Rihanna – ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’
Rihanna‘s uncanny ability to sweep up the previous year’s most defining musical trends and carve her own jagged R-shaped niche into their composition has allowed for success after success, adapting to everything from the obnoxious wave of EDM to film noir-inspired balladry. Although she’s leaned on hip-hop before – the sleazy club mainstay ‘Pour It Up’ being a relatively recent example – since her previous album the commercial aspect of the genre has received significant shake ups in the form of more volatile approaches to lyricism and experimental takes on production.
These changes are duly reflected in her latest offering ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’, which takes the terms braggadocios and confrontational to their apexes. Rihanna swaggers through vocal cadences not too dissimilar to Young Thug – albeit without the slurring or hefty filtering – demanding dollars and recognition whilst daring anyone to knock her off her pedestal. There’s a menagerie of musical heavy-hitters involved in the track’s menacing production – Roc Nation alumni Deputy takes the main production credit, with Kanye West and WondaGurl also credited – but it’s Travi$ Scott‘s signature hellish take on trap music that most vividly stands out, particularly with the cacophonous percussion that rattles the track in its fleeting moments. It’s an abrasive juxtaposition to ‘FourFiveSeconds’ that doesn’t quite clear up what her long-awaited eighth album will have in store, but there’s no questioning the assertion that Rih-Rih season is well and truly upon us.
Joshua Pauley – @PutUp0rShutUp
Blur – ‘Lonesome Street’
Blur have a knack for making a song feel loose and happy, yet bring a much more down-to-earth approach in their lyrics. Albarn’s lyrics are as vital as ever at addressing issues that other artists don’t go near. Singing of things being “mass-produced in somewhere hot” takes a poke at the first world countries exploiting the less well-off. However, Coxon, James and Rowntree create a light-hearted Hawaiin-esque feel to the song creating Blur’s world-known Brit-pop sound. It’s been 12 years since Blur last made an album, and they’re well and truly back and as brilliant as ever.
Earl Sweatshirt & Action Bronson – ‘Warlord Leather’
The hip hop season is upon us, and as the formerly reticent sun starts to appear in the sky, hip hop fans momentarily stop crying/wanking over To Pimp a Butterfly to celebrate the release of two more anticipated albums from Earl Sweatshirt and Action Bronson.
It seems both Earl and Bronson were in the mood to celebrate too – ‘Warlord Leather’ catapults Earl from the moody, introspective stank of I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside and onto a percussion-packed, Alchemist-produced instrumental. He matches the tone, goes hard and tags Bronson in, who is a sensei when it comes to spitting on these beats, so it’s entirely believable to think he wrote these bars “laying back, getting sucked, eating nachos.”
Nathan Butler @PeakFiDem
Muse – ‘Dead Inside’
The opening track from Muse’s upcoming seventh album, Drones, ‘Dead Inside’ lyrically establishes loss of hope, the first theme of the album, later expanded upon in ‘Psycho’. Fulfilling promises of a return to more traditional rock roots, ‘Dead Inside’ features swaggering riffs and pizzicato strings texturing the trademark enormity of Muse’s sound. Whilst appeasing frontman Matt Bellamy’s fondness for the eccentric by introducing a huge, processed 80s drum sound, it is punctuated by the occasional classic Muse/Queen vocal harmony. ‘Dead Inside’ proves that, seven albums in, Muse can still command through a fusion of the surprising and the familiar.
Minnie Wright @VerifiedMinnie
FKA Twigs – ‘Glass and Patron’
It makes an awful lot of sense that FKA Twigs exclusively premiered ‘Glass and Patron’ (co-writer and co-producer with Boots) via the YouTube Music Awards, she’s a rare case of an artist who can produce videos as mystifying as the music she creates, as demonstrated by the video’s forest dwelling, bizarre fashion show.
‘Glass and Patron’ comes in two distinct parts, the first features gentle chimes wondering amongst an electronic cacophony, while the latter half sees her create the art pop version of ‘Vogue’, as she demands for you to “hold that pose for me”. The mix of demonic vocals and powerfully potent beats leads to her most overwhelmingly abrasive track yet, an especially surprising move coming from an artist who has frequently collaborated with Arca.
‘Glass and Patron’ ends up bringing FKA Twigs’ sound somewhere distinctly new, ultimately generating renewed excitement for her music and her upcoming release, EP3.
Connor Cass @connorcass
Jamie xx – ‘Loud Places (feat. Romy)’
It’s been clear for a good while now that Jamie xx possesses a jaw-dropping talent of merging disparate sounds together from the restrained hush of his band The xx’s material to his impressive reworking of Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here record and his masterful juxtaposition of electronic genres in the restless solo singles that he’s released since. ‘Loud Places’ however – the first taste of his imminent debut solo album In Colour along with ‘Gosh’ – is perhaps the most gorgeous piece of music that he has lent his name to yet.
Bandmate Romy Madley Croft lends her gentle vocals but never rises above a whisper, rather letting a perfectly placed Idris Muhammad sample steal the show. The song builds and builds as Jamie piles on the layers until it erupts in a wonderfully controlled burst of sound that makes you feel as if coloured confetti is raining down from the sky as you skateboard around the empty streets of London. Maybe the video may have had something to do with that image too actually.
James Barlow @BassOddity