Welcome back to the Music Roundup! There has been lots of new albums released over the past few weeks by some of the biggest artists in the world! So let’s jump straight into it!
CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST by Tyler, the Creator- 8.6/10:
Tyler is back and as confident as ever with CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, a bright (and slightly messy) canvas of the sights and sounds that have made the rapper’s career so intriguing and enthralling. Taking a step back from the soulful heartbreak of IGOR, CALL ME is a combination of smooth 90s trap rap and modern hardcore, providing the perfect base for Tyler to tell us how great his life is right now. He flexes left, right and centre; however, it isn’t without the moments of introspection that made his previous two records work. His latest persona, that of Tyler Baudelaire, is also yet another great character and an excellent vessel for the tone of this LP. However, there is an element of mess that does not bode well for CALL ME, with a mixture of bad features dragging down what would otherwise be good songs. Though I would not want this to drive anyone away from listening. Tyler, the Creator is one of this generations most enigmatic pop-culture figures, with his deft eye for detail, both aesthetically and musically, once again allowing him to churn out an excellent record in CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST. Defiantly the best mainstream rap release of 2021 so far.
Best track- CORSO
Planet Her by Doja Cat- 4.5/10:
For such a wild, viral character in her public life, Doja Cat’s music is surprisingly dull. Unfortunately, an extreme disconnect exists between Doja’s charisma and her music, exhibited on the disappointing Planet Her. Too often, this LP falls into pop cliches that are either overdone or done better than others. For such an expensive album, the lack of heart and soul is depressing. Furthermore, we are forced to wait 40 minutes to even get to the best part. In many ways, Doja Cat reminds me of Lewis Capaldi. A musician whose magnetic personality outshines everything and whose actual music is a mere supporting act to this fact.
Best track- Kiss Me More
Welcome to the Madhouse by Tones and I- 0.1/10:
To me, the greatest mystery in music of the last 10 years is how Dance Monkey reached number 1 in over thirty countries. How is it that Tones and I is just about the biggest thing to come out of Australia since Tame Impala (and even then, her success eclipses that of Kevin Parker)? Why do I ask this? Because every time I decide to engage in her music, I am lost for words. There is nothing redeemable, interesting, or new on offer. Welcome To The Madhouse is no different. Rarely has a body of music done so little for me. But I must be some sort of anomaly. Whether it be actual enjoyment or industry meddling, Tones and I continues to be successful, and I continue to scratch my head.
Vince Staples by Vince Staples- 6.0/10:
Though I can admire the hushed, reflective tone of Vince’s self-titled, I can’t help but feel like he is at his best when unleashing over something a little… harder? Vince Staples has its qualities. The lyrics are interesting and a nice change of pace from the often politically charged and flamboyant material from previous records. But I am not won over by this more laid delivery. Whether or not it was Vince’s intentions, but his flow just comes across as lazy and board, which is incredibly disappointing considering Kenny Beats gave him some excellent production to work over. Maybe I just don’t get it, but I do miss the harder-hitting days of Vince Staples, with his latest LP (despite having some good stuff to offer) just not quite coming together.
Best track- ARE YOU WITH THAT?
Happier than Ever by Billie Eilish- 8.3/10:
There is a length issue here, but the controversial pop-star Billie Eilish has delivered what feels like one of the most challenging mainstream pop records of the last 10 years. I am not joking. It certainly isn’t trendy in the online music community to give Eilish praise, but Happier Than Ever to me is too solid and interesting to not heap praise on. Intimate, charismatic and simultaneously confident and vulnerable, I was pleasantly surprised. Finneas’ production is slightly more ambitious than on Eilish’s debut, bringing various influences, making for a diverse sonic pallet, united by the overall sense of obscurity and fogginess central to her aesthetic. Lyrically, I am not a fan of everything on offer here, admittedly, but Billie proves herself a great songwriter on the more introspective tracks. Furthermore, the length is an issue, as I said, and several redundant tracks prevent Happier Than Ever from being spectacular. Still, all credit to those involved in creating this clever, ambitious art-pop record.
Best track- NDA
Solar Power by Lorde- 6.7/10:
Few artists can claim to have totally changed the face of pop music twice in one decade, but that’s what Lorde did, all before the age of 25. So, after another prolonged silence, the Kiwi superstar has once again returned with Solar Power. And to say I’m disappointed is both an understatement but also does the highlights of this album a disservice. I think many could tell from the first single that Solar Power wasn’t going to match the heights of Pure Heroine and Melodrama. Lyrically, Solar Power is an astute and well-crafted piece of music, with Ella not losing her edge over the past four years. What really lets down her third LP is the production. It appears that maybe the Antanoff magic is starting to deteriorate. Though he has still managed to be behind some pretty decent projects (in particular Clairo’s Sling) this year, his twangy folk-oriented direction he is pushing is not quite as engaging as his past efforts, with the often-generic production doing Lorde a horrific disservice. Solar Power is a disappointing album, albeit one with strong elements to it. It just saddens me that for the foreseeable future, this is the only new material we are getting from the pop legend.
Best track- The Path
Sling by Clairo- 8.8/10:
An often harshly criticised artist for the misconception that she is an industry plant, Clairo really out-dose herself on Sling, blending the worlds of bedroom pop and folk into an intimate and engaging package. The thing that initially grabbed my attention with this record is just how clean the production is. Claire’s DIY sensibilities are still there, however with the help of Jack Antanoff (a name that is practically inescapable in the world of pop music these days), a superb level of detail has been added, making these hushed compositions really come to life. Claire’s vocals and songwriting have also really shine. Her soft and sincere voice carries a welcoming, warm presence throughout Sling, and her incredibly personal songwriting manages to strike that level of relatability that has always made her music interesting for me. I will say as a point of criticism that a few tracks towards the middle of the record do drag a little, but it still manages to close incredibly strongly. Sling really shines as a great artistic step forward for Clairo, planting her flag firmly in the ground of modern singer-songwriters that should be taken seriously, and rightly so. Here is hoping by album number three, Claire Cottrill can improve once again and release something truly sensational. But for now, I am happy with Sling.
Best track- Ameoba
All Over the Place by KSI- 4.0/10:
Was this as bad as Dissimulation? No. Is this a good album? No. Was I bored? Yes. I had pretty low expectations for All Over the Place. KSI is a charismatic YouTuber no doubt (certainly not my cup of tea, but 36 million people would disagree), but he is not an exciting rapper. Granted, this album manages to have some exciting and engaging moments, but KSI’s delivery is just not there for me. Sadly, he seems to lack the level of passion and grit some of these songs need to carry them, coming off as disinterested at some points even. Overall, All Over the Place is an improvement, but a small one.
Best track- Patience
Pressure Machine by The Killers- 7.1/10:
Ladies, gents and all those in-between, this might just be The Killers best album. A sweeping yet intimate heartland rock record, Pressure Machine does suffer from a few issues. The biggest being the disconnection I feel between the band and their subjects. An album about the highs and lows of the American Working Class, I feel like the band (and in particular Flowers) live vicariously through their music to simulate and romanticise a lifestyle they didn’t live (being from some wealthy parts of Las Vegas). However, Flowers demonstrates enough empathy to veer away from appropriation. The true highlight of this record, though, is the production and instrumentals. Where some of the music on their previous LP was overblown and over-produced, Pressure Machine finds the right sound, coming across as both epic and adventurous and grounded as well. This is also the first time, in my opinion, where The Killers have managed to create an album that is consistent throughout rather than relying on the power of strong singles and plumping the rest of the record out with filler. I have never been a massive fan of this band, but I cannot deny their ability to throw together catchy, rousing tracks, a skill demonstrated on the flawed but mostly great Pressure Machine.
Best track: West Hills
Certified Lover Boy by Drake- 2.6/10:
Once again, I find myself asking, what is the appeal of Drake? I really don’t have much to say about Certified Lover Boy. It is awful, but not awful enough for me to rage on about. It is just long and tedious. Stale bread has more charisma than Drake. The beats are at times light and airy, but often too much so that they simply float away. In short, Certified Lover Boy is a snore-fest that could put the most chronic insomniacs to sleep. Go listen to Little Simz.
Best track- Once again, go listen to Little Simz
Sometimes I Might be Introvert- 9.9/10:
Not only has Little Simz managed to totally blow every other British rapper out of the water with Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, but she has also established herself as the artist to beat in the modern hip-hop world. Sometimes… is a near-flawless rap epic from one of music’s true geniuses. Orchestral in its scope and profoundly intelligent in its lyrical content. The production is incredible. Nearly every instrument was record live, which doesn’t inherently make any piece of music better than another, buts it is impressive considering how rich and detailed these compositions are. Soul, modern-classical, pop, traditional-hip-hop and even hints of synth-pop are spread throughout this sprawling masterpiece. But it is held together, of course, by smooth jazz overtones. And over the top of these lush instrumentals is, of course, the woman herself, Little Simz. Her flows are diverse and practically flawless, gliding over every track with a grace any rapper should be jealous of. Her lyrics are also exquisite. Feminism, race, family, mental illness, friendship, and politics are just some of the issues touched on by Simz on sometimes. With a care and passion rarely seen in hip-hop and what feels like a revolutionary perspective at times, the UK rapper dissects these issues unflinchingly. This album feels like an important moment in modern music, and in a year filled with fantastic music, to standout this significantly is something truly special. The result of an artist who has quietly been developing their style and sound for nearly a decade Sometimes is a masterpiece plain and simple. I thought Grey AREA was going to be impossible to top, but somehow she has done it. Sensational.
Best track- Woman
Donda by Kanye West- 6.5/10:
After much delay, pomp, and empty promises, Kanye’s label has finally had enough and put out Donda in its most recent phase. Is this the album Kanye intended us to hear? Probably not. Do I care? No. For a while now, I have found myself souring on Kanye as an artist. Though I was never particularly big on him in the first place, I have begun to realise that, whilst still a highly skilled musician and important influence upon his genre, Kanye’s antics are nothing more than that. They are not genius, nor are they worth any genuine praise. They are simply the results of a mentally unpredictable man with lots of money and a gaggle of yes men encouraging his every move. But alas, Kanye West and his newest album Donda I think, serve as a great summarisation of pop culture in the 21st Century. Excessive. Messy. Ambitious. Frustrating and obsessed with personality. A surreal experience, I found it hard to place a score on this record. For starters, it is long. Too long. I daresay Donda would’ve been far more potent if this level of excess wasn’t present. The whole first leg of this album was tedious for me, with the real action not starting until about ten tracks in (though Hurricane is solid enough). From there, moments of genuine brilliance Kanye is capable of shine through. The features are also a mixed bag. At times they are brilliant, outshining even Kanye, other times adding nothing at all. I also found the censored swearing particularly funny. Donda is also far less heavy on the Born-again, Pentecostal Christian themes of JIK, and when they appeared, they didn’t feel quite as heavy-handed. It’s a real mess of a record, and as a result, I feel like this will be an awfully messy review. But my feelings towards Donda are primarily positive. It wasn’t half as bad as I was expecting it to be, but it in no way justifies any of the hype and spectacle leading up to it. A good album, but not one with any lasting impact.
Best track- Believe What I Say