Author Archives: matthewmain

artist profile: Jay Cue

Hip-hop lives in a post-Odd Future world. As pretentious, overtly assuming and presumptuous as that statement is about the career trajectory Odd Future are undergoing, it is one difficult to deny – the gritty hyperbole of Wolf Gang’s menacing brand of rap is only as powerful as it is powerless to stop thousands of pale imitations; it is impossible to listen to some of their output without simultaneously wondering about/dreading the undeniable influence the collective wields through its lyrical themes. Still, this can work both ways, and hopefully OF will prove to be just the tip of the iceberg in forward, teenage hip-hop.
Plenty of evidence points to this being exactly the case. Allow me to introduce to you Jay Cue, central pillar of Nobody Really Knows, another youthful hip-hop collective, with a decidedly different interpretation of the Odd Future aesthetic. On his enthralling debut album, Pyramid Life runs the full gamut of unabashedly childlike emotions; you have your stereotypical hip-hop bravado and condescension; but equally, mundane feelings are held in the same regard“Sore Loser” is exactly the type of track its title would suggest in its bemoaning of just how flipping frustrating it is to watch others reap the benefits for something you think you deserve.
Maybe that isn’t mundane, and maybe my circular analysis has just led me round to condescension of the modern kind; sitting behind a computer screen and berating other people for not thinking the same way you do, or at least not articulating their thoughts in a way you find satisfying. And I’m supposed to be suggesting you listen to this guy. Do that.

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record review: Peaking Lights – 936 (Not Not Fun)

Chillwave is dead. Forget glo-fi. It’s summery weather again, and beach-pop still sucks. As shallow a movement as its lyrical depth and the gently lapping waves it paddled in, it is categorically, undeniably and irrevocably finished. Because, after all, come on guys, there’s surely a new trend to sink your teeth into just around the corner, one that requires one or two modicums of intellect to access and enjoy, one that doesn’t lull you into a forgiving acceptance of mediocrity, (how do people enjoy Best Coast?) and (hopefully) one that doesn’t have such a tenuously structured aesthetic rooted in faux-nostalgia and ironic Sun-worshipping. Throw away those retro-effect evening beach shots (we know you did them in Photoshop, anyway) and awaken to the fact that reveling in your white, suburban, beach-orientated existence is no longer socially relevant while they’re behaving so admirably and uh, “un-chill” in North Africa.

By now you already think I’m selfish and demanding and impatient and misunderstanding of the objectives of chillwave so ‘whatever’, let me just articulate further/bludgeon my point a little deeper into your skull. I truly believe that there is so much to celebrate in the magnificence of nature, when framed by sunlight, that it’s frankly offensive that the absolute magnum opus of this genre amounts to ‘the sun was high / and so am I’ and lines of comparable weight. Where is the evocative imagery? Where are the vivid landscapes of colour, the exultation of beauty au naturel, the shy intrusion of solar glare on these sonic summer photographs? With such a vast palette of sensual experience to draw from, how is it possible that I still feel confined to my room when I listen to these songs? (Is this 300-word strong review of a record I have not yet addressed going to consist entirely of frustrated rhetorical questions?)

I do not ask for complexity. The opposite will more than suffice; a five-word repeated mantra often says a lot more than multiple verses, too preoccupied with their own intellect to amount to something relatable. And honestly, “All the Sun that Shines” doesn’t do all that terrible job of reaching such an endpoint. The gorgeous epiphany of sound, the unhurried peripheral butterflies, the closure of eyelids, the embracing of warmth, brushing of field flowers on uncovered skin, waves of time irrelevant in such a spacious context. Five minutes become one.

Honestly, I can and do often tire of taking in copious amounts of new music. Never, however, can I tire of feeling – an appeal to the senses is an undeniable, inescapable appeal, and in 936, Peaking Lights have made an album I can feel. I stop being so flipping ordinary when I hear these songs; I stop existing as a physical entity altogether, in places. It may not be my place to detail such hallucinatory visions (don’t many people hold true that the most boring thing you can listen to is another person’s dream?) but I can certainly assume the role of directing anybody reading, to formulate their own interpretations when ‘feeling’ their way through this album. Though chillwave as a concept may be becoming decadent, this dub-inflected, amoebic entry is probably still part of the genre, wherever the inclinations of my heart would prefer it to be placed.

That there are songs on here called “Marshmellow Yellow” and “Tiger Eyes (Laid Back)” – potentially the most forward, downright groovy track on the album – shows a sense of self-awareness contained within this blissful mix. Calling a track on a fully-fledged record a ‘dub version’ is possibly even a touch of wry irony; that Peaking Lights recognise referential touchpoints and natural genre exploration within their own music speaks volumes for itself, especially when attempting to explain exactly why they sound like the epitome of a sound they were arguably too late to encapsulate. Forum stalwarts and bloggers alike may point to the fact that it is no longer 2008, and they’re right; it’s 2011, and Peaking Lights are making an inane brand relevant again. From the horribly clashing vibrancy of the album artwork to the textural feel of their refreshing music, the message is strikingly simple – beyond the image, and into the sound.

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new release: The Middle East – I Want That You Are Always Happy (2011)

Given that all The Middle East have ever collectively released is an 8 track group of recordings (creatively titled The Recordings of The Middle East), it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why they’re so widely accepted as an established band. For my money, they’re still firmly fixed in the fledgling stage of their development, though this doesn’t necessarily imply immaturity – “Blood” is type of finished article many artists never reach, in careers that can span decades. It is unfortunate, then, that thus far “Blood” has proved to be a diamond in the rough – the ‘rough’ in question being the largely forgettable accompanying ventures. It is with open arms, then, that we welcome the announcement of grammatically-testing, debut full-length I Want That You Are Always Happy. Thus far, all that is known is that their native kinsfolk of Australia will be able to download the new album from iTunes as early as April 8th, meaning that it shouldn’t be too long before the whole world has access to it, via illicit means or otherwise. “Jesus Came to My Birthday Party”, a pleasantly inoffensive number from the new album, and presumably the lead single, is available for streaming at the Hype Machine.

new music: Pusha T

It’s safe to say that back in September, when Pusha T announced he was delaying the release of his mixtape, Fear of God, there were a fair few left disappointed. Around the same time, this particular half of the Clipse machine signed on with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label, a logical continuation of the guest spots Pusha had enjoyed both at intimate Kanye gigs and on entries in the G.O.O.D. Friday series. There was occasional murmurs that the man even had the tendency to steal the show on certain songs; his flawless verses in “Christian Dior Denim Flow” and “Looking for Trouble” immediately spring to mind.
The time has come, though, for Pusha T to remind everybody that not all that long ago it was he, and Clipse, who were taking the hip-hop scene by storm, cementing their legacy with 2006’s genre-defining Hell Hath No Fury.
Fear of God
includes “My God”, already circulating the blogosphere, containing ruminations on, well, what makes Pusha T so great, basically. I’m not arguing.
The entire thing is now available for stream/download over at Grooveshark, or various other ports of call, which our tech-savvy generation will doubtless have no problem locating.

new release: The Weeknd

There isn’t much known about Canadian duo The Weeknd. From what we can tell, they’re more than capable of maintaining various social networking sites, all part of conjuring up a mysterious and seductive e-persona. As of earlier today, (yesterday, if you’re on the wrong side of the Atlantic) they dropped their first release of notable length, a mixtape entitled House of Balloons. It’s a testament to the unique appeal of their refreshing RnB sound that I hadn’t even finished my first time through before I felt inclined to post this, and share it around. Swirling, reverberating, (and refreshingly fuzz-free) supporting instrumentation is all that is needed to let the heartfelt vocals of Abel Tesfaye whisk you away, relaying frequently crude lyrical themes with a paradoxically smooth tone.  The mixtape includes “What You Need”, a track deservedly attracting the attention of numerous blogs and online music expositeurs. The entire thing can be download for free over at Weeknd’s official site, and you’d be ill-advised to sleep on it.

artist profile: German Error Message

After the Warmth, the latest album from German Error Message, is currently my soundtrack for reading The God Delusion. I should really be finishing off The Idiot, (the numerable requests for its return from my librarian bear testament to this) but there is something much more plainly spoken and inviting about The God Delusion, and Richard Dawkins’ impassioned opinions, particularly after a long day. There is a chance that the book will be of immense significance for me in the near future. I’m increasingly struggling to marry the existence of a supernatural deity to the tangible experiences of real life, and like any process of gradual detachment from something one has become attached to, it weighs heavily on the soul.

German Error Message, however, are not what you would describe as a particularly daunting listen. There are moments on the record which might intone that they’d quite like to be, and unfortunately these are the weakest; pushing boundaries for the sake of doing so is simply not what this band needs to focus on. Their earthy, focused guitars/stringed-instruments are a welcome reminder of what makes artists like Bon Iver and The Tallest Man on Earth so enjoyable; indeed, many parts feel like a For Emma-informed homage to Seven Swans. That they are recognisably similar to these artists is not yet a threat to their existence, at this stage of their evolution – there are still promising avenues the band has yet to traverse, and it is not inconceivable that the band may expand upon their sound in the near future.

Tracks like “We Arose” (see below) and album opener “Reaching Out” demonstrate aptly the appeal of German Error Message; delicate melodies in which the beautiful male/female vocal harmonies can be happily entwined – locked like roots far, far below the earth. In the year bearing the return of Fleet Foxes, German Error Message may find themselves in the hands of a much wider demographic; and it will not be entirely undeserved.

new release: Fucked Up

I’ll be honest; hardcore isn’t really my jam. I’m living a typical middle-class suburban lifestyle – too tired to riot; too apathetic to be angry; too cynical for dissonance; and largely too self-absorbed to find release in the pounding riffs and fury-driven mantras of the ‘genre of violence’. With all that said, there sure is a place in my heart for The Chemistry of Common Life, Fucked Up‘s sophomore (and defining) studio album. It seems the Toronto band is not satisfied with the content and scope of their previous releases, however; their new album David Comes to Life will feature all sorts of novelty add-ons accompanying its traditional release. The record follows the concept of a disillusioned protagonist living through the Thatcher administration, who soon endures the heartbreak of the death of the girl he falls in love with. A compilation of companion releases to the storyline will be released on Record Store Day. The band posted the poster below on their blog on Saturday; make of it what you will. David Comes to Life is due out June 7th on Matador Records.