5.The Life of Pablo: album – Kanye West
Kanye West’s ‘The Life of Pablo’ – which I’ve only recently heard because it has just appeared on Spotify – is a little problematic to me. First let me say pretty much any Kanye album is, for me, more interesting than a lot of the music out there. But there seems to be too many times where he talks about having sex with other women, which apart from probably not being the best thing for his wife to hear, often comes across as unsavoury. Worst example that comes to mind, which is on ‘Famous’: ‘I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex’. I’m sure Taylor Swift would love hearing that.
I suppose West did the same thing on ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ and I loved it, but back then his holding up his ‘assholeness’ for inspection was newer and done with more creativity and humour. But anyway, as I said, it’s still Kanye and it’s still worth a listen. The production is always good at least.
Has it really been eight years since the Last Shadow Puppets released their first album? Lead Puppets Alex Turner and Miles Kane were only 21 when it was released. Since then I’ve gotten married, got promoted, bought a house, left my job, found another job, left that job too, found another job, had a kid, enjoyed a Miles Kane single, and saw that the Last Shadow Puppets had returned. And they seem pretty much the same. Except that ‘Bad Habits’ is probably the snotty flipside to the luscious ‘60s sound they had on their first album, which may be why it stands out for me.
I didn’t include this track on ‘the Five’ a month or so back when it was first released, but it’s grown on me since then. It’s a pretty standard Yeasayer single, but that’s generally a good thing – poppy, colourful, futuristic, and with every instrument plus the kitchen sink in it.
One line can’t help but stand out: ‘She only needs my help pleasuring herself beneath the rue leaves’. If that is really as straightforward as it sounds it’s the type of direct, lewd reference that I wouldn’t have expected Yeasayer to make. Which probably means that it isn’t saying what I think. Unless Yeasayer are counting on me to think that. I don’t know, I can rarely work out what they’re saying …
M83 seems devoted to recapturing the snippets of radio that our generation sleepily heard in the 1980s – the ‘hypnagogic’ as Simon Reynolds called it – which spirited us away to another, higher place: think ‘Together in Electric Dreams’ here. ‘Kim & Jessie’ did it well. ‘Midnight City’ did it best. ‘Solitude’ is good at it as well. That lovely, high-voiced chorus of ‘No-o-o-o-o-oh’ appeals to the tired little five-year-old in me.
1.The Hope Six Demolition Project: album – PJ Harvey
Reactions to ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’, PJ Harvey’s latest album and venture, have been generally favourable, though sometimes in a qualified way. Unlike the universally acclaimed ‘Let England Shake’, its musical and thematic predecessor, it’s not totally clear what the purpose of the album is. It seems to be observing shitty situations from around the world, but the album’s critics have noted that Harvey’s approach can sometimes come off as thoughtless and exploitative. For example, the opening track ‘The Community of Hope’ calls a poor, D.C. neighbourhood’s school ‘a shithole’, and its drugged-out citizens ‘zombies’. I don’t think Harvey is being as uncharitable as some have suggested, but compared to the considerate, well-crafted lyrics of ‘Let England Shake’ they do seem a little flawed at least.
‘The Community of Hope’ though is actually one of my favourite tracks on the album, and that is because musically it’s great. Even better is the next track ‘The Ministry of Defense’, in which Harvey’s all-male backing chorus from ‘Let England … ’ return to echo her revulsion. And ‘The Wheel’ I raved about here a couple of months back. ‘Let England Shake’ is probably the better achievement, but I think I actually like this album more because of the way it rocks along. Which once again shows that the most important thing to me is not what a song says, but that it has a good tune.