Tuesday, 1 December 2015

BBC Sound of 2016.

Oh look, I appear to have dusted off the cobwebs of my old blog. Hello everyone. How are you all doing? I'm okay, thanks.
The BBC have posted up their 'Sound of...' longlist. You know, that list that tells us all what we're going to be listening to for the next year, that inevitably includes acts we never actually hear from ever again (whatever happened to Jamie N Commons, Stooshe, Daley, Rox, Daisy Dares You, etc, etc). Now, it became a bit of a tradition on this blog to write about the list and critique the acts as I listened to them. If you look, you'll see that the last post on this blog is the one four years ago about the BBC Sound of 2012 list. It was probably the best received of the blog traditions I had on this thing, so I'm going to do it again, as I am a bit bored and the 2016 list went up today. So, will I still pour reactionary scorn on everything in a slightly over the top way, or will the passing years have mellowed me out at all? Let's find out.
Remember, these are all first impressions. They can change. For example, I said that Frank Ocean was, "...kind of a little bit nothing." He then went on to make Channel Orange, which is one of my favourite albums of the whole flippin' decade. So yes. Anything I say here can probably be taken with a pinch of salt.
Right, who's first then?

1. Alessia Cara
Song listened to: 'Scars To Your Beautiful.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Candid, cool and conscious R&B pop.'

Is it possible to have unconscious music? Music created in a state of sleep? Is there a really good band somewhere in which every member is in a coma?
This sounds a lot like something else. The chorus is a series of clichés. That song title is stupid. Actually, this whole song is like listening to a collection of those photos people put on Facebook that have inspirational quotes on them. I don't think this song was written, I think it's a found poem composed of a ton of those quotes, which has then been put to music. The kind of modern R&B influenced ballad that has booming drums in the chorus to let you know THAT THIS IS REALLY ASPIRATIONAL, YEAH? YOU CAN BE WHOEVER AND WHATEVER YOU WANT TO BE. YOU JUST NEED TO BELIEVE. IN YOURSELF!

2. Blossoms
Song listened to: 'Blown Rose.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Psych-pop riffs and vocal melodies.'

Right. This highlights a problem that you get a lot now. This list is set up alphabetically, but it seems to have become the norm to have people listed alphabetically by their first name rather than their surname, because that's what iTunes does, yeah?
Secondly, they sound like Cast. Remember Cast? Yeah. Blossoms sound like that.
And the chorus makes absolutely no sense whatsoever:- 'The stately homes of England, how beautiful they stand. Lately it's a lonely love I know. Blown rose. Girl.'
WHAT? What even is that? Do people just not make any effort whatsoever in writing song lyrics anymore?
Thirdly, they look like total bellends. They look like they've each chosen a different 90's band to pick their style from, so they can collectively channel the decade as a whole. A Madchester/Britpop/Indie pick 'n' mix. And amazingly, they still chose to sound like fucking Cast.
I dunno. Kids today, eh?

3. Billie Marten
Song listened to: 'Bird.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Yearning, breathy folk from an adolescent prodigy.'

There's always one bloody 16 year old on these lists, I swear. It's like how the Mercury Prize always used to have a token jazz entry. BBC Sound of 2016's token 16 year old entry is Billie Marten. I AM LITERALLY OLD ENOUGH TO BE HER DAD. OH GOD, WHEN DID I GET SO OLD?
This is actually okay. She can sing. There's a nice piano line. Oooh, I like that organ sound. There are some nice layers coming and going in this. I wouldn't describe it as folk, personally. It's more a slow, 'thoughtful' pop song.It sounds like someone I can't quite put my finger on. Sort of Kate Bush-y, tiny elements of Joanna Newsom, but then again not really. Can't quite place it, but it sounds like someone. Or an amalgamation of someones.
That was nice, I quite liked that.

4. Dua Lipa 
Song listened to: 'Be The One.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Sultry, sophisticated pop.'

I don't really know what to say about this one. It's pleasant enough, but it's just a bit dull and lifeless. It's almost good, but there are too many elements that just don't quite work together. And then it's done. It doesn't really finish, it just stops. And now I have instantly forgotten it. And no, I'm not going to listen to it again in an effort to expand on any of this.

5. Frances
Song listened to: 'Grow.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Harmonious piano pop.'

For a moment I thought the tagline said 'Harmonium' and got excited that we might be about to get something interesting. What this actually is, is the type of song that people who love The X Factor think is really deep and soulful, riddled with yet more clichés and lyrics that don't actually make any sense.
"I've left you a blank page by the door. There's no need to ask me what it's for."
God, that's deep. Like, *really* deep. That's not just two random sentences put together linked by a rhyme, oh no. No. Not at all.
Urgh, oh God, the final third of this song is horrible. Syrupy, sickly sounding trite. This will be covered on The X Factor, and will be used to soundtrack some charity ad campaign at some point. It's the piano ballad version of the aspirational drums in the Alessia Cara song.

6. Izzy Bizu
Song listened to: 'White Tiger.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Sun-kissed soul.'

That name may sound like a Japanese street food restaurant, but Izzy Bizu is in fact a woman.
I can only understand about a third of the words she's singing, but this song seems to be about a rollercoaster called 'White Tiger.' That keeps her afloat. There's a lot of mixed metaphors going on here. I think this is supposed to be a love song about a person who excites her, but the scattershot approach to the lyrics make it come across just like a big mess. Maybe this is why only a third of the words are intelligible, so we hopefully won't notice that the lyrics actually make no fucking sense whatsoever. Maybe she actually wrote them while riding on a rollercoaster, and as an artistic statement chose not to edit them down at all. That's it, this song is actually an experimental piece of writing put to the music of a plain, run of the mill, piano based pop song.

7. Jack Garratt
Song listened to: 'Weathered.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Soul infused electro-pop and neck snapping beats.'

That's the least appropriate tagline so far. It is not electro-pop and there will be no medical attention required due to this, thank you very much. Stand down, paramedics. Go about your business. Nothing to see here.
How do I describe that? Erm... I don't. I just advise you to steer well clear of this song. Lock it in a room, seal up any and all doors and windows, then get to a safe distance and detonate it. Then never speak of it again.
I feel like I've been subjected to some sort of awful punishment. I need a break.

Axl has a break. He calms down. He thinks happy thoughts. He massages his temples with a soothing balm. Ahhhhhhhhh.....

Right, let's get back to it then.

8. J Hus
Song listened to: 'Lean & Bop.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Street smart, exuberant rap.'

I am so confused. I have no idea what to think of this. It sort of sounds like a Baha Men song being played at the wrong speed. I can't make any sense of it. Every line seems to have been written in isolation from the rest of the lines, but with the last word known so the next line can rhyme with it. It's like a song lyric version of that game, 'Consequences,' where someone draws a head then folds over the paper leaving the bottom of the neck visible for someone else to draw a body, and so on and so forth. This song seems to have been written using that as a writing technique.
Also, it contains the lyric, 'Make a young boy and a old man do it.' Obviously, this is a reference to the Lean & Bop dance of the song's title, but come on. As a lyric that is just horribly misjudged.

9. Loyle Carner
Song listened to: 'Ain't Nothing Changed.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Emotive hip-hop with a distinctive style.'

Jazzy sample. Laid back beats. Kind of a Madlib vibe to this.
Interesting lyrics that ACTUALLY WORK with each other. He's actually put some effort in.
Okay, this is really good. I really like this.
Thank you, Loyle Carner. And thank you for lyrics that don't sound like you wrote them using those fridge magnet poetry sets.

10. Mabel
Song listened to: 'My Boy My Town.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Distinctive and soulful pop storyteller.'

Sadly not a song about a certain duck (Eh? Eh? Any old fans of this blog? Eh? Oh...), this Mabel was however, apparently BORN IN A MOUNTAIN. This means I want some otherworldly shit. Some primal sounding, ancient folktale.
Of course, that's not what this is. This is an pop ballad with an R&B tinge. It's a decent one too. It sounds like a song that Sugababes would've done on their first album. This is a good thing.
Yeah, I liked that.
AND more lyrics that actually make sense! About time too. Keep this up please, list.

11. Mura Masa
Song listened to: 'Firefly (feat. NAO).'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Future facing beats and atmospheric grooves.'

Ah, we're back to slightly nonsensical lyrics:- 'Just say you'll be my firefly, take everything or nothing at all.'
That's a particular trait of fireflies, of course. They come come across a thing, they gotta have all of that thing, or they're not taking any of it. Don't ever try to give a firefly part of a thing. They will be massively offended and consider you a mortal enemy for the rest of their days.
The track itself is pretty decent though. Mura Masa's a bit of a magpie producer. I can't quite place his style because it sounds like so many bits of so many others, blended together to make some sort of producer smoothie.
"Magpie with a smoothie I know, I know it's really seriouuuuuuuuus..."
Oh dear.

12. NAO
Song listened to: 'Bad Blood.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline:  'Rich and subtle vocal on top of multi-layered synths.'

Waaaaaaaait a second...
Well, I wasn't sure of her voice on the Mura Musa track, so let's see how she does on her own stuff.
It's okay. I like her voice more on this and the lyrics aren't as daft. It's fairly standard modern R&B fare. A bit one note, single tone, doesn't really go anywhere, but it's not actually bad. Not as good as Mabel, but not as instantly forgettable as Dua Lipa.

13. Rat Boy
Song listened to: 'Fake ID.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Cheeky, homegrown, indie punk upstart.'

Uh oh. Why do I get the feeling I'm going to instantly hate this?
Apparently, "Rat Boy (real name Jordan Cardy) is a man painting a picture of being young in suburban Britain in 2015, following in an illustrious line of great urban storytellers from Squeeze to Blur and The Streets."
He's an obnoxious little cock targeting buzzwords and trying desperately hard to look and sound edgy. Think I'm being harsh? In the video to this song there's an extended shot of him burning a £20 note. WOAH THERE. SHIT ME. WOULDN'T WANNA MESS WITH THIS GUY! HE DOES NOT GIVE A SINGLE FUCK. HE'S SMASHING THE SYSTEM. HE'S GONNA BREAK ALL THE RULES AND HE DOESN'T CARE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT IT.
It's like the most pathetic act of rebellion imaginable.
Grow up, Rat Boy. Grow up and then fuck off.

14. Section Boyz

Song listened to: 'Do The Road.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Raw, authentic rap from Croydon collective.'

Well this is really bloody good. The UK is now in a position where we have acts that can make the sort of arrogant, bravado filled rap music that doesn't just sound like it's aping US Gangsta Rap. This is definitely not for everyone, but it does show how far the UK has come in terms of this type of hip-hop. I remember a few years ago the name Giggs appearing on one of these lists and he waffled his way through every hip-hop cliché while occasionally grunting like he had a bad case of haemorrhoids. Section Boyz sound authentic, real and free of uncomfortable ailments. And they really are very good. I have cheated here and listened to a second track, 'Lock Arff,' which is similarly just as good for the same reasons. Good production, flows that go together, a group that have a real understanding of their craft and what they're doing. I'm going to stop now because I'm in danger of getting all pretentious waffly, and none of you want that.
Also, they would kick the crap out of Rat Boy.

Song listened to: 'In2.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'R&B rap collective, straight outta West London.'

Great. I've just been talking about how the UK no longer feels the needs to copy from the US, and the BBC are using that as a tagline for a UK act. THANKS A FUCKING BUNCH, THE BBC. 
There's a nice vibe to this, I'm enjoying it. It's got a real nice laid back groove to it that pulses along nicely. If this were on in a club, and I was about seven to ten years younger and still occasionally went to clubs, I would have a real good dance to this. Good vibes.
Coincidentally, last time I danced was at a drum 'n' bass night about a month or so ago, and my legs felt like I had injected concrete into them for the next couple of days. I think I am, sadly, now too old to dance.

So, either my critical faculties are diminishing in my ever increasing age, or this year's list has actually been of higher quality than in previous years. I always used to round off these posts with a top three list, and I think for the first time there are more than three acts that I actually have time for. Scrolling through, I can see about seven acts I would happily listen to again. That's crazy.  Erm... Okay yeah. Top three:

1. Loyle Carner
2. Section Boyz
3. Either Mabel or Billie Marten. Probably Mabel.

Right. Now go about with the rest of your lives. I have no idea if this means I'm going to attempt to start this blog going again, but it was quite fun to revisit, so who knows?

Love you, bye!