Monday, 30 June 2014

Best of June

Now I don't wish to startle you, but we are already half way through 2014. I know, where did the time go? But at least it's summer now. In homage to this I decided to focus on the more summery tracks of the past month in the playlist (below the songs section). And of course with releases from the likes of Spoon, Alvvays (<<AMAZING), FKA Twigs, Jungle, Honeyblood, Royal Blood, La Roux and The Wytches, this should be a summer to remember. Before we get too ahead of ourselves I feel it would be appropriate to look back at the best releases of the month just (swiftly) gone.

Albums of the Month

Lone - Reality Testing

There is an immense confidence felt throughout this record, a self-assurance in Matt Cutler's flawless production which makes Reality Testing feel more entrancing and engaging than your average electronic record. Not since Jon Hopkin's astonishing Mercury-nominated Immunity have I felt such warmth and depth from an electronic record. With Reality Testing there is a real sense of balance between paying tribute to older scenes such as Detroit techno and Chicago House and innovating new sounds. As a result I feel this record will stand the test of time, to the extent where it already feels somewhat of a classic, to me anyway. Hopefully between this and the popularity of acts such as Disclosure and Julio Bashmore, mainstream dance will regain its credibility once again. 

Read my full review here.

How To Dress Well - "What Is This Heart?"

There has always been something unique about How To Dress Well's sound, encompassing the past, present and the future through Krell's eclectic palette of sounds and both visual and sonic influences. On "What Is This Heart?", the ancient Greek and Roman imagery creates an interesting juxtaposition with the colorful R&B beats and abstract melodies,  particularly on the entrancing slow jam 'Words I Don't Remember'. This along with Krell's attention to detail equates to an album which is dynamic as well as cohesive, to the extent where not listening to all tracks in order just feels plain wrong. The subtlety found in Krell's former releases has vanished, making this his most dynamic and confident work to date.

Read my full review here.

Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence

'Spiritual', 'cinematic' and 'almost so dark it's listenable, these were the hints that Lana Del Rey gave earlier on in the year regarding Ultraviolence, the follow up to her massively successful major label debut. Not only are the individual tracks on here stronger, but I feel her approach is far less forced. Here she has replaced hip-hop beats and her prior pop sensibility with a far more baroque-rock infused sound. Lana has proven that she can back up her style with substance and with the help of The Black Key's Dan Auerbach on production she has evolved into an artist who is so much more than your run-of-the-mill pop star.

White Lung - Deep Fantasy

Like with many punk albums, my only major qualm with Deep Fantasy is the lack of variation between tracks. But to be fair it would of been difficult for White Lung to fit any more sounds in considering the running time of this record. Giving credit where credit’s due, in 22 minutes White Lung managed to pack every millisecond with noise, angst, attitude and, most importantly, passion. This passion for their craft is not only apparent in the superb instrumentation and punchy lyricism (themes include rape, sexism and power), but in the prowess with which the former two are executed, Deep Fantasy oozes confidence, and this is what makes it such an enthralling listen. With this record, I think it’s fair to say that Mish Way has cemented herself as one of punk’s most important frontwomen.

Read my full review here.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Days Of Abandon

One of the year's more underrated releases I feel; Days Of Abandon sees the band embrace a more celestial 80's pop inspired sound, and boy does it work. It would be easy to despair at the lack of heaviness in the guitars in comparison to their previous efforts, but with tracks like 'Until The Sun Explodes', which features one of the band's best riffs yet and not to mention and amazing video. Elsewhere the tracks 'Simple And Sure', 'Kelly' and 'Eurydice' are among my favourite of the year so far. 

Songs of the Month

Caribou - Can't Do Without You

Bearing in mind his thus-far flawless back catalog, you can only imagine the immense pressure upon Daniel Victor Snaith (A.K.A Caribou)'s shoulders at this point. This hasn't stopped him from taking a risk with his latest single though; with such a long build up in proportion to the pay-off this could've easily become tedious and flat, thankfully it hasn't and is in fact a massive, massive tune. Fair enough, it's no Odessa but is still more enough to whet my appetite for his new album, even if it is bloody well due in OCTOBER. The wait begins...

My Brightest Diamond - Pressure

Ever since I heard St Vincent's excellent eponymous album earlier this year I was convinced that she was the official queen of art pop in 2014, but now it seems Shara Worden is giving her a run for her money. Releasing music under the moniker My Brightest Diamond since 2006; her work hasn't really clicked with me before this point, that has all changed with this, her latest single. The excellence of 'Pressure' is undeniable; from Worden's immaculate vocal delivery to that drumline, it's all just so right. Look out for her new album This Is My Hand in September and prepare to be blown away. 

FKA Twigs - Two Weeks

Through the release of her two very excellent EPs (the creatively titled EP1 and EP2), FKA Twigs has become one of the most hyped UK artists of the last few years. And now with the release of her debut album ( guessed it: LP1) she has only gone and dropped one of the best tracks of the year so far. Seeped in sensuality; 'Two Weeks' is a seductive slow jam which still maintain Twig's elegant aesthetic, this being reiterated by the stunning video for the track.   

The New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers

As far as indie super groups go, The New Pornographers is definitely one of the best (and not just because of the name). And with Neko Case on board you cannot go far wrong. Their new album Brill Bruisers (due in August) is promised to be a "celebration record", and judging by the title track there will be plenty of celebration on my part when it finally drops. 

Rustie - Raptor

Having crafted one of my favourite albums of all time, Glass Swords back in 2011, Glasgow's finest Rustie sure does have a lot to live up to with album two. 'Raptor' is the perfect track to ensure that my faith is fully restored.  Vicious and all-encompassing; 'Raptor' is a beast of a track which is certainly not a faint-hearted.

Lia Ices - Thousand Eyes

After her criminally underrated debut album Grown Unknown; Lia Ices has returned with not only a new and improved sound but a new concept altogether, flight - the concept of leaving the earth and all of it's stresses entirely. 'Thousand Eyes', the first taste of new album Ices is a melodic slice of folktronica with an essence of reggae thrown in for good measure. More please.

Zola Jesus - Dangerous Days

Nika Roza Danilova (better known as Zola Jesus) has always sparked intrigue in me; I have always had a degree of admiration for Zola's concept and sound, but as yet has not created a full album that has completely grabbed me (it is worth noting that 2011's Conatus was very nearly there). But I think it's fair to say that new single 'Dangerous Days' is a complete game-changer for Zola, it is easily her most accessible release to date, but is no less epic and grand than her previous work. With her new album Taiga sounding ever-tantalizing this could be a major turning point for Zola.  

Jamie XX - All Under One Roof Raving

The XX are undoubtedly one of the UK's greatest success stories of the last 10 years, from humble beginnings they exploded with their sensational debut album, taking the world by storm and arguably re-shaping the pop landscape with their sparse approach to production. Jamie XX, arguably the mastermind of the trio, often remained in the shadows of his band mates, but if he continues to produce tracks of this standard that will not longer be possible. An ode to the ever-vibrant London urban scene (of which I am rather accustomed to); 'All Under One Roof Raving' is an ode to London with added tropical flavor, courtesy of steel drums alongside the persistent sample usage. That full length solo album cannot come soon enough. 

Jessie Ware - Tough Love

Jessie Ware is a goddess, no more explanation required. 

Menace Beach - Tennis Court

As promising as their debut EP was (so much so that I made it my EP of the month all the way back in January), I honestly did not expect such an excellent single this soon afterwards. 'Tennis Court' is easily their catchiest and most skilled track yet, it embraces the best of 90's nostalgia while the hook-laden chorus sweetens the deal. Just in time for Wimbledon too.

Ryn Weaver - OctaHate

I'll let the music speak for itself on this one: this is the best pop debut single of the year so far. And with over 500,000 soundcloud hits in a matter of days, Ryn Weaver may well be a force to be reckoned with. 

Esben and The Witch - Blood Teachings

I thought I'd end things on a more sombre note for a change, ya know, just to be different. Espen and The Witch only caught my attention very recently, after listening to this rather Swans-esque track I was compelled to hear more (mostly due to my immense love for the latter's latest LP To Be Kind). Fortunately the band are releasing their debut album in September so I shan't have wait too long.  

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