A Bitter Pill, the Death of XXXTENTACION

Today, 20 year old rapper XXXTENTACION (Jahseh Onfroy) was murdered in Miami.

The reaction to his death epitomises the internet age we live in. From the videos that broke the story earlier in the day which showed a small crowd of people standing around and not doing much other than filming XXXTENTACION’s dead body to the reactions to his death on Twitter which have included fake news about his last words encouraging people to buy Beyonce’s new album.

But surely this is to be expected, X is the iconic figure of the SoundCloud era of rappers and his whole existence has been based around his online presence through which he spearheaded a counter-culture which spoke to troubled young people around the world.

At the same time, X was a disgusting person who assualted women and gay men, accusations which his fanbase rabidly defend.

X was never a role model or a particularly skilled musician. However, his success has changed the landscape of hip hop forever. And that’s how I will view him, a blot on the long story of hip hop, like his emergence on the scene, his death will be a catalyst for musical change.

Personally, I will remember him for the awful crimes he has committed, crimes that he will never be able to repent for. But I can’t deny the effect he has had on so many people around the world, especially those suffering from depression, and my thoughts go to them now.

Review: CHVRCHES – Love is Dead

The release of CHVRCHES’ third album, Love is Dead coincided with my holiday to their homeland, Scotland. Fortunately, my visit was a lot happier than this release. This album sees lead singer Lauren Mayberry grapple with the emotional baggage of a dying relationship. Mayberry draws the listener in with her lyrics, painting a picture of a relationship where the love has simply fizzled out. Time is an important theme throughout the album, on ‘Graffiti’ Mayberry says that ‘time to kill/was an illusion/time stood still/and now we never will’ showing the couple were naïve in their love.

Mayberry’s retrospective viewpoint gives the impression that she has matured but when we are introduced to the male characters in ‘My Enemy’ and ‘God’s Plan’ we are given a very different image of the relationship. The opening of ‘My Enemy’ is particularly telling where The National’s Matt Berninger opens with ‘I got no more time to hear what you think about me’. At this stage of the album, both characters are blaming one another for the breakdown of the relationship.

However, by ‘God’s Plan’ (not a Drake cover) the male character, voiced by Martin Doherty, exercises his control ‘you belong to me…you confide in me’. The use of both Berninger and Doherty’s voices seems to imply that Mayberry may not be referring to just one abusive relationship. This shift in power dynamic reveals a lot more about the relationship, Lauren Mayberry’s lyrics now sound more like the words of a victim. Mayberry finally begins to break away in ‘Really Gone’ and the lyrics shift more towards a healing process.

Nevertheless, we’re not let off so easily and the emotional scars are present at the close of the album ‘you tell me that it’ll be alright/But I don’t know if you’re right’. The lyrical nuance of the album definitely sets it apart from so many contemporaries who discuss the same topic.

However, the instrumentals seem determined to shove this album into mediocrity and I’m afraid it’s succeeded. For an album which rides the full range of emotions, each song feels like cookie cutter electropop, with the similar melodies and structures. The upbeat tone is often jarring against the nature of the lyrics. Even when they ring the changes on tracks such as ‘Miracles’ they just sound like a cheap rip-off of Imagine Dragons (if you can imagine such a thing). Stand out tracks like ‘My Enemy’ and ‘God’s Plan’ demonstrate CHVRCHES’ talent when they’re all working together but these moments aren’t regular enough. Love is Dead is an interesting journey but it simply lacks the musical backbone to stand up to multiple listens.

Kanye West – ‘Lift Yourself’ Track of the Day #35

I had to talk about Kanye at some point. I’ve chosen to make this track today’s track of the day because it’s the most sense that Kanye has spoken in the last month and through all of the idiotic things Kanye has been saying this track really shows how he’s got everyone wrapped around his finger.

The beat of this track is bound to interest any Kanye fan, the strong, soulful sample, which then turns with some siren synths and a solid bass drum which then all merge together – Kanye is taking us on a mini tour of his discography. But the main attraction is the one verse of the track. If the tweet proceeding the release of this track, Kanye hypes up the track and he doubles down on it again just before the verse begins where he boasts ‘this next verse…these bars, watch this’. The following verse is complete nonsense, playing on three words – ‘scoop’, ‘whoop’, and most importantly, ‘poop’.

It’s clear Kanye is making fun of the excitement his fans felt after he announced the track and his album but instead of the track coming off as a charming joke, it lands more like a malicious dig at his fans for respecting him as a musician. A diehard Kanye fan would say that this whole stunt and his subsequent tweets are encouraging people to consider the way we look at famous figures in the 21st Century. How long will this human experimentation be tolerated? For many Kanye’s comments on slavery are the straw that broke the camel’s back but judging by the way the internet explodes every time Kanye tweets (and I acknowledge this post’s role in perpetuating this), he has a lot more leeway when it comes to toying with the public.

So who is Kanye really? Is he an icon who is willing to sacrifice his reputation to force people to consider the way he looks at fame? Is he a selfish moron who says whatever comes to his mind without thinking of the consequences? Is he a selfish genius who truly embodies the ‘any publicity is good publicity’ mantra? Is he someone who is dehabilitated by his mental health who we force into the public eye as a figure of near universal hate?

Everyone has a different opinion on who Kanye is, but one thing is for sure, everyone is on the edge of their seats to see what he comes out with next.

New Arctic Monkeys Album – ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ Release Date

Arctic Monkeys are back. It’s official.

There were rumblings of a new album being recorded in 2017 with pictures of the band in Sheffield but now it’s official. Arctic Monkeys are officially back.

On 11 May Arctic Monkeys will be back with their sixth studio album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. It’s been five years since my Arctic Monkeys hype machine has been revved up but my propeller is definitely turning for this album. Judging by the colourful track names (‘The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip’) the band are embracing their reputation the surreal imagery that was key on The Last Shadow Puppets’ Everything You’ve Come to Expect.

Fatherhood, relocation, and maturation have changed Arctic Monkeys’ over the last five years but it will be interesting to see whether they are able to win back the fans disillusioned by the Americanness (it’s a word now) of AM and entertain their wider international fanbase.

Arctic Monkeys are the Doctor Who of British music, regenerating and reinventing themselves with every release and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us this time.

BLVK. – ‘feathers’ (Track of the Day #35)

Now I’m a working man, I have really been getting into some chilled lo-fi beats. It’s the perfect music to have in the background whilst your working or at home when you’re relaxing. There are about a million playlists on YouTube pumping out these kinds of beats 24/7, my favourite is Chilled Cow. But if you want to just want to dip your toe in the genre check out ‘feathers’ by BLVK. it’s a great taste of the jazz piano and hip-hop beats which have made hip-hop so popular.

Track of the Day #35: Karl – ‘Sunshine Smile’

‘Sunshine Smile’ was released at the wrong time of the year. Ideally, I’d be on a beach listening to this track but I’m not, it’s Sunday and the impending thought of the work week ahead means that Karl’s lazily droned ‘everything is gonna be alright’ doesn’t quite ring true in my ears. The hazy guitars and the vocals will force you to relax in the most laid back way possible.

Track of the Day #34: Shilpa Ray ‘New York Minute Prayer’

This track is the opener for Shilpa Ray’s new album Door Girl. ‘New York Minute Prayer’ evokes the same charm of Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York’. That’s the biggest compliment I could give an NYC themed track. The lilting keys of ‘New York Minute Prayer’ give the track a dreamy tone and Ray’s rich, jazzy voice portrays the wonder of a big city and the youthful enthusiasm of the singer. Sinatra sings ‘I’m leaving today’ but Shilpa is already there ‘I’m here, I’m here’ Door Girl is here, be sure to check it out.