10 Songs on Repeat:
1. Funeralopolis by Electric Wizard (2000)- If the current climate is putting you in an apocalyptic mood and all you want to listen to is music that feels like the world is ending, then this snarling, nasty stoner metal classic might just be for you.
2. Twin Peaks Theme by Angelo Badalamenti (1990)- Serious question, does anyone know where I can legally stream Twin Peaks? Because if the show is as good as its jazz meets electronic soundtrack, then I am in for a real treat.
3. Aries by Gorillaz with Peter Hook and Georgia (2020)- The recent Song Machine project currently being undertaken by Damon Albarn’s virtual alternative pop band has churned out some of their best material in over a decade. What gives Aries such a distinct flavour is the contribution from Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter, who lays down one his signature, silky basslines over a danceable synth track, paying obvious tribute to Hook’s New Order days.
4. forever by Charli XCX (2020)- The second week in a row for the British pop experimentalist, this time a newly released single. Just last week, Charli announced she would be using her time in isolation to create a new album, with her first single off it a natural and enjoyable continuation of the bass-heavy, pop mayhem she has become renowned for.
5. Teen Age Riot by Sonic Youth (1988)- The opener to Daydream Nation, a timeless classic that perfectly married the worlds of left-field experimentalism with accessible indie rock, Teen Age Riot is one of my favourite songs of all time off one of my favourite albums of all time.
6. DELICIOUS APE by HEALTH and Xiu Xiu (2019)- For those who give some of the songs in this weekly list a try (If that is you, I am incredibly thankful), you might notice that I’m being a little more ambitious with this week’s entry and including songs that are a bit more on the inaccessible side. This defiantly includes this team-up between HEALTH and experimental legends Xiu Xiu, the two group’s sounds colliding forcefully to build this dissonant, atmospheric track.
7. Unemployed Black Astronaut by Busdriver (2005)- Busdriver has always worked on the eccentric edges of modern hip-hop. On Unemployed Black Astronaut, one of his earlier works, Farquhar’s cartoonish flows and whacky production is put on full display. As a slight extension of this, please read the bottom of this section for something partially related to this artist that addresses a more significant issue related to his actions.
8. Mantra by Earl Sweatshirt (2015)- A deep cut off the ground-breaking MC’s I Don’t Like Sh*t, I Don’t Go Outside, it was tracks like this that indicated the darker, abstract direction Earl would take his music in the future, quickly becoming one of the leading figures in underground hip-hop.
9. Goin’ Truuu by MIKE (2019)- Now to one of Earl Sweatshirt’s disciples, MIKE is one of the leading members of the sLUms collective, a group of New York based hip-hop artists who are effectively building upon to dense, hazy and hypnotic sounds of Earl’s Some Rap Songs. This is a short number of Mike’s 2019 breakthrough record Tears of Joy.
10. On the Beach by Neil Young (1974)- Young is more or less Canada’s answer to Bob Dylan. By that, I mean a singer-songwriter who effectively used folk and country traditions to capture the mood of a specific era. The title track of Young’s dark and highly acclaimed 1974 album is desolate and enthralling, drawing you in with a blues atmosphere and above all the singer-songwriter’s weathered voice that portrayed a pearl of wisdom well beyond his age of 29 at the time.
You can listen to this week’s tracks here- https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5A5Sz4FoMq7R7UYKIjM3Eu?si=ld1kImvATGaOVuL0spWI0w.
Regarding Farquhar’s (a.k.a Busdriver) character separate to his music, I would like to address the sexual assault allegations against his name. His inclusion in this list is in no way me claiming his innocence. He, unlike many, has instead directly addressed these allegations, and while I am uncertain of what happened as a result, I would like to make a point beyond music. Sexual assault is not something many individuals would lie about. It only takes one quick Google search to see how serious of an issue it is, both psychologically and legally. We must stand with those who come forward with such allegations and not vilify them. I also think it is important that, while standing with those who come forward, that we do not engage in any sort of blame game and that we do not let our emotions, convictions and opinions interfere with situations we were not involved in. Us not believing victims or cutting down men is not going to make sexual assault go away. What is, however, is a cultural change and people coming together to help tackle the attitudes and issues that help facilitate the tragedy that is sexual harassment and assault.
The New Abnormal by The Strokes- 6.6/10:
The world has long been waiting for The Strokes to finally release that album that manages to live up to the heights of Room on Fire and Is This It. And I think for many, they have decided that the record to do that was definitely going to be this year’s The New Abnormal. And while it certainly is far from their worst collection of songs, this album feels like all hype and little delivery. To rip off the Loud and Quiet review, The New Abnormal feels like The Strokes attempt to create their own Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino, a retro-futuristic alternative rock record that breathed new life into their sound. The execution of this idea is excellent, however, nowhere near the quality of the said Arctic Monkeys record. For starters, the Rick Ruben production of this record is pretty great, giving the typically scrappy sound of the band a sharper, polished edge. Casablancas also delivers some of his best vocal performances he has in a while, proving to the listener that seemingly unlike many past Strokes records, he is actually invested in and enjoying these songs. The big letdown for me, however, is one glaring problem, too many songs on this album are rip-offs/copies of sounds that have been done before and passed off as original ideas. Songs at times range from imitations of other bands (Eternal Summer just sounds like something Foals did in 2013) to sounding like discarded Voidz songs Julian has attempted to convince us are original tracks. It’s a good album with a lot going for it, but it is certainly not the album that revitalises The Strokes in my eyes, the lightning they captured in a bottle with their first two albums long since escaping over nearly 20 years.
Best track: The Adults are Talking.
It Is What It Is by Thundercat- 5.2/10:
I have always thought Thundercat to be an excellent musician, that opinion is undeniable and cliché to a certain extent. I also believe that he does have the makings of a great song-writer, take Them Changes, for example, a song that is easily one of my favourites of the last decade. However, my issue with Thundercat comes with the fact that in my eyes, he just isn’t a fantastic album artist. This drawback is sadly still present on It Is What It Is. Some elements of this album do stand out, such as the expectedly fantastic bass playing and some funny as well as sincere lyrical moments. But annoyingly, this album’s production is simply lost on me. Everything feels far too washed out for it to have any significant impact on me as a listener. Moments that should feel climatic and large end up only passing by with the rest of the album, creating an ongoing sense of anticipation and dissatisfaction throughout its relatively short runtime. I felt like Bruner did enough on this record to save it from being bad, but nowhere near enough for it to be anything better than average.
Best track: Dragonball Durag
Exeter by Bladee- 4.0/10:
Bladee is an artist that has only recently come to my attention, and might I say, never have I seen a rapper cause as this much division between those who enjoy his music and those who cannot stand it. People seem to either adore his admittedly unique blend of cloud rap dreaminess and unconventional hip-hop experimentalism, or they seem to label it as a monstrosity. So, here is my two cents on the issue. I didn’t like my first interaction with the Swedish rapper; however, it is far from the worst thing I have heard this year so far. I genuinely found that a lot of the beats and production were interesting and moderately well put together in an amateurishly charming fashion, creating a consistent aesthetic and atmosphere. However, I could not stand (like, seriously not stand) the vocalisation of this record. Why? The auto-tuning. Now typically I don’t care if a rapper uses auto-tune, one only has to look as far as the likes of Travis Scott, Playboy Carti and Kanye West to see that, it can enhance a song in the same way that, an electric guitar can enhance a song. But for some reason, Bladee’s auto-tuning is… somehow (an incredibly ironic may I add) … out of tune! It really drags down these songs, with too many tracks drowning in a sea of incomprehensible and poorly mixed raps, which even when you look up the lyrics to, are nothing really that special and often are simply downright dull and unintelligent. So, there you have it, my first exposure to who is probably underground hip-hop’s most divisive artist at the moment. I can’t say that the extreme levels of hate Bladee receives is justified based off this release; however, I certainly didn’t think this was a good project and I doubt I will ever revisit this artist in the future.
Best track: WONDERLAND
A Written Testimony by Jay Electronica- original score 9.7/10, new score 9.1/10:
Unfortunately, A Written Testimony didn’t quite stand up on repeat listens. The magic of the still excellent production seems to have rubbed off a little, and a deeper dive into the lyrics revealed some mildly problematic stances on religion. Still an excellent album in my eyes, however.
Have We Met by Destroyer- original score 8.0/10, new score 7.7/10:
Sadly, this album also didn’t quite live up to my perceptions of it on repeat listens. I think I was simply too excited about a new Destroyer record more than anything.
One That Got Away- You Won’t Get What You Want by Daughters:
Continuing this series, the second album I am visiting that I didn’t get to when it came out is the comeback record from noise rock band Daughters. Coming out in 2018, You Won’t Get What You Want made quite the splash in the online music community, with famous YouTube music critic Anthony Fantano giving it a rare 10/10. While I can’t say I fully understand all the hype, it was undoubtedly one visceral, unsettling and wild ride. Unrelenting from start to finish, this album is built upon fear and terror. The songs are arranged into jagged soundscapes of hissing guitars, thundering bass and pummeling drums, while also finding time for some detours into more industrial and post-punk-oriented tracks such as the opener City Song and the driving The Reason They Hate Me. The album is lyrically wicked and dark, and rather than being overtly dark and depressing the words seem to be menacing and existential, all carried by the yelled vocals of Alexis Marshall. To summaries, You Won’t Get What You Want is the perfect album for those who enjoy the more extreme side of music.
This Week’s Feature: How Much Do Critic’s Opinions Really Matter?
For those of us invested in the critical reception of our favourite albums, I am sure we can all relate to the disappointment associated with seeing a record we love receive a low score from a notable critic or publication. This has happened to me a fair bit over the years. I distinctly remember the hurt I felt at seeing Pitchfork give a 4.5/10 to one of my favourite hip hop albums of the decade being 2019’s There Existed an Addiction to Blood by clipping (and for the same publication to then have the guts to rate Eminem’s Music to be Murdered By higher). I also remember the sense of betrayal the came with Anthony Fantano’s 4/10 for King Krule’s The Ooz, or when I saw that Rolling Stone had deemed Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights to be a meagre 3/5 stars.
So, does this mean that if a critic rates something you love (whether it be a book, movie or album) poorly, that you have to dislike it? Quite simply, no. One of the greatest things about art is that it is subjective. No amount of critical shamming or’ objective measures’ (which truthfully don’t exist in my opinion) should change your view on the art you love. Ultimately, a critic’s opinion is just that, a mere opinion. It is no or valid than that your own. However, does this mean that we should totally ignore what critics say about music and art in general? That is a slightly more complicated question.
I have noticed these days that there appears to be this almost ‘anti-critical movement’ floating around, suggesting that critics simply don’t know what they are talking about and that the real test for any form of artistic entertainment is how it is received by the general audience. One only has to see the split between audiences and critics on the recent film Joker. While not totally rubbished (as indicated by its 68% Rotten Tomatoes score), many critics labelled Joker as a solid film but one that wasn’t quite as smart as it thought it was. This was in conflict with the general movie-going public who seemed to universally praise the film as a masterpiece. This prompted many to damn critics, stating that they simply didn’t want the movie to do well and that, once again, they didn’t know what they were talking about. For me, this reaction from audiences I found to be rather saddening.
As I stated already, critics are not the be-all and end-all of whether something is good or not, that is up to the individual. However, I do think there are a few critical things about critic’s people seem to forget. The first being that criticism itself is almost a form of artistic entertainment and in no way is intended to be academic. Like any form of art, a critique is simply an individual trying to express what they want to say. In this case, it is their feelings toward other pieces of art. To do so in an entertaining manner, critics avoid being highly academic in their writing, often adopting a more conversational tone and employing humour to keep the reader engaged. It is an expression of an idea rather than an academic account, and I think some audiences need to view it that way.
Secondly, I would endeavour to say that the average critic, whatever the art-form they engage with, probably engage with more art than you do. And why wouldn’t that be the case, it is their job after all. This statement isn’t universal; however, I would imagine that the average Pitchfork writer listens to more music a day than the average consumer off the street. It is this very reason that I do think we should listen to what they have to say. While most of them probably cannot produce art on the same level of the creatives they are critiquing, the sheer amount of exposure they have to an art form leaves them with an often-extensive knowledge of history, influences, techniques and many other things. I would go as far as to say that critics, contrary to popular belief, do know what they are talking about most of the time. This does not increase the objectivity of their opinion; however, it does mean that when they point out that Joker is a film that borrows and at times directly rips off classic 1970/80s art-house and crime dramas and therefore lacks a certain level of originality, they kind of have a point.
I firmly believe that criticism is art. It has all the hallmarks of what we define art to be. The fact that you may totally disassociate with their negative opinion on your favourite album or resonate with their review of your favourite movie highlights that it does the most important thing any piece of art should: provoke emotion. This is why I do believe what critics have to say matters. Not because what they have to say is the cold hard truth, as I stated, critical opinions of art are purely and utterly subjective and should not impact how you think about a film, album, painting etc. I believe we should listen to critics should be listened to because they have something to say, just like the artists they often so mercilessly write about. We do not fault any artist who wishes to create something moving, entertaining or thought-provoking, so why should we then blame the same ideals when they are expressed by critics?