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2010s Reviews

My perception of the 2010s has been a decade where pop music has flourished, as well as hip hop and electronic music. It’s not surprising people have gravitated towards escapism in this decade of environmental concerns and Donald Trump as President of the United States.

The following 2010s artists have their own dedicated pages.

Charli XCX
HAIM
Jason Isbell
Carly Rae Jepsen
Kimbra
Janelle Monáe
Kacey Musgraves
Nadia Reid
Taylor Swift

This section collects album reviews for 2010s artists who don’t qualify for their own full page.

The Beths | Charly Bliss | Sky Ferreira

The Beths

Future Me Hates Me

2018, 8.5/10
The Beths are from Auckland, New Zealand, and Future Me Hates Me is their debut album. Like one of my favourite 2017 records, Charly Bliss’ Guppy, their power pop is rooted in 1990s guitar-rock. But where Charly Bliss’ vocals are high pitched and excitable, The Beths’ Elizabeth Stokes is a typically deadpan New Zealander. Stokes’ likeable, low key personality is up front in the album’s most immediate song; the title track has Stokes delivering self-effacing lines like:

Future heart break, future headaches
Wide eyed nights late lying awake
With future cold shakes from stupid mistakes
Future me hates me for, hates me for

The four members of The Beths met at jazz school, although guitarist Jonathan Pearce stated that playing jazz provided a “very clear idea of what we didn’t want to do”. Instead the group reverted to the music they loved in their youth, 1990s guitar rock, infused with the pop sense of The Breeders’ ‘Cannonball’ or Weezer’s Blue Album. As a result, the members of the group are playing their secondary instruments; Stokes worked as a trumpet teacher before concentrating on The Beths.

While the group’s instrumental prowess isn’t a focus, their musical training shows the most clearly in their vocal arrangements, which are often relatively intricate. On songs like ‘Happy Unhappy’, the hooks come from the surprisingly ornate backing vocals. Power pop can be a limiting genre, but there’s enough boundary pushing to suggest that The Beths have ideas beyond punchy guitars and big choruses. ‘River Run: Lvl 1’ and ‘Less Than Thou’, both towards the back end of Future Me Hate Me, features slower tempos and sludgier guitars.

The Beths have received plenty of attention for this excellent 2018 debut, with positive write-ups in taste makers like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork. I’m a little embarrassed it’s taken me so long to pick up on it – I only noticed when it started placing well on year end lists – but it’s an excellent record, wry and tuneful.


Charly Bliss

Guppy

charly-bliss-guppy2017, 9/10
Original guitar pop is a difficult task in the 21st century, and Charly Bliss are understandably a throwback to the 1990s. Debut album Guppy combines the fast-paced, hook-filled songs of early Weezer, but with a female vocalist they’re also reminiscent of other 1990s acts like Belly or Veruca Salt. If it all sounds unoriginal, these songs are so memorable and jammed with hooks that it’s immaterial. Guitarist Spencer Fox stated “We had to create an ecosystem where our loud, messy rock sounds could co-exist with these super catchy melodies and pop hooks.” The band label themselves as “Bubblegrunge”, which is also an excellent descriptor of their sound.

Vocalist and guitarist Eva Hendricks has a tinge of helium in her distinctive voice, but it simply allows the band’s supple melodies to shine.  It was really about realizing what we’re best at as a band.” Hendricks is both witty and sincere on songs like ‘Glitter’ – “Am I the best? Or just the first person to say yes?” Charly Bliss get plenty of mileage out of a four piece setup, and their chord structures are interesting enough to stand up to repeated listening, although synth on some tracks helps to vary the textures. It’s difficult to pick favourites off such an even, excellent album, but highlights include the punchy ‘Black Hole’ and the memorable dead dog to lover comparisons of ‘DQ’.

Despite its clear debt to the 1990s, Guppy is a great little record, a burst of energy and good natured humour.


Sky Ferreira

Night Time, My Time

night-time-my-time2013, 8.5/10
Sky Ferreira is a Los Angeles songwriter, actress, and model, who first came to attention through her MySpace demos as a teenager. On her debut album, Night Time, My Time, she works with producers Ariel Rechtshaid (Vampire Weekend, HAIM, Madonna) and Justin Raisen, who are able to achieve a perfect balance between pop accessibility and edgier sounds, that prevents Night Time, My Time from sounding like mere designer angst. Rechtshaid and Raisen also provide most of the instrumentation, while Ferreira’s voice is an asset, rich and expressive. Night Time, My Time blends 1990s alternative rock with 1980s synth pop, so songs like the dissonant, guitar heavy ‘Omanko’ and the infectious dance pop of ‘You’re Not The One’ follow each other in the track list.

My favourite track blends the two approaches – ’24 Hours’ features a dance beat and twinkling keyboard hook coupled with vocal urgency and driving guitars. On the poppy end of things, ‘You’re Not The One’ features a memorable guitar hook over a dance beat, while ‘I Blame Myself’ is gentle and soul searching. There’s more intensity in ‘Heavy Metal Heart’ and ‘Nobody Asked Me (If I Was OK)’, while the album is at its most experimental with the dissonant ‘Omanko’, and the title track, which ends the album with a drone.

Mixing poppy hooks with a heavy guitar attack and more esoteric moments, Night Time, My Time was a deserved critical favourite, and one that’s taken Ferreira a long time to follow up.

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