It wasn’t until The Vaccines released their 4th album, Combat Sports, have I begun to acknowledge their existence. That would’ve almost disappointed me if it wasn’t for music critics explicating this album as their best; meaning, I didn’t miss out from taking in their peak performance directly, and didn’t need to be there when they were still trying to figure purpose into the equation and distance themselves from people comparing them to rock legends. Of course somebody would’ve been disappointed. It’s probably the worst thing critics could do to rising talent (see Viva Brother for details). But it seems as if the English band have reset their musical strategy and are finally having fun. Combat Sports’ noisy synth-y dreaminess is a totally cohesive blast.
Right, I keep meaning to bring up Wye Oak. They are a duo consisting of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack, having formed in 2006 and made six albums to date. Wasner had done previous and parallel work as part of Dungeonesse and as a solo act called Flock of Dimes, respectively. Stack had done smaller projects mostly related to being a touring drummer and remixing tracks for Sylvan Esso and other artists. They’ve garnered a lot of critical attention and a strong following, but it wasn’t until their latest album, The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs, that I’ve ever listened to their music. They’re described as indie rock/folk, which is true, if a little vague. From my sphere of music, they remind me a lot of the album Hairless Toys by Roisin Murphy. Though Murphy is clearly an electronic act, and Wye Oak isn’t, they both share this airy atmospheric direction in their songwriting and music. It’s laid back but layered, giving a lot of breathing room when listening to their music and understanding the mood Wye Oak is setting.
I was going to write about another song but I just couldn’t get this one out of my head. Perhaps the most talked about song in the past week, “This Is America” was created by Childish Gambino, Donald Glover‘s musical alter ego, and Ludwig Göransson, a Swedish composer who produced music for Black Panther and all three of Glover’s studio releases. The non-single, and its accompanying music video, blatantly demonstrates how black people are being treated in America right now. It’s less a response, and more of a clarification to anyone who does not totally understand the turmoil black people continue to face in American society, especially after a shooting.
Janelle Monáe, you glorious pansexual goddess, I don’t know what to do with you. For two albums, I’ve been following Cindi Mayweather’s funky journey of black queerness and now, you’ve dropped all pretense and revealed your true self. I won’t lie, the change threw me off completely. I was listening to the promotional singles wondering “What the hell’s going on?” I was getting really worried because nothing really sticked. All of the songs sounded a little too beyond my tastes, mixing hip hop, rap, and R&B in a style unfamiliar to the classy stylings of Monáe’s previous albums. Also, I hated “Pynk,” a song featuring the lovely Grimes, who seemed to not use her best capabilities, and I was positive nothing would change my mind on that. It wasn’t until I listened to the album that I realized that all these songs were part of one giant message of loving yourself and fighting the powers that be. This album kept me smiling from beginning to end and even though I was listening to this at work, I couldn’t pay attention to anything else until the dramatic finale. In short, Janelle Monáe’s latest album Dirty Computer is nothing short of amazing, giving the most complete package of her artistry yet. Also, yes, my mind has changed completely on “Pynk” and it is one of the highlights of the album.
Sofi Tukker is comprised of Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern (get how they got their name?). They’ve been around, at least to our attention, since the release of their first EP back in 2016 called Soft Animals, which spawned the Grammy nominee for Best Dance Recording, “Drinkee.” They’ve just now released their debut LP, Treehouse, which is one of the better electronic dance pop albums that I’ve heard in a while. If you’re not familiar with the duo, you probably already know a few of their songs. Turns out, Apple loves them. The tech giant has utilized not one but three of their songs–the aforementioned “Drinkee,” and two from this album, “Best Friend” and “Batshit”–in their iPhone commercials. But enough about that. We’re here to discuss “Benadryl,” the as-of-now non-single from their remarkable debut.
There are times in my life where my fellow Colorful Monsters correspondents tell me I should listen to an album, leading me to listening to the first song from it and then doing something else. Whether or not the artist is any good is beyond my comprehension as I am a very picky listener. If this blog was Look At This And Why I Hate It, I would talk to you about songs from those occurrences. Instead, we have a rare example where an album is so gosh darn catchy that I wake up to the music in my head.
I think 4 months has been quite enough. While Ellis had already starting throwing his thoughts into the digital vacuum with some really good tunes, I’m just now bursting with songs and albums that I can’t wait to share with anyone who would listen. And there’s really no better way to start my first Colorful Monsters article of the year than with a heavy, noisy, absolutely-catastrophic, loud electronic beast of a song, “This World Is Sick,” by IC3PEAK.