Album of the Week
Nothing Great About Britain
May 20, 2019
Nothing Great About Britain is the irreverent debut from Northampton rapper slowthai. A visceral blend of the energy, politics and presentation of punk with the jagged and bleak sounds of early grime, Nothing Great About Britain is the MC’s snarling critique of a post-Brexit Britain. It’s a vision of his home country in 2019 which is potent and profoundly grim: a nation torn apart and crumbling under misguided nationalism, rising social injustices and irreconcilable political partisanship. Slowthai tears down these forces with sardonic wit, cutting through the skittish production with his razor-thin flow, while personal stories of growing up in a council estate wrought by financial hardships and domestic turmoil bring a human face to the costs of this toxic political landscape.
What emerges from Nothing Great About Britain is a cautious glimmer of optimism, a faith in humanity that says that working class people will always succeed in spite of a society which was never designed for them. This record has made Slowthai impossible to ignore, solidifying his reputation as a vital new voices while also producing one of the most authentic musical responses to traumatic political and social upheaval in recent memory.
May 13, 2019
PROTO, the spectacular third studio album from experimental composer Holly Herndon, is a bold and curiously beautiful step into the future. Combining traditional folk singing with gorgeous choral arrangements and emotive electronic sound collages, PROTO collapses the synthetic onto the organic, exploring new forms of creativity and artistic process while keeping an undeniable sense of humanity at its centre. Collaborating with SPAWN, an AI program of her own creation which she is teaching to recognise and reinterpret human musical patterns, Herndon crafts an exhilarating record that speaks to the humanising potential of new technologies. But Herndon’s third project is bigger than any album – it’s a prescient piece of commentary on how the ways AI will affect our future depends entirely on our approach. Throughout the record, her own relationship with SPAWN reaches a new singularity, one in which understanding replaces conflict and dystopian ideas of amoral automation. Sitting at the nexus of technological evolution and musical euphoria, PROTO is yet another stunning statement from one of music’s most essential thinkers.
May 6, 2019
Designer is the beguiling third studio album from eclectic New Zealand singer-songwriter Aldous Harding. On the follow-up to her much lauded second record, Party, Harding straddles the intelligible and the straight-up perplexing, deftly threading her music with close details and tangled but compelling contrasts. Designer invites obsessive attention whilst always keeping us at arm’s length. With her opaque, poetic lyricism and playfully off-kilter arrangements, Harding imbues Designer with her enigmatic personality and a sense of disquiet that creeps underneath the sheer prettiness of her third LP, balancing the absurd against the alluring, the darkness against the light.
April 24, 2019
Blood is the wonderfully eclectic debut studio album from singer and avant-garde cellist Kelsey Lu. Boundless in its scope, Blood distills the range of Lu’s impressive resumé, which includes collaborations with the likes of Solange, Blood Orange and Oneothrix Point Never, into a crystalline collection of tracks threaded together by her goosebump-inducing vocals and expressive cello playing. Sauntering through sumptuous dream pop, symphonic disco and spacious, meditative R&B, her debut offering eludes genre and answers with a stylistic confidence seemingly beyond her own experience. Lu moves through this lush, vibrant musical universe in restless pursuit of her own vision, aesthetic and spirituality. Listening to Blood is to watch an arresting portrait of a young artist coming into her own, always pushing forward in her enigmatic, exploratory wanderings towards the promise of, one day, reaching some higher plain.
April 15, 2019
Irish post-punk outfit Fontaines D.C. deliver on years of feverish hype with their debut record, Dogrel. Taking its title from an old form of working class poetry, Dogrel is lovably rough-around-the-edges, a patchwork quilt of an album which places stream-of-consciousness monologues alongside mosh-pit inducing crescendos, balancing the quintet’s ferocious energy with moments of wide-eyed melody and tender, expansive balladry. Throughout, Fontaines D.C. use a combination of the harsh and the poetic to paint a picture of the grit and romance of life in their home city, drawing on influences as lofty as James Joyce to experiences as mundane as drinking in a Dublin pub into the early hours of the morning. Authentic, raw, honest and carried by its clearly defined voice, Dogrel is a record about identity, about being proud of who you are and where you come from. With it, Fontaines D.C. have produced one of the year’s most evocative pieces of music, meticulous and rich in its love for the character of Dublin and all the little characters, places and stories which make it up.
I Know Leopard
Love Is A Landmine
April 8, 2019
Sydney quartet I Know Leopard offer up their long-awaited and luxurious debut, Love Is A Landmine. Brimming with unabashedly romantic synth-pop and shimmering 70s new wave, Love Is A Landmine is a self-knowingly retro album that eschews any pretence of self-consciousness, unafraid to delve into the sincere and the authentic in its quest to detail the myriad frustrations and ecstasies of new love. With tightly-wound songwriting, I Know Leopard deliver an eleven-track series of tangled love songs where pain and pleasure exist side-by-side, anchoring their musical sheen with earnest but sly and emotionally complicated lyricism. An explosion of emotion layered atop an endlessly stylish and playful homage to the music of the 1970s, I Know Leopard craft a glamorous and singular debut with Love Is A Landmine – one which you’re unlikely to hear matched any time soon.
April 1, 2019
Experimental Melbourne duo Squaring Circles step out of the ether on their debut record, Motion. A swirling, slow motion kaleidoscope of free form jazz, textural psychedelia and analogue electronica, Motion is Squaring Circles’ attempt at capturing and embodying the spirit of musical spontaneity, an eight track exercise in throwing genres and moods up against one another in cathartic collision. Motifs, melodies and rhythms gradually reveal and release themselves across the record’s meditative runtime, hypnotically dissipating as soon as they develop. Motion is music at its most immersive, an invitation to step into Squaring Circles’ deliberately slow and pensive ether, to pause and consider what surrounds us.
March 25, 2019
West London singer-songwriter Nilüfer Yanya delivers her debut full-length, Miss Universe. Loosely tied together by a satirical self-help programme called WWAY HEALTH, Yanya approaches her debut LP as a collection of short stories which explore the anxieties that emerge from living in a world where advertising and social media saturate your life with promises of wellness and self-care. Unlike those industries, the songs on Miss Universe purposefully evade concrete answers in favour of appreciating ambiguity, a series of elliptical emotional riddles that suggest resolution but never reach it. On Miss Universe, Yanya proves that she works best in the emotional and musical spaces in between, her precise-but-shabby melting pot of scuzzy 90’s indie rock, smooth jazz and guitar-driven soul emerging from these spaces as something uniquely new. Adorned by an endlessly malleable voice that sits somewhere between Nina Simone, Sade and the suburban drawl of King Krule, each of Nilüfer’s sparse, minimal compositions throughout the record play as mini-masterclasses in doing a lot with not much at all. With her ability to convey mood through idiosyncratic tones and a style of performance that focuses on emotional affectivity over technicality, Yanya shows a deep affection for everything human with her vulnerable, intimate and emotionally evasive debut.
March 18, 2019
Five years on from their cult classic of a debut, Sydney’s Low Life reemerge with their second LP, Downer Edn. Overflowing with sludgy, pummelling melodies, Downer Edn sees the outfit return with an expanded lineup, more polished production and a wider sense of ambition while their visceral, defeatist punk remains characteristically tattered and frayed at the edges. Away from the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House and far from the beaches of Bondi, Low Life offer a subversive view of their hometown, one which brings to light the griminess and the seediness, the gritty realities that underlie the glittering iconography of life in Sydney. It’s this guttural desperation which pulsates throughout the streets and an eternally rotating cast of troubled characters who populate the city which colours Downer Edn and, in Low Life’s world, gives the harbour city its spirit – as well as its everlasting capacity for redemption.
When I Get Home
March 11, 2019
Solange Knowles makes her long-awaited return with her fourth studio record, When I Get Home. Three years after her generation-defining LP, A Seat At The Table, Solange offers us a love letter to her hometown of Houston, Texas. It is an album which is more interested in moods than songs and more invested in being able to feel rather than carrying out the emotional labour of expressing everything. Images of black cowboys and candy paint, the woozy sounds of chopped and screwed music and disembodied voices of hometown rappers float through the record as Solange pays homage to the musical traditions of Houston while also establishing herself as part of that legacy.
Always the auteur, she combines unhurried tempos and unconventional song structures with spiritual jazz and psychedelic soul influences to create her most dreamlike collection of songs yet, a hypnotic and immersive reminder that home is much more than a physical place. Meditative and therapeutic, When I Get Home speaks to the importance of self-care, ditching the world-weary lyrics of A Seat at the Table for a record which feels freer, more liberated and unburdened by the white gaze. With When I Get Home, Solange extends a balm to people of colour everywhere, granting the necessary chance to rest somewhere away from the painful realities of a world opposed to your existence, offering support, safety and hope at the end of a long day.