Friday, 9 December 2016

Most Memorable EPs 2016

Every year I put out a list of my favourite albums to come out that year but I never show love for the best EPs I've heard. Seeing as there's been a crazy amount of good music to come out this year (particularly in the later half), I figured I couldn't simply talk about LPs.

Here's a rundown of some of my most memorable EPs this year, in no particular order...

BONZAI - Lunacy
It took me a little while to get into this one. For the longest time I just kept listening to the first song "I Did" and ignoring the rest, simply because they didn't capture me as much as the first. However, after returning to it more recently I can definitely appreciate how innovative Bonzai is and how many intricate details have gone into making just these few tracks. This EP would go OFF live!



JORJA SMITH - Project 11
I spoke about Jorja a little bit on the BBC Sound of 2017 longlist but not too much on this EP. The only criticism I can give to this EP is that they should have put "Where Did I Go?" on it too. Other than that, I love her voice, I love her sound, and I'm excited to hear something unforgettable on her full length debut.




TASH SULTANA - Notion
I was very lucky to come across this one. It all sort of happened by chance; one minute I was listening to Bloc Party or whatever new thing I downloaded on my Spotify that week, and the next minute I was halfway through "Synergy". I have to say I was so impressed that I had to put it on repeat. At first the track sounded like some kind of Foals live interlude but when Tash started singing it was a whole different energy. Loved this find.



TOM MISCH - Reverie
After having heard and loved Tom's debut I have to say, it had some influence on my thoughts of the EP. Tom still has that signature sound but I guess once you hear a full length, an EP is just never quite the same. Still, as always a fabulous vibe, great features and perfect for road trips - I just wanted more of it!



CAN'T SWIM - Death Deserves A Name
This and Seaway might just be my two favourite "rock" discoveries this year! I love this EP. Chris' voice is really memorable and backed up by the band's fantastic songwriting abilities - I can definitely see exciting things around the corner for them. Especially now that they're signed to Pure Noise - most of my favourite pop punk/rock comes out of this label so I know they're in good hands.



ELLA MAI - Time
This was a Shazam discovery - I heard her song "No Rush" being played and when I listened to her EP some time later I was wildly impressed. Particularly at the fact that she was British, I had no idea from her singing voice - a part of me is always proud when I find great British talent. With artists like Jhene Aiko and Tinashe kind of taking a backseat in the mainstream at the moment, this is the perfect time for a voice like Ella's to rise up.



ARDYN - The Valley 
First thing I thought after hearing the title track was "this reminds me of so many different artists - Kins, Junip, Nick Mulvey, etc..." but at the same time, this is something wildly different. This EP really caught me and I love the lead singer's voice, such a fascinating tone and edge to it - it really adds a uniqueness to the songs. I could happily have listened to a full record from Ardyn and hope to soon.



RAYE - Second
After discovering her through the BBC Sound Of list I had a listen to the EP. After hearing the single "I, U, Us" I could hear that Raye had a voice with the potential to move pretty easily across genres, and so when I heard the second song on the album "Shhh" I was already expecting the EP to have a lot of different influences. Unfortunately it played it a little safe on the rest of the songs but safe was still skillful.



SHAKKA - The Island
Okay, here's a voice that definitely didn't play it safe! I've had my eye on Shakka for a couple years now but never really latched on until listening to this EP. He's done a lot with just a few tracks - dropping tracks with multiple influences, from dancehall to trap to soul, I expect I'll be hearing a lot of him in years to come. I'm gobsmacked he's never been on a BBC Sound Of longlist.


 
FLUME - Skin Companion
Flume's just been great this year all round. Skin was great and this EP was certainly a companion that held it's own. If the album needed more tracks some of these could have been great as interludes. I've been a fan of Flume since the self-titled so it's always great to hear new music where his production skills have grown - he's undeniably become a household name now. This EP couldn't have come from anyone else.



If you'd like to listen to any or all of these EPs I've dropped them all in a convenient Spotify playlist for you right HERE.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

BBC Sound Of 2017: Part 2

Continuing on with my thoughts on the BBC Sound of 2017 longlist. First up...

NADIA ROSE
Another one that you may know from her viral video for "Skwod". This was circulating on social media for quite a while so of course I went on to check her out - I reckon she could be very big! It's got me very excited for the future of female rap, better yet UK female rap. Artists like Nadia, Lady Leshurr and Little Simz are really just the beginning really.





Okay so this is probably the miss that I'm most ashamed of. I originally saw a picture of Rag 'N' Bone Man a while back and unknowingly just thought it was a picture of Action Bronson. Terrible mistake on my part but at least I got here in the end. He has a fantastic voice, the tone, the control - sounds like something from before our time but it's more than welcome in 2016 and beyond. 



I've been raving about this fantastic newcomer since my friend introduced me to her in February. I remember the day so well because it's been the longest since I really felt this well represented in music and as soon as I watched her video for "5050" I could instantly see me and my friends putting out the exact same thing. Ray BLK represents London to a tee - I can't wait for her to take us across the shores. 

 


This name had popped up a few times in my inbox alerting me to shows and whatnot but I never took the time to get stuck into it. Well what a damn shame. Not what I'd expected to find, that's for sure. After listening to "I, U, Us" I was definitely interested to hear more of her take on mainstream pop and to see if she would ever delve into other genres because with her voice, she 100% has the ability to. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for a debut album. 



Okay another gender mix up for me - 100% thought that this was going to be a man purely because of the name. But like I said before - what an exciting time for UK female rappers!!! This is big, especially because she's giving us typically American sounding rap and doing it better than some of those US cats in the game. Big things coming from this in the future - both solo and feature. 

 


THE AMAZONS
Expect to see these guys on every festival line-up for the next few years. This is the gold that festivals like Reading & Leeds feed off of. Music that's transferrable throughout each stage - this could fill an arena and even pack up an "Introducing Stage" crowd. I'll definitely be keeping a close eye out for these lads - huge, huge potential here.



What I didn't realise was, that I had already searched this band a while back to listen to their song "Cool Blue". It wasn't until I searched them again recently to find out about them that I realised I'd heard them before. Shame they hadn't left an impression at first because they have a great summer, surfer rock sound.  However, I wonder if this can stay relevant in the years to come.

 


Okay so I heard that Chase & Status feature that Tom was on earlier this year - "All Goes Wrong" but didn't think to look out for any of his solo work until now. Always a bad mistake there because previous Chase & Status feautre artists tend to go on to put out some real gems (see: Delilah and George The Poet). Tom's no different in this instance. I wouldn't say that he has a particularly unique voice but he definitely has a power behind it. I know that something interesting is in the works.



And there you have it - the future of music according to BBC. Let's see how 2017 pans out. I expect we'll be seeing a lot more of some of these characters and we'll be seeing a hell of a lot of quality debuts. I just hope we see something that stands apart from the rest. The winner will be announced on the 6th of January.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

BBC Sound Of 2017: Part 1

It seems like just yesterday I was writing about the "BBC Sound of 2014" list and if that list is anything to go by then I have no doubts that we'll be seeing each and every one of the contenders on this list in the coming years.

This is the first longlist in years where I haven't actually listened to at least half of the artists so I wanted to use this as a time to do some research and give my opinion on them as soon as they come to mind.

AJ TRACEY
I was not ready for this! Before searching him on YouTube I was sure that I was going to see a female rapper/singer and so when "Buster Cannon" was the first thing to pop up I was pretty surprised. The song is definitely a banger, the video's very creative and I appreciate the Dragonball Z reference - in short, in less than 4 minutes, AJ Tracey has secured a new fan.



ANDERSON .PAAK
A personal favourite of mine. I've had eyes on Anderson for a while and so it's very nice to see him finally coming into the limelight especially over here on British shores. He's definitely a unique and noticeable voice in a genre that's becoming rapidly more saturated. Be it on features, solo material, production or even as part of NxWorries, Paak stands apart. I expect big things...




CABBAGE
I've been seeing this band everywhere over the past few months, they've obviously been extremely busy. The more and more I saw them, I kept telling myself to check them out; to see what they're about, but we all know about procrastination. I guess there's no time like the present. After the first listen I can imagine they'd be great to see live - I haven't heard a band so brazen and British since maybe Palma Violets and this might be a level up...





DAVE
Like most, I'd only heard of Dave because Drake went ahead and remixed his hit song "Wanna Know" and of late I have to say I've been very disappointed with Drake's efforts but I at least have to applaud him for drawing attention to some lesser known names through his own music. Dave is great for now but I'd be interested to see if he has the longevity to still be around and relevant 3 years from now.




DECLAN MCKENNA
I'm actually pretty ashamed that I'm only hearing about Declan through BBC - very poor on my part. After listening to "Isombard", I feel like this might be some of my favourite indie music to come out of the UK in the past couple years. I'm almost as excited as I was when I discovered Jamie T. As well as Declan sounding familiar, he doesn't sound copy-cat or too generic.


So I actually heard about her after seeing posters advertised for her headline show at work. She looked interesting so I just searched her on Spotify and the first thing I thought was "that tone!!" Her voice is beautiful. What a smooth sound - it actually made me smile because it's been the longest since I listened to popular music and thought "yes, this is a real artist". All hope is certainly not lost...



MAGGIE ROGERS
Damn near everybody with a Facebook account has seen that video of Maggie playing her demos for Pharrell and him just being stunned into silence and awe. In light of that I was not even a little bit shocked to see her name on the list. Pure innovation really, taking what's already there and turning it into to something new and better. I have no doubts that mainstream trolls will pick up this track in 0.5 minutes and we'll hear songs like "Alaska" everywhere, but until then, let's just enjoy.



Keep an eye out for part 2 before they announce the winner...
 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Gig Review: Bring Me The Horizon

Up until this year, I'd been consistently and very unfortunately, missing my chance to see Bring Me The Horizon live. Now I've seen them twice and they just get better and better each time! It's crazy to think that up until three years ago I hated this band. I've not once seen an artist turn around my opinion so fast and with just one album. If you don't already listen to them, see exhibit A and exhibit B - thank me later.

First things first the support. Basement are another band I've loved listening to this year. I recently stumbled upon their new album on Spotify and couldn't get enough, so when I saw them on the bill I was buzzing. On stage they sounded great, and it was amazing to hear the songs I've been listening to so much, live. However, they didn't play like they were playing in an arena. Some bands are made for smaller venues and I get that, but they were put on the tour for a reason and I definitely expected more of a show from them. They have songs that could fill an arena! Especially after seeing them tear it up at Reading Festival earlier this year, I have to say I was a tiny bit disappointed. All in all though, good set - I see big things to come for these guys.

Next up, one of my long time favourites - Don Broco. Well it's no secret that I love this band. Their debut album Priorities even made it to number two on my "Top Albums of 2012" list. However, my interest has dwindled a little bit since their second record came out last year and even after seeing them live here, it's not been able to improve my opinion of the new album. The performance was great, super engaging and really fun, but all in all, the newer material just didn't compare to the older songs and this "newer" show didn't seem to compare to any of the other times I've seen them live. I definitely enjoyed myself as always, but there was something missing for me this time around. I wonder what they'll put out next.

BRING. ME. THE. HORIZON. My oh my - what a band! I have nothing but praise for the performance they put on, the album they've recently put out and the progress they've made over the years. After making their latest album That's The Spirit my number one for "Top Albums of 2015"; again you can assume that I was over the moon to be seeing them live. Opening up with "Happy Song" had the crowd's feet off the ground immediately, heads banging, hair swinging, mouths wide open shouting "S-P-I-R-I-T!" and they just went from song to song taking the audience on an emotional journey. Every person in that arena was having their own individual experience but at the same time we definitely felt together. I came to that show alone and still felt a part of something - that's what a good show does! As well as the set list contributing to the spectacle, the visuals were breathtaking. From beginning to end, the stage set up, lights and visuals had me stumped. This was my first live show since being back in the UK and I wouldn't have it any other way.  This wasn't a show that anyone in attendance would forget anytime soon.

Overall rating - 9/10


Here are some pictures from the show...






Saturday, 5 November 2016

VIDEO PREMIERE: Kerala

For those of you who have been reading for a while, you might have noticed that I haven't posted in a while. At first it was because I spent the past year interning and traveling and so couldn't dedicate a good amount of time to it. However, I've been back now for over a month and have just been waiting for inspiration to strike. Writing and rewriting drafts, deleting, questioning, drafting some more. The only thing that I really kept going was the blog's Instagram page. But finally, after some much needed music talk with some friends - Bonobo came to the rescue with this gem he released on Thursday.

BONOBO - Kerala

 


I spent the longest time listening to Bonobo's last album The North Borders - I listened to that thing back to front, beginning to end, any way around and it sounded just as good as the first time. I get the exact same feeling from this new song. It actually sounds like it could've fit well on The North Borders except there is a bit of a more evolved feel to it. I love the vocals and I LOOOVE this video. Never seen a visual like this before, which surprises me because it's so simple (and effective)! The visual at the end with the people in the car park standing and looking up at the main lady was pretty jarring but left a lasting effect. That's all you really want from a video - to leave a lasting impression on you. Definitely looking forward to the new album - Migration - dropping on the 13th of January and the world tour to follow that! 

 PS: I can't say that I'll jump back in with writing as consistently as before but I'm definitely building up to it. Keep your eyes peeled!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Gig Review: Florence + The Machine

If you've been following my blog, you'll already know how much I adore Florence and the Machine (exhibits A, B and C), but I have to say this time seeing them live I was surprisingly, considerably underwhelmed. There were several contributing factors to be honest but here goes...

First up was Jack Ladder and the Dreamlanders. I'd never heard anything about them before this show, and so didn't know what to expect. As a band they weren't my cup of tea but on the one hand I could see why they'd been chosen to support. The set definitely improved as it went along - the first song was terrible in my opinion, heavily due to the addition of techno/electronic keys (I have nothing against them but these sounded annoying). The second song was more bearable but less engaging - a strong case of background music syndrome. The third song "Her Hands" however was really good! This got my hopes up for the rest of the set. The next song - "Reputation Amputation" peaked my interest simply because of the name - it did slightly fall short of my expectations but I feel like QOTSA could've given it the kick up the butt that it needed. As a whole I don't think I'll be keeping track of them in the future but perhaps they'll pop up elsewhere and re-engage me.

Now for the main event. Thoroughly ruined by the choice of venue and surprisingly so because Sidney Myer Music Bowl aesthetically is gorgeous but for a performer like Florence and the Machine, it was guaranteed to leave the majority of the crowd (including me) feeling left out. Those in the standing area behind the barriers were so disconnected from the stage and the performance that I might as well have been watching it on TV at home. Big kudos to the girl who jumped the barriers and ran into the crowd - I hope that security never caught you. At one point during the set Florence even ran out into the crowd and stood on the barrier to try and engage those standing. I'm sure that those seated in front had a different experience to myself and this definitely taught me a lesson about forking out for the more expensive ticket in the future. Bigger anthems like "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)", "Shake It Out" and "Dog Days Are Over" managed to stretch their way over the barrier and get a few people moving but some of the newer songs that I was really looking forward to seeing live like "How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful", "What Kind Of Man" and "Delilah", unfortunately didn't quite effect me in the way that I'd hoped and expected. This has in no way affected my views of fatm as artists, I was just a little disappointed that I wasn't more connected to the show itself. There's definitely always next time.

Overall Rating - 6/10


Here are some pictures from the night...







Monday, 2 May 2016

Gig Review: When We Were Small

I actually came to this show on a bit of a whim - a friend of mine was visiting and we wanted to go to a show but didn't want to pay too much, and here's where we ended up...

The first band up, Kondakova, were surprisingly great! Not that I was expecting them to be terrible but I just wasn't really expecting anything. They have huge potential. They needed a little development in terms of stage presence but being their second gig ever playing in the set up they were in - they played really well. Good instrumentalists, solid song-writers, and a very professional feel about them, especially being younger artists. I really look forward to hearing more of these boys in the future, and maybe even seeing them over on UK shores.

On the other hand, the second band - Jarrow - were pretty underwhelming. The band as a whole had terrible stage presence. All except the lead singer who really carried the band. The drummer looked liked he'd rather be a thousand other places and on top of that he was a little sloppy so it just came across as lazy. The band as a whole though had some real gems - Mac DeMarco/Jamie T type vibes - but this just didn't translate too well on stage. I need to give their studio recorded material a listen or maybe even see them in more of a festival environment because I think there's something there, it just wasn't coming across well on stage.

Before coming to the show I managed to listen to one When We Were Small (now called Soft Corporate) track ("Untied") and I liked the sound of it - I wasn't buzzing but I liked the sound. After seeing them live though, I was definitely buzzing! They have some amazing tracks in their arsenal. At the very least, they have a EPs worth of songs behind them. The only problem which I've been finding with Indie bands is that they always sound like other bands. WWWS reminded me most of Kins, Maccabees, Two Door Cinema Club, Los Campesinos and Spring Offensive. If you like any of the bands that I just mentioned, definitely check these guys out. I feel like if this band was from the UK or the US they would already have quite a big underground following - we really need to get some people out to Australia to manage all of this hidden talent.

Overall Rating - 7.5/10


Here are some pictures from the night...


Photo Credit: Ying Wong