Lyrical Sample // Lyrical Strally

Reviewed: 07/07/2020

Rating: 7.5 // 10

Genres: Grime, UK Hip-Hop, Alt. R&B

Released: 04/07/2020

Lyrical Strally proves that he has the ability to stick it out alone on Lyrical Sample, a freshened version of grime that entertains throughout.

You might have heard of Lyrical Strally before – probably through his involvement in the group YGG, who featured on AJ Tracey‘s breakthrough project and have put out a smattering of singles and projects over the years.

Even within the trio with Saint P and PK, the MC earnt a reputation as a direct, witty rapper.

And all over this mixtape we’re treated to some hard-hitting bars and funny quips.

The opener Hold It Down is a great example of this, serving as a strong introduction to Strally’s sound. There’s these echoing voice effects that compound the angry, aggressive energy. I’m a big fan of the old-school instrumental track, and overall this is a very strong opener.

What They Say features a nice, strong chorus that the song is built around. The percussion of the beat is a lot more prominent on this track, whilst the production is tight.

Minerals Freestyle veers more towards a garage, jungle and rave vibe. It has a fast energy and is over in a flash, with the song pleasantly fading out. I particularly enjoy the adlibs for emphasis all over this, and how the beat quickens up half way through briefly.

The next track, Wilderness features a beat seemingly straight out 90s era Nintendo games, with some interesting horn-esque synths. Whilst slightly repetitive, especially at the start, I do really enjoy the vibe and feeling of this track.

Giving It All That is definitely my favourite track, with Lyrical Strally spitting over a Wiley beat. It’s a very unique instrumental that again seems to draw from computerised sounds, and to me, sounds like a hyperpop sound that would serve the basis of a Charli XCX track.

Again it is rigidly structured, but the way the song builds up around the chorus is fantastic. The switch up after the introduction is class, and refreshes the track.

With this being a mixtape, there is less cohesion and connection between songs. That opens the door for more experimentation, which certainly comes across on Never Know. It definitely belongs closer to R&B driven hip-hop. It is probably the most repetitive song on the tracklist, however it is a decent take of a slower track.

If there’s any place to explore and develop new sounds a mixtape is the perfect place to do so. This trend of slower, more R&B styled tracks, continues til the end of the tape.

Spoon/Alakazam is more on the light hearted side, with some funny and actually quite clever wordplay regarding the ability of the Pokémon Alakazam. However the punchline is repeated numerous times, yet I can’t really be mad at the song.

Halfheart is probably the most laidback and personal track, but it is done very well. I can see why the back end of the track listing features more and more R&B, as Strally shows promise within the sound.

The closing track Sky Is The Limit features that similar personal, chilled vibe and is executed just as well. The rattling snares towards the midpoint of the track are a nice touch.

On balance I feel that Strally shows that he is accomplished and well polished when it comes to spitting over grime beats, but that he also shows talent and potential when leaning towards more mainstream, R&B.

One of my favourite grime and UK hip-hop projects of the year, and well worth a listen.

Track Listing

  • Hold It Down (A-)
  • What They Want (B+)
  • Minerals Freestyle (B+)
  • Wilderness (A-)
  • Giving It All That (A)
  • Never Know (B-)
  • Spoon / Alakazam (B+)
  • Halfheart (B)
  • Sky Is The Limit (B-)

Women in Music Pt. III // HAIM

Reviewed: 05/07/20

Rating: 7 // 10

Genres: Pop-Rock, Indie-Rock

Released: 26/06/2020, Columbia

HAIM returns with their signature sound of polished pop-flavoured Indie-Rock, offering a solid track listing without reinventing themselves or the genre.

Sister trio HAIM have added to their strong back catalogue of albums with Women in Music Pt. III, their longest project yet.

Whilst this project didn’t quite blow me away, it certainly is a pleasant experience that doesn’t drag on too long – even though it does end up nearing that territory.

The opening leg of the project is definitely the strongest, with the opener Los Angeles featuring a bouncy kick-drum that the carefree track is built upon.

Here at the beginning are the poppier cuts, including the single The Steps. Upbeat yet about a serious topic manner, a relationship where a partner has pretty much given up, it is fairly simple, but features some neat production choices such as the very slight manipulation of the vocals at times.

I Know Alone diverts the album towards a song featuring an ever so slightly drum & bass-esque backing track, yet keeps acoustic elements. Perhaps I’m not doing the best job of describing it, but the more apparent voice manipulation and electronic elements really separates it from everything else on here.

It’s the subtle sound effects and production techniques that add up overall, keeping rather stripped-back indie interesting with more computerised sounds. Up From a Dream returns to a far more “traditional” sound, but during the break down we enter some washed out, sci-fi styled whooshes that really add to the experience.

That is appreciated because this is a very repetitive song thanks to an overused chorus.

My favourite moment is probably the chorus of Gasoline, a gorgeous song that has an emotive bassline tucked in behind the pianos and keys. The drums to me constantly feel detached from the melodies, but not in an obtrusive way – they’re repetitive and reliable, constantly there without much change up.

This also features my favourite harmonies and vocal performances.

We again divert from strict indie-rock as we drift towards the R&B influenced 3AM, which is another personal highlight.

Don’t Wanna, the last released single, is arguably the plainest out of the six songs previewed before the album’s release.

Following from that track is the far more unique Another Try, with a far more creative mix of instruments and sound effects. More disco and dance driven than any other track, especially during the verses, it does stand out on the tracklisting.

More indie and even folk sounds are woven into Leaning On You, a sign of the final few song on here.

They’re all solid songs that don’t break the mould, but definitely leaning more towards filler. All That Ever Mattered has a more spacious and softer-pop feel to it, but apart from that the final tracks are fairly straight-played.

Right at the end is the bizarre addition of the three singles from 2019 added in as bonus tracks. It isn’t a startling change – they fit the theme of the album, but it isn’t possible to listen to the album without them on streaming services.

I haven’t got a huge list of complaints for this record – whilst it comes across as safe in parts it never screams boring to me at all, and never was it anything less than a pleasant listen. However, in terms of progression from their previous albums, there isn’t the clearest of improvements or reinvention.

Track Listing

  • Los Angeles (B+)
  • The Steps (B+)
  • I Know Alone (A-)
  • Up From A Dream (B+)
  • Gasoline (A+)
  • 3AM (A)
  • Don’t Wanna (B)
  • Another Try (B+)
  • Leaning On You (B)
  • I’ve Been Down (B)
  • Man from the Magazine (B)
  • All That Ever Mattered (B)
  • FUBT (B-)
  • Now I’m In It (B)
  • Hallelujah (B-)
  • Summer Girl (B)

How Can I // 박 혜진 [Park Hye Jin]

Reviewed: 03/07/2020

Rating: 7 // 10

Genres: Deep House

Released: 26/06/20, Ninja Tune

박 혜진 Park Hye Jin returns with her second EP, another strong showing of Deep House that is just fun to vibe and chill with.

South Korean artist Park Hye Jin may have taken two years since her debut EP to release her latest project, but there are clear signs of improvement and development from the rapper, producer and musician.

This is a generally cohesive project that starts off with energy thanks to the tracks Like This and Can you. Like This has the soft cascading of a glockenspiel worked into the dreamy landscape of the song, with echoing sound effects creating a dream-like status.

The percussion sweeps us firmly into the stylings of the genre, whilst retaining that spacious and calming vibe.

Can you is similarly spacious in sound and feel, but has a more repetitive vocal to serve as the backbone of the song. It certainly has the most club-hit feel to it, but again there’s that floating feeling to the general sound of the track.

Throughout the switching between Korean and English is done seamlessly and without fuss, with the two languages effectively used as tools, catered to the music.

The titular track adds a more rigid hip-hop-esque beat to another roomy instrumental, with the lyrics delivered in a drone-like state.

NO completely diverts from the cohesive sound the opening trio of tracks fostered, with layers of different percussion at the start. The genre of house is hidden behind the layers of repetition, which dominate even after the softly-spoken vocals kick in almost a quarter of the way through the song.

It borders on monotonous, but the subtle changes throughout keep it just fresh enough.

How Come incorporates some of those similar percussion instruments, slowly layering them and upping the tempo in a more directed effort.

The closing track Beautiful has a slight elevator-music vibe to it, with washed-out vocals and gentle, calming instruments starting off in the background.

Towards the end of the project I kinda get the impression of ideas being stretched beyond their natural conclusion, but overall I haven’t got any major complaints of it being drawn out too long. The back half of the EP does rely on the instrumentals far more than the opening three tracks, and whilst I would have liked to have heard more vocals or samples, it comes with the territory of the genre.

Overall well worth 20 minutes of your time.

Track Listing

  • Like This (B+)
  • Can You (B)
  • How Can I (B+)
  • NO (B+)
  • How Come (B)
  • Beautiful (C+)

6pc Hot EP // 6LACK

Reviewed: 03/07/2020

Rating: 5.5 // 10

Genres: Alt. R&B, Pop-Rap, Trap Rap

Released: 26/06/20, Interscope

6LACK gives us a weak offering consisting of dropped tracks and leaks, highlighting a trend towards trap-rap from one of Alternative R&B’s rising stars.

To pretend 6LACK hasn’t dabbled with the sound of trap before would be denying history – a brief glance down the feature list of East Atlanta Love Letter from 2018 tells us otherwise by sight alone. Future, Offset, and even J Cole, all established in the sound.

But there were enough attempts and ideas to keep the sound at bay, and avoid it overwhelming everything else on the tracklist.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for 6pc Hot. The opening track of ATL Freestyle, a song we already had heard before, leans more towards R&B than strictly hip-hop, but already we can hear the overuse of autotune and manipulation over the Atlanta native’s vocals.

It sort of ends without an impression, whilst beginning the downward trend of reliance on autotune.

I was relatively intrigued by 6LACK’s last LP, but to me this feels like the weakest aspects of that record has been explored on this EP.

Long Nights is another song that isn’t repulsively awful, just disappointing compared to 6LACK’s admittedly short back catalogue.

It does feed into the general feeling of moody reminiscence, but there aren’t any super interesting lyrical ideas, or indeed any moments at all that really catch me. I’ll give it points for how it flows into Float, which is a slight improvement in itself.

It is the best track on the album by far, but isn’t saying much. It strips back the hi hats and snare pattern and follows more R&B stylings.

The song has a far more interesting concept that is more tightly followed, and the switch up on delivery is interesting.

But we’re straight back into the formula for Know My Rights, which features the albums only guest artist, Lil Baby. I haven’t really got anything to say about this track, it is basic, simple, and over quickly.

Elephant In The Room again occupies that gap of trap influenced R&B, without really breaking the mould. It’s an okay track.

The final track Outside is an interesting take on being separated from a loved one during quarantine. The lyrics are subtle and not on the nose like seemingly every other track written during this timeframe, which I do appreciate.

It sounds the most personal and has the feel of intimacy, and best of all, there isn’t a hi-hat and snare pattern in sight.

Unfortunately this is a downgrade on his previous LP, and if it is a precursor to his third full length project, I have my concerns about the direction of it. However, there is still potential here, and I hope that 6LACK can find some new spark to drive his future music.

Track Listing

  • ATL Freestyle (C)
  • Long Nights (C-)
  • Float (C+)
  • Know My Rights (D+)
  • Elephant In The Room (C)
  • Outside (C)

What’s Your Pleasure? // Jessie Ware

Reviewed: 02/07/2020

Rating: 0.7 // 10

Genres: Disco-Pop

Released: 26/06/2020

Jessie Ware returns with her most well rounded and mature project yet, recreating 80s disco within a modern viewpoint, filled with bops and grooves.

After four LPs across almost a decade of music, Jessie Ware arguably hasn’t got a bad full length album to her name. Whilst her second and third albums didn’t quite capture critics in the same way her debut, Devotion did, they certainly didn’t get torn to pieces in the columns and paragraphs of reviews.

Whilst I’ve yet to be truly blown away by a Ware project, I did enjoy her previous work. However, What’s Your Pleasure truly is an improvement, and maybe even her best work yet.

I can’t get past the term mature to describe this project – everything is well measured, meticulously placed into their proper slot, well-crafted by an experienced ear and hand. Even though it has obvious inspirations from 80s disco, it never feels like a copy, or forced into the music.

The opener, Spotlight, is a prime example of this. The strings that lead us into the song create a soft yet serious approach to the genre, and whilst things certainly loosen up, it has this up-tight (in a good way) feel to it.

On the titular track What’s Your Pleasure, we are greeted with an almost brooding, moody singing style, with very retro synths cascading in the background. Much more of a pop song, the chorus is sung sensually and close, creating a lovely feel to the track.

We get a little bit funky on Ooh La La, with a luscious bassline opening the track. With futuristic laser sound effects mixed with the sounds of traffic, the sonic landscape of this track is vast and quirky, matching the semi-robotic delivery from Ware.

Things get even more electronic and house-like with Soul Control, with the energy slowly creeping higher and higher the deeper we get into the track-list.

Save A Kiss remains in that gap between house and disco, incorporating the largely forgotten sound of Italo disco.

Around here at the midpoint of the album, things begin to stagnate slightly. The energy drops off before fluctuating wildly between songs, especially tracks such as Step Into My Life and Read My Lips.

It creates an incohesive feeling, but it doesn’t entirely derail the album. However, comparing to the bop-heavy opening section, the last leg of the album is quite forgettable.

One of the few highlights is the last track, Remember Where You Are, which does put the listener in a more ethereal soundscape compared to the rest of the album.

All things considered this is a fun project that is finely linked. The lyricism isn’t as strong as contemporaries in the pop world, however they are never noticeably bad, nor stand-out.

A pleasant listen, and a project that I can see holding up very well in the future.

Track Listing

  • Spotlight (B)
  • What’s Your Pleasure (B+)
  • Ooh La La (A)
  • Soul Control (B)
  • Save A Kiss (B)
  • Adore You (C+)
  • In Your Eyes (B)
  • Step Into My Life (B+)
  • Mirage (Don’t Stop) (C)
  • The Kill (C+)
  • Remember Where You Are (C)

Check out this new review of Jessie Ware’s What’s Your Pleasure!

TRANSLATION // Black Eyed Peas

Reviewed: 29/06/20

Rating: 3.5 // 10

Genres: Reggaeton, Pop-Rap

Released: 19/06/20, Epic

Black Eyed Peas’ previous success does not translate to a wildly new genre, with the novelty wearing off quickly, leaving the Peas clinging onto features as life support.

Hey, do you remember Despacito? That was a pretty big hit. A very big hit. Almost as if reggaeton could translate well to an American audience….

Test the theory with a single of our own, RIT MO. Play it slightly safe, with a sample from a retro disco hit. Let the nostalgia carry it, and hopefully the first leg of the album.

To be fair, the opening portion of this is somewhat bearable. But then, the creativity dries up, WILL.I.AM runs out of Spanish nouns he learnt from his travel guide, and this slowly morphs into a blur of pop-rap and reggaeton beats.

The songs flow nicely into each other, largely because they’re all based on the same RPM and rough beat inspiration.

Okay, claiming that this is just a cash grab would be harsh – apparently the Shakira feature comes from her She-Wolf era, so it was in the works a while ago.

But by the time we’ve reached VIDA LOCA, which ruins MC Hammer’s Can’t Touch This (and Rick James’ Super Freak), my goodwill runs out. It also sort of retroactively ruins the sampling earlier on, mainly because he reveals how gimmicky every aspect of this album is.

After the opening tracks the album becomes a slog to even have on in the background, with all the songs merging into what the soundtrack to a night out in a club if you were 10 rum and cokes down.

Unfortunately during all my listens to this I was stone cold sober, and the loud, obnoxious yet monotonous beats are somehow obscured by even louder autotuned vocals from guests such as French Montana.

To go and analyse each individual songs would be equivalent to writing lines in detention – a punishment that involves me writing the same thing again and again.

The lyrics switch between English and Spanish whenever a rhyme is needed, and as stated before, WILL.I.AM certainly isn’t fluent in Español, to copy their tactic.

It comes across as tacky and lazy, as almost there is a quota of how much English and Spanish buzzwords a song should have.

As is style for the Black Eyed Peas, the ending of the tracklist is reserved for the tracks that don’t quite fit and offer us social commentary.

Up steps WILL.I.AM for his acoustic guitar led solo (on a highly electronic beat driven album) to tell us about Coronavirus.

Somehow the autotuned yet still tone-deaf lyrics doesn’t cure the planet of the pandemic. Odd.

On balance, this probably shouldn’t have existed beyond one or two singles. I was pleased with their last “experimental” effort in 2018, Masters of the Sun Vol1, and I think the addition of J. Rey Soul helps with the reliance on a female feature to break up a song and track list.

Luckily she’s a Spanish speaker, and for some reason she is credited as a solo-artist on this, despite being involved on the last project? Just more confusion on top of the mess this album already is.

And no, WILL.I.AM. No matter how many times you say the word, this is certainly not “Fuego.”

Track Listing

  • RITMO (B)
  • MABUTI (E)
  • I WOKE UP (E)
  • ACTION (D)

Run The Jewels 4 // Run The Jewels

Reviewed: 15/06/2020

Rating: 8.5 // 10

Genres: Experimental Hip-Hop, Hardcore Hip-Hop

Released: 03/06/2020, Jewel Runners

Run The Jewels took the longest time yet between albums, crafting a statement – musically and politically, landing at a time where the world needs to listen more than ever.

Context is everything. When the wheels started turning for this project, neither Killer Mike or El-P could have predicted the landscape of the world this album would be birthed into. Does the recent calls against injustice that led to worldwide riots make this album’s message stronger, make this a better album?

Perhaps, but in the reality we live in this is the only version of events that we can consume this album within. World context is impossible to separate from music – it influences the lyrics, mood, so many variables both consciously and unconsciously.

It is impossible to listen to this album and not think about the world around it. Maybe if it came out at another time, my – and others’ – feelings would be different.

What truly saddens me is that these words applied before the flashpoint of George Floyd, and seemingly will apply further into an increasingly dystopian looking future.

Even if this album came out before the mass protesting, its lyrics and message would remain the same.

It is heartbreaking to think that when Killer Mike states the timely phrase “I can’t breathe” on walking in the snow, seemingly in reference to Floyd, it was actually recorded six months prior, inspired by the similar murder of Eric Garner, showing how common an occurrence this is.

The track that follows walking in the snow, JU$T, also scarily predicts the murder of Floyd, again referring to Garner’s killing with El-P‘s line:

Where murderous chokehold cops still earnin’ a livin’
Funny how some say money don’t matter
That’s rich now, isn’t it? Get it? Comedy

Try to sell a pack of smokes to get food
Get killed and it’s not an anomaly

Whilst this album is direct with its political content, it also isn’t beating a dead horse, analysing many parts of a broken system. It narrows in on the impact of money and capitalist systems, the role of the media in perpetuating racism, as well as discussing enviomental issues.

This is almost a manifesto in terms of the wide range of topics chosen to vent about, and whilst this album flashes past you in an instant, with just 39 minutes, it leaves a lasting impression.

The energy is high throughout, beginning with the lead single and opening track yankee and the brave (ep.4). Killer Mike gets us underway with his lyrical miracle boom-bap style laced with aggression and passion, and to his credit, El-P matches that energy and skill, creating a back and forth energy that really sets the tone.

ooh la la hosts a repetitive chorus that adds to the monotony of the beat, creating a perfect base for the duo and guests Greg Nice and DJ Premier to have fun on.

Over the project the multiple features only add to the experience, and never dominate a song. 2 Chainz joins on out of sight, another light-hearted beat that boasts hard hitting bars.

holy calamafuck features a very prominent beat switch halfway through, with the pair at their most braggadocious. Both sections of the song have a reduced, more measured feel to them, but the aggression behind the delivery is still there.

In terms of personal favourites, goonies vs. E.T. is certainly up there, with a dark and brooding atmosphere from the get go thanks to the pitched down vocals and ominous synth bassline.

There are no bad songs on this project, with other other highlights including the aforementioned walking in the snow and JU$T.

Technically, the quality of production is brilliant from El-P, who also seems to have improved vastly in terms of his flow and delivery. Killer Mike, well, kills it, but I would say his lyricism is a lot more pointed and effective than before.

The sound and feel of this is consistent with the three albums that came before it, and to suggest that this is a vast improvement would be harsh on the first three albums. Make no mistake – this is their best work together yet, but it isn’t millions of miles away from their debut.

Yes, they might not have innovated or evolved much, but have instead focused on polishing, refining their combined sound, all of which comes to a point on this record.

Truly a must-listen no matter your music tastes.

As always, Black Lives Matter. This website relies on the work, passion and artistry of Black people to create music, and whilst gratitude isn’t sufficient, we must speak up on their behalf if they are being silenced. Please check this link out for further information and resources:

Track Listing

  • yankee and the brave (ep.4) (B)
  • ooh la la (B+)
  • out of sight (A-)
  • holy calamafuck (A-)
  • goonies vs. E.T. (A-)
  • walking in the snow (A*)
  • JU$T (A+)
  • never look back (B+)
  • the ground below (A-)
  • pulling the pin (B+)
  • a few words for the firing squad (radiation) (A)

Sideways to New Italy // Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Reviewed: 28/06/2020

Rating: 0.6 // 10

Genres: Indie-Rock

Released: 05/06/2020, Sub Pop

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever return with their sophomore effort, a somewhat middling entry into their discography of plain and simple indie-rock that scratches the itch but offers nothing new.

Australian Indie-Rock outfit Rolling Blackouts C.F. hark back to a sound and scene that came way before them with their stereotypical sound, but to turn your nose up at the band’s efforts would be snide considering it certainly isn’t bad.

In fact, if you were, or still are, a big fan of that sound, you certainly won’t regret checking out this project. It is 39 minutes of fun, simple indie-rock that whilst it doesn’t leave the biggest of impressions, is an overall pleasant experience.

The opening track The Second of the First starts with acoustic and electric guitars fighting for the spotlight, bolstering a high-energy start to the record.

With three singer-guitarists in the band there is plenty of opportunities for harmonisation, with a clear example on the second track, Falling Thunder.

The opening few tracks of the album have that indie-rock enthusiasm reminiscent of the UK scene in the 00s, but that soon mellows out on the track Beautiful Steven. It has an almost washed out quality to the sound, and a far slower energy and feel to both the instruments and the delivery.

Into the middle section of the album, where some new instruments are brought into the mix, starting with the harmonica on the track The Only One. On the following track, Cars In Space, the faster pacing is matched with some uptempo horns that really plays into the summer feel of the album.

Towards the end of the track listing the songs start to wind down into a more soft and laidback sound, with the more standout Sunglasses at the Wedding, but in the process creating largely unforgettable tracks in the form of Not Tonight and The Cool Change.

Overall this comes across as music for the summer that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and whilst there is nothing wrong with that approach, it lacks any substance to make it noteworthy beyond its genre.

Compared to their previous efforts there isn’t really any innovation in terms of sound or approaching new ideas and sounds with anything more than a half-hearted glance.

Yes, whilst it does slightly pale in comparison to their earlier work, to go as far as to say it is bad or a waste would be disingenuous.

Hopefully the band learns from this and can evolve their sound properly in their next offering.

Track Listing

  • The Second of the First (B)
  • Falling Thunder (B-)
  • She’s There (C)
  • Beautiful Steven (C+)
  • The Only One (B-)
  • Cars In Space (B)
  • Cameo (C)
  • Not Tonight (C-)
  • Sunglasses at the Wedding (C+)
  • The Cool Change (C-)

Ungodly Hour // Chloe X Halle

Reviewed: 26/06/2020

Rating: 7.5 // 10

Genres: Contemporary R&B

Released: 12/06/2020, Columbia

Chloe x Halle’s harmonies fill their sophomore effort, producing a solid offering of pop flavoured R&B that remains fresh despite its use of modern tropes.

Singers, songwriters, producers and actresses, sister duo Chloe and Halle are two severely talented individuals that combine so well as a team. Rarely on this album are the pair separated – but their luscious harmonisation never gets old as the album steers through topics that could be confusing if both sisters took turns with their own lyrics.

However, they effectively become one on this project, as we rarely hear that voice divided or tainted with. The layers of vocals on multiple tracks create a choir of their voices, but at no point does it seem to me that we have too much of the girls’ singing.

Their unified stance and approach to their songwriting creates a consistent point of view throughout lyrical content that is similarly linked cohesively – discussing the concepts of dating a love in a modern world.

The Intro track builds up nicely and flows well into the first proper track, Forgive Me, which takes that phrase and meaning and reinterprets it. Instead of being in the wrong, instead the lyrics are asking for their own ignorance and foolishness that allowed them to be wronged be forgotten.

That feeling of introspection is carried on into Baby Girl, a far more positive song. Again the harmonising vocals, and other layered vocals are so heavenly and encapsulating. Lyrically the content is aimed at all women in general, steering towards self-love and acceptance.

Do It incorporates modern trends that dominate the pop space at the moment, namely the hi-hats and snare driven beat that can be found every five minutes online and on the radio.

The trap-esque beat does make way for a far more “classic” and contemporary R&B feel around the choruses, and it does have a hint of 00’s R&B about it despite the more modern aspects of the song.

On Tipsy we have arguably the most alternative moment on the album, with subtle manipulations and style switch-up that creates this really interesting sound. Focused on being drunk on love and punishing a partner making mistakes in a very tongue in cheek way, this track definitely is my favourite and has stuck with me the most.

With the titular track Ungodly Hour you can instantly tell who the sisters collaborated with – the beat and feel of the track is lifted almost verbatim from Disclosure‘s back-catalogue.

That is in no means a bad thing, or a criticism – because the girls work very well with the defined sound. It has those Disclosure hallmarks – a very simple, yet effective, catchy beat, that at first does give off a strong 00’s vibe to me.

Busy Boy continues that simplicity, with an almost common bassline and kick drums, however I’m not really complaining because they offer a solid base for the song to build from.

We have a feature on Catch Up, as Swae Lee offers his vocals. It is the first and only time we hear the girls separate, but overall this song kinda just washed over me without leaving a proper impression.

That is a slight trend to the last leg of the album, with Lonely falling into the same trap. Overwhelmed is largely forgettable about from the harmonising vocals that aptly become overwhelming to the ear.

We are taken back to an old-school sound on Don’t Make It Harder On Me, an insightful track about a former potential suitor catching the eye after you’ve settled down with someone. The whole track features complimenting instruments, with a supple bassline, prominent drums and some lovely strings.

Overall this shows a cohesive and solid sound from the sisters, more than justifying their perceived roles as protégées of Beyonce, who spotted the girls at a young age and has had them tour with her twice.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this cemented them in the mainstream, and I can’t wait to hear what’s next for the pair.

Track Listing

  • Intro (C+)
  • Forgive Me (B)
  • Baby Girl (B+)
  • Do It (B+)
  • Tipsy (A)
  • Ungodly Hour (A-)
  • Busy Boy (B+)
  • Catch Up (B-)
  • Don’t Make It Harder On Me (B)
  • Wonder What She Thinks Of Me (B)
  • ROYL (B)

Punisher // Phoebe Bridgers

Reviewed: 21/06/2020

Rating: 8.5 // 10

Genres: Indie-folk / Singer-Songwriter

Released: 18/06/20, Deep Oceans

Phoebe Bridgers’ sophomore album highlights a singer-songwriter coming into her own, detailing the influences and questions that impact her music the most.

Despite only being 25 and on her second album, Phoebe Bridgers has worked on two other projects inbetween her two studio albums, boygenius and Better Oblivion Community Centre.

On top of that she also lent her vocals to a few songs on The 1975’s latest project, including the single Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America.

And whilst the band projects she has worked on, including her solo work, are based in indie-rock sounds, the way she moulds herself around collaborators is a real strength of hers.

Punisher is more than a sum of its parts – at times showing a minamilist, stripped back, vulnerable side, others a total outpouring of emotions via overwhelming instrumentals.

It’s no surprise to me that the artist tributed by the titular track, Punisher, is Elliott Smith – the king of emo indie-folk brought to life  with little fanfare or instrumentals. His combination of raw musical and emotions is an apparent influence on the project as a whole. 

However, to pretend that this album is like-for-like, or directly lifted from Smith’s playbook would be disingenuous towards both artists. From the opening interlude track, DVD Music, filled with poetic violins, there is a high – and polished – standard of production. 

With Smith’s self-titled project in mind, part of the charm of that album was the loose and amateur feel to it – but there is a decent budget here, utilised to full effect.

Some of the little details are similar – quite often you can hear the scraping of fingers on the guitar neck that populated Smith’s work, subtle and discreet enough to be charming and genuine, rather than shoddy playing. 

After the almost sinister yet sombre atmosphere generated with the opening instrumental, the first track Garden Song is far more upbeat in nature.

There’s a warmth to the sound, but it also retains the spacious and hollow feeling of the interlude.

The duet during the chorus is so lovely – the deeper male voice, provided by Bridger’s tour manager, offers a lovely contrast and sounds brilliant. The male voice is almost a shadow of Bridgers’ lighter vocals.

Bridgers’ singing on this just seems effortless the entire way through this project – with just enough force behind it when she wants and needs it.

The following track, Kyoto, continues the upbeat trend, with uptempo horns that start of subtle, before slowly becoming more attention grabbing further into the track. Here Bridgers is utilising her voice with different levels of impact, creating an emotional vocal track.

The voice manipulation at the start of Punisher creates an impersonal view, fitting for a track about a person Bridgers never met. Here Bridgers is talking about Elliott Smith, admitting that due to her idolisation of the man, she is a superfan who would talk his ear off if they ever had met.

It’s such an interesting concept to come from someone who is famous themselves – a celebrity who is adored but also adores other celebrities.

Halloween features those minimalist guitars – sounding like just enough pressure and force is being applied to produce the notes needed. There’s some really interesting intstruments chosen here – either a wind-inspired synth or a wind-instrument manipulated in a certain way, which I can’t quite place.

The best I can describe this song is by labelling it as soft yet purposeful.

Chinese Satellite sees Bridgers pine for something to believe in, which to me is such a powerful and interesting topic. Tension builds thanks to the drums, and it feels like we’re going to have a loud burst of sound and energy. However, it is instead translated into some mournful violins, which die down to give way for the percussion once more.

Moon Song eschews traditional song formatting for a very linear take, a straight take on story telling. Here we hear those screeches of the guitar most apparently, with the gentle cymbals in the background. As the song progresses, you can hear the emotion in Bridgers’ voice build.

A simple base of guitars is built upon for Savior Complex, with an array of different instruments operating in the background, softly supplementing the song. For large portions of this project the focus is on Bridger’s vocals and lyrics, and it really is allowed to shine throughout.

The teetering, almost teasing drums and percussion at the start of I See You foreshadows the eventual burst of energy near the end of the song.

Banjo doesn’t always mean a song is country, but the string-fulled atmosphere of Graceland Too draws from the genre. Again there are some subtle production choices, such as the organ synths hidden behind the guitars and violins that really garnish the track as a whole.

The slight manipulation at the start of I Know The End reoccurs throughout as the song whirs to life, a ballad that eventually builds into a semi-orchestral ending for the LP.

You can feel the power building as more instruments are brought in, with horns, heavier percussion and strings really bringing a sense of grandiosity to a fairly minimal project.

It ends in a cacophony of sound and chants, before descending into screams and the raspy, hoarse sounds of a voice that can scream no longer.

Overall Bridgers proves that she can fly solo when needed, work well as a team, use very little to do a lot, or use a lot to make a masterpiece. Truly one of 2020’s best albums so far, and well worth a listen.

Track Listing

  • DVD Menu (B+)
  • Garden Song (A-)
  • Kyoto (A-)
  • Punisher (A)
  • Halloween (B)
  • Chinese Satellite (A)
  • Moon Song (A)
  • Savior Complex (A)
  • I See You (A)
  • Graceland Too (B+)
  • I Know The End (A-)