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”

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”

Album review: alt-J – RELAXER

Fancy a concoction of grandiose orchestral beauty, boisterous horns with a fair dose of bite, and assertive commentary on the Radiohead-shaped comings and goings at a sex hotel? alt-J’s third record may be their least coherent but it’s certainly their sharpest.

Originally published in The Edge

On the eve of first seeing alt-J live in a sold-out O2 Arena, the song I played most frequently was ‘Taro,’ the bhangra-flavoured account of the death of war photographer Robert Capa in 1950s Vietnam that closed An Awesome Wave. Of course, it took me a while to realise this was the case – as a band named by Fine Art students after a keyboard shortcut, it’s only natural for things to be a little bit cryptic in the lyrical structure and delivery alike. With RELAXER, a record named after a “cool”-sounding hair product before you fall into the trap of expecting a soothing experience, this formula is very much accentuated: no ‘Intro,’ no fleuron-titled interludes; over its eight tracks, they’re far too busy telling tales of seaside Yorkshire threesomes, stabby pool parties, and ogle-prone Tasmanian devils. Continue reading “Album review: alt-J – RELAXER”

Album review: Bon Iver – 22, A Million

In praise of Justin Vernon’s cryptically-coated latest.

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

Justin Vernon‘s storied process behind 2007’s For Emma, Forever Ago – rambling from reality into a remote crevice of Wisconsin, setting up residence in a cabin in the woods, waving bears away from stew in nothing but his pants, spending three months putting together a gorgous debut album, etc. – is one that has at many points throughout 2016 looked rather appealing. Moreso in a year that has shown a relentless determination to quash all that is comforting and hopeful, his sincerely warm songwriting provides assurance, and 22, A Million strays from his frostbitten products of seclusion by venturing from normalcy towards experimention in every facet imaginable. Continue reading “Album review: Bon Iver – 22, A Million”

Album review: Izzy Bizu – A Moment Of Madness

Although occasionally lacking in both clarity and lyrical depth, its jazzy flares and spritely voice form a thoroughly enjoyable set of tracks.

Originally published in The Edge

There’s something remarkably refreshing about a 22-year-old who is as comfortable orchestrally covering Edith Piaf records from 1957 as she is talking to interviewers about enjoying worm-laced tequila. Izzy Bizu’s sound is a gorgeous homage to that bygone era of soul, with backing tracks built for the roar of a big band with their precise jazzy flickers and sporadic bursts of substantial percussion. Even in the moments that feature utterly indecipherable vocals – whether through dropped syllables on ‘Naïve Soul’ and ‘What Makes You Happy’ or because, like ‘White Tiger,’ the sounds she’s making are nothing more than vague attempts at actual sentences – the package feels well-rounded and zesty. Continue reading “Album review: Izzy Bizu – A Moment Of Madness”

Album review: DJ Snake – Encore

A record in which personal signatures become tedious gimmicks and self-development turns regressive and unconfined, DJ Snake’s full-length debut is a profusely faulted conundrum.

Originally published in The Edge

When ‘Middle’ trickled out of relatively nowhere last October, I was confident that I’d uncovered a little gem. To an extent, that became true: six months later, it received a gold certification from the BPI after its optimism, particularly from Mancunian singer Bipolar Sunshine, and then-fresh stretched vocal snippets in the break came together to create a very solid pop song that happened to be DJ Snake’s first proper solo single. Though gathering acclaim since pitching in with ‘Government Hooker’ on Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, Paris-born William Grigahcine’s rise began properly with ‘Turn Down For What,’ an overwhelmingly brash party record with Lil Jon that is the mournful soundtrack to many a weekend hangover. Following work both with and around the likes of AlunaGeorge and Major Lazer, ‘Middle’ hinted at a more mature, well-realised output with a clear pop touch and listenability. Instead, Encore is a chaotic jumble of castoffs each found slipping into a trap of mediocrity. Continue reading “Album review: DJ Snake – Encore”

Album review: HONNE – Warm On A Cold Night

A flowing and cohesive set of soulful electronica gleaming with romance, Warm On A Cold Night may bear few unique moments though its dedicated crooning through the narrative provides a perfect soundtrack for the nocturnal and wistful.

Originally published in The Edge

“Okay, it’s 3:17am… If you don’t got a lover, just close your eyes and listen to HONNE.” This instruction, courtesy of a sultry croak from a radio host at the opening of HONNE’s debut album, could not be any more apt. At this point of the evening, timed to experience the album in the sort of woozy, tender emotional state it appears to command, keeping my eyes open is enough of a chore, and the smooth organ-like instrumentation of title track ‘Warm On A Cold Night’ forms such a feathery pillow that is close to being a lullaby. “I want to take you to paradise / In a 1950s Merc,” sings Andy Clutterbuck, HONNE’s bearded half. Expecting anything other than syrupy romantic adventures from Warm On A Cold Night would have been foolish. Enamoured with the tender embrace, I go wherever he asks me. Continue reading “Album review: HONNE – Warm On A Cold Night”