2015 Year In Music – Part 1
Without a doubt, 2015 has been one of the best years for music that I like in a long time. Kendrick Lamar has astounded the entire nation and even delivered theme music to the #BlackLivesMatter movement with his inspirational track “Alright”. Taylor Swift has, well, dominated the pop charts and captured the hearts of millions. Drake has meme’d his way into further stardom with his “Hotline Bling”. Kanye blasted Beck on stage at the Grammy’s only to later on in the year announce his bid for presidency…in 2020. Justin Beiber returned only to be outdone by leaps and bounds by the timeless voice of Adele and her record breaking album 25. With that said, there were a lot of surprises in a year that didn’t deliver on some big promises like releases from Kanye, Frank Ocean, Rihanna, and certainly more. Not only was I satisfied with releases made by established artists but I discovered quite a few new artists that I hadn’t heard of that quickly became favorites.
As for myself, I’ve tended to avoid buy many of the more popular albums of the year. Instead, I’ve my own eclectic taste and of that I’d like to share with you. Of course, it is hard to hear and comment on everything the music world has to offer so I’ve limited myself to albums that I’ve bought and acquired rather than what I’ve streamed. Let’s take a trip, if you will, through music that have made quite the impression on my playlists in the past year!
Logic – The Incredible True Story
All year, I scanned hip hop magazine refer to Logic as one of those ‘next big thing’ emcees. Of course, I never heard any of his songs on the radio, but once I took the plunge into this album, I quickly vaulted him up my list of favorite artists. Songs like “Fade Away”, “Like Woah”, “Innermission” (a beautifully crafted personal track), and “Young Jesus” (an ill sounding 90’s-style jam) are great examples of this album’s exceptional sound.
Billed as a sci-fi concept album, Logic still uses this album to distance himself from the crowd as a man who is loving life and confident in his undeniable skill both as an emcee and a producer.
Lana Del Rey – Honeymoon
Thank you, Lana. A majority of this album takes me back to the debut album that made me fall in love with her voice and style. I loathed the sound of Ultraviolence and somehow this album more than makes up for the departure from what I came to expect from her.
As you’ll probably hear me say time and time again, I love songs that have a haunting mood about them. Her music is often dark, desperate, coarse, and awkward in a good way. Her debut led to a TON of great electronica or house remixes and I think this one will as well.
Judith Hill – Back In Time
Ok y’all. You know me. I jump anytime I see Prince or Prince related music. Back in the day, I lost it when the Prince assisted release Superconductor by Andy Allo dropped. I was thrilled by the results then just as I was earlier this year with Judith Hill’s debut album.
Back in March, this one time backup singer for Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder released this album to the masses FOR FREE for a week. Her voice is classically soulful like listening to Chaka Khan or Prince’s one time protégé Rosie Gaines. The Purple Army knows what I’m talmbout. Bluesy and funky are the theme. Without a doubt, Hill’s voice gets the job done.
Janet Jackson – Unbreakable
Janet’s reunion with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis was highly anticipated of course. As a fan, I so wanted this album to dominate the charts as Janet once used to do. Not just one song, but with like half the album both charting and dominating the radio airwaves. Alas, I suppose it was not meant to be.
Still, the finished product of this album does have shades of albums like Janet and Velvet Rope. While that is the case, I couldn’t help but feel like this was another 90’s album. That is great for the fans longing for that sound but doubtful to capture the imagination of da youngins in my opinion. With that said, there are few songs I’d skip past when listening to this album. It is certainly lightyears better than 2008’s Discipline album. Still, I don’t think there were any ‘quiet storm’ nominees worthy of joining the likes of her past slow jam classics.
Jill Scott – Woman
More classic Jilly. “Fools Good” is yet another timeless classic song from her. Do your soul a favor and just buy it! ‘Nuff said.
Eagles of Death Metal – Zipper Down
Hello…my name is Bunneh3000 and I’m a Josh Homme addict!
Eagles of Death Metal are another Homme collaboration with other excellent musicians such as Jesse Hughes. Now as I previewed the album, Josh’s signature guitar riffs are found throughout. For most, that would be enough. Still, I think I desired more of his lead vocals as well while listening to this album. In my mind, I’d roll this album up as a danceable rock music album as the majority of the songs seem like something you’d hear in a sequel to Tarantino’s “Death Proof”. Still, I did manage to latch onto tracks like “Oh Girl” and “Save A Prayer”.
Lianne La Havas – Blood
This British beauty’s debut album as a whole didn’t blow me away except for one song (“Don’t Wake Me Up”) which forever kept her on my radar. With her sophomore release, I hoped for much more and got it plus some. While it isn’t my fav of the year, I was pleasantly satisfied. “Grow”, “Ghost”, and “Midnight” are some personal standouts for a voice that once heard is quite distinctive. I’m not sure why but this album seems to show off her guitar skills a bit moreso than the previous. Maybe it is just me or maybe the riffs on this one are a bit more memorable…
Major Lazer – Lean On + Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do
I’m still wrapping my head around the amazing dance music this group puts out. The big time hit song “Lean On” that is featured on the Nexus 5X commercial and is probably the #1 electronica/dance song of the year around the globe. Turned down by the likes of Rihanna and Nikki Minaj, this song has managed to vault the group higher than anything else in their catalogue. Over 960 million Youtube viewers agree!
Teedra Moses – Cognac & Conversation
I love Teedra’s voice and have made a point to buy anything she puts out regardless if I like it or not. After deeming her debut an R&B classic, I’ve ‘liked’ but not ‘loved’ her releases… until now. Yes, I know it is odd to hear that considering this is her sophomore album but it today’s musical landscape, we all know that artists release mixtapes and EPs. Cognac & Conversation has just the right spices and herbs to soothe that sexy and soulful itch I’ve had for her music for some time. Songs like the Camp Lo-esque “All I Ever Wanted”, “Get It Right”, the supremely sexy “Only U” and “Beautiful Chaos” cement Teedra as the songstress we all should know and celebrate.
Love this album.
Metric – Pagans In Vegas
I first fell in love with Metric upon hearing Brie Larson’s hypnotic voice on the song “Black Sheep” during the Scott Pilgrim vs. The World movie. The song was a high point of the movie and instantly vaulted the group into my radar. Deemed Canadian synthpop, Metric has steadily churned out albums that I’ve craved with a unique sound that has managed to win Juno Awards with regularity and I’m predicting yet another with this release.
Without a doubt, I feel like this is the best overall effort by the group. They have a wide ranging pop sound that is alluring and oftentimes haunting which is a welcome mood for my playlists. Songs like “Too Bad, So Sad”, “The Governess”, and “Lie Lie Lie” push that synth to the max.
Black Violin – Stereotypes
After hearing an interview and a few teaser tracks on NPR one morning during my work commute, I quickly purchased this album. Their creative mix of classical violin with modern music won me over in a way similar to listening to Marcus Miller’s 90’s jazz album “Tales”. While I ultimately didn’t fall in love with the entire album, tracks like “Stereotypes”, “Runnin'”, “Send Me A Sign” ft. Melanie Fiona and Black Thought (The Roots), and “Invisible” ft. Pharoahe Monch are standouts that could easily fit into any of my soul or even hip hop playlists.
Prince – Hitnrun Phase One
As a true funk soldier, I find myself as a bit overly critical of Prince’s releases considering the amazing catalogue of his. As a clear collaboration with Joshua Welton (husband of drummer Hanna from Prince’s rock outfit 3RDEYEGIRL.
Listening to this album is clearly an exercise of witnessing Prince reinvent his ‘hip’ side for danceable club music today. Welton’s dubstep and electronica influenced music coupled with Prince laced bass and electric guitar work clearly gel pretty well. The result is very loud, very, ‘modern’, and yet very ‘purple’ if you know what I mean. Tracks like “Hardrocklover” and “This Could B Us” have that Welton modern synth/bass coupled with Prince’s funky bass or wailing guitar solos exhibiting that the two clearly have an impressive chemistry in the studio. The radio friendly single “1000 X’S & O’S” is also proof that he can still rock the Billboard charts.
While I’ve yet to listen to Phase Two (which was also released this year), my funk antenna feels that the Funk is strong with this one as well.
The Internet – Ego Death
Legendary slow jams are hard to come by when it comes to my wife. One night while listening to the radio, we both swooned over the undeniable energy of The Internet’s song “Girl”. Syd The Kid and the crew expertly conjures the sound of another favorite group of ours J*Davey and their groove “No More”. Honestly, when I first heard the song, I thought that the 90’s group Total had finally gotten back together and somehow acquired an ill band to do new music with! (oops)
Once we finally got the song off of repeat and dedicated ourselves to hearing more from this sextet of funky and smooth musicians, we quickly deemed them favorites as well. Another slow jam “Special Affair” also made our timeless slow jam playlist as well as secured their place as a ‘buy-whatever-they-make’ group for us. Ego Death is filled with great songs that made it my second biggest surprise of the year.
In part II I’ll go over another great batch of music and look forward to some highly anticipated albums that are expected to drop this year as well.