2017 Review – Best British Act

Our votes for Best British Act are as follows…

= 3. Stormzy (16.33%) & Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (16.33%)

2. Wiley (18.37%)

1. Everything Everything (20.41%)

Single Review – Young Fathers – In My View

Edinburgh’s vibrant and creative force is born out in the city’s trio Young Fathers. 2015 saw them enthuse listless elements and genres together from Hip Hop, Jazz, Pop, Art Rock, Electronica and more to create White Men Are Black Men Too. They proved themselves to be a thought-provoking group with bold, outward messages based on a simple, but by no means unimpressive songwriting style. They had already teased their approach for their second effort Cocoa Sugar with 2017’s ‘Only God Knows’ and with their new single ‘In My View’ they demonstrate this to be a more expansive arrangement coupled with a crisp arrangement. Scattered percussion paces with drive at the heart of the track with vocal instrumentation accentuated each beat. Such a prominent rhythm accommodates the three separate vocal parts from each member for a fine balance powerful lead vocals and the darker tones of spoken words. Yet again, they bend and marry genres and styles to their will naturally for what is an immaculate piece of music you won’t hear the like of this year.

Owen Riddle

Sampha – Process Review 

Sampha is not just another producer turned musician. Sure, there’s plenty of them roaming about on this island, but the South London artist may well be the real deal. Having offered vocals for SBTRKT in 2011, he’s since worked with Drake, Kanye and most recently work extensively on Solange’s album last year, he has the CV like many of these producers do. What seems different about is Sampha is a real feel for songwriting and an ear for imaginative and innovative methods of delivering tracks. In many ways, there is little pressure on him; he’s already proved himself behind the scenes, but stepping into the centre of the stage is a bold move nonetheless. It seems like a move that Sampha will take in his stride though, for he is undeniably talented, more so than most of the people he’s worked with. So what does one of Britain’s brightest emerging talents have to offer?

‘Blood On Me’ was one of the lead singles in the lead up to the album and on the face of it, there’s not a great deal significant about it. With popping beats and drawn out piano chords, it is aesthetically not too different from SOHN’s work for example. What is different about this is that Sampha generates a greater flow to this sound and it is seamlessly tied to his vocals which are understated, yet still carry the song. He has an ability to generate a narrative too, with a tense content echoing around the track. Any gaps in the sound are often filled with even the smallest synth chord or sample and this attention to detail becomes much more noticeable across the whole track. ‘Kora Sings’ is a celebration of his roots in Sierra Leone. It is here that he demonstrates his versatility more directly. The instrumentation is made of several instricate riffs, tapping beats and shuffling percussion before opening out into a rhythmic track with a strong, sharp percussion. The swift change in tone is masterfully read by Sampha who gently alters his vocal between the soulful delivery of the verse and the hushed, distant sound of the chorus which engages in a call and response with his genuine vocals. A well throught out and balanced track which packs a kick without overstretching itself. 

‘Reverse Faults’ opens in a simple, minimalist way with deep, whirring beats, but these are slowly joined by a wonderfully arranged sample of falling, meandering beats and sounds which brilliantly serve as the rhythm section of the song. From here, the song goes on effortlessly to collapse into the chorus on a trap drop into a series of plunging beats that are tinged with distortion with repetitious popping beats above them. Throughout the shifts Sampha’s breathy tones are unmoved by the collage of sound around him. A coolly delivered track made from a masterful arrangement and instrumentation. ‘Incomplete Kisses’ is made up from of wiry and pitch shifted, resonant electronica with vibrating beats and glistening chords. Again, there is a hint of distortion at the edge of each heavy beat to give a greater impact to the sound without overwhelming it. He is also able to pull these sounds to leave just his more powerful vocals and some sparse piano chords. The ballad of the album comes in the form of ‘(No One Knows Me) Like My Piano’. Aptly, it is a piano ballad that is a personal track that reflects on his youth and his mothers death in 2015. His effortless, yet rich sounding vocals are on centre stage here with only a subtle addition to add more space to the track. ‘Plastic 100C’ a series of intricate sample of plucked strings Form the foundation for a much greater sound supplemented a rolling production. ‘Under’ makes use of vocal samples set around a slow, hip hop beat. 

With Process Sampha demonstrates his sublime talents as a producer and arranger. He’s also well rounded to produce clever and emotional lyrical content delivered with a mature and wonderfully simple vocal performance. His attention to detail in most areas adds so much to his songs as they run their course. He can do from a simple foundation, but can also turn this on its head by making the core sound of track complex and multi-layered too. It’s undoubtedly one of the highlights of this year and I can say this safely in February. 

Sampha – Process = 9/10 

Owen Riddle 

Single Review – RAY BLK – Patience (Freestyle)

The saying goes “Patience is bitter, but it’s fruit is sweet;” and Ray BLK proves this is true. Her latest single “Patience (freestyle)” has that, lazy Sunday pyjama day feel to it. It’s as if she is telling us a story, as she explores the age old “get rich or die trying” culture that is prevalent amongst millennials. Ray BLK stresses the importance of not sacrificing quality in a bid for a quick win and how “slow and steady wins the race” and if her BBC Sound of 2017 award is anything to go by, maybe we should take some notes. The track is an easy listen with a catchy hook and I’ve had it on repeat the past couple of days. It really showcases the singer-songwriters soulful vigour, something that is so rare in the current day. This year is set to be a big year for singer, so I suggest you keep your eyes and ears peeled! 

Ony Anukem

Musicandotherthingz Best British Act of 2016

For British music, there has been a strong resurgence of legendary artists with Bowie, Radiohead and PJ Harvey all featuring in our list of nominees. Wild Beasts and Bat For Lashes further established themselves with solid albums and both came close to the top three along with Radiohead and their wistful and poignant album. They’re in the long list below and out top three follows them. 

3. The Coral (9.76% of the vote) 

The long standing Merseyside group returned with an accomplished reinvention for their seventh studio album Distance Inbetween. James and Ian Skelly kept it close to home, recording in Liverpool and put together their own brand of British psychedelia, with roots in the classic British psychedelic pioneers of the Sixties. They decided to keep their music close and tight around the traditional instrumentation, focusing their manipulated and wiry sounds instead of gradually fading them out in vast acres of space. They rightly received a great deal of credit for this.

2. Blood Orange (17.00%) 

Dev Hynes is already established as a talented and in demand producer so when he takes centre stage, you can expect some exciting and vibrant music and that’s exactly what he delivered as Blood Orange this year. The album Freetown Sound was a celebration of his own Sierra Leone heritage and a close look at the difference views of heritage between Black Britons and African Americans. Whilst understandably, there has been a lot of anger fuelled music in response to the dangers and controversy faced by African Americans, Hynes often took a more emotional and personal look at the events from his own point of view. From this, he channeled the tragedy of the situation with eloquent vocals, soft production and a fusion of Pop, Soul, Hip Hop and Funk. A masterful work which was astoundingly underrated.

1. David Bowie (54.00%)

Again, it is only fitting that Bowie towers over everyone else with a fifty year legacy as a cultural icon and a symbol of British creativity around the world. Blackstar was beautiful, terrifying and poignant and was a strong response to his comeback album The Next Day which wasn’t universally understood. He created dark, ethereal tones and fused conflicting instrumentation as he’s always done. He often generated alternative, complex melodies and hooks that were so obscure, it took a second or third listen to understand. When you did, the rewards were endless. His ominous lyrics reflected the music and the timing of the release, just days before his passing was eerily just like Bowie; an unpredictable superstar. 

Owen Riddle