Five Songs for the Weekend – V

#1. call the police  by LCD Soundsystem

LCD Soundsystem are finally back, and their melancholy dance rock sounds particularly apt for a time “we all know […] is nothing.” The kraftwerkian grooves are as catchy as ever, in contrast to the ponderous brevity of frontman James Murphy’s politically-tinted lyricism. The creators of the perfect soundtrack to dance  away one’s worries are truly back; the new album cannot get here fast enough. 

#2. Glam by Walrus

This hazy, psychedelic track with a contemporary indie bent harkens back to the glory days of glam rock – think Queen meets Daughter – with its earworm guitar riffs and drawling vocals, making it perfect for a sunny afternoon.

#3. Bimmer Music by Ishmael Raps

A high-energy, exuberant track whose aim is to simply be as fun as possible. As evidenced by the title itself, this is made to bump while driving, with its booming production and hyped-up flow. A true banger.

#4. Thinking of a Place by The War on Drugs

Guided by the bittersweet ruminations on life of frontman Adam Granduciel, The War on Drugs’ sprawling new single is a self-contained journey through the many crests, troughs and bends of thought, gliding on ethereal instrumentation that flows with Adam’s vocals to create an experience of a song that transports one to the place he seems lost in.

#5. Intoxicate by ZHU

ZHU is one of the most interesting producers out there right now, with a sexy, sleek aesthetic that is as much electroncia as it is modern RnB. He continues this genre-melding with Intoxicate, combining his own falsetto vocals with his subdued brand of EDM. This one’s for the dark club corners that ZHU owns.

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Five Songs for the Weekend – V

Bursts of Thought #1

1. 99.9% by Kaytranada

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The cover art for 99.9% is emblematic of the music it contains. This is abstract, bright music that demands the listener’s attention. With polyrythmic, massive-bass driven production, Kaytranada comes up with some truly unique production that skitters across a wide array of sounds, never getting into a rut. While it can be broadly classified as electronica, with distinct hip-hop influences, there is a significant amount of progressive genre-blending here, particularly with the percussion, such as on the stellar BBNG-assisted Weight Off, the unmatched Glow’d Up with Anderson.Paak’s inspired vocal performance, and Breakdance Lesson N.1 which sounds like straight 80s hip-hop interspersed with futuristic synths. It’s a bit of a disappointment then, that some of the vocalists, particularly with their lyrics, sound rather uninspired. I have a love-hate relationship with Little Dragon vocalist Yukimi Nagano, and the closing track, Bullets, does little to sway my opinion towards love. One Too Many has Phonte pushing his singing abilities to an unfortunate breaking point, alongside some truly cringeworthy lyrics. However, when the music plays, these issues recede, for Kay’s stellar work on the boards is front-and-center. The instrumentals are unlike anything I’ve heard this year, and sounds just at home on full blast as they do in my headphones. Save for the occasional vocal misstep, then, 99.9% is a hypnotic, layered record created by a man with a meticulous ear for sound. Music is all the better for it.

2. Cloud Nine by Kygo

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Kygo is a phenomenon: he’s almost single-handedly engineered the next wave of festival-filling EDM with tropical house, that’s come to permeate the mainstream in an incredibly short period.Courtesy of a few uber-popular singles, all eyes have been on Kygo, which he’s directed towards this album, Cloud Nine. Unfortunately, Kygo’s music, while very well done, reveals its biggest flaw – its homogeneity – when extended to album length. In fact, most of the best tracks on the album, gorgeous in their own right, have already been released as singles. Some of the strongest vocals on the album appear on Firestone and Stole The Show, courtesy of Conrad Sewell and Parson James respectively, while the acoustic stylings of Kodaline on Raging and James Vincent McMorrow on I’m In Love make them some of the best tracks here. Among the deep cuts, Happy Birthday is a shimmering gem featuring the always-incredibe John Legend, and Not Alone featuring RHODES is worth multiple listens. As with most EDM, lyrics are hardly the focus here, being standard pop fare. The production is obviously why we’re here, and Kygo’s blend of lush, summery synths and strings, and gorgeous keys remain beautifully atmospheric, which shine through on the instrumental Intro and the closing For What It’s Worth, which would’ve been better off as the original vocal-less Piano Jam. Even as the tracks bleed into each other, Cloud Nine remains vibrant and truly stunning in sections. Kygo’s music, then, is clearly better off consumed as individual songs, than listened to as a traditional album. With that in mind, the listener can settle into some wonderful vibes with Cloud Nine.

3. Konnichiwa by Skepta

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Skepta has been consistently building anticipation for Konnichiwa for about a year now, with cosigns by Drake and Kanye, and riding the wave of some stellar singles. A grime album hasn’t seen so many eyes on it in a long time. Fortunately, the album lives up to quite a lot of the hype. Konnichiwa sticks to the tried and tested grime formula for the most part: aggressive, no-frills production, flow and rhymes, a version of braggadocios hip-hop at its bluntest. It isn’t particularly innovative, but it doesn’t aim to be. It’s technical, clever and authentic rap. The few instances Skepta steps out of his comfort zone are met with mixed results; the Pharrell-assisted Numbers is a nice standout(could’ve done without the Pharrell verse though) and Text Me Back should not be dismissed as “one for the ladies,” having some genuine emotion not found anywhere else on the album. Ladies Hit Squad, on the other hand, is a terribly generic club song that is an unnecessary attempt at breaking into the US mainstream. Speaking of the mainstream, Skepta will definitely find a place on the playlists of hip-hop heads and grime newcomers across the world with Konnichiwa, although it will probably not blow up on the charts. It’s far from pop, but it’s real. And as straightforward as the music may be, Skepta is assured in his abilities, and he ensures the listener knows it.
Bursts of Thought #1

Favourite Albums of 2015 – #22 to #20

#22. Wildheart – Miguel

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Full disclosure: I don’t usually care much for RnB. Despite this, I count myself as a fan of Miguel for his ability to incorporate diverse influences, beyond tradtional RnB, into his music, while still being centered on his incredible, authentic vocals. The result of this artistic dabbling is one of the richest-sounding albums of the year. From the hip-hop swagger on N.W.A to Coffee’s vivid emotiveness, Wildheart is a bold statement on positive sexuality and pleasure, and marks a definitive moment in contemporary music.

Listen to: Coffee, face the sun

#21. Big Grams – Big Grams

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The brainchild of Big Boi (one-half of the legendary OutKast) and electronic group Phantogram, Big Grams is quite simply one of my favourite collaborative efforts, and favourite musical surprises, of the year. The sensual, slow-burning electronica and Sarah Barthel vocals are a perfect foil to Big Boi’s cocky, self-assured mic presence on tracks like Run For Your Life and Fell In The Sun; while they veer towards braggodicious hip-hop powered by skittering beats on tracks such as Born To Shine. Golden as the cover art, Big Grams is one of the coolest albums of the year. My only real complaint with this project is that there isn’t more of it.

Listen To: Run For Your Life, Drum Machine

#20. Genesis Series EP – ZHU

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ZHU, the person, may still be quite the enigma, but his music has a clear purpose: seduce the entire damn dance floor. Thanks to a much higher profile this year, ZHU accentuates this EP’s sound through an array of impeccably chosen collaborators, while ensuing his sound is not lost in the crowd. The signature synths and keys are guaranteed to get you grooving, while the featured vocals interplay with ZHU’s falsetto in exciting ways. Whether you’re an audiophile or a club regular, the Genesis Series EP will treat you ears to auditory sensuality.

Listen To: Hold Up Wait A Minute , Modern Conversation 

Favourite Albums of 2015 – #22 to #20