Since Tasty, Kelis’ breakthrough album which led to “Milkshake” taking the world by storm, was released in 2003, it’s fair to say that she was unable to replicate that success. Both 2006’s Kelis Was Here and 2010’s Flesh Tone were quite forgettable, save for the latter’s “Acapella”, which I still think is one of the best songs she has released to date. She had ditched the sexy, floor-filling R&B vibes of her first three records (which were helped out by late ‘90s/early ‘00s kings of production, The Neptunes), signed to a poor record deal and then, upon leaving, committed the musical cardinal sin (unless you’re Sia) of working with David Guetta and his EDM crew. Flesh Tone managed to make at least some of an impact because, here, she was behind the wheel and it was very much Kelis-doing-EDM rather than some EDM with a bit of Kelis on it; trying something different and, for the most part, doing a decent job at it, but it just didn’t capture most of what made Kelis great. Since then, she’s gone through a bit of a change.
1999’s “Caught Out There”, Kelis’ first major solo single coming off the back of her collaboration with Ol’ Dirty Bastard, painted her as the Alanis Morisette of R&B. Fuelled by anger and heartbreak it was the perfect anthem for scorned women everywhere; “You Oughta Know” for those who prefer a thumping beat to some grungy guitars. The Kelis we see in 2014 is unrecognisable compared to Kaleidoscope Kelis. She’s matured and no longer lets anger and pain rule her heart.
As well as maturing, she’s done a bit of a Paul Newman and ventured into food. Having enrolled in the Cordon Bleu culinary school in 2006, she’s since gone on to get her own cookery show in the States, launched her own range of products (mainly sauces a la Loyd Grossman, seeing as she trained as a saucier), and even took her food truck to SXSW to cook her recipes for punters. It’s a bit of an unusual diversion but it’s one that has heavily inspired this sixth album, aptly titled Food. 
It seems a cliché but the world of music and the world of food go together surprisingly well.The ideas of mixing flavours to discover the best combination and the utter precision that is required to create something good is present in both. Working with TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek, Kelis has managed to re-discover what makes her so special and craft whole dishes around that; dishes that are both playful and comforting with a real kick to them.
Album opener, and the first single from the album, “Jerk Ribs” acts as a nice entrée, showing you what’s to come and whether or not it’ll be to your tastes, though it’s hard to not be enraptured by the track. Horns blast out among the luscious string section as Kelis’ husky vocals lead the way. It’s a real tasty soul track and the perfect introduction to what Food is all about; namely a bunch of songs named after food and packed with soul and hands-to-your-chest, face-to-the-sky belters. From here it moves effortlessly into new worlds as though you’re navigating a tasting platter.
The sultry “Floyd” snakes and swoons as though navigating a smoky jazz club; a smooth slow jam that sees Kelis’ hoarse but no less sexy vocals croon “I want to be blown away”. “Hooch” really feels like a track that belongs on something put out by Ninja Tune. Kelis’ move to the label normally filled with leftfield electronic artists seemed like strange but it was a decision that had people, myself included, really intrigued to see what it would bring. “Hooch” has a really jazzy Bonobo feel to the brass mixed with Nile Rodgers-esque disco guitar work and even more swooning from Kelis. “Cobbler” has a more afrobeat vibe to it, with the percussion of claps and, what could quite easily be, the sound of pots and pans. But, like much of the album, it sits more on the mellow side of the scale. This isn’t the balls-to-the-wall club anthems of Flesh Tone, instead sounding more at home sat out in the last hours of the sun with a nice cold cocktail as the sky begins to be painted a deep orange and red. It’s more sunset street party, than sweaty basement club. “Friday Fish Fry” is, perhaps, the only track to really get a dancefloor going, with a great little call and response bit thrown in the middle.
Things take an interesting turn with a gorgeous cover of Labi Siffre’s “Bless The Telephone” which is filled with warmth, consisting of mainly an acoustic guitar and Kelis’ vocals. It’s impossible to not mention her vocals at all when a song like “Bless The Telephone” comes along. It’s that smoky feeling to it that just drips with sensuality that makes it so appealing. It proves a really nice break from the brass heavy rest of the album, taking things down to an even mellower notch.

Food is not an album that’s really going to produce the next “Milkshake” or “Acapella” but it is a fantastically immediate record that is captivating every time you return. Like Janelle Monae, Kelis dips into the retro vibes without falling into the trap of nostalgia. It’s all ideas we’ve heard before but it still feels distinctly ‘now’. As we glide from sexy brass, to funky African vibes, to a toned down Simon & Garfunkel-esque sound, it really does feel like we’re going through a full meal. Once you leave Food, you’re not going to feel stuffed, rather extremely content. It wants you to try different things but it isn’t in the habit of shoving too much onto your plate. Instead what you get is a set of well-crafted dishes that use different ideas like spices to really bring out the best in Kelis. And I’ve pretty much run out of food based metaphors so I should stop now. Check please.
★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Since Tasty, Kelis’ breakthrough album which led to “Milkshake” taking the world by storm, was released in 2003, it’s fair to say that she was unable to replicate that success. Both 2006’s Kelis Was Here and 2010’s Flesh Tone were quite forgettable, save for the latter’s “Acapella”, which I still think is one of the best songs she has released to date. She had ditched the sexy, floor-filling R&B vibes of her first three records (which were helped out by late ‘90s/early ‘00s kings of production, The Neptunes), signed to a poor record deal and then, upon leaving, committed the musical cardinal sin (unless you’re Sia) of working with David Guetta and his EDM crew. Flesh Tone managed to make at least some of an impact because, here, she was behind the wheel and it was very much Kelis-doing-EDM rather than some EDM with a bit of Kelis on it; trying something different and, for the most part, doing a decent job at it, but it just didn’t capture most of what made Kelis great. Since then, she’s gone through a bit of a change.

1999’s “Caught Out There”, Kelis’ first major solo single coming off the back of her collaboration with Ol’ Dirty Bastard, painted her as the Alanis Morisette of R&B. Fuelled by anger and heartbreak it was the perfect anthem for scorned women everywhere; “You Oughta Know” for those who prefer a thumping beat to some grungy guitars. The Kelis we see in 2014 is unrecognisable compared to Kaleidoscope Kelis. She’s matured and no longer lets anger and pain rule her heart.

As well as maturing, she’s done a bit of a Paul Newman and ventured into food. Having enrolled in the Cordon Bleu culinary school in 2006, she’s since gone on to get her own cookery show in the States, launched her own range of products (mainly sauces a la Loyd Grossman, seeing as she trained as a saucier), and even took her food truck to SXSW to cook her recipes for punters. It’s a bit of an unusual diversion but it’s one that has heavily inspired this sixth album, aptly titled Food.

It seems a cliché but the world of music and the world of food go together surprisingly well.The ideas of mixing flavours to discover the best combination and the utter precision that is required to create something good is present in both. Working with TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek, Kelis has managed to re-discover what makes her so special and craft whole dishes around that; dishes that are both playful and comforting with a real kick to them.

Album opener, and the first single from the album, “Jerk Ribs” acts as a nice entrée, showing you what’s to come and whether or not it’ll be to your tastes, though it’s hard to not be enraptured by the track. Horns blast out among the luscious string section as Kelis’ husky vocals lead the way. It’s a real tasty soul track and the perfect introduction to what Food is all about; namely a bunch of songs named after food and packed with soul and hands-to-your-chest, face-to-the-sky belters. From here it moves effortlessly into new worlds as though you’re navigating a tasting platter.

The sultry “Floyd” snakes and swoons as though navigating a smoky jazz club; a smooth slow jam that sees Kelis’ hoarse but no less sexy vocals croon “I want to be blown away”. “Hooch” really feels like a track that belongs on something put out by Ninja Tune. Kelis’ move to the label normally filled with leftfield electronic artists seemed like strange but it was a decision that had people, myself included, really intrigued to see what it would bring. “Hooch” has a really jazzy Bonobo feel to the brass mixed with Nile Rodgers-esque disco guitar work and even more swooning from Kelis. “Cobbler” has a more afrobeat vibe to it, with the percussion of claps and, what could quite easily be, the sound of pots and pans. But, like much of the album, it sits more on the mellow side of the scale. This isn’t the balls-to-the-wall club anthems of Flesh Tone, instead sounding more at home sat out in the last hours of the sun with a nice cold cocktail as the sky begins to be painted a deep orange and red. It’s more sunset street party, than sweaty basement club. “Friday Fish Fry” is, perhaps, the only track to really get a dancefloor going, with a great little call and response bit thrown in the middle.

Things take an interesting turn with a gorgeous cover of Labi Siffre’s “Bless The Telephone” which is filled with warmth, consisting of mainly an acoustic guitar and Kelis’ vocals. It’s impossible to not mention her vocals at all when a song like “Bless The Telephone” comes along. It’s that smoky feeling to it that just drips with sensuality that makes it so appealing. It proves a really nice break from the brass heavy rest of the album, taking things down to an even mellower notch.

Food is not an album that’s really going to produce the next “Milkshake” or “Acapella” but it is a fantastically immediate record that is captivating every time you return. Like Janelle Monae, Kelis dips into the retro vibes without falling into the trap of nostalgia. It’s all ideas we’ve heard before but it still feels distinctly ‘now’. As we glide from sexy brass, to funky African vibes, to a toned down Simon & Garfunkel-esque sound, it really does feel like we’re going through a full meal. Once you leave Food, you’re not going to feel stuffed, rather extremely content. It wants you to try different things but it isn’t in the habit of shoving too much onto your plate. Instead what you get is a set of well-crafted dishes that use different ideas like spices to really bring out the best in Kelis. And I’ve pretty much run out of food based metaphors so I should stop now. Check please.

Chet Faker is a name that has been around for a while but tip now he has yet to release an album. The Australian is blessed with a voice of soulful leaning and is mixed with electronic R&B production; he even caught the attention of beer brand Becks, who used Faker’s cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” in an advert during the 2013 Super Bowl. Working with fellow Aussie producer Flume helped to further achieve wider acknowledgement and Faker is signed to Future Classics, a label celebrated for it ability of pushing bands into the lime-light seemingly overnight. 
The album starts with “Release Your Problems” and “Talk Is Cheap”, which are fine examples of the increasingly prescient electronic R&B sound. “Melt” was originally released in August 2013 and features the vocals of Kilo Kish; I really like the bass in this, a kind of fuzzy-synth you would get as a preset on your first keyboard. Almost talking in a hushed conversation, Chet wearly slurring his words and Kilo whispering innocently, this song is about obsession and loneliness. The song “To Me” is a song I think most people can relate to, it is addressed to Chet himself, questioning, “What is he doing? Is he doing the right thing? Going down the right route?” And I think it can correlate with many different aspects of life; relationships, your career, your life’s path. 
The second half of the album starts with “Blush” which sounds a lot like like James Vincent McMorrow with a chilled drumbeat, and this is probably the highpoint of the record, with lots of experimentation and extrapolation from Faker’s regular sound. A more tropical affair comes in “1998”; vocal samples, warm synths and Balearic inspired piano makes this a most buoyant, pop-oriented song on the album. A simple guitar lick features in “Cigarettes & Loneliness: that is looped over slumberous electronic beats, whilst “Lesson In Patience” is the only instrumental on the album, and has something kind of bohemian jazz cafe about it with its saxophone and Rhodes synth taking centre stage. Last song on the album is the happily-titled “Dead Body” in which minimalist beats and reverb drenched vocals meter into a slow-burning R&B torch song, and a great closer to the album.
Built On Glass starts off as soul-infused electronica then turns into a downbeat summer vibes album, and I think I prefer the latter approach. The album feels like a good starting point in Faker’s career, the songs fit together really well and Faker definitely has a talent for creating catchy hooks and choruses. A debut album that, whilst not a defining statement, is still definitely worth checking out. 
★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Chet Faker is a name that has been around for a while but tip now he has yet to release an album. The Australian is blessed with a voice of soulful leaning and is mixed with electronic R&B production; he even caught the attention of beer brand Becks, who used Faker’s cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” in an advert during the 2013 Super Bowl. Working with fellow Aussie producer Flume helped to further achieve wider acknowledgement and Faker is signed to Future Classics, a label celebrated for it ability of pushing bands into the lime-light seemingly overnight. 

The album starts with “Release Your Problems” and “Talk Is Cheap”, which are fine examples of the increasingly prescient electronic R&B sound. “Melt” was originally released in August 2013 and features the vocals of Kilo Kish; I really like the bass in this, a kind of fuzzy-synth you would get as a preset on your first keyboard. Almost talking in a hushed conversation, Chet wearly slurring his words and Kilo whispering innocently, this song is about obsession and loneliness. The song “To Me” is a song I think most people can relate to, it is addressed to Chet himself, questioning, “What is he doing? Is he doing the right thing? Going down the right route?” And I think it can correlate with many different aspects of life; relationships, your career, your life’s path. 

The second half of the album starts with “Blush” which sounds a lot like like James Vincent McMorrow with a chilled drumbeat, and this is probably the highpoint of the record, with lots of experimentation and extrapolation from Faker’s regular sound. A more tropical affair comes in “1998”; vocal samples, warm synths and Balearic inspired piano makes this a most buoyant, pop-oriented song on the album. A simple guitar lick features in “Cigarettes & Loneliness: that is looped over slumberous electronic beats, whilst “Lesson In Patience” is the only instrumental on the album, and has something kind of bohemian jazz cafe about it with its saxophone and Rhodes synth taking centre stage. Last song on the album is the happily-titled “Dead Body” in which minimalist beats and reverb drenched vocals meter into a slow-burning R&B torch song, and a great closer to the album.

Built On Glass starts off as soul-infused electronica then turns into a downbeat summer vibes album, and I think I prefer the latter approach. The album feels like a good starting point in Faker’s career, the songs fit together really well and Faker definitely has a talent for creating catchy hooks and choruses. A debut album that, whilst not a defining statement, is still definitely worth checking out. 



I know I wasn’t the only one who was devastated by the news last year that Das Racist would no longer be releasing music. Just driving by a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell was almost enough to bring tears to my eyes. Luckily, a fraction of the group lives on through Kool A.D., although of course his solo project is more personally influenced than another Das Racist album would’ve been. His flow pattern is still the same, but shows more of who he is as an artist. And that’s nonsensical, chill and slightly underground.

On his own, A.D.’s sound shows that he was one of the stronger components of Das Racist. But when each beat is catered to his flow, it shows his versatility. The mixtape starts off sounding kind of reminiscent of early ’00s underground hip-hop, before taking a slightly trippy electronic turn on “Tight”, thanks to production by Toro Y Moi (in my opinion, it kind of sounds like Death Grips, but less frightening). The Bay Area native’s heavy west coast influence shows up throughout the album; the Kassa-produced “Look” sounds like a nod to the late Mac Dre and Too $hort, while the “Special Forces” beat would fit in comfortably on a Lil B mixtape. Toro Y Moi makes another production appearance on “The Front”, and the pairing of the two makes an excellent combination; there’s a perfect natural chemistry between the two, and it shows itself in beautiful samples and well-matched lyrics. The other highpoints come thanks to A.D.’s longtime producer Amaze 88 being behind contributing to a handful of tracks, and gets shouted out as his A&R on “Life & Time”. Talib Kweli makes an appearance with Boots Riley on “Hickory”, which has the makings of one of those fun summer-time songs, but thankfully it doesn’t go the Will Smith route. Overall, Word O.K. is simple but intriguing; it shows Kool A.D.’s artistic evolution and showcases his personality in the best possible way.

Despite being a member of Das Racist, Kool A.D. isn’t a stranger to the solo artist path. Word O.K. is a great piece to help him truly establish his identity outside of the group. Of course, he’ll probably always be linked to Das Racist, especially if his Wikipedia page has anything to do with it. This mixtape separates him from his group identity and makes you want to get to know him more as a solo artist. Although I’m sure he doesn’t want to completely detach his name from his Das Racist days - after all, the success from it helped to launch his career and helped mould him into the phenomenally chill rapper he is today. Yet in the music industry, there’s always an evolution of artists, whether solo or as a group. For those trying to establish some sort of solo identity after being in a popular group, you’re held to a different standard. And after a while, you want to be known for your individuality, hard work and whatever else you want your music to say. 

I’d say that Kool A.D. was successfully able to break away and show his strengths as a solo artists with this mixtape. It’s as if he was trying to tell the world “I’m Kool A.D., and I shit on other rappers, Das Racist or not.” At the same time, it fills the void that Das Racist left in my heart. It just might be better off this way. Every artist needs room for growth, and this was the right path for him to take to hone his own sound.

★★★★★★★☆☆☆

I know I wasn’t the only one who was devastated by the news last year that Das Racist would no longer be releasing music. Just driving by a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell was almost enough to bring tears to my eyes. Luckily, a fraction of the group lives on through Kool A.D., although of course his solo project is more personally influenced than another Das Racist album would’ve been. His flow pattern is still the same, but shows more of who he is as an artist. And that’s nonsensical, chill and slightly underground.

On his own, A.D.’s sound shows that he was one of the stronger components of Das Racist. But when each beat is catered to his flow, it shows his versatility. The mixtape starts off sounding kind of reminiscent of early ’00s underground hip-hop, before taking a slightly trippy electronic turn on “Tight”, thanks to production by Toro Y Moi (in my opinion, it kind of sounds like Death Grips, but less frightening). The Bay Area native’s heavy west coast influence shows up throughout the album; the Kassa-produced “Look” sounds like a nod to the late Mac Dre and Too $hort, while the “Special Forces” beat would fit in comfortably on a Lil B mixtape. Toro Y Moi makes another production appearance on “The Front”, and the pairing of the two makes an excellent combination; there’s a perfect natural chemistry between the two, and it shows itself in beautiful samples and well-matched lyrics. The other highpoints come thanks to A.D.’s longtime producer Amaze 88 being behind contributing to a handful of tracks, and gets shouted out as his A&R on “Life & Time”. Talib Kweli makes an appearance with Boots Riley on “Hickory”, which has the makings of one of those fun summer-time songs, but thankfully it doesn’t go the Will Smith route. Overall, Word O.K. is simple but intriguing; it shows Kool A.D.’s artistic evolution and showcases his personality in the best possible way.

Despite being a member of Das Racist, Kool A.D. isn’t a stranger to the solo artist path. Word O.K. is a great piece to help him truly establish his identity outside of the group. Of course, he’ll probably always be linked to Das Racist, especially if his Wikipedia page has anything to do with it. This mixtape separates him from his group identity and makes you want to get to know him more as a solo artist. Although I’m sure he doesn’t want to completely detach his name from his Das Racist days - after all, the success from it helped to launch his career and helped mould him into the phenomenally chill rapper he is today. Yet in the music industry, there’s always an evolution of artists, whether solo or as a group. For those trying to establish some sort of solo identity after being in a popular group, you’re held to a different standard. And after a while, you want to be known for your individuality, hard work and whatever else you want your music to say.

I’d say that Kool A.D. was successfully able to break away and show his strengths as a solo artists with this mixtape. It’s as if he was trying to tell the world “I’m Kool A.D., and I shit on other rappers, Das Racist or not.” At the same time, it fills the void that Das Racist left in my heart. It just might be better off this way. Every artist needs room for growth, and this was the right path for him to take to hone his own sound.

It’s amazing how much artistic growth SZA (aka Solana Rowe) has managed to do in such a short period of time. She doesn’t seem new to the music game at all, which is ironic for being Ivy League educated in marine biology. I imagine that this natural musical ability didn’t just manifest out of the blue — it had to have come from somewhere. Regardless of where the secret of her talent lies, Z is the perfect compliment to SZA’s growing catalogue of glitter trap greats. It’s sexy, bass-heavy, melodramatic and soulful. Except this time, there are more indie and electronic sounds added to the mix, not that it’s unfitting or anything. She never seems to do anything the same way twice. And this is a good thing — she keeps you on your toes in an elusive pixieish way.
"Sweet November" has Rowe slipping into the guise of an jazz crooner with a modern twist, giving off an old soul vibe over a Marvin Gaye sample. “Childs Play” takes the infamous XXYYXX “About You” sample and pairs it well with a melancholy verse from the usually hype Chance The Rapper. TDE labelmate Kendrick Lamar makes an appearance on “Babylon”, an eerily sexy track as heavy on bass as it is emotion. Even softer sounding cuts like “Julia” and “Warm Winds” are dripping with soul and suffering, adding to her authenticity. You’ll probably never hear a poppy, sunshine-riddled track from SZA; her music is intentionally haunting and brooding, perfect for angsty creative types (like myself). The electronic and indie influences shows up in “Green Mile”, which sounds like an ingenious mixture of Animal Collective and The Cranberries, with a splash of hip-hop. She’s nothing more than completely honest in all of her work, finding an outlet for years of being sheltered growing up in an Orthodox Muslim home.  SZA also isn’t afraid to stray away from traditional song-writing patterns, evident in tracks like “Ur”.
Different seems to work for her; you’re always left wondering what she’ll do next. Z is another instalment of a three part series of EPs, appropriately titled S, Z and A. The second instalment is admittedly darker than its predecessor, but this darkness doesn’t always translate to sadness though. If anything, it’s more of an honest look at relationships, emotions and life in a way people often shy away from for fear of seeming cynical. Call it what you want, but it works beautifully for her. 
★★★★★★★★☆☆

It’s amazing how much artistic growth SZA (aka Solana Rowe) has managed to do in such a short period of time. She doesn’t seem new to the music game at all, which is ironic for being Ivy League educated in marine biology. I imagine that this natural musical ability didn’t just manifest out of the blue — it had to have come from somewhere. Regardless of where the secret of her talent lies, Z is the perfect compliment to SZA’s growing catalogue of glitter trap greats. It’s sexy, bass-heavy, melodramatic and soulful. Except this time, there are more indie and electronic sounds added to the mix, not that it’s unfitting or anything. She never seems to do anything the same way twice. And this is a good thing — she keeps you on your toes in an elusive pixieish way.

"Sweet November" has Rowe slipping into the guise of an jazz crooner with a modern twist, giving off an old soul vibe over a Marvin Gaye sample. “Childs Play” takes the infamous XXYYXX “About You” sample and pairs it well with a melancholy verse from the usually hype Chance The Rapper. TDE labelmate Kendrick Lamar makes an appearance on “Babylon”, an eerily sexy track as heavy on bass as it is emotion. Even softer sounding cuts like “Julia” and “Warm Winds” are dripping with soul and suffering, adding to her authenticity. You’ll probably never hear a poppy, sunshine-riddled track from SZA; her music is intentionally haunting and brooding, perfect for angsty creative types (like myself). The electronic and indie influences shows up in “Green Mile”, which sounds like an ingenious mixture of Animal Collective and The Cranberries, with a splash of hip-hop. She’s nothing more than completely honest in all of her work, finding an outlet for years of being sheltered growing up in an Orthodox Muslim home.  SZA also isn’t afraid to stray away from traditional song-writing patterns, evident in tracks like “Ur”.

Different seems to work for her; you’re always left wondering what she’ll do next. Z is another instalment of a three part series of EPs, appropriately titled S, Z and A. The second instalment is admittedly darker than its predecessor, but this darkness doesn’t always translate to sadness though. If anything, it’s more of an honest look at relationships, emotions and life in a way people often shy away from for fear of seeming cynical. Call it what you want, but it works beautifully for her.

When Childish Gambino and Chance The Rapper strolled onto the rap scene, I feel like they started to fill a void in hip-hop that we weren’t even aware was there or needed to be filled. There was something about their brand of high energy, danceable, semi-sung, hood-influenced, somewhat dramatic hip-hop that made you want to listen, despite any of your preconceived notions. Their sound dug its way into your mind, set up shop and kept you hitting repeat for the next week or so. But with those two as the only visible faces for the sound, we were left to wonder — who was next?

The answer has come about in Virginia-based rapper Goldlink. It should’ve come as no surprise to me when my roommate suggested that I listen to him - she’s a rabid fan of both Gambino and Chance. Goldlink is young, charismatic, dramatic and, as Tom Haverford will be pleased to find out, knows how to make a banger. The God Complex is a nine track introduction to the artist that will make you want to dance and move from start to finish. It’s a blend of sounds that finds a little bit of something for everyone, from trap to dance rhythms that’d fit perfectly in clubs, to hip-hop and everything in between (he appropriately refers to this sound as future bounce). 

Goldlink is reflective of a restless and reckless generation, while being catchy and energetic; I’d chalk his appeal up to youth and drive. Amidst all of the things that makes him an ideal listen for younger crowds, he incorporates a lot of classic hip-hop, R&B and jazz samples to attract older listeners. He has a good understanding of rhythm and cadence, enabling him to be versatile in his beat selection. The mixtape is less than thirty minutes from start to finish (clocking in at about 26 minutes to be more exact), with none of the tracks making it to the four minute mark. “Bedtime Story” features a sample from fellow Virginia-native Timbaland’s “Drop”, pairing it with a classy jazz sample and an upbeat drum pattern, whilst the skittish electronic sound of “How It’s Done” is reminiscent of Odd Future members The Jet Age of Tomorrow. The slowest points you’ll find are the initial moment on the intro track “Ay Ay” before it transitions, and the closer “When I Die”, which takes an unexpected sober turn as Goldlink talks about all of his last wishes before crashing his car and abruptly ending the mixtape.

Goldlink is captivating, has the ability to draw you in before the first beat drop and overall, more than you’d ever expect. Because of its short length and great consistency, The God Complex is worth listening to the whole way through each time. Production by a few small names (Louie Lastic, Fingalick, JFK Jaylen!, McCallaman, Lakim and Teklun) keeps the mixtape interesting throughout its entirety. The worst I can manage to say about it is that it’s just so damn short - I was almost disappointed when it was over. But all good things always come to an end. The end of the mixtape just meant it was time for me to search for Goldlink’s back catalogue and anxiously await whatever is next.

★★★★★★★★★☆

When Childish Gambino and Chance The Rapper strolled onto the rap scene, I feel like they started to fill a void in hip-hop that we weren’t even aware was there or needed to be filled. There was something about their brand of high energy, danceable, semi-sung, hood-influenced, somewhat dramatic hip-hop that made you want to listen, despite any of your preconceived notions. Their sound dug its way into your mind, set up shop and kept you hitting repeat for the next week or so. But with those two as the only visible faces for the sound, we were left to wonder — who was next?

The answer has come about in Virginia-based rapper Goldlink. It should’ve come as no surprise to me when my roommate suggested that I listen to him - she’s a rabid fan of both Gambino and Chance. Goldlink is young, charismatic, dramatic and, as Tom Haverford will be pleased to find out, knows how to make a banger. The God Complex is a nine track introduction to the artist that will make you want to dance and move from start to finish. It’s a blend of sounds that finds a little bit of something for everyone, from trap to dance rhythms that’d fit perfectly in clubs, to hip-hop and everything in between (he appropriately refers to this sound as future bounce).

Goldlink is reflective of a restless and reckless generation, while being catchy and energetic; I’d chalk his appeal up to youth and drive. Amidst all of the things that makes him an ideal listen for younger crowds, he incorporates a lot of classic hip-hop, R&B and jazz samples to attract older listeners. He has a good understanding of rhythm and cadence, enabling him to be versatile in his beat selection. The mixtape is less than thirty minutes from start to finish (clocking in at about 26 minutes to be more exact), with none of the tracks making it to the four minute mark. “Bedtime Story” features a sample from fellow Virginia-native Timbaland’s “Drop”, pairing it with a classy jazz sample and an upbeat drum pattern, whilst the skittish electronic sound of “How It’s Done” is reminiscent of Odd Future members The Jet Age of Tomorrow. The slowest points you’ll find are the initial moment on the intro track “Ay Ay” before it transitions, and the closer “When I Die”, which takes an unexpected sober turn as Goldlink talks about all of his last wishes before crashing his car and abruptly ending the mixtape.

Goldlink is captivating, has the ability to draw you in before the first beat drop and overall, more than you’d ever expect. Because of its short length and great consistency, The God Complex is worth listening to the whole way through each time. Production by a few small names (Louie Lastic, Fingalick, JFK Jaylen!, McCallaman, Lakim and Teklun) keeps the mixtape interesting throughout its entirety. The worst I can manage to say about it is that it’s just so damn short - I was almost disappointed when it was over. But all good things always come to an end. The end of the mixtape just meant it was time for me to search for Goldlink’s back catalogue and anxiously await whatever is next.

Game Of Thrones’ fourth season opens with a callback to one of the closing images of Season 1: Eddard Stark’s greatsword, Ice, the one used to decapitate him, being melted down and reworked into two new swords for Tywin Lannister’s son and grandson, scored by the now instantly recognisable “Rains of Castamere” (which over the last year has become the show’s own “Imperial March”). Gone are the days of the Starks of the North, Season 4 is all about the lions of the Lannisters. It’s a testament to Game Of Thrones that on its 31st episode, the title music still sends most fans into a frenzy of excitement.
As I’m sure all of you remember, Season 3 ended with about half of the original cast mutilated, scattered and in some way or another, bashed up. None of them are magically fixed or revived, so you must learn to live with it. While the debut season could been seen as a political thriller, the second season a war drama, and Season 3 was a “behind enemy lines”-type espionage story, Season 4 looks set to be firmly in the mould of “buddy cop” genre, with the duos of Brienne Of Tarth and Jaime Lannister; Arya Stark and The Hound; and to a lesser extent, Tyrion and Bronn. Not to suggest this season’s going to have any of the levity of that brand comedy - far from it - but the dynamic between the aforementioned pairs is much the same - particularly Arya and the Hound, who would look set to be the season’s highlight, if it wasn’t for the major new introduction to the cast.
Oberyn Martell is the first Dornish character to be introduced by name and there’s no doubt that he’ll soon become a fan favourite - with his venomous distaste for Lannisters, his bristling vengeance, not to mention his swift introduction as another queer character in the show alongside Ellaria Sand, his paramour from Dorne.
Episode 1, titled “Two Swords” has firmly surrounded itself with the settling dust from Season 3’s finale, all talk and little action (save for the tense tavern brawl finale). It bodes well, though, with Jaime and Cersei Lannister reunited to trade barbs at one another, Oberyn Martell to soliloquise of future revenge, Daenerys cursorily flirting with the recast Daario Nahaaris and Jon Snow eulogising the late Robb Stark.

Season 4 is looking promising on virtue of this opener, with characters very firmly set on their path for the rest of the season, particularly Arya who looks certain to become an pint-sized agent of vengeance, and Oberyn Martell, whose role in King’s Landing and all-round bad-boy status will be the high point of the series for many. Hopefully.

Game Of Thrones’ fourth season opens with a callback to one of the closing images of Season 1: Eddard Stark’s greatsword, Ice, the one used to decapitate him, being melted down and reworked into two new swords for Tywin Lannister’s son and grandson, scored by the now instantly recognisable “Rains of Castamere” (which over the last year has become the show’s own “Imperial March”). Gone are the days of the Starks of the North, Season 4 is all about the lions of the Lannisters. It’s a testament to Game Of Thrones that on its 31st episode, the title music still sends most fans into a frenzy of excitement.

As I’m sure all of you remember, Season 3 ended with about half of the original cast mutilated, scattered and in some way or another, bashed up. None of them are magically fixed or revived, so you must learn to live with it. While the debut season could been seen as a political thriller, the second season a war drama, and Season 3 was a “behind enemy lines”-type espionage story, Season 4 looks set to be firmly in the mould of “buddy cop” genre, with the duos of Brienne Of Tarth and Jaime Lannister; Arya Stark and The Hound; and to a lesser extent, Tyrion and Bronn. Not to suggest this season’s going to have any of the levity of that brand comedy - far from it - but the dynamic between the aforementioned pairs is much the same - particularly Arya and the Hound, who would look set to be the season’s highlight, if it wasn’t for the major new introduction to the cast.

Oberyn Martell is the first Dornish character to be introduced by name and there’s no doubt that he’ll soon become a fan favourite - with his venomous distaste for Lannisters, his bristling vengeance, not to mention his swift introduction as another queer character in the show alongside Ellaria Sand, his paramour from Dorne.

Episode 1, titled “Two Swords” has firmly surrounded itself with the settling dust from Season 3’s finale, all talk and little action (save for the tense tavern brawl finale). It bodes well, though, with Jaime and Cersei Lannister reunited to trade barbs at one another, Oberyn Martell to soliloquise of future revenge, Daenerys cursorily flirting with the recast Daario Nahaaris and Jon Snow eulogising the late Robb Stark.

Season 4 is looking promising on virtue of this opener, with characters very firmly set on their path for the rest of the season, particularly Arya who looks certain to become an pint-sized agent of vengeance, and Oberyn Martell, whose role in King’s Landing and all-round bad-boy status will be the high point of the series for many. Hopefully.

Foxes - Glorious
God know why anyone would want to be a popstar right now. Well, I mean, I know why people would want to be one in general; fame, adulation, money, success, sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll, etc. But right now, launching a career as a one seems like it’d be hard as hell, as the market is pretty saturated with every conceivable kind of star. So all the props to Foxes, aka Louisa Rose Allen, for plowing on and carving out a niche. Allen’s signature style is dynamic and dramatic, and stronger than the majority of her electro-pop peers, whom would sell their grandmothers for a song as undeniably great as “Youth”. 

However, through much of Glorious Foxes seems caught somewhere between creating something truly unique and interesting, and flat Emeli Sande-esque beigeness; “Let Go For Tonight” and “White Coats” would be considered too dull for even the worst teen drama soundtracks, whilst the title track is uninspiring as pop gets. But whilst the slower-paced tracks are uninspiring, it’s the attempts  towards upbeat pop where Foxes shines (“Night Owls Early Birds”, “Holding Onto Heaven”, “Talking To Ghosts”) and shows that she’ll be a good-to-great proposition for a long time.

Future Islands - Singles
The big cult albums of the last few years never particularly seem to grab me like they do everyone else. Sharon Van Etten’s Tramp, James Blake’s eponymous debut, Parquet Courts’ Light Up Gold, Kurt Vile’s everything, St Vincent’s Strange Mercy and countless, countless others have invoked musical canonisation in others, whilst leaving me cold - that’s not even a weird hipster brag about disliking popular things either; I’d rather enjoy something than not - and Future Islands seemed be this year’s major iteration of this personal phenomenon. 

The North Carolina trio shimmied into the consciousness of the switched-on musical public with that superb Letterman performance, bringing an massively increased spotlight to their fourth album Singles, and with it, seemingly blanket adulation. But for once, I can sort of see where this tidal wave of praise is coming from. Musically, Future Islands aren’t too far down the road from The Killers; sprightly, dramatic synth-pop, which is melodic as hell but far from “main-event status”. It’s confusing to see people enthusing about this particular aspect of the record, but it’s not the focal point of the attention current foisted on the band.

Their real secret weapon is, as anyone who’s watched that Letterman spot knows, Samuel T. Herring, the most charismatic frontman of the age, a physical cross between young Marlon Brando and Kurt Angle, with the stage presence of Nick Cave. And that voice, jeez. It elevates the sound of Singles from decent to must-listen, makes “Seasons (Waiting On You)” a golden pop anthem. It’s irresistible and unplaceable, at times swinging from Elton John to Alison Moyet to William Shatner, and it’s the major attraction of the record. The lyrics may be lacking and the music a few steps above decent, but it’s that voice, that damned magic voice that will keep dragging me back to Singles throughout the rest of the year.

The Horrors - Luminous
Everyone knows the trajectory of The Horrors by now; po-faced impossible-to-take-seriously goth-punks become shoegaze revivalist icons become the least likely arena band in the world. But whilst metamorphosing into a band who will likely headline major festivals in a few years, they’ve kept their interesting quirks unlike a lot of groups who reach the same standing. Luminous continues the psychedelic, druggy edge that developed on Skying, which is the first time the band has actually retained a sound between releases. However, where Skying felt a bit cloudy and murky for the most part, Luminous lives up to its title; things seem bright and, if not sunny, then at least warm in The Horrors’ world. 

In a way, it’s a little disappointing to not hear a drastic change in the band’s sound for once. It’s almost like you kind of know how each track will turn out; baggy beats ’n’ bass, swirling rushes of guitar effects, solid pop melodies. This is not such a bad thing - good sounds are good sounds, regardless, and perhaps to someone less familiar with the band, this will sound wondrous - but for a band so exploratory and experimental with their own sound, it’s kind of uninspiring. 

The fact that seven of the tracks here extend past a five-minute running time is a bit of a drag too. Chopped down to three minutes, and “First Day Of Spring” could be a great, concise pop song. The same with “So Now You Know”, which falls back on the “repeat the title-chorus forever” trick to fill out its five minutes. Oddly it’s both the two shortest tracks (“Falling Star” and “Mine And Yours”) and the longest (the krautrock-y single “I See You”) which are the biggest bright spots.

I’ll be honest, the majority of Luminous makes me just want to go and listen to “Sea Within A Sea”. It’s not as if the record is without merits outside the aforementioned three tracks; the waltzing “Change Your Mind” is a wonderful deviation from the rest of the album’s sound, and the first half is perfectly serviceable. But it feels like this is a band treading water, rather than doing laps around everyone else in the pool.

BADBADNOTGOOD are an instantly memorable band. Be it their pig-masked drummer, their uniquely funky collaborations with Tyler, The Creator, their thrilling live shows or simply their superb brand of modern electro-jazz, it’s hard to forget about them once you’ve tuned in. Their debut and sophomore releases, called simply BBNG and BBNG2 are two records smattered with covers and original tracks, covering a large bit of ground from hip-hop to post-punk (superb covers of Nas’ “The World Is Yours” and My Bloody Valentine’s You “Made Me Realise”on BBNG and BBNG2 respectively).
Their third release, unsurprisingly titled III, is a little lighter on the covers front. Across the 10-track album, the group tighten their grip on jazz and loosen their grip on everything else - BADBADNOTGOOD’s airy, fuzzy sound remains but the focus is more consistently put on the jazz side of things. “Differently, Still” is a meandering piano jam with a rattling double bass and fizzing drums a far, far cry from the early rap covers on that first album, while “Eyes Closed”has energy not dissimilar to previous BBNG tracks, but once again more in the direction of jazz than any of their other influences, with a prickly Foals-esque guitar line that rises into unease.
It’s a credit to BADBADNOTGOOD that they’ve managed to refine their sound so completely without losing any of the hair-raising eeriness of their songs. “CS60” and “Can’t Leave The Night”are the chief offenders, with the drone of strings going through peaks and troughs as the guitars and drums fire through off-beat upon off-beat to breathless conclusions. “Since You Asked Kindly” is a welcome highlight, revisiting some of the more electronic elements on previous releases with a thumping bassline and rock organs complimenting machine gun drums.
III has captured a lot more emotion than many instrumental albums have in recent times, and regular collaborator Leland Witty rejoins for “Confessions”, a tender saxophone jam worth driving in the rain to. “Kaleidoscope”is a paranoid seven minute opus with drummer Alexander Sowinski in the driving seat, and, as in several other tracks, a brass ensemble complementing the trio’s standard drums, double bass and keyboard combination.
III is the undoubtedly fullest-sounding BADBADNOTGOOD record yet, with a specific mission plan and vision, while retaining the band’s unfaltering appeal - their easy-going, off-beat jazz improvisations. Although perhaps fans might expect another fantastic cover version on this album, what they will be rewarded with instead is ten absolutely superb and memorable original tracks. 
★★★★★★★★☆☆

BADBADNOTGOOD are an instantly memorable band. Be it their pig-masked drummer, their uniquely funky collaborations with Tyler, The Creator, their thrilling live shows or simply their superb brand of modern electro-jazz, it’s hard to forget about them once you’ve tuned in. Their debut and sophomore releases, called simply BBNG and BBNG2 are two records smattered with covers and original tracks, covering a large bit of ground from hip-hop to post-punk (superb covers of Nas’ “The World Is Yours” and My Bloody Valentine’s You “Made Me Realise”on BBNG and BBNG2 respectively).

Their third release, unsurprisingly titled III, is a little lighter on the covers front. Across the 10-track album, the group tighten their grip on jazz and loosen their grip on everything else - BADBADNOTGOOD’s airy, fuzzy sound remains but the focus is more consistently put on the jazz side of things. “Differently, Still” is a meandering piano jam with a rattling double bass and fizzing drums a far, far cry from the early rap covers on that first album, while “Eyes Closed”has energy not dissimilar to previous BBNG tracks, but once again more in the direction of jazz than any of their other influences, with a prickly Foals-esque guitar line that rises into unease.

It’s a credit to BADBADNOTGOOD that they’ve managed to refine their sound so completely without losing any of the hair-raising eeriness of their songs. “CS60” and “Can’t Leave The Night”are the chief offenders, with the drone of strings going through peaks and troughs as the guitars and drums fire through off-beat upon off-beat to breathless conclusions. “Since You Asked Kindly” is a welcome highlight, revisiting some of the more electronic elements on previous releases with a thumping bassline and rock organs complimenting machine gun drums.

III has captured a lot more emotion than many instrumental albums have in recent times, and regular collaborator Leland Witty rejoins for “Confessions”, a tender saxophone jam worth driving in the rain to. “Kaleidoscope”is a paranoid seven minute opus with drummer Alexander Sowinski in the driving seat, and, as in several other tracks, a brass ensemble complementing the trio’s standard drums, double bass and keyboard combination.

III is the undoubtedly fullest-sounding BADBADNOTGOOD record yet, with a specific mission plan and vision, while retaining the band’s unfaltering appeal - their easy-going, off-beat jazz improvisations. Although perhaps fans might expect another fantastic cover version on this album, what they will be rewarded with instead is ten absolutely superb and memorable original tracks. 

Teebs is a LA based producer and part of Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label, and with those nuggets of information, you should have an idea of the type of music he makes. It’s the type of electronic music I expect from LA and it certainly delivers, lots of jingles, chimes and shakers with a throbbing bass underscore and drums that sound as dry as the desert surrounding the city. Estara is the third release after 2010’s Ardour and 2012’s compilation album Cecilia Tapes Collection and has a much more varied soundscape than those two predecessors.
The album opens with “The Endless” a song of idyllic wavey synths and chimes whereas the next track, ”View Point” has a Cosmogramma-esque rhythm before calming down towards the end. The first single released from the album is the Jonti-collaboration entitled ”Holiday”,a song which sounds like it could have been in Animal Collective’s back catalogue. A lot of Teebs’ productions use field recordings that he gathers himself and manipulates, adding layers and beats, and mixing it in Fruity Loops, and you can hear that DIY roughness in it which I think makes it sound so beautiful. “Shoouss Lullaby” is one of my favourite songs from the album, beginning with lots of delicate jingling, before building with acoustic guitars, reverb-laden beats and vibrating bass, and then slowing and ending where it began. The album takes a break with “NY Pt. 1” as a kind of reflective regard, with a distant, more ambient feel which goes on for the next three songs before transitioning into “Mondaze”gently throwing you back into the bass, beats and lush melodies that fill the rest of the album. Estara closes with “Wavxxes”, which starts like some kind of breaking news bulletin then slowly reintroduces synths, bass and sparse drums, before bringing a chap called Lars Horntveth a Norwegian jazz musician, into the mix for some nice clarinet towards the end of the song. I’ll certainly be exploring Horntveth’s work further.

Estara has a sense of lavish melancholia and a yearning to it; when I hear this, I feel like I look at the world through Instagram-tinted vision with sun-rays and those rainbow rings you get. Having said that, I had to give the album a few listens before I really appreciated it. With this type of music, it can feel quite similar to other works - although you can differentiate between his label mates like Samiyam and Lapalux. The genre needs undivided attention when you listen and only then can you really get a sense of the music and the craft and how much work goes into it. This is a much more varied album than his previous work but still has the beauty and lusciousness you would expect from Teebs. 
★★★★★★★★☆☆

Teebs is a LA based producer and part of Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label, and with those nuggets of information, you should have an idea of the type of music he makes. It’s the type of electronic music I expect from LA and it certainly delivers, lots of jingles, chimes and shakers with a throbbing bass underscore and drums that sound as dry as the desert surrounding the city. Estara is the third release after 2010’s Ardour and 2012’s compilation album Cecilia Tapes Collection and has a much more varied soundscape than those two predecessors.

The album opens with “The Endless” a song of idyllic wavey synths and chimes whereas the next track, ”View Point” has a Cosmogramma-esque rhythm before calming down towards the end. The first single released from the album is the Jonti-collaboration entitled ”Holiday”,a song which sounds like it could have been in Animal Collective’s back catalogue. A lot of Teebs’ productions use field recordings that he gathers himself and manipulates, adding layers and beats, and mixing it in Fruity Loops, and you can hear that DIY roughness in it which I think makes it sound so beautiful. “Shoouss Lullaby” is one of my favourite songs from the album, beginning with lots of delicate jingling, before building with acoustic guitars, reverb-laden beats and vibrating bass, and then slowing and ending where it began. The album takes a break with “NY Pt. 1” as a kind of reflective regard, with a distant, more ambient feel which goes on for the next three songs before transitioning into “Mondaze”gently throwing you back into the bass, beats and lush melodies that fill the rest of the album. Estara closes with Wavxxes”, which starts like some kind of breaking news bulletin then slowly reintroduces synths, bass and sparse drums, before bringing a chap called Lars Horntveth a Norwegian jazz musician, into the mix for some nice clarinet towards the end of the song. I’ll certainly be exploring Horntveth’s work further.

Estara has a sense of lavish melancholia and a yearning to it; when I hear this, I feel like I look at the world through Instagram-tinted vision with sun-rays and those rainbow rings you get. Having said that, I had to give the album a few listens before I really appreciated it. With this type of music, it can feel quite similar to other works - although you can differentiate between his label mates like Samiyam and Lapalux. The genre needs undivided attention when you listen and only then can you really get a sense of the music and the craft and how much work goes into it. This is a much more varied album than his previous work but still has the beauty and lusciousness you would expect from Teebs. 

We never learnt what The Rock was concocting in his kitchen , but the sixteenth and final episode of The Walking Dead’s fourth season answered the question pretty emphatically. Terminus is (cooking) people! Well… we don’t know that with 100% certainty yet, but the show. all but said it with the brief look into that ominous, candlelit room; the walls daubed with slogans “NEVER AGAIN - NEVER US - WE FIRST, ALWAYS”, the floor covered in trinkets and the names of the presumable dead. The “Hunters” arc from the comics is the basis for this cannibal villains angle, and also one of the best things Robert Kirkman has written; that we’re likely to see it play out in admittedly heavily altered form on TV is cause for tentative celebration.The long-awaited arrival at Terminus was a solid capper to what has been a season of two distinct halves. The first five episodes dealt with the threat of disease and illness within the prison, which, whilst being a nice dash of speculative realism, was essentially a convenient way of killing off the majority of ex-Woodbury citizens gained after the end of Season 3, before three episodes were devoted to a ultimate resolution to The Governor plot strand. Now don’t get me wrong, that trilogy of eps formed a vaguely satisfying mini-arc, and were a valiant effort from new showrunner Scott Gimple to correct his predecessor Glen Mazzara’s mistake of not using the iconic attack on the prison from the comics as the finale of Season 3. But the first half of this season was really a whole load of nothing punctuated by an action packed ending, not too dissimilar from how Season 2 turned out. Sure, we got “Internment”, that excellent Hershel spotlight episode, but it was merely a pinhole of light in a dark box of a run. And as switched-on fans know, when TWD gives you a heroic hour in focus, you’re not long for the fictional world, as was proven when Hershel met an undignified, drawn-out death during the Governor’s prison attack. 
However, with the end of the prison arc came a new dawn. Whilst by no means a perfect run of episodes, the back end of Season 4 was a marked improvement and possibly the most enjoyable the show’s been since its debut. With our central group now scattered across the Georgian wilderness with little food, shelter or support, we’ve been able to actually get to know them, and grow to love them as characters (or hate them a bit less at least). Yes, character development makes fiction better! Who’d have thunk it?! Okay, it hasn’t been quite at the level of the show’s AMC stablemates Breaking Bad and Mad Men; Tyreese is still a shadow of his comic counterpart, Maggie & Glen are still defined by being in love with each other and nothing else, but thanks to these last eight episodes, the world of The Walking Dead is a far richer, interesting place to spend 40-odd minutes. Michonne was once a glowering samurai with potential awesomeness gone mostly unused, but now she’s glowering AND a insightful, warm, realistic human being; Daryl was a similarly stoic badass amongst a relatively incompetent group, but his episode with Beth revealed a far more complex and emotional character; Carl (or to give him his proper name KOORRRAL) is a lot less of an angsty nuisance nowadays; Carol was already going through an incredible transformation before we reached the second half of this season, but when remembering she was a timid, mistreated and abused housewife all the way back in the first season, it’s amazing to see her become this strong, rational, hardened character, and probably the best bet to lead the group should Rick go the way of the zomb.
What has helped the show round out its characters/zombie fodder is what was previously a sign of impending doom; the spotlight episode. By handing over an entire episode to one of the smaller groups of characters we were left with and letting them move forward, bounce of each other and just barely survive their environs, we know them better, we connect with them more, and we’ll respond more when they’re in peril (as is wont to happen in the world of The Walking Dead). It’s partly that which has made the video game version of The Walking Dead such a huge success; a focus on characterisation and emotion over action and set-pieces.
Coincidentally, speaking of cannibals and character development, Hannibal has done this recently with the first four episodes of its second season; moving a secondary character into a much larger and significant role in order to make their inevitable and gruesome death pack a lot more of a punch. The demise of this character was intended for the first season, before showrunner Bryan Fuller decided to push it back in order to truly wring all the emotional response possible out of it. Unfortunately Gimple’s only feasible way of doing this with The Walking Dead was multiple episodes of characters trudging through forests and fields and dilapidated houses (as opposed to the cold, beautifully-shot Lynchian world we see on Hannibal), which has become a major bugbear of the vocal minority of its audience.
I’ll be honest however, despite this excellent run of episodes (including the shocking Carol/Tyreese/Sophia/Micah-centric “The Grove”), The Walking Dead will never be a television show of the calibre of canonical greats like The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, nor will it likely ascend to the level of current must-sees like Mad Men, Game Of Thrones, Hannibal, True Detective or Girls. It’s just not of that quality, nor is it really of the same breed; it’s a slightly absurd, pulpy comic book adaptation. It shouldn’t always attempt to “Dark Knight” things and be as bleak as possible, it should revel in the crazy more often. Part of the problem could be that there’s no tangible goal for the characters to aim for. This show is designed to run and run and run; the original comic is still going at 124 issues, with a new issue every month, and no end in sight, so there’ll never be a dearth of material to adapt. And think about it, how do you end a piece of zombie fiction other than everyone dying or a cure being discovered?

But that scramble to find a satisfying conclusion is, at the very least, a year or two away for Gimple, Kirkman and AMC. What comes next is pitting Rick & co against the hungry and heavily-armed inhabitants of Terminus. They don’t know who they’re fucking with…

We never learnt what The Rock was concocting in his kitchen , but the sixteenth and final episode of The Walking Dead’s fourth season answered the question pretty emphatically. Terminus is (cooking) people! Well… we don’t know that with 100% certainty yet, but the show. all but said it with the brief look into that ominous, candlelit room; the walls daubed with slogans “NEVER AGAIN - NEVER US - WE FIRST, ALWAYS”, the floor covered in trinkets and the names of the presumable dead. The “Hunters” arc from the comics is the basis for this cannibal villains angle, and also one of the best things Robert Kirkman has written; that we’re likely to see it play out in admittedly heavily altered form on TV is cause for tentative celebration.The long-awaited arrival at Terminus was a solid capper to what has been a season of two distinct halves. The first five episodes dealt with the threat of disease and illness within the prison, which, whilst being a nice dash of speculative realism, was essentially a convenient way of killing off the majority of ex-Woodbury citizens gained after the end of Season 3, before three episodes were devoted to a ultimate resolution to The Governor plot strand. Now don’t get me wrong, that trilogy of eps formed a vaguely satisfying mini-arc, and were a valiant effort from new showrunner Scott Gimple to correct his predecessor Glen Mazzara’s mistake of not using the iconic attack on the prison from the comics as the finale of Season 3. But the first half of this season was really a whole load of nothing punctuated by an action packed ending, not too dissimilar from how Season 2 turned out. Sure, we got “Internment”, that excellent Hershel spotlight episode, but it was merely a pinhole of light in a dark box of a run. And as switched-on fans know, when TWD gives you a heroic hour in focus, you’re not long for the fictional world, as was proven when Hershel met an undignified, drawn-out death during the Governor’s prison attack. 

However, with the end of the prison arc came a new dawn. Whilst by no means a perfect run of episodes, the back end of Season 4 was a marked improvement and possibly the most enjoyable the show’s been since its debut. With our central group now scattered across the Georgian wilderness with little food, shelter or support, we’ve been able to actually get to know them, and grow to love them as characters (or hate them a bit less at least). Yes, character development makes fiction better! Who’d have thunk it?! Okay, it hasn’t been quite at the level of the show’s AMC stablemates Breaking Bad and Mad Men; Tyreese is still a shadow of his comic counterpart, Maggie & Glen are still defined by being in love with each other and nothing else, but thanks to these last eight episodes, the world of The Walking Dead is a far richer, interesting place to spend 40-odd minutes. Michonne was once a glowering samurai with potential awesomeness gone mostly unused, but now she’s glowering AND a insightful, warm, realistic human being; Daryl was a similarly stoic badass amongst a relatively incompetent group, but his episode with Beth revealed a far more complex and emotional character; Carl (or to give him his proper name KOORRRAL) is a lot less of an angsty nuisance nowadays; Carol was already going through an incredible transformation before we reached the second half of this season, but when remembering she was a timid, mistreated and abused housewife all the way back in the first season, it’s amazing to see her become this strong, rational, hardened character, and probably the best bet to lead the group should Rick go the way of the zomb.

What has helped the show round out its characters/zombie fodder is what was previously a sign of impending doom; the spotlight episode. By handing over an entire episode to one of the smaller groups of characters we were left with and letting them move forward, bounce of each other and just barely survive their environs, we know them better, we connect with them more, and we’ll respond more when they’re in peril (as is wont to happen in the world of The Walking Dead). It’s partly that which has made the video game version of The Walking Dead such a huge success; a focus on characterisation and emotion over action and set-pieces.

Coincidentally, speaking of cannibals and character development, Hannibal has done this recently with the first four episodes of its second season; moving a secondary character into a much larger and significant role in order to make their inevitable and gruesome death pack a lot more of a punch. The demise of this character was intended for the first season, before showrunner Bryan Fuller decided to push it back in order to truly wring all the emotional response possible out of it. Unfortunately Gimple’s only feasible way of doing this with The Walking Dead was multiple episodes of characters trudging through forests and fields and dilapidated houses (as opposed to the cold, beautifully-shot Lynchian world we see on Hannibal), which has become a major bugbear of the vocal minority of its audience.

I’ll be honest however, despite this excellent run of episodes (including the shocking Carol/Tyreese/Sophia/Micah-centric “The Grove”), The Walking Dead will never be a television show of the calibre of canonical greats like The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, nor will it likely ascend to the level of current must-sees like Mad Men, Game Of Thrones, Hannibal, True Detective or Girls. It’s just not of that quality, nor is it really of the same breed; it’s a slightly absurd, pulpy comic book adaptation. It shouldn’t always attempt to “Dark Knight” things and be as bleak as possible, it should revel in the crazy more often. Part of the problem could be that there’s no tangible goal for the characters to aim for. This show is designed to run and run and run; the original comic is still going at 124 issues, with a new issue every month, and no end in sight, so there’ll never be a dearth of material to adapt. And think about it, how do you end a piece of zombie fiction other than everyone dying or a cure being discovered?

But that scramble to find a satisfying conclusion is, at the very least, a year or two away for Gimple, Kirkman and AMC. What comes next is pitting Rick & co against the hungry and heavily-armed inhabitants of Terminus. They don’t know who they’re fucking with…