Thursday, January 12, 2017

Loosies Of The Week, Jan. 6-12

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. The second week of 2017 kicks off with a handful of Alternative artists from the Indie and Electronica scenes. 

Bonobo - No Reason

For some reason, I've listened to and reviewed every single from Bonobo's forthcoming LP Migration. With the release of 'No Reason' that means three singles, all from an artist whose only experience I've had with came at the occasional moments his name popped up on Pandora years ago. Reviewing such an album is quite conflicting, as the background and changes are lost on me from previous albums, but I know the general sounds going in and what to expect. Nonetheless, Bonobo's Migration releases tomorrow, and we'll find out then if I'll review it, because, judging by what I've heard thus far, the LP certainly deserves a fair bit of attention. While 'Kerala,' the album's first single, ripened itself as classic Downtempo fodder, a good attempt at that, the secondary and tertiary singles feature singers, drawing Bonobo closer to the Alternative R&B crowd a lot of Electronic producers are finding themselves in lately.

Thankfully, both efforts, 'Break Apart' and 'No Reason,' find a niche and stick to it, rather than conforming to struggling ideas and reaching for the radio. 'Break Apart' was a slow-burner, and at first glance, the seven-minute 'No Reason,' which features Nick Murphy (better known as Chet Faker) on vocals, appears to be too. However, 'No Reason' slowly develops a classic Dance track vibe, taking Bonobo out of his comfort zone, making Downtempo music to not only vibe to, but get down with as well. Production is handled very well, finding a succinct mix of Bonobo's idiosyncratic Downtempo and the uppity influx of club-oriented music. Now don't get it twisted, with Murphy's somber lyrics and reclusive tone, 'No Reason' won't get play in the late night scene, which, in reality, only inflates Bonobo's vision more so. Yes, he does come off a bit like Flume, who Murphy's worked with multiple times, but the identity of Bonobo is still certainly present.

Slowdive - Star Roving

Shoegaze to me is a funny genre. I send praise up and down, left and right, yet the only major band I've adored is My Bloody Valentine. Other than that, there's a few straggling albums from Drop Nineteens, Pale Saints, and Ride, but Shoegaze-focused efforts haven't really engulfed me in ways like Loveless. However, you can include the entire discographies of Cocteau Twins, Galaxie 500, and Spaceman 3, bands that influenced the genre but sat firmly alongside it, and my knowledge and appreciation goes up significantly. One of Shoegaze's most famous bands is Slowdive, a British outfit that made three critically-acclaimed albums in four years, then dipped, just as the genre was imploding on itself. I've yet to spend time with a complete album of theirs, but hits like 'Alison' and 'When The Sun Hits' have certainly investigated my earholes, only to be refused admission cause they're not Loveless. A sad fate indeed, and one I'm not proud of, but maybe one day a formal chance will change that, and with the release of their first single in 22 years, 'Star Roving,' that seems like the perfect time.

If you want the short story first; it's good. 'Star Roving' is very, very good. Likely the lead single to an as-of-yet unannounced comeback album, 'Star Roving' glides with crunchy, pristine, reverb-heavy Shoegaze elements. In my head it's unfortunate I've appreciated this on one listen, even less because it captivated me from the start, and wasn't able to get into their lauded works. Nonetheless, a new perspective can never hurt, and although the musicians composing Slowdive are much, much older, their talents have failed to diminish. Knowing little about their discography but a fair amount on Shoegaze, I can rightfully say this brings me back to the early 90's with ease, heightened by a fair sense of maturity 'Star Roving' finds itself in. From the get-go, with the simple crescendo that almost sounds like something from the Coldplay catalogue, 'Star Roving' adds some anthemic drums and refrained singing to make the entire palate truly delectable. Sounds like upbeat Shoegaze for a group that, in its absence, has been quite alright. 

FKA Twigs - Trust In Me

Marketing teams sure are going over the top lately huh? Recently, Nike has begun working with FKA Twigs for...something. A project called Do You Believe In More sparked up between the two, and the latest affair, a short, bombastic track called 'Trust In Me' seems to be the climax of that. Of course, the music video is where most of the attention resides, especially on Nike's behalf. They likely couldn't care less about the song itself, as long as she didn't swear. In the video, Twigs and her dancers travel to some obscure temple out in the jungle and do their thing, with choreographed weirdness, excessive makeup, and over-the-top, post-modern aesthetics. And, of course, their clothing all comes from Nike, with their famous swoosh emblazoned on the sides, making for quite a jarring vision as a monopoly takes over an unaffected part of the world. Don't necessarily know how I feel about it, but nonetheless, for a music critic, FKA Twigs is where my focus has to be. More than that though, the true greatness lies in its production, which comes from Oneohtrix Point Never, of all people.

However, 'Trust In Me' starts with Twigs conducting a spoken word monologue over OPN rumbling, as if they're gearing up for something large. This monologue, and the bulk of 'Trust In Me,' centers around Twigs herself. Me, my, and I appear everywhere, to the point where the chorus ("I want you to trust in me, I want you to feel like me") honestly feels like I'm being brainwashed to be like the flock of similarly-looking people in the video. Gives off an odd vibe, and one whose vision I don't exactly understand with regards to Nike. Musically speaking, 'Trust In Me' excels though, finding Twigs and OPN breaking down barriers together, with her eccentric Art Pop style reaching new heights. Unfortunately it's incredibly brief, as the entire track barely reaches the two-minute mark. Obviously a loosie meant for Nike's benefit, I wouldn't decline an invitation from Twigs to investigate this fresher sound for her future projects. A collaboration between her and OPN would be deadly.

The Flaming Lips - We A Family

The fourth, and what I must presume is the final single off Oczy Mlody, 'We A Family' features a familiar, yet highly controversial face to The Flaming Lips' diehard followers. Miley Cyrus returns, and no, it's no longer a shtick, gimmick, or inside joke. Their contributions to her ridiculous experiment Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, along with her contributions to 2014's scatterbrained With A Little Help From My Fwends, have caused many to question Wayne Coyne's eccentric nature and whether it's a horse beaten with a stick. Based on what we've heard, and even more so, what we've seen, from Oczy Mlody, it feels as if The Flaming Lips are constantly trying to one-up themselves, seeing collectively how far they can go off the deep end. 'We A Family' is no different in this regard. And while it doesn't (yet) have an official music video to boot, the music does all the talking.

Oddly enough, I don't find it distasteful, although it certainly seems ordinated that way. 'We A Family' finds itself at the end of Oczy Mlody as the album's closer, and the impression it gives off fits that criteria quite well, pacing itself nicely, apart from the abrasive, and totally unneeded bass drop midway through. Don't ask me to name it, but 'We A Family' strongly reminds me of something, so much so that it feels like a remix. To what though? I have no idea, but much of the instrumentation present here, along with Coyne's melodies, feel oddly familiar. Maybe Son Lux, as the vibe I'm getting here lies closer to Art Pop than the Psychedelic Rock The Flaming Lips are more accustomed to. As far as Cyrus' appearance here, it's shocking average, which for her is a good thing. Her vocals still reek of a forced nasal, but there's enough effects masking her, and it's short enough, to feel welcomed amongst the chaos.

Ariel Pink & Weyes Blood - Tears On Fire

One verse into 'Tears On Fire' and I was contemplating if I made a poor choice diving into this Ariel Pink and Weyes Blood-led single. Why? Not because of poor quality, as the pretty Indie Folk on display was harmlessly enchanting. It was more so due to the fact that Ariel Pink's image, so strange, provocative, and enigmatic, resembled nothing of the sort in that first verse. My contemplations arose because 'Tears On Fire' would, essentially, be my first attempt at entertaining the conundrum of one Mr. Pink. The lack of knowing one Ms. Blood didn't help matters either. Yet, 45 seconds in, insanity happens, and the medieval jubilee of happy-go-lucky fodder turns into a blood bath, like the infamous scene in Month Python & The Holy Grail. Call it the chorus if you will, Weyes Blood's demonic howling of the title marks a sudden, absurd, and captivating tone shift from relaxing Folk to sudden Prog Rock.

Think of it like King Crimson had their entire albums been sandwiched into a three-minute piece. 'Tears On Fire,' without warning, subjects listeners to harsh, yet professionally done sonic shifts that aim to tell two sides of the same story; one serene, one chaotic. At the end of it all, I gotta say I love this. What allows 'Tears On Fire' to work is each halves commitment to the craft. The acoustic melodies are grounded and pleasant, as are Pink's vocals and lyrics during them, while Blood's blood-curdling wails fit snugly between the hell-raising guitars and percussion. Such a strange, strange track to be released in 2017. Current comparisons only draw me to one name; King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, and only because they intend to embody a sound and aesthetic long since past. However, being that 'Tears On Fire' is a collaboration, this single has two halves instead of one, keeping listeners on their toes and excited around every turn. Still don't think this represents my perception of Ariel Pink though, but man if the oddity isn't alluring now.

Lupe Fiasco - Wild Child

It must be incredibly frustrating being a Lupe Fiasco fan. Seriously, the man's contradictions know no bounds, with career trajectories completely out the window. One day he's returning to empty Pop Rap ballads ('Pick Up The Phone'), the next he's rapping with veracity about the problems in America ('Made In The U.S.A.'). There's no telling where Lupe will go next, or if that vision will come out clearly, considering the jumbled mess of loosies he's been pouring out for the past year or so. On top of that, the promise of three albums by the end of 2016 resulted in none, with Lupe losing his promises but doing nothing about it. Especially to many, who consider his 2015 LP Tetsuo & Youth to be one of his best and a massive return to the artistic emcee he once was, these inconsistencies since can't leave a reasonable taste in your mouth. 'Wild Child,' what seems like an official single given its placement on Spotify, is yet another conundrum.

For starters, simply put, we jump back to the Lazers days. Yes, those days which Lupe continually condemns. The irony of him placing the blame on Atlantic Records for putting out a sound he failed to cosign, whilst simultaneously releasing tracks with awfully similar aesthetics (whether recorded then or more recently is mute, he's still choosing to release them) is not lost on me. However, there's a silver lining to be found, as 'Wild Child' isn't a complete mess like 'Pick Up The Phone.' Jake Torrey, yet another no-name R&B wannabe presses onwards in the chorus, a terrible habit Lupe still can't kick, which makes the hook easily 'Wild Child's' worst aspect. Thankfully, Lupe's presence isn't all that bad, and he's somehow able to work over a chipper beat that would've gotten him laughed at a decade ago. Two comparisons come to mind, both excluding the hook's terrible turn (which can be compared to a trove of other Lupe duds); Kid Cudi's 'Surfin' and Kendrick Lamar's 'Alright.' Yes, I said 'Alright,' because that's the style Lupe presents in his verses, especially the first. 'Wild Child's' interesting in that regard, but still entirely forgettable.

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