Saturday, 30 December 2017

My Top 20 Favourite Albums of 2017

I haven’t been blogging as profusely this year, but I’ve still found the time to listen to a great number of albums. Here are my favourites from 2017.

Don’t forget to check out my previous lists from 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012 if you’re mad about lists. You can also check out my favourite tracks and least favourite tracks of 2017.

20 – 11

20. Villains - Queens Of The Stone Age

These gloomy rock tunes from Josh Homme and crew are creatively composed and have had me making many return listens, even if I’m still not a fan of the tinny production.



19. Lust for Life – Lana Del Rey

Lana’s sound takes a more upbeat and urban turn on her latest selection of Bond Theme-esque ballads.  






18. Emperor of Sand – Mastodon

The Atlanta metal outfit continue to push out hard-hitting tracks, offering a mixture of belting hooks and heavy riffs.




17. Run The Jewels 3 – Run The Jewels

The hip hop duo are back with some barbed bars and banging beats. Technically this is a 2016 album, but it was released so late in the year it never made last year’s list. I MAKE THE RULES.




16. Take Me Apart - Kelela

The indie r&b songstress delivers a selection of spacey and smoky slowjams. It’s a futuristic sound that’s entirely hers.

Favourite tracks: ‘Waitin’, ‘Blue Light’




15. Automaton – Jamiroquai

UK 90s funk and acid jazz act deliver some new tunes that are as lovably groovy and catchy as their classic material.

Favourite tracks: ‘Automaton’, ‘Hot Property’




14. Planetarium – Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner & James McAlister

Themed around the solar system, everything about this breath-taking album is as vast as space itself from the subject matter to the synth-driven instrumentals to the musician credits.

Favourite tracks: ‘Jupiter’, ‘Mercury’


13. Neo Wax Bloom – Iglooghost

The Irish producer’s fast-paced and frenetic EDM makes for a dizzying listen, boldly pushing the boundaries of electronic music.

Favourite tracks: ‘Super Ink Burst’, ‘White Gum’





12. DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar

Hip hop icon Kendrick Lamar releases some of his most vulnerable tunes as well as some of his most catchy and poppy material.

Favourite tracks: ‘DNA’, ‘XXX’



11. Everything Now – Arcade Fire

The Canadian indie rockers continue to embrace disco, releasing an album that’s as catchy as it politically-charged.






10 – 1:

10. 17 – XXXTentacion

The Soundcloud rapper sidesteps distorted bangers for some intimately raw and lo-fi hip hop tunes that sound like nothing else out there.




9. Mister Mellow – Washed Out

The Chillwave pioneer gives us some new dusty feelgood tunes, this time with a more jazzy and Latin flavour.




8. Big Fish Theory – Vince Staples

The Long Beach rapper takes on some of his most experimental and abrasive beats yet, whilst continuing to deliver catchy bars.




7. Drunk – Thundercat

Funky bassist-singer delivers a gauntlet of jazzy tracks that show off his kooky persona, filled with nerdy gaming and weeabo references.





6. 4:44 – Jay-Z

The rap veteran’s latest album is his most intimate, taking a break from his usual hedonistic boasting for some political talk and introspection.



5.Brutalism – Idles

UK hardcore punks deliver some satisfyingly raucous rock tunes made up of catchy lyrics that are as infectious as they are intricate.





4.Flower Boy – Tyler, the Creator

Tyler tames down the trolling and crudeness in exchange for some personal and genuinely sincere lyrics over some gorgeous jazzy self-produced beats.



3.GT Ultra – Guerilla Toss


Guerilla Toss have previously been a little too noisy and noodling for my liking, but on GT Ultra they’ve injected a catchiness into their sound that makes the experimentalism more enjoyable. Kassie Carlson’s crazed incantations and the instrumental mix of synths, punky guitars, funky bass and cowbell all defy genre-labelling. I’m excited to hear how they develop sonically from here.


2.American Dream – LCD Soundsystem


After several years apart, indie electro-rockers LCD Soundsystem reformed in 2017 to bring us this new album. James Murphy’s social commentary is more bitter and beguiling than ever before, whilst the instrumentals are hypnotic and danceable. It’s synthpop with brains and despite drawing on retro ideas and being delivered by a middle-aged band, it feels extremely current.


1.A Crow Looked At Me – Mount Eerie

I’ve only listened to this album once in its entirety and will probably never listen to the whole thing again, but it’s the concept and emotional impact that lends this album my top spot. The eleven songs on this album were written immediately after the death of Phil Elverum’s wife and played on her instruments. Stripping away the mythology of death, Phil describes his feelings in gritty detail. Few artists experiencing such a tragedy would dare to go so deep. The result is a folk album that approaches death with more rawness than any record before it. It’s not entertainment, but as a piece of art it’s very moving (just be prepared for what you’re about to listen to because it’s very heavy stuff).

Friday, 22 December 2017

My Top 20 Favourite Tracks Of 2017

Having explored the worst tracks of the year, it’s now time for my favourite tunes of 2017. Buckle up and enjoy!

20. 'Power' – Rapsody ft. Kendrick Lamar & Lance SkIIIWalker



Rapsody and Kendrick make such a good hip hop pairing on this single, complemented by a deliciously groovy beat.


19. 'Not My Fault' – False Advertising


The Manchester rock trio (who happened to release my favourite track of 2016) continue to make rewarding use of catchy female-fronted vocals and sludgy guitar distortion.

18. 'Bad French' – Teen Dream Woman


Bad French deliver some uniquely hypnotic electropop. I’m in love with the synths and wobbly percussion.

17. 'Bubble Butt' – Kink



After years of being a notorious live-only band, Kink released their first recorded single this year – a mix of carnivalesque surf rock and cartoonish feminist chants that’s stupidly fun.

16. 'Can You Talk To People Around The World On The Internet?' – Hot Dad


Hot Dad releases this ingeniously comedic synthpop track centred around technology and the possible uses it may be able to bring us in the distant future.

15. 'Ghost' – Liana Banks


The husky vocals and minimal instrumentation make for an intimately sexy combo on this sleek R&b track. Its lyrics about ‘ghosting’ also make it a very current love (or indeed anti-love) song.

14. 'Afraid To Love You' – Native Kings


Liverpool 3-piece rock band deliver this infectious anthem with an epic chorus and some satisfyingly groovy riffage.

13. 'Feels' – Calvin Harris ft. Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry & Big Sean


My pop guilty-pleasure of the year – it’s star-studded, funky and catchy even if my mum thinks it’s ‘don’t be afraid to catch fish’.

12. '4:44' - Jay-z


The veteran rapper puts arrogance aside, instead offering a raw apology over some equally raw soulful production.

11. 'Ruby Lips' – Dollie Demi



Nottingham singer-songwriter Dollie Demi delivers this catchy slice of girl-power-themed pop-rock.

10. 'Lemon' – N.E.R.D ft. Rihanna


This comeback single from N.E.R.D is an absolute banger an energetic music video featuring some incredible dance choreography. Also, who knew Rihanna could rap?

9. 'Loverboy' – Lomboy


It’s hard to put a genre label on this glitched-out hypnotic track. The aesthetic of the video is just as unique. Lomboy appears to be a collective with members based in Paris and Tokyo.

8.' tonite' – LCD Soundsystem


Set to a pulsing electro beat, ‘tonite’ confronts people’s obsessions with living for the moment and never going out there and achieving their dreams. It’s a mighty return to form for the indie electro-rockers.

7. '1st World Problems Solved' – Vulture St. Tape Gang


Aussie group Vulture St. Tape Gang deliver this hilariously arrogant but utterly feelgood jazzy tune.

6. 'Yeah Right' – Vince Staples ft. Kendrick Lamar


Produced by SOPHIE and Flume, this instrumental is absolutely monstrous. Vince’s lyrics meanwhile attack the braggadocio of other rappers. The Kendrick verse is icing on the cake.

5. 'Ain’t Got Time' – Tyler, the Creator


The beat here is one-of-a-kind – it’s like some tango-trap hybrid. Tyler’s ‘I ain’t got tiiiiime’ hook meanwhile is incredibly infectious. The beat change towards the second half makes it all the more satisfying.

4. 'Everytime' – Boy Pablo


At first I thought I loved this song just because of the goofy video, but having continuously returned to it I’ve realised it’s just a brilliant song. It’s dreamy lo-fi pop-rock that takes you away to a happy place.   

3. 'Mother' – Idles


‘Mother’ is a song with few lyrics but so much meaning. It’s a tribute to his mother, but more poignantly it’s a song about the oppression of the working class. His angry vocals make it all the more moving.

2. 'Real Death' – Mount Eerie


Death is real/ someone’s there and then they’re not/ and it’s not for singing about/ it’s not for making into art’. Many songs try to make sense of death. Not this one. Written days after the death of his wife and played on her instruments, ‘Real Death’ captures raw grief like no other song has. It’s both horrific and beautiful.

1. 'Friend Zone' - Thundercat


Thundercat’s defiant anthem against being friendzoned isn’t particularly deep or complex – but for whatever reason it’s had me hooked. With its humorous lyrics and funky synth arpeggios, there’s something so feelgood about it. There are lots of songs about unrequited love – it’s nice to hear a song about breaking away.  

Sunday, 17 December 2017

THE BEST TRACKS OF THE WEEK 17/12/2017: Brockhampton, N.E.R.D, Joyner Lucas and more…



It’s all hip hop this week. Rapping to accompany your Christmas wrapping. There were so many gems to choose from this week, so no worst tracks either.

THE BEST:

'Boogie' - Brockhampton

The California collective just released their third album this year, Saturation III, and this is their latest single from it. The track is set to a groovy beat made up of loopy sax and a vocal sample that I’m pretty sure was on my old Yamaha keyboard, whilst various members of the group trade wacky verses. It’s a track worthy of its title.

‘Steph Curry’ – Higher Brothers



After listening to this single, I feel like I need more Chinese trap rap in my life. Over some smooth ass vibraphone chords and 808s, the group lay some energetic bars in Mandarin. The video offers some handy subtitles – not that the band are trying to be lyrical (it’s a song about a basketball player after all). Their magic is all in the flow and energy.


‘EA Sports’ – Frshrz ft. Mas Law


I wouldn’t have thought a song titled EA sports could be this good. The snarled ‘I’m in the game’ hook is very catchy and there’s some witty rhyming going on (e.g. rhyming ‘oxymoron’ with ‘poxy moron’). It’s also got some unique production. It’s an all-round banger.

‘Stitched Up’ – DGA


DGA stands for Dopest Gringo Alive. Sporting some lo-fi gritty production that’s somewhere between early EL-p and Death Grips, this Latino-American experimental rapper lays some manic bars accompanied by a creepy music video with an almost black metal aesthetic. He describes his eccentric sound as ‘noise rap queer trap old school grungey’. I can’t think of a better genre label. It’s best to just listen for yourself.

N.E.R.D – Don’t Don’t Do It ft. Kendrick Lamar


Pharrell delivers some politically-charged bars over a neon soulful beat, whilst calling upon Kendrick to drop a reliably ace verse. The whole ‘don’t don’t do it’ hook struck me as a bit clunky at first, but it does a great job of representing the complex lose-lose situation that many black people face when wrongly pulled over by the police. Comply or don’t comply with cops – either way you’re screwed.

‘I’m Not Racist’ – Joyner Lucas


For the first few seconds I genuinely thought Joyner Lucas was the white dude with the ‘Make America Great Again’ cap, and I was pretty shocked. This is an excellent dissection of what it means to be racist that examines both sides of the coin. I know a lot of rappers confront this topic, but few have really delved this deep whilst still crafting an entertaining song. 

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Review of 'Neo Wax Bloom' by Iglooghost



There’sLessSpaceToBreatheOnThisAlbumThanThereIsInThisSentence.

If you’re looking for ambient drone music, Iglooghost is not the musician for you. The Irish producer throws more sounds into ten seconds of a track than most beatsmiths manage to put into a full record. It’s EDM with ADHD that refuses to sit still and focus, throwing the listener around like a rag doll from one idea to the next.

The digital mazes making up his debut Neo Wax Bloom borrow elements of breakcore, garage, trap and footwork – pretty much any EDM genre he can get his hands on and shoehorn into the mix. These instrumentals are sometimes topped with sped up grime verses to add to the already dizzying pace. It’s like a movie chase scene played on fast-forward.

Iglooghost could easily be accused of going too far when it comes to his complex arrangements. Without repeated beats or even repeated melodies to give a sense of direction, his tracks can sometimes leave you feeling lost. Take ‘Super Ink Burst’ as an example, which is a barrage of saxophone noodling, bowel-stirring bass blasts and distorted vocal samples, with nothing but recurring textures to keep it coherent.

That said, these tracks aren’t just cluttered noise. Moments such as the synth twinkles of ‘Bug Thief’ sound absolutely gorgeous even if there isn’t much repetition to cling onto. ‘Infinite Mint’ meanwhile features breathy vocals from a guest vocalist named Cuushe adding a human element (even if the lyrics are largely incomprehensible due to being in another language and digitally altered).   

A large part of what makes Neo Wax Bloom so rewarding is its use of textures. As with the likes of Sam Gellaitry and SOPHIE, this producer knows how to make each sound sparkle, clang or boom with the most resonance. His music is much more intricate and fast-paced than those aforementioned two artists, which helps to give him his own USP. I feel sometimes he could add more direction to these tracks, but otherwise they are still wildly exciting and unlike anything else out there.  

TRACK TASTER:

Saturday, 9 December 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 09/12/2017: SOPHIE, Tune-Yards, The Tambourine Girls and more...


More music from the undisputed best blog in the universe.

THE BEST:

‘Ponyboy’ – SOPHIE


After disappointingly soppy single ‘It’s Okay To Cry’, I’m glad to see SOPHIE coming back to form with this abrasive banger. The track’s mix of chopped vocals and over-compressed bass is sure to make most people throw their headphones across the room, whilst the BDSM-themed music video is likely to put just as many people off. For me, this unruly experimentalism is everything that made me fall in love with SOPHIE’s music in the first place.

‘You Don’t See Me’ – The Tambourine Girls


I almost didn’t give this track a chance. It starts off fairly simplistically with a pounding drum, pulsing bassline and hazy vocals, but it turns out to be a rewarding slowbuilder as more instrumentation gradually joins in leading up to a grand climax. The frontman of this Sydney four-piece also delivers some terrific lovelorn lyrics that seem to get more pained as the song progresses before finally finding bittersweet resolution: ‘I think you loved me completely in darkness, so that’s where I’ll be’.

 ‘ABC 123’ – Tune-Yards


ABC123LMNO’. That’s not how the alphabet goes! Still, even if I haven’t got a clue what Merrill is getting at, her frenetic art-pop sound is still as catchy and bubbly as ever. She has a new album scheduled for release in January titled I can feel you creep into my private life.

‘Surrender’ – Kode Maya

Finnish duo Kode Maya continue to piece together complex genre-bending music. It contains everything from twinkling synths to world percussion to even a section at 2:35 that sounds like the showdown in a Hollywood Western. It’s very different to their other single ‘Mosquito’, but just as exciting.

THE WORST:

‘Perfect Duet’ – Ed Sheeran ft. Beyoncé


Beyoncé has jumped on a pre-existing Ed Sheeran track and made it all the more schmaltzy. They harmonise well, but what difference does that make when the melodies are dull as dishwater?

Thursday, 7 December 2017

The 10 Worst Songs of 2017


It’s time for that annual post when I round up the year’s most abominable tracks. Which songs will feature this year? Despacito? Shape of You? Havana? Let’s be honest, those tracks have been overplayed – but they weren’t bad. Like, not really bad. Here are a few songs from 2017 that really take the crown.

PS: If you like these lists, don't forget to check out my yearly rundowns from 2014, 2015 and 2016.

10. ‘Paris’ – The Chainsmokers


My review of the latest Chainsmokers record wasn’t very positive. This single epitomises why. With its moody teenage lyrics, glossy pianos and general lack of energy, the result is undanceable dance music with about as much depth as a paddling pool.

9. ‘Swalla’ – Jason Derulo ft. Nicki Minaj & Ty Dolla $ign


 ‘shimmy shimmy yay, shimmy yay, shimmy ya (drank)/ swall-la-la-la’. My one-month-year old daughter could come up with more intelligible lyrics than that. The beat does get your hips moving, but then you realise it’s just a rip-off of the Macarena.

8. ‘Da Race’ – Lanze


I’ve got to give it to this Ohio rapper – he’s got his own unique style. But he can barely keep his asthma attack flow in time with the beat, nor come up with any smart bars. It sounds like the kind of freestyle I’d pull off after climbing three flights of stairs.

7. ‘Peek a Boo’ – Lil Yachty ft. Migos


To be honest, any Lil Yachty single from this year could fit snugly on this list, but the line ‘she blow that dick like a cello’ makes this particular track unforgivable.

6. ‘Footprints in the Sand’ – Ian Errix


It’s like the worst of emo just collided with the worst of EDM. I also can’t stand faux-deep sentiments like ‘we’re all just footprints in the sand’. Put down your bong mate, you’re no philosopher.

5. ‘Mo Bounce’ – Iggy Azalea


The year of the butts was 2014. That year gave us a plentiful supply of butt anthems. Iggy’s latest addition shows she’s already lost her relevancy. Also, that ‘bounce’ hook makes me want to garrotte myself with my headphones.

4. ‘Devil on Hwy 9’ - Danzig


I’m convinced the gnarled rocker ran out of money in the recording studio and so told the producers ‘don’t worry about the vocals guys, I’ll record them on my phone’. The result sounds like bad karaoke.

3. ‘Masturbate’ – Princess Vitarah


I get that she’s a meme rapper, but this is too much for my innocent ears.

2. ‘Cumshot’ – Cupcakke


Pretty much identical in tone to the last track, only Cupcakke managed to step it up an extra notch. It makes me want to wear a chastity belt for the rest of my life. I didn’t know it was possible to be put off sex.

Now for the grand finale… 

*drumroll*

1. ‘It’s Everyday Bro’ – Jake Paul ft. Team 10


2017 proved that anyone can become a rapper nowadays. Even the ‘Cash Me Ousside’ brat scored a record deal this year (I’ve avoided listening to any of her material, in case people were wondering why Bhad Bhabie isn’t on this list). All it takes to become a rapper nowadays is money and the audacity to think you can rap.

That isn’t to say anyone can become a ‘good’ rapper. Take vlogger Jake Paul and his fearsome posse of fellow Youtubers, whose hit ‘It’s Everyday Bro’ has amassed over 150 million views. The Vine star gets off to an ok start referring self-deprecatingly too his ‘Disney channel flow’, but before long his bars drift off-beat and next minute he’s uttering lines like ‘and I just dropped some new merch/ and its selling like a God church’.

A ‘God church’? What other churches are there? But wait, it gets worse. Because then Nick Crompton takes to the mic and utters the infamous line that has made this song the internet sensation that it is: ‘England is my city’.

It wouldn’t be so bad were it just a one-off meme. But now every Youtuber with a considerable fanbase is writing sincere rap songs – all because of this monstrosity. People shouldn’t be concerned about Soundcloud rap. Youtube rap is the movement that could turn hip hop on its head.

Friday, 1 December 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 01/12/2017: Wajatta, Django Django, N.E.R.D and more…



New tracks to welcome us into December. I’m sad because I didn’t buy an advent calendar.

THE BEST:

‘Every Man Is A Pyramid Scheme’ – Faux Bandit


Packed with vivid lines such as ‘my God is a stoner kid/ I am a working class drug’, this new single from Brisbane rock group Faux Bandit takes a unique look at how we all build our own personalities out of hobbies and interests. It makes you wonder how much of our personalities are real and how much is what we want people to think. If that sounds too deep, don’t worry, the angry rugged riff has enough appeal for all you meat-headed rockers.   

 ‘Runnin’ – Wajatta


Surrealist comedian Reggie Watts is trying his hand at EDM under the stage name Wajatta (accompanied by producer John Tejada). It’s a vogue-worthy house number with chords stabs reminiscent of Inner City’s ‘Big Fun’ topped with some Reggie’s signature vocal loops. I was expecting something weirder from the frizzy-haired nutter, but I’m satisfied with this.

‘Pressure’ – SlickDotR


London rapper/singer SlickDotR delivers this new anthemic single ‘Pressure’. Everything about it feels vast from the city backdrop in the music video, to the epic instrumental made of pianos and 808s, to the walls of vocal harmonies in the chorus. The single comes off SlickDotR’s EP SR1 released earlier this year.

‘In Your Beat’ – Django Django


Django Django continue to sound utterly unique with their mix of Beach Boys vocal harmonies and retro synths. The music video meanwhile is its own nutty concoction of pop art, Monty Python and vaporwave. Marble Skies, the group’s new album, is scheduled to be released in January.

‘Killer’ – That Gum U Like


Influenced by TV series Twin Peaks, Brazilian duo That Gum U Like have dropped this new hypnotic electropop single ‘Killer’. It slinks along seductively to a backdrop of old-skool synths, lo-fi drums and oozing bass whilst the frontwoman dreamily sighs out ‘I’m a killer’ in a manner that’s both gorgeous and creepy.

THE WORST:

‘1000’ – N.E.R.D ft. Future


In contrast to minimal banger ‘Lemon’, the experimental rap group’s latest single ‘1000’ is overstuffed with too many things going on. I like the heavy percussion breakdown and rave synthesisers, but the rest of the music is complete chaos. Pharrell’s delivery has gone all cartoonish, and Future’s verse comes of nowhere. 

Review of 'Reputation' by Taylor Swift



Look what you made me write.

Taylor Swift probably isn’t as much of a bitch as people make her out to be. She’s had a long succession of failed relationships – at this point finding guys to break up with may be a routine part of her songwriting process. If she was in a stable relationship, what the hell would she sing about? The way I see it, each breakup is a career move and not the result of her being a terrible person.  

After all, as Reputation shows, coming mean doesn’t come naturally to Swift. The singer has decided to try the whole good-girl-turned-bad reinvention straight out the ending of Grease. Gone are the breezy country-pop singles with innocent sex-free lyrics. She’s now singing racy hooks like ‘only bought this dress so you could take it off’ over urban beats weaved out of synths and trap rap 808s as if she were Rihanna.

But unlike Rihanna, who probably is a mean bitch in real life, Swift doesn’t quite have the conviction to always pull it off. Clickbaity-titled opener ‘…Ready For It’ has a beat that wouldn’t sound out of place on Yeezus and semi-rapped lyrics about dating a psycho, but then it segues into some mushy chorus about yearning for the guy in her dreams. Similarly, ‘Getaway Car’ tries to opt for a Bonnie and Clyde theme but ends up sounding like a cheap teen romance novel.

Soppy breakup ballads and teen crush tunes are still Taylor’s comfort zone. She does do a good job of sometimes relating these songs to her fame as on ‘Gorgeous’ – on the surface it’s a song about Swift getting jealous over another girl’s good looks, but in reality it’s a dig at Swift’s haters who despise her purely for her prettiness. But then there are tracks like ‘King Of My Heart’ that are as close to the template as a generic pop song can get in 2017.

I didn’t want to dislike this album – I half-enjoyed Taylor's previous dance-y record 1989 and felt there were a few infectious guilty pleasures on it (AKA ‘Shake It Off’). But on Reputation, the fun cheekiness seems to have been replaced by a try-hard bad girl image that’s just awkward. Sometimes she succeeds in sounding like a sexy femme fatale as on ‘Dress’, but then there are moments in which she still sounds like an edgy teen spilling out her life on Tumblr, such as the already infamous line: ‘I’m sorry, the old Taylor Swift can’t some to the phone right now. Why? Cause she’s dead’. Add on top the fact that many of the instrumentals are just watered-down Weeknd beats and you’re left with an album that really isn’t very interesting beneath its veil of hype. 

TRACK TASTER:

Saturday, 25 November 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 25/11/2017: Tom Misch, Billie Eilish, Eastern Barbers and more...



Lots of jazzy soppy heartbreak tunes this week. Get your handkerchief and a tub of Ben and Jerry’s at the ready.

THE BEST:

‘Movie’ – Tom Misch


The little curls on the back of his head bouncing/ as he steps out of my life, forever’. Crikey, that’s some heavy imagery. Soul producer/singer Tom Misch has never sounded so cinematic – this song could easily accompany the breakup scene from a Hollywood tearjerker. The mushy black and white footage of his grandparents and dramatic monologue as courtesy of his sister Polly Misch also make it his most personal work to date.

‘Bitches broken hearts’ – Billie Eilish


Billie Eilish is only 15, and yet she’s able to sing about heartbreak with more maturity than most singers twice her age (even if the track title doesn’t suggest so). The way her voice breaks on the last note around the 2:20 mark gave me goosebumps.

 ‘Blue Flakes’ – Eastern Barbers



Set to a backdrop of drowsy wah-soaked guitars and downbeat bass, this new track sees South London brothers Eastern Barbers trying to reconnect with the innocence of youth. The chorus is absolutely gorgeous with its descending melancholy chords and reverb-soaked la-la-las.

 ‘I Always Wanted You’ – Miles Dismond



San Francisco bedroom artist Miles Dismond offers this lo-fi hybrid of indie and bossa nova, which could be a song about genuine unrequited love or a song about creepy infatuation depending on how you interpret it (the way in which the track eerily crackles in the middle makes me personally think it’s the latter). Fans of Ariel Pink are sure to dig it.

 ‘Pretty Girls’ – Michael Seyer



In case you hadn’t already had your fix of jazzy lounge bar melancholia this week, Michael Seyer’s new track ‘Pretty Girls’ ought to hit the spot. The artist describes his music in his Facebook bio as ‘marijuana hip hop/Indian Guy Cops-step’, which isn’t a genre I can see catching on any time soon.

THE WORST:

‘Santa’s Coming For Us’ – Sia


Even the upbeat tone can't save the fact that the song title 'Santa's coming for us' sounds menacing.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Double Review: ‘Concrete and Gold’ by The Foo Fighters and ‘As You Were’ by Liam Gallagher



When does a rock act stop being reliable and start becoming predictable?

Dave Grohl and Liam Gallagher don’t have much in common on the surface. Personality-wise they’re on polar opposite ends of the spectrum – one is a relentlessly humble crowd-pleasing ambassador of US rock, whilst the other is a straight-talking Twitter-rowing cocky jack-the-lad of Britpop fame. So why have I decided to lump them both under one review, other than being the lazy sod I am?

Hear me out. Both artists rose to fame in the 90s making catchy, stylistically-unique rock anthems and have since continued to remain omnipresent personalities in the rock scene. Even after the inevitable Oasis breakup, Liam continued to make music via his Beady Eye project, whilst Grohl has continued to front the Foo Fighters despite every other member seemingly being replaced. Each rock star has brought an influential and distinctive sound that they’ve stayed loyal to and right now they’re both at a very similar stage in their careers.

Gallagher and Grohl have both made half-hearted attempts to deviate their style in recent years. The Foos formula of epic guitars, singalong chorus and occasional screeches was traded in on their 2014 album Sonic Highways for some classic rock homages, but you could hardly call it a fresh new direction. Similarly, Liam Gallagher’s attempt to do something new with Beady Eye ended up more like a cheap imitation of The Rolling Stones, of whom Oasis were already influenced by.

Given these small deviations didn’t work, the two artists have now gone back to their original sounds. Reliability can be comforting – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But after twenty five years of the same shtick, you have to wonder whether the magic is starting to wear off.

I say this as a diehard Foos fan and a long-time Oasis lover. Both Concrete and Gold and As You Were turned out to be everything I anticipated. There’s even signs that they’re now ripping off their old songs. The Foos 9th album begins with an acoustic intro titled ‘T-shirt’ that sounds identical to the opener of 1997’s The Colour And The Shape. ‘For What Is It Worth’ meanwhile feels distinctly like a watered-down ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’. These may well be deliberate self-references, but it doesn’t make them feel any less derivative.


Of course, both artists can still craft tunes that feel original and infectious enough to make you forgive the blander moments. The Foos lay down a three-hit-combo at the beginning of the record including screech-along lead single ‘Run’, groovy Aerosmith-esque ‘Make it Right’ and belting stomper ‘The Sky Is A Neighbourhood’ that almost has an Imagine Dragons tinge to it (in the best possible way). Liam’s ‘Wall of Glass’ meanwhile opens As I Were in spectacular style with squealing harmonica and bluesy guitar, whilst true anthems such as tumbling ‘I Get By’ and hazy ‘When I’m In Need’ spring up later in the tracklist.


Both artists have never tried too hard when it comes to lyrics. At this point it’s a mixture of clichés and nonsense, although Liam’s horror-themed balderdash ‘She gotta 666/ I got my crucifix/ She got a spinning head/ Likes The Ungrateful Dead’ is a lot more witty and entertaining than the Foos’ ode to aliens ‘The Sky is A Neighbourhood’. That said the Foos have the advantage that their LP is half the length of As You Were, which begins to overstay it’s welcome beyond ‘Come Back To Me’.

Gallagher and Grohl certainly have put some graft into these albums and both have a superb ear for melody and a good chorus, but both could benefit from coming up with an album concept rather than creating another medley of songs. Consider Queens of the Stone Age’s latest release – whilst I did find the production off-putting, you can’t argue that it has its own flavour. A reliable recipe works only for so long – sooner or later people want to taste something new. 

Concrete and Gold by The Foo Fighters: 
As You Were by Liam Gallagher: 

Friday, 17 November 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 17/11/2017: N.E.R.D, Kaizen, Eminem and more...



I’ve had to take a couple weeks out of blogging to focus on other commitments (I had some brain surgery patients to attend to, plus I had to do a couple shifts on the moon for NASA), but now I’m back and ready to type away like a Hollywood computer hacker, keeping you updated on the best and worst songs on the web so that you can sleep peacefully at night.

THE BEST:

‘Lemon’ - N.E.R.D ft. Rihanna


Pharrell Williams and his alt rap project N.E.R.D are back with their first material since 2010. The bubbly beat makes me want to get up and pop dance moves like the bald chick in the music video, not that I’d want to show her up with my dancefloor talent. Rihanna also appears on the track - not singing but rapping. Who knew she could spit bars? She’s not as good a rapper as myself, but hey, we can’t all be as amazing as me.

 ‘Tears’ – Kaizen



Opening with twinkly synths that could score the sad scene from a Studio Ghibli movie, the last thing I expected was to be assaulted by an ear-piercing cacophony of extreme dubstep wubs. It’s completely inappropriate. I feel like I’ve just watched the tragic stampede scene from the Lion King only for Mufasa to suddenly reanimate as a zombie and gnaw Simba’s head off. I feel violated. At the same time, I can’t help but find it impressive and amusing.

 ‘Someone Who Loves You’ – Loveless Death Scene



Talking of death scenes, LA psych rock act Loveless Death Scene caught my ear this week with this new melancholy track. There’s a hazy shoegaze quality to it – only the guitars have been warped with phasers rather than being swamped with reverb. Loveless Death Machine have a new EP out called Hopeless Dream Machine – my fellow music junkies can stream it here.

 ‘Change’ – Strangely Enough



After a build-up of Muse-like riffs and an explosive chorus, I thought I had this Brisbane rock act figured, but instead the song diverts into a guitar solo followed by a beautifully ambient interlude. 'Change' lives up to it's name by constantly changing direction (and the band live up to their name by being strange enough).

THE WORST:

‘Walk On Water’ – Eminem ft. Beyoncé


Eminem needs to stop writing songs about writing songs. It’s getting tedious now, and it doesn’t help that he’s starting to sound like a cornier version of Macklemore. Even Beyoncé is unable to salvage it with her sappy chorus. The whole thing just ends up being a duller version of Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s ‘See You Again’.

‘X-Rated’ - MK Ultra


I've seen spheres more edgy than this cheap knock-off of Marilyn Manson.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Double Review: 'Lil Pump' by Lil Pump and '17' by XXXTentacion



Is ‘Soundcloud rap’ hip hop’s glorious punk phase - or a new musical low?

Are multi-coloured dreadlocks and facial tattoos the new mohawks? Or are these Soundcloud rappers just a bunch of flamboyantly-dressed amateurs spitting clichés over badly-produced trap beats? Whatever the case ‘soundcloud rap’ is now a distinctive movement. Every week a new kid with ‘Lil’ at the beginning of his name emerges from the woodwork, his hair more colourful than the last and his facial tattoo more outrageous (one rapper has even got Anne Frank’s face inked on his cheek).

Lil Pump and XXXTentacion are arguably two of the biggest names in Soundcloud rap. 2017 has seen both Florida rappers releasing their debut album. I decided to give these records a listen to see what all the fuss was about. Was I about to be converted? Would I be urged to fanatically grow dreads and tattoo my own face? Or was I about to lose faith in hip hop altogether?

Let’s start with Lil Pump’s album, which was pretty much everything I expected. The beats are stupidly loud, the delivery is stupidly catchy and the lyrics… well, they’re just stupid. I’ll admit, it was a lot more entertaining than Lil Yachty’s recent album. Pump for one has better beats, wisely avoids auto-tune and has a sense of humour (as evident through hooks like ‘selling cocaine to your grandma!’). There’s also a respect in the fact that it’s all DIYed and tracks like ‘D Rose’ are deliberately mixed to shit - it hasn’t got that sterile sheen that record label rap music has. 


Nonetheless, the album’s still dumb enough to make you lose brain cells. I wasn’t expecting Shakespeare sonnets, but the recycled garbage this kid comes out with isn’t far off Groot’s level of vocabulary.

XXXTentacion’s album 17 was everything I didn’t expect. Those already familiar with this controversial figure may know him for his previous Soundcloud hits ‘Look at Me’ and ‘Sipping Tea In Yo Hood’, both of which are comically beserk bangers consisting of confrontational yelling over hyper-compressed noise. When it comes to Soundcloud rap, he’s probably the least subtle of the bunch.

So where the hell did this soft emotional album come from? Offering whimpered singing over bare pianos and folksy guitars, this record has about as much banger material as a Radiohead LP. Braggadocio is replaced by introspection as X delves into his depression. The likes of ‘Jocelyn Flores’ and ‘Revenge’ are gorgeously rustic songs for a night in alone crying into a tub of Ben & Jerry's. Opening soliloquy ‘The Explanation’ had me dreading a try-hard deep album, but fortunately the album avoids being preachy, instead serving as a counselling session for X to spill out his darkest thoughts.


It’s as unexpected as were Conor McGregor to take up ballet. It’s in a different universe to Lil Pump’s album. The only thing it has in common with the other Soundcloud rap albums is its raw production – most of this LP sounds like it was recorded in X’s bedroom with the singing teetering between beautifully pained and off-key. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to compare it to anything else out there. Is this the beginning of hip hop’s emo phase? ‘Save Me’ could even be considered ‘grunge-hop’.

Whatever the case, 17 shows that Soundcloud rap has more to offer than simply lo-fi trap bangers and lyrical hedonistic gibberish. I may still listen to the odd track from Lil Pump’s debut, but X’s 17 is a fresh and new direction for hip hop that’s far more exciting. 

Lil Pump by Lil Pump: 
17 by XXXTentacion: