Vampire Weekend and the Originality Myth Holding Rock Down

In a decade when more art is released in a month than could be considered properly in a lifetime, and every song recorded in the past century is just a quick Google away, our ideas of originality are changing. Once true uniqueness – the conquest for the unseen and unheard – was one of the first aspirations of art, but now it’s all laid bare: every source of inspiration, every melody borrowed from an unknown artist from the other side of the world or remembered in a dream. In 2017, Robert Shore’s book Beg, Steal and Borrow helped to shatter the myth of originality in art, and even more-so remove the stigma of weaving your influences together to make something new: a newfound embrace of artistic copying and pasting. 

In the art world, it was the 20th Century fashion for collages which put originality on the back-burner, by stitching together other works from across mediums (as if a millennium of painters copying Greek statues shouldn’t have done that already). Hip-hop’s sonic collages did the same for music, with producers digging crates in order to find samples and create a hot beat.

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Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? Richard Hamilton (1956)

However, when it comes to music made by more traditional bands, the perception seems to remain that there is a direct correlation between the talent of an artist and the extent to which their work can be considered ‘original’ to them. (more…)

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Burn The Dancefloor: The Raucous History of Dance Punk

Dance-Punk may be a genre you haven’t heard of before. That might well be due to the fact it’s not a genre, and what? That doesn’t even make sense? Dance. Punk? What does the rebellious grime of punk have to do with the glamorous strut of disco, or worse, Diplo? But it is also, undeniably, a thing. Inconcrete and still the subject of much debate, yes: but the music the term is used to define stretches across two of the most iconic eras of popular music. It thrived in the New York punk underground of the late 1970s, and saw an even grimier revival at the start of the 21st century, where bands like The Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs became pin-ups for a new generation. Dance-Punk also contains some of the most confident and potent music ever laid to wax, in the form of the Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem and New Order. 

The fact that most of its finest music was produced in two distinct periods of time, and the specificity of its New York-roots, have left Dance-Punk cocooned as a “scene”: a concept so alien to anyone who started seriously listening to music after the release of the iPhone that it might as well come etched on a scroll. The musicianship is undeniable, but exploring it can feel more like embarking on an archaeological dig. These songs and albums are enduring though: a thrilling melting-pot of ideas which span funk, punk, dance, disco, synth-pop and acid-house, producing some of the finest grooves ever recorded, all with an attitude more capital-P Punk than the so-called ‘political’ bands whose names ended upon on MasterCards. 

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One of the strongest impressions is that, in both its original form and it’s revival, Dance-Punk emerged in times where the zeitgeist was in need of some serious lightening up. One of the genres’ touchstone (more…)

Our Favourite Albums Of 2018

It’s unusual, at the start of lists such as this one, to comment upon the quantity of great music which has been released, as if there’s an exact number of good albums which can be objectively quantified. However, whilst respectfully raising a glass to those who think that little of worth has been released since Peter Gabriel went solo… 2018 has been one hell of a year for music. You could argue that there were no all-time-greats in the vein of Skeleton Tree or To Pimp A Butterfly this time around, but there has instead been an astounding deluge of diverse, idiosyncratic and powerful music released within the last twelve months. Start listening to records halfway up this list, and you’ll find music great enough to fit snuggly aside those we chose as our top ten. This list instead is a celebration then, of new sounds and ideas which still cast long shadows, while major releases from once-dominant names like Drake and Niki Minaj flew by without a splash.

2018 was a year when new zeitgeists emerged, or were set in stone. Underground hip-hop locked into a new, chopped-and-screwed groove with the abrasive and glitchy beats of Earl Sweatshirt, Shirt and JPEGMAFIA, while mainstream hip-hop from the likes of Kids See Ghosts and Travis Scott radiated exciting, psychedelic palettes. After years of threatening, jazz has found a new voice and new ringleaders in the form of Kamasi Washington, Idris Ackamoor, Moses Boyd and Sons of Kemet; finally knocking the genre out of a decades-old naval-gazing slumber and revitalising it as something as electric and exciting as ever.

It’s a cliche to even remark upon: but politically, this year has seemed rough. In the wake of a rupturing 2016, old institutions and untoppleable powers continue to exist in turmoil, and the future remains shapeless and unpredictable. A new political edge within music was forseen, but often inaccurately as the foot-stomping, beatnik protest songs of old. Many of today’s talents are much smarter than that, and musicians like SOPHIE, IDLES, Janelle Monae and Gazelle Twin offer their politics through pop and electronic music, capturing many of todays sentiments and putting them inside the music, rather than offering diatribes and false solutions atop it. On the other end of the spectrum, joyous pop music from Troy Sivane, MGMT and Kali Uchis has kept us dancing, reminding of us all the joy which can be found even within a climate which can feel increasingly hostile and remote.

This list was compiled by two music fans with nothing better to do, based only the albums they heard this year, featuring bias and ignorance of critical consensus. It is instead based solely on the music which impacted us, and which we enjoyed and listened to the most. From top to bottom, we consider all of these albums to be produced by incredibly talented individuals whose music this year will provide pleasure and inspiration for many more to come.

100. A Whole F****ng Lifetime Of This – American Pleasure Club

a2156766988_10.jpg99. Lala Belu – Hailu Mergia

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98. Age Of – Oneohtrix Never

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Our 75 Favourite Albums Of 2017

2017 maintained 2016’s phenomenal momentum for another 12 furious months, where even the most headline-grabbing releases of the year – from Taylor Swift’s Reputation to Harry Style’s solo debut – came and went before Noisey could even pen a think-piece about them. Popular music itself spread it’s purview wider than in any year in memory; songs needn’t be released further than SoundCloud to find viral success, all while vinyl sales were at their highest number in decades. Some of the year’s hottest rap records were barely twenty minutes long, while Purient released a three and a half hour record; BROCKHAMPTON put our three albums and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard released five.

While the decades-old UK/US centrism of music perpetuated, the sounds of international music continued to penetrate further into the mainstream. Tinawiren and Ibibio Sound Machine shone light on the rhythms of Mali and Nigeria respectively, Rosalia and Gabriel Garzon-Montano brought hispanic music further into the mainstream, just as Luis Fonsi’s Spanish-Language ‘Despacito’ took over the world with a helping hand from born-again Bieber.

On the other side of the spectrum, indie icons MacDemarco, Spoon, Father John Misty and Fleet Foxes put in strong records, proving claims of the death of ‘pitch-folk’ to be somewhat exaggerated. These records helped make 2017 a year of fulfilled expectations. After the loss of giants of popular music such as Cohen, Prince and Bowie in 2016, successors like LCD Soundsystem and Bjork released records which somehow managed to fulfil the weighty expectations placed before them. Of course 2017 saw yet further greats leaving the mortal plain, with Malcolm Young, Fats Domino, Tom Petty, Charles Bradley, Chester Bennington, Glen Campbell, Chuck Berry and Chris Cornell sadly joining the Hall of Fame in the sky.

2017 was also the year hip-hop became America’s most listened to genre for the first time in history, meaning that pop music is no longer means Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga but DJ Khaled and Lil Uzi Vert. With great power comes great irresponsibility however, and the music industry was rocked by the death of 21-year old ‘emo rapper’ Lil Peep, at the hands of the prescription drug addiction currently dominating the mainstream. Elsewhere, underground icons Milo, Uncommon Nasa and Open Mike Eagle dropped thick and fast, and the genre continued to define itself as the politically-conscious successor to countercultural folk and punk from decades past, with leaders Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar, Rhapsody and Vince Staples releasing politically-minded LPs in a year where eyes eyes turned to art for guidance through frankly-disturbing political developments.

What truly defined music in 2017 though was the listening public’s response to the sheer cascade of sounds, genres and styles presented before them. A new popular eclecticism has descended upon those with even a casual relationship to popular music: artists like Forest Swords can be spoken of in the same breathe as Code Orange; factionalism is a thing of the past, and while teenage cloud-rap stars have more opportunity to shine than ever, so too does a has-been like Morrissey have chance to find a willing ear too. So open are the public to new ideas, Drake can call his new album a playlist and Brian Eno can release his latest available to be re-mixed on an app and nobody bats an eyelid. It represents a torrent of open-mindedness that leads one to wonder for how many more years a ‘greatest album list’ will be representative of the way people listen to music at all…

This list was compiled by three music fans based only the albums they heard this year, featuring bias and ignorance of critical consensus. It is instead based solely on the music which impacted us, and which we enjoyed and listened to the most. From top to bottom, we consider all of these albums to be produced by incredibly talented individuals whose music this year will provide pleasure and inspiration for many more to come.

75. Goths – The Mountain Goats

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74. Power Trip – Nightmare Logic

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“How Could It All Fall In One Day?” – Fleet Foxes ‘Crack-Up’ Album Review

Fleet Foxes did not suffer the sophomore slump. In fact, their second LP Helplessness Blues was so well received that they seemed to found a different phenomenon: the sophomore peak, where after a six-year absence expectations for their third record were at fever pitch, and a similar level of rapturous acclaim was inevitably unattainable, especially for an album like this. Frontman Robin Pecknold, who’s singular voice defines the third of the band’s records in a way it hasn’t previously, posted on his (very wry) Instagram account a list of ‘inclinations’ for this cycle of music which largely comprise of defiance against the most celebrated characteristics of Helplessness Blues: “avoid singy-songy theatrical vocals” and “establish expectations, subvert expectations”. As a result, Crack-Up is more obtuse than even the subtler moments on Fleet Foxes’ debut, built instead on refused assertions, and contrasts. (more…)