“A collection of profound and epic album reviews and musical articles by former astronaut and brain surgeon, Alasdair Kennedy. Reaching levels of poetry that rival Keats and Blake, the following reviews affirm Alasdair to be a prodigy, a genius and a god whose opinion is always objectively right. He is also without a doubt the most modest man in the universe.” - Alasdair Kennedy
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
'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’ –
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’ –
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
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
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.
More music from the undisputed best blog in the universe.
‘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
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
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.
‘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?
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
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
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’ -
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’ –
I get that she’s a meme rapper, but this is too much for my
2. ‘Cumshot’ –
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
Now for the grand finale…
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.
New tracks to welcome us into December. I’m sad because I
didn’t buy an advent calendar.
‘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.
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 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.
‘1000’ – N.E.R.D ft.
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.
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