Attention Span of a Cookie
That this Fatima song has some deep-fried funk as its backbone that sounds like JT’s ‘Cry Me A River’ is no bad thing at all. From her recommended album And It’s All Love.
‘Work It’ is not fucking around. It’s the perfect blend of sardonic lyricism and industrial beats with the added element of Davidson playing the firm but encouraging life coach, a Working Class Woman who shares her life goals and work ethic style. “Do you want to know how I get away with everything? I work all the fucking time / from Monday to Friday, Friday to Sunday, I love it / I work,” she begins, like dance music’s own version of a TED talk over an industrial electro beat. Davidson flexes like a dominant aerobics instructor. It’s a deliciously enjoyable track, an instructional life coach banger you need in your life.
Charlotte Day Wilson
On the Canadian’s latest release, the EP Stone Woman, Wilson utilised the voice to sing chronologically about a relationship heading towards break-up. To either downbeat jazz chords or ambient R&B blues backing, Wilson shines as the keeper of a flame, a torch-bearer for music of a timeless nature. ‘Stone Woman’ finds her suspended in stirring strings and twinkling notes.
‘Humans’ sees the Northern Irish singer Kitt Philippa explore the complexities carefully brought to the fore in their work with a delicate artistic sensibility. Musically, the track features a slight change in direction with a more prominent pop-production than previous releases. Yet, nothing has been sacrificed in terms of message and substance.
This superb track has all the hallmarks of Le Boom’s previous material. Lead singer and songwriter Christy Leech’s falsetto is still the perfect instrument for delivering memorable hooks over the shimmer of the group’s instrumentals. Also present in ‘Animal’ is the excellent standard of production, heard best in the gorgeous low end of the mix.
While the French duo The Blaze’s debut self-titled record was an overall disappointment that didn’t live up to their stunning audio/visual art to that point, ‘Queens’ is a track that skirts their standard formula of cinematic electronica through its depth of feeling and construction. Evocative, cathartic and bruised.
From the most thrilling avant pop album of the year, ‘Noid’ is a pop song about police brutality that sounds like it’s built on a J Dilla beat.
Tirzah is a London artist who has been knocking around the fringes since 2013. August saw her finally release her debut album Devotion, written and produced in collaboration with long-time friend and collaborator Mica Levi. It’s a brittle and lucid R&B record about love and desire that operates with its own cadence. ‘Holding On’ sounds like an interpretation of Moby’s Porcelain made with discombobulation in mind.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays
It’s never easy to predict where Ruban Nielson will take his UMO project next. The New Zealander’s 2018 album Sex & Food styles that range from rip-roaring rock to oddball ballads. ‘Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays’ is the album’s lilting psychedelic yacht-rock track.
Lizzo is a Minneapolis-based Detroit artist who has been hovering around my peripheral vision ever since she debuted with the 2013 song ‘Batches & Cookies’, a beat rap anthem that outdid the attitude of an Azealia Banks record by imbuing the production with a sense of fun rather than cool. Since then, Lizzo has been on a slow ascendance, releasing a couple of albums, an EP on a major Atlantic and touring with Haim most recently. That sense of adventure has remained in her work, and it comes to the fore on her new single ‘Boys’, a track that does what few dare and even fewer succeed with, channel Prince.
Big Red Machine
The National’s Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon first collaborated together on a 2008 charity album Dark Was the Night before they had met in person. Since then, the pair have worked on the project at their various collaboration-heavy festivals under the banner PEOPLE at places like Eaux Claires in Wisconsin and Sounds From A Safe Harbour. An album was subsequently recorded and from it, is this lush and rolling heartwarmer.
The Baltimore dream pop group came back this year with 7 sounding distinctly revitalised. ‘Lemon Glow’ is the furthermost into worlds of trip-hop the group have ever gone. A glacial-synth progression serves as the track’s backbone, while lead singers Victoria Legrand’s half-whispered vocal line has never sounded sweeter.
Jeannie Becomes A Mom
Caroline Rose took a step towards an invigorating new path with her album Loner this year, a dark-edged album of manic and millennial modern pop filled with bright hooks and great tunes. ‘Jeannie Becomes A Mom’ is a song inspired by Rose’s friend’s accidental pregnancy and takes that as a starting point for the idea of building a dream life for yourself.
Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s joint album Everything Is Love often felt like unnecessary declarations of wealth bragging and “stronger-than-ever” relationship ties. ‘Apeshit’ fulfills that role in a trap-style rap cut that has Bey lording her skills over her husband and a video shot in the Louvre, reinforcing the couple’s status.
AE Mak is a harmonic-driven art pop project over a few songs started by Aoife McMahon that channelled a new vision with new member Daniel McIntyre in 2018. ‘Glow’, the first song from the project reboot is a song born of an argument with a friend. McCann channels that frustration into a dynamic electronic pop gem that paved a way forward.
I’ve Got Love
A highlight of Empress Of’s second album Us, which has been growing in stature with every listen. Lorely Rodriguez makes indie pop earworms on her own terms. She makes her Dublin debut next March. It was hard to pick one single favourite from this.
‘Kansas’ features on Talos’ And Then There Was War Ep and the song feels like a turning point for an already superb band. Layers of synth noise and voice samples combined with French’s falsetto add to majestic track that rivals the sonic scale of Bon Iver’s 22, A Million.
Pienso En Tu Mirá
Catalonian singer Rosalía’s El Mal Querer came second in our albums of the year list thanks to her unique fusion of flamenco and R&B that we’ve never heard before. ‘Pienso en Tu Mirá’ is brimming with texture – handclapping samples are contrasted by chants of the Milagro girls’ choir from Madrid, with Rosalia’s voice gliding seamlessly over all the raucous backing and always holding its own. The music video (directed by CANADA) is a work of art is its own right: scenes include Rosalia draped in shimmering jewellery while held at gunpoint along with the hooded cofradías of Spain.
Fontaines D.C. are a Dublin band who embody an unmistakable Dublin charm. Captured outside the Parliament Street pizza joint that almost bares their name, the video for ‘Liberty Belle’ also features the band in various streets, the pub that bares the song’s name and the Workman’s venue. ‘Liberty Belle’ is a retro rock’n’roll jam fitted with a Dublin accent. It’s short, sharp and stands out.
The surprise comeback we didn’t know we needed. Chaka came back to full force with Major Lazer producer Switch on this sound of the summer dance-funk track with those trademark soul power vocals.