10 Songs on Repeat:
1. Ain’t It Funny by Danny Brown (2016)- This Detroit rapper spent the 2010s establishing himself as one of hip-hop’s most innovative, wild and engaging voices. Mixing stories of his own criminal past without (glorifying it) with bombastic, experimental beats, Ain’t It Funny exposes the pitfalls of fame for modern-day rappers, highlighting that often, a world of addiction on the streets is traded for a world of addiction in high-rise penthouses.
2. Asshet Akal by Mdou Moctar (2019)- Seattle based alternative radio station KEXP is an excellent avenue for the discovery of new music, with hundreds of live performances on the station’s YouTube channel. My most recent discovery from this station is Tuareg (an ethnic group from the Sahara Desert) singer-songwriter and guitar wizard Mdou Moctar. His guitar playing is out of this world, evoking Hendrix as well as including sounds from his own cultural context.
3. COVERED IN MONEY! by JPEGMAFIA (2020)- Peggy seems to be entering one of the greatest unbeaten runs in today’s hip-hop scene. The experimental provocateur delivers yet another wild, irony-soaked number with his latest single COVERED IN MONEY!
4. Tennessee by Arrested Development (1992)- In these tough times, I think we shouldn’t underestimate the power of celebratory music. A song about looking for joy and finding peace in tough times, this hidden gem 90s Southern rap but me in a supremely good mood.
5. Right Round the Clock by Sorry (2020)- This emerging British post-punk duo showed some great potential on their recent debut album 925. The standout on said LP is comfortably confident, wicked and refreshingly modern opener Right Round the Clock.
6. She’s There by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (2020)- Honestly, this Melbourne five-piece is probably my favourite Australian artist right now next to Tame Impala. At this stage, I will probably enjoy anything they will put out.
7. Romanticist/Dream Palette by Yves Tumor (2020)- I am kind of cheating with this one by morphing two songs into one, but it is one of those cases where they simply cannot exist in isolation from one another, with this double-track being an example of how excellent the pop experimentalists new LP is.
8. Hold On, I’m Comin’ by Sam and Dave (1966)- Another uplifting song for some challenging times, this 60s soul classic will get even the greatest of introverts moving.
9. Vroom Vroom by Charli XCX (2016)- Produced by noise-pop pioneer SOPHIE, this hilarious, busy yet still strangely catchy single was an early indication of the experimental, bass-heavy direction Charli would take later in her career, culminating in 2019’s excellent Charli.
10. The River by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (2015)- The opener to their 2015 jazz-infused record Quarters, The River is King Gizz fan favourite and solid proof of the seven-piece rock outfit’s diversity as a band.
Hear this week’s tracks here- https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7bX7i6SETedGlYsPLQ6uDp?si=Tit9oxC-RBq6ZGABOS3ZtQ
Calm by 5 Seconds of Summer- 4.3/10:
For those who have followed me for a bit, you may have figured out a particular dislike of mine: pop-rock. It is a personal bias I cannot seem to get over. No matter how hard I try to find something good about albums such as this, I still end up disliking it. The kind of adjectives I’d use to describe this album, such as uninspired, generic, bland, vapid and boring are about as overused as many of this LP’s tropes. There are a few to things that are semi-enjoyable about this album, such as the mostly ok vocal performances. However, 5 Seconds of Summer’s Calm is not a fun listen and will enter into the council of lifeless pop-rock albums (members including the likes of the Jonas Brothers and Imagine Dragons) with relative ease to ultimately have a few singles chart, sell-out a couple of stadiums and eventually be forgotten entirely.
Best track: Red Desert
925 by Sorry- 6.9/10:
For all this album’s dark, enthralling qualities, it just didn’t captivate me enough. Sorry’s debut album is a contemporary take on the tried and tested sights and sounds of British post-punk, combining the typically guitar and/or synth-driven genre with samples and other electronics. It’s a good listen, with the dark production, wicked lyrics and well sustained aesthetic giving plenty of reasons to compliment this record. However, by the second half of the album, things start to really drag, with a lot of the songs blending into one another, highlighting that not every moment here has a strong personality. It is a good album for sure, but some issues with the repetitive nature and recycled nature of a lot of the songs sadly prevents it from being much better than it is.
Best track: Right Round the Clock
Heaven to a Tortured Mind by Yves Tumor- 9.2/10:
Yves Tumor’s Safe in the Hands of Love was easily one of my favourite experimental records of the decade, combining a visceral mix of pop song-writing and wild noise. So how does Sean Bowie follow up such a well-loved record? Well, by presenting us with a far more subdued, yet still excellent and exciting, version of his sound. Heaven to a Tortured Mind is the definition of experimental pop. The songs have unconventional structures, incorporate sounds and textures out of the ordinary but never sacrifice their catchiness or appeal. I do slightly miss the more un tame nature of Bowie’s previous work, but the sense of refinement and focus of this record is not without credit, all culminating in a gorgeous, emotional and well-executed record that despite the avant-garde elements, is pop music deep at heart. It’s a statement from an artist quickly establishing themselves as one of the leading voices in modern experimental music, presenting this abstract journey in a way that puts forward a case as to why people shouldn’t fear stranger music.
Best track: Kerosene!
This Weeks Feature Article: The Impact of TikTok on the Music Industry and Hitmaking
Before 2019, New Zealand alternative pop singer-songwriter BENEE enjoyed a strong following in her native country, as well as a considerable reputation with the Australian Triple J audience. She had a minor hit on her hands with the funky Soaked and had achieved mild success with her debut EP Fire on Marzz. However, she was seemingly shot into overnight stardom by her song Glitter, charting for the first time outside her home country. So, what made this track such worthy hit material? One would want to conclude that it is because of the track’s excellent production and infectiously catchy chorus. However, I would probably put it down to the fact that the song was associated with a viral trend on emerging social media platform TikTok.
For those of you still a little behind, TikTok is a video sharing platform that is quickly becoming one of the most used social media services in the world, with over 800 million active users worldwide. The biggest users on the platform such as dancer Charli D’Amelio can attract over 40 million fans each, creating themselves a considerable fortune in the process. Like any social media platform, TikTok has trends and viral fads, the most common of which being dances to a particular song.
An almost inevitable echo from TikTok is in turn being felt in the music industry. TikTok has been responsible for the rise in popularity of a number of songs and artists. Other examples include Doja Cat’s Say So, which before its use in a viral dance on the platform was a deep-cut on the female artists recent LP or now rising trap-rap star Roddy Rich’s The Box, which managed to lock tried and tested chart-topper Justin Bieber out of the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100, despite the rapper having no previous hits to his name. Perhaps the most sensational example of TikTok creating a hit is that of Lil Nas X’s incomprehensibly popular country-meets-rap mega-hit Old Town Road, the platform helping to fire the (at the time) unsigned, totally independent artist into the highest levels of stardom.
From these examples, it is easy to see that the immensely popular social media platform has the power to make hits from seemingly nothing all thanks to the power of instant sharing and viral fads. However, is this method of hitmaking a revolutionary breakthrough? Is it totally going to change the face of the music industry forever? Well, in my opinion, not really.
Cast your mind back to 2012. Barack Obama has just been re-elected, the world unites to celebrate the widely successful London Olympics and Frank Ocean manages to totally re-invent pop music with his sensational Channel Orange (had to include one music recommendation). However, easily the most important thing to happen that year was the release of Korean rapper PSY’s Gangnam Style. The chorus, the music video, the dance, just about everything about this song, dominated popular culture for a few months. I draw on this example to highlight one thing, yes TikTok allows for songs to go viral and become hits, however, the chart-topping abilities of social media and video sharing is nothing new. Since the creation of even MySpace and its music sharing platform, artists have been able to use the power of the internet to create both intentional and accidental success. TikTok star Doja Star is also no stranger to this fact, using the viral success of her track Mooo! to launch her career into the mainstream. But what of the fact that the use of dance often helps to launch songs into the mainstream on TikTok? Again, nothing massively new. One mustn’t forget songs like the previously mentioned Gangnam Style, or Beyoncé’s Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) or even LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem creating a lot of their success off viral dances.
I guess the message I am trying to convey is this: TikTok is but another tool in the belt of viral hitmaking, not totally changing the landscape of this process but adding a new avenue in which this kind of success can be obtained for that lucky few. It has not at all evened out the chances of success for a song, with no real ‘greater’ exposure being offered to independent artists. Yes, BENEE and Lil Nas X are and where not major label acts that achieved fame through TikTok, but I am still waiting for a viral dance to be made to noise-pop project Cindy Lee’s Plastic Raincoat. I think the platform has certainly made the general public more aware of the features of viral chart-toppers; however, the only real impact I believe TikTok is having is via the songs it makes famous, serving to only enforce many of the practice already undertaken by the music industry regarding the power of virality. Like YouTube before it, TikTok has immense power in creating chart-topping hits through visual media and virality, though I simply believe it does not and cannot extend beyond that function.