The thank yous on the Bandcamp page for Fennec’s Let Your Heart Break make for a varied read, spanning film, music and video game: Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Aphex Twin, Zomby, Girl Talk, Mr. Oizo, Actress, Waka Flocka Flame, Flying Lotus, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Anna Meredith, DJ Koze, DJ Steef, Bingo Players, Vampire Weekend, Four Tet, Drake, Jai Paul, Stanley Kubrick, Deadmau5, Araabmuzik, Spike Jonze, Trentemøller, M.I.A., Busta Rhymes, Loudpvck, J Dilla, Royksopp, John Talabot, The KLF, Pantha du Prince, Art of Noise, Pussycat Dolls, Dada Life, RZA, Calvin Harris, Burial, Final Fantasy IX, Legend of Zelda, Grand Theft Auto V, Bioshock 2, Gravity… a lot of the time, naming such a wide base of influences could come off as name-dropping and desperate grabs at being cool, but with many of those entities appearing in sample form across Let Your Heart Break’s fifteen tracks, and at the rate at which the record moves between sounds and genres, it feels appropriate. Fennec’s debut album feels like a day in a dense modern city condensed into 43 minutes, a feeling which is helped by each track segueing seamlessly into the next. Dance music tends to lean towards being more long form, with tracks that can easily sprawl out beyond the ten minute mark and even further. Inspired by the more pop-based artists in that list of thanks, the student producer keeps each track in perfect radio-sized chunks, never outstaying their welcome. Much of the album feels like a more immediate version of Gold Panda, at once both hazy and melodic, warm and melancholy. The collision between the more ambient and atmospheric elements production and the frequent hip-hop samples is fantastic, feeling far more organic than a lot of mash-up producers who attempt the same thing. Fennec has really triumphed in applying the maximalism of pop production to dance, without losing sight of the subtleties and layers necessary to create something special.
If theres’s one thing The Script do well, it’s… erm… hang on, I had something a minute ago. Nope, it’s gone. There’s nothing.
There’s a quote from the old Labour firebrand (and personal hero of mine) Aneurin Bevan that goes “We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run down”. Alas, that rule really doesn’t apply to music in the slightest as we all know the easiest way of rocketing to the top of multiple charts around the world and subsequent major mainstream success is being as safe and bland as humanly possible. The Script are standard bearers of this, taking over the position as their predecessors and countrymen U2 increasingly fade from relevance. But even compared to the rest of the artists who produce this middle-aged parent demographic pap, The Script’s latest album is the nadir of safe.
Each of the eleven tracks contained on No Sound Without Silence is like some unholy, insidious mulch of the stadium bands of years gone by, but without any of the verve, originality or craft they had. Take “No Good In Goodbye” which rips off The Edge’s guitar style wholesale and applies it to sub-Coldplay anthemics, and features some of the worst lyrics you’re likely to see this decade: “Where’s the good in goodbye?/Where’s the nice in nice try?/Where’s the us in trust gone?/Where’s the soul in soldier on?/Now I’m the low in lonely… I can’t take the ache from heartbreak”. How the hell does a professional pop act get away with such crimes in this day and age? It made me gag to type that out. In fact, the entire record is filled with such glib, eighth-rate writing and horribly earnest sentiments from its title, to the track names - “It’s Not Right For You”, “Never Seen Anything ‘Quite Like You’”, “Superheroes”, “Man On A Wire” - to the rest of the lyrics. It doesn’t help that the production and melodies are equally as uninspired, presumably to keep everything within the boundaries of the radio airplay sweet spot.
It’s damning of the music-buying and listening public that we’ve allowed this to carry on for six years and four albums, and didn’t shut this shit down sooner. We were so preoccupied with whether or not we could make a band this shitty successful that we didn’t stop to think if they should.
Chris Brown is increasingly becoming one of those artistic (in the loosest sense of the word) figures who’s work and personality are hard to separate. But the thing is, whilst most artists with criminal records or celebrities with tarnished reputations (Woody Allen, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, R Kelly, Roman Polanski et al) have some talent to begin with and have created great works (which, of course, doesn’t erase their various crimes), but Chris Brown doesn’t have anything remotely good to his name. Even when taking his now infamous assault of Rihanna out of the equation, Brown is generally quite a petulant tool of a manchild, and it’s hard not to take that into account when trying to review his music.
Alas, it doesn’t help that Brown’s output is consistently garbage, a streak which has continued on his sixth album, X. Like, it’s always lowest common denominator dance-influenced pop R&B, with hip-hop pretensions but with none of the power or swagger to back it up. Perhaps the occasional syrupy ballad, which has absolutely no emotion behind it and is hollow to the core. The entire enterprise is autotuned beyond the point of no return, with the kind of production and beats which have to be collated from the presets to bargain basement keyboards because no producer is going to break a sweat coming up with original or interesting ideas for this when basic shit will sell like hotcakes. It’s trashy one-note pap, mass-produced sludge that is the aural equivalent of chewing gum; no redeeming features, and the taste is gone in a matter of minutes.
Speaking of minutes, this thing lasts 60 of them. A whole hour - that’s 17 tracks - worth of musical diarrhoea, and that’s before you add on the deluxe edition material. It’s an hour of my life which I will never get back. I could’ve done so much with that hour, but I wasted it in order to subject myself to the low-rent work of a woman beater. How anyone would willingly do this is beyond the comprehension of my mind, and how any of the dozen guest artist can look themselves in the eye after appearing on X is similarly baffling. Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj Tyga, Usher, Rick Ross, Kendrick Lamar, R Kelly, Trey Songz, Ariana Grande Akon, Brandy and Jhene Aiko ain’t desperate for the cash or the exposure, so I can only put it down to moral bankruptcy or a momentous lapse in judgement.
Basically, there’s enough terrible music and enough terrible people in the world without Chris Brown adding to both tallies. No one with any taste should enjoy this.
It’s that time of year again! The annual hubbub over the shortlist for the Barclaycard Mercury Prize has begun with the twelve albums nominated unveiled earlier today. Chosen from album from artists from Britain and Ireland released in the last year, the Prize is chose by an independent panel of judges made up from musicians, journalists, executives and other figures in the British and Irish music industries. The winner will be revealed at a televised ceremony on October 29th. The nominees are as follows:
- Anna Calvi - One Breath
- Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long, See You Tomorrow
- Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots
- East India Youth - Total Strife Forever
- FKA Twigs - LP1
- GoGo Penguin - v2.0
- Jungle - Jungle
- Kate Tempest - Everybody Down
- Nick Mulvey - First Mind
- Polar Bear - In Each And Every One
- Royal Blood - Royal Blood
- Young Fathers - Dead
It looks like Damon Albarn may have changed his mind on the Mercury Prize since 2001, when he requested Gorillaz’ debut album be withdrawn, stating that winning would be "like carrying a dead albatross round your neck for eternity". This is Albarn’s fourth time being nominated for the award - along with Gorillaz’ debut, both Blur’s Parklife and 13 earn noms - which technically ties him with PJ Harvey and Radiohead for the most nominations, although neither he nor Radiohead have ever won (Harvey won in 2011 with Let England Shake).
In fact, it seems as if the panel of experts have shied away from big names this year, with Albarn being the only nominee who really fits the bill, and only he, indie singer-songwriter Anna Calvi and experimental jazz quintet Polar Bear have been nominated before (2011 and 2005, respectively). The other nominees are all earning their first nods for the Prize, most with their debut albums.
In terms of a likely winner, it seems nailed on for FKA Twigs to go home with the trophy and £20,000 prize money come October; after all, we did give LP1 a hallowed 10/10 review earlier in the year, which is a significant qualifier (kind of). Albarn’s Everyday Robots is a contender purely on being the highest profile release on the list, whilst Bombay Bicycle Club’s So Long, See You Tomorrow would be an okay choice, a la Alt-J’s win in 2012, it’s an unspectacular but solid album. Jungle and Royal Blood both came out all guns blazing with their eponymous first albums this year, which we awarded 9/10 and 8/10 reviews to respectively, so we’d have no qualms with a win for either of those duos. In terms a dark horse pick though, it has to be Young Fathers, whose Dead is a fantastic and bewildering record which has so far gone under the radar of a lot of music fans so far this year.
I’ll be honest, I thought The Kooks, those perennial mid-carders of the mid ‘00s indie boom, had split up long ago. Their last album apparently came out in 2011 and reached Number 10 in the charts, but I have absolutely no memory of it or any of its singles whatsoever. Hell, even 2008’s despicably bad Konk is but a faint memory of smug pop-rock and the admittedly good-if-saccharine “Shine On”, leaving debut Inside In/Inside Out as their only memorable and worthwhile record
Alas, this latest album seems destined to follow in the footsteps of its two immediate predecessors. Listen has to be commended for being a brave new direction for the band, as the fourth album isn’t usually where a lot of artists would take big risks, instead preferring to consolidate and stick to what’s safe, but it’s just unfortunate that even in expanding their palette, The Kooks remain as dull and uninspired as they did six years ago. The addition of funk, gospel, jazz, and soul, along with hip hop producer Inflo, to the band’s regular indie pop makes for a messy pastiche of ever more passionate, interesting and powerful music.
It’s clear in the three years since Junk Of The Heart, they’ve attempted to galvanise themselves and storm back into the spotlight with all guns blazing, but the entirety of the record feels desperate to be liked and be relevant, as the brick-fisted, cloth-eared attempt at social commentary on “It Was London” - sample lyrics “It was in Tottenham / Man got shot by a police man / A young girl went to test them / Went up against the system / Oh oh, I don’t know” and “On the television / Of course they blame the youth for disruption / ‘Cause they took Fortnum & Mason / And nothing said about the shooting / Just the looting”. There’s a bitter irony in naming an album Listen and then serving up something this unappealing.