Cuzco Music

Björk - Biophilia

8.6 / 10

No one has been able to paint the human soul with a voice as consistently and honestly as Björk has for the past twenty years (thirty something if we count her first release as an eleven year old). There is no secret to her formula if there even is one, she has one of the most legendary voices of our generations, is a great composer, and always keeps challenging herself. Her music knows no boundaries, she has messed with electronica, jazz, trip-hop, pop, you name it and you can find elements of it in the veins of her work. Her new album Biophilia is her celebration of life and embrace of the digital era that now dominates the world from the farms to the skyscrapers.

The subtle whispering opening track that is “Moon” is very minimal but does not feel empty at all; her ability to arrange should not be lost on fans. The strong single bass drum hits vibrate like the stomps of elephants in the forest followed by the chirp of the harps that make up the beat. It feels as though only Björk would be in tune enough with nature to make an album whose title literally means the love of life, even going as far as basing the time signatures for her music on the lapses between the time the lightning is seen and the thunder is heard on “Thunderbolt”.

The first single released for the album and one of the best tracks is “Crystalline” that just like she narrates: “Underneath our feet/ Crystals grow like plants” grows before your ears slowly but surely. The harmonium-like arpeggios complimented by the light electronic drums serve as a perfect base for her layered belting full of which of course are filled with metaphors for love. Then when the climax hits and the drum roll gets louder and faster, an explosion the likes I have probably never heard before overtakes you like a rabid wave in the ocean. The ever so tasteful use of intense bass drum patterns and industrial-sounds just give the track that perfect closing almost like an orgasm.

One of her finer talents is her ability to write lyrics too, without it she would not be able to make an infection sound so desirable like in “Virus”. The way she sounds, almost desperate, committed and knowing she is already inside you makes it impossible for you to reject her: “The perfect match/ You and me/ I adapt/ Contagious/ You open up/ Say welcome.”

The feel of the aforementioned “Crystalline” is revisited in what kind of feels like one long track separated into two with “Sacrifice” and “Mutual Core”. They both give off a similar vibe of regret and endangered love. The former is almost like a guide to setting things right in this mess of love they have made, and the latter is a confession of human weakness that tells that even though they both gave it all it still was not enough. The reason they have a similar feel to “Crystalline” is the strong electronic drums and very Trent Reznor-like sound they give off, almost like they are coming from a dirty basement filled with ancient torture devices.

 There are always such personal strokes in her music, which is why I mentioned before that her music paints her soul, the way her voice sounds like it almost gives out, but never possibly could. It feels like she is always giving her all on every song, every melody, every measure, every second, and while we may say that we really don’t know her at all from her music it surely feels to me like I know at least a fraction of the person she is from the encyclopedia of poems she has given us. While Biophilia is not and will not be as large as her previous masterpieces, it definitely is a good and solid album, and an important album, people get lost in the transit of their own life but forget where they really are, at the very least this album might accomplish that; to slow down time just for a bit, or at least long enough for us to wake up.

Best Tracks:

  • Crystalline
  • Thunderbolt
  • Mutual Core

Jay-Z & Kanye West - Watch The Throne

8.3 / 10

               What would happen if two of the richest most successful rappers of the modern era were to record an album together? The result is a very opulent and ostentatious record filled with expensive samples, great production, good verses, bad verses, and last but possibly most important a feeling of success and pride. Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Watch the Throne is the next step that the ambitious rappers thought would be logical in their plot to world domination. If listeners came here looking for a life changing experience of an album then they should look elsewhere, and most importantly people seem to be afraid to say that this is album is what it is; decent. Though I don’t want to say that the album feels rushed, it definitely does not feel like it had the same attention to detail and meticulousness that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (West’s masterpiece) was given.

As a listener and fan of both rappers’ body of work I must say I am saddened and hurt by the decline and betrayal of Jay-Z to his fans, the man has just gotten so lazy in his rapping that it has become embarrassing and baffling to hear. The moment I knew where he didn’t care anymore was in “Monster” from the aforementioned album, where he might have as well listed every fictional monster and pokemon for thirty two bars. Most listeners of rap I have spoken to agree when I say Jay-Z should have stayed retired after The Black Album, it would have been a perfect ending to a successful career that lead him to more than just musical success. He could have done right what Michael Jordan did wrong, instead he went and became Michael Jordan; next thing you know he’ll also style a Hitler mustache.

I understand that in the modern world of entertainment, artists have to adapt to survive so it is reasonable for both of them to try something new and modern to satisfy the audience of today; and that is exactly what they have done with Watch the Throne. Right from the start you can tell something’s about to pop off, that first almost muted guitar riff on “No Church in the Wild” followed by guest star Frank Ocean’s vocals are as much of a welcome to the jungle you will get. West and Hova don’t waste any time getting into the heavy stuff challenging monarchy and religion with their usual cockiness and bravado. However that feeling is lost on the next track “Lift Off” because it feels like it does not belong on this album, but on Beyonce’s rather. The majority of the song is dominated by her voice that it makes you forget Ye and Jay spit on this track.

 Never in my life did I think that someone would introduce a song with a Will Ferrell line but surely enough “Niggas in Paris” breaks the mold for most unusual song in the album. The feel of the beat is testosteronic, and feels like the kind of song that would be blasted out of car stereos at max volume on a summer day. Though the lyrics are mostly goofy and boastful, these are the kind of words needed for this type of song: “Doctors say I’m the illest/ Cuz I’m suffering from realest/ Got my niggas in Paris/ And the going gorillas huh!”

               In an album that is all about having fun and showing off, the one song that stands out the most in obnoxious taunts is “Otis” from its video to its lines to its rich and surely costly Otis Redding sample from “Try a Little Tenderness.” The entire song they mostly trade off lines and Kanye has one of his best lines that just makes you laugh, hate him, and respect him all in one: “They ain’t seen me cuz I pulled up in my other benz/ Last week I was in my other other benz.” The Rza produced “New Day” has a great beat and even a good idea (both rappers talking to their future children) but just doesn’t shine the way I thought it would, however it does provide one of Jay’s only good lines: “Sorry junior/ I already ruined ya.” The thing that impresses me most about the album though is its ability to shift beats so seamlessly like some sort of prog-rap album. Tracks like “That’s My Bitch,” “Who Gon Stop Me,” and “Murder to Excellence” all have so many shifts in beat and depth that it baffles you how much and how quickly hip-hop has evolved in these short forty or so years it has existed.

               When it’s all set in stone will Watch the Throne be remembered as the greatest hip-hop album of all time? Probably not, but what it did do for the genre is diversify it, give it a larger, epic sound, and of course build on the legend of “The Roc” which I’m certain will get larger as the years progress, regardless of our approval or disapproval of the music.

Best Tracks:

  • No Church In The Wild
  • Niggas In Paris
  • Otis
  • That’s My Bitch
  • Why I Love You
  • H.A.M.

St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

9.4 / 10

You know that moment when you listen to a song and you lose consciousness of what is being said because everything is in such harmony that you drift away into a better place? That is what all of Strange Mercy feels like. St. Vincent’s third album plays like a very emotionally invested affair full of perfectly placed and played instruments. Annie Clarke gels together so many elements of music that it made me distrust her entirely whilst still throwing myself willingly into whatever room she would take me.

 At times it sounds like a dramatic musical minus the over the top drama, then makes shifts, like into the very groove driven “Surgeon” which sounds like a porn beat but in the best way possible, or in the renouncing “Cheerleader” which comes off as empowering and confessional. There are also many moments in which it all seems very taken apart and cacophonous and it still works perfectly; almost as though she could stake her life on the fact that such drumbeat goes there and such guitar goes there.

If Actor was her fairy tale album in which she led us through Oz-like and Wonderland-like passages full of flying monkeys, witches, and talking rabbits this is her musical. A musical about a woman who stands at the top of a mountain and shouts her heart out for all to hear; unapologetic and brash but so shrouded in genius musical veils that even the most perceptive of people would be fooled. In “Cruel” her vocal melodies right in the first few bars could be put on the same level as Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music,” and dare I say it? I find it angelic. But of course she would not just be satisfied with just sounding like that; so then she hits you with an effect filled guitar solo. On the note of guitar solos, the one on the aforementioned song is but a tiny fill compared to the frenetic, almost blaster sounding barrage we get on “Northern Lights.”

It is no big surprise that miss Clarke’s album will wind up in many best of the year lists due to its wholeness and near flawless execution. Her vocal melodies are always soothing, refreshing, and on point, while on the other side; the instrumentation always goes somewhere unexpected, exciting, and progressive. And it’s not just all the explosive moments that get you, it is also parts like when “Northern Lights” just begins as though it is a giant build-up ready to burst, or just the feel of “Year of the Tiger” that feels like the way the album should end, stomping, strong and almost like a football fight song of grandiose proportions. I believe that this will not only be the year of the tiger but also the year of St. Vincent. 

Best Tracks:

  • Cruel
  • Cheerleader
  • Surgeon
  • Northern Lights
  • Year of the Tiger 

    Neon Indian - Era Extraña

    8.2 / 10

    With every new release it’s becoming more apparent that this “small movement” of chillwave music is not such a small movement at all. Some might frown at this because it’s just 80’s music but now, but that’s the thing of it that is likeable, it is the feel of the eighties with our modern problems, and even more beneficiary; our modern technology. In this day and age, even the little guy can stand a chance next to the big shots with their million dollar soundboards.

    Neon Indian’s first release Psychic Chasms brought a fun, luminous, and summery atmosphere that really set a tone for that summer, but this sophomore attempt invokes darker and more somber tones. One could even say that Era Extrana is the after effect or hangover after the deadbeat summer, and that is not necessarily a bad thing, it gives us something great to look back to and bear the present season filled with tragedies like returning to school or work. Palomo has a penchant for lathering synth upon synth upon synth while still keeping a concise and tight sound and it keeps you constantly switching between whichever bubble gum popping melody you prefer. The leading track after the brief overture, “Polish Girl, embodies that post summer record kind of vibe telling us “But you fail to remember.” The track bleeds longing, heartbreak, and idealization, he wants this person to remember the beach mornings, the lazy afternoons, and the ambitious days that start at five and end at five the next day.

    Sometimes things look like they sound and that is the case for this record. When I first saw the promotional video for the mini synthesizer that came with the deluxe edition of the album, the old B movie feel it gave off with the giant processor computers and lab coats and the low quality videotape, in a way it is kind of reminiscing of movies like Rowdy Roddy Piper’s They Live. Though this record is not perfect, it definitely feels like Palomo tried harder and took a more mature approach with this album and succeeded greatly. “Hex Girlfriend also sends the vibe that this in a way is also a break-up record, separating itself from the mood and feeling of Psychic Chasms  but still maintaining a very joyous and floaty feel.

    Overall this album is a triumph for Neon Indian and is definitely a record worth listening to; it may even sway a few of the critics of chillwave and its status as a fad or its actual impact on modern music. Though I feel pretty strongly about this album I believe that in the third album we will be able to see the best of Neon Indian if he is able to combine both sounds and top himself. I don’t want to put too much pressure on Mr. Palomo but I guess we will find out soon.  _Diego                                                                 

    Best Tracks:

    • Polish Girl
    • Arcade Blues
    • Hex Girlfriend

    Modest Mouse - The Lonesome Crowded West

    10/10

    The Lonesome Crowded West is most likely the best album of 1997. Words cannot describe the beauty of this. This was the album that made Modest Mouse who they are know, and put them as one of the best bands of the 90’s. Songs like “Shit Luck”, “Out Of Gas”, and ” Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine” make this album so great. “Shit Luck” is without a doubt one of my favorite songs of all time. My review will not do The Lonesome Crowded West its justice, but I recommend this album to everyone.

    Best Tracks:

    • Shit Luck
    • Out Of Gas
    • Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine

    Bjork - Homogenic

    10/10

    Bjork’s Homogenic is without a doubt her best album ever, and one of the greatest albums of all time. The combination of electronic beats with strings mixed to create one of the greatest sounds in music. Bjork is clearly a musical genius. When I first chose to listen to Homogenic, I did not expect to enjoy the album. The first track “Hunter” blew me out of this world, and from then on Homogenic continued to prove itself to be worthy of a perfect 10. I am not a huge Bjork fan, but anyone who knows music will agree with me when I say that this album is pure genius. 

    Best Tracks:

    • 5 Years
    • Hunter
    • All Is Full Of Love
    • Joga

    Pavement - Brighten The Corners

    9.4/10

    This album is definitely one of the best albums I have ever heard. Pavements makes me wonder why modern indie bands exclude solos from their songs. Pavements makes me wonder why modern indie bands can’t be more like Pavement. Almost every song on this album had a catchy bass line, and an amazing guitar solo. Stephen Malkmus’ amazing voice makes every song easy to sing along to. I fell in love with “Shady Lane / J vs. S” and “Embassy Row”. Embassy row is probably one of the most beautiful indie guitar songs of all time. Brighten The Corners is without a doubt one of the greatest indie albums of all time, and Pavement is probably one of the greatest indie bands of all time. I must say that I cannot stop listening to this album, and I recommend this album to everyone because it is pure greatness.

    Best Tracks:

    • Shady Lane / J vs. S
    • Embassy Row
    • Date W/ IKEA
    • Stereo

    Godspeed You! Black Emperor - F♯ A♯ ∞

    8.5/10

    F♯ A♯ ∞ was a huge surprise to me. I expected to hear post-hardcore sounds, and was completely surprised as soon as ” The Dead Flag Blues” started playing. Every song (there were only 3) were each different stories. I felt like I was listening to the unraveling of the end of the world. The first track “The Dead Flag Blues” tells the story of this town that is in shambles where everyone is drugged. The dark sounds of the trains gives the album an ominous feel, and then it transitions into a spaghetti western themed ending. The second track “East Hastings” which was my favorite track of the album begins with bagpipes playing over a street preacher. The next portion of the song, titled “The Sad Mafioso” is probably one of most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard. The strings and the drums build up to make the most beautiful buildup in music I have ever heard. The last track ” Providence” is more dark than the most, but the three minutes of silence really bothered me. The song ended in a chaotic tone, which really made the song better. This album is beautiful in its own way, and I would not recommend it to anyone who wants to hear some good post hardcore music, but I would recommend it to those who are looking for well structured instrumental music that tell a story.

    Best Tracks:

    • East Hastings
    • The Dead Flag Blues

    Mouse on Mars - Autoditacker

    6.7/10

    I have never really heard an ambient album before Autoditacker. I had pretty low expectations from this album since i’m not really into ambient music, but this album surprised me. Mouse on Mars does a great job using drum machines and making catchy beats that will make your head bop. This album fuses electronic elements with ambient elements to create a rather upbeat and soothing sound. If it weren’t for tracks like “Twift Shoeblade” and “Juju” this album would have been boring. The main problem I had with this album was the length of the songs. I did not enjoy the six minute ambient songs that did not really incorporate upbeat tempos, and there were quite a few of those songs and that is why the rating for this album is not so high. 

    Best Tracks:

    • Twift Shoeblade
    • Juju

    Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital

    8.2/10

             This album was mixed for me, there were many tracks which were very well done, but there were songs that brought the album down. There were parts of the album which greatly represented the 80’s synth vibe, but some of these songs were too boring. I am happy with the overall outcome of this album, the instrumentation was good, especially in tracks like Repatriated.

    Best Tracks

    • When I Get Back
    • Repatriated