Foxes - Glorious
God know why anyone would want to be a popstar right now. Well, I mean, I know why people would want to be one in general; fame, adulation, money, success, sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll, etc. But right now, launching a career as a one seems like it’d be hard as hell, as the market is pretty saturated with every conceivable kind of star. So all the props to Foxes, aka Louisa Rose Allen, for plowing on and carving out a niche. Allen’s signature style is dynamic and dramatic, and stronger than the majority of her electro-pop peers, whom would sell their grandmothers for a song as undeniably great as “Youth”.
However, through much of Glorious Foxes seems caught somewhere between creating something truly unique and interesting, and flat Emeli Sande-esque beigeness; “Let Go For Tonight” and “White Coats” would be considered too dull for even the worst teen drama soundtracks, whilst the title track is uninspiring as pop gets. But whilst the slower-paced tracks are uninspiring, it’s the attempts towards upbeat pop where Foxes shines (“Night Owls Early Birds”, “Holding Onto Heaven”, “Talking To Ghosts”) and shows that she’ll be a good-to-great proposition for a long time.
Future Islands - Singles
The big cult albums of the last few years never particularly seem to grab me like they do everyone else. Sharon Van Etten’s Tramp, James Blake’s eponymous debut, Parquet Courts’ Light Up Gold, Kurt Vile’s everything, St Vincent’s Strange Mercy and countless, countless others have invoked musical canonisation in others, whilst leaving me cold - that’s not even a weird hipster brag about disliking popular things either; I’d rather enjoy something than not - and Future Islands seemed be this year’s major iteration of this personal phenomenon.
The North Carolina trio shimmied into the consciousness of the switched-on musical public with that superb Letterman performance, bringing an massively increased spotlight to their fourth album Singles, and with it, seemingly blanket adulation. But for once, I can sort of see where this tidal wave of praise is coming from. Musically, Future Islands aren’t too far down the road from The Killers; sprightly, dramatic synth-pop, which is melodic as hell but far from “main-event status”. It’s confusing to see people enthusing about this particular aspect of the record, but it’s not the focal point of the attention current foisted on the band.
Their real secret weapon is, as anyone who’s watched that Letterman spot knows, Samuel T. Herring, the most charismatic frontman of the age, a physical cross between young Marlon Brando and Kurt Angle, with the stage presence of Nick Cave. And that voice, jeez. It elevates the sound of Singles from decent to must-listen, makes “Seasons (Waiting On You)” a golden pop anthem. It’s irresistible and unplaceable, at times swinging from Elton John to Alison Moyet to William Shatner, and it’s the major attraction of the record. The lyrics may be lacking and the music a few steps above decent, but it’s that voice, that damned magic voice that will keep dragging me back to Singles throughout the rest of the year.
The Horrors - Luminous
Everyone knows the trajectory of The Horrors by now; po-faced impossible-to-take-seriously goth-punks become shoegaze revivalist icons become the least likely arena band in the world. But whilst metamorphosing into a band who will likely headline major festivals in a few years, they’ve kept their interesting quirks unlike a lot of groups who reach the same standing. Luminous continues the psychedelic, druggy edge that developed on Skying, which is the first time the band has actually retained a sound between releases. However, where Skying felt a bit cloudy and murky for the most part, Luminous lives up to its title; things seem bright and, if not sunny, then at least warm in The Horrors’ world.
In a way, it’s a little disappointing to not hear a drastic change in the band’s sound for once. It’s almost like you kind of know how each track will turn out; baggy beats ’n’ bass, swirling rushes of guitar effects, solid pop melodies. This is not such a bad thing - good sounds are good sounds, regardless, and perhaps to someone less familiar with the band, this will sound wondrous - but for a band so exploratory and experimental with their own sound, it’s kind of uninspiring.
The fact that seven of the tracks here extend past a five-minute running time is a bit of a drag too. Chopped down to three minutes, and “First Day Of Spring” could be a great, concise pop song. The same with “So Now You Know”, which falls back on the “repeat the title-chorus forever” trick to fill out its five minutes. Oddly it’s both the two shortest tracks (“Falling Star” and “Mine And Yours”) and the longest (the krautrock-y single “I See You”) which are the biggest bright spots.
I’ll be honest, the majority of Luminous makes me just want to go and listen to “Sea Within A Sea”. It’s not as if the record is without merits outside the aforementioned three tracks; the waltzing “Change Your Mind” is a wonderful deviation from the rest of the album’s sound, and the first half is perfectly serviceable. But it feels like this is a band treading water, rather than doing laps around everyone else in the pool.
Mass Deaths of the day: We’re around two days from the debut of Game Of Throne’s fourth season, so what better time for a reminder of just how dangerous it is to be a character in Westeros with this video of every on-screen death in the show so far. The total (apparently) comes to an incredible 5179, which at 30 episodes so far, averages out at 172.6 deaths per episode. Lots of spoilers in the video, duh.
BADBADNOTGOOD are an instantly memorable band. Be it their pig-masked drummer, their uniquely funky collaborations with Tyler, The Creator, their thrilling live shows or simply their superb brand of modern electro-jazz, it’s hard to forget about them once you’ve tuned in. Their debut and sophomore releases, called simply BBNG and BBNG2 are two records smattered with covers and original tracks, covering a large bit of ground from hip-hop to post-punk (superb covers of Nas’ “The World Is Yours” and My Bloody Valentine’s You “Made Me Realise”on BBNG and BBNG2 respectively).
Their third release, unsurprisingly titled III, is a little lighter on the covers front. Across the 10-track album, the group tighten their grip on jazz and loosen their grip on everything else - BADBADNOTGOOD’s airy, fuzzy sound remains but the focus is more consistently put on the jazz side of things. “Differently, Still” is a meandering piano jam with a rattling double bass and fizzing drums a far, far cry from the early rap covers on that first album, while “Eyes Closed”has energy not dissimilar to previous BBNG tracks, but once again more in the direction of jazz than any of their other influences, with a prickly Foals-esque guitar line that rises into unease.
It’s a credit to BADBADNOTGOOD that they’ve managed to refine their sound so completely without losing any of the hair-raising eeriness of their songs. “CS60” and “Can’t Leave The Night”are the chief offenders, with the drone of strings going through peaks and troughs as the guitars and drums fire through off-beat upon off-beat to breathless conclusions. “Since You Asked Kindly” is a welcome highlight, revisiting some of the more electronic elements on previous releases with a thumping bassline and rock organs complimenting machine gun drums.
III has captured a lot more emotion than many instrumental albums have in recent times, and regular collaborator Leland Witty rejoins for “Confessions”, a tender saxophone jam worth driving in the rain to. “Kaleidoscope”is a paranoid seven minute opus with drummer Alexander Sowinski in the driving seat, and, as in several other tracks, a brass ensemble complementing the trio’s standard drums, double bass and keyboard combination.
III is the undoubtedly fullest-sounding BADBADNOTGOOD record yet, with a specific mission plan and vision, while retaining the band’s unfaltering appeal - their easy-going, off-beat jazz improvisations. Although perhaps fans might expect another fantastic cover version on this album, what they will be rewarded with instead is ten absolutely superb and memorable original tracks.
Photo of the day: Marlon Brando before and after his Don Corleone makeup for The Godfather in 1973. Is it just us or does he look a little bit like Brad Pitt in the ‘before’ pic? Or, at least, Brad Pitt’s older, unsuccessful brother?
Fuck off if you don’t think Glastonbury isn’t going to be amazing this year
Teebs is a LA based producer and part of Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label, and with those nuggets of information, you should have an idea of the type of music he makes. It’s the type of electronic music I expect from LA and it certainly delivers, lots of jingles, chimes and shakers with a throbbing bass underscore and drums that sound as dry as the desert surrounding the city. Estara is the third release after 2010’s Ardour and 2012’s compilation album Cecilia Tapes Collection and has a much more varied soundscape than those two predecessors.
The album opens with “The Endless” a song of idyllic wavey synths and chimes whereas the next track, ”View Point” has a Cosmogramma-esque rhythm before calming down towards the end. The first single released from the album is the Jonti-collaboration entitled ”Holiday”,a song which sounds like it could have been in Animal Collective’s back catalogue. A lot of Teebs’ productions use field recordings that he gathers himself and manipulates, adding layers and beats, and mixing it in Fruity Loops, and you can hear that DIY roughness in it which I think makes it sound so beautiful. “Shoouss Lullaby” is one of my favourite songs from the album, beginning with lots of delicate jingling, before building with acoustic guitars, reverb-laden beats and vibrating bass, and then slowing and ending where it began. The album takes a break with “NY Pt. 1” as a kind of reflective regard, with a distant, more ambient feel which goes on for the next three songs before transitioning into “Mondaze”gently throwing you back into the bass, beats and lush melodies that fill the rest of the album. Estara closes with “Wavxxes”, which starts like some kind of breaking news bulletin then slowly reintroduces synths, bass and sparse drums, before bringing a chap called Lars Horntveth a Norwegian jazz musician, into the mix for some nice clarinet towards the end of the song. I’ll certainly be exploring Horntveth’s work further.
Estara has a sense of lavish melancholia and a yearning to it; when I hear this, I feel like I look at the world through Instagram-tinted vision with sun-rays and those rainbow rings you get. Having said that, I had to give the album a few listens before I really appreciated it. With this type of music, it can feel quite similar to other works - although you can differentiate between his label mates like Samiyam and Lapalux. The genre needs undivided attention when you listen and only then can you really get a sense of the music and the craft and how much work goes into it. This is a much more varied album than his previous work but still has the beauty and lusciousness you would expect from Teebs.
Lana Del Rey | 'Meet Me In The Pale Moonlight'
Another new track from Lana Del Rey has surfaced, and this time it’s the moody ‘Meet Me In The Pale Moonlight’. With her sophomore album on the way, many are speculating that this could be an early leak or a track that just didn’t make the cut. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is probably a little older than people are guessing, but it’s still classic Lana and an overall strong track.