17th February 2020
It’s the beginning of the new year, and already the music world seems as busy as ever. From Grammy winners, to the first release of the ever-awaited festival lineups, January has bought with it a bombardment of music-related news. However, amidst all the excitement, it seems that some of the best releases of the month have been buried under the whirlwind of music events. So we’ve put a list together of some of our top picks of January, including the return of a beloved band from the 80s, and beginning of a new era for a celebrated internet icon.
Life on Other Planets is the fourth full-length album by ‘Cave Music’ trio, Moon Hooch, and their last with drummer James Muschler. For the uninitiated, ‘Cave Music’ is the trio’s own special brand of jazz, funk and EDM inflected saxophone music. Horn players Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGowan are total virtuosos, mixing insane jazz chops with complex, extended saxophone techniques like visceral growls and squeals to make a sound unique to them.
This new record is darker than any of their previous projects – the thrilling dual saxophone interplay enhanced by distorting electronic effects and thumping synth basslines, but the sense of manic fun that makes the trio so incessantly joyous is still prominent from start to finish. As the title of the record suggests, there is more of an otherworldly feel to this new project, largely brought about by the sometimes unsettling and eerie production, but the whole thing is grounded by catchy melodies and grooves, as well as the tactile sax playing from Wilbur and McGowan. Particularly satisfying are Wilbur’s newly insistent forays into jazz improvisation which, aside from being a technical marvel, bring a welcome sense of spontaneity to the established Moon Hooch sound. With a runtime of only 32 minutes, Life on Other Planets is fleeting, yet gut-bustingly exhilarating listen.
Although the year seems to be off to a slow start for music, Pet Shop Boys are still releasing music and enjoying success, thirty-four years after their debut release, ‘Please’. Their new album, ‘Hotspot’ hit the third spot on the albums chart in the UK, and was released to generally positive reviews. The duo continues to prove they can write hit tunes and can produce a commercial sound, despite current tastes. ‘Dreamland’, one of the supporting singles, features Years and Years, blurring their distinctive 80s sound with modern tastes and sounds. The album may not be a breakthrough, or a significant stand-out album, but it is something to indulge in, have fun, and just feel youthful and free-spirited – even if a drink is needed to loosen up.
The artist known as ‘Poppy’ has had a weird musical journey. The young artist first started making pop music online, her creepy yet endearing Youtube videos mixed with her pink-princess persona solidifying her as a cult icon of the internet. However, it seems that over the recent years, Poppy has broken free of the constraints of being online, and headed in a surprising, but welcomed new direction musically.
Her latest album ‘I Disagree’ fuses her past and present in the form of metal-pop fusion, and presents a more honest, and interesting side to the ever-elusive artist. Although fairly new to the metal scene, Poppy manages its intricacies perfectly, including thrashing guitars and drum beats on standout tracks like ‘BLOODMONEY’ and ‘I Disagree’, however, doesn’t overdo these staples of the genre, and instead contrasts them with an overly cutesy-pop chorus’ and lyrics. It serves as a nice relief from the intensity of her tracks, and though the two genres and starkly different, they work well together, and seem to give a clearer picture of the artist altogether. Overall, the album seems like a re-introduction to the artist, who despite already being an adored figure of the internet, is only just getting started.
Featured Image Credit: Sam McGuire