Exams Period Playlist Reviews

1 Lone - Aurora North Quarter By way of shimmering pads and celestial twinkles, the introduction casually misleads the listener in what later reveals itself as an unexpected opening in contrast to the rest of the song. Strong piano house chords come thumping in with some sub-bass to accompany, but the piano is then restrained within a filter to, by the end, gradually revert to the tranquillity achieved at the start, aided by a padded texture and a melody that spirals wistfully downwards. An extra dusting of twinkling bell sounds return to cap a magical vibe. Geoffrey Chang

2 Jamie xx – Girl Jamie Smith has released a slew of more bedroom-friendly dance tracks, but ‘Girl’ exhibits the more poppy side to his work. In truth, Smith has proved himself to be one of the more accessible talented young producers while still skirt the boundaries of underground music. Out on Young Turks, ‘Girl’ provides the foil to the popular ‘Sleep Sound’ on a special double A-side. It begins with a vocal snippet that alludes to an attractive female in East London, a vocal that incidentally never returns. From there, the song expands and rolls nostalgically, perhaps searching for this cited ‘girl’, with a flurry of pitched up siren-like vocals underpinned by a muscular strummed bassline to give an amorous tone to the whole track. GC

3 Tuff Love – Flamingo Despite having had so much attention over the past few months, having been snapped up by Lost Map, this is the band’s first official single, and the first from their debut EP Junk; recorded in bassist Suse’s flat, pressed on crisp-white 10-inch and launched last week at The Old Hairdressers in Glasgow. In the most simplest of terms, Tuff Love make pure pop-rock. If you’re looking for a slightly softer Speedy Ortiz, then this is exactly that. Charles Thomas Lang

4 Baths - Ocean Depth Baths’ last album, Obsidian, was incredibly dark and matched lyrics contemplating mortality with gorgeous acoustic arrangements and delicate electronics. Ocean Death, from his new EP of the same name, is a continuation of the sounds found on his last album but is still breathtakingly beautiful and sounds outstandingly fresh nevertheless. It features lots of gorgeous vocal harmonies, shimmering synths and propelling yet skittery beat. Baths yet again is able to flawlessly pair together darkness and beauty. Patrick Cartlidge

5 Spooky Black - Without You Latest rap-meme sensation Spooky Black ambled out of St. Paul, Minnesota - more usually renowned for its beloved punk titans Husker Du and The Replacements - and onto the front page of Complex with the video to ‘Without You’, which sees the skinny teenager rocking an icy chain and wave cap combo. Initial Yung Lean comparisons have proven entirely superficial, however, as this sounds far more like a James Blake and Purity Ring collab with its seriously haunting vocals and nice Screw-inflected instrumental. Emmett Cruddas

6 Jack White - High Ball Stepper This fun, creative and characteristically classically-minded instrumental from blues-rock behemoth Jack White sees him covering familiar ground with monolithic riffs and some goofy sound effects, serving to get the world excited for second solo LP (and dopest vinyl release ever) Lazaretto. White does a lot of impressive playing with texture here, from the sufficiently exploratory and erratic guitar solo to the ghostly howls on the wordless chorus, while the rest of the album will surely see him flex his lyrical muscles a bit more on what is sure to be one of the biggest releases of the summer. EC

7 Future feat. Andre 3000 - Benz Friendz (Watchutola) This excellent new collaboration seems to have taken a lot of people by surprise, with many fans suddenly being reminded that Outkast and Future are in fact both long-time members of the same Atlanta music collective, the Dungeon Family. The more left-field funk and soul orientation of this collective actually gives us a clue as to the origins of Future’s ubiquitous, and often slightly deranged melodic hooks (‘chopping bricks like karate’ etc) that have been gracing rap radio over the last few years. This new anti gold digger cut could easily be a track from a new Outkast album, which is not really surprising as the fantastic, but fairly simple beat –including a looped choral chant that made me think of gospel choirs from the southern states- is produced by ‘Mr. DJ’ who used to be the, err…DJ for Outkast. Three Stacks is in fine form, with bitterness towards potential gold-diggers (Fly on a ___ back while he Superman/But if I’m in a wheelchair, you still there?) and throwing scorn on the opportunistic behaviour of large companies towards hip-hop artists (“And I might not never buy a new car again, if I can help it, Coz if I buy one, they gon’ sell ten, then what I’m left with?”). Andre 3000’s presence brings out the best in Future, who delivers an impressive rat-a-tat flow and tells his new wife Ciara, that he wants to have a “heart-to-heart, drink wine, make art”. Charles Gillies

8 Bastard Mountain - Meadow Ghosts ‘Meadow Ghosts’ is the opening track from Edinburgh’s latest supergroup Bastard Mountain’s (partially) self-titled record. The gorgeously arranged strings, largely improvised, fit perfectly underneath a tender and foreboding duet between Meursault’s Neil Pennycook and Sparrow and the Workshop’s Jill O’Sullivan that sets a dark, familiar and spellbinding tone for Farewell, Bastard Mountain. Rob St John brings forth his characteristic masterfully-executed drones, while other members of Meursault (Pete Harvey, Ruben Taylor) and Broken Records (Rory Sutherland) complete this brilliant project, making for one of 2014’s most stunningly natural and evocative records. EC

9 Antlers – Palace June 16th will be a significant date this year not just for James Joyce fans but also lovers of epic, funereal indie rock as Brooklyn’s beloved miserablists The Antlers release their third LP Familiars on Transgressive. Our first taste of the record is ‘Palace’, a particularly stirring and chilling piece of chamber-rock as remarkable for its enchanting and bold horn arrangements as it is for Peter Silberman’s trademark chilling vocals. While ‘Palace’ doesn’t suggest the same punishing darkness of Hospice, it certainly points towards another fulfilling and dramatic LP from the Antlers, a band unique for their masterful evocation of both intimacy and grandeur. EC

10 Modern Baseball - Broken Cash Machine Taken from the Philadelphia pop punk band’s wonderful second LP You’re Gonna Miss It All, ‘Broken Cash Machine’ is an inspired and lovable piece of earnest emo rock. Jake Ewald’s sardonic vocals might take a bit of getting used to, especially if you havent dug out those old Blink-182 tapes recently, but the Jarvis Cocker-esque wit permeating the decidedly angst-ridden songwriter’s deconstruction of a Friday night will certainly make an impression on any listener before the brief track’s all-too-abrupt end. EC

11 Kele - Candy Flip Kele shows off his beat making skills, knowing full well that less is often so much more in tracks made for the dancefloor whose creativity is often curtailed for that very reason. Yet, Candy Flip remains hugely effective as the snarling bassline bounces around with little room to manoeuvre in the sort of riff we are biologically conditioned to lock into. DJs should be selective when dropping this bomb, for it is likely to induce a frenzy in the early hours at a rave. Alternatively, playing it at a house party with a load of Bloc Party fans wouldn’t fare very well for lack of meaningful lyrics. But of course, the clue is in the name. GC

12 Yung Lean – motorola If you don’t understand why Yung Lean is awesome, you don’t understand the internet and that ITS FUCKING 2014. My friend went to see the sad boyz and said it was the rowdiest show he’s ever been to. Rodin designed the wardrobe. After party was in Stockholm. ALL the girls were wearing black beanies. Sip lean and AriZona. Ross Devlin

13 Drake - Days in the East This new cut from Drizzy is yet another in a long line of very impressive tracks that somehow didn’t manage to find their way onto an album. ‘Days in the East’ is an intimate and slow-burning love song with a minimalist instrumental filled with swirling synths, and a completely beatless second half. Allegedly devoted to his new girlfriend Rihanna, Drake quips “I’m terrible at inviting myself, call me over”. Erykah Badu even makes a surprise appearance in the second half (not literally) bestowing some guidance on the mysteries of love, “She said when that shit is real you just know, And I was thinking about ‘you already know”. CG

14 S Carey - Crown The Pines In what is a rapid departure from S. Carey’s debut album All We Grow’s ethereal and almost esoteric landscapes of sound, the title track of his newest album offers something different. The influence from S. Carey’s Bon Iver bandmate Justin Vernon is obvious from the start, with the track having a more polished sound, helped along by some typically haunting backing vocals from Vernon himself. The track is an evocative, nostalgia-filled soundscape, its upbeat tempo helped along by clever (if not radical) use of the string section of Carey’s cupboard and his clear prowess with percussion and piano. While it is unmistakeably Carey’s track, Vernon’s cameo does overshadow Carey in parts, a shame for what is a subtlety impressive piece of music. Conor Matchett

15 Beach Slang - Filthy Luck Beach Slang cares a lot more than their smoke-a-bowl-and-instagram-your-cat-suggestive name would have you believe. The lead track from Pennsylvaina punk mainstays Weston’s side project’s debut EP Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken? Is pretty irresistible. Figuring some gorgeous Cure-esque melodies over a perfect bed of nostalgia-punk, the likes of which Superchunk have been reliably putting down since the late 80s, ‘Filthy Luck’ could be the soundtrack to your Summer if you dont have any hangups about the Westerberg-aping delivery. EC

16 Tala – Serbia Taken from the Duchess EP, Tala puts down a remarkable debut single demonstrating her skills as a vocalist and producer. Despite a kinda post-rocky introduction, the body of the song is an exuberant, confident and catchy SOPHIE-esque future-R&B jam complete with wavey synth sounds and impressive manipulation of a pretty threadbare vocal sample. The debut EP is out on June 3rd on Aesop. EC

17 Wye Oak – Glory Embracing an all-out pop direction for the lead single from fourth LP Shriek has worked wonders for the Baltimore-based duo, usually more predisposed to folksy stylings. Jenn Wasner’s songwriting has grown a lot more focused and subtle since 2011’s wonderful Civilian, with some tasteful synth arrangements and funky percussion complimenting the already pretty hard-to-hate melody nicely. EC

18 Lazy Day - With My Mind When I first stumbled across Hella Better Dancer’s lead vocalist Tilly Scantlebury’s solo project Lazy Day a few months back, I came across a collection of intimate and emotive, lo-fi bedroom records that showed that the beautiful home-recorded ‘Living Room’ from Hella Better Dancer was not just a one off. Her vocal and lyrical strengths shine through every song and in ‘With My Mind’, Scantlebury’s vocals, almost seductive in their depth and harmony along with a simple yet brutally effective guitar melody create an effortlessly gorgeous Indie gem. CM


20 Randolphs Leap – Microcosm The chirpiest, and undoubtedly most catchy, song on their flawless debut, Clumsy Knot (the first abum to be released on Johnny Lynch’s newly –established Lost Map). I find it hard to convey how good this is. When it comes to songwriting, Adam Ross is one of Scotland’s finest. Do your ears a favour and give it a listen.. CTL

21 Girl Talk X Freeway - Tolerated (feat. Waka Flocka Flame) This cut from Broken Ankles, the incredible collaboration between Girl Talk and Freeway, is a hard-hitting but somewhat nostalgic piece of hip-hop greatness. Although Girl Talk is infamous for his rapid fire mash-up style, he shows a lot more focus and restraint in this track. The beat seems to have come straight from the early 2000s and has an obvious debt to Just Blaze and Kanye West. Freeway spits some incredibly goofy but raucously fun lines and Waka Flocka turns up for an incredibly violent yet hilarious over-the-top verse. It’s one of many great tracks from a fantastic mixtape that is far too short and has left everyone wanting more. Definitely download all of BROKEN ANKLES if you dig this and check out the music video! PC

22 Yung Sherman and White Armor – Feelings Swedish cloud-rap squad du jour Sadboys get their second showing of the week with ‘Feelings’, a co-production from two of the most talented artists in the collective that was used as the exit music to the recent White Marble Tour. In turns club-ready and abstract, ‘Feelings’ is a nicely ever-shifting piece of reverb-drenched synth pop, with exuberant snares that wouldn’t sound out of place on a LuckyMe comp, showcasing that there’s far more to Sad Boys than some lines about N64 games and a really dope t-shirt. EC

23 Boris – Quicksilver Boris are one of the most consistently interesting and experimental bands out there. The only thing that ties all their releases together is a love of electric guitars and high volume. Quicksilver is a cut from new album Noise which Boris describe as an album for first-time listeners to the band. This track is a return to their metal style and displays a significant black metal influence. The lo-fi production, the screamed vocals and the intense propelling drumming are some of the hallmarks of that genre that are displayed here. It wouldn’t be Boris song though without heavy-as-hell riffs and face-melting solos though and those are delivered in spades in this track. This song captures what many love about Boris, a spectacularly fun song but still an abrasive and challenging listen at the same time. PC

24 Perfect Pussy - Candy’s Room This immersive cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town cut starts off as the most straightforward thing the Syracuse-based hardcore outfit have done: you can hear Meredith Graves’ vocals and everything! However with Perfect Pussy, nothing is as it seems, as the band who released a (largely brilliant) 25 minute long debut album with a 5 minute hole in the middle of it aren’t afraid of New Jersey-based accusations of blasphemy, letting the Boss’ pretty unfuckwithable songwriting get enveloped by a cavalcade of feedback loops, each more gnarly than the last, before letting the track collapse into a pretty weird and imaginative outro. Very interesting cover from a consistently-thought provoking band. EC

25 Quirke - Break a Mirrored Leg Recipe for a good night: roll around in the grass until your body is covered in tiny cuts. Soak them in morphine. Go out to Cowgate and lie on the concrete and feel the rain and the grit and the sweat of the underground city. Now chop that shit up in Ableton and serve it with wasabi. RD

26 Palace - Touch Me The East London-based house producer’s first EP on label-of-the-minute Unknown to the Unknown is headed up with this title track, starting off with a classically-minded drum sample as a pretty non-descript house #banger complete with interestingly-textured keyboards and some sinister/hypnotic whispered vocals. Some pretty defiant chops after the one minute mark and a nicely dynamic structure make for one of the more adept and club-ready Hype Machine fixtures of the Summer ahead. EC

27 Ben Frost – Nolan ‘Nolan’ is the second released song from the upcoming Ben Frost album, A U R O R A. Fans of Tim Hecker be very excited, Frost has shown his expertise in noise and drone with 2009’s By The Throat but until now he has not followed it up. The song starts off with a cacophony of electronics and only gets louder from there with some fantastic percussion and bells from Swans member Thor Harris. Despite it’s volume, there is still a very melodic nature to this track. Even during the harshest and most abrasive moments the faintest tune persists throughout the song as if fighting against the intense static and booming drums that try to envelop it. Towards the end the song even becomes danceable! This is a fantastic release overall and I’m hugely anticipating this release. PC

28 Tobacco - Father Sister Berzerker Tobacco bring his weird gameboy-synth saw wave fetish to a candy-coated climax on this new track, which I listened to when I stormed Robot Unicorn Castle, automatic weapons like it ain’t nothin. RD

30 Porter Robinson - Sea of Voices This is quite different from the 128 BPM house tunes that first drew attention to Porter Robinson, but that’s certainly not a bad thing. Opening with ethereal ambience, it grows gradually and eventually erupts into cathartic euphoria. If are getting tired of listening to Jamie xx’s ‘Sleep Sound’ before bed, you should give this a try: you will have beautiful dreams. CTL

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