Apparently Robbie Williams is still alive and The Heavy Entertainment Show is his wailing from beneath the rubble. Exactly what you’d expect from its title, replete with self-aggrandisement disguised as deprecation and song titles like “Party Like a Russian” and “Motherfucker.” No idea who this is aimed at but it misses.
“This House is Not For Sale” is the weirdest title for anything. Of course, it gives ol’ Jon a chance to bellow “We’re coming home!” for some reason. The band sounds like they’re having a good time, and who am I to begrudge them that? It’s my own fault for listening. Perhaps fans will like it, but like most bands of Bon Jovi’s ilk, they could release the 5th Symphony and people will still say it’s no “Livin’ on a Prayer.” I would be surprised if anyone bought this record, not because it is particularly bad, but because it isn’t 1985.
Tall Black Guy’s third record, Let’s Take a Trip, is a subtle yet absorbing mix of jazz, hip hop, soul and funk. Like contemporaries such as Ivan Ave, it is deceptively engaging while remaining mellow. I can imagine listening to this on a Sunday afternoon, or equally, late at night. The way it weaves samples and instruments through each other, makes it a record that will continue to reveal itself with each listen and mood you are in.
Kendrick Lamar didn’t simply raise the bar, he created an entirely new one. Hip hop records now have to either aim low and hit the modest mark of familiarity, or aim for the stars. Common’s Black America Again sails through these two points, never quite reaching the cinematic scope of Lamar, or his own Be, without hitting you in the guts like more straight-forward yet accomplished records such as recent releases by Ghostface Killah. Black America Again is decent enough and I’m sure it would benefit from repeated listens, however, given its lack of mind blowing ambition, it probably won’t get that kind of attention. From me at least.
Mac Demarco – Another One – Could have easily been titled More of the Same, this record is a continuation of his previous two records. It doesn’t represent a diminished quality though and he still has a knack of writing ear worm songs that all seemingly sound the same but stick regardless. Despite being a break up record, it retains the laid back vibe, but with a rain cloud hovering over it. B
The Phoenix Foundation – GUYD – Never dull, yet often patchy, this record continues The Phoenix Foundation’s run of creating interesting but flawed records. An enjoyable listen, it doesn’t hit the heights of Happy Ending, although it does contain some great tracks like ‘Bob Lennon John Dylan’ and ‘Celestial Bodies’. B-
Natalie Imbruglia – Male (Track by Track Commentary) – I couldn’t care less that she has released a new record, but this is an amazing insight into the nothingness swirling around inside her head. She waffles about why she chose the songs and what she likes about them. It will come as a surprise to no one that she likes all the songs she chose to sing. Interestingly Spotify doesn’t have the actual record yet, just this. She also loves a band called Death Cab for a Cutie. Above all, she had a great time making this record.
Ghostface Killah – Twelve Reasons to Die II – Ghostface Killah is the consummate storyteller. On this record he has created a ridiculous, silly, and thoroughly engaging story around his alter ego Tony Starks. His skill lies in painting vivid pictures of violence and fantasy, while not taking himself too seriously. The best tracks are ‘Blackout’ and ‘Let the Record Spin.’ B+
Fumaça Preta – Fumaça Preta – Some crazy South American jazz/funk/metal/indefinable weirdness. The kind of record that grabs you and shakes you until you puke. But in a good way. ‘Pupilas Dilatadas’ and ‘Vou Me Libertar’ are my favourites so far, however the record is so dense and detailed that there is so much more to discover. A
SOAK – Before We Forgot How to Dream – In lazy shorthand, SOAK is Ireland’s answer to Lorde, though that isn’t really a question. Ireland’s answer to Lorde? SOAK. The Irish version is more ethereal, with folk elements and actual instruments. They do share a talent for writing and evocative songs, as well as the teenage affectedness that comes with being 17 and in possession of a notebook and pen. Strongest songs are ‘Sea Creatures’ and ‘B a noBody.’ B
Girlpool – Before the World Was Big – (B)
If the Breeders were teenagers and had no drummer, they would be Girlpool. Listening to one track doesn’t reveal anything particularly compelling, however the record as a single listening session is something I find myself returning to many times over. Their imperfect harmonies and delicate arrangements ensure their songs possess greater depth listen after listen.
Neil Young – The Monsanto Years – (A-)
While his contemporaries founder in a sea of past glory, Neil Young’s strength is his ability to sound fresh and exciting at the age of 400. This record resides among the upper echelon of his output, and while he probably won’t hit the heights of Rust Never Sleeps, Zuma, or Harvest, this sits alongside Americana and Harvest Moon as a compelling record that outshines anything Dylan or Springsteen have released recently.
Leon Bridges – Coming Home (B-)
Unspectacular but solid, Leon Bridges has a voice that elevates this collection of R&B tropes well above itself. An enjoyable diversion.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi Love (A)
As with all of their records, this one takes its time to really connect and show all it has to offer. Five listens in and I am enjoying it more and more each time. They have a great knack of reinventing themselves on each album, while still maintaining the magic that makes them recognisable. This record pushes further the lo-fi soul-funk they pursued on II, but makes it more dense and infectious.
Methyl Ethel – Oh Inhuman Spectacle – (C+)
Mostly tedious collages of sound with a few engaging highlights. File alongside Pond, Tame Impala, and other profoundly derivative psychedelic revivalists.