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Cairokee: Nas W Nas
With an epic debut back in 2011, Cairokee have successfully snuck into the pulse of the Egyptian underground music scene, thanks to their politically-charged singles and relatable lyrics. Following making their way into the playlists of countless Egyptians, the rock band remains the poster child of popularized underground acts.
Releasing their 4th studio album, Nas W Nas, with a total of 12 tracks, the band finds itself sticking to a golden mean of sorts, not stressing too heavily on politics, and incorporating an array of themes that draws from everyday situations, making for an album that anyone from the working class masses to the bourgeoisie will find themselves relating to.
Said choice of multiple themes, is reminiscent of the their 3rd album, "El Sekka Shemal", focusing more on social issues, criticising some and romanticising others. Genre-wise, the band takes what seems like a partial break from heavy rock beats and delves deeply into laid back indie and pop-rock.
"Ghamad Einak" showcases Amir Eid's ability to skilfully hit high notes against a baroque pop-inspired backdrop with a hint of rap, whereas "Marboot Be Astek" boasts a more futuristic 80s disco-pop sound, as Amir croons about a pretentious crowd at a party.
Drawing from traditional folkloric Egyptian music, "El Baka Baka" features a lively criticism of all types of pollution and nuisances that highlight life in Egypt sung along the infectious beat of the tabla. "El Television" extends the theme of societal criticisms, unapologetically throwing apparent shade at Egyptian mainstream media and pop culture, with the lead guitarist Hawary, bass guitarist Adam El-Alfy and drummer Tamer Hashem boldly flaunting their instruments in the dynamic single.
Toning things down, Amir gently sings about his optimistic hopes and appreciation of the little things that make everyday life in Egypt all the more special, alongside relaxed beats and laid back guitar strums in "Wala Ma Aayez." Cairokee's non-cheesy approach to romance makes the indie-inspired "Neaddy El Sharea Sawa" endearingly touching as it describes a couple's first date.
With both the original track and the remix included in the track list, "Geina El Donia Fi Laffa"'s remix is a power tune which both mixes oriental vibes with a house beat that build up to a memorable drop. "Nas W Nas" sees Cairokee stealthily creep back to their political roots, as Eid's emotional vocals chant about Egyptian martyrs.
All in all, Cairokee seem to have mastered the art of delivering songs that are highly relatable whilst still refreshing their signature style here and there. Nas W Nas has its moments of sheer euphoria and moments of ever so slight monotony, yet as a whole, sees the band mature into a genre purely of their own.
One of the shortest tracks on the album is ‘DMT Song’. Created with the help of bassist/vocalist, Thundercat, it is the most vocally dense song on the record. Slow and dreamy, with high-pitched, slightly dissonant, vocals, it's a good intro to the next track, ‘The Nightcaller’. Aptly titled, this song features a groovy dance bass underneath a synthesizer melody that sounds ideal for waving your arms around on the dance floor.
‘Getting There’, with vocals by Niki Randa, is reminiscent of Massive Attack. Not only because of the elongated vocals, but the muffled bass beat and dreamy bell sounds could certainly also have spawned from the brains of 3D and Daddy G. The same goes for ‘Hunger’; a song that sounds like it was recorded underwater and also features Randa. Its spacious melody is broken up by a bridge with echoing vocals and harpsichord-like keyboards.
Erykah Badu is the only vocalist to appear on the album that Flying Lotus hasn’t worked with previously. Her vocals work really well on the African sounding track ‘See Thru To U’ - hopefully, Badu will become incorporated into Ellison’s fixed team of vocalists.
‘Putty Boy Strut’ sounds like a broken toy gone mental, with a catchy musical theme that returns in the deeper layers of ‘Me Yesterday/Corded’.
‘Electric Candyman’ features vocals by Radiohead frontman, Thom Yorke, and is a slow track with male and female vocal melodies mixed together in a way that almost sounds disorienting. Yorke’s voice is hardly recognisable, which seems like a waste considering his great, and highly distinguishable, vocal abilities.
Since the mid 20th century, the folk and rock genres have been worn down by tested music formulas that will guarantee sales. Rarely does anyone set out to make mainstream music and come up with something new on their venture.
Ron Pope is a contemporary American pop-rock musician that brings a slight change of scenery to our routine musical lives. Emitting a confident, genial voice, he has fostered the ability to creatively twist chord progressions whilst keeping them accessible to an everyman taste; something that garnered initial widespread acclaim after spreading his first hit – co-written with his band mate Zach Berkman – ‘A Drop in the Ocean’ on the internet in 2005. From that point onwards, he performed with the Districts, before they disbanded in 2009. Pope went on to sign a year-long contract with Universal Records, and has since managed to remain successful as an independent musician, unbothered by corporate affiliation.
His latest album, Calling Off the Dogs, features the signature streaks of Ron Pope; a mellow expressive timbre of voice that’s accompanied by daring guitar chops and layered textures. Indeed, Pope proves himself a versatile and flexible musician capable of both serenading the soft-hearted, and giving the crowds something to jump to.
At times there is a vibe of nostalgia surrounding the music, evoking the sense that it was made during the rise of glam rock in the late 70s or early 80s, but without the cheesy aesthetics of the era. Creepy title aside, ‘Lick My Wounds’ is an opening anthem that could easily be mistaken for an eighties hit, laced with a church organ, a wailing chorus and a boisterous guitar.
Unfortunately, there are instances on the album, such as on the ballad ‘Signs’ or the closing track ‘Blood From A Stone’, where Pope chooses to sing in an overly soft timbre which makes the songs much too poppy and smooth. Pope displays his contemporary singing capabilities on ‘Back to Bed’, which, although a well written and catchy tune, is spoiled by his overly-caressing tone. In comparison, compensation is made in the next, fuller-bodied track, ‘New Friends’.
Whilst staying faithful to a pop-rock genre, particularly in the manner that he uses his voice, Paul has the sophistication to include more complex chord structures, a catchy use of strings and a profound variation in texture. Even with some weak tracks, these elements make Calling Off The Dogs palatable to the more cultured ear, once you become accustomed to his voice.