Lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living

The Official Chart for June 5

Fifth Harmony seem to have settled on a sound, and that sound is tropical-house&B bangers. It’s a bit like when The Saturdays were all “why have different sounds on our albums when we could just make massive rave bangers?” and they were right to make that choice. Tropical house isn’t as good a sound as generic rave, but it’s a good sound and works well for Fifth Harmony. Leads singles “Work from Home” and “The Life” are both breezy and summery, as is Vybz Kartel cover “Gonna Get Better.” There’s also a note-perfect Prince pastiche (with sadly #problematic lyrics and a slightly underwhelming Missy Elliott verse), “Not that Kinda Girl.” I think my favourite track, though, is a departure from their tropical house sound, the lovestoned “Dope,” that kind of reminds me of Kehlani. Read more↴

The Official Chart for May 29

A good week for fans of the sound of mid-2000s Xenomania productions. Ladyhawke’s “Let it Roll” could be any number of Girls Aloud tracks, although the one that particularly comes to mind is “Miss You Bow Wow” (a crowded field, but maybe their best album track?). And Bearson and Mark Johns’s “Imposter” is very reminiscent of “Nothing Good about this Goodbye” (surely Rachel Stevens’s best album track). Read more↴

The Official Chart for May 15

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. Read more↴

The Official Chart for May 8

New Charli XCX! And it’s fabulous, the kind of insouciant pop banger Charli XCX does so well. Most importantly, it’s a hell of a lot better than her last track, “Vroom Vroom,” which was fucking garbage. Her last EP was produced by Sophie, and was the kind of half-assed lazy shit that has come to characterize him and his PC Music mates. It’s instructive to compare PC Music’s slapdash product with the genuine insouciance of Charli XCX’s work, or, even more so, Rihanna’s Anti. Just as making sad music doesn’t just involve the unmediated recording of sadness, so the perfect representation of Rihanna’s no-fucks-given instagram attitude on Anti isn’t achieved by just not giving a fuck: it requires some sort of thought, craft, or practice that adds up to the sublation of not giving a fuck. The problem with PC Music’s artless recycling of 90s post-modern cliches about pop music is that it pays no attention to this dialectic. To be fair, some of the tracks on Vroom Vroom were better than the title track; “Paradise” suggests that if Sophie stopped dicking about and put in a bit of effort, he could make fair-to-middling happy hardcore. Read more↴

The Official Chart for May 1

You don’t need me to tell you that Lemonade is incredible (if you do need to be told that, Ash Sarkar will tell you). It’s interesting to compare it to Beyoncé’s previous, self-titled, album, which, for all its coherence as an album was also a sequence of discrete bangers. Lemonade isn’t like that, not because the individual tracks aren’t good, but because they’re so clearly designed to work as part of an immersive whole; it’s not an album of stand-out tracks, but rather one filled with details to get lost in. So while I’ve linked to “Sorry” because it’s my favourite track, that categorization is almost irrelevant, because I’d really like to link to moments spread across the whole album, like the horns in “All Night” or the distinctively Beyoncé moment of self-doubt in “Love Drought” where she asks, “… or am I not thirsty / enough.” Read more↴

The Official Chart for April 17

I’m really enjoying Sizzy Rocket’s debut album Thrills. The obvious comparison is with Kesha, with the belligerent hedonism (“we’ll never stop feeling if it kills us”) and the stylophone-esque synths on the title track. But, also like Kesha, Sizzy Rocket doesn’t let this attitude preclude being more open and affecting, as on “Helium” and the more eighties-synthpoppy “Need Somebody.” Read more↴