Get tuned into the radio with Vince Staples on “FM!”

Just over a year on from the critical triumph that was Big Fish Theory, Vince Staples makes a surprise but welcome return with FM!, a fun concept album/EP/mixtape/whatever the fuck it is. While some artists’ side projects between main projects can fade into insignificance, in 22 brief minutes Staples still manages to make a lasting impression.

Although this project is short, Vince packs in the creativity we have come to expect from him. FM! plays out as a radio programme, with a few skits that resemble radio transitions, with the running theme being Vince urging listeners to call in to win tickets to see Kehlani live. With how short the run-time is it is impressive that Staples manages to tie the few tracks included together with a plot making the project feel more cohesive.

As far as the actual musical content the Long-beach rapper delivers, FM! contains some of his catchiest material to date. While the overall themes and sound don’t stray too far from where Big Fish Theory left off, this is not a bad thing at all as we get more of the sharp production we have come to expect from Vince Staples. From opening track Feels Like Summer, Staples continues to demonstrate why he is streets ahead of his competition. One element that is perhaps improved since his last album is the hooks. On this track and throughout the album the choruses pack a punch and refuse to be forgotten.

Thematically, this is familiar territory for Vince, though again this is no weakness as his takes on gang violence are always sincere and compelling. Once again he finds the balance between humour and addressing important issues and it creates a perfect blend of a project that is a fun listen but also a more rewarding listen if you so desire.

As with Big Fish Theory, the highlight of FM! is without a doubt the production. From the sinister bass of Relay with the accompaniment of Vince‘s snarling delivery or the bouncing beat of FUN! that almost sounds out of place but, when paired with Vince, fits perfectly and makes for another stand out moment. With each release, Staples is becoming more and more creative and exciting and even with what could have been a throwaway project, he shows no signs of phoning it in.

For what this project is, it doesn’t leave much to be desired except more of the same from Vince Staples. In fact, the only weak spots on FM! are when Vince is sidelined: Jay Rock, Kehlani and E40 all hold their own but Earl Sweatshirt and Tyga’s interludes underwhelm. On the whole, Vince Staples reminds us of what he is capable of and if this is what he does in his spare time then his next output is one to be excited for. – ethan woodford (@human_dis4ster)

rating 8

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GIG REVIEW: Shame @ Stereo, Glasgow

words fae Ethan Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

Hot on the heels of their ferocious debut album, Songs Of Praise, Shame have embarked on a tour of some of the UK’s most intimate venues. Last night (12th April) Shame arrived in Glasgow and encountered a crowd that anticipated an electric live show that would match the energy of their debut album, and the London band delivered on these expectations and then some.

From the outset, frontman Charlie Steen made himself impossible to ignore. It’s impressive how at home he seems on the stage at such a young age and at this point in the band’s career. Immediately he strikes up a casual conversation with the crowd, dropping spontaneous jokes about how they are a “Christian band.” Beckoning the crowd to come closer to the stage, Steen leads the band into set and album opener Dust On Trial, the atmosphere becoming undeniably ecstatic.

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Shame and Stereo are a match made in heaven: Shame’s post-punk grit along with their massive hooks and melodies sound both raw and crisp in such a small venue. Stereo is renowned for being a great venue and one reason for this is the sound is always sublime and Shame go along with this environment perfectly. It’s almost sad that Shame are already booked to play the much bigger O2 ABC later in the year as the band’s presence suits the intimacy of Stereo perfectly.

The band themselves seemed to thrive off the energy of the night, Steen in particular growing more and more confident with each song not that he even needed the boost. Standing on the edge of the stage conducting the crowd with a wave of his arms, before long he had his audience entranced watching his every move in anticipation of what he would do next. Pouring beer over our faces, grabbing at fans’ outstretched hands, Steen lives for interaction with the audience and it amounts to making him one of the most exciting frontmen working today.

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On top of all the showboating, Shame have ounces of substance to back it up. Each song from their debut sounds even angrier and passionate in the live setting. From the dark, menacing manner of The Lick to massive anthem One Rizla, Shame adapt with ease turning each song into a reason for the crowd to lose themselves in the moment. Steen introduces each song with casual interludes, including a reassurance that he now believes other bands when they say Glasgow is always the best tour date. By midway through the set Steen is talking to his audience like they are old friends and it leads to a magic gig that was deserved due to the band giving their all.

Shame finish their set with a triumphant rendition of Gold Hole and as it comes to an end, Steen ascends the 10-foot tall amp and dives off into the crowd, which was strangely unsurprising considering the showmanship he had demonstrated throughout. Completely winning over Glasgow with their bravado and infectious sound, Shame put on one of the best live shows around: it’s no surprise this band is going places.

Looking Back At…Elephant by The White Stripes

words fae ethan woodford (@human_dis4ster)

Fifteen years ago, Jack and Meg White released their fourth album, Elephant. Far from an April Fools prank, the album thrusted the former spouses/ fake siblings into stardom and considering the impact it had on the rest of the decade and the paths Jack and Meg are currently on, it is worth revisiting the album on its birthday.

In 2003, there was no shortage of rock bands (Radiohead, The Strokes, and Muse all at the height of their popularity) but beforehand, The White Stripes were still relatively off the radar. Coming off from White Blood Cells in 2001, they had garnered critical acclaim, especially for the perfection of garage rock demonstrated on that album. However, their fourth album Elephant would turn out to be their pivotal moment, where everyone started to take notice of the Detroit duo.

Even listening over a decade later, from the first few seconds of album opener and lead single Seven Nation Army, it’s easy to see how the album had the impact it did. Today, it’s one of those incredibly famous songs that everyone knows even if they don’t even know where it came from or who made it: everyone recognises that iconic riff that influenced so many bands of the noughties and you can probably hear it in your head as you read this. Seven Nation Army finds the band already silencing the few naysayers who felt their approach was formulaic and limited; Jack’s use of a guitar pedal causes his guitar to mimic a bass and showed that they were not scared to innovate despite their sound often being nostalgic of eras past.

Beginning an album with such an achievement is a risky move, as it could overwhelm the rest of the runtime, however the raw aggression of Seven Nation Army feeds straight into Black Math, their heaviest and grittiest offering at that point. Showcasing Jack’s vocal ability, the track sees him follow the rollercoaster ride nature of the songs flow with ease as he snarls lyrics about his refusal to be taught anymore, taking control for himself.

The hot streak continues into the next few tracks – The White Stripes still sound so enthusiastic and ambitious on Elephant even today, from Jack’s cutting lyrics and delivery to Meg’s skills on the drums, which despite her critics, are crucial to the album’s atmosphere. Another highlight is a cover of Dusty Springfield’s I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, a clever reworking that creates a catchy yet explosive pop-rock track.

Insistent on proving their versatility, Meg takes a rare turn in the spotlight for In the Cold, Cold Night, which is also a musical change of pace from what precedes it. A tense and eerie track that still manages to have a sense of charm to it, Meg’s vocals add continued variation and unpredictability to Elephant. Following on is I Want to be The Boy.. which has clear influences from country music and continues the lyrical theme of the album, Jack’s yearning to be a chauvinistic gentleman. Again, You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket finishes up the relatively mellow portion of the album, accompanied by a gentle melody, Jack delivers the songs fragile lyrics that possibly tell of his own relationship with bandmate and ex-wife Meg White, as it’s a song he had performed live years prior to its eventual inclusion on Elephant.

Roughly halfway through the album, Ball and Biscuit is the band’s longest song, yet one of their most impressive. Featuring another signature riff, Jack changes up his vocal style again, almost speaking the words as his guitar rhythm is the star of the show, constantly shifting predictability for over seven minutes. At this point in the album, Elephant has already defied expectations and the duo are just showing off.

Another anthemic single, The Hardest Button To Button again showcases the White Stripes’ knack for catchy melodies, sounding ferocious and infectious simultaneously. Jack’s skill for storytelling is also at the fore, telling of his experience growing up in a turbulent family home, his word choice often being dark yet subtle. Refusing to let up steam, Little Acorns and Hypnotise both contain the album’s raw power, the latter being reminiscent of the shorter cuts found on their previous albums.

Another impressive factor to Elephant is how seamlessly the runtime flows, Jack and Meg seeming more powerful and invigorated with each track, right through to Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine, another call back to albums past. Their classic garage rock sound is this time surrounded by their newfound sense of significance, making this track and everything before it feel so much more assured and confident.

The album closes out on yet another twist, almost a conversation between the band and Holly Golightly on love and friendship. An endearing closer that perhaps alludes to how impressive the album that leads into it was with Holly and Jack’s exchange at the end of the song where they celebrate the success of the track.

Looking back, Elephant is a massive album in every sense. Musically it encapsulates everything the band was capable of and proved their ability to innovate on the genre they helped revive. Commercially, it made the band famous worldwide and Jack White remains a respected figure even today. Considering Meg’s consistent tendency to shy from the spotlight and reclusiveness since the band’s split, many fans may think the band’s fame was accidental, that Elephant was a lucky break, an accidental crossover hit. For me though, Jack knew exactly what he was doing.

On the album’s follow-up Get Behind Me Satan, Jack admits on White Moon that his yearning for success and fame got in the way of his relationship with Meg. A man of his talent and ability must have known just how special Elephant was and how it would essentially seal the end of any possibility of reconciling with Meg, which perhaps makes the success bittersweet. Nonetheless, Elephant will always be what both Meg and Jack are remembered for and it will continue to be a staple of popular music for decades and is always worth revisiting to appreciate just how special it is.

 

 

 

Top 10 Kanye West Tracks

by ethan woodford (@human_dis4ster)

Kanye West is arguably the most famous musician alive today. While this is largely down to his notorious persona and marriage to Kim Kardashian, Kanye would never be where he is today if it wasn’t for his raw talent and ambition. For years Kanye lent his skills in production to countless artists, and while this was, and still is, his specialty, he only ever wanted to be a rapper.

However, perhaps a foreshadowing of how Kanye would push boundaries in his career, the first solo track he ever recorded was done with his jaw wired shut. The resulting track Through the Wire ended up on his debut album The College Dropout which propelled him to stardom and ultimately where he is today.

Kanye West is a unique artist in many ways, and this is what makes his music so special, in that each track has at least something interesting about it; even when he misses the mark, it is never for lack of trying. Since Kanye has so many tracks worthy of discussion and praise, it’s as good an excuse as any to list his ten best tracks and celebrate the genius of Kanye West.

10. All Falls Down

One of the breakout singles from his debut album, All Falls Down remains one of his best songs and also one of his most conventional. Featuring many qualities associated with his music such as gospel and soul influences, layered production and socially aware lyrics, this track was Kanye already at the top of his game.

Accompanied by the luscious vocals of Syleena Johnson covering Lauryn Hills’Mystery of Iniquity, Kanye proves his abilities on the mic with his now signature mixture of wit, observation, and aggression. All Falls Down focuses on the pitfalls of consumerism and more specifically, how the system fails black people. By showing his frustration with hard-hitting lines about racial inequality whilst also landing quips such as “Couldn’t afford a car, so she named her daughter Alexis”, Kanye proved his multifaceted versatility and claimed his place among hip-hop’s elite at the time.

9. Flashing Lights

While Graduation is perhaps Kanye West’s least significant record, it boasts his talent for writing infectious pop-rap bangers, such as Homecoming and this track, Flashing Lights. West’s skill for production is the main attraction here, the beat being one of the best he has produced.

Lyrically, Kanye vents his frustrations with a relationship with a woman, and it is likely there is a parallel between his relationship with the public as well. Talking about how he feels dictated by the other party in the relationship and how his actions are scrutinised, the track explores how this effects Kanye. When the hook changes point of view from second person to first person, it also shows Kanye is able to look at himself critically. Although it is ultimately just a short snappy single, it was widely praised for being a breath of fresh air to mainstream rap at the time and still over a decade later, it still maintains that freshness.

8. Love Lockdown

Three albums into his career and Kanye West was a pop star. However, following the death of his mother in 2007 and the subsequent break-up of his engagement to Alexis Phifer, his public image began to fade as he consistently became the object of scrutiny. However, he proved here that he can let his skills as a musician speak for him. He created 808s and Heartbreak, a completely new direction for Kanye and the new sound is well represented on the lead single Love Lockdown.

Gone were the soul samples and witty remarks synonymous with his work, and in its place was minimal instrumentation, auto-tune vocals and more of a singing delivery. While this song and the album as a whole still divides fans and critics today, Love Lockdown still serves as a breakthrough moment in his career and music in general. The track’s production incorporates a simple drum beat, which then moves into piano chords before the iconic African drums kick in for the chorus. Once again, Kanye’s skills as a producer come to the fore here as he paces the way for a whole new wave of rap and pop music while at the same time turning his grief and pain into the recipe for his own success.

7. Bound 2

Somewhat of an anomaly on Kanye West’s sixth album Yeezus, Bound 2 features the soulful samples and playful lyrics we have come to expect from Kanye but contrasts to the abrasive and dark sound found on the nine tracks that precede the album closer. However, due to the theme of the album, the track fits perfectly. Documenting the rise and fall of “Yeezus”, the album ends with a happy ending, as Kanye accepts his past that he details on the rest of the album and looks to the future, that being with his wife Kim Kardashian.

Bound 2 is a love song in the most Kanye way possible; it oozes his personality and humour and with that shows it’s sincerity. This doesn’t sound like a man convincing himself that he is in love, moreover, Kanye is ready to move on from his past and be a better person and with that, finally enjoy a healthy relationship. Bound 2 is often overlooked for its wacky sound and often hilarious lyrics, but this gives it endless charm and personality and it benefits from that.

6. Real Friends

In 2016, Kanye finally released his most anticipated album yet. The album’s release was unlike any seen before, as its every final touch was documented via his social media, including its multiple name changes and track additions, and now removals, eventually resulting in the release of The Life Of Pablo, which was still tampered with and added to after it’s release – even at the time of writing, it’s still being tinkered with. Despite all the hype, the album ended up being his most inconsistent, but with the egotistical lows, came the introspective highs, such as Real Friends.

Laid out over a sombre beat, Kanye reflects on how his current life course has affected his friendships and family relationships. Considering his public perception at the time, this track was completely unexpected as many had assumed he was no longer able to look at himself in such a critical manner. The credit goes to the uncertainty of the track, at points Kanye blames his friends, but then blames himself, and instead of being hypocritical, this shows the complexity of human relationships and how no one really knows how to balance everything and please everyone and this results in a stunningly human moment from Kanye even at his most famous status.

5. Hey Mama

Kanye’s close relationship with his late mother, Donda West, has been well documented both in the media and in his music. Nowhere else is his appreciation and admiration for her displayed so explicitly on Hey Mama from his second album Late Registration.

After the success of The College Dropout, Kanye no doubt felt compelled to include this song he wrote a few years earlier in his next project as his mother had always supported his decision to pursue a music career despite originally believing he should complete college. Debuting the song on Oprah with Donda in the audience, Kanye shows his humility in thanking the one person who believed in him. The song tells the story of how his mother provided for him and promises that he will always be thankful and ultimately admits “I just want you to be proud of me.

Listening to this track over a decade since his mother passed away and knowing how the shock and loss affected Kanye and how is seemingly still suffering, it is an emotional listen but a wholesome moment in his discography.

4. Gorgeous

Undoubtedly his best album, Kanye solidified his status as one of the greats with the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010. While this list could have been the tracklist of that album, one stand out track is Gorgeous, a product of Kanye’s frustration with the racism prevalent in America.

Set over one of West’s most inventive beats, the sprawling guitar riff beautifully contrasts Kanye’s hard-hitting lyrics that express his frustration with racism in America. Perfectly executing his skill for mixing anger with humour, Kanye delivers some of his best verses on this track. Referencing everything from South Park beef to the theory that the government created AIDs to eliminate African Americans and featuring a guest verse from Wu Tang Clan’s Raekwon, the track personifies the hip-hop masterpiece that the album it comes from is.

3. Jesus Walks

Kanye continued to show his ambition on his fourth single, Jesus Walks. Told by everyone that a track about his belief on God wouldn’t get airplay, Kanye did what he wanted anyway and although this attitude has been hit and miss for him throughout his life, here it paid off and ultimately birthed his career.

The track features gospel samples and a classic Kanye beat as he discusses his own struggle with life and how his faith in God helps him through. From his first single, Kanye proved his ability to consider complex ideas such as redemption whilst still delivering a hit song with a catchy hook. Additionally, looking back at the track it seems to foreshadow his future work such as similar themes and the overlapping falsetto background vocals from Kanye himself that are reminiscent of future projects.

2. New Slaves

Yeezus is the album where Kanye showed that he really could do anything. Again going in a different direction than expected, the album featured jarring beats, violent and sexually explicit lyrics and boldly embraced his own ego.

New Slaves is arguably Kanye at his most creative, aggressive and passionate. Venting his anger at racism, especially in the fashion industry, the track sticks in your mind due to its raw power. Possibly his best verse ever appears in the latter half of the song and it has to be heard to be appreciated for its lyricism and sincerity. Ending the track stretching his vocal ability singing “I’m not dying and I can’t lose” as his vocals lead into a beautiful outro from Frank Ocean, the track claims its place as one of Kanye’s best.

1. Runaway

It’s no surprise why Runaway is often considered Kanye’s best track, and if not at least his most important in reflecting upon himself and his past. Looking back on his several failed relationships, Kanye rejects the toxic view that no one is good enough for him, but instead tragically releases it is himself that is the problem and that he needs to work on himself.

Opening with the now famous but still as haunting piano keys, the track has a chilling aura to it that is telling of Kanye’s admiration of Stanley Kubrick and the scores to his films. Kanye admits cleanly, and with no sugar coating, of the pain and hurt he has caused the people he loves and simply tells them to leave because he just is not good enough. The track ends with a long outro of initially indistinguishable lyrics that gradually clear up as Kanye sings the hook to the song once more, clearly full of emotion and sincerity. The distortion represents his own view of relationships and why he messes them up, but as his words eventually become understandable, it is clear that Kanye does have some heart, however, he now knows it’s up to him to find it on his own.

check out the tracks above in this handy playlist

Looking Back At… Colourmeinkindness by Basement

Five years ago today, Basement released their second album Colourmeinkindness. This release was unlike most sophomore efforts as the band had already disbanded by the time of release. Due to personal commitments, the band had decided to go on indefinite hiatus in July 2012, a few months before the release of their album. Being one of the most promising bands in the emo/grunge rock genre at the time, anticipation for the album was already high but once they had announced their split, this undoubtedly raised curiosity over whether the album would be a fitting farewell or the signs of a band at the end of their tether.

When the album finally dropped, it was already an instant classic for many fans. However, the circumstances surrounding the album then couldn’t be further to the contrary today: no longer the final album, Basement have since reformed, toured extensively, released a third album and signed to a new label, and will most definitely be looking to the future with hope. Fortunately, neither situations negate the fact that Colourmeinkindness is Basement’s crowning achievement and will likely always stand as their magnum opus.

Amidst all the chaos and drama, Colourmeinkindness still stands out on its own in a musical sense, not only as a pivotal moment in the band’s career but one of the best albums of its genre. On the Ipswich band’s debut album I Wish I Could Stay Here, they had already established themselves as a solid grunge rock band, with a heavy-hitting album with some flashes of brilliance lyrically and instrumentally. On the follow-up here, they delivered on their potential with an album that covers all the bases when it comes to everything from aggressive grunge to heartbroken emo-rock.

Listening to this album five years on, it’s still hard to think of an album since that so completely defines its genre and explores every aspect of it whilst still sounding so concise. Right from opening track Whole, Basement show their intentions to be heard with a massive opening track that doesn’t sound too dissimilar to anything from their debut, but already sounds a lot punchier and has a distinct raw aggression to it. They keep this momentum going through the next two tracks, the lead singles Covet and Spoiled, both instantly captivating tracks, especially in the case of Covet which features one of the band’s best hooks (When I’m with you, I don’t want to be with you) and shows further skills the band add to their arsenal on this album.

At this point in the album, it’s already evident that the band is at the top of their game, from the energetic drumming to Andrew Fisher’s vocals that transcend from a whisper to a growl without warning, they show they can do anything. This is further shown on the next track, Pine – a sudden change of pace, it is more laid back instrumentally allowing their lyrics to come to the fore, as Fisher admits his darkest thoughts. “Want me, I need you to want me/ I hate myself, but that’s okay“, is an example of a lyric that has lasted for these five years as one any basement fan will remember vividly, and time and time again on this album their lyrics are so simple yet so painfully relatable they can’t help but cut deeper with every listen.

Pine is a prime example of the main theme of colourmeinkindness, the acceptance of sadness. While the lyrics on this track are heartbreaking, the song is so beautiful, showing that Fisher is no longer afraid of these feelings and can talk about them without pain. Just in this short track there is so much depth to it that is rarely found on an album from its genre and for that reason, as well as many others, is why Colourmeinkindness is still relevant today.

The clear highlight on Basement’s second album is Breathe, a track that is not only the best they have ever created but maybe one of the most stunningly heart-wrenching songs ever written. Again the lyrics stand out due to their simplicity, hiding no emotion or pain, but laying it all bare in a song that details a situation almost anyone can relate to and instantly have their heart broken all over again. “Smile, like it was yesterday/ Make me believe that you’re the same” begs Fisher, as he longs for things to be as they once were, knowing that they can’t. As the song goes on to realise, Breathe details such a complex and emotionally distressing situation in such a simple, human way that the track has always stood out as something special.

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As Colourmeinkindness stampedes towards its end through hard-hitting tracks such as Black and Control, Basement continue to display such a prowess in their art as the album achieves a complete mastery of its genre. Obviously, at the time when this album was assumed to be their last, it was important to go out on a high, and they most definitely managed it with Wish. Going out on a huge instrumental climax, Basement confirm their album as a true milestone achievement, an album that is easily the pinnacle of its genre in every aspect. An album that manages to explore complex feelings of self loathing and acceptance in such a simplistic manner is something to be admired and even more so for sounding as confident as it does.

Although it may not be the farewell album fans once thought it was, it still stands as Basement’s finest album, a masterpiece that will continue to inspire punk-rock outfits for years to come.

Album Review: Enter Shikari – The Spark

By Ethian Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

rating 5

In today’s political climate, with Nazis everywhere and everything either being terrifying or super-terrifying, it is arguably no longer possible for musicians to be completely free of politics in their music. Even if a band decides to stay apolitical in their music, that in itself is often a stance, arguing that keeping music separate from politics allows both the band themselves and their listeners to forget about the doom and gloom through their music. Just a few years ago, Enter Shikari were one of the only bands with a clear political and social message in their music and was their main staple and they often received both praise and criticism for this as expected. But in today’s climate where politics is inescapable, some may have wondered if Enter Shikari could continue to set themselves apart from the crowd. Following up The Mindsweep, a powerful call to arms against injustice, The Spark, unfortunately, fails to build on that album’s intensity and Enter Shikari seem to be on autopilot.

With their own popularity higher than ever, Shikari perhaps felt the need to cater to a wider audience which is evident in this album. The first two tracks, The Sights and Live Outside, are the most commercial and catchy Shikari have ever sounded, and while these tracks will no doubt become centrepieces of their live sets, they have less urgency than typical Shikari single such as 2014’s Anaesthetist. They are by no means bad tracks but feel awfully safe, and that is never a word usually associated with Enter Shikari. Following on are a number of tracks that feel like sub-par versions of songs Shikari have made before. Take My Country Back calls to mind a few songs from The Mindsweep but lacks the same raw energy found on that album. Airfield is one of the stronger songs lyrically on The Spark, and finds Rou Reynolds at his typically blunt best, with pointed observations such as “it’s common for people to believe everything happens for a reason, I’m sorry that’s false, and it’s poison“. Halfway through the song awkwardly transcends into a trademark Shikari style build to climax, and both parts of the song are gripping but they don’t really mesh that well. Rabble Rouser is the only track on the album that has any aggression to it and is also the most ambitious. It doesn’t all pay off but the beat is one that isn’t easily forgotten.

About halfway through the album, it is quite obvious Enter Shikari aren’t at their best, as tracks such as Shinrin-yoku are borderline boring and the last few tracks are again hit and miss. However despite the instrumentation and lyrics being largely predictable and safe on The Spark, one shining aspect is, as usual, Rou Reynolds vocals and overall presence on the album. Already having established himself as one of the most sincere and enthusiastic frontmen working today, he grows on this album vocally, from spoken-word to art-pop influenced singing, he injects a needed jolt of life to this album and The Spark benefits largely. Unfortunately, apart from that most songs feel predictable in structure and despite having promising moments, most tracks fail to fully capture complete focus.

As mentioned in the outset, Enter Shikari are renowned for being politically charged but surprisingly they don’t bring much new to the table on this album in that aspect. Again it just find them treading familiar ground and in contrast to the unashamedly hopeful yet urgent nature of the The Mindsweep, it can’t help but seem tame in comparison.

This is by no means an awful album, Enter Shikari have always been such a genuinely inspirational band and their albums always brim with ideas and hope, which is why it’s easy to detect it is less apparent in this album. However Enter Shikari playing it safe is still enjoyable enough but for a band that has always been so intentionally unsafe, it’s hard not to feel conflicted. Hopefully a less demanding album is what the band needed to ready themselves for their next leap forward in ambition but for now The Spark will provide little new for longtime Enter Shikari fans to get excited about.

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Album Review: Ghostpoet- Dark Days + Canapés

By Ethian Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

As referenced in the title of Ghostpoet’s fourth album, the time we are living in right now are, without a doubt, dark days. Due to this, many artists, bands and other members of the media industry have used their medium as a form of escapism whilst some have used it to rally momentum for change. However there a few that have been overwhelmed by the current state of the world and find themselves with nothing much to say other than how awful everything is, and Ghostpoet finds himself very much in that place on this bleak record.

Throughout his career, Ghostpoet has has no problem sounding unique and relevant. While his influences have always been clear, the contrast between his electronic and more recently alt-rock sound, combined with his often laid-back, spoken-word delivery, is something that is distinctly memorable and that has always been his strongest asset. However now on his fourth album, that is no longer enough as he now has to stand out amongst his own back catalogue and continue to progress musically – whilst making some strides in doing this, ultimately that is where this album slightly falls short of living up to his past work.

On 2015’s Shedding Skin, Ghostpoet transitioned almost completely away from his signature electronic sound to a more instrumentally based sound in a risk that paid off, giving that album a sense of urgency and impact that complemented his lyrics and vocal delivery. On his follow-up, here he is still sticking mostly to that sound with a few detours into earlier territory which ultimately gives the impression he was unsure himself where he wanted to go with this album. Of course since his sound has served him so well in the past, this album is by no means a misfire, it just seems out of character for Ghostpoet to not have a clear musical direction.

Thematically, this album is very bleak, with the main focus being on modern life however most of the political takes are more personal than a statement on world affairs, such as how these things affect his outlook on life more than what these events mean for the actual world itself. This is an interesting way to write about politics and the world around us without ending up having an album just like any other released at the time and this was a good move from Ghostpoet. Despite this it does at times feel as he doesn’t have that much to say this time around, with his lyrics being derivative at times such as his references to tinder “so I swiped left and figured out” that just feel a bit forced. It’s when his lyrics focus more on the feeling of hopelessness in this era that the tracks hit harder. He demonstrates this on tracks such as Immigrant Boogie and Trouble + Me and these tracks are some of the strongest.

Overall there’s not much to hate on this album but there isn’t much to love either. Fans of Ghostpoet will find a lot of enjoyment within this album but it does little to progress himself musically or lyrically and finds him perhaps playing it a bit safe. However his previous material has been so strong the elements of that still present make this album an enjoyable listen, even if it’s a predictable one.

6/10

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