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The deluxe edition of Radiohead's A Moon Shaped Pool - our favorite album of the year (review here) - has shipped out to fans, and it's provided some goods: namely, the brand new b-side 'Ill Wind' and their rejected James Bond theme, 'Spectre'.
While 'Spectre' isn't necessarily a new track, it's nice to see it become part of a record. It's received two formal releases prior to this: as a standalone single on Christmas day of 2015 when it was first revealed, and on a double single with 'Burn The Witch' for Record Store Day earlier this year. That's a lot of time for the song to settle in and develop in our minds. The song's haunting piano intro and dark string soundscapes still resonate in the same way as they did when the song was first released. Each chord feels like a movie scene itself, leaving you to wonder how they ended up going with Sam Smith's admittedly cliché song... 'Spectre' has so much more depth and mystery to it. The flow and progression of Jonny Greenwood's string composition along with the way Thom Yorke brokenheartedly croons "Fear puts a spell on us / Always second-guessing love / My hunger burns a bullet hole / A spectre of my mortal soul" fits the dark romantic themes of James Bond perfectly.
'Ill Wind', on the other hand, is a brand new experience. It's a chill track in line with some of A Moon Shaped Pool's groovier songs, such as 'Ful Stop' or 'Decks Dark'. Clean guitar, a light bass, and a sparkling beat bring to song to its mysterious start before Yorke's haunting vocals come in, reverberating like he was singing in a cavernous environment. The song slowly builds, synths appearing out of the song's massive background, popping like bubbles full of spacial material. The song feels like you're being swallowed into an abyss, watching the origin slowly grow smaller and smaller as you fall deeper into the darkness. In that abyss are odd objects, both otherworldly and familiar. It falls right in line with some of the band's most captivating songs, the aesthetic and all.
Even Radiohead's b-sides are masterpieces. You can't really go wrong with this band. Age makes them more and more unique and full of expression. The deluxe edition of A Moon Shaped Pool has made the album of the year even more enjoyable, if not only just a little bit. With a tinge of Bond and the classic "falling into a spiraling hole" Radiohead vibe, the songs have solidified the album as one of Radiohead's best works.
Being among the leaders of house and a new album packed with all star guests (The Weeknd, Lorde, Sam Smith, and more), it’s easy to see where electronic and pop music fans alike are being drawn in. Perhaps the only way to try and match the success of Disclosure’s previous effort Settle was to get this pop appeal. But can their new album match the quality fans so adored in its successor?
Caracal stays very true to itself. It embodies everything house is, and should be. While this has both its ups and downs, for the most part, it does everything it attempts to do in a complete fashion. The beginning of the album is an onslaught of soul - The Weeknd and Sam Smith’s guest spots appearing consecutively after one another. The album opens on a big note: the seven minute house monster that is “Nocturnal” featuring The Weeknd. The Weeknd’s R&B voice shines bright and provocatively on top of the typical deep bass notes and pretty little synths that compose the instrumental. The song centers around the atmospheric chorus (which is really just Weeknd singing, “Nocturnal, yeah!” over and over) and progressive build ups. On the surface the track seems a bit tacky and long, though the length is justified by the catchiness of the track. Even if you hate it, the track is extremely infectious. Unfortunately, the album peaks just as soon as it begins.
As I mentioned before, this album takes a firm hold of everything it attempts to do. The negative side of that is that it holds on to these principles throughout the entirety of the album, making it an enjoyable yet forgettable experience. The tracks following “Nocturnal”, “Omen” featuring Sam Smith and “Holding On” featuring Gregory Porter, while great as standalone songs, ruin the flow established with the debut track. Not only that, but they feel like secondhand knockoffs of it! “Hourglass” featuring LION BABE rebuilds the charm of “Nocturnal”, with LION delivering great harmonies, with a fun backing track. The album quickly shoots low again, nothing separating “Willing & Able” from being a KWABS feature and a KWABS track. “Magnets” with Lorde and the first track on the album without a feature, “Jaded” are the last high points on the album. Lorde delivers a great performance with her signature ominously charming harmonies, even while the instrumental may not fit the mood the vocals seem to want to set up. “Jaded” has a driving charm with a very catchy chorus yet again. Your suspicions are built up and broken down throughout the first half of the album, ultimately leveling off into a very average expectation for the second half. While there are memorable moments scattered few and far between the second half of the album (songs like “Moving Mountains” and “Molecules” are quite well written and groovy), nothing truly stands out like the better tracks of the beginning. Not to mention the absolute disasters that are “Bang That” and “Good Intentions” featuring Miguel.
Caracal isn’t the follow up you’d expect from Disclosure, but it definitely holds its ground. It has its ups and downs (well, mainly downs), but it’s a solid house record. Great to put on in the background to get work done, or to put on at a chill party. Dropping big names definitely helped the album get some fresh ideas and pop exposure, so hopefully the trend continues in Disclosure’s future endeavors.
Favorite Tracks: Nocturnal (ft. The Weeknd), Magnets (ft. Lorde), Jaded
Least Favorite Tracks: Bang That, Good Intentions (ft. Miguel)
Overall Rating: 6.5/10