Continuing to look back at some of my favourite albums released earlier this year, this time I’ll take a look at the month of February. A month where everything seemed normal, it was the calm before the storm, as the full impact of COVID-19 lurked around the corner. Donald Trump was being impeached, Parasite won Best Picture at the Oscars, Storm Denis hit the UK, and the world was still in self-destruct mode. But alas, there was new music. This month saw the return of The Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne, Tame Impala coming back after five years, and a blisttering second album from Liverpudlian band Loathe, not to mention new albums from The Amity Affliction, Grimes, Green Day, and King Krule, just to name a few.
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.
The current situation with COVID-19 has left the world in lockdown, with venues closed and tours cancelled or postponed, a lot of artists have been forced to find new and innovative ways to stay connected wth their fans, such as live streaming performances from their home, going back through the archives and releasing footage of previous shows, or hosting Q&A’s and listening parties. Like many, I’ve had the extra time on my hands to watch a lot of these performances, and found it interesting to see the various ways in which bands and artists are approaching these difficult times.
At just 20 years old, Dave has established himself as one of the UK’s finest talents. His debut album ‘PSYCHODRAMA’ has arrived too much anticipation, a culmination of his succesful EP’s ‘Six Paths’ and ‘Game Over’, a co-sign from Drake, who remixed his track ‘Wanna Know’, and an Ivor Novello Award for his single ‘Question Time‘. It’s been a steady trajectory to this point, and one that the London-born artist has seemed to take in his stride. Every collaboration, move and performance, perfectly timed, fluttering with mainstream attention whilst keeping his steely lyricism and feet firmly grounded. He hasn’t forgotten his childhood growing up in estates, his friends who have been and gone, the tales of sorrow and life pitfalls, Dave raps about it all. An unflinching look into his life and the people in it, society and politics, ‘PSYCHODRAMA’ is a great album, and just the beginning for this extremely talented artist.
Little Simz continues to show her enormous talent on her third full-length album ‘GREY Area’. The diverse subject matters, musical styles and the fantastic tempo of the album, switching from the ferocious ‘Venom’ – a full-throttle attack on how women are treated in a male dominated hip-hop scene, over a breathtaking trip-hop beat, to the beautiful and subtle sounds of ‘Pressure’, which is a politically motivated track on recent events in London, and life in an inner-city. It’s an album that is perfectly timed too, at 35 minutes it allows for the topics to be unravelled and the talents of Simz to bear fruit, but without the pace ever feeling like it’s slowing down or reaching a lull. Like a perfectly timed jab to the face, ‘GREY Area’ is an album that demands your attention, in a world where that is hard to attain.
Kanye West & Kid Cudi – Kids See Ghosts
Whatever your opinion of Kanye West is, you can’t deny that he has made some great music. The enigmatic figure, love him or hate him, loathe his manipulation of the media and outspoken personality, his relationship with Kim Kardashian, he’s an artist who has consistently released good music, whilst pushing boundaries and often changing perspectives. On ‘Kids See Ghosts’ he is joined by long-term collaborator Kid Cudi, who like Kanye is returning to music after battling depression.
Escapism is an important part of life. Whether that comes from sport, film, art or something else, the escape from the daily rigmarole of work and routine can often be the release that we need. Nothing embodies that notion of escaping the reality more than psychedelic rock, the captivating imagery, and the wandering larger than life sounds, the grandiose vocals and lyrics, it’s a genre bursting with imagination and other-worldliness.
A little over two years ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Rag’n’Bone Man at The Joiners in Southampton. He was touring his latest EP, ‘Disfigured’, and was preparing for another sold out show.
As I walked to the venue I remember being very nervous, it was my first ever face-to-face interview and I was unsure what to expect. The interview time was arranged a few hours before the opening of the doors, so my first task was to figure out how to get in… After a few trial and errors I found a fire escape round the back and to the side, this was my opening. Rory and his team were in a meeting, discussing various subjects about the night ahead. After an awkward hello and a brief explanation of what the hell I was doing there, it was established that an interview had been scheduled… Rory abruptly came over with a beaming smile and introduced himself. All the nerves and built up tension that I had been feeling slowly eased away, as we entered into deep conversations about his roots in the hip-hop scene in Brighton with Rum Committee, attending open mics at Slipjam B and forming friendships with local MCs and DJs. Speaking fondly of his time in Brighton, he explained how he quickly became embedded in the hip-hop community.
Faze Miyake steps into the spotlight on his self-titled debut album, bringing everything we love about his weekly Rinse FM shows and previous productions into one beautifully crafted body of work. Its woozy bass driven style of beats, twisting and turning from dubstep to grime, make for a chilling and sharp listen. Winter is coming and Faze Miyake will be your soundtrack.
Little Simz is one of the few rappers in the UK who currently could handle the beat on opener ‘The Nest’, its switch up in styles and wonky beat patterns displays Faze Miyake at his very best. Little Simz moves and adapts to the beat, as she impeccably varies her boisterous flow, boasting and flaunting her highly impressive rapping abilities. When second track ‘Burciaga’ kicks in with an equal amount of swirling body shuddering bass lines it’s clear a journey will commence. ‘Ice Cold’ and ‘Below Me’ show the versatility that Miyake offers; on the one hand you’ve got the frosty vocals of Inga Copeland layered over a truly chilling instrumental on ‘Ice Cold’, and then you’ve got the frenetic trap inspired ‘Below Me’, with Chicago rapper Sasha Go Hard featuring on the track. Instrumental song ‘Ocean Drive’ is placed in between the two contrasting styles and provides the perfect transition between the two.