Album Reviews: Raury / Beach House / Chris Walla / Fuzz

All We Need / Raury

Raury has been discovering the joys of hip-hop since his 2014 Indigo Child EP. On this collection, however, you're just as likely to find flourishes of lilting folk and throaty tribal chants as you are round trap beats; hardly Fetty Wap, then. Like a true millennial, Raury treats genre as relative, hopping and mashing to his heart's content. Lush production marks out the unique textures achieved from combining elements as disparate as bongos, Spanish guitar and thrumming 808 bass on the off-kilter ‘Revolution’.‘Devil's Whisper’ is blood-pumping. Dark and spiritual with upbeat handclaps and a stuttering synth bassline, Raury's authoritative delivery reflects the enticement of sin. It's thrilling to listen to. On the opposite end of the spectrum lies ‘Crystal Express’, which swings with airy abandon until reaching a euphoric peak in the "you give me life" chorus. When everything comes together as it does on these tracks, the results are undeniable.The songs in between these highlights, however, are what ground the album. ‘Forbidden Knowledge’ combines André 3000's flow with Frank Ocean's atmospherics yet falls utterly flat. Spoken word interludes recall Kendrick Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d city but come across as out of place.Raury's lyrics are in turns galvanizing and broad; he too often dilutes his message with clichés and generalisations, evident from the first track on which he airily sings: "Don't hate my brother / God is our friend". The passion is evident throughout, the ability to communicate it, however, isn't. The politics are as heavy-handed as one would find in a reactionary Tumblr post. The more personal moments, such as the RZA-featuring ‘CPU’ on which he cribs from the Daft Punk School of Vocoder Loneliness, are most affecting, but there aren't enough of these to give us any sort of complete picture.On All We Need, elements of sounds, genres and big themes are thrown together but haven't coalesced into something coherent or truly unique. When they do, Raury will have a masterpiece on his hands. In A Nutshell: An intriguing and sometimes-brilliant indie-rap hybrid from an undoubted creative talent who could benefit from a bit more focus.- Adam Lawler

Thank Your Lucky Stars / Beach House

With the release of Beach House’s album Depression Cherry just two months ago, the arrival of the band’s sixth LP Thank Your Lucky Stars comes as quite a surprise. For a band that has up until now casually released music at comfortably spaced intervals, the Baltimore dream-pop duo have pulled off this tactical, unannounced release with admirable form. However, the new record coming so soon after the last may leave the listener lacking time for the usual mental readiness and transition needed for album to album progression. Although this doesn’t prove to be too much of a problem as Thank Your Lucky Stars does not stray far from the usual Beach House sound.The album starts off sticking to the band’s usual, signature soft grunge fused with the dream-like indie feel that Beach House never fails to bring out in their music. ‘Majorette’ is the opening song and is an undeniable highlight of this 9-track album. Victoria Legrand’s whimsically droning vocals gently bring us into the pace of the songs which, whilst maintaining the standard Beach House structured forms and complex effects, are definitely of a different mindset to those on Depression Cherry.The emphasis on the retro organ sound is as present as ever but now, along with this comes a driving guitar focus in songs such as ‘Somewhere Tonight’ and ‘All Your Yeahs’, giving this album a new personality and solidly setting it apart from its predecessors.Stand out songs on the album upon first listen are opening track ‘Majorette’ followed by ‘All Your Yeahs’, ‘Rough Song’ and ‘Somewhere Tonight’. The album serves as an excellent introduction to a new side of Beach House that listeners can hope to see more of. In A Nutshell: A pleasant surprise and a solid addition to the growing Beach House catalogue.- Daniel Ryan

Tape Loops / Chris Walla

After leaving world-renowned indie band Death Cab for Cutie in 2014, multi instrumentalist and producer Chris Walla has not been idle. Be it a deliberate attempt to distance himself from his former band or simply the following of a new artistic drive, Walla’s second solo album Tape Loops (which comes seven years after his solo debut Field Manual) takes a completely new shape and sound to anything that we have heard from the thirty-nine year old so far.Tape Loops is, coincidentally, a thirty-nine minute instrumental work comprised of five separate tracks; however, it could just as easily run together as one long epic track. Walla has left the guitar behind in favour of the keyboard, resulting in largely atmospheric melodies, which define the overall tone of the album.The introductory track ‘Kanta’s Theme’ sets the overall mood for the album, using repeated uplifting notes which are almost lost in the echoing abyss. These melodic motifs are looped throughout the entire album, creating a moody and atmospheric fusion of basic chords, and as the music develops the uplifting notes shift to something much more ambiguous and searching.On complete exposure to what the album has to offer, it is clear that it is a work of experimentation for Walla. This is evident not only in the music itself, but also from the track titles. For example, the song titled ‘Introductions’ features second on the track list and the eleven minute-long track ‘Goodbye’ features second to last instead of as the closing track. Walla undoubtedly appears to be on a voyage of musical self-discovery, and is not afraid to stray into unknown waters in search of a unique and very altered sound to what he has released prior to Tape Loops. In A Nutshell: A mature and mellow composition of soothing and relaxing melodies which may induce listeners to thoughtful daydreams, or else lose them entirely in the opening quarter.- James Holohan

II / Fuzz

It’s easy to see why “prolific” is an adjective which litters every article and interview related to Ty Segall. Before the official October 23rd release date of II, Segall had already announced the formation of a new band named GØGGS.II is Fuzz’s second album, featuring Segall on drums, Charlie Moothart (Moonhearts) on guitar and Chad Ubovich (Meatbodies) on bass. The epic 14-track double LP is a relentless album, best described using the band’s name itself — fuzz. II is not life-affirming, nor career-changing, but it does one thing and it does it well. The entire album consists of riffs upon riffs upon even more riffs. Fuzz is undoubtedly a “garage” rock band, churning out heavy, Californian bluesy rock. II is all about the meaty stuff that makes teenagers pick up guitars, much to the chagrin of parents worldwide.The trouble is, fourteen tracks is just too long. The tracks become indiscernible, especially given that most of them hover around the same tempo. The only — albeit short-lived — respite from the “fuzz” is the first half of ‘Silent Sits the Dust Bowl’. The surprise introduction of harmonised string instruments gives way to distorted guitar and chugging bass. This restores the timbre of the song to the rest of the album. Listeners unfamiliar with this style of music will see the album pass them by at a 130bpm haze of noise, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Segall is a formidable drummer on this album, cracking out a snappy snare tone that highlights the production value of the album. Fuzz makes you wait the entirety of the album to really let go and break out into being “jam-y”; it’s arguably worthwhile.The white limited edition is already sold out, but if you do buy the double album, use one vinyl as a frisbee; you won’t notice the difference. In A Nutshell: If you like heavy fuzzy rock, you’ll appreciate Ty Segall’s drumming chops. If not, give it a miss.- Amanda Cheng