Sunday, 30 December 2018

Album Of The Year 2018: Ryan Beatty - Boy In Jeans

Hello, bet you weren't expecting to see me again. It's been a tough one this year for The Blog but in its absence The Podcast that I do has been doing amazing (sweetie) since the start of the 2018/19 Premier League season so that's all quite exciting really. As early as March I was worried about the fact I wasn't enjoying any albums, or EPs for that matter, the whole way through. Kali Uchis' Isolation released at the start of April was my first taste of an album I could even attempt to invest in. Then along came the curious case of ~all those Brockhampton albums~; and then along came the actual Brockhampton album and it was nothing but poorly produced disappointment. A quick shout out to Blood Orange's Negro Swan, Cosmo's Midnight's What Comes Next and Don Broco's Technology. As unenthused as I was by LPs this year, those three did alright.

If I had to pull together a top three I'm not sure I could choose which way round they'd sit but Boston Manor's second record Welcome To The Neighbourhood and Buddy's debut full-length Harlan & Alondra would be the two fighting it out. I've never been a fan of Boston Manor prior to now, just another pop punk band, weren't they? But they've done what Decade did between their debut and follow up, and just grown the fuck up. Welcome To The Neighbourhood was recorded (if not also written) in America and was produced by Mike Sapone (of Brand New production fame). It's polished, this album, in a way that you would never have expected a Boston Manor album to be. I was late to this Buddy album by a good three months or so but I'm so glad I gave it some time because it's an effortless blend of hip hop, R&B and funk. I'm so excited for the artist that Buddy is about to become.

But, my actual album of the year? A record that has seen me through every waking minute of the second half of 2018? That's Ryan Beatty's God In Jeans. And you're out here like "... Ryan who?". And I'm out here like Bleach Blonde Gay Icon Ryan Beatty. He actually started life as a YouTuber a whole bunch of years ago, did some music for a bit and then disappeared. The first I heard of him were his collaborations with Brockhampton last year on Saturation II and III. And then in May, Beatty released the first track from his debut album, 'Bruise'. Let's put it this way, it's sure as hell not a conventional lead single, is it? On the surface it's just quite a good RnB/pop crossover song. In fact, the whole album is this, at surface level, a great pop record but underneath it gets dark pretty quickly.

The whole record is produced by Calvin Valentine (alongside a couple of other co-producers) and it's so refreshing in 2018 to have a pop album that does see the same themes and ideas throughout an entire body of work. The album opener 'Haircut' is pure and simple (gonna be there), it's blissful, the "it starts right now" hook is effortless, it's perfect. All albums should start like this. But as I say, Boy In Jeans takes these quick dark turns mid up-tempo song, like on Euro when suddenly Beatty's all "I'm not suicidal, I'm too afraid to die. Wanna feel something other than sadness sometimes." And I feel that. It's a similar story on 'Camo' too, with the essence of the hook being "camo print depression, I keep my feelings hidden." What we need in 2019 is more albums really blatantly dealing with issues that we're all going through but in an entirely casual way.

I've definitely used Boy In Jeans as a way to live vicariously through someone who (in my eyes at least) has something as (also, in my eyes at least) complex as their sexuality figured out. Maybe this is TMI for an annual post on a blog whose readership is now limited to those whose eyes I pry open to look at it, but I'm just being honest. I have two standout favourites on Boy In Jeans. The first one is 'Cupid'. It is the polar opposite of a song that anyone who knows me would expect me to like. It's the slowest and most stripped back track on the record but it perfectly encapsulates every feeling one has when liking someone who, for whatever reason, they can't be with. The nicest thing about 'Cupid' is that it's not bitter or angry, it's hopeful yet realistic. 'Party's Over' is a continuation of this too. These songs are so pretty, they're stunning, but they're straight up about not being able to have what (or who) you want.

I think, objectively, by far the best moment on Boy In Jeans is 'Powerslide'. It's buried in the final third of the album which in terms of cohesiveness makes a lot of sense, but it is a bit of a shame. Anyway, this is The Stand Out pop song on the record and any doubt that Ryan Beatty can't be one of the greatest pop songwriters of the next ten years or so is literally decimated. It's perfect. It's an overtly gay love song with an absolutely huge chorus. If someone asked me to point them in the direction of a song that I heard this year that encapsulates summer - it would be this without question. I almost can't properly articulate how great this track is, and I feel like if I keep trying to do so I'm doing it less and less justice with every word.

At this point in the year, by far the most... I don't know, wholesome thing is seeing this album in other people's AOTY lists. Knowing that there are others who connected with this record maybe not in exactly the same way, but at least in a similar way as I did is a really cool thing. And honestly if you've reached the end of this and you still haven't heard Boy In Jeans, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

R&Been Away

Wow. So whilst I've been tied up doing an FPL podcast, R&B has had a pretty exciting revival. Not that it ever really went away or stopped being good or whatever, but some true classics have surfaced over the last three months and I would just like to do is run you through them.

Very shortly after I gave up on even just weekly posts here, Brent Faiyaz went and dropped two hits, one, a solo effort, and the other as a member of Sonder. I'll freely admit at this point that I had absolutely no idea Faiyaz was involved in a project other than just him being him, nor was I actually aware of Sonder's existence. So, February was a nice surprise. The solo track 'Make Luv' has a bit more attitude about it than I remember the tracks on Faiyaz's last full-length Sonder Son having. I quite like scorned Brent. I guess the "thought I wasn't much but now you wanna make love to me" line relates to what we heard on the chorus of Goldlink's 'Crew', "I was down and out like last week, tell me where have you been". The Sonder track, 'One Night Only' flips the coin (is that the phrase??) on the situation with a softer vibe and vocal with a pretty outrageously catchy bass and guitar lines.

Was I genuinely unaware that both CVIRO and GXNXVS are Australian before sitting down to write this?** Like... it's actually quite obvious but took me by absolute surprise. It's no secret, however that a couple of years ago these two released one of my favourite songs I've ever posted, 'Sober', so I'm sure you can only imagine how gassed I was to see they are back and imminently releasing their debut EP together. (I have no idea when that's actually happening because God forbid anybody send me a press release I actually want to receive.) The two new tracks we've heard from this singer/producer duo so far are 'Lady', which is good, and 'Twisted', which is great - a hit. CVIRO's vocal is a perfect 90's throwback from start to finish, and GXNXVS's production is crisp as hell. I am hyped, you should be too.

God. The amount I love white men doing R&B is nigh on embarrassing. Some other songs I reckon you should be 100% aware of. LA based Danish artist Galimatias released a track called 'South' the other week which is such a shameless attempt at being sexy but it works thus I am not mad. Canadian duo Always Never have put out the weirdly titled 'Morgan Freeman'. The vocal sounds scarily close to those of Chase Atlantic but I feel like this pair have far more integrity than those kids from Australia who probably really just wanted to be a rock band. Finally, Ama Lou (woah, at last, a female) released a three track... EP(?) titled DDD; the stand out on which is opener 'Tied Up'. This track is strangely minimalist, one of those where you don't really realise how little is going on underneath Ama Lou's voice unless you pay some real attention.

All of these songs are available to listen to right now (non)exclusively on Keep It 2018.

** In my first ever post about both CVIRO and GXNXVS I noted that they were Australian. So, it's transpired I'm just thick.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

The Great Escape 2018 Clashless Guide - Part Three: Saturday

The guide to Thursday is here and the guide to Friday is here, just in case you missed them!

Can you believe it's almost over already? Mad isn't it, considering none of us are actually there yet. Friday always seems to be a bit more thin on the ground than the previous two days so that's my excuse for the more concise nature of this post. Without further ado, here's everybody I suggest you should see on the final day of this year's Great Escape Festival.

Weather Report: Highs of 17 degrees Celcius, sunny intervals and breezy... no rain!

I have been narrowly missing out on seeing Teischa live for about the last eighteen months but I (alongside you, dear reader) am putting that to rights this weekend. I first posted about Teischa Jones when she was going by her full name three whole years ago. The 21 year old does simple pop with a soulful vocal and we're all going to watch her do this live at midday on the Dr Marten's Stage. Yes, I did just say midday. Fight me. If your weary bones couldn't stay awake long enough for Ecca Vandal on Thursday night, she's up on the Dr Marten's Stage straight after Teischa at 12:40. Next we're up to The Hope and Ruin for off-the-wall French electro-pop two piece SuperParka at 13:30. Lead single 'Girl', from their debut "mixtape", sounds a bit like Superorganism with poppier roots and literally a quarter of the members.

It's down to the Queen's Hotel at 14:30 next for London based Crooked Teeth, who are billed as a "synth propelled noise pop band", which I'd say does them a fair amount of disservice. They're a rock band, with pop tendencies, and an American twang. It's back up to The Hope (and Ruin) afterwards for Holly Hardy, professionally known as CuckooLander. CuckooLander's three EPs so far all show quite different sides to the music that she makes, the latest of which is more... ethereal than it's predecessors. You can catch this particular spectacle at 15:30. If you missed The Faim on Thursday afternoon (which I actually quite feasibly may do now) you can catch them again at 17:00 at Volks.

Okay Saturday evening, letsbeavinu. Easy Life sound like an updated version of Jamie T's debut album but if it were made in the Midlands and featured a saxophone. The five piece play The Haunt at 18:30. A short walk along to Patterns (Upstairs) for 19:15 and you'll find yourself stumbling in on Valeras. As far as young British rock bands go, Valeras have to be one of the coolest you've never heard of. Not only are they all under 20 years old (maybe? sometimes birthdays happen) but they put quite a fun little twist on the indie/pop/rock thing which is a refreshing in this quite frankly over-saturated genre. From Patterns, cross the road and head down the pier to Horatios for ALASKALASKA at 20:15. The London based six-piece are described as off-kilter jazz/funk/R&B which has taken me right by surprise (alongside their latest single 'Meateater') because I 100% assumed that they were "just another indie band". (Day Fly also play again at The Walrus at 20:15 and it would be wrong of me not to note that.)

If Day Fly are the act I am the most excited to see at TGE then Tom Tripp comes in at a very close second. I know I shunned The Old Market yesterday but for Tom Tripp I am willing to go the literal distance to see his set from 21:15. The tracks on Tripp's debut EP RED, are a prime example of how to do slick R&B with perfectly fitting vocals. Man I am hyped. If you aren't willing to walk all that way west, I beg you go and watch Nervus instead who play at 21:30 at Sticky Mike's (a venue otherwise omitted from this entire guide). A very cool rock band who have threatened to just press play on some pan pipes if you get on stage with them. Worth it, I'd say. My final pick for you all of the weekend are Now, Now. An undoubtedly cool American duo on the verge of the release of their third album, I'm not sure why you'd want to end the structured part of the festival anywhere other than The Arch at 22:00.

A quick round up of everything we planned today:
12:00 - Teischa - Dr Martens Stage
(12:40 - Ecca Vandal - Dr Martens Stage)
13:30 - Superparka - The Hope and Ruin
14:30 - Crooked Teeth - Queen's Hotel
15:30 - Cuckoolander - The Hope and Ruin
(17:00 - The Faim - Volks)
18:30 - Easy Life - The Haunt
19:15 - Valeras - Patterns (Upstairs)
20:15 - ALASKALASKA - Horatios
21:15 - Tom Tripp - The Old Market / 21:30 - Nervus - Sticky Mike's
22:00 - Now, Now - The Arch

Thanks so much for reading, I'll see you there, hit me up on Twitter @WIIHAMB if you fancy a beer or three xoxo