Wow...I can’t believe @zachjurkovich took this video without my permission. I’m so upset I’m reposting it so everyone knows what he did. 🤫 #Repost with @get_repost
🎵Morning 🎼Clare Fischer
A latin cha cha ballad, featuring @katherinehbmusic who did not know I recorded this. Better to ask forgiveness than permission, as they say.
If someone were to ask me which Kylie record to explore first, my answer would undoubtedly be Light Years. For anyone to simply label the album as a guilty pleasure would be missing the point. Light Years revels in its pure pop landscape; it's kitschy, it's campy, and it's unashamedly content in being a bubbly good time, all signature calling cards of Ms. Minogue.
"Spinning Around" sets the tone, with a giddy dancefloor hedonism that doesn't sound out of place next to Minogue's 1989 hit, "Hand on Your Heart." And that's the point. For while she's singing "I'm not the same" one second, the next she's admitting to discovering her rightful place in the world. Because, for all her other musical dabblings, Minogue is pure, unadulterated pop, and where once she saw this truth as her weakness, now she's realised it's her strength. "And did I forget to mention/That I found a new direction," she sings, "And it leads back to me."
"On a Night Like This" and "So Now Goodbye" keep up the tempo and disco antics - you can feel the heat from the swirling multi-coloured lights as you listen to them - adding empowering notions of grabbing the best looking man in the club, then ditching him when you feel like it. Minogue collaborates with Richard Stannard to add some polish to the flamenco flavoured highlight "Please Stay."
"Your Disco Needs You," is a call to arms that would make the Village People proud. Minogue has her tongue firmly in her cheek for this camp slice of epic disco, which has become a staple of pride playlists.
With a single ballad ("Bittersweet Goodbye"), Light Years keeps its eye on the dancefloor. Aussie diva even tackles a Barry White classic ("Under the Influence of Love"), and despite the stark differences between the singers, Minogue delivers the goods.
Ultimately, Minogue shines brightest in the blinding lights of a club and Light Years is one that should be played as the drinks begin to flow, and you drain the remnants of that can of hairspray before going out. Kylie's crafted a decadent serving of perfect, unassuming, lighthearted pop.
The Abbey Road Sessions, a collection of hits reworked by an orchestra and Minogue’s backing band to celebrate her 25th year in music, makes a solid case for her longevity. Stripped of their peppy pop and hi-NRG disco sheen, these songs are transformed into timeless, classy compositions.
Brushed drums and gentle piano magnify the heartbreak of “Hand On Your Heart”; lyrics such as “Oh, I wanna hear you tell me / You don’t want my love” sound pleading, not defiant. The romantic “On A Night Like This” turns into a brassy R&B torch song thanks to a soaring gospel choir and dramatic strings, while fanciful orchestras and wistful vocals make “I Should Be So Lucky” into a Broadway-esque ballad, and “Locomotion” is a horn-driven, Motown-inspired romp.
Minogue’s expressive performances are perhaps more impressive than The Abbey Road Sessions’ musical reinventions. The album’s quieter, sparser arrangements give her leeway for nuanced vocal interpretations. Seductive bass twangs and breathy vocal coos make “Slow” even more of a slinky come-on. “Come Into My World” sounds like early Tori Amos, courtesy of a coquettish delivery and classical-inspired piano, while on the sedate, bluesy “Better The Devil You Know,” Minogue sounds slightly weary as she sings about taking back a rascally suitor.
Still, the album’s highlight is “Where The Wild Roses Grow,” which is stripped down to just acoustic guitar and vocals. Nick Cave reprises his part on the murder ballad, and his Johnny Cash-like gravelly intonations—when paired with Minogue’s hushed, resigned affectation—make this version even creepier and more macabre than the original. Such emotional resonance won’t be news to any loyal Minogue fans, but anyone who has considered her merely a lightweight dance diva will be surprised by the depth on display throughout the record.
With the much-anticipated X, her tenth proper album and first since beating cancer, Minogue doesn’t tread much new ground. More surprising, however, is X’s lack of identity. Whereas previous albums found her tackling specific genres — 2000’s Light Years embraced disco; 2002’s Fever, club music; and 2004’s Body Language, R&B — X tries too hard to please everyone, and it suffers for it.
Only occasionally does X reach the ecstatic heights of past hits like “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” and “Spinning Around.” On standout track “Speakerphone,” the highly stylized product of Swedish hit-writing duo Bloodshy and Avant (writers of Britney Spears’s “Toxic”), Minogue goes robotic. And while it features some of the emptiest lyrics found on X (“Breath taking/ Rump shaking/ Music making/ Lose control/ Say it on your speakerphone/ Track repeat go on and on”), it provides an unexpectedly good time (for a song about speakerphones).
“Like a Drug” features a sample of New Romantic-era techno group Visage’s “Fade to Grey,” and it grinds and stomps with razor precision. “The One,” a new-wave powerhouse boasting an infectious disco beat, begs to be remixed and played at the club. Equally engrossing “In My Arms” is fuzzed-out, synth heavy, and full of the kind of exuberant charm that made a track like “Love at First Sight” a past hit.
With a whopping fourteen producers and twenty-six writers on board, the weak links may simply be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. It makes for an uneven overall listen, even if there are plenty of worthy tracks. X isn’t the comeback album some may have been hoping for, but it was a welcomed return for Minogue.
The Aussie hitmaker’s follow-up to Fever, Body Language, is less immediate and more experimental, a midway point between the alternative/electronica of 1997’s Impossible Princess and Minogue’s more mainstream post-millennial work. It’s no coincidence that Body Language is filled with ’80s pop music references (she tips her hat to Reagan-era hits like Janet’s “The Pleasure Principle,” Chaka’s “I Feel for You” and, more directly, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam’s “I Wonder If I Take You Home” and Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round”) since much of the album is steeped in early ’80s synth-pop and disco.
“Slow,” the aptly titled lead single is a minimalist electro-pop/disco fusion with percolating crackle-and-pop beats and sugary vocal overdubs. “I Feel for You” directly references the disco era with its muted guitar riffs and bouncy keyboards, while tracks like “Still Standing” follow in the nü-disco dance-steps of Goldfrapp’s Black Cherry. Minogue sings, “I’m still standing/Keeping you dancing…Guess who’s back on top?”. “Chocolate” and “Someday,” which features guest vocals by ’80s new-wave band Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside, evoke the breathy, forlorn vocals of Mono and the gauzy melancholy of Madge’s Bedtime Stories, while the hip-hop-flavored “Red Blooded Woman” blends Timbaland-style beats with candy-coated la la la’s and a ghostly choir of men (the voices of those she’s devoured no doubt).
Body Language features several new, up-and-coming collaborators, but despite the additions, the album is surprisingly cohesive. The stand-out, bass-heavy “Sweet Music” is an ode to the magic of the modern singer/producer partnership: “I think we’re on to something/Your taste it mirrors mine/So hot and in the moment.” Body Language illustrates Kylie's willingness to take risks experimenting with her sonic landscape, and more importantly she succeeds. The record sits alongside Impossible Princess and Golden as a fearless evolutions in her dense discography.
Kylie Minogue albums work best as blank canvases, the versatile singer herself smattered in the paint of whatever pop subgenre strikes her fancy. Her 12th studio album lacks cohesion, but that hardly matters. She easily adapts to each persona suggested by her treasure trove of contributing writers and producers — including Kelly Sheehan, and the omnipresent Midas Touch radio saviors Pharrell Williams and Sia Furler, the latter billed as co-executive producer — and provides Kiss Me Once’s only real through-line with the effortless intimacy of her voice and her incomparable ear for dance-floor gold, no matter how random it all feels.
Framed by two outstanding examples of empower-pop done right — the shimmering lead single “Into the Blue” and the radiating finale, “Fine” — Minogue here delivers cathartically sad lyrics complemented by bouncy yet warm synths. The majority of the songs here are club-ready, tightly produced romantic pop gems, as you’d expect. She enters familiar but refreshed disco territory with “I Was Gonna Cancel,” a Pharrell track that carries some serious “Get Lucky” vibes thanks to a Chic-inspired bass line underpinning a pulsating house beat. “If Only,” written by a trio that includes Ariel Rechtshaid and Justin Raisen, construct hazy dream pop in the vein of the writers’ past work with newer pop stars like Sky Ferreira and Charli XCX. The MNDR-penned, positively dripping “Les Sex” allows Minogue to have even more playful fun.
Then there are the irretrievably cheesy moments, the most camp of which being the forced, uncomfortable Enrique Iglesias duet, “Beautiful.” But all is redeemed by “Fine,” a light and airy track that glimmers from start to finish: The lilting way her voice escalates on the word fi-i-ine in the chorus lingers in a way the evokes the very best pop songs. Therein lies the strength of Kiss Me Once: Minogue’s ability to turn any contrived situation into something positive, magical, and utterly her own.
Aphrodite is exactly the kind of record that one would expect when crossing Kylie Minogue with Stuart Price. That is–one of the most sleek, cohesive releases of her entire catalog. To put it simply: Yes, it does live up to the hype.
The album launches with its first single, “All The Lovers.” The song is a solid representation of the bulk of Aphrodite, though far from the finest cut on the record. In fact, the soaring chorus and glittering electronica offer only a taste of what’s to come.
With much of the record, the producers on the job have taken Kylie’s disco diva connotation and added a more complex, edgier layer of dance production. Cuts like the Calvin Harris-produced, Jake Shears-penned “Too Much” are evidence of this next level sound, sounding something like a thousand glitter-filled balloons bursting all at once inside of an intergalactic vortex.
In “Closer” and “Illusion,” Minogue and Price orchestrate divine dark disco magic: The former, a slow-building haunter that shares connection to her older work (“Confide in Me”); the latter a complex mesh of ’90’s house and Ace of Base-like synthesized bliss. Throw in a relentless throbbing bass and a few sex sessions worth of heavy breathing, and you’ve got nothing short of musical bliss.
Aphrodite is full of trademark “Kylie moments” –the euphoria felt during the middle eight of “All The Lovers,” the glitchy dance breakdown at the end of “Can’t Beat The Feeling,” the hands-in-the-air glee that is the chorus of “Put Your Hands Up (For Love)”–all of these fleeting moments of divinity only add more glow the hot pink, heart-shaped aura that surrounds all things Kylie.
Kylie Minogue’s Aphrodite could not be perceived as more genuine to her artistry: the record is literally the essence of Kylie in audio form. The sparkling instrumentals, the euphoric, angelic coos–everything in this album is an authentic, unapologetic encapsulation the stuff of Kylie Minogue.
Sixteen-year-old Billie Eilish’s debut EP title warns you: don’t smile at me. It’s a direct order, a powerful declaration, a statement coming from the mouth of someone who knows who she is, what she likes and doesn’t like, and who won’t play by anyone else’s rules. The title perfectly embodies the strength and ambition of Eilish’s debut EP and of Eilish herself as an artist.
Written by both Eilish and her brother Finneas O'Connell (who produces the EP and is nineteen – think about that while you read the rest of this review and possibly while you cook dinner tonight), dont smile at me speaks to every avenue of teenage experience with quiet brilliance. From hating yourself to hating everyone else, from falling in love to falling right out of it, Eilish doesn't preach but rather empathises, and her debut entirely does away with the shopworn notion that teens cannot intellectualise their own experience.
dont smile at me is obvious in its R&B and jazz influences. Both "idontwannabeyouanymore" and "my boy" are rife with R&B beats and odd chords coupled with Eilish's crystal clear vocal, which throws back to crooners like Frank Sinatra. It's the expert production that keeps it from sounding kitschy. Opening with "COPYCAT", Eilish and O'Connell set the soundscape: the electronics are lush and deep, the lyrics wildly clever, and Eilish's vocal floods your brain even as she sounds like she's whispering. In "COPYCAT" and "my boy", Eilish could be chatting to you over ice cream on a hot day in L.A. This is perhaps the most intriguing thing about don't smile at me; in one moment, she sings "my boy's being suss, he was shady enough" and in the next she's crooning "if 'I love you' was a promise, would you break it? If you're honest, tell the mirror what you know she's heard before: I don't wanna be you anymore" It is impossible not to marvel at the David Byrne-esque marriage between layman's terms and poetry in her songwriting.
dont smile at me is a sophisticated debut for a remarkable woman, one that will no doubt solidify Eilish as a major player in the pop industry in the years to come.
She calls it "the hardest one I ever made"; that's Jenny Lewis' assessment of The Voyager, her first solo album since 2008's Acid Tongue. In the ensuing years, Lewis dealt with the break-up of Rilo Kiley, the death of her father, writer's block, and bouts of insomnia.
Given the background, you might expect The Voyager to be a downbeat experience and while lyrically it's unflinchingly honest, the music shines with positivity and glorious pop songwriting. This album finds Lewis pulling together something of a "greatest hits" of her sound: a mix of the alt.country of Acid Tongue and Rabbit Fur Coat, the rock and roll of Jenny & Johnny's I'm Having Fun Now and the classic overdriven Fleetwood Mac guitar pop that Rilo Kiley did so fantastically during their headily-brilliant peak moments.
"I've been wearing all-black since the day it started" are the first words out of Lewis' mouth on the opening track "Head Underwater," a wonderful burst of sunny pop that belies her tale of insomnia, hints of experimenting with substance abuse and feeling like she's becoming unknown to those around her. These are dark themes, so the "ooh-oohs" and "ba-ba-bas", along with the weighty piano and scratchy guitar riffs provide balance, and it ends up being probably the sprightliest thing Lewis has put her name to thus far.
Keeping us on our toes, "Just One of the Guys" is a lolloping country-rock track produced by Beck and featuring his subtly mumbled backing vocals where Lewis sings about feeling unable to fit in and musing on her ticking biological clock: "there's only one difference between you and me / when I look at myself all I can see / I'm just another lady without a baby." Although it's delivered with Lewis' usual wry humour, it's a remarkably honest and affecting snapshot of something that's clearly troubling the singer.
The Voyager is where we truly get to see behind the veneer of the singer and sometime actress. A fitting record, which addresses everything that's come before and yet to come - and a crowning, near-perfect album.
On her first solo outing, Jenny Lewis writes directly about the twisted fairytale of her childhood, and takes a levelheaded look at the complications of love.
The haunting title track of Rabbit Fur Coat is a mostly autobiographical rags-to-riches-to-rags-again fusion of fact, fiction and fantasy sung to a nursery-rhyme melody in waltz-time. Told in a style akin to magic realism, it's the story of a woman whose mother is waitressing and on welfare until her daughter becomes "a hundred-thousand-dollar kid", only to end up back on welfare, "still putting that stuff up [her] nose".
The already tumultuous terrain of relationships becomes even more fraught when your lover is also your bandmate, as was once the case with Jenny and Rilo Kiley co-founder Blake Sennett. The messiness of romantic entanglements surfaces on the achingly catchy "You Are What You Love," when Lewis sings: "Every morning upon waking / To you I’m a symbol or a monument / Your rite of passage to fulfillment / But I’m not yours for the taking". Or, from "Melt Your Heart": "When you're kissing someone who's too much like you / It's like kissing on a mirror".
A gifted lyricist, Jenny Lewis is also a very fine singer, landing on each note with just the right touch. She can belt it out with a soulful, Neko Case-like clarion call ("Big Guns"), put on a Lucinda Williams drawl ("Rise up with Fists!"), or purr like Margot Timmins ("Happy"). The musical stylings of all of these talented ladies echo throughout the accompaniment on Rabbit Fur Coat, but Lewis takes these elements back to their roots. Without copping a retro sound, Jenny has tapped into a fifty-year-old Americana, finding that sweet spot at the birth of rock ‘n’ roll when folk, country, gospel and vocal pop were all melding together, but before the increasingly heavy backbeat of rock displaced the lilting shuffle of Sun Studios-era rockabilly.
The former frontwoman has expertly crafted a record, which allows Lewis her own distinct sound. The indie darling stepped into her own with Rabbit Fur Coat, and the album more than a decade on is still a compelling, complex and captivating achievement.
Few songwriters capture the power and the humor of the mundane as well as Courtney Barnett. On her first two releases, the smashing double EP A Sea of Split Peas from 2013 and the uneven Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit from 2015, that seemed to be her calling — taking droll account of the small crises we face and the subtle personality differences we marry into.
On her new album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, it’s as if Barnett is taking the advice of the title. There’s a more direct quality to her lyrics this time around, and a more honest quality to her delivery, even when she takes on themes she has already addressed in earlier songs — being on the road, dealing with loneliness, looking for home, insecurity, and writer’s block. Her emotions are less muted by clever lines here, less protected by her sardonic talk-singing. On “Sunday Roast,” she is more in touch with a deeper self-awareness and a longer view, closer to what she really feels, as she sings, “I know all your stories/ But I’ll listen to them again.”
On her remarkable 2017 collaboration with Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice, the pair — whose phrasing and love of pretty hooks are perfectly matched — sang about incessant travel as disorienting but in some way charming. On Tell Me, Barnett is willing to be more vulnerable as she notes, in “City Looks Pretty,” “Friends treat you like a stranger and/ Strangers treat you like their best friend, oh well.” The openness and exhausted anger — they’re on the super catchy “Charity,” too — carry with them an air of catharsis and relief. On the tuneful “Nameless, Faceless,” she goes after Internet trolls with a biting takedown and a melody that recall early Liz Phair.
The bottom line is that nearly every song on the new Courtney Barnett album has something to recommend it — a familiar melody that takes distinctive turns, a lyric that grows deeper with each listening, strong backup from a band led by Barnett’s rough-hewn guitar riffs. No, it’s not the Great Perfect Courtney Barnett Album I’ve been waiting for since first hearing her. But given the promise of her earlier work, it’s a thrill to hear her continue to move forward.
Electric Light is alI over the place stylistically, James Bay has weaved together a variety of extravagant differences. But is it too much chaos and not enough calm?
From the indie-rock anthem "Pink Lemonade" to the pastiche "In My Head," Bay ditches the bluesy apparel for ruthlessly efficient pop. Hip-hop style spoken-word skits make up the interludes, while he explores a diverse array of techniques and sounds; from the overall ambient whir of "Wild Love," to the gospel float of "Us." Fuzzy-toned "Sugar Drunk High" introduces a Prince-like twist and "Fade Out" has the former dream-woozy R&B arrangements. The house-funk of "Wasted On Each Other" quite simply bangs, with its foot-stomping pop elements.
Oozing with confidence, "Wanderlust" reeks of Fleetwood Mac, as the trippy, drawling lyrical delivery and sweet twang of the guitar recalls legendary tracks "Everywhere" and "Dreams." Laced with a swaggering, velvety guitar line on the opening of "I Found You," Bay melts into a lolling, gospel-infused blues feel. Similarly, "Stand Up" boasts distorted vocals and moments that truly take your breath away. "Just For Tonight" adopts themes of escapism but almost feels too similar to "Hold Back The River" — nevertheless still providing a catchy chorus.
While producer Paul Epworth’s contribution is accomplished, adding a dynamism that maintains our attention throughout, the record seems to lack an underlying theme. Bay has been a bit too clever for his own good, and on Electric Light fails to latch onto an identity that makes him truly unique.
Since the release of "Bodak Yellow" last June, Cardi B's climb to the top of the charts and into entertainment hearts has been fruitful — and one of the most unlikely stories in rap in recent years: a former stripper turned reality star turned chart-topping rapper with a strong Bronx accent and an even stronger New York attitude.
She is rap’s answer to Tiffany Haddish: funny, curious, and absorbing. Cardi’s rants can be as biting as they are mesmerizing, as much an invasion of your space as they are an immersion into her world.
Sitting at 13 tracks, including the already released "Bodak Yellow," "Bartier Cardi" and "Drip," Cardi has already established herself as being the "Trap Selena," but it's her softer singles that add a new dimension to her artistry. While Cardi B's own relationship with Migos's Offset has been thrown into the spotlight, Invasion of Privacy feels like her Lemonade moment, one that magnifies her insecurities for public consumption.
Sampling Lauryn Hill's "Ex-Factor," but building on the skeleton of Eve's domestic violence-themed "Love Is Blind," Cardi B reveals her fears of infidelity on "Be Careful," while the Kehlani-featured "Ring" and "Thru Your Phone" speaks of heartbreak and jealousy.
By contrast, "Bickenhead" speaks to sexual liberation, while serving as a response to Project Pat's "Chickenhead." Like yin and yang, Cardi B's ability to move from heartache to sex, and then again to the gospel-inspired "Best Life," highlights myriad emotions that most young adults have — and more importantly, can relate to.
Though Cardi B doesn't hide her come-up story (which she raps unapologetically on "Get Up 10"), she uses Invasion of Privacy to remind us that instead of being a statistic, she empowers herself (and others) by reclaiming any negativity thrown her way.
There’s no small glory in purging pent-up emotions through giant hooks and a pumping synth beat, so Chvrches is worth celebrating for that alone. Yet one of the most striking things about the Scottish synth-pop group is how well each of trio’s albums stands on its own: they don’t seem like successive entries in a catalog that is building toward some all-encompassing Grand Statement so much as from-scratch recreations of specific feelings at distinct moments in time. Put another way, each of Chvrches’ three LPs so far is an accessible way into the band’s music, and you can dive in pretty much anywhere and come up with gold.
There’s a lot about letting go on the group’s latest, Love Is Dead: of old grudges, of toxic relationships, even of hesitation about honestly expressing oneself. For all the venting of psychic turbulence, Love Is Dead has a joyfully defiant feel, as if singer Lauren Mayberry is busily converting all the negativity in her life into sparkling, irrepressible pop melodies. The catharsis starts on album opener “Graffiti” as she lifts her voice in a soaring refrain that is at once effervescent and wistful on lyrics about leaving behind the promise, and also the folly, of youthful love. Lead single “Get Out” parses a fractured relationship over a clapping beat and a stylized stuttering vocal part on a chorus with insidious earworm potential, and the bittersweet “Heaven/Hell” could be about a disorienting relationship, or more likely a well-deserved victory lap for Mayberry’s public stand against the misogyny and abuse that women in bands have been expected to endure. “Do you ever wonder what we learned? / We can raise our glasses, dancing on the ashes as it burns,” Mayberry sings.
Love Is Dead contains moodier moments, too. Matt Berninger of the National is a perfect gloomy foil to Mayberry as they exchange recriminations on “My Enemy,” while “Really Gone” pares back the atmospherics to a simple, pulsing synth part and Mayberry’s mournful voice.
Love Is Dead brims with that kind of confidence: assertive but not showy, passionate but not gaudy, and wholly necessary.
#tbt Kacey Musgraves’ third album goes down so smoothly that it might not even scan as a total reinvention. Throughout the songs on Golden Hour, the East Texas singer-songwriter is radiant, awestruck, taking the scenic route to the bar just for the hell of it. After Musgraves’ previous two albums, which felt like they were cut from the same home-sewn flannel cloth, she now ventures beyond the front-porch hum of country music. The new Musgraves needs strings, vocoders, disco beats. And if this sounds like a left turn for the lovable cynic who once characterized the world as an absurd beauty contest, a vicious cycle, and a toxic boys’ club, well, that’s kinda the point.
The result is her most accessible record and her most ambitious, a magnetic, comfortable culmination of her pop and country instincts. While dynamic enough to house both the stirring, alone-at-the-piano fragment “Mother” and a country-disco kiss-off in “High Horse,” Golden Hour is alluringly cohesive, both lyrically and musically.
Despite the grandeur of its music, Golden Hour offers Musgraves’ most understated songwriting, a refreshing evolution as stars like Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga accidentally turn Americana-pop into grim satire. On “Space Cowboy,” she weaves in at least a dozen genre tropes without drawing any attention to them. Instead, you’re left dazzled by the way her bold, drawling voice can cut through simple ideas—“Sunsets fade/And love does too”—like she’s the first person to notice, and you’re the first one she’s telling.
But if the tension in her earlier work came from her sharp observations and underdog spirit, there’s something more complicated at play here. “Is there a word for the way that I’m feeling tonight,” she asks in “Happy & Sad,” attempting to pinpoint the creeping melancholy undercutting a blissful evening. Golden Hour is an album-length ode to not having the right words, to being overcome by the moment and surrendering to it.
“If you’re ever gonna find a silver lining,” she sang in the first track on her debut, “It’s gotta be a cloudy day.” Even then, she suspected that ecstasy is most rewarding when it’s hard-won. On Golden Hour, she wears the sunlight well.
The party line is that Lykke Li has attempted to capture the R&B-tinged sad-pop zeitgeist (think Lorde, think Sampha) on her fourth album So Sad So Sexy. However, having honed her slick and sultry Nordic noir for over a decade – breaking hearts before The Weeknd and Lana Del Rey had even brushed the airwaves – you could argue that Lykke Li was the OG sad-pop millennial.
It was the stark but accomplished dream-pop of 2008 debut Youth Novels made her an immediate international art-pop sensation, while the ambitious follow-up Wounded Rhymes added a touch more bombast to her tightrope-strut between devastating and danceable. She described lush break-up album I Never Learn as the last part of a trilogy. After a four-year wait, during which time she lost her mother and became one herself, Lykke has found herself a new record label, a new home in LA and a whole new lease on life.
She soaked up the sounds of California, distanced herself from any ‘indie’ inhibitions and ushered in collaborations with hotshot producers Skrillex, Rostam, T-Minus and DJ Dahi. The result is added color and definition to Lykke Li’s widescreen melancholia. Opener "Hard Rain" adds a skittering R&B bounce and synth-pop glow to her romantic gloom, while the skittering trap-beat and overwhelming chorus of "Deep End" makes for one of the most unlikely of bangers with the lines: “I wasn’t gonna love you, now I’m so fucking deep.”
"Two Nights," is a subtle flirtation with hip-hop, while "Last Piece" and the title track come the closest to the Lykke Li of old, albeit with a modern but classy shimmer. “It’s a sad story, but it’s still our story,” she pines on the clap-along ballad of "Bad Woman," before hope emerges again on the opulent ache of closer "Utopia": “I see the dream in your eyes and I want it”.
As always, there are chinks of light breaking through the darkness, only this time they seem all the more dazzling. Indeed, it’s the sun-soaked sorrow of the earworms "Jaguars In The Air" and surefire single "Sex Money Feelings Die" that make for the real peaks. This is how you really do summertime sadness.
Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides is a record of heightened contrasts; fleeting droplets of silence and crystalline, susceptible vocals interjecting an onslaught of pads, synths, and kick drums. Naturally, this is demarcated by emotional contrasts, by agonised vulnerability and empowering self-possession. Juxtaposition is hardly an original artistic mode, but executed effectively it’s one of the most moving. This is where another contrast presents itself; Oil is a celebration of identity that’ll mean so much to so many on an intimate level, but it’s also, objectively, a triumphant artistic achievement.
Until now SOPHIE shied away from publicity; from a judgemental, voyeuristic, and still in many respects outmoded public sphere that might react adversely to her being a self-confident trans artist. Then came ‘It’s Okay To Cry,’ released last October with a video in which unprecedentedly, presented herself to the world. In both its promotion and musically, it was unlike anything we’d seen of SOPHIE before, an austere feel-bad-to-feel-good ballad. Although stylistically consistent, the song felt like the artifice was being torn asunder. This was SOPHIE.
Contrast, of all kinds, is laid bare in Oil’s opening three tracks. ‘It’s Okay To Cry’ is the sensitive reveal; ‘Ponyboy’ is a transgressive beat-strewn behemoth, with distorted vocals given a metallic splurge and a wailing synth, the indomitable hook at its centre; ‘Faceshopping,’ though more inclined to the latter, is a strong representation of the record as a whole, the central vocal given ample room to deliver its sardonic take on gender fluidity misapprehension; “My shop is the face I front/ My face is the real shop front” and each verse is bridged by a shrieking vulture of a synth and rumbling basslines.
Art isn’t immediately good just because it’s progressive or moral, but Oil isn’t moralising. It’s an invocation, a diarising, the personal becoming political through its own pertinence. Oil's resonance and bravery – underlined by its acutely mapped volatile and enrapturing production – is inspiring, and the conception and execution of its testimony remarkable.