Saturday, December 12, 2015
the penultimate edition...
11. Bjork Vulnicura: A lot has been made about the production value of Arca and The Haxan Cloak on the album but any Bjork album really only focuses on one thing: that sultry voice. A few tentative moments aside, when she lets it caress songs like Lion Song and Family, the familiar blissful awe of Bjork’s stature as the greatest female pop musician since the mid-1990s is strongly reinforced.
12. Jazmine Sullivan Reality Show: on the verge of quitting the music industry, Sullivan reconsidered and here it fueled her best work yet. Every track bristles with so much passion and now she’s added grit to them, in line with those divas she’s idealized for so long. Sullivan is adding her own individual flavor however.
13. Lupe Fiasco Tetsuo & Youth: a record he claims is partially inspired by his youth in Chicago, revealing how much pop suffuses his hip/hop consciousness. It’s always challenging when merging both genres but Tetsuo & Youth succeeds because it leaves conflict to resolve itself lyrically and up to whatever perspective you grasp from whatever tale Lupe is spinning.
14. Panda Bear Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper: no one’s made my year-end list more than Noah Lennox and it’s because dude knows how to made great music. While Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper doesn’t climb as high as previous efforts, it’s the sweet craft and production that remains firmly intact. His solo efforts have always reinforced those tenets.
15. Gem Jones Wurm Man Dubiosity: if the band was reveling in Prince-mania on their debut last year then now they’ve ditched him for psychedelic 1960s Jamaican ska. And it’s quite a revelation: the wobbly production and acid-trip vocals all coalesce to form one fully approved transition with the only regret being that they didn’t include more songs.
16. Tyler, the Creator Cherry Bomb: citing Stevie Wonder as the influence for your album is sure to garner attention but when the second track (Blowmyload) starts to revel in eating pussy topped off with accompanying sounds, that’ll raise even more eyebrows. Tyler is known to skirt controversy but here he didn’t need it: the mash up of ideas work fiercely and the lyrical flow is his strongest work yet.
17. Of Montreal Aureate Gloom: after the failure of their last album, it’s nice to see Kevin Barnes getting back to what attracted me to them way back in 2007: the wacky, queerness of the lyrics and production. There’s sadness here too (‘sometimes you get the punishment somebody else deserves’)—the album partially being inspired by his separation from his wife but the scattershot nature of Aureate Gloom enhances the listening experience rather than sink it.
18. Nadine Shah Fast Food: with Adele releasing her new album at the end of the year, most people will now forget the other British women who released stuff during the year. Such a pity because Shah’s Fast Food is by far superior to 25. Here is an album comfortably straddling the pop/rock divide on tracks like The Gin One and Fool. Fast Food as a title is misleading—in fact, one can argue that what Shah has offered here is the polar opposite: great, slow-paced pop/rock that builds to several climaxes that leaves one breathless.
19. Bop English Constant Bop: James Petralli spends more time in the band White Denim but whereas he is just a piece in that group’s aura, he shines brightly here solo, mark you, with the band providing help at turns. These eclectic songs move along at a snappy pace but still have tenderness, like the standout Long Distance Runner.
20. Erykah Badu But You Caint Use My Phone: only Erykah Badu would have the temerity to dare do an entire mixtape based on one of her own songs (Tyrone) and Drake’s inexplicably popular Hotline Bling. The moments are crazy fun: the funk abstraction of Dial Afreaq to the unstated tenderness of Hello, featuring her ex Andre 3000. Badu continues to find amazing ways to reinvent herself without hiccup in her two decade old career.