Let’s go straight to the point: there has been so many good releases this summer that we didn’t have time to write one review for each of them. So we decided to write a small story for all of them here, enjoy!
Brilliantly named noise merchants Ratatat return with this, their fifth album – and what a fine time it is. The audacious guitars that made their debut such a winner are back, but this time they’re blended with a more varied collection of sounds and genres. Despite recording time spent in Jamaica, it’s French titans such as Daft Punk and Air that seem to be channelled on the Sunday-vibed title track and a handful of others. Loose, melodic, but with just enough bite, this is an album to soundtrack your dusks this summer.
Even though after 4 years of silence, Magnifique was expected something different from the old tunes, It seems confining to suggest that Ratatat’s music does sounds the same since the beginning. But that’s also a good thing, there’s nothing regressive or cynical in Ratatat’s consistency, because these two guys are making the music they want to make. You could also think that their most memorable and essential work was collaborative, from Kid Cudi to their unofficial but rewarding remixes to the great Despot single produced by E*Vax.
Tame Impala “Currents”
Tame Impala — named for the antelope, not the Chevy — is essentially one guy, 29-year-old Kevin Parker from Perth, Australia. Front man perhaps connotes something too extroverted to describe his role in the band; he’s more of a sonic architect, constructing soundscapes in his studio and then later bringing on some touring members to air the material live. The titles of the first two Tame Impala albums, 2010’s Innerspeaker and 2012’s Lonerism, speak volumes about Parker’s creative process and personality. Currents arrives complete with the perfect psych-meets-dance-music creation myth: Parker has said the idea for the record came to him when he was listening to the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” on mushrooms. And like an audacious Gibb neckline, Currents has a confidence that the previous Tame Impala albums sometimes lacked; the dazzling eight-minute opener “Let It Happen” is, yes, eight minutes long, but it’s still an exercise in minimalism and restraint.
Guitars have been an endangered species for years, and revivalists have had difficulty resonating with younger listeners in a world where EDM is looking like this generation’s rock and roll. But Tame Impala has found a way to bridge the gap without pandering — becoming the rock band that dance kids can admit to liking. Currents has every mark of a deserved breakthrough; it should bump the band up a few more notches on the Coachella poster. The secret might be Parker’s love of making “guitars sound like synths and drums sound like drum samples”; rock music is allowed to be more modern than something Jack White wants you to play on a Victrola. “I’m obsessed with confusing people as to the origin of a sound”, Currents sounds fresh enough to fool a new generation into thinking he invented it.
The internet “Ego Death”
2 years after their first album « Feel Good », the pop collective the Internet is back with a new album entitled « Ego Death ». Led by the young and talented Syd, the band which was part of Odd Future, is leading a soul/funk revival which has taken over the world in the last months. The cover is very 70’s with all members making diferent face expressions. The lists of featurings is kind of classy : Janelle Monae, James Fauntleroy, Kaytranada, Vic Mensa, Tyler the Creator. They really brought strenght and diversity to the album. This one is way better than « Feel Good » in every way. There is a real band playing live here and it feels amazing to hear real instruments. Syd has progressed as a singer but hasn’t reach her full potential yet. Overall it’s a really good record which you can enjoy on the road or at the beach.
Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment “Surf”
Behind this name, Chance the Rapper is hiding. This « experiment » is far from his mixtapes « 10 Days » and « Acid Rap », it’s a mix of soul, jazz, funk, pop and rap. Many cool featurings can be found on this record : Busta Rhymes, B.O.B, J Cole, Big Sean, BJ the Chicago Kid, Raury, Quavo and King Louie, Joey Purp, Erykah Badu, Jeremih, Janelle Monae). He released it online for free which is nice for us smart (or broke) people who stopped buying physical music in 2006. It’s a very enjoyable album for summer, interesting song structures and beautiful melodies, sounds like « Ego Death » by The Internet on some songs.
Albert Hammond Jr “Momentary Masters”
As guitarist and keyboardist for The Strokes, Albert Hammond Jr. is an accomplished pacemaker. He measures the pulse of his band, holding up melodic lines with patterns carefully perched between protruding bass, lead guitar, and tethering vocals. His work as part of the unit is mostly complementary, as he builds the backbone for the strutting chords that make the band’s pop-leaning tunes so memorable. As a solo artist, Hammond maintains a safe distance from his band’s celebrity without actually committing to reinvention, making artsy mockups of Strokes songs with a careful, personal touch. Hammond’s first album,Yours to Keep, received its share of “this guy writes songs, too?” head-turns, but underneath the penmanship was a craftsmanship indicative of a guitarist tired of layering harmonies, a musician looking to distance himself from a career generating rhythmic pulse by testing out riffs of varying tones and textures. Hammond’s last solo album, 2008’s ¿Cómo Te Llama?, felt like his attempt to redefine himself as an artist (hence the name). It was just as lively and almost as interesting as Yours to Keep, but in his quest for distinction, his music ended up sounding more like Strokes B-sides than ever. That’s either a great compliment or an ego-shattering insult depending on how you look at it. Seven years later after the 2013’s great EP, AHJ), Hammond returns with Momentary Masters, his most colorful album yet. But despite its warm, engaging overtones, very little lies beneath the rumbling power pop riffs and the glossy pop rock veneer.
These days, it’s easier to distinguish Hammond’s solo work from The Strokes’ catalog, partially due to hindsight and the growing number of entries available for comparison, but mostly because Hammond’s newer music is less derivative of previous Strokes work and more informed by its very existence. Momentary Masters is the first Hammond album that really feels like more than a side project. This is truly Hammond the solo artist, not Hammond on vacation from his main gig — this is the closest he’s come to constructing an identity outside of his role in the band.
Jamie XX “In Colour”
In Colour is no mere sepia-tinted nostalgia trip. It might be a kaleidoscopic 11-track tribute to raves long past, a paean to the styles Smith is too young to remember first-hand, and the incidental chatter of London pirate radio circa 1992 that he is too young to have heard – a direction presaged in last summer’s pre-album offering, All Under One Roof Raving. But it is also about the pleasure of being alone, enveloped in bass, in a sea of many; of refracting what can often be a superficial experience – London clubbing – into something more existential, more nuanced, more unified.
And while it is true that In Colour is considerably happier than the xx’s works – witness the excited jump-up of Gosh, the opening track, or I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times), which features Atlantan sing-rapper Young Thug playing off against Jamaican dancehall MC Popcaan – it is also one of the least lairy party albums in the world, ever, a potent antidote to bro-step, the current stadium iteration of dance music. You could call this larging it, for introverts.
Sung by Jamie’s xx bandmate Oliver Sim, the minimal Stranger in a Room is a salute to clubbing as an act of liberating reinvention. “Wanna change your colours, just for the night?” asks Sim. “With no word of it following you home?” The track lacks anything approaching a denouement, a bass drop, a chorus; it just ends, and the next (Hold Tight) begins to coagulate into focus, like a distant party a few streets down, where you struggle to find the first beat in the bar because it is too far away to grasp. Loud Places is rather like Stranger in a Room, but with xx guitarist and singer Romy Madley Croft on board. “I go to loud places to search for someone/to be quiet with/who will take me home.” There is a chorus this time, but correspondingly more melancholy. The highs of Madley Croft’s affections can’t hope to compete with those of the dancefloor. “You’re in ecstasy without me/When you come down/I won’t be around,” she husks. The entire album feels a little like wandering around a rave, different sounds coming in and out of focus, forming part of the soundscape. The end of Seesaw, another Madley Croft track in which love goes up and down, finds some anonymous raver at a loss for words. “I just….” he splutters. “The world just…” he stammers. You know how he feels.
Jacco Gardner “Hypnophobia”
In the lineage of Syd Barrett, this young Dutch is offering the last psychedelic potion of 2015. Full of poetry, synth / guitar melodies, the album adopts a retro style as the first album ” Cabinet of Curiosities ” in 2013. It is necessary to listen to it all at once to understand the sound journey which the artist proposes us. It’s sometimes energetic or peacefull, Jacco Gardner entertains us with its very influenced 60 ‘ ballads. A descendant of Zombies and Pink Floyd whose second album is a sucess, I look forward to the third one!
Asap Rocky “At. Long. Last. ASAP”
ASAP Rocky wears many hats. He’s been the Harlem-based Tumblr rap prodigy, the luxury fashion name-dropper, the face of ASAP Mob, and a guy who loves rapping about all things purple. Now, he’s added another facet to his repertoire: dude who really likes taking and talking about taking acid. I thought that it was pretty easy to identify the ALLA’s flaws, of which there are a fair number, while still basking in the moments of greatness that Rocky managed to create out of a bad situation, of which there are also plenty. The guest list for this album is huge, and while some could argue that it means Rocky can’t carry this record by himself, that’s not the case. One of Yams’ defining qualities was his ear for talent. The features he’d pick out would suit the overall aesthetic and not only make the song great, but make Rocky look great by proxy. That’s still true on A.L.L.A; Rocky never appears washed or overshadowed by a feature. Bringing M.I.A. and Future together on “Fine Whine” feels like a watershed moment and something Yams might’ve had a hand in. The track manages to fit in one of today’s most controversial and exciting pop stars and one of the planet’s hottest rappers, and there’s still room for Rocky to make it all his own. Similarly, “Jukebox Joints” remains firmly an ASAP Rocky song, even with production and a first-rate verse from Kanye West.
There’s a noticeable lack of bangers on this album, but that’s not to say there isn’t some fire. The Rod Stewart-sampling “Everyday” is a hazy, meandering song that should find its way onto some summer blunt cruise soundtracks. “M’s” features one of the best Lil Wayne verses of the last half decade, and “Electric Body” sees Schoolboy Q experimenting with a more hyperactive flow that suits him well. “Excuse Me”, an ode to stunting on haters, is another highlight. A subdued swagger emanates from the beat, produced by Rocky, Hector Delgado, and Vulkan the Krusader, with a middle section that sounds like an orchestra hidden behind a brick wall and just barely coming through. “Wavybone” is a Juicy J-produced posse cut with an unearthed Pimp C verse partly about getting head from Sheryl Crow, which may actually be the best thing on the album. “Back Home” is incontestably East Coast, with a fantastic Mos Def/Yasiin Bey verse and what seems to be an old firehouse alarm accompanying the beat.
La Priest “Inji”
Sam Eastgate, former leader of regretted English group Late of the Pier, released his first “album” Inji “” at the end of June. This unexpected return was noticed, and Priest pleased us to be touring for festivals this summer. The album is unique, first of all the voice, disturbing but we become used to it after some listening sessions. The variety of instruments and the sounds intermixed in the songs creates an half organized mess. We feel the will of the musician to make space for the improvisation. This strange album is fully rideable : you can listen to it on repeat without skiping songs.
Vince Staples “Summertime 06”
Young rapper from Long Beach, California, Vince Staples gets noticed with its mixtape ” Shine Coldchain ” and his EP “Hell Can Wait” in 2014. Member of US new wave, he is friend with Mac Miller and Earl Sweatshirt. He released his first album ” Summertime 06 ” in the beginning of July. It is in fact a double album, very personal and dark, carried by its talent of storyteller and the quality of the productions. His flow is very special and we recognize his voice very quickly. Many cool artists in the featurings like Future, Jhené Aiko, Kilo Kish, Joey Fatts, Aston Matthews. Telling the stories of gangs in LA, we can draw a parallel with Kendrick Lamar’s album, both allying the storytelling side with a very pleasant Entertainment side. A good first album for Vince Staples, who should not explode sales but who’s worth to extend his fanbase and to confirm his potential.
Dr Dre “Compton”
16 years after “2001”, Dr Dre surprises us by releasing his third album which is in fact the soundtrack of the movie “Straight Outta Compton” which tells the story of his group NWA. Dre invited his old friends and new talents to renew his g-funk style. The result is mitigated, we find some brilliant songs but this album does not equal its two previous. However, I recommend the movie which is already a commercial success, applauded by the critics and the public.
Travi$ Scott “Rodeo”
On paper, Rodeo should be one of the biggest and best rap albums of the year. Scott has spent the past few years touring hard, developing an aesthetic, honing a craft. He hasn’t made an album up until now, but he’s already made mixtape-level hits; “Upper Echelon,” from his 2013 mixtape Owl Pharaoh, remains an absolute banger. He’s spent time with masters, and his name appears over and over in the credits of Kanye West’s Yeezus, as a writer and producer. Rodeo is a massive and ambitious project, a sprawling album with a central theme about trying to master your own out-of-control life the way a cowboy masters a stampeding bull at a rodeo. The album has a sound, a gothic and apocalyptic synth-rap thunder that never stops sounding big. The roster of guests includes many of the most exciting people in rap and rap-adjacent music: Kanye West, the Weeknd, Quavo, Toro Y Moi, Chief Keef, Juicy J, Swae Lee. The tracklist includes the phrase “Maria I’m Drunk [Feat. Justin Bieber & Young Thug],” and you know that you want to know what that sounds like.
There’s a sort of a flat grandeur to Rodeo. It sounds impressive in a car, all those bass wobbles and plangent pianos and operatic synth-churns. Scott is best when he’s braying a simple phrase over and over; it’s what turns his single “Antidote” into such a weird little earworm. But when it comes to actual rapping, Scott is a complete nonentity. There’s no personality or force or urgency in his delivery. He doesn’t have anything he’s burning to tell us, and that urgency has been there in every great rapper in history, even the ones who just wanted to tell us how rich they were or how good they were at rapping. Rodeo still is a good album, with some very good tracks such as 90210, Apple Pie and Pray 4 Love but we do expect better coming from Travi$ Scott soon enough.
Picture published in C Heads Magazine n°2, model is Cameron Hammond