Showing posts with label pbr&b. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pbr&b. Show all posts

Monday, November 18, 2019

video review: 'magdalene' by fka twigs

So yeah, long-overdue after a busy weekend - was actually planning to have this out on Friday, but given a pretty light schedule ahead, we're going with it here. Enjoy!

album review: 'magdalene' by fka twigs

The last time I reviewed FKA twigs, it didn't really go well.

And again, this is one of those cases where of course there was backlash, but it did feel a little unfair - I wanted to like a lot of what I had heard on LP1, I recognized it was genre-pushing and beautifully sung and featured some pretty fascinating and layered lyrical content... but tonally it just didn't click for me. And I've relistened to the album plenty of times in the years since trying to get into it, with the assumption that as I learned more about experimental music and R&B it'd click more strongly... and yet it just didn't. Hell, even though I wasn't really covering EPs in 2015 I tried giving M3LL155X a chance as well over the years, and while I was more accustomed to the sonic palette she was using - you can really hear the fingerprints of Boots all over it, in a similar way to how Arca's influence coloured LP1, it just didn't grip me, a project I respected a hell of a lot more than I liked - which can happen with experimental music, and I've always found backlash for that a little misguided.

And thus I was reticent to cover the new album... until I saw the list of producers, which seemed to imply she was going in a more accessible direction, or at least one where I had more inroads. Sure, the names that'd jump out are Benny Blanco and Skrillex and Sounwave and Kenny Beats and even Jack Antonoff, but the names that caught more of my interest were Oneohtrix Point Never and Nicolas Jaar, the latter of whom has made electronic music I've really liked this decade. And considering the production was often the sticking point for me, maybe this would click way better, so how was MAGDALENE?

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

video review: 'assume form' by james blake

Honestly, I'm really proud of how this review came together, generally one of the better ones to put together - I dig it.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN, and then I think I've finally got time for Aesop Rock - stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

album review: 'assume form' by james blake

So am I the only one who is a little bit surprised there's so much hype surrounding this album? Or indeed around James Blake at all - I get that he's quietly racked up the sort of credits and connections for production details and work you'd be hard-pressed to notice, but it's not exactly the sort that seems designed to build a following, let alone a mainstream one.

Granted, it's not like James Blake has been entirely in the indie scene - he's had hip-hop verses as early as his second album Overgrown, of which I go back and forth whether it's better than his debut, and again, he's had credits on songs with Beyonce and Kendrick. And I guess I shouldn't be that surprised that he'd have crossover appeal - in comparison with any number of experimental electronic artists he's probably one of the most accessible - but I remember in my review of The Colour In Anything that I said I wasn't sure if he'd ever cross over, or if he even wanted that. Granted, if said crossover was going to help him tighten up a flabby album that lacked a lot of the character that made his first two projects so striking - seriously, that album has aged rather poorly since 2016 and I think I was too nice on it even then - I wasn't going to be against that, but I was skeptical about this. While Overgrown had credits from the RZA and Brian Eno and The Colour Of Anything had Frank Ocean and Bon Iver, this album... has credits from Metro Boomin and Travis Scott. Now granted, it also has a verse from Andre 3000 and the critics have been praising this to high heavens so I had reason to believe this could be great, so does James Blake deliver on Assume Form?

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?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

video review: 'the anteroom' by how to dress well

Yeah, have to be honest, I don't exactly expect this to go over that well... but hey, I got Resonators and Robyn on the horizon, so stay tuned for something better soon!

album review: 'the anteroom' by how to dress well

So I wasn't expecting this. 

And if you've been following Tom Krell's career arc as How To Dress Well the past few years, I think that's a reasonable statement to make, as he's gradually taken steps away from the misty, melancholic alternative R&B sound to something more pop-friendly, culminating in 2016 with Care, an album that did not totally stick the landing but did provide me with 'Salt Song', one of the most infectious and gripping indie pop songs of the decade - if there was something that should have gotten a single push, it was this! But with that being said, pop was not a natural fit for Tom Krell, so if he was going to stay in that lane, I expected some careful tuning and refinement for the next project - hell, it'd probably be more lucrative in the long term, right?

What I didn't expect was this, the sort of genre pivot that flew not only in the opposite direction but also past his alternative R&B roots to something quite different, what he's described as 'an ambient dance record where the energy never goes above three out of ten'... which could work, I guess? It's hard to tell, it might fit closer into Tom Krell's comfort zone but it also seems like the sort of experiment that could misfire if he wasn't careful. So alright, fine, what did we get out of The Anteroom?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

video review: 'joyride' by tinashe

Well, this was... actually better than I expected. A few really choice cuts keeps this in interesting territory, definitely worth the listen if you're curious.

Next up, let's go with this Bazzi project - stay tuned!

album review: 'joyride' by tinashe

At this point it's hard not to feel like Tinashe should be bigger.

And believe it or not, this has absolutely nothing to do with my opinion on her music - I didn't really like Aquarius, and while I found Nightride a modest improvement, there was R&B I liked more that year - hell, more R&B I liked both years. And in a sense it's hard to escape the feeling that Tinashe might have fallen victim to a peculiar phenomenon I've observed with rising R&B starlets: they get one big mainstream-crossover hit, their breakthrough album gets critical acclaim and hits a bunch of year-end lists... and then if they don't have the guaranteed follow-up smash on the next project, the interest dries up in record time, even if it might turn out those later projects are better or more interesting. But even then, Tinashe is on a major label, you would think there'd be more of a marketing push to break her into the spotlight... but her sales have not been great, and it would be a damn tragedy if she releases her strongest project to the weakest public response yet. Granted, I did have concerns given how much Joyride was delayed and that it had the guest stars that she hadn't needed on Nightride, and it's not like Offset, Future, Ty Dolla $ign and French Montana are known for consistent quality, but given the years of development time, there had to be something potent here, right?

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

video review: 'my dear melancholy,' by the weeknd

And that's two... and I'm about to pass out. Next up, we've got some hip-hop on the docket, and we might have someone very special joining us in the next episode or two, so stay tuned!

album review: 'my dear melancholy,' by the weeknd

Let's be honest: we all knew this was coming. We all knew The Weeknd had seemed a little too quiet for too long - yes, he showed up on that Black Panther song, but the last few hits from Starboy had sunk away and other artists had surged up to seize the hype in R&B, usually by ripping him off with a trap flourish. And when word dropped that he had a surprise project and fake track lists began flooding the internet with word suggesting he was going back to his old sound, it was hard for me to work up a lot of excitement. And that might seem kind of weird, given how often he's wound up on my year-end lists for singles - and that doesn't even get to 'False Alarm', which is arguably the best thing he's done since Thursday - but those are individual songs, not full projects. Hell, the only full-length projects I'd say truly gripped me from The Weeknd were Thursday and Echoes of Silence, and while many were saying this EP was a return to his old sound, when I didn't see Illangelo's name on the production list I wasn't remotely convinced. But hey, he kept it short, six songs just over twenty minutes, there were some intriguing names like Skrillex and Nicolas Jaar of all people on production, and we didn't get that XXXTENTACION collaboration I saw lurking on some fake track lists. So what the hell: how is My Dear Melancholy,?

Monday, November 6, 2017

video review: 'take me apart' by kelela

Ehhh... man, I wish I liked this more. It happens, I guess, but still, kind of disappointing.

Okay, so either Shredders or Blake Shelton (sigh) next, but we've also got Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

album review: 'take me apart' by kelela

I'll be honest: I should have covered this weeks ago. And while if we were to go back to 2014 I'd say my prior ambivalence was due to my general unfamiliarity and distaste for certain tropes in R&B, that's changed over the past three years, thanks to me covering a fair amount more in this genre and finding styles and sounds I really liked.

But let me be honest, the reason I was not more on the ball with this album was a lot more human and mildly more embarrassing: because somewhere in my brain wires got crossed and I kept thinking that Kelela was Kehlani, another R&B act who released her full-length debut this year and with whom I was a lot more familiar thanks to a number of guest appearances... which was also a record I missed covering. Now I did listen to SweetSexySavage - it's okay, a few good songs let down by more filler than it needed and some frustrating production choices - but again, I'm getting off track here because Kelela is a very different performer, even if their career trajectories fit a similar timeline. From the guest appearances I did hear from Kelela, she was going in a far less commercial direction, signed to Warp and working with Gorillaz and Solange and Danny Brown. And her own musical background is a lot more eclectic - she started off singing in jazz and even a progressive metal group before switching to more alternative, electronic R&B. In other words, when you factor in the critical acclaim and the line-up of producers and songwriters she was working with - the names that jumped out at me were Ariel Rechtshaid, Romy Croft of The xx, and Arca - this was bound to be a fascinating listen, so what did I find on Take Me Apart?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

video review: 'oh, yuck' by so much light

Look, sometimes you have to call a spade a spade, and this guy might just not be my thing. Eh, it happens.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN and something I probably should have covered two months ago... stay tuned!

Monday, August 14, 2017

album review: 'oh, yuck' by so much light

So I'm sure at this point many of you have seen a certain piece of bad writing at The Atlantic making the rounds with a particularly ugly clickbait title called 'Progressive Rock Is The Whitest Music Ever'. And yeah, the article lives down to the title, the sort of piece that reflects an uncanny lack of knowledge surrounding the genre and really a general disinterest in writing about it altogether. But aside from an easy opportunity to bag on awful music journalism, the article did get me thinking why people dislike the genre, because there are some points in calling out prog for its pretentiousness wankery, its underweight concept record with bloated orchestration, and complexity for its own sake.

Here's my point: there is a genre of music where this sort of thing bothers me... and progressive rock and metal is not really that genre. No, it's the more obscure and for me much more frustrating genre of math rock, known for complex time signatures and rigidly over-designed melodic and rhythm sections. And with less of a focus on lyricism, you can bet that I'm not really a fan - but it's also a relatively obscure subgenre and people don't tend to request it...

Until today, which takes us to So Much Light, a Sacramento-based project for Damien Verrett where on first listen you could definitely see traces of math rock in the complex, shifting time signatures and knotted melodies of his debut Supine/Spellbound in 2012. But the overall genre of the music proved to be tougher to follow: anchored almost entirely in acoustic guitar and with a pretty impressive backing list of musicians to flesh out the sound, it'd be easier to slot this towards acoustic-leaning indie rock... and then you get our frontman with a remarkably timid and thin vocal delivery and lyrics that would not be far removed from the weirder side of emo. So I'll be blunt and say I wasn't crazy about that debut at all - a couple fascinating arrangements, but little else that gripped me... but we would not see another full-length So Much Light record for another five years - an EP in 2015 and a few scattered singles, but then he signed to ANTI- and we now have a follow-up called Oh, Yuck. So okay, how did it turn out?

Monday, February 13, 2017

video review: 'process' by sampha

Okay, that's the first review tonight... might delay the Big Sean review until tomorrow meaning, we'll see on timing. Stay tuned!

album review: 'process' by sampha

I didn't know what to expect going into this.

I mean, I knew a little about Sampha, I recognized the name, but the name of this English singer-songwriter-producer was never one that I had ever felt inclined to seek out on the benefit of guest performances alone. For one, I was first introduced to him through SBTRKT, where his vocals were frequently featured - and maybe it was just a really bad concert experience a year or so back, but I've never been all that fond of SBTRKT and I wasn't really blown away by what I'd heard from this guy. That hasn't stopped him from collaborating or working with some of the biggest and most critically acclaimed names in hip-hop and R&B - Drake, Kanye, FKA Twigs, and most recently a vocal contribution to Solange's last album that I remain less in love with seemingly everyone else. 

So when I heard this record was getting mountains of critical acclaim from a wide variety of sources - from those I respect like a few fellow YouTube critics to those I don't, which is rapidly including most other publications - I figured there was something to this guy's debut that caught people's ears, especially if the acclaim was this diverse. So I dug into that debut Process - what did I find?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

video review: 'rennen' by SOHN

Man, this was tedious to cover. But hey, it's Patreon - you guys wanted it, it happens.

Next up is also off that rack... and whoo boy, this'll be interesting. Stay tuned!

album review: 'rennen' by SOHN

You know, there's something I've been thinking about ever since The Weeknd released Starboy and called out R&B artists for copying his old style... where the hell are the copycats?

Seriously, I've been covering hip-hop and R&B for the past couple of years on both the Hot 100 and the underground, and for as many people have ripped off Drake or Future pretty blatantly, The Weeknd doesn't really have the same group of imitators - mostly because his style and content have a fair amount of unique identity and flair that's harder to replicate. Sure, there have been those who have mimicked some of the content, but it's not like bleakly framed debauchery was totally foreign to the R&B charts - hell, even if you go into the darker and more experimental PBR&B acts, many of them have charted their own course - it's not like How To Dress Well or Miguel stayed in that lane with later records over the past two years.

Okay, so what about acts like SOHN? An English singer-songwriter, you could definitely make the argument with his higher crooning delivery, bleak lyrics and melancholic tone that he could be seen as in a similar lane when he dropped his debut album Tremors in 2014, arguably the peak of that sound. But going back to that album, I'm not sure how viable the comparison is - the tones SOHN chose were more blocky and electronic, inspired more by chiptune or Kanye's autotune experiments more than The Weeknd's brand of chilly gothic abrasion. Kind of a shame, really, because I didn't find Tremors interesting - I can see why people like the tonal balance and vocals, and when it did pick up more of a groove it was indeed pretty solid, but beyond that I tended to find it underwritten and meandering, decent ambient and electronic textures not really adding up to solid songs. But hey, that can happen with a debut - maybe it would feel more refined and tighter on his sophomore album Rennen, which thanks to Patreon managed to climb up the schedule. So how is it?