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Album Review: Women In Music Pt. III – The HAIM Sister Are Up to… Something.

Women In Music Pt. III; Haim

Rating – /Must listen if you’re a fan./

Haim – The Steps

The Haim sisters are known for their love of LA and taking walks on the sunny streets of the city, and it is also the feeling that carries on into their projects – little happy/sad sunny pop songs that go perfect with the mood of driving around Los Angeles on a summer morning. I really enjoyed their first album but to be honest I was kinda disappointed by their second as it really really didn’t have much to offer except the unique bright style the band has cultivated. This is where Women in Music Pt. III really succeeds, while it is still a collection of sunny happy/sad songs, it is also much more. With this album, it feels as though the Haim sisters are finally up to something – a big exploration of themselves and their journey.

The videos to accompany their third album, Women in Music Part III, nod to the strolls of the past and add in a few new twists. In “Now I’m in it” directed again by the master Paul Thomas Anderson, bassist Este and guitarist Alana carry Danielle (lead vocals, production, guitar) on a stretcher; when Danielle is revived and joins her sisters for their signature walk, she casts a knowing glance straight to camera. In another video, they’re followed by a gloomy saxophonist ; in another, they stand rooted to their spots. These videos show the evolution of Haim, whose songwriting on WIMPIII is likewise more nuanced, more self-aware, and frequently darker than ever before.

The biting satire of the album’s title is something of a red herring for its explicitly personal content. In interviews, each sister has described a personal trauma that she brought to the studio. Alana has spoken of the grief she suffered when a best friend passed away at age 20, and Este has talked about the low points of living with Type 1 diabetes. Most felt is Danielle’s deep depression; she traces its origin to when her partner (and co-producer) Ariel Rechtstaid was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2015.

Historically, Haim’s lyrics have been conversational and straightforward: emotionally incisive, sure, but usually vague enough that you could easily place yourself inside them. On WIMPIII, though, Danielle writes in vivid scenes, pulling you inside her personal depression fog. She blinks awake and finds herself at the wheel of a car; she watches TV and stares at the ceiling; she goes to the boulevard and can’t stop crying. On the stomping country-rock of “I’ve Been Down,” she sings about taping up the windows of her house, adding sardonically, “But I ain’t dead yet. Elsewhere, the sisters cut and paste the most offensive interview questions they’ve faced from music journalists (“Do you make the same faces in bed?”) into a candid folk song that channels the spirit of Joni Mitchell.

Danielle was also inspired by André 3000’s solo album The Love Below, an exploratory record that sewed together disparate genres with uninhibited slapstick humor. While WIMPIII is more theatrical than Haim have been before—there’s the gasp that opens the underwater rock song “Up From a Dream,” the “you up?” voicemail skits on “3 AM”—the most obvious similarity is in the band’s newfound musical fluidity. With signature production touches from Rostam throughout, these songs shift gears, often eschewing Haim’s usual summery rock to find the right genre for the mood, sometimes containing different shades within the same track. “All That Ever Mattered” peppers Danielle’s vocals with distorted screams and a mumbled interjection of “fuck no, before pirouetting away into a glam-rock guitar solo. “3 AM” and “Another Try” flirt with falsetto-driven funk and R&B, and “I Know Alone,” a song about depression-scrolling and sleeping through the day, contains dusty echoes of UK garage.

Not every song feels like a pioneering event. “Don’t Wanna” could have lived on any of Haim’s three albums: a tight pop-rock song built around an irrepressible guitar lick and an oblique story of a relationship in trouble. But their most exciting trips go off the beaten path, like the crystalline sad banger “Now I’m in It”—a song that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Taylor Swift’s Lover. This may be the first Haim album that steps out of its retro groove long enough to draw parallels with other contemporary pop music, specifically Rechtshaid and Danielle’s recent work with Vampire Weekend. Having long since proven their chops when it comes to writing a breezy 1970s-style rock song, they now sound comfortable enough within their niche to push beyond it.

WIMPIII is bookended by two songs about L.A., both featuring a saxophone and wistful “doot-do-do” backing vocals. On the first, “Los Angeles,” Danielle describes falling out of love with her hometown. But in the final song, “Summer Girl”—while its melody hits a similarly melancholic vein—she interpolates Lou Reed as she sings about the relief of coming home to L.A. from tour to be with her partner. She’s anguished when she sings that she’s “thinking ’bout leaving” the city, but hushed and reverent on a later line when she reflects on how much she misses it: “L.A. on my mind, I can’t breathe.” Placed beside each other, the two songs take on new dimensions. It’s Haim as we haven’t quite heard them before: not just eminently proficient musicians, entertainers, and “women in music,” but full of flaws and contradictions, becoming something much greater.

Fav Tracks: //The Steps/ Up from a Dream/ Gasoline/ Don’t Wanna/ Leaning on you/ Man from the Magazine/ FUBT/ Bonus Tracks- Now I’m in it/ Hallelujah//

Least Fav Tracks- //Another Try//

Women In Music Pt III review

So what did you think Haim’s new album?

Do let me know in the comments!

Album Review: Fetch the Bolt Cutters – Fiona Apple’s fifth record is bonkers and deliriously beautiful.

FETCH THE BOLT CUTTERS – FIONA APPLE (Alternative/Indie)

Rating – “It’s great” / worth adding to your collection.

According to recent “New Yorker” article, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” is a reference to a scene in “The Fall,” the British police procedural starring Gillian Anderson as a sex-crimes investigator; Anderson’s character calls out the phrase after finding a locked door to a room where a girl has been tortured. This theme of crimes against women, men in power and femininity appears throughout the whole album. Like all of Apple’s projects, this one was taking a long while to emerge, arriving through a slow-drip process of creative self-interrogation that has produced, over a quarter century, a narrow but deep songbook. But that time surely helped Fiona in the direction of the album, since in between all those years she kept quiet, big movements like The #Metoo Movement has shaped the entertainment industry.

Fiona Apple has been in the business for 25 years now, but this is only her fifth full length album. And while she has always worked under a male producer in her early career, this is her first album that she has produced herself and she has made to let it all loose. Musically, this is easily the craziest and most bonkers production on an album I have heard this year. And unless you can find another song from this year that features a dog’s bones as percussion, I’ll have to say that my claim is right. It has some of the most innovative sonic directions on a recent EP, even considering Fiona’s standards. For example the title track – Fetch the Bolt Cutters – features a dog’s barking noise as bass and Fiona’s orgasmic noises in the outro, Also on the opening track – I Want You to Love Me – the singer hiccups in ecstasy, facing off against an arpeggiating piano as though competing to climax first. And the piano in here is a masterpiece in itself, but that’s obvious, given Fiona’s reputation as pianist.

Lyrically too, Fiona is taking a lot of shots in this album. Just like the Strokes album from last week (another artist making a comeback this year), there’s a lot of looking back in this albums. Fiona looks back at her childhood in New York, growing up as a musical prodigy and getting fame at an early age of 17 in the uneasy times of 90’s. Men in power who who use women for their benefits and sexual predators are definitely are the first target of Fiona. And even though the music behind the song is overblown, Fiona doesn’t compensate on the lyrics, the songs here are very wordy, even more than they’ve ever been. What set’s the lyrics in this project apart, is that even though it’s dealing with such heavy subjects – they are funny as hell. But that’s not all in here, Fiona talks about past relationships, bad boyfriends, her younger self and even takes shots at high society culture. In fact major her own mind and trying to figure herself out by glancing at the past is one of the major themes. “I would beg to disagree, but begging disagrees with me,” she swaggers on Under the Table, a wickedly funny song about how she is a nightmare date at pompous dinner parties. (“Kick me under the table all you want.”)

Fav Tracks – I Want You to Love Me/ Shameika/ Fetch the Bolt Cutters/ Under The Table/ Newspaper/ Ladies/ Drumset/ On I go/ Cosmonauts/ Rack of life/

Least Fav Track – Heavy Baloon

In conclusion, all I want to say is this it is a really good album that doesn’t fear to take any risks and even if you are not into R&B or indie music, you should definitely give this album a listen. I mean it’s not like you have much else to do right now. Trust me, give it a try and maybe you will be able to appreciate all it’s weirdness too.

And meanwhile, do let me know what you thought about the album in the comments!

Album Review: The New Abnormal by The Strokes

**Before I begin, since this is my first review on the blog I think I should explain my rating system here. I don’t want to use the usual star or number rating system as I’m unable to put my verdict of something I consume in numerical terms. Instead, I’ll try to rate them in terms of what I feel of them. So here’s the rating metric I’m going to use, from best to worst :

  1. Instant / Classic
  2. “It’s great” / worth adding to your collection.
  3. Must listen/ see/ read if you’re a fan.
  4. //stream it once it’s free//
  5. //meh..//
  6. //fun for the high time//
  7. //skip it.//
  8. Horrendous. Piece. Of. Shit.

So i guess we’re good to go.**

THE NEW ABNORMAL – THE STROKES

Rating – “It’s great” /worth adding to your collection.

Okay, I should tell you that this is my first Strokes album. I was born in 2001, so I missed out on the early 2000s hype surrounding them. And their work since then has really been sub-par, with a really uneventful 2010s for them. But I know about them and I understand why they’re so beloved by so many. I have listened to their earlier music and I love it. So, when I heard “At the Door”, their latest single from their new album, I was super hyped. I was about to witness my first Strokes album.

And honestly I’m not disappointed. After seven years of hiatus have finally come back with an album which is possibly their best since their 2006 album “First impressions of the truth.” And what better, they have matured a lot since then, which is very evident on this project. The Strokes are known to look back at earlier periods like the eighties and pay homage to them, and while they still do that in this album, they are also looking back at something more. They are reminiscing at their early times as a band, New York from when they were young and past friendships and relationships among others. This nostalgia drives the sound of this album. The guitar riffs and over the top synths are very 80’s in here, which is very classic of the Strokes, yet they add to that sound in here. They beautifully nudge between poppy dance rock and ambient rock ballads, supported by the high pitched falsetto of Julian Casablancas and his extraordinary vocal abilities.

Lyrically too, The Strokes have matured a lot. Their ideas are more clear and easy to digest in this album. The lyrics are simple and dark, and while it might seem pretentious at some points, Julian’s delivery makes them work. The themes of the album are petty universal, so almost anybody will be able to connect to the lyrics. Also, the writing here is really witty and smart which adds to the fun of the songs. While there’s no storyline per se in the album, the overall themes connect beautifully. Each track has it’s own thing to say and they all together complete the story that the Strokes are trying to paint here. For example the opening track “The Adults are Talking” is shot at people in power or rich businessmen, followed by “Selfless” which is a rock ballad where Julian sings about an old romance, while the album ends on “An ode to the Mets” where The strokes talk about their childhood memories and give a tribute to their city – New York.

Fav Tracks: At the Door, Ode to the Mets, Bad decisions, Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus, Selfless, The Adults are Talking, Not The same anymore.

Least Fav Tracks: Why Are Sunday’s so Depressing

Overall, I loved this album. While it might not be a classic like The Stroke’s debut album “Is this It”, “The New Abnormal” is the best work they have put out in recent memory. It is great album and if you love the Strokes, you should definitely buy it and add it to your collection.

So that’s it for this, I’ll be back with another review shortly. Do let me know what you thought about the album in the comment below!

A Kurt Cobain Appreciation post; on his 26th Death Anniversary

Kurt Cobain means a lot to me. Not just his music, but him as person. How does someone who’s been dead for longer than I’ve been alive, affect my life so much? I don’t know, but that’s the power Kurt had – he influenced and connected with an entire generation. Like Lars Ulrich of Metallica said “with Kurt Cobain you felt you were connecting to the real person, not to a perception of who he was — you were not connecting to an image or a manufactured cut-out. You felt that between you and him there was nothing — it was heart-to-heart. There are very few people who have that ability”

Now I don’t know what it must’ve felt like hearing the news of Kurt’s suicide on 5th April 1994 at the age of 27 (though the body was discovered three days later), but from what I’ve heard, it’s one the saddest days in rock history. I know this much, if I were alive back then I would probably lock myself in a room for the whole day and not talk to anyone. But that’s not what happened. In fact I only started to listen to nirvana’s music two years back. I had obviously heard of them and listened to smells like teen spirit, but other than that no real connection. But over the past two years they have grown to become one of my favorite bands of all time.

A portrait of the young man as an artist. For his eighth birthday in February 1975, Kurt received this easel from his paternal grandparents. Comic book characters were his favorite art subjects in childhood; he began with Disney-related fare, such as Donald Duck, but quickly moved to superheroes. Here, Kurt is copying the cover from Giant-Size Werewolf #4, an April 1975 Marvel comic.

Now this post isn’t about nirvana’s music or a review of their entire catalog, I just wanted to share with you my love Kurt Cobain and what he means to me. I feel a lot of personal connection with Kurt, things about his early life that reflect my own. Kurt had a tough childhood, a dysfunctional family and his parents divorced when he was small. He loved comic books and would sit in his class making drawings and sketches. He developed hatred for his father as he lived with him and later his mother, whose boyfriend abused her, which really left a emotional stain on Kurt. Kurt didn’t like sports but still pretended to be interested and played with others in school. He listened to classical and punk rock songs with passion since he was a kid. He also suffered from diseases like bronchitis from a very early age. He later fell prey to chronic diseases like depression in high school and also spent a period homeless. Now, these are not reasons to love someone, but somewhere, I feel Kurt would understand my life since it’s so much similar to his. But the most important thing is he survived through all those problems and lived fearlessly, which makes me look up to him even more.

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana during the taping of MTV Unplugged at Sony Studios in New York City, 11/18/93. Photo by Frank Micelotta.

But let’s be honest we wouldn’t be talking about Kurt today if it wasn’t for his music. Nirvana was a revolutionary act. Before them, alternative music was considered underground music, only for a niche. But Nirvana made Alternative music mainstream. And thanks to them Alternative music still remains one of the top genres in terms of quality and content. Nirvana became famous with their global hit single ‘smells like teen spirit’, from their 1991 album “Nevermind”. The album also earned great reviews for them and a tour deal for two years. And in no time they became the most adored rock stars of early 90’s. Their sound was revolutionary, inspired by artists like Iggy Pop and Pixies, it made wave for a new kind of music. Their music was raw, unfiltered and loud and it always left an impact on you. They had the ability to get to you.

An entry from Kurt’s journal.

But let’s talk about Kurt’s lyrics for a minute. I know he said they don’t mean anything and it’s useless to try and find any deeper meaning in them. He also said what’s most important to him while writing songs are melodies, and he writes lyrics just around them. Now I don’t know, I certainly don’t more about his own music than him, but his lyrics mean so much to me. They speak to me. According to his band mates he was even obsessed over writing lyrics and spent a long time during the process. He also would often rearrange and rewrite lines while recording them in studio. Also his journals reveal his love for writing and poetry. Trust me, if you ever get a chance, read his journals. And even when he was one of the biggest stars, self doubt hadn’t left him. He often writes about feeling worthless and about his depressive periods in his journals. I find Kurt’s lyrics very similar to Sylvia Plath’s poetry. They are both simple on the surface but possess really dark themes and deep meaning in them, if you listen carefully. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the band’s third and last studio album, “In Utero”, which contains some of Kurt’s most heartbreaking lyrics ever. What makes his lyrics so emotional is that there is no bridge between the words and the man. It is raw and exposes every part of Kurt out for display. He talks to you and you talk back to him, and the words stay with you forever.

Kurt’s suicide note.

Well, now I know that this story doesn’t have a happy ending. I know about his drug addiction, I know about the controversies, I know about his destructive relationship with Courtney Love, I know about his struggles with fame and the pain it caused him, and I know that he killed himself. But I don’t want to remember all that today, that’s just the shadow of the man I love, which he couldn’t avoid any longer. It had been hanging there with him for a long time and his time had come. No, I want to remember the man who defied the shadow, the man who brought light when the sun was gone. I want to remember the man who loved to drink strawberry milk. I want to remember the man who loved making sketches of Donald duck. I want to remember the man who spoke about the poor and damaged, the man who gave them a voice. I want to remember the man who was one of the first feminists and LGBT+ rights activists. I want to remember the beautiful man who sang like an angle, and tried to make a change. I want to remember the real Kurt Cobain.