January is the first month of the year. It, quite reliably, presents the opportunity for change — a new year and a new you. Only, this year is a bit different, because, at the tail end of what was a particularly bleak year, we, collectively, lost faith. We lost faith in the system, in each other, and in the ability of new ideas to propagate change. I named the mix We Lost Faith (following the lead of ATL guru Nessly) to elucidate this fact. After all, we can’t combat a problem unless we know what it is. Our generation is one deeply affected by 9/11 and other random acts of terror, the Great Recession, and the most contentious presidential election in the past hundred years. A fundamental lack of faith in institutions is built into our DNA, yet this is clearly a losing point-of-view. We have to regain control of our collective destiny. Thankfully, we live in an era where it is easier than ever to communicate with one another and activate the fellow disenfranchised. So, yes, we lost faith. For a blip on the timeline, we fucked around and elected a megalomaniac into the most powerful office in the world. That… was not the answer, but I am confident we can contain the damage and begin rebuilding our faith.
I’m tryna tell you how it all restarted ’cause of Reagan / You walk out and the cops tryna shoot you like Cary Fagan
NOTE: Original image by Alessandro Ruggieri. Edit and design by Arjun Grover.
By now you have probably read 5-10 “Best Albums” lists compiled by your favorite music conglomerates. This list is different for several reasons. First, this is a list of my (Arjun’s) personal favorite projects from the year. I did not have to dilute my taste through a group dynamic. This is my unfiltered opinion, which I think makes for a more honest list. Secondly, I did not include any artists for political reasons, which larger sites are prone to do. Lastly, this list is a bit unusual in that it combines albums, mixtapes, and EPs under the blanket term “project,” which in the age of long EPs, free albums, and high quality mixtapes is a necessity.
I am not going to write about every album on the list. Nobody has time for that. Instead, let’s hit the highlights and the lesser known projects.
Seattle MC Dave B is a pretty gifted rapper with a tremendous ear for beats. His tracks are routinely elevated by his ability to smoothly ride moody, incandescent instrumentals like the vibraphone-powered, enigmatic “Rain” or the musty basement bounce of “Cheap Sofa.”
His latest track, the brisk, spacey “Yes,” highlights B’s charisma on the mic over a crisp beat that pairs warm percussion with synths that sound like they’re running in reverse from the first bar.
B isn’t reinventing the wheel in terms of subject matter, but he’s a confident lyricist with a winning personality and a pleasing, diverse flow. Like many Seattle MCs he’s clearly a skilled, knowledgable rapper, though fortunately he doesn’t traffic in the overly earnest style that makes some Washington hip-hop a bit tough to sit through.
He’s reminiscent of Sunset favorite Skizzy Mars, except not as focused on the meticulous lifestyle that dominates Skizz’s bars. Another fitting comparison might be Pell, another new name on the scene who’s unafraid to switch up his delivery and experiment with a wealth of soundscapes.
B’s record Punch Drunk was an impressive, compelling debut, and if “Yes” is any indication he’s clearly picking up momentum as he goes.
NOLA rapper Pell teamed up with Morgan Kibby (of White Sea and M83 fame) to flip his song “Runaway” off of his album Floating While Dreaming. The somber song with that chorus line “out in the cold you told me it would be fine, now you’re alone struggling for a place to call home” suddenly sounds like an unbeat pop record. It’s a transition sonically and emotionally, but I find both versions beautiful in their own right. SO MUCH GOOD NEW MUSIC TODAY.