Strike one — a dull-as-fuck backdrop, dull-as-fuck singing, dull-as-fuck rapping. Strike two — first heard on Zane Lowe's show, doubtless announced as if he was going to unleash seven-thousand shades of chemical warfare up your bumgut. Strike three — produced by Markus Dravs, the man also responsible for shaving the scab off whatever crusted creative boil oozed Coldplay and Mumford & Sons our way. For shame Angel. For shame. I knew by your boosters claims that you were 'doing something different in hip-hop' that you'd be soon knocking out crossover drek like this. You're out.
Another mistaking of metronomy for feel, vagueness for profundity. Somewhere in this flabby seven minutes of pffft there's a shitty 2 minute song waiting to break out. I'm not being picky. I'm just having standards i.e demanding that a pop song gives me pleasure, doesn't bore me, doesn't coast, doesn't come across as entirely unjustifiably pleased with itself. 'Reflektor' has not one moment of pleasure or wonder in it, only the smug constant insistence that hey wow, we're cool cos we're a rock band but we're trying to play disco. (That boom-tish alternated hi-hat rumble every fucker has down pat when they wanna get 'dancey', another rhythm section that thinks it's Frantz/Weymouth that hasn't listened to enough Dunbar/Shakespear to even come close). Broken down to it's constituent elements everything that should work is in place on 'Reflektor' (even that 'k'), James Murphy pushing all the right buttons to try and heat things up, eventually failing to stop it flailing because what's being played is so bereft of heart and purpose, the changes so signposted and monotonously run through you're simply witness to them going round them over and over again without any real sense of movement or import. Simply not good enough when the frontman and band are clearly such tedious & arrogant individuals they have to hide their non-personas behind 'zany' masks (and what a fucking tired trick that has become for a whole generation of indie meh-merchants) in the Cjorbin-annointed video. If you're going to make music like this you need words interesting enough, a personality big enough or voice intriguing enough (Bowie, Grace, Donna) to imbue all that rotational repetition with a sense of dramatic art and change. 'Reflektor' contains none of that, just sits wobbling like a wodge of flavourless jelly slopped on a bassbin, Bowie's fleeting appearance offering merely an aggravatingly tantalising glimpse of what might've been if a human being rather than a pack of 'tastemakers' had had a go at this 'song'. Pass.
Rock N Roll
Rubbish song, covering too many melodic angles in the verse that are way too similar to things she's given us before and permanently despoiled by the dim awareness that maybe these cack lyrics are actually about her & that Kroeger fella. The notion of the pair of them "flipping middle fingers to the world" whilst listening to the demos of this is revolting enough, the stadium-rock sheen Max Martin has given it never really rises above it's Roxette-lite presets, and the fact the video desperately crowbars in tons of failed comedy and a lezza kiss with the girl out of 'The Wonder Years' should inform you of the desperation levels being mined here. As someone who has Avril's autograph (for my daughter, swear down) I just hope that 'Rock N Roll' keeps the wolves from the door & the baboon-placenta injections coming thick, fast & regularly. Avril will be 30 next year. Pretty soon she's gonna start looking ridiculous.
Crocko'shit - and a useful juncture to introduce a brief, entirely racist note about rap music in 2013. Please don't listen to white folk with busy bylines and no friends outside of PR when they tell you what's hot to death. Cunts really haven't got a fucking clue. I mean, I haven't got a fucking clue either but everyone who reads me is well aware of that. You wouldn't trust a rock journalist who is gonna spend the whole year talking about nothing but Arctic Monkeys & QOTSA so why do folk trust music journalists who portray a hip-hop world that's just about Jay & Kanye and nothing else in 2013? Even worse, people so far into their inverse snobbery that in their universe whiteboy geeky hip-hop must always be ignored? Bollocks to that, whiteboy geeky hip-hop can be fucking ace. Unlike this crocko'shit. Crocko'shit. And speaking of whiteboy, geeky hip-hop . . .
SINGLE OF THE MONTH 1
All About Life
Oh my fucking godfathers Exile KILLING the beat here — a truly unique Norman-Collier-style cut-out cut-up of a tiny wee warped weft of '60s psyche chorale that gets splattered and splayed across the simple undertow to genuinely psychedelic effect, a highlight from 2 Mex's 'Like Farther . . . Like Sun' set on Bandcamp. Missing Edan? Don't! This is just as unsettlingly addictive and textually gorgeous as anything that little sporadic shortarse ever gave us so you KNOW how damn essential this is! Large mojitos and chocolate pizzas for all involved please.
OOF the mighty Beatnuts' Psycho Les on the mix. BLAAAA the Roots mighty Black Thought on the mic. BOOM part of Tony Touch's mighty 'Piece Maker Vol.3' which has a cast list that will genuinely have you drooling like Wile E Coyote. Superb.
I love this little fella. Gave us the single of 2012 no doubt ('Locked Out Of Heaven') and 'Unorthodox Jukebox' was a mostly corking soundtrack to last summer. 'Moonshine' manages to do that whole mournful power-disco ballad thang that Arcade Fire are aiming for so SO much better, mainly cos Mars has a gorgeous plangent voice and cos he really does pay attention to texture and tactility, the synth lines and harmonies here from a beautiful place where Fleetwood Mac meets 80s Earth Wind & Fire and where Haim watch from the wings, realising they've just been totally invalidated. Ambiguities, tightropes tween sadness and desire that other songwriters & producers simply aren't touching these days this side of Justin Timberlake. Plus it's all over sooner than you want it to be, a trick so many people forget to do it's a joy to see it so effectively exploited here. You want more, you rewind, you hunt for another station that's playing it, eventually you have to have it. That's the way pop works. A great single.
California (Jewelia Pt.2)
Perhaps one of the most underrated crews of the '90s were New Kingdom and they're blissfully recalled here by CD (M.I & DJ Cutt) with this beautiful slab of B'more-borne brilliance. Heavy assed beats, loops that seemingly had to be slowed down to a quicksand-stuck crawl to fit, astonishing whorls of harmonica and sheer noise sweeping across the mix, the words as stream-of-conscious ecstatically horrified as Killah Priest in his prime. Without a doubt the wooziest most fantastic hip-hop 12 of the month. Go get.
Disclosure ft. London Grammar
Help Me Lose My Mind
There's a moment where the pristine stops being interestingly immobile, starts sounding static and dull. There is one good thing about 'Help Me Lose My Mind' and it's the basic bedrock of it, the low synth sweep that rolls and ebbs underneath the stop-start beats. There is one horrible horrible thing about 'Help Me Lose My Mind' and it's London Grammar's Hannah Reid's none-more-Julia-Fordham vocal. No matter what delicious manipulations it undergoes (and some of the b-vox are peachy) it remains a cold unloveable joyless thing that reveals Disclosure as no less, no more than a Beloved for 2013. Do you really NEED that in your life? I envy your storage space and your ability to prioritise this tedium into your daily commute and I can only dream of a day when I can share in the benificient plenitude of your, and Disclosure & London Grammar's pretty-much unimpeachable taste and lack of vulgarity. Just don't come running to me when they tell you they've seen the light, give you a small brown leather book, insisting that they were right. I'll be in the basement listening to Motorhead and will not be disturbed with such tomtwattery.
DJ Spinna & Shabaam Sahdeeq
Correct Technique Records
Love the sense straight away that here be people who want to tell you a story. Remember? A story. Not sell you something, or themselves, or product place. They want to take you on a journey, a ride musically that's sumptuous, compelling, triumphant, a ride lyrically that's vivid, tactile, complex. Not been convinced by Spinna before but this entirely pulls me into its multiverse and encourages repeated exploration. Tap it, unwrap it.
Let It Rain
Whaddayado when all the kook runs out? When your target demographic becomes bored of you a little? Y'can't do another 'Big When I Was Little' - that was shameless, a craven pile-up of retro-references as desperately flailing as Alan Partridge suddenly shouting 'TISWAS' then mumbling '. . . . errm . . . sweets they don't make anymore . . . '. It always seemed one step away from simply lurching into being the cover of the 'Fresh Prince' theme perhaps most guaranteed to mop up all that whined-for pocket-money. Of course you could always call it a day, become a model or a runner or an actress or simply ask daddy or mummy for a job somewhere quieter in the biz, somewhere a little less visible. [They won't mind taking a hit remember, and it might be the only way now that fame has become a purely hereditary issue]. Or of course, you could give 'your music' another go with one more album, toss in another collab with Paloma Faith, or the XX, someone who'll get you back in the Live Lounge with Jo Whiley's pisshole eyes squinting their love your way.
Of course, it'd help, when you were creating your new album, the second record where you can't just be a ditzy purveyor of pastiche, if you actually had a soul, rather than just loving people whom you imagine had a soul a long long time ago. Something to sing about would also help, something beyond the endless cycle and circle of massive privelige and easy access and quirky dilletantism that's been your birthright so far. But you haven't got such a vintage thing as a soul as you imagine, and the right equipment and clothes won't make it grow anytime soon. Best bet is - as a tester, toss out some half-arsed 'soul music' that makes Emile Sande sound like Betty Davis, replete with vague lyrics about being a bit sad sometimes and being in love sometimes that you ripped off a thing you saw on imgur/r/motivational last night, and a hook that a small dull child would find melodically unimaginative. Small dull child Fearne Cotton, your mate, will love it, Rob Da Bank, another mate, will love the shitty obvious remix, mummy and daddy will support you in everything you do and when it tanks in the upper reaches of the top 30 your PR will be round to tell you to tell everyone they've lined up (mainly broadsheets, a few Redtops and Saturday entertainment supplements just in case) about how this album is 'more personal and more grown up' than anything you've done before. You'll appear on Later With Jools Holland and bask in the approval your slick big-band backing will get from the assorted sycophants and liggers who have, and will, always surround you. In discussion with your PR and label you'll decide to forego being grilled by Grimshaw in the morning (who wants to get sucked into that ongoing haemorrage) and instead embark on the second stage of your musical career with Radio 2 firmly in your sights as an eventual playlist home, the ongoing Nike endorsement hopefully backed up by a healthy portfolio of Sainsbury's & Boots No.7 ad-soundtracking, eyes on those disposable-income ABCs, the CDEs picked up on the way merely an unfortunate less-lucrative side-effect of aspiration and blanket-marketing. It's a plan that I hope comes off for Eliza, and 'Let It Rain' is a great, hugely forgettable and sophorriifically dull start to that campaign.
I should also probably mention that I sincerely hope everyone involved in the new plan, from Eliza herself to her label and hard-working streat team, to Whiley, Cotton and Da Bank, Jools, The One Show, the bookers on BBC Breakfast, the project managers synergising marketing strategies and choosing new music to best soundtrack the soon-come autumn/Xmas ads, are able along the way to STOP THEIR ARSEHOLES BEING TOO JEALOUS OF ALL THE SHIT THEIR MOUTHS ARE CONSTANTLY PRODUCING, THE ORDURE THEY'RE LETTING FALL IN SLOPPY MOIST CLODS FROM THEIR PERMANENTLY FAECALLY-STAINED LIPS AS THEIR ABSENCE OF A SINGLE IOTA OF WORTHWHILE HUMANITY BEGINS TO FERMENT THEIR REPTILIAN INNARDS FUCKING STAY IN LONDON YOU HOBBYHORSE CUNTS WHERE YOUR GOVERNMENT WILL PROTECT YOU GATHER AND SUPPURATE YOUR 'CREATIVE' MEDIOCRITY BACK AND FORTH TO EACH OTHER UNDER THE PROTECTIVE UNSHEATHED WINGS OF YOUR OZMODYIAN GOD CAMERON AND KEEP SUCKLING DEEP FROM HIS BRACKISH BITTER BEACH-PINKED DUGS THE ACRID MILK OF YOUR OWN ENDLESSLY SMUG MUTUAL EVIL.
Five out of ten, perhaps it's an 'album track'?
SINGLE OF THE MONTH 2
The Great Divide (Remix)
Blunted Astronaut Records
Have no idea who the man behind the decks here (Bodzier) is, but hats off fella for creating a rerub so damn delicious you wanna bite, slurp, snaffle it til the juice runs down your chin. Is it the pizzicato strings, the hauntological flute, the refracted Rhodes & harp that seals this to your heart so damn adhesively? Perhaps a combination of all of the above, plus typically commanding rhymes from Ed O.G. So damn fine I don't even want to hear the original. Grown up brilliance. 'Hip-hop is alive/hip-hop never died'. You're absolutely goddamned right. Livin' proof.
The Old Villagers
Mos Deep Recordings
Aroy Dee's Mos Deep offshoot is shaping up as an intriguing imprint and the title track on this new 12 is techno as you want techno to be - thick, oppresive, squelchy, hopeful, unforgiving, hypnotic, dreamy, disturbing. Do check out 'Little Green Munchkin Man' as well, totally old-skool jack-yr-body analogue house with grainy drums and detuned riffs that leave you feeling so wobbly you'll consider installing handles on your walls and casters on your feet and sliding round like you're the missing link tween us and our half-Segway half-human descendents. Clams on the half shell and roller skates.
I'll Be Your Dog/Everyday Apocalypse
Blunted Astronaut Records
Getting really intrigued this month by Blunted Astronaut, and this natty double-header ups the curiosity, 'Dog' being a sublime slice of '60s pop (produced by The Process) given fresh life by G & Muneshine's filthy-nasty rhymes. On the flip 'Everyday Apocalypse' will get less radio play but is even more brainjanglingly great, sudden stabs of a dying piano, bristling jazzy beats, great 'Lyrics of Fury' cut-ups, utterly minimal yet maximally devastating. Watch EVERYONE involved here, they're seriously on some brand new shit.
The Sure Shot Parts 1&3 (Remix)
Soul Temple Entertainment
Blasting by trailing lush flute and squelchy wah-wah, peeling away from traffic and gunning the engine, toe to the floor, congos and sudden string stabs straight from Curtis Mayfield at his most propulsively divine. 'The Brown Album' this comes from is supastoopidly essential, but the way this gives way mid-way to some deeply plangent mournful Isaac Hayes' soul whilst Ghost's rhymes actually get more hysterical on the slowed pace is just incredible and lifts this a cut above. Push yourselves winter-wards with this wonder.
Hus Kingpin (aka Hus of Tha Connection) feat. Roc Marciano
From 'The Cognac Tape', rich with Moroder texture, heavy with dancehall-bass, thunking with funk, laced-up and lurid as a particularly choice Italian horror-porn soundtrack. Me like.
Higher Than The Sun
As the brilliant originality and promise of its title suggests, 'Higher Than The Sun' truly comes from people for whom music is important, means something crucial, justifies life, people who have had to strive to get where they are in the dazzling firmament of British pop. It must've been tough for Tim Rice-Oxley and Tom Chaplin early on, especially for Chaplin whose family only had their paltry earnings from OWNING the £6-grand-a-term Vinehall Boarding School to support poor Tom's fledgling musical interest. Later, in the mean corridors and dusty cum-smelling dorms of Tonbridge Boarding (at £32-grand-a-year pricier than Eton or Harrow) it must have been an even greater struggle for Tom, Tim and the Dominic they'd found hiding under their desks to explore their growing musical vision at all, beset as they must've been from all sides by distractions like their ever-growing Forex portfolios, lobster-thermidore for tuck AGAIN, and of course gangs of roaming pederasts in mortar-boards 'keane' (hehheh) to investigate their puckered downy young bumholes. And yes, ok, Tonbridge was investigated for price-fixing but it was of course a cartel-ism merely in the self-same spirit of enterprise that made Britain great, an institution dedicated to turning out those captains of industry to carry empire worldwide, that spirit of freedom and greed that had seen the school through five-hundred years of good stead. It's testament to that spirit that they can also count Keane among their alumni, in their own busy 'creative' way similarly carrying commerce from the heart of the cricket-pitches and masonic lodges of the home counties all the way across the planet. We can all consider ourselves lucky that these plucky underdogs politely turned down the King of High Finanace Chris Martin's entreaties for Tim to join the truly magnificently profitable Coldplay in 1997 and struck out on their own, cos a life without Keane's pulsating posho passion-pop and bombastic bourgeouise balladry frankly wouldn't be a life worth living. The video trailer for this single (a new track from a soon-come LONG-awaited best of) sees Keane travelling the world, enduring the living hell of the best hotels, waiting areas and boutique studios money can buy. It's clearly tough (and occassionally the band have to use medium-grade Egyptian cotton towels to dry themselves, so 'crazy' does the action get!) but thanks for going through the fire Keane. We appreciate every still & sparkling moment.
Nice lyric (genuinely anti-materialistic, a little bit of venom to the emptiness of its fantasy, a real sense of longing alongside the laceration), a voice that can be clean and pure and grainy, an arrangement that's subtle and insiduous and gets under your skin a bit (especially the sudden moments of stacked-up though obvious harmonies). I just hope to god that the amount of shit Lorde might be forced to do after this becomes the monster worldwide hit it's already been in the States will be spaced out, sparse and maintain the mystery she's still got intact. I don't trust her record company to manage that. I hope she's strong enough to. On this evidence she may well be but if I accidentally stumble across a video of her doing this live with only solo acoustic guitar accompaniment I can't be held accountable for the sudden volte-face in my affections.
There's a line you can draw see, a line that's got us down this far. Lily Allen started it, that chattiness masquerading as 'wit', knowing that if in any way a lyric can mention trivia, the small things, the unfunny 'random' detail, it will instantly garner itself the billion OMG SO TRUE likes of a whole generation. Ed Sheeran picked up that bolus and fashioned it with his hateful wish-he-got-done-for-shoplifting-in-Saudi pasty freckly hands into the dungball of pity and poesy that Nina Nesbitt's recently crawled out from with her own brand of ballache, that hate-worthy 'Go Out' single from a few months ago with the punchably breathy voice replete with gag-reflex quiver, arm-marks from the permanently toted acoustic, the rhythm section left as a neat'n'tidy (yet charmingly 'ramshackle') twang-n-rattle (like Fairground Attraction without the . . . . no, sorry, EXACTLY like fkn Fairground Attraction really), the lyrics, like Sheeran's, a revoltingly smug peering down on wannabes and 'fake gangsters', as keenly 'observational' and 'gentle' as the comedy of Michael McIntyre & Russell Howard that fans of this kind of dizzy dogshit are so fond of. The new single, doubtless set to be a bigger hit, is a cover of Fleetwood Mac that you've probably heard on some fucking advert for some shitehawks or other and as a McVeigh song was utterly loathsome to start with before this fkn horribly perky re-rendering. This kind of music needs dum-dum blunderbussing right in the florals. Please Stop, ruining our tomorrows.
SINGLE OF THE MONTH 4
FUCKIN' TESTIFY RAH! Way way better (because it has a point and a purpose and a snarl in its craw that will not be silenced) than Angel Haze's attempt at Kanye's 'New Slaves' track, Dirty Harriet rips forth on Miley and all other tweenage twerkers with a fury that burns brighter than a billion suns. Save it for the next kiddies' birthday party you have to DJ and watch the kids go absolutely NUTS. Nice to have you back maam.
I'm (un)paid to generalise but in general it's the low-end that has to grab me first, that I first fall in love with. The treble, the detail, the pretty stuff I eventually notice, yeah it all can deepen that love but unless the bass and drums get me right off, I'm not interested. If I can draw a crass analogy I'm a bum and legs man: it's nice if a song has a nice face/chest/tits but if it's got a flat non-existent arse I'm never really gonna take a fancy. Inevitable I'd be phwoaaring at this but I have altogether stranger, as yet uncategorisable (and potentially illegal) desires for it, so deformedly great is the surplus of bass & hugeness of beat, it's like an arse the size of a house. Attack of the 50ft arse. Fantastic stuff from Randomer from one of 2013's great labels.
Give It To U
My god, can you imagine how tiny Robin Thicke's dick is? Judging by his over-compensation it must be Clarkson small, Gervais small, with a couple of tiny balls looking like Murun Buchstansanger. I mean, if you feel the need in a video to surround yourselves with pre-pubescent fantasies of 'girls' all of whom have bodies like little boys, then actually have your name with 'has a big dick' spelled out in balloons after it, whilst the editor remains under brutally strict instructions to cut out all those moments where your little trouser-maggot spooged its thimble-load and you looked prone & vulnerable rather than just repellently arrogant, you've got to have some serious issues possibly not adequately addressed by the innumerable air-pump and L'arginine-tablet offers you've been so hoodwinked by in the past. Seriously Mr. Thicke, go see a counsellor, speak to someone about it cos these shitty derivative singles about how your massive member is going to fuck everyone in the world simply aren't working and your schtick as a kind of rude Michael Buble will run out of steam soon. Counselling will help. Yes it might require remembering those embarassing moments in the changing rooms where your classmates roared with laughter at your miniscule bait'n'tackle, yes it might mean reliving those horrible tweezer-poised moments of spunk-drenched self-loathing all over again and yeah you look even uglier when you cry but it's time to face up to the fact that God blessed you with an atrophied acorn in the cock department and move on. Once those lies that have sustained you (like size not mattering) have been stripped away, and those hometruths driven home (You can't make butter with a toothpick) if counselling means eventually coming to terms with your lifetime of enforced celibacy it'll be worth it, and save you lots of potentially dangerous quack-treatment and uncomfortable implants down the line. Jude Law, Mick Jagger and Enrique Inglesias have all taken that first step. I hope you can too shrimpy.
Ram's subsid Program have never been less than ace so far and no-change here with this fierce twist of taut tension from Stealth. All about how that bass reaches down and pulls at yr guts but also how the growing sense of menace and dread is accentuated by passages of genuinely atonal shrike and fizzing noise, almost sounding like a malfunction, an accident that occured somewhere in transit but adding to the unfolding drama wonderfully. Play so loud when it's over all you can hear is a high-pitched note that won't leave.
Heavy as fuck cos it knows when to disappear. The big holes of silence in amidst the rupturing slabs of hard n heavy breakbeats make for a wonderfully unsettling sense of non-danceability to this monster, the tempo kept up but seemingly draining of power as each explosion happens, old-skool breaks held up like bottles to the light, shot through with strobes, frozen in the neon. And when the roll starts and doesn't stop it ploughs like a juggernaut through your central reservations. Superb.
Soul Temple Entertainment
Inspektah Deck & Elzhi also featured, so you can imagine how corking this is — great production from Blastah Beats as dark and downered as some prime PF Cuttin' wrecknology, and U.God pulls out some of the finest rhymes from his much slept-on 'Keynote Speaker' set. The kind of track you couldn't hum back to anyone but that gets under your skin precisely because of its unplaceable variety. Wu still delivering.
White Collar BoySUUU (Frank B Remix) Bodytonic Music
New label from Dublin, new music from two-piece 'electronic garage group' called White Collar Boy and though the original is a little too clean for my tastes this Frank B Remix is perfectly weighted between ecstasy and confusion, the last few minutes of end-of-night powder'n'pilled madness before unconsciousness thwacks it's blissful blackness into your head. The true romantic resonance of sought-for-and-found oblivion. Get yourself untogether to this and for god sake don't get ready to go out listening to this, no-one wants to hit the town looking like Charlie Caroli. See you next month pop-pickers. Get the heating on.