Disappointment of the Month

Daft Punk – “Random Access Memories” (Daft Life/Columbia)

Daft Punk’s fourth album came with a lot of hype and a long and innovative promotional campaign but now we get to hear what all the fuss is about. Opener ‘Give Life Back to Music’ gets us off to a solid start with Nile Rodgers guitar groove and Chic-esque piano chord progression taking centre stage. Things go off course on the next track ‘The Game of Love’ which sounds like “Something About Us” (from “Discovery” (2001) but if it was performed by lounge jazz musicians, it’s very cheesy and hints at the excess to come over the rest of the album. ‘Giorgio by Moroder’ starts off well with Moroder’s spoken word atop a disco groove but as it leaves Moroder behind the track gets more and more progressive rock in its excess, becoming overly indulgent and overly long in the process. Things pick up a little with ‘Within’ featuring beautifully played piano from Chilly Gonzales, however the quality dives again on the plodding ‘Instant Crush’ featuring The Strokes vocalist Julian Casablancas who delivers an out of tune sounding chorus that grates and it’s another song that suffers from being overly long and having too many solos.

The centre of the album sees the band go on a good run starting with ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’ and its heavy funk bass and drums and Rodgers amazing rhythm guitar which lifts with track to another, there’s also a great chorus section where Pharrell duets with the robots and the track finds a new energy level. ‘Touch’ finds a way to use the album’s prog tendencies for good, the song begins with a section that’s full of creepy atmospherics before Paul Williams lead vocals enters and along with piano to song a plaintive tune that gets lift up by wah-wah guitars, drums and bubbling synth lead this then leads to an amazing string section before returning to the plaintive tune for the songs climax. The run finishes with ‘Get Lucky’ a disco-pop master class that again features Pharrell and Nile Rodgers.

Next up, ‘Beyond’ tries but fails to reproduce the heavy funk of ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’, its end up plodding along instead of inspiring you to dance. ‘Motherboard’ reintroduces prog elements with Flute melodies and swan diving string dominating. ‘Fragments of Time’ is a pop twist on the failed jazz experiment of ‘Game of Love’, while ‘Doin’ It Right’ suffers from sounding like two disparate elements (Panda Bear’s vocals and the backing track) failing to gel. The album finishes as you’d expect with an epic six minute plus prog instrumental called ‘Contact’ which unfortunately just compounds the problems inherent on this album.

When Daft Punk get it right on this album they produce sublime music but this only accounts for one third of the albums track making “Random Access Memories” one of disappointments of year so far.

Talib Kweli – ‘Prisoner of Conscious’ (Blacksmith)

Talib Kweli’s fifth studio album is a disappointment, while it’s probably his most diverse work to date it’s comes up against a problem that Kweli has skirted before. That problem is that while he’s one of the best lyricists and MC’s in hip-hop today his choice of beats leads a lot to be desired. I’m not dismissing the beat makers who feature on “Prisoner of Conscious” all of them do good work but Kweli choose their blandest and dullest beats for most of this album.

After being impressed initially with his last album “Gutter Rainbows” I felt that as time went on it soon became clear that there was a clutch of good tracks and a lot of filler. It’s the same with “Prisoner of Conscious” where Kweli falls short on a majority of tracks. Kweli also seems to have been knowingly pursuing commercial success since his last major label album “Eardrum” and it’s on tracks such as ‘Favela Love’, ‘Hamster Wheel’, ‘Ready Set Go’ and ‘Turnt Up’ that his choice of bland commercial beats hurts Kweli the most with poor lyrical metaphors and storytelling compounding the feeling of disappointment.

Speaking of Kweli’s lyrics, “Prisoner of Conscious” was originally meant to be a sonic and lyrically break from Kweli’s conscious rap style. However, I couldn’t pick out a lyric that couldn’t have featured on one of his previous four albums, though the likes of ‘High Life’ certainly changes things up stylistically adopting the High Life music of West Africa for one of the albums few tracks of real quality, the others being straight hip-hop banger ‘Rocket Ships’ and the one successful stab at a commercial track ‘Come Here’. It seems that Kweli needs to revaluate and decide to either stick to what made his reputation in the first place or move aside for the new generation of MC’s.

The Child of Lov – “The Child of Lov” (Double Six/Domino)

The secretive artist The Child of Lov is a hip-hop producer from the Netherlands but he doesn’t make any old hip-hop and when you hear his processed vocals you’d swear he was from America’s Deep South. The album opens with the loping bass guitar, downtempo hip-hop beat and skewed soul vocals of ‘Call Me Up’ the atmospherics and vocals of which recalls “Return to Cookie Mountain” era TV on the Radio. It’s swiftly followed by ‘Heal’ with its uptempo drum break, nagging post-punk guitar riff and stabbing bass guitar. Next up is the sparse ballad ‘One Day’ that features Blur’s Damon Albarn, twisted twangy guitar melodies, rippling synth bass and a dusty hip-hop beat. ‘Living the Circle’ combines corroded synth bass and a heavy stuttering hip-hop beat with a computer game style synth melody to stunning, head nodding effect.

The second half the album sees electronic drums dominate whereas acoustic drums had pervaded in the first half. ‘Go With The Wind’ utilises a subtle electronic hip-hop drums, computer game synth bass and a weird lo-fi guitar riff that underline the uniqueness of this artists sound. ‘Fly’ is another great up tempo track with a thumping, purposeful bass drum pushing everything forward. The album closes with ‘Give It To The People’ on which there’s very little vocal processing and the track has a brighter, pop production pointing at potential development for The Child of Lov’s sound in the future. “The Child of Lov” is a great debut album that demonstrates that you don’t need to the biggest budget or sound to make something that can shine and be unique. I look forward to hearing more from The Child of Lov in the future.

Colleen – “The Weighing of the Heart” (Second Language)

‘The Weighing of the Heart’ is Colleen’s first album since 2008, it’s also the first her first album to feature her own singing and extensive use of percussion instruments. In interviews Colleen has explained the album took so long to make as she’d fallen out of with music and took a break from both creating and listening to music.

After her enforced hiatus she has returned with an album full of beautiful music yet unorthodox music that is uniquely her own straddling the genre’s of folk, chamber pop and world music and never losing it natural feel. Opener ‘Push the Boat onto the Sand’ is a fine example of mixing of genres of unorthodox use of both her viola (its tuned like a guitar and plucked not bowed) and song structure (she uses simple repeating loops, then replaces that loop with another and then another) it also evokes a sense of Spain where she lives and records. ‘Ursa Major Find’ uses the same structure but has a more intimate and angelic feel perfectly complimented by a melody played on an antiquated sounding keyboard. ‘Humming Fields’ with its offbeat bass drum pattern and music box style melody sounds like a group of musicians playing in a room, in fact this a trick that Colleen pulls off across the second half of album and you forget this is the work of a lone person. ‘Going Forth By Day’ starts with just a lone plucked viola melody before it evolves into a more rhythmic pattern and is joined by a wavering oboe melody, a lovely track.

Colleen saves the best til last through with the final three track on the album proving to be the highlights of a great album. This trio begins with ‘Moonlit Sky’ which sees the return of the oboe again complimenting the viola perfectly before the unexpected arrival of an organ that gives the track a dynamic lift and some extra warmth. It’s followed by the scrambling viola melody and gorgeous vocal harmonies and African percussion of ‘Breaking Up the Earth’ before the title track rounds everything off with echoing viola and yearning violin melodies.

All-in-all Colleen has created an album full of beautiful and orthodox music, with enough depth to keep listeners discovering some new with each new play.

G&D – “The Lighthouse” (SomeOthaShip)

g-and-d-the-lighthouse

The mysterious moniker G&D hides the behind it two disguised artists in Georgia Anne Muldrow (G) and Dudley Perkins (D) who’ve both been working together and individual as hip-hop artists for over two decades. However, both have found their profiles rise since 2006 (I only knew of Georgia Anne Mudrow’s existence last year due to her ‘Seeds’ album produced by Madlib). Some hip-hop heads might know Perkins from his time under the name Declaime but I imagine both of these artists are fairly new to most people.

On “The Lighthouse” their pedigree shows itself from the start, as the album kicks off with the cut up vocals samples, P-Funk synth solo and scratches of ‘Intro’. The album swiftly moves to the title track’s laidback percussion, cutting hip-hop beat and cosmic electric piano meanwhile the two vocalists float and flow over the top of a head nodding beat. ‘Fam Bam’ starts the move away from the psychedelic sound of that the artwork of the album suggests were in for. The track features a stuttering electronic hip-hop beat and reverberate claps that back Perkins mean rapping and Muldrow vocals and rapping that recall Erykah Badu and Seattle hip-hop duo Thee Satisfaction. ‘Electric’ combines a smooth bass line and sparse electronic hip-hop beat with another from Perkins with its feedbacking guitar and electronic sound it recalls Cannibal Ox. ‘Power’ brings back to P-Funk and Afro-centric lyrics from the duo, ‘No More War’ picks up where ‘Power’ leaves off with huge synth bass, a twinkling synth melody and shuffling electronic beat back Perkins and Muldrow’s duetting vocals. ‘Popstopper’ demonstrates the duo’s versatility with shuffling acoustic drums and popping funk bass backing Muldrow’s multi-layered lush vocals while a spooky synth stabs in and out of the mix. ‘Dance’ combines with guitar sound of ‘Electric’ with the popping funk bass of ‘Popstopper’ to get you on the floor! ‘Emo Funk’ and album closer ‘Majesty’ both show the duo can do slo-mo acoustic piano ballads albeit with their own unique twist. With ‘The Lighthouse’ G&D have arguably made the best underground hip-hop of year so far, check it out!!!

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