New beast of a tune…
New beast of a tune…
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
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 Faces‘ ‘Ogden’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
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 Books’ Nick 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
Here’s a really cool alternative poster for Stanley Kubrick‘s 1980 horror film, The Shining:
The film is one of my all-time favourites and the poster above is available to buy from the Richard Goodall Gallery in Manchester.
To visit their site and buy one these limited edition prints (50 have been printed) click here.
The poster is by SAWVO and is a hand pulled silk screen print, measuring 23 inches by 17 inches.
Check out more of SAWVO‘s work here.
Matt Ferguson is an artist from Sheffield, who has recently designed an alternative poster for next year’s Avengers film. Check it out below:
Limited prints of Ferguson’s work are availiable upon request, however due to licensing and copyright his artwork inspired by films and comics is unfortunately unavailable as prints – although he’s hoping that this legal glitch will soon to be rectified!
His website, Cakes and Comics can by viewed by clicking here.