2017 in Music (So Far)

Hello – this is my first time writing to you dear reader of words on the Internet in 2017, and what a year it’s been: Donald Trump is the President* (of the United States^)… really that’s all you need to know, the rest is an ever widening sea of trash reverberating from our nation’s capitol these days — but this isn’t that kind of blog.

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2017 in Music got off to a slow start in January with regard to the big name artists I’m into. The xx released the very good I See You, but Ed Sheeran had the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 for 12 of the first 16 weeks of the year — 11 straight from February to April, that is until Kendrick Lamar dropped “Humble”. As a result, lots of debut and sophomore projects got a lot of early shine, some of which we’ll talk about in depth, some of which I’ll just mention, all of which you should check out. Of course many established artists and personal favorites of mine have dropped albums too. Lucky for you, I keep a playlist of all the music I come across during my travels that you can (and should) follow on Spotify.

The beginning of February saw the release of two of the best albums of 2017 so far: The Internet lead singer Syd’s FIN and Sampha’s Process. I’d been anticipating Syd’s and Sampha’s albums since last year and that they each managed to overdeliver on my expectations with their debuts is no small feat. “All About Me” was the lead single from Fin, it’s perfectly emblematic of the ever blurring line between hip-hop and R&B and there’s no need to specify or specialize when your lyrical skill and ability to craft a mellow vibe go so hand in hand. “Over” featuring 6LACK is another standout with mass appeal; however, Syd is at her most effective on tracks like “Smile More” and is at the height of her seductive powers on “Drown in it”, which, though only clocking in at a minute and change, will make you want a cigarette afterward. Continue reading “2017 in Music (So Far)”

Top 10 Albums of 2016

Last thing to wrap up the year: my fairly standard, internet music community participation badge post of my top 10 albums of 2016, with a live performance by each artist (if I could find a good one) to give you a better idea of what they’re about.

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10. James Blake – The Colour in Anything
– Earlier this month I didn’t see James Blake’s The Colour in Anything on many end of year top 10 lists, but it is worthy of a spot because Blake’s sound is the perfect application of electronics to deliver clean and crisp, deeply emotional sound: Modern Soul. There’s a long tradition of Brits having Soul and it’s no coincidence Blake has production credits on Beyonce’s Lemonade and Frank Ocean’s Blonde. Beyond Blake’s electronics, his lyrics hit in such a way that they’re easy to get lost in, particularly when on a bus or plane as I often was while listening to this album.

Continue reading “Top 10 Albums of 2016”

Follow My Playlist: Top 10 Tracks of 2016 (and 40 more)

What a year. It bears repeating that while music was good, many other things were not. Britain broke bad, America broke bad, then Syria broke bad… Bowie died, then Prince died, then Ali died — and that’s me being brief.

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But to sum up 2016 in music, below is a playlist of 50 of my favorite or otherwise notable tracks from 2016 (as I also compiled in 2015, 2014, and 2013). At the top are the top 10 tracks in my estimation (again, a combination of popular success and blatant favoritism which sometimes overlaps), and the 40 more are just 40 tracks from 40 more albums/EPs that are worth checking out — the hard part is picking only 1 track to represent such great and varied projects. Good on shuffle or start to finish, give it a follow.


Chance the Rapper, Anderson .Paak, and KAYTRANADA feature most heavily (and Lemonade is notably not on Spotify or “Hold Up” would be included). But the one Chance song I still wish I could tack on would be his tribute to Muhammad Ali, which he wrote, produced, and performed for the 2016 ESPY Awards. Linked here, embedded below.

 

[Image via Rolling Stone]

Give It A Spin: Frank Ocean’s BLOND / Solange’s A SEAT AT THE TABLE

The end of the year is mercifully upon us. So many cultural icons and otherwise wonderful people have died and many other trash things have down down that I don’t have time to get to right now. But music, music has been good in 2016. My only problem is somewhere along the way I lost the steam to write about albums in the way that I wrote about Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo and Beyonce’s Lemonade. Which isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed more breezy albums from the likes of Nxworries, D.R.A.M., or A Tribe Called Quest, because I have and you should too if you haven’t yet treated yourself. It’s more that I’ve struggled to write about Frank Ocean’s Blonde and Solange’s A Seat at the Table with the same depth in which I dissected TLOP and Lemonade. Plus, others, elsewhere did it better. Alas, I can’t consider the best of 2016, or move on to 2017, without saying a little something about two of the ten best albums of the year.

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Everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief when Frank Ocean’s Blonde, his proper follow up to his debut album Channel Orange, turned out to be worth the wait. Blonde is a continuation in the development Frank’s ability to express himself most naturally; which includes another visual project with accompanying music in Endless; plus a 300+ page personal literary magazine titled Boys Don’t Cry which features poetry, a screenplay, photos, and a physical CD copy of Blonde. But to focus on just Blonde for a second, Frank delivers the most forward stepping sounds of the future; mixed, blended, blurred, and distorted to perfect pitch. It’s pure emotion reflecting the depth of his soul, expressed in myriad ways and on differing planes. Continue reading “Give It A Spin: Frank Ocean’s BLOND / Solange’s A SEAT AT THE TABLE”

Give It A Spin: Noname’s TELEFONE

Remember last month when we talked about Chicago singer Jamila Woods’ debut album for Debut Album Appreciation Month? Well, we’re going back to Chicago to shine some light on another excellent, enlightening debut project in Telefone from the rapper Noname.

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The artist formerly known as Noname Gypsy (her reasoning for the change can be found here) was first introduced to me and many others on “Lost” from Chance the Rapper’s breakout project, Acid Rap. Since then she has continued to build with her fellow Chicagoians Saba, Mick Jenkins, Donnie Trumpet on Surf, and the aforementioned Jamila Woods.

On each feature Noname’s verses carry with them the freshness of the ever-underheard black woman, in a rapping style and flow that is not gendered or tailored or compromised in any way; one that’s as natural as and more robust than any given newcomer (on this year’s all male XXL Freshman list, for example). So the people began to wonder, when would Noname would drop a project all her own, and now she has. Continue reading “Give It A Spin: Noname’s TELEFONE”

Follow My Playlist: Rihanna Impala

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Earlier this month I got the bright idea to make a playlist featuring just Rihanna and Tame Impala as earlier this year she covered — and improved — Tame Impala’s “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” on her most recent album ANTI with “Same Ol’ Mistakes”.

So I took 10 of the more recent Rihanna songs I like, plus 10 of the more recent Tame Impala songs I like, and voila: Rihanna Impala — just because, and it kind of works. Rihanna and Kevin Parker should make an album together, but that would probably make Drake feel some kind of way.

 

[Image via LA Times/Getty]

Follow My Playlist: Where There’s Water 2

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The heat and sun have finally returned to Austin for the end of summer so now’s a good time to share one last summer playlist before long days are soon gone. I liked last year’s Where There’s Water playlist so much I decided to run it back this year and share more sounds for when you’re out in or lounging near a body of water: Where There’s Water 2. Continue reading “Follow My Playlist: Where There’s Water 2”