This Weeks Music Video with Gorillaz, The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk, Weezer, Perfume Genius, The Shins and James Blake

Musicandotherthingz Best Single of 2016

There’s been a almost too many rhythmic and hook-laden tracks in 2016 and they cover quite a wide range of genres from the Joyous Electro-Pop of Röyksopp to the reinvigorated, late era Punk Rockers Green Day. The classsic Eighties Pop thrills and undeniably infectious vocals from Tegan and Sara were a popular choice amongst voters as was dark Pop of The Weeknd with Daft Punk. They just missed out on getting into our top three however, which features very familiar and new acts below. 

3. Chance The Rapper – Angels (11.63% of the vote)

This year has been a strong year for Rap and Hip Hop music and nowhere is this more evident than with the success of Chance The Rapper. ‘Angels’ is a song bursting with joy and optimism about his home of Chicago. It is full of soaring brass, steady beats and enthused lyrics with a cool and easy contribution from Saba. 

2. Kanye West feat. Kendrick Lamar – No More Parties in L.A (21.00%) 

What made this single so popular was hearing someone as egocentric as Kanye getting fed up of the general excess of the party scene around him in Los Angeles which is mighty refreshing, but also a little comedic when his own personal excess is never far from mention. Kendrick Lamar adds context to Kanye’s message as he raps about the culture shock of coming from nothing and being thrusted into a distant and excessive high class society. There is slick use of sampling throughout and this ties the heavy verses together seamlessly.

1. Christine and the Queens – Tilted (30.23%)

‘Tilted’ is about not finding balance in your life, feeling out of place or feeling uneasy with yourself, even dealing with depression. It hardly seems like the appropriate lyrics for a Pop song, but sits this uncomfortable subject matter comfortably into this stylish and refined Pop song. As you’ll find with Christine, she can make so much from so little and she does that again here, with only nudging synths and gentle beats. Not only did she make a great Pop song with these lyrics and small amounts of music, but she made an oddly rhythmic song that has become of one the most popular dance tracks of the year and undoubtedly the most unique. 

Owen Riddle

The Weeknd – Starboy Review 

Abel Tesfaye’s audacious stage persona The Weeknd has defined the 2010s, and he knows it. A repertoire of irresistible vocal hooks, searing synths and bold lyrics tied together by his unmistakeable, smooth vocals only equates to sensational success, as proven by Beauty Behind the Madness being 2015’s most streamed album on Spotify. But how to do you top Can’t Feel My Face? Tesfaye’s solution: stick to what you know, exemplified in the churning out of 18 innovative pop numbers on Starboy: an autobiography tracing the whirlwind life of a hazy, provocative powerhouse.

I say ’18 pop numbers’, however his conventionality as a pop artist is dubious. He tells us in Reminder that he’s “not a teen choice” in response to Beauty Behind the Madness’s nominations – it seems mainstream pop is not Tesfaye’s ideal direction. At first glance you may be tempted to disagree, as Daft Punk put their popular electronic gloss over eponymous opener Starboy, putting into motion the trinity of high-impact tracks, serving as peepholes into the celebrity lifestyle. Starboy is a moody yet feisty single, triggering an array of tracks deliberating his indulgent lifestyle, but also the fragility of fame. The discreet backdrop to Tesfaye’s almost emotionless voice is a fantastic statement of carelessness, making the message of the track all the more terse. From this rises Party Monster. His opening declaration “I’m good, I’m good, I’m great” is uncertain, almost depressive, as it spirals into a cycle of women and parties. The constrained drum and bass instrumental is almost sinister, and enforces the idea this Party Monster takes on a dark, grave character. An instrumental revival takes place on False Alarm. The song is an up-tempo number, with a compelling refrain in the explosive chorus. The lyrics discuss the troubled cyclic life of the woman in question, warning the listeners of her alluring but dangerous personality. Despite Beauty Behind the Madness’s long line of womanly triumphs, Tesfaye seems to have hit a funk, although these more emotionally inflamed assertions are very effective.

These grimier numbers are balanced with the tracks reflective of The Weeknd circa. Can’t Feel My Face. The album’s send-off I Feel It Coming, also featuring Daft Punk, draws the aid of a relaxed disco bass and a fragmented synth background, echoing other neo-disco tracks of the year, while keeping wholly and originally The Weeknd. Eighties reiterations are notable elsewhere in tracks such as Secrets, the jovial punch veiling angry lyrics about cheating. Sidewalks’s chilled rippling drums has nods to reggae, the pitchy guitar riff giving it a modern infusion; Kendrick Lamar’s hip-hop verse, however, completely steals the show. Sidewalks, alongside True Colours, make for cool breaks, as they unravel into the album’s most simplistically-produced assets, while Lana Del Rey’s Stargirl (Interlude) adds an atmospheric alt edge to the tracklist. This track also connects with The Weeknd’s role as Starboy – though he finds his fame life tough, this sullen mini-track provides a glimmer of hope that he can find solace in this Stargirl going through the same, despite its gloom.

The breadth of mature and hidden meanings throughout this album proves Abel Tesfaye right – no, he’s not a conventional pop artist. He has created a sophisticated insight into the world of fame in a spectacularly rich and authentic album, elevating himself above all ‘pop’ expectations.

The Weeknd – Starboy: 9/10

By Eleanor Chivers

Single Review – Parcels – Gamesofluck

 Parcels are an Australian five piece from Byron Bay, made up of five high school friends who decided to set up shop in Berlin to pursue their Disco sound. Clearly trying to gain perspective from the career of a certain Mr. Giorgio Moroder; the influence for Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories in 2013. Parcels are definitely honing that German Disco sound and are doing so perhaps a little more faithfully than Daft Punk did. Their new single ‘Gamesofluck’ is the perfect example of this with the shimmering pools of electronica and loose Niles Rodgers riffs with the steady hit behind it all screams Disco. Though it is nothing new, the delivery and arrangement all add to the smooth presentation and so making the track cool and sharp as opposed to cringeworthy. A neat little track from a neat little group that wear their influences on their sleeves.

Owen Riddle

This Weeks Music Video with The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk, Solange, Röyksopp feat. Susanne Sundfør, Chromatics and Tacocat

Ratatat – Magnifique Review

New York duo Mike Stroud and Evan Mast make up instrumental duo Ratatat and last week they released their fifth studio album Magnifique on XL Recordings. In being an instrumental band, there is an added focus upon the musicality of the songs and indeed they have to be even more dynamic and varied in order to maintain interest and a following of the song. Luckily for them, this seems to have became a speciality of dance and electronic musicians in recent times as these genres have been able to cultivate such a sound with Daft Punk being the most common along with the Knife and Factory Floor along more experimental lines, but even they use vocalists at times. The question for Ratatat is what do they have to offer after over a decade?

‘Abrasive’ begins with a muted, rotating percussion section and slowly eases in new elements such as the standard early 21st century riffs and just as dated a pop beat. Once the whirring synths come in the song finds it’s rhythm and becomes a catchy and simple tune, but then from this point it’s unchanged and rather unnervingly it starts to sound like a Metro Station track with a few well placed filters placed upon it and maybe a little more flair. ‘Cream on Chrome’ has more sophisticated guitar work which spreads to the bass line with a ensuing grove feel to it. The distorted synths fall upon this groove in a well placed fashion to highlight the rough melodies and some smooth transitions and soundscapes come to fruition once the synths fall away and the audible focus on the rhythm section is dulled. You do feel however, that Daft Punk perfected this type of format much better a decade ago.

You get a similar feeling with ‘Nightclub Amnesia’ with similarly warped and distorted beats shifting in and out of focus. From this the heavy churn of the guitars arrive with a very familiar wiry lead guitar. The song does go on to build and deconstruct it’s sounds well and this track features a very smooth change in instrumentation as a beneficiary of this. Sadly the song becomes very familiar again after this but it’s rhythmic and a little infectious nonetheless. The string samples that open the title track are followed by relaxed riffs and a gently rocking bass line. Somehow though, those wiry riffs even make an appearance onto this leisurely affair. This song did seem a bit lost, but throwing in such an untailored riff simply drove them off into musical wilderness. Drift has a similar feel with it’s dulled organ-like electronica, but it’s fairground/Ice Hockey game type aesthetic sound just as lost in translation as the other track. The only point of note is the introduction of some percussion. Either way it’s certainly a song for idling to which seems to be what they were doing when they made this one. Songs such as ‘Pricks of Brightness’ merely sound like attempts at adding pop dressing onto a Strokes track circa 2001. This sums up this album. It’s bare instrumentation sounds incredibly dated when it isn’t completely directionless and it’s almost as if they’ve made an album for a vocalist, yet they’ve misplaced the vocalist. Despite some moments of catchiness and the odd piece of smooth production this album almost feels like a throwaway and I suggest they look to The Knife, Factory Floor, Jamie XX or even the Manic Street Preachers for a little instrumental inspiration.

Ratatat – Magnifique = 5.5/10

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

This Week’s Music Video with Pharrell Willians feat Daft Punk, Broken Bells, Caribou, Ty Segall and Wampire

Mozart’s Sister – Being Review

Mozart’s Sister is Caila Thompson-Hannant from Canada and is a former member of Indie band: Shapes and Sizes, but as a solo artist she has gained credit and popularity from sharing stages with fellow Canadians such as Grimes. The album’s creation was purely a solitary process or a ‘Do it all by my fucking self’ process and was crafted using a sound card and Ableton software from her bedroom, to produce a loosely pop based album in Being that takes influence from Post-era Bjork and Discovery-era Daft Punk. That might seem a little ambitious given the tools she had at her disposal…

The lead track is entitled ‘Enjoy’ and is a dark electronically charged pop track. The wisps of percussion and base synth sound fall beneath Calia’s engaging and crisp, recorded vocal along with the dripping and whirring synth elements over the top of it all. The modulated whirrs oscillate around the song’s foundations with a haunted tinge to them and always leaves that undercurrent with it, in reflection of the song’s lyrics. The song continues to fluctuate and alter it’s sound around these base structures and even altering with them with piano chords and vocal overhauls of the percussion. An advanced pop song that keeps you on your toes throughout. ‘A Move’ opens with such fluctuations albeit in a more considered and pondered fashion with subtle riffs and soft organ-like chords that are set against the baritone vocal which is almost Lana Del Rey like, but without the heady dramatics and instead with a steady pulsation.
‘Bow A Kiss’ is a sharp dance track with cascading guitars and rumbling bass sounds and synths fills and shimmers a top of it and so allows Caila’s vocals to unleash their range and power in order to soar over the heavy and stocky sounds that make up the track and allow the lyrically dimension to remain an integral part of the track. Heavily distorted synths open up ‘Do It To Myself (Run Run)’ with dark and shadowy lyrics, delivered in a dark and shady fashion before the song’s rhythms and melodies kick in and give the song rapidity and urgency, which in turn opens up the vocals and offers up more light to the song’s feel. A slick transition of sound and feel. ‘Don’t Leave it to me’ is an indelible hook to it with the chiming, retro synths and sample beats that gradually take in the vocal sweeps and the rich, distorted electronica. It rises and falls with Caila’s vocals to echo and chime their way through the track. It’s an example of the whole album. It is deliberately disjointed from track to track and this becomes the common theme of it. Each track is direct in the particular conviction it has chosen for that particular track and the vocals are equal to the task in each to match the meandering nature of each track and the album as a whole.
Mozart’s Sister – Being = 8.5/10
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Image from asthmatickitty.com

Sunday Suggestion – Giorgio Moroder – From Here To Eternity

Aside from possessing some of the greatest facial hair to ever feature on musicandotherthingz; Giorgio Moroder is one of the great musical innovators, taking electronic music beyond the infancy of The Beatles and beyond the robotic nature of Kraftwerk. He allowed electronic music to flow and fluctuate and there is no better example of him doing so then with the classic ‘I Feel Love’ from Donna Summer, which Giorgio collaborated with Donna on in Germany and his album ‘From Here to Eternity’ was recorded just after ‘I Feel Love’. The title track from the album has a similar vibe with the driving and rapidly rotating electronic beats. It opens with a vocoder vocal akin to Daft Punk’s trademark vocal sound before that driving beat takes over and Giorgio’s imperfect pop vocal takes over. The chorus is faded in out by a shimmering layer of synths before leading into a relentless wave of high placed synths. The track is minimal, slick, efficient, but also dynamic and alive. It’s no wonder that from this point all the headline artists from Freddie Mercury, Blondie and Bowie were queuing to collaborate with the Italian Disco Godfather. Last year Daft Punk had an entire song dedicated to the man which featured a mini – biography at the start. The French duo like so many others, owe much to Giorgio and his legacy is still very fresh in everyone’s minds.

 

 

Top 10 Albums of 2013

Now that I have listed my top ten tracks and now that it is 2014, I’ve decided to roll off my top ten albums from last year. Again, if your favourite artists art present they either didn’t make the cut or weren’t reviewed by me last year; for this is a list compiled from albums that have appeared on the blog in 2013. However, the listing is this time based on the rating I gave each album and not on my current opinion. Anyway…

 

10. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

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The band had certainly tried a few different methods with the pitch shifting which was also used on the drums and the guitar was recorded straight onto the recording programme while various different recording techniques were used to ‘soften’ the album and make it listenable. They have certainly done that and while being very careful with the production. It also has a slight edge to it as well and therefore results in their best album yet. They have grown older and their music has grown with it to create a very unique at times and mature sound.

 

9. Manic Street Preachers – Rewind The Film

Rewind The Film is not too generic and its by no means so experimental and conceptualized that it isn’t relatable or translatable. The lyrics are and music share equal footing and in general it just shows that the Manics are still capable of being truly creative. probably their most complete album since Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours in terms of the lyrical challenges posed and the moods and emotions created via their light and airy production.

 

8. Factory Floor – Factory Floor

It’s not too far away from what The Knife did earlier on in 2013, but perhaps it has a more subtle edge to it. For now, it’s main strengths will be it’s ability to fill dance floors as well as sound dark, scathing and haunting. All in all it’s a great effort and was probably worth the long wait we had to endure for a full studio album.

 

7. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

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Even though tracks like ‘Get Lucky’ have been played to death in 2013; it’s a proper song in how it’s been crafted by musicians, written by musicians, produced by musicians and played by musicians and talented ones at that, with bags of experience. The fact this sort of music is topping the charts whether it’s your thing or not should be celebrated. Thomas Bangalter pointed towards the likes of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd and Sgt Pepper from The Beatles as “the ones that take you on a journey for miles and miles.” They all served as some of the several models for creating an album that provides that journey which they have managed to achieve in the sense that you can become engrossed and lost within it. Perhaps it is their best work in how they are more have proved successful with this different approach.

 

6. The Knife – Shaking The Habitual

All in all this album is just beyond me. Even if you don’t quite get some of the songs at first you should listen again and try to deconstruct the wall of different and varying sounds. Some of which fill the song but others leave the songs with lots of space to generate a real atmosphere while at times terrifying me. With this they have challenged the norm’s of modern music to the points where a lot of people won’t appreciate it because they don’t understand it. I think had I reviewed this a month ago, then it would have a much higher rating.

 

5. Connan Mockasin – Caramel

 Though the sound and tone of Caramel isn’t moved and shifted around so much; it would be wrong for that to happen as it would break down the larger flow and feel of the album. It is nearly impossible and it almost feels wrong to plant a mark on it. A surreal and coolly insane and outrageous event from someone being himself, taking risks and being bold.

 

4. Arctic Monkeys – AM

AM falls down on very few occasions and when it does, it’s only to re-envisage some great Desert Rock, Swooning Ballads etc. The rest of it has been new takes on worn out sounds, showing that you can be innovative in what you don’t bring to a song and with at times fluctuating styles within songs. Josh Homme’s presence has for once not been an overbearing one but something that has furthered their vision and aim. It showed everyone what still can be done with guitar music in 2013. I know it can be easy, but don’t let all the crazed fangirls and boys put you off it because it’s an album that maintains a very high standard throughout. I perhaps think that there are some better albums with a lower ranking in this list, but nevertheless it deserves it’s place in the top ten.

 

3. Savages – Silence Yourself

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The musical discipline and obvious talent of all the members is clear to see and they don’t seem to have any hidden agenda or motivation either. They lay everything out in their music alone. Not even in their image. This for me is refreshing and they have left themselves with the difficult task of the second album. But that dreaded phase I doubt will effect them at all. They seem so cool and at ease with their music; behind the urgency and rapid nature of it all and Silence Yourself is the result. Just be sure to take in the depth and meaning of the album too, so don’t judge it on first impressions.

 

2. Pinknoizu – The Drop

All in all this album is highly varied and you should never get bored listening to it. That’s what makes a great album like Sgt Pepper for example. Not only that but the composition and production is also reflective of that variedness that exists across the album. A varied tone that is driven by the mutations and combinations of sounds the Danish group have been able to put together in order to forge new and interesting soundscapes. On top of that; it gets easily manipulated and heightened by the production and recording prowess the group attained. It’s a real treat.

 

1. Jagwar Ma – Howlin

They have justified all the fuss about them for sure to create a very ‘trippy’ album but an album that is almost perfect on a technical level. Jono Ma’s understanding and meticulous attention to detail on getting the right amount of each element in their songs is a great skill to have. The album does go beyond the combination of their past influences to create an album that sounds familiar yet also new and exciting. All this and it’s only their debut album of which many others have very safe and rather dull debuts with perhaps too much focus on the singles. This is not the case with Howlin. Beyond that they have the basic aspects of variation and at times rhythmic affairs intercepted by more sparse musical artistry.