Tag: Reviews

Monday’s Bonus List: 10 songs we’re still loving

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As an extension of the weekly A List – posted every Sunday – here is the Astral Penguins Bonus List, 10 songs that we’re still loving but just missed out on the Sunday list.

As with the A List, the Bonus List acts as a chart, with songs appearing in order of preference. Here it is for your listening pleasure, there’s some corkers in here:

11. HOMESHAKE – Every Single Thing (Up 1; 3rd Week)

A shimmering r’n’b track with a disconcerting lo-fi meets synths dynamic. The vocals are impressive in their range and delivery, and yet it’s the cold aesthetic of the track that makes me want to keep this on repeat.

12. Cold War Kids – Love Is Mystical (Up 1; 3rd Week)

Love Is Mystical is a cracking blues-inspired indie pop record that explodes with excitement. From it’s opening piano to it’s awesome chorus, everything is a little off-kilter and distorted.

13. Stormzy – Mr Skeng (New Entry)

Stormzy is – as George’s Word on the Street column laid out on Saturday – the centre of attention right now. With Mr Skeng it’s all about Stormzy; his voice, his lyrics and his moment. He’s not one to mess with.

14. The Attic Sleepers – Leopard (New Entry)

A beautiful piece of indie-pop from Danish duo The Attic Sleepers. Straying into the kind of upbeat sunshine sound – complete with brass – that Bombay Bicycle Club mastered, Leopard will leave you feeling both vulnerable and optimistic.

15. Blood Youth – Reasons to Stay (Down 5, 2nd week) 

Melodic hardcore trio Blood Youth have produced a real balls-to-the-wall track in Reasons to Stay. A tale of a relationship ending in a complicated way, this will be an absolute monster live.

16. Sub Focus – Lingua (New Entry) (down 9; 2nd week) 

Slower and more minimalist than a lot of his other works, Lingua sees Sub Focus straying closer to dancehall and hip hop than his usual drum and bass, but it’s a banger all the same.

17. Otzeki – All This Time (Down 7; 4th Week) 

From it’s opening hum and creeping bass, it has an eerie and agitating tone, which only increases as the organ noise and vocals kick in.

18. Bicep – The Game (Catz N’ Dogz Interpretation) (New Entry)

This sounds like the kind of track that would soundtrack a video game in your dreams, where you’re driving around all night without any sort of destination in sight. It strays into some 80’s sounds, but still feels pretty timeless.

19. Electric Guest – Back For Me (Down 4; 3rd week)

Back for Me skips along with a relentlessly upbeat tone, propelled by beating percussion and one of the funkiest bass parts around. Simple, catchy and really rather good fun.

20. Pumarosa – Dragonfly (Down 6; 2nd week) 

Creating etherial music with elements of pop, indie and dance, there’s a mystique to their work that few acts achieve.

 

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The A List: Our 10 biggest songs right now

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If you follow the Astral Penguins Blog closely, you’ll know three key things:

  1. Every Sunday we post our top 10 favourite tracks around right now on what we call the A List;
  2. That – as songs on the A List are limited to four weeks – there was bound to be a few changes this week as a number of last week’s A List were at that limit; and
  3. The songs in contention for the A List – those that appeared on the This Week Playlist and our Tracks of the Day were really strong this week. I mean, really strong.

With that in mind, and after a decent amount of head scratching, here is this week’s A List, complete with six – six! – new entries.

1. Jacob Banks – Unholy War (New Entry)

Our Track of the Day  on Wednesday, Birmingham-born R’n’B singer Jacob Banks provides his own stunning contribution t0 the soul/gospel/r’n’b revival that is underway. With a rich, deep and powerful vocal performance, excellent production and a more modern, electronic-laced chorus, Unholy War ticks all sorts of pleasurable boxes.

 2. Todd Terje – Jungelknugen (Four Tet Remix) (New Entry)
Four Tet’s journey from obscure electronica producer to master of the main stage has been one of the most brilliant and unlikely stories in the – relatively short – history of dance music, and here he’s on remixing duty for the ever brilliant Todd Terje. As with his 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.

3.  Vince Staples – Bagbak (fourth week; up 1)

Fourth and final week for Mr Staples on the A List, and we think this is one of the best records of the year so far. Bagbak is Vince Staples’s contribution on racial identity and politics. He has a lot to say and – with top level production and jaw-dropping lyrics – he’s earning himself a bigger platform from which to say them.

4. Allan Rayman – 13 (fourth week; up 1)

Another track that is in its fourth week on the A List, 13 is an r’n’b inflected track that – like a lot of Rayman’s work – doesn’t easily fall into one musical genre. The standout element of the track is Rayman’s smoky soul voice is rich, pure, fragile and honest – often all in the same note. In 13 his rasping delivery of the opening verse is formidable but it’s the quieter moments that leave you breathless; in 13 he drops his voice and almost whispers some of his hoarse, sorrowful judgements.

5. Daniel Trakell – Paradise (New Entry)

Yesterday’s Track of the Day from Australian singer-songwriter Daniel Trakell is a slightly uncomfortable listen; for all it’s Simon & Garfunkel splendour, there is a layer of mystery that hangs over the melody. It is perhaps best described using the impressive dual quality of the vocals, they are both beautiful and eerie at the same time. 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.

 

6. Elliot Moss – Closedloop (New Entry)

New York singer-songwriter Elliot Moss finds himself firmly in the James Blake comparison zone with Closedloop, a creeping, discomforting, electro crawl of a pop track.

7. Brutus – Drive 3/4s (Second week; down 5)

Drive 3/4s is a stunningly good rock track; its impressive in its ambition alone, but the delivery of intricate melodies, shifts in style and epic chorus makes this track an absolute monster.

8. Denis Sulta – Dubelle Oh XX (JVIP) (New Entry)

Young Glaswegian DJ and producer Denis Sulta’s track  gets a reworking from his fellow Glaswegian – and stunningly good DJ – Jackmaster. Ripe for inclusion at every dance festival in 2017, this is a track that’ll get inside your head and stay there.

9. Code Walk, Smerz – Guess What (Second week; down 3)

This track is a collaboration between two Scandinavian duos, Norwegian pair Code Walk  and Copenhagen couple Smerz. Guess What revolves around shimmering techno beats and top line percussion. Everything about this track is ice cold. Simple and yet highly effective.

10. Destructo, E-40, Too $hort – All Nite (New Entry)

Destructo is LA based former A&R/record executive Gary Richards, who helped to bring Basement Jaxx to a mainstream audience. All Nite is an instantly-grabbing party track full of fun and frolics; it has, how to put it, more than a whiff of stoner fun about it. It’s a track that Bulldozes the line between hip hop and dance; my only reservation – and the reason why this isn’t higher on the list – is some of the lyrics are not exactly forward thinking in their portrayal of women.

Track of the Day: Jacob Banks – Unholy War

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Jacob Banks – Unholy War 

Trends in popular music tend to repeat themselves; guitar music is ‘in fashion’ for a eighteen months or so before being replaced by hip hop, or boy bands, or whichever style it is we’ve been missing without realising.

At the moment the retro soul/gospel sound is back with a bang. Rag’n’Bone Man has been leading the charge, but here Birmingham-born R’n’B singer Jacob Banks provides his own contribution, and it’s rather good.

With a rich, deep and powerful vocal performance, excellent production and a more modern, electronic-laced chorus, Unholy War ticks all sorts of pleasurable boxes. On first listen this stood out, and it gets better with every listen.

This Week Playlist: 7 Cracking New Tunes

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Tuesday morning is the new home of the This Week Playlist. These are the songs I’ve heard a couple of times and rather like the sound of. They’re here for your pleasure: to tickle your ears and to soundtrack your week.

There’s a distinctly dance-heavy vibe to the playlist – that’s not intentional nor particularly reflective of what I’ve been listening to of late; I simply go where I think the quality is right now.

 

Destructo, E-40, Too $hort – All Nite

Destructo is LA based former A&R/record executive Gary Richards, who helped to bring Basement Jaxx to a mainstream audience. With All Nite he achieves a similar feat to many of Jaxx’s back catalogue; it’s an instantly-grabbing party track full of fun and frolics. Bulldozing the line between hip hop and dance, this is stoner-inspired party music that’ll put a smile on your face.

Todd Terje – Jungelknugen (Four Tet Remix) 

Oh man, Four Tet just keeps getting better. His journey from obscure electronica producer to master of the main stage has been one of the most brilliant and unlikely stories in the – relatively short – history of dance music, and here he’s on remixing duty for the ever brilliant Todd Terje. As with his 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.

Denis Sulta – Dubelle Oh XX (JVIP)

Young Glaswegian DJ and producer Denis Sulta is beginning to make serious waves in the house scene. Here Dubelle Oh XX gets a reworking from his fellow Glaswegian – and stunningly good – DJ Jackmaster. Ripe for inclusion at every dance festival in 2017, this is a track that’ll get inside your head and stay there. Complete with a baffling breakdown in the middle, this is basically a Jackmaster set in a nutshell: danceable, memorable, often bonkers and very bloody good.

Stormzy – Mr Skeng

His debut album Gang Signs & Prayer came out on Friday and – following his show-stealing cameo at the Brits with Ed Sheeran last week – Stormzy is the centre of attention right now. I could have picked two or three tracks from the album for this list but I love the rawness of Mr Skeng. It’s well-produced and there’s plenty in the background, but ultimate its about Stormzy; his voice, his lyrics and his moment. If you missed his recent interview in the Guardian, I highly recommend you go and read it.

Bicep – The Game (Catz N’ Dogz Interpretation) 

Bicep’s 2013 track The Game gets a facelift for 2017 courtesy of Catz N’ Dogz. This sounds like the kind of track that would soundtrack a video game in your dreams, where you’re driving around all night without any sort of destination in sight. It strays into some 80’s sounds, but still feels pretty timeless.

The Attic Sleepers – Leopard 

This is just a beautiful piece of indie-pop from Danish duo The Attic Sleepers. Straying into the kind of upbeat sunshine sound – complete with brass – that Bombay Bicycle Club mastered, Leopard will leave you feeling both vulnerable and optimistic.

Elliot Moss – Closedloop 

New York singer-songwriter Elliot Moss finds himself firmly in the James Blake comparison zone with Closedloop, a creeping, discomforting, electro crawl of a pop track.