End of Year lists – a lukewarm take

24 Nov

It’s that time of year again, when thoughts inevitably turn to lists. Lists for Santa, naughty lists and of course, year end lists on music blogs such as this one and beyond. The tradition of listing things has existed since man first learnt to count and cave walls were adorned with pieces such as “Top 10 Rocks in the valley” (number 7 will astound you). Yet the practice of presenting a year end list is not without controversy. Something that is especially true when ranking the previous year’s music.

Aside from the very obvious question of what criteria to use when determining your list; favourites, most played, most sing-along-able, best (whatever that actually means) there is also the very important question of when you should do your list.

Now, we have said somethings on twitter in the past about waiting as long as you can and making sure you have time to fully appreciate the art of an album etc etc. Naturally, that can sound fairly pretentious and really music is about whatever you want it to be. One man’s art for example, is another man’s Pitbull. That said, we do feel that albums need time to get lost in and to explore. On more than one occasion our opinions have changed on records we initially thought were amazing – but on repeat listen turned out to be less so.

We also stand by our comment about waiting to post a year end list, at least until the year has actually ended.

Just to clarify before we go any further, we are talking about year in review lists here. Best album, single, video and the like. We are not talking about Tips for the future lists. In our opinion they can be posted whenever you like. If you think someone has the potential to be successful, it doesn’t really matter when you tell people. Hell, shout it as soon as you think it if you want. No, this is just about lists that look back over the previous 12 months musical output, but don’t include all 12 months.

To our mind, you cannot really represent a full year’s music in your list when the year is not even over. Granted, it is impossible to represent a full years list as there is no way you can have listened to everything that has been released in that time period, but at least give yourself a chance.

We’ve done it ourselves before, of course. We have written and been involved in year end lists that were compiled well in advance so they could be posted in December. Yet in so doing we have missed many great records from our lists. For example, John Grant’s Queen of Denmark is one of our favourite albums of the last decade, yet never appeared on our end of year list. We had started compiling it so early that we never got round to listening before publication. More recently we have tried to wait until January to publish our lists, to use the holiday period to catch up on records we had missed, and to give more time to those we have loved in the year.

Yet the race to be first still exists within the blog and music journalism world. The desperate charge to get your opinion out first, to plant your flag and claim a narrative as your own dominates the internet.

Take a look at the list of albums still to be released this year. The 1975, Clean Bandit, Earl Sweatshirt are all scheduled to release music between now and 31 December. And that doesn’t allow for any surprise releases either. Despite this, some publications have already posted their best of 2018 lists.

It’s true that some of these lists are from retail outlets and those lists in particular are hard to read without a degree of cynicism. We know that the people involved are incredibly passionate about music and probably know more about it and hear more of it than 99% of the population. Yet, when you see a list released in mid-November that is dominated by records that coincidently happen to come with exclusive releases available only in that store, it’s hard to see it as little more than an attempt to increase sales before Christmas.

In reality, that may be where our frustration comes from most. Seeing high quality, reputable establishments jump ridiculously early to cash in. Maybe our ire is misplaced and in reality, grumbling about when people post their end of year lists is a futile exercise. As we said, music means different things to different people and we should all be allowed to interpret it, enjoy it and experience it however we like. Perhaps the same should be true of end of year lists. Just do whatever you want, whenever you want. Even if the year is only 90% complete.

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Mega Emotion – “Laura” (video)

23 Nov

Mega Emotion

Whenever we have featured Mega Emotion in the past, we have always been taken aback by the sheer ferocity of their sound. Huge, cacophonous electronics have battered us into submission, and we have graciously bent the knee in servitude to their frenetic chaos-pop. Today though, they have taken pity on us and provided a moment of delightfully light and airy pop respite.

With a hint of the Human League about it, “Laura” is a glorious late autumn sunset of a track. Balmy and tender, the synths drift effortlessly as Lisa and Jan’s vocals entwine and then harmonise with Iain’s. Even the machine gun beats are more gentle, pulsing rather than clattering as they have done in the past. It’s a moment of serenity, three minutes of blissful euphoria and contentment, full to bursting with love when everything comes good, before the inevitable tumultuous crash that follows.

Mind you, Mega Emotion are pretty damn good at soundtracking that crash as well, and we look forward to more of that in the future. They have promised to get more experimental soon, but for now we are getting lost in the dreamy, soft-focus sounds of “Laura”.

”Laura” is out now on Fake Feelings and is available to buy here.


Get to know Mega Emotion: Website / Facebook / Twitter

‘V’ is for Vanity Fairy

12 Nov

Winter is the time of year when creatures snuggle down into hibernation. It is not the time of year when they emerge, awoken and ready to take on the world. Yet here we are, following a near two year hibernation and Daisy Victoria has stepped back into the light. She has also gone through something of a metamorphosis (if you will allow us this mixing of animal based metaphors). Now Daisy Capri, her musical persona has evolved to its new form, grown shimmering synthy wings, and stepped forth as Vanity Fairy.

Here, the sound is slinkier than before. The 80’s influences that were hinted at in “Pain of Dancers” have been fully embraced and given a subtle disco makeover as her vocals glide and twist in the breeze as one with light, gossamer melodies.

Debut track, “He Can Be Your Lady”, undulates gently, imploring you to sway as Capri’s vocals swoon and flutter. Bathed in disco ball lens flare and blessed with a Prince like synth flourish, it is delightfully catchy and bewitching. Elsewhere on the debut Vanity Fairy EP, Lust For Dust, we are treated to a soft, androgynous sultriness. It’s knowing, yet innocent at the same time.

“Milky Woe” is a late night, candle lit seduction, very soft focus and full of eye contact and fondue. “Loverman” and “Giant” similarly glisten and flicker with sensual synth lines, a heady concoction of romantic psychedelica.

Comparisons to Kate Bush are obvious but entirely fair, there is the same ethereal and otherworldly feel to each composition. Live too, there are similarities with Capri letting the Vanity Fairy persona take control. Her shows are as much about the character and the performance as they are about the music.

It’s an exhilarating and exciting transformation that Capri has undertaken to become Vanity Fairy. Her mew world is enticing and giddy and it’s one we love getting lost in.

”He Can Be Your Lady” is out now and will feature on the forthcoming debut Vanity Fairy EP, ‘Lust for Dust’, which is due for release on 7 December.

Get to know Vanity Fairy: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Self Esteem – “Rollout” (video)

9 Nov

If history has taught us one thing, it is that the very best pop songs are usually born from heartbreak. The melancholic and reflective lyrics are often married with a lively, upbeat melody that we can’t help but dance to and sing along with. So it is with “Rollout”, whose accompanying video is every bit as addictive as the song itself.

The third track from Self Esteem (Slow Club’s Rebecca Lucy Taylor) deals in part with how, no matter how much love you are surrounded by, it can feel meaningless if it doesn’t come from the person you want it from the most. It’s reflective and painfully honest as the chorus contemplates the sacrifice of personal wellbeing to please another.

It’s not what you would think of as being the most uplifting of subjects, but there is brightness to both the video and the song. It is one of the catchiest songs we’ve heard in some time and we have often woken with it bouncing round our brain of a morning. The marching band-esque drumbeat rouses cheerily and there is defiance in Taylor’s vocals, as well as resignation.

The video, directed by Piers Dennis, brilliantly captures the distracted nature of a recent break up, the inability to focus properly and the need for a connection. Alongside this is some great choreographed dancing (which we’re a total sucker for) that again, shows strength and weakness in equal measure.

Following on from last year’s “Your Wife” and previous single, “Wrestling”; “Rollout” continues the Self Esteem streak of great tracks. Long may it continue.

”Rollout” is out now and available to stream or buy via the service of your chooice here

Photo credit: Charlotte Patmore


Get to know Self Esteem: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

‘E’ is for Eckoes

13 Sep

Hypnotic, infectious and stunning; the music of Eckoes sounds as if it comes from another world. Her deep, soulful electronica combines with pop hooks, dance beats and glorious vocals to entrance and enthrall.

London based Eckoes is an artist you may have heard of already. If not, she is someone you will definitely be hearing more of in the future. A successful songwriter for other artists, she has recently been scouted by Grammy Award winning producer Naughty Boy. This is in addition to being a FAC Advocate Artist who helps and advise other up and coming artists. Oh, and then of course there is her own music, which is incredible and has received support from 6Music and BBC Introducing as well as a slew of glowing and effusive posts from legitimate tastemakers.

Eckoes’ music has evolved over the years; her pop skin has been stripped back, exposing her bare electro endoskeleton to the world. In so doing, Eckoes has revealed a sound that is altogether darker, more intense and bewitching.

Taken from her forthcoming EP, Eckoes’ latest single “Black & Red” is a stark and seductively dangerous slice of electronica. Dystopian in its sensibility, it could easily be the soundtrack to a dark sci-fi opera (think Blade Runner meets Event Horizon). It is absolutely perfect for that moment where we focus entirely on the protagonist and blur the surroundings. It feels like being being isolated and alone whilst surrounded by the incessant noise and hubbub of a densely populated megalopolis. The layered, almost choral, vocal is utterly captivating. A thing of pristine beauty in this otherwise dark and twisted world.

The melody glows and hums like vast neon signs while the sparse, crisp electronic beats pulse like beacons in deep space. At times claustrophobic and intense, at others cinematic and boundless, “Black & Red” is one of those incredible pieces that offers the listener something new on each listen.

Earlier single “S.B.F” has a driving intensity to it. It throbs and pounds with a bristling menace, whilst rippling and undulating with a sensual intoxicity. Startlingly open and honest, it is a track that stirs the emotions, that simultaneously gives in and fights back, standing tall in defiant submission.

Travel further through the back catalogue and you will find the deep rooted pop aesthetic becomes more overt. “Nobody Else” has a delightfully subtle 90s dance feel to it, while “Pieces” is a gorgeously deep soulful cut, complete with an infectious, eyes closed and sing along chorus. Keep travelling back, past the multi-layered “Human”, past the sorrowful beauty of “Blue Deep”, keep going and eventually you will find a remarkable, and swoonsome, cover of Mr. Mister’s 1985 classic, “Broken Wings”. Trust us, it’s fantastic.

Her music is something we can get lost in. As she takes us to other worlds, to darker places and to the intimate recesses of her soul, the sounds hypnotise and captivate. Hairs stand up on the back of our neck, goose bumps tingle on our arm and our feet tap along incessantly. It is only fitting that an artist as incredible as Eckoes be part of our Alphabet.

Eckoes is playing Birthdays on Friday 14 September with fellow Alphabet Bands favourites, HEZEN and Hydra Lerna.
“Black & Red” is out now and available to buy or stream here.

Get to know Eckoes: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram