February album reviews

Maggie Rogers – Now That the Light is Fading EP

Maggie Rogers’ Now That the Light is Fading is grouse. It’s not fair, then, that there are only five tracks here. This EP is a really good insight into what Maggie has to offer – 20 minutes to show her wares and demonstrate why people should wait out for any longer catalogue additions. ‘Color Song’ – a track isolated to vocals – starts things off nice and chilled out, setting up the cool indie pop to follow in radio-friendly ‘Alaska’ and ‘On + Off’. The remaining songs flaunt more of Maggie’s gorgeous vocals captured so well on track 1, adding memorable pop hooks that make each track instantly loveable.

Elbow – Little Fictions

There are a great number of bands for which I can easily proclaim: “I like your old stuff better than your new stuff.” Elbow is not one of them. The band can’t put a foot wrong as far as I’m concerned. Not taking anything away from their earliest material, when The Take Off and Landing of Everything came out in 2014 – their sixth of now seven albums – it eventually launched to arguably my favourite. And they’ve delivered another dose of brilliance on Little Fictions. The rousing ‘Magnificent (She Says)’ is a formidable lead to a stellar new collection of tracks on this album, which moves between loving, joyous, uplifting, melancholy and all sorts – Elbow again delivering more feeling in 50 minutes than many bands can in a career. Along with the opener, cleverly percussive ‘Gentle Storm’, lyrically packed ‘K2’ and the stirring epic ‘Little Fictions’ are the strongest additions to a perfectly-rounded new addition to the Elbow family.

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Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer

I’m of the mind that grime music is terrible, so I set the bar pretty low when first listening to Stormzy; the next act in a line of British rappers who like black clothes, swearing a shit-tonne and generally coming across as very angry fellas. Why bother listening, then? Well, I guess I just like the way he says “bewts” and throws out truth bombs like “you’re never too big for Adele” in ‘Big For Your Boots’ (And that track has been hard to avoid). I was sucked in by one track, but this is far from a standout for me. There are some funny lines littered throughout and the odd winning track (2014’s ‘Shut Up’ resurfacing and claiming best on show), but there’s too much whatever everywhere else, with ‘Velvet’ sounding snorezy, the three-minute one-sided phone conversation ‘Crazy Titch’ far too self-indulgent, and ‘Mr Skeng’ (among others) sounding no different to any other grime act going around. That phone convo suggests Stormzy is taking grime “from a second rate genre to a first rate genre.” Do I agree? Meh.

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Dune Rats – The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit

There’s a serious problem here because, evidently, the kids don’t know it’s bullshit. This is easily some of the worst local music around and having it constantly flogged on the radio is, well, bullshit. To be fair, if you’re a 15-year-old male who’s just discovered tinnies and weed, this is probably hilarious and close-to-home. But for all the rest of you that took this to number one on the Aria charts, please explain it to me? The music is appallingly unoriginal, the vocals painful to listen to, and the lyrics mind-numbing. Of course, that’s probably what they’re going for and I’ve missed the point altogether. Or maybe it’s just a complete load of rubbish and simply a Queensland thing.

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Middle Kids – Middle Kids EP

Some local talent is on serious fire at the moment. I couldn’t get over the number of female voices killing it in 2016 and I’m hoping the trend continues this year. Middle Kids’ self-titled EP is a good start. The tracks presented are an awesome representation of this Sydney three-piece and you’ll be singing along in no time. By the time Hannah’s vocals go high on ‘Edge of Town’, repeating the refrain “I’ve got something on my mind,” all you want to do is rock out hard. ‘Never Start’ follows, bringing you back to earth momentarily, only to get you similarly revved again when its own chorus rolls through. It’s not a formula, it’s a consequence of good song craft. Each song is its own entity – I wouldn’t turn one away if presented in isolation. For that, Middle Kids become very radio friendly, and an act that’s likely to draw in more fans with each offering. Generally middle kids are the unloved ones (certainly the case in my family), but I think I’m going to love these guys.

Jidenna – The Chief

Jidenna has a fair list of talents; he can sing, rap, and dresses impeccably. He has a lot to show off on his debut The Chief, which is why it comes across a tad hotchpotch. Drake’s getting rap Grammys for pop records, so maybe Jidenna is just covering all bases to avoid confusion down the track. Among the songs, there’s breathy war chanting, chats with dad, some icky auto tune, a lullaby nap, anthemic choruses, fiery rap and earworm pop – it’s all quite confusing. But despite the flip flopping, The Chief is a really fun album, full of clever lyrics, a touch of political poignancy, and memorable beats that stick with you even when not sticking to one another. All that is heavily seasoned with the man’s self-confidence –  he’s the chief, the lion, and even the better Bond (“And that lame tryna holler he a Bond wanna-be, He a Roger Moore I’m a Sean Connery, I know”).

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