Artist: Kanye West
Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Kanye West is not a happy bunny. Over the course of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, he proposes “a toast to the douchebags,” admits he’s “a muthafuckin’ monster” and eventually expresses his pure exasperation whilst meditating on the draining, unforgiving nature of fame and celebrity, proclaiming: “You know this shit is fuckin’ ridiculous.”
Consequently, this album would merely constitute endless unsavoury whining from the self-obsessed self-confessed “abomination of Obama’s nation,” were it not for the fact that said millionaire happens to be hugely talented. From the so-ludicrous-it-works harmony-inflected beats which powerfully permeate ‘Power’ to the fine supporting cast consisting of the cream of contemporary hip hop (and Bon Iver) which excel throughout, the record provides one of the most thoroughly enjoyable listening experiences of the year.
Moreover, West does display occasional moments of exquisite tenderness to counterbalance his merciless bitching, such as on the heartfelt ballad ‘Devil in a New Dress’, or in the album’s tragedy-imbued core theme concerning the impossibility of finding love amidst the vacuity of fame.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy thus aptly wraps up a fine year for soul-tinged hip hop, standing as it does alongside similarly superb releases from Big Boi, Drake and Cee Lo.
In a Nutshell: Rivals Late Registration as his finest record to date, while serving as ample compensation for anyone who tried listening to 808s and Heartbreak.
Artist: Take That
I can’t lie about this album; it is excellent. Despite being that godawful band that released ‘Back For Good’, this album truly redefines my feelings about Take That. It marks a departure from Take That’s ballad-orientated roots and ventures into new electronic-orientated territory, and it works (for the most part).
Standout tracks include the fast-paced ‘SOS’ – a song that is infuriatingly catchy and well written and ‘What Do You Want From Me’, which seamlessly combines their new sound with Barlow’s incredible songwriting talent.
However, the album does occasionally falter. The song ‘Wait’ is just a bizarre mixture of a pseudo hip-hop beat and a slow-paced chorus; it sounds like a bad version of Soft Cell. Thankfully though, there are only one or two songs like this.
In a nutshell: Maddeningly catchy electronica-infused pop bliss.
Artist: Various Artists
Album: Brand New Day
It is difficult to make a compilation CD for suicide prevention without falling into the territory of obnoxiously uplifting songs. Unfortunately, Brand New Day fails to dodge the sentimental bullet and falls pray at many points to clichéd soft-rock pieces, harking back to unimaginative and indifferent styles of Irish bands such as The Script; tracks by Hamlet’s Sweeney and Jimi Cullen being perhaps the worst offenders as they are drenched in insipid sentimentality.
However, hidden within the array of sappy tracks are some beautiful pieces of music, demonstrating the wide variety of talent on offer in the Irish music scene at the moment.
From refreshingly upbeat tracks by Chucky’s River and The Riptide Movement to moving lyrical pieces by Joey Ryan and the especially talented Sive, Brand New Day does display moments of brilliant songwriting. It merits a listen for its interesting and varied compilation of contemporary Irish musicians, who at times provide songs of a new and exciting style, and also for the extremely worthwhile cause it promotes.
In a nutshell: A varied mix of songs, which differ throughout in their musical merits.
Album: The World is Yours
Grade: 3 stars
Original. Inventive. Challenging. These are concepts one has to forget when listening to Motorhead. The World is Yours is Lemmy and co’s 20th release, but it has barely evolved from their first. Their demented, distorted and debauched take on blues and metal is perfectly preserved, and thankfully so.
‘Born to Lose’ and ‘Outlaw’ make classic heavy metal with three unique ingredients: Mikkey Dee’s double-pedal drums, Phil Campbell’s virtuoso fretwork, and, of course, Lemmy’s iconic rebel persona. ‘Bye Bye Bitch Bye Bye’, the perfect anti-love song, and the meta-tribute ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Music’ could be the work of a demonic Chuck Berry.
Unfortunately, we’ve heard it all before on better Motorhead albums. But ignore this drawback, and the cringe-inducing attempts at social commentary (‘Get Back in Line’ and ‘Brotherhood of Man’), and you’ve got some dependable head-banging material.
In a Nutshell: Badass heavy metal, with no additives or artificial ingredients.
Album: Ladies’ Night
Grade: 3 stars
Sligo brought us William Butler Yeats, but it also gave us three members of Westlife. So where does The Dead Flags fit in with the aforementioned people? Their EP Ladies’ Night starts off with ‘Girls’ – a song which sounds like goody two-shoes bands such as The Feeling singing about uninteresting sexual mishaps.
‘O My Love! O My God!’ has a summer anthem aura about it. Punters will certainly be jiving to this indie track, with its trad backbone. ‘Let the Night Begin’ brings on heavier Strokes-style guitar riffs and their cover of ‘Raspberry Beret’ is a refreshing and modern take on Prince’s classic song.
Included on the EP are two remixes of ‘Let’s Start a Fire Tonight’. The ‘Holy Roman Army’ version sounds incredibly tacky, like watered-down Kraftwerk with less innovation. Stellarsound’s take on the song, however, is far more interesting: with vocals like something Wild Beasts might proffer over a Crystal Castles backdrop. This is a talented band, with the potential to make a significant impact on the Irish music scene.
In a nutshell: A band to watch out for.