Thursday, October 30, 2014

Kindness, Otherness

Again, late 80’s essence, massive bass lines, an essence of an era that celebrates the birth of a modern hip hop style. And from the very first song, World Restart, you can hear that ’’Fresh Prince from Bel-Air’’ kind of monotonous, non-sense, funky brass line, fighting with beats, which, somehow, slowly melts into the second tune on the album and the first single, This Is About Us, which is actually pretty much about Soul II Soul kind of groove. 

And why do we love so much that period, and why are we going back to that groove? Because that Soul II Soul, Maxi Priest, Joyce Sims, Janet era is the end of the music as we know it and the beginning of a Timbaland era that made hip hop sound crunchy and sexist and non-relevant. This is not just a throwback, socially, this a correction period, where we go back in order to make a statement and say ’give us back those happy times when we weren't ashamed of club culture’’, times where you didn't have to listen to Nickelodeon and Disney stars at clubs, times when you could say fuck but still make proper love.

Otherness is like a precious stone, lyrically taken to another level. It’s not about clubbing anymore, it’s much more intimate, melancholic, even when it’s  followed by heavy beat like in Who Do You Love, a collaboration with the amazing Robyn. It’s a blur, it’s like trying to remember a love and trying to find these feelings through a cloud of haze, just using your senses.

Don’t let the noise confuse you, that’s just the thing that you’re used to
You never knew any different, there’s something else if you listen

From the very beginning of Geneva you think – Imogen Heap, but then it slowly turns into a piano ballad that combines elements of acoustic and electronically modified choir sounds. And once again, it’s about that blur, that haze.

With You, a collaboration with Kelela, is a very sensual, stripped, saxophone and bass driven slow-tempo, that may be the most experimental track on the album. Have you ever found a perfect and forgotten vinyl from the late 70’s and made love to it? Me, neither, But, let’s try it.

The only track on the album I don’t quite get is the Mike Oldfield-y acoustic guitar driven For The Young. It is a good break from everything else and an interesting step backwards, but still it may come across a bit as cooking TV show tune in the background that bothers nobody. On the other hand, it’s a beautiful reverie type of songs, so I don’t know, I’m torn there.

The thing I have been waiting for is the last track, Why Don’t You Love Me, a collaboration with Dev Hynes and Tawiah. And it’s just personal. Everything else is already said.

Otherness still is a big step forward from his debut album World, You Need A Change Of Mind, which was more funky and in a way reminded me more of Dev Hynes’ kind of vibe. Otherness is pure Kindness album. And anyhow the two of them are two pieces of a puzzle that I’m more that happy to be witnessing assembling before my very ears.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mapei - Hey Hey

Her first single Don’t Wait left us all blown away and awaiting for her debut album to come out. Like many others said, it is a pop perfection, it is a nostalgic and catchy indie hip hop anthem, with strong beat lines mixed with finger snapping, sitar-like and calypso-like folk instruments and pitched-down vocals in the verses. It sounds fresh and eclectic, it is a song for almost every occasion, it simply works in every scenario. What makes it fresh are the  simple and laid bare lyrics, and that amazing video, directed by the amazing Dori Oskowitz, we all fell in love with at first sight.

In all that anticipation, the final result isn't what we exactly could expect, it’s even more eclectic in a degree it becomes unrecognizable. Yes it is innovative and different and funky like Things You Know Nothing About, but it would be a damn good move if there were more songs on the album, like Don’t Wait or Blame It On Me. Instead, Hey Hey is filled with more indie than hip hop or folk tunes. And for a debut album, it is a very dangerous move that can finally result in forgetting her name soon after the first single drops from the charts. 

The second single from the album, Change, is an adrenalin filled tune with strong beats like a song with this title should be.  The third single, Believe is a sleepy anthem of empowerment. It sounds much like a mix of Radiohead and Macy Gray. Step Up, like many others on the album, is an adrenalin mix of rock and hip hop with Mapei’s tired voice, tired and weary, reminding me in a strange way of Noel Gallagher's. As 1, a neo soul love ballad, makes a really nice moment for the album, and once more her voice reminded of some contemporary soul singer. 

All in all it makes an interesting debut album that may not conquer the charts but is an eclectic and innovative vision of pop. This Swedish-American (who even was Lykke Li's roommate while she was living in New York) definitely deserved some success after many years of fighting for her place on the scene. Sure, Mapei needs to strengthen her music identity, but her artistic identity is indisputable. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Jessie Ware - Tough Love, unfolding the unknown

The much-anticipated Jessie Ware sophomore album is finally out. Things haven’t changed radically after her first album got recognized as the album of the year and got a Mercury Prize in 2012. But Jessie Ware is a quiet  kind of artist, and the one that may not blow you away completely at first but she’ll certainly be here for a while and at one point her voice will get to you for sure. So with that magic in her voice, with her previous producer Dave Okumu (of The Invisible) and a new one Benny Blanco (best known for his collaborations with Maroon 5- Moves like Jagger, Payphone; Katy Perry, Jessie J and many more), with a little help from her friends, such as Ed Sheeran, Dev Hynes and Miguel in the songwriting, Tough Love is an album worthy of the singer’s voice and image since all of these people were focused on making a Jessie Ware record and not a hit record.

The second  single from the album, Say You Love Me, co-written with Ed Sheeran, has a clear Ed Sheeran stamp on it. However, the story of making this record is as spontaneous as it can be in the music industry today. Allegedly they met in New York one night and Ed Sheeran offered to write a song for her new album. The singer, as well, encouraged her regarding using her higher register and put into her some of his touring experiences. And naturally, a collaboration like this has got to yield a hit, which Say You Love Me will definitely become. It will give her a much needed attention of the single hit charts. And truth is she took it to a whole different level, with an emotional shotgun that her voice is.

Dev Hynes collaboration, Want Your Feeling, is a throwback down tempo with heavy bass guitar riffs and synths playing a monotonous tune in a different harmony giving impression of a total melodic bypassing, but it's actually pretty daring and innovative. Songs like Champagne Kisses, Cruel and Sweetest Song create perfect, sensual moments you don’t want to come out from. But not enough memorable melodic lines. Probably I’ll forget them later today when I stop listening to them. This is my problem with Jessie Ware, there must be a border between the heavily produced auto-tuned mainstream and  faceless lounge, and I don’t want to see her in neither one of the two mentioned categories. She does let herself be laid bare and emotionally dismantled, but in such a shy way that it leaves me wanting more.

When I think of this album I will think of some great moments, Say You Love Me for some time, and Want Your Feeling forever since it makes a perfect moment for the album. From time to time I’ll play just the first couple of beats  of Say You Love Me’’in medical purposes’’ or I’ll just want to hear again that cuckoo synths of Want Your Feeling. It’s a great album, although her velvety and cathartic voice deserves some more personal and distinctive songwriting, with one exception to that being Pieces, a laid bare down-tempo with a beat line reminding me of a typical Florence and the Machine moment. It's an honest confession with an interesting melodic plot in the bridge, and this is a moment when we see Jessie one hundred per cent and as she is.   

I had to shatter to pieces, you made me reveal myself
So if you no longer need them, then give them to someone else 

Even though our ears are used to some’fast love’ meaning we want some cheese we want the tears we want it all, Jessie Ware is harmonizing her way in the music business and remains a silent, sensual girl we will all, at one point of our lives, fall in love with.