As the end of the year, and the end of the decade, fast approach us, we’ve reached the point where anyone could swoop in with an iconic release to end the year on a bang. And that’s exactly what we’ve got this week; a true representation of the decade and of 2019 with new releases from One Direction’s Harry Styles, grime royalty Stormzy, and 2019 superstar Sam Fender. Alongside these releases we’ve also heard from Hayley Kiyoko and Dua Lipa. With just a few weeks left until 2020, anything could happen – so let’s have a listen.
Harry Styles – Fine Line
Look, I don’t have to explain how hyped I was for Fine Line. Everyone who has ever read This Week In Records or has spent more than five minutes with me knows exactly how I feel about this album. Thankfully, Fine Line seems to have blown everyone away and has lived up to every expectation that fans set for the ex-One Direction singer’s second album.
Each song has a habit of sticking in your head, beginning with album opener ‘Golden’. It’s vocally quite light and airy but the drum beat still packs a punch. Following this we have the three glorious singles that Styles bestowed upon us in the lead up to Fine Line. ‘Lights Up’ is a personal favourite for its unique and surprising tune and heartfelt songwriting. Next up is ‘Cherry’, a breakup song if I’ve ever heard one. It has the same softness as ‘Golden’ and exudes melancholy from start to finish. Heartbreak and loneliness prove to be recurring themes in Fine Line; Harry Styles has really put his heart and soul into this one.
‘Falling’ is a gorgeous little ballad in the middle of the album that truly shows off the extent of the singer’s technical ability. With a soaring chorus and lyrics that hit you square in the chest, this is one of the best songs on the album.
As Fine Line progresses, we hear Harry Styles getting ever more playful and experimental, as his confidence grows from his self-titled record. ‘To Be So Lonely’ is whimsical and light-hearted, and like other songs on the album chases that laid-back California sound, all slow beats and electric guitars. Meanwhile, ‘Canyon Moon’ experiments with country music in a totally unexpected way.
In short: listen to Fine Line.
Harry Styles’ Fine Line is out now via Columbia Records.
Stormzy – Heavy Is The Head
Stormzy’s release of his second album is the perfect way to rap up a decade in which Stormzy, and the wider grime genre, have risen to great heights. Heavy Is The Head shows Stormzy at his strongest, an artist who shows no signs of slowing down and who is constantly striving to reach his peak.
‘Audacity’, Stormzy’s collaboration with HEADIE ONE, is a strong track coming at the start of the album. The rapping is unrelenting, the drum beat fitting perfectly. Immediately, lead single ‘Crown’ slows the pace with its stripped-down melodic sound. The album continues with this fast-paced sound and expertly crafted lyrics throughout, impressing fans and critics alike.
One interesting track in the mix is ‘Don’t Forget to Breathe’, a collaboration with the up-and-coming Yebba. It’s slow and emotional, much less full-on than the majority of the tracks on Heavy Is The Head – a reminder to pause in the midst of an unstoppable record. The range of this album is marvellous, and definitely not one to miss.
Stormzy’s Heavy Is The Head is out now via Hashtag Merky Records.
Sam Fender – ‘All On My Side’
‘All On My Side’ is a lovely sound to hear from Sam Fender; with bright guitar effects shining through the vocals to put a smile on your face. This release comes pretty quickly after the release of his universally-praised debut earlier this year. It has a solid build-up and a neat guitar solo to top it all off – hopefully one of many tracks we hear from Fender in the near future.
Sam Fender’s ‘All On My Side’ is out now via Universal Music.
Dua Lipa – ‘Future Nostalgia’
Dua Lipa has proven herself to be a pop icon, but unfortunately her newest single hasn’t really impressed critics or fans. It seems to be an attempt at an ’80s throwback but falls short on many accounts. The chorus is catchy enough, but the production is somewhat messy and she hasn’t struck a chord with this related track. Our writer Sam Pegg says it best in his recent review.
Dua Lipa’s ‘Future Nostalgia’ is out now via Warner Music UK.
Hayley Kiyoko – ‘runaway’
Hayley Kiyoko has been busy this year with her upcoming release, I’m Too Sensitive For This Shit. Her latest release, ‘runaway’, is the fourth since July from this project, but unfortunately isn’t the most impressive. While ‘I Wish’ and ‘L.O.V.E ME’ took us back to Hayley’s golden era, ‘runaway’ doesn’t have the same spark as these recent tracks. However, I fully believe in the potential of ITSFTS, that it will bring us a lovely collection of Kiyoko bangers.
Hayley Kiyoko’s ‘runaway’ is out now via EMPIRE.
Other Selected Releases
Grimes – ‘4AEM’
Juice WRLD – ‘Let Me Know’
Meghan Trainor – ‘Evil Twin’
This Week In Records: Playlist Edition
Need a weekly music fix of all the songs you should care about? We’ve made a super handy playlist of all of this week’s biggest releases, so just sit back and listen to the good stuff. Updated every Friday.