Kelly Lee Owens has had a long journey to get to her debut self titled album, not least the journey she made from North Wales to the musical ‘promiseland’ of London. Working as an intern at XL recordings, playing bass for acts and lending her vocals for other people’s projects were all part of this. A series of promising stand alone singles and remixes from Kelly have all culminated in this her debut album. This work is a reflection of her time in London and the influences she’s picked up since. She has been billed as a natural talent in the cool Electronic and Dance music she plies and a talented producer on top of that, despite many not having heard of her. The key thing for Kelly is; will she leave a lasting impression now?
‘CBM’ was from her Oleic EP from last year and is the only track from that featured on this album. You’re instantly struck by the clicking beats which bend in sound and focus with Kelly’s echoed and repetitive words echoing around the track with a flashing beat beside it. Her spoken vocals come in and out of focus much like the beats and the song progresses via numerous shifts and well placed synth additions. The song goes into a producer’s solo of sorts with almost vocoded synth chords veering off into a meandering display. In this track alone, the fundamental talents of a producer are there. You do wonder whether the album will sustain itself in its primarily angular and cold aesthetic though. ‘Anxi’ was made with one of those influential people in her recent life in Jenny Hval. The track flourishes gradually from the initial bouncing bass beats to the eerie vocals and string samples of the chorus. This fades away like mist into a pit of heavier beats bouncing off each other with the culmination of them being her ghostly vocal samples and echoed spoken words play in between them. This was indeed an improved varied piece of music with a greater musical awareness. ‘Lucid’ only goes on to confirm this more emphatically. Forlorn and whirring chords set against a high pitched string sample opens the track. The whirring chords form the foundation of the track with subtle rhythmic percussion layered over it as the song goes on. Kelly’s faint and shaded vocals extend into the space of the track and these make up the progression to the shimmering nature of the instrumentation. This then drops into more rhythmic beats and oscillating samples for a sleek and understated finish.
Reverberating and warped electronica opens ‘Keep Walking’ with Kelly’s soft and wistful vocals taking an assured command of the song. This track has a slow progression with which the whirring and wiry instrumentation serves as a platform for the the vocals as opposed to being the driving force of the song. This is a notable shift in arrangment and method which Kelly pulls off just as well if not better. It is here she goes beyond the Dance and blocky Electronica to deliver a beautiful and multifaceted piece of music. ‘S.O’ opens the album and features an array of styles and sounds with the first minute alone. From sparse minimalist electronica, whirring strings and the light application of tribal beat samples. These go on to combine with Kelly’s airy vocals extending across the distant spaces of the track in a ghostly yet graceful fashion. ‘Evolution’ basically sounds like an improved Factory Floor track with the word ‘evolution’ repeated amongst dance beats and house sounds. However, it takes on a number guises here with this song basically having an awareness of depth and the fluidity of sounds and with this in mind, it is a more accomplished piece of music. That is how you could describe Kelly Lee Owens’ self titled debut. It is a talent of production making itself known to the world. There are occasions where you can predict the outcome of a song in it’s structure, but that’s one of the few predictable things about it. It draw from Dance, House and Electronic influences, but compelling and intriguing music from it by basically not stopping there and adding other elements to it. It’s not a revolutionary album, but she’s certainly created an evolutionary album for the genre.
Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens = 8.5/10
Kendrick Lamar is set to release another album (his fourth) this year and goes on to be a creative force, manufacturing an album’s worth of hard hitting, uncompromising yet musically fluid Rap and Hip Hop year after year. He has breathed new life into these genres as they grew stale with materialism and predictability as the last decade went on. His new single ‘The Heart Part 4’ still rings home those pin point social commentaries, but this single seems to have a greater personal dimension. He’s gone out of his way to make a point of some of his contemporaries and the most powerful person in the states in Donald Trump. Musically it has shades of the West Coast Rap of two decades with easy, softened beats and instrumentation, but in this case it is warped and hazy. This is played against a heavy, vibrating beat which whilst a little more typical of ‘Diss’ tracks, it does offer up a clear light and shade within the track with greater depth the end product. Lamar’s style is as slick and effortless as ever with any word rolled off with ease. This is certainly more abrasive and its personal in more ways that one, perhaps that makes people feel uncomfortable as a form of entertainment. The thing is with Lamar is that entertainment is a secondary aim. He has a message and whether it’s about the hollow nature of certain Rappers or the intense domestic and geo-political tensions surrounding his nation, you can guarantee Kendrick Lamar is rapping about it. Rapping about it with a style and sound that is easily accessible and more than an afterthought. That’s why he’s the best rapper in the world right now and why it doesn’t sound unusual to hear him say so.
Seattle based songwriter Mike Hadreas reached new heights with 2014’s Too Bright. His new sonically charged sound would have easily been album of the year in a typical year, but 2014 was packed full of outstanding albums. In a way, this meant the album didn’t get the full attention it deserved, but his new Perfume Genius track will make you take notice. With his fourth album No Shape expected on May 5th, ‘Slip Away’ as the first single from it sees Mike take another leap to his next musical destination. Shifted and distorted metallic beats open the song, chiming and meandering gently before the song explodes into a burst of sound and vibrancy. Pounding beats, shimmering electronica and the crashing of cymbals fire you into the next phase of the song from which a sudden pitch shift stems the tide of volume. This gives him license to fire in and out of this soaring and quaking sound. His quivering and poised vocals hold strong against the vast sounds and well placed backing vocals carry the song through its abrupt transitions and drive the song through the aggressive delivery of the instrumentation. It is only fitting that a song defiantly asserting identity is so bold and charged. From this track at least, Mike has effectively strapped a rocket to his sound of three years ago and it sounds truly wondrous.
Weezer, arguably one of the best bands to come out of the “MTV generation” return again this year with their eleventh album in 20 years and their first taster track ‘Feels like Summer’ is clearly something quite different to the usual. This track comes hot off the back of arguably their best album (the White Album) since Pinkerton which dropped last year.
The LP and it’s predecessor Everything Will Be Alright In The End, saw a return to the core Weezer sound of heavy ‘cock’ rock guitars, intricate and often silly lyrics as well as it’s typical teenage angst. The band’s first single of this return, ‘Back To The Shack’ promised fans this return with the words ‘I thought I’d get a new audience, I forgot that disco sucks / I ended up with nobody and I started feeling dumb’. Fans of this rebirth will undoubtedly be disappointed with Feels Like Summer in which the quartet mix their stadium rock edge with more electronic and dance elements: contrary to their usual they are reinventing their wheel.
How well the band do it is up for debate however. The track with it’s unimaginative lyrics and lack of any distinctive riff or hook makes the track a forgettable one in their large discography. The change sonically is understandable given that the White Album felt like an accumulation of their 20 years in the industry where they could show off the mastery of their sound, here however the track feels unoriginal and disappointingly uncreative by their record. Whilst the hope is that this single is simply a blip or that when put in the context of a full-length album the track makes more sense or has some added weight, at the moment however, the feeling has to be a little disappointing. Here’s hoping.
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