Showing posts with label lo-fi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lo-fi. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

video review: 'FEET OF CLAY' by earl sweatshirt

Well, this'll be... controversial? Maybe? We'll have to see...

Next up, we've got either Brother Ali or Homebody Sandman - stay tuned!

album review: 'FEET OF CLAY' by earl sweatshirt

At this point, I've given up having expectations for Earl Sweatshirt. 

Granted, I think we all did with Some Rap Songs, a discordant jumble of jazzy, lo-fi hip-hop that had him sifting through messy questions of numb anger and grief, that felt more like a set of cast-off thoughts than a structured album. And it was certainly a project that I respected... but it wasn't really one I loved, and I got the impression it'd be considered divisive in Earl's larger discography. And while the critics bent over backwards to shower it with praise - which again, I understand, but the particular set of lo-fi tones he used just didn't connect as deeply as I'd like - you can tell that some hip-hop fans were a little hesitant with this direction for Earl, especially long-term. 

And thus when he announced he was dropping a surprise EP from out of nowhere, while a lot of people seemed surprised at the incredibly quick turnaround, I'll admit I wasn't, especially if Earl was continuing to self-produce in lo-fi. Flip and chop up the right sample, blend the percussion in, add bars and muddy mastering and you could have a follow-up, especially if the songs were only a few minutes in length and there was no expectation of hooks or structure; that's the hidden truth about some brands of lo-fi music, the audience that buys into this sound without deeper scrutiny will tolerate a lot more than even mainstream fans who just want bangers with hooks. Now granted, I didn't expect Earl to phone this in, but you can only say so much in about fifteen minutes of music, with the majority of songs under two minutes. So okay, what did we get on FEET OF CLAY?

Thursday, December 6, 2018

video review: 'some rap songs' by earl sweatshirt

Well, this was... tough to talk about. And since I'm not lavishing it with praise I expect there to be backlash, but whatever, I can handle that.

Next up, though... The 1975 - stay tuned!

album review: 'some rap songs' by earl sweatshirt

So I've always struggled a bit with how to properly evaluate Earl Sweatshirt - or indeed, how much I can call myself a fan. Don't get me wrong, I've scored both of his albums thus far highly, I think he's a great rapper with a powerful knack of distilling complex ideas down to aggressively concise ideas and he has a knack for honest introspection that rarely gets the credit it deserves, especially given his origin within Odd Future... but I'd struggle to say that I've revisited much of his work outside of a few songs, and his very limited presence in the hip-hop world at large always gives me the odd feeling I could be hearing much more from him... and yet I don't. 

And thus it was with a little trepidation I was approaching Some Rap Songs - his first album in over three years and his shortest to date, clocking under a half hour, it nevertheless has already gotten a reputation for being a pretty dense and experimental listen at that length. And... honestly, I wasn't sure how to take that, as wild experimentation in tone and production hasn't really been a thing for Earl - he's favoured dusty, stripped back, usually very dark beats so I didn't really have a gauge for where he'd take this. I did know he had lost his father and a close family friend who he considered his uncle earlier this year and Earl has always had a complicated relationship with his family, so I expected that subtext to loom pretty heavily, so what did we get with Some Rap Songs?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

video review: 'cocoa sugar' by young fathers

Yeah, I knew this review would be controversial... but hey, it happens, I've got to be honest.

Next up, Judas Priest - stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

album review: 'cocoa sugar' by young fathers

I'm genuinely surprised it's taken me this long to talk about Young Fathers at all. It's not like I wasn't aware the group existed, but they always seemed a little adjacent to the music that's normally on my radar, so this review was going to be a learning experience for me.

So okay, Young Fathers: a trio from Scotland that started on the indie label Anticon with a particularly off-kilter brand of hip-hop to which I couldn't really trace a clear sonic lineage. The melodies were cavernous and droning, the beats were blocky but still carried an impressive amount of groove, and the two MCs presented a brand of unsettled melancholy that used blunt but heavy language to convey increasingly bleak ideas, along with harmonies that were surprisingly stirring. I'm not really certain it was my thing - I do think the songwriting took a dip for the full-length debut Dead along with a weird synth-rock pivot with a smattering of alternative R&B, but it was compelling in a curious way, not quite with the level of propulsive power I'd see in a group like Algiers or Injury Reserve or Death Grips, but I got the appeal. But then they shifted again towards a lo-fi, indie pop rock sound a year later for a record with the loaded title White Men Are Black Men Too, and... honestly, while I think it's a solid enough record, I think I might like it more for some of the ideas the trio was trying to explore conceptually than the sound itself, as the pop or rock-leaning elements could feel a tad hit-or-miss against their production style. But hey, who knows what direction they could be taking with this project, now on the Ninja Tune label proper, so what did we get on Cocoa Sugar?

Monday, September 25, 2017

video review: 'dedicated to bobby jameson' by ariel pink

Yeah, I wanted to talk about this... and while it's not his best - again - it's still worth hearing, if only because the sound is that out there.

But on that topic... well, stay tuned!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

album review: 'dedicated to bobby jameson' by ariel pink

So nearly every review of this record I've seen starts with a brief story of Bobby Jameson, a singer-songwriter in the mid-60s who was heavily promoted and developed a bit of a cult following before getting eaten alive by the music industry and his own appetites. It's not exactly a pleasant story but it's not a surprising one either, and there's no obvious villain: sure, the music industry didn't make things easy for more protest-minded artists like Jameson, even in the 60s, but drug and alcohol abuse on his part didn't help matters, and he spent chunks of the 70s institutionalized or homeless. He resurfaced in the public eye after his 1965 record Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest was reissued without his knowledge, and from 2007 onwards he put together a combination of blog posts and videos on YouTube detailing his experiences, up until his death in 2015.

Now here's the thing: I actually found his channel and watched a few of his videos, where he had his music, a few vlogs, and some footage from protest events. And a few things struck me: one, you can tell he found the internet as a potent outlet to let off steam at an industry that screwed him, a renegade voice for the void like so many others on this platform, but at the same time he also reminded me a lot of older ex-musicians I've met, particularly out of the indie or punk scene: pretty smart, appreciative of his tiny audience, but also bitterly cynical and not quite as self-aware as he might seem. And a lot of it is pretty tough to watch, especially as it has the homespun quality of a channel that was never going to break a thousand subscribers. And thus it's absolutely no surprise that Ariel Pink found him and wrote an album dedicated to him. Hell, on some level given Pink's own peripheral placement in the music industry as a weird, often misunderstood outcast cribbing from the garbage of pop culture and with a bad habit of antagonizing people - look up his minor feud with Grimes if you want to get a sense of it - he probably viewed Jameson as a kindred spirit, or his career arc as somewhat prophetic. And while I've never been a huge Ariel Pink fan, he does have a lifetime pass for 'Round And Round' that means I'm always going to listen to what he puts out, even if I like and appreciate it more than I love it. So what did we unearth with Dedicated To Bobby Jameson?

Friday, April 21, 2017

video review: 'you're not as _____ as you think' by sorority noise

I can't be the only one who is a little surprised that of the emo revival records I've covered (and that's precious few indeed), the first out of the gate is deconstructionist. Huh, looks like my audience knows me.

Anyway, before I get back to the schedule we're going to be taking a little detour on a special collab I've got coming up, so stay tuned!

album review: 'you're not as _____ as you think' by sorority noise

So I probably should have covered this band earlier. Indeed, if you were to look at my past few years of music reviews, an in-the-know follower would spot there's a considerable hole in my reviews, a subgenre that has experienced quite the critical revival that I haven't covered. 

And that subgenre is emo - and yes, I'm referring to the musical subgenre that broke off from hardcore punk and post-hardcore in the early 90s, not the overwrought aesthetic that was beaten into the ground in the mid-to-late 2000s. Now as I mentioned in my Falling In Reverse review, my knowledge of post-hardcore is a little more lacking than I'd prefer to admit, and as such I was exposed to emo music like the majority of people were: through the mainstream crossovers. Oh, I know there were some people who were on the ground floor for Rites Of Spring or Jawbreaker, but I got exposed to it most when I started hearing Jimmy Eat World and then the more theatrical bent that came a few years later - which, if I'm being brutally honest, I tended to like more. From there I took in a lot of the mid-2000s scene with my general liking for Say Anything and I've made some inroads into back catalogs whenever pop punk adjacent to the subgenre gets covered, but when I heard about the emo revival from acts like Touche Amore or The Hotelier or The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die... well, I just wasn't interested. And that's not a judgement on quality, believe it or not - there was just other stuff I'd prefer to talk about and explore, trying to plug as many of my other knowledge gaps like electronic music and black metal.

That said, when I have found the time to listen to more of the emo revival, I've found acts I like, which takes us to Sorority Noise. Thanks to Patreon they wound up on my schedule and going through their first two albums, I found a lot to like - they had a good knack for hooks, some modestly clever and honest writing, and there was real progression from their debut Forgettable to their more melancholic but more tuneful and refined Joy, Departed in 2015. As such, I had every reason to think I'd probably like their newest album You're Not As _____ As you Think, especially if the confessional honesty hit some interesting new places and the tunes were as strong. So, what did we get?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

video review: 'HEAVY META' by ron gallo

This is an easy record to love. Smart, biting, ridiculously catchy... FUCK, had so much fun with it, really great album!

Anyway, next up... hmm, Holly Macve, this'll be interesting, to say the least. Stay tuned!

album review: 'HEAVY META' by ron gallo

I'm not sure where to start with this guy. Odds are unless you have dug very deep into Bandcamp you probably haven't heard of him - and yes, this is another act who wound up here thanks to Patreon. 

And yet I'm really happy I found Ron Gallo, because he represents a weird sort of intersection point in music that really is right up my alley. There's definitely an element of the 70s singer-songwriter style that I like, but thanks to recording his debut album RONNY in Nashville he also stepped towards country tones with pedal steel and more liquid guitar tones. And that's before you factor in Gallo as a singer: basically, imagine a cross between Josh Tillman and some of Ty Segall's more restrained cuts, with the same over-educated theatrical swagger balanced with an slightly offkilter air of sleazy weirdness that's almost more unspoken that it comes through the subtle but often really clever writing. And let's not mince words, RONNY is a great record in 2014, especially for a debut, and I see why the guy who recommended it also cited Kyle Craft... and while I can see the similarities, Craft was pulling from a much more ragged, outcast wheelhouse, whereas with the late 60s-early 70s country callbacks and obvious affection for Harry Nilsson, Gallo is balanced a little closer.

So yeah, I was excited to hear what his followup this year would lead to - he's a good songwriter, I like his voice, and his command of well-established melodic structures is solid, so how does HEAVY META turn out?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

video review: 'ty segall' (2017) by ty segall

Kind of a disappointment, I admit... but hey, I'll listen to Ty Segall any day, this had promise.

Next up, though, is Deaf Havana... stay tuned!

album review: 'ty segall' by ty segall

It seems like Ty Segall has done more in the past ten years than several artists do in their entire careers. Starting from the pits of garage rock before exploding towards the abrasive fuzz of lo-fi, the garish trappings of old-school glam rock, and a whirlwind of noisy psychedelia in between, he doesn't so much burn through musical genres so much as pick up additional layers and ideas wherever he ventures, piling them into a gleefully nihilistic pot that would eventually wear out its welcome if it wasn't so captivating in a twisted way.

Now I've covered two of his albums already on this show, neither quite being my favourites of his assorted work - those would be the more acoustic and yet gorgeoulsy melodic Sleeper and the absolutely insane project he did under The Ty Segall Band, Slaughterhouse. His 2014 project Manipulator was probably his most ornate affair, his 2016 album Emotional Mugger his most ugly and alien - both firmly grounded in unsettling conceptual territory that lent to some very good songs... but not quite great albums as a whole. And so I wasn't entirely surprised that he was opening 2017 with a self-titled release, the second of his career, reportedly rounding up some of his old band to compile all the accumulated ideas... but it was a name in the production credits that really caught my eye: legendary producer and professional curmudgeon Steve Albini. Make no mistake, his name alone tends to do a lot to rope me in, so you can bet that if Ty Segall was pulling a band together for a wild recording, it'd probably cut hard, so you can bet I wanted to hear this. So what does Ty Segall deliver?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

video review: 'near to the wild heart of life' by japandroids

Well, this was actually a fair bit of fun. It's not as strong as Celebration Rock, but still, if you're a fan, you'll dig this.

Next up, though... yikes. Stay tuned!

album review: 'near to the wild heart of life' by japandroids

So here's a confession about me: I didn't really cut loose or run wild in high school. 

I know, that's totally shocking, but the truth is that for as much as I was dipping my toes into metal and anarchist philosophy in the mid-2000s, I wasn't really a wild kid. A big part of that was sports - I was huge into track & field and I basically managed to drag all of my D&D group along with me onto the team - a big part of it was my own academic ambitions - I went to university out of province to study physics of all things, I needed high grades - and if you couldn't tell by the previous D&D reference, I'm a huge nerd. Coupled with the fact I went to a private Catholic school with a graduating class of less than forty kids that was really too small for many cliques, I was involved on the debating team and a bit of musical theater, and my parents gave me a considerable leash to prove my responsibility, which included access to a car, I didn't really have a drive to rebel that hard outside of a few too many car accidents.

Look, the reason I'm saying all of this is that despite liking a lot of the pop punk explosion in the mid-2000s, it wasn't really the soundtrack of my teenage angst... mostly because I wasn't really an angsty kid growing up. Hell, my sullen misanthropic phase was in my second year of university, and the soundtrack to that was mostly Top 40 club hits - it was a weird phase, let me tell you. But it also can make for a fascinating listening experience going back to acts like Japandroids, a Canadian punk duo who dropped their debut album Post-Nothing in 2009 full of scuzzed out guitar work and anthemic crunch that made their material natural for unsettled for teenage emotion, complete with the sharper writing that made them a critical darling nearly immediately. And when they followed it with the even catchier and sharper Celebration Rock, which took much of the lo-fi sound and refined it into more incisive, recklessly exuberance, it looked like Japandroids could go in any direction and still connect with remarkable power. And yet five years later, what did they deliver with Near To The Wild Heart Of Life?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

video review: 'teens of denial' by car seat headrest

This record took a lot to digest, but overall, damn solid release. Definitely happy I covered it.

Next up, though, is that Lacuna Coil album and if it's going in the direction of its lead-off single... yikes. Stay tuned!

Monday, May 30, 2016

album review: 'teens of denial' by car seat headrest

Let me propose a hypothetical scenario. You're a boss of a fairly well-regarded independent record label - especially considering you don't engage in copyright nonsense on YouTube to stifle criticism - with a pretty potent roster but always hungry to expand. And in the course of sifting through prospects, you find an astoundingly prolific indie artist off Bandcamp known for self-producing some surprisingly catchy indie rock that might have crossover potential. Do you sign this guy, and if so, how do you best market him?

Well, if you're the CEO of Matador Records, this might seem like a no-brainer, but in retrospect bringing the critically acclaimed indie rock project Car Seat Headrest onboard might have been more trouble than its worth. Oh, sure, for production it wouldn't be a huge issue - no need to hire Steve Albini when the mastermind of the project Will Toledo effectively produced everything himself - but how to best position him onto the market, especially considering he already had something of a cult following? In retrospect, I think Matador found a mostly workable solution - take cuts from his eleven self-released records and slice them into a comprehensive whole with a little more polish - but it also meant the buzz didn't quite materialize in the same way, at least for critics like myself.

And yet I started getting requests to cover the follow-up record Teens Of Denial almost immediately - although the headaches had only gotten worse for Matador, as all physical copies of the album have gotten recalled over a sampling clearance mess surrounding an interpolation of a snippet from a Cars song 'Just What I Needed', that Ric Ocasek rescinded at the last minute. Estimated losses are around $50,000 - and for an indie label pushing a relative unknown even despite critical acclaim, that's a considerable loss. Thankfully, I was still able to pick up the album digitally to figure out what the fuss was about - what did I find?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

video review: 'emotional mugger' by ty segall

Man, I was expecting more out of this. Still decent, but it should have been great.

Next up, Savages - and giving the mixed buzz, I'm praying that this'll be good, so stay tuned!

album review: 'emotional mugger' by ty segall

Ty Segall unsettles me.

And I say that as a fan of the guy, starting when I dug deeply into his discography to cover his 2014 record Manipulator. His material may be prolifically scattershot, sprawling over a half dozen albums and even more side projects, but dig into his records at length and you see a certain darkness that colours his writing, self-deprecating but a little craven and sinister, narrowing its focus on darker, venial human impulses that can feel a little disconcerting. This became most apparent with his cleanest and most cohesive record to date on Manipulator - which focused on a broad selection of manipulative situations that ultimately rung as more plainly nihilist - but I had a feeling in my gut that sound wouldn't last. On some level, Ty Segall's material has always been at its best when the rougher instrumentation matched the subject matter, like on the excellent Slaughterhouse from 2012, and when I heard that his release this year was going darker again, I was certainly intrigued.

But one thing that I also noticed was the build-up - a longer-than-expected distance between projects, the release announced through the mailing of VHS tapes, the creation of a website to announce and promote the album and the concept of 'emotional mugging', and the introduction of a new backing band, featuring long-time collaborator Mikal Cronin and a few new faces like the frontman of Wand Cory Hanson on guitar and keyboard. And when I say 'faces' I mean none at all, because the video released in that build-up features the band in baby masks, which Segall has continued to wear at live sets. So putting aside the obvious cue from modern horror games, it seemed right from the outset that Ty Segall was looking to be as unsettling as possible, strip away the prettier veneer on Manipulator for something ugly - and honestly, that made me even more excited, especially if we were descending back into the wildness of Slaughterhouse. So what did we get with Emotional Mugger?