Tuesday, December 15, 2015
A new year-end champ is crowned!
1.D’angelo Black Messiah: almost overnight, fifteen years of radio silence ended and the remarkable career of D’angelo resumed in the strongest way possible. We know he’s a perfectionist and its clear Black Messiah was worth the wait: you hear it in the sweetly-timed production one every song. The refrain in D’angelo’s voice isn’t praised enough but here it guides everything, like water gently cascading through a stream. He’s political too: The Charade keeps racial profiling in check with huge swathes of groove while Back To The Future takes prying eyes off his physique with nifty lyrics.
2. Kendrick Lamar To Pimp A Butterfly: modern-day masterpieces by Badu, D’angelo and Outkast come readily to mind when one imagines the playlist Kendrick must have been listening to when planning this album. It is a co-dependent relationship acknowledged, one he expertly masters time and time again on To Pimp A Butterfly, never skipping the truism emanating from the state of America’s constantly charged stance to the black male.
3. U.S. Girls Half-Free: as the second track of Meghan Remy’s remarkable album begins, a woozy reggae beats bleats out and when she utters the first line, Grace Jones pops out of her mouth. It’s a magical effect, one that Half-Free utilizes repeatedly, not caring if you’ve won over or not. In fact, Remy’s so confident of her goods that immediately she sneaks in the greatest interlude I’ve heard this decade, It’s a telephone conversation where she confesses that she was “hot stuff” as a little kid and sardonically ruing that she’s just another woman with low self-esteem. Low self-esteem dominates the rest of the album as the women in Remy’s tales get to work, settling into their bad choices and living silently with their lives.
4. John Grant Grey Tickles, Black Pressure: sometimes an artist has to undergo self-realization before the need to record becomes clear. Former Czars singer, John Grant has faced quite a lot the past few years and it shows on this stunning new album, one that Beck would kill for, with its deep-base pop and funk. Grant said he wanted to record an album in response to all the times someone called him a faggot. That makes Grey Tickles, Black Pressure his it-gets-better stand and a great one too.
5. Joanna Newsom Divers: five years ago, on the chorus (which she sang only once in the song) of Good Intentions Paving Company, I dawned on me that Newsom would have to bridge the gulf between her and adult contemporary fans put off by her fabulous lyricism. And here is Divers, that obvious compromise that sounds accessible yet still totally a Newsom project, one where only she could pull off. There’s no animal tale here or history legend sake for the absorbing Sapokanikan and yet Newsom reels us in, leaving us breathless from her steady, peerless craft.
6. Susanne Sundfor Ten Love Songs: while the music-buying public buys the new Adele record and swears she’s soul incarnate, critics are still in awe of Sundfor’s latest because its better, simpler and more soulful than 25 by a mile. This is the type of Nordic pop that has been topping year-end lists ever since we caught sight of Robyn. The opening arc here—all the way to the majestic Fade Away—is so awe-inspiring, so full of pure vocal magnificent that you’ll find yourself putting them on loop for days.
7. Julia Holter Have You In My Wilderness: Domino Records is virtually maintaining its own fabulous collection of freak/folk artists and now Julia Holter has finally put out the album that feels right at home. Right from the whimsical opening two tracks, the album draws you into its universe of sparse beats and her wild imagination. Joanna Newsom better watch out: there’s a new baroque pop deity rising.
8. Miguel Wildheart: at the same time when The Weeknd went mainstream only to lose his unique soul identity, Miguel fully realized his. Wildheart is a slinky collection of grooves that jangle with pop, hip/hop and alternative. And he doesn’t shy away from the corn-dog sex this new school tend to focus on but, here at last, he’s mastered it.
9. Grimes Art Angels: it’s hard to realize that Claire Boucher has been away for three years but her absence did make our hearts grow fonder for her insanely-catchy electronic music. With every release, Grimes has been embracing pop and Art Angels is no different, even if it’s a sort of night-life, DIY jigsaw model that no one else does better.
10. Siskiyou Nervous: never heard of this Canadian band before, then join the club but it’s no surprise why it’s on the long list for the Polaris prize. Lead singer, Colin Huebert. Has a tremulous voice and his band quietly plays up, molding their sound to get in sync. Nervous is an apt title because the tension throughout the record feels in grating, personal yet deliciously so.