- Anderson .Paak - Bubblin
.Paak is back. 2016’s Splash! Festival saw rising superstar Anderson .Paak perform the unreleased Bubblin, a snippet of a wild yet classy jam. Flash forward to 2018, and the official release is here - and it’s anything but disappointing. While .Paak’s Malibu saw him shift between funk and soul effortlessly, Bubblin is somewhat more like a rap song, with Paak even adopting the infamous triplet flow at one point. The instrumental begins almost like an action soundtrack, with a frantic and electrifying horn and violin section, before a smooth set of sub basses give the track its titular ‘bubbliness’. .Paak, while usually renowned for his slick charm, is fully on his braggadocio here, with lines like “Don’t I look like a million? I’m ‘bout to clean out the safe” establishing the track’s over-the-top extravagance. Oh, and there’s a hilarious video to boot.
2. Jungle - Happy Man
While Anderson .Paak has deviated from his Neo-Soul/Funk roots, the genre still has it’s loyalists. One such is the London collective Jungle, whose latest single Happy Man truly feels like it’s hit the sweet spot. The group know their strengths and play to them; Happy Man contains the blended vocals, slow chord patterns and harmonised ad-libs we’ve come to expect, alongside the always-phenomenal grooves. There’s something about Happy Man, though, that sets it apart from Jungle’s most recent work - the track reinvigorates Jungle’s style with a woozy confidence that was missing from much of their self-titled debut.
3. Parquet Courts - Tenderness
It’s easiest to describe Tenderness in the band’s own words. In an interview with NPR, lead vocalist Andrew Savage described Tenderness as “complimentary” to the album’s first track, Total Football. While Total Football is punk through and through, Tenderness’ piano lines and soft guitars poise it at “the dance end of the spectrum”. Embracing the style’s danceability has proved entirely successful for the band, with Tenderness being at once catchy and thoroughly intriguing. Despite the airy, nostalgic instrumental, Savage’s lyrics are still utterly compelling, painting a picture of the changing world in which we live - “Nothing reminds the mind of power like the cheap odor of plastic Leaking fumes we crave, consume, the rush it feels fantastic / But like power turns to mold, like a junkie going cold / I need the fix of a little tenderness”. This one’s well worth a listen.
4. Death Grips - Black Paint
With many established rock acts desperately trying to hop onto the hip-hop bandwagon (look no further than Fall Out Boy’s rap remix album), it’s interesting to see a rap track that’s done entirely the opposite. Death Grips’ second single for the upcoming Year of the Snitch, Black Paint, is a thoroughly compelling track that fuses the two genres to great effect. Whilst MC Ride’s traditionally abrasive vocals remain, Zach Hill’s explosive production incorporates the heavy drums and guitars that are often absent in hip-hop, creating a unique and passionate merging of Death Grips with a rock aesthetic. Of course, this isn’t the first time Death Grips have incorporated rock into their music, but after the relative accessibility of previous single Streaky, it’s good to see the trio back to experimenting this prolifically.
5. Disclosure, Fatoumata Diawara - Ultimatum
Disclosure’s Caracal brought us some fantastic tracks (Magnets remains a personal favourite), but when compared to 2013’s Settle, the album falls somewhat short. Some tracks were too clunky, others too long, but as a whole the record seemed to lack the energy and passion of its predecessor. Luckily for Disclosure, this isn’t the case for their latest single, Ultimatum. Whilst it falls amongst some of Disclosure’s best, calling Ultimatum a return to form would be dismissive of Disclosure’s shift in direction. Using the restrained, often minimal sounds that they inherited on Caracal, the duo highlight the unique vocals of Fatoumata Diawara, whose refrain adds an undeniable catchiness to the track. While it’s not an explosive floor-filler like Latch or White Noise, Ultimatum inhabits its own lane of success.