Mr. Story’s Albums of 2016

In no particular order, the albums that I have most enjoyed this year …

Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing

No matter what mood I am in I love listening to this. It’s bizzarely universal for me. If I want to jump about and sing like nobody is in the room then I put it on, if I want to chill out, I put it on. Morning, evening. I think you get the point.

Nicolas Jaar – Sirens

I loved his first, I loved the Darkside album and I love this. I don’t think this is as strong as Darkstar – Psychic but its a hell of a listen.

Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm – Trance Frendz

I listen to loads of music that I would never choose for the AOTM. Maybe that is disrespectful to the Brothers. Perhaps I should branch out? These two musicians / composers (whatever) get together to go on hikes and talk about making music. Occasionally they meet in one or the others home cities to make some music. One evening they recorded 6 tracks, live with no overdubs or post fannying about. They created a haunting alum of calm lilting piano music that is then blended into electronic claustrophobia. Those of you who know Paul Ledger will appreciate his comment after he sat in the dark and listened in full on his head phones ‘Its beautiful Joey but you’re still one dark fucker’.

VIDEO LINK CAUSE THE BLOG WONT LET ME PASTE DIRECTLY INTO THE BODY LIKE ABOVE!!! 

Bon Iver – 22, A Million

I didn’t know what to make of this at first … I love it now. He’s pretty bloody consistent isn’t he!

Christine and the Queens – Chaleur Humaine

I don’t care if its not the artists original words, language guests etc. I love love love it. Probably album of the year for me. Thank you David.

Anderson .Paak – Malibu

This has been with me nearly all the year I think. This and Frankie Cosmos. They’ve been consistently albums I’ve turned to.

Agnes Obel – Citizen of Glass

Beautiful

JANUARY: Agnes Obel – Citizen of Glass

I cannot claim any long-standing relationship with Ms. Obel’s music. One evening in late November I switched 6 Music and caught the back-end of a live session. It was the voices I heard that sparked my interest initially. I think I only heard about 90 seconds but after a bit of ‘Ask Jeeves’ (Q:does that still exist?… A:I don’t know, Google it?) I was introduced to Ms. Obel’s music. Citizen of Glass was not out but there were a few tracks on Spotify and I loved each and everyone.

As referenced previously in my wittering, I don’t get as much time to listen to music as I used to / would like. I do listen to music in the evenings but my evenings are not as long as they used to be. Following the daily bedtime battle and the realisation that child-2 will probably be awake for 3 hours in roughly 2.5 hrs we like to keep the evenings calm. I like to read but am useless at reading when listening to some music. I struggle with a lot of music with lyrics when reading. Over the course of a few years this has significantly changed my listening habits. My evening music has become calmer and more instrumental. I listen to a lot of (cringe) ‘Modern Classical’ ‘Neo-Classical’ (puke) and other terms for music with strings that nobody knows what to call. Musicians (composers?) such as Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter, Johann Johannsson and Julian Barwick have become the main-stay of what I actually listen to. However, I’ve not shared any of this on the blog which is stupid really as it is what I listen to and this blog is supposed to be about sharing new music and what we’re currently listening to.

Which brings me to Citizen of Glass by Agnes Obel. Ms. Obel is a Danish singer / songwriter. A bit of time on ‘Ask Jeeves’ suggests numerous genres for her music – classical, folk, pop, experimental among others. The main point for me is that her music is calming and beautiful. There are no beats. There will be no-cool-down-with-the-kids points available for referencing this album, unless of course the kids are listening to music like this which could well be happening given my proximity to ‘cool’.

The album is cinematic and sweeping. It has a rhythm to its sequence and provides a progression through the tracks but also a gentle return to its starting point. By this I mean that listening on repeat is a rewarding experience. There are 10 tracks in all, 8 vocal and 2 instrumentals. The instrumentals (for me) do not feel like filler and have stand out qualities that set them apart as rewarding entities in their own right. The instrumentation is 100% acoustic / orchestral – lost of piano (though this is her album where she consciously steps away from reliance on the piano), strings, harpsichord, harp, spintet, celsta (…. I’m not selling this am I?) and of course her voice. I’ve not checked all the vocal credits but she provides her own backing vocals and harmonies. She even duets with herself on ‘Familiar’ where she provides a ‘male’ counterpoint to her beautiful ‘female’ vocal.

As with many albums the greatest rewards come on repeat listens when you have the ability to concentrate on the music rather than as background music. I hope that you guys get as much from this as I have. I appreciate that this may not be ‘your usual thing’ but hey, it may well be and you’ve just not been blogging about it like me.

 

DECEMBER: We Got It From Here… – A Tribe Called Quest

Ach, so late on this one. Soooooo sorry.

I mean, there’s not much to say in a weird way, is there? After an EIGHTEEN YEAR gap, and after losing one of the group’s cornerstones and founder members, Phife Dawg, and without much of a contribution from Ali Shaheed, who would be have been surprised if ATCQ would have returned with something a bit tired, a bit old, a bit derivative.

Instead, they rock up with one of the albums of the year and add a genuine new chapter to an already glittering career. Like Bowie’s Blackstar, this album is one you’d be happy to put next to their finest like their debut or Midnight Marauders.

Let’s be clear: they’re not totally reinventing themselves, and there is something enjoyably familiar about hearing that ATCQ sound. But what makes this such a thrilling listen is to hear Q-Tip and the crew sounds so vital, so passionate, so playful and so political.

It’s almost an embarrassment of riches. The first four or five songs are all stone cold classics, and almost every contribution brings out the best in everyone – the tracks with Andre 3000, Busta Rhymes, Kendrick Lamar and Anderson .Paak are all total standouts. It also rewards repeated plays, and each time I find a new track that I’ve overlooked.

If there’s a criticism, it’s maybe that with it’s a touch overlong, and with the loss of 2 or 3 tracks, it would have been flawless. But actually, there’s not really a track I dislike intensely, and I love nearly all of it.

Welcome back ATCQ. The world missed you. The world needs you.