Tuesday, 31 January 2012
As starts of years go, 2012 has started with a bang in the musical world.
January saw some major shifts in the ways people listen to music, with the proposals of US congressional bills SOPA and PIPA dedicated to eradicating internet pirates illegally uploading copyrighted material, which in fact threatened to damage blog and mixtape culture significantly. Luckily the act wasn't passed, but the removal of major file-sharing site Megaupload came as a shock to the system.
The internet also received (and continues to receive) significant backlash over the hyping of one Lana Del Rey. It's been well documented, the sudden rise of signature track Video Games leading to slanderous comments on Lizzie Grant's image, background and her less than thrilling Saturday Night Live performance. If anything, this shows how powerful the internet has become with influence over new artists, Lana Del Rey acting as an unwilling puppet to demonstrate the brutal nature of the modern hype machine.
Elsewhere, legendary singer Etta James saddened many with her passing, Michael Stipe of REM kicked up a fuss about Youtube's removal of the tastefully homo-erotic Perfume Genius album promo, Michael Kiwanuka surprised many by scooping the BBC's sound of 2012 poll giving hope for boring lounge music everywhere and Disney got hipsters hot and bothered over a badly judged Joy Division t-shirt.
In terms of album releases January hasn't been too shabby either. Here are some choice picks we at Sound Influx have been particularly enjoying:
The Maccabees - Given to the Wild
"This should be the album that catapults The Maccabees to greater things, whether it’s higher chart placements or bigger festival crowds, it will guarantee one thing; more fans of this beautiful music."
Check out Calum Stephen's full 9/10 review here
Islet - Illuminated People
"But for all its failures, Illuminated People remains a ferociously sturdy and confident debut, because it isn’t really a debut at all, it’s the logical next step in Islet’s story. And that’s the album in a nutshell, a ball of frenetic contradictions and clashing ideas. This isn’t the first message to the world, this is them having a shot at mass communication and telling people to get ready, because no-one knows where they’ll go next, not even themselves."
See Ned Powley's full 8/10 review here
Lana Del Rey - Born To Die
"Already developing into a major artist on the strength of her first two singles alone, Born To Die will push her further into the spotlight. The only question is whether she’ll thrive or squint her eyes and hope for a moment of darkness."
Read Aurora Mitchell's 8/10 review here
Howler - America Give Up
"Howler have crafted a very promising record, which will no doubt strike a chord with many due it's undeniable sense of fun and Jordan's witty and wholly likeable lyrics and personality. Howler have dealt with the threat of hype impeccably and the Rough Trade signed band are certainly worth investigating."
Read Toby McCarron's full review here
Roll on February!
By Toby McCarron
Having spent nearly three decades travelling across Europe and the US recording tapes of music and performing in various bands, ensembles and even circuses, Remiddi has finally put out an - if you like - ‘official’ solo record. But whilst the music he picked up on his travels undoubtedly flows subconsciously from the capsules of his memory, Strange Weekend remains spectacularly fresh and modern.
Remiddi kicks off Strange Weekend with a spinning piece of electronica that, like its title, drifts in and out. The album gets properly under way however with ‘Shapeless & Gone’, a burst of colourful psychadelia that is not unlike Secretly Canadian label mates The War on Drugs. Its mesmerising guitar line and resilient beat assist Remiddi’s vocals that, on this song particularly, draw comparisons to those of Andrew VanWyngarden on MGMT’s sophomore album Congratulations. His musical influences become clear on songs like ‘Put Me to Sleep’, which recalls 80’s new wave, and ‘The End of Silence’, a track that uses ‘that classic’ Phil Spector drum rhythm (bum-ba-bum tsh, if you like) but in Remiddi’s own processed and skewed way.
Whilst much of the record focuses around Remiddi’s production trickery and versatility, closing tracks ‘The Way In’ and ‘Picture’ prove that this is a record for both the head and the heart, with the formers sentimental lyrics (“you don’t need help, you can make it for yourself”) becoming drowned in warm and inviting synthesizers. ‘The Way In’ sounds somewhat like the soundtrack to a drive through a snowy winter’s night, and even evokes the schmaltzy 80’s pop of Wet Wet Wet and Deacon Blue. It’s effect is that of a lullaby, lulling in the end of the album.
For all its successes, Strange Weekend does have its faults. ‘If You Have a Wish’ is forgettable to say the least, and for the most part, ‘Is It Too Deep for You’ is repetitive and grating. These moments are partially obscured by the intrigue and depth that Remiddi brings with his production and ambience, yet I can’t help but feel that something is missing. A distinction, a lasting effect (maybe even a clichéd ‘wow’ factor), but nonetheless a moment of brilliance that makes an appearance on ‘Shapeless & Gone’ seemingly doesn’t return. If it does, it is slightly diluted, or less effective. Strange Weekend does however manage to come away feeling like a good pop record, and whilst it may not last a life time, it is at least an enjoyable and interesting listen.
By William Hall
Monday, 30 January 2012
By Sean Collison
Sunday, 29 January 2012
The vocals on 'After All' are reminiscent of Hot Chip's Joe Goddard, with the dryly delivered lyric 'After all/ This is heaven/ But being biblical/ Is so dramatic', and the song as a whole seems to sounds like a less sparse Hot Chip. However, the greater amount of layers is not proportional to a better quality of song, and the buzzing bass synth starts to grate towards the end of the song.
The most infectious and memorable song on the album, and definitely a highlight, is 'Where Are Your People?'. The song is full of pop hooks and a chorus that will stay in the brain for a long while. 'Where Are Your People?' seems to have less of the subtle (but slightly irritating) sound effects that some of the later songs on the album do, and stands out in an album full of tracks that seem to roll together into one long song of bleeps and synths.
There are some other genuinely gorgeous bits though, such as the harmonies in 'Visionary', which contrast with the glittering wind-chime esque noises, and the fading vocals at the start of 'What's Mine, What's Yours'. 'Pressure On', the last track on the album, is also beautiful, but again there are some layers of sound that are not needed; they do not add anything and in fact seems to take away some of its beauty, had it been more sparse and stripped back. Still, a perfect chilled track, perfect for a sunny Sunday Morning playlist
This album is one suited for dance floors at indie discos or 3am at a particularly cool party, or even, due to its very hypnotic nature and blended tracks, as background for working. Maybe it's a grower.
By Holly Read-Challen
Saturday, 28 January 2012
Friday, 27 January 2012
'I would wait a million years’
Perhaps to please fans, the first five tracks of Born To Die are ones we’re already familiar with. Whilst Off To The Races, Born To Die, Blue Jeans and Video Games stay untarnished, Diet Mtn Dew receives some production adjustments; sprinting through the song and giving it a rather callous nature as the intro is a chorus of discordant vocals that sound as pleasant as nails down a chalk board. More often than not, artists tamper with perfectly good songs, make a right mess and end up with something less aurally pleasing than they started with. Although, there’s no doubt that standing alone, these are strong songs but hearing them together consolidates just why Lana Del Rey has become so popular over the past few months.
Standout ‘National Anthem’ incorporates the two styles Del Rey switches between for a patriotic anthem. Many photographs of Lana Del Rey show her flaunting her patriotic nature, whether that is by saluting in front of the American flag or wearing a baggy sweater with the American flag on it so it was only a matter of time until she transferred this into song. You can hear the 4th of July fireworks fizzling and crackling in the background as the sweeping violins, that sound eerily close to those on The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, foreground and then quickly switch to a hip hop beat as Lana half raps, half sings, reminding us that she ‘grew on hip hop’. She epitomizes the corruption of the American Dream as she asks ‘Money is the anthem of success/so before we go out, what’s your address?’ hinting that where you come from reflects on your wealth. What on the surface is a catchy ode to
In the second half, Lana swaps chiming orchestral elements for brash drums and high pitched bratty pop vocals. As a whole, Born To Die has an early ’00 pop vibe to it and parts sound like a mix between Nelly Furtado and Gwen Stefani but unmistakably there are resemblances to older artists such as Nancy Sinatra and the cartoon Jessica Rabbit. There are a lot of points on the album where the instrumental sounds borrowed but you can expect that from any pop album nowadays. Already developing into a major artist on the strength of her first two singles alone, Born To Die will push her further into the spotlight. The only question is whether she’ll thrive or squint her eyes and hope for a moment of darkness.
By Aurora Mitchell
Wednesday, 25 January 2012
A$AP turns to his neighbour sitting at the next table. “I don’t have a dollar sign in my name for nothin’”. His neighbour smiles and raises his glass, before sipping at it awkwardly. A$AP looks around the room, and grins to himself. After five minutes of this self satisfaction, it’s his turn. He gets up from his comfortable wooden chair, and makes his way forward.
“Ladies and gentlemen... A$AP Rocky!”
He stands there, confronting the room with wondering eyes beneath his shades. He tilts the frames, up... and down... He slowly lifts his head, first up... then down... His grin widens. At the back of the room there is some movement. A synth enters the room. Somebody coughs. The synth tone clashes with the expensive walls and decor.
A spotlight flicks on. A$AP, now well lit, echoes a lyric from Kanye West’s homonymous track. “It’s a celebration bitches, grab a drink grab a glass, after that I grab yo ass”.
The synth finds a partner. A$AP releases an “uh”. The song bursts into life. Claps from both a drum machine and the audience drive it forward. An electric piano rolls down the right side of the room. The lead becomes frantic. The song prevails, the melody infecting the ears of the listeners. Between words A$AP repeats the smile of the audience.
It may not be a masterpiece, but it’s his celebration.
By William Hall
Wednesday, 18 January 2012
Latest single ‘Domino’ is all too reminiscent of Katy Perry. In fact, ‘Domino’ is basically Jessie’s answer to ‘Last Friday Night’. The riff, the vocals and even the lyrics are almost exact to Katy Perry’s. Jessie J sings, ‘we can do this all night, turn this club skin tight’ which is lyrically similar to that of Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’. The sugary pop melody of this song is just all a bit too much, and the Willow Smith style graphics in the video are just a bit try-hard. Jessie J may want to win over the American fans, but she needn’t lose her English crowd because of it. ‘Domino’ is just a wannabe Katy Perry song, and not even a decent one at that. After singing ‘just be true to who you are’, you’d think Jessie J would have thought twice before reinventing herself for the masses at the click of a finger.
Cursive feel like a band who have been around for years but still retain their same original freshness and excitement, hardly surprising considering they’ve been making music together since 1995. After the darkness of 2009’s ‘Mama, I’m Swollen’ the band are back with follow up ‘I am Gemini’. ‘The Sun and Moon’ is the first track from the new album and it sees Cursive seguing into a slightly more mainstream rock vibe, leaving behind some of their post-hardcore roots. Starting with a familiar drum beat and guitar riffs it sees lead singer Tim Kasher rejecting his usual mumbly vocals for clarity and even some falsetto. Segueing from section to section the song twists and turns in a fairly enthralling manner managing to build up excitement before hitting a group chorus of crunchy guitar chords. Think ‘Pork and Beans’ era Weezer but still retaining the angsty undertones which have defined Cursive over the past decade or so.
By Jessy Parker