Listening Post #8

by Alex Brammer

1. Tempa T – Not A Rocker

Tempa T is one of about three or four grime MCs who I actually find consistently interesting, seeing as he’s one of very few MCs who can actually cover for grime’s lack of lyrical focus with vocal performance. In any case, this song is pretty much what you’d expect – it’s Tempa T shouting over an aggressive grime beat. That sounds like a critique, but it really isn’t. Even if there are a million other songs like it, this one’s still a hell of a lot of fun, and is actually a pretty interesting deconstruction of what it is to be a rockstar. At least, as far as a grime track which includes the phrase “king of grime” 21 times in three minutes can deconstruct anything.

2. Action Bronson – Descendant of the Stars

When a man is tired of Action Bronson, he is tired of life. I still find it amazing how a morbidly obese Albanian chef was able to work his way into mainstream hip-hop acceptance through sheer force of will and personality. This guy’s recorded with A$AP Rocky, Mark Ronson and Kendrick Lamar, and he’s not even that good of a rapper. This new track is a great example – it’s not exactly a DOOM track on the technical side, but the lyrics are entertaining as hell (“I did an interview for GQ while taking a shit […] half Robocop, half Mike Tyson/ tatted on my neck”) over a jaunty Alchemist beat. You can really feel Bronson’s personality coming through here, so perhaps it’s appropriate that this song is the main theme for one of his cable TV shows. Maybe that was the endgame.

3. Crystal Castles – Fleece

You know those Facebook videos where the volume’s been turned down by the uploader, so you click up a few notches on the side of your phone and bam – a bass-boosted version of Ultimate or It G Ma or something wrecks your eardrums? This song is a bit like that, but in a good way, honest. It’s one of few Amnesty (I) tracks which allow Edith Frances to flex her vocals in really any way, and it’s a standout for that. The madness of the – I suppose it’s a hook? – gives away almost immediately to a moment of reflection that sounds like it was sampled from a lost track from Grimes’ Visions. I for one can’t wait to see if Amnesty (II) brings us more goth-bangers or if it falls to second-half syndrome again. Fleece is a glimmer of hope.

4. Sealand – Fading Into Focus

My gradual introduction of Bandcamp backpacker ambient to this column continues this week with a hazy day in the desert. It feels like a strangely pleasant bit of sunburn. This track is a warm, familiar piece of guitar-based ambient that sticks on the right side of nostalgic without treading hugely worn ground. It’s a great track for fans of post-rock who’ve tired of the pretension that it oh-so-easily falls to, especially listeners of Nashville band Muir, who’ve dealt in similar territory in the past. Sure, it’s a B-side from an internet ambient album. But that doesn’t mean it’s not damn good.

5. James Blake – Timeless (feat. Vince Staples)

Anyone remember when Chance the Rapper claimed to be living with James Blake? Seems like the more likely rapper roommate would be Vince Staples, given that this is the third collaboration between the two released in the last month. However, unlike the tracks from Prima Donna that Blake worked on, here the vocals are the last priority on the list. Instead, we get a track more like ECO VIRTUAL’s Cumulus Fractus than Big Time. The bars are lost somewhere in the clouds. It’s ethereal, bizarre and I suppose the only real reference point is “like Yung Lean, but good”.

Listen to the PearShaped Listening Post #8 Playlist below.