bright eyes – one and done [single review]

Bright Eyes continue the exploration of mortality through the conduit of spaced-out balladry on latest single One and Done. The instrumentation on this track ranks alongside Bright Eyes’ very best. String and horn sections arranged by Nate Walcott add a cinematic element which sits as an ideal backdrop to Conor Oberst’s cryptic lyrical vignettes.

The track opens with a disembodied voice announcing that he was just “dreaming of you”.  The dystopian images of famine, societal breakdown and old friends in low places suggest that Oberst may have eaten too much cheese before bedtime, however. The feeling of a dream is cemented by the influences drawn from Bright Eyes back catalogue. One and Done could’ve slotted in nicely on 2004’s Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. The orchestral arrangement is reminiscent of Cassadega era Bright Eyes. The echoed drums subtly nod to Approximate Sunlight from their last outing, The Peoples’ Key.

Once again, Flea is on bass duties, provided a subtle, yet funky foundation which keeps the track bouncing along throughout the chorus and instrumental breaks. The verses exist as a dirge, with Oberst listing terrifying news almost as casually as society has come to accept it. This building tension is released with an upbeat chorus, with backing vocals by Miwi La Lupa adding texture to the brighter sound. A stirring orchestral break gradually leads to a crescendo of strings and drum rolls which sounds truly epic. Without disregarding the quality of the previous two singles, One and Done seems like an obvious choice for a lead single.

Just like those preceding singles, Persona Non Grata and Forced Convalescence, One and Done zeroes in on mortality and loss. The lyrics here deal with acceptance of the fact:

“This room seems even smaller now than I remember it
Hung mirrors on the walls and the ceiling
There’s no disguising it
There’s no denying it
This little box fits everything there is”

Obersts scoffs at the “masochists all celebrating love”at a wedding, ponders the paradoxical infinity of “fleeting moments” and seems to question if he’s too fixated on how it’s all going to end —

“I’ve seen the sparkle of the diamonds on the watch of the emcee
It’s not keeping time, just shining”

For now, Oberst, Walcott and Mogis’ comeback continues to shine.

 

buachaill bán – ancestry [EP review – techno]

Influenced by modern day titans such as T47, Paula Temple and Umwelt, Buachaill Bán’s debut on Ireland’s Sweet Tooth label is a tour de force of ferocious techno.

Hunger kicks Ancestry off with a bang and immediately sets the theme of primal needs and urges to be drawn upon throughout the EP. Featuring crisp hi-hats and masterful shifts in dynamics, the production really shines through on the opener.

The relentless thump of kicks, bass and menacing call and answer synth lines triggers the adrenaline of a hunter about to spear his prey.

 

Instinct features a rolling triple kick drum pattern which sends the listener down a mine-shaft in a rickety cart. The rhythmic style here aims to repeatedly prepare the listener for the next bar, creating a relentless banger.

Throughout the short-player, affected atmospheric noise is used to great effect, capturing the industrial sound in all it’s scraping, hammering glory. There are moments of respite in the form of Homecoming, an experimental cut which takes the finger off the trigger before Offering delivers the kill-shot with an expansive, floor-filling sound to round off an impressive debut.

The concept of this EP is tied together in a way that is often missing in electronic releases. The consistency of the sound palette and theme makes, together with a carefully paced track-list makes Ancestry an immersive listen from beginning to end, whether listened on high-end speakers or ear-buds.

*Ancestry is available for download on Bandcamp.

*Follow Buachaill Bán on Soundcloud here.

*Mastering by Chris McCormack of Blacklisted Mastering.

*EP artwork produced by @endless_prosperity (Instagram)

 

bright eyes – forced convalescence [track review]

The eagle has landed. Bright Eyes’ second single in rapid-fire succession, Forced Convalescence features some impressive additions to the usual line-up. The band have recruited Flea (of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame) on bass, Jon Theodore (Mars Volta and Queens of the Stone Age) on drums and percussion as well as Kip Skitter on additional percussion.

Forced Convalescence is an uplifting counterpoint to initial single Persona Non Grata. A few years back, around the time of the release of Oberst’s collection of demos which became known as Ruminations, the front-man was diagnosed with a cyst in his brain. The instrumental of this track chugs along, propelled by Flea’s bouncy yet subdued bassline as Oberst rattles off word-association style lyrical gems. A booming backbeat accentuated by arpeggiated guitar and a dreamy atmosphere leads into a earworm of a chorus complete with vamped piano and drum rolls. At face value, this is a cheery track, reflected in verbal passages such as:

“Now I’ve recovered completely,
Life is easy,
Hula-hooping around the sun,
The calendar’s little boxes,
All these presents,
Get to open every one”

To quote a Bright Eyes deep cut from several lifetimes ago, there is “joy in acceptance” here, as we hear a fully realised band with clean production and more mature lyrical themes.

“I’m not afraid of the future,
Have to suffer and repeat”

Conor Oberst has stated in interviews that if he wished to tell a fully autobiographical story, he would write a book instead of producing music. It’s impossible to completely separate the art from the artist in this instance, particularly when it comes to Oberst and his well-acknowledged struggles with addiction. Fans may be disheartened to hear yet more references to “needle(s) to oblivion” as well as a mention of Seroquel, a drug used to combat schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, which Oberst states is “fighting (his) fantasies.”

The truth is that Bright Eyes and Oberst’s best music has always come from a dark place, and this new track, despite its happy demeanor, promises that a classic Bright Eyes LP is on the way. Bright Eyes’ central appeal for many fans is a feeling that they are not alone in their struggles, so this appears to be a perfect time to make a long awaited comeback.

earl sweatshirt – WHOLE WORLD feat maxo (prod Alchemist) track review

Following a double whammy of divisive releases in the form of 2018’s Some Rap Songs and 2019’s increasingly experimental Feet Of Clay, Thebe Neruda Kgositsile AKA Earl Sweatshirt is back.

The Alchemist is on production duties on WHOLE WORLD. This isn’t the first time he’s worked with Earl. E. Coli and Wind In My Sails are familiar to Earl fans as treasured deep cuts, as well as his more recent work on 2019’s MTOMB. The surprise appearance here is Maxo’s understated verse, which suits the tone of The Alchemist’s drugged-out bass-heavy beat. The track slithers along like a snake trying to eat its own tail, only to be resolved by the next bar. Earl is defying expectations here by minimising his sound, perhaps to the delight of critics of Feet of Clay. As he rapped on Azucar, Sweatshirt “shook tradition, did it (my) way”, and it’s worked out – WHOLE WORLD is a home run.

How much shrapnel can your soul take?” Earl ponders, as he floats with effortless mastery over the beat. The two rapper’s verses are punctuated by Maxo’s prophetic refrain:

“Got the, whole world round me
Whole world round me crumblin’”