Daughters Deliver On “You Won’t Get What You Want”, An Album That Is A Fantastic Pit Of Despair

photo credit: Reid Haithcock

With You Won’t Get What You Want, Daughters may have just released one of the best rock albums in this decade. This album is a catastrophic earthquake of emotion and terror and is ready to destroy everyone who listens to it.

Music changes and evolves constantly. Over the years, artists, bands, record labels, and whole genres will move and sweep along different soundscapes, atmospheres, and whole cultural movements. Before this latest record, the last the world heard of noise-rockers Daughters was in 2010, with their frenetic and electrifying self-titled third album. Daughters are a band that, since their 2003 debut album Canada Songs, have molded and shaped their sound into many different subgenres of rock and metal. Their aforementioned debut album was a blistering eleven minutes of chaotic grindcore. From there, they moved into a longer (albeit not by much) twenty-three minutes of raw and unapologetic mathcore with their second album Hell Songs.

To evolve their sound so rapidly over such a short period is quite an achievement. As such, it can be argued that not many fans or critics alike were really prepared to hear what a new album would sound like after a mammoth eight years. And now we arrive at You Won’t Get What You Want, Daughters’ fourth studio album.

Album opener City Song alludes to the listening experience that is about to be had with this album. A swirling, minimalistic monster, it is a song punctuated by devilish synth-distortion, a spoken word drawl describing an apocalyptic world delivered by vocalist Alexis Marshall and jackhammer-like snare drums, all culminating into a cacophony of noises and instruments that teeter on the edge of losing all control, but are kept back from falling into a chaotic abyss. City Song is in itself a microcosm of the whole album. You Won’t Get What You Want does not have the frenetic energy or brightness of previous Daughters releases; this is an album that revels in the dark, taking joy in recounting all negative aspects of human emotion.

While delving into the darkness of humanity, the band also take a journey through a surprising amount of genres. You Won’t Get What You Want has elements of the noise rock soundscape that the band explored on the previous album, but also stirs into the melting pot a serving of some of the heaviest industrial to come out in years. But, the band do not let up there. Here, the pot is spiced with elements of harsh noise, metal-core, and even blues and shoegaze. There are not many places where this album won’t go to give the listener the most unforgiving experience it can conjure.

After City Songs comes Long Road, No Turns, the third single to come from the album. Drummer Jon Syverson describes the song in a perfectly succinct way: “I feel dizzy listening to it. I feel dizzy playing it”. That dizziness comes from the drastic soundscapes that create this whirring monster of a song. Droning guitars, frenetic, staccato synths, lurching and undulating drum patterns and Alexis’ shouted, emotive drawl echoes over the track, his voice cracking and becoming more and more strained over the track, perfectly encapsulating the ongoing paranoia and hopelessness of the protagonist of the song. As mentioned prior, there is no real escape from this album. Be prepared to go on a horrifying aural journey.

However, that horror doesn’t just come within the brutalising instrumentation and timbres found on the album. In many cases, a sense of unease and nervousness is attained through more surprising avenues. The album allows a respite from its hostility on the song Less Sex. Starting with a racket of noise, the song transforms into a haunting, blues number, accompanied by a blue-inspired vocal performance from Alexis. Bass and synth reverberate at the back of the song, building the tension, until the song explodes into a blur of guitar feedback, sweeping back out to allow the song to build slowly again, ready to deliver its monstrous, wall of sound. These surprising moments are what make this album truly special.

But do not be mistaken by a song like Less Sex as it is clear that this album is ready to assault the ears. The Flammable Man sees the band somewhat return to their metalcore roots, while also updating that often tired sound, managing to make arguably one of the decade’s best metal songs. The last two songs of the album, Ocean Song and Guest House, see the band utilise their instruments with such aplomb, creating wails and noises that did not seem possible from guitars and basses. These no-wave and post-rock epics bookend what is an epic listen, and one that is definitely overwhelming on a first listen.

However, after initially making the plunge into this album, it becomes clear that this is more than a typical industrial or noise rock album. Daughters find so many different avenues on this album to create dismay and despair, yet still keep the listener on their toes. It is debatable whether there is any real downtime on this album, anywhere for the listener to really lose interest. Though this might not be an album for your average music listener, it is certainly one that should be listened to by anyone with an interest in heavy music. With You Won’t Get What You Want, Daughters have created a milestone in rock music. This is an album that will be looked on for years to come as a seminal piece of noise rock, one that will define a generation and influence many that come after it. This album is an apocalyptic whirlwind. Get taken up in the eye of the storm and experience one of the best albums in rock. – Charlie Leach (@YungBuchan)

2017-11-22-2-e1511375768783.png

Another One To Add To The Mark Kozelek Museum

words fae Charlie Leach (@YungBuchan)rating 5

Mark Kozelek’s contemporary sound is one that is singular and (arguably) esoteric. Kozelek’s recent output is one mainly concerned with quiet contemplation, a style that can easily be described as diaristic. In many ways, this is a style that is perfectly suited to folk music. A tradition that has spanned centuries, folk music has an earthy quality, something that could be argued to be closer to detailing the universal experiences of being human. This is a music that originated through human tongue.

When Kozelek is truly at his best, he achieves this universality in his songwriting. The 2014 album “Benji”, released under the moniker of Sun Kil Moon (originally formed as a band, but now taken as another avenue for Kozelek’s solo music), was universally loved by critics and music fans alike. This was an album that ditched poetic metaphor and imagery for harsh truth and direct thinking. This was an album concerned with death and melancholia, but was still life-affirming and at times heart-warming. Kozelek, through his frank musings and delicately stripped back folk instrumentation, formed an eleven track album that spoke of the human condition, and thus a universality that all humans have to deal with. “Benji” was a truly special album.

Though discussing “Benji” might seem like an unnecessary tangent to nourish the word count – this writer can also make self-deprecating jibes like Kozelek – the seminal album is important for discussing the songwriter. Kozelek, it is fair to say, has been busy since that 2014 release. Under Sun Kil Moon, Kozelek has released two albums (with a third supposedly arriving this year) and two collaborative efforts with Jesu, while under his own name has released five albums and two EPs. Although this writer has not ventured into the depths of his extensive library, a cursory look at critique and opinions online seems to suggest that these albums delivered more of the same of Kozelek.

The previous statement is clearly generalised, but to an outsider looking into the world of Kozelek, it arguably wouldn’t be incorrect to suggest that, though experimentation has occurred, it is experimentation on a well-trodden theme. This latest self-titled release sees Kozelek remove the hip-hop influenced production of previous Sun Kil Moon album “Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood” and resurrect the skeletal production that evokes the essence of “Benji”. With looping equipment in toe, Kozelek creates sonically pleasing acoustic guitar riffs, eclectic vocal harmonies and occasional sputters of percussion. Opener “This Is My Town” has an almost math-rock like quality, the guitar harmonics looped perfectly, providing a haunting yet serene backdrop to Kozelek’s ode to his adopted town San Fransisco, where he recounts anecdotes of his meetings with many of the local people, with the opening verse about a group of old ladies in San Fransisco’s Chinatown being a particular highlight.

On “Live in Chicago”, Kozelek imitates a drum machine, creates enchanting vocal harmonies and gymnastics behind his anecdotes and plays a melancholic guitar refrain. As with “Benji”, this track sees Kozelek explore mortality, through a back and forth of his past and now, interspersed with memories of touring when the Las Vegas and Orlando Nightclub mass shootings occurred. This is where Kozelek is at his best, combining the seemingly mundane with universal fears, both grounding and elevating his lyricism to heights not many can reach. For the relative newcomers and window shoppers to Kozelek, this is songwriting at its finest.

It’s a pity then, that these fantastic moments of genius are interspersed through a dense forest of murky greys and beige. Kozelek, it seems, through his truly unique songwriting, can be both universal and also extremely esoteric. His quirks and diatribes become tiresome, and at times pretentious. These songs feel drawn-out, stretched to their breaking point. On “My Love For You Is Undying”, an anecdote used to show his appreciation for human emotion, how as humans we live for our ability to care, is languid and pointlessly meandering. A remark at a staff member at a book-store over the American food-chain Panera Bread is painstakingly slow, and does not seem to add any overall meaning or real context to the anecdote. In this case, it just seems like Kozelek has to relate every idea to an anecdote, where in fact, an idea can just be that; directness is Kozelek’s calling card in most situations, but sometimes there is a longing for him to use some poetic license and call back to his previous work pre “Benji”.

As well as lyrics like the aforementioned song, the production is also stretched beyond relief. Themes and riffs that are by themselves melancholic, haunting and sometimes beautiful, are drawn out over near ten-minute songs, with no real evolution or variation on that theme. It seems here that Kozelek’s penchant for a skeletal structure has also extended to the song structures on this album. Though containing somewhat of a chorus, “Weed Whacker” maintains the same guitar refrain for eight minutes, with little to no variation or evolution. The album opener “This Is My Town”, though having a quite frankly beautiful refrain, is, like “Weed Whacker”, an over seven minute song with little to no variation on that same theme, and these examples do not even cover the odd occasions where Kozelek chooses certain sounds that are puzzling with their inclusion.

While on one song Kozelek barks and meows like his pets (he clearly has taken the diaristic tone to its most extreme) on another song, “Live In Chicago”, the backing harmonies that seemingly are repeating phonetics eventually loop round in the song to form the word diarrhoea. No pun needed for that one.

In some instances, this self-titled album reaches the dizzy heights of “Benji”. In others, this is a vastly disappointing exercise in the pretentious and frankly quite boring idiosyncrasies of Mark Kozelek. “Benji” may have seemed like an album that dabbled in universal truths and universal problems, but this self-titled effort, for the most part, seems to be an esoteric exercise in music creation. Kozelek has saturated folk music with album after album for a few years now. For fans of his work, this latest effort will be another fine addition to the Mark Kozelek Museum. For fleeting chancers, this could easily be an impossible listen in one sitting. Ironically enough, for someone that is concerned with real human emotion, it might be worth it at this point to release a Kozelek compilation album of all his best singles (said with just a tad hint of sarcasm).

The Ten Best Bombay Bicycle Club Tracks

words fae charlie leach (@YungBuchan)

For the best part of a decade, Bombay Bicycle Club were ever-present at every summer festival. A band known for their indie-rock sensibilities, their joyous hooks, and lush soundscapes, Bombay Bicycle Club cemented themselves in the every festival goer’s ear, becoming the go-to for that summer playlist. In spite of this, they are not a “summer mix” band. Their music contains hidden depths and complexities, and over their initial run of four albums, their sound developed into areas that would not have seemed possible on their debut. For anyone who hasn’t heard their work, or who wants to relive that picturesque festival day, here is a list of this writer’s top ten favourite Bombay Bicycle Club tracks.

10. Rinse Me Down

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkGpdVip4aw

Though scoffed at by many critics on its initial release, the band’s sophomore effort Flaws is an underappreciated indie folk gem. Album opener Rinse Me Down elatedly starts the album with a wonderfully bouncy rhythm, the acoustic guitars plucking together in sweet harmony. Lead singer Jack Steadman’s vocals swoon over the track, telling the story of a lover lost to another.

9. Evening/Morning

Like many standout singles from Bombay Bicycle Club, Evening/Morning has the melodies to contend with any indie band from the early 2010’s. Ed Nash’s contagious bass line punctuates the song, combined with guitar lines and vocal hooks that are reminiscent of one of their peers at the time, We Are Scientists. Like most Bombay Bicycle Club songs, Evening/Morning was a staple of their live shows, the bass line belted back to the band by their rapturous fans.

8. Carry Me

Carry Me marked the bands shift to synths, synths being an ever-present feature of their last album, So Long, See You Tomorrow. Synths here replace the typical guitar-lead hook of the song but are not missed. A hook that could be seen on an electronica album, the rest of the song is filled with chopped vocals, synthetic horns, and effects-laden guitars. Like many of their indie peers, Bombay Bicycle Club’s shift into the electronic was, on the whole, a successful one.

7. Lights Out, Words Gone

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duBN7YZyIwU

Lights Out, Words Gone is a dream-pop song (emphasis on dream). A shuffling rhythm backs a walking-bass line, with guitars plucking away into the ever-lasting distance. Like many of the songs on the bands second and third album, it is lifted greatly by the angelic vocals of Lucy Rose, a frequent collaborator with the band, and an extremely talented singer-songwriter (also perfect for that Spotify picnic playlist, if so inclined).

6. Lamplight

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1LrLEcrawc

This is the UK post-punk revival in a nutshell: intricate guitar hooks layered in fuzz and reverb; a bass line that provides the track firm foundation; continually pounding drums that move the track forward at every juncture; and a crooning lead vocal that moves about the track with a shaky tremolo. What separates this track from many of its contemporaries is its blaring breakdown in the latter third. Never really repeated in their discography, this breakdown blares a wall of sound onto the listener, with an almost screamed vocal filling the high end of the song. If the band does come back from their hiatus, the shoegaze-tinged direction could be something that could evolve the band again.

5. Leave It

Leave It is a song that is not immediately noticeable. During the runtime of the bands’ fourth album, So Long, See You Tomorrow, Leave It arrives and leaves in a typical Bombay Bicycle Club fashion, instilling a catchy vocal hook and memorable guitar lines. Its inclusion on this top ten list is solely down to the band’s live shows. The vocal refrain of the hook is the greatest tension builder, leading to a crescendo of a chorus bemoaning the past discretions of a lover. For want of a better word, a true belter for a live show.

4. How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgvBmEmtF-I

How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep is auditory journey that builds and builds. A typical opener for the band’s live sets, the blissful guitar refrain that begins the song grows and grows throughout the song, layer, and layer of instruments slowly building to a mystical soundscape filled with warm synths, skittering clicking samples and ghostly vocal harmonies. When this song first played at the start of their gig, the audience knew to be prepared for a glistening journey through indie rock’s finest.

3. Ivy And Gold

This top three will consist of some of the catchiest guitar melodies in indie rock. If Bombay Bicycle Club will be remembered for at least one thing, it will be some of the catchiest hooks released in a genre full of bands chasing that one hook that will make them overnight successes. Bombay Bicycle Club arguably did that several times over. Ivy And Gold is one such song that will seep into the listener’s brain, becoming the hard to forget ear-worm that will be whistled down the street a week later. Just a wonderfully cheerful tune, one that could never be hated (this writer’s Mom loves this song).

2. Shuffle

A precursor to the electronica-inspired Carry Me, Shuffle was an ever-present of the summer festival playlist, and with good reason. The chopped piano melody is an instant hit, providing the bait to envelop the listener with a tightly constructed song that oozes fun. Steadman and Rose sing with passion about sticking with a partner, this triumphant track begs to be sung with heart and vigour until the throat is run dry. It must also be said that Steadman’s remix of this track is vastly underappreciated, and is definitely worth a listen for those who like sliced and chopped music.

1. Always Like This

But don’t wear that throat out too much, there is one more riff to belt out to the heavens. The fun, staccato riff of Always Like This announced Bombay Bicycle Club to the public. This guitar line has stayed with the band, and for good reason. It is a joyous (there’s that word again), dopamine-inducing riff that never leaves. Coupled with the minor chorus that adds the spaced-out vibe, this track is the epitome of Bombay Bicycle Club.

Looking Back At…Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version by Earth

Can you withstand the doom? Twenty-five years after its release, Charlie Leach (@YungBuchan) looks back at Earth’s classic debut album.

This retrospective was heavily informed by the article “The Unbearable Heaviness Of Being” on Seattle newspaper The Stranger. To find interviews with people involved with the making of the album and a musician heavily inspired by the album, please click here.

Twenty-five years ago, Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version was released on Sub Pop records. Harking from Seattle, Dylan Carlson, and Dave Harwell made a record that had little immediate impact on the music world at the time. Coming in an era where peers such as Nirvana had a monumental impact on popular music, a record such as this could have been another small creative release that dissipated into the ether.

Its creation was also fairly small-scale. Though made on a small budget with limited time in the studio, Carlson described the recording process as quite simple; they had already played the first two songs live, so needed no real warm-up time to start recording. Studio engineer for the record Stuart Hallerman also remembers the process as an easy one, describing the recording sessions as having a “very relaxed vibe“. In spite of this, Carlson has since said that if he could record the album again, he would go about it with a totally different method. He states that they wanted a sound as loud as their live shows, but how they set up the mics and amps was flawed, and actually (in his opinion) hindered the overall sound. But for him and Harwell, they were two young musicians who were happy to have studio time that they were being paid for, and so brought their youthful energy and desire into this recording process.

Without previous knowledge of the album, the prior description could conjure images of a young band of the nineties that created an energetic rock album, filled with sharp guitar melodies, rasping vocals, and tight drumming. This is no such album. In fact, this album feels like it takes solace in sheer being the total opposite. This is an album that swamps the listener from the first moment it is played. Hallerman suggested that at the time, Earth’s main mission statement was to out Melvin the Melvins. In comparison to this album, the Melvins are blissful.

Though really intended as an album-long piece due to recording limitations at the time, the album was divided into three parts. Seven Angels, the opening track on the album, commences the album with thunderous, bleeding guitar and bass distortion. This album is not a typical metal album to be born out of the nineties; this album is a drone metal album, and Seven Angels buries that fact into the listener’s eardrums within the first ten seconds. Eventually, a doom-metal inspired guitar riff stomps into the forefront of the song. Taking many cues from Black Sabbath (of which it is rumored Earth took their name from), this slow, meandering riff permeates Seven Angels for its whole fifteen-minute runtime. The riff exudes dread, never firmly resolving itself, building and building over its mammoth run time. After a few minutes of the riff, the song moves out into an incessant, distortion-filled drone. Repeating several times over the course of the track, there is no real rest-bite, and leads to a sense of nervous anticipation and paranoia as to when the riff will come back. The drones here are mainly provided by a sludgy bass line, again soaked in reverb and distortion, but also a distortion that pans and filters around the song, building a cacophony of noise. Even when the “melody” of the song is absent, this song leaves no room to breathe, in no short part due to this droning bass.

Drone is a word used a lot to describe this album, and with good reason. Like all good drone and ambient music (and unlike your average Bandcamp laptop producer), repetition on this record is not wasted; this is a sound that evolves. As Seven Angels oozes forward, the distortion moves with it. More elements of noise permeate the latter half of the track. Additionally, the distortion itself seems to grow in volume and in presence, adding a high tinnitus-inducing ring. There is no room to escape from this album, it burrows into the listener’s brain, allowing enough time to become the only thing present in the mind. This is a contrast to Earth‘s later work. In the same interview as referenced above, Carlson states that Earth 2 is a very claustrophobic sounding album, and if it was recorded now it would be something he would give a lot more and space between the sounds. Though he might look back in slight remorse on this aspect of the album, for many, the all-encompassing claustrophobic nature of the album is one of its true selling-points.

Seven Angels smoothly transitions into Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine. The louder drone remains on this track, but the guitar riff changes to a more foreboding melody, a melody that gains volume and begins to swamp both channels in the mix. A melody that begins to wriggle into the ear canals, finding comfort in the murky depths. As this riff trudges along, the droning bass begins to gain traction, a white noise second layer beginning to develop over an already excruciating, despair-inducing tone. Not to be forgotten, the guitar riff takes a moment to regain the listener’s attention (if it ever managed to escape it in the first place), gaining a somewhat higher pitch (for this album) to wail into the eardrum. Not to be outshone, the bass swoops into the picture, sound coming in like a tide to the shore, slowly building and building before crashing into existence. As might be clear by now, this album is not great at parties.

sp123bcd2_1030x1000

Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine maneuvers into another explosive riff by allowing a rattling crunch of distortion to fill out the song. Then, it announces itself with another Sabbath-inspired thunderous riff, with a chorus of drone and noise to provide the staunch foundations. At the halfway point of a near thirty-minute track, this comes as a somewhat pleasant surprise. Those pleasantries don’t last long. Carlson plays and plays with this riff, allowing it to scream out in pain, to wail in disgust; this is a riff that is exploited for all its worth, raining down its blood-lined tears onto a sea of distortion and sorrow. The murky bass crashes onto the shore and retreats throughout this second movement, allowing a minuscule amount of room for the monstrous guitar riff to truly embed itself into the downtrodden areas of the soul. The white noise found earlier periodically shudders in, punching itself on top of the omnipresent bass drone.

The track eventually fades into the final grand opus of the album, Like Gold And Faceted. The final roar of Earth 2 slings one final surprise into the mix: percussion. Though fairly hidden in the mix, the occasional cymbal crashes add a ritualistic feeling to this final track; this is the last moments, the time to end it all. Of course, a never-ending drone fills the beginning of this track. Slowly building in stature, the absence of any melody is the perfect recipe for fear. At thirty minutes (the longest of the three tracks), this particular drone is an all-encompassing behemoth, slowing stomping its way throughout its epic run-time. Small attempts at melody are made in this opening period, but they are swiftly dealt with, being immediately swamped by new layers of distortion, or new layers of noise. An occasional ring of guitar swims throughout the waves of drone, all while the crash of a cymbal fights for acknowledgment. As the track moves, the cymbal becomes louder, smashing more assertively into the middle of the mix, while a reverse cymbal is used to wash over the whole of the track. This washing is aided by more white noise, at this point an expected accompaniment of the Earth 2 experience. Before the brain has realigned itself with its own sense of self and being, the track is already halfway through, yet there is still no melody.

An absence of riff really pushes the grand statement of this album: this is not a run-of-the-mill metal album; this is an album that pushes the idea of songwriting and performance to its most minimal extreme. As the Like Gold And Faceted slowly fades out into nothingness, so to does the almost meditative-like state the brain inhabits when listening to this album. For an album made by young, relative newcomers to the music scene at the time, this is an album that defies age or time, more an album of never-ending being, which makes its influence in the world of music all the less surprising.

Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O))) recounted his first experiences of listening to the album at nineteen, and it being the gateway into minimal and experimental music. For him, this album is a tower in the music world, and who is to argue? Though made from a humble context, this album is anything but. This is a wandering behemoth, and twenty-five years on is a vastly important classic for metal and experimental music.

Album Review: i can feel you creep into my private life by tUnE-yArDs

by Charlie Leach (@YungBuchan)rating 5

Since 2014’s Nikki Nack, tUnE-yArDs have officially become a two-piece, with longtime collaborator Nate Brenner joining Merill Garbus as the two explore privilege through a dance and disco twang in their new album, i can feel you creep into my private life.

Though many have explored the lyrical content of this album and the motivation behind its creation (something that will be explored shortly), for long time listeners of tUnE-yArDs, the alt-pop sound of many of their projects has been combined with more electronic texture and style. In the lead up to the release of their latest effort, Garbus told of her recent experiences with dance music, in which she has started to DJ in Oakland at local clubs. This is most definitely felt on this album.

Opener Heart Attack is tinged with a 90’s dance influence; from the chopped up vocal sampling and Rhodes-lite synth piano to the four to the floor kick drum and rolling hi-hats, this song would not be out of place on any of the many Saturday morning music shows that populated many a channel just a few decades prior. The sharp violins that arrive later in the track add even more to this 90’s house atmosphere. In spite of all this, there are still some of the classic tUnE-yArDs elements that have purveyed throughout their music career: entertaining, complicated percussive rhythms; Garbus’ bellowing, vibrant vocals (which here are tinged with reverb that permeates the song and adds to the electronic aesthetic); and the funky, stabbing bass-line provided by Brenner.

Another stand out track is Honesty. Again, taking some of the tried and tested calling cards for their sound, the band forays into this new, more synth-based electronic sound on this track. Their plethora of synth sounds might possibly extend here to a saxophone solo that mixes the earthy textures of real saxophone with what could quite be some more electronic production techniques, compounding on the song’s dance roots. The chorus-like vocals of Garbus appear here again; like most tUnE-yArDs songs, they fill the mix, begging for attention, but do so in a more glitched, sampled fashion.

This formula is repeated in many different ways throughout the album: track Home is a mid-album breather that consists of choral-like vocals that again dominate the track, over a slow bass and drum rhythm with sweeping pads; Look At Your Hands is an energetic house inspired synth-pop track, with a quite contagious vocal melody and hook over a moving bass line and fast, simple yet effective drum beat. Most of the tracks on this album can be described as they have been previously; energetic house or disco tracks with the odd slower electronic track thrown in to provide breathing room.

However, this genre shift for the band does not necessarily lead to great success. For the majority of this album, it could be argued that the band have not especially inhabited the sound of electronic music, rather adopted it and used some of its most basic qualities to write an electronic album. Forgoing a lot of their more organic sound that they had previously has not particularly worked on this album; this album could, in essence, be described as “tUnE-yArDs playing house music”, rather than the band using this different way of producing and writing songs to further their music evolution. This sound feels more like a fleeting experiment, rather than a dramatic sea-change.

What has been an ever-present in tUnE-yArDs‘ music is Garbus’ social commentary explored through her lyrical content, and this is no different on this latest release. In the lead up to the release of this album, Garbus talked about her experiences with a spirituality course on white privilege, and her own misgivings about how many people of privilege unwittingly exploit that privilege. In the current political landscape, this is not new territory but is definitely something that needs to be explored more in new music. Unfortunately, on this album, it could be argued that the manner in which it is explored is fairly heavy-handed.

The much talked about track Colonizer is one such example of a track that edges the line between a well-used analogy and over into something that could be considered slightly hypocritical. In this writer’s personal opinion, this song is in a stark juxtaposition between a lot of the traditional tUnE-yArDs sound. The lyrical refrain Garbus’ uses (“I use my white woman voice”) highlights the problem of the colonial nature of art, where many white musicians have taken different cultures’ musical styles without real acknowledgment of where it comes from and whether they should be able to use it. This is a standpoint that is very agreeable, yet a lot of the African influence that has been a major part of tUnE-yArDs‘ back-catalogue is still definitely present in this latest effort (though less than previous releases).

A lot of the lyrics Garbus uses on the album do admit guilt for use of her privilege. Logically, use of these African styles might suggest that she is still battling with these demons, and needs to tackle the issue head-on. The lead single for the album, ABC 123, looks at trying to guide the listeners to face these prevalent issues, instead of running from them. In a NPR interview speaking about the new album, Garbus stated that she felt when writing this track that the lyrics may come off as annoying, as they seem quite didactic, yet wanted to use this track as a guiding point for people to fight back against these injustices. This could be seen as something that is quite confusing and problematic.

This album, on one hand, wants to be a call to arms whilst also exploring the flaws of the lead singer. Unfortunately, in many instances, this politicized album just falls flat from really vying for attention and rousing action. The synthetic direction of the instrumentation leads to a mechanical, and less fruitful listen than previous tUnE-yArDs albums and does not combine well with the awkwardly executed message.

Album Review: Stress by Charlie Leach

By Charlie Leach (@YungBuchan)

Charlie Leach’s beginnings in music were as mundane as many other; gaining a love for the profession from his studies at school, he progressively became more enamoured with the many more eclectic genres that were available to him. His sonic pallet has aged in a manner that has been in tandem with his own personal development: starting in a happier, indie rock background, Leach has swerved and bobbed through many different styles and music communities, this current iteration has found Leach delving into much more dark, extreme music, lurking on the fringes of the greater music world. Though, like many of his contemporaries, he is still a novice, in both his profession and life. His latest reviews for Yung Lean’s Stranger and Sleigh Bell’s Kid Kruschev show Leach at his most vulnerable and echo a problem that is rife in the review industry.

For someone such as Leach to pick these two albums was a bold move. While it could be argued that he has experience in the genres of rap and pop music, it would be quite churlish to suggest he has a firm mastery of the many sub-genres and trends in these communities today. In respect to Yung Lean, Leach seems to show little background knowledge on the rapper. He might be able to effectively reflect his knowledge on some of Lean’s earlier singles (such as Kyoto and Yoshi City), and may take an interest in the vaporwave aesthetic that the rapper so heavily pulled from when first coming into the limelight, but Leach seems to have no real basis to pull from for a well-founded review into his latest project. Leach seems to intimate that he finds Stranger a “cloud-filled listen, with no real substance to pull at”, though in respects to the writer, he himself only writes from a surface level, and only a love for the single Hoover, a song that marks a clear, fleeting departure from the rapper’s main catalogue.

In spite of his lacking knowledge of all things Lean, Leach does have a fuller grasp of the work of Sleigh Bells. Though rumored to have not listened to all of their albums, Leach has in the past showed a great appreciation for Sleigh Bells’ first album, Treats. This album was the first foray for Leach into more experimental forms of music. The noisier overtones in the instruments used in Sleigh Bells’ music helped provide a standing ground for Leach to jump into the genre of noise (and it’s sub-genres). However, it is worth noting that Leach has shown no more real interest in Sleigh Bells’ work, and this can be seen in his review for their latest release, Kid Kruschev.

A succinct album, Kid Kruschev has been fairly well received by many critics. Some have written quite positively about the thematic cohesion throughout the album, praising the prominent vocals and ballad-like nature of many of the songs (but contrasted this glowing praise with  luke-warm review scores). Leach, however, found the album a laborious listen. Citing in his opinion the monotonous nature of many of the instrumentals in this album (the “over-compressed” kick drums being something that greatly distressed the reviewer), Leach seemingly found the album quite boring and laborious, equating to a “time-consuming, un-fulfilling listen, that though not necessarily bad full of bad musicianship, is littered with unsatisfying production and lackluster lyrics”.

This scathing criticism is nothing without its context. Privately, Leach has suffered from many hindrances that, quite reasonably, affect his professional responsibilities. For many years, the young writer has dealt with depression, causing many working days to be akin to traversing through a murky, foggy sludge. While Leach himself may not want to lean on this illness and allow it (in his mind) to be an excuse, many would argue that this affliction is grounds for many disadvantages he may face in his working career. Many similar to him have suffered and will suffer through similar circumstances, and like him will trudge through in relative silence.

To be expected, unknown factors such as these will affect a review by any budding writer, and with Leach, this could be seen to be the case. His mainly emotionless response to the music on offer by these two well-regarded contemporary artists could be indicative of the emotional state Leach found himself in throughout the week.

This emotional state could be conducive of the week Leach has had. Having just started a new job in retail this week, rumours have abounded about his lack of control on the balance he has between his different professional interests. Consequently, the reviews produced have suffered as a result. Leach, as a part of music journalism (albeit on a voluntary basis), has fallen victim to the looming specter of deadlines and the pressure of balancing work and play. Print journalism is an industry rife with deadlines and pressure from above, which in many cases leads to pieces that might not be reflective of the writer’s opinion or true ability. An enjoyment of an album for someone such as Leach is tempered by how much time and energy that particular writer has to put into listening to an album. The pressure of having his work placed for all to see in a public space ins frightening in itself; added to that the pressure of getting a good piece of work out on time is deadly to someone’s mental health, as is evident in the case of Leach.

And so, Leach concludes that these two reviews would not be fit for purpose. For many, it would be of the up-most importance for their work to be completed on time, but in this instance, Leach has decided that it more important to tackle the issue head-on, instead of burying it underground. Though, it may have been more therapeutic for Leach to actually write an opinion piece, instead of opting for a headache-inducing meta-review on himself. A light 4 to a strong 7.