“I just wanna be on the beach.”

“Sunburn” by Sandwich | Yes, it’s almost July, but, well, why not? I was at the beach over the long weekend, and suffered my first case of sunburn in a while. And so did Shalla, which meant we were both rolling in bed in pain. You know what I mean. We really should’ve brought the aloe vera along. Still, a good time to revisit a song people always revisit when they’re fresh from the beach (complete with “here she comes, na-sunburn” reappropriation). Shalla and I were arguing about the lyrics, and I’m pretty sure I am right. [NB]

“All I feel is emptiness without you by my side.”

“Don’t Talk About Paula” by Tremorheart | In recent weeks Monocle 24‘s been digging up its crates, perhaps to make up for the fact that they’re playing less music across the day. (It means EXID’s “Up & Down” gets played a lot now, but not their new single, which I love.) It also means I’m hearing songs I haven’t heard on the station before, but turn out to be old, relatively. This one, for instance, came from Tremorheart, a band from Oxford that seems to have gone off the radar since 2015 – around the time they released this. It’s unusual, this history: it seems the group didn’t move out of the unsigned phase, or at least the obscure indie one. This song, however, is quite catchy, in a sublime, funky way. It lingers nicely. And then, like the band, it somehow ends. [NB]

Review: Purple by Mamamoo

Purple by MamamooJust a few weeks ago Sistar released their last single, marking the last of many Korean summers spent with a frothy, bouncy bop from the group. (That last bop was, uncharacteristically, a ballad.) It wasn’t a gap ripe to be filled, but the timing of all this meant someone will inevitably look like they’re trying to. Unfortunately for Mamamoo, they’re playing that role. Purple‘s empowerment-themed title track, “Yes I Am”, brings them back to the template they perfected on “Um Oh Ah Yeh” (and the one they deviated from on their last single “Decalcomanie”) but it’s now clear they’re dropping the retro sound that made them popular in the first place. It’s made for the disco; it’s definitely Sistar territory; luckily the good, non-annoying side of it. However, Mamamoo’s current awkward artistic phase – which first came to light on the ultimately confused Memory – has rubbed off on Purple, highlighting some sort of existential crisis. Will they go the way of the dance floor, or will they keep their streak of larrikinism (as they had then with “Taller Than You”, as they have now with “Aze Gag”)? Will they keep on throwing half-baked bait to fans (Moonbyul finally sings – solo at that – on the ultimately ill-fitting “Out Of The Way”) or will they build on the vocal chemistry the group clearly has? I’d love Mamamoo to find their way sooner or later, but it feels like they’re getting deeper into the woods. [NB]3/5

Review: Crack-Up by Fleet Foxes

Crack-Up by Fleet FoxesIt’s been six years since Fleet Foxes released Helplessness Blues, with Robin Pecknold putting the project on hold when he decided to study. Their return was gradual, too, littered with clues, as if leading us back to the warm, pastoral sound the group somewhat pioneered with their successful debut back in 2008. But, yes, the world has changed, and so has Fleet Foxes; their new record, Crack-Up, sees them continue to pursue that folk sound, but take in more influences. The result is a sound that feels serene but has some sort of darkness lurking within. Sure, they have been dark (don’t tell me “Mykonos” isn’t) but it’s like they could no longer keep the illusion going, like all the trees around them have been taken down, to be replaced by fossil fuel-burning factories. Dare I say, it feels like a response to the Trump presidency. However, as much as the album takes some pride in being able to keep it all together, I get the feeling that they themselves could not quite ease into it. Six years is a long time, and things have to be shaken off. That air of hesitation makes for an interesting record, sure, but Crack-Up somehow fails to go as far as it should. [NB]3/5

Review: Melodrama by Lorde

Melodrama by LordePure Heroine, Lorde’s debut album from almost four years ago, was such a breath of fresh air when it dropped. It was a pop record masquerading as an alternative record – or an alternative record masquerading as a pop record. Deceivingly accessible, it proved to be more nuanced than anybody expected. Melodrama builds on all that – but first, let’s be honest; perhaps nobody was really expecting that. It’s been four years since Ella Yelich-O’Connor debuted and somehow took the pop world by storm; four years since we were introduced to her observations laid over deliriously trippy beats. A lot has happened since and “Royals” has since disappeared from the rear view mirror. Here comes Melodrama, building on Pure Heroine, and the result is a record that feels warmer, and has more heart, than its predecessor. Lorde seems to bare herself more, delving deep to deliver non-cheesy songs about coming of age. Perhaps it’s also the decision to shift away from the gloomy and trippy, and more towards the serene: from “Green Light” unexpectedly moving into house-ish sounds at the very beginning, to the cathartic “Liabilities” and “Perfect Places”, we’re put on the passenger seat, rather than the back of the bus. Now, if only I could relate to it all. [NB]4/5