Saturday, 8 April 2017

March 2017

Um...oops? I was getting into a nice rhythm with the whole two-posts-a-month thing but (shockingly) I dropped the ball a mere three months into 2017...but I'm back back back back again and I'm gonna make up for my absence with a bumper post of what is a list of absolutely incredible music - March has been phenomenal.

There are several reasons as to why this post is a *tad* late; firstly, I've been working on uni assessments for the past 2/3 weeks (fun!!!1!) and by day I've been pretending to be a Civil Servant in Westminster for the past week (which was genuinely fun). 

Aside from those commendable and objectively important activities (and trying not to fail French...probably unsuccessfully), I also spent the past month immersing myself into the cool and bat-shit crazy waters of the Eurovision Song Contest, which anyone who knows me knows is one of the greatest joys and passions in my life. From podcasts, to performances, to press conferences, blogs and vlogs; I am fully obsessed with the commentary available online in the run-up to the contest in Kiev in just over a month from now.

As such, I will be doing some Eurovision posts in the coming weeks for the first time ever. I am so fucking excited. I would say that I hope to convert some Eurovision skeptics but to be totally honest I couldn't care less; this is for ME and those who love the spectacle as much as I do.

Now onto the incredible crop of new music the world was treated to in March 2017, with the usual (updated) Spotify playlist to follow:

Songs
Laura Marling - Nothing, No One
Lorde - Green light
Perfume Genius - Slip Away
Kendrick Lamar - HUMBLE.
Land of Talk - Inner Lover
Khalid - Young Dumb & Broke
Little Dragon - Sweet
Mabel ft. Kojo Funds - Finders Keepers
Gorillaz ft. Popcaan - Saturnz Barz
Beach Fossils - This Year
Juana Molina - Cosoco
Kelly Lee Owens - Throwing Lines 
Girlpool - 123
Feist - Pleasure
Charli XCX - Dreamer 
Valerie June - If And



Discovery of the month

Thanks to NPR, I discovered this delightful bunch - a band called Tank and the Bangas, who recently won the highly-competitive Tiny Desk Contest with the energetic, frantic and relentlessly-joyful 'Quick'. Enjoy it below:



Albums
Charli XCX - Number 1 Angel
Kelly Lee Owens - Kelly Lee Owens
Lydia Ainsworth - Darling of the Afterglow
Valerie June - The Order Of Time
Nadia Reid - Preservation
Ibibio Sound Machine - Uyai
Laura Marling - Semper Femina
Blanck Mass - World Eater
Goldfrapp - Silver Eye
Julia Holter - In The Same Room
Pharmakon - Contact

March 2017 - Bad for the world, good for music. 

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

February 2017

I'm back with another monthly update of what I've been listening to lately! As with January, we have been treated to a number of brilliant and exciting tracks and records from an eclectic range of artists. Let's hope 2017's musical output will continue to be this good...and since Lorde is allegedly returning next month, my wish may well come true!

Albums
Sampha - Process
MUNA - About U
Molly Burch - Please Be Mine
Thundercat - Drunk
Vagabon - Infinite Worlds 
Visible Cloaks - Reassemble
Novella - Change of State
Los Campesinos! - Sick Scenes
Charlie Carter - Nothing Short of Love
Lowly - Heba
Tinariwen - Elwan
Dirty Projectors - Dirty Projectors

Songs
Sampha - Kora Sings
Charley Kiss - Glitter
Future Islands - Ran
Marika Hackman - Boyfriend
Dirty Projectors - Cool Your Heart (feat. DAWN)
Lydia Ainsworth - Afterglow
Arca - Anoche
Aldous Harding - Horizon
Ibeyi - Lost In My Mind
Jane Weaver - Slow Motion
Vagabon - Fear & Force
Laura Marling - Nothing, Not Nearly

The updated playlist of my favourite songs of the year so far:

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Sampha - Process review


Over the last few years, Sampha Sissay (who goes by just 'Sampha') has collaborated with a wealth of  incredible artists over the past few years, with the results being nothing short of spectacular (see: 'Play' with Katy B and Solange's 'Don't Touch My Hair'). With every collaboration that emerged, my expectations (along with my anticipation) for his eventual debut solo album increased tenfold, to the point where I was setting myself up for disappointment. Thankfully, I was proven wrong - this is easily one of the strongest debuts I've heard in a while.

With a voice like Sampha's it was inevitable that, at the very least, the vocals on Process would be phenomenal, that much was certain. What truly elevates this above the work of his contemporaries is the calibre of the production, which is the work of the man himself along with collaborator Rodaidh McDonald. I'm not exactly sure why I'm surprised, considering Sampha's track record as a producer; in the past he has produced and co-produced tracks for FKA Twigs, Katy B, Jessie Ware and SBTRKT among others. Even with his back catalogue in mind, he has really outdone himself here.

Take the opening track 'Plastic 100°C' for example, which combines brittle guitar plucking with a melancholic and spacey soundscape to create a stunning opener, and one that tells you exactly what kind of sonic journey you've got yourself in for. The pace is maintained with the sinister and tense 'Blood On Me', which explores feelings of guilt and despair with an almost visceral tone, a theme continued with the euphoric 'Reverse Faults'. There is also the track 'Timmy's Prayer', which continues this almost twisted sense of distortion in the production, whilst maintaining an airiness at the same time. 

As strong and cohesive as Process is, there are two tracks in particular that have jumped out at me as potential 'Song of the Year' contenders. The first is the immensely catchy 'Kora Sings', which is packed with different sounds and textures that dance around around my sonic pallet. The other is the stunning lead single '(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano', an ode to the instrument he's been playing since he was three. On this track we hear Sampha at his most intimate and impassioned, making a ~moment~ in every sense.

I first discovered Sampha back in 2011 through 'Valentine', a collaboration with the ever-wonderful Jessie Ware. It then took 6 (!!!!) years after that first interaction before he finally came through with the solo release I've been waiting so desperately for, and thankfully Process was totally worth the wait in every sense. I struggle to see how another debut album in 2017 will come close to this level of accomplishment neither in terms of vocals, nor the quality of production. 

Best tracks: Plastic 100°C, Blood On Me, Reverse Faults, Timmy's Prayer, Kora Sings, (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano

Stream the full album on Spotify below:


Tuesday, 31 January 2017

January 2017

Hmmm...what a month...

...
...at least the music was good?


For this year, I've decided to keep these monthly summaries fairly brief, with the introduction of rolling playlists that I'll (hopefully) update with every passing month. 

I'll let the music speak for itself...

Songs

Thundercat - Show You The Way
SZA - Drew Barrymore
Syd - Body
Mac DeMarco - This Old Man
Goldfrapp - Anymore
The xx - Lips
Lydia Ainsworth - The Road
Snny - Young Boy
London Grammar - Rooting For You
MarcLo - SWNGN
Julie Byrne - Natural Blue
Kelly Lee Owens - Anxi (feat. Jenny Hval)



Albums

The xx - I See You
Austra - Future Politics
Ty Segall - Ty Segall
Rose Elinor Dougall - Stellular
Loyle Carner - Yesterday's Gone
Julie Byrne - Not Even Happiness
Menace Beach - Lemon Memory
Allison Crutchfield - Tourist In This Town
Priests - Nothing Feels Natural

Thursday, 19 January 2017

The xx - I See You review



One of the most influential 'Indie' acts of recent years and Wandsworth's finest export; The xx arguably revitalised and reshaped the pop landscape back in 2009, replacing clunky synths with spatial production, airy vocals and touches of piano, bass and guitars. Often dismissed as a bunch of pretentious 'hipsters', I've always seen potential in this trio that was yet to be realised...until now. I knew this record would be special upon hearing the lead single 'On Hold', which sparked an interest in the band that I hadn't felt since I heard 'Heart Skipped A Beat' nearly 8 (!) years ago. As I predicted, I See You is their strongest body of work to date and I couldn't be more delighted with it. 

The record kicks off with a bang in the form of 'Dangerous', the production of which incorporates the 'clubby' elements of Jamie's [excellent] solo material to full effect. Similarly, 'A Violent Noise' is a perfect merger of Jamie's grand instrumentals and the trio's signature sound, making it a new discography highlight. Some have described this album as the sound of The xx 'waking up', which as harsh as it may sound is fairly accurate. I mean, just listen to 'Lips'. 

I See You just has a sense of life and urgency to it that I always felt was lacking in the band's earlier material. A prime example of this 'life' can be found on 'Say Something Loving', which, like On Hold, features a prominent sample which is built upon with layered brittle guitar lines and the band's distinct dual-gendered coos. The assertion of this concept of something 'slipping away' complements the urgent pace of the production, which adds to the sense of cohesion that the band is famous for.

The xx are often credited as being a key influencer in the sounds of many pop acts that have emerged since 2009, meaning that they tend to get name checked whenever a record dabbles in 'skeletal' or 'spacey' pop music. Interestingly, this time around the tables have turned; the soft and breezy 'Replica' reminds be of Woman's Hour, who produced one of my favourite albums back in 2014, while 'Brave For You' recalls the majesty and elegance of dream pop pioneers Beach House, before a percussion-heavy instrumental breakdown channels Daughter at their most dramatic and captivating.

Even though it's often contrived and tiresome when music writers constantly refer to other acts when reviewing an artists' work, in this case it's justified. The xx have had such a profound impact on the pop landscape in my opinion, so seeing them branching out and experimenting with new palettes and sounds on their 3rd record is really exciting for me. I can only hope that they continue to both inspire and experiment in the future, and if that means Romi and Oliver solo records...I'm here for that too. I hope their 'pretentious' reputation doesn't deter you from delving into this glorious record, but if it does, that's your loss. 

Best tracks: Pretty much all of them, tbh.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Albums of the year - 2016


So...here we are again. I won't beat around the bush here, 2016 has been a steaming pile of shit through-and-through, from beginning to end (probably). The ONE saving grace has been the amount of great music we were gifted with to help us through it. 

I'm gonna keep it simple and just post my top 40 albums, with a few lines about the top 10. I hope to start a fresh in 2017 and post regularly like I used to (in addition to a new blog-related project). So stay tuned!



40. Tim Hecker - Love Streams
39. Glass Animals - How to Be a Human Being
38. Animal Collective - Painting With
37. Lone - Levitate
36. Bracken - High Passes
35. Frankie Cosmos - Next Thing
34. Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book
33. Xenia Rubinos - Black Terry Cat
32. Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial
31. Margo Price - Midwest Farmer's Daughter

30. Banks - The Alter
29. Basia Bulat - Good Advice
28. Quilt - Plaza
27. Yeasayer - Amen & Goodbye
26. Anderson .Paak - Malibu
25. Lambchop - FLOTUS
24. Exploded View - Exploded View
23. Goat - Requim
22. Danny Brown - Atrocity Exhibition
21. Rihanna - ANTi

20. Charlie Hilton - Palana
19. Chairlift - Moth
18. Anderson .Paak - Malibu
17. NAO - For All We Know
16. Warpaint - Heads Up
15. Tegan and Sara - Love You To Death
14. Andrew Bird - Are You Serious
13. ANOHNI - Hopelessness
12. Amber Arcades - Fading Lines
11. Carly Rae Jepsen - Side B

10. Blood Orange - Freetown Sound

My summer soundtrack; Dev gave me everything I wanted/expected from Blonde (the underwhelming Frank Ocean record) - from the airy pop of Best To You and Augustine to the more reflective cuts like 'Hadron Collider' and 'EVP', this record really does have it all. 

9. Shura - Nothing's Real

Perhaps my LEAST favourite thing about the instant gratification culture is the way new artists release half of the tracks from their (often delayed) debut albums in the form of buzz-singles, leaving very little excitement when the (often mediocre) album actually does drop. Thankfully, Shura broke this pattern with this exhilarating synth-pop masterpiece. 

8. Jessy Lanza - Oh No

Though not quite as incredible as Pull My Hair Back, Oh No! still features some of the best production I heard on any record this year. From the jittery synth-pop of 'VV Violence' to liquid gold shimmer of closing track 'Could Be U', I still cannot get enough of this one.

7. Solange - A Seat At The Table

Solange has had a special place in my heart ever since she dropped the BOP that was 'I Decided' all the way back in 2008. Suffice to say, her artistry has come a long way since then. I don't believe another album has quite captured the identity discussions that swept social media in 2016 quite like this one did. The production is flawless too (well of course, have you heard Losing You??).

6. Beyoncé - Lemonade

Shocker! Solange's big sis has grabbed a seat at the table (ha) right next to her! I know a lot of Beyoncé haters (unfortunately) so this one is ESPECIALLY for you lot. This is hands-down the post powerful release of this year; every track is a MOMENT, especially Formation, Don't Hurt Yourself and All Night. I highly recommend watching  the accompanying film, but be warned, you will be slayed. Beyoncé has now cemented herself as a cultural icon and you haters can seethe at this fact.

5. case/lang/veirs - case/lang/veirs

It is at this point where the list enters the 'intimate, warm and personal singer-songwriter' phase; I'm sure this will come to no shock to anyone who reads my blog regularly. I'm usually very fussy when it comes to folk music, but when it came to this glorious collection of songs from three of the most incredible songwriters of all time, it was truly love at first listen. This record really comes into its own in these cozy winter months. 

4. Angel Olsen - My Woman

This right here is an album of two halves; the first half consists of more experimental, more pop-rock moments such as the fantastic 'Shut Up Kiss Me' and 'Not Gonna Kill You'. But then a shift occurs mid-way through, which sees Angel revert back to the sullen and reflective chanteuse we know and love. That's not to say that this was a regressive step; Angel's artistry is still growing with every release and it's so exciting to watch.

3. Weyes Blood - Front Row Seat To Earth

I'll be honest here, I've had a spot reserved on this list ever since I heard the single 'Seven Words', which is possibly my song of the year 2016 (I can't be bothered to post a full list because I haven't been able to keep up with all the songs I've loved this year). From the dream-like euphoria of the production to the warmth of the vocal melodies, this album is very much ~me in 2016~...and probably next year also - forever in a daze. 

2. Cate Le Bon - Crab Day

Again, if you're a regular reader, you'll know that I was obsessed with Cate Le Bon's Mug Museum album back in 2013 (and still very much am to this day). I'm still not quite sure if it was the strength of the songwriting, the nostalgic production values or the fact that I'm just an utter pottery nerd, but I just could not get enough of that record. With this in mind, Cate had a lot to live up to when she announced Crab Day, but thankfully she managed to meet my impossibly high expectations. From the catchy and raw guitar pop charm of 'Wonderful' to the sprawling and wacky closing track 'What's Not Mine', this has secured Cate's position on my heavy rotation list for the next few years I reckon. Bonus good news, there's a follow-up EP dropping next year!


1. Mitski - Puberty 2

I'm sure this will come as NO surprise to any of you, because I just cannot stop talking about this record. It struck a chord with me like no other record could and for that reason it HAD to be number one on this list. Puberty 2 came at a time where I was at a crossroads in my life; I was about to take my A level exams, but despite being fully aware of their importance, I just couldn't find it in my to put petulant bullshit aside to prioritise my work (/my future). But thankfully, upon just one listen of this, I was sobered, I was transfixed and I was overcome with a sense of calm.

I'm sure everyone has that one album that resonates with them more than any other, to the point where it forms a snapshot of that time in your life...well this is mine. Whether it is my fears and concerns about my identity, longing for validation from academics and future employers or my frustration with how happiness comes and goes so rapidly, Puberty 2 makes me feel supported in my journey of self-discovery (yuck) and personal development.

So there you have it folks, bye 2016!


Monday, 17 October 2016

Warpaint - Heads Up review


It’s no secret that Warpaint are one of my favourite bands of all time, and I’m flakey as hell when it comes to bands, so that says A LOT. Unlike with many bands, I was hooked from the very start; their debut EP Exquisite Corpse blew me away (especially the track Elephant<3), The Fool is one of my favourite albums ever released and their self-titled LP was my album of 2014 and soundtracked my entire year, and helped make that year remarkably less shitty. 'I’ll Stop Believing', which turned out to be a mere ~bridge single~ between album cycles, was one of the band's best songs yet, so naturally my excitement levels for their third record were immense. Thankfully, the girls have come through with yet another smart, intricate and bold release to add to my collection in the form of Heads Up.

The lead single ‘New Song’ was perhaps the most divisive track they’ve released thus far, but that’s exactly what artistic growth is about – when they were fairly ~underground~, they appeased their small fanbase with a very niche and distinct style, but as they progress and attract a larger crowd, naturally they’re gonna alienate the more uptight and rigid listeners. I, as a long-term Warpaint fan as well as a fan of pop music in general, happen to adore this radio-friendly sound they’re toying with. The repetition of the hook creates a hypnotic effect, which along with the light and breezy production makes it possibly their catchiest song to date. 

The staggering thing to me about Heads Up is the number of tracks that strike me as ‘instant classics’ at first listen, which three albums in is highly exciting. Maintaining their track record for strong opening tracks, ‘By Your Side’ is Warpaint at their most menacing and for that I adore it; they are experimenting with tension like never before. The line ‘But I won’t give up on you’ from ‘The Stall’ is a refrain that sticks with me for hours after; with the earworm of a chorus this is an instant favourite from their discography for me. I predict that this will also be a highlight in their live shows in the future. On ‘Don’t Let Go’ the haunting, jagged and skeletal intro explodes into one of Stella’s best drum performances yet, giving the track an almost visceral quality. This track, to me, is a beautiful tribute The Fool's sound palette. Another standout is the excellently-titled ‘Dre’, with production so ethereal that it’s almost other-worldly, a term I'd use to describe Warpaint at their very best.

In brief, Warpaint keep getting better as they expand their sound whilst delving deeper into the palettes they’ve dabbled in before. Despite Jenny Lee’s recent solo venue and Theresa working on material of her own (hopefully to be released next year), Warpaint is still a cohesive unit of four of the most talented musicians around and seeing them continue to thrive and experiment is an absolute thrill for me to see. I cannot recommend this, and their discography as a whole, enough.