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.
James Blake/ James Blake/ KH
This 22 year old singer-songwriter from London has seemed to polarise listeners through the creation of his incredibly tender take on the dubstep genre. Blake’s mix of his melodic voice, simplistic lyrics and complex synthesising has resulted in an unusual musical cocktail. His self-titled debut album did not leave him on the music charts for long, yet critics believe such a distinctive sound should not be there at all. His tracks shake listeners out of the sleepy acceptance of sweet-sounding contemporary music. Blake is not always easy to digest. At times one wonders if he is simply trying too hard and whether his true challenge would be to produce something ordinary. Indeed, his weakest tracks are his most simplistic. The track ‘Give me mouth’ makes him sound like any other blues musician. And yet ‘I never learnt to share’ could not be more haunting. The circular use of lyrics, echoes, bass and piano create a hypnotic sound that will not speak to everyone, but to those it does, it consume.
Stray Arrows: A Collection of Favourites/ Chevelle/ TG
I’ve never heard of Chevelle before. And I doubt you have either. That’s because they’re nothing great. Generic rock. Before I even looked them up, I had the quick thought that this sounds like Christian-rock, or something like that, whatever that is. Basically, I thought to myself – this sounds like…. Rock. Ya, but not like the Stones or anything slightly reflexive of their bluesy origin. Nope. Rather, I thought – radio rock. Or generic rock. Or Christian rock. And thus, after a further read, I find out these guys are controversial in the Christian world – they’re of faith, but try and distance their performance and art from preaching the word on stage, much to the dismay of the American (Christian) audience. They’re from Chicago. They were originally two brothers, a third then joined, and left. They then incorporated a brother-in-law. Anyway, the band has done very well in the States, selling over 4 million copies. This Album is a compilation of their best hits.
Exile/ Hurts/ SZ
What is the New Romantic genre if not pop music for grown-ups? A place where a man can sing in a suit and tie without any sense of irony. For all the recent Eighties revivalists very few have ventured into this territory. Hurts, however, is one such band; disarming with us with their synth charms and Tony Hadlee-esque chin dimples while at the same time damaging us with a look at the brutal beauty that is the romantic beast. The first half of this album is a tad saccharine at times but side B definitely matures into something a bit darker. One can hear strong influences of Depeche Mode but sadly without the brevity of Martin Gore’s lyrics. Although a decent outing Exile is still more for fans than anything with strong crossover potential. Nothing stands out as obviously as “Wonderful Life”, their debut single off their last album. Fingers crossed for next time.
Wolf/ Tyler, the creator/ AVW
A lot has been said about Tyler, the creator. He has been praised for relentless promotion of individualism while others criticize him for his overly-apathetic nature which accompanies accusations of homophobia and misogyny. Tyler and his Odd future crew have rapidly risen in profile, but the “we don’t give a fuck” novelty value which made them so popular has worn off and most reviewers and journalist are wondering when they will grow up. This being Tyler, the creator’s third album Wolf does not hint at any change in attitude. His first two efforts, Bastard and Goblin, brought a tremendous energy to Hip-Hop, hitting a B-12 straight into its veins, but Wolf shows his failure in displaying true growth. Though there is a decent amount of collaborations that seem great, most of them add no depth to the album, especially Pharell Williams’ signature falsetto which seems to irritate more than serenade on IFHY. Tyler’s rhymes truly display his weakness as a lyricist, with every word littered with too much profanity and homophobic slurs. Now his anger and need to shock has ended up forced and that sincerity which accompanied his anger and aggression has disappeared. Treehome95 adds a beautiful raw edge to the album with Erykah Badu’s contributions mixing perfect and subtle jazz vocals with a simplistic beat while songs such as Parking lot and Domo23 continue the played out Odd Future ADHD energy with every second increasingly the agitation. But though the majority of the album’s beats, influenced by Jazz and the current Los Angeles instrumental hip hop scene, show a great improvement from backroom beats of his first two efforts, most of the album is easy to forget.
AVW – Andrei van Wyk
TG – Timothy Gabb
SZ – Stanley Zive
KH – Kim Harrisberg