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Reycism: The Year in Reyview

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Top Tracks: Glitter, Peppermint, Angels (Above Me), Julian

Major Weaknesses: Repetitive songwriting, Obvious filler tracks

Major Strengths: Consistent production style


Say Lou Lou is a musical duo comprised of twin sisters Miranda and Elektra Kilbey-Jansson, who hail from both Australia and Sweden. The two began releasing musical together in 2012 and put out a number of standalone singles and b-sides before the release of their debut album, Lucid Dreaming, this year. Their music is best described as a mixture of synthpop and dream pop. They intend to release a second studio LP in the second quarter of 2016, though I feel that's not very realistic, since they haven't even put out a single yet.


I discovered Say Lou Lou on the recommendation of a friend, a couple years back, so this album was a long time coming and didn’t disappoint. I listened voraciously to the leaked album sampler, which included demos of Glitter (then titled All That Glitter), Nothing But a Heartbeat and Skylights, as well as a track that didn’t make the album, titled Eclipse. Based on that alone, I knew great things would come out of this album and I’m happy to say it lived up to expectations.


The worst thing about this album is the songwriting. There’s a lot of focus on themes that are sort of ethereal and elemental, which I enjoy, but the concept’s stretched very thin over this album’s duration.  Lots of fire, stars, hearts and lying together, which can be a little much. Beyond that, there are very obvious filler tracks, such as the overblown mess that is Hard For a Man or the eternally dull bonus track, Electrify. Beyond those obvious flaws, there’s a lot of good on this album, though.


That’s chiefly a result of the incredibly heavy layers of production these tracks have. Tracks like Skylights and Wilder Than The Wind have really lush instrumentation and exemplify the unique things that make this album pretty fantastic. Though I’m not a huge fan of some of their experiments (looking at you, Games For Girls), I can at least admit that what they’re working on isn’t really anything that other artists are doing. That's a lot of the reason that this album works as well as it does, despite the obvious flaws.


The best track is undoubtedly Glitter, which is well-written and well-orchestrated, clearly a cut above the rest of the album. Another strong cut is Peppermint, a song whose life began as a b-side to Everything We Touch. This song’s beautiful strings and whispery vocals make for an incredible ballad, the likes of which is unmatched on the album. One of their early singles, Julian, also gains new life in the context of the album. Though I could continue and speak about most of the remaining tracks, I’ll just say that Angels (Above Me) is another clear highlight of the album and its appeal is something I can’t even really put into words.

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Top Tracks: Love Me Sober, Lead Me On (We Are Not In Love)

Major Weaknesses: Generally generic songwriting

Major Strengths: Top notch rock-inflected synthpop production


Laces is the second professional moniker of American singer-songwriter Jessica Charlotte Poland. Previously known as Charlotte Sometimes, Poland competed on Season 2 of the US version of The Voice. She received four chair turns and ended up choosing Blake Shelton as her coach. She was eliminated during the first episode of the Live Rounds. This EP is her first official release as Laces. She is likely to release a second EP in the coming year, followed by a debut album of sorts, though it will technically be her second LP.


I remember really enjoying her as Charlotte Sometimes on The Voice and I did disagree with her elimination, but after looking into her released music, I was a tad turned off. Her music released as Charlotte Sometimes is just not so fantastic. I actually downloaded this EP not realizing that it was Charlotte and immediately enjoyed it. After doing a bit of digging (and buying a special edition directly from her) I realized that it was indeed the same girl from The Voice. That was kinda cool to see her come full circle and start making music that’s worthwhile.


She still has some growing to do as an artist, though. Of these five songs, I only really consider two to be pretty well written. The rest is all the inane pop rock fodder of partying, breaking up and sex. There have been great songs about all three of those things, but I’m hard pressed to call any of these particular tracks great. I guess I’m just expecting a higher standard from someone with a more than half-decent voice. I suppose this really is her first venture as a more serious artist though, so I can’t consider that a massive fault in the scope of her career.


The production on these tracks makes up for the somewhat mediocre songwriting, though. There’s some incredible stuff going on during tracks like Erotic, which has these synth pads which are out of this world and completely unlike anything else I’ve heard before. There’s also a somewhat dream pop taste to a few songs on here, but perhaps nowhere more prominently than the final track, Lead Me One (We Are Not In Love), which hits the listener with a proper wall of sound and wonderful melody.


My top tracks would be the first and last of the bunch. First single Love Me Sober has one of the tightest written choruses I’ve heard this past year, as well as emotional production that’ll hit hard when you’re in the right mood. Then we come to Lead Me On (We Are Not In Love), which has all kinds of awesome instrumentation that I can’t even put names to. There’s guitar, light drums, wood block, synths and possibly even some horns? It’s all layered together with this sort of general glitchiness and a buildup to an incredibly explosive chorus. I could go on and on about how good this song is, but I’ll stop here for the sake of brevity.

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#HuntySUGGESTS: Melting, Rush, Lottery, Know What I Want

#HuntySKIPS: Speed, Ridin' Round


Kali Uchis is unarguably my favorite musical discovery this year (admittedly one that I didn’t find on my own, gotta give credit to @Seanald Trump here), and she’s been getting a lot of traction in my library over the past few months.  Briefly spoken, Kali makes music that blurs the line between progressive and timeless, and really fashionably so. Kali has enlisted several different talented producers to help her orchestrate this album but I personally think it remains very consistent in tone, and that’s mostly because Kali knows exactly what she wants to do with her sound. (<- I hate myself fall3)

Por Vida is an album that dibs and dabs in several different genres, like old school Northern soul, 60’s bubblegum pop, and 90’s R&B, but I think it remains a very contemporary body of work and prides itself in being a great pop record. And for such a short EP, it makes a hell of an impression. Half of this EP comes off as very beachy, sunny, and west coast-influenced, like the uptempo number and earwormy “Rush”, and the reggae-tinged “Know What I Want”. The other half of this EP reflects the soulful and glossy side of Kali’s sound, like the cleverly ascending and descending, woozy slow-jam “Melting” and the retro-sounding saccharine love song “Lottery”. Almost every song here is produced with an extra layer of gloss that makes this EP a perfect summer record (barring, of course, the acapella intro and the two closing tracks). Kali’s vocals are very rich and almost scatty, and it really drives home that whole 60’s glam aesthetic she has going on.

Por Vida also almost has a trip-hop sound running the course of the album, sorta akin to Lana Del Rey’s 2012 record Born To Die. I think it’s safe to say the worst songs on here either stray too far from that sound or gets too lost in those trip hop references. “Ridin Round” and “Loner” clutter themselves with trap beats and they’re both pretty weird diversions from the superior, more fluid and slinky cuts on the record, and “Speed” is almost interminable. But really the worst songs on here aren’t bad by any means and on some good days, outshine the other highlights here. Por Vida in by no means the most inventive body of work I’ve heard, but it surely is one of the most enjoyable records I’ve heard this year, and had she fleshed out her sound a little bit more and made a longer record, Por Vida would’ve definitely charted higher on this list.

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(^ picture in full-resolution, believe me you want to see it xo)

#HuntySUGGESTS: Clearest Blue, Leave A Trace, Make Them Gold, High Enough to Carry You Over, Down Side of Me

#HuntySKIPS: Playing Dead, Empty Threat, Follow You


Prior to the album's release, I’ll admit that I was a bit scared to see where CHVRCHES was gonna go with their sophomore LP, Every Open Eye. All of the pre-release singles they dropped just radiated with boring and saccharine fluff, and I was nervous that the album was going to end up bland and faceless unlike their excellent debut "The Bones Of What You Believe". And yeah, ig it is a lot more fluffy and glossy than "The Bones Of What You Believe", but I don't feel like they compromised much of their experimenting finesse in the end. 

Thankfully, the pre-release singles all ended up fitting in really well in context of the record, most of which are among my personal favorites now. Some of the production this album houses is a lot more gritty and industrial-sounding than most of the songs on The Bones Of What You Believe, like “Never Ending Circles” and “Bury It”, which I enjoy given that they're treading new waters. But a larger bulk of the songs on here stay within in the realm of slick, pop anthems a la break-up banger “Leave A Trace” and make-up banger “Make Them Gold”, and for the most part they’re the more refined, tightly-written, and more earwormy songs on the album. The real centerpiece of the album is obviously “Clearest Blue”, because it's the heaviest of the heavy tracks and the most emotional of the emotional tracks, and it successfully walks the line between the two sounds of the album that it showcases in its 15-song tracklist. In "Clearest Blue", they don’t utilize a tangible chorus nor do they don’t use the standard pop song song structure. In fact, the song’s almost structured like a Skrillex dubstep banger or something, because by the 2/3’s mark of the song the song just explodes, and it’s euphoric and awesome.

In the end, ig I’d be lying if I didn’t say CHVRCHES weren’t victims of the common sophomore slump (kinda like Purity Ring, same situation here). Every track on their debut shined with importance but there are a couple tracks here that are just only good enough to pass muster. But for the many other ways that this album could’ve gone wrong, it doesn’t feel like a bad body of work by any means? They haven’t forsaken their songwriting prowess and they still have the ability to pen catchy, exploding, sing-a-long choruses. Lauren is a more emotive and capable vocalist than ever, and she shines over the glacially slow and desolate ballads like “Down Side Of Me” and “Afterglow”.  And not to mention, the production is more polished and glittering than ever, and Lauren rides these productions effortlessly.  It’s a very solid and homogeneous synthpop record, and it’s for those reasons and more that Every Open Eye is my 5th favorite album of the year. 

Before I conclude this review, I’d like to thank @Andy personally for remaining steadfast in his passionate standom of this band and for stanning them by my side following the release of this record. This record really did wonders to purify his heretical heterosexual Ellie-stanning mongoose soul. <3 I’m also thankful that Martin Doherty learned how to sing because he sounded like a llama last record xo.

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Top Tracks: Bitch, Prime, Hello

Major Weaknesses: Filler heavy for an EP

Major Strengths: Singles are pop perfection


Allie X is the solo act of Canadian singer-songwriter Alexandra Hughes. Though Hughes has been working in the music business since around 2006, the Allie X persona has only existed since 2013, replacing her prior persona, Allie X Andra, which had, itself, replaced an earlier persona, ALX. Prior to ALX, she’d been releasing solo music under the name Allie Hughes, as well as collaborating with a Canadian band called Dwayne Gretzky.


Admittedly, I was pretty excited when I heard that Allie X would finally be releasing something more than a single. I’d been patiently awaiting one since shortly after the release of Prime in 2014. The wait for this was not so satisfying, to say the least. Basically, it was a lot of time spent with her posting stupid pictures on Instagram and “feeling X” about a lot of things in Twitter. Between Prime and the announcement of CollXtion I, we only got Bitch. Though Bitch is fantastic, a whole year of essentially wasted time for a seven track EP is a let down in any sense of the word.


Mostly wasted, because this EP is the definition of fillerific. Literally packed to the gills with tracks made only to fill space. The insistence on the one-word track titles was a stupid decision and one I’d like for her to dispense with for CollXtion II, ideally. Creatively limiting herself like that had a huge impact on the quality of the songwriting. If this EP was meant to be the first taste of Allie’s future career, it makes me somewhat uncertain of what’s to come in the future. An album that’s a majority filler can be excusable. An EP, though? I just don’t know yet, having never experienced it before.


The only real reason I’m sticking around is because there’s promise here and a fair bit of it to boot. The only track with just Allie listed as a writer is interestingly also the best track. The singles (mostly) are fucking incredible pieces of pop mastery. They’re just head and shoulders above anything most other new artists have been releasing in the past few years. If it weren’t for the fact that the singles were as good as they were, I’d be so done with her. 


The best song on the release is without a doubt, Bitch. There’s this kind of strange domestic feel to the lyrics, which are half sung and half screamed, accompanied by this glitchy production, layered with heavy drums and synths. It’s insane and beautiful in a way that you just have to take in with tons of listens. The second best track is second single, Prime. Prime is a more conventional pop song, with a triumphant production style that makes listening an exciting experience. Lastly, we have Hello, a song I struggle to call a highlight because of the fact that Allie removed most of the good bits from the demo when she updated it for inclusion on CollXtion I. It used to be a really visceral track with nice melody and straightforward production. She changed the lyrics a bunch and added a terribly shitty new bridge. Just listen to the demo, honestly.

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Top Tracks: 27 Club, Best Damn Thing, It Ain’t Easy, Johnny Boy

Major Weaknesses: Poor tracklist sequencing

Major Strengths: Unique swamp-hop sound


Ivy Levan is an American singer-songwriter from Arkansas who currently resides in Los Angeles. She previously released music as IV on MySpace before the merger between Virgin and Capitol Records forced her to buy out of her record deal. She signed again with Cherrytree Records in 2012 and released her debut EP, Introducing The Dame in mid 2013. This was followed by a holiday EP titled Frostbitten in late 2014. No Good is her debut studio LP.


I’ve been following Ivy since the Introducing The Dame EP back in 2013. It was really satisfying to see that the fruits of her labor weren’t all for naught over the past couple years. The opening track, The Dame Says, was the first track released from the album and set the stage for a shift in her sound from the more jazz influenced big band pop of the Introducing The Dame to No Good’s blend of ‘60s styles and modern electropop. I’m glad Ivy has shown that she’s not just a one trick pony with this album and I expect more biting pop tunes from her, perhaps as early as 2017.


This album loses some of its replay value in released form due to poor sequencing of the tracklist. There’s a clear line of demarcation where the album switches from swinging fun to somewhat more conventional balladry and doesn’t really merge the two concepts until the album’s final track. The three ballads in a row become a bit of a chore to get through on repeated listens, though two of the three are really good songs in their own right. I just wish there’d been some room to push the ballads up a little further and leave room for the sendoff comprised of the final two tracks to have the necessary weight it deserves. This is one of the very few releases where I was actively bothered by poor organization, in this regard, which tells you how much help it needed.


Though the tracks aren’t correctly sequenced, the album still has a lot of positive attributes. The unique swamp-hop conceit that Ivy has been building up for the past few years really explodes into life with songs like No Good and Biscuit. It’s a very film noir meets bayou kind of thing, with elements of lounge music, all of which tick boxes on my “secret musical pleasures” list, basically making this album a delight to take in. It’s a style that I wish more people would experiment with in earnest, without being afraid of being a little cheesy. There’s too much stuffy and rigidly constructed pop music these days, even without people like [Insert any shitty basic male Youtube singer from the past year] making a bunch of dull acoustic music about their “babies” and “honeys” and whatnot. Ivy Levan took a chance with this record and it paid off.


The best example of this record’s musical fusion is the Diplo produced 27 Club, a song about seizing the bull that is life by the horns and not being afraid to take risks. It’s a song with a fair bit of bombast, accompanied by a warbling backing choir and whistles, but it never seems over the top, which is a tough balance to pull off. Another highlight is the dynamic Best Damn Thing, which feels like a spiritual successor to 27 Club in some ways, as it’s a breakup song, likely inspired by the ideas of moving on presented in 27 Club. The song’s chorus is a punch in the face with finger snaps and biting lyrics from a jilted lover. Another highlight is the rock guitar ballad, Johnny Boy, probably the most tender moment on the EP, in which Ivy finds herself pining for a lost love and allowing her life to kind of go to shit. Soft drums and handclaps provide the finishing touches for the track. Finally, there’s the orchestral flounce of the final track, It Ain’t Easy, in which all the pratfalls and loss of the final section of the album turn into a coherent message: Love isn’t easy.

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Top Tracks: 8896, Falling Short

Major Weaknesses: Not long enough, Needs more vocal variety

Major Strengths: Literally everything other than those two things


Låpsley is the musical identity of 19-year-old British singer-songwriter Holly Lapsley. The Understudy EP is her second official EP release since she began to use the Låpsley monicker, around two years ago. She is due to release her first studio LP some time in 2016. As a fun little extra detail, she’s just three days older than me. Good for her, I guess.


I found this EP about a day after it was released and downloaded it because the cover art intrigued me. Played it twice and though it was generally unique, it didn’t grab me in the way a lot of music during 2014 did. I figured it might be the wrong time of year for music like it, so I let it sit for a month and then gave it another shot. Amazing decision on my part. After ruminating on it for a bit, this became one of my favorites releases of the year.


The only real criticisms I have for this EP are tiny and insignificant. Basically, I just wanted more songs from it, to see how much variety Låpsley can stuff into one release. Obviously that wasn’t the aim of this EP to begin with, but that’s basically the only valid negative thing to say about it. There’s also the fact that there isn’t a lot of vocal variety to be had in this EP, but since I don’t think there’s a boring moment on it, that’d really just me more of an icing on the cake detail.


Beyond that, there’s really only good things to say about Understudy. It’s four tracks long and has some of the best production, songwriting and singing I’ve heard in the past 12 months. Every track feels essential and I think different people would easily be able to say that any track was their personal favorite. Låpsley has established an incredibly strong sense of rhythm, which we see come into play on the tracks 8896 and Falling Short, complimented by the distorted backing vocals, which I presume to be Låpsley’s own voice lowered and filtered. Just listen to this EP and get wowed.


The best track is 8896, a song whose lyrics can be interpreted in a lot of ways. I think it’s sort of a play on freedom in the modern world, emphasizing the unity of technology and humanity in achieving some sort of enlightenment. I really want more people to hear this song, because I think you could learn a lot about someone by their interpretation of it. Another highlight is the first single, Falling Short. The lyrics to this song are similarly veiled in metaphor and mystery. It’s a song about a failing relationship, but it doesn’t make it entirely clear whose fault the failure is. Again, it would say a lot about someone’s personal nature if they tried to interpret complicity of that action.

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1 hour ago, Hunty Bear said:

Before I conclude this review, I’d like to thank @Andy personally for remaining steadfast in his passionate standom of this band and for stanning them by my side following the release of this record. This record really did wonders to purify his heretical heterosexual Ellie-stanning mongoose soul. <3 I’m also thankful that Martin Doherty learned how to sing because he sounded like a llama last record xo.

perjury is illegal!

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