Talking about: Mount Kimbie_Love What Survives

I just been eating away when I found her. All drowned in grey, I might have drowned her. I caught her plate number, and yeah, I might have seen it all.

If I picked out a random song in the entirety of Mount Kimbie‘s discography and asked you what the genre was, the potential answers would most likely be varied, because of how diversely they cover their genre’s spectrum. For example, if I played you Made To Stray, or Sullen Ground you’d probably say they’re along the lines of, left-field, house. If I played you Maybes or Blood and Form, you’d get mixed reactions, from Ambient Downtempo to Lo-fi hip-hop beats. If you listened to Home Recording, at the risk of sounding slightly pretentious, you could call it post-left-field-electronic-jazz-dance. However, it is a difficult task for artists to switch between sub-genres, yet keep up with their own unique style, so well. And that is exactly what Mount Kimbie do, not only in their past releases, but in their new album, Love What Survives. 

Contrary to their previous albums, Mount Kimbie deliver a detailed, massive, live-sounding, collection of arrangements, despite being only an electronic two piece. However, the entire album is still defined by its heavily syncopated rhythms and slight jazz influences, and world music influences.

With the album featuring King Krule, James Blake, Andrea Balency and Micachu, Mount Kimbie never fail to show how well they have collaborated and synchronised with other artists, witth either parties stepping out of their comfort zones but also implementing their own style, creating something completely new and ethereal. This is mostly notable in the songs We Go Home Together featuring, James Blake, and my personal favourite, You Look Certain (I’m Not So Sure)featuring Andrea Balency. That song is an absolute cluster explosion of energy.

When Blue Train Lines was released as the second single, both Mount Kimbie‘s and King Krule‘s fanbases were excited due to this collaboration meaning new music to be released soon. This song is the musical equivalent of speeding down the motorway. Featuring straight to the point keyboards, overwhelming and fast tracked rhythms, and Archy Marshall’s iconic gritty, London accent voice (King Krule and Mount Kimbie have collaborated many times before).

Marilyn is another great pick from Love What Survives. It starts off with various african like percussion timbres, soon after disappearing into silence, then bursting into an arrangement of very fixed rhythms, working so synergistically with an accompanying smooth bass guitar. The vocal delivery from Micachu is phenomenal, displaying a performance just underneath the mix of all the other layers of the song, not stealing away any of their prominence, much like the rest of the album.

The album contains many extremely hidden gems. With previous albums being very focused in the left field area of electronic, many of these songs include a new varied approach to electronic, making of the songs sounding like a live band at points. Some of them also sound a lot cleaner, more accessible, and they have collected their post-dubstep-hip-hop influences and flipped it straight around, moving towards the other side of the musical spectrum, whilst keeping their unique, established sound. For first listeners, I recommend these: Delta, Marilyn and Blue Train Lines.

Talking about: The Japanese House_Saw You in a Dream

saw you in a dream.pngAll good things come to an end, but I thought that this might last.

Amber Bain, AKA The Japanese House, released her debut EP, Pools To Bathe In back in mid 2015, consisting of 4 tracks. When I first listened to it I didn’t know if she was either exploring a totally new genre that she had invented, or if it was completely ahead of it’s time. The EP, as well as her future releases have so far all been produced by label mates The 1975’s Matthew Healy and George Daniel, making it clearer to see that Bain not only takes up inspiration from them but also vice versa. I found the EP to be totally mesmerising, refreshing and dreamy, featuring softly picked guitars, soft synths, low frequency basslines, and strong, eclectic, yet clean rhythms, not to mention how she completely thickens out all her songs with a vocoder, creating multiple vocal layers. Later in the year she released her Clean EP, featuring the song Cool Blue, probably being her most famous song to date.

Also, just so you know, she plays a right handed guitar, left handed, which I’ve never seen anywhere else before. It’s pretty cool.

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Her most recent release, Saw You in a Dream is a blend of all her previous releases, with the main single being my fifth most listened to track so far this year (bound to change as soon as I listen to it more and more). It’s the strongest song on the release by far, also being one of her catchiest songs. However the lyrics are some of the brutally saddest Bain has written so far:

“It’s about someone I was really close with when I was younger. But a couple of years ago they died. A bit after that I saw them in this dream and it was quite a weird situation, because I’d never experienced something like that before. Even if you didn’t know the context for it, it would still make sense because it’s still a love song – a heart-break song.”

However, you have to give it the benefit of the doubt. The song doesn’t make you feel sad, or heartbroken, or distressed. It’s such an upbeat song with a great chorus. Despite the instrumental, the lyrics don’t feel ironic or out of place. The drumbeat being somewhat reminiscent of the song Yes I’m Changing by Tame Impala. With the combination of the dreamy guitars drenched in chorus effects, jittery synths, funky rhythms and the sombre vocals, it all feels quite literally like a dream. This song definitely makes it onto my Certified Bangers list.

The next song on the tracklist is Somebody you found, a more down to earth transition, lifting the mood, and the song being more like her previous material. The song has a really replayable quality to it, and also throws the EP back into the 80s temporarily with some glistening chimes and lightly picked guitars and a really reverby mix. Then next up is the song 3/3, sitting as one of the strongest on the EP, showcasing Amber Bain’s diversity for being able to creative complicated melodies and solid beats. 

The closing track on the EP, Count to Nine is by far the most emotional. Amber takes a seriously personal moment in her previous love life and owns it, and builds an extremely detailed song. The lyrics cleverly tie in well with the actual length of the song, being 9 minutes long. At the time of release, it’s her longest song so far. If you are a die-hard fan of her previous works, you will seriously appreciate what Amber has to offer in this song, as it’s a mix of several instrumental swells, all fused together with electronic synthesis, and, at times, very progressive rhythms and timbres. 

With The Japanese House having released 4 studio EPs, Saw You in a Dream is her last before releasing a full length debut studio album. It will be out next year at some point between spring and summer, which, in regards to her releases, seems to have been timed perfectly, with each EP gaining Amber Bain slightly more, and more fans. We can only hope it will be her best release to date, and a further exploration of electronic RNB and glistening guitar work. However, I know that Saw You in a Dream will be seen between the fans as a staple in The Japanese House’s career and timeline.

Talking about: Tyler, the Creator_Flower Boy

Ask me how I’m really doing, so I never have to press that 911.

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In the past we’ve only seen Tyler, the Creator as an edgy, outrageous, young, care-free kid making disturbing music. In his debut album Goblin, we had a 19-year-old fresh-faced teen straight outta school rapping about homophobia, telling everyone to “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school”, saying he would “Stab Bruno Mars in his goddamn oesophagus and won’t stop until the cops come in”, and “Let’s buy guns and kill those kids with dads and moms, with nice homes.” 

I mean, Who Dat Boy?! (shit pun intended)

However, Tyler, the Creator successfully infuses his murderous vitriol with almost oxymoronic elements of his personality, such as his lack of being able to give a fuck about anyone or their opinions on his musicAll rapped over some distinctly gritty, crisp and unique beats, putting his hipster alongside felon and thug.

It’s clear to see almost immediately that he softens the edges of these dark themes with his personality, making it easy to see that he doesn’t mean any of what he says..

To say Scum Fuck Flower Boy is a lot more mature would be an understatement. We have finally seen Tyler mature in attempt to reveal his true self.

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Scum Fuck Flower Boy is already one of Tyler’s smoothest albums yet, every part of the instrumentation and arrangement just glides over each other blissfully, which becomes easily noticeable on most of the tracks. Smooth beats, smooth guitars, smooth keys, smooth flows, smooth vocals…I could go on.

But what is truly significant about this album is the evolution, and subsequent depth, of his lyrical content. Moving on from themes of casual bloodshed and breaking shit, the exploration of deeper concepts such as sexuality and loneliness, Tyler’s relationships and dream crushes, and his tendency to drift evoke a certain sense of empathy in the listener. We begin to share the sense of heavy solitude and feelings of possible alienation that Tyler, the Creator is experiencing.

Tyler is no stranger to producing jazz and RnB influenced beats, and it is in this musical realm where his album can be found, littered with jazz piano chords and syncopated fat beats with distorted and looped drum samples. One of the biggest changes as well as the change in mood is Tyler showcasing his ability to sing as well as rap. Most notably in Garden Shed, 911/Mr. Lonely and See You Again.

What’s been discussed most about this new album so far is the question on whether Tyler has come out of the closet. Taking previous lyrics into consideration, it would seem surprising that Tyler would come out as gay or bisexual, but he has still shown massive support for the LGBT community in the past. In 2015 he revealed a range of anti-homophobia merchandise; his close friend, Frank Ocean (who also features in many songs on the album and his previous albums) is gay, and most noticeably, the song Garden Shed on SFFB could seriously indicate that he wants to come out. The line…

Truth is, since a kid, I thought it was a phase, thought it would be a phrase, poof, gone, but, it’s still going on”.  

…would be difficult to mean something else. Having loads of mixed feelings as a kid, thinking they were just thoughts that would eventually fade out but they still haven’t left him. The title, Garden Shed, is like the closet. His verse opens up with “Garden shed, for the garden, that is where I was hiding, that is what love I was I in, ain’t no reason to pretend, garden shed for the garçons, them feelings that I was guarding”. The lyrics basically spell it out. In the same vein, in I Ain’t Got Time he literally says he’s been kissing white boys since 2004. Fair play to the guy.

Tyler gets super relatable in the song Boredom. The repeated hook “Boredom got a new best friend” and “Find some time to do something” resonates with us all and highlights how we all sometimes become impatient and desperate feeling weary because of how unoccupied we can get, or our perpetual lack of interest in stuff that is just so fucking boring. You might argue that the lyrics are a bit simple but for me they’re just refreshing. It puts across the message of the song and makes it so refreshingly relatable.

One of my personal favourites is the closing instrumental track, Enjoy Right Now, Today. The title is along the lines of what I’ve heard people saying before, whenever they were in a state of pure bliss, calm, and ecstasy. The track itself reminds me of a Boards of Canada track, specifically An Eagle In Your Mind. Both tracks always render a feeling of nostalgia, but giving me memories I never had, achieved by the obvious drumbeat, down to earth orchestra samples and childlike “Hey!”s.

One of the main two singles that were released before Tyler announced an album release date was 911/Mr. Lonely, which, in my opinion is the strongest on the album, in the sense that it will appeal to most people, more so casual fans than hardcore fans. 911/Mr. Lonely is a two part track, featuring Steve Lazy and Frank Ocean.

Throughout the whole song he makes countless references stating that his phone number is 911, which I think could possibly mean that he is encouraging us, the listeners, or fans, to dial the number and tell them of any problems or emergencies we might have. Which, in my opinion is a pretty cool way of telling your audience and fans to reach out for help. He ends the first half of the song with “I’m the loneliest man alive, but I keep on dancin’ to throw ’em off. I’m going to  run out of moves ’cause I can’t groove to the blues.” Tyler’s character is very funny and carefree, but he’s saying here he only does it to coat his loneliness, and he can’t keep this facade up forever. Also if you’re a fan of Tyler and watched his fashion show on Vogue, you’ll know that the beat he used for it is the beat in 911. 

The second part Mr. Lonely focuses more on Tyler’s sadness because of his lack of feeling with friends or anyone that can understand him or vibe with him. He opens up with…

“They say the loudest in the room is weak, that’s what they assume, but I disagree I say the loudest in the room is probably the loneliest one in the room (that’s me)

…picking this apart and referring back to 911 it’s also the same sort of idea that he’s just being loud and funny just to throw everyone off his loneliness. He also thinks people think that he is a “fucking phoney” because he writes songs about people that do not exist, such as in his previous albums Goblin and Wolf, where he makes countless references to Wolf HaleySam and Ace, who aren’t really people, but his alter egos. Approaching the end of the song, he urges his friends to call him up to ask him how he’s really doing, instead of only calling him when they need something, so he never has to press that 911. 

I can’t really talk about it enough to do the album justice, you just need to sit down and listen to it yourself. So far on his twitter, it seems like Sometimes and See You Again are Tyler’s favourites on the album.  If you don’t know when you should check it out, he says “flower boy is golden hour/ sunset music if you’re wondering the best time to listen”, so now you know. Other honourable mentions include November, Pothole, and Where This Flower Blooms. Definitely my favourite Tyler, the Creator’s album so far.

 

Talking about: The xx_I See You

The-xx-I-See-You-1483713805It could be love, I think you’re too soon to call us old.

The xx’s (consisting of Romy, Oliver Sim and Jamie xx) most recent album ‘I See You’ is not only a smooth transition into a new style from their previous albums, whilst exploring new themes, but it let’s Jamie xx hold the flag and take the lead production-wise after the success of his debut left-field/house album In Colour of 2015. Built around weird, almost baroque-like chants in Lips and their usual finger picked ambient guitar style in Replica, yet a four on the floor beat combined with a Hall and Oates sample shows Jamie xx isn’t afraid to bring the dance floor from his world of electronic house and downtempo into the band’s unique indie dream pop style.

My personal favourite on the album, Violent Noise, features just Oliver Sim’s vocals over some ridiculously chill and smoothly picked guitar progressions, accompanied by just some subtle, reverby spaced-out arpeggiated synth stabs. In the chorus it thickens out a bit with more of a sequenced pattern on the synths and also the drums charmingly creep in a way that you barely notice.

The strongest song on the album was also one of my favourite songs from 2016 – On Hold. The sample from the song I Can’t Go For That by Hall and Oates was probably intended to take the audience by surprise when it hits you in the chorus. It is rare that someone can sample a portion from such a well known song and completely remake it. Which is what Jamie xx precisely executes in this song. Sometimes for a good song you don’t need intricate instrumental work, complex lyrics, and a deep and well thought out meaning. All you really need is a catchy-as-fuck repetitive sample and a fun beat that makes you want to tear up the d floor, joined with a fun and memorable verse-chorus structure. Those are the best songs. Somewhere on my bucket list is definitely to hear this song live.

Another pick is I Dare You, which whenever I put on I can imagine a summer evening driving a convertible into the sunset (even though I don’t have a convertible) with a soft breeze, because that is what that song does to me, which is pretty surprising because really all it is, is arranged very simply, with limited layers; the smoothest drum loop consisting of a kick and a snare, an ambient, faint synth, the trademark reverby packed, rough around the edges guitars, and of course the shared whispering/singing between Romy and Oliver Sim.

If you asked the hardcore fanbase, they’d probably tell you I picked out the worst songs on the album to talk about. But these are the songs that resonate with me the most. Most of all, I look forward to Jamie xx’s next release.

Talking about: alt-J_RELAXER

relaxer

I just want to love you in my own language.

After their debut An Awesome Wave in 2012 the band proved themselves to be maybe not one of the best bands but definitely one of the most unique bands, and had a specific sound to it that could only be associated with them, however sometimes I have difficulty pinpointing exactly what it is. Using a cowbell instead of a hi hat in most of their songs, the very nasal singing style of Joe Newman, or the way they blend hip-hop/rock/folk so effortlessly.

RELAXER‘s probably the album I’ve been looking forward to most when it was announced, after their first single, 3WW. Which was unlike anything I’d ever expect out of an alt-J song. There’s a beautiful intro which lasts for just over 1 and a half minutes, which perfectly sets the tone for the album. The constant cello which acts as a drone in the background against the soft picking of the guitar, accompanied by a smooth shaker and click for percussion. At this point I’m not that interested about the meaning of the lyrics as much as I want to hear some vocals, which pays off, not only because they have kept their singing style of switching so easily between Joe Newman and Gus Unger Hamilton, but also they feature a guest vocalist, Ellie Rowsell, from Wolf Alice, whose voice goes down so bitterly in this song.

Another featured vocalist, Marika Hackman, crawls into the song on the second half of Last Year, a peaceful acoustic and very soothing track, which yet somewhat feels like it could be played in a massive cathedral with a large choir of many Joe Newmans.

A favourite of mine is their cover of House Of The Rising Sun, completely disregarding the original song and only focusing on their own interpretation of it, which feels like it brings completely new context to the original song. The instrumental is a mixture of guitar finger picking and a string section, difficult to differentiate between the two, with just a very subtle bass line in the background.

Not all the songs apply to the title though. This is clearly shown in the song Hit Me Like That Snare in which Joe attempts to sing like Johnny Rotten, the most confusing lyrics over a fast paced, weirdly mixed track, with the drums and guitars never in one place in the mix, and odd female vocals in the background appearing to be screaming or moaning.

Deadcrush is probably going to be the one that attracts most people. Possibly the smoothest beat I’ve heard this year. A beat composed of a repetitive bass line, and some soft hisses and breaths that you can barely tell apart. Combined with weird background vocals and subtle chill guitar strumming, everything about this song is catchy.

The second single In Cold Blood really confused me. The album was going to be called ‘RELAXER’ and we did get a relaxing, calm first single, but In Cold Blood was not really relaxing, but more of a traditional alt-J song that felt like it could belong more in the first album. Seeing that the track was going to be right next to 3WW, it was more confusing being told that their next album was going to be called RELAXER and then seeing a relaxing song right next to a banger of a track. However I guess it works if you give it more listens. It would have made sense to have all the chill tracks back to back and then the more banger songs put together.

alt-J have always said they want their music to be headphone music, and this really is headphone music. I really, really like it but you really need the right headspace to listen to it. It’s a really inconsistent record. Which is good, sometimes.