10 songs on repeat this week:
- Good News by Mac Miller (2020)- A emotionally potent track made all the more tragic considering Miller’s unfortunate passing in 2018 complete with light production and a show-stopping performance from the rapper
- Lost in Yesterday by Tame Impala (2020)- Another single off the Australian’s forthcoming LP, this song sees Parker continue in the synth-driven, funk angle of the previous three teasers released.
- I Disagree by Poppy (2019)- An absurdly fun mixture of alternative metal and pop from the former internet viral sensation.
- Close to You by The Avalanches (2000)- One of many highlights of the classic Avalanche’s LP Since I Left You, it is a perfect summary of the group’s ability to totally reinvent pre-existing sounds and songs.
- Potholderz by MF DOOM and Count Bass D (2004)- MF DOOM is one of underground rap’s biggest, most influential names. This song is just one of many great cuts that the MC has churned out over the years.
- Deal Wiv It by Mura Masa and slowthai (2019)- After teaming up on the brilliant Doorman, Mura Masa and slowthai return with another punk-infused rap number about life in the streets of England.
- House of the Rising Sun by the Animals (1964)- Instantly recognisable from the second the guitar riff, there is a reason this cover of a traditional American folksong is such a classic.
- NY State of Mind by Nas (1994)- Nas is considered one of the all-time greats of American hip-hop. Need a good reason, look no further than the grimy opener of his 1994 magnum opus Illmatic.
- Dracula Bells by Have a Nice (2019)- Gloomy, long, multifaceted and built around the careful control of layered noise, this a typically great song from the cult-favourite duo.
- Three Girl Rhumba by Wire (1977)- This song might only be over a minute, but with a riff that good, this punk rock number will surely stick in your head.
Quick album reviews
I Disagree by Poppy- 8.3/10:
What to say about this record? Most people’s immediate association with Poppy will be through her slew of strange, unsettling videos that circulated a few years back. However, here she is now, releasing an incredibly fun (if a little confusing) alternative metal record. The greatest thing about this LP is the sheer contrast between the sugar-sweet vocals and incredibly harsh production; however, it all comes together into a neat and wonderfully enjoyable LP.
Best track: I Disagree
Heavy is the Head by Stormzy- 5.7/10:
While it certainly has its moments, Heavy is the Head feels kind of… meh. With only his second album, Stormzy behaves like he has a point to prove and does deliver some good lines, however, the near-constant bragging wears out the listener of the 16-track runtime. With the rise of slowthai and Little Simz, Stormzy’s latest outing simply feels redundant and overdue.
Best track: Crown
JACKBOYS by JACKBOYS and Travis Scott- 6.6/10:
I personally felt this to be a pretty solid project from this Travis Scott led collaboration. Though each track does not really complement one another and at times, tracks end abruptly without any room to develop, the trademark Travis haze is still present, getting the best out of most of his guests.
Best track: Highest in the Room
Feature article- Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights, a forgotten rock giant:
New York has always been one of the most important epicentres of alternative music in the world. From The Velvet Underground to Blondie, some of the most influential groups and artists within alternative culture have sprouted out of the metropolis.
This fact was all the more so affirmed during the 2000s. As a total outsider to the city, each artist seemed to represent a different stereotype of the iconic location. The Strokes were the trendy kids hanging at bars and smoking pot in cramped apartments. Vampire Weekend encapsulated the arty sophistication of the city’s galleries and skyscrapers. LCD Soundsystem exuded the extensional insecurity and subsequent carefree lifestyle closely associated with the city. Finally, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs inhabited the seedy underground and hedonism of the city’s nightlife. Each group releasing a classic, each group being inducted into the canonical discography of the city.
Then, there is Interpol. Most notably, their 2002 debut Turn on the Bright Lights. In my humble opinion, not only is this LP the best record of the decade but hands down one of the greatest rock albums ever made, standing toe to toe and even surpassing some of the well-renowned classics. Why?
Linking back to what I was saying about each of these 2000s alternative groups being linked to a part of New York’s identity, it is important to state what I think Turn on the Bright Lights is. Through this LP, Interpol captures something dark about the city. Dirty apartments, sofas abandoned on the side of the road, that kind of thing. In other words, Interpol’s debut is certainly not a cheerful album. Though the lyrics are cryptic, you can’t help but feel like they are dark, melancholy and a heap of other adjectives to describe feeling down in the dumps. They are all held together by the ‘fuzzy’ sonic textures of the record that, whilst they are certainly not the most innovative, are perfectly executed. Cutting through all this is what is probably the most memorable aspect of this LP, the wonderfully unique baritone of lead singer Paul Banks. Though his voice rarely leaves his natural low register (occasionally breaking into a falsetto), the emotional diversity Banks is able to demonstrate is a marvel. On slower tracks like Untitled and NYC, he sounds tired, hazy, drugged out even. Whereas, tracks such as Obstacle 1 and Roland see him break into a quasi-mania that drips with paranoid delusion and desperation.
Turn on the Bright Lights is an undeniable classic. However, it isn’t a ‘shining’ example of great alternative rock, that wouldn’t be doing the aesthetic justice. Instead, I would describe it as a murky moment in New York’s musical history. A dark exploration of the city it was born from. A sonic titan that stands as a shadowy behemoth in the halls of rock music. A perfect example of why re-inventing the wheel is not always the best option. A great album.
Check out my spotify playlist here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1FaLmsAonKPA3xft4bA9ww?si=bWPETf47SFSLZMlEvcFYXg
Check out the rest of this series here: https://thelevinelowdown.com/the-weekly-music-roundup/
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