A new year of music. A new decade of music. With artists adjusting to the new era of streaming throughout the 2010s, the decade was predominantly dominated by a mumble rap craze, a serge in experimental pop, and Kanye West twitter storms. Now time for a fresh start. I’m excited to see what’s in store this decade.
Honourable mentions: January
- 070 Shake – Modus Vivendi
- TORRES – Silver Tongue
- DigDat – Ei8ht Mile
Mac Miller: Circles
Since Mac’s tragic passing in September 2018, the industry has paid endless tributes to one of hip-hop’s most admired characters.
Posthumous albums have a tendency to to feel unfinished, leaving a feeling that the label have once again exploited an artists’ death. However, Circles poses as one of Mac’s most coherent pieces of work in a discography consisting of 13 mixtapes and 6 studio albums.
Most of the album was written and recorded prior to Mac’s death, with the intention of being releasing as part of a sequel, following 2018’s Swimming. Producer Jon Brian deserves great credit for using conversations he had with Mac to finish the album, which can’t have been a simple task.
Thematically Mac explores his internal struggles, referencing the mess inside his head on both the title track and the album’s lead single, ‘Good News’. His openness to the idea of death and his acceptance of its inevitability would’ve made for a melancholic album regardless of his passing, however the tragic circumstances attached to this album create an eerie atmosphere.
Keeping his rapping to a minimal, Mac demonstrates his husky vocals excellently with the help of super-clean cinematic production, which is layered perfectly. The emphatic instrumentation throughout the album shines through, being the plucky strings on ‘Good News’, the dreamy synths on ‘I Can See’ or the lugubrious bass guitar that closes the bittersweet track ‘Everybody’.
This amazing work of art reinforces the sheer songwriting talent Mac possessed, ensuring he will not “just fade like those before me”, as he sings on ‘Woods’. His legacy will live on. RIP
Fave song: Everybody
Georgia – Seeking Thrills
Georgia’s second studio album has a euphoric new wave 80s sound, which feels extremely nostalgic yet futuristic at the same time.
Right from the beginning of the opening track, we get a taste of what’s to come: synths and Kate Bush inspired vocals. As the track builds into the chorus, we’re greeted by an infectious bass loop reminiscent of Mystery Love’s 1985 hit ‘Mr. Fingers’, which was sampled by Kanye West on ‘Fade’. This track introduces the theme of the exhilarating sensation of clubbing and partying, which exists throughout, making the album title extremely appropriate.
This theme continues into the second track ‘About Work the Dancefloor’, which gives off serious Robyn vibes. The pulsating synths perfectly represent the thrill of being on the dancefloor, which overrides the fact she no longer has “much in terms of money”.
These dazzling synths make for two anthemic tunes in ‘Never Let You Go’ and ’24 Hours’, the latter being a reflection of her finding love on a crowded dancefloor the night before. These club style hits are balanced out with more mellow songs such as ‘Ultimate Sailor’, in which she declares she’d travel the world for this sensation, a feeling reinforced by the inclusion of waves at the back end of the track.
Starting her career off as a drummer for acts such as Kwes and Kate Tempest, these attributions shine through, particularly on ‘The Thrill’, where the chaotic drum patterns really capture the feeling of seeking pleasure.
Using 80s club music and synth pop as clear inspirations, Georgia uses her gripping vocals to form a fun and energetic album.
Fave song: Never Let You Go
J Hus – Big Conspiracy
After J Hus’ debut Common Sense made waves around the globe when released in 2017, the UK scene saw a serge in afroswing sounds. How do you deal with people taking your sound? You reinvent yourself once again.
This time round J Hus has raised his production to another level, with help from prolific producers TSB and JAE5. The jazzy saxophones on the title track and the strings on ‘Reckless’ being prime examples of this improved sound. In addition, the horns on lead single ‘No Denying’ compliment the stuttering hi-hats, the thundering 808s and Hus’ aggressive delivery, creating one of Hus’ best sounding tracks to date.
Following time away from the limelight, Hus insists he’s returned to the mainstream with “knowledge and wisdom”. This new profound knowledge is explored as he alludes to the racial injustice caused by the British Empire, rapping “They enslaved my ancestor – no remorse” on ‘Helicopter’, the second track given a whole new dynamic with remarkable vocals from his blood sister, iceè tgm.
As with his debut, Big Conspiracy also incorporates Hus’ dancehall and African inspirations, with Koffee and Burna Boy being guest features. These inspirations extend throughout the album, by means of instrumentation and J Hus’ infectious accent that makes his vocals so captivating.
Despite lacking lyrical substance at times, Hus’ songwriting has vastly improved from his debut, with his ability to form a catchy hook dominating almost every track. His delivery at times so effortless, juxtaposes the nature of his lyrics, which explore topics such as gang violence and altercations wit the police.
Hus once again demonstrates his versatility, pushing boundaries that continue to make him stand out from his peers. He remains a few years ahead of his contemporaries, making him a pioneer in the UK scene.
Fave song: Fight for Your Right
Poppy: I Disagree
After moving to LA in 2013, Poppy’s career gained traction by virtue of a series of strange and often eerie performance art Youtube videos. Now releasing her third studio album, she is a strong force to be reckoned with in the metal/pop scene.
I Disagree saw Poppy split from long-term collaborator and former partner Titanic Sinclair. This new era sees the dawn of a new sense of freedom felt in Poppy’s lyrics, as she sings “You can be anyone you want to be” on ‘Fill the Crown’. This is followed up by the stripped back psychedelic ‘Nothing I Need’, where the lyrics “All the power that you had, it just slipped away” suggests she’s found strength.
The unpredictability of the structure of the tracks on here is clear from the opening track ‘Concrete’, which progresses from dark metal riffs and a refrain of “Bury me six feet deep” into a babymetal inspired chorus, before ending as a noughties bubblegum pop song.
Poppy’s ability to switch from pop to metal fills this album with excitement, and is demonstrated on tracks like ‘Anything Like Me’, a track which contradicts her 2015 hit ‘Everybody Wants to be Poppy’. This transformation is also seen on ‘Bite your Teeth’, which begins with deafening drumming and screeching vocals before a beat switch which leads to a gentle string outro.
The sheer aggression of the chaotic ‘BLOODMONEY’ and ‘I Disagree’ are balanced with more traditional pop structured songs in “Nothing I Need” and “Sick of the Sun”. Altogether, this leads to an extremely exhilarating album, that remains just as compelling after 5 listens.
Fave song: Anything Like Me
Easy Life: Junk Food
On their latest EP, the alternative quintet from Leicester came through with exciting and unpredictable sounds. Fresh off the back of winning NME’s Best New British Act, while also being named BBC Sound’s 2020 runner’s up, the group show why they are one of the most intriguing up-and-coming acts in the UK.
A range of individual talents among the 5 lead to a fusion of many genres, including hip-hop and jazz. The variety of instruments range from saxophones, horns, bass loops, strings and impressive drumming. These are often weaved into minimalist electronic synths which provides a polished sound.
Frontman Murray Matravers adds a lot of character to the group, with his nonchalant delivery and his hip-hop inspired flow, which blends magnificently with the live instrumentation. His raspy vocals are complimented brilliantly by Arlo Parks’ feature on ‘Sangria’, who’s voice beautifully shines through with strings at the back end of the track.
On ‘Earth’, Murray alludes to the increasing deterioration of our planet, to the point that it no longer feels like home. Using clever lyrics such as “I left my spaceship in a permit-only zone”, he’s able to construct the idea that he feels part of a minority when it comes to being environmentally conscious.
Being just 7 tracks long I’m left wanting more from the band, and extremely excited for their debut full length project.
Fave song: Earth