Bottom line: 2016 was a terrible year in general, but it was an incredible goldmine for music. Here's what caught the Bandwagon team's ears this year.
The Temper Trap live in Singapore
Everything’s Beautiful | Robert Glasper & Miles Davis
This has to be first on the list. Robert Glasper, brings his unique touch of modern jazz, hip-hop and soul to legend Miles Davis’s music.
Having studied Miles' music extra intensely the past few years, in part due to his role as music supervisor in the movie Miles Ahead, Robert Glasper remixed tracks with original Miles recordings from Columbia/Legacy’s vaults. This album features some of my favourite artists — Hiatus Kayote, guitarist John Scofield (!!), Stevie Wonder, Laura Mvula (the one artist I've interviewed for Bandwagon). There's so much to love about this record!
Freetown Sound | Blood Orange
Funk, 80s R&B, melodic hooks that I find myself waking up humming to in the morning. Love how he weaves in multiple voices to create a distinct vocal sound throughout the record. Lyrical content wise, a meaningful and moving record chronicling oppressive racial and cultural struggles. On a lighter note, Dev Hynes is a great dancer. I wanna learn to move like him, and wear bell bottom pants. Watch out Singapore.
99.9% | Kaytranada
On sleepy afternoons, this album is the perfect pick-me-up. I picture a nice bowl of beef stew with mini round potatoes, tidy chunks of tender beef, and a creamy peppery broth (pardon me, it's 2pm at time of writing and I haven’t had lunch).
This album is a melting pot of really unique sounding synths and modulated vocals that bend, shift and filter in unexpected but pleasant ways, that make you go “ooo”. Another thing I love about this record is the use of a wide palate of drum beats that drop in the pocket, double back and hit you hard, making you go “uhh”. If you only have time for one track from this album, 'GLOWED UP' featuring the great Anderson . Paak will be it.
“ooo, uhh, ooo uhh, u geddit?” Ok time for lunch. Bye, thanks for reading.
Blackstar | David Bowie
The experience of listening to Blackstar at the time of release, then grappling it in the wake of his death, was a surreal and harrowing one. But it is exactly that that makes it my number one album on top of a pretty terrible year.
Musically, its stubborn refusal of rock ’n roll tropes in search of jazzy pastures makes it refreshing — not just within David Bowie’s sprawling discography, but it also serves as a natural continuation of jazz in popular music, following last year's sprawling Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. The idea of a 69-year-old musician, on the brink of death with a terminal illness, still managing to grasp a way forward in music, denying himself his "evergreen" years to produce his best work since the 70s — it can only be Bowie.
I’m not sure if we’ll ever get another recorded piece of work of such dizzying and unprecedented magnitude. But, again, there was never really anyone like Bowie, was there?
My Woman | Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen was already the victim of hype with the release of Burn Your Fire For No Witness in 2014. But not only could she build upon towering expectations with this new album, she went full wrecking ball on that shit. My Woman is a gripping, emotional rock record by Olsen, baring her vulnerabilities with the kind of fearless rock swagger that is wholly empowering.
The contrast of upbeat songs on the first half (or Side A for the vinyl enthusiasts) and ruminative ballads on the other is held steadfastly together by Olsen’s songwriting, and even as you can hear echoes of past music in her DNA, there’s something unique about Olsen’s exuberance and guts that make My Woman an essential listen in rock music circa 2016.
Atrocity Exhibition | Danny Brown
Danny Brown’s eccentricities are easy to like if you like your hip-hop adventurous (which is a lot of hip-hop these days, tbh), but it becomes a tough pill to swallow when you begin to grasp the magnitude of violence and decadence in his lyricism. The old adage of “he’s seen some shit” definitely applies to him, but while his previous album Old had him edging towards more accessible hip-hop production, Atrocity Exhibition is all kinds of wild and destructive.
It’s chaotic, rebellious, whimsical and deservedly fitting for a man who never fit into any kind of hip-hop mold in the first place. Brown continues to write rhymes that are sharp and baffling, but more than ever, he’s been able to personify the frightening world he paints with equally unhinged production. It's beautiful.
Kanye West's The Life Of Pablo, Swans' The Glowing Man, Frank Ocean's Blonde, Wormrot's Voices, Sumac's What One Becomes, Jessy Lanza's Oh No, Solange's A Seat At The Table.
Wisdom Of Elders | Shabaka And The Ancestors
London saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, already a name well-established in the English free jazz scene, travels well beyond his comfort zone to South Africa to team with an ensemble led by legendary trumpeter MandlaMandla Mlangeni.
Recorded in a single day (with no rehearsal), Wisdom of Elders showcases immediate and vibrant interplay between musicians of the highest calibre — freely intertwining Nguni rhythms, Barbadian calypso and spiritual hymns, alongside the blues and Hutchings' Sun Ra-influenced Afro-futuristic sensibilities.
Bird Sound Power | Equiknoxx
In a year when commercial dancehall seems to have broken through to the masses, it's up to Jamaica’s most bizarre and innovative dancehall squad to push the genre to new heights in the underground.
This is mutated dancehall at its peak — eccentric, minimalist and wigged-out — but ultimately both masterful and artful. Cut by core members Gavsborg and Time Cow (with contributions from Kofi Knoxx, Kemikal and many others) and packaged by Jon K and Demdike Stare, Bird Sound Power is easily the most crucial riddim album of 2016.
A Seat at the Table | Solange
While Beyoncé’s Lemonade was a remarkable achievement, Solange’s A Seat at the Table is objectively a better LP on many levels.
Stepping out of her sister’s considerable shadow, Solange announces herself as a sharp, formidable artist in her own right. Here, she takes a multitude of risks (musically and conceptually) that pay off handsomely, resulting in a neo-soul and R&B album rich in complexity and societal dimension, poetically crystallizing the conversation surrounding Black identity, empowerment and independence.
99.9% | Kaytranada
Been a fan of Kaytranada since his Soundcloud days and I was lucky enough to catch him live last May. I’ve lost count with the number of times I’ve seen his Boiler Room sets and seeing him perform made me feel like a proud mother haha. It's gratifying to see this young Quebec producer/ DJ, released a debut album that deeply reflected on his influences, competence, and hard work.
This album is chock full of guest vocalists like Craig David, AlunaGeorge, The Internet’s Syd, Vic Mensa and Little Dragon but, none of them overpower his funky beats. I think ‘GLOWED UP’ ft. the crooning vocals of Anderson .Paak is the song of the summer. Also, the structure of this album is not formulaic. Right when you thought that he's becoming predictable, he switches up. For this reason, I appreciate songs like ‘LITE SPOTS’ and ‘WEIGHT OFF’.
I was thrilled when BadBadNotGood played ‘Weight Off’ at their Neon Lights set. Dem brooding bass lines sounded even better live. Even Kay’s unexpected follow-up mixtape, 0.001% ???, is a banger. From Kaytradamus to a well-deserved Polaris Music Prize winner... looking forward to what he's going to put out in the future.
A Seat at the Table | Solange
I have to admit, my year-end top three tracks and most played artist on Spotify is Kaytranada, but Solange takes the number one spot for my favourite album this year. After she released her last EP, True, I was eager to see what she'll create next. Though this album took about eight years to complete, it was worth the wait.
A Seat at the Table is cohesive, personal and political. Solange is taking every opportunity to talk about Black culture, empowerment and social issues. Aside from her brilliant lyricism and dreamy yet intricate instrumentation, I was enamoured with Solange’s soothing voice.
This is one of the few records that I manage to listen to from beginning without skipping any songs, and by the end of it, I feel uplifted. This album’s lead single, ‘Cranes In The Sky’ which was accompanied with, in my opinion, the most aesthetically pleasing music video ever, is a standout.
Other essential tracks include, ‘Weary’, ‘F.U.B.U.’ and ‘Don’t Wish Me Well’. Can’t wait to watch her live next year. I’m going to lose my mind.
A Moon Shaped Pool | Radiohead
This is tough. I had to choose between Angel Olsen and Hamilton + Rostam but I decided to talk about Radiohead’s ninth studio album.
They’re back with another heart-wrenching album. Radiohead has always been that band to go to three in the morning when you’re feeling introspective or having an existential crisis. They’re not going to help ease your mood but hey, at least you have a great soundtrack for your despondency.
Honestly, I felt underwhelmed by their last album, The Kings of Limbs, but when Radiohead teased A Moon Shaped Pool with ‘Burn the Witch’ it got me excited about the band again. The song has an upbeat and orchestral melody but with super grim lyrics. Then it fades into the next track, ‘Daydreaming’. When the first piano chord came in, I was quickly mesmerised. Thom Yorke sounded gentle and heartbreaking at the same time. Although it's only the second song, many feelings have been evoked <sad reacts>. If you made it past ‘Glass Eyes’ without shedding a single tear, congratulations. And finally ‘True Love Waits’… I don’t even want to get into it. Just fuck me up hadioread
Also just want to say, all three albums are beautifully designed. Yey.
Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam’s I Had a Dream That You Were Mine, Skepta’s Konnichiwa, Angel Olsen’s My Woman, Conor Oberst’s Ruminations, Massive Attack’s Ritual Spirit, Forests’ Sun Eat Moon Grave Party, and Jenny Hval's Blood Bitch.
I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It | The 1975
This album got me through the entire year. From groovy, upbeat tunes ('The Sound', 'Love Me') for days where I needed that little burst of energy to get through work, to dreamy yet somewhat melancholic ballads ('Somebody Else', 'A Change of Heart' and 'Paris') that made sad days a little less heavy. And of course for the little side of me that loves blasting rock music on the commute, there's 'Lostmyhead' and 'The Ballad of Me' and 'My Brain'. As Rolling Stone puts it, "...when they hit the right kind of moody sheen, The 1975 are an enjoyable balance of desire and distraction."
Not to mention, I love the little stories that come with every music video that has been put up for this album, as well as the concept behind The Sound's music video.
Sun Seeker | Sphaeras & Oradek
The reason I love instrumental rock. This.
I was listening to this for work one day, and I wish I had discover the beauty of instrumental rock sooner. I put this on repeat when my mind needs a break from excessive thoughts/words, kinda sits by me like a friend in times of anxiety. Yet, it is also very exciting to listen to (!!!), no matter the number of times I've listened to it in a day. I think this article might be a better reference as to why this album is just that uniquely great.
Logiclub X1 | Logiclub
Love the feel-good, chill vibes from this compilation. Never thought I'd actually enjoy listening to electronic beats (??) this much and appreciate it, but I'm glad I do now!
(I got this as a gift actually, and this year was the first time I listened to music from the Philippines (thanks to #BWMM in Manila) - and I have to say it's been really eye-opening. Can't wait to hear more!)
Pierce The Veil's Misadventures, Forests' Sun Eat Moon Grave Party, Beast Jesus' In Various States of Disassembly and Of Monsters and Men's Beneath The Skin (not a 2016 album but they were here again this year and were enchanting as always, from lyrics to sound they are perfect).
Blue Neighbourhood | Troye Sivan
I know this one came out last year and I remember being so hyped out about it when it first came out. I even pre-ordered it before it came out. Never stopped listening to it since and it's still my most played album of 2016.
Aside from most of it being catchy, the reason I love the album so much is because of songs like 'Ease', 'Blue', 'Suburbia' and 'Lost Boy'. They always give me something to think about whenever I'm winding down. It's like imagining a whole story in an album for me. I feel like even if it's 2017, this would be an album of the year for me.
I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It | The 1975
The 1975 have a visual style that I look up to, but that's not the only reason why I love this album. The songs on this album remind me a bit of my love life, but in New York because of how it sounds like — bringing to mind an old diner, leather jackets and some really sweet and bitter stuff out of it. Definitely bring some feels back.
Hell's Kitchen Angel | MAX
Max Schneider has some of the sickest dance moves, but that came along with one of the best albums I love to dance to, especially dancing to 'Gibberish'. I used to dance to hip-hop when I was in secondary school, during those ol' Step Up days where Channing Tatum was still killing it, and Hell's Kitchen Angel made me wanna relieve those days.
Dopamine | BØRNS
This album's usually on repeat when I work. Dopamine made it on my list because the songs put me in a trance-like state, even though it isn't technically trance music.
Geniuses & Thieves | Gentle Bones
Singaporean music FTW! Full of catchy and chill tracks, it's my go-to album when I'm on the road, or just travelling in general.
Bonito Generation | Kero Kero Bonito
They're super cute! I love the fusion of Japanese & English here. Clarence introduced their music to me, and I'm thankful I got to see them live when we brought them over.
24K Magic | Bruno Mars
This album encapsulates today's party-loving, overly-materialistic generation in 34 minutes — enough to capture our hearts yet not lose us with our short attention spans.
The Edge of Paradise (天堂邊緣) | Kit Chan
This was the first album I worked on (which holds special meaning), but it's also Kit Chan’s first album of original material in 12 years. Stand-out tracks are 'Sudden Rain (忽然的雨)' where Kit’s one-take was synchronized with Bang Wenfu’s accompaniment on grand piano in real time, and 'Because You Were In My Life (生命有過你)' where Kit’s emotive singing adds mature depth and dimension to Xiao Han’s pensive lyrics.
Emily’s D+Evolution | Esperanza Spalding
Four years after her previous album, Esperanza’s radically different style (is this jazz? funk? prog? experimental? rock?) had me enthralled and confused. Refrains resound: “are you the lover or the leaver” — in her explosion of emotion and performance, Esperanza shows me that categorisation and dichotomy is the harder path in gaining an understanding and appreciation of the music and world around us.
Blonde | Frank Ocean
What I love and admire about Blonde is how it's simultaneously this hazy, shimmering landscape that yields new beauty every time you listen to it – and also a masterful artistic creation that is just one part of a shrewd, seven-year plan by Frank Ocean to fully wrest his independence from his former label, Def Jam.
Blonde is nostalgic but everything about its context endows it with this sense of futurity. The underlying message Ocean is sending with this album is essentially "You ain't seen nothing yet."
A Seat At The Table | Solange
A Seat At The Table is heavy with thought and emotion, but it's also a curiously light album – intricate and deliberate, but never overwrought. The judicious and melodic instrumentation buoys Solange, who metabolizes her ennui, anger, defiance and so much more in this album.
A Seat At The Table is threaded through with pearls of wisdom and history from Master P and Solange's own parents that never lose their shine, the finishing touches on an album you can dance and cry to, but also gain revelation from.
Coloring Book | Chance The Rapper
Coloring Book is such an achievement for Chance The Rapper. On one hand, it brims with childlike joy and enthusiasm (carried partly by collaborators like the irrepressible 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne on "No Problem" or Saba on "Angels"), but it also sits wistfully with the weight of growing older and growing up, as on "Summer Friends" or the underrated Justin Bieber-featuring "Juke Jam."
Before Coloring Book, Chance was something of an underdog, but now he's a Grammy-nominated rapper and indisputable Chicago champion. More power to him.
22, A Million | Bon Iver
I don't get the weird title typography but I've been waiting so long for a new Bon Iver record that I'd take anything. I really liked '22 (OVER S∞∞N)' so I was looking forward to listening to the entire album when it came out last September. I finally saw Bon Iver live earlier this year and I can't wait to hear the new songs live - crossing my fingers for an Asian leg of his 22, A Million tour.
Teens of Denial | Car Seat Headrest
I started listening to Car Seat Headrest because of Natasha (thanks bb gurl I owe you one). I can't believe Teens of Denial is his 12th album! Car Seat Headrest's music reminds me of my younger days, when I was still in university.
It's "new" music but it feels so familiar, like it's been there for a while. I like how it reminds me of a certain period of my life but none of the feelings and baggage that go along with it. I felt bad when they had to destroy hundreds of the physical albums because of an unauthorised sample of Cars' 'Just What I Needed'. Still disappointed that they're not stopping by Laneway Singapore next year.
Tom's Story | Tom's Story
Tom's Story's self-titled debut is an instrumental album that I have trouble NOT singing along to. The math rock trio is always a treat to watch live (I've seen them perform countless times this year) and I honestly feel like their record doesn't do them justice (I still keep it in the background while working though and have sent copies to cousins overseas because their music needs to be heard by more people).
James Blake's The Colour in Anything, DIIV's Is the Is Are, The Strokes' Future Present Past, Lucy Rose's Live at Urchin Studios, NINNO's Third Culture Kid (was released end of 2015 but I spent most of 2016 listening to this album while it was still on Soundcloud! - the struggle, can't wait for the next one)
Blond(e) | Frank Ocean
2016 was a groundbreaking year for urban pop, with politically charged releases such as those from Beyoncé, Solange, and the legendary A Tribe Called Quest reinventing what it takes to secure your relevance in today's pop culture landscape.
What sets Frank Ocean's Blonde (alternately Blond, because screw gender binary) apart from these is that it doesn't diametrically proclaim its politics — it just is. With the exception of one line and a photo in tribute to Trayvon Martin, Ocean avoids direct references to real world events or concrete political movements throughout his 17-track LP, and instead delves deep into the personal by singing about varying manifestations and degrees of sadness stemming from the everyday existence of the everyman who has to deal with each erratic turn of the world today.
Music-wise, as someone who tends to rely on percussion to get drawn into the hook, it's a bit weird to find myself digging an album that uses it so sparingly. But the hushed tone and undulated rhythm actually fits perfectly with the general ambiguity Blond portrays. Furthermore, the manner in which Ocean released Blonde — immediately after dropping the visual album, Endless, apparently only so he could fulfill his obligations to Def Jam and UMG before finally being rid of them — is one hell of a giant middle finger to big corpo so badass, it felt like something Taylor Swift could only wish she had the audacity to pretend to pull. And I'm always here for dissing capitalist jerks and T-Swizzle.
Paradise | White Lung
If you hear anyone say the recent slew of horrible news around the world makes them excited for the return of good protest music, you can tell them to get over their elitist ass and look at the mainstream charts a little more closely, because this year's big releases are already way ahead of them.
While White Lung's Paradise can't be found among any big wig publication's Top 20, the Canadian punk group makes a bold statement akin to this by making it close enough as they veer away from their usual frantic ferocity in favour of cleaner vocals, more distinguishable melodies, and noticeably polished standard-length tracks. The message, too, is less in-your-face; instead bleeding through the seams Mish Barber-Way had carefully sewn back together from broken stories of serial killers, beauty icons, and trailer park wives.
The result is a record that's a little more accessible, a bit more vastly relatable, but still just as potent. No, in fact, even more so, because it tears down — not the walls of patriarchy, but the barriers which alienate the majority from the movement that should lead to that very event. Paradise then remains as much of a feminist album as 2014's Deep Fantasy was; instead, this time, White Lung celebrates the 'Bad Feminists' (read: not middle class, not stubbornly independent, not white — the best thing I like about Mish Barber-Way is that, despite being a white woman herself, she doesn't share the limited perspectives of White Feminists) just as hard, elevating the movement to a wider scale.
The Bones We Used to Share | Brickcity
A debut record that takes three years to complete would often carry with it a selection of a band's most popular singles throughout their active years plus several choice surprises to keep fans elated from start to finish. Fans of Philippine metalcore band Brickcity, however, got 32 minutes and 30 seconds of a single long-winding journey packed into one tight story. The band describes themselves as "the angry musical score to your favourite movie".
Their concept album, The Bones We Used to Share, feels like the movie itself. The LP takes you through the complete dramatic structure of short story plot, from a gentle but eerie exposition, then a rising action riddled with desolate screams leading to a deeply melodic, echoing release of a climax that trips into an unbridled descent to its conclusion, before plateuing into the final credits which even delivers a somber, faintly detached post-credit scene.
It's honestly a lot to swallow, the first time you hear it, and the band does not deny their verbosity, nor their tendency to sound like a bunch of testosterone-filled narrators suffering from quarter-life crisis — because they are. But it's this very honesty that makes their music such a raw, powerful experience, and though overwhelming, it's a feeling you can't help but submit yourself into and enjoy. Rinse and repeat.
David Bowie's Blackstar, Into It. Over It.'s Standards, Cigarettegirls' Deadringer (only because Dan said EPs don't count :p).
X Infinity | Watsky
For a secret record he worked on while writing a book, I didn’t expect such a masterpiece.
Spotify says I’m in the Top 1% of Watsky fans, but I promise I’m not using that word lightly. It has the whole shebang: collaborative production (Kush Mody, Anderson .Paak, Dumbfounddead, Josh Dun of twenty one pilots), conscious tracks on various issues ('Stick to Your Guns', 'Pink Lemonade', 'Chemical Angel'), weird-ass vivid storytelling ('Exquisite Corpse', 'Springtime in New York'), badass fast raps ('Don’t Be Nice', 'Love Letters'), spoken word poems about troubled Polish pianists ('Lovely Thing Suite: Knots'), the funniest, funkiest, most introspective song about sex ('Going Down'), and it loops infinitely.
I can go on, but you might as well just give it a listen!
This Unruly Mess I’ve Made | Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
With an epic lead single in 'Downtown', a heartfelt dedication in 'Growing Up (Sloane’s Song)' ft. Ed Sheeran, and a timely conversation-starter in 'White Privilege II', I already loved this album before it was officially released.
It’s a brilliant follow-up to their widely successful 2012 debut, covering their usual themes and topics, but with a renewed perspective, more extravagant production, and collaborations on every track.
Bonus: Was able to catch this tour’s final show of the year here in Manila! ♥︎
Misadventures | Pierce The Veil
Here we have a classic example of not judging an album by its cover art. :)
The long-delayed follow-up to their 2012 album proved worth the wait. It’s everything I like about Pierce The Veil's brand of post-hardcore: intricate, so much going on, songs blend together in one listen, yet they can stand out on their own.
Unfortunately there’s no 'Bulls In The Bronx'-esque mexicore this time. :(
A Moon Shaped Pool | Radiohead
I never knew I'd wake up to a day when were graced with Thom Yorke lacing our bland lives with flavorful lyricism. I may not have listened to this album as often as everyone should, but I constantly return to it as a reminder that not all legends retire or go on a hiatus and leave us immersed on their old material.
Cell-o-phane | The Buildings
First off, The Buildings have been a very underrated band in my opinion, and they deserve more love with this album that was tailored for every mood. It's bright, fresh, and the rhythm weighs in heavily enough to reflect, as what they have called, "different shades of blue."
Going Seventeen | SEVENTEEN
In the pool of Korean boy groups, SEVENTEEN has paved a way to showcase their maturity, or rather coming of age, with Going Seventeen. Releasing it during the edge of the year indeed made a huge impact that could transition throughout 2017, from visual design to a new perspective with their sound.
Despite all the mishap this year has entailed, music has rendered numerous gateways for every person to experience. From our good ol ' favorite bands to the growth of the younger generation, we weren't short in the case of variety and thought-provoking quality of material.
Sorrow | Colin Stetson
Scope ain't ever a problem for saxophonist Colin Stetson, but I don't think I've heard a record more expansive than this gem. Sweeping and restless, the reinterpretation of Gorecki's most mournful minutes scored the most points for me because of its size and the grandeur it's filled with.
A Moon Shaped Pool | Radiohead
I learned how to play 'True Love Waits' in the piano this year. One part never failed me: I felt my voice quivering, reminded of the strings that ended 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor...', Thom's discerning, affecting mumble in 'Glass Eyes', and the halt 'The Numbers' crashes into. Nine LPs in and Radiohead once again wrung tenderness out of days badly spent.
You Want It Darker | Leonard Cohen
Death is closely followed by tears, similar to smiles that follow birth.
In between those 82 years, Leonard Cohen tiptoed around these emotions, often with careful slyness and a surgical look into despair. He may have smiled at the thought of getting head at Chelsea Hotel. He couldn't finish 'So Long, Marianne', escorting himself out of the stage at one point. Leonard ended his run with the sound of mournful strings, reminding us of a life once lived, as requiems often do.
We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service | A Tribe Called Quest
A Tribe Called Quest's new album encapsulates what they've accomplished in the past two decades but, at the same time, it somewhat reinvigorates the group as a whole.
I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It | The 1975
It has been sitting in my CD player since they released it. It tells a story which I can relate with — like a roller coaster that my life has been on for 24/7: a messy, raw, quarter-life crisis.
Ology | Gallant
I guess his album somewhat represents what alt-R&B kids are doing these days — having a distinctive voice but at the same time not being able to figure out which way to go. But why is this one of my albums of the year? Because it uniquely represents the kind of free-spirited millennials who are keen to go for kinfolks, practicing the massive 'communal' life. It's edgy and lifelike.
Still Waters | Breakbot
Breakbot – real name Thibaut Berland – has steadfastly been building his own signature sound of compressed, glitchy electro that has soundtracked an entire generation. Releasing his album early in the year, he totally nailed it in concept and execution, fixating on his style of funk that is all sorts of futuristic, bombastic and bright-eyed.
Especially so when you hear ‘Get Lost’ — groovy bass lines, disco synths and feel-good funk, citing the influence of Curtis Mayfield, Prince and Michael Jackson. It cleverly toes the line between the obvious nostalgia for ‘70s and ‘80s disco/funk — the archetypal Ed Banger production — and aspects of neo-soul and modern R&B.
Also, it feels so right to have this feel-good summer record as ‘the perfect soundtrack for a BBQ around a swimming pool'. Nice choice indeed.
Maple Key | Le SuperHomard
Another album released early in 2016 is Le SuperHomard's Maple Key. Christophe Vaillant (guitars and keyboard), Pandora Burgess (vocals) and Olivier Vaillant (drums and bass) bring a taste for 60s beat music, electronic pop that naturally connects with classic French pop references, including those of spiritual fathers of the electro-pop genre, Stereolab and Medhi Zannad.
'Dry Salt in Our Hair' really catches something in my ear, standing out from any other tracks in this album. Being somehow pop-centric and a little bit nostalgic, Maple Key is quite exemplary of that kind of music that gives you a respite to soothe your soul in this current climate of heavy traffic or the everyday stress with jobs — akin to floating amongst the clouds.
24K Magic | Bruno Mars
I must admit that it was quite hard for me to pick my last choice, but I got to say that, baby, 24K Magic from Bruno Mars really makes my thumbs go spinning as I type this. There's a lot to like in this album, with no bad track in the mix — it really makes me nostalgic, looking back at my childhood, grabbing an album to play that was really worth it to listen front to back (as opposed to a lazy "The Best Of" compilation.)
These songs can easily become part of your daily playlist — effortlessly up-tempo with no fat in the songwriting, spontaneous, funky, and happy. Bruno Mars made 24K Magic as a statement, reminding us about the pure joy of music.