Single review: Charli XCX – ‘Boys’

“I’m sorry that I missed the extract / I wish I had a better excuse like I was being properly creative / But I was busy thinking ’bout this song”

Originally published in The Edge

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 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’”

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Live review: Tom Misch at Somerset House, London

Misch layers his delicate grooves and the immaculate results of swift beatmaking with a stellar cast of those who helped bring his sound to this stage in the first place.

Originally published in The Edge

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”

Album review: Mura Masa – Mura Masa

Uniting the sides with an electronic sheen, the Guernsey-born producer strikes an improbable balance between high-octane party nous and heartwrenching displays of soul.

Originally published in The Edge

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”

Live review: alt-J at The O2 Arena, London

Triangles most certainly are my favourite shape after an evening of impressive renditions and mesmerising lights, even if alt-J did miss a trick or two in playing up to the arena’s scale.

Originally published in The Edge

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 Yours tour 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”

“I might be doing a heavy metal album next” – An interview with Becky Hill

Between her main stage set and providing the evening’s grand finale with a rendition of ‘You Got The Love’ alongside Pete Tong and The Heritage Orchestra, Becky Hill joined Surge and SUSUtv backstage at Common People to talk about her newfound rivalry with Olly Murs and Louisa Johnson, snubbing DJ Snake as she looks to a solo breakout, and changing things up for her inevitable second LP.

Festival review: Wild Life 2017

Three years in, Disclosure and Rudimental’s south coast weekender continues to show just how much music organisers can cram into a minute airfield, even if it does start to feel like three festivals in one.

Originally published in The Edge

Boarding a train to Shoreham-by-Sea whilst running on about two hours of sleep and with only two-thirds of a malt loaf for company, it’s fair to say that the only tangible spurs of any modicum of festival spirit within me on the way to Wild Life were the bizarrely resplendent south coast weather and the promise of the musical goodness to be found within its fenced-off portion of Brighton City Airport. Eventually, mid-afternoon merriment did make itself known – many a Corona-grasping young person joined the service to the point that I assumed the beer bottles were the festival’s answer to wristbands, and within five minutes of walking from the station the more wild side of the crowd had made itself known by urinating into four separate bushes – but where the festival spearheaded by Disclosure and Rudimental flourishes is certainly in its performance offerings, fitting four substantial stages into a very compact layout. Continue reading “Festival review: Wild Life 2017”

“Maybe we should have more vegetables on the rider” – An interview with Gus Unger-Hamilton of alt-J

We chat all things RELAXER, bassoon, and 19th-century Welsh mining with alt-J’s keyboardist.

Originally published in The Edge

Released at the start of this month, alt-J’s third album RELAXER is their most concise and eccentric to date. It ranges from intricate orchestral recordings at the iconic Abbey Road Studios to gritty pop-conscious basslines and structures paired with compelling tales of typically eccentric natures. To understand the process behind the record and its presentation, we sat down with keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton to pick his mind about hair products, touring and musical greenery, and the underappreciation of the bassoon, as demonstrated on maudlin album track ‘Last Year.’ Continue reading ““Maybe we should have more vegetables on the rider” – An interview with Gus Unger-Hamilton of alt-J”

Album review: alt-J – RELAXER

Fancy a concoction of grandiose orchestral beauty, boisterous horns with a fair dose of bite, and assertive commentary on the Radiohead-shaped comings and goings at a sex hotel? alt-J’s third record may be their least coherent but it’s certainly their sharpest.

Originally published in The Edge

On the eve of first seeing alt-J live in a sold-out O2 Arena, the song I played most frequently was ‘Taro,’ the bhangra-flavoured account of the death of war photographer Robert Capa in 1950s Vietnam that closed An Awesome Wave. Of course, it took me a while to realise this was the case – as a band named by Fine Art students after a keyboard shortcut, it’s only natural for things to be a little bit cryptic in the lyrical structure and delivery alike. With RELAXER, a record named after a “cool”-sounding hair product before you fall into the trap of expecting a soothing experience, this formula is very much accentuated: no ‘Intro,’ no fleuron-titled interludes; over its eight tracks, they’re far too busy telling tales of seaside Yorkshire threesomes, stabby pool parties, and ogle-prone Tasmanian devils. Continue reading “Album review: alt-J – RELAXER”

Festival review: Thursday at The Great Escape 2017

Reporting from new music Narnia.

Originally published in The Edge

To an early Great Escape performer caught in a light drizzle performing to a non-existent audience on a stage so makeshift that it was just four stickers on the ground opposite the Theatre Royal, in passing I heard five demoralising yet crucial words: “Do it for the art.”

Brighton, for all its multicultural wonder, is not the most thrilling place at 12:45 on a Thursday afternoon after all, even if it is hosting the start of festival season. Sure, some things are new – posters congratulating the Albion on Premier League promotion, dodgy phone shops flogging fidget spinners, the retail outlet long home to my questionable CD purchasing undergoing a rebirth as Victoria’s Secret, a chap on a bench by the station swearing at the floor with The Sun in his pocket – but the closest anything gets to the traditional brand of summertime debauchery is someone slumped in the doorway next to a bank-turned-Wetherspoon with a two litre bottle of Blackthorn. It was at this point that a man from SoundCloud gave me a bloody delicious marshmallowy ice cream from their branded van, a who’s who of industry folks that I might have emailed once congregated in a queue for the conference portion of it all, and I picked up a wristband from an Airstream trailer in time to completely miss the first of Raye’s three sets of the weekend. In pondering, I decided to take a punt on Crimsons – a band the festival app likened to Jimi Hendrix – as they were on at the first obvious venue I see. Naturally, it’s at capacity, so it’s chicken katsu curry time with Lorde on the radio to plan my next move to. (And yes, to confirm your ridiculous ideas of Brighton, the venue in question was indeed one that sells vegan barbeque from a caravan in the corner of its pub portion. I love this city.) Continue reading “Festival review: Thursday at The Great Escape 2017”

Acts you should catch at The Great Escape 2017

Overwhelmed by a 400+ artist lineup? We’re here to help.

Originally published in The Edge

Imagine the kind of festival that would nonchalantly complete its lineup on a Tuesday morning by adding 150 new names and you can begin to get a sense of what The Great Escape is all about. Forget faffing around in a muddy field and missing out on your favourite bands because your friends are making you wait in a half-decent perch for one headliner – The Great Escape is three days of the music industry converging in over 30 of Brighton’s finest venues to celebrate and be introduced to everything new and ready to take over. The archives are packed with household names who appeared before their big breakthroughs – from Adele in 2007 to The xx in 2009 via Christine And The Queens in 2013 and Bon Iver in 2008 – and this year’s bill now boasts well over 400 names ready to feature in the same conversations. Slaves will kick things off by gigging on the resplendent pier, local lad and two-time performer Rag‘n’Bone Man has already sold out his headline slot at the Dome, and Kano will take over the Old Market for some grime time on Friday night, but here’s just a little taste of the acts that you should keep a particular eye out for.

Continue reading “Acts you should catch at The Great Escape 2017”