Fly Like An Eagle (Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Who Built the Moon review)

If you love something, you should let it go, and if it returns it was meant to be.

A fitting line for this new album by the infamous Noel Gallagher, and his High Flying Birds, and consequently my return to the high-paced world of popular culture and social media. What have I been up to, you ask?Well dear readers, it wouldn’t be right to derail this album review with tales of my personal life, thusly we’ll just have to save that for a later post this week, perhaps something in the realm of a Timely Thursday?

 

 

 

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built the Moon?

released November 24, 2017
******* 7/10

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (NGHFB) are an English alt rock band comprised of… surprise, surprise, Noel Gallagher, and… a bunch of other people. It’s actually kind of confusing to list off the members of NGHFB. After reading the liner notes of this album and then looking into the history of the group, it seems the dominant figures of the recording sessions were Noel Gallagher on vocals and guitar, Jason Falkner on bass, Jeremy Stacey on drums, and Keefus Cianda on keyboards.

But it turns out that NGHFB is mostly about Noel Gallagher and a response to the breakup of legendary britpop supergroup Oasis. So while Who Built The Moon is the fourth studio album for Noel and his birds, if we are being perfectly honest with ourselves, then it’s mostly a Noel show, featuring guests.

Like Jesus!

And Santa! 

Just kidding folks. But that Christmas pun was so perfectly placed, I couldn’t help myself.

Much like the timing of this album release and brother Liam’s As You Were – I can’t believe it was just over a month ago. Though it remains to be seen which record is better (Liam has gone to number one on the UK charts), I’m putting my money on Noel, as he has taken his sound further and built off of the success of Oasis post- (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? Who Built The Moon is a test to see if we can remember how great the 90s were for pop music, and remarkably it gets a passing grade.

Fort Knox, Holy Mountain and Black & White Sunshine all call back to rock bands of history like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Of course, Noel has always been quite capable of channeling these voices, and while the group Metric once asked the eternal question of who was cooler, Noel has proven, it’s your decision on who you want to be.

This biting cynicism shows up in various places, Be Careful What You Wish For comes to mind, but we also get postive vibes on Keep On Reaching and The Man Who Built the Moon, the eponymous answer to the album’s question. Spoiler alert, it’s not what you think!

Pros: I cannot get over how much It’s A Beautiful World reminds me of a fleeting moment, albeit an anger-fueled one. And Dead in the Water will make an auditorium of 30-something males cry.

Cons: There are moments when it all feels like a spin cycle of rhyme; She Taught Me How To Fly embraces this wholeheartedly. And while some reviewers can’t seem to get enough of the instrumental tracks about Wednesday, I found them to be mostly fill.

Runtime: 48 minutes

Points of Interest: I found it really interesting that the standout track of the album, the acoustic number Dead in the Water, was a bonus track. A seeming after thought, but the intimacy of it and raw power is a delight to hear after the experimentations of earlier songs. The album really showcases how far this Gallagher has come from the good ol’ days of Oasis and Blur battles, and the heartbreaking never-ending story of Gallagher VS Gallagher. And bonus points to Noel for recruiting David Holmes as a producer on this record.

If the 90s are finally making a comeback, it only makes sense that britpop gets a taste of the limelight, and so we shall fly on the wings of these eagles. Hopefully no one gets burnt when we coast past the sun.

theories Summarized

We probably won’t see an Oasis reunion in the near future, but it is nice to see that both Gallagher brothers are churning out thoughtful albums, I only wonder if it’s all been a blur and we’ve already gotten the best we can from chaps like Noel. One of many theories.

Tim!

Thunder Buddies (Broken Social Scene, Hug of Thunder review)

Every once and a while, we all need a hug. Especially when it gets weird and dark.

 

Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder

released July 7, 2017
********* 9/10

Broken Social Scene are a Canadian indie rock band (yay for Canadian content!) formed by Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning. Sometimes they have six members, and sometimes they have nineteen band members, because above all, Broken Social Scene are a musical super group of popular Canadian indie rock acts and solo artists…

Metric (Emily Haines, James Shaw), Feist (Leslie Feist), Stars (Amy Millan, Torquil Campbell, Evan Cranley), Apostle of Hustle (Andrew Whiteman), Do Make Say Think (Ohad Benchetrit, Julie Penner, Charles Spearin), KC Accidental (Kevin Drew), Valley of the Giants (Brendan Canning), Land of Talk (Elizabeth Powell), Raising the Fawn (John Crossingham), Reverie Sound Revue (Lisa Lobsinger), Treble Charger (Bill Priddle), Jason Tait, Justin Peroff, Jason Collett, Ariel Engle and a few other people have all featured at one time or another.

Altogether, they have released a whopping five studio length albums since their inception in 2001, which I think is pretty admirable given that all of these artists are in at least one other full-time band.

Despite misgivings that no band can be this big and still sound like the individual artists within, BSS manages to do just that. Sometimes they are chaotic and experimental, other times they are orchestral, sometimes they are sad and introspective, and still other times they are celebratory, but they are never timid in their presentation. Hug of Thunder is no weak sauce either.

This isn’t your Spider-Man album, no pulled punches people, please.

BSS spend most of the album letting us know that they are counter-culture, and by that, I mean that they refuse to share dream pop tracks and emotionally abuse people on the internet. This is a community of people shouting the importance of community, when most of us are screaming about politics into our phones. It resonates with the hipster nihilism we started to experience in the early 2000s, the stuff that took root in popular culture and grew into a field of bullshit weeds.

Ideas of love, community, sexuality, and honest to goodness rock and roll seem to have been completely forgotten about in recent years, but BSS refuse to give up on us ingrates. They’ll elevate us up, despite the incredible effort it takes to produce tracks like Gonna Get Better, tittle track Hug of Thunder, and Vanity Pail Kids.

I’m not gonna lie, this album deserved better than the world it’s been brought up in. Our celebrations of libertarianism are so common now that it’s tough to stomach the idea of pulling together and getting along, but Please Take Me With You and Skyline insist, almost plainly that we do. Though never quietly.

But here’s the catch, while you can consume this album in parts and pieces, it’s actually best viewed as a whole. Recognizing that a stable of musicians reunited after a seven year hiatus in order to combat against global indifference is a far stronger statement than Protest Song can deliver all on it’s own. Broken Social Scene have come together to release a pragmatic optimism, and that is probably the best antidote we could receive. Unabashed positivity isn’t realistic in 2017, but stating that the world is ending is foolish too.

We need to keep up the fight and keep working, vigilant without naivety. A challenge to be sure, but I wouldn’t have the message delivered any other way.

Pros: Halfway Home, Gonna Get Better and Protest Song are all excellent demonstrations of the gentle-hearted politics of this album, Hug of Thunder being a personal favourite.

Cons: At certain intersections the lack of a frontwoman or frontman is difficult to digest, and leaves the album feeling disjointed, like a compilation or a soundtrack, rather than an album. But this rare.

Runtime: 52 minutes

Points of Interest: In March of 2017, Broken Social Scene made an appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, featuring past members Emily Haines, James Shaw, Amy Millan, and Evan Cranley, indicating we would see the a return to form. Ariel Engle is a new member of the band, and she has worked with Andrew Whiteman on AroarA previously, which is how she was introduced to the rest of the troupe.

The best and worst parts of Broken Social Scene come from their ability to work together as a group, and in taking it a bit safer with this record, those aspects become more apparent. This is still an excellent record, but not perfect because the exploration isn’t quite where it has been previously. Their message is amazing though, which makes up for a lot of that safety net.

theories Summarized

To put it in brief, this is an anthem for a new generation of apathy. The WIIFM (what’s in it for me) drone need not apply themselves in this case, because Broken Social Scene are all about that open concept of love, empathy and pulling together as a greater community. I’ve not much else to say, except that you really should listen to this album. And those are all of my theories on the matter.

Tim!

And He Kept On Preaching In The Synagogues (JAY-Z, 4:44 review)

If I owned a sports bar, clothing line, sports agency, and multi-millions in real estate and art investments, people would probably come running to hear me too.

 

JAY-Z – 4:44

released Jun 30, 2017
********** 10/10

Sean Corey Carter, bettter known by his stage name JAY-Z, which has also been written as Jay-Z, Jay Z, Jay:Z and Jaÿ-ZJay-Z, Jay Z, Jay:Z and Jaÿ-Z, is an American rapper and businessman. Or should I say, business, man? As it says directly on the album cover, this is his thirteenth studio album, and it’s probably one of this most mature efforts yet.

I mean yeah, Reasonable Doubt was groundbreaking, and The Blueprint a masterpiece, while The Black Album made us miss him, but 4:44 is his apologetic letter for being an asshole, and man does it sing with sincerity and truth. It’s personal, poetic, and poised to take the place of top hip hop record of the year, ironic given that his wife had a top charting album last year. JAY-Z is a legend, and 4:44 is his opportunity to put together an album for him. This is not a cool album, trying to keep up with current day hip hop, there are no singles here. If anything, it sounds like it was put together quickly and abruptly.

So yeah, this is and isn’t a response to Lemonade. It’s more about us getting to see JAY-Z as a fallible human. He raps about being black and racial inequalities, infidelity, his daughter, politics, his personal wealth, and a total dismissal of his ego. It’s fucking brilliant.

But it’s not for your average fan, it’s for those who appreciate his legacy and understand who he is and what he has done for the game.

Kill Jay-Z is a direct reference to the time that Solange Knowles attacked him in an elevator, and it brings up the degradation of his friendship with Kanye West. Also he apologizes for the first time officially to Beyonce, confirming that Lemonade is a true account. He later does that and more on title track 4:44, especially apologizing to all of the women in his life that he has played.

One of my favourites songs is The Stoy of O.J. and it features my favourite line of the album too. This comes when Hova raps “I’m not black, I’m OJ….OK” that sarcasm is a beautiful aftertaste to the cutting wine it was served with. But it’s not like Jay hasn’t rapped about his financial freedom before, nor the fact that black people won’t have security until they understand how Jewish people get rich off of credit. A bold statement within a real album.

Smile is another essential track about his mother Gloria Carter, who outs herself as a lesbian, but JAY-Z lovers her all the more, and encourages all of us to love who we love because life is ever-changing.

We get to see the classic dissing raps of older Jay on Caught Their Eyes and  Marcy Me, going after Prince’s Estate on the first of these two tracks, respectively. Or should I say disrespectively?

Of course the middle of the record also features Family Feud which is a gold mine of lyrics and beats from the heart. It addresses the old schools and new of hip hop, with Jay-Z proving that he has still got it, after all, on track closer, Legacy, he proves family extends to all black people. He wants to leave something meaningful behind in his business work.

Pros: Absolutely essential tracks to this record are The Story of O.J., Smile, and Family Feud. But every song has an element of sincerity to it, making this the most intimate JAY-Z album to-date.

Cons: It’s somewhat awkward to listen to Bam and Caught Their Eyes, they aren’t the most flow friendly tracks. Also that awkward hook on Moonlight about the La La Land fiasco. Seriously?

Runtime: 36 minutes

Points of Interest: Featuring appearances from his daughter Blue Ivy, his mother Gloria Carter, Frank Ocean, The-Dream, and wife Beyonce, this stripped down album has a certain vulnerability to it which we’ve never seen before.

As I mentioned before, this is not your latest and greatest clubbing hip hop record. It is chock full of thoughtful and revealing songs, and deserves the attention of an alumni of JAY-Z’s work. To say that he is the greatest rapper of all time isn’t that big of a boast – the confessional nature of this record solidifies his reputation.

theories Summarized

If it hasn’t been made clear for you just yet, JAY-Z is a business, man. Him and Diddy are almost tied for the most financial successful rappers of all time . But that’s not what this album is about. It’s a testimonial to his screwups, him owning his coldness, and settling into middle age. Hova has worked with so many different arists over the years, but I find it fitting to mention his 2004 collaboration with Linkin Park before I close this post off. RIP Chester Bennington. Jazzy will hold it down for you from here on out.

Tim!

Intensive Care, With Pure Cocoa Butter (Calvin Harris, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 review)

Every summer features an album that perfectly establishes what that feeling should sound like, but the challenge for me is that I eventually tire of summer and want to cool off with fall weather. This summer we’ve found our winner.

 

Calvin Harris – Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1

released Jun 30, 2017
******** 8/10

Adam Richard Wiles, better known as Calvin Harris, is a Scottish producer, disc jockey, singer, songwriter, and musician – though he’s mostly a DJ producer. He first charted with 2007’s I Created Disco, apt given that his music is often given modern pop treatments, with a hint of disco years past.

But that was ten years ago, and four more records have been released since then. Funk Wave Bounces Vol. 1 is the fifth studio album from Harris and it’s easily his best one yet.

Featuring only a couple of real misses, which I’ll outline below, the collaborations on this one are on point, and should be welcomed with open arms. Of particular note are Frank Ocean, Migos, Future, Khalid, Pharell Williams, Katy Perry and Big Sean. But by far, the diamond in the rough of this record is the appearance of new comer Jessie Reyez.

Hard To Love is just such a great closing track, and Reyez vocals really compliment Harris’ use of guitar and simple drum tracks. Reyez reminds me of a combination of Macy Gray, Alessia Cara, Corinne Bailey Rae, and Billy Holiday. It’s just an amazingly satisfying track to listen to. And that’s the power of Harris, he just seems to know intuitively when to pair sounds together with artists and make beautiful music.

He is better at sticking with production and leaving the lyrics to his contemporaries. A great example of this is combining the talents of Future with Khalid, and man does it ever work to our benefit on Rollin.

Of course I would be remiss not to at least write a couple of sentences about the standout song of this record. It’s mindless fun, but man is the song Feels enjoyable to listen to, and I’ll never be afraid to catch feels again thanks to the message being drummed into my head over and over. This is feel-good music, featuring the appropriate amount of trilling and hip hoping.

It might not be an album laden with singles, but Funk Wav Bounce Vol. 1 does a great job of promoting the range of sounds Harris is more than capable of exploring, and I think it assures us we’ll have another decade or two with the DJ producer.

Pros: When it comes to sunsoaked sounds, the essential tracks of Feels, Slide, and Rollin will do more then enough to please your ears, evoke the tropics, summer driving, and disco boogies.

Cons: Maybe it’s just Nicki Minaj that gets on my nerves, but Skrt On Me is super boring and barely there, making it even worse then the lounge sounds of Prayers Up

Runtime: 38 minutes

Points of Interest: Calvin Harris promises ten new singles for 2017, and four of the ten tracks have fulfilled that role. The album debuted at number two on both US and UK album charts upon release.

Ditching techno and EDM may have alienated some of his fans, but featuring Snoop Dogg on this record for Holiday is a very welcome experience and like LCD Soundsystem did way back in the early 2000s, I’m glad Harris traded in synthesizers for guitars. He’s one of the hardest working musicians in the business.

theories Summarized

I think we can expect even greater things from Calvin Harris in the decade to come, and while he didn’t share too much of his personality or feelings in the past, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 definitely feels like more of a passion project then other works of years past. So don’t be afraid to catch feels Calvin.

Tim!

Hearing Aid (timotheories presents: Sound Culture)

One of my favourite pastimes is listening to music. I like to have an album going on repeat in my car while I drive on my commute, when I’m running around town, and when I feel like taking a late night drive.

It gives me focus, makes me stronger. And I can drive faster.

Okay maybe that last part isn’t true. But certain music can definitely help with bolstering your mood and work performance. I written about the subject of music listening before, and it’s one of the main reasons I share album reviews with you creative cuties on the weekly. I’m providing a service to get you the tunes which will help inspire your creative passion projects.

That, and sometimes it’s just nice to have suggestions hand delivered to you.

I confide in musical experts all the time. Some of my favourites are The Needle Drop, Spectrum Pulse, and ARTV. And Spectrum Pulse and ARTV are known to collaborate on the regular.

Quick, Somebody Get A Guitar!

I recently started releasing a weekly video series called Watch Culture, where I share movie recommendations with you. Featuring a revolving door of familiar timotheories faces, these are short videos which give you examples of shows and films in the annals of history that deserve your attention, no matter how old you are.

It’s been a fun project so far, and I’ve learned a lot in giving my thoughts on pop culture in a short format. But seeing as how this is the year of campfire stories, I will continue to expand the social circle and branch out into other areas of the arts.

It makes perfect sense to add album recommendations to the rotation because I have a lot to sense about music too, dear readers. So I’m pre-emptively introducing a new series to you – Sound Culture.

The show where I, and sometimes guests, but mostly featuring one very special musician named Brendon Greene, will give you recommendations based on albums we think you should buy, stream, and listen to. We’ll ensure each month features albums from different eras, genres, and artists – I think you’ll enjoy what we have to say about albums that are either freshly pressed and or classics in their own right.

And besides, every campfire needs an acoustic guitar sessions or three.

theories Summarized

Time to get to stepping folks, I promised myself I wouldn’t share too much of this new endeavour, lest I reveal what’s coming up in future weeks and totally destroy the element of surprise! I’m out of theories for now, but please come back tomorrow and I’ll give you my thoughts on the new Calvin Harris album, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1.

Tim!