Everything Everything – A Fever Dream

In June of 2015 we were treated to one of the more interesting pop albums of that year – Everything Everything’s Get to Heaven. The album featured an assortment of catchy, yet uniquely experimental/quirky up-beat songs, occasionally equipped with a undertone of melancholy or fear (“No Reptiles”). While the album was mostly an energetic trip into rein-visioned 80’s new wave meets fast-tempo rhyming, there was always a slight atmosphere of danger and madness that made the band feel unpredictable – particularly on the first listen. I can recall being repeatedly surprised by each new track, and being rather engrossed with every song’s unique experience. It’s rare for an entire album to keep my attention and receive such repeated rotation as Get to Heaven did.

The band’s latest album Fever Dream doesn’t stray too far from the musical tone of Get to Heaven, though it seems it attempts to be more subdued and subtle then the latter, and more instrumentally progressive and varied. I can recall listening to songs on Get to Heaven, like “No Reptiles” where the stripped down/basic instrumentation was contrasted with an assault of lyrical bullets being fired by lead vocalist Jonathan Higgs, and being completely encapsulated by the experience. Unfortunately I can’t say I felt that way at all on Fever Dream, nor was I particularly enthusiastic about any of the more straight-forward dance/pop songs (not that there were too many of them this time around).

One thing Fever Dream does do is feature song structure that seems to meander and get lost like on  “Good Shot Good Soldier”, for example. The song starts out okay, with a catchy and stripped down beat, but quickly becomes rather boring and stagnant – as Jonathan constantly repeats his lines, which was interesting and refreshing to hear the first time around on Get to Heaven, which by this point in the album had already begun to feel tired. “Put Me Together” attempted to be a ballad of some sort, but the unrelenting high-hats, which often compliment Everything Everything’s music, in this case distracts from whatever atmosphere/emotion that this song was trying to convey; resulting in a boring mess of a song that, at least, ends a tad bit stronger than it begins.

At times Everything Everything stray into more straightforward rock territory (reminiscent of a more electronic Arctic Monkeys ala their last album), like on “Run the Numbers” and “White Whale”, but it unfortunately ends up being nothing memorable. These songs are decent, and instrumentally solid, but they don’t stick around in memory (“White Whale” slightly more so than “Run the Numbers” nor does anything (besides the focus on guitar) to warrant much recognition.

The slightly more subdued approach of Fever Dream does not pay off much, as the album instrumentation, while impressive and enjoyable, is not particularly memorable or immediately striking upon listening. I can still return to Get to Heaven and immediately be entranced in more than half of the album, jumping in at any point – this is not, however, the case for Fever Dream, as every song on here feels like an attempt to reach musical and emotional depth, without being particularly too interesting while doing it.  The best part of the title track, “Fever Dream”, ends up sounding like a catchy “Plastic Beach” era Gorillaz song meets Cut Copy.  Unfortunately, what I liked about Everything Everything has nothing to do with either of those bands, so it’s immensely unfortunate.

I thought the  first half of the song song “Ivory Tower” could have been taken off of Get to Heaven, as it just sounds like a bizarre amalgamation of a few songs from the previous album, which may just be their fans’ fancy, but it’s mostly disappointing to me. The payoff at the end of the track makes up for it though, as I did find myself repeat listening to the solo and enjoying it.

Overall, this is far from a bad album, but considering how impressive Get to Heaven was, it’s difficult to give compliments to this album – knowing how much better in nearly every way the previous album was. I give considerable credit to the band for attempting to expand and vary their sound on this album, going far more progressive and incorporating some impressive guitar solos (“Ivory Tower”), but I am also considerable dissapointed in Fever Dream being essentially a bland and forgettable version of Get to Heaven,with half of the energy.

 

6.75/10

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Please, Trend Lightly… On You-tube 7/6/2017

Kesha – Praying

Now, I’m not going to even try to dip my toes in the mess of a pool that is the Kesha-and-manager controversy, though you can’t help but feel this song is an active product/reflection of all the attitudes and views imposed upon her. I will say this: anyone can be a horrible person, artist, CEO, ANYONE. Never believe just what’s convenient.

That aside, lets look at the song: a piano driven ballad, accompanied by a combination of bright yet dark, moody yet bizarrely uplifting, and clearly a demonstration of frustration mangled with confrontation… The most personal song written, that I’ve heard, by the artist.

While Kesha’s opening monologue can either be taken as hear-wrenching, or eye-rolling (depending on your stance), most of the song is simplistic and straight-forward as far as a ballad goes. It’s biggest flaw is becoming instrumentally un-powerful during the last half… Which is a shame, because she is attempting to put as much emotion and effort into singing, which is definitely endearing.

God, do I start hating the song once the bass drum and chorus comes in, though. All the originality feels like it leaves it feeling kinda boring.

Can’t complain about someone trying to acquire artistic depth – so, kudos to you, Kesha – the artist formally known as Ke$ha.

 

JAY-Z – The Story of O.J.

The theme and artistic vision of the accompanying video is impeccable, haunting, and powerful… Jay-Z’s performance is solid, has a message, and manages to sound great here. Beat is great, too (as you can imagine).

It’s been a long time since I’ve genuinely enjoyed a Jay-Z track, so this was incredibly refreshing.

Look, there’s plenty to be said about this track that others could possibly articulate in greater detail – so explore this video if you haven’t yet. Pretty refreshing to hear an inspired, deep, and honest song, so kudos to Jay-Z.

MACKLEMORE FEAT SKYLAR GREY

Look, Macklemore was never an artist I really listened to in my spare time – despite acknowledging the technical ability, lyrical depth and creativity that is indicative of his music thus far.

Macklemore returns with a new track/music video, where he takes his Grandma out for a day, and speaks on a variety of topics. The instrumental is that same galloping hip-hop beat we heard all over the place on his last project, which is admittedly getting annoying at this point, but his heart and lyrical ability are both on point here.

Chorus sucks. Wherever is singing is annoying, and makes the hook unbearable. Ruins it, honestly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Please, Trend Lightly… On Youtube – 6/27/2017

Lecrae – I’ll Find You

Don’t worry my friend, we’re here to help you: you might have almost listened to an artistic expression that could be described as actually creative or innovative today -BUT DON’T WORRY! YOU ARE SAVED!

Luckily Lecrae and Tori Kelly are here to softly toss those ever so loved and NEVER tired 808-drum snares and hi-hats, accompanied by a lightly auto-tuned and generic sounding hook (though I don’t think Tori is all that bad a singer, she just doesn’t stand out at all, and tries her best to sing in the most trendy of styles). This song also happens to be so bland that it dulls your brain activity, allowing you to forget about all those useless thoughts in your head like: am I just listening to some guy who sounds like Dizzy Wright mixed with Drake? Oh, wait, this is a different artist? But… why?

I’m sure people will love it because it’s like so cool man, and like, speaks to me, and has all the things every other song has too. Nom nom nom more chips-esqe music please, my arteries still work.

 

Calvin Harris – Feels (Official Video) ft. Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, Big Sean

What is… happening…? Honestly, that was my main thought throughout the entire song.

So we have what SHOULD be a pretty refreshing, fun, and catchy funk beat that just sounds kinda off… unpolished, boring, and generic. How did this obnoxious over-stocked team of artists screw this up?

Look, I’m all about the funk revival train (though, according to intensely ‘academic’ articles as of late, the train has been in a bit of a state of havoc as liberal white people started discovering the bruno mars isn’t actually “black” – causing all kinds of fun cultural appropriation arguments that makes everyone uncomfortable, unsure, and likely aggravated) and while I hated Bruno until Uptown and 24k Magic brought back 80’s and 70’s funk influenced hip-hop back into popular circulation, SOMETHING went horribly wrong with this song.

First of all, I almost ALWAYS love Pharrell – the man has a wonderful falsetto, look, and personality that has been successful for over two decades. However, this song manages to make HIM sound just BAD. It sounds like his voice is unnecessarily auto-tuned (so does everyone’s, actually). Now, I’m not saying it’s terrible, but just extremely underwhelming considering how fresh and clean he normally sounds on almost every beat he’s thrown on.

Big Sean is still not good. He sounds like he’s too cool to care about doing his job well, but only because he’s convinced himself that he’s actually Drake.

Katy Perry… What is-what are… “FEEELSHhh”… Sounds so untalented and uninterested, here. Katy Perry is either dialing it in, or thinks she’s being seductive? I personally like to believe they are all just as bored performing this song as I am listening to it.

Thanks guys. Bruno Bars was doing just fine bringing an actual musical genre back to mainstream, and now you guys are ruining it already. (It’s not really THAT bad, but if you look at it closely… it’s pretty damn hollow and boring in comparison to other funk revivals).

 

Nick Jonas – Remember I Told You ft. Anne-Marie, Mike Posner

New Theme: Everyone just sounds like goddamn Drake

It’s like Nick Jonas was trying to make a Justin Timberlake song, but doesn’t have the same raw singing talent (at least not on this track, anyway), so instead he tried to make a Drake song, but doesn’t have the raw singing talent or personality, and finally resulted in a Drakerlake song that sounds like 20 or 30 different songs in this past week that I heard for about a few seconds on the radio before changing the station to the polka station to hear REAL music…

The light funk influence in the background of the instrumental at parts are… welcome, and the production overall is decent, but feels very jumpy and the song doesn’t feel like it wants to stay around long. It’s basic, somewhat effective, and is only annoying if you are a sane human being.

Also, why is Mike Posner rapping here? He’s usually singing… role swapping, eh? Well, he sounds alright over the beat, though he’s not saying anything important (but was anyone listening for anything important?), so kudos to Mike Posner for his wonderful 25 second contribution.

The song is okay, Nick Jonas is okay, Anne-Marie isn’t even on the song long enough to verify being okay, and Mike Posner is still not auto-tuned [NOT VERIFIED – MAY BE ACTUALLY AUTO-TUNED]. You’ll like it if you like the light dancey pop-music that everyone is making.

 

 

 

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Trend Lightly On Youtube – 6/26/2017

  1. Future – PIE ft. Chris Brown

As the 81,000 likes on the music video clearly signifies, many people will see this song as yet another “classic”; Classic meaning it will be played virtually endlessly for the next month on the radio.

I’m convinced Future is literally just a robot, and that Chris Brown is the rap equivalent to Donald Trump, at least when it comes to sustaining a wide following and acceptance despite clear issues with morality. However, considering this song is about a side-chick(s) and how hot she is, I’m sure morality is the last thing on anyone’s mind that is listening, or was making, this song.

As usual – beat is good, song is boring, brown is talented but an asshole, and future is a robot.

Skip.

2. LANY – Good Girls

Relationships continue to be the busiest of the muses in the music scene – nothing new, nothing surprising, and nothing necessarily wrong with that either.

While I’ve never heard of LANY before, this half young attractive-version of Steven Seagal/half thinner version bartender from Shameless, manages to compose a relatively mediocre light pop-dance track, with a rather inviting instrumental, and a decent vocal presentation.

LANY does look like he’s taking his “moves” in the music video straight from a Madonna video – or any other female pop-star circa 1980’s – and plays up his “sensitive buff sexy-man with long hair and piercings” image like only the early 90’s could do… but he’s doing it in 2017. Nostalgic in a bizarre way, visually at least.

Give it a listen, but don’t bother with the video unless you want to fan ‘squee’ at a young Steven Seagal.

3. The Chainsmokers – “Young”

Hey, are you young? Do you like to do stupid and irresponsible shit, that you know not to do, and think it’s fun? Do you also listen to music that is 100% a product of whats currently popular, even it meshes about as well as gummi bears and brussel sprouts do? Then you already know the Chainsmokers, and you already like this song, and you already know that life is too just tough and boring for you to listen to all the stuff that literally everyone who is older than 23 tells you about constantly.

I don’t like this song. It’s not horrible, at least has a half-assed concept ripped from a few 90’s pop-punk songs, and is fine tuned to the ears of 14 year olds everywhere.

Yay.

 

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New Music Quickies – “Big Fish” Vince Staples

I’ve been a long-time fan of Vince Staples, even as far back as one can likely look for his material, such as Earl’s self-titled project. Vince has an indistinguishable voice, blunt flow, and confusing personal beliefs (watch any of his incredibly popular and respected interviews – he’s a very self-aware, honest, insightful, and intellectual individual) and philosophy that, to my surprise, often contradict with the songs that he constructs.

I will say that his last few projects were underwhelming, and did not invite many re-listens from me, if any. I couldn’t really say why – just, for some reason, despite me loving all the essential ingredients that Vince Staples provides, I just haven’t fully enjoyed an actual whole project of his since his Stolen Youth mix-tape, which I enjoyed thoroughly – and still do.

“Big Fish” continues to display Vince’s impeccable and consistent flow, but also is burdened by an incredibly boring video and chorus. This song feels incredibly boring, ESPECIALLY THE CHORUS – yeah, you’re making money, and spent all night counting your money, great… and? Basically, another song about “the old days were bad, and now they are not, and here’s some things that were bad back then”. Vince’s lyricism definitely improves in the second half of the song, and is of course impressive, but it just feels even MORE SO that he couldn’t give a shit about how good his lines are – he sounds as disinterested in the fact that he’s rhyming about successful now, as I do listening to it! How?

I’ve also been done with these unoriginal and repetitive DJ Mustard wanna-be “TOTALLY NOT RACK CITY BEAT” beats. So many people in hip-hop been making derivatives of goddamn bare-boned and soul-less “Rack City” beat, and HERE IT IS ONCE AGAIN.

If you like “Rack City” by Tyga, you’ll be happy a far more competent rapper is rapping over a remix of that beat on this song.

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New Music Quickies – “Crying In The Club” Camila Cabello

 

This is my introduction to Cabello’s work, and it’s abundantly obvious that she is very talented singer, capable of conveying complex emotion that can be amplified and minimized when appropriately needed. In just one song, you can very clearly tell her potential as a vocal performer. One of my favorite oddball-pop stars, Sia, is supposedly credited as the writer, and that is apparent in the song’s actual competent progression and structure.

The fantastic violin introduction is very inviting, and Cabello’s vocal talent is very quickly displayed, but the way she is singing is extremely overplayed by this point in popular music. Whatever identity she has, unfortunately, overshadowed by the ever prevalence of singers who sing in the exact same cadence and slang-y style that she does. Obviously fans more familiar with her early work will be able to look past this, most likely, but I cannot at the moment.
The “I have questions” line only gets more annoying the more it’s said, ruining what I enjoyed about the introduction.

The sample that kicks in around the 2 minute mark just instantly takes me away from any attention I was giving the song, and takes me out to thinking about either Genie in a Bottle or that new Ed Sheeran song that just irritates me. Not a terrible choice, but feels really lazy, and unimpressive. The successful buildup of the beginning of the song just leads us to an underwhelming and bare xylophone-sounding section where we are supposed to feel like “ALL MY PROBLEMS ARE GONE NOW THAT I’M IN THE CLUB, I CAN’T CRY HERE, JUST PARTY, I’M IN DENIAL, ISN’T THAT SHIT DEEP?”. I would just be expecting something heavier, bass-ier, or maybe faster, instrumentally, at this section, to better construct the illusion of trying to get lost in a club after a break-up.

I can appreciate that the song has a theme, but less than half-way through it fails to really match-up musically to that theme’s progression in the track as well as it could have.

Not a bad song by any stretch of the imagination, will likely be loved her fans, just disappointing, underwhelming, and kinda instrumentally unoriginal considering the clear level of talent involved in it’s construction.

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New Music Quickies – “Swish, Swish” Katy Perry ft. Nicki Minaj

Nicky sounds fine, as usual. Nothing particularly interesting or focused lyrics-wise (oh my a Biggie reference, woo…) Katy is not remotely a bad singer, and the few moments on here where she’s singing rap-style lyrics – “like a coupon – expired” aren’t awful… but that one line previously mentioned is about the ONLY memorable thing in the song… The rest is literally gone out of your mind almost instantly. While the theme of the song isn’t unthinkable for some dance-y pop song, it just doesn’t seem developed beyond surface level.

Beat is good, but that’s kind of like being impressed with a kid putting their name on their homework; it’s a bare minimum requirement. Dance to it when it comes on, but you’ll forget it as soon as it’s over, and probably enjoy the next song much more.

…And the Taylor Swift drama/conspiracy is face-palm worthy, at best. Childish, uninteresting, and even potentially forced.

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