Mom Jeans’ Eric Butler Discusses Touring, Collabs and Latest LP ‘Puppy Love’

words by Ryan Martin (@ryanmartin182)

Mom Jeans is a four-piece emo outfit hailing from southern California. After releasing their debut Best Buds in 2016, the world was introduced to their bouncy and addictive melodies that set the background for their aching post-breakup lyrics. The album really hit home for a lot of fans and garnered a mass cult following, all anxious to watch the band make their next move. Since then, Mom Jeans have been touring relentlessly, mostly with bands surrounding the independent label, Counter Intuitive Records. CI, (Counter Intuitive) has quickly become one of the most exciting up-and-coming labels in indie music for their roster of fresh and exciting new bands, most of whom exist within the indie/emo scene. Mom Jeans put out their first record on Counter Intuitive and planned to put out their second on SideOneDummy, home to acts such as PUP and Rozwell Kid. But when SideOneDummy began to slip and stopped signing new bands, Mom Jeans took it back to CI to release their second full-length, Puppy Love. I got the chance to chat with lead vocalist and songwriter Eric Butler to get a more in-depth look behind the album.

RM: Was there any pressure during the writing process for the album? Best Buds really clicked with so many people and really brought the band to another level of popularity. Did you feel Puppy Love had to have the same impact or were there any thoughts of trying to capitalize on what made the first record so special?

EB: I mean honestly, I don’t think we’ve ever gone into writing music with an intent of creating an impact, we’ve always just tried to write music that we think sounds cool and that’s fun for us to play. I think all four of us get a lot of gratification out of learning how to play new songs and sharing ideas and trying to make every song as fun as possible to play. For all of us, playing music has always been about having fun, having fun playing music together and getting to spend time together as friends has always been the number one priority. Playing big gigs is always cool and selling records is dope too but at the end of the day we just wanna make music together. In that respect, nothing really changed between best buds and puppy love. I can def say that putting a release together with the expectation that people would be listening to it/anticipating it was definitely new to us, but we really tried to set that aside and just make a record that we could be stoked on no matter what other people think about it.

RM: What was it like putting Puppy Love together? What songs were written first? Were there any that came together quicker than others?

EB: I’m definitely a super slow writer, and it was definitely tough to get the ball rolling as far as writing songs for an album rather than just writing songs. I think sponsor me tape and season 9 were the first songs that I was like “ok these are goin’ on LP 2”, but in general it’s pretty hard for me to keep writing/working on something unless I’m super into it or unless I feel like it’s really going in a direction that I like. From there like usual I brought all the song skeletons to Austin, Bart and Gabe and we hashed them out and everybody wrote parts that made sense and that they liked. Pretty much every song that we’ve put together since best buds (minus the split songs) ended up on puppy love except for maybe one or two.

RM: The CI family is having such an amazing year, it must be pretty surreal at the moment. Has surrounding yourself with like-minded musicians and friends helped push MJ as well as other bands forward creatively?

EB: Absolutely! For us I think it’s really important to be surrounded by like-minded and similarly-oriented people. Playing hundreds of shows a year can get pretty tiring and I think a lot of people get burnt out on playing and touring pretty fast, but for us I feel like every tour or project that we work on is super exciting and super motivating because every single band that’s around us is absolutely killing it. Most of the musical influences that got me inspired and excited to work on new music came from listening to other CI bands like Just Friends, Nervous Dater, Retirement Party, Prince Daddy, and all the extended fam like Chatterbot and Open Door Records bands. 

RM: The lyrics on both albums are both very confessional in their own ways. Is it more therapeutic to write the lyrics and then put music to them or to perform the songs live?

EB: I think each is therapeutic in their own way, but like the physical act of playing songs is what compels me the most. Lyrics have always been kind of like a diary where I can express thoughts and feelings that are hard to discuss so plainly otherwise, and actually saying them out loud for real is extremely therapeutic and I feel like it allows me to feel like I’m addressing them by at least acknowledging them. Even just getting lost in a live setting (not even necessarily performing just like playing together) l has always been so addictive to me. There’s a magical moment that happens every once in a while, where things just come together perfectly, and I feel like I forget about everything that’s bothering me and I just zone out on the music. I fkn live for that moment where everything just sounds perfect and new and special. 

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While Best Buds was more centered around a break-up, Puppy Love deals with voluntarily distancing yourself from those you love. There is an established sense of confidence in Butler’s voice when he details isolating himself. It doesn’t sound like it’s what he wants to do but it also sounds necessary in order for both people to grow and become more individualized.

Butler also takes sharp aim at his own flaws all over the album; what he is putting into his body, his emotions and why he is feeling that way, and efficiently communicating with those around him. Perhaps it’s a way to say those flaws out loud with brute honesty in order to move one step closer to breaking those bad habits.

Musically, the band has never sounded tighter. Bart Starr from Graduating Life has been added as a second guitarist and it really helps fill out the band’s sound. There are more tasty riffs and more transitions that add more depth to each song. (SPOILER ALERT CLICK AWAY NOW) There’s also one really sick part during the outro of Glamorous where Weezer’s Sweater Song is interpolated. Brianda Goyos León, from the CI-signed band Just Friends, appears on the 7th and 10th track and adds a beautiful layer of harmony behind Butler’s voice. (Just Friends recently put out an incredible record called Nothing but Love on Counter Intuitive Records).

RM:  I really enjoyed Brianda’s vocals paired with yours on the album. Will there be more vocal collaborations in MJ’s future? If so who would you be interested in collaborating with?

EB: I mean hopefully! I like doing vocal collabs because I feel like I’m honestly not a very good singer so getting objectively talented vocalists to perform is always super fun and I feel like it truly adds an aspect that we couldn’t pull off on our own. Brond is literally the best and having her voice on the record is a huge privilege and I’m so grateful that she was willing to sing on it. As far as the future I can’t really speculate because in general the lyrics are pretty tailor made for me, but you can always count on the day one homies being part of the picture. 

RM: You guys have been touring so much! How’s it been? Do you feel you’ll be rested enough before you head out again this fall?

EB: It’s definitely exhausting but we had a really nice break this spring after getting home from tour with Tiny Moving Parts. We took about 3 months off shows and just focused on spending time with our partners and families and made the record and I think it was really worth it. We all literally just got back from a full US tour with Graduating Life (Bart’s project that Austin and I play in) but prior to that it was the longest break we’ve ever had since we started touring. I definitely feel like we’re ready to hit the road in the fall especially because we get to bring so many of our good friends with us.

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For an album that deals mostly with self-loathing and distance, it’s hard to find a song on the record that isn’t fun as hell. If pop punk isn’t your cup of tea and it generally makes you cringe, it’s fair to say that this record isn’t going to change your mind very much. There isn’t much that Mom Jeans accomplish on their second album that Fantano would call “reinventing the wheel of emo”. Basically, meaning in some sense it’s just another pop punk record. What makes this album special is how much it allows you to become invested in it. Best Buds offered a comfort blanket for those reeling from a break-up. It was an album that made you feel better musically but also addressed how you might be feeling so you don’t feel so alone. Puppy Love functions the same way and with each listen, you may find yourself sinking deeper into your own feelings and how it relates to what Butler is saying. A perfect example of the therapeutic effects emo/pop-punk music has to its long-time listeners.

RM:  I love the TV references scattered throughout the album (Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, Workaholics, Rick & Morty). What are your top favorite shows of all time?

EB: I’ll cut it off at 5 to save us all some time aha. I gotta go with Grey’s Anatomy, Futurama, Freaks and Geeks, Bob’s Burgers, and Diners Drive-Ins and Dives.

RM: Do you enjoy being a musician more or less since graduating from school?

EB: I don’t know if I enjoy music any more or less than I used to, I think the role of music in my life has just changed dramatically. I feel like playing in a band used to be a super small portion of my life that I loved a lot but didn’t get to prioritize because I had to focus on school and work and being a functioning human. Nowadays my whole life is the band, from my friends to my daily priorities to my long-term goals to the way I love my daily life are contextualized by this band and the experiences I’ve had playing music. I’m entirely grateful that I get to walk this path and though I think I definitely don’t think appreciate music as a whole ecosystem as much as I used to I still enjoy playing songs with my friends as much as I did when I started my first band when I was 12.  

 RM: Any long-term goals for the future you’d like to share?

EB: Just trying to enjoy this ride and have as much fun as we can. We have a big tour coming up in the fall and some plans to take the MJ train international at the end of 2018/beginning of 2019. At the end of the day we’re just here to have fun and keep playing shows as long as people are willing to come and see us and hang out!

 

Puppy Love is available on all streaming services via Counter Intuitive Records.

 

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Hop Along offer a fourth LP full of “fine tuned to perfection tracks”

words fae ryan martin (@ryanmartin182)rating 8

Their 4th effort, Hop Along’s Bark Your Head Off, Dog is their most potent, catchiest, and gorgeous effort to date. Each of the 9 tracks on the LP feel like they have been fine tuned to perfection. At the center of the album is frontwoman Frances Quinlan, she invited the listener to exist in the picture she paints with her lyrics with her bandmates’ help.

“Afternoon vanilla sun crawls away across the lawn

Through the phone I pull you and drag your voice around

Afternoon vanilla sun crawls away without a sound

Through the phone I pull you and drag your voice around”

Quinlan’s lyrics is the driving force that pushes this album from good to great. The instrumentation is surely impressive but are complimented perfectly by the themes of aging, relationships, and reflection. From the opener How Simple, the repeated refrain

“Don’t worry, we’ll find out just not together”

sets the tone for the record, while its themes may not be as cheery as the music itself, it invites you to look at these themes with a cheery outlook. Instead of looking back with regret, maybe look back with reflection and optimism.

The Philly indie rock outfit has been around since as early as 2005 when Quinlan was still in high-school. Over a decade later, their sound has gone from a bedroom pop sound to recognition in the emo/indie community to Bark. Their newest effort demonstrates what the band has been working up to all these years. Lush, grand and confessional songs that are rooted in indie and folk.

Something that’s really enjoyable about this album is the first listen is pleasant the whole way through. Some albums take some time to really digest all the lyrics and structures. On the first listen, Bark sneaks in repeated earworms that make the tracks really pop on your first run through them. The more that you revisit the album, these earworms act as a place marker for your first listen, as you pick up new favorite parts and lyrics or riffs you might have missed on your first listen. It’s certainly not an album that you need to spend time dissecting to fully enjoy, but rather one that encourages you to keep digging.

Each of the nine tracks feel like they have their own legs to stand on. They are developed enough that they don’t sound the same as the track before it but still adds to the cohesiveness of the album. There are some synthesizers that are peppered into harmonies throughout the 40-minute-LP. The duration doesn’t overstay it’s welcome either. Each song deserves its own attention to detail in some way. Bark is a truly remarkable album that goes down smoother with every listen.

As a quick reminder, it’s extremely important to support female-fronted artists in order to overcome the dominating presence of white males in the music scene, especially in the indie/emo community. Hop Along has crafted a gorgeous LP that deserves your attention. This applies to LGBTQ-fronted, trans-fronted, and artists of color as well. There’s a lot of talented musicians all around us, it’s important not to let their talents be unheard because of their gender/race/sexual identity.

 

Logic can’t justify the length of ‘Bobby Tarantino II’ – or its quality

words by ryan martin (@ryanmartin182)

Bobby Tarantino IILogic’s 7th mixtape, is a self-proclaimed departure from rating 4“album Logic” where attempts a return to form for his fans that prefer his earlier work to the mainstream direction of his recent albums (woo!).

Courtesy of Rick and MortyBobby Tarantino II opens with the infamous pair debating the difference between “album Logic” and “mixtape Logic.” The main difference being lyrical subject matter. The Maryland MC’s last effort, Everybody, failed to organize the many different messages and subjects, resulting in a cluttered mess. Bobby Tarantino II counters this issue by having essentially nothing substantial to say at all.

Both Bobby Tarantino II and its predecessor exist as an outlet for Logic to put on his Bobby Tarantino alter ego and put all of his bangers and turn up songs on one project. The production, for the most part, is decent to great. Logic’s faithful producer, 6ix, has consistently provided incredible beats for Logic to hone his craft over. Songs like 44 More, Warm It Up, and Yuck demonstrate 6ix at his best.

Technicality wise, Bobby Tarantino II doesn’t stray far from the MC’s usual style of rapping. His flow and wordplay are on par with his previous work. Warm It Up is easily the best rapping performance Logic has given us since Under Pressure, as he revives his Young Sinatra alter ego from his mixtape days.

“Fuck that trap shit, this that rap shit / Give me the hand like John the Baptist / Ready to rip it, I hope in the captives / Greatest alive like I’m Cassius / I put ’em all in they caskets, they can’t see me get past it / I’m a bastard that mastered the flow / And none of y’all ready for this massacre, though / Fuck with Logic—yeah, that’s a no”

Indica Badu is an out-of-left-field weed anthem that features fellow weed-advocate, Wiz KhalifaKhalifa handles himself surprisingly well over the silky-smooth production and helps deliver one of the better cuts from the mixtape. 44 More is honestly the strongest track on the whole album. Technicality, personality and lyrically, Logic brings his A-Game with the production behind him keeping up. It’s worth noting that the beat switches are an incredible touch.

Where BT2 falls flat is when Logic begins to stray outside of his comfort zone. Everyday, the collaboration between Logic and EDM producer Marshmello, is honestly just as bad as Everyday Bro by Jake Paul. It’s a god-awful attempt to follow up his smash single 1-800-273-8255 from last year. The production is as sugary sweet as a pixy stick and Logic’s singing is so bad it practically begs you to hit the skip button. Everyday isn’t the only instance where Logic stretches his vocal chops, the opener Overnight reeks of Logic’s off-balanced singing and stinks lyrically. Logic trips up again by bluntly copying Travis Scott’s style, production and flow on Wizard of Oz. It’s one of the poorest excuses for an original rap song so far this year.

BT2 feels slightly less underwhelming than Everybody overall, but as a former Logic fan, BT2 doesn’t do much to entertain the older Logic fans other than a handful of tracks. Bobby Tarantino achieves his goal of making the “fun turn up shit” that he set out to make. That being said, it doesn’t excuse him for poor songwriting, poor singing, and poor originality spread thin throughout the mixtape. There are a handful of tracks where Logic’s hooks don’t get annoying after the 4th time and his verses are solid, but not enough to justify a 13-track-mixtape. BT2 will most certainly please his die-hard fans and those who don’t really listen to albums in full, but for all others, it’s a very run of the mill, bland, trap mixtape.

‘Pop Music’ sees Remo Drive polish their sound, for better or worse

words by ryan martin (@ryanmartin182)

Remo Drive’s debut, Greatest Hits exploded into the indie punk scene with a raw,rating 6 energetic sound. Now, they’ve followed it up with Pop Music, a three-song-EP. The new batch of tracks features a reworking of Heartstrings, which was previously featured on a split with fellow Minnesota band, Unturned. The reworking of Heartstrings loses the spunk of the original recording and sounds much paler than its predecessor.

Pop Music has an unmistakable polished tone to Remo Drive’s sound. This works well on Blue Ribbon and Song of the Summer, which sound like they were written with this tone in mind. Both tracks are shimmery pop-punk summer anthems. What fails to stick around in Remo Drive’s latest offering is the memorability that Greatest Hits had. Each song was different, had incredible hooks, and a sense of in-your-face-energy. While Pop Music sounds like it’s a step in the right direction for Remo Drive’s career, considering their recent signing to the giant Epitaph Records, it could potentially be a turning point for the many fans won over by Greatest Hits.

Remo Drive is not a band that sounds significantly worse when they step up their production. Frontman Erik Paulson’s vocals have a strikingly high range, which is shown on their brighter tracks like I’m My Own Doctor and Yer’ Killin Me. While the grittier tone works well with the songs on Greatest Hits, the structuring of the songs on Pop Music demand a shinier sound.

It would be unfair to call Pop Music a misstep for the band, or even a step at all for that matter.

If you liked this, check Ryan’s interview with Remo Drive or see where Greatest Hits landed in our Best Albums of 2017 list.

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.

10 Worst Albums of 2017

You’ll be happy, or sad, to know that this list is the last negative one to drop all year though all that means is that the team are gonna blow their collective loads over the worst music we’ve been subjected to all year.

Of course, this is entirely subjective and if you find any joy from the below albums then we’re glad you did: we didn’t. If you do have any grievances with our choices then you know where to send them so let’s batter on, shall we?

10. Wonderful Wonderful
by The Killers

If you’re familiar with The Killers, you might know that they have released their first album in five years in 2017. If you’re not, you might have not even noticed they were gone. Wonderful Wonderful picks up as if they never left, neither improving nor maturing upon their last effort, Battle BornWonderful Wonderful does not act as an improvement in The Killers’ discography, but instead, plays the same formula they’ve been following for the past 13 years.

Wonderful Wonderful would have sounded better had it been released in 2013, back when Get Lucky by Daft Punk was the biggest song in the world. Maybe then, The Man could have stood as a decent radio single. Almost every element of Wonderful Wonderful sounds incredibly stale in the current genre of indie rock. Making songs like Rut, fueled by frontman Brandon Flowers’s distress with trying to help his wife’s PTSD condition, feel passionless. Like Rut, most of the songs off Wonderful Wonderful try to sound like the grand stadium-closer track that electrifies the crowd and instead sound like the deep cut off their new album that nobody knows the words too.

The Killers lack a certain element that makes their songs sound as grand as they want them to sound. What made songs on Hot Fuss sound as exciting and fresh as they did at the time, and endless revisable as they do today, has been poorly executed throughout their following studio albums. Wonderful Wonderful, not acting as an exception, but further proving the point that The Killers are not as great as you would like them to be. – Ryan Martin (@ryanmartin182)

FULL REVIEW HERE

9. Going Grey 
by The Front Bottoms

The Front Bottoms have been one of the biggest stars of the underground indie community of this decade. Originating as a duo of simple acoustic power chords, provocative lyrics, and catchy melodies, TFB have managed to retain their dedicated fan base since the release of their self-titled 6 years ago. Surely, fans must expect the raw, emotional, amateur sound of the early releases to evolve and mature over time.

This was hinted at with 2015’s Back On Top, which incorporated a fuller and more mainstream sound to what fans were used to expecting from the New Jersey duo. TFB’s latest, Going Grey, takes a strong lead into the direction Back On Top foreshadowed. With heavy synths, trap hi-hats, and minor use of the acoustic guitar, it’s leaving day one fans scratching their heads.

Going Grey plays front to back much less like an album but more as a collection of songs. There are too many skippable songs for an 11-track record and not enough heartfelt moments for it to even feel like a Front Bottoms record. The only consistent element throughout TFB’s discography is the vocal range that Sella has kept throughout the years. It’s the only thing that still feels in place about the band but also sounds so out of place when backed by a sound that sounds desperate for radio play. 

Going Grey may have added more elements, instruments, and layers to TFB’s early minimalistic approach, and there are definite highlights to be found in Vacation Town, but the result sounds less like an evolved, matured version of the band than a sell-out, cheapened version. – Ryan Martin (@ryanmartin182)

FULL REVIEW HERE

8. Reputation
by Taylor Swift

When following up a successful record, 2 of an artist’s main goals should be not to repeat what they did on their previous LP, and for this progression to make the new record better as a result. However, on new album Reputation, Taylor Swift did neither of these things.

In short, her tacky new trap sound found on roughly half of the record’s tracks (…Ready For It?) was so hideous that it saw insufferable lead single Look What You Made Me Dovoted as Blinkclyro’s worst track of the year. On top of this, Swift made the bizarre decision to unsubtly write all her beef into her music for the first time, literally beating listeners over the head with the knowledge of how detestably petty she is.

To be fair, there were 2 excellent tracks on Reputation: Getaway Car and New Year’s Day. The only problem? Getaway Car sounds exactly like what Swift did on 1989 and New Year’s Day is a bizarre hark back to her Speak Now days.

The risks she took on Reputation flopped just about as badly as they could have, and anything good about the record heard her merely repeating what she’d done before. – Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)

FULL REVIEW HERE

7. Low In Highschool
by Morrissey

Not since Breaking Bad can we recall the descent of a man quite like Morrissey: starting off in one of the most iconic bands of the 20th century, the quiffy man seems unable to close his big mouth and as he’s got older, the more he starts to resemble UKIP’s key demographic.

This bleeds into his latest album Low In Highschool, a record full of idiotic choices in terms of instrumentals & production (Spent The Day In Bed) to the idotic appraisal of war mongerers while…criticising warmongerers (Israel)?

The question of separating the art from the artist has come up time and time again this year but this Morrisey LP goes to show how near impossible it is to do so: it’s an insult to your brain as well as your ears. – Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

6. Memories…Do Not Open
by The Chainsmokers

A wise man once said: The Chainsmokers are the musical equivalent of those weird twenty-year-old guys studying photography in college who message sixteen-year-old girls stating they’re “fascinated by their minds lol xD”. That man is Josh Adams and he owes me a fiver, so if you see him, break his legs.

Memories…Do Not Open is enough to make me feel the anguish those who regularly slate chart music must feel as they exclude themselves from pop bangers: unfortunately, said bangers will not be found in this album. On all levels apart from physical, this album is sheer shite.

If you’ve ever heard an EDM song in your entire life then not only will you get deja-vu but you’ll get the unshakeable feeling that you’re witnessing a murder scene as this duo show off the drained remains of anything that could be considered “a tune”. In addition to the lacklustre production, the attempts of singing on this record are utterly laughable: Break Up Every Night is the manifestation of everything bad about this LP, featuring some of the poorest vocals to be put into an album all year along with some of the worst lyrics I’ve ever heard in my life;

She wants to break up every night / Then tries to fuck me back to life

“She got seven personalities, everyone’s a tragedy.”

If their name is anything to go by then it’s only a matter of time until The Chainsmokers quit the cigarettes, pick up a vape, lose their cool cred and fade into obscurity like they should have after that dreadful selfie song.  – Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

5. SCUM
by RAT BOY

Finally dropping their debut album SCUM, the album everyone wanted in 2015, Rat Boy added to the pile of mediocre indie rock to populate the British music scene. The only unique thing each track has is a different band or artist to rip off; think of any significant British act in the past 30 years and no doubt rat boy will have mimicked them with abysmal results on their debut album.

Any potential that the band had is buried in their influences and their desire for popularity has produced a safe and tedious effort that brings nothing fresh to the table at all. Even older songs such as Left 4 Dead have been butchered to death for the studio album and all the energy that the band could have had is replaced with cringe-worthy lyrics, forced themes and forgettable instrumentals.

Oh and if for some reason you actually still want to listen to this PLEASE don’t listen to the deluxe version; it has these radio “skits” that are just awful and make the entire thing even worse (if you can imagine that). – Ethan Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

FULL REVIEW HERE

4. As You Were
by Liam Gallagher

If there’s one positive thing I can say about Liam Gallagher, it’s that he’s got the marketing game down to an absolute tee: amassing a cult following thanks to his trademark Twitter ramblings, exposing a new age of fans to his erratic behaviour, it’s definitely helped him get back on his feet after the disaster that was Beady Eye and his media portrayal over the past few years.

That being said; why is his debut LP so painfully dull? I will admit that it was a clever move to get Greg Kurstin of Adele production fame on board to allow his songs to mutate into some earworms but there are delightful earworms and then there are the terminal ones that are injecting some sort of toxin into your membrane without you realising.

As stated, the biggest gripe I have with this album is just so by the numbers it is though unlike a coloring book, which provides some sort of vibrance, As You Were works with greys, dark greys and some slightly lighter shades of grey. – Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

FULL REVIEW HERE

3. Erratic Cinematic
by Gerry Cinnamon 

What can be said about this Scottish upstart that hasn’t been said already? Plenty, apparently. Everycunt and their dogs seem to love Gerry Cinnamon and his HASHTAGRELATABLE songs. To be fair to the lad, they do cover a plethora of topics. From getting drunk to taking drugs… to girls… to… taking drugs and getting drunk! Truly a poet of our times.

If I hadn’t made it abundantly clear, I hate Gerry Cinnamon’s music and especially his latest album Erratic Cinematic. I really, really do. It’s the exact opposite of what I would choose to listen to regularly, but I saw Twitter ranting and raving about this man and his guitar, so I lamented and had a wee listen. This was all after I seen his “Legendary” set at TRNSMT festival this year, which I absolutely fucking hated every second of. But I thought it was only fair to give his studio album a wee try, see what the craic was.

I have now decided to never be fair again because honestly and truly, this is one of the worst albums I’ve heard in years. I’ve been known to be hyperbolic from time to time, but I genuinely mean it. It’s so bad that I can’t bring myself to listen to it again. Just listen to Sometimes and Belter and if any part of you enjoys it, let me know so I can entirely block you from my life.

The only slightly redeeming quality of this album is Gerry’s vocals, which are fine. But on record, they sound like they were recorded when he was trapped in a fridge that’s orbiting Jupiter. So tinny and manufactured sounding. To be honest the entire album was recorded piss poorly.

Who knows, maybe if Gerry stumbles into an actual working studio one day, he might do a Jake Bugg and end up maturing into a decent artist, but for the moment this is by the numbers, utterly forgettable, “for the people” lad-folk that will leave a bad taste in the mouth of any self-respecting music fan. – Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh)

2. Pacific Daydream
by Weezer

When I listened to Pacific Daydream, Weezer’s 11th(!) studio album, I wasn’t angry or even disappointed, I was sad. Genuinely, actually sad. Coming off of 2014’s return to form Everything Will Be Alright In The End and 2016’s genuinely fantastic White Album, it was a great time to be a Weezer fan.

They’d gone back to the halcyon days of masterpieces Blue Album and Pinkerton and seemed to have abandoned the overly poppy sheen that saturated albums like Raditude or Red Album. Weezer were doing the impossible, they were winning back the fans they’d lost, and convincingly at that.

Then, earlier this year, they dropped Feels Like Summer, the lead single from Pacific Daydream, and everyone started to worry. This wasn’t Weezer. This was the disgusting, mutated love child of modern Fall Out Boy and naughties Weezer, and it wasn’t even as good as either of them. Transparent, nothing backing vocals. A jaunty wee piano line. Shite lead vocals from the more often than mot serviceable Rivers Cuomo. What the fuck was this? More importantly, why the fuck was this?

They stopped trying, Weezer stopped giving a fucking shit. I don’t know if Rivers and the lads just decided they were bored of writing actual good power pop and decided to just completely pull the rug from underneath all of the OG fans who thought it was safe to go back into the Weezer-infested water for a laugh. I cannot wrap my head around it.

The whole album is just like Feels Like Summer; boring, bland as you like pop-rock. Mexican Fender is a bit catchy, but it just sounds like a song they knew wasn’t good enough for White Album. I’m getting all fired up now so I’m away for a lie-down. I expect a written apology from Weezer for this abomination, and FAST. – Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh)

1. Divide
by Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran is a confusing man. Whilst he seems like a genuinely nice guy, his music is so bland and vanilla you’ve forgotten what the song sounds like before it finishes.

Despite the fact it was wholesomely boring, Shape of You seemed to be one of the biggest tracks of 2017, capitalising on a clearly large market of heterosexual couples who enjoy missionary sex, chicken kormas and racially abusing train guards after two mulled wines at the Christmas market.

Can you remember what Barcelona sounds like? Bet you thought Dive was on the last album, didn’t you? Whilst Multiply had a few choice cuts on it, Divide saw the ginger guitar grandmaster dive deeper into milquetoast music for people who just don’t care about what they listen to.

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“You know I had to do it to Ed”

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think either in the comments below or beef us over on our Twitter (@blinkclyro).

The Best Gigs of 2017

It’s finally here: no, not Christmas, list season BAYBEE! A culmination of all the good, and bad, that the year has had to offer, we’re kicking things off with some positive content about the live shows that the team loved every second of.

Before we get into each team member’s choice, let’s have a glance at some of the honourable mentions that deserve a shoutout…

The Vegan Leather @ TRNSMT

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At a festival with some of the biggest names in music, it goes to show how utterly impressive this Paisley art-rock outfit were at the debut entry of TRNSMT. “Talking Heads meets Yeah Yeah Yeahs meet LCD-Soundsystem” is the only way we managed to describe their sound yet that still doesn’t do The Vegan Leather justice: if you’re lucky enough to have New Years free from work then be sure to boogie on down to see this foursome kill it at King Tuts.

FULL REVIEW HERE

SWAY @ Tenement Trail

Photo Courtesy of Cameron Brisbane | Twitter | Facebook
Photo Courtesy of Cameron Brisbane | Site |Facebook | Twitter

If our accolade of “Best Band At Tenement Trail 2017“, a prestigious award depending on who you ask, wasn’t enough to do SWAY‘s performance at Nice N Sleazy justice then let this be your final telling off. Presenting a beautiful blend of indie rock finesse with shoegaze and pop influences, the Paisley act put on an amazing show featuring great tunes, inflatable footballs and a bloody nose (#PrayForDanDrennan).

FULL REVIEW HERE

Wolf Alice @ Barrowlands

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Photo courtesy of Jose Ramon Caamaño | Facebook | Flickr |

Hot off the back of providing one of the best sophomore releases of the decade, lovely London lot Wolf Alice treated their Glasgow fans to not one but two shows at the iconic Barrowlands venue. Playing a healthy dose of the old and the new, along with some golden oldies like Blush, the indie rock outfit show that they deserve every morsel of hype they’ve accumulated over the past few years.

And now, onto the team’s top picks…

Isabella McHardy (@isabellamchardy)Strange Bones @ TRNSMT

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I hadn’t heard of them before but a friend suggested we go see Strange Bones – it was by far my favourite performance of the festival and ultimately the entire year. They played the tiny Jack Daniel’s Jack Rocks tent on the Sunday and it was perfect. They played with such an infectious energy, I couldn’t stop smiling the whole set.

The entire tent was jumping up and down and yelling even if they didn’t know the words. They were probably one of the heaviest bands at the festival but they still managed to pull in such an enthusiastic crowd. The band were crowd surfing and running into the audience throughout the show but no one got tired of it. It was the first gig I had been to in a while where I felt completely ecstatic. After their set, I couldn’t wait to get home so I could go through their discography.

Disappointingly, their EP’s don’t live up to how they perform live, but I would still go see them again just for the atmosphere and the ‘Theresa is a Terrorist’ t-shirts.

FULL REVIEW HERE

Callum Thornhill (@calthornhill) – Sorority Noise, Turnover & Citizen @ Camden Underworld

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They say good things come in threes. Wise men. Amigos. So on and so forth. For this ridiculously intimate show; it was American emo icons that arrived as a magnificent trio. Heading to Camden’s Underworld via stunning performances at this year’s Slam Dunk Festival came Citizen and Turnover; ‘supported’ by Sorority Noise.

What made this an incredible line-up was the enthusiasm shared by bands towards other bands, fans to bands and even bands to fans. Splitting the set times evenly, no band took the limelight, however, Sorority Noise were first up to get things going. With third LP, You’re Not as _____ as You Think released earlier this year, it was the first time many fans had heard tracks such as Car and No Halo; Cameron Boucher even recited Manchester Orchestra’s I Can Feel a Hot One ahead of No Halo. These new, heartfelt ballads combined with golden older tracks, e.g Nolsey and Using, made Sorority Noise the perfect opener.

Turnover were next up and thankfully, and I am sure fellow fans will agree, they decided to play a set full of classics rather than cramming their set full of Good Nature tracks. Peripheral Vision dominated the setlist with the crowd singing along to everything from Cutting My Fingers Off to the iconic Dizzy on the Comedown. A mellow atmosphere greeted the Virginia outfit, who took it in their stride to engage in a chilled out yet passionate vibe.

‘Headlining’ for the evening were Ohio/Michigan alt-rockers Citizen. Brutally belting out The Summer instantly showed what was about to unfold. The highlight of the set was How Does it Feel? purely because the dark, moody atmosphere perfectly complemented the pitch black surrounding of the Underworld. Giving Yellow Love and Cement air-time before The Night I Drove Alone closed their slot, Citizen gave a stunning performance to cap off an amazing night of bands from across the pond.

To conclude, good things do come in threes, and this line-up does nothing but emphasise that fact.

Ethan Woodford (@human_dis4ster) – Gorillaz @ Hydro, Glasgow

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In a year where I finally saw some of my all-time favourite bands (Radiohead, The Libertines) as well as seeing some old friends again (Wolf Alice, Basement), every gig stuck out in my mind but none more so than the Gorillaz‘s massive show at the Hydro.

Having been desperate to see them for years, it was such a joy to hear some of my favourite songs sung back by thousands of people in unison. Damon Albarn was in top form, a massive smile barely leaving his face except when he was stood at the edge of the stage trying to look menacing during Clint Eastwood. It’s commendable a man of his talent and success is still so humbled by fans singing his lyrics and his constant gratitude to his many guests and backing band members made for a wholesome sight. 

Speaking of his guests, they only added to the spectacle, from De La Soul to the show-stealing Vince Staples, each guest injected even more energy to the atmosphere and by midway through the set, the entire crowd was bouncing,

A truly mesmerising gig that had me smiling for the rest of the night after, Damon Albarn and his friends deserve the crown of best live show of the year.

Ryan Martin (@ryanmartin182) – Childish Gambino @ Radio City Music Hall

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Photo Courtesy of Bradley Robinson

Seeing Childish Gambino co-headline an event at Radio City Music Hall with Dave Chappelle was truly something special but after his announcement earlier this summer that he would be retiring after his next album, it truly made the concert something to be cherished forever.

Being a massive Donald Glover fan, I had never seen him perform live as Childish Gambino except for a small radio show festival performance where he only did his biggest hits before exiting. Gambino at Radio City Music Hall exceeded my expectations from the multi-talented performer. He performed the majority of his new album Awaken My Love with the help of a full band, backup singers, and an incredible display of lights and visuals.

Hearing AML live without the vocal effects made for an entirely new experience of the album. The album sounded fresher, more exciting and more fun live. Gambino’s performance was incredible, filled with passionate shrieks reminiscent of Prince in his prime. He showcased his dancing skills throughout the set and was all over the stage, even moonwalking at one point.

Gambino’s decision to perform most of AML with exception to 3005, Sweatpants and Sober really showed how much Gambino has matured in recent memory and how he is beginning to grow out of most of his discography. This could be a partial reason for his decision to retire the Childish Gambino moniker and will almost surely affect his future touring schedule. One thing is for sure, if Gambino stops by your area, be sure not to miss out.

Andrew Barr (@weeandreww) – Frank Ocean @ Parklife

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Photos Courtesy of Parklife

Here lies the critical irony; my favourite show of the year, Frank Ocean’s surreal headline slot at Parklife festival could scarcely be considered a performance, serving as more of a glimpse into the elusive star’s psyche.

When Ocean stuttered onto the stage 40 minutes late and restarted opener Solo 3 times, it looked like his long-awaited live return could end in spectacular failure, however, Ocean managed to claw it back in a way only he could. His confidence and stage presence grew throughout the set dominated by Blonde and Endless material, and by the time he walked offstage during the Korean verse on the alt version of closer Nikes, it was clear; this wasn’t a show for everyone, but one that the many diehard Ocean fans will never forget.

Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr) – Run The Jewels & Danny Brown @ O2 Academy

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Photo Courtesy of Ryan Johnston | Facebook | Site

 

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone that this gig was a highly anticipated one for myself: Run The Jewels and Danny Brown are both Album Of The Year winners, in our 2014 and 2016 lists respectively, so the prospect of seeing both acts in the one night was too good to pass up.

It was no disappointment (I mean, it’s on this list, isn’t it?) as the Detroit king of rap Danny got things underway, storming through his impressive discography with some running man dancing and what can only be described as an intimate strip show for the thousands in attendance. Tracks from his magnum opus Atrocity Exhibition got just the reaction he must have expected, provoking a wave of moshing and rapping from the enthusiastic crowd.

Not to be outdone, RTJ made their way to the stage (albeit a bit late) and from start to finish, they undoubtedly affirmed why they were a force to be reckoned with. Not only that but there was a great deal of duality on show: Killer Mike is an absolute monster when he’s on the mic but the amount of compassion and love shown between songs, from a speech about mental health to a big fuck you to groping at gigs, the man is like Sully if he had an abundance of sick bars. Don’t worry El, I haven’t forgotten about you; RTJ is a two man show after all and if it weren’t for the bounciness, crassness and sheer bragadociousness of El-P then it just wouldn’t be the same.

Danny even showed up for his verse on Hey Kids, wearing only his underwear as the O2 Academy witnessed not only Mike giving the audience a glimpse of his ass, but two of the best acts on the fucking planet: and the crowd goes…

Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh) – Gorillaz @ Hydro, Glasgow

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Photos Courtesy of Getty Images

 

While I was ever so slightly underwhelmed by Damon Albarn and his band of merry primates’ latest effort Humanz (DO YOU GET IT BECAUSE GORILLAZ?) I still jumped at the chance to see them live at The Hydro when the gig was announced earlier and the year. And I’ll tell you something, I’m bloody glad I did.

Gorillaz live are a different beast entirely from Gorillaz on record. There’s something of a more immediate urgency about them in a live setting, particularly in the vocals of head gorilla Damon “I Love Witches” Albarn. I’ve never seen Blur live in person, but I’ve seen my fair share of their sets from the comfort of my own computer chair and Albarn seems to turn everything up to 11 when he’s performing under the Gorillaz banner. Gone is the subdued, mild-mannered, middle-class Englishman that belts out Tender with a quiet confidence, instead he’s replaced by a grown man doing his best impression of an actual Gorilla. To put it bluntly, when Damon Albarn is in Gorillaz mode, he is a fucking nutter. He jumps around the stage with a reckless abandon, screaming in innocent concert goers in the front row like a man possessed by a pure primal force. It’s a joy to watch.

As are the rest of his band, I was blown away by how flipping CHUNKY everything sounded in a live setting. The bass was lovely and sludgy, both drummers played flawlessly and the keys were whimsical one moment and downright demonic the next. Then came the guests: Bootie Brown, Zebra Katz, Vince Staples, DE LA BLOODY SOUL were all there in the flesh and it was chuffing magnificent.

I’d wanted to see Gorillaz in some capacity for over a decade, and holy fuck me did they deliver. This ranks as not only one of my gigs of the year but genuinely one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. So thank you, Damon and company, you bunch of fucking lunatics. We wouldn’t have you any other way.

Rory McArthur (@rorymeep) – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard @ Albert Hall, Manchester

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If you know me, this choice won’t come as a surprise; I may or may not have a little bit of a thing for this band. This was my fourth time seeing King Gizzard, but this was the first time it properly hit me how unfathomably incredible they are live. From the tried and trusted old favourites to the, at that point in the year at least, new microtonal tracks, everything went down an absolute storm with a suitably energetic crowd. The electricity inside the Albert Hall that evening was honestly breathtaking. I don’t think there’s another rock band in the world right now that can put on a show quite like Gizz. If they’d have decided to play all night long, I wouldn’t have minded one bit. 

Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon) – Protomartyr & Oh Boland @ CCA, Glasgow

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Protomartyr’s third visit to Glasgow in as many years takes place at Sauchiehall Street’s pre-eminent creative hub, the Centre for Contemporary Arts. Incidentally, this occasion marks their first time playing above ground in the city; apt, considering their meteoric rise from the underground to the forefront of contemporary post-punk, a sort of symbolism that isn’t lost on despair extraordinaire Joe Casey.

Joking that it’s a sign they’re finally moving up in the world, his self-depreciating humour is disingenuous to their cerebral yet deeply enjoyable brand of music. Turning up on stage without further ado, the band launch straight into lead single My Children. Casey’s appearance, grey-suited and formal, carries as little extravagance as his vocal delivery: barking and authoritative, the right level of Angry Da but never unintentionally bombastic. 

Audience interaction is sporadic and generally kept to a minimum, save for a few amusing exchanges; however,  such was the level of quality and electrifying atmosphere that the crowd quickly began dancing of their own volition. In contrast to the chaos of Casey’s performance, Greg Ahee’s guitar work is a controlled explosion of riffs and inventive, often unexpected chord changes complemented by a captivating dynamic between himself, bassist Scott Davidson and drummer Alex Leonard, whose stellar percussion work underpins every track, relentlessly propelling forward. While leaning fairly heavily on their latest material, Protomartyr nevertheless treated veteran fans to plenty of classics including two tracks from their oft-overlooked debut. 

Support act Oh Boland, covering the spot regrettably vacated by Sauna Youth, proved a worthy opener, commendably navigating one or two technical glitches to produce exactly the kind of high-octane introduction needed to prepare everyone for what lay ahead.

Gregor Farquharson (@grgratlntc) – The LaFontaines & The Dykeenies @ Barrowlands

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Having a gig at The Barrowlands is a massive achievement for any band. Tonight, The LaFontaines were ready to unleash their chaotic, charisma filled live show to the sold-out Glasgow crowd. The buzz in the buildup to the performance was surreal, with fans everywhere eager to see the fonts once again.

The band tasked with getting the crowd ready? The recently reformed The Dykeenies. The band played a good 50 odd minute set, with highlights being Waiting for Go and Sounds Of The City. The fans were ready and The Dykeenies job was done with success and the fonts took to the stage.

Opening up with Slow Elvis and going straight into Junior Dragon, the atmosphere was something else. The bands unique sound works beautifully live and the feeling in the crowd was magical. New songs Common Problem and Hang Fire went down great with the crowd, proving the band are not just a one album wonder and that their second full length is doing wonders.

If anything, this gig proved that The LaFontaines are going to get even bigger than what they already are. If they keep up the work rate and live shows they have going, it’s a bright future for the band that are already seen as Scottish heavyweights.

FULL REVIEW HERE

Tilly O’Connor (@tilly_oconnor) – Gorillaz @ Hydro, Glasgow

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Photo Courtesy of Aidan | Source

With the Autumnal gig season drawing do a close, I saw Gorillaz at the Hydro in Glasgow. As someone who normally consumes live music in dive bars, the stadium’s sheer size was daunting, even if it’s sticky floor felt like home. The crowd was full of groups of families with grownup-kids near my age. My parents got me into Gorillaz young and I credit them with playing a part in shaping my current tastes in music, visual arts and even politics. The group has always been all-encompassing, and their 29th November gig was no different.

The band rattled the room with M1 A1. This was followed by Albarn, mic in hand, asking the 13,000 strong crowd if we were the last living souls. These songs from the band’s earlier work set the tone for the rest of the show, as it would feature hits peppered with memorable album tracks. A high point for me was Dirty Harry. The live performers were accompanied by a disjointed choir of cartoon South Park-esque kids singing the chilling chorus to the delight and discomfort of all watching. The band’s alter egos played a huge part in the engulfing feeling of the show. Carrying out heists and racing games, 2-D, Murdoch, Noodle and Russell Hobs reached deeper into our collective consciousness, pulling out gleefull pockets of nostalgia, providing the perfect backdrop for the night’s music.

Along with visuals, the main band were accompanied by a vast amount of guest performers, most notably the hip-hop trio De La Soul who feature on one of the bands most famous songs – Feel Good Inc.

Hong Kong was the first encore song, and it provided the most haunting musical moment of the night. The song which plays heavily on imagery surrounding neon lights and electricity was spontaneously met with thousands upon thousands of glowing phone lights, bringing the previously black room to an eery yellow which shined down Damon Albarn’s face. Singing to us, an army of smartphone welding fans, with a wry smile “All the people in a dream, Wait for the machine” he brought the night towards its end. This scene felt stunningly fitting for a band who have continuously captured the zeitgeist. From their self-titled debut in 2001 to this year’s Humanz, the group have always painted a vivid picture of the world in the 21st century.

Will Sexton (@willshesleeps) – Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes @ O2 Academy, Bristol

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Photos Courtesy of Ashlea Bea | Twitter

Now I know what you might be thinking, “ooh pick the latest gig you went too” but people who are thinking that obviously have never seen Frank Carter live. The stage presence of this man is electric all in itself and arriving on stage with an absolute roar of noise and appreciation is so magical every single time. Frank has had a bit of a tough year but you wouldn’t have ever guessed, coming back from tonsillitis and taking a small break to help recover from the incredible work he has done over the last three years which was very well respected amongst the fans.

He came back with a total bang and every song from Primary Explosive right to I Hate You were electric. Filled with moshing and inspirational speeches about girls feeling safe at gigs, mental health and just straight up appreciation of us, it was a magical night!

Dominic Cassidy (@lyre_of_apollo) – The Mountain Goats @ The Art School, Glasgow

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The Mountain Goats were awaited by the crowd with bated breath and I’d be lying if I said I was not amongst their number, in terms of the mob or the state of breath. North Carolina based folk rockers The Mountain Goats – consisting of the ever-present singer-songwriter John Darnielle and multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas – ascend to the stage accompanied by cries of devotion from the loving Glasgow crowd. Opening with Have to Explode, the cheers and whooping give way to absolute silence. When the song ends so does the hush, the hanging silence expelled with thankful applause.

Honestly, for me the gig was a beautiful exhibition of long-crafted skill and art, showing how well playing to the crowd can be done. The innate crowd interaction from John Darnielle who was loving the little stand-up bits, made the night all the more special. If you have not seen The Mountain Goats live, I can recommend nothing more, and if you have never heard them, I would start now; on The Sunset TreeTallahassee, or Beat the Champ.

FULL REVIEW HERE

List Season Continues…

10 WORST SONGS OF 2017 – 11TH DECEMBER

50 BEST TRACKS OF 2017 – 15TH DECEMBER

10 WORST ALBUMS OF 2017 – 18TH DECEMBER 

25 BEST ALBUMS OF 2017 – 22ND DECEMBER