Ten Songs on repeat:
1. Paradise by Tropical F*** Storm (2019)- Tropical F*** Storm are an Australian art-punk supergroup that slipped under my radar over the last two years. However, due to all the time I’ve got on my hands these days, their aggressive, agitated and nasty style of punk has become one of my self-isolation discoveries.
2. Diamond by Empty Country (2020)- This Americana infused indie-rock belter is one of those nostalgic tracks that makes me want to pack my things and drive somewhere far away, preferably with tall trees and rolling hills.
3. Break on Through (To the Other Side) by the Doors (1967)- The Doors self-titled debut is a small piece of history in rock music, launching the sinister sounds of the psychedelic rock band into the mainstream, with the record being packed with bluesy, hazy cuts such as this one.
4. Physical by Dua Lipa (2020)- I think many (such as me) have been pleasantly surprised by the recent album Future Nostalgia by British pop-star Dua Lipa, with the 80s inspired dance-pop number being the LP’s standout.
5. Me and Your Mamma by Childish Gambino (2016)- I wouldn’t be lying if I said I find Donald Glover’s surprise album this week a little underwhelming. But there is no need to fret, especially when his discography is still full of great works such as this wild soul piece from 2016’s “Awaken, My Love!”.
6. Don’t Forget About Me by noname (2018)- This Chicago rapper’s 2018 album Room 25 was probably my favourite release from that year. Filled with jazzy and soulful numbers, Don’t Forget About Me is one of the more sombre moments on the record.
7. Fight the Power by Public Enemy (1990)- This raucous, rebellious number captures the political spirit of early hardcore hip-hop, serving to be one of the genre’s many staples to come out of the ‘Golden Era’.
8. Selfish Gene by Panda Bear (2015)- I think former Animal Collective member Noah Lennox aka Panda Bear’s 2015 LP Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is a supremely underappreciated experimental pop album, with Selfish Gene being one of the more low-key, heartfelt moments on the album opposed to the often busy noise typical of other songs found on this release.
9. After the Storm by Kali Uchis, Tyler, The Creator and Bootsy Collins (2018)- Including this number just as a reminder to some that things will one day return to normal once all this madness in the world is over because, as the American-Colombian singer-songwriter says in this song, “after the storm is when the flowers bloom”.
10. Knights of Cydonia by Muse (2006)- Muse have often been regarded by some in the music community as over the top and a little shallow. I would agree to an extent, but that isn’t to say their brand of wild, stadium-filling rock music doesn’t have a place, with Knights of Cydonia being just about as much fun you can have listening to a song.
You can listen to this week’s songs here- https://open.spotify.com/playlist/56QzvVxOHVUssb8kQcJ4W7?si=kHlRk7EcSTi7HXzl2dTsSw.
This week is going to be a little different. Due to the whole coronavirus business going down, I have had a lot of time on my hands to listen to loads of new music. So much so in fact, I have made my line-up of reviews a little cluttered. So instead of getting a feature article, you are instead going to get a more significant number of reviews than usual. I will also be trialling a new segment, so any feedback on that would be great!
Kiss My Super Bowl Ring by The Garden- 5.5/10:
On their fourth album, experimental punk group The Garden combine their typically eclectic sound with the kitchen sink pop experimentalism of 100 gecs with mixed success. This album certainly has its moments, leaving me smiling with some of the hilariously over-the-top songs and vocal performances. The album also manages to remain largely liberated from categorisation, something I am guessing the duo were aiming for. However, issues lay in the fact that The Garden seem to be trying far too hard at not trying hard. What I mean is that the seemingly intentional lack of polish within this album just doesn’t work, leaving some otherwise decent instrumentals to have little impact as well as creating some downright irritating vocals. It is clear to see the intention of this album: to create a bombastic, over-the-top record in the same vein as last year’s 1000 gecs. However, the resulting Kiss My Super Bowl Ring, despite the positives, lacks focus and refinement as well as carrying some of the same issues I had with the 100 gecs album that is an obvious inspiration.
Best track: Amp Truck
High Risk Behaviour by The Chats- 7.2/10:
For all its juvenile humour, simplistic instrumentation and in-your-face delivery, there is a surprisingly intelligent album in The Chats debut album High Risk Behaviour. This intelligence certainly doesn’t come from the instrumentals mind you, which are pretty one-noted and recycled throughout (though a case can be made for the fact that it is meant to be like that). No, for me the fun comes with this LP’s crass and surprisingly satirical presentation of some of the seedier aspects of Australian suburban culture. Being an Aussie myself, even I find some of the situations presented in the lyrics to be a little foreign. Still, throughout all of it, The Chats put a magnifying glass on the stereotypical anglo, lower-income lifestyle, filled to the brim with slang and cultural references, many non-Australians might have to look up. It is a dumb fun album through and through, and certainly not one to be taken too seriously; however, that doesn’t stop it from intelligently presenting some of the more questionable aspects of Australian culture in a satirical, over the top yet still enjoyable light.
Best track: Pub Feed
Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa- 7.6/10:
Dua Lipa’s second album, Future Nostalgia, is a vast improvement on all fronts from her self-titled debut. Where her first LP often felt generic and uninspired, Future Nostalgia creates a unique sonic footprint built upon the singer’s love for pop music throughout the ages. Lyrically this is far from a masterwork, and the album can get a little repetitive after the first half is over. I also have a lot of issues with the last two songs of this record (especially Boys Will Be Boys. I am in total agreement with the message of the track, and I can’t wait to hopefully see it annoy the droves of angry, lonely men on the internet, it’s just the instrumental is very clunky, and the lyrics do lack a degree of subtlety and finesse). However, I cannot fault this record for some insanely good production, a constant aesthetic held throughout and the incredibly confident, charismatic performances of Dua Lipa herself, who has obviously listened to a lot of the criticism directed at her and (instead of being offended like many pop-stars have shown to be) has applied it and grown as an artist. And I guess that is how I would sum up this album. An excellent and joyous artistic growth.
Best track: Physical
Empty Country by Empty Country- 8.4/10:
I am very proud of my music taste these days. I am not going to argue that my taste is somehow better (and I hope to God I am not sounding pretentious), but I look back on the journey I have taken to get where I am, and I can’t help but smile. However, deep down, I am still that kid that was weaned on indie rock, I am still that fifteen-year-old who worshipped Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes. Every now and then, all I want is a fix or pure, raw indie rock, and that is precisely what Empty Country gives me. The solo project of Cymbals Eat Guitars front-man Joseph D’Agostino (a band I must confess I am not all too familiar with), this debut LP is a wonderfully crafted indie rock album with touches of Americana and country throughout. Lyrically, it’s emotional and angsty, like any record of this genre should be. Instrumentally, it’s a surprisingly diverse affair, and while some of the longer cuts can get a little tiresome, it still manages to carry through till the end. A gem of a record, and one any fan of indie rock shouldn’t let slip from their yearly listening.
Best track: Diamond
The Night Chancers by Baxter Dury- 6.7/10:
What an impressive little record. Baxter Dury’s The Night Chancers is an incredibly well-produced and reasonably well-written alternative record that tries its hardest to not be pinned down to any particular genre label, building incredibly lush and dreamy soundscapes for the songwriter to croon and contemplate over. His vocal style really reminds of King Krule is his fellow Londoner was a little more mellow and far less angry. I was engaged throughout The Night Chancers, but sadly, I didn’t quite feel satisfied. For all the great qualities of this record, it all just feels too short. I think the thirty-minute runtime doesn’t do enough justice for the exciting sounds on this LP, with many of the songs in my opinion ending far too soon and leaving me wanting more. It’s a shame about that aspect of the album because it does inhibit what could’ve been a really outstanding record for me.
Best track: Hello, I’m Sorry
3.15.20 by Childish Gambino- 5.0/10:
I am a little lost as to what to think or say regarding Glover’s latest release. Sadly, this confusion is not the good type I experienced listening to the likes of To Pimp a Butterfly or most clipping releases. I am confused over who thought this album was ready enough for publication. Donald Glover has been one of pop-cultures most influential figures over the past decade, dipping his fingers into all things artistic. I have always felt that of all his endeavours into the world of pop culture, his music under the Childish Gambino name has been his weakest, though his discography is not without praise. But still, I am left a little bemused by 3.15.20. My biggest issue with it is that it merely feels unfinished. Each track feels like a good song waiting to happen, but everything feels a little disjointed and ad hoc, which really goes against the idea that this album is supposed to be one song. Certainly not without its moments, 3.15.20 is a messy, overly-long and downright confusing listen.
Best track: 53.49
Ones That Got Away- A Laughing Death in Meatspace and Braindrops by Tropical F*** Storm:
Ones That Got Away is a new segment I will be giving a go this week! It’s based around the fact that, even though I listen to probably unhealthy amounts of music, I tend to miss a fair bit. So, in this segment, I hope to uncover some of those highly regarded albums I overlooked in the past 1-2 years and give my opinion on them (without a rating).
So, my first outing will be looking into both albums released by Australian art-punk supergroup Tropical F*** Storm. Formed and led by The Drones front-man Gareth Liddiard, this band burst onto the Australian underground rock scene with one of the most refreshingly original and downright strange sounds of the last decade. Their debut album Laughing Death in Meatspace was released in 2018, and boy am I angry I missed it. From the anthemic, noisy and messy opener You Let My Tyres Down to the post-punk driven The Future of History, the album often sounds barely held together, but in the best possible way. It exudes utter chaos, with the guitars tunned strangely and Liddiard’s manic vocal performances creating a post-apocalyptic soundscape that is uniquely beautiful in its own way. Lyrically, this album is also on point, Liddiard venting frustrations towards some uniquely Australian issues such as xenophobic foreign policy and the impacts of American consumerism. It’s a great album that simply shouldn’t work but does in every possible way.
Secondly comes Tropical F*** Storm’s 2019 follow up LP, Braindrops. Retaining the chaotic noise of their debut while turning up the weird and whacky dial to eleven, I (somewhat controversially I feel) think Braindrops improved upon their debut the year before. As I said, it is a much stranger album, with the songs often have more abstract structures as well as drawing influence from the likes of jazz and funk. The songs range from heartbroken and sombre (Paradise), to groggy and snarling (Braindrops) to ones about a fictional Mossad agent falling in love with Maria Ostrich, a self-proclaimed cultist and psychic who supposedly worked with the Nazis during WW2 to develop space travel (seriously, they wrote a song about this).
It still shares a lot with its older brother however and it definitely leaves one excited to see what the band are planning in the future.
Read more of this series here – https://thelevinelowdown.com/the-weekly-music-roundup/