SPECIAL REVIEW PROJECT: 2017 IN REVIEW – Best and Worst Albums of 2017

2017 IN REVIEW
By Francelino Prazeres de Azevedo Filho

francey's top nine

So, here I am again with a list of 141 musical releases from the year 2017, to listen to, sieve and discover gems and potential favourites. These releases form a very motley selection, for they were picked through a variety of means. Many Anglophone and Brazilian ones came from a methodical cataloguing of best-of-the-year lists, to see which ones got to higher positions more often. Some were chosen due to the recommendation of friends or acquaintances, or simply because something in it piqued my attention. I ended up with 25 African albums, 41 Anglophone ones, 6 from Asian artists, 47 from Brazil, 13 from Europe and 10 from the rest of Latin America.

I’d like to start with the continent from which we all came, and whose music is so sadly ignored by most people. From northern Africa, the Tuareg genre of tishoumaren continues to produce many strong releases. Some were more peaceful, like Mdou Moctar’s Sousoume Tamachek, and some were bluesier, like the hypnotic Kiral, from Tamikrest, containing my favourite guitars of 2017. Award-winning icons Tinariwen also released a typically good album in Elwan. As tishoumaren is overall a stylistically uniform genre, I must say I am disappointed with the attempt to mix it with post-punk, by Saharawi band Group Doueh with the French Cheveu. This fusion, in my opinion, has the potential to be much better realised than it was in their Dakhla Sahara Session.

African jazz also had a good crop last year. Legendary drummer Tony Allen’s The Source had some great funky tracks, Orchestra Baobab threw out their warm Afro-Cuban Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng, but my favourite of the bunch was Mistakes on Purpose, the 30th volume of the Éthiopiques series. It continues the trend set with last year’s Awo by Ukandanz, in which Ethiopian veterans join French ethio-jazz bands, in this case Girma Bèyènè with Akalé Wubé respectively. The result was a very solid album, even if did not reach Awo’s fierce intensity.

The final trend from Africa that I’ll mention is that of female-fronted Mandé music. Of those, two I’d like to mention later, among my favourites, but while Awa Poulo’s Poulo warali wasn’t quite as good, it still had an excellent first four tracks. Sadly, the disk got too repetitive by the end.

Onto Brazil, now, on the more rootsy side of things. Mateus Aleluia’s Fogueira doce did an afoxé-tinged MPB that was peaceful and warm with a tinge of sadness. Fabiano do Nascimento’s Tempo dos mestres was reportedly jazz, but drawn from Northern and Northeastern Brazilian traditions. He failed to absorb any of the energy of those sources, and the result was folksy-jazzy shit that goes nowhere, just annoys and tires the mind. To add insult to injury, he also found time to ruin the classic O canto de Xangô by Baden Powell & Vinícius de Moraes. Far more faithful was Yangos’ Chamamé, which did accordion-based Gaúcho music with ease, even if without any significant innovation.

In Brazilian hip hop, I can say that we have seen the complete transition of styles. In the early 10s, artists like Criolo, Ogi and Karol Conká would mix in influences from a whole gamut of Brazilian genres like samba, MPB or repente, to make a dazzling, melodic hip hop. These days, their objectives seem unfinished, for while there is still a lot of untapped potential, even their luminaries have moved away from it. Criolo has gone full samba, and Ogi’s Pé no chão is good, but far from the brilliance of 2015’s R A !. The new generation, however, seems far more interested in a new, raw, trap-inspired production, with screamy or just annoying voices, overall very unpleasant to my ears. I think it is partially due to shifts in American hip hop, but just as much to blame is the coup that put Temer into our presidency, and darkened much of our population’s perspectives towards the future, especially the poor. The worst ones were Djonga’s Heresia and Baco Exu dos Blues’ Esú, but nill’s Regina, Flora Matos’ Eletrocardiograma, Don L’s Roteiro pra Aïnouz, Vol. 3 were also very weak. Some of the new generation have made some alright albums, like Ricón Sapiência’s Galanga livre and the aptly named all-women group Rimas & Melodias’ self-titled debut. American trap has been far better than Brazilian though, with many strong, lush releases like Migos’ fun Culture and especially Future’s melodic and surprisingly melancholic HNDRXX.

Two queer artists with sexualised urban music also achieved notoriety in Brazil. Pabllo Vittar, popstar and drag queen, achieved larger success among the public, but his Vai passar mal was overall weak. The hit single K.O. is very catchy, though. Trans woman Linn da Quebrada’s vulgar funk carioca from Pajubá made a stronger impression on me. Far better than the both of those, Tyler, the Creator’s coming-out statement Flower Boy has some great soulsy production made with so much care that it reminded me of the early Kanye albums. It might be my favourite hip hop release of the year, along with Brockhampton’s Saturation III. The whole Saturation trilogy is pretty good, making use of the voices of their many different members to make a sort of kaleidoscopic effect. It is also very interesting to see how much they evolved, both in production as in hook making, in a single year.

Now to get this out of the way: DAMN was very good but I don’t see it as being excellent, and I still consider Kendrick’s masterpiece to be good kid, m.A.A.d city. Finishing my hip hop list, I liked Jay-Z’s 4:44, catchy and cool with great samples, and Damso’s Ipséité, rapped in French with fine flow, but was underwhelmed by Vince Staples’ Big Fish Theory, although I must say I loved Kilo Kish’s participation in Love Can Be… and will try to find more stuff from her.

Among Latin American musicians, the trend was to mix traditional genres with modern lush productions, making stuff that felt fresh and with a lot of potential, even though this year’s batch didn’t quite make an excellent album. The best for me was Puerto Rican group ÌFÉ’s IIII+IIII, which takes Afro-American (Santería) religious music as a base and spices it with all sorts of Caribbean genres, and takes it through an electronic sheen to make something dazzlingly polyphonic when it’s fast, and pretty and mellow when it’s slow. The other three albums I’d like to mention are all rooted in beautiful female vocals. Sister duo Ibeyi’s Ash couldn’t make the most of their voices due to inconsistent songwriting. Irka Mateo’s Vamo a gozá travels through various local genres, while Las Áñez’s Al aire was more alien and atmospheric pop, both were equally good.

Still on Latin America, it was sad that Colombian bullerengue legend Magín Díaz died so soon after his El orisha de la rosa was released. Having written many classics of the Colombian canon since the 1930s, he was nonetheless ignored for most of his life, up until 2012. His last release, full of guest stars, felt like the recognition he always deserved. Another dead icon, Moroccan gnawa musician Mahmoud Guinia, had his final studio recordings released last year, on the posthumous album Colours of the Night. While very poignant, it didn’t match the energy of his earlier records to me.

Of course, among all those albums, I made sure to listen to the new releases of many of my favourite artists. Chico Buarque is one of what I consider the Holy Trinity of Brazilian music, an all-time great. His Caravanas, however, brings the worst aspects of his songwriting, a collection of self-indulgent poetic bossa nova ditties that bores the shit out of me. Still, he definitely has earned the right to indulge himself, and at this point in time, doesn’t need anyone’s approval for anything. Love you, Chico. Another self-indulgent release from a favourite was Nação Zumbi’s Radiola NZ, vol. 1, in which they perform songs that influenced them, with very mixed success. Their renditions of Refazenda and Não há dinheiro no mundo que pague are great, but O balanço and Sexual Healing are embarrassments. Tribalistas’ new self-titled album is a good effort in mixing pop-rock with MPB, every song having its own dosage of the mix. Those very elements were also the foundation of Otto’s solid Ottomatopeia. Metá Metá released a very interesting and rhythmic avant-garde soundtrack for the dance spectacle Gira. The group’s members also released other records: vocalist Juçara Marçal joined Rodrigo Campos and Gui Amabis to assemble the inspired, poetic and uneasy Sambas do absurdo, inspired in the philosophy of Albert Camus, while guitarist Kiko Dinucci’s solo Cortes Curtos’ short post-punk tunes underwhelmed me. Even worse was Curumin’s Boca, in which he tries to become “artsier” while losing his catchiness.

Fleet Foxes’ first new release since Helplessness Blues in 2011, Crack-Up, offered a denser, but less immediately melodic take on their intricate folk pop. It was good, but their two previous efforts are masterpieces to me. I knew that this new disk had to be different, however, and I hope they can regain their brilliance while following this path. A clear improvement from the preceding album was Lorde’s latest. Pure Heroine had its moments, but Melodrama has so much subtle touches, with her perfect intonation elevating the emotional level. My greatest criticism is that it could have used more cathartic refrains like in Homemade Dynamite or Writer in the Dark.

Perfume Genius’ dream-poppy No Shape was nice, especially given how much I disliked his previous Too Bright. Now Jay Som’s Everybody Works on the other hand, was the type of music that I thought was over. This sort of slow electronic-y indie pop was never good back then, and now it’s both bad and passé. Sheer Mag’s Need to Feel Your Love baffled me: they travelled through the whole diversity of early 70s pop and rock, from hard rock to glam to disco, and it could have been very catchy, but they tied it all with screeching, effects-laden vocals. Maybe just a little bit less screech would have turned this 180º to me, but as it is, it’s very hard to listen to. Far more pleasant was The OOZ by King Krule. It draws from Tom Waits, hip and trip hop, resulting in a smooth, talky rock.

A big notable trend in Anglophone music was this new wave of soul / R&B. Slow, glossy, and far more attuned to pathos rather than the simple emotions of joy and sadness. The quality varies. Sampha’s Process and Kelela’s Take Me Apart have pretty production but little else to entertain me. SZA’s Ctrl fares much better, but it still doesn’t match the critical acclaim it received in my opinion. The Kendrick track is great, but the one with Travis Scott, oh boy… awful! The real standout of this set was Moses Sumney’s Aromanticism. It’s very unique, almost as influenced by Kid A as What’s Going On. I’ll even wager it’ll start a new trend, one whose development I will be curious to track. Brazil also had a soul release that got recognition, Xenia’s self-titled debut. It consists on versions of MPB songs done in her style, but still maintaining the original diversity. The slower tracks drag a bit, but the faster ones are good, especially Chico Cézar’s Respeitem meus cabelos, brancos.

Brazilian pop-rock had its best release in Maglore’s Todas as Bandeiras. It doesn’t do anything that different, it’s just strong hooks and melodies with pleasing textures, but that’s all that I need, really. Those are lacking in Lá vem a morte, by the extremely overrated Goianan band Boogarins, themselves an inferior version of the already overrated Tame Impala. On the other hand, Scalene’s Magnetite had many people turn up their noses due to its banal lyrics about society’s problems, but musically, it is adequate. Vanguart’s Beijo estranho is also solid, while Giovani Cidreira’s Japanese Food has that awful thing where the lyrics don’t fit in the melodies, like Legião Urbana or Cidadão Instigado, making it a very uncomfortable listen.

Going on to Europe, Andrea Laszlo De Simone paid homage to his native Italian lush pop from the 60s and 70s in his Uomo donna. While I really dug its sound, I felt that he was too willing to sacrifice the flow of the album to make bigger statements. Many songs are 2-3 minutes longer than they should have been, and Gli uomini hanno fame has an awful 4-minute-long intro with random political recordings. Despite its flaws, it was still a very interesting listen, as was Japanese band ゲスの極み乙女 (Gesu no Kiwami Otome)’s 達磨林檎. Rich, melodic, jazzy and proggy, though sometimes too lightweight to be fully engaging.

Europe and Asia also had some noteworthy releases on the folkier side of things. From West Java, Indonesia, the duo Tarawangsawelas’ Wanci attempted to modernise the local sacred music, called tarawangsa, which consists mainly of repetitive acoustic drones done in just two string instruments. Despite that, they were much better in the sole longer, more conservative, track, Sekalipun, than in the shorter, supposedly more palatable, ones. Bridging the two continents, Meïkhâneh’s La Silencieuse draws from everywhere between southern France to Persia to Mongolia, providing innovative combinations for those familiar with the musical vocabularies of those regions. Oj borom, borom is Ukrainian folk done by a Polish duo, Maniucha Bikont & Ksawery Wójciński, vocalist and contrabassist respectively. Focused on textures, it can be great when you’re receptive, but it might be too repetitive when you’re not. There were also two albums based on a capella Iberian traditions. Galician Xosé Lois Romero & Aliboria’s self-titled debut, while not bad by far, lacked the vibrancy of the other one, which figures on my favourites list.

Of everything to which I’ve listened, two albums stood out as the worst. Nina Becker’s Acrílico consists of poetry written with no ear for meter or rhythm, and lacking melody, set to tacky bossa-nova-ish instrumentation. That would be bad enough by itself, but the lyrics are embarrassingly bad as well. Somehow even worse is Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy. It also has embarrassingly bad lyrics. And nothing else. The fucker gave up on any sort of musicality whatsoever, just to record words like: “oh, their religions are the best / they worship themselves yet they’re totally obsessed / with risen zombies, celestial virgins, magic tricks, these unbelievable outfits”. I actually stopped, disgusted, at around 3 minutes in the first track, and I am an atheist Marxist! And honestly, after finding out this album is fucking 75-minutes-long, I’m so offended, that I refuse to spend a single second more listening to shit utter garbage.

Conversely, I have nine albums I would call my favourite releases of 2017. Of those, my top two, in their particular order, are well cemented in my mind. For the others, I tried ranking them as I wrote this essay, but those positions are very fluid in my mind, and they are all of similar quality to me.

The album I placed as the ninth best release of 2017 was Luyando, by Zimbabwean group Mokoomba. It’s afro-pop-rock of the catchiest sort, while keeping a reasonable diversity in style. Songs like Kulindiswe and Kumukanda will stick to your mind if you listen to them, and you won’t want them out! On the eight spot, the instrumental post-rock in Kalouv’s Elã. Refreshing and enticing, it built novel soundscapes of varying colours without resorting to the tired “crescendocore” formula. The seventh place, Ladilikan, was an unusual collaboration between Malian griot Trio da Kali and Seattle-based chamber music Kronos Quartet. The music is overall in the Mandé tradition, carried principally by female vocalist Hawa Kasse Mady Diabaté’s expressive vocals, with added depth by the incredibly fitting and well-oiled mix of European strings with the balafon and ngoni. There’s an odd American gospel song in the middle that robs the album of some momentum, but it is easily regained. St. Vincent’s Masseduction takes the sixth spot. While I generally hate the prefix “art” when used on genres, I have to accept that the best way to describe this is “art-pop”. Sexy all over, sometimes manic, sometimes melancholic, always alluring.

We shall return to the aforementioned a capella Iberian music for our fifth position. Ao longe já se ouvia, by Portuguese all-female group Sopa de Pedra, has harmony and playfulness by the bushel, making a very entertaining, unique listen. Oumou Sangaré, Malian songstress from the Wassoulou region, takes the fourth spot with her Worotan. Carrying forward the style for her region, her sound might resemble blues to the western listener (actually blues probably originated from Wassoulou music), but with a hooky, poppy sheen. Her voice is just entrancing! On the third place, Criolo’s love letter to old-school samba, Espiral de ilusão. While it didn’t do anything that hasn’t been done before, it travels through all the varieties and strains of the genre. The transparent admiration for the masters only makes it more endearing. The second-best album of 2017 to me was Msafiri Zawose’s Uhamiaji. If you read about it on the internet, you might think it is traditional Gogo music from Tanzania, but Mr. Zawose has actually done what I believe most electronic music I’ve heard fails to achieve. The use of acoustic percussion gives a strong oomph to the mesmerizing rhythms, which are innately pleasing.

Finally, my favourite 2017 release was Sufjan Steven’s Carrie & Lowell Live. While there was undeniable beauty in the original studio version of Carrie & Lowell, I always felt it lacked something, particularly by abandoning the maximalist arrangements of his previous releases. The live version more than fixes that, maintaining all the beauty while adding huge doses of power, both from the return of the maximalism, and from the rawer vocals, with natural cracks and imperfections, greatly raising their emotional impact. The sum of all those parts is touching and radiant, and not even the weird Drake cover at the encore can detract from such a wonderful experience. For all the other marvellous stuff I’ve seen from last year, this is still the apex in terms of music and emotion!

Advertisements

A TRIBE CALLED QUEST – The Low End Theory (1991)

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Dinar Khayrutdinov

 

I was teen-ager too, you know. And pagers were truly hip for a while but the world has changed so drastically since the time I went to school and was vaguely aware of that thing called “hip hop” (I knew it involved baggy pants) that I am not even sure it happened in the same life anymore. So I listen to this Tribe called Quest in hopes to get, you know, reminded of the glorious 90s. Or possibly even understand what was happening in the world when I was too young to understand anything.
 
A Tribe Called Quest are cool. They have a really cool name. They have cool verses. They have cool beats. They have a cool flow. They fuse jazz atmosphere with hip-hop attitude in a real cool way, if you are to believe the allmusic take on this record. They are just all-around cool.
 
So remember that comment about baggy pants before? Yeah, most of my peers grew on diet export hip-hop and some local examples. I kinda didn’t. I didn’t even suspect it qualified as music. I thought it was just for the kids with baggy pants who wanna act tough, yo! So in a way it is delightful for me to hear just how cool and even demanding respect a bunch of former teenagers without pagers can actually get.
 
What I am trying to say is that you can treat this record as a cool backdrop for your evening, something to jam to or even treat it as a research-worthy artefact of another time (and in my case another culture). If you want a more insightful take, I suggest you go read yourself some real reviews but really, why on earth would you reading about this thing instead of listening to it? The product is dope, I promise.
 
[Note: This album was assigned to me way back in February because I betted incorrectly that Leo will get no Oscar this year either]

SPECIAL TRIBUTE REVIEW: NEGATIVLAND – These Guys Are from England and Who Gives a Shit (2001)

Review by: Andreas Georgi
Dedicated to the memory of Richard Lyons


I’m not sure if this is currently in print or not. This stuff has been legendary since Island records forced them to take it off the market in the early 90’s. As you already know from reading other reviews, this is the infamous Negativland collage of the U2 song “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” with a tape of radio celebrity Casey Kasem letting out a litany of four-letter words during the taping of “American Top 40”. This CD contains various versions of the basic theme, including a “radio friendly” version which has the expletives bleeped out by sound effects like car horns, etc., which is still quite funny.

Even listening to it all these years later it’s still very effective. One reason is that the subjects open themselves to ridicule as much as they do. To quote a reviewer on another website (don’t remember who, sorry!), making fun of U2 never goes out of style. Casey Kasem’s voice is so instantly recognizable, and his style so candy-assed, that it’s totally hysterical to listen to his profanity-ridden tirades. Kasem’s comments actually help mock U2’s preposterousness. Introducing their song he rattles off their names, and when he gets to “The Edge” he breaks off and says “this is B.S.! Nobody cares!”, and then states the title of this CD. I think that echoes a lot of people’s reaction to the guitarist’s stupid monicker.

This is being promoted as “semi-legitimate” or “bootleg”, with Negativland’s label’s name modified to “Sealard”. I’m not buying it. Keep in mind these are the same guys who circulated the fake news story about a kid killing himself after listening to “Christianity is Stupid”. These guys are savvy media pranksters. Nevertheless, given the previous hullabaloo over this recording, you’ll want to pick this up before it ends up on someone else’s Bonfire of the Vanities.

This review is also posted on Amazon here.

SPECIAL REVIEW PROJECT: 2015 IN REVIEW – Best and Worst Albums of 2015

2015 IN REVIEW
By Francelino Prazeres de Azevedo Filho

Every time a year ends, music websites and publications all around the world publish lists that feature what they consider the best albums that were released on that year. These albums come with great compliments and, usually, intriguing names and cover arts, tantalising me. This has always been a sort of shame to me, as I felt that I was missing on good music, year after year. So, I’ve finally decided to do something about it, and on February 2016 I started a sort of “Project 2015”, in which I would listen to a bunch of critically-acclaimed albums from last year, and decide which of them I liked and which I didn’t.

At first, it was more of a personal thing, just me writing on an excel file which albums I thought were worthy of further attention after a first listen. However, with the chat of the Only Solitaire group, it ended up getting bigger, as people would suggest me albums, or would ask to see my excel (this made me make it prettier and more comprehensive). By the time we did group-listens of some albums from the list, it was clear that it turned into more than that, and I decided to “publish” it on this blog post, as well as on my facebook account.

Throughout February and in early March I listened to 73 albums released in 2015. I didn’t listen to all of those from beginning to end, but I made sure to listen to each of them long enough to be able to make my opinion. I also want to make it clear that this is meant to be my personal reactions to these albums, shaped by my taste in music, and nothing more than that. Those albums got inside the list from many sources, most of them figured in Brazilian and international best-of-2015 lists, but some came from chat suggestions, and some came from stuff I happened to find and thought were interesting to be listened to. I didn’t get everything I saw on those lists either, only things I thought seemed promising to my taste.

On the excel tables, I did a small description of the sound of each album, and I gave each a one-line review, which was painted green for a positive reaction, yellow for a neutral reaction and red for a negative reaction. I also selected, like the (in)famous Pitchfork website, a few albums to receive a Best New Music award.

Of all the 73, there were only 7 albums which received a negative verdict, including the much acclaimed Kamasi Washington album, The Epic. I guess I just don’t like jazz, but I found the length of it personally offensive, it’s more than three hours long! The worst of the bunch, however, was Defeater’s Abandoned, which started with clichéd dramatic pianos, then a pathetic screaming started, and I couldn’t take it anymore.

22 albums got a neutral reaction. Cidadão Instigado, which is sometimes appointed as one of the best Brazilian rock bands of the XXI century, is yet to be able to touch me, their Fortaleza wasn’t bad but nothing that I would want to spend time listening to. Another disappointment was Frevotron, which promised a modern electronised update on the frevo genre, but sounded like anything but frevo. On the international side, Father John Misty sounded half as good as Elton John on his good songs, and was utterly boring on the others, coupled with pretty bad lyrics. I really wish Robin Pecknold would return to music, because the rest of the Fleet Foxes are nothing without him. The biggest waste of a cool cover belonged to this category, Kelela’s Hallucinogen EP, which was just one more album that followed this recent trend of beautiful arrangements and instrumentation coupled with a lack of good vocal hooks. Bike, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Passo Torto & Ná Ozetti were also guilty of that.

A special mention goes to albums that felt genuinely deep and intriguing, but just weren’t suited to my tastes, like the weird schizophrenia of Oneohtrix, the ambience of Nicholas Jaar and Mount Eerie, and the noise-plus-religious-chants duo between Cadu Tenório and my admired Juçara Marçal.

The last and largest category consists on albums I gave a positive verdict, 44 out of 73. Among those, it’s worth mentioning the great moment Brazilian music in general, and hip-hop, specifically, is living. Searching for inspiration in folkish afro-traditions, the 70s post-tropicália or on the sleazy brega, artists are mixing genres and producing unique albums. If one listens to Ava Rocha, Melodia Preto Bendi, Jonas Sá or Johnny Hooker, they would get an idea of how diverse and vibrant the Brazilian scene is.

International music, however, seems very fragmented, and the only visible tendency is a reduction on the use of guitars. But even those were put to good use by Courtney Barnett or Viet Cong. Many well-established artists did not disappoint this last year, with Magma, Joanna Newsom and Tame Impala releasing good follow-ups that add nicely to their discographies. Modest Mouse, on the other hand, disappointed me with their forgettable Strangers to Ourselves, which included a semi-rap-song with lyrics about cleaning his pistol!

Among the 44 positive albums, there were 12 that I considered the finest of 2015. Two were electronic pop: from the Brazilian state of Pará, Jaloo mixed pop with carimbó to make a very catchy and diverse album; while from overseas, Canadian Grimes wrote, sang, played and produced by herself a kaleidoscopic masterpiece. Still on the electronic world, but far more avant-garde, was Holly Herndon’s Platform, with dazzling vocals that reminded me of Stockhausen’s Stimmung. 

The last two foreign albums that figured on this top 12 were both very personal, although they had very different moods. Sufjan’s Carrie & Lowell might not be as good melodically as some of his previous albums, but is incredibly touching, and pretty much bares his soul. To Pimp a Butterfly stands out for the stunning amount of different “voices” Kendrick Lamarr has.

Back to Brazil, Elza Soares’ Mulher do Fim do Mundo is also very personal, and through her coarse 70-year-old voice, and great arrangements, entrances the listener in her world. Great arrangements are also a feature of banda-fôrra’s debut EP, which left me with great expectations for their future. Bixiga 70 gives us another dose of great afrobeat, perhaps their finest.

Finally, on the hip-hop front, I loved particularly four albums. Or rather, three albums and one EP, as Senzala Hi-Tech amazed me with a new kind of afro-vodoo-hip-hop with 90s Native Tongues influences, and they only needed 6 tracks to do so! The Instituto collective called so many great artists to perform on the collaborative Violar, it just wasn’t possible for it not to be awesome. Rodrigo Ogi’s RÁ! is worthy of the capitalisation and exclamation, as it has great grooves, great lyrics, great hooks and a great variety of moods.

Last, but definitely not least, the album I consider the best of 2015: Emicida – Sobre Crianças, Quadris, Pesadelos e Lições de Casa…It can be touching, it can be scathing, it often is both, simultaneously, it is simply marvellous! One of those albums where I just felt the wonder that it music, and on the first listen!

SPECIAL TRIBUTE REVIEW: DAVID BOWIE – Lodger (1979)

Review by: Andreas Georgi
Dedicated to the memory of David Bowie

This is the last of 3 albums Bowie did with Eno (his “Berlin” period, although this one was not recorded in Berlin. This is my favorite one of the three, and possibly my favorite Bowie album period. This one has no instrumental pieces, like on “Low” and “Heroes”. The first half of the album has a vague “travel” theme to it. In several songs Bowie mixes in bits of African drumming or arabesque sounding string synthesizer sounds. These are all rock or pop songs, but they are all “deconstructed” pop songs, because everything from the instrument sounds to the songs’ construction is turned on its head, at least that’s how it seemed in 1979. This album features Adrian Belew on guitar making sounds that were basically unheard of at the time. “DJ” and “Boys..” are highlights – absolutely brilliant, and Belew truly uses his guitar like a weapon on his solos. The only really weak song is “Red Money”, which is the music from Iggy Pop’s “Sister Midnight” set to different (inferior) lyrics. Fortunately it’s at the end, so it’s easy to skip that tune, but the rest is highly recommended.