Music picks May/June: Courtney Barnett, A Perfect Circle, Kanye West, Jackie Hill Perry, Slowly Slowly

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It’s been a while since I’ve written any music reviews, so here’s a bunch of recommendations of the last month or so!

Tell Me How You Really Feel, Courtney Barnett

After a rise to fame with 2015’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit, Barnett’s been exceptionally busy. The Nirvana-esque, garage-punk vibes made her suitable to the 2017 team-up with Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice; one of the best albums in years and one of my personal favourites of 2017. Barnett’s solo-return in this year’s Tell Me How You Really Feel, is a step-up in terms of overall songwriting.

Opener ‘Hopefulessness’ has a brooding, bluesy vibe reminiscent of her Nirvana-influenced sound. ‘City Looks Pretty’ returns to similar sounds found of her double EP, A Sea of Split Peas, and great Barnett chorus and sudden 4/4 to 6/8 time signature shift from rock ‘n’ roller to dreamy pop. No complaints here. Following ‘City Looks Pretty’ is one of my favourite songs on this album, ‘Charity’ – a flat-out banger with catchy chorus and guitar hooks. ‘Need a Little Time’, the first single of the album, is an OK song. I wasn’t too impressed with it when it first released, but thankfully the rest of the album is superior. Other songs such as ‘Nameless, Faceless’ and ‘Crippling Self Doubt and a General Lack of Self-Confidence’, ‘Help Your Self’ are also fine songs.

There’s nothing really lost or gained with Courtney Barnett’s overall ‘sound’, this is simply an album that shows an artist that, ironically, feeling quite confident of her sound.

Eat the Elephant, A Perfect Circle

It took over a decade for A Perfect Circle to release an album of fresh material. Here they return with a sombre selection of songs that remind us of

Opener ‘Eat the Elephant’ is a slow number with a pensive use of piano and drums. Keenan’s vocals tenderly sing ‘Where to begin eludes me/Without you to remind me’. It also feels like some kind of funeral procession, with an incredibly existential . Thankfully the sombre mood doesn’t stick around, with the single, ‘Disillusioned’, a slightly preachy song about our obsession with technology. This song is actually quite interesting insofar as it says a lot about the human condition. Read the chorus:

Time to put the silicon obsession down
Take a look around, find a way in the silence
Lie supine away with your back to the ground
Dis- and re-connect to the resonance now
You were never an island

I like that last line – ‘You were never an island’. The song has interesting illusions to connecting on a natural, human level. Despite these interesting lyrics, I found much of this album a bit of a downer. ‘So Long, And Thanks for all the Fish’ is an interesting song about mortality with reference to the death of Gene Wilder, Carrie Fish and David Bowie.

This album is pensive about life and death. These are heavy themes and the album, sonically, is quite depressing. It is always of interest to hear Maynard’s reflections on life, but he still appears to harbour quite negative feelings against the God (See ‘The Doomed’) that may make his (and our) life more meaningful.

ye: I hate being bipolar it’s awesome, Kanye West

Kanye West is a guilty pleasure. The self-prescribed ‘genius’ dropped this album out of nowhere and is the follow-up to 2016’s The Life of Pablo, ye is a shorter album, yet continues West’s pondering his self-obsession, marriage and fame.

The album opens with ‘I Thought About Killing You’, an odd spoken word piece over what sounds like carousel-like music, with a late drop into a beat. ‘Yikes’ sounds like typical Kanye, with a catchy chorus of disjointed rhymes. ‘All Mine’ is an unusual song with Kanye describing his dating and sexual thoughts/conquests. ‘Wouldn’t Leave’ is about Kanye’s relationship to Kim Kardashian and his past errors.

I believe this album is stronger than The Life of Pablo, simply because it is shorter and much more focused. West’s eccentricity is what makes ye work – its like bipolar on record.

Maybe there’s a genius under there after all.

Crescendo, Jackie Hill Perry

Humble Beast records have released some genuinely great artists rapping from their Christian convictions. They have made some songs, but have been very hit-and-miss, and have yet to release something truly great. Yet Jackie Hill Perry’s new album, Crescendo, is easily their best release yet.

Crescendo is Hill Perry’s second album after The Art of Joy: an album I didn’t feel a great affinity with. Her journey working through her Christian faith, in light with her past (as a former lesbian), now wife and mother is a unique story about God’s redemptive power. This album chronicles some of the most painful of experiences of a believer navigate their life, interspersed with hymns sung in a capella.

I don’t feel like I will personally recommend some tracks, as it feels more chapters of a book. This is sometimes the problem with Christian rap, as it deals with intense themes (which I think is one of the main issue with Shai Linne, even though I think he is one of the most creative), which can harm the simple pleasure of enjoyment. This merely means that it is rap created for consideration, rather than mere or simple pleasure.

St. Leonards, Slowly Slowly

I was surprised that I enjoyed this album. The singing is whiny, and it reminds me of the ’04-’06 emo/punk wave with a hint of early Manchester Orchestra mixed with Blink 182. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking, but it is simply catchy as. St Leonards is a strong album in the post-punk/emo genre. It’s nice to hear home-grown quality (they originate from Melbourne).

The album opens with ‘Dinosaurs/Extinction’, a soft guitar/vocal, emo opening followed by driving post-punk grooves and guitars. Following is the ballad ‘The Cold War’, which is one of the best songs from the album. ‘Aliens’, one of the singles, is a radio-friendly post-punk song. ‘Ten Leaf Clover’ is quite similar to COPE-era Manchester Orchestra, with a catchy guitar line and heavy riff. The album loses a bit of steam once it hits ‘St. Leonards’ with the rest of the album less interesting than the first 5 or so tracks.

If you’re a fan of post-punk or emo, you’ll find something in this above average selection of songs.

 

 

 

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