Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Singles of the Week: Big Sean, Lady Gaga, Julia Holter, Earl Sweatshirt

Big Sean ft. Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica - "Control (HOF)"
Big Sean always seems to be the weakest rapper on any track he features on, so bringing out arguably the two most lyrically profound rappers in the 2013 rap game for a bonus track promoting his new album Hall Of Fame (left off the tracklist due to "sample clearance issues") either suggests a glutton for punishment or a sly move to draw in a wider audience. To Sean's credit, he sounds a lot more determined on "Control (HOF)" than usual, and a solid No I.D. beat cements this feeling. But the star of the piece is Kendrick, who once again proves to be untouchable, even going as far as to call out the current crop of popular MCs: "I got love for you all, but I’m tryna murder you ni**as/ Tryna make sure your core fans never heard of you ni**as". When the reclusive Jay Electronica feels like an afterthought to the piece, you know that a new standard of hip hop is being alluded to.
Listen to the track at inflexwetrust.com

Lady Gaga - "Applause"
Even if ARTPOP is a dreadful name for an album, it doesn't mean that Lady Gaga's new album doesn't have the potential to be another giant leap in the superstar's career. "Applause" is strides away from the disappointing Born This Way, with a scintillating synth track to rival Gaga's effervescent enthusiasm. It's the type of music you could call transcendental, that circumvents the analytic parts of the brain and heads straight for the gut. Which is not only what you'd expect from pop of this calibre but a great way of telling you to just listen to it.

Julia Holter - "Maxim's I"
Every single to come from Julia Holter's new Loud City Song album has offered something new. "World" was almost a spoken word piece, backed up with strings and harpsichord only at the most intense parts of the narrative. "In The Green Wild" was more rounded and accessible, but still the work of a musician both serene and eccentric. "Maxim's I" almost occupies a middle space between these two, but is still entirely different. It's surprisingly dense, with a four chord reverbed-organ motif blossoming like a flower and recoiling back again over a six minute time period.
You can stream Loud City Song ahead of its release on Domino Records next week via NPR First Listen.

Earl Sweatshirt - "Burgundy" feat. (Vince Staples)
Also released next week is Earl Sweatshirt's major label debut Doris. The singles to come off it so far have all suggested that the album will live up to the Earl mixtape from many years ago, none more so than the Vince Staples-stealing "Hive". Staples plays a minor role in the Pharrell-produced "Burgundy"; its triumphant attitude serves the purpose of letting you know that this album is going to be worth the wait, or even to get excited for.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Singles of the Week: Oneohtrix Point Never, Disappears, Factory Floor, Omar Souleyman

This section has been expanded. Now I will cover a few tracks instead of just one each week.

Oneohtrix Point Never - "Problem Areas"
The new Oneohtrix Point Never album, R Plus Seven, will be released on the 30th September and will be the prolific producer's first for Warp Records. "Problem Areas" shows the unique spliced up samples of the last Oneohtrix album Replica being taken even further; the natural harmonics of double bass, piano and church organ being rearranged in increasingly unnatural ways, amongst other indescribable synthesizer creations. It's a masterful three minutes of music, with an almost Autechre-level of stylised, adrift navel gazing. Visit pointnever.com for something extra special.

Disappears - "Ultra"
Disappears are a group on kranky that are set to release their fourth album Era later this month. They're giving away "Ultra" in advance: a brilliant slab of skeletal post-punk that almost spans ten minutes. This combination of sturdy motorik rhythm and pounding dub bass is hardly anything new but sometimes it takes a reminder like "Ultra" to appreciate these minimal, simple sounds. It's crowned with a vocalist that suggests two of my favourite singers, Michael Gira and Angus Andrew caught up in a The Fly-style genetic synthesis.

Factory Floor - "Turn It Up"
I'm probably looking forward to the long-delayed Factory Floor album more than any other at the moment, and "Turn It Up" offers plenty of evidence as to why. It's one of, if not the shortest track credited to the group, and offers something not heard from them before. It's almost all drums and drum machines (the Roland TS-808 is clearly one of them) and were it not for Nik Colk Void's sickeningly mangled vocals might have taken longer to get used to, but if you expected anything less from Factory Floor by this stage you've clearly not been paying close attention.

Omar Souleyman - "Wenu Wenu"
Omar Souleyman is the closest figure that Syrian dabke has to being a household name in this country, and that's set to be even more so now that Kieran Hebden, a.k.a. Four Tet has lent his many talents into the production of Souleyman's debut studio album Wenu Wenu. The title track bears all the hallmarks of the style: a constant 4/4 beat with a hip hop toughness, underneath ultra-colourful keyboards kicking around Middle Eastern scales like nobody's business. It's like a street party in a pair of headphones (and sunglasses).

Thursday, 1 August 2013

A note on the Upcoming Releases section

I've decided to delete the Upcoming Releases section of the blog due to it taking up too much time and effort to maintain. It wasn't getting any hits anyway. If you want to know what music to look out for over the horizon, there's always the monthly Culture Shock updates (of which there is a new one today here) and the Single of the Week feature in which each Tuesday I go over my favourite track to appear online each week. I have also neglected this feature for the last fortnight, but I'll be amending that soon.