The Big Issue : Edition 536
MUSIC 40 THEBIGISSUE5–18MAY2017 “ What’s that song mean?” sings Yukimi Nagano on ‘The Pop Life’. With Little Dragon’s tunes, it’s not always easy to tell; Nagano’s light, liquid, reverb-draped voice delivers cryptic lyrics. But on the song in question, the images are of peddling dreams, art made product, consumers turned passive. They’re notable sentiments given the Swedish quartet recently found success after years of slow growth – their fourth album, Nabuma Rubberband, garnered a 2015 Grammy nomination. In response Season High is such an odd left-turn there’s an anti-careerist quality to it. Where their best record, Ritual Union (2011), was a work of sleek minimalism, here they stack up their synth parts: songs thick, knotty, even messy; keyboards made to clatter, buzz and wheeze. This applies when the tempo is up (single ‘Sweet’, a loony eight-bit cacophony), or down (‘Don’t Cry’ and ‘Butterfly’), when they’re making straight-up dance jams (‘Strobe Light’, ‘Celebrate’) or stretching out in a cosmic epic (‘Gravity’). ANTHONY CAREW SEASON HIGH LITTLE DRAGON Having made his theatrical debut in 2012, it is clear Tim Rogers has been bitten by the theatre bug, as opener ‘The Bug’ – with its bowed cello, show-band drums and reflections on stagecraft – demonstrates. Based on a self-penned performance piece about an elderly actor, Rogers’ seventh LP without his You Am I bandmates is his finest since The Luxur y of Hysteria (2007). The album’s fictitious thespian resembles no-one so much as Rogers himself: here an erstwhile lover (‘One More Late Night Phone Conversation’), there a father contemplating certain unknowable bonds (‘A Mother Daughter Thing’). Rogers the songwriter prefers deft flourishes over grand gestures, crafting scenery from sensuous jazz colours (‘Time to Be Lonely’), urbane acoustica and Tom Waits-esque piano balladry (‘Age (A Couple of Swells)’). He is, as ever, a master of dramatic misdirection, suggesting so many melodic resolutions before snatching them away. It rings engrossingly true to life: catharsis eludes us all. GARETH HIPWELL AN ACTOR REPAIRS TIM ROGERS STARING OUT FROM the cover of his new record DAMN., Kendrick Lamar looks dejected, distressed even. It seems the antithesis of the powerful image that fronted his 2014 masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly, on which a topless Lamar stands defiantly in front of the White House surrounded by friends and family from his home suburb of Compton. At the group’s feet lies a dead judge, the only white man in the image. It was, Lamar said, a tribute to “those without money of my colour, that are rich in spirit” and perfectly captured the record’s socially charged songs – including the incendiary Black Lives Matter anthem, ‘Alright’. So what then do we make of this new Lamar who seems so wearied? Has he given up the fight in the face of Trump’s New World Order? Far from it. On DAMN., Lamar sounds as determined as ever, skewering his critics – notably Fox News commentators like Geraldo Rivera. Lamar is at the top of his game, rapping about both the personal and the political – often at the same time – on a record that eschews the free jazz and funk of his last two releases in favour of stuttering trap beats, disorientating waves of soulful psychedelia and anxiety- ridden apocalyptic visions. But Lamar also feels the weight of being himself; when played backwards, the track ‘FEAR.’ reveals his self- doubt as he tells us, “Pain in my heart/Carry burden for the struggle”. DA MN. is Kendrick Lamar at career best. SARAH SMITH > Music Editor They may have graduated to trio status with the recent addition of drums, but California natives Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker still relish indie rock at its most intimate, specialising in raw 20-something songs that play like diary entries. Their second album as Girlpool teems with scuffed tunefulness and almost incidental revelations, striking a familiar balance of lilting DIY sweetness and avalanching guitar fuzz. Their thin, frayed tunes are plenty endearing, with conjoined vocals and sly one-liners like “I faked global warming just to get close to you”. But there remains the pesky feeling that the songs have only been partially developed, and not just because they average around two minutes. On the plus side, ‘Static Somewhere’ does coalesce for more satisf ying impact. But anyone who lived through 90s lo-fi might have trouble shaking a sense of déjà vu. DOUG WALLEN POWER PLANT GIRLPOOL CD DOWNLOAD VINYL MOROSE. KENDRICK.