Single Review – The xx – Say Something Loving 

The London Indie and Dream Pop group are to release their much anticipated third album I See You on January 13th. Their second album Coexist from 2012 was hardly the archetypal difficult second album, but it was certainly not of the standard set with their debut two years earlier. It’ll be interesting to see where their third album falls after four and a half years of solo projects and stylistic changes; to see if they are capable of reinvention and versatility (the mark of great talents) or if they’re ready to cash in on the comfortable surroundings of their fan base. ‘On Hold’ suggested they were willing to open up their music whilst holding on to subtle quality that was the engine of their earlier work. 

‘Say Something Loving’ carries on this trend further. It opens with the stutter of a remixed track which leads into a cunningly arranged track which sets up a sweeping, swooning sound for it to collapse into a space of minimalism with staggered riffs and the echo of a clunky percussion and Oliver’s and Romy’s vocals. The track goes on to join both parts with more clever transitions and a production that accommodates this with whirring, electronic soundscapes. When you throw in the balance of the vocal duet, the smart shifts in sound and the subtle production from Jamie xx that provides a big return, you have the makings of a modern Pop ballad. A track worthy of kicking off 2017. 

Owen Riddle 

Sunday Suggestion – Gorillaz – Stylo

‘Stylo’ from Gorillaz’s 2010 album Plastic Beach is for me, the group at their peak with Damon Albarn further expanding his web of connections and pool of musical sources to form the complete Gorillaz idea. This song is the perfect example of Albarn’s mindset going into this album. It’s dark, soulful but modern at the same time. The heavy electronic pulses maintain an edge to the track which is thinly glazed over by a number of softly reverberating synths. This urgency and uneasiness is added to by the confident firing of lyrics from Mos Def in a distant and faraway echo. Damon comes in with harmonies behind him in a tuneful chant before going into his own eerie swoon as it goes off is a swirl of electronic charge, From this emerges the raw and real power of Bobby Womack’s soulful bursts of improvised lyrics. The synths almost wind him up and watch him go, while Damon and the backing vocals continue the chant behind along with the pulsating synths that end a whirring and rotating fashion. A wonderful piece of innovative music, clashing old and new with ease and precision.

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Sunday Suggestion – Janelle Monae – Tightrope

This multi-talented soul, pop, electronic (and much more) artist from Kansas City, released her brilliant debut album The ArchAndroid back in 2010 and has since released a more than worthy follow up with The Electric Lady last year. Despite being fans of both; her debut just edges it for me and it’s tracks like ‘Tightrope’ which just do it. It’s a wonderfully surreal and absorbing album which stays true to the Metropolis theme which simply gives the album that added dimension. This track was a perfectly placed interlude to it all with a snappy and unrelenting rhythm and statement of intent from Janelle at the start with a powerful vocal punch before being unleashed into the verses delivering witty, quick fire lyrics with such ease before launching into the vocal expanses of the chorus. Big Boi’s rap matching the easy feel of the song and fits hand in glove, allowing the songs flow to remain unbroken. A flow that is so damn infectious throughout with the cascading and tumbling bass lines combining with that snappy percussion. What a great piece of pop wonder which should really be given more appreciation.

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Sunday Suggestion – Rose Elinor Dougall – Find Me Out

Rewind back to 2010 and you’d find a far more shy and awkward version of myself with a faithful Beatles haircut and enough emotional baggage to last a life time. Without sounding too cliché; my home at the time was not a safe haven to relax in, but a living nightmare. It had been that way for about a year and little did I know, it would be that way for a couple more. Aside from my friends (who I decided not to pull down with my baggage for a long while) and the mainstays of my life like F1 and other things, music had become a welcome escape and one I completely immersed myself in. At first I rewound back into times I had no connection to and found the likes of The Beatles, The Clash, Bowie, Simon & Garfunkel… all which were the best distractions I could have ever had. However, discovering music from the present was a little more refreshing and engaging for me and one of those was Rose Dougall. Aside from immediately falling into one of those dazed, teenage crushes with her, her music provided that little glimmer of hope or common ground in a little over three minutes. Plans of escape I made while listening to her Without Why album are fast becoming plans for the rest of my life. One song which appealed to me massively was ‘Find Me Out’. It had a musical feel and mood to match my own outlook at the time and everything from the title to the lyrics seemed to speak of my situation. The song opens with a forlorn and distant whistle along with equally fading synths before continuing with wiry and reassuring violin sounds and a simple snare drum and brush glaze. It would be easy to listen to a song that would allow you to vent your anger with an angry and snarling vocal, but I always went for Rose’s easy, breathy and intimate method on this track. The music and vocals of such a wonderfully simple and swooning track are offset by lyrics such as ‘My liver, my lungs, my arteries and my cerebral faculties are corroded’ which produced that clear and very present pain and draining feeling I had myself. It was more of a soothing track for me which got me through many a busy day at school knowing the frustrations that lay at home, but also one that sort of helped me deal with my situation at the time and simply get on with it. Her music has grown much more advanced and has new dimensions which I enjoy just as much if not more, yet songs like this while simple, still have a real connection for me.

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Sunday Suggestion – Tame Impala – Solitude Is Bliss

A lot of people fell in love with Tame Impala with Lonerism last year with the refined use of distortion and reverb along with excellent use of space and soundscapes. It was a inconceivable piece of neo-psychedelica and for me the best album of 2012. It’s no wonder that many have jumped on board now. However, for me it was the Innerspeaker album that really got me excited about Tame Impala back in 2010. The sound was a little cleaner and there was less emphasis on the waves of sound from Lonerism. Elements were more distinguishable and the structure more apparent. You could still appreciate the small bursts of modulated sounds and the echo of Kevin Parkers vocal. ‘Solitude Is Bliss’ is evocative of what is a skilful debut album from them. The song broken up and structured around the intervals from the distorted rhythm guitar that fades in with the crashing cymbals. The bass has an excellent tuneful quality about it that drives through the verses and even has a melodic feel to it. Kevin’s vocals are stretched across all the other elements so effortlessly. The slight wind down in the music allows for a great kick back into the chorus. The song churns and elbows it’s way around to a fantastic conclusion while maintaining the fundamentals of rhythm and melody.

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