10 Songs on Repeat:
1. Ghost Rider by Suicide (1977)- If their name is any indication, Suicide were one of the more boundary-pushing acts in the first wave of punk rock, as well as the likely the most unsettling. Their minimal, synth-based compositions were driving and at times frightening, with Ghost Rider displaying the full effect of their sound.
2. Cellular by King Krule (2020)- It has just come to my attention that I haven’t yet included this cut off Marshall’s latest LP Man Alive! Which is definitely an oversight on my part, as this is easily one of South-Londoner’s best tracks to date.
3. George Bondo by Westside Gunn with BENNY the BUTCHER and Conway the Machine (2020)- Westside Gunn’s new album is a fun, if a little underwhelming listen (more on that later), with George Bondo being one of the definite highlights, flexing a well-crafted and tasteful blend of hardcore hip hop verses and abstract production.
4. claws by Charli XCX (2020)- This British pop star seems to be entering an unbeaten run with her latest material. The second single off her forthcoming album is produced by Dylan Brandy of 100 gecs fame, with his kitchen-sink pop madness blending perfectly with Charli’s established sound in this short and catchy number.
5. Heavy Balloon by Fiona Apple (2020)- I might be adding songs from Apple’s latest album to this feature for weeks to come. This time I want to shed light on Heavy Balloon, a song about battling depression. In typically Fiona Apple style, the song is blunt and honest, complete with a rousing chorus and a powerhouse vocal performance from the singer-songwriter at the centre of this song.
6. Replica by Oneohtrix Point Never (2011)- Replica is a perfect way to capture this ambient/electronic producer’s sound on his sensational album of the same name. Combining the worlds of plunderphonics (sample-based music) and ambient, it is a soothing yet surprisingly urgent listen.
7. Dumb Things by Paul Kelly and the Coloured Girls (1989)- Something of a national treasure here in Australia, Paul Kelly has been responsible for some iconic songs in this country’s pop music history. My personal favourite is Dumb Things, a brass-infused, driving rock number with a swirling atmosphere and damn good chorus.
8. Stay Flo by Solange (2019)- Taken straight from the singer-songwriter’s 2019 album When I Get Home, this sultry, danceable alternative RnB number is a good advertisement for why the sister of Beyoncé should be taken just as seriously as her superstar sibling, offering a far more subtle, arty sound to Beyoncé’s stadium-filling pop anthems.
9. Feet by The Fat White Family (2019)- This British band’s 2019 record Serfs Up! was a massive surprise for me, especially considering how much I disliked their previous two albums. The opener to the album sees disco meet with post-punk and psychedelia in a politically charged, intentionally provocative banger that deals in issues of ethnicity, racism and bigotry.
10. New Dawn Fades by Joy Division (1979)- A surprisingly expansive track from the typically minimalistic pioneers of Goth and post-punk, New Dawn Fades is still steeped in the trademark doom and gloom that has made the group’s sound so iconic and influential.
You can find this week’s tracks here- https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7yAH7StQSuxuLXDxSjcZbs?si=aEh7QyywR96itigDN-26cQ.
I also realised I forgot to include the tracks for last week, so if you want to check that out as well, click here- https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6RKtalLz9rNS62TxXkNACR?si=NdwIekgJQYODHDhbABeSiA.
Song For Our Daughter by Laura Marling- 6.3/10:
I often find it difficult rating chamber pop/folk flavoured singer-songwriter albums. Where in one album I might love a set of aspects about the record, I mightn’t be sold on the exact same ones in another. What it comes down to ultimately is how compelled I am to come back to the album (in other words, reasonably inexplainable personal enjoyment). All this makes it hard to review Laura Marling’s Song For Our Daughter, but I will try my best, even if it does feel like I am contradicting myself in what I say. For me, I found a lot to like about the British singer-songwriter’s latest LP. Lyrically, Marling rarely puts a foot wrong in her deeply personal and at times confessional style of writing, delivering it all with a towering yet delicate vocal performance. Instrumentally, everything feels all fine and well too, with each song feeling delicate and intimate, complete with fairly stock-standard acoustic guitars and unobtrusive strings. It’s a beautiful album. But sadly, it being ‘nice’ serves to be a bit of a downfall. I feel like it lacks that real gut-punch a lot of similar albums possess, with every song feeling very non-confrontational and safe, despite some of the more emotional aspects of the record. It is because of this, I sat through most of it, begging for the same kind of weight and emotional clarity I got in an album like last year’s Crushing by Julia Jacklin. At the end of the day, these are all very personal criticisms. I totally understand how others could enjoy this record more than me, but at the purely individual level, Marling didn’t entirely sell me on what she had to offer. That goes without saying, I would definitely recommend this record to anyone who is a fan of slower, quieter and intimate folk and chamber pop, as this LP has a lot you may love.
Best track: Hope We Meet Again
Everything is A-OK by Violent Soho- 5.1/10:
Violent Soho have little to no following outside Australia, but here (especially within the ‘indie’ scene), they are one of the biggest rock bands around. A splattering of good singles in their early work and the release of the surprisingly good Waco in 2016 helps to form a respectable if a little inconsistent, discography. Unfortunately, old habits die hard on Everything is A-OK. This is all down to the fact that throughout this relatively short record, the punk rockers simply play it far too safe. In the past, the band has shone when they take those small risks in their admittedly generic-sounding aesthetic, however, the songs on this album sadly just end up blending into one big blur and offer little in the way of repeat listens. To say anything off this album is inherently wrong is a massive overstatement. Still, a lack of ambition and overall generic feel of Everything is A-OK sees the Aussie’s rest on what they know sells records, no doubt confirming them a comfortable paycheck from Australian sales alone, plenty of radio play from Triple J and some festival headlining spots (when everything gets back to normal of course).
Best track: I’m finding it too hard to pick one, each all seem to exist on the same level of average, with nothing sticking out of the crowd.
Pray for Paris by Westside Gunn- 7.0/10:
Filled to the brim with some intricate production and practically overflowing with prominent name features, Westside Gunn’s Pray for Paris is an accomplished yet, in my opinion, frustratingly incomplete record. There is plenty to praise with this record and what the rapper has managed to construct. First and foremost, Gunn really does push the boundaries of traditional hardcore hip-hop with this LP, combining traditional lyrical tropes of the genre with more abstract, indirect production, with the beats quickly being the best part of this record. The murky, dark aesthetic of this record is also never lifted and expertly sustained from start to finish, making for an engaging listen. Sadly, the album does feel like it didn’t quite reach some of the heights it should have for me. Firstly, a lot of the guest features do feel out of place and random, distracting from the central voice of this album. I also wasn’t the biggest fan Gunn’s delivery at times. While most of his rapping is good, elements such as the near-constant ad-libs did distract me a little. Needless to say, Pray for Paris is still a well-crafted, slightly boundary-pushing even, hardcore hip-hop record that is both willing to experiment as well as stick to the traditional roots of the genre. If only for a tad more refinement, this LP really could’ve been something special for me.
Best track: George Bondo (feat. Conway the Machine & BENNY the BUTCHER)
This week’s feature article- The Dark Side of the Moon, An album for all times:
The cover of this album is instantly recognisable. One doesn’t need to know that it was created by Pink Floyd, one doesn’t even need to know what the record is called, but the image of a beam of light travelling through a triangle and bursting into a rainbow is one of the most iconic images in Western popular culture. Pink Floyd’s 1973 classic The Dark Side of the Moon is one of the greatest selling albums of all time. Since its release in 1973, it has never left the ARIA top 200 albums list and made Pink Floyd a household name. But behind all those numbers lays solid justification as to why this LP has gained such an iconic status…
Sonically, it is Pink Floyd’s most accessible record. Absent are the 10+ minute sonic explorations that defined their early and later work, Dark Side of the Moon striking the perfect balance between ambition and commercial appeal, satisfying music nerds and casual listeners alike. However, the instrumental brilliance is not why I think Dark Side is an album for all times. Instead, it is the persistent relevance the record’s themes hold over time. The album explores the concept of ‘not feeling quite right’ in modern times. From paranoia to greed, the album’s explorations of such ideals are vivid, told through a track-list that sees each song seamlessly flow into the next that, despite it nearing its 50th birthday, still ring true in our contemporary society. Each track, rather than deal with issues relevant to the time, explore bigger ideas and worries, ones that resonate today with the ever-growing volatility of our modern world. Here’s how…
Track 1- Speak to Me:
This minute-long opener is a strange and swirling ambient piece that sets the mood well. A collection of sounds and samples used all throughout the album and held together by the sound of a heart-pumping, this eerie, distant number is a perfect introduction for what’s to come.
Track 2- Breathe (In the Air):
The first lyrics the listener hears on the album are a simple plea, “breathe, breathe in the air, don’t be afraid to care”. A positive request, this dreamy and slow track quickly sets the scene for the rest of the album, these pleas turning into nihilist assertions such as “dig that hole, forget the sun”. A song about resignation to modernity, it closes with telling the listener they are “balanced on the biggest wave” and that they will “race towards an early grave”.
Track 3- On the Run:
One of three instrumental tracks that serve as quasi-interludes, this electronic number creates the sensation of (as the title suggests) being on the run. Due to the lack of lyrics, it is never clear what we are on the run from; however, its break-neck pace and overwhelming synths perfectly embody a sense of paranoia and that something terrible is pursuing you, something inevitable that despite its horror, we must all face at some stages of our lives.
Track 4- Time:
Time is simply one of the greatest, if not the greatest, song ever written. It is also the perfect representation of existential dread. As suggested by the title, this song explores the notion of passing time. Where the passage of time in some songs might be presented as nostalgic and exciting, Pink Floyd present in a far more benevolent manner. In the band’s eyes, the past is a commodity wasted and misused, and the future is a march towards the inescapable, leaving one “shorter of breath and one day closer to death.”
Track 5- The Great Gig in the Sky:
Though a vocal track, there are again no lyrics, instead, the impassioned wails and crescendos of female vocalist Clare Torry. It is hard to say what I think this song to be about; however, its orchestral beauty indicates significance and emotion. Is it about a child being born onto this Earth? Or does it represent the opposite end? Is it a dying persons final visions before passing? Whatever it means, its one hell of an emotional ride.
Track 6- Money:
Probably the most recognisable moment on this album mainly due to its elastic and iconic bassline, Money is easily the album’s most overtly political moment. It is an attack on all things material and the greed it causes (linking it all of course back to money). However, the song does end in a defeatist manner, lamenting to the fact that cash does indeed make the world go around and despite the problems it causes, is a necessary evil one has to work with to survive.
Track 7- Us and Them:
Don’t be fooled by the more mellowed tone of this song, as it explores the violent implications of the “us v them” mentality that dominates society. Lyrically, this song might just be the most enduring on this record. Whether it be liberal v conservative, the West v the East, or today, America v Iran, the song asserts that the division of humanity only has one path, destruction and violence.
Track 8- Any Colour You Like:
This instrumental track simply serves as a break from all the melancholy, in my opinion, a way to cleanse the pallet before continuing into Pink Floyd’s final statement. A beautiful piece of music, nevertheless.
Tracks 9 and 10- Brain Damage/Eclipse:
Though indicated as different songs, these tracks are inseparable with it being impossible to have one without the other. It serves as a final conclusion and summary of what this album is about, not feeling quite right. On Brain Damage, chief song-writer Rodger Waters describes how there is a “lunatic… in my head”, representing the need to escape from the inescapable, the desire for a break from the ever-dreadful nature of modernity. It is on Eclipse that things finally lighten up in a bitter-sweet way, assuring the listener that others out there share your disquiet, before fading into the heartbeat heard in the first moments of the album.
All of this concludes what is one of the most essential listens in modern music. It is a dark, melancholy record which might not be exactly what people are looking for at the moment, but it is powerful. You don’t have to like this album at all, you are the ruler of your own taste. But I do think that it is something everyone should delve into once in their life, and who knows, maybe this album will just strike a chord with you.