Tag Archives: parquet courts

Monthly Playlist: Aug. 2021

7 Sep

Better late than never, we always say. We may be a little late with our Monthly Playlist for August 2021, but we now have the goods for you below. Check out our top five picks below!

5. “Walking at a Downtown Pace” by Parquet Courts

Parquet Courts is a four-piece hailing from New York City by way of Texas, where Andrew Savage met Austin Brown. The two share lead vocals and guitar duties in the band, with Andrew’s brother Max on the drums and Sean Yeaton on bass rounding out the group. In the past, we favorably compared their third album Sunbathing Animal to the Strokes’ debut album (albeit edgier), and this new track from the band has the same NYC effortless-cool that enthralled us then. “Walking at a Downtown Pace” has a driving guitars that reminded us of Led Zep’s “When the Levee Breaks”, and a sing-along chorus that is going to do wonders in trendy venues in Brooklyn and around the world. This is the second track from the band’s upcoming seventh (!) album Sympathy for Life, scheduled to release on October 22nd.

4. “Meanwhile” by Gorillaz feat. Jelani Blackman & Barrington Levy

Three-quarters of a year after the near-perfect Song Machine, Damon Albarn is back with his virtual band and canny artist features with a new, three-song Gorillaz EP entitled Meanwhile. As we found out over the course of the Song Machine tracklist, Albarn is turning into a premier launchpad of talented British rappers to audiences outside of the UK; and that trend continues on the title track from this mini-album. London-based up-and-coming rapper Jelani Blackman’s catchy, sing-song style gels well with the dancehall stylings of Jamaican legend Barrington Levy. Throughout it all, Albarn lends his aloof vocals and his unique ability to meld all the disparate pieces into a great new track. If this is gearing up to Song Machine Vol. 2, we’re all for it. And if you liked this, check out “Jimmy Jimmy” from the same EP!

3. “Rumors” by Lizzo feat. Cardi B

“They don’t know, I do it for the culture, goddamn / They say I should watch the shit I post, oh goddamn / Say I’m turning big girls into hoes, oh goddamn / They say I get groupies at my shows, oh goddamn,” intones Lizzo at the start of her new track “Rumors”, listing out all the supposedly bad things that she’s been rumored to do. Nothing beats the humor of the first time you listen to the track, where she immediately follows up this verse with “All the rumors are true, yeah / What ya’ heard, that’s true, yeah”. This is a larger-than-life, catchy as hell track from two of pop culture’s reigning hit-masters that speaks to the incessant rumors at that level of public spotlight. Cardi B joins in with her own set: “Fake ass, fake boobs, yeah / Made a million at [strip club] Sue’s, yeah,” and the general vibe of the song is that these ladies just don’t care anymore about what’s being said of them on social media or gossip rags. Musically, “Rumors” is peak Lizzo, complete with funky synths and a rollicking horn section. One last thing: the music video is a modern take on the Disney movie Hercules, with Lizzo and a very pregnant Cardi, and should belong in an art museum somewhere for its extremely high production values alone.

2. “Oxytocin” by Billie Eilish

Technically, this song came out in the very last hours of July 2021 and hence didn’t make it into our July playlist, but we couldn’t not include it in this one. “Oxytocin” is one of the non-single tracks that were released as part of Billie’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Happier Than Ever. We’ll have the full album review out for you shortly, but this electro-pop song is definitely one of the highlights from the track-list. Finneas (Billie’s brother-slash-producer extraordinaire) really knocks it out of the park with this one. The lone beat at the start builds into a cornucopia of bits and beeps that adds a manic energy to the track – fittingly, for lyrics that lay bare her addictive relationship to her partner. Speaking of Billie’s lyrics, the singer takes the risqué factor from her debut album to a different level on this track about toxic addiction: for example, “’Cause as long as you’re still breathing / Don’t you even think of leaving” in the verses and the repeated “I wanna do bad things to you / I wanna make you yell” in the outro. “Oxytocin” is the kind of track that hooks you from the first second of the first listen, but it’s Billie’s creepy lyrics (in both delivery and meaning) that keep you hooked.

1. “Take My Breath” by The Weeknd

A couple of months ago at the Billboard Music Awards, The Weeknd accepted yet another popular music award with a somewhat cryptic message: “I just want to say, the After Hours are done and the dawn is coming”. In early August, the Canadian R&B phenomenon released the electro-dance record “Take My Breath”, signifying what he’s taken to calling The Dawn era. We have some clues about what this is going to be like, and boy it’s good. “Take My Breath” is a non-stop dance party that has the potential to be remixed into a million other dance tracks. A week after this song was released, The Weeknd compiled a list of songs that inspired “the new Dawn era” on his Apple podcast / radio show Memento Mori (yes, he has an Apple show) and readers – the list included not one but two Britney Spears songs. Here’s hoping that “Take My Breath” was our introduction into an upcoming electronic music-inspired 90s-throwback pop record from the Weekend!

The Top Five Albums of 2014

1 Jan

It’s that time of the year again. As 2014 winds to a close, we take a look back at some of the music that awed and enthralled us throughout the year. The year was filled with remarkable debut albums by musicians that came into the world as fully-formed artists – here, we must remark that four of our top five albums are debut albums. So, without further ado, here’s our Top Five Albums of 2014.

5. LP1 by FKA twigs

FKA Twigs - LP1

As we’ve previously said, LP1 is a complex, intelligent and greatly satisfying record. At 26 years of age, FKA twigs has created a mirrorfor the lust, love and fractures in the relationships of her generation.

Refreshingly, FKA twigs does not tell us about soppy, overly-poetic relationships, as described by many an indie band, or about hollow, unrealistic hook-ups, as described by most EDM artists. Instead, she describes genuine stories that strike far closer to home. On the hauntingly sparse “Hours”, she’s in awe of her new man: “I could kiss you for hours/And not miss a thing”. On “Lights On”, she hints at setting aside her vulnerability to let her lover see her uglier shades (“When I trust you, we can do it with the lights on”). And on album-highlight “Two Weeks”, she seethes with lust over a lost lover(“I know it hurts/You know I’d put you first/I can fuck you better than her”), helplessly displaying the self-degrading vulnerability that she cautiously revealed to him earlier.

LP1 is an emotive essay on the most intense moments of an exceptionally passionate relationship. It manages to rework the most common themes in pop and R&B – passion, heartbreak, blinding love – into truly original, soulful music.

Best track: “Two Weeks”

4. Sunbathing Animals by Parquet Courts

Parquet Courts - Sunbathing Animals

Earlier this year, we praised Brooklyn-based Parquet Courts’ album Sunbathing Animals, complete with a laudatory comparison to the Strokes’ Is This It?.

Parquet Courts’ forte is their ability to transcribe the intensity of a live show straight into your headphones. On “Black and White”, lead singer Andrew Savage articulates the very intensity of their music (“Nothing makes my heart so wild as being in possession of a potent night/Racing down the stairs in a nude descension shedding and discarding my hide”) with a gunfire-like flow worthy of his surname. Quieter moments, too, are transliterated as fluidly: the laid-back “Dear Ramona” and “Into the Garden” act as much-needed breathers between frenetic pieces like the eponymous “Ducking and Dodging”.

Overall, Parquet Courts strike us as a promising band with a few things to iron out, foremost of which is Andrew Savage’s penchant to sing-shout furious, unintelligible lyrics (see: “Sunbathing Animals”). On the whole, we are certainly looking forward to more from this young, talented band!

Best track: “Black and White”

3. Jungle by Jungle

Jungle - Jungle

The opening riff of “Busy Earnin’”, the third track from Jungle’s eponymous album, elicits an image of an American cop show from the 1970s, perhaps set in Brooklyn or Queens, maybe starring an African-American actor as one of the cops. In reality, Jungle couldn’t be farther from the truth. Originally started by two childhood friends from London, the band has now become a soul-infused collective of seven musicians that strives for something rare in this time and age: honesty.

Founding members Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson have stated that Jungle is “a collective and collective energy”, a tribute to the collaborative, borderless nature of music. It’s entirely fitting that their music videos usually feature dancing, exuberant people of all ages and races, perfectly exemplifying the essence of their music. From start to finish, Jungle is a seamless album of great integrity and true earnestness.

Take “Julia”, an ode to falling heads-over-heels with the eponymous woman (“Julia I don’t know a thing about you/Soon enough you’ll be all I ever need”). The lyrics are not complex, and the theme of falling in love at first sight is not uncommon. Yet, somehow, Jungle’s sincerity shines through ‘70s-influenced syncopated beats. Jungle is all about this kind of beauty, enshrouded in simplicity and plainness.

Much like 2013’s matchless Random Access Memories, Jungle is the must-listen album of 2014: it fills the listener with awe and joy of music’s great, unifying power.

Best track: “Busy Earnin’”

2. No Mythologies to Follow by MØ

MO - No Mythologies to Follow

At Top Five Records, we’re huge MØ fans. Her early single, “Pilgrim”, featured on a must-listen list way back in October 2012, and her full-length debut album topped our mid-year round up of 2014 albums. Almost a year after we first heard it, Karen Marie Ørsted’s debut album continues to enthrall us with her particular brand of Danish-English hypnotic pop.

Using sparse background beats and layered vocals, MØ uses the album to showcase her soaring, impressive voice in a stunningly aesthetic manner. On “Dust is Gone”, she sings about heartbreak with tear-jerking melancholia. On “Maiden”, she croons with about unveiling her vulnerability, utilizing the outstanding fluidity in her voice to create the effect of a naïve young girl. On our old favorite “Pilgrim”, mesmerizing handclaps and a lean brass section give MØ all the space she needs to fill the song with her soulful voice.

MØ is a true artist: she’s not afraid of singing stripped-bare, acoustic versions of her songs on an equestrian field, nor does she seem to be concerned with her appearance as a selling point for her musical talents. If No Mythologies to Follow is what she could show us in just her debut, we are extremely eager to hear more from her.

Best track: “Fire Rides”

1. Royal Blood by Royal Blood

Royal Blood - Royal Blood

Here’s an experiment to try at home. Play Royal Blood’s “Little Monster” to someone who has not heard the band previously. The song opens with a ridiculously hard-hitting riff that jolts the listener directly into a moshpit-like craze. Wailing guitars fight for space with intimidating drums, and the bassline purrs and growls like a caged beast. Ask your listener who the artist is: many would hazard a guess at a White Stripes B-side or a Muse take-out, and some would perhaps guess at a heady Queens of the Stone Age track. Now, watch the amazement dawn on your friend’s face when you explain that the arena-sized sound on “Little Monster” is, in fact, created by two people – on their debut album, no less.

Such is the immense power of Royal Blood, who have rightly been hailed as the Arctic Monkeys’ successor in the arena of massively popular British rock bands. Consisting of childhood friends Ben Thatcher and Mike Kerr, the band has been known to wreak destructive chaos in British clubs, moving fans into almost a drugged frenzy.

“Little Monster” is not an exception on Royal Blood, which clocks in at just over half an hour. Every song on the album is a seething, lean monster of hard rock riffs and Mike Kerr’s Reznor-esque, angsty voice. Arrogance is distilled into song on album opener “Out of the Black”, featuring lyrics that hint at a manipulative, abusive relationship (“So don’t breathe when I talk/’Cause you haven’t been spoken to/I got a gun for a mouth and a bullet with your name on it”). That a song of this intensity can have such darkly poetic lyrics is just another intriguing, intoxicating element of Royal Blood’s vortex.

It’s impossible to just stop at “Little Monster” and “Out of the Black”. The sixteen-note opening riff on “Come On Over” coils and uncoils with a reckless abandon that matches the song’s lyrics (“Let’s run away, get out of here/ I got no money and I don’t care”). “Figure It Out” is a sick ode from one partner of a love-hate relationship to the other; Kerr’s vocals drip with derision and self-disgust until he breaks into a toxic-sludge riff that will send chills through your spine.

Clearly, we could go on. Here’s the bottom line: listen to Royal Blood. We guarantee that it will be, without question, the best 32 minutes and 38 seconds of your day.

Best track: “Little Monster”

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