We all love some early Christmas presents. On December Eve (a.k.a. the day before you can finally put on that Christmas jumper and not take it off for the next 32 days), we got some. It’s a mixed bag, equal parts Nintendo Switch and coal. From pretentious art-pop rockers to even more pretentious art-rock loungers, with just enough stunning singles to keep us hooked for the barren December weeks to come, I introduce you to the last TWIR of 2018 (minus the year-spanning behemoth to come, our little Christmas No. 1 Special and any more “alternative takes” that our wonderful Records Executive Tom Brewster decides to write). As we said at the start of the year: there’s a fair few things to get acquainted with, so let’s get into it.
The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships
Well this one’s overrated. Let’s be straight: The 1975‘s first album since their ridiculously long-named sophomore effort is not bad. Not at all. It’s OK™. But it is not, as the New Musical Express claim, “the millennial answer to Radiohead’s OK Computer“, nor are frontmen Matty Healy and George Daniel “the closest thing we have to a present-day Lennon and McCartney”. ‘TOOTIME’ is a tropical house-inspired banger, ‘Love It If We Made It’ is a fantastic forget-everything-and-party bop (with brilliantly hidden lyrical undertones hinting of Healy’s heroin addiction), and the mastefully creepy ‘The Man Who Married a Robot / Love Theme’ would be the closest thing the band have come to an original, impactful artistic statement – if it wasn’t ripped directly off OK Computer‘s ‘Fitter, Stronger’. As for the rest? Well, it’s… interesting.
Most of the time, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships is, just as the title’s subject matter, rather messy. Distorted, glitchy beats round out ‘How To Draw / Petrichor’ in motorik fashion, whilst the band’s attempt at remixed lounge jazz in ‘Sincerity Is Scary’ takes some getting used to. But on the most part, this is a rather pleasing and listenable album; not particularly deep or artistic by any means, but something different from the Little Mixes, Ed Sheerans and Greatest Showmen that have dominated the charts all the same. Not to mention, a great improvement upon the same-song-for-an-hour of their self-titled debut and the mystifying minimalism of their 2016 follow-up (which I’m still not going to refer to by name, even if I end up writing more words in total). Not a perfect final big release of 2018, but still well worth a listen.
Clean Bandit – What Is Love?
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Clean Bandit, returning with their first album in four years. Although “returning” isn’t really the right word; alongside their recent bizarre attempt at reggaeton, you’ll find 2016’s Christmas Number 1 and the lead single off a Swedish popstar‘s March 2017 debut album, with the overall feeling left by What Is Love? not so much “this is love” but more “What Is New?” The lack of freshness to the album wouldn’t be so bad if the new tracks had an air of experimentality or excitement about them, but instead, well, I’ll let Edge head honcho Thea Hartman do the talking:
When bands you used to like start making pretentious lift music 🙃 pic.twitter.com/LgE6hwnBL9
— Thea Hartman (@Thea_Hartman) November 30, 2018
The end result feels less like an album of cohesive tracks, and more like a playlist of dreary pop-inspired tunes that the trio of Grace Chatto, Luke Patterson and Jack Patterson slowly dreamed up over the last four years. It’s a bit of a shame, but unfortunately far from the first disappointing early present this Christmas.
Nicki Minaj ft. Lil Wayne – ‘Good Form’
Ok, ok, this one kinda came out back in August with the rest of Minaj‘s fourth album Queen, but it’s just been re-released with Lil Wayne on the remix, so that makes it new, right? Either way, our reviewer Jason Laryea was enamoured with it, describing the track as “nothing short of a Nicki Minaj Hit.” Featuring another viral video campaign reminiscent of ‘Anaconda’, ‘Good Form’ racked up over 8 million YouTube views in just 24 hours – but there’s more to it than just the video, says Jason. “With ‘Good Form’, Nicki makes her mark yet again in hip hop history with a song that is essentially an ode to female empowerment and women simply being confident in themselves,” whilst Lil Wayne “skates across the beat, […] cementing the song” as yet another hit for the Young Money record label.
Mark Ronson ft. Miley Cyrus – ‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart’
Now this one, this song right here – this is a banger. I don’t even care what you think. Miley Cyrus (yes, that wreckin’ ball, can’t stop Miley Cyrus) sings the song of her life, bringing heaps of emotion to Ronson‘s masterful instrumentation. To give you an idea, blend up ’70s country & folk with contemporary Scandi pop a la Sigrid or Zara Larsson, but imagine that actually sounding good, and you’ve got something close. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, it looks like it shouldn’t work, and yet it does. There’s just something about those swinging backing strings and that pounding bassline drum that gets me going. If this is an accurate first taste of Ronson’s upcoming album of “sad bangers”, count me excited.
MØ ft. Foster the People – ‘Blur’
Dear lord, what have we done to deserve this? MØ has been one of the most exciting popstars around for the last few years now, and Foster The People have been a guilty pleasure since Torches‘ ‘Call It What You Want’ first popped up on FIFA 12. When I first caught wind of this collaboration, I’ll be honest – I was pumped. But quite frankly, I was left with the second-worst track released this week (read on to find the worst). MØ’s musical style completely fails to complement Mark Foster’s brand of indie pop, leading to an awkward vocal feature from the Foster The People frontman and downright embarrassing instrumental chorus. Next.
Arctic Monkeys – ‘Anyways’
“Philanthropic toga party / What a place for both the opposite sides of my double life to finally collide,” Alex Turner gently whispers into the microphone as his stooges slowly caress their instruments into producing slightly off-kilter ’60s lounge backing. “Damn, that’s so fucking profound,” the editors at NME whimper in response, preparing themselves for the expunging of repugnant love upon their keyboards that is to come when they write up the review. Welcome to Alex Turner’s pseudo-art retro-future; please someone take me to a hospital – my ears are bleeding.
SO MANY CHRISTMAS SONGS
Rozes – A Very Rozes Christmas EP
WAVVES – Emo Christmas EP
Confidence Man – ‘Santa’s Comin’ Down The Chimney’
Rak-Su – ‘Holidays are Coming’
Yeah… I kinda dig it. Even if one of them hasn’t officially been released yet and can currently only be seen on poor quality smartphone recordings of the 2018 Coca-Cola advert. Ho ho ho, merry Edgemas!
Selected Other Releases
Alessia Cara – The Pains of Growing
Alesso – ‘Tilted Towers’
Benny Blanco ft. Swae Lee & Jesse Rutherford – ‘Better to Lie’
Grimes – ‘We Appreciate Power’
Jax Jones ft. Years & Years – ‘Play’
Kaytranada – ‘It Was Meant 2 B’
Kaytranada ft. Shay Lia – ‘Chances’
Kaytranada ft. Ty Dolla $ign – ‘Nothin Like U’
ZAYN – ‘Rainberry’
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.