Posts Tagged ‘freddie gibbs’

INAUDIBLE’s BEST OF 2017

December 22, 2017

Hello everybody! Welcome to INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF LIST: EDITION #9! Without further ado, let’s get down to the nit and the grit and reveal INAUDIBLE’s favourite musical moments of 2017.

FAVE EP’S, SINGLES, 12’s of 2017

click album cover to sample a track

Grant - No Lights EP

Grant – No Lights EP

See Other - Linda EP

See Other – Linda EP














Lobster Theremin is a fantastic record label. Head Lobster, Asquith, and his team released 30 records in 2017, and Grant and See Other are just two highlights among many. Grant is my favourite house producer of last year, as I love his earlier releases on Mork and Lauren Bacall, and See Other’s propulsive 4/4 beats have continually had me coming back for more. Check ’em.

Ozel AB - Workshop 24

Ozel AB – Workshop 24

D. Tiffany - Blue Dream

D. Tiffany – Blue Dream












 

Ozel AB has also put out music with Lobster Theremin, but 2017 sees him releasing Workshop’s 24th release, and it’s a real good one. Deep, introspective, eyes-closed head boppers for those in the know. While Vancouver’s D. Tiffany keeps up the Van City hype and drops another four solid tracks of eclectic bass-leaden house music.

HONORABLE AUDIBLES OF 2017

click album cover to sample a track

There was a ton of excellent music this year that I enjoyed from all different genres. From hip-hop to rock to ambient, 2017 showcased some great highlights and guilty pleasures…

Lotta Sea Lice

Courtney & Kurt – Lotta Sea Lice

Galcher Lustwerk – Dark Bliss

The opening track on a Kurt Vile album is always fantastic, and it’s no different here with “Over Everything” on Lotta Sea Lice, his fun collab with Courtney Barnett. The two musicians compliment each other really well, and the album is full of straight ahead good ol’ blue collar rock ‘n roll. Kurt and Courtney version 2017! Very easy listening.

Galcher Lustwerk is one of the chillest dudes in techno and although nothing will ever be able to beat his sumptuous 100% Galcher mix from 2013, his much-anticipated proper debut Dark Bliss still offers up a set of deep and trippy house numbers featuring smooth beats and his hypnotic vocals. It’s club music for those favouring their vape pens over their mixed drinks and I be diggin’ it.

Colleen - A Flame

Colleen – A Flame, My Love

Kelly Lee Owens

Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens

I’ve been listening to Colleen since her debut on The Leaf Label in 2003, but seeing her live at last year’s Mutek, made me really see what an accomplished musician she is. Her set had me mesmerized. With A Flame, My Love, A Frequency, she abandons her oft-used viola de gamba for synths, and the result is just as immersive as her earlier work, and shows a musician always willing to embrace the new.

Speaking of new, Kelly Lee Owens was a relative unknown at the start of this year, until she released her debut album on Smalltown Supersound, and she now finds herself on many best of lists. Reminiscent of early Grimes, Owens makes moody electronic music and uses her voice to anchor the listener in. Great stuff.

Bibio - Phantom Brickworks

Bibio – Phantom Brickworks

Bing & Ruth

Bing & Ruth – No Home






 

Bibio has constantly reinvented himself over the course of a decade and a half-dozen records – from lo-fi folktronica, to hip-hop beats, to leftfield and even to yacht rock – and he’s worn each hat well. But with Phantom Brickworks, his first ambient album, the hat’s never fit so damn comfy and snug. The music on this album feels effortless. It’s soothing and haunting and makes for a great vibe to wake up to in the morning or zone out to at night. Well done, sir.

Bing & Ruth aka David Moore has produced my favourite piano-based ambient record of the year. Unlike Bibio’s more languid and improvisational approach, the tracks on No Home Of The Mind feel composed and intellectual, but that doesn’t mean they’re not emotional. The album is modern classical in its execution, and as soon as opener “Starwood Choker” begins, the listener is immediately swept in. Highly rec’d.

Kelela - Take Me Apart

Kelela – Take Me Apart

Vince-Staples-Big-Fish-Theory

Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory

Kelela is the low-key Solange for 2017 and with Take Me Apart she further refines the future R&B sound she’s been developing over the last five years. Working with hot ticket producers like Arca, Kingdom, and Jam City, Kelela is in full on sultry mode throughout. Whether the tempo is fast or subdued she keeps the sensual vibe running from start to finish. Insert fire emoji here.

With Big Fish Theory, Vince Staples leans hard on electronic dance music producers like SOPHIE and Flume and successfully crosses genres, popping out club bangers and tracks to bop yer head to while you sink heavy-lidded into the couch and a cloud of smoke. I was a bit surprised at Vince’s corporate sponsorship with a soda company, but in our current hyper-branded culture, why wouldn’t a young musician want to supplement his cash flow and rep the same soft drink as Lebron James?

Mac Demarco - This Old Dog

Mac Demarco – This Old Dog

Nick Hakim - Green Twins

Nick Hakim – Green Twins

At 27, Mac Demarco is already feeling wise and grown up, and it shows on This Old Dog, his most straight-forward and easy listening record to date. Some longtime fans have said they miss the young nutso Mac, with his weird tunings and goofy stage antics, but I like this new old cur. It’s a good look on him and he knows it.

D.C. native, Nick Hakim could easily find himself on a bill with Mac and fit right in. Mixing the stylings of Conan Mocassin and Unknown Mortal Orchestra with a 1970’s soul vibe, Hakim’s debut Green Twins makes good on his earlier EP’s and shows a young musician truly stepping into his own. His live show at Bar Le Ritz in Montreal this April was excellent, and I look forward to further evolutions of his laidback sound.

Gas - Narkopop

Gas – Narkopop

DJ Sports - Modern Species

DJ Sports – Modern Species

Seventeen years after Wolfgang Voigt put out his masterwork Pop, he returns with variations on the same theme avec Narkopop. If someone put a gun to my head and screamed: “Tell me your favourite album of all time, NOW!” and in that moment I blubbered “Pop by Gas”, I could die happy with that choice, as I’ve been listening to it consistently enough over the last fifteen years. So then, a new Gas record is a pretty big deal, and as expected Narkopop is just as visceral as his earlier work, but it walks a much darker path. It’s moody and consuming and worthy of about seventeen years worth of listens. Sounds good to me.

I don’t know a goddamn thing about DJ Sports. All I know is that his name is pretty stupid, and his music is pretty awesome. It’s as if I found an old burnt CD from Uhfska in a box somewhere and discovered a classic electronic album from twenty years ago. Modern Species is a throwback to late 90’s house and jungle, but it also features some very nice beatless moments, and there’s a track that reminds me a lot of Arovane too. Definitely worth a few spins in your Discman.

GUILTY PLEASURES OF 2017

the xx - I See You

The xx – I See You

Drake - More Life

Drake – More Life

The first time I listened to I See You, I thought it was The xx’s flattest record yet, but then their hooks and melodies started to get lodged in the old noggin’ and before I knew it, I was playing “Replica” six times in a row everyday for a fortnight. Jamie xx is a formidable producer and while I still think In Colour is his strongest release to date, apparently there’s still a little space left for some angsty songs about heartache in my life.

Is Drake a good rapper? Negative. Is he a good singer? Not at all. But is he a taste maker? Without a doubt. His ‘playlist’ More Life, features more guests, more genres, more samples, and more producers than you can shake your booty too. And it sure has its share of fun moments. More tune for your head top, indeed.

INAUDIBLE’S TOP NINE ALBUMS OF 2017

9. William Basinski – A Shadow in Time

William Basinski is up there with Wolfgang Voigt in my books as one of ambient music’s living legends. Like Voigt, Basinski’s catalogue has been on consistent rotation in my quiet morning moments for the better part of a decade. But as much as I enjoy his music, I always thought Basinski (not unlike Herr Voigt) was probably a pretentious jerk that took himself way too seriously, but thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong in my assumptions.

I finally saw him live this year at POP Montreal and man, what a cool and down to earth dude! He played the two new pieces from A Shadow in Time to a packed and sweaty audience, and in the end, he slowly faded the music out for a very long time, and as hushed as it got, you could still hear everything perfectly amongst the burps and whispers of the crowd.

William Basinski may be a down to earth guy, but he’s got his eyes clearly fixed on the goddamn stars! I love him.

8. Beach Fossils – Somersault

I was under the impression that the guys in Beach Fossils had moved on to new things, since there hadn’t been a peep from them since 2013’s excellent Clash The Truth. So I was quite happy to see a new record from the Brooklyn band to help kick off the summer.

Less derivative (and douchey) than DIIV, and more varied in their songwriting than Real Estate, the songs on Somersault, reveal the Fossils at their most mature, and provides a suite of emotional and melodic indie rock tunes. The addition of strings and horns throughout the album also helps give their sound a sonic boost. In my opinion, after Real Estate’s rather stale, In Mind, it’s safe to say that Beach Fossils have usurped their place for fave ‘indie’ band.

7. Freddie Gibbs – You Only Live 2wice

Gangsta Gibbs rises from the ashes of a drive-by, jail time, and an acquitted rape charge, and returns with You Only Live 2wice, his hardest and most accomplished collection of tracks yet. Gibbs and I couldn’t be more opposite, but I’ve been fascinated with his rhymes and flow for a long time now, and it seems like he just keeps getting better.

Seeing him live at Theatre Fairmount in Montreal this summer was an absolute treat. Like a total pro, he blasted out his complicated raps for well over an hour and didn’t seem to take a breath the entire time. Plus he was humble, quietly thanking his fans for sticking with him through all the muck, before cranking the bass back up to eleven. More Kane, more Gibbs!

6. Fresco & Irisarri – La Equidistancia

For a half decade, Leandro Fresco released one song a year on Kompakt’s annual Pop Ambient compilation, and they were always highlights to my ears. He finally released his first solo album in 2015, and it’s really good, but teaming up with Rafael Anton Irisarri (aka The Sight Below) seems an inspired choice. La Equidistancia is my favourite ambient album of the year, because it creates the perfect soundscape to get lost into while writing, reading, studying, thinking …

The entire album can swirl by in a blip until final track “Un Horizonte en Llamas”, which sounds a lot like Boards of Canada, but also creates the sensation of the clouds lifting and clearing, allowing you to zone back in to your world, and wake up back to your reality. It’s an impressive effect and I doubt it was done on purpose, but it’s some really great stuff all around. Let’s hope they keep this partnership up in 2018.

5. Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins

Grizzly Bear return after a five-year hiatus with the excellent Painted Ruins, yet another collection of intricate and impressive songs. There was a lot of talk about how a new Grizzly Bear album would fit in the current music streaming landscape? As if our collective attention spans have become so short no one can even listen to an hour’s worth of music from the same band anymore.

My response: a new LP by Grizzly Bear fits just fine thank you very much. Music is music is music. And I for one think a suite of music from one band (aka an album) still works just as goddamn well as it did when Robert Plant was howling about getting his lemon squeezed. Music is timeless. Period. And Grizzly Bear are an excellent example of this.

With Painted Ruins they have written the record they wanted to, and it is an album that rewards with repeat listens, as their compositions are rich, chaotic, melodic, and vocally fantastic. I’ve listened to Painted Ruins countless times and it’s still revealing itself with each spin.

Seeing them play a sold out show at Metropolis this year showcased a band still at the height of their powers and still very relevant in our current music culture.

4. Tyler the Creator – (Scum Fuck) Flower Boy

Tyler the Creator grows up and releases his most cohesive and strongest musical statement to date with Flower Boy. His gravelly voice and penchant for sleek production mixed with infectious samples finally take centre stage, because Tyler decided to let the music speak for itself and himself, allowing listeners to shake off some of his more polarizing moments of the past.

Lead single “Who Dat Boy” is a straight-up banger, and the entire album is chock full of catchy hooks and pleasant earworms throughout. It also acts as somewhat of a cathartic statement for Young T, as he (sort of) claims ties with the LGBTQ community, and attempts to explain his obsession with cars and attention-seeking antics stem from loneliness and boredom. Guests like Frank Ocean, A$AP Rocky, Kali Uchs, Jaden Smith, and Lil’ Wayne help round out the vocals and bolster the album’s overall appeal.

Like Vince, Tyler reps consumer culture, but thankfully none of it overshadows what we’re really here for: the tunes. Flower Boy is definitely the hookiest album of the year, and one that I can play while at the gym just as comfortably as when having friends over for dinner. Let’s see where Dat Boy will go next…

3. Four Tet – New Energy

It’s been 16 years since Four Tet aka Kieran Hebden released the groundbreaking Rounds, and in the span of almost twenty years, he’s put out consistently excellent music while never pigeonholing his sound. Over the last seven years or so, Hebden has moved his musical aesthetic from couch to club, and with New Energy he presents all his strengths in one record, from new age chill to dancefloor banger, with all the little ambient nooks and eclectic crannies in between.

Lead single “Two Thousand and Seventeen” is possibly Hebden’s most moving track since “Angel Echoes”. It could easily be an unreleased track from 2003’s Rounds, and is a perfect example of the cyclical nature of electronic music. Unlike any other genre, there’s a timelessness to electronic music, and I predict “Two Thousand and Seventeen” will sound just as heartbreakingly on point in 2022 as it does now.

New Energy works your head, your mind, and your dance moves, as showcased on the top notch track “SW9 9SL”. Hebden is a class act and continues to show he’s one of the most accomplished and varied musicians in the electronic music scene.

2. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

Kung Fu Kenny drops his fourth LP DAMN. with the precision and discipline of a martial artist and leaves all of his contemporaries in the dark.

The production on DAMN. is stripped down and raw in comparison to Butterfly’s intricate live arrangements, and like A Tribe Called Quest’s excellent album from last year, DAMN. is a brilliant combination of the timeless and the modern, the old school and the next-level. And for the most part it bumps HARD.

Does he miss the mark here and there trying to be a bit too radio-friendly? Perhaps. But he more than makes up for it with tracks like “DNA” and “FEAR”. “DNA” has gotta be 2017’s most undeniable fight song, while “FEAR” is probably the most complete song in his discography, the perfect culmination of who Kendrick Lamar is as a rapper and storyteller in 2017. It’s emotional, personal, and a clear standout on an album full of standouts.

But all this talk of Kendrick as the GOAT seems a bit hasty. Let’s wait a bit, no? Let’s see what he does next, and let’s see if after all the nods, and reps, and hype and success of this album, he actually does remain humble.

1. Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun

Bet you weren’t expecting this one, eh?

Earlier this year, maybe around March or April, I listened to Come On Die Young for the first time in close to ten years, and I couldn’t believe how perfectly it suited my current mood, as well as, how much I used to fucking love this band. In the early aughts, me and Mogwai were pretty goddamn tight.

The first time I ever heard them I was driving home, listening to Brave New Waves on CBC, and the great Patti Schmidt played “Burn Girl-Prom Queen”, a ten minute slow burn of a song, that had me goose-bumped and chain-smoking, and driving past my house for another spin around the neighborhood.

Perhaps more than any of the ‘revered’ bands from my early twenties, Mogwai were able to envelop me like no other, they knew how to absorb my mind completely, whether they were playing at a sensitive hush or with the angsty urge to make my ears hum and ring. They wrote the music I wanted to make. Soft, loud, dark, introspective and volatile, met with occasional moments of quiet beauty.

But somewhere along the last decade and a half, I tossed Mogwai and their post-rock kin aside for all things electronic. And yet, my musical tastes are somewhat cyclical, and after listening to their newest record “Every Country’s Sun” as a soundtrack to autumn, I was surprised to hear that Mogwai were still on top of their game. And now, instead of just being loud for loud’s sake, their sound grows outwards rather than just up up up. Their guitars sound like synths, their synths like guitars, and the bass and drums are as driving as ever.

Opener “Coolverine” sets the mood immediately, and draws the listener into a set of comfortably claustrophobic tunes that mix electronics with guitars, art-rock with grit, and volume with ambience, all to emotional effect.

I saw them live at The Corona in Montreal in early December and I’m still thinking about the show. It was special for me for a number of reasons. Firstly, I’d somehow never seen them in all the years I’ve been a fan, secondly, it’s probably going to be my last concert for a while, since I’ll soon be singing lullabies to a newborn instead of bopping my head in a club, thirdly, it was a rather cathartic experience after a tumultuous week at work, and finally, they were absolutely stellar live.

They showcased most of the new album, highlighting how strong the new songs really are, but they also played “Cody”, “Mogwai Fear Satan”, and opened with “Hunted By A Freak” (a personal favourite), which had me fighting back tears as I sat on the balcony in the dark by myself. Earplugs were a necessity, but it wasn’t until the encore where they really aurally assaulted us, and I truly loved every single minute of it.

As I write this, I’m listening to the title track of the new album on vinyl and it’s soundin’ real heavy and real nice, and so for these reasons Mogwai’s ninth LP, “Every Country’s Sun” is INAUDIBLE’s favourite album of 2017.

Yes! I made it to the end!

Thanks for reading, happy 2018 to all y’all! I’m looking forward to all the craziness my 40th year will bring….

Big Love,

ml

INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2015

December 20, 2015

tumblr_n1vdhegxpq1rd76vjo1_500

Here it is, ladies and gentlemen. The long-awaited, seventh annual INAUDIBLE best of 2015 listy list! I hope you enjoy it!

BEST EP’s, SINGLES and 12″s of 2015

(click album cover to sample a track)

Palms Trax - In Gold

Palms Trax – In Gold

Route 8 - This Raw Feeling

Route 8 – This Raw Feeling

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palms Trax and Route 8 are two young producers that have been making huge strides in the techno scene over the last few years thanks to consistently awesome releases on Lobster Theremin, Dekmantel, and Nous Records. Here’s hoping for more of the same in 2016!

Pender Street Steppers

Pender Street Steppers

Jack J - Thirstin'

Jack J – Thirstin’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vancouver, BC is having a major moment right now and these two Mood Hut heroes are leading the way with their quality spliffed-out stompers that play just as well on the couch as they do on the dance floor. Check ’em, son.

Junktion- Monologue

Junktion – Monologue

Andrés - Believin'

Andrés – Believin’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Junktion is a relative newcomer from the Netherlands, and Andrés is a 20 year veteran from Detroit, but both of them got that deep soulful groove thang on point. These aren’t just club tracks, they’re proper songs to get the party started and keep you in the moment all night…

Art Crime - Obsession

Art Crime – Obsession

Various - Workshop 21

Various – Workshop 21

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although very different, both of these albums pack an emotional wallop. Art Crime makes you wanna lose yourself on a black as pitch dance floor, while Workshop 21 highlights four different artists and four different moods, and in doing so has crafted one of its finest releases. Left of centre house jams!

Green Kingdom - Vapor Sequences

The Green Kingdom

Lnrdcroy - Unthank 008

Lnrdcroy – UNTHANK008

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Green Kingdom never fails to disappoint with his take on hushed dub-tinged ambience, while Lnrdcroy returned with three tracks to remind me why I loved Much Less Normal last year. Yet another young and talented Vancouver artist to keep your ears on…

 

Thundercat

Thundercat – The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam

When I first heard Thundercat’s “Them Changes”, I played it six times in a row. It had an Isley Brothers sample that was infectious as hell and a Steely Dan vibe that I just couldn’t resist. It was summer and the sun was shining through the kitchen window and with each listen I turned up the volume a little more.

Yet, when I finally started to focus on the lyrics I realized that although the song was as bright as that July sun, there was something more sombre under the surface. And to be sure, the album is actually about grief and mourning and an attempt at catharsis for Thundercat. The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam actually sounds more like a post-rock record than funk or soul or hip-hop, but all I can say is that it’s Thundercat’s strongest statement to date…

 

HONORABLE AUDIBLES

Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dog – Bush (Columbia Records)

Does Snoop just keep getting smoother and cooler with age? With the help of Pharrell, I’d say the answer is hells to the yes.

Bush was conceived as a tribute to the funk and R&B of the 1970’s that has always inspired Snoop’s music, yet it is so much more than that – it places Snoop back up on the West Coast pedestal he briefly left for his turn as a Lion. And even though he didn’t sound half bad on his Rasta tip, it’s the G-Funk vibe that’s his real wheelhouse.

Bush is a feel good album from start to finish and shows that Snoop and Pharrell can still drop it like it’s hot.

Snoop Dog: “This City

Deerhunter

Deerhunter – Fading Frontier (4AD Records)

Deerhunter returned this autumn with Fading Frontier, a subdued yet more pleasant album than their 2013 effort Monomania. Yet even though it’s the band’s catchiest album to date, with great hooks and choruses, I feel like it falls short of their earlier releases.

Deerhunter have always outdone themselves with each album, and this feels more like a revisiting of Halcyon Digest rather than a reinventing of. That said, I’ve still listened to it tons of times and find Cox and Pundt’s guitar work fantastic, I was just hoping for a little more…

Deerhunter: “Carrion

Bersarin Quartett

Bersarin Quartett – III (Denovali Records)

Thomas Bücker resurfaced this year with the third album under his Bersarin Quartett guise and offers up another collection of rich neo-classical ambience. Bersarin Quartett’s music is minimal but it’s also really emotive, and he’s a natural at exploring textures, mood, and atmosphere in an abstract way. Yet with III we find him at his most cinematic with some of these tracks actually reminding me a bit of J. Swinscoe himself, albeit at his most quiet.

All three Bersarin Quartett releases are excellent and Bücker’s music should be enjoyed by more listeners. Check it.

Bersarin Quartett: “Ver Flossen Ist Das Gold Der Tage

 

INAUDIBLE’S TOP 11 ALBUMS OF 2015

Flo Po - Elaenia

11. Floating Points – Elaenia (Pluto Records)

In my very first end of year list in 2009, I dubbed Sam Shepherd my “Fave New Artist”. Fast forward seven years, and he’s finally released his full-length debut album, Elaenia. And in many respects a debut it is, as it offers up a much different Flo Po than the house boogie hero I was championing back in 2009.

Shepherd flirted with jazz and orchestral arrangements a few years ago with his Floating Points Ensemble project, but now that vision is truly realized, and with Elaenia we have a full-blown production of mature nu-jazz numbers recorded with a live band.

These tracks go from swirling to quiet to jazzy to funk with synths holding the whole thing together – in fact, it’s not until the last track (where a John McEntire-esque drum beat blasts its way through six minutes) that the album really lights up, building to a wild climax and ending right in the middle of it. It’s a jarring way to end the record, but it leaves this listener wanting to hear where he’ll go next…

Floating Points: “Silhouettes (I, II & III)

 

DJ Richard

10. DJ Richard – Grind (Dial Records)

Judging from earlier releases on his White Material label, I figured Grind was going to be a noisy and scrappy affair, yet DJ Richard’s jump to Dial Records for his first full-length shows him turning down the grit a bit for more melody and the results are excellent. Grind is analogue in feel, melancholy in mood, and rough around the edges, yet it’s still elegant.

DJ Richard’s style is all his own, with tracks like “Nighthawk” and “Bane” being great examples of how he can work stuttering drums and several different synth lines at once, and have the effect be both harsh and enveloping, depending on his listener’s mood. Bottom line: he’s definitely one to watch in the years to come.

DJ Richard: “Vampire Dub

 

Jamie XX

9. Jamie xx – In Colour (Young Turks)

“I go to loud places to search for someone to be quiet with…”

That lyric has been drifting in and out of my head since the beginning of summer, when Jamie xx’s long-awaited solo album In Colour dropped to great acclaim. It’s been pretty much lauded by everyone, and even though it took me a few spins, it was Jamie’s skill at tapping into nostalgia that completely won me over. He’s put out some great jams leading up to this, slowly honing his skills as a first-rate producer, and In Colour is the culmination of the last six years, gathering up elements of everything he’s done – moody ballads, floor-filling bangers, and off-kilter collaborations with vocalists – and jamming them all into a tight bright package.

In some respects, even album cover wise, this record reminds me of Caribou’s Our Love from last year, as it mines the same wistful aural territory. And what’s nice is that it offers a couple tracks that might as well be songs by the xx, with Romy singing on “Loud Places” and “See Saw” which are both excellent, and Oliver staying moody and chill on “Stranger in a Room”. And how can I leave out “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”? The smashing yet unlikely collab with Popcaan and Young Thug. That track has gotten me fired up and feeling fine many a time since I first heard it and will continue to do so well into 2016.

In Colour is an album you can play at the height of the party or walking home from work on a Monday evening in the rain, and in both settings it plays out just as smooove.

Big tings still ahead for this bloke!

 

Project Pablo

8. Project Pablo – I Want To Believe (1080p)

Montreal via Vancouver producer, Patrick Holland, makes hazy funky soulful house under the moniker Project Pablo, and like his contemporaries Pender Street Steppers, he stepped up his game in 2015. With the cassette version of “I Want To Believe”, Holland has released a collection of songs that are deep and groovy and filled with an innate sense of fun.

This album was a slow burner and didn’t fully grab me from the start, yet with each successive listen it only continued to sound better and better … and here’s hoping for more of the same in 2016!

Project Pablo: “Movin’ Out

 

Kurt Vile

7. Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down… (Matador Records)

Philly’s everyman Kurt Vile is at his most Kurt Vilest with his latest long player b’lieve i’m goin down… showcasing a perfect mix of lo-fi rock and roll and Americana. The beauty has always been in the subtlety and strength of his songwriting, yet here he’s toned down the rock just a bit, showing a little more restraint than on Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze. Vile’s lyrics are dark and lonesome and occasionally funny, delivered in a laconic style that’s all his own. He tends to drag out words or syllables providing the perfect counterpart to his skilled finger-plucking or guitar strums.

The album starts off on a high note with the fantastic “Pretty Pimpin”, in which Vile contemplates his existence in front of the bathroom mirror, however, for me it’s the slower more meditative tracks that highlight his finger-plucking skills that are the big winners for me, like “All in a Daze Work”, which shows him at his most patient – just a dude completely lost in the moment of playing his guitar.

What’s a bit different is that there’s a bit more banjo and a lot more piano on display in these tracks, the best example being “Lost My Head There”, which has a great outro with a vibraphone flourish and the occasional “Wooh!” from KV. Not a huge departure here, but that ain’t a bad thing at all…

 

DJ Koze

6. DJ Koze – DJ Kicks (!K7 Records)

I’m pretty sure DJ Koze and I would get along. I’ve always been a fan of his style both as a music producer and label head, so it makes sense that I’d like a DJ Kicks mix of his as well – I just never thought I’d dig it so much.

It’s definitely more for home listening than the club, but it has a steady trajectory to keep your head bobbing. Koze kicks things off with a Dilla-inspired original “I Haven’t Been Everywhere But It’s On My List” before sliding into some great obscure hip hop tracks and then a slowed down mid-section featuring the classic “Tears In The Typing Pool” from Broadcast and a spoken word piece from William Shatner that is oddly powerful. It isn’t until the last five songs where Koze really heats it up and provides a selection of perfectly mixed house numbers, nailing the vibe with penultimate track, “Surrender” by Portable.

What a beautiful song. What a beautiful playlist. DJ Koze just keeps getting better with time. Check this mix please and thank you.

 

Tame Impala

5. Tame Impala – Currents (Interscope Records)

Kevin Parker has come a long way from down under in the last half decade or so since his band Tame Impala started making waves with the still excellent Innerspeaker. No longer is he just that long-haired barefoot Aussie stoner dude who sounds like John Lennon and riffs like Tony Iommi . . . well I guess he still is, but he’s also become a veritable production artist not unlike George Martin.

The first single to be released off of Currents was the 8-minute psych-rock jam “Let it Happen”, and I dug it upon first listen, however, the first time I listened to the album all the way through, I remember thinking “where’s the fuzz, yo?” And so my initial reaction was that it definitely sounded good but I wasn’t totally feeling it.

Fast forward two or three weeks later and cue up four king cans of beer, a joint, and some headphones. I was typing away on my laptop working on a story when “Eventually” came on, and everything immediately clicked – I stopped typing and stared at the screen like a doe-eyed deer about to get hit by a truck. The production! Holy shit! Everything sounded so crisp and alive! How did I miss this before? And of course, once I had heard it like that, I couldn’t unhear it, and I was officially obsessed and listened to the album on repeat for weeks.

The best part of the songs is the little flourishes Parker is so adept at adding, like the chiming synth line at the end of “Eventually” or the soft Fender Rhodes tinkle in “The Less I Know The Better” or the vocal delay in the chorus of “The Moment” that really make the songs stand out. Great album!

 

Cascade

4. William Basinski – Cascade (Temporary Residence)

The prolific William Basinski has made a career out of decaying audio tape – a fitting foil for our accelerated times and the proliferation of all things digital. And by now I think it’s safe to say his name belongs up there next to Eno and Budd as one of the finest ambient artists ever.

It’s been over fifteen years since The Disintegration Loops, and it’s arguably still his finest piece of music to date. I can put that record on at any time and be immediately lost, an hour can go by in the twitch of an eye, or can feel drawn out like the setting sun on the horizon. It’s timeless.

With “Cascade”, Basinski offers up about twenty seconds of piano and loops it for 40 minutes. That’s it. It sounds too simple to be effective, but as the loop repeats itself endlessly it morphs into something more murky and broken as the tape loop slowly decays, and in doing so creates a feeling of calmness and peace in the listener.

This is my top morning album of the year by far. Sometimes I play it twice in a row and have to stop myself from hitting play again.

Scrolling through the comments section on YouTube, two comments stuck out in between the “Beautifuls!” and “Profounds”. The first was: “It’s so odd to think that these works are simply just tape looping and decaying, with textures added over top, but this seemingly simple art form has the power to bring you to tears and think deeply on the past.”

And the second: “I was listening to this for 10 minutes before I even actually noticed I was listening to it and then I was like HOLY SHIT WHAT IS THIS?” My thoughts indeed, my thoughts indeed.

William Basinski: “Cascade

 

Freddie-Gibbs

3. Freddie Gibbs – Shadow of a Doubt (ESGN Records)

Gangsta Gibbs keeps up the hot streak he started by teaming with Madlib last year for the fantastic Pinata and released three records in 2015. Earlier in the year he put out two EP’s, The Tonight Show and the hot as fire Pronto, before releasing the unexpected full-length Shadow of a Doubt in early November. And since it’s dropped, I’ve listened to it at least once a day. I wake up with the hooks and rhymes in my head and can’t seem to get enough.

Unlike DJ Koze, who I honestly think I could be buds with, I’m not sure the same thing would apply with Freddie Gibbs. I imagine him taking one look at me, smirking, and thinking to himself “who’s this phony silver foxin’ ass nigga?” before turning around and never acknowledging me again. He drops the n-word so many times during Shadow of a Doubt, I figure he would have to use it when he saw me, even though I’m whiter than Marshall Mathers.

But if he’d turn around again, I’d tell him the reason why I’m so drawn to his shit is because he’s a storyteller who just so happens to be a rapper who just so happens to sound like no one else in the game right now. On Shadow of a Doubt, all the songs tell some sort of story, either about his drug-dealing past, a pill habit, or the deepened sense of purpose he’s felt since the birth of his daughter in April. So even though I can’t really relate, I can totally relate, you know what I mean?

He makes his listeners feel his struggle regardless if they’re young kids on the corner in Gary, Indiana, or some white Canadian dude in his mid-thirties bumping Freddie in his kitchen while he and his girlfriend make dinner. They’re ain’t a shadow of a doubt that Freddy Corleone is one of the freshest voices in hip hop in 2015.

Essential tracks: “Fuckin’ Up The Count”, “10 Times” and “Packages

 

To Pimp A Butterfly

2. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (Top Dawg)

How do you know if you’ve really made the big time? By getting eleven Grammy nominations for your sophomore record? Or having the President of the United States say that one of your songs is his personal favourite of the year? Or being in the top three of virtually every end of year list being written in 2015 (including even this highly respected blog)?

Yes and oui and si, I’d say.

Kendrick Lamar returned this year trying to outdo the accolades bestowed on his last album good kid, m.A.A.d city, and pretty much blew the roof off of everything with To Pimp A Butterfly. A fusion of old school and new school, funk and soul, R&B and jazz, a swirling collaboration with so many artists from Snoop to Bilal to Fly Lo to Thundercat to Boi-1da, Pharrell, Kamasi Washington, the ghost of 2Pac and more.

At the centre of it all is Kendrick, sounding more determined than ever to highlight what it’s like to be black in 2015 in America. Yet even though he may be on top of his game, it seems like Kendrick still be climbin’, and searching for guidance, trying to figure out where exactly he fits in the world around him, both as music superstar and lil homey from Compton. Unlike Kanye who has called himself “Walt Disney, Shakespeare, Nike and Google”, all in the same breath, there’s a humbleness to Kendrick’s personality that’s refreshing. And while Drake is dancing around, waiting for some girl to call him on his cell phone, Kendrick’s figuring out how to be a better person out in the world and a better rapper in the industry.

During the song “Momma”, Kendrick repeats the line “I know everything”, in between telling us what that everything is: Compton, morality, street shit, wisdom, karma, history, bullshit, highs and lows, loyalty, clothes, hoes, money, generosity, until he goes home and sits at the kitchen table with him Momma and realizes he doesn’t know a goddamn thing.

Earlier on the album, during “Institutionalized”, Kendrick reminds himself of some great advice his Grandma gave him when he was young: “Shit don’t change until you get up and wash yo’ ass, nigga!”

It seems to me like Kendrick knows that real change starts from within and with To Pimp A Butterfly he’s trying his damnedest to promote this idea and act on it and let everyone know that hopefully everything’s gonna be “Alright”.

To Pimp A Butterfly is a challenging listen to be sure but ultimately a very rewarding one.

Kendrick Lamar: “Untitled” (from The Colbert Report)

 

sufjan

1. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)

Stripping away the bells and whistles, the orchestration, the back-up singers, the electronics, the gimmicks, and the technicolor spectacle, Sufjan Stevens returned this year with just his guitar, a piano, and his voice, and released Carrie & Lowell, the best album of his career.

We all know the album’s premise by now, it’s titled after his mother and step-dad. In 2012, Sufjan’s mother died of cancer and although their relationship was strained (she left when he was young), she’s still his family, and this album focuses on how Sufjan coped with the aftermath of those early years, and the emptiness his mother’s death left in him.

In the last two years, I’ve had two friends lose a parent, and I’ve watched them struggle to make sense of life without them. They’ve grieved in their own ways, some healthy some not, and because of their losses, I can’t help but think of my own parents and my girlfriend’s parents and the fact that we ain’t getting any younger … and it’s scary and makes me want to press pause or somehow go back in time, because I don’t want it to ever happen. Carrie & Lowell has a similiarly sobering effect, and by looking inside himself, Sufjan is able to really connect with his listeners.

So as soon as I found out he was touring I immediately bought tickets for the show. I’ve seen him before and knew it would be stupid to miss him. Unfortunately, I didn’t look at the date, only to realize later that the show was on the same weekend we were going to be at a wedding in Yosemite National Park. I was surprised at how upset I was about having to miss the show. But Yosemite … damn, what a special place.

On our last morning there, I had to go pick up some things at the bride’s cottage, which was a 45-minute drive through the Yosemite valley. I put on Carrie & Lowell as I drove through the park, the early morning sun glinting off the Half Dome and El Capitan, and every view worthy of Ansel Adams’ camera.

I barely made it through opening track “Death With Dignity” before the tears came. And there was a lot of them. And I couldn’t stop. But they weren’t sad, they were joyous and oddly powerful. Two tracks later in “All Of Me Wants All Of You”, Sufjan sings “Landscape changed my point of view”, and as he said that I cheered. I put my arm out the window and pumped my fist in the air. I laughed through my tears. I realized it was a perfect spring day. I realized how much I loved the people in my life. I looked around at the dense forest and the giant rocks and shivered …

It was the closest thing to a spiritual experience I have ever had, and so that is why Sufjan Stevens tops my list for 2015.

Carrie & Lowell is an album of memories and stories. It’s covered in the dust of a turbulent family life and how one man, one child, learned to deal with it all. It may well be our first insight into the real Sufjan. It’s heavy, but so very beautiful.

Sufjan Stevens: “Blue Bucket of Gold

yosemite

Yes! I made it to the finish line! Thanks for reading! Have a fantastic 2016, my friends!

Love,

ml