Tag Archives: indie pop

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.

@murthynikhil

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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)

Mapei

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

@murthynikhil

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.

@murthynikhil

Phantogram: Voices

21 Jul


Voices is exactly what it appears to be, a good indie pop album. There’s a little more R&B and a little more hip-hop here than you would find on, say, the CHVRCHES album, but it still hits all the notes you expect it to and hits them well.

Sarah Barthel’s vocals are excellent throughout and shift the songs around the more static beats behind them beautifully. The beats themselves are easy to fall into. This is a hard album to tire of.

The album suffers from some inconsistency though. Songs like “Black Out Days” and “Howling at the Moon” cannot help but be stand-out tracks, but much of the rest does not bring that same level of intensity. Also, while Sarah Berthel’s vocals are amazing, the couple of times that the other half of Phantogram, Josh Carter, takes the mic are sub-par.

At the end of the day, Voices is an album with plenty of strengths, but ends up a little forgettable.

@murthynikhil

Diana: Perpetual Surrender

22 May

Perpetual Surrender is now inextricably linked to the video game Hearthstone for me. The nice thing about Hearthstone is that it is a game that you can play with whatever music you like and I have had Perpetual Surrender on hand for a while now. This is good, solid music. I could listen to this album indefinitely. I just doubt that I will remember any of it later.

This is a glossy, 80’s revivalist pop album that is fun to listen to. That statement is neither praise nor damnation, merely fact. It is the kind of album where soft saxophone solos play over synths. “Perpetual Surrender” is often intriguing. “That Feeling” is an excellent song with undeniable catchiness. Yet, for all of the album’s many strengths, it is a little too bland to truly champion.

This album is a person at a party, a person who is dressed nicely and seems to have everything together. A person with whom you have an interesting chat and share some laughs. A person with whom you enjoy the time you spend. At some point though, you have to leave the party and you leave unchanged. I needed something more.

@murthynikhil

Naturally Scattered: An Interview with Raxit Tewari

26 Feb

Scatter Nature

Raxit Tewari’s main band Sky Rabbit is something of an Indian indie legend. It started off as a metal band called Medusa that dropped six-track album way back in 2005, before transforming itself into the current electro-pop/indie avatar which won big at the JD Rock Awards this year.

Tewari’s solo side project Your Chin seems to have been born from the same ethos that caused Medusa’s alchemic transformation into Sky Rabbit. It may seem like effortless mood-music, but there is a solid groundwork of talent and aesthetic sense that supports it all.

Tewari describes his second EP, Scatter Nature, as soundtrack music for a solitary walk through a busy city, possibly his hometown of Mumbai. It’s pretty much a perfect summation: Scatter Nature made us think of strangers colliding and interacting like independent particles in this harried world.

“Run Along Now Little One” is the stand-out track on the EP. Tewari’s signature, peculiarly flat vocals describe arcane prophecies (“Laughing gas will burn us while we’re dodging tragedies”) over music that introspects, sighs and flows along with the pace of life. The accompanying video, directed by Misha Ghose and Naman Saraiya, is perhaps the perfect accompaniment. It syncs Raxit’s music with grungy tableaus of Mumbai life – a red telephone, a rusty lock, smoggy skylines – showcasing editor Sourya Sen’s skills as much as the directors’ or the artist’s.

This is not to say that the other three songs on Scatter Nature aren’t worth mentioning. “Fingerprints & Mugshots” is a deal less dreamy than but in a way more wholesome in sound. The phrasing of words and sentences on “Who Would Have Thought” is a character on its own. And the plaintive stretch of the titular words on “For Love”, layered over an electro-pop version of almost-dance music, is just pure magic. It’s also the closest to Sky Rabbit, in our opinion.

All in all, Scatter Nature is a great EP. It got us really excited about what we might hear from Your Chin in the future.

So excited, in fact, that we decided to hear from him now. To round off our review, here’s a short interview with none other than Raxit Tewari himself!

Photo credits: Anuj Prajapati

Photo credits: Anuj Prajapati

Top Five Records: Let’s start with something that we’re quite curious about. Why the chin, of all body parts?

Your Chin: It sucks when it walks out on you. Chewing is almost impossible. You’re left to ingesting with plastic pipes going straight into your esophagus. And that’s just one of the many things. It’s important to acknowledge and address it if you want to prevent all of this.

TFR: Artists often create solo projects to express ideas that might not fit in with other, non-solo acts. How does your musical process with Your Chin differ from how you go about making and publicizing music as a part of Sky Rabbit?

YC: Your Chin’s mostly about sitting in a room and writing/producing music with a computer. I have been tinkering with software for a while now and wanted to see if I could produce some worthwhile music like this.

TFR: Where does your music take inspiration from? Was there a particular artist or even a set of experiences that really guided you here?

YC: A lot of things really. All of them get sewn in. It keeps happening over time.

TFR: You’ve previously described your first EP as the sound of the city, presumably a seethingly busy one like Mumbai, moving along with you. What’s the right frame of mind for this one?

YC: This one’s more of a put-it-on-your-phones-and-go-for-a-walk-EP.

TFR: There’s a lot going on in your music – in terms of technique, texture and style. Tell us a little bit about your working process.

YC: I usually put down smaller ideas on impulse and then build on them at a later stage.

TFR: You recently opened for Gotye at the Oz Fest in Delhi. What was that experience like?

YC: Gotye has a terrific live act. Was an honour to open for someone who is so on top of his game.

TFR: Your style of music is not the most common type out there in India. What has the response been like, in gigs and festivals around the country?

YC: It’s been wonderful. Not underwhelming in anyway. It’s been very consistently progressive over the last few years.

TFR: We loved the music video for “Run Along Little One”, especially the beautiful, grungy montage of urban life. Tell us a little bit about the creative process that went into making this video.

YC: Thank you! Glad you loved it. We went out for a day and shot a whole lot of this place not far from home. Literally rediscovered it in so many ways. Found new nooks and corners. It was extremely impulsive and a lot of fun.

TFR: The last question we have for you is a pretty standard one. Who is the one artist, alive or dead, that you’d most like to work with?

YC: Brian Eno?

So there you have it. Listen to Scatter Nature below!

CHVRCHES at Fox Theater (17/11/2013)

18 Nov

You may recall that I was one of the many people who were very excited about the CHVRCHES album that released earlier this year. I was however disappointed by the album, which made the tickets I had bought earlier to see them live seem a bit foolish. Thankfully, their concert was highly enjoyable, proving that decisions made with limited information are the best kind of decisions.

I have a weakness for intelligent pop groups with a female singer and the CHVRCHES seemed right up my alley. Thoroughly anointed and highly hyped, they made a big splash before their album dropped and their singles were nothing short of glorious. It was just that the rest of their album could not match up to those high points. We all make mistakes and the world is littered with concert tickets of regret. Nevertheless, I didn’t dislike the album and I really liked some of the singles, so despite still feeling a little cheated, I made myself a little less unpresentable and stepped out.

The opening act Basecamp was a rather typical opening act. Their music was acceptable, but the crowd seemed more interested in their conversations than in the band. This was reasonable, as despite Basecamp actually sounding good, their set had nothing stand out. This is the kind of band you want playing at a pub when out with friends, something that sounds good when you want to listen to the music, but otherwise stays out of the way.

The CHVRCHES did not start out well. The beginning few songs were okay, but not quite up to the standard of their album. This culminated in a very sub-par version of “Lies“, by far my favorite of their songs. However, once their initial hiccups were out of the way and they fell into the flow of their music, the concert became quite good. I’m more than willing to forgive a few missteps from a jet-lagged and slightly sick band and the way they powered through the rest of their set made doing so trivial. “Science/Visions” was impossibly good and “The Mother We Share” was very strong.

There was also a very hammed-up “Under The Tide”, but these things happen and it was the only time Martin Doherty got the spotlight. There is a reason that Lauren Mayberry is the front of this band and for most of the show she had it. The band took plenty of time during their set to chat with the crowd, which incidentally was the most enthusiastic crowd I have ever seen. The teenagers at the Marina concert may have had more energy, but these fans made up for that in dedication. The talking was fun, if often inaudible, and honestly the band did need something to stretch out their performance a little. They only have so many songs to perform after all.

Maybe it was the concert setting, or maybe it was the intense light show that went on throughout the concert, but I think that it was just that they are a great live band. This was a highly enjoyable night for me and one that I will definitely repeat when they next come to the area.

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