Sorry for being a bit slack lately with weekly updates, so to make up for it here is a slightly longer double feature.
10 Songs on Repeat (Week 30):
1. My Own Soul’s Warning by The Killers (2020)- The American alternative rock band’s trend of great singles and average albums continues with their latest Springsteen infused synth-driven effort Imploding the Mirage, with the anthemic and bombastic opener My Own Soul’s Warning being the standout.
2. Running up That Hill (A Deal With God) by Kate Bush (1985)- This is one of those songs that you remember the first time you heard. One of those songs that is almost undisputed in its brilliance, with the legendary British art-pop icon’s incredible voice gliding over a hypnotic, dream-like soundscape. Oh, and if Kate Bush couldn’t get any caller, the track is entirely self-produced.
3. Say the Name by clipping. (2020)- To my surprise and sheer delight, Daveed Diggs led experimental hip-hop trio clipping, are releasing a sequel to last year’s masterful There Existed an Addiction to Blood, titled Visions of Bodies Being Burned. If the bonkers lead single is anything to go off, the horror theme will continue, with Say the Name being a sparse yet menacing number that eventually builds to an excellent instrumental climax.
4. Lavender by Disclosure with Channel Tres (2020)- This British dance duo’s third LP has been a long time coming, and whilst it still doesn’t capture the magic of their debut, bangers such as Lavender ensure it is still an engaging and worthwhile listen.
5. Lover’s Spit by Broken Social Scene (2002)- This Canadian music collective have tended to lean into the more accessible side of the often-difficult genre of post-rock, infusing elements of indie rock throughout their discography, making them a perfect start point for anyone hoping to get into the genre. One of their best pieces is the whimsical Lover’s Spit, a gloriously messy about the conflicting desires of lust and simply wanting to settle down with someone you love.
6. Spiritual Healing by Dälek (2002)- To think the song was recorded in 2002, this boom-bap meets industrial experimental hip hop banger would fit right into the modern experimental scene dominated by names such as Death Grips and clipping.
7. Obstacle 1 by Interpol (2002)- Throwing back to the first-ever feature article I ever wrote for the roundup; I have gone thirty weeks now without including a track from Interpol’s seminal debut Turn On the Bright Lights. So here it is, a taste of one of rock music’s great triumphs.
8. I Appear Missing by Queens of the Stone Age (2013)- Written by Josh Homme to try and process his feelings of depression seemingly bought on after being woken from an induced coma, I Appear Missing is one of those songs that take their time to totally unravel, starting off as a held-together yet anxious and eventually descending into utter chaos. In my humble opinion, it is the band’s best track to this day.
9. America’s Most Blunted by Madvillain (2003)- One of the cult favourites of the much loved one-time collaboration between rapper MF Doom and producer Madlib, it does not take long to understand the central theme of America’s Most Blunted, a brilliant and (by the standards of the duo) long abstract hip-hop track with a feature from Madlib’s high-pitched rapper identity, Quasimoto.
10. Casimir Pulaski Day by Sufjan Stevens (2005)- I will admit one thing about this song, it made me cry upon the first listen. Don’t let the light, seemingly positive instrumental fool you, Casimir Pulaski Day is one of the most crushing songs I have ever listened to. It follows the narrative of a young man’s who’s friend dies of bone cancer. It captures grief with a subtle intensity and sticks in the mind long after the first listen.
Check out this week’s tracks here- https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1eBBbBCrlsUaFmOf9BudWp?si=x6dXw16YRN2PJxk9DWeDFg
10 Songs on Repeat (Week 31):
1. Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush (1978)- Having previously featured one of the best songs of all time Running Up That Hill (a Deal With God), I find it only appropriate that I include the track that made Kate Bush famous, her orchestral hit single that musically retells the renowned novel of the same name.
2. Alphabet by Shame (2020)- After what feels like ages, one of my favourite post-punk bands in Shame have returned with their latest Alphabet, a loose, hypnotic and surprising catchy banger that sees the band push their typically blistering sound in a more subtle direction.
3. Be An Astronaut by Declan Mckenna (2020)- This young British singer-songwriter’s latest album is a triumphant glam rock pastiche filled with larger than life anthems and gen z angst. The best track to emerge from this LP would have to be Be An Astronaut, a massive song with a sing-a-long chorus and classic David Bowie vibe.
4. Be My Baby by The Ronettes (1963)- The Ronettes are one of the classic girl vocal groups of the 60s, with the catchy, whimsical and lovesick Be My Baby being a reasonable justification as to why they are so popular.
5. Almost Crimes (Radio Kills Remix) by Broken Social Scene (2002)- You Forget it in People is one of the best albums I have listened to in a while, with the variety of this Canadian indie/post-rock collective on full display. Songs on this record are sometimes subtle ballads, or like this one; raucous and gloriously messy rock bangers.
6. Miles Davis by Blu and Exile (2020)- This smooth bop from the underground hip-hop duo is another example of what makes their recent record Miles so brilliant, with Miles Davis channelling the sleek jazz that made the musician it is named after so famous.
7. Relay by Fiona Apple (2020)- I said once that I would likely be featuring a large number of tracks from Fetch the Bolt Cutters, and here is another. Relay contains the lyrical genius evident throughout Apple’s latest and most significant record, however, one of the more challenging and abstract instrumentals make this song one of the more unique on the LP.
8. Punk Weight by Death Grips (2012)- If I had to sum up the sound of this industrial hip-hop trio in one word it would be loud. Simply, Punk Weight is one of their loudest. Enjoy.
9. Romantic Rights by Death from Above 1979 (2004)- A strange name for a band whose public persona is equally strange, this Canadian dance-punk duo have broken up, gone through multiple name changes and only ever released three albums across their 16-year existence. But why complain when they have a discography packed with hard-hitting bangers such as Romantic Rights.
10. 1,000,000 Died To Make This Sound by Silver Mt. Zion (2008)- The third Canadian artist to feature this week (and the second post-rock act), Silver Mt. Zion (full name Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra La La Band) have one of the most beloved and consistent discographies in the genres canon. 1,000,000 Died To Make This Sound is one of their lesser-known songs; however, this 14-minute epic is defiantly a great listen for any post-rock fans out there.
Listen to this batch of songs here- https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3c6TTBVMVG9f37P6frmjOF?si=mcqvqQdXTkiALYbnm-PwIQ.
Imploding the Mirage by The Killers- 6.0/10:
For me, The Killers have always been a singles band. By that, I mean a band that thrives off the back of excellent, popular, individual songs rather than consistent albums. One only has to look at Somebody Told Me, the infamous Mr Brightside or even the more contemporary Run For Cover to see this in action. And in my opinion, this trend continues on their latest effort Imploding the Mirage. The singles are undoubtedly the strongest efforts on this Queen-meets-Bruce Springsteen explosion of a record, with the deep cuts failing to make much of an impact. Every song on here is certainly larger-than-life and do not fail to muster images of the American Heartland that Flowers and co. are obviously trying to evoke, however despite this, many simply fall through the cracks into the realms of the unmemorable. Issues with the vocals (which at times just don’t feel like they’ve been mixed into the track properly) and some bland lyrics also don’t do this album any favours; however, I don’t find myself hating it. As a matter of fact, despite this album’s numerable flaws, I can’t help but find it charming in its own over-the-top way, with those thumping drums, soaring synths and prominent guitar riffs (and of course the enormous vocal presence of front-man Brandon Flowers) being pulled off well enough to save this record. Imploding the Mirage is like that dumb action movie you can’t help but enjoy: its over-the-top, predictable and filled with glaring errors yet does enough of those simple things right that you find yourself sticking to the end and feeling somewhat satisfied.
Best track: My Own Soul’s Warning
everything means nothing by blackbear- 1.0/10:
This album commits many musical crimes. Almost too numerable to count. First and foremost, blackbear shows himself to be an incredibly unlikeable character on everything means nothing. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of music out there where the artist’s presentation of themselves as someone not supposed to be liked can yield effective results (see Lil Ugly Mane), however when that lack of appeal derives from attempts to seem relatable, then you have to ask questions. And that is precisely the flaw with blackbear. Through his lyrics about heartbreak, drugs, girlfriends and various other pop-rap clichés, I was presented with a snarky, entitled character who both romanticises abusive relationships and seemingly blames women for all their problems. I cannot say whether that is a true reflection of blackbear as an individual; however, his apparent lack of self-awareness to his lyrical content certainly paints him that way. We then move on the instrumentals and boy… was I in for a treat. The beats and instrumentals are utterly flavourless, consisting of bland GarageBand quality drums and reverb-drenched guitar licks that have unfortunately become popular in this kind of rap. But to top things off, blackbear decided it was a good idea to include vapid, lifeless EDM instrumentals in a lot of the songs, rendering the production not only sleep-inducing but utterly nauseating as well. The end result is a collection of instrumentals that sound like Chainsmokers outtakes and dull study-beats. But ultimately, this album’s biggest crime is that it is simply boring. The combination of weak vocal performances and grating production manages to drag out this only 37-minute long record to unimaginable lengths. It really is a stinker, and an album I would suggest you avoid at all costs.
Best track: None of them.
ENERGY by Disclosure- 7.4/10:
Five years since the mildly disappointing Caracal, brotherly duo Disclosure return to their roots on ENERGY with decent results, if strangely inconsistent ones at that. Granted, the music within this LP is nothing new. Producers from the UK and beyond have been weaving tracks like this since the 90s; however, innovation and reinvention has never been the aim of the Lawrence brothers. Instead, it has been to do the simple things right. And obviously, something they’re doing is getting attention, evident in the star-studded line-up of guests on this record. And it’s when this album does the simple things right, it is exciting. When the bass is pumping, and the drum machines driving does this LP live up to its name: an energetic, heartbeat-raising dance fest with the sole purpose of getting you to move your body. Most of the guest features work well with the duo as well, with only a few feeling a little out of place. However, this album has two glaring flaws in my eyes that stopped it from being excellent. The first is the lacklustre final leg of the album, with the last three tracks being particularly disappointing. Secondly, for an album that has a pretty uniform style to it, I felt like the wasn’t a very smooth flow between tracks. What made this group’s debut so unique was its sense of connectivity between tracks, something that their two following albums have failed to capture. Having said that, I think there are too many bangers on this record for it to fail. It may not be breaking any new ground; ENERGY definitely contains some of this year’s best dance music.
Best track: My High
Smile by Katy Perry- 4.0/10:
Smile left me feeling almost nothing. I didn’t leave this album hating it with a passion, and I certainly didn’t leave it with a positive impression. I left it with a feeling of… well… nothing. Katy Perry’s latest outing is about as bland as pop can get. Armed with an excessively large team of song-writers and ideas that may have produced a hit single back in 2010, Smile feels totally out of place in today’s pop climate. Each song is a slight variation on the one before it, with the overused EDM beats and the overly-processed vocal presence of Perry leading to what just might be the most unsensational piece of music in 2020. Ironically, being this unsensational almost works in Perry’s favour at times, with nothing on this album (in my opinion at least) being overtly terrible. Having said that, the only real moment on this LP that has any lasting impact is the opening track. Honestly, I find writing reviews for records like Smile difficult, because there isn’t much to honestly say. It is not the worst album to come in 2020 (or even in the last month for that matter), but I will be shocked if anyone is still talking about this in a few weeks.
Best track: Never Really Over
Zeros by Declan McKenna- 8.4/10:
Exuberant, modern and yet profoundly nostalgic, Declan McKenna sounds like gen z’s answer to David Bowie, crafting an accessible and well-crafted glam rock album that might just help provide a sense of escape for some in this challenging time. It is incredible to think this British singer-songwriter is only 21, as not only does it feel like he has been around forever, but he writes with a sincerity well beyond his years. Zeros lyrically marries issues of socio-political importance and those more concerned with the day-to-day things of love and youth, making nearly every track on this album worthy of anthem status. The loud, glam rock-infused production only helps bring this to another level, making for some of the most rousing tracks of 2020. I will say my one most significant gripe with this album is that McKenna sometimes sails too close to his inspirations, making for some more derivative moments. However, this issue ultimately pales in comparisons to the excellent song-writing throughout this LP, and to think that this is what McKenna is capable of when he is still 21 has me immensely excited for what he could do in the future.
Best track: Be an Astronaut