On Friday, Kendrick Lamar dropped his brilliant new album DAMN. On Sunday, King Kenny slayed his Coachella performance. As rumoured there was no second album following the Jesus is risen narrative, but that’s perfectly fine, there’s a lot to unpack with DAMN. as is.
‘DNA’, the album’s most intense cut which is framed by a Fox News anchor Geraldo Riveria reacting to his performance at the BET Awards in 2015, which also appears in the song in the form of the Geraldo sample – “This is why I say that hip-hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years.”
‘DNA’ is a response to that idea. “I know murder, conviction / Burners, boosters, burglars, ballers, dead, redemption / Scholars, fathers dead with kids / And I wish I was fed forgiveness.”
In the video by Nabil & the little homies and for the song, Don Cheadle represents authority and society as the pair trade bars of the song with Kendrick in handcuffs (and the same Coachella outfit). DNA stands for ‘Dead Nigga Association’ in the video.
Kendrick Lamar’s new album DAMN. was released today and it’s DAMN. good! Dispensing with the sprawling jazz style of To Pimp A Butterfly, DAMN. returns to more established hip-hop sound.
Fears about U2 were going to fit into all of this were unfounded as the track they feature on ‘XXX’ is one of the album’s highlights, a song that puts siren Bomb Squad-style production with a segue into the second half with Bono sounding his most soulful with the rest of the band playing a loose groove – Mullen on drums, Adam Clayton on bass and presumably The Edge (whose credited but hard to determine his role) helping out too.
Badbadnotgood feature on ‘Lust’ (with Kaytranada on uncredited autotuned vocals) and James Blake co-produced track four ‘Element’ , Rihanna sings the hook on ‘Loyalty’ and new singer Zacari features on another Kendrick-sung highlight ‘Love’ which is more electronic pop than anything else.
It’s already been noted by conspiracy-loving fans that the album’s cycle is a full circle and that Kendrick dies in its opening track, potentially meaning (or it’s wishful thinking), that a second album will drop on Easter Sunday – a resurrection. There’s a few reasons for that thinking but it feels unlikely, not impossible though.
DAMN. Production Credits
Composer(s): Anthony Tiffith, K. Duckworth, D. Tannenbaum
Producer(s): Bekon, Anthony Tiffith
Composer(s): K. Duckworth, M. Williams II
Producer(s): Mike WiLL Made-It
Composer(s): D. Natche, Anthony Tiffith, K. Duckworth, M. Spear
Producer(s): Anthony Tiffith, DJ Dahi, Bekon, Sounwave
Composer(s): R. Riera, J. Blake, K. Duckworth, M. Spears
Producer(s): Bekon, James Blake, Ricci Riera, Sounwave, Tae Beast
Composer(s): M. Spears, K. Duckworth
Composer(s): K. Duckworth, D. Natche, Anthony Tiffith, M. Spears, T. Martin
Producer(s): Terrace Martin, Sounwave, DJ Dahi, Anthony Tiffith
Composer(s): K. Duckworth, A. Wise, Anthony Tiffith, S. Lacy
Producer(s): Bekon, Anthony Tiffith, Steve Lacy
Composer(s): K. Duckworth, A. Hogan, Michael L. Williams II
Producer(s): Mike WiLL Made-It
Composer(s): M. Spears, K. Duckworth, C. Hansen, D. Natche, A. Sowinski, M. Tavares L. Whitty
Producer(s): Sounwave, DJ Dahi, BadBadNotGood
Composer(s): Z. Pacaldo, T. Walton, Anthony Tiffith, M. Spears, G. Kurstin, K. Duckworth
Producer(s): Sounwave, Teddy Walton, Greg Kurstin, Anthony Tiffith
Composer(s): D. Natche, L Mullen, P. Hewson, A. Clayton, K. Duckworth, D. Evans, M. Spears, M. Williams, II, Anthony Tiffith
Producer(s): Mike WiLL Made-It, Anthony Tiffith, Bekon, DJ Dahi, Sounwave
Composer(s): K. Duckworth, D. Maman
Producer(s): The Alchemist
Composer(s): M. Spears, R. Riera, D. Tannenbaum, K. Duckworth, D. Natche, R. LaTour, Anthony Tiffith
Producer(s): Cardo, Ricci Riera, Sounwave, DJ Dahi, Anthony Tiffith, Bekon
Composer(s): K. Duckworth, P. Douthit
Producer(s): 9th Wonder, Bekon
Thundercat’s Drunk album arrives on Friday and everything we’ve heard from it has a falsetto-lead yacht rock funk vibe to it.
Even this track, the long-awaited collaboration between Kendrick Lamar on Thundercat’s own turf, Kendrick grabs the mic on a languid rhythm and adds some urgency and turns it into a song that sounds like an out-take from To Pimp A Butterfly.
Coachella, one of the biggest drawing music festivals around announced its lineup today and it includes some big names: Radiohead, Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar at the top.
Coachella takes place in Indio, California over two weekends in April: 14th-16th and 21st to 23rd.
Other names of note on the lineup for the festival include The xx, Lorde, Future Islands, Father John Misty, Bon Iver, Roisin Murphy, The Avalanches, Schoolboy Q, Kaytranada, Devandra Banhart and mutherfucking Hans Zimmer.
Danny Brown dropped another track from his forthcoming Atrocity Exhibition, out 30th September on Warp.
‘Really Doe’ is produced by Black Milk and features TDE’s Ab-Soul and Kendrick along with Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt.
“Me and Kendrick always talked about doing stuff, and I had the idea to get K-Dot and Earl together …but first I got me and Ab-Soul. And then one day when I was mixing the album with Ali, K-Dot snuck in and just laced it. I had to be patient and wait on Earl, but it was all worth it you know because hip-hop needs that posse cut. We just wanna make the best possible song cause we know the hype on paper. I know it’s gonna satisfy, my feet is up.”
Atrocity Exhibition also features Petite Noir,Kelela, Cypress Hill’s B-Real with production by Paul White, Evian Christ, The Alchemist and Black Milk.
As a measure of how next level Kendrick Lamar has become in the last two years, last week’s surprise collection of demos unfinished or displaced is better than most artists’ regular albums.
While To Pimp A Butterfly‘s sprawling dense ambition invited much listening and interpretation, untitled unmastered. is unburdened by any grand narrative. Its pleasure is partly derived from its temporary unfinished state.
Lamar has performed two of these songs live on TV shows of late Colbert and Fallon and a verse of one at the Grammys, and those live versions have more urgency and are in a more evolved state than the versions collected here (there are no song titles just ‘untitled’ and a date the song was worked on).
What the album does do in spectacular fashion is quietly underscore the leap that Lamar made on TPAB. That these songs didn’t make it to that song on merit is understandable but the calibre of the songs are up there up there on the same prolific plinth.
The jazz sound of this phase of Lamar’s music is most prominent with Thundercat, Bilal, Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper and Anna Wise contributing. Production comes from varied sources: A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad with Adrian Younge, Mono/Poly and eh, Swizz Beats five-year-old son. SZA and Jay Rock feature. Cee Lo Green provisions the breezy bossa nova ‘untitled 06 l 06.30.2014.’ with a focused hook.
It moves from dystopian blunted jazz to fever dream to interstitial R&B to the sprawling jazz rap that is echoed in demo form later on the collection. ‘untitled 03 l 05.28.2013.’ is the breeziest and most succinct track here with Lamar using the wisdom of racial heritage and culture against a backdrop of music industry taking advantage of talent.
Lamar’s rhymes are as authoritative and explorative as we’ve now come to expect, but they are undiminished by any familiarity or expectation.
For a collection of demos, untitled unmastered. is an unheralded reminder of Kendrick’s next level status and is a reaffirmation of his considerable craft.
Like last week’s Everything Shook song, The song addresses the expectation on females by a male-dominated society. “I know what kind you are / If I say no, I’m a bitch / Say yes I’m a slut,” she sings cheerily on a woozy hip-hop beat. The song calls out those false perceptions that men have of women in public, something, maddeningly happening still in my own city all too regularly.
I’m walking down the street with my hands tied
Cause I wore a skirt, you think I’m down to ride
You think I wanna fuck cause I comb my hair
Cause I’m at the bar next to an open chair
Cause I always have to be polite
Cause I look you in the eye
Cause I grin back, green light
Go ahead, give it a try
Wise featured on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, good kid, m.A.A.d. city. and last week’s newly released untitled unmastered. She’ll release her own EP later this year.
A surprise demo album called untitled unmastered. dropped Thursday night.
Kendrick Lamar’s untitled unmastered. in its title and track listing suggests a temporary unfinished state. A collection of demos recorded from 2013 to 2016 without a place to go. Lamar has performed two of these songs live on TV shows Colbert and Fallon, but they’ve evolved much since these recordings. This temporary missive gives those songs a home while also showing us a jazzier side to his craft.
Despite this status, there’s much to enjoy and most of it comes from Lamar’s rhymes. An appearance from CeeLo Green is a highlight but the most well-rounded track is ‘untitled 03 05.28.2013’, an urgent rhyme matched by a celebratory beat that sounds close to completion.
‘Do It, Try It’
M83’s new song is grandiose and cheesy yet great
The music of Anthony Gonzalez, M83, over his discography has transformed from ambient electronic pop to the kind of large-scale electronic compositions that work well juxtaposed with Hollywood blockbusters. Sitting in between, was an 80s-inspired synth electronic pop that brought the former to the latter.
Nostalgic grandiosity has always been key to M83’s music.
On Junk, the new forthcoming album (April 8th), arriving five years after Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming and that album’s apex – ‘Midnight City’, Gonzalez says he’s returned to the influences of his early career – Tangerine Dream, Kevin Shields, Aphex Twin and Brian Wilson, yet has tried to expand his sound again.
That epic quality is still evident on the album’s first single, after all Gonzalez excels at it. ‘Do It, Try It’ has its backbone in synth and electronic pop and pushes into ’80s French pop, ’80s prog and as the chorus suggests – “A dance on repeat / A trance of a heartbeat”, a kinship with dance music’s more euphoric elements.
“Listen to a sound of a new tomorrow,” the song’s introduction goes. When it comes to M83, the sound of tomorrow, is always primarily the past, and it works.
Kendrick Lamar took home five Grammys last night of the 11 he was nominated for his album To Pimp A Butterfly. And while he didn’t win the Album Of The Year (Taylor) or Song of the Year (Sheeran), he did put in a stunning performance of ‘The Blacker The Berry’, ‘Alright’ and an untitled new song as is becoming customary.
Song of the Year: Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”
Record of the Year: Bruno Mars & Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk”
Album of the Year: Taylor Swift’s 1989
Best Rap Song: Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright”
Best Rap Performance: Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright”
Best Rock Album: Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration: Kendrick Lamar’s “These Walls”
Best R&B Album: D’Angelo and the Vanguard’s Black Messiah
Best Urban Contemporary Album: The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind The Madness
Best R&B Performance: The Weeknd’s “Earned It”
Best Rap Album: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly
Best Music Video: Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” with Kendrick Lamar
Best Dance/ Electronic Album: Skrillex And Diplo Present Jack Ü
Best Rock Performance: Alabama Shakes – ‘Don’t Wanna Fight’
Well, the first acts announced for Longitude 2016 in Marlay Park from 15 – 17 July.
Kendrick Lamar, Major Lazer & The National are each of the day’s headliners.
Also playing are Jamie xx, Father John Misty, Chvrches, Roisin Murphy, Action Bronson, MØ, Courtney Barnett, ASAP Ferg, Tyler, The Creator; Rejjie Snow, All Tvvins, Otherkin, Pleasure Beach and Saint Sister.
Tickets will go on sale next Friday 29th January at 9am at €159.50 + fee and day tickets cost €64.50 + fee. Three customers can get their hands on Longitude tickets before anyone else, presale tickets go on sale at www.three.ie/plus 48 hours before general release. Tickets will be available from Ticketmaster.
Even in death, David Bowie remained an artist. The Starman’s parting gift to the world, we wouldn’t find out for three days, was the release of his 25th album Blackstar, on Friday.
His lifelong producer partner Tony Visconti wrote today: “His death was no different from his life – a work of Art. He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift.”
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, as in J Dilla’s Donuts. On Blackstar, Bowie is always 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.
With last year’s list-topping To Pimp A Butterfly universally-acclaimed as one of the albums of 2015, Lamar is showing us there’s much more to come. 2016 will see a lot more live shows around the world from the Compton rapper, yet he’s already showing us he’s not content to rest. In an appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s late-night talk show last week, Lamar debuted an untitled new song.
The jazz-lead rap style from TPAB is in effect, but there’s a searing energy in Lamar’s delivery, as he weaves an unstructured freestyle rap that feels like it could go anywhere at any time and in its five minute running time he talks of his career, his fear of the police, a black woman’s life choices, desire, his inspirational time in South Africa, his money-enriched life and his community. By the time, his raspy voice is intensely bellowing “You ain’t gotta tell me that I’m the one / Yes, I am the one,”, there’s little doubt that Lamar is a rapper at the top of his craft and only improving.
Roisin Murphy’s third album is a sophisticated and layered album that furthers the career of an outlier and a creative artist, making accessible but avant-garde music that draws from pop, dance, disco and jazz.
From the elongated elegance of ‘Exploitation’ to the spooked ‘Gone Fishing’ to the warped ballad of ‘Unputdownable’ to the poppy bass-slung groove of ‘Evil Eyes’, Murphy creates duality throughout: intimate and anamorphic, detailed yet sparse, Glamourous yet grubby, Loungey yet dancy. Murphy remains the magnet at the centre of Hairless Toys as she has been throughout her career. Where-ever she goes, I will follow.
This is what 21st Century pop music is supposed to sound like.
Claire Boucher’s followup to 2012’s breakthrough Grimes album Visions is wildly different. Art Angels is the result of three years of growth, touring, a decision to scrap a previous album and an hardening of artistic resolve. Grimes’ has often talked about her love of pop music and on Art Angels she’s made her own version of it with sugar-rushing rhythms, bubble-pop melodies and bright instrumentation. The album feels like it has its own internal logic and palette and inherent in its DNA, is Grimes’ own split personalities, adept at pairing up for a screaming match with Korean rapper Aristophanes on ‘Scream’, delivering clattering guitar pop on ‘Flesh Without Blood’, roping in Janelle Monae for a EDM-style banger and my personal favourite ‘World Princess Part II’, an electro pop crescendo. Boucher continues to write her own story.
The Dublin electro band have made an album of joyous bangers.
For their second full-length, Le Galaxie enlisted the help of producer Erik Brouchek to solidify what most Irish music-loving people know from seeing the band live, that Le Galaxie are the best band for delivering gigantic song-led bangers built on dance music dynamism with live instruments.
Le Club feels like a victory lap, the band’s retro neon-electro having found new sinewy rhythms and strident sounds. Songs like ‘Put The Chain On’, ‘Streetheart’, ‘Le Club’, ‘Lucy Is Here’ and “Carmen’ already feel like modern Irish classics, the soundtrack to many a great festival night and gig. The new version of the Le Galaxie essential, the uplifting ‘Love System’ adds a sax-solo for extra celebration. A trip to Le Club is always fun.
Lorely Rodriguez’s personal yet brisk electronic pop debut.
With the graduation to a self-produced debut album, Lorely Rodriguez also makes the leap from pleasing hazy synth pop to a gilded form of dance pop. Rodriguez’s lyrics address what it’s like to be a young woman in 2015.
Rarely does a personal album brim with so much danceable briskness. Me makes use of of pleasing discombobulating rhythmic pop sequences, buzzing synths, bouncing bass, drum machine stabs and an clearly elevated confidence. No longer covered in gauze, Empress Of’s talent is greater than was initially suggested.
The Dublin band have made the highly-strung album of the year.
There weren’t more uncompromising sonic albums made in 2015 than this one and while it took its toll on its creators, their efforts have not gone unappreciated.
Holding Hands With Jamie is a bare psychosis, the breakdown of Dara Kiely soundtracked by dissonant, piercing and pulsing noise. Kiely spends howling into the pressurised turbulent wall of noise, fending off life expectations and minutiae.
The band match his intensity spectacularly with guitars that whirr and buzz like nasty synthesizers, drums that engulf the room in a live fashion and low-end that wipes the floor and shits on it afterward for good measure. The harshness of it all is a suitably foil for the discombobulating frame of mind that Kiely displays throughout. It sounds like post-punk, it sounds like garage-rock, it sounds like no-wave, it sounds like dirty bleedin’ techno.
The coiled wrestle between confrontation and escapism, both in the music and in the lyrics, is what makes Holding Hands With Jamie such an uncomfortable yet singularly brilliant album. That it uses the familiar language of rock music to do so makes it one of the albums of the year.
Despite the rise of Spotify and streaming services, The music video continues to dominate in terms of artist marketing due to the domination of Youtube, the major label’s push of Vevo and the independent artists making cracking videos on small budgets released through Vimeo. Music videos are still hugely effective for establishing an artist’s brand. For this list, I kept that in mind, while also representing the videos for songs that either I loved or liked previously, or videos that lifted or introduced a song to me. The power of a good idea and great execution is what is celebrated here.
Kendrick Lamar performing on Late Show with Stpehen Colbert
Lamar and his band played a To Pimp A Butterfly medley (or “The Very Horny Caterpillar” as Colbert called it) on the second episode of Stephen Colbert’s tenure at Late Show filling in permanently the big boots of Dave Letterman. It was a powerhouse of a performance, featuring the tracks ‘Wesley’s Theory’, ‘Momma’, ‘King Kunta’ and ‘u’ and performed with a tight band that includes Anna Wise, Bilal and Thundercat. Proof that Kendrick pushed his music and himself as much as possible this year.
What better way for Missy to return that with a kickass dance video?
19. Sleep Thieves – ‘You Want The Night’
Directed by Mike P. Nelson
A brilliant collection of horror-mongering imagery to suit a foreboding song.
18. Major Lazer & DJ Snake – ‘Lean On’ (feat. MØ)
Video by: Tim Erem
MØ’s limber dance moves and the lads attempt at doing what the professionals do is a right laugh. More than anything though, the video and the dancing suited the song down to the ground.
17. Charli XCX – ‘Famous’
Video by: Eric Wareheim
Charli XCX’s saccharine bright pop is counteracted by Eric Wareheim’s warped mind which infects the neon space of the music video with ideas about the negativity of our reliance on our social media feeds, mobile devices and vanity.