Monday, 8 February 2016

January 2016



If you cast your mind back to late last year, you might remember me talking about how I wanted to diversify the content of the blog in the new year. This post will hopefully be the start of that; a run-down of all the things I heard AND saw in the month of January that made it...a little less shitty than January usually is.

The music



Usually, January isn't really up to much on the new music front, perhaps with the exception of 1 or two records...but not this year. Last month saw the release of 5 great records, all of which I expect to see on my year-end list. Chairlift's Moth is without a doubt the best pop record I've heard since Grimes' Art Angels, in fact I'd consider the two records to be on-par with each other at this point. Moth contains the perfect balance of hook-laden uptempos (Moth to the Flame, Romeo, Ch-Ching, Show U Off) and shimmering ballads (Crying In Public, Unfinished Business). An absolute stunner of a record. 

Blouse frontwoman Charlie Hilton also released her debut solo album last month, the beautifully-titled Palana. The album is packed with gorgeous indie-pop with bubbling synth-led production, the track 'Pony' is my personal favourite. Extra props to Charlie for her epic twitter handle (@Palanadelrey), and of course the gorgeous artwork. Speaking of which, I also enjoyed the new Daughter album Not To Disappear, although not as much as their debut.

Another sophomore album that was released last month was Savages' Adore Life, which saw a more uplifted and optimistic side of the band, but with all the stoicism and badassery that I've come to expect from them. And finally, the long-awaited debut album from Spanish four-piece Hinds also impressed me, but something tells me that I won't truly appreciate it until the summer. 

The tribute


(Image courtesy of Orla Dunlop)

For many music fans across the world, January was a month of sadness and mourning, for we lost one of the greatest artists of all time - David Bowie. As a South Londoner myself, I had the privilege of hoping on the bus into Brixton in order to view the magnificent mural in person. I could not think of a better tribute for the legend than that, it's a must-see if you're ever in the area. 

The social enterprise



Also last month, I had the pleasure of attending the Top Drawer exhibition at London's Kensington Olympia. For those of you who don't know, Top Drawer is a trade show which showcases brand new and exclusive products to buyers and retailers before anyone else, and has become somewhat of a nerdy family tradition for me. 

As a lover of the arts, I found it highly encouraging to see so many upcoming designer-makers all in one space. The stall I was most impressed by was the Turner Prize-winning collective Assemble, who recently gained traction for their Granby Workshop project on Liverpool. What was unique about their products was the incredible backstory behind them; the Granby Workshop is a social enterprise in which high-quality home wares are designed and sold to fund the restoration of homes in Granby, Liverpool. As a budding social entrepreneur myself, seeing two of my greatest passions combined in such an innovative way was inspiring. I also loved how they were conscious to train and employ local young people, something I feel a lot of social enterprises fail to do.

Find out more about the workshop here: http://www.granbyworkshop.co.uk/

Stay tuned for more reviews and another monthly round-up!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Daughter - Not To Disappear review



Back in the spring of 2013, following a string of critically acclaimed EPs, British three-piece Daughter swept us all up in their torrent on melancholic indie-folk with their excellent debut album If You Leave. The track 'Youth' not only became the go-to soundtrack for a host of melodramatic adverts and TV dramas, but also gained a fair amount of mainstream radio play and exposure. The concept of 'crushing sadness' is not initially that appealing when looking for new music, but somehow Daughter made it work. Each of the tracks on If You Leave were dramatic, emotive and well-crafted, so much so that the album felt far more accomplished than what you'd normally expect from a band's debut album. Nearly 3 years on, the time has come for the band to rise the bar and build on these foundations in order to establish themselves as more than just a one-album-wonder. I would say that the band largely succeeded in this challenge and came through with a cohesive and grand follow-up.

Before I heard Not To Disappear, the words 'devastating' and 'crushing' were the first words that I would have associated with the band's music. Naturally, I expected this to remain the same once I heard their new record, especially when both early reviews and pre-release singles suggested that Not To Disappear would be sonically similar to its predecessor. I would now argue that the band's sound has progressed far beyond the parameters of 'sadness' and into something a lot more open and dynamic. Tracks like 'No Care' show an exciting change of pace and mindset, upping both the tempo and the mood of the record as Elena Tonra proclaims "no care, no care in the world/I don't care, don't care anymore"; a stark contrast to the heavier and denser themes of the band's earlier work.

A highlight in both the record and the band's discography as a whole; 'Fossa' brings an exciting level of energy and melody to the record as it nears its end. The longest track on the album by some margin; Fossa makes good use of its running time with a dynamic range of concepts and sounds, ending in a blaze of indie-rock glory. The crowning moment on the record however is the stunning track 'Numbers', which despite being a pre-release only truly resonated with me when I heard it within the context of the album. It was impossible for me not to be swept up in the lush, intoxicating soundscapes, garnished with Tonra's feather-light coos amongst intricate guitar riffs. This is by far the ~moment~ of the record, just as 'Youth' was the moment of If You Leave.

Overall, this album was a strong way to kick off what is already looking to be yet another fantastic year for music. I have never been someone who expects an artist to radically change their sound from one album to the next; this approach may have worked for the late and great David Bowie, but it doesn't work for everyone. Not To Disappear features many gems that assure Daughter's healthy musical progression into the future; from the sweeping soundscapes of Numbers to the epic instrumental moments that line the track 'Fossa', it is clear that Daughter still have many tricks up their sleeves to keep us engaged with their future output.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Savages - Adore Life review

First post of 2016 y'all!



It is no secret that the punk scene is one of the most male-dominated in the music world, both past and present. Even with the incredibly refreshing and revolutionary Riot Grrrl movement in the 1990’s, one can’t help but feel disheartened by the lack of female-fronted punk bands making it ‘big’ compared to their male counterparts. The issue isn’t just representation; however, it takes very little research to find a heap of tweets, blog posts and articles about women of all ages, races, shapes and sizes feeling unsafe and/or uncomfortable at punk shows. Despite my rather limited life experience, even I am not naive enough to think that this issue is exclusive to the punk scene, but the point still stands that change needs to happen. In the metal scene for example, on the rare occasion when a female artist breaks out like Myrkur, her videos are swamped with comments about her only getting noticed because of her gender. As far as I’m concerned, good music is good music and gender is irrelevant when I’m listening to it.

This is why Savages are such an important band to have around in 2016. Even in an age where gender and identity is such a ‘hot topic’, no one gives a fuck about their gender because they are just objectively brilliant. Fronted by Jehnny Beth, their brand of noir post-punk gained universal acclaim when the band dropped their phenomenal debut Silence Yourself back in 2013. But what truly made me fall for this band was their electrifying live performances; even through my laptop screen, the band’s ferocity and unquestionable chemistry captivated me like very few other acts can. While their debut was a dark and icy affair, Adore Life, like the title suggests, is triumphant in every sense of the word.

Rather than opening with  a whisper, Adore Life kicks off with a bang in the form of “The Answer” — the gritty and erratic guitar hook lets you know exactly what you’re in for — a thrill ride. This is reflected by the blunt and urgent lyrics which swirl around a whirlpool of instrumental fire. The repetition of “I’ll go insane” among bursts of optimism (“Love is the answer”) only adds to the sense of confusion and the hysteria that engulf the track. On the other end of the scale (and the track listing for that matter); penultimate track “Surrender” is a more low-key and brooding affair, with Ayşe Hassan’s soul-crushing bassline taking center stage, with Gemma Thompson’s blade-like guitar riffs creating additional texture as the track builds.

Between these two contrasts, Adore Life is held together by the centerpiece that is “Adore”, which also marks a stunning turn in the band’s signature sound. I use the term ‘signature’ lightly, especially considering that the band only have two full-lengths under their belts. The first half of the track has a sense of restraint that feels almost alien; the guitars are reduced to soft licks, Fay Milton’s drums aren’t ‘crashing’ by any means and Beth’s vocals are almost…soft and inviting. These ‘restrained’ elements eventually cumulative into a stunning and majestic climax in which Beth reaches a sense of enlightenment – after years of searching and longing, she is finally able to say “I adore life”. It is at this moment where the record as a whole falls into place like an intricate post-punk puzzle.

Although Adore Life is far from a sonic leap for Savages, it is still a remarkable follow up to a magnetic and confident debut. The band’s four key elements are as respectively strong as ever. Jehnny Beth’s commanding vocals, Ayşe Hassan’s crunchy bass, the sharpness of Gemma Thompson’s guitar riffs and the military precision in Fay Milton’s drumming make every track on Adore Life a sonic delight. For me, “Adore” is a complete turning-point in the band’s sound and Beth’s writing, one which I hope will continue to take the band down a new path of discovery and sonic exploration. In an age where so many people are forced to shout twice as hard just to be heard, one thing is for certain; Jehnny Beth’s commanding growl is one that cannot be ignored. Long live Savages!




Sunday, 20 December 2015

Best albums of 2015


Hello everyone!

Last week I posted my top 30 songs of 2015 (a lot of which I now regret, placement-wise...oops). So now, as promised, here is my top 30 albums of 2015. Like with the songs list, I opted to only do write-ups for the top 10. 

I've also included a playlist of the standout tracks from each featured record, located below the list:

30. Eskimeaux - O.K. 
29. Doldrums - The Air Conditioned Nightmare
28. Kamasi Washington - The Epic
27. Hop Along - Painted Shut
26. Florence + The Machine - How Big How Blue How Beautiful 
25. Adele - 25 (ha)
24. Chvrches - Every Open Eye
23. Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear
22. Trembling Bells - The Sovereign Self
21. Sean Nicholas Savage - Other Death
20. The Weeknd - Beauty Behind the Madness
19. Lower Dens - Escape From Evil
18. Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp
17. Georgia - Georgia
16. Gwenno - Y Dydd Olaf
15. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
14. Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell
13. Baroness - Purple
12. Nadine Shah - Fast Food
11. Chelsea Wolfe - Abyss

10. Natalie Prass - Natalie Prass

Usually albums with awkward release dates (i.e. the very start or very end of the year) are very easily overlooked by the end of the release year. But with the self-titled debut from Natalie Prass, this was far from the case. Instead, this record sent Natalie’s talent into public domain, gracing Later…with Jools Holland and iTunes' best of 2015 feature among others. This success is remarkable for such a…well…pretty and delicate album. That's not to say this record doesn't have bite, but sonically there is a certain Disney-like quality, especially on the closer. Since 2012 this album had been sitting with Matthew E. White's Spacebomb label, who cruelly kept it under wraps in order to promote the latter's 2012 breakthrough record Big Inner, and rightfully so, that album was a masterpiece in its own right. And even though White also dropped an album this year year, 2015 was Prass' time to shine. With such an accomplished debut, is see no reason why whatever she releases in the future won't be even better; I'm expecting even more big things from this rising chanteuse.

Standout track - My Baby Don't Understand Me

9. Holly Herndon - Platform

The range of sounds and styles Holly Herndon experiments with on Platform are what make it such an exciting and engaging listen. Over the course of 10 tracks she explores elements of new-age, break-beat, techno, glitch-hop, choral pop, trip-hop, avante garde, house and even ASMR. There are easily accessible and almost anthemic moments to be found on tracks like 'An Exit' and 'Morning Sun' as well as bizarre left-turns on tracks like 'Lonely at the Top'. Some of her experiments are more successful than others, but overall this is an essential listen for anyone seeking to sonically explore the digital age we currently live in from a perspective which is both critical and celebratory. 

Standout track - Chorus

8. Joanna Newsom – Divers

There is no doubt that Joanna Newsom is one of the greatest songwriters of our time. I didn't even need her to release another masterpiece to prove this, but she darn-well did it anyway. At 11 tracks, Divers is her first attempt at a conventional album structure since her debut, the charming and highly nostalgic, The Milk-Eyed Mender. As ever, the songs of Divers are hearty, rich and beautiful, with Newsom's incredible lyrics remaining the focal point. Aside from the traditional wistful ballads, Divers also offers big pop moments in the form of 'Sapokanikan' and 'Leaving the City'. The fact that the opening track and closer link together lyrically is yet another stunning detail. 

Standout track - Goose Eggs

7. Oneohtrix Point Never - Garden of Delete

I tried to avoid placing albums released so late in the year this high but I can't help but give this album the love it deserves. Even if there is an element of recency bias, I'm sure this record will still hold up in a year's time. I can confidently say that I've enjoyed all of Daniel Lopatin's albums thus far, but Garden of Delete is on a whole new level. Far more urgent than anything he's produced thus far, this record pulsates and crushes throughout its exhilarating 45-minute-and-16-second run time. As well as the record flows, 'Ezra' is definitely the standout moment, hence why it also made my tracks of the year list.

Standout track - Ezra

6. Empress Of - Me

Those of you who follow me on twitter will know that I was (and still am) completely and utterly slain by this album. With the sheer volume of pop music that is being churned out at the moment it is easy to get swallowed up, but Lorely Rodriguez stands out from the crowd and fully asserts her presence with this record. Her production is absolutely on point throughout. This album encompasses the best things about pop in a beautiful package; it's crisp, catchy, funky, modern, emotive, passionate and, above all, it's really fun. And I'll tell you something else, Empress Of has no time for filler whatsoever. All ten tracks are killer, but 'How Do You Do It' and 'Make Up' are the standouts. 

Standout track - How Do you Do It

5. Carly Rae Jepsen - EMOTION

Like I mentioned in the tracks of the year write-up, I really didn't expect to enjoy this album as much as I did. 'Call Me Maybe' was once everyone's guilty pleasure, but 3 years later the 'guilt' has evolved into pure joy - 44 minutes of it to be exact. EMOTION has single-handedly redefined 'all killer, no filler'; from start to finish this album is 80's-tinged perfection and is packed with hooks and melodic flair. There is no clear standout because every track becomes your favourite at one point or another, but the opener 'Run Away With Me' is a very special moment indeed.

Standout track - Run Away With Me

4. Jamie xx - In Colour

In Colour, though composed of a mixture of pre-released material (Girl, Sleep Sound), club bangers (Gosh, Good Times) as well as a handful of tracks which could just as easily been featured on a new xx record (Seesaw, Stranger in a Room, Loud Places), works immaculately as one cohesive body of work. Despite its many standouts, one can't help but listen to the LP in its entirety, that's the only way one can appreciate the triumph that this record is. Also, the fact that 'Colour' was spelled the correct way brought it up the list by at least 2 spots. 

Standout track - Gosh

3. Jaakko Eino Kaveli - Jaakko Eino Kaveli

What is so remarkable about Jaakko Eino Kalevi is that there aren’t actually that many standout tracks in the traditional sense (besides the three singles), yet every track plays a vital roll in pulling the listener into the surreal dream-pop universe created by this synth-pop troubadour. Whether it be the icy synths of the unofficial theme tune 'JEK' or the jazzy outro of the closing track, there are plenty of astonishing artistic achievements scattered across this excellent record. This is undoubtedly one of the best debuts of the year and one that simply must grace your summer playlist in 2016.

Standout track - Hush Down

2. Grimes - Art Angels

As is the case with Garden Of Delete, there is a possibility of recency bias at play here. Regardless, this album is a fricking masterpiece. Over a year ago now I wrote about how much I was anticipating the follow up to Visions, but little did I know that it would be this good. Like Carly Rae Jepsen, Clair Boucher kills it with every single track, even the Taiwanese rap-dominated 'SCREAM'. Not only is the music outstanding, the packaging is also incredible, allowing me to stare at it as I blast it. My only concern now is how Grimes could possibly top this? But then again, I said the same thing last time and look how that turned out...

Standout track - Flesh Without Blood

1. Julia Holter - Have You In My Wilderness

I knew this record would be amazing from the moment it was announced, this belief was strengthened by the gleaming reviews that began to spring up all over social media. Now that it's finally out, I can confirm that it is in fact…well…incredible. Now, 'amazing' has been over-used to the point where all meaning is now practically void, it's almost a bit tacky and redundant. So instead I'm gonna go with 'awe-inspiring' instead. 

Julia first caught my attention with 2013's slow-burning Loud City Song, which opened me up to the weird and wonderful world of avante garde, from which I haven't turned back. But enough about the past, now is the time to appreciate this absolute beauty of an album. From the opening 'Feel You' and it's gorgeous refrain to the ethereal and left-field closer, this record is consistently bold, elegant and majestic in a classic way, but the clarity and purity of these tracks makes them extremely modern and fresh at the same time. This is my album of the year and it will take a lot to change my mind. 

Standout track - Feel You

Monday, 14 December 2015

Best tracks of 2015



So here we are, at the end of what has been both a wonderful and dreadful year in equal measure. With the world moving in the direction it's going, there is no doubt that music will continue to be my go-to escape.

After much debate (...with myself), I managed to settle on the 30 tracks that defined my year. Looking at the list, I can proudly say that my music taste have diversified a lot in the past year; this not only reflects my taste in general but my interests and priorities too. I now value the power of a downbeat and reflective jam as much as I do an uptempo banger. 

In the interest of space I decided to make it one song per artist and in the interest of time I only did write-ups for the top 10.

I also made a handy spotify playlist of all the tracks below the list. Enjoy! 


30. Holly Herndon - Morning Sun
29. Empress Of - How Do You Do It
28. Martha Ffion - So Long
27. US Girls - Damn That Valley
26. Frances - Grow
25. Daughter - Numbers
24. NoMBe - California Girls
23. Chelsea Wolfe - Iron Moon
22. Bully - Trying
21. Lapsley - Hurt Me
20. Oneothrix Point Never - Ezra
19. Puro Instinct (feat. Christian Rich) - Lake Como
18. Waxahatchee - Summer Of Love
17. Kendrick Lamar - King Kunta
16. Grimes - Pin
15. Sufjan Stevens - Should've Known Better
14. Jamie xx - Seesaw
13. Noonie Bao - Pyramids
12. The Weeknd - Can't Feel My Face
11. Beach House - Sparks

10. Nadine Shah - Fool

If you followed my blog back in 2013, you'd know that I was head over heals in love with Nadine Shah's fantastic debut Love Your Dum and Mad. Two years on and this is still very much the case. Fool is a characteristically dark and macabre affair, but there is an element of humor and fire here which makes it a remarkable leap forward in her sound. The combination of the piercing guitars with her rich, smoky tone is just magical. 

9. Drake - Hotline Bling

Like a said earlier, this list is about the songs that defined 2015, so I couldn't possibly leave Hotline Bling off. From the iconic video to Drake's signature sleek delivery, this track sums up the movement that is happening in popular music, where beats and personality triumph over dull, white middle class indie bands. Oh, and who could forget the incredible gifs the video produced?



8. Chromatics - I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around


So instead of doing what they were supposed to do, Chromatics thought it would be fun to tease us all for a year and so still haven't dropped the fucking album. Funny, huh? In spite of this I couldn't do this list without featuring one of their fantastic singles from this year. Out of all of them, I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around is the track that has kept me checking for updates; the driving, pulsating synths ensure that my excitement is still very much alive.

7. Julia Holter - Feel You



Speaking of bewitching tracks, here's another one. This time it's from the wonderful and extremely talented Julia Holter, who's last record Loud City Song is still one of my favourite records of all time. Moving away from a less abstract and more earthy~ sound, 'Feel You' is a sweet and romantic ditty with spine-tingling harpsichord lacing the instrumentation beautifully. As you will soon see, the parent album did very well on my year-end list.


6. Jaakko Eino Kalevi - Deep Shadows

I was initially trying to avoid putting tracks by artists who made the albums list in this one...but yet I've already failed, a lot. In fairness, if there's a track worth defying the 'rules' I set myself, it's this. Deeper Shadows 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, just like the record it sits within, but you already know I love that.

5. Tame Impala - Eventually


Three years on, Lonerism is still the official sponsor of my summer (i.e me eating ice cream and pretzels in my room, listening music and watching old TV shows, alone). But it's so much more than that, it is able to mentally transport me to a psychedelic dream world (like some kind of trippy escape from reality). There are a handful of tracks on Currents which are able to capture the magic of its predecessor, and Eventually is definitely one of them. Shout out to Let It Happen and The Less I Know The Better, the latter actually features on the playlist because I screwed it up. Silly me.

4. Warpaint - I'll Start Believing

A year ago, when I named Warpaint as my favourite album of 2014, I honestly didn't they'd be coming back for more so soon. Embarrassingly, it took me like 5 months to find out this song existed. If you want an explanation for my foolishness I'm sorry, I haven't got one. But I am bloody well making up for it now, I've been playing the shit out of this track ever since. It's everything I love about Warpaint; it's brooding, bewitching, intricate and yet still melodic and, dare I say, catchy. This is a total earworm and will stay with you for quite some time after listening, so be warned. I still believe, girls. 

3. Lower Dens - To Die In LA


How does one define euphoria? According to Google it is 'a feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness', this is often associated with music or other forms of art, namely visual. Good music, usually in the genres of dream pop, techno, house or chamber pop tends to have the ability to transform your entire mental state for just a few short moments. But great music, like this track, has the ability to take me to another place entirely, and this motion is so powerful that it resonates far beyond the moment the track finishes. See for yourself.


2. Carly Rae Jepsen - Run Away With Me

As you all probably remember, 2012 was pretty much dominated by Carly Rae Jepsen's mega-hit Call Me Maybe, which I still bop to occasionally (well often...I'm not proud of myself). Three years later, in two the most unexpected moments of the year 1) Carly Rae Jepsen reappeared and 2) Carly Rae Jepsen dropped one of the best pop songs/albums ever made. An overreaction? Perhaps. But the bottom line is that this track is fucking incredible and has been incredible for quite some time now. Carly Rae Jepsen is no longer a guilty pleasure ladies and gentlemen, now bop to your heart's content (skip to track 11 because I screwed up the playlist, again). 

1. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Multi-Love

Here it is, my song of 2015. I had many options and sounds that I could've picked that would've been as deserving but ultimately I decided to plump for the song that I felt would bring me back to this year whenever I heard it. From the moment I first heard the opening piano riff I knew this track would be special, the infectious chorus went on to confirm this. The fact that this isn't ordinarily a band I'd listen to a lot nor did I particularly enjoy the record this features on is unusual, but I cannot deny how much I love this track.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Best of September

Hi there, I'm beginning to sound like a broken record here (ha) but I apologise for not updating the blog as often as I used to. I'm afraid the days of 30+ posts are over; I've just begun the most challenging academic year of my life so far, so I won't be able to update very week like I did in the good ol' days.

That being said, this blog has always been a great outlet for me and a great distraction, so I will try my best to post as frequently as possible. In a year's time things might be different and I might just have a little more time on my hands. But we shall see...

ANYWAY, September was a great month for music and it would be a shame to ignore it. In fact, some of my favorite records of the year were released last month and it's a shame I can't review them right now, but that's the way it is. The write-ups will be short for now but I will hopefully write a lot more in the year-end list I'm planning. 



Julia Holter - Have You In My Wilderness

Now that summer is well and truly over, the cold is beginning to set in and we're all feeling a bit rubbish, the goddess that is Julia Holter has just made life a little bit easier. I knew this record would be amazing from the moment it was announced, this belief was strengthened by the gleaming reviews that began to spring up all over social media. Now that it's finally out, I can confirm that it is in fact, well, AMAZING.Now, 'amazing' has been over-used to the point where all meaning is now practically void, it's almost a bit tacky and redundant. So instead I'm gonna go with 'awe-inspiring' instead. 

Julia first caught my attention with 2013's slow-burning Loud City Song, which opened me up to the weird and wonderful world of avante garde, from which I haven't turned back since. But enough about the past, now is the time to appreciate this absolute beauty of an album. From the opening 'Feel You' and it's gorgeous refrain to the ethereal and left-field closer, this record is consistently bold, elegant and majestic in a classic way, but the clarity and purity of these tracks makes them extremely modern and fresh at the same time. This is my album of the year and it will take a lot to change my mind. 

Empress of - Me

Those of you who follow me on twitter will know that I was (and still am) completely and utterly slain by this album. With the cheer volume of pop music that is being churned out at the moment it is easy to get swallowed up, but Lorely Rodriguez stands out from the crowd and fully asserts her presence. Oh, and her production is on point. This album encompasses the best things about pop in a beautiful package; it's crisp, catchy, funky, modern, emotive, passionate and, above all, it's really fun. And I'll tell you something else, Empress Of has no time for filler whatsoever. All ten tracks are killer, but 'How Do You Do It' and 'Make Up' are the standouts. 

CHVRCHES - Every Open Eye

CHVRCHES really don't need me to plug them at this point but I'll continue anyway, because this is pop that is too good to be ignored. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the band's 'promo' comes from lead singer Lauren Mayberry speaking out against some disgusting, greasy peasants ('trolls'), who relentlessly target her on social media with all kinds of creepy shit. This is not only a shame because she's a human being but because the music she creates, along with Ian and Martin, is pretty damn great. Thankfully the band have appeared to have overcome the filler issue from their debut and have delivered a consistently solid collection of tracks. Highlights include 'Bury It', 'Empty Threat', 'Keep You on My Side' and 'Playing Dead'. 

Helen - The Original Faces

For those poor souls who don't know who don't know who Liz Harris A.K.A Grouper is (most of you), allow me to fill you in. She is the mother of ambient and dream pop music, no matter what my mood is I can stick a Grouper record on and be transported to another realm. In her new project, she dips her toe into shoegaze and the results are psychedelic, blissful and lush. So basically exactly what you'd expect from Liz Harris doing shoegaze.

Songs

I can't believe I'm writing this but over the past month, no songs (bar one*) have really excited me to the point where I want to devote an entire section to them. I have instead simply picked them out below; I actually think they'll sound fantastic within the context of their respective records.

Oneohtrix Point Never - I Bite Through It
Le1f - Rage
Arca - Soichiro
Joanna Newsom - Leaving The City*
Majical Clouds - Are You Alone?

*So bloody incredible that I might just devote an entire paragraph to it in my forthcoming review of Divers

I fully intend on covering these records when they're out in full. It just so happens that the tracks above are very much album tracks, fantastic, but album tracks nonetheless. 

Friday, 28 August 2015

Best of 2015 so far (and a taste of what's to come)

Hello everyone, apologies for the lack of updates (it's been a pretty hectic summer) but thankfully things have started to quiet down and I am ready to plug some more music! Despite my absence my page views have really shot up over the past few months so thanks for that. 

For those who don't know me off the internet I am also highly passionate about politics and so am working on a few pieces for some political publications, more on this soon...

Since we're over half way through the year I thought it'd be a good idea to compile a list of my favourite releases of the year so far, as well as a summary of the incredibly exciting releases still to come. This list is in no particular order because my mind is constantly changing about which are my absolute favourites, so they're all pretty damn good.




Jaakko Eino Kalevi - Jaakko Eino Kalevi 

What is so remarkable about Jaakko Eino Kalevi is that there aren’t actually that many standout tracks in the traditional sense (besides the three singles), yet every track plays a vital roll in pulling the listener into the surreal dream-pop universe created by this synth-pop troubadour. Whether it be the icy synths of the unofficial theme tune JEK or the jazzy outro of the closing track, there are plenty of astonishing artistic achievements scattered across this excellent record. This is undoubtedly one of the best debuts of the year so far and one that simply must grace your summer playlist.

Jamie xx - In Colour


In Colour, though composed of a mixture of pre-released material (Girl, Sleep Sound), club bangers (Gosh, Good Times) as well as a handful of tracks which could just as easily been featured on a new xx record (Seesaw, Stranger in a Room, Loud Places), works immaculately as one cohesive body of work. Despite its many standouts, one can't help but listen to the LP in its entirety, that's the only way one can appreciate the triumph that this record is.

Holly Herndon - Platform

The range of sounds and styles Holly experiments with on Platform are what make it such an exciting and engaging listen. Over the course of 10 tracks she explores elements of  new-age, break-beat, techno, glitch-hop, choral pop, trip-hop, avante-garde, house and even ASMR. There are easily accessible and almost anthemic moments to be found on tracks like Chorus, An Exit and Morning Sun as well as bizarre left-turns on tracks like 'Lonely At The Top'. Some of her experiments are more successful than others, but overall this is an essential listen for anyone seeking to sonically explore the digital age we currently live in from a perspective which is both critical and celebratory. 

Natalie Prass - Natalie Prass

What tops this album off is its rather unique back story; if you are wondering why this record sounds so nostalgic and warm, it could be because it was in fact recorded years ago...three to be exact. Since 2012 it had been sitting with Matthew E. White's Spacebomb label, who cruelly kept it under raps in order to promote the latter's 2012 breakthrough record Big Inner, and rightfully so, that album was a masterpiece in its own right. And even though White is releasing his new record later this year (which I'll be reviewing too), to me 2015 finally is Prass' time to shine. With such an accomplished debut, is see no reason why whatever she releases in the future won't be even better, as long as she's used this time productively, I'm expecting big things from this rising chanteuse.

Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell

Ever since I heard Seven Swans I was hooked on this guy's music. His inventive combinations of traditional folk, chamber pop and the occasional electronic elements, for me, always set him apart from the bog-standard 'dude with a guitar' acts. When it was first announced that Carrie and Lowell would 'a return to his folk roots', I had no idea how true this statement would be; this is the most bare and raw I've ever heard Stevens sound. As a mummy's boy myself, this is a truly devastating listen with absolutely no break from the darkness in its 42 minute running time. But I must admit, praising this record for its rawness and its relentlessness makes me somewhat of a hypocrite when I criticised Sun Kil Moon's Benji for the exact same reasons. The difference is that Sufjan balances the bleakness of these tracks with far more engaging melodies and his signature paper-thin falsetto, which makes the tone much cozier than it should be.

Florence + The Machine - How Big How Blue How Beautiful

With such an ambitious title and such a long absence, it is just as well that Florence and the Machine have in fact come through with a record which is big, blue and beautiful (I went there). With only 11 tracks on the standard edition, every track is vital to the flow and momentum of the record; gentle and reflective cuts like “St Jude” and “Caught” ensure that there is emotional diversity whilst the more anthemic tracks like “Third Eye” and “Queen Of Peace” retain the mainstream appeal of the band’s older sound, striking the perfect balance between appeasing loyal fans and including those who didn’t quite get the oddball charm of the band’s earlier material.

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly

The ongoing class war in the UK and the race issues in America have defined 2015 so far and I have no doubt they'll continue to be prominent areas of debate among members my generation, and rightfully so. Growing up in an area which is both ethically and economically diverse, I recognise the need for enlightened social commentators like Kendrick Lamar. Even though I didn't get the hype over his last record, both lyrically and production-wise this stands heads and shoulders above Good Kid M.A.AD City. Inevitably his music won't appeal to a cynical and often ignorant older generation, but what is important is that we take notice of Kendrick's message and be inspired to speak about the issues that concern us.

Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear

After his breakthrough solo LP Fear Fun, Josh Tillman has delivered yet another excellent singer/songwriter LP. Sonically it isn't much of a departure from his previous material, however he does keep it interesting and throws a few curve balls in there, namely the electronica-tinged 'True Affection'. Best of all is the unashamedly soppy title track, which despite the sickly sweet lyrics is one of the most satisfying and engaging tracks in his discography. 

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.

Lower Dens - Escape From Evil

What is most commendable about Lower Dens on this record is the ease with which they are able to achieve such a distinct atmosphere and sustain it throughout, especially when so many others try so hard to convey any sort of mood whatsoever and fail. Where Escape From Evil shines brightest is when the band let go and embrace a lighter, more euphoric aspect of their sound, particularly on the melancholic yet therapeutic sheen of “To Die in LA”. My only wish is that they capitalized upon this sonic breakthrough with a record full of tracks of this calibre, which makes the fact that they didn't somewhat frustrating. That being said, knowing that Lower Dens have the potential to create melancholic pop perfection is comforting in itself.

My favourite tracks of the year so far

Beach House - Sparks

If you journey back to 2014, you may remember me speaking of my love for this band and my anticipation for their up-and-coming record, which later turned out to be the wonderful Depression Cherry (review coming soon). One of the best songs of their career thus far; Sparks recalls the glory days of My Bloody Valentine with it's suffocating layered production and piercing overriding guitars, while Victoria's ever-stunning vocals never fail to captivate me. This is easily my favourite track of the year so far, 



Warpaint - I'll Start Believing

OK, so I have an embarrassing confession to make...I only just discovered this track a week ago. The embarrassing part comes once you factor that I named their last record Warpaint as my favourite album of 2014 less than 9 months ago. If you want an explanation for my foolishness I'm sorry, I haven't got one. But I am bloody well making up for it now, I've been playing the shit out of this track for the last 7 days. It's everything I love about Warpaint; it's brooding, bewitching, intricate and still melodic and, dare I say, catchy. This is a total earworm and will stay with you for quite some time after listening, so be warned. I still believe, girls. 

 


Lower Dens - To Die In LA


How do you define euphoria? According to Google it is 'a feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness', this is often associated with music or other forms of art, namely visual. Good music, usually in the genres of dream pop, techno, house or even chamber pop, tends to have the ability to transform your entire mental state for just a few short moments. But great music, like this track, has the ability to take me to another place entirely, and this motion is so powerful that it resonates far beyond the moment the track finishes. See for yourself:




Puro Instinct (feat. Christian Rich) - Lake Como


God, this is just gorgeous. Now I'm always partial to a bit of dream pop but this really is outstanding. The duo have been quiet for so long that I kinda forgot about them, but with this stunner they are back with a vengeance. As aggressive as that sounds, 'Lake Como' is a slow, sultry and dreamy mid-tempo with rolling 80's style synths and a majestic chorus. 'Over and over I under your spell, don't know you do it you do it so well', my thoughts exactly ladies, my thoughts exactly...




Jaakko Eino Kalevi - Deep Shadows

I was initially trying to avoid putting tracks by artists who made the albums list in this one...but yet I've already failed, TWICE. In fairness, if there's a track worth defying the 'rules' I set myself, it's this. Deeper Shadows 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, just like the record it sits within, but you already know I love that.




Julia Holter - Feel You

Speaking of bewitching tracks, here's another one. This time it's from the wonderful and extremely talented Julia Holter, who's last record Loud City Song is still one of the best albums I have ever heard. Moving away from a less abstract and more earthy~ sound, 'Feel You' is a sweet and romantic ditty with spine-tingling harpsichord lacing the instrumentation. From what I know of Have You In My Wilderness, her forthcoming LP, we are in for an absolute treat. 




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.




Waxahatchee - Summer Of Love


If you trace back to the end of 2013, you'll remember that I placed Katie Crutchfield's sophomore album at number 1 on my favourite albums of 2013 list. Though Ivy Tripp didn't quite meet my expectations, it was [and is] still an excellent record that absolutely deserves your attention. 'Air' or 'La Loose' would've probably been more obvious cuts to feature on my list, but Summer Of Love is the song that really stuck with me and I am still returning to it every other day. It's just so powerful and captivating. Apologies for the lack of recorded version, you'll just have to settle for this wonderful session version instead. 




Rosie Lowe - Who's That Girl


Yet another killer track from rising UK soulstress Rosie Lowe and this could well be her best track to date. She has confirmed that her debut album will be out this year and has given us the excellent 'Who's That Girl' to quench our thirst for the moment. The production, as ever, treads the line between now and the future, with icy beats and subtle vocal manipulation complementing Rosie's vocals impeccably. I need this album, and so do you.




Tame Impala - Let It Happen

God I love this band. Lonerism is still the official sponsor of my summer (i.e me eating ice cream and pretzels in my room, listening music and watching old TV shows, alone). But it's so much more than that, it is able to mentally transport me to a psychedelic dream world (like some kind of trippy escapism from reality). Even though there has been no official announcement of their new record, Let It Happen, at 8 minutes, is long enough to quench my thirst for the moment. 




So there you have it folks, a highly condensed list of the music I've been loving from between January and July this year. I fully intend of producing a massive list for the end of the year write-up to compensate for my inconsistency and flakiness this year. Until then I'll be trying my best to write at least one new review every month. Stay tuned.