Albums And Songs I Loved In 2022

I wrote more about music this year than I ever have before. And while mostly none of that was on the Everything Ecstatic blog, it all feeds into EE’s 42 Best Albums of 2022.

For the most part, I documented the pulse of pop culture at Uproxx and the best new releases of each week for the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle. In the end, that yielded features like this Uproxx post about some of this year’s more slept on releases (many of which appear in this list) and my final entry after over two years as a columnist for the SF Chronicle on the Best Songs of 2022 by Bay Area artists.

In a way, that all coalesces here on the 15th annual Everything Ecstatic albums of the year list. This year’s entries are unranked for the first time ever and are instead presented in alphabetical order (granted my favorite album of the year just so happens to be the final album listed alphabetically.) Selections from almost all of these 42 albums can be found on my playlist of favorite songs of the year below. Press play for a soundtrack to this post, subscribe to it and hit me up on Twitter too! So enough babble, these were the albums that moved me through the waves of 2022. Much love.

— Spinelli

Alex G – God Save The Animals

His latest, his best.

Alvvays – Blue Rev

Probably the last album I really got into this year and it shows an excellent rock band unafraid to take risks.

Atalhos – A Tentação Do Fracasso

Brazilian psych pop band I connected with at Treefort Fest comin’ straight outta Birigui, São Paulo!

Bad Bunny – Un Verano Sin Ti

I love how Bad Bunny brought in indie Latinx artists like Bomba Estéreo, Buscabulla, and The Marías along for the ride here.

Continue reading Albums And Songs I Loved In 2022

Photos: Thee Sacred Souls Bring Their Lowrider Soul To Phoenix

San Diego’s sweet soul pioneers, Thee Sacred Souls, played to an intimate sold out crowd at Valley Bar in Phoenix, AZ on October 4th, 2022. The trio featuring vocalist Josh Lane, drummer Alex Garcia, and bassist Sal Samano blend the easygoing grace of sweet ’60s soul with the grit and groove of early ’70s R&B. Their self-titled debut album released back in August was produced by Bosco Mann (aka Daptone Records co-founder Gabriel Roth) on Penrose Records, a new Daptone imprint.

At one point during the set, Lane came down into the crowd to sing ‘It’s Our Love’ as the crowd circled around him with their phones. There was no opener for this one, but during the set, backing vocalist Jensine Benitez took the lead on two songs to sing her recently released first single “Ilusíon De Amor” and a smooth cover of East of Underground’s ‘I Love You’.

When the band came back out for an encore they said this was surprisingly their first time doing one. That made this a special one and was pretty wild that they hadn’t taken the leap in another of the sold out shows on this, their first U.S. headlining tour.

Click into the gallery below. All photos by Justin Yee (@yeesus)

Photos: Caribou Breathes Life Back Into The World

Got a pretty special crop of photos to share here. The great Justin Yee (@yeesus) had the chance to capture Caribou’s set at The Van Buren in Phoenix, while I relished in the experience myself at the Fox Theater in Oakland two nights later.

Led by Dan Snaith, Caribou oughta be considered nothing short of one of the best live bands on the planet. Last week’s shows were another fine installment in their touring history with the crowd bursting with life. Caribou’s music is a perfect soundtrack to whatever this incredibly inspirational feeling of being back at live shows again is called. A damn near 20 minute version of “Sun” was icing on the cake of a can’t miss live show. Check out the photos below from the Phoenix show and click into any of them to expand the gallery!


Fave 32 Albums of 2021

Presenting Year 14 of Everything Ecstatic’s Albums of the Year list. This list represents my personal top 32 albums of the year and is the synthesis of all of the Year End Album lists I’ve worked on this year for the SF Chronicle and Uproxx.

Some scattered Bandcamp audio and YouTube music video links are below most entries, and as always, feel free to revisit year’s past of EE’s Best Albums of the Year and check out the Spotify playlist of this featured albums here and an extensive playlist of my favorite songs this year at the bottom of the post. Cheers!

— Spinelli (@AGSpinelli)

32. Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee

This was truly the year of Japanese Breakfast with a Grammy nom to boot. The album is a big step up and I can’t recommend Michele Zauner’s book, Crying In H Mart, enough, too. 

31. Virginia Wing – Private LIFE

Killer deadpanned Britpop from the London trio. 

30. SUNDUR – Somewhere There’s Music

A serendipitous collaboration between Bay Area stalwart DJ Platurn and singer Savannah Lancaster, this trip-hop endeavor was created in the thick of the pandemic and it’ll have you thinking of Portishead on prozac. 

29. Alfa Mist – Bring Backs

The keyboardist/MC soaks hip-hop sensibility into jazz and is one of the many bright spots in the surging British modern jazz movement. 

28. Rodrigo Amarante – Drama

The second solo album from the Brazilian singer-guitarist of Little Joy and Los Hermanos, finds itself at an incredible intersection of Brazilian and American indie.

27. Sam Gendel – Fresh Bread

The eclectic saxophonist is one of the most prolific musicians in LA and among Gendel’s many releases, Fresh Bread’s 52 tracks always gave me something unpredictable to turn to this year.

26. Rostam – Changephobia

I’ve been a big fan of the former Vampire Weekend core member’s production work for other artists since he left the band, and this is an A+ solo effort. “4 Runner” lived in my head all year. 

25 and 24. Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime and Altin Gün – Yol

Two of my favorite world music releases. One from Tuareg guitar prodigy Mdou Moctar and the other from Turkish psychedelic funk band Altin Gün. Both are can’t miss stuff. 

23. Hiatus Kaiyote – Mood Valiant

Singer Nai Palm beat breast cancer and then went with the group to Brazil to link with storied tropicalia arranger Arthur Verocai for some of the sessions on this splendid future funk release from the Aussies. 

22. BadBadNotGood – Talk Memory

Band drama aside, these guys are upper echelon jazz/hip-hop instrumentalists. This is the definition of cinematic music with appearances from Karriem Riggins, Arthur Verocai (absolutely here for the Verocai renaissance btw), Terrace Martin, Laraaji and Brandee Younger. 

21. Darkside – Spiral

A comeback after an eight year hiatus from the duo of Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington presents another one-of-a-kind essay on guitar atop electronic production. 

20. Aaron Frazer – Introducing…

Call it blue-eyed soul, but the debut solo release from the Durand Jones & The Indications drummer/vocalist was a stellar nod to 50’s and 60’s grooves. Produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, this was my standout release from Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound label this year. 

19. Televangel & Child Actor – Respawn

One half of now defunct instrumental hip-hop maestros Blue Sky Black Death, Televangel linked with dreamy duo Child Actor for this gorgeous release that might’ve also had my favorite album cover of the year. 

18. Lil Nas X – MONTERO

I loved evetything about this outlandish, flamboyant, sex positive and peak 2021 pop release. Lil Nas X is playing music industry 3D chess and it totally rules. 

17. Mossy Projects – Side A/Side B

It wasn’t just because I wrote the official bio for the album by my buddy James Two and Pretty Lights co-founder Michael Menert. Their free-flowing sample nerd mash-ups in the style of The Avalanches were on constant rotation for me all year long. 

16. The Weather Station – Ignorance

A fully blossomed expression from the Canadian folk singer. Ignorance is the most elegant, textured and expansive version of Tamara Lindeman. 

15. GLBL WRMNGGlbl Wrmng Vol. 1

This was a fantastic regional rap compilation helmed by New Orleans’ Pell, that showcases the regions best up and coming hip-hop talent both on the mic and behind the boards. 

14. Sam Evian – Time To Melt

A psychedelic folk release that flew more under the radar than it should. Evian reminds me of AM & Shawn Lee with a touch of Danger Mouse. The arrangements on every song are spot on here, especially the smoky escapism of “Dream Free” with vocalist Hannah Cohen.

13. Jorja Smith – Be Right Back

Queen Jorja is on a roll. The velvet-voiced British R&B/pop singer just keeps making hits and the eight track Be Right Back EP has two massive ones in “Addicted” and “Gone.” 

12. Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Mohammed and Gary Bartz – JID006

This was merely one of the handful of releases from this year’s Jazz Is Dead series and it sees Oakland saxophonist and Black music trailblazer Gary Bartz enacting amazing new productions with Younge and Ali Shaheed. Check out other equally notable JID volumes with João Donato (JID007), Brian Jackson (JID008), et al. 

11. Alice Phoebe Lou – Glow

The South African singer-songwriter creates incredibly endearing love songs that are so easy to latch on to. Her appearance at SF’s Rickshaw Stop on 02/24/2022 for Noise Pop Festival is one shows next year I’m already most looking forward to. 

10. Helado Negro – Far In

The man behind Everything Ecstatic’s #1 album of 2019 did it again with this one. Written in Marfa, Berlin and Brooklyn, it’s a product of the concept of putting your mind and body in different geographical locales to see what it comes up with; a tactic I live by. 

9. Lala Lala – I Want The Door To Open

This album had some of the best conversations with oneself I heard all year. It’s like taking a long look in the mirror and seeing every fiber of your soul reflected back at you. 

8. Boy Scouts – Wayfinder

Taylor Vick’s music has always been serene and beautiful, but Wayfinder took it to another level. Love her voice, love her songwriting and looooove the video for “Didnt I.”

7. Larry June – Orange Print

My favorite Bay Area hip-hop album of the year showcases the best album yet from the dynamic SF rapper who’s been on a non-stop hustle to finally get his flowers. 

6. Floating Points & Pharaoh Sanders – Promises

My go-to evening zen album is this sublime collab between British electronic composer Floating Points, pioneering psych saxophonist Sanders and strings from the London Syymphony Orchestra. 

5. Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams

A lovely poet whose lyrics transferred masterfully into song on this Mercury Music Prize winning album. 

4. Buck Meek – Two Saviors

The Big Thief member’s latest solo album was the perfect blend of folk, Americana, country and Southern charm. 

3. Sons of Kemet – Black To The Future

A powerful, gripping and unpredictable Afrofuturist jazz masterpiece. Saxophonist/composer Shabaka Hutchings proved why he’s among London’s best and Theon Cross’ tuba has never sounded this well-placed and accessible. 

2. Charlotte Day Wilson – Alpha

The Canadian singer/producer has been one of my favorite artists over the years and finally put out her proper full length LP. Alpha is the benchmark for exactly what I want to be listening to. 

1. Little Simz – Sometimes I Am Introvert

The best album with the year’s best song. Simz’s pointed, vulnerable and devastating hip-hop is propped up by production from the venerable Inflo and multiple appearances from vocalist Cleo Sol. In a way, this felt like an extension of Sault’s Untitled (Black Is) Everything Ecstatic #1 album of 2020 — but it undoubtedly kept the light on Simz singular talent. There’s a range of standout moments from start to finish here, but it’s the way the British MC bears her deepest emotions over Inflo’s flawless production on “I Love You, I Hate You,” that show what a game-changing talent she is. Little Simz is a new global star and left an indelible mark on 2021. 

Peep the Spotify playlist of my favorite songs from this year below and find all of the albums featured on this post here!

Classic Simpsons Trivia w/ Themed Food, Drinks and Bowling!

Hey hey! Wouldn’t you know it, the Everything Ecstatic Classic Simpsons Trivia night is back! And this time, it’s at SF’s very own version of Barney’s Bowl-A-Rama, Mission Bowling Club! And it’s not just a night of trivia, we’ve also got a very special themed Simpsons menu (Steamed Hams! Sloppy Jimbo’s! Duff Beer!), cocktails (yes, the Flaming Moe shot specials will be back), crazy cool prizes (you bet!), episodes in between rounds and even VIP bowling lanes (The V stands for Very.)

It all goes down on Sunday, Oct 3rd from 530 – 9pm and get your tickets HERE.

To celebrate this momentous achievement in the field of excellence, the dinner and drinks menu for the evening will consist of Simpsons dishes inspired by Laurel Randolph’s awesomely outrageous “The Unofficial Simpsons Cookbook.” It’s a damn, hell, ass fantastic cookbook with LEGIT recipes for your fave Simpsonian foods like Little Meatloaf Men, Sloppy Jimbo’s and even a Space Age Moon Waffle. We’ll be giving away cookbooks and bottles of Uncle Moe’s Secret Hobo Spices (among other cromulent prizes) to celebrate the Bay Area release party of the book and this can’t miss function. (FULL MENU BELOW!)

We have discounts on team ticket packs, so gather Lenny to your Carl, your Holy Rollers, Nelson, Martin and Milhouse to your Bart on the Road, or just a bunch of S-M-R-T barflies and come get down on Sunday, October 3rd, for what will surely feel like being in Springfield for a night.

Your pin pals,

Everything Ecstatic and Mission Bowling Club

Note: The event layout will be intentionally socially distant from team-to-team and proof of vaccination is required for entry.

(Ticket price includes entry to event. All food and drink charged separately on-site.)

Check out The Unofficial Simpsons Cookbook here.

New Day: A 2021 Mid-Year Playlist

Been adding songs to this year’s playlist all year and there’s just over four hours of tunes in here as of 7/2/21. I add tunes to this one year-round, so follow it to stay updated.

For now, enjoy diverse tunes from all over the map. Buck Meek and Bomba Estéreo to Mykki Blanco and Sons of Kemet. Holler! — AS

Hit me on Twitter at @AGSpinelli for daily/weekly new music updates and check out my 2020 playlist for even more tunes.

Favorite Songs of 2020

This is an unranked list of my 21 favorite songs of 2020. There’s a playlist below of those and every other song that moved the emotional needle in this ridiculously inexplicable year. Much love.

Madlib & Four Tet – “Road of the Lonely Ones”
U.S. Girls – “Overtime”
Kali Uchis – “Vaya Con Dios”
Stephen Malkmus – “Xian Man”
Arlo Parks – “Black Dog”
Reyna Tropical – “Dolor”
Boy Scouts – “Wish”
Jaime Wyatt – “Neon Cross”
Teyana Taylor – “Friends”
Seu Jorge & Rogê – Meu Brasil
The Weather Station – “Robber”
The Avalanches ft. Blood Orange- “We Will Always Love You”
French Cassettes – “Utah”
Buscabulla – “Manda Fuego”
Yves Tumor – “Strawberry Privilige”
SAULT – “Wildfires” or another one?
Dirty Projectors – “Overlord”
Nilüfer Yanya – “Crash”
Monte – “Mirla”
Open Mike Eagle – “Everything Ends Last Year”
San Fermin – “The Hunger”

25 Favorite Albums of 2020

Welcome to year 13 of Everything Ecstatic’s Albums of the Year list. I’ve cut the number of albums featured significantly down from last year’s 60 (it was a lot!) to better represent the albums that I know I’ll be coming back to for years to come. If you feel like going down the rabbit hole of EE’s lists from year’s past, the Albums of the Year tab is where you’ll find it all in semi-organized fashion. 

At any rate, I read somewhere this year that the intro to these year-end lists is like the most mundane piece of music writing you’ll read all year. I couldn’t agree more, so let’s get to the albums.  I write about a ton of music like this year-round, so hit me up on Twitter to be tuned in as it happens and follow Everything Ecstatic on Twitter and Facebook to be updated whenever something goes up on the site (it’s rare these days, but always meaningful.)  There’s a track selection/video under each entry, a full playlist at the bottom of this post and if you’re thinking about buying any of this music, please do it directly through a label or on Bandcamp as they actually pay artists a reasonable split. Shouts!

— AS

25. Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters 

I gotta admit, while I’d listened to Fetch The Bolt Cutters a number of times this year, I hadn’t tuned in with an objectively critical ear until I wrote about it as one of this year’s standouts for my Sunday column in the San Francisco Chronicle Datebook. Fiona Apple is bar none of the best lyricists alive and there are few experiences quite like her impactful music. 

24. Thelonious Monk – Palo Alto 

The story behind this finally released recording might be my favorite of any album this year. So Monk and his quartet got booked to play a show at Palo Alto High School in 1968 and the tapes only existed because the high school janitor of all people recorded the 47-minute set. It’s a fantastic set of classics that you can read more about in this piece by Marcus J. Moore of the New York Times.

23. Jordana – Something To Say To You 

The Grand Jury Music label has been consistently finding emerging talent for years and Wichita’s Jordana is their latest gem. I couldn’t quit her bedroom pop EPs that dropped throughout the year and this album is a combination of two of them. There’s charm in the simplicity of these productions and Jordana doesn’t give up her pointed fieriness for her everlasting wit.  

22. Moses Boyd – Dark Matter

I’ve been touting London jazz scene up and comers for the past few years and drummer Moses Boyd is among its finest prospects. This record shows Boyd’s traditional jazz drumming prowess, but with modern production sensibility. He’ll go from jazzed out hyperspace at one turn, to paying homage to his Caribbean roots at another. The Mercury Music Prize-nominated release also features cameos from other names in London jazz you need to know like saxophonist Nubya Garcia, keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones, tuba player Theon Cross and others. 

21. Dirty Projectors – 5 EPs

I love listening to anything Dave Longstreth creates. He focused on a different Dirty Projectors vocalist on each of the five EPs the band put out this year and then brought it all home on the fifth one. The 5 EPs album is a collection of those five releases and it shows how Longstreth can morph the band’s lineup over the years and still make amazing music. 

20. Porridge Radio – Every Bad

This album hit me like the two Savages albums from this past decade. Brighton’s Dana Margolin is pompous and punk all over this record and it’s a refreshing edge. British journalist Everett True called them “the best band in the world” back in 2015 and it’s as if Margolis has carried herself with that idea ever since and has now exploded with passionate anger on Every Bad, the band’s official breakthrough LP. 

19. Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes – What Kinda Music

I’m gonna be listening to this album on the beach forever. Tom Misch has presented perhaps the most accessible offerings from the new London jazz movement and now the guitarist and multi-instrumentalist links with the drummer Yussef Dayes for incredibly polished effort that’s meant to make it big. There’s even a Freddie Gibbs feature on the track “Nightrider” to boot. 

18. Waxahatchee  – Saint Cloud

Think I listened to this album while avoiding pandemic-infested San Francisco in Calistoga more than any other this year. It’s easily the best Waxahatchee album to date as Katie Crutchfield taps into instantly vintage pick-up truck Americana. 

17. Ambrose Akinmusire – on the tender spot of every calloused moment

Already a world-renowned trumpet player, this album represents the maturation of Akinmusire’s illustrious career with the mindset of someone who’s finally made it back full circle to the place where they learned the trade: Oakland. I spoke with him for KQEDArts in October about this blues-heavy essay on the state of America and Black music. The album just got a Grammy nomination and was one of my best Bay Area album of the year picks. 

16. Woods – Strange To Explain

Along with the Waxahatchee album, this was a constant companion as I spent as many days as possible on our family’s land in Calistoga this year. It’s perfect folk escapism from the Brooklyn band that was recorded in Marin County’s Panoramic House Studio and brims with the feeling of the Northern California coast.

15. Jeff Tweedy – Love Is The King

This might be my favorite Wilco or Wilco-adjacent record since Sky Blue Sky. Damnit if Jeff Tweedy ain’t one of the best songwriters in the world. I also read his memoir this year and it’s a comforting feeling to know that not all of your musical heroes are assholes and can in fact be good people with interesting things to say about life’s struggles, it’s triumphs and their art. With instrumentation from Tweedy’s sons, Love Is The King picks up where the memoir left off in my eyes.

14. Buscabulla – Regresa

This was a powerful release from Buscabulla, who recorded everything after moving back home to Puerto Rico from New York in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The album’s title itself means to “return” and every beat of this Latinx electropop album bursts with the feeling of a greater purpose to their island community. I wrote about them in May at Paste and I’m forever moved by Raquel Berrios and Luis Alfredo Del Valle’s story. 

13. Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammad – Jazz Is Dead 1

Was anyone busier than Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad this year? With the Jazz Is Dead project alone, they released 5 albums, plus the original score to Run This Town. Younge also released an excellent album with singer Angela Muñoz, another with Loren Oden and an album of production collabs. But I digress, Jazz is Dead is Young and Ali’s concept of revitalizing the music of jazz luminaries and including the subjects in the process. The first volume merely presents a sampling of the finest work from each of the installments (and future ones). In it, you’ll find the music of Roy Ayers, Azymuth, Marcos Valle, Gary Bartz, João Donato, Doug Carn and Brian Jackson… all alongside Younge, Ali and live instrumentalists. It’s a fascinating effort by the pair to introduce and re-introduce the the greats to old and new heads alike and you gotta hear it. 

12. Kelly Lee Owens – Inner Song

From where I’m standing, this was the best electronic release of the year. Apologies to albums by Four Tet and Caribou (both narrowly missed being included in this list) but Owens creates some of the most exhilarating productions I’ve heard in quite some time. Her music doesn’t feel derivative of anything, with the melody and bass floating in a world of its own. This one’s been living on repeat and I’d kill to sweat my ass of to a live set at a club from the Brit right now. 

11. Låpsley – Through Water

Låpsley has never put anything out in her short career that I haven’t absolutely gravitated too. I became enamored with the XL Recordings singer and producer’s EPs in 2014-15 and Through Water was a much-anticipated follow up to her 2016 debut LP. I cook to this music more than anything else as it puts me in an unparalleled zen state as I craft sauces, sauté vegetables and season meats. If you know me well, this is really saying something! This is deeply introspective music from an artist whose sound is exactly what I seek out.

10. Thundercat – It Is What It Is

There are very long and necessary deep exhales and then there’s this. The greatest cosmic bass player on the planet gave us 15 sweeping future funk and nu-jazz tracks about loss, grieving, depression, friendship, a life in flux and love in its many forms. Speaking of deep exhales, I had the pleasure of seeing Thundercat play a Drive-In concert at a driving range in Burlingame this past October and he seemed to know about how much I needed to stop arguing with my dog and go see a live show. 

9. Marcos Valle & Azymuth – Fly Cruzeiro

Another fascinating story about this re-issue. It was originally released in 1972 as a gift to flyers on the Cruzeiro Brazilian airline where only 500 copies were pressed. So now in crazy ass 2020, Light In The Attic Records pressed another 500 copies of this collection of Brazilian standards by damn hell ass legends in Valle and Azymuth. Listening to Fly Cruzeiro, I can’t help, but think of sleazy Mad Men-era smoke-filled flights or of some of the late 80’s flights I took as a kid on shuttered Brazilian airlines like Varig and Vasp, or even just being in the Mexico City airport today. This is a real Brazilian music treat and I just picked it up on vinyl through the label this very moment… if you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ out, you should probably do the same.

8. Róisín Murphy – Róisín Machine

I thought this was the best pop record of the year. I yearned to hear more of Róisín Murphy’s late-career resurgence after  she graced DJ Koze’s “Illumination” last year and damnit she delivered. Songs like “Incapable” and “Murphy’s Law” aren’t too far-removed from Robyn, but with a decidedly disco lean. Queen Róisín of Ireland has entered the building. 

7. Cleo Sol – Rose In The Dark

This teases my #1 pick, but along with Arlo Parks (who didn’t put out an album this year), Cleo Sol was this year’s biggest revelation for me.  Sol writes and delivers sumptuous newfangled soul inflected with her roots as a British-Jamaican. Hers is a voice I can’t wait to hear grow just as she does as a globally-minded singer. More on her later, but for now, watch this:

6. Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, 9th Wonder and Kamasi Washington – Dinner Party and Dinner Party Dessert

Yes, you read that correctly, Terrace Martin + Robert Glasper + 9th Wonder + Kamasi Washington. Does that sound like something you’d be interested in? It’s the jazzy hip-hop supergroup that we the people of this godawful year deserve for our misery. It clocks in at a modest 23 minutes, but the Dessert edition of the Dinner Party EP features elevated versions of all seven songs with singers and rappers including an unfuckwithable number featuring Rapsody on the mic and Herbie freakin’ Hancock on the keys. 

5. Seu Jorge & Rogê – Night Dreamer Direct-to-Disc Sessions

Nothing made me prouder and happier to be Brazilian this year as much as this album. Look, I worship at the church of Seu Jorge (I interviewed him about the Bowie covers four years ago for KQEDArts and it meant the world to me) and although I’d never heard of his friend Rogê before, the result of their collaboration is mastery of Brazilian musical art forms; part samba, part MPB, with the pair on vocals and guitar backed by notable Brazilian percussionists. Their distinctly different voices contrast but coalesce via songs about friendship, passion, Rio and being fiercely Brazilian. 

4. Adrianne Lenker – Songs

I was finally able to put my finger on what makes Big Thief so great via this masterful feature on Lenker by The New Yorker‘s Amanda Petrusich (easily one of the best music scribes in the business btw.) The Big thief frontwoman stole away to the Western Massachusetts mountains to spend time away from COVID-riddled New York. She recorded this album in the cabin she stayed in and said it felt like playing inside of an acoustic guitar. That imagery never escapes you while listening to one of the most beautiful albums you’ll ever hear. 

3. Open Mike Eagle – Anime, Trauma and Divorce

Ahhh…the storied hip-hop deconstruction album. A lot of the great ones have been there and on Anime, Trauma and Divorce, Open Mike Eagle opens himself up for what I thought was the best hip-hop record of 2020. Since the end of last year, his show on Comedy Central (The new Negroes) got cancelled and he and his wife got divorced. Suffice it to say, he doesn’t shy away from his vulnerabilities on this album and I legit lost my shit the first time I listened to “Everything Ends Last Year.” Rapper, comedian, podcaster and more, Mike Eagle has become one of the finest hip-hop renaissance men in the business and this is his “Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” 

2. Yves Tumor – Heaven To A Tortured Mind

Yves Tumor’s music has typically been a grinding and abrasive listen. But on Heaven To A Tortured Mind, they peeled back a thick layer of hurt to drop an album of unapologetic pop that’s somewhere between the chasm of Prince and Mykki Blanco. Every track is an unpredictable force that pulls at different peaks and valleys of infatuation.  The various hairpin turns of lust on “Kerosene!” and the difficult solace found on “Strawberry Privilege”  were more enamoring than anything else in 2020 and I’ll be hard-pressed to ever put this album down. 

1. Sault – Untitled (Black Is)

Nothing mattered more in 2020 than the fight for racial justice and equality that the surge in Black Lives Matter protests put firmly at the forefront of our lives. What Sault was able to do with Untitled (Black Is), is place the struggle and debate that was centered in America and very clearly show how passionately it resonates beyond our borders. A transatlantic collaboration between British producer Inflo, Chicago rapper Melissa Young (aka Kid Sister) and singer Cleo Sol (see above at #7), Sault found an argument for global unity within Black music. Soul, hip-hop, dancehall, gospel, R&B, trip-hop and then some, were all present on these thoroughly spiritual 20 tracks. And they did it by keeping their identities largely private. What mattered was the music and the purpose behind it. The pain it described and the healing it sought. Love over hate, compassion over greed, with peace through sound piercing through it all. 2020 was a motherfucker, but there’s hope in this album and there may be hope for us all yet.

Way Back: “Sujinho” From Madlib & Azymuth’s Mamão

Came across this incredible project this morning in the “I never even knew this existed!” file. It’s an album called “Sujinho” (Portuguese translation: little dirty one) from the Beat Konducta, Madlib and Ivan “Mamão” Conti, the drummer of legendary Brazilian funk group Azymuth. The album from the pair (they go by Jackson Conti on this) is a vibrant mix of Brazilian funk, samba, post-Bossa, tropicalia and more.

According to OG photographer B+, the project came about around the time of the 2002 Brasilintime documentary (which you should watch) and was finally released in 2008. Shout out to B+ who posted about this on his treasure trove of an IG account and peep Sujinho in full above.

Nailah Hunter Channels Jon Brion on “White Flower, Dark Hill”

When I first spun “White Flower, Dark Hill” by LA-based harpist and composer Nailah Hunter, I was instantly reminded of Jon Brion’s pensive original score to Michel Gondry’s seminal Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The way the keys are arranged handsomely atop Hunter’s ambient vocals drew me closer. And I pressed repeat…again and again, before zeroing in on Brion’s “Phone Call” and “Spotless Mind” as gorgeous parallels.

“White Flower, Dark Hill” forms part of Hunter’s debut LP, Spells, out May 29th on LA’s eclectic Leaving Records label. With each of the album’s six installments, Hunter looks to transport us to uniquely colorful worlds. “White Flower, Dark Hill” hits me a few days after watching the super flower moon rise late in the evening to illuminate the sky and leave me in awe of the cosmos.

“The idea of the purples and navies of the night sky and the way that shadows appear under full moonlight, the different shades of moonlight, and how it always brings out the color white,” Hunter says of the song’s makeup.

Listen to “White Flower, Dark Hill” (above) and pre-order Spells on Bandcamp.

Nailah Hunter (photo and top image courtesy of the artist)

Ending awkward silences since 1983.

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