Thursday, 16 November 2017

A Year in Music: 5 Album Picks

This year, my blog has been quite low on music content, not by any conscious decision. It’s been a busy one, and in the same way that I haven’t had the time to write as many blog posts as I would like, I haven’t spent as much time discovering new music. But that’s not to say that music hasn’t been a big part of my year; I listen to hours of music on a daily basis. 

For the last couple of years, I have written a post on my favourite watches, reads and listens at the end of December, but since I’m yet to post about music at all this year, I wanted to delve further into this year’s music picks. At the moment, I mostly listen to music through my earphones, on the tube or in the office, but I can’t wait for the day I have my own place and can blast these around the house on the likes of Panasonic Multi Room Speakers. Apologies, future neighbours. 

As I haven’t found the time to explore new music this year, my top five listens all come from artists that I already loved, and are all variances of pop-based genres. Not that this makes them any less worthy a choice. Nothing winds me up more than music snobbery or genre shaming. All I’m saying is that these are fairly mainstream choices and if you’re likely to be offended by this perhaps stop reading now and go consider your life choices. I’m kidding. Kinda. 

After Laughter - Paramore

After Laughter was the sound of my summer and I just couldn’t get enough. Paramore’s fifth album is synth-fuelled pop with a kick, and has that rare but bewildering quality of feeling nostalgic from the first listen. And not because it sounds like old school Paramore circa 2005. The band completely reinvented their signature sound for this album, drawing influence from 80s pop, while not losing their clever lyrics and addictive melodies. The sound of the album may be infectiously euphoric, but underneath the trippy rainbow is a lot of pain and messages that really punch you in the gut. 

Top tracks: Told You So & Fake Happy
Best lyric: Of all the weapons you fight with/ Your silence is the most violent

Melodrama - Lorde

While Lorde’s first album was an exciting debut, Melodrama proves her as an artist whose music and talent is only going to grow in sophistication as she matures. Though many already equate her voice to an ‘old soul in a young body’, it is her clever motifs and poetic lyrics (if you can pick them out) that set her way beyond her years. While the electropop style places the album alongside many of Lorde’s contemporaries, there is little else filling the charts that can compare to her distinct vocal quality and stylistic touch.

Top tracks: Homemade Dynamite & Green Light
Best lyric: Well, summer slipped us underneath her tongue

A Fever Dream - Everything Everything

Although I’d had a vague interest in Everything Everything for a couple of years before, it was the release of their third album in 2015, Get to Heaven, and seeing them perform at Boardmasters that secured my love for their music. And A Fever Dream didn’t disappoint. What is most impressive about Everything Everything is the sheer amount of complexity packed into each single song. Propelled forward by an often erratic and exhausting beat, come layers and layers of melody, rhythm and meaning. Their songs may be catchy, but they are anything but predictable. Vocal melodies are delicate, but delivered with a gritty spin, floating above the dystopian chaos beneath.

Top tracks: Run Your Numbers & A Fever Dream
Best lyric: If my bones just fall away/ And my skin is a dust cloud/ Would you siphon my soul from air?

Glasshouse - Jessie Ware

I love this album even more than Jessie Ware’s first two, and her vocals are sounding better than ever. While Devotion and Tough Love were largely soul-infused pop, Glasshouse subtly weaves elements of other genres into her recognisable sound. The magic of Jessie Ware’s music is in its unassuming facade, carrying its intricacies across multiple layers. Glasshouse offers a great balance of rhythmically-led pieces and ballads, with each track holding its own distinct feel, while all still contributing to one consistent sound. Despite quite bland lyrics, each song has the power to throw you deep into a feeling. And it’s beyond the sense of ‘this artist/album makes me feel sad'; each of Jessie Ware’s songs is rooted in a distinct human emotion, even when you can’t pinpoint exactly what that feeling is.

Top tracks: Midnight & Slow Me Down
Best lyric: Something so sweet like the first time/ And we could lock into the same melody

The Thrill of It All - Sam Smith

Even before the release of his first album in 2015, I was enthralled by Sam Smith’s vocals and haunting melodies. The trouble with artists who have that raw melancholic quality, is that once their sound is packaged into a studio-produced album, you long for them to go back to the exposed tracks that laid their vocals bare. Nonetheless, The Thrill of It All conveys enough of Sam Smith’s soulful tones to make it a pleasurable listen. And this album certainly feels more soulful than the last, with gospel-style backing and moments of prayer-like expression. All it is missing is a couple of moments where everything is stripped back and vocals let free.

Top tracks: One Last Song & Palace
Best lyric: When it was good, it was bittersweet, honey/ You made me sad till I loved the shade of blue

*This is a collaborative post, but all words and opinions are my own.

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