Monday, November 28, 2016

Best Albums of 2016 - 14 through 11

It begins. . .

coconut oil
14. Coconut Oil by Lizzo:  I put on Lizzo's EP Coconut Oil on the drive home one day after a long day at work and immediately felt great. "Worship" is basically Prince level funk, which makes sense since she is based in Minneapolis. It's no surprise I would love it. But then something strange happened. You see, the next song, "Phone," is something I shouldn't like. It's not my typical type of thing at all. But something about the way she says "How I'm 'posed to get home?" or I don't know what, just charmed the fuck out of me. So much joy and fun in this short collection of songs. "Scuse Me" is body positive sexy, doesn't lose the fun and doesn't get vulgar while remaining naughty. These are all club cuts, with heavy bass. I can't stress enough how out of my wheelhouse this is, and yet there's something Lizzo brings to them that pulls me in. I can't put my finger on it, but the word I keep thinking of is joy and it's sorely needed.

best of 2016
13. Durand Jones & The Implications self titled: It's old school soul and R&B that sounds like it was recorded in the early 60s, so of course it's going to be on my list. Any other year, this would be way higher (although, honestly, I wouldn't put too much stock in my rankings). It's a smoking band and the songs are funky, soulful and smooth. I don't know if this was recorded live or not, but it sure feels like it was. Hell, it feels like it wasn't recorded at all, but is rather played live, on demand, every time you hit play. It was recorded in Ohio, where the group is from, but it could have been Mussel Shoals. Just listen to "Groovy Baby," which is like James Brown and Curtis Mayfield, complete with their bands are dancing on your face, and you're loving it.

let them eat chaos
12. Let Them Eat Chaos by Kate Tempest: I'm going to say this again later, but I'm not normally one to listen to hip hop. Kate's work is something else to me, though. I mean it is hip hop, but it's not at all what you think of as hip hop, most likely. She's a poet and a story teller in a more traditionally European sense: telling tales of common people and their day to day struggles (that's actually pure hip hop, isn't?). This is at once hip hop and Shakespearean and it blends in ways that are futuristic and urban with a very distinct voice that's kind of classical. So, in essence, Kate is likely the most hip hop artist around. She has internalized the best ideas of the genre - the wordsmith, (hu)man on the street, telling it like it is, the passion - and made them her own in the most unique way possible. On this album, which is an extended poem she tells the story of a few residents of a particular street in London, while speaking to how all our current world issues affect them. This is important and challenging without being preachy or impenetrable. I'm not sure you can easily draw a line from her to any of her influences, but they are there. She just isn't regurgitating them. Even the beats are unique - unexpectedly atmospheric and haunting. This is how the genre grows.

the altar
11. The Altar by Banks: Electronic music can be a lot of things. Some would say it's easy for it to be cold and calculated. I would add that, recently, what I've heard, mostly ends up being too quirky, but I could be wrong. Maybe there are other artists like Banks. But I doubt they are as raw as she is. All her songs, even now, far removed from her homemade recordings, sound like they were recorded in her bedroom. Not because they are lo-fi, or amateurish (they never were), but because they are so full of pulsing personal angst and sweaty sexuality. "Fuck With Myself," by the way, is the second song about masturbation mentioned on this list (see Lizzo) and both are appropriately sexy and empowering in their own way. Though I think Banks brings in a level of angst that leads to alternate interpretations of her lyric, "I fuck with myself more than anybody else." Interestingly, both Lizzo and Banks are artists who, on paper, I shouldn't like. But both elevate what they do beyond any stereotype of their genres by making it raw. And that totally is my thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment