We are halfway through the year and what a year it has been so far for music. The amount of new music that has come out in the last three months has made picking my top twenty tracks for the period April to June a tough ask. It was really a case of what to leave out rather than what to include, something that can be put down to the quality of tracks dropping. We really are living in a bit of a golden age for music at the moment and this list I feel is reflective of that.
Another Century – Lawrence Arabia
The second track we have heard off his impending fourth album “Absolute Truth”. This one has a strong George Harrison feel to it in the form of a great melody and some wonderful backing vocal harmonies. Hopefully, the album continues in this vain.
Beautiful Thing – The Stone Roses
It is fair to say the Manchester legends first comeback single “All For One” received a mixed response. However, the band is definitely into the swing of things now with their second new release “Beautiful Thing”. This is classic sounding Roses with a very funky rhythm and some great guitar licks from John Squire. The rumored new Roses album is now looking more and more appetizing.
Burn the Witch – Radiohead
After releasing several mysterious video clips, Radiohead finally released their first new track in years, and what a track it was. With its stirring strings, explosive climatic ending and a wonderful accompanying video, “Burn the Witch” was a great comeback, and a clear signal that Radiohead are not done yet.
Decks Dark – Radiohead
Radiohead has come back strongly with “A Moon Shaped Pool” after the relatively disappointing “The King of Limbs”. “Decks Dark” is quite an OK Computer sounding with Thom’s melancholy vocals, some haunting backing vocals, and the tracks spacey guitar giving the song quite a dreamy quality.
Frankie Sinatra – The Avalanches featuring Danny Brown and MF Doom
Sixteen long years have passed and we finally have new Avalanches music. “Frankie Sinatra” is the first single off the Australian group’s upcoming album “Wildflower” and boy what a quirky number it is. I have no clue what the song is about, but I do know it is catchy as hell and great to sing along to.
Freedom – Beyonce featuring Kendrick Lamar
There is no doubt Beyonce is the queen of music, and her new album “Lemonade” is a social statement as much as a musical one. “Freedom” in my opinion is one of the best tracks she has ever written and the inclusion of Kendrick Lamar was an absolute masterstroke. The energy the two display here would be hard to match by most artists, and at the end, you are left with no doubt that what she is singing about is done with the utmost conviction.
Glowed Up – Kaytranada featuring Anderson Paak
Kaytranada is one of the most talented up and coming producers around at the moment and his debut album 99.9% is a beauty. It features a wide range of styles and some great guest spots. One of these is Anderson Paak whose contribution to the track “Glowed Up” is one of the highlights of the record.
Got It Good – Kaytranada featuring Craig David
It was so hard to choose tracks for this list given the amount of awesome new music around. In the case of the Kaytranada record, I had to pick two tracks because of the quality on display. This one featured Craig David (remember him) who puts in a great vocal performance on this smooth R&B track.
Know Us – INF
From the Onehunga hip-hop collective SWIDT and off their fantastic debut album “SWIDT vs Everybody”, INF puts in a real chilled performance on this track “Know Us”. It has a smooth R&B vibe to it and is quite different from the rest of the album, which is high energy in your face hip-hop.
Maiysha (So Long) – Miles Davis & Robert Glasper featuring Erykah Badu
I don’t know how Robert Glasper does it. He is a great arranger and re-interpreter of other artists, and that is what he does on his Miles Davis tribute album “Everything’s Beautiful”. This bossa nova version of “Maiysha” featuring Erykah Badu is absolutely gorgeous and is the centerpiece of what is an outstanding record.
No Problem – Chance the Rapper featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz
Although I think the new Chance the Rapper mixtape has been over-hyped and is not as good as what a lot of the music press are saying, I do think it has some good tracks on it. One of these is the banger “No Problem” featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz. This track has some great gospel backing vocals, while the two featured artists spit some mean lines. Definitely one of the anthems of the year so far.
Radio Silence – James Blake
James Blake returned after three years with his melancholy electro-soul, dropping a record out of the blue last month. The opening track “Radio Silence” is a rather haunting, but beautiful melodramatic number featuring some delicate piano playing and a gorgeous vocal performance from the man himself.
Right on brotha – Miles Davis & Robert Glasper featuring Stevie Wonder
The closing track on “Everything’s Beautiful”, “Right On brotha” is a dance funk track with plenty of grooves. The track is an instrumental and features Stevie Wonder on harmonica and some really nice trumpet flourishes from Davis himself. Glasper has certainly hit the musical jackpot with this album, in what is turning out to be a great year for jazz fusion.
Sleepy City – Badcrop produced by WhyFi
The Grow Room collective has taken the Auckland music scene by storm this year, and their Exhibition III mixtape is one of the best releases of 2016 so far. This track by Badcrop is a real smooth beats-driven piece perfect for zoning out to. With the collective having to move from St Kevin’s Arcade, hopefully, they can find a new place soon in order to continue to make beautiful music like this.
Take It From Me – Bailey Wiley
Bailey Wiley is going places. The soul singer has just released her second EP “Still On My Mind” and is beginning to get wider attention. The EP itself is full of great soul and R&B gems like “Take It From Me” which combines some well-produced beats with Bailey’s amazingly soulful vocals.
Yes – Yoko-Zuna featuring HEAVY and Larz Randa
Yoko-Zuna are establishing themselves as one of the best live acts in the country. Their jam based concerts are quite simply amazing, which makes it more intriguing as to what they can do on record. This track is off their latest EP “Luminols” and features guest appearances by hip hop acts HEAVY and Larz Randa. The raps are dope, the instrumentation is dope and Yoko-Zuna prove here that they can transition quite easily between the stage and the studio.