Daughters Deliver On “You Won’t Get What You Want”, An Album That Is A Fantastic Pit Of Despair

photo credit: Reid Haithcock

With You Won’t Get What You Want, Daughters may have just released one of the best rock albums in this decade. This album is a catastrophic earthquake of emotion and terror and is ready to destroy everyone who listens to it.

Music changes and evolves constantly. Over the years, artists, bands, record labels, and whole genres will move and sweep along different soundscapes, atmospheres, and whole cultural movements. Before this latest record, the last the world heard of noise-rockers Daughters was in 2010, with their frenetic and electrifying self-titled third album. Daughters are a band that, since their 2003 debut album Canada Songs, have molded and shaped their sound into many different subgenres of rock and metal. Their aforementioned debut album was a blistering eleven minutes of chaotic grindcore. From there, they moved into a longer (albeit not by much) twenty-three minutes of raw and unapologetic mathcore with their second album Hell Songs.

To evolve their sound so rapidly over such a short period is quite an achievement. As such, it can be argued that not many fans or critics alike were really prepared to hear what a new album would sound like after a mammoth eight years. And now we arrive at You Won’t Get What You Want, Daughters’ fourth studio album.

Album opener City Song alludes to the listening experience that is about to be had with this album. A swirling, minimalistic monster, it is a song punctuated by devilish synth-distortion, a spoken word drawl describing an apocalyptic world delivered by vocalist Alexis Marshall and jackhammer-like snare drums, all culminating into a cacophony of noises and instruments that teeter on the edge of losing all control, but are kept back from falling into a chaotic abyss. City Song is in itself a microcosm of the whole album. You Won’t Get What You Want does not have the frenetic energy or brightness of previous Daughters releases; this is an album that revels in the dark, taking joy in recounting all negative aspects of human emotion.

While delving into the darkness of humanity, the band also take a journey through a surprising amount of genres. You Won’t Get What You Want has elements of the noise rock soundscape that the band explored on the previous album, but also stirs into the melting pot a serving of some of the heaviest industrial to come out in years. But, the band do not let up there. Here, the pot is spiced with elements of harsh noise, metal-core, and even blues and shoegaze. There are not many places where this album won’t go to give the listener the most unforgiving experience it can conjure.

After City Songs comes Long Road, No Turns, the third single to come from the album. Drummer Jon Syverson describes the song in a perfectly succinct way: “I feel dizzy listening to it. I feel dizzy playing it”. That dizziness comes from the drastic soundscapes that create this whirring monster of a song. Droning guitars, frenetic, staccato synths, lurching and undulating drum patterns and Alexis’ shouted, emotive drawl echoes over the track, his voice cracking and becoming more and more strained over the track, perfectly encapsulating the ongoing paranoia and hopelessness of the protagonist of the song. As mentioned prior, there is no real escape from this album. Be prepared to go on a horrifying aural journey.

However, that horror doesn’t just come within the brutalising instrumentation and timbres found on the album. In many cases, a sense of unease and nervousness is attained through more surprising avenues. The album allows a respite from its hostility on the song Less Sex. Starting with a racket of noise, the song transforms into a haunting, blues number, accompanied by a blue-inspired vocal performance from Alexis. Bass and synth reverberate at the back of the song, building the tension, until the song explodes into a blur of guitar feedback, sweeping back out to allow the song to build slowly again, ready to deliver its monstrous, wall of sound. These surprising moments are what make this album truly special.

But do not be mistaken by a song like Less Sex as it is clear that this album is ready to assault the ears. The Flammable Man sees the band somewhat return to their metalcore roots, while also updating that often tired sound, managing to make arguably one of the decade’s best metal songs. The last two songs of the album, Ocean Song and Guest House, see the band utilise their instruments with such aplomb, creating wails and noises that did not seem possible from guitars and basses. These no-wave and post-rock epics bookend what is an epic listen, and one that is definitely overwhelming on a first listen.

However, after initially making the plunge into this album, it becomes clear that this is more than a typical industrial or noise rock album. Daughters find so many different avenues on this album to create dismay and despair, yet still keep the listener on their toes. It is debatable whether there is any real downtime on this album, anywhere for the listener to really lose interest. Though this might not be an album for your average music listener, it is certainly one that should be listened to by anyone with an interest in heavy music. With You Won’t Get What You Want, Daughters have created a milestone in rock music. This is an album that will be looked on for years to come as a seminal piece of noise rock, one that will define a generation and influence many that come after it. This album is an apocalyptic whirlwind. Get taken up in the eye of the storm and experience one of the best albums in rock. – Charlie Leach (@YungBuchan)

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Another One To Add To The Mark Kozelek Museum

words fae Charlie Leach (@YungBuchan)rating 5

Mark Kozelek’s contemporary sound is one that is singular and (arguably) esoteric. Kozelek’s recent output is one mainly concerned with quiet contemplation, a style that can easily be described as diaristic. In many ways, this is a style that is perfectly suited to folk music. A tradition that has spanned centuries, folk music has an earthy quality, something that could be argued to be closer to detailing the universal experiences of being human. This is a music that originated through human tongue.

When Kozelek is truly at his best, he achieves this universality in his songwriting. The 2014 album “Benji”, released under the moniker of Sun Kil Moon (originally formed as a band, but now taken as another avenue for Kozelek’s solo music), was universally loved by critics and music fans alike. This was an album that ditched poetic metaphor and imagery for harsh truth and direct thinking. This was an album concerned with death and melancholia, but was still life-affirming and at times heart-warming. Kozelek, through his frank musings and delicately stripped back folk instrumentation, formed an eleven track album that spoke of the human condition, and thus a universality that all humans have to deal with. “Benji” was a truly special album.

Though discussing “Benji” might seem like an unnecessary tangent to nourish the word count – this writer can also make self-deprecating jibes like Kozelek – the seminal album is important for discussing the songwriter. Kozelek, it is fair to say, has been busy since that 2014 release. Under Sun Kil Moon, Kozelek has released two albums (with a third supposedly arriving this year) and two collaborative efforts with Jesu, while under his own name has released five albums and two EPs. Although this writer has not ventured into the depths of his extensive library, a cursory look at critique and opinions online seems to suggest that these albums delivered more of the same of Kozelek.

The previous statement is clearly generalised, but to an outsider looking into the world of Kozelek, it arguably wouldn’t be incorrect to suggest that, though experimentation has occurred, it is experimentation on a well-trodden theme. This latest self-titled release sees Kozelek remove the hip-hop influenced production of previous Sun Kil Moon album “Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood” and resurrect the skeletal production that evokes the essence of “Benji”. With looping equipment in toe, Kozelek creates sonically pleasing acoustic guitar riffs, eclectic vocal harmonies and occasional sputters of percussion. Opener “This Is My Town” has an almost math-rock like quality, the guitar harmonics looped perfectly, providing a haunting yet serene backdrop to Kozelek’s ode to his adopted town San Fransisco, where he recounts anecdotes of his meetings with many of the local people, with the opening verse about a group of old ladies in San Fransisco’s Chinatown being a particular highlight.

On “Live in Chicago”, Kozelek imitates a drum machine, creates enchanting vocal harmonies and gymnastics behind his anecdotes and plays a melancholic guitar refrain. As with “Benji”, this track sees Kozelek explore mortality, through a back and forth of his past and now, interspersed with memories of touring when the Las Vegas and Orlando Nightclub mass shootings occurred. This is where Kozelek is at his best, combining the seemingly mundane with universal fears, both grounding and elevating his lyricism to heights not many can reach. For the relative newcomers and window shoppers to Kozelek, this is songwriting at its finest.

It’s a pity then, that these fantastic moments of genius are interspersed through a dense forest of murky greys and beige. Kozelek, it seems, through his truly unique songwriting, can be both universal and also extremely esoteric. His quirks and diatribes become tiresome, and at times pretentious. These songs feel drawn-out, stretched to their breaking point. On “My Love For You Is Undying”, an anecdote used to show his appreciation for human emotion, how as humans we live for our ability to care, is languid and pointlessly meandering. A remark at a staff member at a book-store over the American food-chain Panera Bread is painstakingly slow, and does not seem to add any overall meaning or real context to the anecdote. In this case, it just seems like Kozelek has to relate every idea to an anecdote, where in fact, an idea can just be that; directness is Kozelek’s calling card in most situations, but sometimes there is a longing for him to use some poetic license and call back to his previous work pre “Benji”.

As well as lyrics like the aforementioned song, the production is also stretched beyond relief. Themes and riffs that are by themselves melancholic, haunting and sometimes beautiful, are drawn out over near ten-minute songs, with no real evolution or variation on that theme. It seems here that Kozelek’s penchant for a skeletal structure has also extended to the song structures on this album. Though containing somewhat of a chorus, “Weed Whacker” maintains the same guitar refrain for eight minutes, with little to no variation or evolution. The album opener “This Is My Town”, though having a quite frankly beautiful refrain, is, like “Weed Whacker”, an over seven minute song with little to no variation on that same theme, and these examples do not even cover the odd occasions where Kozelek chooses certain sounds that are puzzling with their inclusion.

While on one song Kozelek barks and meows like his pets (he clearly has taken the diaristic tone to its most extreme) on another song, “Live In Chicago”, the backing harmonies that seemingly are repeating phonetics eventually loop round in the song to form the word diarrhoea. No pun needed for that one.

In some instances, this self-titled album reaches the dizzy heights of “Benji”. In others, this is a vastly disappointing exercise in the pretentious and frankly quite boring idiosyncrasies of Mark Kozelek. “Benji” may have seemed like an album that dabbled in universal truths and universal problems, but this self-titled effort, for the most part, seems to be an esoteric exercise in music creation. Kozelek has saturated folk music with album after album for a few years now. For fans of his work, this latest effort will be another fine addition to the Mark Kozelek Museum. For fleeting chancers, this could easily be an impossible listen in one sitting. Ironically enough, for someone that is concerned with real human emotion, it might be worth it at this point to release a Kozelek compilation album of all his best singles (said with just a tad hint of sarcasm).

The Ten Best Bombay Bicycle Club Tracks

words fae charlie leach (@YungBuchan)

For the best part of a decade, Bombay Bicycle Club were ever-present at every summer festival. A band known for their indie-rock sensibilities, their joyous hooks, and lush soundscapes, Bombay Bicycle Club cemented themselves in the every festival goer’s ear, becoming the go-to for that summer playlist. In spite of this, they are not a “summer mix” band. Their music contains hidden depths and complexities, and over their initial run of four albums, their sound developed into areas that would not have seemed possible on their debut. For anyone who hasn’t heard their work, or who wants to relive that picturesque festival day, here is a list of this writer’s top ten favourite Bombay Bicycle Club tracks.

10. Rinse Me Down

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkGpdVip4aw

Though scoffed at by many critics on its initial release, the band’s sophomore effort Flaws is an underappreciated indie folk gem. Album opener Rinse Me Down elatedly starts the album with a wonderfully bouncy rhythm, the acoustic guitars plucking together in sweet harmony. Lead singer Jack Steadman’s vocals swoon over the track, telling the story of a lover lost to another.

9. Evening/Morning

Like many standout singles from Bombay Bicycle Club, Evening/Morning has the melodies to contend with any indie band from the early 2010’s. Ed Nash’s contagious bass line punctuates the song, combined with guitar lines and vocal hooks that are reminiscent of one of their peers at the time, We Are Scientists. Like most Bombay Bicycle Club songs, Evening/Morning was a staple of their live shows, the bass line belted back to the band by their rapturous fans.

8. Carry Me

Carry Me marked the bands shift to synths, synths being an ever-present feature of their last album, So Long, See You Tomorrow. Synths here replace the typical guitar-lead hook of the song but are not missed. A hook that could be seen on an electronica album, the rest of the song is filled with chopped vocals, synthetic horns, and effects-laden guitars. Like many of their indie peers, Bombay Bicycle Club’s shift into the electronic was, on the whole, a successful one.

7. Lights Out, Words Gone

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duBN7YZyIwU

Lights Out, Words Gone is a dream-pop song (emphasis on dream). A shuffling rhythm backs a walking-bass line, with guitars plucking away into the ever-lasting distance. Like many of the songs on the bands second and third album, it is lifted greatly by the angelic vocals of Lucy Rose, a frequent collaborator with the band, and an extremely talented singer-songwriter (also perfect for that Spotify picnic playlist, if so inclined).

6. Lamplight

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1LrLEcrawc

This is the UK post-punk revival in a nutshell: intricate guitar hooks layered in fuzz and reverb; a bass line that provides the track firm foundation; continually pounding drums that move the track forward at every juncture; and a crooning lead vocal that moves about the track with a shaky tremolo. What separates this track from many of its contemporaries is its blaring breakdown in the latter third. Never really repeated in their discography, this breakdown blares a wall of sound onto the listener, with an almost screamed vocal filling the high end of the song. If the band does come back from their hiatus, the shoegaze-tinged direction could be something that could evolve the band again.

5. Leave It

Leave It is a song that is not immediately noticeable. During the runtime of the bands’ fourth album, So Long, See You Tomorrow, Leave It arrives and leaves in a typical Bombay Bicycle Club fashion, instilling a catchy vocal hook and memorable guitar lines. Its inclusion on this top ten list is solely down to the band’s live shows. The vocal refrain of the hook is the greatest tension builder, leading to a crescendo of a chorus bemoaning the past discretions of a lover. For want of a better word, a true belter for a live show.

4. How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgvBmEmtF-I

How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep is auditory journey that builds and builds. A typical opener for the band’s live sets, the blissful guitar refrain that begins the song grows and grows throughout the song, layer, and layer of instruments slowly building to a mystical soundscape filled with warm synths, skittering clicking samples and ghostly vocal harmonies. When this song first played at the start of their gig, the audience knew to be prepared for a glistening journey through indie rock’s finest.

3. Ivy And Gold

This top three will consist of some of the catchiest guitar melodies in indie rock. If Bombay Bicycle Club will be remembered for at least one thing, it will be some of the catchiest hooks released in a genre full of bands chasing that one hook that will make them overnight successes. Bombay Bicycle Club arguably did that several times over. Ivy And Gold is one such song that will seep into the listener’s brain, becoming the hard to forget ear-worm that will be whistled down the street a week later. Just a wonderfully cheerful tune, one that could never be hated (this writer’s Mom loves this song).

2. Shuffle

A precursor to the electronica-inspired Carry Me, Shuffle was an ever-present of the summer festival playlist, and with good reason. The chopped piano melody is an instant hit, providing the bait to envelop the listener with a tightly constructed song that oozes fun. Steadman and Rose sing with passion about sticking with a partner, this triumphant track begs to be sung with heart and vigour until the throat is run dry. It must also be said that Steadman’s remix of this track is vastly underappreciated, and is definitely worth a listen for those who like sliced and chopped music.

1. Always Like This

But don’t wear that throat out too much, there is one more riff to belt out to the heavens. The fun, staccato riff of Always Like This announced Bombay Bicycle Club to the public. This guitar line has stayed with the band, and for good reason. It is a joyous (there’s that word again), dopamine-inducing riff that never leaves. Coupled with the minor chorus that adds the spaced-out vibe, this track is the epitome of Bombay Bicycle Club.

Every Kendrick Lamar Album, Ranked From Worst To Best

While there’s more music than ever available only a tap of an overpriced smartphone away, more than to know what to do with it, if you’ve gone the past few years without listening, or even hearing, of Kendrick Lamar then you must either be a granny or Amish. Sure, Drake is bigger but in terms of critically acclaimed artists with the notability to sell out arenas and win multiple awards, you’ll be hard found to seek out a rapper as loved by fans and music snobs quite like Kung Fu Kenny.

Despite Good Kid, m.A.A.d City being his first big bit of public attention, Kendrick has been grinding away for over a decade with some successful efforts and some not as much. We’d be here all day if we discussed his mixtapes and soundtracks he’s been behind so we’ll take the smart route and chat about studio albums ONLY (yes, a compilation album does count). So without further ado, let Ryan (@ryanmartin182), Jake (@jjjjaketh), Liam (@blnkclyr), Charlie (@yungbuchan) and Ross (@rossm98) definitively rank the Compton kingpin’s discography – sit down, be humble patient…

Quick disclaimer: This is, like, our opinion or whatever, dude. Disagree? The comments down below will house whatever rage you’re feeling.


5. Section 80 (2011)

Ryan [5th]: The first taste most of the world had from Kung Fu Kenny, Section 80 really doesn’t deserve any hate despite being constantly overlooked compared to Lamar’s more recent outputs. The reason being this is Kendrick is always evolving, changing, and coming more into his own with every release. He is always developing his sound and Section 80 simply shows him in the spotlight as an underdeveloped star. 

Section 80 is without doubt a solid hip-hop debut that sounds very in its time, being released at the turn of the decade in 2011. It wasn’t until GKMC that Kendrick began to stand out more as the artist he is rather than a simply skilled rapper.

Jake [5th]: Jake was going to do a write up for this album but when I looked through his final piece, it was near illegible rambling about Tony Hawk Pro Skater lore and something to do with chumbawumba (Ed).

Liam [5th]: Unlike some artists that get covered in this manner (*cough* Radiohead), Kendrick’s weakest effort is by no means a bad album. With the power of hindsight, it’s easy to see that Section 80 contains a lot of ideas and elements that Kendrick would eventually perfect on future efforts. There are some moments on here that have not aged well at all: Tammy’s Song (Her Evils) is an interesting concept but it ultimately becomes repetitive in addition to coming off as pretty naive and I don’t think No Make-Up (Her Vice) has ever been considered good by anyone with ears.

We talk about an artist maturing a lot in the music review community and while this differs from act to act, Tyler The Creator‘s maturation is far noticeable than someone like Modern Baseball, and with Kendrick it’s clear that while this record was immature for his standards, it still holds some highlights and acts as a bucketload of potential that was ultimately realised.

Charlie [5th]: Putting this album here might annoy some people, but this is music criticism, it’s just opinion (this writer is now preparing for a barrage of hate). Section 80. feels like a very refined and more complete version of Overly Dedicated, though (in this writer’s opinion), nothing more. Most definitely a pop rap album (like it’s predecessor), Section 80. is an album that is not bad in any way what so ever, and for many might be their personal favourite for Lamar.

For this writer, however, this is not overly attention-grabbing or affecting in Lamar’s whole discography. There must be a special shout out however for Rigamortus, a song that is an excellent example of Lamar’s rapping skill.

Ross [4th]: This project was Kendrick‘s first full-length album and was just the beginning of the hype for the artist. It seems that Kenny was a bit more confident in what he was writing now that he had a vastly growing fanbase and more importantly – an audience. Compared to Overly Dedicated his lyrics have a lot more substance and character that were true to him and what he felt.

He went against an older style of rap to release beats that most artists in that genre would find too soft or melodic. His new style pairs beautifully with the production in this album. Despite this new-found sense of confidence and personality I still feel his enthusiasm in his tone creates a bit of a barrier between his feelings and the listener.


4. Untitled Unmastered (2016)

Jake [4th]: untitled unmastered was surprise released about a year after To Pimp A Butterfly. It’s comprised of songs that, for one reason or another (these reasons range from samples not getting cleared to Kenny thinking the songs weren’t good enough) were left off of TPAB. There are 8 tracks, and they’re all good as hell. They pull you right back into the headspace that engrossed so many on To Pimp a Butterfly, that sexy, jazzy, uber-politically charged hip-hop that K Dot has perfected, and it’s well worth a listen if the stylings of TPAB tickled your fancy in any way, shape of form. Kenny’s album offcuts are better than yr fave artists actual albums.

Liam [4th]: Untitled unmastered is a tricky one to discuss. While it should be judged on its own merits, it’s nearly impossible not to consider what came before it which not only comes from the similar themes and sound but also how this album came out nearly a year after TPAB. It may seem like following up what is regarded as Kendrick’s magnum opus would reflect badly upon yourself but in fact, it does the opposite as untitled unmastered is what it is.

It is an extension of one of the greatest albums of this century, like a well-crafted piece of DLC after you’ve finished your favourite video game or an after credits scene after a surprisingly good movie. It knows this and has fun while doing so, just like the listener will when giving this a spin.

Charlie [4th]: When it came right down to the wire, untitled unmastered and DAMN. were very hotly contested. untitled unmastered, though essentially a b-sides album, has some of Lamar’s most left-field work. Being an album consisting of songs from the recording of To Pimp A Butterfly, a lot of these off-shoots are quite ethereal, and most definitely experimental in nature. What probably does hold this back from being any higher up the list is the nature of the project itself.

As some of Lamar’s best albums are cohesive pieces that flow from beginning to end, untitled unmastered’s scattered structure (on both a macro and micro scale) is somewhat of a negative on the whole experience. In addition, it has to be said that the three-minute outtake about “head being the way” on the penultimate track is not Lamar at his best.

Ross [5th]: At this point in K Dot’s career, he had little to prove of himself. The album presented us with raw music. No titles to give context to the tracks that follow. This project is the leftovers from the dug’s dinner (TPAB) – the low-end funky production and knotted rhymes surface in tracks like Untitled 05, 07 and 08. This album is simply an add-on to TPAB, a follow-up statement but an intriguing one at that.

Ryan [4th]: Untitled sounds more or less as a continuation of TPAB. It doesn’t stick as well as the LP but is an extremely solid and consistent listen throughout the 8 tracks. There aren’t much filler tracks and the momentum doesn’t necessarily reach a high but stays at an even pace until the frantic Levitate kicks in. Untitled feels like a bonus release of a legend in his prime. It consecutively built hype for his next studio album while reassuring his fan base of his undeniable talent.


3. DAMN. (2017)

Liam [3rd]: OMG IT’S A 7/10 HAHA LOL EPIC!!! Now that we’ve got that tired meme out of the way, we can finally give DAMN. the critical RANKED treatment and definitively agree that it’s…good. In fact, it’s very good. Sure, there’s some slumps throughout this, which mostly stem from Kendrick’s ambitions to find influence from others as opposed to reinventing the wheel a la his previous work, but the good undoubtedly outweighs the bad on here.

For one, Kendrick, whether inadvertently or not, managed to give hip hop the chart redemption it needed last year an onslaught of repetitive, formulaic trap nonsense: HUMBLE is a behemoth with a piano riff that just won’t quit and Kendrick spitting out line after line chock full of character and appeal. Other cuts such as DNA and ELEMENT only went to further establish Kendrick as one of the best in the bloody game. 

Charlie [3rd]: DAMN. is a great rap album, and arguably doesn’t need to be anymore. Having some of the best rap singles released in the latter period of this decade – see DNA and ELEMENT – Lamar again hit gold with his latest (of time of writing) album. This album, in many respects, sees him become a chameleon. Taking many flows and from many of his contemporaries (LOVE would not be out of place on a Drake “playlist”), Lamar uses DAMN. to place himself in the consciousness of the average music listener for years to come.

Yet, this is an album that is very much Lamar. From the bombastic bangers to the more thoughtful and politicised songs (though let’s not talk about some of the questionable views within some songs), this is Lamar’s contemporary rap album, and in that essence, it’s an excellent achievement.

Ross [3rd]: For me, this album is storytelling at its finest. It dips in and out of the perspective of Kendrick’s younger self, struggling to resist getting involved in the dark side of Compton. This project was his most intriguing to date, delivering a series of tracks that are chaotic, layered and deeply conflicted. DAMN. This is the Kendrick album I was waiting for – raw, gritty, stripped back and aggressive.

My only problems with this album are that it seems a little inconsistent to me and the themes seems a bit too spotty for me to truly understand the project fully. But hey, he made Bono and Hip-Hop work – what the fuck.

Ryan [3rd]: DAMN. arguably has the hardest hitting moments of Kendrick’s discography but it also has the poppiest as well. While GKMC was a perfect balance of pop-rap and bangers, DAMN. feels slightly more uneven. The bangers hit a little harder, but the pop tracks drag a lot more. Particularly LoveLoyalty and Humble all feel as if they’ve overstayed their welcome by the end. While tracks like DNAXXX, and Element all built momentum that isn’t carried well throughout the entire album.

Jake [3rd]: DAMN. is a flawed record. It’s a bit front-loaded, it seemed to concentrate a bit too much on its (admittedly brilliant) singles, and Kendrick’s bars seemed to lack a bit of the venom seen in his previous albums. It is, however, still a truly great record. DNA., HUMBLE., FEAR. and ELEMENT. are all top tier Kendrick Klassicks (patent pending on that one), and the production throughout is as slick as you’d expect from a Kendrick Lamar release. There is, however, one glaring flaw in the albums very marrows, something simply unforgivable… there’s a RAT BOY sample on it. And I simply cannot stand idly by and not call it out.


2. Good Kid, m.A.A.d City (2012)

Charlie [2nd]: good kid, m,A,A,d city (GKMC) is a concept album that is full of lyrical prowess and lavish instrumentals. Listening to this album is akin to putting yourself straight in the shoes of the “main character”. Lamar’s lyrics are near masterful on this album; he paints a picture of Compton that is of microscopic details.

What makes this album an even more impressive feat is that some of Lamar’s most recognisable singles that announced him to the world come on this album, yet this is not a typical pop-rap album. On GKMC, Lamar managed to stamp his authority on mainstream music with a high-concept rap album. Not many can say they’ve done that.

Ross [2nd]: This for me was the album that announced Kendrick as one of the great artists of the decade. At this point, he doesn’t feel pressure from the expectation following Section 80. It is intense, insightful, and thought-provoking. A clear distinction in Kenny’s ability and talent in writing can be made from GKMC and Overly Dedicated. The album is straight to the point in its theme but diverse and intricate technically.

Kendrick establishes himself as Compton’s flag bearer, and on giving his take on such a harsh issue – growing up in an oppressive society you’d think the demographic would be slim. However, King Kenny seems to touch the thinnest slice of mass appeal and mass respect.

Ryan [1st]: In terms of production, storytelling, and lyricism, GKMC is one of, if not the best hip-hop album of all time. GKMC gets personal, thoughtful, and emotional without losing momentum. It plays through with every track setting the tone for the next one. It’s a remarkably impressive debut and Dr. Dre’s contributions to the album helped build Kendrick from a marvelously impressive lyricist to a rapper capable of handling tracks that can fill arenas, which he then demonstrated as the opening act for Kanye’s Yeezus tour, right after the album’s release.

One of the most impressive aspects about GKMC though is it’s mainstream appeal while also satisfying hardcore hip-hop heads. It was the perfect debut that cemented Kendrick Lamar as not only a future star but as a revolutionary artist.

Jake [2nd]: A surreal, oftentimes nightmarish peek into Lamar’s experiences as a teenager dealing with Compton’s rampant gang culture, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City was Kendrick’s statement of intent in many ways. He knew he was the best in the game, and he was determined to prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt on this album. And prove it he did. A staggering amount of bops are on display here: Swimming Pools (Drank), Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe, Money Trees, Poetic Justice, Sing About Me I’m Dying of Thirst and fucking M.A.A.D City itself. I could have listed any song from the album’s almost pitch perfect runtime and no one could argue that it was a certified tune. No one could touch Kendrick after this, and rightfully so.

Liam [2nd]: This was a really difficult choice for me, especially because this was the first Kendrick album I experienced. While I don’t believe it’s his best, I do think what Good Kid, m.A.A.d city had to say, and most importantly how he says it, makes it easily the most vital record Kendrick has made. As pointed out by Jake, Kendrick makes the brave move of calling out the problems ripe in his hometown’s community, something that paved the way for his role in discussing racial politics in future endeavors. 

It’s as close to cinematic as an album this decade has ever been, which makes it not that surprising that he eventually got to make a soundtrack for a Holywood blockbuster, but the aspect that generates the most admiration from me is how natural Kendrick is on this record. Before this release, he wanted to really appeal to that pop rap crowd and while there are plenty of songs on here that do just that, there’s a clear focus and intent that makes this feel like a true, fully realised piece of fucking beauty.


1. To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

Ross [1st]: You know he had to do it to y’all. This album is nothing but pleasure. It goes past being insightful, its educates – containing a densely packed, dizzying rush of unfiltered rage and unapologetic romanticism, blunted-swing sophistication, scathing self-critique and rap-quotable riot acts. To the average listener who enjoyed the more commercial tracks of M.A.A.D City, they might have taken a listen to TPAB and turned their noses up.

To those who listen in depth they would hear the expression of anger towards oppression and the institutions in America that conduct it. To Pimp a Butterfly is truly the greatest Hip-Hop album I have ever listened to, and I feel that it is the most important album released in the last 20 years. It is a masterpiece.

Ryan [2nd]: To Pimp a Butterfly, sounds like Kendrick’s masterpiece. While I may be the only contributor that voted TPAB Kendrick’s second best, is based mostly on my personal relationship with the album. I’ve never had a serious connection to TPAB but completely understand the love behind the album. I feel that I’ve never truly digested TPAB to enjoy it to its full potential, but the tastes I’ve gotten over the years have been sweet enough to draw me back to it now and again.

Its sound is unlike any other that can be heard on a modern hip-hop record, and truly sounds like a love letter to Kendrick’s heritage as well as hip-hop and spoken word.

Jake [1st]: To Pimp a Butterfly is one of those once in a lifetime albums that each genre seems to have. It blends jazz and hip-hop so effortlessly it’s almost criminal. There is absolutely no filler on this record, back to back to back bangers. From the ferocious The Blacker the Berry, to the joyous and impossibly catchy King Kunta, not a second is wasted, each bar, each lyric is treated as an equal. The word masterpiece is thrown around with reckless abandon in recent times, but there truly isn’t another word to describe this album. Without a doubt Kendrick Lamar’s magnum opus.

Liam [1st]: For a lot of people this is miles ahead of anything Kendrick has ever made and despite the fact that I think GKMC isn’t too far behind it, I can’t argue with the fact To Pimp A Butterfly is the best thing he’s done thus far (and most likely the best thing he ever will do). It’s odd to recount the time when many, including myself, assumed this album was doomed due to the first single feeling a tad underwhelming and while I still dig the more polished studio version, using a live rendition of it was a move that could have been easily scoffed at but is just one of various highlights to be found here.

Of course, TPAB has some fire singles on it, King Kunta will never fail to make an appearance at a hip-hop themed night and for good reason, but much like GKMC, Kendrick’s best record benefits from an interweaving narrative that goes down a more poetic route this time round. It was jarring at first to hear Kendrick repeat an ever-growing verse at the end of nearly every song but on repeated listens, it goes to show what this record really is: art.

Charlie [1st]: Making hip-hop albums can be compared to the making of a film, where the MC (or director) helps coordinate producers and other musicians (actors, set design, cinematographer etc.) to create a vision for their singular piece. To Pimp A Butterfly is an example of when a film wins twelve Oscars. This album sees Lamar become the perfect director, creating a hip-hop masterpiece. Taking many stylistic trademarks from genres such as funk, jazz and soul, To Pimp A Butterfly is a truly transformative experience.

At times inspiring on tracks like Alright – a song that became both the soundtrack for many civil rights marches and the soundtrack of angry, mouth-foaming racists on Fox News – and at times heart-wrenching, like on the massively underrated U, To Pimp A Butterfly will go down as one of the best hip-hop albums ever created.

Looking Back At…Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version by Earth

Can you withstand the doom? Twenty-five years after its release, Charlie Leach (@YungBuchan) looks back at Earth’s classic debut album.

This retrospective was heavily informed by the article “The Unbearable Heaviness Of Being” on Seattle newspaper The Stranger. To find interviews with people involved with the making of the album and a musician heavily inspired by the album, please click here.

Twenty-five years ago, Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version was released on Sub Pop records. Harking from Seattle, Dylan Carlson, and Dave Harwell made a record that had little immediate impact on the music world at the time. Coming in an era where peers such as Nirvana had a monumental impact on popular music, a record such as this could have been another small creative release that dissipated into the ether.

Its creation was also fairly small-scale. Though made on a small budget with limited time in the studio, Carlson described the recording process as quite simple; they had already played the first two songs live, so needed no real warm-up time to start recording. Studio engineer for the record Stuart Hallerman also remembers the process as an easy one, describing the recording sessions as having a “very relaxed vibe“. In spite of this, Carlson has since said that if he could record the album again, he would go about it with a totally different method. He states that they wanted a sound as loud as their live shows, but how they set up the mics and amps was flawed, and actually (in his opinion) hindered the overall sound. But for him and Harwell, they were two young musicians who were happy to have studio time that they were being paid for, and so brought their youthful energy and desire into this recording process.

Without previous knowledge of the album, the prior description could conjure images of a young band of the nineties that created an energetic rock album, filled with sharp guitar melodies, rasping vocals, and tight drumming. This is no such album. In fact, this album feels like it takes solace in sheer being the total opposite. This is an album that swamps the listener from the first moment it is played. Hallerman suggested that at the time, Earth’s main mission statement was to out Melvin the Melvins. In comparison to this album, the Melvins are blissful.

Though really intended as an album-long piece due to recording limitations at the time, the album was divided into three parts. Seven Angels, the opening track on the album, commences the album with thunderous, bleeding guitar and bass distortion. This album is not a typical metal album to be born out of the nineties; this album is a drone metal album, and Seven Angels buries that fact into the listener’s eardrums within the first ten seconds. Eventually, a doom-metal inspired guitar riff stomps into the forefront of the song. Taking many cues from Black Sabbath (of which it is rumored Earth took their name from), this slow, meandering riff permeates Seven Angels for its whole fifteen-minute runtime. The riff exudes dread, never firmly resolving itself, building and building over its mammoth run time. After a few minutes of the riff, the song moves out into an incessant, distortion-filled drone. Repeating several times over the course of the track, there is no real rest-bite, and leads to a sense of nervous anticipation and paranoia as to when the riff will come back. The drones here are mainly provided by a sludgy bass line, again soaked in reverb and distortion, but also a distortion that pans and filters around the song, building a cacophony of noise. Even when the “melody” of the song is absent, this song leaves no room to breathe, in no short part due to this droning bass.

Drone is a word used a lot to describe this album, and with good reason. Like all good drone and ambient music (and unlike your average Bandcamp laptop producer), repetition on this record is not wasted; this is a sound that evolves. As Seven Angels oozes forward, the distortion moves with it. More elements of noise permeate the latter half of the track. Additionally, the distortion itself seems to grow in volume and in presence, adding a high tinnitus-inducing ring. There is no room to escape from this album, it burrows into the listener’s brain, allowing enough time to become the only thing present in the mind. This is a contrast to Earth‘s later work. In the same interview as referenced above, Carlson states that Earth 2 is a very claustrophobic sounding album, and if it was recorded now it would be something he would give a lot more and space between the sounds. Though he might look back in slight remorse on this aspect of the album, for many, the all-encompassing claustrophobic nature of the album is one of its true selling-points.

Seven Angels smoothly transitions into Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine. The louder drone remains on this track, but the guitar riff changes to a more foreboding melody, a melody that gains volume and begins to swamp both channels in the mix. A melody that begins to wriggle into the ear canals, finding comfort in the murky depths. As this riff trudges along, the droning bass begins to gain traction, a white noise second layer beginning to develop over an already excruciating, despair-inducing tone. Not to be forgotten, the guitar riff takes a moment to regain the listener’s attention (if it ever managed to escape it in the first place), gaining a somewhat higher pitch (for this album) to wail into the eardrum. Not to be outshone, the bass swoops into the picture, sound coming in like a tide to the shore, slowly building and building before crashing into existence. As might be clear by now, this album is not great at parties.

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Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine maneuvers into another explosive riff by allowing a rattling crunch of distortion to fill out the song. Then, it announces itself with another Sabbath-inspired thunderous riff, with a chorus of drone and noise to provide the staunch foundations. At the halfway point of a near thirty-minute track, this comes as a somewhat pleasant surprise. Those pleasantries don’t last long. Carlson plays and plays with this riff, allowing it to scream out in pain, to wail in disgust; this is a riff that is exploited for all its worth, raining down its blood-lined tears onto a sea of distortion and sorrow. The murky bass crashes onto the shore and retreats throughout this second movement, allowing a minuscule amount of room for the monstrous guitar riff to truly embed itself into the downtrodden areas of the soul. The white noise found earlier periodically shudders in, punching itself on top of the omnipresent bass drone.

The track eventually fades into the final grand opus of the album, Like Gold And Faceted. The final roar of Earth 2 slings one final surprise into the mix: percussion. Though fairly hidden in the mix, the occasional cymbal crashes add a ritualistic feeling to this final track; this is the last moments, the time to end it all. Of course, a never-ending drone fills the beginning of this track. Slowly building in stature, the absence of any melody is the perfect recipe for fear. At thirty minutes (the longest of the three tracks), this particular drone is an all-encompassing behemoth, slowing stomping its way throughout its epic run-time. Small attempts at melody are made in this opening period, but they are swiftly dealt with, being immediately swamped by new layers of distortion, or new layers of noise. An occasional ring of guitar swims throughout the waves of drone, all while the crash of a cymbal fights for acknowledgment. As the track moves, the cymbal becomes louder, smashing more assertively into the middle of the mix, while a reverse cymbal is used to wash over the whole of the track. This washing is aided by more white noise, at this point an expected accompaniment of the Earth 2 experience. Before the brain has realigned itself with its own sense of self and being, the track is already halfway through, yet there is still no melody.

An absence of riff really pushes the grand statement of this album: this is not a run-of-the-mill metal album; this is an album that pushes the idea of songwriting and performance to its most minimal extreme. As the Like Gold And Faceted slowly fades out into nothingness, so to does the almost meditative-like state the brain inhabits when listening to this album. For an album made by young, relative newcomers to the music scene at the time, this is an album that defies age or time, more an album of never-ending being, which makes its influence in the world of music all the less surprising.

Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O))) recounted his first experiences of listening to the album at nineteen, and it being the gateway into minimal and experimental music. For him, this album is a tower in the music world, and who is to argue? Though made from a humble context, this album is anything but. This is a wandering behemoth, and twenty-five years on is a vastly important classic for metal and experimental music.

Album Review: i can feel you creep into my private life by tUnE-yArDs

by Charlie Leach (@YungBuchan)rating 5

Since 2014’s Nikki Nack, tUnE-yArDs have officially become a two-piece, with longtime collaborator Nate Brenner joining Merill Garbus as the two explore privilege through a dance and disco twang in their new album, i can feel you creep into my private life.

Though many have explored the lyrical content of this album and the motivation behind its creation (something that will be explored shortly), for long time listeners of tUnE-yArDs, the alt-pop sound of many of their projects has been combined with more electronic texture and style. In the lead up to the release of their latest effort, Garbus told of her recent experiences with dance music, in which she has started to DJ in Oakland at local clubs. This is most definitely felt on this album.

Opener Heart Attack is tinged with a 90’s dance influence; from the chopped up vocal sampling and Rhodes-lite synth piano to the four to the floor kick drum and rolling hi-hats, this song would not be out of place on any of the many Saturday morning music shows that populated many a channel just a few decades prior. The sharp violins that arrive later in the track add even more to this 90’s house atmosphere. In spite of all this, there are still some of the classic tUnE-yArDs elements that have purveyed throughout their music career: entertaining, complicated percussive rhythms; Garbus’ bellowing, vibrant vocals (which here are tinged with reverb that permeates the song and adds to the electronic aesthetic); and the funky, stabbing bass-line provided by Brenner.

Another stand out track is Honesty. Again, taking some of the tried and tested calling cards for their sound, the band forays into this new, more synth-based electronic sound on this track. Their plethora of synth sounds might possibly extend here to a saxophone solo that mixes the earthy textures of real saxophone with what could quite be some more electronic production techniques, compounding on the song’s dance roots. The chorus-like vocals of Garbus appear here again; like most tUnE-yArDs songs, they fill the mix, begging for attention, but do so in a more glitched, sampled fashion.

This formula is repeated in many different ways throughout the album: track Home is a mid-album breather that consists of choral-like vocals that again dominate the track, over a slow bass and drum rhythm with sweeping pads; Look At Your Hands is an energetic house inspired synth-pop track, with a quite contagious vocal melody and hook over a moving bass line and fast, simple yet effective drum beat. Most of the tracks on this album can be described as they have been previously; energetic house or disco tracks with the odd slower electronic track thrown in to provide breathing room.

However, this genre shift for the band does not necessarily lead to great success. For the majority of this album, it could be argued that the band have not especially inhabited the sound of electronic music, rather adopted it and used some of its most basic qualities to write an electronic album. Forgoing a lot of their more organic sound that they had previously has not particularly worked on this album; this album could, in essence, be described as “tUnE-yArDs playing house music”, rather than the band using this different way of producing and writing songs to further their music evolution. This sound feels more like a fleeting experiment, rather than a dramatic sea-change.

What has been an ever-present in tUnE-yArDs‘ music is Garbus’ social commentary explored through her lyrical content, and this is no different on this latest release. In the lead up to the release of this album, Garbus talked about her experiences with a spirituality course on white privilege, and her own misgivings about how many people of privilege unwittingly exploit that privilege. In the current political landscape, this is not new territory but is definitely something that needs to be explored more in new music. Unfortunately, on this album, it could be argued that the manner in which it is explored is fairly heavy-handed.

The much talked about track Colonizer is one such example of a track that edges the line between a well-used analogy and over into something that could be considered slightly hypocritical. In this writer’s personal opinion, this song is in a stark juxtaposition between a lot of the traditional tUnE-yArDs sound. The lyrical refrain Garbus’ uses (“I use my white woman voice”) highlights the problem of the colonial nature of art, where many white musicians have taken different cultures’ musical styles without real acknowledgment of where it comes from and whether they should be able to use it. This is a standpoint that is very agreeable, yet a lot of the African influence that has been a major part of tUnE-yArDs‘ back-catalogue is still definitely present in this latest effort (though less than previous releases).

A lot of the lyrics Garbus uses on the album do admit guilt for use of her privilege. Logically, use of these African styles might suggest that she is still battling with these demons, and needs to tackle the issue head-on. The lead single for the album, ABC 123, looks at trying to guide the listeners to face these prevalent issues, instead of running from them. In a NPR interview speaking about the new album, Garbus stated that she felt when writing this track that the lyrics may come off as annoying, as they seem quite didactic, yet wanted to use this track as a guiding point for people to fight back against these injustices. This could be seen as something that is quite confusing and problematic.

This album, on one hand, wants to be a call to arms whilst also exploring the flaws of the lead singer. Unfortunately, in many instances, this politicized album just falls flat from really vying for attention and rousing action. The synthetic direction of the instrumentation leads to a mechanical, and less fruitful listen than previous tUnE-yArDs albums and does not combine well with the awkwardly executed message.

Best Tracks Of The Week (15th-21st Jan)

Contributions from Sean Hannah(@shun_handsome), Charlie Leach (@Yungbuchan), Ross Malcolm (@RossM98) and Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

Young Fathers – In My View

Continuing down a pop route shown on their previous single, In My View is a sultry, anthemic, heartfelt ballad for the Scottish trio Young Fathers. Through its pop leanings, this song still contains some of the hallmarks of a Young Fathers‘ song: lo-fi mixing, skewed and sometimes eclectic harmonies, and the varied and talented vocals of Massaquoi, Bankole and Hastings. If these two singles are anything to go by, their new album Cocoa Sugar could be an introspective, delicate, pop album – another exciting evolution for this excellent band. CL

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Peach Club – Venus

Opening up their latest EP Cherry Baby, this Norwich GRRRL band don’t wanna keep their first impression subtle or timid as they blow into a well-paced, menacing anthem on liberation and sexuality. Having impressed with last year’s Bad Bitch, another track that wasn’t afraid to spit back with venom, Peach Club have established themselves with this latest cut and EP that is chock-full of bravado, fierceness and outright badassery. LM

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Rejjie Snow – Egyptian Luvr (feat. Aminé & Dana Williams)

In the run-up to his debut album dropping in February, Rejjie Snow releases a hint of what is to come in his first release of 2018: Egyptian Luvr.  Egyptian Luvr is a surprisingly bright and chipper track compared to others in his discography. Lyrically he exceeds his usual standards, going for a more emotional approach. If this track is anything to go by, the Irishman’s gonna have a belter of a year. RM

Preoccupations – Espionage

Heralding the group’s forthcoming New Material album slated for release on March 23, PreoccupationsEspionage finds the group in peak form, hitting all of the post-punk/goth tropes they’ve become known for. Moonbeam synths, cavernous drums, and Matt Flegel’s rasping vocal knell comprise this frantic dirge, which culminates in a call and response akin to Joy Division’s Interzone. “We are bound,” Flegel ululates, to which the band responds, “Till we’re deeper in a dead sea”. SH

Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, James Blake – King’s Dead

Featuring on the upcoming Black Panther soundtrack, King’s Dead is suitably epic without being bombastic. With Mike Will Made It and Teddy Walton on production duties, resulting in a beat that just won’t quit, this track is undoubtedly the best we’ve seen yet from this OST, packing in an insane amount of energy with incredible flow and playful lyricism on Jay Rock and Future’s part respectively. It’ll be exciting to see how a track like this fits into a family friendly Marvel flick, though. LM

Mount Eerie – Distortion

Last time we saw Mr Phil Elverum, he left us all bubbling messes in his heartfelt, grief full open letter to his late wife Geneviève. While he’s not completely put the situation behind him (and how could you), he has managed to make something into art by giving his work a wider scope: much like his memory of his partner, the guitars linger on as he crafts a 11 minute colussus that is utterly interesting and emotionally evoking. LM

Top 50 Songs of 2017

We’ve been fairly negative this week, what with the moaning behemoth that was our ten worst tracks of the year list, but let us assure you that music in 2017 hasn’t been terrible: in fact, it’s arguably the strongest it has been since the glory year of 2015. There’s still another week to go before we give you the round up of the records we couldn’t get enough of but until then, the BLINKCLYRO team have a treat for you.

This year’s Top 50 Songs list marks the first year where it isn’t just Liam compiling his favourite tunes: all the writers for the site have submitted their top 10 tracks of the year and after compiling them, tallying the points and laying them out, this post before you is the end result of that. So strap yourself in, relax and prepare yourself for a bucket load of great tunes that’ll make you feel blessed to have ears.

50. Blaenavon – Orthodox Man

First heard in 2015 when played to a crowd of under twenty, Orthodox Man has remained very much the same between then and now. However, now played to sell out crowds it has become somewhat of a fan favourite and it is clear to see why. It is fun, it is exciting, it gets the crowd going. What more could you want from a debut record single?

49. The Xcerts – Daydream

What sets The Xcerts out from others is the vocal style, and Daydream is no exception. Murray Macleod’s Aberdonian accent beams through the track and the catchy riff and drums make it a dance along track. Throw in that beautifully constructed bridge and you have yourself an upbeat pop rock song, that is sure to send the Xcerts flying into 2018.

48. The War On Drugs – Holding On

Holding On is a highlight pick from the new War on Drugs album and makes for easy listening with a dreamy feel across the instrumentals and vocals. The fact that this song stands out on A Deeper Understanding, which is an already amazing album, testifies to the quality of the track. The winding journey that the track takes you on is definitely one to remember.

47. The Mountain Goats – Unicorn Tolerance

This funky pop track off this year’s Mountain Goats album is remarkable in both its familiarity, in terms of lyricism from Darnielle, and harmonised chorus, taken straight out of the bands previous works; it is notable too for its difference, with a very chill melodic pop beat going through, and an almost dreamlike feel, making something that old fans, as well as Mountain Goats VLs, will get.

46. Pip Blom – Babies Are A Lie

Hailing from Amsterdam, Pip Blom have been around for around half a decade now yet continue the evolution from, as they put it, the girl with little guitar to a full-on band that hit their stride on this tune; a chill track that eases in with a simple introduction and lets its hair loose on its earworm of a chorus.

45. Benjamin Clementine – Phantom of Aleppoville 

From this year’s I Tell A Fly, delivered by the avant-garde maestro Benjamin Clementine, this is very much a high point experimentally for the album, with a lon sweeping intro, blending in classical music, after an anxiety inducing chant early on with the track’s lyrics really shining as the song reaches its end.

44. The Smiths Street Band – Birthdays

I feel overwhelmed so I wanna be alone but then when I’m alone I feel lonely” were the words shared on the Australian rock outfit’Instagramam about Birthdays, a romance heavy tune that features on the band’s frankly underrated LP More Scared Of You Than You Are Of Me. Transparent and deeply emotive, The Smiths Street Band manage to effortlessly discuss issues of mental health and desire over this tight 3-minute odd track.

43. Idles – Mother

2017 was a fantastic year for Bristol outfit Idles, and their single Mother punched and kicked straight into the music communities consciousness. With scathing, growling lyrics from frontman Joe Talbot, the song was a perfect shot of heavy guitar music arrived with aplomb this year. This track stands out on their excellent album Brutalism for its much-needed commentary on the social fabric of our country.

42. Woes – Losing Time

Opening with an excellent sounding pop punk riff, Losing Time doesn’t hesitate to go huge. The vocals are reminiscent of the bands’ self-titled EP released last year, and both singers vocals blend brilliantly to create a beautiful harmony. The bridge of the track slows right down, with lead vocalist David Jess passionately shouting, before getting back to business: Woes are definitely one to watch in 2018.

41. Tommy Genesis – Tommy

While there’s a solid bit of production in the form of a Charlie Heat beat, Tommy‘s main draw is the display and establishment of herself as an aggressive and hyper-sexual rapper who can stand her own ground. With the bravado and confidence that Tommy Genesis holms, we wouldn’t be surprised to see her come out with something major in the near future.

40. Dua Lipa – New Rules (Initial Talk Remix)

It’s no secret that Dua Lipa seemingly came out of nowhere to deliver one of the biggest pop tunes of the year, one with a great sense of empowerment. Initial Talk thought that New Rules was missing something and decided to give it a dollop of 80’s gloss, an odd decision but one that works very well for a song that could have easily found itself sang by the pop juggernauts from that decade.

39. Enter Shikari – Undercover Agents

Easily one of the best tracks off The Spark & one of the most accessible Shikari songs, Undercover Agents is a bouncy number that’ll get the whole floor howling at the moon. Is it a song about Facebook or Instagram, or is “I want to see your body” covering for something else?

38. N.E.R.D – Lemon

Though it could be argued to be more the “Pharrell and Rihanna show” rather than a full-blown N.E.R.D comeback, this song is still a bonafide club banger. Just like the lyrics, the production bounces along with deep 808 bass kicks and a high popping synth, while in the latter part of the song, Rihanna raps with a swagger that is seldom heard.

37. Rostam – Bike Dream

Aeronautical oranges, continental paintings, an uxorious pair of boys. These are some of the images that populate Rostam’s Bike Dream, the fanciful second track of his excellent debut Half-Light. Atop the synth-drum dynamo powering the song is the exultation of Rostam seeing himself in the myriad New Yorkers ambulating around 14th Street. Amid the chaos, Rostam reaches the bittersweet summation of his many romances: “Telling me something or nothing, never the one thing I wanna hear”.

36. St Vincent – Slow Disco

Near the culmination of Annie Clark’s neon pop masterclass, Masseduction, sits one of her finest songs yet. An emotionally affecting powerhouse, Slow Disco stands out as a work of stripped back beauty amidst the sea of oddball experiments. On first listen it may just seem a welcome variation from the robotic and futuristic sounds of the rest of the record, but with time it reveals itself as the albums powerfully vulnerable highlight.

35. Vistas – Retrospect

Latest single Retrospective is everything we know and love this Edinburgh pop-rock outfit for. Opening up with the catchiest of riffs, the nod-along melody kicks in with frontman Prentice Robertsons’ spectacular vocals create a happy, feel-good vibe. The band has worked tirelessly the past two years and it is now all beginning to pay off with this tune being evident of the progress they’ve made.

34. Protomartyr – My Children

The second single to be released from their latest album and one of the most complete songs they’ve recorded yet, Protomartyr have managed to distill almost every aspect of their music into a deeply satisfying 3 minutes and 42 seconds. An ominous, mumbled intro gives way to angular guitars as anti-frontman Joe Casey delivers a caustic take on issues of growing old, remaining childless and the implications that might have on his legacy.

33. Alex Cameron – Runnin’ Outta Luck

Who would have thought that a satirical concept album based around the trials and tribulations of toxic masculinity and fragile egotism could be so catchy? The third single from 2017’s delightfully playful Forced Witness epitomises the thematic musical and lyrical consistences that run deep through the record via a bombastic, synth-embellished sound that recalls the classic rock and pop of the 1980s with an unrelentingly ear-worming chorus.

32. Harry Styles – Sign Of The Times

2017 marked the year that the members of One Direction stepped out on their own and released their debut solo material, and unarguably the best track born of the hiatus has come from unofficial band leader Harry Styles, who boldly emerged with Sign of the Times, a 5-minute epic which channels heroes Prince and David Bowie, effortlessly building from a solemn piano into to a rock opera without breaking sweat. Styles vocal performance is enthralling throughout, growing with the track from a brooding opening before howling “WE”VE GOT TO GET AWAYYY” in the epic climax, the track’s escapism aided by a choir and a glam-rock guitar tone elevating Styles’ already huge vocal into the stratosphere.

31. Clairo – Pretty Girl

Clairo seems to be fitting in remarkably well to her newfound position as a self-aware, bedroom pop artist. As you may expect, Pretty Girl is a relationship influenced song but one that finds pleasure in pointing out the flaws of superficially lead ones with a simple music video only exasperating the simplistic charm that she delivers in bucketloads.

30. Phoebe Bridgers – Funeral

A cut from her debut album, this track from Phoebe Bridgers is a real story of Bruce Springsteen proportions, delivering a thought-provoking, heartfelt and genuinely sad song, involving the artiste singing at a funeral: just as morbid and depressing as you would expect but with a glimmer of beauty.

29. Peach Pit – Being So Normal

Described as being “chewed bubblegum pop” by, well, themselves, Peach Pit manage to leave a muffled indent with this eponymously titled track off their debut LP; the lead smooth vocals may sound exhausted but when backed up by warm guitars and an undeniable crisp production, it’s hard not to feel yourself mellowed out and enthralled.

28. The Vegan Leather – Shake It

This paisley disco-pop outfit’s debut single was one of the hottest Scottish indie hits of the year, almost anthemic in its delivery; with a fantastic dance beat to accompany it. One of the most notable elements of the track is the harmonies between male and female fronts of the band, Gian and Marie respectively, working together to deliver a positively electric track.

27. King Krule – Dum Surfer

Dum Surfer, from King Krule’s album The Ooz, amplifies the very darkest aspects of his music. The lyrics are aggressive and unsettling. Krule’s deep and brooding voice matches the violent imagery which contrasts starkly with the jazzy saxophone and abundance of percussion. It sounds like nothing else but manages to stand by itself as one of the best tracks of the year.26. Young Fathers – Only God Knows

Young Fathers provided the backbone to the Trainspotting 2 soundtrack. Included was the beautifully layered track, Only God Knows. Accompanied by Leith Congregational Choir, the trio from Edinburgh create three and a half minutes heart pounding, distorted bliss: it’s impossible to not find yourself smiling when this song comes on. Not only does it undeniably bring the other songs from T2 together but also establishes the versatility of Scottish hip-hop.

25. Lil Peep – Save That Shit

The “Pt. 1” affixed to Lil Peep’s debut album Come Over When You’re Sober will forever serve as a reminder of what Gustav Åhr’s career might have been. A sense of death’s rapid encroachment pervaded much of Peep’s music, and last month, a fatal overdose granted his self-fulfilling prophecy.

Standing out among Åhr’s robust oeuvre is Save That Shit, a maudlin breakup song featuring spidery post-grunge guitars, tightly-wound trap drums, and Lil Peep’s trademark gruff whine. The details of the couple’s relationship are in constant flux: “All she want is payback,” “You ain’t getting nothing I’m saying, don’t tell me you is,” “Do I make you scared? Baby, won’t you take me back?

The optimist in him wants to salvage the relationship, but the realist in him knows he can’t save that shit.

24. Corbin – Giving Up

When Corbin dropped his album Mourn earlier this year, it showcased his soulful vocal talents over moody and mournful cloud rap and RnB beats which have stuck out in our minds over this year though Giving Up is the track that has remained at the forefront of our minds.

The synths create a very downtrodden atmosphere to begin with and bring you into a state of melancholy where you can then be lulled by Corbin’s silky smooth voice. The drums kick in about 2:30 into the song which lifts the track considerably but the depressive quality of this track just gets stronger as Corbin’s vocals become more powerful and desperate near the end.

Taking into account the song’s lyrics’ focus on suicide makes this track a total emotional barrage, but a fucking good one.

23. Sorority Noise – A Portrait Of

Although Sorority Noise have teased listeners with lyrics and themes meaningful enough to rip your heart from your chest, 2017’s A Portrait Of is when the depth of the band really hit home. All of YNA_AYT is a journey into the deepest crevices of your conscience, but when the sophomore track opens with “I’ve been feeling suicidal..” you know you’re going to be in for an emotional ride.

Roaring a mid-section poetical giving reference to living his life as a continuation of theirs, Cameron Boucher truly opens up here and by the end of the track you’re left speechless, in tears or both.

The instrumentation is not ghoulish, nor is it an overly slow ballad to emphasise the lyrics, it is standard Sorority Noise in-your-face riff-topia with cutting hooks, dominant drums and quite frankly an elegant yet boisterous glue holding everything in place.

22. SZA – Drew Barrymore

Throughout her debut album CTRL, SZA discusses both relationships with others and herself with remarkable honesty and this is most evident on Drew Barrymore.

An ode to SZA’s favourite actress, the song’s themes are reminiscent of Barrymore’s iconic roles of women finding their identities. Similarly, on the track, SZA admits her insecurities and instead of being embarrassed by them, she sees a piece of herself in one of her biggest idols.

It is rare to see such difficult emotions towards relationships expressed so directly and with that comes sincerity that makes this track resonate so deeply; anyone that’s ever felt inadequate will both appreciate those feelings described so accurately and also a reminder that even people as talented as SZA feel the same way.

21. Mount Eerie – Real Death

Artistic expressions of death and grief are rarely ever as direct as they are on A Crow Looked At Me, an album dealing with the of passing Mount Eerie mastermind Phil Elverum’s wife Geneviève Castrée at the age of thirty-five. Yet in the opening track, Elverum insists that his record is exactly not that: “Death is real… it’s not for singing about, it’s not for making into art”.

With every word his cracked and pained voice utters, the listener gains only a minute sense of what it must be like to have been put through such a traumatic ordeal, and then shift through the aftermath. It’s a song so heartbreakingly beautiful that I struggle sometimes to listen to it in full – but I’m still glad that such a succinct statement of personal loss exists in today’s world.

20. Everything Everything – Desire

Desire feverishly builds, reaching a chorus featuring so many layered vocals, it sounds like an entire choir made up of Josh Higgs’ indulgent falsetto. The guitar riff at times rings like early naughties math rock in the best possible way and topping it all off are some very on brand Everything Everything lyrics “I am a pencil pusher with the pencil pusher blues“.

The beat stomps on through from the start, breaking at times into a delicate two-step instantly transporting you to a sweaty dancehall. It’s a song that makes it near impossible not to dance; some of the best indie pop we’ve had all year.

19. Kirin J. Callinan – Big Enough (Ft. Alex Cameron, Molly Lewis & Jimmy Barnes)

This is one of the rare songs on this list that has to be heard to be believed, especially in conjunction with its fabulously grandiose music video. Country twangs, EDM drops, heavy metal screams and a fist-pumping, chest-burstingly triumphant list of arbitrary countries, continents and states for a conclusion that, similar to marmite or self-immolation, will change your life for the better or the worse.

The reason it works and not devolve into the aural equivalent of a thirteen-way pile up on the M8 is the strength of the songwriting and the dynamics of the production, both of which create an addictive cocktail of a serotonin rush that never fails to lift your spirits. That, or make your face cringe so hard it cracks in two, but if it does that then you probably hate fun.

18. LCD Soundsystem – tonite

If James Murphy and co.’s first two comeback singles were intriguing yet divisive, then tonite firmly solidified the validation for their return to the stage, whilst simultaneously setting the scene for the album upon which it settles into snuggly in the middle third.

Lyrically, Murphy rearms his iconically ironic New York cool stance but with an updated penchant for the self-aware, allowing himself to deprecate the stagnant state of the charts without ever falling into the “Old Man Yells At Cloud!” trap that haunts many of rock music’s elder statesmen.

Pounding behind the words is a groovy instrumental that takes its cues from Daft Punk and The Human League, and reaffirms LCD Soundsystem’s place on the dancefloor, and indeed our hearts. We’ve missed you, Murphy.

17. The Menzingers – Thick As Thieves

With February’s After the Party, Scranton natives The Menzingers reached a career peak. A wonderful record bursting at the seams with shout-a-long slices of life, it establishes the band as a bonafide grade-A rock outfit. An ode to reckless abandon, Thick as Thieves encapsulates all that is great about the album.

The whole track just drips with an endearing sense of nostalgia and sincerity, with vocalist Greg Barnett gleefully yelling of ‘building castles of cans and bottles’ without a trace of cynicism or irony. The chorus, perhaps the best the band has ever come up with, seems tailor-made for crowds to scream back at the stage; it’s just joyous.

If you can get it out of your head, you’re not human.

16. Remo Drive – Yer Killin’ Me

What a belter this track is. A slice of raucous, driving, almost poppy emo from the Minnesota 3-piece Remo Drive’s beauty of a debut album Greatest Hits (killer title).

There’s such an infectious venom in frontman Erik Paulson’s vocals and lyrics that you almost can’t help but be subconsciously pissed off at whoever’s wronged him.

The mathy breakdown towards the end of the track is delicious as well. Yer Killin’ Me is a perfect introduction to the world of Remo Drive, and one that would easily fit into your running playlist or your moody playlist. Brilliant.

15. Lil Uzi Vert – XO Tour Llif3

The king of emo rap’s magnum opus. XO TOUR LIiF3 by Philadelphia’s own Lil Uzi Vert manages to walk the tightrope between depressing as fuck and club banger with aplomb. Flexing about his car one minute and lamenting a failing relationship in the next, this is a deceptively complex slice of hip-hop from one of the most exciting MCs of 2017.

Mr. Vert explores concepts that most modern rappers wouldn’t dare touch, the likes of how maybe drug abuse isn’t that good and suicide. On a surface level it’s a cracking trap track, but if you listen to the lyrics it’s a sad portrait of a man who’s a bit lost in the world of hip-hop. And that’s what makes it so good.

14. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Open Water

Choosing a highlight from King Gizzard’s extensive set of 2017 releases is no mean feat. From tightly wound prog to loosely held together jazz pop, the range this band have displayed this year trumps what most bands achieve across their whole career.

Way back in February, the group released the finest of these efforts, Flying Microtonal Banana, and with it, Open Water, the seven-minute colossus that stands as the jewel in the crown.

Bursting with pitch black imagery and fluid, winding licks, it sees the band really push themselves to their limit. Their drums had never been quite so ferocious before, the atmosphere never quite so delightfully disorientating, and the end result rarely quite so brilliant. 

13. Carly Rae Jepsen – Cut To The Feeling

Carly Rae Jepsen‘s transition from early 2010’s meme to critically applauded pop artist has been one of the most interesting moments over the past few years and this cut for animated flick Leap continues the trend.

We could easily discuss the effortlessly ascending and descending bits of production that tie into the Canadian singer’s wonderful pipes or her delivery from hushful whispering to ambitious proclamations; the hook, line, and sinker of Cut To The Feeling is just how bloody fun it is and in another dark and dreary year, we need more of these than ever.

12. The National – Day I Die

Bryan Devendorf herein stakes his claim as one of indie’s pre-eminent percussionists, kicking off one of the highlights of Sleep Well Beast with a frenetic drum intro. Relentlessly uptempo and featuring guitar licks reminiscent of The Cure, themes of marital affairs are navigated with reference-laden lyrics.

Matt Berninger boasts that, “Young mothers love me, even ghosts of / Girlfriends call from Cleveland“, although he’s clearly still more concerned about the no-mans land his current relationship occupies, struggling to understand where exactly things stand.

During the bridge, further context is given to “great uncle Valentine Jester“, a character visited previously and, as it happens, someone who Berninger shares a lot in common with, particularly when he gets “a little punchy with the vodka“.

11. Lorde – Green Light

Fresh from a break-up, Lorde’s second album, Melodrama, explores dealing with losing someone for the first time and all the thoughts that come with it. The first single, Green Light, starts desperate and heart wrenching.

The song opens with her raw, slow vocals and simple piano, but builds quickly to a fast dance anthem, flinging her reputation as a moody teenage songstress into the mainstream. The sincerity in her vocals mixed with the constant change of pace creates a warmth inside your stomach. It’s a song to cry but also to move on to. Lorde is showing us how to dance through the pain.10. Frank Ocean – Chanel

Frank Ocean is famed as one of modern music’s lyricists for his complexity and deft storytelling talents. However, Ocean throws this subtlety out of the window in the mic-drop of an opening couplet to surprise single Chanel – “My guy pretty like a girl / and he got fight stories to tell”.

This sets the tone for Chanel’s lyrical tone – it’s part bashful, part confessional, varying as Ocean drifts between singing and rapping – displaying a mastery of each. The dreary beat is the perfect bed for Ocean’s varied delivery, and transitions into perhaps Ocean’s most iconic hook yet – “I see both sides like Chanel” – another lyrical masterstroke as he flips hip-hop’s obsession with brands into an expression of sexuality.

9. Stormzy – Big For Your Boots

Stormzy seems like one of the nicest guys in music, but Big For Your Boots is a definite warning to anyone tries stopping his rise. His flow is incredible throughout the whole song, and some of the lines are solid gold.

Had a peng ting named Amy telling me to come round hers on a Valerie ting“. Sublime. The whole of GSAP was one of the standout albums of 2017, but this was the biggest diamond in the jewelers.

8. Paramore – Hard Times

Where do you start with the summery, pop anthem that is Hard Times?! The emo, pop-punk icons of yesteryear seemingly flipped their iconic style on its head and replaced it with a neon light complementing, almost sickly pink doused, upbeat classic.

Hayley Williams’ voice sounds as good, if not better, as their Riot! days and the re-addition of founding drummer Zac Farro adds a warming, sentimental value for the old-skool Paramore fans.

What we have is effectively an infectiously catchy piece of pop elegance from someone who was the antithesis of Hard Times. A fluorescent burst of colourful chaos, synths galore and a something that is a simple yet strangely complex arrangement of upbeat fun.

7. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

Father John Misty’s third LP is comfortably the most lyrically ambitious release this year – providing social commentary on the grandest scale imaginable. This is best executed on the record’s stunning title track where Josh Tillman gives his perspective on “the comedy of man” – beginning with the birth process and arriving at religion with a lot in between – on the most grandiose score Tillman’s voice has ever graced.

The lyrics are the star of the show here, however, with Tillman addressing the human race at large with observations like “their illusions they have no choice but to believe”, however, the lyrics never take themselves too seriously, especially as he smirks “how’s this for irony?” in a subtle nod to his Father John Misty persona.

6. Brockhampton – Star

In a year where BROCKHAMPTON dropped three albums, there were several stand-out tracks that defined their year but none more memorable than STAR.

This track has a unique theme with its constant pop culture references. From Dom McLennon’s rapid-fire name dropping from Matthew McConaughey to Liam Neeson to Ameer Van’s bragging about being “the black Tom Hanks” and being “kingpin like Jay Z, dance moves like JT”. The track finishes on perhaps their strongest verse of the year as Kevin Abstract pronounced himself “Heath Ledger with some dreads” in a hilarious yet vicious verse that mixes references to pop culture and his own sexuality with ease.

America’s newest boyband have been on fire this year and that’s no more evident than on STAR.

5. Gorillaz – Ascension (Ft. Vince Staples)

When Vince Staples strutted onto the stage unannounced midway through Gorillaz’ sold out Hydro show, it was clear that the already fantastic gig was about to reach a new level. Staples’ stage presence was electric, his short frame covering almost every inch of the arena’s huge stage.

Somehow, the Long Beach MC manages to convey that energy as well on record as he does live on apocalyptic banger Ascension. Beginning with a quick-fire Staples verse atop a wartime air horn which soon gives way to Staples’ nonchalant attitude to the end of the world with the lyrics “the sky’s falling baby / drop that ass ‘fore it crash”.Gorillaz latest record Humanz was criticised for being too guest-heavy, but with Staples in such electrifying form, you can’t blame Damon Albarn for giving him the spotlight across his 2 lightning-quick verses.

As much as Staples is on fire, this still feels like a Gorillaz track. An Albarn verse is interspersed between Staples’ and is the perfect foil: Albarn sounds his age in contrast with Staples’ youthful exuberance: his verse darker, gloomier and more measured. He is happy to give the spotlight back to Staples who trivialises the apocalypse once more; with Staples on the mic, the apocalypse has never seemed so exciting.

4. Vince Staples – Yeah Right (Ft. Kendrick Lamar & Kucka)

Wouldn’t you know it – two tracks featuring Vince Staples back to back and boy, does the man deserve the high rankings on this list; anyone with a vague knowledge of Odd Future will have been made aware of the rapper’s potential and while he’s released some solid solo material, this track off Big Fish Theory certifies that there’s gold in them there hills.

Packing in the stellar production that can be found over the course of the entirety of Vince’s sophomore LP, Yeah Right teases the listener with his trademark delivery and a subdued instrumental before it’s released like a pack of lions with Detroit techno coursing through their blood. The sheer velocity of the bass borderlines on untenable at moments which adds to not only the power this song possesses but how closely this album walks the line between experimental and excruciating.

Then there’s that Kendrick verse which may possibly be the best guest bars to have been spat all year with an abundance of meta, serious, humourous and braggadocious lines that’ll etch themselves into your cranium. Tie in that bridge by Kucka which has a reminiscent tinge of old school UK Grime and you’re left with one of the greatest hip-hop tunes of the year.

3. Wolf Alice – Don’t Delete The Kisses

Already known for being able to essentially do anything, Wolf Alice proved that once again when they defined the modern love song with Don’t Delete The Kisses.

Ellie Rowsell’s lyrics have never been better even though they are the most sentimental she’s ever written. “I might as well write all over my notebook that you ‘rock my world!’” she admits in one of two verses Rowsell delivers in an almost talkative tone that mimics the thoughts going through her head; it somehow encapsulates these thoughts that everyone experiences in a creative way.

Don’t Delete The Kisses is unashamedly lovesick and cliché, and it’s confidence forces a massive smile onto your face as Rowsell’s closing words “I see the signs of a lifetime, you til I die” would manage to touch even the most cynical of hearts. The second single from sophomore album Visions of a Life, such an instant classic was unprecedented and will be hard for Wolf Alice to top but for now, they can revel in the success of creating a song that will undoubtedly remind a whole generation of fans of the person that they love.

2. Tyler The Creator – 911 / Mr. Lonely

True to form, the 10th track of Tyler’s widely acclaimed comeback project Flower Boy is a two-parter – a reoccurring theme across each of his albums. It’s a perfect synopsis of the dichotomy between the two different personalities of the record – one side is airy, melodic and full of summery optimism; the other, introspective and brooding.

The beauty of this track and, indeed, the rest of the album is the way Tyler reconciles these aspects and lays them bare so candidly. Perhaps one of the most apparent throwbacks to earlier, darker material such as Goblin, he alludes to his erstwhile depression throughout – in 911 he takes a philosophical approach, realising his own experiences can help him relate to others. Portraying a soothing voice on the other end of the phone, perhaps an emergency call handler, he introduces himself: “My name is Lonely, nice to meet you”.

Soon, though, he finds himself the one most in need of reassurance as he lapses back into despair in Mr. Lonely. The beat becomes dark and snare-heavy as he condemns his outwardly loud and brash personality, also questioning whether materialistic pursuits have ever really helped to alleviate that omnipresent feeling of loneliness. The last line cuts the deepest of all: reaching for a friend “so I never have to press that 911”.

1. Kendrick Lamar – DNA.

Regardless of your opinion on DAMN., light 7 or not, there’s no denying that 2017 has very much been the year of Kung Fu Kenny himself. From the teaser track The Heart Part IV tearing apart America’s newly elected toddler/President to his comeback single Humble, along with its subsequent meme value, to the hotly discussed topic of how his fourth LP should be played, there are very few artists who managed to stay relevant for all the right reasons in 2017.

A constantly evolving artist, think back to K Dot on Good Kid, m.A.A.d City or the existential, jazz poet on To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar is the most important figure in hip-hop at the moment and certifies this perfectly with D.N.A. An introspective and aggressive behemoth, this track serves not only as a reflection of himself as an idolised and sought after celebrity (Only Lord knows I’ve been goin’ hammer / dodgin’ paparazzi, freakin’ through the cameras) but it’s so much more than that.

True to his roots and heritage, D.N.A is primarily about Kendrick as a black man and in a year where race was the focus of some of the most despicable moments of the year in America, its message is more important than ever: the feature of a Fox News anchor stating that his music “has done more damage than racism ever has” only provokes him into becoming the passion-driven, bar spitting activist that music needs more of.

As he ends on some vicious lines, the inclusion of “peace to the world” could be taken literally or be a homophone for the slang for a gun; either way, the intentions are made clear on a song that seems to sum up this year into a claustrophobically tight 3 minutes, six seconds. 

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/111518578/playlist/4T1V1dcSEhkDsZcyny9CWY


So there you have it, our definitive list of the best songs we’ve heard all year. I’d like to thank the following people for contributing not only their rankings which helped make the list but also the little write-ups they did for each track: 

Album Review: Stress by Charlie Leach

By Charlie Leach (@YungBuchan)

Charlie Leach’s beginnings in music were as mundane as many other; gaining a love for the profession from his studies at school, he progressively became more enamoured with the many more eclectic genres that were available to him. His sonic pallet has aged in a manner that has been in tandem with his own personal development: starting in a happier, indie rock background, Leach has swerved and bobbed through many different styles and music communities, this current iteration has found Leach delving into much more dark, extreme music, lurking on the fringes of the greater music world. Though, like many of his contemporaries, he is still a novice, in both his profession and life. His latest reviews for Yung Lean’s Stranger and Sleigh Bell’s Kid Kruschev show Leach at his most vulnerable and echo a problem that is rife in the review industry.

For someone such as Leach to pick these two albums was a bold move. While it could be argued that he has experience in the genres of rap and pop music, it would be quite churlish to suggest he has a firm mastery of the many sub-genres and trends in these communities today. In respect to Yung Lean, Leach seems to show little background knowledge on the rapper. He might be able to effectively reflect his knowledge on some of Lean’s earlier singles (such as Kyoto and Yoshi City), and may take an interest in the vaporwave aesthetic that the rapper so heavily pulled from when first coming into the limelight, but Leach seems to have no real basis to pull from for a well-founded review into his latest project. Leach seems to intimate that he finds Stranger a “cloud-filled listen, with no real substance to pull at”, though in respects to the writer, he himself only writes from a surface level, and only a love for the single Hoover, a song that marks a clear, fleeting departure from the rapper’s main catalogue.

In spite of his lacking knowledge of all things Lean, Leach does have a fuller grasp of the work of Sleigh Bells. Though rumored to have not listened to all of their albums, Leach has in the past showed a great appreciation for Sleigh Bells’ first album, Treats. This album was the first foray for Leach into more experimental forms of music. The noisier overtones in the instruments used in Sleigh Bells’ music helped provide a standing ground for Leach to jump into the genre of noise (and it’s sub-genres). However, it is worth noting that Leach has shown no more real interest in Sleigh Bells’ work, and this can be seen in his review for their latest release, Kid Kruschev.

A succinct album, Kid Kruschev has been fairly well received by many critics. Some have written quite positively about the thematic cohesion throughout the album, praising the prominent vocals and ballad-like nature of many of the songs (but contrasted this glowing praise with  luke-warm review scores). Leach, however, found the album a laborious listen. Citing in his opinion the monotonous nature of many of the instrumentals in this album (the “over-compressed” kick drums being something that greatly distressed the reviewer), Leach seemingly found the album quite boring and laborious, equating to a “time-consuming, un-fulfilling listen, that though not necessarily bad full of bad musicianship, is littered with unsatisfying production and lackluster lyrics”.

This scathing criticism is nothing without its context. Privately, Leach has suffered from many hindrances that, quite reasonably, affect his professional responsibilities. For many years, the young writer has dealt with depression, causing many working days to be akin to traversing through a murky, foggy sludge. While Leach himself may not want to lean on this illness and allow it (in his mind) to be an excuse, many would argue that this affliction is grounds for many disadvantages he may face in his working career. Many similar to him have suffered and will suffer through similar circumstances, and like him will trudge through in relative silence.

To be expected, unknown factors such as these will affect a review by any budding writer, and with Leach, this could be seen to be the case. His mainly emotionless response to the music on offer by these two well-regarded contemporary artists could be indicative of the emotional state Leach found himself in throughout the week.

This emotional state could be conducive of the week Leach has had. Having just started a new job in retail this week, rumours have abounded about his lack of control on the balance he has between his different professional interests. Consequently, the reviews produced have suffered as a result. Leach, as a part of music journalism (albeit on a voluntary basis), has fallen victim to the looming specter of deadlines and the pressure of balancing work and play. Print journalism is an industry rife with deadlines and pressure from above, which in many cases leads to pieces that might not be reflective of the writer’s opinion or true ability. An enjoyment of an album for someone such as Leach is tempered by how much time and energy that particular writer has to put into listening to an album. The pressure of having his work placed for all to see in a public space ins frightening in itself; added to that the pressure of getting a good piece of work out on time is deadly to someone’s mental health, as is evident in the case of Leach.

And so, Leach concludes that these two reviews would not be fit for purpose. For many, it would be of the up-most importance for their work to be completed on time, but in this instance, Leach has decided that it more important to tackle the issue head-on, instead of burying it underground. Though, it may have been more therapeutic for Leach to actually write an opinion piece, instead of opting for a headache-inducing meta-review on himself. A light 4 to a strong 7.

Music’s Creepiest Covers

Words from Charlie Leach (@yungbuchan), Josh Adams (@jxshadams), Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon), Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr), Liam Toner (@tonerliam) & Oliver Butler (@notolibutler)

The phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” has been used so frequently that it’s pretty much been done to death: while we shouldn’t judge work solely by what’s on the paper in front of it, it’s hard not to pay attention to it, maybe even admire it. Multiple albums have come along with artistic creations that have reached an iconic status while others find themselves memed beyond comprehension

We’re not talking about that today – it’s Halloween and therefore we need to get that spooky dial turned all the way up to eleven! Bashing our collective heads together, along with the help of the good folks over at Patrician Music Chartposting, we’ve comprised a feature full of album covers that are eerie, unsettling, creepy or a mish-mash of all the above. Amongst them is a wildcard to test your courage: continue…if you dare!

TW: Suicide, guts and other NSFW material

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Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin

 

John Dwyer’s absurdist musical rollercoaster has encountered plenty of twists and turns throughout the course of his enigmatic career. Representing one of its highest peaks, Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin – like its bizarre, unnerving album cover – bares its teeth, demonstrating the unique ability of Dwyer et al. to up the ante and produce an album packed with heavy-duty psychedelic-infused DIY tunes.

 

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Painkiller – Guts Of A Virgin

 

The artwork for Guts Of A Virgin by Painkiller is immediately horrifying. Initially banned by UK censors (leading to customs seizing and destroying the first shipment of the physical release), this cover art is a perfect representation of the horrors that await on a first listen to this manic EP.

The psychedelic pattern bordering the graphic photograph help illustrate the EP’s blend of the macabre with hypnotic soundscapes. A band lead by the crazy mind of John Zorn is well deserving of cover art such as this.

 

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Sd Laika – That’s Harakiri

 

How fitting for an album so unashamedly weird, messy and, well, creepy to have an artwork that gives off that vibe? That’s Harakiri is the result of a musician, Sd Laika, meshing rigid haunting rhythms and sounds together in a way that really shouldn’t work but somehow does: the same haunting presence the music evokes can be felt from the creepy smile and desolate black eyes that take up most of this cover.

 

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Xiu Xiu – A Promise

 

A naked man, void of expression, holding a contorted baby doll upside down? Yup, totally normal…

 

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Black Sabbath – S/T

Not necessarily the sp00kiest album cover you’ll ever see, but at the time was definitely more harrowing than your average album artwork. Just look at that dark figure in the foreground and the ominous house in the background. This caused the band to be dubbed satanist and attracts fans of the occult to boot, with the cover certainly contributing to their new reputation.

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Dark Throne – A Blaze In The Northern Sky

When A Blaze In The Northern Sky was released in 1991 – it became a pivotal album, breaking away from the brutal sounding Death Metal that was popular in metal at the time to a completely cold and eerie take on extreme music. The album would be considered as the first Norwegian Black Metal album.

Not just breaking ground musically the band abandoned the painted, colourful covers that you’d see on metal albums and went for a grainy, black and white photograph of guitarist Zephyrous; in corpsepaint, in the dark looking nothing short of a ghost. One can only imagine how this would have stood out sitting on a record shelf amongst the other bright album covers.

 

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Arca – Mutant

Described by Justin Moran as “one-part insect, one-part alien and one-part satan”, the mutant that stares blankly into the beholder’s eyes on Arca‘s sophomore LP is simultaneously stunning and startling. Resembling something out of an SCP Foundation short story, everything about this monstrous creation gives off a weird essence, from the black, devilish horns to the rubbery red texture of its body.

 

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Coil – The Age of Naples

An album cover that by itself is pretty odd but becomes all the more apt and eerie when brought into context. On the 13th of November 2004, John Balance fell from a two-story balcony, killing him at the age of 42. The twisted up, unusual shape of the figure in this artwork’s body, along with the bloody red that covers the face and torso, resemble injuries that such a death would cause, leading this to be subtle but spooky nonetheless. 

 

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Nickelback – Feed The Machine

 

Look at it. Just fucking look at it. If the thought of our mechanical spawn rising up and instigating their physical and intellectual superiority via the controlling of our political leaders like pulling the strings of decrepit, dancing puppets doesn’t terrify you, then listen to the content inside… IF YOU DARE.

 

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Peter Sotos – Buyers Market

Six degrees of separation time: Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu considers Peter Sotos, this album’s creator, as a major influence of theirs! While the artwork itself is nothing horrifying, much like the Coil cover it is given new life when some info is brought to the table. Now Peter Sotos is a bit of a weird one: in his books, Sotos examines sadistic sexual criminals and sexually violent pornography, particularly involving…children.

It’s all in order to examine media hypocrisy on such issues but it doesn’t make it any less chilling and the way this album is constructed is quite sick: Buyers Market consists of sound collages of spoken word samples from parents, law-enforcement officers, and victims of sex crimes. Of course, this is for far more than shock value but looking at the face on this cover, it’s hard not to see it in a new light when you find this out.

 

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The Paper Chase – Now You Are One Of Us

 

 

Kinda self-explanatory this one: a naked man hanging himself in what may be the most bare-bones room imaginable reeks of misery.

 

Image may contain: people sitting, table, living room, plant and indoor
Jandek – Ready For The House

You know that way when you see something that looks so simple that it’s just kinda offputting? This Jandek record has a cover that fits that description perfectly: people other than myself have pointed out just how there’s some sort of aura about this artwork that makes them feel…uneasy. The album itself is out of tune and feels like it could have been crafted by a deluded individual, a kind of unnerving charm I guess, but even without listening to it, there’s an undeniable offness about this artwork.