Friday, December 2, 2016

What is 2016? Baby, Don't Hurt Me

Well, here we are in December. There are a lot of memes about what an awful year it's been across the globe, but I personally haven't had The Worst Year Of My Life. I mean, it was pretty terrible that David Bowie surprise-died and I'm still not prepared to write anything about Blackstar but that's why the Ancient Romans invented wine*

it really hasn't been, tho

What music even came out in 2016? It's been one of the least exciting years for music that I can recall. Thanks to streaming services and some life stability in my increasingly advanced age (previously discussed here) it's hard to tell what was actually released when. How embarassing, For It Is True!: I had to do some careful and considered research on popular internet website "wikipedia" to assemble my completely unecessary best of 2016 write-up.


This Year's Let-Downs

~Where My Own Huge Expectations Are Not Met, But That's The Artists' Fault~

The Life of Pablo by Kanye West: Look, I know this album is still good, and probably quite popular, but I was hoping for him to go further down the path he stomped down in Yeezus. Instead he sort of jumped in to the flowerbed and made a sub-par sequel to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Hopefully a) Kanye is OK and b) Trump's America pushes him in to the weird again.

this picture of junk is more exciting than M83's album
Junk by M83: The first couple of songs are fantastic, which makes the subsequent beige soundblob all the more disappointing.

(I'd like to point out that at this point I stopped typing to casually floss my teeth. I told you, I'm turning into a double-J-listening responsible adult.)

The Bride by Bat for Lashes: I'm still pro Natasha Khan, but whichever record label executive indulged her in this concept album with the thinnest premise in the world made a horrible mistake. Track one, "Oh! A bride is mega excited to get married yay!" Track two, "Oh no, groom has horrible and prophetic dream of his own death!" Tracks three to twelve, bride sooks because groom is dead. That's the whole album. There's even a spoken word piece of very questionable quality.

Albums That Were Good But Not Great

actual lyrics from "Bird Song" by M.I.A.
~These may have lasted like, a month in my car~

AIM by M.I.A.: The video for "Borders" was fantastic and lifted my expectations for the album to drop. "Finally" is one of the greatest songs she has even done, but, "Bird Song" is undeniably the worst.

Boy King by Wild Beasts: I actually really enjoyed this album! Big Cat, Alpha Female and Get My Bang are all great sing-alongs. I just wished they did more of their dual-vocalist tornadoes as seen on the prior three albums.

Wildflower by The Avalanches: For me, this felt too much like a revolving door circus of guest artists than a good, solid album from some genuine o.g. gamechangers. Pleasant listening, but how could they ever follow up Since I Left You, really?

A Small Selection Of Stand-out Tracks 

~Where I either didn't listen to the album or didn't care for it~

  • All Night by Chance the Rapper, because I don't have time for gospel nonsense
  • Hold Up, Sorry and Formation by Beyonce. I might be the only person in the world that doesn't care for Don't Hurt Yourself, and the ballads on her self-titled are better than the ones that appeared here.
  • FloriDada by Animal Collective. Everyone gave up on them after Centipede Hz (quite rightly,) but this song is great.

Home Runs

~Really Great Albums if I'm Completely Hair-nest~

HOPELESSNESS by Anohni. I got to see her perform this live at the Sydney Opera House, and it was fantastic. A completely terrifying and cynical look at .,;xmodern.societyx;,. Fully endorsed by renowned supermodel Naomi Campbell (see below). Best moments are "4 Degrees," "Watch Me," "Crisis," "Drone Bomb Me." Give it a listen, ya mug.

Hills End by DMA's. I already wrote about this album here. Unlike slurring rubbish a la The Smith Street Band or Camp Cope, these guys help me keep faith in Australian rock music. (Though I will admit I'm keen on a sneaky Violent Soho song here and there, in the interest of being a massive hypocrite)

The Colour in Anything by James Blake. This took me a while to get in to. It's a pretty long album, but with repeat listens it all reveals itself as quite varied and detailed. Got that good gloomy rainy night mood, and "Timeless" employs the best use of caralarm.wav I've ever heard. I'd also like to mention that James Blake and Kanye West songs are the only times it's appropriate to bring out the perpetually formless Bon Iver.

Atrocity Exhibition by Danny Brown. This is some bonkers stuff. Demonic swamp rap with the most nasal voice since Brian Molko. When I told one of my teenage students I loved Danny Brown's album, he Spoke For The Masses and said, "I think I just can't stand his voice, sir." #YourMileageMayVary- dance in the water and not get wet.

My Favourite Album of 2016: Blond by Frank Ocean

~I can't believe anyone bothers to read all this~

I really stewed for a while about what my #AOTY was going to be. But based on play count and staying power alone, it has to be Blond.

I have to say, this album makes a terrible first impression. "Nikes" floats in with pitch-shifted vocals and without much to prove. It hangs around for a long five minutes without really going anywhere. The next track, "Ivy," pops in and walks through the speakers with no percussion whatsoever. By the time we hit the equally ambling "Pink + White," it's clear that Frank isn't in a hurry. I really didn't like it at first, I gotta say.

It wasn't until I perservered and gave it a few listens that the album really opened up to me. The way "Self Control" evolves from fireside crooning to ethereal hymn should be enough to make Justin Vernon give up and look for a job as a plumber,  and "Nights" perfectly captures somehow both a sense of apathy and stressed-out paranoia. Plus, unlike some other contemporaries, Frank can earnestly deliver lines like "did you call me from a seance, you are from my past life" without them sounding like terrible puns. At one point Andre 3000 delivers arguably the best verse of the year on "Solo (Reprise)."

It's not a perfect album- there are some terrible skits, but none of them are too long, and the songs more than make up for it. There's a real sense of mythology to uncover in the stories told on here, too. Much was made of Frank's coming out circa Channel Orange, and I do have to wonder if the title "Blond" was chosen due to it being one of the few words in english that desperately clings to gender.

Overall, Blond is a pastel-coloured daydream that's played through many of my Saturday afternoons this year. If you haven't given it a go, I heartily recommend.

Now, bring on 2017!

*I fact-checked this, but the history of wine is far too confusing for me to correct my outrageous and false claim

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Views (aka CDs) from the Six (aka my Car)

I was sipping on Schweppes Natural Peach Infused Mineral Water No Sugar (which I'm sure has been invented solely for people with mild hangovers) when I decided to dive back into The Cosmic Foxhole for my dearest readers. How are you all? That's great whatever.

Here are some CDs I have been spinning in my car, Gorgonzola. I've been playing CDs in my car because I've reached the age and/or mindset where popular youth radio station Triple J makes me furious. "Aussie hip hop!?" I yell at the radio. "Why are they talking so much shit? Just play a damn song!" I'm pretty sure the other day I even said, out loud, "Why can't these people go to a music festival and just be sober?" My youth is over. RIP.

1. Hills End by DMA's
This album is pretty good! I bought it on a whim after enjoying opening track "Timeless." If I was going to look at this picture of the band without knowing what they sound like, I would assume they play bad bogan garage rock or Aussie Hip-Hop, BUT,  the genre is actually jangly Australia-does-britpop, and
it's done well. When I play it while I'm wearing a flannel shirt and sunglasses I pretend I'm the protagonist of a cool young adult coming of age film, which is basically my life anyway.

8 Bildungsromans out of 10

2. Nonagon Infinity by King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard
I'm certain these guys have been smoking too many drug cigarettes, and not only because they decided to call their band "King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard." This album could be the soundtrack to a Power Rangers boss battle set in the 1970s. Despite being chopped up in to 9 tracks, it's more or less one long "suite" that is meant to be looped- the end of the last song lines up perfectly with the beginning of the first song. It's a fun listen! Surprise harmonica solos! Lifestyles of the Riffs and Famous! Never loud enough! Something something Black Sabbath! And also, what the shit:

7 Terrible Band Names out of 10

3. Endtroducing... by DJ Shadow
Because of the aforementioned death of my youth, I have been listening to digital radio station "Double J" aka "Old Person Triple J" inside of my house. Every week they feature a "classic album" from the past, because old people like me hate new things. Recently, they featured DJ Shadow's 1996 album Endtroducing..., so I put my copy in the car to revisit it there. For those of you that don't know of it, Endtroducing is reportedly one of the earliest albums that was made from samples. Unlike the more famous (?) Avalanches effort from 2001, it's a bit dark and moody, and more about the percussion than melodies.

I was kind of surprised to find that Endtroducing wasn't as engaging as I recall it being. The "slow build to a double-time-section" song format seems dated now, the interludes are jarring and awkward, and most of it just kind of meanders. Great mood music, but not the fantastic piece of history I remember it being.

5 Prodigy Breakbeats out of 10

Monday, February 8, 2016

Bag Hurl RiRi

I don't really have a Rihanna story, and I'm still unsure if she's actually Good. I just reallyreally seem to enjoy a lot more of her discography than a normal person should. And now she's back in black for he eighth(!) album, "ANTI," looking like an extra from The Matrix. We can tell she's being a Serious Artist for this one because of the A3 "poem" included in the packaging, as well as all the sketchy "polaroids" of Rihanna staring at a wall with blindfolds on. Seriously, what is she trying to be???

Halfway through the very first track, the beat stops and she proclaims "Let me cover your shit in glitter, I can make it gold." It seems like pretty standard Rihanna fare, all haughts and crosses, but she dials up that accent and throws in some 90s trip hop beats and it almost sounds like a secret track on Massive Attack's Protection. I was pretty sold on the album at this point y'guys, even if it is just glitter-covered excrement.

What follows is arguably the first Rihanna album that you'd be better off listening to on your headphones rather than blasting through the living room while you fold your laundry. The songs are insular and domestic and not really "for the clubz." There is an inexplicable and pretty faithful Tame Impala cover and not one but three romantic/pornographic slow jams at the end. I'm a pretty big fan of the lead single 'Work," where she turns the title into a weird mantra that just devolves into gibberish.  Underneath it is a beat that never quite takes off- the tension of it works pretty well, I think. At one point Drake shows up, but he actually doesn't add a lot here. RIP Drake guest spots. Maybe now I can write a blog post without having to mention Drake.

The only real clunker is "Woo," a wannabe Portishead/Weeknd noise thing that goes nowhere and does nothing interesting. Does it also have the worst song title in pop history? Yes. And that's including "Laffy Taffy" by D4L. She also insists on employing those cheesy electric guitar wails, here heard in "Kiss It Better" and in the past all over "Rated R."

I gotta say, I find that Rihanna is an interesting lady. There's definitely a "no fucks given" vibe, but who can really tell how foreals it is? I feel like I want to hear her songs and laugh at all her throw-a-phone-in-the-air-off-a-yacht-to-shoot-it-out-of-the-sky personas, but if I go too far down the path of knowing Who She Really Is it will ruin everything. When Miranda July interviewed her, the most interesting story came out of her conversations with the driver there and back. Maybe that's why the album is called Anti- to care about what she has to say is kind of missing the point.

Standout tracks: Consideration, Work, Desperado, Yeah I Said It