Tag Archives: pop

Los Campesinos! – Sick Scenes

20 Aug

Los Campesinos! exists in a very specific space and it’s not a space for everyone. The cleverest line there, “31, and depression is a young man’s game” really tells you how much you’re going to get out of this album. It’s easy to dismiss if you’re not the kind of person it hits, but there’s some good music here.

It’s glossy clever-clever pop that is pleasant to listen to, but is largely forgettable. There’s a plethora of catchy tunes, and something like “Got Stendhal’s” is completely ready for radio play. However, despite the braininess that Los Campesinos! feels the need to exhibit at every turn, there’s no standout line and a lot of what they pass off as profound feels naive. While I like “I Broke Up In Amarante”, I feel that their refrain of “It seems unfair to try your best, but feel the worst” to be banal instead of cathartic. Even the music, while solid, lacks the innovation to help it stand out. Songs like “The Fall of Home”, while solid slow alt-rock, never really lives up to its potential.

This is an album for a time and a place, and it does an admirable job at that. It’s unable to transcend that as the best albums do, but it never needed to.

@murthynikhil

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Dua Lipa – Dua Lipa

11 Jun

This is a good, strong pop debut. Songs like “Be The One” and “New Rules” are classic dancefloor pop and have rightfully been monopolizing airwaves for quite a while now. Her voice is stellar, holding its own against Miguel just fine in “Lost In Your Light.” Despite its many strengths however, the album lacks any factor that distinguishes it enough to make it a must-listen. It is a good, strong pop album and makes for a reasonable listen, but that is all it does. It’s still fun though.

@murthynikhil

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

Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Bangalore 2014 – Day 1

14 Nov

The Bacardi NH7 Weekender is one of our favorite events of the year. It lets us catch up with tens of acts from across the country – some new, some legendary – all within a beautiful, aesthetically arranged venue. On the weekend of November 8th and 9th, we went to the Bangalore edition of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender, and were blown away by breadth of artists on stage. Here’s our take!

Beautiful aesthetics

Day 1

We kicked off our day with a gig by funk duo Madboy/Mink atop the Red Bull Tour Bus. Comprising Imaad Shah on guitar and Saba Azad on vocals, Madboy/Mink’s energetic performance was the perfect way to pump up festival goers for the several hours to follow. The duo’s show featured some well-known numbers (“Alley Cats”) as well as some new songs (“Powders”) that literally got the crowd jumping along to Saba’s lively stage presence. Imaad even showed off a brilliant T-shirt that said “Funk Junky”, which we saw many people pick up at the band merchandise stall throughout the two days.

R-L: Madboy, Mink

Immediately after the last staccato beats of Madboy/Mink dissipated into the air, a British act called Houdini Dax was ready to go over at the Bacardi Arena. From 3:30 pm, the band had passed around little chits to people around the venue with a polite invitation to come to their 5 pm show. Perhaps because of this early publicity, the band drew quite a large crowd for a late afternoon show. And if that didn’t work, their music sure did: for Houdini Dax was easily Top Five Records’ find of the day. The Cardiff three-piece, dressed to the T in sharp collared shirts and skinny jeans, enthralled the audiences with their delectably British sound. Besides, as a bonus, their bassist pretty much looked like a young Paul McCartney.

The McCartney look-alike

The McCartney look-alike

Soon after Houdini Dax, we trudged over to the MTS Discover stage to check out the peculiarly-named Sean Roldan, a.k.a Tamilian percussion wizard Raghavendra. After Sean Roldan, Australian musician Appleonia started her set with a psychedelic, almost Vedic-inspired stage set-up that went over quite well with the slightly inebriated crowd.

On that note, we headed to the Bacardi Arena for Australian band Money for Rope. The band took the inebriated crowd to a whole new level: shitfaced drunk. Featuring two in-sync drum kits, a keyboard that’s been kicked over quite a few times and a corded telephone for special vocal effects, Money for Rope blew the collective mind of the 6:30 PM Weekender crowd. By the end of the performance, 2/5ths of the band was shirtless and 5/5ths were in a music-induced, almost Doors-like haze. It was a good way to spend the afternoon, although it must be noted that in the midst of all the theatrics, none of the songs particularly stood out.

In a few minutes, this image went on to have a second shirtless person.

In a few minutes, this image went on to have a second shirtless person.

The next few hours featured, in our opinion, the least impressive part of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Bangalore this year. Thankfully, there were many new food and merchandise stalls this time, and the weak early evening line-up gave us ample time to check them out. At 8:30 pm, we headed to the Redbull Tour Bus for a lovely set by Kolkata’s post-punk act The Supersonics. Channeling a little bit of Springsteen and a touch of the National, frontman Ananda Sen’s vocals were the perfect transition into the evening’s final act, Amit Trivedi. The famed composer of Bollywood flicks such as Dev.D, Wake Up Sid and Ishaqzaade attracted nearly the entirety of the Weekender population into one  happy crowd.

Amit Trivedi

And thus, Day 1 drew to close. Overall, the good array of international and domestic acts – Houdini Dax, Madboy/Mink, Money for Rope – contrasted with a weak late afternoon lineup. We left Embassy Riding School hoping for a much better Day 2.

Words by Neeharika Palaka. Images by Rajat Tibrewal.

Bacardi Nh7 Weekender, Kolkata 2014 – Day 2

12 Nov

Read our day 1 coverage here.

November is a wonderful time to have open air festivals in Calcutta. The weather, after having remained consistently lethal for the past six odd months, begins to enter a rather pleasant phase. The sky is the perfect blue. The heat doesn’t kill you any longer. The sweat dries faster. A zephyr actually exists. And best of all, unlike other places (cough cough, Bengaluru) where the rain often plays spoilsport, it remains wonderfully high and dry all day round.

So when Day 2 of the Calcutta edition of the Bacardi Nh7 Weekender kicked off on a fine Sunday afternoon, it was all smiles, laughter and cheer that rang around the beautifully set up Nicco Park grounds.

I was slightly late to the show that day, and when I reached, the first act had already begun at the MTS Discover arena – the French duo, As Animals. Their music was a rather interesting conflation of electronic and alternative, and seemed like the sort that you’d enjoy even more when intoxicated – which the lead singer Zara, going by her completely phased out appearance, probably was. But let that not deter me from transcribing the acts that were to follow.

After a brief stint with these French trippers, we crossed the English channel, and went off to the Red Bull Tour Bus to see Houdini Dax, an extremely … (no points for guessing) British three piece brit-rock suit. Houdini Dax hail from Cardiff, Wales, and they look and sound absolutely, and quintessentially British. They played a rather energetic gig upon the Tour Bus (which included a surprise Beatles cover), and the frontman even ventured down in an attempt to woo the women with his rather “fragile” paper heart. And oh! Did I mention that their bassist looked like a complete Paul McCartney knock off?

While the Houdini Dax was galvanizing a small crowd around the Tour Bus, an eclectic Indian folk outfit was slowly turning out to be the center of attraction of the evening. Maati Baani at the Dewarists’ Stage packed an incredible amount of Indian punch. They had it all – Hindustani classical, Bengali baul, rustic folk, Sufism – peppered with a dash of new age funk and world music. Fronted by the beautiful Nirali Kartik, and a host of other supporting musicians, they carved out a beautiful one hour of varied and soulful compositions in an environment that was predominantly Western-heavy.

Maati Bani

Maati Bani

Meanwhile, the ebullient (and yet another French) duo, The Inspector Cluzo had started creating a ruckus at the Bacardi arena. We went over to find a bearded frontman hurling profanities at everything that was American and British. He proudly touted the fact that their music was absolutely natural – with nothing that was pre-recorded and sampled – and all that they used to perform live, were not laptops and tracks, but their bare hands. On that note, he sent a few heavy riffs flying into the crowd while the drummer entertained us in some rather unique ways. Of the number of songs they performed, one was particularly memorable. This one, titled “F*ck the bass player”, was basically a song about the uselessness of a bassist in a band. Needless to say, they didn’t have one, but it did raise several eyebrows and ruffle many puritan feathers in the crowd.

The Inspector Cluzo

The Inspector Cluzo

The Inspector Cluzo then gave way to the Sky Rabbit on the Red Bull Tour Bus. This four piece electro-rock group from Mumbai played out a rather lackluster gig, following which we headed back to the Dewarists’ stage to see Appleonia – which wasn’t all that great either. The next big thing that we were particularly stoked about was Indian Ocean, which was still a good one hour away. So to while away this gap, we decided to remain near the MTS Discover stage, and munch on pizza slices, to see who filled in for Pentagram (who had cancelled earlier that day). And boy, were we in for a pleasant surprise.

The Ganesh Talkies, fronted by Suyasha SenGupta turned out to be The Undisputed Find of the Day. Suyasha’s captivating stage presence kept the whole crowd hooked while the extremely groovy rhythms and guitars kept a number of heads bobbing up and down. The Talkies’ set included songs from their Technicolor and Three Tier Non AC albums – the result being a heady mix of alt-rock, reggae and dance.

The Ganesh Talkies

The Ganesh Talkies

Next up, were two stalwart acts – both of which have been around for more than two decades and enjoy a cult following in the country: Mumbai based alt-rockers Indus Creed on the Bacardi Stage and Delhi based fusion masters Indian Ocean on the Dewarists’. For me, the decision was a no-brainer, and after having spent not more than ten minutes being bemused by the former, I headed off to have my mind blown to smithereens by the latter.

Indian Ocean is one of those bands that aren’t just heard or listened to. They are experienced. One’s perception of their music transcends far beyond the realms of the sensual, and borders on what could be called the spiritual. Be it Himanshu Joshi’s alaaps, or Rahul Ram’s bass riffs, or Tuheen Chakravorti’s Tabla – they manage to create those picture perfect moments when tranquility and ecstasy co-exist in harmony. Their gig that evening, was essentially part of their tour for promoting their new album Tandanu, and therefore most of the songs were new to me. The fact that they still managed to reach deep down and evoke a plethora of feelings just proved beyond doubt that they continue to be a class above the rest – even after all these years.

Indian Ocean

Indian Ocean

Towards the end of Indian Ocean’s masterclass performance, I had to take my leave to go pay a visit to the Red Bull Tour Bus where Sriram TT and his gang of garage rockers – Skrat, were setting out for a hard hitting, angst-ridden gig. This would be my third Skrat gig in a little less than a year, but it turned out to be as fun as it always had been. Belting out their heavy, riff driven melodies, and their tongue-in-cheek lyrics (“love is like pool / all colour but only balls”) they brought in a completely new dimension to the prevailing mood at the venue, which had just been charged up, rather emotionally by Indian Ocean’s poignant tunes.

Skrat!

Skrat!

Forty five minutes of Skrat later, the entire crowd around the Nicco Park grounds gravitated near the Bacardi Arena where the headliners were about to take off. Mutemath, the American alt-rock group, who even boasted a Grammy nomination to their name, were known to some, and unknown to others. But from the moment they kicked off amid a flurry of confetti and electro-rock tunes, there was not one soul who didn’t have a huge smile plastered on his or her face. I’ll confess that I hadn’t thought so highly of Mutemath before (my primary exposure to their music being a soundtrack on the Asphalt 8 Android game) but boy. Were they bloody good! Paul Meany’s eclectic vocals, his dexterity with keyboards and keytars, Darren King’s thumping beats and not to mention Todd Gummerman’s wonderful guitar work – all fell in perfectly to deliver one of the best live experiences that I’ve ever seen in my life. They performed most of their popular hits, including “Chaos”, “Blood Pressure” and their Grammy nominated single, “Typical”. In the end, they added a wonderful twist when Paul got on top of a rather bling-bling mattress (or was it a magic carpet?) and went sailing over the crowd, while simultaneously performing with consummate ease.

Mutemath

Mutemath

It was close to 10 PM when the burning embers of the fantastic evening began to fade. The lights on the stages had been turned off. One of Quidich’s supercool quadcopter-cameras whirred above my head. I looked around at the venue that was quickly emptying and  couldn’t for the life of me reconcile the pity sight with the extravaganza it had just hosted.

So there you are. That was the end of the epic Calcutta Weekender. It had been a grand success, but if I had to choose I would probably choose Day 1 over Day 2 as my favourite.

As they say after Durga Pujo here in Calcutta – “asche bochor abar hobe”,  you can rest assured that T5R will be back for it next year as well.

 

Words and pictures by Subhayan Mukerjee (@wrahool)

 

 

Robyn & Röyksopp: Do It Again

5 Jul

Everything about this collaborative EP screams experimental. Certainly neither Robyn nor Röyksopp have ever been scared of doing something new. Do It Again is chock-full of ideas. Unsurprisingly though, those ideas vary in quality.

The EP opens with “Monument”, a gorgeously somber and reflective piece that is then intruded on by the mediocre electronic of “Sayit”. The title track, “Do It Again” is then a more standard Robyn track, showcasing her vocals over an exuberant beat. While not quite a Robyn classic (such as Who’s That Girl, if you wanted initiation), it is still fun. “Every Little Thing” aims for unexpected but falls a little too hard into tiresome. Finally, the closer “Inside the Idle Hour Club” brings us back into introspection and then keeps going. The wordless, synth track is undeniably self-indulgent and overlong, but nonetheless lovely.

It’s always nice to see something new, and Do It Again manages that in spades. It doesn’t reach the quality bar I’ve come to expect from Robyn, but that wasn’t its point.

@murthynikhil

Lana Del Rey: Ultraviolence

23 Jun

I enjoyed Lana Del Rey’s 2012 album Born to Die. It was over-stylized and a little too easy to digest, but nevertheless good, intriguing music. Even if it painted in cliché, the album itself made an interesting whole and the pictures it drew were unique, if not wholly novel. Additionally, it was highly consistent and coherent, both of which are necessary for something that tries to be new. Ultimately though, the album failed to live up to its breakout single “Video Games” and similarly her second album Ultraviolence fails to live up to Born to Die.

The album starts well. The title track is a wonderful trip into her world. There is all of the theater that defines her work, the sounds and imagery writ large for none to miss. When she does well, she can do very well. Her voice drifts languorously through exquisite soundscapes. It’s hard to find music quite as evocative as her best.

Sadly, that doesn’t sustain long enough and the album collapses a little on itself. Her pose starts to feel tired and the album devolves in places to mere emotional hooks instead of actual statements. Additionally, the lyrics are bad enough to break the mood in places. I don’t really need her crooning that she’s a bad girl and the ending of “Brooklyn Baby” is so painfully obvious that actually saying it is just crude.

The album does sound quite different than Born to Die. This is slower and less catchy, but more rich and atmospheric, more theatrical. This is still very clearly a Lana Del Rey album though and there are not enough of those around. No one else makes pop that sounds like hers. All told, this is a quite reasonable album and she does get points for uniqueness, but this is still nothing more than reasonable.

@murthynikhil

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