Monthly Archives: December 2015

Sound ‘Round: The Best Albums and Singles of 2015


donnie trumpet


  1. Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment – Surf (self-released) (16)
  2. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop) (15)
  3. Heems – Eat Pray Thug (Greenhead) (14)
  4. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love (Sub Pop) (12)
  5. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (Aftermath / Interscope) (10)
  6. Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People (Bella Union) (9)
  7. Boz Scaggs – A Fool to Care (429) (7)
  8. James McMurty – Complicated Game (Complicated Game) (6)
  9. Yo La Tengo – Stuff Like That There (Matador) (6)
  10. The Go! Team – The Scene Between (Memphis Industries) (5)
  11. Grimes – Art Angel (4AD)
  12. The Chills – Silver Bullets (Fire)
  13. Deerhunter – Fading Frontier (4AD)
  14. Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion (School Boy / Interscope)
  15. Jazmine Sullivan – Reality Show (RCA
  16. Rae Sremmurd – SremmLife (Interscope)
  17. Jamie xx – In Colour (XL / Young Turks)
  18. Young Thug – Barter 6 (Atlantic / 300 Entertainment)
  19. Lupe Fiasco – Tetsou & Youth (Atlantic)
  20. Major Lazer – Peace is the Mission (Mad Decent)
  21. The Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ (Merge)
  22. Sly & The Family Stone – Live at the Filmore East October 4th & 5th, 1968 (Epic)
  23. Tinariwen – Live in Paris (ANTI-)
  24. Slutever – Almost Famous (self-released)
  25. Mbongwana Star – From Kinshasa (World Circuit)
  26. James Brown – Love Power Peace (Sundazed / Polydor, 2014)
  27. Vince Staples – Summertime ‘06 (Def Jam)
  28. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (Southwestern)
  29. Low Cut Connie – Hi Honey (Contender)
  30. Charli XCX – SUCKER (Atlantic, 2014)
  31. Dawn Richard – Blackheart (Our Dawn)
  32. Ashley Monroe – The Blade (Warner Bros. Nashville)
  33. Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material (Mercury Nashville)
  34. Freedy Johnston – Neon Repairman (Singing Magnet)
  35. Jeffery Lewis and Los Bolts – Manhattan (Rough Trade)
  36. Terakaft – Alone (Out Here)
  37. Jason Derulo – Everything is 4 (Warner Bros.)
  38. Kate Pierson – Guitars and Microphones (Kobalt / Lazy Meadow)
  39. Omar Souleyman – Bahdeni Nami (Monkeytown)
  40. Sidi Toure – Alafia (Thrill Jockey)
  41. Various Artists – The Rough Guide to Rare Latin Groove (Volume 1) (World Music Network, 2014)
  42. Babyface – Return of the Tender Lover (Def Jam)
  43. Leonard Cohen – I Can’t Forget: Souvenirs From the Grand Tour (Columbia)
  44. Cracker – Berkeley to Bakersfield (429, 2014)
  45. Sunny Sweeney – Provoked (Thirty Tigers, 2014)
  46. Maddie & Tae – Start Here (Dot Records)
  47. Songhoy Blues – Music in Exile (Atlantic)
  48. Public Enemy – Man Plans God Laughs (Spitdigital)
  49. Fifth Harmony – Reflection (Epic)
  50. Wes Montgomery featuring the Eddie Higgins Trio – One Night in Indy (Resonance)
  51. Shamir – Ratchet (XL)
  52. Bassekou Kouyate – Ba Power (Glitterbeat)
  53. Paris – Pistol Politics (Guerilla Funk)
  54. Veruca Salt — Ghost Notes (El Camino)
  55. Giorgio Moroder – Déjà vu (RCA)
  56. Africa Express – Presents… Terry Riley’s In C Mali (Transgressive)
  57. Nellie McKay – My Weekly Reader (429)
  58. Arca – Mutant (Mute)
  59. Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard – Django and Jimmie (Legacy)
  60. Alessia Cara – Four Pink Walls EP (Def Jam)
  61. Migos – Young Rich Nation (Atlantic)
  62. Young Father – White Men are Black Men Too (Big Dada)
  63. Willie Nelson and Sister Bobbie – December Day (Legacy, 2014)
  64. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)
  65. Miguel – Wildheart (RCA)
  66. Bob Dylan – Shadows in the Night (Columbia)

major lazer


  1. “Lean On” – Major Lazer
  2. “Sunday Candy” – Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment
  3. “Run Away With Me” – Carly Rae Jepsen
  4. “A New Wave” – Sleater-Kinney
  5. “Biscuits” – Kacey Musgraves
  6. “How Much a Dollar Cost” – Kendrick Lamar
  7. “Lousy Connection” – Ezra Furman
  8. “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” – Jamie xx
  9. “Throw Sum Mo” – Rae Sremmurd
  10. “Flag Shopping” – Heems
  11. “Depreston” – Courtney Barnett
  12. “Want to Want Me” – Jason Derulo
  13. “Artangles” – Grimes
  14. “Deliver” – Lupe Fiasco
  15. “You Got to Me” – James McMurty




Sound ‘Round: Tinariwen / Paris

Song from Paris, songs by Paris

Tinariwen – Live in Paris (ANTI-)

tinariwen live in parisTheir band name loosely translates to “desert,” as in the Sahara where most of the world’s 1.2 million Tuaregs call home. This band of musicians comes from northern Mali and fled the country during a violent Islamist uprising in 2012 which sought Tuareg statehood. The performance presented here capped a 130-date tour and was recorded at the Bouffes du Nord a year before the vicious attack at the nearby Bataclan theater. Each song is centered on a droning bass note upon which they stack polyrhythms aplenty and guitar riffs so rich and enduring you rightly forget The Black Keys were ever a thing. Before a multi-ethnic and multi-religious audience, they relay the virtues of peace for their war-torn homeland and humanity at large. There’s nary a word of English to be found, but this Westerner picks up on their deft melodicism and steadfast rhythms which match their convictions. Yes, they’re Muslim. Yes, they command your respect in the same way they respect women — an ISIS no-no. They practice what they preach by inviting 75-year-old percussionist Lalla Badi to tag along and give one of the most stirring vocal performances of the year. Though her arid alto is withered by age, she resonates more in three minutes than Adele does on three albums. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “Toumast Tincha” / “Imidiwan Ahi Sigidam” / “Tinde Tinariwnen”

Paris – Pistol Politics (Guerilla Funk)

paris pistol politicsOscar Jackson Jr. is such a political iconoclast his firebrand rhymes caused his label to ditch him during the early 90s. Disenfranchised and broke, he swapped hustling behind the mic for hustling stocks near the turn of the millennium. With enough cash from his adult job to fund a renewed interest in music, he returns during the age of Black Lives Matter with a double disc of venom directed at the perpetrators of social injustice and economic cronyism. He rips America for leading “the world in only three categories: number of characters locked up, number of grown folks who believe angels are real, and defense spending.” Then he blasts Obama for being no better than Bush regarding income inequality and the unjust use of military force. Not every track is concerned with hell fire. At 90 minutes, there’s plenty of songs which envision an inner-city utopia, none better than “Give the Summer Drum,” which comes with the hopeful quip, “I’m not talking about murdering blacks, I’m talking about encouraging blacks.” Despite aiming his lyrical barbs at large targets, he never forgets the lives affected by the powers at be. “Murder Suit,” isn’t about overthrowing the government. It’s about a funeral suite for another friend gone too soon. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “Murder Suit” / “Give the Summer Drum” / “Change We Can Believe In”

This article appeared in the Dec. 18, 2015 edition of The Monitor

Sound ‘Round: Grimes / Dawn Richard

Sonic progress as maturation 

Grimes – Art Angles (4AD)

Grimes - Art AngelsIn which Claire Boucher produces her best album, she does so by getting out of her own damn way. Where previous efforts were bogged by a singular infatuation with neo-noir dub and erudite humor, here is a multi-genre celebration of sound that’s wonderful for its cohesiveness and unadulterated quest for hooks. Sober and clean and wiser for it, Boucher abandons the off-putting dissonance of gothic electronica and instead surrounds her pixie-like voice with a library’s worth of pop influences ranging from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to M.I.A. The home-cooked beats are big enough to match her ambition, and the melodies are so strong you ponder why it took her four tries to get it right. Just as revelatory as the music are the ones wherein she quits the Grimes character and plays the lyrics straight. Taking jabs at Pitchfork and paying tribute to Al Pacino is cute, but give me “Venus Fly,” which finds her and Janelle Monae espousing feminist doctrine or the title track about her adoptive Montreal home. Almost every song is as joyful as it is disparate, a fitting accomplishment for someone who lives by the following creed: “Everything I ever love becomes everything I do.” GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “Artangles” / “Flesh without Blood”  /  “Venus Fly”

Dawn Richard – Blackheart (Our Dawn)

dawn richard - blackheartA one-time member of the MTV product Danity Kane, her second album in a trilogy of heartache is centered on a conceptual story arch that’s as loose and relaxed as her preferred song structure. Somewhere during the hour-long runtime is a metaphorical tale about the struggles of fame as personal redemption (Zzzz). Don’t focus on a message that fails to prove profound. Instead, dig into music that’s as beat driven as any you’ll find this year. Swapping formality for fluidity, she continues the tradition of great R&B albums that let the percussion lead the way. Nearly every track bleeds into the next with ease, creating a consistent aura of sound in the vein of Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear or D’Angelo’s VooDoo. Melodies are hard to come by, which makes this even more of a chore to grasp, but demonstrate patience and the hooks reveal themselves. The sex-as-power of “Billie Jean” is the closest thing to a radio single and turns the woman as wallet-grabbing wench of Michael Jackson fame into a toast of femininity. Though haunted by damaged romance and the big-bad record industry, she finds solace near the conclusion on “Choices,” wherein she declares “I love you, but I love me more.” GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “Billie Jean” / “Blow” / “Warriors”