrics). The sparseness of the instruments and orchestration is developed well throughout the track. The break down at the end is heroic. Reminds me off something from Plastic Beach by Gorillaz.

Otis (feat Otis Redding): The first single off the album. A delight to listen to. Brilliant use of loops, samples, brass and lyrics. Arrogance is what the two boys do best here "I made Jesus walks I'm never going to hell" and they do it in a typically expensive format.

Gotta Have It: Heavier use of hip hop backing vocals and more of Jay-Z feel here.

New Day: The inclusion here of a spookily adapted Felling good by Nina Simone is brilliant. Not only does it add a hugely ironic and goosepimply feel to the track throughout, but it it's such a melancholy version that it really turns an originally positive track to something utterly different. The lyrics in this track are ones that I shut up and listen to each and every time. Jay-Z expresses his emotions with nothing to hide.

Thats my Bitch: "Bumpin'" would be pretty accurate. Catchy and a good use of bass themes and release of melodies-especially on the vocals in the chorus.

Welcome to the Jungle: A song I feel I should be cautious with. The worrying brass and the repetitive keys are cause for emotional concern and worry. I think the instrumentation here is brilliantly reflective and combined with the majority if Jay's voice over Kanye's which I feel can be more sincere at times.

Who Gon Stop Me: A Dubstep tune in a hip hop album? A sure winner. And it is. A brilliant use of the sample. Kanye here belongs in his element. The 808-treated Kanye vocals work excellently, whilst the breakdown two and a bit minutes in work superbly in this heavier track.

Murder to Excellence: A track that demands to be listened to. Written about black on black violence with brilliant lyrics, it's hard hitting and Kanye's vocal is his best so far on the album.

Made in America (feat. Frank Ocean): A surprisingly chilled out track. The smooth vocals of Frank Ocean is refreshing this far into the album. Meanwhile, the content is ironic, a sociological observation and is reflective at the same time.

Why I Love You (feat Mr Hudson and The Library): A noisy second single. But one that demands attention, addiction and is necessarily so, ear catching. A protective and protesting single that I hope everyone takes the time to genuinely listen to instead of becoming distracted by the catchiness of the chorus.

H.A.M: The pimpest track. Ostentatious and pretentious (only because a choir is used I suppose) but at points it can be just a bit too much. And I don't have a pimp car to blast it out of... just a Ford Focus.

Primetime: A chromatic piano riff highlights the distress that is evident in this song. A good use of looping, but the track doesn't feel like it's moving anywhere. Perhaps its not meant to....

The Joy (feat. Curtis Mayfield): A slightly odd one to end the deluxe album on. Perhaps the two artists wanted to finish on some sort of avant garde jazz like hip hop, smooth track that zoned out after the exhaustive listening of the whole album. Contains some highly sexually charged vocals and smooth samples from Curtis. Very little going on in relation to the instrumentation and development until the end where a sleepy- jazz like improvisation comes over the keys player and helps diffuse the entire ending of the track.

There we have definitely one of my favourite albums of last year. If you haven't already, GET INVOLVED.