Category Archives: Kanye West

Albums of 2010: 10 – 6

6. Before Today – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti

For years shampoo-avoider Ariel Pink recorded his songs seemingly using masking tape, a coat hanger, a toy guitar with one string and a bar of soap. Or something. His early recordings made that album Devendra Banhart recorded on people’s answering machines sound like it was produced by Stuart Price. So, it was somewhat of a surprise when Before Today emerged, loaded with lyrics you could actually make out and a production technique that wasn’t ‘bury everything as low in the mix as possible’. It’s an album that takes its cues from just about every decade since the ’60s, with psychedelica rubbing shoulders with ’80s teen movie soundtrack songs and ’90s grunge. The centrepiece is Round and Round, a song so good it somehow sounds like Michael Jackson fronting The Lemonheads in the early 1970s. Elsewhere, Beverly Kills and Fright Night (Nevermore) are delirious synthpop, Little Wig is a more stoned Super Furry Animals and Bright Lit Blue Skies the most joyous thing you’ll hear all year.

Best track: ‘Round and Round’

7. Crazy For You – Best Coast

Sometimes all it takes is a simple pop song. Best Coast – aka singer/guitarist Bethany Consentino and bassist Bobb Bruno – aren’t going to change your world or make you re-evaluate the core values of music as a means of entertainment, instead they’ve made a debut album loaded with near-perfect indie-pop. These are songs that serve up three-courses of melody goodness with an extra side order of melody and a sweet melody coli. Added to that melodic meal is an extra helping of that other vital pop ingredient; sadness. The songs may be sun-kissed and perky on the surface, but beneath the fixed grin is a slightly broken heart. The brilliant ‘Boyfriend’ is a tale of longing at the one that got away, ‘Goodbye’ an ode to loneliness whilst the gorgeous ‘Our Deal’ bands about lyrics as sad as “when you leave me, you take away everything” like there’s no tomorrow. Crazy For You is so good that they even got away with leaving off the brilliant early single, ‘When I’m With You’. In your face blog-buzz-single-only haters!

Best track: ‘Boyfriend’

8. Rivers – Wildbirds & Peacedrums

Originally released as two separate EPs, Retina and Iris, Rivers saw the two put together into one 45-minute long album of creeping chamber pop. Recorded in Iceland with Bjork collaborator Valgeir Sigurosson, the former features an Icelandic choir adding texture to Andreas Werliin’s heartbeat drumming and wife Mariam’s emotionally swollen vocals. Tracks like ‘Fight For Me’ and the opening ‘Bleed Like Their Was No Other Flood’ work brilliantly because at their core is an acute understanding of dynamics. They build slowly, carefully, letting a new layer reveal itself at the perfect moment, before retreating. Iris, however, strips everything back to Mariam’s steel drums and Andreas’ cymbal splashes, but it’s no less devastating. ‘The Drop’ in particular is gorgeously affecting, Mariam sounding particularly crushed as she sighs “I’ve suddenly been left all alone, like waking up in a foreign country”. Like all good bands they build their own world around them and listening to their albums is an invitation into that world, no matter how briefly. They’re also one of the best live bands on the planet, real talk.

Best track: ‘Bleed Like There Was No Other Flood’

9. Have One On Me – Joanna Newsom

In an age where mini-albums and single track downloads rule the roost, it’s something of a novelty to be presented with a triple album featuring eighteen tracks, many of which sail past the seven-minute mark. Never one to present the obvious, Joanna Newsom’s third album may have toned down the vocal eccentricities slightly, but it’s also musically far more interesting. ‘Good Intentions Paving Co.’, for example, is all intricate percussion and jaunty piano, whilst the regal ‘Kingfisher’ rides a bed of medieval drums, piercing strings and delicate harp. Amongst the meandering, constantly evolving tracks there are devastating moments of simplicity. ’81’ is just Newsom’s unique vocal and a harp, it’s re-imagining of Eden lyric unfurling itself in the most delicate of ways, whilst the short ‘On A Good Day’ may well be the best thing she’s done. It takes patience of course, but Have One On Me is the perfect soundtrack to a lazy Sunday wrapped up against the cold outside.

Best track: ’81’

10. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West

The original title for Kanye West’s fifth album was due to be Good Ass Job, a continuation of the theme set out by by his first three albums (The College Dropout, Late Registration and Graduation). But, after 2008’s minimal and pleasingly out-of-step 808s & Heartbreaks, it would have seemed perverse for him to look back or link back to those albums in anyway. By wiping the slate clean and testing new waters – 808s was brittle doom-pop – West was now free to indulge that almighty ego still further. It was an ego bruised by the backlash to his Taylor Swift attempted robbery, an event fuelled by alcohol and – one can surmise – the fall-out from the death of his mother and the end of a long-term relationship. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is just that, a dense, typically OTT insight into the mind of a man pulled between roaring egomania and a desire to be loved. The plaintive Aphex Twin-sampling ‘Blame Game’ veers constantly from apology to apoplectic, whilst the single ‘Runaway’ features a line so crushing you worry for the man’s health; “Never was much of a romantic, I could never take the intimacy, and I know it did damage, ’cause the look in your eyes is killing me…I don’t know how I’m gonna manage if one day you just up and leave”. Elsewhere, ‘All Of The Lights’ is pop gone maximal, with a chorus of about forty famous people yelling over horn blasts and a head-spinning beat. All this and we haven’t even mentioned Nicki Minaj‘s ridonkulous guest verse on ‘Monster’ or Bon Iver crooning mournfully over the emotionally bare, ‘Lost In The World’. An album to get lost in.

Best track: ‘Runaway’

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New Music Monday

Last week we put our necks on the line and predicted some chart success for independent music artist, Rihanna. This was off the back of her number 1 single and general ubiquity. Our risk paid off and Loud debuted at number 2 behind a newly complete Take That who reportedly sold around 54 million copies a minute. The Florrie EP probably wasn’t chart eligible and even if it was it wouldn’t have mattered because the crazy woman only went and put it up on her site FOR FREE. Sister, what’s that about? Music was the real winner though wasn’t it? Let’s crack on…

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My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West

Egomaniac. Superstar. Motherless son. Taylor Swift-basher. George W. Bush-upsetter. Super-producer. Kanye West is all of these things and more and it’s this life/art interface that makes him so interesting. That and the fact that he’s seemingly unable to make a dull album. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a dense, ridiculously OTT peak into the psyche of one of the most famous men on the planet and whilst not all of what it reveals is particularly palatable – women still come out of this pretty badly – there are some genius moments. The ridonkulous All Of The Lights features a guest list of stars so long it takes up almost all of the inlay, but somehow it comes across as compact, immediate and not like some massive vanity project (which it clearly is). It’s black magic, basically.

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Pink Friday by Nicki Minaj

It says something about how far Nicki Minaj has come in the last year that the hype surrounding her debut album was nearly on a par with that of Kanye’s (btw, Minaj’s bravura performance on West’s ‘Monster’ is so incredible she nearly steals the whole album from under his nose). Unfortunately, the hype has been building for so long that the backlash seems to have arrived at the same time as the album, with many claiming Pink Friday a disappointment. Most of these people are idiots. Sure there are some duds – ‘Check It Out’, ‘Right Thru Me’ and ‘Last Chance’ are pretty shit – but mostly it’s an album that sounds giddy with excitement. If you can, buy the £10 iTunes version as it comes with four bonus tracks that are all killer.

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Broken Dreams Club EP by Girls

Girls are two San Francisco-based drug hoovers who look like they smell of wee but make lovely, jangly indie that sounds like Elvis Costello after too long in the sun. One of Girls is a little bit sadface about stuff a lot of the time, but on this EP – the follow-up to their debut album, er, Album – he actually sounds pretty chipper. Which is nice.

Blame it on the (lack of) boogie

It seems Kanye West‘s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album has leaked ahead of it’s official release on the 22 November. Now, we’re not into getting dodgy rips off the internet so we’ve not downloaded it (plus, apparently it’s just the censored version that’s leaked and we like a good swear as much as the next guy), but we couldn’t resist having a listen to ‘Blame Game’. Based around one of our favourite Aphex Twin tracks, like, ever, ‘Avril 14th’, it’s a beautifully produced slice of despondent rap featuring John Legend.

We are VERY excited about this album.

New Music Monday

Goodness gracious. Last week we completely forgot to do New Music Monday. Genuinely. It got to Thursday and we were struck in the gut by this overwhelming sense of guilt and at first we thought it was because we refused to give our seat to a pregnant lady on the bus, but no, it was because of this. We can only apologise. To make up for it, we’ve decided to, er, actually do it this week, so here we go…

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The Lady Killer by Cee Lo Green

If you can get over the fact that the original, sweary version of Cee Lo’s recent UK number 1 is pushed to the end of the album in place of the PC edit then there’s much to enjoy on this follow-up to the sublime …Is The Soul Machine album. Though less obviously experimental, The Lady Killer pushes Green’s incredible vocals to the forefront, cloaking them in lashings of retro soul staples; Bright Lights Bigger City features lashings of dramatic strings, Wildflower sumptuous horn blasts and on I Want You the kind of cooing backing vocals used on Marvin Gaye’s classic records.

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Man On The Moon II: The Legend of Mr Rager by Kid Cudi

The second part of the Man On The Moon album series finds everyone’s third favourite rapper continuing his exploration of the proggier side of hip-hop (if one even exists). To be honest, we’re still listening to it as we type but it all sounds rather promising so far. Plus, it features people like Mary J. Blige, Cee Lo Green, St Vincent and Kanye West, so what could go wrong (we’ll let you know).

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‘One Eye Closed’ by Cocknbullkid

We’ve been waiting so long for Anita Blay, for it is she, to come back with a new single and this taster for her forthcoming debut album (due in March 2011) is so good our iTunes says we’ve listened to it nearly 200 times. Basically, it’s got three components that make it our perfect pop song of the last three months; big drums, two choruses and heartbreakingly lovely lyrics (“I was made for you / designed as one of two”). Just amazing.

Watch with my Mother’s Mother: Kanye West

So, we gave my Nan a break last week. Not because she needed it – the woman walks for 45 minutes a day and can rattle off a crossword in the time it takes a kettle to boil – but mainly because we needed the time to get our heads around Kanye West‘s ‘Runaway’ short film thing. We were worried that Nan would find it all a bit daunting and that the – let’s not be coy here – batshit themes and ridiculously preposterous storyline would put her off. I needn’t have worried. You will notice, however, that she was worried about where the lady’s wings came from so if you’re reading this Kanye (IMAGINE!), do let us know.

I’ve seen pictures in the paper of him with somebody, didn’t know that he was a rapper. I think it was a picture of him at that award show. It’s quite obvious from the film that he has a big ego, yes definitely. I didn’t have any expectations of it which was rather nice in a way. I enjoyed it, erm, I enjoyed the video though there were several bits in it where I couldn’t see the connections, but I loved the effects. I loved the way he was running at the beginning and then running at the end. That was really good I thought. The whole effect of that scenery was very good and the light coming down, which was her coming down of course. I liked that.

I wasn’t sure about the little boy with the torch and the Ku Klux Klan look, because they were all black people at that dinner table so why Ku Klux Klan? And the marching band. I mean, the fireworks fine, but the rest? And that big papier mache Michael Jackson head…I mean, at the dinner, it’s obviously about trying to get her to fit in, which she doesn’t does she? It’s a bit like the Last Supper because there was talk about God, sort of gospel, God-references. Where did that bit where that man says “you do know your girlfriend’s a bird” come from? He said he hadn’t noticed. I don’t know if he was trying to be funny or not really.

The ballet sequence in a way represented birds I felt in the way they danced, but I quite like that song, ‘The Toast’ [she means ‘Runaway’, but ‘The Toast’ is better]. That was the best bit of music I thought. I quite liked that one but it really was the only song I liked. I mean, the beginning, that music at the beginning was very sort of, not church music, but a bit like that. I didn’t think that voiceover at the beginning was very good at all.

I felt the ballerinas represented birds, the way they danced. It was very much that type of thing and of course when she sees the turkey and screams…where did those wings come from? I looked at it several times and she certainly doesn’t have wings before and she doesn’t have room to fold them. I liked the dancing bit in the house too but that’s where I couldn’t see the wings. I went back to that bit. I thought, where did they come from? I thought it was fantastic the way that she got the wings, when she saw the turkey and she was horrified. And the scream, which was like a bird’s scream, like a hawk screaming actually, that was good, but where did she get them from? Under the table?

It’s racy. She’s an underwear model? Well, she’s very good at it! I thought the whole thing was good the way they rigged her out but where those wings came from I haven’t got a clue. I just felt that the ballerina bit gave you the obvious ending that he wouldn’t be able to keep her because she was a bird. A bird bird, not a ‘bird’.

I felt the whole thing was really about him wanting the impossible. She’s saying “you can’t change me”. We change everything you see and she meant you couldn’t change her and that she had to go back, so you’re back to him wanting the impossible again. She’s like an alien isn’t she? Like ET. She’s got to go back to the sun.

I quite liked it overall and I showed it to Ella [my teenage cousin]. She liked the video. She sat and watched it. Well, they’re very grown up now aren’t they? She knew who I was talking about, but she’s not keen on him or rapping, but she really enjoyed the video. I don’t think the young care about things making sense. I think we look for something that isn’t there probably. He takes it all very seriously, but it’s just a long video with not particularly good singing in it. I thought she was quite good at acting. I can’t quite see what that line about the news was about at the beginning, and I don’t think he’s terribly good at acting.

I think he thinks an awful lot of himself. But then, they do nowadays don’t they Michael? But we want to watch people that are different. Oh, I’m sure he’s a right bore in real life! I think he’s showing off a certain amount because he obviously likes himself a lot. Perhaps just branching out and trying to be different. I mean, we all want to be different, don’t we? I think he’s just trying something different and it worked.

Song: 6 (I liked ‘The Toast’)

Video: 8 for the whole thing and 8 for ‘The Toast’

A brief catch-up

So, apologies, but due to time constraints and general tiredness this blog is becoming nothing more than two weekly features with very little else going on in-between. Sorry about that. Shall we have a quick round-up of what’s good this last week (by ‘good’, we kind of just mean ‘new’).

Someone from Girls Aloud that’s not Cheryl will soon be releasing a single and that woman’s name is Nadine ‘The Voice’ Coyle. ‘Insatiable’ is the first single from her debut solo album of the same name and it’s out at some point in November via TESCOS! No, seriously. You will only be able to buy it in Tescos with your butter, a cucumber and a copy of Nuts (what you will be doing with those three things WE’D RATHER NOT KNOW!):

Kanye West has been releasing a song a week for the past few weeks in an effort to be the most talked about man on the internet (for his music, not for bullying young women in front of millions of people). We mentioned the Beyonce-featuring ‘See Me Now’ a few weeks ago, and since then we’ve had ‘Monster’, which featured a scene-stealing Nicki Minaj verse that walked all over the other guest, a certain Jay-Z. Here’s the latest track, the bouncy, breezy jam, ‘Good Friday’:

We’re also really liking American singer and guitarist (weirdly, it seems women are allowed to play guitar! Who knew!?) Marnie Stern, whose third album is out next month. ‘Transparency Is The New Mystery’ is a brilliant example of dynamics, all violent drums and sprawling guitar figures that teeter on the brink of collapse but somehow pull away just in time.

It’s a new Kanye song!

KANYE WEST (capitals artist’s own) has leaked a new song from his forthcoming album (due in November apparently) and it features a certain Beyonce Knowles. The song, ‘See Me Now’, recalls old-skool Kanye, i.e. he raps, but to be honest, we’re not really feeling it. It says something that the best thing about the song is the amazing ad-lib in the final minute, including this gem; “I’m a let you finish but I got Beyonce on the track”.

Power play

Apparently this is the first single from Kanye West‘s fifth album, Good Ass Job. After all the hullabaloo about him ‘violating’ Taylor Swift’s right to freedom of speech, it’s nice to have him back doing what he does best.

This is ‘Power’ featuring Dwele:

This probably won’t be online for long so get your ear holes around it NOW.

EDIT: It’s gone…but you can hear it here

New Musick Monday

It’s not a great week when your biggest success is a new entry at number 54. The new Hot Chip single, we hear you cry? No, that missed the top 100 altogether (yeah, no thanks to our Facebook petition, right guys?). Oh, it must have been those ABBA loving LA residents, Music Go Music? Nope, nowhere near. Yep, Caribou was our lone entry in the UK Top 75 and now that we’ve heard the album we can safely say it’s worthy of far more, but then you could have guessed that already. Let’s keep the Crystal on ice until we’ve dealt with these bad boys…

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“Hippies” by Harlem

Harlem are three wasters from Austin, Texas who clearly don’t believe in politcal correctness or over-dubs. “Hippies”, their second album, is a brilliantly ramshackle collection of bone-dry guitar, sloppy drums and slurred vocals that somehow flesh out some of the catchiest songs this side of The Lemonheads back catalogue. If you’re still not convinced, just read some of these track titles; ‘Gay Human Bones’, Three Legged Dog’, ‘Stripper Sunset’ and ‘Pissed’. How can you not love these guys?

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Crystal Castles (II) by Crystal Castles

This isn’t out physically until May, but some terrible scamp has uploaded the whole thing onto the interpipe so the band have decided to make it offically available on iTunes. If, like us, you thought their first album sounded like the inner workings of a Dalek’s mind, then you might be pleased to hear that the follow-up is slightly more musical. In fact, one song (‘Celestica’), is actually really lovely. If something having a melody equals selling out then we can only apologise and suggest you put your head inside a microwave, record the sound and loop it ad infinium to get your kicks.

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‘Over’ by Drake

This has been about for a little while now, but it’s slowly creeping up the UK charts so we thought, given our new found influence (ahem), we’d give it that last shot in the arm it deserves. Drake, for those who don’t know, is basically the future of commercial rap music, a protege of Kanye West and the man trusted with flying the flag for Lil Wayne’s Young Money records whilst the boss is in the clink. ‘Over’ is a dramatic, paranoid slice of in your face hip-hop, complete with swooping strings, thumping beats and Drake’s impassioned vocals. It’s safe to say he’s better than Chipmunk.

Over & Over

We’re pretty big fans of Canadian hip-hop rookie Drake‘s debut mini-album, So Far Gone, especially the single, ‘Best I Ever Had’. Given his huge success in America, expectations are high for his debut long player, Thank Me Later. As with most young rappers, Drake’s got a bit of a chip on his shoulder about how he can’t trust anyone anymore because all his friends just want his money and all dem hoes are just trying to knock his swagga, etc. Thankfully, as with Kanye and Lil Wayne, he seems to have that ability to turn a cliche into something exciting and ‘Over’, complete with urgent strings and off-kilter drum beats, is pretty spectacular.

Rumour has it that Jamie from The xx has also contributed beats to the album. Those pesky kids are everywhere at the moment.

You can download ‘Over’ from Drake’s blog