Gorillaz – Humans Review 


In true Gorillaz style, while facing huge political scandal and contentiousness, Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett and the cartoon clan reappear with their new album Humanz: as if to say ‘yes, the world may be going down the drain, but at least you’ll have the perfect playlist to listen to as we all go down with it.’ In an LP exploring both the beauty and the hideousness of human life, this bitter-sweet composition is powerful in its messages, yet falters in its execution.

Humanz is an apt title for an album in which such an eclectic range of individuals congregate to share their talent and experiences. From the punchy, dominant rap of Pusha T to the feathery whispers of D.R.A.M, Humanz truly is a celebration of what individuals have to offer. We are given glimpses of multiple perspectives, such as from black people in America (Ascension); the unnerving juxtapositions of these stories paired with the upbeat robotic backing tracks are statements in themselves towards the political doom the tracklist illustrates.

Gorillaz comeback single – Hallelujah Money, featuring Benjamin Clementine – was a soft riot of a track upon its release on the eve of Trump’s inauguration. It’s slow, wispy and poetic; a passive-aggressive declaration. This suitably precedes the standard tracklist’s closing number, We Got The Power – the album’s most hopeful tune. It’s bold both in its prevailing claps and formidable synths, but also in it vocals, as Jehnny Beth jubilantly roars the lyrics, alongside a cameo appearance from Noel Gallagher, putting aside the Brit-pop enmity for this much-needed spirit-booster. After all the stories of despondency, feelings of inferiority and worry about the Internet’s power, We Got The Power ties the album up with a unifying and revitalising bow.

With diverse styles comes a range of musical influences. Heated reggae teems in Saturnz Barz through Popcaan’s distinctive vocals. Pure mechanical hip hop takes hold on Momentz. Carnival, featuring Anthony Hamilton, is slick and soulful. Busted and Blue takes a whole different approach in it’s quiet melancholy. Although the disjointed feel given by the mismatch of genres well represents the idea of the insecurity and unpredictability that delivers the foundations for this album, it sounds just that – disjointed. And not in a good way. Having said that, songs like Busted and Blue and, my personal favourite, Andromeda, have a chilled edge to them that offer an opportune break between much more party-appropriate tracks. Each individual song is good – cleverly written and instrumentally sound – but the sheer amount of them makes for a busy and overflowing tracklist.

Overall, Gorillaz’s new release is quite what I expected – unique, computerised, political. But whether it’s been pulled off in the right way is debateable.

Gorillaz – Humanz: 7/10

Ellie Chivers

Single Reviews – Gorillaz – Saturnz Barz, Ascension, We Got the Power and Andromeda

After a long 6-year break, Gorillaz co-creator Damon Albarn promised a new direction in terms of the virtual band’s style. The four new tracks that dropped hours after the announcement of Humanz definitely seem to indicate this, with simmering hip-hop and hints of house.

Gorillaz have a knack for fusing genres together, and Saturnz Barz is a true symbol of this great gift. It’s dark and grungy, whilst still incorporating a flamboyance through the bouncing reggae-rap vocals Popcaan provides, driven by a sizzling bass and otherworldly synths. The track has an interesting hip-hop edge, with a bit of robotic eighties/nineties-ness bubbling up towards the end; this intermingling ties perfectly into the mysterious ambience Gorillaz feed upon.

Andromeda is the closest to house these four newbies get, with its effervescent intergalactic warps and echoic vocals. The track immediately draws listeners in with funky percussion and swimming synths, and with its infectious chorus, it’ll be one to have stuck in your head for days. The soft voice of D.R.A.M blended with Albarn’s own compliments the mechanical feel of the track, giving the song a tinge of something quite unique and quite brilliant.

Vince Staples gives his vocals to Ascension, the track with the most vitality. Staples’ manic rap sprints alongside throbbing beats, with a catchy chorus and bursts of unpredictability interwoven throughout. Despite having so much energy, I think this is the weakest track – it doesn’t have a whole lot of substance and is extremely repetitive. Gorillaz’s incredible power to captivate seems to be lost on this one.

We Got The Power completely conflicts the messages Hallelujah Money puts across – the anti-Trump protest track released the night before his inauguration – in its unifying lyrics and spirited splendour. The muted tones of Damon Albarn beautifully contrast the animated joy Jehnny Beth delivers. It brilliantly allegorises the coming-together of all sorts of people, carried by bold, toe-tapping beats.

The album title of Humanz has been chosen well; the theme of being human snakes evidently through these new releases, giving several perspectives in each offering. Even when inundated with electronica, the very raw ‘human’ element brings these tracks right back down to earth – a huge, huge asset and something the diverse temperament of Gorillaz could only really yield.

Eleanor Chivers 

Musicandotherthingz Best Vocalist of 2016

Since Florence Welch won this category last year, there has been a superb variety of skilled vocalists over the following twelve months who have commanded their songs and their music in a familiar and creative ways. Thom Yorke with his tuneful howl, the defiant and unsettling melody of Jehnny Beth and Angel Olsen’s lax whispers to her deep bellows received a lot of praise through the voting. They all remain in the long list that follows though and the close contest that is the chosen top three is as below.

3. Michael Kiwanuka – Love and Hate (16.28% of the vote)

The flowing chords and melodies that open this track are perfectly aligned with Michael’s vocals; so effortlessly intermingled and a powerful instrument in their own right. He delivers a lot of disciplined power without much task. Despite the smooth and rich quality to his vocals, which are difficult not to fixate upon, there is a rough edged peak in his sound evokes an earnest and emotive quality to his vocals. Arguably the best British vocalist around at the moment. 

2. Christine and the Queens – Here (18.60%)

Heloise Letissier again demonstrates her versatility with ‘Here’. It is another track with a minimalist arrangement, but also with a relatively modest production; so it is here that her vocals lead the way and dominate the track. In general she has a highly charged energy behind her vocal performance and here she saves it for dramatic flair as she goes from a hushed tone to perfect pop melody and sullen backing vocals. Beyond this, she is also to switch from English to French as if it was perfectly natural which is quite a rarity with modern music. She’s not quite the Queen here though…

1. Solange – Don’t Touch My Hair (20.93%)

Yes, we know. She has a fairly famous sister and a strong Vocalist to boot, but Solange has used 2016 to make her own mark whilst her sister was grabbing the headlines. Her vocals flow through the subtle arrangement with this track, remaining soft edged and intricate. She doesn’t need to raise her voice at all as she channels her lyrics with ease with this delicate tone on its own. The year she maximised upon her talent.

Owen Riddle

Savages – Adore Life Review

Savages burst onto the stage in fiery fashion with their debut album Silence Yourself back in 2013 and with it they injected new life into what people agree on being as a fusion of Post Punk and Noise Rock. It was a truly modern rock album and with it they demonstrated that Guitar music was not dead and buried just yet, at least not with them. The bold and aggressive revelations both musically and lyrically should have seen them receive greater recognition, but alas with Adore Life there is another opportunity for the quartet to confirm their talent and that they’re here to stay.

 

‘The Answer’ sees them utilising their punk riffs reverberating around the crashing percussion and Jehnny Beth’s alert and siren-like vocals that sing in a detached fashion from the musical forms around her. The vocals act almost as a counter melody to the music. Both the vocals and instrumentation remain unrelenting in dragging you through the song’s progression. One key point here is the more washed out effects over the guitars which is the main shift away from the isolated sounds of their debut Silence Yourself.  ‘T.I.W.Y.G’ is much more direct and immediate than the first single and is a little more reminiscent of their earlier work with seething percussion which folds into a similarly aggressive bass-line. Emerging from this rumble are the perfectly poised riffs echoing out from the narrow sound. One key difference with this track is its unrelenting, yet tuneful rhythm and a more distorted feel to the sound, particularly the bass-line. ‘Adore’ sees them take it down a notch and deliver a dark and melancholy tune. The slow twitching of the bass and strong reverberating echo of the guitars. Through this emerges Jehnny Beth’s distinctive, melodic roar as the notes rise, but retaining a composed and eerily gentle tone through most of the song. The simplistic nature of the song and the arrangement makes the lyrics of human vulnerability ring out in an emphatic fashion. Beyond that, the song is a beautiful work for it’s minimalism and the understated power running through it.

 

‘Evil’ is evocative of their earlier work in terms of the general structure, but it is more minimalistic in its delivery, yet fills up the wide spaces they create. The production in this sense compliments their sound perfectly here to generate a song of urgency, but of depth too. ‘I Need Something New’ is almost a rapidly delivered poem with the music acting a reactionary element to the performance. Jehnny’s vocal range fires from the heights and depths with great power. ‘Surrender’ introduces itself a heavily distorted fashion as the guitar and bass groans through the effects. Through this are lighter synths and of course the booming vocals; these shine through in the chorus. It is a track with rougher edges and a hardened attitude. ‘Mechanics’ features a dark and mysterious aesthetic with carefully placed reverberating guitars and echoed bass lines. The track ends an album that is varied in it’s moments of contemplation and focussed rage. At times it is cleaner and clearer with the production but at others it is rough edged and distorted. These highlight the sparse moments and the energetic moments.

Savages – Adore Life = 8.5/10

 

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Single Review – Savages – Adore

 

The new single from London based Post Punk quartet Savages; ‘Adore’ is just ahead of the January 22nd release of their second studio album Adore Life. The two previous singles from the aforementioned album have seen them as aggressive and purposeful as ever, but with delivering a sharper sound and some rhythmic variations as was the case with ‘T.I.W.Y.G’. ‘Adore’ sees them take it down a notch and deliver a dark and melancholy tune. The slow twitching of the bass and strong reverberating echo of the guitars. Through this emerges Jehnny Beth’s distinctive, melodic roar as the notes rise, but retaining a composed and eerily gentle tone through most of the song. The simplistic nature of the song and the arrangement makes the lyrics of human vulnerability ring out in an emphatic fashion. Beyond that, the song is a beautiful work for it’s minimalism and the understated power running through it.

 

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Single Review – Savages – T.I.W.Y.G

 

With Savages’ second studio album Adore Life arriving on January 22nd, the London based group have released the second single from the album with ‘T.I.W.Y.G’. The track is much more direct and immediate than the first single and is a little more reminiscent of their earlier work with seething percussion which folds into a similarly aggressive bassline. From this rumble are the perfectly poised riffs echoing out from the narrow sound. One key difference with this track is it’s unrelenting, yet tuneful rhythm and a more distorted feel to the sound, particularly the bassline. An exiting track from an equally exciting group.

 

Owen Riddle @oiddleo1995

Single Review – Savages – The Answer

The wonderfully aggressive and abrasive Savages have announced their return with a new single ‘The Answer’ which is to come from their impending second album Adore Life. The new track sees the London based quartet continue with their punk riffs reverberating around the crashing percussion and Jehnny Beth’s alert and siren-like vocals sing in a detached fashion from the musical forms around her and the vocals act almost as a counter melody to the music. Both the vocals and instrumentation remain unrelenting in dragging you through the song’s progression. One key point here is the more washed out effects over the guitars which is the main shift away from the isolated sounds of their debut Silence Yourself which was one of the highlights of 2013. The jury is still out on whether their second attempt on January 22nd will be as prominent.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Savages – Silence Yourself Review

There is quite a bit of excitment about Savages upon the release of their debut album Silence Yourself and the Post punk revival girl band have certianly been causing a stir over about the last two years in tiny, cramped London venues. Places they have been completely owning with the frenzied energy of lead singer Jehnny Beth and the wild gritty instrumentals. Their goal is to get people emotionally and physically invloved with music and rediscover that sort of musical pleasure that hasn’t been experienced in a way such as this since P.I.L or Joy Division and with this they are a sort of unique echo into the past but with an attitude and application that perhaps many musicians could take on; maybe not whole-heartedly but certainly in some ways a lot could be learned from Savages.

‘Husbands’ is a song that lit the fuse in terms of grabbing everyones attention by the collar in what is one of many songs that convey the feeling of an intense live performance from them into an album song. The bass is constantly fluxuating up and down the neck of the bass guitar in such an effortless fashion like a twisted version of McCartney on all the LSD he could ever want! They band themselves switch from the muted sound for every line Jehnny sings and to a rousing blast of guitar and cymbals at the end of it and then falling back into the bass driven, lyrical section of the song for another line with such discipline. Even when she whispers ‘husbands’ it’s in such a frantic and ‘on edge’ manner that is complimented by that bass line yet again. A great song to get the intrigue going. ‘She Will’ is one of the centre points of the album that starts of with the gradual build up of all the musical elements in a rather considered manner that allows focus on the vocals and lyrics which demonstrate Jehnny’s vocals well and the build up of grinding guitar for the chorus that leads on to just her vocals and the constant cymbal clash and the repetitive nature of the song towards the end ushers in the rythm and bass guitars back in and results in a further build up of sound from all those involved.

With ‘Shut Up’ the bass again from Ayse Hassan just kills me while the song works in harmony amongst that element along with the rousing and rapid guitar sections and again the cymbal driven purges of percussion inbetween. Lets not forget Jehnny’s vocals that again take the song to a higher level of intensity to mirror their aims about what they wish to do to people’s perception of music perhaps. With ‘I Am Here’ the band in effortless fashion take on a start-stop approach thats works in a wonderful way to sort of emphasise the end of every line sung. ‘City’s Full’ is jam packed with deep and dark bass lines and disstorted guitars which leads to a disstorted bass line for the chorus that provides a dark and intense hook to the song and to be honest Hassan’s bass lines provide that element throughout the album. Lyrically and vocally Jehnny Beth is both thought provoking and wild and intense dually which for most musicians; it’s hard to do either. Gemma Thompsons guitar provides the song with an alertness which gives scope for Jehnny’s vocal performance and the constant crash of cymbals from Fay Milton keeps the song on it’s own edge too and simply adds to the intensity (yes I said it again). Their ideas about image and music should certainly be heeded amongst other musicians but whether the album is for everyone im not sure. It might be too much for someone else but not for me. Even it it was 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 themselves 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 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.

Savages – Silence Youself = 9/10

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Images from ( thefirenote.com / http://en.wikipedia.org )