Remember remember…that This Week In Records should have come out on the 5th of November? Whoops. Blame a late-night showing of the superb First Man to keep everything from being ready in time for the fireworks and bonfires inevitably lit up and down the country yesterday evening.
Regardless. Here at The Edge, we have plenty of high-profile choons to bring you this Tuesday evening, as well as a sumptuous selection of alternative picks brought to you by our wonderful Records Executive. All’s quiet on the mainstream albums front, with only The Prodigy releasing anything truly worth talking about; although we have singles aplenty from Carly Rae Jepsen, Clean Bandit and more to drown out the noise of those people who always try to turn Bonfire Night into Bonfire Week. Of course, if you’re looking for something loud to drown out any and every sound around, there’s only one place we can start.
The Prodigy – No Tourists
This one is ludicrous. This one is uncontrollable. This one is absolutely batshit insane. Did you really expect anything else from The Prodigy? Revisiting their roots somewhat after 2015’s unapologetically violent The Day Is My Enemy, the rave trio’s latest offering turns the tempo up past 10 into 11 within the first few seconds and doesn’t let you catch a breather until “gently” (if something like No Tourists even can be gentle) fading out the instrumentation towards the end of album closer ‘Give Me a Signal’. But despite how in-your-face the entire record is, there’s also a sense of clean simplicity to the arrangements – perhaps in part as roughly 80% of it was written with playing it live in mind. It keeps the album from being too overwhelming, with just enough of a breather offered in the buildups to keep it from going into full Death Grips territory. Perhaps No Tourists was described best by Prodigy mastermind Liam Howlett on Apple’s Beats One: “It’s like a cheeky smile, but also a punch in the ribs.” Dark and dirty indeed.
(Oh, and bonus points for the raucus repetition of “Hit rewind, time to melt your motherfuckin’ face” to fade out ‘Fight Fire with Fire’).
Carly Rae Jepsen – ‘Party For One’
At the risk of dramatically letting down 2016/17 Records Editor and Carly Rae Jepsen fanatic Xav Voigt-Hill, I’m going to attempt to deconstruct this one, despite knowing very very little about the artist behind this latest radio pop banger.
I like it. It’s nice. A sure-fire bop for when you need a pick-me-up after a tough day at work, in the style of Lorde‘s ‘Green Light‘ or Ariana Grande‘s ‘No Tears Left To Cry’ or countless others, with a bit of lyrical depth to boot (“If you don’t care about me / I’ll just dance for myself / Back on my beat / Party for one” simultaneously referring to finding happiness on her own terms, with no-one else’s help, but also hinting at a melancholy that she hasn’t yet found that happiness and is in denial about it). Or I could just be reading way to into it and should appreciate the music as something catchy to play in the background. Who knows.
Regardless, this one’s good. Add it to your playlist.
Busted – ‘Nineties’
Opening with the kind of slightly-off reverberating percussion that you might find in the build-up to a sex scene on The Room, this is a bit of a strange offering from everyone’s favourite childhood band. After exploring a little bit of EDM in their 2016 release Night Driver, ‘Nineties’ returns Busted back to the pop-rock they’re most loved for – if with 2018, as opposed to 2003, aesthetics. “God I miss the nineties” Charlie Simpson sings in the emphatic chorus, and unfortunately I’m inclined to agree, or at least the early ’00s – while neither ‘Nineties’ nor Busted’s early work feature any musical or lyrical depth, there’s a degree of catchiness and joyful indifference to ‘Year 3000’, ‘Crashed The Wedding’ and the rest which is unfortunately lacking here. Moving on.
L.S.D. – ‘Mountains’
At the other end of the spectrum, we have Labrinth, Sia and Diplo returning with another L.S.D. track in the form of ‘Mountains’. Featuring multiple beat switches and terrific vocals from Labrinth and Sia, culminating in that off-the-wall chorus, ‘Mountains’ is melodic, messy and maniacal all at once, and I love it. L.S.D.’s songs may be getting a little repetitive at this point, but when they’re this good, who cares?
Clean Bandit ft. Marina & Luis Fonsi – ‘Baby’
The latest single ahead of November 30th’s What Is Love?, ‘Baby’ sees yet another mainstream pop artist team up with Latin American artists to cash in on the rising popularity of Spanish pop. Except this time – unlike Cardi B with ‘I Like It’, or Justin Bieber with ‘Despacito’, it doesn’t really work. Clean Bandit‘s whole sound is just that – clean. ‘Symphony’ with Zara Larsson excelled with its incisive strings and perfectly timed piano, whilst Julia Michaels‘ vocals bounced perfectly off the group’s deliberate synth, percussion and – yet again – strings in ‘I Miss You’.
So to hear Clean Bandit abandoning that to pursue the freer sound of reggaeton and Latin urban music, as they have done hear, is more than a little jarring. It works to an extent, with the later choruses eventually finding their feet as the group finally learn to adapt their instrumentation to Fonsi‘s vocals. But you can’t help feeling throughout this track that things are just a little off. It’s hard to put your finger on, but it’s something you hope doesn’t pervade the rest of the album when it drops later this November.
Imagine Dragons – ‘Machine’
Dear god why.
The Edge‘s Alternative Picks
As ever, the music world saw more than just the biggest names releasing music this week. Records Executive Tom Brewster unpacks the picks of this week in alternative records…
Sun Kil Moon – This Is My Dinner
Mark Kozelek hasn’t got any surprises, really. This Is My Dinner reads like another installment in the Sun Kil Moon expanded musical universe and exists as another project of his rambling, yet agile, mind. Over an hour and a half of random observations, details, nitpicks and references, Kozelek treats us to the inner sanctums of his brain once again – where we are welcome to take our shoes off, recline and listen to him tell his story in all the more animated fashion. Just don’t mention Panera Bread.
There’s a wry sense of humour to this selection of tracks – we get to hear Mark hold a note for 40 seconds, impersonate Linda Blair from The Exorcist and tell us about the difficulties of being well fed in Frankfurt. There’s less heady self-seriousness and introspection as on Benji or Universal Themes – and musically there are a few more interesting ideas (such as the constellation of synthesisers on ‘Linda Blair’ and complete musical breakdown on ‘Chapter 87 of He”). Kozelek hasn’t exactly been the most likable of people over the years, but his stories are still compelling, rich and sprightly. The ageing musician always finds new ways to impress and entertain, and This Is My Dinner is perhaps the clearest expression of this yet – an already overlooked gem in the artist’s storied career.
The Algorithm – Compiler Optimisation Techniques
Remi Gallego’s dizzying, brain-frying brand of electo-metal continues to singe nerve endings and short-circuit genre definitions on Compiler Optimisation Techniques. Opt-ing (har har) for longer song lengths, the album goes for a somewhat of a back-to-basics approach for The Algorithm– taking the fastest path to hurting your brain real good. None of the songs feel the need press the brakes – each one a 5,000,000 BPM internal hemorrhage that doesn’t relent, hurtling the listener through a kaleidoscopic array of distortion, blast-beats, and knotted synthwork.
Despite a more simplistic and altogether more ‘metal’ approach, there are still the sudden left-turns we’ve come to expect from The Algorithm. I adore the way ‘Binary Space’ folds in on itself and becomes some kind of strange neo-trance experience for about a minute, right in the centre, before evolving into chiptune-inflected thrash metal. It just doesn’t make any sense. The Algorithm has a musical sense of humour all of its own – its first port-of-call to bemuse the listener as they sit in slack-jawed wonder at the fact that someone chose to make this. Remi Gallego has himself become a bit of a meme for The Algorithm fans – taking a ‘he actually did it, the absolute madman’ approach to making music ever since he sampled Mortal Kombat for 2012’s Polymorphic Code; the song in question, ‘Access Granted’, also featuring a reggae interlude. Why? Who knows, but boy does it sound good.
Young Fathers – ‘Cocoa Sugar’
Scotland-based Young Fathers released the complex, rich and perplexing Cocoa Sugar in March this year, and have waited until November to drop the title track, ‘Cocoa Sugar’. I’m confused as to how this piece didn’t make it onto the album – it’s a brilliant track and as stylistically nuanced as any of the tracks from Cocoa Sugar itself. After a slow, drowsy and meditative start, the group kicks things into gear on an emotive chorus; “On my day / On my last day” howls frontman Alloysious Massaquoi – a vocal performance that reaches into the evangelical as choral groups spring up around him, luminous and trembling. The song feels strained, ill-at-ease and stretched to breaking point at every turn, with thrumming, convulsing instrumentation pushing and pulling the listener between joy and its opposite. The band also allow room for some gruff Scottish vocals too- a brief spoken word interlude bursts into a wild-eyed, painful and yelping performance. The spastic, staccato vocals – “my ribs are broken, my back is broken, your eyes are frozen and drifting away” plosively land one after another like punches raining down on the ailing body of the song’s soul-searching protagonist. Themes of guilt, loss, protection and fatherhood all collide with each other to produce an incredibly powerful few minutes of music – before dissolving into a sonic melting pot towards the close, as pitch-shifted vocal oscillate and fragment into smaller and smaller parts. ‘Cocoa Sugar’ is an emotional journey, pushing the band further into their art- rap sound than any of their previous work has done so far.
LCD Soundsystem – ‘(We don’t need this) Fascist Groove Thang’
Banned by the BBC, and now covered by LCD, Heaven 17’s ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang’ has been given a new lick of paint by Brookyln-Poster-Children LCD Soundsystem. Scratched, rattling guitarwork heralds the arrival of Nancy Whang’s talk-singing over dancehall synthesisers, a foot-tapping rhythm section seamlessly builds and introduces sonic odds-and-ends along its path; it’s classic LCD Soundsystem stylings.
Particular kudos here has to be given to Tyler Pope’s ferocious bass – providing an intensely groovy solo when it isn’t ducking and weaving throughout the band’s frenetic performance. It’s given a real presence in the mix – a weight and importance not given to the typically humble instrument, and it shines in its elevated status here as it does on pretty much every LCD song. Honestly, this band could churn out a cover of Viper’s ‘Shootin 2 Much Meth’ and it would somehow come out gold – the energy of their performance and stylistic legacy acting as the Murphy-Midas-Touch.
Thundercat, BADBADNOTGOOD and Flying Lotus – ‘King of the Hill’
The three names bound to ‘King of the Hill’ are incredibly exciting to see together. The collaborative tour-de-force that is Flying Lotus and Thundercat has already shown to be incredibly fruitful, and adding some BADBADNOTGOOD to the mix shouldn’t hurt anyone, right? Unfortunately, ‘King of the Hill’ buckles under the weight of its creative expectations – sounding a lot like a Drunk b-side that lacks most of the personality Thundercat poured into that album. The track feels like a three-way collaboration, mixing those distinctive voices into one sub-par whole. It’s a fairly middle of the road, passable affair aside from its janky keys section and Thundercat’s instantly recognisable pipes. I’ve still got hope for the collaboration to bear more unique fruits at a later date – but for now, we’re stuck with a fairly bland track from some of the most exciting voices in music. Disappointing.
Andrew Bird – ‘Bloodless’
Andrew Bird is one of the most unique musicians to come out of the 2000s, wowing audiences with his virtuosic creativity – utilising loop pedals, parametric speakers, whistling, spoken word and all kinds of samples. What has Bird got in store for us on this track? Perhaps the most surprising thing of all – a relaxed and easy-going, bluesy ballad of sorts that jangles along at its own pace.
On ‘Bloodless’, you can find lightly anti-establishment lyrics, a gospel-inflected chorus and a rock-steady rhythm section that work in tandem to create an enjoyably straightforward listen compared to his more avant-garde work. Bird’s ferociously prolific career is marked by this experimental attitude towards sound, and ‘Bloodless’ is yet another left-turn for an artist not content with one thing for too long (seriously, check out the difference between this and his last album, Echolocations: River).
Rostam – ‘In A River’
Rostam’s ‘In A River’ sounds like it could very, very easily be a Vampire Weekend B-Side on one hand, or early Coldplay on another, with just a few tweaks to swing it either way. This perhaps shows how strangely ‘In A River’ sits for me – it’s elegantly produced and earnestly expressed by Rostam himself, but the twee violin that kicks in on the song’s pre-chorus feels a bit too much. It evokes Ed Sheeran’s ‘Galway Girl’ in a way that I feel deeply uncomfortable with – a slice too carefree, cliché and whimsical to be taken seriously.
It’s clearly a song that Rostam is immensely proud of, releasing it not once but twice (now with an added acoustic and instrumental version – why?), but hopefully it’s a quirk in the discography than a full-blown shift into the gleeful pop on show. The more emotionally complex, instrumentally varied and altogether more enjoyable Half-Light was an album too good to be ruined by a sudden turn into plastic folk-fetishism.
Washed Out – ‘Chimes’
‘Chimes’ is more cosy, submerged electronic goodness from Georgia’s Washed Out (perhaps best known for ‘Feel it All Around’, from the opening credits of Portlandia). ‘Chimes’ evokes Past Is Prologue era Tycho in its sharp, arpeggiating synthesisers and natural soundscapes – adding a dash of vinyl crackle here and there to fuzz up the edges. It’s short but sweet – the titular chimes echoing and reverberating in gentle harmonies as low-passed drums tap away. A great listen for a neon night.
Toro y Moi – ‘Freelance’
What happened here then? It was clear that Toro y Moi would likely get tired of his psychedelic-funk inflected sound judging by his consistent sonic experimentation across his career – but yikes, that sound held a place in my heart! My adoration of Live From Trona, a complex, detailed live performance of Chaz Bundick’s best work was only tempered by Boo Boo, a less exciting album that took a slightly synthwave direction. ‘Freelance’ seems to be the completion of this sound – a jaunty, eclectic and perplexing track that could easily fit into the soundtrack of Hypnospace Outlaw. It’s such a left-turn for the artist that it’s hardly recognisable as a Toro y Moi song – and I find myself drawing a blank when trying to form any kind of rational opinion on it as such. Baffling.
Selected Other Releases
Barbara Streisand – Walls
Hollywood Undead – Psalms EP
Tenacious D – Post-Apocalyptico
5 Seconds of Summer – ‘Killer Queen’
Amber Mark ft. DRAM – ‘Put You On’
Anna of the North – ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’
Anne-Marie – ‘Perfect To Me’
Benny Blanco ft. Calvin Harris – ‘I Found You’
CHVRCHES – ‘Graffiti’
Dodie – ‘If I’m Being Honest’
Flatbush Zombies – ‘New World Order’
Galantis – ‘Emoji’
Gerard Way – ‘Baby You’re a Haunted House’
Lemaitre – ‘Little Things’
Little Mix – ‘Joan of Arc’
Martin Garrix ft. Mike Young – ‘Dreamer’
Olly Murs – ‘Mark On My Heart’
Panic! At The Disco – ‘The Greatest Show’
Pitbull ft. Prince Royce & Ludacris – ‘Quiero Saber’
Professor Green ft. Rag’n’Bone Man – ‘Photographs’
Skepta – ‘Neighbourhood Watch’
Slipknot – ‘All Out Life’
Sundara Karma – ‘One Last Night on this Earth’
Troye Sivan – ‘Somebody to Love’
Zuzu – ‘Dark Blue’