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.
The great artists suffer for their art. The great listeners suffer along with them. I think without truly intellectualizing it this Tape Tuesday is inspired by Na’kel‘s soul-crushing verse on “DNA” from Earl Sweatshirt‘s album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. For those of you who don’t know, Na’kel wrote and recorded his verse just after hearing that one of his close friends had died. And you can hear the pain in his voice, and he’s not a rapper (he’s a skateboarder) but he laid down a brutally poignant verse. He wrote his feelings on paper, and now whenever I listen to the song, I find myself feeling the anger and despair that Na’kel is trying to convey.
The sad thing is that in the vapid hype machine that is the music Internet verses like Na’kel’s could be overlooked. Hype is easy. I mean to dedicate my life to the creation of timeless art. When you’re honest and uncompromising, that’s when you become a step closer to creating art that is timeless.
And it’s okay to be emotional.
You used to say you like violins and your lifestyle depend on me
*SoundCloud mix is missing track 2 (“Mantra” by Earl Sweatshirt).
I don’t think I’ve felt this weird about liking an album since Discovery’s LP. This collaboration between Sufjan Stevens, Serengeti, and Son Lux is tremendously experimental. Much of it features the glitchy electronic sound and intentionally off-beat, frank flow found on lead single “Museum Day.” I think it’s awesome, mostly because it’s pushing the boundaries of modern hip-hop in a positive way. It’s testing the listener with it’s uniqueness and expanding our idea of what hip-hop really is. I think these four songs are highly creative concepts, and like many creative concepts, they will either be hated or loved. I just beg you to listen to the songs below with an open mind. Shouts to P&P.
I had the night of my life…
Just as with the rest of the world, the music world goes in cycles. Artists creating hit songs today are often building off of their predecessors’ creations. Sometimes I hear a song and think to myself ‘Damn. What an incredible song. Sounds timeless.’ More often than not, it’s because they’re borrowing from a song that was created before their time. Ah, the art of sampling.
So often today, artists use samples that we come to know and love, and I think the origin of the sample often goes unnoticed. The idea of samples has always interested me, particularly in cases when producers dig up samples that I’ve never heard before and turn them into something suddenly so popular. I imagine producers going into old record collections, dusting off cases open cases of records, placing the vinyl on the record player, and hearing a snippet of a song that suddenly inspires them to create something with that bit of a song. I’d be interested to know what they listen for, and whether they’re often looking for something to begin with or they tend to find something while in the act of searching, but I assume each artist goes about it differently. If you’re reading this and you’ve been sample searching, leave a comment with your method of discovery. Either way, I thought I’d introduce (or re-introduce) you guys to some of the songs that have been sampled in popular music today, just so we can take a second to appreciate the origins of those clips.
1. Perhaps the textbook case today. AVICII samples Etta James in his hit song “Levels.” (Disclaimer: Pretty Lights had sampled it before in his song “Finally Moving,” but the song didn’t take off as rapidly as “Levels.”)
MP3: “Levels” – Avicii
2. Kanye West, in his popular song “Champion” off of Graduation, borrowed from Steely Dan‘s song “Kid Charlemagne.”
3. In some examples, artists take a sample and flip it into something that sounds altogether different. In this example, though, Kanye West and Jay-Z stick pretty close to the original in their sampling Otis Redding in their song “Otis.”
4. An artist who’s taking off these days is A$AP Rocky. You may or may not know that he used a sample of The S.O.S. Band‘s “No One’s Gonna Love You” in his song “Peso.”
MP3: “Peso” – A$AP Rocky
5. Love the instrumentals in Drake and Rihanna‘s “Take Care?” Me too. Again, not an original. It’s sampled from Gil Scott-Heron‘s “I’ll Take Care Of U,” but is actually the Jamie xx remix.
Sampled (Jamie xx Remix):
MP3: “Take Care” (ft. Rihanna) – Drake
6. Bet you think that LMFAO knocked it out of the park with their “Party Rock Anthem,” hm? It’s cool, they did. But they had the help of Steve Winwood and his original song “Valerie.” (Sample appears at the 1:02 mark.)
7. Even Common chooses to use samples in some of his songs. In one of his latest efforts, “Blue Sky,” he picked a piece of Electric Light Orchestra‘s “Mr. Blue Sky” to craft his sound.
MP3: “Blue Sky” – Common
8. Eminem dug into the 1975 records to pull out Labi Siffre‘s “I Got The” for his popular song “My Name Is.” Incredible original song, and great use of the sample by Marshall Mathers. (Sample can be heard at the 2:10 mark.)
9. One of my favorite songs recently is Gotye‘s “Somebody That I Used To Know (ft. Kimbra).” I was fooled originally, thinking this was 100% Gotye’s creation. Turns out, they sampled a Latin song from 1967 by a man named Luiz Bonfa called “Seville.” Incredible find, Gotye and Kimbra!
10. This one is a bit of a more modern sample (2010), so it may to come as obvious to many, but it’s a great one nonetheless. Young rapper Mac Miller borrowed from popular indie-rock artist Sufjan Stevens in his jam “Donald Trump.”
Recently I’ve been posting statuses on the Sunset in the Rearview Facebook Page that I call “Straight Talk.” I want this blog to be a true representation of me and who I am, so I’m going to start writing Straight Talk Sundays so that you guys can know what’s on my mind or what I feel like talking about. Total transparency.
Do you ever get in those moods or conversations where you start pondering life…wondering what it really is, how we got here…what came first, the chicken or the egg…and what happens after we’re gone? Part of me absolutely loathes these thoughts; after all, why should we waste our time wondering? I tell myself that my motto is to ‘live in the moment,’ but if that’s what I spend my time thinking about, I’m certainly breaking my own rule. At the same time, though, I love these thoughts or conversations because you can really get wrapped up in them. It’s philosophy, really; you never know the right answer for sure, but it’s trippy and fun to think about and reason with certain thoughts or ideas.
Well, when it comes down to it all, I’ve learned one thing about life: it is short. This is one of the hardest things to ever learn or wrap your head around, because you typically only come to realize this after losing somebody special.
As you may know if you’ve been reading Sunset long enough, I lost my Dad this past year. My Dad was one of my very best friends, my mentor, my guiding light, and my inspiration in nearly everything I did. At the snap of a finger, I felt as though I lost all of that. It was a slap in the face and I thought that I would never be able to smile again.
Well, guess what? I did smile. I picked my chin up because I knew that’s what my Dad would want. He was always smiling, and I know that somewhere he’s still smiling today. Same goes for anybody you ever lost. I guarantee you that they would want you to be smiling. It’s not always up to us to decide when we leave this place, but what we can control is what we leave behind and how we spent our time here. My Dad left a lot behind for me; he really paved the way for me and all of my sisters. Now it’s in my hands to follow his path and also to make sure that I’m happy while doing so.
It’s hard for me to write all of this, you know. I don’t know the majority of you who are reading this. (Hi, my name is Lydia. What’s your name?) Most of you didn’t know my Dad. Why should I share my feelings with you? Will it offend my family that I’m talking about something so personal on such a public space? Well, that’s the thing that I’ve had to come to terms with. This is my life, and as I said, I’m in control of how I live it. It’s on me to ensure that I’m happy while I’m here. Holding everything in about my Dad wasn’t the path I chose to take. I love to talk about him, and I know, being the person who he was, that he wouldn’t want me to keep anything in or keep secrets from anybody. So, hey, you; nice to meet you. Welcome to my mind (be careful, it’s a mess in there sometimes).
What does this have to do with music? Very little, actually. But here’s what I can tell you. It sure does relate to Sunset in the Rearview as a blog. This thing takes up 90% of my free time. Meh, make that 95%. It’s hard work updating it so frequently and maintaining all of the managerial and logistical stuff behind it. I like to think of it as a child of mine, in a way, something that I don’t often like to leave on its own. But through the trials and tribulations I’ve seen in the past 7 months, I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to put things aside and enjoy the natural world that existed far before the Internet ever did. Step away from your gadgets and enjoy human interaction. Let music be your soundtrack, if you wish; that’s what I do. But free your hands, free your mind, and live a little. Remember: life is short; live it with a smile.
You came to take us, all things go, all things go. To recreate us, all things grow, all things grow.
This mashup is nearly perfect. If only I didn’t have angst towards M.I.A. for going totally bat crazy on us and taking her loudmouth one step (or more) too far. I used to be a big fan, but now? I mean, put it this way. I didn’t even stay for her show during ACL. A show when nobody else was playing, so I had nothing to lose. Figured it wasn’t worth it. And did I regret it? Nope, because the next day I overheard somebody saying MIA sounded worse than anybody else at ACL. Well, luckily this is one of her songs that I do like, and of course I love “I Walked” by Sufjan Stevens. The Hood Internet never fails.
Cause you’re tweetin’ me like Tweety Bird on your iPhone.
“Too Much” – Sufjan Stevens
Another new track from Sufjan Stevens off his upcoming album, The Age of Adz, to be released under Asthmatic Kitty. Now, I know this image of Sufjan is an older one, but quite frankly I don’t like the new album art, so I’m not going to include it. Unofficial and biased, but that’s okay with me right now. What I do happen to l like though, is this tremendous song. It started out a little dark and heavy, but wait a second (or, to be exact, about 50 seconds) for the clouds part and the Heavens to shine through. Sufjan Stevens does it again!
There’s too much, too much, too much love
More from Sufjan Stevens:
“I Walked” – Sufjan Stevens
It’s been said that the title, “The Age of Adz” references the art of Royal Robertson (1930-1997), a schizophrenic Louisianan sign-maker whose artwork was modeled after his dreams and visions of space aliens, monsters, futuristic cars, and “signs of the Last Judgment.” Some of this artwork, primarily made from poster board, magic markers, and glitter, appears in the album art.
Just as is to be expected with new material from Sufjan, this song is incredible. The band of female choral voices singing in the background perfectly matches his voice in the hazy background. And though I am not always a huge fan of echoing sounds, it just works so well in this song.
Tell me, do you think of me now, as I think of you?
Tracklisting of The Age of Adz, coming to stores October 12th via Asthmatic Kitty:
1. “Futile Devices”
2. “Too Much”
3. “Age of Adz”
4. “I Walked”
5. “Now That I’m Older”
6. “Get Real Get Right”
7. “Bad Communication”
9. “All for Myself”
10. “I Want To Be Well”
11. “Impossible Soul”
I feel like I’ve been talking quite a bit about Sufjan Stevens lately, so why not continue the trend? He has just announced that he will be releasing a full-length album in October by the name of The Age of Adz (pronounced Odds). The record will be available on CD and MP3 on October 12th, and a double LP will be in stores on November 9th. It is available for preorder here for the next two weeks, and then you’ll receive an early MP3 download of the album on September 28th.
His label, Asthmatic Kitty, writes of the album:
The album relinquishes the songwriter’s former story-telling techniques for more basic proclamations unhindered by concepts: there are few narrative conceits or character sketches, no historical panoramas, no civic gestures, no scene, setting, conflict, resolution or denouement. Rather, the themes developed here are neither historical nor polemical, but rather personal and primal: love, sex, death, disease, illness, anxiety and suicide all figure in the songwriting.
Anybody else as excited about this album as I am?
Sufjan Stevens, a major crush and favorite artist of mine, released an EP today. It’s called All Delighted People, and unless I’m completely out of the loop, I don’t believe anybody had any idea that this was coming our way. Here’s an official write-up about the music:
All Delighted People is built around two different versions of Sufjan’s long-form epic ballad “All Delighted People,” a dramatic homage to the Apocalypse, existential ennui, and Paul Simon’s “Sounds of Silence.” Sounds delightful, yes! The song was originally workshopped on Sufjan’s previous tour in the fall of 2009. Other songs on the EP include the 17-minute guitar jam-for-single-mothers “Djohariah,” and the gothic piano ballad “The Owl and the Tanager,” a live-show mainstay (and Debbie Downer if you ask us; what’s it doing on a “Delighted” EP?).
On a day that already planned to be giving the Sunset masses some great music, I think this qualifies as the double rainbow. Thank you very much, dear Sufjan. Stream the album below and head over to his bandcamp site to buy the album for a mere $5.
“Holland” – Sufjan Stevens
I got a request for a Jack Johnson song today, and being that I’m not a HUGE Jack Johnson fan, I figured I’d put a little spin on this request for a “chill song.” Seems some people partied a little too hard after I started the Friday at Five feature and need some relaxing music for Saturday morning. I’m perfectly okay with that.
Lose our clothes in summertime
Lose ourselves to lose our minds
“All Things Go” – Chiddy Bang
New leak from Chiddy Bang off their upcoming album “The Swelly Express,” due out Oct 29th. Love these guys. Dope sample in this one, “Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens, another sunset favorite. Chiddy Bang was also mentioned in the NYTimes today.