Seriously though – how is it already March? Anyway, we’ve already had two unbelievable months of music so far in 2020 so we can’t complain.
From Mac Miller’s beautiful and bittersweet posthumous album ‘Circles’, to the majestic psychedelia of Tame Impala and Moses Boyd’s futuristic jazz, February may have even topped January. Our favourite albums from the last month are also a showcase of the best pop talent from around the world, with Christine and the Queens and BTS both delivering quality projects.
Now, as spring is (maybe) on the way, here’s our round-up of some of the best records that dropped in February…
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Mac Miller - Circles // Review
The posthumous studio album ‘Circles’ by the late Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller, produced and completed by Jon Brion, is a beautiful symphony with which to bid farewell to one hip-hop‘s sweetest voices. This project plays less as a hip-hop album and more of a mixed-genre compilation, each song telling a tale of how Miller felt before his passing.
Despite the sadness that clearly surrounds this project there is plenty of positivity: the production of the album is impeccable, and the overwhelming message that shines through is of hope for the future. That hopefulness seems an apt final legacy for an artist like Mac Miller, who in spite of life’s challenges always strived for improvement and progression.
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Tame Impala - The Slow Rush // Review
If Kevin Parker appears relaxed, then perhaps that’s because he is. The epitome of zen when onstage with Tame Impala, he’s somehow managed to locate the fine balance between success and individual passion. ‘The Slow Rush’ is the sound of a band broadening out, trying new things, while also honing in on their core; it’s not a reinvention, but neither does it tread water – indeed, it’s another aspect of Parker’s innate sense of balance.
The album simply sounds exceptional, with a gorgeous quality of sound that flirts with both the exact and the unashamedly raw. ‘The Slow Rush’ feels like an emphatic attempt to shake free of those preconceptions, to assert a willingness to explore while still remaining rooted to a core aesthetic.
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Moses Boyd - Dark Matter // Review
Listening to ‘Dark Matter’ - it’s astonishing how many clever ideas Moses Boyd manages to spin into earworms, the album is literally dripping with them. The next astonishing thing is how tight it feels: at just under and hour the album isn’t notably long nor short, but there are no parts that drag or feel out of place. In recent years jazz has undergone a massive overhaul. A new generation of musicians have burst through, delivering innovative, forward-thinking music on a regular basis.
His latest project ‘Dark Matter’ is another step in this journey, feeling more like a truer assessment of what Boyd is about: he’s broadened his sound with electronic motifs and expresses his love of dank basslines and fidgety synths, all underpinned by a jazz sensibility of the highest pedigree.
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EDEN - no future // Review
Following two impeccable EPs EDEN finally unleashed his debut album in 2018, with ‘vertigo’ topping in the iTunes charts in a dozen countries. A shy, introspective talent from Ireland, the producer – real name Jonathan Ng – seemed able to conjure phenomenally real, relentlessly intense landscapes with a nexus of ideas borrowed from hip-hop, R&B, and left-field electronics.
A rich album with a real sense of breadth, ‘no future’ finds EDEN harnessing new techniques while finessing his trademarks; ‘how to sleep’ slumps into somnambulist electronics, while ‘just saying’ leans on the Irish artist’s penchant for R&B. The title may be ‘no future’ but EDEN has shown that he is more than capable of opening out a second chapter in his work.
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Denzel Curry And Kenny Beats - Unlocked // Review
Denzel Curry, who built his name on trap-style beats and heavy hitting lyrics, showcases his talent throughout ‘Unlocked’ - tackling incredibly versatile beats and rap styles. Meanwhile Kenny Beats – known for tailoring his beat production to the artists requests, making him arguably one of the most unique producers to date – flexes his production nous, rolling out beat after beat, each totally unique and different to what’s come before.
This is a playful project, not afraid to dabble with creativity but also showcasing both Denzel’s lyrical ability and Kenny’s creative dexterity, both artists’ visions. It’s as if they created a glitch in the hip-hop matrix, and one that would be welcome again soon.
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King Krule - Man Alive! // Review
His third album as King Krule, it’s at times more concise and energised than his previous projects but there is a certain continuity with the past. Krule is still angsty; unsurprisingly, he runs with the recurring themes of loneliness, almost nihilistic self-doubt, miscommunication, misconnections and missed connections.
Marshall shines when he has more space to breathe and when there’s more space between his words. He fills this with all manner of buzzy synths, whirring, snatches of dialogue and city noise. After the snarl of the first four tracks, what follows is romantic, woozy, melancholy and twistedly contented in unequal, jagged measure, woven loosely together by some common threads. ‘Man Alive!’ is an absorbing consolidation of Marshall’s inimitable sound.
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BTS - Map Of The Soul: 7 // Review
‘Map Of The Soul: 7’ has officially been released approximately 10 months after its equally highly anticipated predecessor, ‘Map Of The Soul: Persona’. ‘My Time’ is performed by the group’s maknae (youngest member), JungKook. The track has a Justin Bieber-esque R&B sound that recalls younger JungKook before all the fame and accolades.
‘Friends’ is one of the more playful songs on the album featuring high school friends, V and Jimin. Although the sound of the album is wide-ranging, it holds continuity through its lyrics and general sentiment. K-Pop after all is an inherently genre-blending style of music, so it’s no surprise. There was a lot of melancholy and emo lyrics, but in general the album is about introspection as people and a band which can sometimes bring up painful feelings.
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Peggy Sue - Vices // Review
London-based duo Peggy Sue’s latest album – and their first release since 2014 – is a labour of love that narrates bittersweet tales of love and distraction with a deceptively sugary soundscape and irresistible harmonies. The self-assured beginning of penultimate track ‘Remainder Blues’ indicates a strong end as the impactful simplicity of Peggy Sue’s lyricism is resolutely put centre stage, before anthemic beats are unexpectedly dropped into the mix, building a brilliant presence that lasts even as the final notes play out.
Forged at the intersection between positive and negative, romances and crumbling relationships, ‘Vices’ is a celebratory collection of a real-life instances represented in song – and it is as perfectly imperfect as real life itself.
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Grimes - Miss Anthropocene // Review
For years now, the voice of Claire Boucher has evoked a feeling unparalleled by anything else - like a sense of artificial etherealism. The soft, almost ecclesiastic nature of these vocals lends her music the otherworldly vibe that has been associated with Grimes as an artist since the very beginning, and 'Miss Anthropocene' is very much in-keeping with that legacy.
During her fifth album, we’re brought to the tip of an iceberg through the lens of her own making, invited on an adventure alongside the Goddess of Climate Change...and what an adventure it is. This piece of work is a constant tug-of-war between humanity, nature, and technology, and our complex relationship with the place we call home.
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Christine And The Queens - La vita nuova // Review
Christine and the Queens delves into her emotions once more on intriguing new EP ‘La vita nuova’. Kicking off a nuanced, multi-lingual new EP, ‘People, I’ve been sad’ is Chris at her most direct, a sharply poetic account of ennui that smothers you in sound. Barbed, muscular production drives ‘Je disparais dans tes bras’, amplifying the machine funk evident on ‘Chris’ while adding something distorted, almost industrial.
A surprise drop, the EP is completed with bonus cut ‘I disappear in your arms’, a song that returns Chris to the industrial-leaning techno-pop which marks the project as a whole. A potent climax, it underlines the self-contained creativity at work across ‘La vita nuova’, a rich, rewarding, and extremely direct return, one worth observing on its own terms.
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Words: Will Rosebury
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