Reviews

Review: Taylor Swift – Midnights

Consciously or not, Taylor Swift has always been pop artist. No matter whether the song is tingling with teenage emotion and country jangle like Fearless, glazed with the 80s sheen of 1989, or crystallised in pristine chamber folk as on Folklore, underneath the surface is an effortless talent for melody and shamelessly pop sensibilities. After 2020’s…

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Review: Björk – Fossora

Since her 1993 debut, every Björk album has come with a concept, a theme that defines it against the rest of her discography, whether it’s the sublime sensuality of Vespertine, the entirely a cappella album Medúlla or the nature-inspired Biophilia with its accompanying apps. Fossora is no exception. When the Icelandic musician announced her tenth studio…

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Review: Nicole Cassandra Smit – Third in Line

Very rarely does a first album showcase as much raw talent and imagination as Cassandra Nicole Smit’s dazzling debut Third in Line. The Edinburgh-based Indonesian-Swedish musician is not afraid to take risks on this LP, melding soul, jazz, hip-hop and electronica into her own sonic elixir. Yet the fluidity and sense of artistry underpinning every track…

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Review: Pictish Trail – Island Family

As musical tributes to the Scottish Hebrides go, Johnny Lynch’s salute to the Isle of Eigg, Island Family, is certainly an unusual one. There’s barely an acoustic instrument in sight, no soaring fiddles or intricate guitar to evoke the windswept landscape and rough seas. Instead, jagged electronics and coarse percussion cut across seas of seething synths…

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Review: Jenny Hval – Classic Objects

The fact that Jenny Hval calls her latest LP Classic Objects her ‘pop album‘ speaks to just how left-field her previous musical ventures have been. Far from conventional, Classic Objects opens with a vibrant, rhythmic meditation on the institution of marriage and concludes questioning the value of art in a commercial system, slipping into spacey ambience,…

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Review: Big Thief – Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You

‘It’s a little bit magic,’ promises ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You’, the title track of American indie folk-rock band Big Thief’s latest album. At 80 minutes long, this mammoth record was born out of drummer and producer James Krivchenia’s desire of capturing the full range of vocalist Adrianne Lenker’s song-writing talent in one…

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Review: Lana Del Rey – Blue Banisters

Just the day after the release of her seventh studio album Chemtrails Over The Country Club in March of this year, Lana Del Rey announced her next project Rock Candy Sweet would be out in June. Then postponed until July and retitled Blue Banisters, the album was teased with a collection of singles, before being postponed…

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Review: Sam Fender – Seventeen Going Under

Happy songs are easy to come by. Political commentary is woven throughout the popular music canon. But creating music that speaks truth to power while affirming the very things that make life worth fighting for is a much harder task. Bruce Springsteen could do it, Stevie Wonder could do it, and Sam Fender can certainly do…

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Review: Yola – Stand For Myself

Following her Grammy-nominated 2019 debut Walk Through Fire, English singer and songwriter Yolanda Quartey returns with an impressive second album. Much like its predecessor, Stand For Myself is rooted in country, soul and a smattering of rock ‘n’ roll, Quartey’s indomitable vocals coursing through the soundscape of 60s and 70s America. But along with more lavish…

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Review: Bleachers – Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night

Maybe it was the dusky blue cover artwork or the vibrant energy of the singles or perhaps just the enticing, twilit romanticism of the title, but Bleachers’ third studio album Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night seemed poised to be their most cohesive and expressive LP to date. And on one hand the album does…

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Review: Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever

Last time she was the bad guy, the monster under your bed, revelling in the stuff of nightmares. Now, two years after her award-winning debut When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Billie Eilish returns with a softer, more personal album. Stretching across pop, R&B, folk, rock and even bossa nova, Happier Than Ever…

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Review: Spellling – The Turning Wheel

For Chrystia Cabral, better known by her playful pseudonym, Spellling, music is eternal, ethereal, organic, woven throughout nature. ‘I hear the musical words / in the arc of a rainbow, / in the spider’s harp,’ she sings on the final track of her magnificent third LP, The Turning Wheel. Nature – its beauty, its nurturing powers,…

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Review: Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee

Jubilee, the latest release by Japanese Breakfast, the project of American musician Michelle Zauner, could well be called an emotional rollercoaster – if rollercoasters only went downhill, that is. The album takes us from the infectious openheartedness of the buoyant lead single ‘Be Sweet’, to the devastating loneliness of final track ‘Posing for Cars’, which finds…

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Review: Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend

Four years after the release of their Mercury Prize-winning album Visions of a Life, London-based band Wolf Alice return with another LP, brimming with their signature blend of fuzzy shoegaze and extravagant alt-rock. Blue Weekend sees the band aim for a grander, more lavish sound than they have produced thus far, resulting in a record that…

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Review: Olivia Rodrigo – SOUR

‘It’s brutal out here’ asserts Olivia Rodrigo on the opening track of her debut album SOUR, singing of the pressures and the exploitation that come with teenage stardom. It’s a bold statement putting this noisy, punk-flavoured song at the top of the track list but it announces Rodrigo’s commitment to singing honestly and unashamedly from her…

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Review: St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home

Four years after the release of her acclaimed electropop album Masseduction, Annie Clark takes us in a new musical direction on Daddy’s Home, reflecting on her father’s release from prison, as well as her experience as a woman in the music industry, over a series of ferocious funk grooves and sultry, soulful jams. Daddy’s Home is…

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Review: Fleet Foxes – Shore

For Robin Pecknold, Fleet Foxes’ lead singer and song-writer, songs are ‘perfect angels in the snow’. Delicate and flawless, they are impressions left behind by the legends who write them. On ‘Sunblind’, a stand-out track from his latest project, Shore, he pays homage to his musical heroes, namechecking Elliot Smith, John Prine, Judee Sill and Jeff…

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Review: Taylor Swift – Folklore

Taylor Swift’s surprise album emerges from lockdown with minimal bombast but rich in detail and storytelling. Aptly titled, Folklore traipses through forgotten childhood haunts, meanders along timeless love stories, delves deep into the musical and poetical mythos, and trips lightly through memory and the imagination. Stripped of its pop sheen, Swift’s song-writing alongside producer Jack Antonoff…

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