I think it’s fair to say Kesha has had a terrible few years. She has spent the majority of them being embroiled in an legal battle with American pop producer Dr. Luke after he allegedly sexually abused and assaulted her. She seems to have made her way out of this difficult time even stronger though, which is fantastic news. On the 6th of July of this year, she released the first single from this album, called ‘Praying’ – a triumphant anthem against Dr. Luke and everything he stood for. So here she is, with fourteen brand new songs, and her new album Rainbow. Kesha has claimed that she has been inspired by her ‘true’ musical influences on this record, including Dolly Parton, The Beach Boys, and Iggy Pop. So Kesha seems to be finally free on this album, but how is it?
You can immediately see what she means about the influences of this album. This album is full of emotional, powerful anthems, with a few rock influences rather than the electropop she has been known for. Considering that, it is definitely her least ‘mainstream’ album she has come out with, but that isn’t a bad thing. ‘Woman’ is a powerful, but catchy feminist anthem, whereas ‘Let ‘Em Talk’ and ‘Boogie Talk’ feature the Eagles Of Death Metal and are great rock songs in their own right. Everything on this album is new, and unlike anything Kesha has ever made. This uniqueness makes this one of the most genuine and original albums of the year so far. Kesha has never really released a bad album, but with this one she has gone above and beyond anything that she’s done before.
The album is packed full of incredible moments. ‘Hunt You Down’ is a great country-inspired song, showing not only Kesha’s adaptability, but her great voice. Another great moment is ‘Learn To Let Go’, the closest song to Kesha’s previous material, but with a brand new spin on it. Not to mention ‘Praying’, which is an anthemic ballad, yet again showing the best of Kesha’s voice. Arguably the best moment on the album is Kesha’s own take on ‘Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You)’, a duet with Dolly Parton herself. Whether you’re a Kesha fan or not, you should pick this album up – it is a triumphant, incredible record, with some of the best songs of the year. Kesha, we’re so glad you’re back.
Best song: Let ‘Em Talk
We’ve had a lot of beautifully atmospheric rock music released this year. From Manchester Orchestra’s fifth album, to Bellevue Days’ third EP, people have been perfecting the art of creating an atmosphere through their music all around the rock world. One more band that aims to do this are Brooklyn-based Ghostly Times, who have created a fantastic sound on their debut full-length album.
The first two tracks typify this sound fantastically. ‘Ghostly Times’ and ‘Sleepless State’ create a great atmosphere that sets the tone for the rest of the album. The lead singer’s great voice is perfectly complimented by a plethora of guitar sounds, ranging from melodic swirls to low rhythmic accompaniment. This, alongside the fantastic drumming all comes together to make an atmosphere that is both beautiful and melancholy at the same time. Not all of the songs are the same though. ‘Book of Love’ takes much more of a typical rock format to great effect, and ‘Sit Back, Relapse and Go’ is a 6-minute-long odyssey. Not to mention the incredible ‘Murder of Crows’ – my favourite song on the album.
I have never been one for longer songs, and this album has quite a few of them. Having said that, the band has managed to make them in a way that has kept me engaged throughout the album. Everything on this album just feels right, from the start to the end, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for this band.
Best song: Murder of Crows
Bowling For Soup have been creating the catchiest pop-punk for well over 25 years now. While some people may say that their music has lessened in quality recently, no one can deny that they still have a talent for writing some incredibly catchy hooks. And that ability catapulted them into fame in the early 2000’s, so much that their name is still mentioned amongst the greatest pop-punk bands of that era. There was one album that started all of this success though, and that was 2002’s Drunk Enough To Dance. This album would change their fortunes forever.
Without listening closely enough, this may sound like just your average 21st century pop-punk album. But what’s unique about it is vocalist Jaret Reddick’s ability to create a catchy hook. From the chorus of ‘Emily’ alone, I knew that this would be a memorable album. Every song has something catchy about it, from the first track to the last, and even on incredible bonus track ‘Punk Rock 101’. Are all of the songs perfect? Of course not, but all of them are good enough to stay in your head for the next week or so. And let’s be honest, what more can you ask for? The lyrical side of the album isn’t bad either. Most of the songs have that trademark Reddick humour that Bowling For Soup songs are known for. Occasionally this can come across as childish, but never enough to be a real problem.
Even if the name Drunk Enough To Dance might not be remembered much by pop-punk fans in ten years or so, the songs will definitely stick to people’s memories. The songs are catchy, energetic, and humorous, which is exactly what any pop punk album needs. This album has had a lot more influence, and is a lot better than people give it credit for. I hope it will be listened to for years to come.
Best song: Emily
In The Back Of My Mind is the brand new EP from south coast pop-punk band Maypine. From the first listen, it is clear that this band have a lot of energy to bring to the table. But as essential as that is to a pop-punk release, an EP can’t get by on just energy alone – so is there any substance to it?
Initially, I wasn’t sure about the answer to this question. ‘Day After Day’ is a nice enough listen, but I think I’ve listened to so many pop-punk ballads that they all blur into one in my head at this point. ‘North/South Divide’ also never initially stood out to me, sounding like just your average pop-punk song, nothing more and nothing less.
But on the second listen, everything began to fall into place. While I hadn’t originally been too fond of the above two songs, they began to stand out more and more to me. ‘North/South Divide’s catchy hooks and pop-punk sensibilities grew on me, becoming charming rather than tired. Not only this, ‘Day After Day’ is actually a long way above your average pop-punk ballad, approaching a serious subject in a charmingly sentimental way. Not to mention ‘Day After Day’, easily one of the best songs on the album; an absolute anthem and a great closer.
While at first it may seem like this is another average modern pop-punk release (and trust me, there have been a lot of those over the past few years), I urge you to try it. Listen more closely and you’ll find it brimming with charm, energy and style. This band have potential for sure.
Best song: Day After Day
You don’t just listen to the 1975 as a musician without picking up any sort of inspiration. A catchy vocal phrase here, a nice bit of guitar there – it may not always be obvious, but it’ll be there. A band that shows this a lot are Sleeptalk; the influences are clearly there, perhaps even more than your average band. There is a line though, between being influenced by something and copying. So is this album just a shameless copy, or something more? Let’s find out.
The most listened track on the album, ‘Strange Nights’, already provides evidence to the contrary. A catchy melody accompanies some great guitar and an incredible bassline to make a song that i’ll be listening to for a long time. The chorus is by far one of the best I’ve heard this year so far, and has a certain way of getting into your head. In the same way, ‘Indio, California’ has an absolutely infectious bassline and a soaring chorus. But they’re just the most played songs on the album, is there anything else to find below the surface.
The answer to that is a resounding yes. ‘February’ is a great tune, containing some of the best vocal work on the album, showing the band’s ability at creating something emotional yet atmospheric. The guitar throughout drives the song along, building up to a wonderful chorus. The ‘you’re not alone but I can’t control you/you’re not alone but I can’t change your mind’ refrain was something that I found myself humming for a whole day after I listened to the album. In complete contrast, something more atmospheric is ‘What A Shame’ which is full of swirling synths and little sound effects that make it almost a dreamlike experience.
So, to address the idea that this might be too similar to the 1975’s work, it’s simply not. The influences are there, sure, but whenever anyone takes influence from someone else, they will likely be compared. The important thing is that this album is completely a fantastic piece of work on it’s own. The ideas are all the bands own, and while they were influenced by the 1975, they were probably influenced by loads of other bands at the same time. Now let’s stop comparing bands and enjoy what a fantastic album this is.
Best song: February
When I first heard of this band, I had no idea why they were called Manchester Orchestra. After all, they aren’t an orchestra, and they definitely aren’t from Manchester the last time I checked. But after listening to this album I think I have more of a clue. An orchestra has so many different little parts building up to make a symphony, and this band is the same in many ways, at least in this. Their music is very lovingly and carefully created, with loads of clever details building up to create some incredible songs. Still no idea about the Manchester part though.
If I had to choose one word to describe this album, it would be ‘atmosphere’. All of the songs add together to create a melancholy soundtrack, and it works extremely well. Despite this, all of the tracks have a their own traits, making each song unique. This works perfectly, because all of the album sounds like one whole soundtrack, but doesn’t sound samey enough to be boring. One particular song that stands out to me is ‘The Parts’, the most stripped-back song on the album. Despite this, it still creates a moody feeling throughout, and the sound of the acoustic guitar is somehow soothing but never stays enough to make the song an less atmospheric.
As I mentioned earlier, all of the songs convey a similar feeling, which makes this album feel like it could be the soundtrack to a film or something similar. This is quite fitting as this is the band’s first full project after soundtracking the 2016 film Swiss Army Man. This melancholy atmosphere stretches from tracks like ‘The Mistake’, with lyrics like ‘I don’t want to die alone’, which is as dark as it is relatable, all the way to tracks like ‘The Sunshine’, which has more of a folky feel.
All of this continuity builds up to final track ‘The Silence’, which is only silent in name. It is a track that slowly builds up in terms of music, and then back down again. It is a seven minute odyssey of a track, creating a beautifully moody sound, and drawing this album to a close perfectly. Lots of albums are a great collection of songs, but this is something more; a beautifully working machine of an album. Take any of the songs, and it wouldn’t feel the same, but all together, this is a masterpiece. Truly one of the best albums I’ve heard all year.
Best song: The Silence
Best Ex are a band who have evolved. Originally named Candy Hearts, they released a couple of albums as a punk band before making a massive transformation. Lead singer Mariel Loveland recently stated in an interview that ‘Candy Hearts turned into an extension of my anxiety … Best Ex takes everything that Candy Hearts was but without my no-good anxiety’. Obviously this is great news, and it is clear that this EP has been made with much more freedom.
There is a clear difference between this and Candy Hearts music though. Gone are any aspects of the punk from the previous album, replaced by a collection of warm synth sounds and soft, melodic vocals. There is a clear difference in the lyrics too – a new sort of confidence seems evident in Loveland’s voice, contrasted by a more vulnerable edge. Her vocal ability seems to have improved too. All of this has added together to make a lovely little EP, full of songs to sing along to in your bedroom. The warm, happy sound mixed with the vulnerable lyrics are a great combination.
All 6 tracks of the EP show how far this band has come, and even though a couple of songs slightly miss the mark, it shows promising signs from a talented band. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Best song: See You Again