2017 Mercury Prize: My Thoughts

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The 2017 Mercury Prize winner has been announced as London based singer/songwriter Sampha with his debut album ‘Process’. This is a result which has been greeted with r respect and admiration as the award could easily have gone to a more photo-friendly mainstream artist such as Stormzy or Ed Sheeran. Both, in my opinion, weren’t good enough to be called the best album of the last 12 months from a British artist, so I for one am delighted to see Sampha win it. He is an artist I am a great admirer of for the simple fact that he brings something to the music industry that the other two mentioned simply don’t, a unique sound. Listening to ‘Process’ gave me a really warm feeling of pride but also the dark views of fragility and fear, it challenged perception and emotion and had an element of danger which couldn’t be found on any of the other candidates’ body of work.

Now, as delighted as I am with Sampha’s victory, was it the choice I would have gone for? No, I personally would have gone for Loyle Carner’s ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ with Sampha coming a close second. Carner gave us an urban triumph of a debut album which spoke about tales of youth, growing up and the importance of love in your heart, whether it be in the name of romance, or a simple adoration for your friends and family. His lyricism was magical from start to finish and there are songs on there that I will be referring back to for years to come (‘The Isle Of Arran’, ‘Damselfly’, ‘Sun Of Jean’ etc.). Other potential winners could have been The xx who gave us a treat with their third studio album ‘I See You’ but they fell short on the night.

A result like this means a great deal to not only the credibility of the Mercury Prize itself, but also the state of the British music industry at this present time. If we were to have seen the likes of Ed Sheeran or Alt-J win, names who were blatantly in the running simply for the stature of their act rather than the talents of their most recent piece of work, then I would have feared for the respect of the prize in future years. I am relieved the judging panel chose talent and musical quality over photo opportunities and front page headlines. It could have easily become a laughing stock and something which, in the space of just 12 months from Skepta’s heroic victory, would have burnt it’s progress to the ground. Sampha’s victory gives the prize a pass and proves to us all that great music surfaces way beyond the charts, you just need to dig deep enough to find it. It also proves so wonderfully that America isn’t the central hub of musical talent, there could be the next big star right at your doorstep. Congratulations to Sampha, may you have a long and prosperous career to follow, I will certainly be an avid listener and enjoyer of your work.

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Is Hip-Hop being taken over by grunge/metal influenced angst artists?

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2017 has been a funny old year musically, from Ed Sheeran demolishing chart records to the likes DJ Khaled and Justin Bieber hopping on the apparent trend of Spanish music through songs like ‘Wild Thoughts’ and ‘Despactio’ (both of which are embarrassingly poor tracks). But a major aspect of the music industry in this bizarre calendar year for me at least is the resurgence of angst and emotional turmoil in the hip-hop genre, most notably from Soundcloud rappers such as Lil Peep and XXXTENTACION, the latter of which has gained colossal recognition because of his unthinkable styles. These artists often make you wonder what they’re motive and aim is, it seems like they could be leading a new wave in the genre of rap, whether you like it or not.

Linking the genre of hip-hop with aggressive and disdained styles such as grunge and emo-rock is something I never thought I’d see, but you could sense it was on the way when Lil Uzi Vert smashed the top of the charts with his hit single ‘XO TOUR Llif3′ where he uses styles and sounds very similar to those of musical influences such as Marilyn Manson, who Uzi himself claims is his favourite artist and biggest inspiration. Uzi has even declared that he is preparing a rock album and if you’ve ever heard one of his songs you’ll realise how ridiculous of an idea that sounds. In a recent interview with Zane Lowe, the Philadelphia born rapper claimed that he would do the album entirely off the cuff, not writing any lyrics and instead just finding influence from the sounds of his entirely female backing band. He often calls himself a true rockstar of this generation, but this seems like a crazy risk to make as he could end up truly embarrassing himself on the musical stage, but it could also be a masterstroke if he gets the right people to help him on the way.

XXXTENTACION is another artist who has been very open about his deep tied roots with metal genres and the feelings on teenage angst he sings/raps about in his songs. Slipknot and Nirvana are his main idols musically and its direction such as his which could change the face of hip-hop altogether. X has very recently released his debut album ’17’ and I have to say it’s not only nothing like I could’ve ever imagined him performing, but it’s also absolutely brilliant; something I never expected to be saying after he became somewhat of a meme in recent months. There are very few examples of 808’s or hi-hats on the instrumentals, usually staples of a rap album. Instead he favours soft acoustic guitar riffs and gut-wrenching piano keys, a technique you’d never hear the likes of Kendrick Lamar or Drake occupy.

This leads me to one question. Are the steps these artists are taking moulding a whole new era for the genre of hip-hop? What these young men are all doing is creating a sound none of the conventional rappers could come close to recreating, it’s exemplary in a way and is a great cause for excitement to see who they may influence in the future or to see if any other artists may follow suit to show perhaps their true colours rather than ticking the boxes of record labels and producing rap bangers. Love or hate them, they’re heavily in touch with their emotions and have the perfect way of delivering these heartaches onto a project. There’s an argument to be had that they are glamourising the idea of being depressed and feeling trapped, but the way I see these artists working, or at least the majority of them, is that they’re being a beacon to their millions of fans; giving them belief and the knowledge that they’re not alone in this everlasting battle with your own thoughts.

Now I’m not saying they’re perfect role models, it’s very well documented how terrible X has allegedly been in his past, hence why he served a stint in prison; not to mention Uzi stapling his own face and promoting bizarre antics which really shouldn’t be put out in the open. With all that being said, however, I have to give them plenty of credit for the way they create their music and live their lives as free spirits, the exact way it was intended to be done. Labelling it ‘teen angst’ may be harsh, but that’s how it comes across at the moment in its early infancy of relevancy, I just hope they don’t go too far with these issues because it’s an extremely dangerous and destructive thing to sing about or cope with, there’s a devastating number of cases to demonstrate that.

NAV & Metro Boomin – Perfect Timing: Mixtape Revew

NAV is a Punjabi-Canadian rapper who is signed to The Weeknd’s ‘XO’ label and gained major recognition after his red Hot feature on Travis Scott’s ‘Beibs In The Trap’ track which was followed by his breakout eponymous mixtape. I really enjoyed that mixtape and felt like the future was bright for NAV so was excited to see what’s next. This is the anticipated follow-up, a collaborative project with megastar hip-hop producer Metro Boomin so surely this will be full of bangers? Let’s find out with my review of NAV & Metro Boomin’s ‘Perfect Timing’ mixtape.

I’ll warn you now, this project is a million miles away from his debut mixtape in terms of talent and authenticity, it sounds like horrendous throwaways basically all the way through here, from the lacklustre beats to the brainless lyricism. One thing I took from NAV’s debut tape was his ability to make catchy hooks and get songs stuck in your head, there’s only a couple of examples of that on display here and the rest just suck the life out of you. ‘Call Me’ and ‘Did You See NAV?’ being my only truly enjoyable NAV hooks while the others are just painfully boring and poor quality. ‘A$AP Ferg’ is saved by Lil Uzi Vert’s hook but even then NAV manages to put his frustrating stamp on it.

The features suggested to me that this album would be a great listen, with some of the hottest artists around right now being listed, including 21 Savage and Lil Uzi Vert as well as Playboi Carti. In reality what we got was plain evidence that NAV is so far off these guys on every level imaginable and it’s made so obvious from their involvements compared to his. 21 is as cold as ever on ‘Both Sides’ while Carti brings some attitude and hype to an otherwise snoozer of a track in ‘Minute’ which also features Offset of Migos.

Now I love Metro Boomin, he has been the brains behind some of my favourite hip-hop beats over the last few years, including Future’s ‘Mask Off’, Kodak Black’s ‘Tunnel Vision’ and Migos’ ‘Bad & Boujee’; but here he does himself no favours whatsoever. The production is sleepy and dull from beginning to end with only one or two passable moments, it’s really disappointing to hear from such a bright and exuberant producer.

Overall: 2/10

Let it be known that this was the tape which exposed NAV. His debut got a pass because that was clearly the best of his work, he put all his efforts into those songs and it came off for him. Here, there’s no hiding place, he had one of the best producers around making his beats and had the support from big featured artists to keep him relevant and afloat. Instead what we were given was an agonising listen with no character, no emotion and barely any talent. Lazy is the word that comes to mind here and I wouldn’t recommend this tape to anyone, I certainly won’t be rushing back to listen to it.

Top 10 The 1975 songs

The 1975 are one of the most polarising bands of modern times, mainly thanks to their throwback sound and the eccentric acts of their bizarre and often controversial frontman Matty Healy. Despite only releasing two studio albums a few EP’s, the band have developed a colossal fan base and are starting to back up the beliefs of their lead singer as one of the biggest bands around at this moment in time. They’re a true enigma and one which, for me at least, took much longer than usual to appreciate. With personal differences now put to one side, I can enjoy the music of the band and commend them for their risk taking in a fairly stagnated modern music market; this is The 1975’s top 10 songs.

10: Sex (from ‘The 1975)

Probably the most upbeat and pop-rock style song of any in the band’s discography, the brilliant guitar riff of Adam Hann is complimented with some great instrumentation around him and an equally solid vocal performance from Matty. This was one of the band’s breakout singles and the title of one of their EP’s but made it onto the debut album, it’s painfully obvious to see why. That guitar solo and drum build up is magical too.

9: The Sound (from ‘I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It’)

A plunge into the new sound and style of the band, more electronics and synthetic risks being taken and this song is one of the examples of this. It’s a really funky track with an 80s vibe to it, much like the songs of Huey Lewis and The News, but in a good way. The second verse does sound like Matty has spent time searching through the dictionary for long words but somehow the onslaught of bulky words makes for pleasant listening. It’s also the song they finish their sets with and the one which had everyone jumping at Parklife, a real grower for me, much like a lot of their other tracks.

8: Girls (from ‘The 1975’)

One of, if not the most recognisable 1975 song is up next on the list, huge single ‘Girls’ broke through onto radio play and really threw the band into the public domain. It is a very radio friendly song that I will admit, but that doesn’t mean it is any less enjoyable or talented. Whether it’s the slick guitar licks or the blatant British vocal delivery of Matty, the song has a really nice 80s sound to it and it’s nearly impossible not to sway along to it or even tap your feet to the beat. Even now whenever this song comes on or the band play it live, the reception is first class.

7: Loving Someone (from ‘I Like It When You Sleep…’)

A coming together anthem of all walks of life, the band perform this song with the LGBTQ+ colours in their light show and it creates a beautiful atmosphere whether you’re listening to it at a live show or through headphones. I love the song’s progression and it’s atmospheric chorus mixed with a couple of spaced out verses. Matty describes this song as the real bonding of the togetherness and glory music can create between artists and fans. It’s become a really anthemic ballad that can be described as quintessential to the band’s musical avenue.

6: Settle Down (from ‘The 1975’)

As crazy as it may seem, this was the first song of The 1975 to grab my attention and that I actually enjoyed. I loved the funky slickness of the guitar riff and the emotion Matty put into the vocals, particularly in the chorus where he shouts his way through but it sounds great. The electronic keys which remain a constant throughout are fantastic too and give the band an edge and additional flavour which you very rarely find in bands these days. As I’ve delved deeper into the band and put personal differences aside I have realised that they do have better songs than this but it’s still a top tune and one which will hold an important part in my rollercoaster critique ride with The 1975.

5: Fallingforyou (from ‘IV EP’)

The most bizarre and unique song of them all on this list, this track comes from the band’s IV EP and is an electronic masterclass. As a general rule of thumb, I’ve never been too keen on the times The 1975 have tried to take too many instrumental risks but here it works an absolute treat. It also holds the iconic “I don’t wanna be your friend I wanna kiss your neck” line. The harmonies on the song’s chorus are very soft and pleasant on the ears and the whole aurora of the track just gives me a warm feelgood atmosphere. This is one which I would highly recommend to any who haven’t listened to the EP’s.

4: You (from ‘Sex EP’)

On the EP this song stands at 26 minutes long due to there being a hidden bonus track at the end, but this placement on the list comes solely from the first five minutes (ie the song itself). As the title suggests it is a direct address at a girl who isn’t trying hard enough for his love and is disrespecting him in ways such as “kissing all my friends”. The chorus is deliver e elegantly and soulfully as Matty repeats “it takes a bit more”; of course referring to the girl’s actions. My favourite part about this track alongside yet another fantastic Adam Hann riff is the bridge where Matty asks the girl “do you wanna dance” in plenty of harmonic lines and it’s just beautiful delivery. If you haven’t heard this one I would 100% recommend it, my first experience hearing it was just before Parklife when I was scrubbing up my knowledge for their headline set and I never looked back.

3: A Change Of Heart (from ‘I Like It When You Sleep…’)

In my review of the album I flagged this song up to be one of the standout tracks, that is still the case a year on. Yes the instrumental still sounds like something you’d hear on a reminiscent game of the Legend Of Zelda, but it’s something I really warmed to and found refreshing to hear. The harmonies are utilised on this song with effortless beauty and really help prop Marty’s vocals up in crucial moments of the track. The lyrics are very leftfield but they work a treat and, certainly not for the first time in their careers, break down the fourth wall and appear to touch the soul of the listener directly.

2: Somebody Else (from ‘I Like It When You Sleep…’)

Even in my days of pure unbridled hatred for the band, from the very first listen of their latest album it was this song that stood out as one which spoke to me and so many others about affection and the heartbreak of a troubled relationship. You can hear pain and sadness in the vocal delivery while the keys used in the instrumental are elegant and atmospheric, it was a real turning point for me on a personal level in terms of my respect for them as a musical group. A real coming of age for the band and hopefully a taste of what is to come from their third studio album.

1: Robbers (from ‘The 1975’)

Just staggering, simply staggering from start to finish. I love the way it blends from ‘Settle Down’ into this from the album, I love the progression of the narrative and thus the song itself. Instrumentally it is harmonic and beautiful while vocally it is gut-wrenching and soul-bearing from Matty Healy as he tells such a poignant tale. In the early days of my knowing of the band, I really didn’t expect them to have this sort of song in them, but now I feel foolish for doubting it because the talents they display on a song like this tell me all I need to know about them. Matty may be an insufferable pretentious oath at times, in fact 99% of the time, but musically he and the rest of the band are gifted.

 

Five reasons why Frank Ocean’s ‘Blond(e)’ album became his own mystical masterpiece

Frank Ocean’s ‘Blond(e)’ album isn’t even a year old, yet already it has knocked down a number of cultural and musical barriers, from soulful soundwaves to homosexual honesty and embrace. It sailed gloriously to the top of my albums of the year list for 2016 with the reason being quite painstakingly obvious. It is the work of a sheer genius and the fact it hasn’t been universally acknowledged as such truly saddens me. Even the title is a piece of art as he balances both the masculine and feminine spelling of the word ‘Blond(e)’ to show both sides (exactly like he says on new track ‘Chanel’). Here are five reasons as to why Frank Ocean hit a home run with his long-awaited ‘Channel Orange’ follow up and why ‘Blond(e) should be respected as one of the greatest albums this generation has seen.

 

1. It is already hailed as an LGBTQ+ celebration album.

We all remember that Tumblr post. In 2012 Frank Ocean announced to the world that as a 19 year old he fell in love with a man, sharing a summer of joy with his sweetheart. The open nature of Frank was embraced by all in the music community and he captured all of these emotions on ‘Blond(e)’. He has created an album in which people can feel comfortable and confident in their own skin, he has given everyone the confidence to live their own lives to their maximum potentials, irregardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

2. It is the ultimate barrier breaker of an album.

Sonically you’ll do well to find an album which captures the concept it intends to follow better than ‘Blond(e)’ does. The space-age tint of ‘Nikes’ and ‘Nights’ compliments the low-fi smoothness of ‘Godspeed’ and ‘Good Guy’ to create a masterpiece which is truly impossible to tie down to a specific genre. Taking a simple glance at the sampling and production credits of this album tells you all you need to know about the project’s diversity, with the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Andre 3000 adding hip-hop flavours while David Bowie and even The Beatles has Frank dip his toes into the murky waters of British icons. Name another album which has the king of hip-hop and the kings of rock music on the same project. I’ll wait.

3. It is Frank’s coming of age and maturity.

Frank Ocean used Blond to display a huge step in his career, from the kooky innocence of Odd Future to the serious anticipation of a musical role model. When ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’ was followed by ‘Channel Orange’ it appeared as though Frank would be a great R&B artist who spoke on love and passion, somewhat surface level emotions. What came from ‘Blond(e)’ was a triumphant rise through the ashes as Frank followed on from his previous projects with the raw emotion of love and then moved beyond that to greater issues. The likes of race, homosexuality, depression and cultural acceptance have been challenged here and helped it become an instant classic.

4. It ranks very highly in just about ever publication’s albums of the year list.

It may not come as a surprise to most, seeing as it was the most eagerly anticipated album of the year along with Kanye’s ‘The Life Of Pablo’, that ‘Blonde’ was a high scorer amongst many critics. It eventually ended up ranking in just about every top 10 imaginable, from NME (10th) to Rolling Stone (5th). The fact that such a wide variety of publications placed it in the top 10 suggests that no matter the genre of expertise, the raw talent of Frank Ocean shines through on this album and there’s no possible way you can deny it’s brilliance. I ranked it at number one and even that didn’t feel like enough gratification for the album’s mastery.

5. It places Frank upon the very pinnacle of artistry esteem.

This album showed every single one of us that Frank Ocean has a gift, it added a silk touch beauty to his discography and crystallised what we already knew about his sensual and stunning vocal delivery. Taking influence from the likes of Prince and Michael Jackson before him, Frank took it to the barebones of his musical ability; ditching the pop sounds of 2012’s ‘Channel Orange’ and instead laying himself bare with a skeletal stripped back project which is as mesmerising as it is haunting. The album appears sketchy and all over the place upon the surface, but it provides layers the more you listen to it, a well-drawn out affair of heartache and denial which will, in my opinion at least, weigh up alongside some of the all time great singer-songwriter projects. After all, Frank is the best of the lot in this generation when it comes to being a solo singer/songwriter, we now have the documents on record to prove it.

Ranking Drake’s Albums

Drake is the most recognisable rapper in the music industry right now. Even if you may not think he’s the best, there’s no denying that he is the king of the mainstream wave at the moment, dominating the charts with every single song he releases and selling a million copies on the opening week of his album dropping. He’s released eight projects in total and ordering them is really quite difficult given the variation in his voice between pop, R&B and outright hip-hop makes him difficult to pin down. One thing is certain, there’s obvious choices for the top spot and the stone dead worst; find out how I rank them here:

8: Views (Released 2016)

This project was such a drastic disappointment for me after all the hype that surrounded a Drake dominated music industry in the summer of 2016. Yes there are plenty of catchy radio-friendly songs on here but let’s face the facts; it is 20 songs long and of those 20, only 6 or 7 are genuinely enjoyable. To narrow that down even further, songs like Hotline Bling and One Dance are part of those 6 or 7 songs and they became old news by the time it was released because of how much they’d been played. Yes he sold a million copies in the first week but it’s by far and away his worst project; songs like Fire & Desire must never come into his mindset as acceptable ever again.

7: So Far Gone (Released 2008)

This his debut EP, Drake announced himself in a fairly solid way by stamping his style onto the songs immediately, letting people know exactly what they’d be in for throughout the duration of his career. Obviously this mixtape contained Best I Ever Had which became Drake’s breakout hit as well as a few solid tracks with Lil Wayne on the features, but really it didn’t hit the mark as a project. What followed was much more like it, however.

6: What A Time To Be Alive (Released 2015)

This collaborative mixtape with Atlanta rapper Future blew the charts up in the summer of 2015 thanks to the pair’s great chemistry on the tracks and the heavy production laid on mainly by god amongst men Metro Boomin. Jumpman is of course a standout hit but we also have tracks like Digital Dash (an absolute vibe) and Big Rings to enjoy from this. The project is certainly not without its faults however, with this project being the prime example and solid definition of a cherry picker album; meaning you have to dig through the mediocrity at times to find gems.

5: Thank Me Later (Released 2010)

Ah the debut album, the innocence of our little Aubrey on this project is bordering on adorable at times as he shows his insecurities and complexities as a man growing up around a lavish lifestyle, but it also shows him off to be a great artist too. We’ve got some more great features on this thing including Jay Z, Alicia Keys and Nicki Minaj yet Drake more than holds his own against the field he’s put alongside. Fireworks and The Resistance are personal favourites of mine from here and they left me so excited to see the direction he chose to go in next after this album.

4: More Life (Released 2017)

I loved this project, it would genuinely baffle me if these were his ‘throwaways’ from Views because it is unquestionably better as a project in every single department. Summer vibes, emotional turmoil and hard beat drops, this “playlist” as he liked to call it was simply a collection of great songs. Passionfruit is everyone’s summer jam while his new affiliation with Giggs and Skepta has made for insane listening. The features are top draw on this thing and even the minor details of samples is brushed up very well to give it a very modern sound. Shoutout to whoever picked the track listing for nearly making me cry with Sampha on 4422 to then making me simultaneously milly rock for about 4 songs after that (Gyalchester, Skepta Interlude, Portland, Sacrifices).

3: Nothing Was The Same (Released 2013)

This was the first Drake album I listened to on it’s release day, I had heard the singles and starting to hear his name get mentioned quite a lot so felt a level of intrigue to check his music out. This album did not disappoint and had a fantastic balance of smooth ballads and rich production on hard hip-hop tracks. It contains some of Drake’s best vocal performances in terms of flow and rap delivery, especially on songs like From Time and Tuscan Leather. The production is amazing from start to finish, with Pound Cake’s beat being one of the best I’ve heard this decade. It isn’t perfect, there’s still an air of cliché and cheesiness to this project but it’s very very good.

2: If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (Released 2015)

In terms of our rapping and being a hip-hop artist, this is Drake at his very best. His delivery is ice cold and he’s holding no punches with his bars, whether it’s making Tyga look like a massive loser on 6pm In New York, or schooling his featured artists on a regular occasion. It was technically released as a mixtape, but the success it garnered meant that Drake just couldn’t keep it as that so hard copies were released and it soared to the top of the charts, becoming his fourth successive platinum project. The 6 God lived up to his name in gigantic abundance on this release and he proved exactly why he’s at the top of the rap game. He’s not running through the 6 with his woes anymore that is for certain.

1: Take Care (Released 2011)

Is this really a surprise to anyone? In my opinion it is the only truly classic album Drake has released, it’ll stand the test of time and be remembered as one of the most important rap albums of this century simply because it got the ball rolling for this conscious rap vibe that has become a major talking point in the modern music industry. There’s a grand total of zero weaknesses about this album as Drake strikes the literal perfect balance between being in his feelings and dominating the mic as an MC. He follows Marvins Room with Buried Alive Interlude and Underground Kings, if that doesn’t sum up his variation then I don’t know what does. I don’t think Drake has got close to this album yet and I struggle to believe he ever will, absolute peak Drizzy.

Hip-Hop Power Rankings: May-June

It’s time for another edition of the hip hop power rankings, a series in which I analyse the genre’s biggest trending stars and rank them into a top 10. Whether it is how busy they’re keeping, how relevant their music remains or the chart positions they generate in these months, it’s safe to say that May and June has seen plenty of massive names soaring to the top of popular culture. Last edition saw Kendrick and Drake ruling the roost thanks to their album releases, but this time will we see a new king of the sales?

10: Vince Staples

An artist who in all honesty should be far higher in this list in terms of invention and artistry given the brilliance of his June release ‘Big Fish Theory’ which combines deep house with ice cold rap bars. The reason he doesn’t place higher is simply because his hits aren’t making it onto the mainstream ladder like the other artists featured here in this top 10, with that being said, he’s still squeezing out over 4 million monthly Spotify listeners and has the game’s attention after dropping an album of the year candidate which should go down as a real genre pusher.

9: Kendrick Lamar

Hip-hop’s rhyme animal himself has just begun embarking on his North American ‘DAMN.’ tour and the buzz for his latest album is still huge, with hit single ‘HUMBLE.’ remaining a chart stalwart throughout these summer months. It has to be said that his demand has slightly dipped through the months of May and June but even then he’s found room to jump on a killer remix of Future’s ‘Mask Off’ smash hit and shock us all with a fire verse on Vince Staples’ ‘Yeah Right’. He’s still talked about and will remain in this list for quite some time I feel given the potential for more top draw guest features on the horizon.

8: Drake

Drizzy Drake doesn’t have an off button, he’s constantly working and dropping music for his fans to enjoy. His long lasting relationship with DJ Khaled continued in June with the release of ‘To The Max’, a song which did fairly well commercially but couldn’t rub shoulders with the likes of ‘I’m The One’ and ‘Wild Thoughts’. He also released ‘Signs’ which is a single coinciding with the new Louis Vuitton releases so he is certainly in good company even beyond the musical sphere. Basically Drake won’t be quick to leave the top region of popular rap artists simply because of his colossal work rate and the fluency of his styles to make popular tracks.

7: Lil Yachty

The Boat’s album ‘Teenage Emotions’ dropped in May and even though it did only reach number four on the billboard charts, it still generated plenty of buzz and more than enough to warrant a spot on this list. He’s a cultural phenomenon at the moment even if his music has been deemed underwhelming by many; the brand of Lil Yachty continues to soar. He also joined Migos on a Steve Aoki single and his collab with Kyle on ‘iSpy’ continues to dominate nightclubs and radio stations across the globe.

6: French Montana

Personal differences aside, French Montana had a monster couple of months solely off one track. His gigantic hit with Swae Lee ‘Unforgettable’ can be heard everywhere at the moment and has to be my go to anthem right now, he has completely smashed the charts and with more to come i.e. an album, you sense that this won’t be the last time his name is on this list; especially considering the feature list he boasts on it.

5: 2 Chainz

Thanks to 2 Chainz’s new album, we now know that ‘Pretty Girls Like Trap Music’ and he also confirmed what we already knew; 2 Chainz is a bonafide mainstream rap bonanza who can still murder beats with witticisms in 2017. His feature list was incredible and he held his own against the majority of rap’s biggest stars so for anyone to doubt him at the moment is sheer madness.

4: Young Thug

Young Thug is a hip-hop megastar now whether you like it or not. He’s done all of this work without needing to release a studio album yet and continues to wow audiences with his charismatic flows and unique persona on tracks. This has never been more true on his latest mixtape ‘Beautiful Thugger Girls’ where he tries his hand at acoustic cuts with Trap influences. He is another of the artists to be on Khaled’s ‘Grateful’ album as well as Calvin Harris’ ‘Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1’ and he does a great job on both. His value continues to rise so that once this debut album comes out it’ll absolutely fly. Easy Breezy Beautiful Thugger Girls for life.

3: Future

Is it really a popular rap artist list without Future making an appearance somewhere on it? The Atlanta mumble rapper is somewhat of a legend of the commercial hip-hop scene already and these past few months have been no exception to this. His remix of Post Malone’s big hit ‘Congratulations’ is a triumph and Kendrick remixing his hit ‘Mask Off’ has pushed the original back up the charts.

2: Travis Scott

His work ethic is undeniable and his ability to create a summer hit has been demonstrated wildly throughout these past few months. His name and status have risen massively over the course of May and June thanks to collaborations with Calvin Harris, Major Lazer and DJ Khaled, all of which have been greatly received as some of the biggest hits of this summer. He’s also been a feature on the latest 2 Chainz album where he stole the show on ‘4AM’, while singles of his own including ‘Butterfly Effect’ have hit the radio and been big successes on his endless show dates. Don’t be surprised to see a number one spot very soon for La Flame.

1: Quavo

Is it really a chart smash hit if Migos’ hook king isn’t featured on it? One Direction’s Liam Payne came to Quavo for his first single ‘Strip That Down’ while DJ Khaled called upon him for some fire on a couple of tracks from his most recent album ‘Grateful’. He’s also played a great part on projects from 2 Chainz and Halsey while being a killer on Major Lazer’s ‘Know No Better’ track as well as A$AP Mob’s most recent single ‘RAF’. He’s just the mainstream king right now and he’s living the life he always dreamed of.

Calvin Harris – Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1: Album review

Calvin Harris a superstar DJ hailing from Dumfries in Scotland but he’s moved on from that small town lifestyle and is now living it up in sunny Los Angeles. The atmosphere he creates in this new album here is exactly that, LA funk tracks and summer anthems. His adamance to move on from the ever popular EDM sound is admirable and you get the sense he is now doing exactly what he wants to do. With that being said, does this star studded album with an embarrassment of riches in the feature department live up to the hype and will it be the soundtrack of your summer? Let’s find out with this review of ‘Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1’.

The production is magnificent on this thing, every single track has glitz and glamour but also carries a chilled out vibe to it which can allow it to be played in family BBQs as well as banging club nights. Right from the off Calvin treats us to toe tappers and invention with the lead single ‘Slide’ in which the glory of the best is met with a stunning performance from this generation’s mastermind Frank Ocean. The standout beats on this project definitely come from the staggers and pulsators in his synthesisers, particularly on ‘Rollin’ and ‘Prayers Up’ and it is something I really hope Calvin continues to do in his future projects.

The features are colossal, with most of the biggest names in hip-hop jumping onto this album. 95% of the performances on here are thoroughly enjoyable too, whether it be the most unexpected surprises from the likes of Young Thug and Future, who shouldn’t fit the kind of instrumentals they’re put on, or the slick styles of Pharell Williams and Khalid who do themselves tremendous justice on their given beats. The star of the album has to be a toss-up between ScHoolboy Q and Travis Scott though, on their respective tracks ‘Cash Out’ and ‘Prayers Up’ as they set fire to some incredible instrumentals and give everyone summer anthems to enjoy. It’s not all perfect, however, as the verses from Lil Yachty and Nicki Minaj are somewhat underwhelming given the buzz around them as artists. I’ll forgive them both because of how great that Snoop Dogg song was, though.

Overall: 8.5/10
Best three songs: Cash Out, Slide, Prayers Up
Worst three songs: Skrt On Me, Faking It, Hard To Love

This album is pure enjoyment from start to finish, creating exactly what the title suggests, funky anthems for us all to indulge into and vibe out to all summer long. Thank you so much Calvin for moving away from this brainless EDM sound and being daring enough to go down your own avenue, creating music that you want to make rather than what the label wants you to make. Calvin Harris has to be the number one DJ on the planet now after this, sorry Khaled it’s just facts bro.

Top 50 albums of 2017… So far

2017 is the year I have devoted myself to listening to as much music as is humanly possible, I have found myself listening to over 100 albums already this year and that’s why I deemed it necessary to give you all my favourites of this glittering cast of 2017 so far. From hip-hop to alt-rock and pop to country, this list has a hugely wide variety and so placing them all has been extremely difficult. With that being said, enjoy and if you’re favourite album isn’t where it should be or you feel I have got this wrong then be sure to let me know, I love open interaction and opinionated discussions with you guys. And so without further ado, let’s get into my 50 best albums of 2017 so far.

50 – Thundercat – Drunk

Standout tracks: Walk On By, Them Changes, The Turn Down

Masterful producer, world class bass player and all round great guy Thundercat returned with an album at the start of this year and although I was very excited for it and did enjoy it for the most part, it just felt a bit snoozy at times and the interludes, although funny, took away from the real star points of the project. The Kendrick Lamar featured Walk On By is a fantastic laid back song with dreamy production while Them Changes had a funky and infectious bass line. Don’t worry Thundercat, you’re still a genius in my eyes, simply for that work on To Pimp A Butterfly.

49 – Laura Marling – Semper Femina

Standout tracks: Wild Fire, Soothing, Nothing Not Nearly

Pop-Country singer Laura Marling has been someone who’s name I’ve heard for a fair few years now but this is the first full length project of hers I’ve sat and listened to. The singles building up to it were enjoyable and as a whole I did find it a pleasant listen. She has a very soothing vocal melody and pitch but there are one or two forgettable moments on here. This is a steady ship of an album but one which sails very smoothly.

48 – Lil Yachty – Teenage Emotions

Standout tracks: Harley, All Around Me, Like A Star

The most divisive man in the hip-hop genre has released his debut album this year and it didn’t sell as highly as was anticipated for him. Yachty is the most eccentric and outgoing artist around at this moment in time, and much like he said in his Instagram post explaining the album flopping in the charts, his brand has overtaken his music. It’s a shame really but it’s very true, the album is too bloated but I can forgive him because a) he wrote an album for the kids and it was something he truly believed in and wanted to do; and b) because there really are some great moments on the album, so don’t write the Boat off just yet.

47 – Alt-J – RELAXER

Standout tracks: 3WW, In Cold Blood, Deadcrush

This album started off incredibly, offering the two standout singles at the forefront of the track list and giving fans real hope that Alt-J were about to complete a hattrick of stunning projects. Although this album is good and eclectic to its very core, I find it a bit snoozy at times and get frustrated at the insistent variation and it’s lack of cohesion in key areas. Alt-J’s worst album of their three but I shall remain an eager fan of theirs thanks to some breathtaking standout moments.

46 – Maximo Park – Risk To Exist

Standout tracks: What Equals Love?, Risk To Exist, The Hero

The Geordie band are back with some high-octane catchy indie music and I must say I am pleasantly surprised by the results. There are some real toe-tapping anthems on this album and it’s one which sees a slight return to form for them after a hiatus. It was never going to be a mind-blowing piece of concept art but I have to appreciate it for what it truly is. There isn’t quite a hit like Our Velocity or Apply Some Pressure on here though.

45 – Ed Sheeran – Divide

Standout tracks: Supermarket Flowers, Eraser, Perfect

Ed Sheeran is a global phenomenon and his album broke countless streaming records as well as spending seemingly forever atop of the charts, so my opinion won’t really matter to him. What I will say, however is that this is his worst album so far by some distance and that despite some glowing moments of the raw talent he possesses, I find myself getting bored on the odd occasion. With that being said, it’s still enjoyable and has some outstanding tracks on there, including the opener Eraser and the heart-wrenching Supermarket Flowers.

44 – Charli XCX – Number 1 Angel

Standout tracks: 3AM (Pull Up), ILY2, White Roses

An example of how to do a decent catchy pop album here from one of my favourite female artists, Charli XCX. She was a really trendy and cool artist years before she broke onto the radio with hits like Boom Clap and collaborations with Icona Pop and Iggy Azalea, but I’ve always enjoyed her music as it isn’t as surface level as most pop music tends to be these days (without meaning to sound awfully pretentious). This album backs up my point of view and has some really cool songs as well as some great vocal performances by Charli’s quirky self. She did well here but I still think she can do more.

43 – Dirty Projectors – Dirty Projectors

Standout tracks: Keep Your Name, Cool Your Heart, Up In Hudson

Experimental, adventurous and outright wild from the get go, the Dirty Projectors’ self titled LP is a rollercoaster of sounds and production techniques along with Bon Iver stylised vocals. The cohesion is never going to sound particularly solid on a project like this because every song is just so bizarre and the direction each of the tracks go in is indescribable. I did enjoy this album and it made me delve deeper into their discography so it did its job, it added intrigue and Wonder to a neutral’s musical palette.

42 – Austra – Future Politics

Standout tracks: Utopia, Future Politics, I Love You More Than You Love Yourself

This Canadian synth-pop outfit gave me a real flavour of charisma and attitude on this most recent album here, their first release in 4 years and to fans it most certainly was worth the wait. The title track is catchy as anything and the standout track Utopia has some really great vocal performances on it as well as very smooth piano keys. It’s a really solid effort from this group and one which I would recommend to fans of people like ANOHNI or Crystal Castles.

41 – Rag’N’Bone Man – Human

Standout tracks: Skin, Grace, Bitter End

The Critics Choice winner at the BRITs and the BBC Sound of 2017 winner, Rag’N’Bone Man has had a meteoric rise to fame based off just one album. He gained the top spot on the album charts thanks to the huge buzz gathered from his breakout hit Human, but it was Skin which for me encapsulated the best side of the London born singer’s ability as an artist. He had a bright future ahead of him that’s for sure and I’m pleased for him that he has achieved such success of this album, even if it wasn’t a straight 10/10.

40 – Mallory Knox – Wired

Standout tracks: California, Wired, Saviour

I had some real throwback American punk vibes to this album and I really enjoyed the sound of it, especially coming in a year such as 2017 where everything is so fine-tuned and modified. One complaint would be that I struggled to hear the vocals at times due to how loud the riffs and the drums were, but they were instrumentally very solid. I can imagine this album being an absolute riot when performed live.

39 – Paramore – After Laughter

Standout tracks: Hard Times, Fake Happy, Rose-Colored Boy

Come on now, be honest; who saw this one coming? Paramore became a meme with their brand of punk-rock music in the early 00s, despite a few obvious bangers amongst the pack, but now they’ve completely reinvented themselves here and I’m pleased to report that it worked a treat. The funky riffs we get throughout this album match the tones of Hayley Williams’ voice very well and give a pure 80s vibe from start to finish. I really enjoyed this album and I’m not even ashamed to admit it, well done Paramore, more of this please.

38 – Future – FUTURE

Standout tracks: Mask Off, Draco, I’m So Groovy

Ahhhhhhhhh. Future. Self titled album. This is the album which contains the biggest rap song of 2017 so far in Mask Off (yes, the one with the crazy flute instrumental) but there are actually a couple of other hidden gems in this track list. Draco has a crazy piece of production while I’m So Groovy does exactly what it says on the tin. Fantastic production and great turn up music, Future did his thing but it wasn’t a patch on DS2.

37 – Clean Cut Kid – Felt

Standout tracks: Vitamin C, Leaving You Behind, We Used To Be In Love

Feelgood indie music has a soft spot in my heart and is something that’ll never cease to make me sit up and pay attention. This album reminded me of growing up listening to Vampire Weekend and The Drums and to be given that feeling once again is just great. Vitamin C is one of my favourite songs of the year and I am very very excited to see how Clean Cut Kid will soar from here on in. It is just a shame that bands like Catfish & The Bottlemen are given the radio play and these aren’t, because as far as I’m concerned, Clean Cut Kid sound so much more fresh and original.

36 – Taylor Bennett – Restoration Of An American Idol

Standout tracks: Grown Up Fairy Tales, Neon Lights, New York Nights

You may not know this, but the Bennett family doesn’t just have one musician in its ranks. Chance The Rapper isn’t alone in his voyages as a rapper and his little brother Taylor’s album here is a glowing reference to the family’s quirky abilities as rappers. It’s good fun and very refreshing to see Taylor going in his own musical direction, rather than mimicking the sounds of his brother, which he could easily do to get a bit more fame. Massive respect to Taylor for staying true and rapping about positivity and his faith, long may it continue.

35 – Rick Ross – Rather You Than Me

Standout tracks: Trap Trap Trap, Santorini Greece, Powers That Be

Rick Rozay, one of hip-hop’s biggest memes and the man who has the body shape of a pear, but his ability to rap is never under scrutiny. Although he once again fails to hit the heights of his staggeringly good verse on his 2010 appearance of Kanye West’s Devil In A New Dress track, he provides a great album here with some memorable songs, particularly at the start of the project. He combines features very well indeed and manages to make Young Thug coincide well with Rozay’s own deep tones, that in itself is a skill. Chris Rock being a feature on here did make me laugh too.

34 – Big Boi – Boomiverse

Standout tracks: Kill Jill, Mic Jack, Get Wit It

If you don’t know who Big Boi is then you don’t know hip-hop. As a member of OutKast he became Rap royalty and rightfully so as they are, in my opinion, the greatest group to ever grace the genre. He has returned here as a solo artist and I love the hardcore production on this thing, basically every track on here is a bouncy vibe. His bars haven’t faded either as he can still spit with authority, but Killer Mike is the show stealer for me, he is his usual brilliant self on every single one of his three features on this thing. So Big Boi dropped, over to you Andre…

33 – Freddie Gibbs – You Only Live 2wice

Standout tracks: 20 Karat Jesus, Crushed Glass, Homesick

Freddie Gibbs has such a good flow to his rapping it actually blows my mind at times, this album holds no exception to that statement either. The opening track is truly astonishing and the album flows well from there, I enjoyed the hell out of this project and although I’ll never proclaim to be his number one fan, it has definitely left me intrigued as to the direction he will go in next.

32 – Future Islands – The Far Field

Standout tracks: Ran, Beauty Of The Road, Aladdin

I love Future Islands and have done for quite some time, I think the lead singer is absolutely bonkers but the instrumentals are gorgeous and the band work together in beautiful harmony. This album holds up well against their other projects and has some of their best material to date, including one of my new favourite songs in Ran. I still hold faith that they can do better, but this will do just fine for me.

31 – Oddisee – The Iceberg

Standout tracks: Built By Pictures, Rights & Wrongs, Like Really

Oddisee is one of underground rap’s best assets and this album he dropped at the start of the year is proof of that. Slick instrumentals twinned with fantastic variety in flows and vocal deliveries makes for a great listen here and I’d recommend this album to just about anyone. For a good few years now he has consistently released solid projects which would be big in the commercial market if an artist like Drake had created them, but I’m just fine with Oddisee sticking true to his beliefs in the music system.

30 – Syd – Fin

Standout tracks: All About Me, Over, Smile More

Syd is more recognisable by the name Syd Tha Kid, a member of the early 2010s hip hop group Odd Future, but there are plenty more strings to the singer’s bow than that. This album proves that, whether it be from rousing production or her back and forth talents with 6LACK on Over. I really enjoyed this album and hope for more of the same from Syd as she progresses as a solo artist.

29 – Blackbear – Digital Druglord

Standout tracks: moodz, i miss the old u, do re mi

This should be the exact kind of hot trash I hate, but I just don’t know why I enjoy it as much as I do? The songs heavy over-production makes for intriguing listening and the attitude put onto the songs gives it an edge and something interesting. It’s far from the most technically gifted and complete project but I thoroughly enjoyed the songs and their rough-around-the-edges style.

28 – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana

Standout tracks: Rattlesnake, Nuclear Fusion, Open Water

As the album title suggests, Australian psych-rock band King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard experimented here with microtonal guitar chords and the sound it created was unique and catchy in every sense of the word. With each passing track we were treated to funky waves and upbeat riffs from the Aussie workhorses who, if the rumours are true, we should expect plenty more work from in the coming months. I for one can’t wait.

27 – Playboi Carti – Playboi Carti

Standout tracks: Location, New Choppa, Magnola

This one won’t be for everyone, if you are a fan of old-school rap with cold flow and nice bars then look elsewhere because Playboi Carti won’t fit your taste. If, however, you like trendy songs with plenty of energy and some great beats then look no further. He will never write a masterpiece but Carti will get the party going and burn up the club 100 times out of 100. His Uzi and Rocky collab tracks are very solid and he could be the new wave of rap’s next breakout star, following in the aforementioned Lil Uzi Vert’s footsteps.

26 – John Mayer – The Search For Everything

Standout tracks: Helpless, Still Feel Like Your Man, You’re Gonna Live Forever In Me

It’s been a long time coming, but John Mayer is finally back and he’s back with a bang. This smooth sound of funky acoustic music is very easy on the ears and it’s all that I wanted from a John Mayer album, soothing tones and catchy melodies. His ability as a songwriter is unprecedented and this album shows him off as such. If the chorus and riff on Still Feel Like Your Man doesn’t get stuck in your head all day after hearing it then I’m worried about you.

25 – NAV – NAV

Standout tracks: Up, Myself, Some Way

An R&B artist of Indian descent isn’t something you’ll see everyday, but XO’s next breakout star fits that mould. NAV brings some seriously good songs to the plate here and I challenge anyone to skip through those first three songs which are as catchy as it gets. His Weeknd collab hit ‘Some Way’ is another beauty of a track and I expect big things from this guy, particularly when he drops the collab album with all-round genius producer Metro Boomin.

24 – Bryson Tiller – True To Self

Standout tracks: Self Made, Somethin Tells Me, Blowing Smoke

Bryson is a bit of a meme these days unfortunately because of his tumblr girl sound and his fan appeal being largely that of a lustful nature. That doesn’t take away from the glory and ability he put into his 2015 breakout album ‘TRAPSOUL’ and it certainly shouldn’t do for this follow up project either. No features makes it frustrating at times because Bryson has a very similar style in most songs on here but basing it simply on how good the songs are on here, I can hardly complain. Don’t worry Bryson, I still rate you.

23 – SZA – Ctrl

Standout tracks: Love Galore, Drew Barrymore, The Weekend

Top Dawg Entertainment’s only signed female artist has come through with a storming debut album here, stacked with emotion and feeling with a concept of growing up and her quests for love. SZA recruits some great names for this album, Kendrick Lamar being the standout but she ensures that with every feature on here, she too can roll with the punches and keep the reins of her own song. The atmosphere is very well structured and the flow of the project works a treat.

22 – Migos – Culture

Standout tracks: Kelly Price, Slippery, T Shirt

Migos repped the culture on this album for one reason and one reason only. They are the culture, nobody else but them. Migos revolutionised the trap mumble sound we are so accustomed to hearing in today’s hip-hop charts and were out here doing this before any other ‘culture vultures’ joined the craze. The Culture album is packed to the brim with club turn-up anthems and it has the potential to be join Travis Scott’s Rodeo and Future’s DS2 as an outright trap classic.

21 – Kasabian – For Crying Out Loud

Standout tracks: Ill Ray (The King), Are You Looking For Action?, Good Fight

One of the UK’s great indie rock bands of the 21st century are back with a bang, and a rather strange album cover. The hits are undeniable on it, however, as Serge, Tom and co. use the hard electronic instrumentals that have made them famous to now and created some boom blast indie bangers here, including Ill Ray (The King) and Comeback Kid. Their reign as the world’s number one FIFA band continues and it is a title I am sure they will welcome with open arms, especially after their beloved Leicester made them the soundtrack of their Premier League title winning campaign.

20 – Dua Lipa – Dua Lipa

Standout tracks: Be The One, Thinking ‘Bout You, Blow Your Mind (Mwah)

When I initially heard her single Thinking ‘Bout You I knew she had some true raw talent, I didn’t realise how many hits she had in her locker, though. You’ll recognise Be The One from adverts that’s for sure and that’s not the only toe-rapper she possesses in this stacked album. Her care-free attitude comes through with authority on this album and her vocal delivery reflects this beautifully, something you rarely get from chart topping pop artists. I really enjoyed this album and it’s restored my faith in true pop artists giving us good music again, without meaning to sound like a miserable old father here.

19 – Mac Demarco – This Old Dog

Standout tracks: Still Beating, My Old Man, On The Level

Mac is back with some brand new tracks and these ones are by no means wack. I love Mac Demarco and all that he does and stands for, his laid back life approach is something to be admired and on this album he shows us that in his soft and glazed vocal tones and subtle acoustic guitar riffs. He does also take on some big issues in his life here, such as the death of his mainly absent father and the effect it has had on him as a person, as well as the struggles of finding love and true happiness. It’s another great Mac project but it just falls short of his best, as a certain album called Salad Days does exist.

18 – Harry Styles – Harry Styles

Standout tracks: Sign Of The Times, Carolina, Only Angel

I’ll admit it, when Sign Of The Times first came out I was infuriated by it, the whole thing sounded like a gimmick, a tribute act trying to perform like Bowie. But as time wore on I appreciated it more and more and suddenly found myself eagerly anticipating a Harry Styles album, a situation you rarely expect to find yourself in. This album is great, I’m telling you now it’s easily the best project any One Direction member will release and it proves Harry’s credentials as a down to earth but by no means shy frontman with a rocking attitude. Big up Styles, you done good.

17 – The xx – I See You

Standout tracks: I Dare You, Test Me, A Violent Noise

The first album I listened to in 2017 and I was so pleased to hear The xx back doing what they’re great at. They work together as a trio better than anyone I’ve heard in such a long time, as they all compliment each other with their vocal dexterity or instrumental talents. Jamie xx is a wizard on production and Oliver and Romy sound better than ever on the vocals, this album set the tone very nicely for what has been a fantastic first half of the year musically.

16 – VANT – DUMB BLOOD

Standout tracks: PUT DOWN YOUR GUN, PEACE & LOVE, PARKING LOT

This London based indie-rock quartet encapsulated the raw rough around the edges sound of a classic rock album with this debut here, as they provide pulsating guitar riffs and passionate vocal deliveries throughout. It’s an album I never anticipated I would enjoy as much as I did but it is certainly one of the shining lights in terms of bodies of work coming from the UK so far this year. I’ll certainly be keeping my eye out for them in the future.

15 – Gorillaz – Humanz

Standout tracks: Submission, Ascension, Let Me Out

One of the most eagerly anticipated projects of the year, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s virtual band were back at it again with bangers and astronomical production. The feature list was heavy and diverse, ranging from classic hip-hop to soulful jazz and funk singers, even the modern day artists got nods, the likes of Benjamin Clementine and Vince Staples stealing the show for example. The feature list could lead you to thinking this was like a house party Damon hosted for all his talented friends, but the cohesion was there to make it another Gorillaz winner.

14 – Sampha – Process

Standout tracks: Blood On Me, Plastic 100C, Incomplete Kisses

This is an album I’ve been anticipating since 2013 when I first heard Sampha’s chilling and mesmerising vocal performance on Drake’s Too Much track. Four years later and the beloved singer-songwriter has well and truly arrived on the global stage, crafting a brilliant project full of passion and soul. Every song on here tells a new tale and you find yourself getting lost in his vocal delivery, his tones are unlike anything I’ve ever heard before and he might just possess one of my favourite singing voices of all time, it’s that good. Expect much more greatness to come from Sampha; this is just the beginning.

13 – Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer

Standout tracks: Bad Boys, Lay Me Bare, Blinded By Your Grace Pt. 2

Approaching this album I was hesitant, I wasn’t crazy about Big For Your Boots like other people were but acknowledged how hard it went, so there was definite potential there. I was worried the roadman scene Stormzy found himself involved in when Shut Up hit the limelight would affect his career and direction. Nope. This album is fantastic, as far as debuts go you’ll do well to topple this as a grime artist. His variation between soft singing and aggressive spitting is exemplary and the signs are all pointing towards greatness, it wasn’t quite Konnichiwa, but my god he wasn’t far away.

12 – Young Thug – Beautiful Thugger Girls

Standout tracks: Relationship, Get High, Family Don’t Matter

This is easily Young Thug’s most complete project to date, not to mention his most daring one too. The risk of balancing his wild and abrasive trap vocals with acoustic riffs and low-fi instrumentals was colossal, but as he has now discovered, the rewards are phenomenal and the sound we are treated to is blissfully passionate as well as enjoyable. Considering we haven’t even got a debut album from Thugger yet, it’s remarkable to see how far he has come and this mixtape is, in my opinion at least, the platform he needed to become a mega star in the rap genre.

11 – Blaenavon – That’s Your Lot

Standout tracks: Let’s Pray, Ode To Joe, Orthodox Man

A debut album which came out of nowhere for me, British indie rockers Blaenavon have produced an absolute gem here with their fresh and modern sounding instrumentals and catchy choruses. The songs flow together very well and make this project very cohesive and enjoyable from start to finish. It’s a fantastic way to start what is sure to be a long and prosperous career for these boys.

10 – London Grammar – Truth Is A Beautiful Thing

Standout tracks: Big Picture, Wild Eyed, Who Am I

This is a truly triumphant return from the British electro-pop outfit, as they follow on from their glorious debut with yet more power and emotion strung from the gorgeous vocals of Hannah Reid. The atmospheric instrumentals throughout the track listing here gives us a slick sound and a consistent sense of glory on the album, very well done to a group who are rapidly becoming one of my favourites in this country.

9 – Rejjie Snow – The Moon & You

Standout tracks: PURPLE TUESDAY, UNBORN, GET IT

Rejjie Snow is a name I’ve seen floating around for a while but there hasn’t been a solid project for me to divulge properly until this one here, but my word was it worth the wait. With some assistance from some very talented artists on the feature list, including a certain Joey Bada$$; Rejjie Snow has crafted together a moody colossus of an album which sounds joyous and triumphant from start to finish.

8 – Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

Standout tracks: Leaving LA, Total Entertainment Forever, In Twenty Years Or So

You’ll not listen to a wittier wordsmith in this generation than Father John Misty, he is lyrically impeccable and this album is a certified example of this. Pure Comedy is the title, and although we do have some moments of deep thought and solitude, this album provides so many glowing moments of hilarity and witticisms, particularly in the 14 minute long song of the year contender Leaving LA. If you’ve never listened to Father John Misty before, then please be sure to make this album your first taste because you won’t regret it.

7 – Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone

Standout tracks: The Isle Of Arran, Damselfly, Florence

London based Rapper Loyle Carner well and truly delivered here with his debut album, and propelled himself to soaring fame in the process. He is now already amongst the discussion as one of Britain’s most talented MCs despite his seemingly lethargic approach vocally, but it all clicks on this album. It’s hard to find a weakness on this one really from the production to the message, it’s all stunning.

6 – Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

Standout tracks: DNA., XXX., DUCKWORTH.

Kung-Fu Kenny returned with his fourth studio album after an explosive comeback through the singles The Heart Part IV and HUMBLE. His energy and lyrical flow served us very well on this album as he tackled hard hitting issues and did what we have come to expect from K-Dot really. Yet another great project from Kendrick which surely has to put him amongst the discussion for all time greats?

5 – Drake – More Life

Standout tracks: Portland, Passionfruit, Skepta Interlude

Drake truly warranted all the hype surrounding this project as he gave us 22 songs full of emotion and flavour. Whether it’s the soft and soothing sounds of Passionfruit and Teenage Fever or the boom blast vibe of No Long Talk and Portland, Drake once again covers all bases and proves to us all why he continues to be a chart phenomenon.

4 – Lorde – Melodrama

Standout tracks: Writer In The Dark, Green Light, Homemade Dynamite

I can safely say that after listening to this album, I feel like a refreshed and all round better human being. Lorde has delivered and fired on all cylinders once again with this sophomore release as she pays much more attention to detail on lyrical harmony and production that is bordering on majestic. It’s a true triumph and one which for me at least, propels the New Zealand born singer-songwriter to gigantic levels, and it truly makes her one of modern music’s most remarkable enigmas. Is it better than Pure Heroine? I believe so, take that as you will but please note how absolutely fantastic that debut album was and then realise how good this one must be.

3 – Joey Bada$$ – ALL AMERIKKKAN BADA$$

Standout tracks: AMERIKKKAN IDOL, FOR MY PEOPLE, LAND OF THE FREE

Joey gave us his attempt at ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ with this his second studio album and it is nothing short of truly sensational. There’s not one moment on here that doesn’t encapsulate the grand message with absolute perfection and sheer elegance. Joey also gave us a glowing example of his phenomenal flow and the lyrical wordplay of an artist way beyond his 23 years of age. “I gotta be the voice” Joey proclaims on this album and he certainly takes the role well, offering us all vital insight and a dark undertone into the racial divide of America.

2 – Cashmere Cat – 9

Standout tracks: Wild Love, Europa Pools, Quit

A star-studded feature line-up twinned with mysterious and spacey production helps create a masterpiece of an electronic album which breaks the usual mould of EDM/techno music and ventures into it’s own avenue of sounds. The Weeknd sounds like his 2011 self on Wild Love while Kacy Hill provides bone-chilling melodies on Europa Pools, it’s really hard to fault this album in terms of invention and daring creativity.

1 – Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory

Standout tracks: Love Can Be…, Yeah Right, Homage

I’ll be shocked if I listen to a better, more captivating album than this one all year. Long Beach rapper Vince Staples has hit us with a true masterpiece and I for one deem it as a hip-hop game changer. Much like Danny Brown did with his 2013 blast of an album ‘Old’, Vince has adopted more EDM-techno vibes on his production here and the results are marvellous. The Kendrick feature on Yeah Right is just incredible and the production of SOPHIE and Flume on that same song just add to the genius behind it. A day before this album dropped I said Vince would never top Summertime ’06, how wrong did I prove to be here.

One Love Manchester: Music is there to once again restore humanity’s faith

On the 22nd May, the world was sent into a state of disarray and devastation when a terrorist attack was committed at the Manchester Evening News (MEN) Arena during an Ariana Grande live show. 22 people were confirmed to have died at the event and it was a moment which truly shook not only the music world but us all. In response to this inexcusable act from that jumped up coward, Manchester and Ariana Grande responded in the way only they know; the joining of love and music together as one. A special event known as ‘One Love Manchester’ was scheduled for Sunday 4th June and the line up was colossal.

I could go on all day about who was there and how they sounded on this astonishing night, but that takes away from the true importance of the event and how special it was to witness. Ariana Grande deserves all the praise in the world for this, she has shown a bravery and maturity way beyond her 23 years and has instantly become a worldwide role model to not just music fans, but fans of life too. She managed to rally together some of music’s biggest names and even got Manc hero Liam Gallagher to fly back from Germany and perform on the same night. As well as this he even agreed to sing on stage with Coldplay’s Chris Martin, a man he has had a public rivalry with in the past, referring to him as a “geography teacher”. Basically she should be in the foreign office with negotiation skills like hers.

If you weren’t fighting back the tears when Ariana returned to the stage at the end to perform a powerful and moving rendition of her hit ‘One Last Time’, the final song she managed to perform before the attack took place on the night of the tragedy, then I question the warmth of your heart and compassion. As she soldiered on through floods of tears she was joined on stage by all the show’s stars and was joined vocally by the adoring and admiring crowd, making the song that much more poignant and special. Earlier in that night the Black Eyed Peas performed their 2002 hit ‘Where Is The Love?’ with many asking why the words to that emotional song are so true and up to date even now, questioning the progress we have made as compassionate human beings.

The whole event managed to raise a staggering £9m for the victims of the tragedy and above all it created a mesmerising sense of passion and emotion amongst all involved, from the superstar names of Bieber and Gallagher, to the everyday fans who witnessed devastation with their very eyes on that hallowed night at the MEN. It has given us all a fresh lease of life and made us realise that no matter how many bad people there are in this world, love conquers all and music is the greatest art of all for that notion.