Saturday 27 March 2021

Good at Falling/ The Japanese House (2019): Albums of my Life: An A-Z

...a time, maybe a year or two ago when I had more or less given up on finding new artists that I could get on board with. I'm from an era where there was Top of the Pops on TV and you'd go into Woolworths or Our Price to browse the chart music on a big wall and maybe pick up a single on cassette tape, or later a CD. That's not the world today, technology has changed the music industry inevitably and indefinitely. For years, I sourly declared myself out of the loop when it came to modern music because it was 'too generic', 'too auto-tuned', 'boring'. And in a sense, some of the mainstream chart music is that, but the very technology I berated for ruining the fun has over this last year or so opened my eyes to some incredible artists, those that sit on the periphery due to the lack of diversity in the charts. But then, within their genres, they are making massive waves and have huge fan bases.

I found Marika Hackman through Google Play after a fascination with the cover of Any Human Friend and like most long-lasting relationships, it took a while to fall in love. Once in, I was in. I was aware that that album was influenced by her split with Amber Bain from The Japanese House, and I dabbled in listening to a few songs, but, if I'm honest, my aversion to vocal effects (due to a saturation of them in chart music) made me less inclined to give my time to really listen.

Of course, it was an error of judgement on my part because The Japanese House, whilst having voice alteration as a trademark in her production, is far, far more than that. In fact, I would say that after much listening, Amber Bain is a trailblazer.

Saturday 20 March 2021

Fly or Die/ N.E.R.D. (2004): Albums of my Life: An A-Z

...listening to this album for the first time with a boyfriend at university in his tiny room in the halls of residence. I liked what I heard immediately and then bought this a year or two later after we had broke up. You know a person's made a mark on your life in some way if they brought you music.

In the early days of owning this CD, I would dance around the flat that I lived in alone to 'She Wants to Move' and 'The Way She Dances' with reckless abandon.

I think what struck me initially about the album was the fusion of sounds, the contrast of high production value and effects and the unpolished, raw feel of the vocals and guitar at times. I'm no expert, but I know what I sounded like as a teen on my electric guitar and tiny amp; this is obviously way better, but there's a quality to it that sounds humble and young. I saw that Chad Hugo had only been playing the guitar for a year before recording this album as they wanted to play instruments live (including Pharrell on drums), so I felt quite smug with my instincts that this was the case.

Saturday 13 March 2021

Enter the Dru/ Dru Hill (1998): Albums of my Life: An A-Z

...getting into Dru Hill at about 14 or 15. I sadly can't remember the moment I first listened to them, but once I got my hands on a CD copy of 'Enter the Dru', I was invested. As a teenager you like what you like. You don't overthink it and if you really like music, you won't let anyone tell you which bands or singers to follow. The chart singles were merely a starting point for me which meant that albums like this were played on repeat, inhabited and treasured.

Dru Hill were an American four piece R n B group who were at their peak with this album. The lead singer, Sisqo, is the most well-known member who had solo success with the likes of 'Thong Song'. There is potentially (due to the popularity of this song and the gimmicky nature of it), the tendency to view Sisqo as a rather amusing persona. He always seemed to love the limelight and this was no more evident to me than when he appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in the UK and went into the house only after performing one of his solo hits to the crowd (not standard CBB etiquette, but clearly part of his management's deal with the production company!), who lapped it up. Then there was his bleached white hair, statement chains and bold (yet highly accomplished) dance skills! He is such a showman and I love him for it!

Dru Hill, the group, begin, but don't end with Sisqo. Jazz, Woody and Nokio are the aliases of the other members from the original lineup and the vocal talent of these men is incredible. Not only that, but they have all written tracks on the album and take their time to step forward with solos. The name 'Dru Hill' comes from Druid Hill Park in Baltimore-- a place near where they all lived growing up. Together, the Dru Hill sound is harmonic, rich and highly emotive at times. There seems to be a bond between the members, who went to high school and also worked together in a fudgery in Baltimore in which they would sing the music of their gospel, soul roots.

Sadly, relations crumbled soon after the release of this album with James "Woody Rock" Green leaving. There has been re-incarnations of the group with some other members, but the first two albums, 'Dru Hill' and 'Enter the Dru' were their heyday in terms of commercial success.