10 Songs on Repeat:

1. A Hero’s Death by Fontaines D.C. (2020)- I am still trying to figure out whether this is a happy or dark song. The lyrics are seemingly inspiring, the repetition of “life ain’t always empty” and the various amounts of advice given by frontman Grian Chatten are uplifting and affirming but are given a strange level of existentialism by the dark, rumbling instrumental that slowly builds to boiling point. Whatever it is about this track, I can definitely say that the Irish post-punkers have delivered my favourite song so far this year.

2. ENEMY by slowthai (2020)- The latest single from the controversial British rapper sees slowthai continue in the same vein he left off from. Filled with the MC’s trademark menace and confrontationist demeanour, ENEMY also brings a more trap-oriented beat to the table, creating what is classic slowthai banger through and through.

3. BALD REMIX by JPEGMAFIA and Denzel Curry (2020)- Having already included the original solo mix of JPEGMAFIA’s BALD!, I couldn’t resist including this new remix with the ever charismatic and on point Denzel Curry who assists in taking this already quality abstract hip-hop number to the next level.

4. Cinnamon by Hayley Williams (2020)- A highlight off the ex-Paramore singer’s debut album, Cinnamon is well-produced and written track that is subtle, yet still manages to perpetuate a certain level of urgency about it thanks to an excellent performance from Williams herself.

5. Fk by Pink Siifu (2020)- Probably one of the most visceral and unsettling hip-hop experiences I have ever had, Pink Siifu delivers a multi-faceted, violent track exploding with political anger. Divided into two distinct acts, the first being a distorted and noisy hardcore punk breakdown and the second a slower, unsettling rap number, Fk is a confronting track from a confronting album (more on that later).

6. No Comprende by Low (2015)- A modern highlight of the slowcore trio’s enviable discography, this song acts a good half-way point between the band’s traditional, guitar-driven and minimalistic sound and the ambitious, noise-driven mastery of their 2018 album Double Negative. 

7. Alone With You by Sunnyboys (1981)- A staple of classic Australian indie music, Alone With You is a gloriously driving banger that captures the sound of early Australian jangle-pop perfectly.

8. Supalonely by BENEE with Gus Dapperton (2020)- Thanks to TikTok, New Zealand pop singer-songwriter BENEE is getting exposure rarely afforded to artists in her position. Her latest song to go viral on the platform is catchy pop perfection, plain and simple.   

9. Making Flippy Floppy by Talking Heads (1983)- Probably the most appropriate name for a song by the eternally strange New York alternative rock legends, Making Flippy Floppy is a trademark Talking Heads classic, the combination of a funky instrumental and hilariously ambiguous lyrics makes for one of those tracks that never fails to put a smile on my face.

10. O Children by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (2004)- Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are arguably the most critically acclaimed artist to come from my home country of Australia, and it’s easy to understand why. Carried by Cave’s poetic lyrics and tortured baritone and a diverse set of instrumentals, the band has an expansive and fascinating discography. My personal favourite of them all is this song, made famous through a Harry Potter film. It’s a moody, bittersweet ballad that sees Cave deliver an emotionally charged performance over a slow-burning instrumental. A perfect song in my most humble opinion.

You can find this week’s tracks here- https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2OjFdGqPWlNubZW7QYJQWU?si=3QRb1ioESRelpfz13szcJA.

Quick Reviews: 

Petals for Armor by Hayley Williams- 7.3/10: 

Despite a strange rollout, the debut solo effort from Hayley Williams is a solid, feet-finding record that builds off some ideas from the final Paramore album as well as exploring new territory. Firstly, I would like to say that Petals for Armor is lyrically Williams’s best body of work so far. The words of this LP are vulnerable, mature and underpinned by an empowering sense of fury that is constantly bubbling under the surface, constructing personal tales of hope, depression, love and loss. Instrumentally, this album is very Radiohead-sounding, which in my opinion is a good thing, most of the songs revolving around an airy and graceful atmosphere of subtle yet driving drums, serene string arrangements and moody keyboards. Sadly, there are just some issues I couldn’t quite get past with this record that did, unfortunately, stop it from being excellent rather than good. Firstly, the three-part structure just didn’t work for me. I avoided listening to the two EPs released as a part of this record. I feel like they would work incredibly well as individual projects (this includes part three that came out with the album), but as a full LP, it left large parts feeling clunky and inconsistent. Which leads me to conclude that (at least for me anyway) this is one of those records that as a full body of work, didn’t quite make the cut for me due to some pacing issues. But the individually excellent moments of the album are some of the best pop songwriting this year, carrying Petals for Armor well and overall making it a worthwhile listen. 

Best track: Simmer

NEGRO by Pink Siifu- 8.2/10: 

Though at times Pink Siifu gets lost in the sea of violent noise and really extreme themes, NEGRO is still a viscerally wild ride and one I am defiantly here for. The best way to describe this album is a sustained blast of pure rage. From the harsh production choices to Siifu’s manic delivery and infuriated lyrics, NEGRO is a powerful and confronting portrayal of political anger, discontent and fear. Even some of the quieter moments on the album are unsettling and eerie, never giving the listener a chance to breathe and gauge where they are. I also enjoyed the eclectic and harsh production. At its core, this is an experimental hip-hop album. However, inclusions of elements from genres like free jazz, industrial, hardcore punk, noise and sound collage propel the notion of ‘experimental’ into the stratosphere, making even the likes of Death Grips seem tame. Though this chaos does work for most of the album, there are times where the extremely distorted mixing does detract from the overall experience, leaving me scratching my head a little. Lyrically, I appreciate most of this record as well; however, some of Siifu’s more politically extreme and confronting moments (such as the deeply disturbing Chris Dorner.) did leave me feeling isolated from the central theme, but that has more to do with the fact I am a white, middle-class male in the outer suburbs of Sydney Australia, making it likely I will never have trouble with the police and the fact that Siifu was unlikely keeping me and others similar to me in mind when constructing this record. Overall, it’s not an easy-going LP, Pink Siifu seemingly letting it all out, both emotionally and creatively, leading to genuinely one of the most unsettling listens I have ever experienced. 

Best track: Fk

Sorry for no third review this week, but a packed Uni schedule has been a thorn in the side of my music listening lately, so instead I give you another…

One That Got Way- Veteran by JPEGMAFIA: 

For those invested in my weekly entries, my emerging love affair with rapper/producer JPEGMAFIA might be apparent. For me, his music has proven to be the perfect balance of punk, in-your-face attitude and experimental ambition. I put off listening to Peggy’s 2018 breakthrough Veteran simply because it slipped my mind, with 2018 already being a stacked year for music. My introduction to the wild world of Peggy was last year’s All My Heroes are Cornballs, an excellent record in its own right. But it has been my introduction to his 2018 album that solidified my love for this artist. Veteran is a thrilling ride through the gloriously chaotic mind of JPEGMAFIA, especially when considering the busy, noisy and experimental production. The central attraction is, of course, the rapper himself. His lyrical attacks on everything from the alt-right to Morrisey drip with a carefree, punk attitude, delivered all with his aggressive, shouted flows. For anyone looking to get into JPEGMAFIA (and experimental hip-hop in general), Veteran is a great place to start.

This Week’s Feature- Exceeding Expectations- Albums that Took Me by Surprise (In the Best Possible Way): 

I, like any listener of music, carry many biases and preferences. If it’s some form of post-punk, is noisy/experimental, on the artier end of the pop spectrum or abstract hip-hop, it will probably receive a thumbs up from me. This is why it’s always good when an album I’m not expecting to enjoy or is out of my traditional field of listening surprises me, it keeps life interesting! Here are a few examples.

Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves (2018): 

Country music is not something I am massively fond of. My old perception of the genre was shaped by my exposure to the likes of Keith Urban and other pop-country chart-toppers, leaving me to conclude that the style was nothing more than pandering ballads (see Bo Burnham). This primarily changed with Golden Hour, a country album that saw Musgraves unafraid to draw on a multitude of influences as wide-ranging as disco to dream-pop. Its distinct personality, the charm of Musgraves herself and the album’s ambition really took me off guard, leading me to comfortably conclude that country music could be good.

Weezer (Blue Album) by Weezer (1994): 

Weezer is a band that I never thought I could enjoy an album from. While I always understood the adoration surrounding their debut LP, labels such as power pop and pop-punk simply did not appeal to me. When I did finally come around to listening to Blue for the first time, I can happily say my expectations were exceeded. Though Weezer is now infamous for their sheer inability to top this album (and its follow up Pinkerton), the anxious charm that explodes from Blue is infectious. It is at times a silly album, and the track-listing is often imbalanced between emotionally confessional songs such as Say it Ain’t So and more happy-go-lucky moments such as Surf Wax America, it still is essential listening for anyone interested in 90s rock music and one that gladly questions my perception that pop-punk albums often fall flat.

thank u, next by Ariana Grande (2019): 

Grande’s name is one that is tied to images of manufactured fame and big-budget spectacle, buying into the totally baseless and sexist narrative that contemporary female pop is devoid of substance. I have always felt that many serious music fans have been quick to write-off Grande, but not even I could’ve anticipated just how good she could get. Grande has a complicated public persona, to say the least, her troubles and diva attitude over the years is well documented. And it is on thank u, next that Grande seemingly channelled her troubles, creating a confessional LP topped with some stellar production. I will admit, top-40 music charts are often the last place I look to for new listening material, but I am glad that I paid attention to the justified hype this LP was receiving, proving that pop music could be just as smart as it could be marketable.

Black Messiah by D’Angelo and the Vanguard (2014): 

This album didn’t surprise me because of preconceived biases or expectations. In fact, it was a total lack of both that led this album to blow me away. A great disappointment of mine is that I simply have little to no understanding of soul music, with most of my exposure coming through neo-soul oriented hip-hop. So, there I was one night, looking for albums to listen to, totally unprepared for what I was about to get myself into. Black Messiah is simply an astonishingly detailed album. Its sonic palette is enviable, with sounds drawn from traditional soul, gospel, psychedelia and even various Latin American styles. Easily one of my top ten albums of the 2010s, D’Angelo left me flawed with Black Messiah and blew me away to a whole new planet of sultry, soulful goodness.

Double Negative by Low (2018): 

Listening to this album in the pitch-black at some ridiculous hour of the morning was one of the best decisions I have ever made, probably second only to that time I decided to order seafood chowder in New Zealand. Having never listened to a single Low album before this and still being a bit unsure on experimental music in general, it was again my lack of expectations that really made this album such a revelation for me. It’s an album that defines the very word ‘atmosphere’, with Low’s use of distortion, electronics, near-silence and moments of crashing noise creating a foreboding mood of apocalyptic scale. I credit this album as being the piece of music that finally got me into more experimental sounds, and I definitely have not looked back (and neither do I plan to). Double Negative is one of those albums where I will always remember the first time I heard it.  

And those are just a few examples of albums that for one reason or another surprised me and blew away my expectations. There are so many more I would love to talk about, whether it be Harry Styles impressive leap forward with Fine Line, an album that proved to me that EDM could be more than just dance-floor fodder in Porter Robinson’s Worlds, or even the pleasant surprise I got with this year’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple. Being constantly surprised is one of the many joys of listening to music, always making me want to come back for more and discover those hidden gems I may have otherwise missed.     

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