The Month In Music: February ‘17

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Albums

Big Sean continued to make good on his own hype this month with the fantastic I Decided. I’m hoping this is the album that finally gets people to start taking him seriously as a credible rapper. His last 3 records have gone from strength to strength and this one is a blast from start to finish. Much underrated rapper. At the overrated ending of the spectrum (in my opinion) comes Lupe Fiasco with his latest DROGAS Light. Don’t get me wrong, I think Lupe is brilliant but he’s inconsistent and this album shows that again. Track 1 through 10 are high-energy, lyrically captivating bangers but then for some reason the final 4 songs are cringe-inducing sung/rap ballads that make shameless grab for radio play. Shame! Jidenna made good on a string of exciting singles with debut album The Chief with huge beats and exhilarating stories from his Nigerian roots. Rap dup THEY. delivered a strong and singular debut album Nü Religion: HYENA which — to my ears — is like a hookier Rae Sremmurd if they bothered to write about anything important. Very promising.

Stormzy finally came through with a debut album Gun Signs And Prayers whose instant success left even Spotify speechless. Equal parts ferocious grime (Gun Signs) and gospel-tinged redemption (Prayer) this is truly a British rap opus delight and I hope Stormzy gets everything he deserves. The big draw this month though has been Future’s mighty 1–2-hit with FUTURE then HNDRXX just a week later. The former was a disappointing masterclass in laurels-resting, with over an hour of nothing new from the artist. But the second album was everything I wanted from Future and more. An instantly loveable R’n’B/Rap firework display with added Weeknd and Rihanna along for the ride. It sounds like Nayvadius has finally got his muse back and to me, HNDRXX sounds like his best work yet. If Ellen DeGeneres’ website is anything to go by, we might have a 3rd album on our hands by the end of this week…I don’t think I can handle another one!

One of my favourite albums this month — and one I expect to be on rotate for rest of the year is the highly anticipated Process from Sampha. A confounding and simultaneously personal piece of art, it’s a mood album for sure and positions him as something like the UK’s answer to Frank Ocean. Elsewhere, British producer Kingdom released his first full length, Tears In The Club which I was really excited for. It’s a great record but at under 30 minutes long I was left really wanting more. As well as the wonderful SZA it featured vocals from Syd (of The Internet) who released her solo debut this month. Fin is the perfect hazy, atmospheric R’n’B album and really showcases her personality as well as her beautiful singing voice. Jacquees & Dej Loaf teamed up for a fantastically sexy collab mixtape aptly titled Fuck A Friendzone which was a lot of fun. New TDE-signee SiR also released a brilliantly soulful mini album HER Too which stood up to even an Anderson .Paak feature without getting overwhelmed.

After releasing one of my favourite albums of last year Oddisee returned with The Iceberg featuring his inimitable production chops; this time with his MCing over the top. It’s breezy and charismatic with insightful lyricism. The mighty Thundercat released a mad new album Drunk featuring Kendrick and Pharrell among others. One of my longest standing favourites The Dears came back with their first new material in over 5 years on Times Infinity Vol One which is a fantastic showcase of alternative rock, with Vol Two to look forward to later in the year. Ryan Adams’ divorce album Prisoner is a great set of songs from an artist still at his best. Dirty Projectors dropped their new self titled album a few days earlier than scheduled and it’s the first of theirs that I’ve loved from start to end. They have a new fan! There’ve also been new ones from Sun Kil Moon, Xiu Xiu, Surfer Blood and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard that I just haven’t had time for yet. What a month for albums.

Tracks

There have been so many incredible singles this month too so please check out the Spotify playlist and find a new jam! Wanted to give a shout to one of my favourite artists Sevdaliza for her new song ‘Bebin’ sung entirely in Farsi in solidarity for Trump’s Muslim Ban with all proceeds going to supporting victims of racial exclusion.We were also blessed on the last day of the month wth a new 17-minute opus from Mr. Kanye West ‘Bed’ featuring frequent collaborator The-Dream. West is just on production here but it’s a reminder of unrivalled talent.

New Discoveries

Cessna Deathwish
Twisting the rules of my own piece here as Cessna Deathwish are anything but a new discovery for me (that’s the back of my head 38 seconds into the video) but I’m including them here because they likely will be new to you. Their new single ‘The Bends’ came out everywhere last Friday and they’re getting better with every release. Tackling themes such as addiction, mortality, religion and the soul, these guys don’t mess around and their uniquely transcendent sound portrays real pain. Think somewhere between the best of Bright Eyes with a post-punk edge. Expect great things from the Brighton-based guys throughout 2017 on tour and on record.

J.I.D
It’s great when an artist comes along and really gets you excited. I’d never heard of J.I.D before he signed to J Cole’s Dreamville label this month and released the video above — but the impact was made instantly. Somewhere between rap-mode Anderson .Paak and bugged-out Kendrick; J.I.D’s flow is attention grabbing and his lyrical prowess is undeniable. I’m not surprised Cole snapped him up and hope he gives him the platform he deserves. He’s part of the Spillage Village crew and I realised I had heard him before on their brilliant Bears Like This Too Much compilation. So until he drops a full project on Dreamville make sure you check that record out and stay tuned.

Injury Reserve
I’d heard this Arizona group’s name a little towards this end of the year but it took until this week for me to check them out, and to say I’m kicking myself for waiting this long would be an understatement. They’re made up of rappers Steppa J. Groggs and Ritchie With A T and producer Parker Corey and their album Floss is an absolute revelation. It came out just over a week before Christmas which might go someway to explain how it was missed but I implore any hip hop fan to go back to it. They list their influences as Outkast A Tribe Called Quest and Kanye — the latter making a lot of sense on the album’s sound landing somewhere between West’s last 3 albums.

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Digital Account Manager but I write short stories, songs without music, talk about music and mental health and share photography. I speak that ugly elegant

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Cal W. Stannard

Digital Account Manager but I write short stories, songs without music, talk about music and mental health and share photography. I speak that ugly elegant