Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
After waiting forever(admittedly, I discovered Boards of Canada after they put out their last material : Trans-Canada Highway) for new Boards of Canada, this album was facing a mountain of expectations. Not unlike their Reclusive-pioneering-european-electronic-duo-who-haven’t-put-out-new-material-for-years-until-this-summer-mates Daft Punk, BoC teased us with snippets of new material here and there, opting for a record store day set of unique records rather than SNL ads. Unlike Daft Punk, they didn’t stray far from what made them who they are.
This is probably BoC’s darkest album since Geogaddi, if not ever. The whole album is drenched with unsettling beats, and what can only be described as Col War paranoia. Unlike any other band, BoC has managed to deliver specific messages essentially through textures alone. Sick Times alone basically transports you entirely without saying a word.
Not to say there isn’t some classic BoC on here. Cold Earth, New Seeds and Come to Dust could’ve been found on earlier albums. But the rest is, while maintaining the traditional BoC sound, covering new ground. On the whole, though, this album will not take a place alongside Music Has The Right To Children as BoC’s best. But aside from Dayvan Cowboy, it’s their best stuff since then.
Sigur Rós – Kveikur
I’ve read reviews of this album, particularly the Pitchfork one, which claim that this album is a departure from the norm for them. We thought Valtari was just Sigur Rós doing what they do, but now it seems that it was the culmination of that part of their career. I don’t buy it.
With the departure of their keyboardist, I can understand why people might think things have changed. And though the vocals and the drums are little bit more pronounced, this is still very distinctly a Sigur Rós album.
Now, having said that, I am pleased with this album. I’m not saying their lack of change is a bad thing, but this isn’t the dawn of a new musical era for the patron saints of Post-Rock. As for particulars? I really don’t have much else to say other than “this is good”. Nothing rises to the level of a Inní mér syngur vitleysingur, much less a Hoppipola or a Sven-g-englar. But it’s solid. Nobody will look back on this and think it’s the worst Sigur Rós album, but I certainly won’t look back on it as their best.
Kanye West – Yeezus
I hesitated in including this album; I’m not a music reviewer, so these were meant more to be fan impressions than proper commentary. And I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a Kanye West fan. I liked a song here and a song there; Jesus Walks, Stronger(which introduced me to Daft Punk) until Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Half of which I disliked, some of which I respected but didn’t get, and the rest of which I loved. Runaway, for all its “Sent this bitch a picture of my dick”, was an absolute masterpiece. Kanye is one of very few artists who can get me to pay attention to lyrics, and the way in which he managed to turn being an asshole into a tragedy is sublime, to say nothing to the unbelievable beat, piano, and dying cyborg to end it. Ah. Perfection.
So heading into Yeezus, I had tempered expectations. Which turned out to be a good thing, because while no song on Yeezus was as good as Runaway, on the whole Yeezus was an exaggerated Dark Twisted Fantasy(In terms of how I much I liked it). It’s Kanye’s dark, angry album, and with tracks like “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves”, that’s not overly surprising. Yeezus is minimalist, almost industrial. It’s probably the closest thing to Modern Art I’ve ever heard from a major musician. The loud, broken beats are interspersed with Kanye’s primal screams throughout.
I’m not nearly qualified to discuss this album in depth, but I will touch on a few tracks before getting to the two that I’m in love with. Black Skinhead is probably the most radio friendly of the angry Kanye tracks(as evidenced by its use in the trailer for The Wolf of Wall Street). New Slaves is disappointing because it lacks the rawness of the performance I heard on SNL, but the outro samples a Hungarian Prog Rock band I had never heard of called Omega, so I have to thank it for that. Blood on the Leaves is probably going to be the critics’ favourite, as Kanye takes a Billie Holiday song(covered by Nina Simone) about a Lynching and uses it as the backdrop for another tragic Kanye story. I’m pretty sure Kanye is the male Taylor Swift. And Guilt Trip is cool, even if only because it very easily could’ve been a collaboration with Anamanaguchi.
Now onto my two favourites. I Am A God is probably Kanye West’s thesis. With a pulsing beat, tubular bells, and glitchy effects, it’s a culmination of West’s talents as a producer. But then, to top that, the lyrics themselves are satire as a high art. Much hay has been made about the Croissants line, but the high point for this song, for me, is a couple of times when he repeats I Am A God. For a couple of them, he emphasizes Am, and while it sounds defiant, you have to wonder; who’s defying him? The way he says it is pretty much exactly the way an angry 14 year old tells his parents “I AM an adult!” It’s got the ever-so-faint hint of petulence, and in the context of the song, it becomes clear that Kanye isn’t insane, he’s a fun house mirror.
And as for the other amazing track, holy hell. Hold My Liquor. Not unlike Runaway, Kanye casually throws out a tragic story of a love lost. But the quality of the story is besides the point. The repetitive, minimal beat, along with Justin Vernon’s chorus is quality. Like Runaway, it’s tarnished by rapping about bitches and whatnot, but then the guitar kicks in. It’s like someone heard Ratatat and thought “I can do a classy version of that.” I swear, I’ve listened to this track over and over, and it’s because of the instrumental guitar break.