Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Accessibility can be both a blessing and a down-grade of its own kind. In fact, the more you have to take a proper plunge in order to get access to certain sounds, lyrics and music in general, the more sweeter the taste will probably be. The phenomenal taste of funk mixed with some ironic grudge, meaning TV on the Radio’s latest release and the most accessible one aswell, blows up all taste buds in a quite orgasmic way. And with a cherry on top.
TV on the Radio is a group of funky Brooklyneers, Tunde Adebimpe, Kyp Malone, Dave Sitek, Jaleel Bunton and Gerard Smith, who pull electronics, indie guitar rock, free jazz, funk, soul and a cappella doo-wop vocals out of their hats. As eclectic as it sounds, one must imagine this to be as synonymous to a melting pot as it can possibly be. And it truly is. No hesitations here, nor any over-wording. Meanings are all at their high at this point.
The newest as well as the fifth album, Nine Types of Light, is the follow-up to the band's overwhelmingly beautiful 2008 release, Dear Science, and proved to be its breakout release. Making a big entrance, it was named album of the year by MTV, Spin, Entertainment Weekly, Pitchfork and the grand old man, if I may, Rolling Stone. And the group touring behind the album sold out a year's worth of live shows across the world. Eat your heart out. This particular album bears a mushy undertone, with different hints to issues concerning the self-exploration of one’s heart. So this may seem odd.
It is odd. Of course it’s odd. Listening at this point is crucial. And VOILA! A pinch of sugar and spice and a cautious amount of chaos. Last of which leads to the realization, that change does not necessarily mean bad. It means it is time for some groove and irony. Future-funk and energy at its peak.
Nine Types of Light has a list of songs, which to an avid listener might at first seem as a contrast of some sort. Referring to the lyrics, of course. [Drum-rolls] : Love? That’s right! Take into consideration that the lyrics have a great deal of avant-garde-like and poetic charm in them. Instruments have a high vibe and are full of energy. The whole mixture of the instruments and melodies have an artistic palette to them, full of colors and simple-chic tones. Female voices raised at this time.
Reaching the point where the play-button is pushed, the songs all have a slightly lighter sound to them than an amount of previously released tracks. “Will do” is the first single off the album. Cutting to the chase – fuzzy and beautiful and…
"I'll be there to take care of you if ever you should decide that you don't want to waste your life in the middle of a lovesick lullaby"
…with a hint of straightforward sarcasm.
At the end of the album, when all is eaten up and given a chance to grow on you in a pleasant and soaking way, it will be felt that there are probably much more than nine types of light here. Fact.
Friday, May 27, 2011
Anyone in search of a good melody need only put on "Poker Face" or "Paparazzi or... Is there any more? A load of choices presents itself on Lady GaGa's 2011 Born This Way.
What is unnerving, however, is the feeling that she is viciously copying every classic pop song ever recorded and this suspicion is only fortified by the mastery of their concealment. Fortunately, the nifty tunes on the album soon make the prejudice and criticism vanish in the sheer beauty of the music. The lyrics are still quite banal and don't leave much for imagination but serve their purpose well to function as vessels for vocal delivery. But hey, Gaga is a socially-conscious pop star and probably understands what people want. Nearly all the songs on the album would sound good on the radio and on the dance floor as well as blasting from an aging rocker's stereo. "Electric Chapel" makes an evident nod towards guitar rock with its driving riff and "The Edge of Glory" effectively manages to fuse club music and classic rock with its anthemic chorus and a sax solo that almost seems to be the perfect extension of "Born to Run". Come to think of it, Clarence Clemons, the saxophonist of Springsteen's The E Street Band performed solos in both songs. The bizarre form of sincerity that GaGa has adopted elevates the album to the status of a statement, which couldn't be reached by her previous releases. A statement that nevertheless remains obscure aside from its obvious message: enjoy.
The heart-warming charm of the album comes from GaGa's soulful performance, leaving an indelible impression that she actually might mean what she is singing. Lady Gaga is a clear sign that pop's glory days are not over but poses a dilemma: what will the other girlies who'll follow suit and start imitating her eventually bring pop to? No worries. Gaga is still young and still very much here.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Come Around Sundown, released in 2010, will probably delight those who liked the band's 2008 Only by the Night and alienate the fans of their early efforts.
When the rolling mass of "The End" starts to sink in you may start to wonder whom KOL are ripping. And then your thoughts might also wander towards the same way during "Pyro". Ah, yes. "Drive" by The cars. A good source indeed if it's done well. And in this case it is. The band members themselves have described their sound as having a beachy groove to it, which is right on, because the fluidity of the tunes and watery instrument textures are as soothing as they are lukewarm and flat at times. The concise rock format the group adopted on its previous release Only by the Night is firmly asserted throughout the record and leaves little trace of their early garage vibes. Lyrical themes remain close to life and refrain from being too vague, which some might call a good thing. Kings of Leon has a generally likable fusion of U2, garage, southern and alt-rock; that is to say that classification is pointless and that the band comes across as honest with all their influences and provides a hopeful change for the ones not too keen on squeaky indie bands.
However, if you don't dig the boys' mix you can always go "Back Down South" and listen to Skynyrd.
Friday, May 20, 2011
One (wo)man band, Molly Nilsson, is a very mysterious artisit. There is very little about her in the Internet. Trying to google her name( or maybe artistic nick nickname?) one will not find much. Only laconic mentions, obsolated tour dates. Nothing... even the myspace adress seems to be out-of-date. But such appearances can be misleading. The fact that she does not care about that does not mean that she is lazy or retired. YouTube is full of Molly Nilsson's music clips. She also gives concerts all time. The strange thing is why such a talented song writer, composer, musican an singer does not seek popularity and fame.
Recording under her own label DARK SKIES ASSOCIATION, Molly Nilsson makes her own music totally indepedent. And that feeling of intimacy, privacy and sincerity makes her first album 'These things take time', recorded in 2008, very special. Some may think that such synthetic art-pop is grandiose. Maybe that it is a little bit kitschy... But I can't imagine anyone saying that this album is commercial. Obviously it was recorded with the urge to express artist's feelings, emotions exacly as she wanted to do so. Involving anyone else in her musical project shows that Molly Nillson doesn't accept compromises. That makes her record completely authorial which doesn't happen very often these days. Born in Sweden, she is now living in Berlin which is a great mix. Sweden's music industry is recently very appreciated even out of Europe. Everyone who tries to be up to date with recent releases is familliar with such names as Lykke Li, El Perro del Mar or Little Dragon. The successes of these music projects is the outcome of great, soft and pleasent female vocals. If so, why did Molly Nilsson decide to make her music in Germany? Maybe she feels better to create in a land of vocalists that have much more in common with electro music, such as Barbara Morgenstern, Miss Kittin, Soffy O... For sure Molly Nilsson fills the gap between these two ways of expression.
'These things take time' starts with opening song ' The lonely' which sounds like an electro- cabaret. The three next songs are also pretty much in this style. While listening to 'The Diamond song', '800 days' or ' Wounds itch when the heal' it is possible to have a film frames from The Cabaret in front of an eyes. The fifth song 'Whiskey sour' is bit different. Only the lyrics and vocal matters, music is just a background. It is a beatiful track about loneliness, night big-city life. Molly sings: „I would have called you if I had some credit on my phone. I always feel so stupid in a bar all alone” with such a sad voice that listener can easily imagine a lonely women getting drunk at the bar while waiting for someone who had never showed up. The seventh track 'Won't somebody take me out tonight' is a great combination of lyrics, vocals and music. Every one of these ingrediants separately would not be so impressive but together they form an outstanding, simple ballad. 'Hey moon!' seems to be the saddest from the whole album, the tune sounds like lullaby but it's cleary about a girl who can't fall asleep because she is thinking of someone while looking at the moon...
Molly Nilsson's debut album shows that simple music may be very touching and extremely good if it is made with heart. Album 'These things take time' also makes me think that massive studio with a bunch of proffesionalists in it is not crucial when we are dealing with one talented person. But it also makes me sad that very often such gifted people have to choose between recording under their own conditions and popularity.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Monday, May 9, 2011
Ewert Sundja, known to Estonians from “Kaks takti ette” and with his involvement in different bands since then (The Provokers, Precious, Thief) has not only established himself as a serious artist but in in doing so, gained recognition both home and abroad.
“Good Man Down” is the Two Dragons’ second studio album and fits into the modern music scene like an old 80s T-shirt on a college hipster. The album mixes folk, pop and indie with effortless grace, evoking a whole spectrum of emotions from “sounds like Radiohead” to “I want THAT playing at my funeral”. The lyrics are a hot mess of country-ish verse, carried by rhythmic tunes and a combination of Ewert’s lazy voice and cowboy pronunciation. The album’s first single, Good Man Down sounds as authentic as ever; and what is more, completely un-Estonian.
But the album is only picking up speed. Good Man Down is followed by Jolene, a reversed love song if you will. It is not the lead singer’s heart that bleeds after a girl, but ’Jolene’ is the one who craves him and, as the lyrics reveal, to no avail. But Jolene is not the only love song on the record – Road to the Hill manages to make a 180 turn from the melancholic folkishness that the whole album seems immersed in and introduces a much more livelier tune with soft-sounding piano and a more positive message. You Had Me at Hello retains some of that inherent sadness and longing, but like Road to the Hill, carries itself through without making the listener nor the singer cry. It is also the longest song on the album – a whopping 7:10 in total – and has the most enjoyable interlude of pure instrumental bliss as the song treads a pace to an almost marching drum that gives the silver lining and a promise of hope to otherwise wistful lyrics. (In the End) There’s Only Love is most like Road to the Hill, in a sense that it is another lively tune and is, in fact, the liveliest on the record. The listener cannot help but grin at the harmony of the backing vocals – you can almost picture the boys huddled up around a microphone, the rims of their hipster glasses almost touching as they try to channel Bono in Elevation. Sailor Man gives mixed signals, toying with emotion. But the progression of the song is close to perfect and the build-up beautifully done.
Panda, however, takes another turn for the melancholic. It is opium for the bruised soul, borderlining despair with lyrics like ’my legs of stone can’t carry me home’ and ’wanting it is tearing a hole in my soul’. It is obviously one of the most personal songs on the album, reflecting both Ewert and the group as a whole. The title Panda seems almost tongue-in-cheek – much like calling New York cheesecake Poo or 9/11 a misfortunate happening. The song is also lengthy, almost as long as You Had Me at Hello, which might be interpreted as another indicator of its personal nature. Burning Bush is the most Radiohead-esque piece on the record and has the potential to almost surpass them if it were not for the overly cryptic lyrics. That said, it is still enjoyable with its muffled vocals and minimal instrumentals, but suffers greatly from being less than three minutes long. All in all, the song feels static, built on an emotion or, rather, an image and therefore lacks progression.
Falling sounds dreadfully like ten other songs that I cannot put my finger on, but the fact that it sounds like other songs already says enough. It suffers the same chronic staticness as Burning Bush and unlike the latter, fails to bring in a personal element, not even a cryptic one. This song is also captivated by the image of, yup, you guessed it, falling and cannot seem to move away from it. Inevitably, this makes Falling the weakest song on the record. The Rabbit is folk personified, with touches of indie and country. The lyrics conjure up images of country bars and smoking pistols, trains and starry nights out. Ewert’s vocals are most lazy in this particular song and he sounds wise beyond his years, cautioning his listeners to live life to the fullest and make the right decisions in doing so.
Even if you are not an adherent of the indie scene or do not particularly enjoy folk elements in music, the Two Dragons still delivers. Melancholy might be the recurring theme, but it does nothing but elevate the album and give it a sense of cohesiveness. With the exception of a few [aforementioned] missteps, the album is nice whole and a most welcome addition to the Estonian music scene. If the Two Dragons were to venture more southwards one day, I know I would be the first in line to procure a ticket, regardless of the price.