Tag: Chaka Khan

The A List (10th March 2019) – the ten best new music tracks right now

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Last week’s strong top three trade positions with Simon Curtis rising to the number 1 spot. It is incredibly hard to separate it from the James Blake and Dave tracks, which are both great. Four new entries make this week’s A List, and we have two tracks on their third and final week. Enjoy! 

1. Simon Curtis – Love 

This tracks starts off sounding like The Weeknd but then Love develops an 80s pop obsession and as a wave of synths floats across the track we end up with a hybrid between those two sounds; modern r’n’b influenced pop, and 80s pop with wispy backing vocals and programmed drums.

2. James Blake, Andre 3000 – Where’s The Catch 

With its unsettling, murky piano and deep beat, it questions whether the love and joy that Blake is experiencing really has a catch; whether it’s too good to be true. For anyone who isn’t known to be wildly positive – which I think is a category we can classify Blake in, given his previous releases – it’s an understandable and relatable feeling.

3. Dave – Black

Brixton-born rapper Dave is releasing his debut album on the 8th March and Black is the first single from it. It’s a hugely impressive exploration of racial identity and the lyrics are well worth considering in full. 2019 may just be his year for the taking.

4. Julia Jacklin – Pressure to Party [New Entry]

The Penguin has to be honest, lyrically this may well be my favourite track of the year so far. It is just so brilliantly constructed and hard-hitting. It makes you sit up and take notice.

5. Headie One (featuring Dave) – 18Hunna (Four Tet Remix) 

There’s almost nothing urgent in the music. Gentle jangles and echoed vocals set the tone at the beginning, and it just unfurls from there. There’s a beat in the background, but it’s a gentle ‘nod your head’ rather than a knock your socks off beat. The vocals flow smoothly and there’s even room for some birdsong in there.

6. G Flip – Killing My Time [New Entry]

This song is just effortlessly cool. The vocals are gorgeous, and whoever produced it was wise enough to make sure they stay front and centre, but there’s some nice production touches in the background. Superbly catchy, this is pop music that you can just sit back and enjoy.

7. Chaka Khan – Like a Lady [Final Week]

Like a Lady’s production is on point. Plenty of retro vibes without feeling in any way dated; in fact this takes a funky disco sound and makes it feel like it’s totally 2019. But the reason the Penguin loves this track is quite simply because it is full of joy.

8. ROMANS – Be Fine [Final Week]

Beautiful vocals mask the depths of angst and sadness in the lyrics, this is an absolutely cracking record.

9. Yuksek – I Don’t Have A Drum Machine [New Entry]

French producer Yuksek has put together an absolute knockout of a tune with I Don’t Have A Drum Machine. It’s an upbeat disco track that effectively narrates you through its own production. Fun, retro and extremely catchy, it absolutely makes you want to dance.

10. Sigrid – Sight of You [New Entry]

A joyful four minutes of pop that could easily have been pinched from a musical. Monstrous strings swoop across the landscape, as the lyrics tell the tale of daily tribulations (“The airline lost my luggage, still got all this weight”) being overcome by the mere sight of her love.

The A List (3rd March 2019) – the ten best new music tracks right now

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Lots of change on the A list this week with 6 new and varied entries. It was hard to keep it to ten tracks this week, there’s so much good stuff around at the moment and the diversity of the music makes them hard to compare. Still, a top three of new entries and a third and final week on the A list for Fakear. Check out this cracking top 10. 

1. James Blake, Andre 3000 – Where’s The Catch [New Entry]

With its unsettling, murky piano and deep beat, it questions whether the love and joy that Blake is experiencing really has a catch; whether it’s too good to be true. For anyone who isn’t known to be wildly positive – which I think is a category we can classify Blake in, given his previous releases – it’s an understandable and relatable feeling.

2. Dave – Black [New Entry]

Brixton-born rapper Dave is releasing his debut album on the 8th March and Black is the first single from it. It’s a hugely impressive exploration of racial identity and the lyrics are well worth considering in full. 2019 may just be his year for the taking.

3. Simon Curtis – Love [New Entry]

This tracks starts off sounding like The Weeknd. Seriously, it’s a little unnerving. The sweeping falsetto vocals completely deceived my ears. But then Love develops an 80s pop obsession and as a wave of synths floats across the track we end up with a hybrid between those two sounds; modern r’n’b influenced pop, and 80s pop with wispy backing vocals and programmed drums.

4. Jessie Ware – Adore You

Produced by Metronomy’s Joseph Mount, Adore You is full of cold electronic shudders that – shouldn’t but somehow do – aid the sensual and devoted lyrics, Adore You is a pretty impressive coming together of Ware’s excellent vocals and production that really develops throughout the track.

5. Chaka Khan – Like a Lady 

Like a Lady’s production is on point. Plenty of retro vibes without feeling in any way dated; in fact this takes a funky disco sound and makes it feel like it’s totally 2019. But the reason the Penguin loves this track is quite simply because it is full of joy. It captures the dizzying joy and elation when you meet someone who sets your heart on fire.

6. ROMANS – Be Fine 

Halfway through the second verse London-based artist ROMANS sings ‘How I wished we could turn back time’, which feels particularly fitting given the classic soul vibe he’s producing in this monster single. Beautiful vocals mask the depths of angst and sadness in the lyrics, this is an absolutely cracking record.

7. Tarantina – Heal [New Entry]

Delicate and fragile vocals barely hover above piano. There’s an almost claustrophobic sense of pain, as she repeats over and over ‘its hard for me to heal’. Tarantina will soon be hosting her first headline show at the Slaughtered Lamb in London, and you should check it out.

8. Headie One (featuring Dave) – 18Hunna (Four Tet Remix) [New Entry]

There’s almost nothing urgent in the music. Gentle jangles and echoed vocals set the tone at the beginning, and it just unfurls from there. There’s a beat in the background, but it’s a gentle ‘nod your head’ rather than a knock your socks off beat. The vocals flow smoothly and there’s even room for some birdsong in there.

9. Fakear – Nausicaa [Final week]

Listening to Nausicaa you’re transported away to a forrest, far from everyday life and surrounded by intrigue.

10. Blood Youth – Nerve [New Entry]

Yorkshire rockers Blood Youth released their second LP earlier this month, and Nerve is one of the tracks on it. Full of disgustingly large guitars that’ll knock your false teeth out, there’s menace in this track from the opening notes. It brings to mind the kind of rock that I loved in the early 2000s, notably Korn and Rammstein. Great stuff lads.

Album Review: Chaka Khan – Hello Happiness

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Chaka Khan – Hello Happiness

The legendary Chaka Khan returned on the 15th February with her first album since 2007. With only 7 tracks – one of which is a reworking of an earlier track – and a running time of 27 minutes, Khan has eschewed the norms of the streaming era by keeping it short and avoiding collaborations. But the shorter running time leaves little room to hide and exposes the clear weaknesses in the album.

Following a battle with addiction that resulted in a stint in rehab, Khan embraces a new found joy with the title track. ‘I wanna dance’ she sings, embracing the mantra of ‘goodbye sadness, hello happiness. It’s a funky and fun start that embraces her back catalogue whilst giving herself a modern sound.

It’s followed by Like a Lady, the finest song on the album. With playful production incorporating strings and teasing bass and guitar parts, there’s plenty of space for Khan’s vocals to soar with their tales of love and joy.

Sadly, the album nosedives from there. Don’t Cha Know feels like a remix that should have been binned immediately. Starting with watered-down dubstep, the track mostly revolves around the instrumentation. Khan’s vocals are spliced in and out, but feel superfluous. When you have that voice, you shouldn’t be digitally manipulating it and using it sparingly. The resulting track is just soulless nonsense.

Too Hot opens with an organ stream that flows into a bluesy riff. It’s perfectly serviceable – catchy even – but the repetitive chorus and overworked production combine to make the track feel inauthentic. In different hands, this may have been a fine single.

Last year’s single Like Sugar appears next. It still has that teasing bass line and funky retro vibe. It’s good, particularly the call and response vocals, but the stop start nature – another poor production choice – prevents it reaching the heights it should.

Penultimate track Isn’t That Enough gives you laid-back reggae vibes which mesh nicely with Khan’s voice. This will sound great in the sunshine at festivals, and there’s almost certainly a cracking drum and bass remix in the pipeline. An EP with this and the first two tracks would have been a fine collection of songs.

Somewhat inexplicably the final track, Ladylike, is a slowed down reworking of track two, Like a Lady. Complete with nauseating ocean sounds and centred around acoustic guitars, it losses all the joy and sense of fun that makes the other version so distinctive.

There’s moments on this album that demonstrate how good Khan can be. Taking the retro funk ethos and giving it a modern twist is a tried and tested technique for many artists, and when followed here it works nicely.

Unfortunately there’s so many experiments with other sounds and so many poor production moments – most egregiously by barely using Khan’s voice, the best instrument on the album, in some songs – that it’s hard to breeze through this album, even with its short running length.

It’s great to have Khan releasing new music and if she can find the right producer then I wouldn’t bet against her having some monster hits again. As it is, Hello Happiness starts strongly before dropping badly and never really recovering.

4/10

Track of the Day: Chaka Khan – Like a Lady

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Chaka Khan – Like a Lady

If you’d have asked the Penguin in December what the odds were that within two months the Penguin would have selected two Chaka Khan songs as Tracks of the Day, he’d have very aggressively politely suggested you go and join his former colony in the Galapagos…

Yet here we are. In January the Penguin selected Hello Happiness as the first Track of the Day for 2019. Now – following the release of her latest album on Friday – the Penguin is here heartily recommending Like a Lady.

The production for this is on point. Plenty of retro vibes without feeling in any way dated; in fact this takes a funky disco sound and makes it feel like it’s totally 2019.

But the reason the Penguin loves this track is quite simply because it is full of joy. It captures the dizzying joy and elation when you meet someone who sets your heart on fire.

Throw in Chaka’s cracking voice, some random strings and then some weird 80’s video game space noises (I don’t know how to describe it any better) and you’ve got an absolute banger.

Seriously, check it out. And let me know what you think: astralpenguinsmusic@gmail.com.

Enjoy!