Musicandotherthingz Best Vocalist of 2016

Since Florence Welch won this category last year, there has been a superb variety of skilled vocalists over the following twelve months who have commanded their songs and their music in a familiar and creative ways. Thom Yorke with his tuneful howl, the defiant and unsettling melody of Jehnny Beth and Angel Olsen’s lax whispers to her deep bellows received a lot of praise through the voting. They all remain in the long list that follows though and the close contest that is the chosen top three is as below.

3. Michael Kiwanuka – Love and Hate (16.28% of the vote)

The flowing chords and melodies that open this track are perfectly aligned with Michael’s vocals; so effortlessly intermingled and a powerful instrument in their own right. He delivers a lot of disciplined power without much task. Despite the smooth and rich quality to his vocals, which are difficult not to fixate upon, there is a rough edged peak in his sound evokes an earnest and emotive quality to his vocals. Arguably the best British vocalist around at the moment. 

2. Christine and the Queens – Here (18.60%)

Heloise Letissier again demonstrates her versatility with ‘Here’. It is another track with a minimalist arrangement, but also with a relatively modest production; so it is here that her vocals lead the way and dominate the track. In general she has a highly charged energy behind her vocal performance and here she saves it for dramatic flair as she goes from a hushed tone to perfect pop melody and sullen backing vocals. Beyond this, she is also to switch from English to French as if it was perfectly natural which is quite a rarity with modern music. She’s not quite the Queen here though…

1. Solange – Don’t Touch My Hair (20.93%)

Yes, we know. She has a fairly famous sister and a strong Vocalist to boot, but Solange has used 2016 to make her own mark whilst her sister was grabbing the headlines. Her vocals flow through the subtle arrangement with this track, remaining soft edged and intricate. She doesn’t need to raise her voice at all as she channels her lyrics with ease with this delicate tone on its own. The year she maximised upon her talent.

Owen Riddle

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool Review

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With a five year absence, Radiohead have returned with their ninth studio album A Moon Shaped Pool. They do this from a position of almost understated legendary status around the world and great authority in British music. Over two decades of high quality music is what has cemented this reputation and the sheer volume of hype that surrounds them. They are marking their return in typically mysterious circumstances with social media blackouts and odd cards delivered to those on their mail list. These cards had the lyrics of their new single ‘Burn The Witch’ embossed on them. The key question is, can they continue to match that reputation and live up to the hype in 2016?

The lyrics of ‘Burn The Witch’ that were embossed on those cards when put to the music, evoke a greeter unsettling feel. The instrumentation is primarily made of a sharp string staccato with rumbling and sweeping strings and electronica moving purposefully beneath it. The song is surprisingly melodic and engaging than it might be on first listen as what seems something as an anti-melody from Yorke contrasts with the dramatic and increasingly frantic instrumentation around him. An intriguing and well developed sound from a vastly experienced group. ‘Daydreaming’ is a track of graceful transitions and melodies that has that underlying energy and tentative feel to it. This comes from a stretched bass line and a generation of whirring synths beneath the sweeping piano chords and string sections. Thom Yorkes solemn and quivering vocal only adds to this tension. The samples of wails and voices in line with sharper and more sudden strings only go on to deepen the sense of unease whilst stretching the the beautiful arrangement of it all. ‘Ful Stop’ features the same rumbling sounds and siren-like rhythms of The Knife, yet these are linked via whirring synth chords. From these minor foundations comes the quieter and colder vocals from Yorke that isolate vocals from the rest of the track seamlessly.

‘Present Tense’ gives off warmer feels with shuffling percussion and lightly oscillating acoustic rhythms. Behind this arrangement come ringing guitars and echoed backing vocals behind the stable and more reassuring lead vocals of Thom Yorke. ‘Identikit’ features clean cut riffs and rhythms ahead of sharp and prominent bass lines and the vocals match the rest of the instrumentation for perfect clarity. The song expands its sound with lightly distorted lead guitar parts for an intricate and detailed rock track. ‘True Love Waits’ is a swooning and wistful ballad with it being led by Yorke’s sweeping and encompassing vocal. ‘Decks Dark’ offer up steady and smooth electronica with the considered introduction of additional elements from bass line, choirs and distorted riffs. The album perhaps has too many acoustic tracks with little direction, but these still can be appreciated as atmospheric and graceful tracks. Beyond these, we have beautiful and atmospherically dynamic album that accentuates and emboldens subtlety and sharpens typically loose and expansive sounds. It is testament to the skill and experience of the group to achieve so much with so little or to focus so much into something so simple. One of the highlights of the year and a match for the hype.

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool = 8.5/10

 

 

 

 

Single Review – Radiohead – Burn The Witch

Radiohead are marking their return in typically mysterious circumstances with social media blackouts and odd cards delivered to those on their mail list. These cards had the lyrics of their new single ‘Burn The Witch’ embossed on them and when put to the music, those lyrics evoke a greeter unsettling feel. The instrumentation is primarily made of a sharp string staccato with rumbling and sweeping strings and electronica moving purposefully beneath it. The song is surprisingly melodic and engaging than it might be on first listen as what seems something as an anti-melody from Yorke contrasts with the dramatic and increasingly frantic instrumentation around him. An intriguing and well developed sound from a vastly experienced group.

Owen Riddle