Category Archives: Features

The King of Limbs: track-by-track review

come at me bro!

By now I hope people have had plenty of time to listen to The King of Limbs. Radiohead are a band that warrant frequent and detailed listening in order to truly decipher, rather than merely skimming the surface of their music. The first time I listened to TKOL I thought it was ‘good’. I was pretty aware that they would veer off in a left-field direction – it only takes a flick-through Thom Yorke’s Office Charts on their website to discover a host of dark, rhythmically-complex electronic influences – but as you listen to the album more and more, things fall into place and become slightly more coherent. Let’s go from the beginning:

Bloom

An abstract, looped piano line welcomes you into the album, before poly-rhythmic drums, bleeps and glitches hit you and your foot begins to tap along. Colin’s bass line is a huge part of this song, and his under-rated genius is very much apparent throughout this album. “Open your mouth wide, a universe inside” can be interpreted as entering another dimension and a new beginning, rather fitting for the beginning of the album. The song seems to melt together in the middle, as if there is the start and the end of the song and the middle section is the two moulding together to form a big middle-y mess. Except it isn’t a mess, because Radiohead wrote it. It’s coherent and wonderful; everything happens for a reason with this band and they know exactly what they are doing.

Morning Mr. Magpie

Morning Mr. Magpie has actually been in Yorke’s songbook for about ten years; I saw this video thanks to a friend who shared it. The first thing that struck me about this song is the emphasis on the hi-hats, the extreme panning and how they almost fall out of time with the kick and snare drum, resulting in a beautiful groove that is the focal point of the song. The frenetic guitar-riff works great in the centre of the stereo field and everything else works around it. A good song but in my opinion the rest of the songs on the album surpass this.

Little by Little

This song sounds like a distant cry to Amnesiac, particularly the song I Might Be Wrong which has a very similar guitar tone. Yet again, complex percussion play a part, sitting subtly in the background until you notice their absence when replaced with Yorke’s crooning vocals on the chorus. The line “I’m such a tease and you’re such a flirt” sounds lost and lonely yet is right close up in the mix of the song; Thom Yorke is singing to you and you’re supposed to be creeped out, okay? People have complained about the lack of guitars on this album and I don’t understand why. Almost every song has guitars in it, but they twist and turn hypnotically around the song, acting as layers and support which I enjoy a lot. Unfortunately, many fans are still hoping for Jonny Greenwood to crack his Digitech Whammy out and play the solo to Just for 45 minutes, but it’s just not going to happen.

Feral

I see Feral as a bit of an interlude to the album. With no vocals apart from the sporadic chopped-up samples, this song is here for that heavy sub-bass. The drums are manipulated and seemingly improvised throughout much like Yorke’s vocals on Everything In It’s Right Place, letting Colin’s bass do the talking. Again. Don’t complain about this basically being a Thom Yorke solo album.

Lotus Flower

My favourite song off of the album at the moment. I love the marshy synths that work their way in and out of the song, I love the extensive use of delay throughout(I hope reggae-heads notice the Space Echo slap-back on the snare), I love the syncopated hand-claps, I love Yorke’s dominant falsetto, oh God I just LOVE IT. Just incase you haven’t seen the video, it is below. The actual music is very simple, really, but Radiohead do what they do best and turn a few chords into something God listens to on his iPod daily.

Codex

This is a Pyramid Song style piano ballad, but perhaps slightly more minimal. Drenched in reverb with a lo-fi brass section followed by strings, this song was written to be played in the middle of a festival set-list. IMAGINE. The flow from the end of this song to the next is sublime, with bird chirps acting as the glue that fuses them together.

Give Up The Ghost

Thom played this song last year at a solo gig in Cambridge and I had an inkling it would feature on this album. Whilst Codex veers away from the electronic manipulation of the first-half of TKOL, Give Up The Ghost is a complete abandonment of that, feauturing not a lot more than a bass drum, acoustic guitar, a timid electric guitar and vocals. The looped line of “don’t haunt me” with Thom singing over it gives a sense of two sides of a story which is never resolved. This song is moving in a poignant way and is just superbly written.

Seperator

This doesn’t sound like the end of an album, and this is what I think began to spark all the theories and speculation about there being one, or even two, more releases to coincide with this one. The track is called Separator, possibly dictating a separation between two collections of material and the line “if you think this is over then you’re wrong” soars above the tantalising guitars, inter-twining vocal lines and the surface bass. This is one of very few songs that has a notable melody the listener can cling on to, and that might be why many people are choosing this as their favourite track on the record.

This album is all about the rhythm section; the drums and the bass, whereas In Rainbows incorporated the whole band equally and to immense effect. Whilst I genuinely really enjoy this record on its own, it would make a lot more sense with accompanying material. Let me know your thoughts on this album and whether you think Radiohead will be bringing out further material. It’s not like they aren’t afraid to shake up the music industry. They control it.

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A simple fix for the declining physical music sales?

I am willing to admit it here and now; I have illegally downloaded music in the past, and I will probably continue to. Any sneering is welcome, but please look in the mirror pre-sneering. People illegally download for a number of reasons: a) they want to listen to the album before committing their hard-earned money b) it’s free and c) it is much easier to just download it from your own home. And I don’t blame these people. Here’s why…

I went into my local HMV yesterday and purchased two CDs. They were pretty easy to find as both were new releases. Once I picked the two CDs up, I scanned the aisles that led to the till for any bargains and then went up to pay for my CDs (there were no bargains). I was greeted by a sales assistant in his mid-20’s who was nice enough, but then simply took the CDs off of me, scanned them and then I paid. Let’s compare it to something else, shall we? I went into Rough Trade East in London last Monday and bought three CDs. I picked up the one CD I wanted to buy, but then was drawn to the vast array of great music that was displayed. No gimmicks, no big pink stickers with ‘SALE – £6’ on it, just great music that is approved from the record store and then sold to consumers. I found two more CDs I wanted to buy, had another two or three good looks around the CDs on offer and then went to the till. Similarly, I was greeted by a sales assistant in his mid-20’s, who was also nice enough, but upon handing him the CDs he made comments about the CDs and opened discussion. I was made to feel as if what I was buying was actually worth buying. In HMV, I felt as if I was buying the CDs to keep their business alive (literally) instead of for my benefit and pleasure. I am not singling out Rough Trade here, nor am I saying that HMVs have average customer service, these are merely two recent comparisons.

Whilst I have done a gracious morris dance around the actual point, and as much as I don’t intend to sound like a virtual Mary Portas, customer service plays, in my opinion, a much bigger part than people think in keeping the music industry alive. Do you want people to carry on buying CDs? Get your staff to briefly brush up on the new releases perhaps and spark conversation with their customers when they purchase them perhaps, it will make them want to return next time. Even if you don’t know who the band are for Gods sake, just say that you like the album/single/EP, whatever it is they’re purchasing. If customers leave a record store with just a few CDs, where is the future incentive to go and buy music in it’s physical format as opposed to buying it off iTunes or Spotify?

Does anyone else feel the same? Do you disagree? And more importantly, do you still buy CDs? Let me know.

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LISTEN: Bright Eye’s ‘The People’s Key’ in full

NPR are currently streaming the whole of Oberst’s latest offering The People’s Key, available to anyone. NPR reckon this album is ‘career-defining’ moment for Oberst, but I’ve never liked that term. Zinedine Zidane headbutting Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup was career-defining, but it doesn’t mean it’s good.

It is certainly an album taking Oberst out of his comfort zone slightly, swapping acoustic guitars for synths and even brief stints of what can only be described as metal-drumming freak-outs on Jejune Stars. The ethereal and mystical atmosphere of songs such as Approximated Sunlight and Shell Games is reminiscent to a lot of material off of Cassadaga, the previous Bright Eyes album, and TPK only seems like a natural progression of what Cassadaga offered, with similar concepts of the origins of life and extra-terrestrial activity. As Oberst sings in A Machine Spiritual (The People’s Key), “The theme repeats…”.

Each song is amazingly different but works so well as an album. Have a listen and please let me know what you think.

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Juno Dubstep Podcasts

Once upon a time, there was a phase where people like Rusko and Caspa made dubstep tracks with huge bass wobbles, piercing snares and LFO madness, and it was cool, innovative and fresh. That was about two years ago, and yet dubstep producers have continued making their tunes so bass-bloated that it just sounds like a big mess, like Rick Waller just fell on the microphone. Fair enough if you enjoy it, there’s nothing wrong with it, but nowadays I find that dubstep really shines when you take all the pretense away from it and focus more on the rhythms involved. That is, after all, what makes dubstep; the half-time beats which stem from reggae and dub music.

Juno Records have one of the best online dance record stores going, and their podcasts, which span from dubstep to minimal to disco, showcase the best records around, all of which are available from the Juno store. Juno Dubstep podcasts focus very much on the ambient side of dubstep and is essentially music that you can chill out and relax to, yet is interesting and experimental. That is the essence of dub music and therefore it should be the 1st priority within all of the modern-day dubstep music being produced. Anyway, take a listen, subscribe to the podcasts on iTunes and enjoy the rest of your Sunday! I’m off to a music-based pub quiz tonight. Going to merk everyone.

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Something has changed on your application…

I’ve recently been waiting on UCAS to send me those teasing e-mails that they seem to send you whilst you are in the most inconvenient place to check your Google Mai, such as at work, or maybe as soon as you have walked out of your front door.

“Dear Jordan, something has changed on your UCAS application. This may be because of *insert bullshit here*, so please log onto ‘Track Progress’ on your UCAS”. I’m not new to this; I was lucky enough to get these last year too, albeit in vain. If you have not been through the joyful and simply mind-blowing process that is UCAS, these e-mails mean that a university you have applied to has sent you an offer, an interview, or a notification that you are unsuccessful.

I have now received replies from all four universities I applied to this year. I received an unconditional offer from Kingston, an interview to Bournemouth and Westminster and an unsuccessful notification from City. I am slightly disappointed about being rejected from City, but I made the decision a few weeks ago to choose Kingston as my firm choice, studying Journalism. Despite already previously attending Bournemouth for a brief period, I was never fond of the location, the atmosphere (let’s get absolutely off our tits then complain about our hangover the whole of the next day!) and I don’t want to risk not enjoying it for a second time and consequently dropping out again. I think the highlight of my time in Bournemouth was watching a bird of prey catch a mouse on a cliff near the beach. And so I am not attending the interview, which is tomorrow morning. As for Westminster, I am still keeping an open mind about it. I would absolutely love to live in central London for 3 years, but accommodation is stupidly expensive for a crappy bed and a sink, with a shower you have to share with dozens of other strangers. However, the interview is in March and I am very much looking forward to making an opinion. But for now, all eyes on Kingston.

When I chose to go to Bournemouth last year, the last thing I thought of was location. Second time round, this is something I am considering a lot more, although still obviously keeping the standards of the course as #1 priority. The location of Kingston would be perfect for me. It’s a very short train journey into central London where I would no doubt spend a lot of time going to gigs, seeing friends in London and doing STUFF, it isn’t far from home should I decide/need to come back and the town itself looks charming, appealing and very well facilitated in terms of shops and restaurants. Oh yeah, Bournemouth town centre is fucking awful. I think the highlight of my time in Bournemouth was watching a bird of pr…oh yeah. Kingston is also home to the Peel and the Hippodrome, two great venues that are regularly host to some equally great bands. Live music was something else I craved whilst living down in Dorset.

When I was nearing my time to make the move down to Bournemouth, I was not the slightest bit excited, however, the prospect of starting again in Kingston feels different, it leaves me feeling optimistic, motivated, ambitious and hopeful for a bright future. As long as there are some terrific birds of prey, I will be set for life.

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Cheer Up Dear, It’s Only January

The third Monday of January is statistically the most depressing day of the year (just for the record, it isn’t). Everyone has run out of money after Christmas (although the queue for my local shopping centre yesterday was outrageous), people have got used to be being miserable back in the workplace (I had quite a laugh at work today) and the weather is always dreary, damp and disgusting (okay, the weather today was all of those things). So if you enjoy to live your life by statistics and could relate to Blue Monday this year, here are a few songs that will help cheer you up and stop you being such a grump.

Big Boi – Church

3 minutes and twenty eight seconds of gospel-tinged happiness.

Dirty Projectors – Stillness Is The Move

Because I love good R’n’B.

Ash – Walking Barefoot

Okay, okay, okay, this song probably stems from my absolute and undivided adoration for Ash, a) because they were an awesome rock ‘n’ roll band who play their guitars really loud!!! and b) because I used to fancy the female guitarist a bit and she was a hundred times better than most male guitarists, but this song always makes me feel so good. It reminds me of summer, hot weather and being outside. So basically the opposite of today. YOU HAVE TO LIKE THIS SONG!

Friendly Fires – Lovesick

Because I also love some funky pop music from St. Albans. Who doesn’t?

Cameo – Word Up

This song is so good that a nu-metal band even covered it.

The Beatles – Here Comes The Sun

Another song yearning for summer, this was written by George Harrison in Eric Clapton’s back-garden.

Hot Chip – Wrestlers

Half-Nelson, Full-Nelson, Willie Nelson.

Mystery Jets – The Boy Who Ran Away

The Mystery Jets in general make me feel ecstatic in a good way, but this song especially.

Paul McCartney and Wings – Band On The Run

Fairly poignant introduction, resulting in a chorus of elation!

We Are Scientists – Be My Baby

A brilliant cover of The Ronette’s classic.

 

Hopefully they can brighten your Monday evening.


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New Years Eve Remixes

I’ve been scrounging through blogs, Hype Machine, playlists and all sorts of musical treasure chests to find some amazing remixes to add to my New Years Eve playlist, and thought I would share a few so that you can benefit from these songs tomorrow night.

Four Tet – Love Cry (Joy Orbison Remix)

Joy Orbison makes a great song even greater.

Robyn – Indestructible (A-Trak Remix)

I was going to put the original into my playlist but this remix has that extra OOOMFFF, yet it isn’t a complete re-arrangement of the original song.

Big Boi vs The Black Keys – Black Bug (Wick-It the Instigator)

A really, really bloody cool mash-up that features on ‘The Brothers of Chico Dusty’, a whole album full of Black Keys and Big Boi mash-ups. Well worth checking out.

Jamie Woon – Night Air (Ramadanman Remix)

Even more haunting than the original, possibly even better than the original? Decide for yourself.

Thom Yorke – Skip Divided (Modeselektor Remix)

Almost certain that I’ve blogged about this before, but it deserves more recognition. Modeselektor makes the song completely his own and there is an amazing second verse where he throws Thom’s vocal line about, turns it inside out and chops it up like a prime onion. Brilliant.

Enjoy them and have a good New Years.

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