Album review: Jamie xx – In Colour

Originally published in The Broadie

I’ve always wished for some kind of innate musical talent. Being able to pick up an instrument and make a pleasant noise or convey some form of legible tune would be marvellous. Pointless and only enhancing my laziness, but marvellous nevertheless.

Jamie Smith, better known as the production third of The xx and a producer in his own right, brought me closest to such an experience during the German exchange in year 9. Within seconds of spotting a steel drum, I was merrily reciting his recent release ‘Far Nearer’, which has maintained its spot as my song for the sun bursting through into summer ever since.

Such, well, straightforward radiance is reflected in the chromatic cover of debut long-release In Colour, though the LP is unfortunately not as prevailingly joyous as this implies. Continue reading “Album review: Jamie xx – In Colour”

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Album review: Madeon – Adventure

Originally published in The Broadie

Hugo Leclercq makes you wonder what went wrong in your own life. Aged just 20, the Nantais musician is releasing his first album, Adventure, on Columbia Records. That in itself isn’t particularly bewildering, though considering his burst into the spotlight almost four years ago courtesy of a remix contest triumph (Pendulum’s ‘The Island’) and his incredible ‘Pop Culture’ live mashup of 29 songs, you begin to get a better picture of his perhaps prodigal aptitude.

Since, he’s seemed to be rather silent. After the charting singles ‘Icarus,’ ‘Finale,’ and ‘The City’ in 2011 and 2012, ‘Technicolor’ snuck out in mid-2013 to a limited online release, before he vanished from the radio. Of course that time was being put to good use, as he picked up production credits for the likes of Muse, Lady Gaga, Two Door Cinema Club, Ellie Goulding, and Coldplay. The climax of this period comes in the form of Adventure. Continue reading “Album review: Madeon – Adventure”

Album review: Skrillex & Diplo Present Jack Ü

Originally published in The Broadie

My first encounter with Jack Ü, the pseudo-supergroup of professional noise-merchants Sonny Moore and Wesley Pentz, better known as Skrillex and Diplo, came on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Miami last March. At the Ultra Music Festival, the commercial centrepiece of the annual Winter Music Conference that draws the great and the good and the brostep to Floridian shores, the pair took to the stage for the most anticipated set of the weekend.

Within a minute, Diplo had clambered onto the desk and was commanding his sun-soaked congregation, mostly scantily clad college students squandering their spring break by flailing limbs in a sardine-like crush, to scream and clap and all sorts of things that would make the music harder to hear. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m of the opinion that a good DJ should neither be seen nor heard. Their job is to play pre-recorded music in a fluid and appreciable fashion, but Jack Ü took their babysitting duties very seriously and audibly.

And yet, Moore and Pentz moulded their hour on the main stage into the most thoroughly entertaining show of the weekend. Rapidly devouring Skrillex’s new album, Diplo’s dancehall-inspired Major Lazer discography, the talent of their respective labels OWSLA and Mad Decent, and even Toto’s ‘Africa’, the frantic set clicked perfectly. In parts, so does their collaborative album. Continue reading “Album review: Skrillex & Diplo Present Jack Ü”

Album review: Knife Party – Abandon Ship

Originally published in The Broadie

Although my sarcastic and weary demeanour may tend to convey otherwise, I don’t try to intentionally dismember what I review. Perhaps I may sit down at my desk and brace myself for an onslaught of mediocrity, an instinct that usually serves well through the likes of Miley Cyrus’ magnum opus Bangerz. Knife Party triggers this radar like a machete at airport security, but each time I take a listen to their noises I find myself pleasantly surprised about how much I don’t despise them. The music is typically just as humane as the name suggests, with stabbing synths and heavy percussion, but Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen, the Australian duo who formed from the remnants of drum and bass ensemble Pendulum, have a perplexing knack of making it sound vaguely tolerable.

After a plethora of delays, debut album Abandon Ship has finally found the light of day, but alas, it’s immediately obvious that the pair shouldn’t have tried to spread out their inspiration, if you could so generously assign it that term, to a longer body of work than a four-track EP. Though the duo were keen to avoid having dubstep on the record, they’ve not strayed too far from their traditional ‘electro house’ stylings. Any exploration into new territories feels strained and disingenuous – almost as if their major label contract has shoehorned them into boxes more befitting of spoons and cake forks. Continue reading “Album review: Knife Party – Abandon Ship”

Hales hundred gives Notts perfect start to title defence

Horsham: Nottinghamshire 312/8 (Alex Hales 116, Michael Lumb 77, Will Beer 3/60) beat Sussex 282/8 (Steffan Piolet 63*, Ed Joyce 59, Steven Mullaney 4/33) by 29 runs

As the newly-restructured Royal London One-Day Cup launched throughout the country this weekend to signify the return of 50 over cricket to the county circuit, reigning limited overs champions Nottinghamshire took a convincing victory over Sussex to begin their title defence of sorts on another beautiful wicket at Cricket Field Road, Horsham.

After being put in by Ed Joyce, the Outlaws ticked along steadily with openers Alex Hales and Michael Lumb staying put for a century partnership that frustrated the home side, who had taken a rare victory over Warwickshire in the Championship on the same ground on Thursday. Unusually for the pair, known predominantly for their exploits in Twenty20, docility appeared the name of the game as both reached half centuries at strike rates of below 100 – Lumb from 58 balls, Hales 73 – before Lumb played on a Will Beer delivery for 77 in the 29th over.

Then, the middle-order collapse began. Though Hales was dropped by Matt Machan on the boundary for 88, Beer (3/60) managed to bowl James Taylor before the batting powerplay was taken after 35 overs. Nottinghamshire didn’t utilise this particularly well, scoring just 27 for the loss of both Samit Patel and Riki Wessels. Hales too almost fell to Chris Liddle, who ended wicketless and 86 runs down the drain, but Matt Machan’s drop over the midwicket boundary spared him as he moved onto his century off 107 balls.

Hales finally departed for 116 to the bowling of Steffan Piolet, who finished with 2/35 from his allocation, but Steven Mullaney fired the team above the holy run-a-ball threshold with 40 off 20, including 16 from a consecutive trio of Lewis Hatchett deliveries. Hatchett eventually prevailed, following up with a bouncer that visibly threw the batsman off track as he offered a simple catch to Craig Cachopa at backward point in the 48th over. Early thoughts were that 350 would be par upon the flat, dry outground wicket, and Mullaney’s blast lifted them from 235/6 after 42.1 to 312/8 at the conclusion.

Sussex started in encouraging fashion, with a partnership of 64 between skipper Joyce and Luke Wells, who departed for a pedestrian (though List A career best) 23 off 44 as Sussex not once overtook the Notts run rate. Lacking Luke Wright, who picked up a side strain during his record breaking 153* against Essex on Friday night, few Sussex batsmen went aggressively at the Nottinghamshire bowlers. One exception was Cachopa, making his List A entrance for Sussex by launching a free hit from fellow Kiwi James Franklin over the long-off toilets on off his first ball before falling contentiously to a Chris Read catch on 22.

Fellow Sussex List A debutant Piolet was the top scorer with his maiden half century in the format, finishing on an unbeaten 48-ball 63 that included 8 boundaries, but support was sparse as the required rate escalated. Joyce mustered 59 to reward James Taylor’s consistent athleticism in the field, while Machan fell for 43 as miserly Mullaney did away with much of the middle order in a spell of 7-1-19-3. He later returned for the struggling Ben Brown (3 off 16) and ultimately secured the points for the visitors with his 4/33. Jake Ball picked up the wickets of Beer and Liddle at the death, completing a 29 run victory that perhaps reflected too kindly upon the hosts’ batting.

“As defending champions we wanted to stamp our authority on the tournament and we’ve certainly done that here,” said Hales at stumps. “It was a nice wicket to bat on. There was a little bit seam movement early on but, as it showed, if you got through that then you’ve got a good score on the board.”

Album review: Skrillex – Recess

Originally published in The Broadie

Since his breakout with 2010’s boisterous Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites, Los Angeles native Skrillex has become the poster boy of the EDM revolution. With copious brostep, a dubstep-based sound that Spin labelled as “lurching and aggressive” in a polite way of saying it sounds like a live cat going through a meat grinder, and a haircut to match, Sonny Moore has polarised and alienated, but created a whole new mainstream electronic scene, especially in the US. His first full length album, Recess, of course stays true to the genre that made him a superstar, while also half-heartedly dangling a toe near every pond. Continue reading “Album review: Skrillex – Recess”

Album review: Pharrell Williams – G I R L

Originally published in The Broadie

Some things about Pharrell Williams are pretty unbelievable. He’s been around seemingly forever and recently hit his 40th birthday, yet he could still pass for being in his early 20s with ease. His collaborations with Daft Punk last year made me realise that he could actually sing. And now, 8 years after his rap-filled solo debut In My Mind, he’s back with an effort to win over all the ladies of the world, bringing plenty of falsetto with him. Continue reading “Album review: Pharrell Williams – G I R L”