Tag: Stormzy

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

logomakr_6fbm4k

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.

 

Word on the Street: February 2017

Word on the Street: February 2017

Better late than never, here’s the monthly round up of all things “urban”.

February picked up where January left off. This time, in place of Wiley, the spotlight was hogged by another grime heavyweight: Stormzy. For the past couple of weeks, everywhere you’ve looked, there he was. On stage at the Brits with Ed Sheeran, finally dropping his long-awaited debut album, and hitting the DIY PR trail harder than anyone else, with numerous surprise pop-up performances and TV appearances.

The album in question is “Gang Signs & Prayer”, and boy is it good – packed full of grime bangers, interspersed with on trend slow jams, the wait was totally worth it. I’m not the biggest fan of these love songs, but with grime albums they certainly help to break up what would otherwise be an all too aggressive affair. The only problem being that they are all too formulaic these days, whether about significant others, mothers or God.

Putting my struggles with Stormzy singing to one side, there are more than enough highlights to get my attention. “Cold” is grime at its purest. “Bad Boys” lowers the energy levels and packs a serious chorus from one of last month’s big tips, J Hus. On “Mr Skeng” the MC calls out all of those that previously doubted him. His smash hit freestyle “Shut Up” features towards the end of the album, and even though it’s still a massive tune, its inclusion stinks of additional tracks to score higher in the new chart format – an issue that was covered excellently last year by Fact Magazine.

By now you’ll have heard “Big For Your Boots”: Sir Spyro continues his unbelievable purple patch with a beat so energetic and raw that you can’t help but shuffle wherever you are. Stormzy doesn’t hold back on the vocal, and there are bars in here that will be hailed for years to come. The video is the perfect accompaniment, directed by filmmaker Daps, and starring some of the most talented creative women around right now – Maya Jama in the chicken shop makes me weak at the knees!

With the month he’s had, Stormzy will be viewed as a masterclass in do it yourself PR for a long time.

Elsewhere in grime, there wasn’t much action, with the exception of a pair of strong singles.

Grim Sickers led the way with his Mike Skinner approved single, “Kane”. Featuring JME on the remix, all month this one has left me wanting to end every sentence with the same word.

The aforementioned Sir Spyro came good again with the lead track from his forthcoming EP with North London MC Capo Lee. “Stop Talk” features a beat made almost entirely from mobile phone samples, as Capo Lee tells anyone and everyone to shut up.

Staying this side of the pond, a handful of promising releases finally saw the light of day. Last month, I mentioned how much I was anticipating the new album from Devlin. “The Devil In” unfortunately didn’t live up to my expectations. For me it was the shortage of 140 bpm that did it. Devlin’s flow has always been the perfect match for a grime beat, and here it was just too rap heavy for my tastes.

Not to say that UK rap isn’t to my liking. Hot on the heels of his 2016 hit “Trapper Of The Year”, North West London’s Nines released “One Foot Out”. At 49 minutes, and 15 tracks, it’s a blistering statement of intent that sets a new standard for rap in the UK. It’s racking up streaming numbers alarmingly quickly, so make sure you’re not left behind on this one!

Having first heard his vocal talents on Sbtrkt’s 2011 self-titled debut album, Sampha’s “Process” has been a long time coming. Neo-soul is certainly the music industry’s flavour of the month, what with Rag’n’Bone Man’s album riding high as well, but Sampha does it with a difference. He’s appeared on tracks with Drake, Kanye, Frank Ocean and Solange, but it’s nice to finally see him take centre stage, and the high praise he’s receiving for “Process” is well-deserved.

Last month was fairly quiet on the American front (with the exception of the outstanding “Culture” by Migos – you can read my review here), so it was nice to see a flurry of activity in February.

The most active artist was easily Future. Mid-way through February, the Atlanta native released his 5th studio album, the self-titled “FUTURE”. A week later, he surprise released his 6th, “HNDRXX”. Both albums rate highly, but it’s the second of the two that really delivered – Complex went as far as suggesting that the album might turn out to be his masterpiece. One thing’s for sure: Future has further cemented his credentials as a hit-maker. Check out the album’s lead single “Selfish”, featuring Rihanna, below.

Another rapper to have a strong month was Big Sean. Backed with some serious guest vocals – Jeremih, Migos, Eminem, The Dream – “I Decided” is a concept album revolving around the theme of rebirth, exec produced by Kanye West. It might not hit home as well as his previous releases, but there’s a deeper, more introspective feel to the album that adds weight.”Bounce Back” and “Moves” in particular are worthy of your time.

Stepping away from hip hop, there were a few other releases on the other side of the pond that certainly struck a chord with me, the first of which came from The Internet and Odd Future’s Syd. The DJ/producer/singer’s first album sees her leaving the beat-making to others, while she steps up to the microphone solo. It’s got a real 90’s R&B feel to it – a sound I’m always down with, being an Aaliyah superfan. “Fin” might be a step in a different direction, but it feels well-thought out, and might just usher in a new superstar in the genre.

Away from the mainstream, THEY. are a self-proclaimed Grunge&B duo from LA. Stating their influences as Nirvana, Taking Back Sunday and Babyface, and having toured in support of Bryson Tiller, it’s certainly a fresh take on R&B. There’s a hint of The Weeknd’s early mixtapes (and possibly even boybands like Backstreet Boys?), and the group clearly aren’t afraid to forge their own path. I would expect “Nü Religion: Hyena” might just get enough people to take notice, that they’re able to move to the next level.

Speaking of those that are blazing their own trail, February brought the return of Thundercat from a 4 year break. The Grammy-winning, Kendrick Lamar collaborator revealed his latest, “Drunk”. The usual mix of all styles possible combine to great effect, and the result is an album that is serious, fun, groovy and melodic all at once.

In the world of club-friendly music, LA’s Kingdom stamped his mark on a UK-influenced sound that is growing nicely on the other side of the pond. Taking influences from UK funky and garage, and in particular the label Night Slugs (Kingdom’s own Fade To Mind label is an affiliate), we’re treated to a blend of electronica and R&B that will surely see him being called upon for productions for bigger names – indeed, Kingdom has already delivered some of his best work for Kelela and Dawn Richard.

Before I leave you, I should mention one upcoming release that almost has me wetting myself with excitement. On their own, Royal-T, DJ Q and Flava D are heavyweights of the current UK garage/bassline scene. Put them together, and the results are spectacular. Their debut album as the supergroup TQD is available for pre-order, prior to its release on 17th March – click play below and listen to “Vibsing Ting” right now! The night before its release, the trio are hosting an album launch party at XOYO, joined by the excellent Swindle and Skilliam – get tickets here, and find me somewhere on the dancefloor, with my eyes closed and my arms in the air.

Finally, if you have a spare two hours, go and listen to My Nu Leng’s Essential Mix before it disappears in just over a week. They embody everything I want to be as a DJ, and in terms of styles cover everything I love. I assure you you won’t be disappointed!

As always, if you discover something you love, or want to tell me what I’ve missed (or that I’m wrong!), then get in touch via astralpenguinsmusic@gmail.com. Again, most of the tracks mentioned above can be found in the Spotify playlist below. See you all in a month!

This Week Playlist: 7 Cracking New Tunes

logomakr_76k0fb

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.

 

 

Ramblings: on Zak Abel and being back on track

 

logomakr_6gasea

Well the blog is back on track after my week of illness. The A List is done, the Bonus List introduced and the This Week Playlist posted. George posted a review of Cloud Nothings’s Life Without Sound last night and Antonia is back with her At The Movies column later today. Plus there’s a Track of the Day coming up at 0930.

Onto non-blog matters, I’m pretty happy as I’m off to my first gig of the year tonight, seeing Zak Abel at one of his two sold out shows at London’s Scala.

I first heard Zak Abel’s stunning soul voice on Sam Sumthin – which I only found out yesterday was produced by Kaytranada – back in 2015. It’s a voice that’ll please many audiences and belies his young age. Given that he’s a self-taught pianist and guitarist, and was also pretty good at table tennis, he also seems like a pretty determined man.

He also writes cracking pop songs. Say Sumthin was one of the best I’ve heard in years, an instant classic. And he’s followed it up with Everybody Needs Love and Unstable since.

His debut album- Only When We’re Naked – is due out in March and I’m looking forward to hearing some of the new material tonight. This will be my fourth time seeing him live, and every performance has improved on the last. He has an infectious charm on stage, his band are super tight and I fully expect him to be playing much bigger venues soon.

One of the things l’ll keep coming back to on this blog (because it’s something I care a lot about) is supporting young acts – particularly British acts – and the need to ensure they aren’t rushed. A few years ago it became a habit for acts to have a couple of singles or a debut album and to be playing Brixton Academy; it was sad watching them fall flat on their face due to a lack of material and a lack of stage experience.

Zak Abel has done it the proper way. He’s been gigging consistently for the past few years and knows how to work an audience. The first time I saw him was at the Oslo in Hackney, he was the second act on stage with a bill of four; it was perhaps an indication that he was destined for bigger things when half of the audience walked out after he’d finished.

Last year I saw him play the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, where he tore the place up – Drake One Dance cover and all – and was joined on stage for a duet by Paloma Faith. I had the rather strange experience of being stood next to Paloma Faith for a large chunk of that gig; but it does mean I can say with certainty that she was enjoying herself.

To reaffirm that he hasn’t been an overnight success, he was featured on the Radio 1Xtra Hot for 2015 List, a list that also featured Little Simz, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Raury, Stormzy, Lion Babe, which is a pretty strong list. Yet its interesting that you could easily hear his stuff on 1Xtra, Radio 1, Radio 2, XFM or any of the shit big commercial radio stations. He has a sound – and a quality – that could easily see him become Britain’s next big pop export.

So I’m looking forward to tonight very much and in anticipation below is Zak Abel’s new video for Unstable.

Until later,

Mark