10 Songs on Repeat:
1. People II: The Reckoning by AJJ (2007)- Folk-punk band AJJ’s sheer negativity and nihilism is even a little hard for me to stomach to sometimes. Songs that are so drenched in negativity, they often strike a little too deep. But other times (like on this track here), their lyrical misery offers some genuinely excellent dark comedy topped with jittery, barely held together instrumentals.
2. Nothin’ 2 Say (Never Forget) by Mike (2020)- The latest single from one of underground hip-hop’s most exciting voices, this track moves into a more conventional direction than the rapper’s 2019 release, yet still offering a hazy, hypnotic experience.
3. The Birthday Party by The 1975 (2020)- Off the British band’s wildly massive and messy Notes on a Conditional Form, The Birthday Party sees the band take a country-tinged brit-pop direction, the slow-burning and nicely detailed instrumental giving Healy the opportunity to deliver a brilliantly self-aware set of lyrics.
4. Mathematics by Mos Def (1998)- It depresses me that the issues alternative rap icon Mos Def were touching on in 1998 still seem to be unresolved today. Mathematics is an unflinching account of the real numbers that still seemingly fuel American inequality today.
5. World Up My Ass by The Circle Jerks (1980)- Yes, that is really the name of the song. Continuing in the same vein of my punk rock theme of last year, it is an unapologetically offensive, short burst of energy that will have you singing along to the wonderfully crass chorus.
6. Never Stops by Deerhunter (2008)- This Bradford Cox led indie rock band are becoming my latest obsession in social isolation. And why wouldn’t they be? Never Stops sees the band engage in their signature blend of indie rock, psychedelia and shoegaze, creating a woozy and hugely catchy banger.
7. Cut Me by Moses Sumney (2020)- This American singer-songwriter’s smooth brand of jazz and ambient inflected neo-soul is the perfect soundtrack the constant volatility of Planet Earth in the year 2020. Cut Me is alluring and addictive escapism, simple as that.
8. 1985 by Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist (2020)- This team-up between said Indiana rapper and prolific producer is simply a great piece of abstract meets hardcore hip-hop mashup, something that seems to be Gibbs’s speciality these days.
9. CUTIE PIE! by JPEGMAFIA (2020)- Yes, your eyes are not fooling you, this is the sixth entry from the experimental hip-hop artist. Peggy seems to be utterly unstoppable these days, his newest triumph being a far more conventional and even subtle take on his wild experimental sound, as it goes just as hard as before.
10. If I Let Him In by Black Wing (2015)- Dan Barret is easily one of the best underground singer-songwriters of the last decade. Known best for being one-half of experimental rock icons Have A Nice Life, Barret has several equally excellent side-projects, including 2015’s…Is Doomed under the Black Wing name, an album filled with synth and electronic-driven songs that still maintain the gloomy, all-encompassing noise that is now a Barret signature.
You can listen to this week’s tracks here- https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1VXLejt4OBQbRkUYV8RohJ?si=B5GnzBIHQ2eyUtd-TpRAUQ.
Notes on a Conditional Form by The 1975- 6.7/10:
This is either the greatest bad album ever made, or the worst great album ever made. Either which way, The 1975’s Notes on a Conditional Form is an album that is as polarising as it is baffling. To get the obvious observation that will be many people’s first about this album, it is indeed about as messy as an LP gets. At 22 songs, 80 minutes and countless genres that range from post-hardcore to alternative country, this album’s style hopping is nauseating, to say the least, and is the one thing really preventing it from being as good as 2018’s A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships. Needless to say, this album’s highlights are seriously some of the best work the band has ever done. It’s almost as if Healy and co decided to create a “make your own LP”, allowing for listeners to pick out their favourite bits, cut the fat and just listen to their own 10-12 track version of this record. If that was The 1975’s intention, then this album is pure genius, but I don’t think it was, leaving the end result sadly held significantly back by the weak moments of this record. I will defiantly say that prolific front-man Matt Healy is probably the most consistent element of the album, his humorously dark and disarmingly honest lyrics shine on the songs they show up on. At the end of the day, Notes on a Conditional Form is probably the most ‘The 1975’ album the British band has released yet, flexing their tendencies for pop-rock maximalism harder than ever before, resulting in an album that is too long, totally devoid of cohesion yet still engaging from back to front.
Best track: People
Dissimulation by KSI- 3.0/10:
It’s always an alarming sign when the guests are the best thing about an album, and that is certainly the case with the debut album of prominent YouTube superstar KSI. Dissimulation is a record that follows in the grand tradition of most rap records created by YouTubers in being pretty terrible. Lyrically, KSI shows himself to be ridiculously lacking in versatility, rapping mostly about all the money he has earned and all the sex he has. When he finally demonstrates that there is indeed some emotion within him, it comes off as awkward and uncomfortable. None of this is helped by the fact that the YouTuber’s delivery is bland and lacking any sort of charisma, making him sound bored for most of the record. Some minor highlights come from the average but aggressively generic production and some okay guest features. Other than that, Dissimulation has no real reason to exist other than to help stroke the already astronomical ego of the already wildly successful KSI.
Best track: Houdini
græ by Moses Sumney- 8.7/10:
Releasing large chunks of an upcoming LP seems to a trend of 2020. With the three-part Hayley Williams project, the plethora of singles released by The 1975 in the lead up to NOACF and now the upcoming Disclosure LP, it’s an interesting way of releasing music and one that I still not entirely convinced of myself. The latest edition in my listening journey to fit this criterion is græ by Moses Sumney. To get my biggest hold back for this LP out of the way, I was not the biggest fan of the two-part structure, with part 1 for me proving the far superior collection of songs. However, the fact that the 8-track part two still stands above most music released these days is testament to the fact that græ is a wonderful album. The main drawcard for me is the diverse, sultry and jazzy instrumentals that display quite the impressive level of diversity, creating a genuinely alluring atmosphere. This is complemented by Sumney’s delicate yet powerful vocal performance and his poetically lyrical depictions of love, identity and humanity in general. I am writing this review during the Minneapolis riots, and even though I am very removed from what is going on, I am still filled with anger and confusion as to why such a meaningless death is still able to occur. What I am basically trying to say is that this album has given me a comforting sense of serenity in a time of extreme confusion and anxiety, and for that, I would like to thank Sumney.
Best track: Cut Me
This week’s feature article- Top 25 Albums of the Year so far
It’s now halfway through the distressingly wild ride that has been 2020, so I think it is about time we had a look at my 25 favourite albums of the year so far.
25. High Risk Behaviour by The Chats (7.2/10)- Dumb fun through and through, sometimes lacks a bit of substance, but who doesn’t love some good old punk rock?
24. Petals for Armor by Hayley Williams (7.3/10)- A sprawling, well-produced and personal of one person’s sense of womanhood.
23. Bonny Light Horsemen by Bonny Light Horsemen (7.4/10)- Well put together if not too innovating folk covers from an American supergroup.
22. Making a Door Less Open by Car Seat Headrest (7.5/10)- A brave step into electronics from one of indie rock’s biggest names.
21. Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa (7.6/10)- A simple, fist-pumping good time of a commercial pop album
20. Have We Met by Destroyer (7.7/10)- The veteran Canadian singer-songwriter does what he knows best, great some pretty good songs.
19. Man Alive! by King Krule (7.8/10)- The Ooz 2.0, which is by no means a bad thing.
18. NEGRO by Pink Siifu (8.2/10)- A frightening, harsh and disturbing depiction of anger and anguish in modern America
17. SAWAYAMA by Rina Sawayama (8.2/10)- A confident, intelligent and eclectic pop record from one of the genre’s best new voices.
16. I Disagree by Poppy (8.3/10)- Madonna’s voice meets alternative metal instrumentals, but it strangely works.
15. Empty Country by Empty Country (8.4/10)- A classic, stock-standard, emotional yet excellent put together indie rock
14. The Slow Rush by Tame Impala (8.5/10)- This is probably Tame Impala’s weakest album to date, which means it is terrific.
13. Skin by Rav, Kill Bill and Scuare (8.6/10)- Carefree, charming abstract hip-hop designed for fans of Tyler, the Creator and BROCKHAMPTON alike.
12. Circles by Mac Miller (8.7/10)- A respectful, tear-jerking farewell to Mac Miller created the way he would have wanted it.
11. græ by Moses Sumney (8.7/10)- A blissfully jazzy slice of musical heaven complete with gorgeous production, delicate vocals and poetic lyrics.
10. After Hours by The Weeknd (8.8/10)- The pop-superstar delves headfirst into the sound of the 80s with exciting results.
9. how i’m feeling now by Charli XCX (8.9/10)- An intimate yet larger than life experimental-pop diary of life in social isolation.
8. What’s Tonight to Eternity by Cindy Lee (9.0/10)- A haunting, uncomfortably nostalgic set of songs played at the end of a tunnel on a foggy night.
7. A Written Testimony by Jay Electronica (9.1/10)- Some of the questionable lyrical content aside, the MC delivers on the promises of his long-awaited debut.
6. Heaven to a Tortured Mind by Yves Tumor (9.2/10)– A accessible and genius introduction to experimental for anyone looking to the genre.
5. West of Eden by HMLTD (9.3/10)- A document of the fall of Western civilisation painted on a canvas of ambitious art-punk. Oh, did I mention this is also a debut?
4. Descendants of Cain by KA (9.4/10)- A veteran of underground hip-hop returns with one of his most unflinching albums yet.
3. Every Bad by Porridge Radio (9.5/10)- A great combination of post-punk and indie rock, led fearlessly by one of rock music’s best female voices today.
2. Set Fire to My Heart Immediately by Perfume Genius (9.6/10)- A vulnerable yet confident portray one love, loss, sexuality and life in general.
1. Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple (9.9/10)- Unadulterated genius, both instrumentally and lyrically. Plain and simple.