Tag Archives: 2014

Run The Jewels: Run The Jewels 2

4 Jan


It’s nice to be treated like an adult. It’s somewhat strange to describe an album that is adolescent in its fury with that statement, but real talk is hard to come by. In a world that feels more and more bullshit, this is at least a flame to hold.

Killer Mike and El-P continue their screed against society with Run The Jewels 2 that their earlier mixtape set up and even if society has not improved, their music has. This album manages incredible consistency without sacrificing an ounce of passion along the way. This has the feel of vast work behind it. The lyrics are quotable to a fault, running such jewels as “We killin’ them for freedom cause they tortured us for boredom” and the excellent “You want a whore with a white dress. I want a wife in a thong”.

Their flow is exactly what you need for an album with this weight and like Outkast or Run-DMC the two rappers have a great feel for the other. The album moves between story-telling about police brutality in the powerful “Early” to long, explicit digressions like “Love Again” with equal comfort. They’re as comfortable posturing as ranting and that leads to an album that never feels stale.

Raw passion alone would be enough to make this one of the strongest albums of the year, but the craftsmanship that they have poured into this as well pushes this far above the normal cut.


Porter Robinson: Worlds

29 Nov

When you get down to it, Worlds is just a meeting point between indie pop and EDM. There’s enough space there to create a variety of sounds for the album, and there’s enough talent here to make it consistently very listenable. The issue is that the touchstones never feel far. I lose focus when listening to something like half the album because I’ve heard the core of it before.

For all of that though, this album is large, varied and quite solid. The beats of something like “Flicker” for instance are undeniable. This is enough of an album to win a smile as long as it is playing. I just wish it forced some thought as well.


Lykke Li – I Never Learn & Live at the Fox Theater (21/9/2014)

24 Sep

I’ve been listening a lot to the new Lykke Li album I Never Learn and also happened to have tickets to her concert last Sunday, so in the standard hyper-efficient Top Five Records manner, here is both the album and concert review.

I Never Learn

It has been a while since I’ve heard an album as dedicated to ballads as this one. I Never Learn is not just a collection of true pop ballads, it is a collection of true pop ballads about a break-up. It is also an excellent one, if a little repetitive.

Firstly, Lykke Li’s voice is consistently amazing. It is rich, human and above all communicative. She ranges from the more hazy “Just Like A Dream” to the frighteningly destructive “Gunshot” with ease. Her ballads are powerful and personal things. The entire album blames herself for the failure of the relationship and mines that vein deeply.

There lies my major complaint with the album though, it falls a little too far into sameness. It’s not precisely one-note, the slow “Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone” is followed immediately by the anthemic “Never Going To Love Again”, but the album does blend together. There are songs that stand out, the aforementioned “Gunshot” and “No Rest For The Wicked” are excellent, but too much of the rest feels undifferentiated.

Nevertheless, this is a beautiful set of ballads and an excellent album. The relationship the album is drawn from may have ended, but with music like this her listeners at least will never let her go.

Live at the Fox Theater (21/9/2014)



The show was opened by Mapei, a Swedish genre-bending pop artist. Her set was inconsistent, but fun despite that. Her sound is rooted in pop but mixes in hip-hop and R&B and even has her occasionally rapping. Her debut album Hey Hey has just released and is definitely worth checking out.

Lykke Li


Lykke Li herself was a pleasure to see. As with her records, her voice served her beautifully. She did not restrict herself to just her latest album and that added some welcome variance. Her sound has shifted a fair bit over the years and hearing them all made for an interesting concert. Besides, it was fun to hear her hits. Personally, “Little Bit” was the standout moment of the concert for me, but “No Rest for the Wicked” was also really good and her cover of The Boss’ “I’m On Fire” was exceptional.


Additionally, her stage presence was amazing. She was frankly flirtatious during the entire thing, and she did it wonderfully. It was like watching her at prom, she felt young and happy. Her manner did a huge amount for the show. When the performer is clearly enjoying herself and feels at ease, it’s hard not to follow suit.


This was a great show and it had everything that I look for, varied and great music with improvisation and done with personality to boot.


Bombay Bicycle Club: So Long, See You Tomorrow

13 Sep

The story of this album is that frontman Jack Steadman wrote it while traveling in India, Turkey and Japan. Travel is a tried and true method for innovation. “Blue Rondo à la Turk” for instance is a fascinating look into what Jazz could have been were it Turkish. So Long, See You Tomorrow however, has only made the tiniest of nods to its journeys. This is an acceptable alternative rock album, but not a particularly interesting one.

There is a lot of blandness in alternative rock. You see one generic group of young men follow another and they all seem and sound the same. There are a few things to distinguish this from the rest, “Eyes Off You” plinks its way through a piano backing and “Overdone” stacks layers and continually flips them back and forth.

You know what though? This review feels pointless. This is just another alternative rock album in a world that has too many. There is nothing here that offends and nothing that innovates. I’ve heard every sound it has to present too many times before. If you want yet another acceptable indie rock album then this is as good as any other. The only problem is how stagnant you’d have become.


Damon Albarn: Everyday Robots

25 Aug

Everyday Robots is a lovely album. It’s amazing how British that word can be. Damon Albarn is no stranger to the British album. Some of his stuff with Blur, like the unmistakable classic Parklife, is as British as you can get without being the Village Green Preservation Society, but that is the snarky and cynical Brit. This is a more introspective album. This is an album with honesty and with sadness. This is a quiet chat indoors because of the rain.

Everyday Robots is Mr. Albarn’s first solo album. As with Blur, social commentary runs through this album. This time, he speaks of technology and how far it takes us from each other. However, this album is not about society at large as much as the singer. This is by far the most personal album that I have ever heard from Damon Albarn and it makes a nice change.

This is a beautiful, if sometimes a little haunted, trip through his mind. This album does an excellent job of using melodies to reinforce lyrics, both of which hold strong throughout. Standout moments include the downbeat funk of “Lonely Press Play”, the thudding beat of “Photographs (You Are Taking Now)” and the choral effects of “Heavy Seas of Love.” This album does a great job of hitting emotions.

Damon Albarn has to be one of the first people to mind when thinking about auteurs of the past 30 years of music and with Everyday Robots, he remains a powerhouse. However, here he does so intimately. This is a new skin for someone who has been around a while and he wears it well. Everyday Robots is a very good album.


Broken Bells: After The Disco

8 Aug

Broken Bells, the side-project of the Shins’ James Mercer and Danger Mouse, have come together here to make their second album. After the Disco proves to be a very listenable, if rarely challenging pop album.

This is a consistent and cohesive album, running its themes of the disco beat by way of synth pop and occasionally blues-rock. “Holding On For Life” does a strong Bee Gees impression over a pulp science-fiction
story. “Leave It Alone” provides an interesting diversion into soft-rock and confessionals. However, the album as a whole lacks strong moments. The sum is a little too bland to recommend.

After the Disco ends up being a very gentle album. It has no major offenses, but fails to achieve distinction. This is a pleasant album and I enjoyed listening to it, but I’m not going to regret forgetting it.


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