Part 1 – by Alex Payne
2018 has proven itself to be incredibly fruitful for hip hop fans, and the last few weeks have been no exception, with a wide range of diverse projects dropping almost daily. Perhaps the most consistent project for me has been from Californian lyricist Vince Staples, with his third full length release ‘FM’. At just 22 minutes long, it’s a brief look into Vince’s acerbic mind, punctuated frequently with radio themed skits. It’s short length is a subtle counter to the drawn-out projects that dominate the modern streaming landscape.
Crawling out of the left field is ‘MUDBOY’, the debut brainchild of relative newcomer, Sheck Wes. Exploding onto the scene last summer with his breakout banger, ‘Mo Bamba’, Wes brings untameable energy, spitting raw verses that are encapsulated within dark, skeletal beats. If you’re looking for a project to scratch that mosh trap itch, ‘MUDBOY’ has you covered. However, if you’re looking for something a little more lyrical, Open Mike Eagle might be more your cup of tea. Having spent the better part of the last decade building a reputation in the Los Angeles underground scene as one of the sharpest rappers, Mike’s back with ‘What Happens When I Try to Relax’, an uncomfortable yet witty EP that follows in the same vein as his last full album. A scathing reflection on racial inequalities is intertwined with well crafted punchlines and Mike’s own personality, making for a deeply personal and poignant commentary. Whatever sub-genre of rap you’re into, 2018 continues to be full of innovative and thrilling releases.
Part 2 – by Emilia Jansson
Ariana Grande has been a constant feature in the press this year. After a highly publicised engagement with Pete Davidson, combined with the tragic news of Mac Miller, there is enough to fill pages of gossip about her. However, Grande leaves all that behind her with the release of her latest single ‘thank u, next’.
While many artists claim to be inspired by real experiences, they will often remain coy when asked for further details. This is not the case for Grande who names and thanks many of her exes in her song, expressing what they taught her. Big Sean is the first name-drop “Thought I’d end up with Sean, but he wasn’t a match” whereas backup dancer Ricky Alvarez gets a tongue-in-cheek shoutout with “Wrote some songs about Ricky, now I listen and laugh”. Even Mac Miller is referenced with “Wish I could say thank you to Malcom. ‘Cause he was an angel”.
After thanking her exes, Grande spends the second part of the single preaching self love and states that she’s moved on to someone else and that it will last “‘Cause her name is Ari and I’m good with that”.
Ariana Grande may be infamous for her romantic life but ‘thank u, next’ allows her to embrace her past and move on. The quirky pop song serves as a reminder to the public that celebrities are humans with private lives. Growing up in the public eye is difficult enough without your entire love life splashed on the front pages of the press, and allowing some self-love and acceptance is what Grande deserves.
Part 3 – by Munro Page
Basement’s newest LP ‘Beside Myself’ has dominated my new listening this October. The fourth studio album by the flannel-shirt wearing Norwich based emo/alternative rock band is consistent, well produced and easy on the ear. The release doesn’t offer much in the way of groundbreaking innovation, though it doesn’t leave you feeling unsatisfied. The band are known for their anthemic cuts which they pull off superbly when playing live, and it’s not hard to see the bold opening track ‘Disconnect’ and the beautiful guitar chorus on ‘Stigmata’ going down a treat at festivals next summer.
The second record from Australian jangle pop trio The Goon Sax has also been a favourite of mine these past few weeks. One of my friends saw them live in Brighton on their UK tour and recommended their rustic, sharp and down-to-earth sound to me. ‘We’re Not Talking’ is original and relatable, with the lively guitar rhythms being paired perfectly with the placid vocal delivery, finished off with the odd flourish of some strings for good measure. ‘She Knows’ and ‘A Few Times Too Many’ are the standout tracks for me; it’s the kind of record to soundtrack making scrambled eggs on a lazy Sunday morning.
The new single from Paul Smith has also left an impression on me with its tender lyrics and catchy riffs. ‘John’ is a heartfelt jangle-pop dedication to a friend, sung with a wonderful vulnerability by the Maxïmo Park front man, who released his new solo album ‘Diagrams’ earlier this month.