Top 10 Modern Generation Rappers

 

21st century rap has grown from a relatively quiet entity to basically the mainstream genre for new artists to branch into. Rappers such as The Notorious B.I.G, Nas and Tupac paved the way for the new generation to come along and that wave came through in the early to mid 2000s when Jay-Z, Kanye West, Drake and Eminem to make just a few became global superstars and helped reinvent the rap genre. It’s continual inevitable growth has passed through into very recent times and there is now a fresh batch of artists who have already shook the industry up in their short time of being recognised rappers. This is a top 10 list from my personal opinion as to who I think are the best and biggest rappers around today that first shot to prominence in the 2010s.

10. Childish Gambino
Biggest Hits: V. 3005, Sober, IV. sweatpants

Actor, Comedian, Producer, Director, Rapper, Singer, DJ. You name it and Donald Glover does it. He goes by the rap name of Childish Gambino and provides a mesmeric and pop style sound to his beats and lyrics which goes down well with those fans on the outskirts of hip-hop. He signed to Glassnote Records in 2011 and ‘Camp’ was released as a result. This was his debut studio album and a chance to show he’s not only a brilliant actor and comic, but also has flow he can add to his arsenal. The album went down well as a whole and contained big tracks such as Bonfire which is a literal explosion of sound, aggression and passion over a red hot rap beat. It was a respectable start to Gambino’s rap career as he placed 11th in the US Billboard 200 charts after the first week sales. In December 2013, ‘Because The Internet’ was released as his second studio album and took his genre of indie hip-hop to new levels. Undoubtedly his biggest and best song was released from this album in ‘V. 3005’ which had such a funky electronic beat on some incredible bars from Gambino himself. This set the tone for the whole album which was a story about a boy living in the future in regards to the world ending as we know it. It gave fans an insight into the bizarre but brilliant mind of Donald Glover and the story as a whole was made into a separate piece that you could read alongside the album itself. It’s futuristic sound and design was a real hit for all fans and is still to this day spoke about as a brilliant piece of work. Less than a year later on New Years Day of 2014 he released a short length album called Kauai which featured only 7 songs and was sprung as a surprise by the rapper. On this album was a much softer tone and also a demonstration of Gambino’s vocal range, as heard on the song ‘Sober’ where he reaches high notes in the chorus and provides a melodic sound unlike something we’ve previously heard from the rapper. New music has been announced for later this year and we can only hope it hits the heights of his other work. If it does, then he will soar up this list.

9. ScHoolboy Q
Biggest Hits: Collard Greens, Man Of The Year, Groovy Tony

Quincey Matthew Hanley, or ScHoolboy Q as he prefers to be known, is a German born rapper who grew up in Los Angeles, California. He moved there at a very young age and quickly developed his rap style from local cult heroes of the state such as Snoop Dogg. He has technically been in the music scene for longer than 6 years but his first recognisable music was released in 2011; thus making him eligible for this list. He is a part of the hardcore hip-hop group ‘Black Hippy’ which alongside Odd Future, flew the flag for American hip-hop groups after names such as N.W.A and OutKast had become so popular in their time of relevance. ‘Setbacks’ was released by Q in 2011 and was his debut studio album shortly after signing with Top Dawg Entertainment and Interscope Records. This along with his next release, ‘Habits and Contradictions’ which came a year later, were well spoke of and made sure people realised who he was, but neither of them hit the heights of his third album ‘Oxymoron’ which has often been described as the best rap album of 2014. ‘Collard Greens’ featuring fellow Black Hippy member Kendrick Lamar is one of the modern greats of rap music with its energetic and pulsating lyrics and varied but emphatic production. Kendrick raps an 8-bar in Spanish, that’s how wacky that song is. Other great songs such as ‘The Purge’ or the hugely acclaimed hit ‘Man Of The Year’ also feature on this powerhouse of a record which was nominated for Best Rap Album at the Grammy Awards but fell short to Eminem’s ‘The Marshall Mathers LP2’ with many calling the awards biased to big names. Q just hasn’t stopped since then and has released many remix tracks from artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Kid Cudi as he puts his own unique spin on already brilliant hits. He’s now back and is very close to dropping his latest album ‘Blank Face LP’ which has the best album cover art I’ve ever seen (look out for it). We’ve already heard mind blowing hits from it such as ‘Groovy Tony’ and ‘THat Part’ and it’s just added to the anticipation for what could be another album of the year contender for Q.

8. Macklemore
Biggest Hits: Thrift Shop, Can’t Hold Us, Downtown

Not quite doing what Eminem has done for white rappers, but Ben Haggerty, otherwise known as Macklemore, is a Seattle born artist who dares to say things and challenge issues others won’t. He often speaks of cleaning up the image of hip-hop and sending positive messages to the new era’s influx of young people who listen to the genre. Songwriting at the start of his career had limited success but the base was there for improvement. This improvement appeared when he teamed up with producer Ryan Lewis to form a new sound and new image to the rapper. Their debut album ‘The Heist’ went straight to number one in the US Billboard charts thanks to infectious pop-rap songs such as Thrift Shop and Can’t Hold Us. It also iconically won the Best Rap Album award at the Grammy’s, beating huge names like Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Kanye West. This sparked mass controversy but also provided a huge influence to Macklemore, who had soared to overnight fame and was now tipped to have a long and prosperous career. His second album, ‘This Unruly Mess I’ve Made’ speaks of the fallout regarding that award and what it did to his career and lifestyle. He also has the talent and bravery to release songs such as ‘Same Love’ and ‘White Privilege’ where he tackles issues such as homophobia and the Black Lives Matter movement in America. His positive message is given a huge platform to be recognised due to his widespread fame and he’s paved the way for more rappers to speak out about these terrible issues.
7. Tyler, The Creator
Biggest Hits: Yonkers, Smuckers, Oldie (as part of Odd Future)

Rebellious, care-free, at times offensive but never dull. Tyler, The Creator was born in California in 1991 so is still in the early years of adulthood yet still contains a huge arsenal of success and critically acclaimed work. His music career began with his friends in a hip-hop group known as Odd Future, a group who soared to stardom in 2010 with the Odd Future mixtape, which was released and streamed online for free for listeners to hear. They get their profit from merchandise thanks to the die hard fans they possess. With Odd Future still going strong, Tyler made a huge decision in going solo and releasing ‘Wolf’ in 2011. His aggressive and raspy vocals went down a treat and it resulted in him winning the Best New Rap Artist award at the 2011 Grammy’s. Just a year later, ‘Goblin’ was released and showed a darker side to Tyler, with songs relating to suicide and clinical depression. It also sparked his biggest hit to date, Yonkers which became a modern classic. His rise was immediate and he was being praised by huge artists such as Jay-Z and Lil Wayne who were fighting to sign him onto their respective record labels. After a short break, he returned in 2015 with ‘Cherrybomb’ which was heavily influenced by the sounds of N.E.R.D and provided fans with a pulsating production heavy album. We are all eager to see what comes next in this young man’s sure to be huge career.

6. Chance The Rapper
Biggest Hits: Angels, Cocoa Butter Kisses, No Problem

“Kanye’s greatest prodigy” were lyrics Chance The Rapper used in his latest mixtape ‘Coloring Book’ and they got pretty well for this Chicago born rapper. Following in the footsteps of his idol, Chance was fearless yet respectful in his lyrics from his early days of rap. What sets this man apart from his rivals is his pure honesty in his lyrics, there’s no falseness to Chance and he makes sure people know that. He is often critical of rappers pretending to be someone they aren’t and that has earned him a lot of plaudits. The first of his three mixtapes was released in 2012 and titled ’10 Day’. It was all put together during Chance’s suspended sentence from his senior year at college for possession of marijuana on campus so he had plenty of time on his hands to write the project. It was a demonstration of his ability and contained very few features and writing credits, the biggest feature coming from up-and-coming hip-hop artist Vic Mensa who provided a great verse on “Family”. That project went down quite well but it was the next year when ‘Acid Rap’ was released where Lil Chano from 79th Street became a national phenomenon. Yet another free download mixtape but this time he went big. He was certified with a diamond mixtape after it had been streamed over 1,000,000 times online, showing his growth in fame over a short period of time. He had features on just about every song to add this new spice to his music, including an incredible feature by Childish Gambino. After a couple of years performing all over the world Chance returned in the most emphatic way possible, fulfilling his dream and featuring on his hero’s latest album. Kanye West’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’ has been one of the hits of 2016 and it’s opening track ‘Ultralight Beam’ has been plaited not only for its beautiful gospel message, but also the astonishing verse provided by Chance on it. This was his springboard, he made the best verse and performance on one of the best albums of the year so far, he was well and truly a huge name now. Just a few months later and we were treated to his latest project ‘Coloring Book’ which was promised to be a gospel hip-hop album dedicated to God and all he stands for. It well and truly delivered. A triumphant mix of energy and beauty along with soul and desire, it was not only the best thing Chance has ever done, but also one of the best projects created by anybody on this list. Uber-talented and now recognised as a modern great, how can things possibly get better for this young man from the south side of Chicago?

5. Pusha T
Biggest Hits: Trouble On My Mind, Mercy, Untouchable

The reason he is on this list is because he has put the days of Clipse behind him and is now being judged solely as a solo artist. You don’t get elected as the present of the G.O.O.D Music record label if you’re a naff rapper. Pusha has brought back this hard arrogance to his raps along with lyrics which weave stories out of next to nothing. Ever since his breakout huge hit ‘Trouble On My Mind’ was released he hasn’t looked back and has not only produced high quality albums which seem to be getting better and better, but he’s also providing incredible verses on feature tracks for artists such as Kanye West, Rick Ross and Jay Z. He also provided a major contribution for the G.O.O.D music collaboration album ‘Cruel Summer’ in which he held his own against huge names from all over the industry. ‘Mercy’, ‘Don’t Like’ and ‘Clique’ became some of the biggest summer bangers in America in 2012 and propelled Pusha to a new level of money and fame. People were now anticipating his song and album releases and seeing how his throwback style could hold up against the ever changing rap sound. ‘My Name is My Name’ was released in 2013 and was a huge commercial release, debuting at number 4 on the US Billboard 200 chart and selling 74,000 copies in its first week of release. Huge hits such as ‘Pain’ and ‘Numbers On The Board’ were released from this album as singles but none were as brilliant as perhaps his best song to date, ‘Sweet Serenade’ which featured Chris Brown. It was nothing like we had ever heard before from Push and was a stalwart chart hit in his discography. This widespread fame provided Pusha T with the lifestyle he raps about and more. Fast cars, models, mansions and expensive clothes, it was the life he had always dreamed of and now he was one of the best rappers around too. Excitement rose for his next project as he released ‘Untouchable’ in late 2015, a song which describes his phenomenal lyricism and self-belief along with that underground New York production value. Soon after this single was out, ‘Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude’ was released and was a late contender for one of the best rap albums of 2015. ‘M.P.A’ was a standout track with its beautifully soft tones, provided by huge feature artists A$AP Rocky and Kanye West. It was complimented brilliantly by Pusha’s flow and delivery which was, as always, down to a T. With that only being the prelude, we can only imagine how good the full thing is going to sound and with it scheduled for summer of 2016, bring it on.

4. Future
Biggest Hits: Where Ya At, Low Life, Jumpman (part of a collaboration project with Drake)

He’s released NINE projects since Frank Ocean last dropped an album. NINE. That’s the phenomenal work ethic of Future which allows fans to be treated to consistently fresh and hot material. The thing with Future is that he has a very specific sound and taste, his snare and bass heavy instrumentals create club banger after club banger, but if you’re after heartfelt passionate tones, then steer clear of Future. His most noticeable feature is without doubt his bizarre vocals, which are so heavily auto tuned that you can barely understand a word he is saying at the best of times. Nobody knows how it works, but it does and every rap fan loves him. After his most famous album, DS2 came in for immense positivity and acclaim, Drake noticed the rapper’s work and worked with him on a collaboration album. What A Time To Be Alive was released towards the end of 2015 and boasted one of the biggest tracks of the year in Jumpman. This only made Future more popular and helped him on his way to the top. With EVOL released at the start of 2016 and more music on the way, Future’s only direction is up.

3. A$AP Rocky
Biggest Hits: Fuckin’ Problems, Goldie, Everyday

The work that this Harlem born rapper has done in just 4 short years is nothing short of remarkable. He’s brought back the image of Harlem, New York and it’s rap scene with his fantastic flow and underground beats. His fame didn’t really spring into prominence until 2013 when he released the album ‘Long Live A$AP’ which contained so much energy and swagger within the lyrics and the production of the tracks. The feature list on this album is also what stood out in that he had the respect of so many top class hip hop artists, not only that but also that he could hold his own against the very best. An example of this was in his biggest hit, Fuckin’ Problems which featured Drake, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar. In terms of verses, he arguably edged it over two of the 21st century’s most talented rappers in Drake and Kendrick. Along with that there is 1train, which has a list far too long to even comprehend of rappers which feature on it. Goldie is an exception to this and is simply genius, incredible from start to finish. The tricky follow up album was then released mid-way through 2015 and was named ‘At Long Last A$AP’ to follow suit with the previous title. This album took a different stance, it showed a softer side to Rocky and gave him a chance to add more variety to his music. Songs like Everyday and L$D were melodic and at times beautiful while there were songs such as LPFJ (Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye) and Electric Body which had that arrogance about them which everyone came to love about Rocky’s musical style. Now back with his A$AP Mob working on music, we are all excited to see how Rocky, Ferg and co. can respect the recently deceased A$AP Yams in the best way possible.

2. J Cole
Biggest Hits: Work Out, Power Trip, No Role Modelz

Jermaine Cole, born in Frankfurt Germany in 1985 has become one of the biggest names in rap in recent times thanks to his incredible music and genius production which he has done entirely on his own, an achievement nobody on this list has achieved before him to this level of success. Similar to most on this list, Cole started before 2010 with mixtapes here and there but it wasn’t until he was signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label in 2010 when he began his studio work. His first album, ‘Cole World’ was released in 2011 and debuted straight at number 1 in the US Billboard charts thanks to his different and cool sounding approach to the rap industry. He made it clear he wasn’t there for money and fame he was doing it for the love of music and so man people could relate to that and were therefore sold on his story. 218,000 first week sales followed and he was then Grammy Nominated for the album. He then released Born Sinner in 2013, an alum which contained the magnificent ‘Power Trip’ which featured the extremely talented Jeremih and was about a girl and the affect she has had on his life. It was a beautiful track with a filthy rap beat and somehow he found that perfect ground in between the two. This album debuted at number 2 but then moved to number one in the charts, giving Cole successive top albums and worldwide recognition. Soon after came his best work and perhaps some of the best work hip-hop has ever seen. 2014 Forest Hills Drive is pretty self explanatory as to when it was released and became an instant classic thanks to it’s jazz influenced slow jams and classic rap influences such as Biggie Smalls and Tupac. ‘Wet Dreamz’ was the hilarious yet fantastic story about how he lost his virginity and is put into song form with absolutely textbook execution. ‘No Role Modelz’ was a dedication to his Uncle Phil who looked after him more than his father ever did in his opinion. ‘G.O.M.D’ is Cole’s way of mocking the rap industry and puts a genius part in the song where he raps about love but before he says it goes “this is the part that the thugs skip”. It’s true mastery and an album which will stand the test of time and easily join the hallmarks of truly world class rap albums. He is perhaps, bar Kendrick Lamar, the most naturally gifted rapper since Biggie and Pac days and will be sure to bless us with even more incredible moments in what is sure to be a long and prosperous career.

1. Kendrick Lamar
Biggest Hits: Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe, Swimming Pools (Drank), Alright

Only been in the rap scene for 5 years and is already being spoke about in the same breath as legendary artists such as Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. Four albums deep into his discography and there are no blemishes on his record, timeless classics which have taken him from strength to strength. Hailing from the city of Compton and being signed to Dr Dre’s label, touted to be the next big thing in rap can provide all sorts of pressure but there’s no question about it that Kendrick has grasped his opportunity and ran with it. Overly Dedicated and Section.80 were his first two studio albums and reached moderate levels of success, but it wasn’t until the sure to be legendary album ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ was released in 2013 when Kendrick found his supreme levels of fame. Sheer, unbridled talent of rap and production were documented here but what made this album stand out was the incredibly personal anecdote he told throughout the album, all of which is dedicated to his childhood and teenage years growing up on the rough, crime filled streets of Compton. Bangers such as ‘Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe’ and ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’ became noticed first tracks with a much deeper meaning such as ‘Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst’ were recognised later as some of his best work. The huge question followed of how he could possibly follow such a prestigious album, well what followed was perhaps one of the truly greatest rap albums the genre has ever seen. ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ was released early in 2015 and was a statement to end all statements. Apartheid and deep hatred of racism are often very difficult topics to challenge in hip-hop, but Kendrick wasn’t fazed. ‘i’ was released as the lead single and was a groovy jive beat filled with positive energy and good vibrations but when fans heard the rest of the album there was no sign of positivity and smiling from Kendrick’s viewpoint. ‘How Much A Dollar Cost’ was so good even Barack Obama called it the best song of the year, it propelled him to new heights of musical symmetry and announced his intentions and talent as a true prophet of our generation. The whole album was poetry in motion, which was concluded fantastically by an 8 minute sound bite of his hero Tupac Shakur answering questions back when he was alive. After sweeping the Grammy awards thanks to this album, he completely out of the blue released a new project, named ‘untitled unmastered’ which we soon discovered was a B-side album which didn’t quite make the cut of his two previous albums. Despite this, it can still be considered as one of the more higher quality releases of 2016 so far. Simply the biggest name in rap right now and surely destined for even bigger and better achievements. All hail King Kendrick.

Top 10 Indie Bands of the 21st Century

imageIndie rock music has moved from strength to strength since the fall of 2000 and it has dawned the birth of some of the world’s biggest acts. With bands like Oasis and Blur moving closer to the end of their hugely successful tenures, it was time for a new age of musicians to step forward and that is something they certainly did. Here is a countdown from my personal opinion, of the top 10 bands formed in the 21st century.

10: The Courteeners

Biggest Hits: Not Nineteen Forever, Are You In Love With A Notion, Take Over The World

The Manchester based band, fronted by Liam Fray, have been put under immense pressure to follow in the footsteps of their geographical predecessors Oasis and The Stone Roses, and although they haven’t hit the heights of those legendary bands, they have still had a lasting effect on modern band music. Their debut album, St Jude, was a huge success thanks to their throwback, stripped indie style which was apparent in undoubtedly their biggest hit and perhaps one of the biggest indie songs of the 2000s, Not Nineteen Forever. Being a support act for these huge Manchester bands and being a stalwart at festivals across the country, it’s easy to see why The Courteeners have a huge following with their working class influenced lyrics which are relatable to many.

9: Fall Out Boy

Biggest Hits: Sugar We’re Goin’ Down, Dance Dance, Thnks fr the mmrs

The pop punk phenomenon led by Patrick Stump and controversial heartthrob and lead guitarist Pete Wentz were a driving force in their genre’s colossal rise to success. They were flying the flag alongside bands such as Panic! At The Disco and My Chemical Romance in the early to mid 2000s with their hard rock style altered to suit popular chart needs. A band that have been going strong for over a decade, with the ability to vary their style every single album and keep their music fresh and their fans excited. Unlike many on this list, Fall Out Boy have gained the majority of their popularity in America, which despite being their birthplace is an incredibly difficult place to gain success. Scheduled to headline Leeds festival in 2016, their triumphant return has been greeted with a new album and yet another new sound. In terms of diversity, Fall Out Boy have continually hit the nail on the head throughout their time as a band, and there’s a good chance they’ll continue to do so. Throughly deserve a place on this list.

8: Vampire Weekend

Biggest Hits: A-Punk, Holiday, Oxford Comma

Vampire Weekend are a rapid paced American indie band which burst onto the scene with their eponymous album in 2008, bragging hits such as Oxford Comma, Mansard Roof and of course, the iconic A-Punk. With a mixture of Afro-pop inspired melodies and preppy, joyful indie rock, the New York City outfit have developed a huge reputation across the globe for their high brow energy mixed with heavenly and meaningful lyrics. With lead singer/songwriter Ezra Koenig at the forefront they have become a musical force despite only being three albums into their careers. With the second album being another success and provided more of a pop sound for tracks such as Holiday and Cousins which soared high up the charts. Infectious, bubbly and catchy, there’s not a single band around that are like them. I for one can’t wait to see what they have lined up next.

7: Kings Of Leon

Biggest Hits: Sex on Fire, On Call, Use Somebody

A band of brothers and cousins hailing from Memphis, Tennessee in America. They’ve been around in the indie rock genre since 2003 when they’re debut album, Youth and Young Manhood, shook the genre and provided a refreshing approach to the typical rock style. Their raw and uncut sound has spread from album to album, the peak of which came in 2008 with their fourth studio album Only By The Night, which had colossal hits such as Sex on Fire and Use Somebody within the track list. They are now six albums deep into their discography and still going as strong as ever, providing hope for all folk rock bands who dream of making it big.

6: The Killers

Biggest Hits: Mr Brightside, Smile Like You Mean It, Human

The American rockers provided us with quite possibly the biggest and most popular song of the 21st century in Mr Brightside. That alone is enough to warrant their place on this list but the fact that it came from a fantastic debut album also helps their standing. Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine, All These Things That I’ve Done and Somebody Told Me were also released from the album Hot Fuss which was an instant hit and soared the band to superstardom. A few more albums followed suit and their popularity maintained but they never really hit the heights of Mr Brightside again. To be fair to Brandon Flowers and the rest of the band, it’s borderline impossible to top that. With them plotting a comeback, let’s see if they can continue to keep the insanely high standard up and rock all over the globe.

5: Kasabian

Biggest Hits: Underdog, Fire, Club Foot

Proved that bass players can be cool and the forefronts of bands. The work done by Sergio Pizzorno or Serge as he’s more commonly known to make this band what they are today is nothing short of remarkable. In a city where the football team have won their first premier league title all the talk is still about Kasabian and what they’ll do next. On their self titled debut album they truly announced their intentions, it was a brash, balls to the wall statement of ‘this is our style and sound, deal with it’ and boy did it go down a treat. Club Foot is still, to this day, one of the most hard hitting and bass heavy pieces of genius I’ve heard. From there they’ve only got better. Tracks like Shoot The Runner went down a treat but it was the band’s third studio album, comically and bizarrely named Western Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum and that monstrosity of a name linked perfectly with the pulsating chords played on the album. Vlad The Impaler, Underdog, Fire, Fast Fuse, Where Did All The Love Go, listen to them all, absolute masterpieces. Their latest album released which was named 48:13 for the length of the album as a whole was a huge creative risk by the band; as they transferred to an electro-pop rock sound and it went down quite well. It shows the bravery they possess and that they’ll only go from strength to strength. If i were to do this list 5 years later, Kasabian would be higher and that’s a promise, they are far from finished yet.

4: Coldplay

Biggest Hits: Yellow, Fix You, Paradise

This is a band that you could say epitomise 21st century music, they’ve been here since the first moments of 2000 and are still going on now as one of the biggest artists in the world. The staggering thing about Coldplay is their phenomenal transition from morbid yet brilliant slow piano music to an explosion of colourful upbeat melodies. Parachutes remains their stand out album, as a debut album which was released in the same year as an Oasis, Blur AND Radiohead album, for that to stand out as the best of that year is an incredible feat and it truly announced Chris Martin and co. were here to stay. Just two years later A Rush Of Blood To The Head was released, an album that was, for the most part at least dedicated to newly discovered lover Gwyneth Paltrow. With songs such as Green Eyes and Clocks featuring on this album it’s easy to recognise the love he truly felt for her and how incredibly talented Chris Martin was at transforming his emotions into song form. Yeah influence of Coldplay only needs to be shown by their live performances, often described as the best around and they always get the big shows. Headlining Glastonbury for a record 4th time this year, not to mention performances at Super Bowl 50 and at the closing ceremony for the London Olympics in 2012. A band that never stop changing, never fail to tug on heart strings but also never fail to make you smile, often seen as dull by many but that doesn’t stop them being one of the most well known and well loved bands of the 21st century.

3: The Libertines

Biggest Hits: Can’t Stand Me Now, Don’t Look Back Into The Sun, Time For Heroes
2: The Strokes

Biggest Hits: Last Nite, Someday, Reptilia

You’ll struggle to find a more talented all round band than The Strokes, not just in this century but in all centuries. Julian Casablancas has an impeccably fitting raspy vocal along with a genius songwriting ability which has been demonstrated throughout their 15 year career. The guitarists Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. display incredible talent and rhythm to provide incredible riffs and high keyed chords to make the band stand out from the crowd. As a cohesive unit I would say they’re unbridled. Only just into their early twenties, The Strokes released Is This It as a debut album and it was quite possibly one of the greatest debut albums ever released by a band. Last Nite was iconic through release and went to number one all over the world and propelled the band to the very top after just one short album. Albums soon followed and their experimental style has changed over time into an electro-funk style which has gone down a treat with fans. With a comeback on the horizon, The Strokes are well ant truly back and back with a vengeance. Let me put it this way, they’re so good they have little bands pretending to be them (Catfish and the Bottlemen).

1: Arctic Monkeys

Biggest Hits: I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor, R U Mine?, Fluorescent Adolescent

Simply the best of this generation, bar none. Hailing from the suburban areas of Sheffield, Alex, Matt, Nicholas and Jamie formed the band in late 2002 as teenagers but wrote their debut album in 2005. It’s an album which became the hallmark of British music in the 00s and was something that will be remembered for generations. Headlining Glastonbury a year after their debut album is an Oasis-esque feat and they have followed suit ever since. The variation of Alex Turner’s lyrics have provided a never before heard story to some love songs. The first two albums were cult classics and provided some of the biggest indie thrash hits of the century, including When The Sun Goes Down, Brianstorm and of course, breakthrough world class single I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor. The Humbug and Suck It And See albums, although not their most famous, were perhaps their most daring yet with risky and bizarre lyrical fusion. Songs such as Pretty Visitors and Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair were as challenging as they were brilliant, and truly announced Alex Turner as a genius songwriter, as if the local monologues hadn’t done that already in the earlier part of their discography. After a short break and a stint in America, Arctic Monkeys were back and better than ever. R U Mine was the first single to be released from AM, a critically and universally acclaimed album which broke America for the once small time Sheffield lads. A new image followed and with that came widespread fame, particularly for frontman Turner, who’s sex appeal went through the roof. Due back next year, the diverse and truly phenomenal band are sure to impress and surprise with yet more masterful music.

Honourable Mentions:
The Kooks
The Wombats
My Chemical Romance

The Strokes – Future Present Past: EP Review

The Strokes are one of if not the most popular bands of the modern era thanks to their fast paced guitar riffs and the raspy vocals of highly idolised lead singer Julian Casablancas. Since their debut album, Is This It, was released in 2001 they took a short amount of time to rise to supreme levels of popularity, headlining festivals and releasing chart topping songs such as Reptilia, Last Nite and Undercover of Darkness. Now they are back after a 3 year absence with this EP release which came completely out of the blue and excited fans beyond compare. Can one of the world’s biggest bands continue their legacy with yet more mind blowing and compelling music? Or will we see them go one bridge too far in this another bold style transition from the band.

Drag Queen – 3/10:
Patient build up on the drum beat before a strange sounding array of instruments begin to join in. The vocals of Casablancas sound like they’re coming through a walkie-talkie throughout the song and more often than not is drowned out by the instruments. A seemingly vary basic guitar chord structure which is painfully dull until the second verse where an out of key guitar bridge is added for about 10 seconds. I just don’t have a clue what’s going on really it’s all an absolute mess. Enough to drive the most stable of men clinically insane with its ridiculous variety of sounds, and that ridiculous isn’t a good thing. By the end it just sounds like a noise contest between the guitar and vocals to see who can make the loudest and most painstakingly poor tones. On first listen it was atrocious, on the tenth listen it’s still atrocious.

OBLIVIOUS – 5/10:
Decent funky guitar riff which I really like the style of twinned with that fantastic drum beat. This is horrible to listen to, witnessing the bizarre style changes of Julian Casablancas and what appears to be a mental breakdown before our eyes. I mean at times this song does sound very good with his vocals involved, in a way I quite liked the strain he had in the chorus, almost this desperation to free the shackles and sing without limits. But I just can’t help but feel he has been completely outshone by the brilliant instrumentation on this track. The walkie-talkie vocal didn’t work on the first track and doesn’t here either. The pre-chorus is very melodic, however and provides a catchy part of an otherwise bizarre and indifferent song. His elongation of words here goes way too far and almost ruins the chance of it being a good chorus. The guitars on this song are phenomenal, truly magnificent and make the song what it is. As a whole, the song is fairly good and has that Strokes sound to it but there are a few too many times where Julian’s vocals are destroyed and of a low standard.

Threat of Joy – 7/10:
Smooth guitar riff, makes you want to sway along to the beat. The lyrics and vocals are much clearer and of a better standard for this kind of Strokes song. I do feel the song takes a turn for the worst in the chorus which just has limited depth to it and hardly any memorability. I do really like the verses though and they remind me of an Angles B-side for fans to enjoy. Julian does a decent job at altering the tones of his vocals and gives the song a fair bit of life but the chorus makes for grim listening and so will be a downgrade on the overall song rating. All in all, it’s quite a jolly song and one which fans of The Strokes will be happy with. If they are to release and album, more like this please.

OBLIVIOUS (Moretti remix) – 4/10:
This remix makes Julian’s vocals even worse (if that’s possible) and makes the song sound like something out of a Japanese sci-fi film. Just seems like a really basic remix which relies heavily on the drum beat on the original song which is lazy work for a remix which should completely change the dynamic of a song and how to sounds, not to mention the audience that listen to it. Not much to say on this song that I haven’t already on the original cut, but this remix does sound very oriental with a mixture of xylophones and steel drums providing the verse backdrop. Seems like a pointless addition to the project for me, maybe Moretti is his mate and he owed him a favour.

Overall – 4.5/10:
So, The Strokes are back but it isn’t a triumphant return unfortunately. I do think there are minor signs of potential within this project that would provide a very good album should the rumours be true. But sadly there are just too many messy transitions in the songs and Julian Casablancas’ vocals are just all over the place. When The Strokes were at their peak, there was no stopping them because they had this raw edge to their sound, vocally and instrumentally they were note perfect and provided a real rock and roll sound. As the time has gone on they’ve attempted to be a bit more experimental with their sound and for the most part it worked. Angles was a fantastic album, for example, with an electronic influence to their music. This, however, is just a mesh of noise at times, particularly in the first track and the remix and it’s a step too far for their highly extravagant and experimental minds. Future, Present, Past? It should really be the other way around, because that would be a more firing order for the quality of music from this band.

Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Ride: Album Review

Catfish and The Bottlemen are perhaps the biggest buzz band in the UK at the moment with their throwback indie style and memorable tracks. ‘The Balcony’ which was their debut studio album, was released in September of 2014 and became and instant hit to all of those surrounded by indie bands. Catchy songs such as ‘Kathleen’ and ‘Cocoon’ became chart hits and helped the band secure a debut top ten album. The main issue many people have with this band is that they do mostly struggle to have their own style in their music, often being referred to as a lesser equivalent of iconic US rockers The Strokes. This doesn’t stand them in good stead really because the whole point of a band is to be yourself, have your own image and your own sound. Anyway, ‘The Balcony’ was toured many times in front of many screaming fans and also landed them a few big slots at festivals around the country. In early 2016 they received a BRIT award for best British breakthrough act ahead of illustrious names such as Jess Glynne, James Bay and Wolf Alice. This second album ‘The Ride’ has been much needed by many sceptics of the band to see if they can not only maintain the standards of music but most importantly, create their own sound and image. Their fans love it, but will the neutral?

7 – 5.5/10:
The most annoying thing about this song is the potential of it. When the chorus kicks in you expect it to explode into some vast burst of energy but it’s very tame and kind of tricks you into a false sense of security. The often disputed vocals of lead singer Van McCann are typically raspy but far from perfect in this song and this isn’t helped by the lack of support he gets from the rest of the band at times. The bridge is fairly good but sounds just like any other track you’ve heard off ‘The Balcony’ which is my biggest pet hate with the band. The vocals will be ideal for the teenage female fan who will believe the song is crafted based on her even though she’s never met him in their life. The part at the end is undeniably similar to Kathleen and that’s enough to make any neutral almost laugh at the song. The part where he sings about Mary doing a lot of smoking is quite catchy really and the highlight of an otherwise indifferent opening to the album. Homesick was far better than this.

Twice – 4/10:
Oh what a surprise, it appears as though we have another B-side from ‘The Balcony’ with this basic band structure and rhythm. Pains me that he tries to be relatable in his lyrics and he just seems like a bit of a pushover in this story of the song which isn’t something worth singing about. When I say this chorus is awfully put together, I mean it. This chorus just seems so stop-start and unnecessarily brash and loud in places, almost as if they’re trying to make up for the feebleness in ‘7’. Very unforgettable song and I must say it’s very surprising this was released as a single. The last minute of the song is bizarre and just uncannily similar to The Strokes, even his voice has the occasional Julian Casablancas rasp. Poor, unoriginal song.

Soundcheck – 9/10:
Probably the only truly great song on the album. This should be a lesson for the band that when you take a risk with your sound and develop an identity it works out brilliantly. The backing vocals in the pre-chorus provide so much more to the song than there would have been with just Van’s vocals. It builds the suspense up to the chorus even more and it doesn’t disappoint. A proper indie rock chorus, strained but strong vocals, powerful guitar riffs and a consistent and solid drum beat. I really like the complete cut out from chorus to bridge as we see a more mysterious sound to the band and the subtleness increases with softer drum beats and vocals which sound like whispers. This is then ended by the best guitar solo on the album, full of energy and most importantly, unique talent. Should have been the blueprint for the album but unfortunately it wasn’t and they went back to old tricks. Still a fantastic song though.

Postpone – 5/10:
Fallout, Pacifier, Rango, take your pick and it sounds like this song. The most basic Catfish and the Bottlemen sound you can get apart from the 15 seconds of isolated string and vocal duo we are given at the end of each verse which is the highlight of this song. It’s just such a boring track, no substance really and it’s the first time I’m having to genuinely lean in to hear what Van is fully saying and that’s far from ideal. If I wanted to listen to music in which I don’t know what the person is saying I’d listen to Future. I think the issue with this song is that they try far too hard to be edgy and cool and everyone knows when you try to do those things it never comes off. It all seems so forced and unnatural. Really not that great of a song, distinctly average at best.

Anything – 4/10:
I worry when doing these reviews that I repeat myself and say the same things in the same style so god forbid how Catfish feel when they write 20 songs that are identical to one another. It makes this extremely difficult to review because I have the same criticisms of every song, you can see why people enjoy it but it’s so painfully unoriginal which means I just can’t sit and fully enjoy what I’m hearing. Van’s vocals don’t change one bit apart from when he elongates words, which he does far too often and for far too long. I’m sure people will like this song but it’s the kind of sound and beat structure we have seen 100’s of times before. *Sigh* this is as unmemorable as it gets, I almost missed it off my review because I completely forgot about it.

Glasgow – 4/10:
The token acoustic song on the album so we may as well compare it to Hourglass which, in my opinion, is the best song Catfish have done. Basically, this isn’t a patch on it. The lyrics talk about him being walked all over and how he always keeps coming back to the same girl and it’s just a severe lack of substance. At least with Hourglass the story was sustainable and could be related to, this is just a bit of a weak showing and a bit too pour you heart out. Those last 30 seconds are very similar to Alex Turner’s solo work and I can’t get that out of my head so again it affects the scoring. Look it’s an emotional track and all but just spilling emotion onto a song sheet doesn’t make it good and my honest opinion has always been that Van McCann doesn’t hold the vocal strength to be a solo artist and sing without he aid of instruments and this is a definition of that point.

Oxygen – 4/10:
The drum beat is solid and consistent but that’s about it for this song, a bit yawny at times with the boring guitar riff and the mono tonal vocals. The chorus has the sway tendency and the vocal keeps that rhythm up but it’s as a whole just quite boring and there really aren’t enough songs on the album to release rushed fillers like this. “Oxygen is overrated I don’t even need to breath” is a contender for the most ridiculous and stupid lyric I’ve ever heard, like it doesn’t even constitute to anything of what the band base themselves on. That’s basically a suicide note and that’s not what Catfish are, surely they aren’t pretending to be another band are they? Like lighten up lads you aren’t Radiohead. Poor song with immense boredom factor, onto the next one.

Emily – 4/10:
Echoing vocal is actually quite good in fairness and a nice change from the typical sound we are used to. It’s a softer start which does gradually increase in tempo and instrumentation, but this is just a slightly slower, worse and more bleak version of Soundcheck and that’s irritating in itself. Thank god this is a short song with only two verses and choruses because my word it’s dull. The echo vocals at the start are the only good point and they only last 15-20 seconds. Yet another let down from the “best British breakthrough act”.

Red – 6/10:
Nice guitar riff on this song, has a bit of attitude that it carries alongside it which is always a good thing for an indie band. Vocally again I feel like Van gets lost in the instruments and you struggle to hear him fully at times. The pre-chorus in particular just seems shoddily put together with the drum bang coinciding side by side with the lyrics so you can’t hear a word of them. Drags it out at times with the “can he do what I did for you” line being repeated far too many times for my liking. The instruments on this song are fantastic though in all honesty. The drums are fast paced and reckless when needed and the guitar is clean and powerful but the song itself can pass you by a bit unfortunately because the vocals are a bit meshed and can be lost within the background noise. Better, but still not there.

Heathrow – 4/10:
Another acoustic song so that Van can show off his INCREDIBLy average tones. Bland guitar playing and a really strained almost pulling sound on the strings for some chords which sounds messy and unprofessional. The lyrics are basic and repetitive and you get the impression they wrote this song just sat in a living room jamming. Once again a dull song but the acoustics gave it potential and it royally shoved that potential straight back in our faces. Thank god this is nearly over. One more thing, what even is the point in the last 20 seconds? It’s just stupid irrelevant noise.

Outside – 7/10:
Softer song which shows the actual true emotions of Van McCann, not the put on heartache in his acoustics. That is until the chorus kicks in where everything becomes 10x louder and more strained which I actually like in this instance because it has that raw passion we expect from the lyrics. The transitions from chorus to verse are almost sudden and I like that as it shows almost a split personality in how he’s feeling in this relationship. It’s a story of a to and fro couple and this song does it justice in fairness with the fast-to-slow transitions. Good ending to an otherwise poor album.

Overall – 4.5/10:
So, Catfish and the Bottlemen, here is what I made of your album. It was one of the most dull and unoriginal pieces I’ve heard in a long long time. Of the 11 songs, 2 were album worthy. TWO. People who review this album or even listen to it won’t call them out on it though because they’re a ‘proper band’ and we don’t have many of them any more. Yes that’s all well and good, but PROPER bands like Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, The Libertines etc. release brilliant music and have their own image. Catfish do neither, they release recycled material in the hope that the glory days of 2005 come back, where bands like a The Kooks, Razorlight and Bloc Party excelled and there was a real surge in band music. To put this into perspective, I thought The Balcony was a good album, some of it was samey yes, but overall I enjoyed it. This is just so poor, it sounds like it was put together in a matter of weeks not months and years like it should take to write a truly great album. I’ll sum it up like this, if Catfish released this album in the peak days of indie rock, they’d be another one hit wonder band but because they have no competition in terms of bands these days, they get through and get publicity on rock motives alone and that shouldn’t be allowed. Poor album, must do better.