10 Songs on Repeat:
1. Robert by Jockstrap with Injury Reserve (2020)- The recent wave of glitchy, noisy and challenging pop music that is sweeping the music world has continued with British duo Jockstrap’s excellent new EP Wicked City. The best track for me on this mini collection is the bass-driven, highly abstract and multifaceted Robert, which also just happens to feature a significant contribution from experimental hip-hop group Injury Reserve.
2. My High by Disclosure with Amine and slowthai (2020)- The newest single from British electronic duo Disclosure is one of their best tracks yet. This has likely got a lot to do with the fantastic features from the two MCs, doing their thing over a driving and catchy house beat. I also recommend checking out the wild music video attached to this song.
3. Chapter 319 by clipping. (2020)- This experimental trio featuring Daveed Diggs of Hamilton fame have released what is, in my opinion, the most potent protest song arising from the BLM movement. It is hard-hitting, noisy and uncompromising, with clipping. Applying their tenacity for extremes in their music exceptionally well.
4. Shadow by Moor Jewelry (2020)- An unexpected yet useful team-up between Moor Mother and Mental Jewelry has yielded one of 2020’s best and most unsettling noise rock efforts. Piercing guitars, a driving bass and anguished all come together on this track in a short yet practical package.
5. Crawling After You by Bass Drum of Death (2013)- A passionate, emotional and loud garage rock banger, nothing more to really say. Perfect for breakups.
6. Maldito by Jessy Bulbo (2006)- Who would’ve guessed that the Spanish language and punk rock could be such a winning combination. Mexican singer-songwriter Jessy Bulbo obviously did, creating this joyful yet rebellious banger as a result.
7. Televised Mind by Fontaines D.C. (2020)- After releasing what I thought was a disappointing second single for their upcoming album A Hero’s Death, the Irish post-punkers get right back on track with this distorted, menacing and strangely extensional number, re-igniting my anticipation for their second LP.
8. A Simple Answer by Grizzly Bear (2012)- Whimsical, melodic and dreamy, Grizzly Bear prove why they are (in my opinion) the best voice in modern indie-folk on A Simple Answer, found on the equally excellent Shields.
9. Identikit by Radiohead (2016)- After last weeks ranking of Radiohead albums, I thought it only right to revisit the band’s expansive and addictive discography. One song that seemed to stand out this time around was Identikit, a song that is built on a strange nervous that continually feels like it is about to unravel, but never entirely does.
10. L.A. by Amen Dunes (2018)- A name that often flies under the radar, Amen Dunes created an excellent album with 2018’s Freedom, with the two-part closer L.A. putting the singer-songwriters dreamy voice and compositions on a stunning display.
To listen to this week’s tracks, click here- https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2oNxc0t009RTbPB6n1fnR0?si=-6w_t_x7QsaNUJLkfELeyg.
If you’re having trouble listening to the clipping. track, it can also be heard on Bandcamp- https://clppng.bandcamp.com/album/chapter-319
Sunlight by Spacey Jane- 6.4/10:
Another week, another indie rock album from Australia. This Perth based band has been all the rage for the last year on alternative and popular radio station Triple J here in Australia, with their brand of shimmery if highly indistinct indie rock blending in well with the rest of the music and styles present on the station. And now, with their debut album Sunlight, the quartet don’t really push themselves too far beyond what they already know. For me, the most prominent problem with this LP is how some were genuinely moving, personal and well-crafted lyrics about love, growing up, and self-discovery are seemingly wasted on some generic and repetitive instrumentals. I can tell this band definitely have personality, as I said, you only need to hear their lyrics to come to that conclusion. But for me, if Spacey Jane wants to be considered anything more than generic, safe and catchy indie rock, then they need to go exploring for a more individualistic sound rather than playing it about as safe and any band could on a debut record.
Best track- Good For You
True Opera by Moor Jewelry- 8.0/10:
This team-up between Mental Jewelry and experimental hip-hop artist Moor Mother is an interesting combination, yielding a solid if not too boundary-pushing noise rock record. Scrappy, snarling, loud and aggressive, True Opera is a record indebted to its influences, drawing upon the sounds of groups like early Swans and Sonic Youth, also managing to incorporate some no wave and post-punk influences as well. This record is also filled with plenty of solid, tortured vocals that convey themes of politics, mental illness and revolution in a frightening yet engaging manner. For me, my biggest drawback is how the track-listing at times can feel a little repetitive and recycled, not making too much use of its really short runtime. I also didn’t think Moor Jewelry took enough risks in their sound, sticking quite stubbornly to their noise-rock roots. However, True Opera still remains an impressive record throughout, never trying to push boundaries and instead working solidly and effectively within the framework of an already well-established sound, yielding some unsettling yet exciting results.
Best track: Shadow
Rough and Rowdy Ways by Bob Dylan- 4.8/10:
Some song-writers age like a fine wine. One only has to look at the likes of Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave to see this eventuate. So, does this form translate over to Bob Dylan, quite possibly the most iconic singer-songwriter of all time? If his latest LP is any indication, no. Rough and Rowdy Ways is a long-winded, dull and uninspired effort from Dylan (and even he sounds bored throughout). You could blame it on old age, but for me, Dylan’s tired, worn voice was quickly the worst aspect of this record, with the pretty if slightly dreary instrumentals doing little to keep my attention. The last half-hour (in other words, the last two tracks) are easily the best of the bunch, but everything before this point just felt utterly redundant to me. With nothing really worthwhile to say and a lack of original ideas, Rough and Rowdy Ways to me comes off as a worn-out album from a worn-out artist. Ultimately, I think it best to just simply enjoy the tried and true staples of Dylan’s vast discography over this inessential effort.
Best track- Key West (Philosopher Pirate)
This Weeks Feature- BLM and Music: What Obligations Do Artists Have in Speaking Out?
A common feature some may have identified in some of my recent weekly roundups is a strong presence of protest songs, often specifically focused upon the Black Lives Matter movement. From clipping to Denzel Curry, many artists have really shone through as excellent voices for this movement. But what of the voices that have felt silent or removed?
For me, this begs an even bigger question, what obligation do artists have in speaking out against injustice when it occurs, and by extension, what responsibilities do artists have in relation for the BLM movement? There are two obvious answers to this question. The first being that they have none and should not speak on these issues, as they are artists, not politicians or academics and that discussion of issues such as these should be left to the experts. The fundamental flaw with this stance for me is that if this logic is true, then few people will be able to openly express themselves on such an issue, as the category of ‘expert’ is exceedingly narrow. The second stance would be that artists are obligated to speak out on issues such as these and any move not to is unacceptable. For me, however, this stance ignores the fundamental freedom of an artist to express themselves how they want and when they want. So, what do I think the right thing to do by artists is?
First and foremost, ARTISTS (and in this situation, musicians) have no obligation whatsoever to address the BLM movement and racial injustice within their music. It is my belief in fact that artists have no obligation to anybody and anything other than themselves and their own creativity and ideas with no requirement to meet any standards (I will qualify this by saying that some creative expressions can be distasteful and are not worthy of public attention, e.g. music that praises racism and promotes harmful ideologies).
But that just has to do with their art. What of artists as individuals and citizens of the world? What of artists not as creative minds, but human beings? With that in mind, my stance slightly changes. For me, on issues such as BLM movement and combatting racism and injustice, I think it is the essential duty to our fellow human beings to take a stand and care of one another. That might sound all wishy-washy “let’s all hold hands and stand in a circle”, but it is what I feel. Like all other human beings, I think artists need to discover where they might stand on this most important issue help the world move forward in a positive direction.
To conclude, I do not think artists, and specifically, musicians, have any obligation to put the BLM movement at the front and centre of their work, as it is their creative process and it cannot be owned by anybody else. However, I think artists as citizens of the world, and like all those around them, need to seek to understand and engage with the issues being confronted in the BLM movement and potentially speak out beyond their music. That is not to say artists cannot choose to present issues surrounding BLM in their art. Music is often at its best when protesting. But this must be the artists choice.