So we reach the halfway mark of the year and I present to you a list of my 25 most-played and enjoyed records of the year so far. Songs to follow.
Sir Was – Digging A Tunnel
This debut album from the Swedish musician Joel Wästberg reminds me of Caribou, Bibio and Paul White. Digging A Tunnel weaves hip-hop rhythms, soul, jazz, pastoral folk, bagpipe and harmonica samples, handclaps, clarinets and sax. It’s all in the mix, resulting in an textured album of polychromatic exploration. If Beck was from Gothenburg and still making music in a lo-fi way perhaps.
Perennial New York dance-punk party band !!! (chk chk chk) can be relied on to bring the looped sample disco punk-funk rhythms and their seventh album recorded at their studio in Brooklyn doesn’t deviate too much from their established pattern, except in the vocal department where a rotating cast of female singers bring the heat including Lea Lea, Meah Pace, Nicole Fayu, Cameron Mesirow (Glasser) and Molly Schnick. Throw shade and shake the shudder away.
Favourite tracks: ‘Dancing Is The Best Revenge’, ‘The one 2’, ‘NRGQ’.
English producer Matthew Barnes releases his first Forest Sword album of textured electronic instrumentals (with sampled vocals) in 4 years. There’s a sound world vibe to the release, as if it was constructed to soundtrack to an imaginary place, removed from linear time. Remember that old PC game – Myst? Compassion feels like it could work as an alternative soundtrack to that world. That makes sense, Barnes recently composed music for the Assassin’s Creed game an is planning multidisciplinary projects in dance, performance, film and music to augment this album.
Katie Stelmanis’ third album as Austra feels looser than her previous work, and despite the title, more human. The operatic synth-pop is still very much there and the politics of the title feels rooted in the personal.
Arriving four years after their debut, Come On Live Long’s In The Still reaffirms the talent of a band who deserver more public awareness. The album, recorded mostly, while the band were living apart is a cohesive whole. When they came together, so did the album. So there’s trip-hop indie (‘For The Birds’), heart-beat atmospherics (‘In The Still’), a glacial trip (‘Peak), minimal folk (‘My Love Leaves’) and Radiohead-esque guitar work (‘Slipstream’). In The Still is sonics for the soul. To quote the band themselves on ‘For The Birds’, “stay together, fall apart, move as one?” They chose the latter.
SZA – CTRL
A late addition to the highlights of the year, I’ve been waiting on SZA to release something substantial since that Chance The Rapper feature in 2014. And CTRL far surpasses expectations. It’s an album that feels real, complicated, struggling with self-esteem, a sense of self, making mistakes, cheating, being hurt, wanting to be loved, shunning intimacy, yearning for respect. It’s human as can be and one of the best R&B albums of the year. More time will be spent with SZA in 2017.
This New Zealand artist’s John Parish-produced album for 4AD is a particular weighty listen. There shades of vintage alt-folk, orchestral ballads and intense singer-songwriter confessionals. ‘Party’ lulls you in with a lustful touch and dependence, Perfume Genius’ Mike Hadreas contributes on subtle torch song ‘Imagining My Man’ while the close-mic finger-pick of ‘I’m So Sorry’ and the outward sustained notes of ‘Horizon’ are highlights. This is an intimate journey from an artist who feels on the cup of something bigger.
Swedish electronic poppers Little Dragon have often struggled over full-length albums. There are always killer tracks on their releases but they lacked over a longer running time. Season High, is their most substantial and long-playing album yet.
Taking her cues from her label boss Daniel Avery in one hand, the UK producer Kelly-Lee Owens’ album’s sound is dominant with pulsing synths and techno percussion on songs like ‘Evolution’, ‘CBM’ (colour, beauty and motion as a schematic feels apt) and ‘Arthur’. On the other hand, there’s a deep ethereality in her songs a her repeating vocal lines work like mantras across the tracks including ‘Arthur’ and the slow synth-pop of ‘Keep Walking’. Elsewhere it’s the methodical chug of John Talabot that is conjured on ‘Lucid’ and ‘Bird’ and Jenny Hval guests on ‘Anxi’.
The debut album from The Internet’s Syd. It feels like a long time since she was behind the decks at Odd Future gigs. Continuing the intimate sensual modern R&B feel of The Internet, Fin is the beginning as opposed to a logical end. Syd steps out in front and while she’s been downplaying the album’s status in her career (“This album is not that deep, but I feel like this is my descent into the depth I want the band to get to.”), there are few people making tender close-up R&B that swings low and stays high as this.
A recent album of the week, Bonobo’s sixth album is nomadic & intimate, open-minded and expansive drawing on his ambient chill trademark and tougher almost clubbier sounds with guest vocals from Hundred Waters, Nick Murphy, Rhye and Morrocco’s Innov Gnawa.
Gorillaz returned last night with news of a new album Humanz and as promised, a slew of guest spots for the likes of Grace Jones, De La Soul, Kali Uchia, Kelela, Danny Brown, Jamie Principle, Mavis Staples, Zebra Katz and Pusha T among others listed below.
Four new Gorillaz songs were premiered including ‘Saturnz Barz’ feat. Popcaan, of ‘Ascension’ feat. Vince Staples, ‘Andromeda’ feat. DRAM and ‘We Got The Power’ feat. Jehnny Beth of Savages.
They arrived first via this Jamie Hewlett-directed video (with a 360 version) featuring ‘Saturnz Barz’ and highlights of the other three.
They then arrived in full on streaming and download services.
Humanz is released by Parlophone on 28th April. Gorillaz play the complete album live for fans for the first time, at a secret London location tonight. Ticket info here.
1. Ascension feat. Vince Staples 2. Strobelite feat. Peven Everett 3. Saturnz Barz feat. Popcaan 4. Momentz feat. De La Soul 5. Submission feat. Danny Brown & Kelela 6. Charger feat. Grace Jones 7. Andromeda feat. D.R.A.M. 8. Busted and Blue 9. Carnival feat. Anthony Hamilton 10. Let Me Out feat. Mavis Staples & Pusha T 11. Sex Murder Party feat. Jamie Principle & Zebra Katz 12. She’s My Collar feat. Kali Uchis 13. Hallelujah Money feat. Benjamin Clementine 14. We Got The Power feat. Jehnny Beth
Bonus material on Deluxe: 15. The Apprentice feat. Rag’n’ Bone Man, Zebra Katz & RAY BLK 16. Halfway To The Halfway House feat. Peven Everett 17. Out Of Body feat. Kilo Kish, Zebra Katz & Imani Vonshà 18. Ticker Tape feat. Carly Simon & Kali Uchis 19. Circle Of Friendz feat. Brandon Markell Holmes
Californian-based Australian singer-songwriter and indie musician Hazel English makes hypnagogic indie pop music that comes from a place of guitar band roots. The 25 year-old has a debut EP coming on Marathon Artists/Canvasback in October and following on from the impressive title track, I’m Fine’ is a song about anxiety (“For most of my life I’ve felt a sharp uncertainty/ Now it’s just become a part of me.’) that is shimmering and summery in delivery.
See also: ‘Never Going Home’
Carriages – Moving Parts
The Irish folktronica duo create magic from found objects.
Harry Bookless and Aaron Page’s brand of field-recorded folktronica makes for a unique rhythm. ‘Moving Parts/ was made from some interesting sources: drain pipes, gravel, puddles, branches and a starter melody that features Harry’s three year-old nephew Alex singing. it’s wrapped up in a lush tune that nods to Bronksi Beat while sounding like Four Tet.
Thundercat – ‘Bus In These Streets’
A breezy 70s-style song about modern technology.
Thundercat has grown in stature recently, for his work with Kendrick Lamar and his own tunes like ‘Them Changes’.
‘Bus In These Streets’ is a song that sounds like a breezy 70s TV theme but is actually about technological dependence in the 21st century. It’s also a bit yacht-rock in tone.
The song is a once-off single out now that also features Louis Cole (keyboards, drums, programming); and Steve Ellison aka Flying Lotus (programming, editing).
Phillipi & Rodrigo – ‘Mantra’
Soulwax’s label DeeWee is essential listening these days.
As proven by this recent Beats 1 show, Soulwax are well and truly back to the top of their game. Their label DeeWee has knocked out killer tunes by Emmanuelle, Bolis Popul, Asa Moto and Phillipi and Rodrigo, a Sao Paolo duo. Their first release ‘Gueto De Gent’ featured a Twin Peaks reference and here, the pair build up a mantric percussive electronic groove.
DJ Koze’s version of the track beefs up the track’s club dynamics and stretches it out over 10 minutes of lush disco. Check out the extended disco remix of the track as aired on Annie Mac in a shorter forms. The official release is to come but it is a doozy.
Clams Casino – ‘All Nite’ feat. Vince Staples
The producer is back with a vengeance.
From his long-awaited debut album 32 Levels (July 15) which features a impressive guest list: Kelela, Samuel T. Herring (Future Islands), Joe Newman (alt-J), A$AP Rocky and Lil B. ‘All Nite’ has more bite than Clams’ entire clouded output prior to this.
Portishead – ‘SOS’
Portishead dedicate their bleak Abba ‘SOS’ cover to Jo Cox.
Portishead’s dystopian and brilliantly bleak cover of Abba’s ‘SOS’, from the soundtrack to the movie High-Rise starring Tom Hiddleston is a chilling soundtrack to the very real Brexit leave vote that’s happening in the UK today. The video ends with a quote from Jo Cox, the UK Labour politician killed last week. “We have far more in common than that which divides us,” it offers. On dark days like this, strangely, the ever-bleak Portishead attempt to offer some sludged hope.
Adultrock – Push And Pull
Adultrock’s Talabot-esque analogue dance cut is out now.
His debut EP on Bodytonic two years ago, found its way to the hands of Annie Mac, James Holden and John Talabot and this Friday, the label will release his second EP Push And Pull, three-tracks of melodic analogue electronic synth music with a chillwave haze and a dancefloor vision.
Lead track ‘Push And Pull’ is Elsted’s first vocal track with the refrain “How can you do it? How can you be so strong? Even if it all feels wrong,” set to synth arpeggios, crisp house rhythms and a rolling bassline that recalls Talabot at his best.
Disclosure with guest Vince Staples have just been announced for a Royal Hospital Kilmainham on June 28th this year.
Tickets are on sale Friday at 9am from Ticketmaster at a high enough price – €49.65 + fees. A “spectacular outdoor show” is promised so you would imagine this gig will feature live vocalists and a decent setup.
Shangaan electro-inspired minimal dance on Hyperdub.
Katharine Philippa is one of my favourite Irish artists and one of the most talented I’ve seen play live.
Jessy Lanza’s new single has a Shangaan Electro bounce to it. From her forthcoming second album Oh No produced with Junior Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan in her hometown of Ontario, as the first one was, ‘It Means I Love You’ is a playful electronic track that is spacious but bangs hard due to the fast BPM. Lanzy says new album Oh No addresses her own constant nervousness and is inspired by Japanese band Yellow Magic Orchestra.
The band release EP featuring Tricky, Roots Manuva & Young Fathers.
With the Bristol dystopian trip-hop band back on the road and with a new generative app released, the band dropped the first of two EPs due this year before an album and Ritual Spirit is chock with collaborators: Tricky, Roots Manuva, Azekel & Young Fathers.
‘Take It In’ is Massive Attack moodiness on autopilot to be honest, but they excel at these ember-burning dirges. The addition of old pal Tricky lifts the song’s stature.
Niall D’Arcy aks Dj Deece is a resident at Somewhere Club? on Wednesday nights, with Hidden Agenda and one half of Decent Perks. He is a Kildare man. Here are his top 10 tunes of 2015.
1. Tame Impala – Eventually
The best song released in 2015, in my opinion. I know this is a very easy track to pick as my best of year, as so many other people have it as their favourite too, but that’s simply how good it is. “EVENTUALLY! AAAAHHHHH” has pretty much been stuck in my head since I first heard it. An amazing tune, from an amazing record. Missed them at EP but hopefully they’ll be back soon.
2. New Jackson – Having A Coke With You
This is my favourite dance track of the year, 100%. There is something so incredible about how it builds from start to finish. The strings are perfect. I’ve always been a massive David Kitt fan, but he’s taken it to new levels with his New Jackson productions this year, and I think he’s going to turn into a massive name on the European house/techno scene next year.
3. Nu Guinea – Exotica Dance Club
Probably my favourite house track of the year. It came out back in June, on a really cool Danish label called Tartelet Records, who constantly put out great records. I love the the bass line in this so much. It’s so clever the way it dips in and out, constantly grabbing the attention. This has been my go-to track to get the floor moving in my warm-up sets this year.
4. Jack J – Thirstin
I probably haven’t got this as my number one track of the year purely because I had “Looking Forward To You” by Jack J as my top track of last year, so I can’t have the same artist number 1 two years in a row. This is probably the one record that hasn’t left my bag since I picked it up back in July. Released on one of the best labels around at the moment, Future Times. It’s got that signature Jack J sound to it. It all sounds natural and live. Amazing.
5. Fort Romeau – Saku
Another man who has taken a massive leap forward in 2015 is Fort Romeau. This one came out in May on Running Back, which is another label I have all the time in the world for. There’s a few of his tracks that I could have put on this list, but Saku is his standout production of 2015 for me. Such a simple club track. A really catchy melody paired with a really solid beat, and an uplifting bass line. Makes it sound so easy, but if it was then everybody would be doing it.
6. MMOTHS – Deu
I am SO HAPPY that Jack is putting music out again. He’s the most talented guy I know. He’s been sitting on the new record for so long, and I think I’m as excited as he is at this stage for it to be out. It’s amazing. This is a great choice as the first single from the album. It’s so euphoric, and I think it captures his sound perfectly. Wait ’til you hear the album.
7. Vince Staples – Lift Me Up
Firstly, nice one to Handsome Paddy for putting me on to this tune. This is my favourite hip-hop record of 2015 for sure. It’s soooo heavy, but still incredibly catchy. I’ve been playing this one every Wednesday down in Workman’s for the last few months, and the place goes crazy every time. Heard the show at Metropolis was incredible, so hopefully he comes back next year.
8. Denis Sulta – L.A. Ruffgarden (Terrace Mix)
This one has to be the biggest club track of 2015. It came out on Dixon Avenue Basement Jams, back in June. It’s been a massive year for that label actually. Everything they’ve put out has been brilliant. I’ve heard this one out everywhere and it sounds absolutely massive every time. It’s got that massive electro synth that drives the track from start to finish basically. An absolute monster of a tune.
9. Thundercat – Them Changes
An absolutely incredible funk track from one of the best around. This has been my jam this year for when you’re just out of the shower and you’re getting ready to head out. It’s so smooth. It puts me in the mood to party every time. Can’t get enough of it!
10. Skrillex & Diplo – Where Are Ü Now feat. Justin Bieber
Lastly, the best pop record of this year by an absolute mile in my opinion. A lot of people have their opinions on all 3 of these guys, but you can’t deny that they are all very good at what they do. This track is so bloody catchy. The way they sampled Bieber’s voice for that screechy bit is genius. I’ll have a very strongly worded argument with anyone who tries to tell me this tune is shit.
Metropolis Festival in the RDS in Dublin on 7th and 8th of November has just added a load of acts to its lineup:
Hot Chip, Vic Mensa, Le Galaxie, Formation, Booka Brass Band, Flight Facilities, Omar Souleyman, Vince Staples, Trinity Orchestra (performing LCD Soundsystem), Floating Points, Four Tet, White Collar Boy, Gemma Dunleavy, CLU, Benji B and Forrests.
As well as that, they’ve announced the day-by-day breakdown:
The Roots Hot Chip Flight Facilities Vic Mensa Todd Terje [LIVE] Tiga [Live] Le Galaxie Vince Staples Omar Souleyman Dorian Concept [LIVE] Matthew Herbert [LIVE] Cloud Castle Lake Formation Booka Brass Band CLU White Collar Boy Gemma Dunleavy
CHIC feat Nile Rodgers Mark Ronson Jamie xx Giorgio Moroder Kaytranada Four Tet [LIVE] Jeff Mills Kerri Chandler KiNK [LIVE] Floating Points Nosaj Thing [LIVE] Maribou State [LIVE] Benji B Trinity Orchestra Perform LCD Soundystem Kormac’s Big Band Forrests
Summer is always a difficulty time to release an album. There are festivals to attend, holidays to take, sunny days to skive off for and playlists to make. Long playing releases can get lost in the maelstrom. So, here is a selection of recent albums worth your ear time. Have a recommendation? Leave a comment below.
Earl Sweatshirt, Casey Veggies and a impressive Vince Staples bring the mininal menace on ‘Hive’, the latest track from Earl Sweatshirt’s new album Doris is coming on August 19th. Listen to ‘Chum’, the other track from it below. Video: Hiro Murai. (more…)