Real Estate is a perfect kind of band for a generation obsessed with nostalgia and chill feelings. While they’re not exactly modern slackers, the band do not try hard to create something that will change someone’s life or will be remembered in many years. Instead, they make of the moment music which, along with the likes of Tame Impala or Foxygen, is a soundtrack to lying down and soaking up life without thinking about anything at all. Now that might be good once in a while but Real Estate’s third album Atlas is seriously lacking when it comes to basic songwriting appeal.
Despite band’s premise, they do not always slack when it comes to melodies. While basic and simple at heart, their 2012 record Days was one of the better albums of the year thanks to the infectious autumnal jangle pop melodies on the career highlight Green Aisles. What’s more important is the genuine excitement found on upbeat cuts like Days or It’s Real, two of the best singles of its year. Now the ideas is exactly the same right here, except the melodies are weak, the lyrics are generic half remembered “why try harder” stuff and the band sound like they’re simply going through the motions, pushing an aesthetic while not really having decent songs to back it all up. Other than the solid if standard singles Talking Backwards and Primitive, these songs are for the feeling, rather than actually listening.
That’s not to say that Atlas is a bad record. It’s not even a bad Real Estate album. It’s just that with songs that lack the elements that make their simplistic appeal so irresistible, Real Estate struggle to capture and most importantly, hold attention. Atlas sounds exactly like what you’d imagine Real Estate would sound like after a slight burnout. It’s not exactly their winter record. Instead, it’s still autumn and we’re tired of it as much as the band themselves are.
No Excuse by Jacques Greene, lead single from electronic producer’s latest EP Phantom Vibrate, out April.
Hero by Frank Ocean, Diplo and a couple of guys from The Clash. The latest project from Converse fuelled artist collaborations.
Just before the surprisingly rising underground credibility and influence of k-pop was forcefully introduced to the most of you by a man dancing like a horse, 2NE1 girls were one of the genre’s and nation’s leading lights. Their sound is bright ADD electronic that shifts between piano ballads and climactic electro trap breakdowns with a flip of the coin. Last year’s biggest club hit Bipp by Sophie felt like it borrowed more than one idea from the candy coloured trip that these pop stars are known for. But for a hyper popular pop group, 2NE1 have been slacking. Never mind that, Crush may be their first new album in more than four years but it’s also their best. What more, it’s possibly the strongest testament just why k-pop remains an aesthetic to enjoy for more than just little girls.
Crush follows a couple of singles that 2NE1 and their leader CL released to varying degrees of success. I Love You and The Baddest Female were the best, a stream of personality and swagger, something that every single Korean act has none of. Crush takes all these ideas including electropop, dance music, hip hop rhythms, trap aesthetic, reggae, ballads, hi-NRG and broadway strings, and crushes them into songs packaged with so many twists and ideas that their mere melodic success is borderline awe inspiring. Lead single Come Back Home starts out as a mid paced reggae pop tune, not dissimilar to Rihanna’s Man Down. It then transforms into the sort of upbeat electropop chorus that belongs on top of the charts. But instead of going back to the verse, the song flips itself into a trap breakdown that’s both an eyebrow and a hand raiser. Gotta Be You is similar, beginning with a slow paced urban pop flavour, come chorus the song twists into a bonafide summer anthem. The rest of the album is just as eclectic if a bit more predictable. Out of all the ballads here, If I Were You is easily the best one. Sounding at home with k-pop ballad machine as much as it would make sense appearing on a soundtrack to The Great Gatsby, the song displays group’s improved vocal talents as well as their producers’ attention to arrangement.
Mental Breakdown is another highlight, a CL solo cut that is somewhere between that brave lunacy of Nicki Minaj and rich pride of A$AP Rocky. The rest is tried and tested 2NE1. Good To You is a solid mid paced breather, Happy is a feel good track in the mode of Go Away while Scream is as good as it was two years ago when it came out as a single in Japan. While the record does have its dips in quality, like the unnecessary acoustic version of Come Back Home, which robs all of the left field appeal from the original, Crush is a victory for 2NE1, girl group pop and Korean music in general. Unlike any other single group making k-pop, 2NE1 are wildly original and tower not only in their country but in the west as well. Crush’s peaks are easily the most exciting pop music of 2014 and even its filler displays an attention to consistency that’s virtually unknown in single oriented Korean market. Combining happiness with left field pop songwriting and production, Crush is a worldwide victory, and no amount of SNSD tears will change that.
Words I Don’t Remember, the comeback single from ambient R&B singer and producer How To Dress Well. Possibly taken from his upcoming third album.