Featuring albums from Namasenda, MARINA, The Prototypes, Madonna and GIRLI.
Namasenda – hot_babe_93 (2017)
Having become a massive fan of Swedish hyperpop icon Namasenda’s recent singles ‘Wanted’ and ’24/7′, I decided to go back to the start of her musical journey. ‘hot_babe_93’ was her first (and to date, only) EP release, and would have been the main reason she got signed onto the PC Music label. They are an exciting set of songs which definitely lean towards the pop side of the sound, and you can hear some of the influences which have followed her to her singles from the past two years (in particular on ‘Here’). My favourite track is ’14 boy’, which is an understated rave banger, with both high-energy intro and outro and an idyllic love story in between. ‘What U Got’ is definitely the most mature track on the album, with Namasenda discussing how whatever you do, for some people, you will never be enough for them. While I don’t love this as much as her recent releases, it’s extremely assured for a first release and I enjoyed listening to her origin story.
Ryan’s Rating: 7/10
MARINA – Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land (2021)
MARINA returns to form with her fifth studio album, Ancient Dreams In a Modern Land, and returns to her rockier roots as she envelopes her individualism here. She doesn’t dress up the overt political nature of her lyrics – and that’s why we love her. This has some of her best writing yet, and the album has an overall sound which sets it apart from what the rest of the pop girls have been doing lately. The title track is one of the best releases of 2021. Full review here: https://ryanwrites99.wordpress.com/2021/06/13/album-review-marina-ancient-dreams-in-a-modern-land-2021/
The Prototypes – City of Gold (2015)
The Prototypes are nothing short of legends in the drum n bass scene, although my uneducated self didn’t know who they were until last year. They created one of my favourite tracks ever – called ‘Reason’, featuring LOWES – and so I had to go back to their first album and listen to that too! ‘Ten Thousand Feet and Rising’ had a couple of standouts, which increased in number after a few weeks of listening, and I’ve got a feeling City Of Gold will be the same. ‘Redose’ was my instant favourite, with more experimental beats and dabbling closer to techno than dnb, while bonus track ‘Moscow’ was just out and out pure rave heaven. Purely for the chorus, ‘Fallen’ with Donae’o is also a 10/10 track – although it’s one of the tracks which definitely sounds like it’s got that early 2010s-style production. ‘Kill The Silence’ with Ayah Marar also gives me a certain nostalgic glow. What I also noticed about the music here was just how intricate and complex it is – the more you listen, the more sounds you here. Dance music doesn’t often lend itself well to anything longer than 3 minutes, but occasionally, an album can be something special. In ‘City Of Gold’ it certainly ain’t bad.
Ryan’s Rating: 8/10
Madonna – Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005)
I’ve heard many things about this album, ranging from being one of the best releases of the 2000s to ripping off other artists and being unoriginal. Having never had the stomach to sit through a Madonna album before, I felt now was the time to take the leap. ‘Hung Up’ was the only song I knew going in, and while the quality of the track comes from the ABBA sample which dominates it the lyrics are fun and it’s a bit of a bop. The ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ influenced ‘Get Together’ is also pretty good, although I feel like it really hits its stride when Madonna is presiding over the more contemplative tracks in the centre. ‘Jump’ is probably my favourite, with it’s very 80s inspired synth arrangement, while ‘Forbidden Love’ is the peak of the electronica-trance influences, with a sound which seems to epitomise the feeling of looking across a nightclub, longing staring at someone who either doesn’t know you exist, or was someone from your past who you want to see again. Although I like the trance-pop which holds the album together in a continuous mix, some of the songs struggle to stand out from each other, while the highlights are only 8/10s at best. While I can see why Dua Lipa listed this as one of her inspirations, and I can’t judge if this really is Madonna’s best, it has zero replay value for me. No bad tracks, but not many brilliant ones either.
Ryan’s Rating: 6/10
GIRLI – Ex Talk (2021)
From the first bars of opening track ‘Has Been’, none of the passion and energy from British pop punker GIRLI’s first album, 2019’s ‘Odd One Out’, has been lost. As the title suggests, this five-track EP is about a former relationship – and while she spends the first track expressing frustrated happiness at the fact her ex is no longer on the scene, it soon turns to despair for ‘Passive Aggressive’, which, if Britpop had a baby with punk, it would be this. Probably my favourite here, it laments her ex’s behaviour since they split, while managing to sound cool enough to be in a film. What sets GIRLI apart is her distinctive voice – both beautiful and abrasive, it sounds great against the more industrial instrumentals she employs in her music. She conveys emotion in every word – and when she’s being sassy and sarcastic, such as in ‘What a Shame!’, it really comes across in a badass way. I love this one too – it feels rockier and poppier than the others here. ‘Throw Myself Away’ is the closer – introspective, vulnerable, and striking a completely different note to the others – but it fits so well. She confesses insecurities and her own toxic tendencies over a heavily reverberating bass guitar, while strings and piano are also used to create an ethereal tone. If this is a concept album based around the emotions one goes through after a highly-charged break-up, this is really the perfect way to round it off. While the major-label life may not have worked out for her, it has allowed her to get even better in her music – and she has both the talent and quality to be a leading voice in the UK alternative scene.
Ryan’s Rating: 8/10