Tag Archives: 2012

Devotion – JESSIE WARE – 2012

In my angriest moments while writing about music I turn my fury on vacuous popular music that expresses nothing of value. However there are phases or moments when a pop song touches my strings and remains etched for – say longer than the usual 2 minutes.Jessie_Ware_Devotion

Jessie Ware has stuck with me for months now – alongside all the chest thumping and head banging – I have been listening to Devotion – firstly because this is very aesthetically pleasing. The production smooths over rough edges and lets the synths shine and allows the vocals (of a rich, deep hue) to flow seamlessly along with the electronic beats and rhythms; the vocals are as smooth as one of the synths and almost one with the music. Ware never tries to show off her voice at the expense of the music (She ain’t no Mariah Carey, for sure). It is a very integrated, unified album. It feels whole. It doesn’t sound like a collection of singles bunched together so that they could sell a cd.

However the most important reason that this clicked for me though is because it doesn’t feel empty and fake – though Ware doesn’t use obvious emotional pop music cues to evoke or mimic a certain feeling or mood – in fact there are heavy techno – house – electronica influences (Moby, anybody?) which are not directly heart stirring like a simple combination of a few major chords would be – but it works – because of something intangible – under the surface – something subtle.

A soft, tender record meant for delicate summer evenings – maybe embellished with a glass of red wine – in the arms of a suitable companion.

Recommended Tracks – Wildest Moments (Yes, this is the song that Durex is using for their condom ads), Running, No To Love, Night Light. 

-Baba T

Visions – GRIMES – 2012

grimes-visions-608x608As each year passes by, I find my beliefs on art changing. While some months I will be convinced that a particular sort of aesthetic is what I love, and any other aesthetic or technique is worthless, some other months I will come up against something which completely changes my opinion. Tastes change and the way in which I look at art transforms. The way in which I perceive art changes the way in which I write about it.Some months I will judge something by a certain set of values, without looking at the social context or historical importance or immediate perception. I have written about an album within two days after first listening to it; sometimes after 5 years , music is inherently so strange a phenomenon that I struggle to put down two sentences that express what I really feel about it in the present. The only thing I am sure about is that the only yardstick for awesome art is survival (most people would point towards album sales and Pitchfork ratings as yardsticks and I wouldn’t directly refute this but would say that it is more subtle than that)

I have been a snob in my time and derided other people’s taste in music – mostly because my tastes were generally looked upon as strange and unpalatable by my peers-but that only served to make me enjoy music more, and after all one of the purposes of listening to music is to carve out an identity and create groups (and I guess that would explain (I am no sociologist) why teens are often the most passionate lovers of music – those are the years when you are trying to fit into groups and creating your own identity-it is somewhat like a facebook profile only much more subtle – a way of telling the world “this is my way of life” etc)

When I started writing all I wanted to do was tell the world about great music-after all the name of the blog is “That Doesnt Sound Right”- but it has ended up becoming an archive of sorts. The only concrete thing I have learnt about music is that it brings pleasure by association-just like your old room and posters-you remember the time when you were listening to the song in the past and it conjures up nostalgia and the smell of the food you ate and the jokes you made-it might not even be one specific memory-just a wash of images and words and colors.

The reason I wrote all that random rambling is because of this album by Grimes (though it is more in the nature of “stream of consciousness thoughts). Firstly I just heard this a few days ago – the reason I state this is because of my hesitation in writing about something that is new to me-so whatever I state about something new to me comes with the disclaimer above – tastes change. Secondly – just a few months back I would have told you that this stuff is terrible. Thirdly – I would probably be more charitable about the music if you asked me about it next year-the whole pleasure by association thnigy – because I am enjoying the electronica ditherings of Grimes in the lazy winter nights.

This music is not elevator music – but definitely qualifies as lounge music – ambient music for people who aren’t feeling particularly angry about something – in fact they are pretty well off and enjoying an expensive drink. Most of the album is pretty mediocre – the reason for it being so is because of the track “Oblivion” – which is much, much better and different from the rest of the music that surrounds it – it is in the same vein – sparse electronica with an ethereal voice – but it is disconcerting, immediately getting it banned from the exclusive lounge with the margaritas – the droning synths hint at something out of place – the intervals are deliberately uneven – and Grimes excites me with her roguish/impish vocals laid on top of one another – the pretty piano line emphasizing the madness and dreamy atmosphere, this track makes me come back to Grimes again and again. There is real talent here. The rest of the music is more straightforward in the vein of Portishead-gone-straight (amazing the number of times I refer that band) – sparse electronic dream pop with a fairy like female sliding on top of the lethargic beats.

I am not very enthusiastic about most of the music – I find it dull and uninspiring – no particularly offensive or bad – technically correct notes but not able to enthuse me like “Oblivion” which stands out – if I may say so – like a sore thumb.

-Baba T

Born To Die-LANA DEL REY-2012


Nice cover, keeping in with the theme.

At the outset let me put something very straight – I like what she is selling here. I like this album. I don’t like this album in the way I like the classics, but I like this as much I can like any new music. People have criticised this album on the basis that “Lana Del Rey is fake” and “Her daddy is rich, what the hell is she complaining about?” and “She changed her name” and “the music sounds like a corny hollywood soundtrack” and that “her vocal range is limited” and worst of all “her lips are botoxed” and “She sucked on SNL”. None of these criticisms are valid points to put down the music on this album even though they might be inherently true. Let me clarify one more point :- I don’t listen to a lot of contemporary music so I am pretty much ignorant about most of the music that has come out this year or in the last decade. I don’t even understand how people can end up listening to so much of the contemporary scene – I ain’t done with the past.

However, here we are, with a what I like to call “mainstream money grubbing sleazy pop record with a haute chick” and I it ain’t half bad, not just because the people chastise Lana or Lizzy or Elizabeth or whatever you want to call her for the wrong reasons, but because the lush pop arrangements, Hollywood film-True Romance/Pulp Fiction/Titanic esque noir lyrics (most likely a Tarantino/James Cameron fan, I betcher), the alcoholic deadened cynical lady singing in a lower register than normal shtick works. The production is excellent (but that is par for the course) and it does sound like a Hollywood soundtrack (something that is not prima facie bad), but Lana or whoever is behind this record makes it all work. The low register of her voice means that when she goes higher and peppier it sounds great (see “Off to the Races”) and the lyrical imagery while not exactly being poetry work for the music and is catchy (see gems like “I’m your little harlot, starlet, Queen of Coney Island” and the way in which it is spouted by Lana). The emotional cues are obvious (its pop music) but the hooks ain’t Katy Perry or Lady Gaga-ish cheap (nor are they as repetitive), they take time to sink in.

The negatives are that while the record is coherent and full of singles and potential singles, all of them use the same songwriting techniques (lush pop, hard hip hop beats, an attempt at trip hoppish Portishead posturing) which can cause fatigue so its best heard in small doses (this goes for mostly all pop albums), this is hardly The Cure, so that moping around can only work for so long, and some of the songs are outright generic (‘Summertime Sadness”, “Radio”, “Born to Die”, “Million Dollar Man”), and after a few listens, the only songs I listen to are “Off to the Races”, “Carmen”, “Dark Paradise”, “Diet Mountain Dew” and “Video Games”. The atmosphere created is one dimensional – she herself has described it as Hollywood sad core, and I can hardly do better than that – not as colorful as the lyrics which are corny most of the time ( for example “this is what makes us girls/We all look for heaven and we put our love first” – will have to take the opinion of the girls on this one, and oh, did I tell you I love the sort of lyrics she is peddling here?) inspite of which everything hangs together, for the most part anyway. So, manufactured music? Absolutely. Doesn’t detract from the entertainment value. There are missteps, and overall I am on the fence about the shelf life of this art but as of today, I am on board with putting this on “Good Albums from 2012″. These songs stick in your head, and in a good way, and that pretty much is my criteria while judging a pop album, sorry to dissapoint the critics.

-Baba T

From the Stands – RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS (20/10/2012) – Houston, TX

“Road-hardened chops” is a term often used by cynical hacks to describe a really tight and professional show by a band and/or an artist. Yet, I can’t help but bring that term up when I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers on October the 20th. From the efficient way in which the audience was whisked in, to the aptly placed merch stand to the extremely quick and tight set up for the Peppers after the opening band finished, it was a sight to behold. 

The opening band was something called Thundercat, a band that had two bass players, only playing lead and one rhythm. All in all, a very impressive set of jazzy numbers and virtuosic soloing. There was only one problem: the sound. The Toyota Center is basically a basketball arena, and it seems its architecture is optimized for that and not for concerts. As a result, the drums were too loud (maybe because I was close to the stage) and the bass was vague and boomy. Still, the vocals were pretty audible, as was the keyboard.

When the Peppers started, they started with a bit of a misstep. Flea – resplendent in Native American print pajamas – had a slightly detuned bass. And any musician will tell you, that there is nothing worse than a slightly detuned bass. The unfortunate song to have this fate was Monarchy of Roses off their latest album, “I’m with You”. However, tight and professional as always, the band powered through the song with gusto.

A few things became clear within the first 10 minutes of the 45 minute set. The first thing is the improvisation that’s always been a feature of the band: its clearly pretty spontaneous, though they set aside certain ‘segments’ for some tight riffing. This is made clear with all the bass solos here and there and a sharp little ditty of a Klinghoffer – Smith guitar-drum duet.

The second thing is that Flea is clearly the star of the show. Despite some technical difficulties initially and a less than optimal sound throughout the show, he danced, headbanged and soloed his way through the show with great energy and originality. You could see the showman come out, as he was the only member of the band to play to all parts of the stadium, while simultaneously interacting with his band members.

The setlist itself was not a surprising one, as it consisted mostly of the Peppers’ very reliable hit catalogue from the past 20 odd years, aside from the odd choice or two. I found myself clearly at odds with the rest of the crowd, as many of the songs that the crowd didn’t find that hot happened to be my favorites for that night. Cue a devastatingly funky rendition of “I Like Dirt”, which was one of the revelations of the night. Klinghoffer – who was seated because of a broken foot – managed a sweet solo. However, his effects laden guitar rig had some technical problems and at one time he had to change his guitar mid song. Otherwise, the songs were a reliable balance between Californication, By the Way, I’m with You and BloodSugar songs.

All in all, a good, tight and professional set. Some of the moves were familiar from other live performances, but the Peppers reminded everyone why they belong firmly in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. This sounds right.

- El Bajista


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