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Albums of the Decade

The 2010s will be remembered primarily for the dramatic and significant changes in our music consumption habits. Streaming became an unstoppable force as almost all music became readily available at the touch of a button, threatening to hurt many mid-sized or smaller acts due to paying a pittance for millions of streams. That being said, the vinyl revival highlighted that music lovers still desire to listen to full albums, and that very phenomena provided me with a job at a record store!

Genre-lines blurred, SoundCloud shaped many a career, the taste of the public and major publications shifted, and major artists have come and gone. Trendy contrarians threw away their noise tapes and garage rock vinyl to listen to supposedly “subversive” mainstream pop, hip hop and electronic dance music continues to excel and innovate, and gig tickets began to price many music lovers out of seeing their favourite acts perform.

The 2010s was the decade that I’ve listened to the most music from, though I’ve found it a largely disappointing era. This may seem like a negative start to an article, but that’s how I’ve felt about the decade overall. There’s been great records here and there, hence why I’ve written this piece to highlight the best from a patchy decade. Here you go!

25. Björk – ‘Vulnicura’

Björk pretty much soundtracked the entirety of my 2019, with albums such as ‘Homogenic’ and ‘Vespertine’ becoming firm favourites which are constantly on repeat. Her 2015 record ‘Vulnicura’ is an underrated gem that rivals ‘Post’ and ‘Debut’; though it’s not as diverse or innovative, the album excels as it works so well as a singular piece. Marrying the icy, crystalline electronics of ‘Homogenic’ with the raw sentimentality of ‘Vespertine’, ‘Vulnicura’ is heart wrenching art pop at its finest. Utilising a chamber orchestra, the melancholic strings mirror post-classical complexity and augment Björks inimitable vocals wondrously. The opener “Stonemilker” dissects stubborn discussions between partners, whilst the epic “Black Lake” (her longest song to date) shuns her former lover and father of her child. ‘Vulnicura’ is a tough listen, but its solemn beauty, incredible production from Arca, the intricate string arrangements from The Haxan Cloak, and her potent vocal performances make it one of Björk’s finest hours.

24. Cloud Nothings – ‘Attack On Memory’

Cloud Nothings released this beast early in the 2010s but have never been able to capture the same vigour and songwriting quality. A relentless mix of indie rock, post-hardcore, noise rock and emo, ‘Attack On Memory’ mixes melodic pop tracks with dense and heavier numbers to provide a tasty pick’n’mix of modern guitar sounds. I’m more of a fan of the tuneful songs here; “Cut You”, “Fall In” and “Stay Useless” have been played hundreds of times since I heard this record. Steve Albini produces the album, so expect dense drum sounds and raw immediacy.

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23. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – ‘Piñata’

I absolutely adored ‘Bandana’ from 2019, but this one’s been out six years so it’s had time to steep in our collective minds more. Touted as unlikely bedfellows, gangsta rapper Freddie Gibbs paired up with experimental hip hop producer Madlib for one of the most enjoyable and exciting collaborations of the decade. There’s something here for all the family; you’re blessed the jazzy, psychedelic beats of Mad which fall like candy on your ears, matched with the gritty, thorny misdemeanour rhymes of Gibbs. Would you look at those guest spots too! Seeing Danny Brown, Raekwon, Earl Sweatshirt and Scarface on the track list is unreal, it’s like a greatest hits of the finest MCs from the 90s plus the best of the new school. More crossovers like ‘Piñata’ in the 2020s please!

22. FKA twigs – ‘MAGDALENE’

The only record from last year to gain a spot on the list is UK art pop sensation FKA twigs’ ‘MAGDALENE’. I just know this one is going to get spun for years to come, I’ve probably listened to it around eight times already, and it was only released in November! Marrying post-dubstep instrumentals with graceful yet gripping vocals, ‘MAGDALENE’ is a truly gorgeous record of cinematic scope. I named this my Album of the Year for 2019, so catch me waxing lyrical about twigs’ best album to date here.

21. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘’Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’

Behind their magnificent debut album, ‘’Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!’ is my second favourite from the enigmatic post-rockers. It’s a sort of concoction of their first three albums; the apocalyptic atmosphere of ‘F♯A♯∞’, the gorgeous instrumentals of ‘Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven!’ and the drone rock of ‘Yanqui U.X.O.’. It’s just a monster of a record, all heavy walls of sound, whirring strings and crushing dynamics, all rounded off with an unshakable mood. The 2010s was an absolute shitstorm for politics across the globe; what better way to soundtrack it then a bunch of Canadian anarchists whose music influenced ‘28 Days Later’?

20. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – ‘Blood Lust’

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats’ ‘Blood Lust’ is slice of doomy retro rock that’s so brilliant that you forget just how much Sabbath worship is on show. They reveal their influences clearly on their sleeves but there’s enough variation here to keep things interesting thoroughout. As a huge fan of the Sab Four anyway, I couldn’t care less about originality as long as the music is banging. ‘Blood Lust’ is a Halloween horror tale set to the march of catchy doom riffs, acid-fried psychedelia and ominous vocals. Armed with the influence of The Beatles, Neil Young & Crazy Horse and Roky Erickson, and complete with an overarching occult atmosphere, ‘Blood Lust’ is leagues apart from all the other stoner rock of the decade.

19. Leon Vynehall – ‘Rojus (Designed To Dance)’

I’m going to start by saying this is my favourite house album of all-time. The UK producer and DJ Leon Vynehall really kicked things up a notch or two on ‘Rojus (Designed To Dance)’, a gorgeous deep house record with complex production, choppy rhythms and lush instrumentals. There’s an abundance of top-tier deep basslines, punchy drums, catchy melodies, and most importantly – it’s primed for the club dancefloor. ‘Rojus’ is perfect for those heady summer nights where the beers flowing and everyone’s in the mood to get their groove on and have a good time. It’s also perfect for home listening, as its intricate production draws from outside the house cannon to rival the complexities of any IDM record.

18. Kurt Vile – ‘b’lieve i’m goin down…’

The definition of a grower, Kurt Vile’s sixth record ‘b’lieve i’m goin down…’ remains hugely underappreciated compared to his two supposed masterpieces ‘Wakin on a Pretty Daze’ and ‘Smoke Ring for My Halo’. It takes a few listens before revealing its excellence, though the folk rock stomper “Pretty Pimpin” which kicks off the record remains his biggest hit and most well-known song to date. If you’re not familiar with Vile, then he’s basically a mixture of stoned 90s slacker indie (think Pavement, Dinosaur Jr. and Royal Trux) and twangy folk (Neil Young, John Fahey and Dylan). There’s bits and pieces of Americana, psychedelic folk and 70s rock featured in this slow burner of a record too. ‘b’lieve i’m goin down…’ features Kurt’s strongest and most diverse songwriting to date. It’s always a joy to revisit.

17. Panda Bear – ‘Meets The Grim Reaper’

This was my favourite album of 2015 and though I still adore it, I’d sooner turn to one of the many perfect records from the Animal Collective discography or stick ‘Person Pitch’ on, a record which could possibly be my favourite album of all-time. That may sound like a hugely negative statement to kick off my little write-up on the LP, but ‘Meets The Grim Reaper’ introduced me to so much more of Panda Bear’s music, transformed me into huge fan of AnCo, and turned me onto The Beach Boys. ‘Grim Reaper’ is a psychedelic stew of off kilter beats, squelchy acid house synths and dubby production. Read my initial thoughts on the album here

16. The Hotelier‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’

The Hotelier showed just exactly how to make an emo album in the 2010s. It’s a genre where it’s near-impossible to re-invent the wheel, so great songwriting and charisma is the key to making a great record. The Hotelier boast heaps of charisma, notably in their secret weapon of a vocalist and lyricist Christian Holden. His voice is incredibly emotive, ranging from subtle, melodic croons to folk punk chants. It works with the ebbs and flows of their music perfectly, exemplified in the wistful and comical anecdote “Housebroken”. ‘Home, Like Noplace Is There’ is an album which has grown on me so much over the years. I rarely tire of it and its successor ‘Goodness’, and I’m really looking forward to another Hotelier record this year. Spin named this the greatest emo album of the decade and it’s entirely deserving of that accolade for sure.

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15. Lil Ugly Mane – ‘Mista Thug Isolation’

There’s been a lot of talk surrounding ‘Soundcloud rap’ in the 2010s, the loose umbrella term to define DIY hip hop which became hugely popular worldwide through the Internet and social media. SpaceGhostPurrp may have started the trend, but Lil Ugly Mane and Denzel Curry typify its attitude more so than Purrp or the legion of awful MCs who followed. Ugly Mane is a personality created by Travis Miller to indulge in dirty, gritty rap songs which draw upon Southern hip hop styles like horrorcore, Memphis rap and chopped & screwed. His breakthrough album ‘Mista Thug Isolation’ is a nightmarish, psychedelic vision of violence, drugs, sex and crime. Looped pianos, heavy sub bass, snappy percussion, warped jazz and hazy synths make up the beats, whilst satirical braggadocio radiates from Ugly’s down-tuned raps. It’s a super dark record, though it’s goofy enough to not take itself too seriously. Ugly has successfully carved out his own absurd lane in rap music and remains an unsung hero of the scene who deserves a lot more attention. If you’re into DJ Screw, Kool Keith and Three 6 Mafia then don’t sleep on this one.

14. Yuck – ‘Yuck’

Yuck’s debut album is an incredibly important album to me as it introduced me to so many bands at a time where I’d just started to develop a keen interest in alternative music. Yuck’s fuzzy brand of guitar pop led me to the delights of Dinosaur Jr., Teenage Fanclub, Built To Spill, Yo La Tengo, Ride and other indie and alt.rock groups, acts who I still have on repeat to this day. Yuck’s sound is like a perfect amalgamation of those bands, though they alternate between bittersweet acoustic led numbers, noise pop stompers and droning shoegaze mammoths. Daniel Blumberg left the band shortly after this was released, and they’ve never managed to recapture the glory of this underrated indie classic.

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13. Nails – ‘Abandon All Life’

Nails’ second album ‘Abandon All Life’ is a 17-minute long punch to the face. The very definition of all killer no filler, the Californian grindcore group get straight to the point with breakneck pace, meaty riffs, grooving rhythms and chaotic tempo changes. There’s ridiculously short snippets of powerviolence, old-school death metal riffing and huge breakdowns.  ‘Abandon All Life’ is one of the most aggressive, evil and misanthropic records I’ve ever heard, though it remains strangely catchy with its memorable riffs and perfect production from Kurt Ballou. Alongside Oathbreaker’s ‘Eros|Anteros’, this record got me hooked on super-fast and heavy genres like crust punk, grind and powerviolence. Essential for fans of the heavier side of hardcore and extreme music.

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12. Run The Jewels – ‘Run The Jewels 2’

It was incredibly exciting to see Run The Jewels rise to become one of the most hyped groups in hip hop. Underground icon ElP finally got the props he deserved following decades of creating some of the most innovative albums in rap with his unique production, whilst staunch socialist Killer Mike has been a force for social change as a Bernie Sanders advocate and creating politically charged records like ‘R.A.P. Music’. Oh and they gave all their music away for free! El-P’s huge sounding bass-heavy beats collide with rapid-fire verses traded between the pair, showcasing their unique chemistry and ability to lend insane rhymes to any beat. It’s worth buying this record alone for the triple punch of “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”, “Blockbuster Night Part 1” and “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)”, three of the best rap tracks of the year which are sequenced into the album perfectly. Seeing Jeremy Corbyn introducing Run The Jewels at Glastonbury was also a major musical highlight of the decade.

11. Danny Brown – ‘XXX’

Danny Brown is yet another MC who deserves to get more props for his influence on hip hop. The Detroit born mad man was one of the first to add experimental music and industrial beats to his production, setting the tone for Death Grips and the ‘trap metal’ of XXXTentacion. ‘XXX’ details Brown’s struggles with finding fame and drug issues, but its satirical bars and hedonistic party tales sidestep Danny from being a one trick pony. Diverse, funny, innovative and surreal, Danny Brown is easily one of the artists of the decade.

10. Deafheaven – ‘Sunbather’

Deafheaven pissed a lot of people off with this album, but that just adds to its allure. Touted as “hipster black metal” by basement dwelling gatekeepers, ‘Sunbather’ inflamed the naysayers with its crossover of extreme metal, screamo, post-metal and shoegaze. They probably didn’t like the pink album sleeve either. Deafheaven sound like a mix of Envy, Mogwai, a whole host of atmospheric black metal bands, and of course the originators of the blackgaze genre Alcest. George Clarke’s ferocious screams fall on rapid blast beats, driving bass, and guitars which blend metal tremolos with shoegaze effects. Conceptually, ‘Sunbather’ dissects class privilege, personal trials and failures, alienation, and the lack of prospects many suffer from. ‘Sunbather’ is a strangely addictive album which gets better upon every spin. See these guys live if you get the chance.

9. Alcest – Écailles de lune’

If you like ‘Sunbather’, you’re probably going to like this one! Neige pretty much singlehandedly invented the blackgaze genre by merging his love of Slowdive and post-punk with his encyclopaedic knowledge of black metal. Alcest’s breakthrough album ‘Écailles de lune’ leaves a bittersweet lasting impression like few other albums can impart. It’s incredibly melancholic, yet simultaneously soothing and uplifting. It’s reminiscent of The Cure’s ‘Disintegration’ with its surreal gothic beauty, leaving the intoxicating impression of drowning sensation. That may sound odd to many, but ‘Écailles’ is an album where I have to put a piece of music on that’s cheery afterwards to reverse its depressing effects. Harrowing yet cathartic stuff indeed.

8. Kanye West – ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’

Kanye West both hit his peak and a major slump in the 2010s. Not only has he become almost as bad as Morrissey with his ludicrous and attention seeking comments, he hit a major creative decline after this masterpiece was released. ‘Yeezus’ was “original” if you’ve never heard any industrial hip hop before, ‘The Life of Pablo’ was scattershot and entirely unengaging, then he released his two career worsts in ‘ye’ and the laughable ‘Jesus Is King’. I would have given up on the egomaniac if he hadn’t released this corker and supplied the production for Pusha T’s ace ‘DAYTONA’.

‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ is a highly ambitious record where each piece of a complex puzzle came together. It feels like an overblown prog rock or art pop record, it’s so pompous and BIG but it manages to work so well. The samples from the likes of King Crimson, Black Sabbath and Aphex Twin hit ridiculously well, the guest-spots from Pusha, Raekwon, Jay-Z and The RZA are all expertly placed and enhancing, and Kanye pulls out many a memorable word of wisdom throughout.

7. Joyce Manor – ‘Never Hungover Again’

‘Never Hungover Again’ was the breakthrough third album for Californian punk group Joyce Manor. Following the experimental and lo-fi influenced ‘Of All Things I Shall Soon Grow Tired’, they changed up their sound to include more power pop and indie rock influence in their melodic take on punk and emo. It’s easy to see why this one got their name into the mainstream as its heavy on the immediately catchy hooks, original guitar-work, passionate vocals, and lyrics which resonate with many. Matt Ebert’s bass work here is incredible, channelling The Smiths’ Andy Rourke with the flowing, intricate riffs which often lead the music or fill the vocal and drum breaks. Just give “End of the Summer” a spin and you’ll see what I mean.

Pitchfork placed this as the highest ranked “punk” record of the decade. Man, it’s good to see a band I’ve been following for years get such an accolade!

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6. Daniel Avery – ‘Drone Logic’

Daniel Avery’s ‘Drone Logic’ was one of the first electronic dance music albums I truly adored. I was super-late to the game with dance and club music, though I’d listened to a bunch of big electronic albums from ‘home-listening’ and album-centric genres like trip hop and IDM. Upon snapping up tickets to the sadly deceased Beacons Festival in Skipton, I checked out a bunch of the DJs playing and was immediately drawn to Daniel Avery. His productions are a mixture of techno and the heavier end of house, complete with acid, big beat, deep and minimal influences. The beauty of ‘Drone Logic’ is though it sounds like a techno album suitable for the heads and club shufflers, it isn’t afraid to dip into big name 90s acts like Underworld, Orbital, and The Chemical Brothers to give it a memorable, riffy quality. Varied, nocturnally primed and superb throughout, ‘Drone Logic’ is my favourite electronic album of the decade.

5. Tame Impala – ‘Lonerism’

Man, who would have thought these psych revivalists would become one of the biggest bands on the planet? That being said, ‘Lonerism’ showcases Kevin Parker’s ear for melody, his sought-after colourful guitar palette, spaced-out production, and top tier songwriting skills tremendously. He’s clearly a talent and it’s easy to see why his band ended up in the public consciousness. Anyway, I fell head over heels with this album upon first hearing it. I loved the sound, the seamless track sequencing, the fusion of prog pop, space rock and psychedelic pop, the existential lyrics, and the juxtaposition of themes of seclusion and its summertime atmosphere. Many have mooted that Tame Impala are too revivalist, but they add enough post-flower power bite with the influence of heady shoegaze, Flaming Lips’ cosmic pop, electronic tinges, weirdo indie, and a fair share of Todd Rundgren here and there to keep it appealing. ‘Lonerism’ will always be a joy to listen to, no matter how many times I’ve listen to it.

4. Death Grips – ‘Exmilitary’ & ‘Bottomless Pit’

Death Grips have had one of the most interesting careers of the 2010s. Despite forming in late 2010, they’ve released seven varied studio albums, one of the most discussed mixtapes of the decade, several instrumental albums and a couple of ace EPs. The Sacramento trio have also worked with Björk and have influenced musicians including David Bowie, Skepta, Kasabian and Slipknot. Known for popularising the experimental style of hip hop known as industrial hip hop or ‘noise rap’, the group blend rap with punk, experimental, electronic music and each subgenre under these umbrella styles. As a fan of intriguing genre-bending music and hardcore punk, weirdo hip hop, bass-heavy club music and extreme metal, Death Grips tick every box for me.

These two releases hold the joint spot of my favourites from Death Grips. Their debut mixtape ‘Exmilitary’ is their most traditionally hip hop affair, recalling the dense productions of Public Enemy and the aggro-rap of early Beastie Boys. There’s so much classic Death Grips on here, making it an ideal starting point for a newcomer. Highlights include the Pink Floyd sampling “I Want It I Need It (Death Heated)”, the now iconic “Guillotine”, the nefarious intro “Beware”, and the warped rock ‘n’ roll of “Spread Eagle Across The Block”.

‘Bottomless Pit’ is their most consistent album to date which effectively displays a huge variety of the many styles of Death Grips, boasting bizarrely catchy hooks, big industrial rock riffing and breakneck tempos. This was my favourite record of 2018 at the time, so read my full thoughts on the LP here

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3. Sufjan Stevens – ‘Carrie & Lowell’

The 2010s saw the release of whole bunch of albums with a central theme of death and grief. Mount Eerie’s ‘A Crow Looked At Me’, Nick Cave’s ‘Skeleton Tree’, Touche Amore’s ‘Stage Four’ and Sufjan Steven’s ‘Carrie & Lowell’ were all massively acclaimed albums, a success which is easy to comprehend given grief effects every one of us.

Sufjan’s seventh album saw him returning to a stripped-down folk sound, with a concept surrounding his then recently deceased mother. Carrie had suffered from depression, schizophrenia and substance abuse problems for most of her life and was forced to abandon Sufjan when he was just a year old.  Stevens recorded the album to come to terms with Carrie’s passing and to gain closure on his sporadic relationship with her. ‘Carrie & Lowell’ is one of the most devastating, heart-breaking and emotionally taxing listening experiences of any record in music. I have absolutely no idea how anyone can be as frank and revealing as Sufjan here; he puts his heart on the line and reveals almost too much. He details physician-assisted death, succumbing to cancer, the inevitability of mortality, his own suicidal fantasies, and coming to terms with his neglect. Musically, the album balances sparse yet melodic indie folk with lush ambient interludes and Stevens’ faintly whispered vocals.

Adjusting to loss and coming to terms with anguish is usually a life-changing experience, and Sufjan astonishingly managed to capture those sensations so accurately and perfectly in under 45-minutes of music.

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2. Danny Brown – ‘Atrocity Exhibition’

Now this one is a complete package. Every aspect of Danny Brown’s ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ meticulously relates to the concept; even the album art and the music videos surrounding the release are pertinent to its themes.  The central theme is that Brown is the exhibition. He questions his own artistry and challenges media and fan reflections, revealing thoughts on his public presentation which usually centres on his reckless lifestyle, drug use, and his criminal past in Detroit.

The production mirrors the concept with post-punk and industrial influenced beats which impart sensations of unease, anxiety and dissociation. Sample wise, the beatmakers pluck an array of obscure tracks from genres as far afield as krautrock, noise, no wave, psychedelia and Detroit techno. I enjoyed the sample choices so much I wrote a piece on it, a feature Danny himself ended up reading! 

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Joyce Manor – ‘Joyce Manor’

Before being introduced to Joyce Manor’s self-titled debut, I don’t think there’s been a record that I’ve immediately fell in love with upon first listen. It was like the album was made specifically for me. At its heart it’s a modern punk album, but there’s so much more to it than that. Hints of hardcore punk, indie rock, emo revival and garage rock crop up, and the Southern Californian group manage to pack so many incredible melodies and a unique youthful spirit into every nook and cranny of the 18-minute short record.

The band were plagued with Jawbreaker comparisons with this record, which is understandable as it’s crunchy punk with a twist of emo, but to me this sounds like if all the best parts of Weezer were condensed and hefty pace was added. Lyrically, the album is astonishingly memorable. These are words, phrases and laments that will stick with me for years to come, an amazing feat as I rarely take note of many artist’s lyrics. Select verses and lines could reveal novels worth’s of intricate details and tales. On ‘Derailed’ for example, Barry Johnson details a friend or lover with few aspirations or an inability to tackle personal problems, singing “So you ache through the days, ‘Cause you’ll never mend your ways”. That’s just an example of one of my favourite lyrics from the LP; I just love the simplicity of his introspection. Every other line pretty much impacts in the same way too.

I feel like I’m not doing this much justice in this write-up here. It’s one of those records I’ve listened to hundreds of times and never skip a song if it turns up on shuffle. It’s my current favourite album ever and I don’t think anything will change that for the foreseeable future.

Honourable Mentions:

  • Joanna Newsom – ‘Have One On Me’
  • Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – ‘Bandana’
  • Tim Hecker – ‘Virgins’
  • Janelle Monáe – ‘The ArchAndroid’
  • Mastodon – ‘The Hunter’
  • Julia Holter – ‘Have You In My Wilderness’
  • St. Vincent – ‘St. Vincent’
  • Tom Waits – ‘Bad as Me’
  • Wand – ‘Golem’
  • Wormrot – ‘Voices’
  • Xiu Xiu – ‘Plays the Music of Twin Peaks’
  • Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx – ‘We’re New Here’
  • Thee Oh Sees – ‘Mutilator Defeated at Last’
  • Title Fight – ‘Floral Green’
  • Viagra Boys – ‘Street Worms’
  • Parquet Courts – ‘Wide Awaaaaake!’
  • Trash Talk – ‘Awake’
  • Conan – ‘Monnos’
  • Unknown Mortal Orchestra – ‘Multi-Love’
  • Ought – ‘Sun Coming Down’
  • A Tribe Called Quest – ‘We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service’
  • Grouper – ‘AIA: Alien Observer’
  • BADBADNOTGOOD – ‘III’
  • Turnover – ‘Peripheral Vision’
  • Ty Segall Band – ‘Slaughterhouse’
  • Radiohead – ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’
  • Little Simz – ‘Grey Area’
  • Mac DeMarco – ‘2’
  • Four Tet – ‘There Is Love in You’
  • Open Mike Eagle – ‘Brick Body Kids Still Daydream’
  • J Mascis – ‘Several Shades of Why’
  • The Dillinger Escape Plan – ‘One of Us Is the Killer’
  • Oathbreaker – ‘Eros|Anteros’
  • Full of Hell & Merzbow – ‘Full of Hell & Merzbow’
  • Flying Lotus – ‘Cosmogramma’
  • King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’
  • Blanck Mass – ‘World Eater’
  • Joey Bada$$ – ‘1999’
  • Ceremony – ‘Rohnert Park’
  • Kahn, Commodo & Gantz – ‘Volume 1’
  • Goat – ‘World Music’
  • Gojira – ‘L’enfant sauvage’
  • Denzel Curry – ‘Imperial’
  • Death Grips – ‘The Money Store’
  • Iceage – ‘New Brigade’
  • Martha – ‘Courting Strong’
  • Om – ‘Advaitic Songs’
  • Pity Sex – ‘Feast of Love’
  • Caribou – ‘Our Love’
  • Beach House – ‘Teen Dream’
  • James Blake – ‘CMYK EP’
  • Boards of Canada – ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’
  • Bongripper – ‘Satan Worshipping Doom’
  • The Caretaker – ‘An Empty Bliss Beyond This World’

 

Albums of the Year 2019

The final year of the decade saw Kanye West write a gospel album which no one cared about, Lana Del Rey released a hugely successful Fiona Apple covers album, Lizzo declared that all music journalists deserve to be homeless following an above average review, UK tweens black midi came out of nowhere, Nick Cave made us all cry again, Billie Eilish became the millennial’s answer to Avril Lavigne, and Kim Gordon created a distinctly modern sounding first solo record, showing every rock dinosaur just how to do it. Here’s a quick write-up of some of my favourite albums of 2019…

10. Full of Hell – ‘Weeping Choir’

Maryland grindcore group Full of Hell return with a supposed companion piece to 2017’s ‘Trumpeting Ecstasy’, though this record sounds markedly different from the former record with a more prominent death metal style. This is probably my joint favourite from Full of Hell alongside their split with Merzbow from way back in 2014. ‘Weeping Choir’ is packed with chaotic and dissonant riffing, blistering vocals, pummelling drum work and hues of noise and sludge, complete with a gloomy and menacing atmosphere to keep things interesting for its 25-minute runtime.

9. Föllakzoid – ‘I’

Chilean psychedelic group Föllakzoid wipe their space/krautrock template clean and opt for a sound which mirrors minimal and dub techno. The Sacred Bones signed group channel the influence of the Berlin club scene and seminal techno acts like Basic Channel to shape a record where repetition is the main musical theme. ‘I’ is a spacious and hypnotic listen where it’s so easy to get lost in its grooves and nocturnal march. Föllakzoid are an interesting live act too; performing with next to no lightning save for a single candle, they offer shuffle inducing rhythms that could soundtrack many an early hour at a techno night. ‘I’ is a very Germanic album, its sound brings to mind Neu! and Kraftwerk just as much as Gas and Plastikman. Alongside acts like Bristol’s Giant Swan, Föllakzoid showcase the limitless possibilities of creating electronic and club music with ‘rock’ instrumentation.

8. The Comet is Coming – ‘Trust In The Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery’

I’ve been following Shabaka Hutching’s work since I heard the brilliant Sons of Kemet last year, and this one blew me away just as much as ‘Your Queen Is A Reptile’. Dubbed the key player of the much-conferred ‘London jazz scene’, Shabaka plays in Melt Yourself Down, The Ancestors and the psychedelic rock influenced group The Comet is Coming. ‘Trust In The Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery’ really brings out the ‘fusion’ in jazz fusion, combining genres as far afield as space rock, Afrobeat, funk, dance music and deftly modern jazz into one futuristic and surreal mix. The energy and performances here are gripping, often matching the pace of jungle and the dense rhythms of hip hop. If you’re ever looking for jazz that could be considered psychedelic music, then this one is an excellent starting point. There’s a lot of interesting jazz that’s challenging its traditional roots right now and The Comet Is Coming take the crown as far as quality and vigour are concerned.

7. Danny Brown – ‘uknowwhatimsayin?’

Detroit’s finest MC Danny Brown returns with ‘uknowwhatimsayin?’, a corker of a record with nods to jazz rap, 90s hip hop and stand-up comedy. Following the resounding success of the decade’s finest hour in hip hop ‘Atrocity Exhibition’, Danny’s fans were eager to see what he had in store for his next LP. ‘Atrocity’ was defined by its incredibly dark lyrical content and experimental, post-punk flavoured production which challenged the idea of what a modern rap record could be. On ‘uknowwhatimsayin?’, Danny sounds like he’s having a huge amount of fun and is just doing what he wants to be doing. Brown’s previous album reflected on his own mortality, addiction and the public’s perception of him, so its excellent to hear him sounding happy again following his brushes with death.

6. Lingua Ignota – ‘Caligula’

‘Caligula’ shares numerous qualities with extreme metal without actually being a metal record. Marrying feudal operatics with gothic darkwave, industrial and noise, the Profound Lore signed Lingua Ignota shapes one of the most thrilling and powerful albums of the year. It’s effectively a record you’d get if you crossed Dead Can Dance with Puce Mary and Godflesh. It would be impossible to discuss ‘Caligula’ without talking about Lingua’s incredible vocals which flip between classical theatrics and blood curdling screams. The classically trained vocalist has a keen interest in history, Catholicism and noise music, influences which are skilfully ravelled into the DNA of ‘Caligula’.

5. black midi – ‘Schlagenheim’

There’s been much deliberation regarding newcomers black midi this year, namely due to their Brit School origins and coming out of nowhere to land themselves a deal with Rough Trade and getting nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. Admittedly, I was a bit sceptical at first, though as soon as I heard ‘Schlagenheim’ all my worries were eased. A dizzying mix of math rock precision, noise rock dissonance, taught post-punk and old-school post hardcore, ‘Schlagenheim’ is the crowning achievement of guitar music for 2019. The performances are incredibly tight (those drums!), the lyrics are cryptic and surreal, and the bass lurches and undercuts the fiddly guitars brilliantly. It’s great to hear such a young and interesting band get nominated for big awards, sell out tours and get radio play, especially when their music is challenging compared their peers. Thousands of people are eagerly awaiting what these guys are going to do next, let’s hope they’re around for years to come.

4. (Sandy) Alex G – ‘House of Sugar’

Easily the singer-songwriter highlight of the year, Alex G’s ‘House of Sugar’ is an album of contradictions and juxtaposition. Inspired by the classic Brothers Grimm tale ‘Hansel & Gretel’, the record marries bittersweet and yearning lyricism with ear-worm melodies. Everything from the album title and its concept to the enchanting production and lyricism is fantastical, often sounding seductively opulent with its otherworldly atmosphere. ‘Gretel’, ‘Southern Sky’ and ‘In My Arms’ deserve a spot in everyone’s 2019 playlists. If you’re looking for songwriting in the vein of Pavement, Elliott Smith or Sparklehorse, then you’re onto a winner with Sandy.

3. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – ‘Bandana’

‘Bandana’ was one of the most anticipated albums of the year and oh boy it didn’t disappoint! Shadowing the modern classic that was ‘Pinata’ would be no easy feat, though this one smashed all expectations and added so much more to Madlib’s and Gibbs’ gangsta rap meets experimental hip hop sound. ‘Bandana’ is streamlined and polished without losing any grit or left-field flare. Freddie’s rapping here is the best of his career; he delivers felony fables through knotty raps and rapid-fire rhymes, weaving through Mad’s lush psychedelic beats with effortless ease. The beat flips are startling, the samples seem to be plucked from nowhere, and the guest spots from the likes of Pusha T, Black Thought and Mos Def are all incredibly executed. In a hip hop scene where trap and gangsta rap is incredibly popular yet maligned, and those who favour the old-school are touted as being archaic and stubborn, it’s records like ‘Bandana’ that show the huge amount of potential for cross pollination between these two opposing subgenres.

2. Little Simz – ‘Grey Area’

Little Simz has had an incredibly successful year in 2019, and she deserves all the credit she gets. Not only did she shape one of the best UK hip hop albums of all-time with her breakthrough ‘Grey Area’, she’s gained a huge amount of exposure, sold-out pretty much every date on her European tour, secured a bunch of modelling contracts AND landed a prominent spot on the crime drama ‘Top Boy’.

‘Grey Area’ is one of those albums where no second is wasted. The energetic opener ‘Offence’ kicks things off with the superb opening line ‘Me again, allow me to pick up where I left off’, setting the course for a perfectly paced and sequenced record where there’s a definitive beginning, middle and end. Oh, and bonus points for the nostalgia trip I got when I heard the Crash Bandicoot samples! Then comes ‘Boss’ with its lucid noir funk bassline and Simz’s lean flow, leading to the gorgeous neo-soul number and album highlight ‘Selfish’. ‘Venom’ is a hardcore hip hop banger with nods to trap, industrial rap and even trip hop, whislt ‘101 FM’ wistfully recalls Pirate Radio memories over an East Asian influenced beat which could slot perfectly into any Wu-Tang/RZA production.

Folk have compared Simz to Kendrick Lamar (who’s a huge fan of her work), but I find her a much more engaging MC who knows how take out the duff tracks and skits. ‘Grey Area’ is a defining moment in UK hip hop and Simz deserves a place at the table of international rap royalty. I hope to see her working with some big names in the future, especially producers who can provide her with top-tier beats to spit her fire over. Bravo Little Simz, you deserve everything you’ve achieved this year – apart from the Mercury snub of course!

FKA twigs – ‘MAGDALENE’

The very fact that FKA twigs managed to make an album of such quality despite going through a very public break-up with an A-list film star and undergoing serious emergency surgery is astonishing. ‘MAGDALENE’ reflects on these traumas in an honest and intimate manner, delivered with such potency that you hang on her every word.

‘MAGDALENE’ strives in its emphasis on the singular themes of emotion and sentiment, comfortably standing alongside the likes of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ or Bjork’s ‘Vespertine’ as far as sheer heart-wrenching beauty go. Her lyrics and the overarching concept deconstruct reviled Biblical characters (guess which one…), tabloid scrutiny and privacy, sombre reflections, and the associated difficulties of recuperation.

Each track is gripping and matchless, as twig’s imposing voice either towers over or snakes through the bass-heavy production influenced by dubstep, future garage, left-field club music and R&B. Oneohtrix Point Never, Nicolas Jaar, Arca and even Skrillex leave their mixing desk mark on ‘MAGDALENE’ with their widescreen, crystalline electronic production which eclipses all twigs’ previous instrumental efforts. Often I’m reminded of the chamber pop of Sufjan Stevens or the hazy-eyed art rock of Radiohead’s ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ when listening to this LP.

Though I usually find sentimentality a huge turn-off in music, ‘MAGDALENE’ avoids such mawkishness with its pure candour and conquering posture. Though its candid introspection heartens tough contemplation, it’s so immensely addictive and gorgeous sounding that it begs repeated listens.

Honourable Mentions

  • Djrum – ‘Hard to Say / Tournesol’
  • Bobby Krlic – ‘Midsommar’
  • American Football – ‘American Football (LP3)’
  • clipping. – ‘There Existed an Addiction to Blood’
  • Equiknoxx – ‘Eternal Children’
  • Kim Gordon – ‘No Home Record’
  • Gang Starr – ‘One of the Best Yet’
  • Injury Reserve – ‘Injury Reserve’
  • King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – ‘Infest the Rats’ Nest’
  • Karenn (Blawan & Pariah) – ‘Grapefruit Regret’
  • Massive Attack v. Mad Professor – ‘Massive Attack vs Mad Professor Part II (Mezzanine Remix Tapes ’98)’
  • Nihiloxica – ‘Biiri’
  • Quelle Chris – ‘Guns’
  • Underworld – ‘Drift’
  • Vanishing Twin – ‘The Age of Immunology’
  • Xiu Xiu – ‘Girl With Basket of Fruit’

Stereolab – Inspirations and Influence

Here’s a playlist for of Stereolab’s inspirations and influences. It features the likes of Kraftwerk, Can, Neu!, Broadcast, The Beach Boys, Philip Glass, Brian Eno, The Velvet Underground etc. Get to know!

Blog Update

Good morning guys, just an update on this blog and my lack of activity as of recent.

Recently, I’ve been appointed as a marketing and social media assistant for a major online vinyl store. I started at Norman Records a few weeks back, and I’m loving it so far. It’s been an aim to work in music for years now, but due to writing about music as part of a job, I’ll rarely find the time to do my own personal writing as most of it will go to the site. There should be a few posts here and there, and I’m not going to stop doing Album of the Year articles. Your best bet for looking at what I’m listening to and writing about is following Norman’s socials and checking our their site. Give us a follow if you fancy.

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Bye for now, Tom.

Pete Shelley RIP

On Thursday 6th of December, Pete Shelley passed away. He was 63 years old, and died due to a heart attack. Shelley was the frontman, guitarist and primary songwriter for the Manchester punk group, the Buzzcocks, a hugely seminal group at the forefront of the first-wave of UK punk rock. Pete also achieved some success as a solo musician with the popular single ‘Homosapien’. Whilst the Buzzcocks peers like The Clash and The Sex Pistols were overtly political, openly confrontational, and often nihilistic, Buzzcocks wrote songs about romance, growing up, teenage lust, homosexuality (Pete was openly bisexual), and relationships. They fused power pop with energetic punk, presenting a highly melodic sound with a clear emphasis on songwriting. Their unique take on the genre became massively influential to new wave and pop punk.

buzzcocks

The Buzzcocks are a very important band to me. They are one of my earliest musical memories and they subconsciously shaped my music taste. I remember my parents used to play a tape-rip of Singles Going Steady relatively often on car journeys, or they’d surface frequently on the numerous punk and new wave compilations they owned. Their tuneful and poppy sound was more distinct to me than the other groups; it was music you’d have stuck in your head for days afterwards. During my late primary school and early high school years, I began listening to pop punk, a genre Buzzcocks practically invented. Green Day were constantly on every audio device imaginable and albums like Dookie became favourites. Though my forays into punk and hardcore hadn’t properly begun, Buzzcocks subliminally tailored a musical mind-set of aggressive music with an emphasis on tight songwriting and melodious musicianship. In my mid-teens, punk became my go-to genre. The Clash were my favourite band, I listened to countless early punk groups, I discovered hardcore and early post-hardcore, and I began playing in punk bands. Buzzcocks were played often, and practically all of Singles Going Steady featured in my punk playlists. At University I discovered Joyce Manor, a group at the cutting edge of pop punk who perfectly channel aggression and sentiment into short and sweet punk songs. Sounds familiar, right? Both Green Day and Joyce Manor have posted tributes regarding the influence of Shelley on their music after the news of his death surfaced.

If you aren’t familiar with Shelley or the Buzzcocks, then please read on:

The Buzzcocks formed in 1975 in Bolton, Greater Manchester after Howard Devoto (later of Magazine), placed a classified ad in college asking for musicians to collaborate on a cover of The Velvet Underground’s 17 minute avant-rock epic ‘Sister Ray’. They began playing gigs at their college and beyond. In the February of 1976, the group travelled to see the Sex Pistols, and ended up booking them for a gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall. Despite only 150 people turning up, the gig is known as one of the most influential events in alternative music, with Mark E. Smith of The Fall, members of Joy Division, Tony Wilson, Kevin Cummins and Morrissey in attendance.

At the start of 1977, the Buzzcocks released the four track EP Spiral Scratch on their own label New Hormones. Spiral Scratch was a completely independent effort; they funded, recorded, produced, manufactured and distributed the release entirely by themselves. It was the beginning of DIY and independent music. Musically speaking, the EP was raw, repetitive, lively and anti-virtuoistic. It took just five hours to record and mix, and effectively established the minimalist manifesto of punk rock. The EP’s most celebrated track ‘Boredom’ features the infamous anti-solo, where Shelley repeats 2 notes for a total of 66 times. It was a declaration of punk’s “less is more approach”, as well as a jab at how overblown and pompous progressive rock had become. This record changed the world, demonstrating that anyone could start a band and get their music out there. It also allowed bands to experiment more; groups wouldn’t be forced to write a single or a radio friendly pop hit if they had no major label to answer to. It sold 16,000 copies and put Manchester and the North back on the musical map.

buzzcocks2

The Buzzcocks went on to release three classic albums (Another Music in a Different Kitchen, Love Bites, and A Different Kind of Tension) and a string of ground-breaking singles. They toyed with desire and sexuality with the early single ‘Orgasm Addict’, wrote one of the best songs of all-time with ‘Ever Fallen In Love With Someone? (You Shouldn’t Have)’, broke the charts with ‘What Do I Get?’, and released the must-have compilation Singles Going Steady. The Buzzcocks were true originals, effectively creating both pop punk and indie rock.

Pete was taken too early, but the Buzzcocks’ legacy will live on forever in the sounds of punk, pop punk, and through any music released independently and with a DIY spirit.

Check out this playlist of my favourite Buzzcocks tracks below:

A Beginner’s Guide to: OutKast

Each time I mention that OutKast are one of my favourite groups, usually it’s met with a response somewhere along the lines of “OutKast? Those one hit-wonders who did ‘Hey Ya’?”. Granted, ‘Hey Ya’ is an incredible slice of pop which reached dizzying heights of success, but there is far much more to the group than that. This article explores the importance and influence of OutKast, an analysis of each of their albums, their enduring influence and long-lasting appeal, and why they are not only one of the best hip hop groups of all-time, but one of the most important acts in music.

OutKast were formed in East Point, Georgia in 1991. The duo consisted of André ‘André 3000’ Benjamin and Antwon ‘Big Boi’ Patton. They met in high school, and soon started participating in rap battles and making music together. Soon enough, they had teamed up with the production squad Organized Noise and became the first hip hop act to be signed to Sony Records subsidiary LaFace records. With the strength and success of their debut single ‘Players Ball’ in 1993, and the release of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik a year later, OutKast quickly became a driving force in hip hop, swiftly building a cult following with several high profile releases. Alongside acts such as The Geto Boys, 2 Live Crew, Goodie Mob and UGK, OutKast helped to bring Southern hip hop to mainstream prominence and demonstrated that it could be as critically and commercially successful as West and East coast rap.

outkast

OutKast broke free of the constraints of hip hop, and the perceptions of what the genre could and should aspire to. Just as important as alternative rap innovators such as A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Beastie Boys and De La Soul, OutKast managed to create a unique and original style which sent shockwaves through America and beyond. Though André  and Big Boi are polar opposites in terms of style, technique, musical influences, and personality, they manage to jump-off and perfectly complement each other as performers, rappers, musicians and producers. Big Boi’s rapping style is heavier and more aggressive in tone and timbre, and is often more frenetic than the smoother and more relaxed tenor of André. Lyrically, André is more abstract and figurative than Patton who habitually ‘tells it like it is’ in typical Southern fashion. Big Boi’s into his hard-hitting funk, soul and early hip hop, whilst André  idolises Prince and adores psychedelic music. This bizarre combination allowed for a unique artistic vision to flourish, and OutKast created a new and cutting edge sound which relied primarily on live instrumentation instead of direct sampling. Smooth funk basslines underpin Southern soul vocal hooks and brass instrumentation, and embellishments of electronic soundscapes and spacey psychedelia characterise OutKast’s productions.

Under the influence from a range of popular culture topics, OutKast created heavily conceptual pieces of work in both their music and performance, often adopting different fashions and personas upon each touring cycle and stream of music videos. Whether it be posturing as pimps and extra-terrestrials in their early work, or discussing socio-political ideals and creating soundtracks and starring in accompanying films, the music is just one element of the complex and inimitable OutKast. Excluding the soundtrack piece Idlewild here’s a rundown of each of their studio albums:

 

southern

Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik (1994)

Featuring a G-funk influenced sound, funk and soul elements, and live and organic production techniques of Organized Noize, Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik gave the world their first taste of Outkast; a sound which was defined by heavy yet irresistible bass licks, tongue-twisting wordplay and smooth, melodic sung hooks. The social commentary regarding pimp and drug culture is rife; the group even hustled to generate funds to record, a surprising thought considering the pair were both in high school. Their debut proclamation became one of the first Southern hip hop albums to gain commercial success, and began to generate acclaim despite 1994 being a very strong year in rap with high profile releases from Nas, Beastie Boys, Common, and Gravediggaz. The lead single ‘Player’s Ball’ sold half a million copies, and the group were invited by The Notorious B.I.G. to support him on tour. However, this triumph was just the beginning for Outkast…

atliens628

ATLiens (1996)

ATLiens is my personal favourite OutKast album. As the title suggests, ATLiens sounds out of this world. Defined by alien soundscapes, riddled with incredibly technical rapping and multifaceted lingo, and complete with interstellar instrumentation and newfound experimentations in production and composition, this album is an ideal starting point into OutKast’s straight-up hip hop work. It’s a tranquil trip into sci-fi conceptualism, with the psychedelic production and instrumentation offering a completely absorbing and immersive listening experience. Motivated by the naysayers of their Southern sound, Big Boi and André utilised their own recording studio to grow as artists by brushing up on their production and instrument playing skills. Their efforts began to show immediately in their music; OutKast created a labour of love which served as both a musically consistent and conceptually cohesive record which is entirely deserving of its classic status.

Aquemini (1998)

aquemini

The title Aquemini stems from a portmanteau of the members Zodiac star signs, indicating that despite the duo being vastly dissimilar in terms of their musicality, vocal diction and personality, that it’s the two parts of the individual that fashion the whole to create OutKast. Aquemini mixes the eclecticism and experimentation of ATLiens with the hardcore rap of Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik to create a record which assembles all shades of black Southern American music to a march of forward thinking hip hop. OutKast successfully merged East Coast rap with Southern hip hop in the Raekwon guesting ‘Skew It On The Bar-B’, reintroduced the hood elements in ‘Return of the ‘G’’, borrowed the spacey psych of ATLiens in the records title track, and created their magnum opus in the Curtis Mayfield worship of ‘SpottieOttieDopaliscious’.  With its sprawling, eclectic sound and colossal variety of themes, instrumentation and moods, it’s no wonder that Aquemini is considered OutKast’s greatest achievement.

Stankonia (2000)

stank

At the turn of the 21st Century, OutKast had some things to say about the state of America and the rest of the world. A glance at the album art and track-list immediately infers their political intent; with songs such as ‘Gasoline Dreams’ and ‘B.O.B.’ (‘Bombs Over Baghdad’) alongside the cover which sees the duo posturing in front of a black and white American flag, Stankonia was their biggest statement yet. It seemed impossible that the duo could top the quality and scope of Aquemini, but Outkast upped the experimentation, employing a huge variety of genres, range of tones, topics and pacing. Stankonia is the duo’s ‘heaviest’ and widescreen sounding record, thanks to its incorporation of faster tempos, distorted guitar instrumentation, and influence from genres as far afield as drum & bass, psychedelic rock and P-funk.

Speakerboxxx / The Love Below (2003)

speaker

Speakerboxxx / The Love Below is the eleven-times platinum record shook the world. There was a time where you could switch over to any radio station and it was guaranteed that ‘Hey Ya’, ‘I Like The Way You Move’ or ‘Roses’ would be playing; it was absolutely massive and completely inescapable. Interestingly, this double album comprises of a side from each of the members. Characteristically, Big Boi’s Speakerboxxx disc is a funky take on Southern rap, whilst André’s The Love Below features folk, psychedelia, pop and R&B. It’s a sprawling and highly eclectic affair which showcases the influences and musical mind-set of each member over its two-hour runtime. Its ambitious scope and interpretation of various subgenres and flavours of mood is comparable to The BeatlesWhite Album or Prince’s Sign O’ The Times. This is possibly the biggest album of our generation.

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OutKast released their last effort before their hiatus in 2006, the ambitious Idlewild, a soundtrack to the film which the duo wrote and starred in. Though the critical and commercial response was muted, it still exhibited the group were out there pushing boundaries. To come hot off the heels of one of the most successful albums of all-time with a film and accompanying soundtrack is a bold statement to say the least.

During their fourteen year career, OutKast managed to push the boundaries of rap with each album release, sending shockwaves through the music scene with an influence which can still be heard today. Listen to Kendrick Lamar and tell me that André 3000 isn’t one of his biggest influences; good kid, m.A.A.d city is basically serves as the West Coast’s answer to Aquemini. There’s a huge amount of influence of OutKast in modern Southern rappers such as the likes of Isaiah Rashad, Big K.R.I.T. and CunninLynguists, who probably wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Dre and Antwon. Detroit’s madcap MC Danny Brown declares OutKast as a major influence, even lifting some lines from ‘B.O.B’ in ‘Today’ and stating “If you don’t know five OutKast songs, then we have a problem / If you don’t know where you come from, you can’t know where you’re going” in response to Lil Yachty’s inability to name five songs by Biggie or Tupac.

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that trap rap is the most prevalent form of hip hop around today, and is one of the most popular and discussed genres in popular music. OutKast and their peers put the South on the map, and their gritty portrayals of urban life in Atlanta can be seen as precursors to trap music. Their debut discussed themes of living in some of the most crime-ridden and deprived areas of America, discussing topics including hustling, cooking crack and pimping in Atlanta. In ‘SpottieOttieDopalicous’, Big Boi discusses the hopelessness of youth unemployment and being confined in the trap lifestyle due to previous minor convictions; “The United Parcel Service and the people at the post office didn’t call you back because you had cloudy piss, So now you back at the trap just that, trapped”. OutKast and their peers who created the Southern/Atlanta sound opened the door for early trap artists such as T.I., Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy. Basically, the current hip hop climate may have never even come to light if it wasn’t for OutKast.

The question is, will OutKast ever end their hiatus? Will they tour or do a few festival dates? Will they record new music together? Can we expect a new album? The answer to all these is ‘probably not’. Big Boi’s got his solo career, and Dre tends to stay out of the spotlight, occasionally featuring in a film or lending a guest appearance to a track. Until then, let’s just revisit OutKast and their phenomenal body of work.

 

Wu-Tang Clan and A Tribe Called Quest’s Classic Albums Turn 25 Today!

Two hip hop classics celebrate their 25th anniversaries today! Wu-Tang Clan released their iconic debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and A Tribe Called Quest gave us Midnight Marauders. These New York groups helped to shift attention to the East Coast after Dr. Dre and co’s G-funk ruled the airwaves for a significant while. Wu-Tang are one of the most legendary rap groups of all-time, and 36 Chambers is often ranked as the greatest hip hop LP ever. It gave us their iconic kung-fu mysticism, gritty portrayals of New York street life, RZA’s dusty, cinematic production, and an onslaught of some of the most talented MCs ever to grace the mic. Shortly after this release, the Clan pursued their quest for world domination with a slew of highly regarded solo releases from Ghostface Killah, GZA, Method Man, O.D.B., and Raekwon. A Tribe Called Quest’s third outing did the impossible; they managed to match the quality of its predecessor The Low End Theory thanks to Q-Tip’s lush, jazzy production, Phife Dawg’s improved bars, and top-notch tracks like ‘Award Tour’, ‘Electric Relaxation’ and ‘Steve Biko (Stir It Up)’. It’s incredible to think that two of the most influential and acclaimed albums from their genre were released on the same day!

The Imitation Game: Album Art Spoofing Album Art

Last month saw the release of Eminem‘s Kamikaze. Whilst the album was largely panned by music fans and critics alike, it did have a pretty cool album cover. The album art was a reference and homage to the Beastie Boys‘ debut album Licensed to Ill, an obvious point of influence to Eminem as the Beastie’s were the first white rap act to truly break through. This cover got me thinking, what other album art spoofs, parodies or pays homage to other record sleeves. Here are a selection of the best, enjoy!

Pictured on the left is the original, the right features the spoof.

Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill and Eminem’s Kamikaze 

The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Frank Zappa‘s We’re Only In It For The Money

Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality and Electric Wizard’s Legalise Drugs and Murder / Murder & Madness (Single)

Elvis Presley’s Self-Titled Debut and The Clash‘s London Calling

The Kinks’ The Kinks Kontroversy and Sleater-Kinney’s Dig Me Out

The Beach Boys’ Pet SoundsandTurbonegro’s Ass Cobra

Leonard Cohen’s The Best of Leonard Cohen and Ween’s The Pod

The Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground & Nico and The Dandy Warhol’s Welcome to the Monkey House 

The Beatles’ Meet the Beatles and The Residents Meet the Residents 

Elvis Presley’s 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong and The Fall’s 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong 

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