Tag: Music

Track of the day: Billie Eilish – WHEN I WAS OLDER

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Billie Eilish – WHEN I WAS OLDER

Billie Eilish is one of the most exciting young pop artists on the planet. Ever since I heard the fantastically morbid Bellache in 2017 I’ve been captivated by her records, and she rarely disappoints. Her 2018 releases were pretty much all excellent in different ways; be it the menacing you should see me in a crown or the heartbreaking when the party’s over, which was always going to feature in my top 50 of 2018.

Now she’s back with WHEN I WAS OLDER, a song inspired by Alfonso Cuaron’s 2018 film Roma. And with it, she unsurprisingly retains her kite-mark standard for excellence.

With its eery distorted vocals and minimalistic electronic production, it has a haunting tone that is really hard to shake off.

Eilish is due to play the main stage at the Leeds and Reading festivals later this year and if her output remains at this quality, it’s not difficult to envision her being one of – if not the – biggest pop stars in the world very soon.

Top 50 Songs of 2018 – the top 10

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  1. Orbital – Tiny Foldable Cities

Listening to Tiny Foldable Cities feels like you’ve turned into Superman. Soaring high in the sky and rapidly gliding amongst the clouds, you watch the world below as you zoom on by.

 

  1. Azealia Banks – Anna Wintour

My most listened to song of 2018 is the dancefloor destroyer Anna Wintour. From the beats to the vocals, everything sounds fresh and catchy. Originally meant to feature Mel B (of Spice Girls fame) and Nicki Minaj, instead Azealia Banks undertakes all the singing, rapping and slaying duties herself. If this song doesn’t make you strut, you aren’t living.

 

  1. Ben Howard – Nica Libres At Dusk

The opening track of Noonday Dream is an evocative and tender track filled with sadness and longing. There are hints of the idyllic Caribbean beach that is dreamt about within the lyrics, but Nica Libres At Dusk feels much colder and wind-swept, more Bournemouth in autumn than Barbados at the height of summer.

 

  1. Let’s Eat Grandma – Hot Pink

Let’s Eat Grandma are one of the most intriguing acts in British music. I first saw them in 2016 and their girlish charm mixed with gothic pop was captivating. Hot Pink is anything but girlish; a monstrous statement about the strength of women, backed up by production that sounds like the end of the world.

 

  1. SOHN – Nil

Nil is a brutally honest song. “Tell me if I’m not mistaken, but you’re not in love, am I right?”, SOHN sings without judgement or malice. Nil is the end; sadness and pain swirls all around and the voice falters only slightly. This is the laying to rest of a relationship, and it is absolutely heart-breaking.

 

  1. Robyn – Honey

Honey feels you’re dreaming but haven’t slept for days. Sensual, pulsating and entirely hypnotic, it’s the kind of track that makes you check your pulse to make sure it’s all real. Every element of Honey is perfect; from the rumbling synths and subtle addition of samba drumming to the bewitching hi-hats, Honey is a four-minute transcendence into something more meaningful.

 

  1. Jon Hopkins – Emerald Rush

It may be because Emerald Rush reminds me of Hans Zimmer’s amazing Interstellar soundtrack, but no earthly settling feels big enough to imagine Emerald Rush. It plays out like a giant intergalactic battle, with black holes and exploding planets. It’s a magnificent and evocative piece of music, and I bet it sounds massive on a dancefloor.

 

  1. Plastic Mermaids – 1996

The unusual relationships between humans and technology has become an increasingly discussed topic. Whether it be the threat of AI, the overdependence on technology or romantic relationships (for example the 2014 Spike Jonze film, Her), there’s a fascination about how technology can affect us, physically and emotionally. In 1996, Plastic Mermaids give their own spectacular contribution to this discussion, full of upgrades, digital funerals and provocative lyrics, all set to one of the catchiest and least predictable pop songs this year. And if that wasn’t enough, they also made what I think was the best video of the year. I can’t wait for next year’s album and London tour date.

 

  1. Rae Morris – Rose Garden

Rae Morris has been making solid records for a while, but nothing prepared me for the massive step up in her song writing craft that is Rose Garden. Written about a friend who is suffering with a long-term illness – and Morris’s own frustrations at being unable to help – Rose Garden is a tour de force of outstanding production and beautiful melodies that peaks with an almost heavenly bridge. Morris has said that this song reflects a direction she’d like to explore in her future work, and if she can match this quality then we’re in for something special.

 

  1. The Twilight Sad – I/m Not Here [Missing Face]

From the opening notes the claustrophobic tone of I/m Not Here imposes itself. The sense of bitter end is everywhere and relief eludes us. The end of a relationship, the sadness, distrust and blame whirls around, and James Graham’s Scottish lilt gives real meaning to every word. The isolation is obvious from the opening lytrics, “you’re too close for comfort, you’re too close to comfort me.” The piano tries to give some light – some space – but there’s just no way it can win here. This is a stupendous song; one that rewards continual listens and the best work yet from a fantastic band.

 

Top 50 Songs of 2018 – 20 to 11

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  1. Ski Lift – Get Some Sleep

Missouri-based two-piece Ski Lift are not exactly prolific. The How Seriously You Take Yourself EP was their first release since 2011 and Get Some Sleep was the opening track. This track is like a dream, with a hypnotic beat effortlessly motioning the song along. “I made up a therapist to work through my problems, we talk in the mirror like an old De Niro film” is where we start the song, and it only gets more inward from there.

 

  1. Jono Ma & Dreams – Can’t Stop My Dreaming (Of You)

Can’t Stop My Dreaming (Of You) was one of my most listened to tracks of 2018, in large part because it is such a rewarding listen. There’s so many levels to the track, and you find yourself following different snippets of percussion or melody on every listen.

 

  1. Billie Eilish – when the party’s over

I don’t think there’s a more exciting artist in the world right now. Billie Eilish has delivered so many intriguing tracks over the past eighteen months, and when the party’s over is the most heart-breaking of the lot.

 

  1. Ray BLK – Run Run

Ray BLK delivers harrowing tales of South London with one of the catchiest tracks of the year. Reflecting her real life observations and strong social conscience, Run Run is the kind of the song that would have been a huge hit in the late eighties. The video is also incredibly powerful

 

  1. The 1975 – Love It If We Made It

Comparisons to Sign ‘O’ The Times, Rockin’ in the Free World and We Didn’t Start The Fire put Love It If We Made It in some esteemed company. Only time will tell if it merits such loftiness, but there’s no doubt that this is a hugely impressive piece of work from the 1975. Alongside its provocative lyrics and all-round catchiness, the thing that’s really lingered from Love It If We Made It is the optimism that somehow shines through its gutter topics.

 

  1. Kacey Musgraves – High Horse

Does anyone do sass better than Kacey Musgraves? High Horse is a big change in style for Kacey but she sounds superb delivering her brilliant put-down lyrics over a disco-infused backing track.

 

  1. Alex Metric, Ten Ven – Nebula

Nebula is a throwback dance track, all eighties synths and big-build ups. Great music doesn’t have to be complicated, here Alex Metric and Ten Ven keep it simple with an absolutely gigantic dancefloor filler.

 

  1. H O N E Y M O A N – </3

South African five-piece H O N E Y M O A N (yes, that is annoying to type) tell the modern tale of breaking up over text and the awkwardness of finding out your former partner is in fact gay. Scuzzy guitars and catchy melodies, top work all round.

 

  1. Cardi B – Get Up 10

I liked Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy way more than I was expecting, and Get Up 10 was for me the standout track. It combines her personal history with a suitable amount of swagger, soaring from its gentle start into an absolute banger.

 

  1. FRANKIIE – Dream Reader

Vancouver-based four-piece FRANKIIE give us one-part Stevie Nicks and two parts Pumarosa with the ethereal Dream Reader. It’s a beautifully simple slice of indie pop that hints at a very bright future.

Top 50 Songs of 2018 – 30 to 21

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  1. Bicep – Opal (Four Tet Remix)

Four Tet remixes aren’t generally known for simplifying records, but with Opal he’s given the track a more accessible beat and brought the melody front and centre. It sounds great and has had me bopping my head along for nine months now.

 

  1. Billie Marten – Mice

Yorkshire singer Billie Marten provided the year’s most beautifully aimless and introspective track. Mice fills the senses with countryside; it transports you to rural settings far away from towns and cities. It’s such an internal track, you can feel the frustration and lethargy in both the music and the vocals.

 

  1. Art School Girlfriend – Distance (Blank)

Art School Girlfriend’s Into The Blue Hour was one of my favourite EPs of the year and Distance (Blank) was the second track on the EP. Full of electronic rumblings, introspection and claustrophobia, Distance (Blank) is a hugely impressive outing from the singer from North Wales.

 

  1. Robyn – Missing U

What a comeback single. Missing U sounded instantly fresh and yet familiar, reminding everyone how good she really is. Somehow combining optimism with crushing sadness, Missing U merely whet the appetite for music fans around the world in anticipation for – in my opinion – was the album of the year.

 

  1. SG Lewis, AlunaGeorge – Hurting

A straight up banger dripping in lust from the Lewis and AlunaGeorge combination. “Hurting for your body,Hurting for your body and your soul, You really got me searching, Begging for a way to make me whole” Aluna Francis pines over the beautifully simple electronics.

 

  1. GoGo Penguin – Raven

The inclusion of GoGo Penguins necessitates me eating a bit of humble pie. I completely hated their 2014 v2.0 album, and was very surprised when George – who previously wrote for Astral Penguins – recommended their latest work to me. “The piano sounds like Sister Bliss” he said, and indeed it does. Raven borders on being a dance track, and has a beautiful mixture of space and urgency.

 

  1. Billie Eilish, Khalid – lovely

The somewhat ironically titled lovely combines two of the most brilliant and exciting voices in music right now. Full of sadness, despair and tenderness, the sparse production simply allows the two vocalists to sing their sad tale.

 

  1. Black Futures – Trance

Trance is an orgy of rage. Sounding something like the end of the world, the track feels relentless. Every time you get a brief respite from the onslaught of the guitars and drums, you know it isn’t going to last, so just enjoy the chaos. The last two minutes or so of this track are probably the best I’ve heard all year.

 

  1. ZAYN – Sour Diesel

Sour Diesel sounds like INXS. Sensual vocals, sparse drums and catchy hooks, it has all the hallmarks that made Michael Hutchence and co such massive superstars in the 1980s. Nothing any of the former One Direction boys have done has come close to the pop perfection that is Sour Diesel.

 

  1. Travis Scott – SICKO MODE

I was very underwhelmed by Astroworld, Scott’s hugely successful 2018 album, but there’s absolutely nothing on SICKO MODE that I don’t love. A three-part masterpiece, it’s a triumph of hip hop production and shows that the genre keeps finding ways to push itself to the forefront of music.

Top 50 songs of 2018 – 40 to 31

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  1. Nils Frahm – My Friend the Forest

The recording of My Friend the Forest leaves you holding your breathe. So close and intimate, you can hear the movements of the piano parts in addition to the melody it is creating. It’s a very moving and personal recording that leaves you feeling connected, as if you’re part of the performance and the magic it creates.

 

  1. Bryde – To Be Brave

To Be Brave starts with a fragility that makes you sit up and take notice. The soft guitar and tender vocals feel delicate and hushed, and the chorus ends with the lyrics “No one needs to notice that there’sonly silence holding this”. And yet, the song gets louder. Whatever is being masked through bravery is becoming increasingly difficult to contain.

 

  1. Editors – Hellelujah (So Low)

Sometimes you’ve just got to turn up the volume, rock and repent. This is Editors as we’ve never heard them before, and it sounds fantastic. Written after a visit to an Oxfam refugee camp, you can hear the mortality and remorsefulness scattered throughout the track.

 

  1. Miljon – What Does It Take

What Does It Take beautifully suits wintery cold weather and dark evenings. With a touch of the XX underpinning the track, there’s a real beauty in its repetition and luscious tones, but there’s also a sense of difficult emotions not too far from the surface.

 

  1. Lizzo – Boys

It took five years but finally we have the riposte to Blurred Lines that the world needed. Funky, inclusive and catchy as hell, Boys is just a cracking good tune that sounds timeless and will be filling dancefloors for years.

 

  1. Black Belt Eagle Scout – Soft Stud

Black Belt Eagle Scout’s Mother of My Children was one of my favourite albums of the year. Soft Stud is the opening track and is full of pain and lust, a tale of feeling rejected in an open relationship. The real beauty of Soft Stud isn’t the lyrics though, it’s the emotions you feel through the guitar as it elevates the track into something truly spiritual.

 

  1. Django Django – Marble Skies

Django Django consistently produce excellent and provocative electro pop and Marble Skies is one of their best. Immensely catchy, the first track from the album of the same name sets a relentless pace. Marble Skies feels like we’re in a high-speed chase, there’s plenty of fun to be had but chaos is never far away.

 

  1. The Decemberists – Severed

I’m a sucker for synth pop and when you throw in the menace that The Decemberists bring to Severed I’m unable to resist. Written as an exploration of Donald Trump’s public voice, Severed certainly feels like the soundtrack for the end of the world.

 

  1. HAELOS – Buried in the Sand

HAELOS are a band with huge promise, and one I tip for festival headliner status in the future. Buried in the Sand is their first track back after a couple of years away and although less immediate than a lot of their work on debut album – Full Circle – I’ve grown to love it. It has a swagger running throughout, and feels like a real statement from the band about how they are ready to make their next step up.

 

  1. Florence + The Machine – Big God

I was a big fan of Florence’s new album High As Hope as I felt it showed real progression in song writing and was less reliant on Welch’s voice hitting magnificent highs to make the record stand out. Big God is a perfect example; it sounds like a Shirley Bassey backing track with all sorts of drama and peril threatened by the opening piano notes. Yet the vocals remain beautifully grounded and intimate; eschewing the need to set off into the stratosphere and making the record all the more satisfying for its lack of predictability.

Top 50 songs of 2018 – 50 to 41

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50. Karen O, Michael Kiwunuka – YO! MY SAINT

This track was released back in January and it’s full of drama and dripping in lust. Fuzzy guitars and the soulful sounds of Michael Kiwunuka provide the perfect foundation for O’s vocals to dazzle. Designed to emulate the drama of a Korean soap opera, it was written to soundtrack a short film, which helps to make sense of the song’s cinematic feel.

 

  1. LeyeT – Drip Drop

Drip Drop is a deceptively simple pop song. The catchiness and immediacy of the melody mask the urgency of the lyrics, the sense that pain and heartbreak can feel relentless and overwhelming. The song’s production subtly mirrors the relentless through repetition before we reach a point of release.

 

  1. Hammer – Inside Soul

Rory Hamilton – aka Hammer – has been buddies with Bicep since their early Belfast days. Now based in East London, Inside Soul was the third track on his C-Space EP (released on Bicep’s label) and is equal parts hypnotic and euphoric.

 

  1. DJ Koze – Seeing Aliens

The lead single from Koze’s critically acclaimed Knock Knock album, Seeing Aliens is a baffling listen. Eight minutes of whirrs, glitches and general chaos make up the melody, Seeing Aliens is a speedy 3am drive up the motorway, when your monotony is irregularly frazzled by oncoming lights.

 

  1. James Supercave – Something To Lose (metsa Rework)

It’s pretty rare for remixes to make my top 50, but this metsa rework is superbly catchy. A dystopian remix in which the emotions of the original seem to have been given a cyborg makeover; it’s a battle between the metallic coldness of the production and the tenderness of the vocals.

 

  1. George Fitzgerald – Siren Call

From Fitzgerald’s second album All That Must Be, Siren Call feels like an ode to lying awake at night in an unfamiliar city. Full of creeping electronics and unsettling distortions, moments of peace and calm when you’re drifting into slumber are snatched away by another disturbance.

 

  1. Ellas Ross – Plastic

Sometimes music is at its best when you strip away all the unnecessary elements and keep it simple. Plastic feels like an artist at the end of a relationship, wearily realising that the person they thought they knew was never there. The façade has melted, and it’s time to accept it. Without malice, but with growing strength, Plastic lets us hear someone gaining clarity and acceptance.

 

  1. Django Django – Swimming at Night

Django Django’s Winter’s Beach EP was a pleasant surprise in September, and Swimming at Night was its instantly catchy single. Electronic percussion and synth-y goodness to the fore, this is a cracking pop song full of fun.

 

  1. Kidnap – After All

Sheffield-born Producer Kidnap (previously Kidnap Kid) released his Ashes EP in March and After All was the third track on it. With shades of Massive Attack, there a reflective and borderline spiritual quality to After All, with lyrical snippets of Amazing Grace subtly woven into the record. “You know when you get a taste of it?, I want this to be my life” the vocalist asks halfway through, as the music reflects the longing and hopes of the singer.

 

  1. Simian Mobile Disco – Hey Sister

This is a track that shouldn’t work on any level. Dance music doesn’t usually have choirs. Add in cold electronic beats that seem so urgent compared to the placid vocals and it’s a song that should drown in its own contradictions. Instead Simian Mobile Disco have created a unique track that sounds awesome. Well played.

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.