It’s new music time, as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out recent releases from Australian singer/songwriter Greta Stanley, goth-rockers Evanescence, rap supergroup Wu-Tang clan and YouTube star Lil Peep.
New Album from a New Artist
Greta Stanley: Full Grown
I first encountered Greta Stanley back in 2015, when she was promoting the release of her debut EP Bedroom City. With an ethereal voice and down-to-earth personality, Stanley was a refreshing voice in a tired folk singer/songwriter market that idolised the soporific Angus and Julia Stone. Bedroom City was full of songs about growing up and finding herself, charmingly innocent but wanting to grow up.
As the title suggests, Full Grown finds Greta Stanley at a more mature stage of life, still innocent but more aware of the darkness in the world.
When speaking about the album, Stanley said:
“The LP is all about the bad stuff, and the good stuff, and how unfortunately one wouldn’t really exist without the other. It’s about learning, hurting, coming completely unstuck… and then somehow finding your feet again.”
With hints of Joni Mitchell and Cat Power filtered through a lens of regional Australia, Stanley’s songs have a remarkable depth for someone of her age. Her lyrics have grown in complexity and nuance since Bedroom City, and her voice continues to improve with experience.
If you’re a fan of Australian folk or just music written from the heart, check out Full Grown. You won’t be disappointed.
Standout tracks: Full Grown, Taking My Time, After Dark
Sample lyric: “I see my mother in the mirror, now more than ever.” (Full Grown)
Verdict: 7/10 — folk music doesn’t have to suck.
New Album from an Old Artist
Wu-Tang: The Saga Continues
Widely reputed by those in the know as one of the best rap groups of all time, Wu-Tang Clan got together on Staten Island, New York City in the early 1990s. Comprised of nine members with distinct vocal styles, the group fused politically aware rap with samples from classic kung fu movies, inventing an entirely new sub-genre of hip-hop.
Produced entirely by rap polymath RZA, debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) set the standard for East Coast rap and has been referenced as a major influence by artists from Jay-Z to Biggie. As the years passed, group members released solo albums, the came back periodically to roll another Wu-Tang joint. Method Man became a breakout star and went into acting, the group launched a hugely profitable clothing label and RZA went into composing.
After the death of founding member Ol' Dirty Bastard (only after changing his name to Big Baby Jesus, mind you) and creative disagreements with U-God, the band shortened their name to Wu-Tang and got back into the studio to prove their mastery.
More like a disparate collection of tracks from talented rappers than a coherent album from a group, The Saga Continues is nonetheless a compelling listen. Standout performers include Ghostface Killah on Pearl Harbour, Method Man on G’d Up and RZA on Why Why Why.
Far from the highly polished chart rap of artists like Macklemore, Wu-Tang continue to produce inspired, dirty rap tracks that make you sit up and listen. It won’t be for everyone, but The Saga Continues is well worth a listen for fans of the genre.
Standout tracks: Pearl Harbour, If What You Say is True, My Only One
Sample lyric: “Criminology, pea sour wallabies, Ghostface Killahs with degrees in gynecology.” (Pearl Harbour)
Verdict: 7/10 — rap is not dead.
Album I Expect to Suck
You might remember Evanescence as the overwrought band that produced Broken, a goth-metal collaboration with Seether. Led by singer Amy Lee and guitarist Ben Moody, the band got together in Little Rock, Arkansas back in 1995. After an independent release that didn’t trouble the charts, the band signed with Wind-Up Records and released Fallen in 2003, going on to sell 17 million copies and coming in at number 6 on a countdown of the biggest selling albums of the past 10 years.
It is probably safe to say that Evanescence peaked with their first album. They released a live album to capitalise on the success of Fallen, but it was basically the same songs with a bit of crowd noise added for effect. At the same time, tensions started to rise within the band, leading to the departure of multiple members, including founding guitarist Moody.
Second studio release The Open Door came out in 2006 and did reasonably well, but it was 5 years before another album would be released, 2011’s self-titled Evanescence. It was more of the same, and poor sales and reviews led Amy Lee to announce the end of the band, and the start of her solo career. In case you were wondering how well that went, think about whether you can name a single Amy Lee song…
From a sonic perspective, Synthesis is a remarkably boring album. Moving away from the diet nu-metal feel of previous releases, this album embraces orchestration and electronica, but it does so in a quite pedestrian way. Fans of the group may find something to like, but I forgot each song on this album the moment it finished playing.
Standout tracks: Uh… nope.
Sample Lyric: “My heart is broken, sweet sleep, my dark angel.” (My Heart is Broken)
Verdict: 3/10 — do not listen to this album while driving as it may induce coma.
The Sad Tale of Lil Peep
Lil Peep: Come Over When You’re Sober (Part One)
It’s probably safe to say that most people reading this column have never heard of Lil Peep. Known to his parents as Gustav Ahr, Lil Peep rose to fame the same way that Justin Bieber did — via YouTube. Unlike the worst Canadian ever, Peep didn’t become a massive tool as his fame grew, but he did continue to make some very poor life choices…
Covered in ill-considered tattoos, many of which were done when he was too impaired to remember, Lil Peep released his debut album in September, the somewhat ironically named Come Over When You’re Sober (Part One). Often described as Emo Rap, Peep’s singing style is a stoned drawl somewhat akin to Snoop Dogg, with lyrics about drugs, breakups and mental health issues.
On first listen, I sorta hated this album, but I must admit that there’s something about Lil Peep that’s grown on me. It may be his way of opening his damaged soul up to the world, the hypnotically lazy beats or the occasional flash of lyrical genius, but there’s definitely something there.
With over 100 tracks to his name, there is a fair chance that we will see Come Over When You’re Sober volumes 2 through 5, but unfortunately Lil Peep won’t be involved. On November 15th 2017, Lil Peep was found dead from a suspected fentanyl overdose. He was 21 years old. In a super-classy move, Peep’s management have announced that they will be releasing a line of official merchandise to "celebrate his memory", which is record industry code for "make as much money off the dead guy as possible", otherwise known as the Tupac Maneuver.
Standout tracks: Benz Truck, Awful Things, U Said
Sample lyric: “Sometimes life gets fucked up, that’s why we get fucked up.” (U Said)
Verdict: 8/10 — a story of wasted potential.
Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Damnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).
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