Ben Howard, if you like, Jim Caeser, Justin Timberlake, Lawrence Taylor, Leo Kalyan, recommendations, Silent Crowd, Troye Sivan, Two Door Cinema Club,

As you may have noticed, VYNE-L does it's best to cover big names as well as up-and-coming artists. Which is all well and good, but what if you're only into your big names? Or just a fan of small artists? Or what if you just want some new tracks to add to your music library and don't know where to start? This is where our recommendations (hopefully) comes in. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the new music. 

If you like Troye Sivan you'll like Leo Kalyan
The apparent MOTM (man of the moment), Troye Sivan has become a somewhat unorthodox breath of fresh air for the industry. Leo Kalyan is following in Sivan's careful footsteps with more soothing easy listening vocals. 


If you like Two Door Cinema Club you'll like Silent Crowd
An already infamous link between this 3-piece and 4-piece. There are bordering on dangerous similarities of Silent Crowd's "Tonight" with TDCC's "Undercover Martyn". Nothing like a bit of healthy competition.


If you like Oh Wonder you'll like Meadowlark
The gentle combination of a male and female vocal can be hard to get right, but what up-and-coming Meadowlark have in common with Oh Wonder is their ability to reach the perfect harmony with an new electronic twist.

Recommended track - Fly
Spotify
iTunes
Soundcloud

Banks’ highly anticipated debut, Goddess, was one 2014’s most bewitching efforts, expertly blending brooding R&B with melancholic narratives of anguish, self-destruction and redemption. The record’s naked introspection established Banks as one of contemporary music’s rawest and most vulnerable songwriters, and her sonic ambition, emphasised by a sustained willingness to experiment with electronica and trip-hop, allowed her to carve a distinctive, personal space within a saturated musical genre. Her sophomore effort, The Altar, is even more tenacious, as the songstress continues to refine and expand upon the razor-sharp formula of her debut, incorporating a musical landscape that is substantially darker and richly diverse.

Thematically, Banks continues to dissect the origins of her unsuccessful relationships in the distinctive manner we have grown to expect. More prominent this time around, however, is a newfound self-assurance and unbending confidence in her lyricism, which is notably more confrontational and unfiltered. The formula is flipped on The Altar, as Banks’ transitions into a role of strength unseen in previous releases. “I think you need a weaker girl” she croons on Weaker Girl, a track which infuses 80s electro-funk beats with an orchestral backing, taunting her lover that he no longer meets her standards, “I’ma need a bad motherfucker like me”. The robotic Gemini Feed, a SOHN-produced metaphorical middle finger, is even more vicious, as she berates the emotionally manipulative tendencies of her ex-partner, “If you would’ve let me grow, you could’ve kept my love”. Tracks like Fuck With Myself, the sultry lead single for the record, ooze self-empowerment, as the songstress unapologetically affirms “I fuck with myself more than anybody else” over a witch-pop production.

The record’s formidable lyricism is complimented by the immediacy of its lavish production, which includes offerings from Goddess alumni Tim Anderson and Chris Taylor. The urban Trainwreck boasts an exhilaratingly swaggering pace, as Banks spews rage, with an almost rap-like delivery. The Altar is packed with tracks that indulge in their own sonic atmospheres, from the haunting pre-chorus of electro-alternative Poltergeist, to the theatrical 27 Hours, which contains a build-up of soft piano strokes that leads to a rush of bombastic synths over which the songstress belts “I killed everything we were, baby murder was a case”. Elsewhere, Judas, described by the singer as “jagged black and blue song”, is a fascinating detour, infusing hip-hop elements with light strings and backing vocals, while This Is Not About Us is one of the catchiest, commercial and immediately accessible tracks that Banks has released to date thanks to its up-tempo electro-infused production.

Banks finds herself at her most introspective on the record’s quieter moments. The alt-pop ballad, To The Hilt, finds her reminiscing about the man she used to be with before her fame with her signature poignant vocal delivery, “now I’m drained creatively, I miss you on my team”. Mother Earth is stripped back and deeply spiritual, as the songstress explores the depression she faced when she was younger, while the brooding Mind Games contains some of Banks’ finest lyricism.

 From start to finish, The Altar, with its mix of tight white-knuckle electro-pop and scorching slow-burning passages, is a refreshingly unapologetic and passionate record that demonstrates Banks growth both artistically and personally. With a new found confidence, Banks has fully immersed herself in her ominous R&B aesthetic, and the end result is one of this year’s most compelling and convincing offerings.

10/10

Since the release of her debut album Arular in 2005, Mathangi Arulpragasam, known by her stage name M.I.A, has established herself as one of the music industry’s most intriguing and colour characters. The rapper has become infamous for her cut-throat political and racial activism, while her social commentary has been the source of much controversy and discussion. Such politicking is widely discussed in her lyrics, and the undisputable intensity of her passion is perfectly personified in her musical discography, which regularly combines elements of electronica, dance, hip-hip and world music, and blends Eastern and Western musical influences. Her fifth, and supposedly final studio album, AIM, is no exception to the M.I.A formula, accurately echoing the rapper’s signature global pop aesthetic. Less chaotic than the admirably unconventional Matangi, the record is more reflective of the crowd-pleasing sound of her 2008 summer-smash, ‘Paper Planes’.


Several tracks on AIM offer poignant slices of social commentary on the themes we’ve come to expect from the English rapper, including money, refugees and border control, police and social media. The record’s mid-tempo, lead single, ‘Borders’ and the Bollywood-tinged ‘Visa’ deliver rousing discussions on the UK’s handling of the refugee crisis, while ‘Platforms’ and ‘Talk’ examine the various meanings of value in different cultures and global societies’ superficial obsession with current affairs, “Ebola scare or a bomb scare, it’s the same shit just hit and share”. Unlike M.I.A’s previous efforts, however, AIM feels notably less confrontational in the delivery of its message. The rapper regularly delves into the many tribulations of modern society, but in a passive, almost punctilious manner that is surprisingly optimistic and much more universally accessible to listeners.

Throughout AIM it becomes increasingly apparent that, this time around, the rapper is significantly more invested in ensuring the record sounds sonically satisfying than challenging societal conventions. The wonderfully peculiar ‘Swords’ incorporates the sound of clashing blades as percussion, whilst ‘Foreign Friend’ is a woozy, sweet track that was recorded during the rapper’s time in Jamaica. Skrillex-produced ‘Go Off’ is electronic music at its most thrilling and features a metallic, pulsating beat. The playful nature of the record is perhaps best exemplified by ‘Freedun’, a surprising collaboration with ex-One Direction member Zayn Malik. The laid-back track has an infectiously sticky rhythm, over which M.I.A declares herself an ambassador of “Swaggerstan

Whilst such deliveries such as these keep the record light, they feel often feel artificial, resulting in several moments in where the album become a little derailed. The Diplo-produced 'Birdsong', in which the rapper works a list of bird names into a series of popular culture references, “I believe like R. Kelly we can fly, but toucan fly together”, feels forced and uninspired, and attempts to empathise with listeners on the individual level, such as in ‘Ali R U OK’, a bhangra-pop jam inspired by a ride with an overworked Uber driver, are often contrived and distract from the focus of the record. As a result of this, much of the albums’ fearless ambition feels fragmented, resulting in an integral lack in cohesion between its themes.

AIM is far from the rapper’s best album, but it is without a doubt one of her most joyful, distinctive and crowd-friendly offerings to date; a witty parting gift of softcore propaganda that demonstrates she is a truly unique artist. It’s a record that readily explores the topics many other artists would never dare speak of, in an undeniably charming fashion only M.I.A could pull off, even if the quality of its message is frustratingly inconsistent.

7/10

In today’s competitive musical climate, it would be nigh impossible to predict with confidence that an artist could sell out two UK tours, captivate the summer festival circuit, perform the Euro 2016 BBC theme tune, and be shortlisted for both the British Critic’s Choice Award and BBC Sound of poll before having even released their debut record. Such is the reality, however, for 22-year-old Isobel Beardshaw, better known by her stage name Izzy Bizu, whose LP comes almost three years on the heels of her breakout. The finished product, (understandably) titled A Moment of Madness, is a jazz-infected, modern-throwback album that expertly combines pop commerciality with sentimental soul and nostalgia, angling for the musical space once occupied by Amy Winehouse.

The record’s elated lead single, ‘White Tiger’, is undeniably one of the summer’s catchiest and quirkiest releases. Bizu’s distinctive vocals are complimented perfectly by an infectious clapping back-beat, giving the track a summery skip that is oozing with energy (you’ll find the hook, “white, white tiger, high bright rollercoaster”, stuck in your head for weeks). The relentlessly effervescent tone of the single perfectly personifies much of the first half of the record, from the Motown-inspired stomp of ‘Give Me Love’, to the mischievous and breathless ‘Skinny’, to the Marvin-Gaye-tinged ‘Na├»ve Soul’ and the Winehouse-eque ‘Adam & Eve’. It’s a record that grips like a vice and refuses to let go until it reaches the closing track, with each melody following the next in a similar impetuous fashion.

While such uncompromising optimism provides cohesion to the musicality of the record, it often comes at the cost of fatigue on part of the listener, significantly detracting from the emotional intensity of the music itself. The tracks themselves never sound less than aesthetically pleasing, but the emotional impact they’re intended to have is consistently flattened by the record’s unceasing and exhausting ebullience and buoyancy.  It is for this reason that the few slower jams on the record stand out the most. The wonderful ‘Mad Behaviour’ anchors the latter half of the album, showcasing Bizu in her most emotional, vulnerable and rawest state, as she croons for the support and forgiveness of her lover, “saviour rein me in, don’t mind my mad behaviour.” Its followed by the equally captivating ‘Circles’, a beautiful ballad that demonstrates Bizu’s vast lyrical potential.

With A Moment of Madness, Bizu offers a sonic ambition that very few artists within the contemporary music industry possess. The record is a confident mixture of modern pop, delicious funk and soul, with a new track to indulge yourself in at every turn. It’s a vigorous exploration into Bizu’s various perspectives on life and love, and despite being exhausting and lacking in identity at times, it’s an album that’s difficult not to love.


7/10