It's that time again. We need to smash open the Piñata of new album releases. Who's serving up a paper donkey filled with sweet treats and who's stuffed their ass with gluten-free, organic superfoods?
We can't start anywhere else other than with Blue & Lonesome, the latest release from The Rolling Stones. With a combined age of 289, the equivalent of 13 Justin Biebers, they have returned from an 11 year break to present us with their 25th studio album.
In essence, this is a cover album, featuring reworkings of classic blues tracks from the likes of Buddy Johnson, Howlin' Wolf and Otis Rush. The overwhelming feeling for me was of being privy to a jam session. The band sound relaxed, nothing feels forced. Mick's voice sounds stunning, molasses smooth with just a dash of bourbon. If anything, it has improved with age. His harmonica playing is out of this world and it tessellates so perfectly with Keith's guitar majesty.
It might just be me but there is something about this album that feels like an acknowledgement that it could well be their last. A lot of the band's early work involved covering blues songs and this feels like a tip of their hat to their roots, to the music that brought them together in the first place. There is even an appearance from old friend Eric Clapton on two tracks. If this is to be a bookend to the career of The Rolling Stones, I think it would be a very fitting swansong for arguably the greatest rock 'n' roll band of all time.
He calls himself Childish Gambino. I imagine his friends call him Donald Glover. To me, he will always be Troy from Community. Whatever moniker you choose to use, be in no doubt that his new album is called Awaken, My Love! and it is absolutely fantastic.
From the first track, it is obvious that this is not your run of the mill album. There is something inherently experimental about what Childish Gambino is trying to achieve. This is trial by error music making. He is adding elements into the tracks like ingredients to a recipe. A dash of this, a pinch of that. A little taste, needs more nutmeg. He also understands that his voice is the most important ingredient of them all and he tinkers heavily with it. Technically, he does not have the best voice in the world but it is so refreshing to hear an artist who understands how to utilise their nuances.
The result reminded me a great deal of Frank Zappa. It is an album that at times can feel understated but then comes to life with bursts of raw energy. There is no formula and any rules are those being made up as we go along. An outstanding album from a virtuoso who takes the basic principles of soul, rap and hip hop and presents them in a way that you won't have heard before.
Finally, we have the eighth studio album from rodent-headed Canadian deadmau5, entitled W:/2016ALBUM/. My general thoughts on gimmicks are that if you feel you need them, there is a good chance that your music doesn't hold up without them. It turns out that deadmau5 may well be the exception that proves the rule.
There is something grandiose and arresting, almost hypnotic, about the melodies. It's science fiction, it's electro Asimov. It's the music we will be listening to in a distant future where words have lost all meaning and we are all just neural impulses shooting back and forth across a plateaued silicon wasteland. It reminded me of Daft Punk's soundtrack to Tron and Vangelis' contributions to Blade Runner and it holds up well in such esteemed company.
If you were to separate music out into 'music that sets a tone' and 'music that has something to say', this definitely falls into the former. It's re-playability is probably quite limited but in that moment of the first listen, it has the potential to be absolutely stunning. deadmau5 takes you on a near wordless journey into an unknown reality and I could not help but lie back and allow the music to transport me.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
The Stones say goodbye?
Gambino cooks up a storm
mau5 sees the future
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