Released December 2013! Read the rules dickhead! Perhaps the fact that Beyoncé’s fifth still sounds as wonderful, ambitious, intoxicating and bewitching now as it did near 12 months ago- perhaps actually a lot more so- is your first hint of just quite what an extraordinary achievement it is. It’s so rare that you see an artist as big as Beyoncé- who could absolutely be argued to be the biggest singer in the World- using the extra space afforded to her by their sheer fame to experiment with and shape their sound, challenging their millions of guaranteed listeners with music from ever so left of field rather than force feeding them dozens of Single Ladies until the fans explode like Mr. Creosote in a messy blob of hip shaking and finger waves. There are no obvious hits on ‘Beyoncé’, yet neither does the record sound like anything but gloriously state of the art pop music, Beyoncé showing that challenging the accepted norms of the genre doesn’t mean you should ever have to resort to anything close to being unlistenable. Even though ‘Beyoncé’ is hardly Slint’s ‘Spiderland’ the fact that someone of her fame is releasing songs as wonderfully obtuse yet still outstandingly beautiful as Haunted (far more experimental and envelope-pushing than anything on the previous Mogwai album) is absolutely something to be celebrated. Beyoncé’s new found embrace of feminism is occasionally a little cack-handed- calling her solo tour ‘Mrs. Carter was a hideous error if you want to fly under the feminist banner, while Jay-Z’s allusion to Ike Turner’s wife-beating in his rap for Drunk in Love is a dumb mistake (merely an ill-thought out lyric rather than any real support for spousal abuse, I actually think the awfulness of the ‘Your bresteses are my breakfastes’ line deserves closer inspection)- yet at least they’re there and the inclusion of the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk sample in Flawless adds another layer of anger to an already thrilling song. ‘Beyoncé’ is an equally dark and deeply sexual album and by God it’s absolutely wonderful.