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Have you been trying to keep track of all the music articles we have been publishing this last month? We have put together this handy monthly round up of some of the best music (or music related) articles we have published recently. Here is our January music round up.
I will always be an album guy. With the advent and rapid domination of quick-and-easy streaming playlists, many say the album format is dying, a prediction that I hope is based more on hyperbolic hysteria than any tangible trend. From poolside sips to getting between the sheets to the highly unlikely scenario that I will ever need a walkout tune, I make playlists for all moods and occasions like there’s no tomorrow, but there simply is no musical experience quite like a brilliant album listened to from start to finish. In 2017 many albums blessed my ears, so much so that the backlog of projects I am yet to dip my feet into could be almost as long. Time is art’s greatest enemy. The list you will find below is based on nothing more than my own subjective opinion and the replayability factor of each respective project. All debate is welcomed. In the interests of brevity- not to mention my own social life- only the top 25 will be accompanied with a description.
There is trying something new, there’s pushing boundaries and then there is Thomas Abban. Abban goes way beyond merely moving existing musical templates forward, he does nothing less than create his own world to inhabit, explore and report on. It is a world where things are familiar yet different, where there are things you recognise but juxtaposed and out of context, an alternative reality that has somehow split from our own timeline and evolved separately following its own gradually diverging rules and laws. Thomas Abban is a mystic, a weaver of dreams and imagination, but then being a Welsh-Ghanaian relocating to Minneappolis means that a complex array of cultural ideas and traditions have been absorbed in his mere twenty-one years.
His songs are about everyday life and whatever affects his life, such as politics. “It’s more about society and the way that everyone’s so divided nowadays. When I was younger, there was definitely a division in politics, but now it seems to be, with social media, it seems to be a lot more, ‘you’re either with us or you’re not’, you know, left versus right. And I’m kind of sat over here in the middle. Just kind of saying that there are a lot more problems to worry about in society, especially for the younger generation as well. So I’m kind of very interested in millennials as a center, because, you know, being one, we’re blamed for a lot of stuff.”
It’s my way of ventilating (about) all things around me. All that’s happening in the world and people that I love and things that I hate. Its all about impressions mirrored in my consciousness that’s been rendered into words and music just trying to encompass that feeling for the listener to experience.” This powerful voice that Jimmy Wiltfalk, better known as Hawk and the Wild, puts into his lyrics definitely shows in his music.
Rapping Drake is back. In the three years since 2015’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, Drake’s material has increasingly pivoted from spitting bars to singing over island instrumentals. While this brought some initial success- look no further than classic singles ‘Hotline Bling’ and ‘One Dance’– 2017 marked the end of Drake’s historic 431-week run on Billboard’s Hot 100. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Drake is back to rapping again, back on the attack. “It’s a lot of bad things that they wishing on me”, he croons on ‘God’s Plan’. “She say “do you love me?” I tell her “only partly”, I only love my bed and my momma, I’m sorry” is peak Drake.
Even though dance music might be compartmentalised into numerous sub-genres, those smaller musical territories still cover a broad range of sounds. House music wanders widely between pumping and vibrant techno driven beats and the more progressive and often intricate and ambient sounds. With latest single Addicted, Sarah seems to combine the best of both worlds, walking a fine line between dynamic drive and smoother sound washes.
Mary and the Ram (comprised of Kiran Tanna and Dom Smith) are a post-punk/electronic-rock two-piece band from York, England who are deeply influenced by Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) and Nick Cave’s musical work. They have currently been collaborating with producer John Fryer (who also has worked with Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails), and it definitely seems like Fryer has helped another breakthrough potential band.
2017 was the year rap took over. Many obituaries have been written on hip-hop, perceived for so many years by intransigent philistines as a transient fad lacking artistic merit. For the first time ever however, hip-hop and RnB accounts for the highest proportion of listeners of any genre, accounting for almost a quarter of all music consumed. Saturating the music industry with not just quantity but quality- as the 2018 Grammy nominations have recognised- the stage is set for hip-hop’s increasingly malleable sound and RnB’s songwriters’ renaissance to continue far into the future. Unlike my admittedly hip-hop and RnB dominated top 50 albums list, my top 50 songs of 2017 will exclusively be derived from the year’s champion genres.
When it comes to reviewing these passionate musicians, I continue to find more and more songs I can relate to. But at the end of the day, I believe a lot of people can find some of their songs relatable. Hodera certainly does have a powerful impact on people who give them a chance. Doug tells me that “it’s how I measure success, the numbers are steadily up because you’re on Spotify playlists. We find people who actually resonate with our music, people that you haven’t heard from so long. I got a message (from a guy) that I talked to once in college, and they really connected to the album. I think that’s the coolest part about it.”
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Listening to an album in a language that you are not fluent in (I’m English, most of us barely have a handle on our own language let alone those of our neighbours) is a bit like watching a subtitled film. For just as then you have the translation running along the bottom of the screen, a good songwriter can use music in the same way. I may not be able to exactly translate the meaning behind the song but the music translates it into emotions, feelings, highs and lows, energy, passion and melancholia as directed. And whereas language is limited by the number of words available, music can be used in far wider variety of ways and so when it comes to communicating with the heart, and indeed the soul, music is a much more eloquent form. And Alessio Bondi is master of that language.
Solo albums aren’t always a sign that cracks are beginning to show in the ranks of an established band, more often they are just a way of finding an outlet for music which doesn’t fit into the existing musical journey. The fact that Jeff Crandall invited fellow members of Swallows to help create his solo album whilst they were simultaneously recording the band’s third album across town shows just how harmonious a process it can often be. And if Swallows is a mercurial blend of rootsy Americana, slightly psyched out rock, blasted blues and frenetic folk, the odd thing about this solo album is that whilst Crandall’s building blocks are similar in nature, what he builds with them as J. Briozo is a whole different affair.