As the year starts to come to a close, Marquette Radio’s music department decided to reflect on this year’s releases and pick their favorites of the bunch. Here are Assistant Music Director Dan Russo’s picks:
I of The Storm – Of Monsters and Men
Released as the second single for their highly anticipated sophomore album Beneath the Skin, “I Of The Storm,” gave listeners a glimpse of the calm and personal mood Of Monsters and Men wanted to set. This song, like the rest of the album, is filled with snare drums, tom-tom drums and piano as well as the soothing voice of Nanna Hilmarsdottir.
High Enough to Carry You Over – CHVRCHES
Martin Doherty only got to use his vocals for one song on CHVRCHES sophomore album Every Open Eye. He made the most of it. This beautiful funk-pop inclusion sounded like it came straight from the synthetic sounds of the 80’s. Hopefully this justifies a bigger role for him in their next album.
Look Up – Mas Ysa
Producer Thomas Arsenault, aka Mas Ysa, crafts electronic textures, finger-picking on an acoustic guitar and vocal flairs to make an incredibly unique sound. Give his entire sophomore album Seraph a listen, really. No one else is doing it like him in the electronic music sphere.
L$D (Love, Sex, Dream) – A$AP Rocky
Intertwining an ode to the psychedelic drug LSD and his relationship with women, A$AP Rocky makes a record that gives you senses of euphoria without actually being on drugs. A$AP wants us to understand his infatuation for women and his deep connection to the psychedelic, and he does so with his lyrics and Cudi-like beat and vocals.
Familiar, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment ft. Quavo and King Louie
A fun upbeat Chance the Rapper song with features from Quavo of Migos and fellow Chicago rapper King Louie, Familiar is a song any rap fan can enjoy. Chance leads the song backed by his band The Social Experiment. This song is goofy from the flute-backed beat to the lyrical content (ex: “If this bitch from Paris, then Parish is terrible.”) This song isn’t trying to do anything fancy. It’s just a well-produced track filled with verse that make you laugh and a beat that you can dance to, in the best way possible.
Loud Places – Jamie xx ft. Romy
The former bandmates of the xx, Jamie Smith and frontwoman Romy Madley Croft, team up once more to make this slow-motion dance jam. But this is much more than just a rave song, this is a love letter to the records and people that shaped Jamie xx into the producer and person he is today. Note Romy’s lyrics in the refrain, “Didn’t I take you to higher places you can’t reach without me?” and then an emphatic gospel hook kicks in to solidify the frame of mind.
Alchemy – Mick Jenkins
The opening track of Mick Jenkins EP Wave[s] sets the tone for the rest of the project. His lyrics venture from making money with murder to his possession arrest in college and how he overcame that darkness without joining the gang lifestyle. Instead of Mick’s flow complimenting the eerie beat like most rap, it uniquely moves with the beat and the intensity of Mick’s voice and the bass rise and fall together. His lyrical vulnerability over such a dark beat makes the song impactful while showcasing his raw talent.
Death with Dignity – Sufjan Stevens
“Spirit of my silence I can hear you/ But I’m afraid to be near you.” The opening line of Steven’s album opener “Death with Dignity” introduces us to a new side of this artist. Here we have a man forcing himself to face silence, to face reality, to face death. In his previous works, Stevens would overflow his melancholy vocals with all sorts of sounds—strings, horns, banjos, drums. Now, he gives us a minimalist album which focuses on clarifying just how far Stevens has gotten with accepting the people and consequences of his life. It all starts with this album opener.
Alright – Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” is on everyone’s “Best Songs of 2015” list for a good reason. “Alright” is about reassurance. It’s about giving black America hope that they can change the institutional racism that’s tried to hold them back throughout this country’s history. And even if they can’t beat it, they can survive together. K Dot preaches that even at the worst times standing together as a community is the way to overcome struggle. He personifies temptation as Lucy (or Lucifer) as something that has beaten everyone. But he pleads for people to realize that it’s not too late to take on Lucy. “Alright” has been heard sung by the people at Black Lives Matter and police brutality protests as a battle cry. If Kendrick is trying to start a peaceful revolution for black America, as it seems throughout all of To Pimp A Butterfly, “Alright” is clearly that revolution’s anthem.
Constantly Hating – Young Thug ft. Birdman
Time to get subjective and a little unprofessional. Young Thug is the greatest thing that’s happened to me this year. This dude has one of the strangest personalities ever, and he showcases it in all of his music. He also happens to be a musical genius, releasing three critically-acclaimed album/mixtapes this year (Slime Season 1, Barter 6, Slime Season 2), with plans to drop more than double that in 2016. His adlibs, squeaky, high-pitched voice, and improvisations make his rap style one of the most recognizable. “Constantly Hating” acts as the album opener for Barter 6, his first retail/studio album release, and last for a while, as he doesn’t really get along with studio executives. In “Constantly Hating,” Young Thug raps over a ridiculously heavy bass, often times in a whispering style. He switches up his flow multiple times. It’s a zig-zag of a song. And then suddenly, Birdman drops in like the big ol’ block of granite he is with his hilarious verse, which is conveyed in a much deeper voice, countering Thugger’s high-pitched style. Rich Gang. YSL. Thugga Thugga Baby. Blatt!
Be sure to also check out Lily and Ian’s top tracks of 2015!