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%

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Dodie – Human EP Review

The latest EP from Dodie is her best project yet, with brutally honest and open lyrics paired with a selection of the best produced and written tracks the singer-songwriter has put out so far.

‘Monster’ is a brilliant track; it’s one of those songs that appear simple upon first listen, but the instrumental with its groovy synth pattern and developing layers is really deep and complex, and the backing vocals are lovely too. Her best one to date.

‘Not What I Meant’ has Dodie pair up with Lewis Watson, and the duo’s voices blend really nicely together for a really pleasant, chill folky ballad that reminded me a bit of Seth Lakeman. The Title track, ‘Human’ with Tom Walker is another example of how hard hitting her lyrics can be ; specific to her experiences but again so relatable they are especially effective paired with those vocals and haunting melody.

To me, ‘If I’m Being Honest’ sounds like a track that would fit right into ‘La La Land’ or ‘Mary Poppins’, and that’s in no way a bad thing; it plods along in the nicest way and I can picture her walking along in the rain singing it in some kind of musical.

A great EP that shows Dodie just keeps improving, and shows real promise for a potential full album; but if the quality of her EPs keeps up like this, i’m not sure she needs to do one.

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Track Review: Foals – Exits

Foals are back! This new single is the first taste of a lot to come from the lads in 2019, as they have two full-length albums coming out this year under the name ‘Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost’, with part one coming in March.

‘Exits’ is a long first track, coming in at around 6 minutes, but it doesnt drag. It’s unmistakably Foals, with groovy riffs and Yannis’ powerful vocals, but as with between their previous albums there is a slight difference in their sound that has helped to keep them fresh; ‘Exits’ is a lot more synth heavy and dance influenced than their last effort ‘What Went Down’.

The more you listen to ‘Exits’, the more little layers of synths and guitars you pick up you begin to realise just how well produced this is, especially towards the tail-end of the track where everything is building up and with lyrics that reference the world being upside down and ‘all the exits being covered’, Foals prove they still have their fingers on the pulse.

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The 1975 live at the O2 Arena Review

The 1975 are currently on their sold out UK Arena tour, their biggest to date, and I got to catch their show on Saturday 19th of January. It was very good.

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After great support sets from Dirty Hit alumni No Rome and Pale Waves, The 1975 took to the stage to a ridiculously loud, and excited o2 Arena that was packed to the brim. As soon as that big screen lit up the crowd were relentlessly noisy through till the last song. Kicking things off with a double helping from their latest album ‘Give Yourself A Try’ and ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’ were received as if they were greatest hits.

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Each song had it’s own amazing set of visuals, with the stage morphing and transforming; at one point Matty entered the screen and it became a phone, and a treadmill was in use for a few of the songs alongside massive floating cube screens and some really great backing dancers who added an extra level of spectacle to the show.

The visuals were stunning at times, making the show seem even larger in spectacle than it already was. Opening act No Rome returned for the stage for his recent track that featured The 1975 and even that had got a full visual treatment, dancers and all.

The 1975 played a varied selection of tracks from their 3 albums and a few from their earlier EPs, even being brave enough to play the ambient ‘How To Draw/Petrichor’ from their latest.

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This was a massive show, with amazing visuals and it’s inspiring to see a relatively new band shoot up to this level of production without losing their personality.

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The 25 Best of Albums 2018

25. Hayley Kiyoko – Expectations

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The debut album from Hayley was one of the strongest pop releases of the year – with consistently good tracks and a really coherent, flowing tracklist and clean, shimmery production.

24. Spring King – A Better Life

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Sadly now confirmed to be the last Spring King album, A Better Life is more of what made their first record great but with amped up production and more variety and experience in the songwriting, making for a great indie-rock record.

23. Chvrches – Love Is Dead

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Now on their 3rd album, Chvrches returned with their poppiest album yet, showing they can still knock out some really strong synth-pop bangers with strong melodies and catchy hooks.

22. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really FeelImage result for courtney barnett - tell me how you really feel

Courtney again proves herself to be one of the best singer-songwriters in the world (definitely the best in Australia) with this album, with witty poignant tracks and great guitar hooks abundant.

21. Panic! At The Disco – Pray For The Wicked

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Brendon Urie and co returned with an album full of massive hits with a big band flavour; brass and strings aplenty make this album feel like the biggest production they have ever had. The album almost sounds like a greatest hits collection with the amount of big singles on show.

20. MGMT – Little Dark Age

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The title track was one of the best songs to come out of 2017, and the rest of the album followed suit; quirky synth-pop tunes with lots of character and great melodies make this one of the catchiest albums of the year, and the relatable and relevant lyrics make it a great project, and revitalised MGMT.

19. Father John Misty – God’s Favourite Customer

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Following on from last year’s Pure Comedy was always going to be difficult, and while GFC doesn’t quite match up to the conceptual heights of the last album, this is still a brilliant collection of moody, witty tracks with the likes of Mr.Tillman showing Josh’s songwriting at its very best.

18. Brockhampton – iridescence 

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One of the strongest rap albums of the year, iridescence shows that Brockhampton are here to stay and really aren’t messing around. A varied but still coherent project that showcases all of the members of the best boyband on the planet.

17. Nick J D Hodgson – Tell Your Friends

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The debut solo project from Ex-Kaiser Chief Nick is a brilliant first effort with a selection of tracks that showcase just how good of a songwriter he is, with tracks like ‘Tomorrow I Love You’ sounding like it could have been a hit in any of the past few decades.

16. Twenty One Pilots – Trench

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Coming through with their strongest album yet both lyrically and sonically, Top have made a really thematically strong, coherent pop/rock/rap album and have perfected the sound that they have carved out for themselves over the past few years.

15. David Byrne – American Utopia

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With American Utopia, David Byrne has proved that he is as on the ball as he ever was, with hard hitting relevant themes matched to catchy, funky tracks full of his trademark wit and charm such as ‘Everybody’s Coming To My House’ and ‘Dog’s Mind’.

14. Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears 

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Electro Duo Let’s Eat Grandma have really come through on their second album with a brilliantly produced project full of expansive, erratic but focused electronic pop songs. ‘Falling Into Me’ is an album highlight, it being an amazing progressive banger.

13. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

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A really varied, well produced album with a multitude of influences used to deliver clever and relevant social commentary about the state of the world with references to mental health, immigration and social media is the best project from Matty Healy and co so far by far, and it’s great.

12. Ariana Grande – Sweetener 

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Ariana really showed just how good she can be on Sweetener. The singles dropped from the album were consistently bettering the last, and the album did not dissapoint with amazing production from Pharrell on tracks like ‘R.E.M’ and those singles like ‘God is a Woman’ and ‘No Tears Left To Cry’ showcasing her amazing vocals and just general talent.

11. Pale Waves – My Mind Makes Noises

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Manchester goth-pop group Pale Waves have had one of the fastest rises in indie in recent years, and their debut album is testament to why they have shot up. Great, catchy songs with hard-hitting honest lyrics and 80’s inspired production and melodies that still manage to sound modern and cutting edge are bound to gain popularity. And it’s well deserved.

10. Gorillaz – The Now Now

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Much more focused than 2017’s ‘Humanz’ album, ‘The Now Now’ is the best Gorillaz project in a long time, with tracks like ‘Tranz’ and ‘Hollywood’ (which has a great feature from Snoop Dogg) showing Damon can still write a great pop banger, and ‘Souk Eye’ being one of the most beautiful songs he has ever written.

9. Anderson. Paak -Oxnard

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A really smooth, catchy funky album from Andy here is a late entry into this list, but with glistening tracks like ‘Tints’ with Kendrick and the amazing flows and production shown on tracks like ‘Who R U?’ means this is Anderson’s finest album so far, and one of the best of the year.

8.Christine & The Queens – Chris

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What difficult second album? Chris levelled up with a collection of sleekly produced groovy pop tunes that built upon the themes of her debut in every way, becoming more confident and explicit while still maintaining that charm that drew everyone to her in the first place.

7. The Orielles – Silver Dollar Moment

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Perhaps the grooviest album of the year, Silver Dollar Moment is full of great, funky tracks with great story-telling lyrics and a real sense of fun throughout. ’48 Percent’ is one of the happiest, catchiest tracks of the year, and ‘Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist)’ has potentially the best bassline. Nice.

6. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

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I’m so glad they decided to go off on one on their latest album, because it really worked. Alex took the Arctic Monkeys to the moon, with a concept album about a Hotel and Casino that proves that sometimes being as outlandish as possible does work. He did what he wanted, and it showed just how brilliant he can be.

5. Kero Kero Bonito – Time n Place

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Changing your sound after a breakout album will always be risky, but KKB made the right choice here on ‘Time n Place’, building on their original sound added even more layers to their personality, and matching the clever, upbeat tracks that tell great little stories with the more complicated production really makes this album stand out from their previous.

 

4. Teleman – Family Of Aliens

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At this point I just expect Teleman to be great, and thankfully they were. Bettering themselves yet again with their best album so far, ‘Family of Aliens’ is an album full of grooves and great melodies with really thoughtful lyrics full of heart that really get better with each listen. ‘Cactus’ is an absolute banger too.

3. Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer

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As soon as I heard ‘Make Me Feel’ from this album, I knew that Janelle was going to release one of the best projects of the year, and I was right, with ‘Dirty Computer’ being her strongest to date. The run of tracks from ‘Django Jane’ to ‘I Like That’ is incredible.

2. Kali Uchis – Isolation

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‘Isolation’ is Kali’s debut full studio album and in my opinion no other debut has shown as much promise. A cohesive, flowing album full of varied, lively tracks with great vocal performances and featured producers make ‘Isolation’ one of the strongest albums of the year.

1. The Good, The Bad & The Queen – Merrie Land 

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‘Merrie Land’ was the album that hit closest to home for me this year with its messages and themes; pairing that with the consistently brilliant songwriting from Damon Albarn and the great musicianship from the likes of Paul Simonon and Tony Allen, this album couldn’t have come at a better time.

 

 

 

 

Ralph Breaks The Internet Movie Review

Product placement with heart takes centre stage in this Disney sequel.

The original Wreck-It Ralph was a heartfelt tribute to the world of gaming with really vibrant worlds bursting with colour and lovable characters, both new and those well known from the past. The sequel goes digital, losing some of that character in the process but still managing to get it right most of the time.

In this movie, Ralph and Vanellope have to travel to the internet in order to get a new steering wheel for Vanellope’s game in the arcade, Sugar Rush. The new characters that the duo encounter in the world wide web are well fleshed out and very likeable, especially the sleek racer ‘Shank’ voiced by Gal Gadot, and head of BuzzzTube, ‘Yesss’ who is voiced by Taraji P Henson, who both really add to the movie and avoid stereotypes that easily could have been forced upon their characters.

There are a LOT of real life internet sites and apps in this movie. Upon first glance it may seem like pure product placement and advertising, with a barrage of well known names and apps hitting you when you are first shown the internet. However, they are all handled with humour and the use of these real sites such as eBay really do make it seem as if they are in the internet, and there are a lot of visual jokes and puns to be made too.

The much talked about section in the trailer where Vanellope encounters all of the Disney princesses does live up to the hype, and is a great moment in the movie.

Overall, Ralph Breaks The Internet is a fun, nice looking movie with lovable characters and some genuine messages about friendship even if it doesn’t have the heart or the excitement of the original.

67%

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Movie Review

‘Into The Spider-Verse’ is straight-up the best superhero movie I have seen in a long time; it’s a frantic, beautiful breath of fresh air.

The latest Marvel & Sony release is a fully animated affair that follows Miles Morales and his journey to become Spider-Man. However, it is immediately apparent that this is no ordinary origin story; this is by no means another movie you already feel you have seen time and time again.  This time, Spider-Man isn’t the only Spider-Person around to fight evil. 

Big baldy Kingpin sets off a large collider under the city, which messes with the fabric of the universe, bringing together a wild and varied bunch of Spideys together. When these iterations such as Spider-Gwen and Peni Parker interact on-screen, the writing really shines alongside the great voice acting from the likes of Hailee Steinfeld, Nicolas Cage and John Mulaney. Shameik Moore is great throughout as Miles, and a perfect pick.

I learnt that this movie came from the team behind The Lego Movie & Lego Batman after I had watched it, and it made complete sense, with the way everyone interacts and the self-referential humour really mirroring that of the blocky worlds, and that’s not a bad thing at all.  The screening I was in had the whole cinema laughing out loud at parts.

Seeing Miles gradually transform into a fully fledged Spider-Man, and his chemistry with the other spiders especially Gwen and Peter is a real joy and the movie does a brilliant job of getting you invested in the characters and making them believable in the space of one film, with every person in Peter’s family and inner circle seeming really fleshed out.

The animation in Spider-Verse is astounding, with every single scene being filled with detail and eye-popping colour, but at the same time it is never overwhelming, which is no mean feat considering the sheer amount of content crammed into locations like Miles’ bedroom and New York City. The visual style really makes it feel like you are watching a comic book come to life, with snappy, precise shots that all really flow into one another, but it never really feels like you are watching an animated movie due to the depth of world building that has been put into this project. There are more than one properly breath-taking shots here. 

This isn’t just the best animated movie of the year, it’s one of the best outright. Into the Spider-Verse is charming, visually stunning, genuinely funny and emotionally gripping is not something I would expect from a movie starring John Mulaney as ‘Spider-Ham’, but they really manage it, in a stunning way. 

99%