Cairo Music Guide - Music reviews in Egypt

Cairo Music

How to Become a Rock Star in Cairo Part Three: Jamming & Practicing
Published On: 26/09/2016

We've talked about how and where to get instruments, and even about where to go and learn how to play those instruments. In the third part of How to Become a Rockstar in Cairo, we'll help put the spotlight on places where musicians can practice and jam; places where they can be as creative as they'd like without waking up the neighbours. Studios offer a sense of professionalism as well as a creative space for anyone who wants to experiment or practice their instruments – and there are a good few of them across the city. Some studios even offer renting studios and equipment if anyone forgot or don't have theirs, as well as professional sound engineers to give advice, record or mix music if required. Studio Wave Offering two rehearsal rooms with audio recording and mixing facilities, the Dokki-based Studio Wave is also a music label – so maybe you'll get lucky and get signed. Check out their Facebook page for more information. Tag'z Music & Art Center Offering a jamming studio in Maadi and a recording one upon request, Tag'z Music & Art Center is ready for anything required of them music wise and ar generally incredibly accommodating. Find out more on Facebook. Vibe Studio Another Dokki based studio, Vibe offers a whopping five rehearsal rooms of different sizes and rental prices. Recording is also an option, while the studio's general reputation stands among the best. Checkout Vibe Studio on Facebook. Live Studio This is one on the higher end of the scale; they have both a recording and a rehearsal options, with high end equipment all-round. Based in Nasr City, the folk at Live Studio certainly know what they're doing and they even have a large amount of video and audio samples on their Facebook page to prove it. ArtMania Center New to the scene, 6th of October City's ArtMania Center at Galleria 40 offers jamming and rehearsal studios for anyone who'd like to hone their skills and find their sound there, with state of the art equipment. Aside from the late-night campfire image you get when you think of 'jamming', the main function of jamming is discovering yourself and your sound. It's the best time to experiment and one of the few options of playing for the sake of playing, so keep experimenting and once you've settled on that sound, your next step is to practice, practice and then practice some more. A good way to go is to start doing covers for already existing songs, just so you can get your foot in the door before putting together original material. The final step is recording a demo that you can send to venues to start getting gigs and play in front of a live audience – which we'll talk more about in part four of How to Become a Rockstar in Cairo. And at the end of the day how cool is it to say I'm going to the studio with my band – right? Happy jamming!

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How to Become a Rock Star in Cairo Part Two: Learning & Mastering Your Instrument
Published On: 28/08/2016

In the first part of How to Become a Rock Star in Cairo, we talked about the different musical instruments available and where to get them. Now that you've picked one, we'll be getting into where you can get lessons and begin to master your instrument. Now before we go into the list, we need to keep some points in check to guide you in the learning process. You will fail – a lot – but that doesn't mean that you should stop; it's true that practice makes perfect and you need learn from your mistakes and motivate yourself to move forward while experimenting with different variations to find the sound you're looking for, while also having fun in the process – which is the most important aspect of it all. Where to Learn: Studio Wave Located in Dokki, Wave offers a range of different options, which from basic beginner classes, to complete packages. Be sure to discuss what might best suit you and keep an eye on their Facebook page for their 'music camp' events. Legat Music Center Offering several lessons and packages for several instruments including piano, guitar, drums and violin, the Heliopolis-located Legat also offers choir, drama etiquette and arts, if you want to unleash your creative side as well. Check them out here. Tag'z Music and Art Center With almost all instruments available to be taught, Tag'z Music and Art Center has it all and consider themselves "a haven from the stress and the depression of the world". Tag'z are a Maadi based family studio that will help you reach your musical potential. Vibe Studio The self-proclaimed first and largest integrated musical complex in Egypt, Vibe Studio in Dokki has a large selection of services and offers quality education in contemporary music. With a huge name to live up to, Vibe Studio is one of the most popular on this list. The Drums Shop The percussion specialist on our list, in addition to selling, renting and repairing, The Drums Shop teaches and breathes drums by this and is the best place for drumming enthusiasts. Gawharet El Fan One of the oldest names on our list, Gawharet El Fan – GEF for short – has been known for their old roots as well as their big collection of musical instruments from both the eastern and western parts of the world. Located in Nasr city they also provide lessons on these instruments as well as events to have fun at. ArtMania Center The latest new addition to the scene, ArtMania Center at Galleria40 in Sheikh Zyed offers music lessons as well as music instruments for sale, with a state-of-the-art studio and equipment, giving them an edge over some smaller-scale places Or Teach Yourself... YouTube is obviously the cheapest and easiest way to get lessons – or video tutorials to be exact. With that in mind, you can still look for alternative channels that make you comfortable when learning your instrument at your own pace. For Guitars: Martyzsongs Marty Schwartz has one of the most famous guitar-teaching channels on YouTube, thanks to the fact that he's easy to understand and repeats himself at different speeds so you can see your progress. His videos range from tutorials to songs, in different styles, which will satisfy any guitaring needs. You can check his old channel too which has 1.5 million subscribers. For Bass: Scott's Bass Lessons The – self-proclaimed – fastest growing and largest online education resource there is, Scott's Bass offer different styles of teaching, with some of the more popular video covering specifics such asor slap techniquesand even improvisation – everything that you'll need to learn the bass is right here. For Drums: Drumeo Considered the biggest drumming lessons channel on YouTube, Drumeo takes everything with a step-by-step process, accompanied with tablature and different speeds, going as far as explaining how each move is taken and why. Their lessons are in the form of a progression or level system and so when one is done, you can't help but get into the next video. Remember, that practice and dedication are the only ways to get better, so start practicing and soon you'll be playing in studios and starting jamming sessions – which is coincidently the subject of the next part of this series. Stay tunes! In part three of How to Become a Rock Star in Cairo, we'll tell you how to get involved in the local music community and showcase your newly found skills. See you next time!

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How to Become a Rock Star in Cairo Part One: Choosing & Buying Your Instrument
Published On: 16/08/2016

The music scene in Egypt is as exciting and versatile as it is unpredictable; Oriental rock, electronic music, indie, heavy metal – you name it, Egypt has it. In the last decade, many local artists have emerged, showing us that making it in the music world involves much more than just having a talent; it's about hard work, perseverance and, importantly, standing out from the crowd. For all of you out there who would like to make it in the music world but don't know the way, in a four part feature, we will guide you through where to get your instrument, where you can learn, where you can jam and finally and where you can perform. First things first, you have to figure out which instrument you'd like to play; will you be rocking on an electric guitar, banging your head with some drums or laying down some sick grooves with a bass? Maybe all you need is a microphone in your hand? We can't really help you with that decision, but there are several things to keep in mind. It's important that, before you buy, you compare prices, check reviews and understand how to judge the quality of the product. Setting yourself a budget will make things easier, and don't be afraid to engage with the music community, through chatting on Facebook groups and watching the countless YouTube videos that are available. Check out these video picks on, guitar, bass, drums and microphones, So, where can I get my insutrument from? Floyd Music store Located in Messaha Square in Dokki, Floyd Music Store has a wide array of musical instruments, from guitars to ouds, and all their affiliated accessories. Check out Floyd Music store right here. Vibe for Developing Arts (Photo: Vibe/Facebook) As one of the largest music complexes in Egypt available to the public, Vibe provides a selection of services from selling, repairing and renting musical equipment, to professional mixing, recording studios and lessons – and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Vibe is located in Mossadak Street in Dokki. Check out their Facebook page right here. The Drum Shop A shop for all your drumming needs, not only does the Drum Shop rents and sells used drums, but they also repairs old drums and offers drums lessons, providing the full package for anyone looking for all things drums-related. Check out the Drum Shop right here. One Roof Store As the first online shop of its kind in Cairo, One Roof is a haven for musicians and one of the best equipment stores. From instruments and accessories, to DJing equipment and recording software, the shop has absolutely everything, making them one of the biggest and best in Egypt. Distingo Music Store (Photo: Distingo/Facebook) With branches on Road 9 in Maadi and 26th of July Street in Zamalek, Distingo is a music shop that offers musical equipment, guitar lessons and a wall of guitars that will make you drool. It's great shop to browse. El Fanny Trading Established in 1979, El Fanny Trading is one of the oldest and most interesting musical instrument showrooms on this list, boasting an impressive selection of pianos, guitars and amplifiers. The El Fanny Trading Facebook page also keeps you posted with international musical instruments expos. Technical Office for Trading (TOFT) Based in Nasr City, TOFT has been around since 1998 and offers a huge variety of instruments on its website to choose from. TOFT is located in Gaffar El Sadek Street, Nasr City. You can also check out their Facebook page here. Gawharet El Fan Music Store Also ocated in Nasr City, Gawharet El Fan has been known for selling the best Middle Eastern musical instruments – including oud and tabla –since 1981, but has since branched out into western instruments, offering a wide range of both. Check out their page here. In the next article we'll dive into where you can learn how to use your instrument and kick start your road to musical fame!

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Mix El Balad: Hassan El Shafei Uses ‘Sounds of Egypt’ in New Song
Published On: 01/08/2016

The name Hassan El Shafei has become synonymous with the kind of audio sugariness that we all crave in the summer. After the April release of Lessa Fi Kaman, which saw El Shaffei recruit singer-songwriter, Shady Ahmed, the man who many consider one of Egypt's quickest rising music stars is back with another summer hit – but one with a twist. El Shaffei is as prolific a producer and composer as he is a performer, but this Pepsi Music Challenge might have been the most out-of-the-box test of his skills yet. Launched in December 2015, Pepsi sent out a call to fans in Egypt to send them the 'sound of their nation', with which El Shafei put together a seamless track that brings together all manner of random sampling – thing everything from a bell on a bike, to a mother tut-ting at her son. The track continues Hassan El Shafei's steam of collaborations with Pepsi as he continues to emerge as one of the most in-demand musicians, not only in Egypt, but across the Middle East. For more information, check out the official Hassan El Shafei Facebook page.

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Watch: Abu Speaks About His Involvement with One of the Catchiest Songs of the Year
Published On: 20/07/2016

With local music coming on leaps and bounds over the last few years, more and more new voices have emerged – one of the most prominent of which has been Abu. Over the last three or so years, the singer-songwriter and guitarist has risen up the ranks of what is an eclectic music scene, thanks in part to his witty lyrics and quirky take on social issues in Egypt. One of the keys to the musician's popularity has been his position in the public eye as a bit of an everyman – there are no gimmicks and no gaudiness about the way he approaches his craft. All he needs a guitar and a mic. It's this intangible element to the cult of Abu that made him a welcome choice for Pepsi to provide the music for their Ramadan 2016 ad – an ad which went viral and had many a listener tapping and whistling away. The partnership was certainly a fitting one, as Abu himself reveals. Considered one of the most exciting indie musicians in the Middle East by many, this exclusive featurette puts Abu under the spotlight, as he reflects on the dramatic career change that he made to follow his passion for music, his involvement with Pepsi this year and even his trademark whistling Pepsi's campaign, using the hashtag #باللمة_نقدر (together we can), aims to tackle a number of issues, with one of the most innovative seeing recycled plastic Pepsi bottles to light homes in Upper Egypt, as well as public areas and playgrounds. The initiative, which is one of the most unique of its kind, has been every bit as effective as it has been viral and the numbers prove as such. The Liter Of Light initiative has lit three Upper Egyptian villages via solar power, while another of Pepsi's initiatives, Tomooh, has supported up to 350,000 Egyptians in education in the last nine years. Meanwhile, over 1 million school children have taken part in the Dawry El Madares football tournaments over thirteen years.

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Win! Tickets to Cairokee’s Gig at the Great Cairo Kidathon!
Published On: 28/04/2016

This May, the folks at Omar Samra's Muricata are hosting a very special day that will see kids from across Cairo flood the streets of Zamalek for an event that sees fitness fun collide – such events and activities do exist, we swear! Said event is the Great Cairo Kidathon – find out more info here – which is set to take place on May 6th. The day will bring together children between the ages of 6 and 14 take for a 2km and 4km run, after which Muricata will be hosting a special family yoga session, as well as arts and crafts and wilderness workshops at El Sawy Culturewheel. With Safi on MC duties for the day, he's not the only big name in attendance, as Egypt's biggest band, Cairokee, will be putting the icing on top of the cake with a special performance and Muricata are giving you the chance to be right there, too... What? Muricata is giving three lucky Cairo 360 readers the chance to win five tickets each to the Cairokee gig! Why? Because it's Cairokee. Come on, guys. Where? El Sawy Culturewheel – still one of the best live music venues in Cairo. How do I get my hands on it? It's easy – just answer this simple question: In which year was the very first marathon held? Now what? Send your answers to freestuff@cairo360.com, with your full name, contact details and 'Muricata & Cairokee Competition' in the subject line. The competition ends at midnight on Wednesday 4rd of May 2016 so hurry up and send your answers in! Terms and Conditions apply.

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12 Local Bands & Musicians that Cairo Needs to Get to Know Better
Published On: 07/03/2016

From indie rock and heavy metal, to jazz and blues, to electronica, the underground music scene in Egypt is as diverse as it has ever been. With more and more artists finding and forming unique voices, music has flourished over the last five years, perhaps partly due to the increasing number of music venues available across Egypt's capital, as well as social media and other websites like SoundCloud, providing a space to get their names – and sounds – out there. Here is a look over some of the best English-language bands, singers and musicians that you need to get to know better. Adam Awad "[…] there's a certain maturity to Awad's coming of age contemplation, which mixes classic 1970s Cat Stevens/Paul Simon-esque songwriting with more modern indie quirks and soaring harmonies. […]," argued Time Out Dubai, about half Egyptian half English singer/songwriter, Adam Awad. With a quirky folk style and unique voice, Awad's music is deeply inspired by Jimi Hendricks and Bob Dylan, with several original songs in his repertoire, including This City is not my Home. Check out Adam Awad's songs right here. BLUFRANK Drawing on a multitude of genres including rock, funk, jazz and neo-psychedelia, BLUFRANK , a music producer and composer, creates some of the most interesting electronic music you'll ever listen to. His videos are just as experimental, but as an audiovisual experience, this is a one of a kind musician.Check out more from BLUFRANK right here. Craft Integrated/Mostafa & Mostafa Founded in 2012 by Mostafa Omar and Mostafa Mohamed, also known as Craft Integrated, is a duo specialising in uplifting, progressive and deep trance music. In spite of being relatively new to the music scene, the band received nods from Markus Schulz, M.I.K.E., Future Sound of Egypt (FSOE), Sean Tyas and many other artists. Check out Craft Integrated right here. HanyMust Front-man of renowned rock band, Egoz, as well as Beatles tribute band, Glass Onion, Hany Mustafa - or HanyMust as he has come to be known, with legend telling of some sort of play on honey-mustard – is one of the most popular artists within the independent music scene. A decade on the scene has proven Must to be an accomplished singer-songwriter whose interest lay in several genres and has one EP under his wing, as well as several singles, not to mention a forthcoming album. Check out more of HanyMust here. Hassan Ramzy A talented singer/songwriter, Hassan Ramzy could well be considered the Egyptian version of Boyce Avenue performing blues, rock, acoustic rock since 2004. While Ramzy is working on his own repertoire of originals, he also loves to cover songs for several artists including Florence and the Machine and Coldplay. Check out Hassan Ramzy right here. Massive Scar Era Formed in 2005 in Alexandria, Massive Scar Era is another popular heavy metal and post hardcore band which rose through the ranks with an all-female line up until it later introduced male musicians. Now standing as one of the most accomplished Egyptian bands, Massive Scar Era have thus far produced three EPs and a single, Abaad Makan, which was featured in the movie Microphone, earning the band further popularity – plus they've opened Dream Theatre. Listen to their music right here. NEOBYRD An eccentric and unique musician who performs with a bird's mask on his face, Wael Alaa-also known as NEOBYRD -is a popular electronic musician who earned massive mainstream success following the release of two songs With You Again and My Sweet Heartless. While some have dismissed his mask-based shenanigans as a gimmick, it certainly isn't to the detriment of his music. Listen to more NEOBYRD here. Omrr An Egyptian artist and composer with an ever-evolving musical style, Omar El Abd –aka Omrr- is an electronic musician and sound artist who likes to experiment with sound, combining micro sounds, noise, glitch and evolving textures. While this kind of approach to music is still relatively new in Egypt, Omrr produces interesting post-processing ambient experimental sounds that you'll never get bored of. Check out his music right here. Portrait Avenue Born in Alexandria, Portrait Avenue is a band that brings unique experimental music to the table. With eight band members-the eighth being their dog, Sparta-Portrait Avenue went from performing at a friend's house in 2008, to winning Battle of the Bands, paving the way for more bands. Listen t them here music. RaSh Radio A unanimously popular artist that was once called a "Home Grown Phenomenon" RaSh Radio is a talented singer/songwriter with a large musical spectrum that includes pop-acoustic, reggae and rock. With several of his original tracks –Irish Coffee, Don't Stop and Friendzoned-frequently played on Cairo's Nile FM 104.2 – not to mention two of his tracks being played in Cannes Film Festival in 2011 – RaSh Radio's music demands a listen. The Chicken Came First An instrumental trio whose "music gets out of hand sometimes," or so they say, The Chicken Came First is a group that creates alternative and post-rock instrumentals as well as ambient indie. The Chicken Came First were well recieved at a performance at Cloud 9 Music Festival and their latest track comes in the form of Context Castle. Listen to their music right here. The Invisible Hands Fusing psychedelic, rock and folk, the Invisible Hands is a band created in 2011 with a debut LP released in 2012 – in both English and Arabic – earning rave reviews. Fronted by Alan Bishop of acclaimed underground American experimental rock band, Sun City Girls, the band's intriguing folk and indie arrangements have proven to be a great change of pace in Egypt's independent music scene. Check out their music here.

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Savages: Adore Life
Published On: 31/01/2016

Ever since the 2012 release of their double a-side single, 'Flying To Berlin/Husbands', Savages have occupied an interesting space in the musical spectrums. With a mixture of old school post-punk and noise rock, they appear to be the perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans. Their frenetic, dark, and sinisterly beautiful style has been receiving rave reviews the world over from critics and fans alike and their latest EP Adore Life is more of the same. This is an album about love, but one would hesitate to call any of the tracks traditional love songs. Instead of falling into classic song writing tropes about how amazing love is, Savages instead approach the subject matter from a much darker perspective. This is an album about the true power of love, nd how that isn't always a good thing. The opening track, 'The Answer', heaves with energy from the get go, telling the story of an almost obsessive infatuation, with frontwoman Jehnny Beth (real name Camille Berthomier) repeating the words "If you don't love me/You don't love anybody" throughout the song just to drive home the fact that love can be a dangerous force. The hectic instrumentation provides a binary opposition to Beth's sweet tones and is the perfect start to the record. That is not to say that Adore Life is unrelenting in its aggression. This album is a mixture of forceful distortion, British post-punk and torch songs, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the song 'Adore'. It's slow, it's bassy, it's reverby (is that even a word?) it's dark, but above all, beautiful. Concluding with a lyrical coda accompanied by a slow crescendo, it sounds like something you would hear in a smoky Paris café at 3AM. Make no mistakes, this is an early contender for one of the best songs of 2016. Even towards the end of the album, they manage to keep the energy up. The penultimate track, 'T.I.W.YG', is almost a sequel to 'The Answer' in terms of style and narrative. The instrumentation provides an organised cacophony to truly drive home the fact that, this is what you get when you mess with love. For what is only a second album, Adore Life shows a surprising maturity from the London-based female foursome. The lyrics are emotive without being contrived, the instrumentation is varied without being schizophrenic and the style is classic without being clichéd. This is more neo-post punk as opposed to post-punk revival and thank god it is, because the last thing we need is another attempt to revive a past genre. Remember the comment about the band being perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans? This album hits the nail on the head, being equal parts a love song to the past and an ode to the fuzzy future.

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The Best 20 Tracks of 2015
Published On: 29/12/2015

As 2015 comes to a close, we can finally take a breather and look back at the year. It's been a real rollercoaster in the realms of politics, identity, art, society and pretty much everything else and more apparent in the world of music than pretty much anywhere else. There has not been a single year in the last twenty where music and the world around it have intertwined so closely. Be it D'Angelo's sudden release of Black Messiah and Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly providing the perfect soundtrack to racial tension in the US, or Kanye West's ability to infiltrate pretty much every facet of popular culture, music has never been more important this generation. With this newfound relevance comes further experimentation, refinement and a whole gamut of new ideas. Be it young upstarts making their first real marks on the industry, or faces from the past returning to the forefront with a stylistic regeneration; be it young kids from London council estates, or international megastars, everyone has something to share with the world. This list started as a top 10, then a top 15, then a top 20. If that doesn't say something, then we don't know what will. With that, let us begin. Blood Orange: 'Sandra's Smile' Formerly known as Lightspeed Champion (how could we forget that ridiculous floppy hair), Dev Hynes has undergone something of a reinvention in recent years with his new project, Blood Orange. Dedicated to Sandra Bland, a black woman who died in police custody in a Texas jail earlier this year, this song is beautiful in its simplicity, with a pounding bass-line and orchestral strings over the chorus. Kanye West: 'All Day' What can one say about Yeezus that has not already been said? It takes a genius to so perfectly bring together the past (Paul McCartney), the present (Yeezy himself) and the future (young vocalist Theophilus London), and put into a raw and aggressive package. Although many thought that the album Yeezus was a slip up for Kanye, 'All Day' proves that he has not lost a step. Kendrick Lamar: 'King Kunta' In a year where race relations are at the forefront and the role of people of colour in modern society is undergoing something of a flux, in comes K.Dot, killing the game all over again, while at the same time bringing some legitimate social commentary to the table. Stormzy: 'Shut Up' This young South East London based grime spitter has been going from strength to strength in the last 12 months, with critically acclaimed single after critically acclaimed single, and even a BET Award. 'Shut Up' is easily one of the best UK grime songs in a very long time and, beyond that, one of the best songs released anywhere in a long time. A flowing account of an urban youth. The Weeknd: 'Can't Feel My Face' Despite winning the award for the most abstract haircut in all of music today, The Weeknd is a man that knows how to craft a delightful pop song and 'Can't Feel My Face' is a pretty clear example of that. With the simple funk-influenced production and lyrics that could either be in reference to a painful love or a brick of cocaine, this is one of the biggest bangers of the year Drake: 'Energy' Remember when we said earlier that Drake is a pimp? After managing to completely and totally maim Meek Mill in their beef earlier this year, Drake decided that he literally doesn't care anymore and decided to send for pretty much everyone in the video for this tune. This is a track that sums up the paranoia and loneliness that comes when you reach the top of the mountain. Courtney Barnett: 'Pedestrian at Best' Channelling Patti Smith, Courtney Love and Bob Dylan, this song oozes a kind of inarticulate angst. With meandering yet poetic and witty lyrics, Miss Barnett manages to perfectly sum up the trappings of being a twenty-something millennial in a world ruined by the prior generations. Hell, it's getting us angry just thinking about it! Grimes: 'Kill v Maim' 2015's Art Angels has been something of a departure from Grimes' earlier ethereal, almost creepy style. Replacing the obscure and droney production with unabashed poppy force, 'Kill V Maim' shows Miss. Boucher's versatility as a producer, singer and artist. With a ridiculously catchy hook and obscure references to Enlightenment-era classical liberalist philosophy, what's not to love? Beach House: 'Sparks' This Baltimore-based dream pop duo have been going from strength to strength as of late, with two album releases in the space of about two months, as well as a critically-acclaimed tour; but the high point of their year has to be the release of 'Sparks'. With all it's droney, shoegazey, ethereal goodness, this is a song that would bring a tear to the eye of any shoegazer. Fetty Wap: 'Trap Queen' One of the year's shockers, this track went from relative Soundcloud obscurity to being one of the biggest songs of the year. A strange synthesis between r&b, trap and more traditional gangster rap, 'Trap Queen' is a love song for the modern age. With one of the catchiest hooks you're likely to hear, it's impossible to not shake something to this song. Joanna Newsom: 'Sapokanikan' For fans of Newsom, the sudden release of this track was an amazing surprise and for those who had never heard of her before, it was a welcome awakening to one of the most unique artists in music today. Drake: 'Hotline Bling' What needs to be said? Look at that goddamn turtle neck. Drake is a certified pimp. Tame Impala: 'The Less I Know the Better' 'The Less I Know the Better' from Aussie band, Tame Impala, is one of the most danceable tracks of the year, but if you listen closely enough to the lyrics, there's a bittersweet element that will make you want to punch Trevor right in the face. Sufjan Stevens: 'John My Beloved' With a nickname like Sad-jan Stevens, you should probably know what to expect, however the melancholic and sparse style of this tune strikes an interesting chord. Kurt Vile: 'Pretty Pimpin' One of the most introspective tracks of the year, former War on Drugs front man, Kurt Vile, sings about losing your identity and the perceived inauthenticity of the alternative rock scene. Deep stuff. Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars: 'Uptown Funk' Mr. Ronson's prolific production provides the perfect background to Bruno Mars channelling the spirits of Michael Jackson and James Brown – which he does to mixed success, but you can't deny how catchy a song this is. Skepta: 'Shutdown' What a year it's been for the UK grime scene and few songs emphasise this like 'Shutdown', one of the biggest UK songs of the year fullstop. Wolf Alice: 'Giant Peach' This initial single from Wolf Alice's debut LP, My Love Is Cool, is a rip-roaring summer anthem built from top to bottom with the kind of youthful vigour that will either inspire you or make you reminisce. Death Grips: 'Billy Not Really' The ever enigmatic Sacramento-based experimental rap crew showcased their seemingly endless and limitless versatility once again, with pretty much the entire song being made up of Bjork samples. Rihanna: 'Bitch Better Have My Money' 'Bad gyal' RiRi leaves us in no doubt that she is still running things, turning the traditionally patriarchal excess of hip-hop on its head and delivering one of the most controversial and talked-about videos of the year.

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Archy Marshall: A New Place 2 Drown
Published On: 26/12/2015

Archy Marshall – better known to some as King Krule – is one of the most exciting young artists in the world today. His debut LP, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, found its way to the top of many album of the year lists in 2013, combining simple lo-fi guitar-based production with lyrics concerning anxiety, mental illness and isolation amongst other things. Taking a step back from the King Krule persona, so to speak, Mr. Marshall has decided to release this album under his real name. Is this divergence a sign of maturation or evolution? Or will it turn out to be a failed experiment? The opening track, 'Any God of Yours', drones into life, bringing some trap-style drum beats along with it. This is by all means an ambient opener, setting the tone for the rest of the album with light vocal accents there to bring the human aspect back to the forefront, but still brings some complexity with light buzzy synth lines that would not sound out of place on an Aphex Twin record. The following track, 'Swell', brings what appear to be disparate themes and styles together into what ends up being quite a disturbing beauty. The vocals have a vague shoegazey tinge, fading in and out of the nu-soul instrumentation, all underlined with a solid spine of more of that trappy drum magic. All of this is underscored with lyrics that are difficult to understand, but what you can glean is emotional and raw, with lines like "F*ck my mental health" giving a rare insight into the mind of a young tortured genius. The album as a whole is in fact a collaborative project by Archy and his brother Jack, with the physical album containing a book of poetry and art created by the Marshall brothers and the album itself containing references to the brotherly collaboration, with track titles like 'Arise Dear Brother'. The narrative of the album itself is, by design, rather murky and difficult to understand, but it appears to concern itself with a dysfunctional yet passionate relationship and nowhere is this clearer than the aforementioned Arise Dear Brother. The slightly out of time, almost fractured production adds an discomforting yet slightly familiar element, almost as if there is a drug-fueled element to the ostensibly 'romantic' relationship on display. This LP is one of the clearest examples of how broad Marshall's influences are and the effect they have on his style. The deep cut track, 'Sex with Nobody', is the clearest example of this. The pitch-shifted vocals recall a UK garage vibe, with the sharp breakbeat style drums adding a light IDM vibe and the spoken-word style vocal delivery reminiscent of punk-poets like John Cooper Clarke. This multifarious style shows a maturity well beyond Marshall's 21 years. This continues once again on the track, 'The Sea Liner MK1', this time adding a funk style sample and ending with big bassy 2-Step tones as the track fades out. The album ends with the 7-minute long, 'Thames Water', featuring King Krule. That's right, it's literally Archy Marshall featuring Archy Marshall. Considering the fact that Archy Marshall and King Krule are two quite distinct acts, it actually is a quite powerful statement. The vocal delivery is less muddled and faded, and more in keeping with Marshall's earlier output. It would also be a disservice to the rest of the album not to touch on the theme of mental illness present throughout, and this act of disassociating the two identities is rather incredible. Far too often when an act tries something different to what got them to the table, it can end rather badly. If it goes well, they run the risk of alienating fans of the earlier style and if it goes badly, it can often mean career suicide. It's a testament to the tremendous ability of Marshall that not only did it go well, it has ended with what may in fact be the best album of the year. Very few people have managed to make electronic production feel this personal. 

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