“It’s not giving up when it’s a losing game.”

“Zero-Sum” by Charlie Lim | Now, us getting the timing of Charlie Lim’s new album Check-Hook off is unforgivable. Again, I’ve been so busy, I didn’t realize the album dropped six weeks back or so. And to think I knew he was coming here (well, technically, he already was here, performing with Clara Benin). I finally dived into the album yesterday morning, knowing that there’s a slight shift of sound, singer-songwriters exploring that minimal, slightly electrified R&B vein being common these days. And while the record sort of lags in the end, it’s still an interesting journey, because you always just knew there was more to Charlie than being gentle; there was always that undertone in him I couldn’t quite place. Or maybe I’m gathering all that because the music video for “Zero-Sum” is more claustrophobic than that one that suggests a plane crash[NB]

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“Two steps forward. Two steps back. It’s the same every day.”

“Wasteful” by River Fury | It’s becoming a recurring theme on the blog, how I’ve been too busy to get through everything on the inbox. (Especially the past month.) Thankfully it’s not too late for me to get my hands on this from new London band River Fury, whose debut EP Five Year Plan dropped last week. (Not too late, because it’s been waiting on my inbox for a month or so.) “Wasteful” sets the tone for the four-piece’s debut: there’s definitely the punk spirit in here, but it’s all overtaken by psychedelic influences (but not too much) which lends this a flavor that I appreciate, that you don’t see many others attempt. It can be crunchy when needed, and it can be smoother when needed. I’m honestly glad I found the email and listened to the whole thing through; typing this I honestly feel a bit excited. What’s next, boys? [NB] (Have things I should hear? Drop me a line here.)

How to collect pop music from down under, part five: the dance course

Australians love to have a good time, or so the stereotype goes. Musically, it shows, with a lot of dance acts – DJs, producers, everyone else in between – making lots of waves, with some lucky enough to sneak out of the country and make it big globally. But since the development of Aussie pop music centered mostly on rock and pop, it took a while for the electronic scene to break through to the mainstream and become an essential part of the landscape – well, essential enough to make me feel old, because this never really was the music of my youth. But soldier on we must.

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Review: Blue;S by Mamamoo

Blue;S by MamamooI’ve long accepted that Mamamoo won’t return to the retro-flavored sound that established them years ago, but their recent releases have been frustrating. In their pursuit of pop trends, their last couple of releases – part of a four-mini project that was supposed to run the whole year – have seen their members’ talents a bit squandered, bearing the weight of the visual concept. (Red Moon, I am looking at you with disappointment.) Now comes Blue;S, the third installment in said project, and it’s… encouraging? It’s definitely the most consistent album they’ve released since Melting, although only one of its tracks – the single “Wind Flower” – gets close to channeling that full-length’s retro charms. The mini does not attempt to shake off Mamamoo’s newfound preference for the epic, but it does tone it down a bit; the mini actually sounds wispy. But the group (and the producers behind them) smartly take a step back and bring the focus back on the vocals, the very thing that got them recognized better than most. Oh, the harmonies. I have missed them. It no longer sounds like they’re showing off at each other’s expense, but rather, working together. This moment may not last, but it’s a comforting one nonetheless. [NB] | 4/5

Review: Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out! by Art Brut

Wham! Bang! Pow! Let's Rock Out! by Art BrutArt Brut’s one of those bands that were of their time when they came out – that mix of post-punk vitality and a delivery that most definitely is a nod, or two, towards the Fall – but now feel a little adrift considering what else is going on around them. It’s not to say that they haven’t moved on with the times: they really couldn’t, and they really shouldn’t. Art Brut’s most interesting angle is really the heights their past songs have aimed for, and while Wham! Band! Pow! Let’s Rock Out! – their first album in seven years – doesn’t quite go that far, choosing instead for more relateable stories with their added quirks, they still have the power that reminds us of the good old times. The record zips nicely (and fast) and it somewhat revives the charm of their early albums, when everything still seemed within reach. Or at least that’s how it felt. [NB]4/5