ANOHNI’s new album, Hopelessness, is absolutely staggering. I’m not very familiar with her previous work; I’m most familiar with her as an occasional collaborator with Björk, and indeed Hopelessness has some similarity to Björk, the combination of beautiful and challenging vocals with emotionally overwhelming beats and, for want of a better term, a great reach of conceptual ambition. I don’t think it’s controversial to say that most music that foregrounds its politics is rubbish, often because of bad politics, but overwhelmingly because of a lack of interest in the politics of aesthetics, that is, a lack of thought about what kind of political world might be created by the aesthetic effects of music. It’s in this aesthetic dimension that Hopelessness is so impressive. Take “4 degrees” as a case in point: a song about climate change in which the music conjures up the terrifying and awe-inspiring reality of the destruction being wrought by climate change. But more than that, the song is aware that this effect is, specifically, an aesthetic effect; that we can take pleasure in this apparition of self-destruction. The political effect of making us feel that ambivalence is devastating.
I first wrote above that most political music is bad, but I corrected myself; while it’s true that most of what is considered political by the “where have all the protest songs gone?” pundits is terrible, there’s a whole seam of what we might call unassumingly political music, music that has politics woven through its fabric. A song like “Crime Riddim,” from Skepta’s new album Konnichiwa, is an example of this, a song about a night out and about mistreatment at the hands of the police that gains its political strength because it has no interest in separating its political content from the non-political. By which, to be clear, I don’t mean that the song is only implicitly political; Skepta is clear and cogent about his politics, as in this recent interview (“I think about this every day. I wonder: ‘Is today the day where everybody stops lying to themselves and realises that the government is the enemy?'”). But this apparently not legible to the particularly dessicated and austere understanding of politics that dominates mainstream (and to many left) discussions.
If you google “Annabel Jones,” you get a lot of results about Viscountess Astor, David Cameron’s mother-in-law. That’s not the same Annabel Jones who has just released an EP called Libelle; if it was I would be a lot more conflicted about how much I like the record. It’s in a slightly less common mode of pop, for which I’m a sucker, which foregrounds resignation or a certain clear-eyed acceptance of compromise.
At the opposite end of the spectrum from Annabel Jones’s embrace of disappointment is Phoebe Ryan’s gorgeous, starry-eyed “Mine“. It’s a great song in its own right, and it also allows me to revive my claim that “sounding like Bridgit Mendler’s 2012 album Hello My Name Is…” is a hot pop trend of 2016. Phoebe Ryan has also done a very sweet mashup of “Ignition (remix)” and Miguel’s “Do You,” and has a new single out, “Chronic.”
I guess Sales are kind of Florida’s answer to the Delgados. I haven’t thought of the Delgados for years, but it’s nice to hear something that reminds me of listening to John Peel in the 90s.
When I posted last week about Dawn Richard’s “Not Above That,” I hadn’t realised she’d just released a new EP that continues the signs of a return to form, after the ultimately rather hollow Blackheart. Infrared crystalline beats and precise emotional arc remind me of songs like “Black Lipstick,” which got me excited about Richard’s solo career in the first place.
Tiffany (from Girls’ Generation, not “I Think We’re Alone Now”) has released a new EP which ranges from underwhelming ballads to OK 90s R&B pastiche, to the great title track, “I Just Wanna Dance,” a dance track with a hint of ominousness.
I discovered last week there’s an EDM artist called Bro Safari, and I don’t really know what to do with that information. This weeks’ generic EDM track isn’t by Bro Safari, it’s by Dillon Francis and NGHTMRE, but all the necessary brostep signifiers are present.