Sonic Diversity and Storytelling was abundant in 2015 - Here's our year-end picks!
* Albums are listed in no particular order *
- Jazz Cartier - Marauding In Paradise (Self-Released Mixtape)
- Jamie XX - In Colour (Young Turks)
- FKA Twigs - M3LL155X (Young Turks)
- Deafhaven - New Bermuda (ANTI-)
- Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly (TDE & Interscope)
- GoldLink - And After That, We Didn’t Talk (Black Butter)
- Gallows - Desolation Sounds (Venn Records)
- Kali Uchis - Por Vida (Self-Released EP)
- Major Lazer - Peace is the Mission (Mad Decent)
- Daniel Caesar - Pilgrim’s Paradise (Self-Released EP)
Jazz Cartier - Marauding In Paradise
(Self-Released Mixtape, 2015)
Marauding in Paradise paints a perfect portrait of Toronto - but don’t expect Forest Hill mansions and fancy whips. This is the city at it’s core and Jazz Cartier provides the soundtrack. After bobbing around living in the United States, Barbados and Kuwait, the nomadic rapper released his debut mixtape produced by co-hort Lantz. It’s abundant with raw unfiltered aggression and relentless drive audible in his syncopation and delivery of rhyme and verse. Jacuzzi is also a little scary, but evokes a fear that leaves you curious, wanting more. The album ebbs and flows with tracks that are balanced by contrasting tempos and emotional progression. Whether it be the anthemic “Switch” to the slow-winding party nostalgia of “Wake Me Up When It’s Over,” Cartier tells a story. Toronto references are thrown in on “The Downtown Cliche” and my favourite piece on the album, “See You In Hell” - the perfect conclusion to a thesis on life and love, showing and proving - which is exactly what Jazz Cartier has been doing since his arrival.
Catch him in the New Year at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto on February 5, 2016.
Kali Uchis - Por Vida (Self-Released EP, 2015)
(Featured in Episode 4: SPIN THIS)
Hot tracks are produced by Tyler The Creator and Montreal’s Kaytra, while others shine simply for American Colombiana Kali Uchis’ swift lane changes between R&B, pop, soul and Hip-Hop. While Uchis is definitely modern for her ability to blend these genres with high aesthetic and tact, there are musical elements reflective of every decade with a clear goal to engage listeners. In a recent interview with John Hill of Noisey, Uchis stated, “I think that’s why people like to get high, just to see things in a different perspective, and that’s what I want the music to do, just to get people to step out of it but without having to be high. It’s just cool.” And on a cultural note, her ethnicity shines with muy caliente bilingual flow on “Rush.” If I could describe Uchis’ demeanour, from album cover to editorial to promo art, it would be “alternative sultry.” Her pastel-painted nails, big beautiful eyes and unique style are paired perfectly with a voice that can take slightly softer cues from Nina Simone to Celia Cruz. Although a slow tempo dominates the album, and at times drifts into a lull, it’s the perfect soundtrack for sipping a strawberry milkshake at the Lakeview (explain TO sig), with a cherry on top. Tempting, I know. Which leads to “Call Me,” the alluring track produced by Tyler the Creator. “They say when one door opens, another door closes. I’m hoping that’s the way that it goes,” sings a hopeful Uchis in the opening of “Know What I Want.” It’s the affirmative single of the EP, with a stylish video a la Rodriguez/Tarantino to boot. It’s no surprise, for the vocalist is confidently composed in a take-no-bullshit stance. It could potentially be the theme of the album, as Por Vida means “For Life.” Let’s hope Uchis maintains this attitude and style, for it may take her very far.
Jamie XX - In Colour
(Young Turks, 2015)
Jamie XX has made a mark on me. The British electronic producer has produced some of his best work to date with In Colour. Having traveled to England a year ago, I see so much of the country in this piece of art. Its title fits, as it is a palette of sounds reflective of culture. What struck me first was his ability to infuse a variety of Caribbean elements. The steel pan pulse drives “Obvs” like a funeral procession, so much so that I would love it to be the soundtrack of my own. “I Know (There’s Gonna Be Good Times)” was my summer tune - a strong island vibe is present, where Poppy delivered his quintessential melodies paired with Young Thug’s idiosyncratic rap style. Ambient, atmospheric tracks are nestled in between these collaborations. Jamie picks up his XX bandmate Romy on “Loud Places,” and “See Saw,” which are stunning, progressive pieces gracefully complimented by her angelic vocals. In Colour begins with the driving force of the root of English electronic music - the junglist movement, garage and drum and bass. Jamie XX samples a conversation, reminiscent of what could be heard on the sidewalks of Brick Lane or Shoreditch, on “All Under One Roof Raving” to the patois-tinged “Oh My Gosh.” In Colour is a vibrant piece that lights up a room, beginning to end.