Friday, April 29, 2016

Review Friday: White Lung - "Below"

White Lung

When a punk rock band such as White Lung decides to make a ballad for glamorous women, do not expect it to be something Adele-esque. It is not. But still, White Lung's "Below", the third taste (after "Hungry" and "Kiss Me When I Bleed") of this Canadian band's third album, Paradise, is something that is surprisingly digestible easily, lighter than their previous materials. In "Below", White Lung tones their fieriness down, but still maintains their viciousness, as noted in the William's chorus guitar that begins the song, layering droned sounds on top. Something that they've never done before, William admits. 

But, that's not the only thing that makes "Below" an exhilarating song. "Part the tide", Mish Way sings as if she were Moses. It's also the starting point of an epic journey, just like when Moses parted the Red Sea--the mark of Israel's journey to Canaan. Inspired by Camille Paglia's interview, "Below" is about the transience of a beauty, an ephemera that we value. "They'll bury your beauty/ transient living stone," Way soars. "I want to take it all down/ burn in the waste you have found/ I want to throw it around/ Back where the sea meets the ground". The chorus is not the climax--every part of the song is all climax, an epitome of White Lung's awesomeness and broadness in exploring genre. When they go "pop", they go all out. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Review Sunday - Beyoncé - "Hold Up"

"Hold Up"

It was just a tranquil Sunday morning in the eastern hemisphere when Beyoncé premieres her short film in HBO and drops her sixth album out of nowhere like a bomb and that tranquil Sunday morning becomes a rambunctiousness. This isn't the first time Queen Bey pulls such stunt, though. Back in 2013, she decides to release her self-titled album without any prior announcement. But, this time fans have anticipated Beyoncé's comeback after she dropped aesthetically-written "Formation" last February. 

It's hard to pick the best song from Beyoncé's latest effort, especially because she explores different sound this time and all songs work out. It's a departure from darker R&B sound that she imbues in Beyonce, or pop-approach in I Am... Sasha Fierce. This time, she broadens her genre by collaborating with Vampire Weekend's Ezra KoenigJack WhiteThe WeekndJames Blake, and many more, while sampling from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Soulja Boy, Led Zeppelin, and Animal Collective. "Hold Up", the song with the longest credited artists, is the highlight of the album, produced by the queen herself and Diplo. 

In "Hold Up", Beyoncé arguably declares her love with her husband, Jay-Z, an ode but also a warning for him to state where his loyalties are. "Hold up/ they don't love you like I love you", she begins the song with a reference from Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Maps", presumptuously stating that her love is different and bigger and the rest of "them". Beyoncé whirls her vocal between Diplo's laid-back tempo--something that Diplo rarely does. She feels worthless in verse when "I smell your secret, and I'm not too perfect/ To ever feel this worthless". But after all, Beyoncé is a woman who has a right to be "jealous and crazy". Listening to "Hold Up" is honestly an uncomfortable experience because it's like peeping Beyoncé and Jay-Z's private lives where each of them ping-pongs their feeling in song that they make. But, this is not uncommon thing in a relationship, and Beyoncé who's brave enough to speak up and sings what she feels is the voice of what some women must go through out there. 

Review Sunday: The Hotelier - "Soft Animal"

The Hotelier
"Soft Animal"
Tiny Records

As the release date of The Hotelier's third album, Goodness, is getting closer, this Massachusetts band guns another taste from their album. After we hear "Piano Player" last March, a fiery punk song that showcases The Hotelier's musical virtuosity, I think The Hotelier can't get any better than this. But they decide to fuck me and bestow "Soft Animal" upon their listeners. 

The dynamics of "Soft Animal" is remarkably well-structured. Holden sings softly at the beginning of the song, "We were cloaked in the awning of night or early morning", perfectly using matching figurative speech about nature and greenness. You still can notice Holden's experience as a camp counselor in this song as he references, "Sophie's on the bunk overhead reading Mary Oliver/ while I lay still in my bed." As the tempo scampers and the drum grows louder, the song hits a boisterous chorus, bolstered by gang's vocal on chorus which accompanies Holden's wail, "Make me feel alive/ make me believe that all my selves align." They use deer as a metaphor of caprice that comes and goes, but eventually it goes no matter how much we hold on to it ("In attempting to keep you to stay/ I am raising no alarm) and the show must go on. 

Compared to "Piano Player", "Soft Animal" is sprinkled with more grandeur and complexity, proving once again that they are one of the best punk bands now. This is one of The Hotelier's finest moments. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hidden Track: Black Kids - "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You"

Black Kids
"I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You"
Partie Traumatic

The first time I heard (not listened to) Black Kids"I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You", was in 2008, the year when I started vagabonding and wandering in this so-called pretentious world called music. I was in junior high school and made my own Top 40, taking references from Prambors' radio website, back when they still provided a healthy amount of good and unsung songs. Until now, I still save the Word file of my Top 40 where Black Kids was still there on my computer. But, it was seven years later, in 2015, when I, for the first time, listened to "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You", and I was instantly hooked. 

Black Kids is indeed an interesting case of study. They started out as nobody, an obscure band from Jacksonville, Florida, consisting of singer/guitarist Reggie Youngblood, keyboard-playing backup singers Ali Youngblood, and Dawn Watley, bass player Owen Holmes, and drummer Kevin Snow. They began their own journey in Myspace--that's, young people, an ancient social media where people can share their music--in 2007 by releasing Wizards of Ahhhs EP. And that's when their ball of stardom started rolling. 

"I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend" is a fun pop song, heavily imbued with synthesizer and ambiguous verse, "You are the girl that I've been dreaming of/ ever since I was a little girl", even though they defensively state that it's just an inside joke between lead singer Reggie Younglood and his sister, Ali. But, that's not the only thing that makes "I'm Not Gonna Teach" fun. The scintillating covetousness when we see our crush kissing his/her significant other and our inability to act are relatable experience for most of us, and Black Kids wittily analogizes this with a dancing scene where the significant other "got two-left feet and bites my moves", and we are just schadenfreude-ing seeing the significant other's incompetence. 

"I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend" may be a one hit wonder, but if being covered by Glee is any indication that a song is popular (bizarrely, "I'm Not Gonna Teach" is more popular in UK than in their native country), then Black Kids leaves us some good legacy. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Review Friday: Highasakite - "Golden Ticket"

"Golden Ticket"
Camp Echo
Propeller Records

Charlie Bucket rom Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory can be deemed as an allegory of escapism from reality, where a young boy who got a golden ticket got to visit a surreal chocolate factory and he found this whole experience different. Even if Highasakite's "Golden Ticket" is not inspired by Dahl's fascinating tale--it's inspired by Gunvor Hofmo's post World War II poem, Dat er ingen hverdag mer--the song pretty much shares the same spirit. 

"Golden Ticket" is a follow-up from their lead track of Camp Echo, "Someone Who'll Get It". In "Someone Who'll Get It", this five-piece Norway pop band shows their sinister side, embracing their dark side. On the other hand, "Golden Ticket" polarly exhibits their poppy side, a same approach they use in 2014's Silent Treatment. Håvik starts the song with, "God, if you're still watching", a conceit of Hofmo's poem, There's no more every day if translated. Singing between their heavily-synthed beat, Håvik says about the escapism, using a metaphor of golden ticket, "I got a golden ticket/ I'm out", not giving a crap about anything. Highasakite underlines the contradiction between the song's overall composition and the message that they try to spread, making "Golden Ticket" a mesmerizing experience. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Review Saturday: KAYTRANADA - "Glowed Up (feat. Anderson .Paak)"

"Glowed Up (feat. Anderson .Paak)"
XL Recordings

Anderson .Paak is on fire this year. After he released Malibu this January, Paak is featured in some of the grooviest songs of the year. He appears in Snakehips' latest song, "Money on Me", a dope electronic rap song that brings Paak's natural flair in rapping. But, it isn't "Money on Me" that enraptures the internet this week. It is his collaboration with KAYTRANADA's Louis Celestin, an electronic musician from Montreal Canada with his charming dorky smile that does so. "Glowed Up" is not their first collaboration, though. Back in January, when Paak released Malibu, KAYTRANADA has helped him produce "Life Weight" featuring The Free Nationals United Fellowship Choir. Now, it's Paak's turn to return the favor when they team up once again in "Glowed Up", taken from KAYTRANADA's latest album, 99.9%, released on May 6th. 

This sleek electronic R&B song starts with a theremin-infused spooky instrumental before it crescendos and Paak begins, "And it still ain't a goddamn thing they could tell me/What could compel me to jump in?" between the rumble and thumping beat. Paak's vocal builds the tension of the song sophisticatedly until the chorus, where he cruises between KAYTRANADA's woozy beat, "I'm glowed up/ I'm glowed up", Paak sings, sounding synesthetically glinty. In the outro, KAYTRANADA alters his direction, sprinkling the song with more bass and drumbeat and slower tempo until the end of the song, while Paak follows the direction by rapping more softly. Paak and KAYTRANADA are not just collaborating. They have become fidus Achates, where they can bring the best in each of them, and their camaraderie is proven in "Glowed Up". 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Review Friday: dvsn - "Do It Well"

"Do It Well"
Sept 5th
OVO Sound

The wait is over. We finally know the genius mind behind dvsn, a mysterious R&B group, first appeared in last October, that made people go insane. Paul Jefferies, known by his stage name Nineteen85, a Canadian producer behind Drake's finest hits, such as: "Hold On, We're Going Home" and "Hotline Bling", teams up with Daniel Daley, confirming viral speculation that Daley is the vocalist of dvsn. 

Now that the enigma has finally been resolved, dvsn is now ready to take over the R&B world with their debut, Sept 5th, that's released on March 27th. Their previous singles that have been released on their SoundCloud account, "The Line", "Too Deep", "With Me", and "Hallucinations", are included in their debut album, and they add six more songs, making Sept 5th filled with ten amazing R&B songs, but "Do It Well" comes out as my favorite. 

What I like from R&B songs is that they can turn lasciviousness into something beautiful, like what Miguel did last year in "Coffee". Indeed, sexual desire is something natural, but good artists will concoct this naturalness into something arty, without sounding corny and salacious. dvsn's "Do It Well" is another example, where it's basically a song about--well--stripper. Jefferies-produced thumping drum that starts the song sounds like a heartbeat as if it marked the birth of something. Daley's whispery voice begins the song, "You're the only one I can talk to/And I ain't gotta talk to you". "Do It Well"'s downtempo showcases Daley's voice as he unravels more about the stripper, celebrating her bodies, "I'm feeling fucked up, still love fucking/I ain't throwing money in the air for nothing", before he finally admits that the stripper is "the only therapy I know".