I’ve been really bogged down the past month and a half or so. In light of this, I took a break from writing reviews for a little while. But in that time, there were plenty of releases that were noteworthy enough to speak on, so consider this a bit of a recap of what I’ve been listening to throughout April and May (and, no, I’m not going to talk about PWR BTTM, sorry).
Chris Stapleton- From a Room: Volume 1
It feels a bit premature to speak on From a Room: Volume 1 as it stands. It is, presumably, only the first part of what I guess is supposed to be a double album with a staggered release. As such, it’s quite short at just over half an hour. But in that thirty minutes, Stapleton delivers some of his sparsest material yet. As someone who’s not a fan of the slick, polished style of country that dominates the radio, I appreciate the bare instrumentation, but at the same time I feel that the relatively lo-fi production keeps some of the more energetic tracks from really getting where they need to go. Despite that, the songwriting is still up to the standard you can expect from Chris Stapleton.
I think I can be confident when I say that I like the idea of shoegaze and dream pop more than many of the actual records that the genre offers. If I had to guess as to why, I think it’s that while I really like the sound of the genre, I often find the songwriting to a bit dull. To me, the long form compositions and big crescendos that a lot of post-rock bands are fond of is a better home for this particular sonic palette. That being said, I really enjoyed this comeback record from Slowdive. The band incorporate enough pace and dynamics to avoid getting bogged down in their own ambience. OH AND LISTEN TO THOSE PURTY GITARS SHIMMER
Perfume Genius- No Shape
I had never payed much attention to Perfume Genius before recently, but after hearing one of the songs off of this new album before its release, I became super intrigued to see what No Shape had in store. And he did not disappoint. This is a great record, and I very much want to listen to the rest of this guy’s music now. I love how colorful and varied the sounds are across the whole of this album, and the songwriting has a sort of quirk and off-kilter vibe that prevents any of the song structures from being overly predictable. With production that takes a bit from sixties psychedelic pop and little pieces of electronic sounds, this is definitely one of the most dynamic records I’ve heard so far this year, with equal measures of loud, bombastic explosions of both the joyful and scary varieties and more gentle, even pretty sections that take the volume way down from the highs of the songs that came right before.
Father John Misty- Pure Comedy
I wanted to love this. Father John Misty is exactly the type of cynical singer/songwriter with a knack for funny little couplets that I would usually rave about. But I hate this album. I really do. I just can’t listen to it for more than a few songs at a time without jumping right over to something I actually enjoy. But the thing is, I had a lot of trouble figuring out what exactly it was about this record I didn’t like. I’ve listened to this a lot more than I usually would for an album I didn’t like from the start, and I think I can pinpoint two major problems that sort of work in tandem. The first is the album is just too long. I could go in with a machete and slash about fifteen minutes from Pure Comedy’s seventy-four minute runtime and I think you’d end up with a better record. The second problem is with Tilman’s voice. I’ll give it to him that his dense lyrical style is well written and is full of clever turns of phrase and satire, but it also makes it almost impossible to flesh out any sort of memorable vocal melodies. Combine that with the fact that most of the album trudges along at an agonizingly slow tempo and, yeah, I can already see the torchlights from the mob that’s on their way to burn my house down.
Harry Styles- Harry Styles
I have this theory about boy bands that, despite how shitty they may be, there always seems to be one member in the group that actually might have something good in store. As for One Direction, that member certainly wasn’t Zayn, as his thunderously mediocre solo debut showed. This Harry Styles guy though… He may be on to something here. At the very least, I can admire that he was willing to take a risk by going with a sound the core One Direction demographic probably isn’t that familiar with, that sound being 70s classic rock. And does it pay off? Kind of. This album is pretty good, if a little bland at points. That’s sort of a problem I have with a lot of artists that go for this type of vibe. But the sound is varied enough to prevent it from getting monotonous, so give a shot if you haven’t.
Linkin Park- One More Light
… really? This must be some elaborate performance art piece or the band are trolling us a level we’ve never seen before. I mean, I guess going a little heavier on their last album didn’t work out so well so they decided to make a dated pop album that sounds like it has been sitting on the shelf since 2014. Talk about overcorrection.
Death Grips- Steroids (Crouching Tiger Hidden Gabber Megamix)
Listening to this right after the Father John Misty album is like having a nice nap being interrupted by the fact that you’re being attacked by a hungry tiger. It seems impossible for Death Grips to just drop something like a sensible artist would do. But we love Death Grips for the insanity… right? What we have here is technically an EP, comprising approximately seven or eight songs. I say approximately because the whole thing is strung together into one long twenty-three minute track with no audible gaps between tracks, to the point where the separation point between some of the songs is a bit ambiguous. I don’t have a whole lot to say about this sonically other than that it’s Death Grips being the psychopaths they’re so good at being. A point of note is, as you could probably guess from the title, the influence of Gabber with its sped up vocal samples and extremely fast tempos at points. Another is a return to more grungy production following the (relatively) bright, shiny sound present on the group’s most recent album.
I wanna say right out of the gate that I love Gorillaz and that Demon Days is one of my personal favorite albums. That’s why it pains me to say I found the project’s return after a seven-year gap between albums to be massively disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, there are couple of great tracks here, but the problem is that they don’t really sound like Gorillaz songs. This album suffers from massive bloat when it comes to the overabundance of features. I know that the features have been a massive part of the Gorillaz concept since the beginning but they seemed to take over the entire song in many cases on Humanz, to the point that there are large stretches in the album in which there are no vocals from 2D (or Damon Albarn, if you want to get technical). It almost seems like he’s shoehorned in at the end of a few tracks just to remind us that this is in fact, a Gorillaz record.
So that’s basically it for what I wanted to talk about the past month and a half. I’m going to try to pick back up with more reviews now that I have a bit more free time on hand.