Described as an album about ‘toxic nostalgia and unrealised potential’ Great Expectations is a title that could just as easily be taken as a statement of intent for the listener. Thankfully this is a solid little beast of an album that does not disappoint.
Dirt Royal, a well loved fixture of the South coast music scene who have supported the likes of Sham 69 and 100 Yard Stare, have a spiky garage punk sound that along with the requisite amount of snottieness and raucous energy also firmly knows its way around a good pop tune.
Lead single Lose Our Way is a particularly great piece of anthemic punk shoutalong that by any rights should be huge whilst other standout tracks such as Glory Days and Lemsip offer up a punchy combination of vitriol, regret and good old fashioned rock and roll fun.
Lyrically dripping with the bitterness that will be familiar to anyone who has woken up at twenty-two shocked to discover they are not yet Living The Dream, this is the perfect album for anyone who feels battered by life but not yet at the stage where they have given up on being angry.
ARTIST: Dirt Royal
TITLE: Great Expectations
MOOD: Getting ready to start a fight with your former self
TOP TRACKS: Glory Days, Lemsip, Lose Our Way
Kylie and disco go together like glitter and sequins. No other genre of music so closely matches her particular brand of classy but saucy, so this should be a triumph – and it very nearly is.
There is nothing particularly inventive or startling in this album but I’m not sure that’s what anyone wants from Kylie anyway. Past attempts to stray too far from brand have mostly led to disaster and she is at her best when producing the kind of music that feels familiar, comforting and safe but without being cynical or phoned-in. The 3am cocktail that you cry into or that one pair of heels that look sexy as hell but don’t make your feet ache.
DISCO, on the whole, fulfils this brief but while a few of the tracks (Miss a Thing, Supernova, Hey Lonely) knock it out of the park there is a general feeling of too much filler and not enough killer. Most of the album was recorded during lockdown and at times there is also a slightly demo-ish feel to some of the songs that makes me wonder how they would have fared in more normal circumstances.
Nothing on this record is terrible and most of it is very enjoyable but like much of her post-Aphrodite output it falls squarely in ‘good but not great’ territory. There is enough quality here that it should keep her fanbase happy and her career ticking over but it is unlikely to be the boost that I would love her to have.
ARTIST: Kylie Minogue
TOP TRACKS: Supernova, Miss a Thing, Hey Lonely
MOOD: Dancing under the mirrorball in your living room
Described as ‘the long feared debut album from Ben Apps’ there is thankfully little to be afraid of here if you are a fan of upbeat, witty and endearingly nerdy britpop-tinged indie.
Lyrically the album is a a rollercoaster of subjects covering everything from technology, politics, media and plenty of good old fashioned romance.
Acronym laden opener T.T.F.N feels Beatlesy, if the Beatles ever wrote a song that used the expression LOL and mentioned Tick Tock, whilst delicate closer End Of The Line and standout track We’re All Going To Hell bring to mind the slower spacey moments of Blur’s Parklife. Jaunty piano number Feel It is the kind of radio-friendly earworm that with any justice should be a breakout single.
A fun, thoughtful and humorous collection of songs that should appeal to fans of bands like They Might Be Giants, Eels and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.
ARTIST: Ben Apps
TITLE: What Mess!
TOP TRACKS: We’re All Going To Hell, Feel It, Parallels
Halcyon is an aptly named album bringing as it does a much needed breath of carefree optimism and melodic dreamyness to the chillier end of 2020.
Much in the vein of McCartney-penned Beatles there is a playfulness to a lot of the tracks, nowhere more evident than in the midi-outro of Get Your Game On, but there is also a deep seam of sadness and melancholia. Stand-out tracks Unanswered Questions and Live For The Dead bring a pleasing shot of drama and an eerie prettiness to the second half of the album lifting it both musically and emotionally.
A slick mixture of indie, folk and alternative guitar-pop, this is an album which should appeal to anyone who thinks they want to listen to something easy going and upbeat but, deep down, doesn’t really.
TOP TRACKS: Unanswered Questions, Live For The Dead, Only Time Will Tell
MOOD: Summertime Sadness
I Don’t Know How But They Found Me (or iDKHOW as it’s stylised) are exactly the kind of band who will annoy almost as many people as they will be adored by, and Razzmatazz is exactly the kind of album you would expect a band like that to make.
As the title might suggest this much anticipated debut is a flamboyant and retro-tinged concoction. In their more comparatively contemporary moments there is a little of The Killers, Electric Six and twenty one pilots to be heard. Addictive earworm New Invention has shades of Gary Numan whilst From The Gallows unexpectedly channels crooner-mode Marc Bolan via ELO with a dash of Radiohead’s Fitter, Happier. Several tracks such as Clusterhug and Sugar Pills just go full out glam. The title song is, ironically, one of the less bombastic tracks on the album and offers an efficiently straightforward indie-pop banger guaranteed to take up permanent residence in your brain for hours after listening to it.
From the funky Fame-esque bassline strut of opener Leave Me Alone to charmingly unexpected piano ballad Nobody Likes The Opening Band, a paean to the plight of the overlooked support act that wouldn’t sound entirely out of place on A Night At The Opera, this is a band who are not afraid to wear their influences on their sleeve but crucially manage to meld them together into something new, exciting and uniquely theirs.
A thoroughly enjoyable album that should appeal to anyone who likes their electro-indie-pop strutting effusively just on the right side of annoying.
ARTIST: I Don’t Know How But They Found Me
TOP TRACKS: Leave Me Alone, Nobody Likes The Opening Band, Razzmatazz, Sugarpills
MOOD: Glitzy and glitchy
After doing a three album (and one movie) tour of duty of the Gaga version of a midlife crisis (Jazz! Country! Brunette hair! JUST A REGULAR GIRL!) and proving unequivocally that Gaga trying to be normal is just as weird as Gaga trying to be weird, Chromatica has now beamed down to earth in all it’s tecno-pinkness to bestow us with some classic Stefani bangers.
And make no mistake, this is an entirely dance album with even the slower moments still firmly in that camp. There are no piano ballads, no hair rock anthems. Even when Elton John turns up it’s to holler gloriously over an absolute monsterbonkers club track that goes hard before it goes drum and bass. There is some playing around with sub genres touching on deep house, disco and electro but overwhelmingly this is an album weighted more towards old skool dance than pop.
Although the videos and artwork pull together a neat concept world that sits somewhere between Power Rangers and Captain Planet the album itself is more loose. The lyrics are less overtly thematic and ornate than much of her past work but they are generally good, occasionally great, and surprisingly dark. Countless artists have made protestations about finding ‘salvation on the dancefloor’ but it’s still rare for it to sound so cathartic. This coupled with some of her strongest vocals makes Chromatica reminiscent of classic dance, disco and soul it a way that rarely troubles the charts anymore.
This may not be her strangest or most risky album, it is unlikely to polarise the mainstream in the way that Born This Way or ArtPop did, but it’s certainly her most coherent. While there is a lot to love in the rollercoaster experience of records that include songs like Swine and Jewels N’ Drugs in the same place it’s a surprisingly enjoyable experience to have a Gaga album that I feel I only want to listen to as a single piece.
I won’t call it a return to form because that suggests her talent was absent in previous releases but I will say it certainly feel like an injection of something needed in the Lady Gaga timeline. A strong reminder of what she does well mixed with something that feels like a progression not a regression.
ARTIST: Lady Gaga
MOOD: Getting into your pink plastic body armour
TOP TRACKS: Stupid Love, 911, Enigma, Sine From Above
TLDR: Dance the pain away 90s Sci-Fi anime style