Released on the 12th of February, ‘Fever’ is the debut single from the from the first lady of Digital Soundboy, B.Traits.
Featuring Elisabeth Troy on vocals, the track is a massive 90s influenced dance number which is bound to have you hitting repeat after the first play. With a big ravey piano riff and even bigger vocals from Elizabeth, we’ve gotten yet another top quality dance track in the first month of 2012.
Following the success of Redlight’s ‘Get Out My Head’, it’s nice to see the 90s rave sound coming back. Hopefully this one will continue the trend so that we can have a real proper 90s comeback.
When I first listened to Labrinth’s new track I was pretty disappointed, but after a few listens it’s really grew on me.
With pulsating electro verses and an uplifting chorus, this should be yet another hit for the producer turned singer. It’s not quite up there with ‘Earthquake’, and there ‘s a bit much autotune - but it’s another catchy track from Labrinth nonetheless. And a good one at that.
The Bitter Sweet Symphony-esque strings that come in in the second chorus would have to be my favourite part of the track. It’s those little unexpected touches which make Labrinth one of the UK’s finest producers.
Frank Ocean put a little treat for his fans on his tumblr in the form of new track ‘Voodoo’. And when I say ‘little treat’, sadly I mean it.
At only 90 seconds long, ‘Voodoo’ is too sweet for its own good. With a jazzy guitar against laid back drums, it’s a smooth track which describes how a couple’s love is the only thing that matters in dark times. Frank’s falsetto carries the song nicely, making it something which is definitely sonically pleasing to the ears.
I’m just praying that we’ll get to hear a longer version of this track. It’s too good to only last 90 seconds. If Frank doubles it in length and puts it on his album I’ll be a happy man.
M.I.A. premiered the final version of her new single ‘Bad Girls’ today, a song which was originally available on her 2010 ‘Vicki Leekx’ mixtape.
I wasn’t sold on the demo version, which had great potential but was let down by rough and slightly tinny production. That’s all been fixed in the new version, as the track sounds full when you blast it up through your speakers. Danja’s done his job on this one. The Arabian influenced hip-hop beat goes hard - it’s great to see Maya’s voice over such a heavy urban instrumental beat once again.
M.I.A.’s verses are killer on this one. Add to that the fact that this song is catchier than chlamydia and she’s gotta be doing something right. By the end of the track you’ll no doubt be chanting “live fast, die young, bad girls do it well” and “my chain hits my chest as I’m banging on the radio”. That’s how it should be.
Foo Fighters // Times Like These (Radio 1 Live Lounge Acoustic Version)
This would have to be one of my favourite songs of all time, let alone by the Foo Fighters. It’s such an emotional track, bringing out the best of Dave Grohl and co in what will go down as an alt-rock classic.
There’s something about ‘Times Like These’ which is so nostalgic. Even without hearing it, the song sounds familiar. That’s not to say it’s a generic rip off of something else - it just gives you that feeling.
This track is like therapy to me. It has that rare ability in a song to make you feel a little bit better no matter what is happening. That’s amazing. The acoustic version is just as good as the original, allowing you to really concentrate on the lyrics with the acoustics stripped back. I couldn’t think of a much better way to end the night than listening to this.
This track was played at a Mugler fashion show in Paris and it seemed like everyone wanted the full version of it. Well now we’ve got the full version of Azealia Banks’ ‘Bambi’ and can examine it in all its HQ glory.
There’s this crazy, thumping electro beat as soon as the song starts, which was surprisingly produced by the ever versatile Paul Epworth. He did a real good job with the production, which is full and crisp.
Azealia does a lot of talking on this song, but it’s her amazing high paced verse in the middle which is the highlight of the song. It’s different from everything we’ve heard from her so far, although more similar to ‘212’ than ‘NEEDSUMLUV’. I can’t wait to see another side of her personality when the album drops.
'Animals' is the third single from Brooklyn based duo CREEP, following the striking Nina Sky collaboration 'You'. With fellow XL signee Holly Miranda providing vocals, this is a brilliant piece of 90s inspired dark pop.
The song is a spooky, downbeat electronic number with harkening violins adding a slight touch of drama to the chilled atmosphere. The video is equally eerie, complementing what must be the epitome of an understated pop song. And a good one at that.
CREEP have a thing for guest female vocalists, previously having with Nina Sky (remember them?), while they also have songs with Grimes and Sia in the pipeline. That’s a pretty exciting lineup, I can’t wait to see what they’ve done with the latter artists. Check out the Modern Machines remix while you’re here. It’s an amazing house remix that they’re giving away, and it may just be on par with the original.
Kelis was the freaky urban chick before it was cool to be weird. She was bold, artistic and most of all she didn’t give a crap what anyone thought of her. Even today, she still stands out as genuine against the fakes who are artsy for the sake of being artsy.
'Get Along With You' was the third and final single from Kelis' debut album 'Kaleidoscope'. Barely making the charts in any country, it would have to be Kelis' most underrated single - although saying that, there are a lot of them. Even though this song is a ballad which is far more restrained much her usual work, the slick Neptunes production gives it and edge which still sounds refreshing to this very day. It was all very cutting edge when the song was released back in 2000. (Gosh it sounds strange saying that)
Lyrically this song has a lot packed into it, as Kelis emphasises how love and getting along with someone is more important than material things and even the world itself. Plus the video is amazing, showing off Kelis’ creativity at its highest level. Even though I love how Kelis is making innovative dance music with substance right now, I would love to see her return to R&B sometime. She was just too good at it to leave it behind good.
Despite January normally being the time when I find tons of new artists, I wasn’t able to post many new artists this month due to my January modules. I’m going to try and post a bunch of new artists over the next month or so, and here’s the first one: Willis Earl Beal.
Signed to XL imprint Hot Charity, Beal is a singer/songwriter from Chicago. His debut album ‘Acousmatic Sorcery’ was recorded in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when he was living off very little money with no real plan. That explains why his music has such a raw, earthy feeling, as if he has a fear of death of some sort.
'Evening's Kiss' is a beautiful acoustic track, which tells a tale of lost dreams and explores idea of love. Willis' rough, gritty vocals sound pensive against the song's lo-fi production, giving hints of both folk and blues. There's something really interesting about William Earl Beal's music. You can't help but wonder who he really is. I can't wait to find out more when his debut album drops in May.
I’m not so sure about the new Chris Brown song. On one had it’s an extremely well produced, catchy dance track. But on the other it’s everything I hate about music right now. Seems like I’ve got a dilemma on my hands.
'F.A.M.E.' saw Chris return to form after the dire less than mediocre ‘Graffiti’ which we’re all still trying to push out of our my minds. Following a resurgence in popularity, Chris is following up last year’s LP with new album ‘Fortune’, which is due in March. There’s already been a bit of confusion as to what the lead singles are from the record. ‘Strip’ off his ‘Boy In Detention’ served as the lead urban single, as Chris hoped to repeat the success of ‘Deuces’ no doubt. However everything went a bit hazy after that as both ‘Biggest Fan’ and ‘One Of Those Nights’ were announced as singles. Neither of those have premiered, and instead we’ve got ‘Turn Up The Music’, which will serve as the lead single from the album on pop radio. Confusing, I know.
Now back to the actual music. The track is no doubt extremely catchy and very well produced. There’s a good built up of synths and even some Lil’ John sounding shouts to among the layers of electronica, but it’s all a bit been there, done that. A distinct follow up to ‘Yeah 3x’, it’s all a bit generic as Chris follows trends in pop radio right now.
This will be a hit because it sounds like what’s already out. While ‘Turn Up The Music’ is an infectious track which I’ll no doubt be singing along to, it lacks the euphoria of songs like ‘We Found Love’ and ‘Beautiful People’ that sets them apart from the clone copies which are filling up the airwaves. If Chris wants ‘Fortune’ to be something special he’ll have to stay ahead of the game instead of simply following tired trends.
John Legend // Tonight (Best You Ever Had) [Feat. Ludacris]
John Legend premiered the lead single from his upcoming fourth album today, his first solo project LP 2008’s ‘Evolver’. It’s been a while since we’ve had new music from Mr Legend, but can he deliver yet another great lead single?
To be frank, yes, he can. ‘Tonight (Best Your Ever Head)’ is a slinky, sensual R&B track, which is bound to have you jamming by the time the second verse hits. With a minimal drum pattern, sparkling synths and a hint of 80s funk, this is one irresistibile gem of a track.
Ludacris provides a verse, which fits in just right with the tone of the song and John’s smooth, composed vocals. If this is an indication of the quality of music that is going to be on John’s reportedly ‘darker’ new LP, then I’m definitely looking forward to it.
'You Don't Know' is the first track we've got to hear from Ed Sheeran and Yelawolf's collaborative 'Slumdon Bridge' EP. Ed's always been generous when it comes to music, and is yet again giving away free music as he uploaded this track to hulkshare and posted it on his twitter account.
While Ed normally often mixes in acoustic sounds in with urban beats, he’s ditched the guitar completely for this one, which shows a much more urban side to the singer than we’ve possibly ever seen before. With downbeat keys and a hard drum beat, this track is a lot more low key than I had ever expected to be. It’s got a gritty sound to it, which goes well with Yelawolf’s impressive verses.
Despite releasing their major label debuts not long ago, this duo definitely aren’t getting comfortable in their success. I wasn’t expecting them to release new projects a so soon, which is a great idea to keep people’s attention spans in between records. Plus it’s always nice to get a little extra music.
Arctic Monkeys // Katy On A Mission (Radio 1 Live Lounge Cover)
It’s always nice when one of your favourite bands covers a favourite song of yours, so I was pretty pleased when I heard that the Arctic Monkeys had covered Katy B in Radio 1’s live lounge today.
The band have a great history in the live lounge, and their cover of ‘Katy On A Mission’ is no exception to the rule. With heavy bass and Alex Turner’s swooning vocals, the Arctics add a vintage rock sound to the song, replacing that booming sub in Katy’s original. There’s still a bit of bass in the song, it’s just a lot more laidback and discreet. And as Fearne Cotton said, “didn’t see it coming”.
90s Flashback: Dr. Dre // Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang [Feat. Snoop Dogg]
I’ve been listening to this track loads lately as I patiently await the release of ‘Detox’ in 2026 later this year. Hopefully Dr. Dre will take a break from making headphones and finally give us his third album, but I won’t hold my breath. Until then I’ll listen to ‘The Chronic’ and ‘2001’, the former being a soundtrack for much of 2012 for me so far.
"Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang" must be the epitome of West Coast hip-hop. With samples from Leon Hawywood, Public Enemy and Kid Dynamite, it perfects the sounds of Los Angeles. Its laidback sounds surely make it a better representative of early 90s hip-hop than most others.
Snoop and Dre are the perfect partership, they just work so well on tracks together. It must be their smooth delivery, but whatever it is, they definitely sound good together. Hopefully they’ll give us another to ball around Los Santos to….that is if Dre can get his album out before Grand Theft Auto V hits the shelves.
I just had myself a listen of Lana Del Rey’s ‘Born To Die’. It’s a good album. Very good in fact. Of course this is all just first impressions, but it seems that Lana may just have lived up to the hype. And there was a lot of hype, so I’m not just making some backhanded compliment as if I’m reviewing the latest Porcelain Black single or something.
Fans haven’t seemed to be picking out ‘Million Dollar Man’ as an initial favourite track from what I’ve seen, but it just stood out to me on the first listen. Maybe that’s because it’s a bit different from the rest of the album. The instrumental is a lot softer compared to the other tracks on the LP. The strings have a warmth about them, despite that fact that Lana sounds vulnerable as she tells us of her heartbreak. There’s this strange wailing sound throughout the song, making it all sound ever so mysterious. I like that. A lot.
Somehow the melody reminds me of the Sugababes ‘Caught In A Moment’. It’s that sweet, seductive lead up to the chorus. It just makes the song. That’s a very good Sugababes song, so yet again there is no backhanded compliment that I reserve for the likes of DEV. She doesn’t seem to sing or rap, it’s all very unpleasant. Besides, I don’t often post songs I don’t like on the site. So rest assured Lana fans, I think I love this track.
I’d always wondered why Frank Ocean gave this track away to Bridget Kelly. Don’t get me wrong, her version is great - but it just lacks that connection with the lyrics, which gives the song that pure, unadulterated emotive feel. Frank provides that real feeling on the track, so it’s no wonder that he’s now releasing at as a single of his own. Add the fact that the song is immediately associated with Francis and he’d be crazy not to release it.
Frank’s falsetto makes this song amazing. Like very few others (Beyoncé being one of them), Frank’s voice takes his music to another level. Most other singers wouldn’t make ‘Thinking About You’ sound that special, but Ocean manages to give it that extra something which makes a song this hypnotic power over you. It’s quite something.
That’s not to say the song isn’t any good. It’s a well written R&B ballad about a girl who doesn’t have the same intentions for a relationship as Frank does. Over a slinky, spacey beat with minimal snares and synths, everything has been executed just about perfectly, making ‘Thinking About You’ extremely atomospheric.
Going for adds on US radio next month, could this be the first single from Frank’s upcoming debut album? I can’t wait to hear plenty of new original material from him, so hopefully this will be on his LP and is a sign that the album’s on its way.
Redlight’s ‘Get Out My Head’ certainly lives up to its title. The track has been getting constant plays on my Itunes all week, and is seemingly playing in the back of my mind on a constant loop at the moment.
Featuring UK singer Nicole Jackson on vocals (apparently she made the judges houses on X Factor a while back), this is a massive song. With a house style piano over rave breaks, it has a very 90s feel about it. You know how I love music inspired by the 90s, explaining why I feel in love with this one within the first thirty seconds.
Redlight has managed to create a song which stands out among the current crop of dance hits. I have a feeling that this one should do pretty well however, as the combination of top quality songwriting and vocals combined with strong production, which harkens back to a great era in music makes this a commercial dance track with substance. Of course great songs are often ignored by the public, but hopefully ‘Get Out My Head’ won’t suffer that fate when released January 22.
Yasmin’s amazing new single “Light Up (The World)” (check out the original version here) isn’t doing quite as good as it deserves to be. Sitting 36 places lower than it should in the midweeks, you should all go and download the EP off Itunes, which I’ll plug right here.
On that EP there are 3 brilliant remixes and two edits of the original song. Aside from the original edit in all of its five minutes of glory, my favourite of the remixes would have to be the Benny Page one. Still keeping the song’s dub sound, the DJ has turned up the drum ‘n’ bass up another five notches or so on the remix. There’s so much extra energy on this version, not that it was needed. So turn up your volume, put on your headphones and enjoy. Did I mention that the song was available to buy on Itunes?
'Don't You Ever' is the first track to be taken from General Fiasco's upcoming second album, and sees the Northern Irish band return on top form. Not that they'd been gone long, considering the 'Waves' EP was released only a matter of months ago.
The song is catchy indie pop number with bouncy keys and a nice guitar solo two thirds into things, which breaks it all up quite nicely. The synths on the chorus are a great addition, giving the track just the right amount of depth that it needed soundwise.
After the terrific ‘Buildings’ and an impressive EP, I can’t wait to get my hands on General Fiasco’s sophomore effort. Hopefully they won’t have lost their spark and will deliver the good yet again.
Azealia Banks gave us a track called ‘NEEDSUMLUV’ today, a collaboration with producer MachineDrum.
The Harlem artist shows us a completely different side to her persona on this song, ditching the rapping for a singing wholly on the track, in what is an altogether more delicate affair from Ms Banks. With a tight drum beat and spacey percussion combined with disjointed synths, the progressive R&B style of this one is a sound that really suits the much hyped artist. The ‘One In A Million’ sample in the song is clever, and surely it’s no coincidence that this was released on Aaliyah’s birthday?
I’m presuming this is just a song that Azealia just ‘put out there’, as it’s available for free on soundcloud. But if this is what we’re getting as a bonus piece of work I can’t wait to hear what we’ll be paying for when her debut album drops later this year.
Alexandra Burke - she’s a bit hit or miss, isn’t she? It seems that she either gets it completely right ,with the likes of ‘All Night Long’, ‘Midnight Run’ and ‘Broken Heels’ being great; or extremely wrong, with the likes of ‘Bad Boys’ and the terrible ‘Start Without You’.
With news of her first single being titled ‘Elephant’ we had right to worried. I mean it could have ended up like this. Or this. Or even this *shudder*. Thankfully it isn’t anything like that, and will be joining ‘All Night Long’ and ‘Broken Heels’ sometime soon.
Teaming up with Columbian DJ Eric Morillo Alexandra’s given us a big dance track. Sure, it’s all a bit generic and there’s way to much autotune going on in the first part of the chorus, but have you heard those synths? Amazing. The best bit is when it all goes trancey, but her smoky vocals in the verses are quite nice too. It could do without the autotune, but compared to what it could have been this is a pretty good song.
Drake vs Gil Scott-Heron vs Jamie xx // Take Care of U
This remix by San Francisco producer ‘wait what’ is exactly what I’ve been looking for. A version of Drake’s ‘Take Care’ which takes vocals from Jamie xx & Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘I’ll Take Care of U’.
Suitably titled ‘Take Care of U’ (see what he did there?), the track takes the best points of both songs and puts them into one big amazing track. Gil’s vocals together with Drake’s verses are quite something. I didn’t think ‘Take Care’ could get any more atmospheric, but the late Gil Scott-Heron definitely turned things up a notch. Plus Jamie xx’s outro is amazing.
On another note I’m sorry I haven’t been posting as much lately. I won’t be spending quite so much time on this until my January modules are over on the 24th, but I’ll try my best. Thanks to everyone who reads this and enjoys what I post, it means a lot. Jacob.
You read it right. Two days old and Blue Ivy Carter’s already running the game, getting a feature on her dad’s new track ‘Glory’.
Dedicated to the newborn babe, ‘Glory’ features beautiful lyrics from Jay who tells Blue that she’s “Everything that [he] prayed for” and “a pinch of Hov, a whole glass of B”. Phew. Produced by Pharrell Williams, who also provides backing vocals, the track has a certain warmth about it which reflects the joy you can hear in Jigga’s voice.
With the final lyrics “baby I paint the sky blue, my greatest creation was you” being followed by a gargling Blue Ivy Carter, this song is just too sweet for words. This was definitely the perfect way to welcome Lil’ B into the world.
I first took notice of Etta Bond when I listened to Wretch 32’s album and heard her on ‘Forgiveness’. Sadly that song didn’t take off as I hoped it would when realised as a single, but thankfully the London singer has a lot more to give.
'Ask Me Stay' is a song which Etta uploaded to her soundcloud, and if this is what she's putting out now then I'm very excited to see what she releases as her first single. Singing over a dubstep instrumental with a clear house influence in the build up, Etta puts emotion into the dance track as she cries “you should have asked me to stay”. Managing to combine cool electronic beats with heartfelt vocals, Etta follows in the footsteps of Katy B and Jess Mills by putting some soul back into dance music - something which I like a lot.
Although she seems to have been ignored by most reviewers in their sounds of 2012 lists, Labrinth got it right when he signed Etta Bond as I think she has potential to be big in the upcoming year. She’ll fit perfectly into the UK music scene when she debuts, let’s just hope the public are as receptive of her as they have been with many of 2011’s urban stars.
Lostprophets have released a new track off their highly anticipated fifth studio album ‘Weapons’, due April 2. There’s no word on whether the song will be a single as of yet, but it’s available for free off the bands’ facebook, so grab it while you can.
Starting off with a typical Lostprophets drum fill, ‘Better Off Dead’ sees the band return in typical style with an angry song, which has an anthemic chorus you’re bound to be screaming along to by the time it comes around for one last go. Tackling the subjects of freedom and revolution, the track might as well personify the feeling of the suppressed youth in typical Lostprophets fashion. That’s the type of song they do best, so I’m more than happy we got something along those lines.
With verses in an almost spoken tempo contrasting with the fast paced chorus, the anger and frustration in this song seems amplified as the lyrics are spat out in a very cutting manner. This is all a great lead in to ‘Weapons’, which I’m now ecstatic to hear come April. It’s a pity that feels so far away right now.
I’m glad I can finally make a post about Cassie. I mean, looking for a photo to accompany this song wasn’t exactly much of a chore. Let’s face it, her stunning appearance is the reason that people are still interested in her, and possibly the reason she’s still got a record deal too.
That’s not to say she’s had it easy however. She’s been trying to release her second album since 2008, and finally looks set to be getting it out in May of this year. She’s given us snippets from the video of her comeback single ‘King Of Hearts’, and boy does it sound good. We all know that Cassie isn’t exactly the most talented artist, but she’s made the best of what she’s got and released some great songs in her career. ‘King Of Hearts’ looks set to be stormer.
While she’s moving into dance music with this track, from the video trailer and this demo it seems like she’s avoided the trashy and generic routes and went for something with more of a euphoric feel. The song’s rumoured to be produced by Kanye West, who leaked the chorus of the final cut during a DJ session at a New Years party in London - very promising news.
I originally thought this six minute version which has leaked onto the internet probably a club edit of the demo, but I’ve now discovered that it’s the Sam Young Remix, although I still have suspicious that he remixed the demo version. The production isn’t quite as up to scratch as the final version, plus you have to skip the start of the track to get to the good bit, but it’s addictive and will no doubt sound amazing once the final edit is out. I have a feeling Cassie might actually be able to get a sizeable hit with this one, it sure is promising.
Today’s song of the day comes from indie rockers Tribes, who are releasing their second single ‘We Were Children’ on January 9, after previously releasing it as part of an EP last year.
With a hint of Oasis about them, the Camden quartet more than embrace the Brit-rock sound of the mid 90s, with this anthemic track having a fair bit of nostalgia to it. The fuzzy chords and strained, moody vocals make this song fascinating, while it’s catchy melody gives it a certain likeability, which draws you in whenever the first chorus hits.
With the rest of their EP being of a similar high quality, I’d love for this band to be big. Hopefully 2012 will have room more more genres to have success than 2011 then…
I heard this little beauty from the Skins series 6 trailer, a TV show which always seems to introduce us to great new bands.
The song is a road trip anthem with a scratchy lo-fi sound and an intense feel about it that just makes you want to play it again. Those synths give the track a dreamy feel, contrasting with the ‘come on, let’s have a party and drive about the desert in open top cars’ feel of the rest of it. It’s good, very good. You should definitely check it out.
When I saw this song gaining some buzz in the new year, I couldn’t work out at all where it was from. I didn’t remember ‘Higher Love’ from James Vincent McMorrow’s debut album, but then I dug a little deeper and found out that it was a track on the EP for ‘We Don’t Eat’, which was possibly my favourite song from the Irish folk singer.
The singer-songwriter puts his spin on the Steve Winwood song, stripping it down to its barest bones, with only his haunting falsetto being heard over the warmth of the piano. It creates such an atmosphere - not too disimilar from that of James Blake’s cover of ‘A Case Of You’, which was definitely a highlight of 2010 for me.
It’s nice to see James Vincent McMorrow get some recognition nowadays. Even if it is thanks to a Love Film advert, it’s great to see him reaching people outside of Ireland and my facebook wall. This is the perfect song for my sleep depraven, delirious mood right now. Hopefully this writeup makes some sense despite my state and the song helps me actually get some sleep tonight.
Emeli Sandé premiered the studio version of her third single from ‘Next To Me’ on Annie Mac’s Radio 1 show today, and man is it good.
Sounding completely different from the acoustic version we heard on Jools Holland, the album version features bouncy pianos accompanied by triumphant brass, which give the song a particularly joyous song. It’s a stark contrast to the dark sounds of ‘Heaven’ and ‘Daddy’ in terms of atmosphere, but Emeli’s world class songwriting and emotive vocals remain, putting this track on par with the previous singles; which were amazing.
The heavy drum beat gives this song a slightly vintage doo-wop sound. It’s very natural and sounds as the perfect lead single for Emeli’s debut album ‘Our Version Of Events’, which is released February 13 and is fast becoming one of my most anticipated records of the year.
You’re probably wondering why on earth I’ve posted a picture of Azealia Banks on a post about the Scissor Sisters. Well, apart from the fact that I’ve never been able to stand the band for the most part, Krystal Pepsy is a name which Azealia Banks has adopted and the song sounds exactly like something she’d release.
It’s strange that Azealia Banks has an alter-ego so early in her career, but I’d suspect the Scissor Sisters are happy the she’s using an alter-ego as she no doubt overshadows them on this track. Her distinctive vocals carry the chorus over a progressive, but crazy electronic beat which isn’t too disimilar to ‘212’ in places.
I wish that Azealia had kept the song for herself, but it’s a great pop record nontheless. It’s just a bombastic, quirky electro track, with an equally mad music video to match. Plus the fact that we get to hear Jake Shears going all rudebox on us and rapping is hilarious.
As part of BBC Radio 1xtra’s “Hot 20 for 2012” showcase, Delilah premiered a new song entitled ‘Never Be Another’ from her upcoming debut album on DJ Target’s show this morning.
The track, which is produced by UK producer Balistiq, sees Delilah take a much harder approach with her music than we’ve heard previously as she sings over a beat which is as calculated as it is cutting. The production is perfection - there’s sharp drum loops, a marching beat with a distinct clapping sound about it, alien synths and an atmospheric piano to top everything off in what is a song with an extremely diverse sound.
The dark atmosphere of ‘Never Be Another’ is what suits Delilah’s vocals best, as her unique tone sounds menacing over the piercing beats of this style of music. If she manages to meld this together with her haunting piano ballads, then we could see one of the best albums of 2012 from her.
I’d seen so many end of year countdowns in the last few months of 2011, but I like to wait until the year is fully over to do mine. This is a review of the year rather than a countdown, just because I’m really indecisive when it comes to ranking music and we’d be here until 2014 if I was posting it.
We’ll start with a review of my favourite albums of the year, in chronological order of when I got into them. After than I’ll do the mixtapes and EPs before moving onto the singles. Here goes nothing…
I started the year with some albums I’d gotten into during the Winter of 2010. Ellie Goulding’s ‘Lights’ is a fantastic folktronica record, filled with emotion that captured my attention for months upon months during the year. Similarly Two Door Cinema Club’s ‘Tourist History’ was a 2010 album I got into late and played throughout the year, with it’s jangly indie pop sound being one of the many soundtracks to my summer. Robyn’s ‘Body Talk’ trilogy finally grew on me as well, while the dreamy yet crazy sounds of the second ‘Crystal Castles’ album made for some strange running playlists during the year. I also continued to play many of my favourites from 2010, which included Kanye West, Drake, Jazmine Sullivan, Kelis, Kings Of Leon, General Fiasco, The Pretty Reckless and many more.
The first release of 2011 which I fell in love with was Adele's '21'. I predicted it would be the biggest selling album in the UK as soon as I'd heard 'Rolling In The Deep', but never did I imagine the level of acclaim Adele would receive on a worldwide scale with her sophomore effort. It's a record I can easily play from start the finish. The way Adele channels her heartbreak and depression on the album is so intense that it still sends shivers up my spine. This soulful LP made for many a past midnight listening session, and reignited an interest in real R&B/Pop music in 2011. Thank goodness for that.
January also saw me listening to two albums from very different ends of the dubstep genre. Working in dubstep sounds alongside drum ‘n’ bass and breakbeat, Chase & Status ‘No More Idols’ is a prime example of how good the British music scene was in 2011. From the grimy ‘Hitz’, to the atmospheric ‘Time’ (which introduced us to the talented Delilah), ‘No More Idols’ is sure to become a defining album of the UK music scene. On the other side of the spectrum, James Blake's mixture of post-dubstep beats and R&B melodies on his self titled debut made for an introspective listen of an album which is as good as it is understated.
Avril Lavigne returned with new album ‘Goodbye Lullaby’ in February, and I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed as it’s not quite as good as her previous records. Most of the songs are a great by themselves, but after giving into produce from her record label to record more commercial material it does feel like an album of two halves, more than slightly disjointed in places. It’s nevertheless a great album with some great acoustic moments, and the amazing ‘Push which has Avril doing what she does best; being moody. Another great record which was released at the same time was Clare Maguire's 'Light After Dark'. Unfairly negatively reviewed by much of the music press, the album showcases Clare's rich vocals in massive orchestral choruses, contrasted with an organic electropop production reminiscent of Ellie Goulding. Most of the songs had the a very similar structure, but if it ain't broke, then why fix it?
After winning BBC’s sound of 2011 Jessie J sure had a lot to prove. With amazing singles and a great album sampler in 2010, ‘Who You Are’ was perhaps my most anticipated album of 2011. While hearing so much of the material before buying the album and having such high expectations may have dampened my opinion of the album at first, there’s no doubt that this record is one of my favourites of the year. Jessie mixed so many sounds on this album, which is both it’s strong point and it’s downfall. While the LP may lack focus, the sheer quality of the music justifies this, with Jessie’s vocals particularly shining on the slower tracks such as ‘Who You Are’ and ‘I Need This’. Personally I don’t think the album needed a re-release as there’s so much good material on it, but I guess she did need it to really make it in the US.
The Vaccines debut album ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’ provided us with indie rock stompers with the most infectious melodies I’d heard from a guitar driven band in yonks. Most songs are just a short burst of energy, forcing you to listen again because it’s just so good. Meanwhile Lupe Fiasco's 'Lasers' provided us with great verses as usual, although the production of most of the record was sub-par and Lupe was unhappy that his record label made him put a few songs he didn't want on the LP's tracklist. It was a still a pretty good album, but just nothing compared to his previous two.
Chris Brown's 'F.A.M.E.' provided us with his best work yet, as he effortlessly combined smooth R&B tracks with a few dance numbers, minus most of the filler which plagued his previous records. The Michael Jackson sampling 'She Ain't You' and Benny Benassi produced 'Beautiful People' are two songs which are possibly the best of his career, let alone the album. Another album I got into in March was Funeral Party's 'The Golden Age Of Knowhere', an entirely accesible alternative record which has a very natural feeling about it, creating a strangely uplifting mood.
Katy B was the biggest underdog of the year, creating one of the highest quality albums of 2011 when I wasn’t expecting it at all. She’d had some great singles, but I didn’t think she’d create an album which brought underground electronic sounds to the mainstream and do it so well too. Incorporating a range of electronic subgenres (dubstep, garage, funky, jungle, drum and bass, house, the list goes on…) with 90s dance elements and contemporary R&B melodies, Katy’s sweet voice gives a particularly frank perspective on relationships and London’s nightlife. I can’t really give highlights, because this record has done the rare feat and have every single track gain five starts on my music library.
2011 also saw the release of Natalia Kills debut album ‘Perfectionist’. Previously going under a number of other names (anyone else remember Verbalicious?), the post-GaGa world seemed like the perfect opportunity for the public to embrace Natalia’s new persona. Sadly that wasn’t the case, but despite the album not living up to it’s title Kills did produce a much better album than Lady GaGa herself. Sure, there’s a few dull moments, and the record isn’t exactly are deep or “confrontational” as she’d have us believe - but there’s some great dark pop and industrial style records in there, with addictive choruses and cutting beats of tracks such as ‘Acid Annie’ and ‘Wonderland’ showing that she has a lot of potential.
The Foo Fighters returned in typical style with ‘Wasting Light’, a great album which seen the band more untamed than ever on raucous tracks such as possible highlight ‘White Limo’. Meanwhile The Wombats returned with ‘This Modern Glitch’, providing me a soundtrack to my Easter holidays. Filled with infectious melodies and nostalgic lyrics, the album made for the perfect festival set, with anthems such as ‘1996’ and ‘Techno Fan’ gaining even more life on the Glastonbury stage.
Tyler the Creator combined controversial lyrics with compelling beats in ‘Goblin’, an album with a distinctly messy feel which somehow worked as a whole. Meanwhile Wynter Gordon finally released her debut album ‘With The Music I Die’, filled with credible high energy dance tracks influenced by all eras of electronic music. Unfortunately it was all over too soon with a running time of just over half an hour, but album highlight ‘Still Getting Younger’ could be listened to on repeat for that length in all its sun soaked, 80 throwback goodness.
In June Beyoncé gave us ‘4’, which is undoubtedly my album of the year. Taking influence from 90s R&B, this album saw Beyoncé take a more uncommercial route and give me the album which I needed from her in 2011. She bucked mainstream trends, creating the music she wanted as she took us back not only to the 90s, but to the 70s and 80s with the never ending pitch changing ‘Love On Top’ and Prince inspired ‘Schoolin’ Life’. Atmospheric songs such as ‘I Care’ and ‘I Miss You’ saw Beyoncé balance understated neo-soul sounds with overwrought emotion, while slow burning power-ballad ‘1+1’ was immortalised after Jay-Z posted a video of his wife rehearsing the song in her dressing room. The sheer emotion contained in those vocals is what really makes the album, while the raw quality of Beyoncé’s vocals (which is also showcased in celebration of love ‘Countdown’) is what really makes this album. While the songwriting is her best yet, no other singer could do this record justice.
Bon Iver's sophomore album switched things up, while still retaining that acoustic ethereal feeling which made the debut LP so good. Meanwhile Benjamin Francis Leftwich excelled in providing us with the best album of the year with his debut album ‘Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm’. Tracks such as ‘Box Of Stones’ and ‘Butterfly Culture’ are utterly gorgeous in their nature, setting the tone of the equally relaxing and atmospheric record. Another atmospheric album with a whole different sound is Jamie Woon's 'Mirrorwriting'. Combining folksy blues with low-key dubstep, Jamie manages to veer towards the sounds of James Blake and Jamie xx while still managing to distinguish himself as something individual. He's got a little bit more melody and a bit less studio trickery, with his songs having a wonderful feeling of 'space' about them.
Mona gave us a great album, with their southern rock influenced debut having many an anthem fit for a stadium. If only they were bigger, then maybe they could achieve that. Another album which unfairly went under the radar was Amy Winehouse prodigy Dionne Bromfield's 'Good For The Soul'. At only fifteen the singer effortlessly combines motown sounds with soulful vocals and pop melodies, creating an album with the charm of youth, yet the craft of someone far beyond her years. But the award for the most underrated album of 2011 has to go to Cocknbullkid's 'Adulthood'. With clever lyrics wrapped up in beats which combine alternative R&B with lo-fi electropop, this record went so unnoticed that it didn't even chart within the UK top 200, left alone 40. It's a shame that Anita's dark humour and alternative pop songs will be unheard by so many.
The Arctic Monkeys returned in 2011, giving me one of my favourite records of the year with ‘Suck It And See’. Taking inspiration from all three of their previous albums, the album combines the sporadic nature of the first two with the vintage Americana style of ‘Humbug’, creating their most accesible and pop LP album yet. Adding a re-worked version of ‘Piledriver Waltz’, a melancholic track found on Alex Turner’s ‘Submarine’ EP proved a wise idea, adding some more variation to the album while consequently fitting in seamlessly to the near perfect collection of songs.
Another highlight of 2011 was when Kanye and Jay-Z teamed up and finally gave us ‘Watch The Throne’. After the disappointing ‘H.A.M’ the duo stepped it up and combined their genius, creating a record filled with orchestral influences, clever samples and diverse lyrical topics, all while managing to stop the album from leaking; a new impossible feat nowadays. With a variety of styles of music on the LP ranging from soulful southern influenced tracks to dark urban sounds and a select guest list of quality features onboard including Beyoncé, Frank Ocean and Mr Hudson, ‘Watch The Throne’ ended up being almost as good as ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’. That was my absolute favourite album of 2010, so no doubt this record was massive for me.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers returned in 2011 with ‘I’m With You’. I must admit I was immediately disappointed with the album as I found some of the material forgettable, but it’s those moments which brought be back to the carefree vibes of ‘Californication’ which made this record worthy of being on this best albums list for me. However, Ed Sheeran more than impressed me with his debut ‘+’ album, putting the best tracks from his EPs alongside some new ones in what is a perfect amalgamation of acoustic and UK urban sounds. The whole album has a very lo-fi feel, with Eddie excelling when it comes to melodies and original lyrics in what is definitely one of the best debuts of 2011.
One surprise for me this year was Nicola Roberts' 'Cinderella's Eyes'. I'd never even liked Girls Aloud, but once I heard the diplo produced 'Beat Of My Drum', which is more than reminiscent of Beyoncé's 'Run The World (Girls)' I was definitely intrigued. Collaborating with many alternative acts on most of the songs, the album contains real substance as a result of Nicola's negative press attention and subsequent depression, as well as infectious melodies contained in quirky alt-pop production. Nicola pushed her pop roots away, proving that she not only has credibility, but quite a bit of depth too her character too.
You Me At Six stuck to their guns, yet again releasing another great pop-punk albumwith catchy songs and plenty of emotion. It may not be much different from the rest of their material, but if they keep on producing consistently good albums then why change anything? On the other hand LIGHTS made a clear progression in terms of sound, with her second album ‘Siberia’. While it kept that airy innocence of her debut, it was a lot grittier, containing an unusual dubstep influence which somehow worked. Blink-182 also returned, giving us their first album in eight years with ‘Neighbourhoods’.After being initially disappointed after hearing comeback single ‘Up All Night’, I was pleasantly surprised when the LP captured the sound of previous albums, while progressing by taking a much darker approach to things than other albums.
Initially I didn’t think Foster the People's 'Torches' was very good and that there wasn't really very much good on it apart from 'Pumped Up Kicks'. But this psychedelic indie-pop record finally grew on me, with the frantic 'Miss You' being the track which made everything just click with me. Another album which took a while to grow on me was Kelly Clarkson's 'Stronger'. Initially I thought it was too diluted and lacking on substance, but after a number of listens I've really been able to appreciate it as a good pop record. While it's no 'My December', the album takes Kelly's signature pop-rock style in a distinctly more soulful direction thanks to the live feel they captured in relation to her vocals. The songs do a good job at capturing Kelly's personality, and while much of the album doesn't sound as before, it's those glimpses of reality (as well as the insanely catchy choruses) which make 'Stronger' another solid of listen.
In the battle of the brothers it’s one nil to Noel, as the debut album from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds has ended up being far better than that of Beady Eye. Noel’s songwriting talents are more than proven (yet again), with this nostalgic record recapturing part of Oasis in their heyday with songs like ‘If I Had A Gun’ and ‘Dream On’. He’s already prepping new material for 2012, and if it’s anything as good as what we got this year then we’re in for a treat.
One of my favourite artists of 2010 returned, as Drake released his hotly anticipated ‘Take Care’. It definitely met expectations, being a clear successor to ‘Thank Me Later’ with it’s atmospheric low-key Hip-Hop and minimalist R&B sounds and seamless switching between rapping and singing. There’s a star studded guest list too, including André 3000, Lil’ Wayne (who released one of the worst albums this year), The Weeknd, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna, who also released a new album this year. ‘Talk That Talk’, Rihanna's sixth studio album, is an album of two halves. One half is great - with songs such as 'Drunk On Love', 'We Found Love' and 'Talk That Talk' showcasing Rihanna's ability of singing catchy songs which are on point musically and immaculately produced. However the other half shows the album's real weakness, as songs such as 'You Da One' and 'Farewell' sounding tired and uninspired. It's clear that with Rihanna releasing an album every year this album was rushed and put out half finished in an attempt to get hits. Luckily there's an EPs worth of great material on 'Talk That Talk', maybe had she waited we'd have gotten something with a bit more substance.
Mary J. Blige gave us her best album since ‘The Breakthrough’ in 2011, with the follow up to the 1994 ‘My Life’ album. This reflection her life since then sees Mary tackle those Hip-Hop Soul up-tempos she does so well with maturity, while she can still portray vulnerability and strength in her heartbreaking ballads on the album. This was a contemporary R&B highlight of the year, failing to taint the legacy of ‘My Life’ as I feared it would. Another act who are reaching the big numbers when it comes to studio albums are The Black Keys, who released their seventh album ‘El Camino’ this year. With catchy seventies rock and roll hooks wrapped up in fuzzy guitar riffs, the band made quite the feat by creating what could be their best album so far into the career.
Rebecca Ferguson shocked us all by managing to create a critically acclaimed record despite her reality TV background. Co-writing each track on ‘Heaven’, Rebecca’s unique soulful tone is showcased on a variety of bluesy tracks ranging from the uptempo ‘Glitter & Gold’ to the reluctant ballad ‘Teach Me How To Be Loved’, which cover the relatable subjects of misleading relationships and heartbreak. However the truly heartbreaking event of 2011 was the death of Amy Winehouse. It’s not that I was shocked that it happened. I’d seen it coming, but I was still shocked when I realised that Amy wasn’t with us anymore. When they announced they were releasing a bunch of unreleased material, I couldn’t help but think this would be some quick cash in a la ‘Michael’. Thankfully ‘Lioness: Hidden Treasures’ gave music fans what they wanted. More Amy. We got Amy’s demos and unreleased tracks in a pretty raw form. No, it’s not a masterpiece like ‘Back To Black’ or ‘Frank’ - but it is a collection of songs which give us some hidden gems from Amy’s back catalogue which may have never seen the light of day. It’s absolutely beautiful.
Overall I’d say 2011 was a pretty good year in music. I wasn’t expecting to write this much, so I guess that really speaks for itself. Let’s hope that 2012 will be another great year in music. With albums from the likes of Yasmin, Maverick Sabre, Emeli Sandé, Lostprophets, Feeder and The Veronicas in the pipeline it definitely could be.
Remember the Sugababes? A while ago before they became corporate clones got rid of all their members, they actually were a credible girlband - a somewhat rarity in the 21st century. Keisha, Siobhan and Mutya were Katy B of the music industry, taking more underground sounds in a more commercial direction. While they may not have had the underground credibility of the aforementioned songstress, the moody sixteen year olds sure had enough grit to portray live as a youth in London at the turn of the millenium.
Of course I’m posting this song because it’s new year’s day, but while this song makes reference to the new year and a relationship which ended the previous Christmas, it’s definitely a track which is fit to be played all year round. With a downbeat, subdued drum beat wrapped in soulful vocals, ‘New Year’ is a perfect example of how the Sugababes debut album contained a degree of songwriting which was far beyond their years.
The Sugababes music was effortlessly natural, filled with the sounds of nocturnal adolescence and downbeat urban sounds, wrapped up in sweet soulful melodies. They were an antidote to the manufactured sound of the Spice Girls, which had left a crop of marketing experiments releasing music well into the 2000s. It’s just a pity that when they decided to strip away the key personalities from the band, that’s exactly what they became.