I think it might be time to start discussing Damon Albarn as one of, if not the, best musicians Britain has ever produced. After spending 18 months touring the world with Gorillaz – including the release of two excellent records in Humanz and The Now Now – he’s dropped the spectacle and turned his attentions to the UK with a brand-new The Good, the Bad & the Queen record. A return after 11 years, the supergroup, made up of Albarn alongside The Clash’s Paul Simonon (bass), The Verve’s Simon Tong (guitar) and afrobeat legend Tony Allen (drums), the band have produced an almost whistle stop tour damning both modern Britain (“Anglo-Saxostentialist crisis” as Albarn describes it) and, of course, Brexit.
Since coming to prominence in 2015 with the excellent Venice, and its genius follow-up Malibu, Anderson .Paak has been celebrated as somewhat of a savour of the sun-tinged r&b genre and, with tracks such as ‘Come Down’ and ‘The Waters’, has been a genuinely exciting presence with both his studio output and as a live presence. As his popularity has organically grown, however, his music has strayed further and further into hip-hop. His latest release, Oxnard, named after his place of birth in California, sees the drumming-producing- singing maestro make an almost completely West Coast hip-hop influenced release – and it’s an absolute belter.
Emo’s not had the best PR of late, with the musical output of the genre not exactly breaking any boundaries either. However, Itoldyouiwouldeatyou have arrived with a record which fuses thought-provoking issues together with a sound for those craving the nostalgic instrumentation of the old era.
Richard Dawson has reconvened with long-time collaborator and harpist Rhodri Davies, singer and multi-instrumentalist Dawn Bothwell, along with newly added member Sally Pilkington, for Hen Ogledd’s follow-up to 2016’s Bronze. He continues an interest in marrying ancient spirituality, myth and tradition with modern and futuristic tomorrows with his return, now over a year on from his universally lauded masterpiece Peasant.
Named after a Danish fairytale, it has been ten years since Esben and the Witch first joined forces and began to cast their spell on fans of atmospheric goth-pop. Over the four previous records, they have bewitched and beguiled a growing audience, and now it is to the mystical land of Nowhere that they take their journey.
Simulation Theory, the eighth studio album from Muse, sees them trade in their old Queen albums for a whole new obsession. Less A Night At The Opera, more an evening with Netflix and Prince. The Devon trio, never known for their lack of bombast, have moved away from gigantic guitar riffs and towards an overly-polished 80s-obsessed synth-rock sound. The results are a confused, and confusing, mess of a record.
When everything shatters, what then? What do you do when life deals you the cruelest, harshest hand? For Brighton’s Architects, it is a time to resist the darkness. To remember a bandmate, a brother, a twin. To honour him by channelling everything that made him and this band so powerful, and turn it into one of the most sensational, and important, heavy albums of this, or any other year. Out of the blackest night, cracks of light appear.
J Mascis has rightfully claimed his place as a modern guitar God in the 30-plus years since the seminal You’re Living All Over Me came out in 1987; an album that (apart from the little known debut of ’85) introduced the world to his unique talents, including that highly distinctive slacker drawl.
IFrameSix songs and 20 minutes is not even close to enough for one of this year’s finest releases. Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus’ self-titled EP brings together all of their positive facets and turns it into something brilliant.
Bakers’ Turn Out the Lights, Bridgers’ Stranger in The Alps and Dacus’ Historian have each been met with critical acclaim in the past 12 months. Although there was a risk of bringing all of their characteristics together, it’s created the perfect storm.
IFrameThe Prodigy as a band, and indeed a concept, are very much of their time. As pioneers of the ‘big beat movement’, alongside the likes of Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim, they achieved extreme mainstream popularity in the 90s and still continue to perform festival headline slots and massive venue tours all across the world. Despite the waning in popularity of big beat in the mainstream, the Essex trio have stuck to their guns on their studio output. Their latest, No Tourists, their first album since 2015’s The Day is My Enemy, continues that brave loyalty to the rave scene and, no doubt, provides a few new dynamic numbers that will slot into their live shows with ease.