10 Songs on Repeat:
1. What’s Your Pleasure? by Jessie Ware (2020)- This British popstar’s latest LP is a beautiful odyssey to the world of disco in the 21st Century. The standout for me is the LP’s sultry, catchy and groovy lead single, complete with an excellent yet subtle vocal performance and insane replay value.
2. toothless by 100 gecs (2020)- Though the madcap pop experimentalists latest outing is a disappointing remix album, this original song tagged on end is a reminder of just how good the duo can get. Written about the music festival they held on a Minecraft server (as if they couldn’t get any stranger), toothless is a short, efficient and impossibly unhinged dance-pop banger that is about as 100 gecs as 100 gecs can get.
3. No, No by MIKE (2020)- Underground abstract hip-hop artist MIKE has been making some waves the last two years with his material. His latest album, Weight of the World, may not be as good as his previous LP, however, short yet multifaceted and dreamy tracks such as No, No still make it a worthwhile experience.
4. Half Sister by Protomartyr (2017)- To state what might be obvious to some, I love post-punk music, particularly the genre’s recent lifespan in the 2010s. One of the bands that led this revival and still does (as they have released a new album) is Detroit’s Protomartyr. Half Sister remains my favourite of this band’s work, with the combination of larger-than-life instrumentals and poetic lyrics (and who can forget the songs gloriously noisy climax) making for a unique listening experience few bands can offer.
5. A Hymn by IDLES (2020)- A song that harks back to the likes of Bloc Party and Interpol, A Hymn sees the British punk rockers trade their usual hard-hitting riffs and political undertones for something slower, more personal yet still profoundly impactful. A Hymn is a song seemingly about personal shame and guilt, built on a growing tension that never entirely releases.
6. Black Swan by Thom Yorke (2006)- The third week in a short while that we will be hearing the voice and lyrics of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Black Swan is a jittery, electronica infused rock number that is infused with the typical Thom Yorke doom and gloom.
7. Apt. A (1) by cLOUDDEAD (2001)- Ambient hip-hop might seem like a genre so far-fetched and artistically snobbish that it simply couldn’t work and might even look like a joke genre to some. One group of people who certainly didn’t believe this was cLOUDDEAD who have been just about the only group to dare combine these two vastly different genres. And if the dreamy atmospheres, whimsical lyrics and quirky rapping of Apt. A (1) (as well as the rest of their self-titled debut) is anything to go off, they pulled of ambient hip-hop expertly.
8. Egyptian Luvr by Rejjie Snow (2018)- This Northern Ireland based rapper’s most famous single is a perfectly chill, dreamy and catchy bop for those who consider themselves fans of more prominent artists such as BROCKHAMPTON and Tyler, the Creator.
9. This Is Hardcore by Pulp (1998)- The disappointment that is the latest record associated with Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker inspired me to revisit the work of his original band, Brit-pop legends Pulp. The song I found myself most engaged with was their 1998 single This Is Hardcore. Undeniably disturbing on a lyrical level (revolving around the mind of a young man who’s perceptions of sex has been warped by pornography), the climactic, dramatic instrumental brings this track to a whole new level.
10. My Sputnik Sweetheart by Weatherday (2019)- I will warn you, this song is not for everyone. But for those who have a high tolerance for long songs, lo-fi music and emo, this track from the Swedish musician’s online cult-classic Come In is the emotional roller-coaster you might be looking for.
If you want to hear this week’s tracks, click this link- https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6Wxlrequqi7JNURWAb9gLZ?si=I-wqdgQUSm-S1KsJWtVh-g.
Another big week of reviews for you guys, just been so much music to get through lately.
Weight of the World by MIKE- 7.7/10:
With Weight of the World, sLUms movement leader MIKE doesn’t extend himself much beyond last year’s excellent tears of joy, which still means that this LP is a hazy, dreamy and engaging piece of abstract/experimental hip-hop. A common misconception about MIKE (and one I will admit believing) is that he is an Earl Sweatshirt clone. And while the similarities are undeniable, MIKE has been pushing his style since 2015, well before the release of Earl’s Some Rap Songs. And over the last five years, this New York based rapper has been building upon his dreamy sound, culminating in last year’s already mentioned tears of joy. With all this history in mind, Weight of the World is not a massive step in a new direction for the MC, sticking with what he knows best. And while this familiarity didn’t impress me the second time around, it still managed to deliver what is an emotional and lovingly crafted record, MIKE’s confessional and highly personal lyrics effortlessly gliding over his dreamy production, with plenty of highlights throughout. All in all, it would’ve been nice to see MIKE push his well-established sound in a slightly new direction, but you won’t hear me complaining too much more about this genuinely impressive album.
Best track: Weight of the World
Beyond the Pale by JARV IS…- 4.2/10:
Let me qualify this review by saying that I think Pulp was easily the next best Brit-pop band after Blur. Their arty, more obtuse take on the genre was made so excellent primarily by the charming presence of frontman Jarvis Cocker, who’s tales of middle to working-class woes were so effortless and engaging it was almost unfair on other lyricists in the genre. So, how is Cocker fairing in the 21st century and nearly three decades after his initial rise to popularity? The answer… not very well. You see, if this album was just the instrumentals alone, it would’ve been ok. Even if most of them are just slight variations of Pulp’s two best songs (Common People and This is Hardcore), they are still well crafted and are most of the time reasonably passable. But unfortunately for this LP, it is almost totally ruined by the absolute lyrical drivel that is Cocker’s songwriting. It appears that the one great writer has officially entered the washed-up 90s British rock-star club (with the only real ex-Brit-pop frontman avoiding this fate seemingly being Damon Albarn). Cocker has nothing worthwhile to say as JARV IS…, re-hashing weary lines about how technology is band and we’re going downhill as a species (and some incredibly creepy sex songs), sounding like the out-of-touch rock-star he was obviously trying to avoid. Beyond the Pale isn’t really a worthwhile album by any means and another unfortunate example of a once brilliant song-writer losing touch.
Best track: Sometimes I am Pharoah
Ugly is Beautiful by Oliver Tree- 6.5/10:
One has to feel sorry for Oliver Tree. Claiming to have had this album finished for several years, it was the hand of his record label that led to its bloated, drawn-out rollout. But all things said, no matter how frustrating a rollout may turn out to be, we can only judge an album based on how it actually plays out when we hear it. And for all the genuine frustration, Oliver Tree’s debut album is of a decent quality albeit flawed as well. The standout tracks are easily the good and at times excellent singles (which are very numerable on this record), establishing his deeply 90s inspired brand of pop-rock. I also enjoy Oliver Tree’s vocals, sounding how I imagine Thom Yorke might if Radiohead was an emo band. But the biggest flaw with this album comes with a straightforward fact: once you hear the singles, there isn’t much point delving too deep into the rest of album. I will qualify this by saying I disliked none of the songs on this record; however, the same repetitive formula used by Oliver in his song-writing leads to the deep cuts on this record sounding all too familiar. I also wasn’t blown away by the more hip-hop oriented tracks, with Tree just coming off as an imitation of twenty-one pilots. If this album was released the way the artist wanted it and free of label interference, would it have been better? Who is to say? But what I can tell you is that Oliver Tree, with all his eccentric quirks and memeable public persona, is a solid songwriter to boot, with Ugly is Beautiful having enough great moments to demonstrate this fact.
Best track: Cash Machine
What’s Your Pleasure? by Jessie Ware- 8.6/10:
Sensual, escapist, catchy and endlessly danceable, Jessie Ware’s latest effort What’s Your Pleasure? is disco-revivalism at its finest. I often find that disco as a genre is written off as simple mindless dance music with no real substance about it. To that, I say that any genre can have records within it that are mindless and lack substance and that boring/bad music is not exclusive to any one style. So, for all the disco nay-sayers out there, I present you with this LP. From the word go, Jessie Ware throws the listener into a sultry, neon-lit world of celebration and joy, her smooth vocal delivery only adding to this further. The real standout feature for me, however, is the hypnotic production and instrumentals, really creating that night-club atmosphere I feel Ware was going for. I would also like to point out how Ware, while paying tribute to her disco fore-bearers, never fails to sound contemporary on this album, marrying traditional sounds with modern elements of both pop and house music. What’s Your Pleasure? really is a joyous album to behold and thanks to the excellent replay value of most of the songs, I can definitely see myself revisiting this often in the near future.
Best track: What’s Your Pleasure?
1000 gecs and the Tree of Clues by 100 gecs- 5.9/10:
I often found myself breaking into laughter listening to this, both out of confusion and amusement. At 19 tracks and 51 minutes, 1000 gecs and the Tree of Clues is both exhilarating and thoroughly disappointing. Firstly, let’s get the negatives out of the way. I was not totally won over by last year’s 1000 gecs, with the duo offering an album that in my eyes was well-crafted dumb fun that was a tad too messy to be thoroughly engaging. Nevertheless, 100 gecs exploded in popularity, and I found myself hoping for a more focused follow up that learnt from the mistakes of their debut. Unfortunately, I instead got a bloated remix album that rehashes (albeit newly worked) the same songs multiple times. It suffers all the same flaws of its original predecessor, with the manic genre-hopping in my opinion not helped by the massive guest list, with Laura and Dylan losing their voice in a sea of collaborators. However, when this remix album finds its stride, it does produce some solid moments, with some of the re-works being even better than the originals and one of the two original tracks thrown in on the end being some of the best work the group has done yet. I still hold out in the hope that 100 gecs can follow through with a body of totally original work and finally build upon the massive potential they showed on their debut, but for now, I’ll just have to cherry-pick the good moments scattered throughout 1000 gecs and the Tree of Clues.
Best track: toothless
This Weeks Feature- Genre Labels, and What They Mean:
We, humans, love to categorise things, and that doesn’t end with music. In fact, I believe the multitude of genre labels that are given to artists, songs and albums is one of the best examples of our categorical obsession. At the end of the day; however, a genre label can only go so far in explaining a particular sound, and only really have meaning because a room full of music journalists decided on the name. However, they help explain what one might expect when listening to something, so I think it is helpful to understand what some mean.
Indie- Indie is one of the most common labels used to describe an artist’s sound and aesthetic. It also just happens to be one of the broadest. Though two artists like Mac Demarco and TV on the Radio might both be considered ‘indie’, those who know what either artist sounds like wouldn’t likely draw many similarities between the two. Instead, ‘indie’ is a broad label given to several rock and pop artists whose more DIY attitude to making music sees them acting more independently to artists who might be on a major label.
Alternative- Another broad label, I find alternative a little easier to explain than indie. For me, alternative music is anything (popular or not) that doesn’t quite follow mainstream convention or exist and function just outside the mainstream. Also being alternative does not mean a group cannot be popular, with most of the world’s biggest rock bands right now (e.g. Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, etc.) being labelled as alternative.
Psychedelic- Psychedelic music is simply anything that sounds almost ‘other-worldly’, often being dreamy, dense and convoluted. A broad label, psychedelic music can be found all corners of the music world, from rock to hip-hop.
Post- ‘Post’ is a vast, sweeping label that is applied to many different genres, such as post-rock and post-punk. The term is applied to music that has its influences, aesthetics and origins in a notable genre (such as rock), however, aims to push the conventions of the genre further than their inspirations.
Garage- What I see as the meeting ground between punk and psychedelic, garage music is often scrappy and noisy, earning its name due to the fact many garage bands sound like they record their music in a (you guessed it) … garage.
Noise- Simply anything that makes the base genre they are operating in (pop, rock, punk) very noisy and chaotic.
Revival- Genres such as new-wave revival is labelled when artists take a pre-established (and often declined) genre and simply aim to recreate the sound as faithfully as possible to the original.
Art- Art music (whether it be pop, rock or punk) operates in the ground between accessible and experimental, pushing a genre’s sounds and aesthetics to the edge, but never so much that it is isolating and unconventional.
Progressive- Something that is hard to explain for me. Often, progressive is a label given to artists who attempt to incorporate more technical elements into their music. A little more sophisticated than ‘art’, but still not quite as strange as ‘experimental’.
Experimental- Pretty self-explanatory, simply put experimental music is anything that aims to do something unconventional, unique or boundary-pushing, not caring for convention or popularity.
Nu- This label is known best through nu-metal. Nu often just means a slightly ‘new’ element is introduced into a broader, pre-established genre (nu-metal incorporated rap, nu-jazz incorporates electronics).
Industrial- Industrial music is anything that works to include harsh, quasi-danceable electronics into its music.