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Bryce Vine - Carnival Music Album Reviews

The debut full-length from the “Drew Barrymore” singer isn’t designed for conscious, focused listening. This is music for poolsides and basements.
Bryce Vine describes himself as “OutKast and Blink-182 got drunk with the Gorillaz.” Perhaps a more apt comparison is KYLE taking bong hits with Dave Matthews Band, or Jason Mraz sniffing poppers with Doja Cat. At 31, Vine is at an unconventional age for frat-rap prominence. He established a fanbase nearly a decade ago, as a contestant on “The Glee Project,” a reality television show based off the Ryan Murphy high school drama. His real rise came with 2017’s “Drew Barrymore,” a swirl of neon synths that went platinum, possibly by being added to every “Chill Vibes” playlist in existence.

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Chinatown Slalom - Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Music Album Reviews

The Liverpool four-piece’s debut experiments liberally with pop’s conventions, taking a collage-like approach to chopped samples, ghostly harmonies, and pedal-driven guitars and keyboards.

The house that Chinatown Slalom live in, on Little St. Bride Street in Liverpool, has the words “Everyone’s Invited” sprayed across its walls. It’s become something of a motto for the band, borne out in their home’s open-door policy and the trippy house parties that inspired this, their debut album, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? But the motto is most keenly felt in the group’s pick ’n’ mix approach to songwriting: One that dips exuberantly into musical and cultural history to absorb the best and oddest bits before resurfacing to piece the collage together from a palette of chopped samples, ghostly harmonies, and guitars and synths driven through a squall of analog pedal effects.


The band’s Liverpool home, four-piece lineup, and psychedelic leanings—their name comes from a stoned expedition to the city’s Chinatown neighborhood—may invoke comparisons to the Beatles. But what they really have in common with the Fab Four is their playful experimentation within pop’s otherwise stringent confines, and their buckets of artistic chemistry. Listening to the album feels like sitting in on a jam session and, despite their intricate, precise construction, there’s an appealing, thrown-together feel to the album’s 10 tracks.

The hand-clapped a cappella intro to “People Always Say What They Want” builds with snippets of laughter, studio chatter, and a new instrument joining the fray every few bars, but never loses its shape. “08:30” opens on drifting choral harmonies before descending into a scuzz of square waves and thrashed-out guitar riffs; “Dreams” is just as unpredictable, with its sparse, wiry vocals disintegrating gorgeously into metallic percussion and crunchy synths. “Bullets on a Screen” and the album’s title track follow more obvious, chorus-led song structures, but don’t necessarily suffer for it. Both sail on beguiling three-part harmonies and effortless riffs and serve as fixed posts for the album’s remaining tracks to drift in and out of. Occasionally—on the aimlessly repetitive “Just Love,” or in the meandering bombast of “Every Minute of the Day”—their agreeably thrown-together approach verges on slapdash, but these minor missteps don’t dampen the mood too much.

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Landing somewhere between a beat tape and an alt-pop record, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? finds inspiration in unexpected places: early Battles, maybe, or Forest Swords if he wasn’t quite so serious, or the xx if they weren’t so caught up in their feelings. As such, it’s a welcome addition to the UK’s musical landscape which, beyond London’s fizzing homegrown jazz community and a few other exceptions, finds itself amid a dearth of exciting new bands. Like the party scene in your favorite teen movie, this is neatly constructed chaos. And infectiously fun too. It’s a bold debut, frothing with ambition and a desire to push at the bounds of what a pop band should sound like in 2019. The challenge now will be to hone that ambition and tighten up the songcraft that Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? has given fans a glimpse of.


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