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)

 

call my phone thinking i’m doing nothing better – the streets x tame impala (review)

When an Instagram snippet was shared on April 1st claiming a collaboration between Tame Impala and The Streets was on the way, many assumed it was an April fools joke.

How could two artists mesh such distinct sounds? How could Mike Skinner’s spoken-word and UK grime music leanings form a cohesive bond with psych-rocker turned discotheque titan Kevin Parker?

The answer is: beautifully. This track grabbed me from the opening seconds. Skinner and Kevin Parker swap hooks before the song devolves into The beat slaps like a lost cut from Original Pirate Material. The piano chords resonate from A Grand Don’t Come For Free. This is an anthem acknowledging a world where people have lost sight of human connection in favour of virtual communication. Skinner’s unique lyrical bent has endured –

“How funny family is actually fuckin’ has you in bits
Your mum has good genes, but Dad’s are ripped”

The unlikely duo complement each other, with Skinner’s beats bringing the necessary garage-influenced rhythm while the rough edges of Skinner’s mockney accent are sanded and smoothed out by Kevin Parker’s dreamy vocal breaks. Call My Phone is undoubtedly a summer track for the socially anxious.

thundercat – dragonball durag review

Stephen Lee Bruner, better known by the alias Thundercat is back and as ludicrous as ever.

thundercat-siachen-studios

The Californian singer/songwriter /bassist extraordinare has been involved with some of the most critically acclaimed musicians of recent years, including appearances on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly and much of Brainfeeder colleague Flying Lotus’ music. Despite his undeniable talent, Bruner doesn’t take himself too seriously, as you can see from the video for Dragonball Durag, the teaser track from his new LP It Is What It Is.

Take 2 vials of incredible technical ability, 1 vial of wacky humour and a sprinkle of psychedelia, shake well and you have the recipe for a Thundercat.

Dragonball Durag is a juxtaposition of a melodic pop song with the absurd, reminiscient of Frank Zappa’s I Have Been In You. Sugary vocal melodies soar above Thundercat’s unmistakable stuttering baselines as he waxes poetical about his durag. Accompanied by swaggering percussion and gentle keys, the hook on which Bruner asks “Baby girl, do you like me in my durag?” is an earworm of upper echelon quality.

The mix leaves layered vocals dripping in honey. It’s saccharine to the core and may cause diabetes and restless leg syndrome but comes with a 100% guarantee of a funky jam to bop along to.

Favourite lyric: “I may be covered in cat hair, but I still smell good.” Continue reading

frank ocean – dear april [acoustic] review

Frank Ocean returns to his roots as a storytelling balladeer on synth-driven track Dear April.

With a croon reminiscent of his Moon River cover, Ocean crafts a romantic tale of two“strangers and their two strange lives”. As Moon River arrived on Valentine’s Day 2018 as a pleasant surprise for lovers and broken-hearted alike, Dear April speaks, unintentionally, to the circumstances surrounding the timing of its release.

An ethereal guitar progression meanders through Oceans unedited vocals, almost disassociative in nature.  Inter-dimensionally pitched-up vocals cut through the tranquil mix to add dynamic variety and colour to the sound palette in the latter part of the track. Patters of keys place the listener in a dream-like state.

Ocean leaves us with an inspiring message of determination fitting for April in 2020, the year of hindsight:

“What we had can’t be the same now /You will make something/That will take you through/And wake you up again/Just like you made me new.”