Tuesday, 26 December 2017

My top 50 albums of 2017

It's been quite the year, hasn't it? I'm sure my lack of posts will tell you that this has been an extremely busy year for me. I've still managed to find the time to write for my student newspaper, including reviews for Kelela's Take Me Apart and Tegan and Sara's The Con X Covers album.

I often hear people complain about political music and argue that music and politics should be kept separate. Quite frankly, that is an opinion for the privileged and for the weak. Art is and has always been a reflection of the world around us and when the world is in turmoil, music should reflect that. But, you know, feel free to listen to 'relatable' multimillionaire Ed Sheeran sing about necking ciders on a park bench with his mates and sharing strawberry laces with his crush or whatever the fuck people enjoy listening to, I guess. 

At a time where the mere existence of women, queer people and people of colour (especially those with intersectional oppressions) has been politicised, seeing artists who identify with those labels coming out fighting and showing excellence has been a joy to see. 

Honourable Mentions 
Girl Ray - Earl Grey
Everything Everything - A Fever Dream
Emily Haines - Choir Of The Mind
Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruin
Anna of the North - Lovers
Torres - Three Futures
Shugo Takumara - TOSS
Alex Lahey - I Love You Like A Brother
Katie Von Schleicher - Shitty Hits

50. Nadine Shah - Holiday Destination 
49. Tei Shi - Crawl Space 
48. Julien Baker - Turn Out The Lights
47. Phoebe Bridgers - Stranger In The Alps
46. Molly Burch - Please Be Mine
45. Wolf Alice - Visions of a Life
44. Loyle Carner - Yesterday's Gone
43. Briana Marela - Call It Love
42. Rose Elinor Dougall - Stellular
41. Ibeyi - Ashes

40. EMA - Exile In The Outer Ring
39. Vagabon - Infinite Worlds 
38. Austra - Future Politics
37. HAIM - Something To Tell You 
36. Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up
35. George Maple - Lover
34. Tyler The Creator - Flower Boy 
33. Susanne Sundfør - Music For People In Trouble
32. Carmen Villain - Infinite Avenue
31. King Krule - The Ooz

30. Arca - Arca
29. Alvvays - Antisocialites
28. Laura Marling - Semper Femina
27. Kedr Livanskiy - Ariadna
26. SZA - CTRL
25. Tegan and Sara - The Con X Covers
24. Charli XCX - Number 1 Angel
23. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
22. Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun
21. Hundred Waters - Communicating

20. Aldous Harding - Party
19. The xx - I See You
18. London Grammar - The Truth Is A Beautiful Thing
17. Jane Weaver - Modern Kosmology
16. Zola Jesus - Okovi
15. Lydia Ainsworth - Darling of the Afterglow
14. Waxahatchee - Out In The Storm 
13. Japanese Breakfast - Soft Sounds From Another Planet 
12. Julie Byrne - Not Even Happiness
11. Perfume Genius - No Shape 

10. Fever Ray - Plunge

Fever Ray's self-titled debut is one of my favourite albums of all time and this somehow met the impossibly high expectations I set for its follow-up. From the brash aggressiveness of 'Wanna Sip', to the twinkling sapphic synths of 'To The Moon And Make' and the Baltic, cinematic curveball of 'Red Trails'; Karin gave me everything I wanted.

Highlights: Wanna Sip, To The Moon And Back, Red Trails

9. Tove Lo - Blue Lips

I was seriously debating whether I should be putting such a recent album this high in my but I came to the conclusion that I would still adore this if it came out months before. I've been following Tove for years now (she has also been following me for years now...on Twitter, that is), but Lady Wood (her last album) nearly turned me off her entirely. Thankfully 'Disco Tits' came along and now I'm full back on board. To my surprise and delight, she came through with an album full of tracks of the same quality. 

Highlights: Disco Tits, Bitches, Hey You Got Drugs?

8. MUNA - About U

At a time where synthpop is often looked down upon and deemed 'generic', 'hollow' and 'meaningless', LA rising stars MUNA come along with one of the most polished and consistent debuts of the year. Packed full of huge choruses, shimmering melodies and powerful lyrics, About U carries a punch. Aside from 'After' being bland and unnecessary, this album is perfect. 

Highlights: So Special, Around U, Everything 

7. Valerie June - The Order Of Time

I have been waiting for the follow-up to Valerie's Pushin' Against a Stone for years and she finally came through with exactly what I wanted - a more polished and evolved version of her already pretty-darn-great sound. I had the pleasure of seeing Miss Valerie perform this live back in the summer and it was honestly one of my favourite gigs I've ever been too.

Highlights: Shakedown, Astral Plane, Got Soul 

6. Lana Del Rey - Lust For Life 

I love everything this women does (literally, everything) but this might just be the best body of work she has put out so far. Lust For Life is one long-ass album and yet it doesn't drag to me. There is structure and there is purpose to the sequencing and every song has its place - from the trap-infused first half to the acoustica reflective 60s sheen of the second half; this is the first time Lana seemingly knows what she's doing and executes that fully. Gone is the girl singing about 'daddies' in a 'red dress under the pale moonlight' and here is a woman taking on the fucked up world we inhabit. I'm so proud to see it. 

Highlights: Love, Cherry, Get Free

5. Kelly Lee Owens - Kelly Lee Owens

A bit of techno, anyone? I think it's high time that someone the genre fused techno with a pop sensibility and Kelly has done just that. 'Techno has no vocals!' Kelly sings all over this mf thing. 'Techno is boring!' Listen to Lucid. 'Techno has no hooks!' Listen to Throwing Lines. This is the best electronic album of the year, hands down. 

Highlights: Lucid, C.B.M, Throwing Lines

4. Sampha - Process

I actually forgot this came out this year until someone on campus started playing '(No One Knows Me) Like My Piano' on a public piano and I was suddenly transported back to February. My taste in music can be deemed misandrist (clock there being like...7 men in my entire top 50), but I adore everything about this album. The production is gorgeous, this voice is incredible and the songwriting is second-to-none. 

Highlights: Blood On Me, Kora Sings, (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano

3. Lorde - Melodrama

After a rocky-ass roll out, I'm still astounded at how good this record ended up being. I wasn't too sure about any of the singles at first and yet somehow they all suddenly became incredible the moment I pressed play on the album? It manages to be relatable to me in this exact point in my life without being try hard. The lyrics are bold. The production is ambitious. The song structures are challenging. The sequencing is impeccable. This record is everything. 

Highlights: The Louvre, Liability Perfect Places

2. Kelela - Take Me Apart

Considering that I can only fully enjoy this record at night time, I don't even know if I would love it as much if it came out in the summer. But it didn't - it came out in perfect time for me to stay in most nights and blast it from front to back with a cup of peppermint tea and a scented candle burning. Again, I've already discussed why I adore this ad nauseam in my review for my student newspaper, so read that instead.

Highlights: LMK, Truth Or Dare, Blue Light

1. St. Vincent - Masseduction

No surprises, I can comfortably call Annie my favourite artist at this point and so 40 minutes of her breathing into a mic would've still placed on this list. It helps that Masseduction is a genuine artistic achievement and marks her most polished body of work today. Rather sound like a broken record (much like my vinyl copy of this because the packaging is fucking garbage, cheers Annie), just listen to the album for yourself. 

Highlights: Los Ageless, New York, Young Lover









Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Best of October

Hiya!

Apologies for the lateness, I currently have deadlines coming out of my ears (is that even a phrase? hmm) but I've found some time to do a quick update.

Q4 has continued to deliver top-notch releases, with Kelela and St. Vincent releasing two of the best albums of the year so far. On that note, I recently wrote a (gleaming) review of Take Me Apart for my university's newspaper, which you should absolutely check out.

Songs
St. Vincent - Pills
Kelela - Blue Light
Fever Ray - To The Moon And Back
Loreen - '71 Charger
BANKS - Underdog
MUNA - Relief Next To Me
Tei Shi - Say You Do

Albums
St. Vincent - Masseduction
Kelela - Take Me Apart
Fever Ray - Plunge
George Maple - Lover
Tegan and Sara - The Con X Covers
King Krule - The Ooz
Julien Baker Turn Out The Lights
Alex Lahey - I Love You Like A Brother
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - The Kid
Lawrence Rothman - The Book Of Law

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Best of September

Hiya!

First of all, I have absolutely ZERO qualms about hailing this the best month of 2017 so far in terms of the sheer quantity and quality of fantastic releases. The potential issue with a high volume of excellent music coming at you all within 30~ days is that it becomes rather easy to let some of it pass you by...but not on my watch!

Make no mistake, people, you WILL be in love with Susanne Sundfør's depressing brand of Scandi -Folk by the time October comes. You WILL be enamoured by the Russian techno-pop stylings of Kedr Livanskiy as the first leaves of Autumn begin to fall. Alvvays WILL soundtrack your next Autumnal road trip. Zola Jesus and Chelsea Wolfe WILL be soundtracking your ooky-spooky Halloween festivities. Anna of the North WILL tie you over until Shura releases her next album. Carmen Villain WILL be your new favourite Norwegian-Mexican singer-songwriter. Hundred Waters’ ‘Blanket Me’ WILL move you to tears, even if you aren’t a cryer. MYRKUR WILL be your stepping stone into the world of Nordic alt-metal. Ibeyi WILL blow you away with their impressive vocalisation. 

Trust me.

Songs of the month:
St Vincent - Los Ageless
Kelly Clarkson - Love So Soft
Kelela - Frontline
Hundred Waters - Wave to Anchor
Margot Price - A Little Pain
Tove Lo - Disco Tits
George Maple - Hero
French Montana - Unforgettable (Mariah Carey Remix)
Ibeyi - Me Voy (feat. Mala Rodriguez)
Alice Boman - Dreams
MUNA - In My Way
Bjork - The Gate
SKT - No Life
NAO - Nostalgia

Charlotte Gainsbourg - Deadly Valentine

Albums of the month
- Alvvays - Antisocialites
- Anna of the North - Lovers
- Carmen Villain - Infinite Avenue
- Kedr Livanskiy - Ariadna
- Pierre Kwenders – Makanda at the End of Space, the Beginning of Time
- Susanne Sundfør - Music For People In Trouble
- The National - Sleep Well Beast
- Zola Jesus - Okovi
- Ariel Pink - Dedicated To Bobby Jameson
- Emily Haines - Choir Of The Mind
- Hundred Waters - Communicating
- MYRKUR - Maneblot
- Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun
- Phoebe Bridgers - Stranger In The Alps
- Ibeyi - Ash
- The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - Always Foreign
- Torres - Three

- Wolf Alice - Visions Of A Life 

(Spotify playlist coming soon, promise.)

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Best of August

Hiya!

I know I've been neglecting this blog a lot lately, but that's mostly since I've just started another blog called Room2Think earlier this month, which you should all totally check out *wink wink*. 

This is far from an exciting update because August has been rather barren release-wise and one of my most anticipated releases (Susanne Sundfør's latest opus) got delayed by 3 weeks, which was kinda shitty. However, September looks set to be jam-packed with great stuff (musically, at least) so that's something. 

I feel it's worth noting that we saw Dua Lipa, in a shocking turn of events, snatch the number one spot despite a terrible release roll-out from her label. This is not only significant because the number one singles we've had lately have been mostly awful, but I'm also pretty sure that this is the first solo female number one single we've had in the UK since Adele's Hello back in 2015 (!!) so good for her. New Rules is also fantastic so it's triumph all around, really. Oh and here's a link to the excellent music video, just cuz.

The big standout for me was Kelela's triumphant return with LMK, possibly my song of the year so far. Oh, and the Kesha album is really solid too (trust me).

Songs
Kelela - LMK
Lizzo - Water Me
EMA - Blood and Chalk
Carmen Villain - Borders (feat. Jenny Hval)
Zola Jesus - Soak
Jessie Ware - Midnight
Lindstrøm - Shinin feat. Grace Hall
BOSCO - Cruel
Charli XCX - Boys

Albums
Briana Marela - Call It Love
EMA - Exile In The Outer Ring
Frankie Rose - Cage Tropical
Nadine Shah - Holiday Destination 
Kesha - Rainbow
Girl Ray - Earl Grey
Soccer Mommy - Collection
Everything Everything - A Fever Dream
Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruin
BOSCO - b.



Sunday, 30 July 2017

Best of July

HIYA!

Another quick update! After a short bout of post-Eurovision depression, I am happy to say that I am fully caught-up with all the releases that I have been meaning to listen to over the past few months. As such, I am continuing to add to my ever-expanding bank of records and songs released this year...and how knows? I might even post another full album review at some point...

Pretty much every update to the songs playlist is a year-end-list contender, seriously, every song on the list below has stopped my in my tracks this month. June has really spoiled me; between finishing my first year of university, turning 19, starting a new job and catching up with old friends, I can say that June was a pretty good month. 

Albums 
Haim - Something To Tell You 
Japanese Breakfast - Soft Sounds From Another Planet 
Lana Del Rey - Lust For Life 
Waxahatchee - Out In The Storm 
Tyler The Creator - Flower Boy 
Dua Lipa - Dua Lipa 
Katie Von Schleicher - Shitty Hits <=early contender for album title of the year?

Songs
Empress Of - Go To Hell
Hundred Waters - Blanket Me
The Weather Station - Thirty 
Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton - Fatal Gift
Phoebe Bridgers - Motion Sickness 
Dua Lipa - New Rules 
Lana Del Rey - Cherry 
Alvvays - Dreams Tonite
Susanne Sundfør - Mountaineers 
Loreen - Body 
Briana Marela - Feel What I Feel
Zola Jesus - Soak 
St. Vincent - New York 
Jessie Ware - Midnight




Saturday, 24 June 2017

Best of 2017 so far (mid-year recap)



Hey! It's June and you know what that means - it's time for my mid-year round-up! Despite our political system suffering a prolonged period of instability and uncertainty, at least there has been a constant stream of excellent music to get us through the mess...

As always, there have been far too many excellent albums released in the past 6 months for me to possibly name them all, so here is my top 10 (in no particular order) + plus a few special mentions:

1. Lorde - Melodrama
2. Kelly Lee Owens - Kelly Lee Owens
3. Valerie June - The Order Of Time
4. SZA - CTRL
5. Sampha - Process
6. London Grammar - Truth Is A Beautiful Thing
7. MUNA - About U
8. Fleet Foxes - Crack-Up
9. Lydia Ainsworth - Darling of the Afterglow
10. The xx - I See You

Honorable mentions

Austra - Future Politics
Perfume Genis - No Shape
The Big Moon - Love In The 4th Dimension 
Paramore - After Laughter
Julie Byrne - Not Even Happiness

Added to my ongoing songs playlist:

Susanne Sundfør - Undercover
Torres - Skim
Alvvays - In Undertow
Kali Uchis ft. Jorja Smith - Tyrant
Grizzly Bear - Three Rings
Lorde - Supercut
Waxahatchee - Never Been Wrong
Pixx - Waterslides
Kedr Livanskiy - Ariadna
TOKiMONSTA - Don't Call Me (feat. Luna)


Saturday, 13 May 2017

Eurovision 2017 - Grand final predictions

What a week it has been! After two semi finals, a bunch of press events and what felt like a million rehearsals, we have seen a pool of 42 entries reduced to 20. These 20 will join 'the big 5' (France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the UK) plus Ukraine (this year's host country) in Saturday night's final. In a year that began with Italy as the supposed guaranteed winner, we have ended up with a far more open competition than we originally thought - even as I type, the betting odds are consistently shifting and just today we saw Portugal overtake Italy as the favourite to win for the first time. Gripping stuff.

Before we look ahead to the final, let's take a moment to discuss the non-qualifiers from Thursday's semi final. As I predicted, it was a far more exciting and entertaining show than Tuesday's due to the concentration of the more upbeat and fun entries in the line-up. Unfortunately, that also meant that some great entries didn't quite make the cut...and by that I mean Estonia. Yes, Verona (one of my absolute favourites) tragically failed to qualify for the final, to my absolute disgust, I might add! We won't know the stats until after the final, but I am very much looking forward to seeing whether it was the jury, the televote or both that saw this fan favourite robbed of a spot in Saturday's show. That was the only real shocker for me, every other non-qualification came as little surprise to me and for the most-part, I was happy with the 10 that went through. 

In addition to Estonia, there are a few entries that I would've loved to have qualified to Saturday night. Jana Burčeska, the entrant for the [FYR] Macedonia, despite my concerns, gave us the best performance of Dance Alone she had ever given. It's not all sad news for Jana though; her song remains one of the most popular of the year among eurofans AND, as we found out live on TV, she is both engaged to be married and expecting her first child! Back to semi final 1, I believe Finland should've definitely made the final as it is one of the most elegant and classy entries to ever grace the eurovision stage. Latvia's Triana Park were also robbed of a spot in my opinion and without them the final looks a lot less colourful, especially with the amount of white, black and blue staging designs. Speaking of red staging, an entry that unexpectedly clicked with me big time during the semi final performance was Georgia's Keep The Faith, which was sung perfectly by the fabulous Tamara Gachechiladze. Had this been placed later in the running order, I believe this would've qualified instead of Poland, who's entrant Kasia Mos was also fantastic and deserved her qualification so I can't be too upset.

Now, before dissecting my predictions, here is a recap of the running order for Saturday's finale:




The top 3

Unlike last year's contest, the quality of entries this year is less strong overall, and so the top tier is a lot less crowded. It has been widely predicted that Italy, Portugal and Bulgaria are the surefire top 3, which to a great extent I agree with. The official music video for Italy's Occidentali's Karma has over 100 million views on Youtube and as I said earlier, it was viewed as the favourite to win since it was announced. However, Portugal's stunning Amar Pelos Dois has been riding a fresh wave of hype since rehearsals started and judging by reactions from the semi, this probably won both the televote and jury vote rather comfortably. Bulgaria has also been a favourite throughout the build-up to the contest, which has remained the case now that we've seen just how impressive the staging is. It is also worth noting that Bulgaria has been drawn 25th out of 26 in the finale running order, which may give it an extra push from televoters.

The televote winners

I can see Romania's Yodel It as a (deserved) televote winner, however I can also see the juries killing its chances completely and costing it a spot in the top 5. Everything about this screams 'public favourite', from the colourful and ridiculous staging to the joyful message of the song, I have no doubt that voters across the world will take to this. Similarly, Moldova's Hey Mamma is also playing for the same kind of voting demographic - casual/passing fans of the contest who only watch the final, often with drinks in hand, looking for a fun act to back in a semi-ironic way. The contemporary club-friendly production oddly gives Moldova the edge in this battle with regards to the juries, especially due to how well-staged it is. 

The jury winners

On the reverse side, Armenia's entry Fly With Me, which is my overall favourite this year, will probably be let down by the televote this year. Despite it being absolutely incredible from a performance perspective, I can see the level of technical details in the performance and the slow-burn of the song itself cost Artsvik precious votes from the public. That said, this ticks every jury box for staging, performance and vocals so hopefully it will still snatch a deserved top 10 spot despite being so early in the running order. My concern is that it was drawn fifth for the final, suggesting that it didn't rank as well as I hoped in its semi. Similarly, The Netherlands' O'G3NE delivered a spectacular vocal performance on Thursday, so I could see that being rewarded handsomely by juries if they can repeat that on Saturday.

Wildcards

This is where it gets interesting. Even though I generally hate surprises, it's always nice to have a wildcard or two on finale night to spice things up. Last year, Austria and Poland rose from the bottom of the scoreboard to cause some serious damage on the left-hand side by slaying the televote, which was made even more entertaining by the introduction of a tense new scoring system. This year, I can see the reverse; I believe that some entries may do better than expected as a result of a strong jury support. The UK's Lucie Jones has blown everyone away with the reveal of her gloriously gold and starry staging concept, which along with a strong vocal could help the UK get their best result in years (let's hope). My second wildcard pick is even more odd, because it's a former fan-favourite; Belgium's Blanche was once a possible winner, but since the rehearsals began, there were a load of people thinking this wouldn't qualify all of a sudden. Now that she has qualified and is slaying the other entries on iTunes charts across Europe, could this sneak into the top 5? With its position being so late in the running order, there is a chance.

Top 10 prediction

1. Portugal
2. Bulgaria
3. Italy
4. Belgium
5. Sweden
6. Armenia
7. The Netherlands
8. Hungary
9. Romania
10. Moldova

...I can see the UK landing between 15 and 11 for some reason...

Well there you have it! On Sunday morning we will have a champion and hopefully some stats to digest (my favourite part), which in itself might just warrant another post! But for now I am gonna try and enjoy the Eurovision festivities before it ends for another year...