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Album Of The Week: The Wombats – Glitterbug

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The Wombats have long divided fans since the release of two albums with such contrasting sounds, leaving many hoping that their latest offering, Glitterbug, would be a throw-back to the raw, indie sound of their 2007 album A Guide to Love, Loss and Depression. Whilst this newest LP doesn’t outwardly fit such a mould, it certainly incorporates some of the finest musical aspects of their last two albums in a way will please fans of both albums.

This Modern Glitch represented a more pop-oriented style of The Wombats that we hadn’t seen before, and it’s definitely true to say that they’ve stuck with a similar style for decent portion of Glitterbug. However, the use of synths and synthetic effects is outwardly more mature and measured. This maturity and polish can be seen in pop tracks like echo-heavy Be Your Shadow and the deep-synth oriented This Is Not A Party, which both have a much cleaner electronic feel.

Fear not though, if you loved The Wombats of old, as there are also clear and sentimental gestures back to their old style in the indie-rock style of tracks like the grungy The English Summer and the riff-based Sex And Question Marks. But even these contributions have a more refined feel to them.

Slow jams like Emoticons and Greek Tragedy are just so true to the sound that The Wombats made their own in 2007, creating a perfect mix of pop and indie-rock with a gorgeous balance between guitars and synthetically created sounds.

This album also tells a story not only about the band’s experiences but also of a band that has achieved an incredible level of diversity. Specifically the tracks played in order tell a story about an English boy and Californian girl, but I find the musical journey much more interesting. This story follows the development of diversity in instrumentation, in style, in tempo and in texture. There are banging radio hits like Be Your Shadow, ballads like the incredibly soulful and melodic Isabel, and raucous tunes like Pink Lemonade.

The point of all these comparisons is to show the thing that really stands out about Glitterbug, which is about how it perfectly unites two opposing styles that The Wombats have tinkered with throughout their time as a band. Unsurprising as this time, instead of using a number of producers as they did with their previous two releases, the Wombats recorded most of the tracks at the studio of Mark Crew; one of the key producers behind fellow UK rockers Bastille.

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Album Of The Week: Marina & The Diamonds – FROOT

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Enchanting, provocative, quick-witted and with a voice like no other, Marina & The Diamonds is one killer when it comes to indie-pop music. Even though for some reason Australian public hasn’t seem to pick up on the fabulous vocalist / song writer / producer that is Marina, her third album FROOT may be out to change us all on that front. Filled with lush vocals, cunning and witty lyrics and an overall punchy and upbeat feel, FROOT has came into bloom and now it’s time we all listened and fall in love (if you haven’t already).

Departing from the heavy commercial electro pop that came from her second LP Electra Heart (Greg Kurstin, Diplo, Dr. Luke), Marina has came full circle and is back embracing her indie pop roots. Whilst most pop females out there seems to be enlisting big name producers and writers to help them create hits, Marina has done the complete opposite. All twelves songs on the FROOT album were written and produced by Marina with David Kosten (Coldplay and The Flaming Lips) to create a cohesive grouping of tracks which can rival any other artist out there.

The tittle track Froot is a sequinned-clad disco throwback with Marina’s vocals showcasing levels from both ends of the scale, from the sweetest highs to the soulful lows. I’m A Ruin is a pensive yet poppy ballad telling of Marina’s decision to leave a relationship because “I’ll ruin you”. Two highlights of FROOT, the tracks Blue and Forget, appear back to back on the album, showcasing two different sides to a break up. The first is as pop as pop comes. Catchy danceable beats, an uplifting and fun-filled chorus; it’s all there. Where Blue, with its punch pop-loving hooks, would seem to be about wanting to go back to a partner after a break up for “just one night”, Forget is polar opposite to those feelings. The track is reflective and sombre to begin with but when it comes to the chorus it’s all about letting it go and forgetting the past: “ain’t no time for regret yeah it’s time to forget”.

Marina has always been a master at lacing her tracks with a critical social commentary which in the past has seemed to be directly pointed at the American culture. On FROOT, two tracks, Can’t Pin Me Down and Savages, take aim at society. In CPMD, Marina sings over a grooving bass and deep kicks about those that have tried to pigeonhole her in the past with the lyrics, “ I am never going to give you anything you expect // you think I”m like the others well you better get your eyes checked”. Savages has a serious tone to it, with Marina taking aim at rape culture and the class systems that society have in place: “I’m not afraid of god // I’m afraid of man”. It’s a poignant song where Marina is picking apart society and holding a mirror up to us, revealing us as the savages in the world.

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In short I suppose Marina has offered us up a platter of Froot and each and every piece on the platter is a treat. She’s showing off her artistry with this album, avoiding the big names and collaborations, FROOT feels like it’s more a real piece of her soul that she’s offering to us. It’s got soaring pop melodies and even some tender moments that’ll bring a tear to your eye (aka Happy). If this album doesn’t get Australia listening to her and some serious radio plays then I have some serious questions for the nation. Enjoy a slice of Froot and have some fun with the album, it’s well worth the listen.

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Album Of The Week: Alison Wonderland – Run

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Kicking ass in her oversized Ts and knee-highs, 2015 has been off to a stellar start for local Trap Lord Alison Wonderland. Celebrating the release, Wonderland has spent the week with a string of parties across the nation in the only venues acceptable to a Lord…strip clubs. It’s true with the release of Run there’s been a chorus of “bow down” echoed from even the most skeptical about Wonderland’s skills. If I had to sum up the album in a sentence I can only think of one that would really suit it:

“An eclectic, genre-bending album dripping in swag and rolling with the hottest hunnies out there.”

Yep, that’s what I’m going with and I’m going to stick by that statement from here on in. Run is an album that transcends the genre barriers that are often placed on an artist like Alison. There’s an eclectic taste of different genres and sounds that you hear, from contemporary trap music, to some EDM drops and, dare I saw it, some marching band toms in Carry On.

You’ve got to give a lot of respect to Alison Wonderland. In the past, people are often too quick to pigeon-hole artists like her as just a producer. With Run, Wonderland shows she’s a triple threat: DJ, Producer and vocalist with the Swag Lord’s own vocals featuring on the majority of the tracks. On the track Take Me To Reality, Wonderland’s own vocals are teamed up with the falsetto beauty of Ben Woolner (lead vocals for Canberra trio SAFIA), with the  contrast between the two making the track truly shine. One More Hit and Back It Up became instant favourites of mine with the über-effortlessly cool deep bass and heavy kicks turning them into tracks that don’t just ask you to move, they demand it.

There’s a fun and frivolous side to the debut from Wonderland, it’s something you can really get into and enjoy. Songs to play in the car on the way home, tracks to dance to like a lunatic when you’re home alone or in the club, and some that you can mellow out to and just enjoy. Alison Wonderland has proven a diversity and depth to her production and artistry proving she’s not a one trick pony, she’s a full blown super star.

You can catch Alison Wonderland during her Wonderland Warehouse Project tour. Tickets now available.  

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8 Alternative Album Titles for Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’

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Well, she’s done it. Our country queen has made the full transition to pop princess. We’ve had to sit through four album and copious amounts of banjos, but we’ve finally been delivered a dirty, melody-obsessed record of sweet, sugary pop.

As huge as the album will be, we feel there is one thing holding it back – its title. It’s destined to be the highest selling album of the year but to have an album of the year in 2014 titled 1989 is far too numeric and frankly a little confusing. T.Swizzle, leave those kind of details for your birth certificate and allow us to retitle your album.groundhog

1. Groundhog Day

Every great pop song has a fair dose of repetition, it’s what starts it spinning in your brain and keeps it firmly lodged in your memory but Tay Tay really takes it to a new level on 1989. She sings the word “woods” in Out Of The Woods 41 times which actually pales in comparison to Shake It Off in which she sings “shake” 79 times. “Are we out of the woods?” is an infuriatingly metaphorical question to ask someone repetitively also which makes us feel slightly sorry for Harry Styles or Ed Sheeran or Lorde or whoever it was she badgered.

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2. 25

Earlier this year it was announced that Adele’s third album would be called 25. Arguably, Swifty and Adele are the two highest-selling female artists on the planet. Adele’s 21 has sold 30 million copies while all of Tay’s past four albums have sold over five million copies. With Suzuki Swift turning 25 at the end of the year, it would have made perfect sense for her to cut Adele’s grass and name her album 25, before Adele could get her act together. That said, Adele probably could’ve just waited until she turned 26 if she was really set on the age thing.

Taylor_noitsbecky3. no its becky

The “hackers known as 4chan” uncovered that www.taylorswift.com was herself lurking on the mysterious, notoriously malicious, underground network under an anonymous moniker of jumbled numbers. This was further confirmed when T.S took to the streets with a shirt emblazoned with a prominent reference.jpg to a post in a /b/ thread that had her caught up in a horrible case of identity theft when she was falsely ‘suspected’ to be Becky, a girl who purportedly died from snorting an entire marijuana.

If Sasha Fierce was Beyonce’s alter-ego, then Becky is most certainly Tayluh’s. 1989 sees Mrs. Styles as a completely new girl. She’s embraced the world of pop and left behind any hint of country. On Red she was still flirting with the genre but now she’s completely committed and is reaping the rewards. Piste 5 is a ridiculously delectable hit, while I Wish You Would is an ‘80s-inspired marvel. All of it combines to deliver what will undoubtedly be the biggest pop album of the year.

Taylor_ANOTHERDIRECTION4. Another Direction

There’s plenty of songs about love on the album (roughly 10) but it actually feels like her least whiney album to date. She takes to a lovelorn song on 1989 just like Gwen Stefani once would’ve. On Shake It Off she moving straight on, right past the haters, even putting her feelings into a rap. On Style, she’s even speaking positively about love, aptly singing “we never go out of style”. It’s an odd quote given she goes through boys faster than a box of Kleenex but it’s nice to hear Selena Gomez’s friend happy. And just to think she once thought there was only one direction.

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5. Pink

Red had Alison angry, very angry. I Knew You Were Trouble was her most aggressive track together while We Are Never Getting Back Together had a wonderful air of Mean Girl-brattiness to it. It seems, however, on 1989 we’re greeted by an artist who’s exploring different shades. From the illuminated glossiness of Welcome To New York to the rebellious RnB stylings of Blank Space, 1989 is an uplifting album that makes us feel that there may just be the right boy out there who makes us feel special and worthwhile <3

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6. Days Are Gone

We never thought we would say this, but 1989 actually takes a lot of stylistic cues from HAIM’s Days Are Gone. While it’s not anywhere near as badass the Californian trio’s album, it’s pop, driven by a thumping drum-beat and peppered with delicious melodies. Out Of The Woods is the biggest testament to this. It has the same kind of pulsating energy as something like The Wire while Bad Blood has that same kind of drum-induced spite as My Song 5. I don’t think they’d notice if she stole their title.

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7. So Fresh Songs of 2014

Shake It Off, Out Of The Woods, Welcome To New York, Bad Blood, Style, Piste 5, I Wish You Would…let’s be honest she has like 33 #1 songs on this album and most of them are better than everything else that’s risen to the top this year.

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8. Me. I am Taylor (The Elusive Chanteuse)

Mariah Carey named her album this with the kind of cockiness that said “I’m still the queen”. Unfortunately she may have to give that crown over to Ms. Bleachers. There hasn’t been a female artist who’s ruled the charts for this long, probably since Mariah and she probably deserves it. With each album, she’s served up something different and 1989 truly feels like a great pop album. It’s all killer, no filler and has songs that our kids will dance to in the way we still go batshit for Whitney Houston’s, I Wanna Dance With Somebody. All props to Swizzle, she may be a meme machine but you have to put yourself out there to gain #haterz and she happily does that.

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Jessie Ware’s ‘Tough Love’ reviewed through chocolates

jessieware_coverJessie Ware

Forrest Gump once said, “life is like a box of chocolates”, and while there’s little sense in that, if you sit a while with the new Jessie Ware album you could actually begin to believe it. If her debut, Devotion, was Ware giving a 100% then the follow-up, Tough Love is her giving it 200%. Backed by the fine finesse of producers like BenZel, Dev Hynes and Julio Bashmore, we’re introduced to a far more courageous Ware. Vocally, she’s extending herself in ways we’ve never heard before giving us a more commercial but just a sophisticated sound. Like a good box of chocolates we’ve let Tough Love sit with us for a while now but we’re finally ready to delve in a little deeper.

Consider our review through chocolates a wedding present to Jessie Ware and her new husband.

coconutJessie Ware’s Devotion was so channelled onto one sound, perfected expertly, that she was always going to have to come back with something that shocked on first listen and Tough Love does just that Just like a coconut rough, Tough Love looks simple on first inspection, delve a little bit deeper, however, and it reveals itself to be amalgamation of both smooth and rough textures. The song is different type of love song. One where Ware is clearly in love, but at the same time giving a dose of tough love. She’s confident, in control and in a vocal range that we haven’t heard her explore before. BenZel’s production is also supreme – soft and fluid.

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This is probably the most commercially viable song on the album. Its verses are melodically delectable and straight-forward with a chorus that takes flight. At its heart, it’s a classic love song – one where she wants her boyfriend (now husband) all to herself, as sickly sweet as it may be. Just like eating a strawberry creme, before and after may not be perfect, but in that sweet, gooey moment, it feels like eternity is achievable. toastedalmondFor the most part of Tough Love, Ware is head over heels but some of her best moments are those where things aren’t so great. Cruel was produced by James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco, who’s managed to craft an icy yet seductive track that perfectly shows that moment where things are going very wrong. Love may look like a round ball of chocolate but bite a little harder and you’ll feel the crunch. Ware’s vocal on this is perfect. She sounds completely exhausted yet with a hint of anger.

honeyfudgeSay You Love Me was penned with Ed Sheeran but thanks to Ware, she’s managed to pull it back from being an over-the-top ballad, turning it into the heart-tugger of the album. Devotion was an impressive display of restraint, but here she goes for it vocally, giving more force than ever. There’s so many moments (i.e. the choir call and response) where Ware is completely glutenous, showing absolutely no restraint but it’s also great to see her completely let go. It’s gooey, soft and rich. What else could you want in a love song?

turkishOnce again here, she is pulling it back in, giving us that Aaliyah-esque vocal alongside a funky, minimal instrumental. We go through all the motions of love on Tough Love, but on Sweetest Song she brings the roses, falling head over heels. Just like a Turkish Delight, it may be a little too sweet for some, but those who enjoy a bit of sugar will fall in love with Ware’s sexy, dim-lit delivery.

chochilliMiguel has become the king of seductive RnB over the past year, so it makes sense that he turns up as a writer on Tough Love and what the pair of them crafted together is pretty spectacular. It seems to borrow its melodic flow from nursery rhymes in the verse, with the whole instrumental gently undulating for side-to-side. In terms of subject matter, Ware’s not really sure where she’s at here. It’s both hot and sweet, with sexiness being swapped back and forth with loved-up expressions. Her vocal has a particular bite to it in this one, particularly when she goes for those high notes.

dark choc mintDark chocolate is the classy mature chocolate. It’s the type you eat when you don’t want to eat too much and as such it has a certain sophistication to it. Want Your Feeling is the most sophisitcated track on the album with Ware and Dev Hynes creating this twilight number that twinkles. It’s a song of desperation but one that deals with the feeling in such a beautiful, sleek way. “Lights still shining in the room, you left me here” creates the most perfect imagery on the whole album. Meanwhile, Hynes’s touch of funky guitars and chirpy keys is just irresistible.

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It feels like Say You Love Me was pitched to be the heartbreaking ballad of the record but this one just takes it that little bit further. Ware’s voice still oozes like syrup but it’s a different type of smoothness. In the verses she sounds completely shattered before striking with an acidic, blasting chorus. Look, obviously we chose the orange slice because of the obvious reference to pieces but don’t let that get in the way of understanding that this is one of her most powerful tracks to date – a confident, heart-wrenching moment.
gooeyJessie Ware makes a lot of smart choices in terms of the producers she works with. One partnership that just works is the one between herself and Julio Bashmore. On Devotion, they crafted the slinky 110% and here they are back together for this effortlessly flowing number. Keep On Lying’s subject matter is one of masking emotion which is pretty devastating really, yet behind it is this oozing melody that plods with Ware weaving her vocals through one of the most instantly likeable tracks on the album.

champagnetruffleTough Love is not really the type of record you’d expect from a woman who was just about to get married, but that’s kind of the joy about it. It tracks the ups and downs of a relationship so pertinently, never exploring the beige emotions usually explored in love songs. However, on Champagne Kisses she finally gives us that big, euphoric love song. It’s girly, giddy and with that heighty chorus hitting you like too many bubblies on a balmy afternoon. She takes her voice to heights not heard since the opening title-track, giving us light at the end of the tunnel.

whiskeyOnce again, we have Ware in crazy, stupid love but exploring it in a much different way than the last track. It’s dim-lit, sophisticated and sensual with her notes elongated and the instrumental hovering like a frozen moment in time. It’s a perfectly gentle ending to the album that encapsulates everything we love about Ware. She’s subtle, classy and always 100% present.

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SBTRKT’s ‘Wonder Where We Land’ reviewed

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London producer SBTRKT has released his new album Wonder Where We Land today and the title alone leaves a lot up in the air. We’ve heard a bunch of songs from the album but none of them have really given us a huge clue as to the overall direction of the album. We’ve spent the whole week with the album, much of it in the air, but now we’ve finally landed in a land of jazz-infused beats, twists and turns and soulful vocals. We were left a little lost for words so instead we made variations of the SBTRKT mask as a way of reviewing the album…and then we found our words again so we added some for your convenience.

Wonder Where We Land (Ft. Sampha)

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Indeed. SBTRKT’s debut album etched out such an iconic sound, there was always a question above what we would get. With gentle taps, sporadic keys and Sampha up front, this is the SBTRKT we’ve always known, however there’s always that hovering doubt of where he’s going to take the rest of the record.

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And this is where we land – right in the heart of an 8-bit world built upon strobing synths and J-pop beats, all the while a lurking atmosphere creeps up behind you. Three songs in and the darkness has been present in each. SBTRKT’s always been a producer who’s beautifully soundtracked the move from the club to the home and it’s no different here.

Higher (Ft. Raury)

Higher_RauryRaury is the most hyped young-gun on the album and he’s been recruited to help take the album to church. While Raury’s rap rolls off the tongue as quick as liquor slides over it, it’s all about that luminous chorus. Raise your hands to the air child, you have been saved.

Look Away (Ft. Caroline Polachek)

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While the darkness hovers throughout the album, it completely floods this track. Caroline Polachek’s heighty vocals are haunting and over-kilter throughout with an unsettling piano, enticing you to look. Polacheck brings a hip-hop flavour to the verses in what is an altogether odd but wonderfully successful detour for SBTRKT.

Temporary View (Ft. Sampha)

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Sampha pops up four times on the album, but this one is the most similar to his contributions on the debut. It’s soulful, minimal and glittering but it really adds nothing to an album that thrives on moments of oddity. Following Look Away, this one centres you once again, making you comfortable but not excited.

NEW DORP. NEW YORK. (Ft. Ezra Koenig)

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Who better than to sing on an anthem about New York than Ezra Keonig? Alicia Keys did well and we tip our hat to her but Koenig embodies that sleek, socialite side of New York. Meanwhile, SBTRKT drops his most out of the box beat, oscillating between indie pop and jangling, warehouse electronica. SBTRKT knows, if he can make it here, he’ll make it anywhere.

Everybody Knows

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This one takes us straight into the heart of London. It’s grimey and the most intricate track on the album- a tribute to Jamie xx and those who spin beats on rooftops with a rare glimpse of London sunshine. There’s jilted keys, a throbbing beat and a hesitance that says “don’t dance, look cool”.

Problem Solved (Ft. Jessie Ware)

jessiewaremaskJessie Ware also collaborated with SBTRKT on his debut and she’s back her as a fully fledged star. With her new found stardom she could’ve easily overshone SBTRKT but she delivers a beautifully understated vocal over a jazz-infused beat. This pairing feels completely naturally and as such it’s the most effortless track on the album.

If It Happens (ft. Sampha)

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Sampha is in the blinding spotlight here, with SBTRKT taking a backseat allowing Sampha to sing like a love-lorn singer in a smokey jazz club. It’s a well-deserved breather and a warming track – an example of how SBTRKT can succeed with simplicity.

Gon Stay (ft. Sampha)

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It’s Sampha hour now and he’s cheered up a bit since the last track. For the first time, there’s no sign of that looming darkness – it’s full sunshine delivered through funky bass and a perky snare. It’s more indie-pop than London electronica but we’ll take it as a welcome flood of light into an otherwise shadowy album.

The Light (Ft. Denai Moore)

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It’s perhaps ironic that the light disappears on a song titled after it. Upcoming London songstress Denai Moore steps up on this heart-wrenching track. “Tell me I’m not the only one,” Moore sings sounding completely devoid of any more energy. At the same time, SBTRKT keeps upping the density of the track ending right in the thick of swelling emotion.

Voices In My Head (Ft. A$AP FERG)

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It may take until the final track but here it all comes together. SBTRKT’s penchant for live instrumentation melds perfectly with his signature beats and the unsettling keys create an odd yet followable melody. A$AP Ferg’s rap is so full of character and woozy that you almost forget how batshit weird the whole thing is. If weird is the flavour of the album, then this track is the best indication that SBTRKT can pull it off with the utmost style.

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Rusty the dog reviews Rustie’s album, ‘Green Language’

RustieRustie‘s latest album, Green Language, is, as expected, an amalgamation of sound. Never forgiving, it’s a wild world through hip-hop and techno stylings. He’s created an 8-bit video-game world from bouncing, strobing and glitchy synths alongside tempos that spiral out of control. At time it’s beautiful, at times it’s anarchic but it’s always interesting and boundary-pushing. To review the album we pulled in a canine fan of Rustie, also conveniently named Rusty and let him react to the plethora of weird and wonderful sounds that Green Language has to offer.

1. Workship

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This sprawling, atmospheric beginning is barely enough to pique Rusty’s interests, but the ears are ready and he seems to feel the impending doom that is to come.

2. A Glimpse

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This is the first time on the album we get a hard delivery of bass. That coupled with twinkling synths and big cannons of sound have Rusty up and ready to hear what the Scottish producer will deliver next.

3. Raptor

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That next song is Raptor, the first single which offers up manic, strobing synths and a beat that shoots straight to the chest. Just like Rustie has become known for, this track is an onslaught of sound, borrowing trap-influences for a little variation. Rusty’s bored demeanour show that he too feels that Rustie has given us a bit of the same here.

4. Paradise Stone

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Now we’re talking. Those tropical synths have Rusty feeling playful. He’s been able to recline, pop the ear up and relax taking in this warm, mellow instrumental.

5. Up Down [ft. D Double E]

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This is the first time we get to hear vocals on the album and Rusty is obliging with the direction nodding his head up and down. As a hip-hop track, it’s flavoursome, dense and rhythmic while it also works well as dance track, if you have two feet firmly planted and the knees bent.

6. Attak [ft. Danny Brown]

[soundcloud width=”750″ height=”200″]https://soundcloud.com/rustie/attak-feat-danny-brown[/soundcloud]

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As soon as that opening alarm sounds Rusty is ready to go hard. He’s off the chair for the first time and running around the room like Danny Brown in the video. It’s the most anarchic moment of the album with Brown barely pausing for a breath and as such, it’s impossible not to notice. A perfect centrepiece for an album by a producer who’s never been soft.

7. Tempest

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Once again Rustie follows-up a pacing track with a slower, dazzler. After the heart-raiser that was Attak, Rusty is more than happy to return to his throne and gaze out the window. Surely the world is turning into a video-game for him inspired by the 8-bit feel of this track.

8. He Hate Me [ft. Gorgeous Children]

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This is the most outright hip-hop moment on the album. A cascading beat is basically the only thing backing up Gorgeous Children, on the sparse, He Hate Me. Rusty seems to have developed a penchant for Rustie’s dance-heavy side and sees this track as an opportunity to sleep.

9. Velcro

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The abrasive synths are back and Rusty is interrupted from his slumber. The song grows into gun-shot beats and perhaps, one of the grooviest bass-lines yet. Rusty cowers in his chair before realising this song is best digested standing up.

10. Lost [ft. Redinho]

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Vocal manipulation pops up for the first time on Lost and it’s a sound that barely registers for Rusty. Instead he gets lost in the leopard print throw he’s made his own. Nothing to see here.

11. Dream On

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This track is built upon a hazy, dreamscape and future RnB vocals that bring the tempo right down for a rare moment. Rusty has decided to take a kip but his ears are twitching every so often. This one’s a sleeper, but it’s probably best listened to in a slight daydream. Melodically, it slides over you like velvet.

12. Let’s Spiral

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Probably realising we’re close to the end of the album, Rusty has decided to enjoy this one on his feet. The triumphant, strobing synths are joined by loud clashes and it’s got Rusty doing a spiral of his own.

13. Green Language

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It’s a pleasant fade out, that allows the album to twinkle away. As has Rusty who has left his throne to grab some water and leave work for the day.

 

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The anatomy of Ariana Grande’s ‘My Everything’

Ariana Grande’s last album, Yours Truly, showed so much promise. The former Nickelodeon star emerged as a woman with stylish RnB undertones and a voice that harks back to Mariah Carey’s glory days. The problem with Yours Truly was that at times it felt a little old-fashioned and slipped into ballad territory too often. On album number two, My Everything, she’s rectified those problems.

Just looking at the production notes of the album is like reading a list of the biggest producers in pop right now. She’s pulled in Max Martin, Zedd, Benny Blanco, Darkchild and newbies like Cashmere Cat and Lido to deliver an album that sounds acutely aware of the current musical climax. First single, Problem, is one of the biggest pop songs of the years thanks to its genius brass hook and her second single Break Free is an EDM banger that showcases Grande’s voice expertly. Together the two tracks tell a tale of what is popular in the charts right now- RnB and dance-pop.

Every song on the album could easily make an indent on the chart but it doesn’t feel like My Everything has been made purely to please the masses. By pulling in rappers like A$AP Ferg and Childish Gambino, she’s embracing a whole new audience, usually snobby to popstars with this status. The album’s biggest risk is pulling in Norwegian producer Cashmere Cat but it pays off in droves. His track, Be My Baby, is an album highlight with Grande’s voice trilling at its giddy heights over a cascading beat.

Some of the most impressive moments come when she treads a careful line between dance-pop and RnB. Love Me Harder is built on a dense bed of synths and throbbing bass with Grande and guest vocalist, The Weeknd adding the soul. One Last Time is also an understated, bass-pumper with a chorus that never completely takes off with Grande choosing melody over vocal-belting. It’s a wise choice.

The album strays into ballad territory twice on the title track and on the Harry Styles-penned, Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart and they do very little for the record. Thankfully she follows up the latter with the bizarre, brass-sampling, Hands On Me, which helps things get interesting again. A$AP’s first venture into a pop-feature is a chest-puffed, obnoxious verse which suits the track perfectly.

My Everything is not perfect. At times the ballads get a little self-indulgent and it jumps around genres fervently but it’s a product of a music world where trends are constantly changing. By taking a bass of RnB and building on that, Grande has delivered an album that makes sense as a whole. The songs individually, however, are pearlers. Rarely does a track feel like a filler, rather sounding like she’s pulled out the big guns for every moment. In terms of the big sellers this year, My Everything would have to be one of the best. 7.5/10

See below as we further explore the anatomy of My Everything. 

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An Infographic Review: Kimbra- The Golden Echo

It’s been three years since Kimbra‘s last record Vows and in that time she’s clearly done a lot of exploration. Kimbra’s first taste off the new album, 90s Music, left many people scratching their heads. Gone were the days of the conventional songster and in its place an artistic innovator and risk-taker had emerged. While 90s Music is the most out-there cut on The Golden Echo as a whole it’s an album that has different surprises at every turn. Whether that be an explosive chorus, vocal manipulation or an orchestral fanfare, The Golden Echo is not a record to act as background music.

For those who were a fan of Kimbra’s well-crafted debut, Vows, there is still plenty to enjoy on this new one. Carolina is a straight-forward soul number with oozing melodies while Miracle is an 80s-tinged funk jam that has seemingly been inspired by Prince. For every conventional moment there is a left-of-centre turn. Teen Heat‘s staccato-driven chorus explodes from mellow instrumentation and Waltz Me To The Grave has the grandiose of a slightly skewed Viennese Waltz. Below we’ve summed up our review of the album in an infographic to make it simpler to dissect some of our many thoughts about this ever-surprising record.

For those who want to play along at home you can stream The Golden Echo here.

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Review: FKA Twigs- LP1

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Only two years into her recorded career, London artist and producer, Tahliah Barnett, better known as FKA Twigs, is yet to put a foot wrong. From visually breathtaking videos to sporadic, oddball pieces of pop, she’s both divided and captivated audiences with a flair for innovation not seen yet this decade.

There’s a certain fragility to the clown-like, album cover for LP1 and it’s a perfect visual companion for an album which is sexually-loaded and confidently feminine yet also gentle and soft. While some of the lyrics could be considered controversial (“my thighs are apart for when you’re ready to breathe in” from Two Weeks for instance) she washes them in synths and sings in a whimsical tone, almost as to enter your subconscious rather than affect you immediately.

Such is the presence of LP1. There’s a chance that the first listen will wash over you but it hovers with unconventional melodies and vivid soundscapes that are too remarkable to be forgotten. The first tracks, Lights Out, is a choice example of this. On the surface it’s a minimal, one-dimensional track but dig a little deeper and you’re exposed to dripping percussion, soul-rendering double bass and lyrical poignancy. It’s an after-dark tune that traverses issues of sexual self-confidence and intimacy, at that.

The whole album is sexually charged in the most graceful of ways. On Two Weeks she delicately places a microscope on the most intense of sexual attractions while Hours is a frozen snapshot into a passionate embrace, lips on lips. While the lyrics are the most vivid portrayal of that, the instrumental is equally effective in building those moments. In Hours the music rushes with intensity and then backs off, creating gradual climaxes that are quickly dispelled by a glitchy beat.

Away from sexual prowess, she also delivers on autobiographical tunes. Video Girl details her history as a dancer for the likes of Britney Spears, N’Sync and Christina Aguilera. The elongated, wobbling synths and whimsical vocals have the same fluid motion as that of a dancer, with the 808s adding an RnB flavour.

The way that Twigs marries the instrumental with the themes of the album, is one of its greatest triumphs. Pendulum sees a gently undulating beat underneath lyrics like “So lonely trying to be yours/ What a forsaken cause”. It’s both heartbreaking and fascinating listening to the beat teeter on an awkward edge, a pendulum, if you like.  While at times she’s a broken woman, at other times she’s defiant. On Give Up she digs her toes into the sand, singing “I know that sometimes you’d wish I’d go away/ But I’d wish that you’d know that I’m here to stay”.

Time could be given to dissecting her different influences from modern hip-hop to Sade-inspired RnB, but ultimately LP1 is more than that. It’s a pocket of music that has only been explored by Twigs thus far. It’s one of melodic twists and turns, intimately personal lyrics and industrial beats. She perhaps sums the album up best on Closer when she taunts, “closer, I’m here to be closer”. That she is, with LP1 giving a vivid insight into her life. Artists have been honest and personal before, but not with the same effect as Twigs. LP1 doesn’t only live up to the hype, it sets a precedent for music in 2014.

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