Hi Brothers. Another lockdown AOTM. However, lockdown has nothing to do with why I chose this album by Mac Miller. This album was released in early Feb. so for me, it’s history pre-dates ‘all-of-this’ / ‘what-with-one-thing-and-another’ / insert your favourite ‘lock-down-euphemism’.
I could have chosen less risky AOTM options but figured that we all know what the Strokes sound like. Therefore I chose Circles by Mac Miller. Again, I cannot claim to be a an expert in this artist. I came to this early in 2020 when surfing through Meta-album-of-the-year sites. This album kept on showing up in the upper reaches of their meta-review scores. Also, it seemed to be one where the listener scores were very similar to the critics reviews which always makes me pay attention. So, without any further fannying around I downloaded the album, got stuck in and found myself listening to this loads.
I found it a rewarding album to listen to in full and in parts when time was limited. Tracks started to stick in my mind and the the tracks started to open themselves open. When you first listen to it I can feel really pleasant and accessible, it will make you smile and feel pretty good about life. However, I would be surprised if at some point (early on) you didn’t think it was a little dispensable … but I do think it deserves a little more attention. There’s obviously a big chunk of melancholy driving this album. I noticed that when the tracks started to unfold on repeated listens a comfortable but uncomfortable feeling started to creep over me.
It was this odd feeling that made me go back and read the reviews of the album. I think I am glad that I listened first and then read the reviews later. It turns out that this is a posthumous release. Mac Miller died in 2018 of an apparently accidental overdose. The Guardian described him as a capable but derivative frat-rapper (didn’t even know frat-rap was a thing) who started to experiment on later albums with a softer approach. He was a mult-instrumentlist who collaborated with the LA instrumental hip-hop crowd (Flying Lotus et al.). He was also in a long standing relationship with Ariana Grande, the end of which sparked his turn in musical direction.
He released a critically acclaimed album ‘Swimming’ in 2018 before his death. He left a significant amount of material that was developed by Jon Brion (friend, producer, composer) with the blessing of his family. Jon has kept the feel of Swimming (which he co-produced) on this album. Sparse, gentle, elegant and spacious production allows this album to flow around what turns out to be some beautiful lyrical content.
I rate this album. I keep coming back to it. It seemed perfect on the cold, dark commutes into Manchester … and on the cold, dark commutes home. It’s great music to cook to. It has a low-F-bomb-count. Low enough that Stacey’s never noticed so it gets plenty of air-time in our house. It also felt like the perfect album when it was 23 degrees last weekend. I think this will stay with me for a long time. I can hear loads of influences but nothing that I think is over-bearing. There are moments of Neptunes-esque and Neptunes-quality production that make me smile. It’s a lovely little thing. I hope you enjoy it.
The opening track from U.S. Girls new album. I thought David would like that she’s still rocking the disco vibe (can you ‘rock’ the ‘disco- vibe’?). The album is another belter. She’s so consistent!
I am head over heels in love with this track. It makes me happy. It makes me big-smile. Little Sammy does awesome dancing to it. The whole EP is worth getting to know. David, I can see this making its way to one of your mixes?
Time was when you could bank on a new Chemical Brothers album every few years, like a gift transported from some muddy field or mega rave somewhere in the UK right to your cranium. They have spent the last two and half decades making music that often assaulted the senses, and live they’re an act that not only cracks your eardrums, but imprints images in your head that you may not always want to remember: their visuals are memorable, and often overwhelming. Just look at the video above (and add it to Do It Again (Live) for starters) and you get the picture. However, much as I love their music and have never had a Chems album that I’ve not liked, after 2010’s Born In The Echoes (itself a comparatively long five years after 2010’s Further) I wasn’t sure we’d even get another record from them.
Ed left them as a live outfit in 2015, and though visual collaborator Adam Smith admirably filled in – they were still incredible at Glastonbury in 2015, where I buzzed to them in their traditional Sunday night Other Stage slot – it felt like it may be the end of a road for a band that pretty much taught me how to dance in a field. In fact as a band, they’ve pretty much soundtracked – like anyone else of *cough* a certain age – my entire raving lifespan. Exit Planet Dust came out a whopping 24 (yes, TWENTY FOUR) years ago, but it blew my socks off then and still sounds absolutely crisp and fresh as it did then. Named after their previous Dust Brothers moniker (they reputedly nicked it from Beastie Boys producers, never thinking they’d ever be successful enough for it to matter) the album introduced us to many Chemical Brothers staples: acid 303s, growling leads, huge drum fills, sampled vocals, guitar licks and whooshing, discombobulating sounds and melodies. It wasn’t all eye-popping peak-time bangers though, because they have also made a name making more blissed-out tracks (see One Too Many Mornings from that very album) and seeking out collaborations with artists that fitted their unique template.
I say unique ironically, as one criticism through their hugely successful career has been an accusation – lazy, in my opinion – that they keep making the same record or that they’re unoriginal. I think that would be on firmer ground if a) anyone else consistently sounded like them and b) there wasn’t the great variation within their sound across all their albums. Some of the songs I most love from the last 30 years of electronic music (and that I still own on vinyl) are from the Chems: It Began In Afrika, Come With Us, The Golden Path, Hey Boy Hey Girl, Chemical Beats Out Of Control and The Private Psychedelic Reel (god, I’m getting nostalgic here) and of course their enduring work with Q-Tip, Galvanize and Go (two of my favourite tracks). They sounded amazing, their videos were groundbreaking (I still love watching Hey Boy, and thinking ‘oh, I used to dance there’) and live they were almost unrivalled in the electronic music scene. I’ve seen them live half a dozen times, and they’ve never disappointed. Though I still wish I’d been to Red Rocks.
So the news that Ed was back and a new album was coming left me with mixed feelings. Was it going to be up to their standard? And if not, should you bow out gracefully? We’re not getting any younger, and it’s a long time since we were freewheeling hedonists in the 90s and 00s. Of course, i shouldn’t have worried. Even if there is a little of the law of diminishing returns in play, a few listens to No Geography and it feels like slipping on an old pair of jeans. And I still get that Proustian rush back to some memorable live experiences as soon as those familiar sounds fill the ears. The fact they’ve made it with just the kit from their early albums feels a nice pushback against the over-compressed, quantized, perfectly melodic electronic music we’ve been bred into these days.
I hope it gets them some new fans too. I know they’re touring, and I know I’ll want to go. And part of me feels a bit sad that younger crew today won’t get to hear Hey Boy Hey Girl for the first time back when, and this ‘what the FUCK it this’? Whatever you may think of them, few have lasted as long as they have, and there’s a reason for that.
But more importantly, what do you think?
Love this …
As we start a 4 month hiatus from new music and bring back the clock to albums that we personally love but have slipped by the other brothers on ThisIsNotHappening; I predict that the rest of you will find that picking something that nobody has but you’ll hang your hat on is a hard task. This month I’ve gone for a recent favourite in our house, Nick Mulvey’s “Wake Up Now”.
Nick Mulvey has a special place in my world. His first album had just been released in 2014 when Hayley and I first got together and his music was the soundtrack to many of our early memories. His first album came with a fair bit of accolade and had medium commercial success. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him numerous times and with each time the crowds got bigger. His sound is along the lines of folk he has the ability to connect with people (especially live) and has built a dedicated fan base around the UK and the globe with his gigs routinely selling out.
In the September of 2017 he released his second album “Wake Up Now”. As for many of us allot can change in 3 years. Both internally and externally. I think we can all agree the world had changed a fair bit between 2014-2017 and his lyrics had become more reflective of world humanity and environmental issues. He also had his first child. All of us being fathers on this blog can agree that this impacts everything in your life; especially how we see the world that we now need to guide our children through.
I have read a few articles how Nick Mulvey is a very spiritual person which is very evident on this album. There are some pretty deep thoughts translated throughout his songs. This mixed with his worldly view it is very evident that this album has a message; wake up now. Wake up to how we’re treating fellow humans and the planet we live on. Not many people are doing this these days it seems. Even Bob Geldof and Bono seemed to have piped down as of late. I like that Nick is doing this.
When I first approached this album I was excited; but hesitant. I wasn’t fully ready for his message. The song that gripped me was “Imogen”. My daughter was in her first year and many of the lyrics hit straight to the bone. They still do every time is listen to it.
Throughout the album there is a natural progression he has taken from his first album. The songs are more complex and layered. Many have been written to be played out live. I recently saw him perform this without his band. Just a man and a guitar and it was amazing.
Why do I like Nick Mulvey and why did I choose this album? Good question. I guess it’s because he makes good music, music that makes you smile, music that makes you sing along… and isn’t you’re not careful music that may open your eyes and try to be a better person.
I’m not sure what the reaction will be from you all. It may be a little like marmite. Hayley likes it, the kids like it and so do I. It’s something that I can put on and everyone enjoys. Hopefully you’ll have a similar result. Enjoy brothers.