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REVIEW: 2017 Albums So Far – The XX, Wiley, Shy Girls & more

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The XX – I See You

I See You represents a courageous gamble from The XX to reverse from their self-imposed cul-de-sac of moody, barren atmospheric indie – a sound which, like antihistamines, should come with a drowsiness disclaimer.

Make no mistake, that pensive breeze of soft-souled indie is still there, it’s just been stripped of its lethargies.

The XX deserve genuine credit for parting with the sonic security of Coexist and XX to embrace an experimental palette of bubbling synths and quaking percussion.

8/10 – A unification of the diverse creativity within the band that, until I See You, remained dormant.


Julie Byrne – Not Even Happiness

Julie Byrne’s meditative, exhaled choruses pacify the frenetic 21st Century mind. Worries, negativities – ejected. Close your eyes and solemnly stride through Byrne’s ethereal daydream.

Not Even Happiness isn’t droning folk. It’s snappy. Each track a fleeting gust of plush, intense strings that wistfully carry you to the cliffs edge but don’t push you off.

Natural Blue illustrates this perfectly. You could call it cloud-folk. Byrne elevates the track with an engrossing trance of layered, abounding harmonies.

7/10 – Honestly, stick this on if you’re under the cosh with work. Soothing stuff.


Rose Elinor Dougall – Stellular

After a seven year wait, Rose Elinor Dougall returns with an explosive, striding, attention seizing album which dreamily drifts in and out of multiple genres.

Stellular is evidently mature. It’s less passive, less delicate. Dougall seems to have escaped the shackles of her own reservation. Instead, emerging as a dominant, assured songstress.

The versatility on Stellular is engulfing. Sounds are rarely recurrent. All tracks retain their own sphere of motifs, establishing a hotbed of unique ambiances.

8/10 – Disco, synth-pop, dream-pop, indie. It’s all there. Stellular gushes with colour.


Wiley – Godfather

 

Wiley, until recently, has been understated musical royalty. Now, immersed in an unprecedented mainstream grime surge of his own creation, Wiley is reflective, honoured and stately. Finally, the king of Grime gets his coronation day.

Trademark ‘Eskibeat’ pounds of raw bass constantly spar with Wiley’s formidable, elastic flow which, at times, seems almost impossible.

Godfather’s beats are fierce but, in grime, the MC must always be triumphant. Wiley’s lyricism is unsurprisingly astute: “Drink ‘nough beers before the game, what d’ya call that? Georgie Best MC.”

9/10 – A celebration of grime with collabs from Skepta, JME and Ghetts. However, the feature of Devlin is a historic landmark within the genre.


Shy Girls – Salt

Salt occupies that vacuum between contented and contemplative. Injecting a lingering vulnerability into otherwise restful, textured instrumentation. It’s all to do with Dan Vidmar’s vocals; his tenderness; his insecurities.

A few critics are quick to slap the ‘Alternative R&B’ tag on this album and have done with it. For me, Salt mingles far more with pop delicacies.

Soft, memorable hooks, simple but grand melodies, clean-cut production. If you don’t enjoy it on first listen, you probably never will.

7/10 – Infectiously lavish. Trivial Motion is my favourite pop song of the year so far.

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About Author

Finnian Shardlow

Deputy Editor 2017-18 Music Editor 2015-17

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