Archive for December, 2014

2014 Music Year in Review

Since 2007, I’ve posted a year-end music wrap up that serves mainly as a reference for myself and a few other folks that like to see what I enjoyed (I wish more friends would do the same). I try to stick to new music, no re-releases (well, one compilation album snuck in this year). Here is this year’s.

Everything’s sorted in alphabetical order. (Note: My general rule of thumb is to try and link to the album at the location the artist will get the most money (Bandcamp, their label’s site), but there are still a few Amazon mp3 store links in there (and they’re affiliate links).

(See also: all previous years-in-review.)

Best of 2014

  • Amerigo Gazaway: Yasiin Gaye: The Departure and The Return
    When mash-ups were popular a few years back, you’d occasionally get some mildly interesting pairings, like King Tubby & Wu-Tang but for the most part, they were lazy remixes with little creativity and thought. But Amerigo Gazaway took the mash-up to a whole new level, a level on-par with the best remixes, with The Departure and The Return, where he pairs Mos Def and Marvin Gaye.
  • Babymetal: Babymetal
    On paper, there is no reason that teenaged girls singing J-Pop tunes over speed metal (and occasionally reggae, hip-hop, and electronica) should work, BUT IT DOES. This was my 2 1/2-year-old son’s favorite album of the year and it’s one of mine, too. There’s no denying that since they play the bizarre genre mash-up straight rather than as a gimmick, that’s why it plays so well. They’ve shot a bunch of great videos, too, including Gimmie Chocolate and Headbangya.
  • Busdriver: Perfect Hair
    I miss rappers being unafraid to sound weird, say anything, and turn away purist hip-hop fans. Busdriver’s that dude. Love “Eat Rich” & “Ego Death (feat. Aesop Rock & Danny Brown).”
  • Castle & Has-Lo: Return of the Gasface
    It’s pretty rare that I closely check for the lyrics and the production on any given hip-hop album, but Return of the Gasface delivers that pay-attention, thoughtful, lyrical hip-hop I love and well-matched soulful, jazzy beats.
  • D’Angelo & The Vanguard: Black Messiah
    A late, somewhat surprise entry from the dude that hasn’t released an album in 15 years. Great variety with lots of funknsoul.
  • Divine Styler: Def Mask
    I’ve been a Styler devotee since 1989 and over the years he’s released some of the most innovative, non-trend-following hip-hop of anyone. It’s been 15 years since his last album (which was amazing) and he picks up where he left off: futuristic funk with bass that will shudder your eardrums and flows for days. Twenty-five years after his debut as part of the Rhyme Syndicate, he’s still an enigma… and I love that.
  • Hollie Cook: Twice
    Recommended to me by Herbivore Josh. Reminds me of a young Sade over reggae riddims. Her mom was in Culture Club and her dad was Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook. And… and! Her godfather is Boy George!
  • Joshua Redman: Trios Live
    In high school when I was first discovering jazz, I was a big Joshua Redman fan. Got a chance to meet him in 2001 and compliment his circular breathing. But over the last decade, I was basically clueless about what he was doing. Thankfully, I checked into Trios Live and was super pleased to hear Redman in a different role than I was used to hearing him: more intense, experimental, and even more awesome. I mean, c’mon, he even gave the nearly 90-year-old “Mack the Knife” some new life!
  • Kalbata & Mixmonster: Congo Beat the Drum
    Dark, heavy roots and conscious dancehall. The title track will blow your car windows out.
  • Kavita Shah: Visions
    Perhaps the year’s most beautiful album.
  • Khun Narin: Khun Narin’s Electric Phin Band
    Modern Thai psych rock (well, technically, “phin prayuk”) with that rare combination of a great backstory and incredible music recorded live “in a field outside the city of Lom Sak, in the valley of mountains that form a rough border between Thailand’s North and Northeast.”
  • Lee “Scratch” Perry: Back on the Controls
    It is so nice to hear a Lee Perry album worthy of his Black Ark era productions by recreating the signal chain using original equipment and configurations and then letting Scratch loose on the dub.
  • MindsOne & Kev Brown: Pillars
    I love me some Kev Brown beats and MindsOne just fits with him… it’s one of those pairings that works perfectly (“Manipulated” feels like a classic Jeru/Primo collabo or Dilated, depending on your coast).
  • Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens: Cold World
    Shelton is somewhere around 70-years-old and still belts it out like a champion. Love her soul, love her voice.
  • The 1978ers (yU & Slimkat): People of Today
    DMV represent. Love “One Nine 7 T 8” and “P.O.T. Act II.”
  • O.S.T.R. & Marco Polo: Kartagina
    If you followed this series over the years, you know I love me some O.S.T.R. He’s an old school hip-hop head in Poland that’s not only a great MC (well, he’s got a great voice — I don’t speak Polish, so I have no clue if he’s actually a good lyricist), he’s a killer producer. Teaming up here with Marco Polo, O.S.T.R. strictly plays the MC role. Solid through and through. “What is the Question?” will surely stick in your head for days.
  • Pharoahe Monch: PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
    It’s hard to overstate how important Monch has been in hip-hop, consistently pushing boundaries and telling the stories few others are telling. On top of that, he’s still got bars every bit as fire as what he was spitting over 20 years ago. Don’t miss his appearance on the “Bullseye” podcast, either. Great interview (the part with Huey Lewis is worth listening to, as well).
  • DJ QBert: Extraterrestria and GalaXXXian
    Exactly what I wanted from a 2014 QBert album: heavy thud rumbles and vicious cuts that show why this dude is still the best in the world on the decks. Even better: he released two albums (one focused on turntablism, one on teaming up with MCs — or one from space and one from earth, if you prefer)!
  • Quantic: Magnetica
    If you’ve liked Quantic’s earlier work, you’ll get more of what you love here: soul, R&B, cumbia, highlife, etc. Really dig “Sol Clap” and “You Will Return (feat. Alice Russell).”
  • Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 2
    A second chest thudding offering from El-P and Killer Mike. The only thing they could do that might top this is the forthcoming Meow the Jewels. Love “Blockbuster Night Part 1” and “Lie, Cheat, Steal” (dig the use of the Soul Searchers sample previously used in “Jack the Ripper”).
  • Shawn Lee: Golden Age Against the Machine
    The mighty Shawn Lee takes inspiration from early-80s through mid-90s hip-hop and makes a b-boy friendly album with just enough throwback vibe to be fun without being overly serious and technical. Dig the Newcleus electro vibe on “Back to the Future”
  • Supastition: Honest Living EP
    Hip-hop’s everyman Supastition is about as consistent as they come: a dude making a living, doing honest music on the side, hence the title and (familiar) theme of this EP. For us grown ass adults, this type of hip-hop is particularly appealing, especially when well done.
  • Tono S. & Beyuz: Návraty
    Slovenian hip-hop, almost 90s throwback in nature like Poland’s Hurragun, but uses 70s Slovenian rock samples.
  • Tuff Scout All Stars: Inna London Dub
    Another Herbivore Josh recommendation. Super heavy dub, love “Dub It Inna Long Acre” and “The Marshall of Inverness St,” which pulls in some vocals from “Truths & Rights.”
  • Various Artists: Spiritual Jazz 5: The World
    Compilation of re-released material from 1961-1979.
  • Vienio: Etos 2
    Solid Polish hip-hop with broad true school appeal. Tek from Smif n Wessun guests. For fans of O.S.T.R.
  • Your Old Droog: EP
    I never bought for a second that he was a pitch-shifted Nas, but I do buy that he’s one of the few of the new breed of MCs that deserve the hype they’ve gotten. Sure, he could be labeled “derivative,” but I prefer the term “influenced.” “Nutty Bars,” indeed.

Almost Best of 2014

  • Chris Read: Small Steps
    Original hip-hop, funk, dub, and afro-beat from the dude that brought us the classic Diary megamix. One of those easily overlooked albums, but don’t miss it.
  • DJ Connect: Well Connected
    Swedish hip-hop producer teams up with (mostly) US-based MCs of varying renown.
  • Eyebrow: Garden City
    Like 70s Miles with some modern electronica leanings. Spacy and subdued. Herbivore Josh recommended.
  • Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Piñata
    Dirty, gritty blaxploitation-esque soulful funk. Love “Scarface” and “Real.” Dope guest spots from Danny Brown, Scarface, and others.
  • Ghostface Killah: 36 Seasons
    Another cinematic epic from Tony Starks with repeated appearances from Kool G Rap and AZ. Not quite on the level of last year’s Twelve Reasons to Die, but dang, two years in a row with albums this strong? Impressive.
  • L’Orange: The Orchid Days & After the Flowers EP
    One of my favorite new(er) producers, I love the warmth and how he manipulates a mood. Sometimes things get a little choppy on the production tip for me, but overall, these are two wonderful, connected albums.
  • Meridian Brothers: Salvadora Robot
    Wonderfully odd, slightly “off” tropical music.
  • Michael Jackson: Xscape
    Surprisingly fresh takes on material recorded as far back as 30 years ago. A template for how posthumous albums of unfinished materials should be handled.
  • Prince: ART OFFICIAL AGE
    The mysterious one returned sounding way fresher than I expected from someone who released his first album 36 years ago to sound. Fun fact: Prince was a Reagan supporter back in the 80s.
  • Prince Po: Animal Serum
    It’s so dope to have great albums from both members of Organized Konfusion in one year. And this one features a track with Saafir & Rock and another with OC and Pharoahe, so yeah.
  • Ranee Lee: What’s Going On?
    Ranee Lee was the first jazz album I ever got to revie over 20 years ago. Though her style of mellow vocal jazz is not usually the way I swing when it comes to the genre, I eagerly await everything she releases. “Where Do You Start” is beautiful and the cover of Marley’s “One Love” is better than one would expect.
  • Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: Give the People What They Want
    The album’s release was delayed while Sharon battled (and beat the crap out of) bile duct cancer, but worth the wait. Soulful and funky as always, it throws no curveballs. Favorite cuts: “Retreat!,” “Now I See,” and for Sharon, the aptly titled “People Don’t Get What They Deserve.”
  • The Budos Band: Burnt Offering
    Budos has got that block rocking funk. As always.
  • Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet: Polka
    Love the cover of Rage Against the Machine’s “Bombtrack” where they shift from more traditional jazz into aggressive Jerseyband-style metal jazz.
  • Ziggy Marley: Fly Rasta
    One Ziggy’s best albums with positive, upbeat reggae that’s exactly what you’d want from a Marley album.

Best of 2013 I missed until 2014

  • Clear Soul Forces: Gold Pp7s

My Daughter’s Favorite Tracks This Year

My daughter, now eight, is much less influenced musically by me than she was in previous years and moreso by classmates, cousins, the radio, etc. As a result, many of her favorite songs absolutely horrify me (“Whistle”) or confound me (“Life is a Highway”). But, she’s finding her way in through the pop morass and occasionally likes some pretty non-pop songs she hears (Roy Budd, Babymetal). Here’s her list of songs she really dug this year.

  • Roy Budd: “Getting Nowhere in a Hurry”
  • Charli XCX: “Boom Clap”
  • One Direction: “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful”
  • Owl City: “Good Time”
  • Gummibär: “I’m a Gummy Bear (The Gummy Bear Song)”
  • Tom Cochrane: “Life Is A Highway”
  • OneRepublic: “Counting Stars”
  • Owl City: “Fireflies”
  • Meghan Trainor: “All About That Bass”
  • Demi Lovato: “Let It Go”
  • Babymetal: “Gimme Chocolate”
  • Taylor Swift: “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
  • Taylor Swift: “Shake It Off”
  • Ylvis: “The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?)”
  • Magic!: “Rude”
  • P!nk: “Just Give Me A Reason”
  • Katy Perry: “Roar”
  • Train: “Hey, Soul Sister”
  • Pharrell: “Happy”
  • Flo Rida: “Whistle”
  • Taio Cruz: “Dynamite”
  • Flo Rida: “Good Feeling”

My Son’s Favorite Tracks This Year

My son is two-and-a-half and this year started developing some favorite songs, so it’s time for him to get his own section.

  • Idina Menzel: “Let It Go” (like every other two-year-old on the planet)
  • The entire Babymetal album
  • Owl City: “Good Time”
  • OneRepublic: “Counting Stars”

Best Tracks of 2014

Here’s my list of favorite tracks of the year, along with a Spotify playlist of as many are available there. (Songs not available in the playlist are denoted with a * and a link is provided.)

Note that while the list below is sorted alphabetically, the Spotify playlist has been carefully organized to provide the Optimal, Cohesive Listening ExperienceTM.

  • The 1978ers (yU & Slimkat): “One Nine 7 T 8”
  • * Amerigo Gazaway: “Ms. Fat Booty (Yasiin Gaye)
  • Aphex Twin: “s950tx16wasr10 [163.97][earth portal mix]”
  • Army Of The Pharaohs: “The Tempter and the Bible Black (feat. Vinnie Paz, Planetary, Esoteric, Apathy & Celph Titled)”
  • Babymetal: “Gimmie Chocolate”
  • Bear Hands: “Sleeping on the Floor”
  • Benjamin Booker: “Spoon Out My Eyeballs”
  • Billy Idol: “Postcards From The Past”
  • The Bombay Royale: “(Give Me Back My) Bunty Bunty)”
  • The Budos Band: “Magus Mountain”
  • Busdriver: “Eat Rich”
  • Castle & Has-Lo: “Casual Friday”
  • Chokeules: “40-Year-Old Vegan”
  • Chris Read: “Disco Cumbia”
  • Chronixx: “Here Comes Trouble”
  • The Custodian of Records: “Absolutely”
  • D'Angelo and The Vanguard: “Sugah Daddy”
  • Daniel Bachman: “Coming Home”
  • Denmark Vassey: “Let the God Eat (feat. Scud One)”
  • Dice Raw: “Never Be a Gangsta”
  • Divine Styler: “Carrier's IQ”
  • DJ JS-1: “Turn the Tables (feat. O.C.)”
  • Doc Strange: “Monster Mashin' (feat. Chino Xl & DJ Menace)”
  • Esoteric & Stu Bangas: “Repercussions (feat. Ill Bill)”
  • Eyebrow: “The Golden Road”
  • The Flaming Lips: “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (feat. Miley Cyrus & Moby)”
  • Flying Lotus: “The Protest”
  • Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: “Real”
  • Fumaça Preta: “Fumaça Preta”
  • * Gese: “On Ill
  • Ghostface Killah: “The Battlefield (feat. Kool G Rap, AZ, and Tre Williams)”
  • Hollie Cook: “Win or Lose”
  • J-Live: “Money Matters”
  • Jo Mersa: “Rock & Swing”
  • John the Conqueror: “Golden Rule”
  • Joshua Redman: “The Ocean”
  • Junior Stress: “To Nie Ja (feat. Vienio)”
  • Kalbata & Mixmonster: “Congo Beat the Drum (feat. Major Mackerel)”
  • Kavita Shah: “When… (Bonus Track)”
  • Khun Narin: “Show Wong Khun Narin #3”
  • L’Orange: “The End (feat. Billy Woods)”
  • * L’Orange: “My Magic Is The Best Magic (inst.)
  • Lee “Scratch” Perry: “Words Re-vision (Dubplate Cut)”
  • The Legion: “Stereo (Remix)”
  • Luciano: “Music is Life (feat. Turbulence)”
  • Madlib: “Yeti Movie”
  • Me'Shell Ndegeocello: “Good Day Bad”
  • Meridian Brothers: “El Gran Pajaro de Los Andes (instrumental)”
  • Michael Jackson: “A Place With No Name”
  • MindsOne & Kev Brown: “Legion of Doom (Remix)”
  • Molly Johnson: “God Bless The Child”
  • Muneshine: “Life Goes on (feat. Fresh Daily & ELMNT)”
  • Mungo’s Hi Fi: “Nice It Up (feat. Charlie P)”
  • Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens: “Get Up, Child”
  • Nehruviandoom: “Great Things
  • Nostalgia 77 & Prince Fatty: “Quiet Dawn Dub”
  • O.S.T.R. & Marco Polo: “What is the Question”
  • Onyx: “One 4 Da Team (feat. Reks)”
  • OOIOO:”Gamel Ninna Yama”
  • Orlando Julius & The Heliocentrics: “In The Middle”
  • Pep Love: “Evergreen”
  • Pharoahe Monch: “D.R.E.A.M. (feat. Talib Kweli)”
  • Prince Po & Oh No: “U Already (feat. Saafir & Rockness Monsta)”
  • Prince: “FUNKNROLL”
  • Quantic: “You Will Return (feat. Alice Russell)”
  • Ranee Lee: “One Love”
  • The Roots: “Understand (feat. Dice Raw & Greg Porn)”
  • Run the Jewels: “Blockbuster Night Part 1”
  • Sage Francis: “Make Em Purr”
  • Sarius: “Tak Bardzo Ja (feat. Ras)”
  • Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: “Now I See”
  • Shawn Lee: “Rock Steady (feat. Lightheaded)”
  • Sick of it All: “Disconnect Your Flesh”
  • SlimKid3 & DJ Nu-Mark: “Boullion (feat. Del & Murs)”
  • Souljazz Orchestra: “East Flows the River”
  • Supastition: “Honest Living (feat. DJ Jon Doe)”
  • Swollen Members: “Jackson Pollock (DJ Makeway)”
  • Tommy Guerrero: “The Gunslinger”
  • Tono S. & Beyuz: “Nudny Chalan”
  • Tuff Scout All Stars: “The Marshall of Inverness St”
  • Verbal Kent & DJ Eclipse: “Beast Mode”
  • Vienio: “Wszystko Jest W Ruchu (feat. Kosi & Łysol)”
  • Willow: “8”
  • Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet: “Bombtrack”
  • Wu-Tang Clan: “Mistaken Identity”
  • Your Old Droog: “Nutty Bars”
  • Ziggy Marley: “Fly Rasta”
  • Zion I: “Get Urs (feat. Mr. Lif, Kev Choice, Deuce Eclipse, Opio, and Sadat X)”

My Top 15 Scrobbled Artists for 2014

1 Washboard Sam 187
2 Lee “Scratch” Perry 96
3 Shawn Lee 93
3 Amerigo Gazaway 93
5 De La Soul 90
6 DJ QBert 85
7 Augustus Pablo 84
7 Syl Johnson 84
9 Half Pint 83
10 Gang Starr 82
11 Skillinjah 79
12 Geto Boys 72
13 Madlib 71
14 Kool Keith 68
15 Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings 67

Other Stats

Total tracks: 17737
Total unique tracks: 15489
Song Repetition: 1.16

(via)

2014: The Year in Tweets

Here’s the first of my three year-end posts: my year in Tweets. It should be noted I felt a lot less active on Twitter this year than previous years.

Actually, that’s understating it. My tweets this year were primarily links and retweets with almost nothing of personal substance. Maybe I’ll change that up in 2015.

(EDITED: added a few more tweets; thanks to ThinkUp for the reminders)