Music Reviews

A Year Of Music – July

Gemma Cockrell and Amrit Virdi

As 2020 comes to a wrap, Impact has come together to share our reviews of the big albums that were released this year. In this article, we look at albums that were released in July.

July – DMA’s, Bladee and Taylor Swift:

DMA’s – The Glow (Gemma Cockrell):

Australian trio DMA’s are commonly associated with Britpop. Whilst borrowing elements from this genre, alongside influence from Iggy Pop on album opener Never Before and song-writing tropes of Arctic Monkeys, they manage to establish a sound that is very much their own, which they progress to new, adventurous territory on The Glow.

Lead single Silver is a highlight of the tracklist. Lyrically, it sees DMA’s at their most vulnerable – a sensitive, slow-burning track, poignantly depicting feelings of uncertainty over a subtle, acoustic instrumental, opening with delayed, sparse chords, and building up gradually to a euphoric, emotional and infectious chorus. It is the band’s fastest streaming song to date, and deservedly so – it is DMA’s at their best.

The album title serves as a metaphor for love and connection within a relationship, leading to passionate, powerful and introspective lyrics. ‘The Glow’ is something which is difficult to attain – “I don’t know, I’m sick and tired of chasing the glow” lead vocalist Tommy O’Dell declares on the album’s title track.

Life is A Game of Changing is a new rave club banger based around an electronic beat, contrasting entirely to slower, mellow-toned, piano-driven ballads such as Criminals, Learning Alive and Appointment, the latter of which is the most tender, stripped-back song on the entire record, with beautifully layered acoustic and electric guitars.

DMA’s still remain true to what they are renowned for – sing-along, anthemic choruses

Alongside these slower tracks and experimentations, DMA’s still remain true to what they are renowned for – sing-along, anthemic choruses. While they have entirely mastered this upbeat, catchy sound, the moments where they are at their most raw and vulnerable are when The Glow truly shines. Despite complaints about the album being inconsistent, it results in a varied listen which demonstrates the trio’s impressive versatility and ability to experiment with their established sound.

Bladee – 333 (Gemma Cockrell):

Following his April release Exeter, Bladee returns with 333, a project which builds on and further develops the sound of his prior release. At nearly double the length of Exeter, 333 fully executes his melodic, blissful, ethereal and elative new sound, entirely contrasting to the icy industrial rap sound he began his career with. Instead of a dark, ‘sad boy’ aesthetic, he now promotes optimism and exudes positive energy.

“Music was a really good way for me to vent. But now, I feel more responsible, because there’s young people listening to my music. I don’t want to make it sound cool to be depressed or to dwell on these feelings,” he explains of his shift in lyrical content.

333 dabbles in multiple genres, experimenting with hyperpop sounds on track Don’t Worry, which is no surprise, seeing as many hyperpop artists state Bladee as one of the key inspirations and influences to the formation of the genre.

However, it doesn’t drift entirely from his roots, as you can still hear the familiar trap drums and euphoric synths of distinctive producer and long-time collaborator Whitearmor. Valerie and Keys to the City have darker, moody tones, while Wings in Motion is accompanied by a mellow acoustic guitar instrumental.

At nearly double the length of Exeter, 333 fully executes his melodic, blissful, ethereal and elative new sound

However, some of these reflections of his former sound, notably 100s, feel strangely out of place alongside Reality Surf and Noblest Strife, which fully embrace his newfound, upbeat sound.

Ultimately, 333 represents Bladee’s on-going transformation and metamorphosis, whilst simultaneously maintaining his strange, elusive persona. It presents elements of his stylistically darker period which he is gradually emerging from, alongside his newly-established, increasingly bright, blissful and spiritual direction.

Taylor Swift – folklore (Amrit Virdi):

In a surprise summer release, later followed by an unprecedented sister album evermore in December, Taylor Swift made a triumphant return with indie-folk record folklore, which I have to say is my personal favourite album of the year.

folklore sees Swift enter into a magical, character-driven woodland which follows the stories of Betty, James and Augusta as the album serves as an intricately crafted and much-needed form of escapism, especially during the height of the pandemic when it was released. Teaming up with Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, Swift truly showcased the best of her impeccable musicality and song-writing skills, as she went back to her country roots with an acoustic guitar and piano-driven project.

Swift opens the album in the 1 by stating ‘’I’m doing good I’m on some new s***’’, which is clearly true as the American country-pop starlet seems to have found her calling in the industry. With tracks such as the last great american dynasty, the pop-elements reminiscent of the 1989 era don’t go amiss, yet piano driven melodies with stunning sombre lyricism dominate the album, specifically in hoax and mad woman.

Marking her transition into the indie world, a collaboration with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver on exile is a stand-out track as the pair beautifully work with the melodies to create a poetic discourse between two lovers in the midst of a sinking romance. This isn’t the only storyline on the record; track by track, we learn more and more about the tumultuous triangle between James, Betty and Augusta as Swift tells the tale from different perspectives in this perceptive and mythical concept album.

Swift truly showcased the best of her impeccable musicality and song-writing skills, as she went back to her country roots

In the scope of the 16 tracks, a range of issues are flawlessly addressed, from addiction in this is me trying to a longing for a lost youth in seven, my favourite track. epiphany also evokes emotion as Swift addresses her late grandfather, adding a personal touch to the album. With Swift clearly using her talent and creativity to create a folklorian world to be lost in, folklore is definitely a contender to be the album of the year.

Gemma Cockrell and Amrit Virdi

Featured image courtesy of Akshay Chauhan via Unsplash. No changes were made to this image. Image license can be found here

In-article images courtesy of @dmasmusic@dg_bladee and @taylorswift, via Instagram. No changes were made to these images.

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