Skrillex - Quest For Fire
Skrillex returns with a bombastic album filled with an impeccably produced and collaboration heavy tour of modern dance music. Featuring floor fillers that have a sound to die for and varied detours into various genres. Skrillex could've gone for a brostep revival nostalgia trip but this reboot is suited for modern festivals and features more than a few absolute monster tracks.
It's an absolute blast and exactly what we'd want from Skrillex since his retreat into the fringes of pop music since his early 2010's dominance. Highlights are the bass wizardry on show on Tears, short and sweet banger RATATA featuring Missy Elliot and Mr. Oizo, Rumble with Fred again.. and Flowdan has all the makings of a classic and Flowdan's second appearance on the album with Hydrate is similarly tough stuff.
Ending the record with the empathic Still Here (With The Ones That I Came With) featuring EDM veteran Porter Robinson, calling back to his early work like Language but with modern twists is another celebratory highlight. Skrillex is back and makes a strong case for him to return to being a household name.
Skrillex - Don't Get Too Close
Genre: Electronic, Pop
Oh you thought that was enough Skrillex for one month? NO! Don't Get Too Close features more rap / pop leaning tracks as well as some strange experiments. It's less consistent that Quest for Fire but still has plenty of goodies. Can hardly complain given the amount of tracks on offer across the two albums.
Here a lot of the best stuff is when Skrillex gets weird, inviting my favourite Swedish oddballs Yung Lean and Bladee for a couple tracks is exciting stuff, bringing in Anthony Green of the post-hardcore band Circa Survive for a late-night emo banger is crazy stuff, and while not quite as effective as some of the other oddball combos, pairing cloud rap crooner Corbin with drill king Chief Keef is certainly unexpected, especially when the song is a odd tropical pop song. Trippie Redd and PinkPatheress pairing up is a great highlight though!
It's less consistent and features some tracks that fall flat or aim for emo aspirations that don't quite fit in with the more fun focused pop leaning tracks. But it's cool that Skrillex has rebranded himself in such a confident fashion after remaining behind the scenes for so long.
Caroline Polachek - Desire, I Want To Turn Into You
The lead single to Caroline Polachek's new album came out in 2021, here we are in 2023 and after many scattered singled the full experience is here and somehow, it does live up to such a preposterously long rollout. Her debut was exciting, with great production from PC music veteran Danny L Harle and wonderful lyrics and vocals from Caroline.
But this is just an absolute step up, putting her in the upper echelon of mature pop music. The production is sublime, the lyrics are heartfelt and often filled with yearning but not still without having a fun cheeky side to themselves. It's a sort of pop album that's not often achieved in its balance between smartly picked mainstream, indie and entirely new ideas, making something that feels special and exciting, even in our current poptimist world that we live in.
Gorillaz - Cracker Island
Genre: Indie Pop
Damon Albarn's cartoon band marches on with their seventh album. There was a time when their 2000-2010 run of three great albums cemented the band as an icon of the '00s, but their work extended past that point has been a mixed bag. Their collaborative focused Song Machine proved to be a move into the right direction after a duo of uninspired releases, and now we're returning with another new album.
With each release they seem to respond to criticism of the last, though there wasn't really much to complain about the last record aside from maybe more focus. Here there's a loose Hollywood / LA cult theme around the songs but it's not substantial, the music is mostly sunny, lightly psychedelic indie pop. There's some big name collaborators from Beck to Bad Bunny and generally the record is pleasant but the days of Gorillaz releases being landmark albums of the calendar year are far behind us really. Still, an album that you're unlikely to go wrong with if you're a fan.
Paramore - This Is Why
Genre: Rock, Pop
Paramore return after two Hayley WIlliams solo albums and their last release as a group coming in 2017 with the synthpop release After Laughter which despite the change in style, ended up probably their strongest or at least most consistent body of work.
Surprisingly, despite the huge hook of the lead single and title track, the rest of the album hones in on the sort of more subtle post-punk riffs. Does this make Paramore post-pop-punk? Possibly. More pointed lyrics with some political leanings and more outward looking viewpoints than Hayley WIlliams's typical inward songwriting makes this feel fresh for Paramore and it's still filled with catchy tunes and shows maturity for the band, after she had previously shown great maturity herself on her two solo records released in the meantime between this LP and After Laughter.
Kelela - Raven
Genre: R&B, Electronic
While not featuring as much show-stopping R&B 'hits' as her previous 2017 debut album, the quieter ambient club and deconstructed vision of R&B on display with Kelela's long-awaited follow-up is more subdued and rewarding to listen to as a full album experience. The production is sublime, Kelela's voice is fantastic and the album is sexy, empowering and alternates between moody and euphoric. Definitely a grower.
Jonatan Leandoer96 - Sugar World
Genre: Indie Rock / Indie Pop
Jonatan Leandoer Håstad aka Yung Lean aka Jonatan Leandoer96 is a prolific artist, releasing oddball hip-hop since he was 16 years old. This collaboration produced alongside Frederik Valentin is a typically oddball but also incredibly sincere indie rock / pop side-project that's a great length and as earnest as it is kinda goofy. Sometimes it sounds like a karaoke session on acid or stumbling into a bar and hearing the most uncanny set of rock/pop songs. It's a fun little escapade for sure.
Fucked Up - One Day
Anthemic punk rock from the long-running band Fucked Up returns in an assured and consistent fashion this year. Their previous releases had been skewing towards more ambitious, conceptual or sketch-like, so this is a fairly concise 40 minute affair with big tracks that are loud and packed with character. Affirmative lyrics about love and life, it's exciting and sounds excellent. I'll be going to see the band perform the record live soon and I'll be excited to see the band live given they're such veterans of the scene.
Flume - Things Don't Always Go The Way You Plan
Flume's quietly released an odds and ends collection that's very strong despite its 'work in progress' track titles and songs labelled as being abandoned from across 2012 to 2021. Obviously the flow from track to track is nowhere near as thought out as his proper releases, but for fans of Flume this is an exciting blessing. Featuring some interesting collabs with Injury Reserve and Panda Bear as well as some of his more experimentally leaning stuff compared to his work on his 2022 album Palaces which already didn't shy away from going a bit crazy with the sound palette.
Channel Tres - Real Cultural Shit
Genre: Electronic, House
Channel Tres has been one of the most exciting voices in house music for a while now, his cold talk-rap delivery over bouncy beats made his stuff stick out and offer a different perspective and style compared to other contemporary electronic and especially house producers. This is probably his most accessible and consistent body of work yt, sublime 5 track EP of uplifting, very danceable house.
Crushed - extra life
Genre: Alt Rock, Shoegaze
'90s worship is in abundance on this debut EP from Crushed who mix alt rock, shoegaze, trip-hop and all sorts together for an exciting introduction. It's blissfully nostalgic but with an appreciated edge, it's a substantial EP running at 26 minutes but still leaves room to see that a full album from this duo could be something really special!
Two Shell - lil spirits
A new EP from London based electronic duo Two Shell is here, with a bubbly and creative set of songs making use of vocaloid talk-singing. They made one of my favourite EP's of last year and this one is also great! Really satisfying to listening to, it sounds amazing and is filled with quirks. Feels almost hyperpop adjacent at times but with its sights set on an oddball club style of dance music. Still sounds fresh and has a great bounce.
New PinkPatheress and Ice Spice Single
Somehow I missed a new 3 track PinkPantheress EP that landed late last year that contained some of her strongest work yet, one of which was Boy's a Liar which has now spawned an even more buzzworthy remix with the extremely of the moment New York based rapper Ice Spice. It's catchy, not too short, not to long and the chemistry / contrast between PinkPantheress's soft singing and Ice Spice's drill inspired delivery, but yet culminating in a heartfelt sentiment make this a surefire hit beyond its expected wildfire TikTok coverage.