2017, I think it was good?

What must have been 6 or 7 years ago brother Joseph and I went out for a few Christmas beers one afternoon and amongst the conversation was the idea of what became the early beginnings of this collaboration of music sharing and discussion. The blog in its’ own right in 5 years old.. so good on us for sticking to it!

Looking back we have had some great albums, and this year is no exception. For me 2017 has been a strong year for new artists whilst it has also welcomed back a few that were due some fantastic new material. I found myself buying allot more albums this year, and looking at what is due in 2018 I hope it continues.

I always struggle with lists, but off the top my head here are my highlights for this year (songs and albums) in no particular order. Like last year, I left off top songs that are on albums that are in my top 10.

 

Top Songs

Jay-Z – The Story of O.J.

Tom Rosenthal – Soon Goodbye Now Love

Masta Ace – Young Black Intelligent (feat. Pav Bundy, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble & Chuck D)

Evidene – Jim Dean

Daphni – Face to Face

Whitesquare – Definition of Anticipation

Home – Joe Goddard

Rapsody – Power ft. Kendrick Lamar, Lance Skiiiwalker

Sampha – (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano

Julia Byrne – Follow My Voice

 

Top Albums

Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid

LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

Bicep – Bicep

Auldus Harding – Party

Agnes Obel – Citizen Of Glass

Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone

Four Tet – New Energy

Nick Mulvey – Wake Up Now

Kendrick Lemar – Damn

Run The Jewels – Run The Jewelz 3

 

 

Fever Ray – Plunge

Welcome back Karin. You’ve been missed.

I am very pleased to be able to choose the new Fever Ray album for December AOTM. Merry Xmas Brothers.

My introduction to Fever Ray (aka Karin Dreijer) came before I think I had ever heard anything by The Knife, the band that Karin created with her brother Olof. The Knife were a European Electronic phenomenon in the early ’90s perhaps never having the success or influence they enjoyed in Europe and Internationally.  I worked backwards from my love of Fever Ray’s debut Fever Ray into The Knife back catalogue.

The album, Fever Ray was a (logical!?) musical progression from Silent Shout, The Knife album that preceded it chronologically. Silent Shout was a fairly dramatic, progression from The Knife’s earlier output focusing in on the more intense, dark and moody qualities of the previous albums. Fever Ray picked up this baton and Karin explored much more personal of pregnancy and motherhood as Fever Ray. She shared something we’d never heard or seen (please check out the videos from this album) from her work with her brother. The fact that the release of this album and Stacey and my love of it coincided with Stacey’s pregnancy and our early parenthood made this is a very special album.

If Fever Ray was a progression from Silent Shout then ‘Plunge’, in turns picks up many of the stylistic turns explored on ‘Shaking the Habitual’ the last Knife album. ‘Shaking the Habitual’ was mental. It was a pretty tough listen even for a fan. I do like it very much … but I don’t play it too much! I am sure that when you first listen to ‘Plunge’ you may feel similar emotions but I implore you to dive into it head-first. Create occasions where it’s oppressive, angular and downright scary nature is a plus … not sure what those occasions are really but immerse yourself and its brilliance will reveal itself.

Karin’s voice is urgent, pleading, desperate and reflects the less conventional electronic soundscape that creates each song. But when needed, she turns into a Scandi-Electro-Pop queen sounding cute and friendly. This dark and light is found all over the album. IDK About You is a great piece of urgent Punk Pop but at 150BPM comes across like an assault the first few listens. Again, once you get it, you really get it. ‘This Country’ see’s Karin open, explicit, politically charged and exposed. ‘To The Moon and Back’ harks back to The Knife’s perfect pop moments on the Deep Cuts album. It sounds like the gorgeous radio friendly ‘Heartbeats’ or ‘Pass This On’ until Karin coo’s ‘I want to run my fingers up your pussy’ … oh, she went there. How Karin.

So don’t relax and sit back to listen to this. It won’t work. But do get involved with it’s complexity and range.

NOVEMBER: Wallflower by Jordan Rakei

Ah, blue-eyed soul. A double-edged term that come across as much as insult as praise. It implies a lack of depth, a lack of the heritage of the music, not just racially but in terms of authenticity. Maybe this isn’t quite blue-eyed soul, but it’s certainly made by an artist who’s steeped deeply both in the history of the music and current trends. It’s also not quite accurate to say he’s a white guy singing a historically black genre. To be specific, he’s a Kiwi of Pacific Islander heritage who now lives in London and signed to Ninja Tune. How fantastically 21st Century.

So where did this come from? That was what I thought when I first heard ‘Goodbyes’. It was one of those times I immediately Googled the artist, found he’d made a whole album, and then just sat opened-mouthed when I sat down and listened to it. The opening number, ‘Eye to Eye’ starts like a soul ballad, and then when it kicks in, you know you’re going somewhere really interesting. That edgy, nervous arrangement, almost jazz-sounding at at times, is such a great counterpoint to his sweet voice.

This is such a tough genre to excel in. I mean, I think I’d call this a soul record, but it’s a post-dance era soul record, I suppose in the same way that Sampha is. There’s also a touch of those downbeat artists like James Blake in there too. But where some of this genre can be a little hit-and-miss – for example, I LOVE the highlights of the Sampha album, but there’s some filler on there, I really love the whole of this. It’s so fully-formed, it’s so rich, it’s so delicious to listen to. It’s beautifully produced too – those strings remind me of Craig Armstrong’s work on Massive Attack’s finest albums. In fact, Massive Attack are a real cornerstone, influence wise. Time for a trip hop revival, anyone? 😉

There are two stages to your relationship to an album, I find. The first is: do I keep playing it when I first get into it? This has been a huge yes – I’ve had to start rationing myself because I’ve listened so many times. The second stage is: Will I come back to this, year after year – has it become a permanent part of my musical landscape. Well, of course, I won’t know that yet. But if you’re asking me to guess right now, I’m pretty certain it will be. I like it that much.

Highlights: opener Eye to Eye, the straight-up soul of Nerve, funky, melancholic single Goodbyes, Massive Attack-esque Hiding Place. But honestly, I love the whole thing!

Thoughts, brothers?