Praise be, for Megan Thee Stallion is here with Good News. Her debut album is a bristling assertion of, not just her talent, but her knowledge that she can rap circles around many of her male peers. She opens on “Shots Fired”, calling a man out for his actions (we know it's Tory Lanez but she doesn't deign to mention his name), then takes it from there.
Other albums out this week include K-pop stars BTS with BE, reviewed by my colleague Annabel Nugent, and The Cribs, whose album Night Network isn’t exactly bad, but it’s not very memorable either (in my opinion). Read both reviews here. You can also check out our chief album critic’s take on comedian Tim Minchin’s debut album, here.
Miley Cyrus’s much-hyped collab with Dua Lipa, “Prisoner”, is out. It’s great, very catchy and big on the Eighties influences, but I do wonder whether it borrows too heavily from Olivia Newton John’s “Physical”. Cyrus has already interpolated Stevie Nicks (and collaborated with her on a remix) on “Midnight Sky”, so I’d love to see her do a track that doesn’t remind too strongly of a classic rock song. I guess we’ll have to wait until the release of her new album, Plastic Heart, next week to see if she does take that risk.
Elsewhere, rapper FLOHIO is back with the excellent “Sweet Flaws”, as is Belfast’s Jordan Adetunji, a new favourite, with the aptly titled (and very funky) “Top Notch”. Karl Benjamin, a London-based artist, sounds super chill on the Nineties-influenced “Apricot Sky”. See also: a gorgeous R&B number from New York-based musician ADIV, titled “Blue Gene”.
I love Sin Miedo (del Amory Otros Demonios), the debut Spanish-language project from Kali Uchis – it’s super slinky, quite Portishead in places (especially on “vaya con dios”) – and full of highlights. US artist LP has released a new single, “How Low Can You Go”, and a fantastic accompanying video. Also MARINA (formerly Marina and the Diamonds) is back with “Man’s World”, a typically withering take on the patriarchy.
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Band-wise, I’ve been put on to Hannah’s Little Sister, a slouchy bunch of Liverpool art-rockers, who just released their debut EP EPmp3. There’s a new bunch from Oxford who just signed to Nice Swan (Sports Team, Pip Blom), called Mandrake Handshake – I’ve been charmed by their skittering rhythms, bloopy synths and psychedelic harmonies on new single “Gonkulator”. Babeheaven just released their album, Home For Now, which is excellent. And I’m most enamoured by Just Wondering, a Dublin trio comprised from friends Wale Akande, Jack O’Shaughnessy, and Adam Redmond.
“Drive, is the first tune we all wrote together,” the band explain. “It’s not a personal story, it's very much about this thing that we're sharing and that we want to share with our friends.”
I’ve got two brilliant spotlight artists this week – the rapper Jeshi I was raving about the other week, and singer Pearl Charles.
Let’s start with Jeshi, real name Jesse Greenway. He’s an east London-based artist with a brilliant personality and tons of charisma. His musical upbringing involved his mum’s record collection and the grime station Channel U. He released an EP this year, titled Bad Taste, and recently released a great new single, “Look Like Trouble”. Check out the chat we had, below:
How did you get into music?
On the bus with my schoolfriend, when I was 11. He played me these songs that he and a friend had been making, and I thought, f*** it, why not give this a try too?
One of the things that first struck me about your music is that you’re not trying to sound like rappers who are already big…
Yeah I hate that. I think there’s a massive problem with this thing where people see that something’s working, and they want it really quick, so they copy it. We don’t need 25 artists who sound exactly the same, doing imitations of each other. I want a little window into the person’s soul, to see who they are. I’m impressed more by what a person has to say, and you don’t get that if they’re busy trying to fit into a Spotify algorithm.
What kind of music do you like?
It varies a lot. Sad Night Dynamite, Moodymann…. Do you know what’s the best thing, I have a playlist of songs that I think are 10/10, and that’s got stuff by Radiohead, Massive Attack, Tirzah, Sun Kil Moon... I love songs with lots of detail, things that feel innovative, and where it’s come out a while ago but still blows your mind when you hear it. I’m quite into sad, dark music. Often, I think the best art comes from a place of darkness and pain.
What did you do after you finished school?
I left school then went to college for two years doing music production, but I wasn’t really into it. I was doing s***y jobs in between that, which I think is good character-building. Then I started making my music, and now I’m here.
I’ve been making loads of music over the last year or so. Songs that I’m excited about – I have a playlist of them on iTunes so if someone put a gun to my head I could get the album out. I’m gonna keep putting stuff out and see where it takes me.
Where did your song “Look Like Trouble” come from?
I was sitting in my girlfriend’s mum’s house during lockdown, stuck inside. I think that situation probably contributed to the aggression in the song, but really it’s thinking about being young and feeling a youthful aggression I think a lot of kids deal with, that you deal with as a young man.
*Jeshi’s new single “Look Like Trouble” is out now.
Next up is US singer Pearl Charles, who’s channelling proper Janis Joplin vibes with her approach to classic rock and folk, with some disco and country thrown in for good measure. Her new album, Magic Mirror, is out 15 January. imageCheck her out below:
Hi Pearl, tell me about yourself
I’m a 29-year-old singer/songwriter born and raised in the heart of Hollywood. I’ve been playing music since I was five and have been releasing albums under my own name since 2015. I’m obsessed with music, clothing and films from the Seventies, as well as psychedelic therapy and using hallucinogens to aid and inspire my writing.
What should fans expect from your new album?
Musically it’s a combination of all my favorite classic influences, from country/folk to disco to soft rock. I like to think of it as an album you can get into whether you’re listening closely and focusing on the lyrics for a more emotional, introspective experience, or as the soundtrack to your next road trip or dance party if you’re just looking for a more lighthearted listen. This album is the culmination of all my work up until now. It has elements of my past records, but the songwriting and production are more mature and executed at a higher level than my previous work, just due to my growth as an artist throughout the years.
Did you notice any particular themes emerging while you were writing?
I love the way you asked this question because although I didn’t go into the writing process with any particular themes in mind, those themes eventually emerged and revealed themselves to me. This album definitely has some strong thematic elements throughout, specifically in reference to self-exploration and personal discovery. Many of the songs address the journey I’ve taken to get to know myself and find my place in this world and perhaps beyond. I spent more time digging deeper than I had in the past, analysing my internal feelings, rather than focusing on external events and what was happening to me. In doing so I think I reached new heights not only in my songwriting, but also in my spiritual development.
What do you have lined up (if anything!) for the rest of 2020?
I’ve been lucky enough to be splitting my time between LA and Joshua Tree during the pandemic, so I’ve been working on building up a home studio out there, starting a Wings-inspired side project with my boyfriend Michael Rault and continuing writing for a new album, so hopefully there will be some extra bonus releases in 2021!