Tag Archives: r&b

The Internet: Ego Death

10 Dec

Ego Death is the most relaxing album that I have heard in a long while. The soft, calm R&B here is just a pleasure to listen to. Syd the Kid sings deeply personal snippets gently enough to remove the sting and only leave the emotion.

The soothing nature of this album in no way detracts from the quality though. Your work doesn’t need to be ragged to be passionate or true. “Girl”, for instance, is beautiful in how simple it is. This is the first album I’d recommend for relaxing after a bad day and is a strong choice for if you just want to listen to some very good R&B.

@murthynikhil

The Weeknd: Beauty Behind The Madness

6 Nov

Beauty Behind The Madness is the Weeknd striking out for more mainstream success. The is the end of the path that his Ariana Grande collaboration “Love Me Harder” started. This is still a Weeknd album and still has some interesting stuff, but feels something of a miss.

He had a specific emotion that he was emblematic of. The Trilogy is the feeling of walking home at night while knowing your relationship died at birth. His lyrics and his singular voice both pushed the theme to the point where the music became shorthand for the emotion. This has shades of that, and shades of a more mature look at it, in this album but it has missteps and diversions enough to distract from that core. This is not a bad album, but it is hard not to feel a little let down. “Shameless” and “The Hills” are where his music was always headed, both lyrically and musically and “Can’t Feel My Face”, while new ground for The Weeknd, is indisputably a great pop tune, but “Dark Times” for instance is just lazy tripe.

It’s hard to know who to recommend this album to. Weeknd fans will find some stuff to fall into and so will people looking for off-beat pop, but anyone looking for more than a serviceable new album is bound to feel disappointed.

@murthynikhil

SOHN: Tremors

14 Dec

It feels like the Weeknd’s House of Balloons is everywhere these days, and I’m really happy about it. Tremors definitely has its nods in that direction, even if it lacks quite the level of depravity of that or the more recent LP1 and with it, something of the punch of either of those albums. However, that doesn’t keep it from being quite good. “Artifice” in particular is a stand-out track. It looks like the present is tortured vocals wrapped in electronic grooves, and there are many worse things that it could be.

@murthynikhil

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)

 

 

Jhene Aiko: Souled Out

9 Nov

Jhene Aiko has always had a number of things going for her. She has a lovely voice. Listening to her is always soothing. Also, the sheer number of big name collaborations that she has had ensures that she’s never too far from sight. With her earlier work though, I’ve always felt that her music has too little variance in it. It always felt a little too easy to move from calmed to bored. The stellar production on this album however keeps anything like that from happening.

Her voice still makes the album, but it plays with the music instead of using it as mere backing. On “To Love & Die” for instance, the beat shifts continuously under her vocals and sets up her vocal shifts perfectly. The album is still all slow jams about relationships, her core sound has not changed, it’s just better realized than ever before.

This album doesn’t try to be clever, but it manages very well at being comforting.

@murthynikhil

Janelle Monáe at the Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco (7/3/2014)

10 Mar

As I have said multiple times before, I really like Janelle Monáe. She’s smart, imaginative and energetic. Her music is rarely short of excellent. Also, her live performances are incredible. So, when salesforce.com sponsored a free show of hers to celebrate their 15th anniversary and accompanying food drive, I jumped at the chance to see her live again.

This may have been a free show, but it was certainly treated like any other. It opened with an overture leading into her entrance onstage in a straightjacket to follow the Palace of the Dogs narrative that she’s spent the better part of the last decade setting up. From there, she jumped straight into a solo “Givin’ Em What They Want” that never seemed to miss Prince at all. Janelle Monáe was clearly able to supply everything anyone could need all by herself.

The show was a mixture of hits from all over her discography. “Dance Apocalyptic” led into “Sincerely, Jane” flawlessly. “Electric Lady” saw her moonwalk across the entire stage, and was followed with covers of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and “ABC”. “Q.U.E.E.N” saw her do both her own and Erykah Badu’s parts of the song, but sadly “Tightrope” did not include a stab at Big Boi’s rap. As ever, the show closed with a very extended “Come Alive” jam.

Janelle Monáe is one of my favorite people to see live. Her sincerity and enthusiasm are absolutely unparalleled. Her shows are meticulously produced and her stage presence is staggering. There are very few performers with her talent working today. She sets quite the high bar for her competition and shows like this one consistently do the impossible. They push that bar higher.

@murthynikhil

Janelle Monáe at The Warfield (1/11/2013)

4 Nov

I really like Janelle Monáe. She’s really smart, wildly imaginative and makes music that not only defies classification, but is just simply very good. Getting to see her live is something that I have been looking forward to for quite a while, and she did not disappoint.

The opening act was led by a man named Roman GianArthur, whom I had never heard of before. The loss there was entirely mine. He took a crowd impatient for Ms. Monáe and converted them to his cause in a heartbeat. Admittedly, his sound is not that far from that of the parent act, but that is in no way a slight. I wouldn’t have gone to the concert if I didn’t want to hear some funky R&B. Excellent stagecraft, excellent singing and just an excellent show. I will be sure to see him again when he next tours, by which time I’m sure he’ll be headlining. Until then, I’ll just have to be satisfied with the prospect of his upcoming album and his single I-69.

Janelle Monáe’s show started, as it must, with an overture, which was quite nice. The first couple of songs, Givin’ Them What They Want and Dance Apocalyptic were good, but had me a little worried. Albums as immaculately produced as The Electric Lady don’t always translate well to the roughness of a concert hall’s sound system and the rough edges on the first songs threw me at first. However, the energy of a live performance more than made up for an minor issues and the music smoothed itself out rapidly. Also, her stagecraft is to be highly commended here. Small skits did wonders to set the science fiction theme and the entire stage was active every moment of the performance.

Much though I liked her last album, I was very happy that she didn’t limit herself to just the Electric Lady but also treated us to her past hits including a very good Cold War and an intense solo Tightrope. Her solo work during this concert was highly impressive. She tends to be the star of every song she sings, but I’ll admit to being unsure of how well she could carry off some of her collaborations alone. Not only was Q.U.E.E.N. excellent with just her, but a very tender Primetime was probably the strongest moment of the show, although an extended Mushrooms and Roses as psychedelic as anything San Francisco has ever heard did come close.

The concert ended with a cover of Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy and the aforementioned Primetime followed by a very, very extended Come Alive that had Janelle Monáe motion the entire audience down to the ground, and while we were all crouching and craning to see what was going on, she told us that is what it is like to be short. This was a novel experience for me. As expected from Janelle Monáe, this was an imaginative, fun and high quality concert. I enjoyed every moment of it. She has shown us the future, and my God, it’s full of funk.

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