Not only did he release an album with Knxledge as Nxworries on Stones Throw but he also featured on tracks from A Tribe Called Quest, Kaytranada, Snakehips, Schoolboy Q, Mac Miller and more throughout the year, something he’d been doing a lot of in previous years which culminated in his guest spots on Dr. Dre’s Compton album, on which he featured on six tracks.
So prolific doesn’t even cut it. Darren Hemmings of Motive Unknown decided to compile a chronological Spotify playlist of all of .Paak’s guest spots since the Breezy Lovejoy alias (his former name) thus far. So while Dre’s album isn’t on Spotify, there are 40 songs so far featuring collaborations with Watsky, Tokimonsta, The Game, Macklemore, Goldlink and the aforementioned artists.
If 2016 proved anything in album terms, it’s that the format isn’t going anywhere. We had artists who we lost this year make some of their most complete work (Bowie, Cohen, Phife Dawg), we had black American artists see hate and respond with restraint and beauty (Solange), we had mainstream experimentalism (Bon Iver, Frank Ocean), we had joy (Chance), we had terror (Anohni), we had new artists reaching highs (Anderson .Paak, Rusangano Family, Kaytranada) and older artists finding new sounds (Radiohead; or in Cohen’s case new lows). 2016 sucked in many ways but recorded music wasn’t one of them.
It may have been originally released in her native France in 2014 but there have been significant changes to that version to warrant an inclusion on this list. Released for America in English with extra production touches and guests (Perfume Genius, Tunji Ige aren’t on the French release) late last year and released in Ireland in February, Héloïse Letissier was the shining new star in a year that extinguished too many. Her performance on Jools where she paid tribute to Prince with the best dance moves around captured my attention and from there Letissier became an inspiration, an artist with a commanding presence and great tunes. Chaleur Humaine had the songs to keep you coming back, an intelligence and an energy that danced off the speakers.
UK grime’s longstanding linchpin stayed independent and individual. Fourth album Konnichwa was the North London rapper burying other MCs in the dirt. He had the Americans, Pharrell, Young Lord, ASAP Nast (and a Canadian Drake co-sign) embedded into his vision and brought his Boy Better Know family with him on the journey.
The urgent energy is what hits. This is Skepta’s album and he has something to prove. Not only does his lyrical athleticism bring the energy flash, the production largely made by Skepta himself reaches a streamlined level of impact.
That urgency is tangible. ‘Man’ which samples Queens Of Stone Age’s ‘Regular John’ is classic grime remade with learned experience. ‘Shutdown’ and ‘That’s Not Me’ (with Skepta’s brother JME) signalled Skepta’s renaissance and are still fervent highlights here. ‘Lyrics’, which features grime protegée Novelist and pelts along on a warped vocal sample, chiptune synths and percussive claps is one of the most exciting tunes I’ve heard in ages.
Skepta proved with hard work, belief and style, you could reignite a scene and bring it to the wider world.
Radiohead’s most beautiful album. A Moon Shaped Pool is their most confident record since 2003’s Hail To The Thief and also their most serene and personal. ‘Daydreaming’ encapsulates it. The song, addresses Thom Yorke’s split with his wife of 23 years. “This goes beyond me, beyond you.” he sings. The track that drifts along on a piano line with swells of Jonny Greenwood’s strings that is at once, intimate and widescreen.
A Moon Shaped Pool is Radiohead enacting, both in music and subject matter, the thing that makes them long-lasting, the move between the micro and macro, the suggestion of the personal and universal, without ever committing to anything but a trace of the real. This time, the reflection they leave us gives is them at their clearest.
Since his 2009 breakout album Ambivalence Avenue, a record that came across like an English musician trying to recreate the magic of Dilla’s Donuts with whatever he had to hand, Steven Wilkinson’s music has been eclectic. A Mineral Love, his fifth album – is his most complete work since that critically-acclaimed LP, due largely to featuring his most affecting songs.
A stated celebration of “the sacred and precious struggles of human insecurities through many windows of familiar musical forms,” A Mineral Love has a record collector’s ear to it drawing from back-of-the-crate inspirations in funk, lo-fi folk, electro and pop and everything in between.
The album works in a cohesive mixtape form in a varied palette that include fragile smudged funk, bright soundscapes, kaleidoscopic acoustics and pastoral song-writing with a beat producer’s ear.
Even in death, Bowie remained the ultimate artist. The Starman’s parting gift to the world, was the release of his 25th album Blackstar.
A lush, rich jazz-inspired experimental rock album, it will hereafter be viewed as a poignant closing statement, which is how Bowie intended it to be. The signs were all there – on Blackstar he sings “something happened on the day he died,” On ‘Lazarus’ he sings “look up here, I’m in heaven.” The videos for the tracks point towards a final transformation, in a career defined by them.
On the album track ‘Dollar Days’, the melancholy consumes the song and Bowie hints at explicitly saying what we now know. “I’m dying to / Push their backs against the grain / And fool them all again and again.” That now reads as “I’m dying too.” Bowie was always chasing, always pushing, always seeking. “If I never see the English evergreens I’m running to / It’s nothing to me / It’s nothing to see,” he sings.
When artists release albums close to their death, the “late style” of the release adds extra resonance (J Dilla’s Donuts). On Blackstar, Bowie is aware of his imminent death. He spent 18 months with cancer before he lost, yet he remained in control of his own artistic destiny. Bowie remained a music maverick, the magician who orchestrated his final departure in his art.
This new video for Paak’s three-songs stretched across two tracks ‘The Season / Carry Me / The Waters’ takes his collage-style album cover to the screen. More than anything, it’s a reminder of a class act. Pity he’s no Irish shows this year.
Follow the Nialler9 New Music playlist on Spotify. This week’s additions include new songs from all the below along with Glass Animals, Skott, Chance The Rapper, Ardyn, Father John Misty and Hvmmingbyrd.
Anderson Paak appears to feature as a guest on one new song every few days. The dude is having a prolific year and also released the album of the year (Irish show please? I was sure a Picnic show was happening). On his latest feature, he sets the bumping airy tone on Mac Miller’s new track from new album The Divine Feminine (September 16). The album also features Kendrick Lamar, Cee-Lo, and Robert Glasper. A classy joint.
Todd Terje – Snooze 4 Love (Luke Abbott remix)
A strong remix on 12″ / download now.
Coming across like a lost Mariah track, Luke Abbott’s new remix of Todd Terje’s 2011 track has a summery stamp all over it.
Massive Attack feat. Ghostpoet – ‘Come Near Me’
Massive Attack released three new songs via an iOs app this week but today, they posted two of those songs on Spotify and Apple Music/iTunes. Hope Sandoval anchors the dreamy trip-hop of ‘The Spoils’ but it’s Ghostpoet’s turn on ‘Come Near Me’ that fits the band’s dystopian downbeat tune.
The songs are the followup to Ritual Spirit which was helmed by Robert Del Naja. These songs were both written by Daddy G and collaborator Stew Jackson, proving that if you are clashing in creative endeavours just take charge of every second release, it seems to be working for the Bristol band for now.
Badbadnotgood & Colin Stetson – ‘Confessions Part II’
A highlight from the Canadian jazz trio’s new album IV.
Badbadnotgood make jazz music that is made with a deeper knowledge of the modern music of hip-hop and electronica. But while those influences are felt on the album with collaborations with Mick Jenkins, Kaytranada and Samuel T. Herring, it’s the Arcade Fire-featured sax player Colin Stetson whose contribution to ‘Confessions Part II’ feels the most natural. Stetson’s reeds bring a nervous underbelly to a tune that seems to spiral out of control, in the way that Miles Davis’ experimental On The Corner feels like it’s falling off its tracks only to be nudged back into focus once more.
De La Soul – ‘Royalty Capes’
A strong track from the rap legends
Still going strong after all these years, De La Soul have never made the kind of music that made people want to forget they’re still around plugging away. There’s always usually something to recommend. For their forthcoming and the Anonymous Nobody… album which was crowdfunded and features David Byrne, Damon Albarn, Usher, Little Dragon, Estelle, Pete Rock, 2 Chainz and Jill Scott, they’ve let us listen to a new song featuring Snoop Dogg, ‘Trainwreck’ and the funky ‘Action’.
‘Royalty Capes’ is another fine track, a brass-assisted jazzy big-beat hip-hop track that doesn’t look to the past in its execution.
Doctr – ‘Tropique’
Sunshine danceable giddiness.
One of those tunes that only makes sense with loads of people around, Doctr’s ‘Tropique’ is pure sunshine giddy energy. The song is italo meets cosmic disco meets tropical house. It gets an official release on August 19th on Music For Dreams. You might hear this at Lumo’s all-day party tomorrow. Ok, you will.
Here are a list of my most listened and loved records of 2016 so far with Spotify playlists for overall and Irish albums of the year. Anderson Paak’s soulful album has been on constant, while Bowie left us a legendary parting gift, Bibio turned in a career best work, Kendrick dropped an outtakes album that is better than most regular albums, Radiohead returned with a personal album, Chance the Rapper continues to take over, Christine & The Queens stole our hearts, Rusangano Family made the best Irish rap album in quite a while, Blood Orange made a sprawling album of guest-filled tunes made for repeat, Beyoncé, James Blake aand Radiohead dropped albums at short notice, Kaytranada kept up on his promise and Skepta made a great grime album.
I would love to hear what records moved you so far this year, leave a comment below.