Musicandotherthingz Best Album of 2016

Our final and biggest category had a wide spread of votes for all the albums featured on it and this is testament to the closely matched level of excellence from all of our nominees on the long list. This meant a lot of them came close to reaching the top of the voting pile with Childish Gambino’s late addition, Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead, Blood Orange Paul Simon and Frank Ocean all getting close, but not as close as our top three who feature in descending order. 

3. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (11.11% of the vote)

As Q-Tip suggested, this will be the groups final album and was only recorded because of their anger and dismay at the world around them. Their sixth album was started in secret just after the Paris attacks and completed in November this year at the peak of this dismay. With a long list of collaborations and excellent, diverse production, they were able to produce an album as relevant as ever and a defiant shout of unity amongst a nation and a world that’s tearing itself apart. If that is their final album, it’s an album that will be rated as one of their best. 

2. Christine and the Queens – Chaleur Humaine (18.00%)

Since she’s featured so highly in almost every category she was placed in, you are probably very familiar with all the superlatives attributed to her. She is a magnificent performer, lyricist, vocalist and producer and throughout her debut album, there are no points of weakness. Each song is its own beacon to a particular set of thoughts, set to slick and ambitiously minimalist music or gracefully arranged pieces. The album is bursting with emotion and eccentricity in equal measure and this is perhaps key, for these two traits are often so divorced from each other, yet she winds them together with style and confidence. 

1. David Bowie – Blackstar (22.22%) 

Bowie left a terrifying and wondrous parting gift to the world with Blackstar. It was an album made up of complex fusions, melodies and rhythms as if the creation of a mad scientist of which Bowie must serve as the closest musical equivalent. What’s more intriguing about the album, and this is something not widely picked up on, but it’s his most personal album. Amidst the great characters and stylistic personas of that thread through Bowie’s career, his final album showed him to be just as vulnerable, scared and curious as the rest of us. Amongst all of the seemingly invincible and otherworldly alter-egos, Bowie playing the role of a mere human is perhaps the most powerful character of all. 

Owen Riddle 

Musicandotherthingz Best British Act of 2016

For British music, there has been a strong resurgence of legendary artists with Bowie, Radiohead and PJ Harvey all featuring in our list of nominees. Wild Beasts and Bat For Lashes further established themselves with solid albums and both came close to the top three along with Radiohead and their wistful and poignant album. They’re in the long list below and out top three follows them. 

3. The Coral (9.76% of the vote) 

The long standing Merseyside group returned with an accomplished reinvention for their seventh studio album Distance Inbetween. James and Ian Skelly kept it close to home, recording in Liverpool and put together their own brand of British psychedelia, with roots in the classic British psychedelic pioneers of the Sixties. They decided to keep their music close and tight around the traditional instrumentation, focusing their manipulated and wiry sounds instead of gradually fading them out in vast acres of space. They rightly received a great deal of credit for this.

2. Blood Orange (17.00%) 

Dev Hynes is already established as a talented and in demand producer so when he takes centre stage, you can expect some exciting and vibrant music and that’s exactly what he delivered as Blood Orange this year. The album Freetown Sound was a celebration of his own Sierra Leone heritage and a close look at the difference views of heritage between Black Britons and African Americans. Whilst understandably, there has been a lot of anger fuelled music in response to the dangers and controversy faced by African Americans, Hynes often took a more emotional and personal look at the events from his own point of view. From this, he channeled the tragedy of the situation with eloquent vocals, soft production and a fusion of Pop, Soul, Hip Hop and Funk. A masterful work which was astoundingly underrated.

1. David Bowie (54.00%)

Again, it is only fitting that Bowie towers over everyone else with a fifty year legacy as a cultural icon and a symbol of British creativity around the world. Blackstar was beautiful, terrifying and poignant and was a strong response to his comeback album The Next Day which wasn’t universally understood. He created dark, ethereal tones and fused conflicting instrumentation as he’s always done. He often generated alternative, complex melodies and hooks that were so obscure, it took a second or third listen to understand. When you did, the rewards were endless. His ominous lyrics reflected the music and the timing of the release, just days before his passing was eerily just like Bowie; an unpredictable superstar. 

Owen Riddle 

This Weeks Music Video with Blood Orange, The Shins, Pussy Riot, Wilco and Sleigh Bells

Blood Orange – Freetown Sound Review 


Dev Hynes doesn’t tend to shy away from voicing his opinion. During July 2015, he released Do You See My Skin Through The Flames? – an eleven minute track flooded with racial outcry. He presses a protectiveness over the black community in a non-aggressive, soulful way, so that even those who don’t relate to his grievances on a personal level will always feel some degree of empathy. Under the alias of Blood Orange, Hynes imposes a similar wavelength in his third studio album, Freetown Sound.

Despite the impression the world is moving forward, Freetown Sound couldn’t have surfaced at a more poignant time. It was released 28th June: 16 days after the tragic Orlando shootings, and just 5 days after Brexit sent shockwaves around the world, pitting ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ voters against each other. Not only does Blood Orange’s latest tracklist highlight the struggles for black people, but also resonates with a number of other inequalities and bouts. Hynes seems to have often directed the album rather than performed it, as artists such as Nelly Furtado (Hardon Collider) and Deborah Harry (E.V.P) relay the vocals, underscoring the universality of the tracks’ discussions. Freetown Sound is an incredibly apt name – not only does it reference Freetown, Sierra Leone, the hometown of Hynes’ father, it freely declares a variety of explicit opinions, as dialogs from the likes of Marlon Riggs in With Him and Ta-Nehisi Coates in Love Ya serve gut-wrenching insight on a silver platter. And despite the harrowing undercurrent, each song remains gentle. But You takes on an auspicious Michael Jackson quality, with breathy vocals and a rhythmic cyclical bass. Thank You feels like a suave riverside cafe with whimsical soul sponsoring choral lyrics and vocals. Despite the songs being quite beautiful, the stark antithesis of lyrics versus sound is almost uncomfortable. Something tells me that’s what Blood Orange wanted: to squeeze the empathy or guilt out of us in this unnerving way. Spiritually, the album is reflective of To Pimp A Butterfly, yet the sheer authenticity of it all took me aback completely. It’s almost an oxymoronic album: it offers giant messages that are delivered through smooth and introverted intricacies.

Each song on the album is more like a poem, with less intense background noise to focus largely on the message of the artist. The first song daintily bleeds into the next: it’s one big story. Best To You is the album’s soundest track, especially instrumentally. Though as understated as its neighbours, there is a jaunty energy rolling through the song. Lorely Rodriguez, i.e. Empress Of, sings with a spring in her step, yet as her voice strains, the listeners are conscious of an underlying hurt. Hands Up is a subtly enthusing track, with a wispy synth and shuffling drum segment, layered towards the end with a vying guitar hook. It concludes with a powerful chant of “don’t shoot”, and an extract from an interview with Chance the Rapper; the juggled positive and negative messages that weave throughout Freetown Sound reach their apex here.

Freetown Sound is perilously powerful. It renders a new issue in pretty much every track, interviewing the listener, interrogating us and confronting our views. It’s so inconspicuous yet massively evocative. It’s a work of art.

Blood Orange – Freetown Sound: 8.5/10

Eleanor Chivers 

This Week’s Music Video with Kendrick Lamar, MØ, Joanna Newsom, Will Butler, Blood Orange and Cage The Elephant

Single Review – Blood Orange – Sandra’s Smile

Devonte Hynes is back with the project that is Blood Orange amongst other things and this particular track of ‘Sandra’s Smile’, he delivers an important and crucially relevant message relating to the disturbing deaths of Sandra Bland and Treyvon Martin in a time of frustration in the United States. This is delivered in a different manner to Kendrick Lamar and Hynes’ chiming melodies and smooth vocals generate that sense of contemplation and reflection of the events happening in the United States and with that a clearer sense of tragedy.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

This Weeks Music Video with The Afghan Whigs, Jungle, Sharon Van Etten, Interpol and Blood Orange

The Afghan Whigs – Matamoros

 

Jungle – Time

 

Sharon Van Etten – Our Love

 

Interpol – All The Rage Back Home

 

Blood Orange feat Skepta – High Street

This Weeks Music Video with Jack White, Blood Orange, Electric Youth and Parquet Courts

Jack White – Lazaretto

Blood Orange – You’re Not Good Enough

Electric Youth – Innocence

Parquet Courts – Black and White

Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe Review

Blood Orange is the project of Devonte Hynes. Born in Houston and currently residing in New York. The project has reached it’s second album. The follow up to 2011′s Coastal Grooves is this years Cupid Deluxe which features additions from Sky Ferriera amongst others. He’s been associated with a very long and varied list of artists in recent years so brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Blood Orange’s second album. There is a real sense of a sleek retro feel and aura but channelled through a modern and carefully poised production which was evident in his first single from the album but whether this is maintained throughout will be key to the success of the record.

The second single taken from the album is ‘You’re Not Good Enough’ is filled with those heavy retro influences. This time it’s heavy on the 80′s pop era with a hint of soul with a 21st Century take upon it. The dilated synths open the song before the heavy groove and rhythm from the bass and the guitars move the song on. At times the song is actually quite bare. With only the whirring synths and the spaced out and echoed percussion. However, the dual echoed vocals fill the space with sound very effectively. These are more noticeable in moments when the percussion is taken away from this and the atmospheric quality takes hold. There is a general atmospheric and washed out feel portrayed throughout the song despite the shifts in the instrumental structure and when this is shone through the 80′s pop framework; it reveals a very happy compromise. ‘Time Will Tell’ has the archetypical 80’s drum beat sample that’s recorded a little out of focus and the droned and drawn out piano fills over the top of it. It certainly creates a smooth and slippy foundation to allow for Devonte’s equally fluid vocals to flow above it all. There is real sense of cheesy 80’s melody about it along with the lyrics and delivered in that Prince-like style. The atmospheric quality being created from the extra space born out of the echoed percussion and droned out synths that really set the song apart from the 80’s feel. There is perhaps a little less urgency compared to ‘You’re Not Good Enough’ but the vocal performance is more pronounced and effective with this track.

‘Chamakay’ opens with scattered and broken up percussion that in it’s various forms; creates an effective rhythm section for the song to work around. Dev’s soft yet depth filled vocal easily takes control the song and it’s slight echo along with the generic pop backing vocal does again whip up the atmospheric quality and exudes it’s own melody, but one that is less obvious. The bass trickles amongst the percussion for that added layer of depth. However, it is only used in small quantities which makes it more pronounced and highlights the build up and toning down of the music. You do have moments where you consider if it is all too much to take in, but his production and the manipulation of it puts the song in it’s own box so to speak. As a result of him thinking a little outside of it. It is by no means an immaculate album though. ‘No Right Thing’ seems to struggled to pitch the music together with the vocals and it just sounds a little too high in tone for it all. There is no great fluctuations in tone and feel either but tracks like ‘Always Let U Down’ shows that he has perfected the atmospheric and spaced out pop that has pride of place on every track.

Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe = 8/10

Images from www.goutemesdisques.com /www.nme.com

 

 

This Weeks Music Video – Anna Calvi, Rose Elinor Dougall, Blood Orange and Phoenix

This Weeks Music Video. From Anna Calvi with Suddenly, Rose Elinor Dougall with Future Vanishes, Blood Orange with Time Will Tell and Phoenix with Chloroform.