YUNGBLUD’s the underrated youth EP sees Dominic Harrison explore new sounds while staying true to his focus: making listeners feel less alone in their struggles. The first half of the project analyzes how society brings people down, with the energetic opener “braindead!” and hit single “parents” discussing how external opinions can affect someone’s mindset. The second half of the project sees a more vulnerable side of Harrison, beginning with “casual sabotage,” which describes his tendency to ruin relationships because of a past romantic failure.
Throughout the project, YUNGBLUD never fails to be honest with the listener, making the underrated youth feel like a conversation between two friends. This may be the secret to his growing appeal, and Harrison has emphasized that it’s exactly what he wants to do - he told Billboard that he “[wants] people to have that sense of belonging, like someone’s going to have their back.”
Against the original odds, it took more than a year to see Bastille’s third studio album be released, as it was first announced in the summer of 2018: nevertheless, Doom Days has been worth the wait, considering that it has represented a significant change of pace from its predecessor, the more politically-charged Wild World, and it has presented an unusual and interesting concept.
In fact, it tells the story of a night out that transitions to different phases, until it reaches the next morning: the tone of the LP equally changes, as it goes from the sudden euphoria of “Quarter Past Midnight” to the feelings of urgence and anxiety of the title track, eventually culminating in the emotional solace found by the main character on “Joy”.
Conceived as an “apocalyptic party record”, Doom Days provides the listeners with a fitting soundtrack of our need to escape from modern anxieties and be alright with ourselves.
If you haven’t heard of Little Simz yet, GREY Area is the perfect album to start. Simz is able to wear her influences on her sleeve, like that of Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly and provides her own spin on it to still maintain her own style. Every other line in the album would perfectly fit an Instagram caption with her dropping quotables nearly every second, her strong attitude only strengthened through her by-the-books delivery which, at its core, is what Little Simz is: pure hip hop. The diverse tracks like “101 FM” with its Oriental-inspired instrumental and the more ominous “Venom” blend together so smoothly you’ll feel satisfied despite the relatively short 35 minutes run-time.
Ignorance is Bliss sees Skepta follow up to his critically acclaimed Konnichiwa, released back in 2016.
Originally named SKLevel, the album incorporates some of Skepta's most varied production yet, ranging from bangers like "Gangsta" (feat. BBK) to the first single "Bullet from a Gun", where we see Skepta reflecting on various aspects on his life. On tracks like “Pure Water”, we see a more mature Skepta, including mentions of becoming the chief of Odo Aje and love relationships, both new and old. We also see him pair with a plethora of artists including Nafe Smallz, J Hus & Wizkid.
In its 41-minute run-time, Ignorance is Bliss captures the sound of UK music right now, and adds another big hitter to Skepta’s already esteemed discography.
MAGDALENE is FKA twigs’ first album in four years, and her best work by far. The album was written during Twigs' recovery from a laparoscopic surgery - as the title suggests, twigs celebrates Mary Magdalene who, for a long time, was known as a mere character by the side of Jesus in the New Testament.
In the album twigs' voice brings forth the emotion and pain of her experience, highlighting the plight of women in a conservative and patriarchal world. She uses her powerful presence and physic, as seen on the "Cellophane" music video, to portray the sorrowful insecurities and pain, possibly hinting at her inequitable relationship with Robert Pattinson. The album is a possible game-changer by its ability to challenge the norm and introduce a discreet message into cool club bangers. She features US rapper Future on "Holy Terrain" which may sound like an awkward attempt at a commercial crossover that borders on fan-service. However, the two stars' vocals and ad-libs converge smoothly leading up to the pinnacle where Future drops a verse. The album's experimental production and piano chords reminiscent of Radiohead easily places it as one of the best art-pop music albums of all time and surely one of the best in the year 2019.
Although the record’s name is quite contrary to this entire list itself, slowthai’s autobiographical Nothing Great About Britain was a clear highlight in the young rapper’s early career. The introspective record gives a detailed look into Tyron’s life growing up in the country, and gives the listener a vivid understanding of the struggles and downright crazy moments that he had in his youth. Intense bangers like “Doorman” show us the attitude he developed in his youth, while calmer tracks like “Toaster” keep the record dynamic while also telling stories about how thai’s hometown, Northampton, was a very tough place to grow up in. He even pairs up with UK rap legend Skepta on “Inglorious,” showing off the confidence he has dealing with any UK rapper and competition he has, and even holds his own up against the established star on the track. slowthai’s evolution from adolescent to grown man is clear throughout the record, and his further evolution will be something to watch as this budding rapper progresses into a star.
PSYCHODRAMA is not just arguably the best British album of this year, but the best album of a generation. Within, Dave, who was most well-known for spitting over grime beats, has mastered every style in rap. From the stream-of consciousness on “Screwface Capital”, to the pop-melody of “Voices” and the 11-minute narrative saga of “Lesley”, each and every track on PSYCHODRAMA is expertly musically-crafted and the topical themes that Dave explores cut deep. The entire album is narratively stitched together as a series of therapy sessions at a time when mental health remains very taboo in Black British society. Lead single “Black”, a sober commentary on race in Britain, has been viewed as so controversially honest, the BBC were hit with a deluge of complaints when it was played on their flagship Radio 1. PSYCHODRAMA offers an important, raw glimpse into the Black British experience and one not to be missed.
1. Lewis Capaldi, "Someone You Loved"
2. Stormzy, "Vossi Bop"
3. Sam Smith & Normani, "Dancing With a Stranger"
4. Dominic Fike, "3 Nights"
5. Ellie Goulding, "Sixteen"
6. FKA twigs, "Cellophane"
7. Ed Sheeran & Justin Beiber, "I Don't Care"
8. Mabel, "Don't Call Me Up"
9. George Ezra, "Shotgun"
10. Stormzy, "Wiley Flow"
11. Dave, "Location" feat. Burna Boy
12. Russ & Tion Wayne, "Keisha & Becky"
13. Headie One, "Both"
14. Young T & Bugsey, "Strike Me A Pose"
15. Tom Walker, "Just You And I"
16. Mabel, "Mad Love"
17. AJ Tracey, "Ladbroke Grove"
18. Jess Glynne, "Thursday"
19. NSG, "Options"
20. Mahalia, "Summer" feat. Burna Boy