The Best Songs of 2018 - Feburary

February see’s the release of some stellar albums and a few intense and visceral tracks from hardcore to R&B and everything in between.

Code Orange - The Only Way

Code Orange seem to be the name on everyone’s lips right now, and their latest single “The Only Way” seems to prove why. Dropping this song as part of Adult Swims Singles Series, the track features industrial drum beats and screeching pinch harmonics, with singer Reba Meyers taking the lead with drummer Jami Morgan’s screams supporting behind. The second half of the song descends into a sample-induced breakdown, bringing back a heavy riff and a synth induced bridge, but then adds some grand piano and re-vamps the chorus. Slightly different than the bands other material, but just as groundbreaking - this song just proves how good Code Orange are at constantly reinventing themselves as a band. 

Nameless, Faceless - Courtney Barnett

When Courtney Barnett brought out “Over Everything” her collaboration last year with Kurt Vile, I was disappointing with the direction I thought she was taking. I was (and still am) a huge fan of her debut but something about Over Everything made me think she was going down a more generic and mainstream indie/alternative route. Not only does “Nameless, Faceless” restore my confidence in Courtney’s songwriting, it’s also one of the best songs of her career. This track balances rock and indie together hand in hand, and is layered carefully and completely. The lyrical matter of this song couldn’t be any more relevant and appropriate to 2018, and as the first single from her second album it seems like shes developing more and more with each release. The themes of dynamic range and improving her songs from softer indie rock tunes has come far and this song is no excuse. 

“Men are scared that women will laugh at them. Women are scared that men will kill them”

Love Lies - Khalid, Normani

This song took me by surprise when it came out as I wasn’t expecting myself to enjoy a song like this so much. Both Khalid and Normani sound fantastic together on this track, especially with their harmonies in the choruses. At heart a repetitive R&B track, this song has a tight and well mastered production and blends some aspects of pop, dance and blues all together. The starting guitar is a nice touch and helps build up the verse, with the bass then coming in to build up to the hard hitting chorus. Although the songwriting is on the weaker side (especially compared to some other songs on this list) this tune is insanely catchy and I can only imagine hearing it on MTV all year round.

Frank Ocean - Moon River

Though technically a cover, Frank Ocean’s rendition of Audrey Hepburn’s song in “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” is delightfully beautiful and painfully emotional at the same time. The track just features Frank and two guitars, with multiple takes of his voice being gracefully intertwined in polyphony. Even when not producing his own work, he manages to make this track fit as if it came off of 2016’s Blonde. Frank Ocean successfully puts his own unique spin on “Moon River” whilst keeping true to the original, which makes for an interesting listen of a classic movie theme. 

X (Mwah) - Hellions

One of the most inventive and unique bands in alternative punk, Hellions dropped new track “X” this month. Blending modern alternative rock chorus’s with a very visceral and unique hard vocal, the track is one of the best work the band have released to date. Their most recent album “Opera Oblivia” really stuck out to me as a twist on what everyone else was doing at the time, making for a very special and underrated release. “X” only builds on what made them so great, with every member of the band assisting in vocals throughout the tracks eccentric and inventive lyricism. Though not as polished and peculiar as tracks such as “24”, Hellions new direction certainly puts them in the limelight for whatever 2018 throws at them.

I Am - Jorja Smith

The “Black Panther” film had a massively hyped but mixed bag of a soundtrack, with the Kendrick Lamar produced album having plenty of ups and downs throughout. However, Jorja Smith’s track “I Am” was definitely an extreme highlight on the album. One of the slower songs on the release, this track shows how versatile and talented Jorja is, with her octaves in the chorus dominating the track and distorted, distant guitars and bass hits providing a stage for her to shine on. Kendrick comes in for a short bridge which helps mix up the dynamics of the song, and then a string section and orchestra come in to end the track, providing a short but sweet and blissful ending to one of the best songs from Black Panther. 

Reflections On The Screen - Superorganism

Being one of the most hyped new bands must be pressuring, but Superorganism make high quality songwriting seem easy on this single from their debut album. The song starts with sounds from what seems to be a tropical forest - birds chirping and wind bustling through leaves open the intro up to a velvet-y guitar tone. A lighthearted but strong feel accompany’s this track from start til end. The vocals are soothing on the ears, with the guitar providing the main rhythm for the song until synths, bass and drums come in for the chorus. The bridge features a sampled, highly distorted version of the melody with a soft keyboard introducing the final section. Soft is a good way to describe “Reflections On The Screen” with a surprisingly big punch, and I’m excited to hear the groups delicate but deep sounding debut.

Sister Cities - The Wonder Years

The Wonder Years have always had a place close to my heart, with their honest emo-punk tinged lyrics about growing up but not moving forward and dealing with heartbreak landing close to me. The band have moved from genre to genre, with “Sister Cities” being a lot more emo and punk-rock than their past pop punk work like on “The Upsides”. The track sees vocalist Dam Campbell sing of a harbouring love through tough times, with his harsh singing and a phased guitar riff being the main melodies in the track. The drumming and production of this song is also exceptional, with an off-beat hi-hat in the chorus adding in a breathe of fresh air in a stereotypical chorus. There’s something for everyone here, with even the video being filmed beautifully, fitting with the passion The Wonder Years put into their music. 

Psycho - Post Malone (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)

Post Malone seems to be everywhere you look at the moment after his big breakout single “Congratulations”, and it’s well deserved. Although overall his album didn’t do much for me (a mixed bag of good singles and horrid filler) Post Malone’s latest single from his second album featuring Ty Dolla $ign is a huge hit. “Psycho” fills the gap for a soulful banger on his second album, swapping a harsher beat and “in your face” production on other singles like “Rockstar” for a more down-tempo tune with some souring vocal lines. The simple trap beat and xylophone-like sounds help compliment Post’s voice perfectly, with his voice being everything about this track. Ty Dolla $ign doesn’t add much apart from copying Post’s delivery style, and some of his lyrics in this track are truly awful, but it quickly passes as it goes back to the chorus. Overall this song makes for some relaxing night listening and is a step in the right direction for what seems to be his impending world domination.


Album Review - Turnstile: “Time & Space”

Influenced by 90’s brit-pop, jazz, psychedelia and everything in between, “Time & Space” showcases Turnstile’s genre crossing hardcore-thrash-skate punk at its best. It even features Diplo.

Turnstile have always been one of “those” new wave hardcore bands who a lot of people used to get into this blood pumping and passionate type of music (myself included) and when they announced this album I was nothing short of excited. Nonstop Feeling was short but raw and aggressive enough for me to fall in love from one listen, despite clearly wearing its influences on it’s sleeve. After an intense 3 year touring cycle and some downtime to write and record, Turnstile have evolved their sound and style to create their second album, “Time & Space”. Comparing the two albums, you can already tell how much the band have grown when thinking about creative songwriting and producing a consistent record since 2015.

Even though Time & Space only clocks in at just over 26 minutes in length, there’s something here for everyone who has listened to the band through their 8 year career. From the straight up brutal punk classics (“Big Smile”, “Time And Space”) to the keyboard-wielding thrashers (“High Pressure”) and tracks that walk the tightrope between hardcore and the quite frankly supernatural (“Moon”, “Generator”, “Can’t Get Away”). Styles and influenced have been melted together that don’t stick out strangely or absurdly on any song here. The production on this record is perfected from instrument to instrument, but what else would you expect from mastermind producer Will Yip. Having assisted on critically acclaimed albums such as Code Orange’s Grammy nominated “Forever”, all of Citizen’s and Turnover’s albums and many, many more, Yip has managed to put Turnstiles vision of what they missed on Nonstop Feeling and push the band in a more engaging and unique direction. “Right To Be” also features additional production from mastermind DJ Diplo, and it shows through the intense range and definition in singer Brendan Yates’s  voice. 

As with any record, even one as punishingly good as this, they’ll always be some ups and some downs. “Moon” features Sheer Mag’s Tina Halliday and bassist Franz Lion’s singing harmonies together which creates for an interesting feel, but doesn’t push any musical boundaries like some other tracks on here. The two interludes, “Disco” and “Bomb” (the second being the much better one) have been added to give the record space to breathe and let the aggression rest before picking back up and punching you in the face, but feel like they’ve been thrown in just to show a contrast as of their short length and underdeveloped themes. If both of these tracks were 2 minutes longer, I might not find myself skipping them on every listen. 

Some bands crumble under the weight of their second album but the Baltimore 5 piece have risen out of a possible sophomore slump and crafted a consistent 13-track powerhouse. Turnstile have had an extensive history listening to hardcore and punk and playing in many different bands (see Trapped Under Ice, Angel Du$t and more) which only contributes to how skilled they are at blending and fusing so many styles of rock. This album was made to make the listener dive into the nearest mosh pit and scream at the top of of their lungs while swinging around every limb at anything and everything. So much thought and feeling has gone into this record that I’m not sure their career can go anywhere but up from here, even with the few duds in small places this release contains. 2018 is the year for hardcore to take centre stage, and Turnstile are one band on point to take the crown.

9/10

Best Tracks: Real Thing, I Don’t Wanna Be Blind, High Pressure, Can’t Get Away, Right To Be, Time And Space
Worst Tracks: Bomb, Moon, Disco


Album Review - Hockey Dad: “Blend Inn”

“Blend Inn” does the exact opposite of what the title suggests: bringing Hockey Dad’s youthful and carefree nature to a whole new level.

By 2018, you would’ve thought Australia would have run out of its reserves in talented skater-punk bands, but Hockey Dad’s second album reminds me of what makes that countries alternative scene so great. Hockey Dad’s debut “Boronia” proved this by showcasing Weezer-tinged surf rock over some catchy lyrics and emotive chords, and I was hooked from the first listen. The band rarely comes over here to the UK, but I’m itching to see them the first chance I get. 

Opener “My Stride” takes a while to get into said stride, but its filled with some unique melodies and fitting drum patterns. Though the album starts on one of it’s weaker tracks, this song builds up to one of the smoothest endings to any songs on the record. “Homely Feeling” is the lead single on the album, and its structure and feel pretty much summarises the whole release. This song is heavier and shorter than most of their previous work, sounding like something off of Nirvana’s “Bleach” instead of a Hockey Dad album. The chorus is infectious and the guitar drives this song forward, playing unrelenting chords over some heavy beats. Second single “I Wanna Be Everybody” portrays the bands confusion of their youthful years, having released their first song when singer Zach Stephenson was 19 and drummer Billy Fleming was 17. Though this song has a strong meaning, this is easily a weaker track for the record, sounding more like a developed B side from their debut. Not too bad, but definitely a step down already from their debut early into the album. 

“Danny” brings some emotive undertones to the record, providing a nice needed change of tempo and throwback to older songs. Though this is again a weaker song and a little more “run of the mill”, and this track feels like it was thrown in last minute and written very hastily. After the change in pace that “Danny” brought to the album, “Join The Club” turns the record up to eleven. This song has ultimate skater-punk vibes, with the chorus being stuck in my head since I first listened. This track was probably meant to be filler, but instead shows the bands maturity in relatable (although simple) lyrics of the duo wanting to pursue their career as musicians and not fit into modern societies harsh standards:

“You better be happy/You better be healthy
You better be pretty/You better be skinny
You better have money/You better be funny
It’s not too hard/to join the club”

The whole album represents a rebellion against the climate of the current world, and influences people to just follow their dreams.  “Whatever” provides a middle ‘lul’ in the record in its calm nature, much like Danny but with something missing. This song is needed on the record, but as a standalone song, becomes boring and is a complete lyrical low. However, is still has that Hockey Dad charm and is worth the listen.  “Disappoint Me” kicks in with one of the strongest starts, with an insanely good sounding drum mix and crushing guitar chords. Clever lyrics and witty lines bring this track up to stand with the other best tracks on the LP. 

“Running Out” is what I imagine how crash test dummy’s feel when the hit the wall. Not only does this feature screeching guitar tones and some inventive chords, but also some hard hitting fills by Fleming. The pre-chorus and chorus on this track are addictive, and makes me want to get in the nearest mosh pit and lose a few teeth. “Cant keep running out” I scream along, hoping the band indeed doesn’t run out of tracks like this. Much like the previous, “Stalker” provides no slow down of speed in the album, blasting out some beefy drumming and grungy power chords in its fast paced chorus. This song just screams fun from the first listen, making it my favourite track along with Join The Club.

“Where I Came From” echos the older HD sound, having some more chilling out drumming and some off-beat, reggae like strumming. This song has a very anthemic bridge, but the verse has a weird feel to it, and the song doesn’t shine til halfway through. “Sweet Release” features Fleming on vocal duties, which is surprisingly refreshing. He speaks and sings with a very deep Australian accent, adding some authenticity and heart to the tune. Ironically, his voice in the choruses is a lot better than Zach’s at times, but it mostly showcases the talent both these musicians have. Ending track “Eggshells” features a very Blink-182 bass melody and some peculiar spoken word vocals, making for a weird but strangely fitting end to the album. 

Hockey Dad’s sophomore brings a hell of a lot to the table, taking influence from older tracks like “Ray Gun” and ” A Night Out With” and mixing them with some pop punk/punk rock vibes from the 90’s. The production and performance that went into this album is very well done, and is surprisingly crisp and clear for a release in this genre compared to something like an early Wavves album. Though nothing new or special and occasionally brought down by some cliche songwriting, this release features a mix of the best and worst Hockey Dad songs to date and is still the perfect soundtrack to skateboard through city streets and long drives on sunny days.

7/10
Best Tracks:
 Join The Club, Disappoint Me, Running Out, Stalker, Sweet Release
Worst Tracks:  I Wanna Be Everybody, Danny, Whatever, Where I Came From

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