libbyelliott
21st November 2022

Battle of the October albums

October brought new albums from the 1975, Arctic Monkeys, Loyle Carner, and Taylor Swift. Are we back in the 2014 heyday or are our preteen idols clinging on too hard?
Battle of the October albums
Photo: Taylor Swift ‘Midnights’ Official Album Artwork

The 1975 – Being Funny in a Foreign Language

October 14

Best Listen

The 1975 open with a track named ‘The 1975’ at the start of each of their albums. Following their frankly bog-standard fourth studio album, an overwhelming sense of relief and excitement came over me when I heard Being Funny in a Foreign Language’s opener.

The rest of the album was perhaps one of the biggest “Thank God!moments of my life. Almost like I had a son who got really into a failed techno DJ career the last few years and just turned around to me to say “Mum, I’m going back to uni”. The band’s now shameless embrace of their old sound, but still with a few experiments chucked in there, shapes this up to be one of their best albums since their first two – potentially altogether.

It mirrors the I like it when you sleep era, with clear references to their debut album the 1975. ‘Happiness’ nods to its little cousin ‘The Sound’ while ‘All I Need to Hear’ echoes ‘If I Believe You’. Being Funny in a Foreign Language shows off what the 1975 do best: a few of their ‘Robbers’ style ballads, their Scritti Politti-esque upbeat hits and the oh-so-reliable self-importance interlaced in their lyrics.

Matty Healy seems to have finally struck a balance between the postmodern pretentiousness that he drowned himself in on A Brief Enquiry and the genuine original sound of the band. Although the self-diagnosed existential prophet still shines through in some lyrics. “Vaccinista tote bag chique baristas”… “full of soy milk and so sweet it won’t offend anybody”… “Olivia’s been a vegan since ten”. Not for everyone, and I sense Matty does revel in that a bit.

Following him on Instagram (which I would highly recommend for a laugh or the odd eclectic meme), has helped to gage the inter-October album tensions. Matty posted a meme about himself after the stream of 21st releases of a bloke yelling “I’m the best”, which he captioned “me when The Car and Midnights came out”. He is joking, however, as a die-hard Swiftie himself.

The 1975 have definitely done well to embrace their old sound. As Matty Healy even confessed to The Guardian, after years of trying to capture everything, everywhere, all at once, here he was happy to scale it down. But the band certainly did not play it safe. The instrumental arrangements are elevated, the album itself is just the right length and this is the first time I have noticed non-1975 fans properly listening to them in a while.

Arctic Monkeys – The Car

October 21

A hit-and-miss with a few hits

For context, my flatmate and best friend has just got a mirror ball tattoo. So, if I go missing after this review, tell the authorities it was her.

Confusion surrounds this album for me. Not because it is bad, because some parts of it are so strong – I just do not understand what they are trying to do. I really did enjoy this album: instrumentally it is insane, almost as if you are listening to an orchestra. But I do not like it for the same reasons that I have always liked the Arctic Monkeys.

The two hits ‘There Better Be A Mirror Ball’ and ‘Body Paint’ are really strong songs. Somewhat ethereal listens with enough nods to the band’s former rock to satisfy any Monkeys fan. Yet, the rest of the song titles are almost bizarre. It is almost as if Alex Turner has had a swig of Matt Healy’s self-prescribed holy water when naming the tracks.

If you have the patience for their new sound the album certainly is a grower, yet a far cry from their former sound. But such is Alex Turner’s intention – I am sure the next indie boy you end up on a date with at Fuel with will mansplain to you that this was the band’s natural evolution.

I do think if you like music, you will like this album. However, if you like the old Arctic Monkeys, you probably will not. There are clear influences from the past laced in there if you listen closely enough. My flatmate, perhaps the most advanced Arctic Monkeys scholar in her field, does inform me that there are heavy tones of the Humbug album throughout.

Give ‘Hello You’ and ‘I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am’ a listen before you write this album off altogether.

Loyle Carner – Hugo

October 21

At his very best

In the confusion of all these releases I completely forgot about Loyle Carner and had a lovely surprise when I realised I had a whole new album to listen to on my Sainsbury’s run. 30 minutes later I was walking through Fallowfield in tears. Carner is at his very best here, without question, keeping all the former finesse but making far more moving music.

The singles that came out prior to the album’s release – ‘Georgetown’ and ‘Nobody Knows (Ladas Road)’ were already described as career highs before hugo’s release. It is pretty widely agreed that Carner has outdone himself this time round.

Hugo is certainly his most political and personal album. He takes deep dives into his identity, exploring both his mixed-race roots and ADHD. Carner being a dad himself now, and having reconnected with his estranged father, shares with us the darkest elements of his relationship with fatherhood. It is a remarkably profound album, with enough of the upbeat neo-soul tracks that he’s so well known for to ensure hugo is a balanced record.

Carner has playwright and poet, John Agard, and East London soul singers JNR Williams and Olivia Dean featured on various tracks. It truly is a piece of artwork. It is political, emotional, funny, bleak. Musically, I do not think there is anybody else out there doing quite what, or doing it as well as, Loyle Carner does.

‘Plastic’ is one of my favourites by far, the kind of tune you would play while having little boogie to yourself while you cook. ‘Nobody Knows’ encapsulates what Carner accomplishes with the whole album if you are in too much of a rush to listen to the whole thing.

Taylor Swift – Midnights

October 21

The People’s Winner

For all the advanced music jargon I have just danced about with, am I about to give the crown to my tween-pop-hero? Absolutely.

I would recommend we all stop fighting it, and just admit this woman never really misses. Her longevity is unrivalled. Whilst Katy Perry is doing the Just Eat ads, Taylor Swift has just broken the record to become Spotify’s most streamed artist in a day.

Officially the top-selling album of 2022 so far, Midnights is full of Taylor’s classic Easter-egg moments. There are cheeky nods to Scooter Braun and Jake Gyllenhaal if you listen closely enough.

With lyrics born out of Taylor’s insomnia, there are certain hall of fame tunes in there. ‘Anti-Hero’ and ‘Bejewelled’ already have music videos in the tens of millions of views. The album may not appeal to the Folklore and evermore cohort that joined the gang during Covid, but the 1989 and Red loyals are in for a 2014 Taylor era treat.

As much as it is not everyone’s cup of tea, you have to admit that Taylor’s longevity is relatively unmatched – she’s on her 10th studio album and breaking her own records still. And not to mention, most of the songs are bangers.

Libby Elliott

Libby Elliott

Co-Investigations Editor | Shortlisted for the SPA2022 Rising Star Award | Voted Best Mancunion Newcomer at the MMG Awards 2022

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