4AD is the independent record label responsible for bringing us genre-defining acts such as The Cocteau Twins and The Pixies, to boundary-pushing modern artists such as Daughter and Grimes.
The label was founded in 1980 by friends Ivo Watts-Russell and Peter Kent, with financial backing from Beggars Banquet, a record store chain the pair worked for. Throughout the 80’s the British based label gained a reputation for backing trailblazers. Watts-Russell loathed all things trendy and “pop”, (despite being home to the first independently released No 1 single, M/A/R/R/S’ Pump Up The Volume, in 1987) and instead favoured musicians that reflected his own idiosyncratic worldview.
Through the works of company album cover designer Vaughan Oliver, the label curated a mysterious and enticing public image, which is often considered to be “goth/ethereal”. This notion irks Watts-Russell to this day, speaking with Mark Aston he said, “I was just responding to things I enjoyed, that I emotionally connected to, that had possibilities.“
In fact, what the founders loved most about the label’s name was its lack of ideology and precise meaning, almost directly juxtaposed to Manchester’s Factory Records. It could be whatever they, or indeed you wanted.
From the point of view of current 4AD artist Claire Boucher, AKA Grimes, “If the music industry is The Simpsons, 4AD is Lisa. She’s not the most popular person in the family but the cool, intelligent, subversive one. 4AD don’t sign buzz bands, they’re super-tasteful instead, and often distinctively feminine.” To this day, the label has signed a higher percentage of female artists than any other independent.
Another aspect of 4AD’s appeal was its musical collective This Mortal Coil. Quoting the label’s website:
This Mortal Coil was not a band, but a unique collaboration of musicians recording in various permutations, the brainchild of 4AD kingpin Ivo Watts-Russell. The idea was to allow artists the creative freedom to record material outside of the realm of what was expected of them; it also created the opportunity for innovative cover versions of songs personal to Ivo.
The group’s cover of Song to the Siren by Tim Buckley, with Elizabeth Frazer of the Cocteau Twins on vocals, peaked at number 66 on the UK charts and spent 101 weeks in the UK indie charts. This song among many others from the label has gone on to be used in film and TV soundtracks (Lost Highway, The Lovely Bones, Texas ChainsawMassacre) no doubt because of its deeply haunting qualities.
Top 5 4AD artists
Build on a teenage friendship between two Londoners Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson, Lush formed in 1987 and were one of the first groups to be given the label “Shoegaze”. Their track Ladykillers is a not so subtle dig at Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, who Berenyi met when playing Lollapalooza.
Despite eventually being dropped by the label for covering a T-Rex song which Watts-Russell reportedly despised, Bauhaus are hugely responsible for the gloomy, gothic reputation 4AD just can’t seem to shake. Their debut single Bela Lugosi’s Dead remained in the UK independent charts for a whopping two years and got them substantial airplay on Radio One’s John Peel show despite it being over nine minutes long.
Grimes is signed to both 4AD and Montreal Based Arbutus Records. Her work is much more electronic and, dare say, more pop than most acts associated with the label, which is probably why she’s their most commercially successful signing in modern years. At its core, however, her music has the same emotional charge and surging possibilities as any 80’s doom-monger.
The group had recorded a $1000 demo, which was initially overlooked by 4AD for being too “Rock n Roll”. Label boss Ivo Watts-Russell was at first reluctant to work with American artists, but changed his mind following some persuasion from his girlfriend who loved the band.
1. The Cocteau Twins
The Grangemouth trio are quintessential 4AD. Inspirational, yet never once copied, The Cocteau Twins are the exact sort of “trailblazers” sought out by the label bosses of past and present. Robin Guthrie’s infinite soundscapes coupled with Elizabeth Fraser’s soaring soprano vocal that at times abandons language altogether is a perfect combination. Listening to a Cocteau Twins record is like traveling to a different country or planet for the first time, and drinking in the culture in simple, visceral, primal ways.
While music is *shock* for your ears to enjoy, it was only a matter of time before it branched into a medium that could stimulate most, though maybe not all of your senses (only Spy Kids 4D can offer you that).
It’s been almost four decades since the first music video aired on MTV in 1979, aptly titled Video Killed The Radio Star by The Buggles, but since then, we’ve been blessed with experimental, haunting and evoking pieces of visual spectacle that have only gone to add to our enjoyment of certain music. Here are just five of these pieces, chose by none other than the writers of this very site – enjoy.
Oblivion is pretty simple in comparison to Grimes’ other more theatrical, character-based music videos. But somehow delivers the strongest message. Grimes puts herself in male-dominated spaces, reclaiming her body after sexual assault. Although such an intense topic, she manages to bridge the gap between her and the men in the video.
She breaks down the intimidating reputation sports arenas and male locker rooms have, as well as flipping the male-gaze on its head. The start shows her cautiously navigating unfamiliar places but the video ends with her standing tall amongst her male counterparts.
Gregor Farquharson (@grgratlntc): Lost Little Boys by Fatherson
The way this video follows two best friends dealing with the loss of one of their wives is beautiful – it shows the fun the three always had and the heartache of the man who’s lost his lover.
The feeling when we find out the best friend had an affair with the wife tears apart the viewer but when the two come together at the end and makeup, the emotion felt is unreal. Put together with a strong song, this music video is a real treat to watch.
Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro): Come To Daddy by Aphex Twin
While the videos so far have been about evoking empowerment or sadness, there’s one feeling we haven’t quick chatted about yet.
Seeing as it’s appeared on various “100 Scariest Moments of TV” lists, it should be no surprise that this one is a bit creepy. Filmed in the same estate that Stanley Kubrick’s classic A Clockwork Orange was, the video includes a gang of small children with Richard D James’ face wreaking havoc while an evil spirit emerges who’s face is very much nightmare worthy. Watch this one with the lights off.
The video for one of the NYC trio’s biggest hits really speaks for itself. The Beastie Boys took a much different approach to their videos in comparison to some of the more glamorous productions that became popular in the 90s. With that being said, the videos of the Beastie Boys were often just as extravagant, but took a less serious approach and implemented their unique style just as they had done with their music.
The video sees basically comes off as an 80s-cop movie, with plenty of moustaches and bad special effects. As their popularity increased, their music video budget seemed to stay the same as the video for Sabotage looks like a video made by the class clowns of a film class. This all plays into the Beastie Boys charm and makes for one of the funniest and most memorable music videos from the 90s.
Will Sexton (@willshesleeps): Sweetheart What Have You Done To Us by Keaton Henson
Keaton’s haunting musicianship alone is always enough to bring you to tears but the sheer vulnerability and simplicity of this music video bring it to a new level. The spacey guitar and vocals compliment the image of the open sea and staring straight into Henson’s eyes aren’t easy considering the pain and anguish expressed in the lyrics.
However, the climax of the song where it physically gets too much for the musician and he walks off set is hard to watch without feeling something at the very least. Whether it was scripted or not (knowing about his chronic stage fright and anxiety issues we would presume not) it doesn’t matter as the closing scene of him crying offset breaks your heart.
Claire Boucher, more commonly known as Grimes, has been flooding the internet with dreamy dance-inducing electro-pop for the best part of a decade. She succeeds where few other artists would dare to venture, managing to span across genres and appealing to various demographics, from brash ravers to gentle introverts. Her latest album, Art Angels, was released back in 2015 and given her recent clashes with record label 4AD, it might be a while until any new material drops. In the meantime, let’s look back at her top ten tracks.
Grimes manages to illustrate the uncomfortable bitterness of a relationship coming to an end while being at her most magically soft and dreamlike. This track changes pace as the song progresses as extreme high-pitched vocals go around in circles. ‘You touch me once again and somehow it stings/ ’cause I know it is the end’, her tone, refreshingly, remains calm despite the apparent heartbreak.
Rosa is one of Grimes’ most simple songs but manages to stick out as one of the strongest on her debut Geidi Primes. The bassline finds a way of sticking in your head even after the albums come to a close. Her vocals soar as layers and loops of various instruments build up gently.
Genesis is one of Grimes’ most beloved songs and the lead single from her 2012 album Visions. A bouncy beat, blankets of synth and ethereal vocals; it’s everything good about Grimes in one digestible four-minute bite.
7. My Sister Says the Saddest Things
Grimes‘ second album Halifaxa is a strong follow up to her debut. The entire record is beautifully uncomfortable, but it is My Sister Says the Saddest Things that changes the pace. Shaky percussion and childlike vocals blend together perfectly. The rawness of the lyrics is haunting, but somehow sound hopeful.
Vanessa is another one of Grimes‘ most well-known songs. She said in an interview with Dazed that her aim was to make a typical pop song but with eccentric elements. It appears she was successful. The beat could feel at home at a club, but the lyrics, as simple as they are, feel trancelike and distant.
Go was originally written for Rihanna, but the superstar ultimately turned down the offer. This is just as well because we could’ve missed out on this banger of a collaboration between Grimes and Blood Diamonds. It starts sounding like a standard magical Grimes track but builds into a huge bass-heavy EDM-esque composition.
4. Flesh without Blood
Flesh without Blood is a standout track from 2015’s Art Angels. It’s a fast paced and punchy pop song, and a step in a different direction for Grimes. Compared to her older, darker tracks, Flesh without Blood is bold. The vocals still echo, but they are clearer and more assured. ‘I don’t care anymore’ floods over the constant percussion, suggesting that Grimes is no longer hiding behind intangible lyrics.
3. Shadout Mapes
The start of Shadout Mapes is a far cry from the pop-y Grimes we know today. Released on her debut album Geidi Primes, this track is dark, eerie and heart-wrenching. Percussion and strings fold over wailing vocals, creating one of the songs that showed us Grimes was one to look out for.
2. Kill V. Maim
This is the strongest song on Art Angels. The mix of vocals is what makes it so special. Grimes jumps from sugary singing to screaming to some of her most ‘normal’ sounding vocals in her discography. It blends together to make an aggressively captivating song, one that Boucher said she wrote with the idea of it playing during an action sequence in a movie.
The number one spot has to go to Oblivion. Although one of Grimes’ most successful tracks, Oblivion deals with the intimidating and difficult topic of sexual assault and the aftermath it creates. Grimes isn’t a stranger to creating contradicting sounds. Often, she goes for cute nonsensical lyrics and pairs them with dark intense production. Or in this case, the opposite. Oblivion is a syrupy sweet dance song accompanied by morbid lyrics. Paired with the music video, in which Grimes puts herself in male-dominated spaces, this song encapsulates the devastating effect assault can have. But it also shows the empowerment that comes with reclaiming yourself while you heal.
words and header by liam menzies (@blnkclyr) unless specified
Remember how phenomenal that one song you heard from 2017 was? That album that you couldn’t stop yourself from spinning as soon as it had reached the end of its vinyl? At this point in the year, it can be all too easy to look back with rose-tinted glasses at the year that has passed and while it was great, it would be idiotic of us to ignore what the next 12 months have in store for us. We may very well miss out on some of your hotly anticipated ones, whether that be the album being hidden at the time of writing or sheer ignorance, but the team has put their heads together to come up with this list of the records we can’t wait to get into our ears…
Black Foxxes – Reoli
Why:Another band that you REALLY should be listening to, Devonshire trio Black Foxxes will be releasing Reoli on March 16th. Their debut album, I’m Not Well, came out in 2016 to high praise, and whilst the themes in the album, including depression, anxiety & frontman Mark Holley’s struggle with Crohn’s disease are a heavy drink of water, the album is incredibly listenable and a must have on anyone’s playlist. Whilst only one song has broken cover from this album, the smart gambler would put a few chips on this being a dark horse in the album of the year contest. – oliver butler (@notoliverbutler)
When: 16th March 2018.
Blood Orange – LP4
Why: Having released one of 2016’s most underrated records Freetown Sound, Dev Hynes is set to follow it up with his fourth full-length album this year. It seems set to be a challenging, introspective listen if his 2017 interview is anything to go by: “A lot of the new songs on the new album deal with growing up and childhood in England [..] looking at the country that made me”. Admitting that it’ll be a little dark in the same piece, Blood Orange LP4 is set to be an important listen.
Why: After the, let’s be honest, far better than it had any right to be SATURATION trilogy, you’d be forgiven for being a bit burned out on the best boy band since One Direction. But it just seems that that isn’t the case at all. Now free from any continuity restrictions that the Saturation trilogy enforced them to, this next album will hopefully see even more innovation and surprises from BROCKHAMPTON. – ethan woodford (@human_dis4ster) & jake cordiner (@jjjjaketh)
Why: Before you rush into the comments to tell us that Twin Fantasy was released in 2011 – we know, you’re not special for knowing that. The reason this Car Seat Headrest album is included on our list is down to Will Toledo mistakenly announcing via a now taken down listing that a re-release will be happening. However, as opposed to the traditional meaning, Toledo has the benefit of a bigger budget, a full band in fine form, and endless time to tinker, meaning what we’ll get seven years later will be the album he really wanted to make.
When: Feb 16th.
Codist – LP2
Why: Sleep? Who needs it?! The Codist boys certainly don’t seem to need any as they’re set to drop the follow up to their 2016 debut Nuclear Family (which was pretty fucking good). Having dropped an EP last year on the newly founded LP Records label, we’re psyched to see what this Glasgow rock outfit have tucked away for us.
Why: After a successful collaboration with Kurt Vile on Lotta Sea Lice, fans of Courtney Barnett are eager to see what the up and coming Australian artist is going to ramble about on a new LP. Sometimes I Sit And Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit was one of the best albums of 2015 due to its undeniable charm and with some well-earned experience from subsequent ventures, we’re excited to see what changes she’ll be making on this record.
Why: If the fact that this Detroit rapper’s last album Atrocity Exhibition was our 2016 Album Of The Year isn’t enough to get you pumped up then what’s wrong with you? Danny Brown crafted one of the most exciting and wholly original hip-hop albums of the century alongside Paul White and with this new album set to be “produced by one producer, who’s legendary in hip-hop“, we can’t wait to see what path Danny leads us on.
Why:Dorothy are probably the best band you’ve never heard of. Or, if you’ve heard of them, one of the best new bands on your radar. Signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label, the bluesy brawlers will be releasing 28 Days in the Valley this year, their follow up to 2016’s ROCKISDEAD. Mixing heavy, bluesy rock with frontwoman Dorothy Martin’s swelling vocals, Dorothy have a crunching modern sound that’s full of classic influences. – oliver butler (@notoliverbutler)
Why: Hopefully set to return after almost a 3-year absence, Sheffield trio Drenge will look to return with a vengeance. Looking to combine the best aspects from their different but both excellent albums so far, LP 3 will no doubt be well worth the wait. – ethan woodford (@human_dis4ster)
Why: While the critical reception to the band’s much-anticipated comeback album Humanz wasn’t what anyone was hoping for, that doesn’t mean we aren’t any less excited for what’s to come. Not much is known about it at the moment but if it’s a Gorillaz record, expect it to be grandiose, entertaining and ignite a lot of discussions.
Why: Explaining in an Instagram video she’s been “in the studio every day trying to legit make something you’ve never heard before”, Canadian artist Claire Boucher has consistently impressed since her 2010 debut and her upcoming LP seems to be no different. With a focus on being fresh and exciting, Art Angels managed to win Grimes a lot of new fans and whatever she has next will, regardless of quality, keep them as well as old enthusiasts surprised.
Why: After impressing everyone with their debut studio album Floss and further keeping that smile on our faces with last year’s Drive It Like It’s Stolen EP, this zany and fresh hip-hop outfit seem set to keep the golden streak running with a follow up LP. “we’re about to go hole up in a cabin in northern Arizona and simultaneously put together the best tour of 2018 and the best album of our career so far” is what Parker Corey said recently on his Twitter so with their confidence so high, it’s appropriate to get suitably hyped for LP2.
Why: Marking 15 years since their landmark debut Turn On The Bright Lights, Interpol have performed the album in its entirety across a series of sold-out shows this year. Such a momentous occasion felt like the perfect time to wheel out some new material, which is precisely what happened at London’s Alexandra Palace. Included in the encore was Real Life, the first taste of what to expect from their follow up to El Pintor – a mouth-watering prospect as we wait to see what direction their post-Carlos D era takes them in. – kieran cannon (@kiercannon)
Why: It might be cool to hate on chart music but if there’s an artist who manages to make even the biggest of bucket hat wearing indie lads bop to a pop tune, it’s probably gonna be Justin Timberlake. With this pretense, you might expect another slick listen but from what has been teased so far, expect something more akin to Bon Iver than anything else – that might repulse some but for people like ourselves who wish to see big stars push themselves in interesting directions, we’re utterly intrigued to see what Man Of The Woods has to show.
When: Feb 2nd.
Kanye West – Turbo Grafx 16
Why: When you have the late, great Lou Reed praising you then you must be doing something right and the ever egotistical Kanye West looks set to continue his golden run with his new gaming inspired record Turbo Grafx 16. With the record set to feature sampling from the likes of No More Heroes and Super Mario Galaxy in addition to hosting appearances from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Chance The Rapper and Young Thug, Kanye may be set to deliver the oddest record of 2018.
Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons – Age of Absurdity
Why: After hitting the road playing a mix of originals and covers, plus a six-track EP in 2016, Phil Campbell and his band of bastardy men are ready to release their first full-length album; Age of Absurdity. So far, this band has proven that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as Phil’s sons Todd, Tyla & Dane are all incredibly talented musicians in their own right. – oliver butler (@notoliverbutler)
When: January 26th.
Screaming Females – All At Once
Why: A band we weren’t aware of up until a recent Spotify recommendation, Screaming Females packs in one of the best rock/punk vocalists in the form of Marissa Paternoster who is just on the mic as she is on the guitar. First cut off All At Once, titled Glass House, is anthemic and builds up to a climax that blurs the line between shaky and untenable: if that’s anything to go by then this LP will prove to be one of 2018’s best rock albums.
When: Feb 23rd
Simon Neil – ZZC
Why: Big Si dropped a track on Christmas Day, so that’s good enough for me to believe his long-teased solo effort is finally almost here. The aforementioned track, titled The Myth, is a 7 and a half minute long instrumental that goes from orchestral to mathy as fuck rock at the drop of a hat. It’s really, REALLY good, and if it’s an indication of the direction of rest of the album, it sounds like the untethered, mental Simon Neil that die-hard Biffy Clyro fans have been pining for is back, and back with a vengeance. – jake cordiner (@jjjjaketh)
Why: While the band members themselves certainly haven’t been slacking, whether that be contributing to anime or making their own solo album, it’s been a long ass time since Vampire Weekend last blessed us with some new music – half a decade to be exact. With the likes of Kanye West being cited as an inspiration for the yet untitled fourth LP, it’s hard not to be intrigued by what the New York lads have in store for us.
While Canadian musician Grimes said she was set to take a well deserved break after releasing her critically acclaimed 2015 album Art Angels, it seems like we may be hearing new material sooner rather than later.
In a Q+A session with Rolling Stone, Grimes, real name Claire Boucher, described the new album as being more chilled out than her previous LP:
With Art Angels, it was all like [growls]. This would be more chill vibes, downtempos, synth-y shit. That makes it sound boring. It’s not boring.
So it’s clear that the sound that Boucher went for last time around, which was in part an attack on people thinking she was “too cute and scared to engage”, will at least be getting a breather. However, she also stated that she is planning more than one album:
“You know how Lana Del Rey put out Paradise Edition after Born To Die? It would be like that. There are songs I seriously considered for Art Angels, but they fucked with the momentum when I tried to put them on the record.”
So what do you make of this news? Personally I can’t complain as Art Angels was one of the best albums I heard last year so the more, the merrier! Let me know what you think in the comments down below and follow this blog for more news and reviews.
Today is March 8th and if you haven’t been on any social media (which you will have, how else did you find this) then you’ll be unaware to the fact that today is International Women’s Day, an event where females all over the world celebrate their identity and go to great lengths to empower one another. It’s undoubtedly an important day and I couldn’t let it go by without doing something about it which is what resulted in me writing these very words that you’re reading and listing my favourite current female musicians .
From successful solo acts to women fronted bands, there’s no exceptions to who gets included though I feel the need to state that I’m only choosing five, just so I don’t ramble for too long as I could do it for days. Throughout this post I’ll be including all of your favourites that you suggested via Facebook and Twitter but anyway, let’s get down to business and start this list!
Who is she? Claire Elise Boucher is a Canadian singer, songwriter who is best known for her stage name Grimes and her unique, inconsistent sound that ranges from hip hop influenced to medieval music to sweet, infectious pop. At the age of 27, Grimes already has four LPS under her belt, her latest two receiving serious critical acclaim and multiple album of the year accolades.
Best work? Art Angels is Boucher’s magnum opus: a vibrant, varied and vicious piece of work that displays her creativity as well as her beautiful vocals that soar through her well polished and glistening synths. California is a sickeningly sweet and catchy track that will infest your mind with its positive aura while songs like laughing and not being normal and Kill V. Maim show that side of Grimes which remind you why she stands out from the crowd
Who is she?
BBC Sound of 2015 nominee SOAK, real name Bridie Monds-Watson, is an Irish singer songwriter who just last year released her debut LP Before We Forgot How To Dream to positive reviews. Her dream pop sound is perfectly accompanied by insightful lyrics about teenage struggles, most notably one’s image of themselves.
While she may have only released one studio album so far, quality over quantity is a rule that applies to SOAK. New listeners are best going for B A Nobody that features this aforementioned insight, showing concerns about never amounting to anything and battles with depression. Who said dream pop had to be happy?
Who is she?
Singer, songwriter, rapper Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam is best known for her song Paper Planes that everyone will know for its catchy chorus and register noises rather than for its tale of murdering thieves. One of the most important artists in the world right now, MIA injects her activism into her work whenever she can and does so in a masterful way that shows her passion for not only what she makes but for what she believes in.
M.I.A’s fourth LP Matangi’s name is not only a nod to her own name but also to the hindu god of music and learning which is clear as day on this album. Recorded at various locations around the world, Matangi is fresh and full to the brim with infectious beats and the makings of a well crafted electronic but with the perfect touch of M.I.A herself.
Who is she?
Grammy nominee and hailing from the land of kangaroos and koalas, Courtney Barnett is the first woman on this list to not use a stage name and another great example of a woman in music who never ceases to amaze. Although she’s only released one album, the album in question Sometimes I Sit And Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit was one of the best debuts of 2015, gathering lovely critical reception in addition to this.
You can’t really go wrong with Barnett as her witty songwriting capabilities and deadpan delivery are prevalent on both her debut LP and previous EPS, making her entire discography worth a listen due to the abundance of well crafted tracks and self contained stories.
Who is she?
South-Korean born Karen O is best known as the front woman for American rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs, an act that emerged during the noughties new york rise that included The Strokes and Interpol. Not only that but Karen has a successful solo career with her first album Crush Songs being released in 2014.
A tough choice as her work with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is exceptional but it would be a sin not to recommend her collaborations with Spike Jonze, most notably the song she provided for the Her soundtrack The Moon Song. There’s no real way to go wrong but the best starting point is most likely It’s Blitz, the third LP by her band with an ever present synth punk sound that makes the album one you’ll have on loop.
2015 has been one of the most eventful years in recent history. A year just as full of tragedy as it was brimming with joyous occasions that put a smile on our faces.
An annual event since 2013 when I made my first compilation of best albums, here’s another Best Of from us here at blinkclyro.com. As always, we have another great cast of talented writers who have helped with this list of sorts with more contributors than ever. I’ll be giving my favourite of each respective category at the end of the month because my real aim in all of this isn’t to further inflate my already tiny ego: it’s to be a platform for opinions and that’s what will be on show today. Don’t agree with any of them? Then leave your rage induced comment down below.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started.
If 2014 didn’t please you enough, 2015 had the return of not one but two gigantic series: Mad Max and Star Wars, both of which have been critically lauded. With this in mind, let’s see what entertained us most on the big screen.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
You may think this choice comes from either fanboyism or nostalgia, and while both of those things are true, after one showing I can say that the Force Awakens is better than all of the prequels combined.
The plot is very reminiscent and will feel familiar to fans of the original Star Wars, but with that said the power of this film to play on the hearts of fans cannot be underestimated. To be back in the universe that I love is such a great feeling. JJ has achieved what he set out to do, with use of practical effects and shooting on location, everything is real! From the sweat on Finn’s face on Jakku to the bitter cold of the Starkiller base. The Force has awakened. Have you felt it?
What can be said about Sicario that has not already been said? it’s a great exploration of both suspenseful filmmaking and unexpected character development that twists and turns at every chance it gets. Emily Blunt, an FBI agent is thrown into the deep end of the Cartel infested pool of Juarez Mexico. Alongside a CIA spook played brilliantly by the overbearing and charismatic Benecio Del Toro, Blunt finds the lines of morality blurred as a shooting at the Mexico/US border leaves her startled and losing a grip on her own sense of purpose and life. Film of the year so far, presented brilliantly by Denis Villenevue.
Mad Max: Fury Road
This summer’s blockbuster season was ‘mediocre’ in the words of Fury Road’s main antagonist, Immortan Joe. At least Mad Max redeems it somewhat. Fury Road is almost a documentary on how create a world with only a camera and practical effects. Through visionary George Miller’s keen eye for detail, what he creates is an adrenaline fuelled punch to the senses and then a hefty dose of nitrous oxide to our bodies. With real vehicles pushed to almost 200mph and a hell of a lot of stunt actors jumping across the chase vehicles rode by our main protagonists played by Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, Fury Road is one hell of a motherf****** ride.
Straight Outta Compton
I don’t think anyone expected this. Not even me. Straight Outta Compton is the story behind some of the past centuries’ greatest hip-hop artists including: Dr.Dre, Ice Cube, Tupac and Eazy-E. The story of why these Niggas With Attitude became so famous is one that will definitely pull your heartstrings right out of your chest. Come to think of it now, I don’t think there has been another film this year that has moved me the way this film did. The struggle of a movement, powered through music and brutal words that speak of a reality known to many back in the 80’s, Straight Outta Compton is a must see for everyone. Emphasis on Must see.
From book to film, it’s another one of these adaptations. Only this one is superbly done, like really well done! Of course, one expects nothing less from Ridley Scott, even if he has been letting himself down lately (I won’t even go into his Prometheus shenanigans) The Martian throws Matt Damon onto our red neighbouring planet as a stranded astronaut who must survive for over 300 days on a planet that doesn’t support life. Now this sounds like another gritty Gravity type scenario, but it’s far from. While it’s visually just as beautiful, it takes the more light hearted route and gives us a feel good space film, distancing itself from both the past two years massive budget sci-fi films. The Martian is definitely a beautiful and just god damn fun film to watch. So go watch!
6 years is a powerful film from 2015, starring the likes of Taissa Farmiga, better known for her role in American Horror Story and Ben Rosenfield. The story follows a couple who hold a ‘perfect’ and idyllic relationship. Their love seems to hold no ends while they engage in ‘typical’ teenage life; parties, friendships and careers. Director, Hannah Fidell, really leaves you feeling like this is what you want in your own life.
Yet as the plot unravels we view their relationship to turn sour and, more importantly, violent. New sides of the characters are evident as their conflictions tear their relationship apart, until eventually they break up.
Ultimately, 6 years, leaves the viewer understanding that violence can be present in any relationship, at any point, while personally feeling the loss and pain that the characters suffered, as simultaneously their relationship and who they are unravelled.
Absolutely Anything was an easy choice for me, despite the bad reviews it received that made me neglect watching it until only weeks ago. It’s a typical film starring Simon Pegg – funny, touching (in a strange way), but it leaves you wanting more and wondering ‘what if that was me’. The plot follows a school teacher, whose life seems to be going not so well, until aliens provide him with powers to do anything.
We see he struggles to comprehend this initially, which portrays how differently his life is under this influence, including his romantic interests and work relationships. His now talking dog was a favourite of mine, bringing a whole new life to the wonder of what pets actually think.
Absolutely Anything is a feel good film that will definitely get you laughing.
Paper Towns was an eagerly awaited film of 2015 due to being based upon John Green’s book of the same title. John Green also wrote ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ which was also adapted into a film the previous year.
Director, Jake Schreier, creates a moving yet powerful film that explores the mysteries of people and life in general, as we follow the adventures that emerge when childhood friends, Quentin and Margo, are reunited. The inherently young adult nature of the film provokes a definite sense of growing up, (and ultimately moving on). Yet it shows you to make the most of what you have as we see Quentin’s character evolve with confidence and happiness. Ultimately, Paper Towns leaves you feeling nostalgic, and sad in a strange ‘did I do enough’ way, yet it is equally beautiful in the characters present and the way it appears upon screen.
In a year that saw the rise of grime, a barrage of AAA rock releases and a terrorist attack at a gig (the heart of the art), here’s the best albums 2015 had to offer.
5. Bring Me The Horizon – That’s the Spirit
I don’t know how this happened. BMTH are a band I thought i’d grown out of, but here they are in 2015, dragging me back. This record is an absolute slobberknocker. 11 songs of sheer melodic metal mastery. Frontman Oli Sykes and the boys have been noticeably improving with each album they’ve released since 2006’s ‘Count Your Blessings’, and this is the album where their talents are truly realised.
In my humble opinion, this is the years essential metal album. Cracking stuff.
4. The Cribs – For All My Sisters
Ah, The Cribs. Anyone who knows me knows that my love for the Jarman brothers and their musical output knows no bounds, and this album does not disappoint. Recorded with The Cars Ric Ocasek, this is by far The Cribs poppiest album, filled to the brim with fantastic melodies (see album opener Finally Free, what a bloody chorus). However, the guitar work on this album shines brightest for me. Some of the riffs on this thing are sublime (That’s not to say Gary and Ross aren’t exceptional, however.)
In short, for all my sisters is the Cribs at their best: heavy, poppy, brilliant.
3. Sleaford Mods – Key Markets
What a fucking album this is. For those out of the know, Sleaford Mods are a two piece, politically charged post-punk band from Nottingham, England. Members Jordan Williamson and Andrew Fearn are angry. Very angry. Attacking a variety of well deserving targets (Tories to people being cunts at their gigs), the boys desecrate their chosen victims with scathing aplomb. The most surprising thing about this album, for me, is just how funny it is. Williamson’s wit really shines on Key Markets (“You live in Carlton you twat, you’re not Snake fucking Plissken”).
But it’s not all fun and games with Sleaford Mods, and that’s maybe what I like about them. They don’t take themselves too seriously, but they’d never let you think that. Slaves who?
2. Foals – What Went Down
What Went Down is the result of a band realising their full potential. This is Foals magnum opus, an absolute joy of a record. One thing I’ve always admired about Foals is their ability to go from skullfuckingly heavy (What Went Down) to utterly, utterly gorgeous (London Thunder) on the same album. It sounds like two different bands at the same time as it sounds distinctly Foals.
They’re dancey, they’re powerful, they’re beautiful, they’re Foals. And, simply put, they’re one of the best bands on the planet.
1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
It couldn’t be anything else, could it? Leagues above anything else released this year, TPAB is quite simply one of the best albums of all time. There really isn’t much I can say about this album that hasn’t been said countless times by countless other journalists. There are not enough superlatives in the English language to describe what Kendrick managed to create with this album.
Tackling his inner demons head on, the songs truly seem to serve as a release for Lamar, he bares his very soul on some tracks on here (particularly “U”, “The Blacker the Berry” and the ending speech from lead single “i”). To Pimp a Butterfly is as funny as it is politically minded. Lamar really has struck a perfect balance between #Banger and social consciousness.
If, for any reason you haven’t listened to this album. I heartily advise you do so. I can almost guarantee you’ll love it.
Wavves and Cloud Nothings- No Life for Me
I guess it’s technically an EP and not an album but I’ll include it anyway because I march to the beat of my own decisions, as they say. Wavves have always been one of those airy-fairy-here-we-go-touch-the-surf-man kind of bands for me but with the addition, and dare I say guidance, of Cloud Nothings something magical happens- like when someone actually touches the surf, man. The title track is a stand out with a ridiculous amount of drive and energy from the very start. It blends the two bands’ sounds like a lovely audio cake mix, ready to be put in the oven at gas mark fun.
The closing track “Nothing Hurts” takes a more sombre approach leaving behind the drum heavy sound of the rest of the EP in favour of jangly guitars and a warm layer of synth which is uncharacteristically evocative for a song that doesn’t even last 2 minutes (which is the amount of time it’s supposed to take you to brush your teeth but who does that? Am I right?).
Trust Fund- Seems Unfair
It’s quite hard to write about this one to be honest. Seems Unfair only came out at the end of October but I’ve already killed it for myself by having it on repeat for the last few weeks. I guess this is a testament to the album in a way- there was nothing else I wanted to listen to when I knew that I could be treating my ears to this gem. This is the second Trust Fund album of the year and the progression is pretty apparent: The drum sound is noticeably better, the songs are, at times, a little darker and the tone of the album as a whole is a bit more coherent. I know it’s a cliché but it sounds like the band has grown up a lot since February. I bloody love it.
(Side note- I missed Trust Fund supporting Speedy Ortiz earlier in the year but I caught Ellis after the gig and promised to bake them a loaf of bread for the next time they play in Glasgow. I’m a man of my word and now a man of yeast and flour).
Sufjan Stevens- Carrie and Lowell
Lots of people weren’t all that keen on Age of Adz (2010) because it was such a departure from Stevens’ usual laid back, haunting style. This album sees a return to the utterly-melancholic following the death of Sufjan’s mother some years back. This tragic stimulus inspired some of his most beautiful songs to date as the album veers from heart wrenching (Blue Bucket of Gold) to lilting/terrifying (Fourth of July) and back again with the grace of seven swans (see what I did there? I don’t know if it counts as a joke but it’s a reference at the very least). It’s definitely not one to listen to alone on your birthday in a dark room round the back of the butchers.
I promise this didn’t happen to me, but if it had happened my reviews would be written in shit on a wall because of the immense emotional vulnerability that I’d be overcome with. Once again, this didn’t happen to me. It didn’t. I’m fine. Just let it go.
Honourable mention: Built To Spill- Untethered Moon
THIS BAND IS STILL WRITING GREAT MUSIC HOW DO THEY DO IT.
1 – Motӧrhead – Bad Magic
Forty years. That’s how long Lemmy & friends have been plugging it in, turning it up, and playing it loud. Recent health scares have caused the big man to discard his trademark diet of whiskey and speed, but couldn’t water down the sonic force that is Motӧrhead. This year saw the release of Bad Magic, the 22nd studio offering from the band, but still as raw as the eponymous debut album in 1977. Before you’ve even sat down to experience another rock ‘n’ roll punch to the face, Lemmy’s scream of ‘Victory or Die’, followed by a shock & awe aural assault.
The most notable highlight of a solid a 22nd album that any band could offer is the slowed down, lighters up, tears in your eyes ‘Til the End’, the most emotional Motӧrhead track ever penned, and one of the diamonds on the album. There’s nothing more to be said for a band, and more specifically a man, that is a true blue rock and roll star. Not a stereotype, not a poser, just a man who plays it loud, blows your eardrums out, and steals your girlfriend. God bless Lemmy Kilmister.
2 – Enter Shikari – The Mindsweep
They just can’t make a bad album, can old Shikari. Their youthful aggression has been channelled into a sonic rebellion, and 2015’s The Mindsweep was no stranger to the danger we all face. If nothing else, Rou and the gang are hardwired into the dire state of affairs this world is in.
In a rallying cry to dispel hate & care for your fellow human, ‘The Appeal & The Mindsweep I’ starts off a frank & noisy tour through the current state of affairs, screaming at the idea of privatised healthcare in ‘Anaesthetist’, refusing to be beaten in ‘The Last Garrison’, talking about the emperor & the arctic fox, and more seriously, the perils of global in ‘Myopia’, the absolutely thrashing fistfight that is ‘There’s A Price on Your Head’, and the only track that’s made me cry repeatedly this year, ‘Dear Future Historians’, which is probably one of the best tracks Shikari have ever put out. Also tipping my fedora to the iTunes bonus track ‘Slipshod’ & the video for offering a bit of comedy on an album that could be a political manifesto for one of the good parties.
Referencing only a few tracks on this album hasn’t done the album justice, because the whole album is a finely-crafted masterpiece, so do yourself a favour and get mindswept.
(Honourable mention for the Hospitalised version of this record)
3 – Broken Hands – Turbulence
CURVEBALL TIME. This was literally a fatal four-way between Foals, BMTH, Muse & these guys for my final album of the year, but the scrappy underdog just powerbombed those behemoths through the canvas. If you’ve heard of Broken Hands, you’ll be smugly pursing your lips, nodding in agreeance that Broken Hands are probably the most exciting band you’ve never listened to. Below will be a brief overview of their album, but don’t worry about that, just grab a copy of Turbulence & crack on. Doing a concept album is brave. Doing a concept album as your debut album is exceedingly brave, but what’s fear to Broken Hands, they’ve supported the Rolling Stones! They’re influenced by Hawkwind! WHY ARE YOU STILL READING THIS? The album references flight & planes throughout, with the first track ‘Spectrum’ kicks off with ‘There’s a jet engine in my head’, and we’ve all felt like that in some way shape or form. We then journey into the bouncy little jam they call ‘Meteor’, a slowed down singalong for ‘Impact’, which I’d gladly slowdance at my wedding to, another moody tome in the form of ‘747’ where the sustaining voice of Dale Norton prays for doom, death and destruction to come soon and keeps erm, sustaining (honestly he can hold a note longer than Arsene Wenger can hold a job. Really nice guy too, had a chat with all of them and they’re a great bunch of lads, even if they were terrible musicians you’d want them to do well because they’re nice guys).
The fact that in my twisted worldview, their debut is enough to trump some of modern rock’s biggest heavyweights, take influence from some of the rock and roll gods including Hawkwind, Sabbath and Motӧrhead and turn it into an experience, and that says a lot about their future.
3. Lana Del Rey – Honeymoon
Typically lugubrious though Ultraviolence was, Del Rey truly bought her A-game back with her third album in three years. Where Ultraviolence fell down with its tendency for bland album tracks, Honeymoon was full of heart-wrenching and nostalgic tunes such as The Blackest Day, Salvatore and the Bond theme-esque 24.
It’s Elizabeth Grant doing what she does best: pining about drug lords and establishing her iron-clad aesthetic as the all-American girl stuck in the wrong era. Beautiful,elegiac and razor-edged.
2. Peace – Happy People
The Birmingham quartet have firmly established themselves as major players on the indie music scene. Happy People, their second album, sees them continue with their breezy, catchy brand of indie pop. Gems include the radio-friendly Lost on Me and Money, in which satire is made of the modern day careerist mindset: ‘You’re going to be happy, you’re going to be rich.’
The light-heartedness of Harrison Koisser and co. make them a refreshing change from some of the more glum faced present day rock bands, and this album shows their potential as a crowd-pleasing headliner.
1. Grimes – Art Angels
The second female artist on this list with a kooky alias, Grimes somehow managed to outdo Visions, the demonic album that your religious aunt would probably frown upon, and one that took her from underground to mainstream with its heavy beats and otherworldly music videos. The long awaited Art Angels is Visions with added sweetness and a pair of fangs: it is Claire Boucher, established and unafraid of mixing the feminine with the fierce.
Instead of deep voice distortions we have tinny electronic instrumentals and girlish Taiwanese rap, and it somehow all works perfectly.
Television was once seen as the inferior alternative when compared to movies: now TV gives the cinema experience a run for its money with some brilliantly made shows gracing our screens. Was 2015 any different? Let’s find out.
I’m a student; a university student, to be exact, and if there’s one thing that my £9,000 a year education (bloody Tories) has taught me so far, it’s that there’s a hell of a lot of TV waiting to be watched when I have essays that need doing. With that said, it’s time to dive in to my retrospective on the top five TV shows of 2015.
#5 Louie (Season 5)
Even in its fifth season, when the majority of sitcoms begin to run out of steam, Louie only gets better. More comedic than the fourth, the fifth season proves that there is still endless comic potential in a show about a sad, white father (it’s funny, trust me).
#4 Empire (Seasons 1 and 2)
The numbers don’t lie; Empire is the first series in at least 23 years to gain viewers each week for its first five episodes. A gritty, dramatic soap opera for the 2010s, it’s caught fire extremely quickly, and it’s easy to see why; Taraji P. Henson’s iconic turn as Cookie Lyon has cemented her position as one of the most talented actresses right now. 50 Cent might think there’s “too much gay stuff” (really, Fiddy?) but the rest of us can’t get enough.
#3 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Season 1)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt fills the 30 Rock-sized hole in my heart, in a very good way; the dizzying, interlocking jokes have Tina Fey’s wonderful fingerprints all over them. It’s a blindingly funny tale of a girl finding her way in New York after spending the majority of her life in an underground Doomsday cult, but for my money, it’s the flawless Titus Andromedon that steals the show. Trust me, you’ll have Pinot Noir in your head for weeks, and you’ll soon be counting down the days until the next season is available for streaming (Spring 2016, folks)
#2 BoJack Horseman (Season 2)
The second season of BoJack Horseman, another golden dingleberry from the gloriously clean Netflix Original butthole, is dark, layered, and hilarious. It’s the type of show that rewards the viewer for watching; its fast, densely-packed dialogue reveals more and more upon each subsequent watch, and every episode guarantees you a startling cocktail of belly laughter and deeply emotional introspection. It’s odd to think that in 2015, the TV show that provides the most accurate portrayal of mental health issues is an animated sitcom about a talking horse played by Will Arnett, but that’s where we are right now, and I love it.
#1 Master of None (Season 1)
Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix sitcom has it all: pasta, relationships, pasta, informed feminist rhetoric, pasta, Eric Wareheim, and pasta. The dude loves pasta. He tackles important subjects such as interracial dating, sexual harassment, racism in the media, and most importantly, how to get the best tacos in New York City. Most of all, however, Master of None is fucking real; Aziz approaches problem subjects like racism and sexism and handles them with a refreshing openness and honesty that’s unlike anything on network television, while not straying into preachy territory. Aziz changed the god-damn game with this one.
It’s been over a year since the beginning of the television spin-off to the Coen brothers’ cult film Fargo and as its second season comes to an end, Lorne Malvo and Lester Nygaard are names of the past. Many were anxious that the second season in Noah Hawley’s darkly comical anthology would not live up to the first due to it’s new cast and storyline set almost thirty years before the first. However, those worries were put to rest within the first couple of episodes as Fargo season two has proven to be one of the best shows on television this winter.
This time the story follows a young Lou Salverson (Patrick Wilson) in 1979 as he is caught up in the struggle between the menacing Gerhardt clan and the Kansas City Mob. Wilson is not alone in this all star ensemble however as he is joined by the likes of Kirsten Dunst and Ted Danson who along with the rest of the cast, thoroughly display their talent throughout. Bruce Campbell also pops up to do his best Ronald Regan in the season’s fifth episode.
Once again writer Noah Hawley gives us an enticing and entertaining story from start to finish with his clever dialogue and colourful characters. From the paranoia between accidental murderers Peggy and Ed Blomquist (Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons respectively) to the insidious journey of the hired hand, Hanzee (Zahn McClarnon) there is plenty going on throughout, but it all comes together in the thrilling penultimate episode. There’s also a subplot involving UFO’s but let’s not get into that right now. The Coens themselves are only executive producers on the show but fear not Coen fans as there are multiple references to their films throughout (most notably through the choice of music used this season).
Along with the stellar acting and cleverly woven script the show is also visually appealing, once again filmed in the beautiful Calgary, Alberta. The snow-covered landscapes and coniferous forests contrast with the violent events that develop around them.
One worry many people (including myself) was that nobody could top Billy Bob Thornton’s performance as Lorne Malvo last season. While this is arguable, there are several characters who definitely come close, most notably the previously mentioned Hanzee and the silver-tongued Mike Milligan (Bokeem Woodbine). These two characters contrast each other, the former being silent and reserved while the other is talkative and extravagant, although they rarely ever interact they certainly make just as good villains as Malvo in the previous season. There are other memorable roles such as Campbell’s Ronald Regan and the always entertaining Nick Offerman as the paranoid Karl Weathers, a character reminiscent of Walter Sobchack from another Coen brother’s film, The Big Lebowski.
The final episode of this season may come across as underwhelming to some, most characters are essentially where they were at the beginning, but that’s most likely why it’s titled Pallindrome. It wraps up some things but also leaves a lot of loose ends that leave viewers thinking, maybe Hawley will give us some closure if a third season happens but as The Soprano’s once proved, sometimes less is more.
Definitely living up to it’s previous season and opening multiple doors for a third, the second season of Fargo has been one of the highlights of television in 2015. Noah Hawley once again creates a variety of colourful and contrasting characters that he uses to weave his darkly comical crime story against the snowy Minnesota backdrop. Those who loved season one will love this one just the same despite the absence of fan favourite Billy Bob Thornton, they may even love it more.
It has some minor issues such as certain characters and plots being underdeveloped but all in all, Fargo season two is a unique and entertaining experience which has been a pleasure to watch from start to finish.