Okay, cards on the table: Who saw this coming? Literally, who saw this coming? Hot Chip as one of the major players in the indie playing field? Hot Chip are without a doubt one of the most bizarre (and nerdy) bands to ever intercept the mainstream. Not necessarily because of their music, but because of their package. Pasty white kids from Britain who are electro-disco-funk-pop wizards? Crazy, I know. But Hot Chip have endeared, always progressing with little care for convention. By holding onto a collective nostalgic past of cool music, childhood sweethearts and awkward relationships, yet overtly adamant to express those issues with a futuristic mindset, Hot Chip have appealed to the sentimental in all of us…the Boy From School whose Ready For The Floor, but is a terrible dancer and gets Motion Sickness, but still, Feels Better. So here they are, over 10 years into a highly acclaimed career of constantly eccentric and enjoyable albums that have arrived with pleasing regularity. Before they were seen as the smooth, laid back counterpart to LCD Soundsystem, and now, they are the top dogs, just having come off the back of their best album yet, 2012’s blissful In Our Heads. Continue reading
Bad Blood first featured as one of the minor standout tracks off Taylor Swift’s 1989 in late 2014, an album that still shows no signs of disappearing soon. The version of Bad Blood that was included on the album was a fairly standard affair for a modern jam; catchy hook, glitzy instrumental, staccato shouts of “hey!”. However, this remixed version of Bad Blood features a subtly different instrumental and, most notably, the appearance of the self-proclaimed “biggest hypocrite of 2015” himself, Kendrick Lamar. If anybody needed any more proof to realise Taylor Swift’s complete transformation into the contemporary pop mainstream, well now she has a featured rapper on her song, AND a high budget, overproduced, cinematic music video! But to the music.
Obviously enough, the beat is transformed to fit to the tone of Kendrick Lamar, who replaces Swift’s verses. Lamar is in his ‘Backseat Freestyle-persona’ here, dominating the song and spitting his verses with acerbic speed and vitriol. Swift’s chorus hook remains, as does her tender middle eight confessional (“band- aids don’t fix bullet holes”), and they successfully match the juiced up instrumental. Against this beat, Swift seems darker and more aggressive, for the first time actually living up to the song’s title. While the chemistry between Lamar and Swift is not the greatest (“bitch don’t kill my vibe”), it fairs well, especially so for a remix, which usually do not necessarily allow for amazing chemistry. This Bad Blood remix is not stellar by any means, but it is further justification for the career of Taylor Swift, and her holistic embrace of commercial pop.
Wobbling like a bowlegged mule, ‘The Way You’d Love Love Her’ sleazes its way along, another cut and dry love song. No boundaries are broken; it’s a classic verse/chorus jam, but the patented ‘jizz-jazz’ chord progression is ripe and the solo has a delightful twang.
If there’s something you do well, then why stop? Mac has a penchant for writing infectious love tunes, always dedicating them to his long term lady. All that can be said is, if they ever do part it’ll make for the best break up album ever.
Hip hop, more so than any other genre of music, is one that is threatened by the intrinsic nature of life itself. Meaning to say, that sustained longevity is a very true challenge for the genre. Hip hop artists do not age gracefully. Primarily, this is because the genre itself is so fundamentally aggressive and youthful, that it is essentially impossible to keep that fire burning throughout a multiple decade long career without cries of “this is tragic!” appearing. Few artists do make the transition well; Jay Z got richer to survive the taunts, Kanye West got stranger, and Grandmaster Flash? Well, he’s in car advertisements now. But what about good old Snoop Dogg? He is 44 this year, and is still as languorous, dirty, and indolent as he ever was (which could be seen by some as being just a creepy old dude [see: his guest spots on Jason Derulo’s Wiggle and Psy’s Hangover – two of the worst songs ever conceived]). And while we all pine for another Doggystyle-like collaboration with Dr. Dre, Snoop has found a solid ally in Pharrell Williams, who serves as the primary producer for the entirety of Bush, Snoop’s 13th album, and on the whole, it’s not really a bad decision. Continue reading
Let me make this point very clearly now: Mumford & Sons are a band that MUST be seen live. Even if you are not a fan of their music, their unbridled passion that they exercise in every song they play on stage is nothing short of inspiring. The anthemic quality of their songs lends itself to the big stage, so it is suitably home there. Conversely however, as a musical product that creates studio albums, Mumford & Sons are a little questionable. Their debut Sigh No More was at best, an acceptable affair of earnest ballads and mega hits that undoubtedly assisted in the indie rock boom, and their second album Babel was an over-bloated exercise in un-nuanced self-absorption and grandiosity that amounted to relatively the same track being repeated 12 times over the course of an hour. Mumford & Sons are a band whose negatives far outweigh the positives, so why have their albums gotten vast amounts of commercial and critical success? (I mean, an Album of the Year Grammy for Babel!?) Well, the answer is quite simple: Banjos. Mumford & Sons have been able to enrapture a global consciousness through their love of barnyard instruments and a good and fashion hoedown (except in a rock context). That is what set them apart. It seems strange, but allowances could be made, just because they knew how to rock a banjo pretty well. So…what happens when the misfit gang of clean-cut, upper-middle-lower class types known as Mumford & Sons get rid of their defining instrument? I won’t sugar-coat it: It is shit. Continue reading
Mew has been, whether you have known them or not, one of the more unique bands to exist over the past 15 years. A Danish band of romanticism, spear-headed by lead singer Jonas Bjerre’s unusually sharp falsetto vocals, Mew have a flair for the grandiose, but have always been ambiguous within their style. Mew’s last album, the grand adventure that was No More Stories Are Told Today I’m Sorry They Washed Away // No More Stories The World Is Grey I’m Tired Let’s Wash Away was progressive rock in a way that didn’t really seem appropriate. Sure; concept album, long album title, and flights of instrumental fancy, all the boxes are ticked, but there were no unnecessarily complex instrumentation, and well-crafted pop songs underneath the fluff, about simple, relatable issues like love and loss Continue reading
George Benson; it’s hard not to love him. He looks like a big teddy bear, he has the voice of an angel and uses it to echo his devastatingly tasty guitar solos (ski-ba-bop-ba-dop-bop), and his jazz tinged songmanship, while at times a little cheesy, is simply irresistible.
To say that Damon Albarn has had a prolific career would be an understatement. Just rattling off the names of the two biggest projects he has been involved with (Blur, Gorillaz) induces nods of respect from all around. Not only that, but there are plays, musicals, supergroups, and even a stellar solo album to his name. What is perhaps the most apparent thing about Albarn’s career up to this point is that it has never been uninteresting or stagnant. But one thing was very much assumed; that after Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree reconciled and regrouped as Britpop’s greatest band Blur (suck it Oasis) back in 2009 at London’s Hyde Park, that another album would eventually be made. Continue reading