Not only is it the end of the year, it's the end of the DECADE. From 2010 to this very last day of 2019, we've been blessed with some absolutely incredible music from corners of every genre.
Some of it has come from our very own MD Brian d'Souza (DJ Auntie Flo), whose album Radio Highlife won both a SAY Award (Scottish music album of the year) and Sub Club's Electronic Music Award, and a track from his latest EP Kabsa was shortlisted by tastemaker Benjo B as as one of BBC Radio 1's Best Tracks of 2019.
Brian ran through his favourite albums of 2019 on his latest Worldwide FM show. Listen below:
The core Open Ear music team have been busying away making sure your venues get only the best brand new music. Hand-picked tracks for those musically-minded. It's a tough question to answer, but after a lot of deliberating, read their Albums Of The Decade below:
This 21 year old's 2011 mixtape (given away free as a download) simultaneously redefined what we should expect from hip-hop and shaped, for better or for worse, the current rap era. A spiritually celestial smoked-out (purple) production from a perfectly positioned cabal of engineers (including a 22 year old Clams Casino), synchronous with Rocky's dauntless, drawling delivery created one of the genre's most vital long players, at the beginning of a decade which would call into question the reasons behind (and the point of) an influx of hip-pop artists, brands, shows and releases.
From Southern hip-hop and Houston rap, to Californian digital lo-fi, every moment of this masterpiece explores—and ultimately recontextualises—hip-hop and rap far beyond the artist's native Harlem and irrevocably raises the bar for what a hip-hop album could and should be in the post-sampling world.
As the name suggests, the debut from Kamasi Washington was indeed epic! And, in my opinion, one of the best jazz albums to emerge this decade. He’s a stand-alone performer, musican, composer and leader who’s also made an imprint on the works of Kendrick Lamar, Ibeyi and Flying Lotus but inspired many more.
I’m forever grateful to have met him, his band and particularly his dad who gave me an in-depth backstory of his life growing up, over lunch at Love Supreme Festival. Kamasi is a man who opened my ears to contemporary jazz and a figure I’ll always look to for incredible outfits!
Released four months into the new decade, in April 2010, Caribou’s Swim remains a huge favourite of mine and on re-listening, still blows me away with the innovation in production wizardry and immediacy of the supremely catchy songs - a very tricky balance to achieve. The combination of brilliant song writing and balance of electronics, vocals and acoustic instruments really helps it stand out above its peers, for example, the likes of Four Tet, John Hopkins or Bonobo as well as its more hyped follow up ‘Our Love’ from 2014.
My relationship with Caribou, aka Dan Snaith, goes back to 2002 where I played my first DJ gig proper as warm up and closing DJ after a double bill with him and Four Tet (no less) on a cold Wednesday night in Edinburgh. It’s been a huge privilege to watch his progression from geeky outsider to festival headliner in those 18+ years, and Swim was the album that really set him on the path to doing this. Can’t wait for the new album in 2020!
As is the case with most music fans, my listening habits morph drastically from one decade to the next, with only a small number of artists keeping hold of a regular place on my personal playlists. In the 14 years between D'Angelo's previous offering, “Voodoo” and his follow up “Black Messiah”, my appreciation for the artist's work grew enormously. Upon the release of “Voodoo” at the turn of the century, I was a fresh-eared hip hop obsessive in my early teens, religiously tracking down the latest Soulquarians releases from artists such as D'Angelo, The Roots and Slum Village so that I could study the seemingly otherworldly production techniques used to create them.
After reading the announcement of the release of “Black Messiah”, I was just as excited to hear how far Questlove would push his production abilities as I was to discover how D'Angelo had developed his songwriting. The combination of modern recording techniques, overt references to the rhythmic work of classic Sly Stone records and daring vocal performances made the album really stand out against other releases from the decade. Rarely have I listened to an album after having read so much about its creation. For most artists this could only set a project up for failure, but this was far from the case for “Black Messiah”. In an era of ever increasingly fast turnover of music, D’Angelo, Questlove and their stellar supporting cast of musicians emphatically proved that there is still a place for meticulously crafted bodies of work.