QOTSA – Villains Review


Behind all the leather and the well-gelled quiffs, there’s always been something quite funky about Queens of the Stone Age. From the staccato guitar flairs of No One Knows, to the collaborations with the likes of Elton John on …Like Clockwork, the band – often labelled simply as a definitive rock five-piece – are anything but predictable. The band’s 7th LP, Villains, is where they show this side of them most of all, with much of the tracks spiked with disco inferno undertones, only boosted by the employment of Uptown Funk’s very own Mark Ronson. Yet, this subtle new direction still remains to be classically QOTSA.Mark Ronson is the first person QOSTA have let loose in the studio, despite their history of collaborations. But this doesn’t mean the tracklist draws any kind of reminiscence to the cutesy soul chimes of Amy’s Valerie, or the pulsating pop of his arguably most famous number, Uptown Funk with Bruno Mars. Lead single The Way You Used To Do is carried on the shoulders of claps and a stop-start guitar riff – one that you could very much see Carlton Banks having a dance to. 

Head Like a Haunted House has the pace of Arctic Monkey’s á la Favourite Worst Nightmare and the distinctive, erratic croon of Josh Homme, with robotic synth decoration to finish. Even slower numbers, e.g. Hideaway, have something smooth and hip-swaying about them. The way bubbles of funk bleed seamlessly into the soft rock make for an album a little more accessible than some of their previous material, but similar enough to keep the existing fanbase happy. Each song is different too; the monosyllabic guitar backing of Domesticated Animals somewhat recalls No One Knows – a complete diversion from the spacey and drawn out album closer Villains of Circumstance. The way QOSTA have toyed with something different, but also stuck to what they know, is part of Villains compelling appeal.

Each track is sharp and perfected. The labyrinthine twists and turns that tracks like The Evil Has Landed embrace don’t disassociate too far from what the beginning of the songs establish, but make those surpassing the often-excessive five-minute mark (over half of the songs do) captivating. In fact, despite the different directions and tempos etc, etc, Villains never strays miles from what opening track Feet Don’t Fail Me lays down – it’s actually one of QOTSA’s more ‘together’ albums without really feeling repetitive. For a band that sometimes release albums seemingly for the sake of releasing albums, it’s nice to hear a solid and powerful musical statement from the quintet. Maybe Mark Ronson should just join the band.

Villains isn’t provocative, or hugely innovative, and doesn’t really have any glaringly amazing moments, but it’s fun, and well made, and makes for the most easy-listening “rock” record I’ve heard in a while. Queens of the Stone Age have slacked for a little while, but their newest release proves that their name should still be up there when it comes to decent timeless music.

Queens of the Stone Age – Villains: 6/10

Eleanor Chivers

This Weeks Music Videos with Lana Del Rey, Mark Ronson, Tyler The Creator, OK Go, Julia Holter, Son Lux and AlunaGeorge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Musicandotherthingz.com Best Production of 2015

Here’s the list of ten nominees for best production

 

3. Bjork & Arca – Vulnicura (17%)

Bjork and her legendary status for Avante-Garde and eccentric music was repeated by the Icelander again with Vulnicura. It is an album with sweeping string scales and intricate pieces of ambient and experimental Electronica which is delivered in a seamless and flowing fashion by Bjork and co-producer Arca; the Venezuelan producer and DJ who released an album of his own this year. The album is nominated for best Alternative Album at this year’s Grammy’s.

 

2. Mark Ronson – Uptown Special (29%)

Ronson’s fourth studio album was yet another success for the London Producer and though ‘Uptown Funk’ was a hit for which he’s already received accolades for in 2014, the album was released in January. Again he is able to bring together a range of musicians from differing genres and combine their songs into a consistently themed album. This only highlights his ability and working range. Having already won a BRIT Award, he is now nominated for three Grammy’s this year.

 

  1. Kevin Parker – Currents (33%)

Heralded as the “Genius” behind Tame Impala by the Rolling Stone; Kevin Parker has claimed such praise for Tame Impala’s  July release Currents. In the face of Hipster backlash, he largely ditched the guitar and picked up his Synth. His best work was behind the mixing table in generating a unitary sound between vocal and instrument, utilising pitch shifting brilliantly, creating one of the smoothest sounding albums of the year and mastering his own brand of Dance and Disco music. He’s unsurprisingly already picked up awards for Engineer and Producer of year at the AIRA Awards as well as the band winning three other AIRA awards and sweeping up awards elsewhere in Australia. The band now has a Grammy nomination to it’s name too and that’s no small thanks to Kevin Parker.

 

This Weeks Music Video with Mark Ronson, Mumford & Sons, The Libertines, Kendrick Lamar, The Vaccines, Lianne La Havas, Group Love and Cosmo Sheldrake

Glastonbury 2015 – Who To Catch Up On

If you were busy this weekend and didn’t feel like being surrounded by the mud, the Tories or the wannabes at Glastonbury, then here’s a small guide about which acts you should catch up on…

Lionel and Pharrell spread the joy

The Soul and Pop legend that is Lionel Richie attracted the biggest crowd of the festival with over 100,000 moving to tracks like ‘dancing on the ceiling’ with thousands all decked out in what was the most popular merchandise of the festival. It’s almost like they missed a trick not making him a headline act given his reception. Similarly Pharrell got the crowd going in an enthusiastic fashion and both provided the simple feel-good factor.

Ronson and friends provide the funk

Mark Ronson went all out in his efforts to wow the audience with his set. He did just about played and tampered with everything available and rolled out a varied list of artists to give him a hand from Kevin Parker, Kyle Falconer, Boy George, Grandmaster Flash, George Clinton and Mary J. Blige to name a few! Outstanding effort from Ronson to give the audience more than their money’s worth.

Florence Substitutes

Florence + The Machine delivered a high energy performance verging on the insane as she belted out her simple yet sophisticated catalogue of music and paid tribute to the missing Foo Fighters with her own rendition of ‘Times Like These’. The fact she’s back to number one in the album charts should tell you all you need to know about the impact of her performance.

Reliably Amazing acts deliver again

Future Islands rocked out another fine performance, despite feeling the fatigue slightly in what has been a non-stop year and a half for the band. Samuel Herring still amazed and frightened the life out of people with his now trademark stylish aggression, passion and ridiculous dance moves. In a similar but wonderfully sleazy way, Father John Misty thrust and launched himself just about everywhere, but delivered every track at album level quality. ‘Bored in the USA’ was just as theatrically trashy and even unnerving as you’d expect and was a sight to behold. Meanwhile, Courtney Barnett made herself feel at home at the Pyramid Stage of all places whilst effortlessly and breezily rolling through set in her typical laid back style. Glastonbury veterans delivered their set as if it was 1993 again and even stole a lot of the crowd away from Kanye’s headline act. The Who rolled out a hit feast for the fans and delivered also delivered a performance like their famous seventies gigs, but at a slower pace, still worth seeing despite their advancing years.

Kanye…

He was causing controversy before and after the his headline slot with many signing petitions to get him removed, but he was there in defiance and the opening stages of his set delivered some of his biggest tracks and was almost space age in it’s opening and set up for his ego with him and the lights on him. As simple as that. It worked wonderfully as a statement, but for the whole show it’s novelty wore away and he really should have took a leaf out of Ronson’s book for the middle and latter stages of his set. Not even Kanye can do everything on his own. The fact he claimed he was the biggest rockstar in the world is of no concern to me… it’s that sort of musical conservatism that stifles music and similarly threatened to stifle the festival, but Kanye was always going to be there and divided the majority of the audience straight down the middle. The Libertines were also left high and dry by being moved up the billing thanks to the Foo Fighters absence and their disjointed and worn set did nothing to get anyone shouting.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

This Week’s Music Video with Mark Ronson, Giorgio Moroder, Röyksopp, Courtney Barnett and Everything Everything

Mark Ronson – Uptown Special Review

Mark Ronson in King's Cross, London.

Almost five years on from his last full length studio release, Mark Ronson returns with an album that everyone has been waiting to hear over the Christmas season. Record Collection from Ronson and his Business Intl. was very much one of the best outputs from the London producer in sticking with the idea of electronic pop, with a collective of musicians outside of the mainstream to help dismantle the tarnishing he received in the music press for his cover tracks such as ‘Valarie’. he’s spoken of the album being a very involved effort that he’s fretted over to the point of being physically sick in the case of ‘Uptown Funk’. Was it all worth it?

Just on commercial success alone ‘Uptown Funk’ was worth the stress with Number 1 successes from the UK, US to Croatia. It’s a track with an absolutely infectious and contagious handclap rhythm, brass and hanging, whirring synths. The deep funk backing vocals take over the role of a rooted bass line and is complemented with a smooth disco-funk fused riff. The set up of the instrumentals and the simple lyrics were made for an out and out pop musician such as Bruno Mars; in fact the song was pretty much made for him to exercise his vocal flair from the spoken word to the step by step build up in culminating with a vocal peak. second single ‘Daffodils’ which sees the pop producer combine his efforts with Kevin Parker: Neo Psychedelic producer and the driving force of Tame Impala as a follow up to his lead single ‘Uptown Funk’ which also featured Bruno Mars on the track. It would seem then, that much like his 2010 studio album under the title of Mark Ronson and the Business Intl.; that Ronson has set about forming another impressive and varied list of collaborators for his current project and the two names already produced are pretty different in themselves. The track opens with a washed out, analogue synth sweep which rolls off into a slick and slightly pashed out funk-like groove of a riff with crisp percussion and Parker’s spaced out, high pitched vocal just expanding the song’s space even more. The explorative sounds are reeled in a little with bass line interludes and flashing bass beat. It’s quite a novel record in producing what is effectively a neo-psychedelic-funk hybrid, but one that works with all purposefulness and style.

‘Feel Right’ features rapper Mystikal and features his throaty and gruff rap with a light rattling riff and bold brass intercessions along with a call and respond backing vocal. These three elements of the song are used to propel the song into action towards and through the chorus. A more rough filtered ‘Uptown Funk’. I can’t lose featuring vocalist Keyone Starr is a homage to a late 80’s and early 90’s electro-pop hit with it’s distorted and warping synths and the pop melodies being layered on top. ‘Summer Breaking’ and ‘Leaving Los Feliz’ feature Kevin Parker’s neo-psychedelic guitar in unconventional situations such as smooth jazz backing tracks. Tracks featuring Stevie Wonder feel frustratingly a little underwhelming as even though it puts him some sort of soul/psychedelic fusion, you feel he isn’t being maximised as a vocalist. In case of Fire is a Glam Rock influenced track before it goes off towards a funk and hazy produced track. Whilst there is enough variety in conjunction with an overall retro theme and some real moments of pop fantasia; there is a slight lack of substance and depth to the album with songs that really would suit them. The album is a great piece of retro inspired pop; perhaps not up to the standard of it’s Daft Punk counterpart Random Access Memories, but a success nonetheless.

Mark Ronson – Uptown Special = 7.5/10

This Week’s Music Video with Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars, Belle & Sebastian, Angel Olsen, Blonde Redhead, The Decemberists, Deerhoof and She & Him

Single Review – Mark Ronson – Daffodils (feat. Kevin Parker)

As Mark Ronson continues to release material from his upcoming album Uptown Special with the it’s second single ‘Daffodils’ which sees the pop producer combine his efforts with Kevin Parker: Neo Psychedelic producer and the driving force of Tame Impala as a follow up to his lead single ‘Uptown Funk’ which also featured Bruno Mars on the track. It would seem then, that much like his 2010 studio album under the title of Mark Ronson and the Business Intl.; that Ronson has set about forming another impressive and varied list of collaborators for his current project and the two names already produced are pretty different in themselves. The track opens with a washed out, analogue synth sweep which rolls off into a slick and slightly pashed out funk-like groove of a riff with crisp percussion and Parker’s spaced out, high pitched vocal just expanding the song’s space even more. The explorative sounds are reeled in a little with bass line interludes and flashing bass beat. It’s quite a novel record in producing what is effectively a neo-psychedelic-funk hybrid, but one that works with all purposefulness and style.

Paul McCartney – New Review

The man above is and probably always will be statistically the most successful musician of all time. He doesn’t need to do another album. He has nothing left to prove. He’s almost always been there in the public eye, making music since 1963. Whether its been with The Beatles, Wings, On his own, with his late wife Linda, with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Elvis Costello or as part of a charity record. If there’s anything to do in music then he’s done it. Apart from masquerading as a talented musician as many artists do today. Compare this to Bowie who had vanished off the face of the earth for going on nearly a decade then comparisons seem a little fragile in context. McCartney has already done the shock and awe approach. We could see this album from a mile off. New is in effect a follow up from 2007’s Memory Almost Full despite all the work done in-between. With it he’s taken on producers: Mark Ronson, Paul Epworth and Ethan Johns of which all have their own merits and credible moments. McCartney has already shown that he is still open to pushing the boundaries as he did with his collaboration with Bloody Beetroots earlier this year and you’d think with the producers on board (mainly Ronson) that he’d be willing to do the same again.

‘New’ as the title track  is very evocative of songs such as Penny Lane or Good Day Sunshine from his 66/67 Beatles years and some Wings songs too. The song is very happy and jolly with simple riffs and bass lines with trumpets, saxophones etc. just to add to the upbeat feel of the song. In that way it’s by no means profound or innovative in any way at all and is clearly just a tune to have people humming along or tapping they’re feet really. But I think everyone can forgive him for that considering everything he has done previously. Having said that, it is still a success in showing he can do what he did nearly fifty years ago, just as well today. ‘Queenie Eye’ begins with subtle organ chords then rapidly shifts as Paul sets off quickly off-loading each set of lines. The organs keep up a sort of obscured melody behind the drawn out guitars, percussion and piano. There’s another, more atmospheric and spaced out shift with McCartney’s vocals echoed which leads back into an instrumental and another run through the chorus. The songs chord progression is by no means lazy either and for a 71 year old it isn’t bad at all. But you do feel that the song never reaches a peak or conclusion and just sort of flat lines at a decent but not amazing level.

‘Alligator’ feels like two versions of McCartney smashed into each other at the speed of sound. The ‘spikey’ melody plugged by the synths and padded out by the acoustic guitar is sometimes pulled into more sombre and washed out moments but is quite frustratingly always pulled back to where it started. Nevertheless McCartney’s isolated yet smooth vocal interlinks with the instrumentals well. ‘Appreciate’ is quite a refreshing angle to put McCartney at. The hip-hop drum beat is mixed with other distorted samples, reverbed and stuttered riffs and a repeating set of piano chords. The mix of lyrics and vocals also generates a real sense of textural space to the song. His vocal is soft in tone in how its recorded which works in conjunction with the music; even when it steps up a gear and ups the anti. The shifts in tone, texture and space are masterful and fluctuating focus on each element too, sets up the best song on the album for me. A clear sign if any, that he’s still got it. ‘Save Us’ is almost a ‘Back To The Egg’ churning rock ballad but accelerated a little more. The distorted guitars are set against the Wings-like backing vocals. A riff is produced that creates a better hook than many, much younger groups struggle to achieve. There are certain corners of New that are far from what the title suggests. Many are rethought and reworked versions of classic McCartney which are a safe bet for sure. If not a bit of indulgence. However, you get to some songs that really sound fresh and exciting and take on the album title more literally as certain songs sound far superior than a lot of material from much ‘fresher’ artists this year. Based on that, this album is well worth a look if you want nostalgia and/or new ideas. I certainly didn’t think it would be of this standard. Makes you think that some of the current generation need a kick up the arse.

Paul McCartney – New = 8/10

Images from lancegold.blogspot.com / top40.about.com