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.
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
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
I can’t get enough of this track!
I first heard Sampha’s “who IS this?!” talents on this very blog, back in 2014, on “Wonder Where We Land?”. It wasn’t an album I really thought was my thing, and even on fifth listen, let alone first, it felt too odd, too patchwork, to take hold. But it did, and it was the incredible “Gon Stay” that pulled me in. But that, despite coming back to the album over the next two years, was all I encountered of the South Londoner until now. Having encountered “Process”, I feel a little foolish for this now.
But if it’s a debut album that’s taken a while to land, then it’s every bit the reward for being teased out. And while it’s a cliche, it’s more than just about the music here, as mesmerising as it is. These days we crave ‘story’, but the tale behind a work for an artist that’s worked with the likes of Drake, Solange, Frank Ocean and Kanye is one worth touching on, because it frames the album like an unseen assistant, a shadow over the lyrics and music that can’t be ignored. The Morden resident was a nascent musician as a child, but his adult life has been pockmarked by tragedy, his existence moving from single parent – his father Joe died of lung cancer in 1998 – to orphaned son, as his mother passed away from the same disease in 2015 in between his second EP and the album’s release.
It’s easy to talk of emotion and candour in music, such is the ubiquity of artists on social media, baring their souls (in 140 characters at a time) but Process feels exactly as that single word befits: a young man coming to terms with his place in the world as he comes to terms with love, life and loss in modern, isolating city life. His own health scares also sit behind the words of the record, and time and again the emotions are front and centre, with that incredible voice not slotting into others’ productions, but acting as another instrument in itself, and sounding the most powerful and piercing that it has yet. “Blood On Me” is a beautiful record, its staccato beats echoing modern hip-hop, but the piano’s chords carry punch, and the words speak of a man spinning close to the edge of control.
In fact, the feeling is one of boundary-free music, with Sampha’s soul pouring out unrestrained, even as the clever time signatures of “Kora Sings” or the simple arrangements of “Take Me Inside” cascade into multi-tracked synth and vox like a burst of of colour, despite the darkness of many of the lyrics. The pace may often be slow, but the energy and heft is always there, and even at first listen it’s a beguiling proposition. And for all the tales of suffering and anguish, the truth is that beneath all of it is a hugely talented musician.
The reviews are stellar, because the album has all the makings of a modern classic. A man whose career has been stop-start, halted by tragic episodes that may be the making of him. From all the heartache often comes the best music, and this is a stunning piece of work from a new British artist we should cherish.