Is it too early to say that quite possibly the biggest release of the year is out today? Maybe not, given the universal critical acclaim given to the Arctic Monkeys‘ Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino ahead of today’s wide release, but although that album will be dominating the conversation for the next couple of weeks at least, there’s still plenty to dig into from across the musical world this week. The incredible Donald Glover dropped a surprise single ahead of his fourth – and final – album under the Childish Gambino name towards the end of last week, whilst there are plenty of new albums and singles out from artists as varied as Beach House, Jungle, and Bastille. But of course, first we have to dig into that album we’ve all been waiting for since AM dominated the airwaves back in 2013.
Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino
Some numbers. Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not: 1.7m UK sales, Number 1 in the UK charts. Favourite Worst Nightmare: 900,000 UK sales, Number 1 in the UK charts, Number 7 in the US charts. Humbug and Suck It and See: Number 1 in the UK charts. AM: 1.15m UK sales, 1.335m US sales, Number 1 in the UK charts, Number 6 in the US charts. Noticing a pattern?
So yes, Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino is probably the surest bet for the top of the UK charts since the system-breaking ÷ last year, and it’s sure to smash the albums sales records while it’s at it. Question is: will it be worth it? Will it be any good? Will five long years away from producing music (as a band, at least) have done the Monkeys any good?
Without sneaking a peek at the album at midnight, it’s hard to say – the band’s tactic of releasing zero promotional singles ahead of the album’s release has perversely ramped up expectations, despite us having no real idea of where their sound will have wandered over the last five years. Early reports from critics point towards a slower, more sophisticated aesthetic reminiscent of the ’60s and ’70s – not surprising when you see how the band members themselves have changed since their AM days, and especially since the punky days of Whatever People Say I Am… and Favourite Worst Nightmare. The good news is these reports also paint a wonderful picture of what’s to come, albeit not a perfect one – but when can you expect a perfect critical reception to a release as huge as this?
But then, whatever your stance on the Arctic Monkeys – whether you’re enamored with the more intellectual route they’ve taken, or betrayed after falling in love with their punky roots – you’ll be listening to this album today. I’ll be listening to this album today. So really, what’s the point of me talking about them? Just go listen to their second album with an impossibly long name – although not before taking a look at the rest of the riches the music world has to offer this week, of course.
Childish Gambino – ‘This Is America’
Wow. Really, what else can I say? Donald Glover – aka Childish Gambino – made a surprise comeback this week with his incredible new single ‘This Is America‘, and it is the perfect ode to the country’s political climate right now. The track itself is one of Gambino’s best, wonderfully blending tribal elements with choirs, trap, and hard-hitting hip-hop. Each brutal hook carries serious resonance, but the following bridges of joyful singing feed directly into Gambino’s message: America, and the media, are damned, with violence and serious issues constantly swept under the rug by cheap entertainment.
At least that’s one way of looking at it. The accompanying video (one of the best music videos ever, by most accounts) adds so many more layers of meaning to the mercurial artist’s latest cut that to cover them all would require a multi-thousand word article all of its own. All I can say is it absolutely deserves your attention and reflection, and it has me very excited for Donald Glover’s upcoming final album under the Childish Gambino moniker.
Bastille – ‘Quarter Past Midnight’
No, no, just no. I’m afraid to say it, but the latest Bastille track is the most boring thing I’ve heard all year. I feel like with every new release the band that I loved in 2013 are becoming more and more of a distant memory, and every song by Dan Smith and co. post-Wild World sounds too similar. I may be being slightly dramatic here but ‘Quarter Past Midnight’ did not make me excited at all, and I certainly won’t be rushing to listen to the next single to come from the band. It’s hard to say exactly what went wrong: Smith’s vocals are at least as strong as ever, and that pulsating chorus should be enough to get the adrenaline pumping, but it just seems like everything the band touch as of late turns to coal – from their collaboration with Craig David, to their cut on the Bright soundtrack, and ‘Quarter Past Midnight’ unfortunately continues that trend. One can only hope that they get their special something back ahead of their third album dropping.
Rita Ora ft. Cardi B, Charli XCX & Bebe Rexha – ‘Girls’
This is one of the more pleasant surprises of the week. The hot take from our Live Editor Carly-May Kavanagh before this track dropped was that it would be a confusing mess ultimately too convoluted for its own good to come off as anything cohesive whatsoever, considering the sheer number of features – let alone their vastly differing styles (Cardi B with Charli XCX, seriously?). Well, truth is… It’s ok. Sure, it won’t go down as an all-time great, but were we ever expecting it to be? The main thing is that these four women come together to slay for almost four minutes straight, and actually pull it off. It’s a banger, and a decent one at that. When will Rita Ora drop her much-anticipated second album?
Years & Years – ‘If You’re Over Me’
I’ll be honest, I went into this one expecting more of the absolutely stellar ‘Sanctify’. If that’s what you’re after, you might be somewhat disappointed – but that’s simply because of a change in tone. Truth be told, ‘If You’re Over Me’ is more of a throwback to the dance group’s typical, upbeat aesthetic – think ‘King’ on a lazy Mediterranean afternoon. Long story short, it’s good – go listen to it, savour it, then come back here.
Beach House – 7
The Baltimore dreamy-pop duo has returned with their seventh studio album, the aptly-named 7 is a crash course in what you can really do with a synthesiser if you put your mind to it. But really, why should you listen to me talking about it when you can read 600 words of analysis from our very own Tom Brewster? Go on, you know you want to. Read it here.
LSD – ‘Audio’ (with Sia, Diplo & Labrinth)
Well this is a collaboration I didn’t see coming, but damn is it a good one. LSD, the new supergroup featuring Sia, Diplo and Labrinth has released its second single in two weeks and unlike any regular collaboration, it actually works for all parties involved. ‘Audio’ is an infectious pop track which has the power to transport you to outside of your own mind for 3 minutes and 23 seconds and just feel the music in the least pretentious way possible. It’s the best kind of mainstream pop song, with the nicest chorus drop I’ve heard in a while and all in all just a really great single. Why did I not hear about this supergroup sooner? Will I be listening to ‘Audio’ on repeat for all of next week? The answer is a resounding yes.
Jungle – ‘Happy Man’
I’m so happy that Jungle are back.
Selected Other Releases
Charlie Puth – Voicenotes
Courtship. – Denial in Paradise
Leon Bridges – Good Thing
Tove Styrke – Sway
Plan B – Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose
Christina Aguilera – ‘Twice’
ELIZA – ‘Alone & Afraid’
GASHI – ‘Blame It On The Bag’
Greta Isaac – ‘Undone’
James Bay – ‘Slide’
Jess Glynne – ‘I’ll Be There’
Kojey Radical ft. Mahalia & Swindle – ‘Water’
Meghan Trainor – ‘Let You Be Right’
NIGHT FLIGHT – ‘God Knows’
Nina Nesbitt – ‘The Sun Will Come Up, The Seasons Will Change’
Peking Duck – ‘Fire’
Saint Raymond – ‘Dancing’
Sea Girls – ‘Too Much Fun’
Selena Gomez – ‘Back To You’
Skepta – ‘Pure Water’
Snow Patrol – ‘Empress’
The Hunna – ‘NY to LA’
The Wombats ft. Dagny – ‘Turn (Ayokay Remix)’
Years & Years – ‘If You’re Over Me’
YONAKA – ‘F.W.T.B’
This Week In Records: Playlist Edition
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