I don’t have an awful lot to say about this lovely track from female hip-hop duo THEE Satisfaction (whose album awE naturalE has been out since March) – it first stuck in mind mind because it sounded a little bit like a harsher version of one of the slower cuts from Janelle Monae’s album The ArchAndroid (which is a brilliant thing – that album was one of my favourites from 2010). I won’t spoil it too much with pointless waffle, so I’m just going to post it below and let the looping beats and chilled out synths wash over you like a soothing wave.
Oh, the humanity! Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’ will be covered by Ed Sheeran and Devlin! I think I want to crawl into a small space somewhere and hibernate or possibly go through a wardrobe into another world where Sheeran and Devlin don’t exist and I can listen to classics in peace.
Okay, actually the definitive version of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ was undoubtedly by Jimi Hendrix (obviously more of an influence here than the original version), but it’s a classic and shouldn’t be messed with, particularly by someone labelled a ‘sensitive crooner’ and a rapper who does some of his own stylings over the top of the iconic riff. I’m not actually as offended by Sheeran’s part in this as I thought I would be (my dislike for Sheeran is well known) but it’s the idea that the song should be tampered with any more that gets me. In the video, it’s hard enough to hear Devlin’s rapping without all that noise going on and that’s just another factor that tarnishes the memory of the classic. Why have so much noise going on in the video if you want the music to do the talking? Surely the whole point of rapping is that you can hear the words and the message that might be added to it?
Well, it could be worse. It could be Sheeran doing one of his raps *shudder*.
A couple of years ago Chapel Club released their debut LP Palace that was a slice of hazy, goth-tinged indie, spawning the fairly memorable track ‘Five Trees.’ It was a decent effort, but nothing particularly special. They did, however, seem like a band who’d stick around for a bit – I just didn’t envisage that when they did return, they’d come back with such a radical change of direction that I couldn’t tell it was the same band. Seriously: they’ve turned themselves into a quasi-Passion Pit and joined the electro-pop revolution. It’s instantly more catchy than any of their previous work and has tinges of The Avalanches’ hazy compositions. Not even The Horrors’ transformation from goth-punk upstarts into swooning, Teardrop Explodes-esque wonderkids quite compares to this. It takes guts to do something like this, particularly if it comes off: Chapel Club, I salute you.
‘I’m His Girl’ by Friends was widely regarded to be one of the best singles of last year and it remains a highlight on their debut album Manifest! which came out a little while ago. I don’t usually post remix tracks, but this reworking of the track by UK R’n’B rising stars AlunaGeorge, featuring Caribbean grooves, 8-bit electronics and a steady build up to the original’s amazing riff was just too good to pass up.
It’s only been a year since their third album Ritual Union came out, but Little Dragon are back with a new song, ‘Sunshine.’ It hits all the right notes for fans of the Swedish band: Yukimi’s vocals are as smooth and luscious as ever, there’s some wonky-pop synths over minimal percussion and… even the tiniest hint of some panpipes. It’s been a dismal summer so far (at least it has been here, it’s probably wonderfully sunny everywhere else) but the return of Little Dragon always puts some colour into a dreary day – their latest effort is no different.
Frank Ocean, solo rapper and member of Odd Future, has announced that he is either bisexual or gay. I’m saying that this is definitely what he is saying, unlike the NME who are almost sitting on the fence with the line ‘suggesting that he is gay or bisexual’ as if it’s so shocking. But actually, even though it wouldn’t be shocking normally, Ocean’s opening up is a huge step for urban music.
Ocean opened up on his Tumblr blog instead of posting the news on the sleevenotes to his upcoming album Channel Orange, saying that he his first love was a man when he was 19. His post, which is pretty tender and heartfelt, shows that Ocean is hopefully paving the way for other hip-hop stars to embrace homosexuality and bisexuality in a genre of music that has otherwise been dominated by homophobia, gangster attitudes and macho misogyny. Being highly ‘masculine’ and having control over women (usually in a sexual way) is the dominant image of gangster rap, and homosexuality has been frowned upon by that community for years (and that’s putting it nicely).
Of course, this announcement doesn’t necessarily mean that a whole host of rappers will be announcing their sexuality in the same way (although that would be amazing if Ocean has set a precedent and then the last taboo of urban music would finally be broken forever). But music and sexuality has always had something of an odd relationship and Ocean is not your regular rap star anyway: after all, he has his own way of making music and has told Def Jam where to stick it (despite collaborating with Jay-Z and Kanye West on their Watch the Throne album).
If Usher, or Kanye had come out as well then it would help to break down that wall even more – rap music cannot be the bastion of purely heterosexual people, after all. But absolutely nothing should be taken away from what Frank Ocean has done in this act, and the courage it must have taken for him to announce it knowing the prejudice that surrounds this issue. He may not change the attitudes of the ‘old guard’ of rap music, perhaps stuck in their old ways, but for a generation of rising rap stars listening to Ocean and being inspired, he might just be giving hope to those who think they have to hide their sexuality and who they are. For that he deserves a huge amount of respect.
Purity Ring’s LP Shrines came out on the 24th and after a string of excellent singles, ‘Fineshrines’ is the latest cut. If you don’t know anything about the duo then it’s probably okay to describe them as having the delicate, girly vocal charms and pulsing dance beats of Grimes but with a slightly woozy, melancholic twist. Whereas Grimes’ melodies are often angular and hard-edged, Purity Ring teeter on the edge of fusing this with some shoegaze sensibilities. It all makes the release of Shrines very exciting…