Showing posts with label jazz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jazz. Show all posts

Monday, March 11, 2019

video review: 'stay tuned!' by dominique fils-aimé

Well damn, I'm really happy I finally got to talking about this one - great low-key R&B, absolutely worth your attention!

Next up... something a fair bit less interesting, so stay tuned!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

album review: 'stay tuned!' by dominique fils-aimé

I was preparing for this to be a difficult review.

And at first that might not make a lot of sense: sure, another little-known artist that I found off Bandcamp, but the ones I often choose to cover have colour and personality that leap off the page and deserve more attention... but Dominique Fils-Aimé was different. For one, instead of a swathe of indie rock, we're dealing with tones that owe a fair bit more to R&B and jazz and explicitly rely on a brand of minimalism in their arrangements that are tasteful and mature... but occasionally can come across as a little too understated and classy for their own good, the sort of mature music folks tend to wind up appreciating more than outright loving. Now that's not saying I didn't like her debut album Nameless from early 2018 - spare but potent as all hell thanks to her striking vocals and subtle, textured grooves, it was a short but rewarding listen - but I was hoping her follow-up here would amp things up just a bit, add a little more texture, tension, and richness to match the vocal arrangements that were such a terrific highlight. So alright, what did we find on Stay Tuned!?

Saturday, March 9, 2019

video review: 'when i get home' by solange

So this happened... I wish I had liked this more, but I do think I grasped it.

Next up... hmm, I've got some ideas, so we'll see - stay tuned!

Friday, March 8, 2019

album review: 'when i get home' by solange

So I'm going to start this review with two neutral statements that nevertheless are bound to be controversial. The first is this: we primarily experience art emotionally - we might analyze or come to appreciate something intellectually later, but ultimately if we're giving an honest opinion on what moves us and what we'll revisit, it's emotional. And to follow that, #2: when the statement is made, 'it's not for you', that's a statement presumably made to speak to the emotional, lived-in experiences that is assumed to be held by someone who likes the art and how said experiences probably aren't held by someone for whom the art isn't clicking.

So why mention any of this? Well, it has to do with the larger discourse around Solange's critical acclaim in the past couple of years, especially surrounding her breakthough A Seat At The Table, a project I liked and understood but didn't love. And I even said in that review that it's not for me - I can certainly respect its appeal and thoughtfulness and I understand the text and subtext on display, but I was very much aware that it was marketed at an audience to which I don't belong. And let me stress this: that's fine! There's absolutely a place and market for that, and while I might make the argument the most powerful art can transcend emotive boundaries should it be heard by everyone, I'm also aware of the material that resonates most with me won't be to the tastes of everyone: that's why my favourite albums of the past five years have spanned an indie country compilation, a pop rock opera, multiple underground hip-hop tapes, and a twisted slice of jazzy adult-alternative blended with goth rock! 

Now where I take the most issue with the whole 'it's not for you' statement is when it's used as a defense mechanism to shield a project from criticism of the text or subtext, which of course hits the blurry line of whether the person understands it and that art is subject to multiple interpretations, but that's a conversation of nuance and detail, not defense. And with A Seat At The Table, it didn't really come up, mostly because the album was critically acclaimed across the board - more degrees of quality being disputed if anything. But the conversation surrounding the surprise release When I Get Home has been more mixed, and outside of the outlets that have a mandate to support it, I've seen the 'it's not for you' argument pushed more as a deflection surrounding the project's quality, coupled with the presumed lack of understanding. To me that was alarming, so I did proceed with both caution and curiosity into this listen... so what did I find?

Friday, September 21, 2018

video review: 'room 25' by noname

So yeah, this is something special - definitely check this out!

And yeah, I was planning on Metric next, but considering how much folks want me to cover a certain hip-hop boy band... yeah, stay tuned!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

album review: 'room 25' by noname

I'm still kicking myself a little bit that I didn't review Noname's Telefone in 2016. Frankly, I had no reason not to - it wasn't like I didn't cover multiple women breaking out in thoughtful, low-key Chicago hip-hop that year - but for some reason she slipped out of mind for me and by the time I wanted to get the review together it was too late. Granted, I don't quite think the mixtape would have impacted my year-end list choices, but that's more because Telefone and Noname fell into a weird category for me where everything just seemed ever so slightly 'off'. Rhythms and melodies would feel off-kilter in strange ways, Noname's flows would bounce and curl around them, and even the content, despite feeling really clever, rested more on a tangled emotional spectrum than a regular logical throughline. Definitely a fascinating project that had some really damn solid grooves, and Noname had enough subtle charisma to pull me back, but I had a tough time really sinking into her material...

And then I wound up catching an early set of hers at Reading Festival this year, and in a live setting it oddly seemed to click. Her backing band lent an organic touch that made the odd turns feel naturalistic, and Noname's low-key charisma bubbled up in interesting ways, naturally infectious in a way that made the cleverness of her writing all the more enticing. In other words, even though at the time Noname was saying Telefone would be her only project, I'm a little glad that she wound up recording a full-length debut... basically in her own words because she had to pay rent and she wanted new music to play on tour. And there was no way in hell I was going to miss covering her this time, so what did we get on Room 25?

Monday, June 25, 2018

video review: 'pray for the wicked' by panic! at the disco

Well, this was a complete disappointment... but hey, you were going to hate me for this review anyway, so enjoy!

Next up, what looks to be a pretty miserable episode of Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

album review: 'pray for the wicked' by panic! at the disco

So the fact that I have to cover this album is a no-win situation for me. 

I might as well lay this out right now just to establish where the discourse is going to be when talking about this album regardless of its quality, and considering I somehow wound up in the situation when posting reviews makes me lose subscribers in the short term, I really have nowhere to go but down here. And if this all sounds sardonic and defeatist... well, it is the former, but the larger truth is that I know regardless of what I say there'll be a diehard fanbase that'll stick up for whatever Panic! At The Disco does. So even if I say how much A Fever You Can't Sweat Out has real gems, and Pretty Odd. is legitimately great and Vices & Virtues and Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die are both underrated, and how 'Crazy = Genius' made my year-end list of the best songs of 2016 and I think there's at least something to Brendon Urie being compared to Brian Wilson... it ultimately does not matter to them.

But frankly, given how I reviewed Death Of A Bachelor two years ago you should all know this by now, so let's focus on Pray For The Wicked, where I covered a few of their lead-off singles on Billboard BREAKDOWN but I can't say I remember all that much of them. I remember the production sounding overblown and thin - not remotely a good sign and about the last thing Brendon Urie would want to carry over from Broadway productions - and I remember the lyrics feeling underweight, and the buzz was suggesting that was pretty commonplace across the record, but Panic! At The Disco in every incarnation has found ways to surprise me, and I was genuinely hoping that Pray For The Wicked would hit that point, so how's the album?

Thursday, June 7, 2018

video review: 'butter' by karen jonas

Okay, this is pretty great - not quite as strong as her last two, but still really enjoyable, definitely take the time to check this out!

Next up... man, I could do with some Neko Case right about now, so enjoy!

album review: 'butter' by karen jonas

I'll freely admit I'm not surprised by Karen Jonas' artistic direction in indie country. That's not to disparage said direction - beginning in the hardbitten, world-weary acoustic grit of indie country to a more relaxed and lush Bakersfield sound, all coaxed through writing that's subtle enough to emphasize the details but conveyed with the intimacy and charisma to really suck the audience in, it's a natural progression as Jonas has built up steam among critics and fans alike. And it feels comfortable - I may have been won over initially by the edge, but Jonas has avoided histrionics and it makes her brand of burnished country feel impressively sensual and mature, she's got that pure magnetism.

And thus I wasn't really surprised she was picking up elements of jazz, blues, ragtime, and barroom soul for her newest project Butter, which she herself has described as her most broad to date... but I was a bit worried. Part of this is the fact that this cross-section of sounds in indie country has been pretty saturated in the 2010s, but also because Jonas is the sort of singer-songwriter who has been at her best leveraging subtlety, so I wasn't sure if going bigger and broader would pay off - and again, I'd have a wealth of comparison points in this style for when it's done right. But hey, what did we get from Butter?

Monday, May 14, 2018

video review: 'tranquility base hotel + casino' by arctic monkeys

So here's the first review of the night, bound to be the most controversial... but we're not done yet, so stay tuned!

album review: 'tranquility base hotel & casino' by arctic monkeys

Most of you probably don't remember the last time I reviewed the Arctic Monkeys. It was nearly five years ago, I didn't have a proper camera yet, but I was mostly positive towards the record and I did think it had some moments that worked for me...

And everyone hated it! Yeah, I'll admit I was still very much in the learning curve for making album reviews, but the backlash I got to being mostly ambivalent on this indie darling was pretty pronounced, mostly because my review consisted of some... let's call them mixed opinions on their back catalog. Suffice to say, Arctic Monkeys broke around the same time as a lot of other bands in a similar noisy, post-punk revival brand of indie rock, and when you paired it with observational songwriting that might have had moments of self-awareness but was often way too sour and acerbic to really resonate with me, as a group they just never clicked more deeply with me. Yes, you can make the argument that Alex Turner was one of the wittiest and smartest guys in the room, but if you know it and want everyone else to know it, any amount of self-deprecation doesn't make you any less of a dick! It's absolutely no surprise the band became a Gen X critical darling in the mid-2000s - and also no surprise that as they got older and arguably more mature and their fury curdled into detached, snide bitterness, said fans mostly stuck around... provided, of course, they could get behind the shifts in sound. Yeah, that was the other thing - Arctic Monkeys may have started in some furious, borderline punk territory, but they got way slower and more indebted to a conventional rock canon with every record, especially as they started embracing stoner rock elements on Humbug and psychedelic elements on Suck It And See and AM. And that was the frustrating thing for me: this band is clearly talented and had the capacity to take sonic risks and write some damn catchy songs... but the content and a lot of Alex Turner's delivery left a bad taste in my mouth.

Still, when I heard the band was taking a stark departure in their sound for lounge-inspired smooth jazz and spacey pop tones... yeah, you might have seen traces of that coming on previous records, but this sounded like something far out, and a record that has proven quite polarizing for a lot of fans. And hell, I was intrigued - maybe if Alex Turner could get out of his own head in terms of content, he could write something interesting, so what did we get with Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

video review: 'pacifisticuffs' by diablo swing orchestra

Ugh, I wish I had liked this more... but it happens, I guess...

Anyway, next up is a record I'm a little unsure if anyone beyond the Patron who requested it cares about, but we'll see - stay tuned!

album review: 'pacifisticuffs' by diablo swing orchestra

I get the feeling that just about every element of this particular act is going to require an explanation, including why in the Nine Hells I'm covering them in the first place - because while there are weird metal acts, Diablo Swing Orchestra sits in a category mostly by itself.

And the bizarre thing for once is that I can say I've mostly been a fan of this Swedish group for years. I was introduced to their debut and arguably best project The Butcher's Ballroom in university by a friend given my liking for symphonic metal, but that's only a component of the madhouse of this group, which blends in elements of swing, jazz, and classical music to their sound with a manic vaudeville approach, blending male and female vocals of all varieties against some pretty aggressive and yet remarkably catchy progressive metal, complete with strings and horns sections to boot! And yet at the same time they were always a band that I kept a little at arm's length, mostly because they could slip towards the deeply silly despite their wit and vaudeville kitsch does tend to test my patience, even though I would say all of their work is remarkably accessible all the same. Still, I did appreciate their follow-up records in 2009 and 2012, and I was curious to check out their newest project, with a new female singer stepping in. Granted, I was a little concerned that this record had to be delayed for a year in order to correct mixing issues, but hey, we've got it now, how is Pacifisticuffs?

Monday, October 2, 2017

video review: 'futility report' by white ward

Yes, I know I'm late to this, but it was still pretty fascinating to dig into.

And speaking of lateness...

Sunday, October 1, 2017

album review: 'futility report' by white ward

So I've said before that I'm never quite certain of the best place to look when it comes to new black metal, and thus when I heard the new Wolves In The Throne Room was dropping, I was excited to cover it... only to discover that it never made my schedule on Patreon. Now at first I was a little annoyed about this - I do like older Wolves In The Throne Room records, they're one of the groups that got me into the more atmospheric side of the genre - but considering the general critical response to the record has been mixed to say the least, I figured I might want to back off - it's not like I'm not busy enough already.

But still, I had an itch for some black metal, so what about this debut record from White Ward? They're a Ukrainian group known for blending in elementIgos of extreme metal and progressive metal into their atmospheric sound and the buzz had been really promising. On top of that they also posted all of their lyrics in English to Bandcamp, so a big step in the right direction for me. So yeah, late to the punch again with this, but it's not like anyone else on YouTube has reviewed this record in depth, so what the hell: how is Futility Report?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

video review: 'cheryl desere'e' by cheryl desere'e

Man, it took way too long to cover this record, but I'm happy I did, another fascinating example of what country had to offer in a banner year, fascinating record.

Next up... okay fine, J. Cole next, stay tuned!

album review: 'cheryl desere'e' by cheryl desere'e

I have a complicated relationship with retro music.

Now that might seem a little strange coming from me, given how much the country indie scene loves to pull from old school classic country to update it with a modern touch. And if you look at the stuff I love from the genre over the past few years, the key word is 'update'. Don't get me wrong, I like my country standards, but I can always go back to those sounds, and my interest tends to wane if all I'm hearing is a recreation, not something otherwise fresh - draw on the past, not repeat it. 

Now this has meant I've tended to be a little skeptical of the smooth jazz and rockabilly-inspired country that's grown popular over the past couple of years. I'm not saying it can't work - look at Lindi Ortega's Cigarettes And Truckstops for a prime example of co-opting the image and style to something far more compelling in blending its glam with grit - but at its most trying it can come across a little 'stagey', for lack of better words. Furthermore, if you've been listening to indie country for a while, this is ground that's been trod before - hell, that was one of my frustrations with Angel Olsen's MY WOMAN, even though in that case it was more blowback from all the hype.

But it was that review I was thinking about while gearing up to cover Cheryl Desere'e's self-titled debut. I had heard some of the buzz from this California artist and I had liked what I had initially heard going in, but I could definitely see some being taken more by her image and not the writing. And yet this wasn't an album of covers - we're dealing with original songs she wrote, and reportedly with a greater horn section to boot, so I was prepared to take this very seriously - so what did Cheryl Desere'e deliver?