Favourite Albums of 2018 Part 2

Last year,  I managed to compile together (against constraints) what I felt was a solid list of some of the best projects to grace my ears over the course of the year. A difficult task seeing the amount of music I got through and despite the hard decisions, some had to be delegated to just ‘honorable mentions’.

This year, I’ve been absolutely swamped with music and for the most part it’s been pretty good stuff. So, just like last year, rather that just writing a review on every single project, why not see the year off in style and do a top album compilation.

Here are my “Favourite Albums of 2018” – Part 2. Enjoy.

Janelle MonáeDirty Computer1200x630bb

Janelle Monáe’s third studio album, Dirty Computer, was a rather pleasant surprise,  packaged as an excellent concept album. Accompanied by a short film of the same name, the album showcases Monáe’s unique style of blending genres, a hint of pop, a sprinkle of funk, a dash of hip-hop and all organic

Monáe managed to successfully insert inclusivity into her music, especially with the short film – set in a futuristic world, the singer, songwriter and producer attempts to portray a reality without prejudice, where being true to oneself comes before anything else.

Standout “Django Jane” – by far one of my favourite songs to come out in 2018 – she raps on the power of womanhood, especially black womanhood, fuelled by her own empowerment and beautifully dancing the duality of poetry lyricism and potent wordplay. And it’s over dope production might I add.

Honoring women and the spectrum of sexual identities, Dirty Computer sees Janelle coming into her authentic self with a more personal offering, as she herself explores her own sexual identity with themes of self-worth, blackness and female power. It comes together in a package that oozes purely creative genius.

 

Geography – Tom Misch

tom misch geographyAfter working with some amazing talent in front and behind the scenes, we have the culmination of efforts of 21-year-old singer/songwriter and DJ Tom Misch’s several self-released mixtapes and EPs – Geography.

Geography takes on many of Misch’s different influences. Main elements of Funk and Jazz are staple to his brand but also Soul in smaller parts cover the breadth of this album for a smooth, glossy finish. Fans of his, especially long term, will appreciate even the most minute of details.

There are some really beautiful songs on the album, like the introductory bright and upbeat “Lost in Paris” or the electric “Disco Yes” with Poppy Ajudha. You can also not to forget the anthem stand out “Water Baby” with Loyle Carner, sandwiched between dreamy ballads, covers and a cheeky guest feature from Hip-Hop legend Posdnuos of De La Soul. There’s no commotion in the ocean with this one. It’s an album suited for relaxed listening.

 

East Atlanta Love Letter – 6LACK6lack east atlanta

If you were enticed by his chilly vocals, minimalist beats, and conditions of the heart on Atlanta artist 6LACK’s first album then you may be thoroughly impressed at what he brings to the table on his newest project. If we take a look under the robust set of melancholy pianos, rasping drum machines and ambient synths, we have an open and transparent 6LACK; his complications, flaws and complexities projected in a gloomy but alluring monotony.

While the album as a whole follows a style could fit well as background music, there are definitely some standouts which you shouldn’t miss out on. The title track features the star power of rapper Future who assists in making a street record with pop overtones.  As piano melodies encompass the album feel, it’s done brilliantly on “Disconnect” which makes a horrible break-up sound so soothing. And the rattling, hard-hitting lead single “Switch”, sandwiched between all the melancholy proves that 6LACK is able to create sensational music which can be played outside of personal listening and still hits hard.

 

Saturn – NAO

nao saturnOn her second outing, alt-R&B singer-songwriter Nao relives all the intricacies of a quarter-life crisis through an astrological lens. Saturn draws from R&B, pop, and funk influences at lengths and breaths to cover personal growth, the complicated art of love and heartbreak and the treacherous journey of young adulthood with keen soulful attention.

Make It Out Alive” typifies the entire mood of the album in trying to make sense of what’s complicated and it’s not surprise that it was the lead single. It’s silky, straight-talking R&B cut and is one of the two duets on the album as it features SiR; the other being the beautifully solemn title track with Kwabs.

Highlights “If You Ever” and “Yellow of the Sun” are light and fluttery daydreams to romance, beautified by Nao’s sublime vocals while the electric funk of “Gabriel” leans on sultry tendencies. “Drive and Disconnect” is surely Nao at her most expansive – an unexpected Afrobeats-inspired jam that’s worth the listen. Between Nao’s lush voice and the album’s glossy production, it’s easy to get lost in Saturn.

 

Oxnard – Anderson .Paakanderson-paak-oxnard

The multi-faceted music maestro Anderson .Paak released one of the most long-awaited albums in Hip-Hop this year. Named in homage to Anderson’s California hometown, it paints a clear sonic picture of its cultural landscape, influenced by funk and soul, the very genre the area boasts. Paak is clearly made from these quintessential sounds and his own persona is a central crux.

Hip-Hop Legend Dr Dre helped Anderson .Paak produce an album bursting to the brim with funk without losing rap flair or soulful edge. From the bitter price of fame on the breezy summer jam “Tints” to the joys of opulence on the rebellious “Mansa Musa”. A woozy tale of love in “Trippy” or a hard-line Casanova’s tale in “Sweet Chick”. You get a showcase his versatility as a vocalist and a rapper with just a thin veil of innuendo form. There’s a lot to take in but if you’re into that then it’s pure eargasms.

 

Outside – Burna Boy

Burna-Boy outside

The soundscape of modern African Music is quite diverse. Somehow, Burna Boy as an artist attempts to straddle these multiple worlds with Outside. As a whole, you can place songs into three categories: Dancehall, Afrobeats, ‘Experimental’ and he tackles them all with flair and showmanship in a way that not many can do.

If the upbeat melody and infections drums on “PH City Vibration” or the traditional Fuji vibes and Yoruba flavour of “Koni Baje” are not shaking your spirit, then maybe the J-Hus-assisted “Sekkle Down” or the reggae inspired “Giddem” will get you moving your hips in the mood for seduction. Burna is in no way or form predictable as he manages to throw curveballs into the mix, “Heaven’s Gate” with its unrivalled sound and “Devil in California” shows that Burna Boy can be R&B-ish and be vulnerable.

With the Afrobeats anthem “Ye” hallmarking an incredible 2018 for the man and becoming a viral sensation in the process, Outside will long live in the memory of many fans of African music as the gift that kept on giving.

 

But of course, I can’t have them all. In good spirit, honourable mentions must go to:

  • Purple – A2
  • Ghetto Gospel II – Ghetts
  • Seasons – Mahalia
  • November – SiR
  • Godfather II – Wiley
  • Milky Way – Bas

As we conclude part 2 and come to the end of the list, be sure to check out part 1 here.

Geography by Tom Misch – A whole lotta Soul

tom-misch-geography

What were you doing at 21? While some are graduating from university or starting their own career, seasoned producer, singer/songwriter and DJ Tom Misch was gearing up to release his debut studio album. A seasoned multi-instrumentalist, it took only one year at a conservatoire of music to realise that bedroom producing would be the avenue he would take in order to achieve his dreams. Now, after working with some amazing talent in front and behind the scenes, we have the culmination of efforts of his several self-released mixtapes and EPs – Geography.

Geography is an album that takes on many of Misch’s different influences. Main elements of Funk and Jazz are staple to his brand but also Soul and Disco in smaller parts cover the breadth of this album. Fans of his, especially long term, will appreciate even the most Tom Mischminute of details.

The intro “Before Paris” is a spoken-word like opener, with an unnamed man speaking on the importance of the art form – a relevant sentiment for an artist like Tom – and serves as of a prelude to set the tone for what essentially is the first track, “Lost in Paris” with a slick contribution from talented Grammy nominated US rapper GoldLink.

Bringing a clever fusion of two differing musical instincts and results in something pretty tasteful. It’s bright and upbeat, driven by eccentric electric guitar chords and groove bass finished with a jazzy brass section that is too die for. For a song that was inspired by losing a hard drive full of music, its surprisingly cheerful.

South of the River” ‘brings out the boogie’ with a real disco feel, packed with deep lying basslines and accentuated with violins that serve as the icing on the cake – something that in theory shouldn’t work but in reality it does. While there’s nothing disco about South London, Misch does a great job of saluting his hometown.

For how upbeat the album is from the offset and seems to be holistically, it isn’t without it’s slower jams. Take “Movie” for example. It’s eased into from the previous track with a little love story monologue and it then captivates with those trademark guitar inflections set against the soulful vocals from Misch. It also happens to be a family affair with Tom’s own sister, Polly Misch, adding to the blissful atmosphere it creates. Of all the downtempo tracks, probably one of the most powerful.

Another slow song that is worth notable mention is “You’re On My Mind” which for me evokes a warm fuzzy feeling in my core. Acoustic guitars are the perfect accompaniment for Misch’s take on a sweet serenade this time and gives off the perfect summer evenings kind of vibe.

As talented as Tom is and as eccentric the sounds laden on the album may be, it is the features on Geography that really elevate it and make it worth the listen. One being an unlikely pairing of Tom and legendary US Hip-Hop super group De La Soul on “It Runs Through Me”.

A heavily jazz inspired cut, driven by the electric and bass guitars and topped off with bright piano chords. Simple yet soulful and uplifting, the mood transports you to the late night jazz lounges. Props also to De La Soul who definitely make the song extra special, riding the beat bar for bar, making for a poised rap verse.TomMisch2

A couple tracks later, we are treated to hip-thruster that is “Disco Yes” with Poppy Ajuda. It’s undeniable by now that Tom loves his guitars & basslines. With some funky riffs and increased tempo from the previous tracks added to the mix, Poppy Ajudha’s guest vocals merged with Tom’s, it makes for one of the most impressive on the entire record.

For what it’s worth, “Water Baby” I believe is the best track on the album. Tom Misch enlists his fellow South Londoner Loyle Carner in this melting pot of groovy jazz, soul and hip-hop mixture. It’s signature Tom Misch’s style, blending hip-hop beats and soulful melodies, producing an eargasm that finds its place somewhere between passionate head-nodding and casual, easy listening.

Cos I Love You” serves as the penultimate track and rounds off the Disco bug that Tom evidently caught when making this album as he merges old styles with the new. It’s a mashup, of sorts, with samples and a borrowed chorus tightly wound together to form the most beautifully orchestrated dancing track I’ve heard in a while.

For an album that expertly executes a plethora of different vibes, it does suffer from what I deem as occasional ‘fillers’. While I can acknowledge that “Isn’t She Lovely” – Misch’s take on the Stevie Wonder classic – & “Tick Tock” serve more in the capacity of interlude, they don’t really add much to the flavour and texture of the album.

Having said that,” We’ve Come So Far” is a reasonable way to conclude proceedings as the experimental sounds of Tom’s repertoire progressively build on the track, each layer contributing to the eventual crescendo before fizzling out.
Despite critique, fans can be happy that we now have a full length project from the young singer/beat-maker that they can really stick their teeth into. It covers multiple bases; spanning different vibes and genres means there is something in there for most people. While there isn’t a flowing storyline or explicit theme per say, this can double up also as a portfolio, showing off Tom’s capabilities and emphasising his credibility as a top producer. He can only go from strength to strength from here.