On heavy rotation today: Burial’s recent compilation album Tunes 2011-2019.
Here’s the album for sale on Bandcamp and streaming
Recorded in Melbourne in October
Loosely centered around a new character (Nikki Pink) and a gang of biker women who roam the sunset streets of an eerie, make-believe vision of LA, it’s essentially a love letter to the ’80s sci-fi and fantasy films of her youth. She wrote the songs while working on a script of her own, and the starry-eyed, big-screen synth-pop of “Kids in the Dark” sounds like the soundtrack to the big romantic clinch in her own coming-of-age flick.
The sound of Lost Girls isn’t just exhuming certain synth tones. It’s exhuming a past to try and clarify today, to clarify aging, to clarify how our memories and upbringings shift in and out of focus, eventually rewritten into the kind of filmic adventures we might’ve escaped through when we were actually living through those years.
Lost Girls, though not without those crisp and sparkling moments, is an album you need to wade into. You need to let its ambience engulf you, and follow along the same as you might when watching a movie’s story unfold. It’s an album of visions — of a city forever colored by decades-old impressions received from across an ocean, of films, of an innocence lost only to be explored for the rest of our lives, of ancient wastelands and endless drives through them.
Devotees of 1980s pop-culture, teen movies, vampires or Coreys Haim and Feldman may recall The Lost Boys, a 1987 flick about two teenage brothers who battle a gang of motorcycle-riding vampires. Bat for Lashes offers her variation on the theme with her fifth LP, Lost Girls, a collection of 10 songs steeped in the sounds of ’80s pop and loosely based around a vampire girl-gang chasing a mortal protagonist in Los Angeles.
Bat For Lashes – DIY Album Review by Joe Goggins
Doomy disco for dark times
Bat For Lashes – ‘Lost Girls’ review by Andrew Trendell
From there, she wrote a screenplay about a girl called Nikki who becomes obsessed with alien sightings and befriends a local lad whose town is being terrorised by some ghostly girls on bikes. Together, they set out to solve the mystery before finding themselves in the captivity of the spooky cyclists. Sounds like the perfect John Hughes’ script, eh? Well, it started out as something for the big screen before the soundtrack took hold and the album ran away with itself .
It’s a vivid world, although less singular or startling than Khan’s previous creations; these touchstones have become so deeply embedded in the cultural fabric that they offer the same comforting glow as an episode of “Stranger Things” rather than the shock of the new.
It’s plain to hear that this music was born out of sheer pleasure: its propulsive rhythms and zig-zagging, ostentatious synth melodies are the stuff of fist-pumping high-school movies. The cowbell-powered Feel for You is a major highlight, with its bubbling funk guitar and layered vocals; meanwhile, it’s hard to believe that the strutting saxophone of Vampires wasn’t actually recorded in the 80s. But it’s not nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake: the record is elevated by surreal moments and powerful songwriting that could only have come from Khan, whether in the palpable carnality of The Hunger, or the Middle Eastern synth patterns of So Good. She may not have intentionally set out to make this album, but it’s a blessing that she did.
DJ Shadow’s latest is part-electro exploration, part star-studded hip hop mixtape
None of these experiments in sound and groove are bad by any means. But they may be a little too experimental for some, and as a collection it all comes across a little disjointed.
I felt that in part the disjointed nature of the album was something of a statement of our pathetic age?
King Princess has been one of this year’s most important pop artists and before 2019 is out, we’re getting our hands on her debut album, Cheap Queen.
Where last year’s All Melody, Frahm’s most ambitious album statement to date, attempted to bring together those two opposing poles—fashioning choir, strings, horns, gongs, pipe organ, and his usual welter of acoustic and electronic elements into a whole at once vast and hushed—All Encores takes a step backward, toward a simpler, sparer sound. In essence, it represents a set of rough drafts, avenues abandoned as All Melody assumed its final form. All 12 tracks here were originally released on a trilogy of EPs, remnants of a proposed triple album that never came to completion, exploring distinct corners of Frahm’s musical practice.
Telefon Tel Aviv were always downcast, but Dreams Are Not Enough sharpens and strengthens their most morose tendencies into a kind of probing and exquisite bleakness—what Eustis has described as “the rapture of despair.” The suffering is inseparable from the serotonin rush; it is storm-tossed sea and lifeboat all in one.
The album is formally inventive in a way we don’t often expect of music so firmly grounded in gloomy electronic pop. In the course of the record’s trim 50 minutes, it winds between sandblasted ambient and misty-eyed synth pop, industrial techno and chamber choir; there are echoes of Chicago acid and Arvo Pärt alongside apocalyptic sound design reminiscent of Ben Frost. The scale of the thing is enormous, suggesting cliffs cleaving into the sea.
The singer-songwriter delves deep into the hard-won life lessons that fueled her most epic music to date.
I also enjoyed Olsen’s interview on All Songs Considered, discussing the process of recording the album. One interesting take-away was that the album was originally recorded as a solo project, only to be transformed with the help of John Congleton, Ben Babbit and arranger Jherek Bischoff.
Place between Beach House and Sarah Blasko.
It’s a dislocated Elbow that you get on this proggy, restless record – but their sense of empathy is still strong
3 track album
Robin Hilton describes the album as ‘future pop’s:
Charli XCX makes wildly warped, genre-bending songs that are artful and adventurous but can still top the charts. On the English singer’s latest album, Charli, she collaborates with Troye Sivan, Lizzo, Haim and more for a sound that moves pop firmly into the future.(source)
While Debbie Carr suggests:
Charli may be laced with all the screeches and squelches of everyday life in one giant sensory overload, but at its core the album is a snapshot of the experimental era pop is moving into.(source)
For me, this album has the feel of speculative pop. It is true that many of the elements of pop are still present. However, the speculation comes in the way of form and production.
Nailing her distinct brand of art pop, Complex is the second album for Montaigne.
Place between Megan Washington and Bjork.
Flitting between melodies drenched in sadness and slap-in-the-face wake up call drum fills that have become her trademark, G Flip stretches her wings and flies from falsetto to direct yearning.
Place between Lorde and Maggie Rogers
Lover is the seventh studio album by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. It was released on August 23, 2019, by Republic Records. As executive producer, Swift worked with producers Jack Antonoff, Joel Little, Louis Bell, Frank Dukes, and Sounwave on the album. Described by Swift as a “love letter to love”, Lover celebrates the ups and downs of love and incorporates brighter, more cheerful tones, departing from the dark sounds of its predecessor, Reputation (2017). Musically, it is a pop, pop rock, electropop and synth-pop record that contains influences of country, dream pop, pop punk, funk and R&B.
The album weaves love songs for self-destructive poets, psychedelic jam sessions, and even a cover of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time” through arrangements that harken back to the Laurel Canyon pop of the ’60s and ’70s. Throughout, Lana has never sounded more in tune to her own muse—or less interested in appealing to the masses.
In an interview with Joe Coscarelli, Del Rey provides some insights into the choice of Jack Antonoff and why it is time for protest songs. There is something ironic about Antonoff’s inclusion. Some may call out another failure to present anything original, yet Del Rey’s raw honesty seems prime for collaboration with the ‘superproducer’ (what is a superproducer?) As Antonoff once stated in an interview with Zane Lowe:
I want to work with people because they think that they are geniuses, not because I want make the albums that they have already made
Ann Powers provides a more critical take on the album and Lana Del Rey.
“The Centre Won’t Hold”, their ninth studio album, is their most experimental yet
I would place this album between Depeche Mode and St. vincent
9 track album
Liminal, both live and locally, takes the listener to a place neither here nor there; a “liminal” space.
Of Monsters and Men are clearly so capable of creating glorious tunes that are brimming with life, yet they seem to have resorted to mimicking a sound because its fashionable. Their clear talent is masked by trendy production and unimaginative writing. That’s not to say the album is bad, just disappointing as it feels like they have so much more to give. ‘Fever Dream’ is perfectly listenable, but missing the magic spark that made them smash successes when they first emerged.
On first the use of electronics and distortion feels uncanny, but after a few listens it finds its place. I had a similar experience with The National’s I Am Easy To Find.
Across the board, it’s a drastic step-up from 2014’s Monsters EP and the folksy strumming she uploaded to Unearthed back in 2012. But it isn’t a complete departure, it’s an evolution, you can hear traces of her earlier work in the songs that deal, like those releases, with love that’s not gone right.
For something different, here is Plum covering Bruce Springsteen’s Dancer in the Dark:
With that in mind, one can view Better in Blak through the framework of it being Plum having open conversations about — and with — her younger self. A song like ‘Homecoming Queen’ details her ingrained body image issues, never feeling truly beautiful due to not seeing herself in any women that frequented the pages of her magazines.
Better in Blak is an album about growth and growing up as it is self-acceptance and self-love.
If Better in Blak is reflective of anything, though, it’s the fact that they won’t win. They can’t win — not while Plum is still fighting for survival on the frontlines, making a stand and living well as the best revenge. She hopes that this is an album that is seen, heard and felt — by those that support her, by those that don’t and by those that might find solace in what Plum sings about.
Thelma Plum has much to say, and complex feelings to articulate, on Better In Blak. Crucially, she’s amplifying her socio-political voice. Plum consistently keeps it raw – her stance ‘no bull’. Regardless, whether her songs are critical or confessional, she conveys, if not levity, then wry humour.