Not quite albums of the month…. the ones that got away.

It may seem like there’s always a nailed-on candidate for our albums of the month. But there’s all sorts of reasons that an album may not be chosen as AOTM, way before we did the podcast, we were still having the same discussions and dilemmas. So why would it get derailed? Sometimes it’s as simple as the fact that we’ve already got it and have rinsed it before it could be chosen – Caribou’s Suddenly and Roisin Murphy’s Roisin Machine are both good examples of this last year – or sometimes there’s a veto from in the camp.

I think we can all agree that should time be taken again for Roisin, we’d have chosen her over Sufjan every time. But we loved it so much it sometimes feels like taking the less worn path (though Sufjan is hardly unlikely) is a better choice than choosing something everyone will love. Other times while one – or more – of us loves it, it’s pretty clear that it would be likely hated by the other. I know what I’ll be playing still in a year.

With Ep11 and April’s AOTM in question, this is a great example of that dilemma. @misterstory put me onto Menneskekollektivet by Lost Girls, a strange, ethereal collection of 5 tracks from Norwegians Jenny Hval and Havard Volden, that he brought to my attention as one of the 4 ‘new tracks’ up with Episode 10. 11 minutes of hypnotic music that’s part spoken word, part dancefloor chug, then in between meanders into the areas in between. I was half-captivated, half confused by it, but it definitely stuck in my head. And it pointed me to the album, which was just as off the wall, but just as beautiful. While it was in the mix for April, we also knew that it really wouldn’t be a ‘David’ album, and we weren’t sure it was a Nolan one either, and so it went to the cutting room floor. Which is odd as the album we chose – Genesis Owusu‘s Smiling With No Teeth – was just as ‘out there’ in many ways. But it just seemed to be an album which would be a choice that would land with the four of us better. Having said that, we chose Macca, and look how that turned out for Ep7!

Going a bit deeper into the album than even Joey has so far, Love Lovers is probably the standout of the 5 tracks (total: 44 minutes for, yes, only five tracks). A tribal beat that morphs into techno, as Hval’s spoken words then wailing notes and Volden’s chords drive the melody, until it breaks out into an epic peak. Carried By Invisible Bodies also weaves around, its chords de- and re-tuned throughout, a sort of woozy, disorienting melody that I’m still not sure if I’d ever have the cojones to play out anywhere. It definitely skirts the fine line between musical genius and pretentiousness, and no doubt knows that. But the artist background of Hval (and this being considered an accessible counterpoint to her solo work!) makes this less of a surprise when you delve deeper.


We could probably do a whole series of albums that never quite made it to a chosen each month – we don’t by any means have just those 12 albums in our lives each year – but this one definitely stood out. For every choice there’s always one that ends up on the floor. If I had time again, I’d have chosen Everything Everything’s Reanimator because – no diss to Yves Tumor, my EP3 choice – I’m still playing it, all the time. You live and learn. And that’s just choices in the last 6 months!

Podcast: Re-up

Yes, we’ve done a podcast, but we haven’t talked about it much on here up to now. However, there’s a lot there for fans of any stripe, from EP1’s RTJ4 right up to Arlo Park’s Collapsed in Sunbeams in EP9. So consider this a refresher, or re-up (Omar comin’!) of where we have got up to. If you’ve not dipped into them all yet, or you’ve only braved one, here’s your chance to dive in! There’s a player below and after that a bit of a bite-size lump of what each is about. Enjoy.

Ep 9 – Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams This Is Not Happening – An Album Of The Month Podcast

Episode 9 of This Is Not Happening lands on another massively hyped album from the last year: Arlo Parks: Collapsed In Sunbeams. From being crowned BBC's 'Sound of 2020' and labelled 'the voice of a generation', the pressure on a debut album hasn't been this heavy in a long time. We dissect it to see it lived up to the expectation, with Nolan at the helm. In the second part of the show, we come back to picking our favourite new music since the turn of the year, with a really intriguing set of four great tracks We chose:Nolan: Tunnelvisions – Mirrored Identities David: Nubiyan Twist feat. K.O.G. – If I Know Guy: Virginia Wing – St Francis' FountainJoey: Sofia Kourtesis – La PerlaMarch's album of the month and all our various music discussions from the past decade or more can be found on our blog at http://www.thisisnothappening.net, which runs alongside the podcast choices and much, much more. So check them out so to see what we 're talking about and if something lands with you, we'd love to hear what you think. Episode #10 will be digging into The Weather Station's latest album, Ignorance. Another female singer songwriter, but a departure from the world of Arlo Parks, for sure. Coming to you in late April.  This Is Not Happening:Created by Joey, Nolan, Guy and David.Produced and Edited by Guy and Nolan.Twitter: @thisisnothapngInstagram: @thisisnothappeningpodEmail: thisisnothappeningpodcast@gmail.comReviews: http://www.ratethispodcast.com/thisisnothappening
  1. Ep 9 – Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams
  2. Ep 8 – Bicep – Isles
  3. Ep 7 – Paul McCartney III
  4. Ep 6 – Review of 2020
  5. Ep 5 – Sufjan Stevens: The Ascension

EP1 – Run The Jewels – RTJ4 + lockdown bangers

The podcast was born on a high note: Run The Jewels’ RTJ4 landed in early lockdown on the wave of righteous and justified anger and the #BlackLivesMatter movement and captured that zeitgeist perfectly with its mix of monster hooks and rapier-like flow from Killer Mike and El P. Still sounds so fresh now. We also went in on lockdown bangers that went across the music map.

EP2 – Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure? + chilled tracks

Episode 2 landed on Jessie Ware’s shimmering modern pop and disco monolith What’s Your Pleasure? A slice of adult dancefloor glitter with production chops to match, we didn’t all see eye to eye on this one. We also talked what music chilled us out, with differing results!

EP3 – Yves Tumor – Heaven To A Tortured Mind + disco destruction

The third episode took on a totally new artist to us, the enigmatic Yves Tumor’s Heaven To A Tortured Mind. A noise-laden collection of modern, scuzzy soul and funk, again divided the room. We also revelled in the world of disco with some seminal cuts.

EP4 – Sault – Untitled [Black Is] + afro centric tracks

If RTJ hit the zeitgeist, anonymous collective Sault’s Untitled [Black Is] took that feeling to another level with its modern take on enveloping soul, roots, dub, and more, all wrapped up in lyrics that elevated black consciousness and lived experience. It really was a joy to talk through. We also took on our favourite afro-centric tracks from four different directions.

EP5 – Sufjan Stevens – The Ascension + new music

Long-time blog favourite Sufjan Stevens’ electronic opus The Ascension got a going over from the four of us. An album big on ambition that perhaps overshot its mark with us, we also picked out our favourite new tracks from recent months.

EP6 – Review of 2020 + tracks of the year

As the year came to a close, we cast our minds back over the last twelve months and counted down our top ten albums. For the first time in the twelve years of the blog, we mostly agreed on the top 3! We also brought our own tracks of the year to the table.

EP7 – Paul McCartney – McCartney III + covers we love

There’s lockdown albums, and there’s surprise releases from the biggest rock stars on the planet. McCartney III‘s homely rock and pop vision took us by surprise and showed that not everyone is a Beatles fan, to David’s shock! We also brought our best covers to the table, with some friction!

EP8 – Bicep – Isles + remix heaven

Dancefloors may have been shut but we went into Bicep’s massively anticipated second album, Isles. It’s shimmering, metallic beats and melodies landed with varying results for us, but we all just wanted to see them (or anyone!) live, by the end. Tracks came in the form of our favourite remixes, and tears were shed.

EP9 – Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams + new music

One of music’s most hotly-anticipated – and hyped – albums came in episode 9. Arlo Parks’ Collapsed In Sunbeams was a beautiful collection of soul and r’n’b from the breakout artist who melodies hid a surprisingly direct character. Could it live up to the hype? We also picked our favourite music from the start of 2021.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the podcast as much as we have making it. We have no grand plans, but we just want to talk about the music we love and hope a few others share that with us, whether you agree with us or not…. thanks again to everyone that’s listened up to now. See you at Episode 11 and Genesis Owusu!

Episode 9 new tracks playlist

Alongside Arlo Parks in March, we also chose new tracks to bring to the table in Episode 9. While we talked through one each on the episode, we had a shortlist of 4 from all the music we’d come across from the turn of the year.

There are some brilliant records from Tunnelvisions, Tom Trago, Nubiyan Twist, Virginia Wing, Sofia Kourtesis, Raveena, Field Music, Julien Baker, The Weather Station and many more.


What’s on your radar?

TINH Episode 9 new tracks

Podcast Episode 9 – Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams

Ep 9 – Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams This Is Not Happening – An Album Of The Month Podcast

Episode 9 of This Is Not Happening lands on another massively hyped album from the last year: Arlo Parks: Collapsed In Sunbeams. From being crowned BBC's 'Sound of 2020' and labelled 'the voice of a generation', the pressure on a debut album hasn't been this heavy in a long time. We dissect it to see it lived up to the expectation, with Nolan at the helm. In the second part of the show, we come back to picking our favourite new music since the turn of the year, with a really intriguing set of four great tracks We chose:Nolan: Tunnelvisions – Mirrored Identities David: Nubiyan Twist feat. K.O.G. – If I Know Guy: Virginia Wing – St Francis' FountainJoey: Sofia Kourtesis – La PerlaMarch's album of the month and all our various music discussions from the past decade or more can be found on our blog at http://www.thisisnothappening.net, which runs alongside the podcast choices and much, much more. So check them out so to see what we 're talking about and if something lands with you, we'd love to hear what you think. Episode #10 will be digging into The Weather Station's latest album, Ignorance. Another female singer songwriter, but a departure from the world of Arlo Parks, for sure. Coming to you in late April.  This Is Not Happening:Created by Joey, Nolan, Guy and David.Produced and Edited by Guy and Nolan.Twitter: @thisisnothapngInstagram: @thisisnothappeningpodEmail: thisisnothappeningpodcast@gmail.comReviews: http://www.ratethispodcast.com/thisisnothappening
  1. Ep 9 – Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams
  2. Ep 8 – Bicep – Isles
  3. Ep 7 – Paul McCartney III
  4. Ep 6 – Review of 2020
  5. Ep 5 – Sufjan Stevens: The Ascension

Episode 9 of This Is Not Happening lands on another massively hyped album from the last year: Arlo ParksCollapsed In Sunbeams. From being crowned BBC’s ‘Sound of 2020’ and labelled ‘the voice of a generation’, the pressure on a debut album hasn’t been this heavy in a long time. We dissect it to see it lived up to the expectation, with Nolan at the helm.

In the second part of the show, we come back to picking our favourite new music since the turn of the year, with a really intriguing set of four great tracks We chose:

Nolan: Tunnelvisions – Mirrored Identities
David: Nubiyan Twist feat. K.O.G. – If I Know
Guy: Virginia Wing – St Francis’ Fountain
Joey: Sofia Kourtesis – La Perla

Episode #10 will be digging into The Weather Station’s latest album, Ignorance. Another female singer songwriter, but a departure from the world of Arlo Parks, for sure. Coming to you in late April. 


Twitter: @thisisnothapng
Instagram: @thisisnothappeningpod
Email: thisisnothappeningpodcast@gmail.com
Reviews: www.ratethispodcast.com/thisisnothappening

FEBRUARY – Bicep – Isles

How do you make an album of memorable dance music when there’s no dancefloor to experience it on? As someone that’s spent much of their life on and around dancefloors since their teenage years, no year feels more alien than this for this reason. I have not danced in public since March and it has never been easy wrapping my head around that. It’s not a problem that northern Irish duo Bicep set out to wrestle with when they took the majority of 2019 off to make Isles, but it’s become the conundrum for most dancefloor-focused music and producers over the past year as the industry grapples with an existential event that could change culture as we know it. Despite this undercurrent of doom, there have been some notably incredible electronic music albums released since March – amongst them Kelly Lee Owens, more than one by Four Tet, Caribou, Roisin Murphy, and Romare – so it’s not the case the Bicep’s second album is a potential outlier, it’s just that it’s so hotly anticipated, such was the euphoria and afterglow that greeted their self-titled debut in 2017. Can anything ever really live up to the hype?

Usually January brings a level of excitement as you scan for new albums, new tours, gigs, and festival dates. This isn’t a usual January. In fact all the hope we felt in the autumn of 2020, with the new year being a chance to kiss the difficult days and grim news cycle goodbye in 2021, seems a distant memory. Gigs that felt a welcome chance to anticipate old joys once more, now just another date pushed back, and the new year feels a cruel repeat of last one. So bringing Isles as an album of the month, its ethos pitched so obviously against the prevailing times, felt less a gamble, more just a twisted joke. Sometimes release dates also force the hand (there’s nothing so unromantic as podcast record dates and time to familiarise yourself with an album enough to make sense of it) and so in the end it was the most obvious option. Despite my reticence of picking an album which felt so against the times, it became clear at first listen I’d overthought the entire thing, and really this was a welcome balm that instantly lifted my mind out of a lot of the low-level shit that occupies it in lockdown life. I can’t put into words how good that feels, or how needed it is.

Hype can suffocate an album, but when listening to Isles the first time, it feels almost perfectly pitched to the current experience of imagined dancefloors, as we all await the real ones. Not because it lacks any potency, or moments of magic that don’t make you wish you were in a sweaty basement with a red light in the corner and a wall of speakers between you and the DJ. Even on first listen, it seems to be an album that sits just as well for ‘home’ listening (headphones, for optimal experience please) as it would sound when – we all hope – we finally get to see it reverberating around a room full of people. Alongside this, its magic also lies in its ability to shapeshift and flit between genres whilst still sounding like one coherent work. This is not a simple feat to achieve. Many impressively produced electronic albums either start impressively, only to slide into ‘ten club bangers’ territory, or just slowly disintegrate by trying to hard to be something they’re not: a messy, incoherent, overambitious failure. Isles isn’t one of these records. In fact, as it flits between changes of pace, time signatures and atmospherics, it manages to pull off being every bit as impressive as its forbear, arguably a more complete album.

Electronic music – and I say it as someone that’s been enveloped by it since my late teens, and dabbled as a promoter, producer, journalist since pretty much my mid-20s until now – is a bewildering scene that is so rich that it’s almost impossible to take in its outer reaches, even for those professionally involved. Even with scenes – house, techno, drum’n’bass – there’s such an ecosystem that being at the centre of it is a 24/7 dedication. Yet when you talk about albums and artists and sounds that manage to break out of that sweaty underground, it has felt – as least to me – that the older I have got, the more homogenous things at the top have felt. Where are the new equivalents and the inventiveness of Leftfield, Orbital, Chemical Brothers, LTJ Bukem, Carl Cox, Dave Clarke, the KLF, and Underworld? Acts that can make captivating music that didn’t just fill clubs but took over stadiums and the top 40 (even as – of course – so much incredible music was still underground and at the fringes)? Perhaps it’s my age, yes, but also the global domination of ‘tech house’ (it’s not tech house, it’s business techno) and EDM feels like while all the money has gone to the top of the pile, a lot of the creativity seems to have been leached from it. Which is why the likes of Bicep are to be celebrated. They do not make music from a template, and it doesn’t really sound like a lot of other music around, certainly not that by a single artist. Isles may not break new ground, but such is the scope for sonic richness in their sound, that there is a lot of mileage to go yet before they need to think about reinvention.

We first encountered Bicep on the blog in 2017 when Nolan posted what would later be singles from their debut, and he brought Bicep as album of the month in Feb 2018. It came on a wave of hype then, just as its successor does, but it feels like it justifies it. The hype is not theirs, after all, and from all that you read of Matt McBriar and Andy Ferguson – perhaps because of their well-told background as bloggers-turned-DJs-turned-producers – they seem altogether not cut from the same cloth as the private-jet-setting, glitter-cannoned, deep-v-necked ‘techno’ crew whose company they keep in the charts and at festivals. Calling out ‘plague rave DJs‘, talking about how Brexit will hit artists’ ability to tour in the EU, or talking about their perfectionism in even choosing their logo and artwork (self-designed), it’s clear they aren’t just ciphers, but ravers that have much of the love and reverence for the scene that their fans do, too. They understand the culture, and their success is very much their own, so it feels like the connection to the dancefloor, those elements that grab the listener, is very real and unmanufactured.

When I first heard them, back on Will Saul’s Aus Music label with Ejeca in 2012, despite a chunk of their subsequent production leaning towards house, they stood out with their insistence on not existing solely four-four. And this thread runs through their music to the present day: it is definitely not house, nor is it techno, and for that reason I’m attracted. For me, the lineage is back right to the rave era, such is the breakbeat influence, but also through other very British scenes of UK Garage, jungle and breaks. Their music is very much modern, but there’s an undeniable link to the grittier, illegal raves as there is to Orbital or Leftfield. I certainly want to believe the tale that much of the sounds that have made them so successful came from the loss of a hard drive that contained a chunk of new house tracks that inspired them to change tack, and ultimately led to the first album’s more uncommon sound. It’s not quite Sub Sub’s Ancoats studio burning down, but sometimes it’s serendipity that makes the story all the more alluring.

So what is a first impression of ‘Isles’? For an album that’s only been out for a few days, it’s hard to form much more than broad-brush reactions. Of course, a few of the tracks from it – the percussive, elastic bleeps of Atlas, the lush, almost orchestral melodies and chopped up vocals of Apricots, and the garage-evoking Saku – have already given us a taste, but really for any album, its about – at least for us on this blog – the whole. What does the listening experience of Isles feel like when it’s still bright and new? There is real life, vibrancy and brightness throughout: even as the familiarity of the existing tracks leap out, Cazenove, nestled in between this trio, stands out just as purposefully, its ‘intelligent d’n’b’ percussive leanings wrapped within wistful melodies and vox pads. Similarly, Sundial, towards the end of the album, will evoke rushes of nostalgia for those of a certain age with its rotating chord patterns, as if pitched for the sunrise moment as the morning breaks and you realise you’ve danced your way through the night, unsure how you’ll get home. Following it, Fir gets as close to trance (cough) as the album dares (less of a surprise when you realise the pair frequented Belfast mecca Shine in the throes of the big-room house and trance scene in the early noughties) with its choral pads, flanged percs and echoing leads. Album closer Hawk is Bicep at their best: bending rasping notes amid swirling, breathy vocals into a cut of pure energy that has me hairs standing up and my eyes misting over with a mix of nostalgia, elation and sadness. Perfect alchemy that shows exactly why they command such dedicated followings.

Amongst the more urgent tracks, there are relative departures that add texture and allow time for breath. Lido is one of these relative departures: a warm, beatless cut that centres around a piano motif, rich pads and choral vocals, perhaps pointing towards an after-party once the club madness has subsided. X and Rever too, following Lido, prolong the release of energy from the album’s opening and closing frenetic pace, and show that its possible to take a line from A to B that’s not a simple and lazy procession of bangers. No album can honestly keep up that pace and remain focused or enjoyable, and it’s a chance to flex some creative fibres, that also make the tracks that bookend this middle section more powerful in comparison. X cascades metallic notes and an urgent tension despite its relatively downtempo nature, and Rever, almost feeling like an extension of its predecessor, again trades in indistinct words and rumbling leads that focus onto the melody. In fact, one theme running through the album, is that, despite voices on many of the tracks, its only Saku where words are discernible, elsewhere used as another melody, instrument or feel: part of the music rather than at the forefront. Likewise the snare hits that never land on drum sounds, more a rim or filtered out hit that gives all Bicep’s work on Isles a clearer sonic precision.

So, as arresting as it is, will Isles take Bicep up another level? With night-time culture so under threat, it’s hard to predict what the scene will look like in a few months, let alone a year. But without somewhere to dance, Bicep have made an album that will get you close to that feeling, even if you have to close your eyes to do it. Because while home listening is never going to come close to the club (the pair actually hired out Corsica Studios for a day to ensure the new tracks sounded right on a properly tuned system) I’d argue that this is an album that can still bring on those emotions whether you’re running to it, walking, on a bus, or just sitting at home, headphones on. The music has a power and potency that connects, and it’s why I’m sure it’ll still sound as fresh after 50 listens as it does after just a few.

What makes a good cover?

In episode 7 of our podcast, alongside McCartney, we bring a favourite cover to the table. But what makes a good cover? Why do you connect to it? Do you have to love the original? Or is loving the original a reason to doubt any rework of that track? Do you need to be reverential or do something totally different? Like any music, it’s such a personal thing, that we probably all have different views on it.

For me, (Guy), you have to bring something new to the party. What is that? I can’t define it, but it is all about the feels. And here’s some of my favourite covers, from the sublime (Jeff Buckley) to the ridiculous (The Fall). What do you like, and why?

Four Tet – Parallel

The methods of making music may not have changed much in lockdown but the way its’ released and consumed surely has, especially with electronic music. With no clubs, how do you craft something for release? When should it come out? If you’re Kieran Hebden then Christmas Day is the answer to the latter. Not one, but two new albums appeared in December, and of the two – along with an odd retrospective, 871 – Parallel was the one that’s landed most with me. A selection of tracks, some of which have been released under a strange hieroglyph moniker over the past few years, which carry all the beauty of his electronica as well as anything he’s done recently. Particularly the opener, a monster 27-minute Parallel 1. It’s chimed perfectly in lockdown for me, and I’m really glad to have such a musical polymath like Four Tet around.

Bicep – Atlas

As Nolan’s mentioned, we’ve had some new Bicep in our lives for a while and that’s a prelude to a new album in January. Three tracks – Apricot, Saku and Atlas – this is the latter and (just) my favourite of the three, but really they’re all superb cuts that gets me excited about the new album. Of course, they just make me want to get onto a dark dancefloor, so it’s tinged with sadness too, but I think that’s just life right now. Those first few parties are going to be incredible, so that’s the light at the end of my tunnel.

Siouxsie and the Banshees – Dear Prudence

Well, we’ve been talking about covers for a while on and off – perhaps coming to a future podcast episode near you – and I was staggered to come across this incredible version of a favourite Beatles track by a band I never would’ve expected to see do it.

Needless to say, it’s not nearly as raucous and rough as you’d expect it to be, but perhaps that’s what a great cover is: one that confounds your expectations. Which could lead down a rabbit hole all of its own. What else stands up to this? A few come to mind:

Johnny Cash covering Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’?

Nirvana’s Bowie Cover ‘The Man Who Sold The World’?

(shameless love of mine) Hot Chip’s brilliant version of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark’?

Sinead O’Connor’s cover of Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’?

or perhaps Hendrix’s seminal Dylan cover ‘All Along The Watchtower’?

What would you pick?