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.
Rock behemoths Foo Fighters re-enter the scene, and Rostam launches his solo career in proper…
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Half-Light – Rostam
Unsurprisingly, Rostam’s first proper solo outing (after the charming, rustic collaboration with Hamilton Leithauser, I Had A Dream That You Were Mine) has a lot going on. Along the way on this rollicking synesthesiac’s wet-dream, we travel to New York, the ends of the earth, the cosmic expanse, India, and Rostam’s bedroom. Clearly, the guy has a lot on his mind.
It shows on every facet of this album: the production is busy, although never murky and unintelligible. Textures weave in and out of each other like a really packed club sandwich, except the sandwich is filled with sweets, all kinds of cream, fondue, chocolate, cake, chocolate cake and a lot of wine. But Rostam savours the moments that matter: playing in the same sort of vignette, snapshot style as Frank Ocean’s Blonde (on which Rostam was credited as a songwriter), the album goes from the dizzying and colourful (‘Half-Light’, ‘Never Going to Catch Me’) to the slow and beautiful (‘Hold You’). It’s a little disorientating, and like I said, there’s a lot to unpack. But Rostam’s vision is clearer than ever, and he’s given us a promising start to a likely-illustrious career.
Highlight: ‘Hold You’
Dedicated to Bobby Jameson – Ariel Pink
It feels like there was a really good EP drowned by album-length filler on Dedicated to Bobby Jameson. Where it succeeds is in the tracks that sound far more like ‘songs’ rather than ‘jams’. Whether Pink is aping Morrissey (‘Feels Like Heaven’) or Ray LaMontagne (‘Another Weekend’), he makes melancholy sound beautiful again. Even on closer, ‘Acting’, the strange kitsch-y 8-bit funk sounds like it could have easily featured on a really great forgotten computer game soundtrack. But on strange offshoots like ‘Santa’s in the Closet’ and ‘Time to Meet Your God’, he sounds like he’s doing a bad impression of King Gizzard.
Highlight: ‘Feels Like Heaven’
I think I must be one of the few music writers who genuinely loved Sonic Highways. What the Foo Fighters did on that record might have been an autopilot job, but it was rarely boring, the production-arrangement marriage was wonderful and the group performed brilliantly. Thus, the problems with Concrete and Gold reveal themselves immediately: they did exactly the opposite of what they did last time.
Well, save for the playing: all of the band members are great musicians, make no mistake. But pop producer Greg Kurstin (why on earth the group gave up Butch Vig, I have no idea) can’t get his production out of the way of the songwriting, which, while not overly interesting in itself, at least could have been elevated by a good sound. Instead the hammy classic-rock references (Led Zeppelin on ‘Sunday Rain’, ‘The Sky is a Neighbourhood’) get mired in a swamp of compression that takes away the dynamics and the boom of records past.
Highlight: ‘Happy Ever After (Zero Hour)’
A confident, bouncy EDM sugar-rush that makes its vaguely familiar structures and patterns seem fresh with really strong production on all sides. What makes Galantis so distinct is that they seem to understand the melodic potential of pitch-shifted vocals like very few others in the business. On ‘Hey Alligator’ and ‘Love on Me’, the rush of a really soaring melody simply wouldn’t work without the elastic vocal stretching. The fact that Galantis know how to play to their biggest strengths (slightly zany, slightly cheesy dance-pop) might make them safe to some, but to others they’re unselfconscious and ebullient fun.
Highlight: ‘Hey Alligator’
DUD OF THE WEEK: Prophets of Rage – Prophets of Rage
The musical equivalent of Jill Stein shouting at you for 40 minutes and then graffiti-ing your house.
Highlight: Go away.
Verdict: I should have got a medal for sitting through this entire thing.