10 Songs on Repeat:
1. ’96 Neve Campbell by clipping: with Cam and China (2020)- Is this hip-hop trio capable of making a bad song? I think not. On this latest, menacing track, Daveed takes a backseat to the two women on the track.
2. Pump It Up by Elvis Costello and The Attractions (1978)- Cheeky, danceable and incredibly catchy, Pump It Up is an essential track in the early days of New Wave pop.
3. Folsom Prison Blues (Live) by Johnny Cash (1968)- Often considered the best live album of all time, Cash’s concert for the inmates of Folsom prison in 1968 is electric outlaw-country at its best, with memorable songs like this here title track highlighting why Cash is a country icon.
4. Reigns by IDLES (2020)- The British punk rocker’s long-awaited third LP is finally here, and whilst I don’t think it quite measures to the first two by the band, thunderously loud and blood-boilingly political tracks such as Reigns ensures it is a worthwhile listen.
5. Unshaken by D’Angelo (2019)- Recorded for the Red Dead Redemption 2 soundtrack (in which it is beautifully utilised), Unshaken is a beautiful stand-alone song as well. A lush, neo-soul instrumental accompanies D’Angelo’s legendary voice, along with sharp and heart-felt lyrics about standing strong in the face of adversity.
6. Hey Moon by John Maus (2011)- Hypnagogic pop is a genre that explicitly attempts to evoke the past through a sense of musical nostalgia, often taking traditional genres and feeding them through a layer of psychedelia. John Maus is considered one of the artists to be at the forefront of the genre, and the quietly romantic love song Hey Moon is one of his best.
7. Distant Past by Everything Everything (2015)- Loud, multifaceted and injected with a sense of freedom rarely afforded in pop music, Distant Past is an addictive and iconic art-pop song of the 2010s.
8. D.A.N.C.E by Justice (2007)- Often marked as Daft Punk clones, I believe that French house duo’s debut is better than a lot of what their acclaimed contemporaries have done over the years. D.A.N.C.E demonstrates the groups focus on minimalistic soundscapes and funk, making it one of my favourite dance tracks of all time.
9. You Lost Me There by George Clanton (2018)- The second hypnagogic pop act on this list, Clanton focuses heavily on invoking 90s nostalgia through his marriage of synth-pop sensibilities and shoegaze heaviness. You Lost Me There is one of his best, with the soaring track making even me nostalgic for another time, I wasn’t even alive in the 90s.
10. Sugar by Sufjan Stevens (2020)- This beloved indie singer-songwriter has finally returned with his new record, the electronic-driven The Ascension. Though it may be, lush, immaculately produced tracks like Sugar make it a beautiful listen, nevertheless.
You can find a playlist to these songs here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0o5fpkKyEwjuLaz6S26d7d?si=2FNE_JJFSD2bd7rAw-4Xig.
Having just come out of a massive week for music, I am going to leave out the feature article and, in its place, I will cover the releases I have listened to in the last little while.
Nectar by Joji- 6.1/10:
The best way I can describe Nectar is that it is an excellent album disguised as a mediocre one. Despite some of the genuinely amazing cuts throughout this record, Joji is still held back by a significant amount of filler and forgettable moments. For starters, I want to compliment Joji on his seamless transition from YouTube comedian to certified pop-star who is obviously making a name for himself in the industry (if a guest list as diverse as Lil Yatchy, BENEE and Yves Tumor is any indication). And when this album shines, such as the one-two-three punch of Gimme Love, Run and Sanctuary, Joji sounds amazing, his sleepy vocals gliding effortlessly over the alternative RNB production. Unfortunately, for every gem on this album, there is a forgettable track as well. Being 18 tracks long simply doesn’t serve Nectar well, with the level of filler being a massive disappointment for me. If this album was cut down to the great singles and some of the stronger deep cuts, then maybe it would’ve been something special, but for now, I will take what I can get.
Best track: Run
Ultra Mono by IDLES- 8.5/10:
A perfectly imperfect album. Who would’ve thought that British punk rockers IDLES would become one of the biggest rock bands in the world? Having only just released their debut three years ago, IDLES now command a dedicated, diverse fanbase around the world and especially in their country of origin. They have also seemingly become one of the most controversial bands on the UK, with many drawing issues with their middle -class background and ‘in-your-face’ style of delivery both lyrically and vocally on the part of front-man Joe Talbot. So, with all this hype and controversy surrounding them, they put out Ultra Mono, likely their most musically accessible album yet. So how does it measure up? Well, I’ll start off by saying it is the group’s weakest release yet (which means it is still very, very good). Where Ultra Mono falters the most is in Talbot’s lyrics, which despite some great moments, is missing that sarcastic and cutting edge of their previous record, reverting to repeating himself several times throughout the album and bluntly hitting the listener across the head opposed to the more well-executed tone of their previous releases. However, beyond that, Ultra Mono offers a plethora of hard-hitting, excellently performed art-punk bangers designed for dancing and chanting. It’s nothing new for the band, but it is still exhilarating. I just hope that this dip in quality doesn’t go any further and that Talbot finds that lyrical inspiration again. But other than that, Ultra Mono will undoubtedly be on repeat for a while to come.
Best track: Grounds
Tickets To My Downfall by Machine Gun Kelly- 2.6/10:
On Tickets To My Downfall, Machine Gun Kelly manages to seamlessly make the transition from one of the least interesting acts in hip-hop to one of the least interesting acts in contemporary rock. On this his latest LP, the thirty-year-old musician carries on like a whiny teenager over some remarkably uninspired pop-punk instrumentation. Pop-punk has never been a genre I love, so it wasn’t looking good even before I went in. And what the former rapper managed to do was make a genre already prone to cliché and gimmicks even more cliché and gimmicky. The lyrics are incessantly annoying, coupled with Kelly’s obnoxiously bland singing voice. The production is not only generic but relatively poor as well, with the drums and guitars never seemingly coming together in harmony. There are also several awful guest features, in particular from Halsey who delivers a shouty performance in no way suited to her voice. It’s an absolute train wreck of an album, and one I wish I didn’t waste 36 minutes of my life on.
Best track: Adams Song by Blinkk-182
The Ascension by Sufjan Stevens- 7.9/10:
Sufjan’s first solo studio album in five years is a sprawling, messy yet undeniably beautiful indietronica odyssey that manages to channel the more electronic leanings of recent collaborative efforts. As mentioned, it’s been five years since the world was gifted the heart-wrenching Carries and Lowell, with said LP becoming one of the most beloved of the 2010s by both fans and critics. The Ascension couldn’t be more of a contrast to the quiet folk arrangements of Carrie and Lowell, with Stevens instead opting to create a larger-than-life explosion of sound and emotion. Firstly, this album is incredibly messy. Both the length and the way some compositions play-out don’t do this album too many favours, with the middle act of the record, in particular, dragging out a little. I also wasn’t a massive fan of Steven’s heavily processed voice on some tracks, leaving me wishing he would just let his naturally gorgeous voice shine instead. But beyond that, The Ascension is a genuinely mesmerising effort, with Steven’s demonstrating his undeniable prowess as a song-writer by slipping into the world of indietronica with ease and grace. Lyrically, Sufjan is as on point as ever as well, lamenting both the current state of the world and the country he lives in and also the inner turmoil he has faced over the years. The Ascension is a considerable record no doubt, and one with flaws to boot, but Stevens still manages to prove why he is one of the most celebrated writers in modern indie through enthralling electronic compositions and honest lyrical work.
Best track: Sugar
Ohms by Deftones- 6.9/10:
I was really looking forward to hearing this album. I have recently been trying to expand my taste in metal music (which is mostly confined to the realms of black and stoner) and thought this LP from alternative metal legends would be the perfect thing for me. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t clicked. There is a lot I admire about this record. The production is top-notch, the vocal performances are decent, and I enjoyed most of the instrumentals. But something, and I cannot for the life of me recognise what it is, felt missing. In a way, Ohms felt almost predictable, and I failed to experience the transcendent album it has been hyped up to be. Who, knows, maybe this will click soon, but for now I am left a little frustrated as to why I don’t like this album more than I do.
Best track: Ohms