Best albums of 2016: 40 to 31

The countdown continues with shining albums from superstars including Drake and Beyoncé, sublime first-time releases from Ray Blk and Izzy Bizu, and a bold political album from independent musician, Anohni.

40. Kendrick Lamar – Untitled Unmastered
39. Ray Blk – Durt
38. Lady Wray – Queen Alone
37. Drake – Views
36. Wild Belle – Dreamland
35. Beyoncé – Lemonade
34. Anohni – Hopelessness
33. Izzy Bizu – A Moment of Madness
32. Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade
31. Thao & the Get Down Stay Down – A Man Alive
Continue reading

Frank Ocean – Blonde review

Frank Ocean - Blonde promo art 1 (1200x675)The curse of the difficult-second-album hangs over Frank Ocean’s Blonde like an unforgiving spectre. As if following up his critically acclaimed debut, Channel Orange, wasn’t hard enough already: there was the endless rumours, the delays and the never-ending storm of desire and derision on social media. No wonder Ocean prefers to keep himself to himself these days.

For better and worse, Ocean’s second album is the product of personal struggle under the weight of intense expectation. It doesn’t reach the dizzying perfection of his 2012 debut, but it is a profound listen nonetheless. Continue reading

Beyoncé – Lemonade review

Beyonce - Lemonade promo 01 (940x469)Away from the visual accompaniments and release hype, Beyoncé Knowles’s sixth album, Lemonade, represents a tipping pointing for the megastar: this isn’t pop music for clubbers and beach dwellers; its pop music coloured with the politics of the day for socially conscientious clubbers and beach dwellers. This is about protest and power, and Beyoncé wants you to know it’s personal. Continue reading

Jam of the Week: Beyoncé – Formation

Beyonce - Formation_music video still 01 (951x535)So the internet’s been steaming about Beyonce’s new song ‘Formation’, and its accompanying music video this week.

This “black consciousness” anthem is seemingly a direct response to the racial tension that has flared monstrously across the United States in the last two years. Continue reading

Singer-songwriter: the label of authenticity that’s lost all meaning

Jake Bugg, Brussels, Apr 30, 2012, by Kmeron / Vincent Philbert, 01 (2048x2394)What goes through your head when you hear the term: singer-songwriter? Is your mind filled with images of ginger-haired Ed Sheeran, innocent Nina Nesbitt and boyish-looking George Ezra? Or perhaps passionate Laura Marling, the watchful Bob Dylan or a smiling Carole King?

All of these musicians are frequently described as singer-songwriters. But the degree to which they are responsible for the creation of their songs – in other words, songwriting – is where the real distinction lies. Continue reading

Best albums of 2014: 30 to 21

AOTY 2014 30-21 college Beyonce, Nick Waterhouse, Ratking, ElbowDay three of my 2014 round-up features albums for the midnight hour, rare grooves galore and three degrees of hip hop excellence.

30. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata
29. Allah-Las – Worship the Sun
28. Sam Smith – In the Lonely Hour
27. Elbow – The Take Off and Landing of Everything
26. Nick Waterhouse – Holly
25. Ratking – So It Goes
24. BadBadNotGood – III
23. Beyoncé – Beyoncé
22. Nick Mulvey – First Mind
21. People Under the Stairs – 12 Step Program Continue reading