Kendrick Lamar had a mountain to climb after 2013’s ‘Good Kid, MAAD City‘. It seemed the mountain was no obstacle; The long awaited sequel ‘To Pimp A Butterfly‘ was every bit the masterpiece it promised to be.
T.R. Wicks kicked off things saying “Kendrick Lamar is a solid example of a fearless artist. Having to follow up from the quite brilliant ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City‘, Lamar has created some unforgettable. Using a highly effective jazz backing band for many arrangements, his ideas are both relentless and uncompromising, barking like a cross between James Brown and Tupac Shakur. Lamar appears as many personas and has so many layers; musically, lyrically and spiritually. From themes of race, sex, spirituality and fame, Lamar is equal parts captivating and exhausting to take in. I’ve owned this album for nearly a year and I still have only touched the surface of this deeply moving and complicated soul. To Pimp A Butterfly is quite simply a masterpiece”.
“I’ve heard this album described as “the Great American Novel, in rap album format”, and it might even be greater than that, having spawned protest chants in the streets. By design it’s not an easy listen, but whenever I do revisit TPAB, I find new things to appreciate” added Roger Jao
Yifat perhaps summed it up best when she called it “A celebration of self-observation and social statements expressed by memorable beats and stuck-in-your-head melodies”
Under all of the glossy, 80’s inspired euphoria, Chvrches simply write great songs. 2015’s ‘Every Eye Open‘, the follow up to the 2013 debut ‘The Bones Of What You Believe‘ was very simply a stronger slice of pop. Every single chorus is colossal and single worthy. Every emotion is conveyed with more depth and each arrangement more serving of the song over style. That is not to say they have lost anything in the style department. Chvrches still out-1980’s M83, the Flashdance soundtrack and a prawn cocktail, all with reverberated abandon.
Emily chimed “if you were hoping for a more complex, evolved Chvrches sound for their sophomore album, you might not find it here. But who would want that, really? The trio sticks to their considerable strengths with lush synth-pop and Lauren Mayberry‘s vibrant, punchy vocal delivery, and I’m happy to say that this album is every bit as magical as their first. “Clearest Blue” feels like the band’s climactic take on pop anthems of yesteryear”.
Yifat quickly added that “despite not being a huge fan of happy songs and/or synth-pop, this band made me fall in love with it. Lauren‘s vocals are piercing through and I found myself drawn to this album and playing all of it time after time without getting bored. If that doesn’t imply it’s a favorite album, then i don’t know what does.
Valya concluded that “Chvrches has managed to create a self produced musical masterpiece. Their electro pop mystical sound is something of another world taking you to a realm full of kaleidoscopes and stardust. Despite the light and fluffy beats if you listen closely the lyrics are actually very dark in describing relationships, reconciliation, and devastation. In my mind they have separated themselves from the likes of PassionPit, Disclosure, and Purity Ring and have, as they claim, made themselves gold.
Following his respectful and intelligent work on the late Gil Scott-Heron‘s “We’re New Here”, Jamie XX finally delivered what we had all been waiting for; his debut solo album. Our gal Ledewitt praised the “variety and nuance”.
Jabes mused that the artist had “Stepped slightly outside the perfect dream-like box he displays on past singles and remixes, Jamie XX brought a little more to the party with ‘In Colour‘. Jamie Xx‘s signature sound sweeps through every track, with a dash of Jamaican steelpan here, and the familiar vocals from fellow member of The XX‘s Romy Madley Croft there, the album is a perfect culmination of his career and the exact package fans wanted and expected”.
“Electronica albums are seldom this genuinely evocative. ALL THE FEELS as the kids would say” injected Roger.
T.R. Wicks wanted the final word stating “Without a doubt, the highlight on Jamie XX debut solo record was ‘Loud Places‘. It showcases a song that not only reminds us of Jamie Smith‘s impact and innovation on modern dance (specifically post-dub) genres, but crosses that bridge of solid songwriting arrangement mixed with eclectic samples and exciting beat making. Jamie Smith’s evolution, in and out of The XX is a joy to watch. ‘Sleep Sound‘ and ‘Obvs‘ re-enforce Smith’s originality, in this sleek, chameleonic and utterly creative dance record.”
The legendary Jabeswas the first to chime: as the resident Australian aficionado of Cougar Microbes, naturally my top is Melbourne‘s own Courtney Barnett. More of a spoken word artist than a singer, Barnett sing-speaks the truth through her poetry. Highlighting our everyday indecisions, on “Nobody Really Cares if You Go To The Party” she specifically details to common inner battles we all have with the fear of missing out, and not wanting to bother putting on a smile for anyone. Backing her vocals with a gritty garage-rock guitar, Barnett has managed to turn witty lyrics cool again
Yifat added: Everything is brilliant about this album, starting from the title. Listening to it in its entirety feels like spending an hour with Courtney herself, listening to daily situations and some of her own perspective of the world. The brilliance is in the way she could put her music around her witty lyrics, and the result is one of the best albums of this year and maybe of this decade so far in my mind.
When this blog started several years ago Refused had already been defunct for over 10 years. In those early days I kept a list of bands I wanted to feature on these pages but there was no way I would have imagined I would get to write about the seminal Swedish legends.
17 years on from famously proclaiming “Refused is fucking dead” and subsequently earning a cult-like following Refused are fucking back. With this infamous breakup in mind eyebrows will be naturally raised at the motivation for this unexpected reunion but arguably in 2015 we need this is the band we need more than ever. The world has changed a lot, and not necessarily for the better, and who better to call out all the bullshit.
The album shows the guys still have it offering familiar breakbeats, sharp riffs and DennisLyxzén‘s inimitable vocal delivery. Perhaps the pace isn’t as intense as in the past, after all these guys are no longer the 4 teenagers that came together in the 90s. Still ‘Freedom‘ manages to bring you back to that era while still sounding relevant today.
Refused are on tour this summer with Faith No More.
After making waves with his output to date acclaimed Spanish arist, DJ, producer and composer Ed is Dead, AKA Edu Ostos, introduces his genre bending debut album ‘Change‘. The lead single “Praise“,feat. Odille, can best be described as eclectic and we mean that in a good way.
Edu himself describes his sound as “Queens of the Stone Age, Maceo Plex, The XX and Queen, getting drunk and making music” and it’s this refusal to play by the rulebook of any single genre that makes ‘Change‘ such an enjoyable experience. Featuring a selection of top collaborators this is one release you don’t want to miss.
Mac DeMarco‘s 3rd album reflects back on the ‘Salad Days‘ of his youth. This nostalgia for the past, combined with the experience that came from it, allows the bittersweet nature of being a slacker to be portrayed better than ever whilst also showing off his undeniable talent.
Having been 14 years without an album, D’Angelo was not rushing to get back into the industry unless he really had something to say. Recent developments in Ferguson incensed him to release the album early, with songs about the ingrained racism of a lot of Americas subconscious. Yet ‘Black Messiah‘ explores these tensions not simply by complaining about them but instead with a view to solving these problems through the pursuit of love and it is in this way that D’Angelo is truly prophetic.