Review Round-up

4 Sep

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib ‘Pinata’

Freddie Gibbs, a gangsta rapper from Gary Indiana, has teamed up with semi-legendary producer Madlib for a new collaboration on ‘Pinata’. Gibbs has described the album as “a gangster Blaxploitation film on wax,” and that’s probably the best way of thinking about it. The off-centre beats rub up against some old soul samples as Gibbs spins his stories of wild drugs and wild women with an utter violence befitting of his gangsta status. It’s not refined, it’s not always intelligent and it’s not easy listening, but it is engaging and at times a hugely enjoyable collection. Gibbs has a good control of narrative and his technique is up there with the very best in the game. Despite its uneasy subject matter and excessive running time, ‘Pinata’ is just about the best Hip Hop record of 2014 so far.


Childhood ‘Lacuna’

In 2012/13 I saw Childhood live three times, supporting the excellent Palma Violets. In contrast to the Violets brand of ‘what you see is what you get’ punk rock, what Childhood presented was all together more obtuse and difficult to pin down. Their music was covered in a cloud of brightly coloured mist, literally in their case due to a preference for a psychedelic light show and school disco smoke machine. Seeing them live was akin to getting lost and off your face. On ‘Lacuna’, their full length debut, the band have done an admirable job of retaining the mystique at the same time as unleashing the pop potential of their songs. Yes, the tunes are reverby and dreamy, but there are dynamic, clean guitar lines, the vocals are loud in the mix and there are choruses a’pleanty. ‘Blue Velvet’, still their best song by a country mile, is given pride of place at the start of the record and it serves as a call to arms for nostalgic, indie rock loving peers. There are modern influences though; ‘Falls Away’, with its falsetto vocals drifting over a spacious plain of guitars recalls ‘Echoes’ era Klaxons, whilst ‘Chilliad’ would sound at home on a Neon Indian album. Despite these loose associations with the most volatile genres of the past decade, Nu-Rave and Glo-fi, Childhood have built ‘Lacuna’ on more sturdy foundations; it’s basically a trippy pscych-pop record. And a very promising one at that.


FKA Twigs ‘LP1’

I’ve heard FKA Twig’s debut album, ‘LP1’, described as sex music by several people, but that tag leaves me feeling really creeped out. What kind of sex are these people having? This is an album that doesn’t create a relaxed or sensual mood. It’s purposely glitchy, ackward and disorienting. It demands that you pay attention to it, not another person. Take the excellent ‘Video Girl, a song about Twigs’ former job as a music video star. The song’s tempo noticeably and slowly melts during the chorus, as the drums splutter, pitch-distorted vocals appear and disappear, and synths fade in and out of focus. If it creates any mood in particular it’s one of blisful confusion.

FKA Twigs has a distinctive and singular voice and style; this is one of the most impressively outre pop albums I’ve heard recently, and it’s all the more impressive from a debutant. Also impressive is her assured command of a sustained theme. These tunes beg for stability and happiness in a world full of betrayal and uncertainty. The more experimental numbers, like ‘Numbers’ and ‘Closer’ make this point forcibly with musical discordance and futurist terror. Even the poppier songs such as ‘Two Weeks’ and ‘Give Up’ strike a note of sadness and desperation under the glitter. It’s these two songs in particular on which FKA Twigs makes a serious claim as an authentic r&b artist who could cross in to the mainstream.







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