Our music man, Conor Behan picks his fave tracks this month, including new offerings from Irish queer singer/songwriters Wallis Bird and Jack O’Rourke, plus tracks from Solange, Banks, AlunaGeorge and more!
Bruno Mars swings back into the pop fray with a tune made for the Christmas party season on 24K Magic. Its ’80s funk influences and modern-day touches make it an instant and infectious R’n’B party tune with plenty of charm. MØ continues her winning streak on Drum, proving the Danish star is one of the few current pop acts who can turn the current tropical-tinged pop into something with personality.
One Direction’s Niall Horan strikes out solo on This Town, the result being a limp and unmemorable singer-songwriter effort that does little to stay in your head. Faring better is rising Irish talent Katie Laffan, whose single Trophy is a brooding pop tune that flits between acoustic and electronic touches to make a solid impression.
22 A Million from Bon Iver arrives amid plenty of fan expectation and thankfully manages to live up to it. Throughly weird production and jarring harmonies curl around delicate yet robust songs, the stereotype of the nu-folk crooner given a firm 2016 twist.
Irish singer-songwriter Jack O’Rourke takes references from Bowie to Hozier and makes them his own on debut album Dreamcatcher. Tackling the realities of growing up gay, O’Rourke’s assured voice and songwriting shine although the run-time feels somewhat bloated. An impressive debut nonetheless.
AlunaGeorge embrace the appeal of their genre-hopping future pop sound on second album I Remember. Fusing jittering, forward-thinking electronic music touches with quirky melodies it’s an exhilirating dancefloor-ready collection.
Wallis Bird finds the beauty, joy and euphoria in finding love on new album Home. Energetic, beautifully crafted songs mean this veers away from being schmaltzy. Instead Wallis creates a vibrant and emotive album that celebrates gay relationships with an authencity and vividness rarely seen in the mainstream.
Indie-pop queen Banks has carved out her own niche as a purveyor of broody and impressive dark-pop that channels R’n’B singer/songwriter directness over beguiling hooks. Second album The Altar sees her hone her sound even more while spinning in new directions. ‘Fuck With Myself’ and ‘Trainwreck’ bristle with confident hooks and a sense of power. ‘This Is Not About Us’ is a swaggering highlight with Banks putting would-be lovers in their place as much as she does nails the heartbreak jams. The Altar is a killer cocktail of emotive balladry and confident numbers.
Though she’s been referred to mostly for her wardrobe and her sister by certain parts of the media, Solange Knowles has proven herself to be a singular talent. On new album A Seat At The Table she delivers a statement of artistic intent and one of the year’s most beautiful releases. Unashamedly political in reflecting the lived experience of black people in America, Solange creates a woozy blend of R’n’B, funk and sparse, clever production to create an emotional and compelling piece of work. This is a powerful, career-defining album.