Wow, over ten weeks now of writing music. And what a great ten weeks it has been for music in the new decade (with some real surprises coming this week). I would just like to thank everyone who has gone to effort to read my material, it means so much to me. Now, for the content you came for.
10 Songs on Repeat:
1. Ghost of Soulja Slim by Jay Electronica (2020)- It has been over a decade that many have waited for the New Orleans MC to drop his debut, and boy has it been worth the wait, packed with excellent abstract hip-hop tracks such as this.
2. Long by Porridge Radio (2020)- This hazy, dense punk-meets-indie track of the British group’s second album Every Bad is carried by the lyrics and vocal performance of charismatic and engaging front-woman Dana Margolin.
3. Kerosene! by Yves Tumor (2020)- The second single from the experimentalists forthcoming album is a glam-rock meets ambient meets soul masterpiece, held together by some towering guitar work and moody synths.
4. Insane in the Brain by Cypress Hill (1993)- This head-bopping number from the California based rap group is a bonified hip-hop classic.
5. Cosmic Dancer by T.Rex (1971)- A beautifully moody, childlike wonder sweeps you when hearing this delicate glam-rock track, a true masterpiece gifted to us by an artist whose life was cut tragically short.
6. See Emily Play by Pink Floyd (1967)- Before Pink Floyd were the stadium-filling, progressive rock icons they are known for being, they were one of the most innovative voices in underground psychedelic music of the 1960s, led by the mad mind of the late Syd Barret, with See Emily Play probably being the group’s most iconic track from this era.
7. In Sharky Water by Disco Inferno (1994)- The opener of Disco Inferno’s 1994 cult-hit, D.I. Go Pop, this track utilises samples and guitars to equal impact, creating one of post-rock’s most unique sounds in the process.
8. Hacker by Death Grips (2012)- Named by YouTube critic Anthony Fantano as the best song of the decade, Hacker is undoubtedly the noise rap trio’s best track and a good encapsulation of their innovative, harsh, punk oriented take on rap music.
9. NO HALO by BROCKHAMPTON (2019)- This self-proclaimed hip-hop boy-band has proven time and time again of their ability to construct deeply emotional alternative rap ballads, this track is one of these moments.
10. Vertigo by Deafheaven (2013)- This band’s unique and genius blend of oppressive black metal and dense shoegaze is put on a full 14-minute long display on Vertigo, and exhilarating track filled with emotional peaks, passionate yet harsh vocals and a beautiful wall of glorious noise.
You can find this week’s tracks here- https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4MUzPhcuD6gxXtjpoTM5Yt?si=y7BI3OpdSBCRs2SVHaHNQQ.
Every Bad by Porridge Radio- 9.5/10:
This album has no right being as good as it is. Brighton based rock band Porridge Radio have really crafted something special with their sophomore record Every Bad. It’s lush yet aggressive and angry, combining the worlds of soft, melodic indie rock with biting and angsty post-punk, the foggy, gothic production really getting the best out of the band. However, what carries this album the most is the song-writing and performances of front-woman Dana Margolin. Lyrically, she draws on feelings of existential contemplation and shameful lust, painting an image of an unsteady, fractured and confused individual. Her vocals also shine, filling the album with impassioned and frustrated yells and an almost Nick Cave-like drawl. All this really does paint Margolin as one of Britain’s next great indie songwriters, continuing the grand tradition of the country. All that being said, Every Bad is a sensationally enthralling, dark record that I could listen to over and over again.
Best track- Sweet
A Written Testimony by Jay Electronica- 9.7/10:
After years of hype, teasing and anticipation, 43-year-old rapper Jay Electronica finally drops his debut album. Alongside Jay-Z, the New Orleans based rapper-producer not only manages to live up to the hype associated with his name but in many ways surpass it with A Written Testimony. From the political/religious undertones of many of the tracks to the brilliant production to the excellent guest features, Jay’s debut feels like a truly major release in modern hip-hop. Combining the gangsta/hardcore of Jay-Z with the abstract undertones of underground rappers like Mavi and MIKE, A Written Testimony lives up to the weight of expectation in every possible way while also smashing expectations and establishing Jay Electronica as one of the true leading voices in modern rap music. An undeniable, certified masterpiece, the first of the decade.
Best track- Ghost of Soulja Slim
Heartbreak Weather by Niall Horan- 3.1/10:
Whilst Niall is easily one of the more charming personalities to emerge post-One Direction, the simple, unavoidable fact is that he has no real merit as a solo artist. Simply put, Heartbreak Weather is as dull as ditchwater. While it doesn’t reach the same levels of awful as former band members Zayn and Liam Payne have proven to be capable of, Horan doesn’t show himself to have any real songwriting talent either. Lyrically, the songs are cliché and unimaginative. In terms of production, Niall’s LP sounds like a new One Direction release without the other four members. I didn’t have many expectations going into this album, however after the magic Harry pulled with Fine Line, I did have the slightest hope; however, it was obviously not well-founded.
Best track- New Angel
This Weeks Feature- My Take on the Triple J Hottest 100 of the Decade Top 10:
Here in Australia, a yearly event for most young music listeners is the annual Hottest 100. Hosted by iconic radio station Triple J, the Hottest 100 sees listeners vote for their favourite tracks of the year, with the final rankings being played over one day. Last week, Triple J applied this format to countdown the 100 best tracks of the decade. Here, I would like to give my opinions on the songs that reached the top 10.
10- Brother by Matt Corby (2011):
A common theme with Triple J countdowns is the presence of Australian artists, especially towards the top end of the list. Matt Corby has been a popular singer-songwriter on the station over the past 10 years. Personally, I am not a fan of the artists take on indie-folk, finding it to be a little generic, however, my opinion doesn’t seem to be a popular one.
9- Big Jet Plane by Angus and Julia Stone (2010):
I was surprised to hear this track in the countdown. Not that I think it is a bad song (quite the opposite actually), but it just feels like it has been around forever. Nevertheless, it came out in 2010, and with this fact in mind, this Triple J soft rock classic unsurprisingly takes its place in the top 10.
8- Never Be Like You by Flume and Kai (2016):
The song I tipped for the pole position; I was honestly shocked to see it not take out the top spot. Though its place in the top 10 shouldn’t come as a surprise to most as Flume is probably the artist promoted and championed by Triple J the most this decade, with entries into the Hottest 100 every year he has been eligible. In terms of the track, I do believe that Flume has far better tracks in his discography; however, this was easily the most significant song he released this decade.
7- Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People (2011):
This deceivingly dark track by American indie-pop band Foster the People is one of those songs that simply stuck around the entire decade. Is it because of its invasively catchy song-writing? Is it the lyrical tale of a young man dreaming about carrying out a mass shooting? Or is it the instantly recognisable, sing-along chorus? No matter what it is, the presence of Pumped Up Kicks in the top 10 shouldn’t come as a surprise.
6- Magnolia by Gang of Youths (2014):
Gang of Youths are one of the best new bands to emerge out of Australia this decade. Their 2017 record Go Farther in Lightness is one of the best rock records of the decade, but it is their break-through, 2014 single that Triple J listeners decided was their best. Do I think this song is good? Of course. Do I believe it is the band’s best? Not when What Can I Do When the Fire Goes Out? exists.
5- Innerbloom by RUFUS DU SOL (2016):
Considering this track didn’t even make the Hottest 100 of 2016, Innerbloom is easily the biggest surprise to come out of the decade countdown. Standing at nine-and-a-half minutes long, this synth-dance number is pretty damn good, adding layer upon layer as it unfolds. It seems that it grew on Triple J listeners over the last four years.
4- Covered in Chrome by Violent Soho (2013):
Easily the most Triple J pick on the entire list, Violent Soho, unlike many of the other Australian artists on this list, have practically no audience outside Australia. But in Australia, specifically the Triple J-centred indie scene, Violent Soho are Gods walking, with their 90s punk-meets-grunge sound displayed on this foul-mouthed track banger to an effective degree.
3- Do I Wanna Know? by Arctic Monkeys (2013):
This is easily one of the best songs of the decade, there are no two ways about it. While this song is often at the receiving end of “I am so indie, and you probably haven’t heard of this song” jokes, it is the Brit’s best ever song and a personal favourite of mine (in fact I voted for it). It is one of the quindecinnial indie rock tunes of the decade, hence why Triple J listeners have voted for it in bounds.
2- Somebody I Used to Know by Gotye (2012):
This was one of the strangest hits of the decade. Not only is it’s very alternative sound not what you would expect to hear on mainstream radio, but the artist at the centre of it, Australian Wouter De Backer, hasn’t released any music since. This one-hit-wonder, in my very humble opinion, is a great song. From the production to the songwriting to the towering vocals, I think there is plenty to love. Its place in the top three is also not surprising because, despite the cosmic size of this track, it was made by an artist who was discovered through the Australian radio-station.
1- The Less I Know the Better by Tame Impala (2015):
This track is not a massive hit. Though it is the most popular song released by Kevin Parker’s project, other songs in this top ten (like the two before it) are far bigger. It is a great song, though many passionate Tame Impala fans (such as me) would argue tracks like Let it Happen, Elephant and Apocalypse Dreams to be his best. So why is it an incredibly obvious number one pick? Simple. Triple J is the gathering spot for all the young indie heads in Australia, and there is no more prominent Australian indie artist than Tame Impala, and there is no more instantly recognisable Tame Impala than the bass-driven, psychedelic The Less I Know the Better.
If you want to see what I voted for (I was cheeky and voted twice), check out this playlist- https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5Jti3D0nwJhApMhxHnIMvx?si=PWpeUYYHRdq45yxXfX1Z-Q.
Read more of this series here – https://thelevinelowdown.com/the-weekly-music-roundup/