Posted on 19, July 2014 July 19 2014 2014年7月19日 by headphoneicon

Album Review: Sia - 1000 Forms Of Fear

I fee like Sia’s new album is a culmination of the gradual changes that she’s been making her songwriting and her overall process over the last few years. She’s been in the driving seat for some huge hits that I won’t even bother insulting your intelligence by listing, all rather starkly different from her own solo material yet with something that makes them unmistakably her. Usually it is the person who she gave the song to shamelessly copying her vocal tics from the demo she gave them to work with.

1000 Forms Of Fear, for better or worse, is easily her most commercial effort to date, but I find it hard to be moved by it.

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Posted on 14, July 2014 July 14 2014 2014年7月14日 by headphoneicon

Cheryl Ann Tweedy Cole Fernandez-Versini - Crazy Stupid Love

Fit that on an album cover.

I’ve been harsh on Cheryl’s solo output in the past. Nearly all of it is cheaply produced, poorly sang sludge with only a handful of tracks rising up to be remotely salvageable. She would be formidable on stage to a certain degree if she was capable of taking to it for more than once in an album cycle, but mostly she’s just something I have to suffer as a UK citizen. As a member of Girls Aloud, she was magnetic and fiery. On her own, she’s potential squandered.

That said, this might be my favourite single of hers ever. I don’t know why it has taken her so long to release something so outwardly cheery and percussion-driven when it’s clearly a setting that suits her more than the rest of singles that saw her attempting to be rather po-faced and stately. The evidence is there in the video as she dances up a storm with a great big smile on her face. The intended mood has never been more translatable. Add in a “LA LA LA” hook, her starstruck, lovesick tone in the verses, that utterly joyous bridge (Or it a chorus? A brorus?), and handclaps and you’ve got a rather infectious bop on your hands. The dreadful sax break seems almost irrelevant in the face of that assault of happiness.

Tinie’s verse is mortifying, but I can forgive it for the way the instrumental delightfully bubbles and simmers underneath him in what is probably one of the slickest thirty seconds of production in Cheryl’s solo career. It actually doesn’t sound like it was produced with the profits of one iTunes pre-order for a change. Hooray for progress!

I of course await the utterly terrible mother album and ill-fitting ballad as second single, but I’ll enjoy this until then.

Posted on 14, July 2014 July 14 2014 2014年7月14日 by headphoneicon

The Ting Tings - Wrong Club

Nothing makes you feel older than realising six years have passed since “That’s Not My Name” was your mobile ringtone (Back when people still actually set songs as their ringtones. Does anyone still do that? Do comment if so.) and was used to terrorise a friend at a festival, who was mid-shag in the shared tent and had the mood constantly ruined by my friends calling my phone that I had left in the tent. Served the bastard right; three other people were sharing the damn thing!

That said, I also remember the abuse I got for having that as my ringtone, but I’m far less apologetic for my music tastes these days. I loved The Ting Tings’ brand of rather bratty, shouty, chant-based pop. It gave them an odd and endearing niche in the year of Duffy, Adele, and Kings of Leon. Which is why it is a tad disappointing to see something so understated and understated, but not as offensive as anything off the second album (That I heard at least. I never bothered with the full thing.). “Get Lucky” and the entire disco fad looms over this to the point where it’s hard to find anything of proper identity or uniqueness. The fact that Katie White’s vocals are slightly drowned in the mix doesn’t help matters either, especially given what a strong presence she is on previous material. She sort of glides in and out of the song, not leaving much of a stamp in the middle.

Still, there’s a low-key charm to it. That bridge, while a syllable smorgasbord, is wonderfully light and airy, and that guitar riff is just as infectious as it was a year ago with Daft Punk. Stuff like this is never offensively bad also, just perhaps a little… anonymous.

Full marks for the video though. I never knew Katie had that kind of thing in her.

Posted on 09, July 2014 July 09 2014 2014年7月9日 by headphoneicon

Usher - She Came To Give It To You (Feat. Nick Minaj)

Don’t worry, everyone. It looks like my fears of Usher releasing a straightforward and utterly hollow EDM misery as a second single were actually unfounded.

It turns out Pharrell was the thing I should have been scared of. There’s probably a good song above that “Blurred Lines” beat and Pharrell’s hollering at random intervals like fucking foxes mating in the night, but considering said hollerer in question has recycled this shit about a million times in the last year, my patience has run out.

It shouldn’t surprise me that Pharrell’s popularity is running exactly in line with his shittiness, but whatever. This does everything that “Good Kisser” didn’t do, because “Good Kisser” was actually good. Nicki seems as over the whole affair as I am; turning in a rather pedestrian verse after a string of outstanding features this year, but her single is terrible too, so fuck her too I guess.

A headshaker for all involved.

Posted on 07, July 2014 July 07 2014 2014年7月7日 by headphoneicon

Foxes - Glorious

This is a fucking terrible video for an amazing song, but I can’t help but feel that the huge crescendo of the song being met with nothing but a man falling into a pool is a metaphor for the impact Foxes has had this year.

I mean, she’s had rather moderate success, but you get the feeling that nothing is really sticking right now. The album push-back killed any sort of hype she had, only for it to eventually be supported by a less successful single in the form of “Holding On To Heaven”, which was probably her best chance at getting a hit.

"Glorious" more than lives up to its title, but with that video and overall out-of-season sound it has, I don’t see it doing much else. It’s a shame, because it’s probably one of my singles of the year so far and I would have liked to see it do far better. Alas.

The fact the video robs the song of one of its two shots at that brilliant climax just adds insult to injury.

Posted on 06, July 2014 July 06 2014 2014年7月6日 by headphoneicon

Florrie - Little White Lies

This is the first single from anyone this year that I’ve instantly loved.

It’s all about that bridge. God, that bridge.It’s like the eye of the storm that is this song, but there’s so much electric tension in it too. You feel like the song is about to snap before it crashes into that rush of noise that is the chorus. But yes, the melody, the way Florrie’s vocals ratchet up higher and higher, the added instrumentation on the second wave… It’s a perfect pop moment. I’m quite hungover as I write this, and I might just cry at how beautiful that bridge is. Damn.

It also feels like we’re maybe possibly thinking about perhaps finally jump-starting Florrie’s career after years of EPs and false starts and whatever that nonsense she released earlier this year that I’m trying so hard to forget about. I’d love to hear this blasting out of the radio over the next month.

There’s a six week build up to the release. Fingers crossed things are in place and we can finally get our hands on that fucking album and the original version of “Call 911”. Although I’m probably pushing it with at least one of those things.

Posted on 03, July 2014 July 03 2014 2014年7月3日 by headphoneicon
Ariana Grande - Break Free (Feat. Zedd)

I’m starting to think that despite being an extremely gifted singer, Ariana Grande doesn’t have enough character or star power to fill a thimble.

Let’s not muddy things: I’m sure it’ll be a spectacle when she perfectly replicates these vocals live at the VMAs next month, and being able to sing live is always an amazing asset, but this is pop music. A good voice doesn’t mean jack shit if it’s not attached to good songs and instantly recognisable. Ariana’s biggest problem on this track is that she imbues it with no personality or attitude or identity. Her vocals are like glass to me every time I hear them; shiny and polished, but utterly transparent, and without Iggy’s ferocity, Big Sean’s seductive murmurs and the overall superior production of “Problem”, she’s exposed as someone who doesn’t have the character to carry a song like this.

It’s a poor outing for Zedd too; nowhere as warm and heartfelt or utterly bonkers as previous offerings. But then, perhaps my perception of those tracks is down to Foxes’ emotive vocals or Gaga’s crazed dominance infusing both productions with far more spirit. This is like the fourth single off a re-release, and I’m actually a little flabbergasted that Pitchfork named it Best New Track and dared to compare it to the utterly godly “Since U Been Gone”, which blows “Break Free” away effortlessly.

Posted on 02, July 2014 July 02 2014 2014年7月2日 by headphoneicon

Ariana Grande - Problem (Feat. Iggy Azalea)

Let’s discuss what is probably going to be the UK’s new No.1 this Sunday.

I like this, but it’s not without its… problems.

I mean, what even is that key it’s in? I get that Ariana has terrifying range and is even capable of replicating these scary vocals live, but the song verges on shrill and a little hysterical because of it and I can’t help but feel that it cuts into Ariana’s actual presence on the track. She’s up in the clouds, whisper-shrieking her way through the verses, which leaves more than enough room for Iggy who delivers one of the best verses of her career. When your guest is upstaging you, perhaps its best to come down from upstairs and mingle, Ari.

Pretty thrilling bop outside of that though. Rather exciting that we could be seeing the emergence of a potential pop heavyweight in Ariana. Let’s hope she learns to perform and have stage presence sometime soon.

Posted on 02, July 2014 July 02 2014 2014年7月2日 by headphoneicon

Lily Allen - URL Badman (Video)

Lily’s always been a sort of brilliant gobshite who was at her most articulate and witty in song rather than in person, but one of my biggest issues with the new album is that the former has kind of taken over the latter somewhat.

"URL Badman" kind of epitomises that for me. For someone who has tackled numerous issues big and small, societal and personal, very well in her music, sour grapes over a few Internet trolls feels a little on the nose and kind of self-defeating. Doesn’t dedicating an entire song to telling a collection of mean words on the Internet how much you don’t care about them actually prove that you do? Not to mention this song was probably born out of her reading some of the very valid criticisms people had about “Hard Out Here” and not being able to handle it, and generalising all these critics as chronic, basement-dwelling masturbators doesn’t really aid her cause.

Eh. I don’t know. I craved a new album from Lily as much as everyone else, but the entire Sheezus project seemed like an exercise in proving that sometimes, the things we want aren’t always what are best for us. Pretty verses for this one, I guess.

Posted on 01, July 2014 July 01 2014 2014年7月1日 by headphoneicon

This Month’s Header: Beyoncé

So, when I was looking into reviving the blog, I wanted it to look a little different to really go for total freshness. The problem was that I hate fucking fucking with HTML code and, let’s be honest, Tumblr isn’t designed for text blogs. It’s designed for reblogging moody pictures covered in teen angst quotes and the occasional porn GIF. So I settled on a rather streamlined, clean-looking preset, and decided to customise it by changing the header each month.

So, June had Kasabian. July gets the one and only Beyoncé Knowles. I chose Beyoncé for a few reasons:

  1. BEYONCÉ comes out on vinyl this month. Historically, it’s not a format that’s been kind to Beyoncé fans, with B’Day being her only album to ever make it onto a record player. A shame, considering 4 is basically perfect for it. I’m incredibly excited about it. It’s also the fourth time I’ll be exchanging money for this album. At full price. First iTunes, then the physical, then the physical/Blu-Ray package, and now this. Blue Ivy basically owes her future college education to me.
  2. This is the month my birthday falls on, and since Beyoncé’s stunt at the end of last year was more of a present than any act has presented to me in the past year, it feels appropriate. We’ll ignore the agony pre-December 13th.
  3. A slow trickle of clips from The Mrs Carter Show has begun, with a song airing before each new episode of True Blood this season. We started this week with the magnificent “Haunted” and that infamous bass drop that shattered the psyche of every listener with its power that fateful December morn. A few points deducted for the dodgy filming style, however. Especially given how slick Beyoncé’s live DVDs are.

The picture comes from the opening night of The Mrs Carter Show 2014, and is my very own. I was there, and one of the first people to ever see that performance linked above, along with all the new tracks from BEYONCÉ. It was an absurdly magical experience; seeing an artist at the pinnacle of her performace skill, talent and beauty bring the best album of her career to life on stage for the first ever time. A true privilege. Something that comes around far too rarely in music these days, right?

Posted on 27, June 2014 June 27 2014 2014年6月27日 by headphoneicon

Grimes - Go (Feat. Blood Diamonds)

Has anyone reported The Chorus as missing yet? I’ve not heard one in pop music in 2014 for so long.

That said, this is definitely one of the better offerings. The beat dropping is glitchy and a little spastic; not clean and clinical, making it sound more like a natural progression of the track rather than some trend-chasing nightmare. Besides, Grimes has probably been sitting on this long before this became A Thing anyway. And I say that as someone who was reluctant to give her and her rise to blog superstar a few years ago any sort of credit. Not much of what she was doing was to my taste, but I couldn’t deny the creativity behind it.

So yes, this one gets a point from me. Considering I’ve mostly been blanket-hating everything in pop music this year, that’s a win.

Posted on 27, June 2014 June 27 2014 2014年6月27日 by headphoneicon

The Saturdays - What Are You Waiting For?

I don’t know. I find this sort of charming in all its Icona Pop-aping awfulness for some reason. Like, if The Saturdays are going out, they might as well go out with an utterly ridiculous, shambolic, artless BANG.

I’m convinced that everyone at Xenomania died shortly after the last Girls Aloud album and some poor record label intern has been stitching together leftover choruses found on hard drives in Kent ever since, claiming them to be new songs. It’s just a barrage of cheap hooks, but some of hit home.

Posted on 25, June 2014 June 25 2014 2014年6月25日 by headphoneicon

La Roux - Uptight Downtown

Someone help me figure out if I’m liking the new La Roux stuff please. “Let Me Down Gently” refuses to go higher than the Rather Nice tier for me so far, and “Tropical Chancer” doesn’t too all that much at all. I really like this though. Those cheery brass blasts, the undeniable summer vibe. Hell, I even like the cheeky audio video where nothing happens except from Elly’s iconic flaming quiff flicking about a touch in the breeze. They should just have that as the actual video. I also like that she seems to be having more fun this time, as she was such a miserable wee thing the first go around.

So yes, am I on board? I don’t know yet. Cautiously anticipating the album for now.