With the end of year looming, Getintothis’ writers round-up on some of the best albums from this month – as well as a few that we might have overlooked previously.
This is the final Getintothis Album Club before we reveal next month our Albums of the Year, yet some publications and record shops have already placed their cards on the table. Every year it seems that lists get published earlier and earlier, that there is a relentless race to the bottom to shamelessly see who will be the first to publish, with great fanfare, their proud lists.
There does feel something cynical about the early trendsetters. Most are record shops and you can understand why they are motivated to publish ever earlier. Their lists should be seen as marketing devices, a means of reminding the public of the slightly older albums that have faded from memory yet still have a potential profit margin attached to them.
This raises the significant prospect of conflict between artistic credibility and commercial considerations. Record shops’ very existence is predicated on their ability to sell records and anything that makes that task easier or more likely is to be welcomed. Imagine, after all, a world without the physical record shop. No Rough Trade. No Resident. No Spillers. Unimaginable. If an end of year list helps to keep the till register active then that is to be applauded.
Yet there are concerns, artistic concerns. Clearly there is a conflict between cultural merit and cashflow. The temptation to include those deemed likely to be most popular must be compelling – and as we all know popularity is no guarantee of quality.
It’s not just record shops, certain publications have got in on the act too. The once vaunted and highly respected NME have trampled their proud history that little bit further into the mud by declaring The 1975 to have made the best album of the 2016. We’ve nothing against the band, but we’re sure even they’d likely agree that their record hardly befits the accolade. Like the record shops depend on sales, NME now relies on clicks and advertising revenue. Alas, it appears that they have sacrificed critical integrity in favour broadening their appeal with their target market and maximising their potential revenues.
So what does this mean? Each year the amount of new music released grows ever larger, yet the ‘best of year’ round-ups often look very similar. As there is an ever-widening array of styles and shapes of music, not to mention a huge diversity of individual tastes and preferences, do shops and publications play it safe, either to bolster their sales figures or just to seek refuge in the herd mentality of safety in numbers.
Concerns are thus: that the lists are too often risk averse, telling us what we already know rather than what should know but don’t. Furthermore by their very lack of imagination they encourage bland conformity. Why should artists take risks and dare to be different if the path to critical recognition lies in playing it safe? While at a purely selfish level this stifling of creativity is bad as it places another obstacle between us and the genuinely exciting, it is also bad for bands.
For those who do create, those who are willing to challenge listeners, those who actively seek to confound expectations it must be a dispiriting time. All that toil, the hard slog, the long hours for only the barest hint of recognition. For while record shops may benefit financially from the early publication of their end of year lists the genuine innovators might be the ones to suffer. Deprived of that boon in sales the choice could well be stark. Give up and get a day job or be willing to compromise.
Yet this is not to say lists are entirely without merit. Even among the most predictable lists there are often gems to be found hiding underneath the most obvious. In addition many lists brave being deemed as wilfully obscure, often as a direct reaction against some of the more mainstream lists. At a most basic level most of us enjoy the lists and welcome the healthy debate that they encourage. And if they persuade people to seek out and listen to music that they might otherwise have missed then so much for the better.
Our view is that lists should be the gateway to new music, the possible introduction to a life-changing album that might otherwise have passed you by. This is enshrined in the DNA of Album Club and was the very reason for its creation. As ever we have shared with you a round-up of some of the best albums that we have enjoyed listening to over the last month – as well as a few select cuts from earlier in the year that were previously overlooked.
The Anchoress: Confessions of a Romance Novelist
For followers of Mansun’s Paul Draper, the debut album from The Anchoress arrived after much pre-publicity, Draper’s involvement being that he produced and co-wrote most of the album and played or sang on some of its tracks.
For months before the album’s release, draper posted updates, adverts and teasers on Facebook and Twitter. By the time it hit the shops, those of us on the receiving end of this social media campaign were whipped into a high state of anticipation, wondering whether the record lived up to its hype. For the rest of the world, it must have seemed like Confessions of a Romance Novelist arrived unexpectedly and fully formed.
An album of great lyrical and musical depth, Confessions of a Romance Novelist does not sound like a debut album, rather it comes across as the work of a confident and experimental, even progressive artist. Recorded over a three and a half year period, The Anchoress found herself in the unusual and envious position of having the time to develop at her own pace, aided all the way by Draper’s unstinting support.
The Anchoress, AKA Catherine Anne Davies and the man from Mansun have struck up a useful partnership of late, and in many ways, Confessions of a Romance Novelist comes across like a great lost Mansun album. Draper and Catherine share a lot of the same vocal inflections, to the extent that the listener can be forgiven for wondering just who is singing these songs. His added guitar and his backing vocals on You and Only You only add to this illusion.
But this is undoubtedly Catherine’s show, as she uses the character of the eponymous novelist to examine her life and experiences. This she does in a variety of ways, from Doesn’t Kill You, where she declares “I don’t care what you think about me, let my ego drift away from me” to PS Fuck You, where she changes tack, saying “With all of my heart I wish nothing but hurt for the scars you left on my heart”.
An album difficult to pigeonhole but impossible not to love, it is intriguing to think what the next volume will hold. The Anchoress and Paul Draper’s partnership is already so advanced and symbiotic that she has co-written songs for Draper’s forthcoming album, which provides reasons, should any be needed, to look forward to its release sometime in 2017. Banjo
Dream Machine Records
It’s fair to say that Barberos have only gone and pulled it off. The band, so honed and practised in the live arena – their shows are renowned for their pummelling intensity and technical complexities – have managed to transfer aspects of their live sound onto record while also augmenting it with added depth, texture, nuance and subtlety.
Admittedly the record is less full throttle, you don’t necessarily feel like your cheeks are being pressed back to your ears or that you’re being pinned to the wall, but that isn’t necessarily a band thing. Nonetheless the opening statements – two pieces that merge into one – The Return of the Ladius and The Ladius are trademark Barberos.
Synth-led electronica builds with a mounting sense of unease over restrained yet insistent rhythmic beats and cymbals as the tension is gradually ratcheted up. This is interspersed with playfully melodic interludes that pull you back from the precipice before launching you ever forwards again. The Ladius twists and subverts, careering down side alleys before u-turning and continuing the relentless forward progression, accelerating in almost breathless fashion over the rhythmic hammers of synth and drums amid a sea of all-encompassing noise experiments. Quite magnificent.
Hoyl sees the band slow the pace if not their willingness to experiment. Lowering the volume to little more than a haunting rumble it drips with eerie atmospherics over spoken word narration from This Heat‘s Charles Hayward. It is quite unlike anything Barberos have ever done before and amid the low rumbles you can almost hear the nods of approval from one legend of experimental rock to the new pretenders.
The rest of the album sees the band return to familiar, if not safe, territory. It remains a cataclysm of mind-bending rhythm, corrugated synth and furious keyboard. A heady mix of experimental dynamism without ever going fully for the jugular. Perhaps that on reflection is the only real criticism, is it slightly too reserved the production a little too clinical.
But that is to nit-pick Barberos remains a thrilling ride from beginning to end, predictable only in its unpredictability. A joy from one of Liverpool’s best. Paul Higham
Danny Brown: Atrocity Exhibition
Danny Brown isn’t a cartoon character despite his reputation, he’s a human being, and as Atrocity Exhibition shows, an incredibly talented human being. I’m going to put this out there at the top of the review, this is one of the best albums of the year, and for me I’d be astonished if a better hip hop record made it out before 2017. The only record in the genre that comes close this year is The Impossible Kid by Aesop Rock, at least in my humble opinion.
Brown’s reputation and cartoonish voice, along with his moving into party anthem territory on Old, has painted him to some as a larger than life excess machine, smoking blunt after blunt, yet there has always been a darker undercurrent to his music. His hedonism comes from a deep desire for escapism from his own existential and personal woes. Atrocity Exhibition brings this to the surface and lays it bare. The outrageousness is still present, but lines like “Lick the clit and she do the Macarena” are now bittersweet jabs slipped in between the raw honesty.
Opener The Downward Spiral is a shock to the system for anyone familiar with his work, as loose jazzy drums and discordant psychedelic guitar interweave into a soothing but hellish soundscape as he professes “People say you’ve got a lot to be proud of, been high this whole time don’t realise what I done, cause when I’m all alone I feel like no one cares, isolate myself and don’t go nowhere”.
In its instrumental experimentation, this album goes beyond anything any hip hop album that’s reached any sort of larger audience has achieved. Without the bars it’d pass for a bizarre fusion of post punk, psychedelia, trip hop and a hell of a lot more. I can hear traces of Eno in closing track Hell For It, Can in the drumbeat on Tell Me What I Don’t Know, Detroit techno in lead single When It Rain, and god knows what’s going on in Ain’t It Funny, but I think it might be the hardest any hip hop has gone since Death Grips released No Love.
This is without any mention of what an incredible MC Brown is. He rides these absolutely insane instrumentals like they’re golden era smooth as butter beats. Nobody else could do this. Kanye couldn’t do this. Kendrick couldn’t do this. It’s really quite jaw dropping.
Make no mistake this album isn’t for everyone. Danny’s voice might be a hurdle for some, with its high pitched elastic qualities, though he does have two other modes, one deep voiced and smooth, and one in between that comes off rather like André 3000 and the instrumentals are so far from the usual wheelhouse of modern hip hop, or hip hop in general, and Get Hi is a bit of a dud, though in a 15 track album, one dud is hardly anything to complain about.
If you give it the time, Atrocity Exhibition has endless depth and astounding quality. Danny Brown, take a bow. Michael Edward
The Early Years: II
Last week I went to dinner with a friend, we both had Psych. Psych for starters. Psych for main (rare to medium for me, well done Psych for her). And Psych for dessert. With a liqueur Psych to finish off. I mean it’d be rude not to, right?
It seems right now we’re all hungry for Psych. In fact we’re positively over indulging on Psych banquets.
However, not all Psych is good Psych. In fact there’s a fair bit of flimsy half-baked Psych out there – and some are calling for a Psych cull in what’s an already saturated market. But then again, there is, actually a lot of good Psych too.
Like gluttons we’re feasting on a bounty of Psychedelic platters. And yet no matter how much we fill our overloaded bellies with gratuitous levels of swollen Psych suppers there’s no end to this conveyor belt of Psych.
Just as well for The Early Years then, who rather than waiting for a gap in the market, have returned 10 years after their debut with an album rife with prime, tender Psych. What differentiates this from other Psych is that it’s really, really, really good Psych. The Best of Psych.
This is T-bone Psych. Natural History Museum Psych. Usain Psych. Gold Frankinpsych and Myrrh. 1000% Psych.
What year is it again? Oh yeah, TWO THOUSAND AND PSYCHSTEEN. Peter Guy
Nick Ellis: Daylight Ghosts
The world is so overburdened with singer-songwriters – although if any term should be consigned to the scrap-heap of musical history let it be that – one would think that it is the easiest skill to perfect. Yet so many get it wrong, very wrong.
Too often they veer towards dull, montonous blandness while clichéd hackneyed lyrics are delivered with either an uncomfortably intense earnestness else are stripped of any emotional sincerity. Voice and guitar is the musical equivalent of cooking steak and chips on Masterchef, sure it’s a classic combination but if it goes wrong there’s nowhere to hide, every misstep is highlighted in glorious technicolour.
It is a good job then that with Daylight Ghosts, Nick Ellis has nimbly avoided all the pitfalls and produced a compelling and highly listenable full length debut album that captivates and sucks you in right from the outset. Far from being bland and monotonous this gripping. The sense of mystery in the lyrics and the cadence of their delivery demands your attention, they are emotionally honest without ever beginning to grate. Never overtly personal and seldom confessional, the songs are beautifully framed vignettes of life that find inspiration in the everyday, such as the victim of The Early Morning News.
Beyond the lyrics, attention is inexorably drawn to Ellis‘ voice. And what a voice it is. Possessed of a timeless quality, it feels lived in rich and blues-y yet pleasingly free from affectation. Everything serves to add to the edge of the seat suspense as the songs draw you in. It carries a power that often outweighs the lyrical content, wrapped in a sense of mournful sadness and wistful longing.
The record basks in a warm enveloping atmosphere, cloaked in a gently reverberative echo that imbues it with a sense of intimacy. Throughout the guitar playing is compelling. Delicate yet urgent, hypnotically mesmeric it provides the perfect complement to Ellis’ voice.
Daylight Ghosts is the latest record in a worthy lineage of timeless Liverpool folk-blues guitar records. Looking inwards and outwards with one foot in the past and one in the future, it far from reinvents the wheel but Ellis has an instinctive understanding of what works and this record showcases his talents perfectly. PH
Nicolas Jaar: Sirens
Some five years since he first crept into our consciousness with Space Is Only Noise, one of 2011’s most surprising and compelling releases, Chilean-American producer Nicolas Jaar returns with his sophomore effort Sirens.
From the opening notes of the album’s first track, Killing Time, fans of Jaar’s previous endeavours will begin to identify many of the elements that made his debut such a captivating and enduring listen. A minute’s dead space is interrupted by sudden blasts of shattering glass, bells and meandering piano before a hushed vocal creeps in. Slow tempo, industrial drum beats are then introduced before the lonely, echoing piano returns to draw the whole piece together.
Across the album, space is again used to maximum effect, with sparse openings being sporadically punctuated by shots of seemingly independent instrumentation. As each track progresses, Jaar slowly draws these disparate components together into a lucid and captivating whole. As with his debut, the record feels as though it slowly creeps into a room, note by note, before meshing together.
While there is a reassuring familiarity to Jaar’s illusive and unorthodox production, there are clear signs of progression here too. Some of Sirens’ most exhilarating moments are far more upfront confrontational than previous works. From the metronomic krautrock drive of Three Sides and Nazareth to the chaotic drum and bass climax of Governor, there is a real sense of expression and adventure about Jaar’s work.
Despite containing only six tracks, it’s also an album of considerable expanse. Influences from genres as disparate as jazz, Latin, no wave and psychedelia are amalgamated into a barely describable electronica that sounds like nothing else.
This breadth is exemplified by the album’s closer, History Lesson, which meanders along in a lazy, tripped out doo wop, before rolling drums and screaming guitar crash in to bring the track, and the record to a thrilling finale. Matt Yarwood
Listening to the exceptional new record from Nashville’s Lambchop causes our mind to spiral in a myriad of directions, leaving us to question much of what we had held to be true. The Kurt Wagner-led sprawling collective will forever be associated with the clunky, restrictive and frankly all-too-dull alt-country tag, yet their music has always offered something more, something a little bit different from their peers. Indeed, Flotus might just mark their most radical departure yet.
All good artists should look to challenge and push boundaries. There is little to be gained from endless rehashes, ever-desperate attempts to recreate past glories when you and the world have moved on. Artists brushed with genuine greatness are able to assimilate new ideas and to progress while remaining true to themselves and their fundamental identity. The dearly missed David Bowie was a prime example, capable of continued evolution while remaining distinctively Bowie.
Artistic changes are sometimes met a sense of incredulous insincerity, yet you could not level accusations of cynicism at the door of Lambchop. Flotus is not a bandwagon-jumping genre-hopping album produced for the sake of latching onto whatever the prevailing mood is. In its mood and atmospheres it is unmistakably Lambchop, portraying a sensitive marriage of expansive yet subtle electronica to sultry cinematic warmth.
It is the characteristic warmth that defines this album and much like trying on a new outfit, it’s recognisably the same band, only slightly different. Electronic instrumentation, which is to the fore in the pared down group, is never harsh and clinical but rich, warm and imbued with an autumnal mellowness. Subtlety is the watchword here, and as a result nothing is overdone, no efforts made to gild the lily.
In fusing elements of hip-hop and avant-jazz with glitchy electronica, Kurt Wagner has somwhow created one of the most beautiful records of a long and illustrious career. This is exemplified on album closer the beautifully abstract The Hustle, which in its 18 minutes pushes the boundaries of what Lambchop is about, rendering futile any lazy attempts to pigeonhole. If not quite a rage against the dying of the light, Wagner is not yet ready to go gently into that goodnight. PH
PIAS / Mayfly Records
Chocolate, fine ales, Tintin and Eden Hazard – add spacerock to Belgium’s range of superlative exports.
Hailing from Ghent and Antwerp, quintet Newmoon specialise in all things supersonic – notably walls of seismic melodic noise.
While there’s not much new on their debut Space, it’s a wondrous listen and it positively rockets by powered by a dizzying array of shimmering guitars and swaggering somewhat Northern soul.
Cherry-picking influences from the likes of Ride, Chapterhouse and Catherine Wheel, they imbue a certain swagger through singer Bert Cannaerts‘ Ian Brown-like beatific drawl.
Yet while there’s no mistaking the shoegaze influence, Newmoon‘s closest relative is The Smashing Pumpkins – and most acutely, that devastating debut album Siamese Dream – check out the cataclysmic crunch of Life In The Sun as it starbursts immediately upon opening or the blistering fuzz of Skin.
Like Corgan‘s outfit, there is though enough tenderness and moments of deft subtlety to allow the listener respite particularly on the chiming penultimate One Thousand or instrumental Hi which sounds like shards of dust scattering into space itself.
They play London’s The Garage on December 8 – let’s hope their next trip takes in more of the UK because Spaceis one hell of a ride. PG
Anderson .Paak: Malibu
Steel Wool Records
Right at the beginning of the year we were given a everlasting gob stopper of a treat in the form of Anderson .Paak’s Malibu. We’ve been sucking on it ever since. Aged just 30, .Paak’s back catalogue is extensive and his stellar production skills has seen him teaming up with the likes of Dr. Dre. It was on Dre’s 2015 album Compton that .Paak came to light.
.Paak couldn’t be more different than Dre in style however. Where one is known for his thuggish ways, the other is sensitive, sexual and socially conscious. From the outset, in The Bird, .Paak is nostalgic, addressing a troubled childhood “my sister used to sing to Whitney, my mama caught that gamblin bug, we came up in a lonely castle , my poppa was behind them bars”. This theme of nostalgia and dysfunction is continued on tracks The Season/Carry Me and the album’s final track The Dreamer.
The other theme .Paak explores is a sexual one. Like trailblazers before him (notably Prince and D’Angelo) he uses RnB as a platform to explore feminine sexuality as equal to its masculine counterpart. Rather than dominating or using females in the sense that Dre does .Paak recognises their agency and the power that stems from this. Songs like Heart Don’t Stand A Chance, Silicon Valley and the infamous Water Fall (Interluuube) are a lesson in intimacy between consenting individuals rather than .Paak getting his nut. Stylish, intelligent, eclectic and most of all made for dancing this album more than deserve its place as one of the best records of the year. Janaya Pickett
Margo Price: Midwest Farmer’s Daughter
Having been inexplicably shunned by the mainstream country music industry it would have been easy for this release by Margo Price to have fallen through the cracks and have been denied the promotional lifeblood necessary to turn the record into a success. It is therefore testament to the purity of the songwriting and Price‘s immediate and evocative vocals that this record has been able to resonate with as many people as it has.
For a record of such emotional authenticity and unambiguously country to be so overlooked speaks volumes of the over-commercialised and sanitised rut that Nashville has got itself in. The seeds of its dysfunction have long been sown and have even been documented in lyric by outsider country artists (see Dale Watson) and it is from this outlaw country tradition that Price borrows most heavily.
Indeed there is evidence of a clear lineage from the independent spirit of the great matriarchs of country music, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lyn right through to Caitlin Rose that permeates Price‘s work. Throughout there are staple country music hooks, both musically and lyrically and that might put some people off. But this is far from clichéd Nashville fare.
It bristles with an autobiographical honesty, telling the story of the rural dispossessed, of hardship and bleak hopelessness. Little wonder then that Price wants “to turn back the clock on the cruel hands of time” and buy back the farm taken from her father when she was two. Since You Put Me Down and Hurtin’ (On the Bottle) tell the story of the descent into alcoholism following the break-up of a relationship. Examining the conflict between well-raised morality and the perceived immorality of alcohol dependency, there is nonetheless evidence of an inextinguishable spirit of defiant positivity that underpins this and the record.
No matter how far Price has fallen there is the unshakeable belief that even when she “falls from grace” she is “gonna land back on the ground” and that the once mighty will fall “right back into her arms“. Amid the pain, the despair and the drinking, Price clings to a vision of an American dream that permits the common man or woman to succeed on account of his or her own actions and that however hard the knocks there is always a way back.
This timely tonic of optimism in the wake of a US election result shines, however dimly, a ray of light on those that feel they can improve their lot within the current socio-political framework. Brightening this light and extending a sense of purpose to those feeling hopelessly disenfranchised might just be the best means of protecting ourselves against those willing, like leaches, to exploit the mood of isolated economic despondency to satisfy their extremist aims. With her positive outlook, Price suggests that all hope might not yet be lost. PH
Sex Swing: Sex Swing
The Quietus Phonographic Corporation
When you combine members of Earth, Mugstar, Part Chimp and Dethscalator with an avant-jazz saxophonist you might be forgiven for having a fair idea what to expect. Yet nothing, NOTHING, prepares you for the full-blooded and inhospitable intensity of the self-titled debut album from Sex Swing.
Opener, A Natural Satellite sets the defiant tone. Twelve minutes of death-laden, sinisterly-menacing-yet-seedily-discomfiting squalls, it is a viscerally punishing atonal thrill that thumbs its nose at melody. Grace Jones follows in similar fashion, the repetitively insistent drums a harbinger of doom before distorted mantra-like vocals appear, ominously so with their heavy ritual allusions.
It is the aural equivalent of the walls closing in on you, the sacrificial offering to some malevolently omnipotent underworld god. As the track peaks you can almost hear the screams amid the post-industrial dystopian imagery that is conjured.
Karnak lightens the mood – but only a little. Feeling more conventional in its space/kraut influences it nonetheless retains the uneasy air while transforming itself into a drug-fuelled rave-up. The Murder of Maria Marten is predictably dark and brooding and as punishingly heavy as a hundred weight, the scary, paranoia-inducing come-down. The piece feels like it might collapse in on itself under its own weight before ending with lights-off abruptness.
Nighttime Worker with its seedy Suicide-esque synths arouses that sense of edgy excitement and wide-eyed wonder that only comes with a sense of danger. Darkly sinister yet intoxicatingly captivating, you listen in wilful disregard of the perils that lie around the corner. Fittingly closer Murder Witness quickly slips into a discordant cacophony with no easy resolution. It mirrors life, there are no happy endings and often little release from the terrors of everyday existence. And so it is with Sex Swing, close your eyes after the last note dies down and you can still hear the unshakeable din.
Undeniably a psych record, Sex Swing operate at the brutal end of the scale. Flowers and free-love have given way to squalor and disease, to murder and satanic ritual. Hippy festivals of light and space are replaced by urban oppression, tall buildings that smoulder in their smothering darkness. There is no sun here, only rain and the bitter acrid stench of dank stagnant water.
If this startlingly good Sex Swing album represents a vision of our future then we should be afraid. Very afraid. PH
For more than a decade now Scott Hansen has been releasing some of the most beautifully-crafted instrumental electronica we’ve come across.
The San Fran artist fuses kraut Godfafthers and Eno-like ambience with contemporary dance-floor fillers producing widescreen predominantly breathtakingly uplifting narratives which could soundtrack the break of dawn or late night motorway drives zipping along to nothing but flickers of headlights.
His latest offering Epoch is his third for the superlative Ghostly International (home to the likes of Matthew Dear, Gold Panda and Tobacco) follows on from Awake and 2011’s incredible breakthrough Dive and once again features his trademark cascading synths and warm, break-beats which mix disco and choppy guitar riffs.
What makes Tycho‘s albums so durable is his ear for a hook and accessibility – take Slack four minutes of fret-dancing and propulsive sun-kissed melodica which is the very epitome of Cali-pop. Similarly to much of the record the tracks build gradually before bursting into effervescent radiating colour.
If there’s a criticism, several tracks repeat the motif while the second half of the record lags somewhat – Local appears half-baked while Continuum is a tad inconsequential. However, with the likes of neon thunder of Glider, the strident undulating boogie of Rings and sci-fi menace of Division, there’s ample here to delight fans new and old. Mega. PG
Virginia Wing: Forward Constant Motion
On standout track Miserable World Alice Merida Richards sings “You’ve got to keep ahead in this miserable world / your time is too scarce to stay in one place“. More than just a throwaway lyric, it seems to define the reinvention of Virginia Wing.
Forward Constant Motion, as the very title suggests is the sound of a band striving pushing itself on to new levels. Startlingly bold and ambitious, Virginia Wing has produced an album far removed in scope and breadth from the moody atmospherics of their 2014 debut Measures of Joy. With the dream pop meets krautrock template having been shredded, this is an anxiety-inducing jitterbug affair of synth-pop and electronica that works as an explosion of noise pulling itself in every which direction in an often bewildering array of rhythm and texture.
It sounds chaotic, it often is. Yet amid the avant-garde experimentalism is the sound of organised chaos. Darkness and light coalesce amid a strident concoction of melancholy and euphoria. At times edgily introspective and formless, such as the looping uncertainty that underpins Permaboss, elsewhere Hammer a Nail is a brilliant fusion of confused clattering with bright synth-led melodic intent.
What pulls it all together is Richards‘ almost aloof vocal delivery, the Trish Keenan-inspired presentation the common thread between this and Measures of Joy. As if exerting a powerful centrifugal force, it holds everything together amid the otherworldly off-kilter sonic experiments.
In many ways Forward Constant Motion is a necessary adaption, reduced to a two piece by the loss of their drummer it was necessary to change. Yet while synth duos are common fare, few carry it off like Virginia Wing do here. This is an imaginative and inventive delight, brimming with ideas shaped by stunning vocals, precise production and blistering pop songs. It might be a miserable world out there but a dose of Virginia WIng can make it feel a slightly happier place. PH
YG: Still Brazy
Def Jam Recordings
Most artists find their second album a slog, with plenty falling well shy on the promise their debut offered or succumbing to the deadly witchcraft of writers block.
Thankfully Compton’s YG does not suffer from such futile matters on his triumphant sophomore long player Still Brazy, with the rapper having to deal with more pressing issues. Like being shot.
Having survived the shoot out, YG has managed to evolve upon the G-funk laden cuts on his debut My Krazy Life and turn in one of the albums of the year.
Although many would have questioned his decision to part ways with producer DJ Mustard, on Still Brazy YG justifies his choice with a sharpened sound and progressive lyrics that create a sound more true to California’s greats then anything Kendrick Lamar has managed thus far, with G-funk banger Twist My Finger proving an instant West Coast classic.
Filled with opportune paranoia, Still Brazy is awash with dramatic anxiety, that evokes images of the trouble times YG lives in. On the Trump bashing FDT (Fuck Donald Trump), YG is able to unite those who Trump seemingly loathes, with a force not seen since NWA’s hey day in possibly the first great protest song in this new era. With the secret service becoming involved due to its strong content, it seems to have done its job.
Similarly on Police Get Away Wit Murder, YG doesn’t shirk away, naming victims of police brutality under his lyrical tirade.
Although there is no doubt that Still Brazy covers some dark material, musically it is glowing with summertime synths and glitching beats that glisten throughout. Its further proof that unlike the majority of recent West Coast rappers, YG is not riding on the tailcoats of its legends but creating his own legacy. Craig MacDonald