What feels like an eternity ago, when COVID-19 was a distant viral illness beginning to spread throughout Asia, when Harry and Meghan’s decision to step down from royal duties ‘split the nation’, when we were all left realing from the heartbraking scenes of the Australian bushfires, before many other tragic events, including the death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter; new music was released, which was a brief respite from the tsunami of bad news and conflicts brought in with the start of a new decade, 2020. Whilst it’s not hard to understate that there are more important things in life than music, music can provide an escape from reality, and provide an outlet to release negative emotions, as well as provide joy and something to look forward to, especially in times such as these. Little did we know, that January was just the start of things to come, and these albums are fresh from the context of now, providing a brief respite as they did then, and now.
Here’s a look back at some of my favourite albums released in January:
Poppy – I Disagree
From the start of opening track ‘Concrete’, Poppy’s wide-ranging styles foreshadow what’s to come. An air siren rings out, and the song launches into pop soaring vocals, bouncing between crunching guitars and electronica, changing tempo and styles throughout. The album continues in this vein, with twists and turns adeptly showing the multi-facted nature of the LA based artist. Highlights being title track ‘I Disagree’, ‘BLOODMONEY’ and ‘Don’t Go Outside’.
Mac Miller – Circles
Circles is the first posthumous album from Mac Miller, who tragically died from an accidental overdose on the 7th of September 2018. Posthumous releases can often be a bit hit-and-miss, but this album is definitely a hit, and feels like a natural transition from his previous album ‘Swimming’. Miller had worked closely on many of the components of each of song with composer-producer Jon Brion, who was commited to finishing the album after Millers untimely passing. Brion has masterfully pieced together an album that does justice to the Pittsburgh rappers elevation as an artist, a culmination of a career he spent improving. These are Millers final thoughts, and a fitting epilouge. Rest In Piece, Mac Miller!
Each track was accompanied by a set set of visuals to compliment the song. Watch the video for ‘Good News’ below, and check out the rest here.
Mura Masa – R.Y.C.
Named after Japanese sword-smith Muramasa Sengo, the Guernsey-born musician rose into the public limelight with a string of hits on Soundcloud, which led to radio plays, and being named on the BBC Sound Of 2016 list. Since then, he has collaborated with the likes of A$AP Rocky, Desiigner and Charli XCX, developing on his early sounds of glitchy electronica, exotic soundscapes and heartbreaking lyricism. R.Y.C. (Raw Youth Collage) is his second album, and plays on the bitersweet nature of nostalgia through fuzzy electro-pop mixed with elements of indie and Britpop; it’s a change of direction from his previous release, which was focused more on bigger sounds and UK club beats. Though this album is more subtle, it still has big collaborations from slowthai and Wolf Alice, but with softer sounds and a less-is-more approach, playing on the adolesence and loneliness of a young person growing up in 2020.
J Hus – Big Conspiracy
After the success of his debut album ‘Common Sense’, elevating the British rappers career to global stardom, J Hus returned with ‘Big Conspiracy’, an introspective and career-defining second album. After spending a few months in jail in-between the two releases, the album still has a smooth and playful feel to it, but with that added hardened wisdom and pain that comes with a stretch behind bars. The ability of Hus to effortlessly switch between genres- hip-hop, dancehall, Afrobeat, R&B- is one of the reasons for his success. He has the skill to bounce from mainstream to hard-hitting, remaining gritty with the voice of his roots, making his second release easy on the ear, but with sharp undertones.
Dune Rats – Hurry Up and Wait
The third album from Australian band Dune Rats is a delightful mix of power chords, angsty lyrics and catchy choruses, it’s unapologetically pop-punk- but done with a slight wink, and a tongue wedged firmly in the cheek. The band know what they are all about, a bunch of friends partying, drinking and having fun, but don’t let that fool you, behind the allure are the skills to write incredibly good music, and on ‘Hurry Up and Wait’ they prove that once again. Even whilst tackling tough issues, such as our culture of excess and over-indulgence on ‘Crazy’, the bands effortless grooves keep the album fun and action-packed throughtout.
Thank you for reading.