Archive | February, 2016

Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

26 Feb


That The Life of Pablo is a masterpiece is immediately evident. There’s none of the difficulty of To Pimp A Butterfly or the earlier Yeezus here. This is approachable from the beautiful, gospel-like opening of “Ultralight Beam” to the end. There’s an attention to detail in all of Kanye’s albums that leads to quality that you just cannot find elsewhere.

This album sprawls pretty far though. Musically, it jumps from point to point incessantly and like MBDTF before it, the album features a wide supporting cast. Those artists are at their best here though. The Weeknd’s piece on the brutally emotional “FML” is the best hook of his career, the clarity of his voice plays beautifully against the breathless nature of Kanye’s rap and the menacing, sparse beat. Similarly, Frank Ocean’s closing verse in “Wolves” was exactly what that song needed to cap it. Even Ty Dollar $ign on “Real Friends” is excellent. His collaborators seem to have subsumed themselves for their songs. Even people as individual as Rihanna or Young Thug just appear as a part of the music and not the whole package that they normally provide.

This is why for an album as rambling as this one, there is a surprising consistency. Where Yeezus or 808s and Heartbreak were about single emotions, this is about the full spread of Kanye, and so this album can be difficult if you’re not so into him. You have him referencing the Kanye Fresh meme and talking about the old Kanye to being impossible to relate to when he takes needless shots at Amber Rose or chants the word “couches”. Both To Pimp A Butterfly and Beyonce were similar in how they forced a (possibly alien) viewpoint on their listeners and so can cause discomfort, but Kendrick and Beyonce are much better people than Kanye and that makes them easier to listen to. Neither of them really care if you agree with them, but they use that callousness for social progress, Kanye just uses it to be Kanye. This is how he can go from “I didn’t mean to instigate” on the heartfelt “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” to the intentionally instigating Taylor Swift line of “Famous”, it’s just who he is.

He is also a musical genius though. The music is deep enough to always find something new and things work together in ways that I have never seen before. The Life of Pablo is a magnificent album and I highly recommend it.


John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman – John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman

11 Feb


John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman is that rare jazz album that is not only a classic, but is very approachable as well. Johnny Hartman has a rich, warm voice that draws you close to the album and John Coltrane focuses completely on the sound, getting a perfect, luxurious tone throughout. Their interplay and that of their rhythm section is fantastic. Solos flow into each other effortlessly and the backing music sets a loose, fluid structure for the solos to work in. The music takes no effort to get into, but is nevertheless one of the great jazz vocal albums. This is essential for all fans of the genre and a great starting point for those who are not.


Hinds: Leave Me Alone

6 Feb

It’s ironic that Hinds released their debut album, Leave Me Alone, in the peak of winter: there couldn’t be a more carefree summer sound. The title is also ironic, because their songs are a tribute to the genuine joy of being young and free in the Spanish sun.

Hinds - Leave Me Alone

Hinds is an up-and-coming indie rock girl band from Madrid, consisting of dual singers Carlotta Cosials and Ana Perrote, bassist Ade Martin and drummer Amber Grimbergen. Their sound is characterized by a youthful vocal interplay between Cosials and Perrote, layered over delightfully unrefined guitars and bass. (It’s really more fun than it sounds.) Besides, the band has perfected the art of making videos that are essentially extended Vines: candid portraits that capture how fun it must be to hang out with these girls-next-door.

Perhaps the most noticeable element of the album is the fluidity of their DIY garage sound. It’s clear that they aren’t focusing on musical dexterity – their melodies are often picked one note at a time – but that’s what defines their rough-around-the-edges sound. Hinds makes it sound so easy that you’re left wondering if good indie rock is really that easy to make. (It’s not: you need to be that young). For example, “Chili Town” layers simple sounds of the summer over heavily-accented sing-song vocals about flirting with a hot guy. The video fits perfectly – the girls are seen hanging around their neighborhood, doing everyday activities like drinking orange juice, chugging vodka, smoking cigarettes and catching Cheetos in their mouths.

It’s also clear that the foursome – especially Cosials and Perrote – are very good friends. Their dual-vocal style works especially well on “Bamboo”, which features Cosials’ deeper, more emotive voice volleying against Perrote’s chirpy pop sound. The two girls’ strong friendship, which forms the core of the band, is evident on the video for their excellent cover of British garage band Thee Headcoatee’s 1992 hit, “Davey Crockett”. In it, Perrote sprays whipped cream into her mouth and joins Cosials to dance on a table, on a bright summer’s day. In a sense, that one scene defines the band.

In 12 short pop gems, the band has captured the cheery, lighthearted essence of youth without any typical millennial trappings. They are happy, but not self-consciously so. They are the girls next door, but they aren’t trying to be. And it is that sincere likability that powers Leave Me Alone and leaves us extremely excited about the band’s future.

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