Music review: Midyear must-hear albums, Part 1
With the monsoon season in full swing and the city streets scoured by rain, here are some major releases from international artists to keep you company indoors or during traffic jams. Watch out for Part 2 next week.
FAR EAST MOVEMENT
Cherrytree Records / Interscope
You can say what you will about Kev Nish, Prohgress and J-Splif, they’ve certainly come a long way from their 2005 Folk Music debut. And on Dirty Bass they prove why their tunes are the stuff of hip-hop dreams with a nonstop extravaganza of club ready anthems that will get dance floors and booties shaking for as long as the bubbly lasts.
While there’s no track as easily gigantic as “Like A G6,” Justin Bieber (I can’t believe am saying this) provides ample A-lister oomph to “Live My Life,” an affirmative that leads to Ibiza-style ecstasy, curtailing the nigh unreachable Motown aspirations of these Asian boys.
Elsewhere on the title track, Tyga kicks up crucial grit on what would be a too shiny with glitter and lip gloss jam, and Pitbull, well, he performs amply again on the girl-tailored romper “Candy.” This one is nothing but a guilty pleasure providing a cohesive, if not entirely sensible, album with songs that allude to the first track’s loop--for those of us who still actually like to listen to albums in sequence, in their entirety.
Opening for Lady Gaga on her Monsters Ball Tour must have rubbed off some, because while these MCs have gained in accelerated pop sinew, they’ve lost in old school sense. You can almost hear them trying to make up for it in nearly every track (examine the confusing sparkle of “Flossy”). Still, if the party `til you drop desiderata wins out over the funkadelic, there are worse things an LP could be other than a showcase of phatness and driving, fuzzy bass.
The disc also includes remixes of their past hits like “Rocketeer” and “Like a G6.”
Mom & Pop Music
My problem with Metric has always been about Emily Haines’s vocal range. While the vocalist/keyboardist’s chops has never been in question, she somehow always manages to write songs that need more powerful pipes, or at least with more soaring aspirations than her bubblegum meets new wave gloom. Even their much lauded, breakthrough fist pumper “Black Sheep” for Scott Pilgrim vs The World hid behind a surplus of hall reverb even with the outstanding lyricism.
Which is why Synthetica feels like such a relief, with adventure and a sky’s the limit ambition. Their brand of eclectic rock collides with electronica at a 100mph with old school Garbage cheering them on finally reaching a level of comfort.
There’s no need to top their previous 2009 album fantasies, also their claim to mainstream breakthrough, and so the stadium rockers here feel relaxed, organic and definitely less overproduced.
Credit guitarist James Shaw for the big riffs on the glam foot stomper “Youth Without Youth,” and the full throttle, ready for the grindhouse of the title track. In fact, “Synthetica” might just well be the missing link that bridges Big Beat and Canadian rock with just the right kind of bluster to make you forget their moodier, self-indulgent moments. And there’s no lack of those here with “Artificial Nocturne” and the Lou reed starrer “The Wanderlust,” where the only interest lies in the push and pull of Reed’s and Haines’s travel stories on drugs.
Far from perfect but this isn’t a stab at perfection, mind, it’s a creative clearing ground, and boy, it is such a fun escapade to listen to. I just might take back my qualms about Haines if they keep up with songs like “Dreams So Real.” Amid the growling keys and bass she comes across like an angel.
The Idler Wheel. . .
Clean Slate/Epic Records
Enigma and pomp are the scaffolding on which the house of Ms Apple’s music is built, the foundations planted deep in the wormy earth of exorcism, with a view to a distant lake of fire, always threatening to break through the dam.
She as much confesses to it on “Werewolf,” brazen in 20/20 to her catastrophic invites as both wanted and warranting the grisly result: “I admit that I provided a full moon / And I could liken you to a shark the way you bit off my head / But then again I was waving around a bleeding, open wound.” Yeah, she’s not sorry at all.
That’s one of the standout tracks in her new album, titled "The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do," proven in obfuscation and revelling in its nebulous power.
Seven years after Extraordinary Machines, Apple as provocateur picks up right where she left off, losing the tangled swagger and gaining sharp acuity. A seer advocating jazz fusion and the pathways of pain in the sprawling rant of “Every Single Night” (whose video has her singing with an octopus draped over her head), she is caustic and sexy when she speaks in tongues with “Periphery,” or warning of an apocalyptic melancholy in “Regret.”
Spare instrumentation and inventive musical twists (credit percussionist Charley Drayton for the smart accents) mean her vocal chops are well up front with nary a synth to hide behind. Fiona feels shorn here, enjoying her naked guts even as, physically, when she played a preview of these songs on the South by Southwest shows, she had gained vigor and definition. Even her polemics are piercing, just play “Hot Knife.” Welcome back this cult figure with open ears and applause in your heart.
If you pick up the special edition, a bonus DVD provides the live footage of her five song SXSW show.
—KG, GMA News
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