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Madonna Summer: Madonna out and about in 2004.
Delivering all the Lanaisms 👄🌴
Nussy live at the Workers Club, In Review
Had you Googled “Nussy”, prior to her gig at the Workers Club, you could’ve made comparisons between her and the heavyweight champion of euro-pop, Robyn. Nussy’s blond crop, iridescent sound and quirky presentation just easily leads one on that train of thought. Ironically, Robyn’s ‘Dancing On My Own’ played as Nussy was first spotted on stage, refining her setup.
The Melbourne local is obviously influenced by the mega-Swede, even without checking her dedicated-to-Robyn-Instagram-posts. This isn’t a bad thing; her inspiration comes from a great place. It’s especially not a bad thing, when you still prove authenticity as a performer. Nussy certainly did that, in front of a close to capacity audience, last Thursday night.
The essence of euro-pop was intensified with fairy-light trimmings and a disco ball that cast its shimmer across the room. Further pizazz came via Nussy’s reappearance on stage, wearing a sequined two-piece by Discount Universe, and inflatable balls, designed to explode with confetti, that were launched into the crowd. The balls were a fun addition to Nussy’s mini spectacle, but soon became a testing distraction as they didn’t seem to pop and were still darting around by the time she tried to sing a ballad.
The lunar sounding polish and sheen of Nussy’s lead single and show opener, ‘Dizzy’, stirred the crowd into focus with the singer’s pixie-pitched vocals. Her voice was soon downcast into brassier terrain by the second number, which segued into a cover of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’. Further covers were aptly done with a rendition of ‘Young Blood’ by The Naked and Famous, as well as ‘1901’ by Phoenix, performed as an encore. These tracks blended well with all songs performed from her self-titled EP.
Seeing Nussy live can rid the perception one might understandably have of her, that she is all pop-sugar and electronic-spice, born of the DIY era of the Internet-star. The reality is, in a live format, she is a more wholesome presence with instrumental strength. There were moments when she played keys and her backing band of four gents created engaging, preservative free sounds that were undoubtedly appreciated by all in attendance.
Nussy was recognisably thrilled to see an overcrowded venue before her. It was a special occasion, for an artist transitioning into recognition, and for us, the audience, to gain recognition of an artist worth knowing.
A fierce work in progress with Matthew Harden
Sky Ferreira, Live at the Prince Bandroom, In Review.
For someone who has their reputation shelved high in the echelons of fashion (she has walked for Marc Jacobs), the vision of Sky Ferreira, on stage at the Prince Bandroom last Wednesday night, rejected most designer aesthetics one could imagine.
Sky confessed she didn’t know it was going to be so cold here (she’d only landed that day, flying in from the UK); perhaps the reason she wore a slouchy jumper and beanie, or maybe because she simply wanted to. After all, Sky Ferreira’s appeal is in her effortless cool.
Her stage presence was glassy eyed and she moved at a jet-lagged pace, but all the haze surrounding her appearance contrasted with the stark beauty of her well-carved face and wide-set eyes. You could detect the model in the musician when she unabashedly leant into cameras held by fans in the front row.
Much of Sky’s writing is from a girlish perspective; perhaps the reason she’s admitted not many men “get” her music. Yet, if that’s the case, she may have to reconsider that point of view, as the near capacity crowd was healthily gender mixed; as well as vocal and generous. “Can I show you my tits?” one fan catcalled, as others in the front row exuded enthusiasm and gifted her sunglasses to try on.
Sky’s set-list didn’t venture beyond her debut LP ‘Night Time, My Time’. A setback, considering gems hidden on her ‘Ghost’ EP, yet songs chosen were done so with killer heart and an air of starry-eyed tragedy. The opener ’24 Hours’ is the perfect theme to an edgy, 90s teen romance. The lyrics, “There’s no tomorrow without you”, harrowed through the dark of the venue.
There’s ripeness in Sky’s voice; it’s worn in, like an artist twice her age; and it’s what glues you to her presence, despite its shambles and moments of awkwardness. Half way through the driving ode to the Japanese underground, ‘Omanko’, Sky demanded, with a bashful air, “We’re doing that again, because I couldn’t hear shit”, feedback issues were evident. She resurrected the song with added willpower. She was obviously weary but determined to give back to an audience that gave so much.
Sky concluded her main set with the near perfect ‘Everything Is Embarrassing’, before returning, due to the need of the crowd that chanted, “BLAME MYSELF. BLAME MYSELF!” They weren’t going to let her disappear, not without hearing her latest single. Sky obliged, she sang ‘I Blame Myself’ on the condition that the crowd aid her weakness by singing the chorus. They more than filled out the deficit in her voice.
On the whole, Sky managed to triumph over her exhaustion, even if there were moments when her music was more powerful than her; pleasing an audience that energised her when she needed it most.
Lorde Live At The Festival Hall, In Review.
After dates in April were rescheduled due to illness, it seemed Lorde didn’t wish to delay her show a moment longer. The three-month-long-extra-wait wasn’t prolonged in the slightest, as Lorde assuredly strode toward centre stage, obediently in accordance with her scheduled arrival time; and momentarily after Daft Punk’s joyous Doin’ It Right played over the Festival Hall’s sound system, priming the audience for further thrills ahead.
An Instagram conscious crowd fringed the teen’s entrance, attempting to capture her mystique with smartphones strained high. She opened with Glory and Gore, as her features were erased in the stark of a single spotlight, bar her cheekbones carved out with shadow. Against a dark curtain, her ghostly pallor recreated the black and white of Pure Heroine’s album art. The vision’s simplicity indicated the show wasn’t about to rely on dazzling displays but real talent instead.
By the second number, Biting Down, the curtain had lifted to reveal an ornately trimmed screen, in three parts. It framed Lorde and her two musicians into a neat composition. Yet it was unneeded fluff. Lorde could’ve confidently commanded our attention had she been light bulb lit on a stage without props. It seems old hat to mention her tender age, but the authority she delivered was truly beyond her 17 years.
Lorde’s anti-typical-pop-star-persona was in force, considering her choice of apparel. She wore extremely wide cut pants that were the most distinctive piece in an ensemble more likely worn by a jaded and weary art critic. Yet evidence of her youth was in the way she moved. One of Lorde’s most noticeable performance traits is her thrashing stage presence. Her body jerked with every smash and pound of her synthesised production. In moments of strobe lit seizure, it made for a spectacle in itself, as her head of curls took on an athletic life of its own.
The majority of Lorde’s crowd interaction was delivered via “thank yous” and “I’m-so-happy-to-be-heres”, until later in the set, before singing Ribs, she empathised with the audience in a moment of being relatable. As the ambiance of the song’s opening synths soared in heavenly arcs, Lorde explained Ribs was about the fear of growing up, a fear that she has surely dealt with, in amassing such fame induced responsibility, in a very short time. “You know what it feels like to be running from getting old, and so this song’s for you”, the old souled teen said, before executing a performance that proved Ribs to be her best song on and off the record.
Lorde’s set-list was acceptably predictable, considering the one studio album to her name. Breakaways from Pure Heroine were in the form of two covers, Swingin’ Party by The Replacements and Easy by Son Lux, as well as Bravado from The Love Club EP. Songs that would unsurprisingly garner obvious respect, like Tennis Court and the colossal Royals, didn’t amass fever too high in contrast to the rest of the non-single material performed. This was obviously an audience well versed in her collection; the sing-along seemed to stretch from beginning to end.
She concluded with Team and A World Alone, in a billowing cloak of gold lamé. A fitting choice of colour, considering her victorious killing on stage that vocally added dynamism to her recorded sound. In the final verse of A World Alone she sang, “people are talking, people are talking… Let ‘em talk”. Seeing Lorde on stage gives you plenty of reason to talk of her further, yet strictly within a glowing gamut.
In her final seconds, right before disappearing, she bowed as her curls spilled forward. There was no need for the jarring wait for an encore to ruin the momentous swing of her concert. She had already given everything she had.
Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey, In Review.
Lana Del Rey’s career thus far has orbited on the periphery of pop. Listening to her new album, ‘Ultraviolence’, it reveals she hasn’t gravitated closer to the warmth of commercial success. Rather, she’s made a thematic curve. She’s disrobed the decadence of her previous releases, to reveal a body of work that dims the singer’s, perpetually stirring, aesthetic realm.
Gone are songs with a backbone of hip-hop and ornate orchestration, commonplace on ‘Born To Die’ and the ‘Paradise’ edition. In their place are 14 tracks that transport us from the baroque surrounds of Lana’s last incarnation to the smoky air of her current one, seemingly, an underground jazz club, a sunrise over “the freedom land of the 70s”, or perhaps a drunk drive “down on the West Coast”.
As producer, Dan Auerbach, vocalist and guitarist of The Black Keys, holds the wheel with Lana that steers her into a new soundscape. The sonic terrain of ‘Ultraviolence’ sees Auerbach’s impact via raw instrumentation. Guitars twang lucidly and drums kick with verve, creating an atmospheric chill of rock’n’roll that cradles Lana’s diverse vocal performance. Her voice on ‘Ultraviolence’ often droops in sorrow as much as it gets feverishly high and ethereal, regularly within the space of one chorus.
Many of the choruses on ‘Ultraviolence’ slip into halftime beats and swing with the casualness of coastal palms, escaping them from the potential of commercial radio play. Her record labels might be mad but there’s always been a narcoleptic element in Lana’s music. Such a trait reaches new heights of lethargy on this record, but it’s the love-scorned theme of the album, tinged with accents of toxic desire - “He hit me and it felt like a kiss”, she whirrs on the album’s title track, that keeps the listener alertly connected and feeling their way through.
Lana isn’t afraid of her feelings, no matter how politically incorrect they can be perceived. The songstress has in the past been accused of embracing anti-feminist values, and she may be at the brunt of such accusations again, as much of the story weaving through ‘Ultraviolence’ relies heavily on yearning for a man. “And if you call, I’ll run, run, run. If you change your mind, I’ll come, come, come”, she feebly confesses on the melodically haunting ‘Old Money’.
Regardless of the interpretation, it’s evident Lana merely describes a situation rather than condones one. And besides, it all attributes to an artistic world that she, herself, has created, and that implies total agency. It’s near impossible not to tap into this visual consciousness when heeding to her music. On ‘Ultraviolence’, her creation of a broody film noir setting compliments the pace of the album and its cinematic haze perfectly.
Certain trimmings on ‘Ultraviolence’ are instantly enjoyed. The amplified guitars on ‘Cruel World’ reverb with the heart of Woodstock and the icy howl of Lana’s vocal provocation on ‘Fucked My Up To The Top’ are moments of swift enchantment. Although, collectively, the album isn’t an instant pleaser, it demands the closeness of prolonged attention, to appreciate the nuances that are later revealed. The resonance of male vocals on the last chorus of ‘Brooklyn Baby’ is one example of the restrained beauty of ‘Ultraviolence’. The moment perhaps signifies the ghost of legend Lou Reed, who Lana planned on recording the song with, before his untimely death (he died minutes after she touched down in New York to make the collaboration a reality).
A relationship with Lana Del Rey’s ‘Ultraviolence’ is worth more than it initially exhibits. She is one of the only, truly, mystified personas of popular music, and seeking out and connecting with the real Lana Del Rey, in the darkness of her fatality as a woman in distress, may be more possible than ever on this record, if you pay enough attention.
‘Ultraviolence’ is, ultimately, a solitary moment, the perfect 1am soundtrack, and a collection of ballads that will find you when you need it most. Give it a chance to grow with you.
Me. I am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse, In Review.
Mariah Carey’s knack for naming records is on point; she’s christened her latest body of work aptly. ‘Me. I Am Mariah. The Elusive Chanteuse’ arrives after nearly two years of eluding us.
The 14th studio effort from Mariah has had its fair share of false starts. Does anyone remember the abortive lead single, ‘Triumphant (Get ‘Em)’, released in August 2012? It was anything but a triumphant start to her new era. The single’s underperformance ricocheted Mimi and her team back to the studio to re-strategise.
In the time it took to revamp, we have been treated with three further pre-album singles, the lukewarm success of ‘#Beautiful ft. Miguel’ and the more coolly received, ‘The Art Of Letting Go’ and ‘You’re Mine (Eternal)’. Delivering the heart, the soul and the voice, all three ballads are textbook Mariah and deserved higher acclaim than they received.
But, finally, the album is here. ‘The Elusive Chanteuse’ is no longer shadowed.
She may be labelling herself ‘elusive’ but there’s nothing hidden in the nakedness of her talent, up front and un-flanked on this record, despite a host of guest features.
There’s an aroma of yesteryear, thanks to co-creators like Nas and Stevie Wonder, as well as a saintly cover of George Michael’s ‘One More Try’. Nostalgic sentiments are expressed on the chit-chatted intro to ‘Dedicated feat. Nas’. Mariah and the seasoned rapper reminisce about the best years of hip-hop, before a clanging yet smoothly looped sample of Wu Tang Clan’s 1993 jam, ‘Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’, rolls out with the lyric “Carey like Mariah”, repeated for body-rolling effect.
It seems throwbacks are where Mariah scores higher on ‘Chanteuse’. Another highlight, alongside ‘Dedicated’, is the immediate pleaser, ‘You Don’t Know What To Do feat. Wale’, a song that could stand successfully against Mariah’s other colossal hits, ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘Fantasy’, in terms of its summery sheen. The nu-disco tune may be shinning on us with feel good rays and rhythms, but Mariah still delivers signature shade with lyrics like, “I miss you almost half as much as you miss me.”
Mariah wants you to know she’s still street, a message she delivers most convincingly on ‘Thirsty’. The shade gets fiercer here, as Mariah takes a moment to call out the lesser basics for what they really are. “Ugh, you’re thirsty” she bemoans, over twinkling trap-pop beats.
On ‘Chanteuse’, Mariah sees love through angles reflected in broken shards. The album’s opening two, ‘Cry.’ and ‘Faded’, are downcast moments, with lyrics and sentiments to hide between the sheets on breakup day. From this thornier side of love, Mariah’s disposition is delicate and pretty, as her voice becomes breathy and light, as she sings through lyrics of despair. “So intangible, just like an echo”, she laments on ‘Faded’.
In a crop of ageing and iconic women in popular music, Mariah may have the advantage over her peers. She doesn’t need to be progressive or strive for reinvention, when the asset that’s gifted her so much success, her voice, remains the draw card and the reason for the listener’s enjoyment. It’s perhaps why the music maintains a classic charm on ‘Chanteuse’.
When your voice performs better gymnastics than Nadia Comaneci, why bother generating hype with a tragic indulgence in the latest buzz producer? Mariah’s voice fluttering above a delicate sprinkling of keys on ‘Camouflage’ is one example of the many preservative free moments on this wholesome piece of work.