The Music Review is a weekly set of capsule reviews on the biggest releases of the previous week, all curated by myself. Each week has an Album of the Week and a Dud of the Week (although, let it be said that the Dud is rarely a particularly awful album, just the one that I deem the weakest of that week’s big releases). The format allows for more reviews to make their way into the website without laboriously long essays on each album getting published.
Calvin Harris mines dance history for gold dust whilst Floating Points debut the soundtrack from their experimental film…
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Reflections – Mojave Desert – Floating Points
At first the idea of an album like this can seem insufferable, and given that only one of its centrepieces (‘Kelso Dunes’) really opens itself up over its relaxed, lengthy runtime, one would be forgiven for switching off halfway through. But as the aesthetic comes into sharper focus, and the imagery of stillness in a desert landscape begins to become clearer, everything begins to fold outwards and reveal itself. Of course, there’s the suspicion that the music works better with the visuals to accompany it, but the idea of using a natural space for a recording environment does give weight to the music by itself, and conjures those visuals easily without literally attaching them to the record.
Once that becomes clear, the tracks do begin to elevate each other. The repetitiveness of ‘Silurian Blue’ becomes less a lazy songwriting choice and more a conjuring of atmosphere; the structure seems designed to give breathing space between the larger compositions (despite some of the most interesting sonic experiments of the record happening in those interludes).
Highlight: ‘Kelso Dunes’
Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 – Calvin Harris
It’s an honourable decision to break from tradition as Harris does here, leaving behind his decade-defining EDM work in favour of more soulful, ‘human’ music, inspired by the likes of Chic, Sly and the 70s. But it’s only really on ‘Slide’ that he is able to fulfill his grand vision of combining those more hip influences with vocal performances lifted straight from the chart-toppers. Frank Ocean’s presence on the track lifts it, as do the members of Migos; but, unlike the other tracks, some of which feature formidable talent, others of which do not (Future’s really doing the rounds this year), ‘Slide’ has an enjoyable instrumental in the first place. Elsewhere, this hybrid of decadent club music and groovy 70s knockoffs feels manufactured, the two strands of its being too disparate to feel cohesive.
GN – Ratboys
On an incredibly mature record, produced to allow breathing space for these baggy compositions, Ratboys come through with energy and confidence. Yet, their breeziness is loose and laid-back, infectious with their crisp drums and chiming guitars. Moreover, as the album moves into its quieter moments, particularly the beautiful closer ‘Peter the Wild Boy’, there’s a suggestion of a sepia-toned Americana creeping through the youthful, timely indie rock.
Highlight: ‘Peter the Wild Boy’
Mister Mellow – Washed Out
On a strange trip through the basements of acid houses and around The Stone Roses, Avalanches and Air, Washed Out throws as much as he can at this chillout record without cluttering it (the record spans just under half an hour). There’s fluffy chillwave (‘Burn Out Blues’) and some funkier moments (‘Hard to Say Goodbye’), but crucially, Washed Out’s man-behind-the-mask Ernest Greene doesn’t set out to make an album of ‘tunes’: the interludes and mini-tracks melt together into one languid comedown that just happens to sample ruminations on American stress-related health and stoner ramblings. Passing with the same pleasurable listlessness of a cooling summer breeze, Mister Mellow makes for a passable spiritual companion to The Avalanches’ discography.lucky patcher for ios
DUD OF THE WEEK: LANY – LANY
The words ‘dreampop trio’ were enough to tip me off as to the low enjoyment level this album would bring, but I was surprised to dislike it even more than I thought I would. LANY’s problems on their debut are twofold: first, they take the quieter moments of The 1975’s I like it when you sleep, make it completely pallid, and stretch it out for an hour. But even more begrudgingly, the group’s Tumblr poetry odes to love (‘Let’s drive around town holding hands’, ‘California, it’s different out here/no hericane’), complete with the sinister implication of coolness being derived from depression and emotional pain, suck the rest of the fun out of the equation, making LANY pretty much an empty shell.
Highlight: ‘It Was Love’