Single Review – Christine and the Queens – Girlfriend

Heloise Letissier as Christine and the Queens returns off the back of a masterful Pop record from 2016. It was minimalistic, energetic and intelligent. In 2018 she looks to start ‘a new chapter’ firstly by striking out most of her stage name in promotional material, leaving the name Chris from it. With regards to this she said “It’s interesting, the process of striking something out, it’s perverting something, but you don’t make it disappear.” Beyond that, her as yet unnamed second album is set to a bold affair that is more up tempo and more elaborate reference pints with a rough edge.

Her latest single ‘Girlfriend’ features Funk artist Dam Funk and certainly ditches the subtlety, heavily laden with Funk instrumentation. There’s no denying that she suits the environment as she effortlessly rolls off each lyric which are raw in their passion as opposed to the intricacies of her debut. It’s a switch also performed with ease. Though she owns the sound, it’s a well worn one and not as uniquely functional as her debut record. You’d still hope for Heloise to inject some inventiveness to marry with her new approach elsewhere in any new album.

Owen Riddle

EP Review – Tom Tripp – RED


Following singles ‘Aurelia and ‘Pamela’ Tom Tripp releases new EP ‘RED’. An enticing mix of pop and R&B. With even subtler touches of electronic and grime influences merging into each track ‘RED’ feels like a blending of Drake and Micheal Jackson circa Bad era. And a 1987 Jackson sound is heavy in the air within impressive track ‘Stand’, while debut single ‘Aurelia’s and ‘Pamela’s drifting heartbreak are both as intoxicating as ever. Newer material ‘So Shy’ and echoes of ‘Dirty Diana’ with an eighties funk hidden at the edges, as well as a not so subtle Rihanna reference, ‘One Day’ continue Tripp’s intoxicating fusion of multiple influences with an expert ear. Laying low and letting the music speak for itself, with the release of an EP like ‘RED’ Tom Tripp is sure to be on everybody’s radar by 2018. 

Hayley Miller

Single Review – Naaz – Up to Something


Sometimes you don’t need to add everything to a track to create something instantly addictive. And a less is more feeling is most definitely at the core of 19-year-old Dutch Naaz’s new single ‘Up To Something’. A hypnotically crystal clear vocal over sparse beats creates such a fresh tone it seems to linger throughout the track’s verses, before shifting into a repetitive euphoric chorus. Sure to echo in your head long after you listen, Naaz’s natural coolness places her firmly in the company of Lorde, Dua Lipa and Halsey territory; ‘Just a girl that’s up to something, up to something’. 

Hayley Miller

Single Review – Maggie Rogers – Split Stones

With touches of electronics and R&B, Maggie Rogers new single ‘Split Stones’ wraps her melodic vocal around some pretty expansive samples. Which makes sense since many of the tracks interesting sounds were collected while Rogers was backpacking across Oregon during the summer of 2013. Combining technology and the natural environment, the track feels as invigorating as standing in the rain in a forest clearing. Though unfortunately for fans this track came with a note suggesting that while you can enjoy the new song it might be awhile until Rogers releases a follow-up; ‘This is me saying goodbye for a little while. Here’s to the end of the beginning and the start of everything else.’ With a chorus that’s the kind of uplifting that never seems forced, or in anyway conceited, but subtly empowering this is a hiatus track that is sure to keep fans longer for more; ‘If you could say all things you wanted to, if you couldn’t lie, if you would only move like you had something to lose.’

Hayley Miller

Mura Masa – Mura Masa Review 


Alex Crossan is a 20 year old producer from Guernsey and goes by the name of Mura Masa. His self titled debut studio album has been a few years coming and in that time he’s went far from the typical tales of bedroom recordings. His suggested talent is matched by the calibre his collaborators for his debut album that include Damon Albarn, A$AP Rocky and Christine and the Queens to name just a few. He has a lot of backing already and a lot of time to promote his sound with singles and EP’s that included collaborations with Charli XCX. With that in mind, the expectation is high. The key for an artist like Alex is of course finding the right artists to complement his sound and he’s effectively giving parts of his album away and entrusting it to someone else. That should be taken into account too before passing too much judgement. 

‘Second 2 None’ features Christine and the Queens. Christine or Heloise Letissier when she’s off stage, had shown last year how adaptable and slick her work was in a variety of musical environments and Alex provides another with this track. This track features faux kettle drums, trap drops and distorted beats. This is fused with a broken string sample and from there Christine shines. The heavy, and at times simple arrangement allows her to take command of the song with her imposing accented vocal which fits into the intricate harmonies Alex’s production creates. He even uses her vocals as an added layer of instrumentation in the form of vocal sample. The track is subdued and restrained, yet still retains prominent hooks and a Pop infectiousness. The album concludes with ‘Blu’ featuring Damon Albarn. Alex’s distorted and auto-tuned vocals whirr and twitch as Albarn’s equally warped vocals join in harmony. Damon’s vocals gradually lose their electronic effects as the verse goes on however. The two constantly shifting vocals are manipulated to compliment each other at all times and the soft churning electronica nudges the song along. ‘1 Night’ is the minimalist dance track that features Charli XCX and again he utilises her vocals as an instrumental tool on top of typical Pop beats that sit well with Charli’s bold Pop vocals. What is impressive about this song is the lack of parts to it and an attention to small details and changes that most Pop songs do not have. 

There is more to this album than just well produced Pop music though; ‘Nothing Else!’ featuring soul singer Jamie Lidell is a slick and rhythmic affair with which he manipulates bass lines and guitars to generate a late Eighties style with prominent modern features. ‘Helpline’ features Tom Tripp and his lyrics are fitted around a driving and unrelenting rhythm driven by bass lines and percussion. The percussion is gradually muffled at the end of each verse to signal the synth driven chorus. This track shows the versatility of Alex in that his tracks are more than moody and well produced affairs. ‘Firefly’ features vocals from the talented NAO and here he created an AlunaGeorge type track in how it openly embraces its Dance features. Meanwhile ‘Love$ick’ featuring A$AP Rocky is a cool yet inctricate track that tailors its soundscapes for Rap sections and it again shows his versatility with different artists and genres. No matter who it is, he seems to generate hooks out of them one way or another. His method could be seen as a little repetive at times as those faux kettle drums get rolled out once or twice too often, but for a debut album sound that can be forgiven. It is a solid start and from here, he can only go on to refine and redefine his sound and if he does this right, he could be our next great producer. 

Mura Masa – Mura Masa = 8/10

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Mura Masa – Second To None feat. Christine and the Queens

Alex Crossan is a 20 year old producer from Guernsey and goes by the name of Mura Masa. His self titled debut studio album is out on July 14th. His suggested talent is matched by the calibre his collaborators for his latest album that include Damon Albarn, A$AP Rocky and for his latest track ‘Second To None’ with Christine and the Queens. Christine or Heloise Letissier when she’s off stage, had shown last year how adaptable and slick her work was in a variety of musical environments and Alex provides another with this track. This track features faux kettle drums, trap drops and distorted beats. This is fused with a broken string sample and from there Christine shines. The heavy, and at times simple arrangement allows her to take command of the song with her imposing accented vocal which fits into the intricate harmonies Alex’s production creates. He even uses her vocals as an added layer of instrumentation in the form of vocal sample. The track is subdued and restrained, yet still retains prominent hooks and a Pop infectiousness. All eyes on his debut album.

Owen Riddle

BAIO – Man Of The World Review


Chris Baio has done a fine job of establishing himself as a solo artist after being the bassist of Vampire Weekend. His album debut The Names received a positive response for its imaginative structures, eccentric lyrics and varied sound. With it, he proved that he is a true purveyor of fine music. His new album was written and co-produced by Chris in Brixton amidst the chaos of 2016; from the death of David Bowie to the great political upheavals that developed throughout the year. This all occurred whilst he was “a nomad” as an American in London and this new album is very much his view of such events. 

‘Philosophy’ is the first single from his new album and is a rhythmic track laden with horn based hooks and loose riffs. The sound he’s created has a greater sense of ease to it and Chris’ measured vocals mirror this to form a slick piece of music. This track has a keen sense of melody and again Chris demonstrates his ability to form hooks from unusual sources. The track marries its lower and higher tones perfectly; the horns play off the jangling riffs and the vocal rounds mirror the high notes against the low. Ringing electronica and crisp percussion bridge the gap between the two and make the progress of the song seamless. ‘DANGEROUE ANAMAL’ is the polar opposite to the light faux funk of ‘Philosophy’ with drooping piano chords, echoed percussiona and an intricate set of electronica meandering in the background. This track is about wing lost and being unable to effect any change on several issues and it being ultimately “too late to change”. It is a dark and thought provoking song that shrouds itself with its music to only heighten the message of the song. ‘Out of Tune’ is a pepped up single with opaque synth chords and cheesy trumpets mirroring the vocals. The song struggles to settle and get into some sort of rhythm though once the song sticks with the chorus, the song begins to make more sense and ends with a flash of coherence.

‘Sensitive Guy’ is more akin to tracks from The Names with its sparse, echoed percussion and spiky piano chords. What sets it apart from that are the sharp riffs overlayed onto the track as well as occasional rumbling bass interludes and backing vocals that are brought to the fore of the track. A track that is familiar, but different enough from his last body of work. The title track is a swagging piece of electronica that has echoes of late Eighties Dance music with blocky, bouncing beats. These are tied with Latin acoustic riffs and heavily churning effects that distort and twist the music at its building conclusion. His spoken lyrics pull the songs focus in and keep the listener on their toes. It is a track that exemplifies his development as a solo musician. The album opens with the sea of distorted chords of ‘Vin Mariani’ which has brass and vocals layered over it. It is a creative foundation from which the rest of the song can do whatever it wants. The remaining tracks including the final two of the album are tracks that feature heavily distorted features that feature some experimentation in fusing them with Pop melodies and hooks. They work in parts and overwhelm the senses in others. These are the only pitfalls of the album; experimentation will naturally produce tracks that don’t work so well and that is the case here with a handful of tracks, but the album as a whole is varied in tone and features a lot of trial and error that had paid off. Baio clearly has an ear for alternative hooks and melodies and he puts them to good use here for what is a natural and substantial evolution to this sound. 

BAIO – Man of the World = 8/10

Owen Riddle

Single Review – RAY BLK – Doing Me

Winning the BBC’s Sound Of isn’t always an absolute indication of greatness but with previous winners Adele and Sam Smith’s obvious global success the poll really isn’t something to be ignored. Particularly when it some to the obvious attention it can generate for new artists. And London singer/rapper RAY BLK is without a doubt worthy of more attention. New single ‘Doing Me’ surges, throwing back to 90’s RnB with some Lauryn Hill honesty and frank talk about lust, love and the need to be true to yourself in the face of the judgemental; ‘A short skirt doesn’t mean that I want it, my appearance doesn’t represent my wallet, this is for the ignorant ones with opinions, keep your two cents inside your pocket.’ With the help of producer Jimmy Napes ‘Doing Me’ is an uplifting, US styled RnB summer anthem but that isn’t to say BLK has let go of her London roots. Lyrics are still heavy with her authentic British slant; ‘It’s about being yourself no matter what and not caring about judgement. People are going to judge you whether you do bad or good so you have to do you regardless.’ Watch out for RAY BLK at Reading and Leads and Glastonbury.

Hayley Miller

Maximo Park – Risk To Exist Review 


Risk To Exist is the sixth studio album by North East four piece Maximo Park and whilst they’ve always featured politically charged lyrics alongside those that dissect the features of relationships; they’ve pushed this more than ever before on this occasion. They spoke of making an album that was a reflection of the “dire state of the world in 2016” and it is that, which on the surface is their ambition for this album. On their last two albums in particular, musical exploration and experimentation was the driving force of their music and it was only not going further with it that held those albums from being something special. There are always certain familiarities that included Paul Smith’s Teesside tones and his ability to produce compelling narratives that allow them to take whicher direction. Has playing to their strengths worked this time around?

In ‘Risk to Exist’ the band is uses more traditional keyboards than in their previous work. Before their sound was quite sparse, with more of a focus on guitars, but the angular quality of their riffs has been filled out really nicely with more of a focus on those keyboards. At the start of the song the drums are the main instrument and in the chorus there are three or four different keyboard sounds. This marks a greater maturity in their song writing. The song is quite anthemic and will probably do well on the festival circuit this summer. The lyrics address a very big problem in today’s society: the stigma on refugees. They sing: “Put your arms around me, I’ve come too far and the ocean is deep…where’s your empathy?” and by mentioning “the expert colonisers” they address the UK, “Risk to Exist” might be a subtle reminder of Brexit. They also call out for action on the refugee problem and how they are treated and seen as well as the lack of willingness for anyone to admit they are responsible with the lyrics: ” The Talkshows talk, but nothing gets done, who wants to be responsible for Europes biggest sum? Show us some responsibility!” ‘Get High (No, I Don’t)’, is a song ‘about resistance in the face of repetition and coercion’ – according to front-man Paul Smith. And the singles video, directed by James & James, reflects the bands anti-elitist theme. Showing the main protagonist reaching a frantic choreographed breaking point amongst Smith’s unique lyrics, perfectly intertwined with a relentless pop-melody, which heavily displays the bands soulful, groove-based influences. ‘Get High (No, I Don’t)’ is a brilliant slice of Maximo Park at their anti-establishment best, if with the tiniest bit of midlife crisis style, complaining about the government, thrown in for good measure but after all isn’t that exactly what we love about Maximo. ‘What Equals Love?’ runs counter to the tracks released so far which have been rather pointed in tone lyrically (which is more than welcome). This track though, seems to echo Paul Smith’s ability to portray difficulties in human relations with such musicality and sing-a-long quality. It is a nice shift in tone and variety for the album and though using the same tools, this track has many Pop qualities with infectious rhythms, melodies and harmonies. They are a band that have been sending out solid pieces of music for a long time, but this is stronger track that will serve their album and their gigs well. 

‘What Did We Do To You To Deserve This?’ is a slick and smoothly delivered track with steady, bouncing organs, drawn out and sparse guitars in the chorus with a clicking percussion. This gives Paul Smith the liscense to either belt out in the chorus or cram lyrics together and he does both. Lyrically he tackles long standing noitions of Conservative ideology, selfishness and Post Truth politics. An eloquent musical setting to talk about these subjects. ‘The Hero’ has a canny, electric jolting rhythm to it and is a sign that the group’s musicality has generally improved over the last twelve years. A track that builds in energy. ‘Respond To The Feel’ and ‘Alchemy’ are tracks that have shades of their recent work with a more angular production. ‘Make What You Can’ on the other hand is more reminiscent of their earlier work with sharp, jumping rhythms that collapse in the bridge for a ringing hook in the chorus. The remaining tracks don’t really stick and whilst well delivered like all their tracks, they are uneventful affairs that act as ballast to fill out the album. For the most part, this is another solid album with flashes of brilliance. The production methods of the last two albums have left their guitar based sound sharper and more purposeful and the emotive lyrics fit into several different settings. A album worth your attention even if it won’t be the first to be recalled at the end of the year.

Maximo Park – Risk To Exist = 7.5/10

Owen Riddle, Hayley Miller and Lea Fabbrini 

This Weeks Music Video with Grimes feat. Janelle Monae, Kings of Leon, Chance The Rapper, M.I.A, Depeche Mode, Dirty Projectors, Goldfrapp and The Staves