Charli XCX - CRASH
Charli XCX is my favourite popstar, coming off of a fairly standard set of two albums she began embarking on truly creative and boundary pushing pop music starting around 2016 where she collaborated with the late hyperpop pioneer SOPHIE on her Vroom Vroom EP. Following that were two excellent mixtapes, a great comeback album and a quarantine project released in 2020. Her comeback single for this new album CRASH had me whelmed. It was a good synth-pop track, but luckily the rest of this album has some fantastic treats. A very dancey album that cribs influences from all over the place.
Charli has mockingly labelled this album as her "sell-out era" but even if it's lacking as much weird experimentations or off-kilter collabs as her previous output, she's clearly extremely capable of making excellent pop music that wouldn't sound out of place on the radio. It's not all consistent and some tracks sound indistinct to Charli, also as good as Show Me Love is, sampling it so heavily in a song in 2022 feels a bit creatively bankrupt.
But as exciting as this album often is, the fact that this is Charli's final album on a record deal she signed as a teenager implicates she might be even more free to experiment in the future, perhaps her best music is still yet to come!
Denzel Curry - Melt My Eyez See Your Future
Highly anticipated for me was Denzel Curry's new album, which is ambitious and hugely consistent in quality with his past work, if not on a new level. Denzel's rapping is probably at his best yet here, his lyrics tackling serious topics have vastly improved since his 2017 album TA13OO.
Looking at hip-hop recently there's been a space for a sort of big name to drop something new, and Denzel Curry is filling that gap. He's not chasing trends or doubling down on old ideas, Melt My Eyez See Your Future pushes his music forward in more than just lyrical complexity. The production often feel more jazzy and classically boom-bap inspired, while also having a distinctly 2020's sound. A definite highlight for me is the single Zatoichi which has a fantastic cloudy beat that makes way for drum n bass production with a delirious chorus from slowthai.
In general the guest spots here feel inspired, like T-Pain having a memorable appearance, Denzel clearly giving him the respect as a pioneer for a certain era and sound within hip-hop. Up and coming Florida rapper-producer 454, who I recently discovered his debut project and hugely enjoyed, has a brief appearance as well. Denzel is clearly plugged in and looking to the future of hip-hop. There's a lot on offer here, and I think it's for sure going to remain one of my top top TOP albums of the year!
Drug Church - Hygiene
Genre: Rock, Hardcore
Hygiene is the sophmore album from New York band Drug Church and it marks their most exciting project yet. An EP released last year showed potential for catchy riffs, anthemic vocals and generally wall to wall bangers. Following the breakout success of Turnstile last year, Drug Church seem to operate on a similar approach to making more accessible, but still hugely gratifying hardcore rock music. This is pretty cursory and less ambitious than Turnstile's effort, but a blast and suited well for replays.
Bladee & Ecco2k - Crest
Genre: Dream Pop
Bladee is back with a typically quick turnaround and a surprise released album, this one being a joint album with long-time collaborator and fellow drain gang member Ecco2K. Their in-house drain gang producer whitearmor is on deck for every track here and is still managing to quietly prove himself as one of the best producers working at the moment.
While Bladee's music has often been hip-hop adjacent, his work has been moving more towards a more esoteric, electronic and dream-pop vibe. Here is another extension of that, with a bunch of duets with Ecco2K, a very happy, spiritual album. It sounds like going on a magical journey with your friends.
Vein.fm - This World is Going to Ruin You
When they were formerly just called Vein, Vein.fm released a cult record in 2018 titled Errorzone that mixed metalcore, hardcore and math rock to make for a proper blast of a record. There's a similar enjoyable chaos to their long-awaited follow-up album. It's uncompromising hardcore metal adjacent album that often excels in the detail in amongst the explosive noise. Serves as a great follow-up to Errorzone, providing the same sort of non-stop thrill.
Nigo - I Know NIGO!
Genre: Hip-hop, Compilation
Nigo is primarily a fashion designer, being the man behind streetwear brands BAPE, Human Made and Billionaire Boys Club. He was also the DJ for the Japanese hip-hop group Teriyaki Boyz. Nigo's new album is actually a compilation of various hip-hop artists unheard material, including A$AP Rocky, Lil Uzi Vert, Kid Cudi, Tyler, the Creator, Pharrell Williams and Pusha T among others. It's blockbuster hip-hop.
So what remains here is a grab bag of singles, some being interesting experiments for the artists, others being b-sides or loosies that never made it out to the public until now. Highlights for me are A$AP Rocky strutting his stuff on a minimal piano beat on Arya, a bouncy and fluid collab between Pharrell Williams & Gunna, Lil Uzi Vert on a drill beat and the return of Teriyaki Boyz.
Not sure about the Kid Cudi party track that sounds like it has washed up from 2012 and cleaned up a bit with Travis Scott style autotune and ad-libs. Is this whole album an advert for Nigo and his Human Made brand? Probably, but it's obvious the artists involved all have respect for him (though, having a posthumous Pop Smoke track seems a bit odd - though it's miles and MILES better than the embarrassment that was on Kanye West's DONDA album). Still it's a really good grab-bag of tracks and if you're a fan of at least a few of the artists here then you're sorted.
Machine Gun Kelly - Mainstream Sellout
Machine Gun Kelly is a pro at playing the villain. An uninteresting rapper who had some mild success making pop-rap collabs with singers like Camila Cabello. In the scope of white rappers he was totally disposable, even the slick sleaze of G-Eazy was more compelling. He was rocketed to a new level of infamy after being dissed by his hero, Eminem and returning the favour with a diss track himself. Since then MGK has become central to "pop-punk revival", a bizarre pivot, but one that made for his most enjoyable music with 2020's Tickets to My Downfall. He seemed to fit the mould of a pop-punk frontman, even though a pivot to the bratty genre of pop-punk at 30 years old reeked of him being a tool for a label to start selling pop-punk again.
MGK with his constant headline grabbing antics and high-profile relationship with 'NO. 1 totally hottest babe of the '00s' Megan Fox keep him relevant beyond the music, which is mostly passable pop-punk. We're at a point where people are nostalgic for bands like Blink-182 and Sum 41 and MGK's music is unashamedly ripping that early '00s sound while adding contemporary features, like rap verses from Lil Wayne or Young Thug.
So what about this album? Well if you can stomach the persona and some cringe, it's a pretty standard pop-punk album. Not really many highlights to even pick out like his last album. I'd say support any other genuine pop-punk band. MGK is possibly the biggest label tool out there right now.
Kilo Kish - AMERICAN GURL
Genre: Pop, Alternative R&B
I've heard Kilo Kish featured on quite a few tracks before but haven't checked out her solo stuff until now, with this new album, which is pretty good! Mostly interesting takes on pop music that are catchy and have more unusual leaning production, but still accessible. There's nice collabs as well with R&B king Miguel having a low-key appearence and up and coming Jean Dawson lending his talents to a breakbeat fashioned track.
The variety on offer here makes for an engaging album and it's pretty forward thinking when it comes to envisioning what the not so distant future of pop music might sound like.
dj poolboi - stay just a while longer
Genre: House, Electronic
dj poolboi's second album doesn't entirely sound like his earlier 'lo-fi' house music, instead operating as a grab-bag of various different genres. There's synth-pop, woozy R&B, grime and world music. It even ends with a piano ballad. It's a varied experience but the vibe is consistetly low-key. I find that dj poolboi's talents are best used in the house music genre and it's various crevices, though that one grime song is a banger.
midwxst - better luck next time.
midwxst is part of the new up and coming scene is pop featuring artists like glaive, ericdoa and brakence. Artists who love lower case stage names, short songs and blown out production that balances pop-punk and electronic. This 20 minute project is a pretty good showcase for midwxst and a continued look into the bubbling underground future of pop music that mixes all sorts of tricks from pop-punk, hip-hop, electronic and standard pop music production. There's a feature from brakence, my favourite of this scene currently on a track that sounds fantastic, so I'm left more than happy.
demxntia - goodnight, pt. II
Genre: Emo R&B
From midwxst to demxntia, artists with awkwardly placed x's in their name. Though this artist is a prolific 'sad DIY R&B' songwriter. This is my first project by them and it's pretty uniformly a moody, sad vibe with modern hip-hop inspired production on top of acoustics. I like the classic RPG style of the cover art a lot and there's enough features so that an already breezy listen is made more fun. I liked this quite a lot, though given the output of demxntia I can't tell you if this is just 'another set of songs'. As a starting point, it's got me intrigued for sure!
Fennec - a couple of good days
Genre: House, Dance
The first album I've checked out from Fennec and it's a lot of fun. A house album that has Avalanches style plunderphonics vibes. Very bouncy, funky, pleasant vibes all round. Something I can see myself giving a lot of spins once summer arrives. You can grab the album for $1 or more via BandCamp which I heartily recommend doing!
Nia Archives - Forbidden Feelingz
The UK electronic scene is buzzing with promising with new talent and Nia Archives proves to be a highlight in the current scene with this new EP. As the collage cover art implies, it's scattered with influences though primarily feeling like a mix of UK Jungle and R&B. She's a talented producer and singer, making a set of addictive and varied tracks that run through a bunch of different styles. Breakbeats never went away, but with acts like Nia Archives and Pinkpantheress, it seems they're back in style.
BENEE - Lychee
Sunny, woozy pop music from New Zealand singer-songwriter BENEE. Great voice and a comforting, yet confessional tone of the music on offer with this EP makes it a nice collection of songs. Finishes itself up with a more experimental leaning, almost seven minute long track Make You Sick which has the strongest production and points towards interesting directions BENEE could take in the future.
KayCyy - TW20 50
Genre: Hip-hop, Electronic
Three tracks from the up and coming rapper with exclusive production from prestiged French producer Gesaffelstein. I first discovered KayCyy via Kanye West's DONDA album, which seems to be where this collaborative EP has come from as Gesaffelstein also offered production for some of that album.
This kinda rules though, it's a delightful pairing of KayCyy's melodic, yet delirious sing-rapping and Gesaffelstein's techno production. Really showing something pretty distinct sounding in the current hip-hop scene, like I don't think anyone else is rapping over progressive techno as in the opening track OKAY!
Channel Tres - refresh
An instrumental album from the underground producer Channel Tres. His work is usually accompanied by deadpan talk-rapping, which is entirely absent here to showcase his producing skills first and foremost. It sounds pretty fresh throughout. Well worth a look for a new reasonably low-key electronic release.
Lone - Natural Aerials
A companion EP to Lone's excellent 2021 album Always Inside Your Head which was one of my favourite albums of the last year. Features a few reworks of material from that album which sound similarly blissful and with very precise sound design.
AVOID - COWABUNGA / Split (Kill It)
Two singles from the underrated hardcore rock band AVOID, who had a very good EP released in 2020. The two new singles give me more of what I wanted from them, which is high energy and catchy rock music. So I am pleased :)
NEW YUNG LEAN SINGLE
Yung Lean rules. He has a project called Stardust which follows his 2020 album Starz out in April. Very exciting times we live in. Yung Lean has really come into his own as an artist and fresh sounding stuff still coming out is such a joy. Can't wait for Stardust.
NEW DANCE GAVIN DANCE SINGLE
I'm still not bored of Dance Gavin Dance's jovial take on post-hardcore. This new single features British post-hardcore vocalist of Don Broco, Rob Damiani. It feels like it could've fit on any of their past three Dance Gavin Dance albums, but I like all of those and am not bored of the sound yet, so bring on another one I say!
Also I went to a gig:
I saw JPEGMAFIA Live
It still feels surreal to be back in sold out packed in concerts in a post-COVID world. Seeing the one man show of JPEGMAFIA has been pretty high up on my bucket list of concerts and it didn't disappoint. Even though the toll of touring was evidenced on his voice, he really gave his all and played a great setlist, including many of his hits from his last three albums, the feature on the last BROCKHAMPTON album and a cover of Call Me Maybe as well.
As you can see via my scrappy photos, I was up on the balcony for the gig, and it was crazy seeing the crowd get so hyped. Moshpits for almost every song and for the grand finale Peggy jumped into the crowd to perform - pretty brave to still be doing that with limited security in sold out gigs like this!
There was a great lightshow, good pacing on the setlist and Peggy himself is amazing at working a crowd. Also other than the lights he's still a one man show, switching backing tracks on his laptop. There's a impressive charm to the show, but above all it's a blast.