Listening Post #16

by Alex Brammer

1. The xx – A Violent Noise

This is a wonderful exercise in building momentum. The track starts inauspiciously, like a lost bonus track from 2009’s xx, before flourishing outwards into a vast beat which contrasts perfectly with the melancholic vocal performances. It’s fascinating to listen to, mainly because it has almost perfectly reconciled the sound of the xx’s two previous records with Jamie xx’s far bouncier and more direct In Colour. Some of the whispered, shadowy sound that made the xx so iconic’s been lost, but somehow the tradeoff doesn’t feel like much of a loss.

2. Sampha – (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano

Young Turks have been doing well lately, haven’t they? While the xx were bringing a more maximalist style to their work, Sampha’s stripped everything back since his quasi-legendary feature on Saint Pablo – just a man and his piano (albeit with a murmuring synth beneath it). It’s deeply rooted in childhood memories, and it’s one of the few tracks I’ve written about on Listening Post which feels like a genuine connection. Make time for it as soon as you can.

3. BADBADNOTGOOD – Untitled (Live)

Can we just have a moment of appreciation for Spotify Sessions? Just as we all thought that the live album was dead, there’s been an absolute string of amazing live records laid on by Spotify in a revival move vaguely reminiscent of Netflix’s rebirth of the recorded stand-up special. The live element’s really what makes this unreleased track pop, I reckon – what would usually be a pretty standard BADBADNOTGOOD track instead pops into vibrant life, with the soaring saxophones and manic drums that’ve come to characterise BBNG’s work as of late. Keep an ear out for some shining keys towards the end, plus the announcement of Leland Whitty joining the band right at the end. It’s a throwaway track, but one you’d be foolish to miss.

4. Wiley – Bang (feat. Ghetts)

Wiley’s new record Godfather is a great journey through old-school grime guided by the titular Godfather himself, so it might feel odd that the track I’ve chosen for Listening Post features very little of Wiley himself. But unlike the trap-inflected single Can’t Go Wrong, with this track you actually can’t go wrong; both Ghetts and Wiley bring solid verses to the table, and the beat cheekily recalls Wiley’s own Igloo. It’s a triumphant way to go out.

5. Syd – All About Me

When Syd said that she was moving towards more of a mainstream sound with her solo album, this is not what I was expecting whatsoever. Far from the neo-soul stylings of her work with post-Odd Future band The Internet, this track manages to meld eerie synths which recall her old friend Tyler, The Creator with that particular brand of trap that’s been inexplicably dominating the charts lately (Bad And Boujee, Black Beatles, Panda, on and on ad infinitum). It shouldn’t work in any way, but Syd just drapes herself so confidently across the beat that it’s impossible to dislike.

Listen to the PearShaped Listening Post #16 Playlist below.