Monday, January 11, 2016

Nathan's Favorite Records, 2015

1. Tame Impala, Currents
Great psychedelia is intoxicating and messy. It should lead your imagination toward one place and then zig when you expect it to zag. Which is to say this album is a rabbit hole of “holy goddamn, how did they think of that?” songwriting.  

2. Kamasi Washington, The Epic
A muscular, form-defying three-hour jazz odyssey from the saxophonist in Flying Lotus’ cutting-edge stable. From Coltrane to Sun Ra to funky fusion, Washington channels every permutation you can think of and add a few more.

3. DāM-Funk, Invite the Light
In a time where retro is king, the man means to carry his namesake forward. Layers of synths grind and sputter into something grand. It takes a few listens to fully access the many levels of this record.

4. Dr. Dre, Compton: A Soundtrack
The retirement album of a master, who to everyone’s surprise had something new to say. Yes, Compton is as self-serving a cartoon as the movie that inspired it. I could knock the hustle, but the beatsmithing and guest verses are up to normal exquisite standards, and there’s something else too, new to Dre: a sense of playfulness.

5. Destroyer, Poison Season
Kaputt from 2011 could never be imitated, and luckily, Dan Bejar does not try. Heavy on orchestration but light on groove, quality still shines through these lonely symphonies.

6. Blur, The Magic Whip
Damon Albarn’s track record continues almost unblemished, and here he returns to the band that made him famous. An older band less interested in showing off, and better for it.

7. Dawn Richard, Blackheart
Taking a page from Janelle Monae’s multi-album conceptual journeys, Richard composes a sequel to Goldenheart that is, as she would say, “on that new shit.” She defies pop rules as cannily as she invents new R&B sounds.

8. Deerhunter, Fading Frontier
This is the first Deerhunter album I felt was seriously extraordinary. A mixture of pleasing classic rock and noise, it's quite the collection of weird anthems.

9. Erykah Badu, But You Caint Use My Phone
Slight? Maybe slightly. This was an unexpected pleasure Badu dropped out of nowhere, with a satirical edge I never expected. Beyond the takes on Drake and the Isleys and the Andre 3000 verse, even at 36 minutes, it still feels smooth and complete.

10. Jay Rock, 90059
West-coast rap was too rich to believe in 2015. Yet somehow this brisk, uncompromising entry in the nu-rap canon was regarded as a disappointment. I defy anyone to listen to “Money Trees Deuce” or “Gumbo” and tell me Jay-Rock is somehow lesser than Kendrick.

Favorite Songs*
A$AP Rocky Feat. UGK and Juicy J, “Wavybone”
Boogie, “Oh My”
Cashmere Cat Feat. Ariana Grande, “Adore”
Drake, “Hotline Bling”**
Freddie Gibbs, “Fuckin’ Up the Count”
Ilovemakonnen Feat. Migos, “Whip It (Remix)”
Mutemath, “Used to”
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, “All the Gold in California”
Young Thug, “Best Friend”

*No reason to limit myself to just singles or radio hits
**The heart wants what it wants, and the ear likes what it likes

Friday, January 1, 2016

Aaron's Favorites, 2015: Music In The Year Commas Got Fucked Up

1. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly
You can live at the mall, or you can groove to Kendrick Lamar Duckworth’s funk odyssey of limitless ambition and acumen. K Dot is our Gil Scott.

2. Destroyer, Poison Season
Bejar reaches a little further back to find his melancholic haze this time, but continues to make the only thing he’s capable of: a Destroyer record.

3. Jessica Pratt, On Your Own Love Again
A moonlit blur, our generation’s I Often Dream of Trains.

4. Low, Ones And Sixes
A freezing blast of Duluth intensity, from a band writing some of its best songs in decade number three.

5. Erykah Badu, But You Caint Use My Phone
Badu tries on the styles of the moment, sounds ten times more comfortable in them than actual young people. The technology she could do without.

6. A$AP Rocky, At.Long.Last.A$AP
Didn’t expect 2015’s trippiest album to come from Pretty Flacko, but here it is. He had good taste, but he’s turning that into vision.

7. Blur, The Magic Whip
A reunion album that finds the band where they are, not where they were. Basically Albarn’s world-weariness in widescreen, with brilliant details from Coxon and crew throughout.

8. iLoveMakonnen, Drink More Water 5
He teaches you how to whip it, warbles about heartbreak, lies to his Mom about selling drugs and dispenses solid advice about staying hydrated. What’s not to love?

9. Vince Staples, Summertime '06
A claustrophobic rumination on one summer in the rapper’s teens. No I.D’s no-frills productions are about as far away from West Coast as it’s possible to get, but it all feels true to Vince.

10. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, Surf
Chance—even while ceding the spotlight to his friends, rapper and jazz trumpeter alike—radiates a shamanic positivity. Just drink the kool aid.