As I was leaving town Monday for a few days of R&R up in the San Juans, I was caught up in several sites best of the year (so far) lists. Most of them held the same things, which always bugs me about such lists. On one hand perhaps the homogeneous nature of them means that they really are the best of the best this year. Or maybe it’s because it’s only June and the amount of music out hasn’t sprawled quite yet. Or maybe some are just lazy and stuck on the same hype generating sites as the rest of the world.
I’m still playing Frank Ocean’s Nostalgia/Ultra. and plan to for quite some time. It’s a great pop album from a singer who seems to be having fun with his voice, his sound and his opportunities, while not as menacing has his counterparts of the LA based Odd Future collective, it’s nice to know they do have a softer side. Shabazz is another one that will probably be popping up on lists such as this, released a bit too late for consideration right now though. We will be speaking on it in depth around here next week. I’ve been working to comprehend it all and that is enough to merit a mention.
Electronic music has been an ever growing focus of mine for half a decade now. So far I’ve heard a few stellar projects that should not be forgotten about. Africa Hitech creators Steve Spacek and Mark Pritchard both have reps that I haven’t dug into much deeper than a few songs, but with their debut project on Warp, 93 Million Miles, it’s like they have traversed the universe that many miles and more looking for every possible sound they could distill into something beautiful. It’s a wild ride that won’t let you go easily.
Young Montana? has created some flashingly bright instrumental beat concoctions. You will dance while you cook to it. You will smile. And your mom will ask you to turn it off. His production keeps me thinking about the Bay based duo Main Attrakionz. Not that they are rapping over anything like what Young does but their is an exuberance in both records that can only be captured by the age of their creators: 20. While I’m stuck thinking that Tyler will be better in a decade, these kids here seem to have found a voice and lane inhabitable today.
Youth has been a big factor in this years music, one twenty year old who deserves more recognition would be Austin Peralta. He of the Brainfeeder crew dropped Endless Planets to what felt like endless lack of praise. It’s true the pianist did deliver a solidly astral jazz album most on the Brainfeeder fan wagon aren’t used to, yet it really is a logical progression if you’ve watched what label head Flying Lotus has been up to over the years, merging electronics and jazz in a seamless way.
In another part of LA you got Leimert Park alien Co$$ serving up tremendous rap for us west coast based heads to rally around. I’ve only just begun sinking my ears into his debut Before I Awoke, but his Revelations project from late last year still gets enjoyable listens and the initial impressions of the new seem to hint at a similar taste. And then there are the teenagers of LA’s Overdoz, who probably chose the wrong year to emerge from the City of Angels. With nothing in common but age with the OF camp they will probably forever be overlooked. If not you will get a hint of what is on teenagers minds circa 2011. Sex. Drugs. Sex. Not that teenagers of any other generation didn’t get stuck on the same.
High off that California good, float back North to SF representers The Jealous Guys with their Love Tape full of dense verbiage and production that is across the board diverse and twisted. It’s like nothing I’ve heard from the city. Nor is their content like that of any of the other cats their age delivering music for you to hear.
That idea of making original music can get lost on people, but if you are stuck on an island 2,281 miles from the country that governs you, you might make some different shit too. Welcome to Fortilive. Featuring production from a name you might know in Illmind, he linked with Mushmouf and Slo-Mo to create their album I vs. I. It’s simply one of the freshest, dopest, hottest hiphop albums to come out in ages. All the beats knock with urgency and emotion. Mush and Slo rap great and you can’t help but be caught up in the music, forgetting about everything else.
Sounds and styles travel in interesting patterns. While for the last decade the south has been known for ignorance and held up as the reason “hiphop died” those that know, knew that their has been and always will be more depth where the Confederate flag flies.
KeithCharles is my personal bandcamp discovery of the year. Hailing from Atlanta, you won’t find much to bounce with but you will be entertained and seduced into a head nod. You can read more here. From the A it’s just under 200 miles to Huntsville, a current hotbed of activity and home to G-Side. If you missed Spaceships and Rocketz or Huntsville International, get The One… Cohesive and you will want to go back. Released on the first of the year and still the best project I’ve heard in 2011. They have a second album on deck for the fourth quarter. These guys aren’t a force to ignore.
While rappers channel the sounds of many soulful artists, few artists today capture the spirit of James Brown. Charles Bradley has been and will continue to be compared to the godfather and rightfully so. His music, handled by the Menahan Street Band, is so on point you will think you traveled back in time. Vocally Bradley has a sweet and smooth croon you just have to smile with and enjoy. Soul music comes in all shapes and sizes. Up here in Seattle we had an album sneak out in February from The Good Sin and 10.4Rog – Joe wrote a great review here. I can’t say much more, Late is an awesome record that shows Rog making music that can heal and Sin dropping deep thoughts your mind will want to unravel and journey with.
From here it’s an open ballgame. I’ve listened to all the aforementioned albums regularly and plan to keep them in rotation for the foreseeable future. But of course there are new jawns dropping and I’m only just now blessing my ears with the magic they hold. Ace Rock has me remembering what I loved about him in High School with the Hail Mary Mallon project, Black Milk is making me reconsider the shit I’ve talked about Guilty Simpson via their Random Axe project with Sean Price. Killer Mike is keeping me politically minded with Pl3dge. Kode9 & the Spaceape have me wanting to journey to the Black Sun.
Sounds abound. It’s a feeling. 2011 is home to some terrific tunes. Stay tuned and keep looking deeper.