Tag Archives: best albums of 2018

#Bandcampgold-Nostrum Grocers-Self-titled

#Bandcampgold-Nostrum Grocers-Self-titled

by Dan-O

Milo seems like a good dude. He lives in Maine with me and when Sorry To Bother You came here he bought out a showing so people could feel Boots Riley for the first time(get that feeling underground has had for years). The news made me feel bad that I don’t listen to Milo enough. He is a great rapper with a lot of interesting & diverse subject matter covered and he produces interesting beats but boy howdy it’s a lot to take in. Listening to Milo is like floating in space in your space suit with the air to breath but naked in the expanse looking for anything to hold onto. I always listen to new Milo albums once and overthink everything for the rest of the week.

This is what makes Nostrum Grocers such a great album. Elucid is a treasure. As a partner in rhyme to one of my favorite rappers (Billy Woods) in the group Armand Hammer they have blazed a fiery path through underground NY hip hop. Elucid is a special dude because he gets so much done with so little visible seam seen. As smart, introspective and personal as his verses get everything he does is grounded in the kind of effort Juggernaut put forth plowing through the Marvel universe. Just like Cain Marko he makes the impossible look easy.

Neither party has to move closer to one another to achieve balance, which just happens naturally. They both love tense twisted soulful production that can articulate the harshness of reality while keeping alive the hope of being human.  Listen to how Milkdrunk switches from heavy drums in the first thirty seconds to strings. It is an important lesson: all things that seem disjointed in the world of Nostrum Grocers will come together and make sense eventually. All the jokes you didn’t hear you will, “Stuck my dick in the outlet, I gotta shine!—Elucid on Milkdrunk”

Where’ing Those Flowers is such a brilliantly strange usage of sampling and a killer verse from Milo. My favorite song is ’98 Geweher. Milo is a gentle hush full of confident funny cool bars and Elucid says “A crime tree grows in the basement, spit shine my spaceship,” dude blacks out on the track, did I mention the hook feels like a classic but you know you’ve never heard it before.

I wrestle with what disclaimers I should give listeners about Nostrum Grocers. I fear someone will play these ten tracks and come back to me with “it’s aight…” because they have been conditioned to hear the narrative on the album first time as it trends. Albums are built that way nowadays in the pop sphere. Astroworld is perfectly packaged and the fans get it immediately, they know why it is important. Underground rap is still connected to those times when my friend and I rushed to buy The W first week and bumped it for the next 6-8 months till we knew it left/right/center. Nostrum Grocers tastes the best on its 6th 7th 8th listen when it’s become a part of the fabric of your day.  If you don’t listen to music that way, that’s cool but a lot of us still do. For us this is it.

Stream or buy Nostrum Grocers below:

https://nostrumgrocers.bandcamp.com/releases

 

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Hivemind and the open expanse of R&B in 2018

Hivemind and the open expanse of R&B in 2018

by Dan-O

I’m old and from Maine. In my high school I got made fun of for loving R&B music. My discman went everywhere with me so when people discovered I was listening to Smokey and The Miracles they would clown me. It’s interesting to think that the kids in dirty Red Sox hats and highwater jeans were probably listening to rock bands influenced by Motown while mocking me.  When people asked if I liked Rap best (because of how I dressed) I would always rebuke with something to the effect of “I love The Blues and rap is just an extension of it.” Fast forwarding to today it looks like R & B won.

Just look at the grammy nominations for R & B v. Rock. Last two years rock nominees are still Weezer, Queens of The Stone Age, Metallica, Panic! At the Disco old names and the new ones (looking at you War On Drugs) are mad boring. R&B album nominees from that period definitely still include seasoned veterans like Mya, Mint Condition, and Bruno Mars but so many new names over the last three years especially: Daniel Caesar, BJ The Chicago Kid, Jazmine Sullivan, Andra Day, Leon Bridges. I understand we live in a society where you’ll look at that list and say “What do you mean BJ is new?! He had a hot mixtape back in 2009!” What was he doing when Queens of The Stone Age made their first appearance in 1997? Or Metallica first made noise?  War On Drugs, that hot new band I was talking about, have been releasing albums together since 2008(they are the youngest band of that list I gave). In rock years that makes them babies. This is only part of the problem for a genre that has never felt more static.

The Internet (the group) is a wonderful example of the expanded space within the genre. Last year The Internet’s lead singer SYD released two solo projects: her full LP Fin and an EP Always Never Home.  SYD herself said she was just using these projects to flush out fun ideas. Some of the tracks on Fin are self produced others by fellow bandmate Steve Lacy but someone knew it was going to be major because HazeBanga and Hit-Boy don’t gift everyone a beat. Solo Syd is polished urban contemporary, radio ready, sleek lyrical. When she went back to working with The Internet they created Hivemind  which is chunkier, with organic drum and bass, timeless melodies that could have been from any era. The drumming is so exciting on Hivemind I immediately looked up who played it…well its Syd again. The same whispering ghost who haunted tense songs like Bad Dreams/No Looking Back in 2017 decided to smash the drums and form a song around it on Bravo. Some songs on the new album sound like a continuation of the super group Lucy Pearl (La Di Da) others like Aaliyah heading up The Roots (Wanna Be) and as free as it is it holds together. Syd writes songs with heart and vivid detail just outside of the range of people with simpler vision. She can make you live in the moment with her and feel it.

Name a new Rock band who can do that? If I’m wrong that R &B gives you more options while rock locks you into an old template what is the reason for our reality? My bias acknowledged and aside why are people with no understanding or affection for the genre forced to bask in the work of people like SZA and The Internet? Rock needs to find some space to grow and I don’t know where that is.

 

Bad Dream/No Looking Back from Always Never Home:

Bravo from Hivemind

 

 

#BandcampGold-Stuck by Nickelus F

#BandcampGold-Stuck by Nickelus F

by Dan-O

On the first real song(Sleazie Wonder) of his new album STUCK, Nickelus F says “Shoulda got a mixtape award but peace to Justo.” He’s absolutely right. In 2013 he released one of my favorite mixtapes of all time (Vices). I listened to it constantly and scoured the internet looking for who produced it, no way this dude with twisted up tissues jammed in his nose created these beats! I’ve never lost the name Nickelus F since the day I realized Vices was him head to toe.

When STUCK came out I had that Nickelus F back. The texture of the music is mid-tempo with gorgeous samples twisted and planted in perfect spots. The songs ring of the nihilism Weeknd traffics with the controlled additive bounce of peak Paul Wall. I told people in my office his story, starting with the old days blowing Drake off tracks and just grinding, being that guy who cares as much about the melody as he does the lyrical content.

Yea Aight is probably the most succinct proof of my previous statement. The hook is gorgeous over piano keys and savagely rolling bass, stitched in samples, and this dude does not have anything my mom would consider a great voice. Nickelus F sounds like a lifetime cigarette smoker with the worst nasal congestion you can imagine.  He has the kind of voice I wouldn’t want for speaking let alone singing but he is a solid gold genius who can throw it all over the field of play. On That’s Fact he sticks the landing on every short choppy line of trap cadence only to switch up and stretch out on the next track (On Our Own).

STUCK has definite high points. The second half is amazing. The people in my office who I forced into listening to it came out genuinely surprised and enriched.  Hands is one of the very best songs released in 2018 by anyone. The perfect mix of a warped soul sample an ill chorus and bars that mean business by a guy who  owned the mic at 106 & Park for 7 weeks(Freestyle Friday hall of fame). Horace Hardbody The Statue is inarguably the best lyrical performance. This dude said “Cigarettes burn and tap ashes like congas.” All this being said STUCK isn’t a performative soap opera narrative or politically uplifting or autobiographical balling. It doesn’t have take over the world singles. It is about the light continual malaise of living in this world. On Horace Hardbody he says “If you’re like me likely you don’t sleep.”  STUCK is an oddball’s celebration of the chaos left where peace could have been. It is the single best second listen in 2018 hip hop for me because everything I missed the first time was there and richly defined.

I love that he does all this himself. I love that he has been lacing verses about subtle misery without shaving off the hard edges WAY before anyone else and is now better at it than ninety percent of the game (If you think I’m nuts listen to The Darkie). I want everyone who loves Drake to know STUCK and know that below the top tier of blockbuster pop rap is the real interesting stuff; a whole world of people taking chances without anyone to stop them or force them into bad guest features or big name producers.  People who have so much nasal blockage we should probably set up a way to donate so we can help…but are absolute wizards in every regard of music and they don’t toil in obscurity. Not for me. To me they are giants. To me Nickelus F in 2018(like he was in 2013) is a giant.

Stream or BUY STUCK below:

https://nickelusf.bandcamp.com/album/stuck

#Bandcampgold-Whatever It Takes by The James Hunter Six

a4209732063_10#Bandcampgold-Whatever It Takes by The James Hunter Six

by Dan-O

Music criticism makes my skin crawl when it becomes too coy about areas of specialization. Example: when a soul album like Whatever It Takes by The James Hunter Six comes out the criticism given by experts is very watery and ephemeral “this is nostalgic stuff so its fine but who needs it?! Just listen to the original stuff it apes.” That view of this album is one from the ears of someone who doesn’t genuinely love soul music.  We all want to act like renaissance listeners who know everything but it’s so rarely true.  We specialize. This lead in is to make it clear this music is exactly my specialization and Whatever It Takes is a fabulous example of my counter point to the “who needs it?!” people.

A giant percentage of our music is nostalgic but we only register some of it with that tag(lots of sneaking going on). I hold that The James Hunter Six are part of an active genre not a throwback trend. They aren’t a Temptations cover band they make music within a genre that lived in 1962 and does now. I applaud James Hunter and Daptone Records co-founder (and producer) Bosco Mann for remaining laser focused when putting these ten songs together.

Daptone separates itself with genius composition. You can hear it in the found sound jack in the box tuning on the title track (along with fantastic drum and organ), the engaging instrumental track Blisters, the frantic movement of I Got Eyes, the astounding bass line of Show Her (my favorite song). James  Hunter is locked in pocket like a great closer on the mound in baseball. He arcs up and down within reach of every note he needs.  My favorite performance vocally is Mm-Hmm where he glides along the drums before gently eking out the chorus. He commands the song (in summation: 2 things that elevate a soul album 1. Composition  2. Commanding vocal performance)

Whatever It Takes is an album.  You just put it on and let it go. If other people are with you who haven’t heard it they will ask you what year it was made when you tell them this year they will get surprised. It passes the one test for soul music. The test Sharon Jones made everyone so aware of: if this is to sound like it’s from a bygone era does it sound like a new artist in that era or does it specifically sound like ripping off an artist? Is this just someone doing Wilson Pickett or James Brown again? If it is original vocal performance and composition like The James Hunter Six have given us than just enjoy it and be thankful we have more of it to warm the day.

Stream or BUY(I did) below:

https://jameshuntersix.bandcamp.com/album/whatever-it-takes