Collection Review – Robbie Williams – Swings Both Ways

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Robbie released this album in November last year and as Wikipedia says, received ‘mixed to positive reviews’, why this doesn’t read ‘unanimously favourable reviews’, I will never know. To me, Robbie Williams is the embodiment of the glutinous, glorious and gutsy stars that inhabit the television and sound-waves and no one does it better.

This album, Swings Both Ways, illustrates this in the clearest terms possible and whether or not this is part of some act or not, isn’t clear, but either way, I love this album; doesn’t matter if just under half the songs are covers, it’s still the tits.

Like a lot of Robbie’s previous releases, this album takes a unique and Robbie way of looking at things. One of my favourite examples of this is the title track Swings Both Ways. This song dances with Robbie’s sexuality in the most indecent and fun way possible. It’s also insanely catchy and will have you singing along in front of anyone, much to your dismay. It’s a similar story with Soda Pop, which features everyone’s favourite modern day swing hunk, Michael Buble. Insanely catchyand it has that signature overactive mood.

Shine My Shoes also adopts this very ‘I don’t really care that you don’t like me and that’s kind hot’ vibe and he talks about how it doesn’t matter if you like him or not, but he just doesn’t care. If anything, keep giving the abuse, he kinda likes it. It would be interesting to see more stars pick up on this, as opposed to getting offended by every little thing.

Robbie really pulls out a few grand steps on this album showing off how emotional he can be, probably part of the act, who knows? But these tracks are really incredibly well written. Take, No On Likes a Fat Pop Star, it deals with how we’re almost forced fed these incredibly and unbelievably fit, attractive stars and how in reality, what it can do to the stars. A clever perspective; instead of spitting on this idea, Robbie flips it and it works well, especially with lyrics like: ‘If I could eat my own words, I’d tear through the verbs/But nobody pays me to speak’. Very clever Mr Williams! Snowblind also pulls the same vulnerability card and again, it works well in Robbie’s favour.

The covers on this album are all rather neat, while Robbie doesn’t exactly bring anything new to them, he does breathe a very specific sort of life into them with his active singing style. Best example is I Wan’na Be Like You, which features Olly Murs, who is also not as bad as people seem to think. The track itself is magnificent, it retains all of the liveliness that you’d expect it to and both Williams and Murs have some fun singing on this track and why shouldn’t they?

Swings Both Ways is one of my favourite albums from last year, take that as you want, but I really enjoyed how fun and active the album was.It didn’t try to be anything it wasn’t and what more could you ask for? Some soda pop? Featuring Michael Buble.

Do we keep it in the collection?

Shadooby-yes!

 

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Collection Review – Hotline Miami OST

Hotline Miami came out back in late 2012 and was crowned as one of the best fuck-em’ up games of this generation. It incorporates gameplay elements of top-down beat-em ups, mixed with the speed and mentality of a frightening drug trip. Clearly something needed to be done to soundtrack to step up the game of this already, brutal game. Thankfully, the developers at Dennaton Games have incredibly good taste in music. This taste in music adds a massive layer to the atmosphere of Hotline Miami and cements it’s foundations in the neo-80s feel that the game offers along the fucked-up trip of a story.

Hotline_Miami_coverThe soundtrack boasts 9/10 different artists (depending on how you classify featuring artists) and each of the musicians offer a unique twist on the tracks provided. The soundtrack mostly gives listeners this neo-80s synth sound to everything, but there are a few occasions where you’re presented with maybe more industrial laden tracks and even a few rock ones. All of which aggressively bookmark where you are in the game. Whether Scattle’s Knock Knock has you erupting onto the scene and caving in the heads of Russian mobsters, or Sun Araw’s Deep Cover brings you back to your increasingly grimy and surreal digs. The artists do their jobs with great talent.

What these artists do right with the entire soundtrack is mark that tension and deep feelings of visceral unease. Turf, by El Huervo, creates this incredibly brutal track that initially has no placement or direction until it contorts and twists with these messy beats into something more disturbing and vicious. The beats get larger, angrier and messier. The perfect track for Hotline Miami. We also get someone that I’ve heard of before! You also get to see another side of El Huervo with the chill track Daisuke, which just sounds like it was designed for lounging around before you destroy a gang of gents and their apartment. It’s got some really laid-back piano and great relaxing rhythms that would be right at home in a neon lounge club. Or a porn.

Jasper Byrne, who’s also worked on the indie game, Lone Survivor; a game about, well, a lone survivor that takes a deathly Silent Hill approach to mood and gameplay. Jasper has, in both cases, created wonderfully suited music for each game, which shows off this gentlemans ability to adapt to the game; Mr Byrne is no one trick horse!

Check out his Hotline Miami music and his Lone Survivor music.

What’s important to remember about this soundtrack is that it works best with it’s playable counter-part, but what makes it so strong, is that almost all of the tracks you can listen to individually. That being said, I can’t listen to Horse Steppin’ or Deep Cover for too long, if only because I begin to feel more and more like the protagonist as the track goes on; uncontrollably mental.

Tracks like Perturbator’s Miami Disco and M.O.O.N.’s Crystals stand alone well enough to warrant multiple listens. Turns out they also work fantastically well for studying; they get you pumped in such a way that you need to take a break, just because you’ve done so much! Or just started writing complete nonsense. M.O.O.N.’s tracks seem to be mostly focused towards the levels of extreme violence and chaos, which is fine, since it suits him down to a tee. Hydrogen is worrying; the lead that it uses is fraught with chaos and intensity that fits the ultra-violence you dish out as the protagonist.

Overall, this soundtrack does it’s job and there are very few tracks that I’ll actually skip when they pop up on my music player. They all change how you see the world around you, for the worse, so be considerate with your usage and be aware of your mentality at all times.

Does it stay in the collection?

Yes, it might beat me up otherwise.

P.S. very excited for Hotline Miami 2.

 

 

Collection Review: Alexander DeLarge – Selected Works (Demo Album)

A remnant of my neo-classical phase. I say phase, still to this day do I enjoy a few select artists, such as: World’s End Girl Friend, Yasushi Yoshida and Worrytrain. I downloaded this album back when it came out, back in 2012. It’s also a name your price, so if you like it, check out the Bandcamp. Alexander DeLarge is the protagonist of the critically acclaimed, ultra-violence, novel Clockwork Orange and he is also a neo-classical composer based in Russia. Today, I’m going to be re-listening to his album, Selected Works (Demo Album).

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This short album mixes together elements of, classical, of course, trip-hop, IDM and even glitch all rather well, which gives Selected Works, a very versatile and unique feel to it. At times the mixture of some angry glitching is at risk of breaking and destroying the beauty of the classical melodies. However, it simply bends it to the point of no return and then returns it to a fitting and wondrous return. This is most apparent in tracks like: Cellar Door, Nocturne and Last Record From Earth. It’s this flexible fragility that makes releases, such as this one, so interesting to listen to.

Alexander also manages to mix in little sprouts of post-rock, although this is most obvious in Last Record From Earth and Desolate Memories. In the former you have ambitious, explosion of sound, including guitars and percussion that add so much to an albums finisher. For Desolate Memories, the guitars are used as a backing instrument, to add another layer to the thickness of the sound that is being piled on. This does actually work; the guitar wails quietly away in the background while the piano leads you hand in hand through the growing drum loops and haze of music.

This haze, could swallow up listeners quite happily, were it not for the song that comes after, Nocturne. This song uses a very interesting and kind of jazzy lead piano with a drum loop that’s really glitched out. It sounds really cool, but it would have been nice to see this idea expanded on. Although the album is not bad, it would have been preferred if we could see this different side of the musician. The point is that this sort of music is very experimental and as such, you can use so many different things to keep it interesting. See Kashiwa Daisuke’s album 5.Dec for a stunning sound. To see this album, expand on the experimental ideas that it did have, briefly, could have really set this album apart from the others.

This small album does still have plenty to offer any fans of classical, IDM and trip-hop; it’s also a name your price album, so if you like what you’ve heard, you should give it a go. Check out Alexander DeLarge’s Bandcamp.

Will it stay in the collection?

It will.

Collection Review: Ceelo Green – Forget You (Single Track)

Well I’ll be damned if it wasn’t long before I got something that I despise. Me and Ceelo Green go way back to back in Primary School when I lent him a few quid for his lunch; to this day, he never repaid this poor student. Which is the only reason his music annoys me.

‘Really? That’s the only reason?’ Alright, that might not be entirely true. But really, this song and this guy just agitate me. Why it’s in my endless list of music, I will never know. It’s time to shine my torch of judgement over Mr Green.

Forget You was the leading single for Ceelo Green’s 2010 album, lady-killer and was, unfortunately, played a rather large amount. This could be thanks to the fact that the song actually isn’t bad. The only real reason I’ll slate this song is because of Mr Green’s voice. Everything else to do with the song is wonderful. The joyous instrumentation gleams in the background and the chorus booms with uplifting chords. While the music video is certainly very well characterised, with a charming sense of twee about it, I don’t feel it really affects the way that I see the song.

Still, all of this considered, I still find it a real task to love this song, while hearing this guy’s vocals at the front of shop, shouting and squeaking out the vocals. I have to give the man his props for his song-writing, but I just cannot enjoy this song.

Do we keep it in the collection?

Fraid not.

Collection Review – You Slut! – Critical Meat

The beauty of music without vocals escaped me for many years, until I first heard this pretty and moody post-rock number from crescendo-core band Explosions In The Sky. Hearing those clean guitars and all the uplifting melodies changed something in me that day. Even if it was on a playlist for making listeners sad, it was triumphant in the way it sounded; rising above angry rockers that could probably have done with a haircut or two. After this, my world was opened to the wonders of post-rock, math-rock, jazz-fusion, minimalist, IDM and so many more. For that, I’d like to thank Explosions In The Sky, even if I don’t listen to their material anymore.

Enough back-story! Today, I’m going to be looking at math rockers from Nottingham (virtually on top of me), You Slut! This band are well known for turning on and attacking the cliche and the boring sub-genres of instrumental music by abusing it and dancing circles around it whilst flipping it off. No idea what I mean? It’s probably best you listen to a cliche instrumental band, with long built-ups, soundscapes and lots of twinkly guitars, like: Explosions In The Sky, for example.

And then take half the time you took from that and listen to, You Slut!

Voila! Poles apart.

I’m going to take this chance to check out their 2008 album, Critical Meat, which has some robot doodles for album art. The robots in it look inquisitive: ‘Hey! Who’s got them stylish shoes that don’t make square tracks?’

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Critical Meat showcases the versatility of this band, as they jump from moods and tempos like a sugar-charged child, while having just as much fun. From the get go of Cut & Shut By You Slut!, it’s apparent that this trip down the audio-highway will be one of jacked up volume, bumps, grinds and occasional crashes, but atleast the drivers brought the better drugs. Cut & Shut throws itself around the room with strange percussion, spidery and riffy guitars and joyful bass. To then fade out with pretty synths.

On The Count Of Thirteen takes your usual moshable riff and adds a fiddly little hook that will have you… dancing, in a peculiar manner. Saying that, it’s not long before you get a chance to bang that head in a audacious and mathematical manner. A lot of these songs follow the same formula, but instead of that formula being identical each time, it rules of the mixture; this way you get some incredible variety in such a short amount of time.

I’m not going to pretend to know about the technical wizardry that waltzes over my head without a care in the world, but I’m sure it’s there in all of its splendor. Changing tempos, time-signatures and feels keep a listener quivering with anticipation as You Slut! play sweet/bitter nothings in your ear canal. On-The-Spot Tina Turner Fine, is more than likely my favorite track from the album; it contains some kinky clean melodies and doesn’t stray from the messier side of instrumentation.

If the song titles don’t nudge and wink at the kind of music their songs make fun of, then I don’t know what does. You get the likes of Pie To The Death-Faced Indie Kid, flaunting itself around in the midst of the chaos, letting you think that there may be a message; among this bedlam of notes and maths, a middle finger is being held to the fingers up their arse indie-kids (like me). Of course, that’s just looking for meaning where it may not be. However, it does almost return to self-parody after the instrumentals get even more eclectic and tongue in cheek with the burning riffs and mad beats that run around like a drunk in a China shop. You Slut! defy convention and then eat that same convention for breakfast with a side order of whiskey and rum.

The closer on this album, feels like the most conventional of all. Mybloodyjesusexploreronfire, brings the album together, not as a manic collection of feral tunes, but as a considered piece. Whether it’s their attempt at bringing things back down to Earth, or just a change from, what we’ve gathered to be, their norm.

Critical Meat sounds like the stuff you get in the lucid dreams of being a rock-star, only the band members have all taken a few too many drugs and hit the creative nirvana; stream of musical consciousness. The sound still doesn’t care what you think though; it remains constant, unflinching and sinister minds of You Slut! As such, this review, feels useless, they’d bin this and start reading a copy of American Psycho behind Nuts.

The madness is always scariest when there’s method behind it.

Do we keep it in the collection?

Affirmative!

Collection Review: Pavement – Here (track)

I first heard of Pavement when one of my favorite bands, Oceansize, covered them in their final show with their first bassist. It sounded like a pleasant enough cover, so I went in search of the original. Here is from Pavement’s 1992 release, Slanted and Enchanted, which I don’t own, but have listened to a few times. That being said, it has quite the legacy of being the perfect indie rock album, whether it is or not, I’ll have to investigate at some point in the not too distant future.

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After listening to Here a few times I was struck by how honest the song felt and this feeling of it really hitting home with me. Dressing for success that never comes, waiting at the end of everything; all that jazz really strikes a chord (forgive the pun). The effectiveness behind this track lies in Stephen Malkmus‘ simple guitar work and very intricate lyrics that hint at an early 90’s elegant poet. The song gives off that feeling of helplessness, at the end of a life that has been headed by repetition and disappointment; personal and otherwise.

Frankly, I was not expecting the track to hit so close to home. Just wanted to listen to some music Pavement, you’re cutting a little close to the bone here: And I’m the only one who laughs at your jokes when they are so bad, and the jokes are always bad.

Do we keep it in the collection?

Despite bringing out the worst in me, yes.

Collection Review: Anaïs Mitchell – Young Man In America

When I was still a youthful music fan blinded by the sheer amount of music there was on the web, I was a massive fan of singer-songwriters. Many of my early music years were spent listening to Damien Rice, Findlay Brown and Greg Laswell. Of course, there was also Johnny Cash, but that goes without saying, surely? Which is why it surprised me so much that it took such a long time for me to uncover Vermont’s ‘Queen of modern folk music’ (Euro News’ words, not mine), Anaïs Mitchell.

The album that’ll be put against the brutality of my sharp music critic rapier (yeah, right) is her 6th studio release, Young Man In America. I did rather fancy doing her 2013 shared album, Child Ballads, but this is what the mighty music player shuffled for me. That and I don’t have Child Ballads.

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When you listen through this album for the first time, there’s this sense of warmth from Anaïs‘ unique voice that suits the folk genre down to a thin, skinny-fit tee. As such, she plays on this and utilises it fully in all of the 11 tunes on this album. As a listener, I never found myself bored with the homely hums of Anaïs Mitchell. Despite my initial ‘so what?’ impressions of the first song, Young Man In America kicks it up with its title track, that I feel is one of the many gems on this album. Young Man In America, is a carefully built and intense song, but not in the way that you’d expect; there’s not really a big tart of sound explosions. The song is carefully constructed and makes you feel the harmony of every instrument and each verse.

Coming Down is a moment in this album where Anaïs‘ vulnerability as a person shine. It’s a soft, piano led track, that’s later duelled with strings, that bring you down with the poor girl. Then again, I felt like this with, what I consider, was honestly the strongest moment in this album: the song, Tailor. Tailor is a song that speaks to me on a personal level and probably will with a lot of people. As opposed to describing how it sounds, I’ll talk to you about it in a different manner; you know when you really like someone and you’ll do whatever to impress them? Yeah, that moment and it still doesn’t work. Tailor talks about the innocence of just wanting to be loved and failing that, remembered by someone you hold very dearly to you. The song is handled so well, so delicately, that it just shines through as a perfect example of why Anaïs is such a strong song-writer.

Taking those entire negative, but oddly enough, not depressing thoughts away; let’s talk about Venus. This track brings that tempo back up again with a short but catchy little number that puts a smile on my face, if not for the lyrics, then for the ecstatic guitar and the lifting strings. With lyrics like, ‘I’m not making plans, I just want to see your face again.” you can practically imagine it soundtracking some sort of rom-com, not always a bad thing; put away your cynicism!

Anaïs closes the album with another one of my favorites from this album. Like many of the songs on this album, it takes advantage of Anaïs‘ fabulous narrative style that may as well be another instrument in the mix. Ships gets the listeners huddled around the ill-lit campsite with nothing but her voice, guitar and percussion (and strings) as she tells the tale of ‘his’ ship coming in. Even with the simple construction of her guitar’s chords, it contorts into a stand-out closer that should have every folk (and music fan) humming along with Anaïs and the strings as the final strums fade out of existence.

Anaïs has created something with Young Man In America that houses gentle innocence, sincere truths and delightful song-writing. What happens when you stir all this together with an Achilles heel for singer-songwriters? You get a favorite album that I may have listened to a few times before this review. Don’t tell anyone though. Also, dat accent man.

Do we keep it in the collection?

Good grief, yes!