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.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: The OOZ – King Krule
Far from easy listening, and not something you can stick on as background music, The OOZ is a dizzying head trip inside an abandoned bar the size of a mansion. What King Krule does so compellingly is to beckon together genres that might otherwise have been afraid of each other, then gets them really drunk before slow-dancing with all of them. ‘Half Man, Half Shark’ gasps with sweaty punk, ‘Biscuit Town’ has the nourish gleam of neon in the rain with its Zawinul-esque keys, and ‘The Cadet Leaps’ is like that feeling of trying to hold in tears but they come out anyway.
He makes the distance between the next galaxy and the next pub seem almost comparable with how cosmic even the most downtrodden moments feel. On ‘Dum Surfer’, a night out getting ‘mashed’ in the bar sounds equal to getting your head stuck inside a comet; ‘Czech One’ makes the instruments in a seedy jazz bar seem as lonely as the vast expanse of space itself. But it’s all part of one distinct record, and by god that record is glorious.
Highlight: ‘The Cadet Leaps’
Beck can’t decide which side his bread is buttered on a middling selection of dance-pop tracks that alternate between joyful abandon and nasty, bizarre clashes of identity. ‘I’m So Free’ sounds like Smash Mouth trying to do DJ Jazzy Jeff, whilst ‘Dear Life’ feels like the weird lovechild of divorced parents that can’t decide if it wants to live with Paul McCartney or Josh Homme. That being said, Beck at least brings a crisp production to the proceedings, alleviating some of the more soupy material from complete cohesive dissonance from its other tracks.
Highlight: ‘Seventh Heaven’
Morning After – dvsn
Where Morning After does work is in the anachronistic clash between deep, rattling R&B beats and elegant, wistful keys, conjoined to those vulnerable vocals from Daniel Daley. Such is the power of this pairing early on, between Daley and producer Nineteen85, that the less engaging middle stretch of the record comes as a disappointment. It becomes predictable with none of the bite of opener ‘Run Away’, or the two-pronged tough-to-generous duality of ‘Nuh Time/Tek Time’. It’s only on barn-burning ‘Body Smile’ does the inspiration return. It’s moody and murky, but there’s a very familiar 80s glow lurking in the darkness that makes it an instant highlight.
Highlight: ‘Body Smile’
Beautiful Trauma – P!nk
P!nk’s production team rarely get out of the way of her great voice here. Where they do manage to, such as on ‘But We Lost It’ and closer ‘You Get My Love’, she doesn’t so much stretch herself as draw attention to the theatrics of her own voice. But elsewhere, schlocky writing and too many good sounds on top of each other choke her presence out of the mix.
Highlight: ‘You Get My Love’
For an artist who deals in bizarreness, MASSEDUCTION feels oddly tame. It constitutes a series of build-ups that mostly have no payoff, like the bridge of ‘Los Ageless’ that’s far too good for the song itself, and the slow-burn opener of ‘Hang On Me’ that feels like a slow into at first, but actually seems like a blueprint for most of the rest of the album. The final stretch yields some wonderful stuff: ‘Slow Disco’ and ‘Smoking Section’ are as abrasive as they are poppy, and they get the best of both worlds. Alas, St Vincent’s wacky angular-pop gets largely left behind here.
Highlight: ‘Slow Disco’
DUD OF THE WEEK: Lotta Sea Lice – Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile
Too much is lost from both artists here; Barnett has none of the dry wit she had in her solo work, whilst Vile is mostly missing the self-deprecating drawl of his. Each rambling garage rock track is nondescript, save for opener ‘Over Everything’, the only track to fully capitalise on such a hang-dog pairing. Within those 6 minutes is the lofty guitar work of Barnett’s more melancholy work, her downtrodden optimism, Vile’s shrugging pessimism, and a glimpse of the better album this could have been. The rest is just lazy, and genuinely disappointing about it, too.
Rating: ‘Over Everything’