Here are but a few of pieces that moved me this year. Thanks for reading and please send me some recommendations !
Solange When I Get Home
Sound as contemporary architecture; album as physically regenerative material. Coming back to this album countless times only exacerbates just how odd this record is. Barely a “single” on here; fractured and non-Eurocentric ideas in terms of song structure, this record gets a lot said about it but little about how it bucks traditional mainstream album with its form alone. Solange really did so much here and much of happens subtly and namelessly all under the guise of neo-soul. This album says so much with its eyes, not the mouth. Once your make contact with it, you’re complicit in agreeing or exiling it. Polarity matters more to me than “goodness” and no one can be walk away from this record with a sense of apathy. It demands a response and if that isn’t the mark of art worthy of discussing then I don’t know what is. Thanks Solange.
Weyes Blood Titanic Rising
A haunting subtextual meditation on global environmental collapse that relates it something almost cosmic in its fathom of the horror. As someone who intimately researches global climate change through the lens of how humans have forever altered the history of this planet, listening to this record sometimes sounds like how it feels to observe the disintegration of ourselves by ourselves. This is not only in song content but in form. As the tape wobbles, the synths glisten into silence, and its Carpenter-esque vocals force you into feeling the rift between the past and the present, everything in the record is sitting you down to tell you, “yes this is Over and yes it is Our Fault”.
The Caretaker Everywhere at the end of time (Stage 6)
The almost decade long series comes to and “end” in a stunning fashion that almost feels like I’d be spoiling a movie if I go any further. Leyland Kirby’s observations on memory and memory loss receives all 10’s on the dismount. The complete 6 hour project is a fading masterpiece that cares just much about the rusting bronze frame turning to dust before our eyes than the image itself. Take a night for yourself and take it all in.
Earl Sweatshirt Some Rap Songs
Some Rap Songs may have come out in 2018, but it was late December so that narrative for best albums (for me) that year was already encased. Nevertheless, this album has walked with me through this year and so it deserves a space. Recollection and the solemn sadness that follows us as our foundations of reality become stories to tell those who they themselves mythologize our own lives seems to be a bit of a motif for all of these works but SRS puts that notion to the forefront. A eulogy of what was/could’ve been/never can be is the thread through each of these tight, less-than-three-minutes-a-piece group of songs. Ranging from the raw admissions of guilt pertaining to a broken connection with the father to a textural collage of spoken word where Earl’s parents speak their truths that inform his own language is a deft piece of storytelling that doesn’t overstate its welcome with a running time of 25 minutes. The killer is the closer “Riot!”, sampling his uncle and South African Jazz legend, Hugh Masekela. This instrumental piece encapsulates the theme of the record of unfinished stories, regret, second guesses, and momento mori all in a 1:08 jazz tune ! More than the sonics of actual piece, with the sounds arising from the brass being Earl’s own uncle solidifies the quiet sadness you’re left with as the records reaches its end. This life is a family affair whether you want it to be or not and as we look back to watch those we formally believed to immortal fade into memory of record, photography, or writing all we can do is connect the dots to inform where we’re headed for better or for worse. Again, all of this is at play in a short 1:08 jazz piece. I can’t stop thinking about “Riot!” , this record, and where we all fit in it. How someone can arguably have their magnum opus at 24 makes my heart rate jump.
I, admittedly, thought Klein was doing nothing special with her Hyperdub debut back in 2015. Almost with a jealously that “anyone could do what she’s doing here”, which I misinterpreted as something flippant. This notion really should be applied to someone doing something genius under certain light and “Lifetime” shines with this idea. Interiority is the only word I can use that makes sense in describing this record. Conversations with elders and sisters run throughout the record often making it feel like your butting in on a family conversation that shouldn’t be public. Abstract collages that allude to finding one’s self or voice give this work a feeling of standing between two mirrors. Hard to figure where you begin or end and its up to your to step out of the loop and forge your own path. All this using some pretty deft tonalities of voice and texture makes ‘Lifetime’ one of those pieces where its almost like staring at the sun; this powerful ever-present object that will hurt you if engage with it for just a bit long but so awe-inspiring that its just hard not to.
Boards of Canada Societas X Tape
Not an actual album, but I pay for this website so I can write whatever I want to on here. This 2 hour mix for the 30-year anniversary celebration of Warp Records on NTS radio holds such a large place in my heart already, I’m almost afraid of how much it will actually mean to me as I continue on in this life. Boards of Canada is such a reclusive duo that in my +10 years of listening to them, I’ve never even thought of them as existing outside of their Scottish countryside vacuum with respect to influence. This mix kicks all of that aside with a flurry of psychedelia, funk, noise, punk, and classical tracks from the 1960’s to present day showing just how much music I need to know. Mixes like these feel like navigational signposts for another 10 years, turning me on to so much music that will walk with me for a very long time. Grateful for the Sandison’s for their music, but deeply humbled for allowing me to look at their homework a bit to see how much more studying I have to do myself.
Kelela & Asmara – Aquaphoria
Aquaphoria deserves a place on here for quite frankly being a work that, if I wanted to hear anything else like it, I just wouldn’t be able to. Black chords and ambients over a plethora of legendary Warp/Warp Records adjacent tracks is a treat and a three course meal I didn’t even think I wanted but now beg for ! Kelela has been slowly showing her hand that the ultimate goal for her is more a pop affair than an underground electronic legend, but on rise to stardom (wish her the best ofc) if she can throw some gems like this every now and them I have no complaints. Did anyone this 2019 would have Kelela vocalize over a Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2, Oneohtrix Point Never and an Autechre track??? Me neither, but thank god.
Mac DeMarco Here Comes The Cowboy
I am so confused about my connection with Mac DeMarco. Something about him both confuses me and endlessly attracts me. His use of bossanova, subtle Japanese new age studio tricks, analog recordings, and now this stillness in his new works is so enthralling to me I can’t get enough. More than anything, it’s pure comfort music. This might be functionally my #1 album this year out of sheer plays (so says Apple Music). I was in Florida this summer quite alone for the most part working in a lab where I knew no one, barely knew what I was doing a spent of lot of time in the afternoon biking miles just to arrive at an empty apartment. So much of those weeks were spent silent and my only friend was this album. It felt like sitting with a pal that was just as comfortable sitting in silence or goofing around as you were. The aura of being in a room with someone was good enough for the both of us and I kept sitting with Mac wistfully strumming at a full breathed bpm over and over. I was really lonely for a bit and I thank this album for being a friend in a friendless space.