Review: Purple by Mamamoo

Purple by MamamooJust a few weeks ago Sistar released their last single, marking the last of many Korean summers spent with a frothy, bouncy bop from the group. (That last bop was, uncharacteristically, a ballad.) It wasn’t a gap ripe to be filled, but the timing of all this meant someone will inevitably look like they’re trying to. Unfortunately for Mamamoo, they’re playing that role. Purple‘s empowerment-themed title track, “Yes I Am”, brings them back to the template they perfected on “Um Oh Ah Yeh” (and the one they deviated from on their last single “Decalcomanie”) but it’s now clear they’re dropping the retro sound that made them popular in the first place. It’s made for the disco; it’s definitely Sistar territory; luckily the good, non-annoying side of it. However, Mamamoo’s current awkward artistic phase – which first came to light on the ultimately confused Memory – has rubbed off on Purple, highlighting some sort of existential crisis. Will they go the way of the dance floor, or will they keep their streak of larrikinism (as they had then with “Taller Than You”, as they have now with “Aze Gag”)? Will they keep on throwing half-baked bait to fans (Moonbyul finally sings – solo at that – on the ultimately ill-fitting “Out Of The Way”) or will they build on the vocal chemistry the group clearly has? I’d love Mamamoo to find their way sooner or later, but it feels like they’re getting deeper into the woods. [NB]3/5

Review: Crack-Up by Fleet Foxes

Crack-Up by Fleet FoxesIt’s been six years since Fleet Foxes released Helplessness Blues, with Robin Pecknold putting the project on hold when he decided to study. Their return was gradual, too, littered with clues, as if leading us back to the warm, pastoral sound the group somewhat pioneered with their successful debut back in 2008. But, yes, the world has changed, and so has Fleet Foxes; their new record, Crack-Up, sees them continue to pursue that folk sound, but take in more influences. The result is a sound that feels serene but has some sort of darkness lurking within. Sure, they have been dark (don’t tell me “Mykonos” isn’t) but it’s like they could no longer keep the illusion going, like all the trees around them have been taken down, to be replaced by fossil fuel-burning factories. Dare I say, it feels like a response to the Trump presidency. However, as much as the album takes some pride in being able to keep it all together, I get the feeling that they themselves could not quite ease into it. Six years is a long time, and things have to be shaken off. That air of hesitation makes for an interesting record, sure, but Crack-Up somehow fails to go as far as it should. [NB]3/5

Review: Melodrama by Lorde

Melodrama by LordePure Heroine, Lorde’s debut album from almost four years ago, was such a breath of fresh air when it dropped. It was a pop record masquerading as an alternative record – or an alternative record masquerading as a pop record. Deceivingly accessible, it proved to be more nuanced than anybody expected. Melodrama builds on all that – but first, let’s be honest; perhaps nobody was really expecting that. It’s been four years since Ella Yelich-O’Connor debuted and somehow took the pop world by storm; four years since we were introduced to her observations laid over deliriously trippy beats. A lot has happened since and “Royals” has since disappeared from the rear view mirror. Here comes Melodrama, building on Pure Heroine, and the result is a record that feels warmer, and has more heart, than its predecessor. Lorde seems to bare herself more, delving deep to deliver non-cheesy songs about coming of age. Perhaps it’s also the decision to shift away from the gloomy and trippy, and more towards the serene: from “Green Light” unexpectedly moving into house-ish sounds at the very beginning, to the cathartic “Liabilities” and “Perfect Places”, we’re put on the passenger seat, rather than the back of the bus. Now, if only I could relate to it all. [NB]4/5

“I was lightning before the thunder.”

“Thunder” by Imagine Dragons | I’m not really up to date with new music of a particular persuasion these days, so I am writing about this new Imagine Dragons tracks a month behind. I am irritated by this song. Quite irritated. I don’t know why either. Imagine Dragons are a band I never loved or hated, but rather have learned to tolerate, but never further. I never sought out their songs, never was compelled to listen to them (despite what I wrote here) and have learned to live without them. But then I hear this song, which seems well-intentioned, but strikes me as a group of guys taking the piss off everyone with a riff that is, well, quite irritating. “Thunder!” like you’re being mocked. Luckily, I can move on. [NB]

“There’s more hidden inside of me.”

“Hidden” by Bianca Rose | We’ve had good words for No Fear Here, the album from British singer Bianca Rose, a few months back, so when she dropped the new music video for another one of the tracks in there, “Hidden”, we’ve had to feature it. We all need a tonic even in the middle of the week, don’t we? Perhaps we also need the song’s message, but, you know, it’s been so noisy lately, so I’ll just leave this here, as is. Enjoy. [NB] (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)