The gleaming and digesting is complete, and the ears are awash with all the cuts dropped. Overall the year hasn’t be an album-heavy year for me. Granted, the ones that made the cut are my favorite, yet I wonder how many will infect me and stick in my aural DNA for years to come. It has been more of an exploratory year filled with mixtapes and solo YouTube clips heard in the middle of the night. I have a Spotify playlist that I have developed a blog post, sitting in draft form, describing them. I’m going to expand it tomorrow and post it as well. Now, on to the albums.
Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste
“212” was not the greatest of songs when it was dropped in 2011. In its proper place, however, it is the true banger people made it be a while back. Banks’ debut combines a variety of sounds – house beats, R&B, garage, Latin music – and melds it with her sing/rap combo, creating an extended party playlist best played on a sound system in the best clubs. Which is a far better home for her songs than anywhere else, and I don’t mean that in any denigrating manner. This is fun hip-hop the radio shouldn’t get in its filthy goddamn hands.
Favorite song: “Gimme A Chance” – Azealia goes hard over horns, turntables, then brings her Harlem on and belts out lyrics and rhymes in Spanish. Can’t say no to that.
Caribou – Our Love
What kind of emotion does Our Love achieve? It has a steady undercurrent of subtle happiness hidden beneath many of the songs in this album. Even when it picks up on songs like “Julia Brightly” it has this downtempo joy embedded under the faster BPM. The music drives you and cools you down at the same time, which is an interesting prospect to have for an electronic album to have.
Favorite Song: “Mars” – Snaith masterfully started that drum sample to start the song, serving as the backbone for the rest of a frenetic mix of repetition of other samples. What came out: a danceable, amazing semi-paranoid jam.
St. Vincent – “St. Vincent”
The breadth of Annie Clark’s work is quirky and enjoyable before the self-titled. They had pop sensibilities, but not enough to really grab a sizable amount of people. This album, however, changes that. In a less-crappier world where the radio would allow at least decent music, a couple of the songs on this album would have been on the cycle. This really is the most accessible St. Vincent album as she comes at you, guitar riffs and all, and pulls you in.
Favorite Song: “Digital Witness” – Her normal singles are good guitar-infused jams, but this one has sonic maximalism that comes from the brass and electronic sounds in the chorus.
EMA – The Future’s Void
What EMA does on this album is take the desolation found in cyberpunk and at make it into music. If you have heard her work in the past you have see her do similar things, but this time around it is refined, like a short film shot in 4K-quality, shot through a distorted fliter. Her zine/manifesto on the creation and basis of the album really goes into this, I highly suggest you read it. The next time you feel the internet is filling up your mind, your lungs, you bones, go and give this a listen for a purge.
Favorite Song – “Neuromancer” – An electronic tribe song taking down Instagram whores, reminding them Big Brother is not in your PC, your phone, and your tablet – he’s in you as well.
Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
On their debut album, Mike and El bounced a rap grenade off one another, waiting to pull the pin. Well, it was finally time to toss the motherfucker into the general population. RTJ2 is threatening, political, dirty as hell, but retains the humor of the previous album. So many parts of the songs can’t help make the listener let out a devilish smile as Mike paints the picture of a prison riot or El reps his NY so hard it messes with his gait, or the uber-lewd romantic masterpiece that is “Love Again”. The duo give no fucks about your sacred cows, and it’s apparent here – people are robbed and waterboarded, all to the soundtrack of El-P’s signature dystopia beats.
Favorite Song: “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck) (Feat. Zack De La Rocha)” – There are a lot of amazing guests on the album, but bringing De La Rocha out to grace us with 18 bars of fury with Miles Davis and Blade Runner references? Done.
Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
RATKING – So It Goes
Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
Banks – Goddess
Christian Löffler – Young Alaska