Best things we heard in September…

Tom Burrows: The narrative of 2021-era Kanye West has been well-documented. Lost down the mire of right-wing endorsements and religious embrace, his music continues to diminish in quality with his latest, the clearly unfinished Donda, landing as a bloated mess.

Whisper it though: trudge through Donda and quite a bit of it is… actually quite good? I mean, ignore the absolute troll-move that is ‘Jail Pt 2’ (and the other Pt 2 tracks), and very much do continue to question the lack of female presence on the album. But when you listen to the music: ‘Off The Grid’ is an boisterous drill banger, ‘Hurricane’ lives up to its leaked promise with a star turn from The Weeknd, ‘Believe What I Say’ refreshingly arcs back to Graduation-era synthpop, and – though you have to wait a long time to get there – the run of tracks from ‘Lord I Need You’ to ‘No Child Left Behind’ is the best stuff he’s done since 2016’s The Life of Pablo. There may be hope for salvation yet.

But if you’ve had enough of Kanye West by this point, the new Low album, Hey What, is very good so just listen to that instead.

Sam Atkins: There’s a few albums I could shout out here this month. Records from Kacey Musgraves, Lil Nas X, Carly Pearce and dare I say pop icons Steps each brought something different to the last few weeks.

But I’m kidding myself if I pick anything other than Sometimes I Might Be Introvert by Little Simz. Bold, daring and unique Little Simz is plain and simple the best artist in Hip Hop right now. We can debate whether it’s anywhere close to Grey Area when the end of the year lists arrive, but as an ‘album’ SIMBI already feels like a classic. I’m currently torn between ‘I Love You, I Hate You’, ‘Standing Ovation’ and ‘How Did You Get Here’ as my favourites, but honestly any track could be seen as a highlight.

Will Collins: Despite reaching the ripe old age of 32, I will always be a teenage metalhead at heart, and Iron Maiden will always be my favourite band. Their latest, Senjutsu, released with relatively little advance warning, is one of the finest of their late period. Continuing in the epic, prog-metal vein of their recent records, it stakes a claim for them being one of Britain’s finest bands. To be making records this great so late into their career is no mean achievement. All the hallmarks of their classic songs are here, but they have developed a nuance and a subtlety to their songwriting. Whilst there might not be enough here to convince those who have previously been resistant to their charms, it is a rich and rewarding listen that has been permanently on my headphones since release day.

James Spearing: Now, You Know is still distinctly Rosie Lowe, but the freedom provided by the mixtape format has given her the chance to show a far more experimental side to her songwriting. 

Just two of the nine tracks on offer here come in at the ‘proper song’ standard length of over three minutes, but this is no issue. The sexy slow jam ‘Paris, Texas’, and ‘I’ve Got You’ are the most conventional showcase of Rosie’s abilities here.

Now, You Know comes across as a platform for exploring where some potent, albeit short, ideas can be taken, and show off their prowess without the need to be a fully formed song. ‘No Idea’ and ‘Say The Name’ are perfect examples of this. I for one am wowed by these melodic morsels.

In many ways this is the perfect between-album reminder of her brilliance: it has everything you want to know that Rosie is still your favourite, yet everything you need to know that shows her evolving as an artist and creating exciting new sounds.

Now, when’s the new album?

In a similar vein to Rosie, I’ve also been loving Nao’s ‘And Then Life Was Beautiful’, the first song on her new album by the same name.”

Fran Slater: It’s hard to look beyond Squid at The Albert Hall in Manchester for my best of the month in September. I’d been expecting them to be good live, but the way they ripped through their set and kept a packed room totally and utterly captivated was beyond even my wildest expectations.

A special mention has to go to closing song ‘Pamphlets’. It was one of those rare live moments when everything coalesced perfectly and you could feel the totally cathartic joy in the room. Maybe this was partly down to it being many people’s return to live music since before the pandemic, but to say that was the only reason would be to do Squid a major disservice. They were exceptional. 

As far as albums go, though, I’ll have to go with the amazing Hey What by Low. It has floored me. Their last album won all sorts of album of the year accolades and I could muster little more than a shrug, but this new one gives me chills all the way down my spine. It’s a crunchy, atmospheric masterpiece that I can’t keep away from. 

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