Podcast Episode 13 – Skyzoo – All The Brilliant Things

Ep 15 – Lonelady – Former Things This Is Not Happening – An Album Of The Month Podcast

Episode 15 of This Is Not Happening heads to the north west of England with Manchester artist Lonelady's third album, Former Things. After the heart-on-sleeve shogazey pop of Japanese Breakfast's Jubilee, Julie Campbell's solo guitar/drums/synth template brings 8 tracks of post-punk, electronic fusion, with Guy at the helm! In the second half of the episode, we stay in Manchester, each bringing a track from the city's fabled music history to the table. Our shortlist is here, and Guy's longlist lives here. Stick around and see what we thought of the picks:Guy  – Zoe Abalone – Vortex David – Paris Angels – Perfume Joey – Pip Milett – Hard LifeNolan  – Mr Scruff v Cyberpunks – A Space Disco Remix September's album of the month and all our new tracks, playlists, and chat 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. Head down there and hopefully you'll like what we're talking about and if you do, we'd love to hear from you on the socials (links below).Episode #16 comes in the shape of Billie Eilish's new album Happier Than Ever as David bring his pop-beingness back to the fore. That next episode will be landing before the end of October.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 15 – Lonelady – Former Things
  2. Ep 14 – Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee
  3. Ep 13 – Skyzoo – All The Brilliant Things
  4. This Is Not Happening – Season 2 Trailer
  5. Ep 12 – St Vincent – Daddy's Home

Episode 13 of This Is Not Happening stays in NYC with Skyzoo‘s new album All The Brilliant Things following up the 70s palette of  St VincentDaddy’s Home.  The much-respected Brooklyn  MC‘s 7th album finds him  writing a paen to his changing city, gentrification and history. It’s a beguiling work that Nolan brought to us get deep on as we move into season 2 of the podcast.

In the second half of the episode, we talk tracks of the summer, with a favourite from us that reminds of us the warm months. Our longlist is here, see what we thought of the picks:

David – The Millennium – To Claudia On Thursday
Joey – Clive Field Marshall – Island In The Sun
Guy  – Metronomy – The Bay
Nolan  – Black Sheep – Summa Tha Time

July’s album of the month and all our new tracks, playlists, and chat from the past decade or more can be found on our blog at www.thisisnothappening.net, which runs alongside the podcast choices and much, much more. Head down there and hopefully you’ll like what we’re talking about and if you do, we’d love to hear from you on the socials (links below).

Episode #14 takes us into the summer and is Joey’s chance to bring us a classic slice of modern pop with Japanese Breakfast‘s Jubilee. The next episode will be landing before the end of August.

This Is Not Happening:
Created by JoeyNolanGuy and David.
Produced and Edited by Guy and Nolan.
Twitter: @thisisnothapng
Instagram: @thisisnothappeningpod
Email: thisisnothappeningpodcast@gmail.com
Reviews: www.ratethispodcast.com/thisisnothappening

Podcast Episode 12 – St Vincent – Daddy’s Home

Ep 15 – Lonelady – Former Things This Is Not Happening – An Album Of The Month Podcast

Episode 15 of This Is Not Happening heads to the north west of England with Manchester artist Lonelady's third album, Former Things. After the heart-on-sleeve shogazey pop of Japanese Breakfast's Jubilee, Julie Campbell's solo guitar/drums/synth template brings 8 tracks of post-punk, electronic fusion, with Guy at the helm! In the second half of the episode, we stay in Manchester, each bringing a track from the city's fabled music history to the table. Our shortlist is here, and Guy's longlist lives here. Stick around and see what we thought of the picks:Guy  – Zoe Abalone – Vortex David – Paris Angels – Perfume Joey – Pip Milett – Hard LifeNolan  – Mr Scruff v Cyberpunks – A Space Disco Remix September's album of the month and all our new tracks, playlists, and chat 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. Head down there and hopefully you'll like what we're talking about and if you do, we'd love to hear from you on the socials (links below).Episode #16 comes in the shape of Billie Eilish's new album Happier Than Ever as David bring his pop-beingness back to the fore. That next episode will be landing before the end of October.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 15 – Lonelady – Former Things
  2. Ep 14 – Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee
  3. Ep 13 – Skyzoo – All The Brilliant Things
  4. This Is Not Happening – Season 2 Trailer
  5. Ep 12 – St Vincent – Daddy's Home

Episode 12 of This Is Not Happening strides from Genesis Owusu‘s Smiling With No Teeth to the much-anticipated new album from St VincentDaddy’s Home. The New York art-rock darling has embraced the underbelly of the 1970s with a new persona and some eye-catching tracks. Megafan David tries to convince us why we should all love it. It’s definitely a tug of war for an album that’s found reactions at both extremes. We also put together a playlist of music that makes us lean to Annie Clark.

In the second half of the episode, we set the seemingly impossible task of convincing each other to like a song from artists that they hate. What were we thinking?! Our longlist is here, see what we thought of the picks:

David via Joey – Manic Street Preachers – You’re Tender And You’re Tired
Guy  via Nolan – The Weeknd – High For This
Nolan via David – Muse – Falling Down
Joey via Guy – Arcade Fire – Intervention

Episode #13 takes us into series 2 of the podcast, and sees Nolan bring some hip-hop to the table with Skyzoo‘s new album All The Brilliant Things. as the celebrated New Yorker takes us into his world.  Skyzoo will be coming to you before the end of July.

June’s album of the month and all our new tracks, playlists, and chat from the past decade or more can be found on our blog at www.thisisnothappening.net, which runs alongside the podcast choices and much, much more. Swing by and you’ll hopefully enjoy what we’re talking about and if you like it, we’d love to hear from you on the socials (links below).

This Is Not Happening:
Created by JoeyNolanGuy and David.
Produced and Edited by Guy and Nolan.
Twitter: @thisisnothapng
Instagram: @thisisnothappeningpod
Email: thisisnothappeningpodcast@gmail.com
Reviews: www.ratethispodcast.com/thisisnothappening

Episode 10 – The Weather Station – Ignorance

Ep 15 – Lonelady – Former Things This Is Not Happening – An Album Of The Month Podcast

Episode 15 of This Is Not Happening heads to the north west of England with Manchester artist Lonelady's third album, Former Things. After the heart-on-sleeve shogazey pop of Japanese Breakfast's Jubilee, Julie Campbell's solo guitar/drums/synth template brings 8 tracks of post-punk, electronic fusion, with Guy at the helm! In the second half of the episode, we stay in Manchester, each bringing a track from the city's fabled music history to the table. Our shortlist is here, and Guy's longlist lives here. Stick around and see what we thought of the picks:Guy  – Zoe Abalone – Vortex David – Paris Angels – Perfume Joey – Pip Milett – Hard LifeNolan  – Mr Scruff v Cyberpunks – A Space Disco Remix September's album of the month and all our new tracks, playlists, and chat 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. Head down there and hopefully you'll like what we're talking about and if you do, we'd love to hear from you on the socials (links below).Episode #16 comes in the shape of Billie Eilish's new album Happier Than Ever as David bring his pop-beingness back to the fore. That next episode will be landing before the end of October.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 15 – Lonelady – Former Things
  2. Ep 14 – Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee
  3. Ep 13 – Skyzoo – All The Brilliant Things
  4. This Is Not Happening – Season 2 Trailer
  5. Ep 12 – St Vincent – Daddy's Home

Episode 10 of This Is Not Happening finds us sticking with female artists but switching from the UK to Canada with the Weather Station’s Ignorance.  Tamara Lindeman’s group released its 5th album in 2021, and it marks another progression from folk-tinged songwriting to full-blown grown-up pop that touched on so many of our big influences. We all went on a journey with this, with Joey at the helm. We also put together an ‘inspired by’ playlist to sit with the album

In the second part of the show, we jumped off the deep end by picking a new track, secret santa-style for each other! Here’s the longlist, but the four we chose are:

David – Nolan chose: Brother Ali – Sensitive.
Guy – Joey chose: Howlin’ – Bind
Joey – David chose: Charlotte Adigery – Bear With Me (And I’ll Stand Bare Before You) 
Nolan – Guy chose: Vagabon – Water Me Down (Pancy Remix)

April’s album of the month and all our playlists, new music and discussions from the past decade or more can be found on our blog at 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 you like it, we’d love to hear from you. Socials are below. 

Episode #11 will be digging into the kaleidoscopic debut from Genesis Owusu: Smiling With No Teeth . An Australian-Ghanaian whose melting-pot influences have created one of the most fascinating and memorable albums of the year. Coming to you before the end of May.

This Is Not Happening:
Created by JoeyNolanGuy and David.
Produced and Edited by Guy and Nolan.
Twitter: @thisisnothapng
Instagram: @thisisnothappeningpod
Email: thisisnothappeningpodcast@gmail.com
Reviews: www.ratethispodcast.com/thisisnothappening

May AOTM – Genesis Owusu – Smiling With No Teeth

Genesis Owusu’s Gold Chains.

Where to begin, with an album that’s such a multi-layered, sonically ambitious, lyrically dense and deep affair? That is, mind-bogglingly, a debut? From an artist that 3 months ago, I’d never even heard of ?(more fool me) How did we get here with May’s album of the month, and This Is Not Happening’s 11th episode? Ten days ago, it wasn’t even my month to pick.

I was down for June, but @davidhallison‘s love for St Vincent meant we switched it up – as we have before – and instead of a month to choose an album I had a week, at a stretch. This is enough to induce seven days of anxiety, let alone having stung myself with Yves Tumor in Episode 3: an album that the critics loved, that I picked out of a big big hat, wanting to wilfully choose something I wouldn’t usually go for. In the end, I just didn’t love it, even though there were some uncut gems on there. So I sifted through over a hundred new albums released since January, trying to find something that stood out to me. I struggled, not wanting to simply pick something random. I even entertained a classic album, deciding that really, if I couldn’t find new music, perhaps I should have a word with myself.

Something made me go back to Smiling With No Teeth, the debut from Ghanaian/Australian artist Genesis Owusu. It turns out I’d read an article on him back in March and that must’ve been a subconscious call-back. How could you not remember – even in the recesses of your mind – someone who proclaims ‘I’m Prince, if he were a rapper in 2020s Australia‘? I can’t have been totally convinced. Perhaps it was my mind telling me that ‘I don’t ‘do hip-hop’. Of course, once I listened to the album, it was clearly not a hip hop album. In fact it is the first album in a long time I’ve really found impossible to pigeonhole, even a dozen listens in. Fifteen tracks, almost an hour (Joey would have to do another lap of his ‘album walk’) and my first impression? I was baffled, a bit overwhelmed. But, most importantly, I also wanted to come back.

And that’s the happenstance way I’ve come to gradually live with this astonishing album. One that opens with the electro ripple of On The Move, hitting you with an Afrika Bambaataa-shaped sledgehammer. Even from the first few listens, what started as bewildering collection of musically inventive, but attention-grabbing tracks, something gets you. It has that undefinable ability that good albums do: to start taking shape and working its way into your subconscious right from the start. Then you hit The Other Black Dog, with its relentless, cycling energy and edge, ‘a tale of black dogs with golden leashes‘ and you start to get an inkling of a theme as you’re still trying to wrap your head around it as a whole. ‘Oh, depression’, you think, like Arlo. But what you’ll slowly realise is that it’s much more complex than that. Because the ‘Black Dog’ isn’t just depression, on an album that touches on some heavy themes: it’s a reclaiming of a racist term often used as a racial slur against Kofi Owusu-Ansah throughout his life. Its double meaning gives it extra resonance once you grasp that. You can read many things about the artist and his music, (and you should, because he is a person who is magnetic when he talks about his craft) but I always want a few tilts at the album before I started gaining context, to simply take in the music, without prejudgement.

Genesis Owusu – The Other Black Dog

Because, before you start to get to exist with the lyrics, the music leaves quite the early impression. It’s hard to see a genre that’s not covered: the aforementioned electro and pulsing beats, then Centrefold’s silky r’n’b that nods at everything from Frank Ocean to The Internet via Outkast, paired with Waitin’ On Ya, with its vocoded, 90s-esque stylings that felt the strongest connection to Super Rich Kids, and I Don’t Need You’s scuzzy guitar-vocal interplay that feels every inch a modern pop record. Drown, which is as if lifted from an 80s teen classic soundtrack, its rasping guitars and pulsing synth bass notes, lifted by guitarists Kirin J Callinan’s vocals. By the end of ‘side one’ (because it really does feels like a ‘proper’ album in that respect’, I felt like I’d gone on a car chase through the last 40 years of my musical existence. There was a lot to unpack. And yet, as you feel you have a handle on the most modern of ‘urban pop’ (is that even a thing?) albums, it takes a darker turn.

The ‘side two’ of Smiling With No Teeth, even without the lyrical connections, turns south. Gold Chains‘ echoes vintage N.E.R.D. but drips with metaphor ‘When it looks so gold, but it feels so cold inside these chains‘, subverting the macho hip-hop culture and appearance with a frail soul. The album’s title track swaggers along a pared-back Rhodes and harmonies, all Frank Ocean again, but with a bleakness attached, while I Don’t See Colour, with its congas and toms that feel all throwback 2000s Timbaland/Pharrell doesn’t disguise any more, with the lyrics starting to come so to the front of the mix that it’s impossible to ignore: “When you see the black man, its riots and terror
But when I talk about slavery, you weren’t there, how convenient
“. And as the album progresses, the music sits further and further back, leaving you no escape from the message: its hooked you in, and now you’re going to listen. Because this is an album that takes the messages of black consciousness, racism, oppression, and burns the lived experience into the listener’s brain. You will not escape, because you cannot.

Black Dogs punk feel shouts straight-up racism and painful, paranoid memories of everyday aggressions. Whip Cracker takes it up ever further notches, pared back to only a kick drum and unconcealed anger: “Whip your hands / whip your ass / Whip your man’s whip / This ain’t the 50s, you ain’t talkin’ shit / Know your place, know your role / ‘Fore you get tripped / You ain’t no masters / Your place has been flipped‘, and when the guitar and bass rides in, it sounds like Prince, but with Killer Mike’s flow injected. A subversion not even across two songs, but in the middle of one. And this is, remember, a 23-year old man with so much material to work from, because – starkly, and unadorned – this is the reality for black people everywhere. And his statement, and its power, is something visceral to behold amongst the musical alchemy.

Genesis Owusu – Gold Chains

There is some respite, with Easy‘s familiar-sounding 80s patterns, and A Song About Fishing may sound like a closing credits track, but the fishless lake is Owusu’s existence casting itself into a life without happiness. This is the beauty of the album in one perfect example: hooks and melodies to love, with a lyrical message as bleak as anything can get. If No Looking Back sounds like an anachronism, it is. Originally the album closer, its 60s-soul was felt way too positive and sugar-coated to really end the record, which is why Bye Bye exists: an edgy, but 80s-soul and funk-flecked nugget that slips in bleakness aplenty: “How do I breathe with my hands on my own throat?”.

It’s often the case I go – as many do – on a journey with any album. But this in an odyssey. A fable. Even as you try to consume the album’s kaleidoscopic nature, its melodic whirlwind, its length, it takes investment to start to see the dust settle. It’s a good half a dozen listens before songs start to emerge from the storm, and when that happens, it’s a beautiful experience, because you can’t but admire the talent on display. And as with the album’s narrative, there’s a story behind its creation: from mainly working across EPs and singles with beats and computers, Owusu wanted a looser ‘jammed’ feel to the album, so enlisted a collection of brilliant musicians – Callinan on guitar, World Champion’s Julian Sudek on drums, and Andrew Klippel, label Ourness’ founder on keys and house producer Touch Sensitive on bass – and went through six days of mammoth sessions where inspirations were played to the band, and songs were sketched out from the jams and lyrics worked on. Plucked from the best of 50+ hours, out of which the songs emerged. It’s a hugely ambitious method, and one that, without the talent and filter to make it work – both from the superlative talents of the group of musicians to thread it together and its leader to distil that into its final form – could’ve easily resulted in an overblown, confused effort that sunk without trace. But once you read about Genesis Owusu’s life, inspirations and hear him talk about what his music means to him, once again, Smiling…. seems more and more likely as a result.

The music is only half the story. As a first-generation immigrant into a country with a troubled racial history, his inspirations came from a palette of video games – lauded Xbox title Jet Set Radio Future melted my brain‘ as a kid – hip-hop – Lupe Fiasco’s wordplay and namechecking Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly as his favourite album (and an obvious thematic touchstone) – and a desire for identity. A kid who decided rather than assimilate, to be his own person, mixing african prints with streetwear (and copping the abuse for it), living with that conflict from the outside world. With this backdrop, the album is something that draws from all of it. I’m an interview he recently stated: “all my favourite songs aren’t singles, so making an album was massively important, and I’d wanted put all of who I am into it“.

But Owusu didn’t want it just to be about the music: working in multiple media, with fashion, song, art, video. They’re all “tools for expression, of me to the fullest extent”. Music is really important but it’s “just the soundtrack, when I’m “trying to make the whole movie”. An all-encompassing artistic vision at this age and stage of a career that its hard not to be wowed by, supported by some striking videos to the album. Playing out the dual-Black Dog metaphors : with depression the ‘internal’ spectre and racism it’s ‘external’ partner, they’re sometimes wrapped up further in a break-up or love song theme, sitting at times as a character within that structure, a three-layer approach that demands time and dedication but reaps big rewards. The whole album is an exercise in taking musically dazzling methods then wrapping the lyrics into it so seamlessly, that it takes considered effort – and in this case, my actual reading of so much of the lyrics – to really get under that surface. But it’s stealth, a trojan horse effort that serves as a double-whammy when those words truly hit.

Genesis Owusu – Whip Cracker

And they are an uncomfortable listen, but they are vital. I can’t possibly identify with much of that lived experience, but the energy, the anger, the rage that drips from the verses is impossible to ignore. Cast against the soul majesty of Sault, or Arlo Parks’ odes to angst-ridden teenage existence as a person of colour, and even RTJ’s nihilistic brutalism, this feels like it trumps even that. There is no sugar-coating, no desire to. But the unfiltered nature is as powerful as anything around it: “They passed the time / She gave her lies / He gave his life / Paid the price / In flashing lights / To gain his rights” in Easy. Dealing with the black dog as depression – something I can connect to far more – whether as a comment on gang culture clichés or the alpha-male assumptions of his appearance: “All my friends are hurting, but we dance it off, laugh it off / Scars inside our shoes but we just tap it off, clap it off” in The Other Black Dog, or “My other half that I swore I ain’t miss / Toxic, hundred percent batshit / Took my hand and started holding me down / Flicked thе crown, and said / You’ve got to let me drown“. It’s hard not to feel its impact in that shape-shifting flow.

Owusu talked of making the album he wanted to, free from any self-imposed expectation, with a desire to diverge from the soul/funk beats’n’drums hip-hop of his EPs, and its both admirable that – with all his confessed tumult – he can have the lack of ego and conviction to do that. Also that he can take all these ingredients and still come up with a work of such contrast and confidence as Smiling With No Teeth is, almost in a musical and cultural world of his own making. It feels like an album that could be only made on debut – that time when an artist can come to something with a vision that’s full of energy and unrestricted by critical expectation, or relative worry – but given its fully-formed vision, it’s hard not to wonder at the potential that lies in Genesis Owusu’s music. The message. The hooks. The colour of the palette. And tapping into something vital. Something that’s not just a reaction to the BLM-affected time we live in (in a recent podcast he was asked if that affected how he made the album and calmly explained that this has been a comment on his whole life) but the aggressions that pockmark a young black man’s life, character, mental health, outlook and future. This is, at it’s core, a deeply personal album, with focus and craft stupefying for someone in their early 20s. The justice will be if the album gets acclaim that it deserves when it can’t yet be toured or promoted in the usual way.

And to think I almost didn’t choose it.

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 15 – Lonelady – Former Things This Is Not Happening – An Album Of The Month Podcast

Episode 15 of This Is Not Happening heads to the north west of England with Manchester artist Lonelady's third album, Former Things. After the heart-on-sleeve shogazey pop of Japanese Breakfast's Jubilee, Julie Campbell's solo guitar/drums/synth template brings 8 tracks of post-punk, electronic fusion, with Guy at the helm! In the second half of the episode, we stay in Manchester, each bringing a track from the city's fabled music history to the table. Our shortlist is here, and Guy's longlist lives here. Stick around and see what we thought of the picks:Guy  – Zoe Abalone – Vortex David – Paris Angels – Perfume Joey – Pip Milett – Hard LifeNolan  – Mr Scruff v Cyberpunks – A Space Disco Remix September's album of the month and all our new tracks, playlists, and chat 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. Head down there and hopefully you'll like what we're talking about and if you do, we'd love to hear from you on the socials (links below).Episode #16 comes in the shape of Billie Eilish's new album Happier Than Ever as David bring his pop-beingness back to the fore. That next episode will be landing before the end of October.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 15 – Lonelady – Former Things
  2. Ep 14 – Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee
  3. Ep 13 – Skyzoo – All The Brilliant Things
  4. This Is Not Happening – Season 2 Trailer
  5. Ep 12 – St Vincent – Daddy's Home

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!

April AOTM – ‘Ignorance’ by The Weather Station

Ignorance | The Weather Station

It’s my turn for Album of the Month and as usual, I’ve not found my selection an easy choice. I’ve selected Ignorance by The Weather Station, the 5th full length album from 36 year old, Canadian Tamara Linderman. I wasn’t aware of her music before the single ‘Robber’ was released late in 2020. Her early albums fit neatly into the ‘singer / songwriter’ folk genre but with each successive release her sound develops in complexity and the band becomes bigger along with the sound. A journey that delivers ‘Ignorance’, which is hard to define by genre but it seems that many still refer to her as a folk artist. This feels like an old label that doesn’t fit this album. But on the other hand, does it really matter?

My hesitation in choosing this album was 100% down to the hype. Last month we discussed Arlo Park’s ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ a new, young artist from the UK managing the burden of expectation of being called ‘the voice of a generation’. The hype around ‘Ignorance’ is of a different kind; to come so early in 2021 but to be touted as a contender for ‘album of the year’. It’s a simple, undeniable fact that this changes your listening experience … at least it does for me. I vividly remember my first experience of this album. I had heard Robber, loved it and then saw an early review massively praising the album. I got on it straight away, and loved it. It was a 9/10 for me. I told the crew this was to be my Album of the Month. Can you tell there is a ‘but’ coming? But then, despite its luxuriant scope, scale and shockingly beautiful soundscape, I failed to connect to it emotionally. Which is odd as it ticks SO many of my boxes. The lyrical context and content being one of them. But it still failed to truly dent me emotionally. I found it a little cold and I stopped listening to it as a result.

So why have I chosen it? I’ve chosen it as I’ve gone on such a roller coaster with this album that I thought it would be an interesting choice for discussion with my friends who I know will have an opinion. I have connected more with this album over time. I think it demands close attention, it does sound best in headphones (I know, I know everything does) but I’d argue this is a different album in headphones. It’s so ‘pleasant’ on a surface level that it can be a perfect background music for life but I think due to the fragility or Tamara’s vocals and lyrics, a different level of appreciation can be achieved through a focused, concentrated listen.

So, on to the music? This a 40 minute, 10 track album. Hallelujah! Thank you Tamara. It is SO dense (I mean this in the ‘good way’) that overstepping the 10 track mark might have been problematic. There are a couple of 5 minute tracks but generally we’re in the 3-4 minute track mark … so this must be pop music right? I think the answer to that is ‘yes’ you could go ‘art pop’ if you wanted people to snigger behind your back but I am going with ‘pop music’ and I’m ok with that. ‘Side A’ (by which i mean tracks 1-6) is upbeat and rhythmically driven giving way to a more melancholic ‘Side B’. Regardless of the tone of the tracks there are tons of melodic, rhythmic and lyrical hooks. Let’s get into a few of them.

‘Robber’ … wow. What a way to open an album. There’s an albums worth of motifs, trills, frills, strings, woodwind and spiky yet intriguing ideas in one track (and of course we all know I love a big organ). It’s a surprisingly anxious, urgent and threatening track to start an album with and I think you could argue that it could have closed the album? It constantly threatens to veer off into jazz noise but never quite carries through on the threat.

The album then opens up into 9 more tracks that, while they rarely play with the oddness and complexity of ‘Robber’, there’s a hell of a lot going on. How many influences can you hear in this album? Are they deliberate? Stevie Nicks, Kate Bush, Springsteen (Atlantic / Tried to Tell You) and a host of other 80’s radio rock smeared with synths (I can genuinely hear shades of Dire Straits!) but then also the strings and hints of 80’s ‘sophisti-pop’ chucked in for good measure. David will love the disco-tinged-drive of ‘Parking Lot’ and I think we’ll all appreciate the magical backing vocals on ‘Loss’.

There is loads to love about this album; pop hooks with scope, scale, ambition and complexity. An artist playing with a wide sound palette and clearing enjoying the process and the results. I am still yet to fully connect with it emotionally but I can feel that this building slowly over time.

Some questions that I think might be interesting to discuss;

What is hell is this (and as always, does that even matter)?

How do hyperbolic critical reviews impact your experience of an album?

What influences do you hear in it?

What do you think might be preventing my emotional connection (reading a wide range of reviews – I am not the only one)

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?

We’ve done a podcast

It’s been a while in the making but….. we decided that we wanted to talk about music just as much (ok, even more) as we write about it.

So in July, we decided to launch This Is Not Happening the podcast, timing it with one of our best albums of the month, Run The Jewels 4. Every month we’ll be talking about our latest album of the month, and tackling another subject each episode. In July, it was our favourite lockdown bangers, and in August, alongside Jessie Ware’s silky What’s Your Pleasure, we’ll be going into what music chills us out.

The podcast will be up on all the usual podcast locations, including Apple, Google, Spotify, Tune In, Deezer, Podcast Addict, or on its own host site, Buzzsprout.

We’re pretty excited to be going in a new direction alongside the blog, so join Guy, Nolan, David and Joey every month for This Is Not Happening in podcast form!