Music | Album Reviews – Justin Timberlake, Glasser, Dizzee Rascal & Sub Focus
Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 (3/5)
Like being the younger of two siblings born close together, the second release of a two album project is always going to experience that added pressure, anxiety, and expectation of inferiority. However, on its first listen, the second part to Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience is seemingly equal to its counterpart released earlier this year. Its beat heavy, unnecessarily lengthy and well, frankly, droning.
However, once the layer of generic ‘smoothness’ that seems to encompass most of today’s pop and urban music scene is removed, we are left pondering whether underneath all the synthesising and length, this instalment is actually better. Beneath the excess that surrounds the majority of tracks on ‘2 of 2’ there is more to this album than just a continual rhythm. Regardless of both overrunning by about two and a half minutes each, the two singles, ‘Take Back the Night’ and ‘TKO’, are very listenable dance tracks. Likewise, Jay Z fea- tured, ‘Murder’ is hot tempered and a much needed blast of passion for the album despite questionable lyrics hinting at Yoko Ono’s responsibility for splitting up The Beatles. Contrasting to most of the album is the two- part track ‘Not A Bad Thing’.
Relaxing, catchy and clever, it features lyrics of actual love and romance, differing from Timberlake’s usual sexually-based songs. Although laden with overly indulgent, synth and beat heavy tracks, Timberlake, who collaborates with the likes of Timbaland and Drake along the way, has produced by a reasonably varied album that certainly stands out from its elder sibling.
Glasser – Interiors (3/5)
For an album based on the concept of the scenery and boundaries we surround ourselves with, from our homes to the world around us, Interiors is an album filled with space. Singer songwriter Cameron Mesirow describes her style as experimental, and although some erratic rhythmic choices might seem initially inaccessible, the music has a real chill factor that is golden in its genre.
The album kicks off with ‘Shape’, which offers an intro of quirky off-beat synth, but Mesirow’s ambient vocals gently carry us to the driving beat and you begin to relax. The tone of the album now set, a similar level of hypnosis can be found on tracks like ‘Dissect’, and ‘Landscape’ induces a sense of tranquillity fans of the XX could easily relate to.
Admittedly, some songs lack direction, for example ‘Keam Theme’ tends to drag slightly. The three brief ‘Window’ interludes, beautiful in parts, feel like fillers as separate tracks and could instead be blended into a single epic. Rich vocals still win you over, but on these more minimal tracks you do feel a slight ‘Florence Welch mental break- down on a MIDI keyboard’ vibe.
Undoubtedly, Glasser’s voice is the predominant feature of the album. In a style that could sound cold and shut off, she instead emphasises a vulnerability that draws you into her world; “there’s nothing here but walls, walls, walls…” There are some who might pass it off as weird, but for those who are prepared to try something new, Interiors is definitely a grower.
Dizzee Rascal – The Fifth (2/5)
In The Fifth, Dizzee Rascal welcomes us into a world of beaches, booze and debauchery. It’s a fun ride for the first few listens, but it lacks the depth to really draw you in. Grime merges into pop, characterised by uninspiring collaborations with Will.I.Am, Jessie J and Robbie Williams that all rely on repetitive sung choruses.
The Fifth embraces the main- stream commercialism that began to take root in Tongue n’ Cheek, but with no trace of Dizzee’s natural exuberance. The acerbic has been swapped for ‘Arse like That’, with a level of objectification that belongs in the early 70s. Elsewhere, lyrics are stretched by a general lack of content, ‘Life is a game of chess, and all the girls want to check me,’ proving a particular lowlight.
Things pick up when the album passes its halfway point. ‘Love This Town’ and ‘Heart of a Warrior’ both recapture the aspirational message and joyful bounce associated with Dizzee, the latter track benefiting greatly from Teddy Sky’s crisp vocals. It can be no coincidence these two were the more prominent among the new tracks debuted when supporting MUSE earlier this year.
The standard edition of The Fifth includes ‘Bassline Junkie’ as the sole bonus track. It’s a riotous postscript to what current Rascal fans know and love, heavily contrasting with the first half of The Fifth. Sadly, the track’s inclusion makes it all too clear where the rest of the album falls down. A few good tracks lost in a sea of video game music.
Sub Focus – Torus (5/5)
After four years, Sub Focus needed to deliver something impeccable and with ‘Torus’ he’s done just that. Following the release of single collaborations with Kele Orereke and Alex Clare, ‘Torus’ showcases immense tracks, catchy hooks and Sub Focus at his best.
Both energetic and punchy, by the end of album opener ‘Torus’ you’re on a one way trip to infinity and beyond. ‘Twilight’ has a chilled intro, flaunting his versatile production style, easing you in and out of the album’s serious bass and drops, whilst ‘Close’ is a stunning track with 90s dance elements, handclaps and a hint of garage. The beautiful, jangly guitar on ‘Out of Reach’ shows that this album will appeal to more than just die-hard DnB heads. Featuring female rapper Jaylelldee, the track has an afro-beat vibe with a playful yet hypnotic hook; percussion adding a summery feel, laced with a laid-back Sade- esque vocal. ‘Turn Back Time’ has an injection of early 90s dance reminiscent of Robin S, its dirty drops and pops transport you to and from the decade in a heartbeat.
Torus closes with ‘Until the End’ which once again shows the versatility of the record. Featuring indie artist Foxes, it sounds like the end of a 80s movie, grounding you after the album’s galactic journey. Foxes ethereal vocals alongside the compressed drum beat will leave you buzzing. Sub Focus has surpassed the boundaries of Drum and Bass with ‘Torus’, with excellent collaborations with emerging artists.