Little Simz – Grey Area Review

Leading off with the brilliant, urgent single ‘Offence’ is a brilliant way to start off Little Simz’ latest album, with it’s pure confidence and witty lyrics perfectly setting the tone for the rest of the project. This confidence is completely matched by her skill, making for one of the freshest rap albums in a long time.

‘Venom’ shows Simz at her fiercest on the album and it’s really impressive to see her attack a track at that speed, but the album isn’t all fast paced and hard-hitting, with tracks such as ‘Therapy’ and ‘Sherbert Sunset’ seeing her really open up with introspective lyrics.

‘Selfish’ features a really smooth, catchy hook provided by Cleo Sol and a really funky percussion beat and light piano backing that just sounds really luscious and full; the whole album sounds like it could be being played live.

Simz has picked her featured artists on ‘Grey Area’ very well, with Little Dragon and Michael Kiwanuka providing well-placed guest spots that provide softer, more soulful vocals that pair really with Simz’ harder hitting verses.

This album proves all of the hype that is surrounding Little Simz at the moment, showing an artist at the top of her game with a brilliant, bright album.

97%

 

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Ariana Grande – Thank U, Next Review

This is Ariana’s second album in under 6 months. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this might mean the quality of the album wouldn’t be up to scratch compared to those she has spent more time on. She’s managed to make 2 albums in such a short space of time; her last was one of the best of 2018, this will probably be on year-end lists this time around.

The singles in the lead-up to this album were all up to her usual standard, with the title track being one of her most commercially successful to date, and it’s not hard to see why.

 

NASA and Bloodine are examples of what Ari does best; Confident, catchy pop tracks with great vocal performances & infectious hooks. ‘Thank U, Next’ has her strongest vocals to date throughout; keeping those breathy tones that make her voice distinctive but proving she has real vocal power. This is a more confident Ariana than we saw on Sweetener, with this being a completely solo effort with 0 features at all; quite apt for an album with self-love as one of its main themes.

‘Ghostin’ is one of the strongest cuts on the album; really showcasing Ariana’s voice with haunting, soft strings and spacious production. ‘Make Up’ is a bit of a forgettable track, and sounds like a left-over from her previous effort.

The album’s closer ‘Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored’ has the difficult task of following big singles ‘7 Rings’ and the title track, and it doesn’t quite fit in with the flow in the tracklisting,& would have been much better suited to the middle of the album if anywhere, it’s a rather generic trap-inspired song that doesn’t amount to much at all; ‘ Thank U, Next’ would have been the perfect closer.

Overall, ‘Thank U, Next’ is a very solid pop album that should ensure Ari’s place at the top of pop for the time being.

80%

Nina Nesbitt – The Sun Will Come Up, The Seasons Will Change Review

This is Nina’s second album, and it’s been a long time in the making. With a myriad of record label troubles and other issues plaguing her path so far, it must take someone tough to come through and eventually put out an album, especially one like this.

‘The Sun Will Come Up..’ is a focused, brilliantly produced pop album with Nina’s crisp, controlled voice and new found confidence cutting through each and every song.

‘Is It Really Me You’re Missing’ is an honest, open point on the album that shows off Nina’s Voice with minimalist production and a soft piano backing, and the title track which closes the album is another example of great storytelling by Nina.

The run of tracks from ‘The Moments I’m Missing’ through to ‘Somebody Special’ show the quality of the songwriting on show here; most of the tracks here feel like they could be singles but the album still flows very well as a whole.

A great album that shows real promise for the future from Nina.

85%

James Blake – Assume Form Review

The new album from Singer/Producer James Blake can be a bit of a mixed bag, and seems a bit one-note at the beginning, but when it gets into its stride and you give it more listens, it’s not hard to see why he gathers so much attention, this being his best project to date.

‘Tell Them’ is a mesmerising, low-key trap infused track, with great features from Moses Sumney and Metro Boomin, with Moses’ vocals melding really well with James. This flows beautifully into the more sombre and touching ‘Into The Red’, which is a genuinely lovely tribute to Jameela Jamil, his current girlfriend.

Rosalia’s vocals are silky smooth as always on the track ‘Barefoot In The Park’, again James showing he knows who fits in well with his own sound, and the following track ‘Can’t Believe The Way We Flow’ continues a great run of tracks.

‘Where’s The Catch?’ with Andre 3000 is my favourite track on the album, with Andre unsurprisingly delivering an amazing verse over a great, complex beat provided by James, with the track shifting from calmer chill-hop to glitchier beats effortlessly.

‘I’ll Come Too’ is another heartfelt ballad, set to slightly spooky sounding theramin-esque backing synths and strings, but it works really well.

This is James at his best: honest, open and with all his emotions on his sleeve, allowing him to make the best music he ever has.

82%

The Good, The Bad & The Queen – Merrie Land review

It has been 11 years since the last album by The Good, The Bad & The Queen, and a lot has changed since then. Thankfully TGTB&TQ have not, and are as on the ball as they were back in 2007. 

Title track and opener ‘Merrie Land’ sets a haunting scene of a picturesque but broken Britain that is worth fighting for while at the same time asking if it’s worth the bother, with Albarn sounding already defeated.  ‘Gun To The Head’ is an album highlight for me, sounding like Parklife-era Blur mixed with Madness with its chanty chorus and oompa beat, but the melancholy undertone is still present despite the upbeat brass. 

‘The Last Man To Leave’ is one of the most inventive, intense and simply brilliant tracks on the album, and that Damon has ever done; Damon’s vocals sounding like a crazed preacher shouting about not wanting to leave and ‘liking the bed we’ve made to lie in’ while still carrying real, heartbreaking emotion.

The whole album plays out like a sad but hopeful love letter to the UK. The lyrics to ‘Nineteen Seventeen’ perhaps most directly hint at Brexit woes; ‘I see myself moving backwards in time today from a place we can’t remain … My heart is heavy because it looks just like my home.’ with other tracks referring to lines on maps and Windrush.

While this may seem a bit too in your face and preachy when written down, rest assured the whole project has that beautiful sad echo throughout it that only Damon at his best can bring, with his truly great songwriting helped come to life even further by the stellar line-up of Paul Simonon on Bass, Tony Allen on Drums and Simon Tong on guitar.

A few songs do sound very similar to each other and a bit one-note, with ‘The Great Fire’ being a bit of a low point for me, but these tracks are in the minority and the album still flows fairly well.

The themes in this album will hit home for those in the UK at the moment, but the messages of drifting apart and regret leave a lot to the imagination, and the meticulously crafted songs can be enjoyed by anyone. This is the perfect album for 2018.

98%

Kero Kero Bonito – Time ‘n’ Place Review

Time ‘n’ Place is the second studio album from experimental British 3 piece Kero Kero Bonito, who on their debut EP ‘Intro Bonito’ and subsequent first album proved themselves to be one of the most exciting, inventive new groups around. Drawing from a wide range of influences, ‘Bonito Generation’ was a bright, colourful record.

Based on the opening track ‘Outside’, it is clear that KKB have not just made a ‘Bonito Generation 2’, with it being more guitar based and instantly heavier than most things on their debut. Don’t worry, the band’s charm is still here in abundance on Time ‘n’ Place, with KKB developing their sound while not losing any of what made them great the first time around.

‘Time Today’ is an early album highlight, with Sarah happily singing about how she has a day to herself. The album continues very strongly into ‘Only Acting’ which details how Sarah feels while performing live over a nice pop-punky backing, that brilliantly self destructs towards the end.

The whole album is just as strong, most songs telling specific, on the nose stories over innovative beats and utilising Sarah’s unique vocal style perfectly, with ‘Dump’ being a nice little story about a rubbish dump, and ‘Dear Future Self’ being a letter to future self.

Closing track ‘Rest Stop’ begins sounding like the end credit music to an old Sega game like Nights or Alex Kidd before exploding into what is essentially a few minutes of noise music with Sarah faintly singing in the background before fading out to just Sarah. Odd, but it works. Good.

93%

You can buy Time ‘n’ Place here, or stream it below.

Teleman – Family of Aliens Review

The third album from Teleman has  somehow managed to improve on their previous two releases; it being a more electronic, robotic and dance-able collection of songs while showing off more of their personalty than ever before.

When an album has a couple of very strong singles i’m always worried that the rest of the album will disappoint, and with ‘Cactus’ being an absolute banger and probably the best Teleman song to date I certainly had those fears.

They were quickly dismissed as soon as the opener, and title track ‘Family of Aliens’ began. The same brilliant Teleman as usual, but sounding even more energetic. ‘Between The Rain’ is a Paul McCartney-esque upbeat piano track, and ‘Always Dreaming’ is a slower, calm moment on the record. These two tracks show just how diverse Teleman can be while still maintaining a consistent sound.

Another album highlight for me is the very groovy ‘Twisted Heart’,with the opening synth riff sounding like a Pokemon battle theme gone wrong and it just generally being one of the catchiest tracks they’ve put out to date.

‘Somebody’s Island’ has another great melody throughout, with the song again being one of the best the band has ever put out, it being so well produced and full of emotion and personality. The album closer, ‘Starlight’, aptly sounds like a really dramatic end credits song for a movie, a fitting end to a great album.

This is Teleman’s best album to date, and one of the best albums of the year so far.

96%

Best Three: Cactus, Twisted Heart, Starlight