Friday, 12 March 2021

new (and old) music friday #56: slayyyter, rita ora, mette, bebe rexha, boy sim

i have once again taken an unintentional month-long break from posting on this blog, but since my last new music fridaythe UK's lockdown has finally begun to ease, with all pupils now back at school and the ability to meet one (1) person outside to "socialise". 

however, after weeks of springtime sunshine and temperatures finally starting to rise, this week we've been hit with 27mph winds and torrential rainstorms, so any plans to meet up will have to be shelved for now. 

luckily there's been several bops and bangers making things bearable, and now that my favourite club night girls night out has announced its return in june this year - following the announcement that nightclubs could be open by the 21st - i'm even more excited to finally hear them on the dancefloor.

 1. rita ora

one person who hasn't had the best time during The Pandemic is rita ora, who broke lockdown rules by hosting a 30th birthday party in london back in november, paying the venue £5000 to host the celebration and turn off the CCTV cameras.

so when she released her bang EP in february this year, it's safe to say she wasn't the most popular artist around.

i've never been a huge fan of her myself - with the exception of i will never let you down and anywhere - but as soon as i heard the axel f/crazy frog (!) sample on bang bang, i was instantly obsessed.

i've also had the one and big on repeat too, the latter of which is actually my favourite song from the EP as it makes my Daily Walk around the block feel like i'm walking the runway at versace.

i will admit that i liked it slightly less when i saw ed sheeran has a writing credit on it, but now that my days of being a Music Snob are far behind me, i'm prepared to overlook this as imanbek's production is too good to resist.

2. dua lipa

dua lipa caused uproar when the track list for the moonlight edition of future nostalgia was released and normani wouldn't be featured on if it ain't me, a leaked track that she was most likely bullied into releasing by hordes of angry gays.

while it's true that the track feels like it's lacking something, i'm just glad it finally got an official release and i know it will be A Moment when we can finally hear it in the club.

i've also been loving that kind of woman - another previously leaked track - with its 80s-inspired sound, and the slightly more subdued fever, which i wasn't a huge fan of when it was first released. if you're looking for a more upbeat version, i'd highly recommend the disco-tinged vantage remix.

 3. boy sim

boy sim's debut album pink noise will always have a special place in my heart as it was pretty much the only thing i listened to back in 2018.

i've been waiting not-so-patiently for his return to the music world and he finally came through with the surprise release of fire last month.

with a stomping bassline and his signature synth-driven sound, the self-produced track sees him seeking revenge by burning down the house of his ex-lover... metaphorically of course.

he told paper magazine that the track is his "first step into a new sound i haven't done before" and it's clear that he's embracing a new direction, taking the electro-pop melodies found on pink noise to new heights. 

4. slayyyter

while i was still recovering from the emotional rollercoaster of slayyyter's single troubled paradise, she went and dropped clouds, a textbook example of a Sad Banger and quite possibly her best song yet.

combining a thumping bassline with lyrics about feeling like she "didn't belong" in the music industry, she manages to create a song that's deeply personal yet extremely relatable for anyone who has struggled with their mental health.

she also delivered another iconic music video, paying homage to katy perry's teenage dream album cover and giving dorothy's wizard of oz a fashion forward twist.

while we eagerly await the release of troubled paradise, it seems slayyyter is already "putting the pedal to the metal for my next album", as she revealed in an interview with enfnts terribles.

heidi montag recently posted a video of her and slayyyter in the studio, so hopefully they were recording the y2k hyperpop collaboration we deserve.

5. zara larsson

another person i've never been a Massive Fan of is swedish singer zara larsson, though her 2019 single all the time is an absolute banger.

so when she released the disco-inspired banger look what you’ve done, it definitely took me by surprise.

i'm delighted to see that the sound kylie and dua lipa have brought back to the forefront of pop shows no sign of stopping, though i still found myself disappointed with the majority of her third album poster girl.

naturally i favoured the more upbeat tracks such as title track poster girl - which she says is about her love of smoking weed (?) - along with right here, fff and previously released singles love me land and WOW.

the rest of the album sticks to the ariana grande, RnB-inspired sound she's favoured for most of her career so far, and i wish she would just fully embrace the disco-pop sound.

i will say that watching her live-streamed concert on monday - a collaboration with IKEA that i'm living for - gave me a newfound appreciation for her vocal range and ability to command a stage, but i still don't think we've seen the best of zara yet.

6. mette

one artist who seems to have found their signature sound after just one release is mette, who i came across thanks to an instagram story posted by l devine.

born mette towley, the 29 year old has had an incredibly varied career as a model and actress.

she spent four years as a backing dancer for pharrell, appearing in rihanna's music video for lemon and the 2019 film hustlers, as well as revlon's live boldly campaign along with gal gadot and ashley graham.

however, she describes music as her "first love" in this interview and it's clear that she's poured all her passion into debut single petrified.

drawing from a range of sonic influences, it combines RnB-style beats with a flurry of delicate synths and a huge piano-driven chorus.

lyrically the song might seem like your typical Break Up Song, but mette has described it as an ode to "my oldest friend... my inner child".

when looked at through this lens, the song takes on a new meaning, with a powerful message about learning to trust your instincts and push past any rejections and self-doubt that might have stopped you following your dreams.

but if this is an indication of what to expect from mette, she's got nothing to worry about.

7. the 1975/charli xcx/no rome

after what feels like an eternity, the 1975 and charli xcx finally teamed up for a long-awaited collaboration, and they brought no rome along for the ride too.

while their "supergroup" still doesn't have a name, their song spinning sent their collective fan bases into a frenzy. 

charli described it as "stunning/exquisite/tasteful and chic" and i couldn't have said it better myself.

with plenty of autotuned vocals and the house-inspired production favoured by the 1975's george daniel, it's a testament to their shared vision.

my only complaint is that i would have liked to hear more of matty's vocals, but hopefully the 1975 will add the song to their set list for future shows.

8. armin van buuren/alesso

in the last year i've found myself becoming obsessed with ~dance~ music, to the point that "dance pop" was my most-played genre on spotify last year. 

i'm fairly certain the origin of this is the student night i attended most wednesday nights at PRYZM in kingston between 2014-2017

the venue features several different floors and rooms playing different music, and though i complained every time we weren't in the 80s roomi think i sub-consciously began to enjoy the songs played in the main "dance room", all of which seem to have the exact same beat and synths in the background. 

it's reached the point where my brain automatically classifies them as "PRYZM bops", and now i'm back from uni, i've been able to fully embrace my love of these songs. 

a classic example of this is leave a little love by alesso and armin van buuren, but there's something that sets it apart from every other "PRZYM bop" currently sitting in my spotify playlists, and it begins at 2:29.

that thing is A Key Change, a facet of pop music i've loved ever since i heard i wanna dance with somebodybut the one place i never expected to hear it is the middle of a dance track by two of the world's biggest DJs. 

i've been secretly praying that mainstream pop would one day embrace The Key Change, and now my wishes might finally be coming true.

if armin van buuren and alesso can embrace it, here's hoping other artists and producers will too. 

9. nick jonas 

i know it's only march, but this is heaven is already a strong contender for best song of the year, thanks to its impeccable 80s-inspired sound. 

while it sadly doesn't feature a key change, it has an excellent saxophone solo to rival if you're too shy and it's not living by the 1975, a band who have always been open about their love of the 80s.

it also contains vocals from a gospel choir, another feature of some of my all time favourite songs including like a prayer, if i believe you and the thirty seconds to mars cover of U2's where the streets have no name.

i recently made a power ballads playlist to collate all of my favourite dramatic 80s songs in one place, and while most of the songs are specific to that decade, i also added this is heaven to it. 

much like the key change, i'm praying this song and the recently released supernatural by paloma faith will kickstart what i'm calling The Michael Bolton Resurgence. 

as the true king of power ballads, how can we be lovers is a staple of my playlist, featuring a key change and dramatic guitar solo. 

it's clear that younger artists are now starting to take inspiration from this once-derided genre, so hopefully there's more to come.  

10. bebe rexha 

much like becky hill - who i discussed in this post - bebe rexha is one of those artists who is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. 

despite starting her solo career in 2014 and collaborating with artists such as nicki minaj, lil wayne and more recently doja cati struggle to think of any song of hers that i really love, but that all changed with sacrifice

a marked departure from the RnB and hip-hop inspired sound she's become known for, this is an absolutely Huge Banger that will no doubt be played in every single gay club at full volume once venues reopen, and i'm praying she will continue to embrace this sound on future releases.

 11. ultra naté/mila jam/angelica ross

i discovered this song after my friend suggested that i listen to gaydio, and fierce was one of the first songs i heard when i tuned in to the station.

i've always been aware of it and used to listen to it during my endless days steaming and organising clothes at a fashion showroom back in 2018, but they've definitely improved the playlists since then and i'm living for the mix of "basic" club bangers and songs such as this, which are pretty specific to the gay community.

i quickly added it to my spotify but didn't listen again until a few days ago, and i haven't stopped since.

much like sacrifice, this song would be right at home in a sweaty basement club, though i fear it might be too ~niche~ to ever be played in a mainstream venue.

the collaboration between ultra naté - best known for her 1997 hit free - and transgender actresses mila jam and angelica ross is a clear homage to the ballroom scene of the 1980s/90s and is guaranteed to make you feel like That Bitch each and every time you press play.

Friday, 12 February 2021

new (and old) music friday #55: slayyyter, allie x, daya, GRACEY, cascada, rebecca black

as the 34658th week of the UK's national lockdown draws to a close, it's hard to think of anything to be excited about beyond the fact that it now goes dark at 5pm instead of 4 and drag race UK every thursday.

the last few weeks haven't been good for new music either, and i've struggled to find songs that i've wanted to write about, hence why i haven't uploaded anything here since the end of december.

last month i joined vocal after weeks of being bombarded with instagram adverts, where creators can earn money for each post they publish, and while i was sent an email about a guy who made $2000 a month from just one article, my total earnings are currently $0.03, which is roughly 22p.

nevertheless, it gives me an outlet to write more in-depth album reviews, and my first post was dedicated to miley cyrus' long awaited and somewhat lacklustre album plastic hearts, which can be read here.

then just two weeks later, producer SOPHIE died in an accident at her home in athens, and while other people have written about her impact on pop music far more eloquently than i ever could, it's something i still have to mention as it's the first time i've felt the loss of an artist so intensely since david bowie died in 2016.

it wasn't just her musical output that will be sorely missed, but the sense of community that she and the other artists from PC music have cultivated over the last few years, giving anyone who felt alone or misunderstood access to a group of likeminded people, and i know i would never have discovered girls night out and the friends i have today if it wasn't for them. 

luckily her legacy will continue through the genre that is now widely known as "hyperpop" and artists such as 100 gecs, dorian electra and of course charli xcx, whose total sonic overhaul wouldn't have been possible without SOPHIE's input on the vroom vroom EP, which i still believe is her best work. 

so apart from playing immaterial on repeat, these are the other artists that i've been enjoying recently. 

1.  slayyyter

i usually save my favourite song till last, but i just had to break the rules today and mention troubled paradise first, as i'm fairly certain this will remain my favourite song of 2021, even though it's only february.

as is often the case with slayyyter, she began teasing the song via twitter on the 18th january and i instantly knew it would be her best song yet.

i was slightly disappointed with the singles she'd released before troubled paradise, and feared she was moving away from the pop sound that made me love her early singles such as i'm high and platform shoes, but luckily she has returned to her electro-pop roots and i'm all for it.

she also announced her debut album of the same name will be released on june 11th, and i'm praying for more Huge Bops and iconic music videos.

2. allie x 

another Absolute Banger i've had on repeat is GLAM! by allie x. 

much like slayyyter, i adored her early releases like catch, prime and bitch as well as the excellent album super sunsetall of which featured an 80s-inspired sound. 

but when she released cape god last february, i just couldn't get into the more ~experimental~ sound she'd chosen to explore, lamenting the lack of bops. 

so imagine my joy when she released GLAM! last week, a demo from 2013 that never made it onto her debut album collXtion I. 

as she explained in this instagram post, she wanted the track to sound like heaven is a place on earthand the 80s sound that made me fall in love with her can be heard all over the track.

3. daya

i'd never paid much attention to daya until she released bad girl, a mid-tempo synth-driven bop that could only have been written by a scorpio. 

it seems that the bisexual community is finally getting the representation it deserves, first with rina sawayama's excellent single LUCID and now this. 

daya came out in 2018 and bad girl is an ode to her girlfriend that sees her turning her back on the male gaze, declaring "i already know just what i like"

it's a sentiment i really appreciate after years of people - both in and out of the LGBT community - not taking my sexuality seriously and assuming i must be straight because i don't look stereotypically "gay" - whatever that means - and i hope it provides a similar sense of reassurance to other people who have also experienced this.  


now for something slightly more subdued, something that rarely happens on this blog. 

as a long time lover of Big Pop Songs - the origins of this obsession can probably be traced back to i wanna dance with somebody by whitney houston - i was surprised that i enjoyed GRACEY's EP the art of closure so much.  

she first made it big when she appeared on don't need love with producer and DJ 220 kid; the song charted at number 9 in the UK. 

this was followed by alone in my room (gone), which was one of the songs in the popjustice twenty quid music prize. 

i'd always enjoyed the track and found myself listening to it more and more after the judging, so when the full EP arrived, i was instantly obsessed with don't, another mid-tempo track about someone who just won't commit, and 99%, a far more upbeat song that's one of my favourites from the last year. 

hopefully a full length album will follow and her postponed headline tour will finally take place at some point in the future so i can scream along to alone in my room after half a bottle of (overpriced) wine. 

5. ally brooke

the pandemic has resulted in me becoming a Huge Fan of several ~mainstream~ artists i'd previously ignored, and one of them was ally brooke, who rose to fame as part of girl group fifth harmony (i've never been an avid listener of theirs, but i still maintain that sledgehammer is one of the best songs of the last decade).

following the group's "indefinite hiatus" in 2018, she released a string of solo singles, the first of which was low key, an RnB inspired track featuring tyga that i didn't really pay much attention to.

the next few singles were a bit hit and miss, but naturally i found myself drawn to the disco-pop sound of no good, as well as her forays into the world of dance such as feeling dynamite and all night.

the disco-pop sound can also be found on what are we waiting for? - also with afrojack - and dance it off, her latest collaboration with laidback luke, as well as the dannic remix of said song.

i'm glad to see she's embracing the pop sound that made her so successful rather than distancing herself from it - as so many artists who were part of a girl or boy band often do - and hopefully a bop-filled full length album will follow sometime in the future. 

6. troye sivan/kacey musgraves/mark ronson

when troye sivan released easy, i felt like it was definitely one of his best songs, and just when i thought it couldn't get any better, he blessed us with a new version featuring vocals from country star kacey musgraves and production by mark ronson.

initially i wasn't sure what to make of it as i've always despised country music and found kacey's texan drawl mildly annoying, but the new order-inspired production gives the song a bit of a ~kick~ that the original was missing.

as a result, i now find myself favouring the new version and have even made peace with kacey's vocals, as lyrically her verse adds a new level of devastation to the break-up-in-progress song.

7. leann rimes

recently i've been getting Really Into Remixes, often preferring them to the original version of a track as they can provide more of a dancefloor feel.

nowhere is this more evident than on the dave audé remix of leann rimes' classic track can't fight the moonlight.

i vividly remember being obsessed with the original when it was first released in 2000 (!) as part of the coyote ugly soundtrack.

much like all the things she said, the music video definitely contributed to my bisexuality, as the scantily clad barmaids awakened a feeling in me i couldn't explain as a child.

nowadays it's a mix of attraction and envy as i would love nothing more than to perform an iconic bar-based dance routine for a crowd of drunken strangers, but while going to Tha Club is still not an option, this club-ready remix of can't fight the moonlight has been making lockdown 1% more bearable.

it takes the already dramatic power ballad and gives it a disco-inspired twist, and the key change is somehow made even more dramatic, meaning it will be a classic in my Getting Ready To Go Out playlist for years to come.

8. nicole scherzinger 

always on the lookout for what most people would consider "trashy" pop music, i was overjoyed when my friend sent me a spotify link to nicole scherzinger's song killer love, from the album of the same name. 

released in 2011, it's what i call Peak Pop production, featuring plenty of Huge Choruses and the synth-driven sound that made lady gaga such a huge star back in 2008. 

so naturally once i'd played killer love 300 times, i listened to the rest of the album, which is definitely a Mixed Bag. 

the first half is absolutely iconic, partly because it contains poison and don't hold your breath, both of which were released as singles and reached the top 10 in the UK charts. 

another highlight is of course wet, which never fails to make me Lose My Shit every time i hear it, but there were also a few other songs i'm now obsessed with. 

as the name suggests, club banger nation deserves to be played at full volume to a heaving crowd at 3am, while say yes is another Huge Bop and my personal favourite from the album.

after club banger nation however, things veer into Sad Piano Ballad territory, made bearable only by low-key bop heartbeat, featuring enrique iglesias

there's also collaborations with both 50 cent and sting, neither of which really add anything to the album, but luckily try with me stops the second half of killer love being a total snooze fest. 

reminiscent of katy perry's part of me, the track starts out slowly with a piano-driven verse before launching into an absolutely Huge Chorus that would make it an excellent karaoke song. 

overall the album serves as a time capsule to the glory days of pop and while i was too ashamed to embrace my love of it at the time, i now play it proudly at full blast, probably to the annoyance of my family.

9. cascada

i found myself listening to cascada the other day and while i've previously written about them, i uncovered a whole album that i'd never heard of, despite it being released in 2011. 

while most people know the eurodance group for their Massive Hits like everytime we touch, miracle and evacuate the dancefloor, their album original me didn't receive the same critical acclaim. 

marking a departure from their trademark eurodance sound, it was their least commercially successful release as none of the singles received airplay on UK radio and they were dropped from robbins entertainment, their US label. 

this could explain why i wasn't familiar with it, as i only discovered the first track san fransisco in 2018. 

listening to the rest of the album however, i was instantly obsessed with the production, which is reminiscent of heidi montag's impeccable debut superficial, another 2010 classic. 

highlights include sinner on the dancefloor, au revior, night nurse and pyromania - reminiscent of lady gaga's track the famebut my favourite has to be stalker, a bop so powerful it literally brought me to tears. 

whether it was a change of musical direction or lack of promotion, it's a crime that this album didn't get the recognition it deserved as it showed the group's willingness to experiment with a different sound, perhaps as a result of critics calling their debut album "repetitive" and "unoriginal". 

nevertheless, i'll be playing it on repeat and dreaming of the days when we can return to the dancefloor.

10. rebecca black 

wednesday marked the tenth anniversary of rebecca black's viral hit friday, which did not go down well with critics and listeners alike, though she didn't let this deter her and has continued releasing music over the years, most recently the excellent girlfriend

i'd completely forgotten about her and the friday debacle until she appeared on edgelord with dorian electra, and it seems she's found a solid fanbase in the world of hyperpop. 

the joy of this rapidly growing musical movement is its ability to embrace artists who might not be accepted in mainstream circles, and so comfortable is black in this arena that she recruited dorian electra, big freedia and 3OH!3 for a remix of the track. 

the result is a hyperpop classic that will no doubt be passed down through generations, featuring production from none other than dylan brady. 

while the original lyrics were heavily criticised, in a post-ironic world where anything goes - so much so that black released saturday - a "sequel" to her first single - in 2013 - the song has reaffirmed its status as something of a cult classic and will no doubt introduce black to a whole new fan base that were too young to experience the hysteria of friday the first time around. 

Thursday, 31 December 2020

the winds of change are comin' over me: on being present, pursuing a passion and making peace with yourself

“in every work of art something appears that does not previously exist, and so, by default, you work from what you know to what you don’t know" - ann hamilton (making not knowing

as pale waves once sang, i don't wanna be alone on new year's eve, and this sentiment has never been more apt. 

this will be the first time i've spent new year's eve at home since 2016, when both a temp job in retail and the fact that all my uni friends had gone home for christmas prevented me from going out and celebrating.

i spent the night completely alone, which isn't something i'd recommend, but sadly this year that was the reality for many people who were unable to go home for christmas due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

i've always been An Introvert, so part of me was relieved to skip what has historically been a stressful and somewhat cursed event, with drunken arguments and losing my most valuable possessions in a park (?) just some of the wonderful things that have happened to me on new year's eve. 

of course this year is different; no longer trapped in my draughty university house with its erratic central heating system and housemates i had nothing in common with, i would love nothing more than to be stressing about my outfit and haphazardly applying fake tan in preparation for The Big Night. 

but covid put a stop to all that, as 90% of the UK is now in the newly created "tier 4", the conditions of which are essentially the same as the initial Full Lockdown we experienced back in march, with the "stay at home" order rearing its ugly (but necessary) head once again. 

it's true that you only really appreciate something once it's gone, and despite previously approaching NYE celebrations with some hesitation, i would gladly take my chances and fully embrace the celebration this year. 

i've come to realise that new year's eve is supposed to be terrible, as we strain under the weight of not only the excess calories consumed over the festive season, but all the resolutions we make knowing full well they won't last beyond january 2nd. 

much like the muffin tops that hang over our new year's outfits, so too does the pressure to have The Best Night Ever as a precursor to The Best Year Ever, in which we will finally start running/stop smoking/drinking/having any kind of fun and Get Our Shit Together. 

while i'm all for self improvement, this amount of pressure only leads to spilled drinks and ridiculously expensive ubers home, not to mention the hangover from hell the next day. 

but of course, now all that has been stripped away and i'll be forced to stay indoors, i take some comfort in this guardian article by james greig in support of new year's eve celebrations. 

as the cost of Going Out has risen over the last few years, part of me can understand why people would be reluctant to spend the night at a bar that charges £20 entry, but as greig says, "i have been locked in a one-man culture war against homebodies, irrationally furious that someone, somewhere, might be enjoying having more time to spend curled up under the duvet with a peppermint tea and a page-turner, or whatever it is that introverts like to do."

you may notice that this contradicts what i previously said about being An Introvert, but Going Out is perhaps the one time where i can shed my nervous exterior (largely thanks to copious amounts of alcohol) and fully Be Myself, so i too have become irritated by this ever-growing swathe of people for whom Staying In is an innate part of their personality, and who seem to look down on people who, god forbid, actually like to leave the house. 

but for those of us who don't co-exist in perfect harmony with whoever we live with, greig rightfully describes NYE as "a pressure release after the tensions of a domestic christmas, a way of reasserting adulthood after the infantilization of spending time with your family and slipping into historic roles", especially as many people who once lived alone and enjoyed their independence have now been forced to move back home full time. 

of course, not going out for one more night after months of lockdown and national restrictions probably won't make a huge difference to our already frayed mental states, but i can't help feel slightly sad that i won't get to put some glitter on my face and make questionable decisions in a nightclub. 

so what to do with all our free time? that article led me to another piece by elle hunt, who like many people this year, realised that she was suffering from work-related burnout and wanted to make a change. i had a similar moment of realisation in july, as it ocurred to me that my ambitions to move to london and become a magazine editor by age 25 were not only a) wildly unrealistic, but b) a cover for various Mental Health issues i'd been experiencing before and during my time at uni. 

while my struggle to find a Full Time Job doing something i don't hate is something i've been experiencing for the last three (!) years, many people who previously had a 9-5 job now find themselves in a position not too dissimilar to my own, trying desperately to fill the seemingly endless hours of Free Time that lie ahead. 

in a culture that equates self-worth with productivity and glamourizes working 50+ hours a week, it's no surprise that so many of us are now realising that this way of living is no longer sustainable, nor good for our mental well-being. it might be a cliché, but once i realised that i'm not defined by what i do for work and i should prioritise other areas of my life, i began to feel better. 

one of those things was to surround myself with people i could fully Be Myself around, and of course once i'd found them, my entire social life was put on hold at the start of the year, then resumed briefly during the ill-advised "eat out to help out" scheme of this past summer, and is now firmly back on hold with the return of the "stay at home" order. 

at first it was incredibly frustrating, but around the beginning of november, right after my scaled back birthday celebrations, i began to realise that all this free time wasn't a problem to be solved, but something to be enjoyed. 

after years of ignoring the advice of various counsellors and therapists to try Being Present, it was only during the last few weeks in which all outdoor activities were prohibited, that i started to follow the advice of roman philosopher seneca and "hold every hour in your grasp". 

another detour here: i became aware of seneca and his book letters from a stoic after reading this article about zadie smith. 

her latest book intonations is a collection of essays which she began writing at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and finished soon after the murder of george floyd. 

this article includes several quotes from one essay called something to do, which mirrors my own experiences of trying to see free time as a gift and a privilege rather than something that must be constantly filled with meaningless tasks. 

in the absence of these tasks, one of which being the banana bread craze that swept across the world mid-pandemic, she writes that "love is not something to do, but something to be experienced, and something to go through — that must be why it frightens so many of us and why we so often approach it indirectly".

at a time where human connection has become more important than ever, it's a sentiment that resonates deeply with me, and an idea i hope to hang onto when life eventually returns to "normal" and our lives are once again filled with work and social engagements. 

she also appears to come to terms with her fear of the unknown (something i've always struggled with) when she says, "i’m not the only person on this earth who has no idea what life is for, nor what is to be done with all this time aside from filling it."

it was once believed that only ~creative~ people like artists and writers had the time to contemplate such intense ideas, but more and more people who would have previously been "too busy" for that kind of thinking are now pondering this question, and working out how to fill their time without the constraints of work. 

going back to seneca's idea of holding every hour in my grasp, i've been trying to focus on things from one hour to the next, rather than worrying about what will happen in the next few days/weeks/months. 

even something as simple as going for a walk felt like a task i had to complete in a hurry until the other day, when the snow and ice that appeared overnight meant i had no choice but to walk at a slower pace to avoid slipping and/or falling over. 

at first it was slightly annoying, but once i realised i didn't have anything i needed to rush home for, i was able to actually focus on and, dare i say, enjoy my surroundings. 

to quote seneca once again, "nothing is ours, except time" and i'm now much more at ease with this idea, finding enjoyment in simple things like reading a book and of course, listening to music. 

after coming across this interview of stevie nicks by matt healy, i found myself listening to buckingham nicks, the 1973 album created by a pre-fleetwood mac stevie and lindsay buckingham. for reasons i'll never understand, the album wasn't a commercial success and the duo were dropped from their label due to "poor sales". as a result, it was never given an official release - though the odd copy can be found on amazon - and was never added to streaming platforms. 

luckily a full version can be found on youtube, and while every track is excellent - especially lindsay's solos without a leg to stand on, don't let me down again and lola (my love), all of which reminded me why i made a disastrous attempt to learn the guitar between the ages of 14-17 - my favourite has to be frozen love.

a glorious seven minute long track, the real magic begins at precisely 3:45, when the guitar-based melody gives way to a glorious orchestral backing track that flows seamlessly into buckingham's picking technique.

special mention must also be given to that's alright and without you, two demos from the coffee plant sessions which showcase nick's incredible vocals long before landslide

i've long been fascinated by the idea of Real Music and what makes a song or album have that "timeless" quality so revered by critics, most of which are balding, middle-class white men. 

i'm not denying the existence of such things; as soon as i heard the buckingham nicks album, my mind instantly categorised it as a Forever Album, i.e. something i'll listen to in 5 years that will still make me Feel Things. 

while there's the classics like goodbye yellow brick road, avalon and ziggy stardust and the spiders from mars, some more recent albums such as lorde's magnum opus melodrama and the 1975's sophomore release i like it when you sleep... can also be considered Forever Albums, and the newest addition to this exclusive club is imploding the mirage by the killers. 

while i've always considered myself a fan of the band since their human era, i had no idea they'd released this album until months later when one of my ~internet friends~ tweeted me about it. 

naturally i listened straight away and wasn't disappointed. 

since their debut album hot fuss was released to critical acclaim in 2004, the band have created what can now be described as their Signature Sound, which encompasses inspirations such as the smiths, new order and depeche mode as well as a classic rock and roll sound, and nowhere is this more apparent than on imploding the mirage. 

after watching an episode of song exploder that sees the killers discussing how their 2006 single when you were young was created, i re-listened to the new album and realised that their "stadium ambition" - to create a big sound regardless of the the setting - has never left them. 

it's a shame they won't be headlining reading and leeds next year as the first track my own soul's warning would make an excellent set opener. i also appreciate the lyrics, which remind me of all the times where i went against my ~intuition~ despite knowing something was wrong. 

dying breed, caution and running towards a place wouldn't look out of place next to classics like read my mind (probably my favourite killers song), somebody told me and of course mr. brightside.

much like their early work, imploding the mirage also draws from the band's personal experiences of living in las vegas, far away from the bright lights of sin city. blowback is a perfect example of this. veering in a slightly country direction, the track tells the story of a small town "white trash" girl longing for more. 

the title track is reminiscent of lead singer brandon flowers' solo releases, particularly diggin' up the heart from 2015's the desired effect, while when the dreams run dry pays homage to their love of 80s synth-pop acts like depeche mode.

but my favourite song, and the one which best evokes that feeling of a Forever Song is fire in bone. a dead ringer for talking heads with a hint of U2, there's just something about this song that i love but can't fully put into words. 

genius describes the song as "largely a retelling of the story of the prodigal son from luke 15:11-32 in the christian bible", and its themes of guilt, shame and redemption are probably why the song stirs something inside me that i've long tried to keep hidden.  

overall it's one of their best albums to date, and i know i'll still be having these same feelings when i press play on it in years to come. 

but what about those songs that don't have a sense of Forever about them? my teenage self would have dismissed them as disposable, throwaway pop songs, but now i realise that not every piece of music needs to be deep and profound to be enjoyed. 

i'm referring to artists such as becky hill, who i now have a newfound appreciation for thanks to one of my friends sending me several of her songs recently. 

hill is an artist that is everywhere and nowhere at the same time; her songs have soundtracked the Big Nights Out of anyone who non-ironically attended a slug and lettuce or revolution in the last six years (speaking of which, please read this impeccable piece of journalism from vice), and yet i couldn't name a single song until recently. 

it's a strange feeling, to be so familiar with a song (gecko (overdrive) in particular gives me war flashbacks to every club i attended between 2014-2016) and yet keep discovering new things about it with each listen. i now find myself unashamedly enjoying bops such as space, heaven on my mind, wish you well, better off without you and lose control. i'd also recommend watching her radio 1 dance weekend mashup if you're missing The Club as much as i am.

the final artist i've been enjoying without a trace of irony is RAYE. much like becky hill, she was someone i'd always been aware of but never really listened to beyond dreamer, her iconic collaboration with charli xcx and starrah.

then her song please don't touch was one of the contenders for popjustice's twenty quid music prize this year, and while it didn't win, i found myself listening to the low-key bop on repeat, along with love me again, another track that's far more subdued than my usual tastes.

luckily she upped the energy levels with the release of her EP euphoric sad songs in november this year.

it contained the aforementioned singles as well as secrets, her collaboration with regard that is a Mild Banger/excellent Walking Song.

natalie don't and love of your life both feature the disco-inspired sound that made kylie minogue's disco and dua lipa's future nostalgia two of the year's finest albums, while regardless brings a club-ready feel to the proceedings and feels like a distant cousin of waiting for tonight by jennifer lopez.

and yet my most-played track is walk on by, which sits somewhere between ballad and disco bop, never fully committing to either sound.

however there's no confusion about the direction of her latest offering, as this month she blessed us with a "dance edition" of the EP, featuring remixes by joel corry, punctual and MOTi.

i'd also highly recommend her radio 1 dance weekend mashup which features an exquisite reworking of by your side, a collaboration with jonas blue released in 2016.

sonically, RAYE and becky hill couldn't be further away from the "classic" sound of buckingham nicks and the killers, but my enjoyment of all these artists is what unites them, regardless (SORRY) of whether they could be categorised as Forever Songs or not. 

i've always hated Music Snobs (having been one myself), and this exploration of "real music" is something i cannot wait to explore further when i start my masters in musicology at the university of manchester (!) next september. 

told you i always save the best till last.

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.