Friday, 24 July 2020

new (and old) music friday #50: kylie minogue, nasty cherry, isac elliot, jodie connor, bryce bowyn

it's hard to be believe this is my 50th (!) new music friday post, but here we are. 

i've said it before, but when i first started this blog in august 2015 (!!) i never thought it would still be going almost five years later, but here's to another five. 

1. kylie minogue 

when kylie announced her new single say something earlier this week, it sent Gay Twitter into meltdown as it had been nearly 2 years since her country-inspired album golden was released (the less said about that the better). 

like every Pop Lover, i've been a fan of kylie since i was about six years old, so i was excited for her long-awaited return to the world of pop, or more specifically disco. 

while say something was described by various news outlets as a "disco inspired" track - probably because her upcoming album is literally titled disco - it has a more 80s-inspired sound thanks to the backing track which sounds eerily similar to radio ga ga by queen. 

though it's certainly not a bad thing, i definitely felt a bit misled when i listened to it for the first time, so hopefully the rest of disco will actually sound like, you know, disco. 

yesterday i also discovered the incredibly chaotic banger skirt from 2013 and if i can't have you, a collaboration with sam sparro (of black and gold fame) and producer garibay, which spotify was kind enough to automatically play once i'd finished my 67th consecutive listen of say something. 

2. call me loop

when strike was first released in may, i declared it one of the best songs of the year and it's a statement i still stand by. 

this frighteningly catchy bop has an excellent Big Chorus, but then again i'd expect nothing less from call me loop, who co-wrote the pussycat dolls' comeback single react and has released a string of impeccable bops over the last four years. 

3. nasty cherry 

my most played song this week has to be better run run by nasty cherry, from their latest EP, season 2. after being put together by charli xcx - who documented the whole thing in the form of a netflix documentary series - the group have formed what appears to be a genuine bond and their passion for the music they've been making is obvious. 

i adored their earlier singles win and live forever, but this new EP shows them moving in a more experimental direction, building on their super nostalgic 90s sound with the dylan brady-produced i am king and cardamom december, which has a moodier cocteau twins feel. 

4. isac elliot 

another song i've played to death is weekend by finnish singer isac elliot. from the moment i pressed play and felt goosebumps all over my arms, i knew this was a special song. i can't explain how or why certain songs make me feel this way, but i truly can't get enough of the synth-driven production of this banger. 

naturally i had to delve into his discography and discovered a whole host of bops including glitter, engine and tired of missing you from his 2014 album follow me. they all went straight into my glory days playlist, which celebrates the golden era of pop production from roughly 2008-2016, and there was more of the same with paper plane, are you gonna be my girl and new way home, which all appeared on his debut album, new way home. 

both albums are reminiscent of up all night and take me home by one direction - which would make sense as elliot was just 12 (!) when his first album was released - but as a lover of what most people would deem "trashy" pop, i firmly believe all of these albums still sound excellent to this day. 

5 vardaan arora 

i've been a fan of vardaan arora for just over a year now, and he just keeps getting better with every release. 

back in june he gave us imposter syndrome, an incredibly ~relatable~ bop which encourages listeners to "embrace their anxieties" and it definitely reassures me that i'm not the only person prone to overthinking. 

his latest single i don't wanna know - a collaboration with korea's first openly queer artist MRSHLL is a total 180, described as a "confident no strings hookup anthem", and i am here for it. 

with his debut EP heartbreak on the dancefloor arriving on august 21st, i'm hoping for even more bops that manage to encapsulate the full spectrum of millennial struggles we're all going through during this challenging time. 

6. dorian electra 

the last year has been incredibly busy for dorian electra; in 2019 they released their debut album flamboyant, which i recently re-listened to and basically haven't stopped playing since. 

along with singles career boy, daddy like, man to man and of course flamboyant, the rest of the album is impeccable. highlights include mr. to you, live by the sword, emasculate, fReAkY 4 life and guyliner, which is one of the biggest bangers of recent memory. 

sorry bro (i love you) was released in may this year, featuring production from longtime collaborator dylan brady, along with a remix album in june. a particular standout was the bronze avery remix, which brings his signature pop sound - best heard on his outstanding single boys! - to the track; my only complaint is that it's just 1 minute and 15 seconds long. 

then yesterday dorian released give great thanks, another dylan brady-produced masterpiece that is most definitely not safe for work, and sees them moving in an even more experimental direction, if such a thing is possible. 

7. dagny 

my introduction to dagny came with her 2017 single love you like that, a song that still sounds incredible every time i listen to it. clearly i'm not the only one who thinks so, as katy perry interpolated it into her 2019 single never really over

this year dagny has also blessed us with more bops, including come over and somebody, which peter robinson of popjustice recently tweeted about, bringing it back to my attention and reminding me to give it a long overdue write-up. 

while i do agree that the "middle eight could work a bit harder", the song captures the same feel-good energy as love you like that, and for that reason it's back on repeat. 

8. jodie connor 

a few weeks ago i put my party playlist on shuffle and rediscovered good times by roll deep, which features vocals from jodie connor. released in 2010, the song instantly brought back (somewhat traumatic) memories of my Teenage Years, and i felt compelled to investigate jodie connor's spotify page in case she too had released some bops of her own. 

i was definitely not disappointed as i unearthed the masterpiece which is bring it, a 2011 collaboration with tinchy stryder that i wish i'd been aware of ten years ago. there was also take you there, which would have made an excellent eurovision entry, and her most recent release, 2016's good lovin, which manages to merge the sound of elena foureira and PC music, a combination that on paper sounds terrible but somehow works. 

9. bryce bowyn 

i became aware of bryce bowyn when he followed me on twitter a few months ago, so i listened to his music and instantly became obsessed with nostalgic, which - as the title suggests - finds him reminiscing about a past relationship. 

it's a feeling i know all too well; just when you think you've fully moved on, the tiniest thing can remind you of that person and bring you right back to a certain time, good or bad. starting out as a electro-pop bop, it crescendos into an incredibly dramatic middle section before descending into a full on Club Banger. 

this same theatrical~ energy can be found on his most recent song just love me, which has a touch of artpop-era lady gaga about it, and i can't get enough. 

10. GIRLI/rony rex 

my obsession with girli shows no signs of slowing down thanks to cold feet, her recent collaboration with rony rex. this is a dancefloor-ready banger that makes a walk to the corner shop feel like you're on the drag race runway, and now that the odd one out era is over, i can't wait to see what's next for the rising star.

Friday, 17 July 2020

new (and old) music friday #49: heidi montag, CXLOE, astrid s, julie bergan, loviet

after yet another shamefully long absence, new music friday is back as i attempt to work through the huge list of bops and bangers i've been listening to since the coronavirus pandemic begin. 

1. troye sivan 

of course i had to begin with the newest tracks from troye sivan. during lockdown he gave us take yourself home, a low-key track that builds to an excellent dance break. as the first single from his upcoming in a dream EP - arriving august 21st - it marks the beginning of an incredibly personal songwriting journey for the singer as he finds himself questioning everything about his life; he provides a more detailed explanation of the lyrics here.

then yesterday - after teasing the song and video on social media for several days - he released easy, though the song's subject matter is anything but, as it chronicles a crumbling relationship where one of the parties has cheated on the other and is begging for forgiveness. 

it immediately brought to mind the early/mid-2000s production of hellogoodbye and metro station with its synth-driven sound and heavily auto tuned vocals, while the video - directed by troye himself- pays homage to 70s-era david bowie, as troye sports a bright red wig, colourful make-up and a perfectly tailored vintage suit. 

as well as these new tracks, i also discovered this this, a bonus track from the target version of his album bloom, and i've had it on repeat non-stop, as well as the album itself. 

2. CXLOE

australian artist CXLOE can do no wrong; i've been following her career which began with the release of i can't have nice things last year, and she hasn't put a foot wrong since. tracks like SICK, show you and low blow have been on constant rotation and i can now add 12 steps to the mix. 

featuring her signature dark-pop sound and a Huge Chorus, she revealed via an instagram post that the song is about addiction and "mirrors the steps of the program through the eyes of a toxic relationship"

as someone who indulged in my fair share of destructive behaviour throughout my late teens/early 20s, it's a sentiment that resonates with me, and like all good songwriting, hits me right where it hurts. 

3. heidi montag 

for anyone that loves Trashy Pop Music, heidi montag's album superficial should be essential listening, and while i've had turn ya head, one more drink and my parade on repeat for some time now,  the other day i found myself re-listening to the tracks i didn't love first time around and can't see myself stopping any time soon. 

highlights include i'll do it, superficial, twisted, more is more and look how i'm doing, all of which could have easily been a smash had they been released by blackout-era britney (there's even a song called blackout on heidi's album) or lady gaga's debut album the fame, but it seems that heidi's reputation as The Villain on MTV's reality show the hills and her decision to undergo 10 (!) plastic surgeries just before the album's release meant it didn't get the promotion or acclaim it deserves. 

despite being signed to a major label at the time, heidi shelled out $2 million of her own money to assemble a team of high profile writers and producers including steve morales, laura pergolizzi and cathy dennis, who wrote kylie's can't get out of my head and toxic by britney. 

luckily the album has gained somewhat of a cult following in the last few years and slayyyter proclaimed heidi montag one of her biggest musical inspirations; several of the tracks on superifical could have easily appeared on slayyter's debut mixtape, released last september. 

annoyingly my favourite heidi track body language wasn't included on the album, though it was released as a single in 2009, presumably to generate interest for the album. maybe it's the sample of yazoo's 1982 single situation - also used by the saturdays in their debut single if this is love - which makes it stand out, but i never get tired of hearing the song. 

4. khalid/victoria monet

with everything going on in the world right now, it's understandable that we might not get a Song Of The Summer to soundtrack what remains of the warmer months, but may i propose experience by khalid and victoria monet? 

this disco-inspired bop evokes a similar feeling to heatstroke and slide by calvin harris, two songs i played to death during my last summer at uni in 2017. 

another Big Song that year was drake's passionfruit, and it seemed like every car that drove past my bedroom window was blasting it from the speakers.

it was also played every time i went to Tha Club, and i can't help but feel like experience could have had the same response had we been allowed to go out and ~socialise. 

while that's not an option for many places still under quarantine, i'd highly recommend blasting experience at full volume, margarita in hand, and dreaming of a hopefully not-so-distant future when this song can be played on car stereos and at pool parties the world over. 

5. astrid s

prior to this year, i was aware of norwegian singer astrid s thanks to her collaborations with artists including JP cooper and frank walker, but never paid much attention to her. 

that all changed with the release of i don't know why. there's something much more light and summery about the production compared to previous NOTD tracks, and i simply can't get enough. 

then she dropped dance dance dance, which gave me goosebumps from the first listen. this is pure pop perfection, and i'm living for the day i can hear it live in november, assuming her tour goes ahead as planned. 

i've also been enjoying her more ~acoustic songs, particularly down lowsidelove and years from her 2019 EP down low, and her foray into ~reggae~ as a featured artist on contigo tengo feeling by GABIFUEGO, which came as a surprise to me as i did my best to avoid the earworm that was despacito

6. julie bergan

another norwegian star i've had on repeat is julie bergan, who - like most new artists i write about - i became aware of thanks to popjustice. the first song i became obsessed with was bored - released last october - and ever since she's been releasing a steady stream of bangers into the world, including STFU - this live performance is really Something Else... dua lipa's MTV performance could never - outline, commando and her latest hit, don't you wanna play? with seeb. 

7. loviet 

if you're ever in need of a drinking game, i'd highly recommend going back through all my old posts and taking a sip/shot every time i say "80s inspired". i can guarantee that this post will appear as loviet takes the phrase to a whole new level. 

while the 1975 continue to move in weird and wonderful musical directions - see: notes on a conditional form - it's always good to see artists be inspired by the - you guessed it - 80s-inspired sound they cultivated on their first two albums; their self titled 2013 debut and i like it when you sleep... three years later. 

toronto-based loviet - real name natalie lynn - is one of those artists, who i first became aware of her thanks to an instagram advert for her latest single when it's over. i also love the thrill and everyone knows - perhaps the most 1975-esque song of hers - which is an ode to the Bad Boy we all love to hate. 

with her first EP officially out in the world, i'm excited to see what the future holds for loviet - hopefully a full-length album is in the works. 

8. alexzone 

one of my favourite things about twitter is the community of independent artists who have been inspired by the sound of charli xcx and PC music.  

first it was slayyyter, then boy sim, and most recently alexzone, who collaborated with boy sim on the absolute banger that is permission

as a solo artist, alex has been releasing bop after bop, including wish u well, control and tie me down!, which is my favourite song thanks to its early 2000s-inspired production and autotuned vocals. 

i also have to thank him for making me aware of girls night out, a club night that has introduced me to a real-life community of pop lovers and literally Changed My Life in just over a year. 

9. 100 gecs 

i've said it before and i'll say it again; 100 gecs are truly the future of music, not just pop but everything in-between, whether it's trance, emo or pop-punk. 

much like PC music back in 2016, when the duo first emerged, critics weren't sure what to make of their genre-hopping sound, but as their fan base steadily grew thanks to features with charli xcx and dorian electra, it seems like they're finally being taken seriously. 

since i discovered them last july, they've put out a remix album called the tree of clues which has taken the internet by storm. somehow they've managed to make their already unique sound even weirder and i'm all for it. 

my favourite track is naturally xXXi_wud_nvrstøp_ÜXXx, the scooter-inspired collaboration between hannah diamond and tommy cash, though tommy's version should have also been included on the album in my humble opinion. 

if you're looking for a pop-punk fix, i'd highly recommend the black dresses remix of 745 sticky and the incredibly chaotic reworking of hand crushed by a mallet, which features actual fall out boy and canadian artist nicole dollanganger.

gec 2 u also receives two remixes, one featuring vocals from longtime collaborator dorian electra and the other by PC music's danny l harle, which goes heavy on both distortion and club-ready synths

finally there's the a.g. cook remix of money machine and an updated version of ringtone, featuring charli xcx, rico nasty - who just released the impeccable girl crush - and kero kero bonito, who once played a gig at my university in my first year, which i regret not going to now they're starting to Make It Big. 

the duo also included two new ~original tracks, including came to my show and toothless, which fit in seamlessly with the rest of the original album. 

hopefully more new tracks will follow, but they've certainly given us more than enough to tide us over until then. 

10. aly & aj

it's hard to believe that sisters aly and aj michalka were once two of the disney channel's biggest stars - never forget their iconic 2006 film cow belles, which is apparently getting a sequel - as they've since gone on to release some of the best pop music i've heard in the last few years and i saw them in manchester this time last year. 

following their second EP in 2019, the girls released two impeccable singles during lockdown, firstly attack of panic - a sleek electro-pop bop which perfectly describes the collective and individual anxiety we've all been feeling lately - and joan of arc on the dancefloor, possibly their best song yet.

this is pure 80s floorfiller with a political twist, inspired by the historical figure herself who was burned at the stake in 143l aged just 19 after being accused of witchcraft.

aly described the song as "super relevant in this moment that we're going through, especially with these protests, and the fact that people need to have a voice"

she hoped the song would feel "very anthemic" while hoping it would "lift people up, make them feel like they could be warriors, in whatever way that is — whether that's standing up for their religious beliefs, their sexuality, their rights", and they've definitely succeeded in all these areas. 

the video is definitely the best quarantine creation i've seen; inspired by the 1928 silent film the passion of joan of arc, it was filmed in aly's living room on roger deakins' eclair NPR camera and george s. barnes' mitchell no. 5 camera - used in several silent-era film - and includes footage from the sexual assault trials of anita hill and dr. christine blasey ford.

these small details demonstrate the passion they have for the music they create and with recording for their second album underway, i'm eager to see what they do next.

Friday, 10 July 2020

the future can be rearranged: music, mental health and momentum

when i was a teenager, it seemed unlikely that my generation (millennial, if you will) would ever live through any significant Historical Events, and within a matter of months we've ended up with a global health pandemic and a burgeoning civil rights movement sparked by the killing of george floyd by police officers in minnesota on may 25th. 

to say i was both horrified and devastated was an understatement, as i first became aware of the black lives matter movement in 2014 following the death of michael brown in ferguson, missouri. i still remember watching the harrowing video of his arrest and the protests which followed, feeling powerless to do anything to help the community. 

fast forward to 2020 and supporters far and wide have been able to use change.org and go fund me to help raise awareness of the injustices faced by black communities and donate to the families affected. 

finally it feels like real change is taking place, with the introduction of breonna's law - named after breonna taylor who was killed in her own home during a police raid - which will ban no-knock search warrants, and a new investigation into elijah mcclain's case taking place after he was killed walking home from a convenience store in colorado last year. 

this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to black people being killed and disrespected by law enforcement, and i've spent the last few months educating myself about systematic racism, signing petitions and donating to various causes, all of which can be found here, or in the link on my about page. 

i'd highly recommend watching documentaries such as traffic stop, baltimore rising3 1/2 minutes and 13th, which might just be the most important documentary i've ever watched, providing an unflinching look at how racial inequality continues to destroy communities across america.  

there have also been incredibly uncomfortable conversations with my parents, particularly my dad, who continues to insist that "all lives matter" and is still clinging to tired racial stereotypes that have no basis in reality. though frustrating at times, i continue to express my views in the hope that maybe one day it could help change his mind. 

so with all this going on, it just didn't seem right to be writing and posting 2000 words about my favourite new songs, and i'm still trying to find a balance between sharing information about the ongoing protests while also making time for my own interests. 

i've been putting off this post for weeks as i wasn't sure how to launch back into writing about pop music during such a stressful time, and have worried about appearing insensitive, but i also appreciate the value of music and the creative arts. at a time when the world feels more divided than ever, that sense of community is vital, so even if this post helps just one person feel slightly more positive, it's better than nothing. 

my decision to start posting again was triggered mostly by a netflix documentary called the show must go on, which explores adam lambert's collaboration with glam rock band queen, and how the remaining members dealt with life after singer freddie mercury died from AIDS complications in 1991. 

i've never been the biggest queen fan - though the live aid performance of radio ga ga remains one of my all time favourite songs - but i was obsessed with adam lambert's debut album for your entertainment, released just a few months after he became the runner-up on american idol in 2009 (!) and have been listening to it non-stop for the last few weeks. 

title track for your entertainment is a gloriously camp bop, and  the party keeps going with the max martin produced if i had you and fever, which was originally written and recorded by lady gaga in 2006

i've also recently revisited whataya want from me, an angst-filled pop/rock bop originally intended for p!nk's fifth album funhouse. adam's version received a grammy nomination for "best male pop vocal performance" and it's not hard to see why. he also shows off his impressive vocal prowess on aftermath and my current favourite pick u up, which contains a key change so spectacular it gave me goosebumps upon hearing it for the first time in years last week. 

the addition of adam lambert to queen's lineup might have seemed odd to some, but seeing him sing with the group on stage in the documentary makes it clear that he has not only the vocal range but the charisma and iconic stage outfits required to front a glam rock band. 

there's also the fact that he's been openly gay ever since his time on american idol, and even now, seeing his casual response to leaked pictures of him and his boyfriend at the time gives me hope that one day the rest of the world will follow suit and accept everyone regardless of their sexuality. 

seeing him on stage also made me desperately miss the escape afforded to me by live music and going to Tha Club, though i've definitely appreciated smaller social gatherings with a few close friends since the lockdown was lifted in the UK. 

it's not just my social life that i've been reassessing while being in quarantine generally; the BLM movement has reignited my desire for a world where everyone is truly and fully equal. i've become much less focused on my own Big Dreams and would rather do something that will make a difference for marginalised communities, though i'm still trying to figure out how i can use my existing writing ~skills~ to do so.

with so many of us that aren't classed as key workers either working from home, furloughed or being made redundant, it's now clear to me that the majority of jobs are in fact bullshit and capitalism is really fucking ugly. 

it's also highlighted what i realised a few months ago, which that the majority of my ~ambitions~ to move to london and work In Fashion were based on a desire to run away from whatever problems i was dealing with at home rather than actually seek help for them, and since i've prioritised other areas of my life, including my own Mental Health and acquiring a group of friends who truly appreciate me as i am, i've definitely felt better. 

while i've had plenty of time to appreciate the music my teenage self loved, i've also been playing newer albums from long-term favourites such as the 1975, charli xcx and lady gaga. 

i took to chromatica like a duck to water; an impeccable album with no filler in sight. gaga has well and truly returned to pop and i couldn't be happier about it. my favourite songs have chopped and changed since its release, but i constantly find myself coming back to mega-banger alice, her ode to anti-psychotic medication 911, and her take on the Don't Need No Man bop, free woman (though i still maintain that the demo version is better). 

if i'm In My Feelings then i'll play plastic doll, 1000 doves, target bonus track love me right and sine from above, her collaboration with elton john. a special shoutout must also be given to babylon, a perfect Walking Song if i ever did hear one, and i'm LIVING for the day i get to hear it in a club at 3am. 

it wasn't so easy for me to get into how i'm feeling, charli xcx's fourth studio album recorded in lockdown, but i'm delighted to say that i now adore every single song. they perfectly capture the emotions i've experienced over the last four months and the sound created by BJ burton, a.g. cook, danny harle and dylan brady of 100 gecs is second to none. 

album opener pink diamond wouldn't look out of place on charli's seminal vroom vroom EP ("in real life could the club even handle us" is now one of my favourite lyrics ever), while claws, detonate, 7 years, enemy and i finally understand are a continuation of the sound explored on her third album, charli. 

fan favourite/leo anthem party 4 u finally received the studio treatment, while click was re imagined as c2.0, an ode to charli's friends that has 100 gecs quite literally written all over it, and of course there are two Absolute Bangers to close out the album, which incidentally are my favourite tracks. 

it was a joy to watch charli's live instagram video where she wrote anthems with the input of several fans who had a way with words, and i hope she'll continue this collaborative process in her future projects. 

then there's visions, which starts out super-emo and ascends into a chaotic mix of synths and hardcore beats that could only have come from the mind of a.g. cook

one of my favourite moments of the last few months was Losing My Shit when this song was played during a queerantine live stream - the online version of my beloved girls night out - which has been taking place via zoom every saturday for the last couple of months, and i'm genuinely afraid of how i'll react when i actually hear it in Tha Club. 

the final album that took a while to work its magic on me was notes on a conditional form by the 1975. to say this album was long awaited is an understatement, as the release was delayed several times, and upon first listen i was disappointed. 

hoping for some more of the 80s-adjacent bops the band have made their trademark since 2013, or the "heavier" sound of people that frontman matty healy promised would make up more of the album, i felt it was lacking... something. 

i tried several times to really Get Into It, and just as i was about to give up, something clicked and i fell in love with its super-nostalgic sound. 

having previously cited 90's garage and ambient music as influences for the album, healy described it as an ode to "british nighttime culture" and told annie mac in a radio 1 interview that it paid homage to "the beauty of the M25 and all those lights and going to mcdonald's and listening to garage records in a haze in a peugeot 206", and once i understood this reference, the sound totally made sense. 

while i would have been too young to partake in the teenage culture of healy's youth, i do have vivid memories from the early 2000s of long car drives back from various family holidays in northern seaside towns across the UK, and tracks like having no head, yeah i know, frail state of mind and i think there's something you should know bring them right to the forefront of my mind. 

the indie influences of the band's early years are strong on then because she goes, the birthday party, guys and roadkill. clearly inspired by the super-confessional lyrical style of the streets, healy weaves together stories of his own life experiences that manage to be both comical and vulnerable at the same time. 

it's this gift which elevates it from yet another brian eno-inspired ambient album to something only they could create, and they continue to evolve sonically on my absolute favourite tracks shiny collarbone and what should i say.

many fans were caught off guard by the contribution of dancehall artist cutty ranks on shiny collarbone, who provides vocals for the track. however i personally love it, probably because - combined with george daniel's impeccable production - it's reminiscent of jamie xx's 2015 album in colour, which i've also been re-listening to as a result. 

both bagsy not in net and don't worry  never fail to break my heart; the former made all the more devastating by an orchestral sample from christopher cross's 1979 song sailing. healy told beats 1 that the chorus is about "wanting to die with your partner" and not wanting to "lose someone that i love"

it's not a break-up album per se, but there's definitely the sense of an ending running throughout notes, maybe because this album marks the end of the band's "music for cars" era and a possible break for the group, who have been touring non-stop for the last six years. 

it's also the first time the group have invited collaborators into their creative process, as both FKA twigs and phoebe bridgers add their vocals to the album, but don't worry is by far my favourite as it features matty's dad, actor tim healy, who wrote the song when matty was just two years old. father and son sing the vocals together and it's given the 1975 treatment with their signature production that evokes the synth-driven, autotuned sound of francis and the lights

overall the song provides plenty of opportunities to laugh, (ugly) cry and bop, exploring the full range of Human Emotion, and while it's not my favourite album they've ever released, i appreciate their efforts to continue creating music that makes them happy, regardless of what their critics may say. 

it's an attitude i'm trying to retain myself as everything i once thought was set in stone is now very much up in the air, but i do feel some sense of comfort knowing that we're all in this together and hope that a fairer society could be on the horizon. 

Friday, 24 April 2020

new (and old) music friday #48: the 1975, doja cat, nadia oh, ashnikko, FLETCHER

1. the 1975

it's hard to believe that the last time i wrote about my favourite band was august 2019, when people had just been released and they were days away from headlining reading and leeds festival. the releases that followed failed to thrill me, and it's taken me a long time to really appreciate the slightly more subdued frail state of mind, the britpop-inspired me & you together song and jesus christ 2005 god bless america, both of which belong in a ~coming of age~ film à la beats and spike island. there's something fabulously nostalgic about these songs, but they still manage to sound fresh, something the band has always excelled at. 

as previously mentioned, i saw the 1975 in february and one of the songs i was most excited to hear was the unreleased if you're too shy (let me know), and clearly i wasn't the only one as the crowd were already word perfect. as a longtime lover of 80s-adjacent sounds, this felt like an instant classic and one of the most "1975" songs they've ever produced, rivalled only by it's not living (if it's not with you)

the track was finally released yesterday, receiving its world premiere on radio 1, and it sounded better than i could have ever imagined, particularly the saxophone solo which has made several appearances throughout their career. 

it also fully reignited my love of the band after those underwhelming singles, though my joy might be short lived as matty healy told annie mac that the rest of notes on a conditional form - now expected on 22nd may - will have a "heavier" sound, harking back to their drive like i do days. i'm not mad about this as i'm fully embracing the emo and pop-punk music my teenage self loved, but i can't help hoping they'll reconsider and add a few more synth-driven bops to the album. 

perfectly capturing ~the zeitgeist~ as always, if you're too shy reflects the ways technology has changed the way we form and maintain relationships, particularly in this period of lockdown - now extended for a further three weeks in the UK. it's their ability to capture our anxieties about Modern Life combined with a delightfully nostalgic sound that makes the band stand out among their contemporaries, and i might even go as far as to say that too shy is my all time favourite 1975 song, dethroning somebody else after four long years. 

2. the weeknd

i've long been a fan of abel tesfaye's more pop-leaning tracks, and starboy quickly became one of my favourite albums back in 2016. he's clearly shares my love for the 80s, and nowhere is this more apparent than on his new album, after hours. 

i became obsessed with blinding lights after hearing it in Tha Club pre-lockdown, and in your eyes is currently topping the UK charts. the alarmingly catchy synth-led bop also contains an excellent sax solo that gives me goosebumps every time i hear it. 

seeing this song at number one gives me faith that the 80s Resurgence is finally taking place, further cemented with break up song, physical and stupid love also charting highly. 

another noteworthy track from after hours is save your tears, with its new order-inspired bassline and delicate synths, but sadly the rest of the album falls somewhat flat. nevertheless, i'll be playing this holy trinity of bops on repeat in the coming weeks. 

3. ashnikko

i'm amazed that ashnikko hasn't made an appearance in my new music friday posts as i've been obsessed with her hi, it's me EP ever since i saw her support girli last year. an ode to fuckboys everywhere, manners, special and title track hi, it's me never fail to make me feel like That Bitch. she's recently had a moment of viral fame when STUPID (also from the EP) began appearing in the tik toks of teens everywhere, and NME just published an interview with the rising rapper, complete with a glossy photoshoot. 

since the lockdown began, i've actually been doing a vague form of "exercise", going for a government-approved walk every other day, and as someone who hates exerting energy, i do find myself looking forward to it now. to make the whole thing slightly more pleasurable, i've created a playlist of songs to soundtrack my walks, and ashnikko's EP was one of the first things i added. if you too need a boost of motivation to get moving, you can listen to it here 

4. doja cat

another artist who went straight into my walking playlist (it really needs a better name) was doja cat, who has also experienced a sudden jolt of success thanks to tik tok. her song say so quickly took hold of the platform a few months ago and even i couldn't escape it every time i opened twitter or instagram. 

despite having never been a huge fan of ~hip hop~ and rap - with the exception of pink friday-era nicki minaj - i soon found myself obsessed with the track's ridiculously catchy melody, though it took a shamefully long time for me to realise that i loved it so much because it samples the iconic disco bop good times by CHIC

then came boss bitch, which is by far one of my favourite songs of this year, reminiscent of nicki's pop phase, and i don't think it's a stretch to crown doja cat the new queen of rap, breathing new life into a sound pioneered by nicki minaj in the early 2010s. 

also worth a mention is the low-key emo-inspired banger bottom bitch, which included a slowed-down sample of what's my age again? by blink-182, showcasing the diverse range of inspirations scattered throughout doja cat's discography. as someone who's always appreciated everything from 70s disco, 80s synth pop, 90s indie and 00s pop punk, i admire her unconventional approach to the still male-dominated genre and eagerly await her next release.  

5. nadia oh

i first became aware of nadia oh back in september when paper magazine did an interview with LIZ ahead of the release of her single lottery, and in it she professed her love for nadia oh, one of the main inspirations for the song. 


"i wanted to make a track as an ode to nadia oh. i feel like her work with space cowboy really paved the way for a lot of future pop girls today," she said. 

listening to the hordes of iconic tracks released by PC music stars such as hannah diamond and SOPHIE, along with slayyyter, charli xcx and LIZ herself, nadia's influence can be heard all over their hyper-real blend of synth-laden autouned masterpieces. it's just a shame she never got the recognition she deserved and her work with producer space cowboy went largely unnoticed, though he went on to work with lady gaga on her debut album the fame. 

my absolute favourite tracks colours and DJ's girlfriend wouldn't look out of place on pop 2, while hot like wow, my egyptian lover and that kind of girl would fit perfectly with anything slayyyter put her name to. other highlights include the party-ready bops no bueno, hocus pocus, beauty & a beast and soopermodel.

sadly nadia oh disappeared from the music scene in 2012 and hasn't released anything since, but her continued influence on the world of underground pop proves her music was too ahead of its time for certain people

6. call me loop

now for something slightly less left-field but still excellent in the form of call me loop's recent releases, including latest single downhill from herewhich would make an excellent eurovision entry - along with catchy kiss-off association and the super sassy floor filler cry like kim k. she recently delighted fans with a surprise release called hot thru the winter, a demo dedicated to female friendship perfect for the warmer months, even if we're all stuck inside for the time being. 

7. vardaan arora 

in an excellent show of self-love, vardaan arora released his take on the selena gomez smash rare on his birthday this wednesday, and i've had it on repeat ever since. while the original is slightly lacklustre, he's infused it with an 80s-inspired kick that still stays true to his trademark sound, and though i'm not a full-on selena stan yet, it's given me a new-found appreciation for her version

8. FLETCHER 

best known for her breakthrough hit undrunk, FLETCHER got her start on the US version of x factor back in 2011 and has since become a vocal supporter of the #METOO movement, releasing the track i believe you in 2018, penning a letter for billboard, and joining a growing list of LGBT+ women making impeccable pop music (see: gia woods, l devine, the japanese house and pale waves). her latest track forever sees her torn between committing to a serious relationship and her desire to "be young and party" over a truly exquisite synth-driven hook. hopefully there's more where that came from, but until then i'll be watching the music video on repeat, mesmerised by the frighteningly attractive plethora of extras.