The best album, the best SU bangers and my current jams - time to update yourself in all things music.
The start of 2016 was a busy one, sadly it was one filled with mourning. Fresh out of a December that was rocked by Motorhead metal-god Lemmy's death, we were all faced with another disastrous affair that no-one really expected - the death of rock legend and musical chameleon David Bowie. As is typical of the Brixton Boy, he has produced yet another wonderful, highly experimental and contemporary album that has some killer songs.
Still rocking on, still definitively Bowie.
The opening title track is certainly theatrical, a ten minute concoction of heterogeneous jazz and electronica: the quintessential jazztronica opera. 'Blackstar's eerie lyrical sci-fi basis recounts Bowie's Berlin era, a theme the accompanying video exhibits.
Originally written for an eponymous off-Broadway production revisiting the character Thomas Newton 30 years after The Man Who Fell to Earth (the film adaptation Bowie starred in), the finest track off the LP is 'Lazarus', which addresses themes of mortality that are particularly poignant since his death: a condensation of the human narrative, birth, death, into a single song and - like the Biblical parable of Lazarus - death pervades in life, as life pervades in death.
Bowie was outspoken of his influences behind the scenes: Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly and the Death Grips discography in particular. The hip-hop percussion of them both are prominent for sure, but his experimentation evokes Tom Waits and Kid A era Radiohead, especially given the experimental mix of jazz and electronica to form a near theatrical, operatic LP. It's so refreshing to hear Bowie still tackling and testing the limits of pop-music even to his dying day. Not all of it is great - I noticeably sighed when I heard 'Sue (Or In a Season of Crime)', it is pretty awful at points. Regardless, it still maintains the general concept of the album.
It's quite clear what this album is: a carnival, a swampy N'Orleans RnB celebration paraded across the world, a musical funeral procession as Bowie ascends to immortal greatness in the annals of rock history. Bowie quite literally sang the opera of his own death, an epitaph of sorts. He invited us all to join in his passing, and we did. What a fucking amazing send off.
Yeah it is, you soppy, beautiful, godly bastard.
Standout Tracks: Lazarus, Dollar Days, Blackstar
MACKLEMORE & RYAN LEWIS (ft. JAMILA WOODS)
Who'd have thought it would take a white rapper to elevate the cultural relevance of the Black Lives Matter debate? It's pure rap, quite avant-garde in many senses: it combines interviews, TV feeds, radio, a collage of different voices, all to a piano and bass backdrop. It's superb. A rap epic to stand alongside Eminem's 'Stan'.
If Starbucks ever commissioned white-girl indie anthems it would be these two tunes, the standouts from Spanish girl group Hinds' debut album Leave Me Alone. Their cute lyrics (the use of Spanglish in particular) combined with neat garage indie is great fun even after repeated listening. Great singalongs that would be awesome for any house party.
Building on the rock/hip-hop dynamism of Miguel's Wildheart and the jazz and lyricism of Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly. It works and it's so catchy: the riffs are funky and it makes for a smooth fusion. Not only can the man rap, he can damn well sing too. Definitely the highlight of his album Malibu.
Pure Tropical House - undoubtedly the genre of 2016. Repeated refrains, repeated choruses, repeated funky riffs - easy dancing, good times.
The electro dance vibe is palpable and intense - not heart-warming per se, the synth is dark and the beats edgy - but it'll be played loud'n'proud in the bowels of SU hell.
Coasts also get on the Tropical House train but redefine it by crossing over into Bastille territory indie rock. Screams 'Indie Night' - oh yes.
SNAKEHIPS (ft. Tinashe, Chance the Rapper)
I know this is from October, but it's firmly cementing a place in my heart as a guilty pleasure. A singalong that perfectly describes a typical night out.
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