London Grammar have released their first single, EP and now full-length in the span of nine months. The guitar-and-keys art-rock trio formed much earlier, back in 2009 at Nottingham University in Northern England, but it wasn’t until nearly three years later, in December of 2012, that they released their debut track, ‘Hey Now.’
The most striking thing about Janelle Monae’s newest double album, ‘The Electric Lady,’ is how similar it feels to its predecessor, 2010’s masterful ‘The ArchAndroid.’ That’s not to say the Kansas City-born singer is repeating herself, only that the consistency of vision on display is worth pause. There are shifts and tweaks to the album’s approach, and new musical ideas continue to flow from Janelle and her Wondaland collaborators, but as is befitting a sequel, ‘The Electric Lady’ picks up exactly where ‘The ArchAndroid’ left off.
If you’ve been following the Weeknd closely, 2011 feels like a long, long time ago. Toronto-based singer Abel Tesfaye released three free mixtapes to the Internet, seemingly out of nowhere, between March and December of that year, remaining anonymous all the while -- a smoke-cloud ghost haunting the hedonistic nightmares outlined in his music. In hindsight, it still seems brilliant: letting the music speak for itself and the artist, and letting the legend grow organically without any PR intervention. But even by the time the third mixtape, ‘Echoes of Silence,’ dropped online in December, it was obvious the self-contained universe the Weekend had built wouldn’t last.
Accessibility is a tricky thing. It’s a valued commodity among music fans unwilling to spend more than a handful of listens to get a record, but in some circles, it’s (at times, rightfully) code for music that’s fleeting and disposable.
Forest Swords, aka English producer Matthew Barnes, surprised a lot of people back in 2010 with his debut EP, ‘Dagger Paths.’ In the midst of a deluge of Burial-aping “post-dubstep” exports arriving out of the U.K. and a spike in druggy, slow-motion rave in North America known as witch-house, ‘Dagger Paths’ was achingly unique, even while acknowledging where electronic music was at the time.
Montreal’s Braids have gone electronic. That’s not to say synthesizers were previously absent from their sound, but the tribal drumming and coiled guitars that marked their 2011 debut, ‘Native Speaker,’ have been exchanged for drum pads and laptops on the group’s newest offering, ‘Flourish // Perish.’
Change is good, but transition can be hard. It’s a theme that clings to much of New York-via-London-via Italy musician Mauro Remiddi’s sophomore record as Porcelain Raft. Prior to the release of the new album, Remiddi admitted that moving around the globe had made him feel estranged from close friends, and he said he'd actually find himself having imaginary conversations with those old acquaintances.
What is taste? For music fans, it’s a word loaded with all sorts of responsibility and identity concerns. A strain of superiority often accompanies its usage -- one that extends from genre politics and today’s vapid, absolutist, “this < that” social media culture.
It’s unclear whether Washed Out and the man behind the project, Ernest Green, will ever shake the term “chillwave.” Green himself seems to take the descriptor in stride these days, even if the music he's making is a far cry from the day-glo, sample-based musings of his debut EP, ‘Life Of Leisure.’ Released in the summer of 2009, that collection all but defined the genre with its anthemic, blissed-out centerpiece ‘Feel It All Around.’
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