24 April 2014

#srcz Comment// Avril Lavigne – Hello Kitty

When Avril Lavigne released her first album way back in the early noughties, with the eponymous Sk8r Boi driving many people mad everywhere we knew she would last. With a passable but occasionally patchy debut album she caught our attention for a brief while. But it wasn’t until this jaw-droppingly odd video for the Japan-centric fan base came out she regained it. Many are calling it the worst thing ever made but we’re pretty sure there is much worse out there! That said though, there still is little to Hello Kitty beyond sheer shock value and kawaii cute demographic steeliness.

It’s a mystery how she keeps a (semi, at least) straight face at all throughout the video and indeed, as to why so many people have managed to watch it all the way through considering how much has been said about it. Truth is though, if you know Japanese main stream pop music then this is nothing new. There are videos more toe curling than this released every week in world of J-Pop, and played with even more seriousness on occasion.

Witness the rise of the often surprisingly listenable Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (all thanks to some very good production and visuals more often than not) or any number of artists and Hello Kitty is actually pretty harmless. The c0-write between Lavigne and Chad Kroeger was dubbed an unholy union  by one website but to get this many people talking about a song that is as light and fluffy as anything and more than likely to get huge chart dividends it’s sign that cross over between genres is always possible.

The video itself is also pretty harmless. The accusations of racism that have been echoed are largely not there and if you’ve ever walked down Harajuku or near by the hub Tower Records in Shibuya (seen in the background in the opening minute) you’ll have seen plenty more outlandish stuff than this. Certainly, every time I go to Tokyo it’s not unusual to see and hear more ear-bleed worthy music in every convenience store or chain record store so let’s let Hello Kitty pass us by in that dance troop like way the video does. Next please! 

(On a side note, don’t let that put you off discovering some of the unique and amazing music that Japan does so well on all levels from the open mic to the commercial. It will change your life…)

(Sebastian Gahan.) 

23 April 2014

New Sounds // Courtney Love – ‘You Know My Name’

There is always room for more music from the excellent Courtney Love. Releasing her first solo material since 2004’s America’s Sweetheart album, this double A side single will be available from May 4th. Have a listen to the track You Know My Name below:

With a brief but eventful, almost-three minutes run time You Know My Name is classic Courtney Love, her ever insightful lyrics and instantly recognisable voice mixed with a hard edged, punk tinged sound. With a UK tour soon to begin look out for her near you soon…

22 April 2014

Music Review // Lady Neptune – Destroys The Moon

The computer game influenced, triceratops sporting cover art for this recently released E.P. from Lady Neptune belies its true nature. Of course, we’re not ones to judge the music by its cover but one thing’s for sure, if that Triceratops is in need of some music to charge into a crowd of dinosaurs to, this is it.

In all fairness, though, the cover art does a disservice to the distinctly not unlistenable music contained within. The dream pop imbued no wave edge to the music makes it a listen that needs to be concentrated on. That’s not to say you won’t want to listen, merely that its beauty needs to be savoured. The sheer dystopia of Theme Song is embracing and confusing yet not less than essential; ethereal harmonies meld with a hardcore psych inspired backing  and we’re not quite what it’s the theme song for, but it will have to be to something pretty darned special.

As Destroys The Moon continues, that aforementioned psych influence gets less muddier, with more vocals and a warmer sensation tingling along the spine. I Dunno, the second track is possibly just as it’s meant to be, with intertwining genres and an irresistible hook you don’t why you love it but you definitely do.

Slowing the pace right down, (and adding some classic dream pop ambiance), is Get Out of Here, where we are invited to do as the title says on a daydream. The opening half is just right daydream for us, and when the powered up backing returns half way through it’s a powerful moment that puts the record in perspective. Indeed, it’s here the experimental edges begin to show more overtly. The loop sketches and ethereal noodling that close the track are perfectly in place despite the fact you never thought a record like this could handle them.

But with the closing, fifteen minute epic Life On Neptune we find the real experimentation. The opening four tracks are like sketches of sound by comparison to this. Galactic interference mingles captivatingly with radio voices from the ether in a never less than ear catching style, and as it all builds into a cacophonous static, this experiment brings things to a close with sounds that would certainly fit into the Neptune scene perfectly. If you’ve ever pictured futuristic scenes of discos ruled by static rather than beats then this is just up your street. Scary, highly indulgent and never less than on the edge Lady Neptune has produced an E.P as fascinating as it is brave. 

We want more!


Album Review // Kelis – Food

We’ve talked previously about how food and music seem to go together perfectly and here, as if to prove our point, comes Kelis with an album called Food. Coincidence? We think not…

Indeed, as lazy metaphors go, there are many you can justifiably throw at this record with its numerous cuisine references found in the song titles. Arguably, this is much  tastier a meal than the previous work we’ve encountered from the artist. Imbued with a modern soul sensibility and sophisticated, rather than needlessly experimental (although there is never anything wrong with a bit of experimentation, of course), production this album swathes over the listener like a perfectly cut silk jacket.

The perfectly balanced Floyd, contains the lyric ‘I know I don’t look it but I can cook’ and true to the songs chorus we were truly blown away by this bittersweet anthem to seeking companionship. With horns that are like honey on an already sweet pancake it’s an early highlight, soulful and infinitely listenable. With considerably less tracks on the list than the average Kelis album too, this  is only a good thing. After all, how many servings can one get through? The metaphorical musical buffet of Food offers thirteen tracks, the majority of which are winners.

Only the too run of the mill Runnin’ disappoints by comparison to the smorgasbord on offer. Notably, Jerk Ribs is an instant audio treat with an instinctive percussive rhythm and more of those horns that capture the imagination so well. Vocally too, there is little to find lacking with some classic soul imbued vocals adding to the funk of an album that is certainly worthy. Add the straight ahead New Orleans funk of Hooch to a bursting trunk of funk booty to treasure and you already have some inspiring jams for everyone and the true funk soldier next door.

But as with any album themed around such culinary love, there are some flavours that go deeper than the horn imbued funk. One of these flavours, the bittersweet but beautiful Bless The Telephone is another must listen, recalling those moments when a ring of the phone can be a cure for a lonely patch.

There is perhaps much to be said about Food that can be better attained by listening to it at your nearest convenience. It’s an album that is shockingly listenable – and far removed from the early Kaleidoscope days of the artist. After listening to the album, we certainly did need some ice cold water, to quote the endlessly listenable Friday Fish Fry, resplendent in its exquisite brass arrangements and passionate vocalisation.

Disparate elements of jazz, funk, psychedelic, world music elements and a stunning production from TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek all combine for a career reinvention that is certainly one to treasure. If this was a meal (and it surely is) we’d be giving it a rare full recommendation and drinking a rare vintage to accompany it’s bittersweet mahogany soul.

(Sebastian Gahan) 

Food is released 21/4/2014 via Ninja Tune. 

Album Review // Blood Red Shoes – Blood Red Shoes (Self Titled)

Released earlier this year, Blood Red Shoes' self titled album really is worth your time. A disturbing, volcanic landscape decorates its cover and the music found within is not too different from that feeling.

Welcome Home explodes into action on a bed of frenetic guitar riffs, ever increasing in their intensity before the positively killer drums kick in and add to the explosion of sound that shocks the unprepared listener just sixty seconds into the album. We’ve always known that Blood Red Shoes are not for the faint hearted – easy listening they are not, for sure.

This album strips away a layer of production and lets the raw guitar and vocals do the talking in the best way possible. The band’s urge for us not to slow them down on Everything All At Once is certainly one we’d we wise to heed – especially when they music as addictive as this.

Over twelve tracks the band beat up your ears with a most pleasurable intensity and highlights are a plenty. An Animal is one for sure, previewed as it was before the albums full release to great enjoyment at #srcz. Even the ‘quieter moments’ such as Far Away take the listener by the heart and on the taut but industrial tinged beauty of Behind a Wall we see the band at their best. It’s like listening to bees making the best honey in the country to a soundtrack of piercing riffs and not just the guitar kind.

Listen also to Speech Coma for a taste of the bands ability to make the darkest of music bittersweet with those unforgettable lyrics. ‘I can’t get my words out/ It’s like someone cut out my tongue’ they intone and it’s hard to describe why it’s such a great listen but the band’s trademark chaotic but good sense imbued arrangements are surely why it’s a listen that imprints on the mind with a rare ease.

Indeed, the only criticism that could be laid in the way of the album is that it’s perhaps a few tracks too long. But that’s but an afterthought when you think that it flows by with an ease uncommon in many albums of this genre. Loud isn’t always what you need but there are the quieter moments that break up the mainly heavy arrangements that threaten to overwhelm the listener on occasion.

As threats go though, this is one that is uniquely enjoyable. May their shadow loom for at least a few more spins!

(S. Gahan.)

15 April 2014

New Sounds // Marc Ford – Blue Sky

With a new album out this week, Marc Ford certainly has predicted the blue skies that have blessed some of our cities of late. This charming video for song Blue Sky sees two children illuminate the monochrome aspects of life with their magic paintbrushes in a very endearing manner. We need more of these magic brushes!

The video is directed by David N. Donihue and stars Marc Ford, Andrew Ruiz with Chelsea Rifkin and Dave Truax. The americana tinged album Holy Ghost! is out now via Naim Edge Records.  

13 April 2014

E.P Review // Curelight Wounds – Silver Sand

The third E.P. from Brooklyn’s Curelight Wounds had us to attention rather quickly. Mixing the oft-quoted shoegaze genre with their already present dark metal ethos it’s a surprisingly effective listen.

Opener See It Burn is a fast paced, percussive intro that instantly expounds the new shoegaze element effectively. Asking the question ‘Do you wanna see me burn’ under a mat of bass and drums with that classic shoegaze styled guitar style it’s an impressive opening salvo. Following it up is the amped up Ride, with a faster pace and almost off the cuff quality about it. The fact it sounds so good is already noted, but considering we’re not usually taken with this particular genre it’s done a good job of converting us.

Silver Sand lifts it’s head out of the sea of liquid mercury that submerged the first half of the EP and the shoegaze element is less evident here, but the song is no less potent for it. With vox low down in the mix and the thunderous drums centre stage it makes all the right moves in its allotted time. Closer Empty Faith enters drone territory and with the shift in production that makes it all the more palatable. The EP is drawing to a close here and the climatic tone really makes it a highlight of the release.

So after just twelve minutes Silver Sand concludes and although it’s about two minutes too long for this particular genre to work well with, it’s a third EP that is most definitely worth your time. And if you haven’t got twelve minutes to play with then you need to find them…

Reviewed by C. Agent

Silver Sands is released April 22 via independent release. 

12 April 2014

Music Review // Shit Robot – We Got A Love

Dance music is a genre that can either impress or make hit the forward button post-haste.  There is so much of it out there that the good stuff often hides in little pockets of reality where all the best beats pump out for the pleasure of a more intimate venue.  We Got A Love, the latest from Shit Robot is definitely one of the latter propositions.

If you imagine the perfect venue for a party, it all depends on what you actually want to do. This is music that could fit into the intimate, more chill out scene than  full on rave party. There is more to the music than just beats for the sake of beats, there are sonic textures that conjure up ethereal cosmoscapes or neon lit revelries in the coolest cities at midnight.

Space Race, one of the albums two instrumental pieces perfectly sets the scene with its melodic nods to early Kraftwerk and driving but picturesque beats. Then there’s the hypnotic and endlessly listenable Do That Dance, featuring Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem that urges the listener to bring their love down to dispel the blues. It is certainly an album highlight for this reviewer. (Make sure to check out it’s excellent promo clip as well…)

As a whole though the album keeps a good pace, doesn’t repeat itself too often as many an album of this genre is inclined to far too often, and is certainly full of love. The influences here are certainly more positive than negative, with glowing warmth spreading about as it wends its way through a sea of neon tinged beats and constructs.

The Reggie Watts featuring opener The Secret kicks off things in a surreal, retrofuturist disco manner as the futuristic synth beds shimmer their way into your psyche and the vocal samples hide amongst the forest of beats tantalisingly. This continues into Dingbat (featuring Museum of Love) as the D’n’B influence kick in to great effect.

Arguably, this is not an instant album as such and that is only a good thing. Too often electronic music hinges onto lazy hooks that fail to engage the attention for longer than one track but there is none of that here. The nine tracks each give a measured dose of pleasure, rarely giving any hint of try-too-hard or filler. Shit Robot, aka Marcus Lambkin, should be proud to have avoided any ‘difficult second album’ clichés on We Got A Love with a perfectly pitched record that keeps attention on it all the way through.

Indeed, if he were a real robot we’d probably add him to our Robots We Love list. But as it is, We Got A Love is an album that is just the right thing for those looking to do some musical exploration.

Reviewed by Sebastian Gahan.