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Indie rock in the 2010s may have found a home in Hymns; British band Bloc Party's 5th album and their 1st with their new lineup.
Newcomers Justin and Louisse team up with frontman Kele Okereke and guitarist Russell Lissack and they have managed to get right what they were trying to do electronically in the unimpressive 3rd album Intimacy. The opening track The Love Within is an excellent example of that perfect ratio between electronic music and indie rock.
The band has released probably their best work since their exciting debut. Hymns brings that same freshness brought by Silent Alarm with less urgency and a more laid-back feel in songs like the hypnotic Gospel-rocker Good News and in the definite fan-favorite So Real, which shines the band under a new soulful light with Kele's best performance backed by a chill groove.
Lissack introduces some shoegaze guitarwork that freshens Bloc Party's new sound here in the troubled-relationship-themed Different Drugs and in the slow electropop number Fortress, featuring Grimes-ish vocals from Kele.
Into The Earth has a lovely interaction between the mellow guitar duo that supports Kele's whispering. My True Name is another example of that electronic/indie rock blend and contains the best guitar riff in the album; simple and just right.
The new-found indie rock sound that Hymns is made of walks a fine line between the electronic side; the chant-filled Only He Can Heal Me, and the dance rock side; Virtue, about battling one's morals.
Living Lux ends the album reminding us of that electronic/indie rock recipe. Lissack's washy guitars form a wall of sound behind Kele's motivational singing here. A track that gives us an idea of where the band is headed and it keeps us on our toes for their next album.
Track Gems: So Real, Living Lux, My True Name, Paraíso (Deluxe Edition), Into The Earth
Following the widely covered pop hit, Marvin Gaye, is Nine Track Mind - a debut album set to ignite the blossoming career of 24 year-old Charlie Puth. Known for his signature semi-shaved eyebrow that turns out to be a scar, Puth proves that he is more than just his looks as the New Jersey Native knows how to give sweet delights to established fans as well as for new listeners alike.
Nine Track Mind offers what I would often refer to as a "jammable" album with tracks set to send sparks down your body as you admire that girl (or boy) from a distance. The less kaleidoscopic variety of songs is understandable, as Puth is still manoeuvering his way through the music industry, still trying to find a solid sound he wants to be known for. But as for now, he might be that one artist in our generation that is set to give us the perfect intersection between the catchy tunes of pop and the feel-good melodies of R&B.
Puth brings us Then There's You, a reminiscent of those R&B hits you used to hear on the radio in the early 2000s driven by the snappy beats of a drum machine, typical of a usual pop song.
The lack of experimentation in the album is slightly less obscured with the similar sound of the piano intro in Up All Night with The Beatles’ Let It Be. The soft and remarkable chorus of See You Again would have been already perfect for that longing lover without the rap verses by Wiz Khalifa. However, I guess this adds to the evidence that Puth is still trying different sorts of collaborations that will help him define his style.
Left Right Left and One Call Away are two personal favorites. Puth’s breathy vocals add to the overall feel-good vibe of the two songs – perfect for the confused lover and the one that got away.
Charlie Puth has definitely made a mark in 2015 with his hit singles Marvin Gaye and One Call Away, and we can see his continuous artistic progression in this album. It’s a debut that’s not hard to resonate with, so we’re expecting his fanbase to grow even bigger with the release. We’re just hoping that he doesn’t end up being a one-hit wonder.
Track Gems: See You Again, Left Right Left, One Call Away, Up All Night, Then There's You
Photo Credit: Atlantic
South African-born Internet sensation Troye Sivan has had a lot of hype surrounding his debut album and suffice it to say, Blue Neighbourhood lives up to it well.
The record is a treasure trove of mid-tempo electropop tunes with tragic love themes in the imaginative song Youth and in the refreshingly catchy RnB-ish Fools.
The variety of drum sounds here gives each song its own identity like the inspirationally-hopeful duet Ease with its pounding tribal drums, and the electronic kits in for Him., his most accessible track for first-time listeners IMHO.
First albums usually aren't 10/10 perfect, and Blue Neighbourhood is no exception, with the song Lost Boy having a genre not suited to Troye, as well as in his average-at-best attempt at a hip-hop style track with Cool, a track that loses interest through the lowly-sung verses.
Nonetheless, what really surprises me is how quickly Troye has adapted to becoming a respectable artist. He convinces you of his maturity with the self-reflection-themed track Heaven and the well-polished hit Wild.
Troye signs off wonderfully with the creatively-written standout tune Suburbia that sums up his current sound, and this is what we should expect from him now, and even after this decent debut release.
Track Gems: Suburbia, Wild, Talk Me Down, Heaven
It's easy to enjoy garage-rock artist Ty Segall's music and admire his progress from one sound to another throughout his many albums. Emotional Mugger now seems to be his heaviest one to date, and is probably his most straight-forward album.
If you heard this album, you may have noticed that fuzz takes domination over this record's sound, appearing everywhere like in the fantastically fuzzed-out opening track Squealer, that butters you up for the rest of the album.
Ty has managed to combine his garage rock sound with the holy grail of fuzz, and this is heard best on Californian Hills, a roller-coaster of a song highlighted by a frenetic ending, as well as in the heaviest track here, Diversion, a hypnotic rock tune that diverts your attention towards your inner demons with its early-heavy-metal drum-guitar combinations.
Most of the songs here are blues-based (à la Led Zep) like the Britpop-ish Mandy Cream sequel, Candy Sam, and the out-of-control Emotional Mugger/Leopard Priestess that is ruled by the panned dirty 8-bit bass and stutter-y fuzz guitars.
The musical schizophrenic in the increasingly eccentric Ty Segall emerges through the left-field tracks like the imaginative tune Baby Big Man (I Want A Mommy) and in the asylum-atmosphere-inducing ending of the psychedelic song Squealer Two, a total alien from the opening track.
W.U.O.T.W.S. however, takes home the weirdest track award here, being a jigsaw puzzle of Segall's madness that further solidifies his outgoing mindset towards this record.
Ty Segall manages to strike the right balance between the raw heaviness of garage sounds and the tranquility of singer-songwriter styles, and he shows his evolution towards new sounds in the album finale track The Magazine that draws an artistic line between the heavy guitar sounds and his smooth indie vocals. Always great to see what the mind of Ty Segall moves towards, and Emotional Mugger is yet another solid milestone in his quizzical career.
Track Gems: The Magazine, Squealer, Squealer Two, Candy Sam
You could compare indie pop trio Daughter to maybe The XX in terms of the sad, minimalistic sounds, but xx was new and interesting. Not To Disappear, as heart-wrenching as it claims to be, gets boring after a while.
At their best, the band is capable of crafting beautiful sonic landscapes using swells and reverbs and you can be transported to that dreamland through songs like the opening track New Ways with its silent-screaming instrumentation and the swelling arrangement which fulfilled its goal of sounding sad. But the song was let down by the mix which distorts here and there, as well as by some uninteresting vocals. (I'll get to that more in a bit)
That distortion also ruined the song Mothers which had those washy, clean guitar tones that I am a sucker for. Those shimmering guitars luckily reappear in the single Doing The Right Thing where the band... did the right thing with frontgirl Elena Tonra breathing a little more life to her lyrics. The following track How is another decent track that opens with a shiny dream pop bang.
Now, what really lets the album down is, unfortunately, Elena's drab performance through most of the songs. The aforementioned New Ways gets too draggy for a 5-minute song and it wasn't helped by Elena in the slightest. In the tribal drum-driven Numbers, she says she feels numb, and it reflects in her monotonous singing. Alone/With You is a rather pretentious track that oozes laziness (not the good type) through unnecessarily personal verse lyrics and a wordless chorus.
The instrumentation really kept the album alive throughout, especially towards the end. No Care is an upbeat song for a change, but is essentially a filler track. Fossa is a highlight of the album with surprising rhythm and tempo changes that manage to keep you locked in for the near 7 minutes of its duration.
Probably an underrated track would be the dreamy To Belong. I feel that this song is the one Daughter could have built off from for this album. It definitely retains the sonic qualities from the better debut album and more importantly, lets Elena's depressing voice shine for once. I finally feel her dejection through this haunting tune. Just a pity it couldn't resonate throughout the other songs here.
Made Of Stone ends the album on a better note with a little more hope in the lyrics and singing, but it doesn't quite save the whole record from losing interest at some point. Still, there are decent songs that are sure to bring out the emo kid in you. Sadness is what Daughter is best at, but this brought too much of the wrong kind of sadness.
Track Gems: To Belong, Fossa, Doing The Right Thing, How