Jan 31 2016

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2015: Sam

samfire

1. Boxed In – Boxed In

Benefitting from having his own space, Oli Bayston has penned a piano-led joyful tour de force through indie electronica heartland.

2. Wombats – Glitterbug

Returning with a long-prepared third album, ‘Glitterbug‘ leaves melodies in your ears long after its last play ensuring this was an album to return to throughout 2015.

3.Rival Consoles – Howl

Brooding and pensive, ‘Howl‘s crisp analogue electronics fluidly move between heavier percussive elements and joyous fanfares with meticulously timed rhythmic idiosyncrasies.

4. Young Fathers- White Men Are Black Men Too

Outspokenly political, Young Fathers push into genres far beyond where their punk attitude would suggest they stay.

5. Real Lies – Real Life

An album to address the disenchanted generation the world conspired to keep in their twenties indefinitely, who you’ll still find partying despite being in the amid the small-town mentalities and big-corporation exploitation.

6. Benjamin Clementine – Cornerstone

Powerful, respectful and yet so filled with sorrow, Benjamin Clementine‘s sees the world with the weariness of a man much older than his bittersweet voice would suggest.

7. The Districts – Flourish and a Spoil

8.Foals – What Went Down

Full review here

9. Floating Points – Elaenia

Confidently introverted, Elaenia is a rich tapestry taking influences from much further afield than its ambient nature would suggest, rarely forcing itself upon you, its strength lies in the layers which emerge on repeated listens.

10. Unknown Mortal Orchestra

TRACKS:

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Jan 31 2016

Cougar Microbes Writers Picks 2015: T.R. Wicks

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1. Leon Bridges – Coming Home

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2. Ibeyi – Ibeyi

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3. The Weeknd -Beauty Behind The Madness

Full review here

4. Bjork – Vulnicura

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5. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

Full review here

6. Jamie xx – In Colour

Full review here

7. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Full review here

8. Mark Ronson – Uptown Special

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9. Gabriel Rios – This Marauders Midnight

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10. Lana del Rey – Honeymoon

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TRACKS:


Jan 31 2016

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks: Robin

robin

Hollywood Handbook

Not music or an album but what I spent most of 2015 listening too

A$AP Rocky – At.Long.Last.A$AP

Many might not agree with me on this but for me it’s personal. I love this album pretty much top to bottom and I love Pretty Flacko.

Drake and Future – What A Time To Be Alive aka #WATTBA

The album (mixtape) that made diamond emojis a technical measure of success.

Drake – ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’

Full review here

D.R.A.M. – #1EpicEP

Even though he has beef with my boy this EP gave hope to the underground.

Young Thug- Barter 6

The fact that it was originally titled “Carter 6” exemplifies why Young Thug is a genius and ahead of our time.

Future – DS2

Did you read about the couple that themed their wedding off this album? Future is The Low-Key King of 2015 Hip Hop. He also killed the style game this year.

Diplo – (Major Lazer) Peace is the Mission/Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü- Sixty % of the songs included on these albums are too ravey for my liking but the last 40% soothe my inner sing-a-long-in-the-club-(or the car)-girl soul. Favorite co-signs are from Kai, Wild Belle, MO, and obviously Bieber

Fetty Wap – Fetty Wap

THIS GUYS IS A HIT MACHINE. EVERYTHING HE TOUCHES IS FIRE.

Rae Sremmurd – Sremm Life

Even though the lyrical content really reflects their age and no one knows how to pronounce their name, these young guns are full of energy with notable live performances. All of their releases of this album have been undeniably MASSIVE hits and they recently proved themselves to with this 20 minute live freestyle.

Odezsa – In Return

Because you can’t listen to hip hop all of the time.

NOTABLE MENTIONS:

Jidhenna – “Classic Man”; Schoolboy Q on Snapchat; and Hollywood Handbook (which occupied most of my listening hours of 2015).

TRACKS:

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Jan 31 2016

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks: Valya

valya

1. Mac Miller- GO:OD AM

Mac‘s third studio album marks the roundabout of him coming full circle as an artist. Released under Warner Brothers Records, this is Mac’s first major label album. When you listen you can feel the full emotional toll that life has taken on the rapper and the versatility of his music. He spits about overcoming his drug addiction which is covered intensely on the track “Gods Speed“, but brings it back to a trap party with When in Rome, and even makes our eyes water singing about his girl in ROS. More impressively than Mac himself are the artists featured on the album. Mac hand picked artists whose style is entirely different than his own, yet they collaborated on a sound that fit Mac’s album like a glove. Check out Chief Keef on the track Cut the Check rapping probably the best verse of his career. It is irrefutable that Mac has matured in his music career since his goofy party raps of the Blue Slide Park album, or bumping drug induced hype songs off Watching Movies With The Sound Off. I don’t see him leaving the spotlight any time soon, and he doesn’t either as he raps in 100 Grand “we ain’t going nowhere, we can’t be stopped now, this rap shits for life.”

2.Twenty One Pilots- Blurryface

The album is based on a fictional character by the name of ‘Blurryface‘ that “represents all the things that I as an individual, but also everyone around, is insecure about says frontman Tyler Joseph. Sounds like a setup for the most angst filled album of the year, right? Wrong. Surprisingly these guys have wrapped together a package of incredible stand out sound, each song being so individual from the rest yet coming together in an album with one definite purpose. The angst is there as expected, but it is so creatively delivered that you cannot help but compliment these guys on their immense achievement. It takes real talent to create such individualistic sounds. The break out track Stressed Out has reached the #1 spot on Billboard lists. Every one of us in the adult world can relate to the chorus of “wish we could turn back time to the good old days when our mommas sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out”. Their outro of “wake up you need the money” is now forever the alarm tone of choice because no words could ever be truer. Don’t forget to check out The Judge for some ukulele, or Lane Boy for an electro drum rap cyclone.

3. Fall Out Boy – American Beauty/ American Psycho

Premiering #1 on Billboard’s Hot 200 album chart you would think that as Fall Out Boy’s 6th studio album they would have lost some steam by now. Yet there is no end in sight for the band which aims to bring back rock and roll into the spotlight. As they sing in their 4x platinum track Centuries “We’ll go down in history”

4. Drake- If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

Full Review Here

5. Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

If there’s anything to be said about Earl is that his raps are clean. Many rappers let the beat take the wheel, but Earl Sweatshirt raps clean over the beat and leaves the rest in the background behind his verses. This album goes deep for all those that say that real rap is dead make sure to check out Grief. Trust us when we say that the music video will leave you shaking in your shoes if the track alone is not enough! The entire album is honest and claustrophobic, with raw lyrics that trap us inside our own head. A lyrical acrobat, were doing flips over Earl‘s newest work.

6.Imagine Dragons- Smoke and Mirrors

Smoke and Mirrors‘ is best described as that type of pop rock album that made it. The catchy dreamy tunes are easy to get stuck on repeat in your head which is why this album has captured the hearts of many. Set with a rock background, grooves and pop beats speculate through their sound. It’s hard to picture the band ever surpassing their greatest creation “Radioactive“, but “I’m So Sorry” is comparable to it as the songs gentler brother. I have to admit that sometimes a little pop rock is cleansing to our souls, and that we’ve spent some time practicing our air guitar to the chorus of “I’m so Sorry” and you probably will too.

7. CHVRCHES- Every Open Eye

Full review here

8. Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment- Surf

‘Surf’ is the debut album of The Social Experiment, members which include Donnie Trumpet, Chance the Rapper, Peter Cottontale, Greg Landfair Jr, and Nate Fox. Although Chance’s heavy involvement has boosted the group to almost instant fame, the production alone is a music work of genius the likes of which are hard to find today. The production is groovy and reminiscent of African american church hymns, riddles with rhythm and blues and gospel twangs. The album also welcomes features from J Cole and Big Sean which step out of their comfort zone to take us away in Warm Enough and Wanna Be Cool respectively. The album’s crown jewel is a track by the name of Sunday Candy which left our mouths with such a sweet taste that I spent the better half of a week singing on repeat. When it comes to this album “take it in your body like it’s holy”.

9. Jack U – Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack U

Jack U is the brainchild of edm stars Skrillex and Diplo. There is nothing to be said about this album other than it is an edm production made in heaven with hard hitting beats and catchy drops. Skrillex and Diplo’s styles balance one another perfectly. Star tracks include “Take U There”, which without a doubt takes us there…wherever there may be. Their breakout track Where Are U Now featuring Justin Bieber almost single handedly turned every Bieber hater into a closet “Belieber”. No wonder this album won two Grammys! If this is their debut album, I can’t wait to hear what else they have in store.

10. Grimes- Art Angels

In this album Grimes takes us away to a pixie dreamscape full of intricately constructed melodies. Grimes is a cannon in the female pop genera, setting the bar high for all those below her. This album is only the latest in her series of masterpieces that can best be described as end-of-the-night jams. She pushes boundaries, mixing darkness with light. Listen to Flesh Without Blood to catch Grimes take us away with a dark dance floor classic. The entire album keeps us buoyant with dance-able tracks, yet the lyrics threaten to sink us into emotional depths down below. Grimes transcends in her album the emotions of everyone in the music world, singing in California “this music makes me cry, it sounds just like my soul”.

TRACKS:

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Jan 31 2016

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks: Yifat

Yifat

1. Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp a Butterfly

Full review here

2. Hero Fisher- Delivery

The British born singer-songwriter provides haunting melodies and deep lyrics, sang by a voice with a rasp. And who can resist a voice with a rasp! Definitely one of my year’s heroes.

3. Courtney Barnett- Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Full review here

4. Wolf Alice- My Love Is Cool

I’ve had this long-awaited debut album of the British foursome on repeat ever since it got released. All the songs are equally good and it’s a bit surprising considering the band members’ young age and experience. In one year they have become huge and it’s well-deserved. Looking forward to their future releases!

5. Low- Ones and Sixes

This band has been active for years and years and still produces one of its best albums. There isn’t even a bit of a “recycling” old habits feeling while listening to this album. To me it sounds like Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker are still exploring their limits and seeing their live this year just proved it.

6. Chvrches- Every Open Eye

Full review here

7. Torres- Sprinter

Full review here

8. Peaches- Rub

Peaches is back and maybe more provocative than ever. She’s bold, she’s direct, she’s fun and it’s delicious.

9. Tame Impala- Currents

I’ve been following Tame Impala’s music since they started so it wasn’t a surprise that they managed to produce another top-notch album. They seem to have a certain musical signature, even though it seems like the synths are taking over the guitars.

10. The Dead Weather- Dodge and Burn

I chose this album not because it’s their best but because I have been waiting for it for so long and because I think it’s underrated. True, the Dead Weather aren’t doing anything out of their ordinary, they’re not jumping off cliffs,and it’s nothing new but it’s familiar.

TRACKS:

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Jan 31 2016

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks: Ledewitt

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1. Sufjan Stevens – ‘Carrie & Lowell’

Full review here

2. Father John Misty – ‘I Love You, Honeybear’

Lyrical panache and musicality

3. Jamie xx – ‘In Colour’

Full review here

4. Here We Go Magic – ‘Be Small’

Light, lifting, and catchy (ordinary feeling is SO good)

5. Amason – ‘Sky City’

Ultimate nostalgic grooviness been a favorite since they began

6. Andrew Bird – ‘Echolocations: Canyon’

Always a pleasure

7.Nils Frahm – Late Night Tales

Excellent compilation for us deep thinkers

8. Howling – ‘Sacred Ground’

Simply sexy

9. Alabama Shakes – ‘Sound & Color’

Full review here

10. Patrick Watson – ‘Love Songs for Robots’

Never fails to deliver thoughtful and inspiring tunes

TRACKS:

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Jan 31 2016

CM Top Albums of 2015: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

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Kendrick Lamar had a mountain to climb after 2013’s ‘Good Kid, MAAD City‘. It seemed the mountain was no obstacle; The long awaited sequel ‘To Pimp A Butterfly‘ was every bit the masterpiece it promised to be.

T.R. Wicks kicked off things saying “Kendrick Lamar is a solid example of a fearless artist. Having to follow up from the quite brilliant ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City‘, Lamar has created some unforgettable. Using a highly effective jazz backing band for many arrangements, his ideas are both relentless and uncompromising, barking like a cross between James Brown and Tupac Shakur. Lamar appears as many personas and has so many layers; musically, lyrically and spiritually. From themes of race, sex, spirituality and fame, Lamar is equal parts captivating and exhausting to take in. I’ve owned this album for nearly a year and I still have only touched the surface of this deeply moving and complicated soul. To Pimp A Butterfly is quite simply a masterpiece”.

“I’ve heard this album described as “the Great American Novel, in rap album format”, and it might even be greater than that, having spawned protest chants in the streets. By design it’s not an easy listen, but whenever I do revisit TPAB, I find new things to appreciate” added Roger Jao

Yifat perhaps summed it up best when she called it “A celebration of self-observation and social statements expressed by memorable beats and stuck-in-your-head melodies”

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Jan 31 2016

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2015: Emily

Emily

1. Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

It’s hard to expect anything but absolute sonic perfection from Florence Welch, but this latest offering convinced me that she is simply incapable of missing. Welch channels her unique vocal spirit into album after album of driving, symphonic genius, and this one is no exception. Track 9, “Third Eye,” is pure energy, not to be missed.

2. Chvrches, Every Open Eye

Full Review Here

3. Stereophonics – Keep the Village Alive

Don’t tell me to grow up – I’m just not ready to give up the Stereophonics. This album is in the familiar vein of their last few: driving, raucous and playful, not the slightest hint of middle-agedness anywhere. I’ll always be sorry they aren’t making albums like their first four from the nineties and early noughties, but that will never stop me from enjoying the more pared-down guitar rock sound they’ve settled into. “Sing Little Sister” has a killer grove you haven’t heard since “Dakota.”

4. Ryan Adams – 1989

While I still at least try to resist Taylor Swift‘s insidious charm, once you slap Ryan Adams on it, my defenses fall. These can’t even be called covers, really – Adams strips down the sugary pop songs, seismically altering the melody, tempo, instrumentation and occasionally even lyrics (there’s a lot less “shake” in his version of “Shake it off,” (which by the way sounds like classic Bruce Springsteen). The track that rocks the most is “Style,” which surprised me since it’s pretty dull in its original form.

5. Disclosure- Caracal

It would be hard to recreate the lightening in a bottle that was “Latch,” but this album has all the elements that made the first a massive hit, and the chemistry is there in every track, strong from start to finish. It’s hooky and infectious, full of guest vocalists who bring unique style to their tracks. The Weeknd’s track “Nocturnal” is, unsurprisingly, golden disco dance perfection, and Lorde’s guest vocals make “Magnets” as haunting and kinetic as everything else she touches.

6. FFS (Franz Ferdinand, Sparks) – FFS
This album shows off the pumping momentum and unusual sound we’re used to hearing from Franz Ferdinand, with plenty of colorful layered vocals and occasional operatic touches. Most songs manage to sound stripped and essential even with plenty of instruments, layers and odd overdubs. The highlight is definitely “Police Encounters,” which starts with just synth and piano before cranking into a frenetic pop rock jam with the very singable chorus, “Bomp bomp ditty ditty bomp bomp ditty ditty police encounters.”

7. Mark Ronson – Uptown Special

There is something wonderful about ‘Uptown Special‘, and I think it may be the album’s total disregard for orthodoxy. This gives Ronson free rein to run up and down the decades, curating the best hooks from old school funk, the best vibes from disco, the heavy-handed vocals of the ‘80s, and maybe some bad taste from the ‘90s. The end result is an irresistible boogie album that is simultaneously referential to many past eras and somehow still very fresh and new. “Daffodils” is the most traditional funk track, so it gets my vote. Fans of Paula Abdul (admit it) will love “I Can’t Lose.”

8. The Weeknd – Beauty Behind the Madness

Full review here

9. Everything Everything – Get To Heaven

Everything Everything made my best of 2013 list, and two years later I’m still trying to find the right adjectives for their wonderfully bizarre, unique sound. They’re decidedly indie rock but with pop instrumentation, otherworldly falsetto vocals, heavy lyrics and gleeful harmonies. Their energy and avant-garde feel will always remind me of Bloc Party, but they’re clearly developing a sound that doesn’t really brook comparison. All four singles from the new album are solid, but “Spring/Sun/Winter/Dread” is my favorite.

10. Guster – Evermotion

Guster is a band that will always make the list, an alternative rock-pop jam band that got its start when I was still in kindergarten. ‘Evermotion‘ is a little more laid-back and dreamy than some of their earlier, more energetic releases, but it brilliantly features the soaring vocals of lead singer Ryan Miller. Guster has always had a sound all their own, and this album continues that trend. The first single, “Simple Machine,” is absolute perfection, a driving track powered by drummer BrianThundergodRosenworcel.

TRACKS:

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