Frank Ocean: Blonde
Futura Free. Emotive and eloquent, Blonde was one of the year's most highly anticipated and significant releases.   Words: Lois Browne
Rihanna: ANTI
welcomed by doting fans, it opened Rihanna up to a whole new audience and showed another side of the pop songstresses' repertoire.   Words: Lois Browne
Women of Shuf
March 8th is International Women's Day. We're celebrating by showcasing the talent of our female writers who make the site function. Lois Browne "Heavy Flow essentially pieces together Skinny Girl Diet’s political musings, personal grievances and feminist commentaries. Still unsigned, the group’s debut release is an impressive unapologetic piece of work that honestly and directly challenges the structures of contemporary society." Lydia Entwistle "Crafted with such astute and discerning intention, Solange’s album should be celebrated not only for its soulful musical artistry, but its thematic richness and emotional generosity." Arnaz Marker "Always speaking frankly and honestly, Ray is really the perfect example, proving that young British artists are successfully breaking the underground music scene with their creativity, passion and perseverance." Kelly Raymond "Exhibiting their obsessive and perfectionist stance, every track reveals numerous layers of sounds, synths and beats. However, through the seemingly chaotic arrangement, there is still a beautiful simplicity, a speciality Juju & Jordash do so well." Josie Roberts
Peaches: Rub
platform to question and challenge the norms that permeate our society. Words: Lois Browne
Young Fathers: White Men Are Black Men Too
On immediate listen to the Scottish trio’s new LP, it is clear that Young Fathers have adopted a far brighter and more positive viewpoint on this record. Something which is instantly obvious with album opener ‘Still Running’, as overlapped verses are underlaid by twinkling keyboards and the undeniably affirmative repetition of “still running” radiates pure optimism. After eight minutes, you’re convinced Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and ‘G’ Hastings have left their murky undertones behind. Notoriously difficult to pigeon-hole Young Fathers, venture through a variety of genres and sounds on White Men Are Black Men Too; ranging from the blues gospel featured on ‘Rain Or Shine’ to the realms of Motown which are distinctive on ‘Nest’ - a joyous upbeat number with smooth R’n’B melodies. ‘John Doe’ and ‘Get Started’ offer up a distorted style of the old school tainted with cackles of laughter, husky rap bars and off-key piano playing. This cocktail of sounds and genres prove that Young Fathers are more than just a alt-hip hop outfit and more than your standard hard-to-define broadsheet sweethearts. White Men Are Black Men Too is an album which chronicles the dark, as much as it does the light. The title draws attention to the ideas we have about race. Question that are played out explicitly on ’Old Rock N Roll’- “I’m tired of wearing this hallmark for some evils which happened way back”/ “I’m tired of blaming the white man, his indiscretions will betray him”. The powerful lyricism and vocal convulsions, evokes an exorcism of all these controversial unsaid thoughts, as poignant yelps reminiscent of Otis Redding ring out. Meanwhile, ‘Dare Me’ exhibits what Young Fathers do best. Displaying the group’s skilful harmonisation as a unit and their ability to switch into brash twisted rap, from plaintive hymnal sections. They still manage to showcase the raw freshness of Mercury-winning DEAD. In addition, the composition of this standout track also echoes the disillusionment of young people in the UK whose views are hampered by a distant ruling class. This feeling of being silenced is brought to life when the final word of the track is sliced off. White Men Are Black Men Too is a thought-provoking follow-up which allows plenty of room for discussion and debate. As the album title suggests, Young Fathers are charged by the topics at hand but they aren’t presenting a finished manifesto. Pushing their creative boundaries and taking some large strides forward on this LP. This is them opening the conversation- more of a call for a forum than the establishment of a new world order. Words: Lois Browne
SBRTKT: Wonder Where We Land
Young Turks has always been a pioneering record label, bringing innovative music to the masses through artists such as The xx, Holy Fuck and Koreless. The musical project of Aaron Jerome is the latest release from the label and in short, SBTRKT is electronic music for the more discerning, offering listeners an engaging and feature-heavy alternative to the current EDM landscape. Wonder Where We Land brings us to the next chapter and is a solid continuation from where their self-titled debut left off. The album hosts a mellow RnB ethos; courtesy of previous collaborators Sampha (who appears on numerous tracks throughout the record) and Jessie Ware on ‘Problem Solved’ where her vocals perfectly compliment the subtle and upbeat nature of the song. The album also introduces upcoming talents in the form of Denai Moore (‘The Light’) and Raury (‘Higher’), both of whom provide a moody undercurrent with blunt lyricism and hip hop inflections. This is placed against a backdrop of anodic beats, varying gradients of synthesisers, digital effects and washed out keyboards interweaved with SBTRKT’s distinctive intergalactic resonance. A necessary attribute to the success of this LP is the earnest temperament of Sampha’s voice. Not only does it flow with lucidity and intelligibility, but it showcases absolute sincerity - an openness which is masterfully demonstrated on ‘Temporary View’ as he pleads “won’t you help me” and ‘Gon’ Stay’. The standout track comes in the form of ‘NEW DORP NEW YORK’, a heady mix of thumping bass line, funk, and a sprinkling of samba-infused rhythms contrasted effectively with Ezra Koenig’s nonchalant singing. Hosting intricate production and a distinctly jocular way with words, this track is not only an album highlight but may be one of the strongest tracks of 2014. Wonder Where We Land is an indisputably strong record. Whilst there are moments on the album which are defined by minimal production such as ‘If It Happens’, this demonstrates that SBTRKT is able to produce solid songs regardless of the materials involved. The crisp production and ambient atmosphere SBTRKT has explored on album number two is an accomplishment to be proud of. Words: Lois Browne
The xx: I See You
It’s been a long time coming, five years in fact, but Oliver Sim, Romy Madley Croft and Jamie Smith are back to continue breaking hearts with I See You, The xx's third studio album released via XL Records’ imprint Young Turks. Although their serene electro sound is still prevalent, in comparison with xx (2009) and Coexist (2012), the 10 tracks feel imbued with a new sense of poise and sonic attack. As signified by record opener Dangerous, the trio's lyrics are as telling and direct as ever, “So I won’t shy away, should it all fall down you’ll have been my favourite mistake.” Their words detail their personal growth from past experiences, and the realisation that relationships romantic or platonic are complex entities, as further dissected by tracks such as Performance and On Hold. On listening to I See You, it’s difficult to ignore the impact of Smith’s solo work In Colour (2015). The invigorated production seeps through on numerous tracks as layered chilled house rhythms and burgeoning instrumentals intersect with stripped down hip-hop beats, tightening the record at the seams. The album's lyrical content is equally as strong; lines from Say Something Loving, (“I went looking for it, could have been anyone’s kiss, throwing my arms at no one, when I gave up I found love”) and I Dare You, (“I’m in love with it, intoxicated, I’m enraptured, from the inside I feel that you want to"), could have been directly pulled from the diary entries or conscious thought cycles of Sim and Croft. Devoid of metaphor, it is this honesty which makes them instantly relatable and is a fundamental attribute to the accomplishment not only of this record but also to The xx as a band. Distinctive, composed and meticulously crafted I See You is already a foreseeable contender for one of the top albums of the year. A record that will have you playing it on repeat, it's time to get infatuated with the trio all over again.   Words: Lois Browne
Solange: A Seat At The Table
Given the socio-political landscape of our current times, Solange's A Seat At The Table is an album of incredible pertinence. Whilst the Black Lives Matter movement highlights the unequal treatment of black people worldwide, the current rise in racially aggravated attacks suggests that humanity is regressing in certainly more ways than one. Independently released via her own label Saint Records, Solange's third studio album is an ode to her heritage, a letter of empowerment, and a critical observation of her experiences as a black woman in a country where the potential for Donald Trump to become president is a reality. A Seat At The Table takes you on a trip from the conscious, through the subconscious and to the unsaid thoughts. The translucent Rise elegantly introduces us to the first chapter of this sonic journey, as inflections of pianos and gentle drumming flourishes meld together as one entity against Solange’s mellifluous tone. Weary is assertive yet laced with fragility, a feeling that seeps into the mellow dulcet vibes of Cranes In The Sky before progressing through to a brighter stage of self-acceptance. Throughout Solange addresses the racial microaggressions inflicted upon black communities. F.U.B.U tackles the various examples of discrimination that one can face on a daily basis, whilst Don’t Touch My Hair is unrepentantly direct about the personal invasion of space, “They don’t understand what it means to me/ This hair is my shit.” Interludes feature as poignant moments, with Solange utilising each one to acknowledge the past, present and future of black liberation. Interlude: Dad Was Mad discusses the racial segregation of the 60s, Interlude: This Moment explores the racial inequalities of capitalist systems whilst Interlude: No Limits converses about succeeding no matter what barriers may exist. A Seat At The Table is musically a sophisticated and powerful piece of work, infused with stripped back R&B beats and 80s electro. Lyrically unapologetic and emotive, Solange creates a space for debates surrounding themes of race and identity, issues which have often been and are still silenced in today's world. It is a testament to prosperity of the social kind and an invitation to everyone who wants to listen.   Words: Lois Browne
Skinny Girl Diet: Heavy Flow
Skinny Girl Diet’s album cover provides a blatant “screw you and get over it” statement. Delilah Holliday (Guitars and Vocals), Ursula Holliday (Drums and Vocals) and Amelia Cutler (Bass and Vocals) appear on the cover as glamorous vixens, unashamedly sporting red blood stains on their all-white outfits. Immediately addressing the taboos of female sexuality, the group highlight their no-holds-barred attitude which is instilled throughout Heavy Flow. Combining works from their previous EPs, Skinny Girl Diet, Girl Gang State of Mind and Reclaim Your Life, and with the addition of a couple of new extras, Skinny Girl Diet’s full-length debut is the perfect introduction for those unfamiliar with the trio’s work. Featuring clanging percussion, frantic strings, sullied riffs and the odd deranged scream thrown in for good measure, Heavy Flow encapsulates a genuine punk ethos and sound. In Yeti, growling vocals and whirring instrumentals build to a frenzy, creating a hazy, crackly resonance which is reminiscent of groups such as Black Flag and Dead Kennedys. Okay takes the album to grungier depths, before hoarse harmonies, playful musicianship and a lo-fi fuzz make up Lazy Eye, an unconventional ode to an admirer. Layered over Heavy Flow’s relentless instrumentals, Skinny Girl Diet’s lyrics are rebellious and powerful. Drawing attention to the group’s political core, Silver Spoons addresses the ideologies of power and privilege in the distorted state system, “Police corruption causing no government disruption.” In the current climate of racial politics and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement both in the US and here in the UK, Skinny Girl Diet’s lyricism is incredibly pertinent. Pretty Song is equally as effective, echoing “riot grrrl” wit to challenge stereotypical notions of femininity. Heavy Flow essentially pieces together Skinny Girl Diet’s political musings, personal grievances and feminist commentaries. Still unsigned, the group’s debut release is an impressive unapologetic piece of work that honestly and directly challenges the structures of contemporary society. Though many people may think of punk as a genre of old, Skinny Girl Diet proves it’s still very much alive.   Words: Lois Browne
Alt J: This Is All Yours
provides fans with a comfortable listen. Maybe Albarn had a valid point after all? Words: Lois Browne
2018 In Preview
Following on from our round-up of 2017, Shuf looks ahead to the new year at what lies on the musical horizon. Featuring a selection of promising new artists, exciting upcoming releases and the revival of a certain genre, check out some of our hopes and predictions for the next twelve months. Houghton 2018 As the buzz around Craig Richard’s brand-new festival reached fever pitch in August last year, one promise of the weekend overshadowed the rest: twenty-four hour music. Houghton was a breath of fresh air, an antidote for a UK festival scene becoming increasingly afflicted by strict licensing laws. Priding itself on the fluidity of its programming, an all-encompassing range of DJs and artists played numerous sets across the weekend, delighting crowds with spontaneous b2bs or extended, engrossing sets. How strangely comforting it was to fall asleep within earshot of Ricardo Villalobos’ marathon duologue with the Houghton head honcho, only to awake hours later to the sounds of its elated 11am conclusion. If 2018 continues on with the very same formula against the gorgeous backdrop of its woodland lake epicentre, it’ll be another unmissable edition for this year's festival calendar. Words: Josie Roberts Nilüfer Yanya The unknown can uncover the good, the bad and certainly sometimes the ugly. However, always one to take risks with my odd musical purchases, I picked up Yanya’s latest EP Plant Feed from the November’s 2017 Independent Record Fair purely on the basis of the cover art. A scanned medical packet adorned with a rose, against a baby pink back dropped designed by the singer herself. Melding together fuzzy guitar led rhythms and enthused with a touch of jazz, unfiltered lyrics and blasé vocal stylings, it’s no wonder she’s made the BBC Sound Of 2018 list and just like mine should be your new obsession. Words: Lois Browne Sounds & Visions at the Barbican 11-14 May Meeting at the convergence of music, art and social commentary, composer Max Richter and artist Yulia Mahr curate a weekend of unmissable concerts and film screenings at the Barbican this spring. Welcoming an innovative and varied line-up of guests including Caterina Barbieri and The London Syrian Ensemble, the programme's fusion of electronic and classical sounds promises to intrigue and delight in equal measure. One to especially look forward to is the scheduled performance of Richter's multimedia work Infra which examines 'the submerged sounds of the everyday, of the unnoticed, the overlooked and the forgotten.' Accompanied by performances from Shuf favourites Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Jlin, this is surely one not to be missed. Words: Georgia Tobin Benny Mails Raised by a punk rocker and northern soul boy, Benny Mails’s idiosyncratic brand of hip hop is created with a DIY ethos. Influenced by London’s grime scene and his favourite artist of all time James Brown, his latest release Aware, The Mixtape is a definitive collection of eight tracks with substance that lurk in the sombre darkness of his deep thoughts. Featuring a number of collaborations including with his fellow Transgressive label mate Marika Hackman on Aware, Mails proves that he’s not about generic conventions. Makes sense considering he started off performing as a break and contemporary dancer. Words: Lois Browne Suzanne Menzel Goodbyes and Beginnings (Frederiksberg Records
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Rihanna pulling the creative reigns with force and broadening her horizons." - Lois Browne Read more individual realisation and acceptance. " - Lois Browne Read more Steven Julien: Fallen "The complexity
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