Album Review: Lorde- Melodrama

By Patrick Dalziel (@JoyDscvryPaddy)

When Lorde first released Pure Heroine at 17, she instantly gained notoriety for her cutting art pop. Rightfully so, her debut was exceptional, and after a long four year wait we finally have a follow up LP. Coming in the form of “Melodrama” the new album is big, bold and devastating. More realised and confident, it is a fitting follow on to everything Lorde embodies.

Her debut was a meticulous subtle attack on celebrity lifestyles and youthful obsession. Now on Melodrama the focus has shifted. No longer an outsider looking in, Lorde has had to find a new angle to approach the topics from. What we’re presented here is far closer to an album of coping mechanisms: from the partying extravagance of opener Green Light to the fixated love within The Louvre, this feels very much like a handwritten guide of how to survive high society New York.

It’s an interesting idea, and one that is reflected in the production. Everything is pushed slightly too loud, hiding some of the more complex melodies that would have been championed previously. Potentially this could be a statement from the singer regarding originality in the pop world, where regurgitation rules over innovation. The desperation to avoid this heavily inspiring the songs within Melodrama.  Take for example, Homemade Dynamite, a slow burner that gradually adds layers of noise and detail through it’s run time to create a sense of infatuation. It’s loud, over the top but still has a sense of restrain applied to it and upon deeper inspection is remarkably introspective. What we’re seeing here is a refusal to dilute the message while appealing to a massive market. A risk that could have gone very wrong.

When the first single, Green Light, was released many worried that her trademark intensity and honesty would diminish in favour of going bombastic. This definitely isn’t the case, though, given that her influences include Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, crushing lows accompanying the extreme highs, most notably on Sober and Writer in the Dark, both of which are sombre moments of clarity in the hedonistic landscape of Melodrama. Sober, coming straight after the pounding Green Light, is a slow paced hangover to the opener’s exuberance. Whilst the latter is one of the best stand out tracks present, it begins as what feels like a callback to Pure Heroine, before taking a completely unexpected but welcome shift. It’s here we see who has possibly had the largest impact on Lorde during the writing process, Kate Bush, with the vocals on the chorus sounding heavily inspired by Bush’s early works such as Wuthering Heights.

Upon repeated listens to the album her overall influence becomes more evident. The slightly left field production, full of distorted sound effects and overwhelming volume are all very Hounds of Love, shown most clearly on Loveless, which is squeezed into the second half of Hard Feelings. However here, the influence is less vocally based and far more sonically. Crashing drums open the track before being drowned out by a series of cold electronic noises, to unsettle and intrigue. This style fits Lorde’s output spectacularly, and creates a contrasting world of vibrant cynicism.

This atmosphere is remarkably important to the album. If the world built in the runtime was anything less than totally absorbing Melodrama could very easily have fallen apart. Instead it’s a glorious invitation into this decadent alternate universe. Lorde is as helpless to its charms of it as we are, and through the space of the eleven songs we experience every success and misstep in time with her. It’s not so much a storyline per se, more of a selection of notable nights told in brutal honesty.

Overall, Melodrama is nigh on perfect. It’s joyous and celebratory of the singer’s successes but maintains everything she became known for. It’s nice to see that writing songs for the Hunger Games series hasn’t swayed Lorde towards more commercial ventures. Especially when trips down a more avant-garde route produce such high quality output.

9/10


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Track Review: Courtney Barnett – How to Boil an Egg

By Patrick Dalziel (JoyDscvryPaddy)

It seems we’re getting quite a bizarre insight into Courtney Barnett’s live rider in her latest singles. First we heard of her ramen noodle addiction in Three Packs a Day, and now we have this yolk titled oddity. Although thankfully, this isn’t just Barnett’s progression into releasing “foodie” music. It is instead a reworking of one of the first songs the ridiculously talented Australian singer/songwriter ever wrote. 

Telling the story of life in her early twenties, How to Boil an Egg may be less humourous than Barnett’s breakthrough singles such as Elevator Operator or Avant Gardener. But, the rework has introduced her atypical guitar style to great effect. A garage spin on psychedelic/surf rock, which creates a sound that is borderline inimitable. Even if it is played with slightly more caution here than in previous entries.

This is knowingly done however, to reflect on what was clearly a tough time in the singer’s life. With lyrics such as “Every morning I feel more useless than before, trying hard to see the point in anything at all” It’s one of her most self deprecating songs undoubtedly. Yet this harshness acts as one of the song’s most clever devices. We’re given an extremely intimate insight into the life of a struggling musician. Through the trivialisation of difficulties young artists face on a daily basis.

With a less talented writer than Barnett at the helm, this could have come off as heavily misjudged. Thankfully this isn’t the case here, as each verse gives only the slightest insight into the lifestyle. Reflecting upon the monotony of trying to break through in the industry, as days fall into the repetitive nature of playing gigs and waiting to be noticed. This existential theme plays perfectly against the garage psychedelia mentioned before. The result of which is a joyously contrasting sound, that allows How to Boil an Egg to stand out amongst Barnett’s already very impressive back catalogue.

8/10


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Track Review: Die Antwoord – Love Drug

By Patrick Dalziel (@JoyDscvryPaddy)

This September there will be another Die Antwoord record, supposedly their final. Sadly this is an enticing prospect for all of the wrong reasons, especially if first single Love Drug is anything to go by. Whilst never exactly being noted for their subtlety, their first three albums were genuinely fun experiences. They had an energy, a sense of presence, that made them incredibly enjoyable to binge on. You could easily lose hours in the twisted exuberance of their Zef style as Yolandi Visser and Ninja created their vibrant, violent world around you.


The sad fact of the matter, however, is Love Drug sounds nothing like these early works in any way. This isn’t hating on a band trying something new, though, rather this is just the sad realisation that the duo may be past their best. The beat, produced by Die Antwoord in-house DJ “GOD“, just barely survives until the finish line, faltering in a manner that’s incredibly incoherent with his usual meticulously considered output. To put it in context of just how disappointing this is, the band just released an instrumental album based off his work and it is genuinely brilliant. The usual eccentric and darkly playful nature of his work shines on the early albums but is never even attempted here.

It feels like a song very haphazardly thrown together. Several elements fail to click together in any conceivable way, and the vocals can’t even save it, mainly because they’re some of the worst the South African rap duo have ever written. It’s adolescent to a fault and shows none of the self-awareness that’s usually present. By the end of the song, it honestly just dissolves into who can awkwardly cram more expletives into their lines which perhaps is the wrong thing to be criticising this particular band for (especially when songs such as Evil Boy exist) but even then, Evil Boy comes across as incredibly nuanced in comparison. The sense of rhythm throughout gives it a natural sense of progression, with each layer added breathing new life into the song which, again, is something which never happens in Love Drug.


Instead, we’re given a barely competent verse from Yolandi Visser, before being rushed through the forgettable chorus and ending with the song’s last insult. An unbelievable poor verse from the usually very competent Ninja. His usual visceral energy is nowhere to be found here, instead, he just sounds incredibly bored. There’s no flow to his lines whatsoever, and it frankly just sounds like he doesn’t want to be there at all.


Love Drug stands as the worst thing Die Antwoord have ever released. It’s a true shame, given the band’s usual extravagance and style but here, everything feels misjudged: the verses are weak, the chorus bland and the backing uncharacteristically poor. Do yourself a favour and listen to Donker Mag and Ten$ion for the DA experience, because this love drug is definitely just placebo.

2/10


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Album Review: The Bob’s Burgers Music Album

By Patrick Dalziel (@JoyDscvryPaddy)

Music has always been an integral part of Bob’s Burgers since its inception back in 2011. Now, six years later, show runners FOX have partnered with indie label Sub Pop (home of  Nirvana and Father John Misty ) to release this collection of 107 original songs from the first 107 episodes. Ranging from the absolutely excellent season 6 finale number Bad Things Happen in the Bathroom, to the incredibly bizarre Die Hard/Working Girl medley from the first episode of season 5. It’s clear to see just how much fun the writers/cast members of the show have with the project even to this day.

However, it is clear that this latest release is purely for the Bob’s Burgers mega fan which actually doesn’t feel like too much of a negative in this instance. The sheer dedication to collecting every piece of music used in the show stands as some exceptional fan service. This alone would have been enough to satiate a lot of people awaiting the release, but a lot has gone into the presentation, especially in the surprising vinyl release: packaged in a triple gatefold format, with each record bearing a different condiment colour (Red, Yellow and Green respectively), slipped in between exclusive art booklets and a very unexpected 7 inch single.

This single (the last 5 songs on Spotify) weirdly contains the best way for people unfamiliar with the show to launch into its musical world. Entitled Bob’s Buskersthis oddity contains reworks of music from the show by artists such as St. Vincent, Lapsley and weirdly a lot of renowned gloomy rockers The NationalMatt Berninger brings his heartbreaking delivery to songs about gravy boats, Christmas and being stuck on the toilet which shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does, with the latter of these being a cover of the excellent season 6 finale mentioned earlier. It’s interesting to imagine how the relationship between the band and the show started, but hopefully, volume 2 of the soundtrack series will provide more of what is definitely a winning combination.

Volume 2 is almost inevitable after the success of Bob’s Burgers within pop culture. This however is not a worrying prospect perhaps surprisingly after hearing this first instalment. It would be far too easy to write this compilation off as a cynical cash grab, but that would be ignoring just how much effort has gone into it. Firstly the sheer number of songs presented here is close to overwhelming, leaving no moment of the show unexplored for new music. Secondly, the chronological presentation of these songs allows for a real insight into just how much it has progressed throughout six seasons (Season seven is not finished so not included here).

This point is most likely only appealing to those fans who’re well versed in the source material, but it does provide a nice contextualisation between linked songs. Also, as mentioned earlier the presentation of the physical releases is sublime, and encapsulates the show’s charm and welcoming art style. Finally it’s especially fun to see small fan favourite moments here; such as H. Jon Benjamin’s Bob screaming along to Donna Summer‘s classic In Control (Finger on the Trigger). A fleeting credits scene, the inclusion of which shows how in tune the creators are with fan demand as this scene soared to cult status after airing.

Overall, this album probably wouldn’t serve as the perfect companion to the show for newcomers. For fans, though, this is pretty much a perfect package. Packed with a ridiculous amount of original music, amusing wee vignettes, and completely unforeseen musical cameos, the latter of which are genuinely brilliant and really increased the enjoyment of this record due to their completely unexpected nature.

7/10


Featuring butts, butts and, eh, more butts, Bob’s Burgers Music Album is jam packed with entertainment. While those who haven’t seen a single episode may not see much enjoyment from it at first glance, the sheer variety, comedy and fan service is enough to get a chuckle or smile out of even the harshest critic.

7.5/10 – Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)


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Album Review: Girlpool – Powerplant

By Patrick Dalziel (@JoyDscvryPaddy)

Remember 2014? Remember when it was somehow the “in thing” to be in a band comprising of only two members? Feels like an age ago now: Drenge found a bassist somewhere, Royal Blood went dark for quite sometime and Slaves made the same album twice in a row. But, here to show the amateurs how to do it comes folk punk duo Girlpool with their second LP Powerplant. Which despite the band’s bizarre stance on using the space bar, is rather incredible.

Where the album truly excels is when the marriage of its two genres plays off effortlessly. Mixing elements of post punk – a very notable influence here is Sonic Youth – with melodies that wouldn’t feel out of place on an early Belle & Sebastian record (Tigermilk era). If this still sounds all a bit puzzling and too contradictory to work, check out the incendiary Cornerstore: an enticingly swift introduction to the band’s musical inspirations and capabilities. Here for just under two minutes band members, Cleo Tucker and Harmony Trindad serenade you before exposing you to their grunge styles with no warning. But, for some reason it doesn’t feel alien. At no point within their tales of love, loss and desperation does it feel unnecessary to have injected the songs with that visceral energy.

This may be down to a couple of points, the very short length of the album (28 minutes) ensures no song outstays its welcome. So no part of it feels bloated or misjudged, even upon repeat listens.  Also, this rush of primeval anger feels natural within the story-lines of the songs. The original sadness is drowned beneath a layer of enveloping rage. Directionless but not misplaced, evoking memories of 2000’s indie rock such as Manchester Orchestra or Brand New. Although, where these bands offered some form of exploration on their records, some people may feel Girlpool don’t push their boundaries enough. It doesn’t notably detract from the experience however, as the whole thing flows beautifully into a stream of consciousness. Ready to drag listeners under the surface into the murky waters the songs occupy.

In short, the up and coming duo have provided one of the surprise albums of this year. A truly energetic recounting of love and loss that lives by the mythos of less is more, and does so with an undeniable style.

8/10


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