Category: politics

2016 in music: Kanye West & Bon Iver

I was reminded recently of the film Ratatouille.  Towards the end, the chef creates a jazzed up version of the eponymous dish. A food critic eats it and is immediately given a flashback to childhood. It is powerful. The dark Parisian restaurant disappears and we see the critic as a boy standing in the doorway: sunfilled, Provencal hillsides behind him. The smells of his mother’s kitchen coming back. Innocence returns and with it, joy, pleasure, and simplicity.

Great food, great art, great music. For me, they follow similar traits. I am looking for something new and wonderful and beautiful, which is synonymous with that time and place. And one which in years to come may foster a nostalgic moment in my life.

We never seem to notice those important moments as they pass us by – or at least I don’t. Instead, it is only later that I realise that a particular moment, a song, scene in a film, passage in a book, evoked something in me.

When Bon Iver released 22, A Million at the end of September, it arrived at a moment of newfound bliss in my life. I had began a new relationship. I had just celebrated my birthday. The weather was just turning into my favourite of the year: crisp, bright days with a slight bitter cold. And I heard 22 (Over Soon) open that album as I stepped out into the day. The drums and vocals seemed to hang in that cold Autumnal air and light everything up. I had no idea that moment would stay with me, but it was the sign of a beginning for me that has stayed with me ever since.

I loved the Bon Iver album more than I thought I would. It’s not often that old indie/folk favourites from my pre-electronic years stick with me as much today. But this record really stood out. I loved the evolution which included electronic elements, sampling and more diverse instrumentation.

Yet for Bon Iver’s great evolution, the most interesting development I found this year was with Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo.

The New York Times’ Popcast Life of Pablo discussion from the end of November is essential listening for anyone who loves this album.

In it, they compare Life of Pablo to a Prince moment in Kanye’s career. A moment when we won’t get final versions again. Everything is a work in progress.

This album was discussed in this was even before we heard any of it. But it’s multiple revisions and versions since then have only added to that.

But a turning point for me was a month ago when a Redditor uploaded his version called Life of Paul. Now usually I’d see that as typical fan version affair. Probably not worth a listen and if it is never again.

Instead Life of Paul fits into this record’s whole evolving universe. It makes me wish I had spent more time reading Baudrillard when I was supposed to at uni.

Life of Paul extends and blends. Reintroducing fuller samples that Kanye had cut into fragments. Blurring lines between the leaked OG versions and and the versions which made the TIDAL release.

The release has felt like a piece of open source code: forked and tweaked by different groups to extend it as they see fit.

I approach this with the furore that I approached Dylan bootlegs as a teenager. How can I know which my favourite version of Don’t Think It’s Twice Alright is when I’ve only heard these 100 or so? What about the rest. There’s probably a gem there.

This means that a track like Waves now becomes one of the greatest songs of the year – thanks to Life of Paul. It means that Highlights gets the attention it deserves thanks to the OG version. And why Kanye was right to stick to the official version of Famous.

The only severe disappoint of any of the TLOP incarnations is that I Feel Like That is missing. This to me is my Kanye discovery of the year.

Pop music

Pop music took a battering this year, which is a major disappointment. Beyonce’s record was nice. I liked Sandcastles a lot, and Daddy Lessons was great. But sister Solange stepped up with an overall better record.

Taylor’s long rumoured October/November album never happened. Which means the highest ranking pop moment on this list Crash Cove’s remix of Rebecca Black’s The Great Divide.

Electronic music

Rhythm Section International have become consistently impeccable. That Duke Hugh LP is incredible and the video version of Church In The Wild a particular highlight. Elsewhere on RSI, Prequel’s Saints is an evolution for anyone who loves St Germain’s Rose Rouge. As one of Bradley Zero’s tracks, it’s no wonder why he snapped this future classic up.

Elsewhere in the dance spectrum, Koze’s Operator mix is a wonderful slice of summer disco, although now darker days have drawn in it feels more distant in every way.

Soul, hiphop, rnb

I’m so outside the grime scene that all I really heard this year was that Birthday Girl track by Stormzy and the Skepta album (which was okay but not amazing).

But the new riser of the year is Sampe The Great’s Blue Boss. Wow wow wow. What a track. I played this as the second track at my UCL gig this year and it ended up filling the floor way before I was ready to. Taking it down a few notches after didn’t go quite as planned.

2016

This year has been pretty frenetic year for me, but some of the usual standpoints that I had last year have gone. I don’t do a weekly radio show anymore. I’m now not the only W&S selector. As a result my listening has become narrower.

Simultaneous to this has been more of a desire for familiarity within this spectrum. It’s why I dove into albums and lionised them like I used to.

It’s why Kanye West’s Fade was one of those empowering moments of the year. It mixed something new with an instant nostalgic of hearing Mr Fingers for the first time. Just like with Prequel’s Saints and how it took me back to hearing St Germain at Rhythm Section three years ago. And just like the reintroduction of Bon Iver into and how it took me to entirely different places altogether.

My listening may have narrowed this year, but perhaps as a result I’ve managed to plant the seeds future moments of nostalgic with more power.

Top songs of the year

Bored Young Adults (Blawan) – Check Up from the Neck Up
RüF Dug – Ruffys Jungle Sensi
Alicia Keys – In Common
Unknown Artist – Leaving You
Hidden Spheres – Well Well
Jay Daniel – Paradise Vale
Solange – Cranes in the Sky
Mala – 4 Elements
Stormzy – Birthday Girl
Rebecca Black – The Great Divide
Låpsley – Operator (DJ Koze’s Extended Disco Version)Ptaki –
Kanye West – Highlights (OG Version)
Sloneczny Ply (Eltron Remix)
Kanye West – Famous
Duke Hugh – Church In The Wild
Real D – Rhodes That
Kanye – Real Friends
Sad City – Steady Jam
Willie Hutch – Brother’s Gonna Work It Out (Joey Negro Remix)
Prequel – Saints
Sampa The Great – Blue Boss
Bon Iver – 8 (circle)
Kanye West – Waves

Top albums of the year

Mala – Mirrors
Moodymann – DJ-Kicks
Solange – True
Duke Hugh – Canvas
Kanye West – Life of Pablo
Bon Iver – 22, A Million

Top podcast of the year

TLOP – Popcast

Top compilations of the year

Space Echo: The Mystery Behind the Cosmic Sound of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed!

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Thoughts from a newbie’s first conference #ldconf

Two AM at the main lobby bar of the Marriott Hotel, Bournemouth. The queue is four deep as it has been for the past three or four hours. The main room is overspilling in every direction. It’s loud. There’s shouting. There’s hugging. Someone spills a drink. A couple have a fight in the corner. A debate erupts in another. Someone exchanges a business card with someone else. Others flesh out details on an event they’re going to run they dreamt up with five or six minutes ago – a lifetime. Everyone has passed convivial long ago. I overhear a conversation that the bar has had to close every night because they keep running out of booze. I order a whisky and ginger. “We’ve only got Jamesons left.” Continue reading

2013 in music and my top 20 songs of the year

TL:DR? Jump to the list

Well that wasn’t a very good year for pop music, was it? We had to wait until November until we were given a half-way decent pop hook (Rihanna’s Monster chorus), but even that was replicating the exact same formula Ri and Slim nailed for the first time a few years ago.

Of last year’s two really big hitters, only Taylor came out with one great tune (“22”), but that was actually from 2012 and Carly Rae was nowhere to be seen.

The biggest summer sellers both used Pharrell in what must have been a very profitable year for him. And both tracks became the de facto back-to-back option for lazy DJs everywhere. “Blurred Lines” provided guilty pleasure plays long after its release and “Get Lucky”‘s brilliance was put to the test of being played to death. Unfortunately both failed. I haven’t voluntarily played either since August.

Elsewhere, Miley Cyrus has encouraged moral outrage across the country by being provocative. She’s outraged more people than even the Daily Mail managed to this year. And last time I checked, it has always been the role of a pop/rockstar to piss off the adults of the world. Teenagers love her and all your outrage is doing is helping her shift records. The only depressing thing about Miley is that she hasn’t recorded a decent tune since Party in the USA. Miley, be as naked as you like, but please get back in the studio with Jessie J asap.

Eminem brought out the MM2, which aside from the Monster was terrible. Kanye’s Yeezus flirted with trap too much to be anywhere half good (Bound 2 being the only exception), and the new Jay couldn’t even manage one good tune.

In RnB, Amel Larrieux released an exceptional album, which is probably my favourite longplayer of the year. It sounds like some late 90s RnB and for that I’m incredibly thankful.

The real blossoms (unsurprisingly for me, granted), were with dance music. Let’s first get the bad out the way. The deep house sound from the past two-to-three years, spurred on by the Jamie Jones’ of the world has entered the mainstream well and proper. MK’s Storm Queen remix was massive but not particularly inspiring (unlike his LDR take), Duke Dumont witnessed relative success for a good few months, and BrEaCh (sp?) saw to it that even the Radio 1 Breakfast show wasn’t without its house cuts. 

But the best thing about deep house’s entering into the mainstream has been the need for the underground to recreate itself (its been long overdue).

Todd Terje was the absolute victor this year. His edit of Lindstrom’s “Vos-Sako-Rv” was exceptional, and so underappreciated (yet when I played it out at a summer party this year, it killed it). But of course his “Strandbar” release has to be the one that constantly turned heads and wowed dancefloors everywhere. And when you got bored of Disko for its more in-your-face piano explosion, Samba took over to bring out the intracacies for months after.

Fort Romeau was my personal favourite producer of the year. In 2012, he was putting out harmless deep house that lounged its way through out soundsystems very unoffensively, but this year – my word! “Jetee” was an absolute banger uniting acid influences, hands-in-the-air breaks with truly melancholic piano in the space of 6 minutes. “Stay/True” was the real glory moment though. Weatherall-esque drugchug taking the acid thing even further produced exceptional tunes at well below the regular bpms.

The love for lower bpms for me this year was created by my greatest clubbing experience in five years (I.e. Clubbing zero one) as I found Rhythm Section. As if by magic at a time when I was getting utterly bored by the London club scene as it was sluggishly playing dull, insipid and uninventive four-to-the-floor house or techno for an audience that needed a head full of horse tranquilisers to appreciate anything more than 15 minutes of it, I found RS.

Rhythm Section, headed up by Bradley Zero, better known as ‘the guy in dreads’ in the Boiler Room videos, changed everything. Here I was dancing to music at anything from all over the world at any given tempo, and it all ignored the paint by numbers house and techno that every other club seemed to be playing. 100bpm never felt so natural to dance to. And my mix of the year is without a doubt the first RS show on NTS I heard: solidifying that early RS sound that I fell in love with: “Stop Bajon”, and “Rising to the Top.”

My love for disco expanded this year in tandem, and in particular with the re-edits scene. Fingerman’s “Too Much” and Late Nite Tuff Guy’s “I Want Your Love” mix (which admittedly isn’t a re-edit) stood out on top, but I could have easily put together a top 20 of re-edits that all sound as excellent today as they did when I first heard them this year, while simultaneously bringing some life back to forgotten originals.

There’s some jazz entering my heard properly for the first time outside of the Miles Davis and bigband canon that previously existed. The jazz influences on the King Krule album in particular were standout for me, and really impressed me with the modern genre-blurring he achieved. Dysnonia blew my mind as to what jazz could be, as did the Sons of Kemet album. My love for both comes from Gilles Peterson who also turned me on to countless other jazz sounds throughout the year.

Looking back, I got into the Philly Soul sound via hearing Tom Moulton’s incredible anthology that I only found this year. Likewise, a new appreciation for Screamdelica was found as I realised there was more to that record than Loaded.

Albums by The Range, Bilal, Jai Paul, Colin Stetson, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Rhye also all left a mark, in the pits of late night bus journeys, early mornings and soundtracks to loosing myself in books.

Vampire Weekend’s new long player was my surprise like of the year. I don’t often find many guitar-heavy albums that satisfying anymore, but the new VW LP was really excellent. The afrobeat influences from the first record are still there but the world music sounds have diversified even more, which was consistently refreshing with an album that got better with every play.

It was a great year for a lot of music. My dance music tastes broadended, RnB and guitar music seeped back in, but after last year’s great twelve months for pop, I was a tad disappointed this year. Still, you can’t win them all.

 

My top 20 songs of the year

20 – King Krule – A Lizard State
19 – Bilal – Lost for Now
18 – Kan SANO – Everybody Loves the Sunshine (Leftside Wobble Remix)
17 – Gil Scott Heron – Bottle (Disco Tech Rework)
16 – Andras – Running Late
15 – Romanthony – Ministry of Love (Andres edit)
14 – Fort Romeau – Jetee
13 – Vampire Weekend – Diane Young
12 – Amel Larrieux – Afraid
11 – Daft Punk – Get Lucky
10 – Justin Timberlake – Mirrors
09 – Chaos in the CBD – 78 to Stanley Bay
08 – For Romeau – Stay/True
07 – Fingerman – Too Much
06 – Late Nite Tuff Guy – Bless the Rains
05 – Taylor Swift – 22
04 – Sons of Kemet – Inner Babylon
03 – Lindstrom – Vos-Sako-RV (Todd Terje Extended Dub)
02 – Paul Simon – Diamonds (Ame Private Mix)
01 – Todd Terje – Strandbar (Samba Mix)

 

Albums of the year

Bilal – Love Surreal
Amel Larriux – Ice Cream Everyday
Dawn of Midi – Dysnonia
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
King Krule – Six Feet Beneath The Moon
Mountains – Centralia
Rhye – Woman

 

My proposal for legal, assisted suicide

I had a conversation with a friend about assisted suicide this afternoon (she is writing an essay about it, it’s not our normal conversation I’ll point out), and it got me thinking about how it could be introduced legally. My standpoint on assisted suicide is that it should be legal. I believe that it is up to an individual to decide what they want to do with their life. I think that if you are in a state where you cannot move, talk or write, then you should have the choice to end your life if you want to. My friend, who on the whole agreed with me, played devil’s advocate to question the risks of abuse, if it were legal.

My immediate solution for that problem would be as follows:

At any stage in your life you can write some type of declaration stating that given certain conditions, you would wish to die. This could be declared in a single-purpose legal document, as an attachment to one of those organ donor cards (or similar), or just added to your hospital records. An example might be ‘if I enter a state of vegetation whereby I will not recover, I wish to die.’

The fears for abuse could be reduced further with additional conditions: you could state that the declaration had to be made prior to the illness or state developing – perhaps either by a number of months or a number of years. The declaration could be age or ‘situation’ specific, for example if your wealth suddenly increases by a few million, you have to make the declaration again.

These additional conditions could easily be strung on to an assisted suicide law to whichever degree the Government deemed necessary for it to pass. Of course, I would welcome as few necessities as possible, but anything is better than nothing. Some people have had the liberty to go to Switzerland to do this legally, but not everyone will have that power or ability. 75% of people believe that doctors should be able to assist terminally ill patients in ending their own lives. I believe this too, but I also believe that it can be done so that you remove as much chance for abuse as possible.

I’m intrigued to read more on this to see if such proposals have already been suggested and if so what the counter-arguments for them were.