Originally published for The Edge’s album of the year countdown
Having gone from winning an Auckland school talent show and covering Pixie Lott in a radio session to selling 10 million copies of her debut single and being anointed by David Bowie as “the future of music” before she’d even had a moment spare to turn 17, it may come as no surprise that Ella Yelich-O’Connor opted to retreat towards normalcy as the Pure Heroine days wound down. Of course, sailing was not entirely plain: between incessant partying, herding idols like Kanye West and The Chemical Brothers for her Hunger Games soundtrack, taking helicopter rides into the wilderness to work on follow-up material, and covertly reviewing onion rings on Instagram came a painful breakup and a biting pop landscape eager to absorb her “incorrect” stylings.
Melodrama, the resulting Lorde record, comes rooted in that hedonistic habitat whilst trading the sprawling naïveté of (relative) youth for an affecting glare at heartbreak. A far cry from the days of ‘Tennis Court’ (“It’s a new artform showing people how little we care”), it is a remarkably bare concoction that pairs unorthodox pop competence with conscious overwrought feeling. Detail is superfluous to requirements, save for exposed piano ballad ‘Liability’ indulging in fame’s unceremonious responsibility for the theme (“The truth is I am a toy that people enjoy / ‘Til all of the tricks don’t work anymore / And then they are bored of me”), whilst the meeting of bitterness and a euphoric yearning for escape that is impeccable lead single and album opener ‘Green Light’ serves as a mostly upbeat red herring. Continue reading “Album review: Lorde – Melodrama”
The south coast’s brightest star plays a tremendous hometown sellout.
There may still be the odd occasion where some listings site confuses Portsmouth’s Jerry Williams with the Swedish rocker of the same name 54 years her senior, but selling out a second headline in just seven months at her hometown’s most prestigious venue shows the south coast has cottoned on to her narrative-laced indie pop glories. Spending the summer with 2016 EP cut ‘I’m Not In Love With You’ featured across BBC Radio 1 to precede barnstorming braces of sets at V and The Great Escape will certainly have done no harm whatsoever, and perhaps as a result her full band setup now feels more refined and primed for the big time than ever before.
Amidst enthusiastic singalongs for deceptively vibrant staples ‘Mother’ and ‘Boy Oh Boy,’ Williams zipped with remarkable efficiency through a setlist predominantly comprising unreleased tracks that will inevitably form the basis of 2018’s full-length bow. Her apparent allergy to songs that clock in above three minutes ensures this, with time for everything from solo acoustic therapy for a father-to-be (‘David At The Bar’) to a Pollyanna-like take on the perks of mortality (new single ‘Grab Life’) and a chatter-suspending storm of a Jamie T cover to be delivered with infectious precision.
To anyone who had encountered her work in the 18 protracted months between amorous entrance ‘New Love’ and the release of her debut album, it wasn’t particularly hard to fathom Dua Lipa as a bonafide pop superstar just simmering gently before something truly massive. Eventually, it was the seventh single properly pushed from the record that proved to be said something – over the summer, the defiant breakup recovery jam ‘New Rules’ turned her from a perennial hope to one of the top ten most-streamed artists on the planet.
Thus, in the grand scheme of what is now almost certain to come, her autumn schedule feels like a bizarrely quaint juncture. Less than a week on from trying on arena life for size with Bruno Mars in North America, The Self-Titled Tour – which will now stretch to venues like Alexandra Palace and Birmingham’s Genting Arena in the spring after some exotic stadium dates in Coldplay’s company – kicked off earlier this month, including a chilly Friday night in an art deco Bournemouth hall nestled amongst a gaggle of fast food outlets. Continue reading “Live review: Dua Lipa at O2 Academy, Bournemouth”
It may not have been quite the homecoming spectacle originally intended, but David’s slicker than your average display of many talents proved fodder for a delightful if unconventional Mayflower evening.
Yet three months after tickets went on sale, everything was quietly canned, citing concerns following the 17 indoor dates that the show “would not work outdoors,” even though he’d been booked for plenty of other shows in forests and festivals up and down the land. Those who had taken the plunge for a Friday in the sun were instead scattered between four replacement nights at the Mayflower – a venue a tenth of the size that is more accustomed to live music in the shape of Joe McElderry and Jools Holland than anyone who packed out both of London’s concert arenas mere months ago – and, perhaps inevitably, a fair scattering of empty £42.50 seats remained as David entered the theatre for the very first time, despite spending his formative years barely a kilometre away on Orchard Lane. Continue reading “Live review: Craig David at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton”
Exactly as bad as you’d think it is (except actually far worse), The Emoji Movie is at best a painfully unfunny product placement vehicle with an incoherent premise and thoroughly loathsome characters.
If you’ve ever looked at a smartphone and felt an inexorable urge to watch an anthropomorphic meh face voiced patronisingly by Silicon Valley’s T. J. Miller, yearning to follow his agonisingly boring parents into life in a Celebrity Squares box ready to be scanned into action whenever selected by the user, blighted with the ability to express other emotions through a condition discovered inside Instagram to be hereditary – joins a hand-shaped James Corden (being the kind of James Corden that bumbles with faux enthusiasm to make The Late Late Show intolerable) and an exiled princess (Anna Faris, whose script is littered with bogus jargon to make the charade seem somewhat plausible) who has somehow set up a new life in a neighbouring “hacking app” that resembles The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie’s Thug Tug in a tedious dawdle out of Textopolis towards self-acceptance that stops off at several product placement segments, featuring Christina Aguilera as a Just Dance instructor and Candy Crush thinking he was one of its sweets, before climaxing with the phone’s teenage owner booking a next-day Genius Bar appointment and ignoring incessant irritation from the device just because mid-restore it spontaneously displayed an expressive yellow blob to send to the girl he liked enough to pay tribute to with his Dropbox password (as the hand had predicted having plucked a discarded email draft of Rihanna lyrics from the bin after tastelessly reworking a slavery-era spiritual to fit its own plight), you probably don’t deserve the medium of film. But here we are. Continue reading “Film review: The Emoji Movie”
Since Charli XCX last put out a proper single – October’s frankly tedious ‘After The Afterparty,’ which somewhat legitimised luminous teen king Lil Yachty as a mainstream “thing” with its light, puerile production and lyrical hedonism somehow making its way into the top 40 for five weeks – she’s had a rather stunning little run of appearances. Alongside Japanese pair Yasutaka Nakata and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, ‘Crazy Crazy’ set a high bar for pop choruses just two weeks into 2017. After complaining of the arduous nature of releasing a free mixtape as a major label popstar in this modern age, the £4.99 Number 1 Angel more thoroughly realised the jagged vision of 2016’s Vroom Vroom EP with guest turns from Raye and MØ atop half a dozen A. G. Cook-helmed gems. Within a week of that came her role on Mura Masa‘s ‘1 Night,’ which has thus far proved to be one of the tracks from one of the albums of the year. Most recently, teaming up with a then-17-year-old Chicago producer named Whethan on ‘Love Gang’ paired a slick blob of guitar with unashamedly soppy lyrics which delivered accordingly. Continue reading “Single review: Charli XCX – ‘Boys’”
If you’re looking to play a show for a few thousand people, London isn’t exactly short on suitable venues – especially on the same weekend that a major festival is under way just a zone away – but none quite compare to the splendour of Somerset House, which has served as another option for around 3,000 since first switching off its fountain to open its once palatial and still resplendent quadrangle to live music in 2001. Like a tasteful boutique version of what is now traditional across town in Hyde Park – think compelling architecture rather than screen-flanking fake trees; simple bars rather than high street staples awkwardly trying not to look like standard food vans – the collection of artists beckoned to headline for a fortnight is as illustrious as it is diverse, this year reaching via Foster The People and Goldfrapp from Norah Jones to Songhoy Blues.
Having turned 22 less than a month before and playing his largest show to date, hometown producer Tom Misch could easily have faltered at the scale of it all, but then again last February he supported Loyle Carner at the 700-capacity Village Underground before headlining the same venue nine months later on a 17-stop tour of the US and Europe. Here, he rose to the occasion with his friends and family in tow for a show as mesmerising as his half-decade portfolio of SoundCloud beats. Continue reading “Live review: Tom Misch at Somerset House, London”
Two years on from his impeccable breakout Someday Somewhere EP, much has changed for young Alex Crossan. Although his studio is still a speakerless laptop in his bedroom, his CV boasts a reputation as one of the most versatile electronic artists around, a healthy festival pedigree that’s seen him quietly shimmer through performances at Coachella and Glastonbury (and even his local Wild Life), a pair of self-hosted shows on Beats 1 that have acted as a showcase for his Anchor Point imprint, and an enviable phonebook that reaches from A$AP Rocky to Damon Albarn.
On Mura Masa, his first major label full-length, so prominent are these pals that the names of the 10 who feature adorn its cover alongside an image of Crossan at a 30° tilt whilst looking rather glum. Such an image isn’t necessarily most illustrative of what’s inside: 45 minutes of gleeful hedonism on the theme of love brought to life with his crisp, harp-soaked glue. Its production is dense and effervescent right from opener ‘Messy Love’ – one of only two truly solo ventures alongside the minute-long acoustic prairie interlude ‘give me The ground’ – which establishes the impulsive and passionate tone lyrically (“Take me, break me / Use me for your messy love,” he yearns through a liberal slathering of Auto-Tune) and atmospherically. Continue reading “Album review: Mura Masa – Mura Masa”
To mark the 10th anniversary of London’s foremost tent opening its doors to become the world’s busiest music arena, the week-long party they planned featured a suitably dazzling set of names. Having spent the last six years on the way to her 1,000th show in Las Vegas’ Caesars Palace, Céline Dion popped in for two nights in her first dates at the arena (and country) since 2008. To cap an astonishing six months in which he’s single-handedly made a mockery of charts in the streaming age on an almost weekly basis, Ed Sheeran used his third show of the year at the arena to warm up for his closing set at Glastonbury. Though their brace were ultimately postponed until December following Jay Kay undergoing an operation on his back, the final nights were sure to have featured the most extravagant headgear in Jamiroquai’s 15 years of electric funk.
Tasked with opening it all was alt-J, performing for the second time at the arena after opening 2015’s European leg of the This Is All Yourstour with Wolf Alice and Gengahr for company. The show also doubled up as an opportunity to dust off any cobwebs that might have gathered since they last headlined on home soil – not unlike Sheeran, their major Glastonbury slot must have been in mind – but if such a thing were the case then they did a very splendid job of hiding it. A brace from the two-week old RELAXER – opening number ‘3WW’ came drenched fittingly in a smoky, monochromatic haze, meanwhile ‘Deadcrush’ was an opportunity for the centre-stage Joe Newman to demonstrate an exquisite take on rockstar vocal swagger in front of a wall of lightning – sandwiched a trio from An Awesome Wave, which – upon the addition of ‘Intro’ to 2015’s setlist – was just one track and two interludes away from being played in full perhaps better than ever, with the capacity crowd in rich voice even for its more obscure moments. Continue reading “Live review: alt-J at The O2 Arena, London”