Thursday, 30 January 2014

Heavy Metal Mouth Magazine: The 2013 Annual

Well, here it is, my first issue under the Heavy Metal Mouth moniker, and hopefully just the first of many. Take some time to check it out and of course, feedback is always appreciated. Thanks to everybody for reading and as always, stay tuned for more reviews and news next month.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Retro Album Reviews: Part 2 (Guided By Voices, Sebadoh, Raekwon & More)

My second part of retro album reviewing has a distinct lo-fi feel to it with classics from Guided By Voices, Pavement and Sebadoh. Throw in some legendary hardcore rap from Raekwon and Mobb Deep and you've got yourself a pretty good week of tunes. Weirdly, all of these came from 1994/95 with the exception of Sebadoh and Pavement's debut work, which was unintentional but a cool surprise all the same.

Big L- Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous (1995)

You're nobody till somebody kills you; Harlem rapper Big L recevied average reviews when he dropped his debut album in 1995 but nowadays, following his murder in 1999, Lifestylez is heralded as a 90's hip-hop classic, its rightful status in my opinion. L is a lyrical maestro for sure and he flows with surprisingly accomplished vocabulary over sampled production and typical 90's beats, but the standout aspect of Big L's only lifetime release is the very real, visceral nature of the street tales that the New York native spits. A truly underrated 1990's hip-hop classic.

Best Tracks: MVP/Street Struck/Da Graveyard


Guided By Voices- Bee Thousand (1994) /Alien Lanes (1995)

A typical Guided By Voices album whizzes past so quickly that it's difficult to distinguish actual track titles and their place within the half hour and 20 odd songs you've just taken in, and you'll probably need to rewind in order to truly comprehend the brilliance of their unique brand of homemade rock. It's a good thing then, that they're so effortlessly relistenable. This is true indie rock at its greatest and most original.

Best Tracks: Smothered In Hugs/Echos Myron/I Am A Scientist  Best Tracks: A Salty Salute/A Good Flying Bird/My Valuable Hunting Knife

Mobb Deep- The Infamous (1995)

When Prodigy tells you on the now immortal ''Shook Ones Pt. II'' that ''I'm only nineten but my mind is older/And when the shit gets real my warm heart turns cold'', he means it. He also means it when he says his ''gunshots will make you levitate'' and he'll ''stab your brain with your nosebone'', and that's just for starters, because what you're getting with Mobb Deep and their career defining 1995 release The Infamous is non compromising, brutally violent and relentlessly dark rap music that is as much a product of its enviroment as any other album in modern music. The sheer intensity of the blistering, unforgiving 66 minutes of the Queensbridge duo's second album is what makes it such an unforgettable masterpiece; this is the very real sound of growing up in the New York projects and fighting for survival in the game, captured inside a bottle comprised of raw beats, haunting soundscapes, outstanding visual lyricism, hyper agressive flow and true grit atitude. Quite simply, one of the most perfect rap albums ever created.

Best Tracks: Tempatures Rising/Trife Life/Shook Ones Part II


Pavement- Slanted And Enchanted (1992) / Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994)

In many ways, Pavement inherited the torch that was passed in 1994 when Kurt Cobain ended his own life, Nirvana and Grunge music with a shotgun. There was no obvious stand out rock band for the remainder of the 1990's until Radiohead came along and changed everything with OK Computer in 1997, but in between those three years there was a band working so quietly and immacutely that they proved just as important if not as celebrated as the aforementioned two. Pavement began their eccentric genius form of rock in 1992 with Slanted & Enchanted but perfected it by '94 with quite possibly the greatest product of indie rock ever in Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. Both of these albums carried the unmistakable sound of lo-fi that shared its sludgy guitar hooks and improvised riffs with early 90's output, yet underneath the surface there was something deeper that resonated, calling the listener back for more to discover new depths and levels to these works of art.

The underground, muffled intellect and wit of Pavement's work would only come to light through the pioneering bands of the late'90's and early '00's, but the presence of this shimmering second life behind the band's four track recorders is what made them the finest of their genre, and one of the most influential of their generation. And it was all on their own terms; only briefly did Pavement ever come close to touching mainstream with the lead single from their magnum opus in 1994, ''Cut Your Hair'', and even that was a disguised, sarcastic atack on the vanity of image concious nature of the music industry, all under the guise of a infectiously catchy 3 minute guitar pop song. Just like their 3 minutes of fame and their resistance to all conventional media, the real brilliance was in the details. You jsut had to look, and listen, closer.

Best Tracks: Unfair/Range Life/Fillmore Jive  Best Tracks: In The Mouth A Desert/Here/Jackals, False Trails: The Lonsesome Era


Raekwon (Feat. Ghostface Killah)- Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... (1995)

The defining product of Wu Tang Clan's solo output (alongside GZA's Liquid Swords) came from Raekwon and Ghostface Killah with the majestic Cuban Linx, an album so rich in story and narrative that it may have been a novel or motion picture in another world. Under their own self appointed monikers, Rae and Ghost set out on a journey to fame and fortune in drug crime game, leading them to quick riches, shady characters, betrayal, revenge and ultimately redemption in the greatest rap story ever told. It's cinematic scope is complimented to perfection by RZA's best ever production (I include both Liquid Swords and 36 Chambers in that assertion) and Rae and Ghost's effortless yet almost impossible flow as they bounce of each other like no hip-hop pairing before.

From its creation of the Mafioso rap genre (and therefore modern superstars such as Jay Z) to its origins of alternate identity rap persona's (Slim Shady anyone?) and even its actual responsibility for the spike in popularity of Cristal champagne, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx was influential in ways that were almost unimaginable to the Clan when they started as a group of struggling performers in the early 90's, and in this way Raekwon's tale of rags to riches reflects the Wu and everything they represent like no album before or since. It's an unabashed statement of greatness, and it continues to be of unrivalled significance for hip-hop in 2014.

Best Tracks: Criminology/Guillotine (Swordz)/Wu-Gambino’s


Sebadoh- The Freed Man (1989)

Lo-fi is one thing, but for the most part, Lou Barlow's earliest recordings under the Sebadoh moniker sound like the mindless, drunken ramblings of a homeless man in a deserted bus terminal or some other similiarly bleak location. There are extremely faint traces of Barlow's ear for melody under weird noise that would be utilized so extraordinarily later (''Crumbs'' sounds a precursor to early Grizzly Bear), but the majority of these songs just fail to make musical sense in a bad way.

You'll find yourself wondering half the time if Barlow is sincere on these tapes at all or if this is just a sick joke (it's hilarious at times, witness this gem taken from ''Soul Mate'': ''Ooh, Im a sad man/I cant ignore what life can hold for me/And Ill probably have to have sex with a lot of girls/Before my soul mate reveals herself to me''). I'm sure there are tons of Sebadoh fans and critics that would consider it blasphemous to denounce any of Barlow's songwriting, who want to cling to these experiments as some form of misunderstood genius, but the simple fact is that this is just extraordinarily awful, droning madness.

Best Tracks: Burning Out/Soul Mate/Crumbs


Sebadoh- Bakesale (1994)

The absolute pinacle of Sebadoh's output for me, Bakesale is such a success for its perfected blend of indie pop/rock and lo-fi aesthetic. While without a doubt this is the most accessible album Barlow and partner Jason Lowenstein ever crafted, there is no trace of compromised quality as tracks like ''Not A Friend'' and ''Together Or Alone'' mark undisputable showcases for the band's greatest songwriting. Sebadoh flirted with mainstream success briefly after their landmark '94 release while expanding their already huge underground fan base, and it's not hard to see why their fifth release brought such acclaim; this is the sound of a band in its prime. Bakesale, alongside Crooked Rain and Bee Thousand, was the fully realized sound of lo-fi music, and still stands up as a defining product of the 1990's today.

Best Tracks: Not A Friend/Not Too Amused/Together Or Alone

You can check out my original set of retro album reviews right here.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

''Post Tropical'' James Vincent McMorrow - A Review

James Vincent McMorrow's debut album Early In The Morning found itself heavily compared to Bon Iver's debut work when released back in 2011 for its isolated, lone wolf acoustic atmosphere and folk stylings, which can be interpreted as both a compliment and detractor for the newcoming Irishman; while the likening of any album to the work of Justin Vernon is undoubtedly a major endorsement, McMorrow isn't quite as single minded as most would have you believe, with Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley also notable influences on the young songwriter. Big names for sure, but these are not unfounded comparisons- Early marked the arrival of one of the most promising Irish talents of the past decade.

Yet it became apparent before the release of Post Tropical that it was not going to be even a nearly similar project to its predecessor. When asked about the production of his second project, McMorrow stated '' soon as that album was created (Early In The Morning), I would never, ever, ever, ever want to repeat that. I mean, I have no interest in repeating myself anyway. It's always going to be different, and so it should be. I think that's the point. The responsibility of a musician is to make new and interesting things.''

That's an admirable statement indeed, and certainly McMorrow's curious choice of location for recording seemed to back up his professed desire for change- a nowhere studio based on a farm in the middle of the Texan desert. And it seems that McMorrow truly did reshape his artistic approach out there, annihilating the folk persona of his debut, with Post Tropical instead employing a range of synths and electronic instruments in favour of a lone guitar and vocal.

''Cavalier'' opens proceedings impressively with no trace of guitars, establishing the tone of the record with a building, climatic opening that strongly recalls the work of another recent major indie sensation; James Blake. This Blake influence carries itself throughout the rest of Post Tropical in tracks like ''Red Dust'' and ''Glacier'', as vocal overdubs combined with emotive piano pieces recall the Londoner in vivid fashion. Elsewhere there is a prevailing hip-hop inspired undercurrent of dub beats on ''All Points'' and the title track which are totally unexpected of McMorrow but work so well for him too. The real highlights of the album however, come in moments like ''Gold'', ''Look Out'' and ''Post Tropical'' with their building beauty and glorious, uplifting essence, while the aptly titled ''Repeating'' is the only remaining clue as to McMorrow's previous identity with it's delicately plucked guitar, but while this acoustic wonder may recall Early, it also falls in effortlessly alongside this collection of dreamy material, which comes to a close with the gentle comedown piece ''Outside, Digging''.

Ultimately, these ten tracks are filled with the a kind of vivid brilliance that goes deeper than the Irishman's debut work and resonates longer in the listener. Post Tropical delivers, without a single pause, a series of all consuming sentimental masterpieces that will leave you breathless, whether it be for their beauty or the stunning transition of McMorrow and the skill he has demonstrated with it.

On Post Tropical, James Vincent McMorrow has proven himself a versatile performer, a greater songwriter than previously credited and a musician of immense promise. The comparisons that accompanied his arrival will now start to fade away due to the fact that McMorrow has crafted an album of near equal brilliance to each of his predeccessors and influences. In early January, McMorrow has delivered an early contender for one of the records of the year before we've even really begun to scratch the surface of 2014, but most importantly, a sophomore production that showcases a rapid development and immense promise for the future.


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Retro Album Reviews: Part 1 (Eminem, Deerhunter, Grimes & More)

As part of a new feature at Heavy Metal Mouth, I'll be taking a look back at albums from the past and reviewing them in condensed style. Since I'm always listening to and finding new music I figure I'll make the most of my thoughts even if it's not a brand new release, so I'll be randomly selecting albums to reconnect with or discover every week and uploading a review for each of them right here, every Wednesday. Feel free to get in touch if you've any suggestions for me to write about or alternatively, try out some of the following if you haven't heard them already.

Another change to the website beginning with this post is my rating system, which I've decided to get a little more specific with. Often last year I found myself constricted by giving simple 7's and 8's to records out of ten and as such, I'm going further in depth with all albums now being assigned a rating between 0.0-10.0. Hopefully this will help you and me to gain a better insight into each album and its quality. Anyway, enough talking, let's get to it:

Action Bronson - Dr. Lecter (2011)

Action Bronson makes incredibly enjoyable music, nothing more, nothing less. He's not striving for critical acclaim or any kind of artistic merit; he's simply just indulging himself in his own eccentric personality, and that's what makes Dr. Lecter such a fun listen. While Bronson will probably never make a classic album, his Ghostface like delivery and larger than life persona will provide you with 15 tracks of purely pleasurable rap as the chef spits about food, blunts and bitches.

Best Tracks: Moonstruck/The Madness/Bag Of Money


Eminem - The Eminem Show (2002)

The Eminem Show is home to some of the rap superstars finest tracks (''Sing For The Moment'', ''Superman''), some very good ones (''Business'', ''Without Me''), and some unfortunate duds (''Drips'' being an early example of the lame horrorcore direction Em would take in later releases, paticularly Relapse). It would be easy to look back and deem this a classic due to the fact that everything went so quickly downhill afterwards, but the fact is that The Eminem Show is simply not consistent enough to be considered equal or even close to The Slim Shady LP or The Marshall Mathers LP. There are still brilliant, exceptional moments here but as Eminem's lifestyle began to change so too did his attitude and passion for the game, meaning that there were tiny cracks already beginning to show by Shady's third release.

Best Tracks: Cleanin' Out My Closet/Superman/Sing For The Moment


Deerhunter - Cyrptograms (2007)

The harsh, punk rock sound of Turn It Up Faggot was an all too brief and distorted first glance at Deerhunter but this was the real deal- Cryptograms exposed the world to the dark, fragile mind of Bradford Cox and his unique stream of consciousness lyrical style, while the gifted band behind him blended an ambient, shoegaze sound with noisy experimentation, recalling a slightly funkier My Bloody Valentine. A bold comparison perhaps you may be thinking, but the truth is there are few bands around these days with such a distinctive, original and compelling sound as Deerhunter, and Cryptograms was an extremely loud and stylish arrival.

Best Tracks: Cryptograms/Lake Somerset/Strange Lights


Grimes - Visions (2012)

In a tremendous oversight back in 2012, I never got around to reviewing Grimes' third and most successful LP to date, Visions. A deserved breakthrough for Claire Boucher and her brand of dreamy synth pop, the abstract electronic beauty of Visions is best displayed on smash hit ''Oblivion'', with its wonderously funky yet chilled out ambience and commercial pop appeal. Visions should only be the beginning now for Bouchier, who'll be back in 2014, most likely with another electro indie classic.

Best Tracks: Genesis/Oblivion/Vowels = space and time


The Internet - Purple Naked Ladies/Feel Good (2011/2013)

Odd Future's Syd Tha Kyd and Matt Martians make up The Internet, a mellow trip hop experiment that stands in stark contrast to their fellow bandmates shock rap stylings, and they are certainly to be admired for their originality even if the final result is somewhat underwhelming. Purple Naked Ladies introduced the soulful chillout beats of the group while featuring appearances from OF affliates like Frank Ocean, Mike G and Left Brain, while last year's Feel Good marked a slightly more developed, consistent approach that noticably lacked input from their more famous friends. If The Internet can condense their overlong trippy wanderings into a more focused, sharper product, then there is a very fine ambient album waiting to happen by this talented production duo.

Best Tracks: They Say/She DGAF/Cocaine  Best Tracks: Sunset/Dontcha/Pupil


 James Vincent McMorrow - Early In The Morning

Irish songwriter James Vincent McMorrow's debut album rightly provoked comparisons to Justin Vernon for its indie-folk inspired tales of despair and lo-fi acoustic sound. There are differences in McMorrow's approach; his is more commercially viable and straightforwardly melodic, while it's nowhere near as passion filled and raw as Bon Iver's debut work. In some ways, despite its well rounded, polished sound (or perhaps because of it), Early In The Morning doesn't exactly inspire reason for you to believe that McMorrow has anything extraordinary or majorly surprising in him, but this years Post Tropical proved the Irishman quite an exceptional, highly developed songwriter. On reflection, and in comparison to new material, this was a careful, quiet and reserved debut that you may not return to quickly, but it's a pleasant experience nontheless.

Best Tracks: Hear That Noise That Moves So Soft And Low/Sparrow And The Wolf/And If My Heart Should Somehow Stop


Monday, 20 January 2014

A Better Tomorrow: The Year Ahead In Music

So 2013 has come to an end and provided us with a host of exceptional music to be discussed, debated, and most of all remembered, but there’s no need to cry now it’s all over. Here are ten excellent reasons to look forward to 2014.

Azaelia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste

 It’s been a ridiculous production process that has involved numerous delays and potential release dates (the original expected release was September 2012) but in March 2014 Azealia Banks is finally set to drop her debut album. One of the more eccentric and certainly loudmouth figures recently in music, Banks has promised a lot of talent with one of the singles of 2012 in ‘’212’’ and other releases such as the 1991 EP and her ‘’Harlem Shake’’ remix, but now is the time for the 22 year old rapper to deliver on all that talk as she puts herself at the mercy of critics and fans alike.

Featuring already released singles ‘’ATM Jam’’ and ‘’Yung Rapunxal’’, Broke With Expensive Taste could be a trend setter for the year or an overhyped fail but either way, it’ll be interesting to see what happens. Banks has also stated she intends to release her second album, tentatively titled Fantasea II, in 2014 also but judging from the shambles that surrounded this debut release, we’ll slate that for some time in late 2016.

Beck – Morning Phase

Beck’s continued success both critically and commercially throughout the past decade is enough of a reason to look forward to new material, but his declaration that Morning Phase will act as a companion piece to 2002’s stunning Sea Change means that this will be a must listen upon release in late February. As stated in a press release, Morning Phase "harkens back to the stunning harmonies, song craft and staggering emotional impact of that record (Sea Change), while surging forward with infectious optimism".

 Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow

After their work with experimental producer Ben Allen (Deerhunter, Animal Collective) on 2011’s A Different Kind Of Fix, BBC seem to be going deeper into the void and attempting to discover new ways to create their brand of indie pop/rock on their fourth LP, So Long, See You Tomorrow. Having travelled the globe in the space of recordings both album, frontman Jack Steadman had this to say concerning the upcoming LP: "I think the travelling gave me a sense of wellbeing rather than any direct musical influence. Also, we were getting more inspired by samples. They become the springboard for your song and, whether it’s an Indian song or something with Thai chanting, you should never deny that inspiration just because it sounds silly or because the thought of it is weird."

 Sounds interesting, and if BBC can utilize the engaging sound of their first and best LP I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose while incorporating these new elements, this could be a surprising standout in 2014.

Chance The Rapper/James Blake?!

The creators of two of HMM’s albums of 2013 have bizarrely announced they’ll be moving in together for 2014. When asked about collaborating with his new roommate, Chance had this to say: ‘’We're probably going to make a bunch of shit every day. I don't know what we're going to do with it. We might give some shit to other artists.

We're getting a compound so we figure we might invite people round to the crib and make some music in the house, then kick them out and bring in some new people.’’

 Sounds like an extremely promising, if somewhat strange partnership.

Frank Ocean

channel ORANGE and good kid were invariably interlocked throughout 2012, battling each other for the number one spot on the majority of critics’ best of lists and it looks like their sequels are set to do battle gain for the potential album of 2014 with Frank dropping his third album. LP3 will probably be sooner than Kendrick’s, with Frank having been in studio since last February, working with Tyler The Creator, Dangermouse and Pharrell Williams. This time around Frank says he’s been influenced by the like of The Beatles and Beach Boys, an intriguing and promising statement of intent that it would be wonderful to see manifest itself in the form of an album.

Joanna Newsom

One of my very favourite artists has been very quiet the last three years since releasing the epic triple album Have One On Me in 2010, but following several new songs being premiered at shows over the past while, it seems safe to assume that Newsom will return this year with her usual eccentric, beautiful brilliance.

Kanye West

As if dominating 2013 wasn’t enough, Kanye looks to have his eyes firmly set on continuing the momentum he gained from Yeezus and expanding on it this year with a summer release tentatively planned by the Chicago native. When asked about his next project recently, West hinted that it would be an 8 track album, stating ‘’It's just reducing down the amount of information that you need. People say a design is the point where you can't take anything else away.’’ If there's time to deliver a 7th solo album in such a short space, Yeezy season could be approaching once again a lot faster than we all thought.

Another side project that’s been rumoured to feature a sequel in 2014 is G.O.O.D Music ‘s Cruel Summer. Possibly entitled Cruel Winter, the project is a near certainty but may take longer than expected depending on the label member’s individual workloads in 2014.

Kendrick Lamar

The self-declared king Kendrick has given us more than enough reasons to expect total greatness from his follow up to good kid this year- from absolutely killing TDE’s Cypher at the 2013 BET Awards to devastating the rap world with ‘’Control’’, amongst other exceptional guest appearances (‘’1 Train’’, ‘’Nosetalgia’’, ‘’Fuckin’ Problems’’) K. Dot has remained firmly in the spotlight and stepped up to the rest of game, provoking them into resentment and quiet admiration with his undoubted brilliance.

Now he’s got to back it up, and there’s no doubting the potential of Kendrick’s LP3. In November, Lamar said he’d be back in the studio in January after the Yeezus tour, providing hope for a summer or late year release. Of the album’s possible direction, he said “It depends on where my emotion is. How angry I’ll be, or how happy I’ll be, or how confused I’ll be.” One thing is certain though; it’s going to be extraordinary.

Purity Ring

Purity Ring had a quiet 2013 following their debut release Shrines (HMM Album of the Year 2012), but their feature on Danny Brown’s Old in October and a Lady Gaga remix in September is hopefully some sort of indication that they’re getting back to studio work. If they can recreate the sonic beauty that they captured so vividly inside 38 minutes on Shrines for their next project, it will surely be another highlight of the year.

Wu Tang Clan – A Better Tomorrow

Another delayed album from 2013, A Better Tommorrow was set to drop in summer but numerous issues within the Wu have seen it slated for 2014 instead. Named after a 1986 Hong Kong crime film in true Wu fashion, if all members of this legendary superstar team can get over petty rivalries and blame games, A Better Tomorrow could be one of the dark horses for 2014’s greatest releases. According to RZA in late November, the album was 6 weeks from completion, so expect to be hearing new Wu Tang Clan very soon, which any way you look at it, is a welcome sound indeed.

Stick with HMM this year for reviews and news of all of the above and many more.