“I want Brockhampton to be something that lasts beyond me. Yeah, that’s the goal.” – Kevin Abstract, founding member of BROCKHAMPTON.
The story of L.A.-based hip-hop outfit BROCKHAMPTON is a bit of an unconventional one, especially in the world of hip hop. The group formed after Kevin Abstract (real name Ian Simpson) made a post on a Kanye West fan forum looking for artists to collaborate and make music, following him being disowned by his family after coming out as gay (a main topic of his last project under the Kevin Abstract moniker, called American Boyfriend). He and the others that responded then relocated to a house in L.A., where each member resides and creates music together. Kevin just turned 20 a couple weeks ago, and the other members of the group are around the same age. Yes, that really is the story behind this group; material that I don’t think even some of the most skilled storyteller could come up with easily.
BROCKHAMPTON has been gaining traction steadily ever since their formation, with a healthy dose of singles and a scatterbrained, albeit super enjoyable mixtape with 2015’s All American Trash, which showed a great deal of promise and great tracks to match. Don’t begin to think that this level of heart and ambition doesn’t shine through on their new album, SATURATION (BROCKHAMPTON’s first proper LP), because that feeling permeates and consumes this project wholly.
It’s been a year in which a week can feel like a year within itself, given the crazy-ass state of our world right now. But we’ve made it to June, and so we are at the midpoint of the year. You know what that means…LISTS! And you’re probably saying to yourself, “But Dan, it’s not the end of the year yet?” Yeah, I know, but why not talk about some of the best album releases so far.
In a year that’s been rife with amazing records, these are my top 15 albums released from January to May. My hope is that a lot of these choices flew under your radar, and that I can do my job properly by presenting you with new music. But if not, then hey, weren’t these records great? I also like the prospect of doing a list like this, simply because it will be interesting to see how drastically this list will change by December. It’s sure to be affected both by upcoming releases and the chance to dive deeper into some albums I previously missed.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, here are a few honorable mentions for y’all:
It’s bothersome to hear people talk about Gorillaz. Sure, Gorillaz are a widely loved and celebrated act, and they have been for nearly 20 years now. But one of their greatest strengths is also one of their biggest setbacks.
It’s idiotic to me that the animated world of Gorillaz, co-created by legendary underground comic artist Jamie Hewlett, and which serves as the stylistic umbrella for a global and multigenerational collaborative music project, proves to be such a turnoff for people.
I often hear, “I’m not in the mood to listen to a new Gorillaz record.” Or, “I haven’t listened to Gorillaz in years,” said with an uppity, I-have-no-time-for-this-kids-crap kind of pretension. I hear it all the time. But the worst is when I simply hear someone say, “I hate them.”
These all translate to, “I don’t want to listen to something that my anime-watching, comic-reading coworker listens to.” It’s bullshit and it totally exists — don’t deny it. It’s a very lazy argument, and I’d say that even without my personal bias. Gorillaz is a project that represents artistic unity and bridging gaps to deliver a message that we as a people desperately need, especially in our current turbulent dystopia. This is the point of Humanz’ entire existence.
Hello, hello, hello, and happy new year! Welcome to a new Basement Dwelling spin-off feature I’m proud to roll out — “Pre-Orders.” The purpose of “Pre-Orders” is to make a list of albums coming out every month that I am incredibly excited for, and to hopefully get you similarly excited for them. Maybe I will even review the records presented here in the future. But even if I don’t, you can rest assured these albums will be sitting comfortably on my turntable or in my CD player for the next few months. So let’s begin the inaugural “Pre-Orders” post with January’s most hyped albums.
Brandon Can’t Dance – Graveyard of Good Times (Jan. 13th)
I was first introduced to Brandon Can’t Dance this past October when he was the opening act for LVL UP and Alex G, when I caught their sets here in Chicago. Although I had no prior experience with the act, I walked away completely impressed seeing his set at that show, and was even more impressed upon hearing the first singles — “Angelina” and the ridiculously infectious “Smoke And Drive Around” — to come from his upcoming record. It’s simplistic, one-man indie electro-pop of which I’m excited to see how a full LP of material will turn out.
Here we are, folks — the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The creme de la creme; the best of the best. Through streaming services, compact discs, vinyl records, and cassettes (lol), I listened to a countless number of albums this year.
Below you will find my top ten favorites. The ten LPs that made my music nerd heart flutter, made me reevaluate my life, made me do a dance, made me cry, or simply made me say, “Damn, that was really good.” The ten records you should have been listening to instead of complaining about how “music isn’t good anymore” or downloading Tidal (c’mon, you knew [insert “Tidal exclusive” album] was going to be available elsewhere eventually).
It’s over. It’s finally over (well, almost). I’m ready to say goodbye to you, 2016. You were a cruel year. You killed many of our greatest musicians, actors, and artists, completely derailed our government both here in the US and across the pond, and saw the goddamn deaths of both David Bowie and Prince. Hate has been encouraged in our society at a sickeningly high level, Batman v Superman kind of sucked, and Pokemon Go was popular for like two weeks (which was two weeks too long). Just so many disappointments.
But even through all of that, there was a lot of good music. Music that is not only good on its own, but which also provided an escape to help ease the pain of what has been an absolute shitstorm of a year — something that the best art of any medium you love — film, literature, etc. — should succeed in doing.
There were so many amazing albums that I loved over the past 12 months, but sadly I’ve had to narrow those down to a mere 25. My hope is that as you read my list, you can find some new music to dig into and become just as much of a fan of as I am, because recommending music to people is something that makes me feel good inside. It’s something I love to do because I care so deeply about the medium. So, I introduce you to my top 25 albums of the year — a list of sounds and visuals that give us life, something we all need now more than ever.
Below are my picks for #25-11. Be sure to check back in the near future for my top 10 list.
Welcome to Basement Dwelling, where I review new records that should be on your musical radar. What sets Basement Dwelling apart from other music review columns is that these are all albums that are currently residing in my record collection. No promo copy was given, no stream was listened to. Instead, a physical copy of an album was purchased before I listened to it. Don’t think of me as a critic, but as a music obsessive looking to open a dialogue about some of the best tunes that are currently being released.
Let’s head down to the basement and listen to 22, A Millionby Bon Iver…
There are some opinions I carry that have always made me feel like an outsider when talking to my fellow music nerds: I hate Nirvana, I don’t really care much about The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, and I don’t like Bon Iver…like at all. I think his stuff is super overrated. Seriously, how the hell could his previous record top so many year-end lists? Did all those critics not listen to any other music in all of 2011?
This was a mindset that I’d held for years; it genuinely bothered me that I didn’t like Bon Iver. Over the past few months, after talking with friends about Bon Iver and my distaste for Justin Vernon’s work, I found myself wanting to revisit his older albums to see if I’d maybe been too harsh on the Iver. And you know what? I actually started to warm up to him. But in my newfound appreciation came a genuine hype for the record I’ll be talking about in this post: Bon Iver’s third LP, 22, A Million.