Brockhampton – Saturation III

DRDy_WmVAAAy-Xn

It’s the middle of December, everybody is busy finishing their respective end-of-the-year lists, it seems nothing interesting will happen. Then suddenly one album drops, and it fucks up everyone’s lists, forcing them to put it on top (or near the top). And the world’s hottest boyband did just that. And I’m so glad they did.

Sure, the release of Saturation III wasn’t all that sudden – the group made huge waves with two previous albums released this year, and many were expecting the third installment to be just as good – if not better. And it is better. Absolutely no filler, great songwriting, the flow of the album is brilliant, and so are the lyrics, videos and so on. But before I get carried away with all that praise, let’s dissect the music.

BOOGIE is the best possible choice for an opening track. Frantic rhythm, saxophone mixed with police sirens – it hits you right in the face like a truck. On top of that, you get some of the catchiest verses of the year. It’s not just about high-speed bangers though – they can get more reflective (LIQUID, STUPID), fierce (the first part of SISTER/NATION – it sounds like Death Grips for a while) or obscenely catchy (the chorus of HOTTIE is so damn sweet).

The production is stellar, some of the best instrumentals are ALASKA, the jazzy licks of JOHNNY or the guitar on TEAM that slowly gets submerged in more and more reverb to the point where it sounds almost shoegazy. All of the members bring something unique when it comes to the flow, but Joba shines especially bright, mostly due to his unpredictability – from the wild screams on BOOGIE to the stunning first verse of SISTER, he’s excellent all the way through. Kevin Abstract and Matt Champion never fail to deliver a great hook and Merlyn namedropping Anthony Fantano has already been hailed as the greatest music moments of the year (the meme potential is virtually endless).

I’m really tempted to give this album a perfect 10, but somehow I feel like this isn’t the best Brockhampton can do. They showed steady progress throughout the Saturation trilogy and if they can keep this up then Team Effort scheduled for next year may be a decade-defining album.

9/10

Advertisements

N*E*R*D – No_One Ever Really Dies

SDC_2357858_2017-23-11--17-35-57

When I glanced upon the tracklist before listening to this album for the first time I was kinda worried. Yeah, I know Pharrell has lots of friends in the music industry, but I was afraid that so many guests would overshadow the sound of N*E*R*D and make this album a compilation of sorts, just like the Gorillaz album earlier this year. Luckily, it’s not the case, as the guest stars bring something new to the table every time, but without stealing the spotlight.

The perfect example is the lead single Lemon: while Rihanna’s verse is so damn good (what she did on Kendrick’s LOYALTY. wasn’t a fluke, that girl’s got bars!) it’s just a tasty addition to a song that’s great anyway – the energetic pulse that drives this song captures your attention right from the start. And it gets better from here. Deep Down Body Thirst has a brilliant organic sound, hooks galore on Voila and 1000 – that’s four potential hit singles in a row, and we’re just getting started.

Don’t Don’t Do It has a strong political message, amplified by Frank Ocean’s vocals and an astonishing verse by Kendrick Lamar at the end. In a time when a lot of musicians try to take a more conscious approach with various effects (looking at you, Eminem), Pharrell manages to get the essential balance just right. The lyrics are genuinely conscious, but they don’t seem forced or overblown. This is still a party record, but the way it engages with the listener makes it pretty special.

The second half of the album is more experimental: Kites featuring Kendrick and M.I.A. is a particularly weird moment, but it works out well. We also get long and monumental Lightning Fire Magic Prayer and the frenetic Rollinem 7’s. Not everything is as good though: ESP is a bit too repetitive, and Lifting You is a really forgettable attempt at a Jamaican soud (the presence of Ed Sheeran doesn’t help). But that’s just two songs, and it doesn’t really affect the album’s overall flow and sound in a bad way.

Everything is on point here: the beats, the vocals, the guest appearances, the ratio of party subjects to the political ones. Great stuff.

8/10

QTY – QTY

indeks

While they may not be a household name just yet, on their debut album QTY showcase a set of skills that leads to only one logical conclusion – they will be huge soon. And even though the band’s sound isn’t exactly original, it has so much style and is so effortlessly cool I don’t really mind that.

Fot starters, Dan Lardner’s vocals share a very close resemblance to Julian Casablancas (and further down this road, Lou Reed). And we all know very well just how good a voice like that can sound when mixed with raw and energetic guitars and minimalistic production (Suede’s Bernard Butler did a great job here). QTY refresh this idea by bringing in a female backing vocalist that makes the songs more warm and dreamy (on New Beginnings the roles switch, and it’s Alex Niemetz that takes the lead).

What impressed me most about this thing is the songwriting – Michael and Dress/Undress are just two examples of glorious choruses, ready to be an instant indie classic. Lardner’s lyricism is on point too, with clever lines about personal relations and living in a big city.

At just 30 minutes short, the album kinda feels like a teaser for big things to come. It may not be perfect (it’s a debut after all) but with this amount of talent it’s just a matter of time before QTY release and album that will take the world by storm.

8/10

U2 – Songs of Experience

z22594665IH,okladka-plyty-U2

After the iTunes fiasco and everything surrounding it, I felt like Songs of Innocence was the beginning of the end of U2’s career. It was boring, overproduced, cheesy – quite probably my least favourite album from Bono and company. Therefore, I listened to this new record out of pure curiosity (how bad is it gonna be?, I wondered). But then I listened to it again. And again and again. Turns out that somehow, against all odds, U2 has released a bloody good record.

Of course, the band aren’t inventing anything new, so if you hate them with a passion this album won’t change your mind. These songs draw inspirations from all phases of their career, from the early, post-punk days (Red Flag Day would be a perfect fit on War), through the experimental period of Achtung Baby (Lights of Home), all the way to the present day stadium rock stage (You’re The Best Thing About Me). Bono’s voice is as powerful as it always was, Edge’s guitar tinkering is still top class (see Summer of Love or The Little Things That Give You Away for evidence).

There are some surprises though: Kendrick Lamar makes a brief appearance to deliver a passionate speech between Get Out of Your Own Way and American Soul, and this second track is a little problematic. Remember XXX from K-Dot’s DAMN. earlier this year? Of course you do, it’s a brilliant track, and one of the things that made it so great was the haunting melody sung by Bono right at the end. Well, turns out this melody is the verse of American Soul, and it sounds totally different in this new context. Maybe it’s because I am so familiar with it in a different sonic landscape, but it really puts me off, and takes a while to get used to, not sure if that was necessary (the song is pretty cool though).

The Showman is another surprise – a really playful, beatlesque gem of a song, with a bit of irony in the lyrics – I wasn’t expecting that, but it works out great (and it’s so damn catchy too). The following tracks are more conventional: monumental The Blackout (great bassline) and the beautiful 13 (There Is A Light) are the highlights of this part of the album.

I expected a colossal failure, but somehow Songs of Experience turned out to be a welcome return to form for one of the most important groups in music history.

8/10

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built The Moon?

AP17319855479138-e1511442649915

This may just be the most experimental record Noel has ever released. Don’t worry though, it doesn’t mean a super radical stylistic change, it’s more about expanding the sound and trying new things (like the infamous scissors). His trademark songwriting genius is still present, and even though it takes a while to get used to, Who Built The Moon? is a great album.

The opening Fort Knox (apparently inspired by Kanye West) is basically a grand instrumental intro that is so vivid and colorful: powerful drums, a female choir, psychedelic guitar and an alarm clock (!) make this a perfect opener: surprising, captivating and really, really promising. This track is followed by the first single, Holy Mountain. I didn’t like this song initially, but now I have to admit it sounds glorious. The brass section and a touch of glam rock perfectly compliment the melodic verses and the chorus.

Keep on Reaching is another brilliant psychedelic voyage – the rhythm is the key here. The next two songs feature those clear and spacious guitars that sound a bit like U2 (It’s A Beautiful World) or New Order (She Taught Me How to Fly). While the first track is full of natural grace and elegance, the second is kinda corny with its vocal hook – but it’s still quite pleasant. Be Careful What You Wish For is an obvious nod to The Beatles’ Come Together, and sonically it follows the same route as The Right Stuff from the previous album – a mysterious, groovy track, where the female backing vocals are absolutely essential. Noel once again proves that he can create great, dreamy soundscapes (also evident in both parts of the instrumental Wednesday)

Black & White Sunshine may be my least favourite song here – while the instrumental is very interesting, I kinda feel like more could be done in terms of the chorus, it’s just forgettable (which doesn’t happen very often with Noel). If Love is the Law is an absolutely adorable song, with its jangly sound and sweet chorus, complimented with a harmonica solo by Johnny Marr. The Man Who Built The Moon is the album culminating point – monumental and astonishing, quite possibly the best song here. At the very end we have and acoustic Dead in the Water – pure beauty, on the same level as The Masterplan or Talk Tonight, although I feel like it doesn’t really fit the flow of the album.

In conclusion – this album is a bit (just a bit) worse than his two previous solo efforts, but this is a level of songwriting many can only dream about. While I feel like it may be a sort of a transition album before he releases an album that is really experimental and ambitious, Who Built The Moon? is pure class, and an absolute joy to listen to.

8/10

Jaden Smith – SYRE

jaden-smith-syre-400x400

Holy fucking shit I did not expect this. Just to clarify: yes, we’re talking about that Jaden Smith, son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, who was most famous for his ridiculous pseudo-philosophical tweets and some movie roles that had some lukewarm reception. As many celebrity offspring do, he decided to venture into the world of music. So the logical conclusion would be: another rubbish album that we can make fun of for a while and forget about. The problem is, his debut is actually… good. Like, really, really good.

And it doesn’t really sound like a debut, too. This thing is long (70 mins), but he’s not just releasing filler just for the sake of it. This thing has a concept and a very unique flow, so each tracks seems like it’s in its right place. Even if some tracks may be a bit subpar (Batman or the rather sloppy ending) they feel necessary to maintain the album’s continuity.

The production is just fantastic. Whether it’s a Kanye-inspired industrial banger (Watch Me) or some multi-dimensional R&B with a strong Frank Ocean vibe (Ninety or Lost Boy – that’s almost ten minutes!) it sounds great and is fitting for Jaden. The kid can rap (Icon being the best example), the kid can sing, and most importantly – he is in complete control from the beginning to the end, which is impressive given the grand scale of this ambitious project. Sure, there are some flaws, but for a debut this is just super impressive. And I know he had all the money in the world to make this a super-produced gem, but the whole thing sounds very personal and emotional. He genuinely put his heart and soul into this, and it shows.

I just love this feeling when somebody unexpected drops a great album – it feels like a real gamechanger. Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can’t wait to see what more Jaden Smith has to offer.

8/10

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland

KGATLW-Polygondwanaland_400

The Australian band are on an impressive quest of releasing five brand new albums this year: Polygondwanaland is the fourth one, and it may be the best one so far. I was beginning to fear that the band has run out of good ideas, since I wasn’t really that impressed by both Murder of the Universe and Sketches of Brunswick East. The first one was an overblown mess, full of technical wankery and overall pretensiousness. The latter was quite the opposite – bland and uninteresting, close to elevator music. Luckily, they’re back to what they can do best – hypnotic and heavy psychedelia with a progressive twist.

Musically it may be your typical King Gizzard, but this album stands out in another way. As they put it – it belongs to the fans. The album is available to download for free from their website, but there’s no physical release. No official one, to be precise, because fans are encouraged to release the album themselves – vinyl masters and full artwork are available, so if you ever wanted to have your own record label this may be a good reason to start one. Anyway, moving on to the music:

The album is 43 minutes long and is sorta tied together by two longer tracks: Crumbling Castle and The Fourth Colour. The eight songs inbetween all clock at around three minutes and are seemlessly connected with each other – fans of the group should be familiar with this concept by now.

Crumbling Castle is pure gold – ten minutes of epic progressive psychedelia with a touch of krautrock that is just so expertly crafted – heavy guitars, great synths and fierce drumming combined with quite a melody, too. It’s hypnotic, repetitive and atmospheric to the point of bliss. Meanwhile, the title track flows smoothly with deep bassline and a spiritual chorus. The Castle in the Air features a spoken-word intro by Leah Senior (echoes of Murder of the Universe here).

Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet might be my favourite here: great guitar tunes, effortless sense of melody and a great bass+synth ending. Loyalty sounds a little creepy, and the weird rhytm played by the drummer only multiply the effect. While none of the tracks really takes a huge risk – we heard it all from them before – it still comes off brilliantly and never seems boring or redundant. The final tracks maybe (just maybe) drags a little, but Polygondwanaland still comes off as the most convincing album they have released this year – not quite the level of Nonagon Infinity, but still really, really good. Top class stuff.

8/10

 

Morrissey – Low in High School

91706-L-LO

Apart from writing books, cancelling shows, symphatizing with UKIP and generally causing as much controversy as possible, the former lead singer of The Smiths has been making albums quite regularly in recent times. Three years after the quite OK World Peace is None of Your Buisness he releases yet another album that should satisfy devoted fans.

It’s not hard to see that the first half of this record is the better one: Morrissey kicks it off with My Love, I’d Do Anything For You, featuring loud, noisy guitars and a brass section. It’s a great, really promising start, and it captivates the listener right from the start. I Wish You Lonely is driven mostly by the synths, as well as some memorable lyrics – it’s always been his strong side. Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up on the Stage has a dark and creepy, almost theatrical feel to it, culminating in the song’s finale (could it be a Brexit reference?). Spent The Day In Bed has some great hooks, it’s probably the catchiest song here.

One of the biggest surprises here is the track I Bury the Living, intened as the album’s centerpiece. Clocking at 7 and a half minutes, it’s a thrilling anti-war manifesto, sending shivers down your spine with every verse (Give me an order/  I’ll blow up a border/ Give me an order/ I’ll blow up your daughter).

Sadly, after this track the album loses its pace (and quality, too). In Your Lap is just plain boring, The Girl From Tel Aviv Who Wouldn’t Kneel is a weird tango for some reason and the clapping rhythm of All The Young People Must Fall in Love seems interesting at the beginning, but it doesn’t really lead to anything exciting later on. When You Open Your Legs is dreadful, especially lyrically.

Who Will Protect Us From the Police? improves the album’s quality drastically right at the end, before the slow burner Israel closes it off.

An album of extreme highs and lows, it will undoubtedly be satisfying die-hard fans, while providing a (mostly) nice listen to regular folks. Not really a dissapointment, this album just leaves you feeling both pleased and disgusted at the same time. Classic Morrissey.

7/10

 

Big K.R.I.T. – 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time

cover1-1024x1024

Double albums mostly suck. Even if the music is good, it’s really hard to keep an average listener interested for more than an hour, and to be honest most of these albums are comprised of filler just to pad the runtime. But every once in a while comes a record where you feel like it just wouldn’t be right if it was any shorter. Think London Calling. Think Daydream Nation. And it looks like this new Big K.R.I.T. album may be one of those.

The album feels cohesive as a whole, but there are some differences between discs one and two. The first one starts off with a bunch of modern hip hop bangers (Big Bank being the best example) and gradually becomes more mellow (Aux Cord or heavily autotuned Layup). Disc two feels more experimental and organic – with K.R.I.T. attempting to sing (Mixed Messages) and some excellent instrumentation with jazz influences (The Light) or even a full-blown gospel-meets-blues anthem in Keep the Devil Off – organs, brass section, the choir – it all comes together beautifully. You can also find some Prince-inspired funk (1999) and even an ambitious instrumental like Justin Scott.

The instrumentation and production on this thing are top class. From the beginning to end, every track is cleverly arranged, keeping the listener’s attention for almost one and a half hour(!) of the album’s runtime. The introspective lyrics stand to a good standard too, combine  that with excellent delivery and you have the whole package. Sorry Kendrick, this is the definitive rap album of the year.

9/10

 

Weezer – Pacific Daydream

weez

Man, it must be really hard to be a Weezer fan. Basically all their albums after the 2001 Green Album was, to put it lightly subpar. However, three years ago they dropped Everything Will Be Alright in the End – an album they needed, a true return to form that filled fans with hope and optimism. Last year, the band released The White Album – one of the best (if not the best) albums of their career. A mix of power pop and surf rock that came out just so cool and effortless it was impossible not to fall in love with that record.

So here we are in 2017, and before the long-awaited, apparently dark and experimental Black Album Weezer decided to fuck things up once again. Pacific Daydream represents everything that’s wrong with 21st century Weezer – it’s cheesy, overproduced and leaning waaay to far into pop teritory.

I mean, it’s far from being the worst album ever, but it’s just so bland and generic that it’s instantly forgettable. Hard to pick literally anything that stands out in a positive way. Maybe Mexican Fender sounds like a decent Weezer song, but it just sounds like a B-side from last album.

On the other side we have abominations like Feels Like Summer, where the band goes full-on Imagine Dragons with electropop influences and apparently “epic” chorus that just fells flat. It only gets more corny with tracks like Beach Boys and Weekend Woman.

I don’t really know what went wrong here – Rivers and company have all the capability to write a great, catchy and happy summer album, as proved by their previous record. Sadly, Pacific Daydream is bland, boring and just utterly dissapointing.

4/10