This track drew me with its opening retro-video game riff. The atmospheric background synths make it feel as if the track is building up to a boss battle rather than a drop. The drop comes with a more contemporary sounding bass and drum claps. A futuristic wintry track which will fit nicely with those January blues.
2016 was a tumultuous year for Kanye West from the infamous ‘BILLY COSBY INNOCENT’ tweet to his hospitalisation at the end of the year. In the midst of this chaos Kanye released the unfinished (and subsequently updated) The Life of Pablo. Kanye’s eighth studio album is a mixed bag and there’s a lot to complain about; not enough Kanye, questionable lyrics, ridiculous release saga. However ‘Ultralight Beam’ shines in an album bogged down by its attempt at profundity.
Kanye has never been one to shy away from bringing religion into his music. But unlike 2004’s ‘Jesus Walks’, Kanye does not attempt to critique the status of religion in the media. Instead ‘Ultralight Beam’ wouldn’t be out of place in church on a Sunday morning. Kanye enlisted the help of Kirk Franklin’s gospel choir as well as veteran R ‘n’ B singer Kelly Price, and The Dream. However it is Happy Man of the Year, Chance the Rapper who steals the show on this one. His verse is packed with powerful Biblical verses next to whimsical pop references.
‘Ultralight Beam’ is powerful yet understated. A goosebump-inducing Track of the Year.
2016 has been a tumultuous year, giving musicians a lot of inspiration. As a result, 2016 has been full of amazing albums. Here are a few of my favourites.
10. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
I had always heard people raving about Danny Brown but I never found that any of his albums clicked with me. That is until Atrocity Exhibition dropped. I was initially intrigued by the Joy Division reference in the title and once I heard about Brown’s varied musical influences I was sold. This album experiments a lot more than most mainstream Hip Hop and it definitely pays off.
9. Hamilton Leithauser/Rostam – I Had A Dream That You Were Mine
I have a soft spot for pretty much any project Rostam Batmanglij. This collaboration between Rostam and Leithauser chimes with an extra edge and attitude which doesn’t ring with such passion in their other projects. This album has its own distinct voice which never grates. A truly enjoyable listen.
8. Kendrick Lamar – untitled. unmastered.
This isn’t the release that people would have been hoping for this year. However, untitled. unmastered is the notebook of a man who’s mind is constantly working. After the events of 2016, Kendrick Lamar’s next release may well be the most important of the decade. But it would have to beat To Pimp A Butterfly first.
7. Death Grips – Bottomless Pit
Death Grips are one of the most experimental bands of the era. Their breakups and the release of their albums carry an excitement that Kanye West can only dream of (see the release saga of The Life of Pablo). With each release Death Grips develop their sound, their instrumentals appeal to the most primal parts of our brain and MC Ride’s lyrics are snarled poetry. Bottomless Pit embraces all of the best aspects of Death Grips and turns it up to 11.
6. David Bowie – Blackstar
The circumstances surrounding David Bowie’s last album make this a particularly poignant release. The perfect goodbye to his fans, the final chapter in Bowie’s sprawling music career is dark, deep, and harrowing. A fitting goodbye to a legend.
5. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
A reunion album without all of the original members, 20yrs after the band’s best albums. We Got It From Here… had the all the ingredients to be a colossal failure. Nevertheless, with a little help from some friends, A Tribe Called Quest have created one of the freshest albums of the year. A Tribe Called Quest show a new generation what makes them Hip Hop icons.
4. Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
2016 was a year which saw some legends bring out some of their finest work. However, it was also a year in which we said goodbye to many legends who seemed to be a staple of music throughout our lives. Like many others, I discovered Leonard Cohen as an angsty teenager and as I have grown older I have only discovered the depths of Cohen’s poetry. I will miss his sombre drawl and his eye for humanity’s intricacies.
3. Charles Bradley – Changes
Charles Bradley’s vocals are some of the most gripping and soulful you will hear this year. A refreshingly warm album in a cold, digital world. This album will have you dancing one minute and crying the next.
2. Solange – A Seat At The Table
2016 is the year that Solange Knowles stepped out of her sister’s shadow. Whilst Beyonce’s Lemonade has appeared on many AOTY lists, A Seat At The Table often beats her to the higher spots. Solange’s brand of R ‘n’ B is understated yet politically defiant.
1. KAYTRANADA – 99.9%
99.9% is my album of the year because of its versatility. Sure it may not be as lyrically complex as Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker, or as politicised as A Seat At The Table. Nevertheless, KAYTRANADA’s 99.9% bursts with youthful vigour. KAYTRANADA is the modern face of hip hop production, his beats are infectious and the whilst this album has it’s flaws, they are delivered with a smile. Everything is laid open.
I love the jungle big band rhythm to this track, it’s almost like Christmas collabed with the Jungle Book. This rhythm is fairly constant throughout the track, with the female vocals switching between leading the track and providing rhythmic variation. I doubt this track will be on your playlist but it definitely warrants a place.
Thanks for reading my Christmas Advent Calendar, there’s a lot to cover for the next few years so I hope you will stay tuned! I’ll be taking a break for tomorrow but from the 26th until NYE I will be counting down my top 10 albums of the year and on NYE I will be revealing my Album of the Year and my Track of the Year.
It’s 4am. Instead of Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’ or Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’ you hear the melancholy piano intro of ‘Fairytale of New York’. You grab the closest person, thinking you don’t care who you grab. But you do. It’s your fattest, sweatiest person in your vicinity. You can leave now but then you won’t get to enjoy the track. So succumbing to your fate you throw your head back and howl ‘CAME IN EIGHTEEN TO ONEEEEEE’. Drawling the rest of the first verse, you wait for the beat to kick. All of a sudden you’re transformed into an Irish dancer, you and your mate twirl around, singing to each other in the best Irish accent you can muster. It’s a shit attempt. He’s spitting in your eyes as he’s screaming ‘YOU SCUMBAG, YOU MAGGOT, YOU CHEAP LOUSY FAGGOT’ but don’t worry you’re doing the exact same to him, you disgusting sweatball. The only consolation is that you’re not as drunk as Shane McGowan when he recorded this song.
This mellow jazz track really stands in contrast to most of the other classic Christmas tracks. The sax is slow and grooves over the tinkling piano. Every now and again there’s the stab of a guitar but it’s hugged on either side by the laid back instrumentals, so much so that when the guitar steps up for its solo it effortlessly noodles around. Charles Brown’s caramel vocals gels this cultured Christmas classic.
So as this is the penultimate edition of my Christmas Advent Calendar, I thought I would go for a slower track. Like Day 9’s Jose Feliciano track ‘Feliz Navidad’, Alci Acosta’s ‘Que Triste Navidad’ is in Spanish. However whilst ‘Feliz Navidad’ translates into ‘Merry Christmas’, ‘Que Triste Navidad’ translates into ‘What a Sad Christmas’. But I didn’t really pick this song because of its depressing lyrics. I picked it because the instrumentals are impossible not to dance to. You’ll be moving your hips to a man singing about how lonely he is this Christmas 🙂