Friday 27 November 2020

new (and old) music friday #54: tom aspaul, MARINA, pale waves, betta lemme, kylie minogue

since my last post, not much has changed, as the minute england's month-long lockdown ended, most of the country - including manchester - has been put straight back into tier 3, meaning we still can't meet people indoors and pubs and restaurants must remain closed. 

while my mental health is generally Not Great, for some reason i found it even more difficult to deal with the effects of the lockdown over the last two weeks.

maybe it's because the days are getting increasingly shorter and the sun now sets at 4pm; i had no idea that the lack of sunlight could have such a big impact on how i feel. 

the only other significant thing was that i turned 25 (!) on halloween, and celebrated my birthday with just one (1) close friend in an outdoor space with only a bluetooth speaker and several bottles of wine, but weirdly it ended up being The Best birthday i've ever had, despite the fact we couldn't go to Tha Club. 

i'll spare you the clichéd bullshit about how it's the people you surround yourself with that makes Life Events like birthdays more enjoyable, but it's one thing i've realised as a result of this incredibly stressful year, and something i hope to hold onto once we're all vaccicnated and can return to a vague sense of normality. 

that's enough of the Fake Deep stuff for now though - below are the artists and albums that have been keeping me (slightly) sane during this trying time

1. tom aspaul

i first became aware of tom aspaul when he released the excellent single back 2 earth in 2019, and he recently followed it up with his debut album, black country disco.

the theme of ~home~ is one i've explored at length since this blog began 5 (!) years ago and it was screaming about the music that most reminded me of manchester that led me to where i am now, so when i heard that his album was an ode to his hometown of birmingham, i was instantly intrigued before i'd even heard a single song.

by combining the disco sound that has slowly been creeping back into the pop landscape with lyrics exploring the end of a relationship, difficulties in his music career and returning to birmingham after living in london for several years, aspaul has created a collection of impeccably catchy tracks that i can't get enough of.

highlights include tender, traces, title track black country disco and my personal favourite W.M., which makes birmingham sound like a neon-drenched paradise, something i never though any artist could achieve.

2. astrid s

the norwegian singer released her long-awaited debut album leave it beautiful last month, and though it's a lot more ~muted~ than i was hoping for, the tove lo-esque tracks still have that satisfying synth-driven sound i love, even if the choruses are slightly less dramatic than i would have liked.

title track leave it beautiful is an ode to possibly the most amicable break-up ever, as she pledges to end things on a positive note with her ex, while quite literally singing the praises of a new love on can't forget.

there's also some Self Reflection, which can often seem trite, but astrid avoids this by sprinkling in some of her personal experiences on good choices - who hasn't stayed out late when they know they're up at eight the next day?

with the exclusion of singles dance dance dance and marilyn monroe, my favourite track has to be hits different, an ode to ~self love~ that makes an excellent Walking Song, whether you're newly single or not.

sadly i didn't get to hear any of these songs live as her UK tour - scheduled to start this month - was postponed due to COVID, but hopefully next year i'll be able to yell along to the words at full volume like nothing ever happened.

3. kylie minogue

as i said before, disco has well and truly made a return to the world of pop, and naturally kylie minogue's 15th (!) studio album is the best of a good bunch.

after the disappointment of her cliché country album golden in 2018, i was nervous that her first new music in two years would be disappointing, and while her first few singles didn't thrill me, the rest of DISCO definitely exceeded my expectations.

a filler-free album is hard to find, but of course kylie delivered on this front, and while i naturally favour certain songs over others, there's not a Bad Song in sight (or sound). 

speaking of favourites, my number one track is the daft punk-inspired dance floor darling, which deserves a grammy purely for the middle part which speeds up slightly like that bit in come on eileen before erupting into a final Dramatic Chorus, and i'm dreaming of the day when i can finally hear it, five drinks deep and covered in a light sheen of sweat, on an actual dance floor. 

coming in as a close second is real groove, an impeccable track that sees kylie green-eyed with jealousy over her ex's new lover; resentment never sounded so sweet. 

it wouldn't be a disco album without at least one reference to ABBA, and this comes in the form of last chance, with a chorus that borrows heavily from the aha! refrain that makes the chorus of voulez-vous so joyous. 

giving vroom vroom a run for its money, kylie implores listeners to jump in my ride at the start of fine wine, a divine CHIC-esque track, and there's more of the same sound on spotlight, hey lonely and supernova

i adore the drama of where does the DJ go? which sees kylie trying to chance another dance before morning. if anyone knows the feeling of not wanting the party to end, it has to be me; i've been known to stay in Tha Club alone long after my friends have called it a night, and this song would be a superb soundtrack to my solo discos. 

i also discovered a new appreciation of those aforementioned singles after watching her live-streamed concert, infinite disco, which can only be described as a religious experience. while i love it and magic still aren't my favourite tracks from DISCO, i can imagine them going down an absolute treat when she can perform in front of a packed-out arena once again. 

4. fraxoim/gupi

from classic pop to hyperpop's most weird and wonderful, i've been obsessed with fraxiom's blend of synth-pop and mid-2000s pop punk, and would even go as far as to say that thos moser is the best representation of what "pop" music can - and should - sound like in 2020.

they've been releasing music at an alarmingly fast pace and while i was still processing this song, i discovered the feeling cool and normal EP.

naturally my favourite is fly with ü, which samples the Absolute Banger l'amour toujours, but i also love how this guitar interpolates lyrics from ed sheeran's song thinking out loud and making them bearable, while cishets (i don't want it at all) deserves a mention for the title alone.

hailing from boston, fraxiom is also one half of the duo food house along with gupi (who produced slayyyer's most recent single, the chaotic NSFW banger throatzillaaa).

their debut album arrived at the end of october and while it probably won't make (m)any end of year lists, it's definitely one of my favourite releases this year.

choosing a favourite track is near impossible as they're all so good, pulling from more contemporary artists such as SOPHIE and 100 gecs along with the iconic sound of scene artists like metro station and cash cash.

ride appears to be a fan favourite, and 8 now is a lyrical highlight, urging listeners to "get your ass off twitter cause it gives you fucking mental illness".

also worthy of a mention is clown nose, which sees them put their own spin on circus by britney spears, along with 51129, one you know and mos thoser, a reworked version of my beloved thos moser.

5. 3OH!3/100 gecs 

when i first heard about this collaboration, i was sure it had to be a joke, so imagine my joy when it turned out to be real.

i must admit that i found lonely machines slightly underwhelming; given the combined power that 3OH!3 and 100 gecs could possess, there was something a little subdued about the track.

hopefully this won't be the last time they collaborate, as i'm praying for a banger on par with 3OH!3's biggest hits don't trust me and starstrukk.

after waiting over a decade to see 3OH!3 in january this year, it became one of many gigs to be rescheduled for 2021, and i'm manifesting 100 gecs being announced as the support act when they finally travel across the pond.

6. paloma faith 

this is one artist i never expected to be writing about, as i've always found paloma faith's voice somewhat grating, and she doesn't even have the bops to back it up.

however, i stumbled across supernatural from her latest album infinite things, and was blown away by this michael bolton-esque power ballad with one of the most dramatic choruses of any song released this year (or maybe ever).

sadly it seemed to be a one off, as the rest of the album veered into her usual Sad Piano Ballad territory - with the exception of Mild Bops monster and living with a stranger - but i'll be yelling along to this impeccable track until further notice.


i have a somewhat tumultuous relationship with MARINA's music; once upon a time i was a Huge Fan, but everything post-FROOT failed to thrill me, and the less said about love + fear the better. 

so when she announced her new single man's world, it prompted an in-depth speculation between one of my friends and i, as we feared it would be another disappointment. 

luckily the track retained the electro-pop sound that defined FROOT, with similarly ~political~ lyrics that reference the sultan of brunei of all things. 

only marina could get away with such a specific reference and make it work in the context of a pop song, and it's this talent that makes her such a strong songwriter. 

she also made the decision to produce the song herself, working with just one producer, jennifer decilveo, best known for her work with anne-marie and NCT 127. 

if this largely piano-driven track is anything to go by, it looks like marina's upcoming fifth album will have a similar sound to FROOT, and my dreams of another radioactive level banger probably won't come true any time soon. 

while man's world definitely isn't my favourite track she's ever released, her lyrical talent is compelling enough to keep me interested, and hopefully there'll be some slightly more upbeat songs on her eagerly anticipated album. 

8. pale waves

another band who made a musical comeback recently is manchester four-piece pale waves, who i've been a massive fan of ever since their first single there's a honey.

their work with the 1975's matty healy and george daniel helped build their fanbase and debut album my mind makes noises had their signature 80s-inspired synths all over it.

however this probably won't be the case for their upcoming album who am i? which has a release date of february 12th 2021.

new single change certainly marks a turning point in their sound, and lead singer heather baron-gracie has cited avril lavigne as a huge influence for both the single and the accompanying album.

as someone who grew up screaming along to complicated and trying my best to hit the high notes of i'm with you, i'm not mad about this sonic shift, but will definitely miss the synth-pop sound that made their first album one of my most played in 2018.

this NME interview provides some context for their decision to move away from the sound of their debut album, and it's hard not to be sympathetic towards the band and everything they've been through personally and professionally.

with heather now taking sole responsibility for the song-writing on who am i? and drummer ciara doran in charge of production, it must have been quite an adjustment, but already there's a new found sense of confidence that radiates from change, and i can't wait to see what comes next.

9. betta lemme

my most played song this week has to be mommy by better lemme.

i found it through my discover weekly playlist which is essentially spotify putting together a selection of songs it thinks you'll like, and so far they've been pretty spot on.

i first became aware of better lemme through leland, a long-time collaborator of troye sivan who co-wrote her 2019 single play, which has a Big Eurovision Energy.

this has been replaced with something slightly more ~edgy~ as mommy was produced by PC music's danny harle, hence why it's such a Huge Banger.

here's hoping this won't be a one-off collaboration, as i can't get enough of this club-ready bop, even if i can only dance to it in my room right now.

10. rina sawayama

as usual i saved the best till last, and i am once again extolling the virtues of rina sawayama. 

i first became acquainted with her music earlier this year and while i still wouldn't consider myself a Big Fan, i'm obsessed with her new single lucid, which has sent Gay Twitter into meltdown thanks to the club-ready production, though i do think it sounds eerily similar to now that i found you by carly rae jepsen, another absolute banger.

i also appreciate the use of the same-sex pronouns throughout - still very much a rarity in pop music and beyond - and her description of the song, which she says is about "living a different life through dreaming, whether it's to be with the dream girl or to be the dream girl".

she also tweeted that the song is "maybe" about masturbating, but as far as i'm concerned, it's the Bisexual Bop we've been missing since halsey dropped strangers with fifth harmony's lauren jauregui back in 2017 (!).

lucid is the first song to be released from the deluxe edition of her album XS, which also includes two new bonus tracks and a cover of love it if we made it by the 1975 (!).

the album will be released on december 4th, and i'm praying these new tracks could be enough to turn me into a full-fledged rina stan, but only time will tell if she delivers more bops. 

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