In my opinion, April has been the best month for music so far in 2017. Traditionally, though, this is perhaps unsurprising as this is usually the month where the music year truly kicks off, with the frequency of releases increasing in time for summer in the US. However, April 2017 has been a beaut, with top class albums from the likes of Father John Misty, Gorillaz and of course Kendrick Lamar. With that considered, let’s take a look at what stood out for me over the last 30 days.
David Dallas – “Hood Country Club”
Returning with his first studio album in four years, New Zealand hip-hop royalty David Dallas has arguably produced his best album yet in “Hood Country Club.” On this record, D-Dot explores political and social themes more including poverty, welfare, and even the media, with a subtle dig at New Zealand’s own orange man Mike Hosking. His flow is on point, while the overall production is slick as heck, something that is probably down to the good folks at Red Bull Studios in Auckland where I am guessing this album was recorded. With this release, D-Dot has not only cemented himself as one of this country’s best modern-day rappers but has ensured his position as an all-time great rapper from down under.
Fave Tracks: probably, R U, Don’t Flinch, This Is It
El Michels Affair – “Return to the 37th Chamber”
These guys are one of the coolest groups going around. Not only do they have the balls to record a Wu-Tang instrumental covers album, but they have the nerve to do a second Wu-Tang instrumental covers album. Yes, “Return to the 37th Chamber” is El Michels Affair’s second jazz fusion take on Wu-Tang favorites and Wu-Tang member solo tracks. It is a varied, experimental and groovy take on one of the most well-known and loved collections of tracks in the rap canon, and is likely to be one of the best musical surprises you will hear this year.
Fave Tracks: Iron Man, Shadow Boxing, Snakes, Verbal Intercourse
Father John Misty – “Pure Comedy”
Father John Misty is an anomaly to me, and I cannot quite work him out. He shouldn’t be popular, should he? I mean he makes dated 70s style LA singer-songwriter music, writes quite bizarre lyrics and is not exactly your typical modern day pop star. However, he seems to continuously release quite good music that pleases both critics and fans alike. His latest effort “Pure Comedy” if not betters, certainly matches the critically acclaimed “I Love You, Honeybear” from 2015, with Father John putting a 21st-century post-Trump spin on a form of music whose glory days are long gone. Although “Pure Comedy” can be a complex listen in terms of keeping the listener engaged, and at times comes dangerously close to sounding too much like Elton John and solo John Lennon, it is a beautiful record that captures quite nicely the mood in the air during the early days of the Trump Presidency.
Fave Tracks: Pure Comedy, Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution, Ballad of the Dying Man, In Twenty Years or So
Future Islands – “The Far Field”
Future Islands are the masters of the indie pop banger, you know, the ones that can get thousands in the sun at Coachella dancing in unison. And, on their latest offering, “The Far Field” they have done it again. This album is full of great anthemic pop songs that are not only perfect for the festival season but are also the sorts of pop songs we need right now to be uplifted during a time of gloom and despair around the world. An added bonus for me personally on this record was also the guest feature from Debbie Harry, one of the best pop singers of all time who showed on the track “Shadows” that she still has it. Overall, a solid return from Future Islands, who proved once again why they are one of the best pop groups going around on the indie circuit.
Fave Tracks: Beauty of the Road, Through the Roses, Shadows, Black Rose
Gorillaz – “Humanz”
The hype and anticipation for the return of Gorillaz after seven years has been real for so long I have not been able to control my excitement. The word was we were going to get an album last year, then it never came, before finally it was announced they would return sometime in 2017. After an extended period of visual clues on social media, and the carefully planned release of the album’s singles, we finally have “Humanz,” but was it worth the hype and the wait? On the whole, I would say yes. “Humanz” is a fun listen throughout, with some great featured guests who give outstanding performances, most notably Danny Brown, Vince Staples and D.R.A.M. The music varies between hip-hop, alternative and even R&B, and sees Damon Albarn’s mob go down the party/club banger route for what is really the first time. There has been some criticism around both the number of guests on the album, and the fact Damon has less of a singing role, but perhaps the overall concept of the record lent itself more to this, meaning it might not have worked out well otherwise. All up, I am just pleased we have another Gorillaz record to enjoy, and like the three others that have gone before (I exclude The Fall) it is unique, different and a welcome addition to the Gorillaz catalog.
Fave Tracks: Submission, Andromeda, Busted and Blue, The Apprentice
Kendrick Lamar – “DAMN.”
With his latest release “DAMN.”, Compton’s finest Kendrick Lamar has cemented himself among the hip-hop greats, and for me, that means top ten M.C’s of all time. The man can do no wrong at the moment, and with this release completes a hat-trick of stunningly good, decade-defining albums. When he says he is the greatest rapper alive he is telling the truth because he is, no one comes close to K-Dot. However, I would also add that with “DAMN.” He is now one of, if not the most important artist on the planet, in the prime of his career and making some of the most valuable music around. Due to the lyrical themes of this record, the world-class production, and the flow of one of the greatest MC’s you will ever hear, “DAMN.” Is already shaping up as being the record to beat in the album of the year stakes. Good luck competition.
Fave Tracks: DNA., LUST., LOVE., DUCKWORTH.