Weekly Capsule Reviews: 19/03/2017


This week: Charli XCX, Sun Kil Moon, Laura Marling, Thundercat

Older releases/Classics: LCD Soundsystem, The SUNDAYS

Charli XCX: Number 1 Angel (mixtape) [Asylum, 10/03/2017]

I’ve yet to get around to a full-length LP from Charli XCX but her Vroom Vroom EP from last year caught my ear with its eccentric production, whacky beats, and vocal flow. Number 1 Angel hasn’t carried on from that insofar as the production is a little more conventional and pop-wise, shall we say? But her self-awareness, that you better believe is at the core, rings true more so than the predecessor EP. She knew she’d make it, hangin’ out that Beemer, Benz, Lambo, and “‘Rari”; lamenting poor love choices (which are an extra with those flash automobiles); and indulging in her narcotics lifestyle (a metaphor for something else, we hope). Charli XCX is churning out very accessible pop music that is as intelligent as it doesn’t sound and as catchy as it thinks. There’s an obvious decadence that’s almost caught in a time warp like the Eurodance of “Roll with Me” and the attempted-influence-generation of the funk-disco “Babygirl” that shows she isn’t afraid to illustrate to the listener that she isn’t the first to come up with this stuff, nor the last. (7/10)

Sun Kil Moon: Common as Light and Love are Red Valleys of Blood [Caldo Verde (self-released), 17/02/2017]

A slog and one that was just about worth it for both Mark Kozelek and I. Common as Light is a two-and-a-bit-hour block of diaristic entries that resemble either the most scholastic of “youths” or that of a snarky fifty-year-old. For the bits I like, I’m going to go with the former. His disgust of iPhones, Twitter, and the most hilarious of all, my aspiring profession concocts a reality check that makes more sense than it’s worth mentioning (I know I ain’t listening to that music journalist bit). His mix of modern-day liberalism (lamenting North Carolina law that refuses trans people from using their bathroom of choice) and the tough Ohio boy is so well put forward it almost makes perfect political sense. He means both on an emotional level, though, he really does. The rambling monologues don’t justify the long track lengths, and vice versa. His David Bowie eulogies, love-hate (more hate) relationship with popular culture, and liberal-mindedness see him go from sour narrator to prig (and back again) all in one sitting. Both are pretty easily interchangeable in this context, which means it always has its charms. (7/10)

Laura Marling: Semper Femina [More Alarming (self-released), 10/03/2017]

An album you really have to listen to, and I mean that. The drab landscape she’s painted with her instruments forces you to listen to the words that contain the fickleness of the female whilst still seeming celebratory about women through the lens of friendships, relationships, and art. Sounds rational and all good, but the performances don’t seem to match the message, and some are so tedious you’d nearly wish she was a radical of some sort to pep it up a bit. Props for acknowledging the flaws in all of us, including herself. Props indeed. That’s about it. (6/10)

Thundercat: Drunk [Brainfeeder, 24/02/2017]

His expressive bass is always a joy and I don’t think he needs to back it up. But Drunk lacks so much cohesion it’s nearly too much of a walk in the park to pinpoint his influences amongst the scatter; Stanley Clark and Herbie Hancock spring to mind straight off the bat. It wasn’t until “Friend Zone” where the funny-guy guy hit me as something of any note because the basslines were where they should be. “Them Changes” was pretty good afterwards, too. The likeability of it boils down to a nostalgic trip down memory lane for anyone drooling for a second instalment of Future Shock or album artwork that resembles the old ’60s and ’70s jazz days. He gave me a laugh or two with his beating-the-meat life advice, being an anime fanboy, and his wish to be a cat rather than a celebrity. I never thought I’d see the day where Kenny Loggins outshines Kendrick Lamar on an album, or the two being on the same album, for that matter. (6/10)

Older releases/Classics

LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver [DFA/EMI, 12/03/2007]

In sonics, first off, James Murphy is one of the hardest-to-listen-to sceptics in popular dance-punk. However, you may have a different opinion when you get your eyes on the lyrics sheet. And every time I plug this in, I nearly always forget that these aren’t musical arrangements nor are they pointless noise cacophonies. “North American Scum” I initially thought was an attack on Western culture more so than capitalism until I realised it was Murphy’s plaint on the perspective that US racism and bigotry is fully normalised and actually condoned by the people as a whole. There’s good and bad to every society; we could do with an extra five-and-a-half-minute extension to that track right now, it’s going to take a little more firepower to get around to the far left. There’s something that keeps me coming back. Whether it’s Murphy’s cryptic scepticism, me trying to decipher where the “musical” bits within the nine tracks reside, or that guitar—that isn’t so much shy but more drowned out by machinery and robots—I don’t know. (7/10)

The SUNDAYS: Reading, Writing and Arithmetic [Rough Trade, 15/01/1990]

David Gavurin’s riffs are so boring and situated somewhere between staccato and legato they’re almost contagious. The same goes for lead gal Harriet Wheeler and her chirpy regret around every corner. And if it’s a devil inside her, it must be the sweetest Lucifer going. “[…] liberty and money/Don’t go!” she says with the naive deliverance of idealistic youth. Ah, yes. A less-than-minor cult “classic” that had been and gone even in 1990. I do enjoy the breaking-free of “A Certain Someone” and the self-deprecating whimsy of “My Finest Hour”: “The finest hour that I’ve ever known/Was finding a pound on the Underground”. Student life, eh? (6/10)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s