Before his last album (Carry on the Grudge), Jamie T would have been remembered as the laid-back, hip-hop esque cockney poet who churned out great hits like ‘Sheila’ and ‘Sticks n Stones’. 2014 changed that. Carry on the Grudge changed all that by demonstrating Jamie’s ear for a diverse range of music. The LP ranged from having ballads like ‘Love is only a heartbeat away’, to the soul infused ‘Trouble’ to the rage of a song like ‘Peter’ and the indie-pop fun of ‘Zombie’. The most impressive caveat of the LP was that he managed it all without losing out on his impressive lyrical style. With its slightly reverbed guitars and soul styled backing vocals in the chorus, Power over Men, whilst catchy, fun and clever offers very few signs of a new direction for his new album, Trick Splash, which releases on the 2nd September 2016.
This Weeks Music Video with Tegan and Sara, Massive Attack, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, The Raveonettes and Belle & Sebastian
Blossoms have been labelled as many things – ‘another attempt at lad-rock’, ‘an Oasis remake’, and, most offensive of all, ‘psychedelic.’ However, their eponymous debut seems to make all these statements redundant. The album is an intermingling of sizzling pop synths and a safety net of subtle yet punchy rock hints, making it the ideal album for those willing to expand their music taste.
The first three tracks seem to provide a different angle to Blossoms’ sound, keeping listeners intrigued to see what they’ve come up with next, yet nothing ever seems out of place. First off is the Radio 1 favourite Charlemagne, made instantly captivating by the chimes of the synth intro reminiscent of an 80s martial arts movie. The track boasts an incredibly catchy chorus sandwiched between snappy verses you could recite the lyrics to after a couple of listens. And at a cool 2 minutes and 47 seconds, the band could not have chosen a more entrancing first declaration of their un-Oasis-ness. At Most A Kiss follows, still parading similar 80s twinkles, but this time with a more obvious rock element. The bass is more forceful, and a stern guitar hook ties the bridge to the final chorus. Completing the opening trilogy is Getaway. The tracklist dissolves the profound synths one by one; Getaway, unsurprisingly then, is much more settled than one and two. This angle I am going to liken to The Script. Not only does lead singer Tom Ogden sound like Danny O’Donoghue with a tickle in his throat most distinctively here, but the track takes on a more pop-based approach, with more simplistic lyricism and a chanting chorus. However, the track never disregards a degree of rock effervescence, similar to The Script’s methodology, yet more 80s powered. After the first three, most of the succeeding tracks seem to dip into the approaches the trilogy explores. Texia and Cut Me and I’ll Bleed follow the framework of Charlemagne. Blown Rose and Blow are more reflective of At Most A Kiss, whereas Getaway’s predecessor Honey Sweet is mostly The Script.
Despite this, there are some tracks that diverge from these agendas. Smashed Pianos is a starlit track: from the opening underwater-like synths to the closing seething build, the song is fairly haunting and very different from any of the other numbers. My Favourite Room is the most telling of their unjust Britpop status, with an admittedly Wonderwall-esque acoustic. This track is the one that draws the most similarities to the grungy 90s. This stripped-back number focuses of Ogden’s powerful vocals, laced with sweet harmonies from his bandmates, supported only by acoustic chords and the glimmer of keys towards the end. Concluding track Deep Grass is formed by flickering synths and an echoic hook, making this track their most electronic on the album and a possible signpost for more robotic explorations in the future. And as the track fizzles away with the quivering synths, all the critics and journalists labelling Blossoms as a purely Britpop band are forced to withdraw their statements.
Blossoms have created an extremely promising debut, with glimpses off pop, rock, indie and no-nonsense nostalgia. Such a mixture of styles makes for an appealing tracklist for all sorts of music enthusiasts, and has justified their place of the BBC Sound of 2016 shortlist.
Blossoms – Blossoms: 8/10
By Eleanor Chivers
The classically trained Muscovite has another single for her upcoming album Remember Us To Life and ‘Small Bill$’ is an enigmatic and fusing track and reflects the greater fluctuations in Spektor’s style more generally. With this track she features the rumbling strings and dramatic piano chords that are a common feature of her work, but these are fused with shuffling percussion and a tuneful rap of sorts. The track is more direct and obtuse than the previous single and for the most part works well as a concept, whilst not so well gelled together in others. An intriguing if not successful addition.
NAO is not your usual shining hopeful to land on the R&B radar. Former jazz student and backing vocalist for Jarvis Cocker, she has already had her share of experience. And this experience pours into her debut For All We Know: a buoyant collection of swirling 80s/90s nostalgia merged with an individualism that stencils a 2016 breakthrough.
The album waltzes in, using the shimmery Intro (Velvet) to authenticate NAO’s voice. It’s distinctive and unfamiliar, soft but striking. This is underpinned in the following Get To Know Ya, produced by Jungle, in which the bubbly funk of guitars pave the way for an almost seemingly-helium-induced vocal arrangement. The casual mellowness surrounding the track makes it very retro, yet the impressive layers of bass, synth, guitar, topped off by the vocals, makes for a complex reinvention of modern day R&B. Inhale Exhale is next. Produced by GRADES, this track seems a bit more 21st-century; with noticeable builds and raw progressions, not to mention the extensive synth work, the track is like a subdued dancefloor success. After Inhale Exhale is one of three Voice Memo interludes. Usually I’m not a fan of interludes, yet I think the voice memo element adds some personality to the album: it allows the listener to feel a little more connected to the artist. Voice Memo 161, 163 and 4 depict some studio time with NAO and her band; authentic behind the scenes snippets that add a little extra spirit to the tracklist. Voice Memo 162 does divide up the album – before it is Happy, another exploration of fluctuating synths and Nile Rogers-esque basslines, whereas afterwards comes Adore You. The track is more settled, still including delicate harmonies and 80s hooks, but in regards to NAO, it’s a ballad, featuring the gentle vocals of Abhi//Dijon. Voice Memo 4 (Say Yes) splits the album further, rousing the ghostly tones of Blue Wine. Conflicting the layers of flamboyancy reflective of the earlier tracks, Blue Wine consists of a piano, vocals and a fainter synth (though it swells towards the end), with a more relaxed, wound down tempo. The track is also an excellent display of NAO’s vocals, with a range to rival Love On Top Beyoncé. With an album boasting 18 tracks, a break from the thriving 80sness becomes welcome.
Trophy is a stand-out track. So many dimensions of music have been pulled in to produce this song, from the grungy Bowie-era guitar entrance to the incandescent bass. A.K Paul also features, demonstrating a range of influences. What’s more, NAO’s vocals haven’t been tampered with – close your eyes and you’re in the echoing studio with her. A fan of the more restrained tracks would enjoy DYWM. Standing for Do You Want Me, the song is a summer staple: to begin with, the track simply studies vocals lying on top of a Spanish guitar riff, but soon develops into a subtly funky track, with a simmering synth to back the chorus and a punchy bass. Lyrically, the track is also noteworthy: it has the potential to fulfil the seductive expectations of modern day R&B, yet it follows a more moving lyrical structure.
For All We Know is a sharp debut. NAO demonstrates incredible musical talent across the board. From the vocals to the layering of the tracks, everything has been done so intricately, whether it is to produce the boisterous disco-inspired tracks or the tender ballads. There’s no doubt NAO has made a mark on the R&B industry with such a strong debut.
NAO – For All We Know: 8.5/10
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