Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Last Week's Releases Today: Daezed

Two weeks in a row. Are we ok hun? Probably not. Had something else to say but can't remember what so I guess we're good to go. (Spittin' bars like it's '04 or something.)

This week I am the most gassed about the grand return of Dae Zhen. Drew Lawrence a.k.a. Dae Zhen released what I reckoned was one of my favourite albums of 2014 - Women & Wordplay, which is still actually available for free here. That collection of tracks was good four years ago, sure, but I'm not certain they stand up as well in 2018. All of this is by the by because Dae Zhen has stepped it the fuck up with 'Hotline', his first single in what feels like forever. 'Hotline Bling' is cancelled, Drake is over, the telephone will never be the same again. Dae Zhen is good as a rapper, but I think he's possibly better as a singer - and this vocal is so smooth. I would be most grateful if somebody could give me the number for this hotline. Thanks.

In other news, #20GAYTEEN is off to an absolutely flying start with the return of both Australian pop prince Troye Sivan and lesbian princess Hayley Kiyoko. 'My My My!' is absolutely everything I could want in a pop song at this juncture in my life. Maybe I'm uncomfortable about how much I now reckon I fancy Troye Sivan, but also maybe I'm just excited about the homoverload that a potential Troye x Brockhampton collaboration could be. Who can tell? As a song I don't think I like Hayley Kiyoko's 'Curious' that much but the video, as are all her videos, is quite exceptional. There's a full on dance routine and everything. Oh my, (my) my outlook on the next twelve months has been vastly improved.

Speaking of grand returns, our ol' mate Emily Burns is back (again) with another great song (again) called 'Bitch', which is quite a statement really, isn't it? Like, it's not 'Homewrecker' but it is very good and I hope we don't have another year for the follow up. My final favourite this week is a Kali Uchis, Tyler The Creator and Bootsy Collins collab titled 'After The Storm' that surely must have been written around the same time as 'See You Again' for Tyler's Flower Boy. The vibe is similar and there are cross-references in the lyrics, although I guess one could argue the tracks are a little too similar.

Songs I like that I might get fed up of soon but I can't really tell right now are as follows. My mild interest in country as a genre continues with Missy Lancaster's 'Heatwave'. The Hunna called have a new single 'Flickin' Your Hair'. I know, I know, but I'm not finding it obtuse or offensive right at this moment however learning in this moment that it's "flickin'" and not "flicking" has made me a bit uneasy. Atella's 'Alive' is growing on me with every listen. Folly Rae, who I constantly forget I like, has teamed up with a man named "anton." for 'i need you here (cortado)' which was co-written by new WIIHAMB fave LDevine. This looks like a Oliver Heldens thing where the instrumental existed in a public space and a man at a record label was like "GET A WOMAN TO SING OVER THIS". I am not mad about this at all, just an observation. And finally Alexanderson (who I quite like and didn't realise for even one second before last week that he fronts XY&O) has teamed up with ADAL for a song by the name of 'Synthesize' that is more than alright.

Last but not least let's very quickly gloss over albums and EPs released this week. They were pretty much all trash. The Skott EP, Stay Off My Mind, took me five days to process because I was so surprised that the songs were almost upbeat but then I discovered that really I only liked 'In The Mood' and the rest were actually not that good. The BØRNS album, Blue Madonna, was a genuine shock to the system. It was good. It is good. Obviously I'm only holding on to four of the songs from it but overall I was impressed. I have started my first library playlist for 2018 but currently it is just those four BØRNS songs.

All the other songs I've mentioned can be found in my Keep It 2018 playlist here and below.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Last Week's Releases Today: I Like Country Now

It's 00:19 on 7th January and fuck me if this goes live at any point over the next five days.
Update: This morning, 9th January, I woke up after recording the first episode of The Podcast last night like, fuck I haven't got time for all these things.

I'm genuinely embracing the New Year, new me for 2018. I have absolutely no idea why. I don't expect these posts to last very long because of my commitment to The Podcast, but you never know, do you?

However, I've cleared out my inbox, for real, and I've currently got a bit of time on my hands to listen to things multiple times in the space of one weekend to decide whether I actually like them or not. Everybody does these new music posts now, and the majority of humans write far better and with far more character than I do, so I won't bother discussing individual songs at length. I guess right now this is more a here are songs that are good that everybody else seems to have missed.

Also, playlists have changed a bit for 2018 because last year my Spotify profile turned into a hot mess and it was very confusing to navigate even for myself let alone for anybody else. So there is just this one playlist for singles throughout the entire year. No doubt I will take things out, move things about etc, and I'm thinking a quarterly (rather than monthly) library for albums/EPs. I'll deal with that when someone bothers releasing an album worth caring about. Afterthought: might actually put a note in about live shows in these. I go to a fair amount and never really talk about them. We'll think about it.

Let's go, let's go, let's go.

Video of the week (who the fuck do I think I am) is Don Broco's 'Come Out To LA'. Thank God it looks like somebody is finally pumping money into this band, good on you SharpTone Records. This is approximately the trillionth single to be take from Don Broco's forthcoming third album. I've wanted drummer Matt Donnelly to do lead vocals for a very long time but, as pointed out by Dan (from The aforementioned Podcast), on 'Come Out To LA' Donnelly almost mimics frontman Rob Damiani's vocals rather than using his own style. This is by no means the best song we've heard from Technology so far, but the final third of this track is excellent and for that I am pleased.

Oh, I mentioned I like country now, instant grat track 'Contact High' from "minnesota girl" Caitlyn Smith's new album Starfire is very good. It's a pop song really, it's actually very much in the vein of music that Taylor Swift probably should be making but isn't. If I remember I'll listen to this album in a fortnight's time and I'm sure you can't wait to hear my thoughts on it.

I've heard the odd track from Bay Area based Ieuan before but 'Honey Lavender' is the first one that I've instantly enjoyed. A good pop song. The artwork is also terribly aesthetically pleasing and compliments WIIHAMB's current colour scheme very nicely. The other very good "pop song" from last week is Lilly Ahlberg's 'Bad Boys' - an infectious little bop. This is only Ahlberg's second single (from what I can see on Spotify) and is quite the departure from piano ballad debut 'Love Is Like'.

Mila J (who I've never actually listened to before?) put out an honestly fairly bog standard EP of R&B songs but 'Coldest Shoulder In The West' is a true gem amongst the other tracks. The majority of the song is just vocal and a surprisingly pop feeling guitar line. This is definitely a song that I would normally brand something I'd hate but it's really good.

Finally, Farida's 'You' is very good. I have no idea what's going on at any point throughout Oskar Linnros' 'Wifi (Remix)', mostly because it's all in Swedish, but I'm enjoying it with every play regardless. Kendrick Lamar's collaboration with SZA on Black Panther soundtrack cut 'All The Stars' was the only major label release I really liked. And my unhealthy relationship with Jonny Craig continues as I pretend new single 'Patience Is The Virtue' from his latest project, Slaves, is far better than it is.

You can currently find all of these songs on my new 2018 playlist - yay! Linked back there, embedded just down here. Follow it if you feel that way inclined.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Tips For 2018 - The Venn Diagram Strikes Back

Hello, and welcome to the third annual Tip List Venn Diagram. This year I welcome back four returning tip lists to the image itself - as always the BBC Sound Of long list and MTV Brand New's picks, but fitting tightly back in to the frame are the BRITS Critic's Choice Award nominees and the mammoth Vevo DSCVR list.

This year's esscentral picks (geddit? essential and central... never mind) are Sigrid, Pale Waves and Yxng Bane who appear on all three lists. This time last year Sigrid did not exist. Okay, well, she did, but not to any of us. Then boom one Friday in February she was everywhere. Island Records hyping and plastering a then 20 year old across every digital store and streaming service making her impossible to ignore. With all that in mind it's a bit silly that Sigrid is "one to watch" for 2018 because we're all already looking. Dirty Hit signing Pale Waves have made a stamp during 2017 as almost the female-fronted answer to label mates The 1975, whilst East London rapper Yxng Bane's UK top ten single 'Bestie' sees him claim a spot amongst the most tipped for the year ahead.

The BRITs Critic's Choice nominees are never usually ones to highlight over the other artists featured in the Venn but on this year's diagram they are definitely a source of interest. First and foremost, these illusive critics have chosen not one, not two, but three women who all happen to be women of colour. This follows last years all-white cast of nominees Rag'n'Bone Man, Dua Lipa and Anne-Marie, and 2018 is the first year to see no men nominated at all since the award format's inception back in 2009. So that's all well and good, but now we get to the interesting bit. As you can see, Mabel is the only one of the three  appears on another list this year but you'd be fooled to think this is an oversight on everybody else's part. Mabel featured on both the BBC Sound and Blog Sound (R.I.P.) polls of 2016, Stefflon Don appeared on the BBC Sound poll and MTV Brand New's list for 2017, and whilst Jorja Smith was also picked for last year's BBC Sound poll she was also tipped by Apple Music for 2017. All three artists are definitely still "new" in the grand scheme of things and the trio will undoubtedly have impeccable success throughout 2018, but it's hard to deny that the BRITs aren't really opening anyone up to anything they haven't heard over the last six months.

Of the 32 unique artists in the diagram above an overwhelming percentage are solo acts. 85%, in fact. There are only five acts that feature more than one member on this diagram which is pretty insane. It also highlights our next big problem; where are the bands? I hate to go all Louis Tomlinson on you but the unfortunate dismissal of rock and indie persists for yet another year and is actually ignored in its entirety in the outlook for 2018. This isn't a massive surprise where MTV and the BRITs are concerned, but it's undoubtedly a problem for the BBC and it's a shame looking at Vevo who have been sure to include a rock band for each of their past years. But overall, 2018's Vevo Dscvr list seems to miss the mark a little, which, as someone who looks forward to their list every year, is quite disappointing.

On we trot to issue number three. There is an abundance of black representation across the board on these lists, and most notably courtesy of Vevo with seven of their 20 artists being of black origin. This is clearly not the problem. Last year, on this episode of Tom Aspaul's Bottle Pop podcast (sorry, it doesn't appear to be on Apple Podcasts right now) Leo Kalyan explains that it's all well and good that there is all of this black representation but what about everybody from every other ethnic background on the planet? Without delving deep into the family history of everybody on this list Yaeji (Korean-American) and Superorganism vocalist Orono Noguchi (Japanese-American) are the only other obvious people of colour. As things go, I guess this is far more inclusive than one may expect but the genres spanned by the black artists on these lists aren't particularly vast by any stretch of the imagination. At this point I would actually like to highlight Vevo's inclusion of Colombian reggaeton singer/songwriter Feid which is quite the curveball but does make sense given reggaeton's surge in popularity over 2017.

Let's end on a high; who am I pleased to see on here? Both Alma and Billie Eilish are artists I feel very strongly about and it's no doubt that they will both have whirlwind 2018s - I'm hope for a debut album from them respectively too. I'm quite the fan of Au/Ra but I'm concerned this tip from Vevo has come just a little too early. The teenager has a huge amount of potential but I don't think her songwriting capability is mature enough yet to rub shoulders with some of her tip list peers. This was the first time I'd listened to London based eighteen year old Col3trane and of the artists I hadn't heard much (if anything) from before, he was the one I thought could be the most exciting. The one other act I was very pleasantly surprised to see upon MTV Brand New's list is Bad Sounds. The duo put out two really promising EPs last year and their peculiar electro-indie-pop brings something a little fresher to the table and doesn't seem to take itself too seriously.

But I can not let one glaring omission from this diagram slide. Where are Brockhampton? The California based boyband are my one and only tip for TWENTYGAYTEEN, and putting my stan level to one side, I can't really understand why UK (and global, to be honest) publications don't seem to be paying them any attention. Off their own backs in 2017 the collective released three entire albums, each one building and improving on its predecessor, they're playing sold out shows across America and they're working on a feature length film. If this isn't boybands, pop music, hip hop, and gay representation in music flipped on it's head then I don't know what is.