Cat’s Eyes - Chameleon Queen
Cat's Eyes, the partnership of singer Rachel Zeffira and The Horrors’ Faris Badwan, have released the first single, ‘Chameleon Queen’, from their upcoming second album, ‘Treasure House’. The track borrows as much from girl groups like The Girlfriends and The Ronettes as it does Let Love In era Nick Cave. It’s a gorgeously orchestral baroque pop track from the London duo. From the lilting trumpet part to Badwan’s wistful, yearning lyrics ‘I came across your old apartment/ in the back of a magazine’, this song is absolutely heart wrenching. ‘Chameleon Queen’ is a marked change from the band’s previously released stuff, like the heavily 60s inspired debut album, which although a great album could be accused of being a little derivative. It’s one of my favourite tracks so far this year and the band seem to start to plough their own furrow which is brilliant.
Badwan and Zeffira are married, and whilst it’s trite to mention personal connections influencing music, it’s definitely clear to see that theirs has left an indelible mark on Cat’s Eyes’s music. Zeffira’s operatic background is writ large on this track; her backing vocals complement Badwan’s more reserved baritone perfectly. ‘Chameleon Queen’ hopefully shows that the impending album (due to be released on June 3rd) will be one to listen out for.
Kanye West - 30 Hours
Kanye West’s first release, ’30 Hours’, from his X album ‘The Life Of Pablo’ is a return to form for the Chicago rapper. The first thing that might strike you when first listening to 30 Hours is how cutting and acerbic he is. Lyrics like ‘my ex said she gave me the best years of her life/ I saw a recent picture of her I guess she was right’ and ‘a blowjob is better than no job’ are genius. To describe this as mere hip-hop is to do it a disservice. It’s ambient, slightly lo-fi, psychedelic and dreamy.
As with all Kanye releases, ’30 Hours’ has strange and uncompromising production as well as West’s lyrics which range from the profound ‘baby lion goes/ where the islands go’ to the mundane ‘then me and wifey make a movie’ to the downright strange ‘Expedition was Eddie Bauer edition’. ’30 Hours’ is much more blissed-out than previous Kanye releases. Spacey phased vocals and a west-coast beat provide for quite a psychedelic Kanye number. This is a change from the brutal and heavy tracks from ‘Yeezus’. Although ’30 Hours’ is more flowing than previous Kanye releases, there are still the trademark stops and pauses, the tape slices that are one of my favourite aspects of West’s back catalogue. One aspect of Kanye that rarely gets enough praise is his fantastic use of samples and 30 Hours is no different. The track is partly built on a sample from the Arthur Russell track ‘Answers Me’ (think John Martyn on avant-garde cello). Ye’s sampling shows what a wide and diverse musical palette he’s got. It’s easy to dismiss him as a big-headed media baiter, and to some extent he is, but tracks like 30 Hours show that there is so much more substance beneath the style.
Meatraffle - The Horseshoe
Although this track by Meatraffle has been in the nation’s headphones since December (or at least should have been), a music video for ‘The Horseshoe’ has recently been released, so I thought I’d cover it. The video sees the band dancing around in a child’s bedroom: drummer Fats McCourt dons a monkey mask, singer Zsa Zsa Sapien sips Guinness balefully and Madame Hi-Fi herself Cloudy Truffles quietly etch-a-sketches. Listeners of 6 Music may recognise ‘The Horseshoe’ after it was played on Lauren Laverne’s show in January. It has a driving dub rhythm with a quirky off-beat organ riff and, as with all great ‘raffle tracks, a wonderful cornet melody. From the myriad genres they describe themselves on their Bandcamp page, ‘The Horseshoe’ is probably best described as ‘erroneous funk’. This is one of Meatraffle’s most song-y songs; the triumphant chorus of ‘The Horseshoe/The Horseshoe’ will stay in your head for weeks. After watching them tear up Manchester, they’ve convinced me that they are exactly what the bio-mekancalrik (their Bandcamp page is doing my job for me…) scene is crying out for. Both the track’s appearance on 6 Music and several online music blogs shows that slowly but surely the band are gaining traction. I can’t wait to see what Meatraffle release next, be it song or psychedelic music video - they can do no wrong.
John Congleton and The Nighty Nite - Your Temporary Custodian
John Congleton’s second single off his upcoming album ‘Your Temporary Custodian’ veers from the brutal to the blissful. The song has Sound-of-Silver vocals and strange industrial synths that assault the ears from start to middle. The track then goes into a gorgeously melodic piano-led section. The song is a fantastic mix of Mercury Rev and Mezzanine-era Massive Attack. Congleton achieves a fantastic dichotomy between the abrasive and the sweet. Aside from a slightly irritating hook of ‘just let go’ this song is brilliant. Congleton is best known as a producer and frontman of the band The Paper Chase. He’s produced artists like Swans and St Vincent- their abrasiveness has clearly rubbed off on him, ‘Your Temporary Custodian’ is, in some parts, very uncompromising and insular. There are also siren synths and huge sounding drums. Don’t let this put you off, because it takes a few listens to get into this track but it’s very rewarding. John Congleton and The Nighty Nite, presumably his backing band, are set to release their debut album on the 1st of April. If ‘Your Temporary Custodian’ is anything to go by, it should be one to get excited about.
The 1975 - The Sound
The 1975 most recent single, ‘The Sound’ is one of the most saddening pieces of music I’ve ever had to listen to. The fact that this kind of drivel can gain any kind of traction is deeply, deeply worrying. Glassy, soulless production, heinously meaningless lyrics, just boring boring boring music. The video for this track is even more infuriating. At one point, the words ‘unconvincing emo lyrics’ are flashed up onto the screen- hilarious! I see what they did there. It seems sad to end this piece on such a downer but this song really is t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e. The band have ostensibly renounced their previous commercialism, from the long album title (‘I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet unaware of it) to the 17 track length of the album. However ‘The Sound’ proves that any pretension they had to being uncommercial is false. The song is a boring mix of bad 80s pop and bad modern pop. Save yourselves and avoid this band. I listened to ‘The Sound’ so you don’t have to.
Pick up these singles in your local record stores: Relics, Jumbo and Crash!