Rufus Wainwright // Out Of The Game // April 23 // Polydor
It’s really hard to keep your artistic integrity if you’re a pop artist on a big label. Make that operatic pop and you might as well be Michael Buble. Which is exactly why Canada’s Rufus Wainwright is such a weird character. He might meddle with influences that would make grandmas all over the planet cream themselves but he never loses his own identity in it. You might know him as the guy who did the cover of Hallelujah on the soundtrack of Shrek (if that’s the only reason you know him, you are the cancer of the Earth), but here’s an album that might bring him a bigger crowd.
Out Of The Game is his seventh studio album and it find Wainwright ditching most of his operatic baroque thematics to adopt a popier sound, the one that doesn’t require the listener to have a degree in music to appreciate. Not to worry though, Wainwright might be out of the opera house but he didn’t go to the night club. Out Of The Game is his version of a day out with chaps in a country club. Yeah, the music on here is pretty suave and sophisticated. Considering the state of pop music this might not be the best commercial decision but then again, who cares about money right? Rufus does not shun away people just to partake in the activities only he would enjoy. Look at the tracklist. Couple of songs named after names, couple of you and men in there too. The most memorable moment on the album comes on the title track when repeats “look at you” over and over again to an euphoric effect. Out Of The Game might still be quintessential Rufus but it’s also the record that makes more attempts to connect to people than other recent releases from the man.
The game we are talking about here is Wainwright’s comfort zone and the question is just how far away from it is Rufus going to step out. Out Of The Game is definitely more playful and willing to evolve than few recent albums the man has released. The music on here has an outdoor quality that is definitely more fun but that doesn’t mean that Wainwright is always ready to participate in that fun. His voice always soars high above the instrumentals. Sure, he does have a great voice but sometimes it feels out of touch with the very earthly country influenced instrumentals. “I think you are going to jail” on Jericho doesn’t sound one bit sad or cautious, the gospel influenced backing vocals don’t do it much favours either. Moments of this album sound like they could’ve reached a whole different level if they were performed by people like Cass McCombs who delivered his own take on countrified pop last year with Wit’s End and Humor Risk. Out Of The Game utilises one new trick that the man has adopted and it uses it loyally throughout the 12 songs on here. Some more variations would’ve been nice seeing as this is supposed to be Rufus’ playful pop album but he’s still reluctant, he’s still just the same guy really. He even admits it on Respectable Dive “I love you and I don’t want to lose you, but I don’t want to put my cards on the table” Out Of The Game might not be a bluff but it’s not a clear view into a different side of the man either.
It’s always hard to suddenly change your direction when you established yourself as something that is nowhere to be found on your most appreciated albums. Andrew Bird did a 180 with his head scratch of an album Break It Yourself and while Wainwright doesn’t really bore listener on here by straying too far from his gold mine, Out Of The Game is not strong on its own when put against the rest of his output and with every passing listen it sounds more like something of a side project rather than evolution. Out Of The Game was a day out of the office for Rufus but ultimately, for everyone else it’s still the day of work as Rufus even at his most playful is not always enjoyable on a basic level. Unless you’re middle class.
Zammuto // Zammuto // April 3 // Temporary Residence
Sampling is nothing new, everybody does it. That said, only few people manage to do nothing but sampling and come away with great results. The Avalanches is the first name that comes to mind. Their still amazing and fresh sounding LP Since I’ve Left You combined every sound imaginable to make for some brilliant pop tracks. New York’s The Books have never been interested in going down that path. Their albums were always more difficult and less straight forward. They split up but don’t cry, group’s leader Nick Zammuto is carrying on with the tradition on his debut LP Zamutto.
Coming out earlier this year with the EP Idiom Wind, Zammuto has established that he’s not going to reinvent the wheel on his new project. All the tracks feel at home on the debut album which feels at home with the rest of the stuff that Zammuto did as part of The Books. If anything, the LP is more song based which would require it to have something memorable about it. Then again, this is the member of The Books that we’re dealing with. While Zammuto does pack something that comes closer to actual songs, they are neither engaging nor memorable enough to make them stand out, making the album feel as a lacklustre collage of sounds that don’t feel like they’re fulfilling their potential. It might be the lack of layers or the choice of samples but Zammuto feels overly bare and not complex enough to make it as an interesting sample based record.
Zammuto deals with folktronica, which is alright if you’re still into that kind of stuff in 2012 (bless you). The wilderness feel it aims for is largely nailed with the sampling of violins and simple beats, although when it comes to wilderness feel, Zammuto could take a book or two from The Caretaker’s book as the album feels almost too polished to induce that feeling of escapism. What really lets it down is the vocal samples. From the stuttering on Yay to the clear singing on The Shape Of Things To Come, not to mention the facepalm worthy addition of Microsoft Anna here and there, the many voices of Zammuto does not add any depth, instead stripping the record of any subtlety that it might have had in the first place. Like the cover of the album which feels back to the basics and down to earth, until you notice the ridiculous and out of place font streaked across right in the middle. Zammuto is two different worlds that just down meet in the middle, a big no for any album that relies on sampling.
It’s quite underwhelming but in the end, the logical outcome of The Books split is the biggest disappointment here as Zammuto feels like a part of what the trio were doing in the first place. If you can’t improve on in then don’t fix it. Zammuto ignored that as the debut LP offers a simplified sample collection that just doesn’t introduce anything new to replace the weird, all over the place charm that Zammuto doesn’t try to recreate on here. Considering that The Books’ split was announced only few months ago, the lacklustre nature of Zammuto really makes it that much more painful.
Weird Dreams // Choreography // April 2 // Tough Love
Oh dear god, Weird Dreams are a four piece guitar pop band from East London. What an introduction huh? Choreography is their debut record and sadly I am already out of things to write about them. They wear shirts in their promo pictures, they look rather troubled. The Fly seems to love them, which can never be a good thing. Choreography references 90s alternative and 80s jangly guitar sounds. It’s a decent little album, although a little bit derivative and inoffensive. That’s pretty much that. Instead I’m going to talk about the weird dream that I had few nights ago.
So the other night I was dreaming away and for some reason Titanic crossed my mind. I’m just gonna go ahead and blame it on all those adverts all over the place. Titanic 3D? Who gives a fuck, it’s the same fucking movie, get over it. Anyway, I was in the movie, but at the same time I was completely unaffected by all the stuff that was happening around me. I suppose that is the magic of the 3D, feeling like a different world is only a reach away. Obviously it’s all bullshit just to make you pay more money for the movie you’ve already seen. What’s the point? Seeing Kate Winslet’s tits in 3D? I would rather fucking not.
But lets not get carried away. I was in the ship and I was following Jack around. I don’t know why. Because that’s his best movie? Because he’s not really THAT good in inception? Because that other movie that he did after Titanic had All Saints on the soundtrack? Is it cool to ironically appreciate All Saints? I don’t think we as a nation got to that point yet. But yeah, I was following Jack while he was following Rose, the sort of ocean Inception if you will. I was screaming at him “NO JACK, SHE’S GOING TO LEAD YOU TO YOUR DEATH, DON’T FOLLOW YOUR HEART YOU WANKER”. Did he listen to me? Of course not. Maybe I was just a ghost, maybe it was but a memory in my mind, maybe I lived hundred years ago and died in the Titanic, maybe blogging is the afterlife. But if that’s the case then where is Jack, why is he not next to me, blogging about fashion, latest trends and whatever Lil B is up to nowadays. Oh my god, maybe he went to hell and became a vlogger. #PrayForJack.
All of this teaches us but one thing. If you’re drowning with a bird, save yourself first. You’re not going to get sucked off if you’re dead will you, you fucking genius.
Death Grips // The Money Store // April 24 // Epic
Black music 2011 was all about style, whether we are talking about the suave and dark approach to r&b mastered by The Weeknd or hazy, psyched out beats adopted by stylish gangster A$AP Rocky. There was one exception to the rule. Unless you were living under a rock in west Cornwall you must’ve heard about Death Grips. You better have! They ignored all the style and went on to punch your face with a barbed hammer on their debut release Exmilitary. It was uncompromising and strikingly immediate. Fast forward one year, shock horror, Death Grips now belong to Epic. Can you tell that on their new LP The Money Store? Fuck no!
The Money Store stands as their first proper studio LP and it definitely feels more like a studio work when it compared to the slaughter house quality of their previous mixtape Exmilitary. The Money Store still features the breakneck energy that is associated with the group but this time it doesn’t feel like it’s the only thing that the group has to offer. The Money Store sees rapper MC Ride, keyboardist Andy Morin and drummer extraordinaire Zach Hill create some catchy and memorable moments without ever sounding like they’re compromising. The pop moments like The Fever (Aye Aye) and I’ve Seen Footage are better developed than anything on Exmilitary while the loud and abrasive highlights like Hustle Bones and Punk Weight hit as hard but pack that extra bite of imagination and experimentation where Exmilitary felt more like a one trick pony. Really, whichever way you look at it, The Money Store is superior to its predecessor in every way possible.
One of the most impressive things on here is how Death Grips manage to be more focused while being more loose than ever before. Songs on The Money Store are not afraid to not have a constant beat, melody or anything like that. They’re more than likely to have a noise breakdown in the middle. It makes the album feel like the opposite to last year’s brilliant Black Up by Shabazz Palaces, a record that was completely different to everything else that has been released in 2011 and unpredictable with its songs taking many stylistic shifts. The Money Store is not bothered with pretty sounds but it does share those two essential traits. It’s different but it’s just as approachable. The Money Store is a near death experience, a dangerous stunt, an adrenaline rush that even the most careful of us will be foolish to refuse. It’s the sound of the future, one that is not beautiful but potentially very real. Considering that some people think that the end of the world is coming, the carnage of The Money Store would make the perfect soundtrack for the event. Unlike Exmilitary, Death Grips won’t kill you this time, they’ll keep you on the leash and you won’t be able to resist it. It transcends beyond being a mere hip hop or punk album, it’s a combination of energy, rage and mentally unstable pop aesthetics, something only Death Grips dare to do these days.
In 2011 Death Grips were upstarts with an interesting sound that filled a certain niche. In 2012 they are an essential listen to anyone who’s into new and captivating music. It’s quite amazing that this album is coming out on a major label. It stands as a testament that maybe you don’t need to become shit once you sign a deal, maybe you can keep your integrity and maybe you can carry on making great innovative music. Death Grips have done just that, the found a certain approachable beauty in the middle of absolute chaos. Suddenly all those suits don’t seem that bad and The Money Store looks like a unifier that everyone was waiting but no one thought it would ever come.
#: Everybody is unable to get over the silly Tupac hologram. Dr Dre wants to see Hendrix resurrected. Pretty sure that will come before Detox, fucking tool.
#: St. Vincent and David Byrne collaborate to record an album together which will come out sometime this year.
#: Azealia Banks delays the release of her 1991 EP, hopefully indefinitely.
#: Good old Jools Holland returned for 40th series of Later…, Maccabees and Willis Earl Beal perform.
#: Blur announce massive boxset that will include four CDs worth of rarities among the remasters of all their albums.
#: Kool AD and Paul Banks announce new albums. No one really cares.
#: Liars premiered the first single off the new album No.1 Against The Rush
#: Record Store Day comes and goes without anyone other than several cool people giving a fuck. New releases from The Flaming Lips, Animal Collective and lots of others.