This month’s instalment of Round-Up Reviews looks at new album releases from the likes of Khalid, BTS, Lizzo & more!
Khalid – Free Spirit: 4/10
Khalid is a bonafide star off the back of his sweet and serene debut album American Teen, an album I actually enjoyed quite a lot. He has ventured into even more mainstream territory in recent times with collaborations alongside the likes of Marshmello, Calvin Harris and Billie Eilish and while his voice is still as enchanting as ever on this new album; the content irks me greatly. Uninspired lyricism, bloated production that somehow manages to sound over-the-top and boring all at the same time, and just generally dull topical themes. Free Spirit will be lapped up by the masses because it is faux-pas love ballads and we all know the charts love that kind of thing; but it won’t be reaching the top of many album of the year lists I assure you.
Circa Waves – What’s It Like Over There?: 5.5/10
I feel like Circa Waves have become one of those bands that suffer greatly from the quality of their debut album, perhaps putting too much into that and running out of ideas thereafter. Their third album What’s It Like Over There? is a pretty run of the mill indie rock album with a whole lot of over-production and not an awful lot of replay value. Sorry I’m Yours and Passport are solid tracks but the whole thing tends to blend together and you start to lose interest pretty quickly. With that being said, Movies is a major toe-tapper and the undeniable stand-out.
The Chemical Brothers – No Geography: 7.5/10
The 25 year veterans The Chemical Brothers’ latest album is a fresh breath of life and ingenuity into the duo’s dazzling career, serving as their best body of work in well over a decade. It’s as electro-funky as we’ve come to expect and surprisingly forward thinking for a group who really don’t need to be so progressive at this Autumn stage of their musical shelf life. No Geography is a sprinkle of cohesion, a dash of futuristic sound and a big old dollop of fun; not many dance groups can make beats quite like The Chemical Brothers.
BTS – MAP OF THE SOUL: PERSONA: 5/10
It pays a price to be the literal biggest and most popular boyband on planet Earth, and the results have shown here on the new BTS project. The beats are run of the mill with pretty unimaginative sample techniques and while the vocal performances are energetic, it isn’t something I can really get on board with. None of that will truly matter though because their fanbase is too strong to have the words of critics damage their rise. All in all I would describe this as a bit too in your face for my liking, there’s a whole lot going on with not a lot of direction.
LSD – Labrinth, Sia, Diplo Present… LSD: 4/10
This could have been absolutely incredible. Diplo is a world class producer, Labrinth is a fantastic singer/songwriter and Sia is, as artists of the new age go, one of the most polarising figures around. Instead, the result was over-produced extra bollocks. The lyrics are so utterly cringeworthy at times it makes me wonder how any of the three involved, all known for the quality product they produced, could have let it ever be released. Thunderclouds is the only song here that really lives up to the expectation, with the rest being either merely passable or just far too much. I would very much like to pretend this didn’t happen.
MARINA – LOVE + FEAR: 5.5/10
Her Diamonds have been dropped, but while MARINA has trimmed her old name; it was probably her album that needed a bit more cutting down. It’s hard to fault the intent and effort of LOVE + FEAR as a pulsating pop effort, but the moments of true serenity and importance are intertwined with moments of crippling disenchantment. For every Handmade Heaven there is a BABY, for every Emotional Machine there is a Too Afraid. This could have been so much more, but sadly it falls under the category of ‘shoulder shrugging’.
PUP – Morbid Stuff: 7/10
This is an album designed for all of us who have the belief that so-called “pop-punk” isn’t dead, so thank you very much for this PUP. The Toronto based band serve up a whole host of catchy tracks on their third album Morbid Stuff in a loud and unequivocally off-the-wall approach. It’s an album that is unconventionally paced but in a good way, as it displays angsty feelings in a way only punk rock bands know; with frantic guitar riffs and loud bangers.
Jade Bird – Jade Bird: 6.5/10
With passionate vocals and singularity in her performance levels that haven’t been seen since the likes of obvious influencer KT Tunstall, Jade Bird’s eponymous debut album offers up a warm and welcome collection of tracks to give her a solid beginning to her career. It isn’t the most captivating thing you’ll ever listen to and there are songs on here that grow tiresome fairly easily, but it’s a pretty decent start for a young solo artist who is trying to carve her own way into the world of music. As a whole it is worth applauding her levels of vocal emotion and witty songwriting, even if it is a somewhat safe release.
Fontaines D.C. – Dogrel: 7.5/10
Straight off the bat you can just tell this album is so goddamn important. The Irish post-punk outfit absolutely nail it lyrically and conceptually with their debut album Dogrel, and it has some absolute bangers on there to match. Honestly I can full appreciate the power and contextual message this album sends and I do really enjoy it, but without meaning to come across narrow-minded, the vocals are what makes this album fall for me. The accent is strong and over-powering, making it really tough to fully embrace this album on a musical standpoint. These boys have something to say though and you best believe they’re going to tell you it.
Lizzo – Cuz I Love You: 8/10
I’ll come right out and say it: the production on this thing absolutely bangs. Whether it’s a grandiose jazz hit or a trap-drum inspired pop banger, Lizzo absolutely nails it instrumentally and she has more than enough personality and energy to carry herself through. We all knew Juice was a monumental bop and it turns out the whole thing follows suit as Lizzo displays not just her killer singing voice but also some pretty nifty rap flows. It’s a good job I gave this album a good score really otherwise she might have told me off for critiquing her music…