Years & Years – Palo Santo

A second record can always go one of two ways for a popular chart band. They can either churn out another 40 minutes of fine pop songs, with one or two hits to cater towards their radio-friendly audience, or they can experiment with their sound and completely change their audience’s perception of them. Thankfully, Years & Years have done the latter with their sophomore effort Palo Santo. Their first record, Communion, wasn’t a particularly bad album per se, but it was pretty generic. Palo Santo, however, is an electronic pop confection in the vein of 80s and 90s pops-meets-r’n’b (with alternative indie offerings thrown in for good measure) exploring the spectrum of sexuality.

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Orchards – Losers/Lovers

As a band quickly gaining attention on the local music scene, Brighton group Orchards are definitely ones to watch. The four-piece consists of Lucy Evers on vocals, Sam Rushton on guitar, Dan Fane on bass and Will Lee-Lewis on drums. My first introduction to them was back in 2017, during their support slot for VUKOVI at Boston Music Room in London. As a band I hadn’t previously seen, they were incredibly impressive from the moment they began playing and arguably could’ve headlined the evening. More recently I saw them support Rolo Tomassi and their growth in both confidence and performance was stunning to see. Looking over their progression as a band in the last 12 months they seem to be going from strength to strength and all this hard work has led to their biggest release so far, in new EP Losers/Lovers.

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Bodega – Endless Scroll

“It just seemed obvious that we couldn’t write a contemporary record without talking about life on the internet. It’s almost not even a critique, it’s just that’s literally what it means to be alive right now,” stated lead singer Ben Hozie about BODEGA’s debut album Endless Scroll. Indeed, modern technology, and humanity’s misuse of it, runs through the entirety of their brilliant debut album that recalls everyone from Velvet Underground to Parquet Courts, all the way to LCD Soundsystem, yet displayed with their own cartoonish, postmodern twist.

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Gorillaz – The Now Now

Last year’s Humanz, Gorillaz’s first album for seven years, certainly split people down the middle. While we called it “A fantastic demonstration of talents from a multitude of genres”, some were unhappy about its overblown, collaboration-heavy rhythm. Not to worry for those people, though, because Damon Albarn has you covered. Recorded while on their US tour, essentially so he could continue to tour the virtual band at this summer’s festivals, The Now Now is a stripped-back affair, boasting a sound that is closer to the group’s fourth record, The Fall, than anything else. Plus, two songs aside, it’s collaboration free, mainly focussing on Albarn/2D’s luxurious voice.

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Drake – Scorpion

Life can be tough if you’re Drake. Sure, he’s one of the most decorated rappers of his generation, garnering Grammys and breaking streaming records daily, but he can’t seem to receive any respect from his contemporaries. He’s been in heated feuds with everyone from Kendrick Lamar to DMX and, most recently, Pusha T who suggested Drake was biding his time until he could make his baby the centrepiece of a marketing campaign for his new line of Adidas clothing as well as outing his son Adonis, who was quietly born at the end of last year. Scorpion, Drake’s fifth proper album, sees the Toronto rapper reflect mainly on fatherhood, on a double album that has its moments but ends up feeling tired and baggy by its finale.

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Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears

It’s immediately apparent from the atmospheric instrumental opener ‘Whitewater’, which features some quality distorted cello playing from Jenny, that Let’s Eat Grandma’s second record, I’m All Ears, is a significant step up from their debut, at least in production terms. That first record, I, Gemini, was written and recorded when Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth were precocious young teens: the two girls met when they were four and began making music together at 13. It was surprisingly cohesive, considering their youth, and their naive, unusual perspective turned up surprising depth and a unique sense of humour within pop. This follow-up strips away a lot of the musical idiosyncrasies, which, to some, will have come across as inconsistency, but to many were a massive part of the charm.

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Florence and The Machine – High As Hope

Who would have guessed that an on-the-spot singing audition in the toilet of a club in 2006 would result in Florence Welch headlining the Pyramid Stage less than ten years later? It’s been some journey for this most unlikely of pop stars. It is this, her fourth album, that marks Florence Welch as a continually maturing artist who, whilst still dealing with heightened melodrama, has tempered that tendency for overwroughtness into more considered, and personal outpourings; what she has recently called less ‘Florence-y’.

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Loa Loa – In The Absence Of Anything Else

The revival of a sound which has been long since lost from the rock and roll world, Loa Loa have brought forth a truly colossal debut which will be sure to shake the very foundations of the Brighton music scene. Keep their name in mind as this is one Brighton three-piece who are definitely onto something big.

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Jim James – Uniform Distortion

Back with his third solo release, My Morning Jacket vocalist Jim James returns with Uniform Distortion, an 11-piece record which sees the artist once again triumphantly breaking the barriers of being in a band in order to successfully explore their own musical desires. The album touches on everything from the portrayals of modern news coverage to ecstatic guitar solos which send this album into a pure state of euphoria. Sit back, relax and delve into Jim James’ distorted world.

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Soulwax – Essential

Never ones to think inside the box, David and Stephen Dewaele, better known as the Belgian beat makers Soulwax, have decided to put their stamp on the BBC Radio 1 Sessions by being the first to record an hour-long set for the show rather than mixing existing material. Recorded in two weeks, its theme ‘Essential’ runs throughout the album, with vocal tangents exploring different aspects of the term. Overall, it’s a very clever, incredibly captivating piece of work which is remarkably easy to get lost in again and again. Its beat-driven electronica has enough variation and thematic clout to keep it engaging and enjoyable. Essential is a slinking, Europop-style record brimming with zany melodies that clang, ripple and at times sparkle, in a breezy yet clinical manner.

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