Jacob’s Albums of 2016
Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
For his third studio release, Sturgill ‘Future of Nashville’ Simpson has delivered a concept album of incredible poise with a lyrical cogency that elevates it beyond its country roots to something altogether more ambitious and emotionally versatile. ‘A Sailor’s Guide to Earth’ is a series of life lessons to his newborn son, and yet never veers into cloying sentimentality, instead taking the listener on a journey over the high seas rich in humour, sensitivity and love. But the best thing about this record is the near-perfect arrangement and production, which utilises the the late Sharon Jones’ Dap Kings brass section to devastating effect. An actual modern classic.
Chaleur Humaine – Christine and the Queens
It’s been a mega year for Héloïse Letissier, AKA electro-pop rising star Christine and the Queens. Her stunning debut album, ‘Chaleur Humaine’ is a record of intelligence, guile and delicacy, and rejoices in its synthetically swaggering electro stylings. Letissier is a performer capable of conveying Bowie-esque otherness through tightly choreographed performances, while her blend of Franglais confessional lyrics and electro grooves makes ‘Chaleur Humaine’ an album of fine emotional control. Rightly or wrongly, there is often an intellectual gap between performers who dance, and ones that play their instruments. ‘Chaleur Humaine’ bridges this gap with distinction, and makes it seem ridiculous.
A Tribe Called Quest. We Got it from Here- Thank You 4 Your Service
In a year where musical heroes seemed to drop like flies, one name that may not have made the front pages in the UK was that of ATCQ founder-member and solid gold hip hop pioneer Phife Dawg who passed away in March at the age of 46. He managed to lay down the majority of his vocals for his band’s first release in 18 years – ‘We Got It from Here – Thank You 4 Your Service’ prior to his death. It’s an album shot through with the conscientious and erudite rhymes that made them one of hip hop’s most popular groups during their 80s and 90s heyday, and despite its complex and tragic creation, confidently demonstrates an aristocratic mastery of hip hop production. It’s a shame that Phife Dawg is not around to enjoy the acclaim the record deserves.
Common – Black America Again
Though Common’s 11th studio album was recorded before the November 8 election of Donald Trump, its themes clearly recognise the deep rooted cultural challenges that persist in America. Little wonder; Common is wordsmith who has spent his career honing a distinctive style of syncopated jazz-rap that is heavily informed by politics, society and the artist’s own Christian faith. ‘Black America Again’ is a superb record of rootsy sample-led hip-hop cuts interlaced with complex lyrical stylings and elegant turntablism. He’s an artist who sometimes goes under the radar – especially in the UK – but who continues to be one of hip-hop’s most vital voices.
Rolling Stones – Blue & Lonesome
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks and, like fellow rock leviathans U2 and Coldplay, The Rolling Stones know their format and are not changing it anytime soon. ‘Blue and Lonesome’ – the Stones’ first album in 11 years – was recorded over three days at British Grove Studios in West London, and is a collection of rough ‘n’ ready blues covers for the connoisseur. It won’t change anyone’s mind about The Rolling Stones, and they will continue to be treated with derision by hipsters universally, but this is their best album in years. Loud, obnoxious and they sound like they’re having fun.
Jacob’s Music Videos of 2016
Jamie xx – Gosh
Taken from Jamie xx’s ‘In Colour’, October saw the release of a new video from Greek-French director Romain Gavras, the London-based visionary behind promos for M.I.A.’s Bad Girls and Jay-Z & Kanye’s No Church in the Wild. The video is coming-of-age story set in Tianducheng – a Chinese city conceived as a recreation of Paris – and features an albino teen, Hassan Kone, who is worshipped by peroxided school kids. Completely unique, sinister and hyper-real, the promo marks out a director who has spent the past 10 years developing a visual language of gritty realism and high-impact physicality.
Beyoncé – Formation
During a year when ethnic divisions in Western societies have been radically realigned, Queen Bey has formalised herself as an essential spokesperson for many American minorities and women everywhere. Her video album, ‘Lemonade’ has managed to channel many of the hopes and fears of people of colour while the music promo to lead single Formation – directed by Melina Matsoukas – delivers a host of brilliantly executed set pieces. Flooded suburbs, abandoned swimming pools and grand French Quarter mansions play host to her oft-otherworldly ability to move.
Bonobo – Kerala
This alt-electro video features a terrified Gemma Arterton stumbling around a London suburb as a sequence of supernatural visions appear before her. Adopting a variety of glitchy video loops that have previously been used by the director Bison in his work for Jon Hopkins and London Grammar the promo is half-nauseating, half-instantly re-watchable. Furthermore, the visuals offer more hidden phenomena with every watch – from levitating rocks and chameleonic cars to vast, twisting buildings. See if you can spot them all.
Coldplay – Up & Up
Hate Coldplay as much as you want, it only makes them try harder. The third single from their seventh studio album, ‘A Head Full of Dreams’ isn’t just the best music video they’ve ever produced – it’s the best thing they’ve ever done. Directed by two highly talented Israeli filmakers, Vania Heymann and Gal Muggia, the Grammy-nominated video features a host of impossible situations mixing space, time, scale, form and more. Stunningly imaginative, rich and resonant.
Grimes – Kill v. Maim
The visuals for Kill V. Maim are half Tank Girl, half Cameo’s Candy, and feature the singer – who co-directed the video with her brother Mac – in a series of increasingly kinetic cyber dystopias. Whether Grimes is hurtling through a fantastical cityscape in a pink convertible, doing battle in a grotty subway station or rocking out in a warehouse club, the world of the video is frenetic, hyper-real and psychedelic. She’s a unique talent, a proper artist.