Weekly Capsule Reviews: 12/03/2017


This week: Our Krypton Son, Stormzy, Xiu Xiu

Older releases: Future Islands

Our Krypton Son: Fleas & Diamonds [Smalltown America, 02/03/2017]

Far more self-reflective than his contemporaries would only hope to admit, the love-ridden epoch his words so obviously point to so obviously see the pitfalls associated with such, i.e. he’s a paranoid sweetheart. He listens to the rain like Tom Verlaine; he’s the consolation man and the shoulder for your head, but he doesn’t care about love (yeah, right), though it doesn’t seem to matter. Flawed he is with his love-is-a-suicide-mission utterance and heavy-handedness on the meaning it, but flawed his music isn’t with the jazz-appropriated “A Crochet Heart”, the backing vocals on “Relics”, the galloping drums on “Alexandria”, and the forever-yours “Everything Reminds Me of You”. Normally a good combo all told. An influence-generated, societally-apolitical, doomed lovebird that we can only pray will never fully heal. Sounds sadistic, but why else would we listen? Could he speak as well of the Troubles as we know he can of his own troubles? I’m sure I’d be equally bored by both after a while. For now, I’m good. (8/10)

Stormzy: Gang Signs & Prayer [#Merky (self-released), 24/02/2017]

Jumping on the hip-hop-meets-gospel bandwagon that’s so 2016, Stormzy sing-speaks his way through the love bits and gangstas his way through the gangsta dissing. Some of the beats give off a church and medieval vibe which coincide with his praying time and self-reflection that’s led to this point. His “singing” ain’t velvety, that’s for sure, and the R&B bits see his collaborations easily take over. “Shut Up” doesn’t translate well from the streets to the album, and his self-perceived “gospel” won’t translate well from the album to the streets. (6/10)

Xiu Xiu: FORGET [Polyvinyl, 24/02/2017]

8-bit-music-fetish, whiny sad sacks and not afraid to brandish it like a badge of honour, so apathetic to denouncement that it displays such awareness of appeal of popular melancholy in popular underground music. Paranoid shtick—”Do you hate me? Do you love me?”—and unbearable everything that doesn’t exactly lend itself to a curious analysis from the listener who knows what’s coming his or her way anyway. Anything of worth in the instruments? Yeah, the reverb drums and choppy electronics in the title track, “Wondering” has a dance groove, and… yeah… Challenging in a sense that it forces you to acknowledge your existential crisis but not quite theirs—more self-loathing on their side. And it tests your limits to make it to the finish line. And my, is that finish line sweet. (6/10)

Older releases

Future Island: Singles [4AD, 24/03/2014]

With the opener being the best synthpop track in more or less decades thanks mostly in part to Samuel T. Herring’s jazz croon that was never required but now feels like a necessity to drive “traditional”-instrument synth music forward, Singles reinvigorates a horribly overindulgent space where bands up the chorus effects and the melancholy, too, for good measure. But here we have, alongside Herring, William Cashion’s landscaping bass and Gerrit Welmers’ understated knowledge of his influences staving off the winter like they haven’t quite finished their tans yet. Is it a great record? No, but it doesn’t matter. It’s peppered with human experience and gimmicky antics in a live setting that could easily be perceived as inhuman, that is until you study Herring’s storytelling, seasonal metaphors, death-metal growls, and, forgive me, “losing himself in the music” and can’t help but feel this is a band that was needed as much in 1982 as 2014. A group that acquiesces to their synths because they know they’ll make a human side out of them. And us, too. (8/10)


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