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)

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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.

Every Kendrick Lamar Album, Ranked From Worst To Best

While there’s more music than ever available only a tap of an overpriced smartphone away, more than to know what to do with it, if you’ve gone the past few years without listening, or even hearing, of Kendrick Lamar then you must either be a granny or Amish. Sure, Drake is bigger but in terms of critically acclaimed artists with the notability to sell out arenas and win multiple awards, you’ll be hard found to seek out a rapper as loved by fans and music snobs quite like Kung Fu Kenny.

Despite Good Kid, m.A.A.d City being his first big bit of public attention, Kendrick has been grinding away for over a decade with some successful efforts and some not as much. We’d be here all day if we discussed his mixtapes and soundtracks he’s been behind so we’ll take the smart route and chat about studio albums ONLY (yes, a compilation album does count). So without further ado, let Ryan (@ryanmartin182), Jake (@jjjjaketh), Liam (@blnkclyr), Charlie (@yungbuchan) and Ross (@rossm98) definitively rank the Compton kingpin’s discography – sit down, be humble patient…

Quick disclaimer: This is, like, our opinion or whatever, dude. Disagree? The comments down below will house whatever rage you’re feeling.


5. Section 80 (2011)

Ryan [5th]: The first taste most of the world had from Kung Fu Kenny, Section 80 really doesn’t deserve any hate despite being constantly overlooked compared to Lamar’s more recent outputs. The reason being this is Kendrick is always evolving, changing, and coming more into his own with every release. He is always developing his sound and Section 80 simply shows him in the spotlight as an underdeveloped star. 

Section 80 is without doubt a solid hip-hop debut that sounds very in its time, being released at the turn of the decade in 2011. It wasn’t until GKMC that Kendrick began to stand out more as the artist he is rather than a simply skilled rapper.

Jake [5th]: Jake was going to do a write up for this album but when I looked through his final piece, it was near illegible rambling about Tony Hawk Pro Skater lore and something to do with chumbawumba (Ed).

Liam [5th]: Unlike some artists that get covered in this manner (*cough* Radiohead), Kendrick’s weakest effort is by no means a bad album. With the power of hindsight, it’s easy to see that Section 80 contains a lot of ideas and elements that Kendrick would eventually perfect on future efforts. There are some moments on here that have not aged well at all: Tammy’s Song (Her Evils) is an interesting concept but it ultimately becomes repetitive in addition to coming off as pretty naive and I don’t think No Make-Up (Her Vice) has ever been considered good by anyone with ears.

We talk about an artist maturing a lot in the music review community and while this differs from act to act, Tyler The Creator‘s maturation is far noticeable than someone like Modern Baseball, and with Kendrick it’s clear that while this record was immature for his standards, it still holds some highlights and acts as a bucketload of potential that was ultimately realised.

Charlie [5th]: Putting this album here might annoy some people, but this is music criticism, it’s just opinion (this writer is now preparing for a barrage of hate). Section 80. feels like a very refined and more complete version of Overly Dedicated, though (in this writer’s opinion), nothing more. Most definitely a pop rap album (like it’s predecessor), Section 80. is an album that is not bad in any way what so ever, and for many might be their personal favourite for Lamar.

For this writer, however, this is not overly attention-grabbing or affecting in Lamar’s whole discography. There must be a special shout out however for Rigamortus, a song that is an excellent example of Lamar’s rapping skill.

Ross [4th]: This project was Kendrick‘s first full-length album and was just the beginning of the hype for the artist. It seems that Kenny was a bit more confident in what he was writing now that he had a vastly growing fanbase and more importantly – an audience. Compared to Overly Dedicated his lyrics have a lot more substance and character that were true to him and what he felt.

He went against an older style of rap to release beats that most artists in that genre would find too soft or melodic. His new style pairs beautifully with the production in this album. Despite this new-found sense of confidence and personality I still feel his enthusiasm in his tone creates a bit of a barrier between his feelings and the listener.


4. Untitled Unmastered (2016)

Jake [4th]: untitled unmastered was surprise released about a year after To Pimp A Butterfly. It’s comprised of songs that, for one reason or another (these reasons range from samples not getting cleared to Kenny thinking the songs weren’t good enough) were left off of TPAB. There are 8 tracks, and they’re all good as hell. They pull you right back into the headspace that engrossed so many on To Pimp a Butterfly, that sexy, jazzy, uber-politically charged hip-hop that K Dot has perfected, and it’s well worth a listen if the stylings of TPAB tickled your fancy in any way, shape of form. Kenny’s album offcuts are better than yr fave artists actual albums.

Liam [4th]: Untitled unmastered is a tricky one to discuss. While it should be judged on its own merits, it’s nearly impossible not to consider what came before it which not only comes from the similar themes and sound but also how this album came out nearly a year after TPAB. It may seem like following up what is regarded as Kendrick’s magnum opus would reflect badly upon yourself but in fact, it does the opposite as untitled unmastered is what it is.

It is an extension of one of the greatest albums of this century, like a well-crafted piece of DLC after you’ve finished your favourite video game or an after credits scene after a surprisingly good movie. It knows this and has fun while doing so, just like the listener will when giving this a spin.

Charlie [4th]: When it came right down to the wire, untitled unmastered and DAMN. were very hotly contested. untitled unmastered, though essentially a b-sides album, has some of Lamar’s most left-field work. Being an album consisting of songs from the recording of To Pimp A Butterfly, a lot of these off-shoots are quite ethereal, and most definitely experimental in nature. What probably does hold this back from being any higher up the list is the nature of the project itself.

As some of Lamar’s best albums are cohesive pieces that flow from beginning to end, untitled unmastered’s scattered structure (on both a macro and micro scale) is somewhat of a negative on the whole experience. In addition, it has to be said that the three-minute outtake about “head being the way” on the penultimate track is not Lamar at his best.

Ross [5th]: At this point in K Dot’s career, he had little to prove of himself. The album presented us with raw music. No titles to give context to the tracks that follow. This project is the leftovers from the dug’s dinner (TPAB) – the low-end funky production and knotted rhymes surface in tracks like Untitled 05, 07 and 08. This album is simply an add-on to TPAB, a follow-up statement but an intriguing one at that.

Ryan [4th]: Untitled sounds more or less as a continuation of TPAB. It doesn’t stick as well as the LP but is an extremely solid and consistent listen throughout the 8 tracks. There aren’t much filler tracks and the momentum doesn’t necessarily reach a high but stays at an even pace until the frantic Levitate kicks in. Untitled feels like a bonus release of a legend in his prime. It consecutively built hype for his next studio album while reassuring his fan base of his undeniable talent.


3. DAMN. (2017)

Liam [3rd]: OMG IT’S A 7/10 HAHA LOL EPIC!!! Now that we’ve got that tired meme out of the way, we can finally give DAMN. the critical RANKED treatment and definitively agree that it’s…good. In fact, it’s very good. Sure, there’s some slumps throughout this, which mostly stem from Kendrick’s ambitions to find influence from others as opposed to reinventing the wheel a la his previous work, but the good undoubtedly outweighs the bad on here.

For one, Kendrick, whether inadvertently or not, managed to give hip hop the chart redemption it needed last year an onslaught of repetitive, formulaic trap nonsense: HUMBLE is a behemoth with a piano riff that just won’t quit and Kendrick spitting out line after line chock full of character and appeal. Other cuts such as DNA and ELEMENT only went to further establish Kendrick as one of the best in the bloody game. 

Charlie [3rd]: DAMN. is a great rap album, and arguably doesn’t need to be anymore. Having some of the best rap singles released in the latter period of this decade – see DNA and ELEMENT – Lamar again hit gold with his latest (of time of writing) album. This album, in many respects, sees him become a chameleon. Taking many flows and from many of his contemporaries (LOVE would not be out of place on a Drake “playlist”), Lamar uses DAMN. to place himself in the consciousness of the average music listener for years to come.

Yet, this is an album that is very much Lamar. From the bombastic bangers to the more thoughtful and politicised songs (though let’s not talk about some of the questionable views within some songs), this is Lamar’s contemporary rap album, and in that essence, it’s an excellent achievement.

Ross [3rd]: For me, this album is storytelling at its finest. It dips in and out of the perspective of Kendrick’s younger self, struggling to resist getting involved in the dark side of Compton. This project was his most intriguing to date, delivering a series of tracks that are chaotic, layered and deeply conflicted. DAMN. This is the Kendrick album I was waiting for – raw, gritty, stripped back and aggressive.

My only problems with this album are that it seems a little inconsistent to me and the themes seems a bit too spotty for me to truly understand the project fully. But hey, he made Bono and Hip-Hop work – what the fuck.

Ryan [3rd]: DAMN. arguably has the hardest hitting moments of Kendrick’s discography but it also has the poppiest as well. While GKMC was a perfect balance of pop-rap and bangers, DAMN. feels slightly more uneven. The bangers hit a little harder, but the pop tracks drag a lot more. Particularly LoveLoyalty and Humble all feel as if they’ve overstayed their welcome by the end. While tracks like DNAXXX, and Element all built momentum that isn’t carried well throughout the entire album.

Jake [3rd]: DAMN. is a flawed record. It’s a bit front-loaded, it seemed to concentrate a bit too much on its (admittedly brilliant) singles, and Kendrick’s bars seemed to lack a bit of the venom seen in his previous albums. It is, however, still a truly great record. DNA., HUMBLE., FEAR. and ELEMENT. are all top tier Kendrick Klassicks (patent pending on that one), and the production throughout is as slick as you’d expect from a Kendrick Lamar release. There is, however, one glaring flaw in the albums very marrows, something simply unforgivable… there’s a RAT BOY sample on it. And I simply cannot stand idly by and not call it out.


2. Good Kid, m.A.A.d City (2012)

Charlie [2nd]: good kid, m,A,A,d city (GKMC) is a concept album that is full of lyrical prowess and lavish instrumentals. Listening to this album is akin to putting yourself straight in the shoes of the “main character”. Lamar’s lyrics are near masterful on this album; he paints a picture of Compton that is of microscopic details.

What makes this album an even more impressive feat is that some of Lamar’s most recognisable singles that announced him to the world come on this album, yet this is not a typical pop-rap album. On GKMC, Lamar managed to stamp his authority on mainstream music with a high-concept rap album. Not many can say they’ve done that.

Ross [2nd]: This for me was the album that announced Kendrick as one of the great artists of the decade. At this point, he doesn’t feel pressure from the expectation following Section 80. It is intense, insightful, and thought-provoking. A clear distinction in Kenny’s ability and talent in writing can be made from GKMC and Overly Dedicated. The album is straight to the point in its theme but diverse and intricate technically.

Kendrick establishes himself as Compton’s flag bearer, and on giving his take on such a harsh issue – growing up in an oppressive society you’d think the demographic would be slim. However, King Kenny seems to touch the thinnest slice of mass appeal and mass respect.

Ryan [1st]: In terms of production, storytelling, and lyricism, GKMC is one of, if not the best hip-hop album of all time. GKMC gets personal, thoughtful, and emotional without losing momentum. It plays through with every track setting the tone for the next one. It’s a remarkably impressive debut and Dr. Dre’s contributions to the album helped build Kendrick from a marvelously impressive lyricist to a rapper capable of handling tracks that can fill arenas, which he then demonstrated as the opening act for Kanye’s Yeezus tour, right after the album’s release.

One of the most impressive aspects about GKMC though is it’s mainstream appeal while also satisfying hardcore hip-hop heads. It was the perfect debut that cemented Kendrick Lamar as not only a future star but as a revolutionary artist.

Jake [2nd]: A surreal, oftentimes nightmarish peek into Lamar’s experiences as a teenager dealing with Compton’s rampant gang culture, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City was Kendrick’s statement of intent in many ways. He knew he was the best in the game, and he was determined to prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt on this album. And prove it he did. A staggering amount of bops are on display here: Swimming Pools (Drank), Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe, Money Trees, Poetic Justice, Sing About Me I’m Dying of Thirst and fucking M.A.A.D City itself. I could have listed any song from the album’s almost pitch perfect runtime and no one could argue that it was a certified tune. No one could touch Kendrick after this, and rightfully so.

Liam [2nd]: This was a really difficult choice for me, especially because this was the first Kendrick album I experienced. While I don’t believe it’s his best, I do think what Good Kid, m.A.A.d city had to say, and most importantly how he says it, makes it easily the most vital record Kendrick has made. As pointed out by Jake, Kendrick makes the brave move of calling out the problems ripe in his hometown’s community, something that paved the way for his role in discussing racial politics in future endeavors. 

It’s as close to cinematic as an album this decade has ever been, which makes it not that surprising that he eventually got to make a soundtrack for a Holywood blockbuster, but the aspect that generates the most admiration from me is how natural Kendrick is on this record. Before this release, he wanted to really appeal to that pop rap crowd and while there are plenty of songs on here that do just that, there’s a clear focus and intent that makes this feel like a true, fully realised piece of fucking beauty.


1. To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

Ross [1st]: You know he had to do it to y’all. This album is nothing but pleasure. It goes past being insightful, its educates – containing a densely packed, dizzying rush of unfiltered rage and unapologetic romanticism, blunted-swing sophistication, scathing self-critique and rap-quotable riot acts. To the average listener who enjoyed the more commercial tracks of M.A.A.D City, they might have taken a listen to TPAB and turned their noses up.

To those who listen in depth they would hear the expression of anger towards oppression and the institutions in America that conduct it. To Pimp a Butterfly is truly the greatest Hip-Hop album I have ever listened to, and I feel that it is the most important album released in the last 20 years. It is a masterpiece.

Ryan [2nd]: To Pimp a Butterfly, sounds like Kendrick’s masterpiece. While I may be the only contributor that voted TPAB Kendrick’s second best, is based mostly on my personal relationship with the album. I’ve never had a serious connection to TPAB but completely understand the love behind the album. I feel that I’ve never truly digested TPAB to enjoy it to its full potential, but the tastes I’ve gotten over the years have been sweet enough to draw me back to it now and again.

Its sound is unlike any other that can be heard on a modern hip-hop record, and truly sounds like a love letter to Kendrick’s heritage as well as hip-hop and spoken word.

Jake [1st]: To Pimp a Butterfly is one of those once in a lifetime albums that each genre seems to have. It blends jazz and hip-hop so effortlessly it’s almost criminal. There is absolutely no filler on this record, back to back to back bangers. From the ferocious The Blacker the Berry, to the joyous and impossibly catchy King Kunta, not a second is wasted, each bar, each lyric is treated as an equal. The word masterpiece is thrown around with reckless abandon in recent times, but there truly isn’t another word to describe this album. Without a doubt Kendrick Lamar’s magnum opus.

Liam [1st]: For a lot of people this is miles ahead of anything Kendrick has ever made and despite the fact that I think GKMC isn’t too far behind it, I can’t argue with the fact To Pimp A Butterfly is the best thing he’s done thus far (and most likely the best thing he ever will do). It’s odd to recount the time when many, including myself, assumed this album was doomed due to the first single feeling a tad underwhelming and while I still dig the more polished studio version, using a live rendition of it was a move that could have been easily scoffed at but is just one of various highlights to be found here.

Of course, TPAB has some fire singles on it, King Kunta will never fail to make an appearance at a hip-hop themed night and for good reason, but much like GKMC, Kendrick’s best record benefits from an interweaving narrative that goes down a more poetic route this time round. It was jarring at first to hear Kendrick repeat an ever-growing verse at the end of nearly every song but on repeated listens, it goes to show what this record really is: art.

Charlie [1st]: Making hip-hop albums can be compared to the making of a film, where the MC (or director) helps coordinate producers and other musicians (actors, set design, cinematographer etc.) to create a vision for their singular piece. To Pimp A Butterfly is an example of when a film wins twelve Oscars. This album sees Lamar become the perfect director, creating a hip-hop masterpiece. Taking many stylistic trademarks from genres such as funk, jazz and soul, To Pimp A Butterfly is a truly transformative experience.

At times inspiring on tracks like Alright – a song that became both the soundtrack for many civil rights marches and the soundtrack of angry, mouth-foaming racists on Fox News – and at times heart-wrenching, like on the massively underrated U, To Pimp A Butterfly will go down as one of the best hip-hop albums ever created.

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.

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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.

Best Tracks Of The Week (15th-21st Jan)

Contributions from Sean Hannah(@shun_handsome), Charlie Leach (@Yungbuchan), Ross Malcolm (@RossM98) and Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

Young Fathers – In My View

Continuing down a pop route shown on their previous single, In My View is a sultry, anthemic, heartfelt ballad for the Scottish trio Young Fathers. Through its pop leanings, this song still contains some of the hallmarks of a Young Fathers‘ song: lo-fi mixing, skewed and sometimes eclectic harmonies, and the varied and talented vocals of Massaquoi, Bankole and Hastings. If these two singles are anything to go by, their new album Cocoa Sugar could be an introspective, delicate, pop album – another exciting evolution for this excellent band. CL

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Peach Club – Venus

Opening up their latest EP Cherry Baby, this Norwich GRRRL band don’t wanna keep their first impression subtle or timid as they blow into a well-paced, menacing anthem on liberation and sexuality. Having impressed with last year’s Bad Bitch, another track that wasn’t afraid to spit back with venom, Peach Club have established themselves with this latest cut and EP that is chock-full of bravado, fierceness and outright badassery. LM

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Rejjie Snow – Egyptian Luvr (feat. Aminé & Dana Williams)

In the run-up to his debut album dropping in February, Rejjie Snow releases a hint of what is to come in his first release of 2018: Egyptian Luvr.  Egyptian Luvr is a surprisingly bright and chipper track compared to others in his discography. Lyrically he exceeds his usual standards, going for a more emotional approach. If this track is anything to go by, the Irishman’s gonna have a belter of a year. RM

Preoccupations – Espionage

Heralding the group’s forthcoming New Material album slated for release on March 23, PreoccupationsEspionage finds the group in peak form, hitting all of the post-punk/goth tropes they’ve become known for. Moonbeam synths, cavernous drums, and Matt Flegel’s rasping vocal knell comprise this frantic dirge, which culminates in a call and response akin to Joy Division’s Interzone. “We are bound,” Flegel ululates, to which the band responds, “Till we’re deeper in a dead sea”. SH

Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, James Blake – King’s Dead

Featuring on the upcoming Black Panther soundtrack, King’s Dead is suitably epic without being bombastic. With Mike Will Made It and Teddy Walton on production duties, resulting in a beat that just won’t quit, this track is undoubtedly the best we’ve seen yet from this OST, packing in an insane amount of energy with incredible flow and playful lyricism on Jay Rock and Future’s part respectively. It’ll be exciting to see how a track like this fits into a family friendly Marvel flick, though. LM

Mount Eerie – Distortion

Last time we saw Mr Phil Elverum, he left us all bubbling messes in his heartfelt, grief full open letter to his late wife Geneviève. While he’s not completely put the situation behind him (and how could you), he has managed to make something into art by giving his work a wider scope: much like his memory of his partner, the guitars linger on as he crafts a 11 minute colussus that is utterly interesting and emotionally evoking. LM