10 tracks on repeat:

1. Oblivion by Grimes (2012)- A catchy, atmospheric and synth-driven number of Grimes gorgeous 2012 LP Visions. 

2. Fever by Preoccupations (2016)- There is something joyfully vintage about this song, the Canadian four-piece is creating an 80s sounding post-punk number complete with a killer guitar riff.

3. Meat Grinder by Madvillian (2004)- This team-up between rapper MF DOOM and producer Madlib is an excellent cut of one of the greatest rap albums of all time, Madvilliany.  

4. Dog it by Digable Plants (1994)- Jazzy, smooth and infectious, this track is the perfect summary of East Coast 90s jazz rap.  

5. bad guy by Billie Eilish (2019)- Most people would be familiar with this track by now but having won the pole position in this year’s Hottest 100 (an annual poll run by Australian radio station Triple J for those unfamiliar) I think it deserves mention.

6. Everyday Robots by Damon Albarn (2014)- Albarn is the mastermind behind brit-pop titans Blur and the musical wizard behind virtual band Gorillaz, making him indeed an influential voice. An often-overlooked moment in his discography is his 2014 solo album that this quirky little number can be found on.

7. Selfish by Little Simz (2019)- This emotional piece is one of the many highlights of the British rapper’s 2019 masterpiece GREY Area, built around subtle production and some confessional and self-analytical lyrics.

8. The Magnificent Seven by The Clash (1980)- British punk pioneers dipped their fingers into just about everything in their decade(ish) long career, one this track venturing into the world of funk and hip hop.

9. The Mollusk by Ween (1997)- Put it simply, this is one of the strangest songs of all time. It needs to be heard to be understood. It also just happens to be incredibly catchy.

10. A Day in the Life by The Beatles (1967)- It is cliché to sing the praises for The Beatles; however, the simple matter of the fact is that they are good. For me personally, I think that A Day in the Life is the groups best track.

You can find this week’s playlist here- https://open.spotify.com/playlist/35pB4kzUfghc5hce9HR9Yd?si=hXoeVoSySGObiQL-cDVpEw

Quick reviews:

Maniac by Halsey- 4.6/10: 

A few commendable moments aside, Manic just feels generic. Most of the positives I derive from this record are from within the production, which is varied and more often than not, well done. However, like her previous two records, this LPs downfall is Halsey herself, namely the fact she simply isn’t that good of a songwriter/lyricist, dragging this album down a lot with some seriously cringe moments. 

Best track- Finally // beautiful stranger

There Is No Year by Algiers- 5.8/10: 

Such a severe let down considering how brilliant The Underside of Power was. Though the fusion of gospel and punk that Algiers is famed for still works on this LP, the group play it far safer than usual, a strange move considering how well experimentalism has worked for them and the release of the highly abstract single Can the Sub Bass Speak. Some songs still shine through; however, There is No Year feels like an insignificant side note, a real shame considering how excellent this band can be. 

Best track: Void

Mind Hive by Wire- 6.2/10: 

Over a career that has spanned more than 40 years, Wire has been one of the most influential punk/alternative music groups of all time. However, at what is probably the back end of their lifespan, Mind Hive feels mediocre when compared to classics like Pink Flag and Chairs Missing. Clean and washed out production make for an atmospheric experience; however, some of the lyrics feel like an afterthought. A decent album from Wire, if a little on the forgettable side. 

Best track- Be Like Them

Feature Article: Dark is Deep- exploring the notion that darker music is deeper and better

I would personally consider my all-time favourite album (like many around the world) to be Pink Floyd’s 1973 classic The Dark Side of the Moon. A wonderfully crafted, conceptually brilliant and universally applicable record, the most resounding emotion I gage from the LP is that of deep and even debilitating melancholy. Other personal favourites of mine include Radiohead’s Ok Computer, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights. One play-through of all these records would affirm one thing: they are heavy going, thematically deep and resoundingly dark affairs. 

Which brings me to the central concern of this article, is dark, depressing music better? Are gloomy tracks and albums deeper and more emotionally impactful? Well in some ways… yes. For many of us, the songs and albums that engrain themselves in our minds are ones that emotionally move and provoke the listener. One of the easiest ways to convey such emotion I believe is through doom and gloom. As I stated, many of my personal favourites are dark affairs, this darkness helping to heighten the emotional resonance for me. Another album that I have a deep love for, Have a Nice Life’s Deathconciousnes, embodies this sentiment to the extreme. 

This attitude of “dark is deeper” has persisted throughout pop music for decades. Popular movements such as Goth in the 80s, Grunge in the 90s and Emo-rap in the 2010s have cashed in on this ideology, each movement also enjoying significant critical and commercial success. 

I am not going to argue against the fact that dark music is often deep and emotionally impactful, I simply believe the evidence is conclusive that it is a winning formula. But what about the other end of the spectrum? Can music that is far lighter and more positive in tone also convey deep emotions and meaning? 

The immediate assumption might be to say “no”. Besides, the Katrina and the Waves smash hit Walking on Sunshine isn’t necessarily known for its emotional impact. Bright, happy music is designed for the exact opposite of meaning and emotion. It’s designed to make us forget about the tricky stuff. If that is the case, then I want to draw your attention to something. 

Last year, Tyler, the Creator delivered was is debatable his best record yet, IGOR. Built around light and joyful production, the album is inherently bright. However, below the surface, what makes IGOR so excellent is the themes. With this album, Tyler deals in all the messy ideas associate with darker music. It is a record about falling love, heartbreak and loneliness (as well as other things). But this logic I believe that, despite the bright tone of IGOR, it is a significant record. 

And this is not some fluke. On this week’s playlist, The Clash’s The Magnificent Seven deals with racism, poverty and disadvantage, all wrapped in a funky hip-hop oriented beat. In the world of rock music, look no further than the discography of David Bowie, who utilised the bright and luscious sounds of glam rock to explore (for the time) ground-breaking issues of queer identity and the pitfalls of fame. 

So, while the use of darker music to convey ideas and themes that are considered “deep” is, by all means, effective and often yields excellent results, one should not underestimate the ability and the skill needed to convey such similar ideals in far brighter, celebratory and joyful music.

If you enjoyed this article feel free to leave a like and let me know your thoughts in the comments below or through my social media. Also, please feel free to follow my blog so that you stay updated!

9 thoughts on “The Music Roundup: Week 4

  1. Interesting take on Halsey, I do agree most of the positives are based around the production but I also felt that the occasionally clumsy writing felt more open and vulnerable rather than her previous albums which felt like the writing was trying too hard. Also as for effective upbeat music the artist that sprung to mind for me is Charli XCX who tends to have a good mix of more emotional music and upbeat and fun music

    Liked by 1 person

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