Tuesday, July 23, 2019
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Posted at: Jun 15, 2019, 9:28 AM; last updated: Jun 15, 2019, 9:28 AM (IST)MUSIC ZONE

Notes to remember

Saurabh Chadha

Album of the month
Gorgeously crafted and exceptionally composed
The National—I Am Easy To Find (4AD) 

Sleep Well Beast (2017) was a gigantic moment for The National, winning them their first Grammy. The edgy, gloomy record was so impressive that it seemed unattainable to envision a follow-up. However, I Am Easy to Find sees the band returning stronger than ever before. The 16 track collection follows 2017’s Sleep Well Beast and features a number of female voices including Kate Stables, Mina Tindle, Lisa Hannigan, Sharon Van Etten, and the Brooklyn Youth Choir. The first track You Had Your Soul With You sketches the character for the erratic nature of the album, particularly in it’s opening lines. While the album is a standalone project, there is also a short film of the same title, starring Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander and directed by Mike Mills. The album’s two longest tracks, So Far So Fast and Not In Kansas play back to back and remarkably manage not to halt the listening experience completely, despite a contrasting effect in their pace. Dust Swirls In Strange Light forefronts the elegance of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, a cappella at first, before opening into an expansive experimental project. This is a story narrated through abstracts such as “her mother’s heartbeat”, “her father’s voice”, “the sunlight on her skin”. Roman Holiday begins as a dark and misty piano ballad before Dorsey’s voice sweetens things around. Elsewhere, Quiet Light, and The Pull of You, benefit a great deal from Devendorf’s drumming, where he acts as the driving force behind each galloping beat. The album picks up rhythm with the Eve Owen-sung Where Is Her Head, and Berninger’s own Rylan in the second half of the album. The Brooklyn Youth Choir steps in for the final verse of So Far, So Fast, helping it build to its climactic finale. I Am Easy To Find preserves the existential anxiety instilled in the identity of the band, but merrily expands it into brighter and more elaborate sonic territories.

Essential tracks: So Far So Fast, Roman Holiday, You Had Your Soul With You, Not in Kansas 

Rating: * * * *


Steven’s most impressive statement to date
Flying Lotus — Flamagra (Warp) 

Flying Lotus aka Steven Ellison has carved it’s name for producing amazingly intricate and thematically cohesive albums. The nephew of legendary jazz musician John Coltrane, Flying Lotus crafts an amalgamation of complex jazz and funk with electronic instruments within a modern hip-hop framework. Steven’s sixth record is his most varied and psychedelic yet, and David Lynch’s word piece Fire is Coming holds the album’s essential theme of a “fire on a hill that never goes out”. Somehow, Flamagra manages to be his most ambitious work so far. As the album unfolds,  Steven weaves apparently unrelated musical layers with indication of an unimaginative world. On Flamagra, every weapon in Flying Lotus’ arsenal is put to good use. The album boasts an impressive list of guests including George Clinton, Denzel Curry and Solange, allowing Steven to flex his muscles as a producer. The musical embellishments on Find Your Own Way Home flow right into The Climb feat. Thundercat, before it dives into an unprecedented hip-hop territory. The gothic piano on Capillaries and the industrial bass on Post Requisite sports a healthy balance of nuanced deviation, while Heroes In A Half Shell breaks new ground with a jazz chamber orchestra. George Clinton brings his heavy synths with him on Burning Down the House, while Solange Knowles softens the vibe with the soulful Land and Honey. Takashi is dreamy, for its psychedelic chimes, creating a sense of pure calm, that is swiftly swapped with urgency, thanks to the rousing burst of All Spies. Thank U Malcolm, pays tribute to the late Mac Miller. The innovative melancholic hymn is gentle and sounds reassuring throughout. 

Essential tracks: Capillaries, Heroes in a Half Shell, Fire is Coming, Land and Honey 

Rating: ***


Lavishly orchestrated and wholly compelling
Weyes Blood — Titanic Rising (Sub Pop) 

Since 2016’s Front Row Seat To Earth, her critical breakthrough and third album, Natalie Merings alias Weyes Blood has worked with Jerry Paper, Drugdealer and Ariel Pink, but with her fourth full-length album, Titanic Rising, it is apparent that she performs her best when she’s in full control. Natalie’s voice is the most powerful instrument here, that packs all empty space and demands complete attention. The opener, A Lot’s Gonna Change, sets the album’s wistful tone, “If I could go back to a time before now / before I ever fell down / I’d go back to a time when I was just a girl / when I had the whole world / gently wrapped around me.” The title track is a short instrumental interlude of delicate synths that sound like an ambient string orchestra. The centrepiece, Movies borrows from Radiohead, with its deep vocal layers and post-modern robotic trimmings. Mering sings of deficiency from her own life and wants to inhabit a tale as meaningful and insightful as a movie. On bittersweet Wild Time, she struggles with cynicism and tries to push us forward, “It’s time for you to slowly let these changes make you more holy and true / otherwise you just made it complicated for nothing”. The influence of George Harrison on the track Andromeda is undeniable, but the melodic construction is as inventive as anything you have heard before. Built around McCartney and a cheerful melody reminiscent of  Dolly Parton’s Here I Go Again, Everyday changes the pace of the album and gives it a whole new dimension. Titanic Rising climaxes with a violin piece called Nearer to Thee. It’s title is an ode to the last piece of music (Nearer. My God. To Thee) that was supposedly played by the unwavering violin performers on the Titanic before it sank.

Essential tracks: A Lot’s Gonna Change, Andromeda, Movies, Picture Me Better

Rating: ***


Top 10 Singles

1. Old Town Road........................................Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus  (NM)

2. Bad Guy..............................................................................Billie Eilish  (CU)

3. Talk...........................................................................................Khalid (CU)

4. I Don’t Care................................................Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber  (NM)

5. Dancing With A Stranger....................................Sam Smith & Normani  (FD)

6. Wow.................................................................................Post Malone (CU)

7. Happier...............................................................Marshmello & Bastille  (FD)

8. Never Really Over.................................................................Katy Perry  (NE)

9. Suge......................................................................................Da Baby (CU)

10. Without Me..............................................................................Halsey (CU)

Legend: CU): Climbing Up    (FD): Falling Down    (NM): Non-mover  (NE): New Entry 

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