10 Blur – “Barbaric”
On “Barbaric,” Britpop heavy-hitters Blur go in a pretty typical directions for rock bands nearing the ends of their careers, which would be electronic, or at least the drum machine territory. A beautifully resigned and catchy chorus then paints the perfect disaffected picture of this malady: “I have lost the feeling / I thought I’d never lose / Where am I going?”
9 Purelink – “Pinned”
Brooklyn/Chicago ambient visionaries Purelink return with a sophomore album Signs that defiantly suffuses to its own plane and vibe of pastoral, serene drone music. “Pinned” comes right smack in the middle of the album and floats along as un-ambitiously as a lily pad, or an urbanite who’s sick of conventional, genre-borne music, for that matter.
8 CHERISE – “2 Steppin’”
“2 Steppin’” by London “soul sensation” CHERISE illustrates that interesting arc where frustration and alienation meet hope and aspiration (“I wanna just see if we can take our time / Take a little bit less and maybe you’ll feel right”). It seems so doomed from the start and if indeed this one-ups Adele, it’s a little curious to see how. Well, it’s not as melodramatic, at least.
7 Jaimie Branch – “burning grey”
What kind of music IS this? Jaimie Branch is billed as a “trumpetist” (sic) from New York on Bandcamp and it certainly has the urban narrative quality of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, with Branch herself leaning more toward ambient jazz which I discovered on The Fire Note, of all places.
6 Edsel Axle – “Present Moment”
Now THIS is some hearty post-rock! UK’s Edsel Axle lets his “axe” carry the majority of the lifting on this sprawling, expansive project in instrumental rock, with track two “Present Moment” sitting as the obvious centerpiece, kind of like one member of The Jayhawks or Son Volt just fu**ing around on his guitar at home in a really entertaining, focused sort of way.
5 Raw Poetic & Damu the Fudgemunk – “Sometime after Midnight”
D.C. producer Raw Poetic lays down some seriously laid-back grooves on Away back in, his new LP with Damu the Fudgemunk, a proven underground mainstay in today’s hip-hop. The Fudgemunk gets on and massages our pressure points with the chorus: “How the fu** do we function? / Bury all our addictions / Ignore all our afflictions? / Talk to me when you want some / Healing from our destruction”.
4 Joell Ortiz & L’Orange – “Masked up”
Shady Records denizen Joell Ortiz comes back this year with Signature, a full slate of tracks which have him sounding edgy, vindictive and ruthlessly on point. “Masked up” provides disturbing street diction in the form of “Oh you a stick-up kid / I got the 42 and I jack robbers” and Ortiz still comes off as humble in his own way, not laying on the ghetto grit too thick and keeping things real.
3 David Harrow – “Canyon Sound”
“Canyon Sound” is a bit of a reggae, or “dub,” foray on an electronica album, Rare Earth Technology by LA DJ David Harrow. Shades of Mad Professor loom large here and he combines with Tchiss Lopez to form somewhat of a “reggae comeback” on Dolby Disaster this year, which makes some sense when you consider how localized and nepotistic the genre has been, at least at a commercial level, over the years.
2 Black Milk – “God Willing”
No follower of this website should be shocked by the top two on this list. We all know the drill by now: Detroit’s answer to Kanye West dropped his eighth album Everybody Good? this year and the results are livelier than ever, the jazz-tinged “God Willing” opening track galloping along with spirit and originality and unleashing the chorus “On everything I love every day and night / Today and tomorrow ain’t gonna be alike”. This is a musician and emcee aching with the reality of everyday human depression and attrition and fighting back with every muscle in his mind in the form of some genuine hip-hop delivered in signature, tight Detroit drawl.
1 Black Milk – “Downs Got up”
Track five on Milk’s new album enters with a little bit more funky swagger, getting its fingers dirty with some singing vocals which seem to unconsciously deteriorate into rapping without even knowing, this incessant, piercing Moog synth slicing the beat up like meat at Jimmy John’s. It’s Black Milk’s sense of purpose, then, that has this bouncy party groove also come off so dreamy and effortless, like a joint that’s the result of such strong vision that there’s zero fanfare to it whatsoever.
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