Best things we heard in February…

James Spearing: ‘Highway’ from St Panther was an easy winner this month. The stand out track from her brilliant 2020 EP These Days has taken time to reach my ears, but the impact it made when it did was instant. Think Little Simz meets Childsh Gambino in New York in about 1994. It’s even more impressive when you watch her videos and see that she sings, raps, produces and plays all the instruments. Hoping for more soon (and a repressing of the sky blue cloudy vinyl!).

Honourable mention goes to the Haider remix of Kelly Lee Owens‘Jeanette’. He slows the original right down making your mind go one way, before the massive DnB drop. Immense. You’ll have to listen to Kelly’s Radio 1 Essential Mix if you want to hear it. What better way to spend two hours?

Fran Slater – For Those I Love – ‘Birthday/The Pain’: When I saw the likes of The Murder Capital and Fontaines DC bigging up the latest single, and upcoming album, from For Those I Love I pressed play expecting, and hoping for, another slice of aggressive and uplifting post-punk. That isn’t what I got.

Instead, it turned out these recent favourites of mine were simply giving some props to their compatriots from a different genre entirely. Although what that genre is, I couldn’t say entirely. Think spoken word crossed with house crossed with hip-hop crossed with the kind of night out that starts out well and ends with drunken injuries. Think a modern day version of The Streets with a gorgeous Dublin accent. Think a potential smash hit later in 2021…

Sam Atkins – Ghetts – Conflict of Interest: Picking a best of the month I first heard in the last few days of February and have only listened to once? Yes, that’s what’s happening. I have to admit I’ve never really listened to much of his music before, but Conflict of Interest by Ghetts is by far the best new album I’ve heard in 2021.

Stacked with deep introspective lyrics and a consistency in beats and production I’ve rarely ever heard from anything that could be considered Grime, I’ve not been this excited about an album this year so far. Looking down the list of features including Emeli Sande, Dave and Ed Sheeran, you might expect this to be a ‘hit heavy’ record set for playlist dominance, but that couldn’t be further from what this album is.

The 2021 Mercury winner right here and I can’t wait to spend the rest of the year with this brilliant record.

Kim Fernley – Raury – ‘God’s Whisper’: My recent TV binge has thrown out some high calibre new musical discoveries. One song that particularly grabbed my attention was ‘God’s Whisper’ by Raury. It was used for a dramatic scene which was very fitting for the track. Raury sings about living life the way you want to, rather than succumbing to the pressures of following societal norms. ‘God’s Whisper’ is packed with uplifting tribal vibes – you won’t be able to resist belting out the chorus at the top of your voice.

Tom Burrows – The Weeknd at the Super Bowl: Yes, my musical highlight of February was a multi-million dollar corporate entertainment show brought to you by Pepsi because I really am that basic. But the reason goes beyond the elaborate choreography and expensive pyrotechnics on display in Florida.

Like many, I’ve followed The Weeknd‘s career with fascination since he emerged a decade ago, with dark and mysterious alt-R&B that prominently sampled Beach House and Siouxsie and The Banshees. He’s seemingly always sought mainstream success while maintaining that outsider edginess – things which history has often shown to be incompatible. Popular success requires concessions, and it has been frustrating to watch him strive to be palatable through overlong albums, middle-of-the-road songs and commercial tie-ins.

But over the last year it seems to have come together. After Hours is somehow both insanely commercially successful and artistically interesting. And the Super Bowl felt like the apex of this duality. He used the biggest stage of all to play his red suit-clad villain in front of a setting inspired by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, ‘musically directed’ by drone experimentalist Oneohtrix Point Never. It felt like a vision achieved, and the helpless grin on his face showed that he knew it. From the House of Balloons to the Super Bowl. Kudos, Abel.

Will Collins: My favourite listen this month has been We Are Doomed, the latest album from Oxford-based desert rockers Indica Blues. Maybe being cooped up at home for the past few months has left me more susceptible to music that conjures up a different place. Or maybe its heavy grooves have been what I needed to shake me from my lockdown-induced stupor. Either way, once you get past the slightly on-the-nose title, it’s a record that’s well worth your attention. It sits firmly on the desert/doom/stoner continuum, coming across like a slightly less lethargic Sleep, or heavier Queens of the Stone Age. This record is all fuzzy riffs and pummelling drums. Vocals, when they do occur, are half-spoken, half growled. It’s hypnotic and strangely melodic. You can almost taste the desert sand. An acquired taste, certainly. But there’s a lot to like here if this sort of thing is up your street.

Matt Paul – SHYGA! The Sunlight Mound – Psychedelic Porn Crumpets: Ok. The name of the band and album are ridiculous. But these guys aren’t just a novelty act. SHYGA! is full of energy and drive. It’s fun, fuzzy and completely over the top. PPC might be a little too theatrical for most. But this month I’ve needed an extra energy boost to get me through these gloomy winter days. And I’ve turned to this album a lot.

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