Listened Courtney Barnett Releases MTV Unplugged Live Album: Listen from Pitchfork

Recorded in Melbourne in October

It would seem that the ‘unplugged’ not only offers a medium to reimagine music, but to bring others along for the journey. Barnett includes a number of guests, including Paul Kelly for a cover of Charcoal Lane.
Listened Bat for Lashes: Lost Girls from Pitchfork

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.

A part of me feels like I have always known about Bat for Lashes, but for whatever reason I have never actually dived into Natasha Khan’s music before. I came upon this album via Song Exploder and I have been hooked since. It feels like something of a homeage to so many aspects of the 80’s.

Place between The Midnight and BANKS.


Marginalia

Bat For Lashes ‘Lost Girls’ Album Review: A Neon Love Letter To LA & The ’80s by Ryan Leas

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.

Bat for Lashes Mines ’80s Pop, Vampires on Lost Girls

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 .

Lost Girls | Pitchfork

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.

Bat for Lashes: Lost Girls review – sunny Cali-flavoured vampire pop

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.

Listened DJ Shadow – Our Pathetic Age from Double J

DJ Shadow’s latest is part-electro exploration, part star-studded hip hop mixtape

This album has a bit of everything. Although it touches on the familiar, it also broadens out into some darker soundscapes. I think Dan Condon captures this, when he states:

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?

Listened Nils Frahm: All Encores from Pitchfork

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.

Listened Telefon Tel Aviv: Dreams Are Not Enough from Pitchfork

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.

Listened Angel Olsen Breaks Down Every Song on Her New Album, All Mirrors from Pitchfork

The singer-songwriter delves deep into the hard-won life lessons that fueled her most epic music to date.

This album took a few listens to grow on me, but once it did, I was hooked. It was not the Late Night Feelings, but something a little more subdued and more intense.

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.

Listened Charli (album) – Wikipedia from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
This is one of those uncanny albums. One minute it hooks into you, only to then shock you back to your senses. In some respects, it is the album that I could not imagine someone Taylor Swift making.

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.


Place between St Vincent and Montaigne.

Listened Montaigne – Complex from triple j

Nailing her distinct brand of art pop, Complex is the second album for Montaigne.

Montaigne’s voice holds together an exploration of electronic and acoustic sounds and rhythms. Complex is an album that continues marching on, celebrating some of life’s sharper sides.

Place between Megan Washington and Bjork.

Listened With ABOUT US, G Flip finds comfort and growth in exploring dark emotions through music from triple j

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.

For me G Flips debut album is a demonstration of balances. It carries a certain pop subtlety. She could easily have gone overboard with the production, but instead holds back, providing just enough.

Place between Lorde and Maggie Rogers

Listened Lover (album) – Wikipedia from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

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.

I find Lover an intriguing album. What does one expect from a Taylor Swift album? How much can it really break ‘new’ ground? I think Nick Catucci captures the feeling best by describing it as an “evolutionary rather than revolutionary.” There are moments when it feels like a cover of Ryan Adam’s covering Taylor Swift, other times it feels like continuation of the pop journey of 1989. I am not sure if the album is ‘good enough’ to paper over the cracks in her persona. However, I feel that how one responds to music is somewhat personal. Overall, I think Kitty Empire sums the album up best when she suggests that, “an album so long is bound to be a mixed bag.”
Listened Norman Fucking Rockwell – Wikipedia from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
Rather than hooking the listener in with sweet choruses and succinct pop songs, Norman Fucking Rockwell is an album which washes over like waves lapping the beach. Before long, you are lost. I think Sam Sodomsky sums it up best, saying,

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.

Listened Twenty-five years later, Sleater-Kinney are still making vital music from The Economist

“The Centre Won’t Hold”, their ninth studio album, is their most experimental yet

There were two things that led me the to Sleater-Kinney’s new album: Song Exploder0 and St. Vincent’s production. I have never really listened to Sleater-Kinney before. I really like this album sonically. There is a fine line between the blend of clean and dirty sounds.

I would place this album between Depeche Mode and St. vincent

Listened Sigur Rós presents Liminal Sleep, by Sigur Rós from Liminal

9 track album

Described as a ‘playlist’, this album feels more like an experience than anything that you can necessarily put your finger on. As the website describes:

Liminal, both live and locally, takes the listener to a place neither here nor there; a “liminal” space.

Place between Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II and M83’s soundtrack for Oblivion.

Listened Of Monsters and Men – ‘Fever Dream’ album review from NME

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.

When I heard the first single, Alligator, I was intrigued about Of Monsters and Men’s third album. I wondered about the new sound and feel to the music. It probably did not follow through with what I thought it might promise, but it is still a good album.

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.

Listened Better In Blak: Thelma Plum transforms trauma into triumph from triple j

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.

This is an interesting album. Produced by Alex Burnett, it has the hooks and smooth production that drags you in. Once there though it challenges the listener. As an album, Better in Blak asks questions through song that left me thinking.

For something different, here is Plum covering Bruce Springsteen’s Dancer in the Dark:

Place between Sarah Blasko and Maggie Rogers.


Marginalia

Thelma Plum ‘Better In Blak’ Interview: No Retreat, No Surrender

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 – ‘Better In Blak’ – Music Feeds

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.