Following up from his recent Rihanna-approved Skepta collab, “Papi Chulo”, Essie Gang’s Octavian has made his latest step towards his eagerly-anticipated debut album with a new summer-ready spin in “Poison”, featuring Santi, Obongjayar, and Take A Daytrip.
Lacing Take A Daytrip’s Afro-tinged production, a haunting hook is laid by Obongjayar before Octavian and Santi roll out their melodic stylings with confident swagger. “Poison” is the second track Octavian and Take A Daytrip have worked on together, following last year’s “Stressed”, and it’s clearly a perfect fit. The accompanying visuals follow Octavian into a trippy, grungy dance setting, adding to the song’s overall menacing vibe.
Both hailing from South East London, Tom Misch first clocked Yussef Dayes’ talent on the drums at a primary school talent show. But while their postcodes may overlap, the pair’s musical styles remain distinct: Misch makes soulful, hip-hop leaning pop, while Dayes is respected as a key force in the UK jazz scene.
The pair embrace their differences to great effect on What Kinda Music, keeping in tune with each other throughout as the record sways between soothing calm and pinch points of intensity. An untrusting, warbled riff animates the title track, before a gentle saxophone ripples through ‘Festival’. Freddie Gibbs shows up for a pointed and immensely satisfying verse on ‘Nightrider’, which the pair follow up in similar style with the calming ‘Tidal Wave’.
With its nuanced drum flurries and catchy chorus, ‘Last 100’ is intricate yet simple. “Don’t feel this time when I’m with you; 100 days go by and feel like two”; the lyrics seem to gain added poignancy at a time when many of us feel daunted by the coming months.
While Misch and Dayes don’t appear an obvious match, their collaboration soon makes complete sense on this record. Landing somewhere between jazz and pop, What Kinda Music is a joyful listen, one which is as experimental as it is laidback.
James Blake’s Instagram Live videos, filmed at the piano from his home in Los Angeles, have been some of my favourite things to watch these past few weeks. The latest episode, uploaded earlier this week, included a recorded snippet of his new single, “You’re Too Precious.” You can forgive him for not playing it acoustically. Like the excellent “If The Car Beside You Moves Ahead,” it’s heavy on vocal trickery, with high-pitched flutters forming a glitchy melody over a tender melange of piano, drums, Blake’s warbling and what sounds like castanets. The mood is sweet and loved-up, similar to much of last year’s album, Assume Form. “I’d take the hair in your food,” he sings. It’s a beautiful song, busy yet cohesive, every piece with its place and purpose. Speaking in the same video, Blake said he woke up suddenly at 4 AM, stumbled to his home studio and immediately wrote the track. Imagine being able to do that? When he finished, he went back to bed.
Clad in a red suit, hat and lip, her cover picture positions her as a modern dreamer: a new kind of hero. For her second full length album, ‘Wake Up!’, Hazel English pivots for a musical array of expanded soundscapes that articulate a dynamic evolution of her music.
Her EP ‘Five And Dime’ was released earlier this year, which include four of the 10 tracks from the full album. With an ephemeral dewy breezy richness, English has cultivated a beautiful intersection of sound that lingers between folk, indie and dream pop. She plays homage to the 1960s era of sounds with slow sweeps and romantic pauses, melodies and playfulness that intertwine throughout the album.
With a graceful strength, English sings from the hard to reach places of love. A soft power melts over as the listener is met with a tide of earnest offerings that don’t stray from the lost entanglements of the heart. True to suit she boldly upholds a narrative of love that doesn’t fit in one box. She outlines and gives a full landscape of love as battle.
On ‘Work It Out’ she sings, ‘We can work it out, sure I have my doubt, we will see this thing through..always come home to you…’ over a steady but strong drum that carries the pulse of her emotive longing in her voice. Then in ‘Five And Dime’ she sings, ‘I gotta get away because you’re taking up all of my time. You know I need my space so I’m heading to the five and dime,’ with a lightness echoed by that airy guitar riff.
Ultimately, this album is a story, ending with ‘Work It Out’, that does not shy away from the vulnerable and chaotic edges of love. English’s previous album and singles have positioned herself as an indie daydream folk darling with a sun-kissed sound, and in this album it is exciting to see her expand into a new body of work that has an elevated energy.
With a new sharpness, Hazel English has delved into a sophistication that dynamically blends her previous music to create an oscillation of hard and soft that exudes in her tonality.
Kid Cudi goes back to basics with “Leader of the Delinquents,” a nod to the bars-focused rapping he abandoned on his last few albums. First teased in 2012, the Dot da Genius-produced song established the rapper as a torchbearer for young misfits long before guys like Travis Scott, Jaden Smith, and Kevin Abstract made it clear that they were Cudi’s acolytes. Now, upon its official release, “Delinquents” feels like a reminder of what rallied kids to the rapper. For these outcasts, Cudi’s earnestness and his willingness to speak on their behalf trumped his technical proficiency. “How did I do it, why the kids love me so?/‘Cause they connect with Cudder, real simple,” he raps.
Cudi never was and never will be a rapper’s rapper, but as his career went on, he pushed away from rap’s center. However, in his early days, he proved more than capable of stringing punches together, and “Leader of the Delinquents” is a flashback to the rapper he would occasionally become on his A Kid Named Cudi mixtape. This throwback single features classic rap shit talk with a Cudi twist; he laments his psychological turmoil even when flexing. Over twinkling piano keys, faded strings, and his signature hums, he takes his place as a pied piper for outsiders. His lyrics reflect his homebound status, which ties in nicely to long-standing Cudi themes of loneliness and depression, and his feeling that he is a prisoner in his own mind. With the help of his late father, who watches over him, he surges back from the brink and quells his suicidal thoughts. The rapper never shies away from the uglier aspects of wrestling with inner demons, and these struggles build his character. It’s that candor and self-awareness that endears Kid Cudi to the throngs thankful for the return of their patron saint.