First things first, a couple of corrections. For four weeks now, issue 11 has contained two errors; the HTML has been all over the place (that's right, I do all my coding myself). The second was that the review for The Greatest by Sia was missing a charts summary for the featured artist Kendrick Lamar. We apologise for both.
Alicia Keys has released Blended Family this week with A$AP Rocky on rap. It's a delightful record; ditching her usual piano-led sound, this is simply a firm acoustic guitar and drums and Keys' soulful vocal, with a mere plink of piano here and there. But why did she choose to end the record with a fade-out – a gradual ending has served her perfectly well for years! It's like a 100-year-old subjected to enough plastic surgery to send her back to looking like a 25-year old; great fun at first, but sooner or later she's going to tip over.
Oooh, yes! ALVA has released Daylight this week, an epic record compiled of guitar strum, piano plonks and excitable drums on which ALVA's rich albeit heavily accented vocals (she's from Sweden) are spread at times a little too thinly (especially during the otherwise chasmic gaps after the second and third choruses) but otherwise deliciously. With a bit of work, this could be a hit.
Baauer's newest record, Paauer, is an infuriating instrumental. It starts off with aggravated synths which lead the listener into thinking it's moving full steam ahead; the problem is that its drums proceed to undermine this with trap beats, whereas something with the gusto of breakbeat or jungle would have moved the synths along with the energy it so heartily cries out for. No chance.
Basic Tape have released So Good this week, a funky fizz of a record which fumes to begin with and then sets into a luscious albeit lumpy groove of drums, synths, keyboards and fitting vocals from Danny Shah; it's a relaxing but heavy-handed record which sounds competent but ultimately unsatisfying. This could do with work.
Becky G has this week released a Spanish-language record called Mangú (apparently it's a Dominican side dish, like a sort of poor man's mashed potato made with plantains). For non-English records, we apply the Gangnam Style test; can we enjoy the record despite (what can sound like) being barked at in a foreign language? This record is about as Spanish as I am likely to ever review on this site; with enticing Spanish vocals, lots of acoustic guitar and lots of acoustic percussion, this is as irresistible as being chatted up by a half-naked Spanish lady on the shores of Barcelona on a sweltering afternoon whilst rocking on a hammock – it is that beautiful. It passes the Gangnam Style test.
From the foxy to the rocks-y (I don't think I shall be using that word on this site again), Bon Jovi's Born Again Tomorrow is a full-on slab of rock complete with guitar solo which evokes the wild but somehow still fully controlled rage of their earliest records; the same can be said for the rest, in addition to being gloriously upbeat and still capable of rousing an audience. This particular record has the feel of a rockier Don't Be So Hard On Yourself (Jess Glynne); it is delightful. We hope Bon Jovi stumble upon a hit someday, even if this isn't it.
Certain records are sufficiently irritating as to get up your nose. The introduction to Bruno Mars' "24K Magic" (pronounced "24 carat magic"), one of the most ungodliest auto-tune confederated rackets ever laid down in a studio, is sufficiently irritating as to not just to get up your nose, but to tickle your nostrils and play with the nasal hairs while it's in there. The very worst of 1980s R&B – the sort you might find if you rummage around the lower quarter of charts during the middle of the 1980s – has been beaten to a pulp and puréed across a sickening spunk of synthesised beats and the admittedly serviceable sing-every-other-word antics of Run-DMC. Bits of this record sound as dazed and confused as a Alzheimer's-afflicted old man who's just been struck by a truck. In short, this is borderline offensive.
Cash+David have released the EP Side II this week (Side I went out on 22 April 2016, too early for this site – which, as Mr. Mars above will tell you, is a good thing). The opening track, Burger (Stormy Weather) is a tasty line of synth-rock on which saucy lyrics (get it?) dance on top of thin but sturdy synths and drums, while Elixir combines synths with more house-like percussion to great effect. STC (Interval Training) is a far harsher contraption, combining autotune (thankfully less monotonously than 24K Magic!) and Swarfega-like riffs. Bloodsucker is a juicy jape, combining guitar with chunky, melodic synths and at times possessed vocals which are heavenly together. My only moan is it's the same vocal throughout the four records, with no let off; a great deal of the synths sound fairly similar too, and there is enough – literally, just enough – variation to keep me interested throughout the thirteen and a half or so minutes. Otherwise, this isn't bad.
Clean Cut Kid let out Make Believe on 4 October 2016. It is a rugged but endearing record combining menacing guitar riffs and rocky lead vocals (there's at least one other vocalist singing at the same time as him most of the time) with snappy drums. My only criticism is that the record cries out for a guitar solo shortly after the second chorus but does not receive one; this, I feel, would improve the record no end because as it stands the record runs for just slightly too long. Otherwise, not bad.
Funky! Deorro has released Goin' Up this week. Although this is the first time this has been released, this was actually performed during Deorro's set on 25 July 2015 as part of the Tomorrowland festival, which is currently online here. The original is a delightful juxtaposition of tender vocals and wailing synths complete with pleasant guitar solo at the front and even a proper ending (which you could be forgiven for not being able to hear properly); the radio edit fades out thirty seconds earlier, does away with the solo, and clips out some other stuff, leaving a record which sounds bare, and it's a shame the original wasn't released as was.
Draper has released Want You More, a record featuring vocals from Sam Sure, this week; it is an angry record made of laboured synths, with the drums and Sure's cockney vocals present but buried; it took me several listens to hear a spoken word section about two thirds of the way through because the synths feel like a bloke wandering in and out of sleep while his head lifts on and off a keyboard's keys with it set on full power, and it's enough to give me a headache. No chance.
A far more easily-listenable track this week has to be Hannah Diamond's Fade Away. It's a delightful set of airy keys and house-inspired percussion buoyed by Diamond's computer-aided vocal acrobatics. It's a perfectly serviceable listen, though some of the acrobatics can get a bit monotonous after a while. That said, much of the record feels extraneous, and four minutes is more than enough for this to run for; much of it could be cut without anybody noticing. Otherwise, it's not a bad way of losing yourself for a bit.
An enormous number of releases by people I've never heard of this week; this one's by someone with an character in their name I've never heard of. Harlœ has released All in My Feelings, a nocturnal sounding record kicked off with fluttery synths evoking the beginning of Never Knew Love Like This Before (Stephanie Mills) and continued in the same vein with excursions into piano and just at the point of "this is a bit empty, isn't it?" handclaps. This is a delightful record, and we hope to see it in the charts (not that we're expecting its presence).
Say what you like about his rather bizarre decision to release another single while at #1, but James Arthur does believe in creating records with unknown artists; he provided the vocals for Alonzo Holt's #97 and only hit, a cover of Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Ball. This time, he's roped along another relative unknown Shotty Horroh – he's a rap battle regular apparently – for the rather sanctimonious Sermon. It's a gorgeous record with dark guitar twangs, sinister strings and soulful vocals; Horroh's scornful-sounding rap livens up what can be a rather rich record. I await its chart position.
Oooh, I don't like this record. John Legend's Love Me Now feels like a poor man's All I Need, down from its grossly inappropriate "love me now" bellows shortly after the choruses to the opening notes of the former even resembling the latter, only with what sounds like tape hiss as accompaniment. My suggestion is that John tries to write about something else.
Jojo's released Music. this week. No, that's neither facetious nor misspelt; Music. is the name of her new record, and it's a beautiful ode to how music got her through difficult times including the loss of her father. It's an easy record to listen to – it's just JoJo and a piano. But why, oh, why did she add a ridiculous reverse piano effect at the end – it undermines the whole record! Nonetheless, this is a record worth listening to at least once.
Back in April, Kaskade and Deadmau5 said they would be following up their 2008 collaboration "I Remember". I say that should be collaborations, since the pair also released Move For Me the same year. Both records also featured Haley on vocals, although Beneath With Me one doesn't – this one features Skylar Grey. Her soft vocals are pleasant enough, but they're not as dreamy as Haley's, and make the main attraction – aggressive synths in the middle and end of the record – hang around for just too long. I'm hoping a longer version comes out, à la I Remember, so I can see if a version with a longer breakdown exists, but at the moment this was not worth waiting for.
In behaviour not dissimilar to My Chemical Romance in issue 5, The Killers have released Peace of Mind this week, an unreleased demo from their 2006 album Sam's Town, which they're celebrating the tenth anniversary of. It's a very slow record which sounds even slower by the instrumentation used; with a wailing guitar running through most of it, it is the absolute embodiment of 'boring'. For purists only.
On the other hand, Reverend by The Killers does slow down proceedings compared to their previous hits. However, this still has some energy in it, with the intro and outro (is that even a word?) bookending the track with Shadows-like riffs, while the record's interior is a perfectly serviceable but otherwise unexceptional guitar and drums run. It could be worse.
Lady Gaga's at it again, this time with Million Reasons – a country-influenced ballad which suits Gaga's voice perfectly despite only consisting of a guitar and strings; it is a beautiful ballad, and a welcome change of pace given how stale her attempts at her usual upbeat sound are sounding lately. I do wish the verses weren't quite so repetitive, though.
Tch! First Jax Jones enters the charts with his, Mike Dunn's and MNEK's Housework, now LE YOUTH has announced he's forming his new venture, the Homewerk label named after the tour he's at the time of writing halfway through. Two of the most mundane things one can do in my experience; not that the latter's new single, Me Without You, could be described as the third, mind, for it is warmly funky and upbeat. The song's vocals skip on top of the record like a kid playing hopscotch, and it is just a delight to listen to. Time he reentered the charts, I think.
Lenno has remixed Cookin' On 3 Burners' Mind Made Up ft. Kylie Auldist, a record which was first released on 19 May 2014 as a double A-side with Losin' Streak ft. Daniel Merriweather. The original was a funky number which sounded like it was straight out of the soul/disco transition in the mid-1970s which lets Auldist's vocals shine; the new version, on the other hand, guts the record and replaces the instrumentation with broad synths and new percussion, and the result sounds like it was bloated beyond recognition; Auldist could be anyone, and it is a shame her vocal talents are wasted in execrable electronics. I await its chart position.
Leon Power has released Blind this week. It's a slow record; with the context of Power's vocals and the song's languid synths, the drums fizzle like popping candy chocolate on a tongue, and in a record which feels as lethargic as someone who's eaten far too much of the stuff, it is a much needed boost. Not bad.
The lazy sod. Lost Frequencies' newest record is a cover version of Haddaway's What is Love?. This has previously been out since 4 June 2013 as the Lost Frequencies remix of Jaymes Young's cover of it; all Lost Frequencies has done is make a few cosmetic edits (I think he's cut the opening chorus and some loose instrumental stuff) and rereleased it as What is Love 2016. If anything, it should be What is Love 2014. The record itself is fairly relaxing, aided by Young's gentle vocals and abetted by Frequencies' gentle guitar playing. I suspect this will be a hit.
Well, what do you know. A third correction. Last week, we spelt Louis Mattrs' name as Mttrs in the chart summary for Chase & Status' Lost & Not Found. Sorry about that. Mattrs' new record, Bow Down, is a sluggish track, with Mattrs' smoky vocals crawling across a slimy, pulseless track with no enthusiasm at all. There's no spark, no energy, no nothing. No hope whatsoever.
Well, if it worked once, why wouldn't it work again? That's the mantra of Matrix & Futurebound this week, who have reunited with Max Marshall – with whom they had their biggest hit, Control – for their new record, Fire. (That song worked because it was a good song; Marshall could have been almost anybody.) Fire is a delectation of aggressive drums and angry synths on which Marshall's vocals lie; the problem here is that Marshall's vocals don't feel as powerful as they were on Control. Neither do the instrumentation; they feel a bit blunt in comparison. A shame.
Is this open season for shafting Queen hits? First Panic! At the Disco buggered Bohemian Rhapsody, and now MNEK has ruined Don't Stop Me Now. That man has ripped out the gentle but goading piano and replaced it with bog-standard dubstep synths and drums. That man has ripped out Mercury's lightweight vocals and replaced them with his own heavy, laboured vocals, which frankly feel like dragging a sack of potatoes through a bed of nails. That man has evicted the guitar solo (and just about all the instrumentation in that bar) and replaced it with a bog-standard near-acapella repetition of the chorus, subtracting from the energy. (What's Brian May doing nowadays? He could have asked him to help…) Why would he do this? Why would he suddenly decide to brutally savage a poor, innocent classic? Because he's a killer, queen…
Drum is MØ's newest record. It makes use of the same progressive synths used in Lean On and Cold Water; the difference here is that this is littered with catch 22 recalcitrant vocoder effects; without them, the record would be stick thin, but with them MØ is constantly fighting to be heard, as is the rest of the record – though in the latter case it's because the record's so slight anyway. MØ is due a major hit, but this isn't it.
Nimmo has released Dancing Makes Us Brave this week. It's a funky track with powerful vocals and drums; the synths used in it are obnoxious, although we are at times grateful since the rest of the record often feels as though it's shouting, which for drums is bizarre. The whole thing feels very heavy-handed and stodgy; it's not that bad a record, but it feels loud for the sake of being loud. It is also completely immemorable; I wrote this review in the Kingston University library, and on my way out I heard this song playing in The Picton on the way to the bus stop and I had to ask what it was called. All in all, no chance.
Noella Nix has released Calling this week. It's a sweet, innocuous record, combining Nix's powerful vocals with cantankerous synths and pugnacious drums; unfortunately, it's yet another record which thinks synths are the be all and end all, and at times the record can cloy. As powerful as Nix's vocals are, they can't lift the record through some of its less interesting parts, by which I mean most of them. Not bad, but not good either.
Olly Murs has released his new record, Grow Up, this week. By Murs' middle-of-the-road standards, this is violent; lyrics which instruct you to grow up while a tense guitar mutters away. That said, this is still a perfectly serviceable record; it's like the consomme to Kiss Me's broth. Unfortunately, given the context of issue 2's You Don't Know Love, which pined for an ex, this feels like a perfunctory "opposing views must get equal airtime" apology to the regulators (we were reminded of Fifteen to One's William G. Stewart being ordered to provide equal airtime to the view that Britain should keep the Elgin Marbles). The acoustic version is also pleasant listening, though at times I can't tell the difference between the two versions. I predict that this will enter the charts.
Nice! R3hab has produced Icarus this week, a record which turns the asinine antics of the Greek myth Icarus (flying too close to the sun and melting his wings despite his father's instruction) into a wonderfully upbeat track complete with suitably sweet vocals and succulent synths. Of all the EDM filler released over the last few months of me using this site, this is one of the best. Good luck to it.
Urgh! Please, in your searches for Sälen's Copper Kiss online, do not make the mistake of searching for just "copper kiss" for the results were enough to make me throw up. Search for "Copper Kiss Sälen" instead. The culprit of said stomach-churning is an admittedly fairly pleasant instrumental – bongo-like drums intertwine with a deep guitar strum and a peculiar effect I can't put a finger on – while a female voice which you could be forgiven for thinking was that of a teenager who's just discovered Urban Dictionary and thinks it the greatest thing since sliced bread vocalises vulgarly and hypocritically (she has the audacity to sing "you're so gross you make me sick"). We listen to these records, so you don't have to.
Hello, and welcome to one of the most rarest specimens ever examined by this site; a very, very slow record, which manages to remain interesting for almost its entire length. Sofi De La Torre has released Flex Your Way Out this week with an impoverishment of vocals from Blackbear. De La Torre's gorgeous vocals wrap themselves around Blackbear's coarser vocals while a torpid but tense set of synths massage the brain and intermittent drums protrude just enough to keep you awake but not enough to hog the limelight. This is heavenly, and much-needed ear milk after the above nausea. (I might get in trouble with the owners of earmilk.com for saying that since that site treads similar territory to this one and I'm essentially treading on their toes.)
WiDE AWAKE, who I have to say have an uphill struggle if they want to be found via Google since Katy Perry had a massive hit with "Wide Awake" in 2012 and at the time of writing there is no way of carrying out a case sensitive search (that this reviewer knows of), have recruited Lovelle on their single "Young God". It's an upbeat track consisting of voluminous quantities of strings, synths, drums and vocals from Lovelle; the drop sounds like someone massacring a Mega Drive, but otherwise it's just a mild-mannered nothing containing nothing exceptional about any other part of it. No chance.
Poking your head around You Me At Six's way while they've got Plus One going is like gazing down the shaft of a loaded cannon; I don't need to listen to it twice. This is a corrosive two-and-a-half minutes, and will blow your head off. Still, it is a welcome alternative from this week's watered down offerings from their American cousins the Killers and Kings of Leon. Think of this as a musical version of a Carolina Reaper chilli; come and have a go if you think you're hard enough, but otherwise steer clear of it like the plague.
Grrr! We were expecting to have reviewed the entire contents of the top five this week. We weren't counting on Side by Side by Ariana Grande ft. Nicki Minaj usurping Let Me Love You by DJ Snake ft. Justin Bieber's #5 spot.
|New peak/previous peak||Floundering||Absent|
|Say You Won't Let Go (James Arthur, #1)
Starboy (Weeknd ft. Daft Punk, #2)
My Way (Calvin Harris, #4)
This Town (Niall Horan, #9)
Ain't My Fault (Zara Larsson, #16)
Ain't Giving Up (Craig David & Sigala, #23)
All We Know (Chainsmokers ft. Phoebe Ryan, #24)
Starving (Hailee Steinfeld ft. Grey & Zedd, #28)
Blow Your Mind (Mwah) (Dua Lipa, #31)
Mercy (Shawn Mendes, #44)
Love On Me (Galantis & Hook N Sling, #47)
On What You're On (Busted, #60)
Would I Lie To You? (John Gibbons, #70)
False Alarm (Weeknd, #81)
Famous (Nathan Sykes, #93)
Meteorite (Years & Years, re-entry, #97)
Send Them Off! (Bastille, re-entry, #98)
Body Moves (DNCE, #99)
|Closer (Chainsmokers ft. Halsey, #3)
Cold Water (Major Lazer ft. Justin Bieber & MØ, #7)
The Greatest (Sia ft. Kendrick Lamar, #8)
In the Name of Love (Martin Garrix, #11)
Still Falling For You (Ellie Goulding, #12)
Can't Stop the Feeling (Justin Timberlake, #26)
Hurts (Emeli Sandé, #27)
You Don't Know Love (Olly Murs, #30)
Cool Girl (Tove Lo, #51)
Who Do You Think Of (M.O, #69)
Perfect Illusion (Lady Gaga, #71)
Kids (OneRepublic, #82)
Waste a Moment (Kings of Leon, #96)
|All Goes Wrong (Chase & Status)
Whew! That was exhausting. I still have energy enough to moan about a number of things raised our ire this week. Robbie Williams' Party Like a Russian (new at #68 this week) samples Dance of the Knights by Prokofiev, and was released within a week of The Apprentice, a show whose main theme is Prokofiev's Dance of the Knights; the BBC have acted seemingly to avoid a conflict of interest, and removed it from The Apprentice titles (but not from The Apprentice: You're Fired). To quote Anne-Marie, if you're going to do it, do it right; we wish they wouldn't though, as forgoing said opening menace makes for a weaker show.
What they should have acted on was Lord Sugar's copying of Safeword's divulging of non-existent email addresses, as gullible viewers – this is the BBC, so there are many of them – will contact it. Safeword can get away with it (but shouldn't) because it's a televised warzone at the best of times; in a show with factual pretensions, honesty is everything (especially to make up for the candidates' occasional lack of it). Lord Sugar should know better than this. (I wonder if he'd ever consider doing that show?)