Posts Tagged ‘Pop’

12th October 2021

James Wells

The follow-up to her debut, ‘Another Girl’s Man’, ‘Hidden Paradise’ finds Alice SK plundering a host of genres to forge something that’s breezy, undoubtedly poppy, with elements of indie, jazz, and even a hint of ska – in short, the kind of thing I’d normally not go for. But for every rule, there are necessarily exceptions: The Ruts drew heavily on dub reggae without losing sight of their punk roots; Blondie were a new wave and guitar pop in equal measure, and the fact is, pop is not a source of shame, or a cause for criticism or dismissal in itself.

‘Hidden Paradise; is nicely done: it’s got a downbeat undercurrent, but has a nice, catchy swing and some backed-off brass bolstering the breezy chorus. It has an immediacy, but, where it stands up against so much mainstream pop, it also has depth, both in terms of arrangement and lyrically, balancing the deeply personal with an uplifting delivery.

Alice is using her network to positive effect here, too: the track, which appears on her forthcoming EP Electric – scheduled for release early in 2022 – which was produced and co-written by Muca (Los Bitchos, L.A. Salami), and she’s definitely one to include in your ‘ones to watch’ list. She’s on ours.

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Youth Sounds / Cadiz Entertainment

Christopher Nosnibor

Well, this is a surprise, and I say that without sarcasm. The lead single from Youth’s debut solo album is a breezy slice of indie with a heavy 60s folk influence.

But then, Youth has always been a man of surprises. His transition from Killing Joke bassist to producer and remixer of some incredibly high-profile mainstream acts including U2 and Erasure, via recording as a member of 90s dance act Blue Pearl and back to playing bass with Killing Joke and juggling infinite other projects is an incredible feat, and while I might consider his lack of commitment to any one thing uncritical, it’s clearly apparent that he’s an artist who can turn his hand – and successfully – to anything. I suppose the only real question is ‘what does he truly believe in?’ or ‘who is the real Martin Glover?’

The press blurbage for the album, out in November, and its eclectic range does attempt to shed some light one this:

‘Growing up with the sound of 70’s pop radio and bands such as Smokie, Pilot and Bay City Rollers – some of the tracks here are a flashback to those times and the initial inspiration of a thirteen year old Youth to write his first songs. ‘Sha La Laa I Love You’ and ‘The King Of The Losers’ are intimate, honest and have a naïve and innocent pop sensibility that are underpinned with regret and loss. He’s also took [sic] inspiration from psychedelic pop and English folk rock and his own words, he was thinking – “Everything from Nick Drake to Led Zeppelin, through a lens of Fairport tripping out with the Velvet Underground with a couple of Beach Boys, all the way to Cohen and Rodriguez, via Jim O Rourke, jamming with Fred Neil and Bert Janch and Michael Rother.’

Yes, Youth has been around, and so absorbed and assimilated a lot of stuff, and ‘Spinning Wheel’ brings many of those different pieces together, starting with a keen ear for melody, with the added bonus of some nice, subtle harmonies. Objectively, it’s a neat and accessible pop tune, and you can’t say fairer than that.

20th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

More than I dislike talking politics or sport with colleagues and strangers, I feel most uncomfortable talking about music, because unless their leanings are, it’s almost guaranteed that we won’t hare similar tastes or knowledge. Usually, it’s a case of my hating everything they love, and their not having heard of anything I listen to. There’s no middle ground there: even if I feign an interest, nod and smile, where is there left to go?

And so I do often wonder about press releases, specifically the influences artists cite. In the more fringe fields of obscure metal, ambient, and electronica, esoteric reference points abound, perhaps because to an extent obscurantism carries a certain coolness and cachet. In more commercially-leaning circles, the opposite tends to be true. Artists aiming for a broad acceptance tend to cite artists who are well-known to the point that they’re essentially household names.

This isn’t to single out Jack Caine by any means, but his listed influences – Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Arctic Monkeys, Joni Mitchell, The Smiths – feels incredibly ‘standard’. Are these really his influences? Maybe – it could really be that most people who make music listen to the same well-known artists. I also have a personal discomfort with citations of The Smiths, a band I loved with a deep passion in my teens, but have since struggled to relate to in my thirties and forties, and with their memory sullied by the colossal twat Morrissey has confirmed himself to be.

Of course, even music that is very much an evidential sum of its parts should be judged on its own merits, and while ‘derivative’ clearly bears heavily negative connotations, the assimilation of tropes and absorption of influences is, in itself, no bad thing per se. It’s all in the delivery, and for all this, ‘All in a Day’s Work’ is an accessible, melodic middling tune with hints of classic vintage indie and pop when pop wasn’t slick, manufactured, mechanised, digitised – and it’s well-executed. It has spirit, it has soul.

Building from a muted electric guitar played clean, over which Caine paints a kitchen sink scene, the bass begins to get twitchy and the muffled drumming begins to push things along and you just sense it’s going to break sooner or later… and then it spills. It’s a great single, with dynamics, energy, and emotion, and hooks.

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16th July 2021

James Wells

Here at Aural Aggravation, we may have a predilection for noise and abrasion, but sometimes, we get headaches, sometimes we just get too het up and stressed and life gets so horrible that we need a break. Besides, even pop songs don’t necessarily mean mainstream these days: and without the kind of exposure that propels them to stardom, purveyors of pop can be as underground as the darkest of sludge metal acts.

Bethany Ferrie – 23 and hailing from Glasgow – beings us a piano-led song that’s poppy, but also serious, but without being Coldplay or Keane about it. She does, however, represent a generation of new artists who are emerging with a maturity that belies their years.

On ‘This is Where I Leave You’, Bethanie twists and turns through a gamut of emotional turmoil, and there’s a whole lot of emotional anguish here, but it’s presented delicately and digestibly thanks to a sweetly melodic delivery.

Bethany Ferrie Press Shot 2

2nd June 2021

James Wells

So often, less is more. Ben Denny Mo’s latest single is simply acoustic guitar and vocal. As such, it’s certainly less in terms of arrangement, and with so few elements in the mix, it’s hard to go particularly OTT on the production too. This is what really makes this: there’s no multitracking, no gimmicks or studio trickery, no deception or other kind of alchemical wizardly to enhance the performance. What we have here is just a staggering wealth of musical talent and ability on display.

The Fakenham-based singer-songwriter has already become a firm favourite with BBC Introducing at home in Norfolk, having drawn comparisons to a wide range of singers from Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews, Michael Jackson, Sam Smith and John Martyn. It’s testament to his range and versatility, and there’s a lot going on, all packed into this concise little number. The guy’s got real soul, and she swoops, soars, leaps and bounds all over the song with unbridled energy, calling to mind Everything Everything’s Johnathan Higgs.

But with so much focus on ben’s voice, what about the musicianship, and what about the song? There’s a complexity of technique that belies the apparent simplicity of tapping a few chords, with some fast fretwork that blends classical and jazz with a dash of funk.

In cramming so much in and dazzling so brightly with it, it’s sometimes a little difficult to follow the song itself. The hooks are overshadowed by the performance itself, and I suppose ‘6am’ evokes the same kind of sensation as listening to Jamiroquai – which of course is subjective and divisive. The popular perspective is that it’s a groove, and there’s no question Ben’s got mass appeal, and ‘6am’ could yet prove to be the breakthrough.

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26th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a whole month since we heard from lo-fi bedroom duo Videostore, and their latest effort continues the narrative trajectory that’s been running through so many of their releases.

The pair describe ‘Bounce Back’ as some ‘Cathartic song writing after they closed down the Videostore and everyone lost their jobs… Channelling some New York new wave/ no wave with special thanks to Blondie and Sonic Youth!’

This one starts of slow, stripped back and sedate, but as it builds, it balances lugubrious wallowing with some clean, poppy backing vocals. It’s one of their longer songs, and it’s a slow-burner that simmers before finally going off toward the four-minute mark – and when it does go off, it blazes hard.

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9th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The remastered re-reissues of avant-experimentalist oddballs Photographed by Lightning continues apace with the emergence of Dust Bug Cecil (or, to give it its full title, The Rise and Fall of Dust Bug Cecil and the Winking Cats, supposedly taken from an obscure book about a direct to disc recording pioneer, and may in turn be a skewed play on Ziggy Stardust. Of course, everything is skewed in the world of PBL, and if Music From the Empty Quarter wasn’t evidence enough of this, then this should be enough to convince anyone: presented here as a whopping thirty-eight track document (2 CDs worth), Dust Bug Cecil is augmented with the entirety of their other 2002 album, Let Me Eat the Flowers. On the strength of this, it vocalist Syd Howells and co (here represented by Dave Mitchell (vocals, bass, keyboards); Bionio Bill (drums & percussives); Roland Ellis (saxophone); Chris Knipe (mandolin & fiddle), and Rev Porl Stevens contributing vocals to ‘White Master’)) had perhaps ingested more than just pansies prior to these sessions.

As Howells recounts it, ‘following the behemoth like Music From The Empty Quarter we went in search of tunes. Found some too. Glued them together with words and somehow found ourselves making a ‘pop’ album.’ In comparison to its predecessor, Dust Bug Cecil is a pop album in that there are none of the sprawling ten-minute epic headfucks on offer here, with most of the songs – and, indeed, they are songs – clocking in around the three-minute mark. It’s ‘pop’ in the style of the dark pop of post-punk, but its values are ostensibly altogether more punk, and its sound is primitive and murky. It’s pop in the way The Jesus and Mary Chain write breezy, surfy pop tunes and bury them in is a squall of noise that renders them almost indistinct.

There are melodies and choruses bursting out from every corner, but in context of 2002, songs like the album’s opener, ‘Eyes on Stalks’ and ‘Numb Alex’ sound like early 80s new wave demos: driving Joy Division-esque bass dominates a rhythm pinned down by a frenetic drum machine that sounds like it’s struggling to keep up with the throbbing energy, and there are hints of The Cure and B-Movie in the mix here.

The guitars buzz like flanged wasps on the vaguely baggy / shoegazey ‘Lady Lucifer’, prefacing the sound that A Place To Bury Strangers would come to make their signature. Elsewhere, the sound swings from almost straight 60s-tinged indie on ‘Let Me Eat the Flowers’, while ‘The Remains of a Tramp Called Bailey’ sounds like a head-on collision between The Pixies and The Psychedelic Furs, and ‘The Risen’ comes on like early New Order. If it reads like I’m chucking in a list of seemingly random and incongruous artists by way of confused and confusing reference points, it’s because that’s what the listening experience is like. None of the elements of the album are unique by any stretch, but their hybridisation very much is. The 60s garage vibe of ‘Untitled (for Dylan’) and the Fall-like scuzz of ‘David Dickinson Said’ (with its obvious but necessary ‘cheap as chips’ refrain) are well-realised, and suit the lo-fi production values.

Sonically, Dust Bug Cecil is nowhere near as challenging as Music From The Empty Quarter, and it was almost inevitable that they had to do something different, having taken the avant-jazz oddity to its limit. Then again, of course, there’s still the customary weird shit, like the squelchy racket with spoken word of ‘Bob’ and ‘Pablo’, and the doomy industrial synth robotix of ‘Be This Her Memorial’, which mean it’s hardly the most accessible album going and it is quite bewildering just in terms of its stylistic eclecticism.

It’s unquestionably a mixed bag, and not all of the efforts are completely successful or gel quite as hoped, something the band themselves acknowledge with hindsight. But it’s still very much a musical, if not commercial, success, showcasing a band capable of wild diversity in their creativity, as well as a band who’ve spent a career making the music that pleases them over anyone else.

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30th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I had something of what you might call an epiphany of sorts last night. I was cooking dinner, and as is standard, had put the TV on. I usually have it on mute and watch the news with subtitles while listening to a CD, but instead, while chopping veg for a healthy stir-fry, I had a music channel playing 80s hits, and it was good – mostly the early 80s, with some ABC and Aha (‘The Sun Always Shines in TV’ for change) before plummeting into the shit of Bros and Brother Beyond just before I served, at which point it went off. But it was during this unashamed nostalgiafest that I realised that for my daughter, who’s 9, the 80s are further in the past than the 60s were when I was her age. And that at her age, I had no interest in the 60s because it was so far back in history it was tinny, trebly, scratchy, dated, sepiatone or black and white. It was historical relics and I never got why my parents rated anything 60s. I still don’t really have much interest in the main.

But chowing my chow mein, I came to realise that things have changed, largely, one assumes, on account of the Internet. Now, we have truly hit peak postmodern in the sense that the historical is now part of the present, and everything and anything goes. The 60s likely feel a lot less distant and alien to a nine-year-old than to someone like me in their mid-40s, because they’re simply so much more accommodating.

And so it is that 23-year-old singer/songwriter Bethany Ferrie takes in a wide range of influences, from the likes of Fleetwood Mac to Lewis Capaldi, Kings of Leon to Taylor Swift. And also, I’m reminded that no longer is anyone purist in their allegiance to rock, pop, or folk. For those under thirty who can extricate themselves from the mundane bilge of R1 mediocrity, whereby music is so much wallpaper, music is music, and there are only two kinds – good and bad. There’s perhaps a certain naivete in the idea that all of these things sit together, but Bethany demonstrates an admirable songwriting prowess with her new single, ‘Bones’. The piano-led song is low-key, but layered, melodic yet heartfelt. It’s also one of those songs that has a slow, contemplative start, before bursting into a cinematic chorus, aided by some reverby production that really does the scope of the song justice.

Is it alternative? Is it niche? No. Is it commercial? In terms of R1 circa 2004 when Keane’s ‘Something Only We Know’ and playlists were wall-to-wall Coldplay, yes and no. ‘Bones’ isn’t dreary, drab, or manufactured, but does have clear commercial potential.

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Final Cover

Plinki – 15th April 2021

I’ve been vegetarian since around 1994 or 95. My vegetarianism amuses some people, including a couple of friends who are such hardcore meat enthusiasts the prospect of a meal without at least some meat element makes them shudder and quiver and slowly foam away like a slug having salt poured over it. Then again, there’s a real risk they might dehydrate through salivation at the prospect of a tray of meat. Yes, the promise of meat can have a profound and indeed physical effect.

On this album, Anat Ben David and collaborators aren’t promising any meat you can actually eat and digest, but only chew on, which will no doubt disappoint my carnivorous chums. But there is much to chew on, and to ponder, as they present a vast array of styles and sounds that don’t always sit comfortably aside one another and will test many listeners on a number of levels. At times it’s pop, and with an electronic beat, but at others, it’s overtly experimental. And what does the cover art say?

Each of the songs on the album according to the liner notes, takes as its starting point ‘a text by a different author’ with ‘the new compositions bringing out a shared theme: the interaction of humans and the natural world and the assimilation of technology into our being’.

The five tracks on The Promise of Meat are stunning in their dramatic structures, their contrasts, their juxtapositions, and Anat’s soaring operatic vocals are utterly breathtaking. And there is no one overarching style that defines the album beyond the method, a focus on the minimal, the brooding. Pitched against groaning, droning electronica and stammering synths, it’s a striking sensation that creates a certain cognitive dissonance? What is this? How does one process and assimilate it?

‘Naked Axes’, the first song, is sparse and dissonant, dramatic and while the vocal is perhaps most reminiscent of Billie MacKenzie and there are hints of the high drama and tension of The Associates, it’s Scott Walker’s later work that’s perhaps the closest comparison here.

‘Cherish the Birds; is a chorus of delirium, while ‘Face Mixed With Phone’ is a stuttering barely- there dual-vocal acapella / spoken word piece with some bloopy, gloopy incidentals. It’s a shade awkward, especially when growls and whoops collide with shuddering organ-like drones and the crack of the snares of vintage drum machines to forge a wibbly sonic mirage.

The title track, a sprawling ten-minute morass of meanderance, is where things really get weird, and it’s sonorous, lugubrious, as an acoustic guitar plods a deadened strum, augmented by mournful brass sounds sad, lost notes into nothing, and amidst squelches and digital glitches. As atonal and varikeyed vocals collide against one another in the instrumental drift, it becomes increasingly disorientating and deranged.

Maybe this isn’t an album to process or assimilate in the usual ways. There is no clean or simple way to position this or to otherwise feel comfortable with the unexpected transitions and perspectives. But it is an album to spend time with, and to reattenuate your expectations by.

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28th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

VVolves seriously impressed with their debut single, ‘Momentum’, unveiled last June – a heady rush of shoegaze and pop with ethereal vocals and a repetitive groove, it was, well, impressive.

‘Well-Loved Tales’ is an admirable follow-up: rich in atmosphere, but at the same time, a bold electronic pop tune, it’s a magnificently balanced composition. The rolling drums and teetering piano add drama to a guitar soaked in chorus and reverb, and with a rich, luscious production, the sound and the feel and the vibe is every inch the Cure’s Disintegration. And let’s be straight: if you’re going to take your cues from any classic album that has a truly timeless feel, that’s probably a top pick. There’s also a hint of ‘Naked and Savage’ by The Mission in the brooding, hypnotic hues, too.

There isn’t an attention-grabbing hook or an overt immediacy about ‘Well-Loved Tales’ – rather it casts a dreamy sonic spell that draws the listener in with a captivating sense of melody.

The ‘sparse’ version which serves as the B-side lives up to its name: stripped of the drums and the drama, slow-drifting synths provide the main accompaniment to a dreamy vocal that’s almost folksy, and equally, almost part of the instrumentation, and it’s nice. Very nice. As is the mesmerising video which accompanies it.

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