Showing posts with label edm. Show all posts
Showing posts with label edm. Show all posts

Thursday, September 26, 2019

video review: 'the owl' by zac brown band

Yeah, this sucked... but to be fair, pretty much all the critics and fans are saying it too, so preaching to the choir, I guess?

Anyway, I think it's about time I get to JPEGMAFIA, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

album review: 'the owl' by zac brown band

When you think of the Zac Brown Band, what do you think of?

Mostly likely you think of the band responsible for songs like 'Chicken Fried' or 'Toes' or 'Knee Deep', lightweight, relaxing fodder that has a bit of a jam band vibe but a lot of rich, warm harmonies and colour. If you're more of a fan you probably remember songs like 'Goodbye In Her Eyes' and 'Colder Weather' and how the band has always had an underrated strength for ballads, or even how their 2012 album Uncaged took a willingness to experiment into one of the best mainstream country albums of the decade. 

If you're deeper in the country scene, however, especially recently, you might know the Zac Brown Band a little differently. You might know that frontman Zac Brown has been chafing at what he might view as the arbitrary restrictions of country - seemingly unaware of how the indie scene has been plumbing new depths and sounds every single year, which you'd think he'd know given his collaboration with Dave Cobb in 2016, but that's a different story. You might have heard that the same year he put out a back to basics album Welcome Home produced by Dave Cobb, he also made an EDM-folktronica... thing called Sir Rosevelt near the end of that year... which wound up being universally panned by anyone who knows electronic music as dated, badly produced, and while having catchy moments feeling more than ever like a vanity project. And that's what we were hoping would remain the case for the Zac Brown Band, especially after their dabblings with electronic music on 2015's Jekyll + Hyde, which for the record did see some success, but nowhere near consistent enough to sustain a full project - so if Zac Brown had a side project to shove that sound into, all fine and good.

What nobody was suspecting was The Owl, a project where it appeared that Zac Brown was doubling down on the electronics and pop flourishes to the shock and alienation of all of their country fans - and let me make this clear, the buzz has been horrible for this album. Even mainstream critics are not giving this a pass, so as one of the few guys who can defend pieces of Zac Brown's electronic forays, I wanted to give this a chance... so what did The Owl deliver?

Thursday, December 6, 2018

video review: 'what is love?' by clean bandit

Overall a little surprised I had enough to say about this thing... but hey, it happens?

Okay, Earl is up next - stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

album review: 'what is love?' by clean bandit

So this is the sort of review that I have no idea why I'm making - well, at least beyond the most cynical of responses, which is that Clean Bandit have several songs that have attracted a lot of attention and this'll likely wind up getting traffic for relatively little effort on my part.

But is that a fair assessment, especially given how many singles worldwide Clean Bandit have notched with a more distinctive blend of tropical elements, classical strings, and grooves that don't feel beholden to overweight trap percussion? Well, yes and no - I'll admit I've never really loved a Clean Bandit song - they have a weirdly pristine but fussy nature that can come across as oversanitized and underwritten, and I include 'Rather Be' in that category - but I wouldn't say I dislike them either. Yeah, the personality of any given song is more dependent on their guest stars and to expect a cohesive album is a crapshoot, and it's hard not to feel like a lot of their music is custom-designed for department stores trying to sound hip... but they can land some good melodies and while their first album didn't impress me at all, maybe their follow-up would be okay... even if it feels like I've already heard a significant chunk of it. Yeah, that's the other thing about reviewing an electronic project like this, the albums feel more like singles compilations - but hey, that's normally the formula for great pop albums so I'm not going to hold it against Clean Bandit here, so what did we get on What Is Love?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

video review: 'kids in love' by kygo

My god I'm bad at remember to cross-post these videos... whatever, the record is still a lot of fun, enjoy!

Friday, November 10, 2017

album review: 'kids in love' by kygo

So I rarely talk about other critical opinions in my reviews, mostly because I don't tend to read many other reviews before my own and I don't want bias creeping in. I'm going to make an exception to this here, specifically in reference to Cloud Nine, the debut album from the Norwegian DJ Kygo that I reviewed last year. You might not know this, but it was one of the more critically derided records of 2016, certainly accruing lower scores than many would expect for a lightweight tropical house debut. And believe it or not, I'm not surprised by this: mainstream critical outlets need some punching bags, so instead of taking it out on inept bro-country or endlessly regurgitated trap or - god forbid - an act that other critics actually liked - why not go after a tropical house DJ little known stateside who can serve as an easy trendy target that won't fight back?

And let me make this clear: some of the criticisms of Cloud Nine are valid - it's overlong, the quality of guest stars is all over the place, it can feel incredibly thin at points, and overall the individual songs don't stand out as much as they should. But on the flip side it was a record that grew on me a fair bit throughout the summer of 2016, and most of that goodwill came down to Kygo himself: a sharp producer with good tastes in tone and groove that knew how to build a breezy likable vibe, which by the low standards many judge this genre was all he was looking to do! Hell, the fact that it managed to get a passable performance from Julia Michaels on 'Carry Me' should be worth noting at least - but then came 2017 and the Selena Gomez crossover that showed Kygo sharpening this talents. Not to spoil too much, but 'It Ain't Me' is one of the best hit songs of 2017 easily, and if Kygo could bring that talent for hooks to his new record, with guest vocals from John Newman, OneRepublic, Ellie Goulding, and plenty more, I was actually excited, especially as it seemed like he tightened things up, even despite including all the songs from his Stargazing EP from earlier this year. So what did I get with Kids In Love?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

video review: 'bravado' by kirin j. callinan

And there we go, something I probably should have covered months ago, but overall turned out really fun, definitely recommended.

Okay, Brazy Da Bo$$ next, and then... hmm, this could be interesting... stay tuned!

Friday, September 8, 2017

album review: 'bravado' by kirin j. callinan

Okay, one thing that I've enjoyed a great deal in the Internet era is that it's started to break down the first boundaries of what pop 'should' be, at least outside of what's defined by the mainstream. And while of course I'll have an appetite for that sort of thing, I like hearing voices or tones that might use the pop framework but would fly in the face of what's traditionally acceptable in the genre, even though that definition has evolved with time.

But no matter what era of pop it is, I don't think an act like Kirin J. Callinan would have had an obvious place, especially if there was going to be any radio crossover. And sure, a big factor is how he fused ramshackle guitar and piano together or the lyrics that leaned explicitly political and more nakedly sexual that pushed more into punk or freak folk, but the bigger factor was his voice. The most obvious comparison, both given his Australian lineage and his low, guttural howls is Birthday Party-era Nick Cave, but instead of gothic trappings Callinan pushed towards a brawny, wild eyed but sharply incisive brand of synth and guitar driven pop that wouldn't be far removed from textures you'd find in the mid-80s, at least on his first record. That was three years ago, and this time for Bravado he brought in an even bigger cast of players, recruiting from the underground for acts like Weyes Blood in order to flesh out his sound. So, what spectacle did we get this time?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

video review: 'funk wav bounces vol. 1' by calvin harris

And here we go... and I actually liked this a fair bit more than I was expecting, which was generally pleasant. 

Next up... let's talk about Jay-Z. Whoo boy, here we go!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

album review: 'funk wav bounces: vol 1' by calvin harris

I think some people may have gotten the wrong impression surrounding me and Calvin Harris - it wasn't that I ever hated him, it's just that I never cared about him. I remember when he broke through around the early 2010s and while I could identify plenty of bad producer-driven EDM from that era, Calvin Harris just didn't stand out. The tones and melodic progressions got in your head, but the writing was formless and generic, the production was underwhelming, and his own singing voice... yeah, nobody was going to a Calvin Harris record to hear Calvin Harris, even despite the bizarre amount of success he landed with 'Summer' in 2014.

And up until 2017, that all seemed to be true. He had a few songs that were tolerable - I still hold 'Outside' with Ellie Goulding didn't get the push it deserved - but beyond that, he didn't resonate, especially a lot of his work with Rihanna that always felt incredibly underwritten and tired. And then 2017 happened, and the change in sound was measurable. Sure, given how Harris pivoted towards deep house on songs like 'How Deep Is Your Love' he's always shown himself to be a malleable producer, but a shift towards more organic disco, and adopting the splatter paint collaboration style more reminiscent of DJ Khaled... that was measurable, and proved that his new project might actually be interesting, especially considering how well songs like 'Slide', 'Heatstroke', and 'Feels' worked for me. So for the first time... pretty much ever, I was looking forward to covering a Calvin Harris record - so what did we get out of it?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

video review: 'memories... do not open' by the chainsmokers

So apparently I forgot to post my video review of this here. Maybe because it's forgettable and terrible... yeah, I'll go with that.

And speaking of things I forgot...

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

album review: 'memories... do not open' by the chainsmokers

There's a part of me that thinks this is my fault.

See, I reviewed The Chainsmokers' second EP last year and I made the statement that the EDM duo would never release a full-length record, mostly because there was no need for it. After all, this was a duo of frat guys who treated music more like a marketing gimmick to get laid - freely admitting to being inspired by Jeremy Piven's character from Entourage - and project noxious ideas about women and relationships against their increasingly anonymous brand of EDM. Less artistic endeavor than calculation, it was the sort of utterly cynical and worthless music that would be gross and offensive to any sensibility if it bothered to have any distinct personality at all.

And yet it seems like in the build-up to this debut album, down to the subject matter of the singles, that The Chainsmokers were trying to blunt that reputation, or at least extend the long con they've run on the audience a little bit longer as their fifteen minutes tick down. They seemed to be trying to cultivate a more earnest and sincere image and shove their brand of ironic obnoxiousness down the memory hole - hell, look at the title of this album! And the depressing fact is that for most of the mainstream public it seems to be working - despite atrocious live performances and increasingly stale EDM drops, they're still selling records, and I'd put money on this project breaking a song or four onto the Hot 100 in a week or so, which is just peachy. Thankfully, I have a much longer memory, and yet while I don't think earnestness is the best fit for the band, their newest single with Coldplay isn't bad at all, so maybe something would be salvageable from Memories... Do Not Open?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

video review: 'stc' by shane the crane

Nearly forgot to post this, but this was a surprisingly decent record - definitely check this out if you're interested in electronic music.

Anyway, year-end lists have started, and the worst has been posted - stay tuned for more!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

album review: 'STC' by shane the crane

It's almost poetic that we end 2016 like this - not with a huge smash hit album, not with a critically beloved indie darling... but an album from one of you guys, one of my Patrons. I sincerely hope he sticks around now that his album has inched its way up the list organically to land in front of me, especially considering the gloves have never been on - I'm treating this with the same critical I treat everything else, as I've clearly warned many times.

So, Shane The Crane is an electronic music producer that you'd mostly likely find on Soundcloud, but unlike many of those guys he appears to have the backing of a record label Beatdek Records, and from what I can tell this doesn't appear to be a vanity label, it actually has a few artists behind it. From a lot of the blurbs it looked to be skirting the edges of modern popular trends in electronic music with a slightly weirder twist on top - so okay, I'm kind of on board, this could be interesting, so I took a look at his debut project STC - how is it?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

video review: 'layers' by kungs

Well... okay, I was expecting more from this, but overall, it's decent. Breezy to a fault, but like with Kygo, it doesn't really stick with you, and probably would have benefited a late-summer release.

Eh, whatever - next up is Little Mix and then I've got a BIG announcement over the weekend - so stay tuned!

album review: 'layers' by kungs

So it's been fairly well established that the flavour of electronic dance music that was popular this year was tropical house. Reggae lilts in the guitars, hollow synths, textured percussion, a very breezy, languid vibe, it was all over the place this year. And since most of it seemed to forget that adding some actual colour to your instrumental tones help them stand out, it also led to a listless haze that did nothing for me for the majority of the year.

Now it wasn't all bad, especially if you drifted away from the United States where brighter tones managed to seep through - hell, look at Kygo - but there was one song that fell into interesting territory: 'This Girl', a collaboration with French DJ Kungs with an Australian funk band called Cookin' On 3 Burners. And while I definitely liked the song, one thing I noticed is that it really was on the border of tropical if that - despite sandy percussion, the guitar rollick, the soulful vocals and blend of horns reminded me more of the house trends that crossed over throughout the 90s. Some have called it a leftover of the deep house that dominated 2014, but the tones here were nowhere as saturated and dark. In other words, it was a good song, and it really should have done better on the Hot 100, but it seems like nobody wanted flair in their music in 2016, so other EDM songs that should have done well, it had momentum and then crashed pretty hard.

But I was still curious - after all, Kungs hadn't even reached twenty yet and he had a hit that had been huge worldwide, I was curious if he had more up his sleeve. So I checked out his full-length debut album Layers - what did we get?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

video review: 'collage' by the chainsmokers

Well, this was junk - but to be fair, I wasn't expecting this to be good. But on the other hand, I wasn't expecting something this cynically mediocre, so I'm not exactly surprised here...

Next up, though, something great that I missed from earlier this year, so stay tuned!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

album review: 'collage' by the chainsmokers

There will be no way to talk about pop music in 2016 without talking about The Chainsmokers - even if you desperately don't want to talk about The Chainsmokers.

And here's the funny thing: I'm starting to get the impression that the people who don't want you talking about The Chainsmokers in deeper detail includes the duo themselves. They'd probably prefer that you don't reference their atrocious faux-ironic sketch comedy beginnings, or the fact they were responsible for inflicting that viral marketing trash 'hit' '#SELFIE' on the world in 2014. In other words, right from the start I had a certain distaste for these guys, especially in their attitudes towards pop music, which can be aptly summed up in a quote they made in an interview with Billboard: 'even before success, pussy was number one'. Fantastic, all the proof that the attitudes typically associated with the 'white guy with acoustic guitar' stereotype can cross over: the guys who never made music out of any sort of artistic impulse, just to pick up chicks. Follow it up with an awful live performance with Halsey at the VMAs, their slagging of the band Weezer as 'thirsty', and their much-covered insults at Lady Gaga and Rihanna for either sucking or having 'no work ethic', and you can see why legitimate artists both in and outside of EDM treat The Chainsmokers with at best disinterest and at worst outright contempt.

But look, we've had assholes in music forever, I'm not holding The Chainsmokers to any sort of moral standard. No, what I find more corrosive is how it feels like so much of their music feels like an extended con run on the mainstream public, abusing the pass that's now common for pop in the cultural conversation to make some of the most cynical and hollow music imaginable. You might not like Lady Gaga's artifice or The Weeknd's nhilism, you might think Taylor Swift is thin-skinned and vindictive and Drake is overexposed and creatively stagnating, that Meghan Trainor can't back up her ego and Shawn Mendes is way over his head, but when I listen to their music, there's an artistic impulse that I might not like but is at least there. Even, who I used to loathe for his 'music-as-marketing savant' approach at least took the music with artistic integrity - even if he couldn't always execute, there was at least something. The Chainsmokers, meanwhile, freely admit in public to being inspired by Jeremy Piven's character from Entourage and seem to treat music more as a marketing gimmick to enable hedonism rather than any sort of art - so no wonder they've said they've never considered releasing a full-length debut album, because that would enable critics to drag them into a serious conversation they aren't prepared or willing to have. And that's the reason why I'm covering their second EP Collage in detail - call it a review, call it an expose, what did this Collage deliver?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

video review: 'encore' by dj snake

Always forget to cross-post these videos more than I should... even if the album is completely mediocre.

Anyway, next up is Tarja, Arkells, and Dinosaur Jr. as I work my way through Lori McKenna's back catalog and gear up for some awful hip-hop coming sooner than I'd like. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

video review: 'for you' by frankmusik

So yeah, fun review. Damn shame I couldn't film another one tonight, thanks to the celebratory noise (and me living in downtown Toronto - GO JAYS!). But rest assured, that Uncommon Nasa review is on the way, plus something you guys have been requesting - stay tuned!