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International Music Releases from the First Half of February- Reviewed

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Weezer/ OK Human, Alternative Pop-Rock, Crush-Atlantic Records

Formed in 1992, American band Weezer is known for its edgy, punk-laced alternative sound, peppered with fuzz guitars and distortion effects. You won’t find that, however, on their 14th studio album OK Human, as they rely on synths and bass, and even have a 38-piece orchestra with strings and winds to go with the guitars.

The title is a play on Radiohead’s OK Computer, and the sound is melody-filled baroque pop. The songs tell stories as vocalist Rivers Cuomo begins the opening number All My Favourite Songs with the lines “All my favourite songs are slow and sad, all my favourite people make me mad”.

There are references to COVID on Playing My Piano, which talks of being at home but staying away from the family by giving Zoom interviews. Indian audiences will be curious about Aloo Gobi, which talks of monotony through the lines, “Same old dull routines, same aloo gobi”.

The pop-ish detour and influences of Harry Nilsson and Beach Boys on Grapes Of Wrath, Numbers’and La Bre Tar Pits may not go well with the older fans. But the strong hooks and well-knit arrangements make this worth a few listens. To use a pun, Pop Goes The Weezer.

Rating: 7/ 10

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Steven Wilson/ The Future Bites, Synth-Pop, Caroline International

Through his work with Porcupine Tree and Storm Corrosion, singer and multi-instrumentalist Steven Wilson is normally associated with progressive metal. He’s also had a parallel scene with creating remixes of classic albums.

Yet, as a musician, he loves to break the rules and experiment. This is most obvious on his new album The Future Bites, where he uses synth-pop and electronica freely. With David Kosten aka Faultline chipping in, the album is incredibly well-produced.

While the Porcupine Tree fans may not be happy, the album should cater to those with more clubby and eclectic tastes. The songs talk of a variety of subjects, ranging from ego on Self to inhibition on 12 Things I Forgot to consumerism on Personal Shopper, which interestingly includes a spoken stretch by Elton John.

Yet, despite its sleek nature and tight arrangements, there’s hardly anything new or futuristic in terms of the overall sound. It’s a good diversion, though one isn’t sure how long the effect will last.

Rating: 6/ 10

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Foo Fighters/ Medicine At Midnight, Hard Rock, Roswell-RCA

The brainchild of Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters have developed a devoted following in the hard rock and post-grunge space. Grohl himself shifted to singing and playing the guitar, besides focusing on driving the band’s sound.

The band’s 10th album Medicine At Midnight sees them using catchy hooks and tight structures, most evident on the tracks Shame Shame and Cloudspotter. There’s the characteristic darkness, intensity and build-up on Waiting On A War, which says, “I’ve been waiting on a war since I was young since I was a little boy with a toy gun”.

Other stand-out cuts are the growl-along No Son Of Mine and the opening track Without A Fire, with its catchy back-up chants. Chasing Birds is a diversion into slower tempo, with Grohl singing “Chasing birds to get high, my head is in the clouds, chasing birds to get by, I’m never coming down”.

The guitars by Chris Shifflett and Pat Smear and keyboards by Rami Jaffee blend perfectly with the sound. This medicine can be taken at any time, not only at midnight.

Rating: 8/ 10

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Slowthai/ Tyron, Hip-Hop, Method Records-Interscope

British rapper Tyron Keymone Frampton, known by his stage name Slowthai, has often created controversy, writing against British laws, and prime ministers Theresa May and Boris Johnson. The title of his debut album, Nothing Great About Britain, made his intentions very clear.

However, after a disastrous episode at the last NME awards, Slowthai seems to have toned down. His new album Tyron is divided into two halves – an introspective first and a more melodic second. His sound blends hip-hop with grime, an electronic sub-genre evolving out of UK garage.

A few tracks impress. Cancelled, a dig at the trend of cancelling bookings features rapper Skepta, and has a raw energy. Feel Away, featuring singer James Blake and electronic duo Mount Kimbie, is a melodic track using a Mariah Carey sample. Terms, with singer Dominic Fike and rapper Denzel Curry, is a throwback on late 1990s hip-hop.

Sadly, tracks like Dead, I Tried and NHS offer nothing new, and a large section of the album makes you want to skip the track. This Tyron has less power.

Rating: 6/ 10

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Narendra Kusnur

Author: Narendra Kusnur

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