The terrific autumn line-up we’ve been treated to recently continues this week in records. In a bumper week for singles, we find ourselves treated to exceptional songs from Anderson .Paak, Sigrid, Charli XCX and more, but that’s not all. The Oscar-hyped A Star Is Born, starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, has released its original soundtrack, which will likely mount the strongest challenge yet to Black Panther‘s claim to the best film soundtrack of the year – who knew Bradley Cooper had some musical talent to add to his acting chops? – whilst Twenty One Pilots release their first album since 2015’s breakthrough Blurryface. With that record likely to prove one of the week’s greatest talking points, it seems a fitting place to start.
Twenty One Pilots – Trench
With Blurryface, and its hit single ‘Stressed Out’, Ohio duo Tyler Joseph and Joshua Dun were thrust into the limelight. Covering themes of insecurity and anxiety, the album spoke to today’s hyper-pressurized teenagers through its catchy but moody aesthetic and relatable lyrics. Following two years of constant touring however, the band needed a year away from the public eye to reflect and focus their minds onto another project.
Trench is the long-due result. While superficially similar to Blurryface and the band’s previous record Vessel, featuring the same reggae-inspired beats and moody piano, there are signs of greater maturity throughout. Gone are the dubstep-influences, replaced instead by a haunted house funky mirror reflection of today’s poppy electronic samples. Gone as well is the contemplative introspection: there’s a refreshing sense throughout the album that this is a place where you can regain control. As Joseph puts it in bittersweet album closer ‘Leave the City’: “But this year / Though I’m far from home / In trench I’m not alone”.
Anderson .Paak ft. Kendrick Lamar – ‘Tints’
This one is a certified bop. Potentially Anderson .Paak’s answer to Bruno Mars‘ brand of insatiably funky pop, the Kendrick Lamar-featuring ‘Tints’ has the kind of groovy bassline and bouncy syncopated beat that are practically impossible to avoid jumping along to, such are their feelgood vibes. And come on, who really expected anything else? Anderson .Paak and Lamar are a match made in heaven: the former the king of danceable tunes, the latter one of the hottest stars in rap, you kinda knew this one was gonna be fire before you heard it – as did Anderson .Paak. Talking to Zane Lowe on Beats1, he described how he loves “working with [Lamar]. Some people you can trust to just send it and they gonna send it back and it’s gonna be flames. I just knew that would be the case with him.”
Charli XCX ft. Troye Sivan – ‘1999’
Ah, ’90s nostalgia. With Bruno Mars winning a Grammy (rightly or wrongly) for filling an album with ’90s-throwback tunes and Friends breaking the internet when it was added to Netflix, I think it’s safe to say that calling back to the decade of cheesy pop hits and even cheesier fashion is most definitely in right now. So it proves with Charli XCX’s latest track, a slick collaboration with Troye Sivan in which they cry out to “sing ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time'” by Britney Spears over fun, campy, ’90s clubhouse pop production. The pair work astoundingly well together, producing one of Charli XCX’s most enjoyable (and catchiest) hits to date.
Jessie Reyez ft. JRM – ‘Imported’
Yep, it’s yet another banger from our List of 2018 nominee Jessie Reyez. Featuring slow, seductive instrumentation which lays the bed for Reyez’ and JRM’s intoxicated vocals, ‘Imported’ is brutally forthright in its telling of a loveless one-night-stand. It’s dizzyingly catchy, completely unapologetic, and almost uncomfortably raw and impactful. Brilliant – if uneasy – stuff.
SOAK – ‘Everybody Loves You’
Ever fallen out with someone that everyone else seems to love? Then this is the giant middle-finger of a track for you. Putting all of our feelings into a steadily growing, three-minute sweeping orchestral crescendo, SOAK’s latest track is oh-so-relatable – and oh-so-cathartic for it. Perhaps 2018’s best answer to Lily Allen‘s classic ‘F*ck You’, ‘Everybody Loves You’ is the kind of super satisfying track you can just imagine cheering along with after a long, hard day with someone you can no longer stand, and proof that, while feelgood songs are great to have on, every once in a while it’s nice to take your anger out through the power of music. (Ending, of course, as it should do – with that good old-fashioned forgive-and-forget: “Everybody loves you / And I do too”, SOAK delicately sings to close the track).
Courtney Barnett – ‘Small Talk’
A B-Side from the recent (and excellent) Tell Me How You Really Feel, ‘Small Talk’ is a simple, easygoing and conversational cut that bears all the hallmarks of Courtney Barnett’s earlier, signature stylings. The lyrics of the song take the form of an awkward, stilted conversation- so enjoy such compelling conversation as ‘Do you have any siblings? I got a brother, Blake, he’s four years older than me / I hope they have kids so I can be a cool aunty… yeah’. Barnett wants you to be a spectator to her awkward stumblings – a struggle that is instantly relatable to the socially anxious or generally nervous. Barnett’s vocal performance backs this up, leaving intentional stutters and jumbled up words all over the shop – eventually joined by an equally confused and cumbersome keyboard solo that rattles off at the climax of the track. As wonderful as the verses are, the song’s chorus does certainly feel a little drab and unfinished – perhaps best that it was left as a B-Side despite its humorous and deeply relatble verses.
Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga – A Star Is Born OST
Much has been made of the wonderful A Star Is Born – notably, how it’s probably destined for Oscar success come awards season – but it’s the film’s soundtrack that has me most excited. Until this point, there was one clear winner for the best film soundtrack of 2018: Black Panther‘s superb blend of hip-hop and soul, featuring global influences from Europe, America and Africa, stood alone as a terrific album in its own right. A Star Is Born is the polar opposite. Leaning heavily on rock, piano lounge jazz and country influences, it’s hard to avoid being reminded of the film the album comes from, each track advancing the tragic love story at its core. But at the same time, Lady Gaga brings her terrific talent and range to compliment Bradley Cooper’s surprising musical prowess, producing one of the most listenable soundtracks to be released this year. At the very least, it sets up a very intriguing battle between the two films as we reach the end of the year to walk away with those Best Original Score and Best Original Song Oscars come February.
Sigrid – ‘Sucker Punch’
I think it’s safe to say that Sigrid is no longer a rising star, and is instead a firm radio-friendly favourite. With her latest single, she only continues to cement her position as one of the queens of contemporary pop, the explosive chorus hitting you even harder than the titular ‘Sucker Punch’. One of the Norwegian popstar’s more uplifting hits, the track finds Sigrid waxing lyrical about an unexpected relationship – one that she can’t stop thinking about, even if she “Didn’t wanna write a happy song”, and one she can’t help coming back to, even if she’s “freaking out ’cause I’m scared this might end bad”. Those intensely relatable lyrics, along with exquisite instrumentation reminiscent of 2017 single ‘Strangers’, has me coming “back for that / Sucker punch” too.
The Edge‘s Alternative Picks
Of course, besides all the chart-toppers, there have been plenty of releases that perhaps wouldn’t command the national conversation but absolutely do deserve discussing, for good or bad. Read on to see our alternative picks for the first week of October…
Clarence Clarity – THINK: PEACE
A very sudden release from one of the most enigmatic and elusive voices in indie music, Clarence Clarity follows up his debut NO NOW with THINK: PEACE, an album similarly obsessed with WEIRD BEATS and CAPS LOCK. The new album takes what made NO NOW so great and refines it further, cutting down on runtime and unnecessary filler whilst keeping the core, messy ethos of his glitch-pop sound intact. Clarity’s voice across the project sounds like a fragile, confused and deranged Michael Jackson – but with his various vocal ticks backed by all manner of digitised instrumentation as opposed to more conventional pop melodies. Gooey basslines and crystalline melodies effortlessly fuse into gloriously catchy alt-pop bangers, with repeated motifs throughout the album gluing everything into a musical odyssey through the unstable mind of its creator. Influences and inspirations bleed and meld together into a bewildering sonic collage of peculiar samples, voice modulation, and dance beats – everything from Vaporwave to EDM is picked apart, mixed up and stuck together like musical paper mache. Particularly great examples are the shuffling heights of ‘W€ CHANG£’ – where warbling vibrato, Christmas bells, and sticky, thumping bass are thrown into a blender, with wonderfully surreal results.
Adrianne Lenker – abysskiss
After releasing not one but two 5-star albums in 2017, a ‘sonic collage’ project and extensive touring across the world, what’s next for Brooklyn’s Big Thief? Not content with the monumental breakout success of their band, both guitarist Buck Meek and vocalist Adrianne Lenker have decided to release wonderful solo albums this year – each taking the elements they contribute to Big Thief’s signature sound and giving them their own space to breathe and develop. abysskiss, the latest album from Lenker, hones in on the confessional vocal style and more intimate folk balladry that occupies the quieter spaces of Capacity and Masterpiece. It’s a simple album- plainly spoken and tender with an unmistakably melancholic tint, carried along gently by Lenker’s vocal performances. Far from the surges and uproar of Big Thief’s venue-filling choruses, abysskiss feels like a closely-kept secret, a whisper, a vital sketch of a developing artist. It’s wonderful that there’s still room for something so simple and gorgeous to fit amongst the somewhat bewildering world of modern music – amidst genre trends, artist beef and ambitious ‘projects’, it’s comforting to retreat into the space Lenker creates, her spiralling, twirling indie folk comforting and mournful at the same time.
Molly Burch – First Flower
Sometimes, an album comes along that completely subverts your expectations and reinvigorates your listening. For me, in 2017, that album was Please Be Mine, the debut album of Austin’s Molly Burch. I expected little – considering it just another indie-rock project a-la the similarly named Anna Burch, or even, god forbid, Snail Mail. I was so wrong! Please Be Mine was a triumph for Burch, her honeyed, smoky vocal performance and thick, warm guitar tone complimenting each other perfectly on track after track of sumptuous indie-rock goodness.
Sometimes, an album comes along that completely subverts your expectations… in just the worst way. In the most disappointing turn of events possible, Molly Burch has put out an incredibly unremarkable second album in First Flower, that sounds a lot like the weaker cuts from Please Be Mine but totally stripped of their character and charm. The album is more upbeat as a whole, but the transition to this more uplifting sound isn’t particularly enjoyable – the individual cuts occasionally fun but mostly, ultimately, forgettable.
Kurt Vile – ‘One Trick Ponies’
After the laborious and slightly confusing ‘Bassackwards’, an 8-minute long single designed to ease us into Kurt Vile’s latest record Bottle It In (slated for release October 12th), the more typical ‘One Trick Ponies’ feels like a welcome return to more solid ground. ‘I’ve always had a soft spot for repetition’ Vile sings amidst loping guitar and rattling drums, an admission of his faults, perhaps a desire to stay firmly put in his own sonic comfort zone. Normally one would consider such the knowledge of being a one trick pony to belong to an artist worried about their future – but everything looks bright for Vile, as his signature yelps and whoops are backed by a slew of gloriously messy choral vocals. ‘One Trick Ponies’ is a triumphant declaration of faults, but also a clear statement of Vile’s security in sound and vision that other artists are perhaps more aloof about.
Hovvdy – ‘Turns Blue’
October continues to be a great month for comfy music, with Hovvdy doing what they do best on ‘Turn Blue’, another low-fidelity, sluggish and intimate song that just wants to tuck you into bed. Warbling electric guitar is the only sign of trouble, hovering in the background of this otherwise gentle acoustic melody that ambles along at its own, steady pace. The lyrics are evocative of various memories within the life of vocalist Will Taylor, snapshots of growing up crystallised through rose-tinted spectacles. Whilst nothing groundbreaking, Hovvdy continue to be the musical comfort food we crave within the bustle of modern life.
Selected Other Releases
Echo & The Bunnymen – The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon
Ghostface Killah – The Lost Tapes
Kelela – Take Me A_Part: The Remixes
KT Turnstall – Wax
LANY – Malibu Nights
Matt Berry – Television Themes
You Me At Six – VI
Alessia Cara – ‘Trust My Lonely’
Boyzone – ‘Love’
Chloe Howl – ‘Work’
Dave & Fredo – ‘Funky Friday’
Halsey – ‘Without Me’
Jack & Jack – ‘No One Compares To You’
Jessie Ware – ‘Overtime’
Jonas Blue ft. Liam Payne & Lennon Stella – ‘Polaroid’
NAO – ‘Curiosity’
Sharon Van Etten – ‘Comeback Kid’
Tenacious D – ‘Making Love’
Thom Yorke – ‘Has Ended’
Tom Odell – ‘You’re Gonna Break My Heart Tonight’
This Week In Records: Playlist Edition
Want to listen to all of this musical goodness? Follow our shiny Spotify playlist for The Edge‘s picks of what new music deserves to be on your radar each and every week.