10 Songs on Repeat:
1. Seasons (Waiting on You) by Future Islands (2015)- Few decade end lists were without mentioning this synth-pop anthem by American band Future Islands. From the catchy melodies, the baritone of singer Samuel T. Herring, some genuinely insightful lyrics about change and the explosive chorus, it is merely a masterpiece of a song.
2. Processed by the Boys by Protomartyr (2020)- These Detroit post-punk rockers get a second week in a row thanks to the release of their dark, primal yet sophisticated LP Ultimate Success Today, with the woodwind supported march of Processed by the Boys (a track about the growing power of the American ICE) being the standout.
3. cardigan by Taylor Swift (2020)- Propped up by excellent production from Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff and lead by some of Swift’s best lyrics, cardigan marks the rare occasion where the lead single off a Taylor Swift album is the best.
4. Don’t Call Again by Tkay Maidza (2020)- This rapper is likely the best thing Australia’s struggling hip-hop has, leading the pack with her combination of both hard-hitting, bass-driven bangers and groovy, neo-soul bops. The lovesick Don’t Call Again falls on the softer end of Maidza’s musical spectrum and along with her other two brilliant singles has me excited for her upcoming release.
5. Steve Biko (Stir It Up) by A Tribe Called Quest (1993)- It goes without saying that I love this New York hip-hop group, with their discography rarely missing a beat. That statement extents to the funky Steve Biko (Stir It Up), found on 1993’s Midnight Marauders.
6. Solomon Eagle by Jamie T (2016)- Jamie T is one of the UK’s most underappreciated songwriters of the last decade, and the dark march of Solomon Eagle proves why. Effortlessly hopping between hip-hop and indie rock, it is an excellent example of the Brit’s diversity.
7. Childhood’s End by Pink Floyd (1972)- Though it might be found on one of Pink Floyd’s less essential records in Obscured by Clouds, Childhood’s End is still one of the band’s best songs for me, the overlapping guitar play and quasi-revolutionary tone making it very re-listenable.
8. Youlogy by Shabazz Palaces (2011)- Darting between melodies, flows and beats yet held together by an excellent performance from rapper Ishmael Butler, Youlogy is a gem for an underground hip-hop head such as me.
9. Brennisteinn by Sigur Ros (2011)- I once saw the sound of Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Ros described as seeing the beauty in a thunderstorm. If any song could represent this, it would be the opener to their 2011 album Kveikur, a triumphant collision of pummeling drums, dreamy guitars and vocal excellence.
10. Death by Viet Cong (now known as Preoccupations) (2015)- Reeling from the sudden death of guitarist Chris Reimer, sections of Canadian noise rock band Woman re-grouped under the name Viet Cong (to then later change their name Preoccupations), focusing on a more punk-rock oriented sound. The closer of their debut self-titled album still remains their glowing triumph, a loud, fast 11-minute-long track that tackles the idea of death head-on.
folklore by Taylor Swift- 8.0/10:
Ironically, by stripping back the expansive sounds and playful pop soundscapes of her previous three releases is what has given Taylor Swift room to breathe on folklore. Out with the stadium-filling anthems and in with the intimate piano-driven folk-pop is the theme of day with the megastars newest LP, delivering what is for me (and by the looks of it, most others) her best record to date. A lot of credit has to obviously go to Swift’s producing duo, the ever-brilliant Jack Antonoff and the exciting inclusion of The National’s Aaron Dessner, who brings the moody, folk-rooted soundscapes of his smash hit indie band to the fore. It’s the subtle electronic glitches, the quiet yet timid percussion and the many other small things that stand out for me on this record. And of course, Taylor (despite lapsing into some of her more undesirable writing habits) shines brightly and confidently on folklore, penning her most confessional lyrics to date and offering calm, subdued yet powerful vocal performances. Unfortunately, this album does drag a fair bit after track 10, the repetitive song-structures eventually taking their toll. Nevertheless, I think this is well and truly Taylor Swift’s best effort to date.
Best track: cardigan
F***K LOVE by The Kid LAROI- 2.0/10:
I mean, props to the kid for being a recorded artist with a significant release by 16, however, Australian rapper The Kid LAROI fails at just about every turn to deliver an impressive, unique and quality emo-rap record. I have stated in the past that emo-rap is not a genre I find myself enjoying all too much, and F**K LOVE definitely isn’t changing my mind. First and foremost, the instrumentals and production are copy-paste jobs on each track, with the same quasi-orchestral Post Malone/Juice WRLD inspired beats permeating every corner of this record (which is not a good thing, as they are generally quite dull). This also leads to the issue of The Kid LAROI leaning too heavily on his influences, making no attempt to forge a unique voice of his own, taking the title of Juice WRLD protege to the extreme. However, my biggest issue with this record is the ‘rapper’ at the centre of it. Firstly, I found his sing-rapping to be almost unbearable, choosing to exist in a vocal range his chords so obviously are not meant. The over-reliance on auto-tune to try and save these questionable vocal performances also becomes incredibly grating, making the short 31-minute runtime feel like forever. Above all this however is simply how unpleasant of a person The Kid LAROI presents himself as throughout F**K LOVE, coming off as toxic and emotionally manipulative through his over-employment of various lyrical tropes in modern emo-rap, painting the image of an emotionally immature teen opposed to one of a genuinely damaged individual I feel like he was aiming for. I am making no attempt to discredit the feelings and emotions he confesses throughout this record; however, I am saying that they could’ve been presented and delivered in a far more refined and careful manner. This rapper is only 16 at this stage, so let us hope he can improve upon this very lack-lustre debut.
Best track: None of them, everything was too generic for any clear standouts.
Ultimate Success Today by Protomartyr- 8.3/10:
Even if following up the widely popular Relatives in Descent seemed like a near-impossible task, Detroit post-punkers Protomartyr still manage to deliver an expansive, sophisticated and enthralling LP in Ultimate Success Today. A common theme I find throughout Protomartyr’s work (especially their more recent material) is a sense of contrast between guttural, raw energy and soaring beauty, with each of the songs on this record finding that middle ground nicely. Nearly every song is noisy and chaotic, however, seem to capture the spirit of classic rock as good as any post-punk album can. Moreover, vocalist Joel Casey is also he’s usual strange self on this record, spitting oddly poetic and ambiguous lyrics in his signature growl. One thing that definitely holds this album back together is how close it keeps itself to its predecessor, with the unwillingness to evolve too much robbing Protomartyr of one of the elements of their discography that makes it so fascinating (however, the inclusion of a brass/woodwind section is a welcome addition). Ultimate Success Today is atypical Protomartyr through and through, with the band delivering a sophisticated yet primal post-punk statement, making it one of the genre’s better releases this year.
Best track: Processed by the Boys
ЛЕГЕНДАРНАЯ ПЫЛЬ by Morgenshtern- 0.2/10:
This is somehow the best and worst piece of music I have ever listened to. After seeing its impressively low user score on AOTY, I like many unfortunate souls could not help but check this out. And what can I say, there is genuinely nothing redeeming about this album. I may not speak Russian, but music is the universal language, and even my ears that only understand the King’s English can tell that this is awful. From the hilarious band production (like seriously, who thought mixing the bass like that was a good idea) to the strange (not in a good way) vocal performances, it’s a blessing this LP is so short. But at the same time, this made me laugh enough times that I’ve got to give Mr. Morgenshtern a bit of credit, even if it wasn’t intentional, which is more than I can say for that crime against humanity that is Sam Hunt’s Southside, so I am going to give it a higher rating.
Best track: All of them, I doubt I will be listening to anything else ever again. This is peak music.
This Week’s Feature- Great Closing Tracks:
One of the key make or break moments in an LP is how well the final track sticks the landing. It is the artist’s opportunity to leave their listener with a lasting impression. Whether it be through a grand statement or a track that perfectly encapsulates the mood of a record, final tracks are more often than not one of the guarantee highlights on any given LP. So, here are some of my personal favourites.
Brain Damage/Eclipse off Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd (1973):
I have already dedicated an entire article as to why this is a near-perfect album, So I feel like I don’t need to say too much on this song. Yes, I am cheating a little as Brain Damage, and Eclipse are separate tracks, you cannot have one without the other. These two songs are simply the perfect encapsulation of Dark Side of the Moon, capturing the album’s existential concepts of time, death, paranoia and disquiet in a final, sweeping, bitter-sweet statement.
Hacker off The Money Store by Death Grips (2012):
This industrial rap’s debut is one of the most beloved cult classics of the 2010s. The closer Hacker takes the already off-the-wall sounds of The Money Store to a new level, drowning the listener in a sea of noise and fury, leaving a lasting impression of the album as a whole.
A Day in the Life off Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely-Hearts Club Band (1967):
What many would consider the crown jewel of the Fab 4, the free-wheeling yet refined and experimental ideology of the Beatle’s 1967 juggernaut is closed out in the most beautiful, multifaceted way in the dreamy and daring A Day in the Life.
Perfect Places off Melodrama by Lorde (2017):
Lorde’s magnum opus is a sophisticated collection of art-pop that has little to no rival. Songs about heartbreak, growing up and losing one’s innocence abound, with the record’s closing remarks in Perfect Places an optimistic way to end the emotionally charged record.
Earthmover off Deathconciousness by Have a Nice Life (2008):
An album defined by long, noisy, dark and lo-fi experimental rock epics, it’s only appropriate that the longest, loudest and darkest track is saved for last. It is the ultimate summary of the cult classic LP and the album’s standout.
Half Sister off Relatives in Descent by Protomartyr (2017):
Having featured this track recently on the roundup, this crashing post-punk banger is the perfect blend of raw energy and artistic refinement, it’s the ideal send-off for such a great album.
Scenario off Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest (1993):
A head-bopping, infectious and addictive East Coast banger, the perfect way to send off the best rap album of the 1990s.
2099 off Charli by Charli CXC and Troye Sivan (2019):
This experimental pop masterpiece, complete with its dreamy aesthetic and escalating drama, may not be the best representation of the eclectic pop of Charli, but it does leave a lasting impression.
Girl off In Colour by Jamie xx (2015):
A dreamy, swirling piece of electronica off the best album of its genre in the 2010s and the best possible way to cap off this modern classic.
Disarray off Double Negative by Low (2018):
Double Negative is an album the veers between almost complete silence and crashing noise, creating an anxious yet oddly serene atmosphere. Everything finally unravels on Disarray, a somewhat nihilistic closer off an album that revolves around the concept of slowly and quietly becoming undone.
There are, of course, other fantastic closing tracks, and this is no definitive list. As a matter of fact, I will probably be slapping myself soon for excluding some tracks soon. But for now, these are just some examples of how one should be looking to end their album.