Written by Sam Bethune
5) Triage, by Methyl Ethel
Nowadays, most bands who claim to make synth-pop or 80’s New Wave, just seem to never really hit the spot, but Methyl Ethel’s, Triage can be considered the good stuff. Although the album may come across as just another noise-induced art-rock album, one of Triage’s biggest qualities is its danceability.
“Ruiner” and “Real Tight” are both toe-tapping tunes which pull many similarities to electropop band, MGMT. These catchy melodies might not be as psychedelic as some of MGMT’s earlier stuff, yet they still have the makings of dance hits.
“Trip the Mains” however, is certainly the highlight of the album. This groovy, funky centrepiece oozes with synthy chords and a catchy melody that provide the listener with an electric-urge, or as Webb says, “I’ve got a voltage that’s running high / And I can barely close my eyes.”
Triage is an album that wastes no time in disappointing.
4) Here Comes the Cowboy, by Mac DeMarco
Although Here Comes the Cowboy has been snubbed by many critics, it is easily one of Mac’s funkiest and most open records to date. Unlike 2 and Salad Days, DeMarco’s fourth studio album unveils a more reflexive, vulnerable side.
This record is a lot more sporadic, playful and experimental with its themes compared to Mac’s previous work. “Baby Bye Bye” particularly stands out, with its pitched synths and stark guitar chords, whilst “On the Square”, sees a more melodic style to Mac, with a piano-powered ballad feel to it.
This album is thoughtful and has inspirational lyricism. We all become quite the cynic as age increases; in Mac’s case, it seems to have opened his musical mind a lot more.
The third track on the album, “Finally Alone”, truly encapsulates DeMarco’s signature charm as well as introspective look in his life. The lyric, “You need a vacation, somewhere that no one ever would dream to go”, highlights the Canadian’s contemplative mind, reflecting on his persona as he gets older.
Here Comes the Cowboy is an album which is a sacred gem. The record shows that not only is Mac maturing both musically and thematically, he is also trying to grow in many other ways as well. This LP may not be for everybody, however, there is a certain amount of solitude in the album.
3) When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? by Billie Eilish
What a year it has been for the 17-year-old Los Angeles native. Billie’s rise to stardom has mostly been steady, up until the release of her debut album.
Following on from the popularity of her 2016 single “Ocean Eyes”, as well as her EP Don’t Smile At Me. Eilish and brother Finneas, who produced the album, have managed to make an album which truly stands out.
There is something so pure and refreshing from this alt-pop style album. Billie’s against-the-grain formula works perfectly. Her eccentric, playful character, allows her to amalgamate shaking basslines with sincere lyricism.
The third track on the album “xanny”, showcases just this. The rather charming entrance to the song then blends into a quivering bassline, filled with angst and melancholia. Lyrics such as, “I can’t afford to love someone/Who isn’t dying by mistake in Silver Lake”, help unravel the mysticism of the teen.
“Bad guy” is arguably the most commercial track, yet it still maintains a fresh appeal. A personal favourite of mine, “wish you were gay”, demonstrates Billie’s talent, as well as the flawless production.
The minimalist, bedroom-pop album, makes for an enjoyable collage of a record. The punchy basslines, mixed with the vocal prowess of Billie, provide an album which paves the way for a new pop formula.
2) Anima, by Thom Yorke
It has been thirteen years since Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, released his debut solo album, The Eraser. Yorke then ventured off into the supergroup Atoms for Peace, releasing AMOK in 2013. While also delivering his second solo album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes in 2014, and working to produce the soundtrack for Luca Guadagnino’s, Suspiria.
Into the frame comes Yorke’s third solo album, ANIMA. Although some of the songs on the album aren’t too far off his previous record, combined with the mastery of producer Nigel Godrich, the pair have created an artfully dream-like album, which pays homage to the wizardry of the artist.
ANIMA is an album of little joy. The last three tracks approach the idea of modern-day despair. “The Axe” is reminiscent of Yorke’s work on Suspiria, while “I Am a Very Rude Person” follows a very low-key, atonal vibe.
Even with the discordant forms that some songs take, Yorke is never too far from unleashing his falsetto vocals. One of the more impressive songs on the album, “Last I Heard (…He Was Circling the Drain)”, assembles the falsetto beauty with edgy, anxious and repetitive synth’s which lure you into this dream-like paralysis of musical awe.
ANIMA floats through a narrative of dreamy yet electronic turmoil. Yorke has proven again that his musical brain continues to evolve. His shift into electronic, bass-fuelled tracks remains just as impactful and progressive as the rest of his musical discography.
1) IGOR, by Tyler, the Creator
Up until the release of his 2017 album, Flower Boy, there has been something missing from his discography.
IGOR, the 28-year-old’s sixth studio album, is the missing piece that fits perfectly into Tyler’s abstract jigsaw.
The record can be split into three acts: love, heartbreak, and acceptance. Although these may seem rather conventional Tyler tropes, it unveils an artist who is willing to experiment with a musical narrative.
The opening track on the album, “IGOR’S THEME”, draws similarities to songs later in the album, such as “NEW MAGIC WAND”. These tracks don’t necessarily add much to the linear narrative of the album, but more act as a motif. The defiant, rough beats connote Tyler’s stage in his process, from being in love to losing hope.
Tyler’s struggles become more apparent in “A BOY IS A GUN”. This centrepiece of the album slows the pace before it propels you into the spiral of emotionality that features later on. The weightless flow of the song, merged with Tyler’s colourful chord progressions, sends you deep into his psyche.
The final song, “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?”, sums up IGOR as a collective. After the tumultuous, emotional turmoil of the album, the finale perfectly encapsulates the lack of a resolution. There is in fact, no hope around the unknown bend.