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Montaigne drops new single I Am Not An End

MONTAIGNE

Montaigne (aka. Jessica Cerro) was a Triple J Unearthed High finalist in 2012. She didn’t win, but since then she’s been turning out some pretty stunning music. I Am Not An End is the second single off her forthcoming EP, Life of Montaigne. It follows I’m A Fantastic Wreck which pricked up ears last month. It’s a stings-driven number that revolves around Cerro’s sunshine-induced voice. She’s got the quick-wit of Lily Allen with the pop quirks of somebody like Regina Spektor. Australia is desperately in need of a new left-of-centre pop queen and Montaigne could be it. This is a very strong debut.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/montaigne-music/i-am-not-an-end[/soundcloud]

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The Killers’ Hot Fuss: A Decade On

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On this month, ten years ago, it’s likely that you were anticipating Las-Vegas band The Killers’ debut record, Hot Fuss. With four albums to their name now and a greatest hits, The Killers have engrained themselves as a band that never quite made it as big as Coldplay or The Strokes but have happily plodded along as a sometimes-headliner.

On 7 June 2004, when Hot Fuss was released it was looking like The Killers were destined for giddy heights. The album went number one in Australia (such trendsetters), Ireland and the UK while it also reached the top ten in the US. At the end of the decade, the LP was the 27th and 97th highest selling album in the UK and Australia respectively.

The Singles also performed well. Mr. Brightside reached the top ten in the US and the UK while Somebody Told Me mustered a peak of number three in the UK.

Few new bands that were born around the time The Killers surfaced managed that feat with their debut. Indie-rockers turned stadium-fillers, Kings of Leon and the Black Keys, started with critically acclaimed albums but ultimately it took them the better part of a decade to turn that into commercial success. Even if it was at the cost of critical adoration.

The perfect combination of alt.rock and stadium-ready tunes

At the time of Hot Fuss’ release there was no other band, apart from perhaps Coldplay and an ageing U2, that presented alternative rock in such a straight-forward, digestible manner. Lead singer Brandon Flowers marks it best in Glamorous Indie Rock N Roll, when he preaches “It’s indie rock n roll for me/It’s all I need”. Hot Fuss was certainly not the most indie record of the time. Far from it. But it exposed ‘the rebel’ inside all of those who didn’t want to delve into garage-rock to reveal it.

Lamenting on Glamorous Indie Rock N Roll, NME wrote “The Killers’ charm is to be both clever and clueless at once”. And to this day, that is still true of Hot Fuss. They probably knew that proclaiming they love indie rock was somewhat cringeworthy but it works because Flowers’ delivery is so self-assured. Personally, as a twelve year-old kid there was a certain feeling about holding The Killers’ record and believing I’d uncovered a band that was just a tad alternative.

On paper, The Killers sounded ridiculous. They were a band from Las Vegas who sung a lyric like “somebody told me that you had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend”, and delivered decadent, Moulin-Rouge style videos. There was nothing gritty to this indie rock n’ roll. It was clean; formulaic even. But it was also perfectly delivered and believable because Flowers and co were so convincing in their delivery of such grandiosity.

In labelling Mr. Brightside the 72nd best song of the ‘00s, Pitchfork wrote “Merging Duran Duran makeup, New Order hi-hats, and Bruce Springsteen-ian grandiosity, they gave rock fans a non-geriatric arena-ready alternative to the world’s Nickelbacks”. A year later, PANIC! At The Disco would release their first album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, borrowing a similar, if not more emo-enhanced formula. Even now, bands are still using that well-balanced combination of alternative rock and stadium-ready flashiness. Has anyone seen Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys or Muse live recently?

The British influence

In 2009, Brandon Flowers told Spin that “Hot Fuss was all based on fantasy. The English influences, the makeup — they were what I imagined rock was. I’m a dreamer, you know? So I dug into that dream and made Hot Fuss.” It comes as a defence to critics saying the album held no sense of identity. Pitchfork wrote in their 5.2 review of the album, “The Killers are just the latest band to be born too quick inside the popular music vacuum, where expectations for broad accessibility kill dudes’ potential for deeper creativity quite fabulously dead.”

In 2004, the Brits dictated alternative rock, so it made sense that the Killers would follow this formula. However, it left little room for them to inject their hometown and own influences into it. Listening back to Hot Fuss, it’s hard to say that it sounds specifically British. So many bands from around the world have adopted the Brits’ alternative style of rock that it sounds universal now more than anything.

In an interview with The Quietus, after the release of their third album Day & Night, Flowers admitted the rock n roll fantasy had become “unhealthy”. He said, “I think we still can be the biggest band in the world. But maybe we were falling into traps – getting the producers and photographers U2 had. That’s unhealthy.”

Hot Fuss, iconic?

In the interview with Spin, Flowers also notes that Hot Fuss was “a very special part of this generation.” And it’s true. It would be hard for anyone to deny hearing All These Things That I’ve Done and not singing along. As Vice writer, Clive Martin puts it “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” was the “I guess that cunt gettin’ eaten” chorus for the cool clubs.”

As I listen back to the album many of the lyrics sound iconic if not slightly over-heard. Lines like “Coming out of my cage and I’ve been doing just fine” or “It’s not confidential, I’ve got potential” are instantly nostalgic. They’re aggressive and well-timed, perfect for both the clubs and stadiums. They also induce some serious nostalgia which is a good tell-tale that the album was a signpost of the time.

When Mr. Brightside was voted in as the fifth best song of NME’s lifetime, drummer Ronnie Vanucci said “The song is basically about one being totally content and fearless and happy, and then having it totally be the antithesis in a blink of an eye – all of the sudden being the opposite of that because of someone”. Basically, it’s the topic of just about every pop song but delivered differently. Instead of a Scott Storch, Max Martin or Timbaland production it was partly-distorted and centred around a delicious guitar lick. The drum-beat is rollicking and Flowers vocals are commanding in a conversation, train-of-thought way.

It’s withstood any song from Hot Fuss and has become The Killers’ signature track. Ten years later, it sounds unaged. Radio still plays it, clubs still play it and every man and his dog knows it started out with a kiss.

Even Smile Like You Mean It sounds instantly comforting when hearing it ten years later. As does the theatrical, desperation of Believe Me Natalie.

The Strokes achieved a similar feat with Is This It?, particularly in regards to Last Night. They disguised a beautifully simple, pop melody under waves of distortion and noisy guitars. Yes, the Strokes record was more successful but it’s easy to see how and why the Killers were inspired by this. Flowers even told NME, “Is This It…just sounded so perfect. I got so depressed after that, we threw away everything and the only song that made the cut and remained was ‘Mr. Brightside’.”

The Verdict ten years on

Rolling Stones put it best when they wrote, “So what if they were from Vegas, not the U.K., and the year was 2004, not 1983?” Hot Fuss is a guilty pleasure record in every sense. It’s a big, boastful record that touches on matters of relationships, sex, bitterness and falsity. Or as Vice puts it: a record about a murderous homosexual relationship.

Hot Fuss didn’t have the gritty, indie aura that the first records by Kings Of Leon or The Black Keys did. The Killers were introduced with a flurry of glitz and glamour that lends itself more to Duran Duran than it did the bands of their own era. As such, they were able to permeate a pop/rock landscape that was dominated by the likes of Maroon 5, Nickelback and Jet.

When hearing those three bands it’s hard to argue that The Killers are not the more likeable alternative. Even their harshest critics would surely have to agree.

It’s difficult to call Hot Fuss a classic in the way that The Strokes Is This It? or Oasis’ Definitely, Maybe are regarded but it’s a key post-it note in the musical timeline of the ‘00s. It was a time when alternative rock became glamorous and digestible once again; made for huge audiences. It’s worth noting that the year after Hot Fuss, Coldplay became a fully-fledged arena-rock band with their synth-heavy X&Y. A sound not dissimilar to the foundations of Hot Fuss.

Hot Fuss was an integral part of the transition period that got us to the point where Arcade Fire and The Black Keys could headline festivals.

The positive of Hot Fuss not being Is This It? is that The Killers have not been burdened in the way The Strokes have. In different ways, Sam’s Town and Day & Age have matched Hot Fuss whereas The Strokes other albums have paled in comparison. They are not as instantly recognisable, but each of them have tracks that make worthy additions to their ‘Greatest Hits’. It’s helped their career track-along in a straight line rather than plummet like The Strokes.

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Collarbones release free EP ‘Atlantis 2014’

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Sydney/Adelaide duo, Collarbones are probably making the most innovative RnB music in Australia at the moment. Following 2012’s fantastic Die Young LP, the pair have released the free, Atlantis 2014 EP. Like most of their work, it’s a layered and introverted soundscape that borrows from contemporary RnB and electronica. As the title suggests, Atlantis 2014 is a world of its own built on lush synths, pulsating beats and sparse melodies. Lead-vocalist Marcus Whale leads the way with his dulcet tones and runs while his partner in crime , Travis Cook, engulfs it in a hazy atmosphere. It’s pretty startling stuff.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/collarbones/sets/atlantis-2014[/soundcloud]

Collarbones will take to Sydney’s Seymour centre as part of Vivid Festival on 6 June with Synergy Percussion. You can grab your tickets here. 

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First Impressions 2 June

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For this week’s reviews we’re delving into all things pop. Whether it’s straight up, glitter-pop or left-of-centre pop, we’re dipping our toes in all things melodic. It takes us to some unsettling EDM territory, vintage Hollywood and the ’80s. Those things combined have to mean a good time…right?

La Roux– Uptight Downtown

Sam: I did love Let Me Down Gently but this is what I expected from La Roux. Elly Jackson is an exquisite pop creator and this sort of reminds me of Bowie’s Let’s Dance . Mandating everyone to ‘move, move move’ is always a good idea. I’ve probably played this in excess of 20 times this week. 4.5 Sam’s Pick

Lizzie: Can I really understand what she’s saying? No not really. Do I care? No a cent. I’m mesmerised too much by her boppy poppy beat. La Roux delivers again and again. My vote for consistently giving me chills! Lizzie’s Pick

Hannah: This song reminds me of a long lost old friend that suddenly walks back into your life. It’s familiar, it’s comfortable and it’s damn good to see them again. Now move, move, move. 3.5

Bianca: So good to have Elly back in my ears. Does my vote still count if this listen was about my 30th impression? 4.5 Bianca’s Pick

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/la-roux-official/la-roux-uptight-downtown[/soundcloud]

Kylie Minogue- Crystallize

Sam: Damn Dev Hynes is such a brilliant pop-producer. There’s a glistening charm to this, which he’s done, without much help from Kylie I’m sure. It’s for a good cause but my goodness the video is a stinker. Truth be told, I really don’t mind the song though. #TeamKylie. 3

Lizzie: NOTE:  DO NOT WATCH THE VIDEO CLIP. It is god awful. The song on the other hand, follows yet another perfect recipe for pop catchiness. Produced by Blood Orange (say what!?), I feel I’ve been transported back to a 90’s Blue Light Disco…may have even caught myself singing this in the shower this morning. Miss Minogue you’ve done it to me again. 3.5

Hannah: ….but… but… it just doesn’t go anywhere? 2

Bianca: I want to hate this video clip so bad but it takes me back to my hairbrush-singing-in-the-mirror days that I can’t help but feel nostalgic. That’s probably where my affection ends though. To put it bluntly, I certainly wouldn’t be turning my chair around for this one. 2

The Preatures– Two Tone Melody

Sam: Isabella Manfredi’s vocals are pure sex. I feel like they hark back to Chrissy Amphlett in the way of that really gritty, smokey tone. I’m so glad they’ve gone for a slow tempo and understated melody so that Manfredi can take the spotlight. 4

Lizzie: Well hello Ministry of Sound Chill Out album 2014. It kinda makes me want to move to Byron Bay for some reason. I feel that’s a good thing…The vocals by Manfredi, really own this song. Simple, majestic and fluid. 4

Hannah: Manfredi, I’m yours, I’m yours I’m yours. Simultaneously melancholic, whimsical and strangely hopeful, this song is destined for “soundtrack to your life” type lists everywhere. Excuse me while I go back to staring dreamily out of my rain strewn window. 3

Bianca: It’s an emotionally genuine, honest song but it wouldn’t feature on the soundtrack of my life. 3

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/thepreatures/two-tone-melody-album-version[/soundcloud]

Wife- Tongue

Sam: Haxan Cloak’s production on this is the beginning is minimal brilliance but it’s all about 2:13 when it takes flight. The rollicking beat really smacks you in the stomach. It’s a very bold move for Wife to introduce himself this way, but it captures your attention. It’s all about the ebbs and flows. 3.5

Lizzie: This song does nothing for me. It’s too slow, harsh for the ears and general vibe is too intense for me. Just not my cup of tea sorry. 2

Hannah: The perfectly practised, totally atmospheric restraint of the first half of this track, coupled with the dark seduction and bone shattering anger of the climactic second has me hooked. Big, big, big fan. 4 Hannah’s Pick

Bianca: Probably not the best song for a hungover Monday morning but I can appreciate the raw emotions of the track. Hot tip: Do not search ‘wife + tongue’ on Youtube. Unless you’re into that kinda thing. 2.5

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/tri_angle_records/wife-tongue[/soundcloud]

Lana Del Rey- Shades of Cool

Sam: This is Lana’s second album and I still feel like we’re as far away from knowing who she actually is as ever. It’s still very vintage Hollywood. I like that she’s roughed it up a bit for Ultraviolence but it sounds like something I’d do at Karaoke at 4am in the morning, swaying, slightly off pitch and thinking I’m seducing everyone around. 2.5

Lizzie: Bond… James Bond. Is anyone else feeling that vibe – Daniel Craig shooting his gun into the distance in his newest franchise with this track echoing in the distance? I have utterly succumbed to the sexy broodiness of this song. 4 Lizzie’s very close second

Hannah: This week we’ve got the work of two major songstresses featured on First Impressions. First Kylie and now Ms Del Rey and yet I really feel neither of them delivers a track that goes anywhere I’m willing to go. Kylie’s chugs along a predictable pop princess route and Del Rey’s just crumbles into a sepia-toned car crash of messy guitar and percussion. It probably doesn’t help I hate Lana Del Rey at her best. 1.5

Bianca: If you’re a Lana Del Rey fan, you’ll no doubt be singing her praises for her latest track. If you’re not a fan, don’t worry, nothing’s changed. She’s the same Lana you know and don’t love. 2

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/north-bound-beats/lana-del-rey-shades-of-cool[/soundcloud]

 

Deadmau5- Seeya (Feat. Colleen D’Agostino)

Sam: Frankly, it’s a cheap rip-off of Daft Punk and the disco flavoured-EDM sound that has followed. The vocalist is devoid of any type of human-appeal and the instrumental is so bland I’d rather be eating wet wipes. If Deadmau5 took me for a ride in his car and made me endure this, I’d open the door and roll-out. Seeya! 0.5

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Lizzie: He said he had this track lying around for a while, waiting to be released. He should have released it way back when…now it just sounds like a shitty electro attempt to cover the current funk disco vibe doing its rounds atm. (deadmau2.5)

Hannah: Yes Colleen D’Agostino you can move my body… away from the speakers pronto. And my mind is already well and truly asleep. Mission accomplished. Total yawn. 0.5

Bianca: Colleen’s voice makes me want to put a giant mouse on her head just so I don’t have to hear that screech. The track certainly has amiable disco vibes about it but fails to take me to funky town. Points for effort, I guess. 2

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/mau5trap/deadmau5-featuring-colleen-dagostino-seeya[/soundcloud]

 

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Big Scary lead-singer Tom Iansek releases ‘Return To’

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It seems half of Australian-duo Big Scary, Tom Iansek, has been a busy man. Aside from wrapping up a US tour with Big Scary, he’s just announced a new solo album under the moniker of #1 Dads. The album, About Face, has today been preceded by its first single, Return To. The song is a sparse, experimental track that layers with sporadic keys and a metronome back-beat. Iansek’s haunting vocal sits atop steering the song through an unpredictable yet enchanting melody. About Face will be released through Big Scary’s Pieater label on 8 August.

Hear the track over at FasterLouder. 

Read our interview in the US with Big Scary here. 

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10 Songs You Need To Hear This Week

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If you’ve been sleeping on new music this week, consider this your cramming. You probably haven’t escaped the week without hearing about the new La Roux track, but there are a few other gems here that have slipped under the radar. You can read along below or jump straight to the Soundcloud playlist here.  10LAROUX

1. La Roux- Uptight Downtown

La Roux’s first track from Trouble In Paradise, Let Me Down Gently, introduced us…gently. It was lovely, but we were all waiting for the heart-racing, pop moment she delivered up time and time again on her debut. Well, this is it. Uptight Downtown is an ’80s-inspired number that encourages dancing in the street, inappropriate grinding and hairbrush singalongs. In other words, it’s pop perfection.

[soundcloud]http://soundcloud.com/la-roux-official/la-roux-uptight-downtown[/soundcloud]

10PREATURES2. The Preatures- Two Tone Melody

The Preatures have been busy overseas showing why Australian bands are the shit at the moment, however, they’re returning at the end of July for a run of shows. Along with the announcement they’ve released this newie. Two Tone Melody sees the band ease-up, creating a dusky, slow-burning track that centres around Isabella Manfredi’s smokey vocals.

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3. Kyan- Taking The City

For an artist who’s been around for barely a minute, Kyan’s song-writing is so self assured and confident. Taking The City is another notch in his belt. It’s a glisteningly, clean production with a huge chorus to boot. Just try and resist the foray into rock territory in the song’s final third.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/kyanmusic/taking-the-city-2[/soundcloud]10SEEKAE

4. Seekae- Test & Recognise

This is the second taster off Seekae’s forthcoming album The Worry. It sees the band take a more accessible approach to songwriting, ditching a largely instrumental aesthetic in favour of dark, RnB inspired vocals. It’s working well for them. Following Another, Test & Recognise is yet another hugely enticing track.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/futureclassic/seekae-test-recognise-1[/soundcloud]

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5. Rebecca Clements- Wildlife

If you’re in need of a cry at the end of the week, this is the track to do it to. This is 19 year-old British-singer, Rebecca Clements’ debut track and it’s a haunting ode to breaking free. Instrumentally, it’s really only the guitar and Clements voice but she has a lyrical prowess holds your interest. “We try to run free but we’re two lost strays, all caught up in the mess we’ve made”, she sings ethereally and in total control.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/rebeccaclements/wildlife-1[/soundcloud]

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6. TALA- On My Own In Hua Hin

TALA is quickly becoming one of the key innovators on the scene at the moment. This is the latest cut from her upcoming The Duchess EP is another chopped and screwed beauty. There’s a touch of Santigold to it, a bit of M.I.A and a whole lot of TALA.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/talaofficial/on-my-own-in-hua-hin?in=talaofficial/sets/the-duchess-ep[/soundcloud]

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7. DEADMAU5- SeeYa (Feat. Colleen)

This is a bit of a detour of sound for the man in the Mickey Mouse hat. Seemingly inspired by Daft Punk, he’s opted for a funky bassline and robotic synths in yet another indication that EDM is changing its tack sound-wise.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/mau5trap/deadmau5-featuring-colleen-dagostino-seeya[/soundcloud]

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8. jj- All White Everything

Enigmatic Swedish duo, jj, are certainly not a conventional pair. They occasionally cover rap songs, drop songs out of the blue and are short on imaginative album titles (V is the forthcoming effort). It’s lucky then that they’re music speaks volumes. All White Everything is a delicate track that builds that effortlessly builds but never quite reaches the climax. It’s that restraint that makes it so intriguing.

[soundcloud]http://soundcloud.com/secretlycanadian/jj-all-white-everything[/soundcloud]

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9. Meanwhile- Bigger City

Meanwhile is sure to become a name to watch. He’s been hand picked by La Roux to support her on her upcoming comeback tour which seems like a perfect match. Like La Roux, this track is coated in ’80s pastiche with unapologetic synths and hip-shaking bass. Bigger City may be the funnest track you hear this week.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/meanwhileost/bigger-city-1[/soundcloud]

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10. Digitalism- Wolves (Feat. Youngblood Hawke) (RAC Remix)

RAC have a knack of remixing songs to make them even more accessible than their original. This is a radio-ready, indie-pop remix of Digitalism. It’s perky, sunshine-induced and you’ll want to hate it. But you can’t. The careless indie-pop textures are irresistable.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/rac/digitalism-wolves-ft-youngblood-hawke-rac-mix[/soundcloud]

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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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tonyabbout22

Throwaway Thursday


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Another week and another brand new bag of toys. Unlike waiting around the bakery of an afternoon for leftover bread rolls, we’re bringing you the freshest of what we’ve found without even asking for three $9.99 instalments. This week, we’ve got a documentary from Eats Everything, D’Angelo in conversation and Kaytranada’s family project, amongst other things. So, put those coins away because they ain’t necessary here.

WATCH: Behind the Eaters: A documentary on super fans

It turns out British producer, Eats Everything, has quite the sense of humour. This mockumentary follows brilliant super fans (called ‘Eaters’) Brenda and Gwyn as they admit their obsession with the producer is probably ruining relationships. One could liken the Fandom surrounding Eats Everything in this film to One Direction. That said even one of the fans admits, “the thing about DJing is the music’s already done for you. You Just gotta press play”. It’s brilliantly dry humour and not too dissimilar to the brand of mockumentary we’re used to seeing from Chris Lilley.

WATCH: D’Angelo live in conversation

Last week US RnB singer, D’Angelo took to the stage to answer questions in front of 500 people as part of the Red Bull Academy Festival in New York. The singer hasn’t released an album in 15 years, however, speculation is building. Throughout the hour-long conversation, D’Angelo reminisced on his career and spoke about the recording process. He spoke of kicking everybody out of the recording studio when it’s time for him to lay his vocals, describing it as “trying to go deep, deep in the onion”.

Watch the video over at the Red Bull Academy

LISTEN: Omarion- Fader Mix

You’d be forgiven for not immediately remembering who Omarion is. You’re not forgiven if you go here, and still don’t remember who he is. For those of you who still need some help, Omarion was part of boyband B2K before going it solo. He hasn’t been around for the better part of a decade, but he’s set to release his new album Sex Playlist. Yes, Sex Playlist. That aside, he’s thrown together a great mix for The Fader which includes Shlohmo, LL Cool J and Chrome Sparks. I guess you could consider it a, er, Sex Playlist.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/fadermedia/fader-mix-omarion[/soundcloud]

LISTEN: The Celestics- Supreme Laziness

Montreal beatsmith Kaytranada has been making a name for himself with a handful of great originals and remixes but now he’s joined hands with his rapping brother as The Celestics. Supreme Laziness is their debut and it’s absolutely free. Aside from that great fact, it’s full of Kaytranada’s woozy production and his brother, Louie P’s quick-witted words.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/huhwhatandwhere/sets/supreme-laziness-the-celestics[/soundcloud]

LISTEN: Sable- Foolin’ (Basenji Remix)

Sydney producer Basenji has just unleashed his first official remix for WA newcomer Sable. Basenji has slowed down Foolin’ off Sable’s Feels So Good EP, adding breathing space and sparsity to the WA producer’s manic original. Still, it’s not short of trap-inspired drops to make sure you get down. WAY down.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/pilerats/sable-foolin-basenji-remix[/soundcloud]

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