Exams have rendered us out of action for a good month or so, but that time has now (finally) come to an end (until May). Wonder no more, Impact Music are back with a bang! To kick things off, here’s our round-up of the most popular and prolific albums of January 2017.
Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone
In many ways, Loyle Carner’s honesty makes him the antithesis of the stereotypical rapper; he discusses financial difficulty, self-doubt, rejecting drugs and not being interested in casual sex. There are certainly no diss tracks. Family is a recurring theme throughout, as he paints a vivid picture of a close relationship with an imaginary little sister on ‘Florence’, his mum is mentioned various times throughout the album, and we even hear her speak on two tracks. As the world becomes increasingly divided, hearing Loyle Carner praise his loved ones is incredibly refreshing. Can you imagine Rick Ross talking about enjoying living with his mum?
This sense of family extends to close friend Rebel Kleff being chosen for some fantastic guest verses, rather than bringing in a more high-profile name. These verses fit in well next to Loyle Carner’s own focussed, precise, yet emotional delivery of his rhyme-packed lyrics. The instrumentals are also a good fit, being textured (a harp even pops up once) and well-produced without detracting from the intimacy and immediacy of the words. The only departure from personal lyrics is during the upbeat banger ‘No CD’, which is a celebration of music itself.
Wiley – Godfather
This album is yet another solid Grime project. This sees one of the founders of the genre hitting hard with an unapologetically grimey LP. There’s no compromise, no attempt at making Ibiza bangers, just straight, 2-finger skanking, head bopping, punchy skippy flow-filled, unadulterated grime. One of my favourite things about this project is the way that it’s mixed, Wiley has found a way of capturing the low-fi unprofessional sound of early grime and keep its rawness while cleaning it up sonically. My favourite song on the album has to be ‘Bang’, simply for Ghetts’ unbelievably beastly chorus.
Deaf Havana – All These Countless Nights
When 2013’s Old Souls was released, this particular reviewer placed Deaf Havana in one of their favourite bands. In the proceeding four years, it is clear the boys from King’s Lynn have had a tough time of it, with frontman James Veck-Gilodi struggling with alcohol problems, and the band nearly folding in the face of mounting debt.
What a relief it is, then, for them to return with an album which really highlights exactly what made them such good listening. ATCN is all heart, with each song well fronted by Gilodi’s reflective, heartfelt tones, suggesting a brighter future for both himself and the band.
Album opener ‘Ashes to Ashes’ starts with acoustic guitar, before bursting into life with the trademark Veck-Gilodi roar in the chorus, both familiar and fresh. ‘Trigger’ is a particular favourite, with the chorus of ‘I held the gun but you pulled the trigger and we watched it all go’ sticking in your head after just a few listens.
‘Happiness’ and ‘Pretty Low’ in particular fuse power and reflection too, with Veck-Gilodi addressing the problems of the past, reaching the power that made songs like ‘Anemophobia’ and ‘Times Change…’ on Fools and Worthless Liars great. A clear progression from then can be heard, however. Deaf Havana are well and truly back, and here’s to them.
Migos – Culture
You can say what you want about Migos, but I bet you don’t have video evidence of Donald Glover calling your song the best song of all time while collecting a Golden Globe. A lot of people counted Migos out after their buzz died down following their hit single ‘Fight Night’ that peaked at 69 in the Billboard 100. However, partly thanks to the use of their single ‘Bad and Boujee’ in various vines and memes, they shot right back to the forefront of hip hop and this project definitely represents the culture.
If you’re looking for Kendrick Lamar levels of lyrical ability in this project you probably don’t know that much about hip hop. However in terms of flows, ad libs, banging beats and general enjoyability this project is definitely my favourite drop of this month.
You Me at Six – Night People
You Me At Six made their comeback this January with Night People, after three years without releasing an album. The album starts with single ‘Night People’; your generic, average, over-produced, lazily written alternative rock track. It follows with ‘Plus One’, a song which lacks depth lyrically, nonetheless still offers beautiful raw vocals from Josh Franceschi, electrifying bass riffs, a catchy guitar solo after the chorus, overall resulting in a heavier, upbeat, arena-ready track.
‘Heavy Soul’ is generic, but nonetheless it’s quite an exciting song, very effective in the way the drums built up anticipation from the pre-chorus until reaching the chorus. Once again, YMAS deliver a poor lyrics, although it still is a catchy track. There are forgettable moments on the LP, as in ‘Make Your Move’ (the Limp Bizkit vibe really doesn’t work for them), and ‘Can’t Hold Back’ (was it really necessary to repeat, during the bridge, ‘Nobody Wants to Be Alone’ eight whole times?)
‘Take on the World’ is a beautiful, well produced rock ballad, resembling their previous work. This emotional track really stands out in the album; it has a beautiful melody and it’s Josh’s best vocal performance in the album. ‘Brand New’ is an upbeat, catchy, groovy, happier song, about “not letting your past dictate your future”. The drums drive this song really well, and overall results in a great tune.
Overall, Night People at times sounds generic, forgettable and many times lack meaningful lyrics. Still it’s catchy, groovy and has great vocals.
The xx – I See You
I’m a regular listener of the band’s first two records to this day, so the arrival of I See You was long awaited. Though unmistakably distinctive of The xx, in many ways I See You is a departure from their sound and this unexpectedness makes for a very interesting listen.
There’s still the space, the introspective lyrics and the resounding basslines. But this time it’s warmer: there are more samples, more rhythm and more joy. This new vibe is most evident in the tracks ‘Dangerous’ and ‘Say Something Loving’.
The album works well as a cohesive whole, but in my opinion there are less stand-out tracks. My borderline ambivalence towards the record may be disappointment, or I might just not get it. Band member Jamie xx’s debut album (2015’s In Colour) was an absolute triumph and whilst it is clear that the craftsmanship that Jamie honed in the creation of his debut album has influenced the creation of I See You, it falls short of the dizzying heights reached by In Colour.
The first single, ‘On Hold’ is a cacophony of synths, disco and contains an inspired Hall & Oates sample that loops seamlessly throughout. It’s got a euro feel to it and I can imagine it being even more euphoric live. Madley Croft and Sim’s pace and expression of lyrics has become even more striking – there’s a certain deliberation in the delivery of each syllable that is pleasant to listen to.
I See You is a polished and convincing return to form from a band which has torn up the blueprint of their first two records; such adventurousness should be commended even if it did leave me dissatisfied.
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