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MJ X DRAKE: A HOMAGE OR A MUCH MORE SINISTER REALITY?

Updated:  12 July 2018          Written by: Natalya Davies

“This release does suggest something slightly more unsettling; that the value of a deceased artist is little more than a business asset, one strategized to send shock waves into the music community”

 

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Unless you live under a rock (lucky you), you will surely have heard the news of Drake’s latest album ‘Scorpion’, which dropped on the 29th of June, shattering numerous music records, including those held by J Cole, The Beatles and even Michael Jackson. Ironically, while Drake overtook Michael Jackson’s record for the most Hot 100 Top 10’s achieved by a male solo artist at 31 hits, “Don’t Matter To Me” earned Jackson his 30th.

The unexpected feature quickly stirred excitement among music fans upon the album’s release, earning a number 2 position on the official singles chart. While this may not be the first time that Jackson has made a posthumous appearance, it is clear that the late star is still extremely relevant in the modern music world.

In times like this, it becomes apparent that we live in an incredible time period where we possess the ability and technological resources to glorify and recreate beloved, influential artists like MJ, through the use of unreleased works and even holograms. However, access to such power must call for ethical guidelines: in other words, is it ethical to profit from a part of a late person’s identity?

 

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Before I continue, I will state that I love that the ability to encapsulate the essence of a late, great artist and input them into the modern world, exists. The musical contributions of artists like Jackson, Bowie and even Tupac are, without a doubt, worthy of this kind of glorification and exposure to younger audiences, keeping their existence alive through their music.

Similarly, this kind of collaboration is a great promotional tool for Drake, himself. Despite being one of the most successful artists of the modern age, much of this is a result of the clever marketing decisions made by him and his team. His involvement within the Sports and Fashion industry through the Toronto Raptors and his clothing line OVO (October’s Very Own) has exposed Drake’s presence and music to two varying industries which, otherwise, may not have shown a particular interest in him. In this situation, the collaboration has exposed Drake to a much older audience which are more likely to be stunned by a posthumous release and the nostalgia that Jackson’s distinctive voice brings.

 

“Where is the line between paying respects and seeking to be paid as a result of these respects?”

 

On the other hand, this release does suggest something slightly more unsettling; that the value of a deceased artist is little more than a business asset, one strategized to send shock waves into the music community. It has to be said, the news that Drake has collaborated with unreleased work from a late artist would surely urge a large amount of people towards his latest release; even if they are not particularly a fan. This ‘shock factor’ that is achieved with strategies like this is an extremely powerful ploy to, not only engage interests of many, but also to urge them to spread the word: quick and effective marketing.

Take the 2012 Tupac appearance at Coachella, for example. Who wasn’t baffled by the weekend’s events?

Engagement, however, is not the issue here. It is the idea of blatant capitalisation of a late being’s identity and success. Where, really, is the line between paying respects and seeking to be paid as a result of these respects?

 

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN: ‘DON’T MATTER TO ME’

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RISING STAR JORJA SMITH BAGS NO.3 POSITION IN OFFICIAL CHARTS WITH DEBUT ALBUM ‘LOST AND FOUND’

‘DRIVE SLOW’: THE ALBUM DRIVING MODERN SOUL

THE LONDON ARTIST REDEFINING GRIME CULTURE

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RISING STAR JORJA SMITH BAGS NO. 3 POSITION IN OFFICIAL CHARTS WITH DEBUT ALBUM ‘LOST AND FOUND’

Updated:  5th March 2018        Written by: Natalya Davies

“Have previous associations with modern music royalty lead to an unfair level of expectation? It is likely.”

 

Image result for jorja smith lost and found

FOR FANS OF: RAY BLK, KALI UCHIS, MAHALIA

RATING: ★★★✰✰

There is an extremely famous proverb that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, or in fact, even a wonderful thing. However, for Jorja Smith’s debut album ‘Lost and Found’, it seems that the former is more fitting.

While the album has been successful in reaching a number 3 position in the official music charts, despite being the singer’s debut solo collective, it could be argued that the outcome simply was not enough to meet the high expectations built around Smith’s previous collaborations. Having previous associations with modern music royalty including the likes of Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Stormzy is an incredible achievement for a budding new artist like Jorja Smith, however, has this lead to an unfair level of expectation? It is likely.

‘Lost and Found’ is undeniably a strong release, especially being that it is the first complete solo-release of her career. The issue is that, maybe, it was simply too much, too soon from the artist, when an EP would have been sufficient. This conclusion has been brought about by the lack of differentiation within the heavily ballad-based album, causing few songs to stand out in a refreshing manner.

 

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On the contrary, when carefully listening through ‘Lost and Found’, it is clear that there are many incredible pieces of work that, ironically, seem to have lost their way. Opening track ‘Lost and Found’, sets a compelling tone, particularly with the introduction of Smith’s alluring vocals in the line “Why do we all fall down with innocence still on the ground?“.

While also following the ballad-like, controlled trend that dominates this release, ‘Goodbyes’ and ‘The One’ are two phenomenally written and produced pieces, with choruses powerful enough to blow your mind. Much can be said about many of the other pieces, however, it seems a shame that these musical gems are somewhat misplaced among tracks that fail to boost the listener’s attention on them.

 

“‘Lost and Found’ is a release which is sure to strengthen the rising star’s career and reinforce her reputation as a credible modern artist, worthy of the limelight that is being received.”

 

‘Lifeboats (freestyle)’, ‘Where Did I Go?’ and ‘Blue Lights’ seem to be the album’s saving grace, as they supply the differentiation that has been neglected, no matter how minimal this differentiation is. ‘Where Did I Go?’ is a particularly engrossing listen as it seems to be the only major attempt within the collective to incorporate an upbeat, pop-esque break to the restricted yet gloomy theme.

Over all, ‘Lost and Found’ is a release which is sure to strengthen the rising star’s career and reinforce her reputation as a credible modern artist, worthy of the limelight that is being received. The main critique, here, is simply that maybe ‘Lost and Found’ just is not memorable enough in it’s current state, however, with the consideration of track-listing rework, this would be a release which you would never want to forget.

 

Track List Rating:

1. Lost and Found – 

2. Teenage Fantasy – ★✰

3. Where Did I Go? – ★✰

4. February 3rd – ★✰✰✰

5. On Your Own – ★✰✰

6. The One – ★✰

7. Wandering Romance – ★✰✰✰

8. Blue  Lights – ★✰✰

9. Lifeboats (freestyle) – ★✰✰

10. Goodbyes – 

11. Tomorrow – ★✰

12. Don’t Watch Me Cry – ★✰

 

 

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN: ‘Lost and Found’

KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH JORJA!

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UPON THOSE DYING – ‘DELUSIONS’ ALBUM REVIEW 2017 | ABSOLUTELY AUDIO

LIFELUST – ‘NADIR’ REVIEW 2018 | ABSOLUTELY AUDIO

NOVELISTS – ‘SOUVENIRS’ (2015) | ABSOLUTELY AUDIO

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‘DRIVE SLOW’: THE ALBUM DRIVING MODERN SOUL

Updated: 21 June 2018           Written by: Natalya Davies

 

“‘Drive Slow’ has the potential to be one of the most important Soul releases of the modern age”

 

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FOR FANS OF: BRUNO MAJOR, JORDAN RAKEI, LEVEN KALI

RATING: ★★★★★

 

There is a notion surrounding Soul that it is a dated genre, lost between the cracks of a past musical era, which can only truly be appreciated by those seeking a nostalgic fix (or pretentious musical hipsters).  However, New York’s very own Soul child prodigy, Mac Ayres, proves that this is far from the case.

Debut EP ‘Drive Slow’ is not your average 21st Century bedroom-producer release, but a commendable and refreshing approach to a classic genre. From start to finish, ‘Drive Slow’ explores intriguing modern interpretations of Soul and R&B, blended with the young singer’s outstanding  yet understated vocal capabilities, creating art worthy of high regard.

 

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Opening track ‘Calvin’s Joint’ encompasses a minimalist trend mirrored throughout the EP, never a note or layer missing or seemingly out of place. One thing most compelling about Mac Ayres is the clear dismissal of the ego and bravado, that is seen so often within young artists, allowing his abilities to do the talking within his music.

And honestly… This record speaks.

While each track manages to reach entirely new strengths, ‘Slow Down’ is undeniably one of the strongest points of the collection. A combination of minimal yet contrasting textures, alongside soft yet infectious choruses shapes an unforgettable listen which is a struggle not to sing along to or get lost within.

 

“The musicianship displayed by Mac Ayres is deserving of exceptional appreciation”

 

‘Drive Slow’ has the potential to be one of the most important Soul releases of the modern age, due to its capacity to draw on nostalgic elements to deliver a revitalising sound to younger audiences. For a debut release, the musicianship displayed by Mac Ayres is deserving of exceptional appreciation by all that experience the pleasure of delving into such incredible craftsmanship.

 

 

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN: ‘DRIVE SLOW’

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UPON THOSE DYING – ‘DELUSIONS’ ALBUM REVIEW 2017 | ABSOLUTELY AUDIO

LIFELUST – ‘NADIR’ REVIEW 2018 | ABSOLUTELY AUDIO

NOVELISTS – ‘SOUVENIRS’ (2015) | ABSOLUTELY AUDIO

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THE LONDON ARTIST REDEFINING GRIME CULTURE

Updated: 21st March, 2018                  Written by: Natalya Davies

“‘This Year’ is about proving that you can do it, no matter where you’ve been. It’s where you’re heading that counts… but never lose yourself in it all… You have to stay true to you.”

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FOR FANS OF: DAVE, DRAKE, RAMZ

RATING: ★★★★✰

I stumbled into young Hounslow-born rapper Haasan completely by chance as I was rushing to meet friends for one of the few fresher events that I actually attended upon moving to London. It was also completely by chance that within the two minute elevator small-talk we came to the realisation that we shared the same goal in life; to get paid for what we love doing most; music.

Drive and ambition are true gems that can often only be understood by those that have found their purpose in life and upon talking with Haasan, his purpose is clear – do what you love but never lose sight of who you are and those that matter – a truly humbling and wise outlook.

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Debut single ‘This Year’, released in February, is one that comes straight from the heart, not a typically exaggerated overview of the typical rapper life, but an overview which is extremely relatable to almost anyone.

The core meaning of the song is about proving to yourself that you can do it, while forgetting negative impacts or obstacles that may have once obstructed you from getting where you wish to be. “If its your dream then you have to believe it… or no one else will” says the young rapper when asked about the story behind the lyrics, showing that simply practising self-belief can be the first step to reaching your wildest desires.

Alongside the ever-flowing wisdom, there is a pleasing hint of humour delicately weaved into certain lyrics, so as to not make the song too serious but also enjoyable. References to ‘Iceland’ and ‘Charcoal Chicken’, while standing out like sore thumbs among such powerful meaning, are gladly welcomed, reflecting Haasan’s entertaining yet mature nature.

Music is a key form of escapism and self-healing for the best of us – therefore, young inspirations like Haasan are key role models for the future of music. Here’s to the future!

 

Debut single: ‘This Year’

Follow Haasan on social media:

Instagram – @Haasanmusic

GIVING INTO GHOSTS – “LET THE EARTH SLEEP” REVIEW 2018 | ABSOLUTELY AUDIO

Updated: 29th March, 2018              Written by: Natalya Davies

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FOR FANS OF: ALEXISONFIRE, ARCHITECTS, BURY TOMORROW

RATING: ★★★★✰ 

Cardiff metallers Giving Into Ghosts are back and better than ever with a follow-up to 2014’s explosive ‘Chasing Waves’ EP. Newly released single ‘Let The Earth Sleep’ looks likely to be the start of something extremely special…

 

One of the most special moments a music fan can have is watching an artist or band grow in their musical career and it can be said that Giving Into Ghosts have come very far since their debut. ‘Let The Earth Sleep’ is a wonderful representation of musical growth as it features their usual addictive fusion of metalcore and post-hardcore, however this time, perfectly polished and finely tuned to create an extremely mature track.

An aspect which will likely work in the Welsh four-piece’s favour, is that they have managed to secure a distinguishable sound from very early on in their career which means that it will be easier for them to create a sense of presence and identity within a genre that is so saturated with bands creating virtually identical content.

Guitarist and singer Mikey Thomas’ distinctive and infectious vocals seem to draw the listener further into the song each time they interject into the verses in a manner that is truly hypnotic. As one would expect, the most impressive part of the song is, in fact, the chorus, whereby Thomas’ pop-esque vocal style proves to be a true asset to the band.

‘Let The Earth Sleep’ is likely to be one of the most important releases of Giving Into Ghost’s musical career, one which is on its way to a very bright future.

 

Giving Into Ghost prepare to release their second EP titled ‘Let The Earth Sleep’ on April 4th which will available via iTunes and Spotify.

 

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN: ‘LET THE EARTH SLEEP’

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN: ‘CHASING WAVES’

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INSTAGRAM – @givingintoghosts

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UPON THOSE DYING – ‘DELUSIONS’ ALBUM REVIEW 2017 | ABSOLUTELY AUDIO

LIFELUST – ‘NADIR’ REVIEW 2018 | ABSOLUTELY AUDIO

NOVELISTS – ‘SOUVENIRS’ (2015) | ABSOLUTELY AUDIO

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FEBRUARY FAVOURITES | 2018

Updated: 18 March 2018            Written by Natalya Davies

DISCOVERIES 

Killa Yan – Like I Used To

For fans of: Louis Mattrs, Paperboy Fabe, Eros Taylor

If as the saying goes, “Less is More”, then debut single ‘Like I Used To’ from Irish singer/songwriter Killa Yan is certainly the most. The arrangement is pleasantly minimal while the melody is equally as delicate, allowing for the honest and vulnerable lyrics to dwell in the limelight, making it a piece which can resonate with mostly anyone.

The ultimate way to embark upon what one can only assume will be a considerably fruitful musical future for the artist, if all continues as it has started.

 

Iyamah – Cryptic Love

For fans of: SZA, RAY BLK, H.E.R

For any music lover, finding a strong connection with a song upon first listen is sometimes very rare but, nevertheless, a wonderful thing. This, however, was very much the case upon my first listen of ‘Cryptic Love’.

A soulful piece with a delightfully gentle hint of funk, Iyamah’s debut single touches on the increasingly popular topic of the empowerment of women which is executed in a way that is more tasteful and elegant, than irrational or ambiguous.

 

Dan Caplen – Two Fingers

For fans of: Zak Abel, Daniel Caesar, RAY BLK

If you’re a fan of infectious soulful rhythm and blues then look no further; Dan Caplen is bringing Christmas 2018 10 months early! The young singer/songwriter has had a rewarding introduction to the music world by collaborating with well-renowned names like Macklemore, RAY BLK and Jess Glynne.

‘Two Fingers’ is the perfect song to bridge between the glum and gloomy winter days to the highly anticipated spring months where road trips and the best music are once again upon us.

 

Lewis Capaldi – Bruises

For fans of: Khalid, Tom Grennan, Rhys Lewis

The lyrics “It’s your love I’m lost in” thoroughly sums up Scotland hot topic Lewis Capaldi’s debut single ‘Bruises’. Hypnotic, powerful, heartfelt, emotional and sincere, Capaldi serves up everything you could ever want in a conflicted battle of a ballad.

With many reputable collaborations under his belt, 2018 is said, by many, to be the year to watch this artist rise to stardom.

 

Declan J Donovan – Better

For fans of: Lewis Capaldi, Adam French, Tom Grennan

Another one for any of you which may be looking for a rising star, or a star-to-be for that matter, Declan J Donovan’s 2017 release ‘Better’ is exactly what you’ve been waiting for.

The essential remedy for those loathsome, figurative rainy days, Donovan’s compelling and distinctive voice is instantly soothing, while the song’s minimal structure is just as appeasing. So, next time you’re in need of some well deserved recovery, put on my February favourites playlist, pour yourself a glass of wine (or ten), and get lost in the music.

 

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SONGS

Sam Wills – So Bright

For fans of: Will Heard, Sipprell, James Vickery

Potentially one of my favourite artists of 2017, Sam Wills’ entire So Bright EP (2016) is inevitably a must-listen collective if you’re a fan of electronic soul, or even if you’re simply looking for something slightly unique with ‘pop-esque’ elements.

Single ‘So Bright’ is a pleasing mixture of repressed layers and captivating choruses which makes for an extremely infectious result, the addition of soulful synths only doubles the song’s genius.

 

Xavier Omar – Afraid

For fans of: Sabrina Claudio, Daniel Caesar, Sinead Harnett

Following on from the very ‘soul’ ridden pattern forming in my current favourites, ‘Afraid’ by American R’n’B artist Xavier Omar is a delicate track, overflowing with a vulnerability and uncertainty that is quite compelling as it is so relatable.

In this 2017 single, Omar showcases his fantastic vocal range, varying from a low and moody vocal to hinting ever so slightly at a rather satisfying falsetto as the song progresses. This variety only helps the meaning of the lyrics to be even more enticing and believable.

 

Sinead Harnett – If You Let Me

For fans of: Jorja Smith, Zak Abel, Kiana Lede

With her best selling single ‘If You Let Me’, Sinead Harnett has embodied the essence of romantic conflict that can relate to almost anyone. That feeling of conflict between ‘letting go or letting them in’ is pictured very realistically within her lyrics, so convincingly that if you closed your eyes, you can most certainly feel the dispute firsthand.

 

Press to MECO – Affinity

For fans of: Arcane Roots, Mallory Knox, DON BROCO

My favourite thing about Press To MECO is the clear efforts put in to do one thing only; create quality music for people to enjoy. Being within a genre in which bands are all too but ready to expose themselves to a mainstream audience rather than focus on what really matters can mean sticking out like a sore thumb, but for PTM it is doing many favours.

Affinity, especially, is a musical masterpiece; glazed with the chunkiest of riffs and the most blissful harmonies, a perfect blend of anything and everything a rock fan could possible want. Truly, addictive content.

 

Tom Misch, Loyle Carner – Water Baby

For Fans of: Jordan Rakei, Barney Artist, Xavier Omar

The ultimate duo are back and better than ever in Misch’s newest release ‘Water Baby’ which sets an extremely exciting tone for the highly anticipated debut album ‘Geography.

‘Water Baby’ is an ingeniously soulful piece with an old school touch that is riddled with nostalgia, no matter your age. I can only hope that this is not the last time Misch and Carner collaborate.

 

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ARTISTS

LIV DAWSON

For fans of: RAYE, Mabel, Grace Carter

Since recently finishing a UK tour with Khalid, this young British singer/songwriter is causing quite the stir among pop and R’n’B fans.

Dawson provides an extremely relevant sound (an utter go-to for any Mabel fans) but despite appealing to a large crowd, care and attention has clearly been made to make her music distinguishable among what is quite a saturated genre. Newest single ‘Talk’ is quite typical of pop, however, previous single ‘Hush’ incorporates a muted Chainsmokers-esque electronic chorus, while ‘Still’ incorporates atmospheric layers, both of which are kept minimal so as to not take attention away from her incredible vocal abilities.

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RECOMMENDED:

‘Hush’

‘Still’

 

ZAK ABEL

For fans of: Dan Caplen, Jess Glynne, Jessie Ware

A certain musical icon of the coming years, Zak Abel’s debut album ‘Only When We’re Naked’ is bursting with addictive pop swagger and explosive choruses, perfect for the summertime (which is just around the corner… I certainly hope so).

With a number of credible collaborations already under his belt, including Tom Misch, Wretch 32 and Gorgon City, Abel is coming for you whether you like it or not, no matter what genre you like… and he is killing it.

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RECOMMENDED:

‘Rock Bottom’ Feat. Wretch 32

‘The River’

 

FRANK OCEAN

For fans of: Chance The Rapper, BROCKHAMPTON, Childish Gambino

Frank Ocean is one of those MUST-listen artists that appear every once in a while, and are a true musical gem. While, like in society there are trendsetters and followers, the same goes in music and Ocean is truly in a league of his own, simply because he is not afraid to be himself or break boundaries that otherwise should not even be there.

‘Lost’ from Channel Orange is a particular favourite of mine, especially due to the moody and suppressed vocals which contrasts incredibly to the upbeat nature of the melody and chorus.

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RECOMMENDED:

‘Lost’

‘Super Rich Kids’

 

Click here to view the complete February Favourites playlist!

 

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JANUARY FAVOURITES | 2018

 

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CARDIFF METALLER’S LIFELUST RELEASE DEBUT SINGLE “NADIR”

Image may contain: 4 people, people standing and shoes

FOR FANS OF: HEART OF A COWARD, NOVELISTS, SHIELDS

RATING: ★★★★★

Meet Lifelust, the Cardiff based four piece that you should all have your eyes on, and I am simply here to tell you why…

‘Nadir’, the debut single from the metal outfit, was released on January 1st, a truly generous gift to stylishly shift us all into the beckoning New Year. Ironically ‘Nadir’, which translates as ‘rock bottom’ or an ‘all-time low’, is not exactly the future that I see waiting on the near horizon for Lifelust.

Just like a predator hunting its prey, ‘Nadir’ pounces on the listener after a tension-riddled build up, and in this case, even twenty seconds is not enough to prepare the listener for what follows. A well balanced amalgamation of progressive metal and hardcore, the introductory riff is sure to leave your ears bleeding and your head pounding  in the most alluring of ways, all seasoned with an undeniably infectious groove.

Cliché descriptions aside, the overall execution is one which forms a feeling of sweet, sweet satisfaction as it is of the highest quality for a debut single and strikingly close to those already reigning progressive genres. Every element, be it the atmospheric leads dwindling behind the heaviness or the throaty melodic vocals that are much welcomed mid-way,  is added in moderation and with clear attention to detail, making the song as compelling as it is impressive from start to finish.

My only critique would be that there simply is not enough of it, therefore, I will be highly anticipating what is to come… Kudos Lifelust.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN: ‘NADIR’ – LIFELUST

KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH LIFELUST!

FACEBOOK – WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/LIFELUSTBAND/

TWITTER – WWW.TWITTER.COM/LIFELUSTBAND

INSTAGRAM – @LIFELUSTBAND

LIKE WHAT YOU HEARD?

FOLLOW THESE LINKS TO SIMILAR REVIEWS >

UPON THOSE DYING – ‘DELUSIONS’ ALBUM REVIEW (2017)

CONTINENTS – ‘IDLE HANDS’ (2013)

NOVELISTS – ‘SOUVENIRS’ (2015)

Releasing new music or a new project? Email me at aamusicblog2017@gmail.com or contact me via instagram @natalyaalala for review/article enquiries.