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Album Round-Up

by Mahala / 25.11.2011

Here at Mahala albums stack up exponentially, digitally and on CD. Often they’re not exactly worth a full review but definitely worth a mention. Occasionally we will compile a selection of music you should know about, either as a recommendation or a warning.

Albu Round-up - Femme Fatale

Femme Fatale/ Britney Spears/ TM

The sound is mechanical. Music for drones. Vocals filtered through two-pronged digital forks and drained of any traces of life. The lyrics are soulless, disaffected, and disengaging all at once. There is no meaning to be extrapolated, no context nor setting, no joy to be gained nor emotional shades to be explored. If death was to pay me a visit, this album would be the soundtrack that I would play to drown my sorrows while it purveyed its raw stilts and slithering fingertips to suck the life out of me.

Britney Spears’ Femme Fatale is a step beyond offensive; it has transcended imagination and successfully morphed into an unobtrusive, monotone divergence towards a new world order, one where life and its meaning have been replaced by the pale pole-dancing queen of banality. And maybe that is the whole point: manufactured pop for copious consumption; generic verbiage aimed not at being engaged with on an intellectual level.

Viewed in this regard, Britney and her cohorts achieve their every goal, ticking off every box ranging from radio-ready singles, floor-fillers, right down to stadium-status anthems. One can berate her all they want, but the truth remains that on this, her seventh studio album, and with fifteen-odd years in the music industry, Britney Spears has successfully cultivated an audience of believers who gobble up every effort with reckless abandon, mindless as her music may seem to some.

Album Round-up - Philip Miller presents: South African Soundscapes

Philip Miller presents: South African Soundscapes/ Philip Miller/ RS

The smell of thatch and scented candles is vivid. Several pairs of cold, inanimate eyes framed within the head of a once roaming antelope stare down from atop the reception desk. I’m back at the private game lodge I visited as a child and Philip Miller’s South African Soundscapes is what’s playing in the background.

This compilation of film scores composed by Miller offers “enjoyable soundscapes, pulsating with the spirit of Africa.” This sleek, finely packaged album represents the spirit of Africa in the same way “traditional” dancers at the Waterfront represent Xhosa culture. The music itself is aurally pleasurable, conjuring soundscapes of the African savannah, best heard through a Bose sound system back home in Germany. With song titles such as “The Bushman’s Secret” it’s easy to see from whose perspective this music is seen as authentic.

It’s a curio, void of representative South African music, which should be evident to any actual resident of this country. This is not a unique product, the South American’s have panpipes and the Australians have the didgeridoo – packaged culture exists everywhere. It’s only problematic when such a package is sold as representing “the spirit of Africa”.

Album Round-up - Ceremonials

Ceremonials/ Florence + The Machine/ TT

First introduced on the music circuit with her haunting debut album Lungs in 2009, the follow up was highly anticipated. Florence Welch (Florence + The Machine) teams up with mega producer Paul Epworth (Adele’s 21) again on a record that lacks cohesiveness. It opens with the haunting “Only If For The Night”, a considerably light cut compared to the mammoth productions and stadium sized vocals that have made her a force to be reckoned with in post Brit pop music. Coming off as understated in the beginning promising a build up that never really comes. Ceremonials is a mash up of harps, church bells and trombones reminiscent of Kate Bush and Sisters of Mercy. The darkest moments in songs like “Seven Devils” hardly come off as naturally as previous hits such as “Cosmic Love” and the like. On the whole, if Lungs was written in a mostly hungover state, then Ceremonials must have been written on a low following a drug binge. Nonsensical lyrics about Greek mythology, torch MOR quasi ballads about lost love equated to being haunted by evil. The lighter songs are probably the best moments on the album. Highlights include “Spectrum”, “What The Water Gave Me” and “All This and Heaven Too”. An album that could do well as the accompanying soundtrack to Twilight.

Album Round-Up - Evanescence

Self-Titled/ Evanescence/ YS

I agreed to this didn’t I? There must be a higher purpose. I’m being tested. Someone should really tell these people that nu-metal is as dead as Scott Stapp. He’s still alive? Foiled again. I bet he had a hand in this.

Evanescence sound just like Creed who sound just like that other whiny band… you know who. They sing that fucking irritating song that goes “oh-uh oh-ohhh oh-uh oh-ohohoh”… The Rasmus! Who sound pretty damn similar to Linkin Park. Wow, those bands are awful. Anyway, Evanescence is doing exactly the same thing except with female vocals and quasi-classical aspirations – Goth-rock I suppose; except it’s not dark or heavy despite all attempts. Every single song sounds exactly the same. Am I repeating myself? It must be the relentless repetition of this album taking its toll. It’s all heavily distorted guitars on low volume, violin and piano stabs in neat harmonies and Amy Lee’s totally melodramatic vocals. It’s utterly average, absolutely middling, moderate rock. The album is a long bland swig of mediocrity. “Hello| hello| it’s only me| infecting everything you love”. Too bloody right. The fact is both Linkin Park and Evanescence are products of the same industrial profit-drive and are both desperately scrambling for some hold on the youthful audience that they’ve lost to the vast wealth of bands available online.

TM – Ts’eliso Monaheng
RS – Rob Scher
TT – Thato Tsotetsi
YS – Yusif Sayigh

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RESPONSES (6)
  1. perspective says:

    No matter how negative your sentiments, reviewing garbage pays it more attention than it is worth. Please stop.

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  2. Zam says:

    Funnily enough Yusif, had this EXACT conversation yesterday in the car about all the nu-metal/emo-rock bands who are all fucked and trying to grasp onto an audience who grew up and developed new tastes (good or bad) and how fucking sad it must be seeing the “death” of your once popular band.

    I fear there may never be another Led Zepplin or Beatles who stand the test of time and trends.

    Sad for me as a musician really. Can anyone any more truly buy into more than the trend? I have a strong inclination to say no, no matter how good the band is. Music has just become another fashion statement. Consumables.

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  3. Yusif says:

    Zam,i had originally hoped to write a longer article basically pontificating about the industry after the decline of major record labels. The crux of it being that we (hopefully) will see a trend towards music as culture instead of commerce (this article talks about exactly that: http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2009/12/music-as-commerce-understanding-a-mindset.html). My spin was about the niche bands who garner fame and stay trendy for 15 minutes and how that ironically reflects on super-commercial acts.

    I do think there’s hope though! I think that people will always look for good music and now that the playing fields have been leveled a little people have the chance to listen to even more great music than they ever could; bands who might all stand the test of time, if only for fewer fans. Certainly with the era of mash-ups and remixes well under way some bands will live on even through other artists, Radiohead for example. That’s kind of the point, music in the age of the internet is as much about how it can be dissolved into the cultural ether as it is about longevity as a single artistic moment. Or something like that…

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  4. Kropotkin says:

    I like Britney and her music, the capitalist strumpet!!

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  5. Tim Lester says:

    @Yusif

    Take a listen to the new Linkin Park. you might be surprised. Its actually a great album. and still relevant commercially by pop standards. They’ve always been a band that wasnt afraid to try new things and develop their sound. The same cannot however be said for Evanessance, although I’d be curious to hear what exactly they thought they’d bring to 2011 alternative music. . . the one thing thats always annoyed me about Evanessance though is Amy Lee’s voice. stunning range and control . . but it like . . never breaks through . . its always on this level . . listening to it . . feels like you’re wanking . . forever . . but you never cum . . there’s no release . .no satisfaction . . chester Benington’s voice however on the new Linkin Park is just incredible. You can tell he trained really hard for that. His voice has really matured into something iconic and powerful. Take a listen to this.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOjbkmWEt_A

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