Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Anticipated Albums of 2016

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As with last year, I thought I might share some of the albums or projects I'm anticipating for next year. Some have been confirmed, and others are just my wishful thinking. Feel free to share what albums you're anticipating next year. In alphabetical order:

  • Beck- TBA: There have been some talks of Beck's next album. It has been said that it's a more logical successor to Modern Guilt, and 'Dreams', possibly off the next album, was pretty decent, so hopefully it'll be pretty good. I was a little disappointed by Morning Phase.
  • DOOMSTARKS- Self Titled (?): The MF DOOM/ Ghostface Killah collaborative album has had it's share of setbacks, but hopefully it comes out next year. I heard the track they shared on Adult Swim, 'Lively Hood', and it got me pumped. Hopefully this will be a little more of DOOM than NehruvianDOOM was, and hopefully it'll be a return to form for Ghostface.
  • Gorillaz- TBA: I have heard rumblings about the new Gorillaz project in the works. I enjoyed Plastic Beach, and though The Fall wasn't my favorite album (I kind of thought it was a little bit of a novelty that it was recorded all on an ipad), there were moments that were cool, and I'm still excited to see what Damon Albarn and company bring to the table next.
  • Lush- Untitled EP: Following news of the band's reunion, the band also announced their plans for an as yet untitled EP. Lush are one of my favorite shoegaze acts, and I'm really excited to hear what they're planning. I'm hoping they embrace their more dreamy sound, not that I don't enjoy Lovelife, but I just enjoy their take on shoegaze as opposed to their more Britpop influenced material.
  • M.I.A.- Matahdatah: Matangi wasn't exactly my favorite M.I.A. project, but 'Borders' got me pretty pumped for the new album. M.I.A. has been pretty silent for a while other than 'Borders', and you can always expect her to bring some new sounds to a project, so it'll be interesting to see the progression and see what M.I.A. has been up to.
  • Robin Pecknold- Solo Material: News of Robin Pecknold touring with Joanna Newsom and debuting new solo material was music to my ears. I hope this culminates in some recorded material. Anything from Robin Pecknold. Fleet Foxes are on hiatus for now, so I'll pretty much take anything I can get.
  • Run the Jewels- Run the Jewels 3: El-P and Killer Mike are currently in the studio preparing their follow up to 2014's excellent album. It's been a pretty eventful couple of years for Run the Jewels, and I hope this year of touring and break from recording (apart from the Meow the Jewels remix album) will bring them back fresh for this project. I feel like they'll be able to create a solid trilogy of great hip hop albums.
  • Swans- TBA: To Be Kind was my favorite album of last year, and I'm very excited to see what Michael Gira and crew do to follow it up. The Gate showed a lot of promise for the record, and I've already pre-ordered the vinyl, so waiting with baited breath. I've been following the band's journey through the recording process, Sonic Ranch and otherwise, so I'm really excited to see what comes out of the supposed final release of this lineup of the band.
  • Tortoise- The Catastrophist: I'm looking forward to seeing what the celebrated post rock band is going to dish out with this new album. There's been a pretty long album silence since Beacons of Ancestorship, and I'm excited to see the new and interesting ways that they'll bend countless genres to their will and churn out some intricately arranged but amazingly performed music.
  • Kanye West- SWISH (for now): Yeezus was a pretty polarizing album, but I guess I enjoyed a fair portion of it, that portion being the production. I really haven't been interested in a lot of Kanye's lyrical content recently, that content being dominated by a ton of shallow braggadocios droning. However, I enjoyed 'Only One' and 'All Day', though having some repetitive lyrics, had a pretty good beat. I'm interested to see the extent of Paul McCartney's collaboration on the album as well. Hopefully, Kanye will step up on the lyrical front and keep pushing the envelope production wise. 

So, those are the albums or projects I'm looking forward to the most. Be sure to share what albums you're looking forward to in the new year.

"Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Year End List 2015: Top 10 Favorite Albums of the Year

So here it is. My favorite 10 albums of this year (plus some honorable mentions). This is by no means "the best 10" to come out this year; just my favorites. Feel free to share your list for favorite albums of the year.
Honorable Mentions

Lupe Fiasco Tetsuo & Youth.jpgLupe Fiasco: Tetsuo & Youth
Lupe made a great come back this year, and I thought that should be acknowledged. He delivered more great bars on 'Mural' than on the whole of Lasers, and he picked a lot better production for this project as well. This is the most focused he's sounded since The Cool. Now, with news of him planning 3 albums for 2016, I don't know how to feel. On one hand, I'm excited, but it could also be a case of 3 albums worth of material should have been edited down to one great album. We'll see.
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Chelsea Wolfe: Abyss
Chelsea Wolfe has delivered another dark masterpiece. This album has a cavernous sound, and it builds such an atmosphere. I get a late period Swans vibe from this, and as To Be Kind was my favorite record of last year, that's definitely a good thing. This album really appeals to any fan of dark and depressing music, since it really borrows from a lot of influences, including folk, dark ambient, black metal and goth rock.

The Weeknd: Beauty Behind the Madness

I can't say I really appreciate the subject matter (since it's pretty much the them of every other R&B and rap album recently), but these songs are catchy as hell. I have listened to 'The Hills' a ridiculous amount of times this year, and it never got old. I appreciate the versatility and range the instrumentals have here, even if the lyrics are the run of the mill sex and drugs stuff.

So now for the top ten.

Image result for william basinski the deluge10. William Basinski: The Deluge
I can always rely on William Basinski to deliver some ultra depressing soundscapes, and The Deluge is no exception. Cascade was great to start, but when put through feedback loops and made more dynamic and textured, it just becomes that much more amazing.

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9. Deafheaven: New Bermuda
Following up 2013's Sunbather, the black metal act is back with a more aggressive third album. 'Luna' was one of my favorite tracks of the year, and I really appreciate the instrumental talent at play here. The transitions are a little shaky at times, but this was a very solid black gaze record (sorry metal die hards). I feel like if you played a metal head this without telling them who it is, they would like it. Don't let the hipster stigma fool you. This is a good album, and I'm interested in hearing more.

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8. Frank Zappa: Dance Me This
Just the latest evidence that Frank Zappa was a genius. This is another addition to his Synclavier heavy albums, which is accented by the addition of Tuvan throat singers. You can always expect Zappa to go at an album from the far left field, and he always brought something new to the table with each record. This is such a textured and interesting album, and definitely one that hasn't been given a whole lot of attention, except by maybe just Zappa die hards.

7. Leviathan: Scar Sighted
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This to me was the best metal album of 2015. Though from a traditionally black metal act, this is far from just black metal. There's a lot of other influences that make for a engaging, dark, and pretty intense listen. This is impeccably produced, and every instrument is at the perfect spot in the mix, which is super heavy. This is one of the most crystalline visions Leviathan has constructed and reinforces Wrest's place in the pantheon of American black metal.

6. of Montreal: Aureate Gloom
of Montreal are continuing to go through their transition away from the glam and funk influenced works of the late 2000s, and towards something new all together. 2013's lousy with sylvianbriar showed Kevin Barnes' flirtation with folk and 70's California country, though this record embraces heavier guitar tones and a dance-able post punk sensibility. Barnes continues his trend of deeply introspective lyrical content, tackling his self hatred and recent separation from wife Nina Grøttland.

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5. Fred Thomas: All Are Saved
Discovered by the pure luck of a 7" getting randomly placed in my Polyvinyl order, 'Cops Don't Care Pt. II' rope me in and helped me discover Fred Thomas' unique contradiction to indie rock. His approach is very eclectic; folky yet electronic, lo-fi yet orchestral, upbeat sounding yet with a dark side. It's these contradictions, interesting sounds and original songwriting that makes this album so intriguing. 'Bed Bugs' is worth the price of admission, and really struck a chord with me.

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4. Joanna Newsom: Divers
Following her sprawling triple album, Joanna Newsom toned down the length for this project, but not the ambition or emotional depth. The interconnecting themes that weave their way through this album are powerful, and this is one of the most focused records in her catalog. Her voice, though an acquired taste, is highly nuanced and emotive, and the mix of harp and keyboards leads to many intricately arranged pop songs. Anticipating death and the appreciation of life and love have rarely sounded so beautiful.

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3. Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp A Butterfly
Probably the most talked about album this year, Kendrick Lamar more than topped his previous effort in my opinion with an album chock full of challenging lyrical content, over beats fusing old school hip hop, jazz and funk, and commanding a feature list that is beyond impressive (George Clinton, Ron Isley, Thundercat, Kamasi Washington, etc.). This is an album that the nation at this particular moment needed, and was a real shot in the arm to commercial hip hop, which has for too long been drowning in lean and expensive liquor. Also, if Taylor Swift beats this out at the Grammys, I have lost all faith in humanity.

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2. Earl Sweatshirt: I Don't Like Sh*t, I Don't Go Outside
Building upon the fantastic Doris, Earl Sweatshirt delivered a focused and concise slab of pain. Earl raps over the most dreary and depressing beats I've heard in a while with purpose, delivering his story to serve no one but himself. I can really appreciate his commitment to his art and this album is as uncompromising as they come. He would later build on this later in the year with his Solace release, but this to me was a much more definitive and personal statement of seclusion, anti-social behavior and grief.

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1. Kamasi Washington: The Epic
And here it is...my favorite album of 2015. Kamasi Washington and his extremely talented band deliver a three hour set of the most proficiently played and emotionally and mentally engaging jazz in recent memory. The fact that people are even getting excited over a jazz record in 2015 speaks to the power of this record. The performances are staggering to listen to, and each track is an opportunity for Washington and his band to prove their mettle and mastery over a new sub-genre in the jazz landscape. If you are avoiding this due to the length, you are doing yourself a disservice.

So, those are my picks for my favorite albums of the year. Check back in for my list of anticipated releases of 2016, and don't forget to share your year end lists.

"Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."