10 Songs on Repeat:
1. Rapture by Declan Mckenna (2020)- Another great track of the British singer-songwriter’s latest LP, Rapture delves into the world of 90s inspired neo-psychedelia complete with a catchy chorus, crashing production and a confident vocal performance from Mckenna.
2. feel away by slowthai with James Blake and Mount Kimbie (2020)- For a rapper known for his loud, punk attitude, feel away is a remarkably subtle statement. Slowthai takes a backseat on this emotional tracking, having only one verse and letting his features shine, with James Blake’s performance being particularly moving.
3. You Might Think He Loves You for Your Money but I Know What He Really Loves You for It’s Your Brand New Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat by Death Grips (2020)- Last week I said Punk Weight was the Death Grips track that went off the hardest. Well… I’ve changed my mind.
4. 13 Angels Standing Guard Round the Side of Your Bed by Silver Mt. Zion (2000)- Off the post-rock outfit’s cult-classic debut, 13 Angels is a minimalistic, haunting and utterly beautiful track that burns slowly and brightly, conveying emotion perfectly without the need for lyrics.
5. Michigan Hammers by Protomartyr (2020)- Exploding out the gates like a mad bull, Michigan Hammers is built upon an unconventional yet driving beat and guitar riff, with the Detroit post-punkers doing what they do best: noisy yet strangely beautiful rock music.
6. Spurs 3 by Conway the Machine with Westside Gun and Benny the Butcher (2020)- This old-school hip-hop banger sees three of Griselda Record’s best acts confidently and ruthlessly do their thing over a glitchy, yet classic East Coast boom-bap beat. A great, modern track for those old-school fans out there.
7. Do You Know Her? by We Are Only Human Once (2020)- This noisy, catchy and charmingly low-budget indie rock banner came to my attention on music blogging sight AOTY (which often champions obscure indie acts such as this) and has me very excited to check out what else this artist has been up to.
8. Smile #5 (see page 103 and 107) by Slauson Malone (2020)- This New York rapper/producer’s record A Quiet Farewell was one of the most daring pieces of experimental hip-hop of the 2010s. His latest EP acts as a companion piece, with songs such as Smile #5 keeping to his previous LP’s dark, atmospheric mood whilst leaning heavily into some of Malone’s singer-songwriter tendencies.
9. Best of You by Blood Orange (2016)- Dev Hynnes is one of my favourite singer-songwriter/producers working right now, with my personal favourite track of his being the smooth and bittersweet alternative RnB love song Best of You.
10. I Know the End by Phoebe Bridgers (2020)- It’s this song’s second half that makes it so spectacular, with its dramatic, orchestral peak reminding me of classic Arcade Fire as well as proving Bridgers as one of the most hopeful new-voices in the current indie landscape.
You can find a playlist to these songs here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0Zziu02lvyw38ruIEuczl3?si=XXMLQXkoSU2LI9EFNfWTbQ.
Apple by A.G. Cook- 5.8/10:
I want to start by saying that Cook is one of the most influential influences of the last decade. Without his work as head of the PC Music label, the popularity of hyper-pop artists such as 100 gecs and the contemporary output of Charli XCX would simply not be possible. His skill as a producer and love to all things loud and pop has led to some of the most unique releases over the past few years. So, how does A.G. Cook stack up as a solo artist? Apple is his second album this year after 7G (which due to its enormous length will likely never be heard by these ears), and it is a solid(ish) effort. Ironically, Cook’s work with other artists has left his own sounding almost pedestrian. Yes, it is still left-field; however, Apple doesn’t really bring anything new to the table regarding hyper-pop and bubblegum bass. I still enjoyed most of the cuts off this record and cannot fault Cook’s wizardry as a producer, but I simply don’t see myself revisiting this LP anytime soon. Also, Cook’s lyricism is nothing to get too excited over either (but to be fair, I doubt that was ever meant to be the focus of the record). Apple is a manageable, sweet little pop record that ticks all the boxes associated with the PC Music label. However, Cook’s own martial with other artists does render this album relatively underwhelming.
Best track: Xxoplex
Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers- 8.2/10:
I have been putting off listening to this album for a very long time. Not out of any dislike for Bridges or low expectations, it’s just that albums that I’ve been looking forward to have distracted me from this record the past few months. But after long-last, I have finally given the already adored Punisher a go, and I was not disappointed. What stands out the most on this record is, of course, Phoebe Bridgers herself. Don’t let her soft, sweet voice fool you, Bridges displays a profound wisdom and cutting sense of humour throughout this record, making it one of the best lyrical works of the year. Her songwriting is simply outstanding, with Punisher comfortably establishing her a place alongside the plethora of excellent indie solo acts we have had risen over the past few years. My only major problem with this album lies with the production. Though it is incredibly well-executed and consistent, I simply have never been a huge fan of the style of soft indie-folk present on this record. But having said that, that one minor gripe only falters this album slightly. Punisher is one of those records that will appear in just about every critics’ end of year lists, and so it should, as Bridgers personal, cutting and darkly-humorous songwriting is genuinely remarkable.
Best track: I Know the End
From King to A GOD by Conway the Machine- 8.1/10:
Though From King to A GOD makes no effort to break any new ground in the world of East Coast hip-hop, it allows Conway the Machine to be about as ruthless as any rapper has been this year. Dripping in the hazy grime that is associated with traditional East Coast gangsta rap, From King to A GOD is probably my favourite release to come from an artist associated with Griselda records so far. Packed with guest features both from within the record label and from beyond it (including big names such as Freddie Gibbs) and topped with excellent, hard-hitting production, everything seems to work so smoothly throughout this LP. Conway is of course the main attraction, and don’t let the tough, gangsta persona fool you. The most impressive moments lyrically for me came when Conway was reflective and vulnerable, looking back on his time in prison, the shooting that nearly cost his life and the friends he has lost, making no effort to glorify the lifestyle he spent a large amount of his life in. Again, I will say that this album is nothing new for East Coast rap, rendering several tracks redundant and predictable. But I doubt that was ever Conway’s intentions, with his latest LP being a good-old-fashioned hip-hop thriller that will satisfy new and old heads alike.
Best tracks: Spurs 3
This Week’s Feature: Three Great Albums I’ve Listened to in Quarantine Not Released in 2020:
A short one this week. One of the great things about social isolation is that I have been home more, which I can listen to more music. I have made it my personal journey in 2020 to listen to as much new and unfamiliar music as possible. From this extensive listening, I give you the three albums I have enjoyed the most.
Velocity : Design : Comfort by Sweet Trip:
Something of a cult classic throughout the online music nerd community, Velocity : Design : Comfort is a truly one-of-a-kind record. Sweet Trip are a band that haven’t put out loads of material over their long career, having practically no mainstream impact in the process. However, their 2003 record has grown a significant cult following due to its deft combination of the glitchy world of IDM and the serene noise of shoegaze, creating its own brand of hybrid pop music. Velocity : Design : Comfort is a massive album, and I would suggest you familiarise yourself with the genre’s mentioned before diving into it, but once you’re able to penetrate its somewhat intimidating shell, you’ll be rewarded with a light, joyous pop affair like no other.
Highlights: Dsco, Velocity, Fruitcakes and Cookies, Chocolate Matter
Earth 2: Low Frequency Version by Earth:
Unless you have a very high tolerance for drone music, I wouldn’t recommend this album. At three tracks, two of which push beyond the 30-minute mark, Earth’s debut is often regarded the album at the very edge of metal music. Consisting of deep, reverb-laden guitars, thundering bass and drums sunk into the back exceptionally far in the mix, I could see why most people would turn it off instantly. However, if you keep an open mind, it’s a genuinely meditative experience, putting you in a noisy hypnosis and transporting you into another, mysterious world entirely.
Highlights: Can’t pick highlights as the album functions as one continuous piece.
You Forgot It in People by Broken Social Scene:
I recently claimed that this was the best record I have listened to in a while, and I wasn’t kidding. Coming out in 2002, a period often considered the golden era for both indie music and post-rock, the Canadian outfit married the two sounds together effortlessly on You Forgot It in People. Experimental, but not to the extent that it’s inaccessible, I think it’s an excellent record to help one get into a difficult genre such as post-rock, having enough indie tropes to make it familiar. But beyond that, the extensive line-up of the group all put their talents on display throughout this wonderous LP, creating songs that are lush, skeletal, joyful and mournful all with a wonderfully messy sense of adventure. Lyrically, I also enjoy this record, touching on issues as broad as politics and violence and as intimate as growing old and falling out of love. It is a truly beautiful record, and one I will be recommending to everyone willing to listen to me.
Highlights: Almost Crimes (Radio Kills Remix), Anthems For a Seventeen Year Old Girl, Cause=Time, Lover’s Spit.