Here at Mahala albums tend to pile up and clog the trestle tables. Mostly, they’re not exactly worth a full review but definitely a mention. Occasionally we compile a selection of music you should know about, either as a recommendation or a warning.
Romance/ Turbelord/ AVW
There is a challenge faced by all musicians that will inevitably make or break them. This obstacle is known as “The second album”. Many Artists, from Blur to Van Coke Kartel and from Phil Collins to Madonna have found themselves in the position to display their true resourcefulness and adaptability on the second album. With the release of Tubelord’s debut, Our First American Friends, they unleashed a sound which mixed New Wave eccentricity and Post-Hardcore abrasiveness, packaged in highly contagious pop songs filled with both a charming lack of structure and catchy melodies. To be completely honest, this album totally caught me off guard. Listening to it for the first time my instant reaction was that they’ve taken the route of finding influences in pretentious 80s throwback synth bands such as Metronomy. I sat down with my ear phones and did the thing many idiots do with one of their favorite bands, expect the same thing. But this idiotic mindset left me unsatisfied and quite bitter as I turned off the noise that was blaring in my ears halfway. Two or three days later I walked with the melody of opening track ‘Over in Brooklyn’ stuck in my head. I soon found myself with my earphones on listening closely and this time I got the album’s genius. Songs such as ‘Ignatz’ and ‘Waterworld’ hold that hard abrasiveness which is characterized by rapid time changes and disjointed song structure, which is reminiscent of bands like At the Drive In. The album as a whole is a heavy but subtle homage to their pop influences and stretches the boundaries of both rock ‘n roll and indie rock.
The Dreamer/The Believer/ Common/ SM
There will come a day when you will be disillusioned with you icons. A moment of discomfort when the totem that you frequently showcase suddenly evolves and forms part of the placenta through which the bastard child of mediocre music will be born. That moment for me hits on track four – titled ‘Sweet’. As I am sure all of you are well aware, Common and Drake are now forming a romantic diss track love affair and this was the song that started it all. After hearing this song I found myself crashing and burning after being subjected to a middling listening experience. I had for the better part of last year been silently hoping that this was the album that would redeem my long standing faith in Common’s musical ability. His last two projects have been nothing worth talking about, and that is merely compounded by the fact that in his 2005 album Be, Common released what was for me the best album of the decade, not even Collage Dropout can beat that shit. The Dreamer/The Believer has all the right elements in place to make a landmark album. A strong producer in No I.D, who aids the set with a flurry of great stand up indie sounding beats. The featured artists (Nas, Maya Angelou, John Legend and even Lonnie Lynn senior) showcase Common’s ability to make great talent gather around him. The only problem with this album is Common himself. His Mcing is fundamentally flawed, it libelous and uncomforting. This could not be the same man who had the ability to soothe us not so long ago. If you want to know what a song on this album sounds like think of a poorly executed version of a follow up to your favourite song on Be. Raw sounds like a more horny version of Go, ‘Lovin I Lost’ feels much like a pre-listening session to Faithful. Common does manage some good one liners but often they come at the back end of what is a poorly constructed verse and in turn the album just drags on and does not hold.
Dead Roots Stirring/ Elder/ TK
Boston trio Elder fall somewhere between doom metal and stoner rock, which is like saying a mule falls somewhere between a horse and a donkey. The roots of their sound can be traced back to dense and heavy guitar and bass riffs which bands such as Black Sabbath and the often overlooked Blue Cheer pioneered. These bands created music which was heavy without resorting to the formula of faster and louder, which subsequent metal bands followed. Dead Roots Stirring is the bands second studio release, after their 2008 self-titled debut. Whereas the first album was good, but not great, largely due to the lack of a cohesive sound of their own and perhaps owing to their then teenage years, this time round they seemed to have consolidated their influences in order to bring an album that doesn’t sound like Electric Wizard and Black Sabbath, but rather one that was influenced by them. The vocals are reminiscent of Ozzy before the brain damage, which cut through the massive soundscape that the bass and guitar create through harmonisation and dissonance. With only 5 tracks filling the 51 minute play time, each song is an immersive experience, which pulls you into a trip dominated by dark, grinding riffs and psychedelic melodies, from which you only return when the silence hits you at the end. And no, you don’t need to be stoned to enjoy this awesome album, although it doesn’t hurt.
Lioness: Hidden Treasures/ Amy Winehouse/ TT
I’m usually not one to fawn over compilation albums released after a talented musician’s death, so as such I obviously had my reservations when I first heard about the intent to release an Amy Winehouse record mere months after her tragic death. As a huge fan, I was afraid the record label would try and capitilize on the nostalgia to make one last buck from an album she had been “working on” sporadically since the release of her landmark, multiple grammy award winning sophomore Back to Black. I’m glad to say that all my reservations were thrown by the wayside. As the title suggests, Lioness is really about the hidden treasures that are (were) this troubled musician’s first love, music. Comprising of only 3 previously unreleased songs (‘Like Smoke’ with Nas, ‘Half Time’ and ‘Between The Cheat’) and the rest being B-Sides and rarities, this compilation sheds light into the kind of artist Amy could have been. ‘Half Time’ alludes to the magic that her intended supergroup with Ahmir Questlove Thompson would have been, while ‘Half Time’ reminds us of the magic she turned hip hop into on her debut Frank. Most of the songs are standards and renditions, which she doesn’t fail to bring up notches higher than what the original artists had intended them to be. The last track, a rendition of Donny Hathaway’s ‘Song for You’ is an impassioned piece, which leaves one with no doubt that Miss Winehouse still had a lot to offer. Get it, if only to remind yourself how gifted she was.
AVW – Andrei Van Wyk
SM – Sihle Mthembu
TK – Themba Kriger
TT – Thato Tsotetsi