Archive | November, 2015

Lupe Fiasco: Tetsuo And Youth

28 Nov

Lupe_Fiasco_Tetsuo_&_Youth

Lupe Fiasco approaches hip-hop like no one else. His raps have a chain-mail sound to them, intricate and tightly linked and his subject matter is pleasantly unique. With Tetsuo and Youth we have one of his best albums, but it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed.

Lupe jumps right into the album with the “Mural”, a song dense with meaning and robust enough to last almost 9 minutes with no hook. His strengths are just undeniable, he has been an unapologetic auteur for his entire career and his devotion to the form is evident throughout. Songs like “Adoration of the Magi” and “They.Resurrect.Over.New” (featuring an excellent Ab-Soul verse) showcase his approach to lyricism. His words all slot into place perfectly, not only does every line work perfectly with the ones surrounding it but every sound plays with the ones next to it. His lyrics have always tended to the cryptic due to this, but the flow is incredible. Similarly, his viewpoint remains as fresh as ever. “Prisoner 1 & 2” goes through an entire prison, looking not only at the inmates but the guards as well and “Deliver” talks about a neighborhood that pizza men will not deliver to.

Yet, it’s hard not to feel sad that this album is not something more.”Tetsuo and Youth” just isn’t the masterpiece that Lupe has always had in him but never really been able to realize. There’s too much in there that just doesn’t do enough. The beats are mostly too generic to hold up the raps and the album doesn’t really have a stand-out track like Food and Liquor‘s “Kick, Push” or The Cool‘s “Superstar”.

This is still a good enough album to deserve a listen and I would be shocked if that does not lead to many more. After all, isn’t it a statement on the ability of the artist that I wish it was a little more?

@murthynikhil

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Grimes: Art Angels

19 Nov

Grimes_-_Art_Angels

Art Angels is entirely the album of an auteur. That means a care and dedication to the craft that, while increasingly common in pop, is still rare and noteworthy. It also means a number of idiosyncrasies. This is very much an album of an individual. That should be fantastic and mostly is, but this is an album with personality and I have yet to find a person with nothing to dislike.

I love so much about this album though. “Kill V. Maim” and “Flesh Without Blood” for instance are just perfect pop, effortless to fall into and deep enough to keep you in. There are so many ideas in these songs and all of them are good. Grimes here presents an unapologetic idea of pop that she completely owns and that is both imaginative and exceptional.

For all of that though, the album has flaws. For one, the lyrics are throwaway. This is largely fine for an album that is clearly not focused on them, but it is hard not to be a little disappointed when they turn out insubstantial. Additionally, given the variety in the album, it would be hard not to find some things to kick against. “Venus Fly”, for instance, lets down an energetic chorus with a muddled and repetitive song. Similarly, “California” and “Butterfly”, while both great songs do have moments where they seem to try to skate by a little. Also, I honestly just dislike “SCREAM”. This is the album of a person and it’s hard not to find little things about people that grate.

Overall though, this is a great pop album and it fits neatly into the current advent of female pop auteurs. I would call it a mold, but given how individual each of these artists and their albums are, that just seems disrespectful. I highly recommend this album.

@murthynikhil

NH7 Weekender, Kolkata 2015

18 Nov

Well, it is finally over.

Months of anticipation and planning, the mad rush for tickets, waiting in bated breath for the biggest music festival of the city; and NH7 Weekender lived up to all of that and then some more.

nh7It had started quite a few months back, when the entire music-loving community of the city was shocked by the announcement of this year’s lineup. Megadeth: the name was enough to send the city scurrying for tickets. Shillong and Kolkata would witness Megadeth, while Delhi, Pune and Bangalore would have A.R. Rahman. However, unlike the other venues, for Kolkata this was huge. While a few international bands have played here before, nothing of this scale had ever happened in the past. A lot of people had their doubts whether it would actually materialise in the end, but even the most pessimist of the lot bought the tickets anyway. No one risked regret.

Day 1

The venue this year was different, further away from the city centre and less accessible than the one which hosted the event last year. But on reaching the venue, we were surprised by how elaborately organised things were, right from vehicle parking provisions to free autorickshaw rides from the parking to the main arena. There were sufficient number of ticketing counters, all adequately staffed with crew members eager to help. Once we entered the venue after completing a thorough security check, we were greeted by the usual halcyon atmosphere. The entire ground was brilliantly decked up, with strategically placed pointers to the five main stages for the aid of music lovers running around trying to catch different acts, inflatable bean bags which came to the rescue of those aching legs, amazing food and beverage counters helping everyone to refuel their energy levels. What was good to see was the sheer diversity of the people who had turned up. The crowd included people from all age groups and all backgrounds, united by the love of music.

The biggies in the day 1 lineup included Kailash Kher and his band, Nucleya, Parikrama, the Baiju Dharmajan Syndicate and Cactus, representing the local rock music scene. Kailasa rocked the stage belting out his signature hits like Rand Deeni, Tauba Tuaba, Saiyaan and Teri Deewani. He even invited some girls on stage to shake a leg with him. Guess whose gig overlapped partly with Kailasa? It was Udyan Sagar aka Nucleya. While he has been in the music scene for almost 15 years now, it was the release of his EP Koocha Monster back in 2013 that placed him right in the centre of India’s rising EDM scene. The crowd lapped up everything he served, right from the bass-heavy tracks of Koocha Monster to the more futuristic ones from his most recent EP Bass Rani. Cactus shouldered the lone responsibility of showcasing Bengali rock at this year’s festival and man did they step up! The Bacardi arena was chock-a-block with people cheering and singing along to tracks like Holud Pakhi, Buddha Heshechhe and Shudhu Tumi Ele Na. The Baiju Dharmajan Syndicate and Parikrama also performed at the Bacardi arena amidst much adulation of Indian rock fans.

Baiju Dharmajan bends some strings

Baiju Dharmajan bends some strings

I was a tad bit disappointed with the former in the sense that it was less of a group act and more of a solo show, but then listening to the ‘God of the Small Strings’ is always a delight. Among some of the other quality acts which stood out were those by Nischay Parekh, Prateek Kuhad and Swarathma. One guy who deserved special mention was Jivraj Singh, who had two consecutive performances. He played with Nischay Parekh at first on the Jack & Jones All Star Jamm stage, and then followed it up with a mindblowing act on the Moto Spotlight stage as part of PINKNOISE. The band originally consisted of lead guitarist Amyt Datta, Jivraj on drums and his parents, bassist Gyan Singh and vocalist Jayashree Singh. However, since Gyan Singh passed away they have been playing as a trio. While the performance was quite impressive and refreshing to say the least, Jivraj shone brightly with his futuristic-looking drum setup and plethora of skills.

Day 2

With an even more action-packed lineup, the second day of Weekender kicked off with acts by Neeraj Arya’s Kabir Cafe with their neo-fusion rock set and The Bartender with their refreshing jazzy take on old Bollywood classics like Khoya Khoya Chand, Hawa Hawai, etc. Comparatively smaller local bands like Underground Authority, Neel and The Lightbulbs gave impressive performances as well. Two separate metal acts which added to the all-metal atmosphere were Zygnema and Undying Inc, both at the Bacardi Arena. They had metalheads going crazy, building on to the anticipation for the headlining act of the night. Amidst all the metal hullabaloo, there were a couple of biggies which stole the limelight by their own right. The first was Papon and The East India Company. Now while a few of their songs were quite well-received and got the crowd grooving and singing along to the folk-fusion on offer, personally I expected them to deliver a bit more. Shaa’ir+Func, lead by Monica Dogra delivered a powerful performance at the Motorola Indie stage. However, the biggest gig of the evening apart from Megadeth had to be the one by The Wailers. There is something transcendental about good reggae music. From the moment vocalist Dwayne ‘Danglin’ Anglin, Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett and company started crooning, the whole ambience was transformed into a magical one. Get Up ¬†Stand Up, Buffalo Soldier and No Woman No Cry got literally thousands of people singing along. The rastafari spirit was further augmented when they called Papon upon stage to accompany them in rendering the cult song Exodus.

The crowd from every nook and corner thronged to the Bacardi arena as soon as the Megadeth records started blaring out around 8:15 pm. The acoustic system sounded a lot like the JBL VTX series which debuted in India in the 2013 edition of the Delhi Weekender to me, but I couldn’t be sure. The chants of ‘Megadeth’ only grew louder by the minute and metalheads were almost on the verge of getting impatient when the band took stage. It was about 8:50 pm. They opened with Hangar 18, took a small break and came back to belt out consecutive electric performances of songs like In My Darkest Hour, Trust and Sweating Bullets. One of the highlights of the act was that Chris Adler, the drummer from Lamb of God, was collaborating with Megadeth as part of a world tour before the release of their joint studio album Dystopia, which is scheduled for release next year.

Megadeth

Megadeth

While Megadeth has never really had any one drummer for too long, Shawn Drover was doing a pretty good job for the last 10 years, which ¬†also made him the third longest serving member of the band after Dave and David. Now while Shawn was one amazing drummer by his own right, I had always felt he was too technical for the style of music Megadeth stands for. Chris Adler, however, is in a different league altogether. A perfect blend of technique and soul, with some of the most killing kick techniques and double bass I have ever heard. That Chris didn’t have a lot of time to fully adapt to all the songs of the band was evident, as he did take a little time to slowly warm up. But by the time Dave had launched into Fatal Illusion, one of the songs from Dystopia, Chris had come into his own. What followed was 45 minutes of sheer frenzy, with back to back hits like A Tout Le Monde, Symphony of Destruction, Peace Sells But Who’s Buying, with the band choosing to end with Holy Wars. From some serious headbanging to moshpits, the Kolkata crowd matched the band’s enthusiasm every step of the way. Insane shredding from Dave, bass solos from David, it was the entire package alright. While the stage lighting could have been better, the screen in the background played clips from movies which had references to Megadeth, like Silver Linings Playbook and Wayne’s World 2, in between songs. By the time Megadeth were done and gracefully bowed out in true spirit of artists, the crowd had gone bonkers and were still screaming their lungs out for some more.

As the people sauntered back with sore throats, aching necks and numb legs, all I could hear was how amazing an experience they had had and how they could not wait for the next edition already. Music had won the day once again.

words: Sayandeep Majumder, pictures courtesy the NH7 Weekender Facebook page.

Sayandeep is the default bong you run into when you saunter around the streets of Calcutta on a lazy Saturday evening. At other times, you can find him riding his bike (which he adores), watching football, or pretending to read Nietzsche. Unlike a default bong, however, he spends a fair amount of time in front of the mirror, styling his hair. He also possesses an eclectic musical taste, which was, unfortunately, all we looked at.

The Weeknd: Beauty Behind The Madness

6 Nov

Beauty Behind The Madness is the Weeknd striking out for more mainstream success. The is the end of the path that his Ariana Grande collaboration “Love Me Harder” started. This is still a Weeknd album and still has some interesting stuff, but feels something of a miss.

He had a specific emotion that he was emblematic of. The Trilogy is the feeling of walking home at night while knowing your relationship died at birth. His lyrics and his singular voice both pushed the theme to the point where the music became shorthand for the emotion. This has shades of that, and shades of a more mature look at it, in this album but it has missteps and diversions enough to distract from that core. This is not a bad album, but it is hard not to feel a little let down. “Shameless” and “The Hills” are where his music was always headed, both lyrically and musically and “Can’t Feel My Face”, while new ground for The Weeknd, is indisputably a great pop tune, but “Dark Times” for instance is just lazy tripe.

It’s hard to know who to recommend this album to. Weeknd fans will find some stuff to fall into and so will people looking for off-beat pop, but anyone looking for more than a serviceable new album is bound to feel disappointed.

@murthynikhil

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