The echo of music overload means that there’s rarely enough time to listen to the albums you do like. So a marker in time, a half year (or close to it in this case) is an opportunity to delve back in. Hence, this overview of Nialler9’s favourite albums of the year to date.
Palmbomen II – Memories of Cindy
Smudged daydream neo-noir electronica.
A compilation of four EPs from the LA-based Dutch artist Palmbomen II with a concept around a eulogy to a character called Cindy told through a “surreal, neo-noir lens.” and released over the last five years. Musically, that means lo-fi house, new age melodies, and soft-glow electronica with ambience and nods to AFX-style acid. Highlights include ‘Seventeen’ and ‘Love Story Fantasy’.
Leon Bridges – Good Thing
The Texas soul man being s himself up to date.
The Fort Worth Texas soul singer Leon Bridges’second album Good Thing takes his wholesome retro soul sound and gives it a 21st century update. Tracks like ‘Bad Bad News’and ‘Forgive You’ seem as indebted to contemporary R&B artists as the golden soul singers of yesteryear. The whole album is packed full of rich instrumentation, the perfect foundation for Bridges smooth vocal delivery. ‘Beyond’ is one of the best love songs penned this year. The album’s two pop-funk tracks ‘If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)’ and ‘You Don’t Know’ are jarring in how they parachute their way in to the album as if they were A&Red last minute for radio hits. Overall, though, Good Thing is a more contemporary take on soul than Bridges’ debut.
Snail Mail – Lush
A new name on the US indie scene.
Lindsey Jordan has been performing under the moniker of Snail Mail since the age of 15. Venue hopping around Baltimore’s live music scene gave her indie rock sound the time and space to grow as well as providing her with like-minded musicians to form a band with.
Jordan came to public attention with the release of ‘Pristine’, a track highly representative of her overall musical appeal. Full of youthful exuberance, the track finds Jordan in the midst of a tumultuous relationship, questioning herself and her lover. “And if you do find someone better /I’ll still see you in everything / For always, tomorrow, and all the time.” Lush is intelligently produced, with open mixes that allow for the best parts of Snail Mail’s music, namely Jordan’s lyrics and guitar, to remain the focus of the listener’s attention.
Teyana Taylor – K.T.S.E.
Teyana shines despite the rushed circumstances.
The long-awaited second album Teyana Taylor closed Ye Season – the five albums produced by Kanye in Wyoming. It was also the one that suffered the most from Kanye’s malleable and last minute production and tracklisting decisions with Teyana apparently left disappointed with the final result as promised songs were left off.
Despite this, K.T.S.E. is a superb R&B record. Taylor shines on the vocal front throughout and West returns to the sound that made his name – flipping old soul samples with aplomb. But, it’s Teyana’s album, whether she’s fantasising about a threesome on ‘3Way’, cautioning about backstabbing friends on ‘A Rose In Harlem’ or playing the role of the ballroom queen on the surprising vogue-ready ‘WTP’.
Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
Warm band grooves that don’t wear out
Texas psychedelic trio Khruangbin’s second album of psychedelic laid-back band music. The band meld “60’s Thai funk, 70’s Persian rock music, and 80’s Algerian symphonia” with light funk and improvisational touches while the rhythm section keep things rolling nicely. Sprightly and effective music to groove to.
Kanye West – Ye
A flawed and fascinating missive.
Arriving as the first album of the Wyoming Sessions, Ye is deeply flawed, sometimes thrilling but is Kanye’s most honest and unfiltered album of his career – tackling his own mental health, his dark innermost thoughts, the fallout from his incendiary trolling and his role as a father. There are a lot of ill-thought lines throughout – too many to mention. Not in question is West’s production nous, ever capable of thrilling as his ability to keep you coming back despite obvious problems.
David Byrne – American Utopia
An old master shows he still has new tricks.
Ex-Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s first solo album release in 14 years sees him collaborating with artists such as Brian Eno, Sampha, Blood Orange, Oneohtrix Point Never, Jack Penate and a bunch of other male contributors, a factor that resulted in some backlash for the Scottish-American musician that he addressed directly and apologetically. American Utopia shouldn’t be overshadowed by those facts. The album is excellent, filled with has certain sound elements that project his musical roots with Talking Heads yet it also proves that David Byrne is a long-standing solo artist with distinction who is still able to make relevant and engaging art-pop in 2018. – Luke Sharkey
Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
The queen takes her crown.
The rap superstar of 2018 took her crown with by evolving from the minimal trap hit ‘Bodak Yellow’ to a well-rounded album of hip-hop that established her as much more than a IG personality. Invasion of Privacy proves Cardi isn’t a passing fad. In ‘Drip’ with Migos, she has produced one of the rap songs of the year, while on tracks like ‘Best Life’, ‘Ring’ and ‘I Like It’, she grows her core sound into pop and salsa-flavours. Cardi asserts herself by crushing her raps with versatility and dominating all of the album with ease. “Only thing fake is the boobs,” as she so ably puts it on the opening track.
Superorganism – Superorganism
Future quirky pop now.
“When people were asked 20 years ago what they thought music would sound like and how it would be written in 2018, I’m pretty sure they would have replied with a vague description of Superorganism – and they wouldn’t have been far wrong. The album includes an eclectic mix of songs ranging from melancholy ballads to uptempo, “surreal” pop songs, an album that the band hope will act as a foundation for them to build upon in the future, in that the diversity of the music will allow them to pick and choose which direction they want to go in afterwards.” – from Ruth Cronin’s piece.
Rejjie Snow – Dear Annie
A sprawling yet likeable debut of R&B and hip-hop from Ireland’s breakout rap star.
It’s been a long time coming, Rejjie Snow’s debut album. The Dublin-born first appeared on the scene as Lecs Luther, channeling MF Doon and Tyler, The Creator and while he hasn’t left the influences of those artists entirely behind, he has penned a stylish and polychromatically-produced debut record where the vocalists like Portland’s Aminé, London’s Ebenezer and Jesse James Solomon, Norway’s Anna of the North and American singers Dana Williams, Caroline Smith and Jesse Boykins III shine on the hooks.
Rejjie’s choice of intermissions negate the album’s romantic sincerity but there’s much to enjoy here in the vein of a soft glow rooftop down R&B-tinged rap tip. Snow hasn’t quite escaped the shadows of his forebearers but at 24 years-old, he’s finally on a path to showing his own colours.