Sunday, February 28, 2016

Review: Animal Collective- Painting With

Up until a few days ago, I wasn't really sure if I was even going to tackle a review on this record. I honestly had nothing to say about it. I found it very to be a straight forward record; obviously not the typical Animal Collective fare, and a little disappointing. I was hoping for a little more engaging and experimental music to redeem the underwhelming Centipede Hz, but that wasn't what I was hearing. Animal Collective music has always had a pop sensibility, but never like this. This is more a collection of songs than the experience I used to expect. The lack of definable sonic detours and trippy experimentation turned me off a bit at first. But then I listened more closely.

While Painting With is still no where near as experimental as Strawberry Jam or Merriweather 
Post Pavillion, and is a lot more accessible and poppy, there are some very subtle qualities in the instrumentals here that evade the first few listens. These songs are extremely dense, and there are a lot of things going on underneath the vocals; swirling effects, arpeggiated synth lines and strange sounds. I would have preferred a little bit more of some psychedelic experimentation and adventurous nature as opposed to pop singles, but they do it well here as well.

This is going to be short, but if you're looking for some left field, electronic pop with some weirder leanings, look this up. If you're looking for some more experimental work like the band's late 2000s fare, you might want to sit this one out. Overall, I feel like this is a better record than Centipede Hz, but I'm not entirely on board with the group's more simplistic approach to the album. I feel like this record could have been taken up another notch by extending out tracks, and opening them up via sonic detours to really reconfigure the feng-shui of the listeners' gray matter.

Out of a total of five stars, I give this:

What did you think of this album? Are there any records that you're currently excited about? Let me know. Check back in for my opinions on the new record by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, This Unruly Mess I've Made.

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Saturday, February 27, 2016

TLOP Hype Machine Rant

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So, I told you this was coming. I thought I might break up my thoughts on Kanye's new album itself, and then tackle the extremely drawn out and disastrous promotion of it. The roll-out of this album has got to be one of the worst in recent memory, barring those that have never been released (though for a while, I thought The Life of Pablo would join the ranks of Detox and Smile).

It started off normally enough with the release of 'Only One', and the announcement that Paul McCartney was in the studio with Kanye, and that he'd have his hand in production of the new album. Yeah....that didn't happen. All the songs from these sessions, 'Only One', 'FourFiveSeconds', and 'All Day', didn't make the album. It's worth noting that the album was also called So Help Me God at this point. That would change 3 times within the almost 3 years it took to concoct this in-cohesive mess of an "album". I'd say its more a compilation, but whatever.

Then there was the Wiz Khalifa beef over the word 'Waves'. Seriously? This was a thing? Not to mention the Madison Square Garden premier, where he played an unfinished version of the album off a laptop, while ticket holders got to look at bored models for three hours. On a side note, Road Warrior meets Operation Desert Storm is not a forward thinking fashion choice. People aren't letting you into fashion because your ideas are garbage, not because you're black. It's not even an original idea. Movements such as zef, among others, have been doing this hobo chic thing for a while. Also, since these ticket payers were promised a copy of the album with their purchase, but now there is no commercial release (the album will only be on Tidal in perpetuity throughout the universe, or so Kanye says), do they just get a Tidal subscription now? Pretty weak.

So the album dropped after the show, right? Of course not. After 3 more days of waiting, recording, a terrible and well publicized (more for the meltdown) SNL performance, blaming Chance the Rapper for the delay (did he set the release date?), he finally dropped it: only on Tidal. Dude. Tidal will never catch on. Get over it. The anticipation on Twitter was actually pretty insane. I literally saw a tweet of someone threatening to put their hand on a stove top if Kanye didn't drop the album by the end of the day on the 11th. Lo and behold, I see a picture of a hand, with the imprint of a stove coil burned into it. That was just so crazy to me.

Following the release (which the album apparently still isn't done btw), and an insane Twitter rant about how Mark Zuckerberg should give him money, how he's 53 million dollars in debt, and how white publications don't cover him (dude, you can't be serious), he's already hinting at a new album. No. Just no. I don't care about TurboGrafx16. I'm not falling for this again. This album promotion cycle was so messed up, and probably pretty manipulative for those that buy into the Kanye cult of personality. The pay off for this much hype cannot be so underwhelming. Kanye has never been so frustrating. I generally give an artist 2 bad albums before I tune out. Kanye has had 2 frustratingly sub-par (not bad) albums. I'll tune in to the next album, but don't expect me to be waiting with baited breath. My expectations have sunken to quite a low point, especially now that Kanye feels like a guest on his own albums, and that his press takes precedence above the music. Over it. Onto the next.

Check back in later. I'll be sharing my opinions on the new Animal Collective album, as well as the new project from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

"Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Review: Kanye West- The Life of Pablo

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Don't worry, there's a rant post coming on the roll-out of this thing, but as always, it's first and foremost the music for me. Sorry it took me a while to get to this. Working the graveyard shift. Anyway, Kanye FINALLY dropped his album about a week and a half ago, and it's probably one of his most frustrating artistic moves, and not just because of the release.

The vibe that I get off of this is that of a kid in class scribbling answers down on his test as the teacher is collecting papers. They're practically tearing out of the kid's hands, but they're still desperately trying to write more on the page. It seems unnecessarily rushed. If you didn't want people riding you for not putting out your album, don't put a due date on it. And don't continue to tweak it after it's been releases. These decisions put across an air that Kanye didn't know what he wanted this album to be. This is far from the crystalline vision that Kanye thinks it is.

The most frustrating part about this album is that there are some great moments here, as well as the classic Kanye songs that would be good if there wasn't that one line that totally ruins the song. I'm just going to go track by track:
-"Ultralight Beam" is a great song, though I kind of wish they got North to do that opening prayer (which I thought it was at first). Chance the Rapper killed his verse, delivering one of the few consistently engaging verses of the whole album. The gospel element here is also very grand.

-"Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1 + 2" is okay, I guess. The Kid Cudi chorus is decent, but Kanye's bleach t shirt line is especially cringe worthy, and Future rip off Desiigner delivers some extremely unnecessary mumbling on part 2. Seriously, even though I hate Future's sound, I feel like he could successfully sue this guy for jacking his style so unashamedly.

-"Famous" has already been quite a topic of discussion, so I'm not going to contribute too much. Chorus is forgettable. Taylor Swift line is unfortunate, and is only making her more famous (even more unfortunate). I feel like it's almost a behind the scenes deal between the two to get more press. A tad desperate, even for these two.

-"Feedback" is a song I can embrace pretty much wholeheartedly. It's got a nice Yeezus-era beat, Kanye has an arrogant but not obnoxious verse, and the ghetto Oprah skit at the end was humorous.

-"Low Lights" is a short intermission that tries unsuccessfully to give this album some depth, with a melodramatic 2 minute female monologue. Meh.

-"Highlights" is a song so forgettable I just had to listen to it again to remember what it even was. Oh yeah, it's the one with that terrible GoPro line. Young Thug is learning to be a little less obnoxious, so there's a silver lining I guess.

-"Freestyle 4" has a really eerie beginning that builds to essentially no climax. Kanye delivers a particularly uninteresting verse, then hands it over to Desiigner to bathe it in lean and auto-tune. Pretty disappointing.

-"I Love Kanye" is a short little interlude, pointing out those fans who miss the old Kanye, as well as another excuse to say his name a couple dozen more times. I can't help but side with these fans sometimes, wishing he could even match this basic flow for most of the project.

-"Waves" is a song that has done the unthinkable; it's a song with Chris Brown that I don't despise. It's a nice track with a upbeat vibe, and I really enjoy the production. It sounds like somebody put a gospel chorus through a Leslie speaker.

-"FML" is probably my favorite song on the album, and not only because of the Weeknd feature, though that does help. It's a really dark track that shows Kanye in his least seen light; self deprecating, introspective, and I haven't really heard too much like this since "Runaway".

-"Real Friends" is a track I've already gone into some detail on in an earlier post (you should check that out btw), so I won't go too much into it here. I thought it was an ok track. I didn't get all hyped about it like a lot of people did, but I guess it was better than the tracks Kanye had been giving us up until that point.

-"Wolves" finally gets a studio version here, but whether it's the final one is still up for debate. Sia and Vic Mensa are noticeably absent, though Frank Ocean takes a break from seclusion and crawls out of his cave to deliver the closing few bars here. I enjoy the dreary vibe of the song, the female vocal line, and the atmosphere, but there are some corny lines, and that follow/swallow rhyme scheme was already used on "New Slaves". Not really something that deserved recycling.

-"Silver Surfer Intermission" is just a track to put a nail in the coffin of the beef with Wiz Khalifa. Not really sure why that even happened. Especially pointless now that the title isn't even called Waves. Totally pointless track.

-"30 Hours" is an over 5 minute track that could have been 3 minutes. The beat is decent and Kanye's bars aren't terrible, and then he just goes off mumbling, along with receiving a phone call, on record. This isn't cute. He just couldn't figure out how to end a song. He references Madison Square Garden and Yeezy 3 here as well, so this was also recorded last minute, and it shows.

-"No More Parties in L.A." is literally the only track here where Kanye spits. Kendrick does his thing as well, and the Madlib beat is good. Kanye's flow does seem a little off in spots, like he's trying to cram too many syllables into not enough space, but the song bumps, so it's all good. At first I was a little disappointed that this wasn't on the initial track list, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought this song doesn't fit. It sounds more like a promo single or a mixtape track than a song, and though the raps here are good bordering on great, having it on here, especially so late, makes it seem like Kanye was holding out.

-"Facts (Charlie Heat version)" is the biggest surprise of the album, and that is two fold: One, that this terrible set of verses (which I previously commented on) even appear on an album, and the second is that the newly revamped beat almost makes the track worthwhile. I hate that I almost like this track now. The new beat is totally wasted on a butt-hurt whine fest about getting kicked to the curb by Nike disguised as a getting money by Adidas anthem.

-"Fade" is all beat and no lyrics. There are lyrics, quite a few of them actually, by Ty Dolla $ign, Post Malone and West, though I can remember literally none of them. All I remember is the vocals in the sample, and the bass line. This song does manage to get stuck in my head, so it's doing something right, though the lyrics need a rewrite, or just to not exist.

All in all, I'm really split on this album. I like a good deal of what's going on, but there are a lot of bad moments, terrible lines and boring detours that even it out for me. This was a pretty big disappointment for me. Until the new version(s) of this record come out whenever the next of Kanye's split personalities takes over, these are my thoughts. Look forward to the upcoming rant about this beast's roll-out.

Out of a total of five stars, I give this:

"Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Review: Current 93- The Moons at your Door

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I know I'm probably a little tardy to the party on this one, but I feel like I need to talk about this album, because it's already earned a spot on my 2016 top ten. Current 93, throughout all its lineup changes and genre fluidity, has always been known to deliver some of the most challenging and experimental music out there, and this deserves to be heard way more than it is probably going to be.

I have only come into David Tibet and Current 93's music within the last year or so, thanks to the talking up it got on the channel of a Mr. Myke C-Town (you should totally subscribe to him by the way; I'll leave his channel URL in the comments). I needed to listen to this band, and see what he saw in them. He was also the one to convince me to give black metal a shot as well, so if you ever read this, thank you. 

Going into a Current 93 album, you're never really sure what you're going to get. In case of The Moons at your Door, you get some of the creepiest, most unsettling sounds you'll ever hear. I love how this record builds a mood, and slowly escalates in volume in instrumentation. The music here is very eerie; just some cascading waves, some gull calls, and some rustling through the tall grass. And then, very subtly, this raspy voice and strange sounds come in and give you this immediate feel of dread. "If you do not come to me, I will come to you", this voice says, in probably the creepiest way possible.

The voice is not hear again for quite awhile, instead waiting patiently while the mood and atmosphere grows thicker and more claustrophobic, and you begin to anxiously anticipate the next utterance from this character. And then a wood block, or some other percussive instrument starts pounding away; slowly at first, but building in speed and intensity. The voice returns, preceded by some unsettling audio, which kind of sounds like Joanna Newsom singing a twisted lullaby, followed by a startling thud. I don't want to spoil every unsettling moment of this record, but needless to say, this is some of the scariest stuff you'll ever hear.

I love how David Tibet and company can create so much with so little instrumentation. This mood has such a palpable atmosphere, and I really suggest listening to this in the dark, at night, alone. This record will haunt your nightmares; but you'll love every minute of it. I thought the new Swans record later in the year would be the highlight for me, but Current 93 set the bar extremely high with this dark horror.

Out of a total of five stars, I give this:

What did you think of the record? Are there any records that you're excited about? Feel free to let me know.

"Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."