Ty Segall, the one-man-garage rocker and nineties Beck 2.0, released a brand new album, Freedom’s Goblin. It is most progressive album after his previous nine studio albums: numerous collaborations and projects with other groups such as Slaughterhouse and Fuzz.
His latest album, produced by the legendary Steve Albini, offers 19 tracks – all wide ranging and unreserved; there’s a reason why “Freedom” is featured in the title. This is a bold move, especially in music today. You don’t hear artists releasing double LP albums that blends various genres similar to the Beatles White Album (1968) or The Clash’s London Calling (1979). On Freedom’s Goblin, you hear elements of music that is reminiscent to classic rock (The Beatles, T-Rex, Todd Rundgren) and Segall’s contemporaries (Ohh Sees, Black Lips, Jack White). The variety and intensity keeps you listening. It’s a great album for newcomers. Its like experiencing the Kinks for the first time through their Kink Kronikles (1972) compilation – so much at once. It’s not as much psychedelic nightmares recorded from the underground, with scary album covers like his previous albums. It’s rock n’ roll with all its sub-genres: with some tight pop music in the mix, distorted guitars with a lot of humor and attitude – Segall is free and all over the place and lost at the supermarket.
Freedom’s Goblin opens with Segall going full Ryan Adams. The instrumentals in “Fanny Dog,” resemble certain classic rock elements, along with the slithering 3D’s/Pavement guitar riff. “Rain” by its title alone, is a Beatles tribute song. Segall lets out his inner John Lennon, reflecting Lennon’s vocals from “Strawberry Fields Forever.” This is the song that gets your mother listening by the door, asking “What Beatles song is that?” Next, Segall covers the seventies disco classic, “Every 1’s a Winner,” originally by Hot Chocolate. Here, Segall flirts with a more glam rock style, with an overly aggressive heavy Beck riff, which is of most importance. On “Despoiler of Cadaver,” Segall dives into a synth void and even becomes a bit Right Said Fred too sexy, especially when singing – “I want to whisper in your ear and give you everything.” This could’ve been a whirling disco dance floor hit in the seventies or played in a late nineties nightclub – a great followup funk number and one of the best off the new LP. “When Mommy Kills You,” is a classic Segall track, with again, a feeling of the Beatles, mostly from the background vocals. Even Yoko sounds like she could’ve been the overdubbing high pitched voices at the end. You can tell Segall is a big fan of Chris Bell and Big Star, on “My Lady’s on Fire.” Segall gets tender (“Alta,” “Cry Cry Cry,” “I’m Free”) and you can feel how profound his singing is. “Alta” is an environmental song, set in California – reminiscent of something the Beach Boys would have released from their 1970-1973 period. “Meaning,” could’ve been a new Jack White single for Boarding House Reach, but after the opening, it turns into this sprawling punk tune, with Segall’s wife singing lead vocals. “Shoot You Up,” is just as rebellious and heavy as The Clash’s “Guns of Brixton,” but Segall’s tone isn’t as pushy and intimidating as the instrumentals. The highlight, “You Say All The Nice Things,” is a lost T-Rex Slider (1972) take. “The Last Waltz” certainly sounds like its title with its word painting around the instrumentals, which also shows influence of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” by the Beatles. Typical blurred guitars from Segall, make their return on “She,” with Segall going heavy metal on vocals. The Wowee Zowee sections consists of “Prison,” – a goofy wild comedic instrumental transitional piece to the squalling saxophone and guitar boogie of “Talkin 3,” – where Segall screams the entire time and “The Main Pretender.” “5 Ft. Tall” is the catchiest number off the album and it includes a riff which could have been from one of the Nuggets compilations. The closing track, “And, Goodnight” is an 11 minute experimental trip, where it sounds as live as Neil Young’s Live Rust (1979). The solo seems never ending and when it finally ends, you want more. It’s like when waking up from a dream when reaching the climax. Luckily, Segall is pretty fast with releasing new music, so lets hope for some more dreams.
Segall, along with other artists such as Ron Gallo, are going backward in music and trying to give light on a genre that has been declared “dead” and irrelevant to today’s music standards. On an independent label such as Drag City, artists have the freedom to bring back or experiment with the music, in which they desire. On Freedom’s Goblin, Segall has established himself as a free musician, in celebration to the second garage rock revival, in which he conquered through his excellent taste of fuzzy guitars and melodic sensibility.
Favorite tracks: “Rain,” “Every 1’s a Winner,” “Despoiler of Cadaver,” “My Lady’s on Fire” “You Say All The Nice Things,” “Talkin 3,” “And, Goodnight”
Least favorite tracks: “Cry Cry Cry,” “Shoot You Up,” “She”
You can listen to Ty Segall’s Freedom’s Goblin here.
Queens of the Stone Age – Villains
“The shingles that peppered Queens of the Stone Age’s DNA have been all but sanded down leaving a melodic, squeaky-clean reinvention of the band we thought we knew.” – Will Butler, Under the Radar
I couldn’t help but detest some past reviews like the one above for the new Queens of the Stone Age album, Villains. It’s the group’s seventh studio album, released on Matador Records, this past August. Like Butler sort of stated in his review, Villains is a more polished reinvention for the group, which in anyway, wasn’t surprising. Homme was featured on the most recent Arctic Monkeys record, AM (2013), which also served as a change in sound for Arctic Monkeys – giving clear emphasis on the guitar and the revival of boogie and dance rock. Homme also produced and appeared on Iggy Pop’s latest album, Post Pop Depression (2016). Also appearing on that album was Queen’s member, Dean Fertita and Arctic Monkey’s drummer, Matt Helders. There’s an odd relationship occurring here, where Homme basically took elements from his last few projects and incorporated it all on the new Queens album. However what’s odd here, is how Villains features no guest musician appearances, unlike their past albums and obviously the increase of Homme’s colloborations. That means, there is no David Grohl, Iggy Pop, Alex Turner, or Lady Gaga. It’s only Mark Ronson (“Uptown Funk”) as producer and Homme and crew greased and leathered up for one of the most surprising highlights in music of 2017.
If you were a huge fan of the last Queens album, …Like Clockwork (2013), then you were possibly fooled. On the opening track, “Feet Don’t Fail Me,” you hear right from the start, the very dark medieval strings and synths featured on the last album. The word painting of the strings at the beginning shows the anticipation and heart rate of the die-hard Queens fan, as they are approaching the gates of Hell. Homme’s vocals become especially sinister on the following track and lead single, “The Way You Used to Do.” It’s the most jumpy and dancey Queens song up to date – Homme turns Alex Turner AM sexy. The music starts to fade away, and you can only hear these effects echo a later track featured on the album. “Domesticated Animals” is too lyrically similar to the concept of Planet of the Apes. Here, Homme sounds like the lead ape revolutionist, Caesar, but oddly in an alluring dark fashion. As the song is ending, you hear this scream that is reminiscent of past Queens member, Nick Oliveri’s singing style featured on the classic Songs for the Deaf (2002). After another small transitional effect that sounds like Green Day’s “Hitchin’ a Ride,” the album quiets down and Homme’s vocals become specially beautiful and the songwriting stands out rather than the instrumentals. On the remarkable “Head Like a Haunted House,” I can’t decide whether the group sounds more like the B-52’s with the wicked screaming backing vocals, the Cramps in relation to Homme’s tone of voice, or the lead guitar sounding like a mash of Devo’s “Wiggly World” and the Dead Kennedy’s “Holiday in Cambodia.” The transition to “Un-Reborn Again” features a whole ton of biting and cruel synths, along with Homme adapting his inner Bowie. “Hideaway” is the weakest track on Villains, however, it fits the sound and quality of the album. It sets a very 80’s post-punk/goth mood along with a Duran Duran ballad. The next track, “The Evil Has Landed” is a drastic change. It opens with a Led Zeppelin-eqsue guitar riff, as Homme’s high singing reflects his guitar style. You get lost during the solo, sort of like how Homme did when he kicked a female photographer in the face at the KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas show. I mean the tour is in support of an album called Villains, however, this all might be too soon. In the last half of the song, you realize that the group doesn’t want to end, so they form an entirely new riff, while the effects start to overdub the previous one, leading into a jam – one of the best moments on the album. The final track, “Villains of Circumstance,” ends in the same way the album started. It’s very dreamy and shadowy, as you hear Homme singing about how far he is from the one he loves.
As the album fades away in this closing track, you may find yourself replaying it over and over again. It’s a pure solid rock n’ roll album, obviously with Homme and other members paying their respect to a number of their influences. It is their most consistent record, with every track balancing well due to the clever mixing of the album. The band finally started to change their sound, but went in the direction of a music genre, that was last relevant a decade ago in the style of rock n’ roll. However, the menacing instrumentals are disguised over Ronson’s upbeat production. Villains may not be as classic on the same levels as Rated R (2000) or Songs for the Deaf in any means, but it’s one hell of a journey.
Favorite tracks: “Feet Don’t Fail Me,” “The Way You Used to Do,” “Fortress,” “Head Like a Haunted House,” “The Evil Has Landed”
Least favorite tracks: “Hideaway,” “Villains of Circumstance”
You can listen to Queens of the Stone Age Villains here.
Pink – Beautiful Trauma
P!nk’s new album, Beautiful Trauma, channels the cliché she has been expressing throughout her career, with times of her maturity and brattiness.
In June of 2017, on Twitter, P!nk confirmed she is making her next studio album, and later, hinted at an upcoming release. A picture was then posted onto her Instagram page, captioned, previewing the lead single, “What About Us,” released on August 10 with the title track, following in late September. It was surprising when P!nk was handed the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards last August. The only memorable music videos of hers, I could think of is the music video for “Get The Party Started,” which as has the 2000’s written all over it and her music video for “So What” which has her looking like an alcoholic version of the mom from The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. With an award like this on her shoulder, there was a lot of anticipation for this new album. On October 13, Beautiful Trauma was finally released.
An attribute about P!nk albums, is they sound fresh and well-known. The only difference is, each progresses and adapts to the current mainstream sound. The opening title track, shares similar factors to previous P!nk singles, “Just Give Me a Reason,” featuring Nate Ruess from Fun. in 2013, and “Try” in 2012 – each about trying to maintain an ending relationship. At some points, “Beautiful Trauma” is mature – with lyrics like “The pill I keep taking, the nightmare I’m waking, there’s nothing, no nothing, nothing but you” and then later imitating Fergie – with the lyrics “My perfect rock bottom, my beautiful trauma, my love, my love, my drug.” With the change-up of her vocals and awkward lyrics, it’s really hard to her seriously. “Revenge” is one of the more anticipated songs because it features Eminem. However, that’s the problem. The song becomes awkward and odd, when Eminem’s rapping is overshadowed by P!nk’s and he sings instead of rapping “So when you’re driving, drivin’ to his house and you pass me, while I’m drivin’ to hers, just remember, you cheated on me first, you’re a whore…” Nonetheless, It’s one of those hard-hitting catchy pop singles, P!nk is known for releasing every few years. With P!nk’s raspy and husky vocals, “Whatever You Want” is practically a sister track to P!nk’s 2006 song, “Who Knew.” The lead single, “What About Us” sounds more like the old Katy Perry, than P!nk, and the only attraction here, is the instrumental – with the hard hitting drums and dance floor synths creating a contrasting effect with the lyrics. After the more pop-oriented song, P!nk becomes grim. “But We Lost It” and “Barbies” are melancholy and more intimate. “Where We Go” and “For Now,” sound politically driven, especially with lyrics “This world we know, it takes our bodies, not our souls, it takes us high and leaves us low, but they honestly never imagined we’d get this far.” They sound as if, P!nk is resisting against the current presidency. “Secrets” returns to the original pop flavor, with an exotic dance beat, but with very repetitive lyrics, having you wonder how long you will have to hear P!nk sing the lyrics, “Everybody’s got a secret.” at the end. “Better Life” is an improvement, but it doesn’t like P!nk. “I Am Here” is a gospel touch, that seems a bit out-of-place, but resonates – showing how much P!nk is still a pop goddess. The last two songs, “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken” and “You Get My Love” are very similar songs – with an exquisite transitioning from one to the other, displaying P!nk’s elegant vocal ranges on the closing lyrics “You get my love baby…” repeating over and over. This shows how much P!nk wants to hold onto to this failing relationship, portrayed throughout the album.
The thing with P!nk is, she can release basically the same song every few years and somehow, hooks you to it. Nearly 20 years into her career, P!nk seems eternal.
Favorite tracks: “Revenge,” “Whatever You Want,” “What About Us,” “But We Lost It,” Where We Go”
Least favorite tracks: “For Now,” “Secrets,” “I Am Here”
You can listen to P!nk’s Beautiful Trauma here.
Beck – Colors
The mutated and versatile Beck, recently released his thirteenth official album, Colors, returning the artist to his amusing and funky side. The album was postponed several times, beginning in the summer of 2015.
In August of 2017, Beck said in an interview with Rolling Stone, “These are complex songs, all trying to do two or three things at once,” he explained, “It’s not retro and not modern. To get everything to sit together so it doesn’t sound like a huge mess was quite an undertaking.” Colors is the most joyous pop-oriented work, Beck has released in his 24 year music career. You wouldn’t think a 47-year-old artist this late in his career, could sound so fresh and youthful. Beck has been genre hopping and mastering all sorts of music throughout his career – with the lo-fi slacker guitar freakout Mellow Gold (1994), the funky parody of a nineties nightclub Midnite Vultures (1999) and the heartbreaking Sea Change (2002). On Colors, with the help of producer, Greg Kurstin, a former Beck tour keyboardist, who has worked with artists such as Sia and Adele, Beck showcases that he can dominate the new contemporary radio-friendly pop sound.
Colors opens with its whirling self-titled track, that really sets the tone for the album. Beck has described the track, “Colors” as a “painting that keeps getting painted over,” and that’s exactly what it is; guitars, panpipes, keyboards, and synths in one giant paint splatter. The synthy 80’s Peruvian panpipe riff mixed with the totally modern vocal pitching singing about “All the colors”, indicates that “Party Beck” is back. This is quite a vast departure from his last album, Morning Phase (2014), which ended with Beck woefully singing about filling your eyes with waking light. “Seventh Heaven” opens up with a guitar lead, like one from a 2010 Strokes song. This is one of the best songs written on the new album, especially in the second verse, when Beck sings “We’ll shoot for the empire, land in the dustpile, I want to wake up in the shadow of a fever pitch with the gold glass heart sending messages.” It’s a typical upbeat love song from Beck, similar to his “Think I’m in Love” off the The Information (2006). Nevertheless, the imagery is pessimistic. The opener on “I’m So Free” is reminiscent to 2000’s emo bands, like Panic! at the Disco, but then flows into a vocal approach, which seems to imitate Alex Kapranos, frontman of Franz Ferdinand. The bridge, with Beck’s vocals and guitar distortion is nostalgic to Beck’s rapping days. It is full of energy, having the potential of being a sister track to either “Devil’s Haircut” or “E-Pro.” However, the track transitions back to a more pop related energy, teasing old Beck listeners. Nonetheless, Beck becomes classic Beck again with the piano driven “Dear Life.” Easily, one of the standouts on Colors, “Dear Life” has already been compared to the works of the Beatles and the Beach Boys. Oddly, nobody has seemed to mention how similar the technique of the sizzling guitar solo is to Nick Valensi’s style of the Strokes. Beck has already cited the Strokes as a major influence for Colors, after a performance with them in 2015, at Hyde Park. The next song, “No Distraction” is the first glimpse of the wild funk style incorporated on Midnite Vultures; very similar to “Sexx Laws”. You can hear a mix of many artists here, including Bruno Mars, The Killers, and Good Charlotte, but mostly you hear the Police jamming, from their Synchronicty (1983) days. The excitement and buildup trailing towards the spiraling chorus has all the makings of a Beck anthem. “Dreams” was the initial glimpse of Colors, released as the first single all the way back in June of 2015. It opens with a dancey Talking Heads-esque guitar riff layered with a heavy bass line. Eventually, it all leads to this heavy garage rock riff, similar to the classic Beck track, “Novacane” off his 1997 breakthrough album, Odelay. However, the lyrics included in the bridge were changed from “Stop fucking with my dreams” to “Stop dragging down my dreams.” The reason of this might be due to Colors having exclusive versions sold at retail stores including Target and Walmart. The original version has appeared as a bonus track to the album, on streaming services including iTunes and Spotify. The ironic comical trap rap “Wow” stands out as the “Loser” anthem for post-millennials. This flute beat track has been adored since its release in June of 2016, and has been used in several advertisements, including one for the 2017 Acura MDX. Beck almost didn’t release “Wow” due to his feeling that it was a bad song. However, his children talked him into it, and Capitol Records eventually released it as a single. During an interview with KROQ’s Kevin & Bean, Beck said, “Most of this song was completely off the top of my head. I didn’t write any of it. It was just us fooling around in the studio.” Lyrics like “Standing on the lawn doin’ jiu jitsu, girl in a bikini with the Lamborghini shih tzu” is the obscure humor that Beck is known for; this is a perfect Beck lyric. The highly danceable and sonically produced “Up All Night” is the most radio-friendly Beck song, a perfect fit for the Billboard‘s Hot 100 Chart. It follows the style of “Dreams” opening with a heavy guitar riff, accompanied by bizarre synth effects, a groovy bass line, and one of Beck’s most upbeat choruses. Along with “Seventh Heaven,” “Square One” is one of the more catchier and clever tracks on Colors, a track that could have been a new Phoenix single or straight off Beck’s 2008 album, Modern Guilt. Also, you definitely reach that party Midnite Vultures vibe, with Beck’s falsetto vocals in the chorus singing, “Cause this is life and it’s alright, taking detours in your mind, you’ll be fine if you try to keep your eyes on the consolation prize…” The tenderhearted closing track, “Fix Me” declares that the party is over and it’s time to go to bed; alluding that a miserable folksy Beck is maybe bound to return for the next album.
With songs like – “No Distraction” a song literally about distractions from our phones and computers pulling us from one side to the other, which is mostly associated with younger people, “Wow” a song that may or may not be ironic to the current party rap music, and “Up All Night” the most relevant track for 2017 pop culture, Colors is aimed directly at the current generation. This might have to do with him beating out Beyoncé in the 2015 Grammy Awards. Since Beyoncé is overly worshipped by post-millennials, many people took to social media, posting the cringy #whoisbeck hashtag after Queen B’s loss. Of course Kanye West felt offended and stormed the stage in protest of Beck winning, prompting a breakout all over news outlets and social media. This controversy introduced many of this generation to Beck’s music. I mean, even this had to be published and the YouTube channel, the Fine Brothers, made a reaction video for teens. Many teens later realized that they knew songs like “Loser” and “Where it’s At,” but were not aware they were from Beck. Beck has stated, some of the new songs were already established and ready to go well before Morning Phase won album of the year, meaning that there was no mainstream influence on the new singles. However, since Colors was postponed a couple of times, you can say these songs might have sounded different artistically.
On Colors, Beck sought out to make a simple fun and pop rock record, that he could relate to today’s listeners. In ways, you can call it Beck’s Let’s Dance, a non-parody 2017 version of Midnite Vultures, or Beck’s midlife crisis. But you cannot deny how his age has not touched him.
Favorite tracks: “Colors,’ “Seventh Heaven,” “Dear Life,” “No Distraction”, “Up All Night,” and “Square One”
Least favorite tracks: “Wow” and “Fix Me”
You can listen to Beck’s Colors here.
Gorillaz – Humanz
The adored virtual band, the Gorillaz, are back with their fifth studio album, Humanz, their first album in five years. The band first gave a glimpse of this back in January, with the release of “Hallelujah Money” featuring Benjamin Clementine, on the eve of President Trump’s inauguration. The song was considered a sign of the awaited “apocalypse” due to Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election. The main concept of the record is the aftermath of a world-changing event – much like their 2005 album, Demon Days.
Both albums are based off the fear some people have been facing in the post-9/11 modern world, and the Gorillaz incorporated that fear with electronic dance hip hop and alternative rock music.
It’s clear Humanz is based off the emotional reaction from the world’s present-day political climate. While the President might’ve influenced Humanz, his name wasn’t mentioned on it at all. In an interview with Billboard, Albarn stated “There’s no references to [Trump] on the record, in fact, anytime when anyone made any reference, I edited it out.” He also went on to say “I don’t want to give the most famous man on earth any more fame, particularly. He doesn’t need it!” Despite mentioning Trump, there are references to political and social issues, primarily made by the featured guests. Some have described the album to be the “party record for the apocalypse”.
On Humanz, Albarn instructed his guest artists to envision a future in which Donald Trump had won the 2016 presidential election. To many unexpectedly, this came true. The new album features a variety of popular artists including: Vince Staples, De La Soul, Danny Brown, Grace Jones, Jehnny Beth, and even a cameo appearance from longtime 90’s Britpop rival, Noel Gallagher (unlisted). It’s ironic that Gallagher and Albarn sing together “We’ve got the power to be loving each other, no matter what happens”. In 1995, Gallagher wished Albarn would “Catch AIDS and die”. The dust has settled in 2017, but of course Noel’s grumpy brother, Liam, wasn’t too happy about the collaboration.
Right from the get-go, you know the album is dystopian. Vince Staples’ vocal approach on the track, “Ascension” crashes with lyrics like “Heard the world is ending soon I assumed that they told ya, they tryna dinosaur us” and the most memorable verse, “the sky is falling baby, drop that ass ‘fore it crash”. Here, it really shows the album’s theme and what you will encounter throughout the rest of the songs. The track mainly revolves around Staples’ vocals and lyrics, with slight part from 2-D (aka Albarn). On “Submission”, there are some lovely vocals from Kelela and later, some out of place erratic vocals from Danny Brown. His rap is good and all, but he could’ve been better placed on the album. The high point of the album, comes in with this hitting guitar riff of the most epic track on the album, “Charger”. It features Grace Jones, who does this Murdoch-like laugh at the beginning of song, which immediately draws you in. It’s the catchiest track off the album, so catchy you wake up singing “A cha-charger” and it’s the only original sounding Gorillaz track, coming from the virtual band themselves. After that, the “Interlude: “Elevator Going Up” features the actor, Ben Mendelsohn, who starred as Orson Krennic from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, transitions the songs, in again, a Murdoch-like voice, to one of the other catchier tracks off the album, “Andromeda” (feat. D.R.A.M.). “Busted and Blue” is the most distinct and only track without a featured guest, which was excellent because Albarn’s vocals are sincere and genuine alone. On “Sex Murder Party,” some David Bowie in Jamie Principle’s vocals and also the famous Kazoo Kid (not literal) are noticed in the background at some parts. These aspects overall make the song sound improvised and incomplete. The most disappointing track off the album is the De La Soul collaboration, “Momentz”. This is the same group the Gorillaz collaborated with on “Feel Good Inc.,” the Gorillaz’s most successful and well-known track worldwide. “Momentz” is repetitive and all over the place, making it annoying and the most skippable track. “Hallelujah Money” has the form of the Demon Days title/closing track, but is completely ravaged by the unfitting ending – Clementine’s scream would’ve been more appropriate on the kooky “Saturnz Barz” than the serious “Hallelujah Money”. Also, the song mostly only features Clementine, while Albarn’s vocals sound sluggish and downplayed, like many of his parts on the album. Thankfully, the album closes with the released single, “We Got The Power”. Albarn’s collaboration with Noel Gallagher in the chorus overshadows Jenny Beth’s vocals part as a french Noodle, whose alluring voice makes the song. It’s the perfect closing to an apocalyptic-party album with the lyrics “We got the power to be loving each other, no matter what happens,” being an inspiring chant towards reality.
Throughout the album, you can speculate that it was rushed. Let’s face it, two of the music videos for two of the most significant singles, are dull and boring.They both only show one scene stuck in motion, while others are artistically exaggerated. The album has a concept, but there is no structure or balance. The group tried forming and arranging the album with the interludes – transitioning into certain songs, but it only worked with “The Non-conformist Oath” changing to “Submission”. The worst transition of all, is the introduction “Intro: I Switched My Robot Off” shifting to “Ascension”. It ends quickly, with Vince Staples’ vocals coming out of nowhere remotely, with his introduction having a slight pause instead of the actual introduction having one. The album sounds unfinished, which is disappointing for a studio album that was much anticipated. It sounds like a compilation of random singles, much like a playlist. Of course, there is no consistency with the Gorillaz -they’re an always changing group, however, their style is hardly incorporated into Humanz. Listening to most of the songs, it is hard to realize you are listening to the Gorillaz because there is such an emphasis on the featured guests. Of course, that might’ve been the point, since the album is entitled Humanz. The album is filled with an abundance of diversity and emphasis on the real humans featured in the songs, rather than the virtual band. The album only highlighted the virtual band through its promotion, but denied a sense of them throughout the album. Musically, it’s no longer about 2-D and the gang; it is only a Gorillaz album in name. There were a handful of moderate tracks, like “Saturn Barz,” but it sounded more like a Popcaan solo track featuring the Gorillaz instead of the opposite. Considering the lack of structure, the album is primarily saved by a handful of great songs.
Unfortunately, you get to the end of the album and realize it never even felt like it started. This album held great potential to have been the best Gorillaz album to be released, but sadly, it is their worst.
Favorite Tracks: “Charger,” “Andromeda,” “Busted and Blue,” “Sex Murder Party,” “She’s My Collar,” and “We Got The Power”
Least Favorite Tracks: “Intro: I Switched My Robot Off,” “Momentz,” “Carnival,” “Let Me Out,” “Hallelujah Money”
You can listen to the Gorillaz Humanz here.
Spoon – Hot Thoughts
The term “consistent” has been attributed towards the excellent indie rockers, Spoon for a decade and a half now. Since 2001’s Girl’s Can Tell, Spoon has developed a unique and steady approach towards the making of all nine of their albums. They are known for many of their all-around styles and sounds – Britt Daniels’ howling and veiny vocals, whamming guitar riffs, Jon Bonham drum beats, and killer synths. Sometimes they are a hard hitting rock and roll band, while other times, they’re a beatlesque semi-electronic pop band.
Generally, bands start out with a few solid records and eventually experiment and move towards a new direction. We have seen this with some of the most significant rock bands of today, like The Strokes and Arcade Fire. Some will say Spoon has been successfully consistent in their discography because they’ve been “making the same song over and over again.” Well, this is not true. Spoon does not have a specific sound – every album comes with a different style and energy. The heaviness displayed on Series of Sneaks (1998) sounds nothing like the versatile minimalist simplicity on Kill the Moonlight (2002) and the classic aesthetic rock album, Gimme Fiction (2005). But these are nothing like challenging Transference (2010). Some will say, Hot Thoughts isn’t an album for “traditional” Spoon fans and is too “futuristic” or “experimental”, but who are traditional Spoon fans? The new album is coined as innovative, but Spoon has always been flirtatious with experimentation. However, on Hot Thoughts, it seems that Spoon has grown electronically and focused more on the sound of the record, rather than the writing.
Last January, Spoon alluded on their social media accounts a new album, by posting an image of a mysterious gloomy skull. Then after a new track of theirs appeared in an emotional scene of Shameless and then playing four new songs live, the band finally announced a new studio album. Hot Thoughts was released on March 17, 2017 on Matador Records, who originally released their debut album, Telephono, in 1996. David Fridmann (Flaming Lips), producer of the band’s last studio album, They Want My Soul (2014) and known for his sonic production, was signed on again to produce the new album. On Hot Thoughts, Spoon shows their progression in extending the exotic dance floor grooves, and their title as one of the greatest American rock bands in the past 20 years.
Hot Thoughts opens with the sexy and dance-rock styled titled track – blending Strokes-like riffs over simple beats flourishing under Britt Daniels’ modernized echoed vocals. He even throws in a “Wooooo” and some intense crooning and howls from Daniels, something greatly admired of the frontman. It’s an opening, that showcases the band really connecting and coming together – showing listeners, they still got it “Hot Thoughts” greatly transitions to next track, “Whisperi’lllistentohearit” that has a suspenseful introduction, and a compelling bridge, featuring some heavy drum beats. Carried with a powerful Bonham-esque drum beat from drummer, Jim Eno, along with some spacy synth lines, “Do I Have to Talk You Into It,” is a classic Spoon song. It’s as if “The Beast and Dragon, Adored” and Radiohead’s “Planet Telex” blended together. Daniels substitutes his howls with a pushy “oh oh whoah!” like Sal from Futurama. The following track, “First Caress” is like if “Rainy Taxi” met the rhythm and tempo of “The Infinite Pet”. All three songs include a disco-punk style attached with a very distinct and catchy Devo-like beat. It also includes the most memorable, but ridiculous lyrics on the album: “Coconut milk, coconut water, you still like to tell me they’re the same–aw ha, and who am I to say?” Eno loved the lyrics so much, he pestered Daniels into not removing them, which was a mistake (record the god damn talkback Jim). The more surprising experimental standouts, the tambourine synthy “Pink Up” and the closing saxophone advanced concerto, “Us” embraces the David Fridman touch. Both tracks tone down the funkiness and hard riffs the album offers. Both tracks are similar to the new Flaming Lips’ record Oczy Mlody (2017), which was also produced by Fridmann. “Can I Sit Next to You” is mysterious and draws a similarity to Spoon’s previous album, They Want My Soul (2014). Pitchfork stated in their review that it “bears a striking resemblance” to “Do You.” On the contrary, this song sounds like the Spoon from the previous decade. There’s a strange synth line that pays tribute to the style portrayed on their 2005 album, Gimme Fiction.It opens with the typical Spoon guitar riff and throughout the song, you hear Britt Daniels’ endearing howls and echoes. One thing that is disappointing is Britt’s vocal approach on “I Ain’t the One” on the studio version. His chant of the lyrics, “I Ain’t the One” is phenomenal and effecting, however, Daniels cuts down on parts, making it unbalanced. Another, is the lyrical approach. You can tell this one of the tracks, where they they focused more on the sound of the song than the writing of it – very repetitive. Daniels actually had this song set to be an acoustic track, but changed it to fit the futuristic feel, the album offers. I recommend listening to the live version they performed on The Late Late Show with James Corden. The performance was breathtaking and haunting; quite a showstopper. Maybe Daniels was tired of crooning and showing his neck veins in the studio. The politically driven “Tear It Down” is mid-tempo, enriching quite a protest chant during the bridge. On the definitive 2007, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon released an intentional anti-Bush track, “Don’t Make Me a Target,” while here, they released an unintentional anti-Trump track. Although Britt Daniels’ stated in an interview with Esquire, “My real concern was that, by the time the record came out, Trump would be a forgotten shit stain of the past.” But with lyrics like, “Let them build a wall around us, I don’t care, I’m gonna tear it down / It’s just bricks and ill-intentions, they don’t stand a chance, I’ll tear it down,” it paints the picture. Since the rise of President Trump, it’s definitely one of the best anti-Trump tracks, even if it wasn’t meant to be. “Shotgun” is a heavy track, next to “Do I have to Talk You Into It” and its opening sounds like when KISS went disco, with “I Was Made for Lovin’ You.” It includes a dreamy mysterious synth line, similar to “Can I Sit Next to You”. The closing track, “Us” is a soothing jazz coda, which echoes something that could have been recorded during the Police’s Synchronicty (1983) sessions. It’s a great way to end all of those sexually and aggravated hot thoughts.
Although Hot Thoughts carries Spoon’s style and artfulness and keeps their consistency alive, it definitely goes above and beyond experimentation. It took the style of the second track from They Want My Soul, “Inside Out,” a song with no guitars and basically continued it. There are no loving pop tracks like “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” or “Do You”; it’s an album of exploring the future. Spoon is evolving even more than they have in the past, but they have not yet lost their mojo. The consistency continues.
Favorite Tracks: “Hot Thoughts,” “Whisperi’lllistentohearit,” “Do I Have to Talk You Into It,” “First Caress,” “Shotgun”
Least Favorite Tracks: “Pink Up,” “I Ain’t the One” “Us”
You can listen to Spoon’s Hot Thoughts here.
The Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody
More Flaming Lips. Not to be confused with that Portlandia episode, I mean there is literally more Flaming Lips. On January 13th, 2017, the Lips released their fourteenth studio album Oczy Mlody. It’s typically hazy, but exaggerated to the maximum.
After The Terror (2013), things took a spin for the group. In 2014, they did a complete cover of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band entitled With a Little Help from My Fwends featuring a wide-range of musicians including Miley Cyrus, which wasn’t pleasant say the least. Nevertheless, Coyne’s collaboration with Kesha was the biggest turnoff. We knew the lips were declining, but we didn’t know they were this desperate. After The Flaming Lips announced a new album last October, I wasn’t too thrilled because of the direction the band was heading. Then in early January, when seeing the album surface on the internet, I was attracted by the bizarre laser-like album cover. I couldn’t read the title on the cover and didn’t have a clue since I wasn’t following it at all. Then I finally saw its title, Oczy Mlody – which reminded me of hallucinogenic drugs and a term that the Lips would’ve used during their prime. Coyne expressed that it’s Polish for “eyes of the young”. However, my drug assumption gave me hope, so I listened to it.
Oczy Mlody is an album that is experimental, well-structured, including some great transitions, and psychedelia/electronic soundscapes. It’s a very trippy record; I recommend not rubbing your eyes while listening to it. Coyne has described it as “Syd Barrett meets A$AP Rocky and they get trapped in a fairy tale from the future,” The opening of the album, “Oczy Mlody” flows flawlessly into the next track “How??,” being one of the key parts of the album. The song “There Should Be Unicorns” was a peculiar track, but still mediocre. It was one of the more popular songs coming into the album, since it was performed live at previous shows. Also, did I mention it features an Isaac Hayes-like Reggie Watts? The alluring “Sunrise (Eyes of the Young)” comes off as a Yoshimi styled track, so beautiful and superior. After this, you reach the more techno-Rambo parts – meaning that the instrumentation is like a space war with ray guns – but “Listening to the Frogs with Demon Eyes” gives you the goosebumps, rather than PTSD. The albums peaks with the track “The Castle”. It’s filled with shining synth chords above a simple drum beat and again, feels like a classic Flaming Lips song. And now…the last song “We a Family” features the soon to be member of the group (not really), Miley Cyrus. I consider skipping this song and pretending that it ends at “Almost Home (Blisko Domu).” However, it could’ve been worse.
The Flaming Lips are known for their experimental instrumentation, elements of space rock and psychedelic lyrics, amusing live shows and stunts (Wayne’s inflatable crowd surfing ball), and having extremely good and extremely mediocre albums. This is one of those very mediocre ones. After some collaborative and a couple of “Fwends” albums, the Lips are back where they left off from 2013. They started to decay, now they are back.
Favorite Tracks: “How??,” “There Should Be Unicorns,” “Sunrise (Eyes of the Young),” “Galaxy I Sink,” “Listening to the Frogs with Demon Eyes,” “The Castle”
Least Favorite Tracks: “Nigdy Nie (Never No),” “One Night While Hunting For Faeries and Witches and Wizards to Kill,” “Almost Home (Blisko Domu),” “We a Family”
You can listen to the Flaming Lips’ Oczy Mlody here.