Friday, 23 August 2019

new (and old) music friday #43: ava max, SOPHIE, lina hedlund, swim deep

today marks the start of the august bank holiday, which means two things are underway: 

1) manchester pride: a celebration which has always had a slightly cursed energy both times i've attended. last year i took a gamble and bought a ticket for the first time in five years, only to end up spending most of the weekend with people i hardly knew as my new meetup friend was horrendously flaky and failed to let me know exactly what our plans were for each day. by sunday i decided to skip the festivities altogether and bad weather meant i missed out on seeing rita ora, something i'm still low-key mad about. this year i'll be watching the celebrations unfold via social media and i couldn't be happier, even though i'll be missing out on performances from kim petras and actual ariana grande.  

2) reading and leeds festival, which i also had the misfortune of attending in 2016. the onslaught of rain which didn't let up until the final day quite literally put a dampener on things, and as someone who already hated spending more than 5 seconds outside at a time, it put me off camping for life, and the smell of the toilets - which got gradually worse as the weekend unfolded - still haunts me to this day. so for the last three years i've watched highlights of the festival from the comfort of my own living room, and this year will be no exception. 

this brings us nicely to this week's selection of new music, which includes two artists on the bill for reading and leeds this year. 

1. the 1975 

of course i had to start with people, the long awaited new single from my all-time favourite band. the manchester four piece took to radio 1 last night to get fans excited before the premiere of the song, and i thoroughly enjoyed their chat with annie mac, which saw them reminiscing about their own experiences at leeds festival as teenagers, and now headliners (!). as always, i had no idea what to expect, but it seems like the inevitable Emo Revival has officially begun. with a screamo vocal to rival oli sykes and guitar riffs straight out of danger days, it sounds like something my 14-year-old self would have devoured, and though i'm an out and proud pop lover these days, people still speaks to that part of me which always felt slightly ~misunderstood~. 

in keeping with title track the 1975, it's another call to arms which urges the powers that be to "stop fucking with the kids" and do something about the already devastating effects of climate change. i also particularly enjoy the pre-chorus, with its demands to "bring me everything here". as i mentioned earlier, i'm someone who definitely doesn't like going outside, so i feel both attacked and vindicated. i'm fairly certain the song will cause one of the biggest mosh pits reading and leeds have ever seen, and a few broken bones too, making me even more relieved that i can watch it all at home. 

2. charli xcx/sky ferreira 

another artist appearing at reading and leeds this weekend, charli xcx has continued her impeccable run of singles in the lead up to her third album with cross you out, which features the iconic sky ferreira. i have a lot of feelings about her debut album night time, my time that i'm going to be putting into words in a post next week, so when i heard she was collaborating with charli i was ecstatic. the track certainly doesn't disappoint; as always it's super synth-heavy and provides a cathartic release for charli as it's about "leaving someone toxic behind and finally feeling free", something i can definitely ~relate~ to. i've already spent the last few days blasting it at full volume and would highly recommend you do the same. 

3. swim deep

though i find myself feeling frustrated with my current "work" situation (for reasons i obviously won't elaborate on here), i'm eternally grateful that i'm able to listen to albums that won't be released for a few months, and one of them is emerald classics by birmingham indie rock/pop/psychedelic band swim deep. i first became aware of them in my teens and played tracks like king city, honey and orange county endlessly. 

very few ~indie~ bands have survived the initial mid-2000s boom and continue to make excellent music, but along with peace and the wombats, swim deep can definitely be added to the list. when i saw the link to listen to emerald classics i had mixed feelings, wondering if it was purely nostalgia that has kept me interested in the band, but all my doubts fell away once i pressed play. 

the album won't be released until october 4th so i don't want to risk sharing anything i probably shouldn't, but i was pleased to see one of my favourite songs sail away, wave goodbye is on spotify, along with the anthemic lead single to feel good, which has received a seal of approval from matty healy himself. 

4. MUNA

everyone's favourite sad-pop pioneers came through with a self-described "trauma banger" that had me in tears just a few seconds in. stayaway follows a similar train of thought as charli's cross you out as it encompasses that feeling of not only trying to distance yourself from a toxic person or situation, but actually staying away for good. of course, it wouldn't be a MUNA track without their 80s-leaning production which is what i like to think wilson phillips would have embraced if they were part of the millennial generation, and i'm hoping their upcoming album saves the world will contain more depression-curing bangers.

5. SOPHIE

i became aware of reason why via twitter and as soon as i saw the track included vocals from kim petras i knew it would be a banger to rival her best track 1, 2, 3 dayz up, also featuring SOPHIE. i've no idea if this song will ever see the light of day via an official release or whether it will suffer the same fate as taxi, but i'm praying SOPHIE will bless us with a studio version. seeing as it's a leak, i fear this song could be deleted from soundcloud at any minute so i want to get in as many listens as i can just in case that happens and would highly recommend everyone else do the same.

6. cxloe 

it's incredibly rare for an artist to release an impeccable string of songs, but australian pop sensation cxloe has managed to achieve this since she began releasing music last year. i've had tracks such as show you, low blow, tough love and i can't have nice things on repeat over the last few months and her latest single SICK might just be her best yet. the stupidly catchy track has cemented her admittance into "the gold zone", a term coined by popjustice editor peter robinson, in which an artist releases three excellent singles in a row. other major pop stars should absolutely take note, as cxloe's unsigned status proves that an artist doesn't need a huge team behind them to propel them into the open arms of stan twitter. 

7. ava max

speaking of major pop stars, i'm absolutely bemused at the rapid ascension of ava max. it seems like out of nowhere her single sweet but psycho was all over the radio and blaring out of the speakers every time i went out, and i quickly tired of hearing the sub-par song. she then followed it up with so am i, which i'm fairly sure uses the exact same structure and melody, just with different lyrics. her latest offering torn didn't excite me either, but after perusing her spotify page i came across freaking me out. this song seems to have slipped through the cracks somewhat as i'd never heard it before, but the largely acoustic track features an incredibly pleasing synth-tinged chorus that for some reason left me with goosebumps. it doesn't really morph into anything huge, but i can't stop playing it and feeling that it hasn't had the promotion it deserves. 

8. client liason

i suspect popjustice were also responsible for my introduction to this track by another australian artist called client liaison. though i was unfamiliar with them, they're clearly famous enough to have a wikipedia page, which describes them as an "indie pop" duo signed to parlophone. the song in question is the real thing, which is exactly what the sound by the 1975 would have sounded (ha) like if it had been released in 1987. i can also imagine rick astley adding his silky smooth vocals to the track and it would fit right in with anything stock aitken waterman produced at the time. 

put simply, it's an Absolute Tune that makes me ridiculously happy every time i hear it. australia has a reputation for being somewhat behind the rest of the world in terms of fashion and music, but in this case i'm totally not mad about it; their debut album diplomatic immunity is the best of wham!, duran duran, depeche mode and abc repackaged for a younger set of music lovers and i just can't get enough

9. lina hedlund 

deeper love is another popjustice find that i'm obsessed with. 
a quick google search of lina hedlund reveals she was a member of alcazar, one of sweden's biggest disco groups; their 1999 song crying at the discotheque apparently charted in the US, japan and brazil. 

she made her solo debut with the song victorious (also a bit of a banger), which she performed at "melodifestivalen" earlier this year, which appears to be the swedish equivalent of x factor. she reached the final with the song but was beaten by john lundvik, whose phenomenal track too late for love ended up representing sweden at this year's eurovision; i knew there had to be a connection somehow. 

if they have any sense, she should be representing the country at next year's competition as i can imagine deeper love being a crowd favourite. but whether she makes it to the netherlands or not, i'll still be playing this track every time i get ready to go out. 

Friday, 26 July 2019

new (and old) music friday #42: tegan and sara, paige cavell, peter thomas, ashley o

as another hellish week draws to a close, it can mean only one thing; mercury is very much still in retrograde and doing its best to fuck up every aspect of my life. 

seeing as my rising sign is leo, it makes sense that i'd be particularly affected by this retrograde, which doesn't end until the 31st of this month.

according to the astro fame website, "things are set to go very wrong" for anyone with a leo placement. it tells me that i can "expect misunderstandings and general bad luck to characterise the retrograde cycle period" and "you may also be in for some bad financial news during this period" which pretty much sums up this week. 

they also helpfully break down the five effects of a mercury retrograde, which are: 1) being less proactive, 2) setbacks, 3) closing other people out, 4) self-doubt and 5) questioning yourself.

while all these things are a regular occurrence in my life, 4 and 5 have felt especially prominent this week as i had yet another Existential Crisis about where my life is heading. 

luckily there's an excellent selection of bops that have helped keep me grounded, and following a sudden burst of motivation i felt compelled to share them in a hastily written post this evening.

1. paige cavell

i was blessed enough to receive a PR email about paige cavell's ridiculously good debut single figure it out earlier this week and haven't been able to get it out of my head since. then she went and released an EP of the same name, which includes two tracks she penned herself, the Absolute Banger that is tug of war and the synth-driven vibe (like we used to)

she first caught my attention via popjustice, who covered her first foray into music, the moody club banger predators & monstersshe worked on the track with legendary producer and xenomania boss brian higgins, famous for his work with s club 7, the sugababes and of course, girls aloud (who ran so little mix could walk). it's his magic touch that makes paige's EP one of the most exciting releases this year, and the first on the now totally independent xenomania label. nothing makes me happier than artists who genuinely, unironically love pop music and i'm beyond excited to see what paige does next. 

2. tegan and sara

in a total 180, the new single from tegan and sara couldn't be further from paige's love of pop. it pains me to say, but it seems they're moving away from the 80s-inspired synth-pop that came to define their last two albums, heartthrob and love you to death, released in 2013 and 2016 respectively. however, as soon as i heard i'll be back someday, it was on repeat instantly, reminiscent of the ~indie~ music my teenage self devoured. 

fans who complained about the lack of guitar when i saw them at koko back in 2016 will no doubt be delighted by this new track, which forms part of their upcoming ninth album, hey, i'm just like you. much like the duo, i've been reminiscing about my teenage years, and the album will include 12 songs they originally wrote as teens; it's like they read my mind. expect to hear it on september 27th, three days after their memoir high school is released; i've pre-ordered it and am certain i'll read the whole thing in one day. 

3. peter thomas

as always i have to thank singer and songwriter to the stars jesse saint john - who co-wrote lizzo's inescapable hit truth hurts - for introducing me to this next artist. he had a hand in the creative direction for watching TV with the sound off, the debut single from peter thomas. i'm totally obsessed with this dramatic synth-laden bop about a blossoming relationship which features a piano riff reminiscent of LCD soundsystem's all my friends combined with the pop sensibilities of troye sivan's incredible album bloom.

4. jaden ft. willow

the last time i paid any attention to the musical output of the smith siblings was whip my hairreleased in 2010 with vocals by a nine-year-old willow, it was detested by critics and listeners alike, but listening to it now i can confirm it's a Fucking Banger that deserves the respect of anything released by rihanna around that time. then older brother jaden unveiled his first full length album ERYS earlier this month and summertime was an instant standout. a classic Sad Bop that sees jaden lamenting the end of a relationship, willow makes an appearance in the third verse and their vocals perfectly compliment each other. it's a world away from the high energy pop i usually have blasting out of my headphones but still just as infectious.

5. stefflon don

another artist i never thought would feature on this blog, i can't get enough of her current single phone down. once again, i discovered it via popjustice and i'm in total agreement with founder peter robinson that this could well be the Song Of The Summer. her ability to put a pop spin on her usual blend of dancehall and grime will surely attract a whole host of new listeners who (like me) would never usually be drawn to her music. with autotuned vocals and a beat dylan brady and charli xcx would be proud of, she's truly created the best of both worlds with this track and i'll be playing it well into the colder months. 

6. ashley o

after an eternity of declaring how overplayed on a roll was and hearing it every! single! time! i went out, i finally saw the light and when it was played yet again last weekend, i was yelling the words at the top of my voice. i suspect this is a classic case of assimilation, in which one hears and sees something so often that their feelings of indifference or objection eventually turn into genuine enjoyment or appreciation of something, but honestly i'm not mad about it. 

7. charli xcx 

pop's guiding light and saviour has been getting fans hyped up for the release of her third album charli with a string of new singles. first came gone, which featured a guest appearance from christine and the queens (now simply chris) and a video that elicited cries of "queerbaiting!" across twitter (did she learn nothing from the girls debacle?). it's also one of her best songs if i do say so myself, as it perfectly encapsulates that feeling when you're with people in a crowded room but not really with them and the only thing left to do is make a hasty exit from Tha Club and spend the entire uber ride home with your headphones in (just me?). then as if that wasn't enough, she dropped flash pose, a collaboration with brazilian drag sensation pabllo vittar. admittedly it took me a few listens to really get into this one, but once i played it loud with a drink in my hand, i got a sense of how it's going to sound live when i see charli in october (the day before my birthday!!), which is: unbelievably good. i also have to give a shout out to true romance which i found myself revisiting recently, and lock you up in particular as it wouldn't look out of place on a pale waves album

8. the 1975

of course i couldn't not include the latest offering from my all-time favourite band. the self-titled track that opens each of their albums is reworked every time they release a new album and this has to be the boldest political statement they've ever made. i wrote more about it here, but long story short, they got climate change activist greta thunberg on board for a spoken word essay about the fate of our planet if we don't take action soon. 

it's definitely not an easy listen, but an undeniably vital one as temperatures reached a record breaking 38 degrees in parts of the UK this week. their website also received a revamp featuring yet another countdown that's set to end on august 22nd, right in time for their headline slot at reading and leeds festival. posters have been appearing which appear to confirm that the new song will be called people, but given the band's unpredictable nature and fondness of a spontaneous social media blackout, it's safer to assume that nothing's set in stone. 

Saturday, 13 July 2019

i need a little church: aly & aj at manchester academy

after what feels like an eternity, this week aly & aj finally made the trip across the pond to play five european shows in support of their latest sanctuary EP, and their show at manchester academy last night was an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish.

from the moment the opening synths of church echoed around the room i felt shivers up and down my spine. naturally this led to full blown tears by the time they took to the stage and started singing the song, which has always hit a little too close to home with its lyrics about redemption and coming to terms with one's bad decisions. 

then just as i'd wiped the tears from my eyes, they launched into i know, one of my most played tracks when it came out in 2017 (!!) which reminds me of a particularly challenging time in my life. 

next came closure, an older song i'd never heard before but soon found myself singing along to, before they were back in familiar territory for with you, its fabulously dramatic chorus sounding even better live. 

in fact, i spent most of the night being blown away by aj's vocals; i can confirm that she has the range. when the duo first emerged i always felt like she faded into the background slightly, but this was no longer the case as she took the lead on most of their new material and swapped effortlessly between an acoustic and electric guitar throughout the show. aly felt most at ease talking to the crowd, providing background on tracks old and new and telling us how grateful they were to see so many people supporting their music after such a long time away from the spotlight. 

one of my highlights was star maps, written in the aftermath of the harvey weinstein scandal. i was amazed to hear the sisters say that they weren't originally going to include it on the EP, but they definitely made the right decision adding it to the track list as it was a fan favourite (in true manchester fashion, the crowd were so loud i'm surprised my eardrums are still intact). 

i used up all the air in my lungs for the distance but just about had enough voice left to get through don't go changing, the second single from sanctuary. luckily i used the next track promises to get my breath back; though it's a slightly more subdued affair, it's still one of my favourites from their ten years EP. 

they dedicated their next track, good loveto the LGBTQ community, and aly affixed a pride flag from the crowd to her mic stand. this is another track which sounded way better in a live setting, and i'll definitely be playing it on repeat in the coming days. 

then came my favourite song from sanctuary, not ready to wake up, swiftly followed by like whoa, another old song that sent the crowd wild, particularly the two horrendously drunk girls next to me (i always seem to have the worst gig neighbours). 

up next was take me, the first single they released upon returning to music in 2017 and it sounded better than ever. seemingly without even drawing breath, they followed it up with rush, an Absolute Banger that has been adopted by the LGBTQ community as an anthem of acceptance. 

it was at this point they took a well deserved break, returning to the stage with an acoustic guitar in hand for slow burn, their take on a kacey musgraves song. though i didn't know the track, it gave me a chance to rest my vocal chords before sanctuary - an touching ode to their fanbase - and finally their big finish, which is of course potential break up song 

to say it was one of the greatest moments of my life would be no exaggeration, as it hit me that i'd waited more than ten years (!) to hear it and clearly i wasn't the only one as the crowd were louder than ever and completely word perfect. 

i'll spare you all the metaphors about pop music being akin to a Religious Experience, but it truly felt like a holy place filled with synth pads and snare drums as opposed to organs and hymn sheets. 

the duo were clearly overwhelmed by the support, vowing to return to manchester in the future, and when they do i'll be ready to do it all over again. 

Friday, 12 July 2019

new (and old) music friday #41: zara larsson, 100 gecs, eden xo, tove lo

though i talked about the new found nostalgic direction i have for this blog in my last post, there's still a plethora of new music that needs my urgent attention. but if you just can't wait any longer for the inevitable barrage of mid-2000s albums coming your way, might i recommend this narrative i wrote for vibbidi about my favourite my chemical romance album danger days a few weeks ago to tide you over. 

1. zara larsson

when i first heard all the time, i didn't think much of it if i'm honest. i've never been a massive fan of zara, which is why i'm amazed and also slightly concerned at how many times i've listened to this song since it came out last month. as far as pop songs go, it's not particularly groundbreaking but there's something so irresistibly infectious about it, and i'm living for the fabulously tacky outfits she's sporting in the video. i might even go as far as to say it's the ~song of the summer~ even though we've still got another full month of potential poolside anthems ahead of us.

2. tove lo

another artist who i've never been hugely invested in, tove lo's back catalogue is a bit hit and miss, but i'd recommend habits (stay high), true disaster, shivering gold and gay club anthem, disco tits. when her latest single glad he's gone was released not long ago i was genuinely excited, but found it slightly underwhelming and forgot about it after the first listen. 

then troye sivan tweeted a link to the video, calling it "the best video i've seen in years" and i couldn't agree more. it's not often that i'm still thinking about a music video weeks after i've watched it, but this one is truly unique in a sea of neon-lit backdrops and drag queen cameos. it also gave me a new found love for the song, which though a slightly more subdued affair compared to what i usually listen to, has something alarmingly catchy about it and i can't get enough. 

3. kylie minogue

anyone with a heart will have felt the joy radiating from the pop princess during her set for glastonbury's legends slot last month, and she treated fans to a range of her best loved hits (my favourite kylie song is a toss-up between hand on your heart and better the devil you know, if you were curious). luckily she decided to leave out the majority of her country-themed album golden but make no mistake, dancing still Fucking Slaps. 

clearly i'm not the only one feeling nostalgic lately, because kylie recently released step back in time: the definitive collection, her fourth greatest hits album. i was delighted to see the inclusion of a previously unreleased song, new york city, which is apparently left over from the writing sessions for golden. this disco-tinged bop samples doctor pressurea mash-up of mylo's drop the pressure and miami sound machine's iconic banger dr. beatand is as far away from country as it's possible to get. hopefully this marks the end of the golden era and kylie will pack away her cowboy boots to bless us with more pop perfection. 

4. eden xo

it's been a long time coming, but eden xo has finally released her first EP, the question. i still can't get enough of previous single have it all, which appears on the EP alongside title track the question and so lucky, which serves as her latest single. after a career that's seen many twists and turns, i'm delighted she's fully embracing pop and i'm hoping a full length release will soon follow. 

5. 100 gecs 

back when charli xcx blessed us with the legendary pop 2 in 2017, i had a feeling it was the start of something new, and (as always) i was correct. since then, the artists she featured on the mixtape have developed fan bases of their own, and none more so than dorian electra, whose vocals appeared on femmebot. thanks to dorian, i've been introduced to socialchair, moodkiller and more recently, 100 gecs. it all started when dorian posted a link to their song money machine on instagram. comprised of dylan brady - who just released an excellent remix of blame it on your love - and laura les, i'd seen a few people online professing their love for the duo but never bothered to listen to them myself. 

but that all changed when i heard this song. sounding like a cross between danny harle, tommy cash, charli xcx herself and every single clubland CD that's ever existed, i was obsessed with its autotuned vocals and ridiculous sound effects. naturally i had to check out the rest of their newest EP and was instantly hooked on their blend of weird and wonderful pop that could have been pulled from someone's myspace ten (!) years ago. 

800db cloud wouldn't look out of place on an early 3OH!3 mixtape, while hand crushed by a mallet and bloodstainsfrom their self-titled 2017 EP - sound like a stranger version of the millionaires' first release bling bling bling!, another band i recently discovered thanks to paper magazine. gec 2 Ü and dog food - also from 2017 - are much more in line with pop 2 and the slightly more hip-hop sound kim petras has been favouring on her latest EP clarity, just with more distortion. this is by no means easy listening, but it's incredibly exciting to see that charli has made her mark on the world and i can't wait for Weird Pop - a sub-genre i outlined here - to take over the charts in another ten years' time. 

Thursday, 11 July 2019

nostalgia, news associates and new beginnings: musing + lyrics' new direction

it's safe to say i have a love-hate relationship with co-star, the astrology app that's slowly taken over the lives of pretty much everyone i follow on twitter. 

some days it likes to drag me, while other days it actually gives me useful advice. 

today it told me that "you're feeling sentimental and nostalgic" (my perpetual state tbh) and to "channel the energy into creative pursuits", which is exactly what i plan to do on my blog in the next few weeks.

but before we get to that, some background. 

it's no secret that i've been trying and failing to become a Proper Writer, having undergone a series of unpaid internships over the last three years along with a disastrous stint at news associates which began last september and ended this march. it mostly resulted in me having a breakdown in the toilets every day because i found shorthand so impossible and after resitting countless exams - which i later found out was totally unnecessary - i came away with no diploma and an impending sense of doom. 

such was the extent of my Life Crisis that i actually contemplated packing it all in and trying to find a Normal Job that would pay me, allow me to move out and have the independence i so desperately crave since i moved home after uni. but once i start something i'm determined to finish it, so i carried on searching for more work experience. 

then came vibbidi, which was my first ever paid job as A Writer, but a series of somewhat unfortunate events means that i'm now working for free again, writing daily posts for conversations about her.

it sounds like such a cliché, but for the last few months i've been stuck at a crossroads of sorts, unwilling to give up on what i truly want to do (and know i'm good at) but desperately wanting the aforementioned independence that only comes with a paying full time job. 

then a few weeks ago i watched underestimate the girl, a BBC documentary which follows one of my favourite people kate nash as she navigates life after being dropped from a major label and trying to survive as an independent artist. 

i'm amazed that it's taken me so long to write about her because it was at one of her gigs in october 2013 that my Pop Awakening took place. 

i'd booked the tickets for my girlfriend and i a few months prior, but by the time the gig rolled around the relationship was over, so i dragged my best friend along because obviously going with her wasn't an option. 

it was while we were waiting for the show to start that party in the USA blasted out of the speakers. i'm still not sure what prompted this, but with a complete disregard for all the ~iNdIe~ boys around me, i began to belt out the words to the iconic track, earning me a series of disgruntled looks that just a few months prior would have sent me into a spiral of shame and anxiety. 

but this time it was different, and i remained completely unbothered about their reaction to me genuinely enjoying it. maybe it was the sudden freedom i felt at my relationship ending, but from that moment on i made a conscious decision not to care whether people judged me for enjoying pop music, and the rest, as they say is history. 

so when i heard kate talking about how much she loved the music industry despite feeling like it had almost killed her on many occasions, i couldn't help but tear up because it's this exact feeling that's kept me going for so many years. the ups and downs she experiences throughout the documentary were alarmingly relatable, but i came away feeling reassured that despite all the obstacles i've faced, i know deep down that i'm doing the right thing. 

then two days ago one of my favourite youtube people lucy wood made a video about her most recent Existential Crisis, and i found myself crying with laughter just a few minutes in, while feeling incredibly relieved that i'm not the only one wondering what the hell i'm doing with my life. 

this brings me to last night, when i decided to charge up my old ipod and was overwhelmed with the ~nostalgia~ i felt listening to some of the songs i'd neglected over the last few years since spotify and a love of pop music took over my life. 

by now it was around 4am and i was deep in the archives of my blog, and it struck me how much more ~carefree~ my writing was back in 2015/16, when my dream of being a Music Writer hadn't yet been realised, and it's something i desperately want to get back to. 

make no mistake, i love listening to pop music and uncovering new artists, but somewhere along the line, in all my attempts to get as many views as possible and turn this blog into my full time job, it feels like i've lost sight of why i started it in the first place. 

when i first heard run away with me nearly four (!) years ago and hastily typed out my first ever post on a note on my phone, i wasn't thinking about making money, and i certainly never expected that actual lily allen would retweet my post about her, nor that the artists i obsess over would actually read my writing and follow me on twitter. 

so going forward, i'm planning to work through a stupidly long list of albums that my teenage self loved and give them the attention they deserve. seeing as it's been ten years since most of them were released, it only makes sense that i'd be thinking about how much has changed and what i'll be listening to in another ten years time. i'm also hoping to Chill The Fuck Out and stop stressing quite as much about what's going on with my career, because i've found that once i let go of any preconceived ideas about what "should" be happening, good things tend to follow. 

just a heads up: i might veer ever so slightly away from the pop music i've come to write about on a regular basis and more towards the ~indie~ and ~alternative~ music my teenage self loved, so expect reviews of the vaccines, kids in glass houses, you me at six, palma violets and more, alongside my new music friday posts.

Friday, 21 June 2019

new (and old) music friday #40: MUNA, chlöe howl, malou prytz, BANKS

after a particularly stressful week work-wise, the only thing keeping me going has been this selection of bops and bangers i'm about to share with you, so if you're also Going Thru It, i hope they bring you a vague semblance of joy.

1. MUNA

by far my most played song these last few days, number one fan is the ~self love~ anthem i never knew i needed. though i'd like to believe the days of hating myself are far behind me now, i still have moments where i feel like a potato with hair who's incapable of real human connection and genuine happiness, so it's reassuring to know MUNA feel that way too. after a whirlwind few years releasing their incredible debut album about u and touring the world with harry styles, the trio were struggling to apply such empowering lyrics to their own lives, and after a period of self-reflection, number one fan was born. encouraging us to be our own biggest stans amid a glorious chorus of synths and a bridge wilson phillips would be proud of, i'm hoping their second album saves the world - due september 6th - will contain more of the same. 

2. VINCINT 

since appearing on fox's the four, newcomer VINCINT has been steadily releasing his own electro-pop bops; highlights include middle of love, remember me and please don't fall in love. however, his latest release say is his best yet as he pays homage to his family's gospel roots. i'm of the strong belief that a gospel choir can make any song ten thousand times better (see: like a prayer and if i believe you) but say also features the best key change we've seen in pop since ariana's greedy back in 2016, and i can't wait to see what he does next. 

3. chlöe howl

it's been a while since i paid attention to chlöe howl, but her newest song in the middle (sad banger) deserves points for the name  alone - Sad Bops have always been my favourite sub-genre (see: ABBA'S entire discography). put simply, this is what robyn's latest album missing u was in fact missing; that perfect blend of a Big Chorus and devastatingly sad lyrics about a relationship gone wrong. howl's career so far has been a series of hits and misses - when she's good, she's really good, but when she's bad, it's... this. following her departure from sony music, she's now an independent artist and i'm praying her future releases won't leave me disappointed.

4. swimming girls 

the self-described "dark pop four piece" released their latest EP existenial fears earlier this month, bringing with it two new tracks, the moody synth-driven holy place, which pays homage to singer vanessa's spanish roots, and i don't wanna get to heaven, which i'd consider Classic Swimming Girls, along with 1 2 many, asking for it and beneath you. full to the brim with a series of heavenly (sorry) synths and a cure-esque guitar riff combined with lyrics about - you guessed it - "where we go when we die", it's what they do best, and i'm eagerly awaiting the day they return to manchester so i can yell every word at the top of my voice.

5. malou prytz 

another slice of synth-pop excellence courtesy of popjustice, which is fast becoming one of my favourite music sites. the 16-year-old swede first caught their attention with her song left & right, which wouldn't have sounded out of place at this year's eurovision amongst its sea of sub-par tracks and choruses that never quite get off the ground. however, while listening to it on youtube, i saw the next recommended video was for another one of her songs, titled i do me. this one is far more upbeat and features a ridiculously catchy chorus that's been stuck in my head for weeks. here's hoping her career trajectory is more dagny than duncan lawrence

6. tiesto/jonas blue/rita ora 

sticking with the popjustice theme, i was surprised to see that its founder peter robinson described tiesto's new rita ora assisted track ritual as "her best ever single" when bops such as how we do, i will never let you down, doing it and anywhere exist, but it's definitely A Banger and i've been playing it pretty much non-stop since i first heard it. another career which has seen its fair share of ups and downs, ora endured a lengthy legal battle with former label roc nation before finally parting ways with them and releasing phoneix last year, which most definitely did not live up to my expectations. perhaps this is what makes ritual so good, standing out in a sea of Sad Piano Ballads and desperate attempts to cling to whatever spotify's new music friday playlist deems relevant. rita's at her best when she bucks the trends, so if she decides to go in a more dance oriented direction on her next album, i definitely won't have any complaints.

7. BANKS/francis and the lights 

after the huge success of comeback single gimme, fans of BANKS seem divided by look what you're doing to me, her collaboration with francis and the lights, arguing that she sounds overproduced and lost in a sea of autotune. however i've been a fan of francis and the lights since january last year, and i also love a bit of autotune - i wrote about both of these things here - so naturally, i love the track and how refreshingly different it is from gimme. the latter is BANKS in her element, all moody synths and distorted vocals, and yes it Fucking Slaps, but i'm here for her genre-defying sound and the eventual Autotune Renaissance, spearheaded by charli xcx (who i got tickets to see in october!!!).

8. hatchie

ever since i saw the australian singer live at yes last thursday, i've had all her songs playing non stop. much like swimming girls and pale waves, she takes inspiration from the cure and cocteau twins to create a blend of nostalgic pop that still sounds fresh. picking a favourite is hard but the song i first fell in love with was without a blush. i'd also highly recommend her newest single obsessedadored, stay with me, sleep and try

9. soju

following her appearance on season 11 of rupaul's drag race, soju  - who first found fame on youtube - is the latest queen to release a single and it certainly doesn't disappoint. as soon as i found out fall in love again was produced by socialchair - responsible for bops including speed and tension - i knew it was going to be good. put simply, it's an Absolute Bop that pays homage to her love of k-pop bands and i'm definitely going to be requesting it next time i go out. 

10. king princess/mark ronson

i have to admit, the last few releases from mark ronson's upcoming album late night feelings were distinctly underwhelming. as i mentioned earlier, i love a Sad Banger, but for some reason i just couldn't get into his collaborations with miley cyrus, camila cabello and lykke lithough there were faint shimmers of a disco-inspired bassline and a smattering of classic 80s synths, they failed to reach any kind of crescendo, lacking The Drama all good pop songs require for me to feel any type of way about them. 

similarly, the last few offerings from king princess post-pussy is god (i mean, could she ever really top that?) didn't thrill me either, so combining her silky smooth vocals with the aforementioned disco sound ronson has been enjoying lately was an excellent decision, culminating in pieces of us. while still a more low-key affair compared to the type of disco i usually favour, this song is perfect for that part of the night where everyone is slightly too drunk and In Their Feelings but not quite ready to leave the dancefloor.  

Friday, 31 May 2019

new (and old) music friday #39: katy perry, cheryl, kat deluna, five seconds of summer

to say it's been a good week for new music would be a massive understatement. in one day (today) we've been blessed with two Absolute Bangers that are both in contention for my favourite song of the year so far; they'll go head to head later in this post as i try to choose a favourite. i also did a ~deep dive~ into the legendary pop 2 for VIBBIDI, which you can read here if you so desire.

1. kim petras

i know what you're thinking; this is the third new music friday post in a row where i've mentioned her, but i truly cannot get enough of kim petras. just when i was getting used to her slightly more subdued sound, she went ahead and released do me, which she dedicated to all her "fello hoes" on twitter. lyrically, the super-risque bop leaves little to the imagination while packing a serious punch sonically - it's like the older, better looking cousin of 2018's power ballad can't do better

i've also had homework on repeat, an ultra-nostalgic bop which sees kim and frequent collaborator lil aaron reminisce about their school days. though i tried my hardest to repress every memory of high school once i walked out of the gates for the last time, i couldn't help tear up at this tale of two friends who simply lost touch as life got in the way. it's a similar story to that of beats, the latest film from brian walsh that i went to see earlier this week. 

it's a classic coming-of-age story set in the summer of 1994 in scotland which follows best friends spanner and johnno as they embark on one last night of partying together before johnno moves away to a new town. in a story that hit a little too close to home, their bond is constantly tested as the pressures of Adult Life start to creep up on them. i won't spoil the ending, but i couldn't help feeling slightly disappointed with how it turned out. 

the absence of Close Friendship has seriously affected my mental health in the two years since i moved back home from uni, and the bonds i made while away were definitely something i took for granted as i now find myself attending as many meetups as possible in hopes of meeting someone i truly ~click~ with and while i've made a few friends, i've yet to find someone i can be booksmart levels of crazy with. but if my pursuit of friendship has taught me anything, it's that the whole process is eerily similar to dating; the best things always happen when you stop trying so hard and just let them be, so i remain hopeful that this person exists in the world somewhere and one day we'll cross paths in a truly ridiculous, unexpected way. 

2. will young

following on from the success of his comeback single all the songs, the pop idol winner released the follow up my love, and i'm delighted to hear the same disco-lite sound that made runaway and losing myself some of my most played songs back in 2016. an incredibly versatile bop, it could soundtrack the housework of his alarmingly middle aged fan base on a quiet sunday afternoon, but turn it up loud in the middle of a club on friday night and it takes on a whole new lease of life. with his new album lexicon out on the 21st june, i'm hoping for a whole new set of anthems to soundtrack my summer, which consists mostly of me watching other people lying on sunny beaches via instagram from the comfort of my own bed. 

3. kat deluna

speaking of bops, last night in miami was one of those wonderful, accidental discoveries. i came across it on the twitter page of the DJ at my favourite gay club. i was hoping for something on par with the absolute banger that was calling you*, released back in 2010, and i wasn't disappointed. (*it also appeared on the soundtrack for the equally iconic confessions of a shopaholic film in 2009 (!) alongside fashion by lady gaga, a criminally underrated song that never received an official release) i was instantly obsessed with last night in miami so after playing it 50 times in a row to memorise the lyrics, i requested it the next time i went out, and miraculously someone else must have requested it because it was played twice that night. according to wikipedia she's working on a fourth album so hopefully there's more where that came from. 

4. five seconds of summer

everyone has their favourite boy-band; for the older generations it might be backstreet boys, NSYNC or take that. for me it was one direction, whose absence from the music world i still mourn on a daily basis. for others it's five seconds of summer, who incidentally found fame supporting 1D back in 2011. i have to admit though, i've never really got into their music and could never quite understand why fans lost their shit over them, with the exception of their exceptional debut single she looks so perfect. however, their latest single easier caught me off guard as it marked a shift towards a much more pop sound, most likely due to the fact charlie puth had a hand in producing it. the echoes of his slick electro-pop sound can certainly be heard on the track, which combines a stupidly catchy chorus - and pre-chorus and pretty much every single verse - with a stomping beat perfect for a dramatic walk around whichever city you reside in. 

5. cheryl 

we're onto The Good Stuff now, with my first contender for Best Song Of The Year (So Far). in the blue corner it's let you, the brand new single from girls aloud alumni cheryl. her solo career began in 2009 with fight for this love, an instant smash that topped the UK charts and was certified platinum in 2010. she followed this up with the equally excellent promise this a year later, while call my name and i don't care topped the charts in 2012 and 2014 respectively, becoming mainstays on every gay club's playlist. 

then in 2018 she released love made me do it, a far more subdued affair that left fans and critics divided, while her x factor performance of the song was deemed too "raunchy" for saturday night TV. alarmingly, it was written by her former band mate nicola roberts (who i met last month on a night out!!!), natasha bedingfield and kylie (!) so the fact it charted so poorly is even more devastating. 

clearly cheryl learned from this mistake as let you is pure 80s euphoria, harking back to kylie's early days with production trio stock aitken waterman, and the video also features some decidedly 80s-inspired styling - i wouldn't be surprised if sales of neon scrunchies skyrocket in the coming days. its lyrics are also weirdly ~empowering~ as cheryl finally realises her own worth and not to let people take advantage of her, a lesson i've had to learn the hard way this past year. 

6. katy perry

in the red corner we have katy perry with never really overi last wrote about her in 2017 when she released bon appetit and swish swish. nothing terrifies me more than The Passing Of Time, and listening to those songs now takes me back to what feels like an alternate universe. the two tracks stood out amongst the critical failure that was witness, but even before that, her 2013 release prism didn't captivate me and she was accused of cultural appropriation in the video for this is how we doannoyingly the only song i actually liked from that album. however, it was always going to be difficult following up the worldwide success of teenage dream, which spawned five number one singles and remains one of my favourite albums of all time. 

perry has definitely fallen out of favour in recent years but never really over could be her moment of redemption. admittedly it sounds pretty similar to let you, which is why trying to choose a favourite is hard. both are synth-driven bops with quite frankly Huge Choruses, and i have emotional connections to both girls aloud and katy perry, their music soundtracking countless memories of my teenage years. i think never really over has a slight sonic edge over cheryl; the opening note of the chorus alone is enough to cure my years of depression, but the message of let you is one i'd gladly get tattooed all over my entire body so i don't forget My Own Worth and let people treat me like shit ever again. if you need me i'll be alternating between both bops all weekend and probably doing a lot of crying in the process, all the while praying that we might finally be making a return to the Glory Days Of Pop circa 2007-2014.