Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Best of April

Even though we're only 5 months into 2015, we've already seen (or rather, heard) some truly excellent music by the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Sufjan Stevens and Lady Lamb. But the best is still yet to come; May and June are already shaping up to be incredible (see the list of future releases at the end of the post). April, if anything, was more of a teaser for what's to come, meaning that the past month has been mostly dominated by buzz tracks. On the albums side it was more quality over quantity with only two legitimately fantastic records, both are incidentally the follow-ups to my favourite two records of 2013 (that's pretty strange, right?). 

If this is a little rushed it's because I'm writing this post to distract myself from the terrifying reality of my AS exams being like a week away, so I apologize in advance for any inconsistencies or errors you may be confronted with. And on a side-note I'm not sure if I'll be doing a 'best of May' at the end of May or at the end of June, i.e when these god-forsaken dream-crushers are done and dusted, so look out for that.  

Moving on, I'd like to thank everyone who's been following this because it's a pretty big deal to me. Over the past month alone I've had over 1,000 views which I never expected, especially as I approach iplugtoyou's 2nd anniversary. So to celebrate this milestone I intend to start varying the content in the coming months, writing more for outside publications and iplugtoyou TV will be returning at some point. Special shout-out to my readers in Ukraine, who've been dominating my viewership lately, stay strong guys!

And last thing, I recently got a shout-out on my favourite podcast, The Only Music podcast by Has It Leaked (episode 4), it's available on iTunes if you're curious. It really is the best music podcast around and the exciting thing is that they're only just starting out (plus I'm obsessed with their Swedish accents), you can find out more about them here.

Albums of the month

Nadine Shah - Fast Food

Now I hate to be that guy but back in 2013 when I was harping on about how amazingly talented Nadine Shah was, hardly anyone listened to me (possibly because my viewership was like 4 people at the time). Not that I'm complaining, Nadine is a pretty big deal nowadays and her stunning voice has captivated the mainstream media, particularly album highlight 'Fool'. There will always be a special place in my heart for Nadine's debut album Love Your Dum and Mad, which not only soundtrack by Christmas 2013 but is the album that essentially got me my Earbuddy job, so thanks for that, Nads!

I also adore dark and brooding music, and her debut was just about as good as it got. A lot of writers compare Nadine's style to PJ Harvey, which I agree with production-wise, but vocally this is a rather lazy comparison. Fast Food, though not exactly breezy, is a lot more accessible and easy to digest than it's predecessor, with a more clean and crisp production quality. The range between gritty noir-rock bangers such as 'Stealing Cars' and 'Fool' and the more sultry moments like 'Washed Up' further exemplifies why she is easily one of the best acts coming out of the UK right now. 

Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp

Even if Ivy Tripp didn't exactly grab me at first listen, once you warm up to its quirks it becomes utterly captivating, almost like an ugly pet that you can't help but love. And having had time to take it all in, I can honestly say that I do love this record. I love that I haven't been able to stop playing La Loose (still listening to it as I type), I love that it feels like I've been loosing my shit to Poison for a year already and I love that Air is already an absolute classic, in my book at least. At its core Ivy Tripp is a beast and it will consume you hole once you let your guard down, which is ironic considering that this is one of Crutchfield's for defiant and stoic records lyrically. Well I assume that is the case, there is a lyric on the track 'Less Than' (<) which has perplexed me since the day I heard it; I'm not sure if "you're less than me, I am nothing' is empowering or self-deprecating, but regardless it's a powerful sentiment and one which I feel sums up Ivy Tripp as a whole.

Full review:

Tracks of the month

NoMBe - California Girls

Before you jump to any conclusions here, this is NOT a Katy Perry cover. What it is however is a hazy, woozy and gripping piece of electronic blues-rock. The way the song unravels and progresses whilst retaining its intoxicating intimacy is really special. Don't even get me started on that breakdown at the end, it's truly masterful, but I wish it lasted a little longer. I can't wait to put this on blast for the next 4 months, I recommend you save this one for your summer playlist.

Lianne La Havas - Unstoppable

And now we get to the triumphant return of British songstress Lianne La Havas, who has been teasing me for way too long with cryptic social media messages about new material and now she's back with her new record Blood (out in July). I always knew she had the potential to be incredible, I mean her debut album was great, but she has taken her artistry to the upper echelon with this gorgeous track. A departure from the guitar/piano-led soul-pop that dominated her debut; 'Unstoppable' is an airy, jazzy and soulful beast of a track, which bodes very well for Blood indeed. 

Jaakko Eino Kalevi - Deep Shadows

Before we get onto the track (and what a track it is), I'd just like to say that this dude has the most luscious locks in the business and I really wish I could pull off that look...

Moving on, I neglected to feature 'Double Talk', the lead single from his forthcoming self-titled debut, which I can confirm is one of my favourite tracks of the year so far. 'Deep Shadows' far exceeds its predecessor, it is everything I love in a pop song; it's weird, it's funky, it's full of hooks and IT FEATURES PANPIPES! Seriously incredible stuff, keep it up sir!

Goldroom - Mykonos (Fleet Foxes cover)

OK so here's the deal, I really don't like cover versions. Like, I understand they're important in helping an artist gain attention and they can work really well (see: Chvrches), but I just feel that the majority of generic 'piano covers' or 'acoustic covers' completely drain the life and soul from great songs. However, like a good little indie kid I adore Fleet Foxes (where u at guys?!) and so I am still open to hearing a good cover of one of their tracks. 

To my surprise, I discovered one of the covers I've heard in a while. What is so great about this cover is how Goldroom completely transform the track, the only thing that remains in are the fantastic lyrics, everything else has been reconstructed (tastefully, I might add) to turn a FF classic into a summer bop, who would've thought it, ey? 

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Can't Keep Checking My Phone

Somehow I managed to allow one of, if not, the best track of the year so far bypass me completely. That track was 'Multi-Love' by Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and it still slays a solid 90% of the stuff I've heard this year. Whilst this new track isn't quite on that level of excellence, it's still great enough to make me want to replay it a ridiculous number of times. It runs firmly in the 'funky af' vein of ML, and is every bit as toe-tapping.

Empress of - Water Water 

After years of teasing, Empress Of looks to finally be releasing her debut album this year (date still unannounced). Bearing in mind her incredible single 'Hat Trick' dropped 3 years ago now(!) we've only got one buzz track since then in the form of 'Realize You', and even that was over a year ago now. Was 'Water Water' worth the wait? I'm not sure. It's a great track but I don't think I can be fully satisfied until I hear more, and specifically, a track better than Hat Trick. But for now, this certainly does the job; watery synths and a pounding house beat, this is worlds away from her previous work, but after nearly 3 years I came to expect this. Expect an eclectic collection of off-kilter pop when her record does drop at some point this year. 

Chromatics - In Films

From watery synths to gittering synths now, courtesy of the ever-excellent Chromatics. This is now the third track to drop from their forthcoming LP Dear Tommy, which still hasn't got a release date (sort it out guys!). But at 17 tracks I'm pretty confident it'll be worth the wait, especially if the production is anywhere as crisp as it is on this track. The driving production and Ruth Radelet's deadpan yet alluring vocal delivery is a match made in gamer-nerd heaven, the relevance of this being that the band's music has the tendency to sound like the soundtrack to an 80's video game, which tends to age better than the graphics to be fair. 

Throwing Shade (feat. Emily Bee) - Honeytrap

Speaking of intoxication and wooziness, I couldn't think of a better description for this new offering from London producer Throwing Shade. I've been keeping a firm eye on her for the past 5 or so months. My obsession essentially began when she dropped her mind-bending 19 Jewels EP late last year, and only grew stronger after seeing clips of her incredible Boiler Room set a couple of months back. She has once again enlisted the vocal talents of Emily Bee to create this surreal jam, which is lifted from a new EP which is dropping this month. Be excited.

Chelsea Wolfe - Iron Moon

Following her breakthrough 2013 LP Pain is Beauty, goth queen Chelsea Wolfe is set to return this August with her 'darkest and most personal' record to date. In that case the title 'Abyss' seems pretty accurate. So far she's done every single pretty darn right for me with this release, excellent title - check, phenomenal artwork - check, epic single - double check. When a new album campaign kicks off with what is perhaps your best track yet, you can't go far wrong in my opinion.

This month, look out for new releases by:
Holly Herndon
The Weather station
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Blanck Mass
Circuit Des Yeux
Barnett + Collocia

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