Showing posts with label house. Show all posts
Showing posts with label house. Show all posts

Sunday, January 20, 2019

video review: 'outer peace' by toro y moi

Ehh... I've had this one for a while, still not all that much of a fan. It's decent, but I'm not going to remember much of this.

Next up... let's get Future out of the way...

Saturday, January 19, 2019

album review: 'outer peace' by toro y moi

...I remember the last time I talked about chillwave, back in 2015 when I reviewed Neon Indian - and that's saying something because I'm getting the impression that whole genre designation is something music critics nowadays want to forget ever happened.

See, there's a phenomenon especially among music critics and writers to apply genre branding to sounds for quick categorization, especially if it was a trend on the rise. This seemed to hit its peak in the blog-and-Pitchfork dominated era of the late-2000s and very early 2010s, mostly to the indifference and distaste of the artists or indeed anyone besides music writers. And looking back on it now, it's hard to ignore how manufactured it felt - not an organic label by the artists, who had approached their gauzy blend of shoegaze, lo-fi synthpop, ambient, and psychedelia with a variety of different tones and styles, but a branding that soon led to a saturated market and a broad misunderstanding of how anyone was to approach it. And I want to use Toro y Moi - stagename for Chaz Bear - as an example against easy classification... mostly because while his initial tones might have started in that loose subgenre, he didn't stay there. A few albums in he was expanding into house music, by 2015 he was pulling on that jangling 80s indie rock sound, and he had always had a taste for funk, choppy hip-hop-esque samples and a crooning that owed a considerable debt to indie R&B. So yeah, Toro y Moi was really tough to categorize...

And man, I wish I liked it more. Again, like most genre-hopping bands with this pedigree there were a number of things that just did not work for me, and ironically they started with the opposite problem I had with Neon Indian, in that I liked the gummy, lo-fi chillwave touches in the production that felt more like accent texture than drowning the mix. But the further he stepped away from it, the less interesting the music became. Part of this was increasingly easy parallels to better acts, but with Toro y Moi's voice moving more to the forefront, the undercooked writing and odd feeling of petulance really started to wear on my patience, especially as the albums got longer with less momentum. Granted, when I heard this album was going even more synthetic and taking more steps towards funk I was intrigued, but I've had mixed luck with this brand of funk and I wasn't sure the trappings of chillwave are what I needed to make it work, but what the hell: how is Outer Peace?

Monday, October 29, 2018

video review: 'honey' by robyn

Well, this was kind of underwhelming... still good, but it should be better.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN, and it looks to be short (hopefully), so stay tuned!

album review: 'honey' by robyn

Even before I knew I was a fan of pop music - hell, before I even had firm context surrounding what pop music was - I was a fan of Robyn.

And yes, I know that's a bizarre thing for me to say, especially coming from someone not from Europe and who only got passing snippets of what Robyn creating in the late 90s and 2000s... but we did get a few pieces, and the majority of them have held up amazingly well. I'll freely admit that when I was a child and heard 'Show Me Love' I didn't have the slightest clue who Robyn was - and let's be honest, most folks who were adults in North America didn't know either, her distribution and name-recognition stateside has always been shaky - but I knew the song connected on a fundamental level. Fast forward over a decade later and I'm hearing 'Dancing On My Own' in HBO's Girls and while the vocal timbre had subtly changed, the ridiculously intricate and tight pop music remained the same. And that prompted me to go back through whatever albums in her back catalog I could find and it's honestly a little astonishing how consistently great Robyn has been. There have been missteps - I might be one of the few people who find the hip-hop elements on the self-titled album to have aged pretty badly and hurt the album as a whole - but for the most part I've been a consistent fan of her terrific sensibility around melodic grooves and her remarkably keen sense of emotional dynamics.

And thus the past eight years where we haven't had full Robyn albums... well, it's been a long wait. Yes, I heard those EPs with Royksopp and La Bagatelle Magique, but they felt compromised, not nearly the clear organic creative vision I knew Robyn could deliver, and thus I was thrilled to get a chance to hear her newest project, Honey - was it everything we could have hoped for and more?

Saturday, April 7, 2018

video review: '2012-2017' by a.a.l. (against all logic)

About damn time I got to this, whew.

Next up... man, it's a behemoth here, so stay tuned!

album review: '2012-2017' by a.a.l (against all logic)

So when I covered Nicolas Jaar's album Sirens a few years back, I found a lot more to like than I had initially expected. I was going in off the excellent record Space is Only Noise which hit an odd cross-section of electronic music that was too uniquely compelling to ignore, but Sirens was a different sort of animal entirely, a politically themed and intensely potent warning sign against coming political calamity, which felt all the more starkly relevant in 2016. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of getting to it late and covering it in the aftermath post-November, and thus I couldn't help but feel like the warning had come too late, which I think colored how much the record resonated with me in comparison to Space Is Only Noise.

And I think it might some of those residual feelings that have kept me from really diving headfirst into 2012-2017, even despite the avalanche of critical acclaim this collection of tunes has gotten. Granted, part of my reticence has been that I'm not normally one to talk about loose compilations of songs - and Jaar is the sort of artist to deliver potent themes in his electronic music, so while seeing him release this under a different name made sense, it wasn't something I felt in a hurry to cover. But folks have consistently voted it up the schedule and it has received a ton of acclaim from critics I respect and I'm not going to deny I was curious, so what the hell - how is 2012-2017?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

video review: 'i can feel you creep into my private life' by tune-yards

I'm not going to lie, I didn't really expect to like this... but I do think the conversation got interesting, and if anyone is going to claim I'm a blind SJW... well, yeah, that was never the case, and this is a hefty stack of evidence. 

Next up... whoo boy, this'll be a tough one, so stay tuned!

album review: 'i can feel you creep into my private life' by tune-yards

So I have a... let's call it complicated relationship with Tune-Yards, and I'm genuinely surprised the group is not more controversial among some circles. For one, if you're looking for a band that embraces a very pronounced social justice angle in their themes tune-yards will deliver, but dig a little deeper and you find a scattershot approach to songwriting that doesn't always do those ideas justice. And that's before you get the cultural appropriation conversation that has hovered around their aesthetic and production despite how you'd think graduates from New England art schools would know better. Or to put it another way, I don't think WHOKILL or Nikki Nack would have gotten nearly the same critical acclaim if they were released today in comparison to 2011 and 2014, and while I find the backlash against SJWs incredibly tedious and overdone, I'm self-aware enough to enjoy shots at Lena Dunham when she rightly deserves it, and Tune-Yards aren't far behind.

Now while I brought up all of that in my review four years ago, the larger truth is that I haven't given Tune-Yards much thought at all, mostly because they never brought any significant edge or potent melody to their sound that would draw me back. I got why a lot of critics liked them, but they were never really my thing and thus I was prepared to skip over this project altogether... until I heard two interesting revelations. One, frontwoman Merrill Garbus apparently rediscovered a love for house and disco music in the past four years, so there could be more of a defined melody to these tunes - and two, apparently those cultural appropriation comments got to Garbus and there were points where she overcorrects, and you can bet I wasn't going to miss a chance to riff on some of that! But I'll save that for the review - what did we get on the oh-so-awkwardly titled i can feel you creep into my private life?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

video review: 'black origami' by jlin

Well, this happened... man, I wish I liked this album more. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad, and I think if it's your thing you're going to really like it... but I'm just kind of meh on it overall.

Up next, though... oh boy. Stay tuned!

album review: 'black origami' by jlin

So I've always been very upfront with the fact that when it comes to me and electronic music, I can feel a little out of my depth, especially on the more experimental fringes where the compositions push into twisted, visceral territory. Now this is less true than when I was first stepping into the genre in 2015, but there's a part of me that's always a little unnerved and yet thrilled venturing into the weirder subgenres, that touch upon tones and sounds that never really touched the mainstream.

And so you can all imagine how much a record like Jlin's Dark Energy had on me a few years ago. Wrenching the tempos and intensity of footwork into twisted yet razor-tight atmosphere full of fragmented samples, industrial muscle, and African textured percussion, it was an experience unlike any other electronic record I had heard in recent memory, and while I did take some time to delve into footwork after hearing Dark Energy, it's a record that has lingered in my mind even years later. Hell, a record that experimental, strident and confrontational and yet willfully abstract and opaque can be easy to respect for how much it sticks in your head, even if going back I still find parts uneven enough to like but not love.

So when I heard that Jlin was doubling down to produce something even more challenging, aggressive, and imposing for her sophomore release, I was definitely on board, even if there was a part of me that was a little terrified where the album could take us. So where does Black Origami go?

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?

Monday, October 31, 2016

video review: 'lady wood' by tove lo

Well, this was definitely a real disappointment. Certainly was hoping from more from this record, but instead... well, misgivings were proven correct.

And on that unfortunate note, Kenny Chesney is next (because I still need more time for Avenged Sevenfold), so stay tuned!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

album review: 'lady wood' by tove lo

I've had a sinking feeling about this record for the past few weeks now. And believe me, I definitely haven't wanted that, but the misgivings about this record started coming out early and haven't really stopped. 

See, when I first heard Tove Lo in 2014, I was pretty impressed with her debut Queen Of The Clouds. Not a great pop album, but I saw buckets of potential from a fairly smart songwriter with a knack for pop nuance and good hooks. And coupled with a forceful and surprisingly layered performance, I thought Tove Lo could easily build herself a potent pop career and give most of her contemporaries some serious competition. And for a while it seemed like she had some momentum: 'Habits (Stay High)' was huge, 'Talking Body' was a very respectable follow-up, and 'Close', her collaboration with Nick Jonas, grew on me a fair bit. And I really liked Tove Lo's artistic persona: wild, reckless, she pushed her lyrics into some dark territory, even if on some level you wished she could take as many chances with her instrumentation and production, or that her lyrics didn't always show the self-awareness to elevate the flagrant irresponsibility, add more subtext.

But while I initially dug her lead-off single 'Cool Girl', with everything else I learned about her sophomore project the more concerned I got, starting with the incredibly on-the-nose album title. Coupled with the fact that she had kept the same production team and the biggest guest star on this record was Wiz Khalifa, plus the fact that she was going for a double album concept on a record that didn't even crack forty minutes...hate to say it, but it rang as trying too hard to shock or grab people's attention. And sure, that's her prerogative and I generally like that forceful personality, but her lack of greater subtlety meant the play to greater sexuality felt all the more brazen... and while many of her younger fans might not remember, I'm familiar with what happened to Madonna in the early 90s - eventually if you try too hard to shock in this lane, people don't get surprised in the same way.

But maybe I'm being too harsh here, maybe there was a place for Tove Lo's directness in 2016, so I took a long hard look at Lady Wood - what did I find?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

video review: 'purpose' by justin bieber

I need a break from pop for a bit. Next up will be a few country reviews and then I want to talk Arca and some black metal (FINALLY)... well, at least before Adele comes sweeping in.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

album review: 'purpose' by justin bieber

You know, there's a running joke among music critics that even if you don't like Justin Bieber, he's easy enough to ignore that you don't need to care about him. And really, if you reflect upon the past six years, even during the initial buzz, that has remained true - albeit for completely different reasons.

I should explain, and let me preface this by stating that I've never been one of those guys who really hated Justin Bieber right from the get-go. Now it wasn't because he was making quality - songs like 'One Time' and 'Eenie Meenie' really were awful, to the point where I've never understood why Usher hadn't contributed more to his creative development beyond a cosign and one okay song with 'Somebody To Love'. But even in Canada Justin Bieber could be easily ignored - it wasn't like he was racking up massive hits outside of 'Baby', which outside of a hysterically bad verse from Ludacris it was generally forgettable. That seemed to change with the release of 'Boyfriend' off of 2012's record Believe, which I actually reviewed on my blog three years ago. And it wasn't even like that record was completely bad either - sure, 'As Long As You Love Me' and 'Beauty And A Beat' were both pretty damn bad and the album really had no clear creative direction where to take Bieber's music lyrically or sonically, but it did provide one legitimately excellent song with 'Maria' that showed if Bieber brought real dramatic intensity and tightness, he could be a real pop star. 

And then for the next two years Bieber proceeded to squander that potential, committing crimes, shooting his mouth off, and acting like one of the most obnoxious teen idols ever to be given a microphone. Now this didn't really surprise me - the undercurrent of petulance and ego had always leaked into his music, but I assumed he'd eventually grow into it a bit. But combined with the sloppy release strategy of the underwhelming Journals that had no singles that lasted on the charts, I had no reason to really care about Justin Bieber anymore, especially when Justin Timberlake had returned and was so much stronger. That changed this year, with the release of 'Where Are U Now' with Skrillex and Diplo and his first ever #1 hit with 'What Do You Mean?'. And while neither of these songs were precisely bad and Bieber seemed to have grown into his artistic persona, he also had shown so little personality on those songs that I had absolutely zero interest in checking out Purpose, especially as the lyrics on every single had been straying into questionable places. But hey, I might as well give the guy a fair shot, and all of you kept asking for it, so how does Purpose turn out?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

video review: 'i cry when i laugh' by jess glynne

Yeah, I know, I was planning on dropping this yesterday, but I discovered I had plans/a social life. It happens, folks.

Next up, let's see if I can get this Mick Jenkins out of the way before another crazy week ahead - stay tuned!

album review: 'i cry when i laugh' by jess glynne

So I think I was one of the few critics who cover pop music who didn't love 'Rather Be' last year, the breakthrough single from electronic music group Clean Bandit. Yeah, it was very elegant and very pretty and had a vibrant clarity to the sound that reminded me of Imogen Heap in a good way, but it was one of those tracks that just fell completely flat for me. Maybe it wasn't weird enough or that it never reached those transcendent moments it kept gunning for, or maybe because it felt bizarrely overmixed and the songwriting wasn't all that great, but it didn't do much for me.

One person I won't blame here, though, is Jess Glynne, the guest singer on that track who was actually pretty solid and who was steadily building herself a respectable career in the UK while everyone on this side of the Atlantic had no idea who she was. And let's make this clear, she's big over there right now, with multiple songs cracking the top ten and even one taking the #1 slot for three weeks - and considering the turnover of the UK Official Charts, that's saying something.

So who is Jess Glynne? Born in the UK, she grew up working music management and record labels before a few chance collaborations, the biggest being with Clean Bandit that netted her a Grammy before she had a full debut album. Reportedly drawing on soul, R&B, and house music, it promised to be interesting at least, so I made a note to check out I Cry When I Laugh when it finally dropped - how does it turn out?

Monday, June 1, 2015

video review: 'in colour' by jamie xx

Holy shit, I was not expecting this album to be as good as it was. But with every listen, I find more to unpack in this production, and the emotional beats hit me like a ton of bricks every time.

Next up... whoo boy, might as well pry open the fangirl hole and discuss Florence + The Machine. Wish me luck!

album review: 'in colour' by jamie xx

So first let's talk a little about remix albums.

Believe it or not, even despite being in an era where electronic music is bigger than ever, outright remix albums don't seem to be as popular as they used to be ten years ago. Sure, you'll see a few of them in pop, especially from acts who are more on the electronic side and want to push the success of their albums a little longer by enlisting various DJs to remix their material, but the concept of one producer remixing an entire project from another artist is a lot less common. Granted, we live in the era of the internet, where you can find dozens of remixes of entire projects on Soundcloud or YouTube within hours of the song dropping, but to be able to infuse the entire project with a distinctive and unique personality is a different matter entirely.

And thus you can kind of see how big of a deal it was when Jamie xx, producer and remix artist known for working with the critically acclaimed indie pop group The xx teamed up with Gil-Scott Heron to make We're New Here, a full remix album of Gil-Scott Heron's album that had dropped the previous year after sixteen years of absence from the music industry. And while Jamie xx's personality had been visible with The xx, his glassy, edged synths, subtle beats, and crisp percussion paired with Gil-Scott Heron's aged vocals were much more striking. Of course, one of his beats ended up being sampled by Rihanna and Drake for 'Take Care', which was a massive hit in 2012, but honestly, I've always liked Jamie xx's original version more for its greater texture and edge, and thus I was anticipating his upcoming debut with a fair amount of excitement, even though I found the second album from The xx album underwhelming and lacking some of the melodic tightness I dug on their debut. So did Jamie xx manage to deliver on his own with In Colour?