The Kills, “Blood Pressures” (Domino)
Approaching today’s release of “Blood Pressures,” it seems like the Kills are facing the greatest challenge of their career. Not only are they coming off the career-defining “Midnight Boom”the 2008 record that solidified the duo as gritty rock royalty — but the album also follows singer Alison Mosshart’s lauded time in the Dead Weather.
Yes, this fourth Kills record has more expectations than ever. And yet somehow, Mosshart and bandmate Jamie Hince come through with a CD that triumphs as a natural follow-up to their back catalog and a smart alternative to Mosshart’s two albums with Jack White’s latest band.
While “Blood Pressures” doesn’t have the natural indie hits of “Boom,” it’s a solid LP that favors fuzzed-out guitars and stark percussion as much as its minimalist predecessors.
“Heart Is a Beating Drum” best displays this record’s highs and inadequacies. Mosshart’s vocals are a natural fit for this simple, ’60s-aping musical dynamic, but the song and its simple melody aren’t as memorable as past efforts.
CD-starter “Future Starts Slow” shows off the sexy interplay of their intertwined vocals. The mellower “Wild Charms” and “The Last Goodbye” provide keen balance for the group. And “Satellite” is the kind of sludgy, druggy jam you want to hear from this band, which is known for its sludgy, druggy shows. –Ricardo Baca
The Chemical Brothers, “Hanna: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” (Black Lot Music)
You won’t read a review of the new “Hanna” soundtrack without mentions of Daft Punk and “Tron: Legacy,” so let’s get this out of the way.
Yes, Daft Punk’s “Tron” soundtrack was a smart move for the French producers. And the Chemical Brothers seem to be emulating that tie-in with their soundtrack to “Hanna,” the film that comes out Friday. (The soundtrack is out now on iTunes.) But the Chemical Brothers outperform their musical counterparts with a soundtrack that is richly layered and potently strange — and occasionally bangin’, too.
Whereas the “Tron” soundtrack only thrived after you’d seen the film (and the group’s role in the movie), the “Hanna” music works on its own. It’s a headphones album, something to run to. The Chemical Brothers know their way around a melody and manipulate that into a rich score of electronic music that isn’t afraid of circus-inspired ditties (“The Devil is in the Details”) and spooky lullabies (“The Sandman”).
At 20 tracks, there are surely a few fillers. But as the film’s trailer will testify — and it’s an engaging few minutes, if you haven’t seen it — the soundtrack’s energy is paramount to the action sequences. The Chemical Brothers proved they’re up to the task with songs such as “Hanna vs. Marissa” and “Escape Wavefold.” Plus “Hanna’s Theme” might be the best Chemical Brothers track in the last 10 years. –Ricardo Baca
Bangs, “Reflections” (HSM Entertainment)
“Opportunities are available in all walks of life in Australia,” said Ray Davies on the Kinks’ 1969 unheralded masterpiece, “Arthur.”
Lord knows what Davies would think about the lyrics now, if put into the context of the opportunities exploited by the Sudanese-by-way-of Australia teenage YouTube hip-hop superstar known simply as “Bangs.”
Bangs — real name Ajak Chol — gained viral infamy in 2009 with his single “Take U To Da Movies,” becoming a polarizing figure in the DIY internet hip-hop game. Seen by most as a comical farce, Bangs really is simply an immigrant using his very limited capabilities to produce this blend of “takes-a-couple-spins” type of music. And boy, has his music spread around the Internet, with nearly 9 million views to date, a starring role in an Australian Honda commercial, and even a distribution deal from the extremely vague “HSM Entertainment.”
“Reflections” is everything you want in a follow-up album: Plenty of the bread and butter that drew you in, plus some incremental progression that bodes well for his future. The improvement is most evident on the single “Meet Me On Facebook,” a thought-out rehashing of his “Take U To Da Movies” formula. Likewise on the stunning “Hi Haters,” where Bangs not only brings his Frooty Loops production to a new level (adding a monotone stoner freak out pulse), but also takes his detractors head-on by saying what most Bangs supporters say: “Do your own shit and stop hating on me.”
The “hating” is not completely unwarranted, however. Bangs does have a tendency to slip into the pitfalls of run-with-the-pack sound and modern slang buzzwords. Especially on tracks like “Show You My Swag,” which features the lyric, “Damn girl, you got a nice leg / I can’t wait to eat it like a chicken on a plate.”
Bangs has two glaring deficiencies: Mainly, a lack of command for the English language (he started learning English in 2003) and his unintentionally comical subject matter. What’s unique about Bangs, though, is that he’s been able to turn these weaknesses into his two most endearing qualities. Bangs is not for the high brow hip-hop fan and certainly not for the misguided angry whiteboy. Bangs is for the passive, fun-loving dabbler of hip-hop. One who understands that it’s the industry’s own fault for going into the cartoonishly mainstream dumbed-down direction (Soulja Boy, T-Pain) and celebrating Bangs’ youthful and spirited take on the genre. One must appraise Bangs at face value for what he is: A 19 year old happy kid that has a natural talent for creating catchy melodies and songs that lift the spirit and are fun to sing along to. To quote Paul Mooney, “He makes Bryant Gumble look like Malcolm X.” –Kevin Rochford
Kevin Rochford is a New York-based writer and office worker.