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 Monáe – Dirty Computer
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
After 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 – 6LACK
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
On 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 .Paak
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
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.