Album Audit is a weekly Interns feature, recapping and reviewing the album releases of the week with a score out of five.
Kelela – Take Me Apart
Kelela was a pioneer of the future R&B scene but while it flooded with imitators, she went quiet. It’s now been two years since her last release, the Hallucinogen EP and the future R&B craze has died as Soundcloud’s popularity has dwindled. Kelela is now back, still sounding like a pioneer with a sound that constantly pushes boundaries but more importantly, she sounds more in touch with herself personally than ever before. You only have to look at the album and single artworks to know that she’s more comfortable than ever and the music that accompanies it also holds that sense of pride and liberation.
If anything though, Take Me Apart proves that liberation is not an end-point, it’s a journey. And that’s what the album tracks. She begins the album “quitting” a relationship as she puts on the stunningly elongated opener Frontline. From there, she leaves a relationship, gets over it, enjoys single life and eventually finds herself in another relationship. Throughout that story we’re hit with sexually charged moments like the powerful, chaotic title track and empowering R&B jams like LMK. On S.O.S. she lets us into her most intimate moment, building a sexual mood with undulating harmonies.
The album boasts an unbelievable allstar cast that includes Arca, Jam City, Bok Bok, Ariel Rechtshaid and Romy Croft of The xx but while they may have helped with fulfilling the vision, this is unmistakably under Kelela’s directive. It’s no communal affair. She’s the protagonist on every song, sometime staring the camera down solely and other times embracing another figure. The music gets experimental like the rumbling, pulsating Enough but Kelela as a vocalist and producer always remains present. Centred.
Where her previous project created grooves through icy, industrial beats this one extends itself more. She draws out notes over lush electronic arrangements with beats that are more rounded than ever before. She takes her time more and as such this is a record that softly draws you in and holds you in her hypnotic words. It’s hard to imagine her presenting something as warm and personal as Better or as cosmic as Jupiter on previous projects. On the latter she sings, “There’s a lot going on, let it out”. It acts as a mantra for the walls-down lyrical direction of the album.
Take Me Apart is a personal and creative triumph by a steady creator. She’s taken her time both with the creation and delivery and given something that’s as forward-thinking as it is personally present.
TL;DR Best Songs: Frontline, LMK, Better, S.O.S.
Take Me Apart is out 6th October.
Golden Vessel – Right/Side EP
In a post Flume world, many of the Australia producers making accessible bangers are starting to sound a little the same. That’s why when a song by Brisbane producer Golden Vessel comes on, your ears prick up straight away. There’s no hint of trap, no tasty drops and nothing that triggers you to yell “tune”. Instead, he’s making nuanced, intricate electronic music that balances a thin line between pop and R&B.
His Right/Side EP places him alongside current electronic visionaries like Mura Masa and Knox Fortune. It combines elements of the synthetic and organic to create something that’s soulful and immediate like he’d be able to produce for Selena Gomez just as easily as he would for someone more left-centre like Moses Sumney. Opener Shoulders driven by Elkkle and Mallrat is downbeat but quietly euphoric and the title track is a dark, elongated song that moves in slow motion. We then flick to something like Daylight that displays his pop sensibilities with spacious, melodic verses and some incredible vocal work by Emerson Leif.
Instrumental tune Cylinder Snow makes it feel like he could even go down a Four Tet route if he really wanted to reach for obscurity which is precisely why Right/Side. It’s a diverse display of his talents that leaves us at a crossroad where he could take multiple directions in the future. At this point, we’ll follow him on any journey. 4
TL;DR Best Songs: Daylight, Shoulders
Miley Cyrus – Younger Now
TL;DR Best Songs: Younger Now, Malibu, Thinking
It’s hard to believe that this album exists just two years after Miley Cyrus‘ most off-rails record Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz. “No one stays the same,” Miley sings on the opening, title track of the record and that may be true, but for Miley who has always been a chameleon, Younger Now feels like she’s gone backward. She’s ditched the hip-hop, given up the weed and toned down the wild antics to present us with a more wholesome popstar but she seems to have forgotten that’s never what made her great at her peak anyway. Bangerz was great because, as wild as it was, it was the honest adventures of a girl in their early ’20s.
Younger Now is a country-tinged record that could’ve been written by a 70 year-old. In fact, that’s probably unfair to 70 year-old’s because Dolly Parton’s appearance on Rainbowland is perhaps the most lively moment on the album. She’s always taken her myriad of influences and thrown them into a blender but this time around she’s taken Elvis and country music and done nothing to Miley-fy them. Week Without You plods along at a glacial pace, Miss You So Much is like a forgotten Dolly B-side and Love Someone offers up her clunkiest chorus yet.
Even the wayward Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz had more big tunes than this with Younger Now only giving us brief glimpses of pop gold. Malibu actually sounds sweet amongst a sea of beige and Thinking is perky enough but there are no hits on here. Fair enough that “no one stays the same” but part of growth is about recognising your strengths and taking them with you. Instead, Miley’s jumped off the wrecking ball and let it destroy everything that made her the most exciting popstar in the world once. Thankfully, Miley’s rapid speed of change suggests she’ll take another left turn out of Beige Town very soon. 2
Demi Lovato – Tell Me You Love Me
Demi Lovato – the popstar that’s really hard to care about. Despite multiple attempts, Lovato has never really been able to compete with pop’s big hitters because she’s got strong opinions on everything without ever delivering them convincingly in song. Lovato can sing and by all accounts she’s got a sweet personality but there’s always been something missing to truly carve out her own lane in pop. The Tell Me You Love Me campaign has somewhat turned that around. Party-centric lead-single Sorry Not Sorry is a certified banger and picking up serious steam on the charts. It also showcases her voice perfectly and captures the best bits of her popstar persona without ripping from other pop pioneers (Cruel For The Summer, for example, sounded like a Katy Perry rip).
The good news is, Lovato maintains that confident persona at multiple points on the record and delivers some of her biggest moments yet. The title track is a full-bodied triumph and You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore smacks it out of the park vocally. She’s also pulled back on the theatrics that made Confident overbearing at points, stripping it back and working with minimalism on jams like Ruin The Friendship.
The issue is, Lovato approaches pop records like early ’00s popstars. She delivers strong, cohesive singles but by track six the wheels fall off and it’s a free-for-all stylistically. Only Forever goes for dark, future R&B but does nothing of note, Lonely pulls in Lil Wayne to justify an unnecessary urban moment and she puts a tick next to obligatory pop ballad closer with Hitchhiker. In an era where pop’s masterclass have such strong stylistic identities, filler songs that dilute the direction don’t do her any justice. Maybe she’s got it in her but there’s still no convincing argument as to why we should be invest wholly in Lovato’s music. 3
TL;DR Best Songs: Sorry Not Sorry, Tell Me You Love Me, You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore