Archive for albums of the year

Slacker Shack’s Top Ten Albums of 2016

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2016 by dc

bon-iver-22-a-million-cover-art

As I get older and busier, I feel it is only right I take things a bit easier and just pick ten favourite albums this year. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a great year for music, it’s just that ten seems a bit less daunting than the usual twenty as I sit here arguing with myself.

2016 saw the return of hip hop legends A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul and great new albums from Slacker Shack favourites like Bon Iver, Future Of The Left, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Danny Brown, Aesop Rock and Cate Le Bon. All on fine, fine form.

As far as new artists go nothing’s cracked my top 10. There’s been loads of great music from debutants like Swedish producer sir Was (who’s sound is intriguingly described by his label, “as though D’Angelo and Prince threw David Crosby into the studio with Tame Impala and Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis”), 4AD’s latest quality find, Pixx, Toronto indie-rockers, Weaves and The Magnetic North with their excellent concept album, Prospect Of Skelmersdale. But nothing that quite squeezed in.

So, my top ten. I like to think it’s a vaguely eclectic mix (variety is the spice of life and all that). Firstly, there are brilliant sophomore releases from Morgan Delt (Phase Zero) and D.D Dumbo (Utopia Defeated). The former is a truly joyous album, all psychedelic curiosity and playfulness – a retroist summer of love album that gurgles and floats without ever seeming kitschy or forced.

Two British albums make the cut. Cate Le Bon returned with Crab Day, and I had the pleasure of seeing her live earlier in the year in Manchester. The album is a heady mix of Magic Band jerkiness, Kate Bush meets Nico wonderment and gloriously skew-whiff melodies, and I’ve had it on heavy rotation for months. The second British pick is The Future Of The Left’s latest, The Peace & Truce of Future of the Left. Lead Leftie, Andrew Falkous remains not only one of my favourite current lyricists but one of the best of the past 15 years. A sardonic wit underpinned by a chugging post hardcore malevolence, his band’s latest album, might not quite reach the dizzying heights of a couple of it’s predecessors, but it’s a fascinating and humorous growl of a record nonetheless.

As far as rock music goes the real stand out album this year was King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s psych-rock chug-a-thon, Nonagon Infinity. I’ve loved their last three albums (particularly last year’s Paper Mâché Dream Balloon), but Nonagon Infinity just turns the amps up to 11 from the off and stays there.

2016 been a good year for hip hop too. Albums by Kool Keith, De La Soul, Pusha T, Kendrick Lamar, Anderson Paak, DJ Shadow, Open Mike Eagle, clipping. and London’s very own, Skepta, were all whiskers away from my top ten. Three albums did make it onto the shortlist though.

Firstly, Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition – an album that widens his sound palette further, pulling in everything from trap to free jazz, and from grime to dubstep – all of it smothered in Brown’s nasty rasp and hyperactive flow.

My next pick is the latest album from one of my favourite rappers of the past fifteen years, Aesop Rock. The Impossible Kid is probably Aesop’s most accessible album to date without losing any of the verbal dexterity and poetic wordplay that have graced his previous albums. This time though there’s less abstract thought and surrealism and something all together more autobiographical.

My final hip hop choice is A Tribe Called Quest’s glorious return, We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. With the untimely death of founding member, Phife Dawg, the album was always going to come with a lump in the throat and a tear in the eye, but what gets you is the overwhelming joy of it all from start to finish. The people making this album clearly loved being involved, everyone just bounces and buzzes off each other and it acts as a mighty epitaph to Phife.

Penultimately, one album I’ve only really found and got into over the past month is Nicolas Jaar’s, Sirens. It’s a fairly sprawling affair but after a few listens it becomes a wide-eyed and cinematic landscape of an album. Cherry picking all kinds of influences it’s held together with a kind of electro-jazz wizardry. It thrills both the beard stroker and foot tapper in me simultaneously. Given a few more months of frequent listens and it might even have grabbed Slacker Shack’s coveted (pfft) top spot!

So, onto the winner – Bon Iver’s 22, A Million Slacker Shack’s album of the 2016. It was a far odder album than I expected. Something more experimental and abstract than I’d envisaged and in many ways it’s a beautiful album of opposites and gentle curveballs. Justin Vernon’s lyric’s are oblique and obtuse but there are pockets of tender, personal snapshots and warmth. Vernon even manages to make his heavily processed vocals sound touching and soulful like an alien Neil Young. Some reviewers have compared it in spirit to Radiohead’s Kid A and I can see the comparisons. Both have an electronic, experimental and alien approach but both have a real soulfulness and soft underbelly too. At times I’ve listened to 22, A Million on repeat, getting gently hypnotised by it all and lost in all the strange glitches and gurgles. I love it.

Bon Iver – 22, A Million

Nicolas Jaar – Sirens

A Tribe Called Quest – We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your service

Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid

Morgan Delt – Phase Zero

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity

Cate Le Bon – Crab Day

Future Of The Left – The Peace & Truce of Future of the Left

Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition              

D.D Dumbo – Utopia Defeated

Slacker Shack’s top twenty albums of 2015

Posted in Lists, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2015 by dc

JimORourke-SimpleSongs

2015’s been an interesting year for new music. I’ve dipped in and out of plenty of new albums this year but there are about five I’ve regularly put on repeat.

Courtney Barnett’s ‘Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit’ is one of those albums. Essentially it’s a brilliant update of that early 90’s slacker rock sound I love so much. Lyrically clever and lathered in charisma, it’s a real gem.

Roots Manuva’s ‘Bleeds’ is a stonker too – for me it’s almost the match of 2001’s ‘Run Come Save Me’ and eclectic with it. I still think he’s underrated. If there’s a better British rapper dead or alive I’d like to hear about him. Listen to ‘One Thing’ and tell me I’m wrong.

I’m a big fan of Melbourne’s King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, and their latest opus, ‘Paper Mâché Dream Balloon’ is a wonderful thing. Caught somewhere between a 1970’s kids TV show soundtrack and a gently psychedelic jazz-folk dream, it has an air of perfectly executed silliness and magic that made me recall the first time I heard the Small FacesOgden’s Nut Gone Flake’.

It’s become the norm that when Sufjan Stevens releases an album it’s gets swamped in critical acclaim and tickles the hearts and minds of anyone who hears it. ‘Carrie & Lowell’ is no different. The songs on the album were inspired by the death of his mother but it’s anything but morose. It’s a beautiful and calming experience – a late night gem.

The one album I’ve truly loved above all others this year though is Jim O’Rourke’s, ‘Simple Songs’. I’ve always loved O’Rourke when he’s in his classic singer-songwriter mode. Even his most paired-back stuff is filled with layers and nuances, wry lyrics and wit, but there’s some songs on his latest album that are, for want of a better phrase, so deeply nourishing, ‘Simple Songs’ surpasses even the likes of ‘Eureka’ and ‘Insignificance’. It’s my favourite album of the year by a distance.

There’s some other choice picks below too, like Little Wings’s ‘Explains’, and it’s playful, slightly tipsy Bonnie Prince Billy-esque shenanigans, and Kool Keith’s return to form with producer L’Orange, ‘Time? Astonishing!’. 2015 may not have been a truly classic year for music but it’s provided me with a fair few eclectic treats.

Check out my top twenty list below and tell me what you think:

Jim O’Rourke – Simple Songs

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Roots Manuva – Bleeds

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Paper Mâché Dream Balloon

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Little Wings – Explains

L’Orange & Kool Keith – Time? Astonishing!

Alex G – Beach Music

Kamasi Washington – The Epic

Ratatat – Magnifique

My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall

Dungen – Allas Sak

Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Style

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love

Lou Barlow – Brace The Wave

C Duncan – Architect

Blur – The Magic Whip

Bill Ryder Jones – West Kirby County Primary

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

Dr Dre – Compton

Slacker Shack’s top twenty albums of 2014

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2014 by dc

Benji

“Probably the reason it’s a little hard to break away from the album format completely is, if you’re getting a band together in the studio, it makes financial sense to do more than one song at a time. And it makes more sense, if you’re going to all the effort of performing and doing whatever else, if there’s a kind of bundle.”
David Byrne

It’s a slightly depressing train of thought from Byrne, but it does potentially explain why 2014 has been a bit of a mixed bag when it’s come to albums. Maybe there are just a few too many bands approaching them in the way Byrne describes, or maybe it’s just been one of those years. I’m by no means heralding the death of ‘the LP’ but there have only been about a dozen albums released in 2014 that I have to listen to in their entirety every time I pop them on. It’s been a bit more of a pick and mix year for me.

As usual there were plenty of artists that released awesome tunes in 2014 but couldn’t quite fill up an entire album with brilliance (step forward Damon Albarn, Royal Blood, Pharoahe Monch, Liars, First Aid Kit, Chad VanGaalen and the usually peerless Stephen Malkmus amongst others), but the list below is notable for the absence of artists whose albums I thought would be brilliant but ended up unusually average – like Goat, Common, Thee Oh Seas, TV On The Radio, The Black Keys, The Underachievers and St Vincent (although I seem to be in the minority with a few on that list).

In a particularly poor year for hip hop albums (sorry for being a sour puss, I will cheer up I promise) the LP’s that did float my boat this year included, the ever flawless MF Doom and his latest team up with young New York rapper, Bishop Nehru,  NehruvianDOOM.  Shabazz PalacesLese Majesty also provided a delightfully wonky alternative to all the (c)rap out there and Young Father’s Mercury Music Prize victory was a pleasant surprise (although their debut didn’t quite make this list). Flying Lotus’s album, You’re Dead! is an absolute treat and makes the list – high on crazy jazz and the glitch beats and oddness he revels in. My two favourite rap albums of the year though, were the second offering from Run The Jewels and the Freddie Gibbs and Madlib team up, Pinata. Both albums are high on a number of ‘end of year lists’ and for good reason. RTJ2 is brimming with attitude, wit, face slapping beats and a kaleidoscope of ideas – and Pinata is intelligent, brilliantly produced hood rap that’s easily the sum of its two excellent parts.

The stonking debut from Anton Newcombe produced, Swedish psychy-krautrockers, Les Big Byrd (They Worshipped Cats) makes Slacker Shack’s top twenty list below too – along with albums by Devonshire synthsters, Metronomy (Love Letters), Salford indie-rockers, Mazes (Wooden Aquarium), Philadelphia’s The War On Drugs’ spaced out take on classic Americana (Lost In The Dream), the eponymous debut from the lysergically dripping Californian psychonaut, Morgan Delt, Kettering retro-psych-rockers, Temples debut (Sun Structures), German indie-plinkerpoppers, The Notwist (Close To The Glass), the gently eccentric electro-pop of Zammuto (Anchor) and the long awaited return of Aphex Twin (Syco).

Afrobeat influences continued to pervade plenty of Indie rock acts this year and the consistently enthralling tUnE-yArDs’ latest album, Nikki Nack was a highlight. Commune from Swedish world music oddballs, Goat was a bit of a let-down, especially as I’d hoped it’d repeat the majesty of their 2012 album, World Music, but the debut from Ibibio Sound Machine almost made the list below. One act that really did excite me was Clap! Clap! I hadn’t heard anything by him until about 3 weeks ago but his debut album, Tayi Bebba is superb. The album mixes field recordings and found sounds with drum programming and pulls in afrobeat, house and hip hop to create the kind of LP perfect to get a party fizzing and interesting enough to play over and over again – a late inclusion and a cracking find.

Two riff laden ‘guitar albums’ make my top 20 too. There were plenty of blues rock influenced albums spinning around aimlessly in ‘indie world’ this year, but the genius that is Jack White came up with the goods once again with Lazaretto. Bearing in mind the amount of pies White wiggles his fingers in, it’s amazing that he’s so consistently great and his latest effort continues the brilliance. No-one’s got riffs like him (and there are plenty of pretenders out there). I absolutely love Ty Segall’s latest album, Manipulator too. Until this year I hadn’t really understood what all the fuss was about but Manipulator is cracking. It soaks up elements of folk, garage rock, fuzz pop and glam rock into one mammoth tour de force and I’m now a Segall convert.

Finally, two folk-rock (for want of a better term) albums also make the list. Firstly, the gently melancholic, Morning Phase from Beck (who I was lucky enough to see perform a mind-blowing set at this year’s Festival No.6) and secondly the brilliant Benji from Sun Kil Moon. The latter is my album of the year. It’s filled with tragic tales of death and loss but somehow it always leaves me with a warm heart and a gently sizzling brain.

Check out my top twenty list below and tell me what you think:

Sun Kil Moon – Benji

Jack White – Lazaretto

Ty Segall – Manipulator

Aphex Twin – Syro

Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2

Metronomy – Love Letters

Les Big Byrd – They Worshipped Cats

The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

Beck – Morning Phase

Clap! Clap! – Tayi Bebba

Morgan Delt – Morgan Delt

Mazes – Wooden Aquarium

tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack

Zammuto – Anchor

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

Freddie Gibbs And Madlib – Pinata

The Notwist – Close To The Glass

Shabazz Palaces – Lese Majesty

Temples – Sun Structures

NehruvianDOOM – NehruvianDOOM

Slacker Shack’s top twenty albums of 2013

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2013 by dc

Volcano Choir

2013 has been a strong year for music and the Slacker Shack top twenty albums of the year list below spans a number of genres – but we do have a penchant for quality indie rock and hip hop in particular.

As ever there were a number of artists that produced awesome singles in 2013 but couldn’t quite spread out their brilliance across an entire album (step up Phosphorescent, Bibio, Phoenix and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs amongst others) but the list below consists of albums that goosebumped us from start to finish.

Firstly, there have been some great hip hop albums this year, with many being released as free ‘mixtapes’. Debut releases from Brooklyn duo The Underachievers (Indigoism) and Chicago newbie Chance The Rapper (Acid Rap) blew our minds and stand strong in our top twenty list alongside releases from hip-hop stalwarts like Kanye West (yes, he may be a tool, but ‘Yeezus‘ is undoubtedly one of the albums of the year), Ghostface Killah (Twelve Reasons to Die – in collaboration with producer/composer, Adrian Younge) and El-P and Killer Mike (under the moniker, Run The Jewels). And let us not forget the wild-eyed euphoria of Danny Brown‘s third LP, Old, and Flatbush ZOMBiES‘ dark and menacing BetterOffDEAD.

The dark electronic mysticism of Forest SwordsEngravings makes our top twenty list below too – along with albums by Welsh songstress Cate Le Bon (Mug Museum), ex-Beta Band singer-songwriter Steve Mason (Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time), Manchester indie-rockers Mazes (Ores & Minerals), modern Americana genius Bill Callahan (Dream River), Dutch baroque-pop retroist Jacco Gardner (Cabinet Of Curiosities) and the returns to form of Cardiff rockers Future Of The Left (How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident) and British indie darlings, Arctic Monkeys (AM).

Our favourite folk album of the year was recorded by up and coming Lancashire duo, Bird to Beast. Their eponymous debut blends elements of classic British folk with splashes of French pop, Kate Bush cooing, Beach Boys-esque harmonies and truly beautiful songwriting. If you’ve not checked them out yet you really should.

A number of American ‘indie rock’ bands also wowed us with some great albums this year. A few of them fell short of our top twenty (Speedy Ortiz, Deerhunter, Vampire Weekend) but deserve a quick mention nonetheless. The albums that really did leave us stunned this year though came in the shape of The Black Angels‘ fifth album Indigo Meadow, Brooklyn punk-rockers Parquet Courts‘ debut album Light Up Gold and Arcade Fire‘s much hyped and critically lauded Reflektor LP.

Our favourite American ‘indie rock‘ album though, and our album of the year is Volcano Choir‘s Repave. It gave us goosebumps over and over again and proved that Justin Vernon could be just as great without the Bon Iver moniker. Repave is stunning, an epic album that’s electrifying from start to finish.

Check out our top twenty list below and tell us what you think:

01 Volcano Choir – Repave

02 Mazes – Ores & Minerals

03 The Black Angels – Indigo Meadow

04 Danny Brown – Old

05 Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold

06 Kanye West – Yeezus

07 The Underachievers – Indigoism

08 Bird to Beast – Bird to Beast

09 Jacco Gardner – Cabinet Of Curiosities

10 Bill Callahan – Dream River

11 Future Of The Left – How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident

12 Steve Mason – Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time

13 Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels

14 Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge – Twelve Reasons to Die

15 Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap

16 Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum

17 Arctic Monkeys – AM

18 Flatbush ZOMBiES – BetterOffDEAD

19 Forest Swords – Engravings

20 Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Slacker Shack’s top twenty albums of 2012

Posted in Lists, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2012 by dc

Goat

2012 has been a pretty good year for albums – and an eclectic one too. From the pounding electronic-soup-hop throb of El-P through to Beta Band-esque newcomers Django Django, this year‘s seen old acts returning to form and newcomers snatching at brilliance.

Looking at the 2012 ‘top albums of the year’ lists that have been published elsewhere, a handful of names keep popping up. And a few of them appear here too.

For hip-hop heads Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, the El-P produced Killer Mike album R.A.P. Music and (for those seeking slightly odder sounds) the two albums from Sacramento’s Death Grips, all seem to be featuring high up in other publications’ lists. Whilst all three of those acts feature in the Slacker Shack top twenty, the brilliant (and slightly overlooked) Quakers album impressed us just as much. As did quality albums from both Jj Doom and Captain Murphy.

Aesop Rock’s Skelethon however, pipped them all to the post for hip-hop album of the year in our books. We think it ranks as one of the best alt-rap albums of the last five or ten years, and is his best work since 2001’s Labor Days.

For those who like to dabble in a bit of psych-folk, Liverpool’s dreamy Stealing Sheep and Father John Misty’s warped psych-country-isms both make the list below. And in a year where the weird tickled hard there’s the latest album from San-Fran-noiseniks Deerhoof, which bubbled and pulsed it’s merry way into avant-pop-land without losing any of the band’s usual haphazard charm.

The robotic gurgling and electronic wibbling of The BooksNick Zammuto – or just plain old Zammuto – also features in our Top 20 – and we’re curious by its absence from other ‘best of the year’ lists – it’s great isn’t it?.

Cracking albums by the consistently intriguing Liars, psych-rock reconfigurers Thee Oh Sees, ‘modern day blues rock God’ Jack White and the near perfect coupling of The Orb and Lee Scratch Perry also make the list below.

(And our favourite of the three excellent Guided by Voices albums released this year? The Bears for Lunch. Maybe it’s because it’s the most recent or maybe it’s just because it’s so more-ish. It’s been hogging our ears these past two weeks).

Standing tall above them all though, is the debut album from Swedish world-voodoo-funk-rock collective Goat (see photo at the top). I won’t bore you again with the possibly fictitious back story (you can read it here if you want to), it’s just easier to say World Music is Slacker Shack’s album of 2012. It’s a mind-blowing voodoo brew of an album that just gets better and better with every listen.

Check out Slacker Shack’s Top Twenty albums of 2012 below (with accompanying audio and video highlights) and us send us your thoughts:

01 Goat – World Music

02 Aesop Rock – Skelethon

03 Jack White – Blunderbuss

04 Django Django – Django Django

05 Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music

06 Jj Doom – Key To The Kuffs

07 El-P – Cancer 4 Cure

08 Stealing Sheep – Into The Diamond Sky

09 Liars – Wixiw

10 Guided By Voices – The Bears For Lunch

11 Tame Impala – Lonerism

12 The Orb featuring Lee Scratch Perry – The Orbserver In The Star House

13 Deerhoof – Breakup Song

14 Quakers – Quakers

15 Death Grips – The Money Store

16 Captain Murphy – Duality

17 Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city

18 Zammuto – Zammuto

19 Thee Oh Sees – Putrifiers II

20 Father John Misty – Fear Fun

Spoek Mathambo – Let Them Talk

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2012 by dc

I bought the Spoek Mathambo album Father Creeper today. It’s a great listen. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all over the place and a bit of a mess – but in a good way. It’s also unlike anything I’ve ever heard before, mixing up elements of afrobeat, hip-hop, dancehall and funk and creating a wild and heady mix of melody and abrasiveness as it bounces along.

For those who’ve yet to hear Spoek Mathambo, here’s one of the best tunes off Father Creeper, Let Them Talk:

I reckon it sounds like N*E*R*D meets Fela Kuti (with a bit of Sebadoh thrown in after the 2.43 mark)…. now that’s eclectic.

Das Racist – Michael Jackson

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 18, 2011 by dc

This week, Das Racist released their debut album (mixtapes aside), Relax. Mixing up the geeky, laugh out loud tomfoolery of early De La Soul via the sonic experimentation of the Def Jux stable and the party daftness of Spank Rock, it’ll be high on the ‘albums of the year’ lists come winter time.

It’s fresh, funny and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Check out the video for single, Michael Jackson, below:

The Brooklyn crew’s album is availble to buy here – get one.