By Gabby Couter Year 12
Harry Styles – Harry Styles
Firstly, the ‘Signs of the Times’ single was incredible and hard-hitting. It was a grand piece of piano rock with glam rock undertones. The large layers of instrumentations were gorgeous which went great with the more serious style of lyrics, which I believe are harmonious with our world today.
The only complaint I have with this album is the fact I feel as if Harry may have gone too mature with this album. I understand that he was trying to rebel against his One Direction sound, but I feel like, in some songs, he sounds as if this is his 4th or 5th album, not his first. Harry is 23 years old, he is supposed to sound, young and exciting and brisk, yet he already sounds like he’s over the hill, especially in ‘Only Angel’ and ‘Kiwi’.
In ‘Two Ghosts’, we hear a very slight yet appreciated country vibe in his voice, yet this is so faint, that it mostly goes unnoticed. This song is very beautiful lyrically, second best to ‘Meet Me in The Hallway’, where Harry’s lyrics are dark and eerie, it is probably the darkest moment in the whole album. It is a very strange introduction to the album which sets the perfect tone for the album. ‘Sweet Creature’ was a safe, yet enjoyable track. The gently finger picked guitar chords and passionate vocals were very nice and overall the song was a good add to the album.
Overall, this is actually a very great album, something which I would not have expected from Harry this early in his solo career and I’m very excited to see what he brings us later on.
- Signs of the Time
- Meet Me in The Hallway
- From the Dining Table
- Sweet Creature
San Cisco – The Water
Indie pop group San Cisco came out with their 3rd full length EP, ‘The Water’, which brought back their familiar quirkiness and bright sounds. Yet, in this album they expanded their exploration into a more 70s disco and soul style of pop with heavy influences from this era seen on their album.
The album starts off very strong. ‘The Kids Are Cool’ is very typical of San Cisco, a lively, fast paced, and groovy track with a strong bass line which is quite expected from the band. ‘That Boy’ is probably my favourite track that juxtaposes the regretful lyrics with the peppy, upbeat lyrics. The second half of the album takes great influence from the 80’s with the psychedelic sounds and glittery guitar riffs very heavily heard through the last half of the album. ‘Waiting for the Weekend’ is probably the worst song on the album with little development throughout the entire song. There is no real build up to this song with the warping synth sounds just barely carrying the song and dragging it out.
Overall, the biggest critique I have for this album is the fact that Scarlett Stevens doesn’t sing on it once, which has always been my favourite part of their previous albums. I also would like to see some more diversity in this album. Although they have taken influences on their different era’s and sounds, many songs on this album could easily have been on their other albums. I think that overall it’s a good album but the band needs to develop their sound just a bit more to something more unexpected.
- Hey Did I Do You Wrong?
- That Boy
Lana Del Ray – Lust for Life
In Lana Del Ray’s 2017 ‘Lust for Life’, Lana shows energy and life and finally, fully embraces the vintage pop sound which has always inspired her and been teased throughout her songs. The energy and pop of her album is shown through the cover art of her track, where Lana is actually smiling for once, symbolising her new found life in this album. There are some songs on this track which are great, and other which are completely pointless and quite horrible. For example, ‘Coachella, Woodstock in My Mind’, is hilarious because of the stupid lyrics which reveal Lana’s weak attempt at trying to make a political statement. This matched with the very ‘in’ trap style percussion and murky synth sound, which does not work very well for Lana, and is unfortunately, heard on other tracks in this listing. For example, in the song ‘Groupie Love’ - where I do like the very swaying, whimsical, gauzy chorus - the back to back A$AP Rocky features placed here, and on the song before it, are very unnecessary and makes Lana sound like a feature on her own track. However, for the most part, Lana sticks to her guns here and builds on the lavish and vintage instrumentation that made up the bulk of this album, especially towards the end. The song ‘Get Free’ is probably my favourite song of the album, if not one of my favourite Lana songs of all time as she fully embraces the sound of sixties girl groups, which have always inspired her, yet have never been executed as peppy in a way she has done on this song. Overall, I really enjoy this album as it shows a new side of Lana which has life and movement and I believe that this album is a new starting point for her to progress her sound even further.
- Get Free
- 13 Beaches
- Tomorrow Never Came
Jay Z – 4:44
I would review this album, but it’s not on Spotify and I’m not paying $40 for Tidal :/
Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy
In 2017, Californian rapper Tyler the Creator came out with the brand new album, ‘Flower Boy’. This talented rapper has disappointed me in the past, yet with the release of the Singles ‘Who Dat Boy’ and ‘911/Mr. Lonely’, Tyler showed some of his best material to date. It felt like Tyler was finally brushing up on his rapping and production skills, and his performance was more animated without being immature. After these singles and going into the album, I was hoping that I wasn’t let down by the technical flaws which made his past albums hard to listen to. The opening track ‘Foreword’, shows Tyler teasing listeners with a nice string of rhythms coated with very strong wordplay, which gave me a very positive outlook for the album to come.
Throughout this entire album, Tyler has a motif of cars, chains, and other materialistic possessions. This wouldn’t be strange for a rapper to do, except for the fact that Tyler has never talked about material possessions on any of his other albums before, making me think that they are a metaphor to fill a void which is very clearly forming the moodiness of many of the songs on this album. This is what we hear on songs such as ‘Pothole’, ‘Boredom’, and ‘Garden Shed’, which have this dreamy, yet dreary aesthetic. They are smooth, lavishly layered, jazzy, and soulful, yet in comparison to previous album ‘Cherry Bomb’, feel much more solidly composed and gorgeously arranged.
‘Flower Boy’ is expansive; its kaleidoscopic. Tyler is finally coming into his own in being a producer while still showing off what made him so special in the first place, which is his deep appreciation of jazz. Overall, I feel it bad to analyse each of these songs separately, as this album is so unified with its sound, so much so that it feels wrong to separate a song from another. I believe that this is a great album, which explored Tyler more personally that anything he has released before.
- 911/Mr Lonely
Rex Orange County – Apricot Princess
I love this album.
Rex Orange County is quite new to the music scene and this is definitely heard in his music. Instead of being sloppy, disjointed, and unprofessional like many other new artists, Rex Orange County displays a refreshing and new sound to his music, mixing hollow R&B sounds, with large, grand brass moments, seen especially on ‘Television/ So Far So Good’. His music displays both the highs and lows of his relationship, usually all in the same song. Rex is not opposed to taking risks in his music, mostly heard through his constant changing of style, halfway through a song. This allows him to experiment with more sounds, whilst also showing off his youth and felicity. He displays moments of brutal honesty, and backs these up with very mellow, quiet, and hollow piano chords and guitar riffs.
He is obviously inspired by Mac Demarco, heard heavily on ‘Untitled’, where he shows through the stream of consciousness lyrics and light guitar and bass. However, he also shows his inspiration of other R&B artists like Tyler, the Creator, and Chance the Rapper, with tracks like ‘4 Seasons’, which reminds me of Tyler’s ‘911/ Mr Lonely’ or ‘Boredom’, yet the thing which makes Rex different is that he has a genuine teen voice. At only 19 years old, he is able to capture the confusion and uncertainty that comes with being a teen, which is sincere and very relatable.
Overall, this album is amazing and I can’t wait to see what next comes from Rex Orange County.
- Apricot Princess
- Television / So Far So Good
Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog
I was really excited for this album this year. Not just because I am a big Mac DeMarco fan, but also because I was hoping he would create an album which didn’t just sound like a compilation of songs, which has always been my problem with his previous albums, especially 2.
In this album, a side of Mac DeMarco is explored which we, as the audience, have never really seen before, at least not in this much depth. Lyrically, this album is quite sad. Many of the songs deal with Mac trying to become his own man, outside of his father, who left him and his mother when he was very young. This is shown on songs such as ‘Watching Him Fade Away’, and ‘My Old Man’. Although this is played very subtly, as there are very few moments of large sounds, the additions of drum machines, and synthesisers, brings more variety to the album, making it sound more dynamic and gives more emphasis to what Mac is trying to express.
However, this album is more completely doom and gloom. Mac does bring a variety of funky, playful and awkwardly sensual sounds onto the album, reminding me of his previous albums. His song ‘For the First Time’, is probably one of his best love songs in a while, probably since ‘My Kind of Woman’. It is so smooth and sweet, yet there is a confident and flirty nature to it which is quite shy, making it a great love song and an easy listen. The song ‘One Another’ gives off a Velvet Underground vibe with the groove and some of the guitar licks on the track, giving it a Classic Rock/County feeling.
Overall, this album shows Mac’s ability to do a lot with a little. He plays with instrumentals more than he has on any other album, making this interesting and fun to listen to.
- This Old Dog
- For the First Time
- Still Beating
- Watching Him Fade Away