Feed Limmy Albums of 2018

I actually thought this might more straightforward than the ‘Songs of 2018‘ list since I haven’t listened to that many albums this year. Or so I thought. Perhaps it’s not necessarily true that I haven’t listened to that many albums. Music has never been more accessible to me ever. I tend to put on an album or a podcast episode when I’m engaged in a low-distraction task at home like cooking, cleaning or hanging the laundry. We are so spoilt in the streaming age – the convenience, the access, the sheer amount of material out every single week. It truly is overwhelming and hard to digest.

Over the past few years my listening pattern had changed. I absolutely relish in the control I have now as a consumer to be a complete master of my listening experience. I prefer to curate my own themed playlists which would soundtrack a myriad of moods and seasons (here’s my Spotify profile if you would like to peruse). I’d rather make my own ‘artist discography’ playlists rather than pass the hours with a prescribed set of songs picked out for me.

However, in the practice of me putting together my own playlists, I had come to really admire a well put-together body of work when I come across one. This list is more of 2018 honours list for bodies of work I have enjoyed. So in there will be a couple of mini-albums or EPs as well – whatever people wanted to call them. Here are 12 albums/EPs I have really enjoyed and connected with in 2018…

#12 – Charlie Puth “Voicenotes”

Literally no one I know listens to Charlie Puth. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him mentioned in my feed. Nothing. Therefore, I have zero self-awareness about liking his voice and his album. Basically, I went through this one week earlier this year where I was listening to a New York Times Popcast episode about Charlie and his Voicenotes album and then went to check it out and was surprised that I didn’t completely dislike it. Voicenotes dazzled me in the way Bruno Mars’ first album did back in the day. It’s a complete candyland of 80s/90s R&B influences without crossing over into pastiche, the silky vocals and youthful confidence is truly Charlie’s biggest drawing card. He, as I discovered, isn’t just a remarkable vocalist but also a brilliant producer, which really reflects in this album.

Key tracks: ‘Attention’, ‘Done for Me’ (feat Kehlani), ‘Slow It Down’

#11 – Years & Years “Palo Santo”

I distinctly remember getting butterflies halfway through my first listen of this album. It hit me that Olly Alexander and Years & Years would have been my teenage self’s absolute everything. Imagine what life would’ve been like as a young queer person and seeing Years & Years on primetime telly and playing big festivals. Palo Santo is nothing if not a collection of poems delicately wrapped in layers of electronic pop production that never try to outdo the heart of each song. In the centre is a rawness and vulnerabilty that draws you in to unpack more with each listen. Even now, I don’t feel I’ve fully gotten to the core of Palo Santo yet but I’m not in a rush. In an age of instant gratification maybe this is the kind of slow burn we need.

Key tracks: ‘All For You’, ‘Hypnotised’, ‘Hallelujah’, ‘Sanctify’

#10 – Troye Sivan “Bloom”

Bloom is such a gorgeous, highly stylised coming-of-age album that falls somewhere between soundtracking a Dolce & Gabbana citrusy-sea breeze fragrance commercial and an arthouse LGBT teen film. The charm is in the effortlessness of this – the unhurried pace, Troye’s chilled vocal delivery, and the themes of self-discovery. You walk around town on a quiet Sunday afternoon in spring with this in your headphones and I guarantee you’ll feel like you’re in an indie film.

Key tracks: ‘Seventeen’, ‘Bloom’, ‘My My My!’, ‘Dance to This’ (feat. Ariana Grande)

#9 – Ray BLK “Empress”

I’ve long been a fan of Ray since her 2016 Durt EP. She truly is a South London gem that should be appreciated and protected at all costs. Through her work you can see how she has grown as an artist and writer but I love that she has never wavered from her commitment to telling her story and painting you a picture of life in her community. The parallels to Ms Dynamite’s work is an obvious one. Let me just say, Ms Dynamite’s 2002 debut album holds such a special place in my heart. Even to this day, listening to ‘Brother’ would get me in my feelings. ‘Mama’ on Ray’s “Empress” EP brought that same feeling back around and I was listening to this for the first time while I was doing a food shop in Tesco and had to blink away the tears. At the same time, it made me smile that she did a rap from her mum’s perspective. My favourite line from the “Empress” EP is in ‘Got My Own’ where Ray’s doing a tongue-in-cheek flex about how much money she’s got and she’s treating her mum etc… and suddenly she adds, “I’ll get that pack of fizzy water, don’t use that tap no more – do I look like a buster?”. I mean, that is truly when you know you’ve fucking made it. When you’re buying sparkling water and you don’t have to entertain tap water any more.

Key tracks: ‘Mama’, ‘Run Run’, ‘Empress’, ‘Got My Own’

#8 – Kate Stewart “In The Beginning”

I just knew immediately after hearing ‘He’s Good’ that I was going to love this new incarnation of Kate Stewart (the artist formerly known as K Stewart). This was a proper 90s/00s pop R&B affair. This one’s for anyone who’s a fan of Mariah, JoJo, Samantha Jade etc. It’s pristine vocals and I mean proper vocal vocals. It is vibes. It is emotions. Nobody else is doing shit like this right now and the fact is not anybody can walk up and do this like Kate’s done it. This body of work needs to be celebrated. I can imagine her getting out to Asia performing there, and this just blowing up absolutely in every country. Vocal royalty needs to be treated as such.

Key tracks: ‘He’s Good’, ‘Distraction’, ‘Loving You’.

#7 – SUMNI “Warning”

This will be the only K-pop album/mini-album you’ll find on here this year even though Spotify Wrapped 2018 will let us know that my Top 5 tracks of the year were all K-pop bops. My low-key obsession with SUNMI (formerly of the legendary Wonder Girls) this year literally came out of nowhere. Even though she had been in the public eye for over 10 years, I had no knowledge of her until this era. Between Wonder Girls and her relaunching as a solo popstar (she had a solo EP in 2014), SUNMI tapped into a new performance style that was a little odder, for lack of better words. It was less preoccupied with the K-pop female idol archetypes of being cute or overtly sexy but rather this character was more standoffish and cold, and it really suited her.

Warning the mini-album is a collection of songs crafted around this newfound persona. Opening with ‘ADDICT’ (sung completely in English), SUNMI invites you into the world of this femme fatale rhetorically asking “Who’s running the show?”. ‘Siren‘ – which could be taken as either the bewitching folklore character that drew seamen to their doom, or a literal alarm – is ball-busting 80s disco romp warning lovers not to get attached because she will not emote or empathise even if they’re crying. In its corner are the singles ‘Gashina‘ (a post-tropical house banger about a woman scorned) and ‘Heroine‘ (a pantomime bop about a love-hate relationship where she lets her man go on acting like he’s her ‘saviour’). ‘Black Pearl’ is a gorgeous gem with its surprising sax solo and sultry demeanour. Overall, if you’re after a theatrical female K-pop project that has slightly more class and quirk to it, I’d recommend SUMNI and don’t forget to turn on the subtitles for her music videos.

Key tracks: ‘Siren’, ‘Gashina’, ‘Heroine’, ‘Black Pearl’

#6 – Robyn “Honey”

We’ve waited a really fucking long time for a Robyn album and this thankfully hit the mark for me. Although it wasn’t as generous of a classic as Body Talk was, this was a natural next step for her – and I got just as much out of it. I found myself walking alongside Honey like Robyn and I had never missed a beat. I realised I never really appreciated the warmth and knowingness in Robyn’s vocals until this album. She laid the sonic blueprint out for all her pop predecessors over the last 10 years to adapt but in all the love I have for these Robyn-inspired records, nothing felt like home like Honey.

Key tracks: ‘Honey’, ‘Send to Robin Immediately’. ‘Missing U’, ‘Because It’s In The Music’.

#5 – MNEK “Language”

I know that Uzo is a student of Mariah and Janet like I am. I know that he understands the magic in creating a body of work that takes people on a journey, bonded with interludes etc. Language is truly best experienced as a whole from start to finish, with its various chapters. This is an unapologetically queer album written from a young black man’s perspective but overall, the themes are pretty universal – ‘Tongue’ tackles infatuation, ‘Girlfriend’ addresses a secret affair with a closeted man (OK maybe not that universal), ‘Phone’ vexes over trying to get over an ex that won’t stop getting in touch.

Key tracks: ‘Girlfriend’, ‘Tongue’, ‘Correct’, ‘Honeymoon Phaze’, ‘Paradise’

#4 – Kali Uchis “Isolation”

I’m still not sure exactly what a Kali Uchis is but what I know is when I randomly played her Isolation album, I knew this was one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. The Colombian-Amerian artist created her own vortex of Winehouse-esque soul, pop, reggaeton, R&B, and funk – and I’m living for it. It’s sort of retro in a Latina Lana Del Rey kind of way but still incredibly modern in its approach and fusion.

Key tracks: ‘Dead to Me’, ‘Body Language’, ‘Tyrant’ (feat. Jorja Smith), ‘Just A Stranger’ (feat. Steve Lacy’),  ‘After The Storm’ feat. Tyler The Creator and Bootsy Collins).

#3 – Kacey Musgraves “Golden Hour”

This is my gardening album of 2018 and it means a great deal lot to me. Whenever I’d be in my backyard weeding or planting or tidying up, I’d have this album on. As far as modern country records go, this does a great job of reaching out to the pop audience without losing its identity. Tracks like ‘Slow Burn’, ‘Lonely Weekend’, ‘Happy & Sad’ have been really comforting whenever I’ve been alone.

Key tracks; ‘High Horse’, ‘Lonely Weekend’, ‘Happy & Sad’, ‘Slow Burn’.

#2 – Mariah Carey “Caution”

As any Lamb would tell you, this truly is a brilliant Mariah Carey album for 2018. A solid R&B body of work that doffs its hat to her musicality without dating her. She may be known worldwide for her multi-octave range, whistle notes and big belting finales but in Caution she strips it all back to show that she doesn’t have to showboat to get your attention. The Blood Orange collab ‘Giving Me Life’ is a mood and a moment – slotting beautifully in with some of her fan favourites ‘The Roof’, ‘Babydoll’ and ‘Lullaby’. ‘A No No’ is a classic showcase of Mariah’s wits and sharp lyricism, “Snakes in the grass, it’s time to cut the lawn / Ed Scissorhands aka I cut you off”. If you don’t know, you better know.

Key tracks: ‘A No No’, Giving Me Life’, ‘The Distance’, ‘Portrait’.

#1 – Janelle Monáe “Dirty Computer”

What a masterpiece of a concept album. What a masterpiece of an album about womanhood, queerness and breaking free of societal expectations. It is proud, political, angry, sincere and sensual all at the same time. The spirit of Prince is more than alive here, especially in ‘Make Me Feel’ and in the hedonistic ‘Screwed’ and ‘Crazy Classic Life’. ‘Pynk’ and ‘Django Jane’ are a celebration of female sexuality and liberation. It’s hard to think of a feminist body of work more significant, intelligent and truly aurally pleasurable than this in recent years.

Follow me on Twitter @feedlimmy / Instagram @lovelimmy

And my 2000s pop podcast Right Back At Ya! – @rightbackpod

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/right-back-at-ya/id1384164995?mt=2

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/0XLneIjlau2BxFZcTecdP6?si=xn7p0mkiQWSDNI0rKm6zUg

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Why We Need Madonna Now More Than Ever, Carpool Karaoke Hot Take, and New Tunes by M.O, Raye and K.I.D

I’m not a hardcore Madonna fan. My admiration for her, at times, comes from a rather cerebral place. It’s a place of awe and reverence. And while I don’t necessarily know or love every record, I would always tune in to see what she’s got to offer. I will always make time for her performances and albums. If I’m at a house party and a complete stranger asks me what’s my favourite Madonna album, I would have a well-articulated and meaningful response ready. And depending on how drunk I am, I may or may not be prepared to accept your critique of it. (The answer is American Life, by the way. I knew you’d ask. And there’s probably a Buzzfeed quiz that analyses what kind of gay I am, based on my favourite Madonna album, which Attitude Magazine has probably probably shared. So make of it what you will…)

Madonna is an icon and trailblazer, and she continues to be an icon and trailblazer to this very day. Regardless of debates surrounding her relevancy, dress sense, behaviour, music style, and choices in young collaborators. She is still a multi-million yielding top touring musician. And she puts on a fucking big show, mate. You simply cannot fuck with those cold, hard facts. She is also incredibly switched on and is a force, in spite of the very many hurdles she faces as a woman in this industry, which I’m glad she continues to speak out about.

In her brutally honest acceptance speech at the Billboard Women in Music Awards, where she was honoured as Woman of The Year, she said, “I think the most controversial thing I have ever done is to stick around.”

She had this to say in her epic speech about what it’s like being a female entertainer in the music industry, and really, you should read the whole thing. She’s buying us all round after rounds of home truths and spilling scalding hot T left, right and centre for your nerve.

“If you’re a girl, you have to play the game. You’re allowed to be pretty and cute and sexy. But don’t act too smart. Don’t have an opinion that’s out of line with the status quo. You are allowed to be objectified by men and dress like a slut, but don’t own your sluttiness. And do not, I repeat do not, share your own sexual fantasies with the world. Be what men want you to be, but more importantly, be what women feel comfortable with you being around other men. And finally, do not age. Because to age is a sin. You will be criticized and vilified and definitely not played on the radio.”

I hate to bring up the age thing because all this ageist shit she’s had to endure is so boring, but it has become this thing that has shrouded her career, particularly in the past 10 years, and we can’t ignore it. Every time you feed into diatribe about how she should ‘dress for her age’ or when they stress the age difference between her and the men she’s reportedly with. It’s cringeworthy and demeaning.

How many female popstars of Madonna’s age do you see still releasing original pop music (not covers) and touring as successfully as she does? She is a trailblazer. Again, I’m not a massive Madonna stan or anything, but truth be told we fucking need Madonna more than ever, to remind us and urge us to not live our lives restricted by patriarchal norms that are perpetuated again and again by both men and women. Her success, resilience and longevity sets the bar. Madonna stands for something bigger than just Madonna and album sales, radio playlists or streaming stats combined. She is here using her celebrity and the power of entertainment as her platform to remind us to always question the media, and call out sexist, ageist, homophobic, racist and discriminatory behaviour.

Speaking of Madonna, I saw this wonderful and hilarious read on James Corden‘s excessively flogged Carpool Karaoke series passed around on Twitter. I think the dragging is warranted to a certain extent. The execution borders on grating at times but most of the time, at least for the first three minutes, I do get some joy out of it. I think the next turn (pardon the pun) Corden should take on this is to actually go around picking up band members of defunct pop groups, and trigger a completely ‘spontaneous’ and unplanned reunion, where grievances can be aired and ‘where are they now?’ type curiosities can be satiated… with it all ending, of course, in a big sing-a-long to some of their biggest hits. First stop, Mini Viva, who sound like they actually might need to air things out after a low-key flaming Twitter spat (much of which has been deleted but hey, screenshots, and some remnants remain).

Top Tunes of The Week

M.O ‘Not In Love’ featuring Kent Jones

I’m not trying to stir the pot or anything, so stop handing me the ladle. I’ve been rooting for M.O for ages now, but equally, I also have a lot of love for Mini Viva. They could’ve been the Mel & Kim of the streaming generation. Back to this song, I actually think this pop/R&B trio has hit another peak with ‘Not In Love’. Instantly infectious reggae rhythm that is flavoured to perfection with sweet melodies and sour lyrics. Throw on them big hoops and cue my Sassy & Seventeen playlist.

Jax Jones featuring Raye ‘You Don’t Know Me’

Charlie XCX-endorsed rising star Raye is on every ‘ones to watch’ list right about now (I actually stood next to her at the bar at MTV’s Brand New 2017 party on Thursday… cool story, right?) and while I didn’t really catch a feeling about her earlier, I now get the vibe. This delightfully feisty dance collabo is everything I imagine the term ‘really lit’ would sound like in 2017.

K.I.D ‘Taker’

It is quite rare to catch me openly admiring guitar-driven pop songs, unless we’re reminiscing on Ashlee Simpson‘s first album or Stacie Orrico‘s ‘Stuck, of course. But Toronto alt duo K.I.D‘s ‘Taker’ is definitely hitting the spot for me. Produced by Mike Crossey (Arctic Monkeys and The 1975), this spiky call-out of a narcissistic, selfish c-bomb, would probably go down a treat at a live show.

For more of my favourite tunes of the moment, check out my NEWEST playlist.

And finally… 

Are we all watching Mariah’s World? I downed the first episode and it totally wasn’t what I was expecting. I know she’s said this is an eight-part documentary but what I read and wanted to believe was that this was a high-camp Bravo kind of reality dramedy. I was wrong, Mimi was right. And it is quite surreal to think that she might just be the most low maintenance person on this show.

Mariah Carey “Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse”

Is it too much to suggest that Mariah Carey has now transitioned from a one-woman, five-octave range hitmaker into a diligent ‘album artist’? All signs since her 2004 renaissance The Emancipation of Mimi seem to suggest so. And now, with her 14th studio album – Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse – Carey shows us the breadth of her musicality.

ME I AM MARIAH THE ELUSIVE CHANTEUSE ALBUM COVER

The Elusive Chanteuse is the work of a consummate and knowledgeable fan of R&B music. Mariah doesn’t only serve as high priestess of vocals here, she is the album’s executive producer. Together with close collaborators Jermaine Dupri and Bryan Michael Cox, the diva captures significant trends in hip hop, R&B and soul on every track.

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Chart Feed – 22.10.12

Well this is a really good value Chart Feed compilation, I have to say. Well, as good as it can be without Girls Aloud and Brandy to really discuss, of course. So until then, you just have to deal.

CHARTFEED

This has been a good week for our Aussie pop prince Guy Sebastian and songbird Delta Goodrem, new girlband sensation Little Mix and triumphantly, Taylor Swift matches Adele‘s US digital song chart record.

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Chart Feed – 01.10.12

“Oppa gangnam style!” *drops the beat*

CHART FEED

You know when your parents start to recognise a internet viral music video that it’s well and truly time for everyone else to move on.

It has been a tremendous week for K-pop sensation PSY‘s ‘Gangnam Style’, not only is it officially the most ‘liked’ video in the history of the internet – the track has also successfully topped the Australian and UK charts to become the first Korean pop single to do so.

Its crossover chart success in the Western market is just mind-blowing, no doubt bringing a whole lot of national pride for South Koreans everywhere.

Elsewhere, it has also been a great week for Pink, Mumford and Sons, Conor Maynard, Brandy and Christina “I think you already know my weight!” Aguilera.

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Mariah Carey ‘Triumphant (Get ‘Em)’ Music Video

You have to hand it to this divine empress of song. Nobody straddles the fine line between luxurious and tacky quite like Mariah Carey. You don’t need to check the receipts to know that she’s legit.

MARIAH CAREY TRIUMPHANT MUSIC VIDEO

Mimi’s empowering urban jam didn’t exactly get everyone moist with excitement when it premiered a few weeks ago, but just like a lot of my fellow Lambs, I waited for the video before passing final judgement.

The age-old boxing match theme applied to ‘Triumphant (Get ‘Em)’ really hits home the song’s message of overcoming adversity. However, rather than letting you experience it in a raw Rocky Balboa-style treatment, the music video is rendered with a golden 1960s touch.

The opulence, the cinematic frames, the fucking yards of gold lamé that seem to disappear to nowhere on Mariah’s body – these are all signifiers of a typical Mimi clip where excess is celebrated and modesty scoffed. And you gotta love her for that!

The video’s director and Mariah’s full-time boo – Nick Cannon – thoroughly did ‘Triumphant (Get ‘Em)’ justice by honouring his wife’s fondness for extravagance. We’ve all seen Mariah try to do pedestrian-realness with ‘Through The Rain’ and, frankly, it scared the shit out of me to see her try to dress like us mere mortals.

MARIAH CAREY TRIUMPHANT

Mariah Carey should never try to destroy the illusion of her grandeur – no, not even to get some “universal message of hope” across in one of her own videos. I think at this stage of her career, Mimi and her Lambs know how it works.

The formula for her videos are more or less: one part skimpy two piece, one part mega wind machine and fluttering of fingers, and some misguided portions of looking like Miss Universe parading evening wear like her life depended on it.

Seeing rappers Meek Mill and Rick Ross take up significant screen time in the first half of the video concerned me, just like their prominence on the track did.

However, you more than get your money’s worth towards the end when confetti’s raining on Mimi’s pageant queen diva pose and she’s steady punching the air like there was no Laila Ali.

This video is magnificent in every sense imaginable for a typical Mariah production. The only thing missing was a pair of giant flaming butterflies scorching up behind the boxing ring.



Footnotes:

Mariah Carey‘s ‘Triumphant (Get ‘Em)’ has to date charted at #97 on the US Billboard Hip Hop/R&B Songs and #144 on the official UK Singles chart.

The much-favoured remixes (see Vintage Throwback Mix, Pulse Remix, Danny Verde Club Mix, Laidback Luke Extended Mix, The New Iberican League Club Mix) have scaled up to #42 on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart.

Mariah Carey ‘Triumphant (Get ‘Em)’ Single Review

Hold on a minute, let me get this straight. It’s Mariah Carey’s eagerly anticipated new single and she’s only turned up to sing the hook and a couple of finger-fluttering ad libs over the top? How is this ho only here for the “feature vocalist” parts of her own damn single?

MARIAH CAREY TRIUMPHANT

I think for a lot of poor hungry Lambs, this all-important new Mimi single has been built up to be some sort of main event that should be particularly pleasing to appreciators of her urban collaborations.

Y’know, sequined props where props are due – our favourite Midas-caressed manatee did pioneer the hip hop rap/diva sung vocals format that has revolutionised modern pop R&B. But honestly, this collabo structure is just not cutting it for her in ‘Triumphant (Get ‘Em)’.

For a major comeback single, you shouldn’t have to sit through over a minute of guest rappers verses to hear more of Mimi‘s famed wailings. That’s not where the box office is at, boo.

Everything about this song has been a chore for me. It has been a chore sitting through the rap spittings (this would not have been a problem if I had actually signed up to hear Rick Ross and Meek Mill – which I didn’t). It has been a chore trying to work out what exactly I should be taking away from this ‘Triumphant’ experience.

Mariah, when she is on point, is actually one of the most effective pop songwriters of her generation. She has served up legitimate timeless smashes that cut straight to the heart with brilliant lyrics, sentiments and vocal delivery – think: ‘Butterfly’, ‘Bye Bye’ and ‘Breakdown’.

In the lead up to ‘Triumphant”s release, Mimi had tweeted that the lyrics were very personal to her. It’s almost as if she’s deliberately drawing attention to it because she might fear people would miss the message? Since when has this been an issue for a properly executed Mariah song? Never.

With sizeable rap verses taking precedence and perforating beats competing with her vocal parts, I’m starting to wonder how important these lyrics – or in fact, Mariah herself – really is to the song.

Right now, Mimi would be giving more value for money in a single seating on the Home Shopping Network than she would in all four minutes of ‘Triumphant (Get ‘Em)’. And you know something about that ain’t right.

Listen to Mimi’s new single in full now:



Footnotes:

The single hits digital shelves on 7 August. Expect the video for ‘Triumphant (Get ‘Em)’ to premiere soon. Mimi’s forthcoming 14th studio album is slated for release later this year.