Song Of The Day
Since Tasty, Kelis’ breakthrough album which led to “Milkshake” taking the world by storm, was released in 2003, it’s fair to say that she was unable to replicate that success. Both 2006’s Kelis Was Here and 2010’s Flesh Tone were quite forgettable, save for the latter’s “Acapella”, which I still think is one of the best songs she has released to date. She had ditched the sexy, floor-filling R&B vibes of her first three records (which were helped out by late ‘90s/early ‘00s kings of production, The Neptunes), signed to a poor record deal and then, upon leaving, committed the musical cardinal sin (unless you’re Sia) of working with David Guetta and his EDM crew. Flesh Tone managed to make at least some of an impact because, here, she was behind the wheel and it was very much Kelis-doing-EDM rather than some EDM with a bit of Kelis on it; trying something different and, for the most part, doing a decent job at it, but it just didn’t capture most of what made Kelis great. Since then, she’s gone through a bit of a change.
1999’s “Caught Out There”, Kelis’ first major solo single coming off the back of her collaboration with Ol’ Dirty Bastard, painted her as the Alanis Morisette of R&B. Fuelled by anger and heartbreak it was the perfect anthem for scorned women everywhere; “You Oughta Know” for those who prefer a thumping beat to some grungy guitars. The Kelis we see in 2014 is unrecognisable compared to Kaleidoscope Kelis. She’s matured and no longer lets anger and pain rule her heart.
As well as maturing, she’s done a bit of a Paul Newman and ventured into food. Having enrolled in the Cordon Bleu culinary school in 2006, she’s since gone on to get her own cookery show in the States, launched her own range of products (mainly sauces a la Loyd Grossman, seeing as she trained as a saucier), and even took her food truck to SXSW to cook her recipes for punters. It’s a bit of an unusual diversion but it’s one that has heavily inspired this sixth album, aptly titled Food.
It seems a cliché but the world of music and the world of food go together surprisingly well.The ideas of mixing flavours to discover the best combination and the utter precision that is required to create something good is present in both. Working with TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek, Kelis has managed to re-discover what makes her so special and craft whole dishes around that; dishes that are both playful and comforting with a real kick to them.
Album opener, and the first single from the album, “Jerk Ribs” acts as a nice entrée, showing you what’s to come and whether or not it’ll be to your tastes, though it’s hard to not be enraptured by the track. Horns blast out among the luscious string section as Kelis’ husky vocals lead the way. It’s a real tasty soul track and the perfect introduction to what Food is all about; namely a bunch of songs named after food and packed with soul and hands-to-your-chest, face-to-the-sky belters. From here it moves effortlessly into new worlds as though you’re navigating a tasting platter.
The sultry “Floyd” snakes and swoons as though navigating a smoky jazz club; a smooth slow jam that sees Kelis’ hoarse but no less sexy vocals croon “I want to be blown away”. “Hooch” really feels like a track that belongs on something put out by Ninja Tune. Kelis’ move to the label normally filled with leftfield electronic artists seemed like strange but it was a decision that had people, myself included, really intrigued to see what it would bring. “Hooch” has a really jazzy Bonobo feel to the brass mixed with Nile Rodgers-esque disco guitar work and even more swooning from Kelis. “Cobbler” has a more afrobeat vibe to it, with the percussion of claps and, what could quite easily be, the sound of pots and pans. But, like much of the album, it sits more on the mellow side of the scale. This isn’t the balls-to-the-wall club anthems of Flesh Tone, instead sounding more at home sat out in the last hours of the sun with a nice cold cocktail as the sky begins to be painted a deep orange and red. It’s more sunset street party, than sweaty basement club. “Friday Fish Fry” is, perhaps, the only track to really get a dancefloor going, with a great little call and response bit thrown in the middle.
Things take an interesting turn with a gorgeous cover of Labi Siffre’s “Bless The Telephone” which is filled with warmth, consisting of mainly an acoustic guitar and Kelis’ vocals. It’s impossible to not mention her vocals at all when a song like “Bless The Telephone” comes along. It’s that smoky feeling to it that just drips with sensuality that makes it so appealing. It proves a really nice break from the brass heavy rest of the album, taking things down to an even mellower notch.
Food is not an album that’s really going to produce the next “Milkshake” or “Acapella” but it is a fantastically immediate record that is captivating every time you return. Like Janelle Monae, Kelis dips into the retro vibes without falling into the trap of nostalgia. It’s all ideas we’ve heard before but it still feels distinctly ‘now’. As we glide from sexy brass, to funky African vibes, to a toned down Simon & Garfunkel-esque sound, it really does feel like we’re going through a full meal. Once you leave Food, you’re not going to feel stuffed, rather extremely content. It wants you to try different things but it isn’t in the habit of shoving too much onto your plate. Instead what you get is a set of well-crafted dishes that use different ideas like spices to really bring out the best in Kelis. And I’ve pretty much run out of food based metaphors so I should stop now. Check please.
|—||In case any of you had hopes and dreams of dating Taylor Swift in the near future, here’s the boxes you gotta tick, according what a supposed TSwizz insider told Hollywood Life recently. Best get learning them languages/changing absolutely everything about yourself then…|
Chet Faker is a name that has been around for a while but tip now he has yet to release an album. The Australian is blessed with a voice of soulful leaning and is mixed with electronic R&B production; he even caught the attention of beer brand Becks, who used Faker’s cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” in an advert during the 2013 Super Bowl. Working with fellow Aussie producer Flume helped to further achieve wider acknowledgement and Faker is signed to Future Classics, a label celebrated for it ability of pushing bands into the lime-light seemingly overnight.
The album starts with “Release Your Problems” and “Talk Is Cheap”, which are fine examples of the increasingly prescient electronic R&B sound. “Melt” was originally released in August 2013 and features the vocals of Kilo Kish; I really like the bass in this, a kind of fuzzy-synth you would get as a preset on your first keyboard. Almost talking in a hushed conversation, Chet wearly slurring his words and Kilo whispering innocently, this song is about obsession and loneliness. The song “To Me” is a song I think most people can relate to, it is addressed to Chet himself, questioning, “What is he doing? Is he doing the right thing? Going down the right route?” And I think it can correlate with many different aspects of life; relationships, your career, your life’s path.
The second half of the album starts with “Blush” which sounds a lot like like James Vincent McMorrow with a chilled drumbeat, and this is probably the highpoint of the record, with lots of experimentation and extrapolation from Faker’s regular sound. A more tropical affair comes in “1998”; vocal samples, warm synths and Balearic inspired piano makes this a most buoyant, pop-oriented song on the album. A simple guitar lick features in “Cigarettes & Loneliness: that is looped over slumberous electronic beats, whilst “Lesson In Patience” is the only instrumental on the album, and has something kind of bohemian jazz cafe about it with its saxophone and Rhodes synth taking centre stage. Last song on the album is the happily-titled “Dead Body” in which minimalist beats and reverb drenched vocals meter into a slow-burning R&B torch song, and a great closer to the album.
Built On Glass starts off as soul-infused electronica then turns into a downbeat summer vibes album, and I think I prefer the latter approach. The album feels like a good starting point in Faker’s career, the songs fit together really well and Faker definitely has a talent for creating catchy hooks and choruses. A debut album that, whilst not a defining statement, is still definitely worth checking out.
I’ll be honest, I was never a Lana Del Rey fan. I was one of those arses who moaned about “authenticity” and Del Rey being “manufactured” when “Video Games” had everyone all in a flutter a few years back; whinging that she was using a stage name and this was was her second shot at fame after an initial attempt under her birth name (like similar gripes couldn’t be aimed of David Bowie, Joe Strummer, Meat Loaf, Elvis Costello, Elton John or Bob Dylan). It was admittedly a misjudged and stupid backlash to the hype, even if Born To Die was an underwhelming record.
Now, a few years on, with Lana firmly entrenched in the pop hierarchy - not quite on the top tier of Beyonce, Rihanna, Minaj, Perry et al, but still a contender - the spotlight’s glare and the weight of anticipation falls upon the “difficult second album”. Rumours abounded that the album may be Del Rey’s last, or may not even be released at all, but the unveiling of “West Coast” seems to put at least the latter of those to bed. Produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auberach and co-written by Rick Nowels (a former collaborator with Stevie Nicks and Lykke Li, who you could argue Del Rey is the meeting point between) it’s a measurable step away from the sepia-toned sound and faded Hollywood, Lolita-lite aesthetic of Born To Die.
Yeah, the lyrics tend to tread the same potholed road as much of Del Rey’s material does; cigarettes, drinkin’, movies, her boy blue, groupies, rock ’n’ roll, starlets… it’s as trope-indebted as is humanly possible, but it’s not to any detriment of the song. Being derivative isn’t a bad thing when it’s done well; a lot of the elements contained in “West Coast” can be traced to older acts and styles. The lone choppy blues guitar of the verses calls back to The Black Keys themselves and David Lynch’s musical output both of which find roots in the actual blues genre. The swaying waltz of the chorus kicks into motion with a nabbing of a riff from either The Beatles’ “And I Love Her” or Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” (incidentally the beachside romance of the accompanying video is definitely reminiscent the video for Isaak’s song) and slips into a Tori Amos/Daughn Gibson mode as easily as it slips back out into the verses.
It’s an utterly gorgeous way of introducing Ultraviolence to the world. The solitary guitar, the strong propulsive drums, the hypnotic looping feedback, the monophonic verse on the final chorus, the instantly iconic first line “Down on the West Coast, they got a sayin’”, the cinematic sheen… it’s immediately one of the best songs of the year. With a little over four exquisite minutes, Lana Del Rey has converted me.
Listen: HAIM - If I Could Change Your Mind (Cerrone Funk Remix)
Just when you think the Haim sisters couldn’t be any more perfect, along comes legendary French disco producer Cerrone to rework and even improve on one of the best singles of the last twelve months with a big fat bassline, some Stevie Wonder horns and Rodgers-esque guitar chops. It’s incredible. Long may the disco/funk revival continue.
New: How To Dress Well - Repeat Pleasure
It’s only been two years since Total Loss dropped but Tom Krell is already moving on to Album #3. The record, entitled What Is This Heart?, is out June 23rd (or June 24th if you’re in the US), and will feature previously released track “Words I Don’t Remember" and this newie "Repeat Pleasure". Those acoustic guitar strums are straight out of early ’00s R&B, which is a damn good sign.
When Childish Gambino and Chance The Rapper strolled onto the rap scene, I feel like they started to fill a void in hip-hop that we weren’t even aware was there or needed to be filled. There was something about their brand of high energy, danceable, semi-sung, hood-influenced, somewhat dramatic hip-hop that made you want to listen, despite any of your preconceived notions. Their sound dug its way into your mind, set up shop and kept you hitting repeat for the next week or so. But with those two as the only visible faces for the sound, we were left to wonder — who was next?
The answer has come about in Virginia-based rapper Goldlink. It should’ve come as no surprise to me when my roommate suggested that I listen to him - she’s a rabid fan of both Gambino and Chance. Goldlink is young, charismatic, dramatic and, as Tom Haverford will be pleased to find out, knows how to make a banger. The God Complex is a nine track introduction to the artist that will make you want to dance and move from start to finish. It’s a blend of sounds that finds a little bit of something for everyone, from trap to dance rhythms that’d fit perfectly in clubs, to hip-hop and everything in between (he appropriately refers to this sound as future bounce).
Goldlink is reflective of a restless and reckless generation, while being catchy and energetic; I’d chalk his appeal up to youth and drive. Amidst all of the things that makes him an ideal listen for younger crowds, he incorporates a lot of classic hip-hop, R&B and jazz samples to attract older listeners. He has a good understanding of rhythm and cadence, enabling him to be versatile in his beat selection. The mixtape is less than thirty minutes from start to finish (clocking in at about 26 minutes to be more exact), with none of the tracks making it to the four minute mark. “Bedtime Story” features a sample from fellow Virginia-native Timbaland’s “Drop”, pairing it with a classy jazz sample and an upbeat drum pattern, whilst the skittish electronic sound of “How It’s Done” is reminiscent of Odd Future members The Jet Age of Tomorrow. The slowest points you’ll find are the initial moment on the intro track “Ay Ay” before it transitions, and the closer “When I Die”, which takes an unexpected sober turn as Goldlink talks about all of his last wishes before crashing his car and abruptly ending the mixtape.
Goldlink is captivating, has the ability to draw you in before the first beat drop and overall, more than you’d ever expect. Because of its short length and great consistency, The God Complex is worth listening to the whole way through each time. Production by a few small names (Louie Lastic, Fingalick, JFK Jaylen!, McCallaman, Lakim and Teklun) keeps the mixtape interesting throughout its entirety. The worst I can manage to say about it is that it’s just so damn short - I was almost disappointed when it was over. But all good things always come to an end. The end of the mixtape just meant it was time for me to search for Goldlink’s back catalogue and anxiously await whatever is next.