Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Arcade Fire - Reflektor

I don't like it when I feel like I am obligated to listen to an album. It's only happened twice this year: once with The 20/20 Experience, Part 2 and now with Reflektor. I wasn't too crazy about The Suburbs. That is not an indictment on the album or the band, it was a fine album full of songs I really liked. But it was very "Arcade Fire". I had pretty much got what I needed from this band with Funeral; you can't anxiously await a band's masterpiece when it was the first thing they released.

But Reflektor is one of those "music moments" where everyone comes together to listen to an album and talk about it for a few weeks, and then talk about it again with your mom after the Grammys are over.

So, here we go...

The big thing everyone is anticipating with this album is Arcade Fire's "shift in sound". I think for the most part, Arcade Fire play to their new sound really well. It's got a lighter, bouncier feel to it that I think really jibes well with Arcade Fire's established aesthetic. However, I feel like they may have spent too much time focusing on their sound and not enough on songwriting.

There are three songs I really dig: "Reflektor", "We Exist", and "Porno" are all excellent tracks. The bassline on "We Exist" is simply killer. Aside from these three... I like elements of many of the songs. But when you look beyond the fancy new synths, where the songs are not formulaic, they are boring. One big impression I am getting from this album is how self-aware Arcade Fire feel on this album. It's as if they sat around and said "You know, our anthems with bombastic choruses are always a big hit. Let's be sure to do that a lot." Or, "We should put in an ambient synth part here, that's totally artsy." Everything feels a little less organic and a little more planned on this album.

Another change I have noticed is the lack of Regine on this album. She plays more of a backup role, whereas I had always thought of her as "the other lead singer". This bums me out, because I adore her voice.

All in all, I like the new direction Arcade Fire have taken. I think that once they are settled in with this "new sound", they will feel a lot more comfortable writing excellent songs again that better fit their dancey attitude. In the meantime, we can hope and pray for a Regine solo album.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Laurel Halo - Chance of Rain

Yes. Laurel Halo has done two things with this record:

1) She made a record that lives up to the hype I've assigned to her.
2) She made the follow-up to Splazsh that Actress never did.

When I first saw a video about Laurel, I was entranced. She was playing piano as a strange sample looped, and I was immediately excited for her debut release. Last year's Quarantine was just too weird, though. There were many moments that captured my attention like that old youtube video had, but many more where her vocals and song structure just turned me right off.

With Chance of Rain, Laurel has crafted an immersive, hypnotizing techno album that belongs in a club on the moon. It really does feel like a follow up to Actress' Splazsh. If you've heard that record, expect more of the brooding, stuttering, off-kilter dub music, only with more cohesion as an album. If you haven't heard Splazsh... well, get on that.

Chance of Rain is released on Hyperdub, so if you enjoy their weird brand of dubstep/future garage/whatever-other-lame-genre-tag-you-can-come-up-with, definitely check out this record.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tim Hecker - Virgins

Somehow this is the first Tim Hecker release I've ever heard. He's been on my radar for quite a while, and I am regretting not checking him out sooner. Virgins is an excellent record, full of bizarre orchestrations that are simultaneously organic and digital all mashed into one. It's creepy, relaxing, and beautiful--the perfect album for mid-October.

There is a heavy presence of piano on many of these songs, and it kind of makes me think this is what we would get if the song "Replica" by Oneohtrix Point Never were expanded on and made into a full album.

Also, check out that cover art. If that's not the perfect visualization of this music, I don't know what is.

Friday, October 11, 2013


This past week has been nuuuts! So much good music has come out, I can barely keep up! Here we go:


First thing's first, one of my most anticipated albums of the year finally came out, and it does not disappoint! Danny Brown is probably tied with Kanye as my favorite rapper currently active. As with XXX, DAnny splits his album into two halves, one part bangers, one part introspective pieces. The bangers on this album can at times get a little too intense, but the introspective songs are much better here than on XXX. I am actually not a fan of the track ordering on here, and I think it creates a tedious listening experience. Danny frontloads the album with his introspective stuff, and maybe I have been bred my whole life to hear albums with bangers up front, and chill outs on the backside. So I created my own tracklist that breaks up the album into a better flow and I think the album is better for it. Regardless, the songs on here speak for themselves. Danny's humor and flow really make this album unmistakably "Danny", and the beats are really awesome. One minute it's spastic electro, the next it's an eastern-inspired beat that may as well come off an Enya album.
Danny Brown - Lonely

Continuing in the hip-hop world, Pusha T released his debut(?) solo album My Name Is My Name. I say debut(?) because I think I have read that somewhere, but he has had multiple mixtapes and plenty of other solo work put out since the end of Clipse. Hell Hath No Fury is my favorite hip-hop album of all time, so I was excited to hear Pusha's solo work. Kanye is all over this album ,which is definitely a good sign, but Neptunes producer Pharrell Williams is behind my favorite track, "Suicide". Why Pusha doesn't just stick with Neptunes for all his work (as he did on Hell Hath No Fury) is beyond me. Somebody call Pusha and tell him Kyle wants Hell Still Hath No Fury. All in all, the album has a handful of tracks that are amazing, and a good bunch that are... not.
Pusha T - Suicide

Blue Sky Black Death - Glacier. This album is the aural equivalent of spooning in zero gravity while watching the sun rise on Earth's curved horizon. This album has a post-rock structure with a hip-hop heart, think m83 plus Purity Ring. The sounds on this album envelop you; I find myself turning my stereo up to 35 when listening (my stereo's equivalent of "turning it up to 11"). I would recommend you listen to the song below as soon as possible, and do yourself a favor and turn it up so you can hear every shimmering detail.
Blu Sky Black Death - II

Darkside - Psychic. I heard a ton of buzz about this album before it was released, people saying it was incredibly unique, unlike anything else, etc. Now that I've heard it, I can say it is definitely not typical, but it's not unlike anything I've ever heard before, either. It sounds to me like My Morning Jacket's Z mixed with Shlomo, or someother chilled out electronic act. I am still making up my mind on this one, at times it's really great, and at others it just feels like it's meandering because someone told them that "good songs should be 11 minutes long". I also feel like this album would be 10 times better if the singer would just sing. He's got this restrained-singing thing going and it kind of gets annoying.
Darkside - Golden Arrow

The Field - Cupid's Head. I couldn't tell you with 100% certainty why I like The Field. Yes, he makes lush, hypnotic minimal techno music, perfect for playing in the background while you work. But sometimes his music feels so simple that I feel like The Field's first album was reviewed extremely positively, and since then he is able to release the same album over and over again and he's not called out on it because he makes "minimal techno". I still listen to each album, and I still like each one, but I am not 100% sure I couldn't be making this music if I dedicated the time. Still, be sure to check it out and zone out to the grooves.

Daniel Avery - Drone Logic. This techno album is really excellent. I've only listened to it maybe twice through, but it's really great. I believe what sets this album apart from other electronic dance albums (aside from awesome sampling and bitchin cover art) is illustrated in the song "All I Need". Like many other techno songs, it slowly adds elements to the song and gets more and more intense up to a boiling point, and when you expect the beat to drop at 4:53, he instead strips it down to the bass drum and staccatoed bass synth. It's a moment that elevates the intensity from "hooray dancing!" to a cool "I got this" sneer. Get your glowsticks.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Oneohtrix Point Never - R Plus Seven

So, I kind of cheated with this album. A couple years ago, I decided to start paying for music. Whenever an album was leaked, I would be tempted to download it. But due to some bullshit sense of morality, I instead waited for the actual release date to get the album legally.

R Plus Seven presented a different challenge. Not only was this my most anticipated album of the year, but OPN albums usually take a good month or so before they fully "click" for me. Which wouldn't normally be a problem, but I have 7 people who read my blog who I just know are dying to hear what I think about the new OPN album. I couldn't force them to wait a whole month to hear my opinion!

Alright... so I just wanted the album as soon as it leaked. Sue me.

Please don't sue me.

Oneohtrix Point Never has had a pretty interesting trajectory over his career. Returnal was full of industrial, synth-based ambient music that sounded like it belonged in the world of Terminator. The clincher that jumped this album up from "good" to "genius" was the first track, "Nil Admirari"; a noise piece so intense that the rest of the album after it is like a cathartic release of euphoria. 2011 saw the release of Replica, full of samples of early 90's commercials spliced together in disjointed ways, yet producing a finished product that was easy listening and challenging all at once.

I'm not 100% sure how the sounds on R Plus Seven were created, but it sounds to me like he almost combined the two ideas of the last two albums. I think it sounds like he played music on a synthesizer, chopped it up into samples, and then created an entirely new piece of music from the scraps.

R Plus Seven is a strange beast. At times, it has some of OPN's most accessible and immediate music. However, most of the songs on here are treated like mini-suites in which you get 3-4 songs all in the span of 4 minutes. Sometimes you can hear a theme between the suites, but more often it sounds pretty random.

Take "Americans" for example. It starts with a playful sample of birds and those laughing Boo ghosts from Mario games (awesome sample) and skitters into an awesome piece with xylophones, harpsichord, synth strings, and synth vocal samples. This fades into a really messy sounding rumbling that is kind of confusing. We then fade into an ambient synth drone, cut off abruptly by the most beautiful moment on the album full of sweeping synth choirs, astral vocal accents, and another xylophone sound. Just as this song is really starting to take flight--it ends.

This album is full of moments like these: symphonic, gorgeous, confusing, and nearly always too short.

One thing I read a lot online when people are describing this album is that this album is a lot like going into a museum of modern art. There's a lot of cool stuff to see, but there's also that weird scribbled drawing in pencil that could have been done by a child. This album feels like an art exhibit. Daniel Lopatin is throwing so many unique and peculiar ideas onto the canvas that it would be surprising if you loved every single moment on this record.

Namely, he uses synth choir vocals in a lot of places, to the point where it really gets corny. Also, "Inside World" is absolute garbage, and "Problem Areas" is mostly annoying.

Aside from that though, I am really loving this album. Like other OPN records, I'll be listening to R Plus Seven and snap out of it only to realize I've been listening to the album on repeat for 3 hours. When I first got the album, I was listening on headphones to "Americans" in awe, only to shit my pants when I opened my eyes and saw my wife in front of my face trying to get my attention.

If you are unfamiliar with Oneohtrix Point Never, I encourage you to check him out with an open mind. His music really has the ability to transport you somewhere else if you let it. If you are familiar with OPN, well... get on that shit, homes.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A$AP Ferg - Trap Lord

I have kind of been putting this album off ever since it came out. I've heard maybe two songs with A$AP Ferg featured, and he was terrible in both. On top of that, I haven't been too keen on anything from the A$AP Mob aside from the original Rocky Mixtape. And on top of that, I don't think I am a big fan of trap music. I have only heard Flockaveli and Trap God 2, but both of them have a lot of those corny synth-horns that I am never too fond of in hip hop.

Trap Lord is therefore, quite the pleasant surprise. This album is awesome. It has some of the best production and beats I've heard in a long time, and A$AP Ferg actually turns out to be a pretty likable MC (likable in that I enjoy watching his music videos, but he would certainly make me very uncomfortable if we were to hang out).

So we now reach the point in my review where you, as a hip-hop fan, need to assess what kind of hip-hop fan you are. Do you prefer Kendrick Lamar or ScHoolboy Q? Kendrick is one of the most talented lyricists in the rap game right now, and his beats are secondary to that. Q has some bangin beats, but his lyrics are not great. However, the one thing both rappers have in common is an excellent flow.

A$AP Ferg falls into the ScHoolboy Q category; he's definitely no lyrical genius. However unlike Q, he doesn't even have the great flow to redeem himself. Like A$AP Rocky, his charisma and southern style make up for many of his shortcomings.

Having said all that, check out this line:

"Mothafuckas like cavities cause them niggas be too fake"

Yes, he says "toofake" like tooth ache. And yes, it is one of the greatest lines I've ever heard.

One more thing before I wrap this up, does anyone enjoy sex sounds in hip-hop songs? You're listening to "4:02", which is a smooth jam, and then what's that? Some woman being pleasured? Cool. I have guests in my car and now they think I listen to people having sex. I get that A$AP Ferg wants to come off as some womanizer, but it's far more believable if you just confidently say so. When you put sex sounds on your song, you sound like a guy who thinks he's no longer a virgin cuz he touched a boob accidentally at a concert.

Anyways, be sure to get Trap Lord and crank it while driving around with the windows down, making sure you turn it back down when at a red light.