Archive for December, 2016

#Bestof2016 Top 100 Tracks (25-1)

Our review of 2016’s finest songs has reached its final part, and with it our favourite songs of the year. Amongst them, alternative folkies; electronica producers sampling Brazilian classics; hip-hop discoveries; veteran rockers; comebacks and departures; swan songs and debuts; conceptual songs about sex and death; life and hopelessness.

And our Top 25 songs of the year are: Read the rest of this entry »

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#Bestof 2016 Top 100 Tracks (50-26)

The third block of our best tracks of the year begins with New York artist of Hispanic descent Xenia Rubinos. She puts together a colourful melting pot of Latin and rock influences in ‘Mexican Chief,’ a powerful defence of the role racial diversity plays in American society.

Also in this block we’ll find Mods; Tropical Lo-Fi; the new project by Belfast’s most popular DJ and soundtrack composer; a solo musician out of the Woods; R&B divas; melodic hardcore; Compton greatest appearing as a guest in two of the tracks; Canadian electronica and the return of several soul and hip-hop legends.

Check our Top 50 favourite tracks of 2016 here: Read the rest of this entry »

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#Bestof2016 Top 100 Best Tracks (75-51)

We begin the second block of our tracks of the year going all the way to the streets of Deptford in South London, with the debut track of up and coming grime artist Elf Kid, the irresistibly energetic ‘Golden Boy,’ which benefits from cleverly sampling Amerie’s Rober Award winning track ‘1 Thing.’

Also coming up debutante female rappers; garage rockers; queer R&B singers; Gotham boy-girl duos; Welsh songwriters; French psycho-popsters; the band formerly known as Viet Cong and formerly as Women; the first of two ‘Boyfriends’; Portuguese fado; Canadian twins and many more.

All of this and more after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

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#Bestof2016 Top 100 Tracks (100-76)


101-YG FEAT. G-EAZY & MACKLEMORE
FDT (Fuck Donald Trump) Part 2
(Def Jam)

In our best of 2016 review it is turn for the countdown of our favourite Top 100 tracks, beginning as it is tradition with the symbolic position 101, usually reserved for the guilty pleasure of the year which didn’t make it into the final selection. Many of the year’s most popular songs were left bubbling under, and therefore were considered for this slot. Among them, Drake’s ubiquitous ‘One Dance’; Rihanna’s ‘Work’; the hook-filled Latin electropop of Bomba Estereo’s ‘Soy Yo’ or Sia’s dancehall infused -courtesy of Sean Paul- ‘Cheap Thrills.’

We decided, however, to park all frivolity aside and give the slot to the track that better conveyed the thoughts of every decent human being in the planet after the latest US election. YG joined forces with G-Eazy and Macklemore in a powerful statement giving the two fingers to the new American president and his ultraconservative tactics of bigotry, xenophobia and racial hatred, ‘FDT (Fuck Donald Trump).’ The rapper from Compton followed this track with a whole US tour named after it.

As it is also habitual, we split our Top 100 best tracks of the year in four blocks, the first of which features a sonic tribute to Prince by a current TV star; robots producing an R&B singer; British grime; Asian pop idols; US Hardcore; Tuareg rockers; the respective returns of Acid House and Brazilian samba legends; New-York hipsters; nu-soul crooners; Two different British takes on krautrock; two Russian female electronica artists -one local and one expat-;a Romani brass band joining forces with a Colombian combo; a false reverend; a ex-Disney club poppet and a experimental composer based in LA. Eclectic, us?

Altogether, they form a richly diverse sonic mosaic proving that there’s plenty of life beyond the reductive formulas of the Top 40.

And our Top 100 tracks of 2016 are: Read the rest of this entry »

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#Bestof2016 Top 50 Albums: Death, Loss & Hopelessness


Perhaps the head title for our Top 50 albums of 2016 seems a bit exaggerated, but death and suffering were the present themes in most of the year’s best music. The many spontaneous fan and industry tributes to David Bowie not only brought a mournful tone to 2016, later replicated with those ones to Prince, whose shocking and premature passing away did not allow him to give us a farewell record, and in the autumn with Leonard Cohen who did offered us his best work in at least a decade with the sombre ‘You Want It Darker.’Even A Tribe Called Quest, whose unexpected recording sessions for their remarkable comeback were affected by the dead of founding member Phife Dawg, which fortunately did not prevent it from being one of the most terrific records of the year.

The undeniably quality of ‘Blackstar‘ also gave a sense of popular music having peaked at the very beginning of the year. Luckily, 2016 has turned out to be a vintage year in which gender, racial and sexual diversity have also been recurrent themes, bringing a rich and eclectic sonic palette with them, albeit most of its standout moments shared that bleak outlook of the dramatic events occurring through it. Anonhi‘s electronic transformation was as astonishing as strong her exploration of yoday’s many causes for ‘Hopelessness‘; Nick Cave shared the pain of his son’s tragic loss in ‘Skeleton Key‘, the most devastating album we have heard since Lou Reed‘s ‘Magic And Loss‘ and PJ Harvery expanded the scope and ambition of `Let England Shake´ to several conflicting zones around the globe in ´The Hope Six Demolition Project.

Another of the year’s biggest surprises was Lambchop‘s return to form with an album infused in minimal electronica that refreshed Kurt Wagner‘s intimate Americana and brought him closer to the sounds of Bon Iver or James Blake, both also returning with excellent works.

As streaming finally surpassed digital downloads as the prevailing format, Urban music in both its R&B and hip-hop strands reigned supreme, with such a range of brand new and establishing talents on display that it felt like the only genre driving popular music forward. Leading the pack the Knowles sisters, Beyoncé and Solange. Their latest opuses’ cultural impact will be remembered for years to come. Beyoncé merged the boundaries of music, film and style in her second video album ‘Lemonade,’ whose streaming exclusive for her husband’s troubled platform TIDAL was not an obstacle for the collection to become one of the best selling of the year. Solange made a 70’s rooted, confesional soul album. And talking about soul no one shone brighter than Frank Ocean, who managed to break all ties with the industry and went his own way, finding and exploring his own voice in the process. The hip-hop world gave us the madness of King Kanye; the histrionics of Danny Brown and Kendrick Lamar confirming he is in a league of his own with an album of discarded tracks from the sessions of his latest masterpiece.

Two of the best newcomers of the year were also the most ubiquitous. Rapper Anderson.Paak impressed with his solo debut ‘Malibu‘; teamed up with Knxledge in the cool jazzy outfit NxWorries and found time to guest in every rap album worth its salt. In the electronica arena, the star-studded debut of Canadian producer Kaytranada, sharing also a big jazzy influence, provided the latest sound “du jour,” soundtrack of many a hipsters’ dance floor. The mixtape format jumped into the mainstream, with such renowned artists as Chance The Rapper; Kamaiyah or Young Thug, sticking to its immediacy without bothering to release “proper” albums.

The repeated attempts by a new generation of bands to revisit the 90’s guitar sounds on both sides of the Atlantic began timidly to produce notable results. The shadow of Pavement planed over Car Seat Headrest‘s sophomore effort ‘Teens Of Denial,’ whereas indie punk and britpop were the key ingredients in UK band Martha‘s invigorating second record. Both adding their personal takes to their original references, differentiating themselves from the legions of mere copycats the blogosphere has been pushing for years. Also on that front, Courtney Barnett’s enormous success last year has prompted the record industry to search for more young female rockers with first-timer Mitski and the more established Angel Olsen, being major beneficiaries of such growing interest.

2016 should have been declared the year of the not-so-difficult second album; with The Avalanches, who took decades to shape a worthy follow-up to their iconic debut, and self-described krautrock-psych-punk French band La Femme being prime examples. Other surprises were the consolidation of veteran US rockers Drive-By Truckers and singer/songwriter Cass McCombs who perhaps delivered the most accomplished albums of their respective careers; Thee Oh Sees carried on taking garage rock to new heights and the overlooked collaboration between three of the most singular female alt. songwriters Neko Case, k.d. Lang and Laura Veirs.

Altogether they have shaped a fantastic year of music. Check the full list of our favourite Top 50 albums of 2016 here: Read the rest of this entry »

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2016: My Idols Are Dead And My Enemies Are In Power



This image posted in a web page owned by Paul Darling has circulated in social media around the world. A tweet containing it sent by Cambodian film director Rithy Panh cached our attention. Nothing has summarised better the ghastly vibe of 2016.

A year that begins with the dead of one of the most iconic popular culture artists of all time does not forecast anything good, and David Bowie passing away was a devastating first taste of things to come, making us more aware of the ones who followed him over the course of the last twelve months. Prince; Leonard Cohen; A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg; Sharon Jones; Dead or Alive’s Pete Burns; This Mortal Coil’s Carolyn Crawley; Alan Vega; P.M. Dawn’s Prince Be; Vanity; Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White; Colin Vearncombe aka Black and many others have formed a long black list that leaves the sour impression of having arrived to the end an era whose cultural achievements no one seems able to better, not even repeat.

Politically, the rise of populism came in many shapes, from the repetition of the Spanish general elections and subsequent negotiations concluding with the same, corrupt popular party and leader in power; to the vaguely surprising “Yes” Brexit vote in the UK, leaving the country in a muddling situation the new formed crisis government doesn’t seem to know how to deal with. Yet it was all crowned in the autumn by the US referendum, when against all odds billionaire Donald Trump won, using bigotry and other repugnant strategies to manipulate the prejudices of a growing percentage of disenfranchised population.

Despite all those shadows planning over us, music has not just reflected well the state of things but in 2016 has risen over the doom and gloom and offered us another surprisingly excellent crop, crammed with so many notable records that our usual Top 50 could not accommodate them all. That’s why once more we begin our Best of 2016 review with an honourable mentions section, selecting 30 albums that didn’t make our final cut but equally deserved our full attention.

Among them long awaited returns (Kristin Hersh; Maxwell; Brazilian singer Elza Soares); new psychedelia explorers (King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard; Sex Swing; Drugdealer); the band formerly known as Viet Cong and before that as Women (Preoccupations); Trash metal J-Pop idols Babymetal; A band (Woods) coincides with one of his member’s solo effort (Kevin Morby); a large number of female voices coming from all genres (Emma Pollock; Julia Jacklin; Weyes Blood; Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith; Jessy Lanza) and an ever larger number of urban and hip-hop artists pushing the boundaries of a genre that is still carrying the weight of popular music forward. Schoolboy Q; R&B revelation Jamila Woods; British grime star Skepta; hip-hop newcomer Noname; Atlanta TV series star Childish Gambino and the side project of ubiquitous newcomer anderson.paak (NxWorries) are some of them.

And the 30 Bubbling Under albums of the year are: Read the rest of this entry »

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