Monday, 5 December 2011

BBC Sound Of 2012.

Is it really that time of year again already? It would seem so, therefore, in one the few remaining traditions of this blog that I still have left, I will be casting my opinionated ears on this years list. Expect snap judgments, rash statements and generally me trying to prove how clever I am and how much I know about music. Get it? Got it? Good.

On looking at the list, my first impressions are:
a) Everyone looks really stylised.
b) I already think I know who my favourite is going to be.

Right. Let's get this party started.

1. A$AP Rocky
Song listened to: 'Purple Swag'
BBC Sound Of 2012 Tagline: 'Harlem's hottest rap talent.'

This guy has already been signed on a $3 million deal. That's crazy.
This song sounds exactly like a compilation someone I used to work with once played me of hip hop that had deliberately been slowed down to make it some sort of laid back, sexy thing. I remember thinking it was a little weird initially, but then I kind of got into the groove of it and could see how it could work if it was instrumental. The slowed down deeper vocals sounded really annoying though, like when a white middle class man tries to talk in a Barry White voice. Eurgh.
Here, it is an effect clearly used to try and recreate the feeling of being stoned. The thing is though, I feel the same way about it that I felt about that compilation. The beat and the groove are really good. The vocal totally ruins it. Even when he's rapping in his "normal" voice, it's really quite dull and unimaginative. I'm not particularly impressed. It's kind of like a cross between early Cypress Hill and something on Tri Angle records. But not as good as that sounds.

2. Azealia Banks
Song listened to: '212'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Little Miss Naughty.'

Okay, when I said I thought I knew who would be my favourite on this list, this is who I was referring to. I know she just came top of that NME Cool List bullshit, but don't let that put you off. This song is really REALLY fucking good. Electro hip hop awesome beat with a sassy, FILTHY woman rapping over the top. WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE?! WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE?! I FUCKING LOVE THIS!!
Yes. Just yes.

3. Don Rotten
Song listened to: 'Keep It On A Low'
BBC Sound of 2012 tagline: 'South Londoner, ripe for success.'

The problem I have with most modern London poets is that a lot of them sort of just sound the same and say the same thing in the same way with the same metre and rhyme scheme. There is just a lack of variety. I find the same thing with a lot of UK hip hop. There is nothing in this song that makes me think I will remember it when it's finished. It just sounds generic. No imagination. A bit dull.
Apparently he made a mixtape when he was nine years old with beats he made on an Amiga. Now that would be quite interesting to hear. This song, sadly, wasn't.
I just saw that he's doing a tour with Dappy. Well there you go.

4. Dry The River
Song listened to: 'No Rest'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Folk infused post-punk.'

This song has got one Hell of a terrible intro. An overly earnest man singing about, well, fuck knows, I couldn't make out any actual words in his singing. I imagine listening to that intro is like looking down the road when you're short-sighted and aren't wearing your glasses. You know there are people there, but you couldn't mention anything about them. Yeah. That's the intro to this song.
Okay, that tagline is bullshit. This isn't 'Folk infused post-punk,' this is Noah & The Whale doing American College rock. This is the kind of dreary toss that makes you want to slay public school children so they can't grow up to make earnest ear cancer like this.
Apparently they take their inspiration from 'Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and At The Drive In.' I fail to see how. If any of those people heard this utter gash, they would probably give these boys a slap.

5. Flux Pavilion
Song listened to: 'I Can't Stop'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Bass Cannon gunner.'

Oh, this guy. 'Bass Cannon' guy. 'The filthiest bassline in dubstep' guy. Well, I've heard 'Bass Cannon' many times, so that feels like cheating.
'I Can't Stop' essentially follows the same formula as 'Bass Cannon.' Weak but building intro leading into cranked up synth bassline that just sort of repeats with a little variation here and there to justify its being considered something more than it actually is.
There is a phenomenal lack of imagination here. Seriously.
You can't JUST repeat everything over and over again, you have to be able to justify it. This is just weak. It sounds weak. It sounds dull. It's the musical equivalent of the guy who wins an argument purely because he shouts the loudest and doesn't give you a chance to respond, and when he's finished you feel a bit drained and therefore can't be bothered to try.
That's what listening to this song is like, having an argument with a tedious meathead.

6. Frank Ocean
Song listened to: 'Swim Good'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Bright future for Mr Odd Future.'

Again, I feel like this is cheating, this time because I already have an album by this guy, so I know what he's like. He sings fairly decent modern soul.
Which is the problem. It's fairly decent. It's kind of a little bit nothing. It sort of just sounds a little generic in the same way that Don Rotten did. It's all tried, tested, done before, nothing new to bring to the table stuff. Fine enough, but instantly forgettable.

7. Friends
Song listened to: 'I'm His Man'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Bushwick's brightest multi-instrumentalists.'

Why does that band name and that tagline make me instantly hate them?
Why does this line, 'Brooklyn five-piece Friends formed in 2010 after a bedbug infestation forced a group of vegan restaurant co-workers to cohabitate for a week,' make me instantly hate them even more?
Why does the intro to the video for 'I'm His Man,' a hand fumbling dozily for a cassette tape, finding it then putting it into a cassette player and pressing play, make me hate them EVEN more?
I can't remember a time I pre-hated a band as much as I do this collection of total tosspots.
Which is a bit of a shame, because their song is actually pretty good. It's got a nice kind of laid back US indie groove to it, and the lyrics are a pretty good declaration of remaining independent while still being in a relationship, written in a simple, refreshing way.
But it's all a bit too lo-fi in a deliberately not-actually-lo-fi way. Which sort of makes me hate them.
I just get the impression that they're a bunch of fucking posers. If it weren't for the image they portray, I probably wouldn't have any problem with the sound of their song. I just can't shake the feeling that it's all just a bit too smug and knowing. The song is good, but it leaves a bitter taste.

8. Jamie N Commons
Song listened to: 'The Preacher'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'The whiskey growl.'

This is a very odd song. Well, it isn't ACTUALLY weird, it's actually pretty straightforward. What's weird is that I can't decide whether I like it or not. This guy has clearly listened to a lot of Nick Cave and a lot of Americana and has combined the two to make something that sounds individual but also like everything it's been influenced by at the same time. I can't quite work it out.
I have no idea what my opinion of this guy is. I might try and come back to this again later.

9. Lianne La Havas
Song listened to: 'No Room For Doubt'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Bon Iver's favourite Brit.'

Oh, that's nice. The most interesting thing you can think of as a tagline about someone is that someone else likes them. That fills me with confidence. Jesus, at least make an effort, tagline writer person.
If I worked for the BBC, my tagline for this song would be something like 'Woozy, soul drenched, dream pop.'
I quite like this song. It's nice. The guitar is nice and reverb-y, the vocals are nice and there's never the need felt for it to 'Kick into gear,' and add anything else to over egg the pudding. It's just a nice song that its makers have allowed to be a nice song. I like it.

10. Micahel Kiwanuka
Song listened to: 'Tell Me A Tale'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Soul's new voice.'

This sounds like it was recorded in the 70's. This sounds like Bill Withers. Or someone like that. There is an unavoidably 70's, slightly psychedelic soul atmosphere to this. It almost sounds too much like someone trying to recreate that sound, but the song is good and there's a really nice lack of pretension to it that makes it feel natural, rather than forced, in the same way that that Aloe Blacc song 'I Need A Dollar' does. Yeah, this is good stuff. I like this.

11. Niki & The Dove
Song listened to: 'DJ Ease My Mind'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Sweden's stylish electro-pop.'

Song intro sounds like someone covering a song by The Knife. When the bass drum beat kicks in, it sounds like someone remixing a song by The Knife. Chorus sounds like a remix of someone covering a song by The Knife. Second verse goes back to sounding like someone covering a song by The Knife. Then the chorus comes back and... I think you get where this is going.
n.b. They're nowhere near as good as The Knife.

12. Ren Harvieu
Song listened to: 'Through The Night'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Lancashire lullabies.'

Okay. Reread what I wrote for the Michael Kiwanuka song, but replace 'Bill Withers,' with 'Dusty Springfield,' and replace the word 'Psychedelic,' with the word 'Cinematic.' That's my opinion of this song.

13. Skrillex
Song listened to: 'First Of The Year (Equinox)'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'The brostep pioneer.'

Brostep? BROSTEP?! SERIOUSLY?! That makes me sick. As a word to describe a sub-genre of music that is worse than fucking 'Chillwave.' Brostep? Fuck. Right. Off. You. Massive. Douches.

I'm actually quite interested to hear Skrillex. Skrillex is a name I've read and heard many many times, but I've never actually heard any of his stuff. I know he's considered some sort of 'Next big thing,' or whatever, but I've never actually encountered his work.
Here goes.
Okay, firstly the director of the video needs to realise that he isn't Chris Cunningham.
Secondly, there is a phenomenal lack of imagination here. Seriously.
You can't JUST repeat everything over and over again, you have to be able to justify it. This is just weak. It sounds weak. It sounds dull. It's the musical equivalent of the guy who wins an argument purely because he shouts the loudest and doesn't give you a chance to respond, and when he's finished you feel a bit drained and therefore can't be bothered to try.
That's what listening to this song is like, having an argument with a tedious meathead.
Yes. I did just cut and paste that from what I wrote about Flux Pavilion. Quite frankly, this song doesn't deserve anything better than that.
I genuinely don't understand what all the fuss about this guy is.

14. Spector
Song listened to: 'Grey Shirt & Tie'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Dalston superstars.'

Again, why does that band name and that tagline make me instantly hate them?
The photo of them on the BBC Sound... list makes them look like absolute tossers too, which makes me hate them even more.
Apparently, 'They've been dubbed East London's answer to The Strokes.' If by that, you mean that they take a sound older than they are and attempt to recreate that for a modern audience but don't add ANYTHING to it, then whoever it was who dubbed them 'East London's answer to The Strokes,' is absolutely correct.
They sound to me like Tears For Fears.
Tears For Fears had two members and actual talent for songwriting.
Spector have five members and sound like they listened to Tears For Fears one day and went 'Cool, that sounds easy,' and then for some reason no-one ever told them they were wrong. I don't know why, maybe all their friends secretly hate them or something.

15. Stooshe
Song listened to: 'Betty Woz Gone'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Pottymouth pop.'

Remember that band Cartoons who did that song that went 'Ooh ee ooh ah aah, ting tang walla walla bing bang'? Stooshe look like a trendy London version of them.
Apparently, 'A line in Stooshe's bio describes them as 'Salt N' Pepa meet Odd Future' while the Guardian recently pegged the London trio as an 'X Rated En Vogue'.'
Neither of these statements are true.
Remember Shampoo?
Stooshe sound like a modern day version of Shampoo.
And no, that is not a good thing.
It really isn't.

And that's it. Well, it's been fun. Sort of. And in the tradition of the end of this tradition, I will list my personal top three:

1. Azealia Banks.
2. Michael Kiwanuka.
3. A tie between Lianne La Havas and Ren Harvieu.

Although, I should mention that Friends might have been in that top three list, if I could separate their song from them.
Also, Jamie N Commons may have made my top three, if I could actually figure out what my opinion of him is.

Overall though, I have to say that this list has been better and more interesting than the last three years lists have. That's pretty encouraging, no?