It’s a bit of a quieter one for mainstream music releases this week in records, with only Quavo and Jess Glynne dropping albums likely to chart well and unfortunately not too many singles to speak of. So while we take a bit of a break from this full-on autumn line-up we’ve been treated to (with new albums from Greta Van Fleet and MØ due next week, and records from Robyn, Tom Odell, L.S.D. and Muse soon to drop shortly after), let’s dive into the handful of picks that should be top of your radar as we head through October.
Loyle Carner ft. Jordan Rakei – ‘Ottolenghi’
The first main release from Croydon rapper Loyle Carner since his terrific (and Mercury Prize-nominated) debut album Yesterday’s Gone in early 2017, ‘Ottolenghi’ sees him teaming up with New Zealander-Australian producer and singer/songwriter Jordan Rakei for yet another beautifully soothing yet moving hip-hop ballad. In the same vein as Carner’s collaboration with Tom Misch on ‘Damselfly’, Rakei’s expressive vocals provide the perfect hook to complement the piano lounge jazz-inspired instrumentation and Carner’s delicately powerful rapping. A love letter to food and to cooking – as well as to Carner’s idol, Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi – the track is carried expertly by both artists’ assured delivery and that enticing instrumentation, producing a quietly stirring song that shows the world just why Loyle Carner is still one of the most exciting names in UK hip-hop right now.
Maggie Rogers – ‘Light On’
Has it really been this long for us to finally hear news of Maggie Rogers‘ upcoming debut album? Seemingly destined for success since leaving Pharrell Williams speechless in an NYU masterclass with a demo of her sublime ‘Alaska’, this Records Editor remembers her tremendous debut EP Now That The Light Is Fading as an inspiration to start writing for The Edge in the first place almost two years ago. A year-long hiatus left plans for an album in stasis – until this week. With ‘Light On’, Rogers triumphantly returns, with Heard It In A Past Life due out in January next year. It’s a bold debut single for the record, featuring a characteristically ecstatic chorus reminiscent of ‘On + Off‘ and ‘Dog Days’ alongside her wonderful vocal performance throughout. That said, there’s still something left to be desired; it’s neither instrumentally nor lyrically as deep as ‘Alaska’ or some of the other tracks off that debut EP. Let’s hope she can hit those highs once again – if she does, we’ll be in for a real treat come January.
Sia – ‘I’m Still Here’
At once bewitching and unattainable, Sia‘s latest single is a perfect demonstration is how to turn a black-tie fashion gala event into a song. With elegant, catchy instrumentation that has you dreaming of grand orchestral performances through restrained piano, sweeping strings and pulsating drums, ‘I’m Still Here’ is sheer class recorded to vinyl. As ever, the Australian popstar’s vocals are insatiably compelling, drawing you into the track, and the lyrics – while nothing profound – are suitably triumphant. You may not be playing it two months down the line, but for now, ‘I’m Still Here’ is sensational stuff again from Sia.
St.Vincent – MassEducation
Throughout my listen of MassEducation, I constantly asked myself why on earth St. Vincent chose to actually make it. Sure, it’s a good play on fans and media alike constantly confusing the title of her previous album as MASSEDUCATION rather than MASSEDUCTION, and a few piano covers of the more tender cuts from said album might have been welcome, but a whole album? Why?
There’s a real struggle going on within this album – because the connotations of a ‘stripped back’ album are often that the artist is going to expose some unseen part of themselves – a bare display of them as a human being rather than an artist. It’s not like St Vincent is incapable of such gestures – her earlier work especially highlights her personal life (albeit veiled with metaphor aplenty), but the songs from MASSEDUCTION are devoid of this personal life – they are mostly off-kilter indie dance tracks that have no veiled, second meaning. To then impose this meaning through the medium of a piano cover seems disingenuous and even a little pretentious – is Annie Clarke shying away from the sheer danceability of these synthpop tracks she spent so long crafting?
The main difficulties within MassEduation come from the ‘bangers’ of the album being re-interpreted – they sit in a weird, slightly uncomfortable listening space that is thoroughly unenjoyable. The more tender versions of ‘New York’ and ‘Happy Birthday, Johnny’ hit the sentimental mark and achieve perhaps what Annie was seeking for this project – but why not just restrain them to an EP? Baffling.
Quavo – Quavo Huncho
Ugh. Yawn. Or in the words of our reviewer Rob Tucker, “forget about this album.” As the prominent member of hip-hop trio Migos, Quavo has been featured everywhere in the music world over the past two years, from DJ Khaled to Post Malone to Liam Payne, so “an eventual solo album seemed inevitable.” Unfortunately, it’s come too late for such an album to really be relevant at all, whilst Quavo sounds disinterested throughout, producing “barely any memorable lines in a whole hour of music.”
It’s a shame, considering the success of Culture II and Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho. But “Quavo seems to pretty much use one flow throughout the entire album, meaning half the tracks merge into a sludge of trap beats and auto-tune – it just sounds lazy, and is a far cry from the hunger he used to rap with in the days of Migos’ mixtapes.” Despite some highlights provided by features like Drake, 21 Savage and Cardi B, “the fact remains that this is a Quavo solo album, and Quavo’s solo tracks are simply not all that interesting. Apart from opening track ‘Biggest Ally Oop’, featuring a great beat (flutes continue to be the most exciting instrument in hip-hop production) and some notable punchlines, the rest of the songs with him alone are mostly forgettable.” In short, this is an album you’d best avoid.
Jess Glynne – Always In Between
Over 2014 and 2015, soulful London popstar Jess Glynne enjoyed a stratospheric rise alongside her features on Clean Bandit‘s ‘Rather Be’ and ‘Real Love’, culminating in her debut I Cry When I Laugh rocketing to No. 1 on the UK album charts (alongside hit singles ‘Hold My Hand’ and ‘Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself). Such was her phenomenal race to the mainstream, she felt she had to escape to the Sussex countryside to produce her follow-up, hand-picking her collaborators and playing around with music outside the pressure of the public eye.
The result is Always In Between, an evolution upon what made I Cry When I Laugh so intoxicatingly catchy if not a revolution for Glynne’s sound. Throughout, you get the sense that she made the right decision to record this sophomore record in relative secrecy, such is the joyful liberation that pervades her voice in hits like ‘I’ll Be There’ and ‘123’. As she explained to Apple’s Beats 1, while she was recording the album, “I was the best version of me writing and making music. The mindset was very similar to the first record – without the pressure. It was just: make music with people and have fun.” Listening to the playful of swagger of ‘All I Am’ or the funky rolling beats of ‘These Days’, you can’t help but have a bit of fun too.
Eric Clapton – Happy Xmas
John Legend – ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ / ‘Bring Me Love’
Yes. It has begun.
The Edge‘s Alternative Picks
Whilst some of the mainstream artists may have been sleeping this week, there are still plenty of releases that could well have flown under your radar. Records Executive Tom Brewster takes a look at some of the alternative picks this week in records…
Kurt Vile – Bottle It In
The slack-rock king returns on Bottle It In, an album that proves as relaxing as it does introspective. Vile seems unafraid to experiment, to mess around and to just let things slide on Bottle It In, and for the first time we can truly see him letting that long hair down.
Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster (Remastered Deluxe Edition)
Okay. Deep breaths. I have to condense my love for this vibrant work of art into roughly two paragraphs. With a steady hand and an even steadier mind, I will produce a summary of this album that isn’t too hyperbolic. Here goes.
Hold on Now Youngster is the best album of all time, forever, and anyone that says otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
I don’t care how sloppy this album is, how twee it sounds or how horribly ‘2008 indie’ the whole experience is. I don’t care how it’s arguably eclipsed by every other Los Campesinos! album that comes after it, especially by We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed which came out the very same year. I don’t care that Gareth’s voice is about pleasant as nails on a chalkboard, and I don’t care that one of the songs is really called ‘This Is How You Spell “HAHAHA, We Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics”’. I don’t care about any of this as Hold On Now Youngster serves as my introduction to one of the most important bands in my life, who I will likely stan for the rest of that life, until even my great-grandchildren are sick of hearing me croak out the lyrics to ‘Knee Deep at ATP’. Thing is, I recently got a chance to see Los Campesinos! play a special, one-off gig in which they played cuts from both their 2008 albums in a supporting slot to celebrate the 10th anniversary of both albums. After this, they proceeded to play basically every single banger from the rest of their discography, forming a mammoth 35-song set that was as exhausting as it was spiritual. I was in awe of both how fantastic that set was, but also how every single person in that room knew every single lyric to every single song. The band, who have day jobs when they’re not recording their latest work of art, seemed so emotional at the responses they got from their crowd – filled with people that, by necessity, are superfans.
Anyway. They’ve re-released Hold On Now Youngster with a shiny new cover and a bunch of B-Sides to peruse as well (including a fantastic cover of Pavement’s ‘Frontwards’) – so now is as a good a time as any to dip one’s toes into their consistently rewarding discography. Hold On Now Youngster is by far their most ‘Twee’ album, but how can you refuse an album that contains the energy of ‘You, Me, Dancing!’, the tragic end of ‘Knee Deep at ATP’ or forever-rousing choral vocals at the climax of ‘We Are All Accelerated Readers’? It’s magic.
MY BABY – MOUNAIKI ~ By The Bright Of Night
Amsterdam-based MY BABY have a really, really unique sound – one which continues to be as rewarding and peculiar as ever on their latest release, MOUNAIKI. In brief – MY BABY mix gospel and voodoo music with modern dance trends to create a hypnotic, instantly recognisable blend of neo-psychedelia. On top of this, they layer delicate roots-infused guitar, as well as tossing in some tribal percussion for good measure. Hopefully, by now, you’re somewhat interested.
MOUNAIKI ~ By The Bright of Night is as good a place to start as any within the discography of MY BABY – after all, when you’ve established such a great niche, why move from it? Aside from a few funky detours (such as that bassline in ‘Supernatural Aid’), MY BABY stays largely rooted in their comfort zone, producing another album of music that is most likely enjoyed by a very small selection of the population, who also happen to have taken boatloads of hallucinogens. It’s music that could only come from Amsterdam, but with a level of finesse and creativity that’s both unexpected and intensely enjoyable.
Django Django – Winter’s Beach EP
Following the wonderful Marble Skies, Glaswegian art-pop quartet Django Django have graced our ears for a second time this year with their latest EP, Winter’s Beach.
To put it simply, there’s lots to like but perhaps little to love on this latest effort – generally speaking it feels like a much quieter release, both in scope and sound. Clocking in at a short and sweet 22 minutes, the band find themselves experimenting with a couple of new textural ‘colours’ whilst still snug in the more straightforward synthpop of Marble Skies. Opener ‘Winter’s Beach’ is a purely instrumental affair, serving as a good appetiser for the retro-infused ‘Sand Dunes’ that immediately follows. Chunky 16-Bit synthesises chirp along as vocalist Vincent Neff sings of retro-futurist landscapes, setting suns and endless expanses of sand – and whilst the song constantly threatens to boil over into an exciting chorus, it never quite reaches the heights that Django Django have proven themselves capable of producing.
This is a trend that follows across the EP, most of the tracks feeling like sub-prime variants of the shamelessly full-blown synth goodness on Marble Skies. It feels as though the band were angling for a more low-key sort of project here, but they’ve certainly lost a bit of character in the process. Gone is the glorious space-western twang we’ve become accustomed to on previous releases, replaced with a distinctly passable kind of sound. After the reinvigoration of their sound with their latest album, it feels as though Django Django have got those Born Under Saturn blues out of the way early. Let’s see what their next project holds.
Beach House – ‘Alien’
Beach House continue to experiment with ‘Alien’ – a B-Side from 7, their uncompromising and beautiful seventh album released earlier in the year.
Its understandable why ‘Alien’ didn’t make it onto the album – its tone wouldn’t have fit well within the tracklist and its shoegaze aspirations might have put it a little out of the comfort zone of some fans. These shoegaze elements are really the most exciting part, sounding like Lush’s Spooky and Slowdive’s Souvlaki met at a house party at the end of time. It’s both hauntingly melancholic and dazzlingly aspirational – the best traits of the ‘scene that celebrates itself’ rolled into that signature Beach House vibe. Victoria LeGrand’s silky-smooth voice, normally taking center stage in the rest of the Beach House discography, has been pushed to the back of the mix here – fluctuating alongside a warbling, distorted guitar line that weaves through the dense walls of feedback that surround it. Well worth a listen on a rainy, lonely evening.
Selected Other Releases
Ella Mai – Ella Mai
Alma – ‘Cowboy’
Bad Bunny ft. Drake – ‘MIA’
Cheat Codes – ‘Home’
Kwaye – ‘Paralyzed’
Little Dragon – ‘Lover Chanting’
Little Mix ft. Nicki Minaj – ‘Woman Like Me’
Michael Buble – ‘Love You Anymore’
Paloma Faith – ‘Loyal’
Parcels – ‘Withorwithout’
Razorlight – ‘Carry Yourself’
Run The Jewels – ‘Let’s Go (The Royal We)’
Sundara Karma – ‘Illusions’
Take That – ‘Out Of Our Heads’
Thom Yorke – ‘Volk’
Weezer – ‘Can’t Knock The Hustle’
Wilkinson ft. Hayla – ‘I Need’
Yonaka – ‘Own Worst Enemy’
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.