Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Music News

It's been a long time since I've dedicated a post to music news, especially with Instagram around, but there's been a ridiculous amount of musical gems popping up over the past few weeks! So I thought, as a belated Valentine's Day treat I'd give you some new music to listen to for the rest of the month.

So very, very smooth. It's a breath of fresh air having new Little Dragon music in my life. As always this track is coated with their signature soulful sound with the added hazy undertones; it's got me buzzing for their next record. Nabuma Rubberband was a quality, classic record but if "High" is anything to go by, then Little Dragon haven't stopped growing, and the next record will be memorable to say the least.

I have to say I was a little surprised at this title coming from The Staves, but also super excited to see whether it brought with it a bit of a new sound. In regards to the video and the song, I love the minimalist feel to it. Those three part harmonies will never, ever get old to me. Not so much a new sound to it but the electric guitar definitely brings a fresher feel and a harder edge to it. "Tired As Fuck" is definitely a new favourite of mine.

I hadn't heard much about SiR up until recently with him featuring on Isaiah Rashad's and Little Simz's records, and after finding out that he was part of TDE he had my full attention. As soon as the beat kicked in on this track I thought of Anderson .Paak. That soulful bass has run throughout so many of my recent favourite songs, and I think it's time to add "All In My Head" to that list.

A shamefully fairly recent discovery for me - Sevadaliza has the potential to be a serious gamechanger and we have the pleasure coming into contact with her right now. Honestly, true artist. This new video for "Amandine Insensible" shows just that. Simple but mesmirising. The instrumental on this song reminded me of some of James Blake's material too.

I've been interested in Chapel ever since I found out that Kortney Grinwis was the drummer and when they dropped "Fool's Gold" it was my first chance to properly listen to their material. I love what I'm hearing on this single! The video is neither here nor there for me but it's a great song. Now that they're under Rise Records, I'm expecting something pretty exciting for their next release.

I'm not sure what I was expecting sound-wise from this collaboration but as soon as I saw Grimes and Janelle Monae in the same sentence I knew that aesthically this would be unforgettable. After watching, I stand by that 100% - this video is phenomenal. On the first few watches it was impossible to take my eyes off of it. In terms of the song, at first it was a little bit take-it-or-leave-it for me, but with the video so ingrained in my mind, I couldn't help but find the song there too.

Okay! Again this is a video that I can get behind. I love this theme, I love these visuals. After listening to Wild Beasts' record Boy King last year I can't say that "Alpha Female" stuck out as a main highlight for me back then but after hearing it alongside this visual I might be listening a little bit differently from now on.

After being dormant for quite a while now M.I.A. is back with this new release and I have to say, I'm not all that impressed. As a single it's really just not the most enjoyable in my opinion. The video definitely boosts its memorability - after all M.I.A. has always had a way with visuals but I just needed "P.O.W.A" to bring an audio to match and it did not in this case.

Old man Mac - it's been a while. "This Old Dog" is the title track from his new album dropping on the 5th of May. This peaceful, Sunday afternoon, summer stroll track took me back to summer 2013 where I was listening to things like Bibio, Darwin Deez, Delphic, etc... It would have fit in perfectly back then and I have no doubts that this new album will be featured heavily in my summer 2017.

This video for "Curtains" has actually been out for a while now and the single since last year but I had to say something about it because I like the song so much and the video is just as compelling. The video left me pretty speechless after first watch if I'm honest. It was almost exactly what I'd pictured (except, better) after listening to the single so many times before. Arcane Roots are not a band to overlook right now I'm telling you.

Well I'm sure by now everyone's heard about the Grammy's and all the "scandalous" events and wardrobe malfunctions. Aside from that - the performances. I'm just going to come out and say it - Beyoncé, Beyoncé, Beyoncé, wow. What a goddess. Chance the Rapper, again with a soulful and inspiring performance. To name drop a few others - Metallica and Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, ATCQ and Anderson .Paak, and Adele. All amongst stand out performances across the night. What a spectacle.

That's not even the half of it for music news over the past couple of weeks but it's just a few standouts and things that I found particularly exciting to tide you over into March. Keep your eyes peeled for more musical goodness over the rest of the month.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Album Review: Process

Well, you know what they say, "good things come to those who wait" and that could not be truer of Sampha's debut. I'd like to say that I was cautiously optimistic on first listen but mostly I was just itching to have it on repeat. This came to us on a day of music release mayhem and it's made a point to standout...

1. Plastic 100°C
Out of the non-singles, this song is my current favourite. Sampha has one of the most distinct voices around at the moment and whilst rising to the top; when his voice chimes in on this track, the sound just washes over you. I remember thinking, "this is a song that I could wake up to for years to come". Every time I hear this, it sounds like a new beginning. Talk about starting as you mean to go on... 

2. Blood On Me
Prior to listening, this was my favourite single and one of my favourite songs and videos released last year. Now, having listened to it in the context of the album, more than ever, the feeling still stands. As familiar as it sounded, it was given a new lease of life on the album and although I didn't think that I could - I love it even more. So intricate and so simple.
3. Kora Sings 
I would love to hear a Hiatus Kaiyote remix of this one actually. The instrumental wins this song hands down for me; I was just immersed in the way that the beat transitions. So many influences held together with Sampha's signature sound. Strong track and early standout for me.
4. (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano
After listening to Sampha's Dual EP over the last 3/4 years, as soon as I heard the opening chords on this single it brought me back to those six tracks and how much they made me appreciate piano-centric music. Hearing his vocals on this song I could feel every word he sang, and finding out that he wrote this album and in particular this song, shortly after his mother died; only made me adore it even more. 
5. Take Me Inside
This was probably the least memorable song on the album for me after first listen. Although listening to it as I write this, I can say that it's good song, something about it just underwhelms me unfortunately. To me it felt a lot more like an interlude than a full length song. However, I love the way it seamlessly bleeds into the next...
6. Reverse Faults 
So I'll be spontaneously singing "took the breakpads out the car", for the next few weeks. The beat after this line is one of those 'close your eyes, lift your hands' kinds of beats. This track and the next might be the most different of the ten but here it fits in so, so perfectly; you almost don't notice the vibe change. This might turn out to be the dark horse that people refer to whenever you discuss the album. 

7. Under
My feelings towards this song change every time I listen to it. Occasionally it feels like a b-side, but then I listen again and it holds my attention and leaves me wanting more. Maybe after a few more listens I'll have a more committed feeling for this one.

8. Timmy's Prayer 
Here's the single that I'm waiting to listen to live. At first I didn't latch onto it as much as the general public did. Then I heard it after a while on 'Insecure' and gave it another chance. Since then, it's grown on me more. My head knows that this is probably one of the strongest songs all-round on the record, but whenever I've come back to the album, it's sadly not been near the top of my list to go to.

9. Incomplete Kisses 
Almost as soon as this track started, I had a visual in my head. A while ago I read a comment on YouTube where the person had written "this must be what colour sounds like". In a way, I feel that with this; like when you listen to a song and you imagine yourself in the video, here I see it as if watching a dream.

10. What Shouldn't I Be?  
What I think Sampha's managed to do beautifully with this album is create a clear journey. Every feeling that has brought me to this closer was vivid and distinct. Also, this is one of the most, dare I say it, exquisite songs of 2017 - and I know it's only February but I say that with the confidence that it will likely not be outdone by many. 

I think with this album I just have to remind myself that it's actually a debut record, because as a debut, it's near-on remarkable. After all of the anticipation, I have to say that I was a tiny bit disappointed with parts of the record. Some of the standouts made the "good-but-not-great" tracks easier to pick out and a little less memorable in my opinion, and I think that I prefer the first half to the second. However, this album lyrically is one of the most beautiful pieces I've come across in a while. I will definitely be returning to a lot of this for years to come, but whether or not I'll listen to it over and over again as a whole, remains to be seen. After I catch him live next month I'm sure that I'll return to the album and hear something completely different.  

Overall Rating - 8/10

Friday, 3 February 2017

Gig Review: Declan McKenna

After finding out about Declan last year on BBC's Sound of 2017 longlist I wanted to catch him as soon as possible before he blew up; so when I saw that he was playing in one of my favourite Birmingham small music venues (Hare & Hounds) it was an absolute no-brainer. It also didn't hurt to have this show start off my gigs of 2017.

Supporting on the night were Leeds-based band Clay. I'd not heard of them prior and I have to say I'm a little surprised and disappointed that I hadn't - I definitely need to do more research on new Indie bands/artists because bands like these should be all over my radar. Straight off the bat they had a sound that could easily fill up a much bigger space than they were playing and each of their personalities came through clearly on stage even before they each spoke. Great stage presence and good banter from the lead singer. In terms of music, they do Indie Pop pretty well and their live material translates way better than their studio. Most memorable track for me was "6AM", but all in all, they provided good vibes to kick off the night.

Following a great mix of tracks in the interval ranging from Madonna to ABBA to Dizzee Rascal; Declan and co stepped on stage full of confidence and quiet excitement and I couldn't help but feel like I was in a scene from the movie Sing Street (if you haven't seen it yet, do, it's an amazing watch). Now with my new knowledge of Declan McKenna, I only knew a few of his songs but my favourite beforehand was "Isombard" so in my head I was thinking "yeah, he'll probably finish with that". Before I could even finish thinking about the setlist, I was hearing the opening notes of "Isombard" drowned out by the crowd's cheers and being swept up by the leaping bodies. From that moment on, I knew I was in for a fun set. As the show went on the crowd only got more and more raucous and a clear divide was beginning to form in the room between the "young adults" and the "younger adults" but nonetheless as I teetered between the two I felt good energy across the room. By the end of the set, half of the crowd was jumping about on stage as party balloons floated around searching for flailing hands. Stand-out new listens for me were "Humungous" and "Paracetamol" - I can't remember the last time in the past couple years that I came across an indie artist Declan's age or to be honest of any age, with such ear-catching songwriting abilities. He's a true creative and I am absolutely buzzing for his debut album to drop this year.

Overall Rating - 7.5/10

Here are some pictures from the night... 


Tuesday, 31 January 2017


Finally! I feel like I've waited forever for Jamiroquai to make a fully fledged comeback, and obviously expected so much from the funk-master himself. Although, I'm not sure that this latest single lives up to the hype that I put on it beforehand...


Still sticking with his futuristic funky vibe there are definitely a few noteworthy moments, but as a whole on first listen I just thought it sounded confused more than anything. After listening to it a few times since then I appreciate it a lot more - the production is amazing and the instrumental is very memorable. However, I think the high point for me right now is the video. This video is amazing - the visuals are mesmerising and the story revelation at the end (giving up his old helmet for his new futuristic one) really made me smile on first watch. I would've expected nothing less from Jamiroquai on this and he definitely delivered. As this is the title track for his new record, I'm interested to see what comes next when the album lands on the 31st of March. All in all, I'm not over the moon with "Automaton" but I definitely think I could enjoy the album in full. He'll be touring the UK in April so if his album can't convince me, then a live show is my last resort. I'm still expecting big things!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Gig Review: ScHoolboy Q

Okay! I'll start with apologies for the delay in posting - university coursework is extremely time-consuming. First post of 2017 and it's a post about the last gig I went to in 2016. Only fitting I guess, and what better way to end the year than watching my number five album of the year pick throw down in a most spectacular fashion?!

First up on stage was a rapper named Mouthe. I'd never heard of him before, and nobody else knew anything about him so did a little bit of research. I must admit I was pretty underwhelmed when I saw that he only had about 500 likes but I thought if anything could make somebody a fan it would be seeing a live show. I was wrong in this instance. When he came on stage, after about 30 seconds of performance I could sense the side-eyes in the room. I could barely hear the backing track over his optimus prime-sounding vocal effects. I couldn't even concentrate on his lyrics after his ridiculous song introductions. There were a few whispers between songs like "do you even know this guy?". To say that I was disappointed is an understatement. Although afterwards, my friend sent me one of his songs "Hallelujah" and it actually didn't sound too bad. Maybe he's just more of a studio artist.

But now for the main event - Quincy in the flesh. To be honest, even before he came on stage, the crowd was just bubbling with excitement. It seemed like they just knew the lyrics to every good hip hop song that played. At times the crowd was even rapping along as if somebody was actually performing. So when those lights dimmed and ScHoolboy stepped out, you can only imagine how the crowd galvanized. Within minutes I had already lost the people I came with and was fighting for breath, swaying through the weeds of people, mouthing a few lyrics whenever I got the chance to come up for air. It. Was. Manic... and I loved every second of it! The energy was incredible, and of course the set list didn't fail to impress. Q played hits from his last three albums and even jams from his label-mates Kendrick Lamar and Ab-Soul. The crowd was spoilt! I also feel that it's important for me to note that, ScHoolboy played in London the night before and just before playing "THat Part" to us, he declared that the Birmingham crowd was even crazier. Being the last show of the tour as well, whilst we screeched the lyrics to "THat Part", everybody knew that they'd witnessed something special. It had been the longest while since I'd left a gig that sweaty, breathless, yet energised, and I can only say - what a way to end an amazing year of music?!

Overall Rating - 8.5/10

DISCLAIMER: As the crowd was so mad, I only managed to get a few non-blurry, mediocre pictures...

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

2016 AOTY Honourable Mentions

Normally I put a list of my honourable mentions on the end of the review of my favourite album of the year but as I've already said - this has been one of the biggest years for music in the longest time. SO, this year I've put the list in a separate post to give everyone their due respects, in no particular order as always...

James Blake - The Colour In Anything
NAO - For All We Know
Noname - Telefone
Little Simz - Stillness In Wonderland
J Cole - 4 Your Eyez Only
Kendrick Lamar - untitled, unmastered
Ab-Soul - Do What Thou Wilt.
Anderson .Paak - Malibu
Savages - Adore Life
Christine and the Queens - Chaleur Humaine
Francis and the Lights - Farewell, Starlite!
Balance & Composure - Light We Made
De La Soul - and the Anonymous Nobody...
Isaiah Rashad - The Sun's Tirade
Blink-182 - California
Touche Amore - Stage Four
Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Getaway
Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
Skepta - Konnichiwa
David Bowie - Blackstar
NxWorries - Yes Lawd!
Danny Brown - Atrocity Exhibition
Kid Cudi - Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin'
Travi$ Scott - Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight
Alicia Keys - HERE
Emeli Sande - Long Live The Angels
Frank Ocean - Endless | Frank Ocean - Blond
Kanye West - The Life Of Pablo
Rihanna - ANTI
Jack Garratt - Phase
Flume - Skin
Seaway - Colour Blind
Mick Jenkins - The Healing Component
Logic - Bobby Tarantino

There were so many other great albums that I listened to over the course of the year, these were just the ones that either managed to grab the most plays from me or came out too late for me to consider them for the top 10 (s/o Little Simz). Here's to an even more music filled 2017. Click HERE to listen to my Spotify playlist with some of the tracks that made my 2016 all that it was.

See you in the New Year!

Sunday, 25 December 2016

On The First Day Of Christmas...

It's been a long journey but we've finally come to the number one spot in my top ten albums of 2016. This album's meant so much to so many in so little time. Ladies and gents, the one and only Solange with A Seat At The Table.

This album could not have come into the world at a more necessary time. Every person I've spoken to about this album has had it touch their life in a personal way, whilst also hearing it talk to so many relevant issues going on in the world and grating issues we experience on the day-to-day. It also just goes to show how important timing is. Up until this I feel like to most, Solange was just "Beyoncé's sister" or "that chick from Bring It On" but it's not like she hasn't released many other great pieces, written many tunes for other artists or collaborated on so many other ventures. She's been working on this record supposedly since around 2008 and now in 2016 it couldn't be a more perfect time to hear it. If this had dropped back then, I doubt it would have had quite the same reception. I mean it still would've been appreciated because the quality is undeniable, but it might not have hit Number 1 on Billboard so easily. 

Music wise - it's always been "Don't Touch My Hair (feat. Sampha)" for me. First time I heard this song, I woke up with it stuck in my head almost every day for over a week. When a song is so good that it can inflitrate my dreams, that's a pretty good sign for me. As lyrically, instrumentally and just all around vibe-wise perfect the track "Cranes In The Sky" is, something about "Don't Touch My Hair" resonated more for me. My critic brain is telling me that Cranes is by far the better track but I know what my heart says here. Aside from those two big hitters, the rest of the tracks on this album don't fail to disappoint (interludes included). I don't feel like I've listened to another album recently that's made me as thoughtful whilst listening. I always come out feeling like I've just enjoyed a beautiful 52 minutes of music and had a dance and a sing, but then I remember how pensive I actually am throughout. As well as being an ultimate bop, it's an important think-piece...what more could you ask for?

Rounding up, I just have to mention the collaborators. The phrase "too many chefs spoil the broth" isn't always true in music I believe. Some of my favourite records come from artists who collaborate with many other musical geniuses. This record in particular has a lot of my favourites credited and so it's no surprise it took my top spot. If you somehow haven't yet listened, take a seat at the table.

Merry Christmas, I hope you've all had a fantastic time with family and friends. "Honourable Mentions" will be up next. Here's yesterday's number two.