I don’t know about you, but this Friday release day for new albums is working out really well for me.
Instead of spending the whole week desperately cramming in as many albums as I can during lunch-breaks and tube rides then publishing a hastily thrown together round-up later in the week, normally days after you’ve already heard them all, now I have the whole weekend to listen to every new album release at my own leisurely pace. This means I can more carefully choose my words and craft my cogent opinions about how much I fucking hate modern music ready in good time for Monday morning. Then I can spend the rest of the week listening to the same Adam and Joe podcasts I’ve been listening to for the last five years.
I believe that in all of human history this is the only good thing that has ever changed.
Here are this week’s new releases, reviewed and rated:
Years and Years – Communion
In lieu of Friendly Fires ever making a new album, or Metronomy writing something that appeals to anyone under the age of 25, Years and Years have stepped in to the void to make radio-friendly ‘pop music you can really feel yeah’ before something much, much better comes along. Unfortunately what you’ll feel while listening to Communion is an overwhelming need to do something else, perhaps renegotiating your data allowance with your mobile network provider, writing a four-month overdue thank you card to your Nan or listening to Clean Bandit.
If you read anything about the London three-piece in the press they often speak of a mutual love of Flying Lotus, Radiohead and 90’s house. The FlyLo and Radiohead influences are unsurprisingly nowhere to be found, however the house music that Years and Years dabbles in, which sits behind a charmless Sam Smith-style vocal, is a sort of bland, sugarless pudding; like a rubbish blancmange, greying and empty of calories. Imagine if you will a version of Disclosure that’s only suitable for the morbidly obese, the lactose intolerant or those fucking arseholes that don’t really see the point of eating for pleasure and would rather their daily meals “came in a pill form”.
Looking for integrity in pop music is often a foolhardy pursuit, if it’s a banger then it’s a banger whether it’s by Morrissey or The Saturdays, but this album, created by a failed actor and two musicians whose record collections go as far back as anything that reached the top 10 in the last six months, ventures too far into cynical artifice without pulling out anything reasonably catchy from the depths.
It’s almost to boring to get particularly angry about. Almost. 3/10
Bleachers – Strange Desire
Oh, this is what good pop music sounds like! I had completely forgotten, I thought that perhaps earlier I was just being unreasonably mean, but listening to Jack Antonoff’s first album away from his band Fun. has made me hate Years and Years even more. Sure Strange Desire has a veneer of slickness that means it slips straight out of your hands as soon as you try to grasp it, but the soaring choruses, emotionally weighted lyrics and the pure Taylor Swiftian joy that it pumps out at 90 pints of dance-sweat every minute, means it aims directly for your heart and spreads immediately down to your dancing shoes. It also features Erasure’s Vince Clarke on synths for an added stamp of electro-pop authority. 8/10
Lucy Rose – Work it Out
Unfortunately the phrase ‘work it out’ isn’t delivered in the Beyoncé manner of strutting and stomping through the tears in a funk-dance style until you feel a shitload better, here it’s delivered in a “we need to sit down and talk about how much of a rubbish boyfriend you are, and hopefully we can find a way to come to terms with your problems by going on a lengthy weekend hike”. It has moments of interest, but overall is utterly insubstantial. Rose has an incredible voice, the production is warm and rich, and the lyrics occasionally heart-tugging, but I can’t help but think she’d be a lot happier and creatively energised if she listened to much less Laura Marling and a lot more Björk. 5/10
Adrian Younge presents Twelve Reasons to Die II starring Ghostface Killah
In 2013 Ghostface Killah came back reinvigorated with the spectacular Twelve Reasons to Die, the continuing adventures of his alter-ego Tony Starks (he loves Iron Man, but not enough to get sued) and his criminal empire. It was ridiculous and brilliant in equal measure, this sequel is even better. Part rock opera, part exploitation horror, part badass gangster story. It’s like a super-violent rap version of War of the Worlds, with less alien tripods and more bashing someone’s head in with a disco ball.
If you remember at the end of the previous instalment, Starks was murdered by his former employers and his remains melted into vinyl and pressed into a dozen LPs. When those records are played, his vengeful spirit known as Ghostface Killah is released. I don’t remember Tinie Tempah having quite such an interesting origin story.
In the sequel, Raekwon plays Lester Kane, an enemy of the same DeLuca family that murdered Starks (and Kane’s wife and child) who teams up with Ghostface to enact their terrible revenge. The only catch is that Kane must give up his soul and body to Ghostface when things are over.
I didn’t really need to recount that plot to you, I just thought it was too hilarious not to. The fact that this narrative isn’t even the most entertaining or best thing about the record is frankly outstanding. Ghostface and Raekwon are at the top of their lyrical and vocal game and Younge’s production is gorgeous and evocative, tying every lyric and plot point to the right frame of musical reference while still managing to sound fresh. This is a fully immersive, entertaining, spooky and surprisingly gripping journey through hip-hop with the absolute masters.
Thank the Ghostface himself that there’s room open for a sequel. 8/10