Thursday, December 6, 2018

2018 The Albums: Top 10


It is that time of the year again, our favorite time actually, as well look back on the year in music and let you know our choices for the 10 best albums of the year.

See Our Pick for 2018's League of Their Own Album 

Here are our picks for the 10 Best Albums of the Year: 

10) Robyn - "Honey
9) Kamasi Washington - "Heaven and Earth"
8) David Byrne - "American Utopia"
7) Sudan Archives - "Sink"
6) J. Cole - "K.O.D."
5) Black Panther Soundtrack
4) Logic - "Young Sinatra IV"
3) Young Fathers - "Cocoa Sugar"
2) Pusha-T - "DAYTONA"
1) The Carters - "Everything is Love"

Now in long form with explanations.

 10) Robyn - "Honey"

Robyn left fans patiently waiting for eight years before she would release a proper album. After a handful of collaboration projects, the Swedish pop sensation returned to once again change the course of dance music. Robyn has a knack for making her audience dance through her heartbreak and emotions, the irony of doing something joyous as heavy lyrics about love and loss sing through a speaker make her a sensational artist. "Honey" is a record about recovering from the heartbreak and finding hope. It is a record that was also worth the wait. 

9) Kamasi Washington - "Heaven and Earth" 

The sophomore release from the modern jazz genius is a statement record. Following the mammoth and brilliance of his 2016 debut, "The Epic," Washington returned with the fury that society has seen in the Trump-era.  "Heaven and Earth" is his political album, it is his samurai record, it is also another display of his brilliance. 

8) David Byrne - "American Utopia"

The former Talking Heads front man returned with his first solo record in 14 years and brought the funk. "American Utopia" is a record about modern society as told through the eyes of one of musics most eclectic and pragmatic auteurs. 

7) Sudan Archives - "Sink"

Sudan Archives is the stage name of Los Angeles-based musician Brittney Parks. The violinist and singer took us by surprise this year with her fantastic offering, "Sink." The album is a subtle and relaxed record about love, being black in America in 2018,  and going against the trends. 2018 saw the return of the "short" album meaning many with 7-9 songs were released much like what was done in vinyl heyday of the 60s and 70s, and while "Sink" is technically an EP, we don't look at it this way because EPs are not nearly this perfect.

6) J.Cole - "K.O.D."

For his latest album, J.Cole once again didn't have any features but really why should it matter? "K.O.D." was a record about trying to escape the toxic environment you are in and much like a folk singer wouldn't feature drums or bass and wants you as the listener to focus on the stories and lyrics, Cole follows that same method.

5) Black Panther Soundtrack

Black Panther was unquestionably the biggest film of the year and it should come as no surprise that its soundtrack is on this list. Curated by Kendrick Lamar, the soundtrack plays more like a concept record about roots and representation. Using the concepts of the characters of the film and comic book to drive some of the storylines, the soundtrack is one hell of a compilation featuring Kendrick, SZA, The Weeknd, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, and others. It is a musical voyage to Wakanda and back.

4) Logic - "Young Sinatra IV"

If "Everybody" was a turning point in Logic's career to fully enter the mainstream, "Young Sinatra IV" is him delivering his sucker punch while everyone is expecting another hip-hop / pop record. The record not only is the second he put out this year, it is one of his best and in fact gets a seal of approval from Wu-Tang thanks to the entire Clan appearing on one of the best tracks of the year.

3) Young Fathers - "Cocoa Sugar"

Taking clear inspiration from TV on the Radio, Young Fathers come back with their sophomore album and showcase they too can turn heads. Combining funk, rock, hip-hop, electronica, and jazz, "Cococa Sugar" is the true definition of alternative rock. The Scottish trio rip roar into uncharted musical territory much like what the Talking Heads were doing in the 80s, this is a modern version of that.

2) Pusha-T - "DAYTONA"

One of the most talked about albums came from the former Clipse man. Pusha-T delivered his best work as a solo artist with this Kanye West produced album. "DAYTONA" is a middle finger to everyone, from its cover which is allegedly the bathroom where Whitney Houston died, to firing shots at Drake with the epic "Infrared," it might be the best rap takedown since Nas' "Ether." "DAYTONA" was King Push making a statement and not only did he do just that, he threw the entire kitchen sink out while doing it.

1) The Carters - "Everything Is Love"

One elevator incident a few years ago gave us four brilliants records but now it seems as if that night has officially been put to a close thanks to "Everything Is Love." Jay-Z and Beyonce come together for the year's biggest and best record. It is a record about their reconciliation, their love, their marriage, but also a love letter to each other. While Jay-Z is the rapper in the house, Beyonce showed that she not only can keep up with her husband's talent but outdo him on the mic. This album is Beyonce at her finest and fiercest. The cathartic process of salvaging their marriage so publicly now seems to have been closed and affirms their love for each other. No one needs another "Watch The Throne," but the world might need another record from the Carters.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

2018 The Albums: League of Their Own

This award started long before the site was even a thought, in one publication, radio show or another. Since 2000, I have handed out a "League of Their Own" Award to an album that is made by an artist who is the most forward thinking, open minded, revolutionary musician out there today. Their accomplishments in the past 12 months have either resurrected a sound, broke down walls and created new frontiers or have totally reinvented a genre all together. The choices for "League of Their Own" have become more than just the best album of the year but the most important record to be released at that time. 

In the past winners have included: 

2000 - Radiohead - Kid A 
2001 - The Strokes - Is This It? 
2002 - NERD - In Search of... 
2003 - The White Stripes - Elephant 
2004 - The Killers - Hot Fuss 
2005 - The Mars Volta - Francis the Mute 
2006 - TV On The Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain 
2007 - Kanye West Graduation 
2008 - Santogold / Santigold
2009 - Mastodon - Crack the Skye 
2010 - Gorillaz - Plastic Beach 
2011 - Bjork - Biophilia 
2012 - Flying Lotus - Until The Quiet Comes 
2013 -  Arcade Fire - Reflektor
2014 - Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2  
2015 - Kamasi Washington - The Epic 
2016 - David Bowie - Blackstar 
2017 - Kendrick Lamar - DAMN

...and know to add to this growing list of talent is someone who stepped out from the business office and the decks to fully assemble himself as an artist on his own. The man behind the signings of one of the greatest and most influential indie labels in music history picked 2018 to flex his own muscle and prove that he not only has a great ear for talent but is also talented enough to craft one of the best albums of the year. Ladies and Gentlemen, the 2018 League of Their Own winner is...

Richard Russell - Everything is Recorded

Russell, the head of Britain's XL Records, the label responsible for discovering Adele and releasing records from Thom Yorke, The xx, Frank Ocean, Sigur Ros, King Krule, The White Stripes, FKA Twigs, MIA, among others, turned heads with his solo debut. "Everything is Recorded" is a record that took many by surprise as the producer and label head has dabbled working with icons like Gil Scott-Heron and Bobby Womack along with others from XL but never put anything out on his own. "Everything is Recorded" is a statement record that takes a subtle jab at what music will look like in years to come. XL has always been a label full of taste makers so it shouldn't be that alarming that the label head would craft a delicacy of sound alone and with some friends. Calling in help from Sampha, Kamasi Washington, Ibeyi, Russell takes the subdue and relaxed sounds coming from younger artists today and injects them with the maturity and craftsmanship that an architect would when building a high rise.