Review Roundup December

6 Dec

Grizzly Bear – ‘Shields’

I’ve always felt that a great band is struggling to get out of Grizzly Bear, they’ve just never quite managed to find a way through the darkness. We’ve glimpsed greatness of course, much of ‘Veckatimest’ was classic, but I’ve never  been wholly convinced by one of their albums. ‘Shields’ may well be their finest full length statement to date, but it still doesn’t wholly convert me. On the plus side it’s more tuneful and hits the mark more often than previous albums. I particularly like the atmospheric ‘Sleeping Ute’ and the arena rock stylings of ‘Yet Again.

Like the other Grizzly Bears albums, this is a stodgy record that feels frustratingly restrained and well behaved. Also, like the other Grizzly Bear albums, it’s  more impressive on a superficial level than an emotional one. The singing is pretty but not really moving. The lyrics sound interesting but they’re empty statements. The instrumentation is fragile and ornate but there’s nothing that hooks you. I’ve always wondered what one of their gigs would be like because it’s not music that elicits any type of visceral reaction in me. I can’t imagine being moved to dance or jump or sing along, nor could I imagine being sucked in and absorbed by what i was watching. Maybe it would be a nice experience, like this album is. Nothing more, nothing less.


Rihanna – ‘Unapologetic’

Rihanna is only ever as good as her singles. Last year she had a couple of classics as well as a couple of dire (and I mean dire) ones. This time around she released ‘Diamonds’ as the lead single from her 7th record, ‘Unapologetic’, and it’s neither. It’s just the most inoffensive, bland slice of pop you’ll hear all year. And I think that’s more disappointing than if it were simply dire. The rest of the album is much the same; none of these songs would make a greatest hits and they would clog up a set list. The world has been saturated by Rihanna recently and by the sound of ‘Unapologetic’ she needs a year off as much as we need her to have one off.


Kendrick Lamar – ‘Good Kid, MAAd City’

Kendirck Lamar has been hyped to the heavens in the USA. Think of him as their Arctic Monkeys – the saviour of hip hop to our saviours of indie. And just as it’s a little hard for some Americans to understand what makes the Monkeys so great, it’s a little hard for me to understand what makes Kendrick stand out from the crowd. Don’t get me wrong, ‘Good Kid, Maaad City’ is a better than average hip hop album; the rapping is more than serviceable, the rags to riches story is cliched but engaging and the beats are exciting – but it’s hardly groundbreaking stuff. It strikes me that Lamar is popular for much the same reason Arctic Monkeys are popular – he reminds people of their favourite artists whilst still sounding fresh, young and interesting.

This is a good record, elevated to near greatness by a couple of outstanding songs. ‘Backseat Freestyle’ is just out of this world; it caries more mean hooks than any other record released this year. Just… wow. Then, once you get past the sheer ludicrousness of ‘Swimming Pools’  and allow yourself to indulge in the lush beats and swirling synths, you’ll enjoy the most thrilling few minutes of music you’ve probably heard in a while. ‘Good Kid Maaad City’ is a fun album – It’s almost impossible for me to relate to it in any way but I guess that’s why it’s been given the subtitle ‘A Short Film’. This is pure escapism and it’s written from the perspective of somebody with a fairly ‘out there’ perspective. The hype may be a little hard to swallow but Kendrick has just released the best out and out hip hop album of the year.



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