Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

Album: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

When the time comes to analyse the contribution made to hip-hop by the ‘noughties’ generation of rappers, you get the feeling Kanye West’s ups and downs may be deemed too extensive to cover. It would be easy to get swept up in the pantomime of stage crashing video awards, sweeping allegations against US Presidents, online outbursts etc. What we mustn’t forget is the reason he first appeared on our radars, the year was 2004 and the album was The College Dropout, a mind-blowing debut album from an artist who’d been told to stick to producing. In some ways Kanye West is to hip-hop what Jose Mourinho is to football, an outspoken, colourful character, the media’s dream come true. But, on their day they are perhaps both unparalleled in their respective fields. Since ’04 West has gone from strength to strength musically bringing out two equally sublime records within three years. While many West fans considered 808s & Heartbreak the equivalent to a 5-0 drubbing in at the Camp Nou, it marked a digression, an ambition to go beyond the laid back, sample-fuelled sound he had made his own over three albums. In May of this year Jose Mourinho reached the pinnacle of his career to date, leading Inter-Milan to their first ever treble. Six months later Kanye West has achieved his greatest feat; its name is My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

After a turbulent time in the spotlight it would have been easy for West to revert back to what he knows, keep it safe and restore his name as a world-class rapper using the style that decorated his early career. But our Kanye doesn’t do things easily. Twisted Fantasy is by a distance Wests’ most complete and ambitious project to date. If you punch the word ‘skit’ into your iTunes search bar next to Kanye’s name you’ll at the very least find nine tracks, all coming from his first three albums. West has little time for such distractions in his latest work, he’s too busy putting together songs with a colossal impact and an album filled with potential singles. Even when the political rant ‘Who will Survive in America’, and skit rare their heads they do so in a fashion that never takes the emphasis off the music, the latter coming in the form of a Chris Rock sample at the end of the beautifully melodic yet lyrically disturbed ‘Blame Game’ featuring John Legend.

Throughout Twisted Fantasy we hear West’s lyrical swagger return moving beyond the introspective suffering apparent on 808s & Heartbreak, but he doesn’t shy away from the well documented problems he’s endured in his private life, particularly on tunes like Gorgeous. The transition is flagged in opener ‘Dark Fantasy’ – “me drown sorrow in that Diablo, me found bravery in my bravado, stupid, but what the fuck do I know? I’m just a Chi-town n**ga with a Nas flow.” West has picked his loyalties in hip-hop and favours collaborating with the same artists -Jay-Z, Pusha T, Niki Minaj, Rick Ross, Bon Iver(?)- on several tracks over an endless list of high-profile names used for their commercial value. What’s more, West plays to the strengths of his colleagues, ‘Gorgeous’ is the kind of mournful slow burner Kid Cudi thrives on while M.I.A.’s appearance on the dancefloor anthem ‘All of the Lights’ is almost inevitable from the moment the Diplo/Arular-esque beat crashes over the speakers.

Not every minute of the 13 tracks amount to an attempt at something ground breaking. The most conventional hip-hop moments come on the aggressive’ Monster’, the soulful slow-dancer ‘Devil in a New Dress’ and the promiscuous, auto-tune tinged ‘Hell of a Life.’ However it’s the giant, all-consuming anthems which define Twisted Fantasy. If you’re going to make an artistically obscure music video clocking over 34 minutes, you’d want to be pretty sure you’ve got the song to fit the bill, in ‘Runaway’ West has done so with some to spare. From the simple blend of basic beats, repetitive piano and samples to the self-deprecating lyrical content it never takes a step out-of-place.

My Dark Beautiful Twisted Fantasy is more than a return to form for West. From start to finish he battles with his own insecurities; drink, drugs, women, addiction, but no matter how low he sinks he never loses his arrogance, as if he knows he’s the best and the only one capable of stopping him from becoming the greatest artist of his generation is himself. When the time comes to analyse Kanye’s contribution to hip-hop perhaps the best thing to do is take him at his word:

“I’m livin’ in the 21st Century doin’ something mean to it, Do it better than anybody ya ever seen do it.”



Playlist: Music Library 29-11-2010

The Music Library is an alternative music show which airs on Flirtfm 101.3, Galway’s alternative student station Monday-Friday between 8 and 9 am. I take charge of the tunes on Mondays.

Onra – The Anthem
Sunday Girl – Stop Hey (Rusko Remix)
The Xx – Shelter (Death to the Throne Remix)
Jessica Hoop – Seeds of Wonder (Killabits Dubstep Remix)
Gold Panda – You
Flying Lotus (Featuring Thundercat) – MmmHmm
Super Extra Bonus Party (Ft. Cadence Weapon) – Radar
Caribou – Kaili
Chew Lips – Karen
Two Door Cinema Club – What You Know
Katy B – Katy on a Mission
Nouveaunoise – Cinnte
Why? – These Few Pesidents
Digitalism – Pogo
Justice – Phantom pt. II

Gig: Cap Pas Cap

Cap Pas Cap are a Dublin based electronic-tinged indie outfit. Haunted Light is the band’s first album and was launched on the 13th of November off Skinny Wolves. On Saturday night the Rosin Dubh played host to the Leinster hipsters. They have been quietly raising a few eyebrows in the capital and getting favourable mentions in various blogs, however this failed to attract a reasonable crowd and those who chose to observe did so from a cautious distance leaving the dance floor to the tumbleweeds.

With such a lack of energy to feed off it’s somewhat unsurprising that CPC put on a show that was businesslike and nothing more. Their undeniably funky brand of danceable indie-pop had the desired effect on some of the venues more inebriated clientele as tunes like the infectious single ‘Friends’ were rewarded with the awkward flailing-limb moves they deserve.

Having won over pockets of onlookers with a notably up-tempo opening, the set dipped midway with a series of tracks that failed to make any kind of first impression, sounding rather generic and stale. Loitering between The Ting Tings and Fight Like Apes with a hint of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cap Pas Cap are not creating an entirely new or ground-breaking sound, but not every new act needs to be incredibly innovative, what CPC are doing for the most part is creating catchy pop tunes. Not-so-discreet glances and hand signals showed the band is still getting comfortable with some of the songs onstage.

A reversion back to the lively, provided a strong finish to Saturday night’s set with a handful of those impressed queuing up to get their hands on Haunted Light. With a more receptive crowd, a more inspiring stage presence and a removal of filler CPC could become one of the more exciting prospects in Ireland’s ever-growing indie scene.

Weekly Watch

No room for homegrown acts I’m afraid as this week sees three giants from the US cross the Atlantic:

The National, Olympia Theatre Dublin, Thursday and Friday, sold out

These stylish New Yorkers always put on a show and will be blasting some of the great tunes that feature on their brilliant 2010 album High Violet.


Janelle Monae, Tripod Dublin, Wednesday, €28/€32

Possibly the biggest success story of 2010, Ms. Monae brings her classy brand of soul-R&B/pop to the Tripod. No doubt many of those fortunate to catch her at EP’10 will be in attendance.


Interpol, Olympia Dublin, Monday and Tuesday, sold out

Mixed reviews of Interpol’s latest album, but nothing can deny the quality of what has gone before.

Album: Gold Panda – Lucky Shiner

As we enter what is very much the business end of the year for album releases countless music bloggers and writers are readying their generic but oh-so-personal’ Best of 2010 lists’. Those who have prematurely completed their lineups may be forced to shuffle things around when they get a hold of Gold Panda’s Lucky Shiner. The Essex born electronic musician has produced one of the years’ most engaging and rich experimental works.

Inspired by the emptiness and isolation Panda experienced when working in Japan for a year, the 11 tracks are carefully crafted and aligned. Powerful and colourful images spring from the lush soundscapes offered on Lucky Shiner. The tag ‘experimental’ is so widely abused it’s almost redundant at this stage but Gold Panda’s latest LP actually earns the label. Opener ‘You’ is a Bath-esque head bopping, glitch-hop beauty which runs into ‘Vanilla Minus’ a celebration of electronica which would fit snuggly into any four tet set. Just to eradicate any possibility of pigeon-holding track three ‘Parents’ is two minutes of beautifully understated acoustic guitar set against breezy outdoor effects.

Lucky Shiner, like so much of contemporary electronic music centres on swirling synths and varied percussion with loops and samples making their customary appearances. What separates Gold Panda from the masses is his patience. He allows the many different limbs of his songs come together at their own pace. You’ll struggle to find a more emotional and fitting curtain closer than the ghostly’ You.’ Inspired by the pain of solitude, Gold Panda has created an electronic album that makes for great company.

Playlist: Music Library 22-11-2010

The Music Library is an alternative music show which airs on Flirtfm 101.3, Galway’s alternative student station Monday-Friday between 8 and 9 am. I take charge of the tunes on Mondays

M83 – Don’t Save us From the Flames
Deftones – Back to School
Elk – Saw Saw Hammer Hammer
At the Drive-In – Invalid litter Department
If These Trees Could Talk – Thirty-six Silos
The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio
Interpol – Obstacle 1
Enemies – Morse Code
Hope is Noise – Two Gods Short of Trinity
Nirvana – Anneurysm
Liars – Scissor
Biffy Clyro – Now the Action is on Fire
Glasser – Apply

Album: Glasser – Ring

There are only so many hours in the day, only so long one can spend listening to and acquiring new music. As such we must pick our albums carefully, avoid the forgettable and seek out the original. It’s often disheartening to think of the many amazing albums out there that will never grace our headphones. But sometimes, when we take chances on the unknown, we are rewarded with a rare kind beauty, an album so powerful and brilliant we allow ourselves a pat on the back for getting it right. Ring is one such album.

Glasser is the stage name taken by US electronic singer songwriter Cameron Mesirow. That Glasser will draw comparisons to Bjork is inevitable, most experimental female artists are branded with this flattering but overused tag. However to get an accurate idea of Mesirow’s sound we must look beyond the Icelandic icon. Ring bares a vocal wizardry akin to that of Zola Jesus with the varied instrumentation of Efterklang.

Opening track ‘Apply’ lays down a marker; the low, marching tribal drum provides the foundation for Mesirow to showcase her vocal range chopping from teasing lows to all-consuming highs. That voice, fragile yet unbreakable, offers several breathtaking moments throughout Ring. While Mesirow’s singing is undoubtedly the most striking feature of the debut LP, the carefully crafted instrumentation, which seamlessly combines the classical with the contemporary facilitates and bolsters the impact of her vocals.

Glasser, though armed with a killer voice, does not shy away from the experimental, on ‘Mirrorage’ the Bat for Lashes-esque rumbling drum beat is set against dreamy synths and bells to create a psychedelic gem. While closing tune ‘Clamour’ sounds like something four tet has already gotten his hands on and rearranged, with its off-time beat and erratic bursts of brass and strings mixing with a whole host of vocal layers. If Glasser can replicate the heights of Ring she could join Bjork and Fever Ray on the hierarchy of experimental female artists.

Rugby Post

If it’s not broken…

A little question I’d like to pose to the IRB, “What the f**k are you doing to this sport of ours?” Anybody watching the autumn internationals cannot have missed the utter confusion arising at the tackle area and in the scrum. By constantly tweaking and updating the laws the IRB are placing players, referees, coaches and fans in an awkward position with different interpretations commonplace and frustration mounting. Let’s not forget the patronising rationale behind these laws (which clouds the reality that Australia were the nation forcing changes into the sport) that spectators could not possibly understand the breakdown and its many rules so to cut down on penalties we’ll swing the contest totally in favour of the attacking side and in the process guarantee more tries. The result however has been countless reset scrums, more penalties than ever at the tackle area, and a sport that, as a spectacle, is a shadow of its former self.

So the initial ridiculous draft of ELVs have come and gone with a few of the less drastic ones managing to stick. However in 2010 we still encounter unwelcome changes which serve only to confuse all involved. The latest interpretation of the tackle area, Law 15.6(c), is not merely a change to the game, it’s a contradiction of how the tackle has for years been taught. For a defender to take down the opposition and rise to his feet to challenge for the ball before supporting attackers create the ruck, considering the pace the sport is played at, is a remarkable skill. It’s the very reason Brian O’ Driscoll is widely considered the best backline defender in the game. Against the Springboks two weeks ago however, BOD was penalised for this skill.

To say the alternative suggested by the IRB is idealistic is an understatement. How a tackler is going to have time to release the player, get to his feet, and enter a ruck from behind is beyond my explanation. Not only that, but there has been a notable increase in the amount of attackers who are deemed ‘not held’ and allowed to advance after a legitimate tackle. Defenders are left with three choices; a) make the tackle and consider that job done, b) tackle and try to release the player before challenging, running the risk that he’ll get up, or c) opt for the old skill and hope the referee recognises the folly of the new rule.

The greatest travesty comes at scrum time. Even under the old laws the scrum was a lottery at the best of times. I concede that it is a difficult aspect for referees to marshal; is one prop collapsing or is one not taking legitimate pressure? Is one team boring in or has the scrum legally gone 90 degrees? Etc. But the level of inconsistency and guesswork in this area is unacceptable. The brain wave to insert a minute’s silence between “pause” and “engage” has also backfired to the extent that the command may as well be “crouch, collapse, reset.”

Am I alone in thinking the sport was fine as it was? Think of the 1997 and 2001 Lions tours, the 2003 World Cup, countless Heineken Cup seasons, all gripping contests and fitting advertisements for the sport with the tried and tested rules. I worry for the future of Rugby Union, especially considering the farcical ELVs which involved the abolition of the beautiful rolling maul and the conversion of penalties to free kicks implemented in the southern hemisphere. The IRB don’t own the sport, it’s not theirs to destroy.

Weekly Watch

My 3 gigs to catch round the island this week:

Foals, Olympia Dublin, tonight, €23.50

Holy Fuck, Whelans Dublin, Friday 19th, €18

C!ties Jogging & Guilty Optics, Dolans Limerick, Sunday 21st 6pm, free

Video: Sleigh Bells- Riot Rhythm

If the video to ‘Infinity Guitars’ was exactly what you’d expect for a Sleigh Bells tune, the same cannot be said of the latest video off one of the albums of 2010. The visual accompaniment for the stomping ‘Riot Rhythm’ sees a father training his son (I’m basing their familial connection solely on the fact that they’re both ginger) to be a chess master. The three minutes footage appears to acts as a sort of piss take on epics like Rocky and Karate Kid. What the video does achieve is to capture the fun of the Sleigh Bells sound.