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.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Album Of The Year 2017: 1. Tyler, The Creator - Flower Boy

Not only has Tyler, The Creator taken WIIHAMB's Album of the Year slot for 2017, the rapper is also my artist of the year. Upon the release of Cherry Bomb two years ago I was prepared to stan, ready to hear my new favourite record. I came away in love with 'Fucking Perfect' and a big fan of 'Deathcamp' but that was all. With that in mind, an album that took the ideas behind those two tracks and built upon them was literally all I could have asked for. And that's what we got on GRAMMY nominated Flower Boy.

There's a lot of speculation currently that Tyler's next record will be a "pop album" but it's baffling that anybody would think Flower Boy isn't already a pop album. In much the same way as I discussed about Brockhampton yesterday, Tyler has developed the ability to direct his album to the point where is hits the mark across pop, R&B and hip hop with seemingly little to no effort. On track two of Flower Boy, 'Where This Flower Blooms', Tyler not only talks about his growth and blossoming personally but also within his music and musical style. Where on Cherry Bomb so many of the tracks (Find Your Wings, Blow My Load) feel like overworked interludes, every track on Flower Boy feels like a song, even including album closing instrumental 'Enjoy Right Now, Today'.

An unavoidably clear observation of both Cherry Bomb and Flower Boy is the plethora of featured artists. On the former, these guests were littered throughout and made tracks feel oversaturated and unnecessarily complex. In contrast, every feature on Flower Boy fits each song perfectly, adding dynamics to the tracks yet never overshadowing Tyler himself. On 'Who Dat Boy', Tyler and A$AP Rocky take it in perfect turns on the verses, making for a seamless collaboration. Personally, Kali Uchis' vocals on 'See You Again' make for the best guest performance on the record. Her voice juxtaposing againt Tyler's sung vocals gives us a really raw sounding love song. Syd is an interesting vocal omission from Flower Boy considering her presence on Cherry Bomb; instead the only former Odd Future member we hear from is Frank Ocean (on '911/Mr. Lonely' and 'When this Flower Blooms'. Due to my sheer hatred of Lil Wayne, 'Droppin' Seeds' is the only track I don't like on this alum but as it clocks in at a mere 60 seconds I've found just pretending it doesn't exist is a great solution.

I guess what took me by surprise the most about Flower Boy was that I wasn't expecting Tyler, The Creator rapping and singing so openly about normal things that would affect a 26 year old. The state of sheer infatuation with another human being on 'See You Again', the apathy throughout 'Boredom' especially the line "my friends suck, fuck em, I'm over em", and the continued lack of companionship on '911/Mr Lonely'. I think all of these things are really important for young people listening to this album to hear. And I assume lyrically this wasn't just what I wasn't expecting, but not what anybody was really expecting. Hearing Flower Boy and associating that with the fact the maker of this album is fucking banned from the UK is absolutely baffling. It's important to note, though, that Tyler hasn't lost his more eccentric and erratic streak because we still hear that on both 'Who Dat Boy' and 'I Ain't Got Time!'. The contrast of those songs to the self-referential 'November' and 'Glitter' makes for a truly stunning record.

The growth of Tyler and his work throughout his string of studio albums is so clear and impressive. In terms of composition, lyrics and maturity it's genuinely surprising as to why mainstream media don't seem to show him a huge tonne of support. Even so, Tyler proved that he didn't really need it by reaching number 2 on the Billboard 200 album chart and top ten in the UK. The final best thing about this album is that just when you think you're fed up of hearing the songs from it, Tyler goes and switches everything up and every note sounds new again. Most notably his NPR Tiny Desk Concert is beautiful, fun and so enticing from start to finish - a must watch before 2017 is out, and a must repeat as often as you need to, just like Flower Boy itself.