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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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Friday Lock-in: La Roux – Trouble in Paradise

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It’s been a long, five-year wait since La Roux‘s glorious debut album. Some thought it would never come, others forgot that La Roux was Bulletproof. Well, she’s still wearing that vest but this time she’s headed for paradise but rather than enjoying cocktails and learning to hula-dance she’s sitting in the hotel room weeping. Enter this week’s lock-in. We may be in the midst of winter but La Roux’s ’70s funk and tropical-synths may just be enough to pull us out of our Winter slumber.

Uptight Downtown

Lizzie: Did anyone live in the UK see Boots chemist flash mobs?

Hannah: Yeah and they do the jazz runs? Like- slide, slide, slide. Yeah they had an add campaign like that

Bianca: I think this is classier than a flash mob to be honest

Hannah: What’s classier than a flash mob

Bianca: QR codes. *laughs* This song never fails to get me moving

Sam: It’s such a perfect homage to ‘70s funk as well as re-appropriating it with the synths

Bianca: I love beginning the album with this

Hannah: Yeah, it throws you right to where she wants you to be

Sam: There’s something sombre about it too. It’s upbeat and tropical but also really dark

Bianca:  I think that’s her voice, it’s always been a bit pleady

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Kiss And Not Tell

Hannah: Both of the songs so far are very familiar. She’s hamming to those…

Bianca: Tropical beats

Hannah: Really familiar chord progressions

Bianca: It does remind me of a gameboy game a bit

Hannah: I’m jumping up and grabbing coins

Sam: Part of me wondered if her production partner, Ben Langmaid, was the melodic genius of it all and when I saw the album was nine tracks I thought she’d really struggled with it. I thought it would sound bland but I’m not worried at all so far

Hannah: It’s a modern twist on more classic combinations that we’ve already heard. She slots right back in after five years

Bianca: Yeah she’s back and better

Sam: No one writes slightly left-of-centre pop better than La Roux can

Cruel Sexuality

Hannah: It sounds like too much is happening

Lizzie: Going back to familiarity. I felt like I wanted to join in without knowing what’s going to come next

Sam: I think this one is beautiful, one of the best so far. It’s so subtle. The melody builds and builds and then the harmonies come in at the end. Everything is so non-explicit about it

Bianca: I really like the bass-line. I love that kind-of speaking part but it’s not speaking

Sam: She does a great third verse, La Roux

Bianca: I love how each song has their different ‘moments’. I remember with Klaxons it was A B A B A B, with this it is A B C B A C D…

Sam: This is so so perky but she’s talking about this guy who’s pissing her offlaroux2

Paradise Is You

Hannah: Really slow version of crocodile rock

Lizzie: Once you said that I couldn’t get it out of my head

Sam: I love this one. It’s a nice little break coming up to the mid-point of the album

Bianca: She needed a break

Sam: She does slow well. I can understand how this floats over you after listening to the whole thing

Bianca: I love how the synths sound like strings. It’s kind of like an electronic orchestra

Sam: I’m really impressed by how she’s kept the whole tropical paradise vibe running ever so slightly in the background. It’s not St.Lucia full-on or like when the Triple J thing was to sound like you’re in the Bahamas

Hannah: She’s using it as a thread to feed her way through the ‘70s and then the ‘80s. That’s the commonality but it’s such a subtle one

Bianca: It’s such a smorgasbord this one. She doesn’t need steel drums to get noticed

Sam: She’s not using obvious things. It doesn’t sound like anything in pop music today probably because she’s been isolated for five years

Sexotheque

Lizzie: Love it, love it. It’s on the money money money

Everyone: *laughs*

Lizzie: My work here is done

Sam: There’s many things I love about it. Firstly, she’s this omniscient narrator, fly on the wall that watches the whole situation go down and then comes out with this cracker “money, money, money” hook

Hannah: It’s such a funny way to express angst in a relationship with a pina colada and maracas

Lizzie: So passive-agressive

Bianca: Like crazy-eyes “I’m gonna kill you”

Sam: That’s why I love that she narrates it all. Like she’s not in the situation, well she probably was, but she’s detached and she’s watching over and dancing. There’s this girl that’s miserable because her boyfriend’s being a dick to her but it’s so upbeat. It’s like how cartoons have a way of expressing really sad moments in a really poignant and satirical way

Bianca: Comedic relief

Hannah: This is a song version of a meme

Tropical Chancer

Lizzie: It’s interesting. You can associate it with that tropical feel but she hasn’t gone too far. It’s been taken-back and it’s subtle. I love it

Sam: I think she was just born with good taste because she just knows where the line is and she treads it so carefully on her debut, holding back from going full-on into pop territory and on this one again she’s held back from getting people with maracas

Bianca: My favourite is the way she pronounces “chancer”. I really like her accent there

Sam: There’s something about the line, “You have to believe that I’m a dreamer”

Hannah: If you got back to the title Trouble In Paradise, the whole album really gives you that vibe. Everything is sweet but there’s still that darkness underneath

Sam: We’ve talked lots with other albums about not listening to the lyrics but this is the first time we’ve been picking them up

Bianca: It’s a heartbroken person on a really beautiful pacific island. Like you want to enjoy the scenery, the water is amazing but it’s not as good as it could be because you’re heartbroken

Sam: It’s like you’ve been left at the altar but you still have to go on the honeymoon

Silent Partner

Lizzie: I don’t like this song at all

Hannah: I feel a little bit anxious

Sam: It’s definitely the outlier of the album but there is something I do like about it which is on the first album she was part of La Roux and this time she sound like the lead-woman. She’s more aggressive and she’s taken control

Lizzie: Nah, I’m just anxious

Bianca: It’s a really long song. I would’ve loved for there to be a big drum break-down

Hannah: For a seven-minute song you have to have something that hooks you

Sam: But she’s been very restrained with her anger the whole time maybe this is when she’s decided to let loose. I like it actually

Lizzie: The breakdown is quite cool

Hannah: Yeah but it’s not good enough for 7 minutes

Bianca: I can definitely see how it was needed on the album. Everything was a bit crazy-happy

Sam: I feel a change. On Tropical Chancer she’s was a little bit annoyed and now she’s pissed offlaroux3

Let Me Down Gently

Bianca: That pause is just so good

Lizzie: And then the breakdown…ahhhhh

Sam: The silence just lingers almost too long

Hannah: It’s another perfect demonstration of her knowing where the line is and then pulling back

Sam: She’s just a brilliant pop writer. The whole album she’s mixed sadness with happiness and this is just total sadness

Bianca: So much angst, that guitar with the breakdown…

Sam: That brass sounds like she’s devastated

Hannah: There’s still the ‘70s feel but she’s gone from tropical to a much more subdued sound

Sam: The storm’s gone and this is the calm

Lizzie: It makes me feel sorry for her. Awww…

The Feeling

Sam: I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said apart from her voice sounds flawless

Bianca: How is her voice so high but not grating

Hannah: Or breathy

Sam: And she jams so many words into a voice…

Hannah: Without losing coherence. Ah, we’ve started finishing each other’s sentences

Lizzie: Think about the story of the album. She’s gone from paradise to the anger and the sadness and now this is mellowed out. Like, “ok now I’ve gotta move on”

Sam: The whole album sounds like a nice narrative packaged together and again, she’s found a line where it’s like “nine songs, that’s enough”

Bianca: Yeah, it doesn’t sound forced. She is just so natural. Maybe because she’s had five years to mull it over

Sam: Can you imagine that?

Bianca: Well, she couldn’t even sing for part of that because she had anxiety attacks, she thought she had throat cancer. But it was purely from stress and anxiety. I guess this is her breaking free

Sam: There was a point last year when I thought we weren’t going to see another La Roux album but the fact she’s come back and this is so impressive is amazing

Hannah: I think what’s impressive is she sounded like she never left. It’s slipped back into where you want to be

Sam: As soon as I heard Let Me Down Gently I was confident about this record

Bianca: This album also doesn’t make me pine for the old album. When we listened to Klaxons I wanted to go back and listen to their old stuff so I could remember how good they used to be

Lizzie: Yeah this stands on its own

 

Best Song

Bianca: Sexotheque

Hannah: Sexotheque

Sam: Yeah, Sexotheque

Lizzie: That one’s the money, money one yeah? Yeah, I like that one

Sam: Sexotheque and Uptight Downtown

Bianca: And Let Me Down Gently

 

Overall Score

Lizzie: 8.5

Hannah: 7, I don’t think it tops Jungle and I gave Jungle an 8. Maybe 7.5

Bianca: I’m going to give it a 9

Sam: Yeah for me it flies past Jungle. 9

 

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Friday Lock-in: Jungle- Jungle

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“Right on time/ Back by the beach/ Still gonna bring the heat” is how enigmatic British collective, Jungle begin their debut album. And it’s the perfect foreshadowing for what is an album that continuously brings the heat. Jungle have been stirring up serious hype with their brand of disco-tinged funk, so what better way to groove right on into the weekend than to spin this baby.

We locked ourselves in, took away phones and attempted to keep ourselves cool against the flurry of heat that wafts from this record. Stream the album and play along at home. Just be warned this one contains sex with guns, Grand Theft Auto references and Venice Beach cruisin’.

The Heat

Bianca: Great start to the album. I usually hate police sirens when I’m driving because I feel like I’m being chased after but this time I’ll make an exception.

Hannah: This is the perfect cruising down Venice beach- police sirens, a little bit of ‘80s grime to it.

Lizzie: Yeah, watching the world go past, all the little scenarios.

Bianca: So GTA.

Lizzie: Yeahhhhhh, it’s got a soundtrack quality.

Sam: Perfect start to the album- “right on time, back by the beach…”

Accelerate

Sam: What d’ya think bitches?

Lizzie: It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Bianca: Lovin’ the chimes.

Lizzie: Yeah, lots of surprises.

Hannah: It’s got a kind of Aloe Blacc quality to the voice that then errs onto disco

Sam: The verses just creep. Creep on up thurrrr….

Bianca: I just feel like I’m playing a game. It’s definitely the soundtrack to my life. Life is a game guys. It’s kind of rainbow road-y

Lizzie: And we’re still cruisin’. Still in the car.

Sam: It’s not cruisy in the way it floats over you.

Hannah: Yeah, you’ve got your hands out the window doing waves in the air

Lizzie: We’ve got one of those….what is it? Take the roof off…

Bianca: Convertible.

Busy Earnin’

Bianca: I do not regret putting this as number one in our Top 20 of 2014 so far…

Sam: Me neither. I’m very content with the fact I feel like someone’s in a leather jacket with a baseball in their hand coming for me to beat me

Bianca: It’s all very evocative isn’t it

Sam: I think that’s the point with jungle. They’re very…

Lizzie: Cinematic

Sam: They’re one of those band whose video clips need to be there

Platoon

Lizzie: This is my favourite. They have lots going on but it’s a perfect mix. It’s new sounds. You’re questioning what those sounds are

Sam: I’m the opposite it’s my least favourite

Hannah: Yeah

Sam: It’s not dynamic enough

Hannah: It’s a nice track for approaching the middle of an album. You’re already hooked, you can just cruise on through

Lizzie: If the next song is not good then…

Bianca: Wait, you said it was your favourite song?

Hannah: Yeah, but there’s provisions around that obviously

Sam: It’s not unconditional

Drops

Bianca: I love the door creak samples

Hannah: It’s like Bon Iver but…

Bianca: …with a gun

Sam: I’m thinking American Hustle now. It’s something really sweet with something dangerous

Bianca: Having sex with a gun on your bedside table

Sam: I love this one. It creeps in a subtle way

Bianca: This is a creep. In a good way

Time

Sam: Love it love it love it love it love it

Lizzie: I just creamed my pants

Bianca: What?!

Sam: Why do we love it so? Like all of their songs, there is almost no dynamic, it flat-lines but they have this “we’re going on a bear-hunt” creep

Bianca: His voice stays at the same level but I’m ok with that

Hannah: I haven’t stopped nodding my head the whole time

Julia

Hannah: It’s definitely changed the tone

Sam: Julia has been a bad bad girl because this beat is dirty

Hannah: We’re no longer cruisin’. We’re not happy with Julia

Lizzie: More random sounds

Sam: It’s so textured. It’s yummy

Bianca: It’s not my favourite

Sam: Why?

Bianca: Because I just hate Julia. No, I don’t know actually. I love it of course, it’s just a bit pleady

Crumbler

Sam: This one’s neither here nor there for me

Lizzie: I was worried at the start but I think they redeemed themselves- sirens!

Sam: It’s funky. I think it’s something that grows on you

Bianca: This is the police chase in GTA. This is when I’m jumping out of the car and singing

Sam: It’s a bit Starsky and Hutch even

Son Of A Gun

Hannah: Venice Beach. Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet

Sam: It’s so interesting all the visual references that are coming out

Lizzie: It blends in but I’m not sure about it

Sam: I love it

Hannah: I think the second half of the album is already noticeable different to the first

Sam: This song’s the first one on the album that we’ve all been silent through the whole time because it’s interesting and there’s many different levels

Bianca: Does anyone know what he’s saying

All: Nup

Lizzie: I just got taken away by the whole sound

Lucky I Get What I Want

Bianca: This song has so many elements to it. I love the break-down when shit gets real

Sam: Shit gets real so many times on this album. This song is just so brilliant. It’s so melodically perfect

Hannah: Yeah. This one’s a winner

Lizzie: Damn, so smooth.

Lemonade Lake

Bianca: I love that this song actually sounds like a Lemonade Lake. It’s bubbly…

Hannah: Candy, Willy Wonka land

Lizzie: Euphoric

Sam: What an end

Hannah: I feel like that was a journey guys. We’ve been on a journey. We’ve killed some people, we’ve been in and out of gang wars and I’m walking away happy

 

Most Memorable Song

Bianca: Lemonade Lake

Sam: Lucky I Get What I Want and Accelerate

Lizzie: I love Time. I’ve always loved Time. And Lemonade Lake is the nicest surprise

Hannah: I like Lemonade Lake as the close to the album more than on its own

 

Overall

Bianca: Can I give it a 10?

Lizzie: I’m going with 9.5

Sam: I’m going to say 8. 8 is a solid number and that’s what it is a solid album. I’m not going to listen to it and be like wow wow wow. The whole How To Dress Well album was full of wow moments, this is just solid.

Bianca: Can I give a 9.5, maybe?

Hannah: I’m gonna give it an 8

 

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Friday Lock-in: Sia – 1000 Forms of Fear

sia 1000 forms of fear the interns

Australian artist, Sia has gone from being our homegrown hero to an International songwriter to an enigmatic superstar. Her latest album, 1000 Forms of Fear follows a brilliant marketing campaign which has centred around Sia being played by everybody from 11 year-old dancer Maddie Ziegler to a clumsy Lena Dunham. This is Sia’s first album since writing hits for Rihanna, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera and many more.

We locked ourselves in, donned our wigs and unfortunately refrained from swinging from the chandelier. Read below our track-by-track discussion of Sia’s 1000 Forms of Fear.

Chandelier

Sam: It’s a good start the the album. I love it, it’s such a good song

Bianca: Oh yeah I can’t even explain. It’s too much

Sam: Euphoric, big pop song. If you look at it in comparison to something like Roar by Katy Perry, it’s just got so much more guts

Hannah: Unapologetic ballad

Bianca: Stunning

Hannah: Dynamic

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Big Girls Cry

Bianca: It’s the answer to Fergie’s Big Girls Don’t Cry

Hannah: It’s perfect for 3am karaoke when you’re already slurring

Sam: I don’t understand what she’s saying to be honest

Hannah: Apart from “Big girls cry when their hearts are breaking”

Sam: Mmmm how do we go from a song like swinging from the chandelier drunk to suddenly crying. Doesn’t resonate with me

Bianca: Well, you’re not a girl

Hannah: I like it, it’s kind of here nor there for me

Sam: Nup, she could palm it off to Christina Aguilera or something

 

Burn The Pages

Hannah: It’s like a pop ballad with a lot of Regina Spektor influences and credibility

Sam: Yeah, I love how she goes full on with the words in the verse and then she pulls it back and stretches them out in the chorus. It gives it so much more punch

Bianca: And the drums are always a welcome accompaniment. That marching band drum

Sam: It’s got kind of like a hip-hoppy, trap, Ryan Hemsworth touch. It’s cool. It’s back to Chandelier good.

Hannah: You could definitely dance along to this if you saw it at a festival. Chandelier you would just scream your lungs out

 

Eye of the Needle

Bianca: I don’t think I would choose to listen to this album in its entirety. It would just be too much Sia.

Sam: It’s a bit too much of pop track after pop track after hit after hit. But that said, I really, really like this song because of the vocal run in the verse.

Bianca: Her voice shines

Sam: I can imagine singing along to this if it came on in the car

Bianca: You wouldn’t know any of the words though

Sam: Yeah just make ’em up

Hannah: Sam’s in the car practising his vocals runs to Sia

Sam: Always up in da car working on my vocal runs

Sam: As far as a pop album goes she’s hitting it on the head so far

Bianca: Oh yeah. The fact I’m actually sitting through it says something

Hannah: It does that nice bridging between having mainstream appeal without being a sell-out

 

Hostage

Bianca: I just kept hearing Cyndi Lauper‘s Time After Time in that

Hannah: It sounds like a girl band of 10 Things I Hate About You, like that ‘90s grunge updated with a pop version

Sam: Like that movie, Josie and the Pussycats

Bianca: Don’t you dare say anything bad about Josie and the Pussycats

honk

Sam: I’m not! I love this song, it’s my favourite so far

Hannah: It’s Never Been Kissed-esque

Bianca: Yeah! Definitely. I love that calypso drum in the end

Sam: This is my favourite since Chandelier

Hannah: It’s nice that this one is not trying to be ballad-y

Bianca: Shameless fun

 

Straight for the Knife:

Bianca: It feels like she’s hyperlinking back to Big Girls Cry 

Hannah: Her mascara is running in this one

Sam: I like the really pop lyric of “you went straight for the knife and I prepared to die”. It’s so over-the-top but that’s what great pop music is I think

Hannah: This doesn’t have anything particularly grabby about it

Sam: No it doesn’t

Hannah: It has these big proclamations without any ‘oomph’ in the song

Sam: It needs like strings and a massive drum at the end. If you’re going to go over the top, go over the top, fall over the cliff. The thing is with this album I don’t hate it but at the moment I’m so-so

Hannah: This oscillates between being good background music and ballads

 

Fair Game

Sam: Love it

Hannah: It has R&B moments as well as indie moments

Bianca: Was that a glockenspiel?

Sam: I think it might have been

Bianca: Always glockin’

Sam: It’s like she’s taken the R&B thing and stripped it all back to one line of keys that runs underneath it. And the verses are so subtle and wordy

Hannah: The way she bounces between her words is very ‘90s R&B but also contemporary

Sam: Less is more

Bianca: I feel it could soundtrack the end of American Pie where they all finally lose their virginities after the prom

Sam: It is the calm after the storm

 

Elastic Heart

Hannah: I really like it

Bianca: I like the backing vocals

Sam: I think Diplo’s production gives it something extra

Hannah: It has a dance edge to it. If you sped it up a bit and thumped up the bass you could be dancing to that

Bianca: It would be really good remixed

Sam: Yeah. And I like that she’s dropped The Weeknd by the way. I think if you’re going to have no guests on the album, go all Sia

Hannah: She’s enough. She’s all we need

 

Free The Animal

Sam: I love everything apart from the chorus

Bianca: The chorus ruins everything

Hannah: The verses are great. They’re hi-hoppy and poppy and have sparse beats as well as a constant groove. They’re great verses. The rest is bland

Sam: It’s pure pop candy followed by an iron boot

Bianca: The breakdown after the chorus is good. She’s experimenting. Yelling Free The Animal is just too much though. Everytime it goes to the chorus it feels like I’ve switched to 2Dayfm

 

Fire Meet Gasoline

Bianca: A match made in heaven

Sam + Hannah: Ooooooooh

Hannah: A pun 3 minutes in the making

Bianca: No it just came to me. It just sparked (Laughs)

Sam: This is one of my favourite. It’s very overtly pop but at the sametime I think I just love how it is Fire Meet Gasoline, not Meets. It’s like she’s introducing the two and there’s something I find really cool about that. Taking off the ‘S’ I’m like, I’m sold and I don’t even know why

Bianca: Does she know fire or gasoline better?

Hannah: Fire

Sam: Fire and she’s not sure how it’s gonna go and she’s bringing the fire towards the gasoline like that shit’s gonna blow her up

Bianca: I think that wig is highly flammable

Sam: This album is very dangerous. There’s knives and fire and we’re about to go into cellophane. All those things together…

Hannah: Sia likes it rough

Sam: Did she write S&M?

 

Cellophane

Hannah: Least favourite so far

Sam: Yeah me too

Bianca: Doesn’t do it for me

Hannah: I think I’m already battered and bruised from the rest of the album

Sam: It’s too much. There’s cellophane and then the electricity has done something to her brain

Bianca: I don’t know how this could be the second last song on the album

Sam: I think the second last song is always the worst because people get complacent

Hannah: This is a bit of a filler

Sam: She’s gotta end well otherwise she’s leaving with a bad tatse

 

Dressed In Black

Bianca: I think it’s a good end to the album

Sam: Me too. She’s been able to use all those dramatic metaphors and is like “yeah, I’m happy now”. At the same time, it kind of gets there but it never hits the heights of Chandelier. When I first heard Chandelier I thought it was a great start to the album but now I think I would’ve started it with Elastic Heart and put Chandelier in the middle

Hannah: Yeah, after Chandelier it just bubbles

Sam: Maybe it grows on you

 

Overall

Bianca: Good work Sia, she did well

Sam: It’s a good pop album. When it comes down to it she’s a great pop writer, she’s got a great voice and she’s an Aussie girl who made it big. It’s a nice story

Bianca: I’m going to give it a 7/10

Hannah: 7.6 because it always has to beat Lana Del Rey’s Pitchfork rating

Sam: I was going to give it the same, 7. I think it’s good.

Bianca: On that note…Sia!

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10 things I learnt from Robin Thicke’s ode to his estranged wife ‘Paula’

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Oh how the mighty have fallen. Last year, Robin Thicke was riding high on the charts with his ode to rape, Blurred Lines. This year, he’s gone through a separation, written an album about said separation and been smacked in the face by the hands of social media.

I sat through Paula (all fifteen tracks) and am now feeling understandably exhausted.

Still, I had time to reflect on what I learnt and how Paula will be feeling after this little gift turns up on her doorstep.

Paula didn’t appreciate the gesture of having her arse ripped in two

“I kept tryna tell you, you were pushing me too far” ‘Paula’ sings back to Thicke in Lock The Door. But he’s always hated “those Blurred Lines”. On Get Her Back he adds that he “should’ve held you stronger”.

On Give It 2 U from the last album he told Paula or one of the girls he was courting at the time that he has “a big dick for you”. Who’s the big dick now?

Robin Thicke made the album in a month

And it shows. Paula sounds like it was recorded in a lobby elevator. Its arrangements are bare-as-anything and the lyrics sound like his iPhone message thread with Paula. Apparently he hasn’t spoken to Paula in four months. What was he doing for the three months he wasn’t writing the album? This apparently:

Robin Thicke needs Paula to cure an STI

In Love Can Grow Back, Thicke insists that if Paula returns she’ll be “scratching and scratching his itch”. If we can offer any advice to Paula should she return, it’s do not scratch that itch. It should be treated by a medical professional.

Robin Thicke uses 9/11 as a metaphor

“I thought I was livin’ (YEAH!) / ‘Till I woke up to a siren / I thought I was over (YEAH!) / ‘Till I met those New York soldiers / They keep on working (keep on working) / They keep on fighting (keep on fighting) / America (America) / It’s time to wake up (Time to wake up).”

Please make this stop. Could this be a reference to 9/11 in a song that also features the line “Girls are pretty, streets are witty”?

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Sweet cherry pineapple black is a colour

Thicke says this is the colour of Paula’s “new new new new new new new nails” in Love Can Grow Back. I think it may look a little like this:

Paula smashed Robin’s guitar, hit him with golf clubs and still this album exists

Robin is either thicke or very forgiving. In Black Tar Cloud he tells the tale of what was surely his relationship’s last days. Paula swung his golf clubs at him, smashed his “ride” and broke his guitar. No doubt in an attempt to prevent this album from being made.

Robin hasn’t learnt anything

While he spends most of the album begging for Paula to come back, there’s glimpses of the old Thicke that pop up every now and then. In Something Bad he sings “I know you wanna fly so baby open up your wings / Then I’ll walk out with your legs shaking while you’re screaming, ‘Robin please!'” How could Paula leave such a sexual deviant? Well, he believes that he didn’t “spank” her enough.

Just quietly, I think she’s had quite enough of your spanking:

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Paula is the eiffel tower, the Northern lights and Mona Lisa

A woman of many talents, obviously. How could she manage a relationship when she’s three tourist attractions at once?

Paula was born when she was 21

More metaphorical brilliance from Mr. Thicke. According to Lock The Door, Paula was “born in Paris at the age of 21”. Her poor, poor mother, how did she push that thing out?

Paula’s probably not coming back but we wish she would

I’ve been doing a little reading on divorce and apparently one goes through a number of phases: denial, crazy behaviour, sadness and acceptance. Based on the lyrics throughout Paula, one would think Thicke is in the denial stage. That means that there could potentially be three more albums named after Paula. This isn’t The Blueprint or Tha Carter. No more sequels should be made and there is only one person that can prevent that. Paula, we’re looking at you. I’m sorry.

 

I won’t tell you the release date, but I’m sure you can stream it somewhere if you still feel the need.

 

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Random Access Memories: A Year On

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As of this month, a year has passed since the release of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. The hype has somewhat dissipated, the dust has settled. Now it’s time to ask: Did RAM live up to the hype? Is it a Daft Punk classic? What does Daft Punk’s journey into disco past mean for our music present and future? (for the TL;DR version of the answers, scroll to the end)

Few artists in the history of time have had the enigmatic effect on the music industry quite like Daft Punk. It takes someone or something special to cause such a whirlwind of rumours and myths to circulate constantly over two decades’ time, ranging from surprise appearances to the actual identity of the persons in question, Thomas Bangalter & Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo. In the 12 year time gap between their last album and RAM, (excluding the Tron soundtrack) the rumour mill was still well-oiled and running, with people predicting release dates of the next album, asking the questions “is there even going to be a next album?”, “when are they touring again?” or, as one internet punter asked an online Daft Punk FAQ, ‘are they dead?’

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I personally found this ‘partially’ helpful.

In February last year, Daft Punk finally came out of the shadows with a solitary image of the iconic split-helmet posted on both their website and Facebook. This first contact from the pair, in what felt like decades, sent the online world into a frenzy, with Facebook, Twitter, music blogs and forums alike going into overdrive. Even their manager, Paul Hahn, was staggered by the internet’s reaction, commenting that his favourite tweet was, ‘Daft Punk posts jpeg, crashes internet.” The incredible fact was that nothing about a new album was mentioned, though everyone was taking from that simple image the same message:

Daft Punk were back (and were definitely alive).

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Rudy Mechekoff (above) makes a good point 

With tongues wagging and fingertips furiously a-typin’, Columbia Records slowly rolled out the  remainder of the Random Access Memories campaign to the bated breath of fans worldwide. But there was something different about this promotion. The helmet image posted onto the internet was typical of an album release but it was one of only a few engagements in the digital sphere. Instead, as hinted in a blog announcement by Chic guitarist and producer Nile Rodgers, it seemed that Daft Punk (with Rodgers as a suspected collaborator) were opting for a campaign encompassing all things retro. This was the first clue that Daft Punk was taking a new, funky direction.

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Billboards began to pop up along Sunset Boulevard, replacing ads for “fat-reduction pills and local car-insurance companies,” imparting a “physical, visceral quality” and creating “something of permeance,” according to Paul Hahn. A 15-second teaser advertisement also bookmarked a Saturday Night Live episode (overshadowing Macklemore’s appearance on the show), both giving a nod to “pre-MTV era of marketing”, as Paul Hahn put it, with the latter subsequently crashing the Daft Punk website within 4 seconds of its appearance. It was a delightful mix of eras, with the clever use of varied media elements thought to be antiquated in the music realm.

Columbia Records still had more surprises up its sleeve; slowly giving away more and more pieces of the puzzle that was Random Access Memories. These consisted of a retro-futuristic web series, a multi-part YouTube documentary revealing some of the collaborators, more billboards (this time at prime positions of SXSW & Ultra Music Festival) and another SNL advertisement. This was all topped off with an extended 60-second teaser projected to the audience at Coachella, revealing Pharrell as a collaborator and stirring rumours that Daft Punk would be doing a surprise set (little did they know that the two men they craved so much were actually watching the teaser from the crowd amongst them. Truly Gods amongst mere mortals).

Kermit Cintron vs Walter MathysseThe campaign continued to stir up hype and demand attention, certainly a contrast to the two Frenchmen who have insisted on keeping their identities hidden underneath robot heads since the ‘90s. It exuded a promise of something great, with Columbia’s Chief Executive, Rob Stringer, likening it to when record companies used to have the “confidence that they had a big, big record.” There was no question they had the confidence. At this point it was bordering on cockiness.

Finally, the time had come for their 4th studio album to be released and in classic Daft Punk style, the launch was to be held in where else but ‘Wee Where..?’, only adding to the mystery and intrigue of the saga.

The time came, the time has passed, and now we’re left to ponder the question:

Did the machines live up to the hype?

Now that the dust has settled, the rumours have calmed (for now) and everyone has a copy of RAM in their once-hot little hands, I beg the question: did the album live up to its hype as the most anticipated album of last year/decade/century/millennia?

Obtaining the status of most critically successful album with a score of 87/100 on Metacritic, winning numerous Grammy Award wins, including Album of the Year, Best Dance/Electronica Album and Record of the Year, and debuting at number one in twenty countries, I’d be stupid to say no. I’d also be lying.

They gave life back to music.

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As the introductory song to RAM states, Guy and Thomas-Manuel aimed to revive the magic of albums apparently lost in the riff-heavy EDM haze. Professing to be bored with the electronic music style they so happened to help create, the pair chose to shy away from samples and other immediately-gratifying features of electronic music. Instead, they opted to bask in the styles and techniques of the disco era, turning back the clock to the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. In an age where so many songs are conceived so quickly and proficiently on computers, Daft Punk’s reintroduction of disco is refreshing, with The Scissor Sisters’ frontman, Jake Shears, comparing it to a “giant, fresh glass of water that so many people have been thirsty for for so long.” This style is evident in their use of multi-layered vocals, accompanied with a slew of instruments and expert instrument implementation (dem guitar licks), adding to the intricate level of detail and musical thought rendered throughout the album.

They spared no expense to accomplish this; rounding up the best musicians, recording in the finest studios around the world and incorporating orchestras and choirs at will. With this, they’ve managed to create a new sonic-age while still maintaining their classic Daft Punk . Many would prefer for them to simply stick to what made them what they are, but at some point, purely programmed music would become tiresome. As Giorgio Moroder said, “they had to do something which is different – still dance, still electronic – but give that human touch back.” And it’s that simple idea of personifying electronic music again which has so influenced the disco/funk trend so evident today.

RAM was an Instant Crush, but was it an Instant Classic?

crushRandom Access Memories‘ cinematic nature makes it an album that needs to be heard in full, a style which doesn’t make it a classic in the way that its predecessors are. Of course discluding popular Get Lucky and Lose Yourself to Dance, you wouldn’t expect to hear many of their tracks, such as the musings in Giorgio by Moroder or the cinematic story of Touch in any old club. This is where Daft Punk’s style in RAM is noticeably different from their past works. It seems they have created this to be more of an event, more of a journey from start to finish, not dissimilar to the records of the past. This in turn requires a lot more effort from the listener, proving difficult for some, who would prefer the immediate gratification from one of their more electronic numbers such as Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.

Although this way of approaching the album may be labour-intensive, it is greatly rewarding. RAM manages to surprise you with something new every listen, whether it be the instantly funking guitar lick on Lose Yourself to Dance, the steady beat of Doin’ It Right or the Broadway production that is Touch. It’s the complete disregard for trend that makes RAM stand out as an innovator, jam-packed with music of an older-age for a future generation.

Disco is Alive and Stayin’ Alive.

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Although many artists have quietly been making disco-influenced music, it seems that all we required was the Daft Punk effect to really start the trend. Sonically, it’s re-introduced the idea of human-sounding music into the dance genre. Ironic, considering it came from a pair of robots. Nile Rodgers, one of the main collaborators on the album and the ‘Mozart of disco’, has attributed this renewed affection for his beloved disco to its “complex simplicity” and absolute “bliss of grooves.”

nilerodgersIt has the ability to encourage people to get up and dance, rather than “people standing there” and “nodding their heads”, as stated by Dec Lennon, the head of a dubstep/grime radio station, comparing the new disco wave to the dubstep era.

Mixmag’s Duncan Dick positioned RAM as a “game-changer for dance music,” getting out of the EDM comfort zone that so many artists are stuck in. “It’s as if they’re trying to turn the clock back to a time not only before EDM but before even acid house,” he wrote. “This isn’t Daft Punk trying to get back to the warehouse or the rave but back to the discothèque.” Dec Lennon has also attributed it to people “opening up, getting loose, having a drink and a dance.” Hugo Gruzman of Flight Facilities has also chimed in on the subject, comparing EDM to electronic disco, stating “it’s the difference between a quick shag and an all-night love-making session”.

It seems everyone has the fever, with artists adopting the disco trend at a critical mass. This past year, we’ve already seen artists such as Jungle, Chromeo, Chris Malinchak, Juce, Flight Facilities, Todd Terje, Blood Orange and La Roux (just to name a few) creating ‘70s/’80s-inspired tunes. Not to mention the slew of artists like Clean Bandit and Avicii who have found huge commercial success with their disco-flavoured numbers.

Pharrell Got Lucky.

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No, not in that way! Well, probably also in that way. 

Another artist who has greatly benefited from the success of Random Access Memories is none other than former N.E.R.D pioneer, Pharrell Williams. Although quietly producing tracks with a host of other artists, it seemed he’d been hiding in the shadows for the past few years, appearing his best days were behind him. Pharrell himself confessed that his first solo album, In My Mind, was a “dreadful experience”, making him think that his “days as an artist were over.”

It wasn’t until he met with Guy and Thomas-Manuel and pleaded to their manager for a chance at collaborating, saying “anything you want me to do, I’ll do. I’ll play tambourine on your next album,” that his luck began to change. He stated that he was “happy guesting” or “producing work” but the French dance stars asked much more of Pharrell,  inviting him to sing on their hit single Get Lucky and further collaborate with them for the entire album.

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This turn of events has him convinced that Daft Punk brought his solo career back from the brink of nonexistence.”Working with Daft Punk has been a huge part of the journey to where I am today… I was appreciative when I did it and I’m still appreciative of the chance I was given,” he has commented. Daft Punk, with their album Random Access Memories, helped shine the spotlight back on Pharrell, breathing life back to his career and revealing the producer for the amazing talent he is, helping him re-emerge into the music world as, what The Guardian describes him, a ‘one-man disco revival.’

TL;DR: Random Access Memories was great, Daft Punk revived the disco era, they inspired other artists to emulate electro-disco, they kick-started Pharrell Williams’ solo career and, basically, boogie is back and it’s, hopefully, here to stay (at least until Daft Punk’s next album).

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