Posts Tagged ‘trip hop

14
Apr
10

Album Review: Massive Attack – heligoland

I find with every album I listen to and generally I try to bend my head around at least 7 or 8 a month, I have a growing appreciation for attention to detail when it comes to song writing and producing and I think that’s why Massive Attack’s newest offering, Heligoland, has me completely spellbound.

 

 

I’m not going to lie, the mood is pretty heavy throughout this album, which is why it will go down a lot better when you’re lost in a moment of intense introspection than it will at the next house party you go to and so, even though I really liked this album, I’d be very hesitant to recommend it to just anyone.

Though the overall tone does tend to waver between jaw-grinding comedown paranoia and desolate despair, it stops short of going the route of their contemporaries Portishead, who’s last album had most people gassing themselves in their cars by track 4.

Suffice to say, critics love Heligoland because it’s coherent and you can tell right from the opening few seconds that a lot of thought and care went into producing it. The result is a polished and highly-accomplished album that, while it sure as hell ain’t gonna make you shake that ass, will definitely appeal to trip hop fans and people naturally attracted to the darker side of music.

‘Pray For Rain” the opening track sets the standard for the album and features vocals from Tunde Adebimpe from TV On The Radio which are so quietly and creepily sung they’ll make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

 

 

The song haunts like a nightmare long forgotten, the kind where whatever it is that’s out to get you isn’t chasing you, it’s watching you from the darkness, waiting to drag you down when it’s good and ready.

“Dull residue of what once was / A shattered cloud of swirling doves / And their eyes change / As they learn to see through flames…”

Track 2, ‘Babel’ is a great choice to follow from the menacing opener that is ‘Pray For Rain’ and adds a nice touch to the desolate soundscape of Heligoland in the form of Martina Topley-Bird’s sultry vocals. The track builds to a surprisingly catchy chorous but it still anything but upbeat.

Topley-Bird also does the vocals for the track ‘Psyche’ which, with it’s frantic and discordant guitar picking is enough to drive anyone caught in the vicious jaws of a weekend MDMA binge completely shit-your-pants crazy.

 

 

That track and the intense downer that follows right after it (‘Flat of the Blade’) are definitely not this albums greatest moments, but are thankfully countered by brilliantly arranged and expertly produced tracks like ‘Paradise Circus (featuring Hope Sandoval from Mazzy Star)’ and arguably one of the best tracks on the album ‘Saturday Come Slow (featuring Damon Alburn from Gorillaz)’.

It’s a thought-provoking album that in many ways reminds me of novelist Cormac McCarthy’s post apocalyptic masterpiece, The Road in the way it is loaded with equal parts of menace, desolation and in rare and precious moments, hope.

In Heligoland, Massive Attack has finally, after 12 years, recorded an album that is comparable to the album that put them on the map, 1998’s Mezzanine. It’s trip hop at it’s darkest which is why many people might dismiss it as a mood-killer and nothing else.

However, if you can get past that, Heligoland may very well speak to you on a level very few other albums will, just don’t give it to your broody teenage brother or sister or they might lock themselves in their room with it and not come out until the firemen come to bash the door down.

Final Verdict: 7/10

-ST

07
Apr
10

Album Review: Broken Bells

You get two kinds of people in this world – those that hear music and those that listen to music.

About 80% of the world hears music. It’s something that plays in the background of their lives between dancing from one club to another, falling in love with one person after the other and popping out one kid after the other.

 

 

Those people, they don’t care about the stories behind the music they listen to. They will hear a band like Broken Bells and they’ll love it and a week later they’ll completely forget they ever heard it and move on to the next band.

Which, I guess, is a testament to how fucking incredible this band is.

Remember The Shins? Two of their tracks featured on the Garden State soundtrack back in 2004 after which they enjoyed a brief stint in the limelight before people got bored and promptly forgot they ever existed.

Well, Broken Bells is made up of The Shins’ frontman and guitarist James Mercer and one Brian Burton, or Danger Mouse as he is more widely known.

 

 

Danger whothefuck? I hear you ask. Danger Mouse, the guy who produced Gnarls Barkley’s albums St. Elsewhere (2006) and The Odd Couple (2008) as well as the phenomenal Gorillaz album Demon Days (2005) and the highly underrated Beck album Modern Guilt (2008).

Tie all those albums up together, throw in Mercer’s best vocals I’ve ever heard on an album, add a whole heap of great hooks, free flowing melodies and laid-back beats and you’ll start to get an idea of what Broken Bells sounds like.

What we’re talking about here is an album you can put on the next time your buddies and their respective girlfriends come over for a few drinks, and it will play from beginning to end without anyone getting up to change it.

The marriage of Mercer’s folksy guitar riffs and Burton’s synth soundscapes is so damn perfect you’d swear they’d done at least three or more albums together to reach the musical pinnacle that is Broken Bells.

There is not one sound on this album that is unnecessary. Musically, it’s as tight as they come, Burton knows exactly what to do and when to do it and the result is an album that is multilayered without being cluttered and claustrophobic, is chilled out without making you nod off halfway through and is poppy without being mindless and puerile.

 

 

What also impressed me is how far Mercer has pushed his vocals on this album. He experiments with vocal registers that I thought were far beyond his reach and nails them almost effortlessly and his lyrics on songs like ‘The Mall And Misery’ (‘Oh she lies half burning / From the battling crows… There’s a new world / Somewhere a good girl / Lives and breathes’) are as carefully written as the subtle melodies Burton weaves around them.

Sure, ‘The Ghost Inside’ has undertones of the Gnarls Barkley hit ‘Crazy’ and ‘Your Head Is On Fire’ could pass as an MGMT track on valium, and yes, musically you aren’t going to hear anything on this album that hasn’t already been done before, but the point is, Broken Bells do it fucking well.

Somewhere between trip hop, psychedelia, folk rock and eccentric pop you’ll find this album and if you’re a fan of any of those genres, it will be one of the best albums you’ll hear this year.

You don’t have to be a music aficionado to appreciate this album, which is why I would recommend it, very highly, to just about anyone.

Final Verdict: 8/10




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