New Pet Shop Boys! I’m not sure how I feel about their new album, Super. The singles, “The Pop Kids” (especially) and “Inner Sanctum,” are great, but the rest of the album is less impressive. “Twenty Something” seems like an awkwardly strained attempt to write a zeitgeist song for a zeitgeist they’re not really a part of, and I don’t get the point of “The Dictator Decides” at all (it sort of looks like a political song if you squint a bit, but what aspect of contemporary politics is it actually supposed to be grasping?).
New Fifth Harmony! This is a solid banger; it sounds like a Saturdays album track, which, for the avoidance of doubt, is high praise indeed.
New single from TP4Y; like Fifth Harmony they apparently came together through a reality show (in this case, Holland’s Got Talent), and, also like Fifth Harmony, but unusually for a reality TV act, they work as an actual pop group. And they’ve got their act together quicker than Fifth Harmony, too; it took 5H until their first album to hit some proper pop trends (in their case, R&bass), while TP4Y have got this tropical house track on their first EP (their first single, “La La Love,” was more Radio Disney, specifically sounding a bit like Bridgit Mendler).
An even more accurate Bridgit Mendler impersonation from Tove Styrke on “Aftergold” by somebody called Big Wild. If sounding like Bridgit Mendler is a trend in 2016 I’ll be pleased, but I hope it includes music actually by Bridgit Mendler (Hello My Name Is… was great, but where is her second album?).
New Invader Girl! Actually not new, this is a song she released under her previous (more explicitly 80s?) alias, Cinnamon Girl, but it’s still good.
I’ve been posting a lot of indie-ish synthpoppy stuff recently, and Wilde’s EP Flashlight is more on that theme. It’s all pretty shamelessly sentimental; or, rather, it’s the sort of sentimentality you get when you’re desperately trying to let the style take the weight of the sentiment, which is just the sort of sentimentality I like.
Slightly dancier, equally sentimental synthpop from Bearson.
More dancey, less sentimental.
Princess Century is on the synthpoppy and sentimental Paper Bag Records label, but her new EP is a shift to the rigorous no-sentiment all-scowling wing of dance music, which I also like a lot.
Excellent clonking and clanging from Lakker’s forthcoming concept album about Dutch flood defenses.
More clonking from Tālā and Korean rap girl group Wa$$up.
At a conference last week, I went to a panel on the anthropocene, and I made a joke about how all the cool theorists were there, they should have called it the anthroposcene (amirite?). Turns out Tomas Barfod has already used that joke for the title of a minimal-ish dance track that is prettier than the frankly rather silly concept of the anthropocene deserves.
Babeo Baggins has a free new EP of covers, of which this is my favourite (I don’t know the Likke Li original).
The tracks released so far from Katy B’s forthcoming collaboration album have been very underwhelming. This is low key but works because, unlike the other recent releases, Katy B has brought back the charisma to her vocals that made her previous records so engaging.
I’ve listened to Zayn Malik’s solo album a couple of times, and I like a few of the tracks, including this, “Befour” (although starting a sex jam by insisting “I’ve done this before” doesn’t really inspire confidence) but it’s mostly pretty dull, and the problem is primarily Zayn’s vocals. I’m not sure if he’s not a very good singer or if he’s just getting bad advice, but combination of lazy under-enunciation with occasional strained emoting (as on the chorus for “Pillowtalk”) is not a good look.
K. Michelle is on the other end of the alt.R&B spectrum from what Zayn’s attempting, and also on the other end of the quality spectrum, in that her new album, More Issues than Vogue is pretty good. I have difficulty figuring out exactly what makes me like or dislike particular songs in a more traditional R&B style; I’m pretty sure there are songs that sound a lot like “Not a Little Bit” or “All I Got” that I find boring, but something about these particular tracks grabs me; certainly K. Michelle’s performance is subtle and full of details to get lost in.
Last of all, something that might be described as K-Trap from the slightly questionably named D.Holic. K-Pop presentations of sexyness seem to now involve such a level of pandering, self-referential satire of pandering, meta-pandering that functions through its nominal critique, and so-on, that it’s dizzying, and so for all I know “D.Holic” is an intentional double-entendre. But this track is a charmingly banging take on the synth horns that were everywhere in pop a few years ago.