We waited all February for good new music and then there was rush at the end of the month with some outstanding releases.
We’ve gathered our favourite tracks together for you – check out our February 2021 playlist on Spotify – click here
Madison Beer - Life Support
Madison Beer’s long, long awaited debut album was finally released 9 years after she uploaded a cover of Etta James’ At Last to YouTube aged 13 and was spotted by Justin Bieber. After several false dawns, the album is here and it is an accomplished and eclectic collection of pop and alt-pop songs.
Good in Goodbye is an infectious Levato-esque break up anthem with fun word play. Follow The White Rabbit slinks through a wonderland of juddering bass and distorted backings. She serves up a pop-friendly Lana Del Rey on Blue. The 21-year-old singer described the album as “Honest, brave and badass” and we wouldn’t disagree.
Life Support is a richly melodic and relatable in its fearless exploration of mental health challenges. Highly Rec’d
Lucy Spraggan - Choices
You certainly can’t fault Lucy Spraggan‘s work ethic. She’s released an album every two years since 2011 and there’s rarely a gig on the festival circuit that doesn’t feature her name on the line-up.
Much has changed recently for the singer who first caught our attention on the X Factor: she has given up alcohol, got divorced and worked hard to transform physically and mentally. Choices is a self-reflective album that explores these changes.
From the album opener Flowers, a saucy number about flirtation, to the country-pop of Choices, where Spraggan eyes the future optimistically.
Choices is a forward-looking album of positivity and self-empowerment. It may also be her best album yet. Rec’d
Sad Night Dynamite - Sad Night Dynamite
Sad Night Dynamite are so effortlessly cool, we’re not sure The Recs is hip enough to review them. In fact using ‘hip’ probably rules us out but we’ll give it a go anyway because we love their debut self-titled album. And of course it’s not an album – it’s a “mixtape”.
Sad Night Dynamite fuses so many diverse elements, the Somerset duo are indisputably musical alchemists. Who knows what arcane arts they use to blend US hip-hop with Morricone-esque film scores with British two-tone, but we’re buying it!
Icy Violence infuses a shadowy soundscape with thrashing guitars, disconcerting electronica and balalaikas and that doesn’t even scratch the surface with Mussel Bay reprising the riff on the albums outro. Highly Rec’d for musical explorers
Aretha Franklin - The Glory of Aretha 1980 - 2014
Although when you think of an Aretha Franklin song, you might think of classics like Respect, Think or Spanish Harlem, it was the 1980s when Aretha had her most successful chart run in the UK. And this new compilation album The Glory of Aretha is a timely reminder of that.
The wonderful and ungrammatical Who’s Zoomin’ Who? has the Queen of Soul embracing a more modern sound courtesy of producer Narada Michael Walden. The sublime I Knew You Were Waiting (for me) with George Michael is a perfect duet (even though it was never written as a duet and was originally offered to Tina Turner) and gave Aretha her only UK #1. Aretha’s full-throttle 2014 take on Adele‘s Rolling in the Deep, adding Ain’t No Mountain High Enough as a riff for no discernable reason, is quite something.
A fun retrospective
Charlotte Jane - Down Days
When Lewis Capaldi predicts that she will become “one of the biggest fucking things in the world” and Toby Gad (the man who co-wrote John Legend‘s All of Me and Beyoncé‘s If I Were A Boy) signs her to a publishing deal after one meeting, it is clear Charlotte Jane is someone to watch. And to listen to.
Her new single Down Days is an uplifting slice of soul in spite of its title. “Maybe I’m allowed to feel low / Surely you don’t expect me to be a superhero / I can’t always save the day” speaks to how many have felt during the extended lockdowns. Charlotte advocates moving through the ‘down days’ rather than brushing them under the carpet.
Down Days offers a voice and a song that resonates in these trying times.
Two new films caught our attention this month. I Care A Lot which we will review in full soon and The United States Vs. Billie Holiday (reviewed below)
The United States Vs. Billie Holiday
We wouldn’t normally start a movie Rec by saying The United States Vs. Billie Holiday is a mess of a film. Its storytelling is muddled and lacks emotional peaks and troughs – its stylistic choices are inconsistent and unconvincing. So why are we still recommending this story of the legendary jazz singer taking on white authorities over her right to sing Strange Fruit, her timeless protest song that railed against lynching in the American South?
Two words: Andra Day
Andra is mesmerising as Billie. She alternates between fierce and vulnerable, funny and flighty in the blink of them there eyes. Day opted to sing Holiday’s songs in the movie to completely immerse herself in the part as she saw Billie’s “voice as a scroll and on it is written all of her experiences, every hit from a man, every time she slammed heroin, every time she stood up against the government when they came after her for singing ‘Strange Fruit’, every drag from a cigarette”.
Despite it being her first film starring role, it is entirely proper that Andra Day won a Golden Globe today as Best Actress in a Movie – Drama. Her performance makes the film a must-see.
A diverse mix of TV dramas to recommend from February:
A spin-off series that takes place a year after the events in The Silence of The Lambs, we follow Clarice Starling as she quietly tries to resume her career in the FBI while still potentially suffering PTSD from her encounter with serial killer, Buffalo Bill.
Clarice is played by Rebecca Breeds who somehow manages to look not unlike Julianne Moore (who played the role in Hannibal in 2001) and channel the vocal intonations of Jodie Foster (who won an Oscar as Best actress as Agent Starling in the 1991 mega hit).
So far (three episodes in), it’s a decent police procedural somewhat hampered by a rights issue that legally forbids the series from mentioning or directly referencing Hannibal Lecter.
Clarice is yet to find a UK release but we will confirm when it does
WandaVision continues to be a bold, imaginative and intriguing corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The mystery at the heart of the series – exactly where are Wanda and Vision and how did they get there – is gradually revealing its secrets with exemplary plotting.
Who knew when this superhero spinoff began, quite how emotional it would be. The hugely-anticipated finale airs on 5 March – but don’t worry we will be writing a full series Rec article shortly afterwards!
In the meantime, just know it is Highly Rec’d
Unforgotten Series 4
February marked the welcome return of Unforgotten (and Sunny’s iconic backpack) to our screens. Less hyped than other British crime shows (*cough* Line of Duty *cough*) but always beautifully plotted by writer and creator Chris Lang.
For a worrying moment, it looked like we would have to follow this, the fourth series, without the gaffer – until Cassie (the peerless Nicola Walker) is forced back into her role to complete the final three months of her service before she can quit the force. Don’t go, Cassie – we can’t bear Sunny (the wonderful Sanjeev Bhaskar) looking sadly at your empty chair again!
The usual jigsaw puzzle of scattered, seemingly unconnected suspects are present and correct: episode one ended with the surprise reveal of what connects a Sikh wheeler-dealer, a family therapist who didn’t know her own parents, a businessman with a shady past and a lesbian whose mother demeans her at every opportunity. Didn’t see that one coming!
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