Tag: Kendrick Lamar

The A List: 3rd April

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The A List is where we round up our ten favourite songs right now. It’s been on hold for a couple of weeks, but its back with a bang. Here they are for your listening pleasure:

1. Drones Club – Hurricane (New Entry)

Straddling the fence between dance and indie, the electronic chorus soars into the sky. Every listen feels familiar – it’s rooted in an early 90s baggy feel – and yet it feels absolutely fresh.

2. Gorillaz, Vince Staples  – Ascension (New Entry)

Ascension ends up sounding like a space age gospel infused pop track; it’s a little bonkers but that’s the fun of it.

3. Billie Eilish – Bellyache (New Entry)

The outrageously young Billie Eilish has delivered a stunning piece of electro pop that seems to be about, well… murder. From the stunning production to the simple yet oh-so-effective vocals (a la Lorde) Bellyache is just a joy from start to finish.

4. Daniel Trakell – Paradise (New Entry)

The song is both speaking of a paradise that is tangible and truly beautiful in the present, but also of a place that has yet to come in the afterlife.

5. Nightdubbing – Frontline

With perhaps the funkiest bass part of 2017 driving this track along, Frontline meanders between elements of house and disco to create what would be the perfect soundtrack to a day out in the sun.

6. Todd Terje – Jungelknugen (Four Tet Remix) (New Entry)
As with Four Tet’s Opus remix, Jungelknugen refuses to go where you expect it to, but continues to delight throughout. Building synths, layer upon layer of electronic waves and some out and out hands-in-the-air moments; stonkingly good.

7. Sun Lil Moon – Bergen to Trondheim (New Entry)

This is a song that skirts ever so close to being beyond the pale. Maybe I’ve listened to far too much Father John Misty, but to my ears this is one of the darkest, sarcastic and satirical songs I’ve heard in a very long time.

8. HVOB – Deus (New Entry)

Deus starts slowly, repetitive vocals coiled around intimidating synths; then the beat drops. It conjures up feelings of space travel and loneliness; danger and claustrophobia. I like this more with every listen.

9. Father John Misty – Total Entertainment Forever (New Entry)

Total Entertainment Forever is a catchy pop song with a familiarity that comes from a sound that has produced countless hits before; it’s sure to leave foots tapping. Yet then there’s the lyrics, and the biting take down of modern life.

10. Kendrick Lamar – The Heart Part 4 (New Entry)

The Heart Part 4 chops and changes in style, and certainly suffers from the braggadocious spirit that blights a lot of hip hop, yet spending a few minutes with the lyrics of this track is hugely rewarding.

Word on the Street: March 2017

Word on the Street: March 2017

Following another month packed full of quality releases, one musician stood head and shoulders above the rest for me. No, it’s not Drake (although we’ll get to him later). The man in question? DJ Q.

Some of you may be familiar with the DJ/producer from his groundbreaking work in the bassline scene about a decade ago. Q became 1Xtra’s youngest DJ, hosting the station’s fortnightly UKG Mix show, and first came to my attention with his 4×4 mix cd series – my best friend and I used to drive around with the mixes pumping out loud, and I still listen to them regularly now. With the bassline scene hitting its peak in 2007/08, he had undoubtedly his biggest success with the release of his huge single “You Wot” featuring MC Bonez.

Fast forward almost 10 years, and Q’s profile has probably never been higher. His 2014 album, Ineffable, on Local Action Records was a well-compiled collection of productions, including two garage tunes of such astounding quality (“Notice Me” and “Be Mine”), that for me made him the king of the UKG vocal chop

It’s the last 12 months, however, that have really seen his output skyrocket. A slew of singles, mostly using well-known samples (such as Rocky, Bell Biv Devoe and Sonic The Hedgehog) have helped build to an outrageous month in March.

Starting in the first week of the month, East London MC Jammz released his latest single “Who’s That Girl?”, produced by our man of the moment. Once again featuring a female vocal chop, Jammz and Aleisha Lee do battle over a girl that’s possibly caught the MC’s eye – it’s incredibly reminiscent of Dizzee Rascal’s “I Luv U”.

Just over a week later, as part of the supergroup TQD (with Royal T and Flava D), one of my favourite albums of the year so far, UKG, saw the light of day. It’s a perfect blend of huge bassline wobblers, crafted 2-step garage, and grime. Check out their video for “A Letter To EZ”, and marvel at the meticulous attention to detail required to put together such an intricate visual.

Not staying quiet for long, it was only another 2 days until Q gave us his next gift. The intro and vocal on “Naked Truth” left me worried the first time I heard them. I thought it sounded too commercial, and not gritty enough, but my fears were allayed as soon as I heard the bassline for the first time. Once again, he hadn’t let me down.

On the last day of the month, the Yorkshireman had another grime production to showcase, this time in the form of YGG’s “Bad”. Comprised of London MCs PK, Lyrical Strally and Saint, the trio are one of the most exciting groups in grime at the moment, and their appearances on NTS and Radar are always must-listens. Q’s production is tropical in nature, and the perfect accompaniment to what the youngsters offer vocally.

Along with this single, there came the release of the Pure Bassline compilation, mixed by the DJ, along with another bassline legend, Jamie Duggan. It features many of our protagonist’s own productions, and really demonstrates the rude health that the scene currently finds itself in – is it due a renaissance, like the current reincarnation of grime? Whatever happens, I hope Q gets everything he deserves, because no-one has worked harder.

While we’re on the subject of legends in the scene producing beats for MCs, Dubstep pioneer N-Type recorded the first single to be released on the new Go Getter Music label, with South London’s Eazyman. “Work Rate” is a pure slice of UK-style trap, as the orator preaches about his work ethic, and how he’s left behind a life of violence and drugs.

Elsewhere in the UK scene, Spyro and Capo Lee finally dropped their Stop Talk EP. I’d previously mentioned how excited I was for this and it certainly wasn’t a let-down. “Tekkers” followed the lead from “Stop Talk” as a single of stunning quality, and the rest of the tunes are just as good.

Another long-awaited EP, this time from Preditah, was also unleashed. Focussing on grime instrumentals, the Birmingham producer enlisted the talents of his brother C4 for the release’s lead track “Touch Road”. It’s visceral and rugged, and is rightly getting a lot of attention on some of the country’s radio stations.

The rise of afro bashment continues at an alarming speed here in the UK, spearheaded by artists like Kojo Funds, LottoBoyzz and Mr Eazi. This Spotify playlist in particular is worth checking on a regular basis to be updated on the latest sounds – it’s only a matter of time before the scene blows up, and it has to be the sound of this Summer.

One afro bashment name that has so far had a mention in every Word On The Street column to date is J Hus, and his latest, “Did You See” is probably my favourite offering from the genre so far. From his opening gambit of “did you see what I done, came in a black Benz, left in a white one” the listener is captivated, and I challenge you not to shuffle wherever you are!

Finally, before we cross the pond, a word on Toddla T. The Sheffield-born DJ has long been an integral part of the Caribbean-influenced side of the UK’s music offering. His two albums to date, Skanky Skanky and Watch Me Dance, have both laid the foundations for his footing in the scene, which has led to his weekly 1Xtra show being essential listening. So imagine my surprise this month when I checked out his new video for the first single from his forthcoming release, “Blackjack21”. It’s a total departure from his usual sound, but really is an exciting prospect for what is to come. The visuals are stunning, and the beat and vocal will leave a lasting impression. Imagine “You Got The Love” being channelled through a live funk band, and you’re halfway there.

Now the inevitable. On a Saturday in the middle of March, Drake finally aired his latest project, More Life. Having been touted as a playlist rather than an album, and following several delays to the release date, it was no surprise to see it sending social networks into the usual frenzy. I won’t wax lyrical about how good it is (oh, it is) – instead I’ll let you all make up your own minds. All I’ll say is that I generally prefer the tracks Drizzy is singing on, rather than rapping. My highlights? Black Coffee’s production on “Get It Together”, Skepta’s “Interlude”, “KMT” featuring UK road rap superstar Giggs, and leading the way, “Blem”.

Drake took a lot of flak across all mediums following the release, for his appropriation of UK culture. Some British fans seemed outraged at his use of phrases such as wasteman, and even the fact that he named one of the tracks “Gyalchester”. American fans were horrified at the inclusion of what they considered to be inferior British rappers – they really didn’t like Giggs. As far as I’m concerned it can only be a good thing. No, the UK scene doesn’t necessarily need any help, but when was the last time that a huge worldwide artist championed another country’s talent in this way? Let’s embrace his love for our nation, and appreciate all he’s doing to showcase it.

Kendrick Lamar also made his comeback in March with the release of “The Heart Part 4”, and a video for “HUMBLE.”. Both give a hint as to what we can expect from his next album, which must be imminent.

In club culture, one release really grabbed my attention in the last month. Canadian producer Jacques Greene has been consistently making and releasing music since 2010, so his debut album has felt a long time coming. Mixing up a blend of garage, house and r&b, I’m pretty sure Feel Infinite already has the potential to be one of my favourite albums of the year.

For once, I don’t have any other business to bring to your attention, so I’ll leave you to enjoy the usual Spotify playlist below. As always get in touch and let me know what I got right and wrong – astralpenguinsmusic@gmail.com. See you again next month!

This Week Playlist

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After a few weeks off, here is the latest This Week Playlist, ten songs that are tickling our ears right now and are primed and ready for you to enjoy:

1. Kendrick Lamar – The Heart Part 4

So I confess that I don’t share the adoration for Kendrick’s work that seems obligatory for music fans in 2017. I’ve liked plenty of his work, but his status as – in his own words – the greatest rapper alive has eluded me so far. However when friend-in-exile Miceal (who I think may have given up his Catholic faith to follow the religion of Kendrick instead) messaged last Friday to say that The Heart Part 4 had dropped, I was excited to hear it. It chops and changes in style, and certainly suffers from the braggadocious spirit that blights a lot of hip hop, yet spending a few minutes with the lyrics of this track is hugely rewarding.

The whole world goin’ mad

Bodies is adding up, market’s about to crash

Niggas is fake rich, bitches is fake bad

Blacks that act white, whites that do the dab

Donald Trump is a chump, know how we feel, punk

Tell ’em that God comin’

And Russia need a replay button, y’all up to somethin’

 

2. Gorillaz, Vince Staples  – Ascension

If you’re not a fan of the Gorillaz then it might be best you skip this blog for a few months. They’re one of those bands for me: an act that can go in any new direction and make it seem like it was the perfect choice. They combine hip hop, pop and indie in a way few other bands have ever managed, and with a new album on the way, it promises to be a big few months for them. On Ascension they’ve recruited one of the most exciting men in music Vince Staples for vocal duties. The result ends up sounding like a space age gospel infused pop track; it’s a little bonkers but that’s the fun of it.

 

3. Drones Club – Hurricane

Drones Club produced two of my favourite songs of 2016 and have delivered yet another stunning record. Straddling the fence between dance and indie, the electronic chorus soars into the sky. Every listen feels familiar – it’s rooted in an early 90s baggy feel – and yet it feels absolutely fresh. I cannot wait for them to deliver an album.

 

4. HVOB – Deus

I only discovered Austrian dance duo HVOB (Her Voice Over Boys) recently but I’ve been impressed with that I’ve heard. Deus starts slowly, repetitive vocals coiled around intimidating synths; then the beat drops. I love dance music that is simple yet oh so effective, and Deus is absolutely from that mold. It conjures up feelings of space travel and loneliness; danger and claustrophobia. I like this more with every listen.

 

5. IDLES – Exeter

I blogged only this morning about seeing IDLES recently and Exeter was a massive highlight of their set. It’s full of anger and contempt; the frustration of growing up and living in a place where ‘nothing ever happens’. It somehow combines the sort of lyrical topic The Streets reveled in, matched by a raw punk aggression and elevated by a chorus that seems to satirize Britpop.

 

6. Honey Tower – Couture

Couture is the sort of industrial electro that would have been at home in the soundtracks of either the Matrix or – for those who remember it – Hackers. It’s a pretty bad ass track; rumbling, robotic and firmly underground in its sensibilities. This is my first exposure to Honey Tower, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for the German’s future works.

 

7. Sun Lil Moon – Bergen to Trondheim

This is a song that skirts ever so close to being beyond the pale. Maybe I’ve listened to far too much Father John Misty, but to my ears this is one of the darkest, sarcastic and satirical songs I’ve heard in a very long time. It seems ever so much like Sun Lil Moon has had enough of celebrities and Twitter culture and their immediate – obvious, and poorly-considered – reactions to sad events as they globe-trot around the world. Complete with canned cheering and a refrain of “Me, we, me, we, me, we, me, we” I’m still struggling to come to terms with the boldness.

 

8. Father John Misty – Total Entertainment Forever

The joy of FJM is the numerous layers through which you can appreciate his work. There is the melody; Total Entertainment Forever is a catchy pop song with a familiarity that comes from a sound that has produced countless hits before; it’s sure to leave foots tapping. Yet then there’s the lyrics, and the biting take down of modern life. Then there’s the motivation, and the questions over where observation ends and sarcasm, satire and provocation begins. He is, for my money, one of the most important song-writers around at the moment and – with his new album out next week – we should all be excited.

 

9. Billie Eilish – Bellyache

I’ve been wanting to post this for a few weeks. The outrageously young Billie Eilish has delivered a stunning piece of electro pop that seems to be about, well… murder. From the stunning production to the simple yet oh-so-effective vocals (a la Lorde) Bellyache is just a joy from start to finish.

 

10. HalfNoise – French Class

HalfNoise is Zac Farro, formerly the drummer in Paramore. French Class is from his recent The Velvet Face EP and combines indie sensibilities with a sunny uplifting – slightly disco-y – sound.

 

The Dream Festival 2017

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One of my favourite parts of the summer is going along to various music festivals. The live music industry thrives in – indeed it makes – the summer and it seems that almost every weekend there’s a major event happening somewhere in the UK.

Since I started the blog I’ve wanted to write a lot about festival line-up announcements and – on some occasions – haven’t been able to resist. But rather than simply commenting every time a few new bands are announced, I’ve decided to turn this into an entirely geeky and structured exercise.

Introducing the Dream Festival 2017. This isn’t a real festival, it lives only in my mind and on this blog. But it gives me a chance to select my own fantasy line up and to discuss the acts that are touring the various festivals this summer.

Over the next few months I’ll populate the festival line up graphic above with the bands that I think are the most exciting/appropriate/amazing. I appreciate that this is a fool’s errand; no festival line up ever pleases everybody, but I will do my best to explain why I choose the bands I do, and also to flag up the others that I’d love to see (oh, and those I’d avoid at all costs).

As always, I’ve set myself some rules for the exercise. The festival will be 3 days long. It has three stages. Main stage, new music/second stage, and a dance tent. The bands/acts have to be touring – and playing festivals – this year. Bands can’t be booked wildly out of place (Kings of Leon cannot open the new music stage, that’s just silly), but other than that, we’ll be ad-libbing.

It will also give me a chance to flag up some trends in festivals in recent years, and to highlight some of the brilliant events happening this summer. But, let’s be honest, it’ll mostly be a chance for you to send abuse my way as you struggle to work out how I could possibly leave band x or act y out. I’m prepared for the backlash.

The first thing we’ll do is pick ourselves the first headliner. Some major festivals haven’t announced their lineups yet, so I won’t be announcing all the headliners in one go – in case someone awesome comes along later – but at the moment the list of options currently looks a little like this:

  • The 1975 (Parklife)
  • A Tribe Called Quest (Bestival)
  • Aerosmith (Download)
  • Alt-J (Boardmasters)
  • Arcade Fire (Isle of Wight)
  • Beyonce (Coachella)
  • Biffy Clyro (Download)
  • Blink 182 (Rock Werchter)
  • Bon Jovi (Rock in Rio)
  • Brian Wilson (Camp Bestival)
  • Bryan Adams (Eden Sessions)
  • Crystal Fighters (Secret Garden Party)
  • David Guetta (Isle of Wight)
  • Deadmau5 (SW4)
  • Foals (Citadel)
  • Foo Fighters (Opener)
  • Frank Ocean (Parklife)
  • Franz Ferdinand (Kendal Calling)
  • Future Islands (Green Man)
  • Green Day (British Summer Time)
  • Jamiroquai (Boardmasters)
  • Justin Bieber (British Summer Time)
  • Kasabian (Leeds/Reading)
  • Kendrick Lamar (Coachella)
  • The Killers (British Summer Time)
  • Kings of Leon (British Summer Time)
  • Madness (Camp Bestival)
  • Manic Street Preachers (Kendal Calling)
  • Mark Ronson (Camp Bestival)
  • Maroon 5 (Rock in Rio)
  • Metronomy (Secret Garden Party)
  • Muse (Leeds/Reading)
  • P J Harvey (Green Man)
  • Pendulum (SW4)
  • Pet Shop Boys (Bestival)
  • Phil Collins (British Summer Time)
  • Pink (Summerfest)
  • Radiohead (Glastonbury)
  • Rammstein (Rock am Ring)
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers (Benicassim)
  • Rod Stewart (Isle of Wight)
  • Royal Blood (Eden Sessions)
  • Run DMC (Isle of Wight)
  • Run the Jewels (Field Day)
  • Ryan Adams (Green Man)
  • Stereophonics (Kendal Calling)
  • System of a Down (Download)
  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (British Summer Time)
  • Toots & the Maytals (Secret Garden Party)
  • Two Door Cinema Club (Boardmasters)
  • The Weeknd (Opener)
  • The XX (Bestival)

[I should point out that some of the acts are headlining/playing more than one festival, I just listed the one I got to first.]

At some point over the next couple of weeks I’ll be back with some thoughts on the headliners, and make my first choice. And no, it won’t be Bieber.

Until then…

Mark