Kashka – Bound
If Kashka’s new album Bound was taken off of iTunes, it’s likely only her close relatives would notice. Most people would argue that being in the top ten albums on iTunes or having over 100,000 views on YouTube does not mean that your music is better in any way, but a certain amount of recognition often correlates with an artist’s significance. After all, a little fame does mean that you’ve managed to grab the public’s attention. And this is where Kashka falls short. Her music is not bad, it just doesn’t stand out enough to merit repeat listens or referrals among fans.
In Bound’s first track, “Never Had It,” her voice is soft and sweet, sounding a bit like a more acoustic Lorde. But once the track moves on from a string of “maybe I was a fool to…” murmurs, it’s only to get stuck in a never-ending repetition of “baby we never had it anyway” which makes you want to throw out Bound for good. There are original elements in some of her songs, as she blends guitar and piano sounds, using a tambourine to give it tempo. But then the beat will pick up in a familiar, pop-y way and begins to bring to mind upbeat trying-too-hard-to-be-indie elevator music mixed with a teenager’s Disney debut. There are two reviews online and one of them points out the “something modern” that can be found in the new album. It’s true that if you pay close attention to the background sounds you can glimpse that it was thought-through, but you have to be really looking for it. All in all, Kashka’s new album Bound is missing a voice of its own. Sadly, it’s the type of music that no one will remember.
Various artists – Afrobeat Airways 2: Return Flight to Ghana, 1974-1983
2010’s Afrobeat Airways: West African Shock Waves, Ghana & Togo 1972-1978, a compilation of rare tracks by Analog Africa’s Samy Ben Redjeb from afrobeat’s golden age, was an unexpected hit with the music press that year, and no wonder, considering the quality of the songs and extensive and interesting liner notes. If anything, the scope on Afrobeat Airways 2 is broader. It extends to 1983, and as such has a more varied sound, taking in cheesier 1980s tracks, like Tony Sarfo & The Funky Afrosibi’s “I Beg,” and Waza-Afriko 76’s “Gbei Kpakpa Hife Sika,” which even has some harmonica in it. This definitely isn’t a genre that gets much exposure in the West (aside from the influence Afro-pop has had on uber-white indie rockers Vampire Weekend).
Perhaps the only criticism that could be levelled at Afrobeat Airways 2 is that many of the artists from the first record appear on this one, like Ebo Taylor Jr., Uppers International, K. Frimpong, and The African Brothers – not to mention several incarnations of De Frank. With close to a decade’s worth of music to choose from, surely there are more than 15 artists out there worth showcasing. That said, the above were all titans of the scene, and the sheer quality of the tracks makes any attack on the selection a spurious one. Brass is present throughout (as is Doors-esque organ), but on opener Uppers International’s “Aja Wondo” it is particularly irresistible. The rhythm section of the songs is also wonderfully varied. The bass on Waza-Afriko 76’s “Gbei Kpakpa Hife Sika” is pushed to the fore, whilst the drums on Ios Issufu and His Moslems’ “Kana Soro” could have come from the heavier rock songs of the period. But the highlight has got to be Rob’s flawless “Loose Up Yourself,” which combines delicate guitar and outrageous levels of funk. The tracks on Afrobeat Airways 2 may be billed as rarities, but they nonetheless serve as a great introduction to the genre.
Get Scared – Everyone’s Out to Get Me
The emo of the previous decade was a strange beast. A generation of suburban bands took the sound of pop-punk, the aesthetics of goth rock, and the histrionic poetry from their high school diaries, and created a musical movement that was catharsis for a certain type of angsty teenager, and a useful punchline for everyone else. But that was in 2008. Decades ago in musical microtrend years.
Utah five-piece band Get Scared (Nicholas Matthews, Johnny Braddock, Adam Virostko, and Bradley “Lloyd” Iverson, and Dan Juarez), have apparently missed the bandwagon with their new release Everyone is Out to Get Me. They hail from the slightly goth strain of emo that borrows as much from 1980s metal as it does from hardcore. It’s a combination that’s worked before. The Used and From First to Last traded in similar tropes to great effect. But Get Scared is missing their undertone of real desperation. The vampiric undertones here are more Edward Cullen than Nosferatu.
Out to Get Me isn’t without its pleasures: “For You” is bouncy and pop-y. Like early My Chemical Romance, but maybe with a little added whine. Also erring on the side of accessibility is “Us In Motion,” which aims for big and romantic, with its swelling chorus and ringing wall-of-sound power chords. It’s when they aim to capture strains of depression and vindictive paranoia promised in the album’s title that Get Scared seem to get a bit stale, as if they don’t have much new to say on the subject.
If Out to Get Me had been released between seven and ten years ago, it could have been a bona fide hit, riding the coattails of flashier, more talented acts. But emo has had to evolve. Scene success stories like Fall Out Boy and AFI have made their comebacks recently, but they’ve done so by embracing new influences – hip hop beats and electronic dynamics. Unfortunately, there are no sign of that here.
Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe
Sultry, smooth, synthy, and hypnotic are all adjectives that describe British musician and songwriter Devonté Hynes’ most recent musical creation, the album Cupid Deluxe. With vocals from Samantha Urbani and elements borrowed from various genres – rap, jazz, and disco – the album is cool personified. Released November 18, Cupid Deluxe is part of a profusion of creative endeavours for Hynes; in the past he has written and produced music for artists such as Florence and the Machine and Solange Knowles.
Cupid Deluxe begins with a hypnotic beat and shuffling, reverb-laden percussion, including repeated riffs. Suddenly, suavely, Hynes’ voice pours in the lyrics of “Chamakay.” Next up is “You’re Not Good Enough,” a catchy 1980s funk tune with smooth vocals. Then “Uncle Ace” fills the room with sounds redolent of disco, updated for 2013. Vocals and jazzy saxophone solos combine with disco-inspired riffs to create a musical hodgepodge that can only be described as delicious.
Songs like “No Right Thing” and “On The Line” are more laid back, with the latter offering up a R&B vibe. Smooth saxophone and a woman talking in a French accent update “Chosen,” which might otherwise resemble a 1980s pop ballad. The album takes a digression through rap ballads “Clipped on” and “High Street.” The latter, about gaining inspiration from the streets and persevering on the path of musicianship, is a cleverly worded and intelligent song. The lyrics are most important here, instrumentals serving as a backbone.
Some films make you laugh and cry; this album does the musical equivalent, as it takes you on a genre-instigated tour of an array of feelings. Despite this variety, Blood Orange’s sound is consistently able to captivate.
– Reba Wilson