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!

The A List – the best 10 new music tracks around right now (January 20th 2019)

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Three new entries this week and a new number 1 for the A List. 2019 has already produced some incredible new music, but you should really be prioritising the following tracks…

1. Lana Del Rey – hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it 

Pitchfork had an interesting article looking at some of Lana’s recent work this week that I recommended checking out.  hope is a dangerous thing (etc) grows on me with every listen. The lyrics are hard to digest and yet essential listening. A profoundly moving five minutes; from self-doubt to abuse to isolation, any song that has Sylvia Plath at its core will undoubtedly veer from weirdness to unimaginable suffering.

2. Billie Eilish – WHEN I WAS OLDER 

Down one place this week, WHEN I WAS OLDER is full of eery distorted vocals and minimalistic electronic production that combine to create a haunting tone that is really hard to shake off.

3. Lucy Rose – Conversation [New Entry]

Conversation is full of atmosphere with some beautiful strings. Simple and yet hard-hitting, there’s an air of strength and finality surrounding the delicate vocals.

4. Goldie, James Davidson, Subjective – Rift Valley 

A track that is best played in the dark. It’s like you’re dreaming after smoking pot. Everything feels captivating yet entirely elusive. The album also became available on streaming platforms this week.

5. Sam Smith, Normani – Dancing With A Stranger 

A devastatingly simple pop track full of regrets. Sam Smith does heartbreaks better than almost anyone, and the simple production on Dancing with a Stranger leaves the listener to drown in the guilt and misplaced anger of a rebound one night stand.

6. Hot Flash Heat Wave – Sky So Blue [New Entry]

Friday’s Track of the Day, Sky So Blue is a lazy summer afternoon in a park, drifting off into reverie through the sheer fatigue of doing nothing at all. It’s a cocktail of synths, psychedelia and sunshine. Lots of sunshine.

7. D’Angelo – Unshaken 

Written for the Red Dead Redemption 2 soundtrack, Unshaken certainly conjures up the feelings of a western with its sparse production and solitary feel, and D’Angelo’s vocals sound superb in this lower range.

8. Chaka Khan – Hello Happiness 

Hello Happiness is a burst of energy, with a bass line straight from the 70s, electro vibes that belong in the 80s and a vocal performance that is positively timeless.

10. Catfish and the Bottlemen – Longshot 

Produced by Jacknife Lee (R.E.M., the Killers, U2), Longshot has a distinctly British optimism running through it, almost like they can’t believe something has succeeded. “Fiver says you’re wrong…”

10. Emily Brimlow – Hope [New Entry]

I don’t know if Emily Brimlow falls firmly into the ‘Christian music’ category, but it’s nice to hear a well-produced pop track speaking optimistically about God. The minimal r’n’b drum track leaves plenty of space for Brimlow’s voice and the really beautiful choral backing vocals to shine. This song is full of optimism and catchy as hell.

The A List – the best 10 new music tracks around right now

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The A List is back for 2019. Every week you’ll find here the 10 records I’m enjoying the most right now, in a – very unofficial – chart. 2019 has started strongly; the top three tracks here are all incredibly impressive and it was very hard to pick a favourite from them.

1. Billie Eilish – WHEN I WAS OLDER 

Thursday’s Track of the Day and our first number one of 2019, WHEN I WAS OLDER is full of eery distorted vocals and minimalistic electronic production that combine to create a haunting tone that is really hard to shake off.

2. Goldie, James Davidson, Subjective – Rift Valley 

Tuesday’s Track of the Day, Rift Valley is a track that is best played in the dark. It’s like you’re dreaming after smoking pot. Everything feels captivating yet entirely elusive.

3. Lana Del Rey – hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it 

I have an ongoing suspicion that all of Lana Del Rey’s melodies are variations of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. That being said, anticipation is high for her forthcoming album Norman Fucking Rockwell and I liked both 2018 singles, Venice Bitch and Mariners Apartment Complex. However hope is a (etc – wayyyy too long to write out again) feels like one of her most accomplished songs. Lyrically this is a profoundly moving five minutes; from self-doubt to abuse to isolation, any song that has Sylvia Plath at its core will undoubtedly veer from weirdness to unimaginable suffering.

4. Sam Smith, Normani – Dancing With A Stranger 

A devastatingly simple pop track full of regrets. Sam Smith does heartbreaks better than almost anyone, and the simple production on Dancing with a Stranger leaves the listener to drown in the guilt and misplaced anger of a rebound one night stand.

5. Chaka Khan – Hello Happiness 

The first Track of the Day of 2019, Hello Happiness is a burst of energy, with a bass line straight from the 70s, electro vibes that belong in the 80s and a vocal performance that is positively timeless.

6. Lizzo – Juice 

Lizzo has some swag, and having made last year’s Astral Penguins Top 50 with the massive Boys, Juice is yet another banger from the Minneapolis songstress. Super sweet production with shimmering guitars brings to mind Duran Duran era pop, and the chorus is totally infectious.

7. D’Angelo – Unshaken 

With his first release since 2014, D’Angelo returns with the brooding and hypnotic Unshaken. Written for the Red Dead Redemption 2 soundtrack, Unshaken certainly conjures up the feelings of a western with its sparse production and solitary feel, and D’Angelo’s vocals sound superb in this lower range.

8. Lauren Jauregui – More Than That 

The second former Fifth Harmony member to appear in this week’s A List, More Than That is a short slice of a slick r’n’b full of assertive lyrics and lilting melodies.

9. Catfish and the Bottlemen – Longshot 

I’ve been a fan of CatB since they came onto the scene in c. 2014. I wasn’t a massive fan of 2016’s The Ride but Longshot sounds like a good return to form. Produced by Jacknife Lee (R.E.M., the Killers, U2), Longshot has a distinctly British optimism running through it, almost like they can’t believe something has succeeded.

10. PEZNT – Freedom 

Croatian dance duo PEZNT describe themselves as “something like Village People but more village rather than people”, which is pretty baffling. What isn’t baffling is their new single Freedom, which is a straight up, uncomplicated, hands-in-the-air dance track.

 

 

Ramblings on Chaka Khan, new headphones and Peter Frampton

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Well the blog is back up and running after our first track of the day of 2019 was posted last night. I spent some time on Sunday trawling Spotify for music released in 2019 (early January is understandably not the easiest time to find new music) and I was pleasantly surprised to find Chaka Khan’s new track. I seem to recall she had a pretty bad time after Prince died, with a stint in rehab involved, and I thought she’d stopped recording music until I heard last year’s Like Sugar. On the back of these two solid tracks I’m looking forward to her forthcoming album.

Over the weekend I was given my final Christmas present, a pair of swanky Sennheiser Bluetooth headphones. I usually spend the Christmas period listening to random music from the 60s and 70s but didn’t get the chance this year as we were away. But I’ve been enjoying blasting out Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd, Roxy Music (I listened to Jealous Guy earlier today and had completely forgotten how brilliant that track is) and many others to give the new headphones a whirl, and I’m fast falling in love with them.

Speaking of music from the 60s, over the weekend my dad was playing me some tracks his covers band are currently rehearsing. On Saturday he played me Peter Frampton’s version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I love the original – which I had no idea until about an hour ago featured Eric Clapton – and I really like the Frampton version as well, which was recorded as a tribute to his friend George Harrison. If you haven’t heard it before, it’s well worth a listen.

I’ll be back with another Track of the Day later, but in the meantime here’s a bit more Chaka Khan to kick start your day.