Monday, 4 November 2013

New Music Monday #76

The Marshall Mathers LP 2
by Eminem (out November 5, 2013)

Eminem is back with the continuation to his greatest success, The Marshall Mathers LP and you can't help but feel that Eminem really IS back this time around. Finding the needed balance between super serious Recovery era Eminem and comedic, but behind the times Encore era Eminem. In other words, the Eminem we all knew and loved in the late 90s/early 2000s has returned and that means we're all in for a treat with The Marshall Mathers LP 2. 'Bad Guy' is an early knockout, picking up the story of breakthrough hit 'Stan', with a vengeful Matthew Mitchell as the protagonist, taking over for his late brother Stanley (every time I see that name I hear it the way Dido says it in the video). The narrative ends once more with a bridge, before Eminem takes the reigns and admits the symbolism of Matthew and Stan being, "of you not knowing what you had until it's gone." Sure, if he says so. Eminem promises this is the final chapter of the cautionary tale that is the Marshall Mathers story. Again, sure, if he says so. Retirement pledges surround many a rap star and Eminem's made them before, but say this is the last we'll hear from Slim Shady... at least he's going out with a bang. 

'Rhyme or Reason' has a Yoda rap. It's the kind of moment that makes you shake your head and then laugh. For anyone else it would be an unforgivable move. Women's rights activists and... actually just activist groups in general... will work themselves into a frenzy over tracks like 'So Much Better', as the 'ole woman hating Eminem emerges, hating on 'bitches' and confessing, "my life will be so much better if you dropped dead." It all ends with the deux ex machina line, "I'm just playing bitch, you know I love you." Cute. As has always been the case with Eminem's music, he shows he can't really hate on the ladies that much... they always give him hooks that trick listeners into thinking his music is a lot catchier than it is. Liz Rodrigues and Polina Goudieva do wonders for the chorus' of 'Survival' and 'Legacy' respectively, which are pretty standard 'business as usual' Eminem numbers. Bestie, Skylar Grey at least manages to be credited for her admittedly underwhelming appearance on 'Asshole'. Mathers makes up for the increasingly snooze-worthy appearances from the former hot-ticket with a reflection on the reaction to the dick-ish things he's said throughout his career. "I could have stacked my shit list to the ceiling, women dish him but really thinking, if anyone ever talks to one of my little girls like this I would kill him, guess I'm a little bit of a hypocrite." 

MMLP2 hits its stride midway through, with 'Berzerk' and 'Rap God'. Any doubts that Eminem doesn't have that 'it' factor anymore are destroyed, even as you have to remind yourself that he's in the 2000s mindset, dropping one two many f-bombs (and not the one that rhymes with fire truck) for his own good and a censorship challenge to his Columbine references on chapter one's outing. As an artist that hasn't shied away from controversy at, well, any stage of his career really, no one should act too surprised at this point. After the, um, monster success of his last collaboration with Rihanna, 'Love The Way You Lie', it's nice to see the two back together again with 'The Monster', even if it doesn't have the same impact as their prior track. It's actually the first track that feels slightly out of place, but that's probably just the sunny disposition that just naturally follows Rihanna these days. When 'Love The Way You Lie' was released, it was close enough in time to her Chris Brown drama and the song was pretty much the same story. That original magic may be missing, but the song's still ready-for-radio (as is generally the case when two megastars come together) and looks ready to make a chart impact as early as this coming week.

Teaming up with label mate Kendrick Lamar was a smart move, with 'Love Game' (let's have some fun, this beat is sick?) sounding like the most fun either act has had in a long time. And then bam! the fun is gone as that guy from a band that's literally called fun. shows up to suck all of it from the room on 'Headlights'. How this made the album and Sia's effort on 'Beautiful Pain' was relegated to the Deluxe Edition is beyond me. 'Evil Twin' is another one of those reflective moments that borders on whinging, as Mathers laments his lack of battle opportunities. Who can he call out in this day and age? "I just want to hurt you, aim for the skanks, then aim for all these fake Kanye's, Jay's, Wayne's and Drake's. I'm frustrated cause ain't no more N'Sync, now I'm all out of whack, I'm all out of Backstreet Boys to call out attack." He won't even go after Gaga, Bieber or old fave - Xtina. But how will we know who came first, was it Carson Daly or was it Fred Durst?! Thankfully the title's evil twin shows up... to make out of date references aimed at crazy Britney, dearly departed Whitney and OJ Simpson. Playing it safe? 

The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is good. In fact it's really good, but I'm not going to lie to you and tell you it's the BEST THING EVAR OMG EMINEM U DA BEST 4 LYF WERD. It has its ups and downs. If this was 2001 and it just got released maybe I would be fan-girling it up. But it's 2013 and in terms of this year's releases I can tell you it's comfortably better than Jay Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail, a million times more engrossing that anything Drake has done, but probably not quite on the same level as Kanye's Yeezus. It is however the best thing Eminem has released since the original Marshall Mathers album and a must listen for Eminem fans and rap fans in general. But you don't need me to tell you that. The guy's a pop culture phenomenon... you're going to check it out anyway. You too can enjoy the ups and downs, deciding if we're in on the joke that Eminem's playing or if we're not, right until the final lines - "But all bullshit aside I hit a stride, still Shady inside, hair every bit as dyed as it used to be when I first introduced y'all to my skiddish side, and blamed it on him when they tried to criticise, 'cause we are the same, bitch." Sure, if he says so.  

Matt Bond gives The Marshall Mathers LP 2 four Beyonce heads out of five...

You Could Be Happy EP
by Sahara Beck (out now)

It's not often that music makes me embarrassed, but when I heard the first song from Sahara Beck's EP You Could Be Happy, I have to admit, I was a little embarrassed. The reason? I've had the opportunity to see a Sahara Beck gig before, numerous times and there's always been something else going on, a better offer to take up. I've had the chance to press play on Sahara Beck songs in the past and there's always been another song to hear, another clip to watch. When I hit play on this EP for the first time, my embarrassment was immense when I heard those claps, the quick guitar, that fabulous voice and the words, the simple but so effective lyrics "look at all this trouble you cause here, for all these people you hold dear...c'mon man, you're dead and you don't know it yet". Wow. What had I been doing this year? Why hadn't I said yes to one gig, pressed play just that once? I guess I'm just making up for lost time now, with the release of Sahara's EP, You Could Be Happy.

The first track ‘C’Mon Man You’re Dead’ is the one that caught my attention immediately, so catchy and so much more than just a little folk song, I found myself tapping along so quickly, the pop sensibility as addictive as the lyrics which are much more than simple pop lyrics. Second track ‘Mary Jane’ deals with issues of addiction in a way well beyond Sahara Beck’s seventeen years, it’s quick pace and repetitive lyric “now I’m all alone come find me” are so affecting, so compelling to hear, I couldn’t help but wonder what could possibly be next, I was totally mesmerised two tracks in, it was difficult to know where she’d take things from there. I still couldn’t quite believe I’d never listened before.

What I heard three tracks in grabbed me by the throat, it was the one that got me, the one that made me regret those nights I spent somewhere else instead of at a venue with live music which I love so much. ‘Bang Bang Bang’ is simple; it is acoustic sounds and voice, which is perfect to show off an awesome vocal range. Sahara’s passion in the lyrics “bang bang bang here comes the end” is beyond comparison, this is a song made to adore, to take your breath away. ‘Madman’ mid way through is a nice change, a little heavier than any of the other tracks, this is one I imagine to be extremely powerful live, the beats are so strong it’s nice to hear a little grittiness amongst the gentle of the rest of the EP. Yet again, another regret I hadn’t seen Sahara before.

I knew it was bound to happen, After the first four songs I knew there had to be a tear jerker in here somewhere, and there it is, ‘Daisy’. Maybe it was the mesmerising guitar, maybe it was the strings, maybe it was the lyric “death is peaceful, not so sad, I wouldn’t bother getting mad, won’t make a difference either way…I am beautiful but small, never owned a thing at all, I am simple but happy, stay with me Daisy”, but whatever it is, this is the one, songs like this are special and don’t come along on every EP or album, but when they do there’s a ‘wow’ and a breath taken with every listen.

After the sigh of ‘Daisy’, the EP’s final track doesn’t disappoint, in fact, it’s the perfect end to a beautiful twenty four minutes. I love an artist who thinks about their work as a whole experience and it’s obvious there’s been a lot of thought as to how Sahara wants her listeners to be left at the end of her six songs, the title track ‘You Could Be Happy’ is a swinging little song full of story and promise, her voice such a delight, her lyrics such an experience and the music so mesmerising, just like ‘You Could Be Happy’ as a whole.

So I admit it, I made the mistake of overlooking this unbelievably talented artist until now and it’s a mistake I’m a little embarrassed about. I’m a smart listener though, because now I’ve heard her sound, there’s no turning back, I’m calling myself a fan and ignoring Sahara Beck is a mistake I don’t intend on making again.

Jo Michelmore gives the You Could Be Happy EP three and a half Ellie Goulding heads out of five...

Holy Infinity

Music is amazing. I know you know that, 'cause you're reading this blog and we all already agree on that, right? But let's talk about the amazing kind of music that has no sense of time, that transports you to a place far away from where you are, music that is immediately comfortable, because, while it doesn't sound like anything else in particular, it sounds like part of your life, it sounds like something you know and you want to know more of. It's completely personal to me, but when I heard GOVS track 'Holy Infinity' for the first time, I was immediately placed in a bar I used to frequent a few years ago, a comfy little corner full of cushions and conversations and cheap champagne. The simple start, the sound of Josiah Birrell's voice and guitar were hypnotic, the riffs lulled me into a sense of comfort like comfortable music does and when the beats were introduced a minute and a half in I was hooked, I was no longer at my laptop, I was in that bar with somewhere with Josiah and the people I loved and the heartache that ensued from them. There’s a sense of desperation somewhere in there and a feeling of something much bigger than a simple song, I guess that’s part of the amazing I talk about when I talk about music. While GOVS is a bedroom project from a clearly very talented boy from the Gold Coast, it's obvious Josiah knows how amazing music is, because his music is far removed from an amateur bedroom sound. It's beautiful and it's moving and mostly, music - it is amazing, isn’t it? 

Jo Michelmore gives 'Holy Infinity' four Michael Hutchence heads out of five... 


Standing In The Dark
by Matt and Beki

“Sizzled me just like a hot hot pepper” is really all I need to hear from this... Bitch this tune is SICKENING, it has the sound of the Divinyls and Cyndi Lauper if they were whipped up in a blender with fairy floss and glitter then spewed out into a sea of rainbows and neon lights. What I mean by this is I FREAKING LOVE IT. The 80s sound is in the midst of a revival, some are doing it well, some are shit, but Matt and Beki are rocking it.

If you think they sound familiar then you’d be right, but why?? Where have you heard these iconic Australian voices before? Well in the mid 90s there was this effing amazing band called The Mavis’s featuring Matt and Beki and well, now they’re back! Bubblegum pop is the name and owning is the game.

'Standing In The Dark' is a pumping, twitching, booty mover and simply screams “DANCE IN YOUR UNDIES IN THE LOUNGE ROOM” and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me squeal like a camp 14 year old with its sexy rejection lyrics that pump me up like a burn blister in the verses - “Come on baby take my hand, we’ll sneak away after the band.” - and grabs my pining teenage heart strings in the desperate chorus - “Left me standing in the car park, but it’s too late, cut your name into my arm, but it’s too late, come on.”

This is the kind of pop that I like to see swimming around in the ARIA charts and violating the positions of “cookie-cutter-pop” artists who shall remain nameless yet infamous. It’s a great club track (not that I’ve “clubbed” for quite some time) and should be requested anywhere there are pulsing neon lights and eye burning lazers bouncing off mirror balls. Get it, put it in you, and let it take over.

Nayt Housman gives 'Standing In The Dark' four Cyndi Lauper heads out of five...

by Britney Spears
Album: Britney Jean (out November 29, 2013)

Some things just create a feeling of uneasiness. A new movie with Lindsay Lohan in it. Just the thought of that puts this look on my face that's not quite scared, not quite constipated... just a little uneasy. In the music world, there's probably nothing that gives people that feeling of uneasiness like hearing 'Britney Spears' and 'ballad' in close enough proximity to each other. 'Sometimes', 'From The Bottom of My Broken Heart', 'I'm Not A Girl (Not Yet A Woman)'. Are you cringing? I am. If you look back, 'ole Britters hasn't really released a ballad as a single since 'Everytime', which was pre-meltdown. That wasn't that bad a song, yeah? Anyway, in this day and age of radio friendly EDM tracks, it's easier to get away with a pop ballad when you don't have the voice of an Adele or Beyonce, because you can just throw some electronic whoomp (there it is) in with a piano line and get Sia to write some words about your boyfriend's wife smelling your cheap perfume. So there's no need to feel uneasy... but there sure as schnitzel ain't no reason to be celebrating. It's not as laugh out loud bad as 'From The Bottom of My Broken Heart', it doesn't hold any glimmer of real emotion like 'Everytime'. 'Perfume' just... is. 

Matt Bond gives 'Perfume' two Ke$ha heads out of five...  

Asleep at the Wheel
by Band of Skulls

I may have had a conversation with Matt this week about how I seem to be the rock/blues lover on this blog, which was a title I was happy to hold, but there’s a lot of music I like. I love pop music, I love folksy music (see my Sahara Beck review above?), I adore a good bit of electronic music at the right time, I got myself tickets to Eminem recently, goddamn I just love all music, alright? Then I pressed play on ‘Asleep At The Wheel’, the new single from the UK’s Band Of Skulls and you know what happened? I got that little feeling at the top of my spine, I got that excited little feeling in my stomach, my head started nodding and suddenly I was smiling. The smashing repetitive guitars made me move my feet and the drums made me close my eyes and the words took me back to the front row at Splendour a couple of years ago and the flashing and the lights and the sweat and the hair and the loud loud loud sounds and…ok, I’m the rock lover on this blog. Goddamn, it’s just so f-ing good though! Rock music! Damn right! If this is only the first single I cannot wait to hear more from one of my fave rock bands.  

Jo Michelmore gives 'Asleep at the Wheel' four Kurt Cobain heads out of five...

Clever Boy
by Justin Hunter

What are you doing on Sunday? No this is not a literal question. What you should be doing is downloading 'Clever Boy', popping it on your iPod and finding a nice spot in a park to spin around in circles whilst looking longingly into the blue sky, smiling and thinking to yourself, “Today is a fucking great day.” That’s exactly the feeling I get when Justin Hunter's new single is rolling out of my speakers. Quite obviously taking its queues from 80s pop, Justin Hunter has created a rather cruisey, Bronski Beat-ish, Duran Duran-ish house/dance track fit for the dance floor or a lazy, dancey Sunday with a bunch of friends out in the back yard with a wading pool and a few cocktails in hand.

“Clever boy, fooling them all, is he the winner, the winner of them all?” Like a bittersweet cocktail of bliss and self doubt, the words of 'Clever Boy' will slowly worm their way into your psyche like a tape worm floating gently through your blood stream into your digestive tract. It’s one of those tunes that get better with each listen as it slowly unfolds *insert poetic flower analogy here*. Maybe it’s Justin’s pacifying vocals (some might say a lil bit monotone) that lull me into an almost meditative state while the pulsing beats and echoing hums keep me from falling asleep as I twitch and jilt in my relaxed state that make this track so delicious? I’m not sure but I don’t really care enough to over analyze it. I just want to lie here and enjoy every morsel of its equally upper/downer quality. Justin Hunter, I like you, you clever boy so keep the good tunes coming.

Nayt Housman gives 'Clever Boy' four Boy George heads out of five...

I Think I Love
by Enerate

Synths that creep up on me? I think I love. Beats I start nodding to immediately? I think I love. A mysterious male vocal? I think I love. Sha la la la? I think I love. Whoa oh oh oh oh oh? I think I love. A cute boy Josh, on vocals and guitars? I think I love. Another whoa oh oh oh oh oh? I think I love. Another cute boy, Matt, on bass? I think I love. One more cute boy, Ben, on percussion? I think I love. One cute girl, Therese, to sing and play synths? I think I love. More whoa oh oh oh oh oh? I think I love. Synth pop with a Sydney accent? I think I love. So easy to sing along to? I think I love. A whoa oh oh oh oh stuck in my head? I think I love. Pop, but with a little meaning? I think I love. New favourite song this week? I think I love. A whistle at the end? Oh stop it, it can't possibly be this good, can it? I think I love? Nope, I KNOW I love. 

Jo Michelmore gives 'I Think I Love' four Lady Gaga heads out of five... 


Perth Girls
by Abbe May
Album: Kiss My Apocalypse (out now)

When I saw on Abbe May's Facey-book page that 'Perth Girls' was getting the video treatment, I was excited. The track is my personal favourite from the doom pop-tacular extravagance that is Kiss My Apocalypse; as sleek and sexy as it is mysterious and dangerous. I knew the video wouldn't disappoint, but to get a beautiful and blonde Abbe in a suit wryly paying tribute to Robert Palmer's 'Simply Irresistible'? Fan-freaking-tastic! How could you not love this? The Perth ladies all dolled up in their pink, orange and purple dresses... bored looks staring into the distance. May herself is cooler than cool throughout. Certainly cooler than Robert Palmer ever was, but that's neither here nor there. She's up for the Best Female Artist award at this year's ARIA's. Not only do I hope she takes out the prize, but they should let her reenact this video live on stage. That would make me watch the ARIA Awards. 

Matt Bond gives the video for 'Perth Girls' five Madonna heads out of five...

Fall Underneath
by Snakadaktal
Album: Sleep In The Water (out now)

I'm not going to pretend I have any idea what's going on story wise in the video, but 'Fall Underneath' is shot beautifully by Dimitri Basil, so it's another video win for Snakadaktal. At first I was afraid the clip would be like the unofficial video for The Knife's 'Full of Fire', which made me want to put a fire out with my face with all the unnecessary repetition, but nay, 'Fall Underneath' is certainly as pleasing a video as the song itself. I like that each butt/face slap is in time with the music. It's the little things... Anyway, it's all very Californian 70s (or Cuban now I guess) with mustard button up shirts, brown leather jackets, pastel swimwear. A lot of thought's been put into the visuals in the clip and it's greatly appreciated. Definitely a video win! 

Matt Bond gives the video for 'Fall Underneath' three and a half Ellie Goulding heads out of five...

Everything's Coming Up Roses
by Dear Plastic (single out now)

Last week I had the pleasure of reviewing Melbourne outfit and electro trip-hop band, Dear Plastic’s new single 'Everything’s Coming up Roses'. So I was over the moon to discover a video clip had been made for this song. I have been singing this over and over in the last week. So I now had an excuse to not only listen to it again and again (not that I needed an excuse!) but I also had a mission to explore the visual world created by this new and exciting band.

The film clip for Dear Plastic’s single 'Everything’s Coming up Roses' opens with the band's moniker flashing in and out among a twirl of multi-coloured smoke. This imagery serves not only to introduce the clip but to hint at the sweet yet gentle mind bending clip to follow. The screen then shifts to a profile shot of Scarlette Baccini, the very talented lead singer singing the opening lyrics. There is a beautiful effect here created by dust particles catching light as they fall on the face of Scarlette. At least I THINK it’s dust - it could be computer generated comets, but I am going with dust as I was reminded of those quiet moments in life when a slice of sunshine carves a column of light across a room and the dust particles dance within it, creating galaxies of their own. Simple pleasures. And very fitting for the sentiment of this song. We are then treated to various shots of Scarlette as the particles play around her face. This galactic effect works beautifully to accompany the spacey, dreamy track that is this song.

Once we hit the chorus, the slow motion multi-coloured smoke brings us back to the freaky, trippy dreamy sounds that this song embodies. The next verse is a montage of eyes, mouth, ears and what appears to be paper being torn and crumpled. After a spell I turned off the analytical side of my brain, stopped trying to figure out what and how the imagery was made for the clip and just let the hypnotic beat, the visual playfulness and Scarlette’s lovely voice take me for an ethereal ride. Every time her voice dips down to the low notes with an earthy vibrato I get that warm and happy feeling that reflects back to the enjoyment I feel listening to gutsy singers from a bygone era. Vocally speaking, theatricality is the dress code with Dear Plastic’s lead singer Scarlette. This clip is definitely not a narrative. Nor does it try to prescribe a theme or specific concept. The clip (and the music itself) is for those who love their electro pop served with a side of mind bending good old fashioned psychadelia. And I would say that this is the best treatment you could take for a song as quirky and cool as this.

Lou Endicott gives the video for 'Everything's Coming Up Roses' four Michael Hutchence heads out of five...

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