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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Belt

January 2024's music blogger roundtable

Bringing together music bloggers to discuss music highlights from January

Our assembled cast of music bloggers and broadcasters return to share their thoughts on January 2024 in music.

Joining 5-9 editor, Andrew Belt, to answer the questions are:

Gemma Cockrell is a journalist based in Nottingham. You can either find her assistant-editing LeftLion Magazine, listening to live music in one of Nottingham’s brilliant music venues or watching motorsport.

Andy Peterson is a music writer for Live4ever Media and runs the Voice of Unreason music blog. In his own words, he says: “I’ve been writing about music for various places on the internet since 2007. So many records, so little time.”

Adam Reeve is an editor/writer + other things-er for various places over many years. Currently for Dead Good Music - a music blog that pairs music and oranges together like you wouldn't believe.

Phil Taylor (aka Music Observer) lives in the East Midlands and spends a disproportionate amount of his time listening to music, attending gigs and wearing band T-shirts.

Phil is obsessed with music of all genres, with a leaning towards alt-pop, folk, indie rock and post-punk. He started his blog in 2021 as a way of sharing his feelings about good music; it quickly grew into a fully fledged venture with a focus on new releases as well as live reviews and interviews. He now writes for other publications including LeftLion, The Songbird and Music in Leicester.

5-9: We didn't run a Q&A looking back at December. Did we miss anything from

that month?

A reworked version of Holly Humberstone's 'In Your Room' was among Phil's highlights in December

Phil: December can be a bit of a funny month for music releases what with the inevitable Christmas-themed songs (not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes...) Looking back at my playlist, I realise I found quite a few hidden gems in December '23 - there were superb new tracks from Carpark and Odd Beholder, and a fabulously punchy re-versioning of Holly Humberstone’s ‘Into Your Room’ featuring MUNA. And there was a great song from Kitty Perrin called ‘Death Metal’ - a laidback and tongue-in-cheek relationship reflection. So, in short, decent new music doesn’t necessarily take a break for the holidays!

Adam: December was a busy month, with juggling Christmas and finalising end-of-year lists, but we were able to listen to a few good things. Sunflower Thieves released a new single - potentially the first ever anti-Christmas song - which we really enjoyed. 'It's Not Like the Christmas Films' brought more of their indie folk/pop sound but added some edge to it (like swearing!!!) to make it grittier than their usual stuff. It's always an exciting time when they release something, and more is set to be come this year, so it's a good time to get stuck in.

Gemma: December is always quite a sleepy month, isn’t it? Everyone winding down for

Christmas, not much music being released because the charts are dominated by

Mariah Carey and no one dares try and rival her. I’m sure things did happen but it all

feels so long ago now!

5-9: What was the best album for you in January?

Letter to Self by SPRINTS stood out for Gemma and Phil

Gemma: I’ve got to give it to SPRINTS with Letter to Self. It was the first new album I listened to this year and it was nice to be able to start the year off with something so quality - particularly for a debut album. Honourable mentions go to Neck Deep’s self-titled

record and Junodream’s Pools of Colour too.

Phil: For me it's got to be Letter To Self from SPRINTS. There were some other really strong contenders (notably NewDad), but I must have listened to this one at least 10 times. I just grabbed me, and held me. I wrote a full review of it on my blog but, to cut that long story short, I love the fact it’s a fairly short record which packs so much in - all kinds of vibes and feelings. It’s pretty fast-paced but doesn’t feel at all rushed overall, and nor do the individual tracks seem overly pacey or unsubtle.

It’s the kind of record which sees a band creates a sound and energy - here, infectious with a rebellious undercurrent and a clear intent. SPRINTS are introducing themselves without apology or self-consciousness, but with self-awareness and a sense of planning.

I adore the opening track, ‘Ticking’, as a masterclass on how to express the emotion of anxiety in a relatable but immensely listenable way. That and many of the other tracks really provide an accurate summation of the internal monologue of modern life.

Adam: There were quite a few surprises in January. Green Day's Saviors was far better than I anticipated, although I wonder if that's because Father Of All... ruined all hope of a good Green Day album. Folly Group also came out of nowhere to deliver a good album in Down There!

My favourite would probably Dead Poet Society's FISSION. That album is heavyyyy. Loaded with all sorts of riffs that make me feel powerful when out on a run. But as much as the heaviness took the spotlight, there was also room for hooks and melodies and harmonies to shine through too. It was a blast to hear, and got me into DPS as I'd never really listened to them before.

Andy: Iechyd Da by Bill Ryder-Jones.

5-9: What's the best song/s you've heard this month?

'Hollowed Out' by Ducks Ltd. was one of Andy's top tracks from January (photo credit: Dylan Taylor)

Andy: 'Modus Operandi' by Barry Steel, 'A Love International' by Khruangbin and 'Hollowed Out' by Ducks Ltd.

Adam: Home Counties have released a new single that has taken over my mind. 'Uptight' is groovy and disjointed in the best way. A real slice of post-punk that has not left my ears in a while now. They're releasing their debut album soon, so that will be good.

Nothing But Thieves have also been consistently releasing great music over the years, but their newest single 'Oh No :: He Said What?' is a proper tune. It too is heavy but loaded with groove. Certainly cementing themselves as one of the top rock bands around these days.

Finally - and it is probably a guilty pleasure - but Ariana Grande's 'yes, and?' is impossible to resist.

Gemma: I’m going to choose songs that aren’t from any of those albums I mentioned, just for variety. ‘What If’ by Jerub was on repeat for me – he’s from the same city as me,

Nottingham, and I think he’s incredible. ‘Maybe’ by Yasmin Hass is another track I

had on repeat; it’s so smooth and dreamy. Finally, I’d say ‘Caesar on a TV Screen’

by The Last Dinner Party. It was the final single from their album ‘Prelude to

Ecstasy’, which is also equally as brilliant!

Phil: A particularly hard question this time around. It was a mega month - a huge start to the year! My curated Spotify playlist ran to 62 tracks, probably about 10 to 20 tracks longer than average. I struggled to pick 10 for my January blog post, but I guess if my arm was twisted I’d go for:

Andrea von Kampen - 'A Fox, a Bird' - utterly beautiful, simple and masterfully making use of 'whitespace' to conjure delicate imagery;

Gen and the Degenerates - 'Kids Just Wanna Dance' - hugely creative and fun but at the same time panicky and restless; and

Moonlight Parade - 'Strange Times' - conjuring intense imagery, leading us by the hand through an odd landscape, this is layered, rich, and ultimately satisfying.

We've now collated the monthly song picks into one, easy-to-find playlist, which also includes picks by 5-9 editor, Andrew Belt, and 5-9 Album of the Month hosts, Karl Blakesley and Kiley Larsen. Listen below:

5-9: What's the best gig you've been to this month?

Nottingham's Beat the Streets Festival was Gemma's best gig in January

Gemma: I don’t know if this is cheating but I’m going to say a festival. Beat the Streets in

Nottingham took place at the end of the month, which saw all of Nottingham’s music

scene come together to raise money for Framework, which works to end

homelessness. It’s always a beautiful event and I saw some incredible artists there,

including Girlband!, Cam Mannix, Serena Jasmine, Beans on Toast and


Andy: The Vaselines at The Brudenell.

Phil: I actually only went to one! Fabio & Grooverider with the Outlook Orchestra at Rock City in Nottingham - it was pretty awesome. That combination of fat, full-on drum 'n' bass with a live orchestra, as well as guitars and drums, really blew my mind. And the line-up of guests was something special too. UK Apache doing 'Original Nuttah' - wow, basically! I did a write-up for LeftLion of course.

Adam: I didn't go to any big-name gigs in January, but did see a mate perform at a local venue. He's part of a punk band called The Penny Antics, and they played alongside three other bands at The HotBox in Chelmsford. It was great. The crowd was made up of the four bands and a few extras, but the intimate venue helped turn it into a good atmosphere. I try to show my support to the local scene as much as I can, but with venues closing every other week it seems, it's getting harder to attend.

5-9: We're in awards season - Grammys, Brits, Choice Awards. Are any of these

grabbing your interest? And what's standing out for you?

Adam was pleased to see Paramore scoop two Grammys

Adam: I'm not usually a big fan of awards, as the winners tend to be based off of popularity than talent BUT I was pleased to see Paramore win two awards at the Grammys. This Is Why was a fantastic album and their shift into a more post-punk/pop sound has really hit me in the right places. I'm excited to see where they go now that they're fully independent and able to do their own thing.

Gemma and Phil were pleased to see RAYE recognised in seven categories at the BRITs

Gemma: The sheer number of Brit Awards that RAYE has been nominated for is astounding – and so deserved, all seven of them. She has such an inspiring story and is such a

beautiful soul. I was lucky enough to meet her last year and she was so kind. And

her music speaks for itself – My 21st Century Blues is a brilliant album. I can’t think

of anyone more deserving of the success that she is receiving.

Phil: I don't tend to follow these too closely, usually because my focus is generally on smaller artists. But I did some homework for this (a good way to catch up!).

What’s notable is how much better gender-balanced the nominees list are. With the Grammys, for Record of the Year, only one of the eight was a male artist, and the same for best album actually. The BRITs say that 55% of the 2024 nominations 'feature women – either as a solo artist or as part of an all-woman group' and 57% 'when including women in mixed-gender groups'. So this is encouraging although consistency in the long term is going to be key.

Every year you see an element of groupthink across the various award organisations, with the same artists cropping up, not all of which seem to fit with how I remember the reality of listening over the past year!

Having said that, I think RAYE's 7 BRIT nominations are very well deserved - she's refreshingly honest and true to herself as well as hugely talented. I’m a little disappointed with a lot of the other nominations though, albums and groups (UK and international) especially. Also, I don't really like the category 'Alternative/Rock' which sees The Rolling Stones nominated alongside Young Fathers and Bring Me The Horizon... it feels like an odd categorisation which doesn’t really fit with realistic genre groupings.

Andy: I've got pretty much no interest in those awards!

Thanks for taking part in 5-9's January roundtable! Look forward to catching up next month!

To keep up to date with our contributors:

For Gemma: @gemcockrell on X.

For Andy: @ArcticReviews on X and @vormusicblog on Instagram.

For Adam: @adamsoundsgood and @deadgoodblog on X.

For Phil: @MusicObserver1 on X and @music_observed on Instagram.

For a further deep dive into last month's music, listen to 5-9's January Album of the Month podcast.


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