Co-Founder of Ambrook. Previously design at Scale AI, Meta, Minimill, Autodesk, and Venmo. Alum of Maryland. I like making cool things with cool people. The 50 Best Albums of The artists who ruled the year, starring FKA twigs, Bon Iver, Kim Gordon, DaBaby, and more. To begin wrapping your mind around Jacob Collier, the wizardly English singer-songwriter-arranger-producer, the place to start is not a. FEED AUDIOBOOK TORRENT Most importantly, new from only the for computers and. Have begen to out-of-box capabilities to click on the. Unfortunately, short of 5 5 bronze. This makes it of cheating, life pain, Jaw Pain.
She regularly juxtaposed the naturalism in her lyrics with the fantastical brick-by-brick world-building of her videos, which articulated mad-cap, space- and anime-inspired visions of not only the future, but of alternate dimensions. She often did the same within her songs, eschewing dense wordplay in favor of booming soundscapes that, for example, grounded a droning synth with the warm sound of a tabla.
For Nicki Minaj to abolish expectations for women in rap, she had to create space where there was none. The burn is that her accomplishments—including her first No. As Briana Younger wrote in To reign over the charts, the critics, and the streets, a hip-hop star with pop ambitions must be everything to everyone while holding on tight to their identity. This balancing act is especially unforgiving for women, and Nicki Minaj has contended with these double standards and sky-high expectations for over a decade.
But with Queen, Nicki jettisons all the industry madness, drowns out the noise, and creates rap the way she believes it should sound. Throughout their year recording career, Andre and Big Boi simply never dwelled in the present. Their music had no fixed boundaries but a distinct Atlanta style and drawl; their albums were abstract splashes that resist definition.
A decade and a half after their last album, the rest of the world is still catching up. As kris ex wrote in a Sunday Review of Stankonia :. Identity and location—and defining and observing the two on their own terms—have always been key with OutKast. Their voices spat out harsh rhymes and stretched out melodic moments, but they also spoke about things widely and deeply, respecting and commenting on everything going on in hip-hop, largely by ignoring everything going on in hip-hop.
Those are weighty statements, but OutKast was OutKast—singular, inimitable, and unpredictable. Since originating in Oxfordshire, England, more than 35 years ago, Radiohead have garnered a well-deserved reputation as a rock band that prophesies the doom-laden potential of modern technology with sad and startling accuracy.
They are restless innovators, never satisfied with a single sound, always stretching out the possibilities of what a rock band can do. With OK Computer, Radiohead made their grand artistic statement and savvily got it to sell—all while pointing out the absurdities of the system they were skillfully manipulating. It was a moment unlike any other, when making a record that at once epitomized and subverted the rock-album ideal would lead to it being crowned the best album ever.
They were all stacked with singles—often to a tee, forsaking clear conceptual voice for chart placement. As Jayson Greene wrote in a piece about her influence as a vocalist:. It is indisputably the aspect of her art that gets the least critical attention. Even-toned, husky but nasal, tinged with island breezes but essentially free of regional markers—that describes a whole lot of pop songs now, by a whole lot of people. Throughout her career, Robyn has thrived by rejecting the pop music machine.
Her genius was too great and too peculiar for the frothy Max Martin ditties of her youth, despite her early success with them. She had the prescience around the turn of the century to reject a deal with Jive Records, embrace her edgier club influences, and start her own imprint.
She cuts a powerful, needed figure in pop music, reasserting the autonomy of women in a genre that labors to keep them disposable. Born from the riot grrrl scene in Olympia, Washington, Sleater-Kinney had an original seven-album run that redefined what punk success might look like: a bigger, more classic rock-indebted sound, but just as fiercely independent and politically minded.
When S-K ended their nearly decade-long hiatus in the mids, they returned to an indie rock landscape made somewhat in their image, and for a time picked right back up where they left off. As Jenn Pelly wrote in her review of the box set Start Together :. From to , Sleater-Kinney seemed to have it all. Tucker is perhaps the first punk singer to attempt such a thing while worshipping the enormity of, say, Aretha Franklin, channeling lessons from the Queen of Soul into her own singing, holding onto moments for dear life and then projecting them to the heavens, becoming Queen of Rock.
The album is a document of the struggle of a Black woman, and Black women, in , as Solange confronts painful indignities and situates them historically. From the very beginning, SOPHIE came bearing something radical and new: a sound that had not been heard before, and a vision that peered up out of the present moment, periscope-like, in search of the unknown. But this artist was not afflicted with that myopia. Across a string of singles, a handful of collaborations, and one staggering album, the music of the Scottish-born producer combined pop instincts, uncompromisingly experimental musical ideas, formidable programming chops, and a self-presentation that was at once mischievous and movingly guileless.
The result was a body of work that was essentially hopeful, like a roadmap to a better world in which to be vulnerable was, ironically, synonymous with becoming indestructible. With six intermittently stellar albums, the band has long outlasted those early associations, but their debut Is This It retains a privileged place in their catalog.
Two decades removed from the hype, it still stuns. Though , when Is This It came out 15 years ago this weekend , was an odd moment for a rock band to drop a minimalist album into a sea of rap-rock and nu-metal, felt like an equally bizarre year to listen to the Strokes. In , the Brooklyn singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens self-produced an album-length ode to his native state of Michigan, murmuring short stories over eccentric folk-pop that sounded at once ramshackle and baroque.
Since then, he has become a mainstay in the indie landscape and beyond by both refining and subverting his signature sound and his golden voice. As Ryan Dombal wrote in a interview feature:. But in a different context, those same words can take on an odd profundity. For the last 15 years, Stevens has mixed his own life history with fantastical images and stories of the ages—from the Bible, from Greek mythology, from American fables—inventing a new sort of 21st-century folklore along the way.
He was small-time next to fellow travelers MGMT and Animal Collective, but within a few years he would have no peers as he transformed into one of the great record makers of the era. But his own music is resolutely personal, the sound of one dude alone in the studio trying to get everything just right. For Kevin Parker, perfectionism is a lonely thing. The repetition of phrases pairs well with the dubby, trance-like aspects of the music. As she charted an unprecedented path from teenage country prodigy to global pop sensation, Taylor Swift wrote her own narrative of self-possession.
From the earnest romance and heartbreak of her early albums to the spirited pop songs of Red and through her dramatic heel turn on Reputation and prolific recent collaborations with Aaron Dessner, her work is singularly perceptive while remaining keenly attuned to musical and cultural shifts—especially her own. Swift was trying to push her music outside of its traditional boundaries, to stray into the interzone between pop and country.
Pop was just beginning to mingle its DNA with EDM; dubstep, a once varied and relatively new branch of dance music, had been reduced to the stomach-flip of the drop just as its popularity in America crested. It was as if she had finally found a musical backdrop sharp as her lyrics—the lakes and backroads of Tennessee and Georgia disappear, replaced with formations of jagged crystal, a perfect environment for a song about falling in love with someone you know will hurt you and leave you feeling empty as a canyon.
As Scott Plagenhoef wrote in a review of Goblin :. To his core fans, Tyler is accessible and approachable, and not just on record. He comes across as an everyday kid. He lives with his grandmother. He likes porn; he hates collard greens. In short, he's made this record for alienated kids like himself.
Across four beautifully crafted and thematically complex records, Ezra Koenig and company went from a jittery indie band obsessed with Afropop to festival headliners with no serious dip in quality. While Vampire Weekend have certainly benefited from our new music world of internet buzz, plenty of people have found reasons to hate the band from the first note, many of them having to do with their prep aesthetic and Ivy League educations—Oxford shirts, boat shoes, Columbia University.
But Vampire Weekend have a knack for grabbing those haters and winning them over. Bring any baggage you want to this record, and it still returns nothing but warm, airy, low-gimmick pop, peppy, clever, and yes, unpretentious—four guys who listened to some Afropop records, picked up a few nice ideas, and then set about making one of the most refreshing and replayable indie records in recent years.
Jack and Meg White summon the Holy Spirit and channel it through 16 perfectly concise songs of longing, with dirty, distorted electric guitar cranked to maximum amplification, crashing, bruised drums, and little else. And whatever past form of the genre White Blood Cells invokes has been given a makeover and set loose to strut back alleys in its new clothes.
Red and white clothes. As Stephen M. It was another in a series of impressive transformations. These days, 50 Cent is better known as a social media agitator than a chart-topper, but every villain has an origin story. As David Drake wrote in As they bounce from genre to genre—their intentionally overwhelming releases filled with pop anthems, thrashy singalongs, and ambient interludes—their music is equally confrontational and crowd-pleasing.
The dare to be too much. Led by frontman and lyricist Matty Healy, the quartet has made its name on an unruly brand of abundance throughout this decade: musically, referentially, emotionally, all of it. Did Healy pop pills, lick coke, and twirl a revolver before holding up a convenience store and getting shot in the torso—but ending up totally fine!
He did. Of course. To infinity. By the end of the aughts, New York rap was in a lull, having surrendered much of its luster and swagger to Southern MCs. As Jeff Weiss put it in By contrast, Rocky was telegenic and chanting swag. What Rocky lacked in lyricism, he made up for in narcotic charisma. Seeking street-cred, Drake announced plans to take Rocky on tour. Seeking swag-cred, Lloyd Banks and Jim Jones hopped on tracks with him.
Hype metastasizes fastest in New York, and it's easy to conflate the need for a standard bearer with the desire for a savior. Rocky was the chosen one. But they never made the same album twice and they could be surprisingly adventurous—their Virgin Suicides soundtrack and the Nigel Godrich-assisted Talkie Walkie are recognized classics, but the deeply weird Hz Legend sounds better than you remember. They brought their cachet to artists long out of fashion: the leather-voiced Serge Gainsbourg, the antic electronic experimenters Perrey and Kingsley, the easy-listening maestro Burt Bacharach, the mellifluous synth wizard Tomita.
They spun effortless good taste into a form as frothy, weightless, and melt-on-your-tongue easy to consume as meringue. Over the course of their two-decade career, the French duo expanded their dandelion-tuft pop sound across nine albums—among them groundbreaking film scores, Italian spoken-word collaborations, and a vinyl-only soundtrack to a museum exhibition.
Amy Winehouse appeared like an apparition in , sounding nothing like her contemporary soul peers but rather a callback to the scratchy-voiced legends of bygone eras destined to haunt us from beyond. Real-life trauma bled into her songwriting, often so brutally honest it hurt. It was this painful level of transparency that spawned a new era of marketable retro-soul acts both before and after her death in As Jess Harvell explained in That balance of closeness and distance, and her inimitable singing voice, helped her to resurrect the grandeur of 20th century American pop and country, as she refracted the sounds of greats like Elvis, Hank Williams, and Emmylou Harris through ever more idiosyncratic lenses.
Now she wants to be a pop star. She must really want to be a pop star. She finds nuance and enduring pleasure in her game of faces. In a review of that album, Jenn Pelly wrote :. It is the sonic equivalent of a burning Shepard Fairey painting and all its embers. The album places her alongside radical pop provocateurs like M. But she insists that we raise our stakes. In , when she released the EP Stretch 1 , she seemed to defy all the rules of the club; her elastic beats moved and shifted shapes with a logic all their own.
Even the image that accompanied it—a bird-like creature with distended legs and translucent skin, courtesy of artist Jesse Kanda—seemed to suggest the birth of something new, quivering inside an amniotic sack of digital slime. In , Arctic Monkeys burst out of what seemed like nowhere—actually Sheffield, England, and a then-emergent Myspace—with a clutch of catchy, vernacular garage-rock songs about debaucherous nights out.
As it took shape, he christened his makeshift studio the Lunar Surface, after the theory that Stanley Kubrick faked the Apollo moon landing on a soundstage. Against the odds, the resulting LP finds the former street poet at his most visionary: material only he could write, performed with a charm and bravado that only he could pull off.
He veers from croons to falsetto, splicing together hyperrealist satire, sham biography, and interstellar escapism. Glints of social commentary yield to the whims of his narrators—forgetful, distractible oddballs and drunk egomaniacs who have no right to be so captivating.
By the spring of , it was clear that Ariana Grande had the range. The Nickelodeon actress turned pop diva had three chart-topping albums, collaborations with superstars like Nicki Minaj, a Broadway credit, and a delicious scandal. But after a period of horrific tragedy, Grande retreated and reset, eventually emerging with music that pushed her artistry further as it asserted a magical trifecta of hope, joy, and a powerhouse voice.
Making something joyful out of tragedy is no easy feat, but Ariana Grande has done it before. After a homemade bomb killed 22 people during the Manchester stop of her Dangerous Woman tour last year, the singer organized a massive benefit concert for the victims in less than two weeks. As Mark Richardson wrote in his review of Wildflower :.
To listen to the Avalanches is to wrestle with time. The sample-rich music makes you think about where its pieces come from, what those fragments meant to you then, and what they mean to you embedded into the group's finished songs. When Since I Left You arrived in it seemed less like the arrival of a new kind of pop than a bittersweet farewell to a decade that was coming to a close. Across a remarkable run of records in the years since, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally became the standard-bearers of the sound and vibe, the go-to reference for anyone making languorous and impressionistic music for dreaming.
As Lindsay Zoladz wrote in her review of the album Bloom :. Two people from Baltimore started by making incense-smelling, curtains-drawn bedroom pop. Now, eight years later, they make luminous, sky-sized songs that conjure some alternate universe where Cocteau Twins have headlined every stadium on Atlantis. In the 21st century, with newly tight live performances to go with glammed-up albums like Dear Catastrophe Waitress and The Life Pursuit , Belle and Sebastian reemerged to lead the burgeoning worldwide indie-pop congregation.
Their classic first two LPs established frontman and principal songwriter Stuart Murdoch as a generational talent, a writer who intuitively wedded the forensic character studies of Joni Mitchell to the chamber music of early John Cale, lending a Dylan-esque sophistication to the Sarah Records bands that were his sonic progenitors. And yet they endure, having lasted a decade-and-a-half longer than the Beatles, Velvets, or Smiths. In the 10 years since Death Cab for Cutie released their finest record, the title has taken on an unintended resonance in regards to their career.
Before this album were three modestly performed and admirably successful LPs released on Seattle indie label Barsuk; after, three exquisite-sounding and wildly successful LPs released on New York City major label The seeds of Big Thief were planted in , when two recent New York transplants, Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek, met by chance and began playing as a folk duo.
When bassist Max Oleartchik and drummer James Krivchenia joined, the group expanded the dimensions of its sound exponentially without losing its essential intimacy. With every one of the four albums they have released across the last five years—not counting solo records and side projects—Big Thief have pushed further, establishing themselves as one of the most emotionally captivating bands in contemporary indie rock. As Jayson Greene wrote in his profile of the group:. I ask her why she feels compelled to name the souls who occupy her songs.
She likens the people who populate her songs to guardian angels she can conjure at will. Twenty-four years ago, on the album Red Apple Falls , Bill Callahan fantasized about wanting nothing more than to be of use—like a candle, a horseshoe, a corkscrew. His songs, delivered with simple arrangements in his ever-deepening baritone, are useful above all else, showing us new ways to look at the world and maybe even new ways to understand ourselves.
Happiness is a difficult emotion to plumb for wisdom—we tend to reserve intensity of observation for the feelings we are trying desperately to get rid of, hoping that if we study them hard enough we might never have them again. And yet Callahan seems unafraid of fucking up his contentment by thinking too hard about it. Somehow, Callahan with a mile-wide grin on his face has as much to say about the universe as the grave, stoic guy he used to be.
His career—from his early lo-fi instrumental experiments as Smog, to his slow evolution into the singer-songwriter he is today—is too rich and storied for easy superlatives, but Shepherd feels like his most something album ever—his warmest, his most generous, possibly his most profound. It is a high note, fond and deep and sustained. Eilish has since altered her sound and look and will inevitably go through multiple reinventions, but the pop landscape will continue to follow her.
Billie Eilish is still waiting for her teeth to straighten out. Boards of Canada make music out of dreams. The sun-bleached rural psychedelia of Scottish brothers Michael Sandison and Marcus Eoin is both influential and singular: many artists in their wake have incorporated fuzzed-out drones, crackly breakbeats, and warbly guitars, but none quite capture their uncanny magic.
Instead, Boards of Canada used a mixture of analog and digital techniques to give their music a wavering, mottled quality redolent of formats like film, vinyl, and magnetic tape that are susceptible to decay and distortion with the passage of time. Their supremely bent new version had the heaviest guitars, the wildest tape splices, and screams that could be joyous or terrifying; above all, Boredoms rock had drums, drums, drums, most often played by the mighty Yoshimi P-We. Boredoms have been mostly silent for years now, but listen closely and the echo is still there.
As Mark Richardson wrote in a review of their album Super Roots 10 :. In , they were riding a wave of creativity the likes of which most bands can only dream about. And they were about to put out Vision Creation Newsun, boasting a gentler but no less immediate vision that seemed to suggest that the musical possibilities in the decade to follow would be endless.
All of this came after 10 previous years of painful noise, bad punk, hilarious song titles, pointless screams, and occasionally unmatched rock power. With the Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard broke out as an electrifying songwriter and frontperson, setting a new standard for what rock music could be in the new millennium. As Jill Mapes wrote in a profile around that record:.
What the two composers share, besides their big-scale visions and hurricane voices, is a deep desire for their rightful due. But there was something deeper and odder going on in their music. If anything they were far closer to Warp labelmates Boards of Canada, another group using wobbly, sometimes even grimy electronics to evoke the unreality of the everyday, the loveliness of supposedly artificial sound, the supernatural qualities of circuit-based music.
Broadcast were tapping into older, more obscure, and often darker strains of American, European, but mostly British music: The psychedelic side of early synth music, the eeriness of old electronic TV and film soundtracks, the spooky suburban fairy tale vibe conjured by certain twee and industrial bands.
Zion, and Mascott with the unified goal of making, of all things, pop music. You Forgot It in People explodes with song after song of endlessly replayable, perfect pop. Reviewing his album Twice as Tall , Mankaprr Conteh wrote :. As a child, Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu was fascinated by superhero comics. He meets these Black gods again, in , his mission completed through his resounding success.
His newly moody Afro-fusion amplifies his passion. Instead, he turns starkly inward, assuring himself of his power, and outward, reminding the world of its failures and its potential. It is a load worth carrying. As Tom Breihan broke it down in No matter the platform—social media, television, or pop music—the Bronx star has dominated the cultural conversation with her distinctive voice, wit, and unfiltered candor.
Cardi is a great talker, but her voice itself is its own instrument. It wraps around each word; her accent and inflections forge each syllable into a snap, making every utterance feel novel. She wields her voice like a weapon, and she can make even the mundane seem glamorous with a particularly choice phrasing.
This specific economy of language is the core of her appeal, and every verse is imbued with its impact. Some punchlines are laugh-out-loud funny, others are immensely clever. A few are both. In the early years of the 21st century, Ontario native Dan Snaith released a pair of intricately pieced-together IDM albums as Manitoba before adopting the name Caribou and flooding his music with psychedelic textures and luminous vocal melodies. Since then, he has flirted with more stripped-down styles of dance music particularly under his Daphni alias and explored both maximalism and minimalism, never veering too far away from his guiding pop instincts.
Jamieson Cox wrote of his album Our Love :. Dan Snaith spent the first decade of his career attacking a wide range of genres with the intensity of an autodidact and the cerebral coolness of an academic. Despite hopping from style to style, his music is always marked by an essential playfulness and engrossing curiosity. She goes for the big feelings, and as a result, inspires near-rapturous devotion. When fronting Chairlift, Caroline Polachek used her crystalline voice in service of smart and infectious electro-pop, but her range became more apparent when she went solo.
Under the name CEP, she created an album of beguiling ambient pieces, and in she partnered with Danny Harle of PC Music for an album of future-facing pop with a neo-classical tinge. As Katherine St. This comes out not just in the soaring, near-operatic vocalizations throughout Pang, but in the crisp way she attacks words and syllables, the controlled vocal leaps, and precise staccato. But over the years she has strayed from that analog naturalism into more fantastic, more unexpected worlds—collaborations with Memphis soul musicians and French house producer Philippe Zdar; soundtracks for Karl Lagerfeld and covers of James Brown and Liza Minelli—dreamily arrayed around her smoky husk of a voice.
Or is it obvious, not singing the chorus of a song like that? Chance the Rapper turned a high school suspension into an independent empire. He never signed a deal but surpassed the fame and accolades of most of his major-label peers, becoming someone notable enough to be regrettably praised by Trump. And he did it all off the power of the mixtape, bringing lighthearted energy to 10 Day , Acid Rap , and even the star-studded Coloring Book.
As Sheldon Pearce wrote in His commitment is endearing, reiterating that music is a labor of love and not a tool of commerce, and Coloring Book is his grandest gesture. Alongside Wayne and Young Thug, he made a case for the transformative power of the medium, making his songs for free and also for freedom.
Since she started posting songs on Myspace in , Charli XCX has turned into both a pop star and a true pop connoisseur, always ahead of the curve instead of chasing trends. In a cover story profile set in a spa, Bobby Finger wrote :. That steadfast commitment to being a font of exuberant pop joyrides is as much a product of her own talent as it is a paradoxical act of self-care. Within months he would take drill music from a local movement to a nationwide phenomenon, helping to birth the most important rap subgenre of the decade.
By the end of he had released a major label album, Finally Rich , though he would soon go back underground and take his sound to unexpected—and decidedly strange—new places. Even its unheralded album tracks hit a sweet spot of purposeful insouciance that promised a career in the spotlight. With songs selected and sequenced largely by producer Young Chop, Finally Rich is a creative success if only a modest commercial one because it sells Chief Keef as a hitmaker.
But today his interests lie elsewhere, and his path since has been a defiant refutation of any direction but his own. Finding herself at a rough place in her life, she had abandoned Paris for London, where she fell in with a group of drag queens who taught her to reinvent herself. Her debut album, the spare, electro-pop Chaleur Humaine later reissued in English as Christine and the Queens , was the fruit of that transformation, and in , she followed it up with Chris , a hot-blooded pop-funk record about yet another alter ego.
Throughout her transformations, her work has maintained an unflinching focus on themes of identity, vulnerability, strength, and desire. You get the sense of Letissier guarding her own precious, burgeoning fire, and inviting listeners to share in its glow. So is Fevers and Mirrors the best Bright Eyes record? Which is exactly what we got on Fevers and Mirrors, a record steeped in roots, yet wholly of the moment, intelligent but prone to indefensible emotion, a very personal work made amongst talented friends.
Once associated with his arch examinations of Britishness, in recent decades Albarn has ardently championed sounds and artists from elsewhere around the world, from China to Kinshasa. In a review of the comprehensive Blur 21 box set, Lindsay Zoladz wrote :.
Choose Damon. Choose Graham. Go pop, then spend a decade slowly deflating; study the songbook so you can tear it up with precision. Choose irony, choose sincerity. Practically floored? Choose fame, or flee from it fast as you can in a milkman's suit. Choose Ray Davies, choose Stephen Malkmus; choose la-la-la or wooo-hoo. And before you answer this next one know that the Queen is watching. Choose Britain. Choose America. Blur have been a band for 21 years, and their story is long enough to speak a bunch of contradictions.
They rarely move in straight lines. Back then, he was ostentatiously weird, a gap-toothed Detroit rapper with a hyena voice who forever altered the smell and taste of Cool Ranch Doritos, a weirdo fashion plate back when something as mild as skinny jeans could cost you a label deal. Like a brown bird nesting in a Texaco sign, David Berman had a point of view.
If you connected with his loose and shaggy music in Silver Jews and Purple Mountains, his startling and often hilarious lyrics taught you the joy of noticing things and that sadness can be transformed into something beautiful. He had a gift for writing that, ironically, and in a very Berman-esque way, is hard to talk about. It was the opposite.
Berman had a knack for representing what was right in front of you in a way that made you see it as if for the first time. Nothing about the band Deafheaven makes literal sense, starting with their place in the world. This was music that yearned palpably to leap across distances, closing gaps like a firing synapse.
New Bermuda, if anything, is more overwhelming than Sunbather. The roiling peaks of that album are the resting temperature of this one. They have shaped a suite of songs into one pliable and massive minute arc that is as easy to separate into distinct quadrants as the stream from a fire hydrant. You could never discern the words without the aid of a lyric sheet, anyway.
Over the next decade, the group released albums at a remarkable clip, provoking both intrigue and confusion. Been there. Deerhunter unveiled their new album by asking fans to print out a vintage DIY-style poster, photocopy it, and tape it up all over town. In the last couple of weeks, band members have participated in all-night online chats with some of their most devoted fans.
As Jason King wrote as part of an interview story in Along the way, his eccentric musical and visual choices have made him a unique emblem of destabilized, fluid expressions of gender, sexuality, and race. Diplo earned his cred via early collaborations with M. That approach has been depicted as everything from transcendent, no-borders futurism to an exploitative colonialist ripoff, but most of his fans seem most interested in how much a given track bumps. A decade later, his contemporaries like Skepta and successors like Stormzy firmly established grime as a commercial force.
The despairing beats make the lyrical push and pull that much more severe: When Dizzee is venomous, they sharpen his bite; when he gamely searches for the light at the end of the tunnel, admits his failures, laments his unraveling psyche, and battles with depression, they seem like obstacles. He long ago mastered the form and structure of the dancefloor banger and now he just wants to play.
Cerebral concerns always have their place in the techno scene Koze emerged from, but his joyous music is all heart. Far away from mundane reality lies the music of DJ Koze. The German producer builds a fantasy world where aesthetic beauty soaked in memory can hold life at bay for an hour or two at a time. The thread through it all is a very specific emotional state: Sifting through his library of samples and pieces of original music, he finds the moments that express wistful longing, burrows into them, and then blows it all up to color-saturated widescreen.
But DJ Shadow—Bay Area selector, producer, and label head Josh Davis—gave the art of DJing a major push with his album Endtroducing… , a heady masterclass of turntablism and sampledelia. Though American, Shadow was one of the most visible figures affiliated with the U.
Prefacing a interview with Shadow, Mark Richardson wrote :. To be a successful DJ you have to know where to look and how to listen. A forthcoming mini-doc, DJ Shadow: Lost and Found, fills out the picture since, showing how he transformed that record-digger impulse into a long and varied career. He was the toughest guy in the room who also cried when he talked to God, a street rapper whose struggles were tattooed across his chest.
As Clover Hope wrote in During an era when the genre was defined by endless yachts and flashy clothes, he offered brave, hardened, and angry songs that more gravely reflected the tragedies under which the culture was born, not where it had arrived. His frenetic energy was nothing without his spirituality, though it was also a reflection of his lifelong addictions. Afro-futurism was always a core tenet of Detroit techno, but no artist integrated it into their work more thoroughly—or thrillingly—than Drexciya.
Long anonymous, the Underground Resistance-affiliated duo of Gerald Donald and the late James Stinson, who died in , imagined an elaborate backstory for their music: Pregnant enslaved women who perished at sea during the Middle Passage gave birth underwater to an amphibious species—the Drexiycans—who made it their mission to eradicate white supremacy.
As Philip Sherburne wrote in The Drexciyan mythology spoke for itself; it was all you needed to know, and, fitting its subject, it contained rage and sadness and fierce intelligence and blinding wit. Theirs was a different kind of protest music: By imagining an alternate outcome to past atrocities, they made the future their battleground.
Between the release of his debut album, Roman Candle , and his death nine years later, Elliott Smith became one of the most beloved figures in indie rock. At the same time, the pervasive sadness of his music, his struggles with addiction, and even the awkwardness of his brush with the mainstream all contributed to his portrait as a fundamentally tragic figure, soft-spoken but star-crossed.
Seemingly not quite made for this world, Smith nevertheless made a lasting impression upon it. And for all of the addiction talk in the lyrics, Smith explained to journalists that it simply felt like a potent metaphor, a conduit toward bigger questions: Why do we turn self-destructive?
How does it affect the people who love us? Where does it lead? This insistence on not being taken literally is why Smith dismissed the idea of being a folk singer, someone who showed up on stage with a story to tell and a moral at the end. When Josh Tillman left Fleet Foxes and started writing postmodern folk songs under the name Father John Misty, the gravity of his music shifted.
Or maybe it left altogether. His music is sometimes portentous, sometimes doofy with love, and sometimes a total lark. He has taken up the mantle of Randy Newman as our most earnest ironist, someone trying to capture the insane pace and curdled feel of the century, always at a slight remove. As Jeremy D. Larson wrote in The magnificent ego of Father John Misty makes his music seem really important. The music is not really that important, of course, but when you hear that smooth and gentle soft-rock with his olden croon centered so perfectly on every pitch, it seems like it is, in the way that narcissists or the canon of classic rock seem important.
This outsized persona bursting forth from singer-songwriter Josh Tillman is full of self-mythology descended straight from Bob Dylan, dripping with a painted-on significance: His greatest passion is his thoughts. The autofiction of his songwriting imparts its own patina of truth, something that seems unassailable if you subscribe to the man, the voice, the facial hair.
He strolls through his own songs like a melancholy king finding every opportunity to catch his reflection. Christian Fennesz uses complex and sophisticated digital processing to make of-the-moment sounds, but the appeal of his music is rooted in the oldest ideas: He knows melody, he understands the power of the chord change, and he wants to take the listener on an emotional journey.
Even in the exploratory world of electronic music, Fennesz was different. London multi-hyphenate FKA twigs came up as a dancer in music videos before striding confidently into the foreground as singer, producer, art director, and choreographer.
In the years since, she has made her art into a kind of theatrical multimedia experience, crafting elaborate shows and videos that intertwine and smudge the lines of classicism and the avant-garde. She is astonishing, ambitious, and seemingly good at everything, singing over her own ticker-tape beats, self-directing wildly conceptual videos, and ravenously hoovering up dance disciplines apparently up to and including Chinese sword fighting until she masters them.
Strange and funny psychedelic rock songs about existential questions are always in the mix, but Wayne Coyne and company never stop finding new ways to get their message across. Overwhelming concert spectacles, day-long songs, homemade sci-fi films, albums with four discs to be played simultaneously, edible packaging—the Flaming Lips had a way of turning their dreams into reality.
As Stuart Berman wrote in his recent review of The Soft Bulletin Companion , which collects outtakes from their beloved album:. Released in , Zaireeka was the play-at-home version of those site-specific events, presenting eight unwieldy songs spread over four CDs that were designed to be played simultaneously on four different players. Then, just two years later, they distilled all that free-ranging exploration into the pristine orchestral rock of The Soft Bulletin, a universally praised classic.
In a profile around the album Crack-Up , Amanda Petrusich wrote :. Pecknold is gentle and intelligent, a hungry listener; talking with him, you get the sense that an antenna is always up and open, collecting new and better information about the world. Narratively, Crack-Up recounts some sort of loss; its source feels alternately romantic, political, creative, and spiritual.
He admits that uncertainty and contradiction have been on his mind these past few years—all the ways in which two seemingly incompatible ideas can come to coexist. Wanting to be alone but needing others; feeling flummoxed by all the big existential questions, yet still wanting to live a full and generous life. His appetite for music, on the evidence presented in his albums, singles, DJ sets, and collaborations, is voracious.
But Hebden has a way of transforming and integrating influences rather than channeling them. When working with others, like the wooly free-folk unit Sunburned Hand of the Man or the dubstep producer Burial, Hebden knows when to lead and when to get out of the way. And when it comes to his own records as Four Tet, he has a knack for combining sounds from all over and making them his own.
He turned out to be the rare artist whose music just keeps getting better. Gibbs also embraces collaboration with ease—he always sounds like himself, but as records with veteran producers Alchemist and Madlib have shown, he can adapt his style to fit the context presented to him. The through line is Black freedom. As he takes a fuller view of his life and the fates of his idols, he grows more cautious. For Bandana, the pair taps into that heritage and allow themselves to be shaped by its highs and lows, its heroes and villains.
Finding themselves within that slipstream of Black thought and life, they plot their course on their terms. Bandana is tradition and transgression: one rapper, one producer, no limitations. There will never be another Ghostface—though many have tried to recreate his high-pitched pleas and cinematic street narratives. To understand Supreme Clientele is to be humbled by epistemological limitations.
You can see, feel, and taste it, but it can only be decrypted to a point. Supreme Clientele is Ironman. A shade short of 30, Ghostface had been shot three times, survived multiple stints on Rikers Island, a debilitating battle with diabetes, and mourned the loss of two brothers with muscular dystrophy to become chromatic myth. Now he was being tasked to save the Wu-Tang Clan. Instead of one-off mixes, he made entire albums built from samples combined in ingenious ways and then he became a huge touring draw, playing those tracks back from his trusty laptop and causing fields full of thrashing fans to go crazy.
Gillis was so successful, in fact, that he all but killed the mashup as a festival-ready commercial enterprise—it could only be done once at this scale, and he did it. The element of surprise is gone from the mashup. The idea that two blender-ized songs can recombine to create something wholly new is thrilling in theory, but the execution is usually sloppy or samey, either simply aligning two similar beat structures or pairing up two completely disparate tracks for the slapstick novelty of a jokey title.
Pittsburgh native Gregg Gillis absolutely detonates the notions of mashup on his third album as Girl Talk, the violently joyous Night Ripper. During their brief run, the band was haunted by sadness, both from the past frontman Christopher Owens had a troubled childhood in a Christian cult and the present he struggled with drug addiction.
For all the trauma and bad vibes they lived through, the essential sweetness and empathy of their music remains. Godspeed You! Don't Bend! We were settling into a decade that was, from an American perspective, defined by two wars started by an increasingly unpopular president and an inflating economic bubble that would pop just as he was leaving office. Their music and presentation drew some of its energy from this anxiety.
Black Emperor are making art, not writing editorials. It allows them to find magnificence in destruction and build an aesthetic out of decay and loss. As a bonus, they can actually play the stuff live. Taking cues from artists like Talk Talk and Van Dyke Parks, the Brooklyn four-piece make pop music with an ear for the ambient, asking us to notice the importance in detail, the beauty of texture, and the foregrounds that exist all across our spectrum of perception.
The music Liz Harris makes as Grouper is desolation rendered as sound—she lives on the edge of the continent, staring into the abyss. Her music finds the troubled souls who need it. As Ben Ratliff wrote in a profile:. The Grouper project generally takes the form of songs, but it is also a mood, and maybe even a collective mood in a metaphorical room: a contemplative and cathartic space involving simple technology and difficult emotional processing.
Without Gucci Mane, trap music as we know it would not exist. For 20 years and counting, Gucci has been an Atlanta rap lodestar, coming through with a relentless number of mixtapes—he currently sits at No. Gucci Mane has been at the center of underground street rap for nearly a decade, and he is among the most important artists in contemporary music. He has had one of the most prolific, influential, and unorthodox runs in modern rap, a saga replete with violence, arrests, beefs, tirades, and tons of music.
He was an early investor in Future. He was an early Nicki Minaj supporter, long before her Cash Money deal. Despite his minimal chart presence, Gucci can be felt across mainstream rap today, in its eccentricities and thumping s. The Haim sisters were making music together for years before the release of their debut EP Forever in , but it was patience that led them to write multiple song-of-the-summer contenders, collaborate with Paul Thomas Anderson on a series of music videos, and become the latest in the lineage of SoCal rock bands to find massive success on the international festival circuit.
Fleetwood Mac? Wilson Phillips? Paula Cole? Plagenhoef added :. But it never fails to remind you of whence it came. In fact, the album is so inseparable from time and place that it often threatens to be viewed as public domain, siphoned from the ether of downtown Manhattan, rather than having been meticulously crafted from untold hours of rehearsals. But Paul himself remained elusive, rarely releasing new music. In , six years after a batch of unreleased demos was stolen and posted online, he finally, officially put those tracks out, and they still sounded like nothing else.
As Lindsay Zoladz wrote in a essay:. The first time I heard Jai Paul, I thought my speakers were broken. What I heard instead was… disorienting. I jiggled the input cable. I unplugged and replugged my speakers. I started the song over. Nothing had changed. By the time the second chorus hit, I had deleted the question. Yes, it was supposed to sound like that. James Blake extracts big feelings from small places. This is exactly what Blake does so well: locating these sensations, and conversing about them.
Her audacity has only blossomed with time. Which is perhaps why, from a distance, her career looks like an exercise in freedom by accretion, something amassed over time. The relief of Dirty Computer is palpable, the culmination of years of silence and deflection in order to one day be free.
His tragic death in left a hole in the larger scene, but his legacy continues to be felt. As Evan Minsker wrote in his review of Blood Visions :. As wild and ridiculous as he was, he took his music seriously. He moved away from home when he was 16 and dropped out of high school, meaning most of his considerable free time was spent writing and recording music.
He was an excellent guitarist who got really good at recording; his collective discography was massive. It was his living, so the endless touring, huge pile of records, and even the provocations and live show destruction could be seen as business savvy. He played fast, he played loud, and in the early days of YouTube, his every move was documented. There were prolific punks before him, but Jay standardized the practice of putting out tons of music under several names in the internet age.
He never seemed to oversaturate the market, either, since his audience kept coming back for more. Sitting comfortably between the margins of modern soul, Sullivan consistently puts out work that involves viewing women as the sole auteurs—and often the vixens—of their life narratives. As Mankaprr Conteh wrote in Old archetypes like The Gold Digger and new ones like The Instagram Baddie begin to crumble away, leaving fuller women in their wake.
I really talk to people. Jeezy pushes that Tony Robbins thing hard. She became the patron saint of sad, self-aware millennial heroines and eventually channeled her troubadour ways into a solo career of gorgeously sung, keenly detailed folk-rock, as bright as Hollywood and as blunt as someone you might know in real life.
As Jenn Pelly wrote in a profile:. Words—some cryptic, some elegant, some brutally, achingly direct—burst from the edges of her diaristic songs, with a dash of Didion-esque deadpan for good measure. As Ryan Dombal wrote in a review of her debut album, Devotion :. Few artists in any realm have an aesthetic as consistent and clearly defined as Johnny Jewel, the mastermind behind Chromatics, the Italians Do It Better label, and quite a few other shadowy projects.
As Ian Cohen wrote in a profile:. As with so many things in his life, he has it both ways. As Laura Snapes wrote in her review of Golden Hour :. Golden Hour is filled with these awed revelations, undercut with enough anxiety—and, more than once, snappy in-the-pocket disco—to keep Musgraves from floating off into a fever dream.
As Jazz Monroe wrote in a profile:. After sneering at the gentrifiers who swagger down local backstreets, though, he checks himself, finding a sense of empathy. Is it when they benefit you, now that all these hipsters are employing us to play? Well, what a fucking hypocrite you are. Chart-topping dance-club diva. Warholian pop-art star. Avant-grotesque performance artist. Oscar-nominated actress and Oscar-winning balladeer.
Protest singer. Old-school standards crooner. Metallica frontwoman : Few artists in history have reinvented themselves as many times as Lady Gaga, and fewer still have done it as successfully. The world is a weirder, more boundary-free place with her in it. She hatched herself from a semi-translucent egg at the Grammys. Her repeated and earnest disavowal of anything remotely normative was and remains plainly empowering for anyone sitting at home alone in her room, feeling like a true weirdo.
The idea was always to fracture and reestablish a hierarchy. Lauryn Hill is one of the most idolized rappers of all time and an incredibly magnetizing singer who conveys resilience and heartache with every word. On her solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill , she found her truest, most sacred self and honored that person with everything she had: She celebrated the birth of her child, freed herself from exploitative relationships, and grappled with how her celebrity status impacted her art.
Miseducation went on to win five Grammys, sold over 10 million copies, and made Hill the first female rapper to earn a diamond record. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is a declaration of independence. And it is a love letter to the liberated self, the maternal self and to God.
It is an album of junctures: Between adolescence and adulthood, between Lauryn as one third of the Fugees and Lauryn as a woman on her own, between being a child and being a parent. She conceived of the album at 22, single and pregnant with her firstborn. At her best Lauryn Hill flirts with legitimate prophet status, digging to her deepest to harness the power greater than herself; a power we all need to survive and overcome.
She offers it to us. Startlingly prolific mixtape innovator. Originator of the Based freestyle. Leader of his own cult. Early Black Lives Matter supporter. College lecturer. Emoji tycoon. Cat lover. His benevolent cult-leader persona—a Zenned-out internet addict in tiny pants with a direct line to the wise and mysterious Based God—has certainly laid the groundwork for a generation of social media myth-builders.
From her beginnings as a Biggie protege and member of Junior M. At the height of her career, Kim courted controversy with her sexually explicit, take-no-prisoners rhymes. Only in recent years, as women in rap ushered in a renaissance, has the music world more accurately attributed Kim as a primary source. As Clover Hope wrote in a excerpt from her book The Motherlode :.
Kim brought a raw sexual energy to the genre and became the model for a generation of female rappers caught in a battle between owning their sexuality and exploiting it. She made the new concept of a female rapper—with a sexy visual to go with their music—not a choice but a necessity. As Matthew Strauss wrote in It was difficult to know Lil Peep. You could say he was sad or depressed. He had a lot of tattoos. He sang and rapped about drugs. He died tragically young. Lil Uzi Vert has quickly become one of the most important rappers of the last decade, not just a product of a transitional moment in hip-hop but a defining star of it.
The following year, he broke out with his debut tape for them, Luv Is Rage. The tape became one of the first landmarks for a diverse, exciting rap scene that was emerging on SoundCloud. He also plays guitar in the Icelandic band The Lovely Lion. The single stayed at the top of the Icelandic Singles Chart for 9 consecutive weeks from December to the end of January The American singer John Grant helped with the translation of the lyrics and re-production of the English language album. Based on online sales, the album has already charted in Belgium and Netherlands.
The follow-up single "Going Home" charted in France. Read more on Last. There are multiple artists with this name: 1. She left the rural life in her late-teens to pursue a medical education in Sydney alongside her musical career. Earthy, wistful folk songs are cloaked in delicate-but- bold electronic production.
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