Thursday, January 26, 2017

Loosies Of The Week, Jan. 20-26

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. A huge, huge week this week. Not only are there massive names to be found, there's a high level of quality here. And some extra leftovers for the road. 

Gorillaz - Hallelujah Money

The first controversial single of 2017. 'Hallelujah Money' is a very, very difficult song to accept for many, including myself. However, as I've always promoted, it's that exact artistry that makes the Gorillaz's comeback track such a powerful spectacle. If the single to be released later that night, Arcade Fire's 'I Give You Power,' was what expressionless political songs sound like given no pertinent discharge, 'Hallelujah Money' is the opposite. A supremely well-crafted, genre-blending track with lyrics and songwriting that clearly took time, effort, and care to compose. Benjamin Clementine, a name unknown to me at the time, dominates the track with his unusual brand of singing and spoken word. This oft-kilter brand of musicianship just so happens to fit with the Gorillaz's entire motto since day one. Attribute the billowing Gospel tone, Albarn's hushed mid-bridge appearance, and the tongue-in-cheek wallowing of Spongebob Squarepants at the very end, and you have a song that's both entirely representative of the group, whilst taking them in new, uncharted directions.

Unfortunately, music like this attracts ignorance. Criticisms came fast and hard, either from those who couldn't understand, were fed up with the political tracks rummaging about, drew distaste from Clemetine's presence, or were disappointed in Albarn's lack thereof. All four of these arise from a clear misunderstanding of the Gorillaz as a whole. Let's divulge a little, shall we? On their debut LP, the same one that contained everyone's beloved 'Clint Eastwood,' was a song sang entirely in Spanish; 'Latin Simone,' along with one that featured bagpipes and a Japanese spoken word singer ('Left Hand Suzuki Method'). Weirdness has never been out of the Gorillaz's repertoire, and no, 'Hallelujah Money' wasn't them at their weirdest. Those two, and many, many others nullify the Albarn-less criticisms as well, as Gorillaz's have always been about inclusion rather than exclusion. And as far as the political perspective is concerned, there's any number of tracks off Demon Days and Plastic Beach that associate themselves with political movements ('Fire Coming Out Of A Monkey's Head' and 'White Flag,' just to name two). What's left with 'Hallelujah Money' is an infinitely interesting track that's naturally creative and, ironically, right at home. A shame it, apparently, won't appear on their forthcoming LP.

Arcade Fire - I Give You Power

Well, this happened. Still reeling on the confounding Gorillaz's reemergence 'Hallelujah Money,' Arcade Fire, later that night, released 'I Give You Power,' their first since a collection of outtakes entitled The Reflektor Tapes released in 2015. Excluding those six tracks many ignored, we must look back to that EP's big brother Reflektor, which released in 2013. Not as long a wait as the Gorillaz, and 'I Give You Power' certainly isn't as exciting a comeback as Damon Albarn's, but it's interesting to find two super groups releasing one-off singles in protest of Donald Trump's inauguration. However, as was the case with many of the protest songs found at the tail end of 2016, 'I Give You Power' feels utterly thrown away, pandering, and unremarkable. Love it or hate it, at least 'Hallelujah Money' was worth talking about. 'I Give You Power' finds Arcade Fire essentially repeating that phrase, or something similar, over and over, with the help of singing legend Mavis Staples. It's very clearly not a lead single to a new album, thank god, but I do question why it needed to be released in the first place. If anything, their sudden reemergence at this time screams "we care about this too!"

Between all the political songs running amok last Friday, 'I Give You Power' is easily the least poignant. It's actually not even close. But for now, let's focus on Arcade Fire themselves and the music they present here. As mentioned before, it resembles the Reflektor era. Unsurprising given it was their most recent, but a tad disappointing that they didn't shift to a new direction. I suppose, being nit-picky, it's a bit more Electronic, featuring farty bass, synth splotches, and a trite computer beat, complete with embarrassing percussion, that almost entirely neglects Arcade Fire's entire outfit. An organ comes in halfway through, but that's about it. Even Mavis Staples' appearance feels awkward and needless, especially given the fact that, *ahem,* Regine Chassagne is still in the group. Oh, and she's your wife Win! Her voice is incredible, use it more often. Without her there, or Arcade Fire's natural touch, or a credible point to make about the political drama, 'I Give You Power' is an ignorable single. A sad, sad remark given the notoriety of the band.

Bedwetter - Raging Bull

The three singles leading up to Shave The Raging Bull And Wear The Fur To Sleep have unfolded like a maddening descent into Bedwetter's nightmare that is his life. For those unaware, Bedwetter is Travis Miller, known more prominently as Lil Ugly Mane. And while Miller designated Oblivion Access the final LUM project, that doesn't mean the otherworldly musician is going anywhere. A few months back we received 'Selfish,' a decent, but otherwise unremarkable introduction for this new character. Not surprisingly, the production was immaculate, finding itself lodged in the sewers of an old victorian mansion. But the rapping by Miller left a lot to be desired, feeling rather stale and commonplace, at least by his egotistical standard. Then came 'Stoop Lights' and all worries subsided. Amalgamating El-P's twisted Def Jux era of production with Earl Sweatshirt's despondent rapping style, 'Stoop Lights' reignited Bedwetter's flame with a resounding piece of Experimental Hip-Hop.

And now we arrive at 'Raging Bull,' the album's semi-title track. Oh boy. Like Third Side Of Tape, one of Miller's most infamous projects thanks to his endless genre-shifting, 'Raging Bull' abstains from Hip-Hop all together. The influence of the genre is there, but here we find Miller clashing genres once again, creating products never before heard. Apart from the Noise on Oblivion Access, he never went this far on that project, which is my favorite of his. 'Raging Bull' is, on the surface, an Industrial House track. That represents the production and tense build-up, but not the track's most shocking feature; Miller's singing. Too light for the ominous atmosphere lingering underneath, Bedwetter's firm regurgitation of the word "happy" conflicts in the best way possible. Flaunting like a professional with his vocal chords, Miller honestly emerges close to David Bowie here, at least in his weirdest state. Think 1. Outside. A lovely track that only sees my interest and anticipation of Raging Bull grow higher.

Angel Olsen - Fly On Your Wall

Last year, Indie Rock's solo girl of the year was Angel Olsen and her third, and most beloved LP, My Woman. Overall, I wasn't a fan. Not blaming the singer/songwriter or the musicianship behind her, more so the style, as the stripped back approach has rarely been of interest to me before. And even when she embarked on a louder affair, like 'Shut Up Kiss Me,' it felt painfully run of the mill. Her drawling, monotone vocals are tough to attract my ears, which is why 'Never Be Mine' is truly the only song I've fully enjoyed from her. Nevertheless, I'm still intrigued in her work, or should I say, with the genre as a whole, as I'm constantly trying to 'get' the whole singer/songwriter shtick. Being that lyrics are the least important part of a song to me, and guitar the most overused instrument, that'll be a difficult endeavor. But 'Fly On Your Wall's' a surprisingly nice turn of events. I'm not in love, but the quick song feels subtle and content enough to pick apart pieces of enjoyment.

'Fly On Your Wall,' in the long run, will have the claim to fame of being the first in a hundred part series labelled Our First 100 Days. If you can use some deductive reasoning, you already know where this is going. Yes, it's part of a political project! Shocking. If the 30 Days, 30 Songs (which has ironically turned into 1000 Days, 1000 Songs) playlist wasn't enough, we've gotten more. However, despite artists I thoroughly enjoy appearing on that aforementioned playlist, like clipping. or Moby, neither of their efforts reached the simplicity and modesty of 'Fly On Your Wall.' Why? Because I'm still not entirely sure if this is a political track, after all. And regardless, that's what makes it appealing, the fact it can appeal to casual listeners or those looking for a political anthem. Like Olsen's other efforts, 'Fly On Your Wall' starts off largely unimpressive, but eventually blossoms into something beautiful, as clashing instrumentation falls all around her towards the end. In some ways, I can relate Olsen and 'Fly On Your Wall' to Grouper's works, had the heavy wool blanketing her music been pulled away to reveal a sincere voice, with intelligible words and instruments.

Young Fathers - Only God Knows

I've really ought to listen to Young Fathers more. Every single time their name has come across a song, its been great. My first association with the UK-based Experimental Hip-Hop band came in the form of 'Low,' a single off their 2014 debut LP Dead. The odd mixture of Electronic, Hip-Hop, and Reggae was peculiar enough to snatch up my interest. However, I never ended up listening to that album, but there's always time. In 2015, their name came up once again, this time around with a much better name attached to it; Massive Attack. Ritual Spirit, a four-song EP from the enormously famous Trip-Hop group, was one of my favorite EP's of the year. Despite enjoying every bite they had on offer, 'Voodoo In My Blood' was the outstanding favorite and, you guessed it, featured Young Fathers. Rapping with frantic anxiety over classic jungle Drum N' Bass, 'Voodoo In My Blood' was a wild experience that ramped up continuously until it's anthemic climax.

And with 'Only God Knows,' the trio are officially three for three. Not only that, with those three songs they've showcased three wildly different soundscapes, leaving me infinitely curious as to their album-based material. Likely not an official single itself, 'Only God Knows' dropped in anticipation of T2 Trainspotting as part of its soon-to-be soundtrack. While they took to Reggae with 'Low' and Trip-Hop with 'Voodoo In My Blood,' 'Only God Knows' is a Gospel affair. Not entirely, as neither of the previous examples were either, the track also features uppity Hip-Hop and what I can only foresee as Indie Pop. Bouncing between the three makes for an engaging experience, that's equally intelligent as it is catchy. The backing vocals, slight hums and a choir procession, help to heighten the cathartic chaos. After having heard the song with the knowledge of a soundtrack in mind, the pieces quickly fell into place, as it clearly seems to be created with a revelational moment in mind. Nonetheless, the song itself still succeeds, and keeps up Young Fathers' consistent work in my mind.

Joey Bada$$ - Land Of The Free

Last Friday, the political tracks came out in bulk. Still unsure as to how I feel with efforting a cause the day the decision was official, but nevertheless, regardless of quality (or lack thereof with many), I still appreciate artists putting their views out there for their fans to hear and ponder. Unfortunately, in these trying times, the music hasn't been of much relief. As if the 30 Songs, 30 Days weren't bad enough, we've now been subjected to a second wave. And while many remain conflicted on the two heavy-hitters last week (Arcade Fire's 'I Give You Power' and Gorillaz 'Hallelujah Money'), a handful of other singles have been promising. One such example is Joey Bada$$' 'Land Of The Free,' and not just for the message it sends. Implications are there that this single will appear on Bada$$' next LP ABBA, and the evidence is palpable. 'Land Of The Free' doesn't feel like it's marketing a moment, more so releasing a completed piece on a coinciding day to garner it more support.

More than the lyrical content Joey pushes, 'Land Of The Free' works for me because of the production. It doesn't feel effortless, tacky, or thrown aside like many singles in the 30 Songs, 30 Days fiasco were. And while it features a slightly Pop Rap style, even brushing up against Contemporary R&B, Bada$$ makes it work, rapping over the lighter sounds like a Common, Nas, or prime Lupe Fiasco. Simply put, 'Land Of The Free' works because I can enjoy it beyond the content it forces down my throat. The lovely instrumental outro is proof of that. However, many will focus on Joey, rightfully so, and while what he's saying is promising, well thought out, and reassuring, it isn't something we haven't heard before. Many of the beliefs handed down in 'Land Of The Free' feel as if they've been handed down themselves, especially from the aforementioned rappers. Talk of inequality and injustice run rampant, as does criticisms of President Trump and monarchies of decades past. Even the KKK/America line's been used before, most recently by Fashawn on 'Mother Amerikkka.' However, this song far surpasses that one, and much like another contemporary, J.Cole, I'm glad this message is reaching a wide audience.

Bonus Loosies

Avey Tare - Visit The Dojo
Father John Misty - Pure Comedy
Goldfrapp - Anymore
Thundercat - Show You The Way
Mount Eerie - Real Death
Syd - Body

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