Album review: Lorde – Melodrama

Our Lorde is 2017’s saviour

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Originally published for The Edge’s album of the year countdown

Having gone from winning an Auckland school talent show and covering Pixie Lott in a radio session to selling 10 million copies of her debut single and being anointed by David Bowie as “the future of music” before she’d even had a moment spare to turn 17, it may come as no surprise that Ella Yelich-O’Connor opted to retreat towards normalcy as the Pure Heroine days wound down. Of course, sailing was not entirely plain: between incessant partying, herding idols like Kanye West and The Chemical Brothers for her Hunger Games soundtrack, taking helicopter rides into the wilderness to work on follow-up material, and covertly reviewing onion rings on Instagram came a painful breakup and a biting pop landscape eager to absorb her “incorrect” stylings.

Melodrama, the resulting Lorde record, comes rooted in that hedonistic habitat whilst trading the sprawling naïveté of (relative) youth for an affecting glare at heartbreak. A far cry from the days of ‘Tennis Court’ (“It’s a new artform showing people how little we care”), it is a remarkably bare concoction that pairs unorthodox pop competence with conscious overwrought feeling. Detail is superfluous to requirements, save for exposed piano ballad ‘Liability’ indulging in fame’s unceremonious responsibility for the theme (“The truth is I am a toy that people enjoy / ‘Til all of the tricks don’t work anymore / And then they are bored of me”), whilst the meeting of bitterness and a euphoric yearning for escape that is impeccable lead single and album opener ‘Green Light’ serves as a mostly upbeat red herring. Continue reading “Album review: Lorde – Melodrama”

Live review: Dua Lipa at O2 Academy, Bournemouth

In the beginning, God created Heaven and Earth. For what it’s worth, I think that He might’ve created Dua Lipa’s live set first.

Originally published in The Edge

To anyone who had encountered her work in the 18 protracted months between amorous entrance ‘New Love’ and the release of her debut album, it wasn’t particularly hard to fathom Dua Lipa as a bonafide pop superstar just simmering gently before something truly massive. Eventually, it was the seventh single properly pushed from the record that proved to be said something – over the summer, the defiant breakup recovery jam ‘New Rules’ turned her from a perennial hope to one of the top ten most-streamed artists on the planet.

Thus, in the grand scheme of what is now almost certain to come, her autumn schedule feels like a bizarrely quaint juncture. Less than a week on from trying on arena life for size with Bruno Mars in North America, The Self-Titled Tour – which will now stretch to venues like Alexandra Palace and Birmingham’s Genting Arena in the spring after some exotic stadium dates in Coldplay’s company – kicked off earlier this month, including a chilly Friday night in an art deco Bournemouth hall nestled amongst a gaggle of fast food outlets. Continue reading “Live review: Dua Lipa at O2 Academy, Bournemouth”

Live review: Craig David at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

It may not have been quite the homecoming spectacle originally intended, but David’s slicker than your average display of many talents proved fodder for a delightful if unconventional Mayflower evening.

Originally published in The Edge

Thanks to a rapid transition from years of accumulating obscurity to selling out a nationwide arena tour, bagging a BRIT nomination and topping the album chart for the first time since his 2000 debut with last autumn’s Following My Intuition, the past two years have been nothing short of extraordinary for Southampton-bred Craig DavidExtending the tour to a day at the Ageas Bowl – a cricket stadium capable of hosting upwards of 20,000 for events like this – seemed like a rather logical way to bring everything back to square one in a suitably exciting fashion. Speaking at its announcement in February, he waxed passionately about the “iconic” location, which has previously lined up performances from Oasis, Luciano Pavarotti, Rod Stewart, and, most recently, Little Mix.

Yet three months after tickets went on sale, everything was quietly canned, citing concerns following the 17 indoor dates that the show “would not work outdoors,” even though he’d been booked for plenty of other shows in forests and festivals up and down the land. Those who had taken the plunge for a Friday in the sun were instead scattered between four replacement nights at the Mayflower – a venue a tenth of the size that is more accustomed to live music in the shape of Joe McElderry and Jools Holland than anyone who packed out both of London’s concert arenas mere months ago – and, perhaps inevitably, a fair scattering of empty £42.50 seats remained as David entered the theatre for the very first time, despite spending his formative years barely a kilometre away on Orchard Lane. Continue reading “Live review: Craig David at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton”

Film review: The Emoji Movie

Exactly as bad as you’d think it is (except actually far worse), The Emoji Movie is at best a painfully unfunny product placement vehicle with an incoherent premise and thoroughly loathsome characters.

Originally published in The Edge

If you’ve ever looked at a smartphone and felt an inexorable urge to watch an anthropomorphic meh face voiced patronisingly by Silicon Valley’s T. J. Miller, yearning to follow his agonisingly boring parents into life in a Celebrity Squares box ready to be scanned into action whenever selected by the user, blighted with the ability to express other emotions through a condition discovered inside Instagram to be hereditary – joins a hand-shaped James Corden (being the kind of James Corden that bumbles with faux enthusiasm to make The Late Late Show intolerable) and an exiled princess (Anna Faris, whose script is littered with bogus jargon to make the charade seem somewhat plausible) who has somehow set up a new life in a neighbouring “hacking app” that resembles The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie’s Thug Tug in a tedious dawdle out of Textopolis towards self-acceptance that stops off at several product placement segments, featuring Christina Aguilera as a Just Dance instructor and Candy Crush thinking he was one of its sweets, before climaxing with the phone’s teenage owner booking a next-day Genius Bar appointment and ignoring incessant irritation from the device just because mid-restore it spontaneously displayed an expressive yellow blob to send to the girl he liked enough to pay tribute to with his Dropbox password (as the hand had predicted having plucked a discarded email draft of Rihanna lyrics from the bin after tastelessly reworking a slavery-era spiritual to fit its own plight), you probably don’t deserve the medium of film. But here we are. Continue reading “Film review: The Emoji Movie”

Single review: Charli XCX – ‘Boys’

“I’m sorry that I missed the extract / I wish I had a better excuse like I was being properly creative / But I was busy thinking ’bout this song”

Originally published in The Edge

Since Charli XCX last put out a proper single – October’s frankly tedious ‘After The Afterparty,’ which somewhat legitimised luminous teen king Lil Yachty as a mainstream “thing” with its light, puerile production and lyrical hedonism somehow making its way into the top 40 for five weeks – she’s had a rather stunning little run of appearances. Alongside Japanese pair Yasutaka Nakata and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, ‘Crazy Crazy’ set a high bar for pop choruses just two weeks into 2017. After complaining of the arduous nature of releasing a free mixtape as a major label popstar in this modern age, the £4.99 Number 1 Angel more thoroughly realised the jagged vision of 2016’s Vroom Vroom EP with guest turns from Raye and atop half a dozen A. G. Cook-helmed gems. Within a week of that came her role on Mura Masa‘s ‘1 Night,’ which has thus far proved to be one of the tracks from one of the albums of the year. Most recently, teaming up with a then-17-year-old Chicago producer named Whethan on ‘Love Gang’ paired a slick blob of guitar with unashamedly soppy lyrics which delivered accordingly. Continue reading “Single review: Charli XCX – ‘Boys’”

Live review: Tom Misch at Somerset House, London

Misch layers his delicate grooves and the immaculate results of swift beatmaking with a stellar cast of those who helped bring his sound to this stage in the first place.

Originally published in The Edge

If you’re looking to play a show for a few thousand people, London isn’t exactly short on suitable venues – especially on the same weekend that a major festival is under way just a zone away – but none quite compare to the splendour of Somerset House, which has served as another option for around 3,000 since first switching off its fountain to open its once palatial and still resplendent quadrangle to live music in 2001. Like a tasteful boutique version of what is now traditional across town in Hyde Park – think compelling architecture rather than screen-flanking fake trees; simple bars rather than high street staples awkwardly trying not to look like standard food vans – the collection of artists beckoned to headline for a fortnight is as illustrious as it is diverse, this year reaching via Foster The People and Goldfrapp from Norah Jones to Songhoy Blues.

Having turned 22 less than a month before and playing his largest show to date, hometown producer Tom Misch could easily have faltered at the scale of it all, but then again last February he supported Loyle Carner at the 700-capacity Village Underground before headlining the same venue nine months later on a 17-stop tour of the US and Europe. Here, he rose to the occasion with his friends and family in tow for a show as mesmerising as his half-decade portfolio of SoundCloud beats. Continue reading “Live review: Tom Misch at Somerset House, London”

Album review: Mura Masa – Mura Masa

Uniting the sides with an electronic sheen, the Guernsey-born producer strikes an improbable balance between high-octane party nous and heartwrenching displays of soul.

Originally published in The Edge

Two years on from his impeccable breakout Someday Somewhere EP, much has changed for young Alex Crossan. Although his studio is still a speakerless laptop in his bedroom, his CV boasts a reputation as one of the most versatile electronic artists around, a healthy festival pedigree that’s seen him quietly shimmer through performances at Coachella and Glastonbury (and even his local Wild Life), a pair of self-hosted shows on Beats 1 that have acted as a showcase for his Anchor Point imprint, and an enviable phonebook that reaches from A$AP Rocky to Damon Albarn.

On Mura Masa, his first major label full-length, so prominent are these pals that the names of the 10 who feature adorn its cover alongside an image of Crossan at a 30° tilt whilst looking rather glum. Such an image isn’t necessarily most illustrative of what’s inside: 45 minutes of gleeful hedonism on the theme of love brought to life with his crisp, harp-soaked glue. Its production is dense and effervescent right from opener ‘Messy Love’ – one of only two truly solo ventures alongside the minute-long acoustic prairie interlude ‘give me The ground’ – which establishes the impulsive and passionate tone lyrically (“Take me, break me / Use me for your messy love,” he yearns through a liberal slathering of Auto-Tune) and atmospherically. Continue reading “Album review: Mura Masa – Mura Masa”