Jam of the Week: Sharon Van Etten – Just Like Blood

Sharon Van Etten, press photo, 2015, 01 (770x433)Sharon Van Etten has a voice that stops you in your tracks and holds there, leaving you staring somewhere into the middle distance, as her words float around your head. This Brooklyn-born, singer-songwriter so far has four studio albums to her name – her latest, Are We There, was released just last year. But despite a number of recommendations, Van Etten’s music is not yet in my music library. I know: what have I been doing to myself, right? Plenty of time to change that, thankfully, and what better place to start than her new EP, entitled I Don’t Want to Let You Down? Continue reading

Hip hop, misogyny and the media: why ASAP Rocky’s diss is damaging much more than Rita Ora’s self-esteem

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ASAP Rocky, Rita Ora collage, BS, FG, 2015, AL (1080x608)We’ve been here before: egoistical, millionaire rapper insults famous female he had a fling with in “gross misogynistic” song lyrics that have “sparked outrage”. But that’s why you’re reading this, isn’t it? Because hip hop’s ASAP Rocky* has called UK pop singer, Rita Ora, a “bitch”, and much worse, in a song from his newly released album, At Long Last ASAP.

Right now, you might be thinking: “big deal, hip hop artists do this all the time”. Or, perhaps: “ha ha ha, the bitch deserved it”. I’m no fan of Rita Ora, but, as well as being an unnecessary knock to the singer’s self-esteem, Rocky’s diss, in ‘Better Things’, adds fuel to the already-strong belief that hip hop is, and should be, solely about narcissism, hatred and misogyny.

Well, here’s the thing: hip hop’s got 99 problems, and “bitch” is just one. Continue reading

Moments We Remember: Daryl Baxter on Tomb Raider II

Chronicling stories of how gaming has changed us – one moment at a timeTomb Raider II (PC), Venice, Bartoli, 016 (900x506_Title: Tomb Raider II (Eidos, 1997)
Format: PC, PS1
Spoilers: mild, gameplay-related

Daryl Baxter looks back on one of the defining video game series of the 1990s: Tomb Raider. The second game in this world-conquering, British-designed game series was renowned for gymnastics, pistol posing and giving that nosey butler a right bruising. It was, and perhaps still is, Ms Croft’s best-loved adventure. Continue reading

Choice Cuts: Gorillaz – Demon Days

Parlophone Records, 2005Gorillaz - Demon Days artwork, wallpaper edit (1024x576)A gimmick. That’s what they put Gorillaz’ success down to. Despite everything that had been achieved by this unusual musical concoction in the 18 months since the launch of their 2001 debut album, detractors still labelled them a here today, gone tomorrow band. But little did they know that the virtual band, created by musician, Damon Albarn, and cartoonist, Jamie Hewlett, would front what would later be acknowledged as one of the most influential and progressive records of the noughties: Demon Days. Continue reading

Jam of the Week: Leisure – Flight

Leisure - Falling EP edit (842x474)Leisure are an inconspicuous electro-pop four-piece from east London. They’ve been making music since 2012, but, until last week, had only released one song: the sumptuously chilled ‘Tourist’ in May 2013. Still, this was plenty to whet appetites. Band members Beth Horak-Hallett, Jon Mason, Anya Pearson and Nick Taylor generate a heady blend of pop reminiscent of AlunaGeorge and Everything Everything. Continue reading

Andreya Triana – Giants review

Andreya Triana, Giants press photo, 01 (800x450)The debut album from soul-stirring London songstress, Andreya Triana, was a beautiful encouragement to explore the forgotten streets of your town, if a little too solemn in places to appeal to a mainstream infatuated with the Adeles and Emeli Sandés of the world. By contrast, Giants is a luminous, pictorial, thoroughly uplifting journey, and it deserves your fullest attention. Continue reading

Moments We Remember: Madtyger on Spyro the Dragon

Chronicling stories of how gaming has changed us – one moment at a timeSpyro the Dragon, 01 (1024x576)Title: Spyro the Dragon (Sony / Universal Interactive, 1998)
Format: PS1

Madtyger shares her take on the titular purple dragon that opened her eyes to the wonders of video game stories. Continue reading

Choice Cuts: Millie Jackson – Still Caught Up

Spring Records, 1975Millie Jackson - Still Caught Up (1280x720)

Millie Jackson will make you blush. We’re used to the idea of Marvin Gaye, Ike Turner or Bobby Womack hollering passionately about how much they’re yearning to get on down with their respective ladies. But when it comes to soul sisters, mainstream radio, and society in general, seems far less tolerant of the women of this era expressing their experience of love and desire in an equally candid manner, lest it shatter their demure professional persona. Coming from a young black woman, Jackson’s raunchy soul music – along with kindred spirit, Betty Davis – almost certainly broke sex and relationship taboos in music during the 70s, and remains an empowering step for female artists*. Continue reading