Music

The Spark

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You’ve got to hand it to Enter Shikari, these four friends from Hatfield. Few bands from the British alternative scene have managed to achieve such dizzying heights of acclaim and success while still maintaining such fresh ideas, social awareness and playful sense of humour.

The Underside of Power

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The Underside of Power is four-piece Atlanta based band Algiers’ follow up to their powerful self-titled post-punk meets Southern gospel debut album.

The band take their name from the city at the heart of the Algerian revolutionary war that fought and won independence from France in the 1960s. And they are back with a whole new level of fiery energy and an even more defiant political message.

Damn

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Two years ago Kendrick Lamar delivered one of the landmark albums of the decade. To Pimp a Butterfly combined the brilliant, imaginative musicality of artists such as Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus and Thundercat with Lamar’s sharp observations about the “post-racial” society that Barack Obama’s presidency had supposedly ushered in. One of its stand out tracks “Alright” quickly became one of the anthems of the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement.

Freedom Highway

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Rhiannon Giddens first made her name with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who played string-band music, heavily relying on the banjo and fiddle. The band formed after the first Black Banjo Gathering in North Carolina in 2005 and helped to reclaim a lost tradition of African-American country music. Their music reached its peak in 2010 with the joyful sounds of “Genuine Negro Jig.”

Elwan

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This album expresses beautifully the longing of Tuareg nomads in exile whose Saharan homeland has been the site of successive wars. The Islamist militias who took over Northern Mali in late 2012 denounced Tinariwen’s music and even kidnapped one of their members. Several of the band participated in previous Tuareg rebellions, meeting for the first time in a military training camp before they swapped their machine guns for guitars.

Gang Signs and Prayer

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The dark, last supper-esque cover art of Stormzy’s debut album, coupled with the reference to gangs in its title, instantly had commentators decrying yet another grime artist “glamorising” street crime and gang life in London. But one listen through would be enough to reveal this album as being far from that.

Prophets of Rage

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Prophets of Rage are a rap-rock supergroup formed in 2016 by members of Rage Against the Machine (RATM), Public Enemy and Cypress Hill.

Guitarist Tom Morello describes the group as “an elite task force of revolutionary musicians determined to confront this mountain of election year bullshit, and confront it head-on with Marshall stacks blazing”.

Run The Jewels 3

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Judging by the opening track you might think that Run The Jewels spent the two years since their last album in anger-management classes. Compared to the in-your-face opening line of their previous album (“I’m gonna bang this bitch the fuck out!”), RTJ3’s opener “Down” reflects on dark days trying to cope with “a pure absence of hope”.

But these aren’t downbeat observations. RTJ draw strength from those times, resolving instead relentlessly to assert themselves through their music. The anger of the previous two albums is still here, only much more focused.

We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service

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A Tribe called Quest’s new album is a breath of fresh air in the stale halls of “new” hip hop.

For the last couple of years a dominant theme in US hip hop has been the emergence of trap music. Artists such as Future, Rich Homie Quan, Lil Uzi, Young Thug and others have been propelled into the limelight, and signed for millions, due to their categorisation as trap artists.

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