• Recommended New Music: February 2017

    SAMPHA- PROCESS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Debut LP by frequent featuring vocalist (Solange, Drake, Kanye, Frank Ocean) Sampha is filled with meditative soul ballads sung in his gorgeous falsetto.  It’s a beautiful, but fairly downbeat album concerned with processing grief and self-discovery.  It’s one of the year’s best albums so far.

     

     

    BUY Process [Explicit] AMAZON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    SYD- FIN

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Debut solo album by member of the band the internet who got her start with the Odd Future crew.  Syd is a young, gay woman with a punk-rock look, but each of the 12 songs of this album are sexy, sultry, confidently delivered radio ready R&B.  It will be fascinating to see if the mad-talented Syd, with an outsider look and persona, can break through to the mainstream.

     

     

    BUY Fin [Explicit] AMAZON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    JENS LEKMAN- LIFE WILL SEE YOU NOW

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Life Will See You Now” is the fourth full-length offering from the sweet, twee, vulnerable, tender-hearted Swede.  It’s a step up from his last two with Jens offering optimistic, light disco beats and female backing vocals with a nods to Balearic club music, which belie the ache at the core of most of his lyrics.  Jens wears his heart on his sleeve like this generation’s Jonathan Richman.

     

     

    BUYLife Will See You Now AMAZON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    DIRTY PROJECTORS- DIRTY PROJECTORS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Dave Longstreth continues his Dirty Projectors project, with a break-up record about former bandmate Amber Coffman.  Longstreth is very musical but esoteric with offbeat rhythms and arrangements prominent throughout the album, and his unmistakably distinct high-pitched vocals make the Dirty Projectors “not for everybody”.  My guess is that “Dirty Projectors” will prove to be a grower but early standout tracks include “Up In Hudson”, “Keep Your Name” and “Little Bubble”.

     

     

    BUY Dirty Projectors [Explicit] AMAZON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    THUNDERCAT- DRUNK

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Third album by hotshot L.A. bassist Thundercat is a free-form, often goofy “day in the life of” album made up of 23 songs, each around two minutes.  The vibe is experimental but also a loose and laid back fusion of soul, funk & jazz with each song flowing right into the next.  Standout tracks include “Friend Zone”, “Show You The Way” (with Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald!) and last year’s cut “Them Changes”, which is maybe the best of them all.

     

     

    BUY Drunk AMAZON



  • Recommended New Music: January 2017

    RUN THE JEWELS- RTJ 3

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The most exciting duo in rap right now drop a free mixtape on Christmas day and continue their winning streak with this third self titled album release.  Their political anger is understandably ramped up, but so is their joy- two guys celebrating a true friendship and partnership who are in the zone playing off of each other.  And the production is A-one as usual.

    BUY Run the Jewels 3 [Explicit] AMAZON
     

     

     

     

     

     

    THE XX- I SEE YOU

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    3rd album and first since 2012’s “Coexist” is both an improvement on that record and a step forward for the band.  While maintaining the group’s signature smooth, sultry sound the xx incorporates elements from dj Jamie xx’s solo career and uses samples for the first time.

    BUY I See You AMAZON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    MIGOS- CULTURE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Atlanta trap-rappers piggy-back and the success of #1 single “Bad and Boujee” and follow-up smash “T-Shirt” with the best album of their career so far.  Though “Culture” is certainly front-loaded it’s still by far their most consistently good release so far and its unique but more accessible sound should garner the group a ton of new fans.

    BUY Culture [Explicit] AMAZON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    JULIE BYRNE- NOT EVEN HAPPINESS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Sophomore album by NYC transplant Julie Byrne is a beautiful and serene mixture of folk and new age music.  It’s over in just over thirty minutes and feels even shorter- there are no weak moments.

    BUY Not Even Happiness AMAZON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    CLOUD NOTHINGS- LIFE WITHOUT SOUND

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Life Without Sound” continues Cleveland indie rocker Dylan Baldi’s winning streak to three in a row.  It is a slightly more melodic update of the passionate, energetic, lo-fi bash-pop sound the band has carved out over most of the past decade.  And the drums remain ferocious.

    BUY Life Without Sound AMAZON



  • Featured Image Top 50 Albums of 2016: 50-41

    1. CHAIRLIFT- MOTH

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Moth” turned out to be this under-appreciated synth duo’s last album as they recently broke up at the end of 2016. After working with the likes of Beyonce, Chairlift amps up the pop and R&B elements of the band. Caroline Polachek’s breath-taking vocals are the main focus, giving the hooky songs an added zest. Though “Moth” contains a few duds the handful of highlights make the album a very worthy listen, including should have been hit “Romeo”, “Ch-Ching”, “Show U Off” and the beautiful “Crying In Public”. I doubt this is the last we have heard from either Polachek or partner Patrick Wimberly as each has too much talent to remain dormant for long. Regardless with the duo’s three albums they have already left behind a consistently good body of work.

     

    Buy Moth Amazon

    Buy Crying in Public Amazon

    Buy Romeo Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. NONAME- TELEFONE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Noname is a Chicago rapper and poet who has been featured prominently on recent Chance the Rapper releases as well as a number of other leading lights in the Chicago rap scene. She brings to mind a new generation’s Jill Scott- her vocals and music are patient, mellow and joyous, even when discussing her community’s strife. Her cadence is as much spoken word poetry as rap- her tone hopeful and optimistic while being keenly observational and realistic. “Telefone” was released as a free mixtape and is a very promising debut from a unique artist.

     

     

    *Album not available via Amazon. Stream at https://soundcloud.com/noname/sets/telefone

    Diddy Bop   Yesterday

     

     

     

     

    1. YOUNG THUG- JEFFERY

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Jeffery” was the third and best mixtape released in 2016 by Thug, one of rap’s most prolific and eccentric personalities. The front cover of the album is Thug in a gown. The ten tracks on the album are named after idols or influencers of Thug but lyrically seemingly have zero connection to said people. Though Thug wants “Jeffery” to be a pivot away from his prior sound & image (he is now embarrassed by the name Young Thug), his distinct rapping and overall sound remain in place. But “Jeffery” is a tighter and frankly better full-length album than we have heard from him prior. There are no bad tracks and several real bangers including “Kanye West”, “Wyclef Jean” and the big hit single collaboration with Travis Scott “Pick Up The Phone”.

     

    Buy Jeffery [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy pick up the phone [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Kanye West (feat. Wyclef Jean) [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. CASE/LANG/VEIRS- CASE/LANG/VEIRS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Case/Lang/Veirs is a supergroup album that actually works. The trio formed three years ago in Portland, Oregon- Lang & Veirs live there while Neko Case collaborates with them from her home in Vermont. Though KD Lang is certainly the biggest star of the three, and Laura Veirs the least well known, all three share in the spotlight equally and each brings her unique talent to the table. The overall result is a brilliantly sung, beautiful folk rock album that can be played start to finish but the songs don’t blend together as more than a few stand out as memorable compositions all quite different from the other- “Atomic Number”, “Greens Of June”, “The Best Kept Secret”, which sounds the most like a Neko Case solo track, and the wonderful “Song For Judee” being a few of the best.

     

    Buy case/lang/veirs Amazon

    Buy Song for Judee Amazon

    Buy Greens of June Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. AESOP ROCK- THE IMPOSSIBLE KID

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “The Impossible Kid” is another remarkably consistent album from Minnesota rapper Aesop Rock, who has been plying at his trade since the late nineties. Because of the plethora of high profile releases in 2016 in rap and music in general “The Impossible Kid” is in danger of fading away and being quickly forgotten but that would be a shame. As per usual Aesop is wordy and confessional, detail driven and as far away from mainstream radio rap as you can get. Therefore he is certainly not for everyone but any longtime fans surely won’t be disappointed by this effort, any for those disappointed with much of modern rap, who are looking for something heady and thought-provoking with sick, outside of the box beat “The Impossible Kid” is a great place to start.

     

    Buy The Impossible Kid [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Rings Amazon

    Buy Molecules [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. METALLICA- HARDWIRED… TO SELF-DESTRUCT

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Metallica is perhaps the most celebrated Heavy Metal band of all time and their first non-collaborative album in eight years, “Hard Wired To Self-Destruct) is being billed as both their best album since their original eighties and early nineties hey day, and a return to roots. While I did enjoy 2008’s “Death Magnetic” I do think that “Hard-Wired” is a few steps above it in quality, mostly because the songs are more distinct and frankly better. It’s still a far cry from masterpieces like “Master Of Puppets” and “Ride The Lightning” and its comparison to the speed metal thrash of debut “Kill ‘Em All” I find to be a bit off. While the playing is certainly heavy here, the sound is far more modern than on “Kill ‘Em All”, the solos shorter and tighter and without the feeling of youthful reckless abandon found on that debut. Yet this new album should please longtime fans and is a true step in the right direction for a group which has made many missteps and has often even lacked goodwill over much of the last two decades.

     

    Buy Hardwired…To Self-Destruct (Deluxe) Amazon

    Buy Hardwired [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Now That We’re Dead Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. MITSKI- PUBERTY 2

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Puberty 2” is the justifiably heralded fourth album, by Japanese born, Brooklyn based Mitski Miyawaki. It’s a cleverly titled nod to delayed adolescence which so many young people go through now difficultly navigating through love and life in the big city. Mitski is equally a singer songwriter and a punk rocker. It’s a short album which never gets boring- all but one track is under four minutes with three of them under two. The music is anxious and tense while the lyrics are clever and forthright. “Your Best American Girl” is the true standout and one of the better indie-rock songs of the year but there is much else to love as well.

     

     

    Buy Puberty 2 Amazon

    Buy Your Best American Girl Amazon

    Buy Happy Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. MARGO PRICE- MIDWEST FARMER’S DAUGHTER

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Margo Price is yet another case of what seemed to be an overnight success who in reality has been plying at her trade mostly unsuccessfully for over a decade. Her fortunes recently turned as she was signed to Jack White’s Third Man Records on the strength of her rollicking live performances in Nashville. Price is a throwback, old school country honky-tonk singer in the vein of Loretta Lynn and with a crack band prone to rock n’ roll rave-ups. But in an era with a plethora of young talented female country singers she still stands out. She has quite a back-story as well, which includes a brief stink in jail and losing a young child. Six minute opening track “Hands Of Time”, to my ears the highlight of the whole record, goes through her whole life story and is a challenging and bold move, which really pays off. “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter” is a consistently fun listen all the way through and a hell of a debut. Other great tracks include “Hurtin (On The Bottle)” and “Four Years Of Chances.”

     

     

    Buy Midwest Farmer’s Daughter Amazon

    Buy Hands of Time Amazon

    Buy Four Years of Chances Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. PORCHES- POOL

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Porches are an alias of indie singer/songwriter Aaron Maine, a frequent collaborator of Frankie Cosmos. Frankie appears here throughout the album making Porches feel like a duo. “Pool” is the second album release of Porches and is a homemade, downbeat indie electronic record whose easiest comparison is to early Beach House or Majical Cloudz. Despite the inward looking lyrics and sad sounding vocals many of the tracks have enough bounce to get your head bobbing if not actually get you up on the dance floor. And it keeps the album from ever getting depressing. “Be Apart” is the true standout but every track on “Pool” is solid.

     

    Buy Pool Amazon

    Buy Be Apart Amazon

    Buy Glow Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS- AMERICAN BAND

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Incredibly “American Band” is the 12th proper studio album by the Drive-By Truckers, who at this point can be considered a southern rock institution. It’s also their best release since 2008’s “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark” as well as the band’s most politically targeted album in well over a decade. Rather than allowing for three singers and songwriters, as on many of their recent albums “American Band” features just Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley the group’s founding and most prominent members, making the release a tighter and more consistent effort. Drive-By Truckers take on many of the country’s biggest current debates from a thoughtful and often liberal but always southern perspective and are a welcome and frankly needed voice. Four tracks stand out to me above the rest- two at the beginning of the album – tracks 2 & 3 “Darkened Flags On The Cusp Of Dawn” and “Surrender Under Protest” and two others towards the end “Ever South” and “What It Means” and not to say the other tracks are lacking, but if the DBT’s could come up with a whole album equal to those four they may just come up with their best album yet. Even if not, the band is showing no signs of slowing down.

     

    Buy American Band Amazon

    Buy Ever South Amazon

    Buy Darkened Flags On The Cusp Of DawnAmazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2016: 40-31

    1. WEYES BLOOD- FRONT ROW SEAT TO EARTH

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Fourth album by psychedelic folk singer/songwriter AKA Natalie Mering truly sounds out of time. Lyrically she speaks to modern concerns but the sound of the record is pure throwback. The nine tracks are all over four minutes except the last one further giving the album a “classic albums era” feel. Every track is a slow moving ballad, most of them with grandiose arrangements with a light rock feel. It’s mellow but sophisticated and rarely sparse. Best tracks are “Used To Be”, “Do You Need My Love” and “Seven Words”. Mering has already recorded and released an EP with Ariel Pink as well s providing multiple vocals on his last full album release. She also started out in experimental noise-rock bands like Jackie-O Motherfucker. With this kind of dynamism it will be interesting to see what a musical chameleon like her will offer next.

     

    Buy Front Row Seat To Earth Amazon

    Buy Used to Be Amazon

    Buy Seven Words Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. WHITE LUNG- PARADISE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Paradise”, the fourth studio album by Vancouver feminist punk band White Lung show the band moving in an increasingly song oriented directions while not losing any of the fury that made them great in the first place. “Hungry”, “Below” and “Kiss Me When I Bleed” especially are the group’s most pop oriented and best efforts to date. The hooks are stronger, the playing more dynamic and even if it’s still difficult to picture White Lung anywhere near mainstream radio, it’s a pleasure to find the band moving forward rather than standing still. And their voice is necessary in these troubled times.

     

    Buy Paradise Amazon

    Buy Hungry Amazon

    Buy Below Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. KEVIN MORBY- SINGING SAW

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    3rd solo album by former member of indie band Woods is a throwback to the late sixties/early seventies singer songwriter era- he is particularly influenced by the Band. Morby’s rich, deep vocals and gently strummed acoustic guitar sound dominate the album, which unfolds in an unhurried, relaxed manner. Well place horn licks add texture and occasional surprise. “I Have Been To The Mountain” and “Destroyer” are the two best cuts but “Singing Saw” is enjoyable throughout.

     

    Buy Singing Saw Amazon

    Buy I Have Been to the Mountain Amazon

    Buy Destroyer Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. HAMILTON LEITHAUSER/ROSTAM- I HEARD A DREAM THAT YOU WERE MINE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Low-key release by frontman of the Walkmen (Leithauser) and one of the true creative forces in Vampire Weekend (Rostam) shows the two to be a great fit. Leithauser’s distinct vocals are the only thing really recognizable here from either musician’s past history. Doo-wop vocals and twinkling piano licks that bring to mind the crooner era are prominent on this release giving the album and out of time feel. Rostam has a knack for surprising and unique production while still finding the hook while Leithauser vocals are flexible enough to fit an array of different styles while always being totally recognizable. My bet is this pairing will stick and they will deliver more great albums in the future.

     

    Buy I Had A Dream That You Were Mine Amazon

    Buy A 1000 Times Amazon

    Buy Sick as a Dog Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. DVSN- SEPT. 5

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Debut album from mysterious, Drake supported R&B balladeers. Dvsn offer lustful, carnal slow-jams- all sex but no actual curse words. The group dropped the great “The Line” and “Too Deep” late in 2014 and received tons of buzz in their wake. Not all of the songs on “Sept. 5th” are up to the quality of those two but a few may even be better including “Try/Effortless” and especially “Hallucinations”, one of my 2016 personal favorites. “Sept. 5th” is very modern sounding but with little hip hop influence. It’s similar to the Weeknd but without as much excess. While not a perfect album there are enough close to perfect songs here to make dvsn very worth watching in the future.

     

    Buy Sept 5th [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Hallucinations Amazon

    Buy Too Deep Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. ESPERANZA SPALDING- EMILY’S D+EVOLUTION

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Emily’s D+Evolution”, Grammy award winning bassist and vocalist’s fifth album is her first that finds her moving in a rock direction. Spalding is primarily known as a jazz player, though she has previously fused jazz with R&B. Though both jazz & R&B are still in the mix here, progressive electric guitar riffs are most prominent showing Spalding as an artist not content to rest on her laurels. It sounds like a heavier version of one of Joni Mitchell’s mid seventies jazz-infused albums like “Hejira”, but in reverse. The vocals, instrumentation and lyrics are rich, affecting, unique and deeply weird. There is a lot to unpack here but it’s a worthwhile listen and Esperanza Spalding is a unique talent.

     

    Buy Emily’s D+Evolution (Deluxe Edition) Amazon

    Buy Earth To Heaven Amazon

    Buy Judas Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. SCHOOLBOY Q- BLANK FACE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Fourth album by L.A. Black Hippy crew member Schoolboy Q is an overly long album with too many throwaway cuts, but mixed with moments of gangsta rap brilliance. Get this man an editor! “That Part” has all the makings of a crossover hit and other tracks like “Str8 Ballin’”, “Neva Change” & “Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane” are some of Q’s best tracks yet but there is just no reason for this album to be over 70 minutes long. Unlike fellow Black Hippy Kendrick Lamar’s recent forays into funk & jazz, Q doubles down on a classic gangsta rap sound while being unpredictable enough to keep the genre moving forward rather than offering a mere throwback. But let’s hope his next album is a little tighter because Q has the talent, charisma and individuality to deliver a true classic.

     

    Buy Blank Face LP [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy THat Part [feat. Kanye West] [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Str8 Ballin [Explicit] Amazon]

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS- SKELETON TREE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    2016 was not light with albums examining death and “Skeleton Tree” is another great one, unfortunately released in the aftermath of Nick Cave’s fifteen year old son’s sudden death from falling off a cliff while hiking in the summer of ’16. Cave’s entire career, which began in the very late seventies with the Australian post-punk band The Birthday Party, has been an exploration of the dark sides of the human conditions on “Skeleton Tree”, Cave brings a deeper pain from his own awful experience but with it a beauty and compassion of equal depth. While much of the album was written and recorded before the tragedy the entirety of it feels informed by Cave’s loss. It’s another blue ribbon in Cave’s late career winning streak and songs like “I Need You”, “Rings Of Saturn” and “Jesus Alone” feel destined to become part of Cave’s pantheon of his best songs.

     

    Buy Skeleton Tree Amazon

    Buy Rings of Saturn Amazon

    Buy Jesus Alone Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. KVELERTAK- NATTESFERD

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Norwegian Metal band’s third album and follow up to 2013’s great “Meir” may even better its predecessor. Kvelertak combines many of the best aspects of Heavy Metal- the technical precision & progrock tendencies of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands, Van Halen-style guitar licks and the power and attitude of punk & hardcore with screamed vocals all sung in Norwegian. If lyrics are your thing (and you don’t know Norwegian!) they can be a tough sell at first but if you can get past the language barrier Kvelertak are a total blast. Over half of the tracks top out at over five minutes with the longest being nine but the riffs don’t let up for a second.

     

    Buy Nattesferd Amazon

    Buy Nattesferd Amazon

    Buy Svartmesse Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. STURGILL SIMPSON- A SAILOR’S GUIDE TO EARTH

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    3rd album by retro outlaw country singer, Sturgill Simpson, further shows that he will continue to follow his own muse rather than sticking to any established template. “A Sailor’s Guide To Earth”, Simpson’s major label debut, actually shows him turning increasingly away from traditional country music and toward folk rock, blues & especially early seventies soul music. It’s an old school progressive concept album- a letter to his unborn son with many words of advice in how to become a man. While the entire album is enjoyable about half of it stands well above the other half- “Welcome To Earth (Pollywog)”, “Keep It Between The Lines”, Nirvana cover “In Bloom”, “Brace For Impact (Live A Little)” and “Call To Arms” are all classics and if he was able to keep up this quality for the entire album it would be in the top ten. Still a great effort.

     

    Buy A Sailor’s Guide to Earth Amazon

    Buy Keep It Between The Lines Amazon

    Buy Brace For Impact (Live A Little) Amazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2016: 30-21

    1. SAVAGES- ADORE LIFE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Follow up to 2013’s great debut “Silence Yourself”, “Adore Life” is a subtler, mellower album which may not hit you in the gut and punch you in the face like the debut, but does cement Savages status as one of the best indie rock bands going. Lead single “The Answer”, released in very late 2015 rocks the hardest and is most like the debut. Whereas “Silence Yourself” primarily dealt with feminist politics, “Adore Life” looks inward- its main focus is love and relationships, exemplified in the slow-burner “Adore”. “When In Love” and “Surrender” are two other highlights on the album. It may take a little time to warm to this album but by taking a bit of a left turn Savages is both able to shrug off their influences a bit (Joy Division, Siouxsie & the Banshees) and show that they aren’t a flash in the pan.

     

    Buy Adore Life [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy The Answer Amazon

    Buy Adore Amazon

     

     

     

    1. LEONARD COHEN- YOU WANT IT DARKER

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    2016 was just ruthless regarding the amount of musical legends we lost and Leonard Cohen was one of the big ones. That Cohen was able to live until 82 softens the blow but his departure is still felt deeply. “You Want It Darker” ends his prolific late in the life run of stellar albums beginning with 2012’s “Old Ideas” and it’s both by far the best of the three and up there with the mightiest albums of his entire career. “You Want It Darker” stares at Cohen’s own death straight in the eyes while remarking on a lifetime of triumphs, anger, regret and redemption- poetically confronting himself, his God and his past lovers with biting wit, humor and insight. Outside of Bob Dylan, Cohen is one of music’s truly best lyricists. We were lucky to have him and lucky that he was able to give us one last great album before leaving us for good.

     

    Buy You Want It Darker Amazon

    Buy You Want It Darker Amazon

    Buy Treaty Amazon

     

     

     

    1. STEVE GUNN- EYES ON THE LINES

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Though Brooklyn singer/songwriter and badass guitarist Steve Gunn has been making albums since before the turn of our new decade, he was a totally new and very welcome voice to me in 2016. “Eyes On The Lines” is his debut album on Matador, a much more prominent indie label, so my guess is that I’m not alone. “Eyes On The Lines” features expert guitar playing and rocks consistently well but does so in a meandering, casual way. It’s a free flowing jam oriented record, but without any unnecessary noodling. It’s a welcome rock respite in a year mostly dominated by R&B and rap music. The album is high quality throughout and if I have any criticism at all it’s that songs don’t really stand out above the others. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s a throwback sound without any completely obvious influences. Throw it on and just go!

     

     

     

    Buy Eyes On The Lines Amazon

    Buy Ancient Jules Amazon

    Buy Heavy Sails Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. ANGEL OLSEN- MY WOMAN

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Angel Olsen blew up a bit, at least on an indie-rock level, on her last album “Burn Your Fire No Witness” making “My Woman” a heavily anticipated album last year and it did not disappoint. One of Olsen’s greatest strengths is her ability to transform her voice to bit catchy, up tempo tracks, punk rock rave-ups and lonely, spare ballads in equal measure. Acoustic folk rock, meditative synth music, and crunching rock licks live side by side here giving the listener a great variety to choose from. The catchiest and best number here is “Shut Up Kiss Me”. But the jazzy “Those Were The Days”, the eight minute sprawl of “Sister”, “Intern” and “Give It Up” shine as well. I’ve noticed “My Woman” hitting a ton of top ten lists and I’m wondering if in time I like it even more.

     

     

    Buy MY WOMAN Amazon

    Buy Shut Up Kiss Me Amazon

    Buy Intern Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. MAXWELL- blackSUMMERS’night

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    A prequel to 2009’s “BLACKsummers’night”, Maxwell’s new release seems designed to confused consumers. But if you are a true fan it probably matters little. Maxwell, one of neo-soul’s originators twenty years ago is hardly a prolific artist as this is only his fifth proper album but his consistently high quality efforts make up for the lack of quantity. Maxwell sings sophisticated, lovelorn R&B for adults like a male Sade his music is sexy and sultry but rarely caters to prevailing musical trends. There is almost zero hip hope influence to be found here and instead it’s a musical fusion of jazz, soul & funk. Lead single “Lake By the Ocean” is also the standout but there is plenty else to like including “1990x”, “Gods” and “Fingers Crossed”. Even If Maxwell waits another six or seven years before his next release we can rest assure that it will still be great as his brand of R&B never seems to go out of style.

     

    Buy blackSUMMERS’night Amazon

    Buy Lake By the Ocean Amazon

    Buy Gods Amazon

     

     

     

     

    1. YG- STILL BRAZY

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Still Brazy” is the sequel to Compton rapper YG’s pretty great 2014 debut “My Krazy Life”, and continues his winning streak in carrying the classic G-Funk sound originated by Dr. Dre forward. Standout single “Twist My Fingaz” released in the middle of 2015 is one of the best things here but there are many highlights scattered throughout the album. “Why You Always Hatin’?” is this past year’s hit single, “Who Shot Me?” is a first person account of the murder attempt which left YG in the hospital last June, and YG saved two of “Brazy’s” best moments to end the album with “Blacks & Browns” and “Police Get Away With Murder” showing that YG, like N.W.A. before him, can be equal parts nihilistic and socially conscious, with a descriptive eye for great detail. And FDT (Fuck Donald Trump) is destined to be an anthem for many of us for a long time. It may not be the subtlest piece of writing but good for YG for speaking out early, even before Trump won the Republic primary.

     

    Buy Still Brazy (Deluxe) [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Twist My Fingaz [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy FDT [feat. Nipsey Hussle] [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. JOEY PURP- iii DROPS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “iii Drops” is a slept on mixtape released during a very strong year for rap music and unfortunately getting a bit lost in the mix. Purp is a Chicago rapper and member of Chance the Rapper’s Savemoney crew and comes off as both its most boastful and street tough member. Though far less spiritual and optimistic than Chance, despite his very real portrayal of inner city life and his occasion to launch into sexual filthiness, Purp never fails to come off as intelligent with a social conscience, like a Midwestern version of Schoolboy Q. The album starts out as an absolute monster with five of the six first tracks being total bangers, driven by energetic soul & funk samples recalling DJ Premier-style production. Though it fizzles a bit toward the end, “iii Drops” is still one of the better rap albums of 2016 and he is a welcome newer voice in the scene.

     

    * Album not available via Amazon Stream at http://consequenceofsound.net/2016/05/stream-joey-purps-new-mixtape-iiidrops/

    Morning Sex     Money & Bitches

     

     

     

     

    1. BON IVER- 22, A MILLION

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “22, A Million” is Bon Iver’s third album and its first in five years; showing a band who refuses to rest on its laurels; changing its sound almost drastically with every album release, a pioneer in pushing music forward and massive influence on music in general. “22, A Million” is the group’s weirdest album and has been the toughest for me to grab onto, but using “22 (Over Soon)” as a starting point- one of 2016’s most beautiful and best songs, leads me to think that I may love this album in time more than I do currently. Justin Vernon’s aching falsetto vocals are here, but gone is the acoustic outré folk sound of Bon Iver’s past. The band’s sound is now driven by warped electronic glitch beats, which disorient the listener much like Radiohead’s “Kid A” did nearly two decades ago. “Kid A” has been considered a modern classic for so long that it is hard to remember how controversial the album was to many longtime Radiohead fans when the album was originally released. It will be fascinating to see if Bon Iver’s “22, A Million”, and to be fair they a less well known band than Radiohead, goes a similar route in the future.

     

    Buy 22, A Million Amazon

    Buy 22 (Over Soon) Amazon

    Buy 1000000 Million Amazon

     

     

     

    1. GOJIRA- MAGMA

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    This past year I was finally turned on to French avant-metal band Gojira with their sixth album “Magma”. Though I don’t know the group’s earlier material apparently “Magma” is the group’s most personal and accessible release yet. It’s the most excited I’ve been about discovering a “new” metal band since Baroness or maybe even Mastodon. The band is equal parts technical and ferocious but on “Magma” they streamline their sound to deliver tight, catchy songs rather than the sprawling prog found on their earlier albums. The band, featuring two Duplantier brothers, suffered the loss of their mother during the recording sessions which probably is the reason the songs are focused lyrically more on personal anguish and away from the political content of past releases. There is still plenty of stunning technical virtuosity and unusual time signatures to keep longtime fans from crying sell out but tracks like “Stranded”, “Only Pain” and “Silvera” are tight enough for mainstream hard rock radio. The group has already been nominated for a 2017 Grammy but it is still not big enough. Maybe it’s only a matter of time until a crossover happens.

     

    Buy Magma Amazon

    Buy Stranded Amazon

    Buy Silvera Amazon

     

     

     

     

    1. DINOSAUR JR.- GIVE ME A GLIMPSE OF WHAT YER NOT

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    At this point, Dinosaur Jr.’s second run of albums- from 2007’s “Beyond” up through last year’s “Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not” actually eclipses the influential band’s initial mid 80’s to mid 90’s run of albums in quality- and it isn’t even really close. Dinosaur Jr. was one of indie rock’s leading lights in heavy guitar rock and was one of the direct antecedents in grunge’s world takeover. Along with other bands like Mission Of Burma & Sleater-Kinney, Dinosaur Jr. proves that middle age doesn’t have to mean stale and with “Give A Glimpse” the group proves they’re as vital as ever. It’s even one of the best albums since their reformation and it’s almost unfair how little fanfare the group receives for it. Maybe it’s because the group only applies minor tweaks to their sound with each release its sound can be overly familiar but if you are already a fan of the group you owe it to yourself to check this out. The best tracks are “Lost All Day”, Goin Down”, “Tiny” and “I Walk For Miles” with J Mascis’s signature whining vocals and shredding guitar solos in perfect form. But the biggest difference is that bassist and second vocalist Lou Barlow does much more with his signature two cuts per album- both “Love Is…” and “Left/Right” are two of the best songs he has ever provided to the group, giving “Give Me A Glimpse” the most consistent feel of all of the group’s later albums.

     

     

    Buy Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not Amazon

    Buy Lost All Day Amazon

    Buy Goin Down Amazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2016: 20-11

    1. KENDRICK LAMAR- UNTITLED UNMASTERED

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Untitled Unmastered” is essentially a b-sides release from 2015’s critically consensus album of the year “To Pimp A Butterfly”. Lamar issued the album without advance notice seventeen days after his Grammy Awards performance and didn’t even bother naming any of the songs. Some of the tracks has been part of Lamar’s late night tv or Grammy performances throughout 2015 and exemplifies how high of a level Lamar is working at, that he could come up with a collection of vault throwaways this quality that it can stand on its own. “Untitled Unmastered” is actually much more rap-oriented than “TPAB” which gratifies many of his fans disappointed at the former album’s turn away from rap and toward soul, funk & jazz. However, the songs do fit in with “TPAB’s” overall themes of anti-materialism, societal ills, faith and survival when the odds are stacked against you. Kendrick Lamar is simply one of the best and most important musical artists alive today and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

     

     

     

    Buy untitled unmastered. [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy untitled 03 | 05.28.2013. [Explicit]

    Buy untitled 08 | 09.06.2014. [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    1. THE RANGE- POTENTIAL

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Potential” is the second album release from Brooklyn-based producer James Hinton. Hinton’s trick is that he samples vocal samples from amateur musicians all over You Tube, taking various spoken word or rap hooks from the songs and creating electronic pop songs around the basic sample. The samples are often British voices, especially taken from Grime and Jungle music, which gives the album a rave-like feel. No one or two songs stand too tall above the rest and “Potential” is remarkably consistent with a seemless flow from one track to the next.

     

    Buy Potential Amazon

    Buy Five Four Amazon

    Buy Copper Wire Amazon

     

     

     

    1. JAMES BLAKE- THE COLOUR IN ANYTHING

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The one problem I have with “The Colour In Anything” is it’s just too damn long. If the track listing were narrowed down this album would have had a shot at my top ten. This is mellow, rainy day music of a deep beauty. Musically the album is rooted in both electronic music (of the non-dance variety) and R&B and lyrically it’s all about heartbreak. Tracks like “Radio Silence”, Love Me In Whatever Way”, “I Need A Forest Fire” & especially “Modern Soul”- one of his best songs yet, prove that now three albums deep, James Blake’s blue-eyed British, electronic sad soul is here to stay.

     

    Buy The Colour In Anything Amazon

    Buy Modern Soul Amazon

    Buy Love Me In Whatever Way Amazon

     

     

     

    1. ANOHNI- HOPELESSNESS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Hopelessness” is Anohni’s first album since adopting her new persona and gender (she was previously known as Antony Hegarty) and she maintains the heartbreaking beauty and sadness of her previous incarnation, but adds a more electronic beat driven musical landscape to go along with a righteous anger at the state of the world. Whereas before she looked more inward and revealed personal truths, “Hopelessness” is outwardly focused striking out against our state of perpetual war and drone bombing of innocents as well as our look the other way approach to climate change and global warming. She warns against our massive surveillance state as well as the patriarchal state of hyper and violent masculinity which seems to have led to so many of our world’s largest problems. “Hopelessness” is the most depressing album I heard in 2016 but is never boring and outside of her dance music vocal collaborations (as Antony) with Hercules and Love Affair, it’s the most musically dynamic album she’s ever made.

     

     

    Buy Hopelessness Amazon

    Buy Marrow Amazon

    Buy 4 Degrees Amazon 

     

     

     

     

    1. KAYTRANADA- 99.9%

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Kaytranada is Kevin Celestin, a DJ and producer from Montreal who has been popping up as a remixer on soundcloud and hip hop and dance albums throughout this decade. “99.9%” is his excellent full-length debut, a wonderful cohesive blend of hip-hop, soul, funk and electronic dance music featuring pure instrumental tracks alongside guest rappers like Vic Mensa and Anderson Paak. Only four of the album’s fifteen tracks don’t feature a guest, but neither his samples or his featuring guest spots ever come off as obvious or catering to the mainstream. “Glowed Up” featuring 2016’s MVP Anderson Paak is the most celebrated track on the album but my favorite is “Bus Ride” which appears toward the front of the album and once it starts “99.9%’s” momentum never let up.

     

     

    Buy 99.9% [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Bus Ride Amazon

    Buy Glowed Up [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

    1. DANNY BROWN- ATROCITY EXHIBITION

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Eccentric Detroit rapper Danny Brown’s voice is an acquired taste. But he’s also one of the best and most original pure rappers as well. Brown takes many of his ideas and beats from outside of rap (Atrocity Exhibition is an old Joy Division song). The themes of the album are extremely dark- Brown portrays himself as often paranoid and hopeless, but he has a witty and even hilarious way of describing even his bleakest moments. Though Brown’s fourth album, “Atrocity Exhibition” really can be considered the third part of a trilogy (beginning with “XXX” and continuing with “Old”), each album really stands on its own both thematically and sonically. “Ain’t It Funny”, “Pneumonia”, “Tell Me What I Don’t Know”, & “When It Rain” are some of the many highlights but the real standout is posse cut “Really Doe” featuring rap heavy hitters Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul & Earl Sweatshirt.

     

    Buy Atrocity Exhibition [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Really Doe (feat. Kendrick Lamar & Ab-Soul & Earl Sweatshirt) [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Tell Me What I Don’t Know [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

    1. KANYE WEST- THE LIFE OF PABLO

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “The Life Of Pablo” is a total mess. The rollout was a mess. The album can be very inconsistent and some of it just isn’t up to West’s incredibly high musical standard he has achieved over the past decade plus. Love him or hate him, and most people at this point seem to hate him; or at the least are extremely frustrated by him, to deny that he is one of modern music’s great innovators is to either hate rap or to close your ears and be in denial yourself. The album can be off-putting with cringe worthy lyrics and pointless skits, but almost two handfuls of great songs make “The Life Of Pablo” yes another must listen to add to his oeuvre. Key cuts include Kendrick Lamar collab “No More Parties In L.A.”, gospel track and Chance the Rapper led “Ultralight Beam”, “Waves”, “Real Friends” and new single “Fade”.

     

     

     

    Buy The Life Of Pablo [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy No More Parties In LA [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Real Friends [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    1. WHITNEY- LIGHT UPON THE LAKE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Light Upon The Lake” is the debut album from duo Max Kakacek (formerly guitarist in The Smith Westerns) and Julien Uhrlich (drummer in Unknown Mortal Orchestra). Though released to little fanfare last spring it’s one of the most consistently rewarding albums of the year. Whitney mines the folk rock template, coming off as a mellower Girls or a happier Real Estate. Whitney has no large message, but every song on the album is flawlessly constructed and totally enjoyable, with Ehrlich’s off kilter vocals being the only possible hard sell.

     

    Buy Light Upon the Lake Amazon

    Buy No Woman Amazon

    Buy Golden Days Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. BLOOD ORANGE- FREETOWN SOUND

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Blood Orange is singer/songwriter & composer Dev Hynes & “Freetown Sound” is his third and best album. Like many of the few past year’s best albums it’s a reflection of race and gender in our changing society. Hynes traces his own roots, which start in Sierra Leone, Africa. The album runs 17 tracks deep and can be a lot to wade through. It’s more consistent than his last album “Cupid Deluxe” but lacks as many obvious standout tracks. Upon subsequent listens highlights begin to emerge like “Best To You”, Debbie Harry collaboration “EVP”, the prescient “Hands Up”, “Chance” and “Augustine”.

     

     

    Buy Freetown Sound [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Best to You Amazon

    Buy E.V.P. Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. PARQUET COURTS- HUMAN PERFORMANCE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Human Performance, Brooklyn’s Parquet Court’s 3rd proper album, likely would have shined brighter in a lesser music year. I feel like despite its greatness it seemed to get lost in the shuffle of the vast array of releases this year. “Human Performance” is both the group’s tightest and most hook-filled album to date and they lose none of their original slapdash charm in the process. The band alternates between terse, furious punk blasts (Outside), Velvet Underground style extended jams (One Man One City), jangle pop (Keep It Even and Human Performance) and punchy singles ready fare like “Dust” and “Berlin Got Blurry”. If it weren’t for Car Seat Headrest, Parquet Courts would be carrying the banner for indie rock album of the year. Don’t sleep on them!

     

     

    Buy Human Performance Amazon

    Buy Berlin Got Blurry Amazon

    Buy Dust Amazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2016: 10-1

    1. CHANCE THE RAPPER- COLORING BOOK

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Chance the Rapper is one of the most likable and generous rappers around and with “Coloring Book” he has delivered his third free mixtape as a solo artist (in addition to another great one as part of Donnie Trumpet last year). “Coloring Book” feels rooting in gospel nearly as much as hip hop – a both spiritually uplifting and fun album released during what for so many has been an extremely dark time in American history. Featuring guest artists a plenty, including Kanye, Future, 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne, Young Thug, Anderson Paak, Ty Dolla $ign and gospel star Kirk Franklin, it seems nearly everyone wants to work with Chance, who is slowly becoming one of the best and most respected rappers in the game. “Coloring Book” is a blast from start ti finish with tracks like “Blessing”, “No Problem”, “All Night”, “Angels” and “Summer Friends” shining brightest.

     

     

     

    Buy Coloring Book [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy BlessingsBlessing Amazon 

    Buy No Problem (feat. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz) [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    1. RIHANNA- ANTI

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Rihanna, one of Pop & R&B’s biggest stars as well as maybe its best singles maker over the past decade has never been taken seriously as an album artist. That changes with the release of “Anti”, her eighth album, last winter in early 2016. After a long build-up to the album, the eventual release actually felt both botched and underwhelming. Her three excellent singles from 2015 were nowhere to be found and its one week of Tidal exclusivity meant that many people were unable to even hear it right away. Though composed as a front to back album, there was no obvious concept and apart from the wildly successful “Work” featuring Drake and the excellent “Kiss It Better” there were no obvious singles. Instead “Anti” features Rihanna letting loose as an artists, more than ever before. And giving even fewer fucks. Looking inward rather than toward the dance floor. Though I heard parts of “Anti” shortly after it came out, it was actually the last album I bought in 2016 and I played it constantly during the year’s last weeks. Like Beyonce’s recent albums, “Anti” should give Rihanna added gravitas. An already badass singer and artists, she has now made the lap into the stratosphere.

     

     

     

    Buy Anti (Deluxe) [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Kiss It Better [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Higher [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    1. SOLANGE- A SEAT AT THE TABLE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    2016 is the year that Solange Knowles really has jumped out of the shadow of her big sister Beyonce. Though best sisters make feminist, soulful genre pushing R&B, while Beyonce is one of the world’s biggest stars, Solange is making music with absolutely no concessions to airplay or radio. That is not to say there aren’t hooks here – particularly on the brilliant “Cranes In The Sky”, one of the best tracks of the year. But “Seat At The Table” is primarily rooting in grief and pain, a pro-black album dissertation on the frustration and anger of being black in America- particularly a black woman. She realizes that her place of privilege allows her a forum to speak out on the injustices done to her community and she runs with it. “Seat At The Table” rarely rises above mid-tempo. Like last year’s “To Pimp A Butterfly”, “Seat At The Table” is best listened and absorbed as a whole and already feels like a historically significant modern day soul classic- an album capturing the zeitgeist of this crazy and unsettling time period.

     

    Buy A Seat at the Table [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Cranes in the Sky Amazon

    Buy F.U.B.U. [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. CAR SEAT HEADREST- TEENS OF DENIAL

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Teens Of Denial” arrives one year after Car Seat Headrest’s breakthrough “Teens Of Style” in 2015. But “Style” was a compilation of 11 homemade albums of Will Toledo, the founder, frontman and creative force behind Car Seat. “Denial” is the group’s real proper album debut. As good as “Style” was “Denial” is a gigantic leap forward and moves Car Seat Headrest to the front of the pack as one of the leading modern lights of indie rock. This is anthemic rock music made in the style of Pavement and Guided By Voices- with hooks galore but without the sheen necessary for rock radio. The album is a seventy minute long concept album about a guy named Joe struggling with common issues found between late adolescence and early adulthood. It’s one of the few “double albums” where nearly every moment seems necessary and the highlights are many beginning with the stellar and rockin’ opening track “Fill In The Blank”. The singalong “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”, “Vincent” and “Destroyed By Hippie Powers”. “Teens Of Denial” is both fresh and familiar sound and its existence proves that indie rock is far from over despite many current think pieces implying the opposite.

     

    Buy Teens Of Denial [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Fill in the Blank Amazon

    Buy Fill in the Blank Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. FRANK OCEAN- BLONDE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Frank Ocean’s follow-up album to 2012’s wildly successful “Channel Orange” was four years in the making when Orange decided to do a complete about face and release two albums within several weeks of each other- the first “Endless” was an all visual album that completed his contract with his record label and the second “Blonde” was self released as an Apple exclusive. Ocean, already a fairly outré artist for the world of R&B, delivers even less hooks on “Blonde” than he did on “Channel Orange”. Some of the songs have over a five-minute running time and nearly all are spare, featuring just Ocean’s voice accompanied by a guitar or a keyboard. Ocean is such a talent though that the songs begin to reveal themselves on multiple listens and despite an annoying skit featuring Ocean’s mom near beginning of the album and several shorter tracks in the album’s middle that threaten to weigh down the album’s flow, “Blonde” works exceptionally well as a whole. “Blonde” features stellar lyricism- great storytelling done in a clever, unique way that also relates to the heaviest political and societal issues of today. Its instrumentation and its music though rooting in R&B is not bound to one genre. Ocean is one of a few young artists pushing the boundaries of music forward into the future. In addition to “Nights” and “Self Control”, check out “Ivy”, “Pink + White” and “White Ferrari”. All are among the great tracks of 2016 and will likely just get better with time.

     

     

     

    Buy Blonde [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Nights [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Ivy [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. DAVID BOWIE- BLACK STAR

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Released at the dawn of 2016, “Black Star” both paved the way for an incredible year of releases by so many of music’s superstars and portended Bowie’s unfortunate death only a mere days after its release. Though Bowie kept his impending death a secret to all but his closest family members, he designed the album as a farewell to the world and while this certainly gives “Black Star” added gravitas, with or without Bowie dying, “Black Star” is likely his best album since at least 1980’s “Scary Monsters”. But Bowie never stopped creating challenging music up until the end and “Black Star” is an incredible way to cap off one of the most brilliant careers in rock and roll history. The album is only seven tracks long and begins with the amazing ten minute prog-jazz title track. There is not a wasted moment among them and album and career ender “I Can’t Give Everything Away” serves Bowie as a perfect self-epitaph.

     

     

    Buy Blackstar [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Girl Loves Me [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Blackstar Amazon

     

     

     

    1. RADIOHEAD- A MOON SHAPED POOL

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “A Moon Shaped Pool” can be considered a comeback record after 2011’s lukewarm “King Of Limbs”. Radiohead is certainly one of modern music’s consistency great acts and “Pool” doesn’t disappoint. While lacking the bombast and importance of prior albums such as “OK Computer”, “The Bends” or “Kid A”, “Pool” may just contain Radiohead’s most consistently beautiful set of songs. Two of the best are “Burn The Witch” and heartbreaking ballad “True Love Waits” have been part of the group’s repertoire for years, finally granting these longtime fan favorites a proper commercial release. But this is anything but a b-sides collection. Each song on the album flows perfectly into the next with both the group’s hard rock and electronic elements turned down often in favor of spare piano, strings and especially acoustic guitar. As usual Radiohead comments on our modern political and societal landscape and its outlook is hardly optimistic. As good as A Moon Shaped Pool” already is, I bet in time it will only grow in stature and comes in as a breath of fresh air to many who thought Radiohead might be creatively on their way out the door.

     

    Buy A Moon Shaped Pool Amazon

    Buy Burn the Witch Amazon

    Buy Decks Dark Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. ANDERSON PAAK- MALIBU

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Malibu”, released way back in early January of 2016, was one of the first great albums of the year. Paak received his breakthrough on Dr. Dre’s “Compton” album in 2015 and in a year laden with awesome superstar releases his star has shined brightest among the newcomers. “Malibu” combines smooth soul, hard funk, rap and elements from rock and describes his own hardscrabble roots in southern California rising from underground obscurity to burgeoning fame. While over an hour long, which is a real risk from such a relatively unknown artist, “Malibu” is a remarkably consistent album boasting twelve of fifteen tracks that I gave five stars and without one dud in the whole bunch. Highlights are almost too plentiful to narrow down but “Celebrate”, “Am I Wrong”, “Heart Don’t Stand A Chance”, “Come Down” and “The Season/Carry Me” are a handful of the best. In addition to “Malibu” Paak released another very good album “Yes Lawd” as part of duo NxWorries and contributed excellent songs to standout 2016 albums from Kaytranada, A Tribe Called Quest, Schoolboy Q, Snakehips & Mac Miller, among others. Paak can easily be considered one of music’s 2016 MVP’s. If you don’t know him yet check him out.

     

    Buy Malibu [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Celebrate [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Come Down [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1. A TRIBE CALLED QUEST- WE GOT IT FROM HERE…THANK YOU 4 YOUR SERVICE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “We Got It From Here…” is a great comeback record after nearly twenty years since their last album, as well as a posthumous release after the early 2016 death of founding member Phife Dog due to complications from diabetes. That “We Got It From Here…” exists at all is a true gift to longtime fans but I doubt even the most optimistic of us thought Tribe could make an album this good after so much time out of the game. The group got back at Phife’s insistence, knowing his time here on Earth was short. He worked diligently to get the album done and it ranks up there with the group’s best work and shows that Tribe was a missing force in modern hip hop. The production on the record, done by the group’s most prominent member Q-Tip, blends hard bop jazz samples, dub reggae and little recognized samples from old electro & pop songs while bringing to mind the music of Tribe’s early 90’s golden age, also sounds totally fresh and singular in rap’s modern climate.   Tribe brings in Busta Rhymes on multiple tracks and gives founding member Jairobi an expanded role, while inviting in rap & music superstars like Jack White, Elton John, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Anderson Paak & Andre 3000 to guest on the tracks. Amazingly each guest contributes his own greatness to the overall brilliant whole rather than making “We Got It From Here…” the mess it could have been. This is the best rap album in a year filled with great ones.

     

     

     

    Buy We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy We The People…. [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Ego [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

    1. BEYONCE- LEMONADE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Lemonade” is the sixth and best solo album by Beyonce, who by now has cemented her stature as one of the best and most important pop stars in music history. Beyonce dominated the zeitgeist of 2016 releasing a surprise video of “Formation”, the last and one of the best tracks off of “Lemonade”, one week ahead of her dazzling Super Bowl performance of the same track. While “Formation” addresses the black sisterhood and the spate of police brutality done to people of color, “Lemonade” as a whole, another surprise-release audio/visual album in April, tells the story of marital infidelity- demanding contrition from her husband while asserting her own power and excellence. By telling her story in her own way, she circumvents the gossip columns. Though “Lemonade” was one of the best selling albums of 2016 and contains a number of hits, she never caters to pop radio but makes radio come to her. “Lemonade” has some of the best songs of the year, including the above “Formation”, as well as “Freedom”, “Sorry”, “Hold Up”, “Don’t Hurt Yourself”, “All Night” and “Daddy Lessons”, which has enough of a country bent to it that she performed it with the Dixie Chicks at the Country Music Awards. “Lemonade” is an instant classic and the best album released in a year chock full of them.

    Buy Lemonade [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Freedom Amazon

    Buy Formation [Explicit] Amazon



  • Best Albums of 2016: Honorable Mention

    THE BIG UPS- BEFORE A MILLION UNIVERSES

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Throwback angry, post-punk that sounds like the mid-nineties.
    Buy Before A Million Universes Amazon
     

     

     

     

     

    CLAMS CASINO- 32 LEVELS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Inconsistent, but top heavy debut release by influential hip hop producer.  The rap tracks hit hardest.

     

     

    Buy 32 Levels (Deluxe) [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

    BRANDY CLARK- BIG DAY IN A SMALL TOWN

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Sophomore record by successful country songwriter takes Clark one more step toward country fame as a singer as well.
    Buy Big Day in a Small Town Amazon
     

     

     

     

    FRANKIE COSMOS- NEXT THING

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Twee-punk sophomore album from daughter of Kevin Kline & Phoebe Cates offers up short two minute songs with hooks and philosophical insights.
    Buy Next Thing Amazon
     

     

    CYMBALS EAT GUITARS- PRETTY YEARS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Fourth album by indie-rock former buzz band who is now very under the radar is one of their best.
    Buy Pretty Years Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    DIIV- IS THE IS ARE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Second album by Brooklyn band sits midway between dream pop and shoegaze; overall sound rules over songs though a few like “Dopamine” and “Under the Sun” stand out above the rest.
    Buy Is The Is Are Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    D.R.A.M.- BIG BABY D.R.A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Talented Va. Beach rapper, singer & songwriter D.R.A.M.’s first full length contains huge pop hit “Broccoli” as well as standouts “Cute” and “Cash Machine” and a few other delights.
    Buy Big Baby D.R.A.M. [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER- HEART LIKE A LEVEE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    North Carolina folk rock group continues to get better on promising “Heart Like A Levee”.

     

    Buy Heart Like a Levee Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    KAMAIYAH- A GOOD NIGHT IN THE GHETTO

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Debut mixtape from young female rapper from Oakland who seemed to be blowing up everywhere in 2016 both here and on features.
    Buy A Good Night in the Ghetto [Explicit] Amazon
     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    LAKE STREET DIVE- SIDE PONY

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Boston roots band major label debut (Nonesuch Records) is consistently a blast to listen to and dabbles in different genres including soul, country & old skool rock n’ roll.

     
    Buy Side Pony Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    CASS MCCOMBS- MANGY LOVE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Under-appreciated singer-songwriter releases “Mangy Love”, one of his best albums with standout tracks “Bum Bum Bum”, “Opposite House” and “It”.

     

     

    Buy Mangy Love Amazon
     

     

     

    NXWORRIES- YES LAWD!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    2016 breakout all-star Anderson Paak’s other group, nxworries (a collaboration between Paak and producer Knowledge) releases debut album filled with modern soul album with hip hop flourishes.

     

    Buy Yes Lawd! [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    PINEGROVE- CARDINAL

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Montclair, NJ emo kids release roots rock record to increasing acclaim featuring standout tracks “Old Friends” and “Size Of the Moon”.
    Buy Cardinal Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    THAO & THE GET DOWN- A MAN ALIVE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Second album by alternative folk-rock duo, produced by tune-yards’ Merril Garbus and containing much of her influence while genre-hopping and surprising throughout.
    Buy A Man Alive Amazon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    WILCO- SCHMILCO

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Low-key but rock solid late period effort by dependable yet legendary alt-country icons Wilco.

     

    Buy Schmilco Amazon



  • Mixes By Year: Best of 2016 Volume 1

    BDog’s Best of 2016 Volume 1 (1/14/17)

    1. Car Seat Headrest – Fill In The Blank

    Buy Fill in the Blank Amazon

     

    2. Parquet Courts- Berlin Got Blurry

    Buy Berlin Got Blurry Amazon

     

    3.  Angel Olsen- Shut Up Kiss Me

    Buy Shut Up Kiss Me Amazon

     

    4. David Bowie- Girl Loves Me

    Buy Girl Loves Me [Explicit] Amazon

     

    5. Whitney- No Woman

    Buy No Woman Amazon

     

    6. Frank Ocean- Nights

    Buy Nights [Explicit] Amazon

     

    7. Kanye West (Feat. Kendrick Lamar)- No More Parties In L.A.

    Buy No More Parties In LA [Explicit] Amazon

     

    8. Danny Brown (Feat. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul & Earl Sweatshirt)- Really Doe

    Buy Really Doe (feat. Kendrick Lamar & Ab-Soul & Earl Sweatshirt) [Explicit] Amazon

     

    9. Anderson Paak- Celebrate

    Buy Celebrate [Explicit] Amazon

     

    10. Chance The Rapper- Blessings

    Buy Blessings Amazon

     

    11.  Kantranada (Feat. Karriem Riuggins & Riber Tiber)- Bus Ride

    Buy Bus Ride Amazon

     

    12.  Rihanna- Kiss It Better

    Buy Kiss It Better [Explicit] Amazon

     

    13.  dvsn- Hallucinations

    Buy Hallucinations Amazon

     

    14.  Solange- Cranes In The Sky

    Buy Cranes in the Sky Amazon

     

    15.  A Tribe Called Quest- We The People…

    Buy We The People…. [Explicit] Amazon

     

    16.  Beyonce (Feat. Kendrick Lamar)- Freedom

    Buy Freedom Amazon

     

    17.  Radiohead- Burn The Witch

    Buy Burn the Witch Amazon

     

    18.  Bon Iver- 22 (Over Soon)

    Buy 22 (Over Soon) Amazon

     

    19.  Leonard Cohen- You Want it Darker

    Buy You Want It Darker Amazon



  • Mixes By Year: Best of 2016 Volume 2

    BDog’s Best of 2016 Volume 2 (1/14/17)

    1.  Beyonce- Formation

    Buy Formation [Explicit] Amazon

     

    2.  Anderson Paak- Come Down

    Buy Come Down [Explicit] Amazon

     

    3.  Drake (Feat. WizKid)- One Dance

    Buy One Dance [feat. WizKid] Amazon

     

    4.  Maxwell- Lake By The Ocean

    Buy Lake By the Ocean Amazon

     

    5.  Joey Purp- Morning Sex

    *Track not available via Amazon

     

    6.  YG- Twist My Fingaz

    Buy Twist My Fingaz [Explicit] Amazon

     

    7.  Rae Sremmurd (Feat. Gucci Mane)- Black Beatles

    Buy Black Beatles [feat. Gucci Mane] [Explicit] Amazon

     

    8.  A Tribe Called Quest- Ego

    Buy Ego [Explicit] Amazon

     

    9.  Chance The Rapper (Feat. 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne)- No Problem

    Buy No Problem (feat. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz) [Explicit] Amazon

     

    10.  Blood Orange- Best To You

    Buy Best to You Amazon

     

    11.  James Blake- Modern Soul

    Buy Modern Soul Amazon

     

    12.  Frank Ocean- Ivy

    Buy Ivy [Explicit] Amazon

     

    13.  Drugdealer (Feat. Weyes Blood)- Suddenly

    Buy Suddenly Amazon

     

    14.  Car Seat Headrest- Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales

    Buy Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales [Explicit] Amazon

     

    15.  Mistski- Your Best American Girl

    Buy Your Best American Girl Amazon

     

    16.  ANOHNI- Marrow

    Buy 4 Degrees Amazon

     

    17.  Radioheads- Decks Dark

    Buy Decks Dark Amazon

     

    18.  David Bowie- Black Star

    Buy Blackstar Amazon