This used to be a music blog, didn’t it? It still is, kind of. Pop culture. Flick your eyes up to the site name, though. See the wee “+” symbol? Not an homage to Ed Sheeran. It’s because I knew I might veer off on a non-musical tangent every once in a while. It’s been a long while though. Let me just give you a quick update on what I’ve been listening to this year, so far.
In 2015 I have downloaded 25 albums, 2 mixtapes, 4 EPs and a whole load of singles. Most of the stuff I’ve been listening to has skewed heavily hip-hop, by accident or design I’m not sure. There haven’t been many major pop releases this year but by mid-April we had albums from Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, Kid Ink and Tyler, The Creator. Plus that Drake mixtape. Jme’s Integrity> dropped right before I went to Vegas (finally!) though I suppose he’s more grime. Then the A$AP Rocky record hit end of May, but I ended up not playing it much in favour of Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, a collaborative project involving Chance The Rapper. This morning I downloaded Rae Sremmurd because it was a fiver on iTunes, and I also wanna make some proper time for Earl Sweatshirt, which I listened to once on Spotify and never followed up on. Same goes for Bush from Snoop Dogg.
For the most part I enjoyed all the albums I just mentioned. Cherry Bomb for me, hit a little bit harder than To Pimp A Butterfly in terms of beats, vibes and general enjoyment, but there’s no denying Kendrick brought his absolute A game in terms of creating dialogue and provoking thought. Big Sean was less mediocre than usual but I liked the Kanye features better than anything else on Dark Sky Paradise. Kid Ink was poppy and fun, A$AP was kinda disappointing (and not just because of his tacky Rita Ora diss) and I thought the Drake mixtape was trash. Why is everyone riding his dick so hard? He’s corny, and a grade A fuckboy. Majorly recommed Surf by Donnie Trumpet though, not least for the features which include Erykah Badu, Busta Rhymes, Janelle Monae and J. Cole. It’s really bouncy and brassy (like, duh… trumpets?) and gives me Big Boi vibes. Get into it.
At the pop end of the scale, no I still haven’t listened to the Tove Lo album yet. What the hell is taking me so long? I don’t even know. I think I have a bit of a mental block about it. I’m going to get round to it this weekend, hopefully. Everyone says it’s great so I hope it delivers. Thing is, I’m so hung up on the Carly Rae Jepsen album (that isn’t out in the UK yet but if you tweet me nicely, I’ll share it with you) it’s hard to imagine caring about any pop release this year ever again. Even Rebel Heart, bloated mess that it is, which I played quite a lot on release, has lain dormant since I got E•MO•TION in my life.
Before E•MO•TION there was the Brandon Flowers album which was every bit as perfect as everyone said it was, which was a relief because his first solo album was tripe. I also thought I might suddenly be a Florence + The Machine fan, but even though I enjoyed the singles the album was dull and I haven’t listened to it since release day. Same almost goes for the Years & Years record which is utterly soulless, but has some 10/10 singles on it. I’m kind of upset at how clinical and devoid of personality Communion is actually, when I think the band is anything but. Olly is a popstar for the ages – great singer, warm presence, a progressive and outspoken personality with something to say for himself – but it hasn’t translated to the songs at all which are at best derivative and at worse cynically synthesised. I’m still trying with this record but it leaves me feeling pretty empty and emotionless once the high of ‘King’ and ‘Desire’ has subsided.
Probably my favourite album of the year so far, Carly Rae notwithstanding, is American Beauty / American Psycho by Fall Out Boy which is pretty much 10/10 throughout, aside from the weak title track. Listening to AB / AP actually gave way to a whole Fall Out Boy revival for me, and I’ve revisited their entire discography on numerous occasions this year. It’s interesting to see how they’ve progressed to this much more mainstream pop sound, though AB / AP is probably less pop than their comeback album, which is called Save Rock N Roll (somewhat ironically, I guess?) Standout tracks from AB/ AP would be opening song ‘Irresistable’, the ‘Tom’s Diner’ sampling ‘Centuries’, ‘Fourth Of July’, ‘Immortals’ and the absolutely storming ‘Uma Thurman’.
Major disappointments? A$AP, F+TM and Years & Years as mentioned. Drake too, although not really because I don’t care about Drake enough for him to disappoint me. Everyone else’s obsession with him is the real mellow harsher when it comes to Drake. I thought The Veronicas comeback could have been stronger, considering it’s taken them 84 years. Tinashe’s Amethyst mixtape was fine but nothing special, and it’s getting to the point where Tinashe needs to step it up with her music because I can only stan a person’s potential as a popstar for so long before I am forced to move on unfulfilled. Jackie by Ciara was also great but 2013’s self-titled was so much better that I guess it would be a lie to say I didn’t feel a teeny tiny bit let down. (PS. I interviewed Ciara for Noisey recently and you can read that here.) Kacey Musgraves also failed to deliver after an exceptionally intelligent first album; the second is just variations on the “fish-out-of-water, I’m famous now but I’ll always be me” theme and though I’ve tried I just can’t click with it.
As for new stuff, the Smallpools album finally dropped and that was great. I caught them at Rock In Rio on my Vegas trip and they’re such sunny, fun “alt-pop”, you should check out ‘Dreaming‘ at the very least. Shamir’s debut seemed to come and go without much hype or fanfare but it’s a really strong first showing and one of the more interesting pop releases of the year. The Japanese House EP, produced by The 1975, is another interesting release – much more moody and ~vibes~ than Shamir but equally as exciting. LIONBABE continues to threaten something better than just decent, ‘Wonder Woman‘ was better than ‘Jump Hi‘ but there’s still no real moment yet. And I’m liking Halsey a lot. In a new world order of genderqueer, mixed-ethnicity, outsider girl pop Halsey is the first artist who seems to be real and not gimmicky about “otherness”. ‘New Americana‘ is a bop, so hopefully she blows up.
We’re coming into the end of year wind down soon, and still no Swish, still no R8. I’m not even sure what other albums I’m meant to be expecting and anticipating because Kanye and Rihanna are all I can think about. What the hell is taking them so long? Oh, I just remembered Justin Bieber has a 30 day countdown going on for his new single ‘What Do You Mean’, a clip of which made the rounds the other day. It sounds uninspiring. I’m not gagging for this one, y’know? Take your 30 days, Justin. Take 30 more. Keep taking 30 until the end of time. You can keep it, is what I’m saying to you.
Anyway, yeah. I’m having a chill day tomorrow catching up on stuff I haven’t spent a lot of time on and maybe discovering some new stuff so if you have any recommendations for me, please do tweet and let me know innit. In the meantime I will leave you with my top 10 albums and singles of 2015 so far…
1. Carly Rae Jepsen – E•MO•TION
2. Fall Out Boy – American Beauty / American Psycho
3. Tyler, The Creator – Cherry Bomb
4. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
5. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf
6. Madonna – Rebel Heart
7. Brandon Flowers – The Desired Effect
8. Smallpools – LOVETAP!
9. Ciara – Jackie
10. Tove Styrke – Kiddo
1. The Weeknd – ‘Can’t Feel My Face‘
2. Petite Meller – ‘Baby Love‘
3. Kanye West – ‘All Day‘ feat. Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom & Paul McCartney
4. Rihanna, Kanye West & Paul McCartney – ‘FourFiveSeconds‘
5. Demi Lovato – ‘Cool For The Summer‘
6. Anthony Lewis – ‘It’s Not My Fault‘ feat. T.I.
7. Skepta – ‘Shutdown‘
8. Jme – ‘Don’t @ Me‘ feat. Skepta, Shorty & Frisco
9. Foxes – ‘Body Talk‘
10. Rihanna – ‘Bitch Better Have My Money‘