February Overview: The shortest month of the year was crammed with heaps of highly anticipated albums, which on paper made for an exciting month. I was pleasantly surprised by Allie X’s new release which had some great pop tracks in the first half, even if the second half fell somewhat short. I was left slightly underwhelmed, however, with both Soccer Mommy and Grimes’ new releases, which failed to live up to the high standards both artists have set. Finally, I couldn’t go without mentioning the reimagining of Gil Scott-Heron’s classic We’re New Again by Makaya McCraven, which is a worthwhile listen for any jazz fan.
Honourable mentions: February
- Caribou – Suddenly
- Allie X – Cape God
- Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
HMLTD: West of Eden
Having made waves in the UK underground punk scene in 2017, releasing emphatic singles such as ‘To the Door’, the band were offered a record deal by Sony. Their career seemingly stalled with the label interfering with the band’s creativity, leading to an altercation which lead to a high budget album being scrapped and the band eventually being released.
Since signing with their current label, the band have managed to regain some of their hype, releasing a sublime EP in 2018; Hate Music Last Time Delete. This project saw them explore new sounds, fusing glam rock with 80s synth/electro-pop, seeing them fulfil their potential on tracks such as ‘Proxy Love’.
Despite containing a lot of pre-released songs, and many others being part of their live set for years, West of Eden remains well worth the wait. Kicking off with the gritty baseline on ‘The West is Dead’, lead singer Henry Spychalski lists off reasons he feels the west is seemingly ‘dying’. His flamboyant delivery, which shines throughout the record, allows the band to stand out from their peers.
The inclusion of 2017 singles ‘To the Door’ and ‘Satan, Luella & I’ was integral for this album, however adding an interlude before to the former gave the track a whole new dynamic. Starting out as an innocent acoustic loop before transcending into a dramatic cliffhanger, then erupting into the ferocious riff on ‘To the Door’, the transition makes the track sound even fresher.
The expressive nature of this band is seen not only in their glamorous appearance, but also in their unorthodox song topics. The two part track ‘Joanna’ and ‘Where’s Joanna?’ brilliantly encapsulates the confusion surrounding Henry’s sexuality growing up, and the conflicts that arose from this.
Some of the older songs on here are supplemented by equally strong tracks, such as the synth pop ‘Mikey’s Song’ and ‘149’ which features haunting guest vocals from Tallulah Eden. Altogether this makes for a well-rounded debut, which gets better with every listen.
Fave song: Where’s Joanna?
Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats: Unlocked
It is common knowledge by now that Denzel Curry is incapable of releasing an underwhelming project, and this 20 minute project offers further evidence.
Keen to maintain prolific output, this is already Denzel’s second project released in 2020, following the release of his grimy 13lood in + 13lood out mix that was released last month. On this occasion he teamed up with one of hip hop’s most exciting producers in Kenny Beats, who’s career has gained traction as a result of his notable contribution on recent Rico Nasty and Vince Staples albums.
We were given a brief introduction into what these two were capable of creating as they teamed up on Kenny Beats’ Youtube series ‘The Cave’, where Denzel delivered an intense performance. After recording, the two went into the studio and sporadically recorded this EP within one session.
Released along with an animated film of the two attempting to recover leaked audio files, these superhero themes are continued with MF Doom inspired skits throughout the album. The opening track in particular fits this narrative with it’s commentary taken from a 1950’s movie, played over an arcade sounding beat.
Denzel’s vibrant delivery is complimented brilliantly by Kenny’s hard-hitting beats, as demonstrated on tracks like ‘Take_it_Back_v2’, in which a beat switch and a change of vocal effect adds a sinister element to the track. This villainous delivery is cranked up even higher on the chorus for ‘DIET_’, which sees Denzel demonstrate his DMX inspired raspy aggressive vocals over some thundering 808s.
Kenny’s production is relentless throughout, but Denzel allows it to shine most notably on ‘Track07’, which undergoes numerous transactions over its 2 minute length. The live percussion and the groovy baseline is allowed to shine through as Denzel fades in to the mix here, allowing the instrumental to shine.
Denzel’s admirable flows, witty one-liners and Harry Potter references reinforce the fun he’s having on this project. Without being conceptual or well-polished, the energy and raw talent of both of these artists hold makes for an intense 20 minute listen.
Fave song: Take_it_Back_v2
The married indie-pop duo managed to capture their chemistry on this emotional love-centred 5th album, which was appropriately released on Valentine’s Day.
Despite the smooth, laid back vocals delivered by Alaina Moore throughout this album, it’s easy to be deceived by the narrative of this album, which addresses the more sorrowful aspects of relationships. The synth pop ‘How to Forgive’ sees Alaina delve into the lows of her relationship, with powerful lyrics such as “love shouldn’t feel like violence”, before acknowledging it’s easier to forgive her significant other than listing the “million” reasons for her disappointment.
Alaina’s knack for delivering a catchy chorus is evident throughout this album, with her ability to change the pace of songs creating moments of excellence, such as on ‘Need Your Love’. Another example being the incredible ‘Runner’, in which her incredible vocal performance compliments the percussion change up during the chorus.
The ballads on this record allow Alaina’s dreamy vocals to layer perfectly over soft piano melodies, which are often supported by Patrick’s ability to deliver a catchy guitar riff. Without being anything too experimental, Tennis stick to their strengths on this project and succeed in capturing moments of brilliance.
By the end of the album we learn Alaina and Patrick’s profound companionship endures, with the wonderful closing ballad ‘Matrimony II’ being a song written for their 10 year anniversary. Though the spark that existed when they first fell in love may have faded, the lyrics ‘I could never find something better’ demonstrates the recognition that what their relationship will always be special.
Fave song: Runner
King Krule: Man Alive!
If you’re familiar with Archy’s previous work, you’ll be well aware of the themes of isolation and loneliness that tend to dominate his projects.
Though I was a fan of his 2017 album, The Ooz, being over an hour long meant many of the tracks particularly towards the back end of the album merged into one. I was excited to discover this album was a more concise 40 minutes.
This time round, Archy continues his knack of including diverse instrumentation, using his immense ability to fuse elements of multiple genres ranging from punk to jazz.
Archy explores isolation from a different point of view on ‘Alone, Omen 3’, as he sings “you’re not alone, my girl”, which is believed to be directed towards his newly born daughter. This track stands out as an optimistic point of the album, with much of the lyrics associated with battling daily struggles.
At his most aggressive on ‘Stoned Again’, Archy gives us an insight into what a post-punk King Krule album could sound like. The personification of cannabis throughout the track displays his relationship with the drug, however being “down in a high”, perhaps getting stoned doesn’t relieve Archy from his problems in the way he’d like it to. The menacing vocals and ad libs that command this track make it one of King Krule’s hardest hitting to date.
The jazz elements shine through on ‘Comet Face’, with an incredible saxophone performance at the back end of the track. The use of the sax is also brilliantly incorporated into the lo-fi ‘Themes for the Cross’, where the distant vocals and piano melody make it impossible to avoid spiralling into orbit while listening to it.
Archy’s vulnerabilities can be heard in his vocals throughout the album, and combined with some of his best instrumentation to date, this makes for an extremely atmospheric album. We’ve been blessed with yet another great King Krule record.
Fave song: Stoned Again
Norwegian metal outfit Kvelertak explore the best of both (or many) worlds on their fourth album, with the title representing the many contrasts that exist throughout the album.
Don’t be put off by the fact the majority of songs on here are sang in their native language, as this most definitely introduces more character to the album.
The explosive opener pays homage to the band’s home county, with the passionate delivery and chaotic guitar riffs succeeding to capture the sense of pride the band have towards their background. Magnificently transforming into ‘Crack of Doom’, the energy continues with similar rowdy guitar work, intense drumming and blaring vocals.
Kvelertak’s ability to incorporate alternative sounds throughout this album makes for an unpredictable outcome, which maintains the excitement. Their black metal and rock ‘n’ roll influences are heard throughout the album, and the band even go as far as including a punk inspired track in ‘Uglas Hegemoni’.
The mega 8 minute ‘Delerium tremens’ undergoes many transitions, starting with a mellow guitar loop before converting into sheer dissonance. These emphatic transitions are also evident on ‘Fanden ta Dette Hull!’ and the outstanding closing track ‘Ved bredden av Nihil’.
Some tracks on here undergo a change of pace in comparison with their previous energetic albums, a change which could be the result of the change of drummer. This, however can be seen as a breath of fresh air for the band, allowing them to explore new sounds and ideas. This has made for a very interesting album.
Fave song: Delirium tremens