Song of The Year-Nont For Sale by Sudan Archives
I would bet the artist Sudan Archives knows more about the violin than I know about my family. Nont For Sale is my summer song but also a class I’m enrolled in on how to build a song. The first seven seconds are her stabbing the space with violin work then the bass drops, immediately followed by her voice, and then finger snaps. The song keeps putting more things into the background of its space while the bass and violin support the floating unspoiled voyage of her voice.
She is the composer the player and the voice so I wanted to give the composer credit. Her voice is always in the right place and never overcome by the instrumental density the composer brings to it. Shout out to the voice. Beyond the composition, the vibe, lyrically this song is as hard as an outdoor basketball court. The first words she says are “You only call me when you need somethin’ I need to be free/ time to spread my wings/ I don’t like leeches/ all that nonsense gon’ get back wit ya./ Don’t got time for snitches/ your pulling me down thought you was my sister.” Shout out to the writer. It’s the best song on a great album (Sink) about being free not just from relationships but presumptions, expectation, and shame. Most of the time her voice is a hush even as she declares “this is my light don’t block the sun, this is my seat can’t you tell? This is my time don’t waste it up, this is my land not for sale.”
As a person I worry about this a lot. People tend to take without knowing it and if you are too agreeable you have less light than you should .You deserve your light. Nont for Sale is muted but expansive and strangely galvanizing. Sink itself is one of my 5 favorite albums of the year because the light she ends up standing in is her own, not one comparable to other major charting artists. That’s the dream.
Mixtape review-Drunken Babble by Kalie Uchis
It is possible I have fallen so hard for Kali Uchis music because of her diction. I think her diction is better than mine has ever been in the 3,849 years I’ve been on this planet (long story). In 2012 she released the mixtape collection Drunken Babble produced by her on a Macbook with the Garageband app. Her talents unravel well beyond her Jhene Aiko phone sex voice. She takes hip hop beats and makes them go at her pace (example: Chimichanga) or switches up and just spits bars (example: Mucho Gusto). The same voice who can stop the world with her pitch perfect slow soul vocals on songs like T.Y.W.I.G. & Table For Two has really sneaky strange things to say. On Mucho Gusto she says “my body’s polluted but it’s all I got” her first spoken words out of the chorus on You Just Wanna Stay is “I woke up feelin’ Kinda OCD/If you’re feelin’ touchy don’t get close to me.” Her perspective is old/new/cool/frantic and the styles she pursues make sense for that. She nails a reggae performance on Payday without affecting any cheap imitation of what we expect to hear. Kali knows to lead you through her music she has to find whatever she is doing within herself. So it works because it still sounds honest as much her as the jaunty low rider banger Sunset. Some of these songs are two minutes others are a full three each piece is a fragment sewn into the quilt another flavor from the mind of someone very rich in musical purpose with an instrument at hand (her voice) she has the utmost faith in. It will hold true against any musical backdrop so she might as well throw it as many places as it can go. I don’t need to wish her success, after listening to Drunken Babble I’m just excited to watch her success unfold.
Song of the year-In My Dreams by Kali Uchis produced by and featuring Damon Albarn
Kali Uchis had a fantastic 2017 popping up and doing great work in important places. On two of my top albums of the year she threw down (See You Again on Tyler, The Creator’s Flower Boy and Get You on Daniel Caesar’s Freudian). She just seemed to fit anywhere with a startlingly clean, crisp voice that drew my finger to the repeat button. The voice is an interesting additive but the not the primary element. Her debut album Isolation is a dizzying trip through diverse influences juggled nimbly with production ranging from Damon Albarn to Two Inch Punch, BadBadNotGood, Thundercat, and DJ Dahi.
In My Dreams sounds like NES video game intro music but the clarity in her voice and lyrical content express a glorious quirky innocence that lives in a lot of our hopes. The fact that she could call up Albarn and do a Gorillaz track without stretching then call up Bootsy Collins and say “Let’s do ANOTHER song together for my debut album” is pretty baller. Trust me I get that the young beautiful R & B singer is an industry and this is not entirely the delightful DIY come up of others but the more you find out about Kali Uchis the more you will be awed by her skill set. Trust me. You just have to go back to the mixtape she made with Garageband on her Macbook. I will get to that next week!
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Tagged Bootsy Collins, Damon Albarn, Daniel Caesar, Flower Boy, Freudian, Gorillaz, hip hop, In My Dreams, Isolation, Kali Uchis, R&B, Tyler The Creator
Mixtape review-ILOVEMAKONNEN x Ronny J
Makonnen is so much better in an unorthodox state. Whenever he tries to fit the traditional role of rapper or R & B singer he ends up sounding very out of sorts. I think he is at the very cutting edge of making music that achieves bits of both but only without the pressure of expectations (this entire rundown applies to Lil Yachty as well). So it makes sense that when I listened to his new five song collection and thought he was back on track Makonnen himself stated this is not a tape just the two having fun. It proves my point. It has to be loose.
Makonnen has a voice that can be annoying or enchanting with a very thin line to separate. His commitment to it and use of audaciously emotional content matches up perfectly with off kilter bass burps and sharp sounds that Ronny J brings into the production. They keep it weird and stark and it works. Y U Leave is a song that takes over the landscape of your mind with far away vocal overdubs and a lurching melody.
Paper Chase is a little more celebratory and Ronny J really fuzzes up the foreground to produce a splendidly creepy trap beat to collect checks to. Lonely Thoughts features a superb guest appearance by Teddy, it’s exactly the kind of song I come to Makonnen for. Ronny J makes the strings cry over 808’s while Makonnen leverages an even more wounded delivery to his vocal performance. He’s not a stand out verse guy who is going to dazzle you with bars but if left to his own devices he can fill your music storage with something you only get from him. Something I wish I could describe better.
Kick It is the last song and high point of this song collection (which boasts some thoughtful shifts in tempo from loneliness to braggadocio to anger). He tells his mom to sit down while he goes out to hustle, “I wasn’t proud of what I did man I had F%*@in’ frowns, I lost so many F!*#in’ friends I buried them in the ground.” While it is a song about the potent emotional state of hustling he sounds so earnest which makes how catchy it is earned.
I definitely want him to do what Lil Uzi did and figure out his blueprint for the main stage. He has dropped off tapes and loosies but when he puts a debut together I’d like him to push for another level of what he’s best at. Maybe he needs to develop a plan for that, maybe plans are not best for him. He might just need pen pad food and Ronny J.
stream or download ILOVEMAKONNEN x Ronny J below:
Song of The Year-Lil Thing by Knox Fortune
Debut albums are so much more complete than they used to be. The death of the music industry happened first with the death of developing talent. At this point signee’s must have already established their sound. So it is no shock when you listen to the debut album Paradise by Knox Fortune it sounds like an artist who has been defined in the public eye for years . It is ok to recognize the name from Chance The Rapper’s All Night off of last years Coloring Book album. The energy, angelic singing, and clattering weirdness are very much a part of the DNA in Paradise.
This is mood music to the fullest, put it on and have a cook out. Lil Thing burbles and crackles while Knox sounds pristine in a genderless way when he goes effortlessly into the high register. You can listen to Lil Thing over and over and over without ever tiring of it but lest you think that all of Knox Fortune is tossed off brilliant summer vibe music listen to the positively New Wave I Don’t Wanna Talk About It. This is a voice with real vision and as weird as it all is it is a thing to respect. My wife hates “smooth R&B” and I asked if she hated this, she paused for a solid twenty seconds trying to figure out what this is. In the end she gave the most confused no I’d heard her give in a while. Is it indie? Is it hip hop? Is it R &B? Welcome to this era of modern music where every artist is making their own smoothie of influences into their own flavor. Lil Thing tastes magnificent.
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Tagged All Night, Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book, death of the music industry, debut album, hip hop, Indie, Knox Fortune, Lil Thing, Paradise, R&B, song of the year, Song Review
Song of The Year-No Sleeep by Janet Jackson featuring J.Cole
At the height of her fame Janet was stuck smack in the middle between two of the most important female artists in history. Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey were in a high note arms race, holding the microphone and bending backward belting and holding, challenging the other to raise the stakes.
It makes sense that critics were not universally excited about Janet’s approach. No Sleeep is reminiscent of That’s The Way Love Goes in that it thrusts her into the spotlight while remaining hushed and casual. Her voice comes to us still in the frail whisper of a secret teenage phone conversation and that’s survived. The fullness and character in that harmonic murmur is the mother of so much of today’s R&B. The glass rattling diva era passed and Janet is still here.
This song isn’t just a great thing for Janet. J. Cole sounds focused and special. At his worst Cole sounds like a rapper you couldn’t pick out of a line up, picking sleepy beats and kicking pretty simple lifestyle analysis over them. He closes this song with all of his energy in it. This is post-Forest Hills Drive J.Cole and I hope he never looks back. “You bring cooked food, I bring desert” sticks in your mind because it’s a unique image and a realistic circumstance. The song flows into him so naturally that by its end you are ready to hit repeat and listen again. It’s a sneaky sleeper of a single that looms larger with every listen. I wonder how many of the toughest rappers in the game’s history have Janet in their car right now. How many of them grew up depending on her sincerity like I did? Like I still do.
My Star Wars Analogy between Miguel and Leon Bridges
Miguel’s new album Wildheart is not short of brilliant. It’s like an intimidating layer cake of sexual pop music that carries Prince’s style with R. Kelly’s nymphomaniacal intention. Leon Bridges Come Home album is on the opposite side of the spectrum but just as exciting. It sounds like Sam Cooke and the Everly Brothers had a baby in Motown’s 1963 Detroit. It’s not simple nostalgia but a hybrid of sounds with his voice as the clear center piece and effective, concise, heartfelt songwriting as its currency.
The two albums released so close together force a weird Star Wars comparison into my mind. Both albums have what music consumers could call “the force” that power to make soul not just earnest but catchy to the point of addiction. Miguel works on the dark side of the force and is the Darth Vader of this comparison. Last album he took the Clockwork Orange R&B of The Weeknd and made it fun(Kaleidoscope Dream), this time he’s even trickier forcing his drugs and sex agenda into a fantastic world of sizzling guitar and sharp drums. Even when he’s admitting that he’s gross the song is so great you don’t even care. He makes sinning seem awesome in the manner that Darth Vader made my generation of kids want to crush necks with our mind.
Example of Miguel’s dark power
When you are done with the Miguel and the cold shower that follows, pull up this youtube in front of your Mom and Grandmother and watch them all love Lisa Sawyer.
Come Home doesn’t just showcase Bridges powerful voice but masterful minimalism. In this situation he is Luke Skywalker on a journey to cut through the densely sexual R&B landscape with a very controlled sound. Ten songs, thirty five minutes and not a note out of place, it’s an album that brings the eloquence of confidently crafted soul music so efficiently that it grips you right at the core of who you are. Of course, in this analogy R. Kelly is the evil emperor.
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Tagged 2015 albums, Come Home, Darth Vader, Leon Bridges, Luke Skywalker, Miguel, R&B, soul music, Star Wars analogy, the force, Weeknd, Wildheart