My Favorite Albums of 2016

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My fellow earbudders,

Well. Another year of music has come and gone, which means, another list of favorites to publish for you to read, consume, and just maybe decide what to put on your own end of the year playlist for gist and shiggles. These 40 albums were my favorites. I try not to say the “best “ones because I know that for every album that is on the list, I probably missed my fair share of musical goodies but these are the ones that got numerous plays on my ipod. This year revealed reunions, long awaited returns, artistic passion, departed souls, and your run of the mill pop fluff – of which there was a little too much of I admit. I was bored by many of the pop songs I heard on the radio – same beats, same squeaky voiced people singing the same things over and over again. You could take the head off one singer, replace it with another and you wouldn’t really be able to tell the difference. But the true artists – the ones that display quality over quality, fought their way through the cracks of pop goo. So for that I’m grateful for this year of music and helping me get out of darkness. For now anyway.. Enjoy the list. And Happy New Year.

1. Anderson Paak – Malibu
2. Solange Knowles – A Seat at the Table
3. Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
4. S U R V I V E – RR7349
5. The Weeknd – Starboy
6. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
7. Beyonce – Lemonade
8. Brookzill! – Throwback to the Future
9. Tegan and Sara – Love You to Death
10. The Kills – Fire and Ice
11. JoJo – Mad Love
12. Emeli Sande – Long Live the Angels
13. J. Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only
14. Robbie Williams – Heavy Entertainment Show
15. Kane Brown – Kane Brown
16. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
17. Childish Gambino – Awaken! My Love!
18. Raleigh Ritchie – You’re a Man Now Boy
19. David Bowie – Blackstar
20. Elizabeth Cook – Exodus of Venus
21. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
22. Teenage Fanclub – Here
23. Santigold – 99 Cents
24. Jack Garratt – Phase
25. Africaine 808 – Basar
26. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – A Man Alive
27. Hamilton Soundtrack
28. Shura – Nothing’s Real
29. Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math
30. Michael Kiwanuka – Love and Hate
31. Leagues – Alone Again
32. Roosevelt – Roosevelt
33. Rocky – Soft Machines
34. Deftones – Gore
35. Hidden Figures – The Soundtrack
36. Lazarus (Original Cast Recording)
37. Ria Mae – Ria Mae
38. Jamila Woods – HEAVN
39. Skye and Ross – Skye and Ross
40. Ghost Beach – Blonde

Honorable Mentions:
LP – Death Valley EP
Big Gigantic – Brighter Future
Justice – Women
Dawn Richard – Redemption

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Gambino’s Game Plan…

It’s hard to pinpoint Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino. He’s a writer, an actor, an entertainer, a rapper, and now … it seems a funk master. I’ve been a fan of his music for a few years now. His lyrics are honest, heartfelt, and in some regards, just plain weird but entertaining – ranging from his self proclaimed nerdiness, growing up in middle class life, racism, and relationships. There’s a lot going on in that mind of his. And now he’s back with a new album called, “Awaken, My Love!” This album hands down, threw me. Goodbye to the rhymes for this project, he concentrated on making an old school funk, rock, and r&b album that would make George Clinton and Bootsy Collins proud. I was quite surprised really. But that’s what an artist does – always throws you. You should never expect the same thing. And Donald delivers. From the opening track, “Me and Your Mama,” a standout rock and funk song where he illustrates his singing chops, lines right up with there with the best of them, to “Boogieman,” and “Zombies,” it’s just a roller coaster of fun.. It’s exciting, and I appreciate him taking a complete left turn with his music. As someone who listens to rock music, and is Black, I definitely applaud anyone else who is Black and is in the music field to stretch and break boundaries of what Black artists are used to doing in music.

I’m not going to go on and on like most critics do about albums. Most of you won’t read it anyway. Just trust me when I say this album is worth the time and the listen. It’s 40 plus minutes of pure funky entertainment. And I most add that Donald’s voice as a singer isn’t bad at all. Usually I joke, “all rappers want to act, and all actors want to sing” but in his case, he’s pretty good. The time away from doing music has served him well and he came back with a vengeance. This album is a musical head trip. With every listen I hear something new and that’s how music should be, at least in my opinion – never boring, always intriguing. “Anything less would be uncivilized.” So come. Feel alive with the Gambino and travel inside his mind for a while. It’s worth it.

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Bruno Just Wants to Party.

As much as I dig melancholy and deep lyrics, there are times I just want to listen to fun music – music that keeps my mind preoccupied from the other voices in my head I hear on the daily. Music that stays in my ears like infected earworms that leave me smiling. Congratulations Bruno Mars, you have been selected to uplift my spirits. And you do so magnificently.

The new album, 24K Magic, is a dance extravaganza of entertainment. It’s pretty clear that he was influenced by 80s and 90s music because the whole album is just a throwback to that era. I’m not complaining about it at all. I believe Bruno wants the world to just relax, have fun, dance, and not think about their problems. That’s kind of what he’s been all about anyway, but this third album really drives the idea home. From the title track, to “Chunky” to “Callin’ All My Lovelies” to my particular favorite, “Finesse” he keeps the party moving. My only complaint is that there are only 9 songs. He left me wanting more. My guess? Since the album is a tribute to old school 80s synths, and 90s drumbeats, maybe he also wanted to stay true to how albums were made back in the day 8 or 9 songs, and that was it. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a short album, but it still packs a punch nonetheless.

What I love about Bruno is that he has tremendously big bravado in such a small stature. And he’s so darn likable. That smile, the way he carries himself, how he pines for the ladies it goes a long way to garner attention. One thing is for sure, he’s like the Tazmanian Devil. Once he leaves, you always know he was around because his voice and spirit stay with you for the rest of the day. He makes it his mission to make sure everyone has a good time because life is just too short not to and I appreciate that in a man. Even his love songs are pretty entertaining and I’m not a fan of love songs. He is a complete charmer and I’m thankful that in a world of music crap we have Bruno to celebrate life. And this is coming from a resident Eeyore. So if you want to have a good time, throw a party, twerk yourself into oblivion, put on 24 K Magic. You won’t be disappointed.

 

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New Stuff: “Brookzill”

Dearest earbudders, while we wait for Digable Planets to get on the good foot and make a comeback, member Ladybug Mecca has preoccupied herself with DJ/Producer king Prince Paul, collaborating in a group called Brookzill (“Brooklyn and Brazil”). Combining Afro-Brazilian rhythms, hip hop, jazz, and all around good stuffs, this is a band I am seriously looking forward to listening to when their album drops October 7th. While we wait for this already predicted musical masterpiece, check out their first single, “Saudade Songbook” with Count Bass D. My ears are excited.

 

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Retro Dance: “Lost Without You” by Hifi Sean (Feat. Paris Grey)

Every so often I get introduced to a song that is a throwback to my time in the 90s clubs. The atmosphere was freeing, the vibe was fantastic, and no one cared about selfies. The beats were everlasting, the bass was on point, and we all sang along like no one cared. Music is what drove the emotion and feeling. This is one of those songs that really make me smile. I look forward to the album TRUCK, that will be released in September. If it’s anything like this song, I know I won’t be disappointed. So sit back, or jump up, turn it up and let yourself go.

 

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Dance Gooey Goodness: DENM’s “Under Pressure”

I don’t know too much about the artist named DENM. I do know two things. I can shake my booty to his single, “Under Pressure,” and the bass line that kicks in at :40 is irresistibly fun and hypnotic. I think the Santa Monica, CA, artist knows what it takes to make you want to lose yourself in the music for the summer. The song reminds of a throwback from the 90s dance scene with its sparse arrangement. It’s beautiful, and not too over the top vocally. It’s a perfect summer jam to listen to whether you’re getting up in the morning or even winding down in the evening with a glass of wine. Trust me folks, this one is a keeper. And like DENM, I feel like I want to dance here forever while listening.

 

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Song of the Day: Blood Orange’s “Augustine”

 

For two reasons: I love the drum track behind it, and the carefree dancing. I also will throw in a special honorary mention of seeing Julian Casablancas from The Strokes eating in a diner. I had to do a double take.

Enjoy Earbudders.

 

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