Review: It may have arrived right at the very end of 2019, but it would be fair to say that Stormzy's much-trumpeted second album, "Heavy Is The Head", is one of the most significant releases of the year. Made with a gigantic cast list of producers and guest vocalists - Aitch, Burna Boy, Headie One, H.E.R, Tiana Major9, Yebba, Fred Gibson and MJ Cole included - the set includes some of his most thoughtful and incisive lyrics to date, as well as some particularly ear-catching mutations of grime that will further solidify his place as one of Britain's most important artists of the 21st century. Yes, it does include more nods towards pop music - he's a Glastonbury headliner after all - but the beats remain tough.
Don't Forget To Breathe (feat YEBBA - interlude) (2:26)
One Second (feat HER) (4:01)
Pop Boy (feat Aitch) (2:33)
Own It (feat Ed Sheeran & Burna Boy) (3:37)
Wiley Flow (3:32)
Vossi Bop (3:21)
Review: Released right at the very end of 2019, Stormzy's much-trumpeted second album, "Heavy Is The Head", is one of the most significant releases in recent times. Made with a gigantic cast list of producers and guest vocalists - Aitch, Burna Boy, Headie One, H.E.R, Tiana Major9, Yebba, Fred Gibson and MJ Cole included - the set includes some of his most thoughtful and incisive lyrics to date, as well as some particularly ear-catching mutations of grime that will further solidify his place as one of Britain's most important artists of the 21st century. Yes, it does include more nods towards pop music - he's a Glastonbury headliner after all - but the beats remain tough.
Review: Boom: three years, three albums. No biggie for Bristol duo The Allergies, Jalapeno's biggest success story since Kraak & Smaak. Each album shows them getting deeper into the groove, creeping away from the cheeky samples and sculpting their own pedigree funk originals. With Ugly Ducking Andy Cooper onside through the mix from the wild ride vibing "Fade Away" to the white knuckle lyrical fire of "Run It Back", there's a real band feeling to the whole album as familiar voices thread throughout the jams... including that of UK hip hop legend Dr Syntax.
Review: Three months after rapper turned singer Lizzo's major label debut first appeared on CD and digital download, Atlantic has decided to offer up a deluxe vinyl edition of the well-received set featuring three bonus tracks. Prior to release, Lizzo admitted she wanted to become "this generation's Aretha Franklin"; while she's not at the late soul legend's standard just yet, there's enough on "Cuz I Love You" to suggest that she's going in the right direction. Her vocals are variously confident, powerful, strutting and tender, with the accompanying backing tracks mixing hip-hop and R&B style beats with raucous guitars, bombastic basslines, Daft Punk style synth stabs (think "Robot Rock" and "Technologic") and occasional nods towards more pastoral, semi-acoustic sounds. Above all, though, the album is funky, forthright and hugely entertaining.
Review: "Stillmatic" found Nas take a new direction back in December 2001. After previous standout gangsta rap efforts, he swerved into more politically and socially thoughtful realms that took him back to his seminal 1995 debut, "Illmatic". Next to commentaries on American politics and a documentation of his beef with Jay-Z, there are plenty of emotional moments, incisive rhymes and story telling raps that play out over classic hip hop production. In 2019, many of the issues presented in this album persists, as does Nas' reputation as one of the best ever.
Review: What a trip it's been for The Allergies; rolling from one killer album to the next, funk is flying from their HQ at a rate of knots. Here are two fine examples from their last LP Push On, both featuring their long-time friend and MC from Andy Cooper. Best known for his witty wordplay and character on Ugly Duckling records, here Andy gets to show off both sides to his expansive flow; "Main Event" is a chubby disco groove laced with mountains of funk, creating space for Andy's laidback-but-hypey charm. In perfect contrast "Buzzsaw" is a much sweatier funk jam allowing Cooper to get rapid and tongue-twisty in a way that only he knows how. Keep on pushing...
Fade Away (feat Andy Cooper From Ugly Duckling) (2:59)
Review: Aside from releasing 2 albums for the imprint, Bristol's The Allergies have been a pillar of the Jalapeno label's success over the years, helping the label find its feet amid the ever-growing broken beat scene. The duo return to the catalogue with a classic helping of their very own breakbeat science, first up with the vocal-led charm of "Dance Now", a commercially-minded dancehall anthem that strays into pop and r&b with utter ease. On the flip, Andy Cooper features on the rap-pop hybrid vocals of "Fade Away", a feel-good party tune that is solely focused on getting you to move!
Review: It's been four years since notorious party animal and musician extraordinaire Sam Shepherd (AKA Floating Points) launched Eglo Records. In that time, the London-based imprint has become a beacon for soul-flecked electronic music in all its forms. This double-disc retrospective tells the story so far, perfectly showcasing the label's eclectic but sharply focused approach. Alongside hits from Funkineven, Fatima, Arp 101 and, of course, Floating Points, there are numerous slept-on jams and lesser-known cuts that veer from next-level alien boogie and armour-clad acid house, to twinkling future jazz and smooth hip-hop soul. Pleasingly, there's also a quartet of unreleased cuts, of which Floating Points' epic, intoxicating "Wires" stands out.
This One Is For The Ladies & Gents (feat Miles Bonny)
The Kids Are Listening (Interlude)
Don't Box Me In (feat 80s Babies)
Beware Of The Groove (feat Mario Sweet)
Come With Me & Fly (feat Yusef Rumperfield)
Is There More To Life? (feat Diggs Duke)
I Will Never Know (feat Moonchild)
Mario Smith Speaks On (feat Daniel Crawford)
Things Deeper Than My Skin (feat Ozay Moore)
Peace & Love (feat Masego & Rommel Donald)
Review: Terrel Wallace, AKA First Word Records regular Tall Black Guy, seemingly has a thing for journeys. His first album was called 8 Miles To Moneart, and this follow-up is loosely based around the idea of a musical train ride. Let's Take A Trip is certainly an enjoyable excursion, chock full of dreamy hip-hop instrumentals, head-nodding workouts, hazy grooves, dreamy neo-soul jams, jazzy interludes, and snappy rap cuts. Highlights whizz by like landscapes seen from a train window, and include the glimpse-and-you'll-miss-it shuffle of '80s Babies hook-up "Don't Box Me In", the sumptuous hip-hop soul of Moonchild collaboration "I Will Never Know", and the dreamily soulful closer, "Peace & Love".
Review: Having previously worked with SBTRKT, Kanye West, Drake, Jesse Ware and Frank Ocean, amongst others, Sampha is no newcomer. This, though, is the British singer, songwriter and producer's debut album, and it's something of an understated gem. One particularly enthusiastic reviewer called it "an R&B album for the ages"; while that may be pushing it a bit, there's no denying that Process is an impressive collection of tracks. The beats are inventive, the electronics crisp, the samples carefully chosen, and the musical touches pitched just right. At the centre of it all stands Sampha, delivering thoughtful, heartfelt and sometimes poignant lyrics in his wonderfully evocative voice.
Review: When this album was initially released way back in 2008, it was Kaidi Tatham's first under his given name (previously, he'd released solo records as Afronaught and appeared on all manner of collaborative releases). Since then, he has of course gone on to greater critical and commercial success, but as this timely reissue proves, "In Search of Home" still hits home hard. Like much of his work, it deftly showcases his Herbie Hancock-like jazz and jazz-funk keyboard skills within tracks that variously join the dots between broken beat, hip-hop, deep house, Latin fusion and sumptuous slow jams. Colourful, rich, jazzy and impeccably performed throughout, the album remains one of the high points of Tatham's career and is well worth adding to your collection.
Review: Given the critical reception rightly afforded to Tahliah Barnett's superb debut album as FKA Twigs, it makes perfect sense for Young Turks to rustle up a swift reissue of FKA Twigs, the four track 12" that announced her to the pop music world last year. This EP was the first instance of Barnett's ethereal vocals weaved in amidst production work from Arca that was at times floating, others crushingly pressurised. Naturally the effects of the music are heightened when combined with Jesse Kanda's mind bending videos ("Water Me" especially) but late comers to the magic of Twigs will be all over this. Do check "Papi Pacify" as Arca is on some "Cry Me A River" era Timbalaand tip.
Review: It's been a while since we last heard from Shabazz Palaces, the suitably cosmic, experimental and otherworldly musical collective helmed by former Digable Planets mic man and producer Ishmael Butler. Remarkably, "The Don Of Diamond Dreams" is Butler and company's first album for over three years. The good news is that it's every bit as inspired as its predecessors, with Butler spitting conscious lyrics and singing spaced-out R&B choruses over beats that variously mix and match elements of future soul, spiritual jazz, exotica, glitch-hop, experimental electronica and intergalactic jazz-rock. It's perhaps a little more polished than some of the crew's previous albums, but it retains and expands on their inspiring, hard-to-pigeonhole musical blueprint.