2016 was a year of amazing music! These are WSOE’s choices for the best albums of 2016! Listen to our “Best of 2016” playlist on Spotify.
Meet the Critics Reviewing This Year’s Albums!
David Scheckel is a political science and criminal justice major that does not attend Elon University. However, he is a frequent guest on the air and these were his favorite releases of the year.
Jake is majoring in Recording Arts and is planning on being an audio engineer. He loves to share music he finds interesting with friends.
Katherine is a junior marketing major at Elon. Music has always been an integral part of her life and she loves exploring all different genres of music. Katherine loves exchanging playlists with friends and hopes you enjoy her list!
Kyle Dobbs is a Elon sophomore from New York. Kyle is a cinema and television major with a minor in creative writing.
Myra Johnson is a sophomore at Elon University majoring in Strategic Communications and Journalism with a minor in Professional Writing Studies. She spends the majority of her time seeking out new artists and finding rides to concerts. You can find her show, Late Night Laud, Wednesdays at 11-12 p.m.
Patrick is a Journalism student who hopes to work in music journalism. He loves recommending new music to anyone interested.
Thomas Coogan is a Sophomore at Elon University and the Music Director here at WSOE. As Music Director he’s listened to more music than ever before in 2016. Iceage and Father John Misty were his last two albums of the year and you can check below to find out what his favorites this year were!
Zaria is a current junior at Elon majoring in Anthropology. Her dad is a musician so she has grown up surrounded by music. Her favorite songs are those that she can dance to and make her smile. She loves honest and sincere music. She hopes you enjoy her list!
#1. Human Performance by Parquet Courts
The dirty streets of New York have never been encompassed in such a way. The Savage brothers of Parquet Courts have been working in the city for the majority of their careers and it seems that they have gotten it down to a science with “Human Performance.” They have found a unique sound for this album that combines their previous droning, dissonant punk rock including pensive, questioning lyrics but have also captured many aspects of earlier music in the golden days of New York in the 1960’s and 70’s reflecting the Velvet Underground, Blondie, The Talking Heads, Televison and many more. Listening all the way through, this album gives you a sense of new York’s size and enigma from tracks such as “I Was Just Here” and the single “Dust.” The track “One Man No City” begins with a catchy drum and guitar texture that is reminiscent of the Talking Heads’s “Remain In Light” album, but stresses the New York City mentality of being alone and without a city, yet belonging to one of the largest cities in the world. Parquet Courts’s “Human Performance” is one of the best portrayals of the modern world and it’s velocities and complications, and hopefully will be remembered throughout the years as a true piece of commentary art along with the greats. – Jake
Recommended if you like: Ought, Preoccupations, Talking Heads
Listen to: “Human Performance”
#2. Blackstar by David Bowie
Anyone who thinks the praise for “Blackstar” simply derives from Bowie’s passing has not listened to this album. David Bowie’s death is the core of this album and there is truly no other piece of art like it. Given that the album was released on a Friday and he died on a Sunday there was not a lot of time to really listen to and analyze “Blackstar” without the context of his declining health. The first thing I did when I heard the news was put on this album and it was astounding how much of it became so clear, so quickly. It was the most visceral experience I’ve had listening to an album. It was a reflection on his life, his career, and his inevitable demise. Hearing someone talking about their death and portraying themselves in the afterlife moments after reading about them dying was unbelievably powerful, so much so that I was crying during “Lazarus” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away.”
For how beautiful “Blackstar” is, it is also quite nightmarish. The title track is tortured and eery throughout its many movements and the perfect way to start the album. Bowie embraces the frailty of his voice and uses it to make his vocal delivery fit the uneasy instrumental tremendously. What is perhaps the most surreal and disturbing moment on the album is on “Girl Loves Me” when Bowie questions “Where the f*ck did the Monday go?” after dying on a Sunday.
While realizations like these are incredible, they are not the only thing that make this album stand out. One of the biggest takeaways is how superb his backing band is. The drumming on “‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore” is unrelenting and the saxophone line is stunning. Reportedly drawing influence from Kendrick Lamar and Death Grips in the studio, the instrumental compositions of these tracks make this album worth listening to, even if the vocals were removed.
David Bowie was an icon and the fact that he was able to take such a level of agency with his death and use it as the crux of his final work is remarkable and makes “Blackstar” one of the most unique pieces of art ever created. – Thomas
Recommended if you like: Scott Walker, Nick Cave, Lou Reed
Listen to: “Blackstar”
#3. Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper
Chance the Rapper’s album “Coloring Book”, featuring a plethora of artists such as Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber, seamlessly brings together rap, hip hop and R&B in a soulful blend. The song “All We Got,” featuring Kanye West and the Chicago Children’s Choir, has an upbeat, hypnotizing melody, with a powerful message of, “music is all we got.” While Juke Jam, featuring Justin Bieber and Towkio, is a bit cheesy and a cookie-cutter pop song, it is undeniably catchy. Listen to “Coloring Book” as the perfect soundtrack for a kickback with friends. -Zaria and incoming Elon freshman Aleeza
Recommended if you like: The Weeknd, Childish Gambino, Kanye West
Listen to: “Same Drugs”
#4. Next Thing by Frankie Cosmos
Greta Kline, better known as her stage name “Frankie Cosmos” released her second studio album “Next Thing” in April 2016. Although the album itself is short with a run time of only 28:28, Kline doesn’t disappoint in the content. The album starts with “Floated In” a fun loose track that sets a carefree tone for the listener. Most notable on the album is “Fool” where Kline sings “ I thought we could eat bread, I thought we could talk.” Sometimes her lyrics are hard to make sense of, but that’s the beauty of it. It keeps the album personal to her but also up for interpretation to the listener. Another great song is track number 10 “Sinister,” about Kline’s darker or more “sinister” sides. She sings, “Sometimes I feel Sinister, can’t always be like Arthur.” The simple comparison to the famous cartoon aardvark is relevant and relatable to the listener, while keeping a poetic vibe to the song.
If the opportunity presents itself seeing Frankie Cosmos live is a must. The band has a great chemistry on stage, and seeing Kline sing live is amazing. Especially on tracks like “Outside with the Cuties” where Kline takes long pauses or a conversational tone in the song, for example when she says, “I haven’t written this part yet, will you help me write it?”
Check out “Next Thing” for a chance to take a peak into the beautifully poetic words of Greta Kline. – Katherine
Recommended if you like: Porches, Adult mom, Waxahatchee
Listen to: “Fool”
#5. Teens of Denial by Car Seat Headrest
“Teens of Denial” is, in some sense, Will Toledo’s first real album released on Matador. It follows 2015’s “Teens of Style”, a compilation of songs from Toledo’s whopping 11 albums released before signing to a label. Style was widely praised, and perhaps it is no surprise. After all, it was a collection of all of Toledo’s best tracks, but recorded with better instrumentation and production. It was an easy gamble of a freshman effort.
But “Teens of Denial” is a different story. Here, Toledo brings us 70 minutes of (almost) all-new music, and it’s even better than his 2015 album. Denial is Toledo’s announcement to the indie rock world that he is a force to be reckoned with. He has graduated from lo-fi recordings focusing on poetry to arena rock instrumentation without compromising on the words.
“Teens of Denial” is an album about anxiety, depression and being in your 20s. Of course, it isn’t like this type of album has never been released in the past, but Car Seat Headrest manage to stand out. Denial is up with the best rock albums of the year not only because of its lyrical content, but also because of how damn fun it is to listen to. There is not a single song here that is missing a memorable moment and almost all of them will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
Toledo has assured us that he is quickly improving as a songwriter. Denial will be playing in the car stereos of 20 year olds everywhere for years to come. The special thing about it is that it will always be relevant – Toledo’s stories touch on what it is to be human. – Patrick
Recommended if you like: Mitski, Frankie Cosmos, The Microphones
Listen to: “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”
#6. A Seat at the Table by Solange
Solange’s new album has been much-anticipated considering her last release was an EP in 2012, but the four year gap has clearly paid off for fans in a major way because of the richness and maturity that ‘A Seat at the Table’ brings. Knowles’ sister may be the current queen of pop, but what some may not realize is that Solange and Bey aren’t at all running the same race. Songs like ’Rise’ and ‘Weary’ with their smooth flowing jazz elements paint Solange as a new generation’s answer to Erykah Badu. Elsewhere, the single ‘Cranes in the Sky’ with its gentle harpsichord plucking and multitracked harmonies evokes the earlier works of Bjork. A song like ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ has quickly become a black power anthem, which is something that has been needed greatly within the sociopolitical air of our current times. Beyonce is the artist we love, Solange is proving to be the artist we need. – Kyle
Recommended if you like: Frank Ocean, Nao, Erykah Badu
Listen to: “Cranes in the Sky”
#7. Kevin Morby – Singing Saw
With his 3rd album, Kevin Morby has solidified himself as one of the best singer/songwriter acts of the decade. He wears his folk-rock roots on his sleeve and on “Singing Saw” he refines them to near perfection. In the past, Morby had relied on his forefathers, namely Leonard Cohen, far too often. He’s seemed to establish his own unique sound on this new project.
Above all, Singing Saw is a peaceful album that has such a relaxing atmosphere. Despite that, there are still some upbeat moments on the album like the chorus on the title track and the entirety of ‘Dorothy’. The latter is my personal favorite song of the year. During this track, Morby takes a more straight-forward indie rock approach and creates an emotionally powerful song which elevates the whole album to another level. Another standout track is the first track, ‘Cut Me Down’. Listening to it for the first time was one of my favorite music experiences of the year, as it immediately transported me to Morby’s musical atmosphere. An atmosphere that is layered with the sounds of nature and the soft croon of Kevin’s voice.
When the sounds of the final track, ‘Water’, come to a close, many of the themes of the album begin crystallize in the listener’s mind. Morby uses every-man lyrics to create layers of metaphors relating to his artistic troubles as a musician. Despite this idea not being clearly explained through the lyrics, the audience feels the emotional impact completely. – David
Recommended if you like: Woods, Leonard Cohen
Listen to: “Dorothy”
#8. Nonagon Infinity by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard is one of the hardest working bands out there. From releasing an impressive amount of content to conquering concepts like audiobooks, concept albums, long players with 4 songs lasting 10 minutes a piece and many more. Nonagon Infinity would be one of their most accessible works. Stu Mackenzie’s voice is heard clearly over 7/4 time fast paced drumming and foreign sounding guitar riffs. Though this may sound complex, it is actually one of the simplest things the 7 piece has done. Many of the songs were recorded and produced on the road, even though the sound doesn’t stop throughout the MP3 version of the album. King Gizzard is truly a band to watch out for in the future. Nonagon Infinity is an incredible work of art that they dedicated to their road crew, and I do not see them slowing down in the future. Who knows what they have in store. – Jake
Recommended if you like: Thee Oh Sees, Pond, The Murlocs
Listen to: “Gamma Knife”
#9. Blond(e) by Frank Ocean
Boys Don’t Cry
When Frank Ocean released “channel ORANGE” in 2012, we knew it was a big moment for contemporary R&B. He came through with a voice that was different. It was more honest and personal than anything else at the time and it soared over the album’s instrumentals effortlessly. And then we waited four years.
Frank teased us more than once over the potential release of the album, but the wait proved to be worth it. “Blond” is clearly the work of a perfectionist. The vocal performances are all flawless. The features are unconvential – artists like Beyoncé or Kendrick Lamar, who would normally take on a chorus or a verse, are practically indistinguishable from the atmosphere of the songs.
The songs are very different from ORANGE. The instrumentation is comparatively minimal, with only one instrument accompanying Frank for a large portion of the songs here. The recording of his voice is better too. It comes off as much warmer and fills the space of the recording more effectively, making it a great vessel for the heartbreaking stories Frank tells. Of course, these stories are what make the album undeniably Frank Ocean and are also an improvement over ORANGE. His stories are even more personal and affecting.
The only downsides of this album are some of the interludes – “Facebook Story” comes to mind – and the winding end. Each of the last four songs is top notch Frank Ocean, but they all seem to be closing tracks.
Still, Blond is a marker of growth for Frank. It promises that he is still maturing as an artist, and based on the level of control he appears to have had over the creative process, he knows exactly what he’s doing. It promises that whatever comes next from him will be high quality too. – Patrick Larsen
Recommended if you like: Solange, Blood Orange, D’Angelo
Listen: “Self Control”
#10. Sleep Cycle by Deakin
My Animal Home
“Sleep Cycle” is an album born from uncertainty. Deakin (Josh Dibb) rose to fame in the experimental neo-psych/pop band Animal Collective, but has only participated in one of the last three albums with the band. In his time off, he has been working on this album, but very slowly. The project’s Kickstarter was originally funded in 2009. Obviously, people were angry about the delay, but perhaps it’s a good thing – this album is incredible.
“Sleep Cycle” seems to have what the last two Animal Collective albums have been missing. It is a rather short album, but four of the six songs are at least six and a half minutes long, allowing Deakin to fill the album with cyclical repetition and variation. For the most part, this is done calmly. “Good House” and “Just Am” are subtly hymnal tracks that use their length to build to filled out apexes. “Footy” is frantic in comparison, driven by hectic drumming, but the energy of it does nothing to harm the flow of the album. It is separated from the rest of the tracklist by two short transition pieces that are mostly comprised of field recordings from Deakin’s time in Mali, a key point of inspiration for the record.
Despite its long development time, we cannot be disappointed in this effort from Deakin. It does so much that its 30 minute runtime feels more like 45, all without seeming dense. Sleep Cycle is remarkably well thought-out and put together. Deakin has got us all excited for his next album – whenever that may come. – Patrick
Recommended if you like: Animal Collective, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Tim Hecker
Listen to: “Golden Chords”
#11. A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead
Radiohead has built a reputation for being a ‘cold’ band in multiple senses. Whether it’s Thom Yorke’s unmistakable voice, their instrumentation or themes of anxiety, it seems to come through in some way or another on most of their music. The same is true for “A Moon Shaped Pool,” but something else is brought to the table here too. Thom Yorke gets more personal than ever.
Of course, most of the songs on this album have been played in some capacity at live shows in the past, giving us a selection of many songs we’ve already heard and know. But they all fit together so well. Yorke sings of his classic themes of alienation and anxiety, but also of lost love and an ending relationship. “True Love Waits” has never been more devastating than it is here. Daydreaming’s music video seems to be metaphor for Yorke’s relationship with his ex-partner – like Bowie’s death, this personal tragedy is essential to understanding the album.
Beyond how shockingly close Yorke allows us to get to him, this album also features incredible music. “Burn the Witch” is Radiohead’s first orchestra led track, giving Jonny Greenwood a bigger chance to shine than ever before. “Glass Eyes” is the most beautiful song Radiohead has ever recorded. “Daydreaming” is easily in the top 5 tracks of the year, telling as much of a story through its sound as its words. “True Love Waits” abandons the frantic acoustic guitar in live versions for a deconstructed piano duet that is out of this world – the recording is so personal that you can even hear the keys rubbing together.
What we have in the end is an album that finds balance unlike any other Radiohead album and indeed unlike any other album released this year. It is equal parts innovation and retrospective on their career. Most importantly, it shows us that the band has become newly comfortable in what they do, while still maintaining the adventurous quality that they are known for. – Patrick
Recommended if you like: Arcade Fire, The Flaming Lips, PJ Harvey
Listen t0: “Daydreaming”
#12. Malibu by Anderson .Paak
The ever so smooth .Paak is back with another one, and it is as clean as ever. With a gospel-like backing in “The Season”, a jazzy ScHoolboy Q in “Am I Wrong” and ending with the thought provoking “The Dreamer” with Talib and the Timan Family Choir, this album covers all the bases. Songs to fall asleep to, songs to bump to, songs that are undeniably, fire. The inspirational lyrics of the caboose of the album includes lyrics like “I’m a product of the tube and the free lunch” and “Don’t stop now, keep dreaming.” Coming from a tough home life in Oxnard, California, .Paak began producing music from his bedroom as a teen, and went on from there to produce “Venice” in 2014 and now “Malibu” in 2016, not to discount his few singles since. He is a dreamer with dreams that came true. He has been featured in tracks with producer, Kaytranada, as well as rapper Mac Miller and hip hop extraordinaire Domo Genesis, to name a few. Always bringing in a jazzy touch, .Paak’s inherent rhythm is undeniable, on tracks of his own and his features. Because this album has such a range of tunes, it’s hard to pick favorites. With the Malibu surf lines as interludes, this album keeps a strong continuity in a range of great tracks. I look forward to what .Paak does next. – Myra
Recommended if you like: Kaytranada, Knxledge, Solange
Listen to: “Parking Lot”
#13. Sirens by Nicolas Jaar
The sound of crackling piano keys and glass breaking is how “Sirens” introduces itself. While Nicolas Jaar has had longer songs before, “Killing Time,” clocking in at 11:14, is his most impressive and one of the most beautiful intros to an album this year. It features Jaar’s signature use of piano to establish the melody and as the track goes on it continues to layer itself. Falsetto vocals from Jaar, clanking and jangling percussion, and a choir, all filtered through various effects come together to form a powerfully poignant song-long crescendo. It’s one of Nicolas Jaar’s most complicated song structures to date and that busyness is found throughout the rest of the album.
The tempo switches dramatically on the following track, “The Governor,” as Jaar manifests a level of urgency that is unparalleled. “No” is a reflection of Jaar’s Chilean heritage, both lyrically and sonically. I often find it difficult to connect with songs in a foreign language, but there is something so irresistible about “No” that keeps me coming back more than any other track this year. Given how much of a change in style Jaar has gone through on “Sirens” compared to his earlier work, there are bound to be some fans turned off by the new direction. However, the growth and maturity shown on “Sirens” has solidified its place in Jaar’s catalogue and makes it one of the best albums electronic music has to offer this year. – Thomas Coogan
Recommended if you like: Tim Hecker, Nils Frahm, Andy Stott
Listen to: “No”
#14. Wildflower by The Avalanches
“Wildflower” had almost everything working against it when it was released. It’s only The Avalanches’ second album and it has a sixteen-year gap between it and their debut, “Since I Left You,” which many are already referring to as a classic album. Robbie Chater was ill and unable to produce music for three years and Darren Seltmann left the group. Guest musicians began to tease their contributions which started a swarm of hype back in 2011 and simultaneously worried a lot of die hard fans since it was seen as an abandonment their signature style. With all of the setbacks and complications, it would be surprising and commendable if “Wildflower” was decent. But, it turned out to be wonderful and worthy of the time spent crafting each second.
Many of my favorite musical moments of the year are from this album. When “Frankie Sinatra” was released as a single it was exciting and baffling. It was so different from anything they’d done before. It was full of surprises like unlisted features from Danny Brown and MF Doom and more recognizable samples than ever before like from “My Favorite Things.” It was a sensory overload and when the full album was released it was full of similar moments of amazement. The horns kicking in on “Because I’m Me,” the start of the synth melody on “Subways,” and the line “All the colours!” from the song “Colours” still generate that same giddiness felt on a first listen.
As for the guest contributions, many of them are better than the guest’s individual work. Toro Y Moi is transfixing on “If I Was A Folkstar,” Camp Lo are undeniable charismatic on “Because I’m Me” and no rapper could fit “The Noisy Eater” better than Biz Markie. None of them take away from who The Avalanches are, even when they provide a vocal lead for an entire song instead of the repeated samples found of “Since I Left You.” Everything about “Wildflower” is so engaging that transition tracks like “Going Home” and “Zap!” are some of the best in the tracklist. They’re so good that they can be enjoyed when listening to the album on shuffle when songs like those are skippable on almost any other record. I don’t know how they pulled it off but I’ll happily wait another sixteen years for another Avalanches album. – Thomas
Recommended if you like: Gorillaz, De La Soul, DJ Shadow
Listen to: “Subways”
#15. Everyone Else by Slothrust
Everyone Else is filled with thoughtful and witty tracks that come together that plays perfectly with the band’s duality of late jazz and grunge — only this time, they have seemingly matured. Though the lyrics are still clever and comical, it seems Leah Wellbaum’s rhetoric has become much more self aware.
When I went to their concert and I was very conflicted whether to buy the record with Wellbaum shredding her way through with sludgy riffs or 37 minutes of lyrical conceit packed with metaphors that will continue to surprise me. I had to choose the latter. Wellbaum’s voice seems deadpan, but proves to be powerful, melodic and rich. Her continuous sea creature-themed metaphor reaches it’s peak during “Horseshoe Crab”, when she sings, “Words make less sense to me these days / faces look flat and unfamiliar / do you want to rest forever? / underwater it gets better.”
Slothrust has matured to a stage in their career where they could have signed with a bigger record label like Rough Trade and could have been playing shows in larger venues, but instead they are looking to find their truest fan base. Overall, this album is difficult to compare with “Of Course You Do” in terms of quality, because they both are beautiful, but in terms of progress, they have matured quite an amazing amount. – Jake
Recommended if you like: Speedy Ortiz, Diarrhea Planet, Charly Bliss
Listen to: “Like a Child Hiding Behind Your Tombstone”
#16. The Life of Pablo by Kanye West
The album cover for ‘The Life of Pablo’ contains both a photo of West’s parents on their wedding day and the image of a woman with an extremely large ass. This juxtaposition sets the tone of the entire album as West focuses on themes of family, religion, decadence and celebrity. Tracks like ‘Famous’ or ‘No More Parties In LA’ touch on the positives and negatives of West’s fame, showing how he simultaneously loves to play the role of iconoclast, while resenting any baggage that comes with the gig. Conversely, songs like ‘Ultralight Beam’ or ‘Wolves’ show a different side of West, one that is concerned with the protection of his family and how he is viewed in the eyes of God. The different subject matters within the album also come with different tones of music. Songs like ‘Famous’, ‘Feedback’ and ‘Fade’ bring heavy, fast beats and distortion to create a party atmosphere while ‘Wolves’ and ‘Ultralight Beam’ are serious in tone and sparse in places. Much has been talked about concerning the delivery of this album with its extremely delayed release, continuous changes in production/ tracklisting, and the Pablo Picasso comparison that West himself draws up, but Kanye is more like Salvador Dali; surreal, visceral, and so larger than life it’s almost unbelievable. – Kyle
Recommended if you like: Schoolboy Q, Travi$ Scott
Listen to: “Ultralight Beam”
#17. Light Upon the Lake by Whitney
Indie rock band duo, Whitney, released their debut album “Light Upon the Lake” this year. The brief collection of songs is full of sweet, nostalgic, string instrument melodies. Their title song holds the classic high pitched singing the band is known for, juxtaposed with calming guitar. The song “No Woman” is reminiscent of a summers day, with its light and upbeat tune. Check out Light Upon the Lake for the perfect playlist for a road trip or beach day. – Zaria and incoming Elon freshman Aleeza
Recommended if you like: The Paper Kites, Blind Pilot
Listen to: “No Woman”
#18. Atrocity Exhibition by Danny Brown
Detroit native, Danny Brown debuted his first solo album back in 2010 with “The Hybrid” and sandwiched two more in between before his 2016’s “Atrocity Exhibition”. Brown’s somewhat shrill vocals layered over the varying production creates for captivating tracks. The now 35-year-old Brown has brought an old school mindset to hip-hop – play any beat and he’ll rap over it. His ability to make a track off of any beat is apparent with the work he has done with the production of Paul White, having him work on his past three albums. Starting with producing three tracks on Brown’s second album, “XXX” and now having 10 on “Atrocity Exhibition” the tracks do not blend. White’s diverse beats under Brown’s unique vocals create something new in every track. From a childhood background of lots of Dr. Seuss books, Brown found a love for rhyme early in life. And with a father working as a house disc jockey, there is no surprise that Brown decided early he wanted to be a rapper. “‘In kindergarten I’d say I wanted to be a rapper and people’d just laugh at me. ‘That’s a pretty funny job,’ they’d say,” Brown told the Detroit Metro Times back in ‘08. With only a few select features on the album, this is a pure and true Danny Brown creation. – Myra
Recommended if you like: Run The Jewels, Quelle Chris, Black Milk
Listen to: “Really Doe”
#19. We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service by A Tribe Called Quest
When I first listened through this album, I would get halfway into a song and think to myself “this track is my favorite.” Then I would get to the next one and decide, “no, this is the one.” ATCQ tells a story, addresses important issues, and in the process, creates substantive, bumpin’ tracks.The outro of “Dis Generation” has the simplest, catchy fade on this side of the Mississippi. The samples range from Elton John to the Oompa Loompa song. The album keeps you on your toes. As a whole, it is one of their slower albums, though the quicker tracks rely on simple beats and obscure samples. The first track, “Space Program” starts off with a sample of the speech from the 1974 film, “Willie Dynamite”, that references the police as “the heat”. The scene explains, at a meeting with a bunch of pimps in the area, that their best way to avoid the police is to not compete over the same areas and to essentially just stay out of each other’s way to avoid conflict (and the heat). The entire song works between two themes that come together as one: the Space Program. As Martin Luther King Jr. once criticized – the U.S. in the 60’s was spending plenty of money to put a man on the moon, but not raising a finger to help the African-American people. As said in a speech in 1967 to the SCLC “And I say to you today, that if our nation can spend… twenty billion dollars to put a man on the moon, it can spend billions of dollars to put God’s children on their own two feet right here on earth.” The song ties these themes together, repeating in the hook “There ain’t a space program for n*ggas”. With the first album in 18 years for the group, recorded right before the passing of Phife Dawg, this is the end of ATCQ for the foreseeable future, though Q-Tip told BBC they do not plan on stopping, just taking a different route. With a quarter of the group gone, it will be interesting to see what the three of them come up with. All extremely talented individuals, I am sure it will be great. – Myra
Recommended if you like: De La Soul, Souls of Mischief, Pharcyde
Listen to: “Dis Generation”
#20. Freetown Sound by Blood Orange
Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes doesn’t disappoint with his third studio album “Freetown Sound” released in June 2016. This album is a very personal view into Hynes’ life as it explores the ever-complicated world or race relations in America and his own experiences as a gay black man. The album is also chock-full of great features, primarily women vocalists. Most notable are “Best to You” featuring Empress Of’s Lorely Rodriguez and “Hadron Collider” featuring Nelly Furtado.
The album keeps a good pace as it goes from dreamy dialog based songs like “With Him” to more upbeat tracks like “E.V.P.” A similar transition takes place, as Hynes gets deep into feminism on the opening track “By Ourselves” as poet Ashlee Haze recites her poem “For Colored Girls” and then into the dance friendly “Augustine.”
Overall this dreamy and synth based album is yet another example of the brilliant range of talent Blood Orange has to offer. – Katherine
Listen to: “E.V.P.”
Recommended if you like: Frank Ocean, Solange or Perfume Genius
Happy New Year!
Watch our for each of our critic’s individual lists coming in January!
[Images courtesy of Bitmoji]