Tuesday, 27 December 2016

2016 AOTY Honourable Mentions

Normally I put a list of my honourable mentions on the end of the review of my favourite album of the year but as I've already said - this has been one of the biggest years for music in the longest time. SO, this year I've put the list in a separate post to give everyone their due respects, in no particular order as always...

James Blake - The Colour In Anything
NAO - For All We Know
Noname - Telefone
Little Simz - Stillness In Wonderland
J Cole - 4 Your Eyez Only
Kendrick Lamar - untitled, unmastered
Ab-Soul - Do What Thou Wilt.
Anderson .Paak - Malibu
Savages - Adore Life
Christine and the Queens - Chaleur Humaine
Francis and the Lights - Farewell, Starlite!
Balance & Composure - Light We Made
De La Soul - and the Anonymous Nobody...
Isaiah Rashad - The Sun's Tirade
Blink-182 - California
Touche Amore - Stage Four
Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Getaway
Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
Skepta - Konnichiwa
David Bowie - Blackstar
NxWorries - Yes Lawd!
Danny Brown - Atrocity Exhibition
Kid Cudi - Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin'
Travi$ Scott - Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight
Alicia Keys - HERE
Emeli Sande - Long Live The Angels
Frank Ocean - Endless | Frank Ocean - Blond
Kanye West - The Life Of Pablo
Rihanna - ANTI
Jack Garratt - Phase
Flume - Skin
Seaway - Colour Blind
Mick Jenkins - The Healing Component
Logic - Bobby Tarantino

There were so many other great albums that I listened to over the course of the year, these were just the ones that either managed to grab the most plays from me or came out too late for me to consider them for the top 10 (s/o Little Simz). Here's to an even more music filled 2017. Click HERE to listen to my Spotify playlist with some of the tracks that made my 2016 all that it was.

See you in the New Year!

Sunday, 25 December 2016

On The First Day Of Christmas...

It's been a long journey but we've finally come to the number one spot in my top ten albums of 2016. This album's meant so much to so many in so little time. Ladies and gents, the one and only Solange with A Seat At The Table.

This album could not have come into the world at a more necessary time. Every person I've spoken to about this album has had it touch their life in a personal way, whilst also hearing it talk to so many relevant issues going on in the world and grating issues we experience on the day-to-day. It also just goes to show how important timing is. Up until this I feel like to most, Solange was just "Beyoncé's sister" or "that chick from Bring It On" but it's not like she hasn't released many other great pieces, written many tunes for other artists or collaborated on so many other ventures. She's been working on this record supposedly since around 2008 and now in 2016 it couldn't be a more perfect time to hear it. If this had dropped back then, I doubt it would have had quite the same reception. I mean it still would've been appreciated because the quality is undeniable, but it might not have hit Number 1 on Billboard so easily. 

Music wise - it's always been "Don't Touch My Hair (feat. Sampha)" for me. First time I heard this song, I woke up with it stuck in my head almost every day for over a week. When I song is so good that it can inflitrate my dreams, that's a pretty good sign for me. As lyrically, instrumentally and just all around vibe-wise perfect the track "Cranes In The Sky" is, something about "Don't Touch My Hair" resonated more for me. My critic brain is telling me that Cranes is by far the better track but I know what my heart says here. Aside from those two big hitters, the rest of the tracks on this album don't fail to disappoint (interludes included). I don't feel like I've listened to another album recently that's made me as thoughtful whilst listening. I always come out feeling like I've just enjoyed a beautiful 52 mins of music and had a dance and a sing, but then I remember how pensive I actually am throughout. As well as being an ultimate bop, it's an important think-piece...what more could you ask for?

Rounding up, I just have to mention the collaborators. I believe that the phrase "too many chefs spoil the broth" isn't always true in music. Some of my favourite records come from artists who collaborate with many other musical geniuses. This record in particular has a lot of my favourites credited and so it's no surprise it took my top spot. If you somehow haven't yet listened, take a seat at the table.

Merry Christmas, I hope you've all had a fantastic time with family and friends. "Honourable Mentions" will be up next. Here's yesterday's number two.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

On The Second Day Of Christmas...

My true love (Beyoncé) gave to me... Lemonade - and it was good! Oh my goodness! The only album on my list that has only changed positions once. Up until yesterday this album was cemented in my number one spot, but I listened to this and my current number one back-to-back yesterday and I had to switch it up. I'll explain why more clearly tomorrow but for now let me tell you why I loved this album so much in the first place.

This is 100% without a doubt my favourite thing that Beyoncé's put out since I Am... Sasha Fierce. Every album that she has released since then has only ever been able to make it onto my "Honorable Mentions" list and some (sorry 4) wouldn't even make it onto that. When this came out, I watched the movie at least once every single day for an entire week. As suddenly as this album came into my life; it took over my life just as quickly.

I've been saying for the longest time, "what ever happened to music videos being such a big deal that people would go to watch them in the cinema?" (s/o Michael Jackson). Well, if I had one criticism for this album, it'd be the fact that she didn't release it in movie theatres first. I would've happily paid money to see this. It's not the first visual album Beyoncé's done and it's not even the first that she's dropped out of the blue, but there's something distinctly different about this album. At first I thought might be it's because she's being so raw and honest but I don't really know if that's true. Beyoncé in recent times hasn't really held anything back from her music; she's pretty much allowed herself to be herself throughout. I guess she is talking about more personal life topics and such, but the beauty of doing it through song is that music is so up for interpretation that we still don't even really know whether she's being candid or writing fiction. To this day, none of us really know if Jay-Z cheated, and hopefully no-one really cares any more, because all that speculating overshadowed the music at first.

In regards to the music, my current favourites are "Don't Hurt Yourself (feat. Jack White)", "Freedom (feat. Kendrick Lamar)" and "All Night". That changes every time I listen and for the longest time "Formation" was my one and only, but I might have slightly overdone it with that one. As always, Beyoncé's voice continues to effortlessly soar and tower above all tracks whilst seamlessly accompanying the instrumentals. Also, of course I couldn't go the whole review without noting that Beyoncé has attempted several genres on this record from rock to country, and successfully might I add. No easy task but she somehow found a way to slay them all. I guess that's why they call her Queen B.

Now, if you've not listened to this album in full yet, please watch it in it's visual form first.

Have a look at the record that welcomed us into the top three yesterday here.

Friday, 23 December 2016

On The Third Day Of Christmas...

The man who won 2016 - Chance The Rapper here with Coloring Book. This wasn't even an album! Whoever said mixtapes were irrelevant - eat your heart out. The only mixtape to make it onto every single 'top albums of the year' list this year. Chance has given this year all the lift that it needed.

I never really thought of Chance as a soul/gospel rapper but this record did everything for my soul. To be honest I shouldn't have been surprised after his soulful feature on Kanye's The Life Of Pablo earlier this year but here we are. He even had believers and non-believers alike singing "how great is our God?", he managed to move so many people with just 14 songs. In less than an hour, he managed to become one of the most powerful and recognisable voices around at the moment. It didn't even stop with the record, every time Chance has appeared live with this album, he's captivated people and managed to take each track to a new level. He is pretty much the living embodiment of creativity.

On top of all that, this album brings out just about every kind of good emotion you'd ever associate with listening to music. I say that with confidence. It makes you laugh, feel uplifted, smug, joyful, thoughtful and just overall content. The first time I listened to this I was travelling to work and by the time I got in, nothing could've made that day go wrong for me. Some personal go-to favourites for me when I need a pick-me-up are "No Problem (feat. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz)", "Blessings", "Juke Jam" and "All Night (feat. Knox Fortune)". Nothing but good vibes with this record for me. In a year that's had so much go wrong with it, this is one of the few things that's brought pure light to a multitude of lives. If you haven't already claimed your blessing yet - do yourself a favour and have a listen.

This will be a difficult one to top, a commendable peak in anyone's career - but I have faith that Chance will find a way to move upwards. I don't know when we'll hear something new but I know it'll be a blessing no matter what nor when. I can only hope that I get to see this live someday.

Here's another musical gem that just missed out on a top three spot yesterday.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

On The Fourth Day Of Christmas...

We have A Tribe Called Quest with We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service - the tribe's sixth and final album. What a blessing. I never thought this day would come, and I definitely wasn't expecting anything new to come about after we lost Phife earlier this year but here we are.

It's so beautiful to hear Phife's voice on something new even after he's passed - he left us with a hell of an album, and more than that, a legacy of game-changing hip-hop. I've often said that ATCQ are my favourite hip-hop collective - without them, the genre would've meant something completely different to me today. Having them back with that classic Tribe flow, accompanied by some of the today's current greats, it's exactly the way I'd have expected them return and it maybe even turned out better than I'd hoped.

Immediate stand outs from me were of course "Dis Generation", "We The People..." and "Conrad Tokyo (feat. Kendrick Lamar)". I've got to say that these three tracks might just have to be in the top ten instrumentals of the year for me (if I were making that list). These tracks go off! The first time to listened to "We The People..." I actually had to take it back to the beginning after 30 seconds. It ws too much - Q-Tip has most certainly not lost his touch with his bars or his beats.

Aside from this album, all I've had to listen to from Tribe was released either before I was actually born or before I could even remember anything - I've been listening to them for over 20 years and even now their new material stands out to me just as much as their old. Talk about ahead of their time! I can only hope that this record is something that, like me, future generations will be listening to as if it only just came out. Visionaries; every one of them, and they've left us with a beautiful piece of work. Really and truly, thank you 4 your service A Tribe Called Quest.

Here's the album that brought us into our top five yesterday.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

On The Fifth Day Of Christmas...

Here we go, welcoming us into the top five is ScHoolboy Q with Blank Face LP. This album has been a blessing to my 2016. Some of my favourite songs of the year come from this record alone; it's just great to have one of the masters of Top Dawg Entertainment back for what I think is his best album yet.

I'd be surprised if you managed to go the whole year without hearing "THat Part (feat. Kanye West)" played somewhere - this song has been all over the place and for me, everytime felt like the first time. The amount that I listened to it, I should have been bored with it towards the end but I was just as hype every time. With a 17 song tracklist, I was definitely expecting the album to waver at some point during the middle, but ScHoolboy showed his lyrical strength the whole way through - I can only imagine how many songs didn't make the cut.  I was left smiling, head nodding and sometimes even laughing at the lyrics and brilliance of the beats throughout. Q truly put a lot of a work into curating and producing these tracks.

Some of my favourites from the album are "Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane", "WHateva U Want" and "JoHn Muir" but that changes with almost every listen. Each song has been a favourite at some point. After catching his set in Birmingham last week (gig review pending), it simply solidified his spot on the list. His personality comes through strongly on the album, not even close to being overshadowed by a crazy list of features. Quincy gave me one of my favourite rap albums of the year (there were many other amazing ones) and it stood out so much to me because he spoke about life as candidly as J. Cole but gave us some of the best beats in the business whilst keeping it fresh and thought-provoking. Also, the visuals to back the singles up were some of the most memorable I've seen all year.

ScHoolboy's given us a classic with this one, I'll definitely be referring back to this for years to come. A big future must be on the cards for Q after this gem.


Have a look at the record that took my number six spot yesterday here.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

On The Sixth Day Of Christmas...

Coming in hot with Architects masterpiece All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us. This band really can do no wrong. Ever since hearing their song "Day In Day Out" in like 2010 on Kerrang, everything I've heard from them hasn't managed to disappoint me yet.

Devastatingly, I write about this album as the last one that Tom Searle will feature on as he passed earlier this year. I genuinely believe that Architects would not be close to the band that they are today without him - as a founding member and phenomenal guitarist, it's a huge loss for the boys but of course they continue to honour him through the music and in life. In terms of his work on the album - would you just listen to those instrumentals?! Architects have mastered the art of making songs sound humungous both on record and on stage. Just listening to the first 30 seconds on the album should vouch for that.

After seeing them at Rock Im Park earlier this year I can comfortably place them in my top 10 favourite bands around right now. Their energy is almost unmatched. Also, one thing that's always blown me away about them as a metal/hardcore/post-hardcore band is their amazing lyricism. Anyone that I've shown their lyrics to has been impressed regardless of whether they like metal or not. In fact, one of my favourite lyrical performances on the album is actually in their first song "Nihilist", so cleverly put together it just astounds me. Another couple of favourites on the album for me are "Gone With The Wind" and "Gravity"

I don't know if they'll be putting out another album after but if they do, I definitely expect big things. They set the bar higher with every new record they drop. And even if they don't put out something new, they've left off on a hell of a note.


See what album lost out on the sixth spot yesterday, here.