Pearly Music

    18 Apr 2010

    "Heligoland" (2010) by Massive Attack

    They’ve been away for a while, but Massive Attack’s fifth studio album has definitely let them re-stake their claim as the kings of trip-hop. Even though Heligoland is their biggest departure from the true trip-hop sound, it’s equally as good as any of their previous work, if not better.

    Heligoland encapsulates everything that Massive Attack is, but manages to not sound the same as any of their previous works. The vocal work throughout the record is wonderful, featuring a whole array of notable guests such as Damon Albarn, Guy Garvey, Horace Andy and Tunde Adebimpe, as well as amazing delivery by the duo itself. As one would expect from a Massive Attack record, the production is sublime. Eerie noises stand out, but don’t detract from the creepy and depressive music. There are the weird beats and rhythms, strange melodies, and clever use of repetition that we’ve all come to look forward to from Massive Attack.

    But this isn’t pure trip hop. There’s not as many slow, chilled songs, and much less (if any) record scratching and eerie, drawn out vocals. This works in their favour, however, as it prevents them from being another washed up 90’s band, opening them up to a new audience. While there’s no one definitive stand-out track, the whole album works, and each and every track on its own. To put it very simply, everything just sounds plain great.

    The lyrics are great and somehow manage to not become cheesy. It’s their simplicity that works in their favour, the fact that they can get the message across in as few words as possible, and can be sung with a perfect melody to accompany the song. They seem as though they were written not for the words, but for how the words sound - their rhymes, tones, structure, length, etc. But that doesn’t lessen the quality of the lyrics themselves. They’re still clever and fitting, blanketing the whole record with the perfect lyrical theme of love, distance and isolation.

    Heligoland is a more than welcome release from one of the best groups in the last twenty years. Head-bobbing and interest-grabbing, it’ll keep you listening, most probably on repeat, for a long time to come.

    8.4
    Choice tracks: Pray For Rain; Splitting The Atom; Girl I Love You; Saturday Come Slow; Atlas Air
    If you like: 
    Portishead; Tricky

    28 Feb 2010

    "Contra" (2010) by Vampire Weekend

    I’ll start off by admitting that I am one of the very few that really didn’t like Vampire Weekend’s first album. It was bland, generic and boring. But their second effort, which gained major brownie points from me from the beginning by paying homage to the classic NES game with its title, sees Vampire Weekend step up and make something definitely worth listening to.

    On the outside, it’s everything I expected from a Vampire Weekend album. Influence from all around the world, weird melodies, the whole works. But there’s no lame, seemingly-inside-jokes like “Blake’s Got A New Face” from the first album, and on this one every song doesn’t sound the same, which gave me a pleasant surprise. In the first album, they had all these ideas, but it seemed as though they were a jack of all trades but master of none. Now they’ve finally mastered something. I don’t know how they did it, but everything seems tighter and it’s at just the perfect level of kooky for them; the last album just didn’t have the same touch.

    I don’t think they did it on purpose, and seeing as no one else picked up I think I made it up, but it seems to me as something changed between this album and their first. Not sure if they did it intentionally, but to me, something’s different. And that’s a very, very good thing.

    7.1
    Choice tracks: Horchata; Run; Cousins; Diplomat’s Son; I Think Ur A Contra

    5 Jan 2010

    "Lost Souls" (2000) by Doves

    I heard about this group, um, about three days ago when a friend gave me this record amongst 50 gigabytes of other music while we were sharing (don’t sue). I added it to my 80 other records that I had to listen to to make a credible best-records-of-the-decade list, however I admit that I wasn’t really expecting much.

    The first track really impressed me. My friend had tagged the record as ‘indie rock’, so I was expecting a Strokes-esque rocking record. I was completely wrong. Lost Souls is full of lush, string filled ornamentation and thick textures. The opener blew my brain from my skull, not because it was amazing, but because I was totally not expecting it.

    The album continues in this vein. The songs seem to be more centered around the instruments than the vocals, but the vocals still play a major part in the work as a whole. The record is really one that has to be repeatedly listened to as a whole to be fully appreciated - it has that ‘epic’ album quality that records by other bands such as Radiohead and Eels possess.

    The vocalist’s voice is perfect for this music. He sings powerfully and sounds slightly depressed, adding a melancholy element to the music. In addition, it’s very rare to find a record with no filler, but this one pulls it off near-perfect.

    As a record by a British band that originated in the 90’s, critics were quick to lump Doves in with the Radiohead +imitators group - such as Travis, Coldplay, etc. Listening to Lost Souls, however, it is hard to see how they can be compared with such bands. Lacking is the angst and edginess contained in Radiohead’s first three records (the ‘rock’ era); instead, it is full of lush instrumental sections and clean, crisp sounds.

    Original, underappreciated, lush to the point of nearly shoegaze-y, and well worth a listen.

    7.7
    Choice tracks: Firesuite, Sea Song, The Man Who Told Everything, A House

    5 Jan 2010

    "A Grand Don’t Come For Free" (2004) by the Streets

    Mike Skinner, better known as The Streets, is a distinctive, original, and kind-of decent North London rapper. His hooks are okay, his vocals aren’t that great but they work in the context, his beats are fine but it’s his lyrics that really stand out.

    In A Grand Don’t Come For Free, Skinner raps about the struggles of everyday life - and, while a great deal of other rappers do that too, somehow Skinner’s lyrics stand out as being original and unique. And they are. From the hit “Fit But You Know It”, about a girl with way too much self-esteem; to “Dry Your Eyes”, about a guy who has been dumped by his girlfriend attempting to be consoled.

    Skinner’s delivery is very rigid and not fluid at all, and while some critics may use this as a con, I believe that it adds to the record’s quirky charm and allows the listener to empathize with Skinner. Even though he has shown his aptitude for kind-of-funny-kind-of-serious songs about alcohol, weed, and life, it’s his emotional melancholy songs that stand out the most in this record. The clumsy vocal delivery and corny string sections should, you’d think, end up in the tracks being very cheesy and almost unlistenable, however the opposite is the case. The events described in the songs are all too familiar, and the clumsy vocals add to the listener’s emotional feeling.

    The album runs with a story. It’s a simple story, but a story all the same, and it really works. When you hear Skinner lamenting about his shitty life in the first track, you laugh a little and sympathise with him. This connection then leads you to feel happy when he meets a girlfriend in track two, and throughout the rest of the record you feel along with Skinner as he describes his ups and downs.

    While some songs are cringeworthy musically (“Get Out Of My House”), I wouldn’t have them changed for anything. The record takes you on an emotional ride that I haven’t heard in any other rap record, ever. When his girlfriend dumps him in “Dry Your Eyes”, and subsequent and final track describes his state being similar to that in the first track, it really makes you feel sorry and sad. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s just a very emotional album, and the fact that one can relate to it adds to the emotions.

    From the dialogue filled tracks (“Fit But You Know It”, “Get Out Of My House”), to the emotional ones (“Dry Your Eyes”, “Blinded By The Lights”), A Grand Don’t Come For Free has Skinner let you into his life, and we should all thank him for inviting us. Musically, it’s decent. Vocally, it works. But lyrically, it’s amazing.

    8.4
    Choice tracks: It Was Supposed To Be So Easy, Blinded By The Lights, Dry Your Eyes

    5 Jan 2010

    "Is This It" (2001) by the Strokes

    Is This It is a hard rocking album. Julian’s edgy, slightly distorted vocals and the lo-fi guitar riffs drive this record forward, strengthening it and making it a raw, heavy record.

    Is This It could very well be one of the most joyful, rocking, rhythmic and intense records ever. All eleven tracks are powerful and simply good rock and roll songs. This album has reinvigorated rock’s obsession with having a good time, bringing radio’s attention from DJs and pop-tracks of the late 90’s to rock and roll. It paved the way for other bands such as the Libertines and Franz Ferdinand.

    There’s really not much more to say about this record. Its hard, edgy rock will blow your face off. ‘Nuff said. Oh, and don’t ignore the title track.

    8.9
    Choice tracks: Is This It, Barely Legal, Someday, Last Nite