Archive | Lists RSS feed for this section

Monthly Playlist: May 2019

1 Jun

What a month May has been for great music. Stalwarts made a strong mark, with Vampire Weekend releasing a highly-lauded fourth studio album and Tyler the Creator releasing a fifth – and his best-rated – record. Newcomers, too, blew it out of the water: notably, British rapper slowthai and relative newbie Jamila Woods, who has put out one of the best albums of the year. With all this great music, we really had our work cut out this month picking five great songs to share: but here goes.

5. “We Belong Together” by Vampire Weekend feat. Danielle Haim

As longtime readers would know, anything with one of the Haim sisters is almost always alright in our books. “We Belong Together” – the second Danielle Haim collab from Vampire Weekend’s fifth album, Father of the Bride – is a great, old-school duet love song with a quintessentially-Ezra-Koenig melancholy twist. Black and white, day and night, left and right, bowls and plates – Koenig and Haim list off the timeless and kitschy ways pairs the two lovers belong together. But wait, what’s this? “Baby, there’s no use in being clever / Baby, it don’t mean we’ll stay together,” they say, on a sugary-light bop, following it up with a devastating “We go together like lions and lambs / Oh, we go together”. This is another irresistibly great song from what has been a solid album front to back. Look out for a full review of FOTB from us soon – until then, take a listen through this track (and the other we’ve covered in our playlists!).

4. “Doin’ Time” by Lana del Rey

Speaking of melancholy crooners, the absolute queen of mournful murmuring is back. Lana del Rey has announced a new album in 2019 (the brilliantly-named Norman Fucking Rockwell), and “Doin’ Time” gives us a good taste of the excellent things to come. A cover of the ska / punk band Sublime’s 1996 single – and itself sampling the jazz standard “Summertime” – “Doin’ Time” is a head-fake that starts off like a cheery hit and segues into an adult-contemporary drive through Lana’s, well, sublime vocals. The result, as you may expect from a story about feeling trapped by an unfaithful partner, is a mixture between fuzzy contemplation and spiky regret. More to come from Lana this year, and we couldn’t be more pumped.

3. “Record Collection” by Kaiser Chiefs

In another throwback to the mid-aughts, Kaiser Chiefs are back with “Record Collection”, a song that’s basically an updated version of every one of your favorite songs from your high school years (think Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs themselves, and so on). According to lead singer Ricky Wilson, the band recorded their seventh studio album Duck, slated for July 26th (featuring this new track) after going back and reminiscing over their own first few records. You can hear it too: after a forgettable couple of records in the middle, Kaiser Chiefs finally sound rejuvenated. A thick bassline and poppy drums elevate Wilson’s vocoder-style vocals on “Record Collection”, and the song is peppered with the sort of supple hooks that made “Ruby” all the rage more than a decade ago. (Has it really been that long?!) With “Record Collection”, it looks like we have yet another great summer album to await – mark your calendars!

2. “Vacancy” by Havelock

With so many releases from well-known artists this month, it’s easy to miss tracks like “Vacancy”, the second track (ever) by English singer Havelock. But, wow, are we glad we didn’t miss it – and we are so happy to recommend it to our readers, too. “Vacancy” tells a tale well-known by young people around the world – hustling until you make it, with an end in mind but not in sight. Beyond his chill vocals and the warmth of the production, what Havelock really cracks is that clever yet effortless turn of phrase. In fact, there’s a line on here that we loved so much that we’ll transcribe it here in full: “’Cause you got a brand-new vacancy, and I want to join the agency; I hope that it can give me something that I could hold, somewhere that I could go, without working to the bone: can you give me that?,” he asks; achingly poetic in his naivety. “My snooze is on repeat / I know I’d better wake up or I’ll wake up in the streets” goes another splendid couplet. We haven’t been this excited for a new artist in a long time – and we hope you feel the same way, too. (If you liked this tune, you’ll love “Pig Latin”, his debut single.)

1. “Inglorious” by slowthai, feat. Skepta

From an arrangement standpoint, “Inglorious” has a very simple layout: a short intro, followed by a verse by slowthai and the hook, followed by another verse by Skepta and the hook. But what happens in those five parts may well have changed the topography of British rap. Of course, Skepta is already famous; his unapologetic display of British culture – in a genre dominated by American culture – has placed him on a 2017 list of the most influential people in the UK. On “Inglorious”, his talents and persona are put to the best possible collaborative use with newcomer – and inevitable star – slowthai. A dreamlike intro leads into one of the best beat drops we’ve heard all year, along with a volley of British-isms and descriptions of struggle (“Remember when they wouldn’t let me in / Now their wages just a day’s per diem”). “Inglorious” features on slowthai’s debut album, Nothing Great About Britain, which is honestly one of the best albums we’ve heard all year. Listen to “Inglorious” – if you like it, you’re in for a treat for the rest of the album.

Advertisements

Monthly Playlist: Apr. 2019

2 May

We’re back with another edition of the Monthly Playlist! This month’s songs range from Los Angeles lo-fi to Japanese indie rock and more – read on for all the deets.

5. “38’s” by The Vanities

“38’s”, by Glaswegian garage punk band The Vanities, is a whiskey-soaked vignette about drunken nights that last so late you miss the bus back home (ostensibly, the 38 in Glasgow). Within the first few seconds, Vanities drummer Craig Fellowes bursts in at a frenetic pace that never quite lets off over the song’s entire three-minute mark – but don’t let the percussion overwhelm you. The winning element here is the Vanities’ ability to paint a witty, entertaining picture of an inebriated evening. “Wasteland sights, apart from prozzies and rubble / Thirty quid for the night, far from subtle, she’s trouble / I’m coming down now, I wish I’d made my vodka a double,” goes the tune, perfectly encapsulating that no-man’s-land age between late teens and early adulthood (the band’s four members are all in their early twenties).

If you get the feeling that the Vanities’ experiences are cut from the same cloth as the gin-soaked, unsuccessful-clubbing escapades that shaped Arctic Monkeys’ debut album, you are absolutely right. There is a lot more to anticipate from the Vanities, and we are here for it.

4. “Why’d You Have to Act Like That Though” by Inner Wave

Why’d You Have to Act Like That Though”, by LA-based five-piece Inner Wave, is a chill, lo-fi psych rock track that brings to mind a mix of Mac de Marco and Lonerism-era Tame Impala. The track starts off with a slightly off-kilter melody, layered under spoken-word musings in the style of Julian Casablancas (it’s no accident – the five bandmates apparently grew up listening to the Strokes in the early aughts). Seamlessly, lead singer Pablo Sotelo melts into a hypnotic, repeated chorus – “I’ve been missing you, I’ve been missing you, I swear”; and before you know it, the song’s over. It’s loopy, lo-fi and catchy as hell, and had us pressing the replay button more than a few times. Be sure to keep an eye out for Inner Wave’s upcoming album, wyd, out on May 17.

3. “This Life” by Vampire Weekend

By this point, Vampire Weekend have an unmistakable sound to them. Whether it’s Ezra Koenig’s earnest voice, the Beach Boys-esque pleasantness of the guitars, or the harmonic choral elements, it is fairly straightforward to pick out a Vampire Weekend song from any random lineup. On “This Life”, from the upcoming album Father of the Bride, Vampire Weekend takes their cornucopia of congeniality to a gloomy tale of broken dreams. “Baby, I know pain is as natural as the rain / I just thought it didn’t rain in California,” sings Koenig, hiding the darkness behind a veneer of jangly Americana. It gets worse: “You’ve been cheating on, cheating on me / I’ve been cheating on, cheating on you,” he confesses a few lines later. With its genial music and its weighty lyrics, “This Life” is a great tune that works across two very different angles. Highly recommend this song and album.

Father of the Bride is out on May 3.

2. “Pretty Old Man” by No Buses

No Buses are a Japanese indie rock band heavily influenced by the 2000s garage rock revival sound. Of course, they aren’t the first with that set of influences. It’s easy enough to write a simple, easygoing tune, but what really surprises the listener about No Buses is their ability to create an instant earworm. On “Pretty Old Man”, No Buses weave a love story with at least one geriatric participant, in between roving guitar riffs and steady-as-can-be drums. The result is an earnest homage to the likes of early Arctic Monkeys (even down to the band’s name) and Oasis without coming off too saccharine. A tough feat, but one that No Buses manage well. We’re excited to hear more from them soon.

1. “Power is Power” by SZA, The Weeknd and Travis Scott

Ten years from now, in the annals of pop culture history, April 2019 will be heralded as an historic month, for two book-to-Technicolor transformations: the end of Marvel’s Avengers comic book saga with Endgame, and the final season of the record-busting Game of Thrones. For GoT fans who want to augment their visual and cinematic experiences, the TV show released For the Thrones, a soundtrack inspired by the characters and thematic elements onscreen. “Power is Power”, featuring three of the world’s biggest stars, is an ode to the reluctant hero of the entire series – Jon Snow.

What we love about this track are the interlocking yet distinct contributions from the three featured artists. The Weeknd’s echoing beats bring to mind his chart-topping “Pray for Me” from the Black Panther soundtrack, but his lyrics are far-removed from the African savannah of Wakanda. “I was born of the ice and snow / With the winter wolves and the dark alone,” he sings; a perfect battle hymn for the oft-wallowing Jon. SZA knocks it out of the park with a fluid, strong verse that further explores the self-doubt / heroism clash within Jon’s psyche. And Travis Scott, as usual, switches it up with a verse that contrasts but complements the rest of the song.

All in all, “Power is Power” is a treat whether you’re a Game of Thrones fan or not.

Monthy Playlist: Mar. 2019

1 Apr

Here’s a crazy fact: we’re already a quarter of the way into 2019! It felt like just yesterday that we at TFR were putting together our end-of-year lists, and now here we are. Wild, right? Anyway, without any further ado, take a look at our top five songs for March. And as always, let us know if you agree or disagree.

5. “In Your Head” – Nilufer Yanya

23-year-old Nilufer Yanya grew up in London, in a creative household with mixed Turkish / Irish / Barbados heritage. With a background that fluid, it is little surprise that Yanya’s approach to music is decidedly irreverent.

On her recently-released debut album Miss Universe, Yanya flits between bat-your-eyelashes pop moments and fuzzy rockstar vibes with an ease that simply can’t be taught. Perhaps the best song from the album is the lead single, “In Your Head”. “And I can do what I like / I’ll never know what it means / Some validation is all that I need,” she says, clear-headed about both her materialism and the lack of substance within. (Fittingly for a song that explores the emptiness of individualism, the music video is shot in Las Vegas.) In a way, she kind of reminds us of the best parts of the erstwhile Marina and the Diamonds.

Yanya stands out with her throaty voice, unique personal style and brazen lucidity. Keep an eye on this one – and take a whirl through Miss Universe while you’re at it!

4. “Patience” – Tame Impala

As die-hard Tame Impala fans, we would of course be remiss if we did not mention “Patience”, the latest song to escape the inimitable workshop of Kevin Parker’s brain.

It takes about 20 seconds for Parker to bring out his signature phaser sounds on “Patience”, but this time it’s different. With its dizzying synth garnishes and heavily processed bongos, the song winks at a sort of disco-by-way-of-world-music that no other Tame Impala song has really explored. Parker’s indecisiveness – and the dreamy psychedelia that results – is the real backbone of the famous Tame Impala sound, as we wrote about in our review of Currents (2015). On “Patience”, it’s clear that he’s still working on it. “Sometimes I get so tense but I can’t speed up the time,” he confesses, flipping around seconds later to ask his lover to take things slow.

Tame Impala are headlining a bunch of festivals this year, but haven’t yet announced a release date for a full album. “Patience” until we hear more, then.

3. “Black” – Dave

In many ways, Psychodrama – the debut album from British rapper Dave – is a spiritual successor to Kendrick Lamar’s good kid M.A.A.D. city (2012). Like K-Dot, Dave is blessed with an otherworldly talent to channel the realities of the world outside him into hard-hitting poetry – and with killer flow to boot. Our stand-out track from this album is definitely “Black”, Dave’s exploration of what it means to be a black man in the world.

With the oversaturation of American media, news and politics into global consciousness, it is almost easy to equate blackness – and the associated struggles – with a negativity-tinged African-American experience. Dave does better, thankfully. On “Black”, he shines light on truly personal experiences of what it means to be of African heritage in a Western country. There’s so many great lines here. On growing out of his surroundings: “Black is growin’ up around your family and makin’ it / Then being forced to leave the place you love because there’s hate in it.” On being divided and ruled: “Her hair’s straight and thick but mine’s got waves in it / Black is not divisive, they been lyin’ and I hate the shit / Black has never been a competition, we don’t make this shit.” And so on.

Psychodrama deserves a full listen, but if you’re going to hear just one song, make it “Black”.

2. “Choose Go!” – Chai

On first listen, the thick bassline and staccato drums of “Choose Go!” sounds like a hidden gem from the heyday of the indie rock revolution on both sides of the pond in the early 2000s. However, the reality could not be further from the truth. You may be shocked to learn (as were we) that the creators of “Choose Go!” are Chai, a four-piece all-girl band from Nagoya, Japan.

This isn’t Chai’s first rodeo, surprisingly enough. Their first album, Pink (2017), was very well-received, but the band has really found its footing with this months’ well-named follow-up, Punk. Sung half in Japanese and half in English, “Choose Go!” combines the relentlessly poppy vibes of, say, the band OK Go, with the lovable weirdness of Japanese culture.

1. “Exits” – Foals

Foals have been around for a while. Their 2008 debut, Antidotes, arrived during an early-2000s crest of the math rock genre, but stood out nevertheless. Songs like “Balloons” and “Cassius”, filled to the brim with frenetic chords and semi-shouted lyrics, shot Foals to fame very quickly. However, on their more recent two albums (2013’s Holy Fire and 2015’s What Went Down), the band took an unexpected turn. The frantic urgency of Antidotes was replaced by a mellow restraint; it felt like they were reveling in their ability to turn a musical phrase or two whenever they wanted (but not, as with Antidotes, all the time).

On their latest album (2019’s Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1), the band has really put two and two together. There’s restraint, yes, but Foals is largely back to their gloriously feverish roots. The star track is “Exits”: a serpent that twists and turns through more moods than you can count on first listen.

The first section, with its deliberate beats and dramatic lyrics (“Now the sea eats the sky / But they say it’s a lie / And there’s no birds left to fly / We’ll hide out”), makes way to a reverberating one-line chorus (“In a world upside down…”). And that isn’t the end of it. At about the four-minute mark, Foals break out into a heady, psychedelic synth solo that truly elevates the song to greater than the sum of its parts.

“Exits” is six minutes long but Foals entertain you every second of the way.

Monthly Playlist: Feb. 2019

1 Mar

Last month, we started a new feature here at Top Five Records: a run-down of the top five songs from every month. We heard from quite a few of you that you loved it – so without further ado, here’s our list for this month!

5. “Body Chemistry” – The Drums

Don’t let the unrelenting bassline on “Body Chemistry” fool you into thinking it’s a harmless, upbeat bop. On this new track from the NYC-based indie-pop band The Drums, lead singer Jonathan Pierce provides a peak-millennial take on anxiety, romance, and the crippling self-awareness in between. “I know some good luck, and a good fuck, a nice glass of wine and some quality time is gonna make you mine,” he acknowledges, “but it’s not what I’m trying to find.” The song itself reminds us of some of the best tracks on Spoon’s last album, so that’s always a good thing as well. The Drums are set to release their fourth album in June.

4. “In the Capital” – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Melbourne-based pop-rock quintet Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (there’s a mouthful!) had a very well-received debut album (Hope Downs) last year. Their sound is essentially a cross between the woe-is-me melancholy of Deerhunter and the sparkling pop of Real Estate – but it’s not as odd a combination as you would think. “In the Capital”, a new track that was released earlier this week, apparently came about as lead singer Fran Keaney was swimming. “I can’t neatly describe it, but something like connection despite distance. I was thinking about transience and water and death and big cities and fishing towns and moon river,” he says. Have a listen for yourself – we think he’s got it down spot-on, actually.   

3. “Fast Times” – Albert Hammond Jr.

Albert Hammond Jr.’s third full-length album, Francis Trouble, won us over last year with its boisterous yet clean-cut vibe. With “Fast Times”, Hammond is back with a track that is equal parts nostalgic and melancholic. “I was over there, completely unaware / It was me, that you saw / How little did I know / All the things would go,” Hammond sings, wistfully reminiscing about carefree days long gone. The music is of course immediately evocative of the early 2000s-heyday of crisp, fast-paced rock, for which Hammond’s past (and present!) band, the Strokes, were a primary driver. After “Fast Times”, we’re certainly keeping an eye out for more music from Hammond.

2. “GummyBear” – Mini Mansions

Mini Mansions are an LA-based three-piece band comprising The Last Shadow Puppets’ bassist Zach Dawes, QOTSA bassist-turned-singer Michael Shuman and Tyler Parkford. If that line-up sounds like the band would make fun, bass-driven tracks that could fit well within Humbug-era Arctic Monkeys, you are exactly right. In fact, Mini Mansions are just coming off of a supporting tour on that band’s North America leg, and something great seems to have rubbed off of on them. “GummyBear” is an instantly accessible dance-rock track about a love-hate relationship (“Boy, I thought you was sweet, girl, but you’re just sugar-free”). Mini Mansions plans to release their third full-length album, Guy Walks into a Bar… in July – look for them!

1. “NASA” – Ariana Grande

This month, Ariana Grande released thank u, next, her much-awaited follow-up to 2018’s blockbuster hit, Sweetener. New converts to Arianaworld, such as yours truly, were skeptical that a brand-new album mere months after the monstrously successful Sweetener could live up to the hype that Ariana has created for herself. However, those thoughts can be laid to rest and buried under six feet of earth, because Ariana is almost definitely the new queen of pop music.

The title track from the new album, of course, has been in constant rotation on radio stations and Spotify playlists since late last year, but there are actually a shockingly high number of other great songs on there, too. The best of these, in our opinion, is “NASA”, a space-themed ode to modern romance. “I’d rather be alone tonight / You can say ‘I love you’ through the phone tonight,” she says, an on-the-head flip of decades of popstars who’ve told us that they need to be around their men 24/7. Of course, being an Ariana track, there is also a maddeningly catchy chorus – this one involving a playful spell-out of the titular government agency. We’d be surprised if this song alone doesn’t play a part in raising the brand value of NASA.

Read our full review of thank u, next here.

Smashing Pumpkins: Five Deep Cuts to Get You Amped for the Revival

12 Feb

Since 2005, eternal frontman Billy Corgan has rotated through several lineups under the Smashing Pumpkins banner. Each incarnation’s musical output covered wide-ranging territory, but sadly offered mere glimpses of the classic Pumpkins sound of the original foursome. Corgan had always maintained that he wanted his band to be something more than a nostalgia act, but occasional potshots at original members D’arcy Wretzky and James Iha didn’t help reunion prospects.

Then, the unthinkable happened. In March 2016, James Iha joined Corgan on stage to perform “Mayonaise”, sending a legion of Pumpkinheads around the world into a frenzy. The Pumpkins would eventually reunite (albeit without Wretzky) for a glorious arena tour, playing a three-hour long setlist carved out of their ’90s years.

Miraculous reunion aside, the tour setlist made abundantly clear just how deep the band’s catalog runs. A boxset of the band’s B-sides and outtakes (The Aeroplane Flies High) went platinum; so did Pisces Iscariot, a less elaborate compilation of rarities. The Pumpkins belong to an exclusive club of bands whose deep cuts offer as much depth and quality as their singles.

As the band and its fanbase get ready for another tour this summer, we bring to you our top five Smashing Pumpkins deep cuts. Enjoy!

5. “Glynis”(1993)

In our opinion, “Glynis” was the stand-out track of No Alternative, an AIDS-relief project that boasted the who’s who of 90s alternative rock (Pavement, The Breeders, Pumpkins). Apart from his angsty nasal whines, the Corgan of those days was a master of the dreamy semi-whispers that perfectly complemented the blanket of riffage underneath them. “Glynis” is a prime example of this era, with flanging guitars and a shimmering strings section.

4. “Set the Ray to Jerry” (1995)

This track, written during the Gish (1991) era, is widely considered by the fanbase to be one of the band’s best. Allegedly written about bassist Wretzky’s dad (who Corgan found to be extremely intimidating), “Set the Ray to Jerry” is carried by a thumping drum and bass backbone, set to an emotional vocal delivery by Corgan. Perfectly oscillating between dreamy croons and impassioned outbursts, it is still considered to be one of Corgan’s finest vocal performances to date. Although it failed to make the final cut of the band’s third album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, it was included as a bonus track on a 2012 re-issue. Hurrah!

3. “Stellar” (2007)

As a reunion album, Zeitgeist was not exactly what fans had been waiting for, but it certainly had its moments. “Stellar” is a sonic journey that harks back to the Siamese Dream (1993) days when Corgan’s guitar lines had an ethereal element to them. That vibe, locked in with drummer Jimmy Chamberlin’s thumping fillers, makes “Stellar” one of the best tracks to come out of the Zeitgeist era.

2. “Meladori Magpie”(1995)

The lead up to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was a particularly productive period for the band: to realize his vision for an elaborate double album, Corgan was churning out demos at a brisk pace. Naturally, the period also saw a lot of experimentation with singing styles and arrangements; a few demos are especially notable for a bizarre carnival-themed undercurrent that accentuated the rough concept of the album. In our opinion, the best example is “Meladori Magpie”, originally released as a B-side to the album’s third single, “Tonight Tonight”.

1. “Waiting” (1998)

“Waiting” was a product of the Adore sessions that took place at Sunset Studios in late 1997. It was a trying time for the band: their touring keyboardist died of a heroin overdose, and longtime drummer Jimmy Chamberlin was fired. Chamberlin’s void left by Jimmy gave way to a lot of experimentation with drum machines and other electronic elements. “Waiting” is a gloomy but surging track pulled out of this very same bag of tricks. Surprisingly, it was left out of the original Adore tracklist, but found its way back on a 2014 re-issue.

Monthly Playlist: Jan. 2019

31 Jan

As we finish up the first month of the new year, Top Five Records is proud to start what we hope will become a long-standing tradition: a quick, five-song list of the month’s best songs. We’re just thirty-one days into 2019, but we’ve already enjoyed some great music. So, without further ado, here is the inaugural Monthly Playlist – enjoy!

5. “Sex Rich” – CRYSTAL

CRYSTAL is a Scottish punk / grunge act that has been gaining a solid fanbase over the past few years – and for good reason. The band elicits the best parts of 90s alternative mainstays like Nirvana and Pearl Jam – from vocalist Anna Shields’ gauzy vocals to guitarist Blair Crichton’s jagged, heavy riffs – without sounding like a rip-off tribute act. “Sex Rich” is perhaps the best introduction to CRYSTAL. The slight menace in Shields’ opening lines builds to a grungy wall-of-sound that occasionally breaks for some muddy, hard-hitting riffs. Have a listen, and keep an eye on this band.

File next to: Nirvana; Genres: Grunge, punk

4. “Landslide” – Beirut

If you love cinematic pop, you’ve likely been a fan of Beirut for years. “Postcards from Italy”, the band’s break-out track from their debut album in 2006, showcased the best parts of their sound: a folksy take on world music that somehow elicited images of cobbled European villages or cafés in old-town Ankara. “Landslide”, from the band’s upcoming fifth album Gallipoli, continuous this vibe. Zach Condon’s signature sweeping vocals tether the combination of percussion and staccato organ notes to create a lush, uplifting sound. Gallipoli is out on February 1, 2019.

File next to: Grizzly Bear; Genres: Indie, folk

3. “Pure Water” – Mustard feat. Migos

There’s plenty to love about this new track from Mustard and Migos. A hypnotically uneven beat provides the foundation for taut verses that perfectly exemplify why Migos currently rule the rap scene. All three Migos have a flow so unique that it goes beyond the lyrics as an instrument in itself – a feat so inimitable that it is now known ubiquitously as the Migos flow. On “Pure Water”, Offset, Quavo and Takeoff excel in shooting words with precision between the ebbs and flows of a beat, and Mustard provides them the perfect fodder.

File next to: Future; Genres: Trap rap

2. “Juice” – Lizzo

Since her debut in 2013, Lizzo’s music has been known for her gratuitous mix of soul and funk with the beat elements of mainstream of hip-hop. “Juice” is no different – a fun and exuberant take on the phrase “Why should boys have all the fun?” with some great lines that hinge on Lizzo’s self-confidence (“No, I’m not a snack at all / Look, baby, I’m the whole damn meal”). As a mark of her rising star, Lizzo performed this very song this week on Ellen. If that isn’t a testament to the song’s perfect dance sensibilities, we don’t know what is. Lizzo’s third album Cuz I Love You will be out on April 19, 2019.

File next to: Janelle Monae; Genres: Funk, hip-hop

1. “CHARLIE” – MALFNKTION feat. Shayan Roy

Mumbai-based electro-hip-hop act MALFNKTION is one of the most reliable beatmakers in Indian hip-hop. Older tracks like “Rani” (from 2015’s Hindustani Rascal EP) showcased his ability to merge desi elements such as old-world filmi samples onto an ever-changing landscape of beats. Recently, though, he’s really stepped it up a notch – and Shayan Roy, who you may know as the youthful Bengali lad in many Buzzfeed India videos, deserves much of the credit for it.

On “CHARLIE”, Roy’s fluid, swaggering flow meshes perfectly with the maddening beats – complete with an electronic horn section – that MALFNKTION puts together. With his lyrical dexterity and pop culture references, Roy evokes Childish Gambino, and we hear bits of Iggy Azalea’s melodic braggadocio here too. Simply put, we can’t recommend this track enough.

Bonus: If you liked this one, be sure to check out this duo’s other collaboration, “Vincent Chase Slippin”.

File next to: Childish Gambino, Iggy Azalea; Genres: Hip-hop, electronic

Top Five Jazz Records From 2018 That We Want You To Listen To

28 Jan

5. Ambrose Akinmusire – Origami Harvest

Origami Harvest is an interesting, if inconsistent, album. There’s some really compelling jazz here. “the lingering velocity of the dead’s ambitions” is pleasingly jagged, which is where the album is at its best, but drags a few moments out for too long. The interplay between Kool AD and Ambrose Akinmusire in “blooming bloodfruit in a hoodie” is excellent, but the ad-libs drag the sound down. “miracle and streetfight” has an excellent conversation between the strings and the brass and the space in “Americana / the garden waits for you to match her wilderness” is very strong. The political tinge adds a little depth but needed more development if it were to add another dimension to the album.

Overall, this is an album that rewards a listen and one that stands out for the uniqueness of the pairing, but is nonetheless deficient in fairly significant ways.

4. Moses Boyd – Displaced Diaspora

This album is a fascinating view into London, not the London of Dickens and smog, but that of the many people that have through one means or another found their way there. It’s an album that does more than just talk about London’s history as a global city. Naturally then, it fuses a lot into the base sounds with Afro-bass in a few songs, including the energetic “Frontline” and rap in “Waiting on the Night Bus”, which has a nice traditional jazz feel, but is sadly weighed down a little by that same “City Nocturne” however stays traditional but is elevated by the fantastic vocal work of Zara McFarlane.

It’s an album with undeniable grooves. Moses Boyd’s drumming and production are rightly acclaimed and this album showcases that well. Unfortunately though, the album does still pall on repeated listens. There’s plenty of cleverness in it and the diaspora adds some welcome challenge, but as a whole, it feels a little lacking. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating and under-explored angle into a city often evoked and a strong musical piece to boot.

3. Esperanza Spalding – 12 Little Spells

This is a highly challenging album rife with atonalities, genre bending and odd meters, but somehow charming despite that and undeniably clever. It’s a gorgeous puzzle box of an album that pushes at you again and again. There’s more than enough here to reward you for the considerable effort that the album asks for and the album makes that effort fun to spend. You should definitely give it a listen and then give it a bunch more so as to fully appreciate what it does.

2. Joey Alexander – Eclipse

It’s hard not to be excited about Joey Alexander. His debut was fantastic and he goes from strength to strength. It’s not just that he is a prodigy, it’s that his skill is prodigious. He has a great flair for the unexpected, which shows up well in “Space” and an ear for the gentle and beautiful as in “Time Remembered” and “Bali.” Additionally, his guest Joshua Redman does fantastic work in his solos in “Fourteen” and “The Very Thought of You” which are then matched wonderfully Joey Alexander’s piano work. It’s even very approachable and his version of “Blackbird” is worth checking out no matter your comfort level with Jazz. My only complaint is that the album as a whole could have used a little more challenge, but the album is so charming and cheerful and refreshing to listen to that the complaint seems almost misdirected. Eclipse is just something that you are glad to have listened to.

1. Ezra Collective – Juan Pablo: The Philosopher

This is an excellent album and another that’s just a pleasure to listen to. It’s underpinned by good, traditional jazz but layers on fascinating world influences from Africa to South America and the Caribbean. “Juan Pablo” in particular benefits from this openness and then again in the drums of “The Philosopher.” These are upbeat songs that energize while still fully engaging the mind. The highlight though is the final song, an unorthodox and wonderful take on “Space Is The Place”, the famous Sun Ra piece. There’s even space in this album for the more drawn out sounds of “People In Trouble.” This is a very, very strong sophomore effort and an album that I cannot recommend highly enough, both for people deep into jazz and for people looking to try some out. You should definitely listen to it.

%d bloggers like this: