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

Tuesday 15 May 2018

The Great Escape 2018 Clashless Guide - Part Two: Friday

Part One, the guide to Thursday at The Great Escape 2018 is just here.

Day two, let's go, we busy out here. This is far shorter (it seems) in terms of word count to yesterday's guide, I'm not too sure why that is, but I can confirm the content is still great. (There's actually just less chat about getting from A to B, which is fine because you all know how to walk, congrats!)

Weather Report: Highs of 15 degrees Celcius, sunny intervals and breezy... no rain!

It's an early start and for that I will not apologise. Day Fly are a duo, one of whom is based in The Netherlands, the other in the UK. They are (as of right now) the act I am most excited to see at The Great Escape please do not get it twisted. Think R&B, in a similar vein to Klyne, I guess, but with a bit more edge. If anybody is familiar with CVIRO & GXNXVS, that's where I'd place Day Fly. They're on at 12:15 in Komedia's Studio Bar, don't be late. [Update 12/05/2018: I took a break from this whole TGE thing to listen to Tyler's Cherry Bomb, you could find me doing this at this point on Friday as well, will keep you updated.] Aeris Roves is on at The Walrus at 15:00. The south London based singer has only released two singles thus far (the second of which came out last Friday) but with both boasting production from Two Inch Punch, Aeris' take on pop and RnB makes him one to watch. Taking a punt on the next stop on this guide with Dermot Kennedy at 16:00 down at the Beach Club. Kennedy does pop leaning guitar singer/songwriter stuff, but he does it quite well. I'll be gassed for this if his live set up isn't just him and a guitar, but even if it is he's still got a pretty hefty vocal.

Friday evening is always chaos at TGE so I've tried to pick out artists who are definitely worth watching. The first on my list is Australian alt-synth-pop human (yeah I just made that up) Hatchie who plays her third and final TGE set at 18:00 at The Arch. Next up eighteen year old German/Canadian but currently residing in The Netherlands Bulow is a must see, playing Wagner Hall at 19:00. Her Damaged Vol. 1 EP released at the end of last year contains a trio of pop hits that if released by an artist with a higher profile could have taken the world by storm. Stella Donnelly plays her second of three TGE sets at 19:45 inside the Unitarian Church. There couldn't be a more fitting venue for the Australian singer/songwriter's heartfelt and angsty tone as she belts out the likes of 'Mechanical Bull' from her debut EP. Then for a complete change of pace it's Ebenezer downstairs in Patterns at 20:30. Ebenezer blends hip hop, R&B and trap, emulating many of his American counterparts but using his North London roots to give his tracks a UK spin. Miriam Byrant's bio on the TGE website boasts that she is "one of the biggest artists on the Swedish music scene" and I guess that means we should all probably squeeze into One Church at 21:30 to see her in action. Her latest single 'Black Car' definitely took Spotify playlists by storm and it doesn't take more than one listen to hear why the pop sphere is so excited by Bryant.

I've never seen BØRNS before and am thus fully commiting myself to his hour long set at Coalition from 22:45. I'd definitely recommend arriving early if you're also planning on seeing him, but I do also have some alternatives if you prefer your acts to be less well established. Wild Front play straight up indie pop at Latest Music Bar at 22:15 and then you can stroll down to the end of the pier for Bad Sounds at Horatios at 23:15, who I'll now miss for a second year in a row. I think I'm contractually obliged to include one Domino band in this guide so this year's pick is Sorry, 00:30 at The Haunt. (Superorganism and Tirzah both also play on Friday but the former is at The Old Market *eye-roll* and I've no doubt there will be an abundance of time to see the latter in the coming months.) There's absolutely no excuse to head home early on this particular night as Maximillian plays at The Walrus at 01:15. Yes, of course, every Nordic artist is great at pop music but in this current new wave Maximillian is one of the best.

A quick round-up of what we've planned for Friday:
12:15 - Day Fly - Komedia Studio Bar
15:00 - Aeris Roves - The Walrus
16:00 - Dermot Kennedy - Beach Club
18:00 - Hatchie - The Arch
19:00 - Bulow - Wagner Hall
19:45 - Stella Donnelly - Unitarian Church
20:30 - Ebenezer - Patterns (Downstairs)
22:15 - Wild Front - Latest Music Bar
22:45 - BORNS - Coalition
23:15 - Bad Sounds - Horatio's
00:30 - Sorry - The Haunt
01:15 - Maximillian - The Walrus

The third and final guide will be here tomorrow, please ensure that you return for it.

Monday 14 May 2018

The Great Escape 2018 Clashless Guide - Part One: Thursday

Wow hello, hi. Yep, surprise, I'm still alive! Alive and back to bring everybody's favourite piece of annual WIIHAMB content: The Clashless Guide to The Great Escape. If you're new here, it's pretty self-explanatory but I'll run you through all three days of the UK's best festival for new music with who to see when and how to avoid being left outside in the inevitable cold. This has by far been the trickiest guide to put together of the three or so years of clashless guides, but at time of writing I am so much more ahead of schedule than I usually am, so you win some, you lose some.
Update 10/05/2018: A big fat reminder to both myself and all of you that I hate writing, kill me.

As ever there are a bunch of new venues this year and I have absolutely no idea what the capacity or bar stock is like for any of them. There are three TGE stages on the actual beach which sounds like a logistical pebbly nightmare to me, Bau Wow looks like an attempt at a less sleazy Shoosh, and The Walrus refers to itself as labyrinthine, something that none of us need. There are my hot takes.

Weather Report: Highs of 14 degrees Celsius, sunny intervals and breezy... no rain...!

Where this guide starts for you is obviously very dependent on your ETA into Brighton but I'd encourage you to make it sooner rather than later. I think Sonny was the first act we saw at TGE last year so how fitting that hopefully he'll be our first in 2018 too. Sonny will be taking to the stage in the Marine Room (at Harbour Hotel) at 12:30 to ease you into the weekend. Next up are wildcard pick Glaswegian duo LOVE SICK. Their debut single 'Bullet' shows a fair amount of electro-pop potential and if any of the pair's unreleased material is close in quality they'll be worth checking out at 14:00 at The Walrus. I rarely bother with "rock" bands at TGE (for absolutely no reason whatsoever) but The Faim will be an exception to this unwritten rule. The Australian four piece channel the likes of Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco, and genuinely have a shout at being the scene's next big thing. Catch them at Komedia at 14:50.

Continuing our journey north through Brighton, aptly named Canadian quartet The Beaches play Green Door Store at 15:45. With punk-esque garage pop being such a popular genre at the moment and so much to choose from, The Beaches could easily be one of the weekend's overlooked band's but I'd encourage you not to miss out. It'll need to be a brisk walk as soon as The Beaches are through down to... well... The Beach Club, one of TGE's new festival stages for opener Moss Kena at 16:30. Moss Kena delivers weird (I guess they call it "alternative") R&B at it's finest and although he's unlikely to be the last artist of this ilk you'll see over the weekend he is likely to be one of the best. Depending on how much you need a break from it all I have one final afternoon recommendation in the form of G Flip, "multi-instrumentalist" Australian Georgia Flipo, at 17:30 also on the Beach Club stage.

If you stayed down on The Beach for G Flip, hang around a little longer for Tyne over in the Beach House at 18:00. Quite similar in style to G Flip but with a string of singles under her belt and recently supported PVRIS across their latest European tour. Otherwise head down to The Arch for 18:15 to catch Veronica Fusaro. I have been infatuated with Fusaro since first hearing her new Ice Cold EP a few weeks ago. A must see. At this point I should mention that I will be ignoring the existence of Pale Waves; they're too big for this guide and to be honest, if you're UK based and haven't seen them yet you just don't really care that much, do you? And so up to the Prince Albert we go where at 19:30 you'll find Swimming Girls. Only one of the four piece is actually a girl but that's okay although I've no knowledge on their capabilites in water. The band were forced together (not unlike Little Mix) at uni (quite unlike Little Mix) but you'd never tell because as far as indie pop goes the likes of Pale Waves should feel rivalled.

I'm fairly sure I at least tried to squeeze Raheem Bakare into my guide for last year but I definitely did not get around to seeing him - the same mistake will not be made in 2018. It's back down to Komedia's Studio Bar for 20:15 is essential for Bakare is the UK's answer to Gallant - yes, I went there. The first recommendation I have this weekend where there is the genuine possibility of not getting in is Rina Sawayama. Although she does play again on the Friday night, that's at Wagner Hall and capacity will be even more stupid than Coalition, so this is the one to go for. The Asian pop sensation isn't on until 21:15 so that's a whole half hour post-Raheem to secure a place at the front before we are slain by pop-royalty-to-be.

Entering Thursday night's home stretch, if you want to catch Alma at 23:00 you'll need to get to Wagner Hall long before then to get the chance to make it inside. I'm dedicating myself to the beers (read: gluten free beer, or any other non-carbonated alcoholic drink... maybe I'm dedicating myself to shots?) this TGE and I wholeheartedly believe that at this time of night Alma will be perfect. Chasing highs, good vibes, etc etc. However if you're looking for something a little more mellow I'd like to suggest Auður, who plays The Walrus at 23:15. Sure, it's more alt-R&B, but this time from Iceland, which is quite exciting because I just assumed everything from Iceland sounded like Bjork or Sigur Ros - it's not the case. Hop over to Bau Wow in time for Eves Karydas at 00:15. She's originally from Cairns in Australia which has me gassed. I can't work out who else her brand of pop reminds me of but it's not the kind of thing I'll recommend anywhere else in this guide. Our final stop on Thursday night, if you're up for it, is Ecca Vandal up at Green Door Store at 01:15. I predict it being a loud and audacious affair but I would also like to put in a request for a circle pit and maybe some stage-diving.

A quick round-up of what we've planned so far:
12:30 - Sonny - Marine Room
14:00 - LOVE SICK - The Walrus
14:50 - The Faim - Komedia
15:45 - The Beaches - Green Door Store
16:30 - Moss Kena - Beach Club
17:30 - G Flip - Beach Club
18:00 - Tyne - Beach House / 18:15 - Veronica Fusaro - The Arch
19:30 - Swimming Girls - Prince Albert
20:15 - Raheem Bakare - Komedia
21:15 - Rina Sawayama - Coalition
23:00 - Alma - Wagner Hall / 23:15 - Auður - The Walrus
00:15 - Eves Karydas - Bau Wow
01:15 - Ecca Vandal - Green Door Store

Please, I beg, join me again same time (probably, hopefully) this time tomorrow for a run down of Friday's TGE must sees.

Thursday 8 February 2018

Last Week's Releases Today: Sing To Me, Child

It's Tuesday evening and I am very behind on this so let's just all hope for the best, shall we?

"All the pop singles out this week are great", y'all said, "it's a lovely time". Well, if that's the case how come it has taken me an entire extra day to post this? Huh? Hmm thought so.

The real shock this week is that my favourite song has come from young duo Let's Eat Grandma who I quite frankly could not stand throughout their debut album cycle. 'Hot Pink', although as quirky as what they were doing before, is far more cohesive than any of it's LEG (what an acronym) predecessors. It's taken a week for me to work it out, but instrumentally the verses on this track sound like something straight out of Oceaan's catalogue and I am pining for Oceaan so that's where I'm at here. I would fucking love if everything this pair do in between ALevels and GCSEs etc sounds like this from now on. Holy shit okay I've just seen that SOPHIE co-wrote and produced this and I'm not sure if that makes my feelings towards 'Hot Pink' more or less mad because I'm actually not that into SOPHIE but there we damn well go.

My second favourite song this week is another pretty rando choice in the form of Trinidad Cardon's 'Dinero'. A hit. A banger. Sing to me, child. This kid has the prettiest damn face I've ever seen. 'Dinero' is good for many reasons, but mostly because it takes this latin/reggaeton craze, tones it down to sound younger and fresher and then gives it all a Caribbean twist. That is the shittiest sentence I've written this year but it's all true. Also this is a damn sight better than his breakout 'Jennifer'.

Where dance and electronic things are concerned: 3LAU continues to truly do the most on 'On My Own' with the enlisted vocal of Nevve. There are two notes in this track that sound lifted from an 00's song and I can't work out what it is, so answers on a postcard please. I think Just Kiddin are good and all they need is to catch a bit of a break; 'Indiana' could very feasibly do that for them. No idea who does the ol' vox on this but I would quite like to know if anybody is willing to share that information with me. Me ol' mate Scott Quinn has joined Set Mo (... nope, me neither) for a foray into dance music on a song titled 'Nightmares' and you know what lads, it bloody works, it does.

JMSN is back again. Does this man ever rest? His new single is called 'So Badly', you don't need me to tell you that it's good. Sam Wills, a man who I frequently get confused with other men who have average stage names, has a new single called 'Kool Aid'. It's very "okay and inoffensive" until the chorus where it gets good. In fact, it's just that "kool aid in the water" line. Excellent content. At least... I think that's what he's saying? Josie Dunne is brand new (I assume) and this is her debut single (I assume) 'Old School', it's very nice, it's very L Devine, but there is strong potential here for her as a musical artist. I'm possibly embarrassed that I like Doja Cat's 'Roll With Us'. I sure as hell might get fed up with it very soon but for now I like it. I'm definitely embarrassed that I like The Mowgli's 'Real Good Life', but what can we do?

February has finally brought us some albums worth talking about. All of the singles on Don Broco's Technology are great, but the rest of the album doesn't quite live up to the hits on their previous two full lengths. South Korea is shaking in the wake of a new album from EXO and a repackaged album situation from Red Velvet. EXO's COUNTDOWN is packed with wall to wall bangers and I would highly recommend; the Red Velvet thing was far less "for me" but opener 'Bad Boys' is pretty fun. Julie Bergan's debut album Turn On The Lights is totally fine, undoubtedly there are hits throughout, but the whole drop for chorus thing gets a bit tiresome after a while. You can check the songs I deemed to be the best from these albums (and more) on the WIIHAMB Q1 playlist which I finally decided was worthy of making public this week.

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

Wednesday 31 January 2018

Last Week's Releases Today: Never Fake Nice

Wow so literally nobody is reading these. Anyway, humans released some songs I actually liked this week which was good of them to do. Let's get into it.

Last year when Harrison Brome released 'Body High' I commended his ability to sing the word "pussy" in the first verse and not make me recoil in horror. I thought this might be a one off but this man could possibly be the only man on the planet who doesn't repulse me by singing about sex. I implore you to also not be offended in the slightest by his new single '9 to 5'. Another track that I definitely had the potential to hate is Johnny Balik's 'Honey'. I don't know what kept me from skipping over this in the first minute but somehow this faux folk pop song goes in a subtle direction away from the Anthony and the Johnson's norm I was expecting. Mad impressed with everything that happens on 'Honey'.

'Fake Nice', the new single from The Aces, is quite good. The Aces actually sound quite like Friends but a bit more indie and a bit less synth. I should have got myself more hype over what they were doing last year, but I'm here for it now. Let's chat about a couple more bands/groups since we're here. Teenage Wrist who I have literally never heard of before put out a track called 'Dweeb' and I am now fully hype. It's extremely rare that I care for rock music at this point in my life so I'm quite pleased to have stumbled upon something I like the sound of so much. They have an album on the way soon, I think, maybe I read that somewhere? I want to say March but I'm not sure. The Age Of L.U.N.A. are back again, which I really admire. Their new single is called 'Maybe Yeah' and it's such a chill R&B meets hip hop masterclass; I am a fan.

I'm sure we're all very grateful that the new Justin Timberlake album is now imminent so the confusion about the Man Of The Woods era can finally be put to bed after the release of last week's third and final pre-album single 'Say Something' with country man Chris Stapleton. It's actually fine but what the hell is going on? In other instant grat news there is another track from Jonny Craig's Slaves (US) titled 'I Know a Lot of Artists'. It's a bit better than the previous song we were drip fed and I'll be honest I am looking forward to the release of their forthcoming album in a fortnight's time.

The final four... all collaborations weirdly. This Zedd single featuring Grey and Maren Morris, 'The Middle', is good but it does maybe sound a bit too similar to 'Stay' and if you told me that the vocals were actually Alessia Cara again I probably wouldn't bat an eyelid. Tom Misch and Loyle Carner are back together again on 'Water Baby'. I generally just don't really get on with Loyle Carner's vocal but I'm a fan of this track. Tom Misch is good and is actually at a fairly unbelievable level of popularity generally. Shallou and Riah (nope, me neither) have done a nice little collab on a track called 'Lies'. Joel Baker has unleashed the full studio version of 'Worry About Me' which is good apart from the Sneakbo verse which I really hate. Baker continues to be one of the best songwriter storytellers of our generation, however, and for that I am pleased.

Wow look we made it through January and albums were trash literally the whole time. Over 'em to be honest.

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

Thursday 25 January 2018

Last Week's Releases Today: The Bridge of JT's 'Supplies'

I trawled through no less than 173 songs on my compiled NMF playlist this week and the lack of quality was absolutely unbelievable. Somehow I have had the will power to find the roses between the thorns but they are few and far between.

I've been having a really tough time over the past fortnight with this new Justin Timberlake era. It's extremely confused, and whilst I've never been a proper fan this cycle surely doesn't sound as though it's about to turn me into one. I thought Pharrell might breathe some sense into 'Supplies' but in fact he does the absolute opposite, his cameo in the music video further reinforcing that. I straight up just don't like whatever that first single was called... 'Filthy', that's one of those words that makes my skin crawl, but I could be persuaded into liking 'Supplies'. The star of this four minute shy mess is that bridge. Who put that there? Where did it come from? Why is it here? Can I call somebody to remove it from 'Supplies' and use it as the basis for a new song that would be undeniably actually good?

I'm still not actually sure I like any of the songs that are about to appear before you but lets, for the sake of this post, pretend I do. We'll start with the songs I think I might like the most. Betty Who is back and I was not expecting her around again so soon after an album last year. 'Ignore Me' is just the right side of "sad but upbeat enough" and I am a fan. Possibly this years first recommendation from Bastien that I have liked is Lolo Zouaï's 'Blue'. I read somewhere that Zouaï is French-Algerian... so naturally she does some singing en Francais on 'Blue'. It's quite a weird track over all, there's a lot that goes on, the structure and pacing moves about constantly but in an interesting rather than jarring way.

My own personal Spotify Release Radar threw up two rando as hell remixes (well, it threw up more than two but let's focus on what's good) that I am quite pleased with ~the algorithms~ for. The first, Chromeo's remix of Maroon 5's 'Wait'. And I know what y'all thinkin', "wait, was this even a single? Wasn't that whole album campaign a mess? Why are you telling me about this?" Well, I don't know, yes it was, and because it's groove you didn't realise you needed. I was late to the Chromeo party, 'Jealous' was the first song of theirs that I eventually liked. Don't get mad, I'm here now. The second is far more niche and comes in the form of Champion's remix of Modestep's 'Higher'. "Modestep? Is this 2012???" No, it's not. I'm still a big fan of Josh Friend's vocal and Champion's take on this track strips away the dubstep and replaces it all with a more pleasant drum 'n' bass sound.

Wow this post is still going. Okay. Other good things: LIZ has released a double A side single (hello, the 90s called) both singles on which are good but I think I prefer 'Queen Of Me', although it sounds a lot like Aanysa's 'Burn Break Crash'. Nightmares On Wax, who appears to be a man, has released a song with Sadie Walker, who appears to be a woman, by the name of 'Deep Shadows'. I have been enjoying it. Other songs that I'm unsure I actually like but they've made it this far: Hello August's 'Wrong Chick' and The Wombats' 'Cheetah Tongue'. I quite like The Wombats a lot and I'd group them alongside The Subways in a Bands That Nobody Cares For Anymore But That Are Still Good category.

Oh, albums and EPs, God, okay. I didn't really like any of them. I'm holding on to three tracks from the latest Fall Out Boy album. What they did on Save Rock and Roll was exciting but nothing has been anywhere near as good since then. And I liked the first half of Wafia's VIII EP. Let's hope this paragraph starts to get more interesting as the weeks go on. The slowly expanding Q1 Library is here.

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

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.