Azealia Banks – Slay-J
Unfortunately for Azealia Banks, her penchant for Twitter feuds has overshadowed her musical talent over the years. While continually in the news for calling out everyone from Action Bronson, Iggy Azalea, right through to Australian festival goers, Banks’ long awaited debut, Broke With Expensive Taste, went generally unnoticed, which is a shame as it’s a terrific album. After quitting Twitter for a few weeks, the controversial artist returned to announce the release of free mixtape, Slay-Z, after her engineer began leaking tracks (she’s since deleted Twitter again).
Slay-Z – its name a tribute of sorts to Jay Z – is a mixture of hedonistic 90s dance, bubblegum pop and trap inspired beats that illuminate Banks’ ability to navigate all genres. Riot is something you’d expect from a Charli XCX and Nicki Minaj collaboration, while Skylar Diggins and singles The Big Big Beat and Used To Being Along are huge dance anthems featuring Banks rapping and singing. Kaytranada produced the slinky album closer Along The Coast while Rick Ross gets shown up by Banks’ rapid fire Lil Kim-esque flow on Big Talk.
Verdict: Forget the beefs. Banks proves her artistic worth with this one.
The Joy Formidable – Hitch
A throwback to the early 2000s alternative rock scene, The Joy Formidable‘s third album, Hitch, finds the Welsh trio’s sound maturing, with vocalist Rhiannon Bryan reaching her lyrical peak as a songwriter. The group’s love affair with hook laden rock numbers is still a big part of TJF, with the frenetic guitar rock of A Second In White opening the album before things change gear mid-album.
Although not a break-up album, Bryan and bassist Rhydain Dafydd‘s relationship broke down before recording this album and you can tell it’s influenced Bryan’s writing and TJF’s approach to this album. While there are plenty of rock and roll numbers littered throughout Hitch (Radio Lips, Blowing Fire, Running Hands With The Night) to please old fans, it’s the slower, more understated tracks (The Gift, Underneath The Petal, Liana) where the band come into their own and accentuate Brayn’s personal lyrical themes.
Verdict: Another great release from one of Britain’s most underrated acts.
Young Thug – Slime Season 3
It’s here. After weeks of hype and delays, Young Thug finally delivers the third and final instalment of his wildly successful Slime Season series. A more concise effort than previous editions, Slim Season 3 is everything you want from Thug, with the Atlanta rapper in typically creative form.
A number of tracks leaked over the last few days, so if you’re a Thugger fan you’ve no doubt heard the London On Da Track produced banger Digits and Kanye West-hyped With Them, complete with classic Thugger ad-libs.
Cropping up on the snare snapping Slime Shit, Yak Gotti is the only guest, and that’s fine by me. While Thug can conjure chemistry with just about anyone in the game, it’s his solo tracks where he really shines. Worth It slows the beat down and allows Thug to flex his singing voice, Memo and Tattoos are typical trap records, while closer Problem finds Thug in scatter brain flow, claiming he feels like Marilyn Manson, wants a Grammay, shouts out Nelly and urges the authorities to free Offset. It’s ordered chaos and that’s what makes Thug a rap enigma.
Verdict: Worth the wait. Now hurry up and drop Hy!£UN35 Thugger!
SBTRKT – Save Yourself
Two years on from his spectacular sophomore album, Wonder Where We Land, SBTRKT has returned with surprise project Save Yourself. The eight track collection coincides with the launch of the website, saveyourselftv, accompanied by a mission statement explaining Save Yourself is not an album, but a complex aural and visual experience addressing SBTRKT’s thoughts and fears about the world and music, reflecting what’s come before and where we are headed. Very heavy stuff.
Despite the hefty themes running throughout Save Yourself, it’s the music that’s front and centre, and as you’d expect, SBTRKT doesn’t disappoint. The compilation weaves its way through R&B (Good Morning), two-step (Ready Or Not) and experimental electronica with flourishes of pop (I Feel Your Pain). SBTRKT enlists an eclectic array of guests, with The-Dream‘s smooth and sultry croon making its presence felt on three tracks, the best being the sullen album closer Bury You. Regular contributor Sampha lends a hand on TBD, but it’s the pairing of new comers D.R.A.M. and Mabel on the aformentioned I Feel Your Pain that had me coming back for one more listen.
Verdict: Save Yourself continues to push the boundaries of not only SBTRKT’s approach to making music, but the way we consume it as listeners, and we are all the better for it.