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.

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Jan 31 2016

CM Top Albums of 2015: Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

Drake - If You're Reading This It's Too Late

Drake isn’t afraid of pop hooks, and it has to be said, one of his most defined talents is creating them to outstanding effect amongst the hypnotic and dark scenery of ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late‘. Released without warning at the beginning of 2015, the moody, sleek designs are on a technical level superb but wouldn’t be half as brilliant without Drake‘s theatrical interpretations. “I got this shit mapped out strong“, he quips on the larger than life opener ‘Legend‘ and I tend to agree with him. If you haven’t heard of this album did you even inhabit Earth during 2015?

Valya discussed how this was “perhaps the most successful Drake album to date featuring hits that made me want to go “running through the six with our woes“. The album takes a step back from Drake‘s previous attempts at melodious track raps and goes straight for the hood feel, yet somehow manages to keep it clean in true Drake fashion. As much as Drake himself doesn’t embody the things he raps about, the album is a hit I can’t seem to get away from. Lyrically, I can’t seem to find a flaw.

Drake uber fan Robin was quick to add that he “was easily the most influential person on 2015 popular culture. With each release he provided the world with a new hashtag and two of his biggest hits this year were actually one-offs including the first diss track to ever be nominated for a grammy. Papi you won 2015. Can’t wait for 2016″.

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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.

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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

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Jan 31 2016

CM Top Albums of 2015: Torres – Sprinter

torres sprinter

Torres, aka Mackenzie Scott, self titled debut was all hushed tones and measured sounds. You would have been forgiven for expecting more of the same on ‘Sprinter‘ but while Scott still sings straight from the heart she has employed a new dynamic range to showcase her amazing .

Yifat recalled that “listening to this album for the first time made me cry. It feels like Torres is playing right next to you in the bedroom, fearlessly exposing her guts and her inner thoughts and conflicts without any filters.Her voice is haunting and howling at times, making the listener hypnotized. And of course, her naming Kendrick‘s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly‘ one of her best albums of the year, made me fall in love even more.

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Jan 31 2016

CM Top Albums of 2015: Chvrches – Every Eye Open

chvrches-every-open-eye-new-album

Under all of the glossy, 80’s inspired euphoria, Chvrches simply write great songs. 2015’s ‘Every Eye Open‘, the follow up to the 2013 debut ‘The Bones Of What You Believe‘ was very simply a stronger slice of pop. Every single chorus is colossal and single worthy. Every emotion is conveyed with more depth and each arrangement more serving of the song over style. That is not to say they have lost anything in the style department. Chvrches still out-1980’s M83, the Flashdance soundtrack and a prawn cocktail, all with reverberated abandon.

Emily chimed “if you were hoping for a more complex, evolved Chvrches sound for their sophomore album, you might not find it here. But who would want that, really? The trio sticks to their considerable strengths with lush synth-pop and Lauren Mayberry‘s vibrant, punchy vocal delivery, and I’m happy to say that this album is every bit as magical as their first. “Clearest Blue” feels like the band’s climactic take on pop anthems of yesteryear”.

Yifat quickly added that “despite not being a huge fan of happy songs and/or synth-pop, this band made me fall in love with it. Lauren‘s vocals are piercing through and I found myself drawn to this album and playing all of it time after time without getting bored. If that doesn’t imply it’s a favorite album, then i don’t know what does.

Valya concluded that “Chvrches has managed to create a self produced musical masterpiece. Their electro pop mystical sound is something of another world taking you to a realm full of kaleidoscopes and stardust. Despite the light and fluffy beats if you listen closely the lyrics are actually very dark in describing relationships, reconciliation, and devastation. In my mind they have separated themselves from the likes of Passion Pit, Disclosure, and Purity Ring and have, as they claim, made themselves gold.


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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”.

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Jan 31 2016

CM Top Albums of 2015: Jamie XX – In Colour

jamiexxincolour

Following his respectful and intelligent work on the late Gil Scott-Heron‘s “We’re New Here”, Jamie XX finally delivered what we had all been waiting for; his debut solo album. Our gal Ledewitt praised the “variety and nuance”.

Jabes mused that the artist had “Stepped slightly outside the perfect dream-like box he displays on past singles and remixes, Jamie XX brought a little more to the party with ‘In Colour‘. Jamie Xx‘s signature sound sweeps through every track, with a dash of Jamaican steelpan here, and the familiar vocals from fellow member of The XX‘s Romy Madley Croft there, the album is a perfect culmination of his career and the exact package fans wanted and expected”.

“Electronica albums are seldom this genuinely evocative. ALL THE FEELS as the kids would say” injected Roger.

T.R. Wicks wanted the final word stating “Without a doubt, the highlight on Jamie XX debut solo record was ‘Loud Places‘. It showcases a song that not only reminds us of Jamie Smith‘s impact and innovation on modern dance (specifically post-dub) genres, but crosses that bridge of solid songwriting arrangement mixed with eclectic samples and exciting beat making. Jamie Smith’s evolution, in and out of The XX is a joy to watch. ‘Sleep Sound‘ and ‘Obvs‘ re-enforce Smith’s originality, in this sleek, chameleonic and utterly creative dance record.”

 

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