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 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: 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 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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Jan 31 2016

CM Top Albums of 2015: The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness

the weeknd beauty beast

On his 2015 effort The Weeknd provides a soundtrack for before the party, during the party and after party all in one epic brooding mix. Roger called it “A long overdue return to form for Abel Tesfaye. He hasn’t sounded this good since ‘House of Balloons‘. Sin hasn’t sounded this good since either”.

Jabes reflected that “cult fans of ‘House of Balloons‘, probably didn’t love how mainstream The Weeknd became this year, but it’s hard to deny the power of ‘Beauty Behind the Madness‘. Abel Tesfaye infused several other genres into this album, including New Orleans blues band vibes and dream pop – and paired up his gorgeous falsetto with the likes of Lana Del Ray and Ed Sheeran for a serious dive into the conventional. Tefaye‘s signature beautiful R&B production abilities still shine throughout the whole album, truly boasting how far his talent has come, and how much more we have to see from him”.

Emily carried on saying “I tried to resist the charms of The Weeknd, but it was a futile fight. If it’s not blasphemous to say, he has at least a measure of the magic that made Michael Jackson and Prince pop icons for the ages. I’ll admit that I could do without a few tracks that are more hip-hoppy R&B than my tastes typically run, but it’s clear that Tesfaye is hugely talented as a producer-songwriter, even before you consider that voice. Apart from the ubiquitous “I Can’t Feel My Face,” I’m constantly playing “In The Night,” which is pure dancefloor magic.

TRACKS:

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Jan 31 2016

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2015: Jabes

jabes

1. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Just Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

Full review here

2. The Weeknd – Beauty Behind the Madness

Full review here

3. Leon Bridges – Comin Home

With the capabilities computers have brought to the overproduction of today’s music, it’s a sigh of relief to come across the sincere raw talent of Leon Bridges. Sultry vocals over 60’s soul guitar chords, audiences are catapulted back in time with a 60s style early r&b. ‘Comin Home‘ makes you wanna hold your lover close and just sway. With solid foundations blatantly rooted in the Temptations, even Bridges‘ backup doowop vocals are on point for the era of music he emanates.

4. Jamie Xx – In Colour

Full review here

5. Purity Ring – Another Eternity

Purity Ring returned to the scene with their sophomore album, another eternity, bringing bigger beats but the same tone and timbre delivered on their first album Shrines. The melancholic childlike vocals of Megan James dance playfully over the electropop sound in dreamlike wonder. Their subtle poetry over a stronger bass allows for much more movement on this beautiful compilation. With catchier standouts like “push pull,” and “bodyache,” this indie electronica duo is inching closer into the limelight with their unique sound.

6. Major Lazer – Peace is the Mission

After a year of being the busiest go-to producer for mainstream artists, and essentially reviving The Biebs’ career, Diplo reunited with Switch for another bass-thumping album as Major Lazer. Peace is the Mission is a solid round of reggaeton beats, unique featured artists, and that trademark Major Lazer sound that can only be described as an auto-tuned baby’s cry. The ubiquitous lead single “Lean On” featuring MØ is (and was) the perfect summer jam. With Elliphant on “Too Original,” their dance beats plaited together in dancehall harmony. Diplo and Switch continue to show off their talent, and as long as Major Lazer continues to have the time of their lives playing with friends, we will too.

7. Foals – What Went Down

Full review here

8. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Full review here

9. Justin Bieber – Purpose

I caught Biebs fever this year – not even a guilty pleasure. wtf.

10. Miley Cyrus – Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz

Um, this is hands down the weirdest fucking album I’ve ever heard. And Her Dead Petz are The Flaming Lips of course.

TRACKS:

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Jan 31 2016

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2015: Roger Jao

roger jao

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

Full review here

2. Jamie XX – In Colour

Full review here

3. Makaya McCraven – In The Moment

Beautifully arranged jazz with all of the improvised live elements, but with rhythms squarely influenced by house music and hip hop. This album is effortlessly sexy and cool – coffee shops take note.

4. Kamasi Washington – The Epic

Three hours may seem like an unwieldy length for any album, let alone a jazz, but Washington takes full advantage of every second of it to show you that he is a master of the entire genre, from cool jazz, to fusion, to even bits of vocal R&B.

5. Fixing Clocks – Fixing Clocks

Think DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist meets Pink Floyd. Just a superb psych rock album with great breakbeats and endless replayability.

6. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

Full review here

7. Tame Impala – Currents

Highly impressive follow up to their 2012 breakout record Lonerism. Here we witness Kevin Parker’s evolution as a vocalist, along with some bold new production styles.

8. Hermitude – Dark Night Sweet Light

First Flume and now Hermitude… those Australians are on a completely different level with their electronica infused hip hop. Unlike trap – which they draw some influence from – the soulful Dark Night Sweet Light is enjoyable in a wide variety of settings.

9. Vince Staples – Summertime ‘06

Remember that exhilarating feeling you had the first time you heard “Grindin’” by the Clipse? Vince Staples is able to sustain that feeling for the length of an entire album with his urgent delivery, clever observations and wordplay, and banging industrial tinged production.

10. The Weekend – Beauty Behind The Madness

Full review here

Tracks:

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Jan 31 2016

CM Top Albums of 2015: Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Sufjan_Stevens_-_Carrie_&_Lowell

Carrie & Lowell‘ wasn’t created to be boomed over loud speakers, it was a chance for us to feel something real and to be alone with these thoughts. sometimes “it is so revealing and delicate, it hurts.

Jabes framed it as “one of the most depressing but beautiful albums” while Ledewitt was left in awe of the “songwriting and narrative depth”.

T.R. Wicks mused that “remarkably, through all of Stevens‘ breathtaking creativity and work rate, this is probably the subtlest and low-key record, yet the hardest hitting other than maybe ‘Seven Swans‘. What sets this album apart is this achingly beautiful tribute to his childhood. It is sensitive, haunting and above all deep. There is nowhere Sufjan Stevens is afraid to go thematically, but where he has chosen to go this time around, he has approached with an intimacy and awareness that makes Carrie & Lowell both heartbreaking to listen to, and masterful in it’s execution”.

TRACKS:

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